Jan 26, 2010

Tinseltown Talks

"I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham."
- Dorothy Lamour on Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, whom Lamour co-starred with in six "Road To" films throughout the 1940's and early 1950's.


Jan 15, 2010

Photographic Faves

Joseph Cotten and Loretta Young enjoy a snack on the set of their radio broadcast of The Farmer's Daughter, January, 1948.

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Jan 5, 2010

Tinseltown Talks

"About a week before (my) wedding was planned, I got a call from the casting director: 'Let your hair and your beard grow. You're going to be in a western.' So in the society column of the Santa Monica paper there was a picture of (my new wife and I), me with this beard, and it said, 'Mr. Andrews is an actor. Note the beard.'"
- Dana Andrews


Jan 1, 2010

Oppy New Year

The new year, it is upon us. A new year, a fresh decade, a month just beginning - and yet, here at HCC, marking the passage of time as such simply reiterates how very long it's been since the Hollywood we know and love was in its heyday.

2010 draws us close to the centennial anniversary of landmark films like D.W. Griffith's Birth of A Nation. Eighty-three years ago, sound burst into cinemas, thereby rendering the medium of movies a format of limitless potential. Seventy years have gone by since David O. Selznick unveiled his epic Gone With The Wind and Judy Garland's Dorothy Gale became a childhood film staple; best-loved musicals and milestone dramas, richly reflective of the audiences they sought to satiate with their songs and their subject matter, now near fifty, sixty, seventy-five years old.

Decades have indeed passed since our favorite films held box office sway, but their appeal has not receded with the years; their poignancy remains, redoubtable and enduring. So let's relish them all the more. Rather than sighing over the absence of studio system musicals or lamenting that lack of Lana Turner on the marquee, let us be grateful for the many ways in which 2010 allows us to revel in those flicks of yesteryear, our film libraries replete with our favorite gems, our Netflix queues and DVRs full of undiscovered classics. This year, may you continue to uncover innumerable heretofore unfamiliar stars in the cinema firmament - and may they dazzle you, each and every one.

Now make a martini like you're partying at The Charles' apartment tonight. Happy New Year from HCC!

Dec 17, 2009

Jennifer Jones, 1919-2009

Hillary goes about her regrettable obligations today with a sadness at the passing of beautiful character actress Jennifer Jones, 90, of natural causes in her Malibu, CA home this morning. An in-depth tribute to Ms. Jones is forthcoming at this time.

Aug 5, 2009

Classic Movie Trivia

Who, based on ticket sales, is the third most popular actor of the twentieth century, preceded only by Clark Gable and John Wayne?


Dec 12, 2008

Van Johnson, 1916-2008

Oh Vanny. Not you. Not the tousle-haired sailor, the baby-faced boy in battle, the relish-ably rogue redhead intent on weakening the prudish underpinnings of June Allyson with a wry smile and a soft-spoken sweet nothing. You were the redoubtable romance of so many black-and-white blockbusters, the genial gentleman in MGM's most dazzling musicals. You were boyish onscreen - boyish yet broad-shouldered, disarmingly darling yet deftly deceitful, a wooer of women with a shy sincerity submerged in a charming casanova front (do you remember getting June drunk in that grotto? I can never forget it). And now you're gone.


Charles Van Johnson, 92, passed away Friday, December 12, 2008. The Rhode Island-born only child made his Broadway debut at just 18, understudied Gene Kelly in the latter's hit stage hit Pal Joey, and coasted into cinema in 1940's Too Many Girls, having been brought to Hollywood as a member of the film's Broadway cast. He played bit parts in MGM B-movies after the studio picked up his three-year contract from RKO, but when serious injuries from a near-fatal 1942 car crash left him ineligible for military service, Van was one of the few young actors stranded stateside during WWII, and so gained a valuable foray into leading roles by virtue of his youth, appeal, and circumstance. His affability and humility after the gruesome accident earned him the acceptance and affection of millions of moviegoers, and, paired with some of the most beautiful and bankable actresses of his day - June Allyson, Judy Garland, and Esther Williams - Van proved to be a hugely popular star and top box-office draw for MGM.
After a string of successful dramas and romantic comedies in the postwar 1940's and 1950's, Van scaled back his film career, appearing onscreen only infrequently, focusing more on stage and television work, often collaborating with former fellow film stars like June Allyson and Angela Lansbury in the latter medium. He maintained a low profile in his final years, though he reportedly loved to reminisce about his golden days at MGM.
Van is survived by his estranged daughter, Schuyler, by his late former wife, Eve Wynn.


There is a scene from Two Girls and A Sailor that has been with me today. June Allyson's character has been dreaming, and in her sleep-heavy state she is led through her dream to a wispy, glorious, cloud-covered place that could only be Heaven in a Pasternak production, vivid and bright even in black-and-white. The film's hero meets her here - Van Johnson, of course - and he is everything a film hero should be: winningly adorable yet non-threatening, endearingly tender, a touch shy, brave, lovable...the essence of Van Johnson, really. The dialogue doesn't matter, but the image of Van and June in heaven...I would like to savor that today.

"Van Johnson is one of the nicest boys who ever lived, and Hollywood hasn't spoiled him. Nothing ever will. He's just as honest and sunny-dispositioned as he looks." - Lucille Ball

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Nov 25, 2008

Macy's Makes Me Cry

It doesn't take a whole lot to make me cry. Lauren Bacall's autobiography, Judy Garland's singing voice, that scene in The Women where Norma Shearer informs tiny little Virginia Weidler of Norma's marital meltdown - all are time-tested tearjerkers. It was not lightly, then, that I received the first airing of the 2008 Macy's holiday season commercial, which strings together such famed and fabled film faves as Charlie Chaplin, Natalie Wood, Alice Faye, Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Shirley MacLaine and Lucille Ball.

Is it cinema nostalgia or simply heartfelt holiday warmth that makes me cry? In all honesty - I think it's Susan Walker.


Nov 20, 2008

Picture Pane Puzzle - Solved!

In this age of at-your-fingertips knowledge, posting trivia questions has become a bit of a challenge for me - so, I give you a new type of trivia: The Picture Pane Puzzle. It's up to you to determine the mystery film by recognizing the images from it, posted below.

Think you know it?! Use the Comments option below to post your guess!

11/25: Poster Maryann has solved this week's Picture Pane Puzzle. She recognized Gene Kelly's cranium to identify this film as 1964's What A Way to Go! What a way indeed - bravo, Maryann!

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Nov 16, 2008

Filially Fabulous: Stephen Humphrey Bogart

When screen legend Humphrey Bogart succumbed to cancer in the early days of 1957, the last-century boy - he was born December 25, 1899 - left an indelible impression on the world of film, and a viable absence in the lives of his family. His actress wife Lauren Bacall chronicled the heartbreaking loss in her 1978 autobiography, where she stressed the impact of his untimely death on the couple's two young children, son Stephen and daughter Leslie, just 8 and 4, respectively, at the time of their father's passing. The bereaved trio ultimately coped, but Stephen, burdened by public fascination with his iconic father and vying to live outside of the shadow cast by such association, struggled with identity issues and substance abuse problems throughout his young life.

Fortunately, such unrest is impossible to place on the 59-year-old today. The younger Bogart is now a successful author and entrepeneur who utilizes his tony, unique childhood experience as celebrity offspring to lend an air of authenticity to his classic film-related endeavors; chief among them is MODA Entertainment, which he co-founded and developed from 1997 through 2008. His promotion of such retrospective-themed print, radio, and film work takes him to small, accessible venues throughout the country, where he interacts with reporters and fans and fields questions with genuine candor and enthusiasm, as he did when visiting Chicago's famed Hollywood Boulevard Cinema this past weekend.

Amiable and approachable, Bogart greeted fans and inquiries with equal graciousness as he hosted the presentation of the theater's latest addition, the Casablanca-themed "Moroccan Room," where his father's fabled film was the new theater's incendiary screening. He signed autographs, chatted with curious fans, even happily personalized my favorite photograph of his parents while talking film shop in the Boulevard lobby (he kindly indulged us in some incredible backstories about his mother and father).

With so many links to the golden age of cinema but tenuous and undignified ones, Stephen Bogart is delightfully refreshing representative and facilitator of film's preservation, celebration, and translation today. Here's looking at you, kid.

For more information on upcoming Hollywood Blvd events, please visit their website.
Find out more about the array of creative projects MODA Entertainment has spawned here.

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Nov 14, 2008

Judy, Judy, Beauty

  Strolling through the campus rose garden after Latin class this week, I came upon a particular placard that denoted a gorgeous crop of classic film flowers. These beautiful yellow-and-orange hybrid roses are named in honor of Miss Judy Garland, the sparkliest star of the MGM constellation in the 1930's and 40's.

  The idea for the Garland flower was developed and implemented by longtime Judy fan Pat Losiewicz in 1970, the year after Garland's death, but it took nearly a decade for the horticultural homage to become a reality. Frustrated with a lack of response from American rosegrowers, Losiewicz transferred the project to the President of the Great Britain Judy Garland Fan Club, Gwen Potter, who selected the rose from a collection of unnamed hybrids in 1978; the flower was finally available for sale in the United States in 1991.

  The flowers are planted near Judy's gravesite in Ferncliff Cemetery, New York, as well as at the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand, Rapids, MN, the result of another effort spearheaded by superfan Losiewicz.

The Judy Garland Rose is available for purchase via Heirloom Roses. Please note that clicking this link will take you to an external site.

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Nov 10, 2008

Did You Know?

Infamous print gossipmonger Hedda Hopper, whose dirt-dishing endeavors earned her a ruthless reputation (as well as gifts like a kick in the behind from an enraged Spencer Tracy and a skunk from a disgusted Joan Fontaine), was actually born Elda Furry in 1885. Though she was at various times known as Elda Furry, Elda Curry, Ella Furry, and Elda Millar, her eventual name was comprised of her married surname from husband DeWolf Hopper, whom she wed in 1913, and the name Hedda, which she selected on the advice of a numerologist.

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Oct 23, 2008

I Heart Valley Art

In the wake of Paul Newman's September 26th death at the age of 83, my sentiment at his passing has been piqued by the rush of remembrances that poured from a myriad of sources: contemporaries and cohorts, filmmakers and fans, beneficiaries and bloggers alike have sung the praises of the humble Ohian-cum-silver screen star whose ingenuity in his later years became the prosperity he diffused to innumerable worthy causes.

But amongst all the positive press Paul's life received, little has been mentioned of his screen legacy - and understandably so, in light of his charitable work and how he valued it, far above his film contributions. As an ardent classic cinema fan, though, I feel his Luke and his Ben Quick, his Hud and his Hombre (okay, maybe not Hombre) are worth more than a fond farewell acknowledgment in his many obituaries. This was evidently a sentiment shared by my local Harkins Valley Art Cinema, as they recently hosted a week-long, multiple-film retrospective in Paul's honor, which I was fortunate enough to attend.

Valley Art, the oldest theatre in the state, provided a sumptuously antique feel for late-night big screen viewings of some of Paul's most popular films, including Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and 1961's gritty The Hustler. As someone who had never reveled in the grandiose spectacle of silver screen stars in such sizable glory, to witness Newman the actor - thoughtful, passionate, impossibly Adonis-like - was to see his film presence finally in proportion to his personal and social legacy: larger than life.

Harkins Valley Art donated all proceeds from the festival, more than $3,000, to Newman's Painted Turtle Camp, a multi-disease camp and family care center based in California.

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Photographic Faves

American actress Grace Kelly in her most famous role, that of Princess to Monaco's Prince Rainier. The royal couple are shown here with their elder daughter, Caroline, and son Albert. Circa 1960.

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Oct 16, 2008

I Am Unfit to Live!

I can't believe that, in all my complete adoration for her, I missed June Allyson's birthday this month. I mean, I knew it was in October, but between mid-terms, homework, and working a job that has an odd policy about watching movies during my shift (they won't let me), I somehow overlooked October 7, the date which would have been Ms. Allyson's 91st birthday (she died in 2006).

So, in honor of Junie the Great - and in an effort to never allow this type of neglect on my part again - HCC has appointed October 7 as The Feast of Our Lady of the Perpetual Pageboy*, aka June Allyson Day.

Why the Perpetual Pageboy, you ask? Surely she is memorable for much more than a hairstyle that endured roughly 75 years. And she is - I can't downplay her tenacity, her unpretentious girl-next-door persona, her incredible box office appeal, or the fact that during any one of her movies, she cries approximately every 13.4 minutes, this heartbreaking little petunia. (Watching her, though, so do I.) But as much as June Allyson represents the best years MGM had to offer - the brightest, most colorful musicals, engaging biopics and first-rate stars - the pageboy represents, or is at least as lovingly associated with, Junie. Regardless of the time period her movie is set in, there it is, blonde and demure and expertly coiffured. Don't believe me? Let's take a little look-see at a few of her best and most memorable movies in our convenient Pageboy Table below:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

See? It really is perpetual. Which isn't to say that there aren't any movies in which she has long hair (The Bride Goes Wild) or a short, chic coif (The Opposite Sex) or even a very un-Junie-like pile of tresses (Two Sisters from Boston), it's just that no matter what, she reliably returns to that perfectly complementary cut that's as sweet and uncomplicated as she always seemed to be.

Happy belated birthday, Junie!

*Disclaimer: Being Catholic, I understand that this reference may offend someone, but it is certainly not my intent to do so. Sweet as she was, I know Junie was not a saint!

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