Monday, July 26, 2021

Lena Horne Music Break

 Singer, Actress, civil rights Activist. She was a Best Actress Tony nominee for the 1957 Broadway musical, JAMAICA. Her leading man, Ricardo Montalban, was nominated for Best Actor. This was after her 1940s years making musicals at MGM, the Tiffany's of Hollywood studios for A-list musicals. She was a groundbreaking and glamorous Black star in those deluxe musicals. However, her freedom was limited. She was showcased in a sophisticated number separate from the movie's actiom. She never was given the opportunity to do scenes and act with her white fellow stars of those classy musicals -- performers such as Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. In the 1980s, she was the Toast of Broadway, receiving a Tony Award for her sensational one-woman show, LENA HORNE: THE LADY AND HER MUSIC. When she toured with that show in Milwaukee for a week, I saw the show more than once, attended the warm, friendly press reception Lena Horne held -- and Ms. Horne was extremely kind to my mother.

 For your enjoyment, I've posted some Lena Horne vocals. First, is one I love from her years as a band singer before Hollywood called. The lovely song is "Out of Nowhere."

From the 1948 MGM musical, WORDS AND MUSIC, here's "The Lady Is a Tramp."

Here's Lena on an NBC music variety special in 1971 singing "Watch What Happens" from the French musical, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG.

Lena Horne. She was absolutely fabulous.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

J.J. Gittes on Netflix

 This 1974 neo-noir film classic still awes and amazes me. It amazes me just as much today as it did when I took the bus to Hollywood during my summer vacation from school and saw it one weekday afternoon at Grauman's Chinese Theater during the first week of its run. It's one of my Top Ten all-time favorite films -- and it's now on Netflix. Jack Nicholson as dapper private eye J.J. Gittes and Faye Dunaway as the glacially elegant and wealthy Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray star in CHINATOWN.

In this tale of corruption, greed and deceit in 1930s Los Angeles, a Los Angeles undergoing a severe drought, actor/director John Huston co-stars as tycoon Noah Cross. This Noah controls the water and has...doubled-Crossed his daughter, Evelyn, When I was a kid in South Central L.A. and saw CHINATOWN for the first time, some people in that weekday matinee audience gave it a standing ovation at the end -- even when a guy in the back rows shouted, "They can't see you! It's a movie!" I loved that movie audience.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, in peak form, deliver two of the top Hollywood film performances of the 1970s. There's sharp direction from Roman Polanski and a brilliant screenplay by Robert Towne.

CHINATOWN is a must-see -- ad it's currently on Netflix.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Ginger Rogers & Barbara Stanwyck Dance Break

 Two Hollywood greats were born on this day in history -- Ginger Rogers and Barbara Stanwyck. Ginger secured her place in the A-List of Hollywood history when she danced with Fred Astaire in a series of 1930s RKO musicals, some with original songs written for them by Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern. An actress of depth and great clarity, she won a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar for the 1940 feminist drama, KITTY FOYLE. In films such as that, films that did not co-star Astaire, she proved to be a significant talent in such dramas and comedies as STAGE DOOR (1937), PRIMROSE PATH (1940), ROXIE HART (1942), Billy Wilder's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) and I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944).

 When Ginger danced with Fred in those celebrated original RKO musicals, she didn't just dance. She acted. She reacted. She danced in character, in the moment, and keeping the emotions of the scene fluid.

With Irving Berlin's TOP HAT (1935), Astaire & Rogers became a truly iconic movie musical team. They followed that with another classic, an original movie musical with a score by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern. Fred plays a professional dancers who sees, chats with and instantly falls in love with Ginger. She plays a non-nonsense dance teacher in Manhattan. Fred goes into the studio and pretends to need classes in order to talk to her again, However, his innocent ruse gets her fired and he immediately works to fix his mistake. Here's the "Pick Yourself Up" number from SWING TIME (1936).

The amazing Barbara Stanwyck didn't star in a series of star-making musicals like Ginger did, but, Lord! What a career! Stanwyck could break your heart as the ultimate self-sacrificing mother from the wrong side of the tracks in STELLA DALLAS (1937), break you up laughing as the lovable lady card shark in the Preston Sturges screwball comedy classic, THE LADY EVE (1941) and be the ultimate cold-blooded femme fatale killer in Billy Wilder's film noir classic, DOUBLE INDEMNIT (1944). In between, she'd get a song 'n' dance opportunity as Dixie Daisy in LADY OF BURLESQUE, a comedy murder mystery based on a novel written by famed stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee. Here's Stanwyck singing the "Take It Off the E-String, Play It On the G-String" number from LADY OF BURLESQUE (1943).

Later in the movie, Dixie Daisy and two fellow company members have to ad lib a dance routine when one of the tootsies has a loud meltdown backstage.

Ginger Rogers and Barbara Stanwyck -- two extraordinary talents.


 I grew in Los Angeles, specifically South Central L.A. which was way more racially diverse than portrayed in local media at the time. Our f...