The Loneliness of a Classic Film Lover: 10 years of blogging at Comet Over Hollywood

Celebrating 10 years of Comet Over Hollywood

“The Loneliness of a Classic Film Watcher.”

That could be a film title for anyone who loved classic films long after the movie’s initial release, but was also before chatting about films online with strangers became mainstream.

You were considered odd and didn’t really have anyone to talk to about your interest; bottling up your obsession inside so that you may bust at any moment.

If you loved classic films at least 20 to 40 years after their initial release, you know the loneliness I mean.

I don’t care if you turned up your nose to “RoboCop” in 1987 to watch “Roman Holiday” (1953), or rolled your eyes when your friends went to see “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004) and stayed home to watch “Red Dust” (1932), you know what I’m talking about.

For me, I was starting middle school in 2000. Paris Hilton was frequently in the headlines, frosted lip-gloss and velour jogging suits were in fashion, and O*Town was the hot new boy band.

And there I was, age 12, daydreaming about Davy Jones of the Monkees. I grew up on classic films, but I was 13 when I embraced it as my own interest. I’ll never forget returning to school for the eighth grade after the summer and gushing to my friends about “Pillow Talk” (1959) and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961). Most people didn’t know what I was talking about, and as I progressed into high school, I was just the weird, old movie girl who wore headbands to look like she was from the 1960s.

Fast-forward to 2009.

I was a junior at Winthrop University in Larry Timbs, PhD, news writing class. Citizen journalism was all the rage and blogs were the thing to have. Think about how 2019 is with podcasts — that was blogging 10 years ago.

Dr. Timbs urged us to start blogs and went as far as to say that news outlets may not hire us if we didn’t write on a blog. As a college junior, I was anxious about getting a newspaper job after college and trying to get an internship that summer.

So I headed back to my dorm and — feeling like I had to do anything that very moment to be a good job candidate — I created Comet Over Hollywood on April 1, 2009, 10 years ago this month.

And as I typed furiously my first (terrible) piece on the Delmer Daves’ film “Susan Slade” (1961), I had no idea what lay ahead or that I would still be doing this 10 years later.

While the creation of Comet Over Hollywood gave me an outlet to write, it also unexpectedly filled that void of loneliness I, a classic film lover, carried in those days.

Through writing about my favorite films, I met other people close to my age that enjoyed the same films I did and shared my enthusiasm. And over the years, these blog comments turned into dear friendships with several people who still write and that I’ve met in person—including Raquel at Out of the Past, Jill at the RetroSet and Angela at The Hollywood Revue.

Blogging friendships expanded to chatting with other film lovers on Twitter and Facebook. Now, a classic film lover in their teens or twenties can easily connect with like-minded people across the country. Social media gets a bad rap, but for those friendships, it is worth it.

As for 10 years? Comet Over Hollywood has grown and evolved just like I have. A few of my favorite things out of writing it includes:
• Doing silly things like trying wacky classic actress beauty tips.
• Having the opportunity to interview people connected with classic films. I never considered this as an opportunity when I start.
Making friends over the years.

I would like to close with some unsolicited blogging advice. I have been asked, “How do you find the time to blog?” If you follow me, I have tried to post at least once-a-week since 2013. There isn’t a magical answer; you just have to do it. My advice is that you can’t make blogging an option or think of it as an extra-curricular activity. You can’t blog three times a year and expect anyone to consistently come to your page, no matter how good your articles are.

It’s work. Think of it as something you have to do, like exercise or homework. You may not feel like doing it, but you will be happy with the result. Heck, I’m writing this at 10:19 p.m. on a Friday night when I want to be in bed but here I am.

I hope that I’m still sharing my love of classic films with you for another 10 years. Thank you for all of your support over the years. I truly appreciate it. You made me feel less alone.

And thank you, Dr. Timbs, for unknowingly working as the driving force behind this page.

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

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The Romanovs: 100 years of legends and rumors

One-hundred years ago, on July 17, 1918, the last royal family of Russia—Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their five children and a few aides —were taken into a cellar and assassinated.

Romanov family portrait in 1913

And while this was the end of the Romanovs and the Russian monarchy, it was just the beginning of 100 years of legends, rumors and myths that surrounded the royal family. From a 1928 American film based on Romanov imposter Anna Anderson to a 2016 Broadway musical, the world has been fascinated by the Romanovs. The curiosity doesn’t just revolve around if any of them survived (DNA and science now tell us that they didn’t), but also the relationship with Rasputin, the “mad monk,” the royal lifestyle and the seemingly charmed lives that the grand duchesses lived.

Below are films released from 1928 to 1997 about the last Tsar of Russia and his family:

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Review: Friday the Thirteenth (1933)

When it comes to Friday the 13th films, audiences generally recollect horror films involving a man in a ski mask. But before those gory films came to be, British film released by Gainsborough Pictures follows a group on a bus just minutes before the clock strikes midnight on Friday the 13th.

Directed by Victor Saville, Friday the Thirteenth (1933) the film begins with the following statement:

“You hear of an accident. There are victims. Strangers to one another. Supposing we could put back the clock and see how chance made these strangers share this appalling moment.”

The film begins as we see people riding a bus on a rainy night with the clock ticking closer to Friday the 13th. Lightning strikes a crane, and the bus driver has to swerve to miss the falling debris and wrecks. Newspapers flash on the screen with headlines about the wreck and that two people were killed. Before we know further, Big Ben ticks back to the beginning of Thursday the 12th and we see what lead everyone to get on this bus.

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New Comet Over Hollywood series: 1939

For classic film fans, 1939 is a mystical year filled with perfect films.

Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” and “Ninotchka” are just a few of the greats that were released in 1939.

But in 2011, I decided I wanted to see beyond more than just the big-budget box office successes of the year and dig deeper to see what made this year tick. Were all the movies special or was it just a handful?

This included watching all the B and C movies – The 68-minute movies that star people like character actor Henry O’Neill as a lead character.

So seven years ago I set out to see every film made in 1939, a count that came roughly to 515.

Read more in my 2011 post “1939: Watching a Year” about how this all began.

To date after all this time, I’ve still managed to only watch 173 movies made in 1939. So to help propel myself further, I am beginning a weekly Comet Over Hollywood series focused on the films of 1939.

Every Thursday, I will review a film made during 1939. This could range from the top tier films to those B movies shown in a double feature.

Join me every week as I “Watch a Year.”

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

Christmas on Film: The Cheaters (1945)

Last Christmas I was wrapping presents and watching made-for-TV Christmas movies on YouTube when—after finishing Susan Lucci’s Christmas Carol— this film began autoplaying.

I was excited to find a new-to-me classic Christmas film (which I have previously mentioned can be hard to find).

“The Cheaters” (1945) most likely won’t be added to my mandatory list of Christmas season viewing, but it’s a fairly enjoyable film.

Wealthy James C. Pidgeon (Eugene Pallette) is about to go bankrupt while his wife Clara (Billie Burke), children (Ann Gillis, Ruth Terry, David Holt), and brother-in-law (Raymond Walburn) are all still happily living off what little money he has left.

To top off the financial issues, Pidgeon’s daughter Theresa (Terry) demands that the family invites a charity case to their home for Christmas. She wants to impress her soldier boyfriend, Stephen (Robert Livingston), because his mother always invites a charity case for Christmas.

For their charity case, the family selects Anthony Marchaund (Joseph Schildkraut), a has-been actor who was injured in car wreck at the height of his career. He now drinks too much and walks with a limp.

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Christmas on Film: The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

Like most of us, I grew up on classic Christmas films—from White Christmas to The Bishop’s Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. And as I realized new-to-me pre-1968 Christmas movies were dwindling, I began scrounging for more. Surely there were still some left to discover!

That’s how I stumbled upon “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952) last Christmas while browsing Amazon. But much to my dismay, the only DVDs sold were Region 2 (not able to play on U.S. devices) and it didn’t appear to be streaming online.

So as the holidays rolled around again this year, I searched and found someone selling a DVRed copy of this English film and I snatched it up.

Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Denholm Elliott, Margaret Leighton, Hugh Williams, Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delaney, the film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. And in the midst of the bright holiday, none of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles.

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Lizabeth Scott Sings!

Lizabeth Scott, “The Threat”

She usually played a mysterious blond that was up to no good. Actress Lizabeth Scott, known for her husky voice and sleek, straight blond hair was often a woman with a secret in 1940s and 1950s film noirs.

Publicity departments of the golden era of Hollywood often saddled their actors with nicknames: from the It Girl (Clara Bow), the Oomph Girl (Ann Sheridan) to the Lavender Blonde (Kim Novak).

Scott was nicknamed “The Threat,” as she was threatening to “The Body (Marie MacDonald), “The Voice” (Frank Sinatra), and “The Look” (Lauren Bacall).

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