Most people, when they hear the name Mae West, think of old Hollywood movies and a brassy bottle blonde delivering comic double entendres in a studied drawl. In fact, there was a lot more to Mae than innocently smutty remarks (although she made those into a cinematic art form – most famously replying to the comment “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!” with a knowing “Goodness had nothing to do with it” in the 1932 movie Night After Night).
A woman way ahead of her time, she was a multi-talented performer and a very successful and highly controversial playwright – her first play (entitled, with admirable brevity and decades before Madonna, simply Sex) led to her arrest and brief imprisonment during the highly moralistic 1920s. Beginning her career in vaudeville, she became a smash hit on Broadway for both her acting and her plays before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where she became a huge success, again for her acting and writing.
Her distinctive and naughty style attracted the attention of the censors, and her early Hollywood performances were apparently partly responsible for the creation of the so-called Hays Code, which tied the American film industry into a narrowly defined moral outlook for more than thirty years. It was in order to circumvent this new code that Mae developed her now-famous facility with double entendres, a facility that turned her into an icon and one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
(Part 2 of 2)
Note: this was originally intended to be just one post, but it got so ridiculously long that I decided to split it into two for ease of reading (and for the sake of my own sanity!). You can find Part 1 here.
Do you have a ‘guilty pleasure’ – a bad movie that you secretly (or not so secretly!) love?
I was amazed at how many of you admitted to having a guilty thing for cheesy rom-coms and/or bad action movies! I guess, for a lot of people, these kinds of movie represent an opportunity to turn your brain off for a while and just be entertained without having to think about it.
Naturally, it is a good thing when a movie makes you think or provokes debate (I remember coming out of the cinema having an argument with a friend about the ending of Se7en which lasted all the way home), but sometimes you just can’t face stretching your brain, and that’s when your guilty pleasure comes into play…
(Part 1 of 2)
Cue Voice-over Man…
“It was a time for movies. It was a time for bad movies. It was a time for really, really bad movies….”
Back in July I asked for your opinions on said really, really bad movies, and you didn’t disappoint me. I seem to have touched a nerve with this one, as your responses started flooding in within minutes of the post going up – and brilliantly vitriolic they all were too!
So here’s a rundown of some of your best answers to my questions, and a few of my own thoughts on the many (and often furious) issues you raised…
How would you define a bad film?
There were some interesting responses to this. I see a bad film as one that doesn’t even try: the type of movie that quite blatantly and unashamedly aims for the money rather than for the joy of creative expression (although there are plenty of movies that do try – and still fail miserably).
*WARNING: POSSIBLE TRIGGERS BELOW*
I was interested to note yesterday that film director Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland. Most reports seem to concur that he has been detained over a thirty-one year old outstanding arrest warrant, connected to the 1978 scandal in which Polanski pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse (read: rape) with a 13 year old girl – after which he fled to Europe to escape justice, and eventually became a French citizen.
There has been an awful lot of distinctly male hand-wringing over Polanski’s arrest, with the French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand commenting that he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them”. In a way, Mitterrand does have a point, but only sort of – Polanski’s life has not been a bed of roses by any stretch of the imagination, but no amount of childhood ordeals excuse his later behaviour in any way, shape or form. There is NEVER any excuse for rape, not even this kind of hellish childhood…
Born in Paris of secular Jewish parents in 1933, the Polanski family moved back to their native Poland in 1936. They were living in the city of Krakow when the Nazis invaded three years later, and were forced into the Krakow Ghetto soon after. Polanski’s father survived the camps, but his mother died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. Polanksi himself only just survived the war in hiding with Polish Catholic families (which may explain why he was so drawn to the idea of making a film of The Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir of life in hiding in the Warsaw Ghetto), before moving back to France and subsequently the US.