Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Ice Queen

"What I really resent most about people sticking labels on you is that it cuts off all the other elements of what you are because it can only deal with black and white; the cartoon."

"There is a fun, flippant side to me, of course. But I would much rather be known as the Ice Queen."

Siouxsie Sioux (born Susan Janet Ballion, 27th May 1957)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Don't expect to see her playing Joan of Arc

Showgirl. Gangster's Moll. Knife-thrower's assistant. Comedienne. Paramount starlet.

The name Iris Adrian is little-remembered these days, but in her seven decade career she worked with just about everybody in the Golden Age of Hollywood - George Raft, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Elvis Presley, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope, Jack Benny... The list is immense.

She was an uncredited player in Charley Chase silents in the 20s, a "Gold Digger" in 1937 and "Emma Baxter" in The Love Boat in 1986. In between she played "Floozie", "Waitress", "Saloon Girl" and "Hostess" and similar character roles in a catalogue of movies and TV shows ranging from Roxie Hart to the Herbie films. As her mini-biography on IMDB would have it:
"Sugar", "Pepper", "Pearl", "Sunny", "Goldie", "Bubbles"; all those are nicknames borne by petite actress Iris Adrian in several of the 160 movies she made. With such names, don't expect to see her playing Joan of Arc or Electra but it remains that all these pet names reflect her winning femininity, its sweetness, its spiciness, its radiance.
In 1989, director, writer and producer John Gallagher interviewed the effervescent Miss Adrian, and the resulting transcript, peppered with fabulous long-forgotten names - hoodlums such as Big Fat Frenchy, Moey Dimples, Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel, and Hollywood characters like Brian Donlevy ("he smelled like Scotch"), Marion Martin, Fritz Lang ("a pain in the neck"), Dana Andrews ("he was quite a drinker!"), Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall - (and her theory as to why Joan Crawford became a monster to her kids) is a truly fascinating read.

Visit the National Board of Review site for the full inteview.

Iris Adrian (nee Hostetter), (29th May 1912 – 17th September 1994)

Monday, 27 May 2013

Oh, Jason!

Il Giasone is an opera by by Francesco Cavalli loosely based on the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and became wildly popular in the mid-17th century after it was premiered during the Carvival of Venice in 1649.

Its often comical elements revolve around the meddling of the gods in Giasone/Jason's love-life, and how his earthly passions for the two Queens in his life Medea and Isifile (and their plotting against each other) drive him almost over the edge. In Baroque style, of course.

It is not often in an opera that one gets to hear an aria about sex and masturbation, but, as this marvellously homoerotic performance from the Vlaamse Opera of Belgium with Christophe Dumaux as Giasone singing Delizie, contenti proves, (once more) in the words of Miss Anna Russell - "that’s the beauty of Grand Opera, you can do anything so long as you sing it!"

Read more about Il Giasone on Classical Net.

[Eternal thanks to Madam Arcati for finding this particular clip.]

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Doctor Cushing, I presume?

An eminent centenary today - one of the masters of the Hammer Horror genre, Mr Peter Cushing.

Famous for playing Doctors Frankenstein, Van Helsing and Who, he was also a recurring guest on the Morecambe and Wise Show.

As I said in my blog back in 2009, it is worth pondering on a bizarre coincidence...

Peter Cushing was born on 26th May. Christopher Lee and Vincent Price were both born on 27th May.
Three horror icons, contemporaries, sharing birthdays on two consecutive dates. Even better, the three men were good friends.

Of his meeting Christopher Lee in 1968, Vincent Price said, “I had heard he was very pompous, and I was really a little worried about meeting him. Well, we took one look at each other and started laughing… We find each other hysterically funny.”

On meeting Peter Cushing on the set of The Curse of Frankenstein. Christopher Lee wrote, “Our very first encounter began with me storming into his dressing-room and announcing in petulant tones, ‘I haven’t got any lines!’ He looked up, his mouth twitched and he said dryly, ‘You’re lucky. I’ve read the script'.” And from that moment on the two men became friends for life.
Mr Cushing's home town of Whitstable in Kent appears to be about the only notable place where this milesone is being celebrated, with an exhibition of his life and works until 23rd Jun 2013.

"Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do."

Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE (26th May 1913 – 11th August 1994)

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Foxy Harry

Today we mark the birth of one Harry Fox, vaudeville dancer, silent film star and comedian, 131 years ago.


For Harry was none other than the man who gave his name to "The Fox Trot" - one of the greatest of the "dance crazes" that swept the world before, during and after the Great War, and eventually (slowed down and gentrified) became one of the staple dances of all international ballroom contests to this day.

  • The Foxtrot rhythm was originally an African American ragtime dance, inspired by W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues.
  • Mr Fox was one of the stars (alongside Grace Darling and Olive Thomas) of the Beatrice Fairfax series of silent films (inspired by the world's first personal advice column "Dear Beatrice Fairfax" - which in turn inspired the lyrics in the Gershwin classic But Not For Me).
  • In the 1920s Harry was briefly married to one of the fabulously camp Ziegfeld performers The Dolly Sisters.
Here is wonderful clip to celebrate Mr Fox's birthday - a riotous Foxtrot scene from the 1919 silent comedy The Oyster Princess, starring the marvellously-named Ossi Oswalda (who is quite likely to gain her own entry here in the Museum of Camp one day)...

Harry Fox, born Arthur Carringford, (May 25, 1882 - July 20, 1959)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Freethinking, sexy broad with a dirty mouth

Many happy returns to Miss Joan Collins, 80 years old today!

The compartment that's easy to put me in is 'freethinking, sexy broad with a dirty mouth, who pretty much does what she wants'. But there's more to me than that."

"After a certain age, you get the face you deserve."

Our icon.

Joan Henrietta Collins (born 23rd May 1933)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Full Monty

"If you are lucky enough to be a success, by all means enjoy the applause and the adulation of the public. But never, never believe it."

Robert Montgomery (21st May 1904 – 27th September 1981)

Facts about Mr Montgomery:
  • When Billy Haines - read my blog about him - refused to hide his homosexuality and marry a woman (and was fired from MGM), it was Robert Montgomery who landed all the romantic leading roles that were originally meant for Mr Haines.
  • He was Norma Shearer's chosen co-star in three movies, and he also starred alongside Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Marion Davies, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, Rosalind Russell and many other of the greatest Hollywood stars.
  • Mr Montgomery was (to his discredit) a star witness in the McCarthy trials, and subsequently worked as "style consultant" to (Republican) President Eisenhower.
  • He was widely considered to be one of the best dressed men in Hollywood and for years did not carry a wallet because it ruined the drape of his suits.
  • His (perhaps more famously remembered) daughter was Elizabeth Montgomery ("Samantha" in Bewitched).

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Last Troubador

"Without him, we all would have become accounting clerks." - Jacques Brel

From a tribute on the Bobby Darin website:
When Charles Trenet passed away in early 2001, France reacted almost as dramatically as America did following Frank Sinatra's death nearly three years earlier: it was a time of national mourning. Tributes filled the TV, and nothing but Trenet songs were heard on the radio.

He was a prophet so honored in his native land that not even the rumors that he was both a homosexual (apparently true) and, far more worrisome, a collaborator with the Nazis during World War II (probably not true, but it's complicated) could temper the national enthusiasm for the man, who was billed as "Le Fou Chantant" (the Singing Fool).

Patrick Bishop, writing in The Telegraph:
The advent of rock and roll dimmed his star, but he was back in 1969 with a concert to celebrate 30 years on the stage. By his last performance, in November 1999, he was established as an official national treasure, and singer-songwriters such as Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg acknowledged their debt.

Trenet recognised that his real strength derived from his contact with ordinary life. He once said: "I find my poetry in the street." That view was endorsed by one of his old collaborators, Serge Hureau. He said: "Trenet's death reminds us that he belongs to our collective memory, not like a monument but like the cafe on the corner."

"Trenet - 'The Last Troubador'." - Jean Cocteau

"Without Trenet, French chanson would not be as it is today." - Charles Aznavour.

"Do not publish your poems - sing them!" - Charles Trenet

Charles Trenet (18th May 1913 – 19th February 2001)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

David Bowie is...

...utterly, and truly amazing.

From The Upcoming online magazine:
David Bowie is boasts the perfect balance of historical interrogation and compelling declaration of a man with nothing to declare except his sequinned genes. A man who sold the world and lived to tell the tale: this is the definitive display of the world’s most revered chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature, in all his slash-backed splendour...

...every piece plays an intrinsic role in the storytelling process – be it the guitar the 16-year-old singer played when he was still known as Davey Jones, to a pocket-size metal spoon carried on Bowie’s person for the sole purpose of consuming cocaine. On entering the stimulating realm of the Thin White Duke, we are met by the famous Kansai Yamamoto bodysuit created for Aladdin Sane (just one of multiple personae developed by the singer as catalysts for his expressive excesses). The exhibition showcases Bowie’s almost pathological need to reinvent and rediscover himself: tortured mime, cracked actor, artistic tricoteur, always ready and waiting to pounce on the next dynamic creative wave.

I cannot put into words the sheer impact of the David Bowie is exhibition that I went to see at the V&A yesterday (before Eurovision celebrations took over our cultural world). I will merely quote Mr Bowie himself:

"All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings"

David Bowie is at the V&A until 11th August 2013. It is apparently practically sold out.