“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”-James Joyce (born on 2 February 1882)
Happy birthday to my lifelong favourite actor, Paul Newman! He would have been eighty-nine today.
“If you’re playing a poker game and you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.”-Paul Newman
What is your number one Paul Newman flick?
When I was fifteen, I learned the truth behind Norma Desmond’s famous Sunset Boulevard assertion: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!” Six decades of repetition has eroded this cutting indictment to a fragment of its original self, denuded of meaning even as it has become a pithy pop-culture sound bite that the least film savvy person can repeat with cocksure swagger. My enlightenment came in the form of a dusty, jacket free old book crammed with its fellows on a shelf at the public library. Subject: silent movie star portraiture. Impact: sudden, immense, striking. A well-established love of the arts, history, and old movies hadn’t prepared me for what I found in this neglected volume of photography. Questions rushed my senses: Who were these women and men? Why was their beauty sung not to the heavens but inarticulately whispered of in a suburban teenager’s bedroom? What happened to them? When did mystery and imagination leave entertainment photography, resulting in the garish, empty images that had engulfed my recent 1980s childhood?
TWO OF MY EARLY FAVOURITES:
The trajectory of my life changed the day I checked out that book. A passion for old movies expanded to include silent films. I watched as many as I could find, and read everything available on the subject in our large library system. Result: hooked, permanently. Bonus: growing up to write about what I love, including silent movie culture.
Amidst the flavors of the day and luckless publicity seekers, the stars whose fame flamed into the sky with the spark and longevity of an uncontrollable firecracker, and those with fleshy charms but little talent, there stood performers with skill, magnetism, and dedication to a craft that was being forged as the cameras rolled. Some are remembered-if only for the persistence of their images in twenty-first century advertising-but most are forgotten, their work rarely seen by the modern masses. In a world where Mary Pickford has been reduced to the curve of her curls and Lillian Gish to her shy, arcane smile, where Charlie Chaplin is nothing but the sum of the sartorial trio of hat, cane, and shoes, what chance does Mabel Normand stand to be recognized and appreciated as a first-class artist? Even her lovely face is a fading footnote. Continue reading
I am covering the year 1918. Check back tomorrow for my contribution.
…would be a shame!
Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on 5 November 1913.
She was a very, very fine actress of stage and screen. If you’ve only seen Gone with the Wind or A Streetcar Named Desire, you have missed some wonderful film performances. Her theatrical work has, of course, been lost to time. It’s a shame, because she was a serious and brilliant stage actress obsessively dedicated to her craft. Her film stardom was largely beside the point.-“I’m not a film star, I am an actress. Being a film star is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity.”-Vivien Leigh
She was married to this chap for two decades.
She died on 8 July 1967.
If I ever find a time machine, I will make dozens of stops just to see the magnetic and fiercely talented Vivien Leigh weave her magic across the world’s stages.
I’m taking the evening off to help my husband celebrate his birthday! Have a great Halloween!
Elinor Glyn, who forever changed the popular culture landscape by ballyhooing the concept of It, was born on 17 October 1864.
A QUOTE: “Everything that I write will be signed with my name.”
SOME WORKS: Beyond the Rocks; Three Weeks; Three Things; Love’s Blindness; ‘It’ and Other Stories
“Both of the inventors of the visual glamour, Eickemeyer and Genthe, came from the ranks of the art photographers, that cadre of aesthetically ambitious cameramen and-women who in the 1890s organized into an international community intent on fighting the slapdash amateurism of the mass of Kodak-wielding weekend shutterbugs, the routine posing and eclectic composition of the professional portrait studio, and the condescension of a fine arts critical establishment that denigrated photography as a mechanical craft.”-STILL American Silent Motion Picture Photography, by David S. Shields