Meet Marilyn Meme•roe

Dance · featured · Film · Language & ideas

marilyn-little rockFrom Wikipedia:

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from the popularization of Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Proponents describe memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.

The choreographer Jack Cole, a creative genius, had the ability to perpetuate the meme of a powerful woman, through his use of dance.

This he achieved with his unique vision for actress Marilyn Monroe, who danced under Cole’s barbie-two little girlsdirection in several numbers, each a masterpiece of originality, in the classic comedy film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Cole’s wild duet, “Just Two Little Girls from Little Rock” opens the movie. Costume designer Travilla was a partner, garbing Marilyn and her song-and-dance partner Jane Russell in skin-tight red dresses. The culture — notably, the commercial culture — picked up on Cole’s lead voraciously.

This was not lost on Mattel Corporation, manufacturing a Marilyn-Barbie in the late 1990s.

In the high-art arena, choreographer Susan Marshall smartly updated and channeled “Little Rock” in “Stop,” from “Play/Pause.”

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Hollywood ‘pioneers, dreamers & misfits’ delight Landis, Beauchamp

Film · Language & ideas

Pioneers, dreamers and misfits: this perspicacious trio of descriptors Hollywood historian Cari Beauchamp has selected to characterize the actors, artists, directors, and assorted fruits and nuts who arrived in early Los Angeles to populate the burgeoning film industry.

beauchampBurgeoning may be an overstatement. This was a place where the welcome mat sometimes read, “No actors, no Jews, no dogs,” the dismally widespread placard with which L.A. landlords advertised their rental properties.

Tucked into the cozy author’s nook at book vendor, Book Soup, Beauchamp, the author of “Without Lying Down” and “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents” shared niblets and anecdotes from My First Time in Hollywood, her just-published memoir-compendium of tall-tales told by 42 disparate newcomers upon arrival to our fair city from 1909 to 1929.

Any neophyte cineaste recognizes in the closing date not the onset of the Depression, but rather, L.A.’s much more high-impact event: the coming of sound to motion pictures.

L.A.’s early creatives formed a small, close-knit cluster fostering enduring friendships. Beauchamp found great delight and discovery in combing her resources in search of first impressions — the feelings, reactions and experiences of film folk just arrived by train, boat, or Model-T.

cari and john l at book soupSharing one precious memoir, that of editor/director Robert Parrish, was John Landis, respected movie director and Hollywood history buff. Landis read with zeal Parrish’s distinct memories of working, at the tender age of 10, with Charles Chaplin in “City Lights.”

In genial conversation that followed the reading, Landis shared his theory that the high quality of Hollywood output during the early film-factory era could be linked, in great part, to vaudeville and theater. “Look at “The Wizard of Oz” (1939),” he noted. “Every member of that cast had years in vaudeville.”

“In those days, there was a huge, deep pool of [experienced entertainment] talent. That doesn’t exist, today, in the movies.” Today’s corollary, said Landis, is, “you look for someone who has been on a television show.”

Beauchamp, who brings a very dry wit to her deep well of Hollywood knowledge, quipped that during a certain period of time, “every single script was written for  Cary Grant.” She also pointed out the significant shift of the film business from Europe to the United  States during World War I. When the dust settled from the war to end all wars, California had taken the lead in global film production. By the time of the next world war, for a different set of reasons, said Landis, “All the great Hollywood directors were European. It’s always been an international business.”

Come on! said Landis, “All Quiet on the Western Front” was shot in Studio City!”

Enjoying this relaxing film patter at Sunset Boulevard’s hodge podge of a bookshop was director Adam Rifkin; Judy Balaban, daughter of former Paramount Pictures president Barney Balaban; and Miles Kruger, founder of the Institute of the American Musical. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, UCLA professor, Hollywood costume maven, and curator of the Academy’s amazing costume exhibit that closed in March, chimed in fun film facts.

Photo credits: Thank you Vincent Paterno. Thank you, Adam Rifkin.

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Ruth St. Denis in the Valley 2

Dance · featured

Above, Miss Ruth, as part of a newspaper feature story on elderly fitness, strikes a Denishawn pose for a photographer.

Verso text: “Pictured are Frankie Van, owner of Frankie Van’s Health Club, 3717 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, along with famous modern dancer Ruth St. Denis. Ms. Denis once lived in the Valley and operated a school in the Cahuenga Pass. Photograph dated January 31, 1962.”

Below, Miss Ruth and Frankie Van.

Pictured are Frankie Van, owner of Frankie Van's Health Club, 3717 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, along with famous modern dancer Ruth St. Denis. Ms. Denis once lived in the Valley and operated a school in the Cahuenga Pass. Photograph dated January 31, 1962.

Photo source: Los Angeles Public Library collections

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Miss Ruth strikes a Denishawn pose in “The Peacock” (1914)

Dance · Visual arts
A photographer’s dream model, the exotic Ruth St. Denis habitually struck a dramatic pose for the camera. Fifty years later, in the San Fernando Valley, she was doing the same thing. Ruth St. Denis, “The Peacock” 1914, photo by J.D. Toloff, Evanston, IL

David Hockney, choreographer of the canvas

Dance · featured · Visual arts
While taking in the astonishingly energetic recent output of artist David Hockney in “Painting and Photography,” now on view at L.A. Louver Gallery, I was struck by how dancerly were the images, rendered in rectangles, that hung on the wall. The artist’s distinct consideration of bodies – and objects – arranged in space evoked avant-garde ...

Dance across the Pacific Isles with ‘Cinerama South Seas Adventure’

Dance · Film
Cinerama's South Seas Adventure
A cruise ship wending it way across the South Pacific, with visits to Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji, includes a film crew shooting footage of native culture. Camera-captured in 1958 in “Cinerama South Sea Adventure,” it sounds pretty colorful, doesn’t it? Now a legendary travelogue, “South Sea,” one of the great exercises in wide-screen projection ...

Clarion voice of songbird Judy Collins fills L.A. night sky 8

featured · Music · Reviews
Yes, a songbird, thrush, warbler, coloratura, balladeer … she self-described as a troubadour. But who knew that folk-rock legend Judy Collins is also supremely entertaining, a raconteur spieling salty, even ribald stories all while innocently strumming her guitar? Tonight in a delicious free concert at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, Collins lulled her audience like a ...

Behave! or Isaac de Los Reyes will burn a hole in your soul

Forever Flamenco_Isaac De Los Reyes
We love ‘Forever Flamenco’ — whether in its grandstand production at the (now under renovation) John Anson Ford Theatre, or in its cozy Hollywood home, the 80-seat summer sweat-box of sensual Spanish stagecraft, aka the Fountain Theatre. This weekend, ‘Forever,’ produced by Deborah Lawlor and James Bennett, presents Isaac De Los Reyes — a special ...

Review: Under pink clouds, Music Center’s “Moves After Dark”

Dance · Reviews
Dance critic Gillian Anne Renault contributes this review to arts·meme: As grey clouds turned pink Monday evening and a cool breeze dimpled the Mark Taper Forum pool, a powerful alto voice quieted the crowd for Moves After Dark, The Music Center’s inaugural, site-specific, mainly outdoor dance concert. The ambitious evening, well executed, proved a worthy ...

It depends on your point of view, says David Hockney @ L.A. Louver

Language & ideas · Visual arts
“Painting and Photography,” a solo exhibition of new work by David Hockney developed over the past two years in his Los Angeles studio, explores the relationship between painting and photography, the artist’s interest in depicting perspective, as well as his fascination with using new technology to create images. The show marks Hockney’s 16th solo exhibition at ...