Category Archives: Movies

Classic Hollywood #56 – Johnny Weissmuller a.k.a. Tarzan of the Apes

Johnny Weissmuller Takes A Dive – 1948

Three Things You Didn’t Know About The Cinema’s Most Famous Tarzan

Tarzan Takes Off

Johnny Weissmuller better known as Tarzan of the Apes flies through the air with the greatest of ease, as he rehearses at Marshall Street Baths today (Monday) for his forthcoming Aquashow with Belita as his mate. February 16, 1948 (photo: Paramount)

Olympic multi gold-medal winner Michael Phelps is arguably the most famous swimmer in the world today.

If you had asked anyone living during the 1920s or 30s to name a male swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984)would have been the answer 99 times out of 100. In 1950 the Associated Press named  Weissmuller the greatest swimmer of the first half of the 20th century.

Before Weismuller gained film stardom playing Tarzan of the Apes, he was setting swimming speed records during the 1920s. Weissmuller won five gold medals in the Olympics and 52 national championships. Weissmuller’s most amazing accomplishment as an amateur swimmer is that he never lost a race.

Weissmuller went on to play Tarzan a dozen times in films from 1932 – 1948.

Here are three things you might not have known about Johnny Weissmuller and Tarzan.

1 – How did Weissmuller get the role of Tarzan?

In 1932 screen writer Cyril Hume was working on a script called “Tarzan the Ape Man.” Hume had seen footage of Weissmuller that had been deleted from the film Glorifying The American Girl. Weissmuller had appeared in that film wearing nothing but a fig leaf and holding actress Mary Eaton on his shoulder.

Without realizing he was being asked to do a screen test Weissmuller was talked into into seeing director W.S. Van Dyke and producer Bernard Hyman by Cyril Hume. At the meeting Weissmuller was told to strip. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #55 – Party At The Cocoanut Grove 1937

Bennett, Roland, Davies and Fairbanks Party at The Cocoanut Grove -1937

constance-bennett-gilbert-roland-marion-davies-douglas-fairbanks-party-at-cocoanut-grove-february-10-1937

Looking at this picture the first thing you notice is, “It sure looks like these elegant people are having a lot of fun.”

The date is February 10, 1937 and the place is the Cocoanut Grove nightclub located inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The people partying were at the time among the biggest stars of Hollywood, past and present. From left to right, Constance Bennett, Gilbert Roland, Marion Davies and Douglas Fairbanks.

Who the party was for I could not find out, but almost every night there was a party at the Cocoanut Grove. In 1940 the Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove. The Ambassador Hotel closed to the public in 1989. Amid outcries from preservationists, the hotel was demolished in 2006 with the promise that portions of the hotel would be retained for the future, including the Cocoanut Grove. But due to the poor structural condition of the Cocoanut Grove most of the nightclub was eventually demolished leaving behind just one wall that still stands.

A brief note about the people in the photograph. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54 – Katharine Hepburn 1940

Katharine Hepburn Looking Beautiful – Even Her Neck!

katharine-hepburn-1940-photo-van-damm-studioThere are a number of classic movie fans who like Katharine Hepburn as an actress but don’t care for her looks.

Looking at a photograph of Hepburn like this one taken in 1940 by Vandamm Studio, how could anyone say she doesn’t look absolutely beautiful?

The one feature Katharine Hepburn did not like about herself, especially as she aged, was her neck. She called it her “turkey neck.” By the end of the 1940s, wrinkles around her neck made her self conscious, and she would frequently cover up her neck both on screen and off. Continue reading

The 40th Anniversary Of The Best Baseball Movie Ever Made

The Bad News Bears – The Best Baseball Movie Ever Made

bad-news-bears-1976-lobby-card-1The approaching end of the regular baseball season got me thinking, what is the best baseball movie ever made? The clear winner for me would be the The Bad News Bears, hands down.

Some might disagree and say Field of Dreams, The Natural, A League of Their Own or Pride of The Yankees are better films. While those are all excellent movies, the 1976 Bad News Bears has an honesty and appeal that has endured for over 40 years. It’s also not just about baseball, it is about real life and overcoming challenges and disappointments. By the way, you can forget the lame remake in 2006 that failed at every level.

Yes, it’s been 40 years since the release of The Bad News Bears. That just blows my mind. I was a kid in 1976 and could very strongly relate to the action on the screen with things happening in my little league and off the field experiences.

Viewing the film now, I believe this exact version, line for line and scene for scene, could not and would not be made today. The world has become too politically correct and “sensitive.” The kids use the “n” word liberally. Pre-teens drink alcohol. 12 kids ride with beer drinking Walter Matthau (while he’s behind the wheel) in an overloaded convertible, all of them not wearing seat belts. The fact that the film mirrored the way kids behaved and talked like in real life would probably upset too many people nowadays. Continue reading

Olivia de Havilland Hollywood’s Greatest Living Movie Star Is 100-Years-Old Today

Olivia de Havilland – The Last Great Star of The Golden Age of Hollywood Turns 100 Today

Olivia De Havilland February 1939 photo: George Hurrell

Olivia De Havilland February 1939 photo: George Hurrell

When you think about the Golden Age of Hollywood during the 1930s you realize practically everyone from that era of fabulous film-making is dead.

Except one great star – the two time Oscar winning actress, Olivia de Havilland who turns 100 on July 1, 2016.

Olivia de Havilland is the last link to a Hollywood that has vanished. When Olivia de Havilland began her film career in 1935 it was a time when movie studios cultivated, built up and groomed actors and taught them the elements of acting, song and dance. The studios then placed actors in several films a year to build their popularity with extensive publicity behind them.

The downside was that the studios also controlled the lives of the stars, and many of them did not appreciate the meddling into their private lives. Many movie stars resented the way they were treated by the studios and the non-stop work schedule. But a lot of the movies the stars made are considered classics today and the stars the studios created became legendary.

Olivia de Havilland has starred with all the past film greats. To name them all would be an extensive list, but here are a few: Errol Flynn in many movies; Clark Gable, Leslie Howard and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind; Frederic March; Claude Rains; James Cagney; Rita Hayworth; Charles Boyer; Bette Davis; Frank Sinatra and dozens of other stars – every one of them are now all gone.

Olivia de Havilland on her 90th BirthdayOlivia de Havilland wrote a short memoir in 1962, Every French Man Has One (Random House).  She has said she was working on writing a real autobiography for several years now. I just hope it does get completed and sees the light of day. She has so much to say and there is a lot she has never revealed, including the reasons behind her famous feud with her sister Joan Fontaine and the details of her relationship with Errol Flynn which apparently was platonic.

I know there is a time Olivia de Havilland will no longer be with us and that makes me very sad. But it makes me happy to know that Olivia de Havilland is according to all reports in very good health and loving her life in France where she resides.

Presented below is a short gallery of Olivia de Haviiland in vintage photographs many of which have not been seen since they were originally released. I’ve read Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #53 – 10 Stunning Photos of Claudia Cardinale

10 Stunning Photos of Claudia Cardinale – A Natural Beauty

Claudia Cardinale with towel

In the 1960s and 1970s Claudia Cardinale would consistently be on or near the top of the most beautiful women in the world lists. Besides emitting a natural beauty that few movie stars have today, Cardinale’s a talented actress. Cardinale has starred in some of the most iconic films of the 1960s including (1963) The Professionals (1966), and Sergio Leone’s 1968 classic Once Upon A Time in the West. At age 78 Cardinale is still active making films today.

Claudia Cardinale moves her hair

When you see all the current pretty models and movie stars, almost all of them come off as having a degree of artificiality. There is something about Claudia Cardinale’s looks that seems completely natural. I know it’s an illusion. Actresses are all made to look their best in photographs and on film. But Cardinale has a unique look. Maybe it’s her eyes or the shape of her face or her smile. I don’t know. But whatever it is, there’s no actress or model today that can come close to Cardinale’s beauty.

We’ll let the following photographs of Claudia Cardinale provide the proof. (click any photo to enlarge.)

Claudia Cardinale waits in bedClaudia Cardinale bathing suit cooling off Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #64

Gracie Square, 84th Street and East End Avenue 1949

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 1

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 2

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 3This sequence of photos from 1949 show a car coming down East 84th Street and entering 110 Gracie Square.

The stills are from the movie East Side, West Side starring Van Heflin, Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason.

The vantage point from the dead end of East 84th Street is one you will rarely see in old photos of New York. The wall in the foreground marks one of the entrances to Carl Schurz Park.

Nearly seven decades later the changes in this view are minimal.

84th Street Google 2009Some of the canopy’s to the buildings along Gracie Square are gone. 110 Gracie Square was renumbered for the film, it is really 10 Gracie Square, one of the most exclusive co-op buildings in the city. Built in 1930 as a rental building, famous past residents include Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor Leopold Stokowski (Vanderbilt’s husband), New York Times editor and author Charles Merz, and theater critic and author Alexander Woollcott. A five bedroom penthouse apartment has been on the market for over two years. Why so long? The original price tag was $23 million. Currently the asking price will only set you back $15 million, but be prepared for the monthly maintenance charges of $16,747. In 1937 the building went into foreclosure and the entire building was sold for $450,000!

The building seen in the first two photographs on the northwest corner of 84th Street and East End Avenue is the Chapin School, Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

June 1, 2016 Would Have Been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

10 Rare Photographs From Her Life

A simply stunning unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde's home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

A simply stunning, unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde’s home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

June 1 marks Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. We have pondered this before: what would an elderly Marilyn Monroe have been like? Reclusive and mentally ill like her mother was? Elder stateswoman of the movies and spokesperson for women’s rights? It’s all conjecture, there’s obviously no clear answer.

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

As much as Marilyn accomplished, her life was unfulfilled. No babies, no aging to segue into nuanced character roles in films, no Broadway or television career, no venturing into social activism on issues that would have concerned her.

When Marilyn died at the age of 36 in 1962, she became immortalized in ways that probably would have amused her. The movie goddess is still forever young, and has become an icon of many things: the 1950s; glamor; gay rights; womanhood and sex to name a few.

As time passes and the people who actually knew her pass away, Marilyn becomes more of a figurehead of a time rather than a once living flesh and blood person. Authors are drawn to Marilyn and have made her the subject of hundreds of books and millions of words analyzing her without knowing her.

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1950 film which includes Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan's Island!)

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1951 film which includes Donald Crisp, Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island!)

This literary interest in every aspect of Marilyn’s life was not displayed when she was alive. Only six books were written about her during her lifetime. True, there were the articles in magazines that gave superficial glimpses into her life. But Marilyn and the publicity machine that surrounded her obfuscated much of who she really was.

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #52

Jayne Mansfield In An Unusual Pose

Jayne Mansfield satire striptease Las Vegas photo UPIThis undated photograph of an upside down Jayne Mansfield in a very sheer blouse was taken by a UPI photographer and is captioned “Jayne Mansfield in a satire of Las Vegas striptease.”

Jayne played Las Vegas a number of times beginning in 1958 and returned many times to pick up large paychecks: upwards of $25,000 per week.

Never a shy woman, in 1963 Mansfield revealed a lot more than this outfit does, when she appeared nude in the film Promises, Promises.

Classic Hollywood #51

James Cagney & Boris Karloff – 1940

James Cagney Boris Karloff 1940Movie Stars Twinkle At Own Party
Hollywood, Calif. – It was a dead heat when Boris Karloff (right) and James Cagney, screen menaces, exchanged leers on meeting at the first annual gambol of the Screen Actor’s Guild held here March 14. Credit line – Acme 3/16/40

Useful / Useless tidbits

The French Society of Mental Sciences in 1937 asked Boris Karloff to fill out an extensive 58 page questionnaire about his own mental health. The psychiatrists who put together the questionnaire were trying to determine how all the horror versus sympathetic roles Karloff had played on screen had affected his real life. Continue reading