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Norma Shearer


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While there have been no announcement for a Shearer set, Warner Bros has said they will be opening up the floodgates with her films. Nobe of her movies have been "dvd ready" and need a lot of restoration. They recently found the original camera negative for Romeo & Juliet, so that should be coming down the pike soon. They also said they would be releasing her pre-codes (The Divorcee, Strangers May Kiss, A Free Soul), a few of her silents, and I would imagine they will be releasing Marie Antoinette sice it's the most voted film not on dvd here on TCM.

If they do decide to turn this into a Shearer set, I would hope they would include The Barretts of Wimpole Street (long out of print), Smilin' Through, and Idiot's Delight.


Hope this has helped you.

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One Norma Shearer feature that rarely gets mentioned is "Strange Interlude" with a very youthful Clark Gable -- I believe based one of Eugene O'Neill's early plays. While I've only seen it once (some years ago), it definitely left an impression. Quite haunting, in a way.


Perhaps Norma's sumptuous "Marie Antoinette" will finally receive a DVD debut now that Sofia Coppola's critically maligned updating is making headlines in Cannes...? When that finally does hit the shelves, there absolutely must be a DVD featurette on Adrian's eye-popping period costumes.


My favorite Shearer vehicle of all remains "Idiot's Delight," though. As Gavin Lambert said in his brilliant biography of Norma...Of all her films this one was "so unexpected." And Gavin, lucky devil, got to sit right next to Miss Shearer - in a MGM projection room, no less - as they watched it together! Talk about the ultimate fan experience!

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It's hard to believe there isn't an Adrian featurette out there already, but I searched my collection and didn't come upon one. The Metropolitan Museum put on a retrospective of his work some years ago. It was an interesting show, especially the section concerning the war years and how his genius helped him around the many restrictions that rationing of fabric caused. Clips of the fashion sequences in The Women and Lovely To Look At were shown. You can see a quick snippet of Adrian at work, by the way, in the short subject, Hollywood: Sytle Center of the World that's included as supplemental material on The Women DVD.


Idiot's Delight was shown on TCM a couple of weeks ago, and I was knocked out by it once again. What a sparkling effort! That's a DVD to own.


With respect to the reception of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, I'd heard that the audience gave it a mixed reaction. My impression was that the French were offended by her version of their history and booed, but that others in the audience appreciated it and applauded. Perhaps the applause came from the Hollywood contingent...

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I too loved Idiot's Delight! But, I really love Strange Interlude. It probably won't make it into any collection because it was so very "strange." With the audible thought processes going on, I think it was ahead of it's time. The first time I saw it I was really taken aback. I never saw a movie from that early era with such depth of characterization. Hearing what they thought?! I don't know how new audiences would take to it. I remember once years ago at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, audiences laughed at Garbo's death scene in Camille! They would undoubtedly laugh at the vocalized thoughts.


As to Marie Antoinette, I think Kirsten Dunst is ok most of the time, but far too diminutive to play such an astounding role. It needs a Glenn Close or Faye Dunaway, who are both out of the picture at their ages. I can't think of anyone now who could carry it off, and I wonder why it was even attempted. Norma is the only one I can imagine in the role. I have tried to think of another who might have done it justice, Garbo, Davis, Hepburn? No, Norma was it.


And speaking of designers, I love Travis Banton's clothes in any movie. The Devil is a Woman, Shanghai Express, Lillian Russell, Cleopatra, My Man Godfrey were all fantastic. OF COURSE, Adrian is the undisputed sovereign, and Garbo his muse.

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Naturally, I woud've thought that there would've been an Adrian feature on the Crawford set since that was his biggest patron, but there might be one on the Harlow or on the Shearer films. I have a lovely coffee table book on him and his gorgeous creations called Gowns by Adrian. My mother and I looked through the book to see which contemporary stars could wear his creations.

One thing I've wondered is where is Norma's Best Actress Oscar?? It would be nice if it was donated to the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, & Sciences. I watched the featurette on The Women and it makes me want all those movies that they show trailers for. I know during that time, the studios did a lot of war propagando films and it would be nice for them to package some together for a promotion just so we could get Escape on DVD. I love watching the trailer on here so I can see Norma give Conrad Veidt that speech.

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You know Strange Interlude was a very famous play at the time that MGM made the movie, right? It's a Eugene O'Neill play that premiered on Broadway in 1928. It was avant-garde theatre at the time. When it headed to Boston in 1929, Mayor Nichols prohibited the production, so it moved to a suburb where crowds flocked to see it. For the movie, a lot of the inner dialogue was trimmed; but still audiences knew from its notoriety what they were getting into. It's still occassionally revived as a play, and Glenda Jackson did it in the 1980's in a production that was televised on PBS.


I love Kirsten Dunst, but must admit that I was also suprised she was cast in this role. I'll be interested to see what she does with it...


Have you read Edith Head's biography? The book claims that Travis Banton was an alchoholic who rarely made it to the studio and that Miss Head actually designed many of the famous costumes that were credited to Mr. Banton. I believe she was known for taking credit on costumes that others had created though, so who knows what the truth is in these matters?

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Stop writing on bathroom walls...... Save your writing for these forums!!!


I've heard that Edith Head could not draw and that she employed a sketch artist to do her drawings -- ????

Travis Banton usually just 'dressed' the biggys, like Claudette, Marlene, Lombard and Edith started out designing for ones that hadn't made it big yet.

Once they became name stars, they continued to call on her and not him. I have heard that he drank and was tempermental (a bitchy queen, were words used to describe him). He died in the fifties from smoking too much.




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Claudette Colbert had trouble working with Travis Banton, Edith Head, and other studio costume designers at Paramount. The daughter of a dressmaker, she was very critical of others' designs for her. Eventually Sophie Gimbel, her offscreen designer, became her on-screen designer as well.

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One more thought on the subject of great costumers...


Cecil Beaton only designed rarely for films but when he did the costumes were almost always exquisite visual masterpieces...


Leslie Caron's swan-like gown for "Gigi"...

Audrey Hepburn decked out like a goddess (after Eliza is transformed) in "My Fair Lady" (not to mention the entire Ascot Gavotte ensemble)

Barbra Streisand's exotic turban and beaded gown in the regression sequences of

"On A Clear Day You Can See Forever."

Every one of his designs are indelible knockouts.


Did anybody see the (dare I mention that other channel) superb AMC documentary called "Tarnished Sequins, Tattered Dreams" hosted by Angela Basset in about 2000? It was an excellent exploration of Golden Age costume design, restoration and preservation. The long, tortured history of one divine Travis Banton-created number for Marlene Dietrich in "Angel" is featured. It depicts how after Dietrich wore the gown (to stunning effect) in her vehicle, that the same costume was then mutilated, recycled and "updated" for other pictures until it was virtually unrecognizable. That particular story has a happy ending as restoration efforts were underway at the time of the documentary to save that costume and a striking white-beaded number that La Bette wore in "Marked Woman."

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