Nov 16, 2006

More Stars Than There Are In The Heavens

November 2, 2006, found a cavalcade of stars from Old Hollywood gathering at the historic El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood to pay tribute to beloved actress June Allyson, who passed away in July at age 88. The event, created and produced by celebrity producer/director Karen Cadle, featured personal tributes from, and conversations with, June's friends and former co-stars Patricia Marshall, Gloria De Haven, Margaret O'Brien and Debbie Reynolds, as well as appearances by numerous other contemporaries, and letter and video tributes from those unable to attend. Esther Williams, a close friend of June's who was initially slated to appear in the tribute, was ultimately not well enough to take part due to health issues that have reportedly since been resolved; no statement was made on the absence of her fellow presenters Cyd Charisse and Kathryn Grayson.

Through a little faith, a lot of persuasive talk and my abiding love of classic movies (and the grace of Ms. Cadle, who sold us desperate June fans tickets to a sold-out show), I had the incredible opportunity to attend this truly once-in-a-lifetime event earlier this month. The El Portal was the perfect setting for this intimate tribute, and its 350-seat Main Theatre housed such notable attendees as Tippi Hedren, Jane Withers, Tab Hunter and Marsha Hunt in the audience with us, all of whom offered sentiments and anecdotes about their relationship with Allyson. June's family was also there, including her husband, Dr. David Ashrow, and her son and daughter with first husband Dick Powell. Prior to the 7:30 presentation, the celebrities arrived in a parade of vintage automobiles before walking the red carpet into the theatre, with many stopping to pose for photographers, conduct interviews with local television stations, and graciously give autographs to those of us lingering hopefully by the theatre doors (Debbie Reynolds was by far the sweetest and most patient, and I still can't believe she gave me her signature).

Some of June's finest onscreen roles were showcased on a large screen above the stage, interspersed with commentary from on-stage guests Marshall, DeHaven, Reynolds, and O'Brien. Ms. Marshall sang a classy rendition of "The Best Things in Life Are Free" from Good News (1947), her only film with June; Ms. DeHaven, having starred as a sister to June's character on more than one account, spoke of their work at MGM in the 1940's; celebrity friend Reynolds helped to put June's place in cinema history (and further, her legacy with MGM) into perspective and talked kindly of June as both a dear professional and personal friend; and June's frequent co-star, childhood actress Margaret O'Brien, recounted several touching stories of June's kindness to the little girl twenty years her junior (she even went so far as to informally adopt only-child Margaret as a younger sister when asked to by the adoring little girl). The night's finale included a beautiful montage of both studio and candid portraits and stills of Allyson throughout her life, set to a stunning 1960s concert version of Judy Garland singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", made all the more poignant by the presence of Judy's son Sid Luft in the audience, too.


Hollywood Salutes June Allyson was a touching tribute that undoubtedly would have mystified the very woman it was dedicated to, that humble little girl from the Bronx who became more than an actress whom millions of fan still adore: she was, and remains, a beautiful, talented woman loved by both those who had the privilege of knowing her, and those who never did. I only wish June had witnessed this testament to our dedication - this outpouring of most sincere affection and sentiment - before her passing.

I'll never forget such an incredible night...or such an incredible lady.

Peruse the following links for more information on these related topics:

The official June Allyson website

Hillary's Classic Cinema Obituary for June Allyson, July 2006

El Portal Theatre

Karen Cadle, Karen Cadle International

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Classic Movie Trivia

Identify this classic movie star from the photo below:

Simply click the comments link below to submit your guess. I can't believe no one's gotten it yet...

Update, 11/15: Poster Marc recognized Margarita Cansino, better known as Rita Hayworth, in this portrait, taken well before she was The Love Goddess we all know and love. Congratulations, Marc, and thanks for stopping by!

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Nov 7, 2006

The Way We Watched

When looking back on the absolute plethora of classic film I've enjoyed since becoming truly interested in the genre nearly ten years ago, I realize with some incredulity that only the dullest of movies escape me: dozens of titles, timeframes and trivia seem to come easily to me (must be displacing all of the mathematics lessons I can never retain). But would I be an aficionado, self-professed or otherwise, without some sort of helpful cataloguing to remind me of the hundreds of movies I've watched in a decade? I think not. Luckily, I've graduated from using rote memory and a beat-up spiral notebook to house my personal reviews, and have found equally reliable but easier means of logging all the films I've loved. Why not check out:


Flixster is an intriguing and very addictive new way to rate, organize, and share your favorite films online. Sign-up for the service is free and brief, and within minutes you'll be compiling your list of favorite movies, actors, and directors, along with categorizing those films you want to see. Each movie allows you to rate it out of five stars, add comments or a summary, and then compare your results to any other user's on Flixster. Why would this be useful, you ask? Planning movie nights are a snap - just line up your profiles along with those you want to invite to your festivities, and Flixter gives you a complete and detailed list of all the films that appear on your mutual favorites' list, as well as those that everyone has filed under "Want To See". I appreciate the fact that it's a much more visual way of organizing and envisioning my cinema favorites, much like movie-watching itself. Flixster also hosts movie clips and trailers, photo galleries, and forums - it's IMDb meets Netflix, with a pinch of MySpace's customizability thrown in for good measure.

You can view my Flixster profile and see how our movie tastes line up. Feel free to add me as a friend!


A simpler and more practical approach for tried-and-true TCM devotees like myself to keep account of their film-watching is The Film Lover's Journal, a true improvement upon the battered Meade notebooks of old, published by Journals Unlimited. Spiral-bound and durable, each of its 200 pages has blank areas to fill in a film's title, starring actors and directors, and your personal rating, along with ample space for additional information and comments. I received mine from my great friend (and frequent comment-poster) Kelly, and find that it's the perfect size to tote along in both my backpack or my purse and flip through, or add to, whenever I've viewed something truly spectacular or notably horrible. It's also great at sparking movie-related conversations when left lying amongst my coffee table books for guests to page through!

You can order a copy of the journal from; various sizes and types of personalization are available. What a spectacular Christmas gift for the movie lover on your list!