Thursday, September 20, 2012

Travels for the 21st Anniversary

I had planned to write up the actor list, but have run out of time before I leave on more travels. CPA Boy and I are leaving for a long weekend trip tomorrow to celebrate the fact that our marriage is now drinking age! Our actual anniversary is on Monday, September 24.

Apparently the anniversary gift list just starts skipping over years at this point. It goes from the 20th straight to the 25th! And then it only includes every fifth year after that. So once you pass the 20th anniversary you can expect nothing!

I will update the blog if I can. Otherwise, see you next week!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Actresses

Sorry I haven't written much lately. If I don't have something to write about I wait for inspiration to strike. Sometimes it takes a while. Odd for someone like me who can talk all day long if I get going.
I don't seem to have as much interest in current movies. I find myself much more excited about the fare of Turner Classic Movies. I still haven't seen enough of the old classics either! But here is a list of actresses I find myself enjoying these days (in no particular order).

  • Katharine Hepburn
    • A couple of years ago I might have said she is my favorite actress of all time. I think she was a fine actress but she was always kind of the same in each role. I still adore her though and she's definitely in my top ten. I especially like Desk Set, Stage Door, The African Queen, Woman of the Year (except for the ending), Suddenly Last Summer, and Summertime. I still need to see The Lion in Winter and some more of her earlier work.
  •  Greta Garbo
    • So many of her movies are tragedies and she never gets to be much of a carefree character. I particularly enjoy the roles where she displays happiness because I think she is even more beautiful when she laughs and smiles. Ironically, she gets to do this in Anna Karenina more than in any other film I've seen her in (so far). You know, before she ends up throwing herself in front of a train. I like Ninotchka, Camille, Grand Hotel, Flesh and the Devil and Queen Christina, which I only got to see part of because the cable cut out halfway through. Luckily this will air on TCM in October. Still need to see Anna Christie and more of the silent films she did.
  •  Jean Harlow
    • I'm not sure where my fascination with Harlow began. Possibly because she was in Hell's Angels (with the famous line, "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?") which I enjoyed. She was the source of Hollywood legends regarding her death: her mother refused Harlow hospital treatment because she was a Christian Scientist, or her husband Paul Bern (who later committed suicide) punched her in the stomach. I read a biography of Jean Harlow and these legends were debunked. Harlow died AT the hospital following kidney failure which was incurable in 1937. 
    • Anyway, I have now seen more of her films including Dinner at Eight, Saratoga (she was filming this when she died so you can tell which scenes are before and after her death), Red Dust and China Seas (where Jean, known for her platinum blonde hair as well as never wearing undergarments, has a wardrobe malfunction when her halter dress slips down). She made a lot of films with Clark Gable; he is in those last three listed.
  •    Audrey Hepburn
    • It's difficult to NOT like Audrey! I have seen My Fair Lady, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday (my fave), How to Steal a Million, Funny Face, and The Nun's Story (another fave). I still need to see Charade, Love in the Afternoon and Two for the Road, among others.
  •  Marlene Dietrich
    • I have only recently discovered her even though I saw her in both Destry Rides Again and Judgement at Nuremberg years ago. I have now seen her in The Blue Angel, The Scarlet Empress, and Shanghai Express and I love her! She compares favorably to Garbo and she sings too!
  • Judy Garland
    • It's hard to watch Judy in so many of her roles and know how unhappy she was during so much of her life. I think that's part of why she continues to fascinate people. I've seen a bunch of her films and I especially like Easter Parade, In the Good Old Summertime, The Harvey Girls and For Me and My Gal.
  •  Lucille Ball
    • I know Lucy from her TV shows first and foremost but she had a thriving movie career before she became Lucy Ricardo. I like several of her movies including Five Came Back, Stage Door, The Big Street and Dance, Girl, Dance. Too Many Girls is also fun to watch (even though it's not a great movie) because this is when she first met one of her co-stars, Desi Arnaz. Like Woman of the Year was the film where Spencer Tracy met Katharine Hepburn for the first time (or Bacall meeting Bogie in To Have and Have Not), it's fun to see the time and place it all began for those couples.
  •  Jean Simmons
    • Here's another actress I was introduced to via television: she was in The Thorn Birds miniseries in 1983. One of my favorite movies of hers is a soapy film called Until They Sail. I also liked her in Black Narcissus (tiny role though), The Actress (she plays a young Ruth Gordon), Elmer Gantry, Great Expectations, Spartacus (one of the few who did not proclaim, "I am Spartacus!"), and Guys and Dolls (also stars Marlon Brando whom I usually dislike but his pairing with Jean was okay).
  •  Elizabeth Taylor
    • Her private life and beauty could certainly get in the way but she was a pretty good actress. I like her early stuff best: National Velvet, Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer. Also Taming of the Shrew, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (I don't like the movie much -- too dark and depressing -- but Elizabeth is fantastic in it).
  •  Ava Gardner
    • Also known more for her beauty and her private life but she was interesting in many of her roles. I haven't seen enough of her movies to really decide how good an actress she was. I've seen Show Boat, On the Beach and Earthquake and on TV in Knots Landing (where I probably first was exposed to her and I adored her on that show). She's intriguing and I liked her autobiography so I will try to catch more of her movies.
  •  Rita Hayworth
    • Another actress known for her beauty and private life but she is fun to watch in her films, especially when she sings and dances. I like Cover Girl (with Gene Kelly), You Were Never Lovelier (with Fred Astaire) and Gilda. I definitely need to watch a few more movies of hers.
  •  Irene Dunne
    • I have loved all the movies I've seen her in: Penny Serenade, I Remember Mama, Show Boat, and The White Cliffs of Dover. Lots more movies to catch up on.
  •  Ruby Keeler
    • I have been able to catch a handful of early musicals lately including 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933 and she's in all of them. She's a great tap dancer but not really a good actress or singer. She is adorable though. When I researched her I found out that she was married to Al Jolson, the biggest entertainer of his day. I'm guessing Mrs. Jolson had a slightly easier time getting roles therefore. She's usually partnered with Dick Powell. I haven't seen her in anything else yet but she made very few movies so I'll need to track them down.
There are several supporting actresses I'm always happy to see in films.
  • Hattie McDaniel
    • She shows up in bit parts in several movies, often uncredited, and her Oscar-winning performance in Gone with the Wind is great too. In her time roles were generally limited to that of the sassy maid but she played the hell out of them. She died of breast cancer when she was 57.
  •  Edna May Oliver
    • She plays all sorts of fun parts like Aunt March in Little Women and Lady Catherine in Pride & Prejudice as one of the best character actresses of the 1930s. She died after a sudden illness at age 59.
  •  Anne Revere
    • Played a lot of mothers, won an Oscar for National Velvet, and was blacklisted in the 1950s. I LOVED her character in National Velvet!
  • Una Merkel
    • She's in Destry Rides Again, 42nd Street, and The Parent Trap (Hayley Mills version) and many other films. She has a very distinctive voice with a cute Southern accent.
  •  Beulah Bondi
    • Played the mother of James Stewart 4 times (including It's a Wonderful Life) and many other mature roles. She often played much older than her age. I don't know how old she is in this picture from the late 30s or early 40s. She was born in 1889 so she'd be in her early fifties perhaps?
  •  Agnes Moorehead
    • We all know her best as Endora on Bewitched but she was in many films in the 1940s and 1950s (and one great Twilight Zone episode in 1961!) including Citizen Kane, The Big Street, Since You Went Away, Jane Eyre, Johnny Belinda, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, Dark Passage, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and Show Boat. She's great in all of them.
Can you guess what I'll write about next?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August 2012 Books

I often think that I read very few books. There's just never time to sit and read! And yet I have read 73 books so far this year! Over the 35 weeks of 2012 I have read an average of 2.08 books per week. I read quite a few books!

Anyway, here comes the August list of the 9 books I read...

NON-FICTION
  • Memories of the Future, Volume 1 by Wil Wheaton
    • Wil Wheaton, who began played Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" at the age of 14, writes this TV memoir of the first half of the first season of the show.
    • Wesley Crusher was a reviled character on the show and poor Wil was reviled as well. But as he points out, the writers created Wesley and Wil was only there to do a job as an actor. He points out the many silly scenarios Wesley features in, especially at the beginning of the series when it hadn't quite found its footing yet (despite a couple of classic episodes, one even winning a Peabody Award). Wesley was the character who invariably showed up the (supposedly) well-trained Star Fleet officers and saved the day. It's no wonder Wesley was despised.
    • Wil Wheaton is a funny and snarky writer. And now, especially that Wil is such a good sport about it, Wesley is more appreciated. (See various episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" guest-starring Wil Wheaton as "Wil Wheaton", Sheldon's nemesis.)
    • Grade: A- (because it's only a half season. This Trekkie wants more!)
FICTION
  • The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning
    • Jane's story takes place in Massachusetts in the years just before the Revolutionary War. She moves from Cape Cod to Boston after refusing a proposal of marriage and finds herself caught between patriots and loyalists, sometimes dividing her from her own family members.
    • Several real people figure in the plot and Jane witnesses the Boston Massacre.
    • A good historical novel with a heroine to root for.
    • B
  • The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson
    • This story takes place in New York City just after the Civil War at P.T. Barnum's American Museum, where "freaks" like the Fat Lady, the Strong Man, the Bearded Lady, the Pinhead, and many others live and perform.
    • Bartholomew is the World's Thinnest Man who falls under the thrall of the new act, a mysterious woman with many secrets.
    • Interesting look into the world of sideshow performers, even though the characters are fictional.
    • B
  • The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
    • The title refers to the Harvard alumni book published every five years with updates from class members.
    • The novel is about several women graduates of the Class of 1989 attending the reunion 2009. The story mostly stays in the later time frame with a few flashbacks to illustrate the women's lives before 2009.
    • My favorite part of the blurb on the book jacket is: "Addison yearned to shed the burden of her Mayflower heritage." All I could think was, then don't tell anyone about it! I was dying to see how this big issue this was going to be handled in the novel and then it was barely mentioned! 
    • I liked the book fine but I would have preferred to read more about when they were in college rather than their later lives.
    • B
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
    • The first book of the "Parasol Protectorate" books, a series set in Victorian London in a world where vampires, werewolves, and ghosts exist in society. The main character is Alexia Tarabotti, a "preternatural" woman without a soul whose touch negates the powers of the supernatural creatures (who have too much soul).
    • Alexia is a proper Englishwoman and spinster with a sharp wit and tongue.
    • This book combines the Victorian period with vampires and werewolves and a touch of steampunk. 
    • I liked it and there are currently 4 more books in the series which I will hope to get to in September.
    • This is one of the book series where I have trouble at the library. Only books 1, 4 and 5 are available. Books 2 and 3 are not in the system at all! I am at a loss to understand why but I can only assume they once existed and then someone didn't return them.  Luckily I bought a cheap Kindle version containing books 1 to 3 so I can read them that way.
    • B
  • Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
    • I got this book for free from a Paperback Swap trade. The woman asked me to look at her "shelf" and pick any book I wanted as she was trying to cut down her book stash. I chose this one.
    • A Rosamund Pilcher book is a lovely thing to read. You are introduced to a cast of characters who you like. Then each character has a problem or tragedy to overcome. And all comes right in the end just like a comfortable book should. 
      • I don't necessarily need every book I read to end happily but in this case you just KNOW all will be well and sometimes that's a very comforting type of book to read.
    • B+

  • Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Home for the Holidays by Heather Vogel Frederick
    • These young adult books are part of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, specifically books 3, 4 and 5.
    • Each book's theme follows that of the book or books read by the book club. The stories take place in Concord, Massachusetts. The main characters are Jess, Emma, Cassidy, Megan and Becca and all their siblings, parents and grandparents.
    • In Dear Pen Pal the club reads Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, gain new pen-pals with another book club in Wyoming and live through 8th grade.
      • I had NEVER heard of  Daddy-Long-Legs until I read this book. Is is a more obscure classic? How has it never passed my way? (It's waiting for me at the library to pick up Tuesday.)
    • In Pies & Prejudice the book club tackles Pride & Prejudice (of course). Now the girls are freshmen in high school and one of the families has relocated to England for a year. The other girls start a bake sale to raise money for Emma, the friend in England to visit for Spring Break.
      • Pride & Prejudice is one of my very favorite books.
    • In Home for the Holidays, the story focuses on the holiday season during the girls' sophomore year. The book club reads the Betsy-Tacy series.
      • I didn't read the Betsy-Tacy series (10 books) until I was in my 30s and I read them again a couple of years ago.
    • The stories feature the book club choices quite heavily. The characters discuss them all the time. They really make you want to read them too if you haven't already. It does help if you HAVE read the classics but it's not necessary for full enjoyment.
    • The characters are a well-rounded group and there should be at least one character for girls to identify with while reading. Since I am older than the PARENTS of the girls it's a wee bit harder to identify with any one of the young characters, but I would have to say Emma, the book-loving writer.
    • Book 6, called Wish You Were Eyre, comes out in October. I will assume it continues on with sophomore year. I imagine this series will go at least through the girls' senior year of high school so there should be a handful more books in the series.
    • All books: A