From the very first days of the establishment of the studio system people with dreams of being a star arrived from nowhere – ville to claim their place in Hollywood history. They arrived with their past wrapped up in a suitcase and their future uncertain. For every one person who made it there were hundreds who didn’t. But this story is not actually about the wannabe stars nor is it about the studio system it is about a parallel situation now happening all across America where people arriving with baggage are being deemed unsuitable and sent packing. Stars like Valentino, like Lupe Valez, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo were all immigrants.
Even Jerry Lewis ( pictured ) was Jewish. Hollywood has made many films on immigration, on displacement of peoples from their lands and on the atrocities and injustices of war. In fact these immigrant stars from nowhere -ville actually starred in them. Who could forget Rudolph Valentino in ‘Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse’ or Glenn Ford in its remake? A film about a family torn apart by war with brothers fighting on opposite sides. My point being that America has benefitted from its immigrants not only in Hollywood but in every walk of life. Now they are being vetted? Two films spring to mind which reflect what is happening now. These were not oscar greats but were based on very important novels of the day. Let’s start with ‘A Face In The Crowd’ starring Andy Griffiths and Patricia Neal. A film in which a reality T.V. star turns on all who helped him reach the top, marries a child bride and enters politics. He is absorbed with himself and his greed and isolates himself in a tower in Manhattan. Sound familiar? The next is ‘The Ugly American’ starring Marlon Brando which went largely ignored. A film starring the great Marlon Brando too. Maybe it was the title that put people off? The film was essentially about the failure of the U.S. Diplomatic Corps interferring in the politics of other countries, in this case the mock country of Sarkhan ( Thailand ) during a communist revolution. and highlights the insensitivities to language, culture and customs. The American Ambassador arrives with his own baggage. A simplistic American view of how Sarkhan could and should solve its problems. A modern day Syria perhaps? I even read an article today in which an American reporter referred to Britain as a country. Britain was four countries. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Britain no longer exists. I wonder … Has the writer of that article heard of Brexit? This is not by any means anti American. Merely anti arrogance and ignorance. America will prevail and will remain a shining beacon for those from nowhere -ville. Of this, I am, ever hopeful.
Here we are it’s Christmas 2016 and Zsa-Zsa Gabor has gone. Her sisters Eva and Magda, equally gorgeous, scandalous and magnanimous, gone before her. All were married many times over and were absolute darlings of the press though not all were equally as successful in film. Zsa-Zsa was most famous for ‘Moulin Rouge’ and Eva for the t.v. series ‘Green Acres’. Eva was also in one of my very favourite films. ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ which starred Liz Taylor and Van Johnson.
I thought the other two were a little more natural thanZa-Za but it was Za-Za that had the most sizzle. Eva ( left ) Zsa-Zsa ( centre) and Magda (on the right.) This post is not really about Zsa-Zsa though it is about what it is to be famous and why it is so important for us to adore those that we consider more beautiful, more successful and richer than we could ever be in our wildest dreams. Why is it that we love people for just being famous. No matter what it is they are famous for? The Gabor sisters, like our modern day reality t.v. stars were famous for just being famous. In films and on television they virtually played themselves. Most of my blogs have been on vintage Hollywood stars and on the beautiful films they starred in and many of you who have been reading my blogs , like me, prefer them to the type of films made now.
This is because many of the vintage films we love had good scripts, superb cinematography, a well-told story, glamorous stars in fabulous outfits and attention to detail as with Eva in the series ‘Green Acres’. Eva was the only one to make a series and her role was that of ditzy socialite married to a farmer. A T.V.show with a clever script, real humour and lot’s of heart. Eva and Zsa -Zsa were often confused with one another and both starred in films which were set in Europe. Usually Paris or Vienna. Zsa- Zsa in ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘ Lily ‘and Eva in ‘Gigi’.The films were in brilliant technicolour and featured beautiful scenery and costumes. Not to mention brilliant scores and beautiful songs which are still as revered now as they were then as in ‘For The First Time’ with Mario Lanza.
Many are glued to reality T.V. now, which features none of the above. There are some who would say that Kim Kardashian echoes vintage glamour and I guess I can understand it. By the way, Paris Hilton is the great grand niece of Zsa-Zsa who was once married to Conrad Hilton. A very small world indeed. Liz Taylor was married once to Nicki Hilton and also made a film with Zsa Zsa’s sister Eva. Paris does actually bare quite a likeness. Poor Paris Hilton, however, tried a little too hard to imitate a Barbie doll and so the world turned to Kim Kardashian. There are so many Kardashian clones out there that she’s even eclipsed Barbie which is a good thing considering how many stars were imitating the famed plastic doll with the perfect curves. At least Kardashian is a living, breathing, real live woman. She has yet to feature in a film though. I mean one with a story and script that is not about herself or her family.
Anyway I digress. Not all vintage films were wonderful and there were definitely a few duds among them. ‘White Christmas’ was a little trite but oh so charming and a feast for the eyes too. The thing is that not even a bad vintage movie could equal the kind of bilge we are being fed now.Why do we love everything vintage even when it’s obviously not quite up to scratch?
At least an effort was been made to make bad vintage films look good look good. Even if that was their only purpose . They had a reason to be. Those of us who love vintage do so because we value not only the product but the whole production process. The really great vintage films stay with us always but even the bad ones were consistent. In short I have a passion for the magic of storytelling dressed in a beautiful glamorous package which doesn’t try to be too real. I see movies to help me escape from the world and all its troubles. Reality is there to confront me every day so why do I need to watch it on t.v. Give me Zsa-Zsa any day. A little glamour in a world of make- believe. Oh and she also loved dogs which makes her a real star of the highest order.
I am so thankful too that others share this passion I have. Thank you for reading my blog and for your wonderful comments. May you have a wonderful vintage style Christmas and may you find the time to enjoy some good old vintage films too.
Ronald Reagan was born into a poor family in Illinois became a celebrated Hollywood actor and made it all the way to becoming president of the United States. He was not, however inexperienced. He had been president of ‘The Screen Actors Guild’ not once but twice and also Governor of California by the time he got to the White House.
He was also generally liked and regarded as an all round good guy. This despite the fact that he dobbed in many Hollywood greats denouncing them as communists during the Mcarthy era. He would be rolling in his grave at the current choice for president as Melania Trump’s father has himself been branded a communist. All politics aside Reagan was the genuine article on screen and proved very popular in mostly B pictures. He had an honesty and an integrity that audiences fell in like with. Before we get to all that let’s take a look at the merit of the man before he was even a man. His father apparently nicknamed Ronnie ‘Dutch’ which probably stood for Dutch Courage which was fitting indeed. While still at school Reagan was a beach life guard and had been involved in over one hundred rescues. Credited with saving the lives of at least seventy of those without help. As a teenager he took a stand against racism and would often jump the fences that segregated his poor white trash neighbourhood from the black families and hang out with his best friend who just happened to be black. Many years later when the local inn in Dixon threw out a group of black people Reagan took a stand and invited them to his house for drinks instead. On leaving school and finishing college he got himself a job as speaker for General Electrics Factories which eventually lead to his wanting to become an actor and in 1937 he made his first Hollywood movie. At this time he was a actually a democrat. In all of his movies Reagan was a nice guy with a mixture of integrity and grit. He was also very handsome. In his screen debut in 1937 he played a reporter who takes on the city council and exposes them on the radio. The film entitled ‘Love Is On The Air’ set a precedent for future roles. His leading ladies on film were like a who’s who of Hollywood. Patricia Neal, Jane Bromley, Anne Sheridan, Jane Wyman,Nancy Davis, Virginia Mayo, Doris Day, Vivecca Linfores. Many of his films contained strong moral content such as ‘The Hasty Heart’ with Patricia Neal and ‘Voice Of The Turtle’ with Eleanor Powell. He was often the hero in the war films which followed including ‘Desperate Journey’,with Errol Flynn and ‘Hell Cats Of The Navy’ with Nancy Davis who would become his second wife. Reagan’s first wife was Jane Wyman who divorced him for being terribly unfaithful to her. He was ,by all accounts, a bit of a player. Still when he met Nancy it was for keeps. Just as well because he had big fish to fry and needed to be stable. Reagan would go on to become Governor of California and made it all the way to President with Nancy at his side.
Jane had been against many of his political leanings when they were together but she did vote for him in both elections. Nancy was the perfect political wife and supported everything he said and did all the way. She quit movies as soon as they married. In most of her films she had played housewives, teachers or psychologists. A very wholesome type and, if one looks very closely, quite similar in type to Wyman. Choice of wife also says alot about Reagan.
Reagan was a man with middle class, moral values who really believed in the goodness of people and country. Anyway I digress. Even though Reagan made B movies for the most part he was by no means a B grade actor. Not only that he did star in one of the greatest films of all time, ‘Kings Row’ with Anne Sheridan. In this film which traces the lives of three people growing up in a small town Reagan plays the loveable kid from the wrong side of the tracks who, as an adult, loses both his legs in a work accident. His most famous line on looking down to where his legs used to be was ‘Where’s the rest of me’. Anne Sheridan plays the girl who has loved him from childhood and Robert Cummings plays his best friend.
The film was nominated for an academy award and would have greatly boosted Reagan’s career had it not been for military service. As it was he served as Lieutenant Of the first Motion picture unit throughout the war and was able to gain much information on movements of German soldiers. It’s impossible to include all his films in this blog as he made so many but he does seem to have made quite a lot of war films which is really not surprising as he did seem to have a bit of a taste for it. There was the Iran contra affair, the arms race with Russia and increased taxes and military spending. Oh and I neglected to mention that even though originally democrat he ruled as a conservative Republican? He did, however, hold talks with Gobachev which later resulted in the destruction of The Berlin Wall and a reduction in Russia’s nuclear arsenals. Despite some very unpopular political decisions which caused mass protests and economic doom for many Reagan was well regarded as president and completed two terms. All way too detailed to go into here. My Point? There can be no comparison to Donald Trump who has the morals of a sewer rat and is interested only in lining his own pockets. Just take a look at Ronald Reagan’s abode outside the ‘White House’ and compare it with the Golden Tower of Greed.
Guess what? There is no comparison.