Vintage Grudge Match

Earlier in December Oscar winning actress Joan Fontaine passed away at the age of 96.


If you are not familiar with Fontaine, perhaps you remember her sister Olivia de Haviland, who is now 97.


de Havilland is best known as stoic and sweet Melanie in “Gone with the Wind”.


Why, you couldn’t ask for a more wholesome, more selfless woman than Miss Melanie in “GWTW“; which is understandably why Scarlett O’Hara wanted to steal her husband and see her destroyed.


Olivia also starred in eight films with Errol Flynn–who was a swashbuckling seducer of the times. (The expression “in like Flynn” originated from the actor’s prowess.  In his later years he tried to write a memoir called “In Like Me”…which was rejected by publishers. A hard drinking gentleman with a penchant for morphine and and heroin, his career crumbled after a pesky statutory rape charge from two women.  The subsequent trial unraveled his heroic on-screen persona, and his popularity diminished. Flynn died at the age of 50 in a West End apartment in Vancouver).

errol13 But back when Flynn was in like himself, he and de Haviland were the most successful romantic pairing in the late 1930′s/early 1940′s.


Joan was born one year after Olivia.  Both women were born in Tokyo, Japan, where their father Walter was a university professor.  Their mother Lilian was a stage actress before following her husband to Japan.  After discovering her husband’s infidelity with geishas, their marriage crumbled.  Due to Joan’s ill health, Lilian moved with both sisters to California.  Joan eventually returned to Tokyo to complete her schooling.  Though both began appearing in films in 1935, it was arguably Olivia that was favored…in Hollywood and at home.


In her memoir “No Bed of Roses”, Fontaine claimed that she had no memories of Olivia’s kindness.  She endured bullying, and suffered violent outbursts from her sister, which once led to a broken collarbone.  Her mother was also dismissive, ripping Olivia’s outworn garments for Joan to repair and wear.  Very Cinderella–the early years. Since Olivia had approached an acting career first, and that Joan tried to follow along, was a major upset to the de Havilland clan.  Their mother, who clearly favored Olivia, supported Olivia’s argument that Joan should not be allowed to use the family name for professional purposes.

1387305184666.cachedUndaunted, Fontaine made up a stage name and appeared in a dozen or so pictures.  None of the films were hugely successful, and when her contract with RKO expired in 1939, it was not renewed.  Of course, this is the same year that “Gone with the Wind” premiered. de Havilland was nominated for an Academy Award.


For de Havilland, being nominated for “just” the best supporting actress was a bitter pill to swallow.  She thought her performance was comparable to Vivien Leigh‘s Scarlett O’Hara.


Vivien Leigh won the award.  de Havilland, convinced that she would win in her category, was devastated when Hattie McDaniel won instead.

tumblr_m9118dJKMk1rtlg9wo1_500 Bear in mind, this was a historical moment: the first African American to win an Oscar, but McDaniel and her escort were seated at a segregated table for two, far from her cast mates and other industry giants.  While de Havilland’s loss reportedly caused her to doubt God’s existence, at least she got to rub elbows at the A-List table.  One historian remarked: “Ms. McDaniel and her escort were seated alone at a small round table in a sea of long banquet tables end to end. They were in a corner [facing the stairs]“.  That’s just about the saddest effing thing I’ve ever heard.


After McDaniel’s death, her Academy Award (not a statue, but a plaque) was displayed at Howard University in Washington DC.  At a indeterminate date, the award vanished without a trace.  Rumors swirled that it was stolen during the civil rights movement and hurled into the Potomac River by idealistic students who were angered by “Gone with the Wind’s” lamentation of slavery’s end; and McDaniel’s portrayal of a slave.  In 2011 Professor W. B. Carter published her findings after a year and a half of investigation, and basically conclude that it was boxed up sometime between 1971 and 1972, and just got because it was a plaque and not the recognizable golden statue it presumably got lost in the shuffle.   (Oh this picture? Apparently they’re just letting Hattie look at the Oscar, she doesn’t actually get to take one home).


Social injustice aside, I invite you to fast forward ahead one year.  It’s 1941 and Joan Fontaine’s career is on the upswing.  She had the good fortune to be sat next to David O. Selznick at a dinner party, who cast her opposite Laurence Olivier in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”.

a rebecca-R54

The following year she had been nominated for best actress in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” and Olivia de Havilland for “Hold Back the Dawn”.  This competition was a major focal point in the media.  In 1942, the moment of truth arrived and Fontaine’s name was called.


“I froze. I stared across the table, where Olivia was sitting. ‘Get up there!’ she whispered commandingly. Now what had I done? All the animosity we’d felt toward each other as children, the hair-pullings, the savage wrestling watches, the time Olivia fractured my collarbone, all came rushing back in kaleidoscopic imagery. My paralysis was total.”

‘Kaleidoscopic imagery?’ ‘My paralysis was total?’ Imagine that kind of pressure, while everyone is smiling and clapping, and you’re quietly having a stroke.


In 1947, after two losses, de Havilland won for “To Each His Own”.  Joan Crawford was meant to present the award, but backed out at the last minute. The Academy replaced her with Fontaine, with the hope of de Havilland winning and a reconciliation of sorts to follow.  That, or someone gets slapped, either way they’d get something for the front page of the newspaper.   de Havilland refused to even shake her sister’s hand.  Backstage, Olivia continued the snub, saying to her agent “I don’t know why she does that when she knows how I feel”.


By 1975, their mother–who had been the true source of their rivalry, had died.  The sisters disagreed with how to care for Lilian (who went by Lillian Fontaine in her later years).  At the time, Joan was touring with a play and Olivia sent a telegram to her next stop, which Joan did not get for two weeks.  (Which was probably for the best as she wasn’t invited to the service anyhow). And from all accounts, never psoke again.  Damn you de Havilland, why’d you have to be so cold?

pa-8640462-2-e1387182689495-630x465Phew…Let’s just take a breather here, this is emotional for me too.  It’s like going through an old trunk of letters and learning from pretty big truths about life and love.  We’ve covered a lot of ground here.  I didn’t know about Hattie McDaniel either…sitting alone at that little table.  And these two sisters both lived well into their nineties, refusing to settle this vintage grudge match.  Like…wouldn’t you want to call your sister and just marvel at your long, amazing lives?”


Apparently not.  They last attended the 1987 Oscars at the same time, and then never again.  In recent years, they were invited to events such as Bette Davis’s 100th birthday party. And one wouldn’t go if the other was going.  Which is a shame, being that everyone else who knew Bette Davis was dead.  They had decided, and declared in so many words to the press that it was just to late to mend any fences.  Not even Bette Davis could bring them together. All this talk about Bette Davis and sibling rivalry means it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the psychological thriller “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”


The Hudson sisters are two old movie stars living in a dilapidated mansion.  As children, Baby Jane (Bette Davis) was a vaudeville star, beloved by her parents. Blanche (Joan Crawford) was constantly overlooked.  As they grew older the roles were reversed.  Blanche was a huge success, while Baby Jane’s career was stalling.  Baby Jane plunges into alcoholism and depression. A mysterious car accident occurs and Blanche is left paralyzed, leaving crazy old Baby Jane to be her deranged caretaker. I’m not going to get into it, but shit goes down in that house, and it is perfectly terrifying.  In the end: the maid is dead, the bird is dead, they’re being hunted by police and Baby Jane has dragged Blanche down to the beach.

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Blanche admits that the night of the fateful accident, she had deliberately try to hit her sister with the car.   It was Blanche who tried to run over her drunken sister. Jane, however, moved out of the way in time and Blanche had slammed into the gate and snapped her spine, but managed to drag herself out of the car and up to the wrecked gate. Jane was too drunk to realize what happened, and has long believed that she was responsible for her sister’s condition. Baby Jane says: “You mean all this time we could have been friends?” Communication people, it’s essential.

bette-davis-joan-crawfordIt was no secret that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford absolutely loathed one another.  Davis had once remarked to the both of them as “old broads”; Crawford rebuked her with an angry telegram.  When the Academy Awards were announced, Davis was nominated, Crawford was not.  Being the classy gal she was, Crawford actively campaigned against Davis and approached all the other nominees, offering to take their places in they were unavailable. And what do you know, Bette Davis was standing in the wings of the theatre when it was announced that Anne Bancroft had won Best Actress for “The Miracle Worker”.  Bancroft was in New York and sent Crawford in her absence.  Passing Davis, she said “Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept”. Oh snap!

baby jane pic

Really, this whole thing boils down to the existential dilemma in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”. Who’s the Mary and who’s the Rhoda.  Who’s the leading lady and who’s the best friend.

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In a dream sequence, they explore the kind of grudge that not even the death bed can cure.

1 2 i;m the mary

Does it ever get to a point in our lives when it doesn’t really matter who was the Mary or the Rhoda? Who did better, who achieved more? Was more pretty or popular? What does that matter in the end when all you have are your memories?  When does the roar of jealousy quiet down long enough to reach out regardless; to check in, to congratulate each other for surviving, to remember those golden, glamorous days when you were a star and Errol was in like Flynn.

fontainejoan04Images Courtesy of Google

| Tagged Academy Award, Fontaine, Hattie McDaniel, history. gossip, , Joan, Joan Fontaine, , Olivia, , Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, Scarlett O'Hara,

Carbohydrate Brokeback Mountain

I call my husband “The Bear” and it’s a nickname that’s started to stick.  As with most nicknames, it spawns spin-off expressions.  He calls me “Goat”, or on occasion “Sheltland Goat”, with many variations.  Once in a silly mood, I called him ‘chunky bear‘ and the sound of it made me giggle. Obviously, he didn’t care for it, as it does imply that he is ‘chunky’.  It was not an often used name, but it does come out now and again.  Truth is; winter has come and so has the carbohydrates; we’re both feeling a little soft around the edges.

therightcarbs_heroStanding in the walk-in closet, attempting to pack for our last minute trip to Vancouver.  I catch an unflattering glimpse of myself.  Well..not like seeing an unflattering glimpse of myself is the equivalent of aurora borealis. It’s not rare to catch a glimpse in the mirror and feel varying degrees of dissatisfaction.  I’m not Victoria’s Secret, I’m not even her dirty little secret.  I’m not really their market audience.  I’ve got itty-bitties up top and then all the action is down below.  As I always say, my thighs are Godzilla and my calves Tokyo.  I lean into the mirror.  Oh crap.  Has my face gotten fat? Am I looking a little puffy?

Kim-Kardashian-instagram-selfie-2461622I implore my husband for some consolation. “Aww…” he says,chuckling a little and pinching my cheeks: “My chunky-goat-wife”.  I took this remark like an absolute champ.

Jenni-in-a-Calmer-Moment‘Chunky goat wife?’ Scientists couldn’t extract adorability from it and a public relations expert couldn’t spin it into a frothy confection.  At least ‘chunky bear’ sounded a bit like a yummy pastry.  “I’ll have an non fat cappuccino and two chunky bears please”;  at best ‘chunky goat wife’ could be a poorly translated name for a questionable looking hot dish served in the Mongolian mountains.  He really ran with that bit, which is fair I suppose, I did start it. But doesn’t he realize? It’s only funny when I am the one dishing it out. I’d like to keep my plate clean of comebacks thank you.  Needless to say, I spent the next hour pouting, glaring and poking my chin contemptuously.  Then ole Chunky Bear had the nerve to complain that I wasn’t being more helpful with the packing.  Uh, well here’s a tip, if you want your wife’s help, best check yourself before you wreck yourself with the pet names.

f5b7828531a537ab9eb7f44a4272d530I don’t want to be one of those wives that you have to lie to…but I wouldn’t mind being the kind of wife you bend the truth for.  Nod and smile and back away slowly.  That’s how you get it done.  I don’t want to be one of those women who are weight-obsessed.  I am who I am, and my body is shaped as it is.  If it were fifty years ago, my perception of my physical circumstances would be a different story.

ad1Of course, I’d be a fool to say I didn’t wish that I had legs that went on forever.  Truth is, I was curvy even as a little kid.  In my late elementary school days, someone started calling me “Chunky Soup“, saying that like the famous soup line, I too could be eaten with a fork or a spoon.  I didn’t know what that meant…but I was certain it was a nickname Audrey Hepburn never got pegged with.

largeChubby knees, stubby legs and dimply thighs are super cute when you’re a naked toddler running around the backyard.  As one gets older, and possibly more modest, such is best kept under leggings, trousers, pantyhose and A-frame skirts.

Fkowt Don’t get me wrong, I think Lena Dunham is awfully brave.  In her television series “Girls”, she is fearless when it comes to being vulnerable.  Sure, it’s her character Hannah being portrayed in those uncomfortable sex scenes and unflattering rompers, but Dunham is writing herself into these situations. She is deliberately exposing to the cast, crew, professional partners, advertisers and the audience.

Lena-Dunham-nude-topless-bush-sex-Girls-s2e5-2013-hd720p-15 It’s brave, bold, revolutionary, but I wouldn’t participate.  If I was director, writer, star and producer of my popular HBO program, I would have an iron clad nudity and romper policy.  The show would still be brilliant; it would be the new “Girls” which was the new “Sex and the City“.

66301_parker93_122_499loThe main theme on my show would focus on a love triangle between myself, Ryan Gosling and George Clooney; Clooney being a wealthy suitor, and Gosling a young man from the wrong side of the tracks.  They fight for my love and affection, (this will go on for years) and as we slip into old age, the winner gets to repeat the story to me over and over about how I dicked everyone around until I got dementia.  It’s a completely original idea, and it’s going to blow minds.  And never in the years of the beloved series ‘Love Sandwich’ would you see me scantily clad.  I would dress like Katherine Hepburn and in all my love scenes I’ll wear a scuba suit.

hepburnSometimes I think to myself…”I could stand to lose a few pounds”.  And I visualize a montage of myself doing sit ups, and jogging in the streets, and punching large slabs of meat.  I would be so fit.

44-sexy-fit-women-13My problem is…I love bread.  I love cheese, red wine and creamy lattes .  And bread.  I love bread so much that if I was on death row my last meal would just be various types of bread with things to spread, dip and place on top of it.

creepy girl stares at bread and jelly cello54aI used to go to this amazing restaurant when I lived in Victoria where they offered an all you could eat soup deal with the greatest bread ever.  Hot, buttery and pelted with chunks of rock salt.  I could have ordered the special and sent the soup back in the same way my friend Robin does with a wings and beer feature at the local pub.  She wants the cheap wings, but tells the waitress to give the beer to someone else cause she doesn’t want that cheap piss anywhere near her face.


Fair enough, life is short, take only the good stuff.  I don’t even know who this Franz character is but I wish that I were that duck so I could eat all his bread.  Alas, this is a world full of limitations, boundaries, rules and limits.  Bread is a dietary no no, and most would recommend cutting out yeast and flour based products.  My love for bread is like the love in Brokeback Mountain. I just don’t know how to quit you, carbohydrates.  I love you, I hate you, I want you inside my mouth.  (…too much?)

Brokeback Mountain I really can’t remember “Brokeback Mountain”…though I did wind up seeing it twice at the cinema.  But I do remember just sobbing my little heart out.  I meant to re-watch it recently, but got distracted on Netflix and watched “Bring it On” instead.  It was just too sad to watch again. Maybe that’s how I can justify comparing the film to carbohydrates and plump thighs.  It was devastating to me that you could just miss your whole life by not being true to yourself; and for Ennis that was Jack Twist, for me it’s twist bread.

tumblr_md3ixfsZKW1rbear9o1_500Okay, I’m sorry for you situation with the forbidden love and all, but this is my blog and I can say what I want.  I’m comparing your love to my love of bread–deal with it.  In reality, I’m perfectly average. Not Karen Carpenter, not Mama Cass, just somewhere in the middle.  When I look at old photos of myself I balk at how young and slender I looked.   Of course, when that picture was being taken, I had that same voice in my head that compared and criticized.  In a year’s time, I could look at a picture of myself today and think I looked perfectly lovely.  With this in mind, I try to do my future self a favor and look at myself in the present as she would do in hindsight.

fun-house-mirrorImages Courtesy of Google