Review: AVA: A LIFE IN MOVIES is a feast for the eyes and the mind

Ava Gardner — Grabtown, North Carolina’s Christmas gift to the world — was probably most familiar to me as one of the quintessential femmes fatales, Kitty in The Killers, and as the determined, loyal woman who saved her husband Frank Sinatra’s career by getting him the role of Maggio in From Here To Eternity. She was certainly the former, and she may have been the latter (she certainly tried), but she was much more than these things. My concept of Gardner has been considerably expanded, by a new biography of the star, Ava: A Life in Movies.

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Announcing the 5th Annual 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon!

31 Days of Oscar BlogathonWelcome for the fourth time to the 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon redux, making this the fifth installment of our grand celebration of all things Oscar!

Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, and yours truly of Paula’s Cinema Club started this event to coincide with Turner Classic Movie’s 31 Days of Oscar marathon. For 31 days, TCM spotlights the movies and players that have made a legend of the golden statuette. This Blogathon is our way to pay tribute to the network and the movies we love. We hope you join us in the effort. Details after the jump!

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Fifth Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Day 3

wacRoscoe Karns (above) welcomes you to the What A Character! Blogathon, now in its fifth fabulous year of celebrating those actors whose faces you know but whose names you may not. I’m your hostess for the Day 3 offerings. Be sure to also check out Day 1, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled and Day 2, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon A Screen. It’s been my pleasure to work with these two dames to shed some light on the names below the title. And now, on with the today’s show…

  • Blogferatu presents a “grossly oversimplified horror overview” of John Carradine‘s career from the ’40s to the ’80s. “And not just any horror movies, but some of his schlockier moments.”
  • Cliff at Immortal Ephemera explores the sometimes sketchy biography of Stanley Fields, who “had a voice that matched his face. Either could have been raked over gravel.”
  • Aurora at Once Upon A Screen writes about Edmund Gwenn‘s career, including, but not limited to, his turn as everyone’s favorite Santa Claus and his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Silver Scenes declare of their WAC! choice, “Thurston Hall is his name and governors, senators, businessmen, and doting fathers are his game.”
  • Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In contributes an appreciation of John Hillerman‘s “pomposity and refinement” in four essential roles.
  • Gary (aka @santaisthinking) guest blogs on Kellee’s Outspoken and Freckled about Victor McLaglen in two chapters: “His Adventurous Youth – Boers, Boxing, and Baghdad” and “His Career – Big Screen Grins and Bromance.”
  • Then Kellee herself analyzes why Joan Blondell, that “down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is scene-stealer,” rarely got top billing, despite her “talent, enduring work ethic and generosity of spirit.”

Happy reading, leave a comment, start a conversation! Additional awesomeness expected throughout the day so check back here soon. Many thanks to everyone who has supplied such entertaining and educational posts this year. I’ve personally expanded both my knowledge and my to-watch list, and I hope you all have too.

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What A Character! “Crazy Russian” Leonid Kinskey

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Just like everybody goes to Rick’s, everybody knows Leonid Kinskey, whether they know his name or not. Kinskey portrays Sascha, the voluble Russian bartender, in that classic of all classics, Casablanca (1943). We meet him quite early on, when Yvonne, Rick’s latest ex-girlfriend, has had a little too much to drink and needs to be escorted home. But as I learned, there’s more to Kinskey than Sascha. Not that I won’t bask in the glory that is Casablanca first…

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Announcing the FIFTH annual What A Character! Blogathon – Dec. 16-18

 

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Supporting stalwarts Aline McMahon and Guy Kibbee with an unnamed co-star in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933
What’s great about being a character actor is you know that you can survive forever. It’s not about the gloss of your eyebrows.
— Martin Short

 

We’re back for a fifth consecutive year to honor the versatility and depth of supporting players with the WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon. Based on a phrase borrowed from Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the WAC! Blogathon is an event that many look forward to each year. It’s a chance to pay tribute to the Louise Beavers and Eddie Andersons of the movie world — the names that seldom or never appeared above the title. Your enthusiasm for spotlighting the oft-nameless faces that appear in countless beloved movies is admirable, and Aurora, Kellee, and I extend sincere thanks to all of the bloggers who have joined us in the previous four years. We invite you all to help us make the fifth outing extra special. Get all the details after the jump…

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I Love Lucy…especially in LURED

As #TCMParty people and/or readers of this blog may or may not know, I’m obsessed with the 1947 mystery-drama Lured. Sure, the presence of one of my favorite velvet-voiced British thespians, George Sanders, has a lot to do with it. But its major charm is Lucille Ball’s fine performance in the lead role, which, while allowing flickers of her comedic genius to show through, always makes me wish she’d done more dramatic roles.

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Review: Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide

turner-classic-movies-presents-leonard-maltins-classic-movie-guide-paperback-book-234_500The third edition of Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide drops tomorrow (September 29, 2015). Updated for the first time since 2010, and presented by Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the Guide covers films “From the Silent Era through 1965.” There’s more than 200 new entries — some of which are running on TCM tonight, including our TCM Party at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Why Be Good? (Maltin gives it 3 stars out of 4, in case you were wondering.)

The bulk of the book is capsule reviews, each of which includes the film’s year of release, running time, rating, director, major cast, and symbols indicating what formats are available. It’s fairly comprehensive, with more than 10,000 entries. Although it’s light on films before 1920, there’s plenty in here that I’ve never heard of. The “Index of Stars” at the end of the book is a partial listing of selected actors’ filmographies and is handy for recalling the name of a movie when you can only remember who starred in it.

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Errol Flynn in LADY FROM SHANGHAI?

Back in May 2014, when Cinema Detroit was showing Sony Pictures’ 4K restoration of The Lady From Shanghai, I had occasion to research the making of Orson Welles’ classic film noir, and I discovered that, while Errol Flynn is (probably) not in the movie, he was present and was very much involved in the filming.

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So…I’m going to be on TCM next Saturday 11/29

It doesn’t even really seem real, but just about a week from now, if you tune in to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), you’ll see me chatting with Ben Mankiewicz about the Bob Hope Christmas classic, The Lemon Drop Kid. I’m one of four TCM fans introducing favorite films on the afternoon/evening of Saturday, November 29. I am lucky enough to know the other three, Aurora Bugallo, Joel Williams, and Miguel Rodriguez, who are all friends I met first online via the live tweet I co-founded and organize, TCM Party, and then offline at the TCM Film Festival.

Apt descriptor of both the professional quality mic TCM sent, and, let’s be real, myself

The intros were all recorded in August via Skype, which I think is a cool use of technology. Mine took place at Cinema Detroit, the indie theater I co-own with my husband, Tim. While my programming there is mostly contemporary and decidedly indie, we have shown classics like The Lady from Shanghai, A Hard Day’s Night, and a whole mess of noir for Noir Detroit (during CD’s first full month, November 2013). I definitely think my experiences bringing people and movies together online influenced us to try to do the same offline with Cinema Detroit.

TCM site screen cap, shamelessly stolen from Joel Williams
TCM site screen cap, shamelessly stolen from Joel Williams

So here is the schedule for Fan Favorites on Saturday, November 29 (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. Meet Me in St. Louis – Aurora
2:30 p.m. The Lemon Drop Kid – Me
4:15 p.m. The Thing From Another World – Miguel
6:00 p.m. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Joel

Poster - Lemon Drop Kid, The (1951)_09

In case anyone is curious why the The Lemon Drop Kid…TCM producer Courtney O’Brien asked me to submit a list of 10 mostly family-oriented, somewhat holiday-related, classic movies that I would want to introduce. As it is extremely difficult to limit oneself to 10 films, I actually sent more than 10. This was the list I sent, there’s no particular order:

Christmas in Connecticut
It Happened on 5th Avenue
The Lemon Drop Kid
Remember the Night
Holiday Affair
Stand-In (1937)
Show People
The Rains Came
The Lady Vanishes
The 39 Steps
Rio Bravo
Angel and the Badman

There is nothing on here I don’t really love, but I’m glad they went with Lemon Drop Kid. It has a special place in my heart, because Christmas is a tough time for me. My mother passed away a few days after Thanksgiving in 2002 and during the holiday season, I often need a laugh, which this film provides. It does have some sentimental moments, but it’s mostly Hope one-liners, sight gags, and Runyon-esque characters and situations. Damon Runyon wrote the story it’s based on…think Guys and Dolls, Little Miss Marker…like that.

I cannot say enough good things about the people at TCM, who made the whole process easy for me, a total novice. Noralil, Courtney, Mardy and Ben…thanks for your patience and understanding.

So I hope you will tune in on Saturday afternoon, November 29, and check it out. And in the meantime…what would be on your list of 10?

 

WHAT A CHARACTER! 2014 – Day 2 – Monday posts

The Third Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon — hosted by myself, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, and Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled — is now in its second day of informative and entertaining posts, as the movie blogosphere spotlights those unsung actors on the periphery of the screen, bringing them to the center of attention.

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Vienna’s Classic Hollywood give overviews of not one, but two, unsung character performers, Charles Lane and Fritz Feld.

Sister Celluloid declares that Kathleen Howard “as W.C. Fields wife…took henpecking to operatic heights.”

Caftan Woman celebrates Esther Dale‘s “ability to take even a few seconds of screen time…and turn it into something memorable.”

Aurora at Once Upon a Screen sets out to prove that Thomas Mitchell is “synonymous with versatility.”

Joel’s Classic Film Passion takes a look at two of Harry Dean Stanton‘s many important films, Repo Man and The Straight Story.

Grand Old Movies highlights “that darling boy” whose face you know, but name you might not… Chester Clute.

Movies Silently writes that “One saving grace of Souls for Sale [1923] is its wonderful cast of character actors,” including Mae Busch.

Silent-ology pays tribute to the “funniest drunk of them all,” Arthur Housman.

Second Sight Cinema recalls Peter Lorre, “a great artist who is beloved, but only for a fraction of his gift.”

Silver Scenes investigates Dennis Hoey, the actor best known for portraying Inspector Lestrade in Universal’s Sherlock Holmes series.

Amy’s Rib inventories her favorite films among Charles Coburn‘s work.

Tales of the Easily Distracted finds that Agnes Moorehead was “was practically bulletproof with her chameleon dexterity.”