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February 12 & 13: Happy Birthday Christina Ricci and Kim Novak

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Christina Ricci celebrates her 38th birthday today.  She first attracted notice acting in an elementary school play at 8 years of age; two years later she made her feature film debut in Mermaids, as the younger sister of Winona Ryder’s character.  During much of the 1990s she was a well-known juvenile and teenage actress, starring in the big-screen adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost and in a remake of That Darn Cat, and appearing in an ensemble cast in Now and Then, sometimes considered a distaff counterpart to Stand by Me.  She also played Wednesday Addams in the two Addams Family feature films.

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Those Lovely Liars

There was a time when Hollywood was glamorous.  No there wasn’t.  The reality is that Hollywood was a dirty place filled with unscroupulous people doing very inappropriate things.  Movie stars who appeared to be gods and goddess on the silver screen were often sad, damaged people.  The glamour of old Hollywood was an illusion.  Or if you are feeling less charitable, it was a lie.  This article from the February 2003 issue of Movieline magazine looks at the real lives of some of the best liars in Hollywood’s bygone era.

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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Vertigo

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

As a puzzle focused on movie posters, some of the chosen films or versions of their posters featured on it are not necessarily top notch. None of this can be said about the amazing poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller, Vertigo. The great designer Saul Bass produced a wide array of promotional images for this Hitchcock masterpiece, but the above one sheet version has become one of the most famous and striking posters in film history.

However, Vertigo is much more than a great marketing campaign. The film was worked on by some of the legends of the art form, and it shows. Although the movie’s reputation had gained steadily over the years as film lovers continued to see it over and over, a dramatic million dollar restoration and re-release of Vertigo in 1996 allowed even larger numbers of people to fully appreciate the beauty of Hitchcock and company’s work on it. Despite mixed reviews on its initial release in 1958, it has become one of the standard members of any compiled list of the finest films ever made, and actually replaced the legendary Citizen Kane at the top of Sight & Sound’s 2012 critics list.

Join me below, and we’ll discuss this amazing poster and film. Oh, by the way, there will be enormous spoilers for the movie after the break, so if you haven’t seen Vertigo yet I’d recommend you go take care of that momentous lapse in judgement first and then come back and finish reading this article.
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February 13: Happy Birthday Stockard Channing and Peter Gabriel

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Screen and stage star Stockard Channing, who is 73 today, has received over twenty nominations for major acting awards (Emmy, Tony, Oscar, Golden Globe) in her career.  She began working in theater in the late sixties and made her Broadway debut in 1971.  She also began working in film at about that time, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut for The Fortune, and becoming well-known when she played Betty Rizzo in the film version of the musical Grease.

Following Grease, Channing starred in two short-lived TV series.  During the eighties, her theater career bloomed; she won a Tony for starring in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and was nominated for two more, including one for John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.  When the play was adapted to film in 1993, Channing reprised her role of Ouisa Kittredge and received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

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