Holiday Cooking with the Stars

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In October I shared some of Vincent Price’s recipes and cooking tips in a post titled In the Kitchen with Vincent Price and the response was overwhelming positive. In celebration of Thanksgiving I thought I’d share a few holiday recipes from some of Hollywood’s most loved and admired stars. The recipes are variants of traditional dishes and desserts often served in American homes during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most were compiled from newspaper archives and a few were borrowed from books. I hope the variety of the recipes I’ve gathered together might inspire you to spend some time in the kitchen cooking with the stars this holiday season. The first item on today’s menu? Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing!

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I’m in a fightin’ mood!

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Oooh, I’m spoiling for a fight today… a real knock-down, dust-up, take-no-prisoners, no-quarter-given, apocalyptic barney. My knuckles are itching to bite into a set of teeth and my teeth are itching to lay into a row of knuckles. I won’t be satisfied until I dissolve in a flurry of biffery, until I drink blood — mine or yours — and if you want to be the one to set me off here’s all you have to do…  [...MORE]

Telefilm Time Machine: Death at Love House (1976)

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It’s time for another installment of Telefilm Time Machine and this month I decided to revisit DEATH AT LOVE HOUSE (1976). This macabre love letter to old Hollywood suffers from the same production problems that plague many made-for-TV movies in the ‘70s but it also has a lot to offer classic film fans. Most of the action takes place on Harold Lloyd’s luxurious Greenacres Estate and it features noteworthy cameos by John Carradine, Dorothy Lamour, Sylvia Sidney and Joan Blondell. Part mystery, part fantasy, part romance and part B-grade horror movie, DEATH AT LOVE HOUSE is a smorgasbord of unrefined delights if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for 74 minutes and enjoy the brisk ride.
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E’reway in-hay the oney-may… or The Exorcist as a sequel to Gold Diggers of 1933

Beginning

I’ve been on a pre-Code jag lately. Mind you, I’ve watched movies all my life that were made before the enforcement of the Hollywood Production Code (which was drafted after the advent of sound but not really enforced until 1934) yet this is the first time I’ve ever gone back with a specific mind to watch pre-Code movies as a category. Last night’s viewing was Mervyn LeRoy’s GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), Warner Brothers’ follow-up to Lloyd Bacon’s 42ND STREET (released three months earlier in 1933), though it’s at least a nominal sequel as well to Roy Del Ruth’s GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (1929). Early into the film, showgirl Ginger Rogers sings Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s ironic Depression standard “We’re in the Money” as part of an elaborate Busby Berkeley-choreographed, Anton Grot-designed production number. At one point in the song, Rogers’ character switches to pig Latin… [...MORE]

Pleasures of the Pre-Code: Forbidden Hollywood Volumes 4 and 5

This astounding publicity shot of a screwfaced James Cagney reluctantly probing the shoulder of a coolly admiring Claire Dodd should sell anyone on the value of Hard To Handle (1933), or of the two new volumes of WB’s Forbidden Hollywood DVD series that is releasing it. The way Cagney separates his left ring and pinky fingers – as if he couldn’t bear to put the effort into using all five digits – exemplifies his casual mastery (even in PR shoots!) in fleshing out the con-artist cads he played throughout this period. And this is only one of the pleasures found within volumes 4 and 5 of the series, which includes a trio of treats from director William Dieterle, and snappy banter from the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell. The last edition appeared in 2009, containing a bevy of depression-scarred William Wellman films, but as DVD sales have continued to crater, so has the prominence of this series, with the new editions being released on WB’s movies-on-demand line, the Warner Archive.

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Joan Blondell: Big Deal on the Small Screen

As we’ve seen this past week on our Blondell Blog-a-thon, Miss Joan Blondell was a survivor.  Through her long movie career she always managed to come out on top, and her image as a plucky dame was one that audiences cherished and wouldn’t forget.  As her motion picture career began to slow down and she entered middle age — never a wonderful time for an actress, then as now — she was fortunate to still have some great career choices available to her.  Joan returned to the stage to much acclaim in the 1950s, and also began to appear on television during the same time, picking up roles on many of the prestigious dramatic  (and often live) anthologies of the TV’s early years.  In the first half of the decade she delighted audiences with roles on Schlitz Playhouse (as Calamity Jane), Suspense, Lux Video Theatre (with her A Tree Grows in Brooklyn co-star James Dunn), Fireside Theatre, Shower of Stars, G.E. True Theater, Shower of Stars, Playwrights ’56, Studio One, Playhouse 90, and The  United States Steel Hour.  The worst part about this fertile period in Joan’s career is that it’s pretty much impossible today to actually watch any of her performances in these very early TV series.  Our loss, for sure.

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Joan Blondell, Other Men’s Women and the Intangibles of Stardom

Some actors have great talent but little charisma.  Charisma, that intangible quality so difficult to explain but so easy to spot, is something only the greatest performers possess and most of them, in the history of cinema, have fallen into the character actor/supporting player role.    So many of the most charismatic performers of the studio era, from Thelma Ritter to Thomas Mitchell, played backup to the star and so often it is their performances that outshine that of the star’s.   And when it happens with a newcomer, audiences and studio chiefs alike sit up and take notice.

 

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Blonde Ambition: Joan Blondell in The Crowd Roars (1932)

Joan Blondell made herself at home in the cinema. Regardless of the plot or set decoration, Blondell would adjust her sheer stockings and plop into a seat as if she was at a cuckolded boyfriend’s pad. This Warner Brothers working class goddess buckled knees with this studied insouciance,  a glamour of gum-smacking nonchalance. Our blog-a-thon has been counting down the days until the Blondell-bonanza on August 24th, her day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Earlier this week Jeff discussed the James Cagney-Blondell pairing Blonde Crazy (1931), and today I’ll take a look at their subsequent film together, Howard Hawks’ The Crowd Roars (1932).

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Success Never Spoiled Joan Blondell

In 1939, Joan Blondell left Warner Bros. for Columbia after her husband at the time, Dick Powell, decided that neither of them was getting their due from Jack Warner. Blondell worked regularly on the radio and on Broadway during the 1940s, only periodically returning to Hollywood. She divorced Powell, the love of her life, in 1945 after he fell in love with June Allyson. Two years later, she married Mike Todd, who is best remembered for his short-lived marriage to Elizabeth Taylor and as the producer of the overblown adventure film Around the World in 80 Days. Todd’s death in a plane crash during his marriage to Taylor has romanticized their union as a fairy tale about true love destroyed by an act of ill fate. But, Blondell’s marriage to Todd was no fairy tale. They divorced in 1950 amidst allegations of physical and emotional abuse. According to Blondell, he poisoned her dog out of sheer spite. In addition, he spent all of Blondell’s money, leaving her broke. As a result, the actress—now middle-aged and no longer leading lady material—worked at every opportunity. She appeared on stage, in live television drama, and as a character actress in the movies.

Despite the circumstances behind her increased work schedule, she embraced the opportunities, noting that she was more interested in the craft of acting than ever before. In 1951, she earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance in The Blue Veil, a nearly forgotten melodrama starring Jane Wyman.  A pro in every sense of the word, Blondell proved an excellent secondary player and character actress, who could spin any small role into a memorable turn in front of the camera. Among my favorite films from this period of her career is Frank Tashlin’s hysterically funny Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

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Two Peas in a Pod – Blondell and Cagney in BLONDE CRAZY

Could there have been a more ideally matched couple from the Warner Bros. stock company than this pair of New York natives with their streetsmart ways and attitudes to match? It seems strange that James Cagney and Joan Blondell aren’t usually included in that rarified group of Gable & Harlow or Tracy & Hepburn or Bogart & Bacall or Loy & Powell and others but BLONDE CRAZY (1931) alone is reason enough to add this duo to the Hollywood leading couples A-list.          [...MORE]

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