25 March 2012

On the Road

I'm busy getting ready for a big trip so new posts will have to wait. But don't fret. I hope to have some new tales and adventures to share with you soon so be sure to check back next month.

Photo of Carole Lombard from Twentieth Century (1934).

22 March 2012

Another Birthday

Clara Bow

It's birthday time around here and plans are afoot for cake and champagne later on today. Meanwhile, I have a photo shoot to go to and some shoe shopping to get done. Hopefully it will keep me from dwelling on the fact that I'm a year older today. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday I was turning 21 and now I'm, oh never mind. 

20 March 2012

Spring Has Sprung

                                         Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
                                         is hung with bloom along the bough.
                                                                       —A.E. Housman
Spring is officially here and with it comes cherry blossoms bursting out in all their lovely pink glory. Enjoy the season.

by Michele.

19 March 2012

Red Dress

Most shops hang a sign in their window to notify customers when they're open. Shareen Vintage, a vintage clothing store housed in an apartment on 17th Street, hangs a red ball gown off the fire escape. Now that's a way to say come on in.

 by Michele.

12 March 2012


Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richare Arlen in Wings.

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a sold out screening of Wings (1927), the first film to win the Academy Award. Recently restored by Paramount, it was part of a three-week long William Wellman retrospective at Film Forum. William Wellman Jr. and Ben Burtt, who recreated the sound effects for the restored version, were on hand to introduce the film and answer questions.

One of the first films to tackle the subject of World War I, Wings is the tale of two young men, Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen), rivals for the affections of Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston) who prefers David while the girl next door, Mary Preston (Clara Bow), is madly in love with Jack. The men enlist in the Air Service and are sent to training camp where after an initial dislike of each other, they are soon the best of friends. Sent to France, the two new combat pilots quickly become known for their daring flying. Meanwhile, Mary joins the war effort and is sent to France to drive an ambulance. While on leave in Paris, she runs into an inebriated Jack at the Folies-Bergère who fails to recognize her. Changing out of a borrowed dress she has donned to get Jack's attention, two MPs barge in, misunderstand the situation, and send her packing. Back at the front, David is shot down during a major air battle and presumed dead. But he survives, steals a German plane, and attempts to fly back to the American side only to run into Jack, hell bent on revenge, who spots the German plane and shoots it down. Jack soon realizes his mistake and reunites with David who offers him forgiveness before dying in Jack’s arms. Returning home a war hero Jack, now older and wiser, sees Mary and finally realizes that she’s the girl for him.

Before and after the restoration.

At the screening, Ben Burtt showed before and after clips to the audience to illustrate just how much work went into the restored film, which looks beautiful. In addition to the removal of dirt and scratches, colour tinting was added to certain scenes, including hand-tinting the flames from a gun, something that had been done back in the 1920s. And sound effects were added to the re-orchestrated original score like punches, shots, and popping champagne bubbles (but alas, no Wilhelm screams).

Wellman, who had been a pilot during World War I, was determined to give audiences an honest portrayal of war and the dog fights in particular still stand as some of the best aerial scenes ever shot. Much of this was due to the large number of men and planes made available to him by the War Department. So concerned was Wellman with the authenticity of the scenes, the lead actors were required to fly their own planes (can you imagine that happening today?) so their close-ups would look real. There are no special effects in Wings. If a plane crashes, a plane really crashes. In fact, Wellman employed stunt flyer Dick Grace whose specialty was crashing planes (Grace had one mishap during shooting that resulted in him breaking his neck; he recovered and went on to fly many more planes).

Wings also includes groundbreaking camera work. In the Folies-Bergère scene, there is an incredible tracking shot where the camera appears to fly across the tables; this was achieved by hanging a track from the ceiling, something that had never been done before. And for the aerial scenes, cinematographer Harry Perry mounted cameras on the planes, which the actors operated themselves, allowing shots that would not have been achieved otherwise.

Even for a pre-code film, Wings contains a remarkable amount of daring scenes for its time: At the Folies-Bergère, Jack and David are seen drunk and carousing with “dancers;” Clara Bow is briefly nude as are some men undergoing physicals at the recruitment office; a lesbian couple are clearly shown sitting at one of the tables at the Folies-Bergère; and there is a kiss between the two leading men.

 Gary Cooper in Wings.

As for the actors, Rogers is beautiful and Arlen is stiff as usual (I’ve never been a big fan). And Clara, well she steals every scene she’s in. Adorable and full of spunk, she’s heartbreaking during close-ups of her with tears in her eyes. But perhaps one of the most important actors in the film is a young Gary Cooper who appears in just one scene. Playing an older pilot, he speaks with Jack and David about destiny ("When your time comes, you're gonna get it."). He crashes his plane and dies soon after. Cooper is so commanding and striking looking in this scene that it helped launch his career and after viewing it, you'll see why.

 film is making the rounds of festivals and special screenings so if you get the chance to see it, please do. It’s been released on DVD and Blu-ray but nothing beats seeing it on the big screen.

 from Paramount Pictures.

08 March 2012

Clothes Store Bunny

It may have felt like spring today in New York but at Alexander Berardi's in Soho it's spring everyday with rabbits in the window. Jack and Cooper, Berardi's pets, take turns hanging out at the store (they go home at night) where they are quite the draw for people passing by. The clothes inside are pretty cute too.

Photo by Michele.

07 March 2012

Four Saints

Last summer I had to go to the Berkshires to see the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) perform. This year, I had to merely cross the bridge to Brooklyn to see my favourite dance company.

For three nights, the MMDG performed at BAM along with the Mark Morris Dance Group Music Ensemble and the Trinity Choir, and I was lucky enough to get tickets for opening night. Even being sardined into tight seats in the balcony (which was so steep my fear of heights kicked in) was worth it to see them perform Four Saints in Three Acts and A Choral Fantasy.

Four Saints, an opera by Virgil Thomson with libretto by Gertrude Stein, revolves around two 16th century Spanish saints, Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola, and a dozen of their fellow saints. In Morris’ capable hands, it’s been condensed into an hour and filled with Spanish flair—flowers in hair, clapping of hands, twirling of skirts, steps taken directly from traditional Spanish dances—and a set designed by Maira Kalman, including a curtain that contains Stein’s words in Kalman’s signature handwriting. Dark this work is not. With lines like “If a magpie in the sky on the sky cannot cry if the pigeon on the grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas…” (classic Stein), how could it be anything but pure joy?

Theresa and Ignacio, clad in white, lead their fellow saints in dance before the two are delivered up to heaven via a giant swing while all the time the wonderful sounds of the chorus drift up from the orchestra pit below. Michelle Yard as Theresa was especially compelling to watch. Unfortunately I read that she tore a calf muscle the next night. Ouch. 

The premiere piece of the evening was the shorter A Choral Fantasy, set to Beethoven’s “Fantasia in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 80” (a piece that seems to give a hint of what was still to come—“Ode to Joy”). With the dancers this time decked out in jumpsuits and marching and falling into formation, the piece had a soldierly air about it, and I liked it.

The man himself, Mark Morris, came out at the end to take a bow—the perfect ending to a wonderful performance.

To find out more about the Mark Morris Dance Group, visit here.

Photo by Bill Cooper.

05 March 2012

Discovering Vivian

"Chicago (Three Elderly Women Staring)" Vivian Maier (ca. 1967)

A few weeks ago I managed to run over to the Steven Kasher Gallery and catch the last day of a Vivian Maier exhibit. I had read articles about the discovery of her work and was interested to see some examples up close.

Born in 1926
, Vivian Maier was a nanny in Chicago who spent her free time roaming the streets with her camera, capturing the people around her. The result was more than 100,000 photos documenting street life in the 1950s and 1960s. Extremely private, Maier never shared her work with anyone; in fact, she rarely printed any of her negatives. Instead she filed them away, keeping her them a secret. It wasn’t until 2007 when John Maloof bought at auction a box of Maier’s negatives (they had been in a storage unit that was seized for non-payment) that Maier was discovered. Maloof has since gone on to collect roughly 90 percent of her work, which includes negatives, prints, and countless rolls of undeveloped film.

"Untitled (Girl with Clown Costume)" Vivian Maier (ca. 1960s)

The exhibit was small but impressive, giving the viewer a good sense of Maier’s work. The photos showed she had a gift for composition. “Chicago (Three Elderly Women Staring)” with it’s dour-faced women is made comical by the sign behind them that reads “Welcome to Chicago.” She also had an eye for the surreal. The position of the young girl in the photo “Untitled (Girl with Clown Costume)” at first glance gives the appearance of a child’s head on an adult’s body. The clown makeup only adds to the strangeness of the image.

"Self-Portrait (Full-Length, Checkered Dress)" Vivian Maier (1955)

Included too were some self portraits—Maier’s reflection in a window or her shadow on a sidewalk. One from 1955 is a full-length portrait, with Maier looking sideways with her trusty Rollei in her hands. As usual, this intensely private woman let her camera speak for her.

To find out more about Vivian Maier and her photos, visit

04 March 2012

Dirty Laundry

"A Ladys Maid Soaping Linen" Henry Robert Moreland (ca. 1765-1797)

I'm in the middle of Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders, which is a fascinating read. The complex running of a home then seems incredibly daunting. Among the countless weekly chores that had to be done was laundry, a major event that took a lot of time and energy, and lasted many days. How well you ran and kept your household could affect your social standing and therefore the mistress of a house would have been especially concerned about her laundry. A nursery rhyme from the time sums up the general opinion on the subject. 

They that wash on Monday
Have all the week to dry.
They that was on Tuesday
Are not so much awry.
They that was on Wednesday
Are not so much to blame.
They that wash on Thursday
Wash for very shame.
They that wash on Friday
Wash in sorry need.
They that wash on Saturday
Are lazy sluts indeed. 

I always do laundry on Saturdays (or drop it off on Saturdays at least). Oh dear, I guess I know what that makes me.

I realize that the image above is not Victorian but I thought it very pretty. To see Victorian images and to read more, you can find the book here.

01 March 2012

Merry March

Welcome March! As to be expected, it's windy and cold today. But spring is just around the corner as is a trip abroad and my birthday so there is much to look forward to in the days ahead.

 from the New York Public Library.


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