Vicki Baum(the author of Grand Hotel) for Modern Screen:
If I say that Greta Garbo as the dancer is much better than I expected, that’s not of small consequence. For I expected the utmost. I expected that she’d be Greta Garbo and that would have been enough! But this time she did more than usual. She played, so to speak, two roles. First, the weary, lonely dancer, aching for success–and then the awakened woman experiencing a great love. I’ve always maintained that the ability to transform one’s self constitutes great acting.
Hi i am writing a paper on Maria Felix but having trouble finding something or deciding what would be the greatest legacy she left to Mexico?
First of all, forgive me it took this long to answer.
When I first read the question, I immediately thought: herself.
That answer might sound odd at first, but I think it’s true. And, honestly, I feel María would not have it any other way.
What differentiates world cinema, Mexican cinema specifically in this case, from Hollywood is that Hollywood creates films for global consumption. Everyone knows the Hollywood stars, and that’s great. Everyone knows Marilyn, Garbo, James Dean, the two Hepburns. And even if they are not all American, they are identified with Hollywood.
María Félix, on the other hand, is known only by Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking countries.
And while everyone knows the Hollywood stars, no one feels a connection to them. At least not as deep as that as I have to María. I never met her, obviously, but everything about her is a legend.
So in a way, she made a legend of herself. And she left that as a legacy to Mexico.
Everyone there knows of her, her stories, her films, her immense beauty. She has become a national treasure.
Her history is a mystery. The only version we know of her birth is the one she told. And that has become the official truth. She fabricated a lot of things about her. Many of them are tinged with some truth, but we will never know.
There is a story of her that proves my point. It is said that one day she walked in at the Cartier store in Paris. With a baby alligator. In her arms.
“I want jewelry that looks like this. And don’t take too long, the alligator is growing quickly.”
And now, decades later, that story is told as truth. It probably didn’t happen, but the fact remains that the diamond necklace exists. It was made for her. Whether she really did walk in with an alligator is not known, but she was crazy enough to have done it.
So yes, I feel like María’s greatest legacy to México was herself. Her legend.
One of my memories is her teaching us how to do cartwheels when we were little kids. She was probably in her early 60s at that point. She was in fantastic shape. She would sometimes come with some funny gifts. She was always very generous. She would joke a lot. She was extremely funny and humorous and liked practical jokes and funny things and gadgets and things like that. She would joke around with us. She would do imitations of people or she would do things like “I am an old sailor”, be something. She was very funny that way.
I don’t know what that Method is. Acting is life, to me, and should be.
- Vivien Leigh
Alan Webb said to me that if you found yourself naked with Vivien in the Sahara Desert with absolutely nothing, twenty-four hours later you would be coming out in a Rolls-Royce, covered in minks and drinking champagne.
- David Conville.
In the thinking now of that moment the recollection of her evokes all sorts of images: quicksilver; elegance and composure, like a small Siamese cat; and the tinkling charm of a Chinese lantern.
- Olivia de Havilland
What to say.. Vivien, dear Vivien… exquisite actress, thoughtful, fearless, gracious and enormously kind… a little pink cloud floating through the lives of all her friends, hovering over the setting sun, and thinking of everyone else but herself.
- Katharine Hepburn
Vivien, you’re going to be a great star - as great as Garbo.
- John Gliddon to Vivien, 1935.
Happy 101sth birthday to Vivien Leigh, one of my most favourite actresses and a true inspiration.
A post wherein film writer Kimberly Luperi celebrates how a teen Lauren Bacall survived Howard Hawks’ acting training to earn a celebrated spot among greats like Greta Garbo & Marlene Dietrich.
“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips
together and… blow.”
Lauren Bacall cemented her spot in film history with quite a
conspicuous Hollywood debut in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (’44). She skyrocketed to
fame and captured the hearts of America and co-star Humphrey Bogart in a tale
worthy of the screen itself.
Bacall’s first big break came in March 1943, when Howard Hawks’ wife
Slim spotted Bacall’s Harper’s Bazaar cover and pushed the director to give her a
screen test. David O. Selznick, Howard Hughes and Columbia also came knocking,
but Bacall chose Hawks. Charlie Feldman, Hawks’ agent/partner who proved an
early confidante of Bacall’s, arranged for the teen to come to
Hollywood. (Hawks later downplayed this story, stating his secretary
‘accidently’ sent for Bacall when he merely wanted to gather information about
Bacall’s test came with the works: a dressing
room, stand-in, and director Hawks for two to three pages of material. Hawks immediately
signed her to a personal contract, and then… nothing. He kept Bacall under
wraps so as to maintain an air of mystery, and Feldman assured her Hawks was
waiting for the right time for her debut.
In the meantime,
Hawks put Bacall through what he called “four months of the toughest kind
of training.” He encouraged her to toughen up - one method was to insult men
at parties, which she tried on Clark Gable - and required her to perform scenes
in different languages. Hawks also instructed Bacall to train and
sustain her low voice; to this end, she drove into the hills, found a secluded
spot and read The Robe aloud.
Hawks tailored everything “to complement what he wanted me to
be,” Bacall said. He thought she would pair well with Cary Grant or
Humphrey Bogart. Grant excited her; Bogart not so much. When she snagged the role in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (’44) and
finally met Bogart, there were no fireworks. However, her opinion of him soared
after he did all he could to put her at ease on set. Even so, nerves still
racked Bacall, and a future trademark came of it: “I realized that one way to hold my trembling head
still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart.
It worked, and turned out to be the beginning of The Look.”
Originally, the script called for Bogart to divide his affection
between Bacall and Dolores Moran, but halfway through, Hawks & crew decided that
Bacall should receive Bogart’s full attention, and she became the co-lead. “You
can’t beat chemistry,” Bacall proclaimed. No, and you can’t prevent two
people from falling in love, though Hawks, jealous because he was infatuated
with Bacall, threatened to send her to poverty-row studio
Monogram. That obviously didn’t work.
After production wrapped, Bacall’s publicity built up
steam for her grand entrance. WB publicity chief Charles Einfeld remarked: “Nothing
like Bacall has been seen on the screen since Garbo and Dietrich. This is one
of the biggest and hottest attractions we have ever had.” Newspapers and
magazines had a field day with her “auspicious launching,” commenting on
everything from Bacall’s sultry looks to box office appeal to fashion
sense. Oblivious as to the power of
publicity, Bacall had no clue what the launch would bring. Lucky for her, she remained grounded. The rest, as they
say, is history.
Stories of her elusiveness were legion and much enjoyment was extracted from the names, “Gussie Berger” and “Harriet Brown,” under which she booked hotels and travel arrangements. The great Garbo quote “I want to be alone” was probably never uttered by her, but there was no question that she was a loner– painfully shy with people she did not know and preferring her own company to that of most people. “Making a film with Garbo,” said Robert Montgomery, another star at MGM, “does not constitute an introduction.” Garbo had an icy look in her eyes when anyone sought to impose upon her, as, according to studio gossip, Groucho Marx discovered one day. He saw a well- known figure approaching in slacks and floppy hat, waylaid her, bent down in his famous crouch, and peek under the brim. Two prisms of pure Baltic blue stared down at him, and he backed away, muttering, “ Pardon me, ma'am. I thought you were a guy I knew in Pittsburgh.”
For Garbo, who was able to express emotions on the screen with such liberated clarity, self-expression away from it often seems an agonizing process. Her conversational manner is inclined to be tentative. She often prefaces a remark with something to the effect that, “I suppose this sounds silly, coming from me,” or, “You probably won’t believe this, but …” Like a child who has moved into a new neighborhood, she is apt to attempt conversation with people she has just met–if she attempts it at all–by asking direct questions: “What do you do? Are you married? Do you have children?” She dismayed a fashionable New York milliner she had just met by suddenly asking, “Do you have a lover?” The tragedy of Greta Garbo, it becomes clear, lies in the difference between what she was and the esthetic, romantic appeal she came to be and symbolize. The two entities, the woman and the legend, are at opposite poles, hopelessly irreconcilable. And yet Garbo must live with both.
The legendary Garbo, the one whose peerless image graced the screen, is the creation of imaginative people who, one of them said in a moment of disillusion, “turned a healthy peasant girl into an exotic spy.” Not content to gaze upon the most fabulous face of the century, they invested its owner with mythical qualities that fascinated them and burdened her. They could not resist making up little stories about her. Garbo’s intimates gossiped about her endlessly among themselves; and some of the facts and stories they related about her inevitably spread to outsiders ready to believe and pass on both facts and fancies. Thus the legend was spun and Garbo became in the minds of the imaginative. millions the myth that had been fashioned by the few–a strange, hermetic goddess, a temple figure of beauty, secrecy and omniscience.
It may all have been, in the end, a great disservice, for the real Garbo has never been able to live up to the myth. She has always been what she is today–a woman with a child’s charming, tragic innocence. She is shrewd, willful; instinctive, completely self-absorbed. She is secretive and she has a childlike indifference to all desires but her own. She is condemned to live in a small, cloistered world because of her reluctance or inability to accept the responsibilities of adult friendship.
The Great Garbo, by John Bainbridge; LIFE magazine, January 24, 1955.