A Star Was Born

Stardom. Love. Censorship.

Listen back to the new original series and meet the cast!

Part One:

In 1931, Warner Bros. star Cleo Longe tops the box office in pictures where she gets away with it: no strings sex or sending men to the morgue. One night at a party, she meets Richard Tulliver, a new contract player who is cast as the juvenile in her next production. Cleo coaches him through the part and suggests a new name for his screen billing.

Part Two:

Cleo finds a story for her next picture from an unlikely source. From the ground up, she builds the plot, takes a chance on a new screenwriter, casts the picture, and presents creative opportunities for her crew. Meanwhile, Cleo’s romance with Tully takes a serious turn.

Part Three:

Despite her success, Cleo discovers that having script approval in her contract is meaningless once the Production Code is enforced. Under the new rules, Cleo must argue over every page and justify her artistic choices to men who don’t care about the integrity of woman’s pictures. At the same time, Tully’s star rises.

A Star Was Born is a Sass Mouth Dames production written and directed by Megan McGurk.

Art design by Mot Collins.

Sound editing and special effects by Thomas O’Mahony

Meet the cast:

Clara Higgins plays box office star Cleo Longe. Clara is an Irish artist and writer perhaps better known as her pseudonym Mot Collins. Under this moniker, she creates illustrations, zines, and tattoos. Mot is interested in subversive expressions of femininity, sexuality, occultism, and comedy. She is highly influenced by pulp and punk culture. She can be found on Twitter as @heavydutywoman and @motcollinsart on Instagram.

Danny Reid plays actor Rick Tully. Danny is a librarian who lives in Western Germany with his yappy dog, adorable children, and perfectly splendid wife. He spent most of his adult life working in videostores and movie theaters, watching any movie he could get his hands on, eventually writing about old Hollywood at pre-code.com. He is also fond of potatoes. Danny is @PreCodeDotCom on Twitter and Instagram

Jeanne Sutton plays hair and makeup artist Babe Dempsey. Jeanne is a former journalist and occasional writer who has been published in Banshee, IMAGE, STELLAR and The Gloss. Her favourite movie scene is Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea sitting on that stoop in The More the Merrier. She publishes a newsletter and is @jeannedesutun on Instagram.

Olympia Kiriakou plays press agent Phyllis Blake.

Dr. Olympia Kiriakou is a film historian based in south Florida. Her research focuses on stardom, gender, and genre in classical Hollywood cinema, as well as contemporary fan cultures. She is
the author of Becoming Carole Lombard: Stardom, Comedy, and Legacy, an exploration of the star persona and career of the late star. Her work has also been published in Transformative Works and Cultures, Journal of Fandom Studies, In Media Res, and Film Matters. She has a website and is @thescrewballgrl on Twitter.

You can find Olympia’s book here: Becoming Carole Lombard

M. Shawn plays starlet Maxine Raymond. M. is a former television news producer, a writer, a researcher, an accidental homemaker, and a full-time Jean Harlow fan.  After a year in quarantine, her blood type is banana bread, and if people were allowed to be fictional characters in a past life, she’d be Blondie Johnson.

Peter Bryant plays agent/manager Hank Webber. Peter’s interest in classic Hollywood started—later in life than he would have liked—with the discovery of Preston Sturges comedies. This soon led to the Astaire-Rogers and Busby Berkeley musicals and much more. His latest avocation is writing about the career of Ida Lupino at his blog Let Yourself Go … To Old Hollywood and is @pmbryant on Twitter and @pmbryant_oldhollywood on Instagram

Matt Harris plays film director Carter Hilary. Matt is a Joan Crawford superfan and talented TV news archivist who lives in London. You can find Matt on Twitter (@Glamorous_Matt)

Megan McGurk plays wardrobe woman Edel Geary. Megan carries a torch for studio era woman’s pictures. She is the host of Sass Mouth Dames podcast and film club. In the past year, she has written and directed four original radio plays set in the 1930s (Salon Devine, Mannequins, Stenographers, and A Star Was Born). Megan is on Twitter @MeganMcGurk and @SassMouthDames and sometimes remembers to use Instagram @sassmouthdames

Thomas O’Mahony is a London based Irish Podcast Producer who specialises in storytelling and audio design. He hosts a tattoo history show called Beneath the Skin, and is passionate about how we can use audio to tell new and innovative stories. 
You can find Thomas on all social media @gotitatguineys or contact him for business related inquiries at thomasomahony.media

Tom’s podcast is here

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 20

Megan McGurk introduces five pre-Code woman’s pictures in another series of Dublin’s popular cinema club, Thursdays in September.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite

Please note that start times vary!

Applause (1929)

Screens: Thursday 1 September, 7.00

Burlesque star Kitty Darling, played by renowned torch singer Helen Morgan, tried to shelter her daughter April (Joan Peers) from backstage coarsening by sending her to a convent school. Once April has finished her education, Kitty plans a respectable career, but her manager and main squeeze Hitch Nelson (Fuller Mellish Jr) has other plans. Shot on location in New York, Rouben Mamoulian crafts a dazzling love letter to the city in his directorial debut.

The Divorcee (1930)

Screens: Thursday 8 September, 5.00

What do you do if your husband is unfaithful? In pre-Code pictures, a heroine like Norma Shearer doesn’t take it on the chin. She tells her husband (Chester Morris) ‘I’ve balanced our accounts’ after having a fling with Robert Montgomery. Shearer won the Academy Award for Best Actress for playing a wife who insists upon a single standard in marriage. Gowned by MGM’s Adrian, Shearer showed women in the audience how to cope with men in style.

Call Her Savage (1932)

Screens: Thursday 15 September, 8.30

After more than a year’s absence from the screen, Clara Bow makes up for lost time, firing on all cylinders. In the opening scene, Gilbert Roland suffers at the end of her whip. Bow’s just getting started. She collects big plotlines from the woman’s picture canon and wrings them dry: Her character is expelled from school, creates a society scandal, has broken love affairs, a syphilitic husband, and a sick baby, while living in a cold water walk-up. Clara Bow is not to be missed.

Beauty for Sale (1933)

Screens: Thursday 22 September, 7.00

Metro’s adaptation of Faith Baldwin’s bestseller presents a cautionary tale about three gals who seek their fortunes in a beauty salon. Una Merkel plays a hardboiled wiseacre who knows the shortest route to a man’s wallet. Florine McKinney is the innocent one who believes the rough lies men tell to get what they want. Madge Evans plays the pragmatic dame forced into work by the Depression. Hedda Hopper joins the cast as Madame Sonia, the salon owner, who rules over society clients and the beauty operators with ice-water in her veins.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Screens: Thursday 29 September, 7.00

Although Glenda Farrell takes fourth billing, she owns this rare wonder in two-strip Technicolor from Warner Bros. Farrell plays an ace reporter who breaks a story about an actress’s suicide. Later, she happens upon a strange racket in the new wax museum in town and investigates. Fay Wray plays the roommate who has the misfortune to resemble Marie Antoinette. The special effects haven’t lost their wow factor over the years.

Refunds are available up to noon on the day of the screening.

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 19

Each Thursday in May, Megan McGurk presents four classic melodramas from the 1940s.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

IN THIS OUR LIFE (1942)

Benjamin Franklin kept a checklist of 13 virtues that he monitored each day to reflect on his growth as an upstanding citizen. By contrast, Stanley Timberlake, played by Bette Davis, keeps a scorecard of vice. She runs off with her sister’s fiancé then drives him to commit suicide. She’s manipulative, greedy, reckless. For the coup de grâce, she pins a homicide on an innocent Black man. Olivia de Havilland, as Stanley’s unfortunate sister Roy, holds her own with a steady underplay. In one scene, Olivia takes her time putting on a hat, which is enough to tell the audience she’s no doormat. John Huston’s Southern Gothic melodrama reaches a steady boil.

MY REPUTATION (1946)

Before Douglas Sirk exposed narrow-minded views about widowhood in vivid Technicolor with All That Heaven Allows, Curtis Bernhardt painted a stark monochrome portrait of a community who expects a woman to put herself in mothballs once she loses her husband. Barbara Stanwyck’s character shares the same fate as many other women after the war. Should Jessica wear black, stay single, and avoid gossip? Or should she follow the advice of wing woman Eve Arden and see what happens with George Brent?

THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947)

Gene Tierney takes her adorable daughter (Natalie Wood) and trusty housekeeper (Edna Best) to live in a cottage by the sea. Unlike past occupants, she refuses to leave when she learns it has a resident ghost, a former ship’s captain played by Rex Harrison. Instead of rattling chains or disturbing her sleep with a repertoire of sea shanties, the mariner allows the women to stay and even strikes a bargain: Gene can write his salty memoirs and make herself financially independent.

DAISY KENYON (1947)

Joan Crawford stars in a three-cornered romance, caught between a cynical married man (Dana Andrews), who has strung her along for years and a battle-scarred veteran (Henry Fonda), who rushes to commitment one minute and disappears the next. Otto Preminger fashions a postwar melodrama about hot-and-bothered men who upset the placid life of a successful career gal.

Mannequins

Catch up with a three-part original podcast series about ambitious women in Hollywood.

Set in January 1934, the story opens in a dress shop on Sunset Boulevard. Designer Claire Delahunt has been asked by Frances Goldwyn to apply for a new role as head of the wardrobe department in her husband’s studio. Frances believes Claire will bring glamour to productions, which is sorely lacking, after she witnessed the Goldwyn Girls dressed in nothing but wigs for a scene in Roman Scandals. The only problem is Sam’s first choice is Dmitri Cosmo, a costumer in Monogram Pictures. Backed by her fitter Lois, and mannequins Helen, Gail, and Cash, Claire plans on beating the competition.

Listen back to Mannequins: Part One

Part two opens three days before the screen test. Claire designed twenty costumes for the adaptation of the Broadway show It Pays to Sin. While the ladies take a lunch break, the costumes disappear from the shop. Claire is ready to throw in the towel, until loyal client Lilyan Tashman arrives and offers her wardrobe. Over the years, Lilyan has bought at least one of everything Claire designed. Meanwhile, Helen suggests they find out what Dmitri’s costumes look like for the Goldwyn test. Cash volunteers to pick him up. Lois and Gail help her look the part.

Listen back to Mannequins: Part Two

In the podcast series finale, set the following day, Claire recalls the first time she dressed showgirls for a nightclub act to create a glamorous ensemble for the screen test in Goldwyn’s. Helen and Gail sign up as extras in Monogram to get a look in the wardrobe department. A surprise visitor shakes things up in the dress shop. Lois wears a disguise to sneak on the lot over in Monogram. Will the cloak and dagger spy tactics help Claire win the contract?

Listen back to Mannequins: Part Three

Mannequins is a. Sass Mouth Dames production, written and directed by Megan McGurk.

Starring:

Clara Higgins and Claire Delahunt and Lilyan Tashman

Jennifer O’Meara as Lois Kenny

Jeanne Sutton as Helen Flaherty

Olympia Kiriakou as Gail Lindstrom

M. Shawn as Princess Casimir (Cash)

Megan McGurk as Frances Goldwyn and Miriam Thorndyke

Art design by Clara Higgins

Sound editing and special effects by Dan McAuley

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 18

Megan McGurk introduces a classic woman’s picture each Thursday in March.

Tickets available through Eventbrite

Cleopatra (1934)

Screens 3 March

Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘epic with sex’ was subjected to changes by the newly installed Production Code Administration, led by po-faced Joseph Breen. Even with the bluenose interference, DeMille’s production is full of lusty charm, glamorous design, and erotic choreography. Travis Banton’s costumes for Claudette Colbert will knock your eye out. And it clocks in at an economical one hour and forty minutes.

Desire (1936)

Screens 10 March

Marlene Dietrich marches into a jewellery shop with the same royal command she used for playing Catherine the Great, mounted on horseback, clearing the palace of enemies. The most glamorous jewel thief on the planet is prepared for every contingency, except falling for a big galoot from Detroit (Gary Cooper). Directed by Frank Borzage and produced by Ernst Lubitsch, it’s a prized gem of sexy romance.

Libeled Lady (1936)

Screens 17 March

Once you set aside disbelief that Jean Harlow wants to marry a ham-fisted thug like Spencer Tracy, the farcical hijinks and snappy dialogue of this stylish ensemble piece, also starring Myrna Loy and William Powell, create one of the bubbliest screwball comedies of classical Hollywood.

History Is Made at Night (1937)

Screens 24 March

Jean Arthur is almost raped during a scheme engineered by the wealthy husband she’s trying to divorce (Colin Clive wearing a permanent sneer). At the last minute, she’s rescued by Charles Boyer. Before dawn, she has fallen in love with the dashing head waiter. But the psycho ex refuses to let her go. Director Frank Borzage’s romantic melodrama argues that nothing can keep two lovers apart.

The Awful Truth (1937)

Screens 31 March

A fake tan and close quarters with a singing instructor are two random details misconstrued by a husband and wife. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant discover that love is doomed when faith goes out the window. Leo McCarey sets the gold standard for the screwball ‘comedy of remarriage,’ proving that inside every dedicated gag man beats the heart of an incurable romantic.