Sunday, August 9, 2009

30 questions-questionnaire (Thinking caps on!)

One of the most prominent blog Gods, Matthew Coniam, announced a more retro self-made film quiz at his blog Movietone News.
He advices us to put on our thinking caps, and I bet it's needed. A big one. I'll borrow Dorothy Gish's thinking hat, it looks like it has room for many ideas. (Or perhaps she just tries to hide her hydrocephalus.)

1. Your favourite Humphrey Bogart film in which he doesn't play a gangster or a private eye. (Oh, and not including Casablanca either.)

I'd vote for his violent and disillusioned screenwright Dixon Steele in In a Lonely Place (1950). He looks good with a stunning Gloria Grahame on his arm. Or under it.

2. Your favourite appearance by a star in drag (boy-girl or girl-boy).

Even though I haven't seen the film yet (hit me relentlessly for it), Katharine Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett (1935) seems really cool. But if I should choose a star in drag I've actually seen, it'll have to be Cary Grant in previously mentioned Hepburn's fluffy dressing gown, jumping in the air and shouting "Because I just went gay, all of a sudden!" in Bringing Up Baby (1938).

3. Your favourite Laurel & Hardy film; short or feature, or one of each. (This will sort out the men from the boys - or perhaps the men from the girls.)

I have to disappoint you, I'm no man. I confuse all the titles on the Laurel & Hardy films/shorts - I really don't have an answer. But I like their commercial for wooden products - I mean, I can't be the only one who thinks the question "Wood - got any?" is funny, right?

4. Your favourite appearance by one star in a role strongly associated with another star. (Eg: Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord, Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates...)

It wouldn't be too funny of me to choose Cortez now, would it?
I'll go with Mae Clarke as the prostitute Myra Beauville in the 1931 version of Waterloo Bridge (my film review here), a role that is a lot more connected with Vivien Leigh in the 1940 version. Leigh is beautiful and a really great actress, but that darned Code censored the sad-prostitute-part of the script, and turned Myra into a sweet little ballerina instead.
Mae Clarke should have been awarded with an Oscar.

5. The thirties or forties star or stars you most think you'd like, but have yet to really get to know.

Actress: Gene Tierney. Actor: Melvyn Douglas.

6. Your favourite pre-Petrified Forest Bette Davis film.

Of Human Bondage (1934). The film wasn't great, but what Bette Davis made of her part is fantastic. She's almost creepy, and yet sad. And yet... very creepy.

One of Bette Davis's best freak-out scenes. It's not pretty!

7. Your favourite post-Mildred Pierce Joan Crawford film.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Bette Davis steals most of the film, but the film wouldn't be as brilliant a psychological thriller as it is without a stainless collaboration between the two actresses (at least on-screen).

8. Your favourite film that ends with the main character's death.

That's hard to choose, since every cool woman on-screen after 1934 had to be punished with her death for her awesomeness. Perhaps Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo throwing herself in front of a train?

9. Your favourite Chaplin talkie.

It's hard to choose between Limelight (1952) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947). But gentleman-serial killer Mr. Verdoux is so damn cool (and it's the film I have the freshest memory of), I'll have to go with that one.

Scene: A great scene from Monsieur Verdoux - I can't believe audience at the time thought this was an improper subject for humour?

10. Your favourite British actor and actress.

Actor: Duh! Basil Rathbone. (Yes, he was born in South Africa, but tell me one man who is more British than him!) Actress: Vivien Leigh.

Hear my favourite British actors read love poems for each other:

11. Your favourite post-1960 appearance by a 1930's star.

Joan Blondell as the waitress Vi in Grease (1978). She's still very "Blondelly".

12. Dietrich or Garbo?

Tough one. Dietrich is darn cool, and closer to my personality than Garbo. (I'm not very dreamlike, religious or self-sacrificing, am I?) But still... Garbo is my country girl, and one of my first on-screen female icons. Garbo it is.

13. Karloff or Lugosi?

Lugosi. You can never beat "I am... Dra-koola..." and "I don't drink... vine." And hey, he later played Frankenstein's monster, even after having refused the 1931 offer for the part (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, 1943). And he became a lost, morphine addict who made his last screen appearances for none other than B-horror director Edward D. Wood Jr.
Oh, and he was buried in his Dracula cape. Now, that's devotion.

14. Chaplin or Keaton? (I know some of you will want to say both for all of the above. Me too. But you can't.)

Chaplin. But mostly because I have seen more of him than of Keaton. But that I have seen of Keaton has touched me on a different level, actually... No, I refuse to choose! They're too different - it's like choosing your favourite of wine or chocolate. I want them both, because they complete different parts of my soul. (Ain't that just beautiful?)

15. Your favourite star associated predominantly with the 1950's.

*** Warning! Cliché answer. ***
I have to be honest, right? (Well, no. But this time - just for the heck of it.) James Dean, he was my first classic film love affair. When I was 14 I watched his films over and over as soon as I came home from school. (No, I wasn't invited to any parties. At least I had my on-screen friends...)

16. Your favourite Melvyn Douglas movie.

I'm not so well-read on Douglas, I'm ashamed to say. I'll answer Ninotchka (1939). (Nobody could fake-laugh like Garbo.)

17. The box-office failure you most think should have been a success.

The Thief of Bagdad (1924). I was surprised to read that this masterpiece (produced by, co-written by and starring Douglas Fairbanks, directed by Raoul Walsh) was a disappoinment to the contemporary audience. Perhaps they just weren't ready.

18. Your favourite performance by an actor or actress playing drunk.

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940), no doubt about it! In the same film, Katharine Hepburn. They're really great at it. "Hello, Dexter! HELLO, GEORGE. Helloooo, Mike..."
But the best drunken scene in the film is of course when Stewart's Macualey Connor bursts in on Grant's C. K. Dexter Haven, gets the hick-ups and throws Grant off balance in his acting, who unintentionally starts to laugh.

Scene: Don't forget to keep an eye on Cary Grant's facial expressions!

19. Your favourite last scene of any thirties movie.

Impossible to answer, but I'll try. I simply love the last scene in Night Nurse (1931), where the good guy is an illegal bootlegger who lets our heroine (Barbara Stanwyck) know that he has informed some maffia friends of his that he "just didn't like Nick (Clark Gable's bad guy, the chauffeur) very much...". The film then cuts to a roaring ambulance, and we witness a couple of hospital employees talking about the body that was just picked up. "Was he a bootlegger?" "No, he was wearing a chauffeur's uniform."
That's brilliant. And of course it is, William A. 'Wild Bill' Wellman directed it.

20. Your favourite American non-comedy silent movie.

City Lights (1931), Sadie Thompson (1928) (review) or Beyond the Rocks (1922) (review).

21. Your favourite Jean Harlow performance.

Red-Headed Woman (1932). "Do it again - I like it! Do it AGAIN!" Jeez, she's crazy...

22. Your favourite remake. (Quizmaster's definition: second or later version of a work written as a movie, not a later adaptation of the same novel or play.)

The word "re-make" often make me shiver with fear, but I guess I can pick an old re-make and alleviate the pain a little bit. I will probably never like a re-make more than the original, at least there's no example of that that I can think of. But it can still be a favourite re-make, right?
Maybe it's cheating, because the director did a re-make of his own movie, but here it is: The Ten Commandments (1956) by Cecil B. DeMille. I've seen it so many times that I lost the count. DeMille made his original film, The Ten Commandments, in 1923. 30 years later it was a swell time to do a re-make. Special effects had improved, there was magnificent Technicolor to add to the cinematic experience. And then there's Yul Brynner as Rameses. Oh, god... (He's sexy.)

23. Your favourite Orson Welles performance in a film he did not direct, not including The Third Man.

The commercial for Paul Masson champagne. See below.

Remember - this is the man behind Citizen Kane (1941). And he has probably consumed a little too much of the product before shooting. (This is epic.)

24. Your favourite non-gangster or musical James Cagney film or performance.

Bill White's buddy Eddie in Other Men's Women (1931). He's sweet, cool and sympathetic. And of course, he's James Cagney. In other words, he has much too few scenes.

25. Your favourite Lubitsch movie.

Haven't seen enough of his work, but among those I've seen I choose the pre-code Trouble in Paradise (1932). The combination of Ernst Lubitsch, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall is hard to beat. (And how did poor Herbert manage to choose between Francis and Hopkins?)

26. Who would win in a fight: Miriam Hopkins or Barbara Stanwyck? (Both in their prime; say in 1934 or so.)

Hmm... Hopkins obviously has the sharp cat claws, but Stanwyck can fight like a man. I'd say that Stanwyck would win with a knock-out.

27. Name the two stars you most regret never having co-starred with each other, and - if you want - choose your dream scenario for them. (Quizmaster's qualification: they have to be sufficiently contemporary to make it possible. So, yes to Cary Grant and Lon Chaney Jr as two conmen in a Howard Hawks screwball; no to Clara Bow and Kirsten Dunst as twin sisters on the run from prohibition agents in twenties Chicago, much though that may entice.)

I'd like to see a pre-code triangle drama on bisexuality. It's 1932. Katharine Hepburn (in her break-through role) and Kay Francis live together in a posh New York apartment, when they meet the charming bootlegger Robert Montgomery who blows their minds. Hepburn's and Francis's relationship, as well as their social position, are now at stake.
This complicated romantic comedy/drama is directed by George Cukor.

28. Your favourite Lionel Barrymore performance.

Oh, that wonderful actor! It's hard to choose between his sadistic/perverted priest in Sadie Thompson (1928), his timid dying old man in Grand Hotel (1932) (review), his not so timid dying old man in Dinner at Eight and his intoxicated lawyer in A Free Soul (with that record-breaking, monstrous monologue in the last courtroom scene) - But I'll go ahead and answer this: The merciless Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

29. Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard or Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour? (See note on question 14.)

He obviously co-starred a lot more with Dorothy Lamour than with Paulette Goddard, and the latter one has always been connected to Chaplin only in my eyes - so I'd say Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

30. You won't want to answer this, but: there's been a terrible fire raging in the film libraries of all the major studios. It's far too late to save everything. All you can do is save as much as you can. You've been assigned the thirties. All you'll have time to drag from the obliterating inferno is one 1930's film each from Paramount, MGM, RKO, Columbia, Universal and Warners. Do you stomp around in a film buff's huff saying 'it's too hard, I can't choose just one' and watch them all go up in smoke? Or do you roll your sleeves up and start saving movies?
But if the latter: which ones...?

I definitively wouldn't stand there and see everything go up in smoke! And I guess bringing a fire-extinguisher isn't an option? That wouldn't be funny, would it? (Even though the rest of the world probably would thank me for it. But they are not going to have it that good!)
Here we go. I have focused on entertaining pre-code films, they seem most important. (And since I'm the saviour of these films, I can let myself be very egoistic.)

Paramount: Monkey Business (1931) Marx Brothers for everyone.
MGM: The Thin Man (1934) No doubt about it! Nick and Nora, yay!
RKO: Thirteen Women (1932) (Hey, we must have one B-movie in the list, so people won't think that all movies made in the 1930's were brilliant!)
Columbia: It Happened One Night (1934) Of course.
Universal: Dracula (1931) It's a bit more sophisticated than Frankenstein (1931). So sue me.
Warner Bros: Baby Face (1933) A slutty Stanwyck that has to be saved to the world.

The Marx Brothers - who could live without them?


Millie said...

This post was amazing!

I was seriously laughing my head off at that Orson Welles WAS epic (and also slightly depressing and tragic).

GREAT post!

Elizabeth said...

Now THAT'S a hat!

Matthew Coniam said...

Great answers - and I love that Karloff-Lugosi-Chaplin-Keaton-Dietrich-Garbo graphic!

I'm still laughing at your Laurel and Hardy answer. I can forgive anyone not knowing their titles if they have the audacity to nominate "their commercial for wooden products" as their all-time best. (It's called 'Tree in a Test Tube' and it's the only film they ever made in colour. Good choice!)

Yep, love Mae Clarke in anything she does.

"Garbo is my country girl." - Sweet!

'Ten Commandments' is kinda based on a book, but you can have it because it's not a very good (or well-known) book.

I certainly won't sue you for choosing Dracula over Frankenstein. I agree. he's my Universal choice too.

"How did poor Herbert manage to choose between Francis and Hopkins?"
Who knows - off-screen perhaps he didn't.

Great answer for 27. I desperately want to see this film. Do you think one day CGI will be up to doing it?

That Welles outtake is sensational. I almost - well, you know; laughing at it I mean.
What IS that noise he makes at the start of each take??? -
"MWOAUUGGHHRRAAAHHHRRR, the French champagne has always been celebrated for its excellence..."

Loved this, thanks a lot.

Lolita said...

Laughing with guilt is the funniest way to laugh! And thank you!

Think you can find it in an H&M store? Maybe it comes back to fashion.

Matthew Coniam:
Thank you! I love photoshop ;)

Hehe, thought I could make it up by joking myself out of the question. But seriously, I need to up-date my Laurel & Hardy knowledge!

I feel I have to choose Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Ingmar Bergman over everyone else, since I have a native debt to them! (Maybe I can be the knew Ingrid? Asking Orlando Bloom to "leave Cahsablahnca with me?" in a re-make?

And I guess that book is a rip-off of the Bible, and fiction is not counted as real literature. ;)

Hmm... I actually can see both Kay Francis and Miriam Hopkins as experimenting women...

Well, if they didn't have any shame when CGI:ing Laurence Olivier to that horrible Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (haven't seen it, but I say it's horrible anyway), maybe I can sell the rights to the script?

I think Orson tries to sound impressed by the champagne or something... At least he's trying to pronounce the "Oh!" in the script. (Why does he sound Irish? Do all Americans become Irish when their kidneys start to give up?)

Thank YOU! You should compose more of these - their tricky, but fun to answer!

Matthew Coniam said...

"Do all Americans become Irish when their kidneys start to give up?"

Very funny. You are on exceptionally good form at the moment!

I've posted my answers over at Movietone now. As I say, I was going to go for A Man For All Seasons for the Welles question, but your suggestion blew it out of the water.
As Welles would say, "Mwourgggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!"

Lolita said...

Matthew Coniam:
It must be all the coffee! (Back in Sweden I'm able to get real caffeine kicks again... Mmwwwooaauurrrgghhhh!)

Christopher said...

favorite Laurel and Hardy is a tuff one..I settled on "Our Wife"tho,I bust a gut on nearly all of the talkie shorts..Queen Christina for my favorite drag film..or anything with Marlene Dietrich.. ;o)

Juliette. said...

Haha, you could be on to something with Dorothy's hat... ;)

Man, these are terrific answers. Wish I could've thought of some of them. Number one-- how could I have forgotten? Sheesh, I must be a bad Bogie fan.

#3 is that part.
Ooh, Joan Blondell for 11-- Good one.

And Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story is great drunk (as is Kate).

Hahaha, great wording for 26, and your reasoning for saving Thirteen Women made me grin. Great answers. :)

Meredith said...

saving "thirteen women" and "baby face" is sheer brilliance on your part. i think it would be great (and in the case of thirteen women quite hilarious) if millions of years from now those are the films taken as examples of cinema.

Lolita said...

Thanks a lot for all your warming compliments!
Well, for some reason In A Lonely Place seems never to be mentioned among others like Treasure of the Sierra Madre, High Sierra, To Have and Have Not etc. I have no idea why, I loved it! I love when Bogie got parts that balances sympathetic/tragic/asshole - he did it perfectly!

Ha ha, exactly! Maybe those examples of 1930's brilliant cinema would have changed the entire direction of cinema?