Gary Cooper: “Peaches and Champagne in the middle of the day!”

This post may see me in hot water; however, I hope it’s sprinkled with shrimp boil and fresh lemon juice following an afternoon of busy deveining and chopping okra to prepare the gumbo and jambalaya of my memory.

I often understood Anne Rice’s choice of New Orleans as the setting for her vampire novels, and the Southern Gothic tradition still lingers in film, books, novels, and music. But since I lived in and around New Orleans for a few of my formative years, the allure of the sights, sounds, and smells of the French Quarter are continually lingering somewhere in my soul. One of the films so evocative of the languid but volatile nature of the people grabbed my fear by it’s hinges and shook it around in my core.
The opening scenes of Saratoga Trunk, even though they were filmed on the back lot of Warner Brothers’ Studios, coalesced and complimented my memories of walking along the brick-lined streets with gas lamp replicas and wrought iron balustrades as merchants hawked their wares to tourists with phrases like “Fresh pralines, fresh as New Orleans.” The forbidden lairs of the voodoo queen, Marie Laveaux, still beckon and tempt, and the stories of the ghosts of tortured slaves and murdered innocents perpetuate my nightmarish memories of childhood anxiety.

The varied characters and events equalled my experiences of the actual people and places I’d seen and heard. I’d walked on Rampart Street, just like Clio Dulaine did in the film. I’d seen the traffic up and down the Mississippi as it flowed out to the Gulf, and a visit to the Madame Tussaud’s in the Quarter is still white-hot in my memory with the beating heart of Abraham Lincoln on his deathbed and the torture chambers created by madmen who imprisoned their slaves for imagined slights. Jazz music floated everywhere and a funeral cortege with a marching band of somber players made me stop dead in my own tracks, mesmerized by the notes and the spectacle.

As I walked through the uneven streets and looked in the shops, I was given a small sack of herbs to ward off the evil eye so others wouldn’t be tempted to send evil thoughts my way, and as I found myself drinking a cup of chickory coffee and delighting in three beignets dusted with a lightening streak of confectioner’s sugar, I looked skyward and saw the Cabildo guarding the plaza like a fortress.


For all it’s character-driven dialogue, Saratoga Trunk still might be considered the bastard sister of Gone With The Wind (Max Steiner also did the music for Saratoga Trunk), but for me, it’s characters seem more real because of the part of my life lived in New Orleans. Ferber’s book arrived in 1941, but Margaret Mitchell’s had preceded it by several years. When Saratoga Trunk was filmed in 1943 (but not released until 1945), war-rationing made the fresh vegetables unavailable, so most of the produce viewers see in the market are fakes. What isn’t fake is the singing voice of Ingrid Bergman, which enchants us as well as Gary Cooper in his role as gambler Clint Maroon. Bergman’s vocals in this film are also one of its rarities. And every dimestore cowboy as well as Governor Goodhair, or former Texas politician Rick Perry, has done some form of imitation of the Texas cowboy Cooper portrayed in Saratoga Trunk, but none can compare.
Flora Robson, who was honored with an Oscar nomination for her role as Angelique Pluton, had also played Queen Elizabeth I in The Sea Hawk, and was adept at many kinds or roles, but she was one of many actors through the ages who have portrayed characters of other races. Her language and phrasing reminded me of the language I’d heard spoken as a child. French phrases and inflections peppered with a verbal sauce spicy as a bottle of Evangeline perpetualy floated like curious clouds of conversations all through the French Quarter of my childhood. (In Saratoga Trunk, it was the first time I’d ever heard the word “zumba!” on the silver screen.) The French phrases and Cajun intonations made Robson’s interpretation easier to believe, even though her eyebrows were some of the severest ones Max Factor, or in this case, Perc Westmore, ever created. Bergman’s eyebrows were also darker than in most of her other roles, and if scrutinied closely, a continuity issue exits from scene to scene. (Westmore touched up Bette Davis in Elizabeth and Essex, created the makeup for Quasimodo portrayed by Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Robson’s own look as Queen Elizabeth I in The Sea Hawk.) Angelique, a creation of Ferber’s and screenwriter’s Casey Petersen’s design, was ultimately an exotic persona crafted by the talents of Flora Robson, who evinced a complicated soul of a former slave, and mother of a son who was afflicted with dwarfism, but was nonetheless beloved.


“Tell them there is someone on Rampart Street  now who is not afraid of them. Clio Dulaine that’s me! I’m as good as they are.”

Jerry Austin, who plays Angelque’s son, Cupidon, was born in Russia, and had an uncredited part in Todd Browning’s Freaks, but his part in Saratoga Trunk was probably his most famous role.

Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Jerry Austin, and Flora Robson in Saratoga Trunk

Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Jerry Austin, and Flora Robson in Saratoga Trunkimage

Cupidon’s friendship with and admiration of Clint Maroon makes him endearing, and this film fascinated me because of his energetic performance and his ability to tweak the heart strings of viewers. His injuries in the film make it the peak of emotional turmoil as his death seems imminent. But there is a happy ending, and Austin is an integral part of the drama, which is unusual for character actors of his stature at the time. As one of the “little people” of classic cinema, Austin packs a powerful emotinal punch, and his moments on screen will charm you.

So for all it’s political correctness of its times, it is most probably incorrect for ours, but the unusual characters and the animal magnetism of Gary Cooper as a Texas gambler make this film one of Cooper’s most memorable because of the unique group of stock characters who defy the usual roles.

Lena Horne was seriously considered for the part of Clio Dulaine, but was ultimately unavailable as her studio would not lend her out for this part. I have no doubt she would have made Clio Dulaine as memorable a role as Ingrid Bergman did.

The 1941 novel, Saratoga Trunk, by Edna Ferber, is highly praised by Pablito Tortuguita on Amazon, and since it’s been decades since I’ve read it, I though I would share an in-depth review:

‘Saratoga Trunk’ tells a love story while evoking all the richness of three eras–Paris and New Orleans of the 1850s-1870s, the Gilded Age (or the Robber Baron period), and the early 20th century. It’s the story of Clio Dulaine and Clint Maroon, who begin an unconventional relationship in an unforgettable scene bursting with detail.

That detail–immediate and sensory as well as historical and nuanced–makes the novel as effective as the best period romances, because it supports the excellent characterization to create a believable story from improbable characters , they travel to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York and meet the movers and shakers of the Gilded Age.

Masterful prose–sparely elegant at times and incomparably lush at others–combined with sharply-drawn detail and fully rounded characters leads to a truly pleasurable experience. I completely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a writer from the Golden Age of 20th-century American literature at the top of her form. Even So Big, for which the same author won a Pulitzer in 1924, is merely the equal of this novel.

And the film, produced in 1943 and screened for servicemen overseas, was not officially released until 1945 because the glut of WWII films had overwhelmed the cinematic marketplaces. Currently, however, the cllimate for this film may be tenuous at best because of its subject matter and how it was developed in the 1940s.
Ingrid Bergman, ever the actress seeking diverse roles to expand her repertoire and advance her career, played Clio Dulaine, an illegitimate half-black daughter of a Southern aristrocrat, and Flora Robson played Angelique, a mulatto servant, in blackface with eyebrows that would rival Margaret Hamilton’s in The Wizard of Oz. But for her valiant and effective efforts, Robson received the only Oscar nomination bestowed upon this film. The pairing of Bergman and Cooper, whose last pairing ran the Oscar nominations up to 9 in For Whom The Bell Tolls, repeated the same sort of electric chemistry that was, evidently, warmed over from their off-screen liasions.”

According to the TCM article on its website, ” In her autobiography co-authored with Alan Burgess, Ingrid Bergman: My Story, Bergman recalled being amazed at how close Cooper’s acting persona was to his real personality, though on-screen his true star potential was revealed. ‘The personality of this man was so enormous, so overpowering-and that expression in his eyes and his face, it was so delicate and so underplayed. You didn’t notice it until you saw it on the screen. I thought he was marvelous: the most underplaying and most natural actor I ever worked with.” And according to one comment Cooper made somewhere in my recollection, but as yet unverified for this article, after Cooper finished a film with Ingrid, he couldn’t get her on the phone. She just wouldn’t talk to him if they weren’t working together.

Considering the number Cooper did on Patricia Neal’s sanity, and the costumer Irene*, who committed suicide a year and a half after Cooper had died, that was a pretty savvy Swedish move.


I can still remember the sighs my mother made when I saw this film for the first time as an unsure, wobbly teenager. The camera takes a long, slow, languid persual of Gary Cooper as Clint Maroon from tip of his boots to the top of his white hat. And women of a certain age and perusasion in the 40s, right up until now, still swoon. All the major female characters in the film are in awe of his stature and handsome features, and Bergman’s manic-depressive Clio was obviously bewitched by the Maroon/Cooper electricity. Don’t believe me? Check it out. If you don’t swoon, you just ain’t human. Watch the initial meeting between Clio and Clint, and when Clint says to Clio,”Trying to teach me the English language? I’ll learn anything you say” and if your blood pressure doesn’t change, switch the channel or move on to the next entry in your DVR queue.

How much of this is acting?

How much of this is acting?

Even perennial battle-axe Florence Bates as Mrs. Bellhop charms us as she is affected by his charmisma as well. “And those hips!”:

The lush costumes, period jewelry and millinery designs are credited to Leah Rhodes, and are fraught with detailed notions, lace, and ribbons. One of Bergman’s ensembles also includes one of the cutest pleated aprons I’ve ever seen on the screen.


The sexually-charged, dramatic chemistry between Bergman and Cooper was part of the impetus for their second collaboration considering the fireworks they generated on For Whom the Bell Tolls, and you can’t take your eyes off of them while they adore each other in either film.

The “New Yawk” liberals and the politically correct may fry me in a hot vat of peanut oil because I sitll enjoy this film and these characters. I just hope they make sure I’m crisp.

*According to the IMDb entry for classic-era costume designer Irene, “Doris Day wrote in her 1975 autobiography that she got to know Irene quite well. One night after Irene had a few drinks, Irene told Day that the “love of her life” was Gary Cooper. On several other occasions Irene spoke about the intensity of her love for Cooper, and Day got the feeling that Irene had never mentioned this to anyone before her. Day wrote that today she honestly could not tell if they actually had or were having an affair, or if it was a one-sided love. Irene took her own life about a year and a half after Cooper’s death from cancer.”

Saratoga Trunk was not shown during Gary Cooper’s Summer Under The Stars Celebration 2015 on August 30, but was screened during Ingrid Bergman’s on August 28.

This post was created for Kristen Lopez’s Summer Under The Stars Blogathon on Journeys in Classic Film:


Turner Classic Film Database
Ingrid Bergman, My Story

Buzzfeed ignored Flora Robson in this article:

Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog:

Flora Robson, This Is Your Life, and her championing of Paul Robeson: reviews

Christy’s Inkwells: Florence Bates-“It’s A Grand Feeling” :

Photos from “THE MAKING OF GONE WITH THE WIND” exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center…

From September 9, 2014, to January 4, 2015, The Making of Gone With The Wind exhibit graced the Harry Ransom Center in Austin Texas, and included pieces from the 500 boxes of the David O. Selznick archives.

Christy with curator of the vast exhibit, Steve Wilson, and author of the museum exhibit book, The Making of Gone With The Wind.

Christy with curator of the vast exhibit, Steve Wilson, and author of the museum exhibit book, The Making of Gone With The Wind.

Banners at the entrance...

Banners at the entrance…

Collection of major players in the action covered an entire back wall of the exhibit...

Photo collection of major players in the action of the film covered an entire back wall of the exhibit…


Hattie McDaniel receiving her Oscar…



Margaret Mitchell at the premiere…


Actress Alicia Rhett, rumored to have been close to Clark Gable during filming....

Actress Alicia Rhett, rumored to have been close to Clark Gable during filming….

Who would it be?

Who would it be?

Twin brothers originally considered to play the Tarletons...

Twin brothers originally considered to play the Tarletons…




Letter to Harry B. Warner from David O. Selznick concerning Jezebel….


Letter to George Cukor from David O. Selznick…

Letter from California KKK to the filmakers....

Letter from California KKK to the filmmakers….

Concept art….

image Bonnie’s nursery…


imageFrom the burning of Atlanta….



imageThe most evocative sketch I saw was this concept sketch of Melanie’s room in Atlanta by Dorothea Holt. Most other sketches are by William Cameron Menzies or his team…

Original Walter Plunkett costume sketches….image



imageWedding dress recreation by a Catholic order of nuns…

Original costumes restored by Cara Varnell, who also conserved the Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz auctioned last fall…


imageimageimage image



Glass-tiled wall adorning a corner of the Harry Ransom Center....

Glass-tiled wall adorning a corner of the Harry Ransom Center….

A poster from the film that I had never seen before. The photo doesn't do justice to the colors. (Visitors weren't allowed to use flash mode.)

A poster from the film that I had never seen before. The photo doesn’t do justice to the colors. (Visitors weren’t allowed to use flash mode.)


Bill Geist and his crew lunching and chatting with Gone With the Wind superfans…


The fabulous Bill Geist, from CBS Sunday Morning, and his assistant, Sara, came to Austin to chronicle the Gone With The Wind Superfans, and the segment aired December 21, 2014.

I met with all of the Gone With the Wind Superfans in October, and many attendees from all over the world at the exhibit from many different races, creeds, and nationalities, and I have attended other GWTW events in Georgia and Texas. In light of some of the negative press created concerning Margaret Mitchell’s book and the film of Gone With The Wind itself, I didn’t encounter any disgruntled exhibition visitors or anyone in favor of censorhip, nor did I find anyone wistful about the American institution of slavery or the lack of its continual celebration.  The fans I spoke with, and there were many, stated that the enduring quality of the characters, the beauty and talent of Vivien Leigh, the inspiration of Olivia De Havilland and Hattie McDaniel, and the sex appeal of Clark Gable accounted for continued interest in the book and film.

Leonard Maltin’s preview:

TCM Host Robert Osborne’s introduction to The Making of Gone With the Wind exhibition catalog:

Christy Putnam’s article concerning popular items at the exhibit:

Further archived articles concerning the exhibit:

Many documents can be viewed in detail at the above website. The exhibition catalog is available online at the HRH Center web.

Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier in Atlanta....

Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier in Atlanta….(from the Margaret Mitchell House Archive)

Robert Mitchum, The First Noir Cowboy….

Robert Mitchum’s Summer Under The Stars Celebration–The One and Only Noir Cowboy

Blood on the Moon
Where a woman’s bullet kills as quick as a man’s!
When there’s blood on the moon, death lurks in the shadows

Tomorrow, Robert Mitchum is honored with a Summer Under The Stars Celebration, and in light of the Summer of Darkness highlighting film noir and the popular online film noir course taught by Professor Richard Edwards of Ball State University, I am happy that TCM is airing 1948’s Blood on the Moon.


Shot outside of Sedona, Arizona, and directed by Robert Wise (1914-2005), a director most well-known for his nurturing of the Von Trapp Family Singers in The Sound of Music in 1965, Blood on the Moon would be part of the Western genre that Wise was completely unfamiliar with in his directorial career. Based on Luke Short’s 1941 novel, Gunman’s Chance, Blood on the Moon tested Wise’s unfamiliarity with the Western genre, and his lack of passion for it, but it may have proven an asset to the film’s success. Since this was Wise’s first A-budget film, he was obviously concerned that all would go well, and the weather proved to create some problems in Sedona, but Wise claimed that “we tracked the weather like we were at NASA at a rocket launching” receiving three different weather reports each day, and the crew would often follow the good weather through the valley. Wise’s dedication would pay off.

According to author David Meuel in The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962, “While Wise was respectful of the genre’s traditions and conventions, he wasn’t married to them. He felt obliged to be true to the spirit of the western, but he also felt free enough to infuse this film with some of the elements of the norror and noir films he had recently done for RDO and which the studio (later nicknamed the “House of Noir) specialized in.”

A minor Out of the Past regrouping would see Mitchum and cinematographer Nicholas Musaraca using their creativity to infuse the Western with Robert Wise’s “craftsman’s soul,” according to Mitchum biographer Lee Server. “Synthesizing techniques he had gleaned from his two creative mentors, Val Lewton and Orson Welles, Wise set out to make Blood on the Moon a studied, uniquely atmospheric Western.”


Meuel credits some of Blood on the Moon‘s success to “Robert Mitchum, an actor whose ability fo convey emotional complexity ad moral ambiguity made hin a noir icon and whose work her is as intriguing as his work in any of his oir crime films.”

The character of Jim Garry was just one more of Mitchum’s “outsider roles” by Server’s accounts, and “a solitary gunfighter-for-hire with a conscience, a script’s mysterious stranger about to be made even more msterious by the actor’s enigmatic style.” The other cast members rounded up for the location shoot included “architect Norman Bel Geddes’ refined young daughter, Barbara” (eventually ‘Miss Ellie’ on the primetime saga, Dallas), who had been “recently signed to a long-term contract; Robert Preston, playing his patented role of the corrupt best friend,” and “Walter Brennan as a grizzled homesteader.”

The film’s costumer, selected by Wise, was Joe De Young, a man who worked for Howard Hawks in Red River, and was a “specialist in Western attire.” According to Server, “De Young came up with the authentic but idiosyncratic, sometimes bizarre outfits (bearskin and gaudy plaid cots, derby hats) that would give the film another of its distinctive qualities.”
When Mitchum strolled and strutted on the set ” in beard, greasy hair, high-domed Steson, and chaps” appeared to be “anything but the conventional well-groomed, respectable Western hero.” Server’s biography revealed that director Wise claimed “the first scene we shot after Mitch got outfitted was in the barroom. Walter Brennan was sitting at a table with a couple of pals, and Brennand was very intrested in the Old West, it was a hobby of his. And I’ll never forget when Bob came on the set, just standing there, wth the costume and the whle attitude that he gave to it, and Brennan got a look at him and was terribly impressed. He pointed at Mitchum and said, ‘That is the goddamndest realest cowboy I’ve ever seen!”

Meuel claims that the term “the noir western” is very “oxymoronic. On one hand, we have the bright, expansive, colorful landscapes; upright heroes; and nation-building exuberance we associate with most film westerns. On the other, we have the dark, claustrophobic, black-and-white (mostly black) cityscapes; flawed, compromised heroes; and bitter disillusionment of the classic noir crime dramas of the 1940s and 1950s.” It may be called a “sub-genre” but it also might be a “budding film form” in its own right. But Meuel also reveals that “the ‘Wild West’ of the movies was a darker, moodier, more complicated place” after World War II.

Nicholas Chennault’s synopsis, sums up the action concerning Blood on the Moon:

“Jim Garry (Robert Mitchum) is drifting from Texas, when he’s invited by old friend Tate Riling (Robert Preston, in his sleazy friend mode) to join him in a get-rich-quick scheme with corrupt Indian agent Jake Pindalest (Frank Faylen).

John Lufton (Tom Tully) is the local cattle baron, who has long provided beef for the reservation while grazing his herds on reservation land. Pindalest, on Riling’s urging, has given Lufton notice that he’ll no longer be buying Lufton’s beef, and Lufton has to find new grazing land. He’s trying to move his cattle back to the basin where he used to graze, but now there are homesteaders there to resist, led by Riling. Kris Barden (Walter Brennan), who used to work for Lufton, is prominent among them.

Lufton has two daughters, one of whom, Carol (Phyllis Thaxter), is romantically interested in Riling and the other, Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes), takes a few shots at Garry. After being fully informed of the set-up and participating in stampeding Lufton’s herd, Garry decides the scheme isn’t for him and saves Lufton from two of Riling’s gunmen. He’s hurt in a fight with Riling but gets Pindalest to tell the army to back off on the deadline for removing Lufton’s herd.


Riling, Pindalest and a couple of gunmen come after Garry, who’s wounded and holed up at Barden’s place. Amy Lufton shows up to give medical care and to help fight off the bad guys. (You can tell Riling’s sleazy because of the loud, plaid jacket he wears.) In the end Garry kills one of the gunmen, shoots it out with Riling, and gets Amy.”

The fistfights were real. Server revealed that director Wise wanted both Mitchum and Preston to do their own stunts and the principal actors both agreed. They had both become fast friends on the set and spent a lot of time “getting under the skin of the girls, played by Bel Geddes and Phyllis Thaxter.

“I wanted this to look like a real fight,” Wise said. He wanted it to have that “awkward, brutal look of a real fight, and when it was done for the winner to look as exhausted as the loser. And Mitch was excited about this. He knew exactly what I was going for. I think he probably knew more than I did about barroom fights like this one.” So the actors crashed around on the set for three days to orchestrate the film’s most realistic sequence. ” As for his work with Mitchum, Wise added that “Bob was just fine to work with” and that “he liked this part and he contributed a number of ideas… He never wanted to do too much. Just enough and then hold back a little, leave something a little unspecified. He was very bright, very facile, quick with language. But he likes to give the impression that he somehow wasn’t articulate.”

If you want to enjoy Mitchum as one of the first noir cowboys directed by the genius of Robert Wise and photographed by the talented Nicholas Musaraca, your opportunity starts Wednesday at 12:30 central on TCM.

This post was created as part of the Summer Under The Stars Blogathon sponsored by Kristen Lopez and Journeys in Classic Film.


David Meuel, The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2015.

Lee Server, Robert Mitchum, “Baby, I Don’t Care.” St. Martin’s Press, New York. 2001.  

Nicholas Chennault,

Turner Classic Film Festival 2015 and Memories of 2010

Dateline: HOLLYWOOD, Tuesday, March 24

Meeting my dear friend, the Countess De Lave, on my first day back in LA since 2014 afforded us a joyous reunion. I met her at the very first TCM Film Festival in 2010. She has a rental car, and a very comfortable ride it is. As she zooms away from our good friend Mark at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Valet Portico, she has a devilish smile, and I realize she has been up to something. What that something is definitely constitutes a lovely surprise.

As she tools down Orange St., away from the hubbub of arriving TCM Film Festival 2015 passholders, I am experiencing the excitement of a new adventure.

“I’ve made reservations,” she coyly reveals as we wait at the first of several stoplights.

“You have made reservations. Hmnn. That means we are going somewhere special!” I delighted.

“Yes, we are,” she said.

“And will you tell me where we are going before we get there, or will you keep me in suspense like a Hitchcock mystery? Where will we find our maguffin?”

“I have made reservations for us to lunch at….Chateau Marmont!”
I squeal in delight. I know not how she wrangled such special treatment for two gadabout gals who love to laugh, dine, and discuss the events of the day with a wink and a cocktail or two.

As we drive, I wonder who will be there. The Chateau Marmont is the Bide-a-Wee hideaway for some of the actual movers and shakers of the film industry currently and during it’s heyday, and a serious stop on the way up or down from the peculiar pecking order established by A-listers and B-wannabes. Will Michelle Grammer be there plotting her next reality show? As well-dressed tourists, we don’t have to worry about where we fit in. We just need to have enough cash to tip and cover the bill.

As we drive through the traffic, the Countess and I discuss how much fun the first festival had been. That’s when we met, the very first night. As we chatted about the first festival, I looked up the list of all the celebs that graced the stages, attended the parties, and chatted during panels at Club TCM:

* Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
* Editor and author Peter Biskind
* Film director and historian Peter Bogdanovich
* Film historian and author Donald Bogle
* Academy Award-winning actor Ernest Borgnine
* Actor, producer, director and writer Mel Brooks
* Producer and director Frank Capra III
* Noted filmmaker John Carpenter
* Author Cheryl Crane
* Actor Tony Curtis
* Producer and Director Stanley Donen
* Emmy-nominated actress Illeana Douglas
* Photographer, writer and editor Curtis Hanson
* Screenwriter and actor Buck Henry
* Actor, writer, director and producer Darryl Hickman
* Award-winning actress and director Anjelica Huston
* Award-winning actor Danny Huston
* Writer and editor David Kamp
* Editor and writer Sam Kashner
* Actor Martin Landau
* Actor, director and producer, Jerry Lewis
(Due to unforeseen circumstances, we regretfully announce Jerry Lewis has cancelled his appearance.)
* Actor, producer and director Norman Lloyd
* Film historian and author Leonard Maltin
* Actress Nancy Olson
* Actress Luise Rainer
* Director, producer and writer Richard Rush
* Academy Award-winning actress Eva Marie Saint
* Academy-Award winning visual effects artist Douglas Trumbull
* Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight
* Actor Eli Wallach

My first Thursday in LA found me atop the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel anxiously awaiting my Fan Perspective Interview conducted by TCM’s Tim Reilly and photographed by FX’s premiere cinematographer currently working on the Syfy network’s Face Off, Bruce Dorfman. I was nervous. I told stories. I sang a song. I couldn’t hardly see a thing as the sun was in my eyes. The handsome assistant attaching my mike got awfully frisky, and I asked him if he needed a medical degree for what he was doing.

My friend, Lynn Zook, kept giving me the “thumbs up.” I stopped chatting and asked director Tim Reilly what to do, and he laughed and smiled, and said, “just keep talking.” For some reason, when I’m nervous in LA, it just doesn’t feel the same as when I’m nervous in Texas.

Here’s the youtube link to my interview that is still periodically screened on TCM:

Lynn and I had met previously in Las Vegas in 2007 when I was presenting a seminar at the National AP Conference at the Venetian. We had known each other online for quite some time because of our association on the TCM Message Boards, and her enthusiasm for classic film and her encyclopedic knowledge is so inspiring. The first festival ensured that we connected with all our TCM Message Board crew like Kingrat, Filmlover, and Kyle in Hollywood. What a joyous, well-versed group of friends to be met! And I’m happy to say we all still connect online and in person.

The only member of our group who no longer can celebrate with us is the late Kyle Kersten, who unfortunately has passed away. But all of his threads created on the TCM Message Boards are archived on the site here:

The very first Gala Premiere at the TCM Film Festival in 2010, saw Judy Garland on the screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre tantalizing the audience with her songs, dances, and genius. Robert Osborne introduced the film, and Joey and Lorna Luft, who were in the audience. Afterward, Alec Baldwin joined Robert Osborne on stage for some cute banter and schtick.

Afterwards, I quietly slipped out of the screening to head to the Hollywood Roosevelt Pool.

Then I went to the Esther Williams and Betty Garrett pooside bash. Ben Mankiewicz introduced them and had a short discussion with those lovely ladies before the film began. Unfortunately, Esther Williams was in a wheelchair but seemed in good health and quite perky. She was wearing a cranberry red sequined jacket, and sparkled when she spoke. Still a feisty gal, and still has her bathing suit business because the Aqualillies were sporting her little red swimsuits. They had a great show, doing some of the same Esther Aquatics we’ve known and loved.


Betty Garrett was having a little trouble speaking due to a cold or something, but she was so cute, too, and seemed quite energetic. Esther left shortly thereafter, and so did Betty. But after the movie started, and the double duets of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Esther and Ricardo Montalban, and Betty and Red Skelton came on, Betty stepped back out on her patio from her private cabana at The Hollywood Roosevelt, and Garrett wistfully watched this sequence. As many of the viewers around the area saw her standing there, they turned and gave her a round of applause, and it looked like she teared up, and disappeared again into her suite. Besides meeting many new friends at the 2010 festival, the moment when Betty Garrett received applause during one of her greatest screen scenes while she stood on her cabana patio was my favorite moment during the first festival in 2010.

In 2015, I was chosen to be one of the premiere TCM Film Festival Social Producers, and had to miss the wonderful premiere of the 50th Anniversary edition of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer introducing the film, but I was finally able to see The Man Who Shot LIberty Valance with my good friend Lynn, and her husband Jon. Keith Carradine sported a quick but enthusiastic introduction, and I cried at all the same places that I always do, especially when Vera Miles, as Hallie, reflects on her first love. The flowering cactus resting atop Tom Donafan’s casket still reaches deep into my soul, and elicits those liquid reflections of my appreciative emotions. It was a film I had longed to see on the huge silver screen of my dreams.

The first Vanity Fair party I attended in 2010 was held in Kress & Co., and I was the date of a very sweet man from D.C. whose wife was ill with cancer, and couldn’t accompany her husband. As we were walking in, I ran into Eva Marie Saint and her husband as they were exiting the festivities. Cher had come and gone in a white leather ensemble, and Hugh Hefner had made an appearance with a blond beauty. (Isn’t that the same newsflash from 40 years ago? )

Diane Baker had been escorted to the Vanity Fair party by her good friend, Robert Osborne, and I had a few moments to chat with her, as well as Jaqueline Bisset. There was even an Alec Baldwin moment when he told me “Hi, how’s it going?”
As I sat with Countess DeLave in the lovely Chauteau Marmont restaurant enjoying the canned music, and the “lightning-fast service” reminiscent of Harmonia Gardens in Hello, Dolly, I laughed and laughed. I couldn’t believe we were actually enjoying these delicious salads, and flavorful entrees in such an emotionally-charged atmosphere of the Hollywood pecking order. The moment when we walked inside the restaurant area, about 65% of all the diners turned toward us, looked to see if we were “anybody,” and then slowly resumed their conversations and appetizers.

We even were allowed to see one of the suites just in case we decided to stay there in the future. Riding up in the elevator is even a transparent adventure in the “Who is that?” culture of the “in crowd.” Both elevators have windows in them so passengers can see who is riding up to their rooms or down to the lobby. If I ever stay here, I think I’d be afraid to walk down the hall in my bathrobe without makeup to find the ice machine in the middle of the night.

Best Advice: Always keep a lipstick in the pocket of your jammies when you stay at Chateau Marmont. A girl always needs to perk up her look, and she might want to leave a message on the mirror. :D


This is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, and myself, @Paula_Guthat of this blog, are back our Third Annual 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Update: Scroll on down to the end of the post to see the list of 2015 participants so far.

This is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled, and Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club.


The Story of G. I. Joe is a movie heralded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower as “the finest war film” he had ever seen, and it is indeed heartwarming that The Story of G.I. Joe is screened during the annual 31 Days of Oscar on TCM because it is one of those films that is not necessarily a blockbuster, but it based on historical moments written about and recalled by Ernie Pyle. It is one of those films that tied together the horrors of war, such as they could be revealed in the 50s, to the forefront of American sensibilities in the dark security of the neighborhood cinema. Men who had just returned from WWII wanted a film they could connect with, a film they could pin all their memories on, and The Story of G.I. Joe gave them one of those social events to connect with their pasts in the hedgerows, on the battlefield, on the PT Boats and in their hearts. In the fifties, going to the movies on a Friday or Saturday night was a celebration of the end to the work week, and many folks would go out to dinner, and then to a movie.


In 1944, Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote to his wife Geraldine Seibolds Pyle and told her: “Of course I am very sick of the war and would like to leave it and yet I know I can’t. I’ve been part of the misery and tragedy of it for so long that I’ve come to feel a responsibility to it or something. I don’t know quite how to put it into words, but I feel if I left it would be like a soldier deserting.”

In the homey style of a personal letter to a friend, Ernest Taylor Pyle wrote articles about off the beaten track and remote places across America and the people who lived there. In 1940, he went to London in time to witness the great fire bombing at the end of December. When America entered World War II, he became a war correspondent for Scripps-Howard newspapers. He accompanied Allied troops on the invasions of Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, using his homey reporting style to tell the story of the beaches and foxholes of World War II. Ernie Pyle humanized the most complex, mechanized, destructive war in history and told the stories of the men and women who fought it with empathy, humor, and sensitivity.

One of Ernie Pyle’s most widely read and reprinted columns, “The Death of Captain Waskow,” appeared when the Allied forces were bogged down at the Anzio beachhead in Italy in January 1944. Ernie wrote about the death of Captain Henry Waskow of Belton, Texas, an exceptionally popular leader in January 10, 1944. His men brought his body down from a mountainside by mule and placed it next to four others, but the soldiers didn’t want to leave Captain Waskow.

“The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave … one soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, ‘God damn it.’ That’s all he said and then he walked away …

“Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said: ‘I sure am sorry, sir.’

“Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand in his own, he sat there for a full five minutes … looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there. “And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of the uniform around the wound and then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.”
—Excerpted from the blog “History Because It’s There” by Kathy Warnes.

Actor Burgess Meredith looks over the script with Ernie Pyle....

Actor Burgess Meredith looks over the script with Ernie Pyle….

The story about “The Death of Captain Waskow,” however, almost couldn’t find the director it actually needed to help bring the poignant Pyle moments to the screen. Director William A. “Wild Billl” Wellman just happened to be a fighter pilot in WWI and had a deep-seated hatred of the infantry. His rigid aversion to directing a film about the infantry in WWII forced producer Lester Cowan to finagle and cajole him with Christmas presents for his children, invitations, and other tricks of a producer’s trade, but it was meeting Ernie Pyle himself at his home in Albuquerque and spending several days with him that actually convinced Wellman to saddle himself with the directorial duties.

The Story of GI Joe begins as Pyle joins C Company, 18th Infantry in North Africa, and the correspondent becomes close to the men and often writes about their exploits in his columns and would mention soldiers by name, which was much appreciated by both the soldiers and the soldier’s families back home. Pyle often followed and wrote about other units, but meets up again with C Company in Italy. Using actual American GIs in the film also added to the realism of the action.
After the film, the American veterans of the North African and Italian campaigns were transferred from the European Theatre to the Pacific, and many of them were killed in the fighting on Okinawa, the exact same battle in which Ernie Pyle was killed by a Japanese machine gunner. Pyle, hired as a consultant on The Story of GI Joe, and the transferred GIs never saw the film in which they had appeared. Pyle was one of the 36 American war correspondents killed in World War II.

Pvt. Archie Connell is one of the many real GI's in Ernie Pyle's "Story of G.I. Joe."

Pvt. Archie Connell is one of the many real GI’s in Ernie Pyle’s “Story of G.I. Joe.”


Burgess Meredith, a protegee of playwright Maxwell Anderson (Anne of the Thousand Days) who hand-picked Meredith to star in Winterset, Meredith’s first screen role, stars as Ernie Pyle, and brings his war-weary eyes and quiet observance to the front as he slogs along and writes and feels what the men feel that he’s writing about.
Meredith’s performance in this film resonates in his eyes. Watch them react, watch them disbelieve the painful realities, and watch them empathize with the men he has chosen as the subject of his craft.

When William Wellman dragged Robert Mitchum onto the screen from obscurity in Westerns like “Hoppy Serves a Writ,” he also gave us an actor to be reckoned with. Mitchum, as the man in charge of C Company, has already absorbed the painful moments of seeing men wounded in action or die while trying to advance to a new position closer to the enemy. His cynical nature is never uncaring, but always realistic. His death in the movie is the story of Captain Waskow.
Mitchum’s screen roles would flirt off and on with World War II scenarios, like John Huston’s Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in 1957, until the lalte 80’s when he apppeared as Victor ‘Pug’ Henry in The Winds of War and War and Rememberance.
But Mitchum never again would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor or Best Actor at the Academy. The Story of G.I. Joe was nominnated for three other Oscars: Ann Ronnell for Best Song, “Linda”; Leopold Atlas, Guy Endore, and Phillip Stevenson for Best Screenplay, and Ann Ronnell and Louis Applebaum for Best Music for a Drama or Comedy.

To listen to the Oscar-nominated song, “Linda,” here’s a link:

Note: Wally Cassell, who played PVT. Dondaro in The Story of GI Joe is 99, and is considered the second oldest actor alive from the era of Classic Hollywood at the time of publication.

Bill Wellman, Jr., at the TCM Film Festival 2012...

Bill Wellman, Jr., at the TCM Film Festival 2012…

(The theme of the Turner Classic Film Festival 2015 is “History According to the Movies” and The Story of GI Joe would be an excellent choice for a screening this year, expecially with an introduction by Bill Wellman, Jr.)


(Also excerpted from Kathy Warne’s excellent references collected in her article about Ernie Pyle on the “History Because It’s There” website: )

Boomhower, Ray E. The soldier’s Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle, Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006.

Miller, Lee Graham. The Story of Ernie Pyle. Greenwood Press, 1970. Nichols, David. Ernie’s War: The Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Disptaches. Simon & Schuster, First Touchstone Edition, 1987.

Tobin, James. Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II. Modern War Studies. University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Pyle, Ernie. Brave Men. Bison Books, 2001.


31 Days of Oscar Blogathon:

Once Upon A Screen:

Outspoken and Freckled:

Paula’s Cinema Club:

History Because It’s There, a blog by Kathy Warnes:

A History of G.I. Joe–the doll created by Hasbro:,8599,1915120,00.html

Robert Mitchum at the premiere screening of "Mister Moses" in Houston, Texas, at the Meyerland Cinema in 1965. (From a private archive)

Robert Mitchum at the premiere screening of “Mister Moses” in Houston, Texas, at the Meyerland Cinema in 1965. (From a private archive)

Don Beddoe, “Everything But Pattie de Foy Grass”*


This post is part of the third annual What a Character! Blogathon hosted by three classic movie bloggers: Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, Kellee Pratt (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken & Frecked, and Paula Guthat (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club. The Blogathon is devoted to those wonderful actors who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading players wished they had.

Not everybody was a glamourpuss back in the 40’s and 50s, and not everybody wanted to be.
The ticket to steady employment and a crisp, new paycheck may not have been through the doors of Sidney Guilaroff’s MGM salon. It might have been through tending bar in a saloon, or running the general store, or even pecking out the latest update from the teletype, and Don Beddoe was obviously one of those even-keeled, level-headed professionals who took the road less traveled by the publicists and the power mongers.

Don was raised in Cincinnati where his father, the famous Welsh tenor Don Beddoe, spearheaded the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and his initial career began as a journalist.

Enjoy Beddoe’s father, tenor Don Beddoe (1863-1937) in a 1913 recording of “A Moonlight Song” here:

But something lured Don away from the typewriter and the heady aroma of freshly-inked front pages, and Cincinnati. Even though he intended a career in journalism, he began working with amateur and community theatre companies, and there is evidence that he appeared in a few silents. Somehow his journey from wordsmith to boards-stomper landed him on Broadway where Beddoe made his debut in a play starring Spencer Tracy.


In 1937, he appeared as an uncredited District Attorney’s aide in the first release of 20 that year from the newly-formed Monogram pictures, which became Allied Artists in 1952. Perpetual Gunsmoke “Doc” Milburn Stone also appeared in that first Mongram release entitled The 13th Man, directed by William Nigh and starring Inez Courtney and Weldon Heyburn. Beddoe would eventually appear on an episode of Gunsmoke with Stone.


Beddoe then began playing all sorts of roles on camera -doctors, reporters, barbers, deputies, sherriffs, clerks, mousy-husbands, attorneys, detectives, jockeys, majors, process servers, professors, police chiefs, chaplains, judges, and junk dealers. His acting credits include over 297 film and television roles, and his last was as a popuar fellow named “Kris” on a Christmas-themed Highway to Heaven episode in 1984.


Married to first wife Jessie Evelyn Sebring in 1943, their marriage lasted until her death in 1974. Soon after, Beddoe wed actress Joyce Matthews, and Beddoe obviously settled her down a bit.


Matthews had been married six times to four other men–twice to Milton Berle, who commented after their remarriage that Joyce reminded him “of his first wife.”

Joyce and Milton...

Joyce and Milton…

Matthews also married and divorced showman Billy Rose –twice. So Beddoe obviously knew how to treat someone like Joyce as they were married until Beddoe’s death, and Joyce never remarried. Alas, Beddoe had no children, but Joyce had her daughter, Victoria, that she had adopted while married to Berle.

One of Beddoe’s most high-profile roles in the 1950’s was as Walt Spoon in Director Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter. Beddoe was paired with Evelyn Varden, a burlesque and Broadway actress who had many high-profile films in her repertoire, too. When recalling Don Beddoe, Producer Paul Gregory stated that Beddoe was a “dear man,” and asked author Preston Neal Jones to give him that message. Beddoe’s response to Gregory’s comment? “Isn’t that nice.”

As 'The Meddler' in "Cyrano De Bergerac"

As ‘The Meddler’ in “Cyrano De Bergerac”

Beddoe supported many of Hollywood’s stars like Peter Lorre in The Face Behind The Mask, with Robert Mitchum in River of No Return as Ben, the owner of the general store, and with Cary Grant in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

Author Preston Neal Jones visited with Beddoe shortly before Beddoe passed away when Jones was interviewing all the principals in his book, Heaven and Hell To Play With-The Filming of Night of the Hunter.

During Jones interview with Beddoe, he related celebrated British film historian Leslie Halliwell’s comments that he felt Beddoe was a “character actor with a genial, sometimes startled look.”
Beddoe responded “that means when I’ve blown my lines.”

Beddoe’s memories of working with Gregory and others on the set of Night of the Hunter are happy ones as he felt that Laughton was “always on his best behavior, completely friendly and warm.” Delighted that Laughton was able to direct the film, Beddoe recalled that “it came through so well. And it didn’t come through like a first attempt, at all. It was really professional, directorially.”

According to Beddoe, Laughton’s biggest problem was handling Mitchum, but all went well between the director and the actor with the “bad-boy” reputation as “there was a complete rapport between the two.” Beddoe also worked on “River of No Return” with Mitchum and claimed “it’s been a very cordial relationship.”

With Shelley Winters, Eveyln Varden, Sally Jane Bruce, and Mitchum...

With Shelley Winters, Eveyln Varden, Sally Jane Bruce, and Mitchum…

Recalling his visit with Don Beddoe and reminiscing about his pairing with Evelyn Varden in Night of the Hunter, author Preston Neal Jones revealed more about the endearing Beddoe when he participated in a visit at the classic film website, The Silver Screen Oasis:

Beddoe & Varden, that great team, were certainly appreciated by the film’s creators. Producer Paul Gregory enthuses in my book about their casting, adding, ‘You’d think they’d been married always.’ Davis Grubb, author of the original novel, felt that “they (the production company) should have paid her extra” for her contribution as Icey Spoon. As it happened, she and Grubb viewed the HUNTER answer print together at United Artists’ Manhattan screening room.”

Varden “was so anxious that he like it, Grubb recalled, that she kept a tight squeeze on his hand the whole time. I’ll tell you a touching anecdote about Don Beddoe, which I don’t think I put in the book. One of the great joys, you know, of meeting and conversing with these wonderful character actors is the opportunity it affords to learn about not just the subject at hand but many other films as well. (Mr. Mitchum had a lot to say, for instance, about CAPE FEAR.)

One of the famous movies in which Mr. Beddoe appeared was The Best Years Of Our Lives, in which he portrayed, if memory serves, the father of the bride,Teresa Wright. In any case, BEST YEARS was as we all know a rather long picture, and it necessitated a suitably long (and therefor expensive) shooting schedule. As the final film stands, Beddoe’s character really isn’t seen very much, but he originally had one important father/daughter scene containing a significant speech. He worked hard to prepare his monologue, only to be crestfallen when he went to the set and learned that the scene had been dropped.

William Wyler explained to the disappointed actor that they had already shot a lot of footage, and the director had agreed with the budget-conscious Sam Goldwyn that the film could get along without that scene. Poor Don Beddoe asked Mr. Wyler if he could at least do the speech for him, so he could show how he would have done it if it had been filmed, but the busy director turned him down.”

Even though Beddoe was momentarily crestfallen at Wyler’s rebuff, his 297 film and television credits attest to his 47-year popularity among those who hire and fire seasoned and reliable character actors in LA. As a fan of Beddoe, I am always on the lookout for one of his roles in classic film and television programs. His sweetness, his down-to-earth qualities, and his compassion can be found in the man who hands you your program when you go to the symphony, or the doctor who smiles at his patients, or the detective who won’t let somebody get away with murder.

Beddoe also supported his acting salary in real estate, and was active almost up until the time of his death at 87 in 1991.

* Beddoe’s line as Ben in River of No Return


Follow me on Twitter @suesueapplegate or as Christy Putnam on Faceook.
Sue Sue Applegate is also on the TCM Message Boards Festivals Forum and The
Silver Screen Oasis.

Cesar Romero: More than just a Latin lover….

My article is part of a month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage and culture and is a homage to Hispanic contributions to American Classic Cinema for Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon.

The kindly Ram Dass from The Little Princess...

The kindly Ram Dass from The Little Princess…

I have to admit I fell in love. I was only 7 or 8, but the first time I saw The Little Princess on our black and white Philco, Cesar Romero, as Ram Dass, took my heart away and always kept it. He saved little Shirley Temple as Sara from all the people in the film who tried to keep her from her father. When she was about to give up, he furnished her little attic room with luxurious clothes, delicious, hot food, a comfy cover on her bed, and the warm feeling that she wasn’t alone in her daily struggles. How could I not admire and adore Romero after seeing how kind he had been to a little orphan girl? I hoped that if I was ever in such circumstances that I would find someone to protect me like that if my Daddy were to disappear from my little life.

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

José Julián Martí Pérez (January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895) was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist.

José Julián Martí Pérez (January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895) was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist.

Poet, teacher, and revolutionary Jose Marti’s poem, “I Have a White Rose” in some ways symbolizes the generosity of spirit that Cesar Romero, as Ram Dass, shares with little Sara (Shirley Temple) in The Little Princess. Ram Dass gives sustenanace to a little lost child so that she can share in the joy he knows is still part of her heart even though adversity surrounds her. But Marti’s poetry is not perhaps the only connection to Romero.

Romero's wardrobe from Wee Willie Winkie....

Romero’s wardrobe from Wee Willie Winkie….

“A violet duchess careens
In the arms of a red coat:
A painted viscount of note
Keeps time on a tambourine.”

(Translated Excerpt from “Estoy en un baile extrano” by Jose Marti.)
Cesar Romero, born to Cuban parents in New York City on February 15, 1907, went to Collegiate and Riverdale County Schools before beginning his foray into the entertainment industry as a ballroom dancer. First appearing on Broadway in the 1927 production of Lady Do, and then in Strictly Dishonorable, his first film role came in The Shadow Laughs (1933), and he then garnered more favorable exposure in The Devil is a Woman (1935). In 1937, he appeared first with Shirley Temple in Wee Willie Winkie, and again teamed with Temple in The Little Princess in 1939, the film that inspired me to choose Romero as my topic for Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon. Romero’s kindness and generosity in the role always reminds me of my father’s willingness to help others.

Romero with Mexican actress Elena De La Cruz in Havana in 1948

Romero with Mexican actress Elena De La Cruz in Havana in 1948

According to several sources, Romero’s maternal grandparents were exiled Cubans Carmen and her invalid husband, Manuel Mantilla. Their daughter, María Mantilla — Romero’s mother — is generally believed to have been the daughter of Cuban poet and revolutionary hero José Martí, who wrote the verses used in “Guantánamera” (“Yo soy un hombre sincero…”).

As Hernan Cortes in Captain From Castile...

As Hernan Cortes in Captain From Castile…

Romero’s versatility lent his talents initially to the stable of stereotypical Latin lotharios in Hollywood, but many of his more in-depth roles began to reveal his ability to play drama, comedy, and a mixture of the two. His popularity had many phases, which illuminate how intrinsic his international characters were to plot development in Hollywood from the 1930’s to the 1990’s, as his roles changed from the sexy, well-dressed “eye candy” of his early years to more definitive roles like that of Hernan Cortes in Captain From Castile. Cortes would never look that good again on screen or off.

Some say he would show up for the "opening of a napkin," but there is no doubt Romero was a popular man-about-town...

Some say he would show up for the “opening of a napkin,” but there is no doubt Romero was a popular man-about-town…

Romero’s supposedly savvy deal for the production of the 50’s television program Passport to Danger, where Romero played an international courier dodging bullets and secret agents, had him playing opposite such guest stars as Carolyn Jones, Frank Wilcox, Ted DeCorsia, and Paul Picerni as he cavorted and cajoled his way through weeklly intrigue for four years. (It also allowed him to care for many of his extended family members through the ensuing years, and would not be the only clever business deal he made.) His participation in the series left him financially well-fixed and allowed him to stock his closet, which some say held upwards of 500 suits and tuxedos. Romero believed in dressing welll and living well, and his reputation as a “confirmed bachelor” did nothing to disturb his decades-long popularity with celebrities, and the camera, both in film and television.
On the popular What's My Line....

On the popular What’s My Line….

The audience’s initial response to Cesar Romero’s appearance on What’s My Line reveals how popular and well-liked Romero’s film, television, and radio appearances have made him to American audiences. As one of the most entertaining appearances on What’s My Line reveals, Romero’s sense of humor belies his ability to entertain. After he disguises his voice to a deep, raspy, whisper, the panel continues to allude to the fact that they think Romero might be a seal as a continuing rhetorical device to elicit laughter from the audience. When Dorothy Kilgallen asks Romero if he ever had a signature laugh, it is more than a decade before Romero’s signature laugh as Batman’s The Joker appears on the American television scene:

After the heyday of the studios came to a close, Romero began becoming even more visible on primetime television, and his stint as The Joker on the 60’s Batman series left him a little perplexed at times, but certainly grateful and zesty as one of the tallest Jokers at 6’3″ to ever grace the screens.

Romero relaxing at home and on the set of Batman...

Romero relaxing at home and on the set of Batman…

According to a quote attributed to Romero, he was perplexed about one of his most visible roles and most enduring characters. “Why [producer William Dozier] wanted me for Batman (1966), I’ll never know, because I asked his wife, Ann Rutherford, ‘Why did Bill think of me for this part?’. She said, “I don’t know, Butch. He said he saw you in something, and he said, ‘He’s the one I want to play the Joker’.” I haven’t the slightest idea what it was he saw me in, because I had never done anything like it before.”

HIs most enduring television role...

His most enduring television role…

The signature Joker laugh also has its origins in a spontaneous moment that became a legendary calling card. His evil giggle as the Joker on Batman (1966) was created almost by accident. Shortly after being cast, Romero met with producers to discuss his role on the series. While waiting to meet with them, he happened to see conceptual art of the Joker’s costuming. Romero felt that the pictures almost look absurd, and as a result, spontaneously broke out into a playfully loud and almost manic laughter. A producer overhearing that laughter, responded by telling Romero “That’s it, that your Joker’s laugh!”.

To listen to Romero’s raucously riotous refrain, follow the link:

The actor obviously had so much joy with the unusual character: “I had enormous fun playing the Joker on Batman (1966). I ended up doing something like 20 episodes of Batman, as well as the full-length feature film version [Batman: The Movie (1966)]. There was certainly nothing hard about that assignment! Even the makeup sessions weren’t too bad. It took about an hour-and-a-half to put the full makeup on, including the green wig. I didn’t mind it at all.”

As for being stereotyped, Romero stated that “I was never stereotyped as just a Latin lover in any case because I played so many parts in so many pictures. I was more of a character actor than a straight leading man. I did many kinds of characters — Hindus, Indians, Italians. There were very few pictures where I ended up with the girl.” He also played the popular Niarchos opposite Jane Wyman in Falconcrest in the 1980’s, and was cast as Sophia’s love interest in an episode of The Golden Girls that is a fan favorite.

Would his rumored grandfather approve of what Romero did with his ilfe? According to an article written by Kim Ruehl, “Guantanamera” was originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of “Guantanamera” has always lent itself easily to evolution and adaptation – both things necessary for any good protest song. The tune has been evolved through the years and used in struggles for peace and justice across Latin America and the US, and has been recorded by a remarkably long and diverse list of artists, including Joan Baez, the Fugees, Jimmy Buffett, Jose Feliciano, Julio Iglesias, Los Lobos, Pete Seeger, and numerous others. It’s been recorded in Spanish, Italian, French, Welsh, English, and Dutch.

Originally, the lyrics to “Guantanamera” had a romantic spin. It was a song about a love affair gone awry – a story of a woman who gets fed up and leaves her man after being mistreated, possibly in the form of infidelity. Those lyrics quickly fell by the wayside as the song evolved to one about national pride. After all, the first verse of the song was taken from a poem by Cuban freedom activist Jose Marti, an adaptation which cemented it for future use among freedom activists and others struggling for some kind of justice.”

Those lines which open the song translate roughly to English as:

I am a truthful man from this land of palm trees
Before dying I want to share these poems of my soul

“Yo soy un hombre sincero,
De donde crece la palma,
Yo soy un hombre sincero,
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma”

For me, Cesar Romero, grandson of the Cuban poet, Jose Marti, will always be that “hombre sincero,” the Ram Dass of my soul, “de mi alma.”


*(Romero’s costume from Wee WIllie Winkie was sold at the Bonham’s auction last year for $1,125, higher than the original auction house estimate. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1937. A long red wool coat with elaborate gold embroidery and epaulettes, bearing a black-lettered United Costumers, Inc. Manufacturers label inscribed in black ink, “Cesar Romero.” Together with a red silk cummerbund to be worn over the coat, also with a black-lettered United Costumers, Inc. Manufacturers label inscribed in black ink, “C. Romero.” Accompanied by a reproduction still showing Romero wearing the coat. The film, directed by John Ford, is based on a Rudyard Kipling story set in Colonial India. Romero, a leading Latin heartthrob of the day, portrays Khoda Khan, an Indian leader who befriends Shirley Temple’s character.)

Christy Putnam received a prestigious Council For Basic Education Fellowship of $3,000 for her article “Malinalli: Cortes’ Mistress and Interpreter” in the 1990’s. She is bilingual, and has traveled to 19 states in Mexico, and Madrid, Spain. She wrote, produced, and directed a young adult play entitled “Origins of Spanish Poetry” in 2008.

Sources include: Cuba Then/The Monacelli Press, Kim Ruehl article, Poemhunter, IMDB, Wikipedia, “Amor con amor se paga” por Jose Marti, El Jardin de las Orquideas, and others.

“Marti found American society to be so great, he thought Latin America should consider imitating America. Marti argued that if the US “could reach such a high standard of living in so short a time, and despite, too, its lack of unifying traditions, could not the same be expected of Latin America?” John M. Kirk, Jose Marti, Mentor of the Cuban Nation

Photo at right: Martí and María, Cesar Romero's mother, who was 10 years old, on a trip to Bath Beach in 1890.

Photo at right:
Martí and María, Cesar Romero’s mother,
who was 10 years old,
on a trip to Bath Beach in 1890.

For more information on the familial relationship of Jose Marti and Cesar Romero, follow the link:

Certain diacritical markings, like the accent, have not been added in some sections due to technical constraints. The “E” in Jose and the “I” in Marti should have an accent mark, as well as the “I” in Orquideas.

Stopping on the Gone With The Wind Trail…


According to some reports, Ms. Howard might have been the 'Belle Watling' of her times...

According to some reports, Ms. Howard might have been the ‘Belle Watling’ of her times…

The film receiving the most Oscar awards in 1939 has been scheduled for venues all over the United States in 2014 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Gone With The Wind,” but Atlanta seems to hold the greatest allure both for its historic connection to the film and the star-studded parade and premiere on December 15, 1939.
Scarlett on the Square in Marietta...

Scarlett on the Square in Marietta…

While attending the 75th Anniversary of Gone With The Wind at the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, I took some time to visit with friends and enjoy several days of fun in Atlanta and its environs.
Author Kendra Bean at the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum in June...

Author Kendra Bean at the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum in June…

I met with Texas friends Deal and Janice in Marietta, and we stayed at the Marietta Hilton where we met author Anne Edwards, who shared a ride with us to one of the many events.

Author Anne Edwards and Museum Director Connie Sutherland

Author Anne Edwards and Museum Director Connie Sutherland

Houstonian Deal Newberry with Miss Georgia at the Bazaar Ball in Marietta, Georgia...

Houstonian Deal Newberry with Miss Georgia at the Bazaar Ball in Marietta, Georgia…

Historical marker near the entrance of Oakland...

Historical marker near the entrance of Oakland…

An important stop on the Gone With The Wind Trail has been luring fans of the film and novel to the heart of Atlanta for decades in order to visit the graves of author Margaret Mitchell, her husband, John Marsh and others, but Historic Oakland Cemetery began modestly as just six acres in 1850 when the population of the city only included about 2,500 residents.

Friends Dennis Millay, Janice Milstead, and Deal Newberry that warm June afternoon at the entrance to one of the most fascinating cemeteries in the country....

Friends Dennis Millay, Janice Milstead, and Deal Newberry at the entrance to one of the most fascinating cemeteries in the country….

Kimberly Krautter, a dear friend of Dennis Millay, who suggested we visit Oakland, gave us a unique, and personal tour of the fabulously appointed cemetery whose statuary, and landscaping make a stroll through its brick-paved walkways an unending journey to the fascinating back stories shared by a professional guide who has spend her whole life learning and sharing the unique snapshots of time that make a visit to Oakland a timeless experience of personal connection with the history of Atlanta. Krautter is just one of the many popular tour guides who volunteer as docents for Oakland Cemetery and whose expertise enhances a trip to the area.

Kimberly's fascinating tales of  specific moments in Atlanta's extensive history reveal her expertise and her enthusiasm to Deal and Janice...

Kimberly’s fascinating tales of specific moments in Atlanta’s extensive history reveal her expertise and her enthusiasm to Deal and Janice…

By 1867, 42 more acres had been added to the original site to accommodate casualties of the Civil War who had been hastily buried on area battlefields.
No matter how many times I visit a cemetery, I always feel someone is watching...

No matter how many times I visit a cemetery, I always feel someone is watching…

In 1872, the cemetery was christened “Atlanta Graveyard” or “City Burial Place.”
A quiet grave appointed by blue hydrangeas invites visitors for a closer look...

A quiet grave appointed by blue hydrangeas invites visitors for a closer look…

Intricate masonry and architecture mix with the scent of wild lavender while strolling through the brick-lined walkways in the heart of Atlanta...

Intricate masonry and architecture mix with the scent of wild lavender while strolling through the brick-lined walkways in the heart of Atlanta…

Two historical markers illuminate the importance of the site during the Civil War according to the Oakland Cemetery website:

The first reveals that “in 1862, Union operatives known as Andrews Raiders commandeered a locomotive at present-day Kennesaw and raced north to cut telegraph lines. They were captured and condemned as spies. Seven were hanged near Oakland’s southeast corner and interred in the cemetery before removal to the National Cemetery at Chattanooga.”
The second marker commemorates “high ground north of the Bell Tower, a two-story farmhouse stood in the summer of 1864. It served as headquarters for Confederate commander John B. Hood during the Battle of Atlanta, which was fought to the east of the cemetery on July 22.”

Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson is buried here...

Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson is buried here…

Other famous Oakland residents include golfer Robert T. “Bobby” Jones, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, ex-slave Carrie Steele Logan who established the first African-American orphanage, and Moses Formwalt, Atlanta’s first mayor.
What would this famous Atlanta businessman have to say about his wild life? We just had to let Kimberly tell us....

What would this famous Atlanta businessman have to say about his wild life? We just had to let Kimberly tell us….

Oakland Cemetery attracts international visitors like these from Russia, London, Uruguay, and ...Texas!

Oakland Cemetery attracts international visitors like these from Russia, London, Uruguay, and …Texas!

Mother and daughter statuary elicit the grace of a bygone era...

Mother and daughter statuary elicit the grace of a bygone era…

The solitude of the surroundings and the lovely garden spots are always part of Oakland’s charm.

As tourists gather in Atlanta to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Gone With the Wind” and visit theme museums in Marietta and Jonesboro, the cemetery expects more visitors, and popular tour guide Kimberly Krautter will be busier than ever. A special Margaret Mitchell and “Gone With The Wind’ tour is available on selected Saturdays through October 4, as well as the ever-popular Halloween tours and exclusive events.

Unusual statuary and unique stories are around every turn...

Unusual statuary and unique stories are around every turn…

(The photograph used for the header of this article was taken on the evening of June 5, 2014, from the veranda of the Marietta Hilton after a heavy thunderstorm. Even hotel employees stepped out to see it and snap photos for their Instagram accounts!)

For a list of all venues included on the GONE WITH THE WIND TRAIL, follow this link:

Oakland Cemetery website:

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