Friday, November 16, 2007

Staying in Character

No help for it. The Siren started to reply to the torrent of comments on comic character actors, then realized she needed a whole other post. We really miss these guys, don't we? The Siren stresses once more that this was a post about comic character actors, so some true greats (like Thelma Ritter, whose finest performance in Pickup on South Street was serious indeed, and ditto Thomas Mitchell, at his best in The Long Voyage Home) were left out on technicalities. Still, the Siren's patient readers are forcing her to apologize to the ghosts of the following:

Mary Boland. L'amour, l'amour ... The Siren let poor Mary down, so she is picking her up again, dearie.

Eugene Pallette. As Moviezzz puts it, "From his work in the Philo Vance films, the Deanna Durbin films, to Friar Tuck, and Mr. Smith as well as My Man Godfrey, he is one actor that I will see anything he does. That voice alone. And, in something like First Love, he can even play against type." The Siren remembers Pallette's deathless performance in My Man Godfrey, as the head of the Bullock clan, and deeply regrets not including him. He's superb in that movie, buttressing his fragile sanity by firing off joke after joke at his batty family's expense: "All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

Mary Wickes. DeeLuzon was too right about her, this was a face one was always happy to see.

Mischa Auer. You're right, X. Trapnel--all it took was recollecting Carlo's monkey imitation to make the Siren regret Auer's absence.

William Demarest. The brain switch was in the "off" position when the Siren omitted him from the post. He should have made it just for the way he delivers Preston Sturges' musings on the lifelong bond between a pater familias and his female offspring: "Either they leave their husbands and come back with four children and move into your guest room, or their husband loses his job and the whole kaboodle comes back. Or else they're so homely you can't get rid of them at all and they hang around the house like Spanish moss and shame you into an early grave." Shamus, Ivan, anyone else -- there he is now, where he belongs.

Franklin Pangborn. The ultimate "sissy" as discussed by Vito Russo, but Pangborn always gave his roles great interior dignity. Whether fitting a dress, running a cruise ship, overwhelmed by a treasure hunt or organizing a welcoming committee for an ersatz hero, Pangborn played the dilemma the way his character saw it--as a problem of great societal import.

Blanket apologies to the shades of the following: James Gleason, Charlie Lane, Charlie Ruggles, Robert Dudley, Charles Coburn, Alan Hale, Billy Gilbert, Melville Cooper, Sig Ruman, Roland Young.

GayasXmas makes an excellent point, that the best character acting is now to be found on television. Which also segues to Alex's excellent question--WHY did character actors disappear from the movies? certainly the talent is still out there. Alex pins it on plot construction. The Siren agrees, but adds that more than ever, plots are woven around the marquee-name stars, and larded with special effects that, in addition to administering the requisite number of jolts, also are built to get the laughs that used to belong to the character players. The Siren repeats something she mentioned when discussing Mildred Natwick (oops, we ALL forgot Mildred, didn't we? for shame!):

Nowadays the studios pay $20 million or whatever for Jim Carrey, and once they pay that you are by God going to get Jim Carrey in every frame, I don't care if it's a childbirth scene in a women's prison, we'll get Carrey in there somewhere. Star vehicles have no room for a superb character actress like Natwick, mud-fence homely but perfect in every role.

The Siren winds up by saying that it's no coincidence that the Coen brothers, with their reverence for the likes of Preston Sturges and encyclopedic knowledge of film history, are among the small group of filmmakers who still recognize that a character turn can help lift a movie into immortality. Any other filmmakers still doing that?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Comedy in Character

One of the reasons that the movies of today aren't as much fun as those made in the first two decades of Talkies is because they jettisoned their great army of supporting players. At one time when people reminisced about movies, they were more likely to be talking about Eve Arden than Doris Day or Jane Wyman, whose friends she played on some funny occasions. Her first appearance always caused an appreciative buzz, and her slightest glance was treasured more than all the star's vapourings...She could make almost any line funny, though her forte was the sort of lines that went with the look-elegant bitchery or advice she knows the heroine is too stupid to accept.

That, in one of the most dead-accurate paragraphs he has ever written, is how David Shipman summarizes the delicious Eve Arden in The Great Movie Stars: The International Years--but he could be writing the epitaph for all of the era's great comic character actors. It was a golden age for comic relief and it is, alas, as dead as the dodo. For the Newcritics Comedy Blogathon Blowout, the Siren herewith offers some brief takes on the characters she loves. And she loves them with a passion.

We'll start with Eve Arden. Is she not everyone's favorite thing in Mildred Pierce, whether she's taking Jack Carson down a peg ("Leave something on me, I might catch cold") or trying to give Joan Crawford a clue about daughter Veda's real nature ("Alligators have the right idea. They eat their young")? Eve made a decades-long career out of being the smartest gal in the room, whether backstage as a Ziegfeld Girl, in a rooming house trying to get in the Stage Door, or working for a fashion editor in Cover Girl. In a melodrama she'd give you a whimsical moment between hankies, as in My Reputation; in a piece of unalloyed kitsch like Song of Scheherezade she'd be the only one who seemed to realize the train had left Reality Station, so you might as well live it up.

The Siren has a one-year-old who apparently harbors dreams of moving to Australia, since that is the time zone he has decided to synchronize with. Despite having become an unwilling participant in an endless day-for-night shoot the Siren stayed up to midnight on Wednesday night to watch The Hard Way from 1943. Did she watch it for Ida Lupino, director Vincent Sherman or even the towering genius of cameraman James Wong Howe? No way. She watched it for Jack Carson. He was born in Manitoba (of all places) but his persona was wise-guy American, complete with a voice so nasal it seemed to originate at the bottom of his sinuses. Probably the best acting he ever did (and he was always good) was in A Star Is Born, in the deeply unfunny role of the heartless agent. He played a lot of light comedies too, often with Dennis Morgan. But Carson's strong suit was comic relief, often mixed with a dash of the heavy, as in Mildred Pierce ("Oh, I'm happy. Believe me, inside my heart is singing") or more than a dash, as in The Strawberry Blonde. He could hold his own with Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim and underplay in scenes with a frenetically mugging Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace.

No tribute to comic character actors could be complete without mention of the great Margaret Dumont. She was, without question, The Greatest Straight Woman of All Time. Marx authorities ranging from Dick Cavett to Groucho himself all say Dumont didn't get the jokes, on or off screen, but the Siren doesn't buy it. Dumont had a long career as a comic foil, and face it, she is too good not to know what she's doing. To be a good straight (wo)man, it isn't enough to keep a poker face and ignore the lunacy. Kitty Carlisle, Lillian Roth and Kay Francis all do that, and they still get flattened. No, Dumont had something extra--the ability to broaden her characterization with each new joke. Her finest moments probably came in Duck Soup, where her manner is so impeccably grand she seems to have wandered in from some Ruritanian operetta filming on another soundstage. Groucho was one of the funniest men American comedy ever produced--and if you want to say THE funniest the Siren won't argue. But it takes nothing away from Groucho to state that he was never funnier than when he was bouncing joke after joke off Dumont's imposing figure.

Andrew Sarris used to tell a story about a party where he encountered a fellow who edited films for television. Seems the editor was eager to tell Sarris about how he improved the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films by "cutting out all those boring dance numbers." This horrifying tale from the days before Turner Classic Movies came to rescue us doesn't mean that we should neglect three non-dancing stalwarts from the Astaire-Rogers movies, Eric Blore, Erik Rhodes and Edward Everett Horton. (All three were discussed with great verve in Vito Russo's landmark The Celluloid Closet.) Blore was in five of nine Astaire-Rogers musicals, usually playing an English butler, frequently one dim in wit and dubious in ethics. But Blore's best role was undoubtedly as Sir Alfred "Pearlie" McGlennan-Keith R. F. D., con-man confidant of Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Coburn, in The Lady Eve: "Into the gulf that separated the unfortunate couple, there was a coachman on the estate, a gay dog, a great hand with the horses and the ladies, need I say more?" Rhodes appeared in Top Hat and The Gay Divorcee, offering proof to homegrown audiences that there was something a little swishy about these Continental types: "Your wife is safe with Tonetti! He prefers spaghetti!" Horton usually played wholly inadequate husbands of some sort, using his carefully honed double-take, one of the best in the business, to convey utter shock at being suspected of some sort of caddery, as in Top Hat. Of the three, Horton had the most extensive career. The Siren's favorite Horton role is his turn as the impossibly dull husband of Miriam Hopkins in Design for Living.

Billie Burke played the dithery matron to perfection in many comedies of the 1930s. Burke, who had been a great beauty in the days when she was married to Florenz Ziegfeld, had an impeccably upper-crust accent and a voice like a piccolo with the hiccups. The adjective that clings to Burke is "fluttery"--yet, if you watch closely, you'll see that there is an economy to her movement. She conveys fluttering without flapping. And nobody did the wan, put-upon, strictly-social smile like Billie Burke--watch her turn it on Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery in Dinner at Eight. Her signature role, Glinda the Good Witch, is a good deal mushier than Burke's usual outings. Her characters were frequently atrociously selfish, as with her aspic-obsessed party-giver in Dinner at Eight and blithe con artist in The Young in Heart, but they were usually capable of being nudged into better behavior by the last reel.

S.Z. Sakall found refuge from Hitler's Europe in roles as a bemused, bewitched and bewildered mensch, often behind a bar or a front desk, as in Casablanca and Seven Sweethearts. The Siren loves the way Sakall swallows his lines--half the time you have no idea what he's saying--and lets his rubbery jowls do much of his acting for him.

Ralph Bellamy and Gail Patrick may seem out of place in this roundup, as they were both strikingly good-looking and often played second leads of some sort. But they almost never got the hero or heroine, and both of them were at their best in comedies. In My Man Godfrey, Patrick almost walks away with the picture as she raises one bitchy eyebrow at all of Carole Lombard's lovelorn antics. And in My Favorite Wife, she sets up some of Cary Grant's best lines, then gets to punch Grant in the face--and the audience knows he deserves it. Ralph Bellamy reaches his nebbishy apotheosis in His Girl Friday, even to the indignity of having his character described to a T as a Ralphy Bellamy type. He is one of that beloved movie's least-sung glories, but god is he funny, the picture of reasonable benevolence as he intones, "Hildy, we could take the six o'clock train if it will save a man's life!"

Finally, the Siren mulled long and hard over whether to include Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in this list, finally deciding that no, they really don't belong, as marvelously and subversively witty as they are. Greenstreet and Lorre are usually playing villains, not comic relief...and great villains would be another blogathon altogether.

The floor is open. Go ahead, argue with the Siren. Knock her over the head with a rubber chicken and demand to know how she could forget your favorite character actor. Frank Morgan? Eugene Palette? Marjorie Main? Anyone? And if you think there is someone from our own less-funny era who deserves a place at the table, share that name too.

(This post is part of the Newcritics Comedy Blogathon, going on until tomorrow, Nov. 11. Stop by Newcritics for more musings.)

Friday, November 09, 2007


...the Siren would like to share a handful of great posts.

Raymond de Felitta, a screenwriter and director who writes much faster than the Siren does, has a loving tribute to Rita Hayworth going on at his place. He warmed up with a couple of posts on Cover Girl, which the Siren also loves for its Technicolor gorgeousness and endless, daffy title number. Then he went into high Hayworth gear, with two fine posts that examine the sexy and sinister allure of Gilda, as well as what keeps it from being a great noir. All this tied up with a compassionate and loving assessment of Rita, including a personal reminiscence from late in her life that had the Siren misting up. Please, read it all. Then go back and read Raymond on Judy Garland. He's on a tear.

The Siren is wondering if she and Filmbrain were in the same audience for Diva in 1982, waiting to meet up in the blogosphere 25 years later. Talk about a blast from the past. Back in the 1980s Siren loved the movie as much as Filmbrain did. Does this mean she should give The Moon in the Gutter another chance?

Vertigo's Psyche at And Your Little Blog Too has his own tribute to the fabulous Joan Fontaine up.

Bob Westal of Forward to Yesterday kicks off his Bob Fosse Blogathon tomorrow (god, the Siren loves this picture of Bob). With typical elan Bob tackles a ticklish number right off the bat.

Stinky Lulu, currently adorning her place with an exquisite moment of Jane Darwell, is announcing The Second Annual Supporting Actress Blogathon for Sunday January 8.

Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has two excellent posts up about a couple of silent movies: Beggars of Life, starring the Siren's favorite Hollywood memoirist, Louise Brooks, and Mantrap, starring fabulous, ill-fated Clara Bow.

The Shamus asks if Flickhead's Bunuel Blogathon is over. The Siren thinks yes (and she never did finish her post, having been scooped by Michael Guillen's excellent observations on My Last Sigh). Anyway, the Shamus caught up with Viridiana and while he says "it didn't set off bombs in my psyche like it did for the Siren" (quelle image!), the movie definitely grabbed him by the lapels.

Speaking of Flickhead, the Siren loved his Halloween post.

Last, and oddest, is an entry from the ever-splendid Allure. The Siren really hopes her beauty-blogging pals in the sidebar check this one out--it's a nice long series of illustrated black-and-white ads for the beauty contraptions of yesteryear. Maybe Operator_99 should have posted this one for Halloween, as the grim devices combined with the frozen ingenue simpers of the models give an effect the great horror directors would have appreciated. Several of the nose-correcting contraptions would have fit perfectly into Eyes Without a Face.

Postscript: Alex of Motion Picture, It's Called has pointed out that a funny thing happened to the Siren's sidebar. Translation to the new layout made the thing eat some link coding. The Siren has been cleaning it up, but if your link is missing still, do let her know.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Siren "Has Been Spared the Sensational and Commercial Publicity..."

Many, many thanks to the Siren's patient readers, and all those who voted in the Weblog Awards 2007. Congratulations to the winner, The Cool Hunter, a beautiful eyeful of a blog. The Siren is most happy with her fourth-place finish, considering her usual daily traffic could fit into a Manhattan studio with enough room left over for George Peppard and an orange tabby.

Extra thanks go to James Wolcott, Lance(lot) Mannion, Jon Swift , Diary of a Heretic , Ivan G. Shreve of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear , Dan Leo, Annieytown of Blogdorf Goodman and Operator_99 of Allure. Jon and Kathleen of Diary of a Heretic also placed high in their categories; as Jon so rightly puts it, "I don't think of us as losers; I think of us as victory challenged." Thanks also to the Jay, for being a swell blogger and one hell of a good sport. The Siren is blogrolling him and plans to stop by his place more often. The Rambo post alone would guarantee that.

The Siren will be interrupting her Joan Fontaine hobbyhorse to post in the comedy blogathon currently whooping it up over at Newcritics. Stay tuned, and thanks again.

Above--the Siren wanted a picture of Margo sitting stoic and glamourous through the Sarah Siddons awards, but oh well.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Fontaine Flowers: Rebecca and Suspicion

When Alfred Hitchcock called Rebecca "a woman's picture" he was cutting it down, but in fact that's what it is — and a superb one at that. Hitchcock had a dismissive attitude toward the label, and he is seldom discussed as a woman's director in any sense of the term. But women have a love for Hitchcock that they often don't feel for other suspense directors. His movies do an uncanny job of tapping into the darkest, toughest and most common female insecurities, something that has helped keep them alive over all these years.

The films almost always show, whether front-and-center or in the background, the primal fears that woman have regarding the love of men. A man's love is always conditional in Hitchcock, never a sure thing, and more often than not it is a dreadful hard slog for a woman to get any affection from a man at all. A woman looks at a Hitchcock movie and sees the heroine confronting the same questions that may torment her. Does my sexual history make me unlovable? (Notorious, The Birds, North by Northwest). Is he just biding time with me, or will he make a commitment? (Rear Window). Is he crazy? am I crazy for loving him? (Spellbound).

The two movies that Hitchcock made with Joan Fontaine go very deeply indeed into these questions. In Rebecca, the woman wonders, does he really long for his previous lover? (Which is the same question asked in Vertigo, to be answered in one of the darkest endings Hitchcock ever filmed.) And in Suspicion, the question becomes the worst one a lovelorn woman can ask — did he ever really care for me at all?

Rebecca was the high mark to that point in a series of roles that had Fontaine playing delicate maidens hungry for love. The first such character (and least appealing one, though Joan is believable) was Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s fiancee in Gunga Din, she who almost spoils the fun by tying the man down. The second was the "sheep," Peggy Day, in The Women.

Here you can see Joan, under George Cukor's tutelage, beginning to absorb some real principles of acting. When she asked the director about gestures and tone of voice, he said, "Forget all that. Think and feel and the rest will take care of itself." In her memoirs Fontaine called that "the best and shortest drama lesson" she ever got. In The Women Fontaine's self-consciousness is almost gone and her concept of Peggy is whole. What she hasn't quite mastered is her interaction with the other actresses. Her playing is all outside, she doesn't take what is said to her and weave it into her subsequent lines. She is a straight woman, doing a swell job of setting up other people's jokes, but not yet able to free her reactions as well. Here is one such joke set-up, which the Siren is reasonably certain will not make it into the remake filming now. With big-eyed horror, Peggy exclaims, "He beats you. Lucy, how terrible." And Lucy, played by Marjorie Main, comes back with, "Ain't it. When you think of the lot of women on this ranch who need a beatin' more than I do." Fontaine registers this outrageous (even in 1939) remark with the same damp-eyed amazement she does most other dialogue.

The Women shows promise, but Rebecca is an astonishing leap forward. Hitchcock worked carefully with Fontaine and she says she liked him, though in retrospect she realized he was manipulating her, telling her that he was the only one who believed she could give a good performance, reinforcing her insecurity at every turn. It wasn't hard. Laurence Olivier made it clear he had wanted his wife, Vivien Leigh, in the part of "I," despite the fact that Leigh's screen test for it was terrible, drawing hoots from George Cukor when it was shown to him by producer David O. Selznick. (Olivier treated Merle Oberon the same way, and for the same reason, on the set of Wuthering Heights.) Fontaine, already nervous and well aware this was a make-or-break role, had to contend with Olivier's idea of banter--informed she had just married Brian Aherne, he sniffed, "Couldn't you do any better than that?" At other times when her costar blew takes he would let fly with words that Fontaine later primly said she had seen only on bathroom walls. Thirty or forty years later she still had little good to say about Olivier and, as this personal reminiscence shows, remembered filming as a nightmare. She said even the other British actors, save Reginald Denny, were cliquish to the point of cruelty, refusing to budge from their afternoon tea in Judith Anderson's dressing room when Hitchcock threw Fontaine an on-set birthday party. And Fontaine doesn't even mention the exterior shots that caused cast and crew to be hospitalized for poison ivy. She couldn't work for three days.

Some actors grow to hate their signature role due to its having typed them, but in Fontaine's case it's easy to see why she retained little personal affection for Rebecca. Still, she shone, and to this day she knows it (check out her answer here to the question of which film of hers is most remembered). The second Mrs. de Winter is often described as weak, docile, terrorized, an example of extreme passivity. But while that is certainly a large part of Fontaine's characterization, it is not all of it, and indeed could not be or the character would probably annoy us all to death. It's the flashes of spirit that Fontaine shows that give you a stake in her heroine.

The first moment you see her, she is stepping up to stop Maxim as he stands on the edge of a cliff and contemplates suicide. She steps back immediately, cowed and uncertain, when he turns around, but then again he is glaring at her as though he might like to throw her over. The Siren would step back too.

Later you get one of the Siren's favorite moments in the movie, when Fontaine defies the dreadful Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates, sheer unbridled delight) and declares she is going to marry Maxim. The Siren loves to watch Fontaine's face in this scene, eyes widening as though she can barely believe her own daring. She's able to muster the nerve, it seems, because Maxim is there with her. Afterward, though, she is unable to stop Mrs. Van Hopper from venomously suggesting that she is a marriage of convenience for her husband and a poor substitute for Rebecca. Later scenes with George Sanders, who was at his very best playing the heel who was Rebecca's lover, have Fontaine's face registering extreme discomfort in the presence of a cad, as well as knowledge that she can't just bounce this well-bred scoundrel out on his ear, even if he did come in through the window.

Later, there is the scene where Mrs. Danvers, played to the hilt by Judith Anderson, shows the bride her predecessor's room. Danvers lingers over a transparent negligee in a manner so lewd it makes the audience blush as well as Mrs. de Winter recoil. (This, one of classic Hollywood's most overt suggestions of lesbianism, stayed in, but the du Maurier ending had to be altered.) Here, all by herself, Fontaine finally gathers up her courage and orders Mrs. Danvers to destroy Rebecca's papers and other items. "I am Mrs. de Winter now," says Fontaine. Her attire, her posture, even her tone of voice suggest a schoolgirl at last defying a harsh headmistress. It's the moment you've been waiting for--some spine!--and it also means that later in the movie, when the tables turn and Fontaine becomes the loving support for a shattered Maxim, the shift isn't so abrupt that the audience can't accept it.

David Thomson has called Rebecca "a disguised horror film," and it comes closest to that description in the movie's most famous scene, where a browbeaten and despondent Fontaine comes close to committing suicide, egged on by the diabolical Mrs. Danvers. Once seen, you remember this moment forever, but the Siren relishes this famous scene more for Judith Anderson than for Fontaine. Fontaine, mind you, plays it perfectly. The conceit is that the second Mrs. de Winter has been driven to the brink of madness. But the young woman, however easily cowed and pathetically eager to please she may be, has seemed up to this point to be eminently sane. Danvers' suicidal coaxing plays as an evil witch casting a spell, not just as a malevolent handmaiden capitalizing on Fontaine's moment of madness. Fontaine's face suggests that she has been hypnotized, more than anything, and it's the sound of noises and flares from the beach that snaps her out of it.

Rebecca had the same effect on Fontaine's acting, in that at last she had the impetus to start REacting; indeed, given the part she was playing, if she could not react well the whole movie tumbles around her ears. In Suspicion, her next movie with Hitchcock and the one that won her the Oscar, the task is somewhat different. She must show us everything but the title quality. That emotion she must fight at every turn, because Lina Aysgarth is desperately trying to allay her own suspicions every time her husband, Johnny, piles up another whopper. Watch Fontaine here, at the end, waiting for the entirely-too-pretty maid to exit.

Donald Spoto, in his biography of Hitchcock, says that contrary to popular belief and the director's own later myth-making, the director had always conceived Suspicion as a "film about a woman's fantasy life" and didn't intend to follow the novel, in which Joan Fontaine's character intentionally drinks the glass of milk her murderous husband has poisoned. Spoto says Hitchcock even told RKO executive producer Harry E. Edington that he would resolve any objections to having a romantic lead turn murderer by "making the husband's deeds the fictions in the mind of a neurotically suspicious woman."

But, the Siren insists, Lina is not all that neurotic. Molly Haskell called Fontaine's character "masochism incarnate," and she has a point in that Fontaine shows us, as clearly as the Production Code would allow, the sexual hold that Grant's Johnny has on her. But while critics usually describe Johnny's actions as mere bad gambling habits, the fact is that he's a criminal embezzler, a chronic liar, shirker and cheat, all of which are flaws that the Siren feels justify a little suspicion from a woman without her being called neurotic or masochistic.

It is the buildup of tension that creates Fontaine's mental state, not the other way around. Fontaine must suppress every question that comes to mind, at first for fear of causing strife with her husband, later because she doesn't want to seem a snob — she is upper class British, Johnny is not. In the scene above, Lina's struggle to keep from bursting out with any sort of anger or even reproach seems almost physical, as Fontaine checks herself a couple of times in mid-move toward Johnny.

Finally, having choked down every legitimate question that Grant's wildly improper behavior is raising in her, Lina really does begin to succumb to neurosis, taking small actions and turning them into murderous portents.

So the "falseness" of the ending is not so much that Grant isn't a murderer after all, which was part of the design from the beginning. It's that suddenly we are supposed to look at Lina as foolish and somehow faithless, not supporting her husband the way she should have, when her husband is a pretty obvious shit, Cary Grant or no Cary Grant.

Fontaine didn't work with Hitchcock again, but her character, as a tightly repressed young gentlewoman, had been firmly fixed by her association with him. She would spend some time trying to break free of that mold, until she took the same character and altered it for all time in Letter from an Unknown Woman.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Siren Is a Finalist for the 2007 Weblog Awards

The Siren is still around, O Patient Readers, and finishing up her Rebecca/Suspicion piece. Meanwhile The Shamus has brought her glad tidings.

The 2007 Weblog Awards

The Siren is a finalist for the 2007 Weblog Awards, as Best Culture Blog. She thinks most thanks are due to her stalwart commenters, who keep the place high-toned--as Nora said to Nick, "I love you because you know such lovely people."

If you get a chance, you can follow the link and vote for the Siren here, once every 24 hours until November 8. The Siren, of course, will maintain her serene dignity and unsmudged mascara no matter the outcome ...

... even if Libertas wins.

Many thanks to Jon Swift, that sterling example of reasonable conservatism, who took time off from O'Reilly-watching to reach across the aisle and nominate the Siren. Oddly enough, he has been nominated as "Funniest Blog." While the Siren thinks of Mr. Swift as a veritable tower of seriousness, indeed the Margaret Dumont of the blogosphere, he makes a persuasive argument that voting him the award will "send an important message that there are some prizes that [Al] Gore does not have a lock on, besides the Presidency, of course." Please vote for Jon as well.

See you, and the lovely Joan Fontaine, very soon.