How Hollywood Recycles Part II: Something’s Got to Give

Prior to Monroe’s presidential performance at Madison Square Garden, and well before filming for Something’s Got to Give had commenced, warning signs began to flash brightly, eventually eclipsing the starlet’s name they once lit so lucently. On April 10th, 1962, four months before she died, Monroe was found laid out, unresponsive, along the very same bed that she would be found dead months later from a presumed overdose. Her discoverer, producer Henry Weinstein had telephoned Monroe earlier that day when she failed to appear on time for a scheduled meeting. When he received no response, Weinstein intuitively made haste to her private residence in Brentwood.

Upon Arrival, Weinstein telephoned Marilyn’s personal doctor Ralph Greenson as well as her internist to help revive her. Stumbling upon Monroe’s lifeless body, Weinstein was utterly shocked, as earlier that day Marilyn had appeared at the studio for her make-up and costume test. Naturally, a concerned Weinstein also telephoned studio doctor Lee Seigel for an evaluation. Accordingly, Seigel advised that filming for Something’s Got to Give be suspended for a month in order to allow Monroe to recover. Fox rejected Seigel’s advice and decided to proceed anyway.

Marilyn-Monroes-home-historic-photoAbove: Marilyn’s Brentwood residence, where she was found on April 10th, and would be found four months later dead of a often debated overdose.

It is imperative to note that before these events had transpired, Cukor (whom often criticized Monroe for her frequent lateness and absences), failed himself to appear earlier that day at Monroe’s costume test. Well informed of Monroe’s ongoing psychological and recent physical fragility (due to gallbladder surgery), Cukor’s absence gravely afflicted Monroe, making her feel that her efforts were of no importance to Cukor at all. It was as if Cukor had kicked her while she was already down, deliberately withholding from Monroe the compassion and affirmation she so desperately needed. Could this cruel and insensitive act on Cukor’s part be what triggered Monroe’s suicide attempt earlier that day? Nevertheless, on May 1st, (despite Seigel’s warning), an ailing Monroe would appear on the set of Something’s Got to Give for the first time, yet after a half hour would be sent home due to fainting on set.

Weeks passed by until May 14th, when an even more enervated Monroe had miraculously reappeared on set to resume filming on Something’s Got to Give. The first scene she filmed while on set was a tedious one; the first part of the coming home scene. Monroe was cast alongside an uncooperative cocker spaniel; Jeff who played the role of Tippy, (Ellen’s dog). In this scene Jeff was supposed to great Monroe when she appeared on set, yet repeatedly missed cues from his trainer once the cameras began rolling. An even more uncooperative Cukor, who was hell bent on making an already grave Monroe suffer even more, relentlessly forced Monroe the rerecord this scene, take after take, until Jeff cooperated. This event, (alongside the aforementioned), would also act as evidence, proving that all the catastrophe that occurred on set while filming Something’s Got to Give was not Monroe’s fault.

SGGTDogAbove: Jeff the cocker spaniel playing with Monroe on the set of Something’s Got to Give.

On May 15th, (and Intensifying her already fastidious preoccupations), a forced Monroe acquiescently, yet painstakingly (despite her unrest), struggled to film a scene in which her character Ellen, tries precariously to re-establish a relationship with her children, whom she has not seen for five years for presumably being lost at sea. Fomenting her further, the children whom had co-starred alongside her were the exact same age her children would have been, should she have not lost them due to a series of unfortunate miscarriages brought on by ectopic pregnancies (that were not treatable) during Monroe’s lifetime. For audiences, it is obvious that Monroe’s somber and unengaged performance for this scene could be easily attributed to these tragic events series of events that endlessly plagued Monroe’s personal life.

Pool 1Above: The pool as it was originally intended for use in Something’s Go to Give.

Pool 2Above: A year later, (and with minor accustoming) the same pool as it appeared in the film Move Over Darling, (note the removal of the pool house in addition to the added foliage and restyled patio furniture).

Pool 3Above: Ellen (played by Monroe), lays eyes upon her children for the first time in five years before attempting to re-establish a relationship with them.

Pool 5Above:Day a year later (portraying Ellen), in the same scene (note the house being the same one as the same one used in Something’s Got to Give, this time being painted over in blue).

Pool 4Above: A conspicuously unfocused and bewildered Monroe struggles to deliver even the most adequate of performances as Ellen in Something’s Got to Give.

Doris 1Above: In contrast to Monroe, a perceptibly focused Day delivers an assiduous performance as Ellen in the 1963 remake Move Over Darling, (note the stairwell as being the same one pictured in the image of Monroe above).

Continue reading “How Hollywood Recycles Part II: Something’s Got to Give”

Book Clubs – There is an Easy Way!

Do you hear your friends talking about their book club and even the way they talk about it you know it is closed to new people?  Have you often wanted to be part of a book club but don’t know how to start one and none of your friends read anyway?  Do you want to belong to a book club that spends more time discussing the book than drinking wine, eating snacks or discussing the latest episode of The Bachelor?  North Castle Public Library has the answer for you!  And it’s easy.  Just read the book and show up!

There are currently two active book clubs at the main library in Armonk and a brand new club just started in October at the branch library in North White Plains.

The Armonk Readers Book Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Armonk branch.  The selection for November 19th (at 6:45 PM) is Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro.  Ms. Shapiro, on a whim, submits her DNA to a genealogy website and receives life-changing results.  Her father is not her father!  Now what?

The Current Events Book Club meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Armonk branch.  The selection for November 12th (at 6:30 PM) is The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America by Daniel OkrentThe anti-immigration movement of the early 1890’s, based on eugenics, “began a three-decade campaign to close the immigration door.  By 1921 the acceptance of eugenic doctrine enabled Vice President Calvin Coolidge to declare that ‘biological laws’ had proven the inferiority of southern and eastern Europeans; the restrictive law that remained US policy until 1965 was enacted three years later.” (book jacket)  What?

The Non-Fiction Book Club meets on the third Thursday of each month at the North White Plains branch.  The selection for November 21st (at 6:30 PM) is American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante.  “The seeds of the American struggle for women’s and human rights can be found in the story of this one woman’s courageous life. American Jezebel illuminates the origins of our modern concepts of religious freedom, equal rights, and free speech, and showcases an extraordinary woman whose achievements are astonishing by the standards of any era.”  (Amazon) Wow!

All are welcome.  Please join us for lively and spirited discussion for any or all of these relevant and interesting topics.  The books are currently available for you to check out and read at the library where the club meets.  Check the book out, read it, and stop in on the designated night.  And feel free to bring a friend.  No themed snacks to worry about, no wine to distract you, and a moderator to keep everyone on topic and away from The Bachelor!  It’s easy!  Chances are good that you will see me at two of these discussions next month.

 

 

 

 

Bonnie and Clyde: Redefining the Hollywood Blockbuster

By Caleb Brown

When looking at the evolution of filmmaking over the generations, one of the fiercest debates was over censorship and the limits of taboo subject matter in Hollywood. It was a problem that dramatically reshaped Hollywood throughout the 30’s and 40’s, when the Hays code dictated strict guidelines on the adult content of films. The code frustrated executives and filmmakers alike, and led to much of the violence and sexual content of golden age Hollywood filmmaking being reduced to innuendo. But as the moral climate of the 50’s faded, and the radical 60’s counterculture changed consumer attitudes, a new style of cinema was needed to fit the times . While no one film can be pointed to as definitively breaking cinematics taboos clearly pushed American cinema in a new direction. Bonnie and Clyde is one of those films. For its sheer popularity, the controversy is caused, and its refusal to censor violence , Arthur Penn’s smash hit Bonnie and Clyde remains one of America’s most important films. In both its stylistic and historical significance, few films can compare to this ultra-violent blockbuster.

French poster for Bonnie and Clyde

When Bonnie and Clyde took the nation by storm in 1967, the first murmurs of New Hollywood had already begun to stir. But within the upper levels of studio filmmaking, things remained stagnant. The general public had become burnt out on the standard Golden Age musicals and historical epics, and desired new forms of entertainment. Ironically, Bonnie and Clyde would draw inspiration from discarded genres of Old Hollywood, like the classic gangster film. In the 1930s, gangster films like the violent and morally ambiguous Scarface ruled the box office. The Hays code brought their reign to a swift end. Yet this style of violent, boldly mythologized was exactly what the countercultural zeitgeist of the late 60’s demanded. Bonnie and Clyde was a movie where the time it came out explains as much about its popularity as the content of the movie itself. Bonnie and Clyde was a film very much of its time. That, as well as its content, was the reason it was a smash hit.

In a move that would become standard fashion for the directors of New Hollywood, the advancements in cinematic technology met the tropes and structure of 30’s Hollywood. As in the films of Howard Hawks or Will Wellman, the action in Bonnie and Clyde is the draw. its use of squibs, explosive pockets of fake blood, in particular was revolutionary for depictions of bodily violence on screen. The film’s chaotic and assertive sound design also warrants mention; the rattle of the duo’s machine guns still sharp and terrifying to this day. It affords the movie a level of spectacle that the 30’s gangster film directors could only have only dreamed of. It applied decades of progression in audio and visual effects to realize in graphic detail what had previously been limited by technology and the demands of censors. Many films followed in the wake of Bonnie and Clyde’s example, Sam Peckinpah’s Western The Wild Bunch and Coppola’s The Godfather would use similarly stark, sleek, modern filmmaking tools when directing their violence to similarly impressive effect.  Through its blend of cutting edge filmmaking and genre revivalism, Bonnie and Clyde ushered in a new era of genre filmmaking.

Finally, no retrospective of Bonnie and Clyde can avoid mentioning the incredible casting, both from a marketing and artistic perspective. The photogenic couple of Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway certainly endeared themselves to advertisers, yet it was the contrast of such pretty, norma-looking people portraying such deranged psychopaths that drew in audiences. Dunaway’s Bonnie was a star-making performance, riding the fine line between oblivious child and cold blooded sociopath effortlessly. The presence of Gene Hackman offers another stark reminder that the 70’s were just around the corner, and that Bonnie and Clyde would have a strong hand in shaping the coming decade.

Historical Fiction Gains Popularity

HistoricalFiction

In a recent New York Times article, Megan O’Grady says we are living in “the golden age of historical fiction”. In any given week, there are several historical fiction books on the bestseller list. One novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, which is set on the North Carolina coast in the 1950s and 60s, has topped the list for over a year now.

It’s easy to understand why so many readers enjoy this genre. Historical fiction allows readers to experience what it’s like being in a different time and place.  When we read about people’s passions, hopes, and fears,  history becomes more interesting and relatable. It rarely disappoints me because, even in the few cases when I haven’t loved the book, I’ve still learned something from it.

O’Grady theorizes that historical fiction has become more popular because the world we are living in has become “unfathomable.” She says, “Literary authors are increasingly looking back…motivated by a kind of clue-gathering — to seek reasons for why we are the way we are and how we got here and at what point the train began to derail.”

Whatever factors contribute to the current demand for historical fiction, it’s clear that the genre is having a moment!  If you are looking for a suggestion, these are the most popular books from the last few years, based on the number of ratings on Goodreads.com.  A longer list of popular historical fiction from the past 10 years is available at the library.

The Renaissance

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. A love affair between a man in service to Elizabeth I and a woman on the opposing side of England’s religious divide is challenged by power shifts and torn loyalties. 1558.

Slavery

Homegoing by Yaa Gyosi. Follows two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana and their descendants. One sister stays in Africa, while the other is sold as a slave and shipped to America. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George SaundersTraces a night of  mourning  by Lincoln after the death of his 11-year-old son at the dawn of the Civil War in 1862

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. A slave races through the Underground Railroad with a relentless slave-catcher close behind.

The 1800s

The Wonder by Emma Donahue. A nurse veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign finds herself fighting for the survival of an Irish village girl.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. In the aftermath of the Civil War, a news editor agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Gains Popularity”

How Hollywood Recycles: Something’s Got to Give

As you well know by now, it was not uncommon for studios to reuse costumes in the Hollywood heyday. What you probably didn’t know was that in addition to costumes, props and even sets were also altered and reused to showcase or promote the studios newest starlets or films. Out of all the studios that […]

As you well know by now, it was not uncommon for studios to reuse costumes in the Hollywood heyday. What you probably didn’t know was that in addition to costumes, props and even sets were also altered and reused to showcase or promote the studios newest starlets or films. Out of all the studios that had followed these principles, none did so quite as incessantly as 20th Century Fox. During the mid-1950’s until the mid-1960’s, when the blonde bombshell craze had swept the nation, this practice was in full effect. Yet for those with a fine eye disciplined for finding detail, the studios tactics did not go unnoticed. But before we begin, here’s a brief history of the film Something’s Got to Give, and the unfortunate events that transpired during filming.

In 1962 Fox had been through the worst of its financial woes. The studio had been filming Cleopatra, starring Liz Taylor, and her on and off lover, Richard Burton. To indemnify the films incessantly increasing costs, Fox had sold off its back lot and suspended all other productions that were in progress except for one; the catastrophic 1962 remake of My Favorite Wife (and Monroe comeback vehicle): Something’s got to Give. The film would be like no other before, as Monroe would once again grace the silver screen after being absent for over a year, and would also feature Monroe as the first actress to appear in the raw, since the uplift of the dreaded Hays Code. In order to set the mood for the film, Fox pulled out the best of their set constructors to take measurements of Cukor’s actual home. The end result was an exact replica of Cukor’s home that was fully operational for indoor or outdoor sequences intended for the film.

HHR1Above: Cukor’s actual home which served as the inspiration for the Arden residence in 20th Century Fox’s Something’s got to Give. Today the house still stands, serving as a reminder of the luxury that once graced the gilded days of Hollywood’s stars.

HHR2Above: Director George Cukor on the set of the ill-omened film Something’s Got to Give (note the repositioning of the pool, probably intended to accentuate Monroe’s body for the nude sequence).

Along with summoning their finest set constructors, Fox wasted no time and summoned upon the multifaceted talents of famed costume designer, Jean Louis, to have Monroe looking her absolute best. In his signature style, Louis had designed the most befitting costumes for Marilyn to showcase her not only as the loving mother (Ellen Arden) she would play, but also to help her reclaim her title as Hollywood’s primer sex symbol. Some of Louis’ design concepts consisted of simple yet figure flattering styles such as a floral pattern dress and a spaghetti strap dress.

HHR3Above: On set and ready to film, Marilyn would look all aglow wearing Louis’ latest creation. However, inside Marilyn was anything aglow as she would battle both bronchitis and sinititus as well as face the wrath of director George Cukor, and her own personal demons.

HHR4Above: The floral print dress as it looks today. This masterpiece by Louis last sold at an auction for $358,000.00.

HHR5Above: Monroe donning one of Louis’ brilliant creations intended for a hotel lobby sequence. Sadly, this picture taken for a costume test is all Monroe fans would get to see of her wearing it as Monroe never got to complete filming. Its whereabouts today are unknown.

With everything in place, it would have seemed that Something’s Got to Give would have been as equal a success as Cleopatra. Monroe was back on the 20th century studio block, and big name Hollywood stars like Dean Martin, Cyd Charisse, Thelma Ritter, Tom Tyron, Wally Cox, Phil Silvers and Steve Allen were set to co-star alongside her. Sadly, even with all the preparations the studio had made, Something’s Got to Give would never live up to the hype Fox promoted it to be. Shortly before filming, Monroe would contract both sinusitis and bronchitis (upon visiting her acting coach Lee Strasberg in New York), which would delay filming.

Continue reading “How Hollywood Recycles: Something’s Got to Give”

Memoirs: Best of the Best…Then and Now

Memoir is a form of biography, an historic account written from personal knowledge.  An autobiography is a chronological retelling of one’s own experience, while a memoir provides a less formal, more specific timeline and an intimate relationship to the writer’s memories, relationships, feelings and emotions.  Gore Vidal explains it as,  “A narrative, or how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring facts and documentation.” (from Palimpsest, 1995).

Today there are many lists of outstanding memoirs.  The most recent may be The New York Times Book Review (July 14, 2019) article entitled, “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years.”  Three editors (Dwight Garner, Parul Seghal and Jennifer Szalai) culled the list and explain their choices in an online video.  Only the top 25 choices were ranked, with the remaining 25 items in alphabetical order by author.

The ranked list (below) includes memoirs from the North Castle Library collection, with recent titles added.  As always, readers are encouraged to share their favorites with us!

  1. Woman Warrior, Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, by Maine Hong Kingston(1976) (2)
  2. Hitch-22, A Memoir, by Christopher Hitchens (2010) (5)
  3. Palimpsest, A Memoir, by Gore Vidal (1995) (7)
  4. Dreams From My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama (1995) (10)
  5. Patrimony, by Philip Roth (1991) (11)
  6. A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz (2004) (14)
  7. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013) (19)
  8. Hold Still, A Memoir With Photographs, by Sally Mann (2015) (22)
  9. Country Girl, A Memoir, by Edna O’Brien (2013) (23)
  10. Persepolis, the Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi (2003) (24)
  11. Experience, by Martin Amis (2000) (27)
  12. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) (31)
  13. Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (2005) (32)
  14. Barbarian Life: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (2015) (33)
  15. Personal History, by Katharine Graham (1997) (34)
  16. Thinking in Pictures, And Other Reports From My Life with Autism, by Temple Grandin (1995) (35)
  17. Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy (1994) (36)
  18. Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood (2017) (41)
  19. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (2015) (42)
  20. Color of Water, A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride (1996) (43)
  21. Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt, (1996) (44)
  22. Life, by Keith Richards (2010) (46)
  23. My Lives, by Edmund White (2006) (48)
  24. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2012) (49)

More recent titles added by Staff:

  1. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover (2018)
  2. Becoming, by Michelle Obama (2018)
  3. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture In Crisis, by J.D. Vance (2016)
  4. Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting, by Anna Quindlen (2019)
  5. Not My Father’s Son, A Memoir, by Alan Cummings (2014)
  6. Born a Crime, Stories From a South African Childhood, by  Trevor Noah (2016)

The Library would love to learn your personal favorite; let us hear from you!

Diana Cunningham

Continue reading “Memoirs: Best of the Best…Then and Now”