Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Category Archives: Mini-Portraits

Remembering Billy Chapin, Who Saw Us Through THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

More than half a century after shielding his little sister through the most monstrous night of their lives, John Harper left the world on her birthday. Billy Chapin—who, as John, all but carried The Night of the Hunter on his slight shoulders—died on December 2, the day Sally Jane Bruce, who played Pearl, turned 68. From the …

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TINTYPE TUESDAY: The Ever-Elegant Boris Karloff—And His Secret Ingredient for Guacamole

Welcome to another edition of TINTYPE TUESDAY! Regular readers may recall just how very un-monstrous Boris Karloff was offscreen, visiting children’s hospitals to play Santa Claus and read bedtime stories—and even charming the little girl who played Maria in Frankenstein while bolted into full makeup. But can we talk for a minute about how insanely elegant he …

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Auntie Joan (Crawford) Explains It All for You!

Don’t say nothin’ bad about my Joanie. Not long ago, in need of a tonic on a stifling summer day, I reread the closest thing we have to her autobiography, the wildly entertaining Joan Crawford: My Way of Life. On the cover, firmly gripping her pair of poodles, she looks like a terrified hostage trying …

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Reel Infatuation: Walter Huston as DODSWORTH

Who’s your cinematic someone—the movie character you’re most in love with? For me, it’s Walter Huston’s Dodsworth. When first we meet him, he’s gazing out the window of a great office. But this is no corporate overlord—you get the feeling he’d rather be out there on the floor. “The men are ready,” his secretary says softly. And so they are, some …

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When Richard Widmark Hugs You, You Stay Hugged

Back in the spring of 2001, the Walter Reade Theatre had a retrospective of Richard Widmark films, with a special—to put it mildly—appearance by the man himself, who was then 86. I had loved Richard Widmark since I was a kid, when I saw him in Don’t Bother to Knock. He seemed like a bit of a …

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TINTYPE TUESDAY: Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and… Tallulah Bankhead?

Welcome to another edition of TINTYPE TUESDAY! Ah, April—when our hearts and minds turn to baseball! Which of course brings us to Tallulah Bankhead. Wait, what? Oh yes, people! We all know Tallulah was a colorful character (to put it mildly, which she never would) and one-woman pithy-quote machine. (“I’m as pure as the driven slush.”) …

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TINTYPE TUESDAY: Dan Duryea — Gardener and Cub Scout Leader!

Welcome to another edition of TINTYPE TUESDAY! A few years ago, between films of a double feature at the Film Forum in New York (Black Angel and Criss Cross), this old guy sitting next to me muttered, to no one in particular, “I wonder if that was really Dan Duryea playing the piano.” And I …

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TINTYPE TUESDAY: Ann Miller, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball and Judy Garland Hit the Town to Do the Charleston!

Welcome to another edition of TINTYPE TUESDAY! You’re Ann Miller. You’ve been hoofin’ your heart out all day long, and your dogs are barkin’ like there’s someone at the door. It’s a lovely spring night in Hollywood—perfect for parking your tired tootsies on a nice warm veranda somewhere. So what do you do? You call …

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THE MIRACLE WOMAN: All Eyes Are on Stanwyck, Especially Capra’s

There’s a certain luminous quality that shines through when a director is in love with his leading lady. In Frank Capra’s The Miracle  Woman, starring Barbara Stanwyck, it’s all over the screen. This was the second film for these kindred spirits—whose relationship got off to such a rocky start, the real miracle is that they ended up working together at all. In 1930, …

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One of Alan Rickman’s Last Roles Is Saving Lives—And You Can Help

We all woke up to awful, heartbreaking news this morning. Is there anyone who didn’t love this man in something, or ten or twenty things? Reading just some of the tributes from his friends and colleagues, I was struck by how they were so much deeper than the usual “great talent… thoughts and prayers with his family” …

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