Favorite Fashion in 1930 Film


I’ve gathered together some of my favorite costumes from the films of 1930. These were originally in my upcoming What I’ll Remember post, but I realized they deserve to be properly appreciated on their own.

Top Ten By Year: 1930 posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1930 – Poll Results 
Movie Poster Highlights: 1930 
100 Images from the Films of 1930 

FAVORITE FASHION OF 1930:

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Marlene’s iconic tux in Morocco (designer: Travis Banton)

the-divorcee-pajama-suitEverything Norma Shearer wears in The Divorcee (designer: Adrian)

Costume-wild-Evelyn-Brent_-Slightly-Scarlet_gray-shades_001Evelyn Brent in Slightly Scarlett (haven’t seen film) (designer: Travis Banton)

Costume-wild-Madam-Satan-1Kay Johnson’s Madam Satan look (designer: Adrian)

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Golf girl chic in Follow Thru (designer: Travis Banton)

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The spectacle of the world’s largest bridal veil in
King of Jazz (designer: Herman Rosse)

Just Imagine 11This insane number from Queen LooLoo of Mars in Just Imagine (designers: Alice O’Neill, Dolly Tree)

madam satan 66Costume party realness in Madam Satan (designer: Adrian)

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lillianMy favorite costume from Madam Satan; Lillian Roth’s sheer bedazzled lingerie coat (designer: Adrian)

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Greta Garbo’s fur, velvet cape, and hat in Romance (designer: Adrian)

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Jean Arthur’s nightwear (they seem to be pants on the bottom) in Street of Chance (designer: Travis Banton)

madam satan 3Kay Johnson’s draped velvet dress that conveys chic complacency and prudishness at the beginning of Madam Satan (designer: Adrian)

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So many exquisite coats in 1930 film!
top row: Anybody’s Woman (not sure about designer), Paid (designer: Adrian?), Hell’s Angels (designer: Howard Greer), Street of Chance (designer: Travis Banton)
bottom row: Fast and Loose (designer: Travis Banton), Monte Carlo (designer: Travis Banton), Prix de beaute (designer: Jean Patou)

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A special shout-out to Robert Montgomery’s coat in Our Blushing Brides, because it’s the only piece of menswear I have here (Adrian is credited with the gowns so I’m not sure about who designed this coat) 

blushingThe fabulous and endless amount of fashion in Our Blushing Brides, complete with mid-film fashion show! (designer: Adrian)

 

 

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Capsule Reviews: 1930 Watchlist (Films #1-4)


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Let Us Be Gay (US, Leonard)
“I know how men feel about these things now”

It’s par for the course that if you’re watching Pre-Code Norma Shearer, at some point she’ll say something explicit about her newly transgressive way of life. I love Norma. I really do. But not for her depth of presence. Her Pre-Code persona brings a very specific brand to the table, and it’s made up of two parts. The first is permanent coy. She talks as if putting on a show; the woman’s got a secret and she’s the only one in the room who knows it. The second is prideful speechifying, daring proclamations that temporarily air out the collective frustrations of many women, calling out double standards and announcing sexual freedom (eventually of course, the film will hit the reset button in its last 30 seconds).

Shearer’s transformation from devoted wife to the ultimate sampler of sex is never more extreme than it is here, and that’s all due to how her character (Kitty) is introduced. For the first act of Let Us Be Gay, Norma Shearer goes full-dowdy. I’m not talking about movie dowdy. I’m talking about actually dowdy. It’s as plain and homely and normal as I’ve ever seen a golden age star allow themselves to look onscreen. The sheer jolt of this easily makes for the film’s high point, because let’s face it; despite the promise of an ensemble cast crossing paths during a weekend in Long Island,  Let Us Be Gay never picks up anything resembling momentum, a critical trait for a film at that one point suggests it is nearing French farce.

Some Notes:
– This was shot in 26 days because Norma Shearer was pregnant. It’s an adaptation of a play. The Shearer role was originated by Tallulah Bankhead.

– Between my previous experiences with 1930 films and the ones I’ve watched for this project so far, I know that many of the films will have moved passed the potential and often found awkwardness of early talkies. But this one does not. But there were admittedly times during this where the strange pacing, pausing, lingering were hypnotic to me. There is a shot of Norma Shearer on a couch. She moves, and the camera lingers for several second on said  couch as the scene continues. I really loved this unintentional moment.

Something else I fully expect to run into with 1930 are dull-as-fuck leading men. For every one of them I’m sure there will be a leading man I love and cherish (Robert Montgomery owns part of my heart, didn’t you know that?) But Holy Mother of God: Rod La Rocque. Worst actor ever? I mean ever? As in, of all-time? See, he’s not just bad in the sense that he’s stilted and lacks charisma. He goes the extra mile by being that special brand of bad: the silent actor who has no idea how to adjust his acting in the advent of talkies. He makes Chester Morris look like Gary Cooper.

– Shout-out to Marie Dressler for being Marie Dressler and playing to the back row and to Sally Eilers for playing a great sloppy drunk.

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Ladies of Leisure (US, Capra)
There’s a lot about Ladies of Leisure I shouldn’t like. Let’s face it, who wants to see Barbara Stanwyck as a brassy ‘party girl’ who gradually disintegrates into desperate martyr-driven love with a rich and oblivious painter who treats her like nothing? This is not why we watch Barbara Stanwyck!

But this star-making role, the first of several collaborations with Frank Capra, is some of her best work and in one of her best films. I’m not used to seeing her this vulnerable, yet this is how the country at large became acquainted with her. Barbara Stanwyck is down-to-earth glamour. Relatable glamour. Even at this very early stage it’s impossible to miss that she is in stark contrast with other actors from her time. This is a woman performing in the ‘now’. Her body language isn’t practiced. She breaks through the conventional with seeming spontaneity. She’s the perfect person for Frank Capra to direct, because in Ladies of Leisure he not only gives her plenty of backlit close-ups defying audiences not to fall in love with her, but devotes an uncommon (for 1930) length of time lingering on confidential and intimate moments that map out Kay’s internal longing.

Frank Capra doesn’t trip into that oft-fallen pit known as the Early Talkie Trap. That assumed pull of talk-talk-talk, aimlessly throwing more dialogue at the screen. Why? Because they can! Despite being based on a play, Frank Capra already shows an adept hand at visual storytelling in addition to fluid pacing, foundational building blocks everybody had to learn and relearn  to some degree when sound came along. Bypassing sluggishness, even as the film nosedives into the saccharine, there is a clarity and distinct visual perspective supporting Kay’s story.

Take the erotically charged rainy night sleepover that comes mid-film. It’s erotically charged in the silences, in what isn’t happening, in what Kay wants to happen, in what could happen. The pace of this sequence is different than the rest. The situation slowly develops, as Kay gradually allows herself to believe in the possible. It builds to a simple act of kindness that produces the film’s most telling and heartfelt moment. A lone doorknob turns. Footsteps reveal that Jerry the painter (Ralph Graves) has left his room in the middle of the night. He slowly approaches Kay’s bed. In another film the scene would be eerie, bad intentions assumed. Kay is sleeping. Jerry lays a blanket over her and heads back to bed. Close-up on Kay. She wasn’t asleep at all. The camera lingers on her face and closes in further, tears glistening. She pulls the blanket to her mouth. Everything we need to know about Kay occurs in this moment. This simple act of kindness means the world to her, and it has left her shaking and crying with joy.

Critically, Capra foregrounds Kay’s (Stanwyck) love as a character-driven arc rooted in class, lifelong struggle, and hope. You don’t have to buy into Kay and Jerry (and you won’t) to buy into the film. Forget the lame egg basket in whom Kay places said hopes and dreams. Just focus on witnessing a downtrodden woman who, for the first time in her life, experiences what happiness is, what it can mean, and its potential in her own life. The fortuitous union of Barbara Stanwyck’s startling modernism (I still can’t imagine how jarring her vivid physicality must have played for 1930 audiences) and Frank Capra’s intuitive prioritization of the inner life.

Some Notes:
– We’re back to the Dull As Fuck Leading Man syndrome. I’ve seen quite a few reviews of the film that cite Ralph Graves as a deal-breaker. But I’ve made a vow to myself to put the quality of the leading man aside as best I can while watching these films. Would I like the leading man to have chemistry with his leading lady in a film that qualifies as a romance? Well, of course. Will there be films I watch where the leading man really is a deal-breaker? Probably. But this whole leading man snag is an unavoidable evil from this period. I’d like to be surprised; I’d like the chemistry between leads to elevate whatever 1930 film I’m watching, but I also won’t let the common failures on this front decide whether or not a film works for me. Part of what I love in writing about older films (I’m talking as recent as, say, ten years old) is that time allows the mode of assessment to be so different. New films are often reviewed as A + B + C = great film but it’s missing D so merely good. Time allows us to connect or not connect in ways that feel more organic, less scientific. If the lead in a rom-com from 2015 was bland it’d likely feel impossible to ignore. But in Ladies of Leisure, who cares, this movie is great with or without Ralph Graves. More critically, as I’ve stated earlier, Kay’s love for him is grounded in individual longing. Our investment doesn’t hinge on Jerry as a character.

– Capra already taking on the disparity between the classes. But it’s surprisingly complicated. Ralph’s mother is supportive of her son and empathetic. Her actions are driven by love and a knowing selfishness for the sacrifice she asks of Kay that she cannot ask of herself. Even Jerry’s father isn’t a terrible guy. Just very set in his ways.

– Some other incredible moments of Stanwyck’s spontaneity: “Goody goody goody let’s fight”; Kay throwing food in the air and trying to catch it as an impromptu effort to distract from her tears.

– Such a bizarre party at the beginning! Capra immediately visually distinguishes that class disparity with a shot of a street getting plummeted with smashed bottles as innocent bystanders dodge the wreckage as best they can. We are brought, with an impressive crane shot using models, to the top of a building where upper class debauchery is taking place. Two women carelessly drop the liquor from above. Elsewhere, a man paints a lady’s back. Elsewhere still, ladies pray water at a painting. A woman weaves through the crowd saying “Call for Jerry Strong! Call for Jerry Strong!”

– Marie Prevost = new hero? She was relegated to best friend parts by this time in her troubled life and career. She gets the best lines of the movie and her delivery is hysterical:

“Listen Eleanor Glynn. You can’t–weigh–sex appeal.”

Prevost: “Oh, and a cup of coffee”
Waiter: “Large or small?”
Prevost: “Do I look like a small cup of coffee?”

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Murder! (UK, Hitchcock)
While the result may be weirdly effective and ineffective in equal measure, this is Alfred Hitchcock experimenting perhaps more essentially than ever before or since. Hitchcock, that savior of UK cinema, takes sound and uses it to make every scene its own playful gambit. Murder! is so well known for its use of sound that it’s easy to overlook the essential application of image. Every step of the way Hitchcock shows a critical understanding of how sound can be applied in new ways when married to the image. Seems obvious, but at the time it wasn’t. He brings image and sound together by constantly separating them.

For the first time in film (at least it’s credited as such), we hear a character’s thoughts in voice-over, bridging the internal (sound) and external (image). Stage manager Ted (Edward Chapman) and his wife (Phyllis Constam) frantically ready themselves to see Sir John (Herbert Marshall in his first speaking role), their preparations shown in a succession of rapid close-ups coupled with far-off dialogue; sound and image used to compress time. Sir John wakes up for a comic scene of loud chaos with Una O’Connor (in her 2nd screen appearance!) involving a wailing baby, a clingy child, overflowing coffee, and a cute kitten. There’s more too; Hitchcock plays with the rhythm of dialogue in a sequence that plays like a one-act 12 Angry Men. The jury members start as separate entities only to evolve into some sort of theatrical sing-song chorus, like something out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Hitchcock also finds ways to keep things moving in his typically droll fashion. An early scene in which two women talk about the murders is turned into a three-minute uncut visual running joke that completely eclipses whatever is being said. Throughout the scene, the older woman moves between two rooms to make tea. Every time the younger woman sits down, the older woman needs to move the other room. The camera dutifully follows back and forth from Room A to Room B. The punchline? Turns out that the policeman doesn’t even want tea.

The fun of Murder! is discovering the tricks that stick versus the ones that turn out just plain awkward. That this consummately strange film is made up of pieces means it never comes together as a unified whole. Scenes don’t unfold in any kind of conventional way, and never has Hitchcock’s indifference towards plot been more apparent. And since this is a whodunit, a genre he spent his career purposely avoiding, plot is the name of the game. The experimentation often has a slightly surreal and dislodged effect, both intentional and unintentional. All the parts line up but they don’t lock in. And for all its inventions, not even Hitchcock can outwit Herbert Marshall’s Sir John. The longer he takes over the film, the more stilted the film becomes. He drones on and on and on in long shot, so oblivious to his incessant talking that it takes another character interrupting him for things to move forward.

Sir John’s actor status and the role of the theater in Murder! show the makings of another major Hitchcock trademark; his use of the theater as self-reflexive function and metaphor for artificiality. “This isn’t a play. It’s real life!”, Sir John exclaims. An early scene shows cops interviewing actors backstage in the middle of a production and they hurriedly rush on-and-off stage, answering questions in the midst of costume changes. Never mind that the bit doesn’t quite come off. An old woman is fooled (quite easily it turns out, because if we’re supposed to be Sir John’s ruse as impressive then that’s just sad) by a man feigning an old woman’s voice. Hell, Hamlet’s play-within-a-play is used as a strategic tactic to suss the killer out! There’s even a climactic suicide through performance. And the end, a final shot pulls back to reveal that Sir John and Dinah are onstage acting in a play together.

Notes:
– Herbert Marshall is a straight-laced British Jack Lemmon in this movie.
– Esme Percy’s ‘half-caste’ homosexual drag performer killer is disquieting to say the least. Both for how he plays it and how the film sees him. But for all its lesser-than view of him, it’s really surprising to see a film this early depict a ‘perverted’ killer this explicitly.

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Anybody’s Woman (US, Arzner)
I was really hoping for more being that this is from the great Dorothy Arzner. Alas, this was a disappointment, although there are a few significant takeaways to appreciate. The protagonist is a down-on-her-luck woman with the awesome name of Pansy Gray (Ruth Chatterton). She spends the film defying expectations, being unapologetically herself, and trying to do right with the odds against her in an odd situation. She’s got a keep pushin’ through the mud outlook on life. In short, she’s a survivor. And played by Ruth Chatterton with a drawled out conviction, she’s great. Sadly, the film isn’t. It starts strong, with adjacent apartments, eavesdropping, insane drunken logic, electric fans, and Ruth Chatterton casually sprawled out on a couch while singing and playing a ukulele. But it has no inkling where to go from there. I’m not even quite sure how it manages to fill out its runtime.

Films Seen in 2013: #138-146


Sorry that I’ve been away folks. I haven’t been watching as much recently due to focusing a little more on reading and also with a heavy focus on learning German at a snail’s pace. Also, in efforts to save money I’ve been cutting back on theater excursions and canceled subscriptions to Hulu Plus and DVDs from Netflix. But I signed up w/ Warner Archive again so I’ll be watching a handful of their offerings soon.

Strangers May Kiss

#138. Strangers May Kiss (1931, Fitzmaurice)

This is basically a carbon copy of The Divorcee, but not quite as quintessential or iconic. But still entertaining because Norma Shearer literally sleeps with all of Europe!!! And she gets a couple of big speeches about gender hypocrisy and what not. Of course she ends up with the total tool at the end and it is absolutely frustrating as a modern viewer to see her double back on her philosophies. However, we have to keep in mind that the depiction of any of this, that a woman would want to sleep around, does sleep around, a woman who is not playing a prostitute, who we sympathize with, who isn’t ‘fallen’, etc. All of this is highly scandalous. Highly highly scandalous. And even though the ever-fabulous Robert Montgomery plays a drinking goof, that playboy element is missing making him less fun than he is in The Divorcee. Still an important Pre-Code nonetheless.

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#139. The Heat (2013, Feig)

If I were a member of the Academy, chances are I’d submit Melissa McCarthy in The Heat for Best Actress. If there’s been better comedic work by a female in the last few years I haven’t seen it. She dusts off one-liners like they are nothing at all (they come flying at us at breakneck speed) and creates a full and layered character within a comedic framework. Her and Bullock create the best onscreen duo since Hill/Tatum in 21 Jump Street. Not coincidentally, both are buddy cop films. And unlike 21 Jump Street, which falters in its last third, The Heat manages to stay consistent with its weaknesses trinkled throughout (including a mean-spirited streak) without hindering it too much at any given time. I had such a blast watching this and Feig’s direction really comes through in getting the most laughs out of chaotic situations. Two examples being the scene at the club and the drinking montage. I’ve realized over the years that I like Sandra Bullock a lot, but she is one of those actresses who I never get to appreciate because of the projects she attaches herself to. The Heat really gave me a chance to appreciate her comedic timing. Also, I wasn’t aware until the opening credits that it was also written by a woman so; extra points.

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#140. Lore (2013, Shortland)

Short review post:

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#141. The Conjuring (2013, Wan)

It may be a one-function film without much longevity impact to it, but damn if James Wan isn’t honing his skills for some seriously effective mileage. Something I really admired about The Conjuring is just how aligned we are to the Perron family. Though the first shot of them is seen from the perspective of the house, which creates an immediate long-lasting sense of unease, we are mainly experiencing events with them instead of the more common sadistic slant. We feel upset and unnerved by the family’s experiences; genuinely spooked along with them. There is a naturalism to them which makes their experiences feel somehow more realistic. It’s nice to feel that level of empathy for the characters involved instead of them just being figurative punching bags. It also helps that the cast is full of class-act actors who sell the material with straight-faces, elevating everything to an even more respectable level. Wan knows how to spend an entire film building up to something chaotic. His sense of control both within individual scenes and how it fits into his overall trajectory of manipulation for the audience is mighty impressive. He also knows when to use flashy techniques or references and have them be effective, not distracting. The Conjuring had me at giant yellow-retro scrolling title card and long tracking shot set to “Time of the Season”. A solid and effective film like this stands out in a sea of disappointments for me so far this year.

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#142. Blue Jasmine (2013, Allen)

My favorite Woody Allen film since Husbands and Wives released just over 20 years ago. I’ll say outright that the film is somewhat riddled with potential drawbacks; the men mostly represent things, Allen’s continually simplistic look at class which can veer into caricature, and some clunky expository dialogue. But this is a genuine gut-punch from Allen, possibly his bleakest film but also his most refreshing turn in some time. It has a flashback-heavy structure that bleeds past and present as we sit in Jasmine’s mindset. Watching it recalls the back-and-forth information letting of a stage production. The sense that this could be a play, along with Jasmine’s heavy Blanche DuBois vibe, is part of what makes Blue Jasmine so memorable.

I don’t really know what to say about Cate Blanchett. She’s one of my top five living actresses and this is her best performance, indeed one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. She alternates between barely contained put-upon niceties, acidic selfishness, spaced-out madness, twitchy high-strung drunkeness and everything between. This is not a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This is a woman who has already had a nervous breakdown and is not in a state of mind to be out in society.

Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale and especially Sally Hawkins are other stand-outs. I really hope what with all the deserved recognition Blanchett is sure to get, that Hawkins is not lost in the mix.

When it is over you don’t really know what to do with yourself. Allen seems to almost hate his protagonist, and indeed she’s a pitiable monster who has made her own bed. But Allen and Blanchett do such a mesmerizing job of getting into her state of mind that Blue Jasmine is a rewarding experience and a tough one to shake off.

The Wolverine
#144. The Wolverine (2013, Mangold)

This seems to be the summer that really has people divided and riled up over the state of the blockbuster. I admit I ended up seeing very few of them. The main one I did see disappointed me greatly. Despite being from a director I love, and having some really refreshing philosophical ideas and themes at its root, Pacific Rim greatly disappointed me in its execution. Based on others reactions, I honestly felt like I watched a different film. I love and agree with what people have to say about it in theory; but for me it largely fell flat. I’m not saying The Wolverine gets it right; but among other blockbusters and superhero films of late, it’s comparatively scaled-down and I respect that. It is surprisingly rooted in Logan as a character. It’s not a gripping character study by any means, but the effort is there. We need more of that. Especially since it takes a great deal for me to care about any kind of superhero film at this point, or really at any point. This is coming from someone who was never really on this train to begin with. Unless we are talking about Batman Returns or Batman: The Animated Series.

I really enjoyed Rila Fukushima as Yukio, whose dynamic with Logan is purely based entirely on equal footing and eventual friendship. Even Mariko, the love interest, is given far more agency than normal. This is one of the things that worked for me in Pacific Rim by the way; relative equality in gender dynamics.

The third act is where the film completely falls apart. Until then, it is solid summer popcorn. My huge problem with Wolverine as a character has always been his immorality and lack of invulnerability make him inherently uninteresting to me as far as stakes are concerned. Hugh Jackman has long-standing synergy in this part but when his big dilemma really comes down to him being slightly tired after a fight and temporarily mortal like the rest of us (still with claws and strength), I can only care so much.

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#144. Ruggles of Red Gap (1935, McCarey)

A beautifully wry, moving and patriotic cross-cultural comedy that wears its gentle earnestness on its sleeve even as it pokes fun at the very thing it promotes. What surprised me about Ruggles of Red Gap is the way in which the changes within Ruggles sneaks up on both him and us. It’s so subtle and so genuinely affecting almost 80 years later. The realization of opportunity and its potential. It all shines through a remarkable performance by Charles Laughton in his first onscreen comedic role. An actor known for playing in extremes, this is a deceptively subtle performance; indeed, extreme in its subtlety. It’s a consistently surprising bit of acting too; the mileage you can get out of interpreting and dissecting what he does here is considerable. And this is a genuinely funny film to boot. It’s got everything, including a divine stop’s-everyone-in-their-tracks reading of the Gettysburg Address and an uplifting ending that demands the use of a hankie. A new favorite and though it’s relatively well-known amongst film buffs, this really should be a part of the public consciousness of iconic 1930’s films.

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145. Thirteen Women (1932, Archainbaud)

A preposterous and thus impossible-to-resist early slasher-like Pre-Code. I’ve always been fascinated by the systematic yellowface casting of Myrna Loy in Eastern dragon-lady parts throughout the early 30’s. Here, her character blurts out her sufferings in the final minutes, stuck between desperate attempts at assimilation and not being seen as human to those around her, which the film itself further perpetuates at every turn. She is mystical, a villainous Other, with a left-of-field revenge plot that might be the most absurd revenge scheme ever in a film. This is all intriguing stuff and Loy is easily the most interesting part of Thirteen Women with her piercing eyes, unmovable stance and fabulous costumes. The rest of the women are just sort of there, barely developed and then offed; the film clocks in at just under an hour. Along the way there are bombs planted in rubber balls, suicides, murders, happily single and proudly independent mothers, hints at past promiscuity and heaps of gullible women who succumb to the power of suggestion. It’s a bizarre oddity, which makes it a lot of fun to watch.

Anytime I encounter yellowface I always try to promote the PBS documentary Hollywood Chinese, which looks at the history of yellowface within Hollywood films.

Reintroduction Post #5: The Divorcee (1930, Leonard)


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Reintroduction Post #5:
The Divorcee (1930, Leonard)
First Seen in: 2008

“I’ve balanced our accounts”. The Pre-Code that started it all, sanctioning women to explore their sexuality freely and defiantly. The Divorcee breaks open the double standards of infidelity, testing limits, turning tables and presenting a progressively symbolic ‘what if’ whose controversy would remain intact for the next several decades of American film. That Norma Shearer leads the audience into this journey of sexual self-discovery is undoubtedly why MGM got away with it. Her wholesome and relatable exterior and demeanor grabs sympathy from the masses of the time.

The Divorcee admittedly suffers from some of the stiltedness of early talkies, most notably the tendency to overload scenes with stagily shot repetitive and excessive dialogue. Jerry’s (Shearer) conflicting impulses in the first half of the film are related to us with conversations that go back and forth. And those early scenes between Jerry and Ted (Chester Morris) being all lovey-dovey are laid on more than a bit thick. “It doesn’t mean a thing” becomes a mantra, something to test sure, but it’s said about twenty times, no joke. My favorite moments from Shearer’s performance though, are the way she underplays those conflicting emotions. She has no grand plan. She’s lost at sea.

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Still, it doesn’t much lessen the experience, and The Divorcee remains such a satisfying treatise on issues that remain relevant today even if the shock of their existence has long since worn off, thank goodness. And her fault lies not in the infidelity but that she gave up trying to patch things up with Ted.

I love the plot threads introduced at the beginning and the way they are worked in and picked up again throughout. Chester Morris makes me laugh, even though he’s not really meant to, and is quite entertaining. His slicked back hair, blocky head and bombastic moments are alternately endearing and bullish. But The Divorcee reminded me just how much I adore Robert Montgomery, though I recently watched him in When Ladies Meet. This was his breakout role, as Ted’s best friend Don. He is so memorable, a dapper drunk whose wide-eyed line delivery and subtly quirky facial tics and mannerisms make him the one to watch whenever he’s onscreen, whether speaking or silent. Don is carefree, always looking out for himself, somewhat oblivious, slightly stumbling, with an air of feigned confusion and a put-on of gluttonous sincerity. All in maybe twenty minutes of screentime.

My favorite shot of the film
My favorite shot of the film

My favorite sequence is the wordless three-scenes that very quickly and efficiently show that Jerry has slept with Don. Covered in black and shot openly from the front (a departure for the normally shot-in-left-profile Shearer) in the otherwise bustling nightclub, as Don’s hand creeps into the frame, you know exactly what she’s contemplating. And the way Don looks at her in the club and in the taxi oozes sex. Finally, the curtain closes.

A word about which of Adrian’s costumes stuck out for me. First, the black head-wrap she wears out to the nightclub and second Jerry’s awesome one-piece pajama-suit on the night of her three-year anniversary.

The Divorcee pajama suit

The Divorcee came at a time when acknowledging the idea that women could or would desire or have a sex life was almost completely unheard of, staunchly denied or labeled heathenish. Not only is the film centered on this idea, but links it to marriage, divorce and patriarchal hypocrisy. It was and remains important, ushering in a wave of sensational films filled with sin, repent, and more sin, almost entirely committed by women.

List: Top 30 Favorite Classic Actresses


To recap from the Classic Actors post, I’ve been doing lists like this nearly my whole life or at least as far back as I can remember. I redo my ‘Classic’ and ‘Modern’ Actors and Actresses lists every couple of years and I felt like posting my latest versions of them. They vary a lot throughout the years; I found the Actors in this case to be more difficult. While there were certainly actresses who regrettably did not make the list because there wasn’t room (Myrna Loy, Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman and Olivia De Havilland to name a few) or because there were actresses who gave one single performance I cannot get enough of but could not justify picking them over others (Anna Massey, Kathleen Byron, Sue Lyon). Like I said in the ‘Classic Actors’ post, I will not be posting reasons; simply a picture and a list of films I have seen with them. This list is a lot less varied than the previous one; it is almost entirely focused on the studio era in Hollywood.


30. Joan Fontaine
Seen in 5 Films: The Women, Gunga Din, Rebecca, Suspicion, Letter from an Unknown Woman


29. Celeste Holm
Seen in 4 films: Gentleman’s Agreement, A Letter to Three Wives (narrator), All About Eve, Three Men and a Baby


28. Tippi Hedren
Seen in 3 films: The Birds, Marnie, I Heart Huckabees


27. Jean Harlow
Seen in 8 Films: The Public Enemy, Platinum Blonde, Red-Headed Woman, Red Dust, Dinner at Eight, Bombshell, Wife vs. Secretary, Libeled Lady


26. Olga Baclanova
Seen in 4 films: The Docks of New York, The Man Who Laughs, Freaks, Downstairs


25. Lauren Bacall
Seen in 12 films: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage, How to Marry a Millionaire, Written on the Wind, Murder on the Orient Express, Misery, All I Want for Christmas, Dogville, Howl’s Moving Castle (voice), Birth

24. Judy Garland
Seen in 11 films: Love Finds Andy Hardy, The Wizard of Oz, Babes in Arms, Ziegfeld Girl, Girl Crazy, Meet Me in St. Louis, Ziegfeld Follies, The Pirate, A Star is Born, Judgment at Nuremberg, I Could Go On Singing


23. Audrey Hepburn
Seen in 8 films: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, The Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Children’s Hour, My Fair Lady, Wait Until Dark


22. Miriam Hopkins
Seen in 7 films: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, The Story of Temple Drake, Design for Living, The Heiress, The Children’s Hour


21. Greer Garson
Seen in 3 films: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mrs. Miniver, Random Harvest


20. Norma Shearer
Seen in 4 films: He Who Gets Slapped, The Divorcee, A Free Soul, The Women


19. Lillian Gish
Seen in 10 Films: The Musketeers of Pig Alley, The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, Orphans of the Storm, La Boheme, The Wind, Portrait of Jennie, The Night of the Hunter


18. Greta Garbo
Seen in 8 films: Flesh and the Devil, Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Camille, Ninotchka, Two-Faced Woman


17. Joan Crawford
Seen in 10 films: The Unknown, Grand Hotel, Dancing Lady, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Women, Mildred Pierce, Possessed, Johnny Guitar, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, I Saw What You Did


16. Simone Simon
Seen in 4 films: La Bete Humaine, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Cat People, La Ronde


15. Shelley Winters
Seen in 10 films: A Place in the Sun, The Big Knife, The Night of the Hunter, The Diary of Anne Frank, Lolita, A Patch of Blue, Alfie, The Poseidon Adventure, The Tenant, Pete’s Dragon


14. Ginger Rogers
Seen in 9 Films: 42nd Street, The Gold Diggers of 1933, Finishing School, The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time, Stage Door, Kitty Foyle, Tales of Manhattan


13. Joan Blondell
Seen in 8 Films: The Public Enemy, Night Nurse, Three on a Match, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Nightmare Alley, Opening Night, Grease


12. Marilyn Monroe
Seen in 9 films: The Asphalt Jungle, All About Eve, Clash by Night, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, Let’s Make Love, The Misfits


11. Vivian Vance
Seen in: “I Love Lucy”, 180 episodes and “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”


10. Jeanne Moreau
Seen in 7 films: La Notte, Jules and Jim, The Fire Within, Diary of a Chambermaid, Mademoiselle, The Bride Wore Black, Ever After


9. Anna Karina
Seen in 5 films: A Woman is a Woman, Cleo from 5 to 7, Vivre se vie, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville


8. Marlene Dietrich
Seen in 10 films: The Blue Angel, Morocco, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil is a Woman, Destry Rides Again, Witness for the Prosecution, Touch of Evil, Judgment at Nuremberg


7. Katherine Hepburn
Seen in 13 films: Little Women, Mary of Scotland, Stage Door, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, Woman of the Year, Without Love, Adam’s Rib, The African Queen, Suddenly Last Summer, The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


6. Barbara Stanwyck
Seen in 12 films: Night Nurse, Baby Face, Ladies They Talk About, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Stella Dallas, The Lady Eve, Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity,  The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Sorry, Wrong Number, Clash by Night


5. Monica Vitti
Seen in 3 films: L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse

4. Ann Dvorak
Seen in 4 films: Scarface, Three on a Match, ‘G’ Men, Girls of the Road


3. Bette Davis
Seen in 14 films: Three on a Match, The Petrified Forest, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now, Voyager, Mr. Skeffington, A Stolen Life, Deception, All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, Return to Witch Mountain


2. Lucille Ball
Seen in 9 films, 2 TV shows: Stage Door, Five Came Back, Dance, Girl, Dance, Du Barry was a Lady, Without Love, The Dark Corner, The Long Long Trailer, “I Love Lucy”, 180 episodes, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”, Yours, Mine and Ours, Forever Darling


1. Louise Brooks
Seen in 7 films: The Show Off, Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl, Beggars of Life, A Girl in Every Port, Prix de Beaute, Windy Riley Goes Hollywood