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Announcing “En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon”

I’ve always been in awe of ballet dancers. The commitment, the grace, the appearance of effortlessness and weightlessness, the total control of every muscle that is moved, the power and yet the beauty. I’ve always thought of ballet dancers as occupying a position at the peak of physical prowess and dance.

In that spirit, I am delighted to announce – in conjunction with Love Letters to Old Hollywood – “En Point: The Ballet Blogathon!” And I am so grateful to Michaela for co-hosting with me!

The blogathon is devoted to all-things ballet related on film. Anything balletic at all. A film that features a ballet, a film about ballet dancers, filmed-versions of actual ballets. Any movie from any period at all, as long as it contains something about ballet.

We are also making an exception and allowing reviews of Esther Williams and Ice-skating. We only ask that you emphasize the ballet side of those films.

When:  August 4th & 5th, 2017

Rules: Because of the diversity of ballet films and topics available, we are only allowing two people to write about any given film.

To sign-up, simply leave us your blog name, blog address, and the film or topic you wish to cover in the comments section below. On either of the two days of the blogathon, all you have to do is provide either Michaela or me a link to your post and we will add it to our completed list of posts. Also, please feel free to grab one of the banner found below (created by my good friend Andrea from Into the Writer Lea) and help us advertise the event.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me or Love Letters to Old Hollywood. I will be so excited to read everyone’s contributions. I always come away from a blogathon with my horizons expanded…as well as my to-watch list.

Participants 

Love Letters to Old Hollywod – Shall We Dance (1937) and Ten Favorite Water Ballets from Esther Williams

Christina Wehner – A Winter’s Tale (Royal Ballet, 2015)

Into the Writer Lea – The Glass Slipper (1955)

Caftan Woman – The Mad Genius (1931)

Thoughts All Sorts – Ballerina (aka Leap) (2016)

Cinematic Scribblings – The Red Shoes (1948)

Blogferatu – The Black Swan (2010)

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – The Black Swan (2010)

Life’s Daily Lessons Blog –  Song of Scheherazade (1947)

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You – Center Stage (2000)

Taking Up Room –  Save the Last Dance (2001) and An American in Paris (1951)

 Critica Retro – Never Let Me Go (1953)

An Ode to Dust – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – On the Town (1949)

The Movie Rat – Dreams in Suspiria (1977), George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993) and Billy Elliot (2000)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

Screen Life – The Turning Point (1977)

The Midnite Drive-In – White Nights (1985)

Silver Scenes – The Unfinished Dance (1947) and Russian Ballet Films of the 1940s-1960s

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews – Limelight (1952)

 
28 Comments

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Movies

 

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Doris Day – Singer

Yesterday was Doris Day’s birthday – were she just discovered she is truly 95 and not 93 as she had thought – and in honor of her birthday, Love Letters to Old Hollywood has hosted “The Doris Day Blogathon,” which I am delighted to participate in with this tribute to Doris Day as singer.

I’ve always loved Doris Day as an actress, but one of the remarkable things about her is that even if she had never been an actress, she would have deserved to be remembered as a great singer, one of the most popular of her era. She was singing number one hits on the chart before she had even become an actress (click here for a look at her chart hits and discography).

Doris Day originally intended to be a dancer, but when an accident left her temporarily disabled, she turned to singing. She would listen to Ella Fitzgerald and try, as she said, “to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.” Her teacher taught her to sing as if she were singing into the ear of one person. The result is that she developed one of the most intimate styles of singing that I have ever heard.

She envelopes you in her warm vibrato. She had perfect diction, a beautifully fresh tone, that could also be suggestive, and spellbinding phrasing. But she’s an understated performer, which I believe has led to her being underappreciated. It sounds easy. Her singing has even been called easy listening, but there is nothing easy about it.

Check out her phrasing in “My One and Only Love.” Listen to the way she sings the first line “The very thought of you/makes my heart sing.” She sings it as one phrase, pausing after “you,” but not breathing, only to swoop up vocally on “makes my heart sing.” Such phrasing is only possible with perfect breath control and technique. I tried imitating her, which only increased my appreciation of her.

She was also a mesmerizing performer and no one could put across a song quite like her. When showing the movie Love Me or Leave Me to my cousin, she remarked on how the camera rarely moved while Doris Day was singing. As she said, it didn’t have to. Doris Day draws you in, just sitting there singing, and anything else would be a distraction (listen to “It All Depends on You for an example”). She demonstrates the exact same thing in her version of “The Way We Were.” Her ability, without histrionics, without much movement, to tell a story and convey feeling is marvelous. But this subtly has also, I think, contributed to her sometimes being underappreciated as a singer (as well as the way people association her with more upbeat song).

Although primarily known for singing popular music, Doris Day was also a fine jazz singer and it has been remarked be a number of people that she could have been one of the greatest female jazz singers if she had pursued that path. Here is a jazzier song from her discography, called “You’re Just Too Marvelous,” which she sang in the film Young Man With a Horn. The trumpet player is Harry James.

Of course, in a pinch she could also belt out a song Broadway style, as she proved in Pajama Game.

Absolutely stunning singer! I never get tired of listening to her.

Thanks so much to Love Letters to Old Hollywood for hosting! And Be sure to check out all the other posts about her life and career and films.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Music

 

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Kid Galahad (1937) – Bette Davis Blogathon

It is fun to watch Bette Davis’ early films…before her role in Jezebel. There is something special about the way she pops off the screen, in a way she does not in later films (though she always dominates the screen). I noted in last year’s post for “The Bette Davis Blogathon,” hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, that she was “like a dynamo or a ball of fire, bursting across the screen.” The sheer amount of energy and charisma is mesmerizing, even in films unworthy of her talents.

But Kid Galahad, directed by the ever versatile and able Michael Curtiz, is not unworthy of her talents, though she does not get top billing (that honor goes to Edward G. Robinson). It’s a boxing drama. Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) is a blowhard boxing promoter looking for a man to make champion, who can defeat the champion promoted by gangster Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart). He finds his potential champion in Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris), who becomes known as Kid Galahad because of his simple, gentlemanly and slightly naive ways. Bette Davis plays Donati’s girlfriend, Louise “Fluff” Phillips, who falls for Ward. Ward, however, likes Donati’s sister, Marie (Jane Bryan), who Donati has tried to shelter from the tough racket of the fight game.

The film contains crime and boxing, gambling and gangsters, murder, romantic triangles, and nightclubs. The boxing sequences are also quite well done and exciting on their own and in the context of the plot. It has that 1930s Warner Bro. crime drama feel that is always entertaining. As is the cast.

Edward G. Robinson is another dynamic actor who made his career as a leading man by sheer power and skill rather than his looks (Bette Davis did not like kissing him and called him “liver lips”). He’s one of those actors I would watch in virtually anything and he brings vulnerability to his role as a promoter with a quick temper and willingness to skirt the law. And the same with Humphrey Bogart, who plays quite the dour killer. In fact, he’s so convincingly dour as a killer that if all I saw was this film, I would never have guessed that he could play a romantic leading man.

Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson

Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart actually appeared in five movies together, always ending with one or the other killing each other….or sometimes both at the same time. In fact, many actors in Kid Galahad appeared in many different roles with each other throughout their careers at Warner Bros. Bette Davis appeared in at least four movies with Jane Bryan, once as her mother (The Old Maid), twice as her sister (Marked WomanThe Sisters), and once as romantic rival (in Kid Galahad). Jane Bryan also once played Edward G. Robinson’s daughter, as well as his sister. Not to mention the four movies Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart appeared in (though never after Humphrey Bogart hit the big time). The studios could be very flexible about these things.

Kid Galahad feels like an ensemble film rather than a showcase for any particular actor. However, Bette Davis does use the opportunity to make an impression. As Donati’s knowing girlfriend, who is grateful for his kindness towards her and keeps him out of trouble, she gets to play a person who definitely has an air of experience, but is still young and fresh enough not to feel jaded. Though her large and expressive eyes belie the happiness she professes to feel at the beginning of the story.

She is touched when Ward quite un-selfconsciously refers to her as a “lady.” He’s the first one to treat her that way and calls her Louise rather than her nickname, Fluff. But she still seems fresh enough for one to believe that Ward would see her as a lady. She is often the smartest one in the film, an invaluable partner to Nick and keeps him grounded.

Bette Davis, Jane Bryan, Edward G. Robinson

(plot spoiler) The end of the film involves a shootout and Bette Davis gets the last scene, as she sadly walks away down the street…on to better things, one presumes, like an Academy Award for Jezebel the following year. It would take a few more years for Humphrey Bogart to move on to better things. But Kid Galahad makes a nice send-off for Bette Davis. You just know you will be seeing her again.

This post was written as part of the “Second Annual Bette Davis Blogathon,” hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Click here for more posts covering Bette Davis’ vast career!

 

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2017 in Movies

 

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