Thursday, January 21, 2021

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

I had mixed feelings about seeing Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 magnum opus “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.” Set in 1969, it weaves the semi-fictional account of an actor in a downward career slump (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend/stuntman (Brad Pitt) into the true story of the Manson murders, specifically of Sharon Tate and her friends. Knowing how brutal the murders were, I was not anxious to see those splashed on the big screen; however, Tarantino’s conversion of current Hollywood back into the 1969 version was intriguing to me, especially since I saw some of the façades that Barbara Ling and the production team so carefully recreated during a few visits of mine to Hollywood. Let me get my comments out of the way on that topic first.

Much attention was obviously spent on putting the façades back to 1969, recreating period wardrobe, picking the correct vintage autos, and choosing just the right film stock, lighting, and angles to put the viewer back into that era. For the most part it works and the team should be credited. Interviews I have seen show them patting themselves on the back for doing it all “old school” and not using CGI. While this is commendable, it really doesn’t matter to the majority of viewers who just want to be immersed into a well-made film. Nit-picky me was thrown out of that 1960’s world when I saw street signs and freeway signs that had not been changed; why go to the trouble of putting vintage brochures in a shop window (that probably can’t be seen) and then let street signs stay in the present era? I don’t think the viewer would have held a CGI effect against Tarrantino. That’s the end of my little rant. 

The first time I saw the movie, I found myself getting increasingly bored and restless as the plot continued on. I thought Brad Pitt was masterful in his restrained portrayal of a badass stuntman; Leonardo DiCaprio was a little bit more messy in his characterization of an actor who was on the verge of becoming a has-been; there was too much time spent on showing this rather than moving the plot along. That would be my major complaint; too many unnecessary subplots and too much time driving points home that could easily have been understood by an audience with less waste of film stock. 

It seemed like Tarantino had a difficult time letting go of the extraneous parts that had special meaning to him, but not necessarily important to the storyline. One somewhat uncomfortable sequence shows a fight between Pitt’s character and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Lee is portrayed as an egotistical jerk, and Tarantino included a long sequence to explain why stuntman Cliff Booth (Pitt) wasn’t having an easy time getting hired for a particular film because of the director (Kurt Russell) and his wife. Flashbacks of Booth’s stormy relationship with his own wife and the fight sequence with Lee are purely extraneous, and for fans of Bruce Lee, probably offensive.

Margot Robbie does an excellent job of channeling the luminous Sharon Tate. I enjoyed watching her scenes, which were obviously designed to give a sense of what a kind and caring person she was. This knowledge makes her senseless death even more tragic.

The actors playing the Manson gang members were chilling. I cannot give enough kudos to all of them. When Pitt’s character visited Spahn Ranch, I was on the edge of my seat during that entire sequence.

By the time the plot arrives at the point that I knew the Tate murder would be occurring, I was extremely uncomfortable. I even had my finger on the fast forward button. Without giving the plot of the movie away, all I can say is that this is where Tarantino shows his brilliance. It is one of the very few times that I could say the violence shown was cathartic. The last 15 or 20 minutes of the movie found me praising the film and actually wanting to watch it again, which I did. The second viewing was more enjoyable, as I was able to catch more production details and character nuances. The choices of what was shown made much more sense., too I still stand by my earlier comments about this film needing a good edit job to make it more compelling and less rambling. Overall, I’d give it a B+.

See more Daveland vintage and contemporary Hollywood photos at my main website.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wonderland Wednesday Medley

Nature’s Wonderland; this attraction has been gone for over forty years and still warms the heart of those Disneyland guests who once had the opportunity to ride it. Today I celebrate it with a batch of images from the 1950s, starting off with this 1957 shot of the desert and balancing rock area. On the left of the picture you can see one of the Disneyland Stagecoaches. This what I love about old Disneyland; so many overlapping attractions. It gave the sense of movement and excitement!

I wonder how many guests noticed these little structures on top of the rocks?

Two years later, we see the line queue to the attraction on what appears to be a rainy/cloudy day:

Notice the sign for Mineral Hall and its geodes for sale on the left, and the guest with the plastic rain  hat on her head:

More guests in rain gear:

…and a stroller with two bags of Frito-Lay Corn Chips, most likely samples from the Casa de Fritos restaurant next door.

Another angle of the queue from 1958:

The final two for today are from December 17, 1966:

The second shot yielded a detailed view of two cast members yucking it up as they wait for the guests to arrive:

Closing in even more, you can see the signage that tells guests to remove their “D Coupons”:

See more vintage Disneyland Nature's Wonderland photos at my main website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Temple Tuesday: Our Little Girl and René

Costumes for Shirley’s 1935 film “Our Little Girl” were designed by Swiss-born René Hubert (1895-1976), who studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in St. Gallen and at the Beaux Arts in Paris, and later worked for fashion designer/parfumier Jean Patou. He did some costume design for theatrical revues in Berlin and France (including for the Folies Bergère), where Gloria Swanson discovered him. She persuaded Hubert to join her in Hollywood at Paramount as designer for her entire personal and professional wardrobe. Hubert also made the rounds at the other studios: MGM (1927-1931); 20th Century-Fox (1931-1935), where he also did the gowns for Shirley’s “Curly Top”; at Alexander Korda’s London Films (1935-1938), where he designed the futuristic costumes for “Things to Come” (1936); then back to Fox (1943-1950). He excelled at period costume on many historical dramas, including “That Hamilton Woman” (1941) and “Anastasia” (1956). Although he was nominated twice for an Oscar (1954 and 1964), he did not win either time. Back to “Our Little Girl”…

Hubert was probably the most fashion-forward designers that Shirley worked with during her childhood career. His designs for her are adorable, yet still innovative and timeless. Children of today could still wear these and look contemporary. The Ideal Toy Company reproduced many of Hubert’s outfits from the movie for their Shirley Temple doll. Here are a few comparisons of the real thing and the miniature doll version. Ideal typically released their costumes with different fabrics; this particular hat and coat set (Shirley models the outfit in this post’s first photo) was yellow:

Many years later, the Danbury Mint did their own version of the hat and coat as part of their Shirley Temple Dress-Up doll series:

What was under the coat? This adorable little gingham dress and bolero top, known as the “September Saturday” outfit:

The actual three-piece silk ensemble Shirley wore, as it looked in the 2015 Theriault’s auction, “Love, Shirley Temple”:

The 1930’s Ideal version, which was also made in a variety of fabrics and colors:

Here is the “Musical Note” dress that Shirley wore. Note the flared sleeves:

…and the Ideal version:

The “Scottie Dog” dress that Shirley wore, constructed of silk-like linen with an inverted box pleat down the front.

How about those yarn leashes?

Hubert’s original sketch, with the fabric swatch he selected in the upper left-hand corner:

…and the Ideal version:

There was such a high demand for these dolls that Ideal had to farm out some of the sewing work to moms at home. This probably accounts for why there are so many variations in craftsmanship, materials, and design. This blue version only had two scotties:

My favorite one of the bunch is the blue cotton/linen “Saturday-In-May Cake Dress,” with its art deco inspired striping along the sleeves and front panel.

It would appear that at some point over the years the distinctive belt was lost.

The Ideal version rounded the belt, which was a very nice touch:

Another favorite Hubert design from the movie was this alphabet dress, which I do not believe was ever released in doll form:

Made of cream silk sateen, it survived over the years and hit the auction block in 2015, too:

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.