The Silver Screen Oasis will welcome Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at Turner Classic Movies, on September 7 & 8. Come join us for a Question & Answer Forum to discuss her exciting job as a researcher for our favorite network!
Alexa Foreman has been employed as a researcher at TCM since the network began airing uncut and commercial free classic movies in the 1990’s. She works with Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz on a daily basis, and when someone can’t find some information or needs to know how many Oscar nominations a film has earned, or how many husbands Elizabeth Taylor had, she is the perky go-to-gal.
Foreman, whose motto just might be Sergeant Joe Friday’s most popular sound byte “Just the facts, Ma’am,” has been an employee of Turner Classic Movies since its initial broadcast in 1994.
ABOVE: Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman, actress Peggy Cummins of Gun Crazy, and Darcy Hettrich, Talent Coordinator, at the TCMFF 2012 Farewell Party in Club TCM located in the historic Blossom Room, site of the first Academy Awards, in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
When writer Paul Booth featured Foreman a few months ago in his six-part series honoring prominent WOMEN IN ENTERTAINMENT, he shared his fascinating interview with Foreman, and what follows is an excerpt:
“This week we have a special treat for movie lovers. I had the pleasure of interviewing Turner Classic Movie’s Senior researcher Alexa Foreman. I think all classic film lovers enjoy TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz as they introduce our favorite classic films with a great story about actors like Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen, or behind the scenes tales of a movies turbulent production.
ABOVE: Robert Osborne and Guest Programmer Alexa Foreman…
Alexa’s job is to gather the film facts for the script writers and Robert Osborne. Alexa then double checks the final script, edits it for typos and adds any updates (deaths, Oscars or info since the last time TCM showed the movie). She does this for all the intro and post-film segments we see on TCM.
I met her last year at TCM Classic Movies Film Festival 2012. At the same event this year we got together for a nice long talk about movies. So when it came time to do this “Women in Entertainment” series, I asked Alexa and she quickly (and graciously) agreed to be part of it.
Paul Booth: What movie made you know you wanted to spend your life involved with the history of Film?
Alexa Foreman: There was no single movie that did it for me. I saw classic movies on tv in Atlanta growing up and loved stars like Bette Davis, Paul Muni and Tyrone Power. Since those movies were not on video or playing in theaters at that time, I read everything I could on the history of the movies.
PB: Is there a Film you feel everyone should see? Even if they don’t like it, meaning the movie holds such a significant achievement in filmmaking?
AF: Again, there is no single movie but for significant achievement in filmmaking take a look at CITIZEN KANE (1941), NAPOLEON (1927), BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), SUNRISE (1927), GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), and THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). And please see these on a big screen if possible.
PB: Do you have a favorite Genre/Studio/Studio-head or old studio director like Wilder, Capra, Ford or Hawks?
AF: Screwball comedy is my favorite genre. THE AWFUL TRUTH, LIBELED LADY, BRINGING UP BABY, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, BALL OF FIRE. I can watch them over and over.
RKO is my favorite studio -– and not because of Astaire and Rogers. The filmmakers and technicians did so much with so little. Producer Val Lewton and others paved the way for film noir with pictures set in night time and/or rain. They did it out of necessity to hide the fact that there was no big background set behind the action.
Directors that I love include William Wyler, Orson Welles, John Cromwell, Fred Zinnemann, Terrence Malick, John Frankenheimer, and I am sentimental about Ida Lupino’s efforts.
PB: How do you feel about the progression of “women in Film or television” as directors? (or Producers)?
AF: Well, I am glad that they are finally back!! The early days (1895 to 1930) were the great days of women directors, writers and producers until big financiers saw that there was money to be made and the women were gradually driven out.
PB: With the progression of digital cinema, do you ever feel it makes TCM’s job more important or do you feel TCM will transcend?
AF: We need to save and preserve older movies before we worry about the industry’s new formats. TCM will go on no matter which source we mine our jewels from – print paper, celluloid nitrate, videotape, DVD, etc. We show movies from the silents all the way to the present. Along with our most popular movies, we are always looking for lesser known gems to show, and thereby generating interest and reaction from our TCM audience. As to digital technology, our sharp eyed viewers appreciate the quality and texture of film –- from the dissolves and the scratches all the way to the circle in the right hand corner of the frame signifying a coming reel change. I know movie theaters are facing a challenge with this and I hope they will survive this latest technology.
PB: What quote or message would you like to give your fellow “Women in Entertainment” out there pursuing a goal or in the business already?
AF: It is a quotation from a telegram from Katharine Hepburn to director Dorothy Arzner (who was being honored by the Directors Guild in 1975): “Isn’t it wonderful you’ve had such a great career when you had no right to have a career at all?”
In addition to Booth’s wonderful article about Foreman’s background and experiences with the network, I was able to find out a little more information about her varied trials and tribulations. As I was chatting with Foreman earlier this month, she revealed to me even more about her experiences with Turner Class Movies. One of her most difficult challenges occurred in 1994 when she was assigned the task of discovering “exactly” how many films John Ford made with John Wayne. Since there was no all-encompassing internet database access like there is today, Foreman states it “was a half day of work.” The research she was required to do for the 31 Days of Oscar a few years ago “nearly killed me!”
“Movie research,” Foreman claims, “is like a puzzle or a mystery that I have to solve every day.” And for the recent TCM Tour of famous New York City film locations, she learned that ” none of the footage from The Seven Year Itch in which Marilyn Monroe stands over the subway grate is in the picture. The footage was shot but Billy Wilder knew the crowd noise from the NYC crowd would make the footage useless. But what a way to get publicity! Wilder was a smart self-promoter. The footage you see in the movie is shot on the Fox back lot!”
Foreman even secretly admits that she once, while preparing for an Osborne script, quickly called a screenwriter to listen to his answering machine so that she knew how to properly pronounce his name correctly because no one else could find out. So it would seem her experiences are not that far removed from a detective like Sgt. Joe Friday or Sam Spade.
One of her favorite film quotes “is from one of my top ten (or 20) favorites, The Awful Truth in 1937. Irene Dunne says to Cary Grant after seeing his not-so-talented girl friend perform at a night club: “I guess it was easier for her to change her name than for her whole family to change theirs.” She also favors Humphrey Bogart’s line from In A Lonely Place when he claims ‘I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.’ ”
Ms. Foreman would like me to share with our readers that “I have been at TCM since the very beginning, so don’t be shy about asking any questions…old Star of the Month pieces, documentaries, the Munchkins, anything!”
The Silver Screen Oasis is happy to host Alexa Foreman September 7 and 8. Come join the fun!