Saturday, December 31, 2011


Cover art by Sempe.

Not doing much tonight. New Years hasn't been a Big Event in my life for many years. I guess I'm just not a hoopla kind of gal.

Here's a little New Year's gift from me to you, by way of Susan Branch's beautiful blog where I first saw this bit of charming video and song. What Are You Doing New Years?

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Tonight's a good night for a glass of wine, a movie and/or a book and comfy flannel p.j.s. For me it's going to be THE THIN MAN movie and book-wise, I'm caught up in Lee Child's THE AFFAIR, his latest intriguing crime thriller.

When you get to my age, that's about as much excitement as you can stand. Ha!

Here's to a GREAT NEW YEAR!

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting or Two.....or Three!

J.C. Leyendecker (1874 - 1951), the splendid German born American Golden Age illustrator was most closely associated with The Saturday Evening Post, a hugely popular and widely read magazine for which he created 322 covers. He originated the New Years Babies in this post.

Leyendecker's red cheeked Santas were also a favorite. As were the stylishly chic (and often impossibly handsome) men and women he illustrated for his many clients.

There are few artists who painted men in such a highly idealized and beautiful way. Leyendecker's use of light and various glistening color tones for flesh and to indicate musculature, his stylized handling of fabric was unique and today, instantly recognizable.

According to a Wikipedia quote: "Leyendecker virtually invented the whole idea of modern magazine design." I agree.

But Leyendecker was far from a one note wonder. He could do glamor splendidly, but he could also do doting and loving grandmothers and mothers and do them very well indeed.

J.C. Leyendecker greatly influenced many of the famous illustrators who came after him. He was revered by most, including Norman Rockwell who was a long time friend and a pallbearer at Leyendecker's funeral in 1951.

To read about Joseph Christian Leyendecker, his life and work, please use this link. 

To see more of Leyendecker's illustrations, please use this link.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: 200 Decorative Title-Pages Edited by Alexander Nesbitt

A very esoteric choice, I know. It's a 1964 Dover Publishing art reference/reverence book from my bookshelves. I just got the notion to share it with you today.

This wonky cover is the only flat one I could find online.

I thought Friday's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Books day had been cancelled, but I was wrong. It's alive and thriving and shortly to appear on Todd Mason's blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Patti Abbott who usually collects the Friday links is traveling so Todd has stepped in to do the collecting.

200 Decorative Title-Pages brings back the idea that every part of a book should be beautiful. An idea I can't and won't quibble with since I totally agree. The book reminds us just how gorgeous wood or metal-cut and the painstaking art of 17th, 18th and 19th century engraving can be.

I've checked online for scans of pages from this book since I don't own a scanner. But I think I've posted enough examples to give you an idea of the flavor. It's simply a feast for the eyes.

In the past I've used Nesbitt's book for design ideas and/or solutions. It's a remarkable resource. Thank goodness that Dover still seems to be publishing these sorts of art reference books.

The copy I have does not have tinted pages, but these copies were the only ones I could find online.

It's Under-appreciated or Forgotten Music Today

I didn't get the memo that it was Under-appreciated Music Day today, but I'm quick on the zig-zag. Besides, I didn't have my Friday's Forgotten Book post written up yet and was sitting here wondering what to write about. It's been THAT kind of week. Lazy. Sleepy. Relaxing.

All of today's blog links are gathered over at Todd Mason's blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Don't forget to go take a look and listen.

On the spur of the moment, I've come up with my own favorite under-appreciated music to talk about. I'm including a few youtube links at the bottom of the post which will take you to various sections of John Williams' magnificent film score for SUPERMAN - my entry in today's under-appreciated or forgotten music day.

This is my favorite John Williams movie score - not to mention, his own personal favorite - one I listen to all the time, especially when I'm needing a bump on the boot to get things working - art wise.

Of all of Williams' superb scores (among them, JAWS, STAR WARS, JURASSIC PARK,  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, EMPIRE OF THE SUN, E.T., CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, etc. etc. etc.) SUPERMAN still has the most resonance with me because of it's perfectly on pitch emotional variety. When needed, there's the stirring, rock/em-sock/em full orchestra thunderclap in the more explosive scenes with Superman in the city and/or saving the world.

But in the early half of the film (after the thunderous musical accompaniment to the destruction of Krypton), we get the emotional farmland/heartland music of the young super child, super boy, super teen.

Phyllis Thaxter's close-up through the screen door as 'her' son leaves to find his destiny is heart wrenching, as is the music that accompanies it.

John Williams musically captures the vastness of the early Midwestern setting. It is a joy to listen to.

Of course, the energetic and stirring Superman theme is just as good in its own forceful way.

It's great driving music, by the by.

Later in the film we get a terrific thing (called March of the Villains on the CD.) which, if I'm remembering correctly, accompanies Ned Beatty (Lex Luthor's incompetent henchman Otis) as he thumps along the street, oblivious.

Of course, very little can compare to the 'flying' theme, when Superman takes Lois on a special flight around the skies of NYC. It is definitely a Big Sigh moment. Absolutely gorgeous music. Williams captures the movement of flying, the lightness - the freedom of it.

I've listened to this score since the 1978 film debuted (was it really that long ago?) and I've never tired of it. I own several of John Williams' memorable film scores, but SUPERMAN still reigns musically supreme for me. Far as I'm concerned, the man is an incomparable genius.

Okay, the embeds didn't work. Obviously I'm still doing something wrong. So here are the links.  The Main Theme  Leaving Home  Love (Flying) Theme  March of the Villains

Ah, technology, how great thou art.

Composer/conductor John Williams.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Favorite Books Of The Year.

I decided to separate the Vintage from the More Recent Pub. Date Reads. Made more sense to me that way, especially when my reading for 2011 seemed to be in half and half mode.

Also thought it only fair to omit re-reads from Best Of consideration. I generally assume that any book I'm re-reading is already a 'best'.

2011 was a great year for books (despite the naysayers) and I loved many of them. (As you know, I rarely finish a book unless I'm enjoying it.) But, we're all enamored of lists and in the end, I decided to add yet another to the year end phantasmagoria of lists.

So, without further ado, here are my 2011 year end lists:

 Favorite Vintage Books of 2011

1) THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins

2) DRACULA by Bram Stoker


4) CAPTAIN BLOOD by Rafael Sabatini

5) MURDER AT SHOTS HALL by Maureen Sarsfield

6) THE YELLOW ROOM by Mary Roberts Rinehart


8) THE TALISMAN RING by Georgette Heyer

9) THE MOVING TOYSHOP by Edmund Crispin

10) TOUR DE FORCE by Christianna Brand

11) DEATH IN CYPRUS by M.M. Kaye

12) JOURNEY INTO FEAR by Eric Ambler

Favorite Books (more recent publication dates) of 2011


2) THE IRON HEART by Marshall Browne

2) THE SENTRY by Robert Crais (2011)

4) MISERY BAY by Steve Hamilton (2011)

5) A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD by Alan Bradley (2011)

6) 11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011)

7) AN UNCOMMON READER by Alan Bennett

8) ROGUE ISLAND by Bruce DeSilva

9) THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott (2011)

10) GHOST HERO by S.J. Rozan (2011)

11) THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (2011)

12) ENSLAVED BY DUCKS by Bob Tarte

Most of these were reviewed, so if you want to check them out, please enter the book title in the Search Box at the bottom of the blog.

Many thanks to you again for following and commenting and otherwise making your interest in my blog known to me. This is very much a joint venture.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Loot...uh, Swag...uh...Gifts!

I'm showing the British cover because the American one is uggo.

Surprise, surprise, Santa brought books! Thank goodness!! (Plus a few other special goodies including a little point and shoot camera to replace my last one which went kaput after five or so years.)

My daughter Skye ordered up a hardcover book of my granddaughter's year in pictures with this gorgeous photo making for a gorgeous cover.

My mom and pop in the late 1930's or early 40's. He in weight-lifting shorts and high-tops, she in chic dress and hairdo. They were so young.

Skye thoughtfully surprised me (and tears followed) with a picture of my mother and father which she'd englarged (from a tiny rectangle) cleaned up, clarified and had framed. My brother too got a copy and we were all misty-eyed.

Mom and Pop both made it to 89 (more or less), so I guess we can't complain. But I sure miss them.

Granddaughter enjoying her special Christmas chair.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Films: KISS ME, KATE (1953) starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ann Miller

It's Tuesday and you know what that means: Overlooked (or Forgotten) Films Day. This weekly meme is hosted by Todd Mason over at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Don't forget to check in and see what other films or audio/visual treats other bloggers are talking about today.

KISS ME KATE directed by George Sidney, is the perfect musical (a Broadway perennial) for those of us who are recuperating from making rather too much merry this past weekend. All we need do is sit back (maybe with a martini or Campari and soda?) and watch the actors, singers and dancers romping about on stage and off. We can also sigh with contentment that we can just watch and need not cavort. There's nothing more restful than watching others physically exert themselves. Don't you think?

So sit back and relax, we're talking about one of the more active films in the MGM repertoire of musicals - actually, I believe this was the last of the golden age extravaganzas. It was an especially sad day when MGM closed the doors on its musical-making shop. But at least we have the films to remind us of what musical greatness once was.

Ron Randell at the piano playing Cole Porter playing Cole Porter.

KISS ME KATE is a story within a story, music and lyrics by Cole Porter - who appears briefly in the film played by Ron Randell.. We get the backstage shenanigans of a cast of characters putting on a show - a musical version of Shakespeare's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW - which has major repercussions on and off the stage.

Howard Keel, occasionally an acquired taste, is perfection in the dual role of modern day ego-driven Broadway hambone, Fred Graham AND Shakespeare's dominating Alpha-male, Petruchio - a sly, over-preening 16th century (I'm guessing the date) Italian stallion who has come to Padua to find himself a rich wife.

Wonderful Katherine Grayson (a blond this time out) plays Fred's ex-wife Lilly Vanessi, another Broadway hambone...uh, star, as well as Shakespeare's indefatigable Katherine, a 16th century not-so-gentle-woman of loud and forceful opinions whose father (played in the play by Kurt Kaszner) has despaired of ever marrying her off. Personally, I think this is Grayson's greatest performance on film. She could sometimes be tinkly-sweety-pie, but in this film she is a 'real' woman.

The reason ex-husband and wife are working together yet one more time is that Cole Porter's musical version of the Shakespeare tale is just too good to pass up. Besides, Lilly doesn't want the part to go to Fred's latest girlfriend, Lois Lane (?!) aka Bianca, played by the effervescent and always watchable Ann Miller.

Ah, the incredible Ann Miller. In this film she plays another of her good hearted hussies, looking for The Main Chance with Fred, an established Broadway star, while trying to stay away from her real love, fellow dancer Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall) aka Lucentio.

The truth is that Fred and Lilly have history and great chemistry and besides, they're really still in love with each other though each doesn't want the other to know it. Despite Lily's rich oil-man fiance, Tex Calloway (Willard Parker - a part that earlier would have been played by Ralph Bellamy) hanging around backstage, he is merely a prop.

Okay, so we get Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew story of man attempting to dominate woman for the betterment of mankind as well as the backstage story of same.

With a few modern day kinks thrown in, in the guise of two criminal types played by James Whitmore (Slug) and Keenan Wynn (Lippy) who wander in backstage to enforce a gambling chit signed, supposedly, by Fred but in reality, forged by Bill Calhoun, Lois's gambler boyfriend ( a 'wow' of a dancer) who plays Lucentio in the show. Slug and Lippy refuse to leave backstage until Fred pays the gambling iou. They don't believe that Fred knows nothing about the gambling debt and keep threatening to break his legs or whatnot.

Fred merely fluffs them off as he goes about the business of trying to win back his wife AND play Petruchio while Lilly simmers, especially when flowers meant for Lois, get delivered to Lilly instead.

Got it?

In the meantime, there is Shakespeare and really, these actors are quite wonderful spouting the Bard's words (well, maybe except for Ann Miller - hard to do Shakespeare with a NY accent).

But she's there for the dancing. And oh, what dancing! There are rousing dance numbers and songs in the onstage production of the taming of the shrew story AND rousing dance numbers and songs in the backstage story.

Ann Miller as the more amenable Bianca, sister to Kate, and her three swains.

Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore as Slug and Lippy.

Eventually, even Slug and Lippy get a show-stopping number, Brush Up Your Shakespeare, complete with clumsy (hilarious) dance moves. Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now. Brush up your Shakespeare and the women you will wow...

Bill and Lois get a fabulous rooftop dance number (Always True to You In My Fashion) with incredible dance moves. Then later, in the show within a show, they get an equally fabulous dance number (From This Moment On) complete with mind-boggling leaps.

They're joined in that number by Bobby Van and the soon to be Broadway famous Bob Fosse who choreographed the moves.

There's also the wonderful love song, So In Love, sung by Fred and Lilly. A gorgeous rendering by two actor/singers in top form.

I also love Howard Keel's rendition of I've Come To Wive It Wealthily in Padua. Now there's a snazzy song title. But he makes it work beautifully.

The only quibbles I have with the movie is Kathryn Grayson's I Hate Men number which goes on far too long and brings the film to a jarring halt.

I'm also not overly fond of the more famous Fred and Lilly duet, Wunderbar. I mean, it's fun, but it's always seemed out of place to me in the film - like something inserted because they needed a musical interlude in that moment. It really has little to do with the rest of the story.

Other than that, I am So In Love with KISS ME KATE.

Though not so crazy about the spanking.

Which just goes to show that Shakespeare wasn't right all the time.


...and another thing. I've just learned of a version of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW starring the scrumptious Rufus Sewell. I'm off to try and find a copy to watch.
 Unless it's a play. In which case, I'm out of luck.