Classic films in music videos: “Express Yourself” by Madonna

This is September’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

metropolisMadonna has always mixed pop culture into her music and music videos- especially classic films:
-Frequently wearing clothing and bleached blond hairstyles reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe
-Paying homage to Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) in her “Material Girl” music video.
-Listing several classic actresses in the lyrics of “Vogue” including Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Lana Turner.

Madonna’s 1989 music video for “Express Yourself” is no exception.

The music video pulls inspiration from the 1927 silent film “Metropolis.” Directed by Fritz Lang, the German Expressionist styled and futuristic film was a pioneer for the science fiction genre. In the film “Metropolis,” the futuristic city has a strong divide between the working class and the planners of the city.

Similarly in the music video, Madonna plays a glamorous lady with muscular men as her workers and she picks one of them to “express his self” with her. Futuristic like factories and skyscrapers with a German Expressionism tone are the backdrop.

A city scene from "Metropolis" and "Express Yourself."

A city scene from “Metropolis” and “Express Yourself.”

“All the imagery we wanted—and I had a few set ideas, for instance the cat and the idea of Metropolis,” Madonna said in an interview. “I definitely wanted to have that influence, that look on all the men—the workers, diligently, methodically working away.”

The music video ends with the phrase: “Without the Heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind. This is a reference to a very similar quote from “Metropolis, “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

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Classic in the Carolinas: Lost silent film based on Elkin, NC

Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live and work).

Elkin, North Carolina is a small town of roughly 4,000 people.

It also is the setting of a silent film made in 1915, and the film is currently lost.

Clara Kimball Young in "Heart of the Blueridge"

Clara Kimball Young in “Heart of the Blueridge” scanned from the book the film was based on.

The film “Heart of the Blue Ridge” is based off a book written by Waldron Baily, a former Elkin mayor.

Baily, originally from Mount Kisco, N.Y., moved to Elkin in 1896 and started Baily Manufacturing Company, according to the history book “Elkin” by Elkin native Jason Couch.

“I called it ‘my Elkin,’ because we all came to love it so,” Baily said in his autobiography published posthumously in 1958.

Baily became mayor in the late 1890s until he moved back up North in 1903, Couch said

“And I, a Yankee…was elected with only two votes over the other fellow,” Baily wrote.

Baily wrote “Heart of the Blue Ridge” book in 1915 after he left Elkin. The book was based off the Stone Mountain and Elkin areas.

The silent film based on the book was released in October 1915 starring Clara Kimball Young as Plutina, Chester Barnett as Zeke and Robert Cummings as Dan Hodges.

Unfortunately, the film is currently lost.

“Like the overwhelming majority of silent features, it likely remains lost,” said Ihsan Amanatullah of the National Film Preservation Foundation in San Francisco, C.A.

Clara Kimball Young as Plutina in "Heart of the Blueridge." Photo scanned from the movie version of the book.

Clara Kimball Young as Plutina in “Heart of the Blueridge.” Photo scanned from the movie version of the book.

Though the film is about North Carolina it was filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The story follows Zeke (Barnett) and his sweetheart Plutina (Young) and their life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Zeke is a moonshiner who betrays other moonshiners, which angers the community; causing him to leave the mountains.

But when he hears Plutina is kidnapped, Zeke returns home to rescue her.

The film was re-released in 1917 under the name “Savage Instinct.”

“My characters were all from life with of course a fictional build-up,” Baily said. “It was made into a movie starring the beautiful Clara Kimball Young in the only rough part she ever played.”

Young was married to James Young, the director of “Heart of the Blue Ridge,” but the couple divorced in 1919.

“Heart of the Blue Ridge” was the last film Young made under the direction of her husband James Young, according to Stanford University.

Chester Barnett and Clara Kimball Young in "Heart of the Blue Ridge" scanned from the movie version of the book.

Chester Barnett and Clara Kimball Young in “Heart of the Blue Ridge” scanned from the movie version of the book.

Young was a popular star of the 1910s acting in films such as “Camille” (1915), “Eyes of Youth” (1919)—with Rudolph Valentino early in his career—and “Hearts in Exile” (1915). In 1914, she was polled more popular than Mary Pickford, according to Stanford University.

Young began in films in 1909 and her last movie was “Mr. Celebrity” in 1941 playing herself. She died in 1960 at the age of 70.

Barnett began in films in 1912 to 1920 and he died in 1947 at the age of 63.

Baily also wrote three other North Carolina based novels including “The Homeward Trail” in 1916 about Croatian Indians, “When the Cock Crows” in 1918 based on Beaufort, N.C. and “June Gold” in 1922 about Bogue Inlet.

“The story which I wrote (“Heart of the Blue Ridge”) will live on and on through the years,” Baily said.

*I originally a variation of this story wrote this in March 2012 while I was working for the Elkin Tribune in Elkin, NC.

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Happy New Years from a dancing daughter

It’s true, I enjoy dancing a good bit.

But I was actually referencing Joan Crawford in “Our Dancing Daughters” (1928) who is pictured before being the personification of youth of the 1920s.  “Dancing Daughters” was the first of a trio of movies that followed each other but were completely unrelated.  It was followed by “Our Modern Maidens” (1929) and “Our Blushing Brides” (1930).   All three starred 1920s stars Anita Page and Joan Crawford; and Dorothy Sebastian was in two of the three films.

It’s funny for people today to think of Joan Crawford as “the personification of youth” like she was known in the 1920s.  Now, you say Joan Crawford and people think “Mommie Dearest” (if you actually believe that) and the film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” It’s funny to look at the transitions she went through from her career in silent films in the 1920s to silly horror movies in the 1960s.

Much like Crawford’s transition, we are making a transition from 2010 to 2011 this New Year’s Eve. I will also be making a huge transition: graduating from college in May and hopefully finding a job at a newspaper. Happy New Years everyone! Hopefully this year will be MUCH better than the last.

Joan Crawford dancing on a table in “Our Dancing Daughters” (1928)

Classic film related new years resolutions:

1.  Keep working hard to finish my actor lists

2. Make my huge, long “All Movies I’ve Ever Seen” list

3. Finish my fan mail before more people die

4. Blog more regularly 

5. Keep plotting on how to meet Robert Osborne

*This month’s beauty tip will be a couple of days late. I haven’t had a chance to try it out due to holiday festivities.

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Let’s talk about a little pet peeve of mine…

Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) surrounded by Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), Betsy Booth (Judy Garland) and Cynthia Potter (Lana Turner).

How I define a classic movie fan and my pet peeve of the old movie ‘posers’ . I know I am a little fanatical and old movies are my life, but if you are going to claim to like old movies you have to know your stuff.

Another thing that drives me crazy is what consumers and manufacturers consider when it comes to classic movie merchandise (not including books, there is an abundance of wonderful film books). Everywhere you go, you see mugs, purses, T-shirts, magnets, etc with four people on them 1.) Marilyn Monroe 2.) Audrey Hepburn 3.) James Dean 4.) John Wayne. Then I go to Los Angeles with high hopes of Doris Day and Esther Williams merchandise, but I was quickly dismayed. In Hollywood, the movie mecca of the world, they still carried the same crap that they sell in Greenville, South Carolina. (Don’t get me wrong, I like Dean, Wayne and Hepburn but I want some variety.)

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