I’m thrilled that Theresa, at the fantastic new blog CineMaven’s: Essays From the Couch, is participating this year with a treatise on the divas in Libeled Lady versus those in its remake, Easy to Wed.
Marsha at A Person in the Darktries to keep it civil between Jean Brodie and Sandy from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Critica Retro offers up a piece on Olivia de Havilland’s twins suspected of murder in The Dark Mirror. If you don’t speak Portuguese, be sure to make use of Le’s handy translate button on the right side of the page!
At Girls Do Film, we are treated to a fascinating look at the legendary relationship between two of the biggest divas of them all, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
Readers, I have been so bogged down with research that this is the first moment I am getting to announce our annual Dueling Divas Blogathon! Usually, the blogathon takes place in December, but this year I am going to need to push it back a bit due to various research obligations during the months of December and January.
So hear ye, hear ye–dust off those jungle red nails and get ready, because Backlots’ 4th Annual Dueling Divas Blogathon is coming to the blogosphere on January 31, 2015! We have had so much fun with this blogathon over the past 3 years, and I can’t wait to see what this year holds.
If you haven’t participated in the past, here is a rundown of how it works.
In the weeks leading up to the blogathon, send me your topic so that I can add you to the list of participants. Your topic may be related to any of the following:
Classic film personalities who had a rivalry in real life, either over a particular film role or over a personality clash, ie Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
Classic film characters who had a rivalry on the screen, ie Mildred and Veda from Mildred Pierce
Any dual role played by an actor or actress in a classic film, ie Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.
You don’t need to feel limited to a single duel between two personalities or characters. You can talk about various clashes a single actor had (ahem…Bette Davis) or duels within a group. In the past, I have written about the duels in The Women, which was a lot of fun.
When you have chosen your topic, comment on this post with what you would like to write about, and I will keep a running list of participants.
Please feel free to take the banner below to advertise on your own site. I look forward to seeing all of the creativity that has been the signature of this blogathon in previous years!
Here are the participants thus far:
NOW VOYAGING will discuss the legendary sister actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine
FLICK CHICK will take a look at the duel between Sandy and Pamela in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
GOLDDIGGER OF 1933 will tell us about the duel between Lina Lamont and Kathy Selden in Singin’ In the Rain.
SILVER SCREENINGS will get creative and talk about 2 divas who LITERALLY duel, Gregory Peck and David Niven in The Guns of Navarone.
CINEMAVENS (a new blog to be up and running by the time Dueling Divas gets underway) will also get creative and pit Libeled Lady against Easy to Wed.
BARRYBRADFORD.COM will tell us about the duels between Vicki Frederick and Laurene Landon in All the Marbles.
SISTER CELLULOID will write about Kay Francis vs. Carole Lombard in In Name Only.
Well, readers, I must say, this blogathon has been a great success! On behalf of Carole & Co. and myself, thank you to everyone who submitted your posts. We so appreciate all the time and energy that went into these fantastic, informative entries, and we love reading all your work.
So without further ado, here are the final installments:
For my own entry in the Romantic Comedy Blogathon, hosted by Carole & Co. and myself, I have decided to focus on a lesser-known but undoubtedly very funny comedy by the name of Ever Since Eve, made at Warner Bros. in 1937. This was the second time Marion Davies and Robert Montgomery appeared onscreen together (the first was in Blondie of the Follies five years prior) and this movie also marks the final film appearance of Marion Davies.
Ever Since Eve tells the story of Marge, a young secretary who, unable to find a job due to her attractiveness, dresses down and immediately finds employment as an assistant to writer Robert Montgomery. But ultimately when he sees, quite by accident, how she really looks, he falls for her and we are treated to a joyous and clever spectacle of mistaken identities for the remainder of the movie, highlighted by Marion Davies’ comedic talent and that of the delightful Patsy Kelly, who plays her roommate.
Patsy Kelly, a veteran character actress who often played wisecracking maids or roommates, is a gem. Though she is not referenced often, her face is familiar to the vast majority of people familiar with 1930s Hollywood because of the memorable characters she creates and the boisterous energy she exudes onscreen. Kelly has a penchant for stealing the show in any movie she’s in, and this is no exception. Her smart-aleck line delivery and almost manic characters make for a winning combination, and she has some of the best moments in the movie. Ever Since Eve was her 14th movie, and she continued acting through the 1970s in movies like Merrily We Live, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and even appeared in the classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby in 1968.
Though by today’s standards the basic plot structure of Ever Since Eve, revolving around physical beauty as a factor in whether or not a woman was hired, might be considered rather misogynistic, it oddly doesn’t seem to matter in this film. The comedy is so sharp and the mistaken identities so expertly crafted that one gets the sense of a Shakespearean comedy of errors. The dialogue is witty and the ensemble work is masterful. Ever Since Eve is a great movie.
Despite a widespread publicity campaign, Ever Since Eve didn’t get the attention that Warner Bros. thought it would get upon its initial release. Combined with three prior Marion Davies movies that failed to live up to box office expectations at Warner Bros., this seemed to be the logical end of the line for Marion’s career at the studio. In addition, William Randolph Hearst, companion to Marion Davies and head of Cosmopolitan Productions at Warner Bros., was having severe financial difficulties. Marion thought, for the sake of her beloved “W.R.”, this would be a good time for her leave the movies and act as his full-time companion and caretaker. And that she did, devoting herself to taking care of Hearst, never leaving his side until the day he died. It is said that Marion Davies was one of the kindest, most generous people in all of Hollywood. And this act of sacrificing her film career to take care of her companion confirms it.
Marion and Hearst were together for 32 years, until his death in 1951.
Ever Since Eve is a true delight. I leave you with a fun scene.
This has been an entry in the Romantic Comedy Blogathon. See you next time!
The Romantic Comedy Blogathon rolls on today with some more fantastic entries! Without further ado, here they are. Thanks to everyone who has participated thus far, Vince and I are very pleased with the turnout!
It’s here, readers! Vince and I have been collecting entries all day for the Romantic Comedy Blogathon, and without any further ado, I give you the 7 entries we received today. Enjoy, and be sure to tune back in tomorrow for Day 2!
And finally, last for today but certainly not least, my fabulous co-host for this blogathon over at Carole & Co. takes a look at Carole Lombard’s Lady By Choice. When Vince talks about Carole Lombard, you’re hearing from a true expert! http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/691567.html
That’s all for today, folks! Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of the Romantic Comedy Blogathon!
May is upon us, readers, and you know what that means–it’s time for the Romantic Comedy Blogathon! Co-hosted by Backlots and Vince over at Carole & Co., the Romantic Comedy Blogathon runs from May 1-May 6 and is an opportunity for bloggers to swoon over their favorite romantic comedies and give us all a taste of that romance that classic Hollywood did so well.
We have a huge list of participants this year and we’re still accepting requests, so if you have something you would like to submit, let us know! This is shaping up to be a monumental blogathon, and I’m so excited to read all the entries.
For participants, there are two ways you may submit your post:
When your post is finished, link to this post. We will then post your link live on Backlots and Carole & Co. so all of our readers can go to your blog and read the entry.
Leave your link as a comment on this post.
In past blogathons I have accepted email submissions, but I find that sometimes emails get lost, so to keep all the submissions in one place I would like to have the entries linked or left as comments. My sanity thanks you!
Marion Davies in THE PATSY sums up how many entries we’re expecting.
If you have any further questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me or Vince, but if not…see you tomorrow for the Romantic Comedy Blogathon!
Today is the day, folks! It’s a spooky Halloween morning, and I have already received several entries for Backlots’ Hitchcock Halloween blogathon! The entries will appear here as I receive them. To those of you with entries to submit, please either send them to my email address or comment under this post (or the original announcement post, as you prefer).
So without further ado, here are the entries for Backlots’ first annual Hitchcock Halloween blogathon!
Some of the most entertaining duels ever depicted onscreen are concentrated in one single film. The Women (1939), directed by George Cukor and starring Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Joan Fontaine, and Paulette Goddard, is one of the most well-loved comedies of all time, and much of the acclaim it has received is due to the unique relationships the characters have with each other, and the complex web of competition that occurs among nearly every character with nearly every other.
The Women presents an unprecedented experiment with regard to casting a film, and in regard to the relationships between the characters. Based on the Broadway hit by Clare Boothe Luce, the tagline reads “The Women: It’s all about the men!” Indeed, the women in the film talk so much about their husbands, it may take a while for the viewer to recognize that something is missing. The husbands, when they are heard from, are always either spoken to over the phone or send their communication through letters. True to the Broadway show, the MGM casting department went to great lengths to ensure that every member of the cast was female. From the extras to the photographs to even the animals, there is not one male in the cast of 130 that makes up The Women.
Though a completely feminine picture, and very progressive in its treatment of divorce and extramarital affairs, The Women is still very much a movie made under the code. All divorces are eventually dissolved, and the “wayward” women are punished. Nonetheless, the code strangely holds this film together, leading to a tight finish and no problem unresolved. When the movie was remade in 2008, the filmmakers made an effort to make it more politically correct, liberated, and feminist, which ruined the story and led the film to be universally panned by critics. There is truly nothing like this original version of The Women, a hilarious story of friendship, competition, and gossip among society women.
There is a tightly woven network of duels in this movie, and the plot comes together through exploration of who is dueling with whom! I will list all the main characters here, and then delve into the duels.
Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) wife of Stephen Haines
Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell), wife of Howard Fowler, cousin of Mary Haines
Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford), perfume counter saleswoman, mistress of Stephen Haines and Buck Winston
Edith Potter, wife of Phelps Potter
Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard), mistress of Howard Fowler
Peggy Day (Joan Fontaine), wife of John Day
The Countess de Lave (Mary Boland), married multiple times, currently involved with Buck Winston
Little Mary (Virginia Weidler), Mary and Stephen’s daughter
MARY HAINES vs. CRYSTAL ALLEN
While having her nails done, Mary’s cousin Sylvia Fowler learns of the infidelity of Mary’s husband. The mistress is a perfume counter saleswoman named Crystal Allen, and Sylvia immediately takes action by telling Mary to get her nails done with the same woman, so she can hear the story for herself. Mary does that, and upon learning the story, she decides to largely ignore it. Sylvia, however, will do nothing of the kind. Due to her meddling, Mary and Crystal square off when they meet at the fashion show in the middle of the film. Pay special attention to the racy and clever dialogue.
It finally becomes clear that Mary is going to need to get a divorce from Stephen, as Crystal will not give him up.
PEGGY DAY vs. SYLVIA FOWLER
The sweet and shy Peggy Day finally gets fed up with Sylvia’s meddling in Mary Haines’ business, and after a scene at the gym with Edith and Sylvia in which the women gossip about the situation, Peggy complains to Edith that Sylvia is a “dreadful woman” and vows to tell her so. Edith convinces her not to, because it’s just Sylvia’s bad luck that Sylvia ” wasn’t born deaf and dumb.” The clash between Peggy and Sylvia continues through the rest of the movie, though Peggy’s shy demeanor prevents her from making it into an issue.
Peggy’s personality is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, she is very shy and unassuming, but on the other hand, she resents her husband for not letting her spend her own money. Eventually this becomes too much, and she ends up in Reno with Mary.
MIRIAM AARONS vs. SYLVIA FOWLER
On the train to Reno for her divorce, Mary Haines meets two women going to Reno for the same reason. One of them is the Countess de Lave, an exuberant multiple-time divorcee who nonetheless claims to believe in love by proclaiming “L’amour!” after nearly every sentence. She is intent on marrying Buck Winston, a singing cowboy and radio star with a popular show. The other woman is Miriam Aarons, a former chorus girl going to Reno for her first divorce.
Meanwhile, Sylvia finally gets a taste of her own medicine when she finds out about her own husband’s infidelity. She surprises Mary and Peggy with her own arrival to Reno. Shortly before Sylvia’s arrival, Miriam shared a secret with the Countess–she has been having an affair with Howard Fowler. Miriam does not know Sylvia, and it is a major surprise when Sylvia arrives and they are introduced.
Sylvia gets an article in the mail that shows with whom Howard has been having an affair, recognizes the name of Miriam Aarons. An all-out catfight ensues.
LITTLE MARY vs. CRYSTAL ALLEN
While in Reno, Mary finds out that Stephen has married Crystal. Little Mary, Mary’s daughter, does not like Crystal, but is civil to her because Mary has told her to be kind to Crystal. Crystal clearly is not the mothering type, and barely tolerates Little Mary. There is a confrontation between them where Crystal is on the phone in the bathtub with a mysterious man, and Little Mary becomes suspicious and eventually tells her mother.
SYLVIA FOWLER vs. CRYSTAL ALLEN
Sylvia and Crystal, who have become chummy, meet minutes after Crystal’s confrontation with Little Mary in the bathtub. Sylvia answers the phone when it rings, and it turns out to be the cowboy radio star Buck Winston. Crystal has been having an affair with the fiancé of the Countess de Lave.
By now, Little Mary has told her mother about the mysterious man, and with this newly found information about Crystal’s affair, Mary decides to take the initiative in getting Stephen back. She dresses for a party occurring that evening that Stephen and all the rest of the ladies are attending, and begins her recapture of her husband.
At the party, Mary tricks Sylvia into spilling the beans that Crystal is having an affair with Buck Winston, and thereby sets the ball rolling toward the end.
THE COUNTESS DE LAVE vs. CRYSTAL ALLEN
Also at the party, Buck Winston publicly declares his love for Crystal Allen. The Countess is humiliated, and Crystal goes for the jugular, implying that she is only after his money. The Countess reveals that all his money is gone, and that SHE is the sponsor of his popular radio show. Crystal is defeated, and her final line of the movie is:
“Well girls, I guess it’s back to the perfume counter for me. And by the way, there’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society…outside of a kennel. So long, ladies!”
The movie ends with Mary running back to Stephen with arms outstretched.
Director George Cukor is magnificent in channeling all these feuds into fun and creative scenes. Though there is some serious dueling in the film, the sharpness of the script and slapstick humor keeps the audience entertained and keeps the film from getting too mean.
The Women remains one of the best films of that marvelous year of 1939, and one of the best comedies of all time, thanks to the brilliant performances by the actresses involved and the unparalleled directing of George Cukor.
Today is the final day of the Dueling Divas Blogathon! Be sure to check out all the entries here. Thanks for reading and a special thanks to those who contributed their hard work to this year’s blogathon. I can’t wait for next year!
It’s happening again! That’s right readers, it’s time for those sassy sparring ladies (or gentlemen, we’re all for gender equality here at Backlots) to get out their foils and do some serious dueling! The Dueling Divas Blogathon is back for its second year, and this time there is a twist.
The rules remain the same as last year. As a refresher, participants may blog about any of the following types of Dueling Divas:
Those who had a rivalry in real life, either over a particular film role or over a personality clash, ie Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
Those who had a rivalry on the screen, ie Mildred and Veda from Mildred Pierce
Any dual role played by an actor or actress in a classic film, ie Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.
You can write about the divas themselves, compare their films, or if you are planning on covering an actor or actress in a dual role, you can compare and contrast the differences in the characters to give one example. There is really a very wide range of possibilities for this blogathon, and for those of you who haven’t participated yet it’s lots of fun!
Olivia de Havilland plays twins in “The Dark Mirror” (1946)
The Dueling Divas blogathon will be held between December 20 and 23, and you can submit any number of posts over those three days. To RSVP for the blogathon, simply comment on this post and I will add your name to the list of scheduled participants. You don’t have to tell me what you will submit and when just yet, but if you already have something in mind I would love to hear it! And don’t worry if you see someone writing about the same divas as you, as we all know there are some pairs who are massively popular and I don’t want to limit anyone’s creativity here!
Each blogger who submits a post will have his or her name put into a raffle. At the end of the blogathon on December 23, I will pick out a name from the raffle and the winner will have the choice between two prizes:
A) A DVD of the classic horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring two of our favorite dueling divas, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
B) A copy of the TCM book Leading Ladies, that profiles the biographies of seemingly endless classic film stars including some real dueling divas!
The winner will receive his or her prize within a week of the blogathon’s conclusion. This is Backlots’ first competition/raffle, and I am very happy to be able to do it!
So start thinking about which divas you would like to profile, and be sure to RSVP in the comments section of this post so I can add your name to the list of participants. To add the blogathon to the events section of your site, you can use the banner at the top of this post and let your own readers know it is happening. I do want to keep it traditionally classic (before the year 1968), but if someone really wants to profile a classic clash from a more modern film, I don’t want to discourage it. As I’ve said before, the definition of “classic film” is very wide and there are no set rules about what is or what isn’t considered classic, so if you would like to profile divas from a post-1968 movie that you consider to be a classic, go for it.
Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s posts in just about 6 weeks!
Backlots is devoted to honoring and celebrating all aspects of classic film and is written by Lara Gabrielle, a California-based classic film writer and historian. Lara is the author of CAPTAIN OF HER SOUL: The Life of Marion Davies (UC Press, 2022).
Here you will find pieces on frequently seen classics and some lesser-known gems, as well as book reviews, festival coverage, and pieces on the history, theory and culture of film as it relates to the study of classic cinema.
Enjoy the site, and thanks for reading!
AFFILIATIONS & AWARDS
2019 CMBA Award for Best Profile of Classic Movie Performer or Filmmaker--"The Activism of Myrna Loy"
Winner of the 2018 CiMBA Award for Best Classic Movie Series, BACKLOTS AT THE COURTHOUSE: OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND VS. FX
Winner of the 2014 CiMBA Award for Best Profile of a Classic Movie Performer or Filmmaker: A Q&A WITH JOAN FONTAINE IN HONOR OF HER 96TH BIRTHDAY
Winner of the 2011 CiMBA Award for Best Classic Movie Discussion, THE FINAL SCENE OF THE HEIRESS
I am honored to be a judge of the Animal Film Festival in Grass Valley, CA.
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Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson in "Mrs. Miniver."