“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (1993) by Nirvana
“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (1993) by Nirvana
A friend of mine is going through a classic Hollywood phase. He’s adoring them pictures of oldschool actors in black and white films, most especially Montgomery Clift. I’m not gay, like my friend, but I gotta admit, that gaze on Monty – phew! – good looking fulla!
Those classic Hollywood stars, say from 1964 backwards, looked gorgeous in sepia, and to a degree represented that long gone innocence: old style acting; no action sequences; no special effects; when men were men; and women were women. They were pretty god dam awesome!
And musicians have adored those times too, by writing songs about those gods and goddesses of yore:
* “Bette Davis Eyes” (1981) by Kim Carnes
Let’s start with the very best. Those eyes that can simultaneously look alluring, innocent, candid and vicious – without doubt, the most significant actress of that era.
* “Just Like Fred Astaire” by (1999) James
Today, being a dancer has become one of the least desirable vocations for men, along with being a flight attendant or a proctologist. Other than Fred, and even Gene Kelly, I can’t for the life of me think of a famous male dancer. Oh, wait. Patrick Swayze was a dancer. There’s those Russian names I really don’t know too much about. And of course there’s Channing Tatum, did you know
* “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” (2011) by REM
Like everyone else I thought it was a great obituary to the great actor. But knowing Stipe, having to listen closer, it was more a great self-obituary for the great band itself. They planned this to be their final album. And it was.
* “Yul Brynner Was a Skinhead” (1987) by Toy Dolls
The most exotic looking actor during that age. He kinda looked Latino, Jewish, Caucasian, Turkish and Asian all at the same time, which he used to get many, many roles. Or in retrospect (post hoc ergo propter hoc), did he always look Caucasian and it was the various exotic roles that made him look foreign? My brain hurts.
* “Lee Van Cleef” (2011) by Primus
He made a brilliant career outta that face – unique, angular, piercing and always looked better under Sergio Leone’s oppressive sun. Not bad for a guy who used to be an accountant.
* “James Dean” (1974) by the Eagles
How cool was this guy? Even when watching him during a class of FILM 101, fifty years later, the girls in the back row still swoon. The whiff of hair, the sensual glum look and, unfortunately, that die-young attitude.
* “Errol Flynn” (1989) by the Dogs D’Amour
One fact I know of Errol is that he told everyone he was Irish, rather than the truth of being from down under. And I don’t blame him. America at that time really didn’t know that people south of the equator existed. But since, he’s become the first Hollywood icon from our part of the world.
* “Peter Lorre” (1986) by the Jazz Butcher
If Bette’s were alluring, Peter’s were droopingly innocent. Both pairs have really caricaturized both actors.
* “Clark Gable” (2003) by the Postal Service
Don’t get guys who look like this anymore. The Tom Selleck moustache was fashionable for a time, but Hollywood no longer accepts lip-hair as attractive. I guess you could say that fashion is now, gone …. with … the … wind! Thank you.
* “Charlton Heston” (1988) by Stump
I thought Arnold Schwarzenegger was the turning point in male leads becoming less ‘Astaire’ and more buff. But it was actually Heston. I didn’t know workout regimes existed during that era. Have you seen ‘Planet of the Apes’? Motherfucker was cut!
* “Grace Kelly Blues” (2000) by the Eels
Love how this song cuts between the pomp and ceremony military march (reflecting Grace’s royal European life) back to that Country guitar and pedal steel (reflecting her humble American origins.) What a lucky life she led.
* When researching this entry, only one star had his two titled name come up most often. His coolness managed to influence the entire music spectrum, from pop rocker, Sheryl Crow, electronic Frenchmen, M83, post-punks, The Automatic, cowpunks, Drive-By Truckers, Alternative act, Lambchop, psychedelic hippies, Quicksilver Messenger Service, jazzy funksters, the Stance Brothers and the new romantics, Adam and The Ants – “Steve McQueen”!
* “Stay Away From Robert Mitchum” (1993) by April March
Probably my personal favourite (Fonda comes second) because Mitchum’s antiheroes were incredibly edgy for that era: from serial killing priest Harry Powell to alcoholic JP Harrah to his eerie performance of paedophile Max Cady – incredibly creepy for a 1962 film.
* “Mary Pickford” (2007) by Katie Melua
Exactly one hundred years ago today, she turned up on the scene! The first bonafide film star! But she wasn’t just a pretty face. She also produced, wrote and even directed a film. An all-round visionary that helped establish how this novel industry would supposed to work and the first to become the most truly powerful woman in it.
* “Marie Provost” (1978) by Nick Lowe
If Pickford was the first star, Marie would be the first tragedy. She was shut out when the ‘Talkies’ came in, was bankrupt and would finally succumb to alcoholism. And to insinuate the tragedy even more, Nick misspelt her name to suggest no one would remember her – it’s actually ‘PrEvost.’
* “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (1979) by Bauhaus
“Pull the strink! Pull the strink!”
* “Frank Sinatra” (1997) by Cake
I love that rumour about Ol’ Blue Eyes. A record producer didn’t wanna sign him, so one of Lucky Luciano’s henchmen put a gun to the producer’s head and said either his brains or his signature would be on Frank’s contract (that allegory from ‘The Godfather.’) Who knows if it really happened. It may even be unwarranted, because Frank’s talent, in its own right, was undeniable. Did you know he could sustain a note while inhaling at the same time? That’s amazing! In fact, that could just be a rumour too.
* “Me and Barbara Stanwyck” (2006) by Lolas
This is where the Femme Fatale all began. Before Sharon Stone in ‘Basic Instinct’; Before Mrs.Robinson; Before Megan Fox in ‘Jennifer’s Body’. But no one did as graciously as Barbara.
* “Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor” (1999) by Joan of Arc
Ay-ya-yai! What a beautiful woman she was! Sure, Monroe always tops the sexiest lists, but there was something about this beautiful brunette I was always found far more stunning: slight lips, round hips, nice …
* “He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now” (1987) by Deacon Blue
The closest my grandfather ever looked to anyone was definitely Spencer. Both of them had that large, weathered face with that mile long jaw. That’s why this song holds a special place in my heart … for both men.
* “John Wayne is Big Leggy” (1982) by Haysi Fantayzee
We know he was a man’s man. We know he was tough. We know he’d take no shit from no one. That’s why I’m positive if he saw the ludicrously dressed New Wave members of Haysi Fantayzee dancing around him like that, he’d knock their lights out. Even if one of them was a woman.
* “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” (1993) by Nirvana
When I first read the title, I imagined her as a 300 foot giant, like in a Japanese movie, come to destroy her hometown, tossing the Space Needle into the Park Place Market. Only after reading about her did I realise her life was just as shocking.
… … … Greta Garbo, and Monroe / Deitrich and DiMaggio / Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean / On the cover of a magazine /