5 Things You May Not Know about Conrad Veidt

 

5 Things You May Not Know about Conrad Veidt

 PortraitLike today is his birthday. Happy 125th Birthday to the legend Conrad Veidt!

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1. Conscription: The Alt-Theater Camp

WartimeAnd who says war is good for absolutely nothing

Due to a little thing called World War I, simply know as The Great War back then, Veidt was conscripted into the German Army in 1914. He was quickly shipped off to the Eastern Front, where fought in the Battle of Warsaw. Veidt eventually came down with pneumonia and jaundice, leading to his hospitalization. Rather than send the weakened solider back to fight on the front lines, the Germans sent Veidt to “the front theater,” in places like Tilsit and Libau, where he would act on the front lines to keep solider moral high. The stressful wartime environment and sheer variety of roles he played offered Veidt the best theater-boot camp around.

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2. Pro-LGBTQ Before it was Trendy

Different from OthersConrad Veidt and his co-star Kurt Sivers in Different From Others  (1919, director Richard Oswald)

In 1919 Conrad Veidt starred in the film Different From Others, or Anders als die Andern if you prefer the original German title. In the film he played Paul Korner, a violist who falls in love with a protégé, who just happens to be a man. The film was one of the first to portray an explicitly gay character in a positive light and acted as a reaction to the anti-homosexual laws in Germany at the time. Although the film was initially successful with audiences, German censorship eventually banned the film in 1920.

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3. Why So Serious?

Veidt - The JokerCan you see the resemblance?

On his first venture to Hollywood, Veidt starred in the melodrama The Man Who Laughs. In the film he plays Gwynplaine, a circus clown with a permanently carved grin on his face. For the role Veidt was forced on wear make up that created an unnaturally large smile, appearing to grin from ear to ear. This grotesque look would go on to be the primary visual inspiration for the character of The Joker in the Batman comic books.

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4. Forced to Flee

Jew_Suss_Conrad_VeidtConrad Veidt stars in the anti-Nazi film Power (1934, director Lothar Wolff)

During the early 1930s, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, took over the German film industry. At this point, Goebbels saw the internationally renown Veidt as an asset to the Nazi party and tried to convince the actor to sign an Oath of Loyalty to the fascist government and act only in German propaganda films. In exchange, Goebbels would offer Veidt’s Jewish wife, Lily Prager, an Aryan certificate, thus saving her from the wrath of the Nazi Party. Veidt, who had possessed leftist humanitarian views all of his life, declined the offer and was placed under house arrest.  When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, Veidt was forced to flee Germany. He returned to England and reportedly wrote  “Jew” on his emigration card to show solidarity for his wife and all the Jews forced to flee Germany at that time. He would never return to his home country again.

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5. Play Nazis, Get Money

CasablancaWhy do the baddies always look the coolest?

We all know Casablanca. We all know who was in Casablanca: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains – just to name a few. However, did you know that out of all of those highly-acclaimed actors that appeared in this movie, it was Conrad Veidt who was the highest paid. Yup! Because he was on loan from MGM and not under contract to Warner Brothers, the studio had to pony-up $5,000 a week to match his MGM salary.  Not bad for being fifth billed.

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–Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Silents Are Golden: Georges Méliès, The Magician of the Cinema

 

Georges Méliès, The Magician of the Cinema

No appreciation for the history of cinema can be complete without getting to know one of its most influential, most visionary, and most joyfully energetic individuals: the great pioneer Georges Méliès. In fact, if there’s a film trope you’re familiar with, chances are Méliès got there first.

Georges MeliesGeorges Méliès

Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès was born in Paris on December 8, 1861–several decades before the silent actors most people are familiar with today. And while his name would one day be closely associated with whimsical imagery and “movie magic,” he came from a family of pragmatic bootmakers. Parents Jean-Louis-Stanislas and Johannah-Catherine ran an upscale boot-making factory on the Boulevard Saint-Martin, a business which they expected their three sons Georges, Henri and Gaston to one day run. But Georges would be destined for decidedly more creative things.

As a boy he attended the excellent Lycée Michelet and Lycée Louis-le-Grand, and while he was a good student he was less interested in his studies than in filling notebooks with drawings–sometimes to the displeasure of his teachers. The stage also intrigued him, and he would design his own puppets and puppet theaters.

Following school and several years of service in the military, Méliès was sent by his father to work as a clerk in London. During his time there he began attending magic shows, which would be a huge influence on his later career. Upon returning home he hoped to become an artist, but when his father disapproved he began working in the family factory instead. He did go steadfastly against his family’s wishes he married Eugénie Génin, however, the daughter of a family friend (they would have two children together).

Georges MeliesA young Méliès

While not supervising machinery at the busy factory Méliès continued attending stage magic shows, particularly ones held at the charming 200-seat Théâtre Robert-Houdin. He began taking stage magic lessons too, soon growing skilled enough to put on his own shows. A dream was beginning to brew. When his father retired, Méliès sold his portion of the factory business to Gaston and Henri and promptly bought his beloved Théâtre Robert-Houdin. At last he was free to indulge his creative side–and in that era of “fairy plays” and pantomimes, it could be indulged to its fullest extent.

Theatre Robert-HoudinTheatre Robert-Houdin

Méliès supervised every aspect of his theater, writing, directing, designing, producing, and even inventing his own illusions and special effects. As his theater began drawing bigger and bigger crowds, he became known as one of the foremost theater owners in Paris.

In December of 1895, he and other theater owners were invited to the Lumière brothers’ private demonstration of their cinematograph. It was his first glimpse of a “moving picture” and it changed his life forever. Enthralled, he offered to buy a camera from the Lumières, but they refused. Eventually he bought a projector and tinkered with it until it could also be a camera, and soon he was showing his own little films as part of the Robert-Houdin’s stage shows.

Georges Melies playing cardsPlaying Cards (1896)

These films tended to be simple, one-shot affairs. The first was Playing Cards (1896), which survives today, and shows Méliès himself and two men playing cards outdoors. Other films, now lost, hint at similar simplicity: Gardener Burning Weeds, The Washerwomen, Boulevard des Italiens. But Méliès’s sense of humor was soon popping up in his films as well, the earliest surviving example being A Terrible Night (1896), where a man trying to sleep is startled by a comically giant bug crawling up his bedroom wall.

It didn’t take long for the ever-artistic Méliès to discover that the cinema was the ultimate creative canvas. Unlike such pragmatic filmmakers as the Lumières, he quickly saw that films had the potential to capture the beautiful, fantastical visions that abounded in his imagination.

Georges Melies beautiful concept art Only one example of his beautiful concept art.

One of his most famous early works is The Haunted Castle (1896), showing two cavaliers entering a castle and encountering strange spooks that appear and disappear before their eyes. The vivid painted sets, jump cuts, cheeky demons and frenzied gesturing would became a distinct part of Méliès’s style. Other fantastical films include The Astronomer’s Dream (1898), The Devil in a Convent (1899), and cheerfully silly special effects exercises like The Man With the Rubber Head (1901).

The Astronomer’s Dream (1898) The Astronomer’s Dream (1898)

To the magician Méliès, the cinema was the perfect vehicle for creating illusions. Certain odd effects that were impossible on the stage were possible in that marvelous camera. He never tired of making figures vanish and reappear, turn into different creatures, grow to fantastic sizes, or toss their own heads around like balls. He tinkered and fine-tuned these effects endlessly, often performing in them himself. His performances are still charmingly enthusiastic today.

The Man With the Rubber Head (1901)The Man With the Rubber Head (1901)

Méliès work grew elaborate very quickly. He constructed countless vivid painted sets and large-scale props and puppets, eventually building a large glass greenhouse-like studio to help streamline production. By 1902 he had already directed the film that many consider his masterpiece: A Trip to the Moon, with its iconic shot of the rocket ship hitting the eye of the man in the moon.

Georges Melies A Trip to the Moon 1902 Its most famous imageA Trip to the Moon: Its most famous image.

His whimsical moving pictures were very popular around the globe, making him one of the most recognized early filmmakers. After working at a mind-boggling pace throughout the 1900s, by the 1910s he began growing uneasy with the corporatizing of the film industry as well as increasing debts. He made his last picture in 1912, a year before the sad death of his wife, and two years before the outbreak of WWI. In all he had made around 500 films.

When Pathé officially took over his studio and films in 1923, in anger Méliès burned his props, costumes, and the remaining negatives he had stored. He began to drift into obscurity, eventually setting up a toy and candy-selling booth at the Montparnasse train station.

georges Melies MontparnasseMontparnasse

But there was a happy ending to the life and career of Georges Méliès. In the late 1920s he was rediscovered by journalists for his work as a cinema pioneer. This lead to much praise, a gala retrospective of his surviving work, a medal from the Legion of Honour, and admittance to a retirement home for film industry veterans. With a roof securely over his head and his place in cinematic history officially recognized, he was able to spend his remaining years in comfort with his family.

He passed away from cancer at a Paris hospital in 1938, not long after showing visiting friends one of his very last drawings: of a champagne bottle bubbling over. An optimistic image from a man whose work is still brimful of energy and joy today, well over a century later.

Georges Melies bustMéliès’ tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

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–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

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Vitaphone View: Vaudeville in a Can

Vaudeville in a Can

The prime motivation for the Warner Bros in pursuing Vitaphone and sound films had little to do with actors talking on the screen.  Harry Warner was quoted as saying “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” In actuality, the effort and the huge investment was driven by a business model that would provide quality musical accompaniment to Warner Bros features, thereby letting theatre owners fire their house musicians. During the 1920’s, over 30,000 musicians were employed in movie theatres, so the savings potential was significant.

warner bros vitaphone don juan 1926 marqueeDon Juan, 1926 billboard ad

But to be successful, a business plan must match the public’s interests. The studio’s plans for Vitaphone quickly took an unexpected turn. The August 6 , 1926 premiere of Warner Bros’ first feature with synchronized music and sound effects, John Barrymore’s Don Juan, was preceded by eight sound short subjects. Unlike the feature, these shorts had fully synchronized talking and singing. The preluded program of Vitaphone shorts included popular ukulele player Roy Smeck, opera greats Martinelli, Anna Case and Marian Talley, the New York Symphony Orchestra, and an opening speech by industry czar Will Hays.

While the reviews for Don Juan and its synchronized score got good reviews, it was the public’s reaction to the preceding shorts that were the true hit of the program. They received the lion’s share of praise in the press, and so the shared light bulb above the Warner Bros heads went on.

VITA STILL George Jessel Vitaphone George Jessel

Suddenly, they realized that they could supply the biggest names in show business to theatres – even to the smallest theatres which otherwise could never afford to book them. The idea was to supply “vaudeville in a [film] can.” By the second Vitaphone-scored feature — The Better ‘Ole starring Syd Chaplin — the studio’s detour was already evident. More popular acts, along with several classical performers, filled the bill of talking shorts that played before the feature. Al Jolson appeared in A Plantation Act, singing three songs and collecting $25,000 ($350,000 in 2017 money) for his efforts. From vaudeville,  the comedy team of Willie and Eugene Howard essentially canned their act for Vitaphone. And in a particularly ironic twist, George Jessel, Broadway star late of The Jazz Singer  performed his routine of calling his momma. Shortly after this, the Warner Bros announced that Jessel would recreate his stage role in a film version of The Jazz Singer. In retrospect, the overwhelming public reaction to the Jolson short likely convinced the brothers that “The World’s Greatest Entertainer’ would better promote Vitaphone.

Burns and Allen VitaphoneBurns & Allen, Lamb Chops, 1929 short

As talkies picked up momentum in mid-1928, it became obvious that the public preferred watching a top star with Vitaphone – say Eddie Cantor, Burns & Allen, Al Jolson or Jack Benny — to a lesser local live vaudevillian. The Vitaphone studios in Hollywood and Brooklyn ground out 2-3 shorts each week, drawing upon the top names of vaudeville, opera, and Broadway. A theatre manager could easily assemble a fully balanced  prologue, beginning with a band short (for example Red Nichols, Ben Bernie, or Horace Heidt), then follow it with comedians (Jay C. Flippen, Jack Benny, Jack Osterman), an opera star (Martinelli, DeLuca, Raisa), singers (The Revelers, The Happiness Boys) a dramatic playlet (with Spencer Tracy, Pat O’Brien or  Sessue Hayakawa) and  instrumental virtuosi (mandolinist Bernardo DePace or accordionist Guido Diero). At the Palace in New York City, such a program could cost $15,000 a week. At a theatre in Omaha, the same performers would cost under $300.

VITA STILL Trixie Friganza Vitaphone Trixie Friganza

Seeing these shorts today, it is clear that Warner Brothers was attempting to recreate an actual stage performance rather than a cinematic experience.  Performers are framed such that they fit perfectly into the theatre’s proscenium. The acts often speak directly to the audience, occasionally looking from side to side. And until 1930, most acts closed the short by bowing to the (expected) audience applause. This is particularly entertaining in Al Jolson’s talkie debut in A Plantation Act (1926), in which the star takes three full curtain calls and blows kisses to the audience. It still works in modern screenings. This short was considered completely lost since 1933. No discs were known, and the picture portion had  disappeared. In the early 1990’s, The Library of Congress found a film can labeled “Jazz Singer Trailer”. Inside, though, was something else entirely. When screened, out came Jolson in his typical blackface on a farm set. It was immediately clear that this was Jolson’s long-lost short, released a full year before The Jazz Singer (1927).

Vitaphone Acts AdVitaphone print ad

       A Sampling Of Vitaphone Shorts Performers

1926  -  1930

Al Jolson                                Martinelli                               Ephraim Zimbalist, Sr.

Burns & Allen                       Spencer Tracy                        Fred Allen

Frances Williams                 The Foy Family                     Eddie Peabody

Happiness Boys                   Fred Waring                           Ben Bernie

Weber & Fields                    Baby Rose Marie                   Buddy Rich

Georgie Price                       Russ Columbo                       Anna Case

Gigli                                       Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Lyda Roberti                       Guido Diero                            Ruth Etting

Blossom Seeley & Benny Fields                                         Sylvia Froos

Jack Haley                           Pat O’Brien                             Joe E. Brown

The Revelers                       Whispering Jack Smith       Shaw & Lee

Raymond Hitchcock         Lou Holtz                                Elsie Janis

Yacht Club Boys                 Bea Lillie                                Jack Buchannan

Johnny Marvin                  Red Nichols                           Ben Pollack

Benny Goodman               Lee Morse                              Jack Benny

Jack Norworth                  Ohman & Arden                    Ann Pennington

Trixie Friganza                 Gregory Ratoff                       H.B. Walthall

Hugh Herbert                   Robert Ripley                         Benny Rubin

Charles Ruggles                Bert Wheeler                          Sissle & Blake

Albert Spalding                Six Brown Brothers               Marion Talley

Rudy Vallee                       Van & Schenck                       El Brendel

Irene Franklin                  Horace Heidt                          Molly Picon

Mae Questel                      Miller & Lyles                        Joe Frisco

Judy Garland                    Willie & Eugene Howard    Conlin & Glass

Since The Vitaphone Project’s founding in 1991, over 12 1926-30 short subjects have been restored in partnership with UCLA, The Library of Congress, Warner Bros and private donors and collectors. A large percentage of the shorts star long forgotten vaudevillians in precise recreations of their stage act. Thanks to public screenings, Warner Archive’s many Vitaphone Varieties DVD sets and airings on Turner Classic Movies, performers like Shaw & Lee, Conlin and Glass and Georgie Price now have a new army of fans.

georgie price vitaphoneGeorgie Price, Don’t Get Nervous, 1929 short

Vaudeville as an art form was already reeling from inroads by radio, and talkies finished them off. By 1930, big time vaudeville was over, and what remained were its remnants as seen in motion picture theatre presentations. While vaudeville performers were essentially sowing the seeds of their art’s destruction by filming their acts on Vitaphone, today the restored shorts allows modern audiences to see them exactly as they were performed on stage.

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– Ron Hutchinson, Founder of The Vitaphone Project, for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Ron’s Vitaphone View articles here.

Ron is widely recognized as one of the country’s foremost film historians, with special emphasis on the period covering the transition to sound (1925-30) and early attempts to add sound to film. As the founder of The Vitaphone Project, he has worked with Warner Brothers, UCLA, LOC and private collectors worldwide to find previously lost soundtrack discs and restore early sound shorts. Ron’s unique knowledge has  been sourced in over 25 books as well as documentaries for PBS and TCM, and commentary for “The Jazz Singer” DVD boxed set. He was awarded the National Society of Film Critics “Film Heritage Honor” for his work in film preservation and discoveries, and was the presenter of rare Vitaphone shorts at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. For more information you can visit the Vitaphone Project website or Facebook Group.

And, if you’re interested in exploring some of these newly discovered shorts and rarities, you can pick them up on DVD via amazon:

               

 

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Noir Nook: Noirish Beginnings

Noirish Beginnings 

Happy Noir Year – I mean, Happy New Year!

The new year is always a great time for beginnings, isn’t it? The beginning of fulfilling resolutions, the beginning of big plans, the beginning of promising relationships. It’s simply chock-full of beginnings. And in the spirit of celebrating beginnings, this month’s column takes a look at my Top 5 beginnings of film noir movies.

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1. Mildred Pierce (1945)

mildred pierceMildred Pierce

The first shot in Mildred Pierce starts innocently enough. Serene, even. Accompanied by the soothing sounds of ocean waves and the soft musical soundtrack, we take in the sight of an impressive beach house on the side of a California highway. But we’re not allowed to get accustomed to the scene – the tranquility is abruptly interrupted by a series of rapid-fire gunshots and the close-up of the recipient of those gunshots. Courtesy of the off-screen shooter, the now-empty gun is tossed unceremoniously in the direction of the dying victim, who utters just one word: “Mildred.”

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2. The Letter (1940)

the letterThe Letter

Another film with a peace-filled opening that’s obliterated by gunfire. This time, the camera leads us across the grounds of a rubber plantation in Singapore. We see sap dripping from a tree and spy on the workers – some are playing music, some are amusing themselves with a board game, most of them are drowsing in a series of hammocks, surrounded by Asian-inspired music. We hear a sudden shot and see a man stagger from inside the plantation’s main house onto the front porch. Unlike in Mildred Pierce, though, we know exactly who’s doing the shooting. Close behind the man is a woman holding a gun, who repeatedly fires bullets into him, her face completely expressionless, not stopping until the gun is spent. Only then does she let it slide from her hand.

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3. Double Indemnity (1944)

double indemnityDouble Indemnity

As the first scene begins, we watch as a car careens wildly through the night streets of Los Angeles – running a red light here, nearly causing an accident there – until it finally arrives at its office building destination and the driver emerges. When he’s let inside by the doorman (at least, I guess that’s his job), we learn that his name is Mr. Neff, that he’s in the insurance business, and that he doesn’t appear to be in tip-top shape. (“You look kinda all-in at that,” the doorman observes.) We begin to see what the watchman sees: Neff’s coat is draped at an odd angle, and he walks slowly, almost too deliberately as he makes his way to his office. Once there, he sheds his coat, but it’s not until he turns on his desk lamp that we see he’s got a bullet hole in his shoulder, the blood from which has stained the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. After lighting one, he uses his good arm to set up his Dictaphone and begins to verbalize an office memorandum to his boss, during which he confesses to a man’s murder: “I killed him for money. And for a woman. And I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?”

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4. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

sunset boulevardSunset Boulevard

Besides Sunset Boulevard, there aren’t many films – none, in fact, that I can think of – that begin with a voice-over narration from a dead guy floating face-down in a pool. Oh, we don’t know at first who’s doing the talking – what we see is a caravan of cars speeding down a palm tree-lined highway, sirens blaring, as they head toward the scene of a homicide. The crime, we’re told, took place at the home of one of those old-time Hollywood movie stars – and the victim, who sustained two gunshots in the back and one in the stomach, was a movie writer with a couple of ‘B’ pictures to his credit. As a collection of cops and news reporters arrive on the scene, we see the beneficiary of the fatal shots, but we don’t yet know who he is, nor why – or at whose hand – he came to this ignominious end. We don’t even connect him with the man telling us the story. “The poor dope,” the voice intones, “he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end he got himself a pool. Only the price turned out to be a little high.”

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5. D.O.A. (1950)

D.O.A. noirD.O.A

It’s nighttime. We see a man standing still outside a building, hesitating for a moment before he heads toward the structure. As the opening credits roll, we follow him as he walks purposefully down a hallway and we realize (from the helpful signage) that he’s on his way to a police department. He pauses briefly to receive directions from a couple of uniformed cops, then journeys down another seemingly endless hallway, accompanied by a score that grows increasingly more dramatic with every step that he takes. He finally reaches his destination – the Homicide Division. He asks to see the “man in charge,” and is taken to an office where he shares with two detectives that he’s there to report a murder. It took place in San Francisco on the previous evening, he tells them. “Who was murdered?” one of the cops inquires. And, for the first time, we see the man’s face, in a close-up, as he responds: “I was.” (Dun dun DUN!!!!!!!!)

Talk about great beginnings! Stay tuned for a future Noir Nook column where I’ll take a look at another five films noirs with memorable opening scenes. And in the meantime, have a great 2018!!

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– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:

 

 

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Classic Movie Travels: Jeanne Crain – Inglewood and Los Angeles, CA

Jeanne Crain – Inglewood and Los Angeles CA

Jeanne CrainJeanne Crain

When thinking of some of 20th Century-Fox’s greatest stars, one will surely recall Jeanne Crain and the many film roles she carried out when under contract there. Though not a singer, she was featured in many musical films, among several other genres.

Crain was born and raised in California, and grew up relatively close to the studio where she would one day work. Jeanne Elizabeth Crain was born on May 25, 1925, in Barstow, California, to high school English teacher George A. Crain and Loretta Carr. Though born in Barstow, the family would relocate Inglewood, California. George and Loretta divorced in 1934, leading Jeanne and her mother to move to a new residence in Los Angeles.

Jeanne attended Inglewood High School, where she was active in the Girls’ League, Senior Play Class, and in various theatrical productions. She was also crowned Grid Queen. Additionally, one of Jeanne’s hobbies included ice skating, which garnered her some attention. She was crowned Miss Pan-Pacific at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.

jeanne crain yearbook pictureJeanne Crain yearbook picture

While attending high school, Jeanne tested for a role alongside Orson Welles and enrolled at UCLA to study drama. Though she was not cast, she did carry out a small role in the 20th Century Fox film The Gang’s All Here (1943). The same studio later cast her as a love interest in the hit Technicolor film Home in Indiana (1944), cementing Crain as a popular film actress. In response, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck starred Crain in In the Meantime, Darling (1944) in the role of a war bride and gave her a raise along with star billing. Though her acting skills were criticized negatively, she continued to draw attention from audiences. Crain would soon receive positive reviews from critics after starring in Winged Victory (1944). Shortly after the release of Winged Victory (1944), Crain christened and signed an aircraft by the same name prior to its deployment.

Young jeanne crainA young Jeanne (left)

Crain’s first musical role came when she starred alongside Dana Andrews in State Fair (1945), though her singing voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan. Nevertheless, Crain appeared in several more musical films and continued to be dubbed mostly by Hogan. After the success of State Fair came yet another noteworthy role for Crain as the good sister in Leave Her to Heaven (1945). At this point, Crain was a key box office star for 20th Century Fox, and Zanuck became especially involved in casting her strategically. She appeared in Centennial Summer (1946) and Margie (1946), with Margie showcasing her ice skating talents. In addition, she was also nicknamed “Hollywood’s Number One Party Girl,” since she claimed that she was invited to at least two hundred parties per year.

jeanne crain leave her to HeavenJeanne in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Later that year, Crain married former RKO contract player Paul Brinkman on New Year’s Eve against her mother’s wishes. Crain took a break from acting in 1947 when she had her first of seven children with Brinkman. She returned to work the following year, appearing in You Were Meant for Me (1948), and Apartment for Peggy (1948).

As Crain’s family grew, so did her salary, thanks to her work in A Letter to Three Wives (1949)Pinky (1949), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), and People Will Talk (1951). Her family purchased a home on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.

jeanne crain and FamilyJeanne and family

However, as the 1950s continued, the box office performances for Crain’s films were disappointing, leading her to leave 20th Century Fox. At the same time, Crain’s marriage became rocky, with each spouse claiming that the other had been unfaithful. Though the couple reconciled and remained married, they lived separately until Brinkman’s passing in 2003.

Crain continued acting at Universal, where she was cast in several films such as Duel in the Jungle (1954), Man Without a Star (1955), and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955). She also appeared on television in adaptations of The Great Gatsby as well as a television production of Meet Me in St. Louis, also starring Myrna Loy, Walter Pidgeon, Jane Powell, Ed Wynn, and Tab Hunter.

In the 1960s, Crain approached a semi-retirement, though she sporadically appeared in films. Some of her films during this period include Nefertiti in Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile (1961), a reunion with Dana Andrews in Hot Rods to Hell (1967), Skyjacked (1972), and her final film, The Night God Screamed (1975).

Crain passed away within two months of her husband on December 14, 2003, from a heart attack.

Today, the Jeanne Crain Collection survives at Wesleyan University’s Cinema Archives in Middletown, Connecticut, thanks to the work of 20th Century Fox publicist Charles J. Finlay.

The Pan-Pacific Auditorium, where Jeanne was crowned Miss Pan-Pacific, was included in the National Register of Historic Places, but was destroyed in a fire in 1989. It stood at 7600 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles. In 2002, the site was converted to Pan-Pacific Park and has a recreation center, with a small replica of one of the initial auditorium’s famous towers.

Pan-Pacific Auditorium los angelesPan-Pacific Auditorium

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Jeanne’s alma mater, Inglewood High School, remains at 231 S. Grevillea Avenue in Inglewood.

Inglewood High School, at 231 S Grevillea Avenue in InglewoodInglewood High School

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Jeanne lived at nearby 822 S. Walnut Ave in Inglewood. Here is the site today:

Jeanne crain lived at 822 S Walnut Ave in Inglewood caWalnut Avenue home

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She later lived at 5817 Van Ness Ave in Los Angeles, which looks like this today:

jeanne crain lived at 5817 Van Ness Ave in Los AngelesVan Ness Ave home

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Whether you are as restless as a willow in a windstorm with spring fever or enjoying a winter glide in your ice skates, take a moment to remember Jeanne Crain.

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–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

 

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged | 2 Comments

Miriam Hopkins Book Giveaway (Facebook/Blog January)

 

“Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel”
Book Giveaway via Facebook and this Blog

Okay, now it’s time for the Facebook/Blog version of our of  “Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel” Giveaway Contest! This time we’ll be giving away one copy of the book via Facebook and this blog, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky. And, remember, we’re also giving away FIVE MORE copies via Twitter this month as well, so please feel free to enter that contest too…

In order to qualify to win this prize via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Feb 3 at 10PM ESTWe will pick one winner via a random drawing and announce him/her on Facebook and here on this Blog the day after the contest ends (Sunday Feb 4).

If you’re also on Twitter, please feel free to visit us at  @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FIVE MORE books there as well! PS: you don’t even need a twitter account to enter! (Click here for twitter contest details as well as more information about the book.)

Miriam Hopkins biography Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

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ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, Feb 3 at 1oPM EST —

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

THE QUESTION:
What do you love most about Miriam Hopkins? And, if you’re not familiar with her work, why do you want to win this book?

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

About the Book: In the first comprehensive biography of this colorful performer, Allan R. Ellenberger illuminates Hopkins’s fascinating life and legacy. Her freewheeling film career was exceptional in studio-era Hollywood, and she managed to establish herself as a top star at Paramount, RKO, Goldwyn, and Warner Bros. Over the course of five decades, Hopkins appeared in thirty-six films, forty stage plays, and countless radio programs. Later, she emerged as a pioneer of TV drama. Ellenberger also explores Hopkins’s private life, including her relationships with such intellectuals as Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams. Although she was never blacklisted for her suspected Communist leanings, her association with these freethinkers and her involvement with certain political organizations led the FBI to keep a file on her for nearly forty years. This skillful biography treats readers to the intriguing stories and controversies surrounding Hopkins and her career, but also looks beyond her Hollywood persona to explore the star as an uncompromising artist. The result is an entertaining portrait of a brilliant yet under-appreciated performer.

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Click here for the full contest rules. 

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

Good Luck!

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon via the below link (click on image):


Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 18 Comments

“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” Movie Ticket Giveaway (Chicago) (Jan 6 through Jan 17)

“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”
Movie Ticket Giveaway Contest: Chicago

“A thoroughly engaging, eye-opening showbiz doc!”
– The Hollywood Reporter

Yay! The contest is over and the winners are: Angela and Paola!

Do you live near, or expect to be in, the Chicago area between Jan 22 and Jan 25? If so, we have a very special ticket giveaway contest just for you!

CMH is so VERY EXCITED to say that we have TWO PAIRS OF TICKETS to give away to see the recently-released documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, courtesy of  Zeitgeist Films and The Music Box Theatre. The tickets will be redeemable for available showtimes between Monday, January 22 and Thursday, January 25.

bombshell the hedy lamarr storyThe story of the unusual and accomplished Hedy Lamarr

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In order to qualify to win a pair of tickets to see “Bombshell” via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Wednesday, January 17 at 5PM EST.  We will select two lucky winners at random, and announce them on Twitter (and/or this blog, depending how they entered) on Wednesday night (Jan 17) around 10PM EST.

Each winner will receive a PDF ticket voucher that will be redeemable at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago for a pair of tickets to see “Bombshell” for any available showtime between Monday January 22 and Thursday January 25. Tickets are subject to availability. Ticket Vouchers must be redeemed at least 15 minutes prior to the screening/show time. Transportation not included. See information below for further details.

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by January 17 at 5PM EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

THE QUESTION:
Why do you want to see “Bombshell”? 

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message in its entirety*:
Just entered to win tickets to see “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” courtesy of @musicboxtheatre @zeitgeistfilms & @ClassicMovieHub – contest link: http://ow.ly/H1JC30hCfPK

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

If you don’t have a 280-character twitter account yet, please leave off the contest link information, and be sure to include @ClassicMovieHub in your tweet (so that I can see your tweet).

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

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About the Film:  What do the most ravishingly beautiful actress of the 1930s and 40s and the inventor whose concepts were the basis of cell phone and bluetooth technology have in common? They are both Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon whose ravishing visage was the inspiration for Snow White and Cat Woman and a technological trailblazer who perfected a radio system to throw Nazi torpedoes off course during WWII. Weaving interviews and clips with never-before-heard audio tapes of Hedy speaking on the record about her incredible life—from her beginnings as an Austrian Jewish emigre to her scandalous nude scene in the 1933 film ECSTASY to her glittering Hollywood life to her ground-breaking, but completely uncredited inventions to her latter years when she became a recluse, impoverished and almost forgotten—BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY brings to light the story of an unusual and accomplished woman, spurned as too beautiful to be smart, but a role model to this day.

PLEASE NOTE for all prizing: Ticket winners will be awarded a PDF ticket voucher that will entitle them to redeem TWO (2) tickets to see “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago IL, valid for available show times from Monday, January 22, through Thursday, January 25, 2018. Tickets are subject to availability. Ticket Vouchers must be redeemed at least 15 minutes prior to the screening/show time. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to Chicago and/or the Theatre. Prizes do not include hotel accommodations, travel or ancillary expenses.

BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they meet the requirements above.

If you’re not in the Chicago area, or if you can’t wait to win tickets, you can purchase tickets at the Music Box Theatre by clicking on their logo below, or you can check out the film’s complete screening schedule here:  Bombshell Movie Schedule

music box theatre chicago logo

And, stay tuned, because we have some more Bombshell surprises coming soon!

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , | 6 Comments

CMH Just For Fun, Loretta Young

Just for Fun… What’s Her Name?

No contest here, just a fun (hopefully) trivia question to test your classic movie knowledge!  If you’re stumped and need to find the answer, you can click through to our Loretta Young bio page :)

loretta young trivia question

 

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Just for Fun, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, Trivia Questions | Tagged | 3 Comments

Pre-Code Corner: 13 Reasons Why You Should Watch Thirteen Women Tonight

13 Reasons Why You Should Watch Thirteen Women Tonight

No one would take a film seriously that centers on a so-called “half-caste” who uses the mystical power of suggestion and superstition to extract revenge years later upon former classmates for denying her from their sorority – and, by extension, white society. Add to that plot future perfect wife Myrna Loy as the tyrant, Ursula, and a pre-Code permissiveness, shake vigorously, and out comes: Thirteen Women (1932).

Yes, it’s that nuts. Evidence is provided below for your convenience:

Thirteen Women publicity still On the surface this publicity still seems to cover all seven schoolmates who appear in the movie, but… never mind. Two ladies present don’t appear as sorority sisters in the film – at least to my knowledge: the woman on the far right looks like Hazel’s travel companion, and I don’t recognize the lady on the far left.

1.     Let’s get one thing (sort of) straight: There aren’t really 13 women in Thirteen Women

Ursula mentions 12 classmates, but we only meet seven – I think: sisters May and June (Harriet Hagman and Mary Duncan), Hazel (Peg Entwistle), Helen (Kay Johnson), Laura (Irene Dunne), Grace (Florence Eldridge), and Jo (Jill Esmond). IMDb credits a Twelfth Woman (Phyllis Fraser), Thirteenth Woman (Betty Furness), and Mary (Julie Haydon), though their scenes were deleted before release, as the review runtime matches the length I saw in 2017. Curiously, 10 was the tally at least two critics landed upon; however, those counts could have included small and/or uncredited roles such as the school teacher, travel companion, and nurse. Indeed, the names of the three eliminated actresses and the three ladies playing the minor roles mentioned above appear alongside the eight main women in a Lux Toilet Soap ad that appeared in Variety on October 4th, 1932 – minus one co-star, presumably due to her tragic death. (More on that below.)

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Thirteen Women - Myrna LoySurrender…
Thirteen Women - Myrna Loy closeup of eyes(We take no responsibility for anything you do under the influence of these images.)

2.   Ursula’s hypnotic stare in Thirteen Women is everything

Including lethal. After all, those enthralling eyes (and who knows what else) won Ursula a job with the Swami (C. Henry Gordon), enabling her to manipulate the fortunes he writes that her fellow school chums subscribe to, leading them to ruin – or death.

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Thirteen Women Hmm, which ladies were next on Ursula’s chopping block in the extended version of the film?

 3.   Currently, Thirteen Women clocks in at a swift 59 minutes

But according to AFI and IMDb, the original picture ran 73-74 minutes. How many more lives did Ursula destroy in those 15 excised minutes? Since she’s partially to blame for 4 deaths and 2 cases of insanity over the course of an hour, an extra quarter of that time would have afforded her approximately 1.5 more victims. I wouldn’t put that 0.5 past Ursula.

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Thirteen Women mary duncanMaybe you should sit this one out, June. That’s not a look anyone about to embark on a high flying stunt would like to see.

4.   Serious question: How many cinematic trapeze routines end well?

My guess is around 4%. The perilous one that opens Thirteen Women, setting the bar high for the calamities to come, lands in that other estimated 96%. Because, obviously.

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Thirteen Women thriller newspaper headlinePeg Entwistle certainly partook in a fair share of the film’s dramatics and calamity.

5.     There’s tragedy aplenty in the picture – and outside as well

Thirteen Women goes down in history as the only film credit of Peg Entwistle, the infamous Hollywood Sign Girl who dove to her death from Hollywoodland’s “H” on September 18th, 1932, a mere two days after the movie’s release. In hindsight, it’s a bit perverse witnessing the misfortune Entwistle’s Hazel encounters in her estimated three minutes of screen-time. What an inauspicious first and last picture… or maybe this movie’s got me thinking too much in terms of prophecies.

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Thirteen WomenNothing to see here, just two friends attending a circus together.

6.     Speaking of Entwistle’s role…

Apparently, Tiffany Thayer’s source novel strongly suggested that Hazel and her travel companion are lesbians. According to the film’s Production Code Administration (PCA) file, it appears that this insinuation made it into an early script but not the final picture, to the office’s relief.

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Thirteen Women Myrna Loy and C. Henry Gordon Is it getting a little hot in here? Crowded? Constricted?
Thirteen Women man under platformAmong other things, Ursula’s an expert at timing.

7.     “Old fashioned villainy will not die as long as Myrna Loy’s in Hollywood.” – Variety

Wrong, but since Loy’s assignments around 1932 consisted of a steady stream of vamps and vixens, I could see how Variety would assume as much. That was one of the more amusing statements about the picture; most were rather bleak and unenthusiastic. While the plot and acting received mixed reviews, critiques concurred on two points: the movie’s morose tone and implausible situations. Film Weekly found Thirteen Women “too morbid to be entertaining,” while Variety deemed the details of Loy’s motive “on a scale of exaggeration beyond all reason” and her revenge “little more than bait for facetious audience snickers.”

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Thirteen Women letter to miss raskobIt’s all spelled out pretty clearly here.

8.     The suspicious deaths of two friends following ominous forecasts – obviously just a coincidence

According to Laura, who tries her hardest to laugh the previsions off, remain strong, and pacify the group… until she receives a prophecy about her son. Uh oh. Time to start worrying – and fight back.

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Thirteen Women - myrna loy Don’t be a hero. Better not tempt fate/the power of suggestion/Ursula.

9.     Tip: If your horoscope predicts death by your own hand, don’t bring a gun on a train trip

Even if you’re trying to prove it all wrong, Helen. Spoiler alert: this doesn’t end well.

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Thirteen Women - irene dunne This is the Cortez-iest Ricardo gets in Thirteen Women. (By the way, he’s inspecting an ill-placed sorority pin.)

10.  For once, Ricardo Cortez doesn’t play a sleazy lowlife

In his book Complicated Women, Mick LaSalle details six instances of the “oily character actor” being shot or mortally wounded – and that’s in pre-Codes alone. Here, in a picture filled with devilry, Cortez actually operates on the other side of the law as Police Sergeant Barry. But to be fair to Cortez and his usual shady reputation, the ladies – Ursula in particular – basically retain a monopoly on evil in Thirteen Women. Cortez is the one man Ursula doesn’t entrap, as the other males fall firmly and swiftly under her otherworldly spell, from the Swami to her accomplice Burns (Edward Pawley), who masquerades as Laura’s chauffeur. Even the guy who sold her dynamite without a permit crumbled under her power; as he told the cops, she gave him the “willies.” Who could blame him?

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Thirteen Women - myrna loyA bouncy ball. What a nice gift for a child, Ursula. Oh, wait… (Is that a hint of remorse she’s showing?)

11.  No big deal, but Ursula attempts to murder a child

Not once, but twice. By the time Ursula’s building a bomb for a 6-year-old, Bobby (Wally Albright), we know she’ll obviously get what’s coming to her in the end.

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Thirteen Women - myrna loyCan you imagine Ursula with an iPhone and internet access? That would turn Thirteen Women into a full-fledged horror flick.

12.   “When I was 12 years old, white sailors…”

We don’t need Ursula to finish that sentence, and thankfully Laura cuts her off.  But the picture definitely goes there, especially during this outburst, with Ursula blasting Laura and co. for tormenting her and derailing her attempts to pass as white, thus ruining her life in her mind. Obviously, she’s been through some harrowing episodes before, during, and after her school days, but her method of retribution is 100% pure evil.

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Thirteen Women - irene dunne and myrna loyA tale of two bullies: then, and now.

13.  Thirteen Women: timely even 85 years later

Bullying is a major concern today and, well, if you want a glimpse at the consequences of oppression and harassment, look no further than Thirteen Women.  None of the women, not even Laura as the pack’s resolute leader, can be excused from the parts they played in the construction of this vicious fiend, a woman hell-bent on retaliation who uses a few pages from their own book – diabolically amplified, of course.

Moral of the story: just say no to chain letters, round robins, and bullying. Though I think we all know that by now, right?

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–Kim Luperi for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Kim’s Pre-Code Corner articles here.

Kim Luperi is a New Jersey transplant living in sunny Los Angeles. She counts her weekly research in the Academy’s Production Code Administration files as a hobby and has written for TCM, AFI Fest, the Pre-Code Companion, MovieMaker Magazine and the American Cinematheque. You can read more of Kim’s articles at I See A Dark Theater or by following her on twitter at @Kimbo3200.

 

 

Posted in Posts by Kim Luperi, Pre-Code Corner | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: The Philadelphia Story (Giveaway runs through Feb 3)

Win Tickets to see “The Philadelphia Story” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun Feb 18 and Wed Feb 21!

“I don’t want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.”

CMH continues into our 3rd year of our partnership with Fathom Events — with the 2nd of our 13 movie ticket giveaways for 2018, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: The Philadelphia – the timeless classic starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart — the way it was meant to be seen — on the Big Screen!

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, February 3rd at 6 PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, Feb 4, between 6PM EST and 7PM EST. If a winner(s) does not have a Twitter account, we will announce that winner(s) via this blog in the comment section below.

philadelphia story-poster

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, February 18 and Wednesday, February 21 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, February 3rd at 6PM EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post
THE QUESTION:
What is it about “The Philadelphia Story” that you love most? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen? 

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: The Philadelphia Story” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here: http://ow.ly/I4cC30hwhtE

*If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

Ruth Hussey, James Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia StoryRuth Hussey, James Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story

About the film:  On the eve of Tracy Samantha Lord’s (Hepburn) wedding, her blue-blood ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), returns. C.K. discovered that a national tabloid plans to do an expose on Tracy’s philandering father and has agreed to smuggle a reporter (James Stewart) into her wedding if the magazine kills the story on the elder Lord. But C.K. never expects that the woman he still loves will suddenly fall for the undercover reporter. Now, before the evening is over, Tracy will be forced to take an unflinching look at herself and to realize which of these three men she truly loves. This two-day event includes exclusive insight from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest. (see contest rules for further information)

BlogHub members ARE also eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 43 Comments