My contribution to CineMaven’s star-studded CLASSIC SYMBIOTIC COLLABORATIONS will feature Honorary Oscar Recipient Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes. Stay tuned!
My contribution to CineMaven’s star-studded CLASSIC SYMBIOTIC COLLABORATIONS will feature Honorary Oscar Recipient Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes. Stay tuned!
I had a few moments to update an earlier article concerning the TCM Film Festival, pass history, and updates for annoucnements, special guests, and films.
This is not a comprehensive list, and there may be errors, but it’s definitely a loose guideline timeline, and accompanying photos are not necessarily linked by the years in which they were initially created.
2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010
The First TCM Film Festival was originally announced on September 9, 2009.
With Mrs. Peter Fonda, the man himself, Shirlee Fonda, and Robert Wolders on April 27, 2013….
Pass sales began 11-18, early incentive of $100 discount if passed purchased before 12-18 -2010
Films announced March 9, 2010.
Panel topics and panel guests March 18, 2010.
Christopher Plummer in 2015….
Spotlight Pass Contest began in March ….
Spotlight Passes sold out on February 18
Behind the scenes with Robert Osborne at the Hand and Footprint ceremony for Jerry Lewis in 2014….
2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011
Tippi Hedren and The Birds, selected films announcement on 12-11-2010
Film updates on 12-20-2010
Film festival update on 1-31-11
Social media fans with TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 2014….
2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2012
Film update on 1-31
Kim Novak announcement 3-6
Film and Special Guest updates on 3-8
Panel updates 3-19
Richard Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Illeana Douglas and celebrity fan crack smiles in 2014…
2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013
Dates announced 10-10-2012
Spotlight Passes sold out on November 16
(Earliest on record and one day after sales began.)
Films and panels update on 1-17-14 Special Guests announcement on 4-17-13
Social media fans with TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz in 2012,,,,,
2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 2014 The 20TH Anniversary Party!
Dates announced on October 2, 2013.
Festival promo video released on 10-2-2013
Quincy Jones announcement on 12-5-2013
Oklahoma! and Special Guests announced on 2-13-2013
Maureen O’Hara and other special guests announced on 2-5-13 Classic passes sold out before the festival. Gone With The Wind, Why Worry? and The Wizard of Oz announced as screenings on 10-29
Essential passes sold out on 11-4-2013
Panel updates on Thursday, 3-13-2014
Popular Bay Area fan Paula, Mr. Osborne’s first cousin Susan, and Senior TCM researcher Alexa Foreman prior to Robert Osborne’s surprise tribute in 2014…
2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015
TCM’s Scott McGee visits the Hollywood Time Machine on 9-27-14 and announces that a festival update is coming “soon.”
Hollywood Roosevelt sold out on 10-2-14
Announcement of festival theme and 4 Restorations coming to the festival on 11-4-14
Pass sales begin on 11-11-14
Upates on 3-13-15
Kim Novak and TCM Host Robert Osborne at the closing night party in Club TCM 2012…
2016? 2016? 2016? 2016?
Dates announced for TCMFF 2016 on Wednesday, August 28 for April 28-May 1
(The earliest announcement date of record.)
And we are all anxiously awaiting updates for the coming year’s celebrations. Update: ESSENTIAL AND SPOTLIGHT PASSES SOLD OUT AT THE CITIBANK PRESALE ON 11-17-2015.
See you in 2016!
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.
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.
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: http://journeysinclassicfilm.com
Turner Classic Film Database
Ingrid Bergman, My Story
Buzzfeed ignored Flora Robson in this article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/arianelange/10-times-white-actors-played-people-of-color#.pvbEVBvXR
Scott Rollins Film and TV Trivia Blog: http://cscottrollins.blogspot.com/2015/03/flora-robson-queen-of-character-acting.html
Flora Robson, This Is Your Life, and her championing of Paul Robeson: http://www.bigredbook.info/flora_robson.html
Christy’s Inkwells: Florence Bates-“It’s A Grand Feeling” : https://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/florence-bates-its-a-grand-feeling/
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.
Hattie McDaniel receiving her Oscar…
Margaret Mitchell at the premiere…
Letter to Harry B. Warner from David O. Selznick concerning Jezebel….
Letter to George Cukor from David O. Selznick…
Original costumes restored by Cara Varnell, who also conserved the Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz auctioned last fall…
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: http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/gwtw-fever-in-austin-texas-20140930
TCM Host Robert Osborne’s introduction to The Making of Gone With the Wind exhibition catalog: http://blog.hrc.utexas.edu/2014/09/11/osborneintro/
Christy Putnam’s article concerning popular items at the exhibit: http://www.examiner.com/list/ten-popular-exhibit-item-at-harry-ransom-center-s-making-of-gone-with-the-wind
Further archived articles concerning the exhibit: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/search/?cx=014783873757132787519%3A6fhrznrfork&cof=FORID%3A10&q=making+of+gone+with+the+wind
Many documents can be viewed in detail at the above website. The exhibition catalog is available online at the HRH Center web.
Robert Mitchum’s Summer Under The Stars Celebration–The One and Only Noir Cowboy
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, http://thegreatwesternmovies.com/2014/01/18/blood-moon/
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: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yddHfhbr4J4
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. 😀
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.
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.
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: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6dJF7royh8c
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.
(Also excerpted from Kathy Warne’s excellent references collected in her article about Ernie Pyle on the “History Because It’s There” website: http://historybecauseitshere.weebly.com/ernie-pyle-homespun-journalist.html )
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: http://aurorasginjoint.com/2015/01/05/31-days-of-oscar-blogathon-2015/
Outspoken and Freckled:http://kelleepratt.com
Paula’s Cinema Club:http://paulascinemaclub.com/2015/01/05/call-for-posts-31-days-of-oscar-2015/
History Because It’s There, a blog by Kathy Warnes: http://historybecauseitshere.weebly.com/ernie-pyle-homespun-journalist.html
A History of G.I. Joe–the doll created by Hasbro: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1915120,00.html
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: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=06OJQ_eJTyY
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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