Scan from a Photoplay magazine (1938)
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard made a single film together, “No Man of Her Own” (1932). They were married in 1939, until Carole’s tragic death, in 1942, in a plane crash.
This is my tribute to one of the greatest couples in Hollywood’s Golden Era.
A story about a forbidden love and the controversial mix of human races, “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” was an extravagant and authentic film, far ahead of its time. Director Frank Capra assumed a difficult script, based on an original novel about an American missionary who falls in love with a Chinese General during the war. The film benefits from the superlative performances of the legendary Barbara Stanwyck (a fine actress even in her youth) and Nils Asther (Swedish actor who accepted to play the role of a Chinese using heavy make-up). The chemistry of Stanwyck and Asther is palpable, even if Asther was the ideal partner of Greta Garbo, with whom he made two silent films. In fact, he was considered the male version of Garbo. Alas, many of his American films are forgettable, but it’s certainly not the case of “General Yen”.
I was very much impressed by this unusual film, with a surreal, exotic atmosphere, sets and costumes. It is quite accurate in portraying the Chinese Civil War and if it had been strictly related to this kind of story, it would have been a good historical film. But the characters are superior even to the story itself. The romance that blossoms between the young American woman and the handsome, rich and powerful Chinese General keeps your attention from the beginning to the end. The end is somehow predictable – and it is not a happy one – but it is delivered as a solution to the heroine’s troubles, thus escaping from both the real and the sentimental imprisonment…
Here is my video tribute to this wonderful piece of the old Hollywood, a gem that was not well received on its original release and that was, unfortunately, forgotten for quite some time, owing to its controversial political and social messages.
Last night I watched with great delight the wonderful pre-code film “The Divorcee”, with the brilliant actress Norma Shearer. For her outstanding performance in the female leading role, she earned a well-deserved Oscar.
I wish there were still actresses like Norma Shearer. But Norma is only one.
I have seen many of her films, such as “Idiot’s Delight”, “The Women”, and “Escape”. All different roles. She was good at playing comedies, dramas, romance, historical films (see “Marie Antoinette”). She was one of the top female icons at the MGM studios, along with such stars like Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy. She retired from acting in 1942, feeling that the war had changed the quality of the motion pictures. But we can still remember her in good, sometimes eccentric roles, like the one she played in “The Divorcee”. The film tells the story of two young lovers who get married, only to discover, after three years, that their love affairs from the past return into their lives, thus affecting their marriage. After getting a divorce and living apart from each other for a period of time, they realize that they still love each other enormously and they should get back together and live the happy moments again.
The film also has some dramatic scenes, which involve a car crash, a love triangle and a beautiful, scar-faced woman, a friend of the heroine. There are also some elegant scenes, with parties of the high society, and you will get to admire some nice dresses, too.
The film benefits from the stellar performances of Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel and Robert Montgomery. In the 82 minutes of length you will certainly be entertained by all these fine actors, matinee idols of the early 30’s, and, of course, you will notice the magnificent scenes of Norma Shearer.
Here is my video tribute to Norma and “The Divorcee”. Enjoy!
Joan Bennett și Hedy Lamarr au marcat lumea cinematografică americană din timpul celui de-al Doilea Război Mondial și de la sfârșitul anilor ’40. Joan era o favorită a regizorului de mare talent Fritz Lang (creatorul capodoperelor Metropolis și M), cel care a distribuit-o într-o serie de filme noir de mare succes, cele mai cunoscute fiind The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street și Secret Beyond the Door. Deși în anii ’30 ea avea un aer angelic și era o blondă ingenuă (la fel ca sora sa, actrița Constance Bennett), Joan a ales să treacă la stilul de vampă, de femme fatale, inspirându-se după modelul enigmatic și frapant al lui Hedy Lamarr. Hedy nu s-a bucurat de aceeași apreciere ca Joan din perspectiva talentului său artistic, dar a jucat și ea în câteva filme noir destul de bune, precum The Conspirators, The Strange Woman și A Lady Without Passport.
Cele două mari actrițe și mari frumuseți ale Hollywoodului de altădată merită urmărite ori de câte ori aveți ocazia. Însă, dacă ar fi să le etichetez cumva, aș spune că Joan a fost o mare actriță și o persoană extrem de cameleonică. În pofida frumuseții sale sofisticate, aș spune că fizic ea a fost doar o copie – reușită, ce-i drept – a lui Hedy Lamarr. Hedy, pentru mine, rămâne o actriță modestă, cu un talent artistic nesemnificativ, dar dotată cu o inteligență extraordinară (ea a pus bazele telefoniei mobile) și cu o frumusețe unică, irezistibilă, fascinantă, extrem de senzuală, magnetică și inconfundabilă. O femeie perfectă sau aproape perfectă fizic, o adevărată divă, un star de cinema cum nu se va mai naște vreodată.