Archive for March, 2015


REFLECTIONS IN AMBER

The consuming of liquor has been a catalyst in Classic Hollywood since they were known as the “flickers.” The liquid has brought about the downfall of many a film character both on screen and off. I am writing this post in the TCM Club lounge during the 2015 Classic film festival with a proper glass of amber liquid before me, pondering  how the act of drink has been portrayed.

There are clips running on large screen of W. C. Fields stealing a nip from a flask. You have Henry Fonda pouring a shot for Victor Mature, Tyrone Power slamming down gin from NIGHTMARE ALLEY, and James Dean drinking from a bottle of milk from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE  because both he and his character did not touch alcohol.

Booze has been the great trigger for stories of the gangster from silent film to today. Without drink you would not have the “hood” that rises to the top during prohibition. No Cagney, no Raft, no Muni, no Eddie G. laying on the pavement clutching his chest exclaiming, “Is this the end of Rico?” in LITTLE CAESAR.

Where would Rick’s Place in CASABLANCA (1942) be without drink.  Ray Milland would not have had been on THE LOST WEEKEND (1945).

Jack Lemon and Lee Remick would not have experienced THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962). Lee Marvin’s character Kid Shellen in CAT BALLOU (1965) would not have been as interesting.  Miriam would not have lost her mountain bar in the fire during the drinking contest in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).  Where would James Bond be without his knowledge of wines and Scotch whiskey?  Where would Nick, Nora and Asta (their dog) of the THIN MAN series be without potent potables?  The list goes on and on with the same conclusion of not being as fun to watch. Society is against drinking to excess yet we do enjoy watching the train wreck of alcohol and people.

Actors on screen- whether we like it or not- have taught us how to drink. Some watch the elegance of David Niven,  Franchot Tone, William Powell, Clifton, Webb .  Women get their due with Joan Crawford in RAIN (1932) , Susan Hayward in  SMASH UP THE STORY OF A WOMAN (1947)  plus Anne Dvorak in THREE ON A MATCH (1932).

 

Women have been portrayed as fallen or evil when booze is involved which is a double standard; witness Dvorak’s portrayal of the doomed Vivian Revere.  Women who drink and are not “good mothers” will suffer consequences from the Law or by God.

You see people at the TCM FILM FESTIVAL dressing the part of Hollywood Glamour which adds a nice touch to things.

 

Yes, the materials to do this have changed, fabrics have changed, and knowledge to do this has changed. Some has been lost or adapted to today’s audience.  Why try and recapture something as elusive as Hollywood Glamour when it means different things to different people?  You can see it in different looks at the Academy Awards red carpet.  We should move forward towards our own images of glamour be it in nightlife, eatery or stepping out in clothes.  The classic clothes or look, the drinks, the manners, are sometimes neglected by people of both sexes as it’s not a thing to do.  The audiences, the public is different now and so is society.

The Legendary watering holes of old Hollywood are gone replaced by newer places that seem slightly disposable or cookie cutter in approach. A club or an Eatery is just bricks, or in some cases prefab bits of wood  it is the atmosphere and more importantly the people that make it different or unique.  This not a lament for the old days more a “Things have changed” and that’s ok as well.

Fun the remember that there was grand nightlife in the town of Hollywood then.

 

I can say that you lose track of the time of day and even what day it is when you attend a film festival. I have found myself asking what day it is. You are not in the real world of whatever it is you do.  You have stepped into a existence of viewing film, making decisions about what you want to see, trying to sneak meals in, and lining up for the pictures you decide to attend.  It’s all great fun.

The 2015 TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL has been so far a whirlwind of fun, albeit hectic sometimes.  The venues for the majority of pictures are located across Hollywood Blvd at Grauman’s Chinese theatre complex of six cinemas of various sizes or down the road at Grauman’s Egyptian theatre where last year I attended GODZILLA (1954).  The Ricardo Montoban Theatre is also used which is farther down for interviews like the ones with Sophie Loren and Norman Lloyd.

There is the social aspect of the Festival where in elevators, queue lines, buying a drink or food  or  simply waiting at a stop light: someone will see your festival pass badge and strike up a conversation as to what you are seeing etc.   This has occurred for us many times as you meet people from various cities and accents all doing the same thing you are doing.  You share your stories and sometimes things that you missed for the same reasons. The cool thing is the togetherness that a good number of attendees have as you go about what your personal itinerary for viewing is.

I love the stories away from the crowds like one when we were in a local coffee shop away from the festival and a young fellow stuck up a conversation with us after we got our beverages because he saw our TCM badges.  We found out his mother was Canadian (from Prince Edward Island). He enjoyed film and did attend the festival by purchasing individual tickets, just not this year.   In contrast we stopped for some food at one of our favourite hotdog places (the hotdog can be a thing of beauty. That’s another story) and the proprietor saw our festival badges yet had no idea what it was about even though he was about three blocks away from it all.

I try to write with my voice, which sometimes I am still trying to find regarding the impressions of what we have seen or are doing. We get the pain in the feet from walking on the pavement as other do.  We have been very privileged to have been given excellent resources from the TCM staff for vantage points, pictures, and actually being on the red carpet

I would like to give a huge salute to the TCM STAFF and volunteers that are at each event. I am sure there have been incidents as there always will be when handling huge crowds of personalities and technical troubles. It’s how one handles those and so far from our end of things, it has worked with flying colours.

Some images of Canadian Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews and the 50th Anniversary screening of THE SOUND OF MUSIC from inside Grauman’s or now its  TCL Chinese theater.  Mr Plummer’s footprints were ‘immortalized’ in special concrete along with other Hollywood legends.

Onward and outward we go

Film festival attending can be a mixture of working the crowd, finding what you want to see, and having to make decisions when items are crossed booked.  There are no bad decisions if you attend an event such is what is happening with us at the 2015 TURNER CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL in Hollywood. Hence, I would like to pass on some bits and pieces of what is happening.

I was fortunate to get into the 10 p.m. screening of the Mike Curtiz directed 1940 picture THE SEA HAWK. Why is that worth mentioning? Because it was on the big screen; a 35 mm print complete with reel changes.   Organizers have respect for film of this nature and for me it was cool to see the curtains of today’s larger screens close to the smaller aspect ratio of the 1940s.  This was not a print that was blown up to fill the huge surface but the wonderfully non- claustrophobic look at what the film makers intended.  The image was clear with some obvious time worn troubles that affect us all. The sound on the print was crisp with Korngold’s magnificent score coming through.  Dialogue could be understood without the pops and crackles that show up.

This screening of THE SEA HAWK featured a talk by Errol Flynn’s daughter Rory Flynn, who imparted some insights into her late father, such as “You see the swashbuckling hero, I see my father.” She also took the opportunity to introduce her son Sean Flynn with a good deal of Mother’s pride.

It was pointed out that the print was listed in the program as running time of two hours and seven minutes, yet actually the running time was be one hour forty nine minutes.  Now for some people that is an abomination, some don’t care, and I admit I was slightly irked as I had thoughts of those ‘Real Art’ reissues of Universal Studios Horror pictures.  Real Art cut the films often to sixty to sixty five minutes to get them on television. THE SEA HAWK print was cut to fit onto a 1947 double bill format along with THE SEA WOLF (1941) with Edward G. Robinson as the ship’s tyrannical captain.  The scenes with actor Donald Crisp as the Queen’s advisor, Sir John Burleson, also were victim of editorial decisions.

The audience applauded when Flynn’s and Korngold’s name appeared on the screen. Clapping exploded when Flynn makes his entrance on the deck of his ship about ten minutes in. I found it particularly interesting that there was clapping for Una O’ Conner, who made a career of playing hand maidens, ladies in waiting, and other character types.  Her Irish accent and facial expressions have been in countless pictures so it was good to see the grand person of theatre get noticed.

The SEA HAWK rollicked, swords clashed, ships fired cannons, the evil Spanish were somewhat vanquished, urbane dialogue was exchanged and unrequited love was returned all in glorious black and white.

It has been a while since I had watched the picture of the style which made the experience full of enjoyment.   The current PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN franchise is the closest audiences have today to this style while it has its merits. It is effects dependent, which is what much of today’s audiences want.   Not a bad time on the old high seas.

Hello all raw footage form me on the red carpet in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater not far from where the Academy ward are done. STARDUST AND SHADOWS make it to the red carpet in Hollywood.  Sorry for audio. turn it up

 

The Golden Age of Hollywood is filled with brilliant successes and dismal failures. The film community likes a feel good story. That continues to this day.  Fitting in this category is the tragic end of Millicent Lilian Entwistle, simply known as “Peg.”

She was born in Port Talbot, Wales and moved to New York at an early age, graduating from the New York City Theatre Guild.  Peg appeared in many Broadway productions, including a show with Humphrey Bogart in Los Angeles. Even a young Bette Davis is reported to have said she wanted to be like Entwistle after watching her in an Ibsen play.

Peg was offered a screen test with RKO that she passed and was given a one picture contract for a small role in THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932). After initial reviews of the picture, most of Peg Entwistle’s role was left on the cutting room floor.

She went to audition after audition trying to get another role – like so many people.  On the evening of Sunday Sept 1, 1932, Peg Entwistle told the uncle she was living with that she was going to visit friends. Instead, she made the climb up the hill to the HOLLYWOOD sign and using an electrician’s ladder that had been left there, climbed to the top of the letter H and stepped off.

(The HOLLYWOOD sign as it originally was advertising a housing development)

An anonymous hiker later found a shoe, then a jacket and a purse and finally her body down the slope. Her remains laid unclaimed and unidentified in the morgue until a suicide note was published and her uncle recognized the initials.

“I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”

Peg married actor Robert Keith in New York in 1927 and was granted divorce in 1929 on charges of cruelty, claiming Keith had never told her of fathering a child from a previous marriage.

(Robert Keith, Peg Entwistle’s one time husband. Rumours were Peg Entwistle ended her life due to a love affair)

The child was Brian Keith who rose to fame as an American stage and screen actor, later to kill himself via a gunshot wound in 1997 after his daughter had committed suicide.

(Brian Keith who’s step mother was Peg Entwistle)

Urban legend says she was offered a role in a major production days after her death, the role of a woman who commits suicide.

Peg Entwistle passed into history known today by some as “The Hollywood Sign Girl.” Ghost sightings of a sad woman making the trek up the mountain in thirties style clothing occurs today. When approached by hikers, she disappears. Through it all there is the lingering scent of gardenias which was Peg Entwistle’s favorite fragrance.

A musical based on the life of Peg Entwistle debuted in the UK in October 2014 called “Goodnight September,” and received positive reviews and audience feedback from its premier performances.

Today, there are reports that Peg Enwistle’s story will be getting the big screen treatment giving her the large role she wanted so much in life.

There is a Welsh woman haunting the HOLLYWOOD sign.