Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Guilty Pleasures, Sleepers and (Way Too Much) Stuff About Me: It’s Liebster Time

The wonderful Lea at Silent-ology has tapped me for a Liebster Award! Liebster, by the way, is from the German for dear, sweetheart or darling—three words that perfectly suit Lea, and that show up in old movies a lot. The award is sort of a way to celebrate kindred spirits in the online community and help us all get to know one another a little better, since, sadly, a humongous afternoon tea party or a night out at a local bar is not an option. And it means so much to me that Lea invited me to this online party.

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When you receive a Liebster, here’s what you do:

     (1) Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you;
     (2) Reveal 11 random facts about yourself; and
     (3) Nominate other bloggers for the award, and give them 11 questions to answer when they post their nominations.

Here are Lea’s questions:

  1. You are given the opportunity to make a movie. Money is no object. What’s it gonna be?

I’d love to do a fictional rewrite of Hollywood history, where all the fabulous actresses who got the shaft from the studio bosses get to win out in the end. Kind of an anti-The Women, with everyone teaming up rather than lungeing for one another’s throats. It would feature deco divas like Kay Francis and Ann Dvorak, whose careers were scuttled when they were deemed “difficult;” powerhouses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who were disrespected when they dared approach forty; and fragile souls like Judy Garland, who suffered wrongs at the hands of the studio bosses that were literally criminal. (Also, Joan and Bette would be friends in my film, as it should have been; more on that here!)

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The tone would be lively, candid and Pre-Code, with happy endings for all the actresses and suitable comeuppance for the Jack Warners and Louis B. Mayers of the world. (I’m thinking maybe they can clean the ladies’ dressing rooms with a toothbrush? “Oops, Louis! Missed a spot in the loo!”) The most challenging part would be the casting! So my biggest expense may be creating some sort of super-realistic CGI holograams of all those fabulous women.

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  1. You have the choice between two superpowers: learning any language in seconds, or being able to fix any car problem instantly. You must choose! 

Oh language, definitely. I would love to know how to speak Italian and French, and roam the countrysides of Tuscany and Bordeaux, eating and drinking and chatting merrily with everyone I meet. And if the car broke down I’d just fall back on what I learned from Claudette Colbert. (Sorry, Clark!)

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  1. Which three places/countries must you visit?

1) Ireland, where much of my family is from and which seems like home even though I’ve yet to go there. (I’m dreamy, romantic, moody, prone to depression, and incapable of telling a story in fewer than several thousand words—how I ever manage on Twitter is a minor mystery.)

2) France, where most of the rest of my people are from, and which is my second-favorite moviemaking place. There is so much I’d love to see, from the streets of Paris to the churches and museums to the rolling hills of the country. I would also like to visit the resting places of the directors, actors and actresses I love, and I wish Jean Gabin’s ashes had not been scattered at sea.

3) The Serengeti. One word: meerkats. And I have a thing for warthogs, and love them even more since learning about their crack defensive technique when faced with imminent danger. (They just run like hell.) Also I really need to see giraffes. I think if I went there, though, you’d have to drag me back to the plane, as I’d be hunkering down in a hut somewhere to stay with the animals forever.

4. You can go back in time to witness one historic event. Just one. What is it?

Is it horrible that the first things I thought of weren’t, like, the founding of our country, but movie-related? Like watching Buster Keaton film the house-falling scene in Steamboat Bill Jr.? But from a historical perspective, I’d love to have been in Times Square on V-E day, which seemed like the most joyful place on earth ever, and with good reason.

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Or maybe the end of Prohibition, if I could hang out with these two (Jeez, Jean hasn’t even cracked the bottle open yet and Walter’s already looking a little blurry):

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  1. What is one very obscure or off-the-wall film you would recommend?

I feel I should pick something people can watch, so I’m going with one—no, two—available on YouTube:

  • The Young in Heart (1938): A little gem about a family of charming grifters—and I do mean charming: We’re talking Roland Young (one of my movie boyfriends), Billie Burke, Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Also featuring an insanely young Paulette Goddard and Richard Carlson (in his film debut).

  • Late Extra (1935): A neat little mystery starring James Mason in one of his earliest roles, Virginia Cherrill (then Mrs. Cary Grant) just a few years after City Lights, and Alastair Sim letting his Scottish flag fly, burring away—and so young he actually has some hair. Watch for the pivotal scene of James shaving in his undershirt. (Okay it’s not central to the plot; he just looks especially fabulous.)

  1. Which decade of film do you appreciate the most?

Aaagh!! Why not just ask me which limb I’m fondest of?!? Right now, I’m in 1930s mode, bingeing on high drama, screwball comedies and madcap musicals and marveling at how ridiculously young everyone was. (Though actually, I like a lot of these stars better in the 1940s, when their faces had a little more mileage on ’em.) I love the energy, the Pre-Code daring early in the decade, and the feeling that—even though movies (including some of my favorites) had been around for a while—Hollywood was still just finding its feet, with so many possibilities to explore.

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But the decade I fall back on the most is the 1940s, and where to even begin? Hitchcock’s crazy-great run of Hollywood films, building on his amazing work in England; John Huston, Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder writing and directing more brilliantly than most mortals could do either; the rise of film noir; the honest, unflinching post-War films (and I’d include It’s a Wonderful Life here, by the way), the fabulous British studios, and the work of directors like Carol Reed and David Lean; and the movies made during and about the war—from haunting films like They Were Expendable and Battleground to morale boosters like Hollywood Canteen. (I am mildly obsessed with the Canteen and how Hollywood threw itself into the war effort.) I could go on and on (but you’ve probably already noticed that.)… I have a feeling that in my DVD and VHS collections, the 1940s probably edge out any other decade.

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  1. If someone handed you a million dollars, what frivolous thing would you buy first?

An armload of vintage dresses for a trip on the Orient Express. Preferably with these people, but without the whole homicide thing. (I’ll take the bunk next to—okay fine with—Richard Widmark):

Murder on the Orient Express QuadI am crazy about trains—the gentle rocking, watching the world go by outside the window, the slower pace, the room to roam around, the feeling of going back in time even as you go forward. And to be on a train steeped in such elegance and history, traveling through those wonderful countries, would be like stepping into a dream.

Speaking of the Orient Express, it’s also featured in a great movie with my beloved John Hurt, Night Train. However there are several truly disturbing scenes in an abbotoir, so I suggest watching the movie with some charitable soul who has a strong stomach and can tell you when it’s safe to uncover your eyes. (I just realized this whole paragraph is totally off-topic, so that’s another thing you’ve learned about me: I go off on tangents…)

  1. Which book do you wish you had written?

Anne of Green Gables. Lucy Maud Montgomery (whose birthday I share!) created a world both magical and incredibly real, with wonderful, complicated characters I will love forever. My mother actually forced me to read this book as a punishment because she felt I was so much (too much?) like the title character. I promptly fell in love with Anne, Gilbert, Marilla, Matthew, Diana, and of course Prince Edward Island, where my Dad’s mother came from and where I’ve since visited. Once there, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would leave. My Grandma and her sister Emma (yes, I had an Auntie Em!) emigrated to Brooklyn, New York, and there is a Brooklyn in PEI. Maybe they just got lost?

  1. What are your three guilty pleasure movies?

Okay these are the first three that came to mind, in a cast of thousands:

  • Rome Adventure. Cheesier than a heaping helping of lasagna, and just as satisfying! Gorgeous scenery, a lovely Max Steiner score, a thoroughly predictable plot you don’t have to think about, and a genuinely sweet love story at its heart. Plus Suzanne Pleshette, whom I’d watch in anything. (Pleshette and Troy Donahue took their roles so much to heart that they married soon afterward. That lasted about as long as this film was in theaters.)

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  • House on Haunted Hill. You really can’t go wrong with Vincent Price, Elisha Cook Jr., and a dancing skeleton you can pretty much see the strings on. There’s one scene where Price is trying to get his sort of vaguely slutty wife to come down and meet his creepy guests and she refuses—and he grabs a hank of her bleached-blonde hair and snarls, all Vincent Price-y, “Will you come down now?” And she shrieks, “Yes, damn you!” The first time I saw this, with my high school friends late one Saturday night, we just howled at that, and spent the next God-knows-how-long answering every question with “Yes, damn you!” It never got old…

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  • Under Capricorn. Or as Joseph Cotten called it, Under Corny Crap. This movie is pretty bad. And not just for Hitchcock—for anyone. But I love everybody in it. In an abrupt about-face from Gaslight, Cotten is Ingrid Bergman’s ne’er-do-well husband this time around. Scheming scullery maid Margaret Leighton tries to drive her insane, while the dashing Michael Wilding valiantly attempts to rescue her. (Years later, Wilding and Leighton married, making them one of my all-time favorite couples.) I just love hanging out with these people, even in this soggy pudding of a film. But if you don’t adore the cast, well, in the words of Addison DeWitt, the minutes will fly like hours. Still, if nothing else, it gave us this fabulous behind-the-scenes pic (Alfred was putty in Ingrid’s hands):

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  1. What is the one tip you would give to a beginning blogger?

Don’t try to imitate anybody. Like the old saying goes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

  1. Okay, Keaton or Chaplin?

If I were objective, this would be a difficult one, as they’re both so brilliant and so different. It’s like asking which you like more: breathing out (Charlie) or breathing in (Buster). But I’m not objective. For me it’s Buster, one of the true loves of my life, who came to my rescue when I needed him most. He’s also done that for other people, who emailed me or commented when I wrote this remembrance for Lea’s First Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon at Silent-ology earlier this year.

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Of course movies, and the people who make them, can soothe us, amuse us, distract us from our problems, and make us feel less alone. But somehow, Buster has done more than that. He’s been there for people in a way I can’t really describe. And I don’t mean some supernatural thing; I mean just by being who he was and doing what he did. There’s something magical about him I wish I could put into words. But he never did, so I guess it’s not really necessary. And those of us for whom Buster showed up just in the nick of time already understand.

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11 Random Things About Me:

  • I cherish my husband and friends, even more so because my family life was pretty harrowing. One of my favorite lyrics is from Elton John’s Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters: “I thank the Lord for the people I have found.” Amen.
  • I still bite my nails. I tried putting icky-tasting stuff on them, but that just made it really unpleasant when I needed to bite my nails.
  • I have way too many shoes and pocketbooks. At least that’s what shallow, awful people who don’t appreciate shoes and pocketbooks tell me.
  • I am a huge fan of St. Francis. That may be kind of a clunky way to put it, but St. Francis understands. Also of the Pope who took his name. I love that man.
  • I am totally in love with Christmas. If you stand still, you will be garlanded. When my husband Tim first saw my apartment at Christmastime and didn’t run screaming, I knew he was a keeper. I also have Christmas carols mixed in on some of my iPod playlists, because they’re too beautiful to listen to just one month a year. (Tim as he passes me on the screenporch, listening to music one balmy June afternoon: “Is that Silent Night?”)
  • I am on the board of directors of my local no-kill animal shelter. We adopted our dachshund from a shelter when he was three; he’d been rescued from an awful abuse situation. When he first climbed into our laps, I said to Tim, “Why don’t we call him Linus?” because he reminded me of my favorite Peanuts character; he was small and sweet and seemed to have a lot on his mind. Then when we got him home, the first thing he did was stick his head into his carrier and pull out his blanket. So we knew we got the name right… He’s 13 now and very much safe and sound and loved. And spoiled. (But he doesn’t really get cocktails. Though he does get gloves.)

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  • I cry ridiculously easily when I’m happy or when I’m sad—that feeling where your heart is so full you could explode. Which is kind of what crying is, I guess—a little explosion… Suffice to say I’m never without a hankie, if you need one. Or if I do.
  • I once rescued a box of pigeons from a woman on the subway who told me she was taking them to her restaurant to cook them. Just before the doors closed, I grabbed the box and jumped off the train. Then I went upstairs and untied their feet, which had been tightly bound with twine. At first they tottered around inside the box, but then they took flight. I felt this wonderful “whoosh” inside, watching them fly away into the night. My heart went right along with them.
  • I’m really good at applying lipstick without looking. Everybody needs a talent; that’s mine.

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  • I don’t believe in “closure.” I don’t know anyone who’s ever “gotten over” losing someone they loved. There’s no nice, neat period at the end of that sentence. The sentence doesn’t even end, it just changes.
  • I’m still afraid of the dark. And I won’t go into the basement or the attic when I’m alone at night, but I’ll do it if I’m on the phone with someone, even if they’re hundreds of miles away and couldn’t help if some raving maniac was there. Imagination is usually a good thing, but sometimes, not so much. Maybe I watch too many movies… you think?

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Thank you again, Lea, for this award! It really does mean so very much to me. Now I’m sending the honor along to Pettibloggery, Sepia Stories, B Noir Detour and Writers Rest. I tried to pick great people who hadn’t received the award before, but if any of you have already participated and prefer not to do it again, that’s okay, though I’d love to see your answers!

  1. Your classic movie dinner party. Six guests. Go.
  2. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
  3. Who’s your classic movie kindred spirit? Not necessarily your favorite, or the one you look like the most—but the one who seems the most like who you are.
  4. Who would direct the movie of your life and why?
  5. What book or books have you read more than once (or wish you had time to) and why?
  6. If you could interview anyone in history, who would it be and why?
  7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten (or read)?
  8. What’s your biggest vice (assuming it’s not an actual crime) and what’s your best virtue?
  9. What movie, actor, actress or director do you loathe that others love, or vice versa?
  10. If you could change the ending of one movie, which would you pick and how would it change?
  11. What one great talent would you like to have?

Have fun with it, kids! l can’t wait to see your posts.

And thank you all for reading mine, and for making a relative newcomer feel so welcome!

10 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I think I may have just found a kindred spirit. 😉 I’m working on my Lieb answers right now and have listed PEI as a bucket list destination–because of Anne of course! Very cool that you have been there, not to mention have lineage from the Island. Funny that you mentioned you were forced to read the book. I was too, but have been in love with the series ever since. Oh–and Christmas music rocks any time of the year. My hubby and my older kiddos disagree, but I’m trying to convert the youngest to the dark…scratch that, multi-colored-light side.

    • So happy to know we’re kindred spirits, Bonnie! We must share a bottle of currant wine sometime, and claim we thought it was raspberry cordial!! 🙂

  2. Aww, I love these thoughtful, witty answers, and had way too much fun reading them. 🙂 And speaking of kindred spirits…! I too love animals, St. Francis, Pope Francis, Ireland, France, Anne of Green Gables, and the wonders of James Mason (had a bit of an early crush on him in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, of all things!). And you’ve been to Prince Edward Island–that is an item on my bucket list for sure! Was it just as charming as Montgomery always described?

    You know what, here’s what you should do someday: fly into Ireland, tour around, then fly to mainland Europe and take that Orient Express (or at the very least get a regular ol’ regional pass for the local trains, they’re excellent). You will just have a ball!!

    I’m so happy that this Liebster meant a lot to you–thanks for taking part. Cheers! Or, as they say in Ireland, slainte!

    p.s. Linus is an adorable name for a dachshund.

    • Yes, Lea, the more we find out about each other, the more kindred we are!! And yes, Prince Edward Island is everything Lucy said it was. The red earth of the sand, and the way the air felt — so soft, like the place itself — are things etched in my memory forever. I love your idea for my travelogue and hope to do that someday!! When you go to Prince Edward Island, try to make it in mid-September — the tourists are gone (you and I are NOT tourists!!), the beaches are empty but for the sand and the stones and the driftwood, and everything (including the Anne museum!) is still open, but uncrowded. Slainte to you too!!

  3. Oh dear, you were nominated again while i was composing my nominations, well you deserve the double accolade, by no means feel compelled to answer that crazy questionnaire long again, but be proud of your super awesome week.
    Congrats! https://serendipitousanachronisms.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/liebster-award-woo-hoo/
    -Summer Reeves | serendipitousanachronisms.wordpress.com | @kitschmeonce

    • I’ll happily answer your questionnaire — thank you so much for nominating me!! You’re awfully kind!! 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed reading your clever answers. I just love the old movies from the 30s and 40s. I love reading your blog and getting more titles to check out! 😉 When I read about your escapade with the pigeons, I knew we had a lot in common! Well, I haven’t grabbed animals away from others but I do rescue! 😀 And your Linus is adorable!

    • Thank you so much, Linda! Your kindness really means a lot to me! If you ever want suggestions for any actor, director, genre, or what have you, feel free to ask!! And thank you again for sharing your time with me!!

      • I’m watching “Young in Heart” right now! Love it! The theme made me think of “Lady Eve” with Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. One of my all-time favorites! 😀 Happy weekend!

  5. Here’s a random fact about me: despite being immune to the charm of animals (including my cat) your dachshund made by squeee. He’s the CUTEST!

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