The Hollywood Style

hollywoodsbookRegular readers might remember a blog post I wrote last year about Hollywood portrait photographer Eliot Elisofon. I’m a huge admirer of his work so I decided to track down used copies of some of the books he wrote and one of my most interesting recent purchases was a lavish coffee table photo collection titled The Hollywood Style originally published in 1969 and co-authored by film historian Arthur Knight. The book provides an intimate look at the luxurious homes of various classic film actors and directors while combining three of my personal passions, history, photography and pre-80s interior design, into an impressive triumvirate that revels in Hollywood extravagance.

If you’ve ever pondered the design of Cecil B. DeMille’s home office or wondered what Jennifer Jones’ bedroom might look like you should find the following photos as curious and captivating as I did.

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EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches

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Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds. It’s pitch black because there is no electricity in town and you’re being pummeled by your belongings as they fly off the walls and shelves. In the chaos you can hear the shouts and screams of your neighbors and every dog in town seems to be barking and howling in confusion. Your natural instinct is to run outside before the walls come crashing down but you can barely move because your entire house is littered with debris, including lots of broken glass, ceramics and damaged electronics that could easily cause serious injuries. When you do finally make it outside the sound of wailing sirens begins to fill the air. You have no internet connection and phones are barely functioning so information is nearly impossible to come by. This information blackout will go on for another five hours as you attempt to check on your elderly neighbors, look for missing pets and try to find that emergency kit with a much needed flashlight that is buried somewhere underneath the wreckage that you once called home sweet home. Did the state of California just crack in half and break away from North America? Did Godzilla attack San Francisco? Did the zombie apocalypse start? Has a long dormant volcano erupted? These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that will race through your head seconds after the quake. Thankfully you’ll be wrong on all counts but you did just experience the most powerful earthquake to strike Northern California in 25 years.

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The Brutal Truth Found In 12 Years a Slave

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On Sunday many of us will be glued to our television sets watching the annual Oscar ceremony unfold. At this time of year I tend to contemplate all the new releases I’ve seen in the past 12 months or more and linger over the films that have captured my imagination, awed me, inspired me or just made me think about old ideas and tired truths in new ways.

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Wanna Rumble?

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I usually go out of my way to avoid ruffling the feathers of my fellow film fanatics but there are plenty of things that get me riled up on a monthly basis. Sometimes a girl’s just got to let off a little steam so excuse me while I borrow a page from my fellow Morlock Richard H. Smith and draw your attention to a few things that have got me seeing red lately. Wanna rumble? Here’s how you can really get my goat!

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The Eternal Star, Trapped in Time

Quick, how long was Clark Gable’s movie career?  If you said  38 years, lasting from 1923, his first uncredited extra work in Fighting Blood, to the 1961 posthumuous release of The Misfits in 1961, you’d be correct, technically.  For me, his career spanned 1930 to 1939, with Gone with the Wind as his swansong.   Oh, he didn’t actually do anything of note in 1930 and he did a hell of a lot of note after 1939 but when I think of Gable, I think of the thirties.   I identify most actors with a specific decade and, as box office returns would indicate, so do a great many people as actors’ careers tend to have a five to ten year period of total dominance followed by years of ups and downs.

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Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier

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2013 has quietly developed into a groundbreaking year for black actors and directors. Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE starring Chiwetal Ejiofor, Ryan Coogler’s FRUITVALE STATION starring Michael B. Jordan and Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER starring Forest Whitaker are all possible Oscar contenders for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and Idris Elba’s performance in MANDELA: A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM has also garnered considerable critical attention in recent months. These talented individuals may end up making history at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony next year if they receive the award nominations many claim they deserve. And while I don’t think you can measure a film’s value by the awards it receives it would be naïve to assume that those gold statues and the publicity they generate don’t hold any weight. In Hollywood winning an Oscar can open doors and close deals. The attention they procure can introduce you and your work to vast communities of people who may have never taken notice or been exposed to it before. Despite its fluctuating ratings, the Academy Awards is the most watched award show in the world and that kind of exposure makes Oscar gold invaluable. And few people understand the value of Oscar gold as well as Sidney Poitier.

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Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood

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I love Natalie Wood but I hate writing about her. Whenever I declare my affection for Natalie or mention one of the films she appeared in some heartless dolt will inevitably respond with an idiotic joke about her tragic death. The jokes are usually followed by a procession of armchair detectives intent on sharing their theories about her unfortunate demise. When that well runs dry someone will eventually mention her alleged sexual assault by a powerful actor in Hollywood, which leads people to further ruminate on her various relationships and rumored romances with costars (Raymond Burr, Nick Adams, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Christopher Walken, etc.) and directors (Nicolas Ray and Henry Jaglom). And while I can understand the fascination with Natalie’s very adventurous and often turbulent personal life, this tired ground has been trudged countless times and I have no desire to travel down that path today. Instead, I’d like to talk about Natalie’s acting talents and highlight a few of my favorite moments from her all too brief career in front of the camera. And this coming Sunday (August 18th) you’ll be able to see a couple of them when Natalie Wood takes center stage during TCM’s ongoing Summer Under the Stars.

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Winning Isn’t Everything: A Sports Movie Symposium


Robert Redford & Camilla Sparv in DOWNHILL RACER (1969)

This week millions of viewers will tune in to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London so I thought it would be a good time to discuss sports movies here at the Movie Morlocks. To be frank, I’m not a big sports fan. I don’t watch or follow any sport but I can still appreciate a good sports film.

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Buggin’ Out with Buggies

I’ve been thinking a lot about dune buggies lately. It all started a few weeks ago while I was watching HEAD (1968) on TCM starring The Monkees. This psychedelic blast from the past has many memorable moments including a scene where the iconic pop band drives a bright yellow buggy through some sand dunes while being chased by a giant-sized Victor Mature.

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The Films of Robert Mulligan, Part 2

This is Part Two of a four-part series that looks at the career of director Robert Mulligan. You can find Part One here.

After the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula made five straight films together to close out the 1960s, before Pakula departed to become a director himself. Using Mockingbird as a template, the duo chose projects that dealt with hot button issues (Love With the Proper Stranger and Up the Down Staircase), or were prestigious literary adaptations (Baby the Rain Must Fall and Inside Daisy Clover). Their final collaboration, The Stalking Moon, with a story taken from a Western novel, is the exception. Regardless of their middlebrow origin, these are films sensitively attuned to the social and geographic landscapes of their subjects, to the ebb and flow of urban overcrowding and the oppressive emptiness of the open plains. These films also continue Mulligan’s interest in outsiders adapting to new realities, in “dramas of experience intruding upon innocence”, as Kent Jones eloquently put it.

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