With a haunting voice, retro-glam sexiness, and material both subtle and raw, Juliette Beavan of 8mm melds a femme fatale’s sophistication with flinty rock energy. From the first searing notes, often punctuated by smoke and shadow, the songs draw you in like a Hitchcock thriller; lyrics linger in your head well beyond the show’s end. This part of “Crawl,” for instance, is hard to forget: “or maybe there’s another/ trick, another spell/ and I could change you/ and I’d draw you to me/ pull you to me, crawl to me./ draw you to me/ pull you to me/ call you to me/crawl to me.”
Her bandmates include her husband Sean Beavan (guitar, vocals) and Jon Nicholson (drums). They describe their sound as “trip-hop influenced pop-rock.” First-rate musicians, the guys are the perfect complement to Juliette’s vocals and keyboard.
“That’s right, blame it on the girl,” she might tease them between songs, before adjusting her mic or straightening a cord. A New Orleans native, she’s fond of bringing beads, candy and banter to toss to the eager crowd, many of whom clutch cameras the way people used to flick lighters as preface to an encore.
Together since 2004, 8mm has an impressive resume that includes four albums and several tours (the US, Canada, the UK and Chile). Sean Beavan, who hails from Cleveland, formerly worked with bands such as Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and God Lives Underwater. He and Juliette write the songs; their work has been featured in the 2005 film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” as well as in a number of TV shows, including “One Tree Hill,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Moonlight,” “Dirt,” Road Rules,” and “The Real World: Sydney.”
You can see 8mm for yourself Friday, June 3, at the Roxy Theatre, with the Kidney Thieves, Cage 9, The Shakers and DJ High Voltage. The show starts at 8 p.m. and 8mm goes on at 9 p.m.
I caught up with Juliette recently to chat about the band’s penchant for noir.
Mr E Man: The band’s name is a film reference, your shows are richly atmospheric and your songs often deal with mystery, secrets, betrayal and hidden desire, much as a film noir would. Can you talk about how the aesthetic of film noir in general has been an influence for you?
Juliette Beavan: Yes, a reference to the film stock, because for us, 8mm film brings to mind smoky back rooms of 1930s Berlin, the first stag films, the early home movies … in other words, secrets, memories, longings (secret and professed) and decadence … all the things we try to bring to our music. They also happen to be things that are part and parcel to any good film noir. In addition, the look, the sleek styling, elegant and dangerous players, well, that sounds like a band to us!
FNB: Any femmes fatales that stand out for you? JB: Hahaha, are you gonna ask any questions with short answers? Where to start … Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Anne Baxter, Nora Zehetner in “Brick” does a wonderful job, not to mention (I know they’re not femmes fatales, but I would be remiss to leave the men out) Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives Bogey a run for his money in that film. And for the men, of course, there is the one and only Humphrey Bogart.
FNB: Of ’40s and ’50s singers or bands, who are your top favorites? JB: Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Bing Crosby, to name a few.
FNB: Do you essentially get into character when you perform, especially Juliette as the frontwoman? JB: In a sense, yes, and it varies from song to song, because each one is a different story, character, sort of mini movie for us. I’m a storyteller not a character (like a GaGa or Madonna), so the approach is a little different. It only takes a note or two for me “see it” in my head again, to step into “her” shoes … from there it’s just natural.
You kind of have to use your whole body to tell the story, and the story becomes my own for that time.
FNB: Raymond Chandler said a good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. Do you think that’s true for writing songs and music? JB: Certainly at times … what Sean plays makes me see stories, so I suppose you could say that is a bit of a distilling process to bring the story down into its key emotional components for a 3 minute song. However, there are other times when you get a “cosmic FedEx” (a term we’re stealing from Scott Russo of Unwritten Law). That’s where the song comes to you almost writing itself and you have to grab and get it down before it moves on. You know, the muse will find another host if you aren’t paying attention.
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
A quintessential film noir and one of Crawford’s crowning roles. She plays Ethel Whitehead, a housewife stuck with her dreary, damaged hubster (Richard Egan). Ethel leaves him and tries to build a better life for herself in New York City. Short on actual career skills, her path instead leads her to become a streetwise moll who takes on the mob and never once musses her hair. Along the way, she mixes business and pleasure with David Brian, Kent Smith and Steve Cochran. Vincent Sherman directs.
After four days of back-to-back noirs at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, it is hard to return to reality. I keep expecting to see men in fedoras and mink-coated molls. Or to hear terse whispers from crooks working a heist or an imperious “Ah, shut up” a la Joan Crawford. Well, it’s a rainy day and it’s still early so you never know what might happen.
The annual noir gathering, now in its 11th year, is one of my favorite fests and such a great chance to mingle with other noiristas, such as producer and programmer Alan K. Rode and the rest of the Dark City Players: Marvin Paige, Foster Hirsch, Kim Morgan and Eddie Muller. Ric and Rozene Supple are the fest’s executive producers and the Camelot Theatre does a great job hosting the event. The festival is named after its founder Arthur Lyons Jr., an author and longtime resident of Palm Springs.
From the first notes of Henry Mancini’s silky score for “Experiment in Terror,” which opened the fest, to the Palm Springs locations of 60 years ago, shown in the final movie, “The Damned Don’t Cry,” there was much to relish. In “Experiment in Terror” from 1962, Ross Martin hatches a plot to anonymously extort money from Lee Remick; his efforts are thwarted by FBI agent Glenn Ford.
It’s hard to shake the mood of menace that director Blake Edwards creates in this chilling tale. Stefanie Powers, who played Remick’s younger sister, spoke after the screening. “Nobody shot that way,” she said of Edwards’ daring camera, adding that the film may be the first time that someone died on screen, eyes open.
Friday’s fare included “The Underworld Story” (1950, Cy Endfield); “Six Bridges to Cross” (1955, Joseph Pevney); “A Kiss Before Dying” (1956, Gerd Oswald) and “Cape Fear” (1962, J. Lee Thompson).
I can never get enough of Dan Duryea, star of “Underworld,” and seeing Tony Curtis in “Six Bridges” was a rare treat. “You can’t help liking him even if he is a criminal,” said co-star Julie Adams in the post-screening Q&A, noting the natural charm Curtis brought to the part of inveterate schemer Jerry Florea. Sal Mineo made his screen debut in this movie, as the young Jerry, leader of a Boston street gang.
Then it was time for a dash of luscious color: The broad gaze of CinemaScope catches the hard-core badness of college student and casual killer Bud Corliss (Robert Wagner) in “A Kiss Before Dying.” Though he was voted most likely to succeed in high school, at 25, he’s still stuck in college, despite the support of his doting mom (Mary Astor). He figures it would be a whole lot easier to ditch the books and marry into a rich family, even if it requires a murder or two.
Co-starring as his love interests are Joanne Woodward and Virginia Leith, both of whom are excellent. Director Gerd Oswald, a mainstay of the classic TV show “The Outer Limits” and the son of Vienna-born director Richard Oswald, elicits memorable performances, particularly from the young and sexy Wagner.
The evening ended with a classic thriller: “Cape Fear.” The top-notch cast includes Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Barrie Chase, Telly Savalas, Martin Balsam and Jack Kruschen. Adding to the mood is music by the maestro of the suspense film Bernard Herrmann.
Mitchum’s portrayal of Max Cady, a brutal sadist seeking revenge, is one of his best and most famous roles. On hand to reminisce after the movie was Chase, also an accomplished dancer who partnered with Fred Astaire on his TV specials. Chase said of Mitchum in this movie: “He was fantastically attractive as a horrible person.”
When she rehearsed her scene with Mitchum (she played a victim of his brutality), he made it very clear that he had nothing on under his pants. “It struck me as funny,” she said. (The audience had the same reaction.) “He was very kind and protective after that; he treated me like a kid sister.”
Also, Chase said, despite giving the impression that he winged it when it came to acting, Mitchum was “totally prepared, he knew exactly what he was going to do.” As for how she broke into movies, she told the audience she got the requisite encouragement to follow her dream from “a fella named Stanley Kubrick” whom she was going out with at the time.
On Saturday morning, critic Kim Morgan introduced “99 River Street” (1953, Phil Karlson) starring John Payne and Evelyn Keyes. Morgan pointed out that the film is a great example both of cinematographer Franz Planer’s work (he was on “Criss Cross,” 1949; “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” 1948; “Bad for Each Other,” 1953, and many others) and of the boxing noir sub-genre, along with “Body and Soul,” 1947, and “The Set-Up,” 1949. All three films, Morgan pointed out, likely would have been on Martin Scorsese’s radar as he prepared to make 1980’s “Raging Bull.”
Next up was “Plunder Road” from 1957, directed by the underrated Hubert Cornfield (“The Night of the Following Day,” 1969) and lensed by Ernest Haller. A reported favorite of Quentin Tarantino, this lean little caper flick is about a group of men stealing gold from a train, hauling it off in commercial trucks and melting it down in a foundry before getting it out of the country. It’s wildly far-fetched, true, but still a good time.
And what noir fest would be complete without an appearance of Elisha Cook, Jr.? Gene Raymond, Wayne Morris and Jeanne Cooper round out the cast; in her discussion with Foster Hirsch, Cooper recalled that Cornfield made the actors really learn the work involved at foundry. He wanted authenticity but also told them wryly: “Now you can back yourselves up and know something more than acting.” Cornfield’s advice on knowing another trade was sadly prophetic – he eventually turned to house painting to support himself.
Completing the afternoon was 1954’s “Loophole,” directed by Harold Schuster, much of which was shot on location in Los Angeles, Hollywood and Malibu. It’s a strong example of a noir staple: the wrongly accused and possibly doomed dude. Barry Sullivan is a standup bank teller; Dorothy Malone plays his loyal and devoted wife; Charles McGraw shines as the obnoxious insurance investigator determined to make Sullivan pay for his “crime.”
Another stalwart of noir is amnesia and in “Mirage,” from 1965, we see the topic deftly handled by master noir director Edward Dmytryk (“Murder, My Sweet, 1944; “Crossfire,” 1947). Gregory Peck stars as the afflicted; Walter Matthau plays a newbie gumshoe helping him out; Diane Baker is a mysterious woman from his past. The film also boasts a great collection of villains: Kevin McCarthy, Jack Weston, Leif Erickson, Walter Abel and George Kennedy.
Dmytryk effortlessly balances suspense with humor and there are many funny moments, such as when Peck tells Matthau, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you knew what you were doing?” The film is written by Peter Stone, who also wrote “Charade” (1963) and co-wrote “Arabesque” (1966) both by director Stanley Donen, and you can definitely feel the similarities between the three movies.
Eddie Muller and Diane Baker chatted extensively after the movie, with Baker recalling Peck as being full of life with a “great sense of humor and great energy.”
Arguably, the best movies were saved for last. Sunday’s lineup was “Crashout” (1955, Lewis R. Foster), “Saboteur” (1942, Alfred Hitchcock) and “The Damned Don’t Cry” (1950, Vincent Sherman). Certainly, my favorite guest appearance was actor/producer Norman Lloyd, who was interviewed by Alan K. Rode. Lloyd, 96, regaled the crowd with many stories about Orson Welles, John Houseman, Charlie Chaplin, Hitchcock and others.
On learning about filmmaking Lloyd said: “When I came to Hollywood, I didn’t know the front end of the camera from the back. I was very nosy and Mr. Hitchcock was delighted to answer my questions. It happened by my talking a lot.”
On Hitchcock dealing with actors? “Hitchcock worked with a major star who had been trained in the Stanislavski method. Hitchcock directed him to sit and the star asked, ‘Why do I sit?’ Hitchcock replied, ‘To put your ass in the seat of the chair.”
And in case any viewers were flagging after four days of viewing, there was sustenance to be found in, as Rode put it, the “take-no-prisoners femme fatale” – none other than Joan Crawford in “The Damned Don’t Cry.” The film is loosely based on the real-life story of Virginia Hill, mistress of gangster Bugsy Siegel, and it’s a joy to watch Crawford savagely claw her way to the top of a national crime syndicate, breaking heart after heart and stubbing out cig after cig as she climbs.
I love this line from Crawford’s character Ethel Whitehead: “Don’t talk to me about self-respect. That’s something you tell yourself you got when you got nothing else.”
Watching Crawford was a terrific way to wrap up the fest and I was a bit sad to say goodbye. I think Eddie Muller summed it up best said when he introduced “Mirage” on Saturday night, telling the packed theater, “The best part of every noir is when the woman gets the gun in her hand.”
Earlier today at a round-table interview, I caught up with TCM’s Robert Osborne, a veteran film historian and author, as the Classic Film Festival was setting up at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Osborne said one of the festival’s strengths is its great mix in terms of programming, which sets it apart from today’s moviegoing where “you have a choice of the same movie 15 different ways.”
I’ve always wanted to talk noir with him, so I asked him why these films have such enduring appeal. “We’ve always had murder mysteries and who doesn’t love that? They have an endless appeal. It’s the shadows and lights and tough people like Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino.
“To call ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ [a 1945 movie that played at last year’s fest and stars Gene Tierney] a noir is stretching it – ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ is a lush Technicolor movie about rich people.
“My idea of film noir is people in the gutter – tough dames and guys in trench coats up to no good. And nobody did it better than Hollywood in the ’40s.”
As for his favorite femmes fatales, he names Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall (in the Bogart films), Marie Windsor and Jane Greer, describing them “as very feminine women that were also dames who could give it as well as they took it.”
And what did he think of remakes such as HBO’s version of “Mildred Pierce” by director Todd Haynes, starring Kate Winslet? Osborne praised Winslet’s performance but said he was disappointed. “They told the whole story too closely; it was too long and drawn out and too ponderous. In the original [Michael Curtiz‘s 1945 movie starring Joan Crawford], writer Ranald MacDougall’s addition of the murder really made the whole thing crackle. [The remake] should’ve been three hours at the most. I’m not fond of remakes generally.”
What is he most looking forward to in this year’s fest? “Night Flight” by Clarence Brown, “The Constant Nymph” by Edmund Goulding, opening night’s “An American in Paris” by Vincent Minnelli, Leslie Caron’s special appearance, and meeting Peter O’Toole.
I also asked Osborne, who got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006, if he had any advice for O’Toole who will be honored at a hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre this Saturday. “Behave!”
Now in its 13th year, the program features several new prints preserved by the foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive.The series is hosted by the foundation’s Eddie J. Muller and Alan K. Rode. For more info, visit: http://bit.ly/ebV4uM.
There is much to see at this year’s fest (28 films total) and top on my viewing list are:
“High Wall” (1947, Curtis Bernhardt)
“The Hunted” (1948, Jack Bernhard)
“The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (1947, Peter Godfrey) and “The Dark Mirror” (1948, Robert Siodmak)
“Journey into Fear” (1943, Orson Welles)
“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950, Gordon Douglas)
“A Woman’s Secret” (1949, Nicholas Ray)
“Caught” (1949, Max Ophuls)
“Framed” (1947, Richard Wallace)
“Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor) and “My Name is Julia Ross” (1945, Joseph H. Lewis)
One way ticket to Noirville: Viewers of HBO’s “Mildred Pierce,” directed by Todd Haynes, may be interested to know about a bus tour of the Los Angeles venues that inspired James M. Cain, author of the novel on which the series and the 1945 film were based. Read Sean Macaulay’s story at: http://bit.ly/enRyfV.
London anyone? According to Playbill: “London’s Arts Theatre has announced details of its summer program, which will include the world premiere of AntonBurg’s Bette & Joan, which will star Greta Scaachi and Anita Dobson in the title roles of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively.” Read more at: http://bit.ly/f8kghH.
HBO’s “Mildred Pierce” mini-series, directed by Todd Haynes and based on James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, starts this Sunday.
In director Michael Curtiz’s 1945 movie version of the book, Joan Crawford won the Oscar for her portrayal of the title role in the ultimate story of a self-sacrificing mother and her ungrateful child, Veda (Ann Blyth). Mildred’s hard-earned success as a restaurateur allows her to support not only her family but also her aristocratic and cash-poor love interest Monty Beragon (Zachary Scott).
In Haynes’ mini-series, Kate Winslet stars as Mildred, Guy Pearce plays Monty and two actresses share the Veda role: Morgan Turner as the girl and Evan Rachel Wood as the young woman. Haynes and Jon Raymond wrote the teleplay.
In many ways, the series, which follows the book more faithfully than the 1945 movie and covers nearly 10 ten years in the characters’ lives, is a delight to watch. Depression-era Southern California is beautifully recreated and shot by Edward Lachman. Carter Burwell’s original music is spot-on as is Ann Roth’s costume design. And the acting is excellent, particularly the leads.
Whereas Crawford’s Mildred is stoic and dignified, Winslet’s is sensitive, wistful, often tentative and unsure of herself. Her expressive features suggest her mounting anger, guilt and desperation as her business grows but her relationships deteriorate.
Early on in the series, Winslet’s Mildred identifies in her daughter a “pride or nobility I thought I had” and we glimpse the complexity and closeness of her bond with Veda. The mother-daughter relationship in Haynes’ five-hour version is perhaps more nuanced than in Curtiz’s film.
Pearce easily inhabits the playboy scoundrel Monty and Wood sizzles as the junior miss femme fatale. As the story unfolds, we learn that Mildred and Veda also have very similar taste in men. This year’s supporting actress Oscar winner Melissa Leo and Mare Winningham are quite good as Mildred’s friends.
A disappointment, however, is James LeGros’ insipid performance as Pierce family “friend” Wally Burgan. In Curtiz’s version, the role as played by Jack Carson – conniving and sly, but charming – was one of the movie’s many strengths.
Another downside is the pacing, which is far too slow. It would have benefited from shaving about an hour, especially in the beginning. But then if Haynes’ aim was to be true to every page of the book, he has succeeded.
I prefer Curtiz’s original because it is canonical film noir, in tone, look and story. Granted, Cain’s book was altered because in 1940s Hollywood, immorality was never allowed to triumph. Instead of the evil-doers leaving California to begin a new life in New York, one is fatally shot and the other eventually is punished. The murder sets the story, told via flashback, in motion and lends an edgy suspense.
Still, Haynes did not set out to make a noir; apparently his aim is to explore the subtext and subtleties in Cain’s novel. Cain was, arguably, sympathetic toward his feisty protagonist (what choice does she have but to establish independence and security, given the weak and deceitful men she has to choose from?). But she pays a dreadful price for doing so and the book decries materialism, the class system and social climbing. As for Cain’s ultimate take on Mildred’s power, in Hayne’s work, there is fodder for both sides of the argument.
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.
I saw “Mildred Pierce” for the first time nearly 20 years ago on a Sunday afternoon in my small, studenty London flat – pale gray walls, Venetian blinds, a Victor Skrebneski print opposite the TV.
Just before the opening scene unfolded – a shooting in a shadow-drenched California beach house with a sinister vibe – I remember popping a batch of popcorn in oil on the stovetop and making American lemonade (fresh lemons, sugar and water). Such wholesome snacking for the decadence on the little screen.
Directed by Michael Curtiz, “Mildred Pierce” is based on James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, adapted by Ranald MacDougall with uncredited help from William Faulkner. Joan Crawford plays the title character, a wife and mother, who tries to buy the love of her spoiled and ungrateful teenage daughter Veda (Ann Blyth). Her younger daughter Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe) is easy to love, but Mildred is determined to win Veda over as well.
Hubby Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) doesn’t think Veda is worth it and they break up over Mildred’s intense maternal devotion. Some subtexters theorize that Mildred’s love has romantic overtones; I don’t think there’s a strong case for that.
Mildred works as a pie-baker and a waitress, then opens a chain of restaurants to pay for Veda’s clothes, music lessons and extravagant taste. Problem is, nothing’s ever good enough for the Everest-level high-maintenance Veda. “I can’t wear that rag,” she snarls, upon seeing a dress Mildred bought for her.
Besides sniping at loved ones and spending their money, Veda enjoys hatching blackmail plans and singing in sleazy nightclubs. So it’s no shocker that she also has designs on Mildred’s new love interest Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott). Monte is an aristocratic playboy who’s always short of cash but really rather useful for Veda’s plan to become patrician.
No matter what, Veda sinks her serpent’s teeth deeper and deeper into Mildred’s flesh, which, by the way, at 40, was still very shapely. Curtiz wisely gives Crawford plenty of opps to show off her gams. And her little hats, tailored suits and ankle straps are the picture of retro chic.More
What obstacle can’t be overcome with the help of ankle straps and padded shoulders? The incomparable Joan Crawford makes this her mantra as she attempts to give her greedy daughter everything her heart desires. Big mistake, hugely delightful movie, directed by Michael Curtiz.