Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Girl is Boarding a Plane...

My blog has been languishing in silence for the past week and I'm afraid it's going to be silent for one week more. I've been readying for a trip (one I've been looking forward to for some time) and tomorrow, I leave. I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't able to squeeze in a few more posts before the end of August. I could offer you my excuses. There's one I've been dying to use...

C'est la vie. August was quiet but September should be a veritable blitzkrieg, considering the slew of blogathons I see on the horizon. And I just know that someone's going to announce something new and wonderful the minute I turn my back. A Warner Archive sale, a tell-all interview with Deanna Durbin, a contest for the best Cary Grant-themed villanelle...

Bye for now, guys. I promise to be back soon. With more reviews, more lists, and more movie-related obsessions. I could never resist this place for long.

Grace Kelly photo is credited to Pictures

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award and Seven Things About Me

So it turns out I've had the great honor of being nominated for an Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. Four times actually; Monty (All Good Things), Clara (Via Margutta 51), Dawn (Noir and Chick Flicks), and Dorian (Tales of the Easily Distracted) all ganged up on me. You guys. To be nominated by such a cool crowd of bloggers is truly overwhelming. Unfortunately, I can't talk about how sweet you all are without making horrible puns and I've used up all my jokes from The Oscar so I'll just say thank you. Thank you and thank you and thank you.

The stated rules of this award are that you have to pass it on to 12 of your fellow bloggers. Normally I would do just that, but this time, I'm going to forgo that step. This particular award has been making the rounds for a while now, so I think most of my would-be honorees have already been named. Therefore, in lieu of naming 12 blogs, I'm going to direct all my readers to turn their attention to my blog roll, pick out a few blogs they don't know, and do some exploring. I have a very long, very wonderful blog roll.

The other rule of the award is to give seven random facts about yourself. So, for those who are interested...

1. I was born in a town with a population of 2,500. Although I've lived in bigger cities since, I'm a small-town girl at heart. My hometown is so cute, it was once used as the setting for a Hallmark Christmas movie.

2. As a little girl, I longed to wear glasses since all the rest of my family did, with the exception of my mom who wore contacts. Although my eyesight stubbornly remained good, I would occasionally steal my dad's glasses and wear them perched on my nose while I tried to play Tetris on our old Nintendo.

3. I taught myself Gregg shorthand during my free moments at my work-study job in college. I've forgotten most of it, but I keep meaning to go back and re-learn. Call it a personal resolution.

4. My favorite food in the world is beef stew.

5. I'm a stickler for spelling and grammar and I inevitably dissolve into a puddle of mortification whenever I catch any obvious mistakes on my blog entries.

6. My childhood loves include Disney, Beethoven, Faerie Tale Theatre, the American Girl series (before it got sold to Mattel), encyclopedias, Oregon Trail, cross-stitching, craft kits, and Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.

7. I started this blog because I love talking about classic film, and I rarely got the chance to do it in my everyday life. It was a good decision.

...You know what this post is missing? James Cagney and puppies!

Cagney and the puppies are credited to Dahlia Delilah.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Movie Review: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)
directed by Albert Lewin, starring Ava Gardner, James Mason

Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner), a beautiful, bored singer, lives amongst the expatriates that flit along the European coastline in the 1930s. No man can resist Pandora's charms--one even commits suicide over her--but she remains unmoved. One night, one of her suitors (Nigel Patrick) decides to prove his love by pushing his beloved racing car off a cliff. Pandora is impressed by his sacrifice and agrees to marry him. In the words of her friend Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender), "The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it."

But fate has other plans for Pandora. On the night of her engagement, Pandora spots a yacht out in the harbor and impulsively swims out to it (stark naked).  There she meets Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason), mysteriously the only man on board. He is completely unsurprised by her entrance, turning away from her so that he can finish painting a portrait. But when Pandora goes to look at the painting, she finds out that it looks exactly like her. How can that be, when she has never met this man, and he claims not to know her?

Intrigued, for probably the first time in her life, Pandora draws this mysterious stranger into her circle of friends. The attraction between Hendrik and Pandora is obvious to everyone, even as the date of Pandora's wedding draws closer. But Pandora's friend Geoffrey starts to suspect that there is something extraordinary about Hendrik van der Zee. 

On a hunch, he asks Hendrik to translate an old Dutch manuscript for him. Hendrik obeys, reciting the dark, strange tale of a sea captain who killed his wife for her infidelity. Arrested for her murder, the captain swore to the heavens that no man could ever find a truly faithful woman, if he sailed the seas for all eternity. That night, the captain found his cell door unlocked and a voice whispered to him the truth: his wife had never been unfaithful. Heartbroken, the man stumbled back to his ship and discovered that it now sailed by itself, manned by a crew he could neither see nor hear. Soon, the captain discovered the true nature of his punishment: he would sail until the end of time, looking for a woman who loved him enough to die for him. Every seven years, he would be allowed to go ashore and spend six months there, looking for such a woman. If he did not find her, he would be cursed to wander, immortal and alone, forever.

The emotion in Hendrik's voice as he reads the story convinces Geoffrey that this is the very same sea captain, the Flying Dutchman of the story. He also suspects that the captain has fallen truly in love with Pandora, that she might be the one to rescue him from his bondage. But even if Pandora were willing to sacrifice herself, how could the Dutchman ever allow her to do it?

Albert Lewin, the man behind Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, was one of the most unusual directors to come out of mid-century filmmaking. He only directed six films, all of which he wrote and produced himself. In defiance of mainstream tastes, his films were erudite, highbrow, and fiercely intellectual. Lewin was also an art collector, with a taste for the surreal (his friends included Man Ray and Max Ernst) and his films frequently reflected this fascination. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was his fourth film and many consider it the culmination of Lewin's obsessions: a proudly romantic, visually fascinating attempt to bring his love for myths and art to cinematic life. 

Talk about an embarrassment of riches--Pandora and the Flying Dutchman might be considered an embarrassment of references. The film takes the original legend of the Flying Dutchman and combines it with the Greek legend of Pandora, the fabled "darling of the gods." The name of the village in which the film is set is Esperanza ("hope"), famously the only thing Pandora had left after she opened the box. And the Dutchman is given a backstory straight out of Othello, with a chance at redemption that hails from Heinrich Heine's classic opera. 

Lewin threads the film with other, smaller details. The film opens with lines from the Rubaiyat. Hendrik the Dutchman recites Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" at one point. Hendrik's painting of Pandora is an actual painting by Man Ray, who also designed a chess set for the film. The cast roams over beaches strewn with broken statuary. This last detail leads to one of the film's more memorable setpieces, as a crowd of partygoers dance and laugh amidst the statues, the new merrily tramping all over the old. It's like a sequence straight out of La Dolce Vita.

As if to complicates matters further, Lewin sets the whole film back in the 1930s and then promptly disregards his chosen time period in order to dress his cast of expats in the latest fashions. The 1930s time period only makes sense as a reference to Hemingway and Fitzgerald's crowd. The way Lewin lingers over a car racing scene and a bullfighting sequence leaves little room for doubt that he had Hemingway in mind. Within this confusion of time and place, Lewin sets the impossible love story of the Dutchman and the nightclub singer. 

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a film that announces from the very first scene that this will be an epic love story, a tale of delirious and sacrificial love that lasts beyond death. Unfortunately, all the delirium exists within Lewin's frenzy of art and myth; when it comes to the real emotional heart of the story, the film falters. The love story between Ava Gardner's Pandora and James Mason's Hendrik is incredibly, epically dull. How can such an ambitious film, beautifully lensed by the legendary Jack Cardiff, fail so miserably on its most important point?

Well for starters, Gardner and Mason have almost no chemistry together. But that's the least of the love story's problems. For reasons best known to himself, Albert Lewin decided to keep the development of Pandora and Hendrik's relationship mostly off-screen. We rack up more minutes on Hendrik's backstory and the shallow lives of Pandora's friends than we do on the lovers themselves. If not for a stray comment by Pandora's friend Geoffrey (who seems to exist for no other reason than to be our narrator, a kind of bargain basement Morgan Freeman), you would never know that Hendrik and Pandora were falling in love. The only hypothesis I can make for this is that Lewin thought the grandeur of their love was best left to the imagination. Unfortunately, this tactic means that the audience doesn't have any emotional stake in their love. We don't know what they talk about, what they're like together, or why they love each other.

In the few moments where they do interact with each other, Lewin saddles the actors with very flat, portentous dialogue. For example:
Hendrik: Perhaps you haven't found what you want yet, perhaps you're unfulfilled. Perhaps you don't even know what you want, perhaps you're discontented. Discontentment often finds vent through fury and destruction.
Pandora: Fury and destruction, is that what you think? Well perhaps I can find something here to destroy...Would you like me to destroy your painting?
Hendrik: If it would help to quiet your soul.
(a few lines later) 
Pandora: You've made me feel ashamed of myself. It's a new emotion, I'm not sure I like it. 
Here's another example:
Pandora: It's as if everything that happened before I met you didn't happen to me at all but to someone else. And in a way that's true. I've changed so since I've known you. I'm not cruel and hateful as I used to be, hurting people because I was so unhappy myself. I know now what destructiveness comes from, it's a lack of love.
These aren't characters talking, these are concepts. It makes me feel like the Robot Devil from Futurama. "You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!" It's flat enough on paper, but in the mouths of actors it's just painful. What makes it even worse is that Lewin doesn't bother to leaven it with any humor or uncertainty. It's all formal declarations in tones of deadly seriousness. In his attempt to impress on us the importance of his ideas, Lewin bypasses both realism and poetry and comes up with something that's neither. Mason and Gardner do their best, but you can feel the wheels grinding.

Ava Gardner is heart-stoppingly beautiful in this film; she seems to glow from every angle. It's her beauty more than anything that makes Pandora's La Belle Dame Sans Merci reputation seem utterly plausible. Who wouldn't be tempted to throw their racing car off a cliff for that face? Unfortunately her personality doesn't match up to her looks.  Pandora the person is cold, distant, and callous; you have to wonder if her suitors ever bother to actually listen to anything she says. When one of her smitten gentlemen friends offs himself in her presence, Pandora's response is little more than a shrug ("Reggie was always talking about suicide...it's over now and I'm not sorry"). 

I can't help wondering, given Lewin's choice of setting, if he wasn't influenced by the Zelda Fitzgeralds and Duff Twysdens that haunt Jazz Age literature. If he was, he forgot to give his protagonist the charm and lust for life that made these women so unforgettable. It's bold of him to make his heroine so unlikable, but the expected payoff of the selfish Pandora being reformed by love isn't convincing. We aren't given any indication that Pandora has the deeper feelings that would make such a transformation possible. 

Gardner's performance doesn't smooth the transition any. She floats through most of this film, speaking her lines in a hypnotized monotone. The few times she struggles for more emotion, she just sounds petulant. This isn't entirely her fault, as Lewin's script doesn't give her many chances to explore her character. Too much is given to exposition and grandeur. Gardner ends up looking lost, unable to find a foothold in her own film.

James Mason fares somewhat better than Gardner if only because he can deliver Lewin's granite-faced dialogue with complete conviction. Hendrik van der Zee is a man out of his time, haunted by past regrets. He is drawn to Pandora, but his tormented face and demeanor don't exactly fit in with her party-loving crowd. Faced with both long stretches of exposition and long stretches of silent glowering, Mason does both admirably.

It's funny, though. Mason cut his teeth on dark, romantic roles (the Gainsborough melodramas and his string of Ophuls films come to mind). If anybody could unlock the swoon-worthy, Gothic-hero potential in Hendrik van der Zee, you'd think Mason could. Instead, he comes across as rather stiff and remote. Lines like, "I was angry once, I can never be angry again," make him seem less like Heathcliff and more like Bruce Banner. If the studio executives were hoping they could market this film on Mason's appeal to women, then this was a serious misfire.

With all the charges I've laid against Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, what could redeem it? Answer: the visuals. This is one of the most stunning Technicolor films I've ever seen. The nighttime scenes glow sapphire blue, purely unreal, while the daytime colors blaze hot. The shadows soften the actor's faces until they seem to shimmer in and out of the fantasy dreamscape that Jack Cardiff crafts from the Spanish coast. Cardiff's cinematography here could stand up alongside any of the films he made with Powell and Pressburger. And when you consider that Cardiff helmed both the on-location photography of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman and the largely setbound camerawork of Black Narcissus, well, the time has come to throw up your hands and declare Jack Cardiff the master of all.

This is not to discount Lewin's hand in the visuals. Lewin directs with a painter's eye; he has the ability to wed small details to strong, dynamic lines. Look back to that still of the musician leaning up against the statue, the line of his trombone against the diagonal of the column. Or the one of Mason being held by guards as the floor pattern stretches beyond him to infinity. Actually most of the Dutchman's backstory is cleverly photographed by Lewin and Cardiff to look like a series of Baroque paintings. Lewin wasn't afraid to reach for the obscure or the strange in his visual work and it works greatly to the film's advantage.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a film about timeless passion, the kind that would make a man kill the wife he loves, that would make a faithless woman risk death. And it was a film driven by the passion of one man, Albert Lewin, who wrote, directed, and produced it. How odd then, that the film ultimately feels so empty of passion or feeling. Jack Cardiff's color cinematography is a gift from heaven, but that isn't enough to keep the fires burning. I watched it with clinical, Pandora-like detachment, all through the two-hour running length.

And yet, somehow I can't call it a waste of time. It's a strange mixture of the sublime and the dull. It reaches astonishing heights of beauty through Cardiff's colors, Lewin's compositions and Ava Gardner's genetics. But they're laid at the service of a self-important, humorless script and pacing that just plods along. Still, if Lewin doesn't succeed in making a masterpiece, he does create a memorable and utterly unique film. How can you help but tip your hat to Albert Lewin, the man of many dreams? 

Favorite Quote:

"No work of art is complete until the element of chance is entered into it."

Favorite Scene:

The film's most magical moment comes when Pandora decides to swim to the Dutchman's empty ship. Leaving her bewildered companion behind on the crumbling steps, she slips out of her clothes into the shimmering blue water. When she reaches the ship, she calls out her hellos. Confident, as always, of her welcome. Confused at the lack of response, she swims to the side, peeking her head over and looking, for all the world, like a mermaid. Pandora looks in vain for crew members, but sees only the moonlight glinting off the railings and boards. But then, she sees a light from one doorway. Too curious to back down, Pandora wraps herself in a sail and looks through the window. She sees a man painting, his back to her. A normal woman would leave then and there, but Pandora isn't normal. She saunters through the doorway, only to find the painter, his back to her. He doesn't acknowledge her. She doesn't know what's happening, we don't know what's happening. And in that moment, the film vibrates on the edge of the extraordinary. 

Final Six Words:

This sleeping beauty never wakes up

Note: Astute viewers will note that five of my screencaps come from the DVDBeaver website. Normally, I wouldn't use so many, but I did want to give a sense of Cardiff's visuals and on this occasion, I wasn't able to use my own screencaps.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dance of the Seven Blogathons

Is it just me or is the summer just racing by? It seems like only yesterday, I was posting on my "Blogathon Round-Up" and now, I'm back with even more blogathon updates. The floodgates have opened and now everyone's getting in the blogathon spirit. I'm almost tempted to hold one myself...nah, I think I'll hold that thought. I'm really excited about some of the upcoming events and I hope my readers will be tempted to sign up for at least one of them. C'mon, Rita Hayworth would want you to!

Blogathons Past But Not Forgotten

The Monster Mash Blogathon (July 28th-August 2nd 2011), Hosted by Nathanael at Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear
"Now...some of you may be thinking that monster movies aren't worth your time...that monster movies were never good. You'd be WRONG. Monster movies in the 50s were some of the most interpretively rich in film history.  Monsters represented everything from fears concerning Communism...nuclear radiation....to...whatever the hell this is."
By now, I've participated in two blogathons hosted by Nathanael and each time was fantastic. This foray into the world of '50s movie monsters was rich, varied, and surprising. The discussion ranged from the scriptwriting of Ed Wood to the talents of John Agar. I had a wonderful time both writing my entry and reading others. And most of all, I loved getting to meet and talk to new bloggers, who always had suggestions for what movie I should watch next. It's like getting your homework assigned by the coolest kids in class!

(Note: I do want to slip in here briefly and say thanks to everybody again, for your enthusiastic response to my Night of the Demon Review. To co-opt Lee Marvin's Oscar speech, I think half of my award belongs to a demon somewhere out there in the British countryside.)
The Lucille Ball Blogathon (August 6th, 2011), Hosted by Brandie, Carrie, and Nikki at True Classics
"We called it the “Loving Lucy” blogathon because the act of loving Lucy is something that comes almost as naturally as breathing to those of us who’ve been touched by her work. We love her for the way she makes us laugh, the way she makes us empathize with her … even the way she makes us cry. She was gorgeous and genuine and strong and relatable. She shared her gift with the world and, in the process, made the world a more beautiful place simply for her having been in it."
What else is there to say about Lucille Ball? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. This was one hell of a blogathon; the outpouring of love and admiration for America's one true redhead was a sight to see. Brandie, Carrie, and Nikki did an incredible hosting job and the bloggers responded with some great, great writing. 

Blogathons of the Near Future

The Nicholas Ray Blogathon (September 5th-8th, 2011), Hosted by Tony Dayoub at the Cinema Viewfinder
"I'd like to invite anyone and everyone to participate in my third annual Labor  Day blogathon, running September 5 - 8. In years past many contributors have made this annual tradition a resounding success, first in 2009 when we celebrated the work of Brian De Palma and last year when we praised David Cronenberg. This year's featured director, Nicholas Ray, would have celebrated his centennial today. First recognized by the auteurists who launched the French New Wave, Ray's body of work is one of the most influential in all of cinema."
Judging by Cinema Viewfinder's past blogathons, I predict this one will be a real firecracker. And considering the subject and his work (a career that included Bigger than Life, Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, In a Lonely Place, They Live By Night), I'm really looking forward to it.

The Margaret Lockwood 95th Birthday Blogathon (September 15th, 2011), Hosted by Mercurie at A Shroud of Thoughts
"15 September 2011 will be be the 95th birthday of legendary British actress Margaret Lockwood CBE. Miss Lockwood appeared in such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), and The Wicked Lady (1945). On television she was the star of the Yorkshire Television series Justice, which ran from 1971 to 1974. Given Miss Lockwood's position in British film and television, I thought it would be fitting to hold a blogathon in honour of her 95th birthday."
I've long had a soft spot for Margaret Lockwood. She was one of Hitchcock's most charming heroines (and a brunette to boot) in The Lady Vanishes and she played the wicked stepmother in one of my childhood favorites, The Slipper and the Rose. But that's only a small part of this talented actress's career. I'm hoping a lot of people go sign up for this one.

The Fashion in Film Blogathon (September 24th, 2011), Hosted by Angela at the Hollywood Revue
"On Saturday, September 24th, I would like to host a Fashion in Film blogathon!  I’m looking for articles on:
  • Costume designers
  • Costumes in a particular movie
  • Movies that influenced the way people dress
  • Actresses who became style icons because of their movie wardrobes
  • Analyses of  what a character’s wardrobe says about who they are (I recommend checking out Tom and Lorenzo’s Mad Style articles for inspiration on that).
Anything else you can think of that deals with movie costumes and design is also welcome.  Even though this is a classic film blog, bloggers who write about modern movies are absolutely welcome and encouraged to join in! "
As my more frequent readers could guess, I love talking about costume on film; lack of expertise never stops me. So the thought of a whole blogathon on the subject makes me feel like doing a Snoopy Dance. Go forth and write, bloggers, in the names of Adrian and Edith Head and Givenchy and Orry-Kelly! In the names of Walter Plunkett, Jean Louis, Charles LeMaire and Helen Rose! And for so many others.

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon (October 3rd, 2011), Hosted by Ivan G. Shreve of the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
"October 3, 2011 will mark the fiftieth birthday of the debut of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and while I’ve already been tapped to do a write-up at ECOF....I decided to go the extra mile and see if this might not be the perfect vehicle for TDOY’s very first blogathon.  The Dick Van Dyke Show is my favorite situation comedy of all time, hands down—and so I’m pleased as the proverbial Hawaiian Punch to announce that Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is going to host a ‘thon in honor of this timeless classic."
Ivan's long been one of the best and most tireless bloggers around; whenever I see his name on a list of blogathon contributors, I know he's going to have something good. So when I heard that he was hosting his own blogathon, I immediately jumped at the chance to write up an entry. Whether you grew up watching The Dick Van Dyke Show or Diagnosis: Murder or Mary Poppins, you owe it to yourself to at least stop by Ivan's blog on October 3rd. Let's throw some confetti for Rob and Laura Petrie! And for Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, one of television's best onscreen couples.

The Carole Lombard Blogathon, also known as The Carole-tennial (+3) (October 6th-9th, 2011), Hosted by Vincent at at Carole-and-Co Livejournal
"The big news is this: "Carole & Co." is planning its first-ever blogathon! We're calling it the "Carole-tennial(+3)" in honor of the 103rd anniversary of Lombard's birth Oct. 6. This year, that date falls on a Thursday, so to give everyone an opportunity to contribute, the blogathon will run from Oct. 6 to Sunday, Oct. 9."
Considering Carole Lombard could still quite handily win a popularity contest amongst classic film buffs, it's kind of amazing that it's taken this long for a major blogathon in her honor. Unless there was one and I was busy sorting my stamp collection that day. No matter, Carole will have her party! Let's all put aside our knitting and our golf clubs and our term papers to pay homage to the First Lady of Screwball Comedy. The queen of our hearts. 

Whew! That's a pretty full blogathon schedule! For my sanity, people, please don't rush out and announce an Alfred Hitchock or a Gloria Grahame blogathon tomorrow, I can't keep up  with it. Nevertheless, blogathons are my Internet ice cream and I think we've got a lot to look forward to in the coming months. In these troubled times, let us unite over our love of Lombard and Lockwood, of Ray and robot monsters, of Dick and Lucy and Scarlett O'Hara's crinolines.

Second Hayworth picture credited to VintageGal

Monday, August 8, 2011

Like a Junkie Shooting Pure Quicksilver Into His Veins--The Liebster Award

"Like a junkie shooting pure quicksilver into his veins, Frankie Rachel got turned on by the wildest narcotic known to man: success!" 

Well, Tony Bennett said it best. I've just been awarded The Liebster Blog Award by the fabulous and fascinating FlickChick over at A Person in the Dark. Since I've long been a fan of her work, this is a special delight. If you aren't a follower of her classic film blog, you should be. Her writing is funny, insightful, and her affection for the Golden Age stars shines like a beacon.

I have to admit that I'm unfamiliar with the history of this particular award (other than the fact that it means "beloved"), but it's been circulating for the past few days. There are two official rules. I must link back to the blog that gave me the award (already done and happily so). And I must now send the Liebster Award to 5 other blogs that I consider worthy of the honor. 

Before I name my 5 blogs, I do want to make it clear that my awards are meant in good fun and in the spirit of spreading love. For me personally, I like telling people about the blogs I enjoy and so, I consider this an opportunity to share my enthusiasm.  I understand that some people prefer not to mess with these blogging awards, for various reasons, and I'll respect it if you'd rather not accept the award. Also, please forgive me if I accidentally award someone who's already received one.  Consider yourself doubly blessed.

And now for my five honorees. Believe me, it was a tough decision.

Who Can Turn the World Off With Her Smile? Laura is one of the more versatile bloggers I know. Who else can go from a heartfelt explanation of why the Mummy is the most romantic movie monster to an exploration of early Vivien Leigh to an in-depth analysis of the Joker? I love that when I go to her blog, I'm never sure what to expect. Except that I know it'll give me something to think about when I leave.

Immortal Ephemera  Every so often, I say to myself, "You know what's awesome? Cliff over at Immortal Ephemera, that's what's awesome!" He's incredibly knowledgeable about all things classic-film related (as well as many things that aren't) and his treasury of memorabilia is amazing. Added to that, he's always willing to strike up a friendly conversation.

All Good Things I was glued to Monty's Classic Movie Actor Tournament this summer and I would occasionally come up to my friends with random non sequiturs like, "Hah, did you know that Alec Guinness is beating Marlon Brando?" (They were very confused, I must say.) But aside from that, Monty's blog is a haven for sharing enthusiasm over stars of the past and the films that made them great. It's like hot chocolate in blog form.

50 Westerns from the 50s I haven't really gotten around to discussing Westerns much on this blog. I do watch them, I swear. But it's lucky I have Toby's fine blog around to remind me of the many treasures to be found in the genre, as well as some of its more oddball offerings. Whether you love Westerns or hate them, you have to stop by this blog.

Comet Over Hollywood Where else could I find out the secret beauty tips of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn? But aside from old-school Hollywood glamor, Jnpickens is a thoughtful and sympathetic writer, always willing to dig through gossip and rumor without getting mired down in it. That's a rare gift, no matter what you're writing about.

"Bye, Frankie Rachel! And I hope the Oscar Liebster Award keeps you warm on cold nights!"

Well, Elke Sommer, maybe it won't. But who could feel cold with such wonderful bloggers around? This is Rachel, signing off.

My apologies for all the shameless references to The Oscar. But hey, would you pass up the chance to quote from that movie?