Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Well, goslings, I'm off to Washington D.C. for a work thingy. If only I had this Capitol Hill dress, or would that be like coals to Newcastle? I am going to be drastically internetless for a few days as I stand around a convention center wearing my pathetic excuse for a suit.

Movie round-up: Over the past week I've watched all sorts of old movies.

Insomnia led me to the 1944 Bette Davis and Claude Rains vehicle, Mr. Skeffinton. There is some fun stuff here (caution, spoilers ahead). There's a marraige of convenience to an older man who is--gasp!--Jewish. Ms. Davis plays a shallow society woman who loses her looks after a bad bout of diptheria. In the end she is tricked out in a curly wig and doll-like ruffles, a foreshadowing of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The script is not a good one. She has only one memorable line, delivered in pure Davis style, when she is broken and lonely: I've learned that one should never go looking for admirers when one is falling to bits. Hear, hear, sister. And there is a hilariously shmaltzy scene where Claude Rains is trying to tell his beloved half-Jew daughter about the prejudice she will face if she chooses to live with him after the divorce. There is some fun, yes, but by all that is holy, watch this with your gay boyfriends, your Uncle Monty, and other bon vivants who will make fun of it. Don't watch it by yourself in the middle of the night. Especially when you've been ill, your dalliance with a man ten years your junior is on the rocks, and you've just spent a good quarter of an hour evaluating what is turning into a bald spot. Really.

Don't worry about me, I'm a test pilot.

The 1954 Ulysses with Kirk Douglas was more fun than I expected. I knew it would be pure shlock once I saw the producers: Dino de Larentiis and Carlo Ponti. Mr. De Larentiis produced Barbarella, Flash Gordon, Dune, and Diabolique and several Conan the Barbarian sequels. Mr. Ponti, Sofia Loren's longtime paramor, produced Blow Up, Contempt, Boccacio '70. Besides Mr. Douglas, everyone else was speaking Italian, and the dubbing showed a delightful disregard for versimilitude. The costumes were thrilling. Circe, played by the same actress as Penelope, was so fetchingly corseted and garnished with fake hair. But the island of Corfu was my favorite. When Nausica and her ladies find Ulysses on the beach, all of them are wearing candy-colored faux tunics that catch the wind to show some leg. All the men on Corfu sport beards and ringlets with low-cut 80s prom dresses that show their chest hair. Nausica and her maidens wear dirdls in the palace and hats that look like cakes. The costumes are hilarious.

And the 1955 Three for the Show wears marvelously thin, but the premise is promising. Betty Grable plays a Broadway star who remarried after her husband was killed in WWII. When he returns unharmed, she finds herself legally married to two men, and she likes it that way. This one is a howler. She has a dream sequence where she's got a harem of shirtless men in tarbooshes climbing out of cages. Ms. Grable wears a blue faux-Indian pant suit, and what looks like a paisley pattern of fake hair entwined on a metal structure like a pagoda. It must be seen to be believed. Ms. Grable is so platinum blonde it looks gray. Dancer Marge Champion has a dream sequence in a 19th century gown where she runs up and down stairs with a revolver, shooting men in tuxedos with stockings over their faces. This culminates in a sword duel with another blonde where they cut each others' clothes down to their corsets to the tune of what sounds like a stolen riff from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Again with corsets and shamless fake hair wearing. That was awesome. But the whole thing gets sappy and conventional in the end, and Love and Honor and Marriage and all that crap are preserved. Even though W. Somerset Maugham is credited as one of the writers. Go figure.

I think I need some fake hair and a corset and I'll be right as rain.


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