Saturday, July 30, 2016

Five Magic Bookmarks -- Winners

Congratulations to the five winners!  They are:

Cowboy -- Carissa H.
Horse -- Lynn L.
Castle -- Rayleigh G.
Dragon -- Hayden W.
Moon -- Ally M.

Please check your email for a message from me asking for your mailing address so I can get these sent off.

And to all of you, whether you won or not -- I'm holding another giveaway here on this blog starting Monday to celebrate Legends of Western Cinema Week!  Check back then to see what I'm giving away :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

"Her Hair was a Hot Sunset"

It's even redder than last time.  And I like it even better!

Yes, that's our grape arbor behind me.  Yes, I had to tilt my camera to try to get as much of my hair in the picture as I could.  When I say my hair is really long, I mean it.

Don't forget that tomorrow is the last day to enter my giveaway for five different Five Magic Spindles bookmarks!!!

"Her hair was a hot sunset." -- The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

Friday, July 22, 2016

Five Magic Bookmarks -- A Giveaway!

Yippee!  Five Magic Spindles gets officially released today! This has been such an exciting journey, and I'm really glad so many of you have shared it with me here.  I'm so eager for you to read "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," of course, but also for you to read the other four stories!  They're all excellent, and each so fascinatingly different.

To celebrate, I've created five bookmarks, one for each of these Sleeping Beauty retellings. And I'm giving them away, one to each of five lucky winners.  Here they are, paired with the title page of the appropriate story that inspired them:

This giveaway runs through Friday, July 29. I will draw five winners on Saturday, July 30, and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

I can only send these to US addresses because of shipping being so expensive these days. Of course, if you have a friend who lives in the US that is willing to have it shipped to them for you, that's fine, but I can't send them internationally.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email within one week, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

The first way to enter, as you see, asks you to leave a comment telling me your top two prize choices. I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out.  I will do my best.  You can leave that comment right in the widget this time.

You can enter via this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm running this giveaway here, on The Edge of the Precipice, and on my Facebook author page.  You may enter at any one of those places.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Giveaways, Cowboys, and Authors, Oh My!

I need to tell you about TWO upcoming internet events and THREE related giveaways.

First, on July 30th, I'll be participating in the official Five Magic Spindles Chat Party on Facebook.  It kicks off a little before 2pm EST, and from 2 to 2:30, I will be chatting LIVE with anyone who shows up!  Of course, I'll chat about the book, but really, I'll be happy to discuss anything at all, from writing to westerns to whatever!  Three of the other authors will be participating too, in their own time slots -- click on the above link to access the page, sign up to attend (or just say you're interested), and see what the rest of the schedule is.

And involved in that event will be a giveaway!

You'll be able to enter to win a prize pack that includes a print copy of Five Magic Spindles, a pack of playing cards with facts about the real west on them, a bookmark, a necklace, and an art print.

But wait... there's more!

Here on my blog, and also on my book blog, I'm going to host a giveaway to celebrate Five Magic Spindles getting released this Friday, July 22.  Stay tuned for more info on that (cuz I'm making the prizes and they're not done yet).

And then...

Emma Jane of A Lantern in Her Hand and Olivia of Meanwhile, in Rivendell... are teaming up to host this year's Legends of Western Cinema Week next month!  I will be hosting a giveaway for that event TOO!  The prizes will be DVDs of four western TV shows -- details to come eventually :-)

Friday, July 15, 2016

"The Great Gatsby" (1949)

Let's get this out of the way right now:  Alan Ladd IS NOT the only reason I like this movie.  I happen to be such a big F. Scott Fitzgerald fan that I named my book blog after an FSF quotation.  Also, this has Elisha Cook, Jr. in it, and you know I like him so very much.

But yeah, you're right, Alan Ladd is a huge part of why I not only watched this, I bought a copy, watched it twice, and then took 134 screencaps of it (I numbered them, so yes, that's an exact count), and now I'm spending hours -- nay, days! -- writing up a gushy review of it.

I'm going to assume that you know the basic plot of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  If you don't, I recapped it pretty succinctly in my review of the book a couple years ago.  My review of this film version is going to focus mostly on what I liked and disliked about the characterizations and performances, though I'll also touch on some places where the movie deviates from the book in significant ways.  But I'm not marking any spoilage.

I've never seen another movie version of The Great Gatsby, so I won't be comparing this to any of the others.  I would really like to see Baz Luhrmann's version, and even tried to see it in the theater when it was there, but it was sold out that night, and I never made it back before the movie was gone.  I should get it from the library, I really should.

This version opens with middle-aged Nick Carraway (Macdonald Carey) and Jordan Baker (Ruth Hussey) visiting Jay Gatsby's grave.  Right away, they've changed things -- Nick and Jordan don't stay together in the book.  But Hollywood always wants a "happy" ending, and since Gatsby can't have one, they give it to Nick, I guess.  And by the end of this film, I can see that this Nick and this Jordan could possibly be happy together, whereas the Nick and Jordan in the book never could be.

I quite like Macdonald Carey as Nick.  He's patient, humorous, and intelligent.  Nick's got more moral fibre than anyone else in the story, and a kinder heart too.  He's not as naive as the Nick Carraway in the book, though.  He gives me the impression that he's already growing tired of high society and their superficiality before Jay Gatsby steps into his world.  (Also, this is random, but Macdonald Carey was born in Sioux City, Iowa, about two hours from where I was born.  He's a genuine Midwesterner, and I feel like it kinda shows.)

After the graveside scene, we flip to a little retrospective about the 1920s, the era of bootleggers and rumrunners and speakeasies.  In voiceover, Nick says, "And out of the twenties and all they were came Jay Gatsby, who built a dark empire for himself because he carried a dream in his heart, a dream he brought with him that day in the spring of 1928 when he drove out to Long Island with his henchmen to look at a house."

Yup, we get to see Gatsby arrive in West Egg in this version.  He stops at Wilson's garage, and he and his pal Klipspringer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) have a little discussion about a billboard nearby that has eyes that follow you around.  They decide it's creepy and leave.

But before they leave, we get a glimpse of Wilson (Howard da Silva) and his charming (read that word as sarcastically as you can) wife Myrtle (Shelley Winters).  She is obviously two-timing him, and he is too sweet and fumbling to realize it.

Although Alan Ladd is the glowing candle that lights up the misty darkness of this tale (did that make sense to anyone other than me?), Howard da Silva is an absolute revelation as Wilson.  I've seen him before, in stuff like The Blue Dahlia (1946 -- review coming next month) and Reunion in France (1942), but I've never seen him like this.  He's battered, run-down, weary, and befuddled.  I tell you, he brought me to tears toward the end of this film.  As Marilyn Henry and Ron DeSourdis put it in their excellent book The Films of Alan Ladd, "Da Silva, peering through his wire-rimmed glasses with the sadness of the world in his face, seems to echo Gatsby's own dogged devotion to an unworthy illusion (p. 140).  That's precisely how I feel.  Poor, poor Wilson.

Right, so back to Gatsby.  He buys a huge house, he redecorates it, and he throws giant parties.  And then he ignores the parties and spends his evenings down by his dock, staring at the light on the end of the dock across the water.  If you know the story, you know whose dock that is.

Alan Ladd is, in my entirely biased opinion, an ideal Gatsby.  He excels at showing you he's hiding things, like the pain behind the smile.  Those eloquent eyes of his tell you more than reams of dialog ever could.

Nobody yearns like Alan Ladd.

And Jay Gatsby is all about the yearning.  Living his whole life in pursuit of an empty dream, of someone he can never have simply because the real woman is so different from the fantasy he's woven her into.

Which, naturally, brings us to Daisy Buchanan (Betty Field).  I think that Field makes an okay Daisy.  She's pretty, and has a thrilling, low voice.  But she just isn't as fascinating as I expect Daisy to be.  But maybe that's the whole point.  Daisy is not as wonderful as Jay has convinced himself she is.  He's dreamed her into the perfect woman, and she's not even close to perfect.  She's even a little bland.  But he can't see it.  So, in the end, I think Betty Field works okay as Daisy.

The scene where Gatsby finally sees Daisy again for the first time in years is easily the best in the film, filled with poignant emotions that are played quietly.  No scenery chewing allowed.  It begins with Gatsby showing up at Nick's house to "accept" an "invitation to tea" that Nick never extended.  He's got a veritable entourage with him, all his servants bearing food and flowers.

Nick figures out that it's Jordan Baker who extended the invitation in his name, at Gatsby's behest.  Although he's annoyed, he's also interested in what will happen with Gatsby and Daisy see each other again.  So he lets Gatsby take over his house, and they settle in to wait for Jordan and Daisy to arrive.  Nick is patient and resigned, but Gatsby is nervous.  He flips through a magazine.

He rearranges Nick's knick-knacks.

He perches on armchairs.  (What is it with me and perchers?  Desk-perchers, armchair-perchers....)

And when Jordan and Daisy do arrive, he flees.  He doesn't want it to be known that he's waiting for her, but needs to find the perfect moment to make his presence known.  So he goes outside and waits.

In the rain.  And tries to decide if he should ring the doorbell, or just appear.

(Should I ring the doorbell?)

(No.  I should look suspiciously at that doorbell, as if I suspected it was laughing at me.)

When he finally does enter, his face says everything, doesn't it?  Hopeful, fearful, everything within him focused on what this woman will say when she turns around and sees him.

They barely speak.  They don't need to.  Alan Ladd's eloquent eyes are saying enough for the two of them.  (Yes, I know I called his eyes "eloquent" earlier.  I'm repeating it here for emphasis.  Also, I get to gush a little now and then, right?)

For years, Ladd had been tops at the box office, but received very little critical acclaim.  Critics had lauded him for his big breakout role in This Gun for Hire (1942), but not since.  Reportedly, he was hoping this film would prove he could handle meaty, dramatic roles, not just the tough-guy stuff Paramount kept putting him in.  From what I've read, Ladd was pretty insecure, always worried he wasn't as good an actor as he ought to be.  Which I think is nonsense, but my opinion doesn't count for him, since he died before I was born.  Anyway, according to The Films of Alan Ladd, "The general consensus was that Gatsby was very good, and it marked the first time since This Gun for Hire that Ladd rated rave reviews.  However, this time it was the public that was skeptical.  Gatsby did not lose money, but the box office was disappointing (p. 140).  Ladd never tried a strictly dramatic role again, convinced he'd failed.

My dear, dear Alan -- you did not fail.  You are marvelous as Jay Gatsby,  Charming, ruthless, hesitant, confused, shy, eager, and so achingly hopeful.  You can't be all those things in one role and be a failure.

There, now you're smiling just a little.  Mission accomplished.

Moving right along, let's talk about the hulking elephant in the room.  Barry Sullivan is the one really sour note in the cast.  You need someone for Tom Buchanan who really looks as if they could resent being called "hulking," someone like Aldo Ray.  Sure, Sullivan is considerably taller than Alan Ladd, but he's too urbane, too much like a dancer than a fullback.  I believe him in And Now Tomorrow, but not at all here.

As for Jordan Baker (Ruth Hussey), she's still selfish and sarcastic and scheming, but she's also somehow nicer than the Jordan in the book.  At the end, when she asks Nick if she could go to the Middle West (his phrase) with him and help him become a writer, you feel like she really rather does want to help.  Sure, she trades fake invitations to tea for giant, gleaming motorcars, and unwittingly sets up the story's tragic ending in the process, but this Jordan... I don't want to slap this Jordan.  That pretty well sums up the difference, I guess.

But really, this is Gatsby's movie, and Alan Ladd dominates it.  As he should.  It's a tour de force role, taking him from a cute, clean-cut kid in flashbacks... a young man in love (again, in flashbacks)... a disappointed veteran of the Great War who's rapidly turning cynical (more flashbacks)... the guy who thinks if he just has enough money, he'll be able to get everything he wants... the disillusioned man surrounded by shattered fragments of his dream.

It's the ending that differs the most from the book.  And yet, the ending is part of why I'm growing to love this film.  You see, Gatsby doesn't die alone in this movie.  Nick is there.

And Gatsby doesn't die sad, feeling like he's a failure.  He has gained enough self-realization and honesty to accept that he has spent his life chasing a mirage.  I'm sad he doesn't get to live long enough to find out how he liked reality, but I also get the feeling that without his consuming dream of Daisy, he would have drifted aimlessly, despite his plans to turn over a new leaf, sacrifice himself for her, and start life fresh when he got out of prison.

But we'll never know.

According to The Films of Alan Ladd, when Paramount decided to remake The Great Gatsby in the 1970s (does anyone other than my mom actually like that Robert Redford version?), they pulled this one out of circulation/syndication (p. 137).  And lost the prints.  DUDE.  Why do movies I want to see by actors I love keep disappearing?  Do you know how many Rudolph Valentino movies don't exist anymore?  This is unfair!!!  Except in this case, someone found a full print in 2012, and it's been restored and released on DVD.  You can also watch it online here, with fairly good picture quality.  NOTE:  that video I linked to will only play for me in Firefox, not Chrome.

Okay, I think I'm done.  I'll leave you with one last shot of Alan Ladd because I couldn't find a good spot to stick it in my review, and it's too nice to leave out.

Friday, July 08, 2016

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" Soundtrack Post Up

Every now and then, I still find time to write up a guest post for James the Movie Reviewer, showcasing a favorite soundtrack of mine.  And today, I've got a post up here about the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982) soundtrack.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

August Blogathon Alert

Next month, there are two cool blogathons I'll be participating in.  They overlap a little, but I'm not fussed.  I'll just have lots of new content here all of a sudden, right?

Up first is the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Eva at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness.  I'll for sure be contributing a list of my favorite ten Hitch films.  If I have time, I'll also contribute a movie review -- we'll see.  Go here to sign up for this event.  Eva only just announced this event two days ago, so there are plenty of titles available!

Beginning one day later, the Film Noir Blogathon will be hosted by The Midnite Drive-In.  I'm signed up to review two Alan Ladd films for that one, The Blue Dahlia (1946) and The Glass Key (1942).  If you want to join that event, you can do so here.

I'm very much looking forward to these two events, how about you?