Sunday, June 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was born this day in 1926. In commemoration, here's a partial look at the impressive roster of actors and directors she worked with in her 15-year career.

With Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)

With Dick Powell in Right Cross (John Sturges, 1950)

With Mickey Rooney in The Fireball (Tay Garnett, 1950)

With Gregory Ratoff, Anne Baxter, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm, and
George Sanders in All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)

With Albert Dekker in As Young as You Feel (Harmon Jones, 1951)

With Jack Paar in Love Nest (Joseph M. Newman, 1951)

With Macdonald Carey, Zachary Scott, and Claudette Colbert
in Let's Make It Legal (Richard Sale, 1951)

With Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck in Clash By Night
(Fritz Lang, 1952)

In We're Not Married! (Edmund Goulding, 1952)

With Anne Bancroft and Richard Widmark in
Don't Bother to Knock (Roy Ward Baker, 1952)

With Charles Laughton in O. Henry's Full House
(Henry Koster segment, 1952)

With Charles Coburn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business
(Howard Hawks, 1952)

With Joseph Cotten in Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953)

With Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)

With Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire
(Jean Negulesco, 1953)

With Robert Mitchum in River of No Return (Otto Preminger, 1954)

With Johnnie Ray, Mitzi Gaynor, Dan Dailey, Ethel Merman, and
Donald O'Connor in There's No Business Like Show Business
(Walter Lang, 1954)

With Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955)

With Don Murray in Bus Stop (Joshua Logan, 1956)

With Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl
(Laurence Olivier, 1957)

With Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

With Yves Montand and Wilfrid Hyde-White in Let's Make Love
(George Cukor, 1960)

With Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift, and Clark Gable in The Misfits
(John Huston, 1961)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bill Paxton vs. Bill Pullman: Can you tell them apart?

These two actors' names — and some of their roles — are so similar that they're easily mistaken for each other. How well do you know these Bills?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poster posture: Women with six-guns

The Bushwhackers (1951)
One style of poster repeatedly used for westerns featuring women shows the women illustrated, not photographed, standing head to toe, looking and pointing two 6-guns straight at us. A typical example is the artwork currently associated with a 1951 film called The Bushwhackers (at right), though it is unclear to me if this is original poster art or something affiliated only with the Synergy Entertainment DVD release of the film. In any case, several authentic examples follow, ordered by how well I think they meet the ideal form of the style, with the strongest examples first, followed by slight variations: photographic art, women with a single gun, and women not entirely shown. I couldn't help but conclude with a French poster for the film noir Gun Crazy (aka Deadly Is the Female), whose leading woman is first introduced wearing a western outfit, twin six-shooters in hand.

Some of these posters make a promise that isn't kept by the film — I don't recall Patricia Medina, for example, doing much shooting in The Buckskin Lady, nor Babrbara Stanwyck having as much gunplay as Ronald Reagan in Cattle Queen of Montana. Conversely, the poster for Johnny Guitar, while featuring Joan Crawford as the dominant element, does not depict her showdown with Mercedes McCambridge in a rare example of a western whose climactic gunfight is between two women.

Finally, note the taglines on some of these posters, which sexualize the women through innuendo despite their apparent mastery of a traditionally male (and Freudianly phallic) weapon. My favorites are from The Buckskin Lady ("She hid her past behind a pair of silver .45's!") and Cattle Queen of Montana ("She strips off her petticoats . . . and straps on her guns!"). The posters further fetishize these women through costume, with prominent gun belts offset by tight or low-cut clothing.

The Buckskin Lady (1957)

Montana Belle (1952)

Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Rose of Cimarron (1952)

Cattle Queen of Montana (1954)

Dakota Lil (1950)

The Paleface (1948)

Belle Starr (1941)

Gunslinger (1956)

Gun Crazy (aka Deadly is the Female, 1950)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Poster posture: The fantasy mound

There's a recurring motif in posters from fantasy movies of the late 1970's and continuing through the 80's: the (almost always) male hero posing on top of a mound, surrounded by images of the characters and landscapes of his adventure, weapon raised, with a woman placed next to him — sometimes seemingly submissive and dependent upon him for protection, at all times sexualized and occupying a lower space in the composition.

Below are examples of this motif from several movie posters. Some of the films were probably lower-budget attempts to cash in on the sword-and-sandal craze ostensibly set off by Conan the Barbarian (1982). Others were almost certainly sex-and-violence exploitation films (I admit there are a few on this list I have not seen). But this poster style was used by more successful mainstream films as well, as early as 1977's Star Wars. The style was used outside of the fantasy genre (though perhaps just barely) in the Clint Eastwood cop adventure The Gauntlet, parodied by two of National Lampoon's Vacation comedies, given a female hero variation for Barbarian Queen (1985) and Warrior Queen (1987), and echoed decades later in the poster for Tron Legacy (2010), the sequel to Tron (1982), which also used the style.

This motif reflects the concerns of a genre often aimed — accurately or not — at a young male audience: weapons (frequently phallic), life's challenges made physical and solvable by battle, and the role of women as the hero's reward.

Star Wars (1977)

The Gauntlet (1977)

The Norseman (1978)

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Tron (1982)

The Beastmaster (1982)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Fire and Ice (1983)

Sword of the Barbarians (Sangraal, the Sword of Fire, 1983)

Warriors of the Wasteland (The New Barbarians, 1983)

The Blade Master (Ator 2 - L'invincibile Orion, 1984)

The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)

Barbarian Queen (1985)

Warrior Queen (1987)

Tron Legacy (2010)