Archive for March 2015

Of porcelain and linen   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.31 at 21:03

Current mood: impressedimpressed

Most classic Hollywood fans would agree that Carole Lombard had one of the era’s most beautiful faces — and the above photo, with George Barbier from 1932’s “No One Man” (Lombard’s first top-billed film at Paramount), may rank among her most beautiful stills. Stare at that clear, clean face, then into her hypnotic eyes; magnificent, stunning. One is tempted not to touch the face, for fear one false move could make it shatter like porcelain. This may be as close as Carole ever came to capturing the delicate appearance of Billie Burke.

This still, measuring 7 3/4″ x 9 3/4″, is in very good condition and is an original. Moreover, it’s linen-backed.

As of this writing, three bids have been made on this item, topping at $16.50; the auction is set to end at 7:09 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If you’re interested in this rare still from one of Lombard’s rarer films — and oh, that face! — go to

Posted March 31, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

2015 TCMFF, day 4: Advice from a comic legend, then going Chinese for a ‘Psycho’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.30 at 22:27

Current mood: happyhappy

It looks as if Carole Lombard’s ready to catch a train, if this image is indicative. She doesn’t appear in the best of moods; perhaps she’s a bit rushed from preparing her trip. But since it’s 1938, we know from the technology of the time that she didn’t immediately sign this, as she might have today. In fact, the information on the back corroborates that:

I long thought Lombard apparently was going somewhere for the weekend, but a check of the 1938 calendar instead revealed May 2 was a Monday, May 5 a Thursday. This was nearly a year before the new, and soon iconic, Los Angeles Union Station opened, so this may have been taken at one of the earlier LA terminals, or perhaps at Glendale or Pasadena. (Both were popular embarking points for the Hollywood crowd, as they generally were less crowded and weren’t as much a hassle.)

Sunday was getaway day at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. Several films were on the schedule, including a number of repeats that had proved popular on the first go-round. But I already had seen “Don’t Bet On Women,” and while watching Ernst Lubitsch’s “The Smiling Lieutenant” and watching Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins sing the outrageously saucy “Jazz Up Your Lingerie” on the big screen would’ve been fun…

…it conflicted with something else I wanted to do, an event not under TCM auspices. It was over at the famed Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard (that was the name of its founder, who opened the store, specializing in entertainment books and related items, back in the ’30s), for a reading and book signing from a genuine legend of comedy:

Carl Reiner, who turned 93 earlier this month, was promoting his new book “I Just Remembered,” an array of recollections, most of them comedic of course. You know him from the “2,000-Year-Old Man” routines with fellow legend Mel Brooks, creating “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and all sorts of other things. Or perhaps you know him better as director Rob Reiner’s dad. Whatever, he was regaling a mesmerized crowd of several dozen seated at the bookstore.

Not one of my better photographs; sorry.

Afterward, there was a book signing, and when he got around to me, I mentioned I was beginning a career in screenwriting, but added I might be too old. (I was using it in the context of starting a sustained career at age 59.) Anyway, he said in an encouraging way, “You’re never too old to write.” Considering he’s more than one-and-a-half times my age — and I can’t say that about too many other folks anymore — he’s right, of course. When I make my Academy Award acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay, I will cite that…and I want Carl to be there to hear it.

From there, it was over to the Chinese Theater for my second movie there in as many days. More on that later, but first some pictures. First, here I am in line, dressed in full TCM regalia (red cap and an I ❤ movies T-shirt)…

…then went into the Chinese lobby, where I photographed several iconic costumes, such as Travilla’s gown for Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”…

…Julie Andrews from “Thoroughly Modern Millie”…

…Judy Garland’s gingham dress from “The Wizard of Oz”…

…Vivien Leigh’s green gown from “Gone With the Wind”…

…and finally, Rita Hayworth’s scintillating black satin gown from “Gilda”:

Then it was time to take my seat, and once again I was to watch a film from 1960. But while Saturday I saw Billy Wilder’s sweet-but-tart comedy “The Apartment,” this time I witnessed the flip side of ’60 — Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a film I had never before seen in its entirety.

I’ve often compared Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” to Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring” for its revolutionary nature, but this film — and the shock it still can give audiences 55 years after its release, despite the many parodies and homages it’s inspired — might be a better analogy for the Stravinsky piece. After the Technicolor lushness and star power of “Vertigo” and “North By Northwest,” Hitch threw his fans a curve with this one. We know how Janet Leigh felt about showers following the making of this film, but I wonder how daughter Jamie Lee Curtis first reacted to watching her mother’s demise on screen? But at least before poor Marion Crane meets her maker, we do get to see her in underwear:

From there, I soaked up all the atmosphere I could get, including posing between Doris Day and Buster Keaton in the Hollywood Roosevelt lobby…

…then snapping this pic at “The Road to Hollywood” walkway at the Hollywood & Highland shopping/entertainment complex:

(If you have a telephone number formerly used by a Hollywood celeb, please let me know.)

Finally, I found this at “The Hollywoodland Experience” on the Boulevard, across from the Chinese. Aspiring actors, actresses and directors get faux license plates and other goodies as sale items; we poor screenwriters-to-be have to settle for…

…and “screenwriter” is spelled with two words (like an archaic reference to “base ball” or “basket ball”). Oh, well.

And speaking of basket ball — oops, basketball — congratulations to my University of Maryland women for securing a return trip to the NCAA Final Four with a 58-48 victory over Tennessee in a game where both teams’ offenses seemed stuck in quicksand. That’s the good news for the Terrapins.

The bad news? Their next game is Sunday against the Evil Empire of women’s basketball (two-time defending national champion Connecticut), which actually trailed underdog Dayton at halftime Monday night before putting away the pesky Flyers by 21. Brenda Frese has pulled off all sorts of postseason magic during her 13 years in College Park, but she’ll need the ultimate miracle to beat Geno Auriemma’s bullies. Brenda, a nation is rooting for you.

Posted March 31, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

2015 TCMFF, day 3: Making book of a trip from ’42nd Street’ to ‘The Apartment’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.29 at 08:37

Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

This photo of Carole Lombard, said to be taken by a fan in the mid-1930s, was shot at Sardi’s, the long-gone restaurant at 6313 Hollywood Boulevard, just west of Vine. And just look at its exterior…1930s Streamline at its best, especially dramatic at night:

The Hollywood of 2015 may not have that kind of glamour, but it doesn’t stop people from searching for it. I’m proud to label myself among those searchers, and many of us have converged upon Hollywood this weekend for the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival, where we try to recapture that magic, then immerse ourselves in it. And most of the time — perhaps through the magic of our minds — we succeed.

This was how I’d wanted to begin my Saturday — seeing 100-year-old Norman Lloyd being interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz at the Montalban Theater on Vine Street. (Lloyd, probably best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur,” remains active — playing tennis nearly every day — and has a small role in the forthcoming comedy “Trainwreck,” starring Bill Hader and Amy Schumer. Alas, attendance was limited and I couldn’t get in, not even with my Palace Pass. (Reminder to self: Upgrade pass status for 2016.) So I moved on…specifically to the Chinese theater multiplex, metaphorically to “42nd Street”:

The 1933 film that singlehandedly revived the movie musical genre, dormant for several years following a glut of poorly made movies at the start of the decade, featured the favorite film star of my mother in her youth, Ruby Keeler. (That’s her, the brunette in the chorus line between the monocled Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel.) “42nd Street” has been restored by Warner Archives, and helping introduce the film was none other than Broadway star Christine Ebersole, who starred as Bebe Daniels’ character Dorothy Brock in the 2001 Broadway revival of the show, first converted into a stage musical in the 1980s. She engagingly discussed the difference between the film and Broadway versions:

Perhaps if Lombard’s 1934 film “Twentieth Century” finally gets the restoration it deserves, Kristin Chenoweth — who’s getting rave reviews for her turn as Lily Garland in the Broadway revival of the musical derived from the movie, “On the Twentieth Century” — will introduce it at a future TCMFF. (We can only hope for both.)

The afternoon was spent in the Hollywood Roosevelt lobby, buying festival merchandise as well as the book “The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935,” signed by its authors, James Layton and David Pierce…

…as well as keeping an eye on the lobby TV, where my University of Maryland women’s basketball team advanced to the “elite eight,” conquering one-time rival Duke by 10 points.

Then it was time for a visit to the apartment — no, not the one where I live in Los Angeles, but the one inhabited by Jack Lemmon (most of the time, anyway) in “The Apartment,” the 1960 Academy Award winner for best picture. It also marked the first time I ever have set foot inside the main Chinese theater on Hollywood Boulevard, and its recent renovations apparently have not dimmed its luster:

And speaking of luster, Shirley MacLaine’s still got plenty of it. The screen legend and raconteur discussed the production with Leonard Maltin, who along with Mankiewicz has been doing yeoman work at the festival in lieu of the absent Robert Osborne (best wishes for your recovery, Bob!). She told of dining with notoriously frugal co-star Fred MacMurray, who shrewdly used his money for an array of real estate holdings (including at one time the now century-old Bryson on Wilshire Boulevard, which I can see from my apartment). Perhaps that was the topic of conversation when this shot was taken:

And finally, I ran into Mankiewicz — hurriedly in between gigs — after “The Apartment,” reminding him I had given him a Carole & Co. business card at the 2014 TCMFF. He said he hadn’t had a chance to see the site (understandable, given his busy schedule), but promised to see it in the future. Knowing your fondness for Lombard, Ben (, I think you’ll enjoy dropping by.

Posted March 29, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

2015 TCMFF, day 2: Technicolor music, redhaired wow, a silent ‘Steamboat’ score and hello, Leonard   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.28 at 08:08

Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Ladies and gentlemen, here are two of the passions in my life — Carole Lombard and the University of Maryland women’s basketball team. While I’ve passed Carole’s star many times and taken pictures of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever posed next to it. I rectified that the other night by having my picture taken with the star while at the TCM Classic Film Festival and saluting the Big Ten champions. (For those looking for it, the star is in front of the Baja Fresh restaurant at 6930 Hollywood Boulevard.)

Day 2 of the festival — the first full day of events for me — was exhausting, but fun. It began at the Egyptian in the morning with a presentation of clips from early Technicolor musicals (alas, few remain in their original color state, or in their entirety) and it was a joy to see the likes of the likable Winnie Lightner and other early talkie stars perform on screen in two-strip Technicolor.

This session was held in conjunction with a new book, “The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935,” a commemoration of sort of the centennial of the leading color photography process. One of its authors, David Pierce, helped found the Media History Digital Library, which has been invaluable in aiding the research capability of Carole & Co. and other classic Hollywood blogs ( Pierce is shown below at yesterday’s presentation.

Later today, Pierce and co-author James Layton will hold a book signing at the Roosevelt; you can be certain I’ll be getting a copy.

Also in the hotel lobby Friday was a series of interviews conducted by Ben Mankiewicz, presumably filling the role Robert Osborne (who’s had to sit this year’s event out for medical reasons) held at past TCM festivals. He interviewed composer Carl Davis (more on him later), Alan Ladd Jr. (who as a child acted with his father), and two lovely redhaired legends, Shirley MacLaine and Ann-Margret. (As you can tell from the photo below, A-M may be in her early 70s, but she still has the power to make men melt.)

A highlight was returning to the Egyptian Friday night and seeing the world premiere of a restored version of the 1928 Buster Keaton classic “Steamboat Bill Jr.”, with Davis leading a live orchestra in his newly-composed score. What an experience!

Introducing the event was Leonard Maltin, whose path I crossed a few hours earlier when I attended a screening of the restored 1931 Fox comedy “Don’t Bet on Women” (Jeanette MacDonald’s lone non-singing film role) at the Chinese Multiplex. (Una Merkel, in one of her earlier supporting roles, steals the show with a hilarious turn as a sex-crazed southern belle who, like the real-life Una, hails from Kentucky.) Here’s Jeanette with co-star Edmund Lowe, six years after he was Lombard’s first adult leading man in the long-lost “Marriage in Transit”:

I was attending on standby, and when directed to my seat, who should I pass in my row but…Leonard Maltin! I said hello, gave him a Carole & Co. business card, and went on to my seat. Wish I’d had a chance to talk with him and thank him for his Lombard book, written back in the ’70s…

…or tell him that I gave budding actress Laura Prepon a spare copy of said book early in her career (

All in all, a delightful day — and I eagerly await my Saturday adventures at the TCMFF.

Posted March 28, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

2015 TCMFF, day 1: ‘Godfrey’ + group = greatness   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.27 at 02:35

Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Few would dispute the glory of “My Man Godfrey,” arguably the greatest screwball comedy ever made and the film that provided Carole Lombard her only Academy Award nomination. Yes, some might make a case for “Bringing Up Baby,” but “Godfrey” has far more depth to it than “Baby” and is just as clever as another Howard Hawks contender with Cary Grant, “His Girl Friday.”

But as good as “Godfrey” is when you watch it on TV or video, its magnificence amplifies when you see it in a theater with several hundred other fans, as I did last night at the opening evening of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The 500-seat Chinese Multiplex House 1, largest of the Chinese’s auxiliary theaters, was nearly full for the 10 p.m. showing (actually, it didn’t get going until 10:12 or so with those fabulous Streamline opening credits, the best this side of Saul Bass). But no one complained, since the film was introduced by occasional TCM presenter and friend of the channel Illeana Douglas (granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas), whose enthusiasm for “Godfrey” was obvious from the get-go.

Douglas was briefly interrupted by “Godfrey”-related cheers throughout her intro, including a nice hand for Lombard. She called her the forerunner to later funny, sexy comic actresses such as Goldie Hawn and Sandra Bullock.

And then came the film.

The collective enthusiasm you get from an audience watching a really good film is one you simply can’t duplicate at home, no matter how big your screen or how fancy your equipment. That certainly was the case with “Godfrey.” They cheered Godfrey pushing Cornelia into an ashpile (and Lombard’s Irene Bullock explaining that was something she always wanted to do), adored Carole’s rapid-fire responses early in the film, and hooted at Alice Brady’s delightful obliviousness.

Some non-verbal humor you may have taken for granted watching by yourself gains impact on the big screen, such as when Godfrey carries the “fainted” Irene up the stairs before the pivotal shower scene. Fascinating to examine. While we’ll never be able to precsely replicate the 1936 audience’s experience watching “Godfrey” — try as we may, we’ll never possess that mindset — it was good to remember why filmgoing in groups has its own very special pleasure.

Better be getting some shuteye…in about 6 1/2 hours, day 2 of the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival will begin. For an idea of the myriad of choices, visit

Posted March 27, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

That ‘New Yorker’ from San Bernardino   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.26 at 07:27

Current mood: happyhappy

Among the joys of classic Hollywood is watching its able corps of character actors cavort with the likes of Carole Lombard. We’ve previously discussed Walter Connolly, at right, from “Twentieth Century” (, but the man in between them, Roscoe Karns, also had a substantial career.

The fast-talking Karns had so much New York sass on screen most filmgoers probably wondered which borough he hailed from. The answer: None. He was born (in 1891) and raised in San Bernardino, long before Los Angeles would become recognized as a cinematic capital. Karns appeared in eight shorts during the teens, then worked his way up the movie hierarchy during the 1920s, including a part in “Wings,” the first Academy Award-winning film.

The arrival of sound unveiled a new dimension to Karns and bolstered his career. (Turner Classic Movies occasionally runs a 1929 short called “Copy!”, where he plays a city editor — most of his scenes are spent talking on the phone — in a tour de force.) The following year, Karns crossed paths on screen with Carole for the first time in her initial Paramount feature, “Safety in Numbers,” and as the decade progressed, he appeared in several notable films, including “Night After Night” (Mae West’s movie debut) and the multi-episodic “If I Had a Million.” (He’s also the radio announcer broadcasting a bridge match — you read that correctly — in the Loretta Young comedy “Grand Slam.”)

But it wouldn’t be until 1934 that Karns would make his two most memorable movies, both at Columbia — first as the obnoxious Shapeley, Clark Gable’s bete noire, in “It Happened One Night,” then as press agent Owen O’Malley in “Twentieth Century.” Here he is with Lombard’s Lily Garland, who at this point in the film is getting a bit too big for her britches (probably from emulating mentor and lover Oscar Jaffe):

In the early ’40s, Karns appeared in the likes of “His Girl Friday,” “They Drive By Night” and “Woman of the Year.” With his film work diminishing after World War II, he made the transition to television, with a supporting role on the sitcom “Hennessey” and a 1963 appearance on “The Lucy Show.” His swan song came in films in 1964, once again working for Hawks (as he did in “Twentieth Century” and “His Girl Friday”) as Major Phipps in “Man’s Favorite Sport?” He died in 1970.

The photo just above the preceding paragraph is on sale at eBay for $22, although you also can make an offer. It’s in very good condition, though there is a long crease across the top of the photo. Interested? Then visit

If you’re going to the TCM Classic Film Festival (and I note from KNX radio traffic reports that part of Hollywood Boulevard has been closed to traffic to handle the visitors), I hope to see you tonight at 10 for “My Man Godfrey” at the Chinese Multiplex House 1. Even if you’ve seen it countless times (as I have), watching it with an audience and sharing in the laughter is a splendid experience.

Posted March 26, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Bad news for screenwriting, good news for ‘Godfrey’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.25 at 20:39

Current mood: excitedexcited

Attention Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer, William Powell and Gregory La Cava: As fate would have it appears I will be able to attend tomorrow’s 10 p.m. showing of “My Man Godfrey” at the Chinese Multiplex House 1 (provided I can get a standby ticket, and with my luck…) That’s because the screenwriting contest I had entered in Glendale — where a 10-page segment of a romantic comedy I’m writing was to have received a table reading from professional actors — was canceled for lack of entries.

Hey, these things happen, and there will be other contests, other outlets to display my cinematic writing process. This is merely a momentary setback.

At least the TCM Classic Film Festival is there to soothe my psychic wounds…although I won’t get the full deal until Friday, when my Palace Pass begins. About the only thing I won’t be able to partake of is Club TCM, but that’s OK. So much else will be going on that I should have a blast. It’s just a matter of deciding which way to go, as I feel like a kid in a cinematic candy store.

It will seem a bit different this year without the gracious presence of Robert Osborne, absent for medical reasons. (I saw him at last year’s festival while I visited Los Angeles to search for an apartment.) But as he noted in his message making the announcement to the channel’s fans last week, the event is in good hands with many talented, knowledgeable people filling in for him. I fully concur.

Perhaps I’ll attend the vivacious Colleen Moore in “Why Be Good?” on Saturday morning, or one of dozens of other films or special presentations. You’ll know me from my Washington Nationals or University of Maryland cap — and I’ll probably also be wearing a T-shirt to honor the Maryland women’s basketball team’s Big Ten regular-season or tournament championships. If you see me, ask for a Carole & Co. business card…and wish me luck on my budding screenwriting career.

Posted March 25, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

‘Hi, Mom, I’m home. And divorced.’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.24 at 21:25

Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

No, I don’t honestly believe Carole Lombard used those precise words upon greeting her mother on Aug. 18, 1933 after returning to California following her divorce from William Powell in Carson City, Nev., earlier that afternoon. Whichever words she did use were her first on California soil since traveling to Nevada at the start of July to establish legal residency in the Silver State. Now, her domicile had reverted from Silver to Golden, and she could get back to work as an actress again.

This is an Acme Newspictures photo; here’s what’s on the back:

Roscoe Turner was a renowned 1930s pilot who three times won the Thompson Trophy air race. He also owned a pet lion, though I doubt it accompanied him on this trip.

The photo measures approximately 7″ x 9″, and exhibits light to moderate wear and toning around the edges and corners. The caption has been affixed to the back of the photo and exhibits an Acme Newspictures stamp. (As we all know the ultimate fate of both Lombard and her mother, I apologize if this entry seems too flippant for some.)

The opening bid for this is a mere 99 cents, and the auction is set to conclude at 9:24 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday…so you might have a chance at this. Think you’re interested? Then visit

Posted March 24, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Time to celebrate a classic, blogathon style   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.23 at 22:06

Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

I think it safe to say most people with any sort of knowledge of Hollywood history would define Carole Lombard’s 1937 film “Nothing Sacred” (she’s shown here with co-star Fredric March) as a classic. Well, it just so happens that in less than two months, a day has been designated to honor such films — in fact, just about any more made before 1970:

That day is May 16, and for the second time in four days, I’ve agreed to participate in a blogathon (the other one, on short subjects, will take place in early May). This one, “My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon,” is set for May 16, and is sponsored by the Classic Film & TV Cafe (

Just which Lombard “classic movie” will I choose (I have several favorites)? Not certain yet, but I have plenty of time. As of this writing, 13 blogs have chosen favorite movies, and I’m sure the number will grow. For now, I’ll contribute this way…with a poster suitable for borrowing:

Posted March 24, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Herald-ing South America in the ‘Sun’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.03.22 at 21:30

Current mood: sleepysleepy

Imagine having Carole Lombard as your date and literally falling asleep on the job! Well, that’s what apparently happened to poor Walter Byron in this scene from the 1932 Paramount film “Sinners in the Sun.” No wonder Carole looks so ticked off.

We bring this up because a rare herald from the movie — one issued for Spanish-speaking South American markets — is up for auction at eBay.

According to the seller, who hails from Argentina, heralds such as this one (which measures 9.5″ x 6.5″ and is in “very good condition”) weren’t common in South America. These “were printed by a local distributor, Max Gluksmann…between 1929 and 1936.”

Check the cast list, and you’ll also note one of the supporting players is (erroneously listed as) “Gary Grant.” This probably wasn’t the first time this mistake befell Cary (it was his second film), and it wouldn’t be the last — although after his 1937 breakthrough with “The Awful Truth” and “Topper,” the “Garys” for Cary diminished significantly.

Bidding for this begins at $14.99, and the auction closes at 9:52 p.m. (Eastern) Saturday. Many of you collect heralds, so this may be right up your alley. If so, visit to bid or find out more…especially since the seller adds, “This item is on auction only once, after auction ends if the item isn’t sold it pass to my store for double or more than this initial price. I don’t relist items, so don’t lose this opportunity, and good luck.”

Posted March 22, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized