A Cuppa Tea

Today’s post is sponsored by my morning cup of coffee. Old movie stars with teacups! Or coffee cups, as the case may be.

Formula for guaranteed chuckles: put a rough-edged guy in a situation where he has to hold a teacup. It’s audience-proof.



Charlton Heston vs. The World’s Tiniest Teacup in The Pigeon That Took Rome (1962).
(It was coffee, and it wasn’t even the real stuff. Poor guy.)

Lillian Gish in Way Down East (1920). The classy, lace-and-pearls way to drink tea:


Not the lace-and-pearls type? There’s room for you, too, in the classic movie canon:

Source: 1000 Frames of Hitchcock

Truck drivers downing hearty breakfasts and coffee in Young and Innocent (1937).
Source: 1000 Frames of Hitchcock


Charlie Chaplin with a Blue Willow cup in Modern Times (1936). And a Pug.


“Veronica Lake, lovely star of Paramount’s hit, ‘The Hour Before the Dawn,’ relaxes with a cup of brisk Liptons’ Tea.”


Veronica Lake in ad for Lipton tea, 1944. Source


And last but certainly not least: those cricket-loving gentlemen, Charters & Caldicott!

Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in The Lady Vanishes (1938).  Source: 1000 Frames of Hitchcock

Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in The Lady Vanishes (1938). Source: 1000 Frames of Hitchcock




“The Hour Before the Dawn” (1944)


I don’t usually go into old movies blind, but I was excited to finally watch The Hour Before the Dawn (1944), one of Paramount’s elusive archive that has never been released on DVD.  All I knew was that Veronica Lake was in it, that she played a German spy or sympathizer, and that the title sounded appropriately dramatic.  Full of eager anticipation at watching one of Lake’s more obscure movies, and one with WWII espionage elements at that, I settled in for a good watch.

The fact that nobody in recent memory had reviewed it as “a lost classic” or “a real gem in the rough” should have been a tip-off that it wasn’t on anybody’s must-watch list…

The first thing that strikes the unsuspecting viewer, as the titles roll, is this.

Franchot tone & Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake and…Franchot Tone?!

Okay, then.  Unlikelier pairings have been successful: Fredric March and Veronica Lake, anyone?  Besides, I like Lake and tolerate Tone.  Hmm…credits, credits, more names…ooh, Miklos Rozsa score…

The second thing that strikes the viewer (after the Miklos Rozsa credit), is the director: Frank Tuttle.  Three years earlier, Tuttle had directed Lake in This Gun For Hire, a tersely plotted, bona fide noir classic, and incredibly stylish to boot.  We also note, in passing, that the movie is based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham.  Well, not exactly “in passing.”  We pan in on a giant leather-bound book, with “W. Somerset Maugham” in gilt letters.

This is your tip-off that the action-packed, thrilling spy story promised by the poster is going to have a distinctly literary flair.  Because it’s Maugham, however, it’s not a tip-off that the film is going to plod along at the pace of a cracked quill pen on vellum – to wildly mix a metaphor.  But mixing metaphors is okay, because The Hour Before the Dawn isn’t sure what it’s supposed to be, either.
Continue reading

Color Palettes: “Easter Parade”


Judy Garland in “Easter Parade” (1948)


Presenting a new feature of this blog: color inspiration palettes!  I enjoy browsing the palettes put out by places like Design Seeds (for a movie take, see Movies in Color and Wes Anderson Palettes) – and thought the world needed more color combinations based on classic movies.

Use them for outfit or project inspiration, or just as a fresh look at the color schemes used in movies we love.


Parody or Thriller? Ambler’s “Highly Dangerous” (1950)


Highly Dangerous (1950) is an entertaining amateur-turned-spy British espionage adventure film, elevated by the presence of Margaret Lockwood and several skilled character actors.  Lockwood plays Dr. Frances Gray, a renowned entomologist [translation: bug scientist] who’s about to begin a long-awaited holiday when the British government requests her services as a spy.  A tiny (fictional) European country is rumored to be experimenting with insects as vectors for biological warfare, and Britain needs an entomologist to confirm its suspicions by identifying samples from a top-secret research facility.  Initially, Dr. Gray refuses, figuring that there are plenty of scientists but few vacation days…
Continue reading

Favorite Picks from Debbie Reynolds’ Costume Auction

In my fantasy world, I’m a wealthy costume collector who could start a Classic Hollywood Costume Museum.  Unfortunately, in real life I’m nothing of the kind, but luckily I can flip through a (digital) catalog and ooh and ahh over the historic costumes within.  Kind of like going through LEGO catalogs as a kid and picking out all the sets you were going to “buy.”

Here are some of my favorites from Debbie Reynolds’ finale auction, which I blogged about last week.

Dress worn by Katherine DeMille in "Romeo & Juliet" (1936). Designed by Adrian & Oliver Messel.

Dress worn by Katherine DeMille in “Romeo & Juliet” (1936). Designed by Adrian & Oliver Messel.

Continue reading