For those of you who have the pleasure of hearing “old movies are boring” from co-workers, friends, and family — fret no more! Our newest episode, “Hooray for Hays”, debunks their theory by addressing the sex and schmaltz of Pre-Code films and supporting the creativity used by filmmakers under the infamous Motion Picture Production Code. Katie and Hilary play devil’s advocate and defend the Code in this informative and entertaining podcast. Listen to find out if you belong in the “duped” or “clued in” category and enjoy some of the most risque and quotable lines from the Golden Era!
This is an adaptation of an essay of mine which I wrote for a class this past year. Personally, I prefer the novel over the film but please keep in mind that I STILL LOVE THE FILM.
A great source of inspiration for Hollywood has been in the adaptation of plays and novels. One of Hollywood’s greatest films from its greatest year, 1939, was adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel, Gone with the Wind. Through different modes, both media exhibit Scarlett’s will to survive, but the film does not record Scarlett’s character development as thoroughly as the novel. The novel gives her more depth because the reader has access to her inner thoughts. The film version of Gone with the Wind makes Scarlett appear more heartless than she is. This article will set out to prove that her full development as a character is stunted in the film because the viewer cannot know her thoughts. Instead, the film tries to communicate her thoughts through cinematography, montage, and colour. These techniques of the film medium are used to express Scarlett’s desires in moments of intense emotion, but the viewer misses out on knowing her specific opinion on certain events.
Close-ups are used throughout Gone with the Wind in moments of intense emotion to compensate for the loss of internal thoughts. One scene where the close-up lacks the detail of the novel is the most critical scene of all – when Scarlett admits to Rhett she has loved and depended on him all along but never realised it. The film closely follows the dialogue in the novel but neglects to give voice to Scarlett’s thoughts:
“She was thinking: ‘But Rhett is my soul and I’m losing him. And if I lose him, nothing else matters! No, not friends or money or – or anything. If only I had him I wouldn’t even mind being poor again. No, I wouldn’t mind being cold again or even hungry’” (Mitchell, 1019).
Had the film included this contradicting cry of woe, viewers who did not read the novel would have believed Scarlett’s confession. This statement is completely contrary to her character who vowed to “steal or kill” to avoid living through hunger and poverty (Mitchell, 421). The use of close-up simply does not convey this message. Vivien Leigh brilliantly portrays a woman who just lost her best friend, daughter, and husband in a short period of time, but the same sympathy the reader would have felt does not translate completely to the film. Film is effective in showing the viewers the woe in Scarlett’s face, but the camera cannot transcend flesh and reveal the pain in her heart.
As a part of the CMBA’s Classic Comedy blogathon, this entry will be about the platinum blonde bombshell who made blonde hair what it is today: Harlean Harlow Carpenter AKA Jean Harlow. In short, she is one of the best blonde comediennes in film history and we are going to tell you why. Hold on to your hair, Monroe and Aguilera….
Jean Harlow was a woman and comedienne who could only exist in the pre-Code era (although she was still successful in the early Code era). She was a dirty flirt, a temperamental mistress, and sometimes downright untrustworthy. She could be rotten to the core, but also sprinkled with sugar and dressed in shimmering dresses to distract the moral compass. What redeems her, though, is the fact she is also vulnerable underneath her spoiled facade. Although the Production Code banned filmmakers to let audiences sympathise with immoral characters, she made immoral playfulness fun to watch and we always rooted for her to get her own way because she had a piece of her heart at stake.
Being emotionally involved with her onscreen ordeals causes Harlow’s character(s) to be hot-headed in order to get what she wants. This allows Harlow to stand up against the force known to literally sweep women off their feet: Clark Gable.
What makes Harlow stand out from the rest of Gable’s leading ladies is her ability to stand on her own against him. The power was equal between them. She could seduce him just as easily as he could seduce her, and they were both mutually willing. When she swoons, she swoons on her terms. When he treats her rough, she’s swinging her fist or cussing right back at him. They can throw and catch each other’s punches without a flinch. They are both each other’s matches. Powerhouses. Dynamos. It’s entrancing to watch them in the six films they starred together: The Secret Six (1931), Red Dust (1932), Hold Your Man (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), and Saratoga (1937).
"Red Dust" (1932). Pre-Code...
One downfall of playing these types of roles was having the audience believe she was like her characters offscreen. Harlow was neither promiscuous nor ditzy. Clark Gable considered her “one of the boys.” She was known among her peers to be full of self-respect and a great actress whose onscreen persona was sadly mistaken for her real self. Here is an excerpt from classichollywoodbios.com:
In her book Being and Becoming, Myrna Loy remembered a weekend trip she, William Powell and Jean Harlow took together. A San Francisco hotel manager, confusing fantasy with reality, registered “William and Myrna Powell” in one room when it was actually Harlow and Powell who were to stay together. In the 1930s, with the press looking over their shoulders, they couldn’t be obvious with their affair. Powell had to move to a tiny downstairs room while Myrna and Jean shared the more luxurious upstairs room. “Bill complained bitterly, let me tell you., angling to get upstairs,” remembered Loy. “The mix-up brought me one of my most cherished friendships. You would have thought Jean and I were in boarding school we had so much fun. We’d stay up half the night talking and sipping gin, sometimes laughing, sometimes discussing more serious things. Jean was always cheerful, full of fun, but she also happened to be a sensitive woman with a great deal of self-respect. All that other stuff –that was put on. She just happened to be a good actress who created a lively characterization that exuded sex appeal.”
Not only was she a great actress, she was intelligent and loved to read. One would have to be smart to deliver lines the way she does! Before dropping out of high school to be married at age sixteen, Harlow was educated in private schools and came from a well to-do family.
Jean Harlow left a memorable legacy after her early, unexpected death of a kidney infection in 1937 at the age of twenty-six. Without Jean Harlow, blonde hair would not have the popularity is still enjoys today. She was the first star to dye her hair to platinum blonde. A young Norma Jean Baker idolised Jean Harlow and followed in her footsteps by dying her hair to platinum blonde. In contemporary times, Christina Aguilera’s hair is inspired by Monroe, but does she know the origin and history behind her own hair colour?
Another impact on popular culture she left behind is the quote, “Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?” from her breakout film, Hell’s Angels (1930). Most people have heard the idiom but don’t know where it came from. Now it is a common trope in popular culture. Here is an index of some of the ways the phrase has been used in popular culture.
Although Jean Harlow isn’t talked about as much as other comediennes such as Lucille Ball or Carole Lombard, she has nonetheless left an indelible mark on popular culture. She has also left behind an image of a tough, promiscuous woman who can also stand on her own and fight back yet can win the sympathy of the audience. She can be cute, sexy, and drink all the boys under the table…
For the month of October (and the month of midterms, eek!), The Scarlett Olive will be trying something new and hopefully enjoyed by all. Everyday, we will post a video that answers one of these questions:
Day 24- Favourite film from Hollywood’s greatest year, 1939?
Day 25- Which character from a film do you fantasize about being?
Day 26- Which unsolved scandal would you most like the answer to?
Day 27- Who’s death hit you the hardest and why?
Day 28- A movie you never expected yourself to enjoy?
Day 29- Who’s private lifestyle shocked you the most?
Day 30- Which 5 Old Hollywood stars would you invite to dinner?
BONUS: Day 31 – Have you ever visited a location where a classic film was shot?
Instead of hearing our humdrum voices all the time, now you can see us, our expressions, and our antics…and there are some pretty strange antics as the days go by. We do our best to mix classic films and fun. We hope you enjoy this vlogathon and please don’t be shy to comment on our videos!
When it comes to hair colour, blondes and brunettes have been best “frenemies” for a very long time. Even film titles contribute to this battle between the two different hair colours: My Favorite Blonde (1942), My Favorite Brunette (1947), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). If blondes are ditzy and have more fun and brunettes are sensible, where do redheads fit in?
Many of classic Hollywood’s greatest stars have been redheads. The “Queen of Technicolour” herself, Maureen O’Hara, features radiant red locks (we do not say “ginger” on The Scarlett Olive).
Maureen O'Hara. Her characters often had a stereotypical hot temper.
In many classic films, redheads are portrayed as sexually forward, tempestuous, dangerous, spunky, and zany.