[Classic Movie History Project 2016] The Emancipation of Ossi Oswalda: I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918)

This is my entry in the Classic Movie History Project, hosted by Movies Silently, Once Upon a Screen, and Silver Screenings.

Classic Movie History Project

Classic Movie History Project

Ossi gets emancipated

Ossi gets emancipated

THE EMANCIPATION OF OSSI OSWALDA: I DON’T WANT TO BE A MAN (1918)

“You are a dream; I hope I never meet you.”-Sylvia Plath

Reliable biographical information on German silent movie actress Ossi Oswalda is scant. Even worse, the crumbs that do exist often conflict with one another. To be blunt: facts are on particularly unreliable ground here. Matters are further gummed up by the early-film habit of naming characters after their actors. Ossi was often Ossi, or, to add variety, Össi. Who was who was who? Does it matter? Fortunately, since the focus of this essay is on her incredible comedic performance in I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918), I’m not particularly concerned with the trajectory of her personal life, or to what extent her true personality coursed through the veins of her screen selves. Even though her off-screen circumstances, opportunities, and choices undoubtedly affected her career, an understanding of them is not a fundamental component to enjoying her remarkable gifts.  It would benefit us to take a page from her delightful films, and, at least for the duration of this piece, leave the logical, workaday world behind in favor of the magical hinterland of the imagination. Let’s travel to a place, then, where time and reality don’t matter, where Our Heroine, in her various fictional disguises, is forever brave, scampish, and determined to grab every experience within her reach. 

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

To sheltered twenty-first century viewers, Ossi Oswalda can seem like a young woman ahead of her time. Her screen characters embrace values that we chauvinistically claim as exclusively ours: they are full of physical courage and a feminist resolve to be treated as equal to all comers, have spicy senses of humor, are confidently attractive, take chances as if they were made for risk, and rebel against the mundane as a matter of principle.

Silent film fans know better. Continue reading

#ReelInfatuation Blogathon Round-Up

Thanks to all who participated in, read, shared, or otherwise engaged in the inaugural #ReelInfatuation Blogathon!

Reel Infatuation Jagger Banner

Reel Infatuation Jagger Banner

You know who you are, and you’re ALL the best (especially our co-hostest with the mostest).

Here’s a round-up of all five fabulous days:

Although we plan on doing a second Reel Infatuation Blogathon, you don’t have to wait that long to join in the fun. The character crush conversation will continue on our website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Stay tuned for more info.

Until then…

Cheers!

Cheers!

#ReelInfatuation Blogathon: The Most Stylish Sisters of 1954

Move over, Jackie and Lee. The unofficial (and totally made-up) title of The Most Stylish Sisters of 1954 goes to Betty and Judy Haynes. These savvy and sensational showbiz siblings prove the veracity of the famous Coco Chanel quote: “Fashion changes, but style endures.”

Bombshells in Blue

Bombshells in Blue

Their styles are different, but, as befits a sister act, complementary. Betty (Rosemary Clooney) is chic but serious; this perfectly suits her role as the mother hen elder sister. Judy (Vera-Ellen), the irresponsible kid sis, is kicky and fun on-stage and off; her wardrobe definitely fits her attitude. They both know how to dress, with panache, elegance, and personal style, for any occasion that presents itself. Proof of this can be found in the following fashion show… Continue reading

#ReelInfatuation Blogathon: Part II-White Christmas (1954) Overview…with Lots of Pics

This is Part II of my contribution to the  #ReelInfatuation Blogathon, which I’m co-hosting with Ruth of Silver Screenings. You can find Part I here.

The focus of this whole thing is, of course, Dean Jagger as General Waverly. I took care of that in Part I. Part II is just an overview of the film itself, which is so well-known as to be part of our cultural fabric. Part III will cover the amazing fashions featured in the film.

Vera-Ellen Reel Infatuation Banner

Vera-Ellen Reel Infatuation Banner

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Irving Berlin's White Christmas

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are two entertainers serving in the Army in WWII. They’re not very good soldiers, but they are worth their weight in songs. Continue reading

#ReelInfatuation Blogathon: I’ll Follow the Old Man-Meditations on Dean Jagger as General Waverly in White Christmas

Disclaimer: This essay is about the character Major General Thomas F. Waverly as played by actor Dean Jagger. For an overview of the full plot of White Christmas, please read the follow-up post.

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I just fell through the looking-glass and somersaulted my way into the cinematic world of Pine Tree, Vermont. It is December 1954, and you can call me Mae in Wonderland.

There’s fresh snow on the ground, it’s very Vermonty, and I’m better dressed than I was two hours ago.

Unsurprisingly, everything looks better in Technicolor. Continue reading

The Reel Infatuation Blogathon: An Origin Story

I’m kind of obsessed with Christmas films. For many people, Thanksgiving marks the start of the decorating or shopping season. I, on the other hand, take it as the sign to begin watching as many holiday flicks as possible. I’d do it around the clock if I could. My husband thinks this is really strange, but he leaves me to it with nary a head shake. He’s a good man.

Sometime in mid-December of last year, after watching both White Christmas (1954) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) a few too many times, I had a mild personal epiphany.

I realized that my two biggest film character crushes are on these guys:

John Payne as Fred Gailey

John Payne as Fred Gailey

Dean Jagger as Major General Thomas Waverly

Dean Jagger as Major General Thomas Waverly

I’ve been crushing on this holiday duo since my teen years, thus my insight was embarrassingly belated. Once I had this figured out, it was an easy leap in nosiness to wondering which film characters other people–family, friends, total strangers–think are exciting, sexy, intriguing, or, well, just plain hot.

So, basically, my two main character crushes came together and, aided by a healthy dose of curiosity, planted the seed of an idea that, with the help of my co-hostess with the mostest, Ruth of Silver Screenings, grew up to be the Reel Infatuation Blogathon.

Clara Bow Reel Infatuation Banner

Clara Bow Reel Infatuation Banner

That was the easy part. Deciding which of my celluloid honeys to write about was truly difficult. In the end, though, there was one clear winner: Dean Jagger as Major General Thomas Waverly in White Christmas. I cannot wait to share my character crush with you, or to read all about yours.

Let’s get this party started!

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[The Great Villain Blogathon 2016] Dean Jagger in “Escape by Night”

I’m really excited about The Great Villain Blogathon 2016. The first two iterations were loads of fun, with dozens of bloggers sharing their ideas of what, exactly, makes for a standout movie villain. In 2014, I explained why Leave Her to Heaven’s Ellen (Gene Tierney) is the ideal film bad gal: she’s smart, beautiful, stylish, deceitful, and deadly. Last year, I made the case for the equally glorious and wicked duo of Blanche Fury (Valerie Hobson) and Philip Thorn (Stewart Granger) in Blanche Fury. These films are visually stunning, enlivened by impeccable color cinematography. The former is akin to a splendid nature travelogue (spiked, richly, with mayhem), the latter to a series of Gothic paintings come to moody life. The immoral main characters of both are driven by selfishness, jealousy, and single-minded passion. They need what they need and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, everyone else be damned. Or killed.

The Great Villain Blogathon

The Great Villain Blogathon

This year, I’m leading you down a path to a different cinematic world. It’s not beautiful, grand, or sumptuous. Passion is absent, but there’s plenty of greed and power-tripping to step in as the source of rotten plot behavior. Follow me to a black-and-white landscape where night is day, and everyone wants the opposite of what they have…except for the villain, who just wants more of the same and then some. His name is James ‘Capper’ Regan, and you won’t soon forget him.

Dean Jagger as Our Villain

Dean Jagger as Our Villain

ESCAPE BY NIGHT (1937) (SPOILERS! SPOILERS! ALL THE SPOILERS!)

Escape by Night Lobby Card

Escape by Night Lobby Card

Left to right: Dean Jagger, Murray Alper, William Hall, Ward Bond, Steffi Duna

PART I: JUST A SMALL TOWN BOY

Tourists visit The Big City for many reasons. Some go there to shop or check out famous landmarks, others to see shows or dine out in fabulous restaurants that are beyond the scope of their smaller towns. Then there’s miner Nicholas ‘Nick’ Allen (William Hall), who simply wants to feel the sun on his face. Why he couldn’t do that closer to his Pennsylvania home is anyone’s guess, but, fortunately for our plot, he’s right in the line of trouble at the exact moment a damsel in some very real distress needs him. Continue reading

CAPA Summer Movie Series: 25 Classics on the Big Screen

The CAPA Summer Movie Series is one of the (many, many) reasons I am thrilled to be living in my hometown again. It’s the oldest still-running classic film series in the US.

Of this year’s line-up, I’m particularly excited to see the gorgeously photographed silent classic “Sunrise” (1927) blossom on a big screen. Bonus: Clark Wilson will be on hand at the Ohio Theatre to play the Mighty Morton organ.

2016 Summer Movie Series

Janet Gaynor, May 1931

Janet Gaynor, May 1931

I’ll definitely dedicate another post or two to the series. Until then…