The Build-Your-Own-Blogathon: Richard Conte in Cry of the City (1948)

•August 9, 2014 • 16 Comments

I could cheerfully watch Richard Conte make cinnamon toast, paint a wall, or even tie his shoes.

But when he’s front and center in a 1940s noir, I really go into orbit!

Case in point: Twentieth Century Fox’s Cry of the City, a 1948 film noir feature with a top-notch, can’t-miss cast that, in addition to Conte, includes Victor Mature, Debra Paget, Fred Clark, Shelley Winters, Barry Kroeger, Hope Emerson, and Betty Garde.

Conte stars as Martin Rome, who is not, shall we say, a nice guy. Charismatic, intelligent, and fearless, he’s also completely and utterly self-absorbed – everything is all about Martin, all the time. Except when it comes to the girl he loves.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Teena (Debra Paget) sneaks into the hospital for this touching scene.

Teena (Debra Paget) sneaks into the hospital for this touching scene.

When Cry of the City begins, it plops us down in the middle of the action: small-time hood Martin Rome is close to death, receiving the Last Rites in the hospital after a botched robbery and shootout left him riddled with bullets and a cop dead. Before he’s taken to surgery, he receives two visitors – one is a beautiful young girl, Teena (Debra Paget), who sneaks into his room and sobs piteously over his body, and W.A. Niles (Kroeger) a crooked lawyer who tries – without success – to coerce Martin into giving a deathbed confession to another murder, this one involving the theft of jewels and the torture of the elderly owner. Both of these characters figure prominently later on.

Candella (Victor Mature) was like a dog with a bone where Martin Rome was concerned.

Candella (Victor Mature) was like a dog with a bone where Martin Rome was concerned.

Another major figure in Martin’s life is Lt. Candella (Victor Mature), who grew up with Martin on the streets of New York. Along with Lt. Collins (Fred Clark), Candella is working the case of the shooting of the cop, and seems to have made Martin’s capture his life’s work – even Collins points out that his partner has developed a “vendetta” against Martin. Candella haunts the halls of the hospital, monitoring Martin’s progress from the brink of death to recovery. He also suspects that Martin may have been involved in the jewel heist – which involved a female accomplice – and he hounds him for the name of the mysterious woman who was seen in his room on the night of his shooting.

Martin never met a person he couldn't use. Here he is with the trusty who helps him escape.

Martin never met a person he couldn’t use. Here he is with the trusty who helps him escape.

Back to the crooked lawyer. As Martin recovers, Niles pays another visit to the hospital, this time to offer Martin a cool 10 grand to take the rap for the jewel theft and old lady murder. Martin declines – at first with relative civility (he spits at Niles and calls him a crook), but later with considerable more vehemence (he literally falls out of his bed trying to strangle him) when Niles threatens to find Martin’s girl: “Maybe we can even make the police believe she did it. They might not. Not the way she is now, Martin. But if we worked on her for a couple of days. Maybe she wouldn’t be so sure herself. Maybe she wouldn’t look the same. Maybe you wouldn’t even recognize her.” A short time later, Martin is transferred to a prison hospital but, with Niles’s threat plaguing him, and with the fortuitous aid of a prison trusty, he manages to break out.

Brenda Martingale (Shelley Winters) played a small but pivotal role in Martin's scheme.

Brenda Martingale (Shelley Winters) played a small but pivotal role in Martin’s scheme.

Once he’s back on the streets of New York, all roads lead to Rome, as it were. I don’t want to give away the whole plot (well, I do, but I won’t) so, instead, I’ll shine the spotlight on a few more characters who come within Martin’s orbit.

There’s Brenda Martingale (Shelley Winters) an old girlfriend of Martin’s, who he employs to locate and take him to Rose Given, the woman who was actually the female accomplice in the jewel robbery/murder. The unlicensed doctor that Brenda finds to treat the ailing Martin – or, at least, he fixes him up (with whiskey and spit, I suppose) enough to keep him going for a while.

Rose (Hope Emerson) had a very unusual massage technique.

Rose (Hope Emerson) had a very unusual massage technique.

Then there’s Rose Given (Hope Emerson), a solidly built masseuse with a  deadly technique – Martin shows up on her doorstep, tells her he has the jewels from the robbery, and offers to exchange them for “a car, five thousand dollars, a way out of the country, and a good night’s sleep.” And Martin’s kid brother, Tony (Tommy Cook), who hero worships Martin and would do anything for him – even if means breaking the law. And his parents, who love their son, but ultimately turn him out of their home. And we come full circle when the final road to Rome links up where we started – with Candella, his ever-determined, never-say-die pursuer, and Teena, the beautiful young girl that is Martin’s entire raison d’être: “I’ve kept you in my heart always,” he tells her. “Wherever I went, you were my strength. . . . You’re my life, I’ll do anything in the world for you.”

The final showdown came down to these three.

The final showdown came down to these three.

The film’s final scene shows MartIn trying to convince Teena to join her in his plan to flee the country – like the figure with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, we see Teena torn between her love for Martin, and his long list of misdeeds, bluntly and graphically delineated by Candella. What will she do? What will happen to Martin? Will Candella finally get his man???

Take a walk on the noir side and check out this film.

Take a walk on the noir side and check out this film.

If you’ve never seen Cry of the City, make like Lt. Candella and hunt it down. Filmed on the streets of New York and helmed by noir director extraordinaire Robert Siodmak, this underrated feature is a dark and shadowy jewel in the noir canon, rife with vivid characters, seedy corruption, and locations so real you can practically feel the rain-slick streets. Of all Richard Conte’s noir appearances, this is one of his best. Trust me  – it’s a must-see. And see it again.

You only owe it to yourself.

* * * * * * * * * *

This post is part of the Build-Your-Own Blogathon, hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Visit the site to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this unique and innovative event!

Hooray for Hollywood (Forever Cemetery)!

•July 31, 2014 • 10 Comments

Not a bad place to spend eternity, eh?

It was the best of times, it was the best of times.

As if the Turner Classic Movies film festival of 2014 weren’t already a mind-blowingly awesome experience on its own, I topped off this year’s now-annual visit to Los Angeles with a super-cool tour of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly known as the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery).

Conducted by guide extraordinaire Karie Bible – who was clad in a fetching black lace vintage dress and carried a matching parasol – the tour ambled throughout the grounds of the beautifully peaceful cemetery, with Bible providing fascinating bits of information about many of the eternal residents. Equipped with my trusty digital camera, I took the tour with a group of film fans gathered for the event, excitedly scribbling in my notebook and snapping pictures at each stop.

I’m glad to share with you now, a few of the highlights from this memorable and most delightful experience.

The tall obelisk in the center is Griffith's tombstone; and in the distance you can see the Griffith Observatory.

The tall obelisk in the center is Griffith’s tombstone; and in the distance you can see the Griffith Observatory.

Griffith J. Griffth

Los Angeles’s famed Griffith Park was named after this philanthropist and industrialist, who donated more than 3,000 acres of land to the city. But if that’s all you know about this double-monikered fellow, well, pull up a chair! In addition to being a wealthy self-starter (he was born in South Wales and came to this country, without a dime, at the age of 15), Griffith was a severely paranoid alcoholic who got the notion into his head that his wife was conspiring with the Pope (yes, the Pope) to have him assassinated. To get the jump on her, so to speak, Griffith shot his wife in the head – she lost an eye and was left with a disfigured face, but she lived to tell the tale (and testify at the trial). Meanwhile, Griffith pleaded “alcoholic insanity” (say what?). He was defended by lawyer Earl Rogers – who later became the inspiration for the Perry Mason book series – and spent a mere two years in prison.

Jayne Mansfield’s cenotaph was installed by her fans.

Jayne Mansfield

Mansfield was the buxom blonde star of such films as The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). She’s also the mother of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay and, sadly, was killed at the gone-too-soon age of 34, when her car rammed into the back of a semi-trailer on a Louisiana highway. (Hargitay, three years old and asleep with her siblings in the back seat at the time, was unhurt in the accident.) Mansfield’s headstone is actually a cenotaph – a new word for me! – which means that it’s a monument erected for someone whose remains are someplace else. Mansfield is actually buried in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, where the actress lived from age three to six. Her cenotaph at Hollywood Forever was placed there by the Jayne Mansfield Fan Club – although it incorrectly identifies her year of birth as 1938, instead of 1933. Incidentally, Mariska Hargitay was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2013 – it’s right next to that of her famous mom’s.

David White's niche is a tribute to his love for his son, Jonathan.

David White’s niche is a tribute to his love for his son, Jonathan.

David White

Best known for his role as Larry Tate in the long-running sitcom, Bewitched, White and his first wife, stage actress Mary Welch, had a son, Jonathan, in 1955. Three years later, Welch died during of complications from her second pregnancy. (Larry Tate’s son on Bewitched, incidentally, was named after White’s real-life son.) Sadly, Jonathan was on the flight that was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and David White died of a heart attack two years later. His final resting place is in the Hollywood Memorial Park Cathedral Mausoleum at the cemetery, a lovely structure flanked by marble statues in the main hallway of the twelve apostles. White’s remains are in a memorial niche, which is a bookcase-like compartment with a glass front. The niche also contains Jonathan’s remains, photos of White and his son, and a “Larry Tate” bust sculpture, which is a prop from a 1969 Bewitched episode.

See the lipstick prints?

See the lipstick prints?

Rudolph Valentino

The famed silent film star, who died at the age of 31, is buried in a crypt in the Cathedral Mausoleum, next to the crypt of June Mathis, the screenwriter who discovered him and wrote four of his movies, including The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1921) and Blood and Sand (1922). At the time of his death, Valentino was millions of dollars in debt and there was no money to bury him.  Mathis owned a row of crypts and loaned one to Valentino’s family for what was supposed to be the actor’s temporary housing. Unfortunately, 11 months later Mathis herself died, at the age of 40. In the 1930s, Mathis’s husband sold the crypt to the Valentino family. To this day, women leave lipsticked kisses on the crypt’s marble stone.

Guests at the memorial's dedication sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Guests at the memorial’s dedication sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Toto

The iconic canine in the beloved 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz was played by a female Cairn Terrier by the name of Terry. She was born in Chicago in 1933, and was also seen in 15 other feature films, including the Shirley Temple vehicle Bright Eyes (1934), and The Women (1939), starring Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Terry died in 1945, but her remains are not at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. After her death, she was buried at her owner’s ranch in Studio City, but her grave marker was destroyed in the late 1950s when the land was razed to make way for the Ventura Freeway (under which she lies to this day.) On June 18, 2011, a permanent memorial was dedicated to “Toto” at Hollywood Forever.

A lovely spot for a lovely tribute.

A lovely spot for a lovely tribute.

Hattie McDaniel

This Gone With the Wind (1939) Oscar winner is yet another personage with a cenotaph at the cemetery. The actress wanted Hollywood Forever to be her final resting place, but the owner at the time of her death, a man by the name of Julius Roth, refused to allow McDaniel (along with most other minorities) to be buried there. Her body is actually buried at L.A.’s Rosedale Cemetery. More than 40 years later, the cemetery’s new owner, Tyler Cassity, offered to have McDaniel ‘s remains disinterred and buried at Hollywood Forever, but  her family declined. Instead, Cassity erected the existing monument, placing it in what is arguably one of the most tranquil locations in the cemetery.  A dedication ceremony was held at the cemetery on October 26, 1999, the 47th anniversary of McDaniel’s death; the cenotaph includes a quote from McDaniel’s last living relative, her grand-nephew, which reads, “Aunt Hattie, you are a credit to your craft, your race, and to your family.”

Pay your respects to the Fairbanks père et fils ... and see a movie!

Pay your respects to the Fairbanks père et fils … and even see a movie!

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

The famed father and son actors are buried together beneath a striking monument that reads, “Good night, sweet princes.” The area behind the monument is called “The Fairbanks Lawn” and movies are frequently screened there. (By the way, in case you didn’t know – and I confess that I didn’t until Karie Bible told us! – the main character in the 2011 Oscar-winning film The Artist was based on the life of Fairbanks, Sr.)

The original glamour ghoul.

Brief Bits

  • Finland native Maila Nurmi played Vampira in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space and as the host of the popular, Emmy-nominated 1950s late-nite TV horror show. Nurmi died penniless in 2008 at the age of 85; fundraisers were held to buy her headstone and bury her.
  • Mr. Blackwell, famed snarky judge of star styles and wardrobes, is buried next to his partner of 59 years, Robert Spencer.

    Who knew Maxwell Smart was a war hero?

    Who knew Maxwell Smart was a war hero?

  • Don Addams, famed for his starring role in Get Smart (and the voice of Inspector Gadget on the popular animated show), fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
  • Virginia Rappe is the starlet whose death led to the eventual ruin of silent star Fatty Arbuckle, who was tried three times (and finally acquitted) for her murder. Rappe is buried next to her fiancé, producer/director Henry Lehrman, who reportedly carried her photo in his wallet until his 1946 death.
  • Fay Wray, best known for her role in the original King Kong (1933), was supposed to have the final line (“It was beauty killed the beast”) in the 2005 remake starring Jack Black, but she died in her sleep in 2004 at age 96.

    You can’t see Paramount’s water tower from this angle, but trust me, it’s there!

  • From the grave of Cecil B. DeMille, you have a clear view of the water tower at Paramount, the studio he helped to establish.
  • Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa on the Little Rascals series, was shot and killed at the age  of 31 over a quarrel involving money and a hunting dog . His father, by the way, invented a breast enhancing machine.
  • Actress Janet Gaynor, perhaps best known for her starring role in the original A Star is Born (1937), is buried next to her husband, famed fashion designer Adrian.

    The Puccio-Kennedy memorial. (Right now, the urn only contains the ashes of their beloved cat.)

    The Puccio-Kennedy memorial. (Right now, the urn only contains the ashes of their beloved cat.)

  • Orin Kennedy and Bernardo Puccio, the only two living personages on the tour, purchased a memorial at the cemetery that will house their ashes when they pass on to the Great Beyond. The two had an official unveiling of their classically designed monument in 2006, inviting friends and family to join them. The “living funeral” was the focus of a 2014 documentary on Kennedy and Puccio, entitled An Ordinary Couple.
A suitably striking monument.

A suitably striking monument.

Other notables included on the tour were Jean Harlow’s third husband Harold Rosson; Charlie Chaplin’s mother, Hannah; Tyrone Power, whose monument is a striking marble bench; Darren McGavin, star of The Night Stalker television series, and one of my favorite holiday movies, A Christmas Story; Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn; director William Desmond Taylor, whose murder is still unsolved today; noir and horror film veteran Peter Lorre; and voice actor Mel Blanc, whose tombstone famously reads, “That’s all, folks.”

If you’re ever in Los Angeles, I can recommend strongly enough that you take in one of Karie Bible’s tours of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (Contact information and tour dates can be found here.) It will be an experience you’ll never forget. Trust me.

You only owe it to yourself.

Yippee! It’s a Versatile Blogger Award!

•July 5, 2014 • 21 Comments

Hey, guess what, kids? I’ve been nominated for the coveted Versatile Blogger Award! I am practically walking on air!

For nominating me for this prestigious honor, I offer my humble thanks to Kellee over at Outspoken and Freckled, whom I first met in the Twitterverse and then in real life at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. She was even more of a delight in person as she’d been on the World Wide Web, and meeting her was one of the highlights of my experience this year. Do yourself a favor and pay a visit to her blog – you only owe it to yourself!

In order to accept a nomination for a Versatile Blogger Award, the following is required:

  1. Thank your nominator and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Make your own 15 nominations and tell them they have been nominated.
  3. Offer up seven interesting facts about yourself.

In the words of Tracy Lord from The Philadelphia Story, “Oh, we’re going to talk about me, are we? Goody.” Seven interesting facts about me? Well, I don’t know how interesting they are, but here goes:

Me and Tito Jackson. TITO. JACKSON.

Me and Tito Jackson. TITO. JACKSON.

  1. I am a diehard Jackson 5 fan, to my very soul, ‘til the end of time. I even have a shrine to Michael in my basement. A few weeks ago, one of my BFs and I drove to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, to see the Jacksons perform, and by divine intervention complete chance, we got to meet both Tito and Jermaine Jackson and take pictures with them before they left for the airport. (Be still, my teeny bopper heart.)
  1. I have always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first short story when I was five years old, sitting on the living room floor in my grandmother’s house in Winchester, Kentucky. It was called The Richer Family, and it told the sad story of a rich family whose money couldn’t save them from tragedy. It was kinda noirish, now that I think of it.

    The Caribbean Room.

  1. I used to be completely obsessed with Johnny Depp. It started when I watched Pirates of the Caribbean during my annual watch-as-many-Oscar-nominated-movies-as-I-can-before-the-Oscars quest. Once I saw his Captain Jack sashay across the screen, I was a goner. I proceeded to buy – and watch – every Johnny Depp movie I could get my hands on (even clunkers like Private Resort, for cryin’ out loud). I put framed photos of him in my room. I transformed my library at home into the Caribbean Room, complete with signed pictures, Captain Jack action figures, switchplates, magnets, lamps, books – you name it, chances are it’s in that room. I had a shirt specially made that said “Mrs. Depp” on the front and “In my dreams” on the back. I was practically ill when my personal email to Oprah failed to result in a ticket to her show when he made an appearance. I bought every magazine I could find that had Johnny Depp on the cover (16, to be exact). I created a scrapbook full of newspaper and magazine clippings, as well as hundreds (upon hundreds) of pictures of him that I’d printed from the internet. (It’s really quite impressive, if I do say so myself. It weighs 14 pounds!) My daughters and I celebrated his birthday, singing to his photo and blowing out a candle we’d stuck in a Snickers bar. I told my boss I was sick so I could leave work and see Secret Window on the day of its release. I briefly considered getting a tattoo of the number 3 on my hand because he has one. It was RIDICULOUS. (But fun!) And, thank goodness, I eventually got over it and moved on to a similar, but not nearly as nutty, obsession for William Holden.

    Drive. Stop. Buy. Love it.

    Drive. Stop. Buy. Love it.

  2. Every year, my friend and I (the BF mentioned in Fact Number One) take a road trip for the World’s Longest Yard Sale. It starts in Addison, Michigan, and extends down Route 127 through Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, ending up in Gadsen, Alabama. Along the route, and in the little towns and villages along the way, you can find all kinds of yard sales, flea markets, and garage sales – you just drive and stop and buy. Drive and stop and buy. This will be our fourth time going to the sale – we always start out where we ended the year before, so this time we’ll be joining the sale in Florence, Kentucky. Over the years, I’ve brought home all kinds of goodies – a vintage vacuum cleaner (for three dollars!), a complete set of dishes, cookbooks, old movie magazines, dolls, vintage purses, a leather coat (for a dollar!), lamps, vintage radios, handmade soaps, jewelry, artwork, even a VHS box set of The Thornbirds (because of course, I still use my VCR every day) – quite literally a van full of stuff, every time. It’s a blast.
  1. My very first paying job was handing out leaflets advertising the Evelyn Woods Speed Reading Course. It was a humbling experience. I can’t tell you how many people walked right past me as if I weren’t there, or who took the paper from me, crumpled it up, and let it fall to the ground seconds later. Because of that experience (and that was almost 35 years ago), I always take flyers from people passing them out, and give them a smile and a grateful “thank you.” I know just how they feel!
  1. I love to paint – rooms, that is, not portraits. I have painted practically every room in my entire house, from the upstairs bathroom to the laundry room in the basement, and every wall in between. I started with the kitchen, around 15 years ago – I don’t know what made me start doing it, other than I hated the wallpaper that was on the walls and I was too broke cheap to hire somebody. None of the walls are just one color, though – the kitchen, for instance, has teal green paint sponged over white. The bathroom is yellow with tan polka dots. The living room is red and gold. And my favorite, my bedroom, has pink, mauve, and tan stripes. Here are the before and after pictures from my bedroom.
    Before.

    Before.

    After.

    After.

  1. I appeared on two episodes of an old E! TV network series called Mysteries and Scandals. Hosted by the uber-cool A.J. Benza, every half-hour episode focused on an actor or actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood who’d been involved in some kind of… well… mystery or scandal. I appeared in the episodes about Gail Russell and Gloria Grahame. For the Russell episode, which was the first one I did, I was flown out to L.A. and interviewed at the E! Studios. I was SCARED. TO. DEATH. In fact, I initially had no intention of even going – but I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t. So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and took the plunge. And I’m so glad I did it.  I remember when the episode first aired, I had a “viewing party” with my daughters, who were 2 and 5 years old at the time. They couldn’t have cared less. I’m all, “Look, there’s Mommy!” and they’re all, “Can I have another cookie?” (If you’re interested, the Russell episode can be seen here.)

And now, for the final piece of the Versatile Blogger pie, I am pleased to nominate the following blogs, authored by some of the most talented writers this side of the Pecos. Check ‘em out!

Speakeasy

She Blogged By Night

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Mildred’s Fatburgers

Stardust

Grand Old Movies

Virtual Virago

Mike’s Take on the Movies

Twenty-Four Frames

Hardboiled Girl

Cinematically Insane

True Classics

The Last Drive-In

1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die

Another Old Movie Blog

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my Versatile Blogger Award with me!

Livvie Trivia: Happy 98th Birthday, Olivia de Havilland!

•July 1, 2014 • 3 Comments

One of our last living treasures from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Miss Olivia “Livvie” de Havilland, was born in Tokyo, Japan, on July 1, 1916. The older sister of actress Joan Fontaine, de Havilland shared her acting talents with the world over a span of six decades. Her best-known film is undoubtedly Gone With the Wind (1939), and she also starred in such gems as The Strawberry Blonde (1941), In This Our Life (1942), To Each His Own (1946), and one of my favorite films, The Heiress (1949). She also managed to make her mark in realm of film noir with a dual role as twins in The Dark Mirror (1946) – if you haven’t seen it, check it out!

To honor the occasion of Miss de Havilland’s birth, join me in raising a glass to this great lady and enjoy some fun Livvie Trivia!

Olivia deHavilland’s father, Walter Augustus, was a British patent attorney, and her mother, Lillian, was a former stage actress who was educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

There were some good times.

There were some good times.

Sisters Olivia and Joan were estranged for many years – their feud became a thing of legend. Reportedly, when she was nine years old, de Havilland made a will in which she stated, “I bequeath all my beauty to my younger sister Joan, since she has none.” And Fontaine once said, “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!” (Sadly, Fontaine passed away on December 15, 2013. de Havilland released a statement saying that she was “shocked and saddened” by her sister’s death.)

de Havilland’s middle name is Mary.

In 1919, de Havilland’s mother persuaded her husband to take the family back to England. The family stopped in California to treat a bronchial condition that was plaguing Olivia. Joan later developed pneumonia, and Lillian decided to remain in California, settling in a small town about 50 miles south of San Francisco. Walter de Havilland – who was reportedly a bit of a womanizer – left the family and returned to his Japanese housekeeper. Olivia’s parents divorced in 1925 (and the housekeeper became Walter’s second wife).

In 1933, Olivia appeared in Alice in Wonderland.

In 1933, Olivia appeared in Alice in Wonderland.

In high school, de Havilland was a member of the drama club and made her amateur theater debut in in 1933 Saratoga Community Players production of Alice in Wonderland. In summer 1934, director Max Reinhardt came to California to helm a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. Olivia was recommended to him by an assistant who’d seen her perform in the same production for the Saratoga Players. Olivia was give the understudy role of Hermia, and when the actress playing the role left the production, Olivia stepped in. When Reinhardt received word that he was to direct the Warner Bros’ film of Midsummer Night’s Dream, he persuaded Olivia to reprise her role. Shortly afterward, deHavilland signed a seven-year contract with Warners.

de Havilland stands a wee 5 feet 3 inches tall. (At least, that’s wee to me.)

Chemistry, indeed.

Chemistry, indeed.

In 1935, deHavilland was teamed with Errol Flynn in the action-adventure yarn Captain Blood. The two went on to appear in a total of eight films together, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), and They Died With Their Boots On (1941). In 2009, deHavilland admitted: “We did fall in love, and I believe that this is evident in the screen chemistry between us. But his circumstances at the time prevented the relationship going further.” (From 1935 to 1942, Flynn was married to actress Lili Damita and in 1943, he married Nora Eddington, from whom he was divorced in 1949).

On  November 28, 1941, de Havilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Olivia, Pierre Galante, and little Gisele.

Olivia, Pierre Galante, and little Gisele.

In 1946, deHavilland married novelist Marcus Goodrich; the two had a son, Benjamin Briggs Goodrich. The couple divorced in 1953. (Benjamin died of Hodgkins disease in 1991, just weeks before the death of his father.) Two years later, deHavilland married Pierre Galante, editor of Paris Match, a French weekly magazine. She and Galante have a daughter, Gisele, who works as a journalist in France. deHavilland and Galante divorced in 1979, but they remained close friend, and when he became ill with cancer, deHavilland nursed him until his death in 1998.

deHavilland received her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. She lost to her GWTW co-star, Hattie McDaniel. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Hold Back the Dawn (1941). This time, she lost to her sister, Joan, for her role in Suspicion (1941).  She finally won the Oscar for To Each His Own (1946), was nominated again for The Snake Pit (1948) (but lost to Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda. She was nominated the following year for The Heiress – and won.

Melanie Wilkes: one of de Havilland's best-known roles.

Melanie Wilkes: one of de Havilland’s best-known roles.

deHavilland is the last surviving major star of Gone With the Wind. (In fact, the only other cast member still living is Mickey Kuhn, who played Melanie’s son, Beau.)

During her years under contract to Warner Bros., de Havilland was frequently dissatisfied with the roles that she was assigned, and was looking forward to the end of her term with the studio in 1943. However, Warner Bros. informed her that six months had been added to her contract because of time that she had been suspended by the studio. In response, de Havilland sued the studio – the case reached the California Supreme Court which, in 1945, upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the actress, limiting the length of a contract to no more than seven years. The decision is known as “The de Havilland rule.”

After the court decision, Warner Bros. sent a letter to other studios in town that resulted in a “virtual blacklisting” of de Havilland, and she did not work in a film studio for the next two years.

She certainly was no Melanie in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

She certainly was no Melanie in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Some of her memorable films later in her career include Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965), in which she co-starred with her friend, Bette Davis (1965); Lady in a Cage (1964), with James Caan and Jeff Corey; Airport ’77 (1977); a star-studded production whose cast included James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, and Lee Grant; and The Swarm (1978), directed by the “Master of Disaster,” Irwin Allen.

The actress moved to Paris, France, more than 50 years ago, and lives there still.

In a rare act of reconciliation, Olivia and her sister Joan Fontaine celebrated Christmas 1962 together along with their then-husbands and children.

 

For one of her final performances, in the 1986 television movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, de Havilland won a Golden Globe award.

Her last role was in 1988, in The Woman He Loved, a television movie about the love affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. The cast also included Julie Harris, Tom Wilkinson, Jane Seymour, and Phyllis Calvert.

And many happy returns of the day.

And many happy returns of the day.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented a special tribute to de Havilland in 2006.  In 1998, President George W. Bush awarded her with the National Medal of Arts, and two years later she was given the Legion of Honor award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

I know that you join me in wishing the happiest of birthdays to this grand lady of the screen, and extending our most sincere hopes for her good health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Born on the 27th of June: Remembering Moroni

•June 27, 2014 • 10 Comments

Known as one of Hollywood’s most dependable character actors, the mustachioed and balding Moroni Olsen frequently was seen in his films as a clergyman, doctor, or cop, but he holds a special place in cinema history for a far more unique performance – providing the voice for the Magic Mirror in the 1937 Disney classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Aside from this fanciful role, Olsen was featured in nearly 100 films during his 35-year career, appearing alongside such stars as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy. His credits include a number of first-rate screen gems, including The Song of Bernadette (1943), Notorious (1946), and Father of the Bride (1950), as well as five entries from the film noir era: The Glass Key (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), Possessed (1947), The High Wall (1947), and Call Northside 777 (1948).

Born on June 27, 1889, in Ogden, Utah, Moroni Olsen (spelled “Maroni” at birth, according to his family’s 1900 census form), was the youngest of three children born to Norwegian immigrants Edward Olsen and his wife, Martha. Although he reportedly never saw a stage play until the age of 13, Olsen was immediately captivated by the theater and determined to make his living as a performer. Shortly after playing his first stage role during his senior year of high school, Olsen organized a group known as “The Strollers,” which presented one-act plays for residents of remote settlements in the area.

When he still had all his hair.

When he still had all his hair.

After his high school graduation, Olsen enrolled at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City, but spent most of his time playing bit parts in a local stock company. He eventually received his degree from the Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston, then returned home to teach speech arts at Ogden High School. Two years later, he was tapped to direct and perform in the traveling tent shows known as the Chautauqua Circuit. In 1920, while performing in one of the chautauquas, Olsen was spotted by director Maurice Browne and cast in his Broadway debut, playing Jason in Medea.

Off stage, Olsen continuing to share his skills and expertise with future thespians, heading the drama department at the Cornish School of Music in Seattle, organizing the Moroni Olsen Repertory Company, which toured the country for nearly eight years, and returning to his alma mater, the Leland Powers School in Boston, where he served as director. He resumed his Broadway career in 1933, earning acclaim for his portrayal of John Knox in Mary of Scotland, and later appearing with Katherine Cornell in Romeo and Juliet and The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Olsen’s success on the Broadway stage attracted the attention of Hollywood; in 1935, he signed a contract with RKO, debuting on the big screen as Porthos in The Three Musketeers (1935). Also that year he portrayed Buffalo Bill in Annie Oakley (1935), starring Barbara Stanwyck in the title role, and two years later, he entered Disney immortality as the voice of the Magic Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Olsen entered the realm of noir in 1942, with The Glass Key (1942), starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Here, Olsen portrayed Senator Ralph Henry, a political candidate whose daughter, Janet (Lake), becomes involved with the loutish but powerful Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) in hopes of winning his support for her father’s campaign. The ambitious politician makes no bones about using Madvig for his own gain, telling his daughter, “Paul’s support means the governorship for me. You must be nice to him, Janet – at least until after the election.”

Olsen played a small, but pivotal role in Mildred Pierce.

Olsen played a small, but pivotal role in Mildred Pierce.

His second noir came in 1945, when he played a featured role in Mildred Pierce. In this first-rate offering, Olsen portrayed Inspector Peterson, a no-nonsense detective investigating the murder of Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), the profligate spouse of the title character (Joan Crawford). Although most of the film’s accolades were reserved for Crawford’s Academy Award-winning performance, Olsen was singled out by several critics for his portrayal of the crafty lawman, including the reviewer for The Hollywood Review, who termed him “really excellent,” and Red Kann of Motion Picture Herald, who found Olsen’s performance to be “especially effective.”

Following such hits as Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946), starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman; It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), where he was heard as the voice of the angel who dispatches Clarence to earth; and Life with Father (1947), a delightful comedy featuring William Powell, Olsen was seen in a trio of films noirs, Possessed (1947), The High Wall (1947), and Call Northside 777 (1948). In the first, he portrayed a doctor who treats Louise Howell Graham (Joan Crawford), a home care nurse whose obsession with her former lover leads her to madness and murder.

Next, in The High Wall (1947), Olsen was again cast as a physician, this time as the head of a psychiatric hospital. Olsen’s final film noir, Call Northside 777, focused on the unflagging efforts of newspaper reporter Jim McNeal (James Stewart) to exonerate a man, Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte), who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of a police officer 11 years before. With time running out, McNeal stumbles upon a new police technique that helps to prove Wiecek’s innocence and convinces the pardon board, headed by Olsen’s character, to set the man free.

Despite his relatively minor roles in these back-to-back noir features, Olsen turned in solid performances in each, earning his best reviews for his role in Possessed; in the Hollywood Citizen-News, Lowell E. Redelings noted his “top-notch” performance, and Harrison Carroll of the Los Angeles Herald-Express including the actor in his praise of the film’s “distinguished” supporting cast. Carroll offered similar accolades for the picture itself, terming it “a powerful film, holding a morbid fascination for the onlooker.”

Olsen tries mightily to referee the battling buddies on I Love Lucy.

Olsen tries mightily to referee the battling buddies on I Love Lucy.

During the next several years, Olsen continued to appear in a number of critical and commercial successes, including Samson and Delilah (1949); Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel, Father’s Little Dividend (1951), appearing in both as the father-in-law of Elizabeth Taylor; and Lone Star (1951), in which he portrayed Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas. Between films, the actor resumed his stage career, appearing on Broadway opposite Helen Hayes in Mary of Scotland and directing numerous productions for the famed Pasadena Playhouse, including First Lady, starring Dana Andrews, and Merrily We Roll Along, with Robert Preston. He also made a rare television appearance on an episode of I Love Lucy, portraying a judge who hears a case where the Ricardos were sued by the Mertzes over a destroyed television set.

Olsen's last film.

Olsen’s last film.

During the summer of 1954, he returned to his home state, directing outdoor musical pageants in Salt Lake City and Ogden that depicted the progress of Utah pioneers, and later that year was seen in the popular big screen comedy The Long, Long Trailer (1954), starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Sadly, the film would be his last. On November 22, 1954, after complaining of feeling “ill and tired,” Olsen was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. The coroner’s office attributed his death to natural causes, but more recent sources indicate that Olsen died after suffering a heart attack. At the time of his death, Olsen was directing rehearsals for Trelawny of the Wells, scheduled to open the following month at the Pasadena Playhouse. The actor, who never married, was 65 years old.

Moroni Olsen was once aptly described as possessing a “strong, rugged face, a voice of deep and powerful timbre, and a physique that takes the world in its stride.”  Although his name is all but forgotten by today’s audiences, the character performances delivered by the actor in his impressive body of films serve as a lasting and memorable testament to his versatility, dependability, and talent.

More Adventures in Paradise: Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2014

•June 23, 2014 • 8 Comments

Better late than really, really late, I sometimes say.

With that in mind, more than two months after the 2014 Turner Classic Movies film festival (TCMFF) screened its last movie, sold its remaining souvenirs, and served up its final cocktail, I am finally getting around to writing about my experience at this event.This was my second year at the festival – my inaugural visit was to the 2013 fest, and I fully intend to be at every one that I can physically attend – even if I have to walk every step of the way! (Sorry. Gone With the Wind flashback.)

Last year, I saw a total of eight films, only one of which (Cluny Brown, with Jennifer Jones and Charles Boyer) was new to me. This time around, I was determined to not only see more movies, but to also see more movies that I’d never seen before. I accomplished both – I saw 11 (woot woot!), and only three were films that I’d seen before. In all, I only saw one noir (Double Indemnity) and one pre-Code (Hat-Check Girl), in sharp contrast to my maiden TCMFF voyage where, of the eight features, four were noir and one was pre-Code.

Here’s what happened this time around.

(Warning. This post is kinda long.)

Check-In: Wednesday, April 10, 2014

The view outside our room. For real.

The view outside our room. For real.

Like my first go-round with the TCMFF, I attended the 2014 festival with Kim, one of my few real-life friends who shares my affinity for classic movies. Last year, we were fortunate to be able to bunk with her sister, who lives in L.A. But a few months ago, her sister had her first baby, so we thought it best to make other plans – three’s company, five’s a crowd, as the saying goes. (Or something like that.) The Roosevelt Hotel and the Loews were quite a bit out of our price range, but I lucked upon an adorable little hotel right behind the Loews, called the Hollywood Liberty. The prices were affordable, and the website photos showed a low-budget but altogether adorably quaint décor that I thought would be perfect for the occasion. Score!

When Kim and I arrived, though, we were greeted by the realization that the entire hotel was under renovation – there were power tools, stacks of building materials, and large buckets of plaster and paint in the lobby; mattresses, lamps, and miscellaneous debris piled up in the hallway; and a row of toilets lined up outside the back door. It was beyond belief – I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, the staff was pleasant (when we requested towels, for instance, we were very pleasantly told that they would bring them as soon as they got them out of the dryer) (seriously). Also, after spending our first (harrowing) night in the Norman Bates Suite, we were moved to one of the renovated rooms, which was like the difference between Marie Windsor and June Allyson, if you know what I mean. And if you can believe it, I am actually considering staying there again next year. Not strongly considering it, but considering it.

Shirley Jones looked GREAT. (photo by Annie I. Bang.)

Shirley Jones looked GREAT. (photo by Annie I. Bang.)

The First Day: Thursday, April 11, 2014

In an upgrade from last year, we purchased the Essential pass this time around, which gives you entrance to the opening night screening, which was Oklahoma!, one of the new-to-me movies. In case I haven’t mentioned this previously, I’m not a huge musical fan. There are several that I love dearly – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Wizard of Oz [duh], Singin’ in the Rain, Bye Bye Birdie, Annie Get Your Gun, West Side Story, and a handful – a very small handful – of others. So, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled at the prospect of seeing Oklahoma!, but I was looking forward to getting all dolled up to walk the red carpet, as well as seeing the film’s star, Shirley Jones, in person. Walking the red carpet was a real trip! Because I didn’t know any better, we arrived relatively early, so I only got to see a few stars – Shirley Jones, Tippi Hedren, Margaret O’Brien (or, to be more accurate, Margaret O’Brien’s back). I didn’t find out until after I’d returned home that we missed a number of other luminaries who didn’t step on the carpet until later, like Kim Novak, Maureen O’Hara, George Chakiris, Diane Baker, Leonard Maltin, and Wink Martindale. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be more hip next time. But the entire atmosphere was positively electric – I felt like such a celebrity, especially when I walked past the cheering fans sitting in the bleachers. It was so much fun.

Oklahoma took a surprising dark turn.

Oklahoma took a surprising dark turn.

The highlight of the evening was seeing the gorgeous Shirley Jones, who was interviewed by TCM’s Robert Osborne. She was clad in all black – a short, flowing top, what appeared to be leggings (!), and black, high-heeled boots. She was as sharp as a tack. During her interview, I learned that she’d been, at age six, the youngest member of her church choir, and that she’d made her film debut in Oklahoma! at the age of 18. She said that her co-star, Gordon MacCrae, was her favorite singing partner (“I just loved his voice,” she said), and she told a juicy little story about the movie Carousel (1956), in which she was originally to star opposite Frank Sinatra. All of the pre-recording had been done, costumes had been fitted, and the film was practically in the can when Sinatra abruptly quit. He said that it was because the film had to be shot twice – for Cinemascope and for CinemaScope 55, and he’d “only signed on to do one movie.” But Jones revealed that he actually left the picture because he’d gotten a phone call from his then-wife, Ava Gardner, who was shooting Mogambo in Africa. “She told him to get down there or she was going to have an affair with Clark Gable,” Jones said. Scandalous! Incidentally, and to my pleasant surprise, I enjoyed Oklahoma! immensely. The songs were engaging, the colors were exquisite, and it was surprisingly dark in theme – which is always appreciated by a noir lover.

The Second Day: Friday, April 12, 2014

On Approval: It's already on my Amazon.com wish list.

On Approval: It’s already on my Amazon.com wish list.

I saw three movies on the second day – the only one that was new-to-me was the first one, On Approval (1944), a delightfully witty, smart, and rather scandalous British comedy which evoked so many laughs that I feel compelled to see it again because I know I missed some of the lines. The plot is too complicated for me to try to encapsulate and make any reasonable amount of sense – in a nutshell, it’s about two Victorian-era couples who embark upon a month-long trial marriage to see if they are suited to each other. The film stars Beatrice Lillie, Googie Withers (who I know best from Night and the City), and Clive Brook, who also directed.

Movie number two was my favorite film noir: Double Indemnity. I’ve seen this on the big screen before, and more times on the small screen than I care to count, but there was NO WAY that I was going to pass up seeing it at the TCM fest.

Funniest movie of all time? Quite possibly.

Funniest movie of all time? Quite possibly.

My final movie of the day was another one that I’ve seen many times – Blazing Saddles – but I absolutely love this film and, as a bonus, Mel Brooks was there in person, interviewed by Robert Osborne. He was just as hilarious and engaging and endearing as I always thought he’d be – he told the audience that Blazing Saddles may be his favorite movie, and then added, “I really think – and it’s not right for me to say this – I think this could be the funniest motion picture ever.” Brooks shared that there were very few laughs when he first screened the film for Warner Bros. execs – one of them gave Brooks a list of scenes he wanted changed. “No farting. You can’t punch a horse. You can’t beat up an old lady. There were about 20 of them,” Brooks recalled. “If I’d listened to him, the movie would have been around 12 minutes long. I didn’t cut a sentence or a word or even an expression on somebody’s face. It was beyond vulgar – it was dirty. But I was just a scruffy little kid from Brooklyn and there were no rules.”

The Third Day: Saturday, April 13, 2014

The scenes with Douglas and Hackman "sizzled" in I Never Sang For My Father.

The scenes with Douglas and Hackman “sizzled” in I Never Sang For My Father.

Kim and I parted ways on Saturday, each doing our own thing – I started out the day seeing I Never Sang for My Father, starring Gene Hackman and Melvin Douglas, and introduced by Douglas’s charming granddaughter, actress Illeana. The film focuses on the struggle between a father and a son – Illeana said that her grandfather may have been a little intimidated by Hackman “and I think he upped his game a little bit. The scenes with Hackman really sizzle.”

Next up was The Great Gatsby, starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field, which I’ve long wanted to see. The film was introduced by Ladd’s son, David, who said that Gatsby was very important to his father. “Paramount didn’t want him to make it. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alan Ladd don’t really go together – he was more of an action guy,” David Ladd said, adding that his father finally threatened to go on suspension if he wasn’t allowed to do the film. “This and Shane are my father’s two favorite roles, and I believe this is the best version [of The Great Gatsby]. This movie is not cinematic art, but the casting is impeccable. This one, he was especially proud of.”

Hatcheck Girl. It had these people in it.

Hatcheck Girl. It had these people in it.

Movie number three was Hatcheck Girl (1933), the only pre-Code film on my schedule and one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing. Introduced by Katie Trainor and Ann Mora from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hatcheck Girl stars Sally Eilers – “coined as the Janet Gaynor with hips,” Mora said. The film, which co-stars Ginger Rogers, centers on, well, a hatcheck girl. To be honest, though, I don’t have a clue what this picture was about, what happened in it, or pretty much anything else. The only thing that stuck with me is that it was rather dull and I was rather disappointed. And sleepy.

I love this movie so much I could eat it on a biscuit.

I love this movie so much I could eat it on a biscuit.

I’d originally planned to join Kim at this point to see The Pawnbroker, where Quincy Jones was the special guest, but at the last minute, I gave into my innermost desire and saw one of my favorite films, the single movie that I have seen more often than any other – The Women (1939). What a kick it was to see this classic on the big screen! Also, I saw it in the El Capitan Theater, which was my first time being in this classic venue. Before the screening, Ben Mankiewicz interviewed actress Anna Kendrick, introducing her to the audience by telling us that the guest he was about to bring out was born in 1985. “That only gets a laugh at the TCM Film Festival,” he added. Kendrick said that she was introduced to The Women when she was 12 years old, while she was doing a show on Broadway. “I was just so in love with it. I watched it over and over and over. When I went back to Maine, I tried to make my friends watch it,” Kendrick said. “Sylvia is the greatest character of all time, [but] every time Miriam Aarons comes in, I’m like, ‘That’s a bad bitch.'”

The Final Day: Sunday, April 14, 2014

The last day of the festival, I can now say from experience, is bittersweet and fraught with mixed objectives. I’m sad at the thought of the fest being over for another year, and no longer being in the swirling whirlwind of people who are as obsessed about classic movies as I am. On the other hand, I’m pretty exhausted and longing for a salad, some grilled chicken and a glass of fat-free Lactaid milk. I’m practically all-movied-out, but I feel an almost desperate need to cram in, on this last day, as many movies as are physically and logistically possible. I’d love to take a nap, but I can hardly wait to get to the closing night party, take pics with old and new friends (and even meet some more!), and down a glass of something.

Tokyo Story was beautifully done, but so sad.

Tokyo Story was beautifully done, but so sad.

My first movie of the day was Tokyo Story (1972), a Japanese film about an older married couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren. It was introduced by Illeana Douglas, who told the audience that she’d been in an independent movie in the early 1990s called Grief, whose director had been obsessed with Tokyo Story. “The characters (in Grief) keep leaving to see Tokyo Story,” she said. The film was slow-moving, but beautifully shot and terribly sad. Having recently lost my grandmother, and getting closer each day to having an empty nest, the film was particularly moving to me. In fact, Kim and I went to lunch at a nearby Japanese restaurant after the movie and I completely broke down in sobs during the meal. It was CRAZY.

The Academy Award-winning Best Boy was a highlight.

The Academy Award-winning Best Boy was a highlight.

And as if I hadn’t cried enough already, our next movie was Best Boy (1979), an Oscar-winning documentary that basically left me in a sizable puddle on the floor. This film depicted several years in the life of Philly Wohl, the 52-year-old mentally retarded cousin of the film’s director, Ira, showing his development from dependence on his elderly parents to independent living in a group home. When I re-read this description, I can appreciate that one might wonder why the film evoked such emotion in me, and it’s kind of hard to explain. First off, the film managed to make you feel that you really knew Philly and his family members, and you grew to care about them.  Secondly, it was just so real, showing the director’s efforts to convince Philly’s mother to let him go, and her understandable reluctance to release him into the world. I feel like I’m still not doing a good job of explaining myself – plus I don’t want to give away any key events – so let’s just say it was an excellent movie, it made me cry, and I wasn’t the only one in the theater snuffling and mining my purse for tissue. Ira Wohl, who is now Philly’s guardian, was on hand for a question-and-answer session after the screening; he shared that Philly recently turned 86 and “he still has a better social life than I do.” Wohl also told the audience that he became a social worker after the release of the film. “I decided to go back to school and become a therapist when I was in my 40s,” he said. “But in my eyes, there’s not that much difference between a social worker and a documentary filmmaker.”

Another highlight was Ben Mankiewicz's interview with Alan Arkin. (photo by John Sciulli)

Another highlight was Ben Mankiewicz’s interview with Alan Arkin. (photo by John Sciulli)

My final film of the day was the only movie from the festival that I’d originally had no intention of seeing: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968). But after seeing Best Boy, we weren’t yet ready to call it a day, and our remaining choices were The Quiet Man, which, I’m kind of ashamed to admit, has never held any great fascination for me; Employees’ Entrance, which I love, but I own on both VHS and DVD; and Easter Parade which, well, it’s a musical. Plus, we learned that Alan Arkin would be at the Lonely Hunter screening, so off we went. Arkin was interviewed before the screening by Ben Mankiewicz, offering us a fascinating glimpse into his persona (which was once described, Mankiewicz told us, as “short-tempered and moderately cantankerous”). Arkin talked about his family, his experiences with such films as Glengarry Glen Ross, and the start of his career with Second City in Chicago. “Acting used to be the reason for my existence, but thank God I’ve gotten past that,” Arkin added. “You are more than your profession.” He also shared his feelings about being nominated and ultimately winning the Academy Award for Little Miss Sunshine, stating that one of the reasons he became an actor was because of the sense of family and camaraderie that is generated on a production. “Awards separate the actors,” Arkin said. “The moment of nominations is joyous because it unites you with others. . . . but the rest is bullshit.”

In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Arkin portrayed a deaf-mute named John Singer, who moves to a small town in order to be near his institutionalized best friend, and develops a friendship with the sensitive teenaged daughter of his boarders. I confess that I wasn’t necessarily bowled over by the movie, which seemed to be especially ham-handed when it came to issues like racial strife. Still, Arkin turned in an excellent performance and I’m glad we chose this screening as our movie-going swan song.

More on this later . . .

More on this later . . .

On my last day in Los Angeles, Monday, April 15th, I took a tour of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was a wonderful experience and a perfect ending to my trip to California. I learned some fascinating tidbits about the stars buried there – so much so that I’ve decided to cover the tour in a separate post.  So stay tuned!

Other Stuff:

One of my favorite things about seeing movies at TCMFF is the way the fest attendees clap for everything – the title of the film, the names of the performers and the director, when certain stars first appear on screen, following musical numbers, the end of the movie – it just fills me with joy.

The historic Musso and Frank's.

The historic Musso and Frank’s.

Outside of being at the fest, I had several other memorable experiences – on the first day, Kim and I visited the Iguana Vintage Clothing Store on Hollywood Boulevard, where we spent at least an hour trying on sunglasses, looking at clothes, and trying to decide between the Michael Jackson cigarette case or the Jackson Five buttons. It was a blast – even though before I returned home four days later, I’d managed to lose not one but BOTH pairs of the glasses that I bought there. On another day, I had lunch with my friend, Alan Rode, at the famed Musso and Frank’s restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, where I had their flannel cakes! It was very historic. (It’s also where I lost the first pair of my glasses.) (Okay, I promise not to mention the glasses again.)

Unlike last year, I didn’t spend much time checking out the celebrity interviews that were conducted in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. However, while passing through one day, I did catch part of one – which just happened to be none other than the great Jerry Lewis. So awesome.

See you next year!

After we attended the screening of Oklahoma!, Kim and I had planned to see Johnny Guitar, but it started before Oklahoma! let out. So, instead, we went to a karaoke party at the famed Pig ‘N’ Whistle, had a couple (three) martinis, and wound up closing the place down!

And that about wraps it up for another year. The TCM Film Festival is simply all that. From the real-life meetings with friends you’ve conversed with on Twitter or Facebook, to the star sightings, to the almost painful (but, for me, SO much fun) process of deciding which movies to watch, to the experience of seeing, on the big screen, one classic film after another, there’s nothing like it. That’s why I’ll be back again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that . . .

Happy blogiversary to me — 3.0! (Or is it 2.1?)

•June 23, 2014 • 9 Comments

On June 23, 2011, Duke University’s Kyrie Irving was the number one pick in the NBA draft.

Actor Ted Shackelford, Gary Ewing of Knots Landing fame, celebrated his 65th birthday.

And I hit “PUBLISH” for the first time on this blog, launching Shadows and Satin!

Can you believe it’s been three whole years? I can’t. But time flies when you’re having fun. (And fruit flies like a banana.)

Writing this blog has been — in the words of Don Cornelius — a stone gas! And it’s a pleasure to take the opportunity, once again, to thank Dark Pages Senior Writer and Speakeasy blog author, Kristina Dijan, who encouraged me to start it in the first place. My most sincere thanks, also, to anybody who has ever read a single word I’ve ever written here.

Ever.

To celebrate my three-year blogiversary, I am continuing my tradition of offering you a great quote from one of my favorite actresses — this time, it’s Jean Harlow, from Hold Your Man (1933):

“You wouldn’t be a bad looking dame, if it wasn’t for your face. “

By the way, if you haven’t seen this pre-Code gem, check it out.

You know why.

 
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