Liz and Dick (2012)……

“…….”

That was pretty much how I felt as the credits rolled Sunday night after the premiere of “Liz and Dick, the Lifetime dramatization of the tumultuous romance that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had during the 1960s.

Like most film fans, I was aghast when it was announced that Lindsay Lohan would be playing Elizabeth Taylor in a biopic. (In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of classic Hollywood biographical films, because they don’t seem accurate and draw on all the negatives of that performer.)

As Burton and Taylor's romance begins on the set of "Cleopatra"

As Burton and Taylor’s romance begins on the set of “Cleopatra”

However, many of us seemed to relax and laugh off the film when it was released that the film was made for the small screen, rather than for theaters.

Sitting down Sunday night, I was prepared for a good laugh, thinking the movie would be hilariously bad like camp classics “Susan Slade” (1961) or “Harlow” (1965).

But no. “Liz and Dick” wasn’t bad in a humorous way, it was just bad and unforgivably boring.

The 88 minute movie- two hours with commercials- dragged and seemed as long as Taylor’s three hour epic “Cleopatra” (1963).

The only actor who actually seemed like they were trying in the film was Grant Bowler who played Richard Burton.

Lohan seemed to go through the motions, even not trying to imitate Elizabeth Taylor’s voice. In one scene, Taylor has a temper tantrum and starts throwing things and knocking over tables. Lohan’s efforts were hilariously half-hearted.

Though Lohan’s has received bad publicity over the past several years, many people were saying this was her comeback, and she told new sources that she was excited about the role.

“I’m a huge Elizabeth Taylor fan and I relate to her on a lot of levels,” Lohan said in a Behind the Scenes interview. “Such as living in the public eye and the stress of what other people say about you, whether it’s true or not.”

The odd narrating technique.

The odd narrating technique.

But whatever excitement Lohan may have had for the role didn’t show through at all. On the contrary, she acted like she wanted to be anywhere but there.

Aside from the acting, the writing in the film was horrible.

The film begins with Burton and Taylor sitting in director’s chairs, dressed in black and telling us their story like we are in an interview. This made absolutely no sense to me, and I wasn’t sure why it was necessary.

The first twenty-three minutes involved Taylor and Burton sneaking around like 16-year-olds and having sex.

There were other hilariously odd lines like Taylor shouting “I’m bored! I’m so bored!” in which the viewers replied, “So are we.”

We were just as bored.

We were just as bored.

Other unintentionally hilarious moments were:

-Friend: “You’ve been married four times.” Liz: “Who’s counting?!”

-“I won’t live without you!” Liz shouts as she runs away from the camera like a six-year-old

-Liz having hysterics about her chubby fingers.

-1980s Liz, with Lohan looking more like Joan Collins from Dynasty than Elizabeth Taylor

The most angering part of the film is that Burton and Taylor’s second marriage was barely mentioned. The couple was married from 1964 to 1974 and then remarried again in 1975 to 1976.

Lohan looking like she's on the set of "Dynasty"

Lohan looking like she’s on the set of “Dynasty”

The appeal of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s romance is that they loved each other so passionately that they couldn’t live with or without each other and that did not show through on the screen to me.

In all honesty, in the last 30 minutes of the movie, I was so disgusted and bored, I was barely paying attention. The real entertainment from the film was those live tweeting, making witty remarks and sharing my sentiments.

A few of my favorite tweets from that evening:

livetweet5

livetweet4

liz and dick

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Happy Thanksgiving from Comet

Here we are, celebrating our third Comet Over Hollywood Thanksgiving together. And as the Bing Crosby song from “Holiday Inn” (1940) says…I have plenty to be thankful for.

Along with being thankful for my new job in Shelby, N.C., my family and friends, I am also thankful for classic films.

Cast of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1938) David Holt, Ann Gillis, Georgie Billings, Jackie Moran, Tommy Kelly, Byron Armstrong, Cora Sue Collins and Mickey Rentschler

Since 2002 when classic films actively became part of my life, they have consistently brought joy into my life. But classic films haven’t just given my entertainment, its taught shown me snapshots of pop culture in the past and given me history lessons.

I am also thankful for all of the wonderful classic film fans who I’ve met through my blog and on Twitter. It’s wonderful to know there are other like-minded fans out there who cry during “Since You Went Away” or swoon over Joel McCrea.

So dear reader, in my 200th blog post, I am thankful for YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shirley Temple cooking the Thanksgiving turkey

Margaret O’Brien serving up dinner in 1947

Frank Sinatra carving the turkey

And Comet brought the pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving, love Jessica

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #3 To Kill a Mockingbird 1962

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday.

Early Thursday evening was characterized with screeching tires and a growling Toyota Tacoma truck transmission.

I was running late for the TCM screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) in Charlotte, N.C., showing in movie theaters all over the United States for one day. I had already planned on trying to see the movie, and then was fortunate enough to win tickets from True Classics blog in a contest.

Now I’m not sure I would categorize it as a favorite classic film like other movies I have written about in the past, but I do really enjoy it.

It had been a long time since I had seen the film, probably since the first time I watched it in Miss Presley’s freshman English class at Eastside High School. Watching a classic film in a high school classroom ruins the experience; kids talking and laughing at the movie, the teacher pausing to discuss literary elements.

There I was on the front row, up close and personal with Gregory Peck. Seeing the film on a movie screen for probably the first time since I was 14 was unreal.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch defending Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

Starring: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, Robert Duval as Boo Radley, James Anderson as Bob Ewell, Mary Badham as Scout, Phillip Alford as Jem

Brief Plot: Set in the 1930s and based off of the 1960s book, the film follows children growing up in Alabama and their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man who has been accused of rape.

Key moments in the film: 

Scout (dressed as a ham) and Jem walking home from an agricultural pageant.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” in my opinion, is a flawless film with several scenes that stick with you:

-Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog.

-Scout’s friend Walter putting syrup on his dinner.

-Rev. Sykes telling Scout, Jem and Dill to stand up after Tom Robinson was found guilty, because their “Father is Passing.”

-Scout running walking through the woods in a ham costume.

-The way Boo Radley presses against the wall when they see him behind the door, and Scout looks at him closely and says, “Hey Boo.”

Performances:

Children: The children who play Dill, Jem and Scout have great comedic timing and also act with a lot of heart. I think my favorite thing about the children is that they act like regular kids: Running out the door as fast as they can to school, spitting on hinges so they won’t squeak, believing in rumors

Atticus Finch shooting a rabid dog

Gregory Peck: Of course, the performance that stands out the most is Gregory Peck’s as Atticus Finch. The 1963 Academy Awards are one of those years that you wish every Actor in a Leading Role could have won.  There have been times when I think, “Why didn’t Jack Lemmon when the Oscar for ‘Days of Wine and Roses’?” or “Why didn’t Peter O’Toole win for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’?” And then I see that Gregory Peck won for his role in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and see why they didn’t. Peck plays the role with so much heart and integrity. From defending a man who was innocent to saying goodnight to his children, he is believable as a father and citizen.

Obviously, several people remember Peck’s speech in the court room. But for me, it’s the little moments that really make the part, such as when he’s talking to Scout about his pocket watch and how she would get her mother’s pearl necklace, struggling with his glasses as he tries to shoot the dog or when he reacts to Bob Ewell spitting in his face.

Atticus telling Scout how she will receive her mother’s pearl necklace and a ring.

Supporting Characters: The supporting character’s make the film as well. James Anderson plays a loathsome Bob Ewell, Paul Fix is the epitome of a Southern judge who also seems sympathetic for Tom Robinson and Estelle Evans as Calpurnia shows compassion for the children that she’s cared for since their mother died. But most of all, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson. He isn’t in the movie very much but the scene of him testifying in court about how he supposedly raped Mayella Ewell is perfect.

To Review: The film of “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be considered thin compared to the book, it leaves out a lot of coming of age experiences that Scout and Jim encounter. However, compared to many film adaptations of novels, I think the film highlights important issues while still addressing the racial issues and children growing up in the 1930s South. Seeing it on the big screen was by far my best classic film screening of the three I have attended (the others being “West Side Story” and “Strangers on a Train”). No one was talking around me-no quoting allowed of quotes or singing aloud. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit in a theater packed with other classic film fans. One last thing, I have to admit that I teared up when Scout said, “Hey there, Boo.”

The end

This concludes Day 3 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Have to admit, I got a little behind. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #2 The Uninvited 1944

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday week.

Starring: Ray Milland as Rick, Ruth Hussey as Pamela, Gail Russell as Stella, Donald Crisp as Stella’s grandfather the commander, Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway, Alan Napier as Dr. Scott

Brief Plot: Brother and sister Rick and Pamela move into a beautiful, abandoned home along the English seaside. Rick falls in love with mysterious Stella who was born in the house and is strangely drawn to it. Rick and Pamela discover the house is haunted and Stella is connected to the ghosts.

Pamela (Ruth Hussey) and Rick (Ray Milland) listen to ghostly sobbing.
Screencap by J.P.

Why I love it: I’m not a fan of scary movies, but “The Uninvited” has the perfect mix of class, suspense and comedy to draw in a scaredy-cat like me. The film movies at a fairly quick pace and has an intriguing twist at the end.

The Actors:  Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland are an interesting pair to be the leads in a film as brother and sister, Pamela and Rick. Hussey is usually seen in a supporting role. In “The Uninvited,” she may also be considered a supporting star to Gail Russell, but the two may have equivalent screen time.

Milland and Hussey may not be names that casual movie fans would know, which make them even more entertaining to watch.

To round out the cast, Gail Russel’s exotic beauty is perfect for the haunting character of Stella, and Donald Crisp is always the perfect curmudgeon old man, as Stella’s grandfather.

One actor I enjoy spotting in classic films is Alan Napier who plays a doctor in the film. You may know Napier as Alfred, Batman’s butler, in the 1960s “Batman” television show.

It is also a real treat to see Cornelia Otis Skinner as batty Miss Holloway. Skinner was primarily on Broadway and also author of books such as “Our Hearts Were Young a Gay,” a book about Skinner’s youth. Oddly enough, Gail Russell went on to play Skinner in the film adaptation of the book.

Stella is in a trance during the sceance.

Scary:  I have a hard time with scary films, but I enjoy 1940s horror films such as “The Uninvited.” Unlike horror movies of the 1970s to today, “The Uninvited” has some scary moments but has enough heart and humor to balance it out.

A few scenes hair raising scenes (spoilers):

-Pamela and Rick standing on top of the stairs, looking down into the darkness and hearing ghostly sobbing.

-Fresh flowers dying in the room that seems the most haunted

-The fact that they hold a séance and then Stella goes into a trance and starts speaking other languages.

Mad mama ghost

-When they realize they have two ghosts

-When Stella’s dead mom appears in ghost form and is out to get her

You can also learn some lessons on how to tell if your house is haunted. For example, if your dog and cat refuse to go up the stairs, and rooms suddenly get cold, your home may be haunted. Also, if a woman like Cornelia Otis Skinner has a 20 foot painting of her dead best friend in her office, she may be off her rocker.

It’s really unnatural to have such a large photo of your dead best friend, as Cornelia Otis Skinner does.

Comedic: Though “The Uninvited” is categorized as mystery and horror, it has some very funny scenes:

-As Rick and Pamela are listening to the sobbing ghost, Pamela is calm and Rick is freaking out. He says to his calm sister, “Take hold of yourself, Pam, I’m going to search the place. There has to be a logical explanation for this” when Rick is the one out of his wits.

-Rick goes sailing with Stella and gets sea sick

-Some humorous lines, such as prior to the séance Rick discusses how they are foolish, “People just get messages from Uncle Oswald on how to find an old tooth brush.”

 To review: The English seashore setting, the actors and the touching plot all wrap up to be a perfect present of a film. The 1940s seem to have produced some of my favorite movies, with perfect casting and scripts. “The Uninvited” isn’t just suspenseful but also funny and heartfelt.

This concludes Day 2 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #1 Leave Her to Heaven 1945

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday week.

Ellen (Gene Tierney) during the climax of the movie.

 Starring: Gene Tierney as Ellen, Cornel Wilde as Richard, Jeanne Crain as Ellen’s sister Ruth, Vincent Price as Ellen’s jilted lover Russell, Chill Wills as Richard’s handyman Leick, Darryl Hickman as Danny, Richard’s brother.

Brief Plot: Writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) meets Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train to New Mexico. The two fall in love and are quickly engaged. Ellen behaves strangely and possessive, which her mother says is a result of her “loving too much.” Ellen’s love destroys several people around her, including herself.

Why I love it:  Not only does Gene Tierney look her most beautiful in this color film but also gives a powerful performance. Set against a lush backdrop of Bass Lake, California, New Mexico and the Boston sea side, “Leave Her to Heaven” is eye candy with settings as well as Tierney’s fashion. For a first time viewer, this film seems like an innocent romance but twists almost into a suspense film.

Ellen’s reaction when she finds out Danny may live with her and Richard.

Gene Tierney’s performance (SPOILERS): I was shocked Gene Tierney didn’t win the Academy Award for this performance, but when I saw Joan Crawford won the Oscar for “Mildred Pierce,” I understood a little more. Tierney transforms from a seemingly normal woman at the beginning of the movie to possessive and psychotic.

Well dressed and wealthy, Ellen just seems like a spoiled socialite who is used to getting her way, but it is more than that.

The transformation begins after Ellen and Richard get married. Richard mentions getting a cook and Ellen says, “I don’t want anyone else to cook or clean for you but me. “I don’t want anybody in the house but us.”

The couple visit Richard’s brother, Danny, who is in a polio clinic. As Danny’s health improves, Richard wants to take Danny to his lakeside cabin called Back of the Moon.

When Richard says, “Now all three of us can move to the Back of the Moon,” Ellen’s look of alarm and anger about Danny invading their home foreshadows trouble.

After the three move to Back of the Moon, Ellen is angry that she and Richard are never alone and hates the book he’s working on.

We see how insane Ellen’s obsession is at the climax of the film.

Danny practices swimming across the lake at Back of the Moon as Ellen follows him in a row boat. Danny gets cramp and is tired, and Ellen watches him drown. Her cold stare is haunting. Follow the link below to see the the scene, which begins at about 2:38:

Leave Her to Heaven drowning scene

From this moment, Tierney goes into a downward spiral ruining the lives of her sister, husband, mother and unborn child.

Ellen jealous of Richard’s book because it takes up all his time.

Quotes:  If you read between the lines during the film, it foreshadows Ellen’s possessiveness:

-Richard (during a swimming race): “Lynn’s going to win.” Glen Robie (Ray Collins): “No, Ellen will. Ellen always wins.”

-Ellen (as Richard is working on his book): “I hate your chapter. I hate all of your chapters. They take up all of your time.”

-Ellen to Richard: “You can’t have any secrets from me.”

- Richard: “What’s wrong with Ellen?” Ellen’s mother: “There’s nothing wrong with Ellen she just loves too much.”

-Ellen to her sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) after Danny dies, “I’ll die if I lose Richard.”

-Ellen asking where Richard and Ruth are, “Did Ruth go with him? When did they leave? What time is it?”

-Ellen when she is pregnant: “This baby’s making a prisoner out of me. I can’t do anything. I can’t go any place. I don’t even see my husband.”

- Ruth: “The whole house is filled with hate.” Ellen: “Not hate. Love, Richard’s love.”

 Fashion:  Ellen’s wardrobe is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Her outfits almost seem to reflect her character.

Ellen and Ruth’s outfits show the contrast in their characters.

Several of her outfits at the beginning are white. When we first see her on the train she is in a white dress with gold jewelry with a white fur coat and turban. Her glamorous outfit contrasts with Ruth’s simple brown suit, showing the difference between the two girls.

Ellen’s glamorous, monogrammed white one-piece outfit.

Ellen then wears a white one piece suit with her initials monogrammed on the chest. As the most progresses, we see her dressed in several green outfits. A green bathing suit, a green suit. She is even wearing green maternity clothes, as she is distressed and unhappy with the pregnancy. The green may reflect her jealousy of everyone who is taking up Richard’s time.

  To review: I love this film simply because if you have never seen it, the climax and events to follow are pretty unexpected. It’s rare to see Gene Tierney as a vindictive, ruthless character and she gives her best performance in “Leave Her to Heaven.”

This concludes Day 1 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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2nd Annual Birthday mini-Blogathon at Comet

Last year, I celebrated my 23rd birthday reviewing one of my favorite films each day leading up to my birthday.

I had so much fun last year, the Comet Over Hollywood Birthday mini-Blogathon is back!

Starting Monday, and leading to my 24th birthday on Sunday, Nov. 18, I will watch and review one of my favorite films as a little birthday treat to myself.

Cary Grant blows out the candles.

Favorite movies reviewed last year are: 

1. Battleground (1949) - World War II film about the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Film stars Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Riccardo Montalbon and James Whitmore.

2. Shadow of a Doubt (1942) - Hitchcock’s own personal favorite film about a sinister character visiting a small, California town. Starring Theresa Wright and Joseph Cotton

3. State Fair (1945) - Rodger’s and Hammerstein musical about finding love at the Iowa State Fair. Starring Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes and Dana Andrews.

4. Since You Went Away (1944)- Film about life on the World War II home front for the wives and families of service men. Starring Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotton, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Monty Wooley and Robert Walker.

Check back through out the week to see what other movies are my favorite. Feel free to share your favorite films as well!

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Classics in the Carolinas: Kay Kyser

 This fall, Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live and work).

“The Kollege of Musical Knowledge” wasn’t the only colligate education 1940s bandleader Kay Kyser received. He was also a 1928 graduate of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill.

Kay Kyser and his band in 1944

Born in Rocky Mount, N.C. in 1905, Kyser’s mother, Emily Royster Kyser, was the first registered female pharmacist in North Carolina.

Kyser entered UNC in 1923 set on receiving a Bachelor’s degree in law, according to the website “A Tribute to Kay Kyser.” However, Kyser switched his major to economics because “the legal profession meant lots of work,” he said.

An established student at UNC, Kyser excelled not just in academics but in extracurricular activities:

-He was the senior class president in 1928

-The school’s head cheerleader for the cheering section “The Carolina Cheerios”

-He wrote the school’s fight song “Tar Heels on Hand” in 1937

-Acted in PlayMakers Theater

-Was in Sigma Nu fraternity

-Was a member of honors societies-Alpha Kappa Psi, Order of the Grail, Golden Fleece

But it in 1926 during his junior year of college, that Kyser was invited to lead the school orchestra. Up until this point, Kyser had no musical background, except clarinet lessons which his wife Georgia Carroll said “failed miserably.”

Kyser was selected to lead the band because of his popularity on campus was hoped to bring out large audiences.

After graduating from UNC, went on the road with the band but didn’t really take off until the mid-1930s when Kyser hired girl singer Ginny Simms and trumpeter Ishkabbible (real name Merwyn Bogue).

Kyser’s zany style of music is what made him popular.

Kyser’s style was different than other bandleaders of the 1930s and 1940s. He didn’t just play music, the whole band performed in a comedic, fun style. Kyser was known for wearing a graduation cap and gown and showing his southern roots with his signature phrases, “Evenin’ children. How y’all?” and “Y’all’s dance.”

Kyser starred in several Hollywood movies as himself such as “Playmates” (1941) with John Barrymore and “That’s Right-You’re Wrong” (1939) with Lucille Ball. He also traveled abroad during World War II, performing for service men.

But after World War II ended, Kyser retired to Chapel Hill, N.C. with his wife, who was also the band’s singer, Georgia Carroll in 1951.

My mother and grandparents lived in Chapel Hill and would sometimes see Kay Kyser in the grocery store, and also went to the same Lutheran church as his wife. My grandmother said “Gorgeous” Georgia Carroll was just as beautiful in person as she was on screen.

Kyser passed away in 1985, and Carroll remained in Chapel Hill until her death in 2011 at the age of 91. Carroll donated 334 photos and other Kay Kyser artifacts to the Chapel Hill University.

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