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Hazel-Dawn Dumpert

Audrey Hepburn at LACMA

If it’s true that only the beautiful get to be movie stars, it’s true also that there are some stars whose beauty becomes its own kind of luminary. Audrey Hepburn’s is that kind, an idol apart, enshrined in a million posters and film stills, and in the daydreams of girls,......

Sacred Monster: LACMA Celebrates 100 Years of Bette Davis

(Click to enlarge) “I don’t mind scaring people,” Bette Davis once told the writer Boze Hadleigh. “It comes in handy — in the business, and in life.” Onscreen too, apparently, for in the whole of classic Hollywood history, no actor was more willingly, thrillingly scary than Bette Davis. These days,......

The Bette Davis Collection

As a steady stream of acolytes lines up to celebrate the centennial of Bette Davis’ birth — after last weekend’s greatest hits rundown from the Cinematheque, a grand evening at the Academy and a series at LACMA commence in May — two studios have just released handsome if relatively incidental......

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two

Oh, Turner Classic Movies — you can’t fool us. Sure, your DVD documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood offers a respectable survey of the clash between high minds and low brows waged between 1930, when talkies hit their stride, and 1934, when the Hays Production......

There Is Nothing Like Dames

For the most part, a viewing of the 1934 backstage musical Dames is only intermittently rewarded — by fair-haired sass Joan Blondell, pert in silken nighties as she dupes a hapless money man; by hunchy, kewpie-eyed tapper Ruby Keeler as she stomps out a routine; and by the great and......

Murder and Madness in Racy Pre-Code Hollywood

"It's right if you can get away with it," insists Lydia Thorne, a high-life heiress who has dresses made to match her emeralds and pays off traffic cops in discreetly tendered diamond bracelets. Played by Claudette Colbert in the 1930 Paramount melodrama Manslaughter, Lydia is the type of casually lawless......

The Dark Cabinet of German Expressionism

And now, a few words about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from Russian filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein, who dubbed the 1920 German silent: "...this barbaric carnival of the destruction of the healthy human infancy of our art, this common grave for normal cinema origins, this combination of silent hysteria,......

Don't Speak! (It's a Silent Movie Thing)

Of the three movies that conclude Cinefamily’s series of silent works by master filmmakers, one stands out as less a stylistic stepping stone than a fully formed expression of its director’s metier. Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld (1927) is widely considered the original gangster movie, and inaugurates in high style what......

The Late, Great Kate: A Centennial Tribute to Katharine Hepburn

“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower . . .” So peaks Stage Door, the near-perfect 1937 blend of firecracker repartee and deftly modulated melodrama that follows the hopeful inhabitants of a ladies’ theatrical boarding house. Delivered by Katharine Hepburn, the speech is iconic, but not long after,......

The Lady Barbara

She snaps into focus at the mention of her name. You can see her clearly, the dark eyes set deep above plump planes of cheekbone, the trim figure and regal profile, the gleaming downturned mouth that curls as easily into a sneer as a queer, saucy smile. You know who......