Thursday, April 28, 2016

Well, boy howdy. How cool is this?

That, my friends, is the title page image for my story.  So when you open up Five Magic Spindles, at the beginning of my story, you'll be treated to this image!  If you're on Facebook, you can see the pictures for the other four stories here.  They're all so cool!  But I like mine best, which is as it should be, I suppose.  I mean, mine has a cowboy AND a horse, and what could be better than that?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guest Post in Which I Count My Blessings

Just a quick note to let you know that I've got a guest post up on Counting Your Blessings One by One today.  It's part of a continuing guest post series she's got going on :-)

And, because otherwise this is an exceedingly short post, here's what our azalea bush looks like right now:

Monday, April 25, 2016

400 Years. Don't They Go By in a Blink.

As I mentioned on my other blog, Saturday was the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.  It's also the day we celebrate his birthday, because we think that's probably the day he was born.  And it's the day I celebrate my birthday, because we know that's the day I was born.  So to celebrate all of those things, Cowboy and our three little mice took me to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC for the first time.

While the Reading Room was closed to the public because they were filming this series of lectures, we did get to wander through the Shakespeare in America Exhibit.  They had a lot of neat stuff there, like costumes from famous performances, bits of movie adaptations going, and lots of advertisements from different performances.  The room itself was exquisite -- my kids were convinced all the panels in the walls were secret cupboards, hee.

This is a copy of Hamlet printed in the 1790s, the version that had recently been performed in Boston.

This is an advertisement for a production of Hamlet in Charleston, SC, in 1805.

This is an illustration of a series of parade floats from Mardi Gras in 1898, each one depicting a different scene from one of Shakespeare's plays.

And they had a display of ways Shakespeare has been referenced in advertising -- I had to take a picture of this one because I collect Coca-Cola stuff.  I've definitely spent many a pleasant moment drinking a Coke and reading Shakespeare, though I don't generally have pink roses at hand.

The outside of the building has all these carved marble scenes depicting various plays.  Of course, I took a picture of the Hamlet scene.

In fact, I took two :-)

I'm going to have to go back there some time when the Reading Room is open to the public, which it generally is on Saturdays.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"And Now Tomorrow" (1944)

ACK!  It's been more than a month since I reviewed an Alan Ladd movie!  Must rectify that.

(Note that I didn't say it's been more than a month since I watched an Alan Ladd movie.  Perish the thought!)

Rich, sophisticated Emily Blair (Loretta Young) has been deaf ever since an illness struck her during her engagement party.  She's seen every famous doctor, every authority on deafness, and with no success.  So she returns home to her seemingly patient fiance (Barry Sullivan), her sister (Susan Hayward), and her Aunt Em (Beulah Bondi), resigned to living out her life in silence.

Also returning home to that same town is unconventional Dr. Merek Vance (Alan Ladd), who has recently had much success treating deafness with some serums he's created.  Obviously, the local doctor is going to convince him to try to treat Emily Blair.  Obviously, they're going to fall in love.

Obviously, this is the sort of movie that I don't really gravitate toward.  Wouldn't you think?  It's got all the earmarks of weepy, maudlin, predictable fluff.

I know what you're thinking.  "Oh, but it's got Alan Ladd in it!  That's why Hamlette likes this movie.  She's got it bad for that guy, and if he wasn't there, she wouldn't care."

Naturally, Alan Ladd is a big draw for me here.  He couldn't be more adorable in his little doctoring outfits if he tried.  But actually, I saw this movie years and years ago on AMC, back in the 1990s when AMC showed American Movie Classics like you'd expect it to.  I never saw the end, but I remembered the title, that it was about a deaf woman and a doctor, and that she walked down a beautiful curved stairway.  I really wanted to know if she ever got her hearing back.  But this is one of those movies that never got released to VHS, so I had no hope of seeing it again, unless I should stumble on it on AMC again one day.  

(Don't you love how the hem of her skirt exactly matches the stripe on the book?)

About ten years later, when I fell in love with Raymond Chandler's writing, I learned that he'd co-written the screenplay.  That got me all interested in finding it, but it wasn't available on DVD either.  So the movie just kept lurking in my memory until earlier this year, when I started falling in love with Alan Ladd, and discovered that HE was the doctor in the movie.  Then I simply had to see it again, so I started scouring the internet.  And, to my great good fortune, it was released a couple of weeks later to DVD.

Don't get me wrong -- this movie is weepy, maudlin, and predictable.  But it's also sassy and smart and actually rather inspirational in a "oh, get over yourself and your problems and get on with your life already" sort of way.  Both of the main characters have spent too much time feeling sorry for themselves -- Emily Blair because she lost her hearing, Merek Vance because he grew up poor.  From each other, they learn that their particular problems aren't holding them back, but their fixation on them is.

I've read that Alan Ladd and Loretta Young didn't care a great deal for each other after some friction on the set of the film China, which they made together a year or so earlier.  Some people think they have a lack of chemistry here, but I disagree.  Whether it's because they didn't like each other personally, or because that's how the characters behave in the book (which I haven't read yet, though it's wending its way to me in a box through the mail even now), or because the director told them to be this way, or because they both tend to play their parts a bit stand-offish, I don't know.  But both characters come across beautifully as people who are accustomed to keeping the world at arms' length.  Their first reaction to each other is antagonistic, despite finding each other attractive.  As if they find themselves desiring each other even though they would rather not.

That antagonism only slowly dissolves into a mutual respect.  Dr. Vance goes from looking down his nose at the uppity Miss Blair... still condescending, but trying to figure out what makes her tick... admitting to himself that he quite likes and respects her, actually.

Dr. Vance spends a lot of time watching the other characters.  Not in a creepy way, but he's always placing himself on the outside of groups so he can observe them.  It's a great way to highlight not only the fact that he's a scientist who studies humans, but that he constantly feels like an outsider.

Because he keeps his distance, he sees things that the others don't, like the fact that Emily's dear fiance Jeff has fallen in love with her sister while she's been away.  Vance gloms onto this the moment he sees them together, but Emily is blithely oblivious for most of the movie.  He also realized she was deaf just by watching her before he had any idea who she was.

I like the cash register placed between their reflections in the first scene.
It says, bold and clear, that a lot of money separates these two people.
So I very much approve of the character development in this film.  I also love the dialog, and I'm firmly convinced all my favorite lines were penned by Raymond Chandler and not his co-writer.  Vance gets almost all of them, snappers like, "Deafness isn't the only thing I'd like to cure you of, Miss Blair," which he says when she's not looking at his face, so she can't read his lips.  He makes me laugh a lot with moments like that, and he has several of them, where he tells her something tough or tactless but knows she can't hear him.

And yes, I'm nutty about Alan Ladd.  I love his work here, starting out bitter and antagonistic and then slowly relaxing.  By the end, he's actually happy!  He is!  I'm so thrilled!  A happy ending to an Alan Ladd movie!  Yay!

This is my 9th movie reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge.  Which means it's time to talk costumes.  They're by Edith Head, so of course they are enchanting.  Like Emily's dress for her engagement party during a flashback, which is so frothy I expect it to float away with her:

You can see why I remembered that staircase, can't you?

Emily favors round hats.  I don't care for the first one, but I rather like the second.

She also wears a lot of poofy and impractical things, I'm sure to highlight her wealthy, spoiled upbringing.  I mean, look at those sleeves!  There's a war on, lady!  Aren't you supposed to be rationing fabrics or something?  You could make a whole 'nother shirt from those sleeves.

Sister Janice gets much less fussy outfits, very pert and fashionable, like her.

I really love her in this white evening dress.

I couldn't get a good shot of how swishy it is, but this gives you a bit of an idea.

And look at that intricate back and sleeves for the bodice!  Yowza.

The men wear a variety of nice suits, and you saw above the doctor-y outfit Vance gets.  We also get one delicious scene where he's in suspenders.  I adore suspenders.

Is this movie family-friendly?  Yes, it is!  No innuendo, no cussing, no violence.  A little kissing, and of course that plotline of Jeff cheating on his fiancee, so I suppose some people might object to that.  But really, such a clean and sweet movie.  I showed it to my mom a couple weeks ago, and she quite liked it.

And, because I took all these delicious screencaps of Alan Ladd and can't bear not to include at least a few of them, here's a small sampling.

(This is from the very beginning, when he asks for
"Coffee -- hot, strong, and made this year."
Is that a Raymond Chandler line or what?)

All right, you get the idea, so I'll lay off now :-)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do You Love Olivia de Havilland?

I'm so excited to be joining the Olivia de Havilland Centenary Blogathon!  You may not know this, but Olivia de H. is still alive and will be turning 100 on July 1st!  Isn't that astounding?  You already know how much I love her movie The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), so for this event, I'll be reviewing her film The Proud Rebel (1958), which also stars Alan Ladd and his son, David Ladd.  Eva recommended it to me a little while ago, and I finally started watching it last night.  Even though I'm only 45 minutes into it, I already like it so very much :-)  If you want to join the event, please visit Phyllis Loves Classic Movies to sign up.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

March Period Drama Challenge Tag

Miss Laurie's March recap for the Period Drama Challenge is up here on her blog, Old-Fashioned Charm.  You'll find links to this month's reviews from the various participants there.

Here are my answers to this month's tag :-)

1. What period dramas did you view in March?

I watched The Blue Dahlia (1946), One Night with the King (2006), Branded (1950), and Little Women (1994).  I watched and reviewed This Gun for Hire (1942) and Whispering Smith (1948).

2. What is your favorite period drama soundtrack? 

ACK!  That's a hard question to answer.  I LOVE movie soundtracks.  Actually, I review them from time to time on James the Movie Reviewer's blog -- I have a list of the ones I've reviewed here, with links.

My favorite, though, is probably Hans Zimmer's score for The Lone Ranger (2013), judging solely by how often I listen to it.  In fact, I was just listening to it tonight while writing.  You can read more of my thoughts about it here.

3. If you could attend a ball in a Jane Austen story what would be the color of your ballgown and who would you dance with? 

Well, I tend to prefer darker, richer colors than what I usually see in Jane Austen movies.  I'd love a dark green gown, and I think Henry Tilney would be hilariously fun to dance with, though I might laugh too much to dance very well.  Then again, I don't dance very well as it is, so the laughing would give me a way to excuse that deficiency, wouldn't it?

4. Do you prefer watching period dramas by yourself or with friends/family? Why? 

Depends on my mood, and the member of my family.  If I've never seen a movie before, I prefer to watch it by myself or with Cowboy, but not with my kids or my own parents -- they're all far too chatty, and I get frustrated by missing dialog all the time.  But once I've seen them a time or two, I love sharing movies with other people.

5. What period dramas are you looking forward to viewing in April 2016?

I'm very much hoping to watch The Big Land (1957) for the first time.  And I'm hoping to see The Huntsman (2016) in the theater, though that's really more fantasy than period drama, I suppose.