All of the posts this week are my contributions to the For the Love of Film: the Film Preservation Blogathon that is being put on by the Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films in effort to raise money for the National Film Preservation Foundation. As film lovers, we should all be aware of how delicate film is and how much of it has been lost due to improper preservation. Luckily for all of us, there are individuals who have made careers out of restoring and archiving movies so that we are able to enjoy them, and so will future generations. To donate to the National Film Preservation Foundation, please click HERE.
When it comes to film preservation, no distribution company beats the efforts of the Criterion Collection. Together with Janus Films, Criterion has restored and released a line-up of foreign and art-house films so unprecedented, it nearly boggles the mind. Granted, Criterion has signed contracts with a few studios to release some pretty questionable films (Armageddon? Seriously? Get out of here, Michael Bay!) but I can overlook that because the library is so chalk full of artistic and cinematic merit that it prevents the sore thumbs from sticking out. I always know a Criterion film will be high quality.
Criterion’s mission (taken from their website):
Since 1984, the Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films, has been dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. Over the years, as we moved from laserdisc to DVD, Blu-ray disc, and online streaming, we’ve seen a lot of things change, but one thing has remained constant: our commitment to publishing the defining moments of cinema for a wider and wider audience. The foundation of the collection is the work of such masters of cinema as Renoir, Godard, Kurosawa, Cocteau, Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Fuller, Lean, Kubrick, Lang, Sturges, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Ozu, Sirk, Buñuel, Powell and Pressburger. Each film is presented uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen. Every time we start work on a film, we track down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting our rigorous standards, then take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound. Whenever possible, we work with directors and cinematographers to ensure that the look of our releases does justice to their intentions. Our supplements enable viewers to appreciate Criterion films in context, through audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director’s cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards. To date, more than 150 filmmakers have made our library of Director Approved DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and laserdiscs the most significant archive of contemporary filmmaking available to the home viewer.
The first Criterion dvd that I ever got for my personal collection was Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant (unfortunately this film has since been discontinued, along with another of my favorite Hitchcock films, Rebecca). Later, as a film student in college, nearly every foreign film that was screened in class was a Criterion dvd. Through Criterion, I was introduced to films such as Tokyo Story, Les Cuatre Cents Coups, Cleo from 5 to 7, Nights of Cabiria, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Ugetsu, and M, among others; all films that I could never find at Blockbuster. I was hooked. Imagine my delight when I discovered that DVD Planet in Huntington Beach had the entire Criterion Collection in stock!
The Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward exhibit at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was fascinating! It documented Coward’s life from a boy actor to a playwright, famous friend, producer, etc. Artifacts found in the exhibit included Noel’s stage make-up case from the 1950s complete with Max Factor compacts, brushes, lipstick, and a cracked mirror, several of his silk dressing gowns, letters to Noel from both Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, an original annotated script from Brief Encounter (quite possibly my favorite item in the whole exhibit), photos from his stage productions, hand-written lyrics for his famous song Mad Dogs and Englishmen, his Oscar for In Which We Serve, and much more. They even had a running video of his home movies from the 1930s that showed people like Leslie Howard, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, etc. It was so amazing.
As I said in a previous post, I discovered Noel Coward through my fascination with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and quickly grew to love him. His collaborations with David Lean in the 1940s produced two of my favorite films: Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit, and I think his songs are hilarious and so very Cole Porter-ish.
Noel was a very close friend to both Vivien and Larry for many years, including the whole length of their marriage to one another. They often confided in him with their marital problems and he acted as a sort of middle man at times, and he meant a lot to both of them. They would often go visit him at his home in Jamaica when he was a tax exile. The letter from Vivien that was in the exhibit was to thank Noel for taking her in during Christmas of 1959 (she stayed with him at Les Avants, his house in Switzerland). It was a very hard time for Vivien because she was going through the divorce with Larry. Her letter read:
Oh darling dear–I can never thank you enough for being so angelically kind to me. You made Christmas & the New year so much more than possible than I ever thought it could be. You are so wonderfully generous in every way, Noellie darling & I shall never cease to be grateful to you. Your wise and kind advice is in my mind & I shall try to follow it. You know well how difficult that is, but I am sure you are right. Thank you dear dear for your unfailing friendship and thought of me. I do hope you are going to have the greatest joy from the new house. You have made it so lovely & goodness how thrilled I am to have been your first guest. Next time I think I shall be a gayer one. I also trust that you will beat the hell out of me at baccarat & Backgammon. Of course it was only your masterly teaching that enabled me to achieve those stunning results!–Oh darling my loving loving thanks. You are so good as well as being the very prettiest & very best.
Your ever devoted
In his diaries, Noel wrote of how he felt when Vivien died, which I think gives a clear indication of just how close their friendship was and how much she meant to him in return.
Sunday 16 July
I can’t even remember the date of the morning that Coley came into my suite at the Savoy, suffused with tears, and told me that Vivien had died. The shock was too violent. I mind too deeply about this to go on about it very much. She was a lovely, generous and darling friend, and I shall miss her always. Apparently Jacko [Marivale] came back from his theatre, saw her sleeping peacefully and went to warm up some soup for himself in the kitchen. When he came back a few minutes later she was laying on the floor in a welter of blood, having had a haemorrhage. Jacko, with almost incredible courage and tact, cleaned up all the hideous mess because he knew that she would hate anybody, even the doctor, to see her like that. Then he telephoned for the doctor. Jacko is a good and kind man. A day or two later he rang me up and asked me to read the address at her memorial service, which is, I believe, to be on the twenty-fourth. I lovingly but very firmly refused. I truly do not believe I could have done it without breaking down and making a shambles of it. I know this was cowardly, but I cant regret it. The emotional strain would be ghastly, and as I am not feeling any too well at the moment it would possibly cause me great damage. All my own loved ones agree and I can only hope that they’re right. if it could have helped Vivien in any way I would have done anything, but it couldn’t because she’s gone forever…
I could probably write an entire post about Noel’s friendship with Larry Olivier (hmm, maybe I will at some point).
Anyway, I seem to have gotten off track there. The exhibit was great, and I really enjoyed seeing so many artifacts from one of the greatest personalities ever to come out of England. Noel’s star waned in the 1950s but made a great revival in the 1960s. He was the first living playwright to be invited to the National Theatre to direct one of his own plays (Blithe Spirit). It really seems like if you weren’t friends with Noel Coward, you weren’t anyone, and he had a lot of famous friends.
The exhibit runs through the middle of April, so if you get a chance to go and see it, I’d highly recommend it.
You can also purchase the Noel Coward Diaries on Amazon. Great read!
In 2009, the famed Madame Tussaud’s wax museum finally opened a branch in the film capital of the world. It sure took them long enough! I’ve been to three other Madame Tussaud’s museums (in London, Amsterdam, and Las Vegas), and they’re pretty fun. The ticket prices are a bit high, but they let you stay there as long as you want, take photos, and even hang all over the wax figures. It’s a wonder they don’t let you take a piece home for yourself, haha!
I’d wanted to go to the Hollywood branch since it opened mainly because they have figures of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh from Gone with the Wind, but I kept putting it off because I figured there were better things to do with my $25. Yesterday I went up to meet with my friend Mark Mayes, and our main goal was to go see the Noel Coward exhibit at AMPAS. With plenty of time to kill afterword, we drove around downtown, and then decided to go up to Hollywood Blvd and give Madame Tussaud’s a try. If you’ve seen Mark elsewhere (such as on the vivien-leigh.com blog), you know he’s a huge old movie fan, and I knew that if I was going to go geek out in a wax museum, he’d be the perfect person to do it with. Nerds unite!
I have to say that the Hollywood museum has the most life-like figures out of any of the other Madame Tussaud’s that I’ve been to. Some of the people completely missed the mark, but the Vivien Leigh figure was the best, hands down. It looks so much like her–at certain angles! I can’t say the same for the Clark Gable one, though.
Movies and mayhem, here’s a sample of what ensued on our adventure:
Here are the rules and regulations:
1. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
2. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
3. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
4. Nominate 7 other bloggers, and post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
5. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
7 things about me that surely no one cares about, but I’ll tell you anyway!
1. I used to play competitive soccer. When I was 16 I went to Europe with a team of girls from the West Coast and played in the second largest youth tournament in the world: the Coca-Cola Haarlem Cup in the Netherlands. We got second place! I was moved up to varsity my freshman year in high school, and was team captain during my senior year, and also got named MVP out of all the area high schools. I miss the glorious game. It’s also my dream to attend the World Cup.
2. I’m in love with the Criterion Collection and it’s my goal to one day watch all of the films on their roster.
3. Even though I live not far from Hollywood, I always do obnoxious touristy things whenever I go there (like today!).
4. My favorite autobiographies are The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven, Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, Self Portrait by Gene Tierney, and DV by Diana Vreeland.
5. I find the tragic stars most interesting. My top three faves are Vivien Leigh (really?), Carole Lombard, and Louise Brooks
6. One of the prettiest places I’ve ever been is the Pacific Northwest. Who knew Idaho was so gorgeous? It is. Very woodsy and misty.
7. I LOVE California. No matter where I roam, I think I’ll always come back here in the end. CA has everything–ocean (which I currently live by), mountains (which I grew up near–hey, Sierra Nevada), desert, etc. Yosemite is my favorite park (haven’t been? Please go, it’s beautiful!), and San Francisco is my favorite city here.
I hereby pass this award along to the following people/blogs, all of which I find interesting and entertaining.
Traci at for the love of guava
Tatiana and Marissa at tv rots your mind grapes
Leigh at scarlettohara.org
Almie at apocalypstick
Farran the self-styled siren
Meredith at vote for gracie–yah sorry, I just saw you also nominated me. what goes around comes around! lol
Nicole at vintage film nerd
I had a fun blog post planned about my adventures at the Noel Coward exhibit and subsequent visit to Madame Tussaud’s on Hollywood Blvd., but it’ll have to wait ’til later!
London’s National Portrait Gallery recently added some new Vivien Leigh photos to their online collection, which in itself always makes me really excited because they hide these things away and don’t display them for the public in the museum, so whenever they do put new ones up on the website, it’s like a discovery for me.
There are some beautiful sets of Vivien in the 1930s, but please allow me to flail over this particular one right now. This set by Cyril Arapoff taken around 1936, is one of the most ethereal things I think I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love the contrast of the lighting and shadows, and the fact that Vivien is not all dolled up. Tricia commented on my personal blog yesterday that the expressions Vivien has in these photos are almost somber. I have to agree. But look at how beautiful she is, and the contrast between the beauty of her face and her sweater, which is very plain in black and white (even though $10 says it was a bright color), is great. Despite the grainy quality (or maybe because of it), these feel very modern to me, and this might be my new favorite set of Vivien. They’re so different than most of the portraits we see of her. Ah, variety! The spice of life.