Sass Mouth Dames Film Club series 21

Megan McGurk introduces four classic woman’s pictures from the 1930s each Thursday in November.

Tickets are available from Eventbrite.

Free popcorn!

Dodsworth (1936) 

Screens 3 November at 7.00.

Walter Huston plays auto magnate Sam Dodsworth, who sells his business and sails for an adventure in Europe with his wife Fran, played by Ruth Chatterton. After twenty years together, their daughter married, will they be lovers or drift apart? Fran only wants to live it up while she’s still young enough to enjoy it, but Sam takes more interest in soul-searching than cocktail parties and dancing. Mary Astor, playing an American living abroad, points Sam in the right direction to find his true north.

Easy Living (1937)

Screens 10 November at 7.00.

At this time of year, it’s tempting to wonder if a new coat might change your life. In this sublime screwball farce, based on a story by Vera Caspary, adapted in a screenplay by Preston Sturges, and directed by Mitchell Leisen, a luxurious sable coat drops on Jean Arthur’s head and occasions seismic change. Formerly, Jean lacked the price of a good dinner, then suddenly, with help from a plush fur, she’s ensconced in fancy digs and handed all sorts of finery. Swoon merchant Ray Milland declares himself with a beef pie and a riot in the Automat.

Angel (1937)

Screens 17 November at 7.00.

Marlene Dietrich stars in a three-cornered romance with Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas. Does she stick with the neglectful workaholic husband? Or does she run off with the dashing stranger who says all the right things and never takes his eyes off her? Thanks to the sophisticated ‘Lubitsch touch,’ the audience learns more about their love triangle from food not eaten and a bed not slept in than other pictures would tell us with twenty pages of dialogue.

Bachelor Mother (1939)

Screens 24 November at 7.00.

According to the logic of screenwriter Norman Krasna and director Garson Kanin in this screwball gem, a woman in possession of a baby must be the mother. Ginger Rogers finds her life turned upside down once she’s pressed into caring for a foundling orphan. Does she keep the baby? And what about the department store heir played by David Niven?

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

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.

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

Swaddle This: Joan Crawford in Fur

 

By: Megan McGurk

Letty Lynton (1932), well known for the exaggerated organza sleeve gown that Adrian designed to embellish Joan Crawford’s already significant wingspan, features so many more interesting clothes. Clarence Brown’s picture remains out of circulation after an author of a play no one remembers sued and won for plagiarism. It’s a crime against cineastes, because Letty’s wardrobe by Adrian features some of his best work in fusing costume with character. Joan Crawford, queen of underplay, performs an uncharacteristic bit of scenery chewing in the climax scene with Nils Asther. A single blob of mascara slides under her eye as a result. We won’t see Crawford with a smudged face again until she’s beaten and tortured by Nazis in Above Suspicion (1943), her last picture before she left MGM. The ‘Letty’ dress that sold half a million knockoffs pales in comparison to the gown she wears for a first date with Bob Montgomery, a white column gown with silver beading and sleeve inserts in white mink. Joan’s fur shoulder cuffs look like clouds of candy floss that reflect all the light in the room upon her face. She casts an ethereal dream vision to dazzle the spoilt Montgomery.

 

Adrian gave Joan two different duvoons to snuggle into for this picture. The first is a praline-coloured confection she wears to disembark the ship from South America. When she discovers Nils Asther’s Emile, an ex-lover who turns up like a bad penny to ruin the glow of her recent engagement, she barricades herself in the sumptuous fur to reject his demand that their romance continue. Joan’s Letty cocoons in another fur duvoon, this time in black sable, when she meets Nils Asther in his hotel room to put a stop to his sexual blackmail. Never mind why Joan’s character keeps a bottle of poison in her medicine cabinet, or why she intends to drink it herself as a means to escape Nils’s threat to expose her love letters. Wanda Tuchock and John Meehan’s script contains gems that match the sartorial flair on offer, such as Joan’s remark after she takes off the black duvoon, revealing a silver metallic dress, and asks ‘any wine left? I’m congealed.’ (Or earlier, right before she breaks up with Nils and some random former lover goes in for a smooch and Joan shuts him down ‘You know I never kiss anyone before one o’clock’). Between the armour-plated frock and the duvoon, viewers know style vouchsafe when we see it. Joan appears as impervious to his nefarious plan as if she were wearing a shield and sabre. Nils deserves what he gets when he says ‘women don’t think. They change their minds, that’s all’ and then he knocks Joan to the floor twice. Down the hatch, Emile.

Continue reading “Swaddle This: Joan Crawford in Fur”

‘There are rats like you everywhere’: Lana Turner in A Life of Her Own (1950)

By: Megan McGurk

George Cukor’s A Life of Her Own (1950) wastes no time reminding viewers how tough women have it. For instance, we can’t just walk into a room and sit down. Creepy Tom Ewell (sorry, but I run to the shower to apply salt scrub whenever I recall his oily, horn-dog play for Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch) lectures a wannabe model in his office about a woman’s appearance in any room as something that requires effort, which she must practice every minute she can (when she’s alone in her apartment, in her bedroom, on the street, or in the bathroom). Women should never ‘make up’, and should instead ‘make down’. We should walk on the balls of our feet like wild cats, rather than our heels, like bears. Two imaginary rails should corral each hip to modulate a smooth gait. We should sit in a graceful ‘S’ position which cranks our spine into a chiropractor’s nightmare because the silhouette pleases the eye:

Most women drop into a chair like a bag of meal and haul themselves out of it like a bag of coal.

We should stretch ourselves so that our neck pulls out from shoulders, shoulders out of the waist and the waist out of the hip. Lana Turner sits in a chair trying to commit his mixed metaphor tips to memory. Cats, bears, meal, coal, rails, got it? Meanwhile he would resemble a domino tile if not for the expanse of his well-fed middle. Ewell’s character Tom Caraway sports bad posture, a double chin, traits he excoriates in the job hopeful woman, not to mention his grease pocked complexion and sloppy demeanour. Somehow men who enjoy prosperous careers as curators of beautiful women always fall short of the aesthetic standards they demand of women. Femininity, by contrast to anything lacklustre machismo, rates a full-time occupation. Lana performs his inane specifications to the desired effect and lands a job.

Caraway assesses Lana Turner’s tallboy drum majorette inspired hat and smart waistcoat and quips that she doesn’t look like she’s from Kansas. Lana’s character Lily James responds with a steady understatement which points out that they have magazines and movies in Kansas. She adds, for his education we don’t all wear sun bonnets. Unlike many other films that paint small-town women as awkward fashion hayseeds (like Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart), screenwriter Isobel Lennart (whose credits include Anchors Aweigh; East Side, West Side; Love Me or Leave Me and Funny Girl) realises that ambitious women in rural outposts practice for the thrill of Gotham with enough heated dedication to fry an egg. And director George Cukor knew that women have studied glossy mags and films stars for style tips since his 1932 masterpiece What Price Hollywood? Lily James didn’t work her tail off waiting tables and sweeping up hair in a salon to be turned away at the door for looking corn pone. She’s carefully dressed in a stylish ensemble, as evidence of the old dictum to dress for the job you want. She had plenty of time to do her homework while she worked a variety of jobs for six months to save the train fare.

Continue reading “‘There are rats like you everywhere’: Lana Turner in A Life of Her Own (1950)”