Category Archives: Classic Movies

The Great TCMFF Adventure

Yup, that’s right. I’m heading out to the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival tomorrow! I’m still pinching myself at the thought. My favorite part of the preparation has been discussing this excursion with my clients in the store where I work. You would think that in this age of 3D blockbusters, the idea that I would travel across the country to spend my vacation watching old black and white movies in vintage theatres would be met with horror. But to my great delight, everyone I shared my plans with was enthusiastic, fascinated and even envious. It sparked a fast paced conversation with one lady regarding All About Eve and the merits of George Sanders. You see, in my daily life, my conversations very rarely include references to Maureen O’Hara, Double Indemnity and Tom Conway. But this week, I shamelessly gushed about them every day to anyone who would listen.

Even more astounding for me was the discovery that the majority of my guinea pigs were well aware of exactly what the festival was and who would be there – the dear Bobby Osborne. I’ve been tasked with coming back with a photo of myself with him.

The warm reaction I received is a true testament to the power of classic film and TCM to bring people together. I can’t wait to share the experiences upon my return!

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Converting the Masses

As a classic film devotee, one feels this pressing desire to share the glory that is the world of classic cinema with the uninitiated in one’s real life. I particularly succumbed to this in my first baby years of classic film appreciation, right before I started this blog. However, months of dropping Bogie references with my Halo-worshipping/Indie band snob acquaintances proved only demoralizing and exhausting to me and made no headway on converting any of them. At last, I vowed to keep my black and white treasures to myself and my online pals and never mention my love of the classics with real life people anymore.

In the years since, my vintage hair and clothes have evoked a host of questions about my reasons for choosing that style. Most stem from genuine interest and some are just plain ludicrous, like the questions I regularly field when I wear my 40s snoods about whether or not I am Amish… But still, aside from dropping references only I understand in daily conversations, I don’t discuss my zealous love for Douglas Fairbanks Jr, low budget Noirs and Shirley Temple’s teen films with the people I talk with everyday.

The funny part of all this is that in my own quiet way, I actually have been slowly converting people. One of my clients asked me what my favorite film was (Fair warning: don’t ask this of a classic film fan and expect to be home for dinner) and when I responded with two*, he actually made an effort to find them and watch them. And then, (thrill of thrills!) one of my favorite real life people asked me to create a list of starter classic films to watch. The challenge of choosing films for a first time viewing so excited me, I set about making my selections the very next day. The 10 I chose are below, if you care to peruse and comment. My ideas behind the films I picked were to create a good mix of genres and eras with some of my true favorites thrown in. I refuse to suppress my bias. ;)

-:-
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Carefree (1938)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Gunga Din (1939)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Stagecoach (1939)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
-:-

So tell me, do you actively attempt to convert your real life friends? Are you known as the classic film kook in your circles? Please share below!

*The Best Years of Our Lives and The Quiet Man

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A DFJ Bonanza

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Well, if you are a DFJ fan like me, rejoice! We have hit quite the little motherlode of films starting tonight on TCM. TCM rarely plays a DFJ film, let alone this many at once. Four of his early 30s films are being shown this month. What a splendid way to begin the new year!

January 3 @ 3.45am – Show of Shows (1929)

January 3 @ 6am – Loose Ankles (1930)

January 3 @ 7.15am – I Like Your Nerve (1931)

January 11 @ 6am – Love is a Racket (1932)

The only one I have not seen is Show of Shows and it looks like DFJ only has a passing acquaintance with that film. It has been some years since I saw the others though, so I am relishing the chance to see them with fresh eyes. Have a watch and come back to let me know which was your favorite!

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Patty-fingers in the Holy Water

Of all the classic films set in Ireland or about Ireland and it’s people, there’s only one I consider absolutely perfect for lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day viewing. It boasts all the elements essential to movie perfection: stunning technicolor, a matchless cast of the best character actors of the time, a musical score guaranteed to get your toes tapping and an endearing love story. Yes, that’s right – The Quiet Man.

Trivia and stories abound when it comes to The Quiet Man. There’s the day John Wayne accidentally sprained Maureen O’Hara’s wrist in the famous kiss scene by unexpectedly blocking her slap. Or the dirty trick the Duke and John Ford played on Maureen for the scenes where she gets dragged across the sheep fields (operative word there being sheep). But by far the best story is the explanation about the last scene, where Maureen whispers something to the Duke and he stares at her in disbelief. Maureen speaks of it often, but there’s always one detail she leaves out:

There is only one fitting way to end our discussion of The Quiet Man, and that’s with a whisper. No matter what part of the world I’m in, the question I am always asked is: “What did you whisper into John Wayne’s ear at the end of The Quiet Man? It was John Ford’s idea; it was the ending he wanted. I was told by Mr. Ford exactly what I was to say. At first I refused. I said, “No, I can’t. I can’t say that to Duke.” But Mr. Ford wanted a very shocked reaction from Duke, and he said, “I’m telling you, you are to say it.”

I had no choice, and so I agreed, but with a catch: “I’ll say it on one condition; that it is never ever repeated or revealed to anyone.” So we made a deal. After the scene was over, we told Duke about our agreement and the three of us made a pact. There are those who claim that they were told and know what I said. They don’t and are lying. John Ford took it to his grave, so did Duke and the answer will die with me.

Curiosity about the whisper has become a great part of the Quiet Man legend. I have no doubt that as long as the film endures, so will the speculation. The Quiet Man meant so much to John Ford, John Wayne, and myself. I know it was their favorite picture too. It bonded us as artists and friends in a way that happens only but once in a career. That little piece of The Quiet Man belongs to just us, and so I hope you’ll understand as I answer:

I’ll never tell – Maureen O’Hara

source

Though the movie fan in me is saddened at the thought this piece of history will never be revealed, I love Maureen for preserving this memory and keeping the secret. Her devotion to her friends and the times they shared making the film touches my heart. And if I were one of the people who knew magic phrase to make John Wayne’s head snap, I wouldn’t tell either.

The Quiet Man is one of my favorite films, not just to watch for St. Patrick’s Day, but for all time. The teaming of Maureen and John Wayne is one of the few on screen castings that actually deserves the title of “electric.” Since TCM decided to give The Quiet Man a miss for the lineup today, head over to YouTube, where a very kind soul has uploaded the film in its entirety.

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Gossip with The Women

1939’s The Women bestowed a wealth of gloriously iconic dialogue and imagery on the world. Rosalind Russell’s “Seeing Eye” Blouse designed by Adrian, Rosalind and Phyllis Povah landing heads-first into a passing department store cart and my personal favorite: “Jungle red!”

But there is one disconcerting aspect of the film I could never find an explanation for…until now. The poodle-like hairstyles. Every woman in the production (except the blissfully spared Paulette Goddard) sports an unbecoming mass of tightly woven curls on her head. If any of the ladies had long hair at the time, it’s well disguised and contained with the most permanent of waves ever to grace a screen.

Well, it seems at least one of the ladies has a practical reason for her poodle curls, according to the gossip column of Silver Screen’s August 1939 issue:

Joan had every right to be “horrified” if you ask me. Even the masterful snips and curls of Sidney Guilaroff couldn’t transform her botched perm into an acceptable hairstyle. I can’t help wondering if the rest of the ladies’ hair was styled to match Joan’s just so her chopped locks would not stand out. And then I started wondering why Paulette Goddard sported soft shoulder length tresses while the others went for the chop? My only explanation is that it really paid to be married to Charlie Chaplin!

The same column leaked a tidbit about Adrian’s shocking fashions, too. If those clothes in the fashion show sequence are still fascinating and slightly odd to this day, imagine what movie-goers thought of them at the time. No wonder Silver Screen attempted to prepare everyone:

Joan is seriously displeased with the new do.

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My Art: End of the Line

As you may have already deduced, I graduated from college earlier this year. Graduated! Diploma and all. In order to graduate, I needed to create a Senior Project and display it in a local gallery. This I did and had a great time in the process. You will not be surprised to learn that I used this project as an excuse to sit around and watch classic films as research. So, please have a look! I’m finally ready to share it with you.The project is a marketing campaign for a classic film festival I named End of the Line. It’s a festival of 5 classic Noir films all centering around trains. It took me ages to decide which to choose, but I narrowed it down to:

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Terror By Night (1946)

The Tall Target (1951)

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The campaign consists of a logo, 5 redesigned film posters, 6 ticket designs, a website and a display area for the gallery. In addition, I designed trading cards with my information on them to give to patrons and a teaser poster to advertise my project at the show. We needed to have an artist’s statement/thesis to hang on the wall next to our projects, too.

THESIS

In the creation of a marketing campaign for a five film festival of classic Noir drams, I highlight fresh aspects of the films presented. With the intent of piquing the interest of young adults, I have rebranded the films with vintage inspired graphics and factual interpretations of the plots. The common thread tying all five films together is the fact that each plot centers around a train journey gone awry.

The supporting promotional materials serve both a functional and commemorative purpose in the campaign. Intended for use in small theatres across the country, the campaign would be available for owners to purchase and host at their discretion.

THE POSTERS

One of the reasons I decided to pursue this project was the frustration I felt attempting to explain the incredible world of classic movies to people my age. I have actually talked with people who refused to watch a classic film “because it’s black and white.” I remember the conversation well, probably because that comment was akin to The Hulk punching me in the face. Before that, I naively believed everyone would be excited to hear about this wonderful cinematic world I had discovered.

Armed with this knowledge of general oafishness, I set out to reveal the stylish, fascinating and wholly worthy nature of classic movies in a way the younger generations could appreciate. I soon realized the most important piece of this mission would be the redesigned posters. Clean, bold and easy to understand at a glance were my goals. I wanted to depict the films truthfully and in a visually appealing way without giving away any plot points, but at the same time hold the interest of diehard fans.

THE TICKETS

The tickets were the easiest piece to design, but the hardest to get printed successfully. If you look closely, you can see every one of them is perforated so the stub can be separated from the ticket. The festival pass even has 5 perforations on the same ticket. You can imagine how a printer handled this. They printed the tickets (all 350 of them…) and forgot to perforate them. I nearly died when the man called and told me that the day before the show opened. I’m not a pushy person at all, but I told him in no uncertain terms he better get them fixed and fast. Thankfully, they were.

Anyway, for these tickets I wanted to combine the idea of movie tickets and train tickets with the integration of a vintage railroad hole puncher. Every ticket has a white circle on the back to be punched at the time you enter the theatre. It’s a purely commemorative gesture, but I felt it was an important touch to lend a train journey feel to the promotional materials. This punch was a lucky Etsy find – it creates a bee wing shape!

THE WEBSITE

eotlff.com – This little site made me so happy when it was finished. I wrote the code for every single thing you see there. All the hovers, all the links, every image you see. I typed out every single character that makes this site work. I even bought a domain and uploaded the whole tidy little package to the server. Be sure to take a peek at the Films page. That was my favorite part to code. (I’m told it doesn’t look to full advantage in Internet Explorer, though…)

THE DISPLAY

Apologies for the subpar photos – no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a decent photo in this space! It looked marvelous in person, I promise. The black backdrop is a 6′ by 8′ vinyl banner I designed. See those map dots? Those are the actual departure and destination cities in each of the movies, arranged with mild geographical accuracy. (I fretted over the fact it wasn’t geographically correct for months. Eventually, I realized it didn’t matter all that much.) The vintage suitcases were an almost-last-minute revelation that helped bring the whole project together. I tied the stacks with jute rope and thick wire to prevent anyone walking off with them. It worked well!

The incredible sample suitcase served as a holder for the tickets and trading cards. Visitors to the show were allowed to take those as souvenirs. I had to take this suitcase to a metal shop and have a piece of metal cut to fit so it would stay open. The man who helped me figure out the fix was the nicest guy. He made the problem of transforming this suitcase into a display piece a fun adventure, instead of the headache I was anticipating.

THE TEASER POSTER

About a month before the show opened in the main gallery, a smaller gallery hosted a show of the teaser posters my class created. The design above was one of my original ideas, but I couldn’t find a way to make it work with one of the movies. It turned out to be the perfect solution for this poster. The blue circle contains a block of text we absolutely had to have on our posters (mandate from the college’s marketing department). It contained the name of our college and the exact place of the main show. I’ve changed it to gibberish now, but you get the idea. At the time, the QR code in the lower right corner created a reminder for the event in your phone if you scanned it. It now leads straight back here to my blog.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Even though this was the only project I’ve ever worked on that brought me close to tears, it’s my favorite. I’m proud of it, even after looking at it for the first time since it was completed back in April. (I have a policy of putting away all my finished work and taking it out again months later to reassess it. When you are in the thick of an idea, it’s difficult to see it with critical eyes.) That said, I’m really interested in your opinions. In fact, the whole time I worked on this, I kept considering what you guys would think. Did I do the films justice? Are the posters appealing to people who know all about the films? You tell me.

I’ve finally summoned up enough courage to share this here, so please don’t be shy with your thoughts!

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Welcome Back, Bob

As you have probably already heard from the triumphant fanfare around the interwebs, TCM’s beloved host Robert Osborne is returning to his hosting duties this Thursday (December 1). Bobby O (as I call him) has been on vacation these past few months to the chagrin and dismay of many a classic film fan. His short absence only served to prove how much we truly need him because though some of the hosts were superb (and others need to be quickly forgotten…) no one even came close to replicating the charm, charisma, sincerity and sheer brilliance of Robert Osborne.

I know the universal love for Bobby O is hard to understand for people who are deprived of TCM. Let me try to explain. You see, every night Robert Osborne introduces the movies starting at 8pm. The introductions are quite short, considering the impact they have on viewers – usually between 5-7 minutes. But in those short moments, Bobby O shares trivia, stories, history and tidbits about the movie about to be shown. It’s like having a window into the time the movie was made, just to hear him talk. He’ll explain what else was happening at the time the film was made, who else was considered for the parts, why the cast was picked and who was in love with who at the time. He’ll point out scenes not to be missed or bit part appearances of yet-to-be stars. And he shares all this with a genuine warmth of feeling and care not only for the films but for you as a viewer. Robert Osborne is your amazingly knowledgeable friend who loves talking about movies and dropping film facts for you to enjoy.

I owe all my initial knowledge of 1939 as a landmark film production year to him and his introductions of the TCM Spotlight on 1939 some years ago. Even now, I can never watch Gone With the Wind, The Women, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Gunga Din or Ninotchka without thinking of him and remembering his comments on the films at the time.

My other favorite Bobby O memories are those little spots TCM used to play where he read viewer questions and answered them. I assume as the channel grew, it became too difficult to continue making those, but I was smitten with them. It was a little moment where the great Robert Osborne interacted with us as viewers and took the time to discuss what interested us.

His appeal for me is his unshakable devotion to classic films. When he stands in front of the camera and introduces a movie, you know he really cares about what he is saying. He gets it that these movies are incredibly special and need to be treated with respect. Plus, it’s pretty obvious he is as fervent a classic film fan as any of us. I just adore him and am so happy he is returning to his rightful place at the head of TCM. Welcome back, Bobby!

To join in this wonderful Welcome Back Bob party, check out the fabulous Tumblr started by @willmckinley and @misscarley. Many thanks to them for organizing our Bobby O adoration!

12/1/11 Edit – This post was quoted in a Slate.com blog article here!

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