31 December 2011

New Year's Eve

What are everyone's plans for tonight? I'll be attending a screening of Laura and drinking loads of champagne. I hope you have a lovely New Year's Eve and that you'll come back often next year for more tales of a madcap heiress.

Photo of Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr at a Hollywood Club from Bettmann/CORBIS.

24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Louise Brooks

Merry Christmas everyone. I'll be spending the afternoon at Film Forum watching  Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush before rushing home to cook Christmas dinner (fingers crossed the timing works out). Whatever your plans may be, I wish all of you dear readers a relaxing and lovely day.

The Christmas Party

The Christmas Party is a delightful little short from 1931 in which child star Jackie Cooper gets MGM to host a Christmas party for his football team. See if you can identify all of the stars who make an appearance. My favourite scenes are the ones with Clark Gable and Marion Davies. Merry Christmas everyone.

23 December 2011

West Village Christmas

Christmas was in full swing in the West Village earlier this month when I took a stroll down some favourite streets.

From ample decorations to a simple tree, the houses and courtyards were ready for the holidays.

Wreaths hung on doors—both 19th-century townhouse ones and ones that simply led to a garden.

Even the window boxes got into the spirit. I love seeing the small red berries popping out amongst the greenery.

And looking up, it was easy to imagine smoke rising from the chimneys and the rooftops covered with snow. What a perfect setting for Christmas.

Photos by Michele.

22 December 2011

Merry Windows

Every year I brave the crowds in order to see the Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue. They never fail to delight and put one in a holiday mood. 

This time there seemed to be a circus theme going on. At Tiffany's their windows wore carousel tops while inside the windows contained miniature carousel horses and in one example, a replica of Tiffany's facade—a window within a window so to speak.

While not particularly Christmas like, Louis Vuitton’s windows were maybe my favourite. Pared down in orange and white, they struck just the right combo of festivity and style.

Bergdorf Goodman tends to have the best windows and these were definitely eye popping. With the theme of Carnival of the Animals, they were both opulent and whimsical. The windows were so packed that it took quite a while to see all of the objects inside. I particularly liked the black and white window, complete with Boston Terrier.

And don't forget, if you get tired or cold you can always hop on one of the Fifth Avenue buses and take in the rest of the windows while staying warm and comfortable. Just think of it as a Fifth Avenue Christmas trolley.

Photos by Michele.

21 December 2011

The Frick Collection

"Diana the Huntress" Jean-Antoine Houdon (1776-1795)

Sunday morning I headed over to what may be my favourite museum in the city, the Frick Collection. Housed in the former residence of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, the museum is small with an amazing collection including the “Comtesse d’Haussonville” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, which I’ve written about before

This month the museum debuted a new gallery that showcases Meissen porcelain and some sculptures. Created by enclosing a portico with panels of glass, the new gallery is a wonderful addition to the museum, giving visitors a view of the garden and Fifth Avenue. Used to viewing art in windowless rooms it was a welcome change to look at pieces in natural light and all the glass made the space feel much larger than it is. Porcelain isn’t particularly my thing but the “Diana the Huntress” sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon, which stands proudly at the end of the gallery, looking out toward the light, is beautiful and lovely to see close up.

“Still Life in Front of a Window at Saint Raphaël” Pablo Picasso (1919) 

While there I also joined the queue for the exhibit “Picasso’s Drawings, 1890-1921: Reinventing Tradition.”  Beginning with examples from when Picasso was a boy, the more than 50 drawings give visitors the opportunity to witness the artist excel at classical drawing and then take off to expand and develop his style. And after seeing past Picasso exhibits that seemed to cram in as many works and those by related artists as possible, it was refreshing to see a small, carefully curated collection of his drawings that you could take in without getting overwhelmed.

I enjoyed the exhibit—I particularly liked the colourful “Still Life in Front of a Window at Saint Raphaël” (1919) and Head and Shoulders of a Woman” (1907)—but I have a horrible confession to make. I’m tired of Picasso exhibits. I do enjoy his work but it seems every time I turn around someone is having a Picasso exhibit (this is the third I’ve written about this year) and I wish everyone would give it a rest for a while and show some other artists. Nothing against Pablo, let’s just spread the wealth so to speak. With that said, I have no doubt that I will probably buy a ticket for the next Picasso exhibit that comes to town.

The Picasso exhibit runs through January 8, 2012. To find out about the exhibit and the Frick visit their website here.

The photo of "Diana the Huntress" by Michael Bodycomb.

20 December 2011

Little Sparrow

I adore sparrows. There's something about their small brown bodies hopping around on branches and benches that always makes me smile. In Central Park this weekend, there was a small group that seemed to be fearless. I didn't have a telephoto lens (Dear Santa, please take note) so had to get pretty close to take their photo. I swear some of them were posing; a couple of them actually moved closer while I was shooting. So indulge me for a moment while I share with you some images of the little sparrows I met that day. Aren't they adorable?

Photos by Michele.

19 December 2011

Renovated History

Abraham Lincoln. Photo: Michele.

Three years and $70 million later the New York Historical Society has reopened its doors and for those of you who frequented the place before the renovations, don't be surprised if you find yourself double checking the name above the door. One of the most noticeable changes is the statue of Abraham Lincoln that now greets you at the entrance (Frederick Douglass is around the corner at the 77th Street entrance). But much bigger surprises lie inside.

The once dimly lit, almost empty lobby is now bright and filled with touch screens displays and items from the society's collection. The seemingly hodgepodge of items on view include lantern slides from the 1920s and 30s (hello John Barrymore, Jean Harlow), busts of Washington and Napoleon, Keith Haring's Pop Shop ceiling, a twisted FDNY engine door from 9/11, and a horrifying pair of slave shackles made for a child. New York Story, a film narrated by Liev Schreiber (it's hard not to think you're watching an HBO special) plays in the auditorium on the largest screen in New York (73 feet wide). There is also a children's museum and restaurant, all of which should help attract more visitors.

As a history geek I didn't mind the place before all the high tech changes so I was quite pleased to enter the fourth floor and find  a reminder of the former place—masses of silver, glass, ceramics, Tiffany lamps, and other objects on display in long rows of cases. A clip from King Vidor's The Crowd playing on a small screen near the entrance was a nice touch as well.

Maude Adams. The New York Historical Society.

Of the current exhibits, "Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn" about the revolutions in America, France, and Haiti was impressive but the one I was most enchanted with was the smallest—"Beauties of the Gilded Age: Peter Marié's Miniatures of Society Women." At the end of the 19th century, Marié had miniature portraits commissioned of the women he considered to epitomize beauty. Often done from photographs, they are exquisite and gorgeous. They are also fragile (watercolour on ivory) so they can only be on view for four months in dim light. Hard to choose but I especially loved the ones of actress Maude Adams and the beautiful Anna Roosevelt, mother of Eleanor.

I don't know if I like all of the changes to the place but I'm all for more people getting introduced to history so hopefully the renovations will draw the crowds and keep the New York Historical Society in business. For more info on the new look, check out their website here.

18 December 2011

Jewelry Box

The other day I popped into Lori McLean, a charming shop on Grove Street in the West Village. Filled with jewelry and other treasures, it's just the type of place I love to explore, especially when it's on one of my favourite streets.

The shop is tiny but carries a punch with its mix of new and vintage pieces including lovely pearl drop earrings and Victorian lockets. In addition to jewelry they also have a sizable supply of John Derian as well as Laura Zindel porcelain, candles, and a variety of cards.

Although I wanted everything in the place I was especially taken with a collection of earrings by Jane Diaz (above), a local designer. I settled on a pair of art deco inspired ones made of moonstones. They're gorgeous, and I can't wait to wear them.

If you're in the West Village, do check out Lori McLean or visit the website here.

Photos by Michele.

15 December 2011

Ready for the Holidays

Cards are filled out, presents wrapped, empty tape and gift paper rolls in the recycling, and boxes packed and labeled, ready to go to the post office tomorrow. In short, I'm done. Cue the Ella Fitzgerald Christmas CD and turn on the tree lights. Bring it Christmas. I'm ready for you.

Photo of Grace Kelly by Howard Conant.

13 December 2011


Received an early Christmas present today— a big bottle of Veuve Clicquote. Mmm. So I'm afraid you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the post I had originally planned. Cheers!

Photo of Louise Brooks from Diary of a Lost Girl.

12 December 2011


This little girl proves that children really do have the best imaginations. Listen to this little Amelie lookalike and see if you don't agree.

Thanks to Lenore Nevermore for posting on her

08 December 2011

The Artist

This past weekend I saw The Artist. As a silent film fan I was hesitant at first to see a new “silent” but any trepidation I felt melted away once the film began. Funny, moving, and highly entertaining, it’s probably the best film I’ve seen this year.

The Artist opens with a man being electrocuted who announces via an intertitle “I won’t talk. I won’t say a word.” We soon realize that we’re watching a silent movie within a silent movie. The film is met with “silent” applause and George Valentin, the film’s star, comes out to take a bow and mug for the audience along with his screen companion, a Jack Russell terrier. Outside he literally bumps into Peppy Miller, a struggling young actress, and the sparks fly. The two meet again on the set of George’s new film in a comical scene in which they try to out dance each other. George is intrigued and Peppy is smitten. 

The coming of sound changes both of their careers. When the studios and audiences abandon silents for talkies Peppy’s star rises while George’s goes into decline. With his life spiraling out of control, it is left to Peppy to save George and find them both a perfect Hollywood ending.

Although touted as a silent film, director Michel Hazanavicius has not attempted to replicate every aspect of a silent, which is a good thing. Instead he includes some aspects—black and white, intertitles, 1:33 aspect ratio—while taking liberties elsewhere like breaking the no sound rule twice (in very effective ways). There is also a score by Ludovic Bource that accompanies the film, which is a modern concession; silent films were accompanied by a live pianist or, in larger theatres, by a full orchestra.

Hazanavicius also pays tribute to old Hollywood with numerous nods to classic films from a breakfast scene reminiscent of Citizen Kane (not to mention some of the scenes that are shot like Kane) to the relationship between George and Peppy that at times reminds one of Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden in Singing in the Rain and at other times Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett in A Star Is Born.

Jean Dujardin is perfect as George Valentin. Not only does he have the looks (a cross between Douglas Fairbanks and John Gibert) and the comic chops but he is also able to convey myriad of emotions without dialogue. Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller may not look exactly like a 1920s movie star (her look is a bit modern) but her enthusiasm and bubbly countenance more than makes up for it. The supporting cast is equally good: John Goodman as the studio head, James Cromwell as the loyal chauffer, and Missi Pyle as the actress who can’t speak (a direct nod to Jean Hagen’s character in Singing in the Rain). But for me the dog (Uggie), like Asta in The Thin Man, steals every scene he’s in. There’s currently a campaign to get him nominated for awards (“Consider Uggie”) and I say get this pooch some awards, stat.

I saw the film at the Paris Theatre here in New York and at the end the audience clapped loudly. So go see it when it opens in your town. You won't be disappointed.

Photos from The Weinstein Co.

07 December 2011


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This date has always had a special meaning for me. My father is from Hawaii and my grandparents were living in Honolulu when the attack occurred. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would tell us the story of how she was coming home from mass and saw the planes flying overhead and how scared they were in the days following, not knowing if another attack would occur. Later when I was an adult I learned that my grandfather, who worked at Pearl Harbor, helped to recover bodies. That was a story he did not like to discuss. So December 7, 1941 is a date that reminds me not only of all those who perished on that day but of my grandparents as well.

The photo above, dated May 27, 1942, shows sailors placing leis on the graves of men killed at the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay during the attack. Photo from the Library of Congress.

06 December 2011

Le Beret

Marie Prevost

The days are getting colder, which means the donning of hats and gloves. I love any excuse to wear a hat and although I own a good number, I always turn to my trusty berets in winter. Berets stay put (no danger in a sudden gust of wind sending them flying), can easily be shoved into a bag when indoors, keep your head incredibly warm, and look rather jaunty when worn at a slight tilt. They also have a timeless quality, and I just adore them. Don’t believe me? Look at how cool these stars look in their berets.

Jean Harlow

Olive Thomas. (I can't tell if she's really wearing
 a beret but I'm including it anyways).

Clara Bow

Greta Garbo

Carole Lombard

Ingrid Bergman

Marlene Dietrich

Lauren Bacall

I hope I've convinced you. So if you don't have one, go out and buy yourself a beret. I'm partial to black berets but any colour will do. I promise you'll love it. 

05 December 2011

The Ideal Screen Type

As this image from 1928 proves, analysing a movie star's body is nothing new. Here starlet Anita Page is compared to a sketch of the ideal screen type. Comprised of body parts from 13 various actresses (a bit Frankenstein don't you think?) the "ideal type" looks to me like Mary Pickford—not just because they used her eyes but the whole face. The sketch does make you think. Do you know the circumference of your ankles, your wrist?  And how tiny were Ann Pennington's feet?

I'm assuming the 5'2 Anita Page fared well with the comparison. The adorable actress who made an easy transition from silents to talkies was extremely popular, at one point receiving more fan mail than any other actress save Greta Garbo. She should have starred in more films but retired in 1933 at the ripe old age of 23. The good news is you can catch some of her performances on DVD including her turn as a jazz baby in The Broadway Melody (1929), the first talkie to win the Oscar for best picture.

02 December 2011

An American in Paris

This is one of my favourite movie apartments—Gene Kelly's tiny garret in An American in Paris. Isn't it delightful? Have a wonderful weekend.

01 December 2011

Hello December

December is here and with it comes the usual shock that another year is about to come to an end. That and the panic that immediately sets in about all the things one has to do for the holidays. I am planning on getting my tree and decorating the flat this weekend. I love having a real tree for the holidays. Nothing beats watching the twinkling lights and breathing in the wonderful smell of pine. Happy decorating.

30 November 2011


Today in 1886 the Folies Bergères opened its first revue. Based around beautiful women, extravagant costumes, and elaborate sets, the revues at the Folies would launch the careers of many French performers and one very important American.

Josephine Baker made her Folies debut in 1926 in La Folie du JourClad solely in a skirt made from fake bananas she danced the “Danse Sauvage” and brought the house down. She would become an immensely popular performer in Paris, staring in other stage shows and a series of films; on stage she would sometimes be joined by her pet Cheetah, Chiquita, who could often be seen accompanying Josephine through the streets of Paris.

Looking at these photos, it's not hard to understand why Josephine was  the toast of the town. 

A film clip of her performing the dance she made famous at the Folies Begere can be seen here.


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