Archive for May, 2015

Delving “Into the Darkness” with #TCM #NoirSummer

Calling all Classic Film Fans! A free, college class is being offered via Turner Classic Movies and Ball State University beginning June 1st-via online. Be sure to read Aurora’s fabulous blog about it all, and be sure to tune in to TCM Fridays in June and July for Film Noir Movie greats!!!

Once upon a screen...

It’s a bitter little world and I want all in!

Double-dealing dames, amoral cops, cynical, hard-hearted heroes all set against dark and dreary backdrops.  That is the world of film noir and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is offering us a chance to lurk in its shadows.

In conjunction with the “Summer of Darkness” festival during which TCM will air more than a hundred film noir classics as part of its Friday Night Spotlight series that will run through the end of July, the network has partnered with Indiana’s Ball State University and Canvas Network, an open online educational platform to offer a nine-week, free, online Film Noir course set to begin on June 1st.

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The “Summer of Darkness” series was first introduced by TCM in 1999 and as one of film’s most popular and entertaining genres, the scheduled film noir line-up this year will not disappoint.  The series will be hosted by “The…

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Our Ford Econoline Van

I was driving our 12-passenger, Ford Econoline silver/grey van  around Rolla last week, doing the weekly groceries shopping, stopping at the bank to deposit our working teens’ paychecks into their savings accounts since they were still in school and couldn’t get to the bank as easily as I could, and suddenly, I became all weepy!

There wasn’t a sentimental song playing on the radio.  No touching radio ad or news story had hit my ears to bring about the tears.  I simply started dwelling on our van and how many ways it had been a great vehicle for our family. The flood of memories, I think, just hit me at the right moment and the tears sprang forth.

It was Autumn of 1999 and we were a family of 6 when I went to the doctor to confirm that baby #5 was on his or her way.  That afternoon at the doctor’s office,  an ultrasound showed not one but two hearts beating!  After I got over my initial shock, I told husband and he, after realizing I wasn’t joking about expecting twins in April said, “We’re gonna need a bigger van!”  Up to that moment, we had a Ford Windstar mini-van, which worked fine for our family.  With my brother being an  employee of the Ford Motor Company, it was a  no-brainer to find out what Ford offered for those families that were too large to fit into a mini-van.  That search led us to the Econoline.  It’s the same size as those church or a daycare vans that dot our roadways in the U.S.  We eschewed the 15 seater and went with the 12 seater and we placed our order with our local Ford dealership.  We learned that part of our new van was going to be made in Canada and then those parts would be shipped to Loraine, Ohio and the final assembling of the vehicle would be finished there, but not until November of 2000, some  months after our twins would be born.  So until we were notified that the van had arrived at our local Ford dealership,  we were a two vehicle, caravanning family.

The day arrived and the kids were all excited about getting inside of this behemoth vehicle.   The twins were oblivious but I think they sensed the excitement of their older sibings!  The kids burst into the van, bouncing around on the bench seats, each claiming their spot, and the twins car seats were placed on the bench seat closest to the driver and front passenger seats.  It did take me a while to get used to driving it around town, to not feel like I was taking up the entire lane of traffic.  I finally did get used to it, so much so that whenever I rode in a “normal” sized vehicle, I felt like my seat was going to drag on the road!  The only detriment, we learned, is that it’s impossible to really see out the back of such a large, long van.  Hence, whenever parking it, we always, always look for a spot that we can drive forward out of, or park in a spot where there isn’t any place for anyone to park behind us.

Ford Van

Memories came flooding last week: the numerous trips to St. Louis Zoo, or any of the museums in Forest Park, or any of the homeschooling field trips we went on through the years, hauling the kids and their friends to Koch Water Park or Bangert Pool, or Fritz’s, or to a mall, or helping to drive kids from church out to High Hill Christian Camp.    Vacations taken via our van: Disney World, Busch Gardens, trips to OH to see the grandparents and other relatives, a trip to MI, a trip to NC,  a trip to Texas when it looked like we might have to move there, and trips now back and forth from Rolla to St. Louis or Rolla to Springfield, to Branson and back.

There are also  the times the van has been extremely handy in hauling stuff: concrete and paints, mulch and plants, wood, tools, for various home improvement projects, new pieces of furniture.   Hauling college daughter’s myriads of stuff to the dorm and back again for school breaks.  It has also proved valuable on Cub and  Boy Scout campouts;driving scouts and equipment to and from camps.   Two summers ago, while on a Cub Scout camp out with our youngest, we were at Camp Arrowhead, about 40 minutes east of Springfield, MO.  A strong thunderstorm had been predicted to hit the second night of our camp out.  I told my Webelo son, that to be on the safe side, at 9:00 pm, we were going to move our gear from the platform scout tent to our van and sleep there for the night.  I was so thankful I thought to do that as a fierce thunderstorm did hit, the rains flooded the campsite, but my son and I were safe and dry inside our van.  I know some scouting parents would insist on “roughing” it during a thunderstorm but I fell back on the motto, “Be Prepared” and to the van we went!

The Econoline has another family vacation to take us on this summer.  It will again take our oldest daughter and all of her stuff  back to her college for her Senior year.  The van is starting to show it’s 15 years of usage, but we still aren’t ready to trade it in for a newer vehicle.  We’re hoping it can hang on through the August of 2016 when child #4 will be moving to his college for his Freshman year.

One weekend when my husband and I were highschool sweethearts, he related to me that as his parents were opening up their pop-up camper it was discovered that during the winter, water had somehow gotten inside of the camper and mold had grown inside and  ruined the interior.  He went on to tell me how sad his mom was, and that she actually broke down and cried about it.  When I asked why she had gotten so upset about a camper, my wise husband explained to me that their family had gone a lot of camping trips in that pop-up and that she was sad they wouldn’t be able to continue making memories with that camper.  At the time, I was a high school kid and didn’t understand my future  mother-in-law’s tears.  Driving around last week and dwelling on our reliable, yet old van’s travels, I found that I now do understand the tears.

Memories are made, families grow and change.  The trusty vehicles age and according to some law of Physics, the repairing over and over again will all be for naught.   Maybe it’s part of a mom’s heart to tear up at memories, to recall with fondness, smiles and wet eyes the passages of time via their childrens growth; the need for car seats of various sizes, then just a booster seat, then the seat belt, to the child driving the vehicle on their own with their own driver’s license.

Chalk it all up to memories and a mom’s heart, I guess, as to the reason why I was emotional as I drove around Rolla running errands.   I guess as I tool around town in my giant silver/grey van, I will need to keep a kleenax box handy, especially as our kids continue to grow up and time marches on .

 

The Major and The Minor: For National Classic Movie Day Blogathon

Today, Saturday, May 16th,  is National Favorite Classic Movie Day.  Since every day of the week nowadays seems to have a special attribute assigned to it, why not a day in which to remember with fondness a favorite classic movie?  I signed up to participate and this fun blogathon  is being hosted by Rick over at Classic Film and TV Cafe.  Please visit his site to read other bloggers’ choices as to which classic film is their favorite.

My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon 2

For my favorite film I chose 1942’s romance/comedy The Major and The Minor.  It has a lot of pluses and few minuses: written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, directed by Wilder, lead actor is Ray Milland, lead actress is Ginger Rogers, supporting actors and actresses are all good in their roles, too; Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn, Edward Fielding, Frankie Thomas, Raymond Roe, Charles Smith, Larry Nunn, Billy Dawson, and even a bit part played by Ginger’s mom, Lela Rogers!The Major and the Minor

Billy Wilder had come to America, via Germany and France, having found successes in the fields of screenwriting and directing.  With the rise of Nazism,  he left Europe behind, and decided to pursue his filmmaking talents in Hollywood.  In 1939 his work paid off with his screenplay for Ninotchka, the film that showed the world that Greta Garbo could laugh!  That film was quickly followed with two more screenwriting successes for Wilder: Hold Back the Dawn, and Ball of Fire.  In 1942 he got permission from Paramount Pictures to make his American directorial debut with The Major and The Minor.  I am so glad that Paramount gave him the green light for this delightlful movie.

Ginger Rogers portrays Susan Applegate, a midwestern,  small town gal who came to NYC in order to make it in show business.  She had saved up her money each week for train fare home as she promised herself to give it one year in NYC and if she didn’t make it, she’d take the train and head for home.  She finally has had her fill of NYC, and her year is up, but at the train station she discovers that the money she saved isn’t enough for an adult fare as the price has risen.  Dismayed, she gets an idea when she watches a mother at the ticket window purchase a child fare ticket for her daughter.  Susan realizes she has enough money to buy a child’s fare ticket.  Off she goes to the lady’s restroom to turn herself into 12 year old “Susu” Applegate.

Susan entering the ladies restroom, and Susu emerging!

Susan entering the ladies restroom, and Susu emerging!

Susu gets her ticket, gets on the train, but when  she goes outside onto a viewing platform to sneak a cigarette, the conductors, who are suspicious about her being a “child” catch her.  She flees from their clutches and dives into the first overnight compartment she can find and it belongs to Major Philip Kirby, ably portrayed by Ray Milland.

Susu meets Major Philip Kirby.

Susu meets Major Philip Kirby.

Major Kirby is itching to get into WWII.  He badly wants to serve his country.  However, he’s stuck teaching at a Boys Military Academy.  He had been in Washington D.C. to see if he could get his military status reactivated, without his fiancee knowing of his plan.  His fiancee,Pamela- a real schemer-played by Rita Johnson, and her father, Colonel Hill, principal of the Academy, -played by Edward Fielding, have no idea that Kirby wants to be on active duty.

Once the Major meets this minor, he feels protective of her.  Susu is immediately attracted to the Major but she keeps up her ruse of being a child of 12, and lets the Major treat her as he would a niece.  He lets her sleep in the lower berth of his compartment and during the night, unbeknownst to them, the train has to stop its travel due to flooded tracks further down the line.  Pamela and her father manage to drive in to rescue Major Kirby and it’s quite a funny scene when Pamela bursts into his compartment and finds Susu there in her nightgown!

Susu has to keep this act going as she gets a ride back to the Academy.  Due to the flood, Susu will have to stay at the Academy until her family can come and get her.  It’s decided that she’ll bunk in with Pamela’s younger sister, Lucy. Lucy figures out  quickly that Susu is really Susan.  Lucy and Susan make a pact.  If they can get Major Kirby’s status activated, then he won’t have to marry Pamela, who Lucy thinks is a “stinker”.  She doesn’t want the Major to marry her sister.

Lucy doesn't fall for Susan acting 12.

Lucy doesn’t fall for Susan acting 12.

Susu meets Pamela's little sister, Lucy.

Susu meets Pamela’s little sister, Lucy.

Susu is also the new “catnip” on campus for all of the cadets and there is a hilarious montage of different cadets trying to kiss Susu while giving her a tour of their campus.  If anyone ever puts an arm around the back of your neck and clutches one of your  shoulders, then describes the “Maginot Line” with their other hand watch out!  It’s a clever way to grab you and pull you in  for a kiss!

Susu has a lot of fans at the Academy!

Susu has a lot of fans at the Academy!

There’s another fun sequence at the school dance, which Susu has to attend, and the guest girl attendees all try to look like Veronica Lake, peekaboo hairdo and all.  Robert Benchley, who plays a cad at the film’s beginning and  tried to make a pass at Susan, happens to show up at the Academy’s dance because he’s the father of one of the cadets!  Susan has to avoid him as he could spill the beans as to her true identity.

Major Kirby has by  now realized he doesn’t want to marry Pamela, and there’s something “funny” about Susu that he can’t quite put his finger on.  Milland does a really good job of playing the caring Major without coming off as a “creeper” to put it in my twin daughters’ vernacular.

Like all good romance comedies, this film has a happy ending.  The Major and the Minor is such a fun movie: charming, witty dialogue, clever plot development, I highly recommend it!  If you are fortunate to have loved ones in your life who were teens or young adults in the 1940s, and they’re still sharp as a tack, you should rent this film and watch it with them.   I bet they’ll enjoy that time with you and they can explain some of the pop culture references made in the 1940s, too!  Here are a few more fun pics from the film.

The "Veronica Lake" hairdo-so popular at a school dance!

The “Veronica Lake” hairdo-so popular at a school dance!

Ginger and her mother, Lela, who plays Susan mother in the film.

Ginger and her mother, Lela, who plays Susan mother in the film.

Studio still of Milland and Rogers

Studio still of Milland and Rogers

Another studio still of Rogers and Milland

Another studio still of Rogers and Milland

 

The Major and the Minor poster 2

Kate Remembered for the Katharine Hepburn Blogathon

Last year, blogger and classic film fan Margaret Perry decided to host a Katharine Hepburn Blogathon around the late actress’s birthday, which was May 12th, 1907. The blogathon was such a success that here is the second one and I am participating but not with a Hepburn movie review. I decided to take a different tack, and write a book review of a book I read 9 years ago, A.Scott Berg’s excellent, Kate Remembered. Be sure to visit Margaret’s site to read all of the other outstanding contributions to this blogathon!    KH bLOGATHON

Writer A. Scott Berg, a native and inhabitant of LA, in the early 1980s,,  was busily working on a biography of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn when Esquire magazine contacted Berg about contributing a piece for their upcoming 50th anniversary issue.  Berg immediately agreed if he could write about a Hollywood icon, Katharine Hepburn.  He had to go round and round with the editors and assistant editors because they insisted they didn’t want any articles about Hollywood;important Americans was their topic, and Berg countered that Hepburn was the lone actress still at work, in her seventies, who had done it all and done it well:stage and film and 4-time Academy Award winner.  Reluctantly, Esquire relented and Berg began his task of contacting Ms. Hepburn in order to interview her.     book KR

Fortunately for Berg, when he was a college student at Princeton, he had written his senior thesis on editor Maxwell Perkins.  After graduating, Berg decided to expand his thesis into a biography of Perkins, and the finished book, Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius, won a National Book Award.  During his research on Perkins, he found out that Perkins and his family lived next door to none other than star actress Katharine Hepburn!  Berg had always been a fan of Hepburn’s, and having written to the actress for any info she may have had about Maxwell Perkins, being that she was his neighbor for years, she did write Berg back, showed interest in his book about her former neighbor, so it was a natural plan to approach Ms. Hepburn again about letting Berg interview her for the Esquire article.

What began as several meetings at the actress’s brownstone home in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan, and at the family’s seaside home in the borrough of  Fenwick, part of  Old Saybrook, CT. grew into a friendship of 15 years, right up to the passing away of Hepburn.

The book explores Katharine’s  early life in Hartford, CT.  Her father, Thomas, was a doctor and her mother, Katharine, or Kit, was a busy homemaker with 6 kids to raise, but she also found time to devote to causes: Suffragist Movement and Family Planning.  Katharine was the second child in the family, she had one older brother, Tom, two younger brothers, Richard and Robert, and then two little sisters, Marion and Margaret.  From Berg’s writings, I learned that these younger siblings were all in their teens and preteen years when their big sister was becoming famous due to her movie career.  Sadly, her older brother, Tom, committed suicide at the age of 15 and Katharine was the one who found his body.   Katharine loved her older brother very much and his death was a shock.  Due to her parents extreme views on political issues, they didn’t have many friends in Hartford, and this attitude also spread to the way peers treated the Hepburn children.  Sadly, her brother’s death added to the alienation, so the Hepburn family turned towards one another, were each other’s booster club, and Katharine shared she was so grateful that she had such a supportive family and she really believed that that love and support helped her reach her acting successes.  Katharine finished up her high school years homeschooling, with a tutor, and then it was on to Bryn Mawr for college, her mother’s college alma mater.

After graduation it was on to the stage and eventually, on to Hollywood.  Katharine’s first film, A Bill of Divorcement, was a star vehicle for John Barrymore.  Katharine was cast to play his daugher in the film, George Cukor directed; he became a lifelong friend of Hepburn’s.  A funny anecdote about Katharine and that first film, she was taking the Super Chief train from Chicago to LA and on her first night on that train, she went out onto a back platform to see the stars and something flew into her eye.  Immediate pain, redness, and swelling in that eye made the rest of the trip miserable.   As soon as the studio personnel met her at the train station in LA, she urged them to find her a doctor for her eye.  First, the studio folks told her, she had to be whisked off to the studio to meet Cukor, costumers, make up , and John Barrymore.   When she was introduced to John Barrymore, he assumed her red eye was due to too much alchohol and he offered her some eye drops that he often took for that very reason.  Hepburn tried to explain that she hadn’t been drunk and that something blew into her eye while on the train trip, but the Great Profile didn’t believe her!

Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorce

Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement

The book looks at a lot of her films; early successes, especially Morning Glory and Little Women, and then  how she was box office poison until The Philadelphia Story.  I love the slapstick, screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby and had no idea it had bombed at the box office in 1938!   There is also, of course, the section of the book that covers her long relationship with actor Spencer Tracy.  Hepburn shared with Berg that with Tracy it was “the first time I truly learned that it was more important to love than to be loved.”  Hepburn and Tracy were together for 26 years, 1941-1967.  MGlory

Little Women cast: Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Katharine Hepburn, and Francis Dee

Little Women cast: Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Katharine Hepburn, and Francis Dee

Hepburn with her 3 leading men in The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant, James Stewart, and John Howard.

Hepburn with her 3 leading men in The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant, James Stewart, and John Howard.

Hepburn with Cary Grant and "Baby"

Hepburn with Cary Grant and “Baby”

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

As the book nears its end, Hepburn is sadly nearing her mortal end, too.  I liked the book for it’s actual discussions with the great actress, her insights, her looking back at  her life.  I found it quite a touching book to read.   Two more anecdotes that I found charming and wise: Author Berg had been trying for months to get an interview with Irving Berlin for a book on Samuel Goldwyn. Berlin kept refusing, so Berg turned to Katharine, who had said she’d try to get Berlin to agree to an interview.  One day Hepburn walked out of her brownstone and went just a few buildings over to Berlin’s brownstone.  As she was explaining to Berlin’s maid who she was and that she wanted to visit him, she heard 100 year old Irving Berlin call out of a second floor window,”Kate, is that you?”  To which she replied that yes, it was she.  Berlin invited  her in  for a wonderful afternoon of tea and talk.  Later that same day, Katherine told Berg that she got in to see Berlin and that they had a wonderful 3 hour chat, but she couldn’t remember anything that they talked about!!   Wise words: Katharine sharing with Berg her thoughts about stage acting:”Nothing is as generous as an American audience…I’m always amazed at movie stars, especially those actresses who hit their 40s and 50s and complain that Hollywood isn’t writing any parts for them anymore, don’t take to the stage.  If Broadway is too scary, there are hundreds of wonderful theaters all over this country who would be thrilled to have them.  Actors should act.”

If you enjoy books about famous actors or actresses, written with their input, then seek out Kate Remembered-I highly recommend it!

Star in the Night, an Award Winning Holiday Short

This post from Dec., 2014 is my contribution to Movies, Silently’s wonderful Shorts: A Tiny Blogathon Be sure to visit Fritzi’s sight to read about more of these pithy, witty, some funny, and some more serious-minded short films that were shown by movie theaters before the featured attraction.

portraitsbyjenni

With Christmas Day right around the corner, two meals to prep for, gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff,  and more goodies to bake, this will probably be my last post until January 2015.  I decided it would be right and fitting to write about a short film that I saw on Turner Classics last year in December, Warner Brothers 1945 Star in the Night.

Star in the NIght

Star in the Night, is a modern(1945 modern) re-telling of the Nativity story.  It was written by Robert Finch and Saul Elkins, produced by Gordon Hollingshead, and directed by Don Siegel.  It was Siegel’s first film to direct and it touched so many audiences and the Motion Picture Academy that it won the Oscar for Best Short Subject in 1946.  Siegel went on to direct more films, including the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers, several Clint Eastwood starring movies, such as Dirty Harry, and John…

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