Sunday, August 3, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: Marie Dressler

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for Marie Dressler - Stardates: Born November 9, 1868, Cobourg, Ontario, Canada; died 1934. Star Sign: Scorpio. Star Qualities: Complete naturalness, exquisite comic timing, Earth Mother humanity. Star definition: "As time went on she acquired a kind of peculiar distinction, a magnificence. She was a law unto herself." -- George Cukor. Galaxy of Characters: Marthy Owens in Anna Christie, Min Divot in Min and Bill, Carlotta Vance in Dinner at Eight, Annie Brennan in Tugboat Annie.

An unlikely movie star, Dressler is mesmerizing on screen. Stage trained, she naturally could do it all, from the tear-stained pathos of her Academy Award winning performance in Min and Bill (just try not to be moved during the tragic final scene) to her comedic brilliance in Dinner at Eight (her second to last film). Both of these movies are highly recommended, but I'll pull from the latter for this classic Potent Quotable (seen here), an exchange between Dressler's upper crust matriarch and Jean Harlow's brassy gold digger Kitty Packard:

Kitty: I was reading a book the other day.
Carlotta: (taken aback) Reading a book?
Kitty: Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Carlotta: Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about.

Dinner at Eight, directed by Cukor and also starring John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and Billie Burke, airs tomorrow on TCM at 8:00 PM EST.

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