TCM ESSENTIALS: VOLUME II

TCM: The Essentials Volume 2, 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold and Foreword by Ben Mankiewicz

Films from Volume I included a foreword by TCM Host Robert Osborne and highlighted the following selections:

The pleasure of knowing that TCM’s and Robert Osborne’s personal selections for classic films essential to the aficionados of national and international cinema circles would begin to be chronicled in book form, a physical media of which I am indeed fond, delighted me as well as many other friends of TCM.

Jeremy Arnold, an author awarded the honor of chronicling the first edition, also has taken the helm for the second edition, which includes a forward by Ben Mankiewicz, now a focal point of hosting responsibilities on the network since the death of TCM’s original host, Robert Osborne.

Mankiewicz also moonlights (or daylights) on CBS Sunday Morning with interviews of industry professionals like Mel Brooks, Elliot Gould, and most recently director of Mank, David Fincher, and star Amanda Seyfried.

Cohosts of TCM also include Noir Alley kingpin Eddie Muller, Writer Alicia Malone, Red Carpet Veteran Dave Karger, and Professor Jacqueline Stewart.

Stirred by my initial glance at the contents, I was pleased to discover more of my favorites appeared in Volume II than I recalled from Volume I. An added list of all films appearing on TCM’s Essentials programs is also included, which had not been added to Volume I, certainly a plus for the serious TCM fan who has been relatively faithful to the series.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a personal favorite of mine, and one that fans often claim for a top ten list, is highlighted with one of Robert Osborne’s quotes that seems unusually poignant considering how Tierney was one of Osborne’s delights. He even had the portrait of Tierney as Laura in his personal memorabilia collection:

“I’m a great, great, Gene Tierney fan; she can do no wrong. She had played a successful business woman in Laura and [was] strong in Leave Her to Heaven, and here she was, the number one dramatic sar at Twentieth CenturyFox, cast against type as a very gentle, very kind [and]compassionate woman….”

I was indeed happy that the low-budget, high-quality of Ride The High Country with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott was featured in this book and garnered the recognition it deserves as the coda to two high-profile careers in the Western genre. The quote from Mariette Hartley is also a nice summary of her experiences with the two old pros. Is it a genre that actually deserves its own “Western Essentials” volume, Running Press?

Author Jeremy Arnold with Wyatt McCrea at the TCM Film Festival in 2018….

As for the addition of Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), I would have much rather have seen Auntie Mame, Stalag 17, Rebecca, The Blue Dahlia, Gilda, Meet John Doe, The African Queen, Gigi, The Bad and The Beautiful, or A Letter to Three Wives make Volume II. I’ve always been kind of “Meh” about Hannah and Her Sisters. A man disrespecting personal or emotional boundaries unsettles me and just sits a little to close to Allen’s own issues, personal or professional, even though I’ve enjoyed many of his other films.

But I must be grateful for A Face In The Crowd‘s inclusion with Andy Griffith’s stunningly attention-grabbing performance. TCM Remembers even though the Academy left Griffith out of their Oscar’s In Memoriam telecast sequence after his death. Night Of The Hunter‘s inclusion should also delight cinephiles and critics who enjoy Charles Laughton’s only directorial offering. The addition of William Wyler’s Dodsworth is also a highlight, a nod and a wave to Robert Osborne’s personal favorite. Another reason to cherish this edition is a photo of Thelma Ritter with Doris Day from Pillow Talk.

Former Essential Hosts Molly Haskell, Sally Field, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Carrie Fisher, Drew Barrymore, and current Essential Host Brad Bird have relevant comments sprinkled throughout the entries, as well as Robert Osborne’s archived mentions. The What To Look For feature is also included with all the entries with this edition.

I couldn’t have been so discerning about what I enjoyed and did appreciate with Volume II unless author Jeremy Arnold and the editors had added the full Essentials films list. I appreciate that inclusion in this volume as a complete reference list is a nicely added tool for readers.

If you have always been a fan of TCM’s The Essentials, Volume II should be added to your personal film collection bookshelf.

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.

©

CATTLE QUEEN OF THE SCREEN

I loved seeing Giant on the big screen this past year at the TCMFF 2013 and listening to all of Jane Withers’s stories about the making of that legendary film, and this summer I was able to do a little bit of traveling Texas myself.

In August I made my annual summer trek to the hill country to see my last living aunt who is 92, and visited friends and family in the area. We woke up in the morning and had coffee while we fed the deer off of the back porch and talked about what lovely animals they are.

One special deer came up very close…

While driving through Dripping Springs, I saw this lovely pair of horses enjoying a summer nibble…

And I also attended the Blanco County Rodeo in August in Johnson City…

…where I took this blurry action shot of the legendary Leon Coffee, a rodeo clown who has been entertaining audiences and challenging the roughest rodeo circuits for 44 years and counting…

Read more about wonderful Leon Coffee here and see some live action video: http://www.khou.com/entertainment/rodeo-houston/Rodeo-clown–196637291.html
The excitement of cowgirl heaven also reminds me that Hollywood stuntwoman Martha Crawford Cantarini will be visiting The Silver Screen Oasis this weekend, September 28th and 29th, to discuss her work for such luminaries as Jean Simmons, Rhonda Fleming, and Carroll Baker.

To learn more about Martha Crawford Cantarini, or learn about her autobiography, Fall Girl: My Life as a Western Stunt Double, visit us here:
http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=6343

Eleanor Parker and Martha Crawford Cantarini
Aren’t they amazing?