Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Bit of Hibari Misora and Veronica Lake

I am hoping to get around to watching a film or two starring Hibari Misora (Beautiful Skylark) fairly soon. She is a favorite of mine and was a huge singing/acting star in Japan post WWII till her death in 1989. That is still my intention but I got into an email exchange with a friend about the films of Preston Sturges and after a few emails I realized that all my opinions were based on seeing his films thirty years ago (with the exception of Sullivan's Travels which I have seen often) and that I needed to refresh my doddering memory and watch them again. So that is the plan.

Back in the 1980's there was a small repertory film theater called Theater 80 located at St Marks in the Village that used to program double features of old films and they always seemed to be showing a bunch of his and I became quite fond of The Lady Eve, Christmas in July, the two Eddie Bracken films, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero, but especially Sullivan's Travels. Veronica Lake was just the buzz that never stopped buzzing for me in Sullivan's Travels as well as This Gun for Hire, The Blue Dahlia and The Glass Key. Hey, she was born in Brooklyn so what do you expect. Apparently, she was not the easiest person to work with and after Sullivan's Travels the leading man Joel McCrea was asked to star with her in another film and said "Life is too short to act in another film with Veronica Lake" (though apparently he changed his mind a few years later in Ramrod, 1947). Veronica was 4'11'' of pure purr. Kittinish in all the right ways. You wanted to take her and a warm bowl of milk to bed at night. Her height or lack of it was one of the reasons she was paired off with Alan Ladd multiple times. They did not have to dig holes for his leading actresses to stand in. Or at least not as deep. Even though she was just a kid when she made her first few films, she had already acquired a warm worldly reassuring presence that made her male counterparts seem like boys at play. That must have been the Brooklyn in her. Sadly, her life went completely off the tracks within a few years of her becoming a star and she died pretty much a broken person at 51 from too much drinking and too much rejection.

Hibari Misora had her fill of ups and downs as well but was always a fighter. Here are two clips I created from one of her first films as a child actress, Sad Whistle, made in 1949 at the age of 12.

and the grand finale in which all ends happily:


Anonymous said...

Didn't know that Veronica Lake was so short. Her presence is so much bigger than that!

Thanks for the Hibari Misora clips. It's amazing to see her performance persona go from adorable to adult. She gives Marlene Dietrich a run for her money in that second number. Although I've only seen random clips from Hibari's movies, I'm already a big fan. I just wish her Japanese DVDs had English subs and weren't so damn expensive.

Brian said...

Absolutely unless you see her next to Joel McCrea where she looks like she could fit into a breadbox. Not to be at all a proponent of the Gray Market in dvds but when it comes to films that will never make it to the light of day with English subs I make a sad exception and a number of Hibari's films are available if you look around. Usually in the $15 range.