Review of Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive + feature interview with Tom McLaren & featurette with Angela Cartwright – by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Marilyn front cover (589x800)
– Now available in paperback on amazon.com –
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1683830067/ref=od_aui_detailpages01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

To preface, as related by Angela Cartwright on her website publications page:
“Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive is a stunning collection of never-before-seen continuity photographs, offering readers an intimate, candid look at Hollywood’s golden age and beyond.”

Review by Lorraine Dmitrovic. (Please note: This is an objective review of the book I purchased, and I did not receive compensation.)

FIVE STARS!

The moment is breathtaking and truly unforgettable. As the actress or actor steps onto the screen, they sparkle and shine, eclipsing and stealing thunder from the mountain range scenery or the salon backdrop. They transcend the set and have luminous, glorious presence. They certainly have “it” – and something else standout special – the “style” that ultimately made them stars.

The authors, actor Tom McLaren and actress-artisan Angela Cartwright, found the magic pulse for the book when searching through the Twentieth Century Fox archives. What emerged was the amazing star quality found in remarkably pristine continuity photos of a history of the studio dating back to the 1930s. Angela revealed in her introduction that many of the photos from the 1920s, and scripts and contracts, etc., however, had been thrown out in the 1970s when the studio was downsized. Thankfully, enough excellent original material survived so that Tom and Angela could preserve the wonder of a bygone film era in the book.

Angela also concluded that growing up in the studio life of Twentieth Century Fox was like “being plopped in the middle of a small city.” The lot had its hustle and bustle of various buildings and inner workings all with the common goal of producing the highest quality movie possible in talent and visual appeal.

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Angela Cartwright Sound of Music (1965) (574x800)
Photo: Angela Cartwright, Sound of Music (1965)

Tom and Angela have created a masterpiece collection of photos from the archives, a visual log of what went on behind the scenes in preparing a cast for filming, to make them “camera-ready” and ready to make movie history. Really, movie plot aside, what do people talk about when they exit the theatre? Not popcorn or soda, but the gown that had been poured onto Marilyn Monroe, or the dapper hat carried by dressed-to-the-nines Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember (1957). (Cary also graces the back cover in bathing trunks in a wardrobe test photo for the same film.)

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Cary Grant (580x800)
Photo: Cary Grant, An  Affair to Remember (1957)

In Hollywood’s heyday, studios took every aspect of filmmaking seriously. Everything on screen and behind it was as important as the acting. Actors and actresses were groomed to be stars in every sense of the word. Eye appeal was as much a key to success for a film as talent, the directing, the cinematography and settings. Actresses and actors had to stand out against already spectacular set designs and locations. And style was a major way to set them apart from the background. Call it star power, a spell of beauty, but it comes down to a lot of designer thought, planning and hard work to create “the style” of the stars in a film.

On set, on location, even at publicity events and award ceremonies, stars often relied on fashion/costume designers, hair stylists, make-up artists and wardrobe people for touch-ups and adjustments, to ensure everything was ready, perfect and in continuity for the camera to roll. Jewellery and hats, millinery, purses, shoes and accessories, all had to be organized and kept track of during the filming of scenes. Head to toe, the stylists, designers and jewellers, and all others involved the process, had the talent “covered” and turned out to magnificent perfection for the camera and the public, who often relied on Hollywood for the next big fashion trend.

Not a single detail was overlooked in what was required to pull a look together. No pennies were pinched; every expense was worth the glamorous or the gritty effect. The mink stole Marilyn Monroe wears in the cover photo – the image chosen by Angela Cartwright herself for the cover – is real. Quality in styling is evident in the flash of genuine diamonds, in the elegant lines of designer gowns, and in the cut and tailoring of suits. Authenticity and ingenuity in costumes encouraged audiences to admire the dazzle along with the story and step into a different dark world or a beautiful dream for the price of a theatre ticket.

Maureen O’Hara’s foreward mentions a “backroom deal” to own part of her contract that brought her to Twentieth Century to star in How Green Was My Valley (1941) with John Wayne, and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). She credits Darryl F. Zanuck’s mantra of “Time is money!” and his demand that stars be “camera ready” for their roles as being major reasons for success of the studio.

Insight Editions - STS -DONE Maureen O ' Hara , Do You Love Me 1946 (575x800)
Photo: Maureen O ‘ Hara in her foreward to Styling the Stars,  from her movie Do You Love Me (1946)

It was a “look the part and feel the part” thing, really. The right clothes, hair and make-up were as essential to a character as a well-made prop. Maureen wrote about her character Doris in Miracle on 34th Street: “Being camera ready allowed me to bring Doris Walker to life in a more textured way. If you don’t look right and feel right in the story it can pull you out of character and hurt your performance. When those elements came together as nicely as they did on Miracle, I was able to offer more about Doris through style and movement. It is very freeing when everything fits and works.”

Photos in the book encompass everything imaginable about “styling those stars” at many stages and places of the process, showing in grand detail what went into making the stars camera ready – indoors, outdoors, fitting rooms, during filming, with film information and the character most often chalked on a large board placard. Test photos and wardrobe continuity photos for future reference in later filmed scenes have turned out to be some of the most important photographs taken by Twentieth Century.

The sheer number and range of actors and actresses chosen by Tom and Angela is mind-boggling. Shirley Temple, whose films actually saved the studio from bankruptcy in the 1930s, is captured in her famous ringlets and costume photos from various films. John Carradine touches up pancake powder on his forehead between scenes of Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). You find out how tall Gregory Peck really was – a wardrobe assistant has to stand on a platform and a medium size case to adjust Peck’s tie while filming Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Henry Fonda shaves his own stubble as a wardrobe person holds a small mirror during the filming of The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Tom Noonan is tested for the right pair of glasses for a role. David Hedison is photographed for The Fly (1958) in a lab coat and a black cloth totally covering his unhuman head. Patricia Neal in a prim collared dress holds giant Gort’s hand for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1961). Jane Russell looks every bit the cowpoke as Clark Gable does in a 2-page spread for The Tall Men (1955).

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Tyrone Power (800x800)Photo: Tyrone Power, The Mark of Zorro (1940)

Dean Martin made at least five costumes changes, two military uniforms and three suits for The Young Lions (1958). Victor Mature as Demetrius looks marvellously hunky for a marketplace scene in The Robe (1953) in lace-up boots, leather apron and rustic striped shirt. Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Bancroft, Louis Jordan, Rock Hudson, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford. Angela Cartwright’s sister Veronica, and yes, Billy Mumy too, Angela’s co-star from the 1960s sci-fi TV series Lost in Space. And more …. Suffice it to say that many, many stars – such as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy – from some of the greatest films and TV productions ever made, made it into Tom and Angela’s book.

Insight Editions - STS - Candice Bergen - The Magus (1968) (581x800)
Photo: Candice Bergen, The Magus (1968)

Among the top costume designers, Edith Head had to work within a small budget on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and after designing and creating only one complete costume, Robert Redford’s ensemble was piece-mealed together from older costumes in the studio’s wardrobe department.

Other esteemed designers who also styled stars for Twentieth Century Fox include: Dorothy Jeakins (The Sound of Music), Rene Hubert for Music in the Air (1934), starring Gloria Swanson, William Travilla (who dressed Marilyn Monroe for 8 films), Charles Le Maire, Marie Wills, Renie Conley, and the Sorelle Fontana fashion house, Adele Palmer (who designed Veronica Cartwright’s gingham dress for In Love and War (1958); Veronica recalls eating gallons of “chicken soup all day” during the filming). M. Best, J. Lovis, R. Agnayan, Irene Sharaff and more ….

Insight Editions - STS - DONE The Sound of Music at tablePhoto: The Sound of Music (1965) Direction from Robert Wise and touch-ups at the table. Dorothy Jeakins, designer

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Marilyn Monroe lipstick touch up
Photo: Marilyn Monroe, brushing on a little lipstick, Let’s Make it Legal (1951)

The surprises keep on coming. Intriguing photos were included of Raquel Welch in a plaster cast mold so that a form-fitting costume for Fantastic Voyage (1966) could be designed. A section for The Valley of the Dolls (1967) featured ultra-mod “groovy” dress designs and some spectacular outlandish hairstyles (and simple does as well) – and a photo of a happy Judy Garland as Helen Lawson before she was replaced by Susan Hayward in the role.

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Rita Moreno as Tuptim (774x800)Photo: Rita Moreno, The King and I (1956)

Styling the Stars is a supremely rewarding journey through the best of the Twentieth Century Fox Archive. Every time you pick up the book, you find more to discover. The “lost treasures” in Tom and Angela’s book, now forever found, will stand as a sublime historical record of a studio. All the glory, all the enchanting flair, is relived on every page of Styling the Stars’ 304 pages. This review has only skimmed the surface of its photographic jewels. If a future expanded edition one day becomes available, it could only make this already great Hollywood style book even more perfect.

Insight Editions - DONE Tom McLaren portrait
Q & A feature interview with actor-author TOM McLAREN

Lorraine:
Maureen O’Hara, as a part of Fox’s studio system was a perfect choice to do the Foreward for your book. What do feel are the special qualities Miss O’Hara possessed when it came to the studio stylizing her enduring image?

TOM:
Maureen O’Hara had every quality a movie star needs, most certainly talent and beauty, but also a mesmerizing presence and dazzling uniqueness. Movie fans loved her combination of strength and femininity. Her Miracle on 34th Street (1947) will always be one of Fox’s true classics (my wife’s favorite film). We are very fortunate that Maureen kindly agreed to write the Foreword to the book. I was very touched to learn that she kept a copy of the hardcover edition on her own coffee table, next to her copy of a John Wayne book.

Lorraine:
What was most surprising to you about the stylist process discovered while doing research for the book? What were some incredible archival finds?

TOM:
It was interesting to see the level of detail and perfection that went into the taking of hair/makeup/wardrobe continuity photos. Even though the images were intended for internal studio use only, the photographers took the process very seriously. The quality of these vintage photos (taken by professional photographers using professional camera equipment) was simply stunning. Today, it’s all so quick and disposable; continuity photos are snapped on iphones usually by crew assistants.

So many incredible finds…seeing Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and Montgomery Clift smiling and having fun while taking their Young Lions photos was a highlight. I loved photos which revealed something about the actor’s personality: Paul Newman and Doris Day making faces, John Wayne and Rita Hayworth always with a cigarette in hand, etc. I treasured the never-before-seen rarities…actors who tested for the film but were not cast (Joan Collins in Cleopatra) or were replaced by other actors (Judy Garland in Valley of the Dolls).

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Photo: John Wayne, North to Alaska (1960)

Lorraine:
If the space had been available, what stars and their films would you have also included?

TOM:
There are millions of images in the archive, so the list would be unlimited. There were so many choices from the golden age of Hollywood, we could have spent months, even years, going through those archival boxes. The book goes from Shirley Temple in the 1930s through Faye Dunaway in the 1970s, but it would have been fun to dig for more. Images shifted towards polaroids in the 1970s, which was a time of lower quality photography. We wanted this book to showcase pristine quality negatives only.

Lorraine:
Many of Hollywood’s legendary stars and future celebrities are found within the pages. At times with perhaps many photos available of a star, what were the criteria for choosing images? Were all the Fox archive photos already dated and described, or on occasion did you have to engage in some sleuthing to uncover all the facts?

TOM:
Our first choice was to showcase wardrobe photos with the chalkboard placard next to the actor (see back cover photo of Cary Grant) and hair/makeup photos with the note card or hair brush as the indicator (see front cover photo of Marilyn Monroe). If those images were not available, we would choose behind the scenes photos where the stars are being styled during the hair/makeup/wardrobe process. Both types of images are fascinating for so many reasons. It’s a candid moment of the star working on set. It’s a glimpse into the movie making process that so few get to see.

The archival boxes were a complete mystery…we didn’t know what was in them until we opened them! The individual images were not cataloged or categorized in any way. We would literally hold up the negatives to the light or place them on a light box in an attempt to see who it was and what they were doing. The A-list leading actors were of course easiest to spot. The other actors in the film required some sleuthing. Fortunately, I have one of those minds filled with movie trivia and actors’ names/faces/credits/etc, so most were easy to identify.

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Bing Crosby in dress from High Time (1960) (800x800)Photo: One of the mysteries unveiled, Bing Crosby as Harv in a gown and wig for High Time (1960). He was also wardrobe-tested in a men’s traditional casual outfit

Lorraine:
Many of the younger studio actresses went on to become established stars and later on became stars to new generations – finding audiences as well into the 21st century. Groomed-into-stars like Julie Newmar, Barbara Eden and Ann-Margret are living legends today. How do you feel knowing that your book contains the best of Hollywood, then and now?

TOM:
It was very important to me to represent both my parent’s generation and my own generation in the book. My parents had their favorite golden era movie stars and I grew up watching TV reruns of those classic films. But I also developed my own tastes for TV and film when I was a teenager, so I have my ‘next generation’ favorites, many of whom I first discovered on television like Barbara Eden, Robert Wagner and Julie Newmar. The inclusion of the film Myra Breckinridge in the book is a perfect example of one of my goals: Mae West from Old Hollywood and Raquel Welch and Farrah Fawcett from New Hollywood. Something for everyone!

Insight Editions - STS - DONE Ann-Margret (800x551)Photo:  Ann-Margret, The Pleasure Seekers (1964)

Lorraine:
Are there any personal favourites among the array of stars included?

TOM:
It’s a long list! My parent’s favorites are all in there, from Errol Flynn to Barbara Stanwyck. My wife’s favorites are included from Doris Day to Robert Redford. Ann-Margret has always been a favorite of mine, so she was at the top of my wishlist. The wardrobe shot of glamorous Ann-Margret in her iconic flamenco dress from The Pleasure Seekers (1964) , while standing in front of a barrage of technical equipment on a sound stage, is perhaps my favorite never-before-seen photo in the book. I’m also thrilled to include photos of my dear friends Susan Blakely and Lindsay Wagner. The softcover edition has one additional photo which the hardcover does not have: Lindsay Wagner from The Paper Chase (1973).

Lorraine:
Why did you choose to focus on the styling of stars from the Twentieth-Century Fox studio, as opposed to another studio? Although a number of stars in the book did work before, were loaned out during, or after, with other studios, what was the special appeal of the Twentieth Century roster for you?

TOM:
Angela had visited the Fox Archive looking for photos from her movie The Sound of Music (1965) for another book project of hers (The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook). The idea for Styling the Stars started there, when she realized all the Fox films had boxes of long forgotten images. The quality of these never-before-seen photos was the real hook. She called me on the phone and asked me to join her on this journey – I jumped at it immediately – and then we got the studio and our publisher Insight Editions on board.

Every major star from the 1930s through the 1970s did at least one Fox film. They may not have been Fox contract players, but loan outs and independent periods allowed the major movie stars to work at Fox at some point in their careers. We knew we’d find everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Bette Davis to Clark Gable. Fox film history is filled with treasures!

Insight Editions - STS - DONEJayne Mansfield hair tests for Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957) (400x571)
Photo: Jayne Mansfield, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

Lorraine:
How did you and Angela cross paths and how did that develop into a working relationship for writing Styling the Stars?

TOM:
Angela and I met about 20 years ago at a Lost in Space event. (I was, and still am, a huge Lost in Space fan.) At the time she was curator at a Los Angeles art gallery and she invited me to an exhibit opening. My wife and I became regular patrons at this beautiful gallery and over time we got to know Angela and her family. They are such great people. Angela is a part of movie history certainly, but I see her now as my friend Angela – a kind, interesting, and very dear friend.

She knew my background was in corporate business, and that I was a movie lover and memorabilia collector, so my project management skills and personal interests were well-suited to this book project. The combination of our creative strengths and interests made us a great duo. We worked arm in arm, through thick and thin. The book was definitely a two person project, very complex but extremely rewarding. Overall, I would say this was a dream project for me, and to have worked on it jointly with Angela made it truly a once in a lifetime book that I’m very proud of!

Insight Editions - DONE Tom and Angela at the Giddy's grand opening and their book-signing for STS

Tom: Catching up with photos from our recent book signing at the grand opening of Giddy in Scavenger’s Paradise in Burbank. Angela Cartwright and I had a great time signing our Insight Editions hardcover and softcover book Styling the Stars. Thank you to Alyssa from Giddy Vintage for hosting us. (Alyssa Lauren Gullion is the owner of Giddy Vintage.) Thank you to Jeanne from Cookie Jar Treats for providing the delicious sweet treats. It was wonderful seeing all the family, friends, and newcomers who came to support us.

Tom McLaren - Giddy cookies

Tom: The cookies were made by my sister-in-law Jeanne. She has a great food blog and goes under “cookiejartreats” in social media. She’s a great baker.

angela-cartwright for STS review
Q & A  featurette with actress-artisan ANGELA CARTWRIGHT

Lorraine:
You “grew up” knowing and being acquainted with many of the stars included in Styling the Stars. What might be a fond and meaningful memory for you of any actress or actor in the book?

ANGELA:
I have worked with many of the stars in the book… but working with Julie Andrews was indeed memorable. As kids we adored her from the moment we met her. She sang and joked with us between takes. It shows in the movie how enchanted we all were with her.

Lorraine:
Describe how you feel about the magic process of a “not made up” actress or actor going through the transformation of becoming “the star.” How you feel about all the unique and special styling of hair, make-up and wardrobe involved in creating the styled image? The actor into the character can result in a quite a different ‘night and day’ appearance.

ANGELA:
There is so much more to becoming a character than just learning lines and speaking in a voice to make it real. The costumes, makeup, appearance is all a part of it. Even accessories a character carries can aid in the audience accepting a character. It’s all a “secret dance” to have the audience not think about the actor but to accept that this person they are portraying is real.

More info:
View the Insights Edition trailer for Styling the Stars on You Tube:

Visit Tom McLaren’s website:
http://www.tom-mclaren.com/

Visit Angela Cartwright’s website:
http://www.angela-cartwright.com/

All review photos for Styling the Stars courtesy of Insight Editions

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CD Review: William Perry’s Music for Great Films of the Silent Era Part Two

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William Perry’s Music for Great Films of the Silent Era Part Two CD
Reviewed by L. Chrystal Dmitrovic


With a hop, skip and a jump, and a dance step or two thrown in, it’s easy to envision a stage production of this CD. It could very possibly make for glorious musical theatre. The names on the kino marquee bordered in flashing lights could be after the style of the CD liner notes cover photo:

Presenting
William Perry’s Music for Great Films of the Silent Era Part Two
featuring
Wallis Giunta (Mezzo)
John Brancy (Baritone)
Timothy Hutchins (flute)
Nick Byrne (ophicleide)
Michael Chertock (piano, organ)
Paul Phillips (conductor)
RTE National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland)

Maybe a production like this would open off-Broadway, or in the best little British jazz club this side of 1920s Singapore. The sidewalk standee with a montage of players, would include the burnished vermillion-redhead, Wallis Giunta, her Rapunzeline tresses blowing wildly in the wind, and maybe she’s gowned in lush, royal verdant. With a few back-up singers, a chorus line and full orchestra pit, Wallis could perform as the eight different actresses she embodied in song from the CD playlist.

In the reality that is the CD, Wallis’ charismatic, enthusiastic energy undergirds her tracks, and her extraordinary artistry lights the fuse to ensuing musical fireworks. With a moody sense of history, she raises her vocal arms in an inviting embrace, reaching above the clouds in song to charm with all the silvery-golden nuances and highlights she finds, and she also stretches out to the sides in climactic fury to catch the intense, darker tumults of the drama. In the entertaining, intricate and skilled framework of talent that includes the cast and orchestra, Wallis Giunta is free to be “the Mezzo with the magic.”

Dreams do come true on Broadway or the silver screen, but this review centres mostly upon Wallis Giunta and her exemplary vocal contributions to composer William Perry’s personal tribute to some of the greatest heroines of silent film and related music included on Music for Great Films of the Silent Era – Part Two CD.

Track 1 for Lillian Gish, (Orphans of the Storm, 1921) * Wallis has a remarkable capacity for sensitively and concisely interpreting the storyline of lyrics and melody as one entity. She expertly imparts the emotions of crisis while seeking shelter from the storm of the French Revolution. The listener experiences the fear and pride of patriotism and duty, loss of innocence and trust, the blessed rescue, the later soft-edged recollections of the horrors of “the storm,”  and the sentimentality of making new memories to cherish and the heartwarming bliss of post-war normalcy and family life. Her succinct timing and phrasing, and gently decreasing vocal for the last part of the song, has you visualizing that growing-smaller circle of the film fading out into the end credits.

Track 2 – for Mary Pickford (Pollyanna, 1920) * In direct contrast to the first track, this song exudes an unquelled “skipping down the sidewalk” joy that all future Pollyannas of the world should espouse. Life is exhilarating, brimming with promises of happiness and the rewards of taking chances. That thrilling scenario needs no words, really, as Wallis vocalizes into the finale with cheery, positive attitude after singing, “telling your fears ‘Go fly a kite’.”

Track 3 – Greta Garbo (A Woman of Affairs, 1928) * With warm and sultry overtones, it’s still a cool jazz rendition meant especially for those whose hearts are filled with longing. The “mind’s eye” soon picks up on the sound of a smouldering torch song as it drifts from the recital hall beginning into the lonely hearts, art deco smoke-filled jazz bar in the latter half, “seeing” the voluptuous red-haired chanteuse lounging with an elbow along the piano top, languidly caressing those minor notes. All the while, the powdered dance floor sways to the beat of a heady, flamboyant kaleidoscope of fluttery flapper skirts and crisp tuxedos. Wallis really opens the treasure chest and exults in the era’s stylish, distinctive sound. This gal can sing the jazz and the blues with the best any day.

Track 4 – Gloria Swanson (Fine Manners, 1926) * This number has fun with etiquette, spilling over with fanciful, witty and occasionally naughty lyrics in the finest tradition of early stage musicals. What is your ought and/or your delight? Listen closely, it’s a sign of the times list – opera, art, high fashion, vivaciously quipped in fabulous rhyming lyrics emphasizing all that high society was back in the 1920s, and all bang-on in its particular enunciation and manner. To top it all off, what a fabulous finish line. Wallis has it hands down, with poise, drama and asking the perfectly posed rhetorical question – “Aint I the Deal?”  Yes, she definitely is!

Track 5 – Vilma Banky (The Night of Love, 1927) * With its tender, tearfully romantic violin and piano intro, this song recalls those great old restaurant table-to-table serenades, with snippets here and there of traditional-sounding Slavonic dances spiced with the tapping of a tambourine. Overall, the melody brings to mind many great musical films such as the Noel Coward-scored Bittersweet (1940), and most any movie musical starring Hungarian soprano Ilona Massey. The song celebrates the free-living, passionate souls of wandering gypsy minstrels and dancers.  And Wallis hits that one brief perfect flat in the phrase “for every night will be a wondrous night of  love” to exquisite effect in the lyrical scale-climb almost near the end; the rising vocal at the song’s very end is breathtakingly gorgeous, too.

Track 6 – Betty Bronson (Peter Pan, 1924) * For a short time in training with the Ballet Russe actress Betty represented in this song does everything possible to become a Hollywood star by pining and preparing to clinch the role of Peter Pan. (Bronson would later go on to play another fairy tale character, Cinderella.) Wallis sings her story with “catch-your-breath” excitement, depicting an ingenue who has teeming angst and starry dreams in her eyes, and who then suddenly discovers as the lyrics say, “on the marquee of some kino, you may see my name in lights.”  The orchestra intuitively follows Wallis’ compelling inflections unfolding along with Betty’s ecstatic emotions.

Track 7 – Pearl White (The Perils of Pauline, 1914) * By her voice and fully allied with the orchestra, Wallis parts those theatre curtains with white-knuckle drama and anticipation. The melody and lyrics have the headlong onrush of being at the edge of the waterfall, encouraging the listener to graphically imagine the next peril around the bend. Will Pearl be rescued this time? was likely the question at the time on every theatre-goer’s mind when watching instalments of her “cliffhanger” shorts. Wallis’ natural enthusiasm and acting talent enhances her delivery, which is pleasantly reminiscent of Ethel Merman at her top form.

William Perry:  Wallis Giunta recording the “Silent Film Heroines” Song-Suite for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra, by William Perry. Paul Phillips conducted the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland) at the National Concert Hall, Dublin. June, 2014, for Volume II of the Naxos Film Music Classics project: Music for Great Films of the Silent Era.

Track 8 – Janet Gaynor (Seventh Heaven, 1927) * Romantic lyrics were representative of popular songs in the 1920s, with the focus on searching for the sweetest, perfect love and idyllic happiness.  It’s easy to perceive Wallis inwardly clasping her hands in a plea as the story rolls along sad roads of tragedy and war, through long years and precious stolen moments, and  then onto the metaphoric climbing – that so very desperate climbing of stairs – that culminates with time-stopping “was it yesterday, is it today, or is it the wished-for tomorrow of dreams?” climactic memories of that one perfect love finally found. You will certainly verge into tears listening to the last tumultuous minute of such a love, sung about by Wallis with tender compassion, a love that could only be rediscovered in that misty dimension of the heart known as Seventh Heaven.

Track 9 – What would become known one day as Summer Nocturne for Flute and Orchestra was originally composed as the score for the screening of Three Wise Fools (1923) for a MOMA retrospective of Director King Vidor in 1972. In 1988, Perry finally recorded this grand theme. Now included on this 2014 CD, it sweeps at a natural point into a type of splendid overture/entre act that would have been used yesteryear to precede opening credits, or bridge parts one and two of many epic and lengthy films screened at theatres. Listening now in the car or at home, go to that drive-through, or make yourself a coffee or tea, pop some more popcorn, put a few more macarons on that pretty china saucer while the lovely “intermission” plays. This section of the CD, and really, the entire CD, can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime, perhaps with an extra tea biscuit or an exalted brandy.

william_perry_ben_model

Silent film score composers and piano accompanists: William Perry (left) and Ben Model, who’s holding a copy of Mr. Perry’s earlier CD, Music for Great Films of the Silent Era, released in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Ben Model/Undercrank Productions)

Tracks 10, 11, 12, 13 are Perry’s instrumental compositions for orchestra and ophicleide (a unique and once common horn). The Blue, Military, Pastoral and Latin songs hail back to various styles of background and incidental music that once provided atmosphere and conveyed emotion, augmented location and era settings, and fit the bill to enrich silent film scenes when needed. Suggestive notes augmented the falling tear, the hesitant flutter of eyelashes, and the trembling bottom lip. The music was part actor in these contexts.

Track 14 – The grand finale of the CD, Hearts of the World was inspired by the re-score William Perry had written for D.W. Griffith’s 1918 WWI film of the same name. Despite the historical significance of that film, with many cameo appearances by real-life personalities (titled and common) and other actors (uncredited), it remains controversial to this day. Its original release on the tail end of The Great War was also a pot-stirrer, and literally disrupted ongoing peace talks at Versailles, and it was universally criticized for its uncommon depiction of brutal acts during the war. Before release, many cuts were made to the film by various cities and states in which it would be shown.


According to reviewer Matt Barry in his 2008 write-up:
“The copy of Hearts of the World that I viewed derived from a Killiam Shows print, available on VHS from Republic Pictures Home Video. This copy contains tinting and a nice piano score by William Perry. The restoration was performed by Karl Malkames. This video edition contains the original newsreel prologue, showing Griffith at work in the trenches and meeting with Prime Minister David Lloyd George. While the video itself is out of print, copies can probably still be located online or through independent outlets.”

As related on the Classical MPR site on November 1, 2014:
Perry was working as the music director at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in the early 1970s when he was asked to write a score for one of MoMA’s many archived silent films, Hearts of the World (1918), directed by D.W. Griffith.

“I had the great luxury of knowing and being able to communicate as necessary with Lillian Gish, who was the major star of the film,” Perry recalls, “and so I could get some hints about exactly what was happening in the shooting and how she felt the storyline would unwind … things that I could use in musical terms.”

Telling the epic story of World War I through the lens of the village is what Perry sees as the film’s strength. Says Perry, “There is sweep to the scenes, and that really required that the title music especially would have a sweep to it. Then it gets down and very personal … before we know it, war has actually swept through that village, changed it forever. And this is where the epic and the personal really come together.”


Returning now to my review, in summary, specially for 2014 to commemorate the beginning of WWI and honour those who served, Perry refashioned his original piano score into a full orchestral piece with narration and vocal accompaniment. He also recalled those insights he’d initially received directly in the early 1970s from the film’s star, Lillian Gish, enabling him to newly flesh out his composition with more authenticity and accuracy.

The resulting updated version is a superbly revitalized and appropriately sentimental homage to the original film and the memory of soldiers who had served in that most terrible Great War.

For this piece, John Brancy’s is a pleasant baritone, and he is also a masterful narrator; recounting singular horrors by battle and year, with Wallis’ mezzo a flourish of gentle musical sighs throughout the unfolding story, and all is accented by the punctuated score. When Brancy and Giunta harmonize in duet, as they crescendo to the melody and for the storyline, they call to mind, and daresay surpass, some of the greatest operatic singing teams of history.

Above: NAXOS Mini-documentary, recording session, Music For Great Films of the Silent Era – Part Two (link courtesy of William Perry)

The composition itself is so well formed, the singing so flawless, flowing and heartfelt, the orchestration so brilliantly delved deep into an era filled with enough hope to rise above the circumstances of war, that the 12 minute-plus track seems to carry the listener along swiftly and leaves them wanting to listen to much, much more.

Unquestionably, this is one of Perry’s masterpieces, this theme that “could have been” back in the early 1970s when it received 2 performances only at the limited MOMA screening of Hearts of the World and had never been recorded. On this occasion, Perry was able to take his original score, again recall Lillian Gish’s own insights, all his own memories of his father’s memories of serving in that war, and then pull everything together to achieve and preserve the authentic remembrances of a world that was veritably almost destroyed. Perry achieved the near-impossible in this one recording – preserving in melody and lyrics that rescue from total desolation that came about by humanity’s determination to regain peace through great sacrifice. It stands as a monument to the human spirit in a world today that sadly still knows the same horrors of war that the WWI generation had to endure and rise above.

With such themes of hope composed by William Perry, with Wallis Giunta and the others performing with unabashed sincerity, the Music for the Great Films of the Silent Era Part Two CD has succeeded in reminding that the arts of music and film have always joined hands in peaceful strength. Many a silent film carried a lonely heart in the theatre seat through the Great War. Many a song unconditionally held out hope. Everybody was holding on, waiting for that sunrise when peace would finally come. A day that would be a delightful melody in itself, with later days filled with celebration and remembering  –  all of which can be experienced to the full in Perry’s CD, Music for the Great Films of the Silent Era, Part Two.

CD Available from:
arkivmusic.com
and
amazon.com

Links of Interest for Wallis Giunta:
Video clips
Upcoming performances

This review was excerpted from the article “Wallis Giunta – The Mezzo With the Magic” appearing in the Fall 2016 issue of The Empress

http://www.empressbooks.com/newsletter/Fall2016/cover.html


First Celebrity Jobs Part 1 – The Hollywood Trivia Closet

 

Show 3 Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show-HollywoodTriviaCloset-first celebrity jobs

Written and narrated by Lorraine Dmitrovic

To link to The Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show 3, featuring The Hollywood Trivia Closet segment highlighting Celebrity First Jobs Part 1

Welcome to this month’s edition of The Hollywood Trivia Closet, featuring celebrities and their first jobs. Some had a long road to Hollywood, others seemed to take the fast train. They all eventually arrived in Tinsel Town and found the fame and fortune they had been seeking.

Phil Silvers, well before becoming known as The King of Chutzpah and Sergeant Bilko, was influenced by comedy greats Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx. Silvers started clowning around – I mean entertaining – at age 11, taking his cue to sing in theaters when the film projector broke down, which was pretty common back then. As it worked out, he was allowed to attend some theaters free of charge, so long as he sang at future breakdowns. By age 13, he was a singer in the Gus Edwards Revue, and then worked in vaudeville and as a burlesque comic. His comedy future was sealed. As his Bilko character once said, “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

In the 1930s, Jackie Gleason got a tip from a friend for a one-week job in Reading, Pennsylvania paying $19, a huge sum during The Great Depression. The booking agent advanced him bus fare for the trip against his salary. As it turned out, that first job as a professional comedian was a success, and led him to regular work in a number of small clubs. Gleason soon worked his way up to a job at New York’s “Club 18, “ where insulting patrons was the order of business. On one memorable occasion in his loud stage voice, Gleason greeted world-famous skater Sonja Henjie by handing her an ice cube, saying, “Okay, now do something.” When Jack L. Warner first saw Gleason at the club, the studio mogul quickly signed him to a film contract for $250 a week.

Around 1922, Clark Gable toured with stock companies in stage plays, at the same time working as a logger and an oil field horse manager. Later in Portland he found work as a necktie salesman at the Meier & Frank department store. While there he met stage and film actress Laura Hope Crews, who encouraged him to go back into acting and join a theater company. Many years later, Crews and Gable would together as Aunt Pittypat and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939). So, returning to the stage, Gable soon married his acting coach, Josephine Dillon, who groomed him physically as well as for future acting stardom. Now we all know why he looked so good in those ties and ascots and bowties in the Southern saga. What’s that saying? Once a necktie salesman, always a necktie salesman? Maybe Gable could do a fancy tie knot in his sleep.

As a young lad, Laurence Olivier attended All Saints School in London. His older brother was already a pupil. Laurence felt himself to be an outsider, and didn’t like the church’s Anglo-Catholic ritual and incense. The theatricality of the services, however, did appeal to him, and the vicar encouraged students to appreciate secular as well as religious drama. In a school production of Julius Caesar in 1917, ten-year-old Olivier’s performance as Brutus impressed an audience that included Lady Tree, the young Sybil Thorndike, and the legendary stage actress Ellen Terry, who later who wrote in her diary, “The small boy who played Brutus is already a great actor.”

At age 15, having never thought about going into acting, one of Gloria Swanson’s aunts took her to visit the small Essanay Studios in Chicago. She must have made quite an impression because Gloria was asked to come back to work as an extra. After a few months as an extra working with stars like Charlie Chaplin, and making $13.50 a week, Swanson left school to work full-time at the studio.

After her parents separation, and she and her mother moved to California in 1916 so she could appear in Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies. In 1919, Gloria signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with Cecil B. DeMille. In the still popular Male and Female (1919), she posed as “the Lion’s Bride” with a real lion, and she went on to make many other silent classics. By 1922 she was a star, and people went to the theatres not only to watch her movies but to see what Gloria would be wearing, as she was as famous for her trendsetting fashions as her acting.

Coming full circle in 1950, Gloria was re-united with DeMille, and another of her directors, Erich Von Stroheim in scenes from Billy Wilder’s, Sunset Boulevard.

Mother DeDe tried to end an early romantic relationship of Lucille Ball by turning her attention to her daughter’s desire to be in show business. Despite meager finances, Dede arranged for Lucille to go to the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City, where Bette Davis was a fellow student. Ball later said about that time in her life, “All I learned in drama school was how to be frightened.”

Ball was determined to prove her teachers wrong and returned to New York City in 1928. Among her other jobs, she landed work as a fashion model for Hattie Carnegie.Her career was thriving when she became ill, either with rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, or an unknown illness, and she was unable to work for two years.She moved back to New York City in 1932 to resume her pursuit of a career as an actress and supported herself by again working for Carnegie and as the Chesterfield cigarette girl.

Using the name Diane (sometimes spelled Dianne) Belmont, she started getting some chorus work on Broadway but the work was not lasting. Ball was hired– but then quickly fired– by theatre impresario Earl Carroll from his “Vanities,” and then by Florenz Ziegfeld, from a touring company of “Rio Rita.”

She soon started to have bit parts in films and became an RKO contract player in the 1930s. In the 1940s she signed with MGM, but then found she was more often than not being cast in “B” films.

In 1948 she was starring on a radio show My Favorite Husband, a radio program for CBS Radio. When an offer came to re-create the role and show for TV in a comedy series.

Lucy wanted real-life husband Desi as the husband for the TV show and after a so-so pilot they produced as their company Desilu, Lucy and Desi toured the concept until they found the right comedy rhythm that would work for television. They succeeded, and show known as I Love Lucy was picked up by CBS, and it has flourished internationally and turned “Lucy and Ricky” into comedy icons.

Once she had “made it,” later in her career she gave acting classes. Ball was quoted as saying, “You cannot teach someone comedy; either they have it or they don’t.

And coming from one of the the grand dams of comedy, Lucy, I believe her 100 percent. Many other stars in front of and behind the camera who also made their marks in Hollywood, earned their paychecks another way before that. We’ll have a look at their stories, too. See you then, next month, with another installment of First Celebrity Jobs on the Hollywood Trivia Closet.

Copyright © April 2016: Lorraine Dmitrovic