Feb 29, 2008

Stay Tuned!

Just like perpetual gambler Lucky Garnett - Fred Astaire in the charming, dizzying, uber-enchanting Swing Time, 1936 - you're encouraged to swing by Hillary's Classic Cinema anytime, and bet your money on the great changes we'll be implementing in the coming weeks. Shopping suggestions, book recommendations, movie reviews, and delicious new pictures from a March Hollywood jaunt are just a few of the many new features we hope you'll enjoy as we whittle the site into more accessible awesomness. We're also excited to introduce our charity program this spring, which will allow you to honor the memory of your favorite stars of yesteryear by channeling your monetary donations to their personal charities and pet causes. Stay tuned, and remember - swing by anytime!!

Feb 28, 2008

Fab Finds

In true can't-love-it-unless-it's-older-than-my-parents style, I indulged in one of my favorite pasttimes earlier this week: record foraging. There is nothing quite like flicking through stacks of discarded LPs, searching for gems that have been too long confined to basements or garages and discovering remnants of a bygone pop culture that few care to reminisce about (you and I are of those few, it seems).

This was a particularly lucky search effort that yielded three classic-film-related finds for just 99 cents a piece:
  • The campy, burlesque-themed soundtrack to 1962's Gypsy, starring Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell, is in perfect condition;
  • The endlessly romantic musical accompaniment to the ultimate street-gang love story, West Side Story, with vocals by Marni Nixon, Richard Beymer, and Rita Moreno, in addition to the supporting cast;
  • and the double LP offering of That's Entertainment, a hand-picked collection of MGM's best and brightest musical moments, featuring everyone from Agnes Moorhead to Yvonne de Carlo and every star in between (Gene-o, Junie, Mick and Joots - they're all there).
CD wha-?! Of course I know these are available in, well, a more accessible format, but I can't wait to give these a spin. And though the aforementioned compact disc and mp3 have long rendered vinyl obsolete as a means of making music, I find records to hold endless charm, to bring a certain authenticity to their sound, those delicate artifacts of yesteryear. And hey, they look fabulous framed in the foyer!

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Feb 27, 2008

I'm Comin' Elizabeth!

To celebrate your birthday, of course. Beloved actress, activist, cinema icon, entrepeneur and jewelry enthusiast Dame Elizabeth Taylor turns 76 today.

Arguably the last and most beautiful of the enduring and legendary stars to come out of Hollywood's Studio Era, London-born Liz moved to America at age 7, became box office gold at just 12 years old with the release of just her fifth film, National Velvet, and spent the succeeding decades cementing her star status - but the tumult and scandal of her private life has often overshadowed the luminous and lasting contributions she has made, both to American cinema during its Golden Age and to the charitable organizations to which she now donates her time. Read on as I proffer some tidbits on Miss Taylor, who:

Was married eight times to seven different men; her collective surnames would make her Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Warner Fortensky. She is currently not married, and recently expressed shock when a red-carpet reporter broached the subject of future nuptials.

Has four children from three relationships: sons Michael and Christopher Wilding, and daughters Liza Todd and Maria Burton.

Threw a "You Can All Go To Hell" party after her wedding to singer Eddie Fisher as a jab at the press, who hounded her during the couple's courtship - a scandal at the time, as he was still married to America's Sweetheart, actress Debbie Reynolds. Elizabeth and Debbie have since reconciled, collaborated on the made-for-tv film These Old Broads, and collectively loathe Fisher.

Was the first actress to earn a million dollars' salary for a film, 1963's Cleopatra.

Was nominated for Best Actress Academy Award five times in ten years; she took home the gold twice.

Received a 69-carat diamond from fifth husband Richard Burton, one of the world's largest, and later auctioned it off to fund an overseas hospital. It sold for over $3 million.

Has worked to raise AIDS awareness and financial support since 1985, and established an AIDS Foundation in 1991. She is a staunch and tireless advocate of research, fundraising, and public knowledge campaigns, and has auctioned off several pieces of her personal jewelry to benefit her efforts.

She launched a line of fragrances - all named after precious stones - the most popular of which is her signature White Diamonds.

Published the immensely popular My Love Affair with Jewelry, a beautiful coffee-table guide to her celebrated baubles collection, in 2002.

Elizabeth formally retired from acting in 2003, but she has made references to the fact that her recurring ill health has rendered her uninsurable by film studios (she has undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor as well as suffered a broken back numerous times).

Currently lives in Southern California, where she is actively involved in the business aspect of her AIDS foundation and its numerous charitable activities.

To a lady who has left us with as many film gems as she has diamonds in her jewelry box, Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!


Giant, Cleopatra, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof - What's your favorite Elizabeth film? Post in the comments section below.

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Feb 18, 2008

Really, Mis-ta Awlnut

Perhaps I didn't quite capture the essence of Katharine Hepburn's clench-jawed accent with the title of this post, but were I in the presence of the dilapidated old African Queen from the film of the same name, I'm sure I could dredge up more of an authentically eccentric impression of the saucy star. And Queen is more than accessible: the newly-repaired steamboat, one of several used in the 1951 film, is docked at the Holiday Inn Marina in Key Largo, Florida. And yes, you can take a cruise in her - leeches optional. How hot is that?!

The African Queen is located at Mile Marker 100, Key Largo, FL. You can find out more information by calling (305) 451-4655 or visiting The Holiday Inn Key Largo website

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Feb 14, 2008

Love, Hollywood-Style

It has long been said that love in Hollywood is but a celluloid reality: the fast pace and fickle nature of the celebrity-studded Dream Factory have never been considered an ideal environment for true and lasting romance to flourish. (With demanding bosses, studio politics, career competition, contract stipulations and on-location shooting, how could playactors of the past hold down a casual boyfriend, much less a husband and household?) So while it's true that perhaps most people never find sweet, lifelong, An-Affair-To-Remember sort of love, these Tinseltown twosomes have managed to evade the downfalls of fame and celebrate record numbers of anniversaries:

Cyd Charisse (1921-) and Tony Martin (1912- )
Married 59 years, 1948-present
Children: son Tony, Jr.

Perhaps MGM's most famous dancer next to superstud Gene Kelly is elegant, effervescent Cyd Charisse, the Texas-born ballerina who took a French stage name and traveled with the Ballet Russe before becoming hot property at her home studio in the 1940's. Terrifically talented, Cyd starred in some of the biggest musicals ever made - 1952's Singin' in the Rain, 1953's The Band Wagon, and the lush The Harvey Girls (1946), to name a few - and continually proved her popularity was owed more to substance than sequins (though her costumes were dazzling, to say the least).
Singer Tony Martin had less of an impact on the film world, though he's made his share of appearances in nearly three dozen feature films of the 1930's and 40's, such as Ziegfeld Girl and Till the Clouds Roll By. As a popular singer in the 1950's, his film contributions consisted mainly of soundtracks or cameo appearances.
Cyd and Tony currently live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and still frequent various celebrity functions and film retrospectives near their home.


Hume Cronyn (1911-2003) and Jessica Tandy (1909-1994)
Married 52 years, 1942-1994 (her death)
Children: daughter Tandy and son Christopher

Serious stage actress Tandy should be remembered as the Blanche DuBois she created in the original theatre run of A Streetcar Named Desire, but her chance to immortalize her role on film was ruined with the casting of fellow stage star Vivien Leigh in the part. She continued to hone her theatre craft until experiencing a major resurgence in film popularity in her seventies; she won an Oscar for her performance as the titular character in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy.
Cronyn had his own modestly impressive movie resume, with minor parts in films like Ziegfeld Follies and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Younger generations will probably recognize the duo from their collaborations in 1980's films like Cocoon and batteries not included.

Paul Newman (1925-) and Joanne Woodward (1930-)
Married 50 years, 1958-present
Children: daughters Elinor, Melissa and Claire

When Newman and Woodward were married in a hasty Las Vegas ceremony straight after wrapping their sizzling drama The Long Hot Summer in 1958, hardly anyone was surprised - their onscreen chemistry was, and still is, devastatingly electric. But three daughters, a dozen film collaborations and a sprawling philanthropical enterprise later, the tireless twosome are still forging a profound partnership with each new joint venture (last we checked, it was their work with their beloved Westport Country Playhouse) - and causing every jealous fan to wonder if Paul and Jo alone hold the copyright to married bliss.

Ruth Gordon (1896-1985) and Garson Kanin (1912-1999)
Married 42 years, 1942-1985 (her death)
No Children

Perhaps Ruth Gordon isn't among the best-known of erstwhile actresses, but the feisty filly should be an A-Lister for the longevity of her contributions to classic cinema. First lauded on the stage, she eventually drew notice for her turn as Mary Todd in 1940's Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Shortly after, she married second husband Garson Kanin (her first husband died in 1927), and the couple gravitated towards the other glitterati of the stage and film world, collaborating and carousing with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and Moss Hart and wife Kitty Carlisle Hart. Gordon and Kanin co-wrote several memorable film vehicles for the formidable Hepburn and Tracy, namely Pat and Mike and Adam's Rib, and separate from his wife, Kanin crafted comedies like My Favorite Wife and Bachelor Mother, both of which he also directed. Gordon experienced a resurgence in film popularity with her award-winning forays in Rosemary's Baby (1968) and the cult favorite Harold and Maude (1970).

Anne Bancroft (1931-2005) and Mel Brooks (1926-)
Married 41 years, 1964-2005 (her death)
Children: Son Max

Though the world will forever remember Anne Bancroft seductively draped in leopard and clutching a mixed drink, denizens of classic filmdom can recall myriad movies of the Italian beauty's resume that add dimension to her Graduate legacy, including her first foray into film, 1952's Don't Bother To Knock (alongside Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark, no less). Between this incendiary role and her 1962 Oscar win for The Miracle Worker were numerous B-movies that her screen presence elevated to worthwhile-viewing status, but she remained just out of the echelon of Big Box Office Success until the 1960's, when she met a persistent comedian named Mel Brooks. The two were married in 1964, and she proved to be a foil as well as a fan of her ambitious husband's, encouraging him to pursue the film concept that would eventually develop into The Producers, the 1968 hit that launched him into and set the standard for zany epic comedies to come. While Bancroft became more discerning in selecting movie work and lessened the number of roles she took on, Brooks continued to create his own outrageous brand of film, including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and History of the World: Part I. Though Anne died of cancer in early 2005, Brooks is currently working with a musical version of his Frankenstein on Broadway.

"I'm married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you." - Mel Brooks on Anne Bancroft

Blake Edwards (1922-) and Julie Andrews (1935-)
Married 38 years (1969-present)
Children: daughters Amy and Joanna

When one takes into consideration the amazing films churned out of Tinseltown in the 1960's, one has to ask: is there anything Blake Edwards didn't do? The jack-of-all-trades filmmaker created, wrote, scripted, and otherwise re-formatted some of the decade's biggest titles, a decadent slice of his resume wedged between television success in the 1950's (Edwards created, produced, and directed Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky) and a series of fantastically popular satirical comedies, and inventive muscials in the 1970's and 80's. Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther Series, the confection that is 1965's The Great Race - they're all owed to Edwards (well, that first one is truly Capote's and Hepburn's), along with frequent collaborator, conductor Henry Mancini. 1969 saw the mighty Edwards merge paths with another 60's icon, the inimitable import Julie Andrews, and for life, it seems - the two have been cheerful co-conspirators throughout their nearly four decades of marriage, with each still involved in film ventures. Andrews, plucked from the British stage practically in her Eliza Doolittle ensemble, experienced immense and immediate popularity in her film debut (she scored her biggest hits with back-to-back musicals in 1964 and 1965 with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music), and enjoyed successes in later films that were tailor-made to showcase her considerable singing abilities - Edwards-crafted gems like Darling Lili (1970) and 1982's Victor/Victoria. The couple remain active in their respective careers and still attend celebrity functions near their home; Julie recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

"There's nothing better than working on something you love with someone you love." - Blake Edwards on collaborating with Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria

Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) and Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Married 20 years, 1940-1960

Turbulent and tempestuous as their union may have been - Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder that showed itself several years into their marriage - the lasting ardor between classical actor Olivier and British-born Leigh reads like a scene from one of the couple's many stage and screen partnerships.
Olivier began his stage career opposite the likes of august Shakespearean great John Gielgud in 1935, and within two years, was sharing the spotlight with future wife Vivian Hartley, soon to be known as Vivien Leigh. Though each was married to another at the time, the two sparked an unmistakable onscreen rapport in 1937's Fire Over England; after separate stellar successes in the States - he in Wuthering Heights, she in the epic Gone With the Wind - they obtained divorces from their respective spouses and became one of Hollywood's handsomest and most popular husband-and-wife teams. Her devastating mental health issues proved a recurring strain on their marriage, though Olivier remained committed and frequently steered his wife's career on the occasions that her personal life proved unmanageable. The two did end their illustrious offscreen partnership in 1960; Leigh, unmarried thereafter, reportedly kept her former husband's framed photos throughout her house until her death of tuberculosis in 1967.

"Apart from her looks, which were magical...she also had something else: an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered." Laurence Olivier on Vivien Leigh


Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) and Lauren Bacall (1924-)
Married 12 years, 1945-1957 (his death)
Children: Son Stephen and daughter Leslie

Perhaps the most iconic love story in Hollywood history is that of aged actor Humphrey Bogart and lithe, lovely Lauren Bacall. Grizzled, year-worn Bogart, in the midst of gaining his legendary trench-coat-and-tough-talk screen reputation, met naive newcomer Betty Perske on the set of the girl's first film, 1944's To Have and Have Not. The attraction was not instant, but Betty - renamed Lauren Bacall by her personal Svengali, director Howard Hawks - soon became enchanted with the kind, lonely Bogart, entrenched as he was in a quickly-dissolving marriage to his third wife Mayo Methot. The two began a secretive friendship on the set, and, after taking the appropriate steps to divorce himself from his alcoholic wife, Bogart forged a romance with Bacall that horrified her mother, scandalized Hawks, and delighted American audiences who rooted for the unlucky-in-love Bogie to find elusive happiness with the bright and brilliant 19-year-old, newly a sensation with the release of To Have and Have Not. The couple were wed in 1945.
After a decade of marriage and two children Bogart never thought he would get to father, the Bogarts satisfying home life was permanently marred when Humphrey was inadvertently diagnosed with cancer. Though he underwent radical treatments and artfully erected a stoic facade against the ravaging disease, his condition deteriorated quickly in 1956, and he died in early 1957. The gradual unhinging of this iconic man is a heart-wrenchingly sad process described by Bacall in her 1978 autobiography, By Myself, which is highly recommended to all fans of the duo.
What audiences so love about Bogie and Bacall is the way their unabashed attraction to, amusement with, and respect for each other is so readily read in each of the four films they starred in together. After three scathing, scarring failed marriages, film fave Bogart had found his ideal match in the quiet, contemplative New York girl who eschewed career pursuits and reigning social mores for married life with him. It was as if the sweet domesticity that their film relationships lacked was made up for in their very home; even Howard Hawks, resentful or not at his protegee's flight, couldn't have directed a better love story.
That, after all, is Hollywood magic.

"They never wrote a romance the way we lived it." - Lauren Bacall on late husband Humphrey Bogart


Was your favorite classic celebrity couple profiled above? If not, who are they?

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Feb 13, 2008

Popcorn, Peanuts, and Plays

Oft-lauded actor, director, philanthropist, and veteran sexiness Paul Newman will be returning to the theatre scene this fall with his stage-directing debut, according to the recently released schedule of the Westport Country Playhouse. He is slated to direct John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the historic site, saved from dilapidation and neglect largely due to the efforts of Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, who joined the Playhouse staff in the 1990s.

Newman and Woodward have been residents of the Connecticut town since the early 1960's; his hugely profitable for-charity food production company, Newman's Own, is also based there. Woodward, a former arts director at the Playhouse, has returned to her prior position on an interim basis.

Let me get this straight: Paul and Jo in their hometown glory - ?! Road trip to Westport, anyone?!

Photo: Paul and Joanne at home, 1963.

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Feb 12, 2008

Deck the Walls

Deck the walls with pics of Holly - Golightly, that is. US retail giant Target has channeled the work of artist Frank Ritter onto its shelves, where decadent framed faces of cinema icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe are now available for purchase. The images are transferred from a traditional paper print and fused onto a thick, artist-grade canvas, giving them a striking richness and texture that complements such subject matter as Norma Jean and Holly Golightly. Prices vary, but the unframed canvases shown here retail for just $35.99; framed prints run from $230-$300 or more.

Visit Target.com or a local Target to browse the selection of Ritter prints.

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Only Sunshine For This Day

Perpetually perky Doris Day - the bubbly blonde bombshell who proved a triple threat to the moviegoing public in the 1940's, 50's and 60's - received a considerable testament to her talent with Sunday night's presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy, better known as that shindig called The Grammys.

Doris, who charted the first of her 76 Billboard singles in 1945 with the million seller Sentimental Journey, continued to create immensely popular albums for nearly three decades, while simultaneously starring in some of the biggest box-office hits of the era: Young At Heart, Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk, to name a few. The 83-year old singer/actress retired from film in the early 70's, and to this day devotes her time to charitable work concerning animal welfare (she established the Doris Day Animal League in 1987, and continues to spearhead its efforts).

Though Doris didn't perform or attend the ceremonies, fans were treated to a comprehensive video tribute showcasing her career, narrated by presenter Natalie Cole. I really wanted to see that sunshine-y smile in the audience, but I assuaged my disappointment with a few viewings of Send Me No Flowers....) I just hope Clara Bixby is pleased with her long-deserved honor!

Click here to check out Amazon.com's full list of Doris ' discography.

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Feb 2, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses." - The understandably man-weary Elizabeth Taylor

Photo Source

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A Passion for Page-Turners

A co-worker of mine, visibly concerned with the number of books I consume during a routine work week, recently asked me how I managed to own so much literature, especially since I am rather vocal about our salary's ability to cover my movies/chocolate/champagne expenses. Was I stealing from the library, she asked? Or just attending a lot of garage sales?

Neither, of course, although I have managed to pay obscenely small amounts for the spines that sit proudly alphabetized in my bookshelf. And while I can't argue that movies themselves are the essential component of any classic film fan's media intake, the bevy of books on the subject - from autobiographies to photographic retrospectives to trivia and film guides - is an invaluable supplement to any classic movie diet. So where will film fans fare favorably when searching to expand their hardcover collection? Read on for details!

Click here for the full post, which provides extended shopping suggestions and recommended retailers.