James Stewart in Born to Dance (1936)

Before Vertigo, before The Philadelphia Story, and before Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, James Stewart was, like so many actors of the time, an MGM contract player, toiling away in quickly churned-out comedies and romances for $350 a week.  Though he’d ultimately garner more acclaim for his later dramatic roles, Stewart also appeared in a handful of musicals in these early days—sometimes in smaller supporting roles, like as the fugitive brother in Rose Marie—but MGM was also testing him out as a leading man, harnessing his talents in musical features like Born to Dance. It’s a bit of a strange situation seeing Stewart hoofing it and belting out Cole Porter tunes, but with a cast that also includes Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel, and Buddy Ebsen, it’s a fun flick—albeit, perhaps, indicative of why Stewart didn’t ultimately pan out as a musical star.

TCM Fest Diary: The Big Picture

Well, I’m sadly back in the “real world” after four days of classic films and fun, thanks to the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood, California. This was the fifth year of the festival, which celebrates all things classic, and was leading up to the 20th anniversary of the channel, so there were a lot of fun surprises and celebrations to be had. Throughout (hopefully) today/this week, I’ll be posting my “diary” entries for each day of the fest. They’re a bit late, perhaps to the point that they’re no longer relevant… but I’m doing them anyway! I’m starting here with my general impressions of the festival, to give some background if you’ve never been to the festival, as well as some feelings and tips for myself to remember should I be able to return in coming years.

Gloria Swanson: After Sunset

When Patricia at Caftan Woman posed the idea of the Diamonds and Gold blogathon, my immediate thought was to cover Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, as it’s one of the meatiest roles ever for a woman “of a certain age” in classic film, and one of my favorite and most endlessly rewatched films. However, when I realized I couldn’t quite place anything Swanson had done after that film in my memory, and saw that there weren’t a ton of quantifiable entries in the all-knowing eyes of IMDb, I became a bit concerned that she had embodied her performance as the misanthropic Norma Desmond a little too fully, and that I’d have to write an epilogue about how she’d frittered away the rest of her life unhappily attempting to further pursue an acting career. A bit more research revealed, though, that that worrisome scenario was far from the actual case. Despite not appearing in many more films after Sunset, Swanson lived in an incredibly full life throughout her 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and was a fascinatingly unique, well-rounded woman all the way up to the end.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)

Baseball’s back in full swing, and as part of Forgotten Films‘ baseball blogathon, I’ve chosen to cover a very fun baseball movie that, admittedly, is perhaps not the most stellar example of actual gameplay: 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It’s a fun, somewhat historical counterpoint to many baseball movies that choose to focus on real ball players or, you know, real ball games. But no matter, because what this one may lack in authenticity of sport, it more than makes up for in movie musical cred: it’s directed by Busby Berkeley, produced by Arthur Freed, with a story by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and choreography by Gene himself. It’s also one of three glorious instances where we see Gene teamed up with Frank Sinatra, so, really, there’s not too much to complain about.