Exploring The Dark City

When you publicly bill yourself with anything containing the word “Noir,” you find people have some expectations of you. Fellow enthusiasts often believe you have watched many obscure films. Non-film fans will assume you are a geek who spends a lot of time watching weird movies. And almost everyone expects you to have read Eddie Muller’s landmark tome Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir. Well you see, not all of us are what we seem. I’m rather lacking in the obscure film catalog on my Letterboxd. I do spend a lot of time watching movies…gotta fess up there. But I’ve never read Dark City.

Before you go revoking my Noir Card, let me explain. Eddie originally published this book in 1998 and it has been out of print since. As a consequence, copies have been notoriously difficult to obtain for a reasonable price for the last 10+ years. Go have a peek around the interwebs and peep those $100 used price tags for the first edition. Coming up with that much dough at once is tough for a young broad!

So when TCM announced Eddie was releasing an expanded second edition through Running Press, I did a little dance in my office. And when I had the chance to review a copy, I jumped through my keyboard to accept. And then I was invited to interview the Czar himself, and let me tell you – it was the stuff that dreams are made of.

What follows here is a summary of our conversation about the new edition of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir.

When I asked Eddie how he defines a “whodunit” as compared to a Noir, he responded simply that in a whodunit, the protagonist is often a detective who is not a character in the action. They are above the action. The Maltese Falcon rejiggered (his word, of course!) the common notion of the whodunit because every character in it is guilty, even Sam Spade. In a Noir, the “mystery” doesn’t matter because you are interested in who the characters are and what is motivating them to act this way.

One of the additions Eddie made to this version is the inclusion of more female stories: writers, actors, producers. So of course, I wanted to know about Craig Rice (aka Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig) who was massively famous in the 1940s but has faded into obscurity now. I asked Eddie to share why he thinks her fame waned. His take is that she was a woman writing fiction in a man’s world. When Raymond Chandler became popular, writers were inspired by his work and the genre became more and more male. Ms. Craig was just as much an alcoholic as any male writer and she was a working mother at the same time. Sounds like there’s a Noir story to tell there.

New to this edition is a breathtaking two-page spread on Belita, which thrilled me as I have recently become a huge fan. Eddie reminded me that Belita hated being in Hollywood, but did not hate the movies – even if that is how she appears on screen. Charles Laughton revitalized her career when she met him. There’s a wacky-but-true story about how Belita recovered from an injury in the book that you must read to believe!

Be sure to check out the new sections on Joan Harrison and Barbara Peyton. And pour over the bolstered Ann Sheridan passages.

For my last question, I asked Eddie something I have long wondered. If he was not who we know him today, what would his career have been? I was absolutely floored to learn that his first career choice was a veterinarian, since he loves animals.

But this question led to a wonderful rabbit hole learning how Eddie became the Czar of Noir and it’s just as winding and twisted as you would expect. His initial intention 30 years ago was to be a novelist. But it was the wrong time to attempt a breakthrough for that industry. So when he wrote Dark City in 1998, he negotiated a deal to get paid to design the book on desktop publishing software – which ended up paying better than the writing. Once the book was in the world, it was revered and beloved and led to invitations to host film festivals. And the rest is history.

In this conversation in early September, Eddie shared the incredible news with me that Noir City DC, the east coast version of his film festival, returns to the AFI Silver on October 15, 2021. Check it out if you are close by! This year’s fest will be unique in that every film on the bill comes from Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir – including some rare treats like Fly-By-Night (1942) and Somewhere in the Night (1946) which will be presented in 35mm.

If visiting the festival is not within your grasp, be sure to grab a copy of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir. It’s a large book, with bright, colorful (yes – colorful) movie stills and poster art sprinkled between a tangled web of intrigue as Eddie leads the tour through every seedy underworld stop. The paper is thick and semi-gloss, giving weight to every page turn. It’s the kind of book you flip open only to browse and look up 3 hours later realizing you’ve been kidnapped on a journey you’ll never forget.

*Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review.*


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The Theater-Going Experience

Can you believe, this is my 5th year attending film festivals? My first was in 2014 attending TCMFF in Hollywood. Having just returned from Noir City Seattle and getting ready to head out again for TCMFF 2019, it feels like a good time to reflect on why I enjoy spending weeks of my life in movie theaters.

The Visual

When you watch a film (any film) on the big screen, it is a fully immersive experience. Your phone is off and forgotten and for 90 or so minutes, it’s just you and the film. Having the excuse to shut off the outside world and focus on just one experience makes that experience all the more potent and meaningful. Plus, the size of the screen allows you to notice details you would otherwise miss had you watched the film on your TV.

The Audience

Nothing better than a packed house. (Noir City Seattle, 2019)

Don’t get me wrong, I thrill at the thought of a theatre all to myself for a matinee showing. That said, nothing can compare to the exhilaration of being surrounded by appreciative like-minds during a screening. That moment when the whole audience collectively gasps when the leading lady is slapped in the face builds on your emotions and forces you to feel them on a deeper level. Festivals give us a chance to relive a few hours with these films as they were meant to be seen – with others who love them as much as we do.

The History

A major part of festivals is providing funds to support film preservation. In the Hollywood Studio Era, films were looked upon as disposable and once shown in theaters for the first run, there was no plan to rerelease or preserve them. Theater owners ended up with libraries full of film cans as the studios sent a new print to each small town theater upon a film’s opening. This is a god-send to film preservationists today because in forgotten corners of the world, prints of now-rare films still exist in private collections.

The Czar of Noir (and epic hugs)

Nearest and dearest to my heart is the Film Noir Foundation, which fights the battles of film preservation day in and day out. Founded by Eddie Muller in 2005 as a work-around to gain access to rare titles in studio film vaults, the FNF has now chalked up an impressive list of “saved” films. Too Late for Tears, Cry Danger, The Prowler and High Tide have all been restored thanks to FNF (and that’s just the tip of a pinkie finger compared to the full success list). Without these tireless film preservation warriors, our film history would fade away without a whisper, leaving us unaware of the beauty we had missed.

The Technical

Film cans from the Noir City 2018 lineup in Seattle

Each time a 35mm print is shown, that screening must be presided over by a skilled projectionist. They are few in number and getting fewer each year. While we sit in our comfy seats stuffing our faces with popcorn, these unsung heroes are bathing brittle, aged prints in vinegar to make them pliable enough to run through the projector. Or changing reels seamlessly so we don’t notice a hiccup in the run time of the film.

If the picture is slightly out of focus, that’s the film warping with age and not feeding through the projector smoothly. If the sound is off, it’s the projectionist’s job to put it back on track with the visuals. If you see no picture, but hear sound, the film has to be manually rethreaded in the projector. Each screening is a gamble, just for the unpredictability of the film stock itself and that’s part of the fun for me. It adds to the communal experience. We aren’t just watching a film played by a computer (as you are in modern theaters…). A real person is pouring their heart and soul into the screening of this film. It’s a performance – and no two are the same.

Because I understand how much can go wrong in the booth, I have zero tolerance for audience members who get loud when things do go awry on a film-projected screening. Please cut the projectionist some slack if you happen to attend a screening with a hiccup. Or get ready to field a death glare from me when you start whistling!

The Buildings

Film projection equipment isn’t installed in theaters anymore, so to see a screening on film, your options are limited. But those options are so glamorous! Seattle’s Egyptian theater where Noir City is held used to be a Masonic Lodge and retains the solid oak doors with custom door knobs. Hollywood’s Egyptian theater is larger and grander with a spacious forecourt and Egyptian themed murals sprinkled around the walls. Inside, both are decked out with carefully painted moldings on the walls and ceiling. These theaters maintain the charm of the eras in which they were built and add another layer to the experience of transporting the movie-goers into the past.

*All photos in this post are mine. Please do not repost them without my permission.*

Chime in with your favorite reasons for viewing films in theaters below!

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Filed under Classic Movies, Noir

TCMFF 2017: The Films

If you read multiple accounts of the fest from different people, you’ll quickly realize the range of options available for creating your schedule. We all attended the same event, but our picks are wildly different and it’s rare for two festival-goers to have the same exact selections. This versatility is one of the aspects I appreciate most about TCMFF. Sure, they feature films from the 70s-00s. But they aren’t the only option. And at the same time, there are 2-3 other films from the 30s-60s playing that still make creating a schedule for myself a game of Sophie’s Choice.

Thursday, April 6man-who-knew-too-much-blu-ray-movie-title

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) – The first nitrate screening of the fest! Must admit, it was very difficult to tell a difference between nitrate and a regular safety print. I spent the first 15 minutes trying to figure out what the fuss was about and then just gave up and enjoyed the show.

Friday, April 7

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Film Noir at 9am on a Friday morning. Can’t get any better than that! Introduced by the Czar of Noir himself, Mr. Eddie Muller. Eddie’s introductions are always a treat just because you can never guess what remarkable fact will spring forth from his brain.

Panique (1946) – This film made the top of my must see list the moment it appeared on the schedule. It was new to me, a Noir and French – curiosity peaked on all levels. A gripping tale of a man wrongly accused by fearful and narrow-minded people, it was tragic and touching all at once. Not the kind of film you’ll watch again and again, but definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Red-Headed Woman (1932) – Jean Harlow on the big screen is NOT to be missed. If you think this film is steamy from your sofa, go see it in a theatre. WOW.

Laura (1944) – This was the second nitrate screening of the fest and it was easier to see the beauty of nitrate. However, the print was incomplete and missing moments during important scenes, so it distracted from the experience. If this was your first time seeing Laura, you need to watch it again in full. It will all make more sense, I assure you.

Zardoz (1974) – My only midnight screening this year and what a screening! Miguel and Beth baked up Sean Connery gingerbread cookies and kindly bestowed one on each of us. Aside from lifting an already unique experience to an unforgettable one, the cookies tasted delicious and (as homemade food often does) turned the whole over-caffienated crowd into old friends. My hat’s off to both Miguel and Beth. Well done.


Saturday, April 8

Stalag 17 (1953) – Even though this was a rewatch for me, I couldn’t pass up a chance to see smirking William Holden on the big screen. This role was perfect for him and I never tire of seeing him flip from jerk to hero.

The Underworld Story (1950) – Sad admission here. I fell asleep a bit during this one. My midnight movie shenanigans from the night before caught up to me. Never fear though – I realized once it started I had already seen it, so no great loss.

King of Hearts (1966) – A new-to-me film and it did not disappoint. Alan Bates plays a solider in WWI sent to gather intelligence in a small French town. Trouble is, the German’s just rigged this town with explosives and intend to blow it up at dusk. Once Alan discovers this, he sets about trying to save the only remaining inhabitants – inmates of an insane asylum. The film is sweet, touching, funny and beautiful. Highly recommend.

Black Narcissus (1947) – Okay so for this third nitrate screening I finally caught Nitrate Fever. The print was luscious and watching it on the big screen enveloped you in the Himalayas right along with Deborah Kerr.

Sunday, April 9

Cock of the Air (1932) – When the final credits rolled on this one, I was ecstatic I got up early to see it. This was my first ever Billie Dove film and she is enchanting. It’s a Howard Hughes Pre-Code with Chester Morris and the snappiest dialogue a gal could hope for in a film. Plus, SHIRTLESS CHESTER MORRIS and Billie Dove clad in armor while successfully seducing him. My greatest wish is to see this one again.

Lured (1947) – Lucille Ball volunteers to assist in a murder investigation and falls for suspect George Sanders in the process. Great fun – especially the scene with Boris Karloff. His daughter Sara introduced the film and spoke of her gentlemanly father with the greatest reverence.

Detective Story (1951) – Introduced by spitfire Lee Grant who sure gave Eddie Muller a run for his money. She spoke about her life as a blacklisted actress and her career since then. She was awe-inspiring.

Lady in the Dark (1944) – Probably the most controversial film of the festival. The chauvinistic themes were much discussed afterward and I fear this film might not be appreciated for the positive aspects because of this downside. It’s a gorgeous film and it was the final nitrate screening of the fest, which only enhanced the experience. The costumes, dance numbers and sets are not to be missed. Sure, the plot itself is not the strongest (nor the most interesting) but to me, this falls into the category of a Betty Grable film. You don’t watch those for the fantastic plots either. I will jump at a chance to rewatch this one and would even buy it on DVD. There is a lot to study for a fashion geek like me!


Giant eggs with painted faces and HATS. Come on, how can you not be entranced?

The Presenters

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Eddie Muller at The Maltese Falcon

Pierre Simenon and Bruce Goldstein at Panique

Cari Beauchamp at Red-Headed Woman

Alex Trebek at Stalag 17

Sara Karloff at Lured

Eddie Muller and Lee Grant at Detective Story


(Screen shots of film titles from The Movie Title Stills Collection – do check out Christian’s incredible work!)


Filed under Classic Movies

The TCMFF Experience

zardozAs you will have gathered if you followed along with the #TCMFF posts on Twitter and Instagram, the Turner Classic Film Festival is really all about connecting with other fans. Of course it’s thrilling to see our favorite stars larger than life on screen in vintage restored theatres. But the experience just wouldn’t be the same without the hordes of like-minded kooks who clap and cheer with abandon at the sight of Guy Kibbee’s name in the opening credits.

Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and this blog, I’ve come to know a lovely collection of people who share this passion for classic film. I’d like to take a moment and just tip my hat to each of them. Ladies and gents, I look forward each year to seeing you all again. Thank you for making 2017 another joyous memory for me!

Above, clockwise starting from the left: Danny & his lovely wife, JandyMillieJoelMattRaquelleKate, Kim, Diana, Sabina, Laura, Kendhal, LindsayAngelaChrisJasmine, Carlos, Marya, Kimberly


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Reflections on a Festival: TCMFF 2017

Each year, when I return home after my week-long sojourn among the flickering films and swaying palms, I inevitably face a peppering of questions about what took place. It’s rather a hard experience to describe in a few sentences for a quick conversation. So hopefully, I can do a bit better here.

This year, my dear friend Kate and I stayed an entire week. We arrived in L.A. on Monday, giving us two and half days before the festival began on Thursday. The extra time pre-fest gave us a chance to grocery shop (a must for those not fond of living on popcorn and hot dogs for four days) and do a bit of sightseeing. To complete our trio, the incomparable Millie arrived on Tuesday to join the fun.

IMG_2450Top of my list of happy memories for this year’s trip was attending the Fashion in Film of TCMFF lecture of Kimberly Truhler at the Annenberg Community Beach House on Tuesday evening. Kimberly is herself a fashion icon and her knowledge of classic fashion and the fashion industry in general is breathtaking. What I enjoyed most about her discussion was the emphasis on the fashion designers themselves. Who trained them, who influenced them and how these incredible talents continue impacting fashion to this day. If you have a chance to attend one of Kimberly’s talks, do take it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Before the lecture, our gal trio scampered about on the Santa Monica pier and splashed in the waves a bit. After 4 years of visiting California, I finally dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean (thanks to the continual persistence of Millie).

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While Kate and I waited for Millie to arrive earlier that day, we visited the kind gents in Larry Edmunds, looked in on a wig shop (as you do) and wandered the alleys of Hollywood gazing at vintage buildings. We stumbled upon Los Angeles’s first outdoor shopping mall: Crossroads of the World, built in 1936. Kate and I couldn’t resist sneaking in to snap a few photos.

On Wednesday morning, Millie and I took the chance to hike a different trail near the Hollywood sign. These treks together have quickly become a tradition for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I’m endeavoring to make these posts short and sweet this year, so do let me know your thoughts. More to come!

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Halloween: Vintage Style

IMG_5691_editWell hi there, friends!

I come to you today with a fabulously exciting collaboration between the prolific milliner Tanith Rowan and I.  I stumbled upon Tanith’s blog in late July and became enamored with her monthly Whimsy project and stunning handmade hats. She announced in her newsletter an idea for creating a set of vintage-inspired Halloween costumes and I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. We exchanged general ideas and set about sketching in the beginning of August. In all, we both came up with 10-12 individual designs and then we narrowed down to 3 for production. And that narrowing was no easy feat. I would happily make every one of Tanith’s designs. Oh and her fashion sketching? Puts mine to shame, folks.

Tiny sidenote – as you look at these, bear in mind the fact that the garments were all sewn in a 32 square foot space. On my kitchen table. If you think you can’t sew because you don’t have room – don’t let it stop you. It can be annoying, but it’s possible and remarkable fun.

1950’s Spider

spidersketchFirst up – a 50’s sheath dress and gathered overskirt with a wide brimmed sun hat. Tanith’s take on the hat is a stroke of genius. Inside the brim, she hand cut felt spiders and hid them between the sheer layers, so they are only visible when the light shines through the brim in the right way.

IMG_0965 IMG_0984For the dress, I used Gertie’s Tiki Dress pattern from her book and made it up in dark grey bengaline. I didn’t gather the skirt as she instructs, though.  I just used the simple pencil skirt instead. Of all the pieces for this project, I expected to have the most trouble and be the most frustrated by this one, just because of the complex nature of the construction and it being my first time using boning in a garment. It went together smoothly, to my great surprise. I even lined it! The “web” overskirt is self-drafted and made of creamy sheer. It’s loosely gathered using a technique I used last year to make an Anthropologie inspired duvet cover.

IMG_0976 IMG_09681930’s Cat

catsketchNext, a 30’s day outfit with a long skirt, bow-tied blouse and short cropped jacket. Tanith’s hat is a crown of fur with a knit fabric carefully gathered across the center and two velvet ears on the edge. By the way – a note about Tanith’s remarkable hat designs: she knows what a hat needs to help it stay on all day. For this hat, she built in a plaited bandeau that wraps around the back of your head to keep it in place. My hair mostly covers it in these photos, but trust me, it’s there.

IMG_1014The skirt here is Wearing History’s 1930’s Bias Skirt pattern. I tried the print at home version and have never been so impressed with a print at home pattern. Lauren took great pains to make the matching of the pieces easy and she succeeded. If you were on the fence about trying any of her patterns, I highly recommend them (and no, she did not ask nor pay me to say it).

The blouse is Gertie’s Bow Tied Blouse (from the book above) made in cotton dotted Swiss. For some reason, this one item was the hardest and most frustrating to complete. I wish the pattern pieces from the New Book for Better Sewing were numbered or lettered somehow because I spent a whole hour convinced I did not have the pattern piece for the collar. It’s called a Collar Band in the pattern and it confused the heck out of me. The directions for sewing are a bit vague, too. If you are not an experienced sewer, they will be hard to follow. Anyway – the back is closed with 5 bound buttonholes and finished with vintage buttons. Gertie’s bound buttonhole instructions are my favorite bar none. If you are looking to attempt them, check out her tutorial in this book. In the end, I’m quite pleased with the result and will be making the blouse again.

The jacket is self-drafted with a big wide collar to give a proper backdrop for the bow on the blouse. The jacket fabric is vintage gray wool a friend gave me and it was perfect for this use. It’s been waiting on my fabric shelf for just such a project.

Of the three outfits, this is my favorite. And as Tanith said in her post, I love them all!

IMG_1027 IMG_1026 IMG_10421940’s Bat

batsketchThe final outfit is a 40’s batwing suit made of houndstooth brocade. Tanith’s beautiful rendition of this hat blew me away from the moment I unpacked it. It’s another example of her thoughtful practical-ness, too. Inside, there are two elastic loops you bobby-pin to secure it.

IMG_1090I initially intended to add directional quilting as you can see from the sketch, but when I found the houndstooth fabric, the quilting seemed like it would interfere. This design also has a back closure and no, the back closure theme was not intentional. The lines of both designs just seemed to fit with what we were going for. The pattern used for this outfit is Simplicity 1706 from the 40s. The buttons are another set of vintage beauties waiting for the right project to come along.

IMG_1059 IMG_1054 IMG_1046I am so honored to have worked with Tanith on this endeavor. She is a lovely person full of ingenuity, talent and brilliance. Make sure you go check out her post on this project over at her blog and while you’re at it, look at her Whimsy project, too!

Also, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to my dear friend Mrs. T who kindly dropped everything to take off on a photoshoot adventure with me at a moment’s notice. She snapped all the photos here and did a truly wonderful job. I love you, dearie.


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TCMFF 2015 – Day 3

Friday, March 27.

Friday opened bright and early with The Dawn of Technicolor presentation in the Egyptian theatre. Historians and co-authors David Pierce and James Layton gave a stunning glimpse of the early two-strip technicolor process and the films made during that time (1915-1934). Restored snippets of films (mostly lost in their entirety) played after introductions with behind-the-scenes images and facts by Mr. Pierce or Mr. Layton.

It astounded me to realize how much light was required to capture clear images on film. We saw photographs of the sets which were nothing but stages in a cage of massive flood lights. The temperatures were reported to be higher than 100 degrees under the lights, and yet somehow the performers don’t have an ounce of glistening sweat on them. I’m slightly terrified to find out how that was possible. Also of note – a remarkable number of films were made in color with the two-strip process. I had imagined it to be reserved for a selection of high-budget productions and thought this was the reason why so few of the films were still around today. Not so, as it turns out. As the box office success of color films escalated, studios rushed to produce more color films. However, the Technicolor lab fell behind keeping up with the demand of prints of the new films. Audiences were so enamored with the original color films released, they kept going back to see them over and over again.

As soon as the massive applause for our hosts died down, I booked it over to my top pick of the day in the Multiplex: Reign of Terror (1949). My only viewing of it had been years ago, taped from TCM when I was a fledgling 14-year-old film fan and could not appreciate the greatness of a French Revolution themed-Noir directed by Anthony Mann. It takes a higher level of film knowledge to properly view bewigged Richard Basehart’s gleefully evil Robespierre and the delicate beauty of Arlene Dahl in rich black and white. And to add to the thrill, we were treated to a discussion after the film with Eddie Mueller and Norman Lloyd himself.

The best description I can give for Norman Lloyd is delightful. What a lovely man. He enchanted the entire audience from the first word he spoke and when it was time to end, everyone in the audience protested at the injustice of leaving. His main insight about Reign of Terror was the fact that the entire film was made (on a shoestring budget) simply because the sets were built for Joan of Arc. Not to imply the film suffered at all for this fact. The cinematography by John Alton takes your breath away, especially in the newly restored 35mm print we saw.

After tearing myself away from the sparkling wit of Norman Lloyd, I fast-walked my way down Hollywood Blvd for Pinocchio at the El Capitan. I had just enough time to jump in line to secure my number and grab a quick lunch at Baja Fresh down the street. I shamelessly stood in the Pinocchio line near the ElCap and stuffed my face on a taco while wearing one of the fanciest dresses I own. The marvelously kind (and gorgeous!) Tiffany later admitted to catching me at this and seeing my intent expression, decided not to interrupt. Food is gold at TCMFF, folks.

Pinocchio was a first time viewing for me, believe it or not. First time, in the ElCap with a newly restored DCP print and seeing it with Laura and Kristina – nothing better! Laura has a wonderful photo in her recap post taken by the official TCM press photographer and you can clearly see all three of us (me in my orange pillbox hat…) on the right side. I ended up mighty thankful those two ladies were with me because I am here to tell you – Pinocchio is SCARY. Your nose growing every time you fib? Your father gets swallowed by a whale? Boys turning into donkeys and being sold by bad men? Whoever perpetuated the idea Disney films were sugar coated did us massive disservice.

In an effort to recover from the fright of Pinocchio, Laura, Kristina and I took a short break to eat before the next film. We chatted and people-watched from the second level of the Baja Fresh.

We all shared the next pick in the lineup: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) and headed over to the Egyptian early in the hopes of securing a place at the front of the line. As you can see, it was a popular screening – the gang was all there!

Waiting in line, I identified myself as NoirGirl to the lady chatting with Kristina and a voice behind me piped up with “Excuse me, did you say you are NoirGirl?” It turned out to be none other than Alexis, whom I have known online for years and had somehow managed to miss meeting. There is nothing quite like the beautiful feeling of finding old friends all around you in the land of movies.


The print of Steamboat Bill presented was a stunning world premiere restoration accompanied by a brand new score composed and conducted by none other than Maestro Carl Davis himself. A live orchestra played the score right there in the theatre with us! For my first time seeing a silent on the big screen, it could not have been more thrilling. I feel bound to admit, I’ve never appreciated the comedy of slapstick. My tastes run more towards subtle wordplay. However, Buster Keaton surprised me with his impressive physicality and the intricacy of the stunts he insisted on performing himself. Steamboat Bill is a lovely mix of gentle comedy and heavy slapstick. You will no doubt be most surprised to learn my favorite scene occurred in a hat shop. Buster’s father insists he must change his personal style to be more “manly” and in the course of trying on different hats, we are treated to a host of hilarious reactions from father and son alike. All in all, a perfect first big screen silent. And to heighten the experience, I got to see it with a fabulous group of good-looking folks!

audreyhepburn_RomanHolidayThe next block of films gave many of us a difficult Sophie’s Choice. Apollo 13 (1995) vs. Rebecca (1940) vs. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) vs. The War Game (1965) vs. The Bank Dick (1940) vs. Roman Holiday (1953). Since all of my selections so far had been first time viewings, I opted for an indulgent rewatch of a film close to my heart: Roman Holiday. Laura and Kristina had introduced me to the fascinating Stephen earlier and when we ran into each other in the line, we arranged to sit together for the screening. It gave me great joy to share the experience with him and I’m so happy we ended up there in Audrey heaven at the same moment.

elizabethtaylor_boomMy last pick of the evening was ironically one of the first definite decisions I made when the schedule became available in the weeks before the festival. This year, I determined I must take in a midnight screening. Of the two offered, Boom! (1968) promised to be the kookiest experience. Kendhal luckily planned to attend also, so we met up in the line – compatriots in craziness with Daniel of Next on TCM. Daniel charmed us with a story of his first experience seeing Boom! and Kendhal and I so enjoyed his company during the film.

Oh my goodness, Boom! did not disappoint. As you have no doubt heard already, the film is famously ridiculous. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are reported to have been intoxicated throughout much of the filming and you have no reason to doubt it. The film is the two of them shouting nonsensical things at each other while Noel Coward spouts “wisdom” and Elizabeth Taylor parades about in ornate headdresses (which I feel duty-bound to add, are stunning). Describing the film with any degree of competency is quite beyond me, but do check out Hollywood Babylon for a superb review. (Plus, I may have dozed off towards the end and my recollection is fuzzy…)

All in all, a day full of remarkable experiences and I would not change a single decision!


Filed under Classic Movies

TCMFF 2015 – Day 2

Thursday, March 26

casey_roDuring my stay in LA, I shared a room with two of the kindest ladies you could ever hope to meet: Laura and Kendhal. Staying with them afforded an opportunity to get to know them better and I cherish our times together. Thursday morning, Laura and I met Kristina for breakfast and spent the morning together making sure she learned her way around. Kristina designed and sewed her own formal dress for The Sound of Music red carpet event and we enjoyed several fabric and sewing discussions in our travels while I attempted to contain my glee in discovering a fellow fabric-nerd. You know you’ve found a friend when she reads the look on your face and asks “You have a big collection of fabric, don’t you?”

olivia tcmboutiqueAfter a stop at the TCL Theatre to marvel over the petiteness of Olivia de Havilland (my HANDS are bigger than her feet), we headed over to the Roosevelt Hotel for a mandatory saunter through the TCM Boutique. Last year, I did not purchase an official festival tote bag and regretted it ever since, so my mission this year was to secure one as soon as humanly possible. I almost ordered the taxi from the airport to take me straight to The Roosevelt just to make sure I’d get one. (Exhaustion and hunger prevailed on that occasion…)

larryedsNext, we made a beeline for Larry Edmund’s Bookshop down the street. It was only my second visit there, but the gentlemen graciously remembered me (or at least they pretended to!). One of my favorite aspects of popping in to the shop is chatting with them. We heard all about Rory Flynn’s republication of her book and how she recently lowered the price to make it more accessible for a larger base of her father’s fans. Rory introduced The Sea Hawk later that evening and signed books in The Roosevelt Hotel over the weekend.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, when Kendra Bean announced on Twitter her intention of attending this year, I grabbed my copy of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait and added it to the top of my To Pack stack. Thursday afternoon, Laura, Kristina and I met her for an unconventional In-n-Out Burger book signing. We asked about how she was able to make the connections to Vivien’s friends for the book. Kendra explained the intricate vetting process she experienced before contacts would even speak to her because the network around Vivien maintained their commitment to shield and protect her, even today. Thank you so much for spending time with us, Kendra. It was a great honor!

After lunch, we headed back to The Roosevelt with Kendra and ran into Joel and his lovely wife transporting luggage down a back alley like Broderick Crawford and Ed Brophy in Larceny, Inc. As they stopped and chatted with us for the better part of 15 minutes in the scorching heat, it became clear they were merely switching hotels and not looking for somewhere to dump illicitly acquired dirt. But hey – you never know.

The Roosevelt played host to the Meet TCM event at which the TCM executives and Ben Mankiewicz fielded questions from the audience about TCM matters. Laura compared it to the press event she had attended the day before and explained how much of the information shared there was a repeat of the previous meeting. The fun aspect for me came with the first question asked out of the audience: Why the trend towards “newer” films at this year’s fest?” This question created drama and intrigue online for weeks before the event and it was a relief to many (including Ben M., I thought) to have it out of the way first thing. The answer provided made sense, pointing to the broad definition of what makes a classic and revealing how the decision to screen Out of Sight (1998) stemmed from the wishes of Anne V. Coates. This, paired with an assurance of maintaining the focus on what us die-hards like to call “true classics” satisfied the question and closed the issue. You know, in the end, TCM will show whatever they deem will appeal to the broadest audience. I think we all understand that. They know the core fan base cares mostly about the films made before 1970. And to that end, let me point out this fact. I saw 17 films at the festival (only 1 away from the maximum possible) and the newest I attended was made in 1968. The earliest was made in 1898. The newer films were not my reason for being there, so having them in the line-up only served to assist in narrowing my selections. (*ducks from the onslaught of tomatoes*)

Anne Marie and I taking selfies for our social media pins in the Roosevelt lobby.

Anne Marie and I taking selfies for our social media pins in the Roosevelt lobby.

I stuck around and watched the So You Think You Know Movies trivia game at Club TCM with Anne Marie and Trevor but thankfully did not participate. The questions were obscure and it became clear that success would only be awarded to a diverse team of fast thinking analyticals.

toolatefortearsFinally, the time for the first screening arrived and it happened to be the film I looked forward to most: Too Late for Tears (1949) with Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy. I jumped into the line with Lindsay and Chris full of anticipation. You can see my excitement first hand in this quick interview shot by Chris and his hilarious daughter Jasmine.

Too Late For Tears did not disappoint and I’m aiming to do a separate post on it later. (*fingers crossed!*)

errolflynn_seahawkThe Sea Hawk (1940) was my final selection on Thursday for two reasons: the dashing charm of Errol Flynn in 35mm and an appearance by his daughter Rory. Before the film, Rory gave a short talk about the print of the film we saw, explaining how it had been created for a re-release in 1949. She introduced us to her son Sean who calmly sat in the audience next to Jessica during the film. Jessica was just a bit excited about the experience.

At TCMFF, even films you’ve seen 100 times are transformed into new special moments because you are seeing them in a theatre with like-minded fans. Clapping when favorite stars appear on screen, cheers when battles are won, applause when the bad guy is bested and half the room tearing up, just because the music swells at the end. It can’t be beat.

Up next, a full day of films AND LUNCH! (Imagine that!)


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TCMFF 2015 – Day 1

Why hello there! Betcha thought I’d given up blogging, didn’t you? The lack of posts stems from an odd life dominated by a demanding job. My love of writing and exchanging thoughts with all of you remains intact.

After a month of working with one day off per week to prepare for my absence, I packed up two of my best hats and headed out to the land of glamour to experience four days of movie heaven known as the Turner Classic Film Festival. As you may remember, I attended last year (and only wrote one measly post about the experience then…bad Casey) and the trip fulfilled every expectation I had cooked up. It seemed impossible to improve upon such perfection, but remarkably, 2015 brought an even more enjoyable time than the year before.

This year, my aim focused on trying new films I had not seen before and of the 17 total performances I attended, 12 of them were new-to-me films or documentaries. I attended all three Film Noir screenings (all of which were new viewings for me), every silent film shown and can now brag with pride that I have seen my beloved Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on the big screen in Gunga Din – an event I almost passed up and would have sincerely regretted missing had it not been for the responsible voice of my dear friend Kate.

And in the middle of all these showings, I met and reconnected with the world of friends I have known online for 7 years now. For those who have never been, TCMFF is akin to the largest family reunion you could imagine. Everyone standing in line alongside you is a long-lost relation – just waiting for the chance to gush about Edna May Oliver’s Hildegarde Withers series or share their experience wearing vintage in everyday life. It feels like coming home.

However – enough of the sentimentality for now. There will be more later, you can depend upon it!

micelisThe weekend officially began for me on Wednesday night when Laura and her husband Doug, Kendhal, Raquelle and her husband Carlos and I met for dinner at Miceli’s. As we chatted, the waiters and waitresses took turns singing with incredible skill to the accompaniment of a live pianist. After stuffing ourselves (little did I know it was the only real “meal” I would end up having the whole time), we were on to The Formosa for the annual pre-fest party.

TCMFF15 dinnerThe Formosa was brimming with festival-goers when we arrived. I barely managed to make it in and claim a seat for myself. But, luckily, not before snagging a copy of Holiday in Mexico from the ever-hilarious Matt Patterson of Warner Archive. (Thank you very much, sir!) While there, I was able to catch up with Anne Marie, Trevor, Jessica and Angela and met Theresa, LH and Kendra.

Up next, an actual post about the films! (And yes, there really will be one this time…I promise!)

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My 2014 TCMFF Adventure {Part 1}

I can’t believe my first trip to the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival was already a month ago. It all flew by and I spend a great portion of my days now wishing I could go back and relive the experience. Where’s Rod Taylor when you need him?

Let’s begin this account of my exploits.


The Official Non-fleshie Selfie

The main purpose of this trip was meeting my four Non-fleshie pals: Kate, Millie, Nicola and Sarah. We’ve known each other for 5 years online, corresponding over our classic film loves (Dana Andrews, Hedy Lamarr, Jeffrey Lynn, Julie Christie, DFJ, Dirk Bogarde, Natalie Wood) and agreeing to disagree over some stars (*cough*Tyrone Power…Jimmy Stewart*cough*). We always said that for our 5 year anniversary, a grand meetup simply MUST take place. We had no idea how we could make it work, but the notion persisted. Honestly, I never thought we would actually pull it off, but by golly, we did!

I rose before the sun and arrived bright and early for my flight to LA. I chose a direct flight and it turned out to be one of many smart newbie decisions I made this trip. Landed in LA, I texted the ladies and put the pedal to the metal for our meeting place. The inscrutable Millie sat perched on the edge of a plastic chair watching the door for me and we flew at each other screaming hellos as soon as I came through the door. After marveling over the fact that neither of us turned out to be creepy old men pulling an enormous con on unsuspecting girls, we sat ourselves on the plastic chairs of LAX and awaited the arrival of Kate, Nicola and Sarah. Kate and Nicola arrived in short order and more screaming ensued, but Sarah’s flight did not land for several hours, so we occupied ourselves people watching, taking selfies and chatting like we’ve been fleshies all this time. When we finally retrieved Sarah from the dark hole in which she landed, we stuffed ourselves (all 5 of us, mind you) into a little Uber sedan for the ride to our hotel. (Lesson learned: request an Uber SUV when transporting 5 girls. And demand the use of the air conditioner.)

If we didn’t feel close before, we certainly bonded over that Uber ride. Poor Millie spent the trip with my bony elbow in her ribs – and still liked me afterwards! Let me just interject here that these 4 lasses could not be kinder, sweeter or more hilarious. I am so thankful to have them in my life and so thankful to have had this opportunity to spend time with them.


Nicola marveling over Snow White in her cafe. Photo by Kate.

Since our last meals were eaten (what felt like) days before, our first official act in LA was a late lunch. The Snow White Cafe on Hollywood Blvd fit the bill nicely and offered a Disney theme to the delight of Kate and Nicola. The gals set about getting the lay of the land with a little sightseeing and I headed back to our hotel to meet Raquelle for a secret mission. She is even nicer and kinder in person than she appears online. And she is beautiful! Even when she doesn’t feel well! I so appreciate her taking me under her wing for the next part of our evening.

Raquelle and I walked to Sadie Kitchen and Lounge for the TCM Tweet Up. I knew nothing of what to expect for this. My invite came via the lovely Nora (official TCM social media coordinator) and the details were sparse, except promising a chance to meet my famous Twitter chums. Sadie’s has a real speakeasy feel with the password door and all. We spent our time there in The Parlor. After Raquelle and I were royally welcomed by Nora, I had the great opportunity to begin meeting and chatting with those aforementioned famous Twitter folks. Laura, Trevor, Paula Guthat, Kellee, Aurora, Jessica, Lindsay, Marya, Anne Marie, Christy and Daniel all among them.

Jessica and I at the TCM Tweet-Up, snapped by Raquelle.

Jessica and I in front of the speakeasy door at the TCM Tweet-Up, snapped by Raquelle.

As I was highly engrossed in a conversation with Raquelle and Jessica about our dresses, who walks in but Illeana Douglas! As if her miraculous and unannounced appearance was the most normal thing in the world. I’m sure my jaw dropped. She moved around the room visiting and snapping selfies with the fans. A very classy dame, indeed.

My jaw dropped for my first celebrity sighting, I admit. But I did you proud for my second. Engaged in a chat with Marya and Daniel, I felt someone walk up and stand beside me. I glanced over assuming it was Raquelle. Not quite – the one and only Ben Mankiewicz stood to my left munching a grilled cheese sandwich, nodding along to our conversation. He and I talked for a bit, mostly about The Narrow Margin and his write up about it in the TCM Now Playing guide. No embarrassing novice moments in sight, due mostly to the fact that he is a joy to talk with and quite a laid back person.

Must admit, I’ve been the ultimate Robert Osborne fan from the beginning and always will be in his camp. When Ben came to TCM as a host years ago, I held my ardor. Bobby O. is the only host for me and watching Ben introduce my favorite films (one very irreverent intro to Sinbad the Sailor is burned on my memory…) pained me. His introductions and knowledge improved over the years and my respect for him grew in tiny increments, but meeting him in person truly changed my opinion of him for the better. He’s just a regular guy – remarkably kind, always willing to discuss classic movies and his love for them and he does honestly appreciate these films as much as we do. A true gentleman if there ever was one.

The second part of the evening sped by with a lightning fast round of quiz trivia hosted by Paula Guthat. Then, everyone broke into small groups for classic film chats. One hosted by Laura, one by Trevor and one with Tiffany Vazquez and Peter Tulba, two of the TCM Fan Programmers.

Peter in mid-laugh (sorry, Peter, you moved!) and Laura's table in the back with Jessica, Raquelle and Aurora chatting.

Peter in mid-laugh (sorry, Peter, you moved!) and Laura’s table in the back with Jessica, Raquelle and Aurora chatting.

I chose to sit with Tiffany and Peter and talking with them was a blast. Two young people with a genuine love for classic films brought together in this remarkable place, sharing their expertise with me…I was in heaven! Both are incredibly knowledgeable and well-viewed (is that a term?). Tiffany most kindly indulged my compliments on her wardrobe and Peter cracked us up multiple times. I’m thrilled to have met them both. I spent the next days waving to each of them as we whizzed past each other on the way to screenings.


Jessica’s tweets on the go are pure genius.

The Formosa Cafe

The Formosa Cafe

After Sadie’s, a few of us headed over to The Formosa for the Warner Archive tweet-up. Laura graciously offered to drive Raquelle, Lindsay, Jessica and I.

Matt Patterson and I engaged in conversation. Photo by Raquelle. (Thanks so much for this, Raquelle!)

Matt Patterson and I engaged in conversation. Photo by Raquelle. (Thanks so much for this, Raquelle!)

Raquelle introduced me to Matt, the man behind the Warner Archive twitter feed and host of the podcast. And at the Formosa, I got to meet Kendall, aka KC. Contrary to popular belief among those in my *real life*, my famous love for an early bedtime began to catch up with me and happily, my cohorts felt the same. We called it a night around 12 (yeah, not actually early). A very full first day!


Filed under Classic Movies