Carole Lombard

TCMFF 2015, Day 1: Tours, Red Carpets, and Garbo

Waiting for the TCM Film Locations Tour with Thomas, Kendahl (A Classic Film Blog), Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), and Danny (Pre-code.com)

Waiting for the TCM Film Locations Tour with Thomas, Kendahl (A Classic Film Blog), Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), and Danny (Pre-code.com) Photo courtesy of TCM.

For the first day of TCMFF 2015, my day started by taking a bus tour of locations that were featured in various films. This is the tour Turner Classic Movies partnered with Starline Tours to create. Unlike many other tours of film locations you can take in Los Angeles, the TCM Movie Locations Tour is unique in the sense that it not only encompasses more films from the classic era than most other tours, it’s the only film location tour that visits downtown Los Angeles.

The tour takes visitors by locations such as Chaplin’s former studios, Paramount Studios, Echo Park, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Formosa Cafe, just to name a few. The bus itself was nice; very comfortable with lots of windows so all passengers have a great view of the places they’re seeing. There’s also a large HDTV so people on the tour can see the locations as they appeared on film and as they look today.

Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building

There are two stops on the tour where visitors are able to get off the bus and spend a few minutes exploring: the Bradbury Building and Union Station. In both cases, you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay and explore the buildings more. Walking into Union Station is like walking into a different era; it’s absolutely beautiful. And I couldn’t get enough of admiring the architecture of the Bradbury Building.

What impressed me the most about the tour was the wide range of films it references. Since this is a tour organized by Turner Classic Movies, you can naturally expect most of the locations to be related to classic film, but there are some modern films represented in the tour such as L.A. Confidential and The Artist.  Of course, there are plenty of familiar titles like Rebel Without a Cause and Sunset Boulevard that are referenced, but the tour also talked about locations used for less instantly recognizable movies such as Buster Keaton’s Battling Butlers and Barbara Stanwyck’s The Miracle Woman. I never though I would ever go on a film locations tour and hear anyone talk about The Miracle Woman, so that one really made me happy.

If you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area and are interested in taking the TCM Movie Locations Tour, I definitely recommend it. If you’re like me and not from the area, it’s a fun way to see the town in about 3 hours. Visit the Starlines Tours website for more information about ticket prices and when tours run.

After the tour, I went out to lunch with fellow bloggers Jessica (and her lovely parents), Raquel, Kendahl, and Danny and spent some time hanging out at the Roosevelt Hotel before heading off to my next big event — watching red carpet arrivals for The Sound of Music.

A view of the red carpet from the bleachers.

A view of the red carpet from the bleachers.

Festival attendees who weren’t attending The Sound of Music screening were able to watch the red carpet arrivals from some bleachers that had been set up by the red carpet. I joined some other movie bloggers to brave the heat (it was about 90 degrees and very sunny that day) and wait in line for the opportunity to get a brief glimpse of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer

Many of the celebrities who appeared on the red carpet were people who were guests at the festival such as Keith Carradine, Robert Morse, Leonard Maltin, Diane Baker, Peter Fonda, Norman Lloyd, and of course, Christopher Plummer. Although she wasn’t doing any other events at the festival, Shirley Jones also made an appearance. While some of the stars stopped to address the crowd, others moved so quickly it was hard to even get a picture of them. Most of the pictures I took at the event could be compiled into a series called “Famous People Shielding Their Eyes from the Sun,” but it was worth attending because it gave me the chance to see some people I wouldn’t have been able to see in person otherwise.

Queen Christina Garbo Gilbert

My first film of TCMFF 2015 was 1933’s Queen Christina with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. If you ever have the chance to see Garbo on the big screen, you must go. Garbo had a face that was made to be seen on a larger-than-life screen. I’ve always loved the movie, but being able to see it on the big screen brought out many little nuances in her performance I had never noticed while watching it at home.

As an added bonus, they screened a rare Queen Christina lighting test from the Academy archives before the movie, which was an absolute pleasure to watch. It was a 2-and-a-half minute long silent clip of Greta Garbo simply being Greta Garbo. Since these were just lighting tests, she was relaxed in a way that you don’t see her being when she’s actually acting. Plus some of the shots were close-ups, which were simply breathtaking. If Queen Christina ever gets a blu-ray release, that lighting test would make a fantastic bonus feature.

My Man Godfrey Powell Lombard

After Queen Christina, I got in line to see 1936’s My Man Godfrey starring the incomparable Carole Lombard and William Powell. I was still debating what I would go see during this time slot up until I got out of Queen Christina. I like The Sea Hawk and after saying I had never seen Breaker Morant in my post about what I was planning to see, several people told me, “You must see Breaker Morant!” so I was definitely intrigued by it. In the end, Godfrey won because I was in the mood for something light and fun, but I fully intend on seeing Breaker Morant sometime in the near future. Godfrey was a digital print, which looked absolutely stunning; I’ve never seen it look better. Not only was tonight my first time seeing Garbo on the big screen, it was also my first time seeing Carole Lombard on the big screen. In both cases, it was an absolute delight. The crowd for Godfrey was very enthusiastic, which always makes classic comedies so much fun to watch.

What’s on TCM: October 2014

Janet Leigh Psycho

Happy October, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I am so looking forward to watching a whole lot of classic horror movies this month. The idea of coming home after work and spending a chilly Fall evening at home watching something eerie sounds like a quality night to me. And luckily, TCM will definitely be delivering in that department this month. Every Thursday night this month will be all about ghost stories. Some will be perfectly creepy for Halloween, others are more lighthearted ghost stories like Topper. Either way, I’ll definitely be tuning in for those. Other great days for classic horror fans are October 28th, October 30th starting at 8:00 PM, and of course, October 31.

Janet Leigh will be TCM’s Star of the Month, so we’ll have the chance to see the ultimate slasher film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, on October 29th at 8:00 PM. Janet Leigh’s films will be shown every Wednesday night this month.

October’s Friday Night Spotlight series will highlight movies set in Africa.

One night that is definitely not to be missed is October 6th. Starting at 8:00 PM, TCM will be showing 28 shorts from animation pioneers Windsor McCay, Bray Studios, and Van Beuren Studios. These are true landmarks of animation, the vast majority of which have never been shown on TCM before. And where else are you going to have the chance to see Gertie the Dinosaur in prime time? This is going to be a real treat.

Now, let’s get on to the rest of the schedule!

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Made For Each Other (1939)

Made For Each Other 1939

When up-and-coming attorney John Mason (James Stewart) impulsively marries Jane (Carole Lombard), most of his friends and co-workers are happy for him. However, two very important people in his life aren’t so happy — his boss Joseph Doolitle (Charles Coburn) and his mother Harriet (Lucile Watson). Joseph had been hoping John would marry his daughter Eunice and Harriet would have much rather had Eunice for a daughter-in-law. Joseph and Harriet make their displeasure known from day one and do everything in their power to make things difficult for the newlyweds. First Joseph and Jane have to cancel their honeymoon because of an important case John has to work on. Then Jane has to tolerate Harriet living with them in their very small apartment. But through it all, Jane and John do their best to keep their heads up.

One night, Jane hosts an important dinner for Joseph and some of the other lawyers at John’s firm. John is expecting to be made partner that night, so Jane wants everything to be perfect. But Harriet does everything she can to sabotage Jane’s efforts and to make things worse, Joseph brings Eunice along to the dinner. Everything that can go wrong does and worst of all, John doesn’t even make partner that night. John isn’t making much money at the law firm and times are tough for him and Jane. Things get even tougher when they have a baby. Just as John gets the courage to demand a promotion and raise, Joseph announces that everyone at the firm will have to take a pay cut. The bills keep piling up and Jane is forced to look for work.

Tensions continue to rise until they reach a breaking point on New Year’s Eve when John and Jane decide to separate while at a party. But before they even have a chance to leave the party, Jane finds out their baby is seriously ill. If the baby doesn’t get a special medicine, he will not survive, and the medicine would have to be flown in from Salt Lake City, which is snowed in. The only pilot willing to make the trip would need to be paid $5,000. With no one else to turn to, John turns to Joseph for the money

Made For Each Other starts out as a run-of-the-mill drama about a young couple trying their best, then it turns the melodrama up to 11 for the ending. The standard drama parts probably would have been pretty forgettable if it weren’t for the first-rate cast. As wonderful as Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart, and Charles Coburn are, Lucile Watson did a fantastic job of stealing her scenes. Watson did a phenomenal job of playing one of those completely insufferable bitter old hags you’d just love to give a good smack across the face. Made for Each Other also does a great job of creating a sense of tension and frustration. I liked the movie, but I found myself getting so frustrated for Jane and John that I don’t think I’ll be watching it again anytime soon just because it made me so tense. The movie just lost me when it it suddenly switched from being about fairly believable situations to being a total melodrama at the very end.

Twentieth Century (1934)

Twentieth CenturyTheater producer Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) is one of the most renowned producers in the business.  His name being attached to a show is essentially a guarantee that the show will be of the highest quality.  So when he casts lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Carole Lombard) as the lead in his new show, even his closest associates start to question his judgment.  Mildred shows little acting ability during rehearsals, but with Oscar’s forceful directing technique and a new stage name — Lily Garland — she is a sensation when the show opens.

Lily and Oscar continue to collaborate on stage and carry on a romantic relationship behind the scenes as well.  But when Lily finally decides she’s had enough of Oscar’s controlling tendencies, she heads off to Hollywood to try her luck in films.  Oscar is completely lost without Lily and even though he tries to replace her, nobody can really fill her shoes.  After a string of his shows fail, Oscar has to get out of Chicago before the sheriff can get him first so he gets on the train to New York.  As luck would have it, Lily, now a successful movie star, and her new boyfriend George (Ralph Forbes) are taking a trip on the same train.

When some of Oscar’s associates realize she’s on board, they try to convince her to do another show with Oscar just to get him out of trouble.  She still wants nothing to do with Oscar, but Oscar just takes her refusal as a challenge and will stop at nothing until she agrees to star in his next show.

If you ever want to see two actors clearly having the time of their lives, look no further than Twentieth Century.  John Barrymore and Carole Lombard really sink their teeth into their roles and it’s hard not to be drawn in by their sheer enthusiasm.  Reportedly when director Howard Hawks offered John Barrymore the part of Oscar, Barrymore asked him why he wanted him to play this part. Hawks explained that Twentieth Century is the story of the biggest ham on Earth and Barrymore was the biggest ham he knew.  That was all Barrymore needed to hear and accepted the part on the spot.  And boy did Barrymore ever revel in being a ham here!  If he were any more of a ham, he’d need a honey glaze.  But that is exactly what the part called for and I can’t imagine who else could have played it better.

At the time he made Twentieth Century, Barrymore’s career had peaked, but Carole Lombard’s was about to take off.  Lombard had been making movies for a few years already but hadn’t quite had that definitive movie role to launch her career to the next level. Twentieth Century turned out to be that movie.  Even though Barrymore was the more experienced actor, Lombard had absolutely no problem keeping up with him.  Barrymore even later referred to Lombard as the greatest actress he had ever worked with.  And considering some of the names Barrymore had worked with, that is a compliment of the highest order.

Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

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What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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In Name Only (1939)

Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) and Alec Walker (Cary Grant) are both lonely for two different reasons.  Alec is married to Maida (Kay Francis), but neither of them actually loves the other.  Maida only married him because of his money.  Julie is a widowed illustrator who lives with her young daughter and divorced sister.  The two meet when Julie rents a house in the town where Alec lives and naturally, they end up falling in love.  When they first meet, they hit it off right away and it starts off innocently enough.  Julie doesn’t know he’s married and Alec sees that Julie is everything Maida isn’t.  But complications arise one night when Alec and Maida’s friend Suzanne get into a car accident near Julie’s house.  Suzanne asks Julie to call Alec’s wife and a doctor for him and before Julie knows it, she’s face to face with Maida.  But Maida immediately knows there’s something between Alec and Julie when she notices Julie’s sketchbook sitting in Alec’s wrecked car.

When Julie finds out about Maida, she’s heartbroken.  After her sister’s marriage ended because of another woman, she absolutely does not want to be the other woman.  But Alec is more determined than ever to get out of his loveless marriage and demands that Maida give him a divorce.  The only way he can get her to give him a divorce is if he lets her take a trip to Paris with his parents to get it.  Desperate to be rid of her, he gladly agrees to this plan and as soon as Maida and his parents are on the boat, Alec and Julie’s relationship moves very quickly.  When Julie goes to New York for work, Alec goes with her and proposes.

The only thing standing in their way of happiness is Maida.  Their marriage plans keep being pushed back because Maida keeps running into delays with the divorce.  Or so they think.  The truth is that Maida never had any intention of giving him a divorce and she makes that point quite clear to them when she and Alec’s parents return to New York on Christmas Eve.  When Alec threatens to go to Reno himself, Maida vows to make the whole legal affair as ugly as possible.  Tired of all the frustrations, Julie breaks it off with Alec, who then heads out to a bar to drown his sorrows.  Alec stumbles into a cheap motel for the night and passes out in front of an open window.  The motel staff finds him the next morning seriously ill and Julie is called to take care of him.  At first they only think he has the flu, but it turns out to be a much more serious bout of pneumonia and he is rushed to the hospital.  The hospital won’t let Julie in to see Alec since they’re not married, but when the doctor tells Alec’s father (Charles Coburn) that Alec needs a reason to want to get well again, he lets Julie see him so he’d have that reason.  But the movie wouldn’t be complete without one last showdown between Julie and Maida.  Not only does Maida get told off by Julie, Maida accidentally reveals her true motives to Alec’s parents.  Now that Alec’s parents have finally seen the real Maida, they fully support the idea of Alec getting that divorce.

I must say, it was a pretty bold move to take Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, and Charles Coburn, what would have been one of the most brilliant comedic casts ever assembled, and put them in a drama.  But the good news is that none of their talents are wasted here.  Actually, I think this is a completely underrated movie for both Cary Grant and Carole Lombard.  Even though this gets a 7.0 on IMDB, for some reason, I didn’t go into it expecting anything special.  But I was very pleasantly surprised.  It may be pretty melodramatic, but at least it’s well acted melodrama.  Kay Francis was definitely somebody I loved to hate and I liked the chemistry between Carole and Cary.  I really wish Carole and Cary had made another movie together, perhaps they would have if Carole hadn’t died so young.  They were wonderful in a drama together, but in a comedy, they would have been absolutely unstoppable.

Be sure to visit Carole & Co. for more of her 103rd birthday celebration!