Katharine Hepburn’s Lace Cookies

 

Red meat, big salads, tea, butterscotch pudding, ice cream, meatloaf, homemade cookies… those were some of Katharine Hepburn’s most favorite foods. Whether she was staying at her Turtle Bay residence in mid-town Manhattan or at her family’s compound in Old Saybrook,  Connecticut, Katharine liked most entertaining people at home with a homecooked meal.

Kate in her natural element… cleaning up the kitchen of her Connecticut waterfront home, Fenwick,  and dining outdoors in the courtyard of her Manhattan townhouse.

If you were lucky enough to be invited to dinner at either of Katharine Hepburn’s houses, you’d arrive promptly at 6:00pm and leave by 8:00pm so that she could be in bed by 8:15pm. A notorious early riser, Katharine lived by her own clock, bustling through the hours of her day with an admirable endurance that lasted her entire life.

But needless to say, even the most energetic of crusaders experiences a point in each day when blood sugar runs low and a brief rest is welcomed. For Lady Kate that small break in her schedule came at tea-time, her most favorite part of the afternoon, which she’d serve in antique teacups collected from her travels around the world. The saucers hardly ever matched the cups, the handles were sometimes repaired in one or two spots and there might be a chip in the rim, but none of that mattered. They were perfectly lovely serving pieces for a perfectly lovely time of day.

These are some of Katharine Hepburn’s serving pieces that she collected throughout her ninety-six years of life. In 2010 they were up for auction at Sotheby’s.

“Nice things are meant to be used,” said Kate when it came to living with antiques. The older the item the better it seemed. And because she was sentimental and somewhat thrifty she saw no harm in repairing a broken dish so that it could return to its previously useful state.

Along with a strong batch of freshly brewed tea, she would also always serve a homemade sweet treat believing that dessert tasted better in the afternoon than it did at night after a full meal. One of the dessert recipes she was most well-known for was her Lace Cookies which take their name from their paper-thin constitution and delicate web-like appearance.

This past week, the Vintage Kitchen moved to a new space and like Kate our energy was running on high as we packed and unpacked in a dizzy array of busyness. But now finally that we are settled and the moving boxes have been emptied, our own tea-time has come calling. We don’t get the luxury of having Katharine Hepburn come join us, but at least we have her recipe and a good imagination to make up the rest.  Tracy Lord (The Philadelphia Story), Ethel Thayer (On Golden Pond), Tess Harding (Woman of the Year) … if we could somehow magically invite these Hepburn characters along with Kate this surely would be a tea-time of legend. If you are unfamiliar with Kate’s movies here is a little clip from our most favorite, The Philadelphia Story, where she plays a bride-to-be whose dealing with cold feet and a complicated heart.

When Katharine was on set or on stage she was known to give helpful training and technique suggestions to less-experienced cast members who were struggling with a scene or a role. She was careful never to tell them exactly step-by-step how to get from point A to point B because she thought that would just yield a copycat performance. What she did offer instead was advice and recommendations that would help shape the parameters of a character or the foundations of a scene so that actors could confidently put their own personality into the performance. In essence, she offered helpful broad strokes and left the details up to the individual to interpret. The same can be said for her recipe sharing.

The first thing you’ll notice about her cookie recipe is how simple it is.  But we all know simple things can sometimes turn out to be most complicated. Kate’s approach to acting was often described as enigmatic, precise, contagious, controlling, all-consuming, accommodating and effortless. Her lace cookies share all those same attributes. They were absolutely delicious but they can be a little finicky, so before you whip up your own batch please note the following bits of advice from the Vintage Kitchen.

  •  Do not use anything bigger than a teaspoon to drop your dough onto the cookie sheet. (We first made tablespoon sized cookies, thinking the bigger the better,  and once heated up in the oven each separate cookie  spread out to meet up with the others and form one giant cookie that covered the entire baking sheet and never fully cooked.)
  • A disposable foil cookie sheet works better than a metal non-stick cookie sheet because of the raised perforations in the disposable sheet design.
  • Don”t forget to grease your cookie sheet in-between each batch or the cookies will stick like glue to the pan.
  • It’s best to serve these within 30 minutes after they’ve come out of the oven.  That’s when they are crispy like a potato chip. Over an extended amount of time, they relax to a more limp and chewy state (although still delicious!)

Also, Kate made her cookies with finely chopped walnuts, but we used roughly chopped peanuts because we thought the cookies would stack in a more whimsical way for the photograph. We were right – rough chopping adds a little more volume to the stack. So depending on your preference, nuts and chopping style these cookies call for a little of your own creativity as well, just like Kate would have encouraged.

 

Katharine Hepburn’s Lace Cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup raw sugar

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts (or roughly chopped peanuts or any nut of your preference)

Beat butter, egg, and vanilla together until smooth. Add sugars and flor to egg mixture, mix thoroughly. Stir in nuts. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. Makes about 30 cookies.

With a consistency like very thin peanut brittle and a taste like toffee, these cookies are delicate coasters of caramelized sweetness. And because they contain so little flour, they are a crisp and light dessert alternative to something dense and gooey. Keep in mind, they don’t travel well because of their fragile nature, so these treats are best enjoyed at home with friends and family and a late afternoon pot of tea just like Kate would’ve have done.

Cheers to Kate for her delicious recipe and to finding a little sweet respite in your busy schedule!

* This post was originally intended to appear as part of the Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Unfortunately, our move interrupted our ability to participate, but you can still catch up on all the fun posts featuring the great Kate here.

 

Cocktails and A Movie: Discussing Censorship, Bar Nuts and Breen on the Set of Casablanca

 

This week’s post has us traveling all the way back to a cosmopolitan city in exotic 1940’s North Africa thanks to a lovely invitation from the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. This weekend, October 13th – 15th marks the date of the Great Breening Blogathon featuring Joseph Breen, an influential, but seldom remembered figure in filmmaking during the glamorous days of old Hollywood.

Joseph Breen (1888-1965)

Joseph was the enforcer behind the Production Code Administration, set up during the 1930’s, which acted as a morality censor for all film scripts, scenes, and storylines in the motion picture industry. Bolstered by his own Catholic beliefs and the bishops who originally wrote the code, Joseph was not interested in seeing sexy, sensual imagery on the big screen and the PCA wasn’t interested in exposing such immorality to the American movie-going public.  The thought of being subjected to plotlines involving extra-marital affairs, obscene language, excessive violence or varying degrees of nudity were offensive. Family friendly, American made films were not the place for such suggestive behavior according to Joseph and the PCA.

With line by line lists of cant-do’s and won’t-permits attached to each script that the PCA reviewed, screenwriters and directors were challenged with creative ways to express character’s motives and actions while also keeping their plots plausible and compelling. How do you portray magnetic chemistry without showing a steamy, passionate kiss? How do you elude to compromising situations without showing corrupt scandals? How do you make your central location not look or sound like the most unethical, debaucherous place in the world yet still convey to watchers that shady dealings are happening right and left? And ultimately, how do you tell one of the most romantic and dramatic love stories of all time without showing anyone caught up in the physical throes of passion?

The answer is Casablanca.

Many noteworthy movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood were questioned by Joseph and the PCA. The Outlaw (Howard’s Hughes 1943 western) showed too much of Jane Russell’s cleavage; the “damn” in Rhett Butler’s famous “Frankly  my dear, I don’t give a damn” line in Gone With the Wind was flagged for unnecessary profanity; and the fact that Casablanca’s Ilsa was married at the time she first met Rick was altogether too salacious for the PCA to greenlight.  All three movies managed to overcome these sticky spots eventually, but not without some major behind-the-scenes defense tactics for creative license.

The PCA and Joseph’s staunch deployment of it was frustrating but important to movie studios because it balanced political correctness with the expectations of what movie audiences wanted to see.  What was considered entertaining and appropriate to movie-goers in mainstream America in the 1930’s and 1940’s was laughter, light-hearted romance, and noble sentiment.  So if movie studios wanted to sell tickets, they had to comply with what watchers wanted to see. And the PCA was there to make sure that decorum and good manners reigned supreme as far as what was being showcased on the big screen.

On the morality level, Casablanca in particular, seemed like it was doomed from the beginning. It was set primarily in a bar, Rick’s Cafe Americain, where alcohol continuously flowed. It was fueled by desperation with characters willing to do anything and everything to garner exit visas to leave the country. It contained a smoldering, forbidden romance, murder and contempt for government officials.  All major issues when it came to the Production Code Administration.

The legendary ending of Casablanca

By the time the script came back from the PCA review office, it contained several red flags and numerous notations from Joseph Breen. No bed was ever to be shown in Rick’s apartment, (such an object would have signaled an intimate encounter with Ilsa).  The dubious character of Captain Renault (who was in charge of granting exit visas from Casablanca) was not allowed to verbally suggest or show that he was granting visas to women only in exchange for sex. And Rick and Ilsa’s fated love affair? Joseph found it highly immoral that Ilsa met and fell in love with Rick years before in Paris while she was  married to her husband Victor Lazlo. This long-simmering love business between Ilsa and Rick had to be cleaned up in order for the movie to go on. Even though sex does sell, in conservative 1940’s America these scandelous situations were considered way too over-the-top for the eyes and minds of mainstream movie-going audiences.

The smoldering attraction between Rick and Ilsa.

So how did Casablanca’s production team manage to get around such roadblocks and ultimately propel the film towards three Academy Award wins and iconic movie status? Through good writing and good direction and good acting. So much of the storyline that seemed PCA in-appropriate – the excessive drinking, seduction, womanizing and volatile emotions were so expertly staged and nuanced that the script eventually passed approval with Joseph Breen. Once Humphrey Bogart (Rick), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa)  and Claude Rains (Captain Renault) delivered their performances there was no mistaking the precarious situations that the scriptwriters originally intended. Movie audiences still got the idea loud and clear even if wasn’t visually or audibly spelled out.

In today’s depict-anything-you-want movie plot experience, it seems so foreign to have such a morality cloud like Joseph Breen hovering over a film production. But I wonder if the beauty and ultimate success of Casablanca came in the act of being challenged to subtly hint at each impropriety. Perhaps that is what makes it timeless and still translatable in today’s cinematic scope. It leaves room for our own imaginations to sort out and further dissect the specifics of the relationships between characters.

I’m not a big fan of censoring art in any way. I think you lose the point of it then. I once lived in a town where plays were censored for language or risque content and it felt very limiting. Art is intended to provoke reaction and expand horizons so I’m not sure if Joseph Breen and I would have been on the same page in the philosophy department, but his impact on Casablanca was influential, so maybe his enforcement of the Production Code Administration ultimately helped the movie in the long-run.

For all the spicy current passing between Ilsa and Rick throughout the movie, there is not a lot of spicy food being passed around Rick’s cafe.  Originally I thought it would be fun to write a dinner and a movie post and feature some aromatic Moroccan food of the likes that would have been served at Rick’s. But apparently, the main thing on the menu at Cafe Americain, the bestseller of all bestsellers, was a cocktail or two or three or half a bottle. Champagne, bourbon, scotch, gin, whiskey are present in almost every scene. Alcohol swishes and swirls and sits in glasses while Rick broods, Captain Renault schemes and Ilsa seeks courage.  So in lieu of a traditional North African dinner, here in the Vintage Kitchen, we are staying true to the spirit of Casablanca by serving up a food accompaniment with this post that pairs best with your favorite cocktail…Sweet Spiced Nuts circa 1967.

This recipe comes from the vintage cookbook, A World of Nut Recipes by Morton Gil Clark and features three ingredients essential to Moroccan cooking: cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This is a super easy recipe to make for cocktail hour, parties or late night snacking. The flavors are subtle, accommodating and interesting and with nut season now in full swing, you have a variety of options to choose from. For this recipe, I used a variety of mixed nuts which included peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts but pecans, pistachios, macademias, etc all would make delicious alternatives as well.

Find this cookbook available in the Vintage Kitchen shop here.

Sweet Spiced Nuts – Makes 1 Cup

1 cup nuts

1/4 cup fine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8th teaspoon ground allspice

1/8th teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg (egg white part only)

Place the nuts in a small bowl and pour over them the slightly beaten whites of 1 egg. Mix so that all the nuts are evenly coated. In a separate bowl combine the sugar and spices and then toss with the nuts, mixing well again so that all the nuts are evenly coated. Spread seasoned nuts out into a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. If you prefer ultra-crunchy nuts bake them about 10-15 minutes longer, but keep your eye on them so they don’t burn. Once done, let them cool on the baking sheet until ready to serve. Pair with your favorite cocktail and some lively conversation.

Pair with your favorite cocktail and some lively conversation. And while you’re at it, raise a toast to Joseph Breen, who made his mark, for better or worse, on one of the world’s most beloved movies of all times. Here’s look’n at you, Joe!

To learn more about Joe Breen and his influence on old Hollywood, catch up with other blogathon related posts here. 

For more dinner and a movie posts from the Vintage Kitchen, pull up a chair here.

And last but not least, find 200 more pages of interesting nut-related recipes in the World of Nut Recipes cookbook available in the shop here.

Ms. Jeannie Goes to Hollywood!

Oh my goodness, dear readers, it has been weeks and weeks since the last blog post. What happened to Ms. Jeannie? Did she cook herself right into that big pot of homemade tomato sauce? Did she dig herself into a hole when she turned over her summer garden? Did she wrap herself up in a vintage book club package? No, no – not too worry. It’s just been a busy past few weeks but Ms. Jeannie is now back in the blogging saddle again.  Tally ho, she says! She has so missed you all.

Over this past holiday weekend Ms. Jeannie took a little trip to Los Angeles, where she attended the wedding of some very good friends. It had been a long, long time since Ms. Jeannie had been to California. Until this weekend, the city sat dreamy in her mind…

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She remembered the palm trees that lined the Pacific Coast Highway and the beach that stretched far and wide on each side of her Santa Monica hotel. She remembered a pale pink glow that settled over the city at sunset and the noise of traffic and congestion, but other than that – it was such a distant faraway experience that, on this trip, Ms. Jeannie felt like she was seeing the city for the first time.

View from her friends' apartment.

View from her friends’ apartment.

Ms. Jeannie’s friends live in Culver City, which is about 20 minutes from downtown.  Both of her friends are actors who are making a creative go of it in the film capitol of the world. So this trip was a real life look at L.A.  from the perspective of two brave hearts chasing a dream. Theirs is not the lifestyle of a flashy Beverly Hills home and shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive. They don’t drive fancy cars or wear expensive clothes – but what they have done is carved out a humble little niche of a lifestyle for themselves, packed full with lovely friends and authentic experiences.

At the beginning of the trip she and Mr. Jeannie spent a few days in their friend’s neighborhood, helping them get ready for their big wedding day.  These are some street views of their neighborhood…

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Surrounding her friends’ building are blocks and blocks of apartment buildings none taller than two or three stories. But every once in a while a little bungalow of a house pops in to break up the skyline. This one is barely visible – but Ms. Jeannie loved the little painted gate nestled in the flowering hedgerow….

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When Ms. Jeannie arrived at her friends’ apartment, this guy was patiently waiting to say hello…

Baxter!

Baxter!

Such a charmer! It only took a second to overcome his shyness – then he was all lolling tongue and wagging tail for the rest of the stay. At night he slept on the bed, sprawled out like a person, between Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie. So cute! If Ms. Jeannie could have fit him into her suitcase bound for home she certainly would have!

Those last pre-wedding days were a whirlwind of activity, with few extra minutes to spare. A LOT of time was spent in the car driving from point A to point B. Sometimes it took hours to drive a mere 15 miles. Ms. Jeannie took the time to celebrity watch in cars and trucks that crawled by amid all the congestion. Her and her friend actually made a little game of it. I spy Steven Spielberg! I spy Jennifer Aniston! Really they had no idea – but Ms. Jeannie discovered a lot of people look famous when you view them from the freeway:)

Aside from look-a-like celebrities, mostly they saw views they like this…

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Film production trucks on the move! Ms. Jeannie saw all types from makeup trailers to semis to catering trucks like this one. So many in fact, that by the time she left, she didn’t really even notice them anymore. Kind of like seeing castles in Ireland!

On Friday, Ms. Jeannie found herself with an unaccounted for hour – so she set out to explore downtown Culver City on foot, which actually turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

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The small little urban area is a great mix of interesting architecture, sidewalk cafes, shopping boutiques and film studios. And it was really clean and pedestrian friendly, unlike downtown L.A. which was much more gritty and wild. The historic Culver Hotel, now a luxury boutique hotel, is pictured below. The building dates to the early 1920’s and was once a semi-permanent hotel residence of Clark Gable.

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As Ms. Jeannie approached the downtown area, she kept seeing these signs posted on every block…

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This meant that a film was in the making somewhere in the area. How exciting! Ms. Jeannie walked until she came upon this scene just behind the Culver Hotel…

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The action occurred around the truck and two of the guys standing right in front of the driver’s door. Camera crews were set up to the left of the picture (just out of frame) and the production crew and various trucks and trailers were spread within a three block radius. Streets were blocked off, so Ms. Jeannie couldn’t get too close – but she did manage to zoom in a little bit more in hopes of seeing some famous faces…

The guy in the white shirt and black and white hat was one of the principal actors...

The guy in the white shirt and black and white hat was one of the principal actors….

Hmmm…Mr. Jeannie thought this guy might be Don Cheedle

Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle

but it is hard to tell with both hat and sunglasses on! This photo below is a second shot of the group standing to the left of the main action. Mostly they look like production guys – except the one in black sport coat and v-neck tshirt – he might be one of the actors.

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Either way, it was fun to see a movie being filmed while Ms. Jeannie was out and about. Other fun things she saw on her walk were…

Selznick Studios – the production studio of George Selznick – which appeared in the opening credits of Gone With the Wind. Now it is known as Culver Studios – a series of sound stages and production units that are available for both film and television productions.  Here is how Selznick Studio looked in the opening credits of Gone with the Wind, which was filmed in the 1930’s…

And here is how it looks now…

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It was a little bit tricky to get a good shot because from one vantage point you were standing in the middle of the busy road and the other vantage point was blocked off for the film in progress. Wrapped around the left side of the block were the entrance gates to the sound stages and a little house with columns. All the columns reminded Ms. Jeannie of  life in Georgia:)

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Ms. Jeannie’s friends were married on Saturday in Malibu, at the Malibou Lake Mountain Club, previously a 1930’s hunting/fishing lodge tucked into the hills. They exchanged vows outside in the garden, which boasted a collection of beautiful wild rose bushes…

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This is the lawn where they were married…

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And the view of the lake that the guests looked out onto…

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And a picture of the happy couple:)

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The reception was held inside the Club. Ms. Jeannie was part of the coordinating committee so there wasn’t any time to grab photos of dinner and dancing – but it was a pretty affair.  The table bouquets were especially lovely. They were exact replicas of the wedding party bouquets…

Sunflowers, kale, ferns, purple dahlias, a purple bean pod looking plant, shiny green leaves and deep red calla lilies made up each table arrangement. The addition of red and yellow striated tulips were added to the bridal bouquet .

Sunflowers, kale, ferns, purple dahlias, a purple bean pod looking plant, shiny green leaves and deep red calla lilies made up each table arrangement. The addition of red and yellow striated tulips were added to the bridal bouquet .

Sunday, the last day of the trip, was a little free day for Ms. Jeannie and Mr. Jeannie. They started out with breakfast in bed at the hotel…

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And then meandered their way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica…

Down the mountain they went! The topography was gorgeous!

Down the mountain they went! The topography was gorgeous!

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To the ocean…

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Surfers!

Surfers!

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They spent some time on the beach,

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and had lunch at the pier.

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Even though it had been over 20 years since Ms. Jeannie was last in Santa Monica – surprisingly a lot of it still looked the same!

For the entire four day trip, Ms. Jeannie chased the elusive Hollywood sign so that she could take a picture for this post.  Sometimes she was too far away to really see it, sometimes she was way too close and sometimes there were buildings sitting right in front blocking the view. Who knew it would be so tricky! On Sunday they drove up into the Hollywood Hills hoping to catch a glimpse. Instead, another discovery was made. Those hills are really hilly! And curvy and narrow – sort of like the San Francisco hills – so it was a bit tricky to navigate. Now Ms. Jeannie appreciates pinterest all the more for photos like this…

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Every day the weather was gorgeous. 75 degrees, sunny, slightly breezy.  But, to Ms. Jeannie, the real weather magic happened in the early mornings when it was a cool 55 degrees. A marine layer sits over the Malibu hills like rain clouds in the early morning and makes everything look spooky and dramatic just as the sun is coming up.  Driving to the airport on Monday was like something out of a gothic novel. It was moody and elegant all at once.

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As the sun starts to rise in the sky, the marine layer slowly burns off, so that by about 10:00 am it is like the dark part of the morning never even happened.

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Perhaps that is a little bit of movie magic on Mother Nature’s part!

Even though this was such a quick trip and laden with wedding frenzies, Ms. Jeannie felt like she was able to experience a big part of the Los Angeles culture. Next time she goes back to visit, Ms. Jeannie hopes it will be for the Academy Awards, where both her friends will have been recognized for their talents:)

Until then it is one great big giant cheers to them – for new beginnings and for continued strength to pursue their dreams.

Passion Flower: Discovering the 20th Century’s Most Popular Female Writer

As you know from Ms. Jeannie’s previous posts – she’s got gardening on her mind. So she thought this would be an appropriate time to do a little further sleuthing on one of the flower themed items in her Etsy shop…

The 1930’s era women’s fiction book, Passion Flower.

Passion Flower book from msjeannieology

Written by Kathleen Thompson Norris, one of the highest paid literary writers of her time, her books mostly told stories of the women of upper-class society. Passion Flower in keeping with that theme, details the story of an elite women who falls in love with her chauffeur.

Kathleen Norris in 1925

Kathleen was born July 16th, 1880 in San Francisco, married fellow writer Charles Norris (1881-1945) and published over  80 novels in her lifetime. She also wrote four collections of short stories, one play and 10 non-fiction books. Goodness gracious, she was one busy lady!

Author Ann Douglas, in her book Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhatten in  the 1920’s described Kathleen’s work …

“Kathleen Norris was the most interesting novelist of feminine and matriarchal sentimentalist essentialism in the 1910s and 1920s; vastly popular, with a curious literary style that seems to owe a good deal to Henry  James, she developed the themes that would dominate the soaps of early radio, aroused the ire (and perhaps envy) of Dorothy Parker, was adored by Alexander Wollcott (always a fan of the matriarch), and took acre of Elinor Wylie’s stepchildren (they were related by marriage; forgotten today, she is well worth in-depth study. “

In addition to being a writer, she was also a strong feminist, promoter of women’s rights, joined Charles Lindbergh in the 1930’s to oppose US ships carrying supplies to the British, called for capital punishment and campaigned for the outlaw of nuclear rights.

Kathleen Thomson Norris – photo courtesy of Garver Graver

Kathleen spoke sensibly about following dreams and achieving goals. Clearly this philosphy was working for her!

 “Before you begin a thing, remind yourself that difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead. If you could see them clearly, naturally you could do a great deal to get rid of them but you can’t. You can only see one thing clearly and that is your goal. Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin.” – Kathleen Norris

Charles Gilman Norris – photo courtesy of Garver Graver 

Kathleen’s husband, Charles Norris was a prolific writer as well. Possibly best known for his book, Salt, in which F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed:

“I know Gatsby better than I know my own child.  My first instinct after your letter was to let him go & have Tom Buchanan dominate the book (I suppose he’s the best character I’ve ever done–I think he and the brother in “Salt” & Hurstwood in “Sister Carrie” are the three best characters in American fiction in the last twenty years, perhaps and perhaps not) but Gatsby sticks in my heart.”

Side Note: Ms. Jeannie’s absolute most favorite book in the world is The Great Gatsby, so she is always on the look out for any F. Scott Fitzgerald references!

Kathleen and Charles owned a 200 acre ranch in Santa Clara County, California where, as Kathleen’s novels rose in popularity, they entertained many a celebrity and Hollywood A-lister.   This is a photo of their home, located in Palo Alto.

Kathleen & Charles’ Spanish Colonial style home. Palo Alto, CA.

The house is still there today and  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can read more about the property here, as well as see more photos and design plans.

In 1930, Passion Flower was made into a movie starring the beautiful Kay Francis, one of the most popular actresses of  Hollywood’s Golden Era.  Interestingly enough, she had something in common with Kathleen.  Kay was  one of the  highest paid actresses of the 1930’s. Her estimated annual salary was $115,000. As a comparison, Bette Davis’ annual salary at the same time, was $8,000.

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Here’s a photo from the movie featuring Kay and her leading man costar Charles Bickford…

By the end of Kathleen’s career, her books had sold over 10 million copies.  She died in San Francisco in 1966. Her collection of works and papers are stored at the Special Collections Departments of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stanford University.

She was quoted as saying:

“Life is easier than you’d think; all that is necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable.”

Interested in who the highest paid author is in our 21st century,  Ms Jeannie was surprised (sort of) to learn that it was Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, who in 2010 alone earned $40 million. Her series, comprised of four books, has sold over 100 million copies to date.

Stephenie Meyer

In one of those, if you could have lunch with anybody, living or dead scenarios, Ms. Jeannie thinks it would be interesting to sit down with Kathleen Norris and Stephenie Meyer.

Both women, highly successful in their writing careers, both having the luxury of seeing their own success, and both having the ability to connect with their readers on passionate emotional levels, would provide for some thought provoking conversation.

Kathleen prided herself on diligently focusing on goals to achieve success while Stephenie attributes her success to having the confidence to explore her dream state, which was how the plot for Twilight started.  Ms. Jeannie loves that both women achieved successful writing careers using two totally different motivations.

It is always great to have little reminders of our motivations in life. Ms. Jeannie found these two Kathleen/Stephenie approved ones on Etsy…

The Future Belongs To Our Dreams Art Poster by misterio

Goal Without A Plan Plaque from Crestfield

Ms. Jeannie thought it would be fun to imagine the writing spaces of these two very different women with the almost 100 year gap between them.  Using Etsy, as her design shopping center, Ms. Jeannie put together these two worlds… based on the information she just learned about them…

Kathleen Norris’ 1930’s inspired writing niche…

1937 Royal KHM Typewriter from MidMd

Antique 1920’s Secretary Desk from SecondRevival

1930’s Vintage Box of Gladiator Pen Nibs from kelleystreetvintage

1930’s French Writing Paper from the vintagearcade

Art Deco Brass Lamp from VintageLancaster

Vintage 1920s Blotting Papers from LuncheonetteVintage

Antique Oak Captain’s Chair from dajaxsurbanattic

1930s Dictionary Word Bundles from VintageScraps

The New Woman – 1897 Stereoview Photo from NiepceGallery

Stephenie Meyer’s contemporary Twilight inspired office…

Vinyl Decal Kit for Laptops from SkinKits

Ebony Writing Desk by JiriKalina

Twig Pencils by braggingbags

Woodgrain Writing Set by AshleyPahl

Forest Table Lamp from tansyandco

Journal with Eleanor Roosevelt Quote by watermarkbindery

Computer Keyboard Wrist Cushions by HomeGrownPillows

Mod Shimmer Chair by AryCollection

Wall Decal Twilight Quote by InspirationsbyAmelia

Wolf Dog Photograph by EmeraldTownRaven

On the Set of Get Low: Ms. Jeannie’s Moment in the Movies

Two years ago, there was an open casting call for extras for the film, Get Low, which starred Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek,  Bill Murray and Lucas Black.

Get Low movie poster

Ms. Jeannie had never been an extra, so she signed up with excitement,  for her moment in the movies. She thought it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon, but it actually turned out to be a two full days of activity!

Day 1 involved a trip to “wardrobe” which was actually one of the film sets,  Gaither Plantation, located near Atlanta.

Gaither Plantation’s main house served as the exterior of Sissy Spacek’s house in the movie.

It was a gorgeous location!

Ms. Jeannie was on set for only ten minutes before she saw Sissy Spacek, coming out of her trailer, just feet away!  While on set,  the extras were asked not to bring any camera or video equipment and also asked NOT to get  autographs from any of the actors.

Wardrobe was set up in one of the outbuildings on the plantation.

The log cabin (on the far left) was the site of wardrobe.

There, Ms. Jeannie met no-nonesense costume designer Julie Weiss, who has worked on a ton of movies including The Time Traveler’s Wife, Secretariat, Frida (see past post about this movie here), American Beauty, Steal Magnolias, Honeymoon in Vegas…so many movies that Ms. Jeannie loves!

Get Low was set in 1930’s Tennessee, so all the extras had to be authentically dressed in period clothing, makeup and hair.  Julie was no exchanger of pleasantries, she was on a serious mission to get everyone in and out and dressed appropriately.

For Ms. Jeannie, she choose a red and navy pattern print dress, a red, navy and white plaid coat and a funny looking navy and white hat.  Ms. Jeannie managed to sneak a few photos of her outfit up close. Shhh..don’t tell Julie!

Lots of pattern mixing going on!

Ms. Jeannie also wore gloves and nylons. And because she wore a pair of vintage looking black loafer type shoes to her wardrobe appointment, Julie gave the thumbs up that they could worn for the movie. You can kind of see them in this picture…

The 1930’s woman always wore gloves. Even in rural Tennessee!

After Ms. Jeannie’s outfit satisfied Julie, it was off to be photographed by costume department staff for the continuity files. Clothes were then hung up on hangers with names attached for next day’s shoot.

Day 2:

All the extras had to be on set at 4:30am in Crawfordville, GA which meant a super early morning drive for Ms. Jeannie.

Crawfordville is located about 2 hours east of Atlanta, and is as tiny a town as towns can get.  Surprisingly, many movies have been filmed there including Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon.

Apparently movie companies like to film there because it’s historic main street is easily adaptable.  The town is so small (population under 800) that film crews can pretty much do whatever they like, set-wise,  without displacing a lot of locals.

Here are pictures of Crawfordville’s main street as it looks today…

And here is how it was transformed for the movie. Again Ms. Jeannie was a little sneaky on set with her camera!

Dirt was brought in to cover the roads.

Fake building facades were installed on one side of the street, but all the other buildings are real store fronts.

That’s Lucas Black sitting on the bench below. The Farmers & Merchant Bank is the actual real bank in Crawfordville.

Old cars really helped give it that 1930’s feel.

More cars!

Many of the cars were loaned for the movie from an antique car collector that lived nearby. Also, in the photo above, you can see a Panavision movie camera peeking out underneath the awning. Very Hollywood!

Ms. Jeannie’s role in the movie was to walk across the street carrying paper wrapped packages. Here, the crew is preparing for the busy street scene, where Ms. Jeannie will appear.

That’s Robert Duvall standing next to the cart. It’s hard to see, so here’s a close-up. He’s the one with the full beard.

In this scene, Ms. Jeannie crosses the road in front of Robert Duvall, whose hermit character has come to town for the first time in 20 years.  The cart is driven by Hollywood’s famous trick mule Grace, who indeed was quite professional! Read more about her many talents here

Grace and Robert Duvall on set.

Ms. Jeannie had a walking partner too – a fellow extra who has made a professional career out of being an extra for the past 15 years. You can see her in the grey and green below. And that’s Robert Duvall! Up close!

It was nice to have a walking partner for company, because this one scene took about 7 hours to film. Ms. Jeannie and her partner criscrossed the street from every possible angle. It was also super windy that day, so that made some elements tricky for the crew. Julie was on set to keep everyone’s hats secured.

Pictured above is the director, Aaron Schneider talking to Robert Duval. There’s costume designer Julie,  in the back left wearing the checkered sweater.

Finally, the scene was shot, and we were all off to the catering hall for dinner.

Bill Murray was the only major actor that ate with the extras.  He sat, by himself,  but close enough to Ms. Jeannie to make her sort of nervous.  She wanted to talk to him, but she suddenly felt speechless. So, much to her disappointment, she lost all her nerve to chat.  That was when it struck Ms. Jeannie…it was as awkward for Bill Murray to eat with a room full of strangers as it was for a room full of strangers to eat with Bill Murray.  Ms. Jeannie could understand how it could be lonely, on the road, for an actor.

Hours later, in-between scenes, Ms. Jeannie got to personally meet Bill Murray, along with a bunch of other extras. He shook her hand and commented on what an unusual hat she was wearing.  He was wearing a super tight suit. Ms. Jeannie wanted to joke about that – but she refrained!

This is the outfit Bill Murray was wearing when Ms. Jeannie met him.

Now that they had established a repoire, Ms. Jeannie was hoping that she might get up her nerve to talk with him again, but unfortunately, he had left for the airport to hop a flight to California, so he could play in a golf tournament at Pebble Beach.

So Ms. Jeannie’s days spent with celebrities came to an end. After a long but magical day on set, she headed home, with the new found appreciation for actors and all those millions of unnamed extras.  Weeks later, she received a $100.00 check in the mail – her day rate as an official movie extra!

Many months after that, the trailer was released…

And then the movie. And Ms. Jeannie saw that her scene actually made it in!

Robert Duvall, Ms. Jeannie and professional extra.

To Ms. Jeannie’s surprise, costume designer Julie recreated outfits with a lot of pattern. For some reason, Ms. Jeannie thought in the 1930’s that women wore mostly solid colors. Not so!  Ms. Jeannie discovered on Etsy that women in the 1930’s like this one wore a lot of pattern together. Check out her coat and dress…

Vintage Photo from phunctum.

Thanks to the fabulous vintage shops on Etsy, anyone could recreate  Ms. Jeannie’s movie costume with the following items…

Vintage Black & White Plaid Coat from MarcellasExcess

Vintage 1930’s Dress from Revolving Styles

1930s Oxford Style Shoes from honeytalkvintage

30’s Leather Riding Gloves from Freestyle Collection

The hat that Ms. Jeannie wore in the movie was really unusual. It was shaped like this one below, but it had a big white bow that ran across the front and was floppy in back like a beret. No wonder Bill Murray commented on it!

1940’s High Hat from poppycockvintage

Get Bill Murray’s funeral director look:

Vintage Pinstripe Suit Jacket from TrueValueVintage

Men’s 1930’s/1940’s Fringed Scarf from fifisfinds

1939-1949 Men’s Brown Wool Coat from Lins Vintage Boutique

Vintage Stetson Hat Felted Derby Wool Bowler from KTsAttic

Julie would definitely approve!!!!