Thursday, December 29, 2011

N.Y.E. on Film

Should you forgo all the hoopla and stay home and watch a movie this New Year's Eve, you can vicariously experience everything from an overturned ship to poignant friends turned lovers. Here are a few memorable New Year's Eve scenes on film:

New Year's Eve

Pick a holiday, add an all star ensemble cast and a series of romantic vignettes and you have the formula for director Gary Marshall's film New Year's Eve in what is truly a trend in Hollywood these days. (If this sounds familiar, you probably saw Valentine's Day back in February and if you are a baby boomer, you remember the Love Boat as well). The film stars Hilary Swank, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, and yes, Robert De Niro. The critics have not been kind so enter at your own risk (although it's got a great cast and looks like a good "rom-com").

Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) lures young screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) to her NYE bash only to find he is the only guest in her decrepit, memory filled Sunset Boulevard mansion. Often campy yet a true window on aging in Hollywood, the film is a classic and gets better with every viewing. I remember hearing a film was in the works with Glenn Close years ago, too bad it didn't work out.

Ocean's Eleven 
Danny Ocean and Company - that would be Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop - pull off a heist in Las Vegas on the busiest night of the year. Ocean's Eleven is the original and better than the sequel (in my humble opinion).

Connery and Zeta Jones
Another heist takes place before the ball drops in the year 2000 in the stylish caper Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Winslet and Black in The Holiday
Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz celebrate New Year's Eve in a little Surrey town in director Nancy Meyer's holiday classic (aptly called) The Holiday.

Bissett and Bergen in Rich and Famous
Rich and Famous is an often forgotten gem of a film directed by George Cukor and stars Jacqueline Bissett and Candice Bergen as old friends who are at varying stages of their career. The film takes place over several decades of their friendship (complete with competition, jealousy and envy) and culminates on New Year's Eve. Look for a young Meg Ryan and Bergen's daughter.

When Harry Met Sally's Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan

Harry's proclamation of love to Sally is a scene stealing moment in When Harry Met 
Sally. "And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of our life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible" was just one of the many memorable quotes from writer Nora Ephron.

The Poseidon Adventure
"There's got to be a morning after" was not the case for the tourists on this love boat in the seventies disaster flick The Poseiden Adventure. Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters were among the fatalities as I recall. Great special effects as the boat capsizes on the big night.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) spend a depressing NYE together after having a year of being left at the altar and separated respectively in the film Sex and the City. Or skip the film and rent the set of seasons one through eight and have a marathon.

And if you didn't watch it over Christmas, here is your chance...Holiday Inn. Enough said.
And here's to a prosperous, healthy and reasonably stress free 2012. Happy New Year!

Holiday Inn

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas to all....and yes, this is the Griswold family mug from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and no, it's not in my collection of cinema memorabilia!

Happy Holidays!

Cathy Whitlock

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Black and White Christmas

Is it me or do Christmas films look better in black and white? They are timeless, classic and most of all, make the holidays seem like a gentler, nicer time before the days of the recession, mega malls, polarizing politics and the Kardashians set in. So this holiday, turn off the Real Housewives marathon (one wonders if they will run out of cities and Poughkeepsie will be next) and watch a piece of holiday nostalgia. Here are a few of my favorites in black and white:

Holiday Inn (1942)

Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, and a charming inn only open on holidays? Count me in. This is the film that put Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" on the map. And supposedly Memphis businessman Kemmons Wilson named his motel chain after the film and the rest was history.

Crosby and Astaire vie for the affections of Marjorie Reynolds

Crosby and Reynolds in the Connecticut inn

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

A famous foodie who lies about being the perfect domestic homemaker entertains her boss and a war hero at Christmas dinner in a snowy and idyllic Connecticut farmhouse setting (which was also used for the film Bringing Up Baby). The film stars Barbara Stanwyck as food journalist Elizabeth Lane and Dennis Morgan. And in true Hollywood fashion, the film was remade with Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis.

Stanwyck and Morgan

Wonderful chintz sets!

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I question anyone who hasn't seen this classic film about a department store Santa who claims to be the real Kris Kringle. The film won four Academy Awards and stars an eight year old Natalie Wood. And the scenes at Macy's and the Thanksgiving Day parade were the real thing.

Edmund Gwenn as Santa with Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara

The Bishop's Wife (1947)

Loretta Young and David Niven star in this classic tale of an angel who helps a Bishop solve his problems with Cary Grant as the harp playing angel. The film was remade as The Preacher's Wife in the mid-nineties with Denzel Washington, Courtney B. Vance and Whitney Houston.

Grant and Young

Grant did not learn to play the harp for the film:)

I have to admit I will no doubt watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as well. Who doesn't love Cousin Eddie, Clark Griswold and the squirrel? "It's the gift that keeps on giving..."

Ho ho ho and all the best for 2012!

Film Credits:  MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Hooked on Houses

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lisabeth Salander, Dragon Style

Starting tomorrow, you too can adopt the looks of the film the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-- body painting optional.

Swedish retailer H&M (known for their high fashion at low prices) teamed with costume designer Trish Summerville to celebrate the looks of protagonist Lisabeth Salander. While Salander's look is not for everyone (actress Rooney Mara had to bleach her eyebrows and pierce numerous body parts), Summerville hopes there is a little something for everyone to add to their wardrobe. Think leggings and boots, short jackets and tees,  black and grey and all with an edge.

I would add this black coat to my almost all black wardrobe (I am always ready for a funeral clothes-wise) and for 69.95, the price is certainly right. The washed denim vest is a steal at 29.95 and who cares if the white tank makes it through one season - it's practically free at 9.95.

Based on Stieg Larsson's wildly popular novel and directed by Social Network's David Fincher, the film opens December 20th and you can channel your inner kick-ass Lisabeth December 14th. For a sneak peek of the film, go here. And check out H&M's collection here.

Rooney before and after
With co-star Daniel Craig a the London premiere
Photo Credits: Sony Pictures, H&M

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Give the Dog a Bone

Since he has already won the (unofficial) Cannes Palm Dog award maybe the Oscar for Best Actor is not that far fetched. The canine in question is Uggie, the adorable Jack Russell terrier who steals the scenes in the melodrama/musical/comedy/silent pic The Artist (Weinstein Company).

Uggie with co-star Jean Dujardin
According to The Wrap, there is a movement afoot to nominate this season's sidekick who plays the faithful four-legged companion to silent film star George Valentin (played by actor Jean Dujardin). An Oscar campaign has been mounted on the website Consider Uggie and the little guy even has his on twitter and Facebook campaign to support the cause. Can't blame a dog for trying. And as the campaign points out, Uggie is eight years old and you know what they say about age in's either now or never.

"I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Demille"
 Apparently his Oscar winning performance was fueled not by method acting but sausages from Dujardin's pocket. (Note: he shared the role with two other Jack Russells but did the majority of the scenes). Perhaps he took his acting cues from another famous screen terrier, Asta from The Thin Man series. One can only imagine the acceptance speech.

Bow tied and ready on the red carpet at Cannes

Asta with Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man 
Good luck Uggie and remember the old adage -- anything can happen in Hollywood. Just remember all the little dogs you left behind at the kennel and don't relieve yourself in the limo.

Thanks to all of you who came to my lecture at the Corcoran in DC and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Spielberg was filming his new biopic Lincoln in the Richmond area where I was staying and look forward to seeing how they turned the Capital into the Lincoln White House. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals, the film stars Daniel Day Lewis (who is in complete method mode and living by candlelight while there), Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln and James Spader, David Straithairn and Tommy Lee Jones in supporting roles.

Daniel Day Lewis in character

Photo Credits: The Weinstein Company

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coming Soon: About Face

The Sundance Film Festival announced their line-up this week and one in particular will be of interest to baby boomers and/or fashionistas everywhere. About Face is a documentary about fashion models of the seventies and eighties and their career highs and lows and the inevitable work tolls of aging. If you don't recognize the names -- Carmen Dell'Orefice (still stunning in her eighties), Cheryl Tiegs, Jerry Hall, Christie Brinkley, Dayle Haddon, Carol Alt, Isabella Rossellini and Kim Alexis -- you will no doubt recognize the faces. Many became actresses, married rock and sports stars, retired or as in the case of Dell'Orefice, lost all their money to Bernie Madoff. And several are still going strong today as the baby boomer generation has made it cool to be "of a certain age."

Sundance runs January 19th to the 29th and if aren't lucky enough to attend, About Face will be shown on HBO next summer!

Beverly Johnson and Cheryl Tiegs

Christie Brinkley gets a touch up on set

Photo Credits: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big Girls Need Big Diamonds

No one loved diamonds more than Elizabeth Taylor, famously quoting that "big girls need big diamonds." And no celebrity is more identified with diamonds and jewels than the legendary actress. While she may have had numerous husbands (seven), her love affair with jewelry may be the one that lasted the longest. From the 33.19 karat Krupp diamond bestowed to her by two time husband Richard Burton to a ruby and diamond Cartier necklace from Mike Todd, she amassed an incredible collection over her extraordinary lifetime and even developed a perfume called White Diamonds.

Just in time for Christmas comes the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor on the auction block at Christies. Collectors and well-heeled fans of the late star can purchase over 1000 items that include jewelry, couture and art starting on December 13th through the l6th. The collection is expected to fetch 30-50 million and it's all here -- Bulgari, Givenchy, Van Cleef & Arpels, Valentino and even Warhol.

And if the prices are too staggering for your budget, opt for the catalogue of memorabilia. A special boxed set accompanied by Taylor's signed out of print book "My Love Affair with Jewelry" is available for a mere 2500.00 (note - only 25 are available and proceeds go to her AIDS Foundation). You can see more of the collection at the Christies website.

Santa, if you are reading, I would love the Irene Sharaff yellow silk chiffon wedding dress worn on her first wedding day to Richard Burton in l964. It's a steal at 40,000-60,000. Just put in a bid on the low side and see what happens:)

Irene Sharaff wedding dress

Krupp diamond given to Taylor by her fifth husband.
It's said she wore the ring everyday and is valued at 2.5 to 3.5 million.

Bulgari sapphire and diamond necklace given to
Taylor by Richard Burton on her 40th  birthday
Estimated price? 600,000-800,000

Nicknamed the Granny Necklace after Burton gave it to Taylor
when she became a grandmother, this gold, diamond and emerald piece
 from Van Cleef & Arpels is a bargain at 120,000-180,000

Warhol's lithograph is expected to go for 30,000-50,000

Valentino red satin ball gown

Emanuel sateen white trenchcoat as worn by Liz below in 1954

Antique circular "opera passes" with the names of opera houses

Husband Mike Todd gave Taylor this tiara to wear to the Oscars
Estimate 60,000-80,000

Happy bidding!

And if you are in the Richmond, Virginia area next weekend, I will be speaking on the making of Cleopatra at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, December 10th. The lecture will be followed by a screening of the film.

I will also be lecturing on Designs on Film at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC Thursday, December 8th followed by a book signing. And at some point, I will stick a wreath on the door and ink out a few Christmas cards:)

Photo Credits:  Christie's