Archive for Clara Kimball Young

Stooge Struck

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2019 by dcairns
Stooge Kit

Bought a Three Stooges box set secondhand. Well, it was there and so was I. Do I LIKE the Three Stooges? I never thought I did, but I was curious — it’s been decades since I saw a whole one, if I ever did. My memory of TV screenings includes no specific details whatever, just a general impression of the films being in bad shape — and I was used to Laurel & Hardy, so they must have looked really wretched.

It’s basically like a more violent FUNNY GAMES, this one.

Well, now they’re all cleaned up, looking actually new, which doesn’t help, and they don’t seem to feel like the product of any particular era. I watched one where they try to crash Hollywood, and one where they play exterminators (possibly an influence on fanboy Sam Raimi’s CRIME WAVE) who start by planting infestations on (former silent star) Clara Kimball Young’s house party to drum up business, then go fox-hunting for no reason. Then it just kind of stops.

Well, anything you say about the Stooges is probably irrelevant to anyone who finds them really funny. There were some laughs, especially in the extermination skit. Let’s face it, Laurel & Hardy rarely managed a strong fade-out — they’re more usually shrugs. And L&H could be brutal, but with the boys, a poke in the eye was a bit like sand in the vaseline. With the Stooges, the proportions are reversed: a whole sandpit with a blob of lube dropped in.

Mo actually threatens one of his co-stooges thus: “I’ll gouge your eyes out.” About which I see nothing particularly humorous.

Cruelty to animals, too — well, the producer brought us the DOGVILLE SHORTS…

In addition to the violence, there’s the fact that the stooges gits are deliberately spreading misery (and mice, moths, bed bugs…). Well, the Marx Bros. were generally up to no good. (When they try to play Cupid or help struggling sanatoria, we disapprove.) But that was generally part of their anarchy, their conviction that civilisation is overrated. The Stooges are trying to get along and fit it. They’re conservatives. Just vicious, incompetent ones. With really bizarre hair.

Hmm, maybe these films are timely?

Clearly, I need to see more.

Strong Coffee

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on November 20, 2012 by dcairns

More from Lenore: brace yourselves for this one! From Miss Coffee’s days working for producer Harry Garson and movie star Clara Kimball Young.

About the fan mail. Letters which were friendly and admiring went to Clara. Those which asked for a signed photograph went to Garson’s secretary. But there remained another category which went into a special file, alphabetically arranged according to the name of the town and state on the postmark. No envelopes belonging to these letters were ever thrown away, for if two came from the same town or the same person, then both were sent to be investigated by the police of that town. These were the obscene letters. Not plain pornography which, in these permissive days, is as easy to say as photography; the contents of these would be shocking even today. They were never shown to Clara but went from me into that special file. I don’t think the public realizes the things to which stars are subjected. So I’m going to copy, from memory, one of the least offensive—and one that I had to show Clara, for while the opening and closing paragraphs were clear, the centre one puzzled me. The letter began by a young man explaining in great detail how he took two sisters to bed and, lying between them, ravaged first one and then the other. The girls were completely inexperienced and he described their reactions with great gusto. The older on—and I imagine both were under age—was frightened but excited. The younger one cried out in pain and genuine shock; but, after a while he said, ‘came back for more’.

Then came the centre paragraph which contained a series of numbers and measurements. I should have known what they were, but I didn’t, and decided to ask Clara. The concluding paragraph needed no explanation. I’ve never forgotten the words. ‘You should have seen the bed the next morning. It looked like the Japanese flag.’

Clara was in her dressing-room and I apologized for asking her to look at this letter, explaining my reason. ‘It’s just this middle paragraph,’ I said; but as she read the letter through, her face filled with disgust. ‘Do I get many of these?’

‘No,’ I lied, ‘not nearly so many as the nice ones. But I thought it seemed odd to introduce mathematics into this subject.’

Clara hesitated, then said, ‘Well, you see, inches play a part in this sort of thing, and he’s bragging about how splendidly he is equipped.’ A light dawned on me. ‘You mean he’s giving the measurements of what hospitals call his “private parts”?’ Clara nodded. ‘But why?’ Clara thought for a moment. ‘You remember the saying that if the nose of Cleopatra had been a quarter of an inch longer, the history of the world would have been changed?’

‘Yes, but I don’t see…’ I paused as I saw Clara’s amused eyes as she said, ‘Well, applied to a different part of the body, that applies to men, as well.’

‘You mean there’s a difference in size between men?’

Clara leaned over and gave my hand a pat. ‘My dear Lenore, a man’s whole lifetime of happiness can depend on one inch more or one inch less. The poor creatures!’

She looked down at the letter again. ‘I don’t think you should be asked to read these—‘

I said, ‘No, if I’m going to stay in this business, and I certainly intend to, I must take the rough with the smooth. Actually, I’ve got so I can almost smell them through the envelope. I open one, take a quick look, and if I’m right, back it goes into the envelope and into the file.’ Then Aunt Eva came in and it was time for Clara to dress, and I went about my business.

Crikey. It isn’t Hollywood that’s corrupt and decadent — it’s the public!

The Sunday Intertitle: Swarthy Opponent

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2012 by dcairns

Maurice Tourneur’s version of TRILBY (1915) foregrounds his renowned lighting effects right from the get-go, and though he doesn’t move the camera at all, he breaks up his tableaux staging with lively montages of close-ups, especially when the heroine sings. Our juvenile lead (31-year-old Chester Barnett) is introduced beside a shadow which looks like it should be his, except that he’s standing still while it rocks with laughter.

In the title role is Clara Kimball Young, whose name I knew but whom I’d never seen act. From her name I expected a plump Victorian matron, even though that wouldn’t fit the role created by George DuMaurier at all. That never stopped the Victorians. But CKY is young, spry and ebullient — she dominates the room, which makes her transformation under Svengali’s influence all the more affecting. CKY may play it big a lot of the time, but she’s never broad — the quicksilver transmutations of her expression draw the eye and keep it fixed upon her. She’s certainly more boisterous than Marian Marsh, the only other actress I’ve seen in the part.

Though set in London and Paris, with a few stock shots of the City of Light, the movie is a product of that other magical place, Fort Lee, New Jersey, the predecessor of Hollywood as America’s movie capital.

It’s slightly surprising that there were so many silent versions of this (full adaptations and even sample scenes — the story was so well-known early audiences could simply fill in the rest themselves), since the plot revolves around singing, but it’s also surprising to me that there haven’t been more recent versions. The character names and set-up are familiar even if the novel isn’t much read, so there’s an exploitable framework. I think the problem may lie in the somewhat semitic nature of Svengali, played here by the corpulent Wilton Lackaye as a sort of telepod fusion of Rasputin and Fagin. The Brits allow this evil Eastern European wanderer into their circle, he borrows their money and he steals their woman. It’s also about how women should choose marriage over a career. Virginal artist Billie is shocked that his sweetheart poses nude for artists, and then he tears her away from her successful stage act. Woman, know your place!

Plus, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA stole the best bits of the story and added deformity, masks, an underground lair and fifty more thicknesses of melodramatic excess. How do you go back to the stolid British original after Lon Chaney?

Fiona named her cat after Trilby because her purr turned to a trill in moments of extreme happiness. Here is the late Trilby ~

Like her namesake, she had a fine singing voice, as you can see.