Get a LIFE: Collecting America’s best magazine.

30 LIFE magazines I’ve collected so far, including the first Nov. 23, 1936, issue.

I’ve collected a lot of things during my lifetime.

My parents started a stamp collection for me when I was little, snipping colorful stamps off envelopes of flowers, places and famous people; that’s how I first learned who Grace Kelly was.

Then in high school I started writing to living film stars and collecting their autographs. To date, I have 30 signed photographs from stars like Deanna Durbin, Paul Newman and Joan Fontaine.

But most recently, I’ve decided to mix my love of history, American culture and film by collecting the best American magazine ever published: LIFE.

Jean Harlow 1937

Published weekly starting in November 1936 to December 1972, over 1,800 issues of LIFE magazine was printed. It may be crazy that I want to collect the majority of these magazines, but let me explain how LIFE is special compared to other gossip rags.

From its first issue in November 23, 1936, there is an emphasis on film and entertainment with a four page feature on film and stage actress Helen Hayes. But outside of the footlight parade world are photographs of a mangled car that was hit by a train in Wisconsin, a man hit on the head with a blackjack in Philadelphia and a Louisiana couple holding a baby a bulldog carried to their doorstep.

LIFE didn’t just focus on celebrity like People or ridiculous ways to catch a man like Cosmopolitan. The focus of the magazine was much more broad and encompassing of all topics.

Prior to 1936, LIFE was a humorous magazine until Henry Luce obtained the name rights and turned LIFE into a photojournalism magazine. The magazine showed Americans what life was like around the world outside of what they were used to: a Wyoming winter, Metropolitan Opera ballet dancers or Greek soldiers.

Gene Tierney 1941

Some of the most famous film stars originated in LIFE such as Rita Hayworth picnicking on the beach, Marilyn Monroe jumping and looking backwards and old Clark Gable’s portrait during his last film in 1961.

But other than stars, LIFE wasn’t afraid to show horrors and realism such as a dead soldier on the beach of Normandy or somebody injured after a car accident; photos that today would be considered too sensitive.

Each decade went through different transitions:

-Pre-War: Featured several movie stars but also focus on life around the world with pictures of Wyoming winters and Greek soldiers.  During this time period the United States was suffering from economic struggles in the Great Depressions and the magazine offered escapism.

-World War II era: The magazine changed again with the start of World War II featuring soldiers, airplanes, factory workers, and General MacArthur on the cover of the magazines- evoking patriotism as well as a look at what was going on in the European and Pacific theaters.

-1950s to early-1960s: Covers focused on glamour, sophistication, and fun.  Fashion, the English royal family, Marilyn Monroe and UCLA homecomings were some of the covers-all typical of happy-go-lucky consumerism post-war America.

-Mid-1960s to 1972: Covers interpret rapid world changes and the anger during Vietnam era. The covers feature political figures, threatened orangutans in the Rain Forest and Apollo 11 footprints on the moon.

From reading about the making of “Gone with the Wind” to a German shepherd dog nursing tiger cubs, LIFE had it all. No magazine will ever again give American readers the variety that LIFE offered.

To date I have 30 LIFE magazines, so I have a ways to go. But it will be an interesting journey through our past, regardless of how long it takes.

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Six Degrees of Separation-Classic Movies

Okay gang, I am continuing Page’s of My Love For Old Hollywood‘s game of Six Degrees of Separation.

Marsha over at A Person in the Dark tagged me to continue to the Six Degrees of Separation game.

In this round, Vincent at Carole and Co started us off with Carole Lombard and connected her to Goldie Hawn.

Carole Lombard


Goldie Hawn

Vincent picked Marsha to continue the game who picked Cary Grant who starred with Carole Lombard in “In Name Only.” Then she passed it on to me.

I am selecting Sophia Loren who starred in “Houseboat” (1958) with Cary Grant-and had a scandalous affair with him.  Pretty sure she jilted him during the movie so all was not happy during filming.

Sophia and Cary in Houseboat

I’m socking the next round to Michael over at I Shoot the Pictures-who was also bullied by Page into playing ;) I kid, I kid.

Good luck, Michael!

Comet Over Hollywood is flitterin’

A few weeks ago I posted that I finally had found a reporter job.  Well this past week I also finally found an apartment in the North Carolina town where the job is located- I’ve had a heck of a time finding a place to live. 

Today I am moving (or flitterin’ as they say in “Summer Magic”)  three hours away from my home in South Carolina and will start my new job on Thursday.  

I wanted to let all of you know that I won’t have internet access until Friday when it is installed. Not a big deal I guess but it might get kinda lonely without it those first few days!

Until Friday I just wanted to let you know that I won’t really be on Twitter, no blog updates or updates to the Facebook page.  When I have internet I will finally have my Hedy Lamarr book review of “Ecstasy and Me” posted. 

The lack of internet will give me a chance to catch up on some movies and write some blog posts (via Word) that I’ve been meaning to work on.

Have a great week!


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Extra, extra…

Did you that "Comet" is on Facebook and Twitter? (Photo by Horst P. Horst)

In recent weeks I’ve noticed several other classic movie blogs have been active on Twitter and Facebook.

If you aren’t following me already, invited you to follow both my Facebook and Twitter.

My Facebook page for “Comet Over Hollywood” can be found and “liked” here.  On the page I try to post every day about classic movie related photos, videos and statuses.  For example, while I was listening to Lux Radio Broadcast podcasts, I posted some of the interesting trivia that was shared in the broadcast.

FYI: If you ever get a comment on your blog page by “Jessica Noelle Pickens,” that’s me.

You can also follow me on twitter @jnpickens where I talk about classic movies, blogging and life (such as trying to find a job).

Hope to see you on the social media bandwagon!

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What’s in a name?

This morning I was at the gym and watching Turner Classic Movies.  “Comet Over Broadway” was on and Kay Francis and I suffered together, but in very different ways: I had the treadmill set to 7 incline and Kay Francis was watching her husband be convicted for killing a man.

Kay Francis and Ian Hunter in "Comet Over Broadway."

At this point, it donned on me that in the last year, I had never discussed how “Comet Over Hollywood” got it’s name.

In September 2009, Turner Classic Movies made the great Kay Francis the Star of the Month.  I’d seen Kay in movies before, but I had never had the opportunity to see her suffer like I did during that film festival. I had my mom tape all 40 movies they showed of hers and we watched them throughout the year until the following summer.

I originally made my blog in April 2009 on Blogger and it was titled “Living on Velvet” after another Kay Francis movie (another blogger had this same name so I changed mine). I was going to write about old movies and let the whole world know that they were superior.

But my posts were few, long and lame.

My first post ever was about the horrible Connie Stevens movie “Susan Slade.”  I did a play by play of the movie, tried to be witty and it took me three days to write it. Ridiculous. I wrote a few other forgettable posts on Blogger before I switched to WordPress (which I highly suggest.)

I wanted to change things up and be creative: No more 3,000 word movie reviews but now rantings about Katherine Hepburn and washing my hair with champagne.

And so “Comet Over Hollywood” was born.

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Blogging is Stylish

Caroline from Garbo Laughs has awarded me with the “Stylish Blogger Award.”  As a big fan of fashion, I look forward to reading Caroline’s “Friday Glam Spam” on Fridays.  She also recently tied in the Friday Glam Spam with Elizabeth Taylor’s death for a special edition. She shared some great articles ranging from 1952 to 1961, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The award requires seven random facts about yourself. So here we go :)

1. I feel like the only classic movie blogger in the south. I was born in Columbia, S.C., moved to Dothan A.L. for six years when I was three years old and then moved back to Greenville, S.C. when I was in fourth grade.  I am happy here, but I do get jealous of the special movie screenings and film festivals y’all all get to attend. We don’t have anything like that here.

2. In one month I will graduate from college at Winthrop University, a school with about 6,500 students in Rock Hill, S.C. (30 minutes away from Charlotte, N.C.), with a journalism degree.  While in school I’ve been the Arts and Entertainment editor for our weekly student newspaper “The Johnsonian” where I design my page, assign and write stories.  I interned at a newspaper in Shelby, N.C. this past summer called The Shelby Star and I really enjoyed it. I decided to try to be well-rounded this semester and I am also doing our television show at Winthrop called “Winthrop Close-Up.”

Anchoring on "Winthrop Close-Up." I'd rather be behind the camera.

3. I love a good bargain. I buy most of my clothes from Marshalls or T.J. Maxx or really marked down from Ebay. This way, you can get a $200 BCBG dress for $30 or a $30 Express shirt for $12.

4.  I love Robert Osborne. I don’t really want many material items, all I really and truely want is to meet Robert Osborne. I think he seems really friendly and that we could have an awesome conversation.

5. I hate technology. I’m pretty old fashioned about a lot of things, but one of the main things is technology.  I only got a cell phone when I went to college out of necessity, I will never get an Ipad or an Ipod touch or anything touch. I would be okay with simpler things that were made to last and not to replaced every year.

6. Everyone had my name in elementary school. I was one of five Jessica’s in my dance class in second grade and I had a Jessica in every class up until high school.  In fourth grade I had to sign my last name “Jessica Pi.” because there was another Jessica P.  However, I’m even more thankful my name isn’t Brittany.

7. Out of everything I’ve done in the last four years of college. I am most proud of this video:
I took Television Production in Spring 2010 as an elective. The class teaches how to shoot and edit video and one of the assignments was to make a music video. I chose to use Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad” and my roommates and newspaper co-workers were patient enough to work with me.

It’s pretty hard to choose 7 other Stylish Bloggers, especially since I think I’m the last one to get around to doing this. So since everyone has been tagged, I’ll list seven blogs that I have enjoyed reading and keeping up with over the past few months :)

1. I stumbled across Via Margutta 51 about 6 months ago and love the variety of the posts.  The Twitter version of “Red-Headed Woman” for the Jean Harlow blogathon was hilarious and clever.

2. I love reading the old articles on Dear Mr. Gable. It helps to give a glimpse on how the media portrayed one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and what was going on in his life.

3. I found Audrey’s Fedoas and High Heels after she started leaving great comments on “Comet.” I love the consicse plot summaries she writes, variety of films and photos she posts along with them.

4. A Person in the Dark always has really witty posts. I laughed out loud at the one about film “Puzzlements” and the post giving Oscars to worst wigs and co-stars.

5.  Kitty Packard Pictorial lead me to take part in my first blogathon and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Carley did a great job of honoring Jean Harlow with the blogathon. I can’t imagine how you did it!

6.  Hollywood Revue is one of the first classic movie blogs I actively started following. Angela writes great reviews. I particularly enjoyed the one about the movie “Hollywood Review of 1929.”

7. I Shoot the Pictures is another blog I first started following and I love Michael’s reviews, but I like his ratings the best.

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I say potato and you say potahto

My mom got an e-mail from this morning about an Alice Faye CD called “In a Wonderland: Vol. 4.”

I want you all to observe the cover of the CD very closely. Other than the fact that the cover looks like a sixth grader designed it in Paint, what do you notice?  Please comment if you notice it!

So terrible

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10,000 and counting

Time to celebrate!

LIFE photo of Betty Grable and Harry James celebrate their daughter's 1st birthday.

Last night “Comet Over Hollywood” reached 10,000 readers from May 2010 to January 2011.

I want to thank all of my faithful readers.  If you ever want to see posts on a certain topic or even criticize my writing, please feel free to do so!

Thanks for all of your support and look for many new posts this year!

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Now you’re cooking, just like Cugat says, with gasoline

The CD “Maracas, Marimbas & Mambos: Latin Classics At M-G-M” is one of my favorite CDs. My favorite song on the CD is Xavier Cugat and Lina Romay singing “Take it Easy” from the movie “Two Girls and A Sailor” (1944).

It might seem random that I have a CD collection of Latin favorites from MGM films, but the Spanish songs, fashions and actors were popular in Hollywood and World War II era America.

Walter Winchell Rumba and Lina Romay

Xavier Cugat in “Holiday in Mexico” (1948) performing the song “Yo Te Amo Mucho-And That’s That”

What do you think of when you hear “1940s culture”?  Big band music like Glenn Miller? Swing dancing? Romantic crooners?

Though big band and swing seem to characterize the popular perception of World War II era U.S.A., one of the biggest fads in the United States in the 40’s was Latin and Spanish culture.

Watch any old movie from the 1940s. Actresses are wearing peasant blouses and fiesta skirts and everyone in the night clubs are doing the rumba.

Along with big band artists like Harry James, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat held his own as he directed his Latin orchestra with a violin in one hand and a Chihuahua in the other.

Xavier Cugat, nicknamed “The Rumba King,” popularized Spanish music, particularly the rumba, in the United States.

José Iturbi was another popular Spanish artist during the 1940s. The pianist was featured in several feature films, sometimes accompanied by his sister Amparo.


Donna Reed on a June 1946 cover of LIFE in peasant clothes

The Spanish and Latin influence was not just limited to night club entertainment but also rubbed off on fashion.

No, American women weren’t walking around in traditional Spanish dress, but popular 1940s summer fashions were influenced by Latin culture.

Jane Powell wore a peasant blouse, fiesta skirt and hemp and canvas shoes in “Luxury Liner” (1948). The July 17, 1944 LIFE magazine cover features a model wearing what was known as the “Peasant Clothes.” She is wearing a lose, capped sleeve blouse, a flared striped skirt and wedged hemp shoes.

Western movies also incorporated Latin fashions as many films had Mexican Vaqueros sporting ponchos and sombreros and women in traditional Mexican dresses.

Jane Russell in the 1943 film “The Outlaw” wore a peasant styled blouse which showed off her rather famous chest.  Linda Darnell also wore a similar outfit in the 1946 movie “My Darling Clementine.”

Fly Rio, Rio by the sea-o

Movies reflected the Spanish influence interest with fashions, music, location and even film title. Some films in the 1940s were:

Down Argentine Way (1940)
Week-End in Havana (1941)
Holiday In Mexico (1946)
•Thrill in Brazil (1946)

Other movies like “Gilda” (1946) or “Romance on the High Seas” (1948) are located in South America and take part in Carnival.

Movies based in small town America exhibit the interest in Latin culture. In “A Date with Judy” (1948)  Carmen Miranda teaches Wallace Beery how to rumba so he can dance with his wife, Selena Royal, for their anniversary. Even Charles Laughton was doing the rumba with Deanna Durbin in “It Started with Eve” (1941).

Spanish actors like Carmen Miranda and Lupe Velez were popular in film. American actresses like Cyd Charisse and Linda Darnell frequently played Spanish roles when they were clearly American.

MGM had very American girl and boy next door actors Esther Williams and Van Johnson singing in Portuguese to “Bonecu de Pixe” at a party in “ Easy to Wed” (1946). Williams said they were trained by Carmen Miranda and she felt ridiculous singing in Portuguese since she was butchering the language, according to her autobiography “The Million Dollar Mermaid.”

Esther and Van dancing to “Bonecu de Pixe” in Easy to Wed.


I’m not sure why there was this obsession with Latin and Spanish culture in the United States. I personally love it and wish we could bring it back. Here are a few speculations I have of why 1930s and 1940s America was so interested in the culture.

•Rudolph Valentino was the big Latin lover in the 1920s. After he died suddenly, they tried to replace him with other “Latin Lover” types like Ricardo Cortez, who was actually of Austrian decent. Maybe Valentino set off the Latin interest, especially because of his sudden death that left fans mourning.

• In several of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, large dance numbers were featured that had a Latin beat or style of dancing. Some of these dances included the “Carioca” and the “The Continental.” This might have set off the interest of rumbas and Xavier Cugat.

•Eva Peron was a glamour and fashion icon in Argentina. She even modeled her clothing and hair style after Ginger Rogers, according to Rogers’ autobiography “Ginger: My Story.” Maybe her fashion and glamour interested Americans.

•During World War II, Americans could not easily take trips to Europe. South America seemed like the next best place to go abroad. It’s funny to hear of people in the movies going to Cuba since we don’t have the best relationship with them now.

What is your opinion?

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