Australian Classic Film Superfan John Sambuco Visits TCM Studios in Atlanta!

Australian classic film superfan John Sambuco spent the day of September 27 as a special international guest in the TCM Studios in Atlanta. Sambuco had been on an extended visit to the U.S.A. during the month of September, and when TCM staff heard he would be in Atlanta, he was invited to spend the day touring the studios with TCM staffers.

When did you first find out that you would be able to visit the TCM Studios?

About a week before I arrived in Atlanta. At the time I was visiting Washington, D.C.

Was the studio anything like you expected?
The studio was a lot bigger than I expected it to be. It was so exciting so to see so many people in one place, who are so passionate about classic film. Everyone had classic film posters and books around their desk. I found it to be such an inspiring working environment.

Did you get to have lunch with the staff?



Yes, I had lunch in the canteen with some of the staff members. During lunch, I tried sweet potato pie for the first time. This is something which isn’t commonly found in Australia.


John Sambuco outside Turner Studios in late September

Who met you and greeted you for the tour?
Two wonderful members of the social media team, Noralil Fores & Marya Gates. They both took me on an insightful tour of the office and studio.

Turner Studios, Atlanta….

Did you have a chance to meet TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz?
Ben was in the studio filming some introductions for the up-coming Christopher Lee star of the month. During a short break on the set, Ben introduced himself to me.

Did you meet the director?
Yes, briefly. The director was very kind allowing me to watch the filming shoot.

What are some of your favorite classic films? Genres?
My favorite genres are MGM musicals, film noir, and screwball comedies. I have so many favorite classic films. I’ll list a few which are:

Meet Me In St. Louis(1944) – One of very few films which I would describe as “flawless”. Everything is perfect. The pacing, the direction, the cast. Margaret O’Brien literally steals every scene she is in.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – the film which I think I’ve seen the most. As a child, I literally watched this a few times each week. Almost 80 years later, adults and children are still enjoying this brilliant film. This film truly exemplifies the word “Timeless.”
Gone With The Wind (1939) – Possibly the greatest example of storytelling on film. I’ve seen this film more than 30 times, and continue to be entertained with each viewing. Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel & Olivia de Havilland were all perfectly cast. On my visit to Atlanta, I also visited the Margaret Mitchell House, where Margaret Mitchell wrote most of the novel. Inside there are exhibits about the making of the movie as well as the film’s  premiere in Atlanta.
Kiss Me, Kate (1953) – In my opinion, this is the most underrated MGM musical. The film introduced me to the magic of Ann Miller, who soon became (and still is) my favourite classic movie star. Ann Miller literally steals the film from the rest of the cast. The Cole Porter songs are all wonderful. “Too Darn Hot” is my favourite musical number from a movie musical. I was fortunate enough to see the film in 3D a few months ago at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) in Melbourne, Australia. It was a completely different experience to the standard 2D version. If you ever have the opportunity to see this in 3D at a theatre, I cannot recommend it enough.

I know that TCM in Australia has very different programming from its counterpart in the U.S.A. What would you like the American audience to know about TCM?

The American TCM audience is so fortunate to have such a wonderful network showing such a broad spectrum of classic films, with very exciting themed programming. I wish I had the ability to access the American TCM channel from Australia.

If you could introduce a film, what would you choose and why?

The Lady Vanishes (1938) –
Alfred Hitchcock is my favourite director, and this is my favourite Alfred Hitchcock film.

Although it was filmed very early in Hitchcock’s career, I love the way Hitchcock seamlessly integrates suspense, comedy, mystery, action and romance. All would become critical elements in his later work.

Whilst I know what is going to happen next, I find I always experience the same level of suspense and tension as I did the first time I saw the film. It’s the perfect film for the repeat film viewer.

Why did you became so interested in classic films?
I first discovered classic film when I was 14 years old during the late 1990s. The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) was the first classic film (aside from The Wizard Of Oz (1939) I had watched. It was 1998. I was 14 years old, and home unwell from school. This was being shown on TCM in Australia. I was bored, and there wasn’t much else on, so I gave it a shot. After seeing this, I became hooked on not only Bette Davis, but classic films in general. My other favourite Bette Davis films include, Now, Voyager (1942), The Letter (1940), Jezebel (1938), All About Eve (1950) & What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1961).

For me, classic films had a magical element which I felt was lacking in contemporary films. Classic film stars were naturally glamorous, and they knew how to act. For the first time ever, watching a film became more than just entertainment. For me, it was an experience. The fusion of music, lighting and the performances in these films gave me goosebumps, which always left me wanting more.

Do you have any theatres in your city which screen classic films?

Yes, in Melbourne, Australia (where I live), there are two theatres which regularly screen classic film:

ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) – ACMI is a film museum and theatre complex, which celebrates the moving image and brings many wonderful film exhibits to the city. Earlier in the year, ACMI displayed a retrospective of costumes by Orry-Kelly, and also hosted a Scorsese exhibition, which I heard will be coming to the Museum of Moving Image in New York next year.

The Astor Theatre – The Astor Theatre is a historic art-deco theatre from the 1930s, which still regularly shows classic films as part of its repertory programming. The Astor is my favourite place to watch movies, and over the years it’s given me the opportunity to see many of my favourite films on the big screen.

 

Do you enjoy classic Italian cinema?

I am Italian-Australian, so I have also have a big interest in classic Italian cinema. My favourite Italian film is Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973). I love the way he has accurately captured all of the characters from a typical Italian village, and respectfully presented them in a comedic form. The score by Nino Rota is one of my favourite film scores. I have shown the film to my grandparents who immigrated from Italy, and they indicated it is a very accurate portrayal of life in an Italian village during the 1940s.

Some of my other favourite Italian films include Il Decameron (1971), Rocco And His Brothers (1960), La Dolce Vita (1960), Pane, Amore e Fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams) (1953) and Tenebrae (1982).

A Cinecittá studios photo of John Sambuco from Rome, Italy. The sculpture in the background is a prop from the opening sequence of Fellini’s Casanova

On a recent trip to Rome, I was lucky enough to visit the classic Cinecittà film studios, which was very interesting. They have exhibits on the history of the Italian film industry, as well as a room dedicated to Fellini. Benito Mussolini originally built Cinecittà as a means to communicate fascist propaganda to the Italians, many of whom were illiterate during the 1930s. Popularity with the medium of film led to the growth of the industry, and the eventual development of the neorealist movement.
John visited the Margaret Mitchell House…

Zoo Atlanta…


The Aquarium…..

Centennial Park…
And many more sites of interest.
All photos provided by Australaian Superfan,  John Sambuco.

Thanks, John!

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2009: The First 15 TCM Guest Programmers

PART OF THE ORIGINAL PUBLICITY RELEASE…

Release Date: 1/7/2009

Turner Classic Movies Welcomes 15 of the Network’s Biggest Fans As Guest Programmers for Special 15th Anniversary Event

Some of TCM’s Biggest Fans from Around the Country to Introduce Memorable Movies

Guest Spots with TCM Host Robert Osborne to Air When the Network Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary in April 2009

To celebrate the network’s 15th Anniversary in April 2009, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has selected some of its biggest fans from around the country to serve as Guest Programmers. Each fan will join TCM host Robert Osborne to introduce a movie chosen from TCM’s unparalleled library of films, with titles including such popular fare as Gone with the Wind (1939), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), as well as lesser-known gems like So Long at the Fair (1950) and Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980).

The fans include people of all ages, from a 14-year-old who loves classic films and a 27-year-old working for the Austin Film Society to a 51-year-old who works in historical preservation in Las Vegas and a 69-year-old who was chosen because of his frequent contributions to TCM’s online message boards. The special event will mark the first time TCM has invited a group of everyday viewers to appear on-air with Osborne.

“TCM has a special relationship with its great fans. For our 15th anniversary, we wanted to do something unique and give a few of them the chance to share their love of the movies with all TCM viewers,” said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM. “This special Guest Programmer celebration is our way of saying thanks to the movie lovers who make TCM what it is – not just a network, but a community of people who are devoted to classic cinema.”

The following is an alphabetical listing of the fans serving as Guest Programmers for TCM’s 15th Anniversary.

Peter Bosch, Hollywood, Calif.
Film: Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980)

Theresa Brown, New York
Film: The Letter (1940)

Joe Buonocore, Deltona, Fla.
Film: Double Indemnity (1944)

Juan Castro, Northridge, Calif.
Film: Swing Time (1936)

Monica Elliott, Atlanta
Film: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Lani Golstab, Austin, Texas
Film: Grand Illusion (1937)

Philip Himberg, Santa Monica, Calif.
Film: So Long at the Fair (1950)

Jeff Hoyak, Pequannock, N.Y.
Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Kyle Kersten, Los Angeles
Film: Meet John Doe (1941)

April Lane, New York
Film: Gone with the Wind (1939)

Jay Looker, Sedona, Ariz.
Film: Silk Stockings (1957)

Rome Mendheim, North Hollywood, Calif.
Film: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Lisa Mordente, Nanuet, N.Y.
Film: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Anna Seager, Salisbury, Md.
Film: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Lynn Zook, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Film: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)


All the Guest Programmers gather on the set for a cocktail party. TCM Message Boards members Cinemaven, lzcutter, Filmlover, Mongo, Miss Goddess, and the late Kyle Kersten are also featured in this photo taken at the celebration on the Atlanta set of TCM in 2009.

When will we learn about the new crop of 20 Guest Programmers who will grace the stage with Robert Osborne for their own personal moment in the TCM fun? Celebrating 20 years of TCM is definitely an honor, and more information will be shared in the coming months. I can’t wait!

Here’s an article about the first 15: http://www.accessatlanta.com/news/entertainment/celebrity-news/tcm-invites-guests-for-anniversary-celebration/nQybf/

And another: http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/236714%7C0/TCM-15th-Anniversary.html

The TCM Message Boards Thread devoted to the Guest Programmers: http://forums.tcm.com/thread.jspa?threadID=140648&tstart=0&messageID=8214640#8214640

A Partial list of Guest Programmers from 2005 -2012: http://www.robertosborne.com/content/guestProgrammer.html

A discussion from 2009 on The Silver Screen Oasis about the first 14: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3004&start=0

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?

As I was beginning research for an upcoming project, I wanted to consult with an industry professional, a historian, and a documentarian…

Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman hard at work…

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 for TCM Canada. 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 300,000 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.
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.


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 as she was in charge of his makeup and professional appearance for so many years.
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 wanted me to share our photo with everyone…

Ben also wanted me to share photos of some of his favorite friends…


The Atlanta set is decorated with a memento of Ben’s favorite dog, Rookie. Rookie’s leash and other pet related items kept  Ben wistful talking about Rookie, and he was deeply impressed to know 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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