“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Leonardo da Vinci. Somehow I don’t think he had beauty routines or vanity tables in mind when he said this but you never know. He was a Renaissance man, after all.
I recently found a new product that’s really rather captivating in its simplicity, Bulgari’s Jasmin Noir body cream. The plain black jar, minimally adorned with a single gold band, catches the eye. The rich, yet light, cream is a joy to use, keeps skin summer-soft and eliminates the need for any other fragrance.
Earlier this week, I slathered some on after a shower and then dashed out the door for a blowout. “You smell fantastic. What is that?” Nava, the stylist, asked me as she washed my hair. Leaning back, with my feet up, it was the perfect way to relish the feeling of well being and pampering.
Bulgari says it was drawn to jasmine for its “intriguing ambivalence and complexity,” noting that the flower’s scent changes hour by hour. “At dawn, the translucent white flower has a fresh and delicate scent, then at midday it releases a citrusy fragrance that recalls orange blossoms, which then transforms in the evening into the characteristically warmer, more seductive notes.”
Perfect for a femme fatale, no? Also available: soap, bath & shower gel, body lotion and perfume. Bulgari’s Jasmin Noir Body Cream is $90 for 6.9 ounces. To buy it, visit Neiman Marcus.
Best of all, I have an extra jar for this month’s reader giveaway! To enter, just leave a comment on any FNB post, June 1-30. The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early July. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared. (The winner of the April giveaway has been selected and contacted.)
Product Source: Bulgari has provided a product for review and a product to give away to a reader. I did not receive compensation.
In “The Damned Don’t Cry,” which is full of sharp dialogue, this line cuts to the chase. Jacqueline DeWit asks Joan Crawford: “What else do we got to sell but a face and figure? And anyone who can make a peplum move like you do don’t need anything else.”
DeWit’s Sandra, a model by day and escort by night, briefly takes Crawford’s character, Ethel Whitehead, under her wing as Ethel learns to fend for herself in New York City. But, in addition to her modeling ability, Ethel has brains and ambition in spades and she soon surpasses Sandra to become the ultimate hard-as-nails femme fatale in this classic Crawford film noir.
Like many femmes fatales, Ethel has humble roots. A downtrodden housewife with a cranky husband (Richard Egan), she eventually rises to the top of a national crime syndicate and lives the high life – travel, the best restaurants, a great apartment, a closet full of swanky clothes. Key to her climb is cultivating contacts such as mild-mannered accountant Martin Blackford (Kent Smith). Ethel is impressed by the letters CPA after his name, even though she’s not quite sure what they mean.
Martin helps her gain entry into the world of tough but urbane George Castleman (David Brian), the leader of the syndicate. “I like men with brains,” Ethel tells George. Finding him far more impressive than number-crunching Marty, she shows up at his office the next day, proves she’s as gutsy as he is and gets a job with his racket. Never one to think twice about mixing business and pleasure, Ethel seals the deal with a kiss.
A quick study, Ethel devotes herself to the syndicate, then takes on a new identity. With polished and distinguished Patricia Longworth (Selena Royle) guiding her, Ethel transforms herself into wealthy socialite Lorna Hansen Forbes. It’s Ethel’s equivalent of an MBA.
But her toughest assignment is when George asks her for some due diligence on gangster Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran). Despite her new name, old habits die hard and Ethel/Lorna falls for Prenta. Naturally, it’s only a matter of time before George susses her out and decides to set things straight.
With its A-list performances, crackling script, crisp pace and striking cinematography by Ted McCord, “The Damned Don’t Cry,” is an ideal noir vehicle for Crawford. The movie is based on an original story by Gertrude Walker; Harold Medford and novelist Jerome Weidman and wrote the script. Also fodder for the story was the real-life affair of Virginia Hill and gangster Bugsy Siegel. The title comes from a line in “Mourning Becomes Electra” by Eugene O’Neill. More
The Man Who Wasn’t There/2001/Good Machine, et al/116 min.
What would life be without a dark and handsome companion at night? One I highly recommend is “The Man Who Wasn’t There” by master filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. This homage to vintage film noir, gorgeously shot in black and white by cinematographer Roger Deakins, conjures a guy you’ll always remember.
Set in 1949, the film introduces us to a choice cast of characters. Top of the list is introspective and blasé Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton), who has fallen into a comfortable, if dull, life in Santa Rosa, Calif. He’s fond of his wife Doris (Frances McDormand), both cynical and oddly sweet, but there’s never been any passion between them.
To earn a living, Ed cuts hair with his brother-in-law Frank (Michael Badalucco) at the family barbershop. (“I don’t talk much,” Ed tells us. “I just cut the hair.”) Doris is a bookkeeper at Nirdlinger’s, the town’s big department store, and together they have it “made” – after all, Ed points out dryly, they have a garbage grinder built into the sink.
When he’s not working or tossing scraps down their fancy drain, Ed kills time mainly by smoking and taking care of Doris after she’s had too much to drink, which is quite often. Doris passes the hours of their lives by playing bingo and having an affair with her boss at Nirdlinger’s, Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini), a blustery WW2 vet. Dave’s married to Ann Nirdlinger (Katherine Borowitz), whose family owns the store. Ed knows about the affair but, as he does with everything, takes it in stride.
Ed’s life changes forever the day that unctuous big-mouth businessman Creighton Tolliver (Jon Polito) walks into the barbershop as it’s about to close, gets a very quick trim and happens to mention that he’s in town trying to raise money to invest in drycleaning, which he’s convinced is “the biggest business opportunity since Henry Ford.”
Ed decides later that night that he wants in on the putative drycleaning empire and figures he can raise the requisite $10,000 by anonymously blackmailing Dave. No sooner does Ed get the cash than Tolliver takes off with it. And because Tolliver is so quick to bend ears and beg for money, Dave gets to the bottom of the blackmail scheme and intends to get his money back.
What Dave doesn’t count on is that Ed’s mild facade hides nerves of cold steel; when cornered, Ed’s response to him is quick, instinctive and deadly. But, after news breaks of Doris and Dave’s affair, Doris is arrested for Dave’s murder.More
Four days of devouring big-screen classics has left me deliciously sated! At least until my next film fest.
About 25,000 people attended this year’s sold-out TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, which featured more than 70 films and special events. Stars who made appearances included Julie Andrews, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Warren Beatty, Leslie Caron, Kirk Douglas, Angela Lansbury, Hayley Mills, Peter O’Toole, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney.
Before the screening of 1940’s “Fantasia,” in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Sunday night, TCM’s Bob Osborne announced that there will be a third fest in 2012. He also announced a new event: the TCM Classic Cruise, Dec. 8-12, 2011, a five-day/four-night event aboard Celebrity Millennium. The cruise will sail from Miami to Key West and Cozumel.
Most important for me was getting my noir fix and, happily, dark delights abounded. For example, there was the chance to see Nicholas Ray’s “Bigger Than Life” with James Mason as a teacher struggling with an addiction to prescription cortisone. As co-star Barbara Rush told Osborne before the screening, this 1956 psychological drama has been programmed in several film noir festivals “because it’s so dark and so scary.”
As you’d expect from Ray, it’s very well done and the performances are excellent. Despite telling the audience that she was “very old,” Rush is very lively. When Osborne asked her to talk about her leading men, she replied, “I had them all!”
Another noir high point was meeting the charming Marya of Cinema_Fanatic and chatting with renowned author Foster Hirsch at the screening of 1953’s “Niagara,” directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Marilyn Monroe (as a murderous wife), Joseph Cotten (as her off-kilter husband) and Jean Peters (as a plucky, pretty brunette). Hirsch told the audience that film noir can absolutely be in color, describing “Niagara” both as a “minor masterpiece” and a “pulp-fiction paperback come to life.”
He pointed out the contrast in lighting between the bright exteriors and dark interiors, ending with the comment: “If you’ve come for laughs and joyous uplift, you’ve come to the wrong place.”
Also a treat was seeing “The Man with the Golden Arm” from 1955. Adapted from a Nelson Algren novel, it’s a story about drug addiction in a gritty urban setting, by master noir director Otto Preminger. I’d seen it before but, as with “Niagara,” the big screen really intensifies the storytelling. It is definitely Frank Sinatra’s best performance and one of Kim Novak’s finest as well. In attendance were Preminger’s daughter Vicki Preminger and Sinatra’s daughters Nancy Sinatra and Tina Sinatra. Rounding out the noir programming were “The Third Man” (Carol Reed, 1950), “Gaslight” (George Cukor, 1944) and “Taxi Driver” (Martin Scorsese, 1976).
Other films with noir elements included Orson Welles’ masterpiece “Citizen Kane” (1941), “The Tingler” (1959), “The Mummy” (1932), “Went the Day Well (1942) and “Whistle Down the Wind (1961). (I saw all but “Kane,” which I’ve seen several times before.)
The festival also honored master composer Bernard Herrmann, who scored “Citizen Kane” and “Taxi Driver” as well as “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” “Cape Fear” and many others.
On the neo-noir front, I’ll be excited to see Cinemax’s upcoming “Femme Fatales” anthology series “about powerful, sexy and dangerous women” starring Ana Alexander and Anya Monzikova, both of whom walked the fest’s red carpet to promote show.
The first of 13 stand-alone episode starts May 13 and I hope to catch up with the actresses sometime soon.
Jean Harlow may have been the first of the movie blonde bombshells, but her sharp, saucy screen persona was quite a ways removed from that of her sublime successor, Marilyn Monroe.
Brassier and earthier than Monroe, Harlow was a bouncy sexpot who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it: a streetwise babe who lived in the real world and knew just how to manipulate it to her advantage. Harlow, like Monroe, had a baby-talk mode, but it was more clearly a put-on. Harlow’s juvenile antics, her “Daddy’s girl” banter with sugar daddies like beefy Wallace Beery let the audience firmly in on the joke.
Marilyn, or at least her screen persona, often seemed more like a little girl in a woman’s body, a blonde baby doll who never quite grew up, and often lived in a world all her own. Marilyn on screen, in some ways, is always a fantasy. Harlow on screen is usually real. Very real.
In the new TCM/Warner Home Video “Greatest Classics Legends: Jean Harlow” set, Harlow holds her own with the elite of MGM’s acting royalty — with the Barrymores(John and Lionel), and with Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, and classy supporting players like Billie Burke, May Robsonand C. Aubrey Smith, and even with the young James Stewart.
Holds her own? She’s a star, even in a roomful of stars. This Jean Harlow set includes the following four films.
“Dinner at Eight” (George Cukor, 1933) An MGM all-star special and in some ways, a better movie than the studio’s talent-studded “Grand Hotel” — wittier, more knowing, with a deeper, stronger cast, and more beautifully directed, by Cukor. David O. Selznick was the producer, and the source was the hit Broadway play by Edna Ferberand George S. Kaufman, with the screenplay and additional dialogue from Herman Mankiewicz, Donald Ogden Stewart and Frances Marion.
The play is classic. The script is brilliant. The direction and production are impeccable. The stellar cast, one of the all-time great Hollywood ensembles, includes Lionel Barrymoreas the beleaguered shipbuilder Oliver Jordan and Billie Burke as his fluttery society wife, who’s holding a dinner (at eight) for British aristocrats Lord and Lady Ferncliffe.
On her guest list: Old-time diva actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler); washed-up alcoholic Hollywood actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore, in an astounding piece of self-revelation and a classic of the actor‘s art), who’s romancing their twentyish daughter Paula (Madge Evans); voracious business shark Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his feisty platinum-blonde trophy wife Kitty (Harlow, in one of her best roles); smooth society doctor (and Kitty’s lover) Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) and his tolerant wife (Karen Morley); and Paula’s hapless society beau (Phillips Holmes).
I’ve often thought that playwright Garson Kanin may have gotten the idea for “Born Yesterday” while watching Beery and Harlow in this film. In fact, she’s great with all her co-stars. A classic Harlow-Dressler moment is this exchange:
In the last scene, as they stroll in for dinner, Harlow muses, in a thoughtfully brassy way, “I was reading a book yesterday …”
Dressler: “Reading a book?”
Harlow: “Yes, it’s all about civilization or something, a nutty kind of a book. You know, the guy said that machinery is going to take the place of every profession! ”
Dressler, as she takes Harlow’s arm: “Oh, my dear, that’s something you need never worry about!”
It couldn’t be bettered. And neither could the movie, which, in some ways, is less another “Grand Hotel,” and more in the line of Jean Renoir’sgreat ensemble comedy-drama “TheRules of the Game.” Not as good, of course. Nothing is. More
This Gun for Hire/ 1942/ Paramount Pictures/ 80 min.
Veronica Lake in “This Gun for Hire” from 1942 is an angel-food cake kind of femme fatale. Alan Ladd’s stone-faced, yet complex, hitman is a devil, but damn he’s debonair. He also likes cats and kids so it’s hard not to want to cut him some slack.
Lake plays a smart, svelte and stunning nightclub singer/magician named Ellen Graham who’s essentially engaged to amiable and solid cop Michael Crane (Robert Preston). Essentially but not officially engaged because there’s no ring or dress shopping, just some affectionate banter about getting domestic, which means darning his socks and cooking corned beef and cabbage.
But those scenes aren’t exactly sizzling with passion. That’s because of Ladd. It was his first major film and once he was aboard, director Frank Tuttle realized the actor was A-list material and changed the script to give Ladd more prominence. Even though you know Lake and Ladd aren’t going to end up together, there’s a mighty sexy undercurrent between them.
As Ephraim Katz of “The Film Encyclopedia” puts it: “She clicked best at the box office as the screen partner of Alan Ladd in a matchup of cool, determined personalities.” They went on to make six more flicks together, including noir fare “The Glass Key” (1942) and “The Blue Dahlia” (1946).
In this one, Ladd’s character, Philip Raven is on the trail of Los Angeles-based Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) a blubbery, unctuous exec at a chemical company who hires Raven to bump off his colleague, a blackmailing paymaster named Baker (Frank Ferguson). Gates then pays Raven off in stolen cash, a ploy to put him in the hands of the police.
But chemical formulas aren’t really Gates’ thing – on the side, he likes to chomp on peppermints, hang out in nightclubs in LA and San Francisco, and indulge his “vice,” as he calls it, as a part-time impresario. When he sees the head-turning Ellen perform in San Francisco, he’s hooked and invites her to perform at the Neptune Club in LA.
Ellen’s trying to get close to Gates, too, but not just because she craves the spotlight. She’s been recruited by a senator (Roger Imhof) who wants hard evidence that Gates is the Benedict Arnold of 1942, i.e., he’s suspected of selling chemical formulas to the Japanese. It is war time, after all.
So, as Raven tracks down his prey and eludes the police, Ellen juggles her high-minded snooping with sequin-drenched dress rehearsals. Before long, their paths are bound to cross, especially when they board the same train to LA …
Known primarily for musicals and crime dramas, and for naming names to HUAC during Sen. Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror, director Tuttle wasn’t what you’d call an artist or a poet, but he managed to make a top-notch thriller, based on one of Graham Greene’s best crime novels. True, the movie doesn’t do the book justice, but for every one of its 80 minutes, the film is engaging and entertaining.
Tuttle easily balances moody suspense, wholesome romance, patriotic duty and the not-quite-jaded vibe of young performers trying to earn a living at a nightclub. Cinematographer John Seitz (of “Double Indemnity”) lends his elegant eye to the lighting; the scenes of Ladd and Lake on the train and on the run are especially beautiful. Crisp dialogue comes from writers Albert Maltz and W.R. Burnett, a Midwesterner whose stint as a night clerk in a Chicago hotel inspired the 1929 crime novel (and the 1931 film) “Little Caesar” as well as many other novels and screenplays.
Unrepentant and casual about killing for a living, Ladd’s performance is classic noir; it influenced Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samourai” from 1967. Unlike most femme fatales, Ellen Graham isn’t motivated by money or revenge but by doing her part for the war effort. Still, Lake gives us bemused detachment and a glimmer of tenderness; she also helps humanize Raven. And how could you not love her musical numbers and surprisingly modern costumes, especially the sleek black “fishing” garb with thigh-high boots?More
Of the many visual symbols in film noir, the cat is one of the most elegant and expressive. Sitting in a doorway, watching and waiting, or sprawled contentedly on a chaise longue, these haughty creatures convey the quintessential femme fatale attitude: “If I deign to take you on, I’ll win.”
Cats are smart, nimble and fastidious. They spend hours grooming themselves and, unlike dogs, they have no work ethic. Enough said. In between doting on my cat, I’ve done a little research so I can start a new feature on the most famous kitties in film noir.
Bios: “Cats bring you luck,” says Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) in 1942’s “This Gun for Hire.” Raven’s first good-luck charm is The Stray (Fluffy Taylor), a petite, violet-eyed beauty, who wanders through his window first thing in the morning. Despite being a cold-hearted hitman, Raven gives her milk and protects her from the nasty maid, Anna (Pamela Blake).
The second “charm” is a tomcat named Toughie (Tab Burton). But Toughie doesn’t fare as well as The Stray. Philip Raven happens to be a psychopath and he turns on Toughie in a deadly betrayal. Well, maybe the name Raven didn’t bode too well for feline friendship. (Off screen, however, Burton and Ladd were great chums. It was Ladd’s first major movie role and he welcomed Burton’s advice on acting.)
And contrary to some accounts, the feline stars of “This Gun for Hire” never once had a catfight on the set. Just the opposite: While working together on this film, British imports Taylor and Burton fell madly in love. Seven years Burton’s junior, Taylor had been an established star in England since kittenhood.
Burton was born in Wales and studied acting at Oxford University. Following their U.S. debut in “This Gun for Hire,” the pair soon became the “it” couple among Hollywood’s feline set, co-starring in “Catopatra,” “The Taming of the Mew” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Puss?” They were also known for their lavish, jet-set, cream-and-catnip lifestyle.
They married in 1945, divorced in 1955, remarried in 1957 and divorced for a second time in 1962. After they finally parted, Burton’s career faltered and he passed away in 1964. When Burton died, the ever-popular Taylor referred to him as “the love of my life and my very best friend.”
As their close friend Morris once said of them: “He gave her class. She gave him sex.” And they gave each other Fancy Feast Salmon.
Since I still have San Francisco on the brain, my next few reviews will highlight Fog City.
On a cold morning several years ago, my colleague Joe bumped into me at Starbucks and said: “You look like Kim Novak in ‘Vertigo’ in that suit,” referring to my fitted gray jacket and skirt. I’d twisted my hair into the best chignon I could manage pre-coffee using the three hairpins I was able to find on my cluttered bathroom shelf.
I was relieved to put off a shampoo for another day, but never thought my impromptu bun had the added effect of contributing to a Hitchcock-blonde vibe.
Alfred Hitchcock was always extremely fastidious about his leading ladies’ wardrobes and for 1958’s “Vertigo” he and costume designer Edith Head agreed that a gray suit would lend a particularly eerie air to Novak’s character, Madeleine Elster. Though stylish, sophisticated and perfectly appointed, Madeleine seems to be struggling to hold onto her sanity.
Her worried husband Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) taps an old acquaintance and former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) to keep an eye on her. Gavin tells Scottie that Madeleine is tormented by family ghosts and that he’s afraid she’ll commit suicide.
Like Madeline, Scottie is a little delicate too, having recently been treated for his fear of heights, brought on by a nasty bout of vertigo. So, he’s taking it easy and hanging out with his upbeat buddy Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). Reluctant at first, Scottie accepts Gavin’s assignment and, over time, becomes obsessed with saving Madeline, then falls in love with her.
But alas, Scottie can’t provide foolproof protection against her demons because he hasn’t completely conquered his vertigo. After Madeleine takes a fatal tumble, Scottie is inconsolable, until he encounters a shop clerk named Judy Barton (also played by Novak).
Judy bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love, even if she’s less refined and has the wrong hair color. Scottie decides that’s where hair dye and haute couture come in and he sets his sights on transforming this new object of his affection into the spitting image of Madeleine. “It can’t mean that much to you,” Scottie growls at Judy when she balks at bleaching her hair. But the déjà vu does not go according to plan.
“Vertigo”’s surreal, sometimes unsettling exploration of two troubled minds bears Hitchcock’s distinctive stamps: intense but masked emotion, exquisite suspense, altered identity and disguises, and technical innovation – in this case, the use of forward zoom and reverse tracking to depict Scottie’s vertigo. Intense color and meticulous composition heighten our sense of Scottie’s anguish and frustration. Robert Burks, a longtime Hitchcock collaborator, was director of photography.
Though reviews were mixed upon its initial release (critics complained that the plot was far-fetched), “Vertigo” has since been acknowledged as a crowning cinematic achievement. In 2002, “Vertigo” landed the No. 2 spot on the Sight and Sound critics’ top 10 poll, second only to “Citizen Kane.” Leonard Maltin calls it: “A genuinely great motion picture that demands multiple viewings.” More
Even if you’re a makeup minimalist, every femme fatale worth her revolver needs a signature scent to call her own. The holidays are always a great time to see if your perfume collection could use a few new pretty bottles. And of course fragrances make wonderful gifts for fellow vamps and virile fellows when you have an idea of the recipient’s taste. Dig in!
Norell eau de toilette This retro scent reminds me of an old friend of my mother’s who ran her own business, liked to eat Haagen-Dazs Swiss almond vanilla in the middle of the afternoon and always had her nails done in Jungle Red. Norell was one of her favorites in the late ’70s. Notes of musk, vanilla, moss and myrrh meet sassy florals jasmine, rose and ginger lily.
As long as we’re on memory lane, Norell also reminds me of a handsome senior financial editor I used to know who always complimented me when I wore a little Norell behind my ears. It’s a formidable fragrance for a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. $25.49 for 3.3 ounces atTarget
Victoria’s SecretSexy Little Things Noir eau de parfum Winner of the 2009 FiFi fragrance of the year award, this fruity floral blends nectarine, amber and cattleya orchid, according to the company. Put a little of this on and then try not to flirt. It will put you in the mood, period. The black bottle and retro pump with tassel (what a cute gift!) would do Lana Turner proud. $29 for .85 ounces; $39 for 1.7 ounces; $49 for 3.4 ounces
Michael Kors Very Hollywood eau de parfum True, this fragrance is more starlet than Stanwyck, what with its soft feminine notes (mandarin, gardenia and vetiver) and clean, dare I say wholesome, finish. But even tough ladies are tender sometimes and when you feel the need for a light and luscious confection, Very Hollywood should do the job nicely. $45 for 1 ounce eau de parfum; $65 for 1.7 ounces; $85 for 3.4 ounces
Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir cologne Fruity with a smoky edge, this cologne, inspired by a red silk dress and that jewel of the desert, the pomegranate, is sure to bring out your wily side. And Jo Malone’s light singular scents are designed to be used in “the art of fragrance combining.” I like to mix Pomegranate Noir with French Lime Blossom or Vintage Gardenia. I’m also partial to the woody Wild Fig & Cassis, on its own. The black and white packaging is so clean, simple and elegant, Jo Malone is a must on any girl’s vanity table. $55 for 30 ml cologne; $100 for 100 ml cologne
Gucci Guilty eau de toilette “She’s got something on her conscience,” says Raymond Massey in “Woman in the Window” from 1944. “But what woman hasn’t?” Just ask Gucci, maker of this oriental floral fragrance with top notes of pink pepper, a heart note of lilac and base notes of patchouli and amber. Playing on neo-noir appeal, Evan Rachel Wood and ChrisEvans heat up the screen in Gucci Guilty’s commercial, directed by Frank Miller. Mmmm, bring it on! $55 for 30 ml; $75 for 50 ml; $95 for 75 ml
D&G L’Imperatrice eau de toilette Fresh and clean, yet sophisticated, you could wear this just about anywhere. Dolce & Gabbana says the inspiration for this fragrance collection came from personality types. L’Imperatrice stems from The Star: “Flamboyant and energetic, for L’Imperatrice life is a movie and she is its heroine.” Notes are watermelon, kiwi and pink cyclamen with a musky base. $65 for 3.4 ounces
GuerlainL’Heure Bleue (The Blue Hour) eau de toilette, et al “Why do they still make perfumes like Bouquet des Fleurs as if things still happened in flower gardens?” Van Heflin asks Joan Crawford in “Possessed” from 1947. Seductions might not take place in rose gardens any more, but flower power hasn’t diminished one iota.
When Guerlain, another perfumer with a kick-ass pedigree, created this scent in 1912, it was all about flowers. Says Guerlain’s site: “Jacques Guerlain … pictured this bouquet of roses softened with iris, violet and vanilla, which evoke his favorite moment of the day when, as he put it, ‘the night has not yet found its star.’ ”
L’Heure Bleue may be a bit intense for some, but I love its distinctive character. Guerlain L’Heure Bleueeau de toilette, $70 for 1.7 ounces; $97 for 3.1 ounces
And if, as a little girl, you saw a bottle of Shalimar at your grandmother’s house, used a drop and thought, “I’m so glad I’m a girl,” you have Guerlain to thank for that happy moment. Shalimar eau de parfum, $72 for 1 ounce; $95 for 1.7 ounces
Also, ideal for holiday parties: Guerlain’s Or Imperial Sublime Radiant Powder Face & Body – violet-scented iridescent bronzing powder – housed in Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Impériale bottle, $85. Ooh la la …
Tom Ford Private Blend Noir de Noir Eau de Parfum Tom Ford is so brilliant, just wearing something he created makes you feel inspired. Take on the world? Sure, I can do it with my eyes closed. Maybe it’s the sleek clean lines of the brown glass bottle that seem to whisper at dawn, “shoulder pads, darling, and stand up straight!”
And then there’s the delight of inhaling and dabbing the provocative but dignified Noir de Noir on your skin. Designed for the fragrance connoisseur, it’s an oriental with notes of saffron, black rose, black truffle, vanilla, patchouli, oud wood and tree moss.
He had me at black rose. 😉 $190 for 1.7 ounces; $260 for 3.4 ounces; $465 for 8.3 ounces
Bond No. 9 Madison Soiree The company puts it this way: “Ultra-feminine elegance and unmistakable posh meet unabashed sultriness in this day-into-late-night-blooming floral bouquet.” Notes of gardenia, jasmine, oakmoss. Madison Soiree is one of many unforgettable Bond No. 9 fragrances with New York namesakes and each stunning bottle nearly bursts with the city’s inimitable energy. $215 for 100 ml eau de parfum
Creed Royal English Leathereau de toilette Creed has been crafting amazing fragrances for centuries and this example is uncommonly sexy. Oh and did I mention it’s from the men’s line? Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Top notes are mandarin and bergamot; middle note is ambergris; base notes are leather and sandalwood.
Not so sure re: leather? It’s definitely, pleasantly, different. According to Tilar J. Mazzeo, author of “The Secret of Chanel No. 5,” Coco Chanel liked that her English lover Arthur “Boy” Capel smelled of “leather, horses, forest, and saddle soap.”
You can share Royal English with the guys in your life or if you think you’ll spar over the jar, get him some Green Irish Tweed (sandalwood, ambergris, violet leaves, verbena and iris) which, the company says, was “created … for a film industry client who personified masculine style and elegance on the silver screen.”
Royal English Leather $150 for 2.5 oz/ 75 ml
Green Irish Tweed $130 for 1 oz/30 ml travel size; $270 for 4 oz/ 120 ml flask
Chanel No. 5 OK, I cheated, there are 11 top scents. So sue me. But surely you didn’t think I was going to bring up Coco Chanel’s name and then not mention the world’s best-selling perfume, Chanel No. 5. As author Tilar J. Mazzeo writes: “Reverently known among industry insiders as le monstre – the monster – it is arguably the most coveted consumer luxury product of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
Chanel No. 5 parfum $95 for .25 ounces; $155 for .5 ounces
Chanel No. 5 eau de parfum $80 for 1.7 ounces; $115 for 3.4 ounces
And two more runners-up, both new this year: Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir and Guess Seductive.
Product Source: From my own collection and store samples; I did not receive products or compensation from companies named.
As famed critic James Agee put it: “Robert Mitchum is so sleepily self-confident with the women that when he slopes into clinches you expect him to snore in their faces.”
While none of my Robert Mitchum fantasies involve snoring, I can’t say I’d kick him out of bed just for a few noisy ZZZs. One of Mitchum’s finest vehicles is “Out of the Past” (1947) by French-born director Jacques Tourneur.
If I happened to meet someone who wanted to know film noir and only had 97 minutes to live, this is the film I’d recommend. But pay close attention, little dying chum, because there are plot twists aplenty.
Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey (aka Jeff Markham) who runs a gas station in a small town. He’s seeking a quiet life, where he can put his messed-up past behind him. Ha! Free will doesn’t stand much of a chance in film noir, so when menacing Joe Stephanos (Paul Valentine) comes to town looking for Jeff, we know he’s about to be plunged back into the darkness.
Once Jeff learns that his former nemesis, gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas), wants a reunion, he decides to bring his pure and wholesome girlfriend Ann Miller (Virginia Huston) up to speed on his shady past and so launches a filigree of flashbacks with some of the most haunting images in all of noir.
Before he pumped gas, Jeff was a gumshoe whom Whit hired to find his double-dealing girlfriend Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). Jeff finds her in Mexico, having escaped from Whit with a little help from a gun and a bigger helping of his money. It’s a long time into the flick before we see this fabulous femme fatale but when we finally do, she’s breathtaking. James Pallot in “The Movie Guide” calls Greer’s appearance “one of the greatest entrances in film history.”
Jeff, a self-confessed sucker, falls for her in about 3 seconds and decides that Whit Sterling can go to hell. As far as Whit’s cash, Kathie says she didn’t touch it and asks him: “Won’t you believe me?”
He replies: “Baby, I don’t care.”
The two relocate to San Francisco where they can hang incognito and go to movies (sounds divine!). Still, there’s that niggling bother of Whit, brilliantly played by Douglas, and he cares quite a bit.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s ex-partner in the detective biz Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) catches up with the couple, angling for a pay-off to keep his mouth shut re: their new life. Jeff and Fisher come to blows, but Kathie decides to cut to the chase and shoot him dead.
Earlier Fisher comments: “A dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle.” In fact, a knitting needle can double as a handy weapon but it’s far less efficient than a gun, as Kathie clearly knew.
Whit figures Jeff still owes him, and makes him part of the scheme to steal incriminating documents from attorney Leonard Eels (Ken Niles). In on the set-up is Eels’ secretary Meta Carson (Rhonda Fleming) a Jane Greer lookalike and good-time girl. Over drinks with Jeff and Meta, Eels remarks: “All women are wonders because they reduce all men to the obvious.”
“And so do martinis,” Meta says.
When Eels ends up dead, Jeff appears to be the fall guy, but he staves that off by hiding the body. The next snag? Kathie signed an affidavit (at Whit’s insistence, she says) that Jeff killed Fisher. But Jeff doesn’t give up easily and, after tracking the above-mentioned documents, is happy to exchange them for $50,000 and the affidavit.
As the treachery escalates and the bodies start piling up, Kathie has all her men exactly where she wants them, but then noir guys are awfully recalcitrant…
“Out of the Past” is director Jacques Tourneur’s noir masterpiece. In a series of celluloid paintings almost baroque in their intensity, Tourneur and director of photography Nicholas Musuraca create a seamless and sinister world that captivates from the first shot to the last. As Eddie Muller in “Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir” describes it: Musuraca achieves “the richest chiaroscuro cinematography of any noir.” And as Michael Wilmington wrote in the Chicago Tribune, the movie is: “Moody and poetic, filled with some of the most strangely beautiful images ever to grace a crime movie.”More