Lindsay picks: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Watching Errol Flynn alongside frequent co-stars like Olivia de Havilland and Alan Hale is tolerable. But put Flynn opposite an acting force like Bette Davis and he turns to oatmeal. And not the steel-cut kind, either.
The strength of Davis’ performance makes it all-too-clear who played hooky from acting class a few too many times to go yachting. It’s a great credit to Bette Davis that she was able to pull off a memorable performance while acting opposite feigned emotion and melodrama.
Alix picks: Captain Blood (1935)
I read in an IMDB review for this film something to the effect of “Errol Flynn’s acting is as subtle as a stoplight.” Good thing Captain Blood is an over-the-top, melodramatic, swashbuckling adventure that only requires Flynn to portray about two emotions! The supporting cast also includes Olivia de Havilland as the damsel in distress and British actor Basil Rathbone as a Frenchman with an accent that wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python sketch.
Lindsay picks: Jack Warner vs. everyone
According to almost all accounts, Warner Bros. studio production head Jack Warner was not a nice man. Warner didn’t believe in having a collaborative relationship with the stars he managed – he knew best and his word was law. He had major with some of his biggest stars at one time or another including Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Olivia de Havilland. This quote from director Gottfried Reinhardt says it best – “Harry Cohn was a sonofabitch, but he did it for business; he was not a sadist. [Louis B.] Mayer could be a monster, but he was not mean for the sake of meanness. Jack was.”
Alix picks: Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford
The feelings Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had towards each other can be eloquently summed up by Ms. Davis, “The best time I ever had with Joan was when I pushed her down some stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” The feud supposedly started over their mutual admiration for actor Franchot Tone (who eventually married and divorced Joan) and continued over competition for roles. The two never missed a chance to annoy each other, especially while working together on Baby Jane. Bette had a Coca Cola machine installed in her dressing room because Joan was married to the CEO of Pepsi at the time. When Bette was nominated for an Academy Award for Baby Jane (but did not win), Joan arranged to accept all the other nominated actresses awards, in case they won, in order to upstage Bette. I highly suggest checking out Bette Davis’ quotes on Joan Crawford for laughs.
For those of you who think this second post about Gossip Girl is two too many (*cough* Alix), hear me out. The powers at be at GG must love classic film because week after week, the episode titles are inspired by movies from the golden age of Hollywood.
Hi, Society (High Society): 1956 remake of The Philadelphia Story starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. You can read our review here.
Roman Holiday (Roman Holiday, 1953): Audrey Hepburn plays a princess who escapes royal life for a day, Gregory Peck is the newspaper reporter who accompanies her. Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for this performance.
The Magnificent Archibalds (The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942): An Orson Welles film about an upper class Midwestern family in the early 1900′s.
It’s A Wonderful Lie (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946): James Stewart plays a man who is saved from committing suicide by his guardian angel. It’s the movie that’s always on tv during Christmas.
Gone With The Will (Gone With The Wind, 1939): My favorite all-time film. The film follows the life of headstrong southern belle Scarlett O’ Hara through the Civil War and its aftermath.
Southern Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Gentleman Prefer Blondes, 1953): Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell movie featuring the song “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”.
Enough About Eve (All About Eve, 1950): As we’ve said many times on this site: watch. this. movie. Bitingly clever script. Impeccable cast. And narration by Shere Khan (yes, from The Jungle Book).
The Lady Vanished (The Lady Vanishes, 1939): One of Alfred Hitchcock’s British films. Referenced by Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally with the line “You’re the most contemptible person I’ve ever met…”.
The Treasure of Serena Madre (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948): John Huston (Anjelica’s dad) directed this notable Humphrey Bogart film. The line “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” in Blazing Saddles is a variation of one of the lines from this film.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Bette Davis the 2nd greatest female film star of all time. No offense to AFI, but in my book, Bette is THE greatest. I think this clip from one of her most famous films, All About Eve (1950), demonstrates Bette’s acting at her best.
One of the things I love best about Bette was her willingness to play any type character. Bette took on diverse roles including southern belles (Jezebel, 1938), humble teachers (The Corn is Green, 1945), aging monarchs (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939), and everything inbetween. While I would love to ramble on for days about why Bette Davis is my favorite classic film star, Bette’s work really speaks for itself.
Here is a list of my favorite Bette Davis roles:
Mildred Rogers (Of Human Bondage, 1934)
Charlotte Vale (Now, Voyager, 1942)
Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)
Baby Jane Hudson (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1962)
Do you have a favorite Bette Davis role? Let us know in the comments!
The opening scene of this week’s episode of Gossip Girl entitled “Enough About Eve” (available here until next Monday or so) recreates the beginning of one of our all-time favorites, All About Eve. The script continues with references to Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, Charade, and What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Though undoubtedly most of the GG audience won’t get some of these allusions to classic film, some will be compelled to do a little research. So thank you, Gossip Girl (what??) for furthering our mission of introducing Gen Y to classic film.
Alix chose: Bette Davis and Paul Henreid
Bette Davis and Paul Henreid only appeared in one film together, Now, Voyager but manage to make a lasting impression. Unlike some romantic film actors, Davis and Henreid don’t rely on overt physical acting to portray the mood. Even though the film is often referred to as a soap opera, nothing these two actors do is camp or feels too over dramatic. Every movement is subtle and adds up to the overall effect, for example, when Jerry nonchalantly lights two cigarettes and hands one to Charlotte. And what girl wouldn’t fall in love with a guy like that? The two did reunite one other time in the 1964 film, Dead Ringer, in which Davis starred and Henreid directed.
Lindsay chose: Myrna Loy and William Powell
One of the most prolific couplings in film history, Powell and Loy made about a gazillion (translation = 14) movies together. In the comedic films, they are as cute as a guinea pig in a dinosaur costume. They’re the perfect pairing because they both have a certain normalcy about them. Powell is the likeable, unpretentious gentleman and Loy is, in this stage of her career, warm and graceful. But don’t mistake them for boring – both have a wit and sass that, when paired with their “everymanness” makes them truly unique in the classic film world. Check them out as the smart and funny (and well-liquored) Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man (and ensuing 5 sequels). Other notable appearances include Libeled Lady (1936), Love Crazy (1941), and I Love You Again (1940).