Web Sites »Andre Studios 1930 – 1941

from New York Public Library

Whoever’s in charge the New York Public Library online stuff deserves a big kiss from me.

First I flipped over the menu archives now I’ve found an amazing collection of fashion sketches from the Andre Studios.

While much of the business information about Andres is gone, their drawings remain.

They were extensively employed by big fashion houses who used these detailed sketches as reference material (much like European shopping trips or trend services of today that help everyone knock off each other .)

If you love fashion you could get lost in here for weeks.

Thank you NYPL for making these which were once only available to researchers online for all of us to view and fawn over.

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Posted on March 30, 2012

Movies »Casablanca

directed by Michael Curitz (1942)

As I continue my resolution to finally watch movies I’ve always meant to, I rented the stunning bluray of Casablanca. Yes,I had yet to see it til now to my embarrassment.

Even knowing most of the iconic lines, most of the plot, and the ending, I found this stands up as a masterpiece. I am left, though with very little to say that hasn’t already been said about this classic romance.

I mean, you’ve probably seen it, right? It’s great. Bogart is tough Nazi Killer with a heart of gold and the courage of a lion, Bergman is gorgeous, brave and well dressed, and who isn’t moved by As Time Goes By?

However, I really wish there had been more Peter Lorre. I love that guy and when his character was killed I even asked Jim, like a seven year old watching Bambi “He’s not really dead, right – He comes back?”

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Posted on February 6, 2011

Books »The Lady in the Lake

by Raymond Chandler (1944)

While I know the Raymond Chandler character Philip Marlowe well from movies (and I don’t care what people say – Elliot Gould was genius), The Lady in the Lake is actually my first time reading one of the novels. Set, as expected, in the streets of LA, this one also takes us to the tranquil vacation lakes surrounding the seedy town. Of course, they turn out to be just as deadly when our private eye is sent looking, simply enough, for a rich man’s missing wife.

Nothing is ever so simple though, in a snappy noir, so murder, villains, scandal, witty dialogue, and plot twists ensue. While I guessed the major plot twist far too soon (blame a healthy education in murder mysteries), like most noirs, the plot isn’t always the star of the show, it’s the long, often punch-in-the-jaw getting there that’s fun.

Some say this is one of Chandler’s weaker efforts, which only makes me excited to read more since I quite enjoyed it. Not as enjoyable, unfortunately, is the 1947 film adaptation which features a gimmicky first person perspective (all characters address the audience with exaggerated expressions) which wears off after a couple minutes. Strangely, they made it into a “Christmas” themed movie too – my guess is hoping for box office returns during the holidays. Yes, stick to the far more nuanced and clever book – even cranky Chandler took his name off the film (and he wrote it!).

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Posted on January 12, 2011

Songs »Baby, It’s Cold Outside

by Frank Loesser

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!! So warm up with the season’s best lovey time song.. but make sure to do it with one of the many good renditions (Dinah Shore, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, etc) and not, say, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

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Posted on December 14, 2010

Movies »Shadow of a Doubt

directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1943)

In many ways Shadow of a Doubt is Hitchcock’s most mundane film. Compared to his more signature works, there’s not too much style in this a straight forward, less paranoid and pre-heavy psychology thriller but it’s still one of his best. Even the director himself called it his favorite American film. I love Joseph Cotten, and here he has as much charm as ever which makes the darkness of his character, Charlie even more sinister. A widow killer on the run, he is also a much loved Uncle to an all American small town family, with whom he decides to lay low with. The strong willed and lovely daughter, also named Charlie, admires him the most and feels a special bond with her dapper Uncle, but this also means she can see through his lies and slowly uncover his dirty, violent secret as much as she wished she could deny it.

One of the several writers that worked on the story before Hitchcock and his wife wrote the script was Thornton Wilder, author of Our Town who no doubt was a perfect match for the seemingly comforting small town setting. This idyllic and recognizable place is shaken by the introduction of evil. But as Uncle Charlie himself says “Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you’d find swine?” – not all that America held dear at the time was as pristine as it looked. In fact, the character of Uncle Charlie was based on serial killer named Earle Nelson, a real life monster that was actually far more horrendous than his fictional counterpart.

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Posted on September 12, 2010

Movies »The Red Shoes

directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1948)

The Red Shoes is a considered a classic for its beauty; not only in themes: the sacrifices one must make for both romantic love and love and passion about ones craft. It’s also gorgeous to look at. Technicolor has rarely been used to such dreamlike and stunning effect. The costumes, the choreography, Moira Shearer‘s red hair, a lovely score.. it’s little wonder that The Red Shoes inspired so many of it’s viewers to become dancers, designers (I distinctly see some Rodarte in her dirtied white gown), musicians, and film makers.

The centerpiece of the film is a surreal visual delight ballet, but the film, due to its cast, is more than its magnificent imagery. Shearer is incredible as the prima ballerina torn between the love of a composer and becoming the world’s greatest dancer. As it is a fairy tale the characters have no need to be realistic or complex, yet she and her puppet like impresario played by Anton Walkbrook are lively and fascinating.

Criterion Collection has recently restored the film and its available to watch with netflix instant.

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Posted on May 31, 2010

Movies »La belle et la bête

directed by Jean Cocteau (1946)

Jean Cocteau‘s masterful La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast) is a highly influential and romantically fantastic visual feast. Coppola drew inspiration for his schlocky but fun Dracula and I personally was highly inspired when I made my very first film project in college (which, sadly, I no longer have a copy of).

Taking the classic fairy tale and adding the intrigue of a villainous suitor (a story update which was taken on in the Disney animation), the film is still a fairly faithful adaptation that has remained a beloved gem (Stevie Nicks is a huge fan) for decades. The costumes, which drip with jewels and drape dreamily are exquisite and the sets are surreal and dreamlike.

Fans of film making should put this to the top of their lists if they’ve never seen it. See a gallery below/after the jump.

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Posted on April 18, 2010

Movies »Black Book

directed by Paul Verhoeven (2006)

Black Book is a sexy, entertaining, tiny little explosion of a movie. Telling a supposedly true story about the Dutch resistance during the final months of World War Two, it follows the indomitable cabaret singer Rachel Stein as she flees Nazi traps, bombs, betrayal and spies only to land a key spot within the Gestapo headquarters in Holland, by way of the captain’s bed.

All the lead players are excellent, especially Carice Van Houten who is sparkling, alive and incredibly riveting to watch. Her ruggedly handsome male counterpoints are equally impressive: Sebastian Koch (who you might recognize from The Lives of Others, but looks strangely similar to Verhoeven veteran Jeroen Krabbe) and Thom Hoffman.

As good as a movie as it is though, it was far more straight forward than I expected from Verhoeven, a man who usually adds some unusual flare to his films. While the signature sex and violence were intact, I suppose I was expecting something a bit more off the rails. Still, I was entertained and satisfied once I settled in.
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Posted on April 11, 2010

Books »I Married A Dead Man

by William Irish (1948)

An implausible thriller containing train collisions, stolen identities, pasts reemerging, and doomed romances, I Married a Dead Man is the stuff of classic Hollywood noir. No surprise, considering author Cornell Woolrich (using the pen name William Irish) is the author of the books that Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, Mississippi Mermaid, and Cloak and Dagger (to name just a few) were based on.

Woolrich is also the author of one of my best book of the year picks, Rendezvous in Black and while I Married a Dead Man lacks the darkness, strangeness, and suspense of that gem, it’s still a satisfying noir that’s a quick read for summer time.

The book was made into a 1950’s Barbara Stanwyck film, No Man of Her Own and (with less success) loosely adapted into the 1992 comedy called Mrs. Winterbourne starring Ricki Lake and Brandon Frasier.

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Posted on April 11, 2010

Books »The Deadly Percheron

by John Franklin Bardin (1946)

Surrealism, psychology and noir have been friends before in popular fiction (see the Hitchcock and Dali collab Spellbound, which came out around the same time) but in John Franklin Bardin’s The Deadly Percheron, it gets a little quirkier and less artful than that. Leprechauns, multiple states of amnesia, Coney Island freaks, stolen identities, giant horses and forced electric shock therapy all come into play. Is it all cohesive and believable? Of course not! But it’s a quick pleasure to read and a unique entry in the over crowded genre of pulp novels written in the forties.

Bardin was a native Ohioan turned New Yorker (as so many Ohioans tend to be) who is most known for this novel and two others (The Last of Philip Banter and Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly) though none have exactly made him a household name.

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Posted on January 24, 2010

Books »The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

the heart is a lonley hunterIt's hard to believe that Carson McCullers had so much understanding and empathy for the human condition at age 23 when she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Set in North Carolina in the 1930's the sweeping but quiet novel is told from the perspective of four local residents: a young imaginative girl, an agitated and educated drunk, a calm restaurant manager, and an angry and intelligent African American doctor.?All four are wandering souls who find solace in Mr Singer, a tall mute whom they can imagine to be anything and anybody they want.

The novel has had a lasting impact on readers for decades. It's so layered and needing of thoughtful attention, that I almost regret I never read this like many have, in a class. I don't feel I quite gave it the time it deserved in snippets between subway stops and late at night after working late.

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Posted on August 31, 2009

Songs »All of Me

dinah washington all of me newportSome of the greatest love songs are the most desperate, and All of Me, the wonderful jazz standard is one of the most pleading:

“I'm no good without you
Take my lips
I want to lose them
Take my arms
I'll never use them”

You can see a smashing rendition by Dinah Washington in this weeks movie pick Jazz on a Summer's Day, but this hit has been recorded over 2000 times by a variety of artists.

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Posted on July 20, 2009

Movies »Fallen Angel

fallen angel movieWhen you get lost between the moon and New York City, you fall in love. When you're a rotten flimflam man named Eric Stanton (no relation to the great pin-up artist) lost between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the best that you can do is a dame named Stella – a money grubbing grump with a beautiful face and knock-out body that steals from the little diner she waitresses at and makes no qualms about wanting a man who can provide her with the finer things.

Like almost every other man in town, she has Eric wrapped around her finger in no time flat and he leaves behind the prospect of joining a pair of swindling performing mediums to stay on in town and win her love.

The only way to win Stella over is with money though, and there's only one place he can think to get it. Enter the kind-hearted blond who's none to dumb when it comes to books but falls for him and his scam like a brick.

Directed by Preminger after the very successful Laura, Fallen Angel never got the same praise, and it's admittedly a smaller note in the annals of noir history. With a great performances by Linda Darnell as the bitchy Stella and Alice Faye (who all but ended her career when she walked away from the studio after so much of her role was cut from the film) as the earnest and lovesick foil, June, it's definitely worth checking out if you're in the mood for a classic noir on Netflix Instant.

The movie is based on a book by Marty Holland who, according to the British Film Institute, “Hardly anything is known about Marty Holland except that, he, was a she called Mary, who wrote two or three best selling pulp novels and then in 1949 — to all intents and purposes — vanished, there being no further record of her at all.”

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Posted on June 8, 2009

Songs »Body and Soul

 Body and Soul by Benny Goodman Trio The perfect for dancing after a night of champagne and fireworks.

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Posted on December 26, 2005

Movies »Radio Days

Directed by Woody Allen (1987) The best movie to watch during the new year. This is a funny, nostalgic memoir of the New York of Woody Allen's childhood. A world without adopted daughters and possible comebacks (is Match Point really going to be good?), but Mia's still there – and Dianne Wiest. The music is amazing – my song of the week comes from this soundtrack.

If you haven't seen this movie you should.

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Posted on December 26, 2005