About Elizabeth Kitchens

Loves to read classic books and watch classic movies. She enjoys talking about what she's read and watched and so decided to start a blog where more people could be involved in the conversation.

Hugo, Automatons, and Early Movies

Liz: Yesterday, I watched the 2011 movie Hugo (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Caberet by Brain Selznick), and today I stumbled across blog posts on early movie projectors and automatons–both of which play a major role in Hugo. Funny how that happens. So I decided I to write about them.

220px-Hugo_PosterFirst, Hugo. I enjoyed this film with its giant clock, 1930s French music, orphaned Hugo Cabret (played excellently by Asa Butterfield of Ender’s Game) who finds a home, its message that we all have a purpose, and, as mentioned, its early cinema history and automatons.

Summary: Orphaned clockmaker’s son runs the clocks in a railway station in Paris while stealing food to survive as well as stealing mechanical parts to repair the automaton his father found in a museum. His life gets complicated when the toy maker he’s been stealing parts from takes his father’s notebook of automaton sketches. Hugo and the toy maker’s goddaughter try to get the book back, discover why it upset the man so, and avoid the railway station inspector, who considers it his duty to send orphaned kids to the orphanage.

The story was moving and the history intriguing. Playing off his clock maker’s father saying “there are no spare parts in machines” and his own visualization of the world as one huge machine, Hugo says that  each person is a “part” of the world. As a machine, the world would have no spares and, consequently, everyone in it would have a purpose. Hugo’s seems to be to fix broken things and people, like Papa George, the toy maker. A person who isn’t filling their purpose in the world would be miserable–would feel broken.

Okay, on with the fascinating history.

The Draughtsman-Writer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.

The Draughtsman-Writer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.

Automatons are mechanical men and were popular in the 1700s and 1800s. If you’ve seen Hugo, one particular historical automaton will sound familiar.The “Draughtsman-Writer” automaton boy sits at a little desk and writes and draws. He arrived at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA in a pieces, part of his body possibly partly ruined by a fire. His inventor was unknown. However, when put back together, this writer of  three poems and artist of intricate drawings revealed his mysterious maker by adding “Written by the automaton of Maillardet” on the edge of its artwork. Maillardet was a well-known Swiss clock maker and mechanician. For more information, check out this blog post.

Poem by the "Draughtsman-Writer" where he reveal his maker, Maillardet.

Poem by the “Draughtsman-Writer” where he reveals his maker, Maillardet.

Early cinema history. I can’t say much about this without giving away some of the story’s mysteries, so forgive me if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book. The story tells about the life of George Melies, a French magician turned movie producer. In 1895 he witnessed the Lumière brothers demonstrate their Cinématographe to the public. He tried to buy it from them, but they refused and he ultimately made his own machine and began screening movies and then producing and acting in his own.

Voyage to the Moon film


In 1896 his camera jammed, and from the resulting film, he discovered, essentially, how to  photoshop, to manipulate time and space in films. He developed double exposure (La caverne Maudite, 1898), split screen (in which performers act opposite themselves [Un Homme de tete, 1898]), and the first dissolve (Cendrillon, 1899). It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a magician should be responsible for the illusions in movies.

Probably the best known image from Melies's films, or early films at all. From Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Probably the best known image from Melies’s films, or early films at all. From Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Moving picture technology actually has its roots way back in the 1830s. For more information on the early machines and inventors, check out this post (focusing the phantoscope and American movie history) and this post (a brief history written to commemorate the first commercial movie screening).

Classic Movies for Scientists

Science nerd rejoice! You have more than grade B sci-fi films to herald your profession. I was watching an old British movie (Highly Dangerous) and was pleasantly surprised to see that the heroine was not only a scientist, but an intelligent, normal person. She wasn’t merely a stereotype throw in to amuse the audience. It made me think about other movies featuring scientists. Here’s some that Jaz and I came up with that we science people can appreciate:

Margaret Lockwood and Dane Clark in Highly Dangerous. WIth bugs in a jar.

Margaret Lockwood and Dane Clark in Highly Dangerous. With bugs in a jar.

Highly Dangerous (1950). In this British thriller, the lovely Margaret Lockwood plays an entomologist sent by the government to Balkan country to identify an insect being developed for biological warfare. An American newspaperman helps her out when the British agent she’s supposed to contact is shot.

When the newspaperman admits he’s not digested by bugs, Lockwood’s character knows she’s found her man.:) And, as if a good story wasn’t enough, fans of Lockwood’s The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich will be happy to see Naunton Wayne in this film, though he doesn’t mention cricket even once.

Three Guys Named Mike (1951) Stewardess Jane Wyman is the object of the romantic attention of–you guessed it–three guys named Mike: one pilot (Howard Keel), one businessman (Barry Sullivan), and one chemistry graduate student (Van Johnson). Van Johnson take her to the research lab and gives her a great explanation for bioluminescence.

Cry Wolf (1947) Intrepid geology PhD student Barbara Stanwych goes to the family home of her late husband (a marriage of convenience–he had to be married to inherit and she needed money to continue her studies. He was to pay her and they go separate ways) after he mysteriously dies.

War of the Worlds (1953) A scientist and a librarian escape from one of the original sites of an alien invasion and try to find a way to kill the invaders. (This is science fiction, but it’s a great movie so I had to include it.)

Jaz added the biographies Madame Curie, a 1943 film with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, and The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936).

madame curieJaz: I saw Madame Curie a long time ago, so my memory of it is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember enjoying it. Also worth a watch: The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939), starring Don Ameche, Loretta Young and a very young Henry Fonda. I haven’t seen The Story of Louis Pasteur. Yes, yes, I slap myself on the wrist. How can a microbiologist and classic film junkie not have watched this? Well, I’ll tell you: there are about a bajillion films out there! Give me a break, people!

Besides these, the only films that came to mind were Dr. Dolittle, Bringing Up Baby and The Absent-Minded Professor. All of which reinforce negative stereotypes of scientists. I mean, the latter film’s hero is named Professor Brainerd. Subtle, right? And they’re all super goofy and fly around on old cars and giant creepy moths. So we’ll ignore those for this post.

I also recommend any book by the brilliant Jules Verne, who obviously did his research for every work. There’s a 1916 silent film adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I found out recently — actually just now — .and which looks fascinating.

Classic Movie Actor Spotlight: Donald O’Connor

Actor Spotlight: Donald O’Connor

O'Connor,_Donald_01Liz: I enjoyed watching several Donald O’Connor movies over the Christmas holidays, and since several of the movies were new to me, I thought it would be a good idea to share them with you. O’Connor was a very talented actor/dancer/singer whose movies are good family fun, generally hilarious, and have at least one really good dance number.

Singing in the Rain (1952) A favorite that most of you are probably familiar with. Jaz and I talked about it here.

Double Crossbones (1951) Hilarious tale of a clerk in colonial America who accidently becomes a pirate and then has to save the Carolinas from the man who’s a greater thief than the pirates.

Donald O'Connor as Bloodthirtsy Dave in Double Crossbones

Donald O’Connor as Bloodthirtsy Dave in Double Crossbones

Something in the Wind (1947) Deanna Durbin (so you know it has great music) is mistaken as the mistress of a recently deceased wealthy man and is kidnapped by the man’s grandson in an attempt to hide the scandal and get her to relinquish her annuity. My only complaint was the hero–it should have been Donald O’Connor.

The Milkman (1950) WWII vet and son of a wealthy dairy company owner, O’Connor suffers from a peculiar form of PTSD–he quacks like a duck when upset. When his father won’t let him go to work because of it, O’Connor gets help from friend Jimmy Durante and secretly goes to work for the rival dairy company as a milkman. Quite funny and has a milk truck that responds to whistles.


O’Connor with Gene Kelley in Singing in the Rain

Anything Goes (1956) Bing Crosby and Donald O’Connor are to star in a show. They promise the female lead to two different ladies. I actually didn’t care for this one.

Chip Off the Old Block (1944) O’Connor plays Donald Corrigan, a young man in officer training school for the Navy, who falls in love with the daughter of a family of actresses who believe the Corrigan men are bad luck. As you would expect from an O’Connor film, it’s funny.

Beau Geste (1939) A teenage O’Connor plays a young Beau Geste (the grown Beau is played by Gary Cooper). Three brothers join the French Foreign Legion to escape a secret at home. Rather sad.

Feudin’, Fussin’, and A-Fightin’ (1948) O’Connor plays a salesman who is kidnapped off a stagecoach by the leaders of a small town out west. They want him to run in their annual race against a neighboring town with which they have placed large bets. Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride of Ma and Pa Kettle fame also star in this fun film.

Francis (1950) Solider O’Connor gets help from a talking Mule named Francis and is too truthful to lie about his source. Hilarious, as are its sequels: Francis Goes to the Races, Francis Goes to West Point, Francis Covers the Big Town, Francis Joins the Wacs, and Francis in the Navy.

O'Connor with Francis the Talking Mule

O’Connor with Francis the Talking Mule

Seen any Donald O’Connor movies I haven’t? What did you think of the ones you have seen?

Current Readings

Hi everyone! Jaz and I are taking May off from our normal themed movie and book reviews. I didn’t want you to think we’d forgotten about Our Mutual Friends, so I’ve put together a short list of the books I’ve been reading and the movies I’ve been watching.


Death in Dahlonega by Deborah Malone

Genre: A cozy murder mystery.

Comments: Very entertaining. Recommened.

Watcher in the Woods (Dreamhouse Kings Book 2) by Robert Liparulo

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Comments: Loved it! I speed through it and rushed to the library for the others in the series.

House of Dark Shadows, Gatekeepers,Timescape, Whirlwind, Frenzy (Dreamhouse Kings Books 1, 3, 4, 5, 6) by Robert Liparulo

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Comments: Enjoying them just as much Watcher in the Woods. I highly recommend the series. Full of action and time travel to interesting, though bloody, times in history.

Up next: A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion Series) By Francine Rivers

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Comments: I loved Redeeming Love, so I have high hopes for this book.


The Firefly (1937)

Genre: Musical.

Comments: Allan Jones and Jeanette MacDonald are spies for France and Spain, respectively, during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. Great music, wonderful actors, and intriguing storyline.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

Genre: Comedy

Comments: Amusing.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (TV 2002)

Genre: Mystery

Comments: The best parts of this movie were the scenery and the actors. There was something likeable about them. However, Richard Roxburgh is no match for Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. I’ve seen other versions of this story, and I read the book (a long time ago). This version was actually disturbing, mainly because a character was violently killed off who I don’t remember dying in the other versions. Her death was unnecessary. In addition, the obviously computer generated hound kept those parts that should have been scary from really being scary.


What have you read or watched lately that you’d like to talk about?

Love is Unconditional

A few weeks ago, when first introducing our latest theme of “Love Ain’t Easy”, I promised a special guest post from a friend who has just released her first novel. Here is it! Tanya Eavenson, author of Unconditional, has given us a sneak peak of her novel, and if you leave a comment, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a free ebook copy of Unconditional. 

Without further ado, here’s Tanya Eavenson:

Picture2 As an author, people at times have asked me if my characters are influenced by movies or television. I guess I would have to say it depends on the story.

Right now I’m in the editing process of a Historical Romance set in 1889 called The Rescue. During the time of writing this story, I had been watching a lot of Big Valley and learning about horses from a local horse farm. The things I learned played out on TV whether it was roping or saddling a horse. However, it was different when it came to my newest release Unconditional.

I guess you can say Unconditional was inspired by brokenness. Many families, both churched and un-churched, find themselves struggling in their marriages for one reason or another, but I believe if we fight for our marriages and follow after Christ, He will be the One to grow in us an uncommon love, an unconditional love for our spouses.

See, I’ve experienced this first hand. I, too, almost went down that route with divorce papers in hand. I told myself many things at the time, but the truth. I was focused on our failures, not the hope that with God, all things are possible. The question was, were we willing to save our marriage at all costs? Would we fight for each other, whether we felt like it or not?

Tanya Cover Here is the blurb from my novel Unconditional:

He will fight for her at any cost…

Elizabeth Roberts can’t remember her past, and the present is too painful. She turns to nightclubs and drinking to forget her infant daughter’s death, her husband’s affair.

When his wife’s coma wiped out the memory of their marriage, Chris Roberts found comfort elsewhere. He can’t erase his betrayal, but with God’s help he’s determined to fight for Elizabeth at any cost.

She wants to forget. He wants to save his marriage. Can they trust God with their future and find a love that’s unconditional?

A fun scene:

By the way, the beginning of this scene was influenced when I couldn’t hold on to a boat dock years ago. =)


“Chris! Hurry!” Elizabeth’s sunglasses disappeared into the dark murky water.

On the pier several yards away, Chris laughed. “What happened? You’re supposed to be holding down the fort.”

“Not a moving fort. A boat drove by and waves rocked me around. I couldn’t hold onto the dock. My sunglasses fell into the water. And it’s not funny.” She threw her hands on her hips. “Those were my favorite pair!” She couldn’t resist the humor of the moment. Plopping her bottom onto the boat seat, she laughed. “How am I supposed to get the boat back to you?”

“Maybe you should use the trolling motor.”

Okay, she could do this. She rose and stood over the machine. Gently sliding the trolling motor into the water, she found the switch and planted her foot onto the lever and leaned it forward to head toward the dock. The boat lurched further toward the lake. “This isn’t working.”

“Play with it. Watch the direction.” He sat on the dock, legs hanging just above the water.

“You’re sitting. Thanks for the vote of confidence.” I’ll show him. Slowly she rolled her foot until the boat changed direction and headed for the dock.

Christ stood up. “You’re doing it. Just a little closer and I’ll jump in.”

She eased her foot off the pedal and headed toward the seats in the back when Chris jumped in. His weight tipped the boat to one side, throwing her off balance.

His arms snagged her from the boat’s edge, pulling her against his chest.

Words escaped her. Their lips inches apart. She lost her breath.

“I have you.”

“Yes, you do.” She giggled and pulled back from him, watching her steps as she secured her footing. “I don’t know if I should kiss you and get it over with, or wait until later.”

Chris jerked his chin up. “Well then, I’m anxious to find out what you decide.”

“I’ll let you know.” She smirked, and planted herself into one of the seats.

He leaned back into the driver’s chair, turned the key, and cranked the engine. “Are you ready?”

She nodded with a smile. Within moments they were racing across the lake, spraying water and leaving waves in their wake. Birds flew underneath a crystal blue sky. Chris would call it a blue bird day with not a cloud for miles, but she’d call it beautiful.

Elizabeth enjoyed the wind rushing past her ears, flipping her hair behind her, but when the wind died down as the boat slowed, she twisted in his direction. “Where are we?”

“I have to check my map, but this looks like a great place to fish. I brought two rods. Would you like to give it a shot?”

“I’m game if you don’t mind cutting out a nest again.” She rose from the seat.

“Optimism.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead.

She held his arm. “Don’t move yet, let me enjoy this moment.” She felt his body hesitate, then with soft kisses, his lips traced her hair line. “You’ve left me breathless.”

“I’m the one who’s having difficulty breathing. I better get those rods.” He took a few steps to the rod compartment and yanked them out. Chris shot her a smile before trolling over to the side of the lake in front of a cove opening.

“All right, stand over here.” He pointed.

“Do you want to cast it for me?”

“Why don’t you try first?” He showed her how to hold the rod with her finger on the reel and line as she cast.

“Are you ready?”

Chris laughed. “You’re not planning to toss me overboard?”

“No… but I suggest you stand back so I don’t hook you.”

Chris moved as she raised the rod. In one fine motion, she flung the rod forward. It left her hand. She hurried over the edge of the boat as the rod sank into the lake. A movement drew her eyes from the spot where the rod fell in and she turned to see Chris splash into the water beside her.

“Chris!” He disappeared under the water. Did he hit his head? He wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Alligators. Without another thought, she jumped in. “Chris!” She dove under.

“Elizabeth!” Her name sounded muffled through the water.

She popped up and tried to blink the murky moisture from her eyes. “Chris, are you okay? What happened? Did you bump your head?” She swam to him and searched for blood.

“No. I jumped in for the rod. That combo is worth three hundred dollars. I couldn’t find it.”

“That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” She smacked her hand on the water’s surface and swam back to the boat. “To think, I jumped into alligator infested waters.”

A smile lit his face. “You know what that means don’t you?” He helped her back into the boat, climbing up behind her, and shook his hair.

“What? I’m stupid?”

He tapped her chin. “That you love me. You’re willing to risk your life for me.”

He took off his shirt, socks and shoes and laid them in front of the boat. “You could do the same.” He grinned. “I’ll get you the blanket.”

“Um… I’m fine.” Her eyes refused to turn from the man in front of her. Heat crawled up her neck when Chris met her gaze. Did he see her desire? Her heart pounded as she turned toward the water. She needed to focus on something else, but her thoughts went back to her husband standing inches away.

“Are you ready to eat?”

“Sure.” When she turned back around, she forced herself to meet his gaze. She almost laughed at herself, at how hard she was trying not to notice her own husband. Lord, I’m attracted to him. Help me to trust because You know my heart.

“Here you go.” Chris handed her a sandwich.

The heat returned to her cheeks. “Thank you.”


Thank you for visiting! Below is a few links where you can find me on the web so stop by and say hello. I’m looking forward to connecting with you! In the meantime, it’s your turn! If you’re a writer, what has influenced your writing? Maybe movies, TV, or music? Love to hear your thoughts, and when you leave a comment, you’ll be entered to win an ebook copy of Unconditional.


Website: http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/111621198804346509165#111621198804346509165/posts

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@Tan_eave

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tanya-Eavenson/129609683872033

Blog: http://guidedgirls.blogspot.com/



Love Crazy

Jaz on Love Crazy

Love Crazy” is aptly titled – it’s about the craziest screwball comedy I’ve ever seen. And racy content! For a minute I thought it was pre-code.

Steve and Susan Ireland are a happily married couple about to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Their method of celebration is a repeat of their wedding day and rather bizarre – it involves, among other things, rowing on the lake in the dark and walking three miles to the justice of the peace.

Unfortunately, everything goes wrong. Susan’s aggravating mother drops in, which leads to Steve getting knocked out in a malfunctioning elevator with old flame Isobel Grayson (played superbly by Gail Patrick) and ending up in her apartment to recuperate, then Susan’s mother sprains her ankle on a hideous rug and he ends up having to babysit the awful woman alone, so he escapes for a few hours with Isobel, which leads to Susan filing for divorce, which leads to Steve feigning insanity to delay the hearing, which leads to …

I’m beat. Suffice it to say it’s complicated. Along the way are a talking parrot, Steve au naturale, a “champion bow and arrower,” a sanatorium, and Steve in drag. All because his wife’s mother decides to visit.

So the moral of the story is patently clear: if your mother-in-law shows up on your anniversary, book her a hotel room.

Liz on Love Crazy

Love Crazy: The Thin Man without the murders. William Powell and Myrna Loy are a delightful on-screen couple, though as Jaz points out sometimes racy. In this comedy, Myrna Loy’s mother convinces her William Powell cheated on her—on their wedding anniversary no less—with his old sweetheart. Powell spends the next several months trying everything to get Myrna Loy back. He even pretends to be insane so she can’t divorce him, leading to some hilarious scenes, including one involving the emancipation of feet. I wish I could laugh with you over the funny scenes, but I’m afraid I’d spoil them for you should you watch the movie.

If you have seen it and want to tell me your favorite parts, please share them in the comments section.


I hope you enjoyed last month’s Western theme. This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re doing a Love Ain’t Easy theme, and as a special treat, in a few weeks we’ll have a guest post by a friend of mine who recently had her first book published.

But on to today’s post: Marty

Jaz on Marty

I feel for Marty and Clara. At the same time, I want to slap them for wallowing in self-pity. “Snap out of it!” I yelled as I watched, brandishing my SunChips at the T.V. in exasperation.

Then again, marriage was expected. If you were 34 and unmarried in 1955, something was horribly wrong with you. “Why are you still single? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” elderly ladies scold Marty. We don’t wonder at his depression. The single life isn’t always that great when you’re a shy, not-drop-dead-gorgeous person constantly hounded by matchmaker septuagenarians.

After an outburst in front of his nagging mother, Marty goes to the Stardust Ballroom, where he meets Clara. She’s not at her best – her jerk of a date just abandoned her for a prettier girl (how he did it elevates him to super jerk status). Clara, a 29-year-old NYU grad, teaches high school chemistry. Which makes me wonder: is her intelligence one of the film’s reasons for her “unattractiveness”? Since this is 1955, I’d say yes. Now, over 50 years later, some males still find it intimidating.

Marty is a bit of a downer at times, but I appreciate its quality acting and moving portrayal of still-relevant social problems. The film touches on the idiocy of unrealistic beauty standards and the downside of singledom … while nicely contrasting it with marital issues (live-in mother-in-laws, fussy babies, fights, etc.). Not to mention peer pressure. But shouldn’t Marty have enough backbone to stand by his choice? I think so.


Liz on Marty

From the first, Marty (played by Ernest Borgnine) seems like a really nice guy. He’s friendly and patient with the customers in the butcher shop where he works, even with those who pester him about being single now that all of his siblings are married. Those who know him well don’t see a reason why he can’t find a pretty girl and settle down and get married, but Marty knows why: he’s fat and ugly. At 34, he’s tired of being rejected for his looks. Then he meets a young woman familiar with rejection, who’s being ditched at a dance because of her plain appearance. Marty becomes a knight in shining armor by treating her as if she were one of the beautiful, much sought after women she’s been passed over for so many times. Granted, Marty does fall off his horse for a while when he lets his mother and friends convince him Clara’s not good enough for him, but picks himself back up in the end.

Comments on the characters: Marty’s character is easy to connect with. Most of us have had to endure remarks about singleness or have faced rejection of some sort at some time and can empathize with the frustration and hurt Marty feels. He gained my respect for refusing Clara’s shifty-eyed blind date’s offer of $5 to walk her home and then for asking her to dance after her date abandons her. However, I didn’t like his friends. “Slime balls” comes to mind when I think about them. Since birds of a feather flock together, the connection rubs off some of Marty’s gentlemanly appearance.

One particular conversation, however, between him and his friend Angie (“What do you wanna do tonight?” “I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do tonight?”) sounds like a conversation I’ve heard before. Maybe one I’ve participated in…. Also, I thought Marty’s distinctive way of talking suited his character very well.

Clara: This lonely schoolteacher is very likeable, tough the scene when Marty asks her to dance and she slowly turns around and starts to cry on his shoulder is a trifle strange. However, she has a very nice smile, and I like the way the camera shots emphasize her smile and the way her face brightens when she smiles.

Conclusion: The movie was a little slow, but I liked the story of two people looking beyond appearances and other’s opinions.

Ever seen Marty? Any thoughts on books or movies that fit our Love Ain’t Easy theme?