Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 17

Join Megan McGurk for a series of woman’s pictures in glorious Technicolour, Thursdays in January 2022.

Screenings begin at 6.00 sharp to comply with new restrictions.

Tickets are available from Eventbrite

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

6 January

Ava Gardner plays a petulant beauty who toys with men for kicks until James Mason appears in this lush romantic fantasy. The gorgeous cinematography by Jack Cardiff is a sight for sore eyes.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)

13 January

Run out of town on a morals charge, Jane Russell sails to Hawaii, turns brick top, and finds a lucrative loophole that brings financial independence and freedom from the small minds of men.

Bells are Ringing (1960)

20 January

Judy Holliday played the switchboard operator who works miracles for her clients over 1000 times before she faced the camera for this seratonin-boosting Metrocolor musical. Each little bit of business she performs is as fresh as a daisy.

Madame X (1966)

27 January

Lana Turner proves that when a star falls to pieces on the big screen, she still has an inner reserve of strength from years of studio training. Deep in her cups, at her lowest point, Lana’s character retains the MGM walk. She gives an exquisite performance from start to finish.

Salon Devine

Do you like stories about women who get what they want?

Listen back to an original podcast series set in a Broadway salon during 1933.

Beauty operators and showgirls make their way through the Depression with wit and style.

Will Mae lose the shop?

Does Polly hit it off with Bennett Cerf?

What happens when Cora thinks a circus party means trapeze artists?

Will Ruby get a studio contract?

Is June’s ‘rafter romance’ going anywhere?

Listen to part one here

Listen to part two here

Listen to part three here

Starring:

Clara Higgins as Mae Devine

Jennifer O’Meara as Polly Trainor

Jeanne Sutton as Cora Smith

Olympia Kiriakou as Ruby Dawn

M. Shawn as June Winter

Megan McGurk as Mimi Stone/Mrs Howard

Salon Devine was written and directed by Megan McGurk

Art Design by Clara Higgins

Sound Editing and Effects by Dan McAuley

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 16

Each Thursday in November, Megan McGurk introduces a classic woman’s picture in the Brooks Hotel cinema.

Popcorn included!

Tickets are available through Eventbrite

Be sound and wear a mask. Bring your vaccine cert.

Primrose Path (1940)

Ginger Rogers is supposed to follow the women in her family who work in the world’s oldest profession. She hides out in tomboy duds until one day she falls for Joel McCrea. Ashamed of her family, she tells a whopper about being thrown out of the house to hasten their nuptials. Trouble follows when he learns the truth. Director Gregory La Cava had an eye and ear for sass mouth dames–he was always on our side.

Screens 4 November

The Seventh Veil (1945)

I bet you can name at least a dozen pictures about a male genius and the woman who loved him. How many can you think of where the woman is the genius and the man devotes his life to serving her art? Ann Todd and James Mason flip the traditional script in a gorgeous tale about the collision of art and desire with some psychological twists.

Screens 11 November

Sleep, My Love (1948)

Claudette Colbert can’t figure out how she woke up on a train without having any memory of getting there. Nor can she account for other foggy recollections or why she’s sleepwalking on her balcony. Could it have anything to do with the strange man in thick glasses who scratched up her upholstery? Is it because of another strange man who seems so solicitous? Or is her handsome husband, played by Don Ameche, with that pillow talk voice, the one responsible? Douglas Sirk goes full Bluebeard.

Screens 18 November

Tension (1949)

Technically, this isn’t a woman’s picture. But there would be no other reason to watch it but for the sublime acid tongue, unabashed greed, and self-absorption of star Audrey Totter. If they had assembled 90 minutes of Audrey Totter scowling at men, I’d still be watching it. And Cyd Charisse is along for the ride.

Screens 25 November

The World’s Dead and Everybody in It’s Dead But You: Podcast ep 85

Joan Crawford has her pick between a troubled veteran (Henry Fonda) and a smug married man (Dana Andrews). Does she want the man who has good lines (‘The world’s dead and everybody in it’s dead but you’) or does she stay with the same old masculine lines (‘It won’t be over til we’re dead’)? Crawford looks good in the back street as well as the sunshine, thanks to the poetic photography of Leon Shamroy, who believed that every light had to be justified ‘like words in a sentence’.

Career gal Joan has a cute flat, the freedom to lose herself in work, and a great wardrobe by Charles LeMaire. I’m not sure why she wants a husband, but my interest in woman’s pictures is always seeing a woman who gets what she wants.

Catch up with podcast episode 85 on Daisy Kenyon (1947).

If you’re looking for more podcast episodes on Joan Crawford, step this way—>

In episode 60, I talk about Sadie McKee (1934) , the gold standard Crawford picture. It has everything I desire: Joan absorbs the slings and arrows of unworthy men, triumphs over their low opinion, has the support of a dear friend (Jean Dixon), and parades in exquisite designs by Adrian. And it has a scene set in the Automat, which is what I use to centre my best intentions each time when I sit down to write. Joan has a few coins in her pocket, but fortified by a smart wool topper and hat, she uses great style as a shield against pity and misfortune.

For episode 50, I talk about how Joan Crawford just wants to be left alone in her beach house. She foils the plot of a rough trade grifter and his backers, sidestepping the fate of women of a certain age.

In episode 36, Joan stars in a fabulous spy caper to defeat the Nazis.

Matt Harris, archivist and fellow Joan Crawford obsessive, joins me for episode 20 to talk about Joan in Flamingo Road (1949) and in episode 66 for Queen Bee (1955).

In episode 77, I admire the way Adrian develops his signature metallic look for Joan Crawford in No More Ladies (1935). The picture evades the usual tropes about a woman driven witless by a cheating husband. Joan turns the tables on Bob Montgomery until he sobs in her arms and begs forgiveness.

In episode 4, I talk about how watching Joan Crawford in Torch Song (1953) as she tries to do nothing on a Sunday leaves me with white knuckles.

Sass Mouth Dames Podcast Series: Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper

LOS ANGELES – MARCH 1: CBS Radio Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons is photographed at her home, 619 North Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. Image dated: March 1, 1941. Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 1: CBS Radio personality and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and son, William DeWolf Hopper, Jr. (William Hopper). Hollywood, CA. Image dated October 1, 1940. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

By: Megan McGurk

Although Louella and Hedda are more famous for their long-running feud than for the power they wielded in the studio system in Hollywood, they had a lot in common. Both women struggled as single mothers. Each woman forged a career in highly competitive fields when most women did not work outside the home. By telephone, their weapon of choice, Louella and Hedda could drag moguls out of bed, make producers sweat through a charvet shirt, and interrupt a star in the middle of filming a scene. When there were no less than 400 writers competing for stories in the film colony, Louella and Hedda had the largest readership for their daily columns. Their success inspired jealous hit-pieces and even physical attacks from men.

Louella and Hedda forged an indelible impact on celebrity journalism that remains visible today. Each time you read a profile on a film star, their imprint lingers in the subtext.

Catch up with my six-episode series:

Part One looks at Louella’s early dreams of being a writer, her rise as a film scenarist in Essay Studio, and her rise as one of the first daily film columnists. She gathered interviews from stars during train station layovers, and developed modern ways to market her skill set, pitching ideas to editors and publishers. The episode concludes when she nearly died of tuberculosis after she logged too many hours working for William Randolph Hearst in 1926.

Part Two covers Hedda Hopper’s early years as a workhorse in her father’s butcher shop, to runaway chorus girl, to wife of a Broadway star, and her success in silent pictures as the stylish dame who outshines the star. Hedda divorced a cheating husband and flourished in Hollywood, until she lost everything in the 1929 Crash.

Part Three traces the rise of Louella’s influence as a columnist in Hollywood. During the transition to sound, studios feared a negative item about one of their stars from Louella, and gave her a 48-hour exclusive. For more than a decade, she was the first to report breaking news on the stars. Louella made a splash in radio by booking free talent for the sponsors. The Screen Actors Guild mobilised against her power to get the stars to work without pay.

Part Four examines Hedda’s struggle to maintain a film career once MGM let her option expire. She became a Jane of all trades, in real estate, as a talent agent, as a beauty operator for Elizabeth Arden, and a voice coach–anything to pay her son’s tuition bill and keep a roof over her head. When Hedda was past 50 and considered a failure by everyone in the film industry, she reinvented herself as a columnist.

Part Five looks at Louella’s resilience when she lost her studio exclusive, and watch her rival catch the big stories, starting with Lombard and Gable’s wedding. After Hedda appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1948, Louella stayed in bed for days. But Louella closed the decade by breaking two of the biggest stories of the postwar era–Rita Hayworth’s Cinderella wedding to Prince Aly Khan and the truth about Ingrid Bergman’s love child with director Roberto Rossellini.

Part Six notes the accelerated speed of Hedda’s success as a daily columnist. She didn’t just cover the stars–she used her column as a platform to argue that Hollywood was unfair to women. Hedda called for the end of severe diets, and more women as screenwriters, producers, and directors. Hedda’s right-wing politics became an overwhelming preoccupation after the Time magazine cover. She encouraged the HUAC investigation, led boycotts against so-called pro-Communist sentiment in Hollywood, which inevitably led to the Blacklist.