Remember when I said I was going to start picking classic Hollywood stars to learn about? Yes? Well, the first one is down and we’ve only got who-knows-how-many to go! My first pick was Norma Shearer, the First Lady of MGM. So, for the last month I’ve hunted down what Shearer flicks I could and read what I could, now the time has come for a slight verdict of sorts.
I had already seen two Norma Shearer movies when I started this - The Women from 1939 one of her best performances as far as I’ve seen, and 1942’s Her Cardboard Lover, not one of her best but one of my favorites nonetheless. This month I watched seven new movies including her Oscar-winning performance in 1930’s The Divorcee, her Oscar-nominated turn in A Free Soul (1931), and one of my first silent movies 1928’s Lady of Chance.
The reason I had picked Norma to be the first person I attempted to learn about was that a lot of the bloggers I follow on Tumblr are absolutely in love with her. While I think she’s rather gorgeous, I can’t seem to get into her movies or the way she acts. I just don't think she’s a really captivating actress - unless you turn down the volume, then all the moving and the gestures seem so much more natural and gorgeous. She reminds me of Bette Davis, in the way that she acts is so over the top. I want to say that when she started out during the silent days she might have needed to show more emotion with her body since she couldn’t speak, and that that physical expression just carried over into her talkies; but, that might have nothing to do with it. Looking past her crazy gestures, I can’t seem to connect emotionally with Norma Shearer (and doing that is incredibly important to me when it comes to liking actresses). The Divorcee distinguishes itself as being the only Shearer movie I’ve seen that had me feeling even slightly heartbroken for the Queen of MGM.
Although, I shouldn’t be bashing Norma (trust me, that’s not what I mean to do because I definitely do not hate her), there are movies I feel I need to see but can’t find (The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Strange Interlude, Escape, Marie Antoinette, Romeo and Juliet…). For that reason, this Norma Shearer thing isn’t exactly over, I plan to watch these ones as I find them. Maybe a few of those will be more to my taste and will lessen my disinterestedness towards Ms. Shearer’s films.
But, even if I don't necessarily like her films, I do like reading about her personal life. The fact that she knew herself well enough to pick out her own flaws and fix them is worthy of applause. When she realized that one of her eyes was making her look cross-eyed, she did special eye exercises to help get rid of the problem. She also knew she didn’t have the best body so she worked out, keeping in constant training to stay in shape for the screen. She was one dedicated, little Canadian girl who became a movie star even when Ziegfield called her a dog. You know, I didn’t think this was much to be proud of when I first started reading about her, but Norma (who claimed she became a star “because she wanted to”) is sort of growing on me.
And, more than her sheer dedication and applause-worthy willpower, my favorite thing of all about Norma Shearer has got to be her marriage to MGM’s “Boy Wonder”, Irving Thalberg. Some people say she married him just to advance her career, but, honestly, I care not two cents why she married him. They were too adorable for me to care. Look at them!
People on Tumblr call them the Shearbergs and their children Shearberglets. I honestly love these people together way too much. And they may or may not be #4 on my list of favorite off-screen couples…
Apparently when Norma would get nervous in front of journalists she would just kiss Irving because she thought that would make everyone happy. I don't know about you, but I'm totally okay with that.
Even if I didn’t find a new favorite actress, some good things came from this Shearer movie marathon:
- I actually learned more about a new actress and watched movies I never would’ve bothered to see otherwise. *Cheers*.
- I watched more Pre-codes. I have a horrible time making myself watch pre-codes, they intimidate me so. Anyway, I was glad to get a few of them onto my “have seen” list.
discovered the pure greatness of Robert Montgomery. This is cause for
celebration, let me tell you!
Even if he did have me booing Norma’s poor husband in favor of her illicit boyfriend. Honestly who came blame me? The choice was between stuck-up Lord Herbert Marshall and handsome, carefree Robert Montgomery. Really?
I will be picking my new Actress to learn about April first if all goes as planned. Until then I suggest you go watch “Private Lives” (1931) and revel in the crazy love-you-one-minute-hate-you-the-next romancing of Montgomery and Shearer. Who am I to say you won’t love it even if I didn’t?
Until Later On~
P.S. Is she not the most gorgeous thing? Honestly. I love her face, and I'm just going to leave it in my header for a while...until I pick the next person to learn about anyway... ;)