The clever & cheeky Barry of Cinematic Catharsis has summoned this great and powerful idea for a Summer Blogathon! Whether it’s the weather, or giant mutant bugs, blood hungry sharks, large animals run amok, or the elements gone awry–Nature’s Fury can be seen in so many fascinating and awe inspiring feature films and those lovable B movie trends that showcase the natural world in chaos. I immediately thought of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as it is a film that has stayed burned in my mind since I first saw it as a child. Certain scenes will never lose their power to terrify.
And in celebration of this event, I’ve actually written a song and made a film/music mash up to tribute Tippi Hedren in The Birds, with a montage from the film featuring my song Calling Palundra…
“The Birds expresses nature and what it can do, and the dangers of nature. Because there’s no doubt that if the birds did decide, you know, with the millions that they are, to go for everybody’s eyes, then we’d have H.G.Wells Kingdom of the Blind on our hands.”-Alfred Hitchcock
“Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are you? What are You? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all this… I think you’re evil EVIL!” –Actress Doreen Lang playing the hysterical mother in the diner!
This tribute video features my special song written just for this blogathon…. Here’s Melanie Daniels & the birds– with my piano vocal accompaniment, ‘Calling Palundra’
The children’s song “Risseldy Rosseldy” heard at the school when the crows began to unite as a gang is the Americanization of an old Scottish folk song called “Wee Cooper O’Fife”
On it’s face The Birds can be taken literally as a cautionary tale about the natural world fighting back against the insensitivity & downright barbaric treatment of nature’s children and the environment at the hands of humankind. Is it a tale of simple unmitigated revenge against the town for the killing of a pigeon? Or is there something more nefarious & psycho-sexual at work? Once you peel back the top layer of the visual narrative there are multi metaphors at work.
From Dark Romance: SEXUALITY IN THE HORROR FILM by David J. Hogan- “Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) is probably the ultimate expression of this sort of nameless dread. It is a film that cheerfully defies description: it is horror, it is science fiction, it is black comedy, it is a scathing look at our mores and manners. It is a highly sexual film, but in a perversely negativistic way.”
Before the release of The Birds in 1963, Tippi Hedren made the cover of Look Magazine with the heading “Hitchcock’s new Grace Kelly”.
As with Hitchcock’s other, worldly beautiful blonde subject — the strong willed socialite Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) in Rear Window (1954) The Birds features the stunning Tippi Hedren as the coy, confident and a bit manipulative Melanie Daniels a San Fransisco socialite who descends upon Bodega Bay with a similar uncompromising will. Stiff, stolid and cocky Lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) meets Melanie in a pet shop where the two share shallow, faintly romantic barbs and repartee. Mitch is shopping for a pair of love birds for his sister Cathy’s eleventh birthday and Mitch pretends in a condescending manner to mistake her for the clerk. Melanie goes along with the mistaken identity as a way to flirt until his slightly mean-spirited joke backfires when she accidentally let’s a canary loose and while it lands in an ashtray Mitch throws his hat on it and places it back in it’s cage smugly saying “Back in your gilded cage Melanie Daniels.” revealing that he not only knew who she was from the very beginning and has quite a snotty preconceived notion about this socialite whom he appears to judge as running with a ‘wild’ crowd and is amoral. He manages to make a bit of a fool out of Melanie. The contrast between the flirty glib and calculating Melanie Daniels and the less interesting, judgemental and arrogant Mitch Brenner kicks off a chemistry that really isn’t as vital to the story as what the two personalities represent.
Melanie runs after Mitch and catches sight of his license plate number, getting his information from her father’s contacts at the newspaper. She decides to follow him 60 miles up the coast with a pair of Lovebirds to see him at his mother’s home in Bodega Bay where he spends his weekends.
And one of the popular theories is that it’s her driving impulse to seduce Mitch that has sparked the inexplicable terror that takes siege upon the residents of the sleepy little seaside community.
Once at Bodega Bay, she asks a storekeeper where to find Mitch’s little sister and is given Annie Hayworth’s address, where Melanie proceeds to drive to.
Now it’s time for two thirds of the triad of grasping women to meet each other. The confident socialite stylish and stunning in pursuit of Mitch, and the brooding beautiful woman he left behind who’s sullenness is as palpable as the surrounding sea. Though Annie winds up being a very good person, loves her students, and though she’s in pain and sees Mitch moving into a dynamic relationship with a outre sophisticated blonde, she winds up being a true friend, to the point of ultimately sacrificing her own life.
Melanie rents a boat from Doodles Weaver credited as the boat rental guy.
She starts up the motor and begins to head across the bay just to bring Mitch a ‘practical joke’ present in kind, what else but… a pair of Lovebirds. She has written him a letter which she winds up tearing up, instead placing a card for his sister Cathy presenting the Lovebirds as the originally intended birthday gift for her.
Melanie moves across the bay toward the object of her desire adorned in Edith Head’s glamorous boating attire, a luxurious mink, that stunning green suit and high heels, (yes! it’s a very understated chic outfit for the occasion of man hunting) Tippi’s gorgeous green suit she is seen wearing throughout the film was referred to by multi Academy Award winning fashion designer Edith Head, as “Eau de Nil” or Nile water!
Continue reading “Nature’s Fury Blogathon: 🐜 Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) Melanie Daniels as Metaphor: Wanton With Wings-“What are you? I think you’re the cause of all this, I think you’re evil!””
In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant and beautiful women!
From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures, to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender and sexuality! That’s our party!
In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… All together there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!
First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up these fabulous femmes….
Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck , Joan Crawford and Ida Lupino managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!
(source edited)- by Jürgen Müller‘s for TASCHEN’s Movies of the 60s- “Like no other decade before or since, the 60s embodied the struggle against a jaded, reactionary establishment. As the Vietnam War dragged on, the protests grew in scale and intensity. Revolution ran riot, in the streets and on the silver screen. The movies of the epoch tell tales of rebellion and sexual liberation, and above all they show how women began to emancipate from their traditional roles as housewives or sex bombs…”
Drew Casper writes, “Some films still styled along classic lines while others simultaneously embodied both the old and new approaches… Stirred the placid waters of the classical with grittier degrees of realism with their accompanying darker sensibilities.” –Postwar Hollywood 1946-1962
Women like Jane Fonda, Anna Magnani, Simone Signoret, Audrey Hepburn, Ann Bancroft, Piper Laurie, Angie Dickinson,Bette Davis, Joanne Woodward, Patricia Neal and so many more became iconic for breaking the old mold and grabbing a new kind of individualism without judgement and new kind of self expression.
Barry Keith Grant writes in American Cinema of the 1960s-“The decade was one of profound change and challenge for Hollywood, as it sought to adapt to both technological innovation and evolving cultural taste.”
In the 1960s we began to see more films like The Group 1966, Valley of the Dolls 1967, Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, Who Killed Teddy Bear 1965, Mr.Buddwing 1966, Walk on the Wild Side 1962, A Patch of Blue 1965, The Explosive Generation 1961, The Young Savages 1961, Look in Any Window 1961, Pressure Point 1962, Claudelle Inglish 1961, One Potato Two Potato 1964, Lilith 1964, Butterfield 8,(1960), Cul de Sac 1966, The Pumpkin Eater 1964, Sanctuary 1961, Belle du Jour 1967, Lolita 1962, The Children’s Hour 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961, Rachel Rachel 1968, Up the Junction 1968, Darling 1965, To Kill a Mockingbird 1962, A Rage to Live 1965, Kitten With a Whip 1964, The Naked Kiss 1964, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone 1961, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 , Juliet of the Spirits 1965, Psyche 59 (1964) ,Lady in a Cage 1964. & Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964
And of course the films I’m covering here. These films began to recognize an audience that had a taste for less melodrama and more realistic themes, not to mention the adult-centric narratives with a veracious Mise-en-scène…
PS: I would have included Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby but that is my favorite film and plan on doing a special post in honor of this brilliant timeless masterpiece… and Mia’s quintessential performance.
Elmer Gantry is always chasing dreams and always telling dirty stories is the smooth talking traveling salesman, brought to life by Burt Lancaster who portrays his character with a bit more sensuality than Sinclair Lewis‘ cold predatory con man. Gantry is a hard drinking provocateur and a lady’s man. Raised by a father who quoted verse, he has a swift grasp of the Bible and uses it to insinuated himself into Sister Sharon’s hell fire traveling road show. Though he is a skeptic, he sees a great light in Sister Sharon and the potential to fill the coffers with riches!
The sublimely beautiful Jean Simmons is as ethereally angelic as she is a pure sensuality. Sister Sharon Falconer is a young revivalist in the style of Aimee Semple McPherson. Sharon is at first righteous and unwavering in her convictions, she begins to awaken unto the spell of the charming and bigger than life Elmer Gantry. Elmer starts out poetically ruthless as he insinuates himself into Sharon’s life, until she loses her firm grip on her faithful mission and their attraction blossoms into a physical one.
One night he craftily sweet talks Sharon’s virginity away from her, though she is a very willing participant ready to be freed from the confines of her stifling religious prison.
Sharon struggles with her identity as a pious figure and a sexually aroused woman. Simmons is an actress of fine distinction who can work with that duality bringing to the screen a role with great complexity. She is also stuck in between the conflict that ensues between Elmer and her manager Bill Morgan (Dean Jagger) who doesn’t like nor trust Gantry’s influence over Sharon.
Sister Sharon created herself from nothing and is now pragmatic and independent with a vision to capture the world, by building a temple for the people so she can share the good word of God. No more traveling as a revival side show attraction. She is brave, dedicated and faithful to the end. And I won’t spoil the ending– at least I will say that she is a true believer and a real woman filled with passion on both sides of the coin. She allows herself to be seduced by Gantry, yet still is fiercely dedicated to building her own tabernacle so she may offer comfort and inspiration to those in need.
Shirley Jones is fabulous as Lulu Banes who was first seduced by Gantry while she was the Deacon’s daughter now…. a call girl from Elmer’s tawdry past, who tries to rake up a little gossip and cash as payback for Mr. Gantry ditching her. Okay, there’s some blackmail involved when she sees the opportunity because there’s sour grapes as Gantry left Lulu in the lurch, with a broken heart. But in the end, Lulu’s got integrity. She’s plucky, and has some of the best lines in the film and hey she’s not only a call girl… she a nice girl…
She’s so lovable that Shirley Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that year!
It’s interesting to hear that it took actor Author Kennedy to get Simmons potted on milk and gin before she felt comfortable enough to do the scene where the revival tent catches fire and flaming debris is falling around her head.
Both Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones caught the spirit in this film!
Elmer Gantry wound up being a very controversial film when it was released directed by Richard Brooks, adapted from the book by Sinclair Lewis with lush and pulpy cinematography by John Alton and a stirring score by the great André Previn. And terrific costume designed by the brilliant Dorothy Jeakins (The Sound of Music 1965, The Way We Were 1974).
Directed by Sidney Lumet, The Fugitive Kind is based on the play Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams who also penned the screenplay. At this point there’s shouldn’t be any doubt about my passion for Mr. Williams or Anna Magnani.
Anna Magnani is a primal force of sensuality winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Serafina Delle Rose in the marvelous, The Rose Tattoo 1955. (“A clown with my husband’s body!”)
The Fugitive Kind has a gritty, allure not only due to the level of acting by Magnani and Brando or the evocative material it’s partly due to Boris Kaufman’s (12 Angry Men 1957, On the Waterfront 1954) edgy cinematography.
Anna Mangani delivers another impassioned performance as Lady an equally potent role as a shop owner in Louisiana who is chained to a brutal marriage by her vindictive and dying husband Jabe (Victor Jory) when along comes Marlon Brando as Valentine “Snakeskin’ Xavier a guitar playing roamer who takes a job in the shop until Lady’s jaded loneliness and Valentine’s raw animal magnetism combust..
Brando plays the solitary Val, a drifter who’s presence is as commanding as a lion stalking. Val comes into the small town where Lady Torrance runs the shop, her husband Jabe is mostly bed ridden, dying of cancer, but also eaten up with jealousy and hatred toward his wife, foreigners and outliers. He’s vicious and controlling and Lady lives out her days caring for this angry and miserable man, until Val comes into her life, changing Lady’s stoicism awakening her heart releasing her desires.
Magnani gives a powerful performance of a woman starved from sexual pleasure, mentally abused by her husband and bemoaning the days when the wine flowed like a river at her father’s vineyard that was suspiciously burned to the ground.
Magnani manifests an authenticity that comes from a battered past and present, yet she exudes an enduring sense of love and passion. Lady dreams of fixing up the outside part of the store as a confectionery festooned with white lights and delicate atmosphere and Val can sing and play his guitar.
At first interviewing for a job is an awkward exchange. Once Lady and Val have a very intense and thoughtful conversation, she decides that she likes this strange talking boy and hires him to work in the store. The tension is visible even in the darkly lit scene and through the diffuse patch of light you can see their chemistry brewing.
Lady is taken with this strange talking boy who begins to tell her about people. “there’s two kinds of people in this world, the buyers and the people who get bought.” Then he tells her about a type of bird that has no legs so it can never land. It’s a meditative moment, and Brando is magnificent.
“…cause they don’t see ’em, they don’t see em way up in that high blue sky near the sun they spread their wings out and go to sleep on the wind and they only alight on this world just one time, it’s when they die.”
Val is pursued by Carol Cutere, (Joanne Woodward) the quirky local tramp from a wealthy family, who worships his snakeskin jacket as well as his incredible ‘hot’ body. But, Val finds himself drawn to the evocative and more complex Lady. They begin an affair, fall in love and Lady gets pregnant. Will they be like the bird that can never land, only sleep on the wind and the day they land is the day they die…
Directed by Alexander Singer with a slick burlesque/modern jazz score by Gerald Fried.
Lola Albright stirs the libido as a very classy ex-stripper Iris Hartford a very intoxicating woman who seduces a naive and inexperienced working-class boy, Vito Pellegrino (Scott Marlowe) who falls deeply in love with her. Soon Vito begins to feel the disparate reality of their relationship. Once his reality is shattered, discovering that she is a stripper, Vito ends the affair with Iris, seeking out a neighborhood girl who is of his own age.
Lola Albright has a very sophisticated way of coming across on screen with a reserved yet palpable dignity. But Iris generates an undercurrent of provocative and alluring intelligence. Marlowe has always been great as a either a clever playboy or whiny young man, who isn’t quite getting what he wants.
A Cold Day in August examines an authentic journey for a young boy who experiences his first sexual awakening with an older woman. And their socially unorthodox relationship not only serves the film’s exploitative narrative it comes across quite genuine because of Albright’s very real sexual magnetism and the attraction by an impressionable boy.
Of course the film works on the level of titillation & taboo because Iris is not only older than Vito, she is ALL woman and then some for any man. She would be considered a tramp because she used to take her clothes off for a living. Her ex-husband comes back into the picture and pleads with her to fill in for a week in NYC, but that life was far gone by now.
When Iris first seduces Vito she feeds him a dish of ice cream after he fixes her air conditioner. It’s as if she’s rewarding a little boy for doing a good job. In the midst of these queer moments where she desires him yet infantilizes him, they do carry on a sexual relationship. Iris is a free sexual being who makes no apologies for who she is. It doesn’t take too long before Vito realizes that he’s way out of his league, but Iris does initiate him into the world of sex.
I have come to adore Lola Albright this year. In A Cold Wind in August she manifests a kind of existential sensuality as she can offer a nurturing kiss and then go on to take what she needs. She yearns for pleasure which is literally illustrated by her stripper costume of a sort of Queen of Outer Space gold lamé number complete with eye mask, it’s alluring and vulturous at the same time.
Robert Rossen (The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers 1946, All the Kings Men 1949, Billy Budd 1962 & Lilith 1964) wrote of all his films, they “Share one characteristic: The hunt for success. Ambition is an essential quality in American society.”
The Hustler is the story of Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) who has a penchant for self punishment and self destructiveness and in his cockiness likes to take on high stakes pool games. He has a dream of bumping Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) off the pedestal of fame. Eddie and Fats meet up and by the end of a very long marathon, Eddie is wiped out and whipped, which doesn’t help his enormous ego.
Eddie meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a highly educated modern woman. She’s an independent loner, a bit morose, a bit jaded, but somehow she allows Eddie to work his charms on her until she is hooked. Still no matter what happens in the end, Sarah Packard speaks her mind and lives life on her own terms…
Sarah has a physical disability as she walks with a limp, and is referred to as a cripple.
Finally, as the film progresses, whether Sarah feels that she is perverted and twisted because she sleeps with the repugnant opportunist Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) or drinks too much, or has the need to be loved because of her physical disability, Sarah Packard is such a real character that it breaks your heart.
Tensions arise when manager Bert Gordon signs on to promote Eddie. He’s a shady predator who tries to drive a wedge between Eddie and Sarah, and takes advantage of her one night while Eddie’s away.
Sarah reads poetry and uses alcohol as a way to balm her loneliness, but there’s a strength in her honesty that is very endearing. Talk about guts, Piper Laurie wanted to get a feel of authenticity for her character and so she hung out at the Greyhound Bus Terminal at night.
IMDb fact: Piper Laurie didn’t make another film for the next 15 years, devoting the time to her marriage and raising her only daughter. She returned to the screen in 1976 in ‘Brian de Palma”s Carrie (1976), earning her second Oscar nomination.
And we all know how bold that performance was…. memorable & cringe-worthy!
At the party that Bert invites Sarah to come to, he whispers something in her ear that makes her toss her drink and run away in tears. The actress talked about this scene in her autobiography. She had met up with George C Scott many years later and “I finally asked him what he had whispered into my ear in the big party scene in The Hustler that elicits a violent response from me. We shot it perhaps three or four times and I could never figure out what he was saying… He told me he chose to use just gibberish, knowing he could never invent words or phrases as powerful as what my imagination could summon up. Probably true.”
That was a very cool approach to the scene which came off beautifully!