January 1936: Mother is Born

Here are some screenshots from the January 1936 Photoplay, in honor of my mother's birthday. They might load slowly for you, but I did find which bit of code to erase so they'll appear the correct size.

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Doesn't this read like an old Playboy profile?

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Loretta's daughter Judy was born November, 1935. She bore a remarkable resemblance to the man she learned was her father about five years after his death; Clark Gable.

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When my mother was a teenager, her bedroom was the attic of her family's house. In it she read and collected movie fan magazines, and they remained stored there until my uncle and his wife swept through the house after Grandpa's death, taking or destroying just about everything interesting before anyone else got there...but anyway. If I'd known they were there, I'd have rescued them earlier.

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.


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.



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.

Golden Boy

These are clippings from Photoplay in the latter half of 1939. I think the first few are from August, then, as it was released in October, it was much discussed in the October issue and reviewed in the November one. The original owner of this set tore out quite a few pages and parts of pages, but it affected this topic less than a couple others I want to group together.

So Golden Boy (watch at YouTube) was William Holden's first role, and it's not apocryphal that he hung onto it because Barbara Stanwyck went to bat for him and also helped him learn how to act in a movie. But then praise for his performance followed, and he was considered someone from whom great things were expected. The film is now hopelessly dated, Lee J. Cobb's performance in particular, yet at the time it was thought to be a worthy adaptation of the play by Clifford Odet.
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