To Auction || Christie’s London: Vintage Film Posters

27/04/2012 § Leave a comment

New additions to the I Need Money file — which is already quite a large file, indeed, thank you for asking — from the Christie’s Interiors auction in South Kensington on 2 May 2012.  With some estimated values as low as £300, I miiiiiight be able to convince my pocketbook to make an exception for a small piece of film history.

Sale information and how to place an electronic bid can be found here.

85 Old Brompton Road, London
May 2, 10:00am

A Girl’s New Best Friend

09/02/2012 § 4 Comments

I wonder if anyone uses their Apple TV to watch as many classic films as I do.

After much deliberation, I finally purchased the Apple TV receiver from the sparkling new Apple Store in Grand Central two weeks ago.  Initially a bit daunted by the tiny black box, its attendant cords and its installation, I was quite pleased to find the process a breeze.  After five minutes of plugging things in and hiding the cords away and two minutes of linking my router and entering my Netflix information, I was streaming media like none other.  A minute after that I blew my own mind when I figured out how to find my iTunes account on my laptop.  It was like a real-life Minority Report!  Ok, not really — but I was rather pleased with myself.

I have been running through the classic films on the instant streaming service of Netflix ever since, which is only $8/month.  My one complaint, if I must have one, is that specific artists can be difficult to find if you can’t guess (or don’t know) the name of one of their films that Netflix has available to stream.  You can’t simply search by actor or director name.  Now departing from my soapbox.  Overall, I highly recommend Apple TV.  It’s kind of amazing.

I recently spent an evening revisiting one of my very favorite films — which also happens the inspiration source for the name of this blog, in fact.  If you have never seen the Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), I will pause for a moment for you to drop absolutely everything you are doing and go watch it.  No, really.  I’ll wait.  Most famous of course for the iconic musical number “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” the film is a madcap romp detailing the adventures of two best friends as they search for suitable mates with suitably fat wallets.  Both actresses are at their archetypal best: Monroe as the ditzy blonde, Russell as the wisecracking brunette.

It’s kind of amazing how every time I watch Marilyn, I discover again how damned talented the woman was.  When made the transition from actor to icon, it became so easy to reduce her to representative symbols: her blonde hair, the billowing white dress, her beauty mark, her voice.  In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes you get to enjoy all that Marilyn has to offer: her spot-on comic timing, her lovely dancing and her singing (mostly, she got a little help on some songs).  It really is no wonder Marilyn’s performance has inspired so many homages, and that none really come close to touching the original.  Even if I do enjoy watching Nate, Dan and Chuck attempt choreography.

The original, 1953.

Madonna, Material Girl, 1985.

Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, 2001.

Blake Lively for Gossip Girl, 2012.

Also charming is “Two Little Girls from Little Rock.”

Images via Life Archives.

As I visit with old favorites and make new discoveries (Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High was a revelation!) I can’t help but find it a bit humorous that I’ve taken what is the probably one of the most modern ways to consume media and have turned it into a time machine into the past.  Humorous, but not surprising.  In any event, if you like classic films as much as I do, the winning combination of Apple TV and Netflix instant will be your new Best Friend.

But of course I still like diamonds.

You Beautiful Dames!

23/01/2012 § Leave a comment

The kind of extravagant and geometric choreography
only Busby Berkeley could be behind.

From Dames, 1934.

Coming Attraction: Coriolanus

18/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in Coriolanus,
a modern adaptation of the tragedy by Shakespeare, with
Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain costarring.

Opens January 20, 2012.

Coming Attraction: Red Tails

08/01/2012 § 1 Comment

It is with great excitement that I look forward to the release of Red Tails, the retelling of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, on January 20. The film was produced by George Lucas, directed by Anthony Hemingway and stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots in the United States armed forces and served in World War II, facing remarkable adversity and racism within the military as well as society at large. After African American soldiers were denied the opportunity to fly in World War I, Congress forced the War Department to begin training African American pilots in 1939, and forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black fighter unit in 1941. The 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed in March 1941 and the unit was eventually expanded into the 332nd Fighter Group when the 100th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Squadron and 302nd Fighter Squadron were added. The group saw action in Europe and North Africa, and are well-known for their excellence flying escorts for heavy bombers. The nickname “Red Tails” came from the distinctive red paint the pilots had applied to the tails of their planes.

The main reason for my excitement is my personal connection to the Tuskegee Airmen. My great uncle, Col. Edward Creston Gleed, served as the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander during WWII. He personally had two confirmed kills, while his squadron accounted for almost one third of the aerial victories recorded by the 332nd. He also served as operations officer for the 332nd. As you can expect, my family is exceptionally proud and very excited to see his story brought to life on the big screen. I can’t wait.

My Uncle Cres, on the far left.

Coming Attraction: W.E.

05/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Very excited the release of W.E. is fast approaching.  Financed, directed and co-written by Madonna, the film is primarily about the Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936.  Ardently loved by Edward, yet fiercely hated by many (and a suspected Nazi sympathizer to boot), Wallis has long been an intriguing character to me.  Scandal, indulgence, fashion, luxury and passion.  The makings of a great story.  I’ve also been hearing wonderful things about Andrea Riseborough as Wallis and I look forward to her performance.

  I’ve never known one person so utterly possessed by another, as he was by her.

W.E. opens February 3, 2012.

Image via Life.

Recreating an Icon: Costuming W.E.

05/01/2012 § 2 Comments

“I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m nothing to look at,
so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else.”
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of York

James D’Arcy and Andrea Riseborough as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,
wearing costumes from the film W.E. by Arianne Phillips,
photographed by Tom Munro for Vanity Fair.

[W.E. costume designer Arianne] Phillips’s business was to discover the precise detail of Simpson’s fashion aesthetic. She started at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, Paris’s Musée de la Mode et du Textile and London’s Victora & Albert Museum – the three great repositories of Simpson’s attire. In the film, Riseborough has around 60 costume changes, including three wedding dresses. Most famous was the pale, “Wallis”-blue Mainbocher dress, in which she wed the Duke of Windsor in 1937. The original is in the Met but, said Phillips, has not lasted well: “We were lucky enough to see it, but, unfortunately, the colour has faded into a dingy bluey-green.” So the dress Riseborough wears is a replica hired from Cosprop, a London-based costumery. The other 59 outfits, however, were not so simple: “She was a client of haute couture in Paris in its heyday, the Thirties” said Phillips: “so I had to figure out how I was going to recreate it. The problem was my whole budget could have gone on making one dress.”

So Phillips hustled, using her fashion-world contacts. The Duchess was a client of Madeleine Vionnet – “who has been cited as the mother of couture” – and a rifle through the company’s archives, held in the Louvre, revealed precise details of what Simpson had bought and when. Phillips took her findings to Vionnet’s owners, and – hey presto – they agreed to make four new couture dresses for the film. Perhaps the most beautiful is the sparkly silver dress used in a scene where Edward and Wallace host a benzedrine-enlivened cocktail party. “I wanted something twinkly for that scene, for all the intoxication and jazz. I’d seen the original in the Louvre and fallen in love with it.”

Wallis Simpson was also one of the first clients of Christian Dior, and the house remade three dresses for Andrea Riseborough based on Simpson’s originals. And in the very last scene – set in the Seventies – Riseborough wears Dior from a recent collection designed by John Galliano. Other companies persuaded by Phillips to pitch in include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Roger Vivier and Dunhill. The hats were by Stephen Jones and recreations of outfits by another designer beloved of the Duchess, Schiaperelli, were made by Phillips and her team. Incorporating so many fashion collaborations into the costumes for a single film is, admits Phillips, unusual. Yet, it was by far the best way to recreate the world of a woman whose appetite for luxury was so very voracious.

From Inside Wallis Simpson’s Wardrobe by Luke Leitch for

“Wallis and the Duke both made a lifestyle out of presentation. . . . It was a beautiful façade,” says Phillips. “He said that because she never got a title he gave her jewelry to make her feel royal.”

From Windsor Dressing by Krista Smith for Vanity Fair.

All images via Vanity Fair.

Style Icons: The Women of the Wild Bunch

21/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Image via Tomboy Style.

Because I had a number of flights over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite films.  One of them yielded a bit of style inspiration in a roundabout manner and it has been on my mind for days now.  The film? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Robert Redford as Sundance, Paul Newman as Butch.  If you haven’t yet seen the film, I highly recommend you make the time — it’s even on iTunes, in fact.  Loosely based on true events, the film follows real-life turn of the century bank and train robbers Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, members of the Wild Bunch and the Hole in the Wall Gang, through a series of heists and concurrent efforts to outrun the law.  Katharine Ross plays Etta Place, a woman who was companion to the Sundance Kid and traveled with both men across the country and to South America.  There are only two known pictures of the real Etta Place — in fact, it’s actually not even clear that Etta Place was her real name — and she vanished without a trace around 1909.  Quite the mystery.

The real Etta Place, with the Sundance Kid

At its heart, the film is about the relationship between Butch and Sundance and the chemistry between Newman and Redford is spot on. But I couldn’t help but be drawn to Etta Place, the school teacher who somehow became enmeshed with two of the most prolific thieves in history.  My favorite scenes are when Etta dresses a bit boyishly, but truth be told, she spends most of the film in very proper and very ladylike attire, usually complete with hats and gloves.  (Sidenote: The costumes in this film are a.MAY.zing.)

Image via The Selvedge Yard

A bit of further research led to an unexpected discovery.  While the film version of the Wild Bunch was men-only (with the tangential exception of Etta), there were in fact, a few female members of the gang.  Most notorious among these women, was Laura Bullion, “The Rose of the Wild Bunch.”

Laura Bullion’s 1901 mugshot

Far be it from me to glorify any real-life criminals, but I was taken aback by Laura’s mugshot and the scatty details of her life.  Born in 1876 to an outlaw father, she is linked romantically to Ben Kilpatrick, also a member of the Wild Bunch.  Her crimes tended toward robbery, prostitution, and forgery, for which she ended up spending almost 4 years in jail around the turn of the century.  After serving her time, she eventually moved to Memphis, where she posed as a war widow under assumed names and oddly domesticated herself, becoming a seamstress, drapery maker and interior decorator.  She died in 1961, the last living member of the Wild Bunch and last person to have actually known Etta Place.

The 1901 mugshot is arresting.  It’s almost like she dares you to look away.  Her gaze is all hardness and resolve.  For a woman at that time to choose such an unconventional lifestyle, one can only guess what her life must have been like, growing up surrounded by criminals.  Also, can we please note the bow tie?!

Interestingly, as I researched more female outlaws, I came to notice how frequently their sexual activities and partners were mentioned — distinctly different from the characterizations of their male outlaw counterparts — and how the accounts that were made at the time have a distinct impact on the accounts that are written today.  It is interesting to note that these women were frequently made out to be sexual deviants, loose women, and/or prostitutes — defined by that all too-familiar double-standard.  Not only did they break the laws of the land, but since they shirked sexual mores with abandon, society made it clear they were outsiders.  Perhaps even more so than male outlaws.

From Laura and Etta, I’m taking a sense of rebellion and adventure.
But I will leave it to them to break the laws.

Coming Attractions: Albert Nobbs, Tomboy, & The Iron Lady

19/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Three different films, one leitmotif.
Boundaries.  Convention.  Identity.

Albert Nobbs, starring the inestimable Glenn Glose in the title role she also played Off Broadway, is the story of a woman who masquerades as a man for over thirty years in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland.

French film Tomboy, is the story of Mikael, the new boy in town, who is actually a girl named Laure.

And last, but definitely not least, the amazing Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, a portrait of the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the first female elected to head of government in the West.

While Albert and Mikael/Laure wrestle with their concept of themselves as manifested outwardly through their chosen manner and dress, Baroness Thatcher contends with some of the same issues as they relate to her chosen profession.  All three struggle with the corresponding concepts of masculinity and femininity.  I look forward to seeing all three.

Albert Nobbs opens January 27.
Tomboy is currently in limited release.
The Iron Lady opens December 30.

Coming Attraction: The Artist

11/10/2011 § 1 Comment

The Artist
Release date Nov 23, 2011.

Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits. THE ARTIST tells the story of their interlinked destinies.

A new, silent, black and white film, set in Hollywood in 1927?
Someone made this with me in mind…

H/T to Hello, Tailor.

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