Category Archives: Film

Marilyn Monroe in Photographs: The Films (1947-1962).

Marilyn Monroe breaking the ice in this promotional color photograph on the train for Some Like It Hot. She plays Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk, the ukulele player and singer in an all-women’s traveling band. Upon its release in the spring of 1959, the Billy Wilder black-and-white film became an immediate smash hit with audiences and critics alike and remains one of the all-time great comedy film classics.

COMING SOON…!

A Critical Look at Madame Bovary (1949) by Vincente Minnelli: the Waltz Scene with Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan.

By John P. Walsh

In the 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli, a beautiful and charming Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) meets wealthy Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) at a ball where he literally sweeps her off her feet. Selfishly aggravated by her husband Charles Bovary (Van Heflin) for not fitting into high society, Madame Bovary begins a love affair with Rodolphe. Though the pair scheme to elope to Italy, Rodolphe does not love Madame Bovary. 

The Waltz Scene was Filmed to the Music 

One of the film’s most carefully wrought and delightful scenes is this ballroom sequence. It was one of the last segments to be shot. The film footage was tailored to Miklós Rózsa’s music. Minnelli explained to the composer in advance the camera movements so he could write the music in an arrangement for two pianos. The scene was then filmed to match it. Their artistic collaboration produced one of cinema’s most original scenes uniting robust music with weaving and gliding images on film.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball. It is one of the film’s most delightful scenes and one of the last to be shot. Director Vincente Minnelli made certain its choreography carefully matched the music of Miklós Rózsa. Madame Bovary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

“Break the Windows”

As Rodolphe swirls her, Emma Bovary’s head spins until she becomes dizzy. The viewer sees her disorientation as the camera takes her viewpoint. She keeps dancing but asks for fresh air. Her request leads to an extraordinary and incredible reaction by the stewards. They start to smash the ballroom’s windows with chairs to help her cool down. This fantastically destructive action of broken glass aligns with the destruction of Emma’s romantic illusions throughout the film. 

In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. The extraordinary action ultimately becomes symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions with handsome and wealthy Rodolphe.

Night of Repressed Passion

Along with her husband’s boorish behavior at the ball and everywhere else, her romantic disappointment leaves Madame Bovary feeling publicly humiliated. Instead of love and excitement, she runs out of the ball in shame. Though she yearns for happiness and excitement, her pursuit of selfish pleasures ends in scandal and ruin.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful and equally insightful to the selfish and nervous personality of Flaubert’s fictional character.

A film poster for Madame Bovary. There were several different versions produced for the marketing of the film.

This publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones), her handsome lover Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan), and her cuckolded and hapless husband Charles Bovary, as medical doctor (Van Heflin).

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed title character, Madame Bovary, from his 1856 serial novel in Vincente Minnelli’s 1949 film of the same name. The film offered two costume and wardrobe managers — Walter Plunkett for women and Valles for men. Walter Plunkett was a prolific costume designer who worked on over 150 projects in his Hollywood career, including Gone With The Wind. In 1951, Plunkett shared an Oscar with Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff for An American in Paris. Valles specialized in men’s costumes at M-G-M. Valles received two Academy Award nominations including Spartacus in 1960.

Van Heflin is Charles Bovary, whom Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) had loved and hoped to build a respectable life, but in whom she grew disillusioned. Costumes were by Valles and Walter Plunkett both award-winning Hollywood costume designers.

A unique example of the costume design of Valles (Louis Jourdan) and Walter Plunkett (Jennifer Jones) for the 1949 film Madame Bovary. The next year, in 1950, both costume designers were nominated for an Academy Award for That Forsyte Saga.

Madame Bovary who danced wildly with Rodolphe at the ball loves him and in the story they plan to elope to Italy. But Rodolphe leaves for Italy without her which shatters Madame Bovary’s dreams and spirit.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) is indulged by an unscrupulous shop-keeper as she lives beyond her means in the pursuit of happiness and takes on heavy debt impossible to pay back. The film plot is told from the point of view of the author Gustave Flaubert (James Mason) who stands accused at his trial for corrupting morals by writing it.

From the waltz scene through to her death scene Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful as well as provides insight into the contradictions offered by a selfish and nervous personality. In the end she finds her own death more attractive than living with shattered dreams. Charles, who never stopped loving her, begs her to wait for a doctor to arrive. Madame Bovary sighs, “Oh, Charles, why are you always trying to save me?”

A 1949 film poster for Madame Bovary that includes a head shot of James Mason as the novel’s author, Gustave Flaubert. The film is told in flashback through the character of Flaubert who is on trial on charges of immorality for writing the novel. This is based on historical fact. After Flaubert’s work was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856, the government brought an action against the publisher and author in 1858. Tried on a charge of immorality, both were acquitted in 1859. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form in France, it met with a warm reception.

Vincente Minnelli directs Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan in a scene from Madame Bovary. Reviews from critics were mixed and the film lost money at the box office. Whether it is the fault of the film-makers or the story itself is a debatable point.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Michèle Mercier: French Italian Screen Goddess Known As Angélique. Commentary on a legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.


Michèle Mercier (born New Year’s Day 1939) is a French actress perhaps best known for playing the lead role of Angélique in the mid1960s film series of the same name based on the 1956 sensational novel Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by husband and wife writing team of Anne and Serge Golon.  Their mid-17th century character was based on a real life Suzanne du Plessis-Bellière who was one of France’s most famous women from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The historical Suzanne first appeared in a French novel in the mid-nineteenth century, one by Alexandre Dumas, père, called Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard. Similar to these 5 films inspired by the Golons’ novel of (by 1961) six books — Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels which is the first book published in 1957 (the novel expanded to 13 books after the 1964 film’s release) — Dumas’s novel, the third of his d’Artagnan trilogy, was also serialized in popular media from 1847 to 1850.

Michèle Mercier4

While this post is simply about Michèle Mercier as Angélique, she is a French Italian beauty who has entered the pantheon of screen goddesses based largely on this legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.

For the part of Angélique, many other beautiful and more famous actresses were approached before Michèle Mercier who was little known in the French cinema at the time. Seasoned French film producer Francis Cosne (1916-1984) wanted sex symbol Brigitte Bardot to play the part, but she rejected the offer. Young Catherine Deneuve was considered perhaps too naive for the lusty role. American Jane Fonda spoke French but could an American play fully a quintessentially French role? Italian beauty Virna Lisi was too busy doing Hollywood films. Not being already famous eliminated statuesque Danish actress Annette Stroyberg from the running until ultimately Michèle Mercier was decided upon after almost losing the part to French actress Marina Vlady who at the last minute didn’t sign the contract.

Angélique

Michèle Mercier as Angélique.

When the opportunity of Angélique presented itself to Michèle Mercier, she was a relative newcomer to the French cinema – but this was not the case for her either in French theatre arts or Italian films where before 1964 she had acted in over 20 of them. With a father who was French and mother who was Italian,  Michèle Mercier from her early teens growing up in Nice, France, was determined to be a professional ballet dancer. In 1957, at 17 years old, she moved to Paris which was a decision that changed her life. By 1960, when she was just 20 years old, she was acting in French New Wave film director François Truffaut’s second film, Shoot The Piano Player. 

After Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels was released — an unlikely heroine’s role where Angélique’s singular flaming red-haired beauty is acknowledged throughout — the role became a blessing and a curse for the budding actress Michèle Mercier. It catapulted her to instant stardom so that her fame rivaled sex symbol Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the role in 5 popular films typecast her and effectively ended her film career almost as soon as it started. Following the first Angélique film in 1964 Michèle Mercier starred in four sequels that includes Merveilleuse Angélique in 1965, Angélique et le Roy in 1966, Indomptable Angélique in 1967 and Angélique et le Sultan in 1968. All these films in the series were directed by French film director Bernard Borderie (1924-1978) and starred Michèle Mercier which bestowed upon the stories a consistent filmic world but also encased the beautiful star in a popular role that was virtually impossible to escape from.

Following the fifth and final film of the Angélique series in 1968 the French Italian beauty went on to make six more films before her career ended in 1972. Although Michèle Mercier had always appeared in a variety of film genres – the actress played dozens of other women besides Angélique – it was for this 17th century fictional character in five memorable films in 1960’s France that has affixed her into the pantheon of screen goddesses for which she receives enduring adoration today.

Mercier1
Michèle Mercier4

Michèle Mercier in 1965.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

History of The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” The First Hit for the 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever” still defines the Disco Age.

By John P. Walsh

How Deep Is Your Love (1977) by the Bee Gees ranks number 375 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.1 It sits between White Room (1968) by Cream and Unchained Melody (1965) by The Righteous Brothers. Barry Gibb, the lone surviving Bee Gee today, reportedly said that How Deep Is Your Love is his favorite Bee Gees song. 2 In 2011 it was voted in a TV poll as the UK’s favorite.3 Recorded in the spring of 1977 in anticipation of the album and film Saturday Night Fever to be released later that year— How Deep Is Your Love was released in the U.S. as a single in September 1977. Three months later, after the smash-hit film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta was released, How Deep Is Your Love became the number one song in the U.S. on Christmas Eve 1977 and stayed in the top spot for three weeks. Although the song had started on the charts in October 1977, when it reached number one it stayed in the top 10 for four months until April 1978 which, at that time, set a longevity record. There are two official music videos for How Deep Is Your Love featuring the Bee Gees.4

Fig. 1. There are two official music videos performed by the Bee Gees of How Deep is Your Love.The music of the Bee Gees (left to right: Robin, Barry, and Maurice Gibb) and the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta breathed fire into the disco music craze and helped define the disco era in the late 1970’s.
Fig 2. A huge international pop music hit starting in late 1977, How Deep is Your Love written and performed by the Bee Gees made its way into the Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track album that went Platinum on January 3, 1978 and was certified 16x Multi-Platinum on November 16, 2017.  It remains one of the top ten-selling albums of all time.

When the Bee Gees were asked by film producer Robert Stigwood to provide five songs for a film tentatively titled Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night based on the 1975 New York magazine fiction article about the urban disco scene, they didn’t want to compose music specifically for a film (although Barry did write the title song for Stigwood’s follow-up picture, Grease). It didn’t help that the Bee Gees were given neither a script nor hardly told what the movie plot was about. They offered Stigwood, their longtime manager, songs that they were already working on, namely, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, If I Can’t Have You (later sung by Yvonne Elliman), More Than A Woman, and How Deep is Your Love.5 At one early screening with John Travolta and director John Badham, among others, the Bee Gees were pleased though a little surprised when they saw for the first time scenes of the re-titled Saturday Night Fever with their music and lyrics to back it up. Although the music soundtrack at this juncture was demo cuts, the songs they wrote and performed meshed perfectly with the film’s scenes about which they had never been told very much. To be added to their astonishment—as much as anyone else’s there attending that rough cut – is that the Bee Gees had no idea they had embarked on a motion picture that would soon prove to be a milestone in film history.  Saturday Night Fever would perfectly capture a moment in time and forever define the disco age.

Fig. 3. John Travolta attended the London premiere of Saturday Night Fever on March 22, 1978 with Kay Edwards.

Following its world premiere in Hollywood on December 7, 1977, Saturday Night Fever became an enormous success. It became Chicago film critic Gene Siskel’s favorite film—soon after, Siskel famously bought Tony Manero’s white suit at a charity auction in 1978 for $2,000. Colleague and friend Roger Ebert writing shortly after Siskel’s death in 1999, believed that Saturday Night Fever had struck Siskel mainly on an emotional level but also for its themes that had impressed him. Other influential film critics were similarly praiseworthy of the film’s subject matter. At the 50th Academy Awards on April 3, 1978 Saturday Night Fever had received only one nomination (John Travolta for Best Actor) in a year where Annie Hall and Star Wars dominated the competition. Robin Gibb later observed that Saturday Night Fever was made on a very low budget, released very late in the year and had no expensive promotion. The film’s word of mouth was good, however, which even included its star, John Travolta, who at its world premiere at then-Mann’s Chinese Theatre admitted watching the musical film on the big screen as if seeing a fantasy or dream for the first time.6

Fig. 4. Tony Manero’s shiny white polyester suit — bought off the rack in Brooklyn for the making of the film Saturday Night Fever— has been compared to a symbol of aspiration and hope in what is otherwise a dark movie.

Conceptually the song How Deep Is Your Love materialized when, working with collaborator Blue Weaver, Barry Gibb’s instigating question to him in beginning to compose it was: “What is the most beautiful chord that you know?”7 It was the first song the Bee Gees composed that ended up in the film Saturday Night Fever. After a creative hit-and-miss process at the piano – and further collaboration with Robin and Maurice – the song was put together in the middle of night in about four hours at the Château d’Hérouville studios in France.8 This was part of the Bee Gees’ usual working process – arriving into the studio around three o’clock in the afternoon and ending their workday near or after midnight – resulting in all of the film’s songs written quickly, with the lyrics finished later and the disco music taking longer.9 The Bee Gees’ falsetto singing had always been emotional, and it was often by way of collaborating with industry talent— other musicians, producers, and the like—that their music developed in new directions. By the time How Deep is Your Love came about, the Bee Gees had a reputation for being open to suggestions, including the personally emotional piano chords Blue Weaver offered the Brothers Gibb that night.10 The creation of How Deep Is Your Love followed a course already prevalent in the Bee Gees musical career – an attitude of collaboration and creativity in the studio that allowed ideas to be suggested, and beautiful melodies to quickly emerge as the result. Though How Deep is Your Love was composed in one sitting, its arrangement and production took longer which changed some of the song’s original structure. The title was based on what the Bee Gees simply maintained was the variety of connections listeners could make with the phrase How Deep is Your Love – and so providing the song with further universal appeal.11 Following the film’s U.S. release by Paramount Pictures on December 14, 1977 Maurice Gibb believed its ultimate success was the combination of its phenomenal 23-year-old star John Travolta and the music soundtrack whose album had already been certified Gold on November 22, 1977 and certified Platinum on January 3, 1978. The combination of  star power and music –  along with stunning word of mouth and critical acclaim – created a record-shattering synergy for both film and soundtrack album featuring Bee Gees songs making the cultural impact of Saturday Night Fever swift and enduring. How Deep is Your Love remains one of the most anthologized love songs of the modern era. As recently as November 16, 2017, the soundtrack album was certified 16x Multi-Platinum.12

Fig. 5. John Travolta in the 1970’s. Playing 19-year-old Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever about a teen with a good job at the local hardware store in Brooklyn who is trying to dance his way to a better life. His performance earned the 23-year-old Travolta an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role that year.

Fig. 6. Brooklyn-born Donna Pescow was a newcomer and played Annette in Saturday Night Fever. Annette is Tony’s former dance partner and would-be girlfriend.

Karen Lynn Gorney and John Travolta.

Fig 7. Like Donna Pescow and others in the cast of Saturday Night Fever, co-star Karen Lynn Gorney, John Travolta’s love interest in the film,  was a newcomer. Even Travolta who had a swelling fan base because of his ongoing role as Vinnie Barbarino in the popular late 1970’s TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, was not seen as a dance man. Hungry to take his acting career to the next level, Travolta’s energetic dance scenes had critics praising his performance as among the best ever filmed.

Fig. 8. A two-minute scene of disco dancing by John Travolta thrust his energetic performance and the new star into the annals of film history. (This is a portrayal of Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease.)

Fig. 9. “Robert Stigwood explained to the Bee Gees about this young guy, who every weekend blows his wages at a disco in Brooklyn. He’s got a really truly Catholic family, and he’s got a good job, but he blows his wages every Saturday night. He has his mates with him. Then he comes back and starts the week again, and this goes on every Saturday night. But it’s just this one Saturday night that’s filmed. So that’s what we knew (about a film we were writing music for) except it was John Travolta playing the part…” Maurice Gibb in Bee Gees: The Authorized Biography.

How Deep Is Your Love quickly reached number one internationally in countries such as Canada, Brazil, Finland, Chile, and France. In the Bee Gees’ native England it reached number three which delighted the newly–resurgent pop music group in that they had a top five hit in a country that by the mid-to-late 1970’s saw Punk and New wave rock in the ascendant.13 The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, also released in 1977, was banned on the airwaves by the BBC for its “gross bad taste” though today it ranks number 175 on the Rolling Stone’s Greatest Hits list – 200 slots higher than the Bee Gees’ disco ballad, How Deep Is Your Love. How Deep Is Your Love and the Saturday Night Fever album provided superstar momentum for the Bee Gees’ next projects, but like their careers up to that point, the English-Australian pop-rock band simply continued their readiness to create music. In The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees, Blue Weaver understood the Bee Gees’ success during this period was not due to their “virtuosity,” although their falsetto vocals were “brilliant,” but their collaborative working method which they pursued until reaching the final product that satisfied them – and clearly satisfied some part of the rest of the world.14

Fig. 10. In 1978 Barry Gibb observed about Robin and Maurice and himself: “When we were kids, we’d sit on each other’s beds all night and plan our careers. We decided that when we got to the top, we’d have our own office. We wanted to get to a point where we wouldn’t have to ever work again so we could sit back and enjoy everything we had accomplished. A few years ago that seemed forever out of reach. Sometimes I think I’m living that dream now. We’ve never really made it before. If this is indeed the top, then it’s better than what we imagined. It’s a lot of fun.” Bee Gees: The Authorized Biography. As the Bee Gees, Barry and twins Maurice and Robin became one of the world’s biggest bands ever selling more than 220 million records. In 1997 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maurice died in 2003 and Robin in 2012. In 2017 Barry told CBS News: “So when I lost them all, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go on. ”

Fig. 11. 70-year-old Barry Gibb was honored during Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees in April 2017 where he got up on stage to close out the show to perform a few hit songs.

During one visit to the hospital while Robin was in a coma, Barry sang a song that he had written for him called The End Of The Rainbow.

Fig. 12.

NOTES:

  1. Rolling Stones List – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407 – Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  2. Barry Gibb’s favorite song – The Bee Gees: 35 Years of Music, Billboard: 27. March 24, 2001.  – Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  3. TV poll – https://web.archive.org/web/20121019120053/http://www.itv.com/beegees/ – Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  4. Song’s recording and release dates – Bee Gees Anthology (songbook) by the Bee Gees, Hal Leonard (1991) and Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.116.
  5. Didn’t want to compose music for a film – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411; Hardly told the film plot – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.110.
  6. Surprised music with unseen film meshed – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.111; Ebert on Siskel’s favorite film – https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-saturday-night-fever-1977 – Retrieved January 24, 2018; other critics’ praise of film- see Pauline Kael, “Nirvana,” The New Yorker, December 26, 1977, pp. 59-60; film low budget, released late- The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411. Regarding the white suit that had been bought off the rack in Brooklyn for the film, its symbolism in Saturday Night Fever has been postulated. Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a designer and historian of film costume stated that the white suit was a symbol of aspiration and hope in an otherwise “dark little movie” – see https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/aug/06/john-travolta-white-suit-v-and-a – retrieved January 25, 2018.
  7. Song’s musical concept – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411-412.
  8. First song composed for Saturday Night Fever, Château d’Hérouville – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.109.
  9. Songs written quickly – Ibid., p.109; lyrics later – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 415.
  10. Open to suggestions – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.107. emotional piano chords – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 411-12.
  11. song composing, arrangement, and production – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 409 and 412. Title chose Ibid. p. 412.
  12. Movie’s ultimate success – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.112. Costing $3.5 million to make, Saturday Night Fever earned an impressive $237.1 million –see “Saturday Night Fever, Box Office Information”Box Office Mojo – retrieved May 26, 2014. Soundtrack album certified God and Platinum -http://www.beegees-world.com/bio_gplat.html -Retrieved February 1 , 2018. certified 16x Multi-Platinum on November 16, 2017 – see https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/- retrieved January 24, 2018.
  13. Number one hit internationally – “Songs Written by the Gibb Family on the International Charts – Part 3”(PDF). http://www.brothersgibb.org/download/page-3.pdf – Retrieved January 24, 2018; number 3 in Britain – The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 421.
  14. Continued with their readiness to work – The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 467.©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Fig. 1- “Bee Gees Monument unveiled tomorrow-1=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 2- “Saturday Night Fever Record Sleeve Coptic Journal” by Pressbound is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Fig. 3- “Los Angeles 2010” by Martin Wippel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fig. 4 – “#mcm 70’s John Travolta! “tell me about it, stud.”” by Stephen O is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 5 – “fonts from the flea market” by Buro Destruct is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fig. 6 – “TV Guide #1367” by trainman74 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Fig. 7 – personal collection.

Fig. 8 – “John Travolta (as Danny Zuko of “Grease”) figure at Madame Tussauds Hollywood” by Luke Rauscher is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Fig. 9 – “Redcliffe Bee Gees Way after opening-39=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 10 – “Redcliffe Bee Gees Way after opening-09=” by Sheba_Also 44,000+ photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Fig. 11 – “Barry Gibb (1)” by tomasbinanti is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Fig. 12 – “Los Angeles 2010” by Martin Wippel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Fashionable and versatile award-winning Italian film actress Carolina Crescentini always seems to be working. Commentary on her filmography.

By John P. Walsh.

Carolina Crescentini is an Italian film and television actress who has appeared in more than 20 films since 2006. Born in Rome in 1980 (April 18) Carolina grew up in the elegant Monteverde Vecchio district. Not unlike Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Carolina wanted to become an actress from an early age and studied and worked diligently in the craft. Carolina attended Italian acting schools including the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – or, The Center for Experimental Cinematography. This Italian institution hosts a national film archives (Cineteca Nazionale) as well as one of Italy’s most prestigious film acting schools (Scuola Nazionale di Cinema). Soon after, Carolina began her acting career in television commercials and short films and music videos. The blonde beauty whose stage presence is similar to Kate Hudson and whose fashion savvy is like Chloë Sevigny got her first big break in films from another Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alumni –  Fausto Brizzi. It was in the sequel to Brizzi’s 2006 film Notte prima degli esami (The Night Before The Exams) which was a film phenomenon in Italy making around 15 million euros and winning a David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several other awards. In Brizzi’s 2007 hit Italian teen comedy Notte prima degli esami – Oggi (The Night Before The Exams – Today), Carolina Cresentini plays Azzurra, the love interest of the main character. Where Brizzi’s 2006 teen comedy is set in Rome in 1989, the 2007 sequel which featured many of the same actors in the same roleswith the addition, of course, of Carolina Crescentini— it is set in the summer 2006 as Italy played for the World Cup which they won that year. Brizzi’s sequel and Carolina’s first major film was an even bigger hit than the original. Even the French film industry made a version of Notte prima degli esami calling it Nos 18 ans and featuring French teenagers set in 1989.

1. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI
Carolina Crescentini in the pillow fight scene from Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film was the Italian actress’s breakout role.
Nicolas Vaporidis  Carolina Crescentini
Italian actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Carolina Crescentini during filming of Notte Prima Degli Esami – Oggi. About six months later they starred again together in the film thriller Cemento armato.

This is the pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi where Nicolas Vaporidis as Luca and Carolina Cresecentini as Azzura first meet. A box office smash in Italy, it was Carolina Crescentini’s first major film and started her on the road to stardom. In Italian. (3.22 minutes).

Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis to make Cemento armato (Concrete Romance), a 2007 Italian neo-noir thriller directed by Marco Martani. Crescentini’s dramatic performance as Asia, a rape victim, earned her a Best Actress nomination at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) Awards. In 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress playing Benedetta, a fragile and spoiled rich beauty pursued by Silvio Muccino in Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love). The film became another smash hit in Italy that year.

This is the trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, the blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches this film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).

5. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI
Carolina Crescentini’s performance in the Italian thriller Cemento armato (Concrete Romance) earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2008.
7. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI reads about tennis
Before becoming an actor, Carolina Crescentini thought she would be an art or film critic. Here she reads about tennis star Andre Agassi.
8. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI
Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features her beauty captivates but does not immediately overwhelm. Her attraction is fed by details: blue eyes surrounded by sensual dark circles that give an uneasy and lived-in air.

A scene from Carolina Crescentini’s third film Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love) in a role which led to her being nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her co-star is Silvio Muccino. (2:34 minutes).

Silvio Muccino presenta il suo "Parlami d'amore"
Carolina at the premiere of Tell me About Love (Parlami d’Amore).

Carolina made films where her roles were smaller but memorable such as playing Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg) a bio-pic about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. With a soundtrack by prolific Ennio Morricone, Carolina said her experience for this 2008 film on location in Russia was very beautiful.

The trailer is from The Demons of St. Petersburg which was one of Carolina Crescentini’s favorite films to work on. It is a biopic of Fyodor Dostoyevsky shot on location in Russia featuring an all-star international cast.  (1:41 minutes).

14. Carolina Crescentini
Playing Anna in The Demons of Saint Petersburg (2008) which Carolina described as a beautiful film work experience.

In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was further recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer and the Giffoni Award at that venerable international children’s film festival. In 2011 Carolina won the people’s choice Ciak D’Oro award for Best Supporting Actress playing Corinna in the 2011 Italian comedy film Boris-Il Film based on the popular Italian TV series of the same name. 

From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):

18. Carolina Crescentini
Carolina Crescentini as Corinna in Boris-Il Film.
18. ferragamo-crescentini
Carolina Crescentini dressed in Ferragamo for a press conference in Rome for Boris-Il Film. Part of the SS2011 collection it is elegantly detailed within a warm and refined tone. Carolina chose to combine a double-breasted jacket with brown high heel boots for a delightfully easy look.
19. Carolina Crescentini
Carolina Crescentini next appeared in the 2010 film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story without  rhetoric, fully respectful of the feelings of the fallen family.
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Carolina Crescentini plays Angelica in the 2009 Italian comedy film “Generazione 1000 euro” written and directed by Massimo Venier. The film received two Nastro d’Argento nominations for best comedy film and for best supporting actress.

Excerpt from a trailer for the 2009 Italian comedy film Oggi sposi (Just Married) directed by Luca Lucini. Carolina plays Glada in a movie about a reformed ladies’ man who has his heart set on marrying the daughter of the Indian ambassador. (56 seconds):

In the 2011 award-winning drama film The Entreprenuer (L’Industriale), Carolina worked again with director Giuliano Montaldo. It follows the story of a businessman facing extreme challenges to make his enterprises successful. A press event with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip featuring Carolina Crescentiti and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film (:31 minutes):

22 CAROLINA CRESCENTINI PIERFRANCESCO FAVINO
Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.

In addition to regular work in many Italian TV series and movies including the series I bastardi di Pizzofalcone (2017) and movie Donne:Pucci (2016), Carolina Crescentini is a fashion icon in Italy wearing many designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international. Carolina has appeared on many magazine covers including rather famously, her shoot for Playboy in May 2010, Carolina said that in some shots she can’t recognize herself and chalking it up to “Photoshop.”

Tu Style Magazine [Italy] (9 May 2016)
Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)

Carolina’s most recent film work includes Tempo instabile con probabili schiarite (Partly Cloudy with Sunny spells), a 2015 Italian comedy about business partners who find oil on their land at the same time their furniture factory is going out of business. Carolina plays Elena, the wife of the lead. She also appeared in the discomfiting satiric film called Pecore in erba (The Sheep in the Meadow, a.k.a. Burning Love) written and directed by Alberto Caviglia which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2015. Also in 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time it was the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio) based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence – although by different authors six centuries apart.

Trailer for the witty and wry 2015 film Maraviglioso Boccaccio directed by veteran Italian film directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1:34 minutes)

maraviglioso_boccaccio_carolinacrescentini_foto_umbertomontiroli_0405
Marvelous Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini in a scene where she plays a wayward nun.

A scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s superior. (3.02 minutes)

KIKA PIERO TOSI CAROLINA CRESCENTINI ANNA FENDI TV
Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.
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Carolina Crescentini: red carpet.

Text ©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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St. Francis of Assisi and the Leper: Roberto Rossellini’s “The Flowers of St. Francis” (1950).

By John P. Walsh

Come la notte Francesco pregando nella selva incontro il lebbroso —or, in English, “How St. Francis praying one night meets a leper.”

Starting at 38:15, the dramatic five-minute scene in the middle of Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 Italian film Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester or The Flowers of St. Francis) shows the medieval St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) seeking out and embracing the time-honored social outcast—a leper.

Following their embrace—an encounter Francis up to this point in his life had assiduously avoided—the saint falls to the ground and, in tears he utters: “My God. My Lord and my all!  O great God!”

Is the film scene historically accurate?

While the event of the embrace is historically accurate, it is dramatized in Rossellini’s film after Francis’s brotherhood is established. In fact, it occurred at the start of the Italian saint’s conversion.  This is an important distinction since the embrace was most significant for St. Francis. It could even be argued that without it, there would be no St. Francis of Assisi at all.

In Francis’s own Testament written in 1225—one year before his death at 44 or 45 years old—the saint stated directly that his embrace of the leper became the cause of his conversion.

For a rich young man such as Francis seeking glory in military arms, he naturally despised the contagion of leprosy and diligently avoided lepers. As Francis put it, he “exercised mercy” to the leper as Francis bridged his religious doubt with trust. In that way, the leper— a common sight in medieval Europe and one that filled Francis with horror—became the astonishing means for the saint’s abounding conversion of faith.

Special order of knights founded by pope cared for lepers in Italy.

In the thirteenth century in Europe, lepers by law had to live apart from the rest of society owing to their contagious infectious disease. From at least the seventh century in Italy forward there was special orders of knights who took care of them. In the time period that Rossellini’s poignant film scene is set— it is either 1205 or 1206—there existed tens of thousands of these church-run leper “hospitals” in Europe. There was one only a short walk outside Assisi’s town walls called San Salvatore delle Pareti (the site today is a farm field).

Before his famous encounter of embracing the leper, Francis —then around 24 years old—had worked up to that crucial moment only gradually. After he had given up his quests to be a soldier and returned to Assisi disappointed and disenchanted, he found refuge in the welcome of family and old friends.  But following his impulses that led Francis to abandon his military career even before it started, he followed his promptings to walk out of Assisi along the road to the leper hospital.

Young Francis visits the leper hospital.

Near the hospital, Francis interacted tentatively with those caring for lepers —an activity that stretched back 600 years from Francis’s time to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604)—and sometimes the lepers themselves.  In the beginning, it was the sickening smell peculiar to the leper hospital wafting into young Francis’s nostrils that made him flee. As his visits increased, however, Francis—who by now was living mostly as a hermit— ventured to the leper hospital to leave them a charitable gift. As bell-clanging patients appeared, Francis, who left his gift on the roadside, vanished out of reach of these social outcasts.

It took Francis much more time, effort and prayers in solitude for what Francis believed was God’s eventual answer to him. As dramatized in Rossellini’s film, Francis discovered his courage and confidence and simultaneously his faith in the moment he embraced a leper. After that, Francis was free to pursue whatever track God called him to run. Francis could be called to renounce the world’s riches and marry his “Lady Povertry” in a joyous mystical marriage so that poverty remains a major Franciscan charism today, over 800 years later.  

Following a lifetime spent in heroic Franciscan mendicancy, the world-famous Umbrian saint proclaimed that it was at that moment that his life in and for God truly started. Francis conquered fear and embraced the other in love no matter how apparently godforsaken. Done in the context of divine trust and love, that action set him free.

SOURCE: St Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Johannes Jørgensen (1912). Translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image books, 1955.

Sassetta (c.1392-c.1451), St. Francis in Ecstasy, back of the Sansepolcro altarpiece, 1437-44, Panel, 80 3/4 x 48 inches. Villa I Tatti, Florence.

Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner: History of Hollywood Glamour Portraits of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Marlene Dietrich, 1947.

Marlene Dietrich. Paramount, 1947. Photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer.

MARLENE DIETRICH.

This Hollywood glamour portrait of forty-six-year-old Marlene Dietrich (1901, Berlin – 1992, Paris) wearing a green turtleneck sweater was taken when the movie actress was starring in Golden Earrings, a romantic spy film made by Paramount Pictures. It was her comeback film following World War II.

It was also in 1947—the same year that this photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer was made— that Dietrich received what she called her life’s proudest achievement: the Medal of Freedom.

While Golden Earrings was a decent film, its main purpose was to provide the actress with a job. Further, it would lead into her next project—the 1948 American romantic comedy A Foreign Affair directed by Billy Wilder—which made Dietrich once again a top star.

Following Dietrich’s meteoric rise at Paramount Pictures starting in 1930 her acting parts later stagnated as film directors —including Josef von Sternberg and others—seemed to use her more as a piece of expensive cinematic scenery than as a serious dramatic actress.

1940’s blondes.

Like other leading ladies of the time, the Hollywood glamour machine in the 1940’s transformed Dietrich into a golden-haloed blond which accentuated her magnificent cheekbones and sultry eyes under penciled-arc eyebrows and painted nails that this color portrait makes evident.

Photographer A. L. “Whitey” Schafer (1902-1951) was a still photographer who started shooting stills in 1923 and continued in that line of work at Columbia Pictures when he moved there in 1932. Personally outgoing, Schafer was appointed head of the stills photography department at Columbia three years later. In the 1940’s Shafer wrote copiously on his craft and advocated for techniques in glamour photography that are seen in this Dietrich color portrait.

Seminal book on glamour photography.

In 1941 Schafer published Portraiture Simplified, a book in which he argues that “portraiture’s purpose is the realization of character realistically.” Among his technical observations Schafer wrote elsewhere that “composing a portrait is comparable to writing a symphony. There must be a center of interest, and in all portraits this naturally must be the head, or your purpose is defeated. Therefore, the highest light should be on the head.”

It was in 1941 that Schafer replaced Eugene Richee (1896-1972) as department head of still photography at Paramount Studios. Schafer remained in that position where he photographed the stars until he died at 49 years old in an accident in 1951.

Elizabeth TAYLOR 1949

Elizabeth Taylor. M-G-M, 1949. Photograph by Hymie Fink.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR.

Though still a teenager, Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) in 1949 when this photograph was made, was celebrated as the new generation’s great beauty.  In 1942, at 10 years old, Elizabeth had her film debut and her life and beauty blossomed over the decade in front of the cameras. This photograph captures her near the beginning of her cinematic career as an M-G-M star.

Who is Hymie Fink?

Who exactly was her photographer, Hymie Fink? His identity remains a mystery. Was Hymie Fink a studio photographer? Freelancer? Pseudonym for an unknown talent or combination of unknown talents? His name appears among the stars starting in the late 1930’s until his death was announced in the mid-1950’s by Hedda Hopper. The gossip columnist ended her newspaper column for September 28, 1956 with the epitaph: “Hymie Fink, one of the sweetest men in Hollywood, died of a heart attack on Jane Wyman’s TV set. Hymie photographed every star and every major event in (Hollywood) for twenty-five years.”

Lana Turner. 1939.

Lana Turner. 1939, photograph by László Willinger.

LANA TURNER.

Before she became in the 1940’s the well-known Hollywood platinum sensuous blond of movie legend and fame, Lana Turner (1921-1995) was just a pretty redhead from Idaho named Julia Jean Turner.

By the time this unretouched color portrait was made, 18-year-old Lana Turner had been discovered three years earlier in a manner that has made it into the annals of show-biz mythology. The immediate result of her discovery in an iconic malt shop near Hollywood High School where she was a student, was a movie contract with producer-director Mervyn LeRoy (1900-1987).

Sweater Sweetheart.

The title of Lana’s first film in 1937 for Warner Brothers proved prescient for her career: They Won’t Forget. In her debut in the courtroom drama, pretty 16-year-old Lana Turner played a five-minute part where her appearance on screen strutting in a tight-fitting sweater and cocked beret created such a stir among audiences that Hollywood began to figure it had a full-budded sex symbol on its hands. Walter Winchell coined the term “America’s Sweater sweetheart” for Lana Turner because of her appearance in about twenty seconds of celluloid flickering onto movie screens in dark theaters throughout America that year. Over the next two decades there would be a long line of Hollywood actresses who throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s wore tight sweaters over specialty bras to emphasize their bust line for appreciating admirers.

In 1938 Lana moved with LeRoy to M-G-M where she stayed to make 44 mostly glamorous films until the early 1960’s. Lana Turner became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

New Harlow.

Originally groomed to be a new Harlow, Lana followed this sex-bomb course in full force when in 1941 the studio dyed her hair white blonde for Ziegfeld Girl, where she co-starred with Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr and stole the show. 

Hungarian-born photographer László Willinger (1909 – 1989) started his professional career in Vienna, Austria. He left Europe for America in 1937 where he joined M-G-M that same year. Soon after, he made this lush shot of 18-year-old Lana Turner in a silky green dress seated on a red divan (or chair) with her head turned and looking to one side with slightly bloodshot eyes.

Willinger’s color portrait of red-headed Lana Turner emphasizes the sensuality of her personality manifested in her full red sensuous lips and painted nails. In 1944, László Willinger left MGM and established his own photography studio in Hollywood. For the next 40 years he successfully practiced his craft.

About her own reputedly rowdy personal life in those M-G-M years, Lana Turner later remarked: “My plan was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way…” 

SOURCES:

DIETRICH – “Miss Dietrich to Receive Medal,” The New York Times, November 18, 1947;
https://ladailymirror.com/2013/11/04/mary-mallory-hollywood-heights-mdash-a-l-whitey-schafer-simplifies-portraits/;
http://vintagemoviestarphotos.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-l-whitey-schafer.html;
They Had Faces Then. Annabella to Zorina: The Superstars, Stars and Starlets of the 1930’s, John D. Springer and Jack D. Hamilton, Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1974.
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
https://www.aenigma-images.com/2017/04/a-l-whitey-schafer/

TAYLOR -http://tatteredandlostephemera.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-is-hymie-fink.html;
http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1956/09/29/page/22/article/diana-dors-isnt-homesick-shes-set-for-film-in-britain;
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.

TURNER – Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
Lana Turner interview with Phil Donahue, 1982 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhu6_V7pNL0
“Hollywood Photographer Dies,” The Hour, Associated Press, August 9, 1989 – https://news.google.com/newspapers nid=1916&dat=19890814&id=azIiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uXQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1804,2177679

A History, Commentary and Criticism of Grace Kelly’s Acting and Modeling Career, 1946-1956.

Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) had a short but dazzling film career in Hollywood. Called the “Greatest Screen Presence in Film,”1 passionate and dramatically talented Grace Kelly was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress when she starred in three of his classic films of the 1950’s: Dial M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).  After Grace was discovered in 1951 by Gary Cooper who said that she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of”2—and subsequently cast in High Noon (1951) as Cooper’s movie wife—Grace Kelly’s incomparable charm and allure swiftly impressed Hollywood and the world. From September 1951 to March 1956 Grace Kelly’s star blazed in eleven major motion pictures for five different Hollywood studios.

Grace on the set of Rear Window

On the set of Rear Window (1954). In the 1930’s costume designer Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. But in the 1950’s her designs became more conservative.

Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (1955). Edith Head and Grace Kelly became lifelong friends so much so that Edith Head, who was a very busy and successful costume designer in Hollywood, visited Grace in Monaco after she became princess.

Grace and Dorothy Towne High Noon

Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon. Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Gary Cooper, Co-starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon. Gary Cooper took credit for discovering Grace for the movies. He said about Grace: she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of.”

Grace and Edith Head To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly in wardrobe by Edith Head for The Bridges of Toko-Ri. Filming began in January 1954 where Grace played a small but pivotal role as Nancy Brubaker, wife of Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden). By this time Grace was becoming as well-known as Audrey Hepburn for her fashion sense, and Edith Head found it a joy to work with her.

famous eau de nil suit work in Rear window

Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).

Following High Noon for United Artists, her performance for M-G-M on John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) led to Grace’s first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Grace began work in July 1953 on Dial M For Murder for Warner Brothers where she met Alfred Hitchcock who became a cinematic mentor. Soon after, The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) at Paramount Pictures began Grace’s ground-breaking multi-film collaboration with Academy-Award winning costume designer Edith Head. Grace refused other lucrative film offers to work again with Hitchcock, this time at Paramount Pictures, on Rear Window co-starring Jimmy Stewart.

FIXED rear window 001
For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954 Grace Kelly received equal billings with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.

In this landmark film which came out in summer 1954, one of Hitchcock’s dramatic emphases for Grace Kelly’s film persona was to display her natural elegance and sex appeal—he was amused by her public image as an “Ice Queen”3—by having her costumed in an array of fabulous Edith-Head-designed lingerie, dresses, and pants. Growing up in Philadelphia Grace Kelly as an adolescent and teenager had modeled in local fashion shows but, by the middle 1950’s in her mid-twenties, she became an international fashion and style icon. 

Grace Kelly portrait from the film “Rear Window” photographed by Virgil Apger, 1954.

Grace Kelly was a style icon for the era of the 1950’s.

Following these first phenomenal film credits, what happened for Grace Kelly next was perhaps surprising but not unexpected, and a clear and certain capstone to, and beacon for, her professional acting career that was barely five years old. Never just a pretty face, Grace Kelly insisted in her studio contract that she be allowed regular breaks to be able to act in live theater.4 Grace admired the art of the live stage and welcomed demanding theater and film roles that challenged and exhibited her acting range and abilities. This was part of her motivation to go after the hardly glamorous but dramatically impressive role of Georgie Elgin in George Seaton’s The Country Girl (1954) for Paramount Pictures.

Grace Kelly studying the script during filming of George Seaton’s The Country Girl. The 1954 film received 7 Academy Award nominations and won two. One of them was for Grace who won the Oscar for Best Actress.

With co-stars Bing Crosby and William Holden, the film featured Grace playing the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic actor struggling to resume his career (played by Crosby). At its release, the film was a hit and nominated for seven Academy Awards. On Wednesday, March 30, 1955, at the telecast of the 27th annual Academy Awards held at RKO Pantages Theatre,5 The Country Girl won two Oscars, including one for Grace Kelly for Best Actress. At just 25 years old Grace Kelly—of the ambitious and hugely competitive Philadelphia Kellys—had reached the highest echelons of the cinematic arts by way of her profession’s gold-plated statuette.

gk with oscar

Grace Kelly backstage after the 27th annual Academy Awards on March 25, 1955 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl.

27th Annual Academy Awards Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly

The 27th Annual Academy Awards, Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. 

Always looking ahead, Grace’s film career had already turned international. She did Mogambo for a host of reasons not least of which was being able to see Africa with “all expenses paid.”6 In early 1954 she had flown to South America to make Green Fire (1954) for M-G-M with Stewart Granger and then in May 1954 she was at the French Riviera to make her third film with Alfred Hitchcock: To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant for Paramount Pictures.

HITCH &GK

Grace Kelly sitting in Cary Grant’s chair while director Alfred Hitchcock serves her a beverage on the set of To Catch A Thief. The cast and crew had such a respect for the young film star that a hush would come over the set at her first appearance.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant
La Victorine studios 1954 Hitch directs GK on To Catch a Thief grace kelly

Grace liked the Riviera enough to travel there one year later, in April 1955, this time for the 8th annual Cannes Film Festival. To what degree Grace could imagine in advance how that particular journey to that most beautiful part of the world would impact her film career as well as future life as wife and mother was beyond her. It was during that early spring 1955 Mediterranean trip that Grace Kelly was first introduced to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

FIXED May 5 1956 001

26-year-old Grace Kelly and 31-year-old Prince Rainier III at their first meeting at the palace in Monaco, May 6, 1955. They would be engaged to be married by the end of the year. Photograph by Edward Quinn.

Grace Kelly stood five foot seven inches tall and weighed 118 pounds. Her dress size was two.7 She was born on November 12, 1929 into the Kelly family of Philadelphia. Grace Patricia Kelly was the third of four children and one of that Irish-German family’s three girls. Elder sister Peggy and younger sister Lizanne were athletic and shared their mother Margaret’s model looks. Margaret was also the family disciplinarian who the Kelly children liked to call “the Prussian General.”8 

GK with MOm
Grace Kelly modeling a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid 1950’s. Look at Grace’s reflection in the mirror.

As a child Grace was dreamy and shy while her siblings were outgoing and athletic. Yet Grace too inherited a keen awareness of her body using her arms and legs to be dramatically expressive in an actress’s rather than athlete’s way.9 By the time she was 18 years old Grace’s beautiful rectangle-shaped face with soft pear-shape dimensions displayed thick blond hair, almond-shaped blue eyes, a small high-bridge nose and ruby lips evident in many later glamour photographs. 

Grace Kelly in red by Howell Conant, 1955.

Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.

Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly MGM portrait

Each member of the Philadelphia Kelly family was an exuberant competitor in areas of American life such as athletics, business, politics, or high society.  As an adult one of Grace’s major strengths in addition to her incredible beauty was her ability to focus on whatever goal she decided to pursue whether professionally or personally until that goal was achieved. When Grace won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955 it was also a brick in the Kelly wall of ambition for success.  Before she was a teenager Grace performed in plays so that in her teenage years a desire to be an actress grew. Since Grace was situated within a protective and affluent family as well as educated in Philadelphia Catholic and private schools she sought theater work in New York City instead of Hollywood which Grace, even after she achieved film success, considered a pitiless machine of cinematic production.10

Kellys 1945

The Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.

GK 1951

Grace Kelly moved to Southern California to be in motion pictures. She appeared in her first film called Fourteen Hours for 20th Century-Fox in 1951 when she was 22 years old.

It was Aristotle Onassis who suggested to Prince Rainier that he marry a beautiful American movie star to bring the glitterati back to Monaco. Onassis’s list at the time did not include Grace Kelly.11

Grace 1955

Invited to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival after she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Country Girl one month before, Grace was curious enough about the prince to be introduced to him in Monaco on Friday, May 6, 1955. What is memorable from the photographs of their meeting at the palace is that the Prince looks chic and handsome and Grace is at her most beautiful in a black silk floral print dress with her blond hair pulled back into a German-style bun. That evening she returned to Cannes for the festival’s screening of The Country Girl helping to conclude a day that Grace herself called “pretty wild.”12 But Grace’s career in Hollywood wasn’t over—nor her life half begun. She was back in Paris before the festival’s winners were announced (she had won nothing there),13 and soon returned to Hollywood to make what turned out to be her final two Hollywood movies – The Swan and High Society.

Grace Kelly High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).

Grace Kelly wears her new engagement ring from Prince Rainier on the set of High Society. One of her female co-stars observed it was the size of a “skating rink.”

Grace Kelly make up test High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.

The Swan Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, The Swan.

Grace Kelly MGM publicity photo The Swan

Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph for The Swan. Grace was at the height of her career when she left the movies never to return for Monaco.

Grace Kelly in Ball Gown To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly dressed for the ball in the penultimate scene of her penultimate film, To Catch A Thief.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

Grace Kelly at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz during filming of High Society (1956).

TEXT NOTES:

  1. It was actually my brother Kevin, now deceased, who when he was working in the Chicago Film Office wrote to me this apt description of Grace Kelly (and Rear Window as the greatest film ever).
  2. Quoted in Roberts, Paul G., Style Icons Vol 4 Sirens, Fashion Industry Broadcast, p. 74.
  3. Dherbier, Yann-Brice and Verlhac, Pierre-Henry, Grace Kelly A Life in Pictures, Pavilion, 2006, p. 11.
  4. Edith-Head-designed apparel for Rear Window – Haugland, H. Kristina, Grace Kelly: Icon of style to Royal bride (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Yale University Press, 2006, p. 956; so she could act in live theater – TBA
  5. Date and place of 1955 Oscars- see https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1955 – retrieved April 26, 2017.
  6. did Mogambo for an all-expense paid visit to Kenya – TBA
  7. height and dress size- http://www.bodymeasurements.org/grace-kelly/ – retrieved April 28, 2017.
  8. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 9.
  9. Conant, Howell, Grace: An intimate portrait of Princess Grace by her friend and favorite photographer, Random House, 1992, p.18.
  10. Preferred theater to film-TBA
  11. Leigh, Wendy, True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, p.100.
  12. ibid., p. 112.
  13. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 12.

Grace Kelly, Andy Warhol, 1984.

Jennifer Jones is Miss Dove in Twentieth Century-Fox’s “Good Morning, Miss Dove!”

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Movie poster for Henry Koster’s Good Morning, Miss Dove! Starring Jennifer Jones, it was released by 20th Century-Fox the day before Thanksgiving in 1955.

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones in Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955). The 36-year-old actress plays an elderly teacher taken ill at school who, in flashbacks reviewing her life, as a young woman had been about to marry the man she loved when her father died unexpectedly and was secretly heavily in debt. Miss Dove decides not to marry but to repay the debt by becoming the town’s teacher.

movie poster

The film stars Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack, Kipp Hamilton, Robert Douglas, Peggy Knudsen, Marshall Thompson, Chuck Connors, and Mary Wickes. The film opened to good reviews and was popular at the box office. A New York Times review observed: “Since it is unashamedly sentimental without being excessively maudlin about its heroine, ‘Good Morning, Miss Dove’ deserves credit for being honest and entertaining.”

By John P. Walsh

        Good Morning, Miss Dove! is Frances Gray Patton’s contemporary tale of a middle-aged spinster elementary school geography teacher in Liberty Hill who, when suddenly taken ill, sees the entire small town rally to her side.

It is a mythical period piece from the mid-1950’s. It depicts an unchanging town whose students obey their beloved teacher. Though directed by Henry Koster in a stagey way, the film boasts progressive casting. One year after the milestone 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education establishing racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional, Good Morning, Miss Dove! presents a newly-integrated public school classroom in Cinemascope and De Luxe color.

Film-going audiences in 1955 loved the film.

Awaiting a risky operation, Miss Dove (Jennifer Jones) thinks back on her life and those of her prized grown-up former students. They included Robert Stack (a surgeon), Chuck Connors (a policeman), and Jerry Paris (a playwright). All of these students overcame difficult childhoods and found worldly achievement with the help of Miss Dove.

Based on popular Book of the Month Club novel.

Patton’s novel had enjoyed success in 1954 as a Book of the Month Club and Reader’s Digest selection. Its release as a major motion picture by 20th Century-Fox continued the novel heroine’s popularity.

Release of the film during the Thanksgiving weekend 1955 was in the same year that Jennifer Jones starred in another Deluxe color film, the American drama-romance Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.

For the Academy-Award winning actress to play an elderly spinster (many early scenes feature the naturally dark-haired Miss Jones without her older character’s make-up), she moves beyond type. In the mid-1950’s as America settled into the Eisenhower years, Good Morning, Miss Dove! showed a lead film character -– the “terrible” Miss Dove played by Jennifer Jones — as an unflinching and beloved disciplinarian. Yet in the 1950’s the American public education system was undergoing copious and difficult change. In that way, the character of Miss Dove is further complicated by becoming a popular icon in the American culture by being mostly a nostalgic figure.

Good Morning Miss Dove!

A flashback scene from Good Morning, Miss Dove! Jennifer Jones as young Miss Dove with her father, Alonso Dove (Leslie Bradley). When he dies unexpectedly and in debt, Miss Dove resolves to pay it back and upends her own life’s plans to do so. Costumes by Mary Wills.

Jennifer Jones in make up for Good Morning Miss Dove

In 1955 Jennifer Jones was a 36-year-old beauty. Through the magic of Hollywood make-up (Ben Nye) and hair styling (Helen Turpin), she was transformed into the elderly Miss Dove for Good Morning, Miss Dove! In 1954 after Grace Kelly wore make-up for The Country Girl that hid her good looks and went against her youthful image (Kelly was 24 years old), she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for that year.

Good Morning Miss Dove

Young Miss Dove played by Jennifer Jones gives up marriage to the man she loves for a future as a spinster teacher so to pay back her late father’s debt. The story is based on a book by Frances Gray Patton that was itself based on her short stories. When 20th-Century Fox bought the rights for $52,000, it was the equivalent of about half a million dollars today.

Good Morning Miss Dove

Jennifer Jones as the elderly teacher in Good Morning, Miss Dove! set in the fictional Midwest town of Liberty Hill. Before filming began in July 1955, director Henry Koster wanted Olivia deHavilland for the role and have it set in England. Though set in contemporary America, critics saw Miss Dove as a character out of Charles Dickens.

The audience meets the elder Miss Dove at the movie’s start—make-up and hair-styling artists Ben Nye and Helen Turpin transformed the 35-year-old Jennifer Jones into the 55-year-old Miss Dove—and by flashbacks.

The film dramatizes her youth as she is about to marry. But she receives the unexpected news that her father has died suddenly and that he has debts. To pay them back, she steels herself to remain single and take a teaching post. Her chilly veneer is part of her honor to do the proper thing along with the sober accommodation to life’s necessary sacrifices.

While those who did not know Miss Dove mock her behind her back and say she couldn’t have had much of a life—never married, no family, no kids, never traveled anywhere—her army of students judge her differently.

Beyond any possibly wider cultural meaning, the film presents a unique person who by the logic of her experience or the experience of her logic enters into a series of social interactions that are amusing and honest. These include the film’s penultimate scene. Miss Dove is on her sick bed when she tells her pastor, Reverend Burnham (Biff Elliot): “Life, whatever others may think, has been for me…I have been happy. I have made many mistakes. Perhaps even sinned. I admit my human limitations but I do not in all honesty find the burden of my sins intolerable. Nor have I strayed like a sheep. I have never been AWOL. I have never spoken hypocrisy to my Maker and now is scarcely a propitious moment to begin.”

While these thoughts may be judged from different perspectives, they are expressive of a woman’s life completely dedicated to her profession and students at Cedar Grove Elementary School. The film’s denouement starting at around 1:39:00 is  powerful. Accompanied by Leigh Harline’s memorable soundtrack, it is a sentimental tribute to Miss Dove’s life which benefited through the years many different people because of nothing less than her good character. (1:47:16).

THE MOVIE:

Mary Wills: Oscar-winning costume designer.

The costume designer for Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955) is Mary Wills (1914-1997). She worked mainly for Samuel Goldwyn productions and Twentieth Century-Fox, breaking into the movie business as a sketch artist for Gone With The Wind (1939). In her nearly 40-year career Mary Wills was nominated for an Oscar seven times and won the Academy Award in 1962 for her colorful designs for The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

First woman admitted to Yale Art and Drama program. “The Fabulous Miss Wills.”

Born in Prescott, Arizona, Wills moved to Los Angeles after receiving her Master’s degree from the Yale Art and Drama School. She was the first woman admitted into that program.

Wills started designing costumes in 1944 at RKO with Belle of the Yukon and soon after designed costumes for Disney’s Song of the South (1946). She started working for Samuel Goldwyn in 1948 where she designed costumes for Enchantment. For the next six years at Goldwyn Studio the costume designer was referred to as “The Fabulous Miss Wills.”

She was regularly nominated for her costume design in the 1950’s when she designed the costumes for Good Morning, Miss Dove! including Hans Christian Anderson (1952), The Virgin Queen (1954), Teenage Rebel (1956), A Certain Smile (1958), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), The Passover Plot (1976) and the film for which she won the Academy Award in 1962. Mary Wills also designed the Rogers and Hammerstein musical film Carousel in 1956.

Ice Follies. Camelot and Funny Girl.

Mary Wills demonstrated a special talent for designing historical costumes, especially after she moved to 20th-Century Fox in 1954 to make The Virgin Queen starring Bette Davis. Later she showed great aptitude for designing dance and folk costumes. A collection of her original sketches are online at the Los Angeles County Museum for live productions including the Shipstad & Johnson Ice Follies, now known as the Ice Follies. Mary Wills worked on two major films that she did not get film credit for — namely, Camelot (1967) and Funny Girl (1968). For Funny Girl, she designed the Ziegfeld show-girl brides costumes as well as the costumes for Omar Sharif.

Mary Wills at Samuel Goldwyn Studio

Academy-Award winning costume designer Mary Wills at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio (c. 1948). The Oscar-winning costume designer worked mainly for Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox.

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Miss Dove (Jennifer Jones) in a costume by Mary Wills. In the 1950’s Mary Wills was nominated for an Academy Award four times.

Good morning Miss Dove

Jincey Baker ( Kipp Hamilton), Miss Dove ( Jennifer Jones), and Dr. Tom Baker (Robert Stack). Promotion for the film included advertising that encouraged moviegoers to see it for its portrayal of the state of education in the country at the time. Costumes by Mary Wills.

Good Morning Miss Dove.

A 1955 drama that is both contemporary and nostalgic. Mary Wickes plays Miss Ellwood (second from left). Costumes by Mary Wills.

Good Morning Miss Dove!

Jennifer Jones as a small town spinster teacher who falls ill in the film Good Morning, Miss Dove! Her stern and upright demeanor masks her personal sacrifices and devotion to her students. Tha world is thrown into chaos when Miss Dove experiences an acute pain and grows numb in her leg. It is while she is in her hospital bed awaiting risky surgery that she relates her life in flashbacks.

Good Morning Miss Dove

In Good Morning, Miss Dove! Jennifer Jones is a beautiful young woman who rejects a marriage proposal to become the town’s grade school teacher to repay her late father’s debts. Costumes by Academy Award nominated costume designer Mary Wills.

Peggy Knudsen and Jennifer Jones

In the hospital Miss Dove is cared for by Nurse Billie Jean Green (Peggy Knudsen). Billie Jean is one of Miss Dove’s former student who left Liberty Hill and had a child out of wedlock. Back in her hometown, Billie Jean is infatuated with the local policeman, Bill Holloway (Chuck Connors). Bill is another of Miss Dove’s former students and one of her best pupils. Later, in the 1970’s, when actress Peggy Knudsen was suffering from a debilitating illness (she died in 1980 at 57 years old), she was in real life cared for by her close friend, Jennifer Jones.

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Miss Dove with former student and Liberty Hill policeman Bill Holloway (Chuck Connors). Miss Dove tells nurse Billie Jean Green how Bill first arrived to her classroom– a poor, unkempt boy being raised by his alcoholic grandmother. Over the years, Miss Dove gave Bill odd jobs and bought him a suit for his grammar school graduation. After Bill entered the Marines, he wrote to Miss Dove often, and when he returned to Liberty Hill, she was the first person he came to for career advice.

Good Morning Miss Dove

On the day of Miss Dove’s surgery, classes are dismissed and the townspeople of Liberty Hill wait outside the hospital for news of the operation’s outcome. The film provides a sentimental picture of mid-20th century America that is of Norman Rockwell proportions. Yet the film’s crisp dialogue and sharp character development by Jennifer Jones and the supporting cast engages the moviegoer. By the end of the film the outcome of Miss Dove’s surgery is as affecting to the audience as it is the fictional townspeople of Liberty Hill.

SOURCES:

https://www.academia.edu/1848534/_John_Dewey_vs._The_Terrible_Miss_Dove_Frances_Gray_Pattons_Postwar_Schoolmarm_and_the_Cultural_Work_of_Nostalgia

Green, Paul, The Life and Films of Jennifer Jones, McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina and London, 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/93588/Good-Morning-Miss-Dove/overview

http://www.popmatters.com/review/182178-good-morning-miss-dove/

http://www.themakeupgallery.info/age/1950s/dove.htm