Exclusive Interviews Celebrate Thelma Ritter’s Legacy

The director of Airport, the biggest Universal blockbuster in 1970, whose $45 million in earnings wouldn’t be topped until Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975, and a character actress with 6 nominations had a connection that made history for both of them.

George Stenius, whose family hailed from Stockholm, grew up in Detroit, and he was determined to be an actor and not go to college, so he joined a stock company and also dabbled in radio. Credited with creating the “High Ho, Silver!” sound byte glorifying The Lone Ranger on radio because he couldn’t whistle, Stenius, who had changed his last name to Seaton because it was easier to pronounce, had the pluck to send his play to none other than MGM’s Irving Thalberg.

Thalberg may not have been as interested in the play as he was in the creative potential of young George, whom he hired as a $50 a week assistant to Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur so George could learn more about his craft, which was not a bad place to start for a newbie. Unfortunately, the MGM team Hecht/MacArthur soon parted company and George didn’t see Hollywood for awhile.

But George Seaton kept plugging away as a gag writer, a fixer, and a man with creative stories. His uncredited days were soon to be behind him as Groucho Marx liked what he came up with for A Night At The Opera, also starring Kitty Carlisle. Marx took him on board for the next Marx Brothers project as a collaborative writer on A Day at the Races, and soon after, he worked for a short while at Columbia and became affiliated with producer William Perleberg, who latched onto Seaton as a protege. Perleberg then joined 20th Century Fox in the early forties and Seaton went with him.

One of Seaton’s first assignments at Fox was the screenplay for the box office hit, The Song of Bernadette which initiated his long career as a successful screenwriter, director and producer.

Various projects followed, and eventually he worked on a period comedy with Betty Grable, but unfortunately, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim was a shocking failure even though it sported songs from George and Ira Gershwin. But as with all failures, everyone usually learns something.

For Seaton’s next project, he wrote the screenplay, and it more than made up for the failure of his last picture. Viewers still scream for it every year in December because of the story, because of the characters, and because of its endearing charm. And one of those endearing charmers was someone agent Meyer Mishkin found named Thelma Ritter. “Meyer was my agent, and he found Thelma for George,”according to actor Marvin Kaplan, who also appeared with Ritter in A New Kind of Love, a film that starred Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward. TCM Host Robert Osborne also commented during Thelma Ritter’s Summer Under The Stars comments prior to The Model and The Marriage Broker on Wednesday, that Ritter and Seaton were friends.

Officially uncredited in the cast of Miracle on 34th Street, but unforgettable in moviegoer´s memories as “Peter’s mother,” Thelma Ritter elbowed her way to the focal point of viewers’ memories, especially as she told her son something like “Momma wants to talk to Santa, now” after Edmund Gwenn, as Kris Kringle, had promised Peter a fire engine that his mother knew she couldn’t deliver by Christmas morning. Ritter has charged through cinematic history like a a steam roller ever since she had been given her big cinematic break by Director George Seaton, the man who was plucked from obscurity by Irving Thalberg, and cut his writing chops with none other than Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, of Front Page fame.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1902 on St. Valentine’s Day, Thelma Ritter’s auspicious entrance on the day heralded as the most romantic day of the year meant to many classic cinema fans that she would be loved for her endearing, no-nonsense charm, and for telling it all like it is.

Ritter also studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and trained there as an actress. Her husband, Joe Moran, an executive with Young and Rubicam,  was also Ritter’s agent, and they had two children, daughter Nikki, who also was an actress and appeared with her mother in a production of Barefoot in the Park in 1966, and son Joseph Anthony Moran, who liked to be called ‘Tony.’

In my exclusive interview with Tony last year, he revealed that “I just saw Miracle on 34th Street a few weeks ago,” and for the few moments that his mother was in the film, “she just jumped off the screen,” and “took over the whole show.”


Actor Marvin Kaplan in a scene from A New Kind of Love

In a recent interview with actor Marvin Kaplan (It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), he reminisced and revealed that Ritter was never “on” when she was present at a production, but was always prepared and a “pro,” indicating that she was confident about her part and thoroughly prepared. Kaplan claimed that “whenever Thelma was in a movie, I made sure that I went to see it”


Thelma Ritter wears a hat to celebrate St. Catherine’s Day during an event in A New Kind Of Love

Ritter mainly participated in dramatic endeavors while living and working in New York and appearing on television and in theater, but when she came out to Hollywood, ¨she mostly did comedies.” Kaplan also remembers that screenwriter and playwright Paddy Chayefsky “especially wanted Ritter” for the Goodyear Playhouse production of A Catered Affair in 1955.
In 1951, she appeared in All About Eve, and writer, producer, and director Joe Mankiewicz admitted that he liked real people “like Thelma Ritter,¨and believed that ¨Thelma Ritter was the best. I wrote Birdie Coonan in All About Eve for her. A wonderful person and a fine actress. I loved her, bless her. Do you remember that scene in Letter to Three Wives when Ritter and Connie Gilchrist are playing cards? I loved that.¨

Special attention from Joe Mankiewicz anointed Ritter as the go-to-gal to keep audiences focused on the silver screen, and when Ritter appeared in Sam Fuller’s Pickup On South Street, Richard Widmark recalled in Lee Server’s book, Sam Fuller: Film is a Battleground, that “I liked Thelma very much” as he “knew Thelma from the radio days back in New York. She was always a wonderful actress and a terrific lady.”

According to actress, singer, and comedienne Debbie Reynolds, the next SAG/AFTRA Lifetime Achievement Recipient in 2015, Thelma Ritter was one of the greatest scene-stealers that she ever worked with. In Reynolds updated autobiography, Unsinkable, Reynolds claims that Walter Brennan, Walter Matthau, and Thelma Ritter were all in a class by themselves and that “you couldn’t turn your back on any one of them…I’d say it was a three-way tie for who could get the most out of their camera time.” Ritter’s son Tony also revealed that “Debbie and she were very close, and when my Mom died, she called and called and wanted to know if there was anything she could do.”


In an exclusive interview about Thelma Ritter with Christa Fuller, Director Sam Fuller’s widow, Christa states that “Sam adored her. She should have won an award for her touching portrayal in Pickup On South Street.” Filmmaker Samantha Fuller, the director’s daughter, has recently screened A Fuller Life, the ultimate documentary on the life, work, and times of her father at MoMA from August 6-16.

According to esteemed Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman from Turner Classic Movies headquarters in Atlanta at Turner Studios, Thelma Ritter “is one of our ‘unsung heroines’ of movies. She never gave a lackluster performance and was nominated for an amazing SIX Academy Awards. One of the all time great character actresses.”

Ritter’s son, Tony Moran also shared that “evidently, everybody identified with my mother. She would tell it like it was. She was like that in real life.”

Fans of Thelma Ritter can immerse themselves in many of her stellar performances on Wednesday, August 20, all day on Turner Classic Movies. Some of her films will also be added to the TCM Mobile.


A few of the many blog articles focusing on Thelma Ritter:

http://bettesmovieblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/spotlight-on-character-actress-thelma.html

http://aurorasginjoint.com/2012/09/22/thelma-ritter-what-a-character/

Thelma Ritter Filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0728812/?ref_=nmbio_bio_
Follow Christy Putnam on TWITTER: @suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ … ue-sue-ii/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christy.putnam.5?ref=tn_tnmn
The Examiner: http://www.examiner.com/article/exclusive-interviews-celebrate-legacy-of-actress-thelma-ritter?cid=db_article

Christy Putnam is currently working on Thelma Ritter: Hollywood’s Favorite New Yorker to be published in late 2018 by the University Press of Mississippi. 

Copyright 2014

Red Carpet Revelers at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014

Top Red Carpet revelers at the Turner Classic Film Festival include an international group of pass holders and seasoned celebrities accustomed to the flashes and clicks of Nikons and iPhones on Thursday, April 10, at the Gala Premiere restoration of 1955’s “Oklahoma!” introduced by TCM Host Robert Osborne and Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Special TCM Film Festival 2014 guest celebrities Shirley Jones, Maureen O’Hara, Margaret O’Brien, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Bo Hopkins, Merrie Spaeth, Candy Clark, George Chakiris, Diane Baker, Richard Sherman, Leonard Maltin, Ben Mankiewicz, and Robert Osborne all paraded down the aisle at the popular event. Other stars attending the festival included Richard Dreyfuss and Alan Arkin.


Fancy fans and glitzy celebs posed, pitched, and paired for photo ops from seasoned media professionals and admiring patrons as they walked the gauntlet of onlookers and dedicated classic film lovers on Hollywood Boulevard.


Actress Tippi Hedren, “The Birds” and “Marnie,” and actress Kim Novak, “Vertigo” and “Bell, Book, and Candle,” host a media photo op frenzy as fans and photographers snap away as the gals do the red carpet rumba at the TCL Chinese Theatre prior to Shirley Jones’ introduction to 1955’s “Oklahoma!” Both ladies were patient, gracious, and appreciative of all the attention they received Thursday, April 10, at the TCMFF 2014.


(Photo courtesy of TCM)

Actress Margaret O’Brien attended the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014 to introduce “Meet Me in St. Louis” on Friday, April 11, and memorialize actor friend Mickey Rooney prior to a screening of “National Velvet” on Sunday. O’Brien visited with fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos with international fans and thrilled audiences during her multiple appearances.


Writer Debra Levine and Oscar-winner George Chakiris of “West Side Story” pose for journalists. Levine hopes “everyone will visit” her Arts Meme blog as Chakiris graces her with a warm hug. Chakiris is also a jewelry designer and lectures on classic Hollywood.


Media communications specialist and Dallas resident Merrie Spaeth attended the TCMFF 2014 to introduce her one and only film, “The World of Henry Orient,” with actress Paula Prentiss on Friday at the Chinese Multiplex to a packed audience of fans. According to a Dallas Morning News article by Nanette Light, Spaeth credited “serendipity for landing her a role at age 14 alongside actor Peter Sellers in the 1964 movie ‘The World of Henry Orient.’ A former Reagan aide who is now a public relations executive, Spaeth’s brief acting career is often overshadowed by her role as adviser to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran controversial TV ads opposing then Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential candidacy.”

“I thought things like this didn’t happen to people who lived in Philadelphia and went to Quaker school,” said Spaeth, 65.

Light’s article also stated that Spaeth was “absent from the Hollywood scene for more than four decades. Spaeth returned to the red carpet last week — accompanied by her daughter, 22-year-old Maverick Lezar — to celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary at an April 11 screening during the Turner Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles.”

Spaeth was happy to be a movie star again if only for one day, and enjoyed her four days of fun at the festival.

Spaeth is CEO of Spaeth Communications.


(Photo Courtesy of TCM)
TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz emceed the special TCM/USPS commemorative stamp ceremony honoring former SAG/AFTRA president and actor Charlton Heston as well as poolside screenings and interviews with fans and celebrities at the popular festival. Actress, producer and director Illeana Douglas introduced Jerry Lewis at a screening of “The Nutty Professor” and interviewed Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss for fans in Club TCM. The granddaughter of classic film actor Melvyn Douglas, Illeana has a popular web series, and acts, directs, produces, and writes for the film and television industries.


Festival fans file in for film screening of 1955’s “Oklahoma!” as they greet media and gallery members. Pass holders came from Canada, the continental U.S, and several European countries to enjoy the festivities at the TCMFF 2014.


Flying in from Dallas, Texas, for the TCMFF 2014 fun, Dallas public relations executive Kelly Kitchens Wickersham and her husband Mark Wickersham enjoy attending screenings and panels. Wickersham administrates one of the most popular Facebook pages for TCM Film Festival fans.


Choreographer Miriam Nelson was a doll AND she was all dolled up!


TCM Ultimate Fan Video Contest winner Tiffany Vasquez from New York donned a lovely flamenco-inspired vintage gown.


Another fabulous gal donning vintage togs was Texan Theresa Madere, a wedding planner from Burnet, Texas. Her perky manner and her interested in classic films inspire her to blog as Butterscotch Greer on the TCM Message Boards Festivals Forum.


Actor Bo Hopkins appeared at the TCMFF 2014 to participate in a poolside screening and discussion of “American Graffiti” and also starred in such films as “Midnight Express,” “The Wild Bunch,” and “Monte Walsh.” Hopkins’ cool demeanor, willingness to chat with fans, and jovial nature made him a favorite on the walk of fame to the TCL Chinese screening. Hopkins has two films in post-production, “The Boys at the Bar” and “Of God and Kings.”


(Photo Courtesy of TCM)
Popular TCM Host Robert Osborne and actress pal Diane Baker on the Red Carpet at the Turner Classic Film Festival appear to cheers from the crowd. Baker is Director of Film and Television at San Francisco’s Academy of Art.


The people most responsible for the success of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2014 (besides the loyal fans of the network) include Charles Tabesh (VP of Programming), Dennis Adamovich (VP of Digital), Jeff Gregor (General Manager of TCM), and Genevieve McGillicuddy (TCMFF Director). Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones is front and center as she smiles prior to the Gala Premiere Restoration of “Oklahoma!”


Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin and TCM Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman smile for the cameras on Thursday evening before the screening of “Oklahoma!” Maltin hosted several panels and interviewed guests in Club TCM, and was always ready to sign autographs and to visit with fans of his books and articles. Foreman has conducted hundreds of interviews for the Turner Archives and is known as “The Keeper of the Flame” for classic film history at TCM because of her attention to accuracy and detail.


Composer Richard Sherman (“Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” Winnie The Pooh”) and his lovely wife Elizabeth stopped and chatted for several moments and revealed how happy they were to be part of the festival events.


Actress Maureen O’Hara elicited the most excitement, awe, comments, and applause when she appeared on the Red Carpet prior to the screening of “Oklahoma!” at the Turner Classic Film Festival Gala Premiere Restoration Thursday evening, April 10, at the TCL Chinese Theatre. O’Hara was the most popular star attending the premiere and the Vanity Fair party after the screening, and introduced John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley,” filmed in 1941, and participated in several interviews with TCM Host Robert Osborne.
A few moments after this photograph was taken, O’Hara’s grandson, Connor Fitzsimons helped her move down the red carpet to my media station, and she reached out to grasp my hand. There was such love and admiration in her voice and her manner, and I knew how much she enjoyed being a part of the festival events. She told me “Thank you” twice, and as she was about to grasp my hand for her very firm handshake she had given to other media representatives along the corridor, someone called out to her grandson to move along, and she was whisked away.

But for a few shining moments, she looked right into my eyes and showered me with attention, and she made me feel like the luckiest gal on the red carpet. Of all the celebrities at the April festival, she was the one that garned the most “oohs” and “ahhs” from passholders and other celebrities wherever she went. Her spirit and her determined air was a great inspiration to me and everyone else she me. Her events at the festival were the most popular for any individual celebrity, and all were blessed with the indomitable spirit of a great Irish lass.

When a special airplane arrived for O’Hara in Idaho, she wasn’t able to climb up the steps because the initial staircase was too high, so TCM sent another plane for her. Her grandson wanted to cancel her appearance, but O’Hara told her grandson that she was going to wait in the executive lounge until the other plane arrived because she was going to the Turner Classic Film festival this year! (Darcy Hettrich, VP of Talent for TCM revealed this story at the initial Meet The TCM Panel on Thursday afternoon at the festival, and the audience loved it.)

Maureen O’Hara at the Vanity Fair party Thursday evening after the screening of “Oklahoma.” (Photo courtesy of TCM)

The excitement of photographing and interviewing celebrities is part of the allure of working a red carpet event. What surprised me most is that many of the credentialed media from established news outlets didn’t know who most of the celebrities were, and I found that one of my responsibilities at the event was to answer questions and explain who the celelbrities were, what their accomplishments entailed, and why they were at the festival. I am glad I was there!

All photos taken by the author unless otherwise noted. ©

Part 2: In The TCM Studio….


My day in the studio at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta was so much fun, and I was introduced to so many folks who have been integral to the success of the Atlanta productions for Turner Classic Movies. Many of the employees featured in my article often travel to L.A. to assist with the Turner Classic Film Festival every year.

Whenever the 20 Guest Programmers visit Atlanta to appear with Robert Osborne, they might meet some of these media industry professionals like …

Camera Operator Pam Ritzie, who was trained in the arts, enjoys being one of the few women hired as camera operators in the film industry, and loves working at TCM in Turner Studios…

The unmistakable allure of the dish garden provides services to over 100 branded channels in 30 languages beaming to 200 countries..

The Turner Studios wall of fame…

One of the many mini-homages to Ted Turner on the Turner History Retrospective outside one of the studios…

Ted Turner’s duplicate Hollywood Walk of Fame star in front of his former studios. (The original is located at 7000 Hollywood Blvd.)

Nick Berry, Lighting Assistant, was very busy, but stopped for a quick photo op…

Lighting Director Thomas Branch was so funny, and was very personable…

Production Assistant Jacob Griswell and Key Grip Roger Sherer were happy to smile for the camera. Both Jacob and Roger have multiple responsibilities and are constantly engaged in the production…

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a photo with cute Peter McIntosh, whose official title is Utility Grip, but he did give me a copy of this lovely magazine, and one of his photos graces the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? Peter is the Staff Photographer at Georgia Mountain Laurel, which highlights entertainment, business and all subjects concerning travel to the exciting state of Georgia.

I also was lucky enough to visit with Senior Production Manager and Assistant Director Anne Wilson, and Sandi Winslow, who is in charge of the Teleprompter, but unfortunately didn’t have any photos of these lovely ladies.

Adorable Art Director Marty Kelly and Senior Research Whiz Alexa Foreman are good friends…

Alexa Foreman and Robert Osborne lunch at Turner Studios on Tuesday, January 14. (Photo courtesy of TCM)

And what does Ben Mankiewicz think about those Oakland A’s this year?
Follow the link to find out: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XIEL7w-D3JE
(Photographed by Peter McIntosh)

My many thanks to the wonderful TCM Staff at Turner Studios, Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman and Host Ben Mankiewicz.

Contact Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman at ASK ALEXA on The Silver Screen Oasis, a website for fans of classic film, here:http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6338&start=60
Contact Peter McIntosh at McIntosh Mountains Photography: http://www.mcintoshmountains.com

Remembering Alicia Rhett At The Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta, Georgia…


During my visit to Turner Studios in December, I was also lucky enough to travel to Marietta, Georgia, and visit with Connie Sutherland, the Director of the Gone With the Wind Museum, known as “Scarlett on the Square,” because of the museum’s location on the historic old town square. Sutherland gave Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, and me a personal tour of all the exhibits in the museum.

I didn’t say much, however, as I was fascinated by the meeting of two such knowledgeable historians as Foreman and Sutherland. Both of these ladies started discussing all the history of the area and the film responsible for the museum’s popularity, the actors and actresses, the directors, and various other aspects of Margaret Mitchell’s life and work, and much more. All I could do was listen.


An original shooting script of Gone With The Wind…

Foreman’s grandmother was childhood friends with Margaret Mitchell and Sutherland was fascinated by some of the details shared by Foreman concerning their connections, including the fact that Foreman’s grandmother and her grandmother’s family lived right behind Mitchell’s family during their formative years.

As we toured all the exhibits, including multiple first editions of Gone With The Wind from Russia, France, and many other countries, Foreman and Sutherland discussed how Ann Rutherford was a serious patron of the museum and a close friend of one of the original museum directors. (Ann Rutherford attended the 2011 Turner Classic Film Festival in 2011 with good friend Ann Jeffreys, and was also a devoted friend to TCM.)


Two of the greatest film historians I’ve ever known, Connie Sutherland, Director of the Gone With the Wind Museum, and Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, grace the display of one of the original costumes from Gone With The Wind at the museum in Marietta, Georgia. (The silk Bengaline honeymoon gown, designed by award-winning costumer Walter Plunkett and worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett while she chooses family gifts in New Orleans was “purposefully hued an ecru shade so that the dress would appear white on the Technicolor film reels.”)

Mitchell also gifted all the major players of the 1939 film with a set of china depicting historic scenes from Atlanta’s past, and the complete set in the museum display was donated to the museum by Ann Rutherford.

Benevolent Gone With The Wind actress Ann Rutherford also donated her gold and diamond locket worn in several films, including Gone With The Wind, to the museum…

Foreman and Sutherland were discussing the details of the set, and Sutherland revealed that the china set Mitchell gifted Vivien Leigh was not like the rose/bone-colored pattern of Rutherford’s set of donated china in the display, but was specially ordered in green/bone-colored tones by Mitchell for Leigh’s gift, possibly highlighting the green-and-white of Leigh’s iconic gown as Scarlett eats barbecue at the Wilkes’.

The pattern of Scarlett’s dress might have been the inspiration for the china set sent to Leigh from Margaret Mitchell..


Two chairs from the film flanked by framed lobby cards….

Other fabulous displays in the museum also include a tribute to the revered Hattie McDaniel, a scale model replica of Tara, several reproductions and original costumes from the film, and a well-stocked gift shop with books, memorabilia, and iconic reproductions of photos and items from the film as well as historical tomes about the area.

Alicia Rhett and Leslie Howard on the set of Gone With The Wind…

But one of the little known facts about the one of the film’s most visible characters, is that Alicia Rhett, who has just passed away in Charleston, South Carolina, is that she was an accomplished artist, in addition to playing one of Scarlett’s nemeses, India Wilkes. Rhett is said to have sketched many of the principal actors while working on the 1939 film, and also completed a reproduction of Joseph Manigault that can be seen at the Manigault House Museum in Charleston. Follow the link to see it on the Charleston Museum Website: http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/N5Content/pdf/houses/jmh%20tourbook%20web%202011.pdf

An Alicia Rhett portrait of Rhett’s mother…
Rhett had resided at the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston since the early 2000s, and would still sketch and continue to draw and off and on until she could no longer hold a pencil.

Alicia Rhett and Howard Hickman as John Wilkes and his daughter India in Gone With The Wind…

Discovered by MGM’s Kay Brown, Rhett had been performing at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, the first theater constructed in America “exclusively” for the purpose of theatrical performances…

Sutherland was able to visit Alicia Rhett several years ago, and remembered her as a quiet, but sociable woman who obviously had fond memories of her days in Hollywood. Rhett would not speak specifically about her experiences on the set of Gone With The Wind, but she did have a twinkle in her eyes every time Sutherland mentioned how people still asked about the film and Rhett’s whereabouts and circumstances. “She was just very coy and cute about it all, and seemed a little shy,” but Rhett enjoyed discussing the film, according to Sutherland. (It has always been rumored that Rhett had a very serious romance with an actor during her time in Hollywood, which might explain the fact that she never appeared in another film, but Rhett never publicly revealed any information about her suspected amour.)

According to Sutherland, Rhett never married, but was still very well taken care of at the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston during her later years, and often continued to field questions from the curious who might find out that the quiet but ladylike resident was actually India Wilkes. Most “Windies”, as Gone With The Wind fanatics are called, shouldn’t miss a visit to the Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta, and a special celebration is planned for the 75th anniversary in June.

CNN article about the passing of Miss Alicia Rhett: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/03/showbiz/alicia-rhett-dies/
Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta: http://www.gwtwmarietta.com/default.aspx
Other sources:http://bonavides75.blogspot.com/
View the PBS Documentary “American Rebel “about Margaret Mitchell, her accomplishments, her philanthropy, and how she risked her life to help educate African-Americans: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/margaret-mitchell-american-rebel/watch-the-full-documentary/2047/
The Dock Street Theatre: http://www.charlestonstage.com/dock-street-theatre.html
What George Cukor had to say about Alicia Rhett as Melanie: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/gwtw/scarlett/arhett.html

To find more links concerning other Gone With The Wind, follow this link: http://www.gwtwmarietta.com/links.aspx

Photos of the Gone With The Wind Museum represent only a small portion of the exhibits.

©

On The Set Of Turner Classic Movies With Ben Mankiewicz…

I was lucky enough to spend December 6th at the Turner Studios in Atlanta watching Ben Mankiewicz film some of his segments for our favorite cable channel, Turner Classic Movies, which will be twenty years old in 2014, and it is still commercial free.

Where else can classic film fans view their favorite films ad-free and with in-depth commentary by Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz?

My good friend Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, took me on a short tour of the offices of TCM personnel concerned with the responsibilities of the day-to-day operations, and I met the lovely Holly Harper, a sweet lady who just happens to be Programming Director. Harper also happily admits to reading the “Sue Sue” TCM Film Festival columns on the TCM Message Boards from time to time, some of which are archived on this blog, with more scheduled for updating by 2014. (The “Sue Sue” TCM Festival columns have a combined readership of over 100,000 views on three different blogs, one of which is The Silver Screen Oasis, host of a popular Guest Author Series highlighting authors concerned with classic film subjects.) Harper reads the TCM Message Boards every day and appreciates TCM viewers and their comments, and is enthusiastic about her dedication to TCM. I also was able to say hello to Tim Reilly, the director of my Fan Perspective Video filmed in 2010 on the roof of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, and watch the elusive but adorable Sean Cameron as he directed Ben Mankiewicz’s segments, as well meeting many other hard-working and dedicated staffers.


Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman hard at work…

I was most curious about how each introduction and final comments were written, reviewed, and filmed, and it is obvious that much detail and detective work accompanies scripts prepared for Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, and Mr. Osborne still reviews all the scripts used in the wraparounds.

A small portion of the TCM Research Library…

Ms. Foreman, as “The Keeper of the Flame” of accuracy and detail, reviews content, checks facts, and monitors a shoot while it is being filmed from her office outside of the studio. Foreman also reviews the video feed from the studio to modify any changes Ben Mankiewicz or Robert Osborne might make to a segment.

In order to research each script, Foreman has access to a huge library of film-related books, compilations, filmographies, encyclopedias, and biographies of actors, actresses, directors, technicians, photographers, and screenwriters, a roomful of digital files and interviews, and various other electronic sources in order to develop scripts for Osborne and Mankiewicz.


One of the many hallways leading to the studio where Ben Mankiewicz films his segments contains highlights of Turner Studios through the years…


When I arrived on the set before Ben had entered, I was immediately offered a sumptuous breakfast prepared by a local Atlanta caterer who had steam tables filled with hot biscuits, sausage, bacon, cheese grits, and eggs. Also prepared for the staff on set included coffee, tea, and sodas, fresh fruit, granola bars, and other yummy snacks. Since the action on the set is fast-paced and allows for a short lunch break and a ten-minute turnaround between sequences, TCM ensures all the breakfast and lunch needs of crew members to keep everyone happy!

Pat Segers, in charge of makeup and hairstyling on the set, is another sweet lady who has been with TCM since the beginning of operations, and has been privy to many of Robert Osborne’s Private Screenings as well as many of Osborne’s own wraparounds.

Segers shared that she met Betty Hutton, Robert Mitchum, Ann Miller, Jane Russell, and many other Private Screenings subjects, and marveled at how Osborne has been able to elicit such candid comments from many of Hollywood’s stars of classic films. Segers claimed Betty Hutton was quite nervous on the set, but Osborne’s manner helped to calm her for the cameras, and Hutton clutched her rosary for much of the filming. Ann Miller was very “polished” both in her appearance and her manner, and Robert Mitchum was laughing and joking with the crew, but was very ill at the time of his taping. Segers has her own personal styling business, and reveals that she “airbrushes” on all the foundation before her subjects are ready for their moment on the screen

When Ben arrived on the set, he smiled, and we started chatting about the last festival. He was happy to see I was there to chronicle his day in front of the camera.

Ben being prepped by a staffer for the next segment…

The first few moments before filming a segment, Ben reviews the scripts, and plans how he will pace his descriptions of each movie, sometimes repeating a name or phrase that he might be unsure of as he laughs and jokes with crew members in between preparation time and shooting the script. Ben also told me that he checks all his “scripts in the wraparounds” and receives copies several days prior to the shoot, editing and/or reviewing “every single one of them,” and often adding some of his personalized comments. On the day of filming, he reads through them again in order to make additional changes if necessary. With such detailed preproduction for the Mankiewicz and Osborne programs, Turner Classic Movies continues to be a cable channel whose personnel are all focused on accuracy and professionalism.

Ben also wanted me to share a photo with everyone…

The Atlanta set is decorated with Rookie’s leash and other pet related items, and Ben was wistful talking about Rookie, and was deeply impressed that his fans cared so much about his beloved furry friend. Since there had been such concern during the last festival about the death of Rookie, he wanted everyone to see his current pals–Petey, Lewey, and Bob, and he said that Bob is actually a girl!

More in Part 2 …

Many thanks to Ben Mankiewicz, Alexa Foreman, Sean Cameron, and the crew of Turner Classic Movies for a fabulous day in Atlanta!

Pat Segers has her own make-up and styling business and can be contacted at pat@patsegers.com.

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GUN CRAZY THIS SATURDAY ON TCM’S THE ESSENTIALS….

Annie Laurie Starr,

How could you ever become mixed up with a no good loser like Barton Tare?

Then it started something that nobody could stop!

A road trip…..

A woman he would do anything for…and I mean anything!

That first touch, that moment of love’s first blush….

The steamroller of passion. …

If you love noir and want to indulge the hidden pulp-novel voyeur lurking around in your cinematic soul, check out Peggy Cummins and John Dall in Gun Crazy on Saturday during The Essentials on TCM. It’s amazing what they did on the reported $400,000 budget, and if you’ve never seen it, it’s a must!

Miss Cummins flew in from London for the TCM Film Festival 2012, and I hope she knows how much we appreciated it!

An earlier screening of Gun Crazy on May 16, 2012, on TCM was a delight, and Robert Osborne’s introduction then included comments that I heartily agreed with. When Peggy Cummins attended the Turner Classic Movies Festival 2012, Mr. Osborne stated that she was “beautiful, trim, and a great guest,” and I completely concur. During my chats with Ms. Cummins, she revealed how she was still so personally surprised at the continued popularity of Gun Crazy, but was totally delighted about the fun she has had talking about it at festivals and screenings through the ensuing years since it’s first release.

At the 2012 festival, Ms. Cummins was bubbly, personable, and visited amicably with passholders, and always seemed to be cheerful and smiling every instance I saw her (3 or 4 times). Film Noir Foundation CEO Eddie Muller interviewed Ms. Cummins prior to the screening of Gun Crazy at the 2012 festival.

Senior TCM Researcher Alexa Foreman, Miss Peggy Cummins, and TCM Talent Coordinator Darcy Hettrick at the closing party in Club TCM, 2012…

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Pay special attention to the continuous long shot right before and during the robbery because it is amazing. According to one source, “the bank heist sequence was done entirely in one take, with no one outside the principal actors and people inside the bank aware that a movie was being filmed.” When John Dall (as Bart Tare) states, “I hope we find a parking space,” he really meant it, as there was no guarantee that there would be one available! Ultimately, during the final sequence of the bank robbery scene, someone in the background screams that there’s been “a bank robbery,” and it was actually a bystander who saw the filming and assumed the worst.*

And I also read somewhere that Joseph Lewis, the director, wanted an actor who was openly homosexual as John Dall was in order to emphasize the ambiguity and emasculation of the character of Bart Tare. During the first few moments of Gun Crazy when Bart is out in the yard and shoots the BB gun, and the little chick falls over, it sets up the entire scenario that reveals that when he has a gun, he achieves the ultimate in masculine power. And if he reaches the pinnacle of macho, he needs a dangerous equal like Peggy Cummins as Annie Laurie Starr.

But I enjoy watching John Dall. He always seems as if he’s concealing something that other characters present in his scenes never seem to realize, and he continually appears as if he knows the score, and everyone else is clueless. Ever notice all his screen moments in Spartacus? I can’t help but watch his e-ver-y move. Even the role he played in Rope seems tailor made for his abilities.

A better “Bonnie and Clyde” noir just doesn’t exist in classic filmdom.

Don’t miss it this Saturday night, September 28, on Turner Classic Movies’ ongoing series, The Essentials, with Host Robert Osborne and Actress/Producer/Director Drew Barrymore.

Read more about Peggy Cummins here:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0192033/?ref_=sr_1
And John Dall here:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0197982/?ref_=sr_1

*IMDB

ALEXA FOREMAN, SENIOR RESEARCHER AT TCM, VISITS THE SILVER SCREEN OASIS

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 worked with Robert Osborne 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 currently provides research for Ben Mankiewicz and other guest host wraparounds.

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: TCM Senior Researcher and documentarian  Alexa F oreman, actress Peggy Cummins of Gun Crazy, Christy Putnam, and TCM Veep of Talent 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. Her expertise in classic film history and her close working friendship with Robert Osborne has inspired her colleagues at TCM to call her “Mrs. Osborne.”

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?”
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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 on the job and in the fray of production at Turner Entertainment in Atlanta….

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!