Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

This turned into the never-ending blog post.  It's finally finished!

First off--

Saturday was the Second Annual St. George's Day George Sanders Film Festival!  This year's theme was the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (I'll bet you were wondering how I was going to work that in this year), so I watched Four Men and a Prayer and Rage in Heaven as well as two biblical epics: Samson and Delilah and Solomon and Sheba.  I made true sacrifices in the service of cinema.

In Four Men and a Prayer (1938), George Sanders and his three brothers (David Niven plays one of them) work to clear the name of their dishonorably discharged father (C. Aubrey Smith) with the help of Loretta Young.  There's romance, gun-running and South American revolutions.  What more could the movie-going public desire?  So, it's not the greatest movie ever, but it was pretty entertaining.  (Available on DVD as part of the Ford at Fox Collection.)

Original lobby card from Wikipedia
Rage in Heaven (1941) was a film I'd never heard of until it played on TCM last month, despite the fact that it stars Ingrid Bergman and Robert Montgomery (and George Sanders!) and was based on a book by James Hilton, of Random Harvest fame.  I thought this was a well-done, entertaining, occasionally suspenseful film.  Both Rage in Heaven and Four Men and a Prayer would be good watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Since this film isn't available on DVD, here's a link to watch it online.

Now on to the films I can't really recommend on their own merits.  If you're a big fan of bad movies or you're really really bored, these two biblical epics might be worth the watch.  Maybe.  This comes from a person who watches The Ten Commandments every year.  Admittedly, I only watch the first part before Moses decides he wants to leave the Egyptian court.  After that, it just gets super-unglamorous.  Who wants to watch people wander in the desert?  Anyway, I digress...

French poster from Wikipedia
Samson and Delilah (1950) looks good, but the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired.  I did like Hedy Lamarr's costumes, though.  They'd probably make really fabulous bellydance costumes.  Sanders plays the mad, bad, dangerous-to-know Saran of Gaza.  Here's a clip from TCM.

Unfortunately(?) it's not available on DVD, but you can watch this film online, should you feel in need of cinematic self-flagellation:

I exaggerate a bit.  Samson and Delilah is ten times better than...

Lobby card from Wikipedia
...Solomon and Sheba (1959), starring Yul Brenner as Solomon, Gina Lollobrigida as Sheba and George Sanders as wronged older-brother Adonijah.  Tyrone Power was originally going to play Solomon, but he died halfway through filming after having a heart attack filming Solomon's duel with Adonijah.  Frankly, I doubt this film would have been any better with Tyrone Power instead of Yul Brenner.  Too much is wrong with this movie!  This clip  of the badly-choreographed orientalist "orgy" scene is a good illustration of the general ridiculousness of the entire film.  Warning: it's genuinely cringe-worthy.  Solomon and Sheba is inexplicably on DVD.

Scripture Cake
 Naturally, biblical baking was also required.  The Victorians (those party animals!) thought it great fun to  force bakers to look up bible verses.  For example, here's the ingredient list for Scripture Cake:

1/2 lb Judges 5:25
1/2 lb Jeremiah 6:20
1 tablespoon 1 Samuel 14:25
3 Jeremiah 17:11
1/2 lb 1 Samuel 30:12
1/2 lb Nahum 3:12
2 ounces Numbers 17:8
1 lb 1 Kings 4:22
Season to taste with 2 Chronicles 9:9
pinch of Leviticus 2:13
1 teaspoon Amos 4:5
3 tablespoons Judges 4:19-21
(from Jane Grigson's British Cookery)

I know the ingredient list works with the authorized King James Version (my copy is from the Oxford University Press), but I can't guarantee other translations.  So-- here's my recipe, adapted from Jane Grigson's and from The Great British Book of Baking:

Scripture Cake

This recipe is also available on

The recipe for mixed spice is here.  If you're not sure what to do with all of it, here's a link to a few recipes.

This cake has a really lovely flavor, but I'd probably replace the figs with another dried fruit next time, but I didn't want to bother with reading through the bible to change the recipe, so do what you like.  I'd even use rum or brandy to soak the dried fruit, but don't tell the fundamentalists.

It's great for breakfast, too!



I've been given a Liebster Blog award from Kate and I've been tagged by Soapy Mermaid to list ten of my favorite things (besides George Sanders).  I'm going to combine the two and pass the award on to my favorite less-than-300-followers blogs and ask them to list their favorite things, as well (except for Soapy Mermaid, who has already listed her favorites!).

I love...
  1. PG Tips... but also Tanqueray.
  2. Händel...but also Nine Inch Nails.*
  3. Peter Lely...but also Cecil Beaton.
  4. peonies...but also dandelions.
  5. the library...but also my Kindle.
  6. eating outside...but also eating on the couch while watching Battlestar Galactica (damn engineer husband).
  7. TCM...but also MSNBC.
  8. bad monarchs...but not bad politicians.**
  9. spring...but I love autumn more.
  10. reading French novels in French...but I love reading English novels in English more!
I'm passing the award onto these fine folks.  Can't wait to see their ten favorites lists!

As My Whimsy Takes Me
By gum, by golly!
A Cat Among the Pigeons
Honey Hi
Livin' Vintage
Lori Hairston
My Moving Finger Writes
My Pretty Baby Cried She Was a Bird
Pin Tucks and Pin Curls
Practice in Time
Pragmatic Attic
Sailing Over a Cardboard Sea
A Sip of Sarsaparilla
Soapy Mermaid
The Swing of Things
This Old Life
Those Were Very Good Years
Two for Tea
Where the Sidework Ends

If you decide to participate, just leave a comment with a link to your post.  Thanks!


**James I of King James Bible fame being one of those bad monarchs.  I studied the Stuarts, so there were lots of bad kings to go around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life this Week: April 18, 1938

Here are links to a few of my favorite articles from the April 18, 1938, issue of Life, courtesy of Google Books.

The cover features a portrait of Paulette Goddard with her dog.  I love her collection of bracelets!  The contents page tells us she is "generally supposed to be Mrs. Charlie Chaplin" and that she is admired in Palm Beach for her "pixyish charm and by her long fingernails, which extend nearly an inch beyond her fingertips."  Life also tells us that she carried a broken fingernail around in a sling (seriously?) and she's no longer in the running for the role of Scarlett O'Hara.

Don't be a bad-tempered bride--buy a Simmons Beautyrest!

Louis Fabian Bachrach believes the prettiest American girls are to be found along the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Baltimore.  Do you agree?

If you're as cheap as a Scot, you'll love Sanka.  I would argue against the stereotype of my ancestral home being full of cheapskates, but I'm too busy turning off the climate control and saving yarn scraps and bread crusts.

There are two pages on the Austrian reaction to Anschluß (April 10, 1938).  Life reports, "Some observers expected that Austria may become the center of an underground anti-Nazi movement infecting all of Greater Germany." 

Oh my God, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.  Seriously.  Even Life calls it "melodramatic Hollywood hokum" in an article about Sigrid Gurie, "the flower of Flatbush."  Unless you have a perverse love for ridiculous dialogue, ahistorical content and white actors in ethnic make-up (Basil Rathbone as an Arab, anyone?), don't bother with this one.  Funny tidbit: this film shares its "Venice" set with the (actually less crappy) Goldwyn Follies.

The Santa Fe Super Chief  has "every form of hotel comfort."  Too bad first-class accommodations no longer cost $56.15 for a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles!

Life devotes eight pages of this issue to illustrate Passover traditions, show Doré engravings of the Book of Exodus and discuss the problems facing Jews in 1938.  Frankly, they could have devoted an entire issue to that topic.

There are plenty of interesting ads and articles.  Which were your favorites?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monthly Film Recommendations: April 2011

Sorry--it's a few days late.  Dodsworth and Gone with the Wind have already aired.  GWTW is, of course, on DVD and I'll let you know the next time Dodsworth is on.  All times are central and everything airs on TCM.
  • Ball of Fire (Sa 4/16/11 7:00 p.m.) a houseful of professors take in nightclub singer Barbara Stanwyck
  • Born Yesterday (Sa 4/16/11 3:15 p.m.)
  • Dial M for Murder (Tu 4/12/11 9:00 p.m.) Hitchcock.  Grace Kelly.  Classic.
  • Dodsworth (W 4/6/11 8:15 a.m.)- a retired industrialist's (Walter Huston) life falls apart on a European vacation, but he finally learns how to live 
  • A Face in the Crowd (Sa 4/9/11 2:30 a.m.)- You MUST see this film.  It is one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen.  Andy Griffith plays against type to perfection and Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau are magnificent; Elia Kazan was a genius.
  • Gilda (Sa 4/9/11 1:00 p.m.)- I never get tired of the costumes in this one
  • Gone with the Wind (M 4/4/11 7:00 p.m.)- Does this movie need a synopsis?  I will recommend the book if you haven't read it.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets (Su 4/17/11 9:00 a.m.)
  • Kiss Me Kate (Tu 4/12/11 3:45 p.m.)- Sue me, but I love this ridiculous technicolor musical
  • Ivanhoe (M 4/11/11 3:00 a.m.)- This movie is pretty much terrible, but it has George Sanders in it.  You might want to read the hokey book instead.
  • Love Me Tonight (Su 4/17/11 7:15 a.m. and M 4/25/11 2:45 p.m.)
  • The Love Parade (M 4/25/11 12:45 p.m.)
  • North by Northwest (Th 4/28/11 11:00 p.m.)
  • Now, Voyager (Su 4/17/11 11:00 a.m.)- ugly duckling Bette Davis gets a makeover and falls in love with yummy Paul Henreid 
  • The Painted Veil (Th 4/21/11 7:00 p.m.) Greta Garbo follows husband Herbert Marshall to China where she's romanced by George Brent
  • Road to Morocco (Th 4/21/11 10:00 a.m.) Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, silly jokes: I love it
  • Shanghai Express (F 4/22/11 1:00 a.m.) Marlene Dietrich is terribly well-dressed in this pre-code train film set in the midst of the civil war in China
  • Virginia City (W 4/20/11 9:00 p.m.)- really only for fans of westerns, Errol Flynn or Randolph Scott
  • You Can't Take it With You (Sa 4/9/11 5:00 a.m.)- James Stewart falls in love with secretary Jean Arthur, but his well-to-do parents don't accept her unconventional family, headed by Lionel Barrymore