Friday, May 27, 2011

Rudy/Movie cliches

As some of you may know, I went to California for a week and just came back about a week ago. While I was there, I had a chance to visit some old friends like Buster Keaton, Mabel Normand, Barbara La Marr, Peggy Shannon...and many others. I also had a chance to go visit the Hollywood History Museum (where you are now allowed to take pictures, which made me scream for joy in the lobby) and visit the Jean Harlow exhibit. I will post the pictures on here when I get a chance. Seeing her Packard, dresses, pictures, was just incredible. Another place I visited was the Hollywood Heritage Museum in the Cecil B. DeMille barn. I had never heard of it until just before I left and was uber excited to visit. And it was the coolest place! It is not very big, but it packs a lot of information and a lot of memorabilia in it's space. Buster Keaton's personal movie camera made me tear up. One of the coolest things was the little Valentino exhibit they had. They were playing a documentary about the Valentino memorial service and had a case of memorabilia, some of them I didn't know were still around! The record and sheet music was so amazing to see because I just thought they were no longer in existence.

The theme of my vacation did seem to be Valentino. I got to visit his grave (per usual), I went to the Silent Movie Theatre to see a showing of The Son of the Sheik starring Rudy, and then seeing and hearing about him at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. I was gonna go visit him again before I left, but I had a huge mix up with my flight and itinerary and just...yeah, nightmare.

So, I was getting all philosophical at the movie theatre watching him on screen. During scenes where the actors were being over the top dramatic and the title cards were saying some strange things, people would laugh and I realized that a lot of what Rudy did and other silent film stars did is considered cliche in movies nowadays. The main cliches are the damsel tied to the train tracks by the evil mustachioed villain and the pie in the face comedy scenes. But there is also the dark, handsome sheik (like Rudy) who is just utterly charming and irresistible. I mean, during the movie, it definitely implies that the sheik rapes Yasmin and she falls in love with him! In the original sheik movie, Diana is implied to have been raped and in the sequel she talks about not being able to resist his charms. So, in that sense it is laughable. Yes, Rudy is a babe but I think I would be kinda pissed if he raped me.

Anyways, people have to understand that silent movies was not about what was being said on the title cards, so they had to "over act" in order to really get their emotions to shine through to the audience. This is also why a lot of actors didn't like the coming of talkies because now they would have to act with words and tone down their physical motions. I mean, can you imagine Nazimova and Valentino acting out Camille as a talkie? It would be laughable! But, as a silent, it works! I was going to use Nazimova's Salome as an example, but her version is just plain weird no matter what. Sorry Madame.

I think these cliches are what makes people hesitant about silent film (also the stupid way of thinking that just because a movie is black and white, it is stupid...I hate people who think that way). I took my mom and sister to see My Best Girl with Mary Pickford for my birthday a year ago and they both admitted that they were not that excited because of preconceived notions about silent film. But at the end, they actually both really liked it! My mom even went to a Charlie Chaplin film with me months later. But, I will say I think the cliche of having the handsome prince come and rescue you will stick around for some time. I don't care so much for Rudy the sheik storming in my house and kidnapping me, but he could come rescue me from villainous gypsies or whatever anytime.

Ah Rudy...I do think the talkies would have ruined him because his mystique would have been gone. On the silent screen, he can sound like whatever we want him to sound like. And we can picture him as a sheik, or a bullfighter, or Armand and he can live in our silent film fantasies (we all have them. I was a jazz baby flapper like Clara Bow who was married to Buster Keaton of course). He is a beautiful legend and it was great to meet some people who love and adore him as much as I do.

On a sour note, I watched the 1977 movie Valentino the other night with Rudolf Nureyev as Rudy. Um, no offense to Nureyev, but what the hell was going on in that movie?! I turned it off after about 10 minutes. It makes no sense, Rudy is portrayed as some weird caricature of the real Rudy (it makes sense, really) and it was a total disappointment. Save your time and don't watch it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Miss Marion Davies

I'm really surprised that I haven't done an entry on Marion Davies yet. She is on my top list and I completely blanked apparently! Marion was another example of someone who embodied the 1920s. She loved to have fun, loved to laugh, and well, she just loved to have fun! I get a chance to visit with her when I go to California. Well, kinda. She is entombed in a big ole family mausoleum, so the closest you can get is standing on the steps. But, hey. Take what I can get.

Marion Davies was born Marion Cecelia Douras on January 3, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was Bernard, and her mother Rose, and she joined her older siblings, Rose, Reine, Ethel, and Charles (Charles drowned in 1906 when he was only 16).

The girls began to get the acting bug itch and decided they would try to break into show business. But first, they changed their "foreign" sounding name of Douras to Davies, an idea they got after reading the name on a real estate sign. The girls all began acting on stage, and Marion was signed to THE stage event of the early 1900s, the Ziegfeld Follies in 1916.

Marion made her film debut in a fashion reel modeling clothes designed by Lady Duff Gordon (famous also for being a survivor of the Titanic). She made a few other films the coming years and began to create a name for herself and earning money to help support herself and her family. One of the films, Cecilia of the Pink Roses (1918) was the first film she made with the man she would become forever tied to, William Randolph Hearst.

While Marion was still becoming a big star in her own right, but her "scandalous" relationship with Hearst, who was still married, was what she was most known for...even though she met him before her screen career, when she was still in the Follies. She wanted it to be adamantly known that she was NOT a gold digger who got her success from just being Heart's mistress. She was a talented actress who made it on her own.

Marion and Hearst had two different ideas about what direction her career should take. He liked seeing her in serious costume dramas, while she preferred comedies because she was just a natural! Her impressions of Pola Negri and Lillian Gish are hilarious! To be able to put her in the kind of pictures he wanted her in, Hearst created Cosmopolitan Pictures. Marion's showbiz friends, actors and directors alike both thought she would be better suited in comedy, but Hearst was very much against it. He didn't like people laughing at his beloved Marion.

And here comes the talkies!! Even though Marion performed on stage before appearing in silents, she was apprehensive about being in talkies because she had a stutter. But! Never fear! She persevered and did very well in talkies. However, Hearst was still nagging at her to appear in the big budget costume dramas he favored so much. In fact, Marion was up for the role of Marie Antoinette, but the role went to Irving Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer (this was not the first time Marion lost a role to the head of the studio's wife). Even though the two couples remained friends, Hearst refused to show any support for the studio in his publications.

She made her last film, Ever Since Eve in 1937. She retired to San Simeon (the huge mansion built by Hearst) and spent her years just being a companion. She still had the itch to get back to work, but she was afraid that Hearst would try again to control her career, and she just did not want to deal with that stress again.

During the 1930s, Heart's fortunes took a drastic decline, and Marion actually had to write a check and sell some of her jewelry to help bail him out. William Randolph Hearst passed away on August 14, 1951. He left over half of his fortune to Marion (His legal wife, Millicent died in 1974. They had 5 sons together).

About two months after Hearst died, Marion married a man named Horace Brown. The marriage was not good, and she filed for divorce from him twice, but the divorce was never finalized.

Marion Davies passed away from cancer on September 22, 1961 in Hollywood.

She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Even though Marion was the partner of Hearst for over 40 years, she never had children....or did she? After her death, her niece, Alice Lake came out and said that she was not Marion's niece, but rather her daughter with William Randolph Hearst. She had been told growing up that she had been Marion's sister Rose's daughter. But on her wedding day, Hearst acknowledged her as his daughter. Alice died in 1993 and is buried along with her husband in the Douras family mausoleum. If you look at a picture of Alice, she really does look like Hearst and Marion.

Rumor has it that Marion and Charlie Chaplin had quite the fling. An even bigger rumor/urban legend is that the death of Thomas Ince aboard Hearst's boat was caused by Hearst shooting Ince thinking it was Chaplin who he thought was making the moves on Marion. Even though the truth came out that the true cause of Ince's death was acute indigestion, the urban legend reason is way more interesting and intriguing in my opinion. Watch The Cat's Meow with Kirsten Dunst and Eddie Izzard to see the whole ordeal played out. Great movie!

Marion was supposedly the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane. Neither she nor Hearst were happy at all with this movie.

She once got President Calvin Coolidge drunk by giving him wine and telling him it was juice.

"Somebody told me that I should put a pebble in my mouth to cure my stuttering. Well, I tried it, and during a scene, I swallowed the pebble." ~ Marion Davies

Monday, May 2, 2011

National Film Registry is a new friend of mine. My new friend recently showed me this website with information on the National Film Registry, and let me tell you...I was scrolling up and down the list of movies that have not been added for like hours. I was really surprised at some of the titles on there that had yet to be added.

You can e-mail in your movie choices to and they ask for a limit of 50 choices (which, after looking at this list, is hard to narrow down). I highly recommend everyone sending in votes so we can all see some of our favorite film and film stars preserved for years and years to come. You can check out a list of those yet added here:

Here are a few of the highlights. Also known as the titles I sent my votes in for.

A Fool There Was (1915) starring Theda Bara

Camille (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino

The High Sign (1921) starring Buster Keaton

Extra Girl (1923) starring Mabel Normand

Flaming Youth (1923) starring Colleen Moore

Three Ages (1923) starring Buster Keaton

The Navigator (1924) starring Buster Keaton

The Merry Widow (1925) starring Mae Murray

Dancing Mothers (1926) starring Clara Bow

My Best Girl (1927) starring Mary Pickford

The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1927) starring Norma Shearer

Our Dancing Daughters (1928) starring Joan Crawford

Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) starring Buster Keaton

Like I said, there are a ton of other titles, tons and tons of talkie pictures that deserve to be preserved too, but I just named the silents for obvious reasons. Ya'll agree with my choices?