Friday, February 22, 2013

The Skinny -- Eve Arden and Cover Girl

Who, me?
We Blackbird girls watch a lot of classic films. Robert Osborne is our hero. We live for technicolor, and die for black and white.  It's not uncommon for one of us to mutter to the other some obscure line from an old movie -- to the confusion of the people around us.  There was a time when, out of curiosity, I asked everyone I came across to tell me where the line, "Moses supposes his toeses are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously," comes from.  And then I was shocked when no one knew.  It's "Singin' in the Rain," people!  Isn't that required viewing?

Alas, no.  I thought people were just born with an appreciation for Gene Kelly movies, but they're not.  So therefore, I sometimes feel like I'm privy to a wonderful secret weapon -- an endless chain of inspiration and ideas.  And I'll share it with you, dear readers.  Beyond the wonderful acting and storytelling, classic movies' sets and costuming are chock full of ideas for the taking.  Want to decorate your house? Want to see some amazing clothing?  Just turn the TV to TCM and leave it there.

So, speaking of Gene Kelly movies, how many of you have seen "Cover Girl?"  Yeah, yeah, Rita Hayworth is gorgeous.  Gene is as sexy as he ever is as Danny McGuire...maybe even more than usual.  But who do we talk about?  Eve Arden.  Know her?  Of course, you do -- you know her as the principal of Rydell High in "Grease."  But when we think of Eve Arden we think of two movies -- "Stage Door" (fab movie, too, with Lucille Ball, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Ann Miller) and "Cover Girl".

Yeah, I know I'm the shizzle.
Eve Arden's career was wide-ranging, from movies to radio to theater to television, and spanned almost 60 years. She played the title roles in "Hello, Dolly" and "Auntie Mame" on the stage, and had many movie roles, like "Grease", "At the Circus" (with Groucho Marx), and "Mildred Pierce" (for which she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar).  Her largest body of work was for "Our Miss Brooks", a radio program from 1948 to 1957, a feature film in 1956, and a television program from 1952 to 1956, about a teacher.  She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- one for radio and one for television.

Let's get back to "Cover Girl", though.  Made in 1944, Arden plays Cornelia "Stonewall" Jackson, assistant to magazine publisher, John Coudair.  Coudair sees Rusty (Rita) at Danny's (Gene's) nightclub, and remembers his long ago love for her grandmother, Maribelle (also Rita).  Drama ensues.  Cornelia perfectly captures the character of the often put-upon, ill-used, overworked assistant with a witty comeback for everything.  Personally, I think she steals every scene she's in -- if it's not her zingers, it's her FABULOUS wardrobe. Designed by Travis Banton, Muriel King, and Gwen Wakeling, all of the costumes in this movie are crazy awesome. But Cornelia's costumes, combined with her amazing accessories, are our favorites.  Brooches, hats, large Lucite ball buttons (be still my heart!), bracelets, and color.  Lots of color.

Yay, Eve!

That's how I think of Eve Arden.  Colorful.  Bold.  With her signature voice (think deep, raspy), and her smart-ass comebacks, she puts the "character" in "character actor".  She may be a background character, but she's memorable.  And she's got the personality to carry off the costumes.  I mean, it takes quite the lady to pull off those hats in the movie -- and not just anyone can wear three large brooches and a chunky bracelet and those huge ball buttons on her jacket!

I need those Lucite balls!

So, if you haven't seen it, you should.  Put it on your calendar -- I checked, and it's coming on Turner Classic Movies on April 7th, at 1:30 pm.  We'll be watching it...

Notice the matching buttons, bowtie, and hat.  <swoon>
John Coudair:  What would you do if your youth should walk in that door?
Cornelia "Stonewall" Jackson:  I'd put braces on its teeth.

You've never seen "Cover Girl"???
I need another brooch!!
They should pay me more...

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