Favorite Film Related Books of 2011 (Part II.)

This is the second half of a two part list I’ve compiled featuring my favorite film related books of the year. As I mentioned in my previous post, a surprising number of good books were published in 2011. From lush coffee table gift books to intimate autobiographies, the range of interesting reading material I came across was both surprising and thought provoking so I thought I’d share some of the highlights. You can find the first part of my list posted here: Favorite Film Related Books of 2011 (Part I.)

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It Creeps and Leaps and Glides and Slides

Today is the last day of TCM’s month-long celebration of Drive-In Double Features and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to miss spending your Thursday evenings with radioactive monsters, space aliens, sea creatures, giant women and mutant men. When viewers tune in tonight they’ll be able to enjoy some of my favorite ’50s science fiction flicks including THE BLOB (1956), THE H-MAN (1958) and X THE UNKNOWN (1955), which all explore our primal fear of the primordial ooze.

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Life With Father

“You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until it finally buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody who says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to.”
- Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson) in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)

I recently became an aunt again so I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately and with Father’s Day right around the corner I thought I’d share some thoughts about my own dad and how the movies we watched together helped make me the person I am today.

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Before They Were Stars: Part II


Millie Perkins wants to rent you a car (1958)

Last year I shared some early photos and advertisements featuring young fresh faced models before they became movie stars. It’s always a surprise to come across a familiar face trying to sell me shampoo or lipstick and I enjoy seeing classic stars as spokespeople for products that aren’t being made any more such as Hotpoint portable televisions. I thought it would be fun to revisit the topic and share some of my latest discoveries.

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“See you in Monte Carlo!”

If the Great Train Robbery of 1963 had never happened, there’d be 5% fewer movies.  I can’t support that statement with facts or math but it sure seems that way.  The theft of £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train bound for London on August 8th of that year in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, England, as well as the police investigation, arrest, trial and conviction of the guilty parties inspired a glut of movies.  The event made headlines all over the world and rated a passing reference in THUNDERBALL (1965), HELP! (1965) and THE BRAIN (1969); it was spoofed in THE GREAT ST. TRINIAN’S TRAIL ROBBERY (1966) and detailed with varying degrees of fidelity to the facts in the German television miniseries DIE GENTLEMEN BITTEN ZUR KASSE (THE GREAT BRITISH TRAIN ROBBERY, 1966), in David Green’s BUSTER (1988), in Mike LeHan’s recent made-for-TV THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (2009) and in Peter Yates’ ROBBERY (1967).  Yates’ recent death at age 82 is as good as any reason to go back and have a look at his nervy take on “the Crime of the Century.”  [...MORE]

Before They Were Stars


Tippi Hedren modeling a Jacques Fath dress in 1954

I love to waste time flipping through old women’s magazines. There’s something strangely appealing about the vintage advertisements and forgotten articles that told women how they should dress and explained how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s easy to imagine my own grandmother or mother taking fashion notes or cutting out recipes so they could plan their next family gathering while reading these dusty publications. Now that so many magazines seem to be going out of print and readers are more likely to search for recipes and beauty tips online, there’s something vaguely comforting about loosing myself in the past for a few hours while reading an old issue of McCall’s or Better Homes & Gardens.

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He Blowed Up Real Good

Remember Big Jim McBob (Joe Flaherty) and Billy Sol Hurok (John Candy) as the hayseed hosts of “Farm Report” on the legendary SCTV comedy series? These farmer-turned-film-reviewers loved movies where people and things blew up and eventually their hog report turned into a talk show where they blew up famous celebrities every week like Meryl Streep, The Village People, Brooke Shields, singer Neil Sedaka or Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie. Well, these guys would love Rod Steiger in HENNESSY (1975) because he blows up real good.      [...MORE]

The Man Who Fell Off The Statue of Liberty: An Interview with Norman Lloyd

In conjunction with TCM’s first ever film festival in Los Angeles, I wanted to interview some of the people who will be presenting movies at the event. At the top of my list was actor/producer/director Norman Lloyd who will be introducing Alfred Hitchcock’s SABOTEUR at Mann’s Chinese Theatre on April 25th. The subject of a recent documentary, WHO IS NORMAN LLOYD?,  the 94-year-old raconteur has known and worked with some of the biggest names in the world of theatre, radio, film and television including Orson Welles, John Houseman, Jean Renoir, Charlie Chaplin, Bernard Herrmann, Joseph Losey, Alfred Hitchcock and John Garfield to name just a few.  The following interview was recorded on March 2nd, 2010 . [...MORE]

Variations on a Theme

All month long TCM has been celebrating the 100th birthday of Akira Kurosawa and playing many of the director’s best films. On Sunday TCM will also be showing one of my favorite westerns, John Sturges’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) which happens to be based on Kurosawa’s classic THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954). If you haven’t had the opportunity to see THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN it’s a great time to catch up with this entertaining movie.

One of my favorite things about John Sturges’ film is its incredible theme composed by the legendary Elmer Bernstein. Elmer Bernstein is responsible for some of Hollywood’s greatest film scores but his theme for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is one of the most recognizable pieces of music he ever recorded.

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Movie Star -> TV Star, Part 2

Steve McQueen from "Wanted: Dead or Alive" on "TV Guide" from 1950We had some fun last time looking at some 1950s -era TV Guide magazines featuring movie stars on the boob tube, and there are plenty more.  First, we need to acknowledge that TV Guide today is not the same as it was years ago; now it’s a mere tabloid-ish facsimile of its former self.  Granted times have changed, and the idea of consulting a printed guide to try to get a handle on your weekly viewing choices is unanimously agreed to be completely inadequate to the task.  TV Guide was perfect for its time, and like Seinfeld‘s Frank Costanza, many of us loved that little magazine with the cute red logo.  I used to get the next week’s issue as soon as it was availble — usually the Tuesday of the week before — and it was a thrill to go page-by-page and see what treasures would be in store for you.  Being on the cover of TV Guide meant that you would be seen, read, touched and stuffed between the sofa cushions by millions of eager viewers.  Ah, those were the days.  (Pictured above, Steve McQueen, who essentially started his career in live TV work, moved into screen roles, including his heroic role in the sci fi classic The Blob, went back to TV in 1958 to star in the Western series Wanted: Dead or Alive, and then never looked back as he attained continuous major movie stardom before his too-soon death at the ago of 50 in 1980.) 

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