Travis Banton undresses Miriam Hopkins

Film
We’re midway through Ian Birnie’s weekend film retrospective of the American-made comedies of Ernst Lubitsch at LACMA. Last weekend, we levitated in pleasure under the spell of “Design for Living“ (1933), the sophisticated German-born film director’s version of the Noel Coward play. Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers (Frederic March) and ...

Hey, “Beauty”: Wake up!

Dance
Ah, “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet. Tchaikovsky, its composer, was lucky. They wrote his stuff down. The Russian Imperial Ballet choreographer, Marius Petipa, less so. No video cameras in 1890. So following Petipa’s original “Beauty,” a century of quibbling ensued over the grand spectacle’s staging, intentions, and shoot, its steps! A huge eye-glazing gob of ink ...

Love among the geniuses

Film · Music
Read this story on The Huffington Post. Two recent biopics portray the torrid love lives of great artists — one of our favorite subjects. First, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009), a chicly decorated French film about a purported love affair between the stern couturière and the equally rigorous modernist composer — all while Mme ...

All hail Travis Banton, Paramount Pictures costume designer

Fashion · Film
LACMA’s retrospective of Ernst Lubitsch comedies, made in America with a classy European sensibility, opened with the giddy perfection of the German-born director’s “Trouble in Paradise” (1932). Of all the ingredients simmering in this film’s sweet stew, it’s the pre-code evening gowns in which “Trouble”‘s two leading ladies circulate the sound stage dropping witty dialogue ...

Ernst Lubitsch’s 90-minute tour of paradise

Film
Tonight at LACMA — the launch of Ian Birnie’s 16-film retrospective of the American-made comedies of Ernst Lubitsch. Both films run a dreamy 90 minutes long! Let’ s see how much great entertainment the German expat could pack into 1.5 hours. Nicola Lubitsch, the director’s daughter, will be in the house for a curtain talk. ...

Philippe Petit, wired, even when not on wire 2

Dance · Language & ideas · Visual arts
Co-published on Huffington Post arts page “Falling is not my specialty,” quipped Philippe Petit in verbal jousting with “extreme” choreographer Elizabeth Streb during “Hammer Conversations” at the museum’s Billy Wilder Theater last week. Streb was describing how dance “must be extreme or no one will notice it as action.” In amazingly fluent English, Petit rejoined, ...

Arthur Mitchell delights in his ballerinas

Dance
“I love to partner,” admits the great pioneering African-American ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell who joined New York City Ballet in 1955. In conversation he shares affectionate sound bites about the ballerinas he partnered when dancing for choreographer George Balanchine at New York City Ballet, 1955 – 1966. On Allegra Kent: “Otherworldly. A real creature, there was nothing she ...

Second star to the right …

Film
Second star to the right … and straight on till morning. With that lovely language, Peter Pan ‘google-maps’ his Neverland address, informing his new buddy Wendy where he and the tribe of Lost Boys reside. The fetching 1924 silent-movie version of the J.M. Barrie classic charmed nearly 2,000 adults who poured into the Orpheum Theater ...

Lizabeth Scott @ the Academy 5

Film
Co-published on Huffington Post arts page. Monday night’s edition of the Academy’s first-rate full-summer film series, “1940s Writing Nominees from Hollywood’s Dark Side,” now at mid-schedule, enjoyed the tremendous pleasure of a guest appearance by actress Lizabeth Scott. The heavy-browed, sultry-voiced Scott graced 22 movies, primarily film noirs made between 1945-57 in which she played ...

Jane Russell remembers “Gentleman” Jack Cole 2

Dance · Film
“Yes,” answered Jane Russell last Wednesday evening, nodding emphatically when asked if choreographer Jack Cole had directed the dance sequences in Howard Hawks’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953). Russell’s brown eyes flashed and she became animated on hearing Cole’s name. The brunette bombshell of the 1940/50’s, appearing at a Hollywood Heritage event this past week, chatted ...