About CineMaven

I am a Capricorn and a native New Yorker who has loved classic films for as long as I can remember. My favorite film? Alfred Hitchcock's “VERTIGO.”


Heck yeah I’m jumping out before the rest of the gang. When you see the entries for my blogathon this upcoming Saturday, you won’t want to read what little ol’ me has to say about “THE SHANGHAI GESTURE.” But you’re here with me now. I’ve got you! And I have a lot to say. It’s von Sternberg…so sit back, relax and pay attention, kids! I’m going to take you on a wild ride. I promise NOT to give away plot spoilers. Read on MacDuff –

I find “THE SHANGHAI GESTURE” to be…one heckuva movie. It doesn’t have the relentless driving energy of Night and the City but it is one of the great roller coaster movie rides I’ve ever had. It has more extras than Ben-Hur” “GWTW andThe Ten Commandments combined. Or perhaps it just seems like it since there’s a lot going on in the casino setting. 

The film is directed by that madcap, zany JOSEF VON STERNBERG of Dietrich fame and cinematic excess. It is an opulent, overloaded, overcooked, three-ring circus and I love it! This was directed near the end of his illustrious career and von Sternberg fills the screen with interesting characters and character actors. Wild! There’s a strange halting way people converse with each other in this movie…like there’s an added beat between each person speaking. Whatever that is, and I fear I’m not describing it adequately here…it does add to the off-kiltered nature of the movie.

“The Shanghai Gesture” makes a number of commentaries on the power of racial privilege, relationships and imperialism. Some points hit us over the head, while others are subtle. Some of these points include:

  • Horrid pidgin-English spoken by actors NOT Asian. ( Hey, the Asian actors speak just fine ).
  • Racial stereotypes spin on its head in the scene between Mother and Poppy:

MOTHER: “Behave yourself Poppy. You’re in China and you’re white. It’s not good for us to see you. You’ll bring discredit to your race if you continue.”

POPPY: “Don’t preach to me.  And let my race take care of itself!!”

  • Relationships are generally not treasured, but used as bargaining chips.  

Look, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on in this movie, but at its core, it’s the story of revenge. Let’s take a look at the cast of characters.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠


This is the wildest casino I’ve EVER seen in a movie. ( Some casino movies include: Casino” “Diamonds Are Forever” “Croupier” “The Cooler” and “The Honeymoon Machine” ). So much goes on in von Sternberg’s casino. It is hustling, bustling and alive with extras. And the spinmeister…with eyes in the back of his head, and tentacles  reaching for chips and money and jewelry: MARCEL DALIO, Hollywood’s ultimate croupier. You know I swear, I would put him up against any real croupier from the best casino in Monte Carlo. From the overhead shot, “The Shanghai Gesture” casino looks like the seven rings of hell or a snake pit. And in any case Toto, you know we’re not in Vegas anymore.

I contend this set rivals Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” The casino’s uncaring, unblinking eye witnesses the buying, selling and gambling of souls. Peoples’ valued possessions are appraised, bartered and devalued simply for just…one…more…spin…of…the…roulette… wheel. It’s a pulsating living thing, with people the life’s blood gambling through its veins.

♥ ♥  ♥ ♥


I love PHYLLIS BROOKS in “The Shanghai Gesture.”

Brooks plays chorus girl Miss Dixie Pomeroy. Can you get anymore Brooklyn or any more chorus-y than that? She is so delightfully out of place here, with nothing really to do but be very American. She sashays through scenes and rolls her eyes like a younger version of Mae West. With big round eyes and blonde hair in a sea of brunettes, she stands out in Shanghai.

I love her flat twangy voice, while all around her e-nun-ci-ate ev’ry syllable. She and her American colloquialisms are joyfully discordant and brings us back to Earth in this exotic setting. She’s not afraid to stare down the hoity toity Poppy Smith or playfully remind the high and mighty Sir Guy Charteris where they met before. She’s got Dr. Omar’s number and can rub elbows with the high society types summoned to this dinner party, all the while keeping it real.

When she’s told how the casino owner would eat her up like a cat would a mouse, her reply…

“Yeah? That only makes me more hungry. When do we eat?”

In fact, nothing seems to frazzle the sassy brassy Miss Dixie Pomeroy. And Phyllis Brooks plays her to the hilt.

♣ ♣  ♣ ♣


VICTOR MATURE ~ Dr. Omar. Just don’t look for any medical degree unless his sheep skin is in his pants. 

Mature has great fun with this part. It is only his fifth or sixth motion picture. He doesn’t play it for laughs but he knows it’s all a joke. Listen to the way he says: “my sweet” “my little one” “…my little broken-footed antelope.” 

Mature is sooo sensuously serpentine and tactile in this movie. Watch how he fondles Poppy’s dress when he talks to her:

“In short, I’m a thoroughbred mongrel. I’m related  to all the  earth. And nothing that’s human, is  foreign to me.”

Hmmmmm….mmmm…that covers “lots” of things. He hypnotizes and bathes her with his attention:

POPPY: “Then may be you can explain how our friends just vanished.”
OMAR: “We were alone since I first saw you.”

Oh hell…he could talk to me, anytime. Dr. Omar is self-deprecating, weaves a wicked tale and is strangely truthful if you’re really hearing what he’s saying. His exoticism is mesmerizing:

“My birth took place under a full moon on the  sands of Damascus. My father was an Armenian  tobacco dealer and was far away. And my  mother  the less said about her the better. She  was  half-French and the other half is lost in the  dust of  time.”

The signpost to Poppy’s undoing is signalled when Omar tells her:

“I wonder how you’d look with your hair down.”

See, that’s how it always starts, when you let your hair down. If you’ve seen the movie you know what I mean. When you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean.  Poppy is no match for him. You see, Omar has no problem stringing women along until they are strung out…then drops them. He’s a master of manipulative opportunism.

I think Victor Mature has been under-rated as an actor, probably because of his beefcake status. He was a big good-looking man. ( That’s a crime? ) No, he’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea, but when I see him I believe him, whether he was a gladiator or cowboy; caveman or cop. I believe him in the arms of Delilah and I thought he was perfect in this movie.

Being a gigolo doesn’t seem to hurt his manhood in the least:

POPPY: “Were you paying for the drink or was she paying for them?”

OMAR: “I can say with pride I’ve never paid for anything in my life.”

POPPY: “Do you think you can keep up that enviable record?”

OMAR: “Why not?”

And von Sternberg gives Mature a nice close-up when he gets a glass of water thrown in his face. Wet or dry, and working his cape like nobody’s business, Dr. Omar is not above being bought and paid for. Buyer beware.

♦  ♦    ♦  ♦


WALTER HUSTON ~ Sir Guy Charteris. Dang, he was just too cool for school wasn’t he? In “The Shanghai Gesture” I have to admit I found him handsome, distinguished, cold, imperious and loved him. I loved the sound of his voice and his slow measured way of speaking. He has deep set eyes and the way he’s lit, you sometimes couldn’t see them.

As Sir Guy Charteris, he is a man who’s used to getting what he wants. When he’s sitting in his chair going over his plans with his secretary, the phone rings. He’s not 12~inches from the phone, yet when it rings he tells her to pick it up. ( I had to laugh ). He wheels and deals without second-guessing himself. Everyone does his bidding. He holds your life in his hands…you’re just a name on his bulletin board. He’s confident and certain about everything. ( How can this be the same actor who will win an Academy Award as a grizzled old prospector in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre? ). He walks up to Mike Mazurki roughly handling his jacket because Mazurki’s nothing but a “coolie” to him. ( Their term not mine ). But no one ‘handles’ Mike Mazurki and he firmly moves Sir Guy’s hand from touching him. ( What a career this former wrestler carved out for himself ). Even that doesn’t phase Sir Guy. I loved his certainty about things. He has one weakness though…his daughter, Victoria. He’s a single parent. And with her, he’s the Rich Doting Daddy. Ev’ry girl should have one. 😉

“It’s not unusual of me to be solicitous about you.  You’re all I have Victoria. And I’ve spent a good  deal of my life trying to protect you from anything  that could possibly hurt you.”

When he has to chide her, he’s not ranting and raving. He still uses that same flat measured tone letting her know what he EXPECTS of her.

His reaction is priceless when he sees his daughter again. But that’s later, later in the film.

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“I always pay my debts…a hundred fold.”

Where do you go after you’ve played a Madame in the biggest, most prestigious movie of the entire 1930’s? ( GWTW”, need you ask? ) You work with the director that made Dietrich a legend. ONA MUNSON is Mother Gin Sling.

She is amazing as the woman who runs the gambling casino. Gambling casino…brothel. What’s the diff? She runs rings around Rick’s Cafe Americain. She is described as:

“The most cold-blooded dragon you’ll ever meet.  She’ll devour you like a cat swallows a mouse.”

Oh boy!!

Her entrance is heralded by a gong and music swelling. She comes through beaded curtains ( Is there any other way? I guess as every good “Asian” actress must in the 30’s & 40’s) and we soak her in. Munson stands: almond-shaped eyes made up to heighten their shape; hair coiffed high in its lacquered Medusa hairstyle ( a la Patti LaBelle ), gowned covering her from head to toe wrapped like a mummy’s shroud. She stands at the top of the landing surveying her casino resembling something out of Dante’s inferno; a casino you know she just built out of blood, bribes, sweat and tears. She descends into hell, the seas part for her as she walks down the steps. Her gait is slow…she glides. 

ONA MUNSON is the best thing about “The Shanghai Gesture.”

She is just as strong as Sir Guy and has as much business savvy as he.  But she does have a slight heart; she deigns to give a losing gambler more money. But she is not above bribing the police or possibly having someone killed. ( Look, you don’t have Mazurki around just for rickshaw work ). 

She’s confident. And Mother Gin Sling is just as determined to stay open as Sir Guy is about closing her place:

“Every so often Shanghai decides to clean itself like  a swan in a muddy lake. I shall not move and  I certainly shall not close.”

The gauntlet is dropped.

She doesn’t suffer fools lightly. When Eric Blore gets squeamish about her list of dinner party guests, she tells him:

“Stop behaving like a disabled flamingo and put  down Sir Guy Charteris.”

Ha! Hokey. But I’m buying whatever Mother Gin Sling sells.

Again, the voices…the voices. I’m loving the way she speaks. Short staccato clips (am I explaining that right?) Munson gives it her all. As Mother Gin Sling, she doesn’t back down from confrontation either. When Poppy Smith, the snippy little whipper snapper, comes off antagonistically to Mother Gin Sling, she doesn’t back down. When Poppy makes fun of Mother’s name, she replies:

“There was a girl called Whiskey Soda too. And  another one called Miss Martini. And one called  Scotch Hi-Ball and another Benedictine. In other  places I might’ve been called Rose or Violet or Lili  or even…Poppy.”

BURN! Mic drop. Mother Gin Sling tells her confidante:

“Find out who that Smith girl is. I like her. She has  spirit.”

Poppy’s got spunk. Mother likes spunk! I think she realizes she’s met her match with this junior league debutante. Poppy will probably use her visit to the Orient as fodder for cocktail conversation at 21. Here, she can add notches to her belt before she marries a nice staid “Wall Street” type. (Did you get a load of her escort at the bar?)

But Poppy is small~fry. Mother Gin Sling’s big battle is with Sir Guy. And she’s “got” something on him she’ll use to keep her place open.

“You’re plotting your revenge like an engineer.”

They do say “revenge is a dish best served cold.” By the by…Ona Munson looks positively STUNNING dressed in all white in that dinner party scene!! That whole scene is a wonderfully bizarre extravaganza of food and wealth. 

Mother Gin Sling is a complicated woman. She’s not just the one-note playing of a daughter of Fu Manchu. Nor is she The Inscrutable as Hollywood would have it. Ona Munson plays her cold and calculating but also gives her a soft spot. She gives sage advice to Poppy:

“Fortune can’t be forced. You know, there’s such a     thing as good fortune.”

Poppy’s not listening.

When Mother Gin Sling unleashes her revenge on Sir Guy, her words fire like a machine gun. Anger, hurt, tearfulness are all mixed in her voice when she says:

“Do you know what the China Sea looks like to a  boat filled with passengers without hope? Told to  laugh and be gay and kicked into not weeping.  The soles of my feet cut open with pebbles sewn  inside to keep me from running away. I don’t  know what kept me alive unless it was the hope of  a nice social evening like this one!”

She’s hard, she’s soft. She spits out each port of call she was taken to like daggers; one memory more degrading than the next. It was embarrassing to watch her revelation done in front of all those guests. But she doesn’t care. She has one more thing up her sleeve.

I IMDB’d Ona Munson—> http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0613262/bio. And no, I do not mix her name up with Osa Massen or Ilona Massey. Yes, I must confess I have only seen three of her movies, Five Star Final being the third one besides “Shanghai…” and “GWTW”. Munson has presence, bearing and style; I’m sorry to read she ended her own life. She helps makes “The Shanghai Gesture” much more fun for me. Her look is so over~the~top, but Munson doesn’t play it for laughs. She is utterly magnificent as Mother Gin Sling.

 ♥  ♥    ♥  ♥

Now if you want to see a spectacular performance, I’m saving the best sole reason to see “The Shanghai Gesture” for last…


Gene…GENE. GENE TIERNEY plays Poppy Smith. Perfectly coiffed…impeccable manners… the class and bearing of someone with money. She speaks well, wears her beauty like Mona Lisa, a little cold…and…unattainable.

“THE SHANGHAI GESTURE” would be Tierney’s sixth motion picture. Audiences couldn’t know what her screen persona would evolve to, so maybe I’m cheating talking from the future of 2018 rather than the past of 1941. See, I’ve seen her in future ( Laura” ( 1944 ) / Leave Her to Heaven” ( 1945 ) / The Ghost & Mrs. Muir ( 1947 ),  etc. ) before I saw her beginning ( …Frank James 1940 ). I saw the cool, composed, sophisticated, classy persona she would grow to become, first. Shock and revelation overcame me seeing Tierney come unglued. We watch the spectacular downward spiral of debutante Poppy Smith in this very showy role for young Gene. She’s haughty, over-confident, demanding, throws tantrums, besotted by love and ends up a hot glorious mess. Yes, this movie belongs to Mother Gin Sling, but Tierney’s ‘Poppy Smith’ gives her a run for her yen.

She starts off very polished, bejeweled, hair in tight curls in an upsweep ‘do. She looks at the casino with school girl fascination:

“The other places are like kindergarten compared  to this. It smells so incredibly evil. I didn’t think  such a place existed except in my own  imagination. Has a ghastly familiarity like a half- remembered dream. Anything could happen here. Any moment.”

When all the men’s attention turns to her, I love the way von Sternberg quickly dollies into a c.u. of her eyes as the camera quickly tries to focus. She has a glacial beauty that’s heart~stopping. ( Let me cut in here with a quick memory of Tierney in The Pleasure Seekers with 60’s blonde, brunette and red-haired sex kittens: Carol Lynley, Pamela Tiffin and Ann-Margret. Their beauty combined could not touch Gene Tierney’s in the 1940’s). But I digress…back on the roller coaster–

As Dr. Omar makes his move on Poppy, I don’t think she’s ever felt the feelings he’s getting from her. She’s mesmerized, doesn’t take her eyes off of him. Her eyes are half-closed. ( Tierney’s eyes are deadly ). She’s enticed to gamble and she wins. She says those fateful last words uttered by all addicts:

“There’s one thing you should know about me. I  can stop whenever I want.”

So of course, she starts to lose.

And in her losing, she gets careless, argumentative (you know, the veritable angry drunks). But she still carries this air of entitlement even as her losses mount. She even challenges Mother Gin Sling (a big mistake!):

POPPY:      “You’re not going to ask for credentials too?”
MOTHER: “You asked for 50,000.”
POPPY:      “And why not? I might’ve asked for more.”
MOTHER: “If your credit is good, any sum you wish is at your disposal.”
POPPY:      “My credit is at least as good as yours.”

Oh Poppy…Poopy…Poppy. Wazzup with the attitude, yo? How much of this youthful hubris is racist leanings???

Her luck changes ~ for the worse ~ her behavior changes ~ for the worse ~ and Omar keeps egging her on to continue.

When we see Poppy again, she wears her hair loose. She’s losing heavily and gets jealous to boot when she sees Dixie and Omar. Jealousy and losing are not a good combination:


POPPY: “You’re not going to make me jealous, are you?”

OMAR: “Don’t make a scene. How can you be jealous of a little chorus girl who doesn’t own the clothes on her back.”

POPPY: “Don’t play with me. I won’t stand for it! Been watching you both for an hour.”

OMAR: “That’s why you lose. Why don’t you watch the game.”

Her “don’t play with me” line sounds very today, very contemporary and rings very true to me. She starts to cause a scene in the casino and Mother Gin Sling has to take her in hand:

“Behave yourself Poppy. You’re in China and  you’re white. It’s not good for us to see you. You’ll  bring discredit to your race if you continue.”

D’ya think Poppy cares?

“Don’t preach to me. And let my race take care of  itself!!”

There’s the dialogue I quoted earlier, in context. Yikes! She’s losing all comportment. Omar sticks with her…but just barely. You can see he’s tired of her rants and raves and dwindling finances. She bores him. When Poppy tries to get Omar to see him, he won’t let her in his apartment. ( He’s just not that into you ). She cries and screams and acts and like she’s hurt her leg. I’ve never seen Tierney let loose with such abandon. ( If you have, please… cite the movie for me ). And von Sternberg lets that scene play out (maybe just a little too long–but I guess directors took their time back then). As I said before, when she feigns her leg injury in the staircase she really looks like ice skater Nancy Kerrigan to me. When she gets inside his apartment she alternately yells / screams / begs / pleads for Omar’s sexual forgiveness. She is a junkie…strung out on gambling and the good doctor Omar.

We she returns to the movie, she’s a dutiful daughter. She’s pulled herself together to see her father. But she’s not ready to give up her experiences here in Shanghai. Not by a long shot. When Poppy is presented at the dinner party. She is disheveled, her hair is wild. I love the pale lipstick she wears (this also gives her a very contemporary look ). She is a hot mess! And she is ravishing. She does seem to have some sense of self-awareness about her situation when she says:

“I owe Lady Shylock over there twenty thousand  English pounds. And I haven’t much to show for it  except that dressed up clown.”

I wouldn’t say she is embarrassed but more disgusted; disgusted with Omar and disgusted with herself. Look at the false bravado and brave front she tries to put out there as she makes Omar recite yet another poem, trying to hold her head up high ~ “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on… ~ but she is a mess!

“This is the poet laureate of Shanghai. Some day  I’m going to kill him!!”

Her degradation is gloriously complete.

She’s disgusted and contemptuous. She’s petulant and tantrum-y. Von Sternberg coaxes a performance of complete abandon from Tierney. How did he know she could do it, so young and early in her career…or did he just pick her for her beauty? I haven’t seen all of Gene Tierney’s movies, but I’m certain in “The Shanghai Gesture” she’s all the things that I’ll never see her be again in her career.

At the risk of spoiling the movie I shall end here. But I would like to give a couple of final shout~outs as even von Sternberg would approve:

1 ~ The great Albert Basserman. ( Hes only slightly younger than C. Aubrey Smith! ) Von Sternbergs close~ups of Basserman’s wizened face were beautiful. And even when he didn’t speak, his expressions spoke volumes. Look at his face during Lady Blessington’s “faint.”

2 ~ Roland Lui, who played Kim Chee is absolutely gorgeous; if this was a different time, he could surely play cute boys-next-door. This is my hubba hubba moment and von Sternberg gives him a nice close-up too. He was in The Letter” (1940) and runs to tell Herbert Marshall “Mr. Hammond is DEAD!”

3 ~ To those lovely little handmaidens that helped out at the dinner party. See them standing behind the lead actors. They floated in and out like little fairies and tried to keep a straight face when Lady Blessington is told (in no uncertain terms) to ”SIT DOWN!” and does a slight faint. Watch the girls in the background. They are cracking up and they cracks me up.

~ Mother Gin Sling has a confidante who I just love. I’m sorry I don’t know the actor’s name but he’s about as Asian as I am. He talks of his Wives Trouble ( Wives as in more than one wife ) and he and Gin Sling have a relationship that’s based on mutual respect. He’s like her Consigliere. And he has great reactions.  

If you haven’t seen “THE SHANGHAI GESTURE” I really urge you to find this one. I don’t know where you think this might fit in in Von Sternberg’s canon of work…but you’ll never see another roller coaster ride like this one.

I hosted a blogathon which includes a variety of topics from bloggers you’re gonna wanna read. Set aside some time to check them out here:

[   H  O  M  E   ]



I’m going to steal, plagarize, imitate ( yeh, that’s the ticket… ) ~ …no, better yet: PAY HOMAGE to a feature from one of my favorite bloggers’ set-pieces: FRIDAY FOTO FOLLIES. And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I hope my friend approves.

What Aurora over at ONCE UPON A SCREEN does, is post a lot of photos that illustrate a theme. She does all manner of these. Click on Audrey and see what I mean.

We have seen some of the most beautiful women in classic Hollywood wearing designs fit for a Queen…gowned by Edith Head, Irene, Givenchy, Orry-Kelly, Yves St. Laurent et al. But I’m a jeans and boots girl. Casual is my speed. I think slacks are the most comfortable, freeing thing to wear. Taking a page from Once Upon A Screen, my post is self~explanatory: WHO WEARS THE PANTS. Here are some of my favorite actresses in outfits either from a movie, photo~shoot or just lounging around. Some of you might think this look is very unfeminine. But you’d be wrong.

I’ll start with the Patron Mistresses of Pants…Dietrich and Hepburn. And Garbo. Can’t forget Garbo. Comfort Queens.

Dietrich                                                     Hepburn

Hepburn wears this beautiful smoking jacket lounging outfit in “Woman of the Year
( 1942 ) and it’s one of my absolute favorites.


Androgyny, much?

Top hat, white tail and tails. No one wears this better. Alright…if you must count Fred Astaire.

The Great Garbo

Ninotchka” “Anna Karenina” “Queen Christina” and for me, her greatest performance… “Camille” ~ Garbo reigned supreme in classic films of the silent and talkie era. Her mystique is unique. She wore a lot of exotic styles in her films and could carry them off. Not glamorous here, but I love her casual look:

Comfort over style

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Here are some other actresses wearing the pants off…pants.

When I was a kid and watched her in tv’s “Bewitched” I probably had little idea of the fabulous career she had as a leading character actress. My favorite performances of AGNES MOOREHEAD are “Dark Passage” “Caged” and “Magnificent Obsession.” She can cut you to the bone ( “Citizen Kane” ) ~ She wasn’t afraid to be what her character needed her to be. But she also could be a friend. Doesn’t Aggie look marvelously relaxed and youthful here?

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She didn’t care for the name, but ANN SHERIDAN was the Oomph Girl and with good reason; she had it in spades. She was Warner Bros’ glamor girl, but if they gave her half a chance, she showed ’em she could act. Whether comedy or drama, Sheridan could handle both with equal aplomb. She’s pictured here with her director Vincent Sherman, who did two pictures with her: “The Unfaithful” and “Nora Prentiss.” Look at those shades and the hair…do a pair of slacks look like it deters Vinnie? He’s at her feet. 

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Here’s my petite Force of Nature…the Queen, BETTE DAVIS. She built many a soundstage at Warner Bros. from the box office success of her films. Seeing her in pants was such an unusual thing because it’s all about dresses for women back then. I like her riding outfit in “Dark Victory.” For me, that look is prognosis positive. Oooh look, Cora Witherspoon who could play to the manor born or W.C. Fields’ wife. I also like Davis’ outfit in “The Great Lie” when she was keeping Mary Astor company while waiting for “their” baby to be born.

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CAROLE LOMBARD ~ 1930’s icon. She was much more than a screwball comedienne. See her in “Vigil in the Night” “In Name Only” or “Made for Each Other.” But gosh darn it, it’s “My Man Godfrey” and “Twentieth Century” that cements her in our memory almost ninety years later. Looks like she’s talking to the great Lubitsch and comfortable doing it. Could it be… or not to be?

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CLAUDETTE COLBERT could wear the hell out of clothes with that petite little figure of hers. ( Her wedding gown in “It Happened One Night” is to die for! ) She had a great career in film ( “The Palm Beach Story” “Midnight” and “Since You Went Away“…to name a few ) but look at her here at home, chilling out…just as you’d expect from Cleopatra.

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One of my all~time favorite movie stars is DORIS DAY. I am just over the silvery moon about her. Pretty nautical here in her decidedly 1940’s stylized look. What a career she’s had ( comedy/drama/sing/dance ) working with some of the great leading men in Hollywood like Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, David Niven, Jack LemmonKirk Douglas…and three guys name Jim: Garner ~ Cagney ~ Stewart. She could also wear her clothes, without them wearing her, whether she’s Calamity Jane or a suburban housewife.  She could do anything. Really. 

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There she is, A girl’s best friend. The great EVE ARDEN who comes in a movie with five minutes of screen time and out she memorably exits, screen left. Here she is in her “Stagedoor” chill. The woman can wear anything. She’s as statuesque as a super model and as sharp as a laser beam. See “Mildred Pierce” if you need proof.

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GINGER ROGERS ~ She could do comedy, drama and dance her *** off. She can put on the glam with the best of ’em ( have you seen her outfits w/dance partner Fred Astaire? ) Doesn’t she look great in these wide legged pants? I always found her to be a natural onscreen.

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HARLOW in satin…is a dream. In slacks…sort of like you and me. I mean, if you and me were glamorous movie star bombshells being relaxed. My favorite films of hers are “Bombshell” and “Libeled Lady” and of course, “Dinner At Eight.” Harlow…you were gone too soon.

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This is my favorite look of IRENE DUNNE’s. She’s on set of “A Guy Named Joe.” She had a nice slacks outfit in “The Awful Truth” too. Never over the top, her talent is always under the radar.

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JENNIFER JONES looks rather pensive. A far cry from her “Portrait of Jennie” “Duel in the Sun” “Madame Bovary” looks. People blow hot or cold over Jones, but I think she’s a fine underrated actress able to exhibit wells of emotion. Her trying to retrieve her love letters from a burning fire brings me to tears. xoxoxo these pants and boots!

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Blonde in the 30’s, brunette in the 40’s. The great underestimated JOAN BENNETT. She can fit any place: on safari or a scarlet street or be the mother of a bride. Yes her sister Constance is known as THE fashion plate. But little sister Joan’s not bad. She’s stylish as diamonds with attitude for days. Whew!!

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She looks like she stepped out of 2018 with those shades and jumpsuit. What can I say about her. No one wore clothes like her. They say no one loved being a movie star more than JOAN CRAWFORD. Well if you’re going to be good at something…

Her career spans decades. I’m partial to her Oscar-winning role in “Mildred Pierce.” But she was good in “Rain“, “Daisy Kenyon” and with Gable. Hell, she’s a STAR!

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You know how to whistle don’t you? LAUREN BACALL is worth whistling for. She was known as “The Look” in her modeling days, and boy she had it. She was never the frilly feminine type. Very tailored. Pants suit her, don’cha think? I like her in “Dark Passage” and “Written on the Wind.” I dunno…I kind of think she was never really given a chance to bloom as an actress. Perhaps not getting good scripts. Perhaps overshadowed by her more famous husband. Perhaps there was more to Life for her. In movies, she always seems down~to~earth, no nonsense; a little intimidating. If you approach her, you’d better bring it. 

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You can’t get more doe-like, more feminine than Loretta Young. Even in this staged photo shoot, she’s a vision. ( Pssst! See her strong performances in “The Stranger” and “Midnight Mary.” )

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For this flaming redhead, comedy or drama, gowns or slacks…LUCILLE BALL could do and wear it all with ease. Yeh, I love Lucy.

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This is MERLE OBERON playing George Sand in “A Song to Remember.” And I have to tell you, I’m floored by this costume. Isn’t it smart? Merle, a unique looking beauty, hasn’t made movies were so memorable other than the towering “Wuthering Heights.” ( I personally like her and Dana Andrews in “Night Song” ). My claim to fame is when I went to see the throngs of stars attend the premiere of “The Godfather” ( 1972 ) back in NYC, I saw Merle Oberon with Robert Wolders. Very few people were excited by seeing her. Boy, I was.

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One of my favorites…PAULETTE GODDARD walks with her beau, Charlie…swinging her shades. Looking sassy, stylish, comfortable and nonchalant. I understand her collection of jewels and paintings is unparalleled in Hollywood. Another actress with not a stellar filmography, her role in “The Women” is a standout. My friend Wendy writes a wonderful essay for my blog on Goddard I urge you to read.

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The Love Goddess is looking mighty casual here in a pair of slacks. Hell, I confess…I don’t care WHAT  RITA HAYWORTH  wears.

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These are my two favorite fotos of Stany. One she looks younger than one remembers her, and the other she’s so disheveled in “My Reputation” ( 1946 ), her hair and plaid jacket just kill me. 


But the theme is pants…

Her career is legendary. But get a load of that blouse, the belt, those leopard print shoes, her attitude. That’s BARBARA STANWYCK alright. See her hand in her pocket? Damn, she’s ready to kick ass, and she ain’t takin’ names either. Elegant.


Thank you all for perusing my Friday Foto Follies. I might try this again in the future with another theme I’ve gathered along my way. Once again, I tip my hat to Aurora over at Once Upon A Screen who can REALLY show that a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out her photo galleries by clicking on this photo of 40’s horror Queen, Evelyn Ankers:

…and this?  Oh…it’s just my indulgence. I’m an Evelyn Ankers fan:

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My blog’s FOURTH birthday is today. Yippee! Yay!!  

I want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to those of you who’ve followed and shared my blog or have stumbled upon my site in your internet travels. THANK YOU!!

~ In the course of the past three years I’ve hosted my own blogathons ~ 


~ Flatttered to have co~hosted two ~


~ and participated in several ~


whether they’re frivolous, serious…or my blind passion. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my take.

 Mr. Muckle              The Canterbury Tale                      Vertigo

I want to share my love for classic films with you all who love these films as I do, or are just a little bit curious. I hope I’m an easy read…and that you’ve enjoyed yourself here. THANK YOU!

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NOW…to start off my fourth year, I give you this:

ANA EIRE sent me this message. Click photo for her CLASSIC FILM REMINDERS

So with this, I’ll start my new year by showing you some Classic Film Reminders I ran into on my travels in 2017.

If you wish, check out the classic film reminders I saw in 2015 and 2016; you know…things you pass along your travels that remind you of classic films. Well below are reminders I had in 2017. Hope you’ll follow along with my blog in its fourth year and hope it continues to be entertaining for you.

Look at these photos. See if you can guess the Classic Film connection I made when I saw this. Then click on the photo and see the connection. I’ve been having fun doing this blog. It’s kept me outta trouble. Thank you for joining me.

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Do you see what I see in this pile of garbage at this construction site. It caught MY eye.

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I went to this bar in Williamsburg to hear my musician friend play. 

As I am want to do when I’m in a bar, I ordered a drink. HA! To my surprise, I see a classic film actor’s name on the menu. Do you see it? Click above pix to get closer. 

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My friend and I ate at this nice little Mediterranean restaurant in Williamsburg. Yes, hummus was involved.

There was a bookshelf near our table, and to my surprise…

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Passing the syrup display at my local supermarket, I stopped and smiled.

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This one is probably pretty obvious. I saw this protest sign when I went to the Women’s Protest March the day after the Presidential Inauguration Day 2017. I howled when I saw this very clever sign.

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These two are pretty self-explanatory. I just hadn’t expected to see them in IKEA.

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Brooklyn is the borough of brownstones. On the weekend, people put clothes and books out on their stoop for the taking. One of these books caught my eye.

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I was walking through Chelsea and saw a giant poster that…

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I saw this restaurant in Chelsea and thought—-> THIS.

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They’re going to renovate this neighborhood movie theatre in Windsor Terrace Brooklyn, and I smiled at the marquee.

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My friend and I passed by this burger joint and  HEY! I stopped dead in my tracks.

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I was walking crosstown in Manhattan on 34th Street ~ see the Empire State Building in the background  ~ when an image inside this parking garage caught my eye.

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I’m here in Greenwich Village walking crosstown on Christopher Street when I pass this church. What?! What the …

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I’m walking down West 8th Street here in the Village when I pass this big poster of West 8th Street in the old days. The old days of 1944. How do I know the year? Oooh look…a movie marquee. What’s playing?

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Here’s the Fountain Pen Hospital where my friend works. As I was about to enter this City Hall~area store, I saw a display in the window that made me say: “Hey…”  V is not just for Victory.

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I was walking through my neighborhood school’s playground this rainy day. School’s closed for the Christmas / New Year holiday. It’s so quiet and empty. But what’s that paper?

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In the world of classic film blogathons, there are sooooo many themes and topics covered.


It’s pretty tough to come up with something unique that bloggers might WANT to join. They’re a pretty busy lot maintaining their own blogs. So I came up with this idea that looks like appealed to many.

Bloggers were invited to write about ANYthing their little hearts desired for this one day event. I am happy and grateful for their contributions. I’ve even made some fancy schmancy banners to highlight their work. It’s still pretty nippy in certain parts of the country. So if you’re staying inside to be warm and cozy…cuddle up to these blogs below.


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( Well yeah, I’m gonna start off with my own entry. )


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SILVER SCREENINGS has written about THE HITCH~HIKER which might serve well as a companion piece in her guest essay over at CineSuffragettes.

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Again, I want to thank all the bloggers who participated in my blogathon. I hope you have time to read all the entries submitted, make comments on their blogs…and share this directory with your own readers. I’ll be traveling to California for TCM’s annual film festival in April. I’ll be carrying all your posts with me and reading them as I cross the country. This will make the hours fly by like minutes. Thank you for that, too!


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One way to publicize your blog…one way to publicize others’ is by holding a blogathon. Here is a directory of many of the blogathons that took place this year.  Some perennial favorites return, and some new ones appear on the horizon. Click here to see how 2017 shaped up in the world of classic film blogging. If I’m missing any, please comment below with your link. I’ll gladly you include you. Hope 2017 was a good one for you. If not, you’ll have a fresh start this Monday. Thanks! ~ CineMaven

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I will trade Delon, Belmondo, Trintignant, Aumont, Jourdan, Montand, Chevalier, Boyer…and maybe even Jeanne Moreau for one night with JEAN GABIN. I’ve never heard of this film. And I came away from it saying “Viva La France!!” “Viva GABIN!!”


The film is TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI. My review is one of the happy participants in Debbie Vega’s IT TAKES A THIEF Blogathon over at her blog ~ Moon In Gemini. Crime does not pay. At least that’s what Hollywood WANTS us to believe. With my pick for this blogathon, I look at what happens AFTER the crime. Moreso than just “honor among thieves”, this movie is the story of friendship.

She’s there for him before, during…and after

The head of the gang is MAX played by Jean Gabin. Nope, he’s not the pretty boy~type in the Delon / Jourdan mold. He’s not handsome at all by Hollywood-standards. He’s a man; a ruggedly beautiful and masculine man. You know he knows what to do…on a heist or in the bedroom. The movie shows us Max’s life and how he walks through his world. He’s a take-charge-take-care-of-business kinda guy. Nothing phases him. He moves with assurance. The other men look to him as their leader. He walks confidently through the underworld. ( …And dashingly wears the hell out of double breasted suits. ) The thrust of the story is he’s pulled a job netting a couple of thousands in gold bullions; but his friend and partner is kidnapped by a rival gang and Max must pay a ransom to get him back…those gold bullions. 

Max and the gangsters are middle~aged men. At first blush I thought “what do these old guys ‘think’ they’re going to do with these young girls.” Silly me…it’s Jean Gabin. And these ‘old guys’ are just fantastic! The crux of the story is the friendship between Max and his dear impetuous friend of twenty years, Riton ( poignantly played by René Dary  ), a man who perhaps is trying to hold onto his youth with his affair with a young chorus girl. She’s too young, and too pretty for him, but he wants her.

The Foley artists must have had a ball doing this movie; I felt like I had superhuman hearing. Every footstep on cobblestone…every bottle uncorked, every French bread torn in half was pronounced. The sound guy made me hungry. And the movie took its time. No one walked fast or talked fast. There was a leisureliness to the whole film. And director Jacques Becker wasn’t afraid to take his time either in letting scenes play out. We see Max make a snack for him and Riton…getting the sheets and blanket for bed… brushing his teeth…spitting out the water. We would have never seen that in an American film of the 40’s; taking the time to show the whole procedure; and especially not today. Nothing going on? Ha! This quiet scene of two friends together says EVERYTHING about them. I liked their friendship. Max discusses they are old men. Time to retire. Time to face that. Riton has other ideas: Josy.

                                 Josy has other ideas herself…

Jeanne Moreau plays Josy the chorus girl. And Moreau is dynamite. Oui oui, the cotton candy that’s Bardot would shortly be around fame’s bend. But for now we’ve got Moreau, and she commands attention in even this small early role. I remember my friend Wendy ( who has an essay or two here on my blog ) saying:

“I could not take my eyes off of Jeanne Moreau. It’s funny, I saw her name in the credits, but I was absolutely sure she was in a bit role. So as I watched Josy, I said to myself:  “She just draws the camera to her! I wonder who she is? I’m going to have to look her up after the movie.” Duh.”


Friendship. Friendship. It’s the perfect, blendship… I enjoyed watching Max’s and Riton’s friendship. I believed it. Max loves Riton, even if he’s a pain in his neck, bailing him out of scrapes. They probably were together as young men robbing and stealing. The only one who Riton trusts completely IS Max. There’s a point in the film where Max telephones Riton and tells him NOT to go with the guys in his room. Riton doesn’t question it, he just immediately does as Max says. Max is the only one who could tell him Josy is NOT for him. Ev’ryone has that one friend that tells you the tough stuff; the stuff you don’t want to hear.


..And you take it

When Max needs to get some answers, he gets some answers. He doesn’t get all wound up like our Cagney, Bogie or Eddie G. Not a lot of talk…he just bitch~slaps you right in the kisser. They all put him in a predicament. Now he’s got to get out of it and they’d better talk. As I said, I loved the friendships and loyalties in this movie.  

Max and his young henchman Marco ( Michel Jourdan ) kidnap one of the rival gang members who has kidnapped their friend Riton.


He’s taken down to the basement of their local restaurant to be questioned by another mature gent, Pierrot ( Paul Frankeur ). Pierrot manhandles, tying him up like an S & M dominatrix to work him over until they get answers.

These guys may look sedentary, but they move like Baryshnikov when they have to get going. When bad guys come to Max’s apartment he escapes out a window down a chimney over a rooftop down a staircase up a fire escape through a…well, he didn’t actually do all that. But he sure does hightail it outta there quick fast and in a hurry. Jean Gabin is thoroughly watchable; in command…sexy, loyal. In fact, we get to know each one of his allies, even if for the briefest of moments. This is such a gem of a movie. We’re watching a family of friends. 

Thanks for reading! If you want to read more entries about how ‘It Takes A Thief’ you merely have to click on this photo above. Hell…it’s a lot easier than robbing a bank!


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Since 2014 Once Upon A Screen’s Citizen Screen has been celebrating the contributions of the Latino community in classic films with her annual “HOLLYWOOD’S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON.” And that time is upon us again:

Now listen, if we leave it to Hollywood and our old ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ you may see a whole array of Latino cultures represented by nothing but big sombreros, bullfights and banditoes. Whole civilizations were built without Hollywood’s and America’s help. If one takes a gander of different Latino cultures from their OWN vantage point and film industry, that is a whole different kettle of frijoles. ( Ugh!! ) A few years ago MoMA ( the Museum of Modern Art ) presented their “Mexico At Night” series of Mexican film noir from Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema. I went a couple of times, seeing the staggering beauty of Dolores Del Rio in her native language, and the force of Nature that is María Félix who blew me out of my seat. For my entry this year, I’d like to write just a little about 1945’s “Crepúsculo”. 

This movie is more melodrama than film noir. And with my third screening at the MoMA I was becoming more and more familiar with the 40’s Mexican stars. Arturo de Córdova brings a smile to my face and I’m beginning to know him. He’s a good solid leading man who probably wasn’t going to get those chances opposite Hollywood’s elite leading ladies. I looked forward to seeing what scrapes he’s going to get into with THIS film. ( I write of another of his films here ).

In “Crepúsculo” ( aka “Twilight” ) de Córdova plays a successful surgeon tortured by a guilty conscience. Told in flashback, de Córdova troubles begin when he goes to a sculptor’s studio before his European trip to meet his good friend, and becomes mesmerized by a statue…but when he sees its live human model, he’s a complete goner. ( Things happen instantaneously in Mexican films…they don’t waste time, boy. ) Lucía, the model ( played by the beautiful Gloria Marín ) winds up becoming the wife of his good friend Ricardo ( actor Manuel Arvide ).

The Wife                                           The Best Friend

De Córdova has done nicely to resist temptation. ( If nothing else, these movies teach me no one can resist a Mexican woman ) but to no avail. He wants her and they have an affair.

“Because I can’t bear the torture of seeing you and of not seeing you. I don’t know which of the two is more intolerable.”

De Córdova: “What I can’t believe is that you fled from me that day.”
Marín:           “I did it so that our love would be perfect…after that perfect night. You don’t know that by losing you, I hoped to win you forever.”
DeCórdova: “You destroyed my life!”
Marín:         “I destroyed myself as well.”

Lucía has a younger sister, Cristina ( ~ Lilia Michel with Hollywood girl-next-door looks ) who develops a crush on the older de Córdova. This is the hornet’s nest de Córdova  walks into when finally fulfilling a social obligation to spend the weekend at his friend’s house. He’s been trying to stay away from Lucía, but she’s not having that and wants to risk every thing.


Aye yi yi.

[ Sheesh! The lovers do a poor job of hiding their guilt. ]

Something’s gotta give, and does during that weekend. Desire, resistance, recriminations, pregnant pauses, crashing music and a lot of cigarette-smoking take place in this movie. De Córdova’s got it bad…and that ain’t good. Neither de Córdova nor Marín can keep the guilt to themselves which makes her husband suspicious. All three have voice-overs and close-ups letting us know just what’s going on inside them.

…And the husband has a plan of his own.

How will this all play out. I’ll not spoil anything for you. You can see the movie for yourself.

We shouldn’t wait for the once~a~year annual reason to explore Mexican cinema, or acknowledge the contributions of creativity throughout the Hispanic diaspora in movies. Aurora at Once Upon A Screen offers a great guide, with these blogathons to get you started:


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