Norma Shearer

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dfordoom
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Norma Shearer

Post by dfordoom »

One of the big pre-code stars was Norma Shearer. What do you think of her as an actress? Do you have a favourite Norma Shearer pre-code movie?
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Dewey1960
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Post by Dewey1960 »

Never been too much of a Norma Shearer fan--a little too mushy around the edges--which might account for why her star hasn't posthumously shone as brightly as so many of her contemporaries (Davis, Crawford, Hepburn, et al). Her most famous pre-code roles, THE DIVORCEE and A FREE SOUL, seem shrill and hollow and not particularly convincing to me. However, one film of hers that I enjoy quite a bit is RIPTIDE co-starring Robert Montgmery and Herbert Marshall. It was released in early 1934, precisely on the cusp of the Production Code era. It's just frisky enough to be thought of as a "pre-code" picture without venturing too far into the land of the taboo. Once the Code went into effect, her career began to wane. She was, by far, the least interesting of the women in THE WOMEN, her last important picture.
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dfordoom
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Post by dfordoom »

I thought she was superb in Private Lives.
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Garbomaniac
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Post by Garbomaniac »

Well, as I have written before on TCM, Norma was my wife's and my grandfather's favorite actress. She was the first name of a movie star from the Golden Age I ever heard. Seeing her in Marie Antoinette cemented her as one of my all time favorites, too. When I met my wife, we instantly hit if off, both being history buffs (of royalty), so I let her borrow my copy of MA. She went mad for Norma, and other than Bette Davis, she remained her number one favorite.

I have seen nearly all of Shearer's talking films (not so many silents), and I have to agree with Dewey, that her performances were a little shrill. But, that is exactly why I like them. Funny, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Some of my favorites are, of course, Private Lives. I agree she was unbeatable in that! I also like Riptide, The Barretts, Romeo and Juliet, Idiot's Delight, and We Were Dancing. But, I also agree, she was one of the most uninteresting women in The Women, but she was the pivotal point of the film.

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feaito

Post by feaito »

dfordoom wrote:I thought she was superb in Private Lives.
Ditto!!! Notwithstanding the fact that I've read that her performance was modelled after Lynn Fontanne's (I remember reading that Thalberg filmed the play so that Shearer could study and inspire herself on Ms. Fontanne's interpretation).

And among her post Pre-Code roles I'd choose definitely Elizabeth Barrett in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street". Excellent!!
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

Not one of my big favorites, either.

Actually, I don't think I've seen her in very many things. I thought she was downright boring in The Women; she brought nothing to the part and I felt no sympathy at all for her. I thought Virginia Weidler, as her young daughter, was much better. I'm no fan of June Allyson, but I thought she was much better in the same part in that weak musical remake called The Opposite Sex.

I tried to sit through Romeo and Juliet, but what with two unmagnetic, overage actors with zero chemistry in the principal parts, I just couldn't take much of it.

I know I've seen Idiot's Delight but I frankly don't even remember that Shearer was in it. When a starring actor is so overshadowed by her co-stars, as Shearer was for me in The Women and Idiot's Delight there's something wrong, either with the actress herself, or the way she is being presented.

And really, I'm sorry, but those crossed eyes are so very distracting.[/i]
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

I like her but I can't say I love her like I do many other actresses. What appeals to me is she seems so self-possessed and almost aristocratic, which is kind of unusual in an American actress. Of her films, I prefer those in which she is paired with an actor I admire, like those she did with Bob Montgomery and A Free Soul, in which she was hot for Gable. But then, it's really his performance I am riveted by in that one. :wink:

It's in Idiot's Delight that I think she gives the funniest performance of her career---and this is a moive I did a 180 on. Initially, I almost wrote it off as a complete misfire for both Shearer and Gable, and then a couple of years ago I watched it again and fell in love with the whole thing. Maybe it's the "con-game" idea that appeals to me, but I also find her outrageous attempts to act like a European dutchess to be downright hilarious. And Gable's always one step ahead of her, trying to out-con the con while falling for her at the same time. It's really the ending that's a disappointment, until the last few minutes the movie really entertains. Didn't Sherwood win the Pulitzer Prize for his play?

I absolutely love Bobby M. and the plays of Noel Coward, but I am in the minority in my opinion of Private Lives. I just don't like her characterization at all and kept wishing it was Carole Lombard in the part instead. Maybe upon multiple viewings I will warm up to her.

Norma's movies are very romantic and traditional, even when she's breaking from tradition, as in The Divorcee or A Free Soul. That may make her out of step for many but it appeals to me.
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

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sandykaypax
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Post by sandykaypax »

I guess I am in the minority as I love Shearer in The Women. I think that she is one of the few actresses that could play the long-suffering wife role with wit and humor, while also showing us how deeply hurt and betrayed she feels.

Maybe the only other actress that could pull it off would be Irene Dunne.

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Garbomaniac
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Post by Garbomaniac »

Fantastic pic, MG!

And, NO, Sandy, you are not alone. I really like Norma in The Women. I just agree that her part was one of the least interesting. However, she was the pivotal point on which they all revolved; therefore, I guess being the "good" character she had to be a little dull. Almost everyone else got a role they could run with, but Norma had to play the jilted wife. That is rarely a juicy role, unless it is a character written in the form of Crystal Allen. There have been jilted wife roles like that, but this one wasn't one of them. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Norma's performance as I always do in anything she is in. I consider her a film GREAT!
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traceyk
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Post by traceyk »

I liked her in "The Women" too. She wasn't weak at all, except in the end when she took the loser back.

I liked her with Robt Montgomery in "Private Lives," too. Thought her voice was a little too shrill in "The Divorcee"--kind of grated on me.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. "~~Wilde
pktrekgirl
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Post by pktrekgirl »

I've not posted in this thread yet, but I saw Private Lives over the weekend, and this has sorta spurred me on to post.

First, let me say that I actually like alot of Norma Shearer films - I have seen The Women, The Divorcee, A Free Soul, A Lady of Chance, Marie Antoinette, Escape, Idiot's Delight, He Who Gets Slapped and probably a few others, and I always thought she was elegant and very refined looking. I know this sounds really odd, but I think she has the best nose in all of classic film - it makes her look very aristocratic.

But I REALLY disliked Private Lives. I saw absolutely NOTHING likable about any of the four main characters, and the constant bickering that took up about 95% of the movie got tedious - especially when it was interspersed with physical violence.

By the end of this film, I couldn't have possibly cared LESS about any of these character's happiness, because as far as I was concerned they were all spoiled, manipulative, plastic individuals without a sincere bone in their collective bodies - and who deserved any unhappiness that came their way which resulted from their poor behavior.

So anyway...I guess I like Norma Shearer okay - I do think she was an incredibly elegant woman and a good actress overall.

But wow, I hated this film. :lol:
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precoder
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Post by precoder »

pktrekgirl wrote:I REALLY disliked Private Lives. I saw absolutely NOTHING likable about any of the four main characters, and the constant bickering that took up about 95% of the movie got tedious - especially when it was interspersed with physical violence.

By the end of this film, I couldn't have possibly cared LESS about any of these character's happiness, because as far as I was concerned they were all spoiled, manipulative, plastic individuals without a sincere bone in their collective bodies - and who deserved any unhappiness that came their way which resulted from their poor behavior.
WoW pktrekgirl ... This kinda surprised me to read. So interesting to me how people view classic films differently than others. See a totally different outcome from a diverse perspective. You have a keen eye for film but I'm a bit puzzled that you saw "Private Lives" this way. The characterizations were portrayed as specifically written. They were like totally supposed to be that way. Eliot and Amanda were created by Noel Coward for his stageplay in which he starred with Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier. I realize that probably isn't saying much that appeases you, but each of the four main characters were meant to be narcissistic, chideful, immature crybabies and I thought all four pulled it off wonderfully. I thought it was an outrageously funny comedy, ahead of it's time (the first screwball comedy?) and enjoyed it immensely. Sorry you didn't ...

Noel Coward tried desparately to get the screen role for himself and Miss Lawrence but Norma being married to Thalberg equals Norma gets role ...

I've always loved her myself. In everything. From her first scenes in "The Flapper" 1920 to "Smilin' Through" and "The Barretts Of Wimple Street", I've always found her overly theatrical gesturing engaging not to mention her beauty. I'm sorta in awe of her. Placing the back of her hand over her forehead with a dramatic sigh for theatrics. The way she touches her neck. That sorta deal. She could be slinky and nasty, and play the period dramas with intelligent dignity and poise ...

She also has a good role with Robert Montgomery in "Riptide" ...
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Gagman 66
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Post by Gagman 66 »

precoder,

:o Hey Benji, I have not heard anything from you in several weeks! What have you been up to? Hope to talk with you more very soon!
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precoder
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Post by precoder »

Sorry about that Jeffrey ... Just very busy lately ... Everyday is a full day anymore ...

Let's just say I've been trying to find a movie board I'm a little more comfortable posting at if you know what I mean ... I like this place a lot ...
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