The Two Faces of Cagney

James-Cagney

Despite having done an impression of James Cagney my entire life, I had never seen a single film of the famous gangster. Yankee Doodle Dandy may have been playing behind my back on TV at some point, but never did I ever sit down and watch an entire Cagney film the entire way through.

Boy, was that a mistake.

Cagney’s performances are something to behold. Not only did he epitomize the classic Hollywood gangster, but he managed to wriggle out of that archetype and dominate the old-fashioned song-and-dance hoofer too. His acting style was uniquely his own. A combination of energy and theatrical “back-of-the-room” projecting, but never ham-fisted or exaggerated. You couldn’t say that about any other actor. If they were theatrical, they were over-acting, and it showed. Cagney’s voice, his cadence, that devilish snarl, that wink of the eye as he dared to dazzle you – that was the great weapon of his acting methods.

For the 2nd Marathon Stars Blogathon, I split my viewings of five essential Jimmy Cagney pictures into those two faces of his performances: the gangster and the hoofer.

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History of the Kelly Bag

Grace Kelly – Hermes Kelly bag

Now an expensive status symbol, such was the popularity of Grace Kelly in the 1950s that the luxurious Hermès bag she carried with her everywhere became rechristened with her name, ensuring the late Hollywood actress-turned-princess a lasting legacy in the fashion world. It would make Grace Kelly, an actress of only seven professional years, a cultural icon.

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The Sac à dépêches bag, as it was then known, was created in 1935, eleven years after the invention of the first leather handbag. Its earlier incarnations included high handles and smaller designs than most handbags of the day. It wasn’t until Émile-Maurice Hermès’s son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned the bag that it became the Sac à dépêches we know today. With a little more glamor, a memorable trapezium shape, and studs on the bottom allowing the bag to stand, the Sac à dépêches was born.

Its uniqueness laid in its craftsmanship. Each bag is hand-designed, quite literally, by a single artisan, requiring a total of 18 to 25 hours of over 2,500 hand-stitches. For that reason, the Kelly bag holds its high retail price.

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It was Alfred Hitchcock who introduced Grace Kelly to the Hermès bag. In the ’50s, she became his new muse – and he sought to use Kelly to bring elegance into his thrillers. With enough guidance from Edith Head, the Sac à dépêches bag became Kelly’s weapon of choice in To Catch a Thief, the picture that made Kelly fall in love with Europe. Her choice of preference was crocodile skin, either brown or navy blue, the two most popular colors to this day.

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It was the birth of paparazzi. Elio Sorci was photographing Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Years later, Marlon Brando would punch Ron Galella in the jaw. Grace Kelly was no exception to high-profile scrutiny. Her engagement to Prince Rainier III was the talk of the town. She would be the first American princess – famous in her own right. She used her handbag to shield her pregnant belly from the paparazzi. In 1956, Life magazine featured such a photograph of her bag, and so iconic was that image that the public began referring to it as the “Kelly” bag.

And the name stuck.


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To read the other blogposts celebrating Grace Kelly please click here and follow The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon co-hosts The Wonderful World of Cinema & The Flapper Dame!

 

 

Top Hats & Twirls: An Ode to Astaire/Rogers

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They’re considered the most iconic dance partners on film. Their classiness transcended their films and their romantic lullabies created a space for elegance to thrive in a world depressed by war. We are talking, of course, of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, whose multiple film collaborations made them the most iconic male-female musical duo of their time, my pick for this month’s Dynamic Duo in Classic Film Blogathon.

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He Wants Me to Like Him: Chaplin the People-Pleaser

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“He was someone – more than anyone, more than any artist I know – he loved people. He was such a generous man, and he loved people. That’s what his films are about. They’re about people and a love for humanity, and an optimism for humanity!”
— Geraldine Chaplin

One of my favorite podcasts is Maltin on Movies, a discussion of movies by film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie. I was happening upon one of their latest episodes in which they interviewed comedian Bill Hader at SXSW when their conversation turned towards the eternal Chaplin vs. Keaton debate. This succinct conversation seemed, in my mind, to have encapsulated the hundreds of books and articles written comparing the two titans of silent film comedy, exploring their craft, sense of humor, and styles of performances.

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Footlights: In the Shoes of the Tramp 👣

Roy Export Company Ltd.

Having lived in Los Angeles for a while and being always humbled that I get to walk through Hollywood history on a daily basis, I sometimes forget that the most average streets may hold some kind of connection to yesterday’s Golden Age.

As a history buff, my love of classic movies runs deeper than just the content of the pictures and the people involved – I love the vintage culture of L.A. back in those days and the early history of Hollywood, when Echo Park was Edendale and Tudor Revival was all the rage with the movie stars.

For this month’s Charlie Chaplin Blogathon, I decided to do a semi-exhaustive location scout of some of the more prominent houses and studios Charlie Chaplin reigned over – and see what they look like now. I wanted to limit my adventure to Los Angeles itself, and the important locations he lived and worked at.

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