Emily Brontë at 200

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'To Walk Invisible' (2016)

Last weekend, the historian and literary biographer Kathryn Hughes wrote for The Guardian about ‘The Strange Cult of Emily Brontë and the “Hot Mess” of Wuthering Heights,’ arguing that the middle Brontë sister was “no romantic child of nature but a pragmatic, self-interested Tory,” and that her only novel (which Hughes read as a teenager and struggled to finish) was a “screeching melodrama.” Published on the eve of Emily’s bicentenary, this clickbait sensation was only the latest in a long line of outraged and baffled responses to the writer and her work. Whereas her sisters Charlotte and Anne have been embraced by feminists, Emily – about whom little is known – remains something of an outcast.  Continue reading

Happy Birthday, ‘Lust for Life’

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A year after its release, here’s my in-depth review of Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life…  Continue reading

There’s No Business Like Show Business

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On June 1st – exactly ninety-two years after Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in the charity ward of Los Angeles General Hospital – her 1954 movie, There’s No Business Like Show Business, was screened at the Duke of York’s Cinema in Brighton, and will be shown at selected Picturehouse venues throughout June. The first musical made in CinemaScope (a pioneering widescreen technology developed by Twentieth Century Fox to combat the threat of television), it was also one of the last Technicolour musicals made under the studio system model of Hollywood’s golden age.  Continue reading

Marilyn: An Unlikely Feminist

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In the wake of last fall’s revelations about sexual harassment in Hollywood, some were quick to point out that this was not a new phenomenon. Actress Joan Collins claimed that Marilyn Monroe had warned her about the ‘wolves’ who preyed on young starlets. Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, who played dual roles in a TV movie about the legendary star, revealed that they were later blackballed for resisting unwanted advances. And a producer on the 2011 biopic, My Week With Marilyn, recalled how disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein loitered on the set while Michelle Williams filmed a nude swimming scene.

Just as Monroe’s glamorous image has come to symbolise Hollywood’s golden age, she has also been linked to its darker side in a way that risks over-simplification. For not only was she one of the first to speak out about sexual abuse, she also battled for equal rights and fair pay, which women are still fighting today in Tinseltown and beyond. Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, paints a fuller picture in her new book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist. Continue reading

Reggie Lucas 1953-2018

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Reginald Grant Lucas was born in Queens, New York in 1953, the son of a doctor and a teacher. “Although no one in the family was a musician or singer,” he recalled, “music was an important and natural part of our lives.” He began taking piano lessons aged six, and was given an electric guitar for his eleventh birthday. Enthralled by the “music explosion” coming from Motown and England in the Early 1960s, it was “the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Continue reading

Making Sense of Marilyn

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This article can also be read at Immortal Marilyn.

How do you solve a problem like Norma Jeane, when even her name is in doubt? More than a thousand books to date have been devoted to this question. As Ezra Goodman, at the height of her fame, wrote so prophetically: “The riddle that is Marilyn Monroe has not been solved.” Andrew Norman’s Making Sense of Marilyn is the latest attempt. With a background in medicine, Dr Norman is now a prolific biographer. Marilyn would surely be proud, if rather surprised, to find herself among a litany of subjects as lofty and diverse as Jane Austen and Winston Churchill.  Continue reading

Urban Myths: ‘It’s Me, Sugar’

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“She was the biggest star in the world; she had a lot of attention on her, a lot of pressure… there is a scene, when she comes to the door, she says, ‘It’s me, Sugar.’ It took forty-seven shots to make this scene. The film is about that moment, the crisis she had. It’s funny because it’s stupid not to be able to say ‘It’s me, Sugar’… It’s tragic too.” Continue reading

When Avicii Met Madonna

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In March 2012, Madonna made a surprise appearance at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami alongside the twenty-three year-old Swedish DJ/producer Avicii. She had enlisted him to remix her latest single, ‘Girl Gone Wild’. “I’ve been here in spirit for many years, but it’s good to finally be standing on the stage, looking at all you people who have come here from all around the world,” Madonna told the crowd. “In my world the words ‘music’ and ‘dance’ are not separated. Electronic music has been a part of my life since the beginning of my career. I can honestly say that a DJ saved my life.” Continue reading

‘Casablanca’ at the Picturehouse

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One of the finest movies ever made, Casablanca, celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. As I joined a nearly full house at the Duke of York’s in Brighton last Sunday, I wondered whom in the audience were watching it for the first time, and how many had seen it numerous times on television. Most chuckled in recognition of its oft-quoted dialogue, whether familiar from past viewings or references in popular culture. Continue reading

Art Decades 13: Marilyn in Manhattan, The Punished and More

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The latest edition of Art Decades quarterly is now available from Amazon stores worldwide (and for £11.14 in the UK.) At the heart of this issue is a tribute to cult cinema, with a profile of ‘sexploitation’ king Joe Sarno; an unpublished interview with Jess Franco, the Spanish filmmaker famed for his erotic horror flicks; and a roundtable discussion with the authors of a new book, It Came From the Video Aisle, including a special focus on director Charles Band, best-known for his horror comedies.

Elsewhere, there’s a short story from Les Bohem, set in the post-hippie California of the 1970s; a spotlight on Denver’s ‘totally rad’ nostalgia shop, Fifty-Two 80s; and extracts from Singin’ In French, a new anthology co-edited by Marcelline Block. For me, the highlight was ‘Suzie’s Zoo’, a very moving piece from Kelley Richey in which she explores childhood memories through film. She also contributes three photo-stories which celebrate nature, beauty and the coming of spring.

And finally from me, a review of Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan, one of my favourite books of 2017; and an interview with Cy Forrest, author of The Punished, a ‘dystopian noir’ which alternates between the inhabitants of a ghost village during World War II and the corporate sexism of the 1980s.