Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Salon: Australian Pastel Master, Judy Drew.

Judy Drew is a contemporary Australian painter (b. 1951) working mostly in pastels. Her paintings are vivid, intense and full of life, they remind me of the best of the Impressionists. Her technique and lavish use of color are extraordinary. Needless to say, I am a big fan.

You can find out more about Judy Drew at her website and see more of her fabulous work everywhere online. Especially here: Artodyssey and here: Mutual Art and here. The artist will be holding two workshops this year - one in Tasmania and one in North Sydney.

I was fascinated by this interesting piece from the Melbourne Herald Sun which speaks of Drew overcoming an artist's block a few years ago which caused her to temporarily stop painting.

Thankfully, that appears to be a thing of the past.

Judy Drew has a large presence on Pinterest where many of her paintings may be seen and coveted. By the way, prices for her paintings make me think they are, currently, very obtainable.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Forgotten Book: SHEIKS AND ADDERS (1982) by Michael Innes

I am very fond of Michael Innes' Inspector Appleby series of mysteries - some entries more than others. I am also very fond of Michael Innes other writings though I've only read a few of the non-Appleby books (of those I HIGHLY recommend FROM LONDON FAR, as far as I'm concerned a rollicking (and brilliant) satire of adventure thrillers). 

All of Innes' writing is drenched with literary bon-mots, some wittier than others, some more obscure than others. Obviously the author assumes you have had at least two or three years reading English Lit. at Oxford or Cambridge. Still, I love the books and to my surprise, I often do know what Innes is talking about. 

Michael Innes, despite (or because of) his literary leanings is, occasionally, given to bouts of story-telling whimsy and the delightful result this time out is SHEIKS AND ADDERS (gotta' LOVE that title!), a froth of a book, moreso because of its relentless fairy tale aspects: imagine Sir John Appleby (retired head of the Metropolitan Police) disguised as Robin Hood and plunked down in the middle of a country fete/masquerade (?) where too many guests are disguised as Arabian sheiks. Imagine that the only reason Appleby is at this fete is because he's overheard a bit of conversation a day or so before and has decided to see what's what. Why? Oh, just because he can.

You know how it goes at these English country fetes - there's ALWAYS a murder. I mean, it's almost de regueur. I don't know about you, but if I lived in England, I'd avoid these annual events like the plague. There's more going on at these seemingly harmless parochial celebrations than just quoits and skittles and 'guess the weight of the cake'.  (You Graham Greene fans will get that one, I hope.)

At Drool Court (the unlikely name of the estate where the fete takes place) Appleby runs across his old friend Tommy Pride, Chief Constable of the area, who has been asked by the foreign office to keep an eye on things. Why? Just in case. In case of what? Pride doesn't know. The foreign office won't reveal details. Being observant, Appleby can't help but notice that Pride is also dressed as Robin Hood. So there you are, two Robin Hoods and a bunch of sheiks wandering around. Confusion to the enemy! Characters in search of a mystery. The fun is just beginning.

Since there is a real sheik mixed in among the phonies, an Emir Hafrait who scorns police protection (it offends his sense of dignity) and wanders about the fete pretty much on his own, can murder be far behind? 

When one of the masquerading sheiks is found with an arrow through his back, the real sheik finally realizes that his enemies mean business. Not wanting to cause a panic, the two representatives (and a few local bobbies) of the law must investigate the case without alerting the crowd to the fact that there is a murderer loose among them.

Despite the well-intentioned obstruction of the quirky (is there any other kind?) family that owns Drool Court, Appleby and Pride will navigate through an entanglement of characters - among them a sinister bunch of chanting Druids hired to perform an ancient rite, a Herpetologist whose collection of snakes must come in handy (well, you knew there had to be snakes somewhere in the plot), a troop of boisterous boy scouts, a drunken hot air balloonist, and a lovely young heroine whose thwarted love life must be straightened out in time for a happy ending. 

Though this Appleby has mostly negative reviews online, I loved it. I love what Appleby is doing here and I suppose that means that I can tolerate whimsy more than most. This is a fun book not really meant to be taken seriously, so if you want to quibble about the nonesensical plot, coincidences that stretch believability and other random incredulities, than just don't read it.

As I said: I loved it. 

The NY Times original review. Obviously they do not like their mysteries loaded with wit and whimsy. This review has a lovely sneering quality to it that made me laugh. Hence its inclusion in my post.

This post is part of the Friday Forgotten Books meme hosted by Patti Abbott at her blog, Pattinase. A meme in which I only occasionally take part because I'm old and doddering and busy with the realities of day-to-day life, some pleasant, some not so.

Link to Michael Innes Fantastic Fiction page which lists all his books.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Forgotten Film: THREE HUSBANDS (1950) starring Ruth Warrick, Eve Arden, Billie Burke and Emlyn Williams

This is one of the stranger movies. It's the sort of thing that purports to be charming and light, with a wink-wink tale to tell about marriage mores but instead it's the sort of movie that makes you cringe and think, 'No. Really?' And yet, I watched the damn thing all the way through, enthralled by an eerie fascination.

A point:

The screenplay by Vera Caspary (of LAURA film noir fame) is based on her own story, so she's the one to blame for the lame dialogue and disconcerting plot.

The set-up:

Maxwell Bard (Emlyn Williams), a very English bon-vivant Manhattan playboy is on his way to heaven (one presumes) having just recently dropped dead of a heart attack. But before he can settle in he has a jest for the powers that be (concealed in the clouds) - an odd jest considering the celestial audience, I'd have thought. But at any rate, Max has a joke to share.

You see he's left behind a letter to three hubbies. (Remember A LETTER TO THREE WIVES? Ha. Ha. No. This ain't it.) In this letter he's confessed to an affair with the three hubbies' wives - one affair at a time, that is. Are you laughing yet? He wants to sit back and see what happens next to the three couples he's left behind, once the tell-tale letters are handed over to each husband by the executor of Max's will.

The joke is: the letters aren't true. 

Now why this malicious act would be found funny by anyone is beyond me. But why it would be found funny by angels at the portals of heaven is even more beyond me. I'm extrapolating about the 'angels at the portals of heaven' thing since we only hear the celestial voices we don't actually see 'em.
And of course they're all male - members of some exclusive club one supposes.

So that's the set-up.

Down on earth, among the living here's what's happening:

Hubby Number One: Arthur Evans (Shepherd Strudwick, remembered by his oddly waved hair) reads the letter first and is thrown for a loop. Surely his oh-so-devoted wife Jane (Ruth Warrick who played the young, unhappy wife in CITIZEN KANE and went on to become the grand dame of daytime TV in ALL MY CHILDREN) would NEVER cheat on him. Never. But what is he to make of this incriminating letter from a dead friend? He arrives home in a huff.

The fact that old Arthur is currently having an affair with a young model doesn't make him stop and do a little soul searching - not at all. That's a different matter all together. As we all know, men will be men. Are we laughing yet?

Hubby Number Two: Kenneth Whittaker (Robert Karnes) fumes when he thinks that his wife, Mary (Vanessa Brown) who was Max Bard's private nurse (he'd had previous milder heart attacks and needed care) might have also been dallying with her patient. Not that I would blame her, married to this dull dotard.

Hubby Number Three: Dan McCabe (the feisty Howard Da Silva who normally played thugs and whanot and seems miscast in this movie) laughs off the thing as a joke since he can't imagine his wife Lucille (the usually wonderful Eve Arden who has nothing to do in this movie - her lines don't sparkle in the slightest) mixed up in an affair with anyone. Naturally this attitude rankles Lucille a bit when she discovers the source of hubby's amusement.

None of these actors except Emlyn Williams (who seems to have wandered in from another movie) has any idea how to deliver a humorous line (or maybe it's that there is very little humor to be delivered in this rancid screenplay) and that includes Eve Arden who really does know but obviously forgot how to this time out.

So why am I bothering to talk about THREE HUSBANDS at all? Well, you may ask. And here's my answer: Emlyn Williams.

Though it is very hard to imagine any universe in which all these people would actually be friends, Williams is so British, and so delightful in his role of play-boy (even if his 'playing' seems entirely harmless) that when he's on screen, everything else is forgiven. Almost. But it's just that he seems to be having so much fun.

The truth is that Williams' character appears - to me, at least - to be so obviously gay that at no time are these three wives (or any other) in any danger of being seduced - at least not by dear fun-loving Max. He's the accommodating escort who steps in when his married lady friends need accompanying to any event (i.e. museums, art galleries, concerts and the like) which doesn't interest their inattentive husbands.

But no matter how much fun they appear to be having with Max, it's the hubbies who command love and respect (even if undeserved). This is the 50's, remember.

But after Max's untimely death, the letters are delivered and three marriages are suddenly on the line. Are we laughing yet?

The story is told in flashbacks as we get to see Max living it up and interacting with all three wives. And really, one wonders what Max actually finds in these women to entertain him other than the fact that they are unavailable. His attractions are more easily understood. Emlyn Williams plays Max as a charming roue and of course any woman worth her salt would rather be in his company than that of any one of the three stodges - an unintended consequence of the casting.

The ending is not unexpected, even down to the reading aloud of yet another letter left by Max rounding off things in the nick of time and giving the wives their due. Sort of. Hint: Max would appear to see himself as marriage counselor to his friends.

In the history of male/female relationships, the 1950's were not a decade of enlightenment.

THREE HUSBANDS is available for viewing online at youtube - here. Take a look. Maybe you'll enjoy it on a different level than I did.

Coming up later: Don't forget to check out Todd Mason's weekly Forgotten Films, Television or Other Audio/Visuals meme usually seen every Tuesday at his blog, Sweet Freedom.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Salon: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY - Celebrating with the work of Montana artist/illustrator and cartoonist Fanny Y. Cory

I've loved these illustrations of motherhood (as it was once upon a time) since I stumbled over them online a few years ago. They are the work of Montana illustrator Fanny Y. Cony (1877 - 1972). They are a delight.

So, since today is Mother's Day, here they are to wish all you mamas out there the VERY HAPPIEST DAY.

The illustrations are from THE PLEASANT TRAGEDIES OF CHILDHOOD by Burges Johnson, illustrated by Fanny Y. Cory. The book and all the rest of the illustrations can be seen and read online at the above link.

Montana artist/illustrator and cartoonist Fanny Y. Cory (1877 - 1972)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Forgotten Film: TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945) starring Tom Conway and Ann Rutherford

...though the soon to be more famous Jane Greer (here listed as BetteJane Greer) is occasionally listed as co-star. But in her lesser role as a dissipated femme fatale, Greer is simply, laughably awful - cannot play drunk to save her life. At any rate, Ann Rutherford is the real co-star, she plays a spunky cab-driver who teams up with the hero, Tom Conway - an amnesiac with blood on his forehead - who, as things turn out, is wanted by the cops. No big surprise there since almost every amnesiac that ever stumbled around a dark street is always wanted by the cops in every movie anyone ever saw. What would be the point otherwise?

Ann Rutherford is the perky cabbie with gumption.

The surprise, I suppose, is that TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE is a fun way to spend 90 or so minutes on any afternoon or evening when you have nothing better to do. And to do it best, Elizabeth Foxwell over at The Bunburyist has the link to the full movie now running on youtube. That's how I linked up to watch a movie I thought I'd never heard of before - the initial attraction: Tom Conway. I am a big fan of Tom Conway, mostly as the Falcon, crime sleuth extraordinaire. I can remember many after-school afternoons and evenings spent watching the Falcon solving crimes and being suave or being suave and solving crimes, either/or - after taking the role over from his real-life, equally suave brother, George Sanders. And oh, by the way, who can forget Conway's oh-so-smarmy psychiatrist in CAT PEOPLE. I mean the guy set the 'science' of psychiatry back by at least a full century.

Tom Conway in a very dreamy still.

In TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE, our hero, Mr. X, is first seen stumbling along a dark and shadowy street with no idea who he is or where he is. Soon he is picked up by a cabbie, Anne Rutherford as Patty Mitchell, who at first assumes him to be drunk - she almost hits him with her cab. Until she notices the blood on his forehead and realizes he is hurt. So of course she then decides to tag along as her suave and handsome passenger tries to find out who he is and what he's done and oh by the way, who tagged him on the head.

Ow! That hurts.

The movie seems to take place all in one evening and events move along at a snappy pace as our two intrepid sleuths jump from peril to peril into a case of murder involving a bunch of seamy theater people. Alongside bumbling cops and a loud-mouthed reporter reeling from clue to clue, it's not long before everyone is bunched together for the big denouement scene. In the forties, the cops were often seen as dopes and just to prove it, here, they allow a reporter (!?) to tag along on the case, ostensibly to help solve it. Yes, really.

Not much money went into this production as is soon evident in the night club set and in the apartment of a supposedly well-off playwright who in a scene wears one of those at home smoking jackets that men used to wear in the movies once upon a time. It's a hoot. Right away he comes under suspicion, I mean, THAT robe, that sneer, that pencil-thin mustache. Oh wait, Tom Conway has one too. But on him, it works.


TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE is a not-too-taxing tale of plagiarism, jealousy and murder with a nicely hokey happily ever after in the end for our detecting duo. Ann Rutherford is a delight and Tom Conway doesn't deserve her. Hopefully, he'll find a way to live up to her devotion and general spunkiness. Love at first sight here, ladies and gents.

I've just realized (or maybe I already knew it and just forgot) that Dorian over at her blog, TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED also reviewed this film (in 2014) in her own inimitable way. And lo and behold, Sergio over at TIPPING MY FEDORA also reviewed it way back when in 2012. So this is turning out to be the most reviewed B-movie in the history of movies. What can I say, great minds and all that.

Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom is the usual weekly home for Forgotten and Overlooked Films and other Audio/Visual whatnot. Check out the link.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Salon: And now for something a little different -The 'Tattooed' ladies and gents of Mimi Kirchner.

Mimi Kirchner makes dolls that make me smile and make me swoon. I just love them. One doll would never be enough. I'd want to own them ALL! If I could I'd add a room to my house: The Mimi Kirchner Room, and use it to display all of Mimi's beauties. THAT'S how much I love her work.

Photo: Sarah Deragon

Mimi Kirchner is a Boston-based contemporary artist/craftswoman. She has a BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University and talks here in a short email conversation from 2004, on why she began making dolls. 

Dolls that delight, dolls that are ever so slightly mysterious, dolls that obviously have stories to tell. 

Mimi's charming creations have a huge presence online, her work is easy enough to find and purchase - link here to her Etsy shop. (Availability varies as do the dolls.) She also teaches classes when she has a moment or two.

Also check out Mimi's foxy Fox dolls. SO delightful. (Note the little binoculars.)

...and her Fat Ladies. SO oddly comforting.

Note the expression on this red-headed beauty. Strikes me as an end of a long day day glance. Not one to suffer fools gladly?