Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Parade

Since Easter Sunday is upon us, I thought it would a great time to revisit a beloved holiday film, aptly named Easter Parade (MGM, 1948). 

Starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire as a dancing team who fall in love. Set in 1900's New York, Garland plays Astaire's young protegee who Astaire vows to make a star by the next year's Easter Parade. Hence, the name. The film is naturally filled with wonderful choreography set to Irving Berlin show tunes naturally (just try and get the lead song out of your head) and fanciful parade clothing designed by Irene Lentz- Gibbons. Other tunes made popular were "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and "Couple of Swells."

Gene Kelly was slated to play the Astaire role but a broken ankle intervened. Cyd Charise was replaced by Ann Miller due to a torn ligament and performed her dance numbers in a back brace. Supposedly Judy Garland danced with pinched nerves in her back. Astaire was coaxed out of retirement to make this film and amazingly it marked the first time he and Garland had met!

The vintage lithographs by artist Virginia Fisher of costume designer Irene Lentz-Gibbons designs were the subject of an exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art several years ago. Lentz was the sister in law of famed art director and MGM production chief Cedric Gibbons who designed over 150 films while at Metro. You can read more on Lentz at her website. Her work can be seen on a variety of films ranging from The Ziegfield Follies and Flying Down to Rio to Lover Come Back and Midnight Lace

Virginia Fisher's works can be purchased through Art Sellers. All are signed and numbered and many initialed by the actresses themselves.

Happy Easter!

Photo Credits: Antique Helper, Art Sellers, MGM

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff

You know her as a beloved actress, animal rights supporter and if you've ever visited Carmel, perhaps you have stopped by her hotel, The Cypress Inn. And you know her as Doris Day a.k.a. Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, America's sweetheart and one of the most stylish women of sixties cinema.

This week marks Day's 88th birthday. Her career began as a big band singer (she first recorded the hit Sentimental Journey) and she has starred in 39 films that have ranged from melodrama (Young at Heart with Frank Sinatra) to suspense (Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much which gave birth to her hit Que Sera Sera). But it was her romantic comedies that teamed her with handsome leading men that really put her on the map.

Doris on set of Pillow Talk

Giving new meaning to the film term "romp," Doris starred in several films with Rock Hudson (a lifelong friend) such as Send Me No Flowers (1964), Pillow Talk (1959), and Lover Come Back (1961). She also starred in two of my personal favorites, Move Over Darling (1963) and The Thrill of it All (1964) with James Garner. Move Over Darling was originally supposed to be "Something's Got to Give" with Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin (eventually that title was used for a very popular 2003 film:) )

Pillow Talk above and center

The Thrill of It All  and its classic sixties master bedroom with twin beds

Her films were filled with iconic sixties costume and interior designs. Audiences loved her as the quintessential (and virginal) Manhattan career woman (and one of the first interior decorators on film) Jan Morrow in Pillow Talk, a competitive Madison Avenue ad woman in Lover Come Back and the housewife turned commercial pitch woman in The Thrill of It All. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1960 for Best Actress on Pillow Talk. (Note - look for a set design piece soon on Move Over Darling).

Perhaps a sign of the times, she was the ultimate role model on screen and women everywhere wanted to be like her and dress like her. Dubbed as the world's oldest virgin in her movie roles, she turned down the part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Imagine how different that film would have been!

Chic in Pink

Doris could have been a sixties Tory Burch

America's sweetheart was not without her tragedies. She was married four times and sadly her third husband Martin Melcher bankrupted her and after he passed away, she learned he had committed her to a television series, The Doris Day Show. The show was a huge success and lasted five seasons. Her son Terry Melcher had the ultimate near death experience as police believe he was possibly targeted in an unsuccessful murder plot by Charles Manson and his "family." Manson approached him at his home (which he shared with actress Candice Bergen)  in Los Angeles for a record deal (through an introduction from Beach Boy Dennis Wilson). Melcher turned him down and legend has it he returned with revenge on his mind and found renters Sharon Tate and friends instead, and of course, the rest is history.  He passed away at the age of 62 after a long battle with melanoma.

Doris at home

A tireless animal rights activist, Doris founded Actors and Others for Animals in 1971 with fellow colleagues Mary Tyler Moore and Angie Dickinson. This eventually led to the Doris Day Animal League in 1994 which focuses on pet overpopulation in the United States (note - the group merged with the Humane Society in 2006). DDAL also founded Spay Day in 1995 and the group also has been at the forefront of legislation on animal testing, puppy mills and horse protection. Apparently she saw animals being mistreated during the filming of The Man Who Knew Too Much and the cause against animal cruelty became a lifelong passion.

If you are ever in Carmel, be sure to stop by or stay at the Cypress Inn. Animals are welcome and it's truly a delightful place. 

She lives a very quiet and reclusive life on an ll acre estate in California and still works on behalf of our four legged friends. Happy Birthday Doris! Movie lovers  and animals thank you!

For more on the life and times of Doris Day, check out these books:

Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door by David Kaufman (Virgin Books, 2009)

Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro (Thomas Dunne, 2007)

Michael Freedland's bio Doris Day Illustrated (Andre Deutsch, 2009)

Photo Credits: Leo Fuchs, Ross Hunter/Universal Pictures.