Third Annual What A Character! Blogathon 2014 Schedule

The 2014 What a Character Blogathon schedule has been set, and the blogathon is underway. There’s still plenty of time to join though. If you want to participate, check out the announcement immediately following, and contact one of us ASAP.

Sunday, November 16 – Hosted by Kellee

Ann Doran and Lurene Tuttle – Theresa on Once Upon a Screen

Billie Burke – Girls Do Film

Burgess Meredith – The Last Drive-In

Charles Durning – Movie Movie Blog Blog

Chris Cooper – Jack Deth on Paula’s Cinema Club

Christopher Lloyd – The Movie Rat

Dame Edith Evans – Margaret Perry

Edna May Oliver – Portraits by Jenni

Elsa Lanchester – Blog of the Damned

Frank McHugh – (This) Girl Friday

Leo Carrillo – Phantom Empires

Richard Widmark – Danny’s Reviews

Thomas Mitchell – Once Upon a Screen

Tony Randall – A Shroud of Thoughts

 

Monday, November 17 – Hosted by Paula

Agnes Moorehead – Tales of the Easily Distracted

Arthur Housman – Silent-ology

Charles Coburn – Amy’s Rib

Charles Lane & Friz Feld – Vienna’s Classic Hollywood

Chester Clute – Grand Old Movies

Dennis Hoey – Silver Scenes

Esther Dale – Caftan Woman

Harry Dean Stanton – Joel’s Classic Film Passion

John Ridgely – Comet Over Hollywood

Kathleen Howard – Sister Celluloid

Mae Busch – Movies, Silently

Peter Lorre – Second Sight Cinema

Rochelle Hudson – Bunnybun’s Classic Movie Blog

 

Tuesday, November 18 – Hosted by Aurora

Ann Dvorak – A Person in the Dark

Beulah Bondi – A Thousand Words

C. Aubrey Smith – Critica Retro

Cecil Kellaway – The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

C. Aubrey Smith – Critica Retro

Don Beddoe – Christy’s Inkwells

Edward Everett Horton – Outspoken & Freckled

Eric Blore – The Blonde at the Film

Grant Mitchell – Immortal Ephemera

Henry Travers – Movie Fan Fare

Iris Adrian – Speakeasy

Karl Malden – Oh Rachel Leigh

Melville Cooper – Classic Movie Hub

Ned Sparks – Paula’s Cinema Club

Raymond Burr – Shadows and Satin

Thelma Ritter – Cinephiled

Wallace Shawn – Moon in Gemini


Original announcement:

I was only a leading man for a minute; now I’m a character actor. — Robin Williams

In 2012, we – by that I mean myself, Aurora, and Kellee – borrowed a catchphrase from our beloved Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in order to host a blogathon dedicated to those amazing actors whose faces are familiar but whose names few remember.

The phrase is WHAT A CHARACTER, and the individuals concerned rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many star players wished they had. We never tire of seeing them or paying them tribute, and if the previous two installments of this event are any indication, neither do you.

What-A-Character-2014-03

So, here we are with the Third Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon.

To say we’re thrilled is an understatement. We hope you’ll join us in spotlighting the Edward Arnolds, Alan Mowbrays, and Alice Bradys of the world, oft-forgotten names that never appeared above the title.

What-A-Character-2014-01

If this is right up your movie alley, then give us a shoutout…

Me (leave a comment below) — Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club or tweet (@Paula_Guthat)

Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled | (@IrishJayHawk66)

Aurora at Once Upon a Screen | (@CitizenScreen)

What-A-Character-2014-02

We ask that you adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Let one of the hosts know which character actor is your choice.  Since there are so many greats worthy of mention, we won’t take any repeats and we’re not limiting these to “classic” actors.  Great character actors have made their mark both before and since the end of the classic era and contemporary talents deserve some attention as well, so the field is wide open.
  • Please include your twitter and/or FB tag, email address and blog name & URL.
  • Publish the post for either November 16, 17 or 18.  Let us know if you have a date preference, otherwise we’ll split publicizing duties equally among the three days.
  • Please include one of the blogathon graphics in this post on your blog to help us publicize the event.
  • Include the graphic and link to the host sites in your WHAT A CHARACTER! post
  • If possible, please send any of the hosts the direct link to your WHAT A CHARACTER! post by the day before your due date. Otherwise we’ll simply link to your site’s home page.
  • HAVE FUN and spread the word!  There are so many great characters worthy of attention, we would like to honor as many as possible.

Check out some of the 2012 and 2013 posts. Also find out who’s who with this Key to the WHAT A CHARACTER! graphic.

Announcing the Third Annual What A Character! Blogathon (2014)

I was only a leading man for a minute; now I’m a character actor. — Robin Williams

In 2012, we – by that I mean myself, Aurora, and Kellee – borrowed a catchphrase from our beloved Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in order to host a blogathon dedicated to those amazing actors whose faces are familiar but whose names few remember.

The phrase is WHAT A CHARACTER, and the individuals concerned rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many star players wished they had. We never tire of seeing them or paying them tribute, and if the previous two installments of this event are any indication, neither do you.

What-A-Character-2014-03

So, here we are with the Third Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon.

To say we’re thrilled is an understatement. We hope you’ll join us in spotlighting the Edward Arnolds, Alan Mowbrays, and Alice Bradys of the world, oft-forgotten names that never appeared above the title.

What-A-Character-2014-01

If this is right up your movie alley, then give us a shoutout…

Me (leave a comment below) — Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club or tweet (@Paula_Guthat)

Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled | (@IrishJayHawk66)

Aurora at Once Upon a Screen | (@CitizenScreen)

What-A-Character-2014-02

We ask that you adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Let one of the hosts know which character actor is your choice.  Since there are so many greats worthy of mention, we won’t take any repeats and we’re not limiting these to “classic” actors.  Great character actors have made their mark both before and since the end of the classic era and contemporary talents deserve some attention as well, so the field is wide open.
  • Please include your twitter and/or FB tag, email address and blog name & URL.
  • Publish the post for either November 16, 17 or 18.  Let us know if you have a date preference, otherwise we’ll split publicizing duties equally among the three days.
  • Please include one of the blogathon graphics in this post on your blog to help us publicize the event.
  • Include the graphic and link to the host sites in your WHAT A CHARACTER! post
  • If possible, please send any of the hosts the direct link to your WHAT A CHARACTER! post by the day before your due date. Otherwise we’ll simply link to your site’s home page.
  • HAVE FUN and spread the word!  There are so many great characters worthy of attention, we would like to honor as many as possible.

Check out some of the 2012 and 2013 posts. Also find out who’s who with this Key to the WHAT A CHARACTER! graphic.

Character actors and participating blogs:

Agnes Moorehead – Tales of the Easily Distracted

Ann Doran and Lurene Tuttle – Theresa on Once Upon a Screen

Ann Dvorak – A Person in the Dark

Arthur Housman – Silent-ology

Beulah Bondi – A Thousand Words

Billie Burke – Girls Do Film

Burgess Meredith – The Last Drive-In

C. Aubrey Smith – Critica Retro

Cecil Kellaway – The Lady Eve’s Reel Life

Charles Coburn – Amy’s Rib

Charles Durning – Movie Movie Blog Blog

Charles Lane & Friz Feld – Vienna’s Classic Hollywood

Chris Cooper – Jack Deth on Paula’s Cinema Club

Christopher Lloyd – The Movie Rat

Dennis Hoey – Silver Scenes

Don Beddoe – Christy’s Inkwells

Dame Edith Evans – Margaret Perry

Edna May Oliver – Portraits by Jenni

Edward Everett Horton – Outspoken & Freckled

Elsa Lanchester – Blog of the Damned

Eric Blore – The Blonde at the Film

Esther Dale – Caftan Woman

Frank McHugh – (This) Girl Friday

Grant Mitchell – Immortal Ephemera

Harry Dean Stanton – Joel’s Classic Film Passion

Henry Travers – Movie Fan Fare

Iris Adrian – Speakeasy

John Ridgely – Comet Over Hollywood

Karl Malden – Oh Rachel Leigh

Kathleen Howard – Sister Celluloid

Leo Carrillo – Phantom Empires

Melville Cooper – Classic Movie Hub

Peter Lorre – Second Sight Cinema

Richard Widmark – Danny’s Reviews

Rochelle Hudson – Bunnybun’s Classic Movie Blog

Thelma Ritter – Cinephiled

Thomas Mitchell – Once Upon a Screen

Tony Randall – A Shroud of Thoughts

Wallace Shawn – Moon in Gemini

Dear Turner Broadcasting… #DontTouchTCM #TCMParty @TCM

Yesterday, Will at Cinematically Insane posted about layoffs at Turner Broadcasting. Around ten percent of the workforce across the corporation’s channels will be cut, including at CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network…and my beloved Turner Classic Movies (TCM). TCM is basically the only channel I watch on a regular basis and certainly the only one to which I’ve devoted hours and hours of time for more than three years now.

To those who don’t have the classic movie addiction, it may seem crazy that a TV channel showing old movies can make friendships, get people through unemployment and illness, and generally become a way of life. But it can and it does…and that’s why any possible changes make TCM fans a little nervous and a lot protective.

So what are we going to do? How about write a letter to the CEO of Turner Broadcasting, asking him to leave TCM alone, so that it can continue to be the soul-nurturing entity that it is? If you feel the same way about “the channel,” I urge you to do the same.
lettersmiracle34th

Yes, write (or copy-paste the letter below, make it look nice and print it), put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it. We want this to look like the letters being delivered to the courthouse in Miracle on 34th Street.

We are being advised to direct letters to:
John Martin, CEO
Turner Broadcasting
One Time Warner Center
New York, NY 10019-8016

Please also post to your blog or Facebook if you have one, using the tag #DontTouchTCM

Here is Elise Crane Derby’s letter, I can’t say it any better, and we have her permission to copy it:

To Whom It May Concern,

As a long-time TCM viewer, I am extremely concerned about the recently reported layoffs. TCM has an unheard-of audience of loyal viewers, with the possible exception of PBS. Similarly TCM’s programming is both entertaining and educational, to the point they won a Peabody award last year. Also like PBS, TCM is good for the whole family. Finally, like PBS, it fills a need in television that is not filled elsewhere and must be protected.

Host Ben Mankiewicz has stated that TCM has a fan base like no other. It’s not just one show we love it is the entire channel. What makes us this loyal is the commercial free films, the educational documentaries, the beautiful memorials and mini bio short, the intros telling us about the films,their social media interactions, and the amazing face to face events, including Road To Hollywood, the film festival and the cruise. All of these are executed so masterfully.

I beg you not to remove one of these talented people who have created classic film programming, documentaries, and events that keep these films alive. TCM’s level of excellence promotes, not only film education but film preservation. It is everyone one of TCM’s employees who have earned its viewers fierce loyalty and created a channel that is unparalleled.

Thank you for your consideration,

Elise Crane Derby
Proud TCM devotee

Cary Grant writing a letter

This post is shamelessly inspired by the work of Elise at The LA Rambler and Aurora at Once Upon A Screen.

Call for posts – 31 Days of Oscar

I accept this very gratefully for keeping my mouth shut for once, I think I’ll do it again.
—Jane Wyman

There’s been a lot of criticism over the years over this award, and some of that criticism has been warranted. But whether it’s warranted or not, I think it’s one hell of an honor, and I thank you.
—Jack Lemmon

I’ll tell you this about the Oscars – they’re real.
—William H. Macy

And so is this blogathon!

Temple and Colbert banner  flat

For the second year in a row Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen bring you a mammoth blogathon event which just happens to coincide with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

This promises to be another February filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders – many of the stories, players and films featured on TCM all month long. In fact, the network is kicking things off this year in spectacular style on February 1st by featuring all of the Best Picture nominees from Hollywood’s “Golden Year” 1939, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary! In addition, that night, TCM premieres a new original documentary, And the Oscar Goes To….

So, in short, if you can’t take the entire month of February off work, or send your kids to your relatives, then be sure to clear your DVRs, and join the blogathon.

We are not limiting this event to classic film fare though — posts on more recent Oscar-winning or Oscar-worthy filmmaking are very welcome. We want to see and hear it all from the golden man’s more than eighty-five year history, including the 2014 nominees. Share stories about the films and players, tell us which and who deserved the nod and were ignored, or rhapsodize about which films inspire you with their music or lighting.

We are doing things a little different this year by focusing on a different Oscars topic each week.
For your consideration:

WEEK 1 – the weekend of February 1-2 – Oscar Snubs!  Let the venting kick things off!

WEEK 2 – the weekend of February 8-9 – Music, Costumes, Cinematography, Writing, etc.  You name it. If it’s not Best Acting, Direction, or Picture, it’s in!

WEEK 3 – the weekend of February 15-16 – Actors!  Lead or supporting, take center stage.

Week 4 – the weekend of February 22-23 – The Directors!  

Week 5 – the weekend of February 28-March 1 – THE MOVIES!  

We are taking turns hosting, but you can submit topics by leaving comments on any of our blogs, via twitter, or by email.  We ask that you please include the following:

  • Title and link to your blog
  • Your email address (use [at] instead of @ if leaving a blog comment)
  • Topic

It would also be great if you can include any of the event banners included above or below in this post on your blog to help us promote the event.

SO – write to your heart’s desire!  Write one post or several on each topic.  But write!  And join us, won’t you? Hollywood’s big night is only once a year.

Sinatra and Reed Oscar banner flat

Poitier Oscar banner flat

Leigh Oscar banner flat

Fontaine Oscar banner flat

Hepburn Oscar banner

TCM Party presents NOIRVEMBER with Warner Archive Instant

In our classic movie corner of the world, the eleventh month of the year is not dedicated to family gatherings or special sales. Here we celebrate crime-laden streets, shadowy figures, and suspicious cops. This is Noirvember.

Micheline Cheirel and Dick Powell in CORNERED (1945)
Micheline Cheirel and Dick Powell in CORNERED (1945)

In celebration of all things noir, TCM Party is joining Warner Archive Instant for a series of tweet-a-longs in November. We’ve chosen favorite films noir from the Warner Archive Instant offerings.

Using the hashtags #TCMparty and #Noirvember, we will gather to watch and tweet along as follows (all times are Eastern):

Sunday, November 3 at noon – Guest host Aurora [@CitizenScreen] has chosen Fritz Lang’s CLASH BY NIGHT (1952) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Paul Douglas and Marilyn Monroe.

Experiment Perilous-lowres

Tuesday, November 12 at 8 p.m.@TCMparty host Paula has chosen Jacques Tourneur’s EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944) starring Hedy Lamarr, George Brent and Paul Lukas.

Saturday, November 16, time TBD – Special guest host Karen [@TheDarkPages] has chosen Vincent Sherman’s THE DAMNED DON’T CRY (1950) starring Joan Crawford, David Brian, Steve Cochran and Kent Smith.

@TCMParty host Trevor has chosen three noirs:
Thursday, November 21 @ 8 p.m. – Jack Bernhard’s DECOY (1946) starring Jean Gillie, Edward Norris and Robert Armstrong.
Sunday, November 24 @ noon – Richard Fleischer’s ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) starring Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens and William Talman.
Thursday, November 28 @ 8 p.m. – Edward Dmytryk’s CORNERED (1945) starring Dick Powell, Walter Slezak and Micheline Cheirel.

We hope everyone will want to participate, as it’s sure to be a fun, informative time. If you already subscribe to Warner Archive Instant, you’re all set. If you don’t, you can sign up for a free two-week trial here.

Either way, you need only be on Twitter at the scheduled time, use the correct hashtags, and wait for the host to signal, “START THE MOVIE,”  to enjoy online Noirvember.

We’re thrilled to be presenting these Warner Bros. film noirs as part of the excitement of #TCMparty, and hope this is the first of many collaborations between our enthusiastic film-loving community and the studio with deep dark noir roots.

Note that these Noirvember tweet-a-longs are in addition to the regular #TCMparty events, which follow along to scheduled programming on TCM (dates listed below). Please visit the TCM Party tumblr for more info.

Wednesday, November 6 @ 8 p.m. THE KILLERS (1946)
Wednesday, November 13 @ 8 p.m. GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957)
Tuesday, November 19 @ 8 p.m. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
Wednesday, November 27 @ 8 p.m. FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)

Watching movies with Aunt Mary

Anybody who has either read this blog for a while or attended a TCM Party knows that I have been watching old movies since I was a young child.

During the summer when my mom was working, I would be at my grandparents’ house, watching the local afternoon movie showcase, Bill Kennedy At The Movies, hosted by the titular raconteur/retired actor. For those who grew up outside of the metro Detroit area and/or were born after 1986 or so, picture a slightly-unkempt, more rambling, hammier Dean Martin. At least that’s how it seemed at the time.

Slinging both fascinating anecdotes — particularly about the films in which he’d had a role — and barbs that mostly went over my head, Kennedy owned those hours after noon and before the 6 o’clock news. He showed pretty much anything old. The Best Years of Our Lives is one that I particularly remember. I can remember just bawling during it, without even really knowing why.

In those days, respectable Italian girls lived with their parents or their husbands, certainly not by themselves or with other girls. Not in my mother’s family. Thus if I was allowed to stay for the evening, I got to see my mother’s oldest sister, Mary Rose Romano, when she arrived home from work. Born the same day as Elizabeth Taylor, February 27, 1932, Aunt Mary seemed just as glamorous and self-possessed. Unlike my parents, she worked in a bank downtown, and wore suits to the office; also scarves, cute shoes, and amazing jewelry. (Also unlike my parents, she liked to take me shopping for clothes.) Though (I now know) she was probably really tired, we’d always talk about whatever I’d watched, because she knew all about Old Hollywood — the movies, how they were made, the actors and actresses. No one has had more of an influence on my film taste than Aunt Mary.

Me and my aunt, c. 1977

I believe her favorite movie was Gone With The Wind. Back in the day, before cable, really the only way to see it in one piece was on network TV in the evening. Even broken up with ads, it was powerful stuff. She told me all about the burning of Atlanta being filmed first, Clark Gable’s dentures, the long process of casting Scarlett, and how Leslie Howard was a spy and died in The War. This was the first time I was conscious of a film being a purposeful creation, the result of a collaborative effort by many people. Since then, I’ve learned more about the time period portrayed in the film, and I have a fair amount of ambivalence about it, but to this day, if I’m home, I can’t pass it up.

Fast forward 20 years or so. My mother died of cancer in 2002, and afterwards my husband and I began to visit my aunt (now in her 70s) and my grandmother (in her late 80s) every Sunday. The routine almost never varied: lunch at around noon, then movies on TCM until 4 or 5 p.m., accompanied by their inevitable dialogue, which I affectionately call “Who’s Dead?”

— “Jesus, everyone in this movie is dead.”
— “Yeah, there’s so-and-so. He’s dead.”
— “There’s so-and-so. She’s been dead forever.”

I think it may be an Italian thing.

These Sunday afternoons were when I realized how much I had absorbed from her as a kid. She loved the classics and had great respect for both their craft and their magic, but at the same time, she could be irreverent. In other words, she would have fit right in at a TCM Party. Among these random recollections, imagine the quotes from Mary are tweets and you’ll get the picture (may contain spoilers):

  • Psycho: “That sound [the stabbing in the shower] is somebody knifing a melon. Nobody could believe Janet Leigh got killed off. It just didn’t happen. That Hitchcock was a weirdo.”
  • Now, Voyager: We watched this together so many times that it’s almost painful to watch now. My aunt looked a bit like Miss Davis, and had her crisp enunciation, and I always got the impression from her comments that she could relate to Charlotte Vale, but I can’t know for sure.
  • Any Joan Crawford movie: “Watch out…she packs a wallop.”
  • Any appearance by Adolphe Menjou or Ray Milland: “He’s such a sleaze.”
  • Jeremiah Johnson: Robert Redford was a fave of ours, particularly in The Sting and this downer of a 1970s beard-tastic Western. When the widow freaks out on Jeremiah and forces him to take her son along with him, I remember asking, “What is she going to do? How is she going to get food out there by herself?” Mary shrugged. “She’ll go over to craft services, they’ll find her something.”
  • Victor/Victoria: “Has this guy [James Garner as King Marchand] ever really looked at Julie Andrews?”
  • On The Waterfront: This is the last film we ever watched together, a couple of weeks before Tim and I saw it at the TCM Film Festival with an introduction by Eva Marie Saint. I so wish my aunt could have gone with us. To Terry Malloy [Marlon Brando]: “She’s not interested in you, you dumb lug.” To Edie Doyle [Saint]: “He’s no good. Go back to school and study.”
  • The Pink Panther: [Gales of laughter] “What an idiot. He’s so stupid. He’s so silly.”
  • Sunset Blvd.: Norma Desmond: “They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!” Aunt Mary: “Thank God. Who wants to read a movie?”
  • Two Mules for Sister Sarah: “She’s a pretty lousy nun.”
Watching "the channel." April 2013
Watching “the channel,” April 2013

My Aunt Mary passed away on September 27, 2013. Our family and everyone who knew her will remember her unqualified generosity, her style, and her sense of humor, but I also have her love of the movies, and because of that, she is still with me.

Reckless Review: UN FLIC

Every year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) throws a few surprises into their Summer Under The Stars (SUTS) programming. As you may know, SUTS means each day in August is dedicated to the films of a single brilliant star. Along with actors you might expect, such as Humphrey Bogart (Aug. 1) and Bette Davis (Aug. 14), TCM always includes a few surprising choices. For instance, I don’t know of any other cable channel that would run nearly 24 hours of silent films, but that’s exactly what happened on Ramon Novarro‘s day (August 8). If you missed Ben-Hur (1925) starring Novarro and Francis X. Bushman, you really should check it out.

Un-flic-01

The other somewhat unconventional and totally welcome choice in the SUTS mix this year is Catherine Deneuve (Monday, August 12). As I said on Jean Gabin day in 2011…big ups to TCM for running 24 hours of subtitles. (Actually, there is one English-language Deneuve film, The Hunger, showing at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, August 13. But still…it’s not something you see every day.)

Of Monday’s films, I highly recommend Un flic (1972). It’s showing at noon on Monday and stars Deneuve, Alain Delon and Richard Crenna, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

Un-flic-02

Un flic is French for “a cop;” the film’s American title is less ambiguous: Dirty Money. Delon plays the title role, a brutal, not-so-clean police commissioner, who suspects that his friend, a nightclub owner (Crenna), is behind a series of bank robberies and drug deals. Cathy (Deneuve) is caught between them, sleeping with both and keeping both their secrets. Her model beauty and perfectly coiffed hair belie the anxiety in her nervous gestures and darting eyes. It’s a small part but a memorable one.

Un-flic-03

Melville is one of my favorite directors, he does crime pictures as well as anyone. His newsreel-style, on-location filmmaking was influential on Jean-Luc Godard (whose use of jump cuts was inspired by Melville). This was Melville’s last film, and like my favorite Le samouraï, Un flic may as well have been shot in the black and white of a film noir…cold desaturated colors, dark rooms, inky shadows. Thematically it’s as melancholy as any noir, and the line between the lawman and the criminal is as hazy as dusk in the Paris of Melville’s creation…this isn’t Woody Allen’s City of Lights. Part of it is unbelievable (you’ll know it when you see it), and I’m pretty sure Crenna was dubbed, but these are minor details in a suspenseful and enjoyable neo-noir.

UPDATE: No worries if you missed this on Deneuve day and you have Netflix. I searched the site on the off chance they would have Un flic on DVD, and lo and behold, not only do they have it, it’s also streaming. C’est super!

Completely Unscientific Favorite Stanwyck Movie Poll Results

In honor of Barbara Stanwyck‘s 106th birthday on July 16, I asked TCM Party people their favorite Stanwyck movie. I personally feel that she was good to excellent in every movie she did, but everyone has one that stands out more than others. Actually not one. Usually many. As I quickly realized, it’s a tough choice to make. I also realized afterwards I had enough votes on my hands for a totally unscientific poll. Since I didn’t really specify a number of films, I counted each mention via Twitter and Facebook of a movie’s title as a vote for that movie. Yeah, yeah, I know…it’s completely unscientific!

And now…to the results…

5th place — Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Stanwyck gets an earful of details of a murder...her own?
Stanwyck gets an earful of details of a murder…her own?

Stanwyck plays a bedridden invalid whose shady husband (Burt Lancaster) may or may not be trying to kill her. Plenty of flashbacks and suspense galore.

4th place – tie
Baby Face (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), Ball of Fire (1941)

Tied for 4th place (in chronological order) BABY FACE, STELLA DALLAS, BALL OF FIRE
Tied for 4th place (in chronological order) BABY FACE, STELLA DALLAS, BALL OF FIRE

I’m not gonna summarize these…if you haven’t seen them, go watch them now.

3rd place – The Lady Eve (1941)

Charles Coburn and Stanwyck work their magic on Henry Fonda under William Demarest's watchful eye  in THE LADY EVE
Charles Coburn and Stanwyck work their magic on Henry Fonda under William Demarest’s watchful eye in THE LADY EVE

Stanwyck, playing a con woman, sets her sights on “Hopsy” (Henry Fonda), the beer heir who can’t stand beer. Hopsy falls in love with her right away, but complications ensue when she realizes she loves him back.

2nd place – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)-low
Fake it ’til you make it…Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan in CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT

I was surprised how highly this placed, but I really shouldn’t be. Stanwyck plays a homemaking columnist who lives in an apartment, can’t cook, isn’t married, and doesn’t have any kids. Her friend, chef Felix (S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), provides all the recipes and she fakes the rest. The arrangement hits some hilarious snags when her editor (Sydney Greenstreet) wants a war hero (Dennis Morgan) to stay at her non-existent farm (she totally made it up) for the holidays.

1st place – Double Indemnity (1944)

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are in a ton of trouble in DOUBLE INDEMNITY
Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are totally inconspicuous in DOUBLE INDEMNITY

No surprise here. Fine direction from Billy Wilder, stunning cinematography by John F. Seitz, and excellent performances from a perfect cast add up to possibly the best film noir — and one of the best films — ever made.

I know, I missed your favorite…mine didn’t get even one vote! (Hint: check out the feature image for this post.) So give me a piece of your mind in the comments. PS: if you like classic movies, and you watch them on Turner Classic Movies, you might want to join us for one of our live #TCMParty tweetalongs. For deets, follow @TCM_Party or get more info here.

TCMFF: Ben Mankiewicz

TCM’s host Ben Mankiewicz also did a media call on the Wednesday before TCMFF actually started.

As before, some highlights:

Lawrence Carter-Long, TCM’s co-host for The Projected Image, their series on portrayals of disability on film, will be back. Mankiewicz said, “I learned more from Lawrence Carter-Long than anyone else in 10 years with TCM….He is a resource we’ve used since and will continue to use.”

Mankiewicz loved that TCMFF included Airplane! as part of this year’s travel theme “when it looks like the whole thing was shot for $4.95. ‘See LAX…the inside of an airplane.’ Nonetheless, that’s a travel movie.”

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz with David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Robert Hays at Saturday's screening of AIRPLANE!
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz with David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Robert Hays at Saturday’s screening of AIRPLANE! Photo courtesy of TCM

Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller is coming up on TCM Friday nights with a series of around 20 films noir. Mankiewicz likes neo-noirs, particularly three involving John Dahl — The Last Seduction, Kill Me Again, and Red Rock West. “I’d love to make a case for us to show those, those are great films. You can clearly see Dahl had a keen appreciation of ’40s and ’50s film noir.”

TCM is featuring more films from the ’70s and ’80s, but not because there’s some kind of age requirement. “We have a very open mind as to what makes a classic movie. It’s not about years removed from a movie…the movies have to have some emotional connection for people. Because we learned that two-thirds of our audience is under 49 years old, we realized very quickly that most people have not seen most of our movies when they came out, or anytime even close to when they came out. So how did these movies become important to them? It’s probably through family connections, they watched with their parents or grandparents, or, what happens to me sometimes, because we shoot so far ahead, I don’t know what we’re showing, and like you guys, I’ll stumble on to a movie on a Saturday afternoon. As we get better perspective on movies, which does come with time, and as more of those titles become available, I suppose that you might see more ’70s and ’80s movies on TCM, but I always say that with a caveat: nothing is going to stop us from showing the movies we already show….In that sense, our programming won’t change. We always, always want to find something that will be relevant and emotional for our audience. There were a lot of great filmmakers in the ’70s, I think more so than the ’80s, if i could sort of flippantly dismiss an entire decade, which, by the way, was important to me. It’s what I grew up with, what are you gonna do? I can’t change when I grew up. So, i think you’ll see more ’70s and ’80s movies, but not to the extent that we’ll change what we already show.”

He has some choice in which movies he hosts on TCM, but not as much as you might think. “Charlie (Tabesh, TCM’s programmer) knows what I like, but in the end, I’m an employee.”

Re: a 16-year-old girl’s crush on Farley Granger: “It’s not gonna work out for her.”

Mankiewicz believes the Production Code was the result of Fatty Arbuckle’s three trials.

I also got to interview Mankiewicz for some of the shortest-seeming 15 minutes in my life ever. He isn’t the first interviewee from whom I’ve cadged refreshments, but he is nicest.

What’s your process for hosting on TCM?
Anywhere from one day to three or four weeks before, they start sending me scripts. And I go through every one of them, and put them in my voice, add stories, take stories out. Same process for Robert. Some of them, when movies start coming back, I realize that what they sent is essentially what I wrote three years earlier, cos I’ll be like, i wrote this and then I’ll change it again, because I’m like, oh that sucked. That’s the basic process. The research department in Atlanta keeps track so that we don’t repeat the same stories. It takes a while to go through 200 scripts. We shoot them all basically in a row in a week. And by the way, it’s super-easy to get confused. I don’t pretend to not have to look stuff up.

Ben Mankiewicz's notes on one of the films he was to introduce at TCMFF
Ben Mankiewicz’s notes. Photo by me

[At this point, I’d forgotten the questions I’d prepared. I also remembered something Robert Osborne had said earlier in the day; he studies up on people he’s going to interview because once a reporter looks at his/her notes, it’s no longer a conversation. Yikes. I decided to wing it.]
Quentin Tarantino has a litmus test for potential girlfriends. He shows them Rio Bravo to see what their reaction is. Not that you would have something like that now, but did you ever have a film like that, and if so, what was it?

Good question. No, not off the top of my head, is there a film that did that. But I would know whether I connected with people based on what they liked, no question. Obviously from the time I was getting serious about girls, if a girl thought Fletch was stupid, obviously I’m not gonna go out with her. But that was at a time when I had no appreciation of classic movies. I mean, now, no question, I love Rio Bravo, that makes Tarantino so cool. I gotta find a cool answer to that. To me, like somebody who wouldn’t appreciate A Face in the Crowd, or wouldn’t be blown away by that, I couldn’t possibly have a serious friendship with them. That movie just gets me every time. It was so prescient, 53 years ahead of time. And also, if you’re not moved by Casablanca, if you make fun of Casablanca — whatever, we’re not sleeping together. Well, we might sleep together. But I’m not gonna call you.

You said you weren’t always into classic movies…what were some of the first ones that pushed you in that direction?
My mom showed me North by Northwest. It’s funny how memory plays tricks on you, because I remember saying to Mom that I didn’t want to watch it because it’s black and white. She gets me to watch it, and it’s not black and white….And I remember thinking, this is really cool, and that guy is cool. Like all of a sudden. And it’s not like I didn’t know who Cary Grant was. But I associated him with something that I knew instinctively I was going to not like.
When 

I went to college, I was always looking to do things as easily as possible. I took a film course at Tufts pass-fail, thinking this is going to be the easiest thing in the world. I was such an idiot. I wrote a paper, that counted for more than half the grade, on Santa Fe Trail. And I started doing the research. These guys weren’t in the Army together at the same time, this is all a wildly nonsensical re-imagination of how history worked. But they’re going after John Brown. The movie is made in 1940, and clearly, John Brown is a Hitler-ian figure in the movie, and I wrote about the historical context, and how, ironically, they’d screwed up history. And I loved writing the paper. It was so good. I got an A+. I remember thinking, I don’t think the professor thinks anyone wrote a better paper in this class. And of course, my thought wasn’t, I should pay more attention to film. My thought was, I can’t believe I took this class pass-fail. I cannot believe that I’ve just given away an A.

 So it was developing then.
And then I went out to LA after I graduated, just to see family out here, and I went to a couple of parties, and I was introduced as Ben Mankiewicz, and people would say, “From the Hollywood Mankiewiczes?” And I’d say, yeah, and they’d be like, Hollywood royalty. Happened twice. And I was like are they thinking of someone else? It just started to come together how much my family mattered to a very small group of people, but it mattered a lot to that group.

Which actors/actresses working in Hollywood today would have done well in the Old Hollywood system, and vice versa? [This is a recurring question of mine.]
I think a lot of the big stars then would have done well today. There’s no question, Clark Gable would have been a star, Cary Grant. Those are easy ones. Bogie. John Wayne. From now, George Clooney could work in any era. Robert Downey Jr., any era. If you own the screen now, the way those guys do…not only are they enormously talented, not only can they play a variety of roles, but they have that screen charisma. Clooney was my first thought, but I’m not sure that Downey isn’t a better answer. I don’t even really like the Sherlock Holmes movies, but he’s got a thing. Johnny Depp owns the screen. They are too charming not to succeed. The talent and looks that Ryan Gosling has, of course he’d succeed. Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, no question. Chastain even looks like it. I don’t think there’s any doubt there. Penelope Cruz is another one. I don’t know how the language issue would have worked then. Maybe she’d have made Spanish-language movies, but she would have been a big star. Matt Damon would have been a star, and he’s not even that good-looking. Not in the same league as those other guys. For him, he just sort of exudes charm. He makes it work in so many different roles. I think there are many others. I don’t think things are even remotely lost in Hollywood right now. There are a lot of reasons now why Hollywood is totally f*cked up but that said, there’s still great stars, there’s great producers, and there’s great movies. But frequently the ones that get the most attention and marketing are embarrassments. But there’s still great movies being made.

Eva-Marie-Saint-Waterfront-lores
Eva Marie Saint and Mankiewicz before ON THE WATERFRONT, Friday night at TCMFF. It must be pretty cool to be friends with someone from one of your favorite movies 🙂 Photo by me
Saint apparently likes to razz Mankiewicz about his wearing jeans all the time, so he took them off. Saint responded, "You almost gave me a heart attack."
Saint apparently likes to razz Mankiewicz about his wearing jeans all the time, so he took them off. Saint responded, “You almost gave me a heart attack.” Photo by me

TCMFF: Robert Osborne

On the day before the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival [TCMFF] officially started, the bloggers (and probably some traditional media too) gathered in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel, aka Club TCM. I barely kept it together when Robert Osborne strolled in. I confess I’m a little in awe of him.

DSCN4068
Photo by me.

[Osborne, on the other hand, is unflappable. On Sunday, confronted with boos and hisses at Grauman’s (he was talking about new owner TCL’s imminent IMAX conversion), he responded, “Don’t throw anything. Well, if you do, throw a Porsche.” As Porsche was a sponsor at the Festival, Osborne got to drive one all weekend and had just told us he really enjoyed it. Maybe you had to be there.]

Many others have covered this media call so I will relay what I thought was most interesting:

He didn’t know when he took the hosting job with TCM that he would be helping people to heal from illness or get through unemployment, or running a film course. I and many others can attest that he does both.
Osborne wasn’t very enthused about the TCM Cruise in the beginning but “it’s so much fun now.” The people on the cruises sort themselves out by favorite star: “You go into a room, ‘OK now the Bogart people are going to be here at 5 o’clock, the Cagneys are going to be in Studio B at 4:30, the Stanwyck people…’ ”

Poster - Libeled Lady_lowresOn the studio system & the Production Code: “For a long time, the studio system got so smacked down, and even people who were around at the time and had complained about it realize now that it was a great system…it worked very well. I also think that some of the best movies were great because there was a censorship thing….I don’t think the screen’s been improved by the fact that you can do or say anything you want onscreen that you want to say, because it’s now I think in the hands of people that don’t have any taste, and don’t know where the line should be….The [1946] Postman Always Rings Twice is much sexier than the one that was made [in 1981]. They’re doing it right on the kitchen table, and it’s not nearly so interesting. There were certainly bad things about the studio system and bad things about censorship, but there were good things that came out of it. I don’t think there’s anything like wit on film anymore. You see movies from the ’30s and ’40s, like Woman of the Year or Libeled Lady — they didn’t hammer you over the head with the comedy, there were no bodily fluid jokes like we have today. Having a cap on some of that stuff so that people had to sneak around it made it a little more clever.”
He’s philosophical about the Grauman’s conversion, possibly because he’s co-owner of the only movie theatre in Port Townsend, Washington State. They recently upgraded to digital projection. “[Digital] is going to put a lot of small-town theatres out of business. So I’m for anything that’s going to restore theatres or make them more relevant. It’s very sad, because people love to go to the movies, and it’s going to be cut out for a lot of people….we did raise the money in Port Townsend, but only because of the kind of town it is.”
Cher was super-professional during her filming for April’s Friday Night Spotlights. Osborne quipped, “No diva at all. It was a little disappointing actually.” They are both Tauruses, though Cher is on the cusp. I’m just saying.

Osborne interviews Ann Blyth on Saturday, April 27.
Osborne interviews Ann Blyth on Saturday, April 27. Photo courtesy of TCM.

He was looking forward to Funny Girl, The Razor’s Edge, Cluny Brown, and Desert Song at TCMFF; and particularly to talking to Ann Blyth: “You can’t believe she’s in her 80s, and she’s so nice. I want to talk to her about how, when she was so effective as a mean daughter [Vida in Mildred Pierce], that you hated so much, why that never affected her career, and why she was never cast in a part like that again. She was able to not be typecast and that amazes me.”
The “bosses at TCM” were surprised that younger people get into the channel [!!!] but Osborne wasn’t because they stop him on the street. He believes they will pass their love for classic movies on to their children, as so often their families did for them, and “hopefully it will go on forever, and hopefully you will all go on forever.” The feeling is mutual, Mr. Osborne.

I’ll have more from TCMFF soon.