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Jun 14, 2011

New Shoes and Old Movies

Friends, the cliffhanger is over -- my second-hand Allen Edmonds shoes arrived yesterday afternoon and I love them.

I've already worn them to walk the dogs and they are as comfortable as can be.  I don't know if this is because they've already been broken in by someone else, or because the fit is so good, but I know I'm going to be getting a lot of use out of them.  I even invested in a pair of cedar shoe trees, which, unfortunately, cost about half as much as the shoes, but what are you going to do?

I haven't talked about sewing projects in a while but I did want to share with you some fabric I recently purchased, a summery, lavender, slightly transparent cotton (voile?  I'm not sure -- I'm still waiting for my Claire Shaeffer fabric book to arrive), that I plan to use soon to make a shirt for myself. 

I've been getting a tremendous amount of wear out of my summer shirts given that the weather here has been extremely hot (though it's cooler today).  I've been meaning to write a post about which completed sewing projects I wear most frequently.  I do wear nearly everything I sew, and as old RTW clothes wear out, they get replaced with something I make.  Speaking of which, I need a pair of linen pants, both long and short, and I've been toying with the idea of an unlined seersucker blazer.

With the stresses of my mother's operation and hospital visits and all that, I've been self-medicating in the best way I know how: by watching bad old movies on DVD from the library.  These are not movies I share with Michael -- he'd never sit through them.  These are titles so obscure, so dated and so yawn-inducing, that only a true old movie connoisseur can appreciate them.   Oddly, the library is full of them.

I'd like to share a few with you today.

If you've never seen a Sonja Henie ice skating musical you really must.  Norwegian Sonja was a three-time Olympic gold medal figure skating champion in the 1920's and 30's and landed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox, who produced a string of skating musicals to showcase her talents.  Unlike Sonja's swimming equivalent at MGM, Esther Williams, Sonja wasn't gorgeous, couldn't act, and often sounds like she learned her English lines phonetically.  Her figure skating technique, involving lots running on tip-toe across the ice, looks clutzy today, unlike Esther's classic backstroke.

One of Henie's last films was It's a Pleasure, her sole technicolor effort.  A dreary melodrama with a few skating numbers interspersed, it does boast some stunning Forties clothes, mainly worn by starlet Marie McDonald, who'd been famously dubbed "The Body."  How flattering.

Watch at your own risk.

I thought I'd died and gone to hell when I started watching the Joseph E. Levine production of Harlow starring Carroll Baker.  This movie -- one of two trashy Harlow biopics released in 1965 -- is a two-hour travesty, telling a completely fictionalized, sexed-up account of Thirties platinum blonde superstar Jean Harlow's life.  Splashy and over-produced, with a bossa nova-infused Neal Hefti (of Batman theme song fame) score that sounds nothing like the 1930s, Harlow gets it all wrong:  the story, the interiors, the hairstyles, the cause of death, you name it.

With one or two exceptions, all the characters have fake names, as does the studio where she works.  (Fear of lawsuits?)  See it for the Edith Head costumes that evoke Ginger on Gilligan's Island (where they probably ended up) more than Jean Harlow. 

I got through about five days' worth of Michael's Todd's Around the World in Eighty Days, which I remember seeing in re-release as a child.  This movie is a widescreen bore with Shirley Maclaine woefully miscast as an Indian princess supposedly educated in England, though her English accent is straight out of a community theater production of My Fair Lady.

Best enjoyed before bedtime, one day at a time.

Finally, there's A Date with Judy.

If you've ever seen clips of Jane Powell singing It's a Most Unusual Day, this is the movie where she sings it.  How much you enjoy this film depends on how you feel about sassy, spiritual-singing black maids and Carmen Miranda doing whatever you call what she did.  Carmen was a big hit here in the early Forties, but my understanding is that many Brazilians of that era were highly offended by her clowning.  Is it wrong to admit I always found her fun?

See A Date With Judy for the lavish color and lovely Helen Rose costumes and for the young Elizabeth Taylor, who can only be described as ravishing in it.  When you see her, you get what all the fuss was about.

Friends, we're out of time and I must away.  Have you seen any of the aforementioned turkeys and did they come with cranberry sauce?

What do we do with films that perpetuate ugly racial and cultural stereotypes yet still have -- arguably -- redeeming qualities?  I'm not sure, but I think at least a warning label is called for.

Have a great day, everybody -- or at least a most unusual one!  (click twice to see full screen)


  1. I guess you'll live in the 'new' shoes and your cedar shoe trees will probably last you into the next couple of pairs of 'new' shoes.
    I haven't seen any of the mentioned turkeys but that photo of Liz looks like it was not long after her National Velvet days. She's halfway between child actor and buxom beauty.

  2. I enjoy those C movies too, for the costumes and the social history. They also help inform my garage sale and flea market shopping--people in the movies did use matched sets of cocktail glasses and shakers! Alcoholism used to be rampant! Girls never ever matured into women! The social history of racism has a complex relationship with humor, too--humor often has a hostile barb in it. Kristina

  3. I have not seen these movies...but would love to sit down with one of them today. Scott won't watch this kind of movie with me either...but I get a certain satisfaction from them and sometimes a good nap...and they make the good movies all that much better.

  4. I see your "It's a Pleasure" with Sonja Henie and raise you "Pin Up Girl" with Gloria Nord. Gloria was the Sonja Henie of the roller skating world. She doesn't really act in the film, but she does skate. It is the only scene in the movie worth watching really. The rest of the film stars Betty Grable. When the film came out the NY Times called it a "spiritless blob of a musical" and, well, they were pretty much right.

  5. the shoes look classic and stylish; a fabulous buy!!! i haven't seen any of the movies on your list; my sordid childhood titles tend to lean toward: Oklahoma; The Andy Hardy series (love love love Judy & Mickey); Moonlight Bay (who doesn't love Doris and Gordon delights i ask you???); Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (good 'ol Gordon again; anything with Judy Garland in it....ahhhh i'm getting's 2:40 am here and i've got a tailored child's coat to line; see ya later aligator.

  6. My Uncle had a huge collection that he liked to share. However, I fast forward all the singing, I like to hear the dialogue for language used in that era and of course decor and fashions.

    I remember watching the iceskating movies when I was younger. I only ever watched movies with Donald O'Connor, Anne Miller, Ruby Keeler,
    Eleanor Powell and of course Fred Astaire because I love tap dancing. I also watched some with Cyd Charisse, I think my favorite dance routine with Fred was from Band Wagon, or something like that. It is up on youtube.

    I like some of the old comedies, Jean Harlow was one of my favorite female stars for her comedic roles, and suspense movies, but the rest are too cheesy and silly for me to watch.

  7. Around the World in 80 Days!

    The shoes are lovely, so great that they're comfy!

    Sexism, racism, etc. If we are not to enjoy things because of them we'll not enjoy today either, because they still exist.

    If we close our eyes to how they can manifest, then we are doomed to repeat them; perhaps as different groupings (yesterday's Germans or Japanese, today's Muslims or Iranians).

    I should look for some of the old b&w vampire movies, they were truely dreadful.

  8. Hey, Peter - the shoes look wonderful and very comfortable.

    As for the movies, I don't think I could sit through them, sadly. I'm a reader, not a watcher as it were. Give me a good book (or even a mediocre one) a blanket, and my kitty, and I'm in heaven. That's my way of relaxing.

    Of course, there is sewing also. I can relax when sewing, strangely enough. Go figure.

    Have a great day!

  9. The older Sesame Street episodes have been released on DVD with a warning they are not for children and contain material that is not culturally acceptable today. What the material might be I cannot possibly say but that same warning might be useful for those older movies.

    My dh is a big fan of old Charlie Chan movies - we use the number 1 son with our own boys but have explained about the stereotypes. It is interesting to see how the more things change the more they stay the same.

  10. Oh, I love a cracktastic movie (or book) for relaxing, almost more than the "quality" stuff! I have never been a particular musical fan, but I adore John Water's "Cry-Baby" which I watch for the way it perfectly encapsulates rockabilly style. I also love the original "Hairspray" from the 80s with Ricki Lake. So much of the movie's over-the-top pastiche of 1960s style is still copy-able today. Those are my go-to distraction movies.

  11. Forgot to add that, I do think it's important to allow children and young people to see some of the racism/sexism in older books and movies -- obviously, it's best to discuss it with them but too many kids today have no cultural touchpoints and don't understand how bad things used to be.

    I have vivid memories of seeing "Mississippi Burning" with some friends at the age of 13 and walking out of the theatre angry -- we were angry because this was part of our history that had simply been glossed over in school and we felt that the adults had lied to us. That movie left an impression that persists to this day.

  12. That looks like cotton lawn to me--I've been working with it a lot lately, and it's perfect for summer.

    And I'm in full favor of a "Warning: perpetuates ugly racial and cultural stereotypes" sticker on old movies (and books, come to think of it). It's unpleasant to be slapped in the face with those things, but that doesn't mean we should bury it forever--some preparation is nice though.

  13. Hi Peter!

    I have Brazilian roots and I can tell you, for us Carmen Miranda is a Diva, definitely! She had a fashionable and extravagant taste, but the costume we use to link with her was developed in Hollywood and it was based on a regional costume from the state Bahia, but rather near our Carnival costumes. Brazilians thought it was too sterotyped and this fact bothered some at that time, but not so long.

    Since more than 30 years exists a Carnival Parade Group in her honor, that parades through the borrow of Ipanema. Then one will find men, women and kids, all dressed like Carmen in great and creative interpratation of her costumes. Absolutely a must if you go there during the Carnival!

  14. I love the old C movies, too...especially to sew by, if it's one I know well. I have a special fondness for the old Hammer horror film of the 60s and 70s. I find the costumes especially enjoyable; scads of lovely dresses purported to be from mid-19th century Transylvania -- complete with bullet bras.

  15. Who doesn't love bad old movies?! I love Liz's suggestion of a scarf, for something to do with her hands.

  16. I have seen none of them, but this type of movie is right up my alley, so I added all of them to my Netflix queue.
    Thanks for the movie tips!

  17. Around The World' in mega cheese. Elizabeth Taylor was so, so beautiful- sigh.

    Glad the shoes fit!

  18. Wow. She is just otherworldly beautiful.

  19. When I was a little I loved Sonja Henie films. Rainy afternoons in the holidays she'd be on BBC2. Can't remember a single film now though :)

  20. I just watched it days ago and I can hardly remember the plot.

  21. There's an episode about Sonja's house on Celebrity Ghost Stories that intrigued me. You might want to view it if you can. I was unfamiliar with her before watching that. I would love to see some of these old movies- will have to make time to find and watch some. mssewcrazy


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