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Sun Valley Serenade: A Jitterbug Refugee on the Homefront

Okay, Sonje Henie was hardly a jitterbug. But she did play a war refugee in this movie, which is mainly worth watching for the winter scenery and great Glenn Miller performances, with a cool segment from the Nicholas Brothers folded into the Academy Award-nominated song, "Chattanooga Choo Choo." First there's a long instrumental section, then vocals by Tex Beneke and the Modernaires, featuring Paula Kelly. And at five minutes, it switches to Dorothy Dandridge singing while the Nicholas Brothers sing and dance alongside her, then take off and do their thing.

I just love this particular performance of "In the Mood," myself. It's just so...and so how did their tiresome children turn out the way they did?

Sun Valley Serenade was released just a few weeks before Pearl Harbor happened, so the young men are still in dinner jackets instead of uniforms. Milton Berle shows off his new nose, Sonja skates, it's all lovely fluff to look at and admire. Here's a review from Photoplay.


Absolutely nothing of interest, just let me indulge myself with blather

These are my indulgences.

For the next couple weeks, Saturday is the new Thursday, in terms of weekly hair and nail care. I got a new shampoo, Organix Hydrating Macadamia Oil. Can the excitement be borne? I have already been using the Organix Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment, besides my sort-of monthly olive oil and coconut oil goop treatments.

Probably I'll redo the toenails with the same green as before, Essie, of course, "vested interest." Don't Google it yourself, because there are all these hands polished with it, holding the bottle? And I honestly think it looks terrible on their hands. Truthfully, I don't think darker green or blue looks good on anyone's hands, but on the feet, many more colors can work. At least their cuticles were all right. You can do the most perfect job shaping and painting your fingernails, but if your cuticles are dry, and peeling or cracked, It's like you frosted just the top of an old stale cake.

I haven't bought any of this year's winter colors, but I'm thinking of trying "mind your mittens" next week.

There will be no weekly home spa treatment cocktail tonight, though, because I am having only bland eating for the next few days. Here is what a cocktail might look like, were I to have one.


Julius Caesar fangirls...

 Brutus is utterly dreamy! Brutus
I like Mark Antony better. He gives much better speeches.

But Brutus's voice is better. It's so manly.

He's not very manly when he sees Caesar's ghost.

Yes, he is, just hear how he growls, "Well, then I shall see thee again!" Brutuswithghost
Mark Antony would have stood right up to him!

Mark Antony would have tried to kiss him.


But it's true. He would have been all over that ghost, putting his tongue in all his wounds.

You are disgusting, and besides that is not what he meant.

Well, what about Cassius?


Not that old! Not really older than Brutus, anyway. And he has really good hair. Cassiusbrutus
That is totally a wig, you can tell when he falls down dead.

He had nice eyes, though.

I guess so. You like the old ones, anyway.

Not that old!

Much older than Mark Antony, though.

Mark Antony is younger than Brutus, but Brutus has a better body.

How can you tell?

Why do you think Mark Antony kept wearing robes while everyone else was wearing armor? Smugantony
Maybe. He wears it later on. And also, he's practically the only one who doesn't die, so he wins in the end. Marcantony
He didn't actually win. That is the whole point of the movie. Weren't you paying any attention at all?

Not really. I already read the play in 8th grade, so I knew how it ended. Caesarantonycalpurnia


Thinking about reducing

My sons have helped me determine that I must exercise in a more focused way to lose the Ohio weight because my diet is generally wholesome, balanced, and so forth. But there is a divide in our thinking wherein I can't seem to relate to this "exercise for the sake of exercise" business, which they say leads to a feeling of accomplishment and therefore a drive to do more, but I say leads to mass thought, eventually forming a fascist political party run by a character played by Edward Arnold in pince-nez.
And after all, it's winter, and it's been years since I could just bowl several times a week for free or almost nothing, and I live in Camazotz now, instead of a place that's alive all year round and has a walking culture. (Walking to places, not just in a circle around the block or on a treadmill.)

Well, in my head, my mini golf average is 37. What good does that do anybody? I think the boys understand the point of virtual satisfaction from mindless exercise as they get a lot of mental stimulation from video games, which I've never liked since my mother was addicted to Ms Pacman and I had to watch her play for half an hour on one quarter everywhere we went, because that game was everywhere.

In reality, my bowling average is still over 170, if it didn't require driving to an awful place and paying $4 a game. And I want to weigh what I did in New Jersey where I bowled a lot and also was less afraid to ride my bike on the road. In Cincinnati, they seem to aim cars at bikes frequently. They expect you to drive for miles and then get out and ride the bike on a path, or else be prepared for a trip to the ER and possibly a mortuary.

I like to dig in the garden, and mow the lawn, too, but I didn't do enough of that this summer. And swimming, though as I favor the backstroke pretty heavily but also rather casually, the benefit is probably limited.

In the winter, I'm required to take my exercise indoors because of some reasons, so here we are back at virtual fascism. 

Oh, dear. I just realized someone from Google Plus might read this, maybe the wrong someone. I seem to attract such a linear sort of person there. Thinking I mean things in such a distressingly literal sense. It quite drains me of energy.
Where was I?

Oh, yes. Exercise. I must take some. I know all the right kinds and so forth, of course. But just weighing whatever I did two years ago or five years ago, better still, is hardly enough incentive for that. I like myself much too well to need to rely upon a dress size for emotional satisfaction. On the other hand, there are some dresses in my closet that require the more extreme shapewear and a certain amount of will when it comes to zipping them up; a consideration worthy of notation.

Other people might both blithely and earnestly say regular exercise, even indoors in winter, is good for your brain and the aging process and what-have you, and that would be incentive enough to hit the mat and the hand weights and the bike-on-a-trainer every morning or afternoon. Well, that's a sound reason, but it isn't incentive. I feel it's analogous to finding humor in The Big Bang Theory, though I'm not sure I can vocabulary why.

But don't you worry; vanity will eventually win out and I'll be on the path to broader (by which I actually mean narrower) dress choices by the time Mahler's Fourth hits the Music Hall in late February.

Joan Fontaine: 1917-2013

Here are some Photoplay clippings from 1937 to 1940. This first set is from 1937. I don't know why they're expanded for page width, contrary to "full-size" settings. I'll look into that later on.


Here are some clippings from 1937 and early 1938, about Joan's role in Damsel in Distress with Fred Astaire.


Here's a bit more from 1938.


Fontaine was rushed hard by RKO-Radio Pictures, and then dropped like she was hot or like...any number of pieces of drama created or fostered. In any case, they hadn't worked out how to tap into the depths beneath her self-conscious demeanor. Before moving onto Selznick International, she appeared in Gunga Din, which starred Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.


In MGM's The Women, Joan Fontaine played a character much like people saw her in real life.


In 1939, Joan Fontaine married Brian Aherne and began filming her role in Rebecca. Here's an interesting story of how that movie was cast and filmed, if you're interested.




    Many or most people know that Joan Fontaine had a nearly life-long feud with her sister, Olivia de Havilland. The internet is replete with tales of their disagreements, which stemmed, depending on who was asked, from early childhood, from Joan's being treated as an also-ran when she got to Hollywood, or the period in which they both achieved star stature. It's actually pretty clear they never really got along. So it's interesting to read through old movie magazines which attempted, at first, to show them on glowing terms with each other, then begin slowly to hint at the growing rift between them.  

    Joan Fontaine: 1917-2013















Here's the link to TCM Remembers Joan Fontaine. I can share it directly every place I have an account except this one...

Frankie Sinatra: Homefront Dreamboat

He was the skinny boy with the big voice who made the girls melt while their boyfriends fought overseas. And he was born 98 years ago today in Hoboken, New Jersey. Here are the first mentions of him in Photoplay in the final quarter of 1943.

First, a detractor in the letters to the editor column. Kind of a weak prophylactic attack, because one month later, he was all over the pages of that magazine.
Shortly on the heels of this statement, a full measure of appreciation by a nearly gushing Louella Parsons. Sorry, M.G.



And suddenly, he was all over Hollywood, leaving only long enough to go get the Nancys for a long-term stay.


For the time being, anyway, Bing remained unconcerned.



Cheese food on the Homefront

Velveeta has an undeserved rap. It is what it is, but it isn't what a lot of people think it is. It's a product made mostly of cheese, but has nothing in it that isn't perfectly okay to eat. It's mainly just got emulsifiers to stabilize it and keep it from separating when it melts, as regular cheese will often do. Actually, it used to be better; more flavorful and less salty, but I digress. For making inexpensive melty sauce dishes, it had its place on the Homefront, for sure, and if you ever eat a cheeseburger from a fast food place or buy American cheese, you have no cause to be snobbish about Velveeta. 

This is from a 1944 issue of Cine-Mundial (the Spanish-language Moving Picture World,) and I was very proud that I had to look up only a handful of the terms after interpeting the recipe. I never studied Spanish, but it has sort of rubbed off on me over the years. At least, to read simple things.

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Melt 1/2 lb. Velveeta in double boiler. Mix with 3/4 cup milk,
remove from heat and allow to cool. Add 3 egg yolks,
1 3/4 cups bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon
mustard powder. Incorporate 3 egg whites beaten until meringue (stiff.)

Pour the mixture into 6 well-greased pudding molds. Place in
a tray with hot water for 30 minutes hornéense slow fire.
Take the souffles from the molds and serve with tomato sauce.

It seems hornéense has to do with baking, so I guess they just mean
"in a slow oven," like 300º.

Oh! With Velveeta also is made a rich and smooth cheese sauce
to serve with vegetables and meats!


Le da un rico sabor a sus comidas means "gives a rich flavor to your meals."


Notes on this new page and project

First of all, I'll work more on this page than my main "blog" through the winter. But there'll be updates there from time to time, about concerts or operas I attended, bits of Christmas or food or snow. This weekend, the Met is live-streaming Falstaff. I'll have something to say about that. And I did promise two people I'd share Thanksgiving dinner photos...

The main focus this winter will be the WW2 American Homefront, but with serendipity included, such as the introduction of a new film or singing star, intriguing advertising, etc. Most of the material will come from 1940-1943 Photoplay and will focus on the Hollywood Homefront, but beginning in 1944, that publication started a renewable copyright, so there's little Photoplay material online from that point forward.

1944-1945 material comes mainly from the following magazines:

Popular Mechanics
Radio Mirror
Good Housekeeping
The Rotarian
Popular Science

and will focus more on everyday life, home economy, and emerging technology. I have a few industry yearbooks for more celebrity material. However, I'm not presenting it strictly chronologically. And I'm not in a particular hurry; I fuss over these things and at the same time, try not to spend too much of my day looking at a screen, but upcoming topics will include the butter shortage, Frankie Sinatra, and the emergence/changing perceptions of the "negro" in Hollywood's consciousness. That said, you can't be taking any of this too seriously. I'm no scholar, just a wandering dilettante. 

The page is of a wide single-column format to make the most of some of the images.

Hey, how about that temporary prune shortage? Prunes were an important component in desserts because they helped with sugar rationing. For most cake recipes, you'd have to save up a couple eggs, unless you had chickens. But baked and steamed puddings could be made without them, or with only one.

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Introducing Gene Kelly

Here is Gene Kelly as Photoplay introduced him to readers in the December 1942 issue, then February and June of 1943.
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Lew Ayres was totally on a few minds while For Me And My Gal was being made. Stay tuned for a post on the nearly overlapping tearing down and subsequent building up of his character. The movie itself was one of a burgeoning set of stories that both entertained and sent a message about our Duty to the Free World.

Hollywood and the Homefront

I think my first big project here will be about the Homefront, as Hollywood related to or pretended to relate to it. Advertising and editorials in Photoplay and LIFE, a few stories of what was going on, reactions to who fought, who boosted morale, and who objected, here in the United States.

Sometimes what people knew just at the moment could later be seen in a different light. For example, Lew Ayres is a topic all on his own. He was a serious conscientious objector, and people said, "But wait, he played that great war hero in that movie!" They were angry that he would not fight. Well, the movie was All Quiet on the Western Front. Have you seen it or read the book? It affected him deeply—how could it not?—and he refused to take up arms. But he did his bit nonetheless, and all the bits mattered. But more on that later.

Something I noticed in the 1940 issues of Photoplay is that they were already hinting toward economy and making the most of what you have, talking to girls and women about sewing patterns and interchangeable wardrobe pieces. How to make things last. A few months later, still before America entered the war, there were several articles on how the stars cooked with preserved food. And then there was a whole campaign about making America Strong! by having everyone eat lots of eggs, drink lots of milk. Rations came later; sugar was one of the first commodities to be limited.

Finally, the motion picture industry had a careful position to maintain. Always there were people crying for more lightheartedness, and other people saying they had a duty to seriousness and propaganda. Eleanor Roosevelt had some very intelligent things to say about it all. The studios themselves had stars they wished to protect, and a position to maintain; to be thought of in a positive light whenever the war ended.

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But in between posts on this subject, I'm likely to add random or serendipitous items, as well, so I'll make sure the titles reflect the content.