2011 Best of the Blogathons RoundUp

There were many things about 2011 I’d rather forget, and am quite eager to sweep under the rug and write off as a (semi) total loss.

It was, however, a fantastic year for bloggers. And especially so for the classic film community– a niche that hitherto has been of a largely insular nature, existing on the fringes of filmdom, never quite enjoying a resounding presence in its own right. An eclectic makeup of film theorists, essayists, historians, fanboys and fangirls, visual artists, poets, and everything in between, classic film enthusiasts the enjoyed a real renaissance in 2011 and can confidently start the new year with a newly defined sense of community. (And if that’s overstating things, it is only because I believe we have every reason to start the new year with a newly defined sense of community!)

The exponential growth of social media has made it possible to nurture a culture of mutual respect and graciousness within the blogging community, resulting in work that is enlightening, enlivening and always entertaining.

Perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than in the “blogathons” that permeate the blogosphere. Sponsored by either an independent site, or a conglomerate (like CMBA), blogathons rally writers together by challenging them to dig deep into their resources and contribute a piece on a specific topic. Typically lasting anywhere from a day to a week, not only do blogathons result in a hearty cornucopia of material, they are an invaluable tool for writers to connect with fellow colleagues on an international scale.

The Pictorial signs off for 2011 with a review of some of our favorite blogathons of the year. If you missed any of these, I can’t think of a better way to spend some of the idle holiday hours than by giving them a good long read.

Grand work, everyone! Every last one of you is, without doubt, an:

Film Noir Blogathon
Hosted by Self Styled Siren

The Nicholas Ray Blogathon
Hosted by cinemaviewfinder

Margaret Lockwood Blogathon
Hosted by Shroud of Thoughts

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon
Hosted by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

The CMBA Guilty Pleasures Blogathon:
Hosted by CMBA (Classic Movie Blog Association)

The Films of 1939 Blogathon
Hosted by CMBA

The Late Films Blogathon
Hosted by Shadowplay

The Charlie Chaplin Blogathon
Hosted by Park Circus Films

Carole-tennial(+3)
Hosted by Carole & Co.

For The Boys Blogathon
Hosted by The Scarlett Olive

Fashion in Film Blogathon
Hosted by The Hollywood Revue

Dueling Divas Blogathon
Hosted by Backlots

The Loving Lucy Blogathon
Hosted by True Classics

The Queer Film Blogathon
Hosted by Garbo Laughs

The Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon
Hosted by Viv And Larry

Blog it for Baby: The Jean Harlow Blogathon
Hosted by… Us 😉

We've Been Liebstered! (I didn't know what it meant either…)

The Liebster AwardThe Kitty Packard Pictorial has been Liebstered! C’est a dire, we’ve been presented with the “Liebster Blog” award from one of our favorite fellow film fanatics, The Lady Eve Sidwich, the cinemaven behind The Lady Eve’s Reel Life. Take a sampling of her recent posts and you’ll see exactly why this blog stands so well out of the crowd. From a profile of legendary art director Lyle Wheeler, to a portrait of early Hollywood playground Catalina Island to serious critical analysis of rarely seen screen gems, Eve’s Reel Life is  at once intelligent and academic, yet wonderfully entertaining.

Thank you so much Eve for singling us out– MWAH!

RULES:

There are always rules, but the rules are actually the real fun of these web awards since they allow you the opportunity to recognize fellow bloggers who, let’s be honest, the spotlight should always be on. In this case, I am to choose five.

To the five blogs mentioned below, the rules dictate you link back to the Pictorial, and pick five other blogs on who to give the award…

1. SHADOWPLAY. David Cairns is a genius. And I mean that quite literally, without the least bit of hyperbole. This guy really is the genuine article. By following his blog, you’re liable to bounce from a D.W. Griffith melodrama to 70s Blaxploitation to  modern effects epics and back again, unified by a singular, uncompromising wit that makes this blog, well … genius. (I defy you NOT love a post about KING KONG entitled “The Skull Island Follies of 1933”)

2. SILENT VOLUME. Chris Edwards’ Toronto-based Silent Volume is so much more than just another blog.   Edwards cuts through the crap, calls a spade a spade, and his encyclopedic knowledge of  silent film, as well as his keen sense of politics, make his posts opinionated but fair.  He writes with energy and relevance– bearing truth to his blog’s motto: this medium is not dead. With  Edwards around, silent film is not only  alive– it is full of life.

3. VIV AND LARRY. London-based blogger Kendra has created one of the most decadent, swoon-worthy blogs on the internet, bar none. An ever-evolving love sonnet to the classical patron saints of 20th Century theatre, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, Viv and Larry is more than just eye-popping gorgeousness. Respectful, insightful and at times even provocative, Viv and Larry is the Savoy Hotel of fan tributes.

4. HOLLYWOOD REVUE. Angela’s Hollywood Revue slogan is “Where We’re Always Ready for Our Close Up” and that’s just what she specializes in: insightful profiles of favorite Hollywood faces and films big and small. The reason to get up close and personal with Angela at her blog this month is her day-by-day coverage of Turner Classic Movie’s Summer Under the Stars festival. We are now midway through August and she is still going strong, producing solid feature film reviews on a daily basis.

5. DEAR OLD HOLLYWOOD. Robbie’s blog is a real treasure. In many ways, Robbie is a cinema archaeologist. Since 2009, he has been exhaustively documenting Southern California filming locations of many of movies great and small—classic and even, well … not so classic. But more than that, the ever-inquisitive Robbie takes us to former stars homes, watering holes and haunts. In my opinion, he does more to make old Hollywood a tangible reality than any other blog around.

We’ve Been Liebstered! (I didn’t know what it meant either…)

The Liebster AwardThe Kitty Packard Pictorial has been Liebstered! C’est a dire, we’ve been presented with the “Liebster Blog” award from one of our favorite fellow film fanatics, The Lady Eve Sidwich, the cinemaven behind The Lady Eve’s Reel Life. Take a sampling of her recent posts and you’ll see exactly why this blog stands so well out of the crowd. From a profile of legendary art director Lyle Wheeler, to a portrait of early Hollywood playground Catalina Island to serious critical analysis of rarely seen screen gems, Eve’s Reel Life is  at once intelligent and academic, yet wonderfully entertaining.

Thank you so much Eve for singling us out– MWAH!

RULES:

There are always rules, but the rules are actually the real fun of these web awards since they allow you the opportunity to recognize fellow bloggers who, let’s be honest, the spotlight should always be on. In this case, I am to choose five.

To the five blogs mentioned below, the rules dictate you link back to the Pictorial, and pick five other blogs on who to give the award…

1. SHADOWPLAY. David Cairns is a genius. And I mean that quite literally, without the least bit of hyperbole. This guy really is the genuine article. By following his blog, you’re liable to bounce from a D.W. Griffith melodrama to 70s Blaxploitation to  modern effects epics and back again, unified by a singular, uncompromising wit that makes this blog, well … genius. (I defy you NOT love a post about KING KONG entitled “The Skull Island Follies of 1933”)

2. SILENT VOLUME. Chris Edwards’ Toronto-based Silent Volume is so much more than just another blog.   Edwards cuts through the crap, calls a spade a spade, and his encyclopedic knowledge of  silent film, as well as his keen sense of politics, make his posts opinionated but fair.  He writes with energy and relevance– bearing truth to his blog’s motto: this medium is not dead. With  Edwards around, silent film is not only  alive– it is full of life.

3. VIV AND LARRY. London-based blogger Kendra has created one of the most decadent, swoon-worthy blogs on the internet, bar none. An ever-evolving love sonnet to the classical patron saints of 20th Century theatre, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, Viv and Larry is more than just eye-popping gorgeousness. Respectful, insightful and at times even provocative, Viv and Larry is the Savoy Hotel of fan tributes.

4. HOLLYWOOD REVUE. Angela’s Hollywood Revue slogan is “Where We’re Always Ready for Our Close Up” and that’s just what she specializes in: insightful profiles of favorite Hollywood faces and films big and small. The reason to get up close and personal with Angela at her blog this month is her day-by-day coverage of Turner Classic Movie’s Summer Under the Stars festival. We are now midway through August and she is still going strong, producing solid feature film reviews on a daily basis.

5. DEAR OLD HOLLYWOOD. Robbie’s blog is a real treasure. In many ways, Robbie is a cinema archaeologist. Since 2009, he has been exhaustively documenting Southern California filming locations of many of movies great and small—classic and even, well … not so classic. But more than that, the ever-inquisitive Robbie takes us to former stars homes, watering holes and haunts. In my opinion, he does more to make old Hollywood a tangible reality than any other blog around.

Larry, Vivien and Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca

Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940).

(This post is in conjunction with the blog Viv and Larry’s Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon.)

Early in the summer of 1939, when principal photography on David O’Selznick’s soon-to-be masterpiece Gone with the Wind had finally finished, Vivien Leigh boarded a plane and headed to New York to be reunited with Laurence Olivier. She was spotted by gossip columnist Louella Parsons who promptly reported that Olvier had signed on to play the role of Maxim deWinter in the film adaptation of Daphne duMaurier’s novel Rebecca, and that “All of Vivien Leigh’s brave plans to return to England for a stage play will go a-glimmering,… for she is now mentioned for the role of the wife opposite her very good friend Laurence.”

Power producer David O Selznick  bought the rights to DuMaurier’s darkly romantic novel in June 1938, at a time when he was deeply entrenched with pre-production on Gone with the Wind. Alfred Hitchcock was assigned to direct in September of that year (it would be his first Hollywood production and put him on the Selznick payroll) and by May 1939 Laurence Olivier was  brought on board. But it was only after Selznick’s pleading with Ronald Colman to play the part fell through, and Hitchcock ruled out Leslie Howard (“too academic for the romantic angle”) and William Powell (his American accent was too “dangerous.”)

Yet the casting Olivier was a stroke of brilliance.

Larry as Du Maurier's tortured murderer Maxim de Winter

Larry’s well known ambivalent attitude towards Hollywood filmmaking manifested itself in Maxim’s un-apologetically obstinate nature. The casting process deeply obsessed Selznick (see Gone with the Wind) which is why the role of the nameless Mrs. de Winter had, by June of 1939, still not been cast.

If you asked Larry, however, the casting was quite obvious. Vivien Leigh, his girlfriend of two years, and the lead in Selznick’s baby Gone with the Wind, was going to play Mrs. de Winter. Larry and Vivien were still several months off from having their deeply passionate affair recognized by law (they were in divorce proceedings with their respective spouses) and the opportunity to make a film together, as they were both now working in Hollywood, carried away their romantic hearts with excitement.

The problem, of course, was that there was no way that Leigh, fresh from her role as Scarlett, would have been taken seriously as the naive, reticent,  self-conscious Mrs. deWinter. Had Vivien’s film career  developed differently, I personally feel that Leigh did possess the fragility necessary for the role– but in June 1939 the role was simply not right for her.

And Selznick told her so– as well as Larry– over two cables sent to their ocean liner while the couple vacationed.

According to Terry Coleman’s biography, Olivier, “Selznick went on for three hundred words, assuring her that the same care, patience and stubbornness about accurate casting that had put her in “the most talked–of role of all time in what everyone who has seen it agrees is the greatest picture ever made,”  made it necessary for him to tell her that she would be as wrong for the role in Rebecca as the role would be for her. Signed, “affectionately, David.”

He was more direct with Olivier:

“I know you must be disappointed, but Vivien’s anxiety to play role has in my opinion been largely if not entirely due to her desire to do a picture with you.” She hadn’t been interested until she knew he was playing Maxim and they would both be working in Hollywood. The cable was signed “Cordially, David.”

Vivien circa 1939. At the time, her heart beat only for Larry, and his only for her.

But there was something else.

David O Selznick had fallen in love with Olivia de Havilland’s little sister, Joan Fontaine.

Their relationship, according to most modern sources, is supposed to have remained to platonic, but there is no questioning Selznick’s obvious affection for the pretty blonde. Ever the perfectionist, it is to Selznick’s credit that he did not cast Fontaine straight away– he did have reservations about her ability– but finally informed her that she had been cast as Mrs. de Winter and to please report for fittings straight after the Labor Day holiday, 1939.

As history has amply recorded, Olivier was far from happy about the decision. It would be the second film in a row that he was to have a contentious relationship with his leading lady (his work with Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights, off screen, was fraught with tearful arguments) and he made no attempt to hide his displeasure with Fontaine.

Although, as history has also recorded, perhaps it was less Larry’s moody brooding on set that set Fontaine so terribly off her guard, and more Hitchcock’s capitalizing of the ill feelings on set and manipulating her accordingly.

Fontaine later said that “[Hitchcock] was a Svengali. He controlled me totally. He took me aside and whispered, ‘Now kid, you go in there and you do this and that.’ And then he would say, “do you know what so-and-so said about you today? Do you that Olivier doesn’t want you in this role? Well never you mind  you just listen to me….He seemed to relish the cast not liking one another, actor for actor, by the end of the film.

All of this is not meant to condone Olivier’s un-sporting behavior at having lost out to working with his beloved, but it is to perhaps put it in to context. Perhaps, more than anything, it is necessary to step back and understand precisely how passionate Vivien and Larry’s relationship was at that particular point in time. Still illicit in legal terms, their love had been gestating and blossoming into an extraordinarily passionate relationship– unhealthy in some ways, very healthy and very needed in others– the fact of which is made quite evident in surviving letters and telegrams from the 1939 period.

For example, Larry penned the following letter of excruciating remorse at having missed a phone call from her not long before his being cast as Maxim de Winter:

I was too miserable even to cry. I was dying to ring up and say, O Vivling my darling forgive me, please forgive me. I’m so sorry, Mummy darling.  My throat does ache for you so my beloved darling Vivien child, Mary child, O how I reverence you, wrap you in mental cotton wool and put you on the mantelpiece and burn candles to you.

Vivien and Larry as Romeo and Juliet

This is the sort of love we’re talking about here, and in light of this it is easier to understand the stormy nature of Olivier’s behavior. Watching the film today, with Hitchcock’s meticulously calculated long shadows and startling closeups, the tremulous back story really serves it well. The unease between Maxim and Mrs. de Winter keeps the viewer on tenterhooks for nearly all of the film– it is, indeed, only in the final minutes that the cold melts from Larry’s deep, stormy eyes and we can actually feel the affection between the two.

Had Vivien been by Larry’s side, it would have taken a greater actor even than Olivier to pretend that he was, even in the smallest sense, not thoroughly enraptured with her. Because, regardless of how their relationship would end, for this period in their lives Vivien and Larry were not so much a couple as they were one.

(The pair would go on to produce Romeo and Juliet on Broadway not long after, a critical and financial failure, and then return to Hollywood to film That Hamilton Woman in 1941– a great financial success.)

VivAndLarry is a classy, sophisticated blog dedicated to the life, love and art of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. The Pictorial is a major fan of the blog’s truly original, unique and reverent work and we are proud to have been able to participate in their Blogathon!

Larry, Vivien and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca

Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940).

(This post is in conjunction with the blog Viv and Larry’s Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon.)

Early in the summer of 1939, when principal photography on David O’Selznick’s soon-to-be masterpiece Gone with the Wind had finally finished, Vivien Leigh boarded a plane and headed to New York to be reunited with Laurence Olivier. She was spotted by gossip columnist Louella Parsons who promptly reported that Olvier had signed on to play the role of Maxim deWinter in the film adaptation of Daphne duMaurier’s novel Rebecca, and that “All of Vivien Leigh’s brave plans to return to England for a stage play will go a-glimmering,… for she is now mentioned for the role of the wife opposite her very good friend Laurence.”

Power producer David O Selznick  bought the rights to DuMaurier’s darkly romantic novel in June 1938, at a time when he was deeply entrenched with pre-production on Gone with the Wind. Alfred Hitchcock was assigned to direct in September of that year (it would be his first Hollywood production and put him on the Selznick payroll) and by May 1939 Laurence Olivier was  brought on board. But it was only after Selznick’s pleading with Ronald Colman to play the part fell through, and Hitchcock ruled out Leslie Howard (“too academic for the romantic angle”) and William Powell (his American accent was too “dangerous.”)

Yet the casting Olivier was a stroke of brilliance.

Larry as Du Maurier's tortured murderer Maxim de Winter

Larry’s well known ambivalent attitude towards Hollywood filmmaking manifested itself in Maxim’s un-apologetically obstinate nature. The casting process deeply obsessed Selznick (see Gone with the Wind) which is why the role of the nameless Mrs. de Winter had, by June of 1939, still not been cast.

If you asked Larry, however, the casting was quite obvious. Vivien Leigh, his girlfriend of two years, and the lead in Selznick’s baby Gone with the Wind, was going to play Mrs. de Winter. Larry and Vivien were still several months off from having their deeply passionate affair recognized by law (they were in divorce proceedings with their respective spouses) and the opportunity to make a film together, as they were both now working in Hollywood, carried away their romantic hearts with excitement.

The problem, of course, was that there was no way that Leigh, fresh from her role as Scarlett, would have been taken seriously as the naive, reticent,  self-conscious Mrs. deWinter. Had Vivien’s film career  developed differently, I personally feel that Leigh did possess the fragility necessary for the role– but in June 1939 the role was simply not right for her.

And Selznick told her so– as well as Larry– over two cables sent to their ocean liner while the couple vacationed.

According to Terry Coleman’s biography, Olivier, “Selznick went on for three hundred words, assuring her that the same care, patience and stubbornness about accurate casting that had put her in “the most talked–of role of all time in what everyone who has seen it agrees is the greatest picture ever made,”  made it necessary for him to tell her that she would be as wrong for the role in Rebecca as the role would be for her. Signed, “affectionately, David.”

He was more direct with Olivier:

“I know you must be disappointed, but Vivien’s anxiety to play role has in my opinion been largely if not entirely due to her desire to do a picture with you.” She hadn’t been interested until she knew he was playing Maxim and they would both be working in Hollywood. The cable was signed “Cordially, David.”

Vivien circa 1939. At the time, her heart beat only for Larry, and his only for her.

But there was something else.

David O Selznick had fallen in love with Olivia de Havilland’s little sister, Joan Fontaine.

Their relationship, according to most modern sources, is supposed to have remained to platonic, but there is no questioning Selznick’s obvious affection for the pretty blonde. Ever the perfectionist, it is to Selznick’s credit that he did not cast Fontaine straight away– he did have reservations about her ability– but finally informed her that she had been cast as Mrs. de Winter and to please report for fittings straight after the Labor Day holiday, 1939.

As history has amply recorded, Olivier was far from happy about the decision. It would be the second film in a row that he was to have a contentious relationship with his leading lady (his work with Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights, off screen, was fraught with tearful arguments) and he made no attempt to hide his displeasure with Fontaine.

Although, as history has also recorded, perhaps it was less Larry’s moody brooding on set that set Fontaine so terribly off her guard, and more Hitchcock’s capitalizing of the ill feelings on set and manipulating her accordingly.

Fontaine later said that “[Hitchcock] was a Svengali. He controlled me totally. He took me aside and whispered, ‘Now kid, you go in there and you do this and that.’ And then he would say, “do you know what so-and-so said about you today? Do you that Olivier doesn’t want you in this role? Well never you mind  you just listen to me….He seemed to relish the cast not liking one another, actor for actor, by the end of the film.

All of this is not meant to condone Olivier’s un-sporting behavior at having lost out to working with his beloved, but it is to perhaps put it in to context. Perhaps, more than anything, it is necessary to step back and understand precisely how passionate Vivien and Larry’s relationship was at that particular point in time. Still illicit in legal terms, their love had been gestating and blossoming into an extraordinarily passionate relationship– unhealthy in some ways, very healthy and very needed in others– the fact of which is made quite evident in surviving letters and telegrams from the 1939 period.

For example, Larry penned the following letter of excruciating remorse at having missed a phone call from her not long before his being cast as Maxim de Winter:

I was too miserable even to cry. I was dying to ring up and say, O Vivling my darling forgive me, please forgive me. I’m so sorry, Mummy darling.  My throat does ache for you so my beloved darling Vivien child, Mary child, O how I reverence you, wrap you in mental cotton wool and put you on the mantelpiece and burn candles to you.

Vivien and Larry as Romeo and Juliet

This is the sort of love we’re talking about here, and in light of this it is easier to understand the stormy nature of Olivier’s behavior. Watching the film today, with Hitchcock’s meticulously calculated long shadows and startling closeups, the tremulous back story really serves it well. The unease between Maxim and Mrs. de Winter keeps the viewer on tenterhooks for nearly all of the film– it is, indeed, only in the final minutes that the cold melts from Larry’s deep, stormy eyes and we can actually feel the affection between the two.

Had Vivien been by Larry’s side, it would have taken a greater actor even than Olivier to pretend that he was, even in the smallest sense, not thoroughly enraptured with her. Because, regardless of how their relationship would end, for this period in their lives Vivien and Larry were not so much a couple as they were one.

(The pair would go on to produce Romeo and Juliet on Broadway not long after, a critical and financial failure, and then return to Hollywood to film That Hamilton Woman in 1941– a great financial success.)

VivAndLarry is a classy, sophisticated blog dedicated to the life, love and art of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. The Pictorial is a major fan of the blog’s truly original, unique and reverent work and we are proud to have been able to participate in their Blogathon!

Pictorial Palette: Gene Tierney

The Beautiful Gene Tierney ... beautiful is not a strong enough word!

When it comes to Technicolor, there are some names that are inextricably linked with that definitive Classic Hollywood process. Marilyn Monroe and her flaming pink Niagara dress? Vivien Leigh and her crimson negligee in Gone With the Wind? Classic. But while most people equate Gene Tierney with the sultry, smoky, definitively film noir shadows of black and white cinema, for me her ethereal beauty was simply made for Technicolor. Tierney’s extraordinary beauty is a matter of record. That stunning Laura portrait of her is matched only by the flesh itself– and bested in her subsequent color films. Leave Her to Heaven, with Leon Shamroy’s decadent cinematography, is her most famous color film. But even in her frivolous forays, like On the Riviera with Danny Kaye, the Technicolor Tierney is impossibly perfect.

This shot, fresh and carefree, is my personal favorite photo of Tierney. Young and energetic, she was still some time yet from those dark demons that would come to possess her.  The tragedy of her daughter’s birth was years off, and her internal personal battle, although prevalent, was not yet consuming.

I love the hope and life and genuine spark of this week’s Pictorial palette– and hope that Gene, a beautiful woman inside and out, enjoyed more of these joyful moments than her legend suggests.

the palette: #4E3CB6; #D92F4C; #F9ECE4; #271F5A

Joan Fontaine – A Fan Remembers

One of our readers was kind enough to share a first-hand experience involving screen legend (and perennial Pictorial favorite) Joan Fontaine.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

The Divine Joan Fontaine

My father, who’d be 91 were alive today, was a charming and most unusual man. When I was 10 or 11, back in the very early 60s, there was no such thing as cable TV and the “Late Show” broadcast old movies most nights.

One night my father said, “You are going to sleep late tonight, school night or not. We’ll just have you stay home if you are tired tomorrow.”

Why?

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” was on the tube that night. I loved it. And I adored Fontaine.

I was thrilled when in my early 20′s, she was doing some lecturing at a local college and lived in Boston for a time. She was charming, and slightly imperious, and, then in her 50′s, quite tiny and very lovely.

One of our local hotels had been purchased by a mysterious Brit, and its cabaret, under his aegis, ran sophisticated intimate acts, mostly singers, which were broadcast live on Saturday nights. One night a very talented local singer/comedian named Mercedes Hall (the actor Anthony Michael Hall is her son ) was appearing.

During the show, which as I say was broadcast live, the smarmy hotelier/host — his name was Allen Temayne, introduced Fontaine, who was amongst the patrons. “Miss Fontaine” he said — may I call you Joan?”

Chic, cool, and immaculately coiffed, the former film star looked at him and said, “NO. You may call me MISS Fontaine.”

At that point admiration turned to adoration.

She is a complicated woman, maligned in many show biz bios — Vivien Leigh, Judith Anderson and Noel Coward were all less than kind — but I suspect she was less sinner than sinned against, especially during her childhood with de Havilland.

A unique lady indeed.