KISS HER IN THE KISSER AND MAKE UP

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can. –Cary Grant

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August 25 is KISS AND MAKE UP DAY. In the Cary Grant spirit of occupying myself as best I can, I thought I’d present an assemblage of good old-fashioned “kiss and make up” goodies (the idea being, if you don’t love my premise, you can kiss my assortment). Let’s start with Cary’s take on make-up, which (as you can see) I’m not making up:

Well, apparently Cary never did make up with that gal, because here he is two years later, singing another love song to another gal:

It seems that Cary would rather play the field than kiss and make up. Let us therefore pick a dilly of a ditty less playboy-like in character:

So much for the guys. I give the last word to the gals (they usually have it anyway):

Kiss and make up — but too much makeup has ruined many a kiss. –Mae West

Kiss & make up. Maybe making out for a few minutes would help us figure things out. –Katie Anderson

In trying to get our own way, we should remember that kisses are sweeter than whine. –Ann Nonymous

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EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS BEST?

Hat-check girl in Mae West’s first film: “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.”
Mae West: “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.”

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Some actors and actresses (and I don’t mean this pejoratively) basically play themselves in their films, while others are so believable and natural in varied roles and genres, they completely inhabit whatever given character they portray. An example of the latter, going back to Hollywood’s Golden Age, is Henry Fonda (if you think he played only serious parts, you haven’t seen the classic 1941 comedy, THE LADY EVE, in which he co-starred with Barbara Stanwyck — another of the most versatile players of that era).

Mae West was of the first category, very much the Diamond Lil character she created. Today being her birthday (8/17/1893), it’s her day to sparkle:

It has been said that “Mae West literally constituted a one-woman genre.” Basically playing herself, she was one of the country’s biggest box office draws in the 1930s, despite being almost 40 years old when offered her first movie contract (by Paramount) in 1932. Previously, she’d appeared in a number of rather risqué plays, including Diamond Lil and her first starring role on Broadway (appropriately titled Sex), which she wrote, produced and directed. As with all the plays she wrote and performed in, there was much controversy and publicity, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling.

Her first film (see opening quote) was NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, making such an impression that co-star George Raft reportedly said, “She stole everything but the cameras.” Her next film, SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), featured Cary Grant in one of his first major roles, and was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. It was such a big moneymaker that it saved Paramount from bankruptcy in the midst of the Great Depression.

West went on to make six more movies in the 1930s, but in 1934, the Production Code began to be strictly enforced, and censors doubled down on her double-entendres. By today’s standards, such censorship seems ludicrous, but those were moralistic times, and after her last ‘naughty’ picture for Paramount in 1937, they thought it best to terminate her contract if they knew what’s good for them. She did manage to make one more hit movie, co-starring with W. C. Fields in My Little Chickadee for Universal Pictures in 1940.

Unbawdied and unbowed, when asked about puritanical attempts to impede her career, West wisecracked, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” Not for nothing was one of her nicknames “The Statue of Libido.” She died in 1980 at the age of 87.

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Coincidentally, August 17 is also the birthday of my mother, who passed away 17 years ago. Happy Birthday, Mom — YOU WERE THE BEST.

HIGHER AND HIGHER

This post isn’t about what you may think it’s about (like maybe mountain climbing, drugs or seduction). No, friends — just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge the title of a post by its lover.

And what am I a lover of? Faithful readers know that from time to time, I indulge my love for 1920s-1940s popular music/jazz with a post honoring a songwriting giant of that era (forgotten though he or she may be today). Dec. 10 is the birthday of one such songwriter, and this is such a post (sorry about the letdown).

Lyricist Harold Adamson was born on this date in 1906. He studied law at Harvard, but songwriting had a greater appeal and, as luck (and talent) would have it, his first published song became an all-time standard: Time On My Hands, written for the 1930 stage show SMILES, starring Fred and Adele Astaire….and who better to do it justice than Billie Holiday, backed by Teddy Wilson, Lester Young & other jazz greats:

Working with such composers as Jimmy McHugh, Vincent Youmans, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke and Victor Young, Adamson went on to write lyrics to such hits as Manhattan Serenade, Everything I Have Is Yours, It’s A Wonderful World, It’s A Most Unusual Day and many more. Here, from the 1936 film SUZY starring Jean Harlow and a very young Cary Grant, is one of Adamson’s lesser known songs (and the only time Cary Grant ever sang in a movie):

In 1943 (at the height of WW II), Adamson teamed with McHugh to write the songs for Frank Sinatra’s first starring movie, HIGHER AND HIGHER. Quoting McHugh:

Adamson and I trekked into our office at RKO and found the script glaring coldly at us from the top of the piano. It informed us that there’d be a minor lover’s quarrel in the story, also the need of a big production number. Nothing happened with us that first day, but at 3 a.m. the next morning, Adamson phoned me and said he’d been listening to a musical shortwave program that suddenly had been cut off for a news announcement.
“There’s our title for the production number, Jim,” he said, “The Music Stopped.”
Then I began concentrating on the lovers’ spat and came down with insomnia. As the thousandth  sheep jumped over the fence, both tune and title landed: “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night.”

But to my mind, the best of the McHugh-Adamson songs from that film is this one:

Note that the above recording is a V-Disc, which is a story in itself. James Petrillo, head of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), had called a national ban on recording by its members in 1942, meaning no new recordings could be made by commercial record companies using AFM musicians. To get around this ban, songs were recorded a capella, without instrumental accompaniment. However, there was an exception for records, called V-Discs, made for American troops overseas….thus the orchestral accompaniment for this song from the film’s CBS rehearsal session was recorded as a V-Disc. This, and many other V-Discs, survive to this day because, although such discs were supposed to be off-limits in the U.S., this edict was largely ignored by returning GIs.

I close at the bottom of  this HIGHER AND HIGHER post with the title song from TOP OF THE TOWN, a film with screenplay co-written by humorist Robert Benchley:

 

 

 

 

 

LAZY DAY

I once wrote a post about that master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, who died 35 years ago April 29….but it seems to have disappeared, rather like Dame May Whitty in THE LADY VANISHES (1938) or the dead body in IN THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955). As much as I would like to replicate that brilliantly comprehensive post for you, even I would find it almost impossible to recapture the genius of the original. In other words, it would be too much like work and not enough like my slightly-overstated missing first post.

Not to worry. My laziness is your gain, as I instead present some of my favorite Hitchcock quotes, which I haven’t a SHADOW OF A DOUBT will leave you SPELLBOUND, if not in a FRENZY:

Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.

Puns are the highest form of literature.

When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say “It’s in the script.” If he says, “But what’s my motivation?”, I say, “Your salary.”

All love scenes started on the set are continued in the dressing room.

I’ve never been very keen on women who hang their sex round their neck like baubles. I think it should be discovered. It’s more interesting to discover the sex in a woman than to have it thrown at you, like a Marilyn Monroe or those types. To me they are rather vulgar and obvious.

Cartoonists have the best casting system. If they don’t like an actor, they just tear him up.

Our original title [of NORTH BY NORTHWEST] , you know, was THE MAN IN LINCOLN’S NOSE. Couldn’t use it, though. They also wouldn’t let us shoot people on Mount Rushmore. Can’t deface a National Monument. And it’s a pity, too, because I had a wonderful shot in mind of Cary Grant hiding in Lincoln’s nose and having a sneezing fit.

I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.

Hmmm. Alfred, if you only knew how black men today can relate to that last quote.

 

 

 

CASH & CODY

February 26 is the birthday of JOHNNY CASH (1932), not to mention WILLIAM F. “BUFFALO BILL” CODY (1846). I say “not to mention” Cody because I wish it were instead the birthday of CARY GRANT, so I could have titled this post CASH & CARY. No such luck, but give me credit….for trying.

Now, I’m not a big fan of country music (Cash excepted), and not even a small fan of a man killing 4,282 buffalo in 18 months, as Buffalo Bill purportedly did under contract to provide Kansas Pacific Railroad construction crews with buffalo meat. That’s a helluva way to run a railroad chow line, but in the unsettled west at that time (1867-68), what was the meat alternative — prairie dogs and rattlesnakes? I suppose the RR could’ve hired vegetarian railroad workers, but the nearest vegetable stands and supermarkets were probably hundreds of miles away, so let’s not go there.

Anyway, having come this far, we may as well finish paying our Buffalo Bill respects before turning to Johnny Cash. Buffalo Bill was one of the most colorful characters of the Old West. He was a U.S. Army soldier during the Civil War and an Army scout 1868-72, but is most famous for his “Wild West” show in which many historical western figures appeared, including Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. The show toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, where it was enormously successful and made him an international legend. At the turn of the 20th century, he was regarded as the most widely recognizable celebrity in the world by some historians. Today, we see that he was ahead of his time in his support for conservation and the rights of women and Native Americans, regarding whom I found this Cody quote: Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.

As for Johnny Cash, I think he is of recent enough vintage that I need not detail his life here, and in any case, his music is his enduring legacy….music such as:

I suppose I should quit while I’m ahead, but Feb. 26 is also the birthday of probably the youngest HUSBAND in history, as recorded on his birth certificate: HUSBAND EDWARD KIMMEL….a name which some say lives in infamy. Husband E. Kimmel was a four-star Admiral and Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor….following which he was demoted to a two-star Admiral. There is debate to this day as to whether he was made a scapegoat for the failure of the U.S. to be prepared for the disastrous sneak attack, but there is no debating that he was already a Husband when he married (Dorothy). She HAD to know, don’t you think?

JUDY, JUDY, JUDY….

As my October 18 HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME fades into post-parting recession, I decided to check today’s birthday notables and found among them one Judith Sheindlin, better known to daytime court potatos as Judge Judy (who could just as easily be charged as Celebrity Judy). By either alias, this is a judge who some might dismiss as a bit(ch) too much of a good thing….but who am I to judge? Hahaha. In any case, I like the title of her book, Don’t Pee on my Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.

Whenever I hear the name Judy, I think of Cary Grant, who famously said Judy, Judy, Judy….or did he? Here is his testimony:

Grant’s mention of Garland leaves us short one Judy, so to round out the triumvirate of my Judy, Judy, Judy dissertation, I can think of no Judy less deserving of being overlooked than the wonderful comedic actress Judy Holliday of BORN YESTERDAY and BELLS ARE RINGING fame. She died much too young, but once encountered, there’s no forgetting what she left behind, as exhibited by this evidence from BELLS ARE RINGING: