Showing posts with label joan crawford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label joan crawford. Show all posts

Saturday, January 19, 2019

You Have Come A Long Way, Baby-Maybe-Traversing The Woman Question, Circa 1940-With Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell And A Fistful Of Notable Lesser Female Stars And Starlets-No Men-“The Women”(1939)-A Film Review, Maybe

You Have Come A Long Way, Baby-Maybe-Traversing The Woman Question, Circa 1940-With Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell And A Fistful Of Notable Lesser Female Stars And Starlets-No Men-“The Women”(1939)-A Film Review, Maybe

DVD Review

By Leslie Dumont

The Women, starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and the above mentioned fistful of lesser stars, starlets, fashion models, some producers’ mistresses, a few tramps, a couple more who look like they came out of a high-end bordello in the high rent district of New York City, a couple of  taxi dancers, a few lap dancers and at least half a dozen gold-diggers and not necessarily those lesser females, directed by George Cukor he of the trio of directors who made the classic age of romantic comedy classic, adapted from a play by Claire Luce, she of the Luce of Time magazine founder, screenplay by Anita Loos, she of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes adage (sparked by Dorothy Parker’s Big Blonde the prototype for all subsequent blonde worship and hair rinses), 1939                

Why the hell have I been forced marched into writing a freaking, Sam Lowell’s favorite expression more on him in a moment, silly review about the fantasy lives of the rich upper-crust, the Riverside Drive set, in late Great Depression New York, the film The Women, which I dozed off on at least a few times without missing a beat. More on that in a moment, and hopefully the new policy instigated by site manager Greg Green that some films, some turkeys can be dispensed with by a short brutish swipe and then more on. What I feel compelled to explain is why me, Leslie Dumont, out of the blue has received this loser as her latest assignment.   

This is where Sam Lowell comes in, comes in on the negative side where later when actually dealing with the film after I have had my bilious say he will be redeemed, for now. Greg Green, always Greg Green when stupid stuff happens at this publication, has had a bee up his bonnet around the lack of reviews about art in this publication indirectly pointing the finger at previous site manager Allan Jackson who before he went over the edge a couple of years ago around commemoration of all things 1960s assigned tons of political commentary and film, book and music reviews. (Somebody asked Allan recently on his return here as a contributing editor, whatever that is, if he had ever gone to an art museum, he gave that sly sideways glance when he was in his “don’t suffer fools gladly” mood meaning WFT.     

Sam who had actually been heading toward an art career, had been pushed by his high school art teacher who had paved the way for him to be admitted to art school had always dreamed of being an artist. Having grown up desperately poor his stern and practical Irish Catholic mother who had lesser visions eventually talked him out of that path hoping instead he would get a nice white- collar civil service and push the family fortunes up a notch. He didn’t do that either. Nevertheless, having haunted art museums for years, he was the logical choice to take the continuing assignment, a gravy train assignment meaning he would have had to travel to various art museums and the like. No go though since Sam of late has been knee- deep in his other love writing about the fates of various private detectives and currently why they have or have not been inducted in the P.I. Hall of Fame. He is hot on the case of famous California P.I. Lew Archer who despite a great start in the profession never made the cut. Sam has a theory, a theory about Lew’s sexual impotency which was the major cause of his failure to thrive as he ended up doing “repo” work and peeping through keyholes when that was lucrative divorce work. Greg Green has given Sam a bye on the art front to pursue those leads.      

Now things get dicey. Greg desperate to get started on this projected continuing series cornered me at the water cooler one day and asked me if I wanted the assignment. No way, not interested, never been to an art museum since about high school when we took at trip from Trenton to the Met in New York City. Me and my then boyfriend snuck in some back halls and made out until we were ready to get the bus back to Trenton. To hold Greg off I mentioned that Laura Perkins, a fellow writer here and Sam’s longtime companion, had told me once that she had taken art classes in high school and college and had been to at least one art museum. So, yes, I, according to her “ratted her out.” But revenge is sweet and now that she is herself knee-deep in doing art research and articles and immune from other work, she has put the word in to Greg, who is her poodle now, to give me crazy film assignments like the brain-dead thing I am being forced to review, and review right now.

At this point Sam Lowell redeems himself for a very simple proposition-if you are at a loss, a total loss for a “hook” which every storyline needs to float then go back to tried and true “slice of life” when as here you have an old-time film. And frankly that is the only way that I can figure to say two words, positive or negative, about this film despite the fact that it has an all-female cast. Actually, that may be what is wrong with the thing, with the concept behind Ms. Luce’s original intention. To 2018 eyes which have gone through a few phases of feminism this thing doesn’t fly. For lots of reasons. Here is where I probably should make an act of contrition about any bottom-dwelling I have said about the 24/7 Christmas-etched films which have recently ended on the Hallmark channels. With the lame slapstick and over-the-top sudsy melodrama every Hallmark venture looks like an Academy award nominee.

Okay, slice of life time (thanks again, Sam). This is about the rich and spoiled women who despite the Great Depression still in full blast (it would not really abate until the cataclysmic beginning of World War II in the Pacific for this country) had nothing but time bile on their hands. “Catty” is the word that came to mind very early as the vultures flocked around the latest victim to scavenge. That being pure as the driven snow, Mary, played by super-melodramatic Noma Shearer who made a career doing this tearful muck. Mary, who in real life is the appendage of one Stephen Hanes. One Stephen Hanes, unseen as are all other men from minute one to the end, at least breathing men although the whole plot stinks of men and their perfidy, has left the reservation. Who is having an affair, who is paying the rent for some hat check girl. No, for a damsel in distress met at the perfume counter of Black’s Department Store which I believe is now part of the Macy’s chain but which in its day was the place of places for the high-hatted high-toned set, female division. Middle life crisis Stephen has a yearning for exotic Chrystal, played by Joan Crawfish, oops, Joan Crawford, I am under the influence of a Jack Kerouac short story about a film she did in San Francisco which he witnessed and wrote about. (By the way this is the 50th anniversary of Kerouac’s too early death.)      

The sweet Mary, sultry Chrystal axis will drive the film’s ups and down, ups and downs aided a cluster of chucking hens led by Rosaline Russell who will convey far and wide at the drop of a hat, maybe just a hefty tip to the all-knowing wait staff at the exclusive combination beauty parlor and health spa where they all go to get refueled for the next bouts whose marriage is on the chopping block. Tough work between sitting through exotic (and truly over-the-top) fashion shows, long martini lunches and back to the exercise room. Tough work too the little witty bon mots and flaming arrows thrown around without discrimination for the truth of the matter or how hurtful it might be to the victim of the latest “be-heading” (the only discrimination, real , is the shabby second-rate treatment of the working class white and black female help which would make one hard pressed then, maybe now to, to believe that every woman is part of one sisterhood)    

Naturally younger gold-digger Chrystal will win round one, will win it almost without a fight which is something these high society dames seem incapable of when the deal goes down. Mary is out on streets. No, that is not the way of that world. She just goes to the West, to Reno for a sweet divorce with all the trimmings. Chrystal wins round two as well snagging Stephen into the marriage bed and easy street. But see Chrystal both overplayed her hand and is nothing but a gold-digging tramp who once she snagged Stephen started lining up the next best thing. Even Stephen got wise by then. And Mary when she got the word drew some from nowhere inner strength to go after her man. Round three to Mary although why she wanted back with her lover man I don’t really know, maybe he made her toes curl in bed, although in 1939 Code world we can’t even think such sexy thoughts. Maybe in the end this is really just another variation on the “boy meet girl” trope that has carried many movies and is another “hook” when you are desperate. I will stick with “slice of life,” circa 1940 since no way would a film like this be produced, not even on the Hallmark channels.  

Finally, and this might sound crazy but when I watched this film, watched it with Josh Breslin and yes, we are friends and let’s leave it at that for the rumor-mongers on the Internet, he blurred out that this film should be reviewed by a male, by a man. I agree.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dearest Mommy Can’t Dance-Or Sing-Joan Crawford And Clark Gable’s “Dancing Girl” (1933)-A Film Review

Dearest Mommy Can’t Dance-Or Sing-Joan Crawford And Clark Gable’s “Dancing Girl” (1933)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sarah Lemoyne

Dancing Girl, starring Francot Tone, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, 1933

[New Introduction-Sometimes things happen for a reason, for the fates, maybe a portent, at least that is what Seth Garth, my grandfatherly mentor here of late has told me (that “grandfatherly” put in to cut off what is becoming an ugly insinuation that there is some kind of undercurrent romance going on between us which is far from the truth as I have mentioned before but which bears repeating since this workplace has a history of older writers taking their stringers under their wings, despite age, marital status, religion or race for nefarious purposes again according to Seth). This review was supposed to appear several months ago when I first viewed it and turned in my draft review.

Somehow, between Greg Green’s undivided attention on doing the encore edition of a rock and roll series entitled The Roots Is The Toots which the previous site manager (or administrator, I think he was called but don’t quote me on that since that was before I started here), Allan Jackson put together over several years and trying to get a handle of a couple of new series this one fell through the cracks. That is important because now that the dust has settled on that rock and roll series Greg asked me to get it in shape for publication. The happens to have dove-tailed with a “dispute” I am entwined in with occasional reviewer Sam Lowell who old, senile and wizened as he is still thinks he can write reviews, if he ever did in the past which is open to question, serious question.

I have been informed, and I did the research to prove it, that Sam after he got his precious by-line had stringers, mostly Leslie Dumont before she moved on to bigger and better things and Minnie Moore who I don’t know what happened to her and Seth didn’t know either, write his reviews and pass them in and/or he used studio publicity department press releases and just chopped off the top and sent them in from whatever watering hole or backdoor hotel he was hanging out in.

In a recent review of Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba’s Molly’s Game, a good film by the way which Sam essentially panned for no other reason than hubris on this fast-paced and intricate film (and probably had his longtime companion Laura Perkins who watched it with him and liked it write the review and sent it in), he challenged my research. Not the truth of it but a couple of lame excuses about how every stringer here had in those days, all female according to Seth who admitted that his stringers were usually female as well, the hots for him and/or everybody was doing the studio press release stuff on dog day films, his expression but actually about right. I have not had time to get back to Leslie, or to check the stringer employee records or see how many times Sam “mailed it in” with studio press releases (he says a couple but who knows until we get the stats). What is interesting is that the introduction I wrote below several months ago when Sam was beginning his sabotage campaign to get the coveted Hammer Productions series from the 1950s and 1960 reads like it was written by me this week. That says it all and so I will keep it- More later I am sure-Sarah Lemoyne]          


[In my very first film review after being hired here by site manager Greg Green I mentioned that this was my first real job in journalism and that I was going to use the introductory space to talk about myself and not go off on some tangent like some of the older writers do rather than deal with the subject at hand. Which I did. I also noted that not being wise to the various “traditions” in the profession like starting out as a stringer I had a lot to learn. Well I am here to bitch just like the older writers this time and to let one and all know that I am a quick learner once the rug has been pulled out from under me by one nasty old has-been Sam Lowell.   

The source of my wrath is centered on Sam, who is supposed to be retired and write an occasional review to let younger and fresher voices come to the fore, who let it be known to Greg Green that he was interested in doing the Hammer Production series originally assigned to me. The series that had six psychological thriller in it from the early 1960s mainly of which I had already done two which have been published here Cash On Demand and The Snorkel. It seems that as a remnant of the “good old boys” network that existed here under previous site manager Allan Jackson that older writers meaning mainly those good old boys got “first dibs” at any decent material. Sam, Judas-goat Sam by the way according to what I heard about the faction fight that led to Jackson’s demise (although he is here still puffing away at some nostalgia rock and roll thing that nobody under about sixty cares one whit about) invoked that privilege and now not only will he complete the series but will give an alternate review to the two that I did have published. That sucks.

Worse if what Leslie Dumont said is true about her time here when she was a stringer before she got that big push of a by-line at Women Today many years ago I will probably be writing the damn reviews while Sam gets on his bong pipe or whatever dope keeps him from toppling over in his dotage or runs away on some tryst with his flame Laura Perkins leaving me here to save his sorry ass. In that first introduction I was, admittedly, na├»ve enough to take Sam as a kindly old sot but like I said I am a fast learner, very fast. In the meantime I have this dog of a film to review about creeps I never heard of except maybe Clark Gable who my grandmother swooned over whenever his name was mentioned about a million years ago. Sarah Lemoyne]  


My good friend Seth Garth, who has given me some good advice, told me that the 1930s and 1940s, my grandmother’s time, was the golden age of musicals, musicals based on Broadway shows or done with the music of well-known Broadway lyric and melody writers like Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers and Barton Lane. Those names provided by Seth since I only knew George Gershwin’s name from Porgy and Bess. He had me watch Babes On Broadway with him which he was reviewing at the time and which has since been published as an example of real talent lighting up the Great White Way with Mickey Rooney and especially Judy Garland in the top roles. I could take my cue from that film and the two others which made up the trilogy and throw in a couple of other Rooney-Garland collaborations and would have the gold standard for the genre. (Bart Webber said throw in the motherlode of Fred-Astaire and Ginger Rogers song and dance flicks and you would not be steered wrong.)

Then there is this dog of film Dancing Lady which must have been produced by lead actress Joan Crawford’s lover or she had something on him that his wife should not know about because however earnest Joan might have been she could neither sing nor dance. Especially not dance with all her flailing arms and out of synch motions which left me wondering what the heck was going on. Of course the plotline (and star power Clark) would have indicated that maybe this would be a better film than it turned out to be.  


I have already moaned and groaned about the poor song and dance (hell even Fred Astaire brought in probably from desperation couldn’t make dear Mommy pop) so all we have left is the story behind the story. Joan, from nowhere, meaning probably Hoboken, dreamed the big dream of being a dancing fool on the Great White Way, on Broadway but like a million other well-intentioned young women didn’t make a dent although that did not stop her, or them, from needing food and shelter. Hence, she started out down in the dumps, down in dime a dance, roller rink, burlesque where she was “discovered by a young, wealthy Mayfair swell, played by Francot Tone who didn’t want her to perform but to marry him.

They go on and on about the matter but to his frustration and her sometimes annoyance she is committed to her art. One way or another she used him to make a few contacts on the street, on the Great White Way, and thus enter Patch, played by Clark Gable, who is the primo musical director on Broadway. Needless to say they don’t get along for a while until he sees her as his savior with her dancing and singing skills. Let me tell you though old Patch is no judge of either such skills and the real deal is that at the end after finally dumping Mayfair swell boyfriend and making a smash hit on Broadway they become lovers-fade out.           

I wish I could swear in a review like Seth Garth or even Sam Lowell do when they have a stinker or something that they cannot understand or make heads nor tails out of but I am a lowly stringer working my way up the food chain as Bart Webber said he used to say when he was moving up. But probably the only way I can swear is when Sam Lowell, pretty please, asks me to do one of his Hammer Production film reviews for him. You know I will then.