About Jnpickens

Classic film lover and reporter in North Carolina.

TCMFF highlights and genuine happiness

The last few months I’ve been restless. Nothing made me happy, and the things that generally lifted my spirits didn’t.

I’m not unique. For all of us, the last few years have been tough. For some reason, the start of 2022 felt harder than the rest. I needed a change; some respite.

Enter 10 days off work and a week in Hollywood. This is probably the longest I’ve taken off work … ever. And while I knew I missed traveling to places further than driving distance and desperately wanted to hug my online friends (who I hadn’t seen since 2019), I don’t think I realized just how much I needed the trip to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).

Someone commented that I was smiling so big in all of my photos. And they’re right. For the first time in quite a while, I was genuinely happy.

“Come Together Now” was the perfect theme for the festival as I was able to laugh with my friends in person for the first time since 2019. Seeing friends, watching movies in a theater together, interviewing stars. It was a busy week and I didn’t get a lot of sleep … but the hugs and joy and laughter were energizing. I was fueled by happiness.

When I returned home and friends asked how my trip was, I could say with sincerity, “I had the best time.”

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TCMFF Musical Monday: It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
It’s Always Fair Weather – Musical #150

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, Dolores Gray, David Burns, Jay C. Flippen, Madge Blake (uncredited)

Plot:
After serving in World War II, three Army pals — Ted Riley (Kelly), Doug Hallerton (Dailey) and Angie Valentine (Kidd) — promise to continue to stay friends and meet 10 years later. When they meet again, they find themselves changed and living entirely different lives. Doug and Angie have settled down with families, and Ted is living a fast life with gambling and women.

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Musical Monday: Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

breakfast in hollywood2This week’s musical:
Breakfast in Hollywood (1946) – Musical #704

Studio:
United Artists

Director:
Harold D. Schuster

Starring:
Bonita Granville, Beaulah Bondi, Billie Burke, Raymond Walburn, Zasu Pitts, Edward Ryan,
Themselves: Tom Breneman, Hedda Hopper, Spike Jones, Andy Russell, The King Trio, Anna Le Seur, Ida Beneman, Alice Cooper

Plot:
Several people attend the “Breakfast in Hollywood” radio program, hosted by Tom Breneman (himself):
• Dorothy Larson (Granville) who is looking for her solider fiancée, who she hasn’t heard from
• Elderly Mrs. Annie Reed (Bondi), who has no one to look after her
• Plain Mrs. Frances Cartwright (Burke) who’s husband (Walburn) is stepping out on her
• Elvira Spriggens (Pitts), who desperately wants to win the radio’s crazy hat contest.
While all of seemingly only attending the program for fun, each of them has an experience that follows that alters their life.

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The kindness of strangers

I was 24 and a broke reporter.

I often could barely afford to eat after paying my rent, but I somehow saved enough money throughout the year to travel to Los Angeles, Calif. for the 2013 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It was my first time traveling alone on a plane, and I was heading out without much of a plan. My mom was a nervous wreck, which I shrugged off. Now I understand why.

Nine years later, the night before I head out to Hollywood for the first time in three years, I can’t help but think of that first trek across the country by myself. Now, I like to be organized and well planned. But in 2013, extreme youth was on my side. I wasn’t thinking about much other than meeting Robert Osborne and online friends in person. I hadn’t considered things like how I would get into Hollywood once I landed at LAX or how I would afford to eat.

But somehow my chaotic, unplanned adventure went okay, because I floated by on the kindness of people who were strangers at the time. In a way, this is a thank you to those folks (who now are friends), who helped out a greenhorn traveler:
• One person and his wife landed in LAX around the same time I did. They invited me to ride into Hollywood with them.
• I was staying with a friend (who I hadn’t met yet), who was kind enough to open her home to some rando from Twitter.
• While I waited for my friend to get home from work, another friend let me freshen up in her hotel room.
• My cousin helped me get to the airport on the way home.

It was all such a whirlwind. I arrived in Hollywood on a Thursday, the same day the festival began, and within a matter of hours was with online friends watching SOUTH PACIFIC (1958) poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel, introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, Mitzi Gaynor and France Nuyen.

And I did meet Robert Osborne. He introduced a screening of THE DESERT SONG (1943). At that time, the film hadn’t been seen in 50 years (it’s now on DVD). Robert stayed and watched the movie, and he was kind enough to take a photo with me after, even though he was in a hurry.

See y’all in Hollywood again for the first time since 2019.

robert osborne

Though Robert Osborne can not attend the festival this year, he will be in our hearts and thoughts. #GetWellBob I’m pictured here with Mr. Osborne in 2013.

Comet in Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2022

2019 red carpet

At the 2019 TCMF

For the first time in two years, the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival is returning to Hollywood as an in-person event.

When the 2019 film festival ended, all of us were hugging and promising to see each other next year. Of course, none of us knew what lay ahead. For two years, Turner Classic Movies kept fans engaged with an “At-Home” edition in 2020 and 2021.

Below are ways to follow my Hollywood adventures:
• Twitter: @HollywoodComet
• Instagram: @HollywoodComet
• Facebook: Facebook.com/CometOverHollywood

I’ll also be logging the films I watched on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/HollywoodComet/

What I am most looking forward to for the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival:
Reuniting with my friends. Truthfully, this is what I’m most looking forward to. Since I started this website in 2009 and since I started attending the film festival in 2013, I’ve made several friends along the way. While we have continued to keep touch online, I haven’t seen any of these friends since 2019. I am so excited to see everyone!

Paula Abdul introducing SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952). I have been a Paula Abdul fan since I was two or three, hearing my sisters jam to her cassette tapes — “Forever Your Girl” is a great album. Abdul is also a talented tap dancer, so it would be interesting to hear her thoughts on one of the best dancing films ever made. If I can make this screening (it looks like I have some tough decisions to make), I’d love to see her speak.

DINER (1982). I’m most looking forward to new-to-me film experiences. And I haven’t seen this film. It should be a good time with the special guests associated — and screening at the beautiful American Legion Theater!

Film discoveries. There are some other films on the schedule I’m not familiar with, such as FLY-BY-NIGHT (1942), EVENINGS FOR SALE (1932), I, THE JURY (1953) and others.

Going to a midnight movie. The past few years, I’ve skipped the midnight screenings and gone to bed. I think I’ll reconsider that this time.

Ben Burtt and Craig Barron presentations. I’m embarrassed to say I have never attended one of their presentations! But after watching the featurette they made for the 2021 At-Home TCMFF for CHAIN LIGHTNING (1950), I knew I needed to remedy that. Hope to catch one of their screenings!

If you are attending, I look forward to seeing you in Hollywood!

tcmff22

Musical Monday: Easter Parade (1948)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Easter Parade (1948) – Musical #31

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Walters

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Peter Lawford, Jules Munshin, Clinton Sundberg, Lola Albright (uncredited), Joi Lansing (uncredited), Jimmie Dodd (uncredited)

Plot:
When Nadine Hale (Miller) decides to leave her act with Don Hewes (Astaire), Don bets that he can find a new partner who can perform just as well as she does. Don finds Hannah Brown (Garland) performing in a pub and trains her to become a top-notch performer.

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Watching 1939: Unheralded and underseen films of the year

I started Comet Over Hollywood 13 years ago in April 2009. Over the years, I’ve written about several topics, from actress beauty tips to movie musicals. And I’ve continued to be drawn to one particularly theme: the films of 1939.

Often heralded as the greatest year on film, I wanted to figure out what made it so special. What was the mystical, magical element that elevated it against other years? In 2011, I decided to try and see every film made in 1939, and in 2018, I started the “Watching 1939” series, where I watched and reviewed any and all films released in 1939 — from the A-list to the B, C and D budget films.

We all know about the greats of the years, from “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” to “Ninotchka.” But was there something special in these lesser known films?

For Comet Over Hollywood’s anniversary, I wanted to share some of the 1939 that I’ve discovered and enjoyed that may not receive the most accolades:

These Glamour Girls

glamour2

The cast of “These Glamour Girls” (1939): Tom Brown and Ann Rutherford, Richard Carlson and Jane Bryan, Lew Ayres and Lana Turner, Sumner Getchell and Anita Louise, Peter Lind Hayes and Marsha Hunt, Owen Davis Jr. and Mary Beth Hughes

On the surface, this is a B-budget MGM collegiate dramatic vehicle for starlet Lana Turner. But really, THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS is an interesting study of snobbery and cruelty of debutantes and college boys. It’s all about appearance. While Lana Turner and Lew Ayres are the stars of the films, this film has an outstanding ensemble cast. And it’s Marsha Hunt’s performance that you will be thinking about at the end of the film. Full review here.

The Rains Came

rains came5

Too much rain in “The Rains Came”

Whenever anyone tries to mock special effects in older films, I point them to this film. While this is a star-studded film, the main character is the rain. The rain, the earthquake and the rush of the water that follows. The intense special effects will have you biting your fingernails. Of all the big budget films of 1939, I feel this one is overlooked and undermentioned. The cast is led by Myrna Loy, Tryone Power and George Brent, with an equally impressive supporting cast (Maria Ouspenskaya, Joseph Schildkraut, Mary Nash, Jane Darwell, Marjorie Rambeau, Henry Travers, H.B. Warner). Full review here.

Beauty for Asking

beauty for the asking 1939

Lucille Ball and Inez Courtney working as beauticians at the start of “Beauty for the Asking” (1939).

Man, I love this film. Lucille Ball plays a jilted woman. Rather than sit at home and cry, she becomes a cosmetic magnet. Originally set to be an exposé of the beauty industry, the film picks fun at the extent customers will go to stay beautiful and look young — even if it’s all bologna (something that continues to ring true today). For example, Ball’s character tells a customer that she is going to use petroleum on her skin, which is luxurious. When she’s later asked what it is, she says it’s “another word for Vaseline.” This is really just a delicious film — and you get a makeover montage. What more could you ask for? Full review here.

Beau Geste

beau geste2

Ray Milland, Robert Preston and Gary Cooper in “Beau Geste.”

Beau gest … a beautiful gesture. And a beautiful film. This is one of my favorite films of 1939. It opens with a stunning, eerie moment and then the film is told as a flashback as we learn what happens. Directed/produced by William Wellman and with cinematography by Theodor Sparkuhl and Archie Stout, visually this is a gorgeous film. I also love Gary Cooper, Ray Milland and Robert Preston as a trio, however, Brian Donlevy steals the show. A must see. Full review here.

First Love

first love

Helen Parrish and Deanna Durbin

This updated Cinderella story leaves me feeling so happy that I could bust. Actress, singer Deanna Durbin started acting at age 14, and at age 18 in this film, is allowed to finally mature into a grownup role. She even gets her first on-screen kiss (from dreamy Robert Stack). This is just a sweet, fun movie that will leave you smiling. Full review here.

In Name Only

in name only 5

Cary Grant, Carole Lombard and Kay Francis in “In Name Only”

Never will you want to smack Kay Francis like you do in this movie. But oh is she good — and so are her costars Cary Grant and Carole Lombard. IN NAME ONLY is a frustrating, delicious film involving a loveless marriage that leads to an affair. The film was also transformative for two of its leads: Carole Lombard had the opportunity to play a dramatic role after years of being cast as a screwball comedian. And it gave Kay Francis one of her best roles in years, after being one of Warner Bros. top stars in the 1930s. Full review here.

Here I Am a Stranger

here i am stranger3
I went in to this film having never heard of it and knowing nothing about it, and it is now one of my favorite films of 1939. It’s the story of estranged father (Richard Dix) and son David (Richard Greene). When they reconnect, David’s now-society matron mother isn’t pleased. David’s father changes some of his snobbish views and opens his eyes to a new world. It’s sweet, funny but also sad. I also love Brenda Joyce’s off-beat, unladylike character, who we first meet throwing an apple core out the front door (and almost into the face of guests). Full review here.

Midnight

midnight2
What a charmer. Few films of 1939 glitter quite like MIDNIGHT does, starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore. This is a witty, attractive and even sexy screwball comedy. Colbert and Ameche are well-paired, Francis Lederer is unexpectedly hot, but it’s John Barrymore who steals the whole show. Full review here.

Nurse Edith Cavell

edna may

Anna Neagal and Edna May Oliver in “Nurse Edith Cavell”

Not only did I like this movie, but I also learned about the real figure, Nurse Edith Cavell, who I wasn’t familiar with. Anna Neagel plays the title character, who was a nurse during World War I. She was a controversial figure at the time because she cared for both English and German patients. Neagle is flanked by Zasu Pitts, May Robson and Edna May Oliver. With this trio, you would expect comedy, but the three play dramatic roles and are in some quite tense scenes. Full review here.

Invitation to Happiness

invitation
INVITATION TO HAPPINESS asks the difficult question: Can you strive to reach your goals and have a successful career … while maintaining a healthy relationship? Irene Dunne plays a society woman who marries boxing hopeful King Cole, played by Fred MacMurray. His ultimate goal is to be the champ, and “any day now” stretches out to 10 years. The couple are apart more than they are together, and King never gets to know his son. While the story is sad and thought provoking, this is still a lovely film. Full review here.

Just for Fun

That’s Right — You’re Wrong: Plain and simple, I love Kay Kyser and his band. This was Kyser’s first film as an actor, and it’s such a good time. It’s mixed with great music and movie audiences of today get a look at his radio program, The Musical Kollege of Knowledge.

The Under-Pup: Hard to find, but worth your time when you do. In Gloria Jean’s first film, she goes off to camp, has to deal with bratty little girls and sings. What more could you ask for?

Everybody’s Hobby: This is brisk, 60 minute movie about a family who all have distinct hobbies … except for dad (played by Henry O’Neill). The hobbies end up helping the family in the end. It’s a good time.

The Cat and the Canary: This creepy comedy starring Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope keeps you guessing about “whodunit” but also brings the laughs.

Honorable Mention

Back Door to Heaven
Four Girls in White
Dancing Co-Ed
Calling Dr. Kildare/The Secret of Dr. Kildare
Miracle on Main Street

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: I’ll Remember April (1945)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

i'll remember april2This week’s musical:
I’ll Remember April (1945) – Musical #703

Studio:
Universal Studios

Director:
Harold Young

Starring:
Gloria Jean, Kirby Grant, Milburn Stone, Edward Brophy, Samuel S. Hinds, Jacqueline deWit, Hobart Cavanaugh

Plot:
When her father (Hinds) goes bankrupt, April Garfield (Jean) tries to get a job singing on the radio to help out financially.

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Musical Monday: You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

you were never lovelir5This week’s musical:
You Were Never Lovelier (1942) – Musical #66

Studio:
Columbia Studios

Director:
William A. Seiter

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Adolphe Menjou, Isobel Elsom, Leslie Brooks, Adele Mara, Gus Schilling, Barbara Brown, Douglas Leavitt
Himself: Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay,

Plot:
Eduardo Acuña (Menjou) wants his daughters to be married in order of age. While his two youngest daughters are eager to be wed, his second eldest Maria (Hayworth) is indifferent. To instill some romance in her life, Eduardo arranges a ruse of a secret admirer, who she mistakes to be New York dancer Robert Davis (Astaire).

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Musical Monday: Frankie and Johnny (1966)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

frankie and johnnyThis week’s musical:
Frankie and Johnny (1966) – Musical #681

Studio:
United Artists

Director:
Frederick De Cordova

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Donna Douglas, Harry Morgan, Sue Ann Langdon, Nancy Kovacs, Audrey Christie, Robert Strauss, Anthony Eisley, Joyce Jameson, Jerome Cowan (uncredited), Eddie Quillan (uncredited), Naomi Stevens (uncredited)

Plot:
Johnny (Presley) is a singer on a riverboat. Much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Frankie (Douglas), Johnny gambles all of his salary away, because he’s constantly on a losing streak. A gypsy tells Johnny that a redhead will bring him luck. When redheaded Nellie Bly (Kovacs) comes aboard, Johnny woes her, getting himself in trouble with Frankie, and Nellie’s boyfriend (and his boss), Braden (Eisley).

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