Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ooooh Rob!

Back in January I did a post about my friends Rob Giles and his exquisite wife Caterina Scorsone.  If you missed it you can see it here.

Well I've been listening to his stuff lately like a madman and thought I'd share a couple of favorites with you.  The first is a studio cut from his album "This Is All In Your Mind"
John Lennon by Rob Giles from the album This Is All In Your Mind by felixinhollywood

The other is a live track from a performance here in Hollywood at The Hotel Cafe back in 2006.  On this one, you get to hear all the music he gets out of  just a six string acoustic and a porchboard.
Baby, Just Come To My House By Rob Giles-Live at The Hotel Cafe 7-27-06 by felixinhollywood

I hope you'll become a fan too. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Swing Me Gate!

With humble apologies to Mr. Arthur Jacob Arshawsky, whom because of my great affection for him, I call Artie Shaw, I'm offering slightly belated 100th birthday wishes.  Artie's big day was actually the 23rd.

He swung onstage and he swung offstage, racking up an impressive 8 wives.  He said of himself that he was 'a very difficult man', but when your matrimonial role call includes, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Evelyn Keyes, you've obviously got something goin' on!

I can't imagine any of those dames would've gotten him too mad at them considering that (amongst his other accomplishments) in 1962 he was the 4th ranked marksman in the United States.

I'm about to have to offer another apology here in a minute.  In a 1994 New York Times interview, he summed up his anguished musical frustrations from so many years before:  "I thought that because I was Artie Shaw I could do what I wanted, but all they wanted was 'Begin the Beguine.' "

Well Artie, for your birthday, that's all I want too.  You wanna know why, I'll tell you.  Because you took, musically speaking, one of the best damn popular songs ever written, stripped off it's inane, substandard lyrics, and let your clarinet do the singing. You turned it into something so special that swings, but also has notes of melancholy and is certainly an anthem of the big band era.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Well I Like Flowers Too, But Really....

In the above clip, Dear Mr. Ernest arrives at Lady Grayston's courtesy of the Pansy Craze. The Pansy Craze era ran pretty much concurrently with the pre-code era in film - late 20s till early 30s. The phenomenon would have been impossible without prohibition, when the manufacture and sale of liquor became illegal, effectively driving nightlife, drinking and good times underground. Once down there, all propriety, social norms and bets were off! Negros and Pansies and Dykes, oh my.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Jean Malin!

Born Victor Eugene James Malin on June 30 (my birthday!), 1908 in Brooklyn, not much can be uncovered about his childhood, save the facts that he had 2 brothers, 2 sisters and doesn't appear to have completed High School.  By his mid-teens he was winning prizes for his costumes in the drag balls of the 20s.  Some of these creations included, an outfit of black velvet and silver lace and for several other more exotic creations consisting entirely of pink or gold feathers.  After one win, still in drag, he wandered into a nearby cafeteria, and was attacked by four thugs, but was able to beat three of them unconscious. (Atta girl!) By his late teens he did the chorus boy bit in several Broadway shows, but lost as many more for being too effeminate.  (Too effeminate to be a chorus boy, now can you imagine?)  Jean first became a professional drag artiste at Paul And Joe's in the Village using the stage name Imogene Wilson and soon bumped up to playing the Rubaiyat.

The game changer, for both Jean and Manhattan night club entertainment came in 1930 when, at 22, he was hired to headline at the swanky Club Abbey on W. 54th.  You see, he was funny, camp and swishy, but he appeared in a tuxedoA Professional Pansy! 

If heckled by the mostly straight clientele, his quick wit and sharp tongue would give them what for.  (in other words, he could read a bitch) Both the club and the act were a smash.  Vanity Fair said, "Jean Malin's smart Club Abbey is the embodiment of urbanity.  Through a lavender mist, somewhat bewildered clientele smirk with self-conscious sophistication at the delicate antics of their host."  Even the trend setting New Yorker endorsed Malin's show in it's "Goings On About Town" column.  Jean Malin was suddenly the top earner of Broadway!
"Gene Malin at the Club Abbey"  
Vanity Fair February 1931 issue

With success of that caliber, the expected happened; an explosion of copycat clubs.  The Pansy Craze was born!  Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger said, "before the main stem knew what had happened, there was a hand on a hip for every light on Broadway."  Female impersonator extraordinaire Karyl Norman went so blatant as to open a joint called "The Pansy Club".

In true show biz style, it's about time that something happened to gum up the works, and it did.  In January of '31 in the pre-dawn hours, after Jean had finished his act, there was a gangland shooting in the club between "Dutch" Schultz and Charles "Chink" Sherman.  This was all the boys in blue needed to start a crack down of nightspots in violation of the blue laws.  Club Abbey was closed and Malin was out of a job.  But this was a trouper who could role with the punches.  He took the act on the road, first to Boston, then Hollywood.

In a confluence of right time, right place right queen, Jean opened a subterranean hot spot on Hollywood Blvd.

He enjoyed the patronage and friendship of the best and brightest.
Top:  Stanley Smith, writer Harriet Parsons, Malin, Sally Eilers.
Bottom:  Colleen Moore, Malin, Bessie Love.

The studios came calling too.  He played small parts in a handful of pictures including "Dancing Lady".  And, climbing back into a dress for the first time in a long time he does a pretty great Mae West as the character Ray Best in a completely forgettable RKO mess called, "From Arizona To Broadway".

He recorded two sides for Columbia Records:
"I'd Rather Be Spanish (than mannish)"
"That's What's Wrong With Me"

It is clear from the picture below that he was being included in the groups of the 'big kids'

A Hollywood soiree in 1933 honoring famed party-giver Elsa Maxwell 
(attired as Albert Einstein). [L-R]: (standing) Polly Moran, writer Edgar Allan Woolf, Elsa, Jesse Lasky, Maurice Chevalier;(seated) Groucho Marx (sans mustache), Jimmy Durante, Paramount executive producer M.C. “Mike” Levee; (leaning) Frank Borzage, Leslie Howard,  Jean Malin and Fredric March

In May of '33 Malin closed at the Club New Yorker and walked across the street to perform at The Grauman's Chinese Theater in the prologue for Warner Bros. "Gold Diggers of 1933".  Following that gig, he did a two week booking at The Ship Cafe, a hotcha spot on the Venice Beach Pier.

On the night of August 10th, 1933, he took the bows on his final show at the 'Ship' his room mate Jimmy Forlenza and his good friend, actress and comedienne, Patsy Kelly were there with hugs of congratulations.  Exuberant but exhausted, the three piled into Jeans beautiful sedan.  Apparently confusing the gears, he threw it into reverse instead of first and hit the gas.  The car went careening backwards off the pier into the ocean.  Kelly sustained enough injuries to keep her in the hospital for two weeks.  Jimmy lucked out with only a broken collar bone, and Jean Malin, trapped by the steering wheel never made it out of the car alive.

As the crowd gathered up on the pier, the lights on the marquee of the Ship Cafe still glowed "The Last Night Of Jean Malin".  He was 25.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"...Just This Girl From The Valley."

The above is a quote from a friend of mine, who's career is working on big music tours.  He was describing the over all temperment and easy going attitude of Cher.  Perhaps because of this, he's also told me that she is his absolute favorite of all the artists he's worked with, and he's worked with plenty!

My favorite picture of herself.

"My dear, you have a pointed head! You're absolutely beautiful!"

This quote is from everyone's favorite mad woman, Diana Vreeland.  At a 1967 party for Jackie Kennedy, Vreeland was passing through the bedroom on her way to the loo, when she spotted Cher seated at a vanity, repairing her makeup.  DV, ever the shy one, marched over, slapped the palm of her hand on the top of Cher's head and uttered the above.  Next thing you know - Cher's in Vogue!

Well we started with my favorite picture of our birthday girl, let's end with one of my favorite songs.

kabuki zero - He's My Hero!

The electrifying kabuki zero

As my dear friend ever since I was seventeen years old (hey!  It wasn't that long ago) the man behind the lovely-lonely-lusty-looney white face is celebrating his birthday today.  In real life, he is as difficult, uncompromising, kind, brilliant and fabulous as his laser-point, razor-sharp stream of conscious writing indicates.

Please take a moment and hop over to The Man Who Told The World and pay him the birthday salute that he expects deserves.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where's The Bouf(fant)

Kenneth Battelle's salon in the Vanderbuilt Mansion,
illustrated by Henry Kohler for Vogue, 1963

"In my day, there was no grunge.  Anyone who had grunge wasn't allowed in the restaurant, if you know what I mean."

Yes, we know exactly what you mean, Mr. Kenneth.

Hair God, Kenneth Battelle

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guess Who.....


If you know, don't spill the beans straight away until others have had a whack at it.  Of course if you do know, you can always email the answer to me so I'll know just how bright you are!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum Of Goodwill. 5th in a series

I love her.  She came from a National Council of Jewish Women's Thrift Shop about 15 years ago.  It's a beautiful deep blue background and written around our hip little gamine, like a halo, are the kind of doodles and phrases (en francais, naturellement) that you'd find on the notebooks of any girl you went to Junior High with.  Suns, choo-choo trains, male figures with declarations about her love of vacations and someone called Dodo.

A signature in the upper left corner simply says "Angelo '62", which is surprising because I find her to be very modern for 1962.  But she is, after all, French! 

It hangs on the wall across from my bed so she is virtually the first thing I see every morning upon awakening.

click me, mon ami, I will get bigger for you

Monday, May 10, 2010

She Cooked!

The lovely Lena Horne (with whom I shared a birthday)  has gone to Fabluon.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers Day

Sada Thompson

Donna Reed

Dee, my mother

Joan Crawford and the Devil Child

Judy and Liza

How ever it worked out for you, channel your inner Liza and enjoy a fond remembrance of "Momma" today!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back When AutoTune Meant A Song That Was Great To Drive To...

No lip syncing,

No AutoTune,

No vocal sample played underneath to 'fatten' the sound.

Just a perfect pop song, a kickass arrangement, great backing musicianship and vocals and a singer who often sounded, incredibly, better live than on studio tracks.

Ladies and Gentleman, MISS DONNA SUMMER!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quelle Scandale, By George

Gladys George given the glamor works
by famed MGM photog Clarence Bull

I've been wanting to do a spotlight on a Golden Age actress Gladys George for a couple of weeks now.  I've only seen her in about 5 of her 44 imdb listed performances, but whenever she crops up in a scene (usually in supporting roles) she's the one I find myself watching.

So with the intention of putting together a typical 'This was her life' posting, I started doing my research and -- Bam!  I stumbled on quite a juicy and humorous scandal that enveloped Gladys at the end of '34 and for much of '35.  But before we get to that, lets take care of a little background housekeeping, shall we:

Already treading the boards at age three with her parents in a vaudeville act called The Three Clares, Gladys George was born in Patten, Maine to British acting parents in 1900.  So naturally, she was a veteran trooper when she landed her first Broadway role, supporting Isadora Duncan in 1918's "The Betrothal".

Between 1919 and 1921 our young ingenue starred in seven pictures beginning with "Red Hot Dollars" and ending with "The House That Jazz Built". 

It was then that tragedy struck.  In a 1937 interview  George recalled, "While fussing over some doughnuts I was making, the grease caught fire and I was terribly burned.  And that ended my picture career for some years.  It took a year in the hospital for me to recover from that accident.  Then the film roles were impossible for me to get.  I lost a great deal of weight...So I returned to the stage, traveling around in stock companies."

She did that traveling with fellow actor, and new husband, Ben Erway.  The marriage lasted from 1922 to 1930.  Married again in 1933 (this time for money) to Springfield, Mass paper manufacturer and millionaire, Edward Fowler, Gladys had more resource at hand to reignite her career.  A screen test for Metro won her a contract and a supporting role in "Straight Is The Way" with Franchot Tone.

Completing the picture, she went back to Broadway to star in "Personal Appearance"  (later retooled as the Mae West vehicle, "Go West Young Man").  In it she plays a film star, and the play opens up with a 'film clip' from her latest movie.  In the clip her leading man is played by an actor named Leonard Penn.  Ok, enough background, you ready?  Let's go.

Here is TIME Magazines report from December 17, 1934:

Wife of Benjamin-Z.-Fineberg-President- of-Superfine-Pictures-Incorporated is Actress Gladys George in her starring rôle as the blonde, seductive cinemactress of Personal Appearance (TIME. Oct. 29), current Manhattan stage hit. In private life Miss George has a husband named Edward Fowler, a Springfield. Mass, paper manufacturer. She also has a tortoise-shell Persian cat named Mungkee.
About 3:30 o'clock one morning last fortnight Miss George, in her Manhattan hotel room, received a telephone call from her husband. He had just arrived at Grand Central Terminal, he said, and would be right over. Few seconds later her door burst open to admit two detectives, a strange woman and Mr. Fowler. They found, according to the detectives, a handsome young man dashing half-dressed from the room and Miss George reaching for a blue negligee.
When her husband's divorce suit charging adultery was revealed last week Miss George received the Press to explain what the young man, one Leonard Perm, had been doing in her room at that hour of the morning. Said she:
"Leonard is a friend of mine. He appears in the movie short preceding the play Personal Appearance, but he doesn't come on the stage.
"Well, anyway, he was stopping here at the Hotel Lincoln with 1,500 other people. But on this particular night. I needed his help badly. Mungkee had just come home from the hospital, where she had had an operation performed. The bandages seemed to hurt her and, foolishly, I took them off. Well, she was in a dreadful condition, and I was simply frantic. So I called Leonard on the phone.
"He came in and took one look at Mungkee and said we'd better bandage her up. So he ran across the street to the druggist's and bought some cotton and mercurochrome. We were struggling with the cat, trying to tie her up, when my husband phoned me and said he was coming over. I thought I ought to see Mr. Fowler alone. Leonard just got to the door when my husband and this crowd of men barged in. I certainly was surprised. I thought my husband was a gentleman."

And there's a really delicious article here that is full of tongue in cheek, innuendo and double entendre.    Example:  "Now any man with a streak of chivalry would come to the rescue of a platinum-haired lovely lady with a sick cat."   The story of Gladys and her 'pussy in distress' played in the papers for quite a while, but when the divorce case hit the court, no mention was made of it.  By the end of August it was a done deal.

From The Milwaukee Sentinel, New York - August 27, 1935:  A status of "neither maid, nor wife, nor widow" is imposed for three years upon Gladys George, sparkling star of the current Broadway hit "Personal Appearance"...Under New York law Miss George, being the defendant, may not remarry in this state for three years....If romance beckons before the three year period is up, Miss George may remarry in another state, but the marriage will not be recognized in New York.

From The New London Evening Day, New Haven - Sept. 18, 1935:  Gladys George and Leonard Penn were married here today.  Penn obtained a waiver of the Connecticut five day law when he applied for a marriage license.  The wedding was witnessed by Miss Florence Robinson and Miss Dulcy Cooper who are in the cast of "Personal Appearance".  A wedding breakfast was served at a hotel.  

Gladys, with Penn, came back to Hollywood where she had a very promising next few years.  Her first picture back, "Valiant Is The Word For Carrie" netted her only Oscar nomination. 

She also starred in the 1937 version of "Madame X" (which I'm dying to see and which many have said is the best version of this old chestnut.)

She (as Madame Du Barry) and Penn both appeared in the spectacular "Marie Antoinette"

And she was brilliant as Panama Smith in "The Roaring 20's"

By now you can see it in her face; Gladys was a drinker.  It cost her leading roles and ultimately her marriage.  She and Penn were divorced in 1944.  Her last part in an "A" picture was a small but amazing and heartbreaking appearance in "The Best Years Of Our Lives" as Dana Andrews' step mother.  

And it was around this time that this blurb ran, buried somewhere in the back of The Desert News, July 9, 1946:  Riverside, Calif - Stage and Screen star Gladys George and her fourth husband - Kenneth Carlson Bradley 27 year old Los Angeles bellhop, were honeymooning today, following their marriage at The Mission Inn in Riverside.

Gladys passed away in 1954.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bye Bye Georgy Girl

I'm so sad about the passing of Lynn Redgrave who originally came into our field of view in 1966 with her extraordinary performance in "Georgy Girl".  I just saw the film again about a year ago, remembering how difficult it is to watch.  There's no one warm and fuzzy in the whole picture!  And Redgrave is so fearless in portraying a girl who continually subjugates and debases herself to her flat-mate and the mates boyfriend.  It's almost like shes inflicting this punishment on herself (that she seems to feel she deserves) for not being pretty.  Now granted, it's pretty easy to be unattractive in the company of a young Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates; but still!

Her career had it's ups and downs, often taking a backseat to her more bombastic (and amazing) sister, but in 1998 she turned in another Oscar nominated performance in "Gods And Monsters", and suddenly she was hot again.  Her good fortune for that was my loss.

About six months before she did that movie, I met Ms. Redgrave.  I was talking to a friend of my one day, an actress who had worked with Redgrave on a TV series, and she told me that Lynn was teaching Shakespeare acting classes.  Now, I'm not an actor (on stage or in film anyway) but, as was typical of many people my age, I got through High School more on charm, manipulation, and jerking the system, than I did on studying.  Truth is, I didn't learn a damn thing and have the diploma to prove it.  The result is that Shakespeare has always spooked me.  The meter, rhythm, and language was foreign.  I didn't get it.  So when Cathy further explained that the classes were every Monday, they were open to anyone and they were FREE, I decided to go with her one Monday in hopes of finally de-mystifying the Bard for myself. 

Had Lynn been less lovely, less humble, and less perfect than she was, she would have probably explained that giving the classes was her way of giving back to an industry and tradition that she had inherited through bloodlines and that had become her life's work.  She never would have said anything like that, but it was entirely clear, nonetheless.

The class was held in a beautiful auditorium on the campus of the Motion Picture County Home (Old Actors Home).  Weekly, she hosted some 50-60 people, from young struggling actors, to residents of the Home who were wheeled in in wheelchairs, to other curious types like myself.  The 2 1/2 hour class was conducted as follow:  The first 20(ish) minutes she would give us a lecture on the topics at hand; acting and Shakespeare.  For the next almost two hours she had two wicker baskets, one for boys and one for girls, and if you wanted to put up a scene, you filled out a card with you name and the scene and put it into the basket.  She would call up a student(s) to do their scene, after which, with her keen eye, and encyclopedic knowledge, she would give you an almost line-for-line critique of you scene.  She would say things like, "Oh, when you did so-and-so, it was just so wonderful,"  or "On such-and-such line, I'm wondering, how would it be if you tried this--".  Always supportive, never mean, not like some teachers that friends have told me about!

For the last 15(ish) minutes she would do a scene for us!  Unbelievable!  Playing every character, she would ricochet her body around the stage emoting dialog as an ageing king, a mythological wood sprite, a 15 year old virgin maiden.  This would be done so rapidly as to make the dialog flow naturally and without pause.  Each character, fully embodied; all characters in a perfectly performed scene!

After my first class, we were introduced by our mutual friend Cathy, and Lynn was wonderful to me.  I, sputteringly, told her that I was not an actor and the actual reason that I was there and that I hoped she didn't mind.  She assured me that I most certainly was welcomed and that, if fact, she tought it was quite courageous of me to face down my fears of not understanding the material.  She also said that, actor or not, she'd bet that she would get me to put up a scene some day.  "Sorry to inform you love, but we'll make an actor out of you yet!"  I blushed.  I was 39 years old and I blushed.  The only down side was that attending required me to drive in LA rush hour from Hollywood to Woodland Hills, but really, not much of a hardship considering I was being Taugh Shakespeare, By A Redgrave, For Free!!!

After attending for about 5 months, she got the "Gods And Monsters" job, and as soon as that came out, it's like it shook Hollywood awake enough to remember that they'd forgotten her.  She became the hot flavor again for quite awhile.  Needless to say, there was never time to start the classes for her, and I never got to see her anymore.

But today I will take the opportunity to say, for all the performances I've seen and for the ones I haven't yet, and most of all for your insightful teaching and personal kindness, Thank You Lynn Redgrave.