Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’


Until Jessica Lange emerged as the Supreme in American Horror Story: Coven, my life had lacked the presence of modern witchcraft, and admittedly this had gone unnoticed. For decades I have surrounded myself with my own coven of crafty conjurers, and it’s been quite some time since I have initiated any new members. Lange’s Fiona Goode is blessed with style, wit, and absolutely zero patience for those who attempt, unsuccessfully, to outsass her. Your welcoming to The Ticket Booth’s coven is long overdue, Fiona . . . please come meet the rest of the girls.


Jennifer, I Married a Witch (1942):


Bolts of lightning probably followed Veronica Lake wherever she went, and Samantha Stephens can’t hog all the attention – I think we need more blond witches out there.


Endora, Bewitched (1964–1972):


If Endora ever lost her powers in some freak curse or power outage, undoubtedly the fashion house that she would open to function as a mortal would lead her to world domination. Ah, Agnes Moorehead and her eyeshadow for days . . . the show hinted at some interesting points about prejudices that American Horror Story: Coven would violently incorporate decades later.


Carrie White, Carrie (1976):


Since the late 1930s, witches tend to joke about the whole “dumping buckets of liquid on them” situation, but Carrie has no sense of humor when it comes to that kind of thing.


Princess Mombi, Return to Oz (1985):


A blond witch at times, I guess . . . Jean Marsh’s demonic portrayal of Mombi and her habitual head swapping had children of the 80s hitting the fast-forward button just to make it end. I, instead, elected to rewind. A dear friend of Alice’s Queen of Hearts, this one.


Alex, Jane, and Sukie, The Witches of Eastwick (1987):


With Pfeiffer popping up in here, maybe the list is filled with Goldilockses! The film that either ruined or enchanted the act of eating cherries also reminds me that, in fact, Cher is not a foot taller than Jack Nicholson. Why do I have that idea in my head as an uncontested truth?


Ursula the Sea Witch, The Little Mermaid (1989):


It’s never easy to select only one villain from Disney’s powder room, but let’s go with the one who has “witch” on her birth certificate. I will never forget sitting in the movie theatre during a friend’s ninth birthday and thinking, “This isn’t how the story goes.” The 1975 Japanese anime film was “Mermaid truth” to me, and its Sea Witch had no motive other than to cause pain and heartbreak. Yes, when Ursula started singing, the truth was rewritten for me and coven admission was granted, but we all know that she stole her color scheme from her predecessor.


Miranda, Wicked Stepmother (1989):


Because she’s Bette Davis, so shut up about it.


Miss Ernst/The Grand High Witch, The Witches (1990):


Aside from yours truly, writers are a stubborn, picky, unyielding squad of artists who refuse to have their visions tampered with by any mortal, mere or miraculous. Therefore it thaws out our hearts to hear that Roald Dahl fully supported the casting of Anjelica Huston as his Grand High Witch. An offensive Oscar snub for both the actress and her makeup team.


Lisle Von Rhuman, Death Becomes Her (1992):


She is the one who understands; she is the one who knows your secret. What we will never understand is the spell that she used to keep those beads in place for a PG-13 rating. Clearly the witchcraft of Miss Isabella Rossellini is one of our coven’s most advanced and mysterious. Maybe it’s genetic . . .


The Sanderson Sisters, Hocus Pocus (1993):


The Internet machines have teased us with rumors of sequels and musicals, but alas, nothing. Damn, damn, double damn! Now if only I could find truth to the other rumors I’m hearing (or did I start them?) about Bette Midler and a biopic of Mae West.


Then, of course, there’s the original Supreme. I believe you’ve been introduced . . .


Happy Halloween!


When Franchot Tone discovers a 27-year-old Miss Bette Davis slamming down shots of gin in a dismal honky-tonk, he takes immediate action and orders another round . . . at ten cents a shot. Don Bellows (Tone’s white knight of a character) has already recognized Miss Davis as stage actress Joyce Heath, known for a colossal talent matched in size only by her recent bad luck. “Haven’t you had enough,” Don asks her, as she eyes the booze and all but ignores her supplier. Grabbing the shot in front of him, she wobbly yet firmly replies, “Quite enough,” and downs it without looking at him. The discussion continues, eventually leading into Joyce’s recitation of a monologue from Romeo and Juliet — she completes only half of it when she passes out in her chair. Don scoops up Joyce and takes her to his country house to dry out, and a comfortably predictable storyline continues.

Up until this point, I’ve chosen to write about films that I hold near and dear. While Dangerous has its moments (and by “moments,” I mean Bette Davis), it’s not one that I feel should go at the top of your “to-do” list. Since I came to know Miss Davis in reverse, starting with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and worked my way backwards, I do enjoy this glimpse into the early career of a larger-than-life actress. You can see it easily in Dangerous — “fiery” is often used to describe Miss Davis, and other than that of a blazing fire, few images so flawlessly define her screen presence. When one character offers Joyce a cigarette, she stiffly refuses him with a “No thanks,” almost as if she’s been offended by the question. Two seconds later, when she pulls out a cigarette case and lights one of her own, I can practically hear a jungle cat roaring in the background. And she’s off, folks!

Although the film is only around 80 minutes, it can feel a bit dragged out to me  .  .  .  mostly when Miss Davis is offscreen. When those scenes sans Davis came on the last time I watched Dangerous, I’ll admit I began examining my cuticles thoroughly, just as I did the last time I didn’t want to pay attention to something. And then, as Miss Davis reenters silently, instinct tells me to glance up from my nails — the intensity she brings to any character always jumps out at me, so it’s not difficult to sense when she’s returned to the screen. And really, the bottom line, as you see in later films: no one gives an “I’m going to kick your ass” expression like Bette Davis. Her costar Franchot Tone, (who was engaged to and later married Baby Jane star Miss Joan Crawford) is the lucky recipient of more than one potential ass-kicking throughout the film.

Released in 1935, naturally Dangerous has some of those “classic film” touches that really butter my toast. Aside from the obvious smokes and drinks that never missed a day’s work in 1930s Hollywood, there are hats, hats, hats everywhere! Miss Davis has a number of good ones, my favorite being the black hat featured at the top of this entry. And certainly the men are no slouches — the Fedoras, Stetsons, Borsalinos (and all the other beauties that probably have names I don’t know) garnish the streets and bars of the film, reminding me of what I imagine my Grandpa Al used to wear. By the time I came into his life, Grandpa Al was one of the world’s cheapest men (in the most lovable way), a trait typical of his generation. But from what I’ve heard about him back in the day, he had no problem squandering the dollars on fashion. You gotta hand it to ’em — those men and women knew a thing or two about their hats.

Many agreed with Bette Davis that her first Academy Award for Dangerous in 1935 was an apology of sorts. She had lost the previous year for her breakout performance in Of Human Bondage, a role for which she received a “write-in” nomination, thanks to her fans. It wasn’t enough, however — Miss Claudette Colbert’s name was announced as the winner for It Happened One Night, but Miss Colbert was not present at the ceremony, as she was convinced of a definite Davis victory. I guess if I really try, I can understand Miss Davis seeing her first Oscar as some type of consolation prize . . . but on the other “half full” hand, who else but Bette Davis could win one Oscar for two movies?

It’s difficult to argue that the fire of Miss Bette Davis can explode quickly and without warning, consuming everything in its path. To balance the universe onscreen, however, there had to exist one other element of equal power, capable of flowing over the same paths with similar force. Depending on the situation, one element may be more conquering than the other, but comparing the two is a rather dizzying exercise. If I were to give it a try, though, I’d have to support one of the best comparisons I’ve ever heard: if Miss Bette Davis has the unyielding power of fire, Miss Katharine Hepburn has the towering power of water . . .

Academy Award for Dangerous (1936): Best Actress in a Leading Role