Our headliners today were both familiar faces in the classic era of film noir.
Veronica Lake (1922-1973) became famous in the early 1940s for her “peek-a-boo” hairstyle (a very subdued version of which is in her photo above), but changed it during World War 2 after she learned that women working in factories were getting their hair caught in machinery when emulating her style. She had moved to Beverly Hills with her family in 1938 and began working in film in her late teens. Initially billed in films as Connie Keane, she began appearing under her famous screen name in the 1940 film I Wanted Wings.
One of Lake’s most famous roles was starring opposite Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels; Lake was six months pregnant during filming; however, costume designer Edith Head came up with some ingenious ways to conceal the fact. Her other famous roles are the films she made with Alan Ladd. The first two of these, This Gun For Hire and The Glass Key, came out in 1942. Later in the decade the two reunited for The Blue Dahlia and Saigon. The latter was probably the last successful film Lake ever made; she had some serious personal problems, beginning but not ending with alcoholism, and found it very hard to get work after the late 1940s.
Today we have a pair of international headliners.
Zhang Yimou turns 65 today. He was one of the first class of students admitted to the Beijing Film Academy when it reopened in 1978 (after having been closed during the Cultural Revolution). After graduating, he worked as a cinematographer for a few years, before directing his first film, Red Sorghum; it was his first of seven consecutive films starring actress Gong Li.
From 1990 through 2002 Zhang directed ten features, three of which were nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Two of those, Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, were historical dramas set in early 20th Century China. The third was a wuxia action film based on events from much, much further in China’s past: