Wednesday, October 31, 2012

halloweens past

I found some fun pictures of some recent and not-too-recent Halloweens. The kid is going as a black cat today. She was a cat last year too, but she has made some adjustments and refinements ...  but I won't be able to post our trick-or-treating photos until tomorrow.

My little kitty, from last year

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My little spider trapped herself Ron Weasley - it's Aragog!

The wicked witch of the east
The cutest little wicked witch of the East

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Contrary to popular opinion, this wasn't how I went to work every day
My brother impressed in this homemade scarecrow costume
Ninga sushi chef Halloween
My tiny one was a ninja/sushi chef on her second Halloween
John Periale as Groucho Marx
My brother again, this time as Groucho Marx - brilliant
Happy Halloween!
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

i early voted — finally!

I have been driving by one of our local designated early voting locations since Saturday, but have always been greeted by long lines. Today I was finally able to get there a little earlier, and the line was much shorter. I stood (and shivered) on line for half an hour on one of the coolest mornings we've had here in southern Florida in a long time. The cooler temps are welcome, but Sandy's lingering winds, not so much.

The general feeling of both folks on line and people inside working and helping was very positive. There were no political discussions or arguments, just everyone determined to get their vote counted. And in Florida, that's especially important. No hanging or other chads in evidence, just paper ballots.

Don't forget to get your sticker on the way out

The only downside that I can see to early voting is that it doesn't free me from having to listen to the endless political ads on radio and television. I did experience some momentary disappointment when I realized I wouldn't be able to vote against a local politician that I find particularly annoying (cough Allen West cough cough). He isn't even in my district. So why is my town targeted with his barrage of billboards and mean-spirited television and radio commercials? Oh well, a week from today we'll all find out how it all comes out. Don't forget to vote!

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Monday, October 29, 2012

in the wake of the storm

Sandy has moved on, but it has left its mark. Our beach has pretty much disappeared, and we are still in high wave/red flag mode. Conditions seem far worse up north. Sending good hopes and prayers to all our friends that are still in this mega-storm's path.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

the (somewhat) calm after the storm

The waves are still pretty high and undertow is a huge concern, but we braved the beach briefly to see the aftermath of Sandy Frankenstorm.

The beach post-Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm
The tide is high and there's not much beach to speak of

The beach post-Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm
Lots of clean-up and rebuilding to come

The beach post-Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm
Some new grass dunes - we had to escape to its higher ground when the tide rolled in - hard

Saturday, October 27, 2012

love in a cold climate

Article first published as DVD Review: Love in a Cold Climate on Blogcritics.

Acorn Media has released Love in a Cold Climate, an eight-part miniseries originally shown on Masterpiece Theater in 1980. Based on two novels by author Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Loveand Love in a Cold Climate, the miniseries is set in England during the time between the two World Wars.

The story follows three young women, vivacious and impulsive Linda (Lucy Gutteridge), her quiet cousin Fanny (Isabelle Amyes, who also narrates the series), and Fanny's distant relative Polly (Rosalyn Landor), and their attempts to find true love.

Judi Dench and Michael Aldridge
But viewers will mostly be attracted to this series for Judi Dench, who plays Linda's mother Sadie, Lady Alconleigh. Dench, as always, is enjoyable as the matriarch of the family, married to the bombastic Lord Alconleigh (Michael Aldridge). Especially wonderful is Michael Williams as Uncle Davey, a hypochondriac who is beloved and respected by his family. Williams (Dench's real-life husband) provides comic relief with his frequently exasperating pursuit of offbeat remedies.

Many faces familiar to fans of British television turn up as supporting characters (and love interests) include Anthony Head, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and John Moffatt as the family's friend and neighbor Lord Merlin. Vivian Pickles is especially funny as the beyond-eccentric Lady Montdore.

Love in a Cold Climate's eight episodes are included on three discs, with an approximate total running time of 405 minutes. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1. SDH subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras are included in the box set. The look of the series definitely has a definite television studio-filmed look to it, but the locations and costumes are of the highest quality.

The list of episodes includes:

Episode 1 - Child Hunt
Episode 2 - Coming Out
Episode 3 - Rings and Things
Episode 4 - The Merry Widower
Episode 5 - Heir Apparent
Episode 6 - Foreigners Are Fiends
Episode 7 - Monsieur Le Duc
Episode 8 - In Love and War

Love in a Cold Climate is not just a wonderful showcase for Judi Dench, but a different glimpse at the same world that is currently being depicted in the popular series Downton Abbey. Vivian Pickles is an interesting counterpoint to Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess, portraying another one of the more crotchety members of the upper classes. Love in a Cold Climate is an entertaining look at love and life among Britain's privileged set.
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Friday, October 26, 2012


The kid's school closed early yesterday and is closed today because Hurricane Sandy, now dubbed "Frankenstorm" is making its windy way up the east coast. The hurricane shutters went up on the ocean-facing side, but luckily it's not completely dark in here. I'll be skipping tai chi class, but I think I can run two other errands while dodging the rain and winds before hunkering down for a lazy rainy movie day. It's supposed to be a lot nicer here this weekend. Unfortunately our friends up north may still be in for some stormy weather. Stay safe everyone!

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

another one from the vaults

I keep finding really cool old photos. This one features my grandfather, Lionel William Winship, on the right, with his father-in-law, Edwin H. Cassels. They both look so dapper. This is how people used to dress to take a stroll on the park, c. 1932.

Edwin H. Cassels and Lionel William "Billy" Winship on Paris, c. 1932
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

rally round the prez

The kid and I attended a grassroots event for President Barack Obama yesterday in nearby Delray Beach. The President stayed in Florida an extra day after last night's debate in Boca Raton.

We had a good view of President Obama, even from the nosebleed seats

The kid had a great time

News reports have the crowds at about 11,000. There sure were a ton of people, but we managed to get a good seat and everyone was positive and friendly. The President was full of jokes and fired up. Hopefully that will carry through to his Florida results. Residents can start voting this Saturday. I'm going to give early voting a try, as apparently I can track my vote online. This will be my first time voting in a presidential election here in the land of hanging chads and such, so I'm concerned that my vote will count.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

stephen king's on the night shift again

Article first published as Book Review: Night Shift by Stephen King on Blogcritics.

This summer Vintage & Anchor Books released a reprint edition of Stephen King's classic short story collection Night Shift, and the 20 stories included in this volume are just as creepy and crawly as ever.

King is in top form in this anthology, which was originally published in 1978. After the huge success of his novel The Shining in 1977, Night Shift was released, and included a selection of stories that King had published in the late '60s and early '70s in such magazines as Cavalier, Penthouse, Ubris, Cosmopolitan, Gallery, and Maine. Night Shift also included four previously unpublished stories - "Jerusalem's Lot," "Quitters Inc.," "The Last Rung on the Ladder," and "The Woman in the Room." King's protagonists are frequently as morally compromised as the vampires and other monsters which populate these tales, which have a Twilight Zone-like feel to them. Stand-outs include "Night Surf," "Sometimes They Come Back," "Strawberry Spring," "Quitters, Inc.," and "I Know What You Need."

The stories are as follows:

"Jerusalem's Lot": A previously unpublished story, as well as a sort of prequel to 'Salem's Lot, is also a tribute to classic epistolary horror writing, like Bram Stoker's Dracula.

"Graveyard Shift": Overtime is offered to some mill workers if they'll help clean out the factory's basement. But the basement isn't just full of old and broken machinery, it also includes a population of some very unusual rats.

"Night Surf": The flu, dubbed "Captain Trips," has wiped out the country's population, save for a small group of college kids in King's precursor to his popular novel The Stand.

"I Am the Doorway": Equal parts science-fiction and horror, King takes us to Venus and back with frightening consequences.

"The Mangler": Can an industrial speed ironing and folding machine develop a taste for blood? Do you have to ask?

"The Boogeyman": Lester Billings tries to convince psychiatrist Dr. Harper that the Boogeyman was responsible for the deaths of his three children.

"Grey Matter": King's take on The Blob, or the perils of drinking excessive amounts of cheap beer.

"Battleground": Miniature toy soldiers are more than a match for a trained assassin.

"Trucks": A truck stop becomes the setting for a brutal showdown between humans and (actual) monster trucks.

"Sometimes They Come Back": A violent episode from a high school teacher's childhood comes back to haunt him.

"Strawberry Spring": A series of Ripper-like murders plague a local community college when a false spring accompanied by a fog envelops the campus.

"The Ledge": A tennis pro faces the wager of his life with the husband of his lady love. But will the older man honor his bet?

"The Lawnmower Man": Harold Parkette discovers that Pastoral Greenery and Outdoor Services, Inc. are a full-service lawn and landscaping service--maybe a little too full-service for his tastes.

"Quitters, Inc.": Dick Morrison wants to quit smoking, and the firm Quitters, Inc. absolutely, positively guarantees that he will never smoke another cigarette--or else.

"I Know What You Need": College student Elizabeth Rogan has met the perfect guy, Ed Hamner, Jr., who seems able to anticipate her every need--eerily so.

"Children of the Corn": While driving through the cornfields of Nebraska in a last-ditch attempt to save their floundering marriage, Burt and Vicky are involved in a hit and run of a young boy. Or are they? The boy's throat has been cut, and when they go to a nearby town for help they are greeted by some very strange residents.

"The Last Rung on the Ladder": A truly heartbreaking story about a pivotal childhood event in a brother and sister's life, and how they drift apart in the ensuing years.

"The Man Who Loved Flowers": Almost a tone poem, set in New York City on a spring night, this tale plants plenty of clues to the horror that lies beneath the seemingly lovely night.

"One for the Road": Set a few years after the novel 'Salem's Lot has taken place, this story sees a nor'easter pounding the area. Locals Booth and Tookey reluctantly help a tourist from New Jersey whose car, with his wife and daughter inside, has been stranded in a snowdrift in nearby Jerusalem's Lot, a town populated by vampires.

"The Woman in the Room": Another heartbreaker, this one centers on a man watching his mother die slowly and painfully from cancer--and debating whether or not to help ease her passage out of this world.

Many of the short stories in Night Shift will be familiar to fans of their feature film and television adaptations: Children of the Corn (which became both a 1984 film and a 2009 HBO television adaptation), Cat's Eye (a 1985 film that included adaptations of "Quitters Inc." and "The Ledge"), Maximum Overdrive (a 1986 film based on "Trucks"), and Graveyard Shift (a 1990 film).

Besides the 20 stories, Night Shift also includes an introduction by author John D. MacDonald, and an entertaining forward from King, who tells the reader why he loves scary stories - and is quite convincing on why they should, too. It will be up to the reader to determine whether they should indulge in these early King offerings in the dark of night. It might be advisable to keep all of the lights on.

As King tells the reader,
"Let's talk about fear. We won't raise our voices and we won't scream; we'll talk rationally, you and I. We'll talk about the way the good fabric of things sometimes has a way of unraveling with shocking suddenness.
"At night, when I go to bed, I still am at pains to be sure that my legs are under the blanket after the lights go out.
"I'm not a child any more but ... I don't like to sleep with one leg sticking out. Because if a cool hand ever reached out from under the bed and grasped my ankle, I might scream. Yes, I might scream to wake the dead. That sort of thing doesn't happen, of course, and we all know that. ... The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn't real. I know that, and I also know that if I'm careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle."
Forewarned is forearmed.

Images from top: King in the '70s and the '00s.

Monday, October 22, 2012

the girl does not impress

HBO's film The Girl, about the "relationship" between the director Alfred Hitchcock and his protégé, model-turned actress Tippi Hedren, was truly a missed opportunity. Unfortunately, as with most made-for-television biopics, more attention was paid to trying to get the sets, cars, wardrobe, and make-up correct than worrying about such trivial matters as character and dramatic arc. The fact that a film about Hitchcock could be made without the least little bit of creative camera-work, aside from an intrusive and unnecessary shower scene homage, was mind-boggling. Whatever Hitch may have been like as a man, he was a consummate artist, and he would have been appalled at the lack-luster framed shots in so many of The Girl's scenes.

Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and Tobey Jones as Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl
It is no secret that Hitch had a thing for blondes, and was possessed of a twisted sense of humor, and some might say, sexuality. He worked a lot of his obsessions out on film. He used most actors as props for his own ideas, but if he liked an actor he would use them again and again. Favorites included Cary Grant, who Hitch claimed was "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life," Jimmy Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and the ultimate hot and cold blonde, Grace Kelly. When Kelly retired from show business to become the Princess of Monaco Hitch was in a quandary to find a new leading lady. He had tried to groom Vera Miles to be his next muse, complete with a five-year personal contract that included her appearing in the first episode of his television anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Revenge,"in 1955, and in the feature film The Wrong Man in 1956 with Henry Fonda. But Miles upset the director by becoming pregnant, and he gave the plum role he had been grooming her for, in Vertigo in 1958, to Kim Novak. Miles did appear in Psycho, in 1960, as Janet Leigh's sister Lila Crane, but it was hardly a showcase role.

He was unable to cast Kelly and Grant, both unwilling to come out of retirement, in his next project The Birds, which was based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. He spotted Tippi Hedren in a television commercial and she reminded him of Kelly. Hitchcock quickly signed her to an exclusive personal contract and then began an intensive grooming process, and, as Hedren herself has confessed to many since, proceeded to fall in love with his leading lady. Hitch had most likely been in love with his female stars before, but they were more seasoned in show business than Hedren, who was just starting out in films. Hitch could mold Hedren, and, he must have hoped, control her. The Girl does depict the grooming process, and how Hitch taught Hedren how to walk and stand and emote in his meticulously planned-out shots. But the focus of the film is clearly to show the director behaving like a dirty old man. Without much background to his motivations or characterization it becomes not much more than a peep show.

Hitch and Hedren in a publicity shot for The Birds
Hedren obviously was scarred from her experience. On the one hand, she was handed a leading lady career on a silver platter. That doesn't happen in Hollywood. But she also had to endure Hitch's intensive psychological, and in the case of some of the arduous filming conditions on The Birds, even physically threatening challenges. Hedren, who most know only from her two films with Hitchcock, has never been considered much of an actress. Her presence in The Birds and Marnie is rather bland. She was a blank slate that he projected his desires upon. But she was definitely a strong woman. She was a single mother (to daughter and later actress Melanie Griffith). She stood up to the advances of a powerful man and was willing to risk her career to preserve her self-esteem and -respect. Hedren didn't have much of a career post-Marnie. She refused to work again with Hitchcock and he had exclusive control of her career for many years.

The Girl could have worked a feminist angle, but instead chose to present Sienna Miller as an attractive stand-in for Hedren, but ultimately just as blank, if pretty, a slate. Tobey Jones does a masterful vocal impression of the inimitable Hitchcock, but his motivations, creative and sexual, are only hinted at. Imelda Staunton is wasted as his (supposedly) long-suffering wife Alma Reville, who any Hitchcock buff knows was his right hand on most of his films. They were a tight unit.

Hitch directs Hedren and Sean Connery in Marnie
There is no denying that Hedren suffered while making The Birds. But it is also one of Hitchcock's best films. As he aged, his films edged more towards horror than mystery or romance, and The Birds is a true horror film.

Marnie, which The Girl's makers claim as his last great masterpiece is far from that (Actually, that would be Frenzy). Marnie is a mess of psychological mumbo-jumbo. Like all Hitchcock films it is watchable, but its attempts to be sexually daring, with Hedren cast as a frigid compulsive thief, and Connery as the man to give her what she needs, just come off as cold and sad and distant. It's an unsuccessful update of his 1945 pscyhological thriller Spellbound. Is Marnie the celluloid expression of Hitch's frustration with not finally being able to meld his leading lady on film with his own life? Maybe. But The Girl is just able to gloss over the surface of such questions. Ultimately it is just a blip. The Birds will always impress.

Note: if you haven't seen the Hitchcock films mentioned in this post, run, don't walk, to check out the master and draw your own conclusions.

Spellbound - Psychoanalyst Ingrid Bergman tries to help patient Gregory Peck — while falling in love with him. Is he a crazed murder or a wronged man?

"Revenge," Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Carl's (Ralph Meeker) wife Elsa (Vera Miles) has suffered a nervous breakdown and must stay at home. One day after Carl returns she tells him that a man has broken into their house and assaulted her. Carl decides to take the law into his own hands. He takes her out in the car and they drive around, hoping to identify her assailant, with tragic consequences.

The Wrong Man - Based on a true story, Henry Fonda plays a man wrongly accused of a crime. Whether he is found ultimately innocent or not becomes less important to him as he watches the effect the ordeal is having upon his wife, played by Vera Miles, who is slowly unraveling from the pressure.

Vertigo - James Stewart plays a former police detective who suffers from vertigo who is hired to trail a rich man's wife. It doesn't take long for Stewart to fall for his client's wife, played by Kim Novak, and to also fear for her safety. Hitchcock's masterpiece of obsession and identity has San Francisco and its nearby landmarks as not just a location but another character in the film.

Psycho - Janet Leigh is in a bind and on the run, but her troubles are just starting when she chooses to stay at the Bates Motel, run by a quiet young man (Anthony Perkins) and his domineering mother.

The Birds - Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) impulsively follows a man she has just met, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), to his weekend home. What starts as simple flirtation soon takes on a dangerous note as they witness escalating attacks on Mitch's neighbors by larger and larger groups of birds. Is Melanie somehow the catalyst for these deadly attacks?

Marnie - Tippi Hedren plays Marnie, a thief who has a series of psychological hang-ups, which include the color red, thunder, and any man touching her. Sean Connery wants to marry her and cure all her demons.

Frenzy - A serial killer, a rapist-strangler, is on the loose in London. In a twist, Hitchcock reveals the identity of the killer (Barry Foster) early on in the film. The audience must helplessly watch and wonder if the hero, Richard Blaney, played by Jon Finch, will be blamed for the crime and the real villain go scot-free.
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

getting ready for halloween

This balloon was just too cute to resist.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

one of the advantages to being in a battleground state ...

... is that the Prez has been visiting a lot more often recently. The kid will be accompanying me to this event. A real-life civics lesson.


What is especially fun about this one is that there is seating for all. We both enjoyed attending last month's rally at the nearby convention center, but that event was standing-room-only for thousands of people. This venue, a tennis center, may fit the same amount of people, but it should be easier to see and hear the President with stadium seating. Last time the kid had trouble seeing over people's heads.

We'll be seeing President Obama exactly two weeks before Election Day (and the day after the last debate at nearby Boca Raton).
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Friday, October 19, 2012

evenings with cary grant

Article first published as Book Review: Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best by Nancy Nelson on Blogcritics.

Applause Theatre & Cinema Books has recently released a new paperback edition of Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best
. Grant's widow Barbara and his daughter Jennifer have contributed family photos and items from Grant's personal papers to help author Nancy Nelson create a collage-like portrait of the classic film star.

Cary Grant: "The only good thing about acting in movies is that there's no heavy lifting."
Born Archibald Alexander "Archie" Leach in 1904, Grant didn't know his mother. His father had her committed to a mental institution for profound depression when Archie was nine. It was believed she had never gotten over the death of Archie's older brother John, for which she blamed herself. Grant always thought she was dead, and didn't discover she was still alive until she contacted him, in 1935, when he was already a success in Hollywood.

Archie's father remarried and his young son left school and joined the Bob Pender Stage Troupe as a stilt walker. With his father's permission he traveled with them to America at the age of 16. When their engagement was over, instead of returning with the troupe to England, he stayed in New York and tried his hand at vaudeville. This soon led to work on the stage, and then Broadway, and ultimately a trip to Hollywood in 1931. After Mae West personally selected him as her leading man in two films, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel, the newly renamed Cary Grant was set as a leading man.

In 1936 his contract with Paramount was up, and Cary didn't want to renew. He took a great risk, but luckily found himself still in demand as an independent actor. He was the first actor to leave the studio system and go independent.
Peter Bogdonavich: "He became responsible for his material and formed the arc of his career, shaping his own movie persona, in a way that Cagney or Bogart or Cooper or Tracy was not free to do."
There are many anecdotes in Evenings With Cary Grant that cover the most famous films of Grant career, including Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and his four films with Alfred Hitchcock — Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch A Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). Always the gentleman, Grant steadfastly refused to pick favorites, in any of his films or leading ladies.

Alfred Hitchcock: "Cary's the only actor I ever loved in my whole life."
From the many stories told in the book it seems that at least in his youth, Grant would fall deeply in love very quickly with a woman and want to make things permanent. If there was any hesitation or obstacle to marriage on the woman's part they would find that he would move on just as quickly. He became seriously involved with actress Mary Brian in 1935 and they talked about marriage.
Mary Brian: "But he was torn between devoting all his time to his career and committing to marriage. I thought he should make up his mind. I felt the time was not right for him to marry. So I went to New York, where I did a couple of Shubert shows and stayed eight or nine months. We had been seeing one another for about a year and a half, and I wanted a full commitment. When I came home, he was going with Phyllis Brooks."
Nelson has pieced together quotes from Grant and many, many of his colleagues to tell the (mostly) chronological story of how he rose from his humble beginnings in England to becoming the number one box office male star in Hollywood. So many people who knew him well, and who are well-known to the public offer Nelson and the reader their impressions of Grant: Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Louis Jourdan, Billy Wilder, Loretta Young, Burt Reynolds, Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, and Quincy Jones, just to name a few. Also included is a foreword (and ostensibly a blessing on the project) from Grant's fifth wife, Barbara, and his only child, his daughter Jennifer Grant.

1966, the year Jennifer was born, was obviously the best year of Grant's life. He absolutely doted on his only child, and even when his marriage to her mother, actress Dyan Cannon, fell apart soon after her birth, he remained cordial. He retired from the movies to devote himself to Jennifer. If Cannon was acting in a touring stage production, he followed along to be near Jennifer. He even helped his ex-wife get the part in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969), as he knew it would help her career--and help keep Jennifer close to him.

Through the many anecdotes and quotes that Nelson assembles the reader learns not only about Grant, but about his friends and colleagues, like Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hughes, and Katherine Hepburn. Although Evenings With Cary Grant is more of a tribute than a detailed biography, from the Rashomon-like recollections of pivotal moments in his career a real sense of the man comes through. Grant was a complex individual who was grateful for his career and success, but was always striving to discover his true essence.
Cary Grant: "If I can understand how I became who I am, I can use that to shape my life in the future. I want to live in reality. Dreams aren't for me."
A man with an insatiable curiosity, Grant became a devotee of LSD experimentation in his quest for inner peace. Nelson documents how his third wife Betsy Drake introduced Grant to LSD therapy, as well as his friends' positive and negative opinions about his forays with the drug.

Evenings With Cary Grant is a thoroughly enjoyable look into the life of one of the biggest stars to have ever come out of Hollywood. Grant and his movies are still widely enjoyed today, and this selection of quotes from the actor and his contemporaries is a wonderful glimpse into Hollywood's glittering past.

Images from top: Archie Leach in Hollywood, Cary Grant at the peak of his stardom, Grant with newborn daughter Jennifer.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

the duchess georgiana — a modern 18th century woman

Keira Knightley is very good in The Duchess as Georgiana Spencer, the Duchess of Devonshire. When the film came out in 2008 apparently much was made of her distant relationship to Diana, Princess of Wales, who was her great-great-grandniece. But Georgiana's life is so interesting that modern parallels are unnecessary.

When we first see Georgiana she is seventeen, very young and very excited to become a duchess. She thinks herself a fairy princess. But the reality sets in almost immediately. Her husband the duke, played by Ralph Fiennes, is a lot older, and not at all wiser. He may be of the highest nobility, but he he is also a rough and tumble personality type, who thinks far mor of his dogs than any humans he might encounter. He views Georgiana only as a tool to provide him with an heir. Like so many royal wives before her, she disappoints him with a daughter, and then ... another.

Keira Knightley in The Duchess, from 18th century blog. The exquisite costumes were designed by Michael O'Connor

Lady Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, by Thomas Gainsborough, National Portrait Gallery, London

The disappointed Georgiana finds an outlet in politics. The dull Duke can't keep up with the erudite dinner table conversations that include some of the leading political thinkers of the day, but Georgiana can. She quickly becomes the symbol and the darling of the Whig Party, holding salons and hostessing other events including such illustrious Whigs as Thomas Gainsborough, who painted her portrait several times; the politician Charles James Fox; and the playwright Richard Sheridan. Through these salons she met Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), the future Prime Minister of England, and the Earl behind the Grey tea we drink. They embarked on an affair, and Georgiana gave birth to a daughter that Grey had his parents raise as his younger sister.
Georgiana, "I have many faults, as you well know. Not least among them is my ability to draw attention. Perhaps we could use that to our advantage."
In The Duchess Georgiana lives the18th century equivalent of the life of a rockstar. She throws wild parties, drinks, gambles, and takes drugs, trying to assert her independence from the Duke. But even with all of this extreme behavior she is also a devoted mother, who, shocking for the time and her status, insists on nursing her own children. She even loves an illegitimate daughter of the Duke who is thrust upon her early in the marriage, as the Duke says, for her to "practice" her mothering skills.

The Duke isn't faithful and doesn't even sugarcoat his indiscretions, as maids brazenly sneak in and out of their marital bed. Georgiana accepts the status quo until he goes after her best and only female friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster (Hayley Atwell).
Lady Elizabeth Foster, " ... the Duke of Devonshire must be the only man in England not in love with his wife."
Lady Elizabeth, or Bess, as she was known, was introduced to the Duke by Georgiana, and suddenly it appeared that maybe the Duke could actually care for someone — just not his wife. He moves her into their home and the three lived together for 25 years, with Bess having two children, a boy and a girl, by the Duke. Georgiana also finally gave the Duke the son he was hoping for in 1790. The Duke and Bess eventually married, after Georgiana's death in 1806 at the age of 48.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, with Lady Elizabeth Foster, by Jean-Urbain Guérin, painting on ivory, circa 1791

This has always been one of my favorite paintings by one of my favorite painters, Thomas Gainsborough, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, 1783. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I was so captivated by this film and Knightley's performance that I picked up the book, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and am looking forward to learning even more about this original and independent 18th century woman.

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