Sunday, October 28, 2012


After the last morph, which was a little more difficult than usual, a new Moviestar Morph that might be easier to guess - name the two actresses!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

MOVIE MAGAZINES: Romantic Movie Stories, June 1936

Romantic Movie Stories published full movie plots as short stories, illustrated with stills from the films they were based on. Today such a thing would be unthinkable - a publication spoiling the entire storylines and details of popular films! The magazine is padded with the usual gossip columns and a truly enormous amount of advertisements, which now do have their own retro-entertainment value.
Here are some of the nicest pages:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MOVIESTAR MORPH 11 - the answer

I'm not sure if it's a first but this time nobody guessed the morph correctly! Many saw Boris Karloff quite early on but just couldn't work out the second actor. It was Rock Hudson! Maybe Karloff's rough features were just too dominant to let Rock's more gentle ones through.

Here's the full morph:

Monday, October 22, 2012


RE(TRO)VIEW: The Big Shakedown (1934)

Charles Farrell - Jimmy Morrell
Bette Davis - Norma Nelson
Ricardo Cortez - Dutch Barnes
Glenda Farrell - Lily Duran
Allen Jenkins - Lefty
Dewey Robinson - Slim

Directed by John Francis Dillon

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ (warning: some spoilers)

To say that Bette Davis single-handedly saves this film from disaster would be an overstatement - but it's not too far from the truth.

The paperthin plot tells the tale of enthusuastic but dumb Jimmy Morell, pharmacist, who gets conned/blackmailed into making counterfeit toothpaste (!) by mob boss Dutch Barnes. Things go so well that Dutch gets another bright idea: counterfeit cosmetics and perfumes! By now Jimmy is in deep and though he protests, goes along with the scheme. His fiancé, smart cookie Norma (Davis) is against Jimmy's involvement from the start but, for unclear reasons, still stays with him.
Not knowing when to stop, Dutch now orders Jimmy to copy a popular brand of antiseptic. Jimmy tells him he's unable to copy the product exactly this time but Dutch doesn't care and makes him manufacture the inferior antiseptic anyway. Lily, Dutch's jilted lover, decides to rat him out to the company that produces the original antiseptic and is promptly murdered, preventing the company to sue him without Lily as their witness.
Feeling invincible, Dutch now forces Jimmy to produce fake digitalis, a heart stimulant. The fake stuff is useless because Jimmy can't get all of the needed ingredients. A melodramatic turn of events soon escalates into confrontation and gruesome death, followed by a very sudden happy end.

As manufactured and flimsy as the plot is, there still are things to be enjoyed in this studio quickie. For one thing, at just over an hour long, it doesn't outstay its welcome and the action is fairly fast-paced. Bette steals the show with minimal effort, showing glimpses of the actress she would soon become (her breakthrough film Of Human Bondage is from the same year). Everyone speaks in a loud stage voice and overall the acting is too broad for the screen. There are plenty of comical moments, especially with Dutch and his cronies but that is one of the problems with this film: it can't decide what it is. Is it a comedy or a crime thriller? A melodrama? It has elements of all three and never settles on one of them. The deaths in the story are too brutal to sit next to comedic moments with cartoonish gangsters.
Charles Farrell is alright as the not-too-bright pharmacist but you have to wonder what Norma sees in him. He means well, I suppose. Ricardo Cortez does very well as the crime boss, though subtlety is not in his dictionary. There aren't all that many scenes with Bette Davis but when she does appear, she lights up the screen and instantly lifts the film from mediocre studio fodder to something lightweight but entertaining.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The last morph was perhaps just a little too easy so I made number 11 somewhat more difficult than usual. Two actors - who are they?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


BORN TODAY: Montgomery Clift (1920 - 1966)

The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.
- Marilyn Monroe on Montgomery Clift

With only 17 movies to his name, Montgomery Clift would have been a mostly forgotten actor from the post-war era today if it weren't for his enduring performances in those movies. Ofcourse his myth is enhanced by the stories of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, bisexuality and the car crash that changed his life. Most of his roles had a common theme: the suffering, conflicted young man - the kind of roles that Marlon Brando and James Dean also excelled in. The troubled Clift himself said: "Failure and its accompanying misery is for the artist his most vital source of creative energy" - a truth evident in any close-up of that handsome face on screen, his eyes usually doing most of the storytelling.

Clift had a very close friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he starred in three movies: A Place In the Sun (1951), Raintree Country (1957), and the excellent Suddenly, Last Summer (1959).
I don't think he made a single bad movie but my favourites are I Confess (1951), The Young Lions (1958) and Freud (1962).

The details of his much too short life and the circumstances that led to his premature death are certainly tragic, but his reputation as one of the best actors of his time will remain, along with the image of that haunting beauty.

with Elizabeth Taylor

with Paul Douglas

Monty in happier times with Marlon Brando:

MOVIESTAR MORPH 10 - the answer

Well, pretty much everyone got this one right but Daniel on Facebook was the first. Kudos!

The full sequence:

Friday, October 12, 2012


CASUAL FRIDAY: Joan Crawford dressed up as a discusthrowing metal chicken.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Hurrah! We've reached number 10! I'd like to thank my parents, my loyal fans and you beautiful people in the dark out there for...OH, sorry. Got a little carried away.
So: number 10. A dark beauty, to be sure - but which two actresses donated their genes to make her?

Saturday, October 6, 2012



The Big Lift is a dramatisation of real events during the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948, using real footage of the airlifts, making the film a historical document as well as an entertaining flick starring Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas. The film is also populated by real servicemen, rather than actors or extras, adding another layer of authenticity. The love story is pure Hollywood, though, but it sits well within the confines of the limited scope of the main focus of the story. All round good performances, and the added interest of seeing part of actual history makes this film a pleasant 120 minutes to spend on the weekend.

Watch or download the full movie on


BORN TODAY: Carole Lombard (1908 - 1942)

We can only guess at the movies and portrayals Carole Lombard would have gone on to give to the world hadn't her life been cut short in such a tragic way. Hollywood -and the world - was shocked to learn of the death of their most beloved (and highest-paid) star in 1942, following the plane crash that killed her at age 33.
Her magnetic presence in every film she made was more than a match for the leading men she was paired with, among them George Raft, William Powell, James Stewart, Cary Grant and, ofcourse, her great love Clark Gable. Gable and Lombard were married in 1939. Though Gable was to be married twice more in his life, he opted to be interred beside Lombard when he died in 1960.

Carole Lombard's last film, To Be or Not to Be (1942), was released posthumously.
She won an Academy Award for best actress in My Man Godfrey (1933).

Lombard with Ricardo Cortez and Paul Lukas

with Fred MacMurray

with Clark Gable

Friday, October 5, 2012

MOVIESTAR MORPH 9 - the answer

James Cagney was the most obvious half of this morph and many identified him. There were a lot of diverse guesses for the other half and some finally identified Tyrone Power - but none as fast as Eustacia Vye, over at Facebook, who guessed both correctly almost instantly!

The full morph sequence:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Suddenly it's October - how did that happen? High time for another Moviestar Morph!
This charming fella is made up of two actors who were born in different centuries, one known for his tough guy portrayals, the other for his romantic heroes. So who are they?