Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tonight or Never (1931)

I have had Tonight or Never downloaded since last year and just got around to watching it now. I found out about this movie when I was looking through a book about the French fashion designer Chanel and saw that she had designed the dresses Gloria Swanson wore in the film.
Tonight or Never was not a bad movie, like almost all old movies to us today it was a bit silly. I will say that Gloria Swanson knew how to pick some movies with controversial plots for the time. Swason plays a European opera singer named Nella Vargo. Her performance in Venice has been praised but her music teacher Rudig thinks she could have done much better. Nella is upset and confused- the audience loved her and she even felt she did a good job. Rudig tells her that she has no passion in her performance; she needs to know what love is and the passion of being in love. He tells Nella that until she can sing passionately she won't be able to play at the Metropolitan Opera House which after she will become the best opera singer in the world.
In the meantime, an admirer is pacing outside her window, a circle of cigarrettes litters the ground where he has been. Nella notices the man standing outside and becomes interested. All she can do is stand and look at him she doesn't call out to him. Rudig tells Nella that he was sitting near the man during the performance and that he was sitting down next to this old opera star Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni who has a notorious past. He believes the man to be the old woman's gigolo. He also reminds Nella that she is engaged to Count Albert von Cronac, but she does not love him. After everyone leaves, Nella is sitting alone on the couch when the man outside throws some flowers and note up to her room. The note says that he will see her in Budapest. She goes to the window but the man is gone.
Nella goes to bed but she cannot sleep. She keeps thinking about the man outside her window and why she did not say anything to him. Next door she hears a couple saying they love each other which bothers her to no end. To get away from Italy and to forget about the man Nella rings everyone to say that they are to leave for Budapest that night. On the train, her maid finds out that the admirer is on the same train. Nella goes to try to talk to him but the man's door is open and he is talking to the Marchesa. He says he liked Nella's performance but the Marchesa did not.
Once in Budapest, Nella cannot concentrate on her singing all she has on her mind is the admirer. He walks past her window waiting for her. She becomes frustrated with her love life so she tells her butler to order a taxi to take her to the hotel where the man is staying and to get her new white dress out for her to wear. That night she dines at the hotel and then goes to the man's room. She plays a little game with the man in the Marchesa's room, she says that she was looking for the US ambassador and his wife but she accidentally got off on the wrong floor. The man knows that Nella is there to see him; a hotel employee told him that Nella was asking about him. They talk for a bit, he says his name is Jim, and then she "leaves". He opens the window and freshens the room and sits on a chair waiting for Nella to come back in. Nella comes in and acts provocatively. In their conversation it comes up that she thinks he is a gigolo and instead of telling her no that he is not he plays along. Jim takes Nella and grabs her bruising her arm. He takes her arm and kisses it and then does the same to her other arm. Jim gives her an ultimatum: she has three minutes to make up her mind to either stay the night with him or to leave and never see him again. Nella decides to stay the night.

The next night Nella gives the performance of her life and is offered a contract to sing in New York. She feels very confident now that she will be starting a new life. Rudig had told Nella that the Count was having an affair so she told him that she no longer wants to be engaged to him and Rudig and the butler kick him out. The same day Jim comes by to bring back her emerald necklace she gave him as payment for the night before and demands that she chooses between him and New York. Nella is upset and goes to see Jim. She rips the contract up in front of him. Jim tells her that he is Jim Fletcher a talent scout from the States and that he is not the Marchesa's gigolo he is her nephew. The movie closes on Nella and Jim kissing.
Like I said a little silly for us now but a bit controversial for then. It seems Gloria Swanson knew how to get people talking with her movies.
Gloria Swanson was not horrible in the movie but she wasn't the greatest. Knowing that she was a silent film star you can see that some of her facial and body actions were over dramatic. Most of the time she talked like a dopey teenager and not like a 32 year old woman.
The costume pictured at the bottom is probably the most gorgeous outfit in the whole movie. The costume doesn't need words to describe it... the piece is Chanel and anything Chanel made was always beautiful. In one scene there was even the classic Chanel suit with the lose jacket, skirt and hat that I really wanted. Some of the costumes were over the top and definitely did not suit Gloria Swanson's figure but they were all gorgeous.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sadie Thompson

"You may have the power to hang but I have the power to tell you HANG ME AND BE DAMNED!!"

Last night in my Music and Film class my professor showed Gloria Swanson's movie Sadie Thompson. The movie was made in 1928. Even though sound was now being used in cinema Sadie Thompson is a silent film. Swanson- like many silent stars- thought that sound in film was a fad that it would never work. Director Raoul Walsh also stars as the leading man in the movie Tim "Handsome" O'Hara.
Sadie Thompson is a "lady of the night" looking for a new job on an island called Pago Pago.  On the same ship is a "moralist" named Mr. Davidson (played by Lionel Barrymore) who has come to the island to teach the natives about sin. Once off the ship Sadie attracts the eyes of some Marines stationed on the island. Before she even gets to her room in a small motel there are men circled all around her.

One of the Marines following Sadie is Sgt. Tim O'Hara who has fallen the hardest for her. Mr. Davidson and his wife are also staying in the same motel as Sadie and they are appalled by her behavior: smoking, flirting, listening to Jazz. Sadie and O'Hara have a "romantic" scene (by 1920s standards) out on the porch. He tells Sadie that he has a friend who married a prostitute in San Francisco. Sadie comes from San Francisco where she is trying to get away from someone who won't let her "turn straight." O'Hara wants Sadie to not go on the ship she is supposed to instead he tells her to go to Australia so they can start fresh. She agrees... but unfortunately Mr. Davidson wants to redeem her and has tricked her into saying why she left San Francisco. Davidson has ties with the governor who now says she cannot leave the island that she must go back to San Francisco to go to jail. Sadie told him that there is "a man there who won't let her go straight." Davidson figures that there is a warrant out for her arrest. Sadie says she is innocent but she will still go to jail. A bit later Sadie is sitting in her room alone; she calls out to Davidson because she is afraid. He gets her to repent and pray. She turns to Christianity and for three days she prays and gets rid of everything from her old life. O'Hara comes back to get her to put her on a boat to Australia. For the three days he was locked up for being immoral. Sadie says that the old Sadie has died and now she must pay for her sins. O'Hara sees this for the load of garbage it is and forcibly takes her against her will. Davidson is outside and Sadie runs to him, he has made her a weak and timid woman. Later that night Davidson cannot sleep, earlier in the film his wife has told one of the other visitors that her husband has not been sleeping well because of "unpleasant dreams of Sadie". The visitor is no fool; he knows the dreams are not "unpleasant" at all. Davidson walks outside of Sadie's room; she doesn't know what the noise is and out of fear runs to Davidson's room. He see's Sadie in his room, he is unable to handle his sexual attraction to her no longer. He kills himself by slitting his throat in the ocean. Sadie and O'Hara meet again. She is able to see that Davidson was no good. O'Hara asks her again to go to Australia with him and she agrees.
So this is not shocking in the least to us today but when you think back to the time this was made it's really shocking. Gloria Swanson really wanted to make this film and had to go through hoops with the Hays Code and the moralists of the day to get it made. Swanson and the movie received an Academy Award nominations.  
This is now one of my favorite films. The story is so good and so different for a movie at the beginning of film. Gloria Swanson was gorgeous and wonderful as Sadie. I can now see what this is considered the performance of her career. For me now she's not just the crazy, scary bitch from Sunset Boulevard!! She's now also a feisty, beautiful woman. The direction was done very well by Raoul Walsh, he did what is asked by every director- to capture the emotions of his characters. My favorite part of the movie is when Sadie and O'Hara "kiss" with the ends of their cigarettes since it was "morally wrong" back then to have a passionate kissing scene. It says so much without being so much it was perfect.

My professor for Music and Film, Joseph Turrin, composed and scored the music for Sadie Thompson when it was originally released on DVD. The score Professor Turrin made is perfect. He did such a fabulous job, he fit the music to the moods and really created great tension between Sadie and Davidson with some piano notes. The piano playing a few notes along with the rain falling is brilliant.  I liked the music for the record player it was a Jazz rhythm.
Try your hardest to get your hands on this movie if you can. If you're a movie fan in any sense Sadie Thompson is a brilliant film to see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Love For Movies

Welcome to my movie blog. I created this blog to just talk about movies. I am a passionate movie fan I love all aspects of movies from the acting to the direction, music, lighting, everything.

I am really passionate about classic films from silent up to 1960 (not a fan of anything historic past 1960). Some of my favorite films are those by Alfred Hitchcock, he truely is the greatest director that has ever graced Hollywood. My favorite classic actors and actresses include: Ingrid Bergman, Ginger Rogers, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Fontaine, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart.

I do like a lot of actors and actresses and movies from today so no worries it won't all be old movies all the time.

I own 388 dvds so there will always be something to talk about.