Archive for January 2015

Saying adieu to Drew with her grandpa (and Carole)   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.31 at 00:32

Current mood: excitedexcited

carole lombard twentieth century 032a front

Prior commitments denied me the opportunity to watch “Twentieth Century” on Turner Classic Movies’ “The Essentials” when it first aired Oct. 4, but tonight I’m getting a second chance (8 p.m. Eastern). It will also be your last chance to see Robert Osborne co-host “The Essentials” with Drew Barrymore (John Barrymore’s granddaughter), and I eagerly await her comments on this 1934 early screwball classic:

John Barrymore’s work in the early ’30s is the Saturday night theme. At 9:45, he appears in the drama “Counsellor At Law,” while another 1933 film airs at 11:15, the elegant comedy “Topaze” with Myrna Loy (she’d worked with him in the 1926 “Don Juan”):

myrna loy john barrymore topaze 00b

Things conclude at 12:45 a.m. with the 1931 psychological horror film “Svengali” (the story referred to in “Twentieth Century” when Lombard makes the in-joke that she isn’t Barrymore’s Trilby).

Next week, two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field becomes Osborne’s partner, appropriately as the “31 Days Of Oscar” promotion kicks in, and I look forward to her cinematic perspectives. (We’ll have more on “31 Days Of Oscar” tomorrow.)

Posted January 31, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole and her ‘mother’ come across   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.30 at 20:55

Current mood: amusedamused

carole lombard the princess comes across 40b

“The Princess Comes Across” is a Carole Lombard film that tends to get lost in the shuffle (she’s shown with Fred MacMurray above in a promotional still). It’s certainly a competent movie, with some funny bits to complement a maritime murder plot, but it never quite equals the sum of its parts.

Now, another still from the film has popped up, showing Lombard with veteran character actress Alison Skipworth, who plays her mother. (Carole is passing herself off as a “princess” from Sweden seeking a career in the movies; she’s actually Brooklyn chorus girl Wanda Nash.)

carole lombard the princess comes across 43a

It’s an original 8″ x 10″ with a little wear and tear, as you can see. There also are some old tape remnants on the back.

The opening bid is $10.95, and the auction closes at 11:35 a.m. (Eastern) Tuesday. To bid or learn more, visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Carole-Lombard-in-The-Princess-Comes-Across-8-x-10-Movie-Promo-Photo-/331462198327?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4d2cafc437.

Posted January 30, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Shirley (and Carole), no jest   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.29 at 21:30

Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

carole lombard now and forever 06d

Until today, I believed this was the only photo extant showing Carole Lombard and Shirley Temple by themselves in the 1934 Paramount vehicle “Now And Forever.” But I was wrong — and am glad to be wrong, too. Take a look at this charming picture of them.

carole lombard now and forever 31a front

This is an original black-and-white, doubleweight photo measuring 7.5″ x 10″; the seller lists it in “very good” condition, adding “there is some minor wear to the surface.” Here’s what the back looks like — there’s no information of note, just the actresses’ names:

carole lombard now and forever 31a back

As of this writing, no bids have been made, a bit surprising for a relatively obscure photo featuring two bona fide legends. The opening bid is $9.99, and the auction closes at 9:40 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday — in other words, about the time the Super Bowl will be winding down. Want to “run for daylight” with this gem? Then go to http://www.ebay.com/itm/Shirley-Temple-and-Carole-Lombard-original-DW-photo-1934-Now-and-Forever-/381136958645?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_2&hash=item58bd8874b5.

In closing, let’s note the passing of poet and composer Rod McKuen at age 81. His style was a perfect fit for the late 1960s, and his songs were recorded by many artists…including Frank Sinatra. In fact, Frank had a minor hit in the fall of 1969 with this romantic reflection, “Love’s Been Good To Me.” (Like another Sinatra gem, “It Was A Very Good Year,” this previously had been recorded by the Kingston Trio.)

Posted January 30, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Lombard, Lupe and lots of Lux starpower   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.28 at 07:27

Current mood: impressedimpressed

carole lombard lux ad 1940 large

Carole Lombard and Lux soap formed a potent advertising partnership for several years, both on radio (Carole made several appearances on the highly-rated “Lux Radio Theater”) and in print, such as in this Sunday color supplement caricature):

carole lombard lux ad 03ab

Carole now is part of a Lux-related auction at eBay…and if this was the cast of a movie, it would be up there with “Grand Hotel.” Imagine her alongside Lupe Velez…

lux 1934 giveaway 06a

…Dick Powell…

lux 1934 giveaway 03a

…Jean Harlow…

lux 1934 giveaway 09a

…and Fay Wray…

lux 1934 giveaway 02a

…not to mention Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery, Kay Francis and Irene Dunne. Star-studded, doncha think?

These nine were among an array of film folk who appeared in a Lux-sponsored promotion. Here’s Carole’s photo:

carole lombard lux 1934 premium front largest

And here’s the back (this inset is in the upper left-hand corner):

carole lombard lux 1934 premium back inset largest

The pics measure 9″ x 12″, including borders. This group of nine is being sold as a unit, with bids opening at $10. The auction is set to close at 2:56 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday. To bid or to learn more, visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/JEAN-HARLOW-FAY-WRAY-LUPE-VALEZ-IRENE-DUNNE-CAROLE-LOMBARD-KAY-FRANCIS-1930-LOT-/291366472264?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43d6cb8a48.

Posted January 28, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

This week, see what I saw   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.27 at 19:00

Current mood: excitedexcited

carole lombard sinners in the sun on set 00a

In yesterday’s entry, I lamented the lack of a time machine enabling me to meet Carole Lombard. Well, if time travel indeed were possible, one environment I’d like to see Carole cavort in would be a movie set, to see her at work (as in 1932’s “Sinners In The Sun,” above). Of course, back then about the only non-studio personnel allowed on the set were members of the press (usually Hollywood columnists for newspapers and fan magazines) and the occasional VIP. To some extent, that’s still true for moviemaking today.

But it isn’t for television — at least the part of the medium where episodes are shot before a live audience — and in entries in November and December, I recounted my experiences seeing two sitcom episodes filmed. And as fate would have it, both of the episodes I witnessed will air on successive days this week.

hot in cleveland 03

First up is “Hot In Cleveland” (TVLand, 10/9c), the charming old-school sitcom starring the legendary Betty White and fellow sitcom pros Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick. This is its sixth and final season, and the laughs continue in this episode, “About A Joy.” (Joy is the name of Leeves’ character.) In a world where multi-camera sitcoms not produced by Chuck Lorre are few and far between, “Hot In Cleveland” continues to deliver the goods. And as noted before (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/749967.html), there is a “One Day At A Time” reunion of sorts, as Mackenzie Phillips guests as Bertinelli’s high school rival.

“Hot In Cleveland” isn’t groundbreaking or controversial, just funny. So is the Chuck Lorre sitcom I saw that will air Thursday night (though it was filmed a month earlier than the “Hot” episode), but after last week’s episode, it certainly now is controversial…

mom pollak faris janney 00

Alvin Biletnikoff (Kevin Pollak), who with Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney) conceived Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) before running out on them, returned to their lives midway through last year’s initial season. Bonnie initially wanted nothing to do with him, while Christy was eager to connect with a father whose existence she had never known. By last year’s season finale, Alvin and Bonnie had reconciled, much to Christy’s pleasure. Last week’s episode, “Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling,” opened with Alvin landing an apartment in the complex Bonnie now manages, and the two celebrate by making love, despite a heart condition that had earlier hospitalized him. (The walkie-talkie he’s holding is a gift he gave his young grandson, who had wondered whether one could text on it and then calls grandpa at a, uh, rather inopportune time.)

mom pollak janney 00b

Alvin then goes under the blanket to perform a maneuver…and doesn’t come out, dying in the heat of passion. Bonnie is devastated, as are Christy and the rest of the family. Bonnie, like Christy a recovering alcoholic, is so overcome with grief that she enters a bar and orders a drink, and only Christy’s threat to do likewise keep the mother and daughter from falling off the wagon. After Bonnie crashes the funeral and makes off with a souvenir, providing some needed laughs, the episode ends with she and Christy consoling each other.

mom faris janney 00b

The episode’s examination of death was in some ways reminiscent of the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” 1975 episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” to many the greatest sitcom episode ever made. To set things up for the episode airing Thursday, we in the studio audience were shown clips from what ran last week — and although no one from the series swore us to secrecy, I declined to give spoilers in my November entry on “Mom” (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/742075.html). But when the episode aired last Thursday, the you-know-what hit the fan in the blogosphere.

Many of the 160 commenters at http://tvline.com/2015/01/22/mom-season-2-alvin-dies/ said they would never watch the show again (some even wanted it to be a dream or have Alvin’s twin come on the scene!), to which one person replied, “You’re watching a show about recovering alcoholics, a teenager who gives up a baby, and a woman with cancer [Marjorie, portrayed by Mimi Kennedy]. Clearly you’re watching the wrong show if you’re looking for nothing but chuckles.” Indeed, dark comedy has been a trademark of “Mom” since its debut in the fall of 2013.

mom janney faris 00

The decision to kill off the Alvin character surprised Faris and Janney, but they defended the move and praised Lorre and his writers for having the courage to go in that direction (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/mom-alvin-dies-allison-janney-765962). “It was devastating. And fulfilling is the wrong word, but I couldn’t believe that we are graced with that emotion,” Faris said. “That we have the support of the studio, the producers and the writers who will take us to these challenging places.”

Another site for “Mom” fans is the Community blog at Entertainment Weekly, as it runs a weekly discussion on each episode (http://community.ew.com/tag/mom/).

I initially tuned into “Mom” because I’ve been an avid Faris fan for several years; she’s one of the top comedic actresses around. But this series has so much else to offer, such as the always-terrific Janney, excellent writing and characters you care about. The outpouring of grief over Alvin’s death is both a tribute to Pollak’s acting and how vividly his character was portrayed.

So I urge you to tune in to CBS Thursday at 8:30/7:30c for “Kitty Litter and a Class A Felony” (all “Mom” eps are titled “xxxxxx and a(n) xxxxxx”). I’m not giving anything away, but it’s a lot lighter in tone than what aired last week; with a title like that, it has to be. (Incidentally, “Mom” will move to 9:30/8:30c Thursdays, beginning next month.) And for both “Mom” and “Hot In Cleveland,” this sitcom fan is eager to view the finished product.

Posted January 27, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Of a Dame, a Hawks heroine and a ‘West Side Story’: What a weekend   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.26 at 02:34

Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

carole lombard twentieth century 047d

Unless I’m placed in a functional time machine or am zapped by magic, I’ll never meet Carole Lombard, one of the great Howard Hawks heroines (seen with him above on the set of “Twentieth Century”). However, this weekend I was blessed to meet two legendary actresses who also worked with the great director, although only one of them could be classified as a “heroine” — Angie Dickinson, shown below with Hawks on the set of 1958’s “Rio Bravo”…

angie dickinson howard hawks 00a

…and Joan Collins, seen with Hawks and Jack Hawkins during the making of 1955’s “Land Of The Pharoahs.” (Actually, she’s now Dame Joan Collins, in case you haven’t heard — more on that later):

joan collins howard hawks jack hawkins land of the pharoahs 00c

Both were among the celebrities on hand for a two-day memorabilia show at the Westin hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. (So was my Facebook friend Francine York, always a treat to see.)

Another Facebook friend of mine, Jenny Peters, a former high school classmate who’s now an entertainment writer, said after I told her I had met Dickinson, “We love Angie.” After meeting her, I can see why. Dickinson’s now 83 and wears slacks to cover up her famous legs. But she doesn’t need to show them off at her age, not when her ebullient personality more than makes up for it. (Below is Angie from a TCM Classic Film Festival of a few years back.)

angie dickinson tcm classic film festival 00a

After she signed a ’70s-era photo (for which I had paid either $25 or $30), I gave her a Carole & Co. business card, noting she and Lombard were fellow Hawks heroines. She smiled, remembered the Carole film in question was “Twentieth Century,” and we continued talking about movies. “Have you seen ‘St. Vincent’ yet?” she asked me, a reference to my name. “Go see it — Bill Murray is wonderful,” adding she was disappointed Murray didn’t receive an Academy Award nomination. Based upon her enthusiasm for the film, I now feel obliged to find a Los Angeles theater where it’s still playing (and I’ve liked Murray’s work in “Groundhog Day,” among other things).

Angie and I talked for several minutes — by this time of day, there wasn’t much of a line behind me — and she was a pure delight. Add me to the many members of the Angie Dickinson fan club.

joan collins queen elizabeth damehood

In case you haven’t heard, Joan Collins can now be addressed as Dame Joan Collins, the same title bestowed upon fellow British acting legend Diana Rigg; she received the honor from Queen Elizabeth a few weeks ago for her work on behalf of children’s charities. So how is one to refer to the status of Joan, shown with the queen at a reception after receiving the award? Was it “damehood,” I asked her? She smiled and nodded.

A bit later, I got an autographed photo of her from the memorable “Star Trek” episode where she played a 1931 social worker; we talked briefly and she was genuinely nice (and still attractive, as that photo with the queen makes clear). Alas, I had forgotten her Hawks connection, so I didn’t ask her about that. While Collins is mainly remembered as the scheming Alexis on “Dynasty,” she had a substantial film career for which she gets relatively little credit.

Among the other celebs I talked to were sitcom showrunner legend Garry Marshall, Jon Provost of “Lassie” fame and a number of other notables. Memorabilia dealers abounded, and I purchased 13 DVDs or sets for $40 (including two collections of the hard-to-find 1950s “Dragnet” TV series), as well as five Lombard tobacco cards from the early ’30s, highlighted by this Garbaty classic:

carole lombard garbaty cigarettes 1934 larger

Sunday, it was off to the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard for an event called a “Tribute To Marvin Paige,” a longtime casting director known as “the mayor of Old Hollywood”; he helped cast films ranging from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” to “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Paige also was a film historian, an all-around good guy and, alas, one of the people I arrived too late to meet; he passed on following injuries from a car crash in November 2013, the year before I came west. Here he is with Anne Jeffreys from the “Topper” TV series:

marvin paige anne jeffreys february 2013

Paige’s friends — and there are many — honor his memory each January as part of the Marvin Paige Legacy Project, as he collected a huge array of memorabilia (and let us note the passing this weekend of his East Coast equivalent in that department, New York television and radio legend Joe Franklin). This year’s event was called “A Meal, A Movie, and Marvin!”, as those attending chowed down on some food in the Egyptian lobby, followed by the film, the 1961 Academy Award winner for best picture, “West Side Story” — and one of the film’s Oscar winners, George Chakiris, also was on hand (he’s in the center of the picture below as the leader of the Sharks gang).

west side story george chakiris 00

As was the case with “Meet Me In St. Louis” a year ago, “West Side Story” was one of those films whose music I was familiar with (my family owned the soundtrack album), but I had somehow never seen, though I knew the story was a contemporary adaptation of “Romeo And Juliet.” Thankfully, that now has been rectified, and hearing the music and its many classic songs within the context of the movie makes that Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein collaboration all the more memorable.

To close, my favorite version of a “West Side Story” song, Barbra Streisand’s magnificent “Somewhere” from “The Broadway Album” late in 1985. She placed it in an outer-space context, and that seemed to resonate with me and many others in the wake of the Challenger disaster of January 1986 (in fact, it was 29 years ago this Wednesday). I’m not the most avid fan of Streisand, but her epic performance is a triumph by any measure.

Posted January 26, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Visiting the ‘Speakeasy’ for a ‘Supernatural’ review   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.01.25 at 13:13

Current mood: weirdweird

carole lombard supernatural 11f

Today’s entry largely comes courtesy of a longtime friend of mine in the blogosphere, Kristina Dijan of the blog Speakeasy (https://hqofk.wordpress.com/). She recently participated in an event this weekend called the Randolph Scott Blogathon, run by the site http://www.fiftieswesterns.com:

randolph scott blogathon poster 00a

Scott, of course, is best known for his westerns in the 1950s, which rank alongside those made by John Wayne and James Stewart as the era’s best. But he acted in a variety of genres, and the lone film he made with Lombard was a marked departure for both. Of course, it’s “Supernatural,” which I’ve written about extensively — but Kristina provides a somewhat different perspective, and I’m delighted to present it to you:

___________________________________________

Calling forth the spirit of a little known horror picture for the Randolph Scott blogathon.

“Supernatural” might be kind of an odd film to pick for a Randolph Scott blogathon and it is an unusual movie overall, but for me it’s a very likable one that I like to recommend and revisit often. Scott co-starring with Carole Lombard should be a huge draw in anything, and I would think even more so in a movie that’s so atypical for both of them. The picture falls short of being a great horror movie, and certainly isn’t something in either Lombard or Scott’s career that would win them awards, but it is fascinating and enjoyable due to some effective thrills. Even if you think it’s crazy, you’re bound to get a kick from watching improbable plot threads weave together and seeing all these fine players do good work in a fast and elegant Pre-Code horror picture.

“Supernatural” is brought to you by the brothers Halperin, director Victor and producer Edward, as well as writer Garnet Weston, the team responsible for 1932’s creepy hit “White Zombie.” The success of “Zombie” got them access to bigger budgets and stars but “Supernatural” was not a bigger critical or box office success, unfortunately. But it’s not for lack of trying. “Supernatural” tells the juicy story of a female serial killer, a man-hating black widow (Vivienne Osborne) who crushes metal cups with her bare hands, so men’s necks are no problem at all. Her unbelievable strength and uncanny threats and powers of influence give willies to lawmen and scientists alike. After Osborne’s execution, her spirit jumps to the body of an heiress played by Lombard, in which Osborne can carry out her vow of revenge on the bogus spiritualist (Alan Dinehart) who gave her up to police (he did it so he could break off their romance, the louse).

carole lombard supernatural 05c

Lombard is in an especially vulnerable state, a bereaved and desperate woman who yearns to contact her dead twin brother. During this low time, Dinehart is trying to cash in on her grief and offers to put her in contact with her brother through a seance. Meanwhile, by complete coincidence, Lombard’s close doctor friend (H.B. Warner) just happens to be conducting electrified postmortem experiments on the murderess to determine the nature of her powers and to prevent her spirit from jumping into other bodies (yes I say prevent–oops). One night while he’s zapping Osborne, Lombard and Scott pop unannounced into his lab, and the unlucky Lombard is inhabited by the black widow.

Randolph Scott, playing Lombard’s fiance, is well suited to the role of the suspicious realist who doesn’t believe any of this supernatural malarkey but dutifully tries to protect her from the charlatan psychic. Scott doesn’t get too much to do but does it well, proving himself capable in yet another of the wide range of roles Paramount was giving him during this period. Scott’s fans will find this a bit diluted but still typical Randolph, as he’s charming and solid at all times, desperate and disbelieving when Lombard gets possessed, and a man of action when the murderess needs to be driven out of Lombard’s body. I love Scott as a cowboy but few actors looked as good spiffy and dressed up, so if I can’t interest you in anything else of this plot or genre, you must at least give the movie a whirl to see Scott and Lombard together in such grand style.

carole lombard supernatural 17b

Lombard was not happy to be in this movie (the Halperins originally intended her role for Madge Bellamy) and she threatened the filmmakers with epic destruction, which they thought had arrived when an earthquake hit during filming. Still, Lombard does a fine job in this dual role, going from sad, sweet, meek heiress to chilling murderess. She does an impersonation of Osborne’s voice and mannerisms, and was helped in the transformation by arched eyebrows and makeup by Wally Westmore, stop-motion photography and the echoed effect of cutting in closeups of glowing, evil glaring eyes for both women. “Supernatural” gives you the rare chance to see Lombard as an evil seductress, as she lures Dinehart to his demise, along with her touching scenes where she comforts the grieving dog who brings her late brother’s slippers, or listens wistfully to family recordings. For a genre movie that she hated, it’s actually a rich part that gives her a range of things to do and she does them well.

As a horror picture, “Supernatural” is not too frightening. The tricks and illusions Dinehart sets up for the seance are interesting, but far from scary; he keeps peeking from his “trance” to see if his victims are falling for it. It gets creepier when this crook is too dumb to realize that Osborne has come back from the dead to get him. But there are other good disturbing bits, so it works for me as a decent thriller. Beryl Mercer does a great turn as Dinehart’s nosy alcoholic landlady who accidentally breaks her booze bottle while pounding on the roaches, peeps in over Dinehart’s transom, opens his mail, and channels a bit of Elsa Lanchester in a juicy death scene when Dinehart poisons her. Vivienne Osborne is really good as the black widow, laughing maniacally and staring daggers; in very few scenes she convincingly scares the pants off everyone. H.B. Warner acts like Dr. Frankenstein when he’s working on Osborne’s corpse, which has on full makeup and manages to sit up and give Lombard and Scott a chilling stare when they barge in on the experiments. Brrrr.

carole lombard supernatural 19f

I enjoy the scares, mild as they are, but what I love about this movie is the juxtaposition of setting the horror elements in these highly polished Deco surroundings where you expect Astaire and Rogers to waltz by at any moment. The doctor’s apartment is a vast, roomy lair fit for an Architectural Digest spread, and we get to “walk through” it as the camera follows Scott and Lombard from foyer to glowing lab room. Between that, Lombard’s mansion and the luxury yacht, it’s fun to watch the weirdness unfold in such glamour. It takes most of the movie to get to the possession part and then we race through to the climax in which there are some spooky effects used to depict a brutal death and the final fate of Lombard/Osborne. The film is full of interesting camera angles, tracking shots, and creative touches. It begins with high drama courtesy of a hysterical vocal chorus and sensational newspaper headlines and ends with the spirit of Lombard’s brother blowing magazine pages open to the ‘Honeymoon in Bermuda’ advertisement and nodding his ghostly head in approval. Really, how can you pass all this up? For me, “Supernatural” works because I love horror movies of that era and it checks enough boxes to qualify as one, is a decent thriller even if you find it a wimpy horror, it looks fabulous and has a special kind of star power, even if they weren’t yet the stars we best remember them as, or the type of movie they were best known for making.

___________________________________________

Great job, Kristina — and for those who want to see more entries in this blogathon, visit https://fiftieswesterns.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/the-blogathon-for-randolph-scott/.

We’ll close with a delightful ditty from the Statler Brothers (who weren’t brothers at all, but hailed from Staunton, Va., a Shenandoah Valley community I know well); they had one major top 40 hit, “Flowers On The Wall,” before maneuvering into the country field, where they were popular for decades. It’s a clever song about the state of the movie industry and yearning for nostalgia — at least before family-oriented animation made a huge comeback. And for this entry, the title is appropriate…

Posted January 25, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized