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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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.

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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!

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A “White Christmas” at the Upcountry History Museum

The Upcountry History Museum follows COVID-19 protocols, including limited capacity, requiring facemasks and no contact ticket purchasing through their website. Read more.

Learn how to book a virtual tour or visit in person.

You may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but it may not be likely that you’ll see cold precipitation in your area — especially if you live in the South like me.

The Upcountry History Museum offers the next best thing:  The Greenville, S.C. museum has brought a “White Christmas” to the Upstate of South Carolina through an exhibit. On loan from the Rosemary Clooney House in Augusta, Ky, the exhibit will be on display in Greenville until Jan. 30, 2021.

“White Christmas” (1954) is a holiday favorite starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The film begins during World War II and then covers 10 years to show Crosby and Kaye’s characters are now entertainment successes. They meet two sisters (Clooney, Ellen), and the four travel to Pine Tree, Vermont, where they find their World War II leader, General Waverly (Dean Jagger), is running a failing inn. The group tries to figure out a way to help business while also honoring General Waverly’s service.

This is a rare time when the “White Christmas” exhibit has traveled away from its Kentucky home, said museum owner and former Miss America, Heather French Henry.

“This benefits the Upcountry History Museum because we can take our exhibit to people who may never travel to Augusta,” Henry said.

A peak into the exhibit room from the entrance.

My visit

The exhibit includes Edith Head-designed costumes, film props, and other memorabilia, such as a special lighter with Bing Crosby on it that he gifted that Christmas. The costumes include the blue lace and tulle “Sisters” dresses worn by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, the white wool dress and green velvet that Clooney and Ellen wore at the Christmas party,  the black pants George Chakiris wore in “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” and Ellen’s white “Mandy” costume.

After watching “White Christmas” since I was a child, it was amazing to see Edith Head’s iconic costumes up close and in person. I went with my parents, sister and four-year-old niece, who particularly loved the “Sisters” costumes and the “Mandy” white outfit.

With COVID-19 in mind, I felt comfortable at the Upcountry History Museum throughout my visit. My family was masked, and there were only one or two other small families there, making it very easy social distance.

The dresses worn by Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Mary Wickes at the Christmas party. Henry said that the white dress was one of the most delicate, because it is wool. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Moving history across states

To move all of these pieces from Kentucky to South Carolina, each item must be carefully cataloged. To avoid any wear or damage to the costumes, the costumes remain on the mannequins, and most travel upright.

The exhibit also includes items that aren’t displayed at the Rosemary Clooney House due to space, like the sleigh. The only replicas in the exhibit are the red finale dresses made by Henry’s mother, Diana French. Paramount has not been able to locate the red dresses, which are either owned by a private collector or were altered and repurposed after the film, according to the exhibit.

Since many of the costumes are now 66 years old, the condition can be a concern, but with Edith Head and her team’s great work, many are in excellent condition.

“That’s what makes it so crazy. Not only do we have a phenomenal collection, but they are also all Edith Head designs,” Henry said. “Even if you aren’t interested in the film, you may be interested in the design.”

The blue “Sisters” dresses, worn by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in “White Christmas.” Vera-Ellen’s dress on the right was restored by Paramount and the lace was hand-created. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Clooney and Vera-Ellen in the dresses, for comparison.

From Miss America to Museum Founder

Like so many people, Henry grew up watching “White Christmas,” and says being part of this is unexpected.

After Henry won Miss America in 1999, fellow Kentucky-native Rosemary Clooney was one of the first phone calls she received. The two later performed together.

Rosemary Clooney moved to Augusta, Ky, in 1980, and after Clooney died in 2002, her children reached out to Henry and her husband, Dr. Steve Henry, about purchasing her home. The Henrys enthusiastically agreed and preserved the home, creating a museum to celebrate the life and career of Rosemary Clooney.

Since the Rosemary Clooney House opened in 2005, the Henrys started working to collect memorabilia and costumes over the years, including “White Christmas.”

“Each costume has its own story about its journey,” Henry said. “In fact, when we first started, we didn’t even think we would find but maybe one or two pieces.”

Henry first was connected with Paramount when she reached out for a sketch or pattern to recreate the red finale Christmas dresses for a “White Christmas” stage show she was performing in.

“They (Paramount) realized for the first time that they didn’t know where any of the costumes were,” Henry said. “After the show, I called them back and asked if they found anything.”

It was a “snowball effect” as collectors began to contact them. The “Mandy” ivory dance outfit was their first big auction item.

“Rosemary’s ‘Sisters dress’ was on eBay labeled ‘vintage 1950s party dress,” Henry said. “Vera’s companion dress was with a collector in Texas.”

Vera-Ellen’s dress had been altered into a sleeveless dress and was resorted for two years by Betsey Potter of Paramount, who hand-created the dress’s lace.

Costumes from the “Mandy” number in “White Christmas,” including Vera-Ellen’s white costume. The exhibit said the red/orange costume may look different in the film due to the Techcnicolor process, and due to age. Photo/Jessica P.

The “Mandy” number for comparison

A Multi-Generational Tradition

“White Christmas” was the top box office hit in 1954 but has continued to be a holiday favorite for the past 66 years.

“White Christmas is a movie I have watched since I was born. My mother had us watch it and now our girls watch it,” Henry said. “What’s so great is you see that multi-generational tradition with this film.”

Henry says her favorite number is “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” but she also loves “Choreography.”

“When she comes down in the hot pink tap dress, I just love it,” Henry said. “Vera-Ellen is one of the most underappreciated dancers of her time.”

Plan your visit

The film and exhibit also tie in with her military veteran advocacy, and in connection with the Greenville exhibit, Henry partnered with the museum to create launching Operation Waverly.  Through this initiative, the museum will be collecting supplies to benefit Fellow Countrymen, a community-based non-profit committed to ending Veteran homelessness within the Upstate of South Carolina. When you visit, you can donate one of the following items for an area veteran.

Learn more about planning your visit to the Upcountry History Museum or how to take a virtual tour of the exhibit. The exhibit will return to the Rosemary Clooney House in February.

Your humble writer in front of the sleigh and replica dresses at the exhibit, located at the Upcountry History Museum.

TCMFF 2020: The Special Home Edition

This week, many of us would have been traveling to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).

Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 situation, the 2020 event had to be cancelled. However, the leaders of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) put their heads together, and created a special TCMFF Home Edition to keep fans and their staff engaged during a difficult time.

On Tuesday, a media round-table was held with TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz, TCM General Manager Pola Changnon, and TCM Senior Vice of Programming Charlie Tabesh.

Each shared that this has been an emotional time, as they look forward to the festival as much as the fans do. I didn’t expect to get teary on the call, but hearing how emotional the cancellation is for the staff (as much as the pass holders) made me cry a little.

Here is a summary of the questions asked during the media roundtable:

Can you give an overview of why TCM decided to do the TCMFF Home Edition?

Pola Changnon: A month ago, we were concerned about the evolving situation and how that may or might not affect our festival dates (April 16-19). It was around this time a month ago, that it became clear that we would have to cancel the festival. We didn’t feel comfortable postponing — you can imagine the work it takes to rearrange the films and locations. Within a day, all of us were together in Los Angeles for business. We started the day off with an acknowledgement that we would have to cancel. By the end of the day, Charlie Tabesh felt confident that he could pull something together for the network in place of the festival. This is a special weekend that people look forward to all year long – both staff and pass holders. We asked ourselves how could we do this and will it be special enough? Within a couple of days, Charlie came up with something so robust.

Charlie Tabesh: We had to figure out, “How do you make this different than what is already on TCM?” We wanted it to be special and include a lot of material that we wouldn’t include day-to-day on TCM.

Our first idea was that we would play movies that we were planning to show at the festival this year. The issue there is we wouldn’t have the guests, tributes and other special videos that were done over the years.  One of the reasons we included previous festival moments so that it involved some of the best of past festivals, we figured out how to make it special with Ben’s intros, and talk about how we were there with celebrities and use tribute pieces and interviews that happened before a film. That’s what makes it different as far as production.

Ben Mankiewicz: We shot intros in a way that I’ve never shot anything. We have had a scaled down crew with no one coming within 10 feet of me. We shot and wrote fresh intros—we always write fresh intros — but fresh as in related to the festival. Programming this weekend will look different, and isn’t shot on my set. I’m also reminded by what Pola said—people look forward to this weekend all year. That includes us. A large part of what we look forward to is the connection we have with our fans. When TCM announced that we couldn’t do the festival, I was asked to write something to say on the air. In both writing and delivering it, I got really emotional. I almost couldn’t get through without crying. I didn’t expect that. It’s emotional for all of us. Charlie’s crew helped me provide some new context. All of what TCM does this weekend – online, social media — is to engance the programing we will have airing this weekend.

What is the plan for next year? Are you going to keep the same programing that was planned for this year?

Charlie Tabesh: There are a lot of things we can take from this year and move it to next year. But next year there may be different talent or different restorations and anniversaries. There will be things that will reshape the festival. We have a bit of a head start, but the work will still need to be done for next year.

Following the upcoming home edition, will TCM plan other events for the upcoming year?

Ben Mankiewicz: Anecdotally, the response I get on social media is almost the most significant response that I have gotten anywhere. The engagement with fans is the best and most meaningful part of my job. I think we have learned there is real value of having this online component so that even more people can be included.

How to watch:

You can find the full schedule for the TCMFF Home Edition here.

To make the best of this weird quarantine situation, Comet Over Hollywood will post throughout the weekend what we’re watching during #TCMFF and outfits I would be wearing if I was there. Follow along on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Comet Over Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2019

At 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival

I will be back this week in Hollywood for my sixth Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). The festival runs from Thursday, April 11, through Sunday, April 14.

Here’s how you can follow my adventures and updates:
· Twitter: @HollywoodComet
· Instagram: @HollywoodComet
· Facebook: Facebook.com/CometOverHollywood

For those who have never attended, this is like a film 10k. From 9 a.m. to after 12 a.m., you watch classic film after classic film with other fans who know and love Guy Kibbee as much as you do.

My tips for first-time attendees:
· I know you are excited, but it’s okay to skip a film and eat a meal. You have to keep up your strength for all that movie watching!
· Be sure to take care of yourself: hydrate and maybe take some vitamins or Emergen-C. I know that sounds crazy being so excited and also exhausted can be taxing on your system.
· Say hello to people you think you might know online. Everyone is excited to be there, so they most likely will be excited to see you too.
· Strike up a conversation while waiting in line for films. You never know, the person behind you may be as big of a Laraine Day fan as you are! This is one of the few places where you can have everyday conversations with film fans that speak your language.
· Have fun! You may not get into a film you want to see, but don’t take it too hard and ruin your trip. There are other wonderful movies to see!
· If you have time, explore the area!

For my top festival picks, I’m most looking forward to:
· The addition of the American Legion as a film viewing location
· The Dolly Sisters (1945) on Nitrate
· Seeing fellow film fans and friends and discussing classic films with them!

Do you have questions about the festival? Comment below or e-mail them to me at CometOverHollywood@gmail.com.

Five years of the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival

Each year when I return from the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), I have a hard time articulating the experience.

“How was your trip? Who did you see?”, friends and coworkers ask.

I practically stutter like Porky Pig as films I watched and classic stars I clapped for swirl in my head like a kaleidoscope, thinking “Where do I begin?” The same thing happens when I try to put into words here about this extraordinary festival. So many exciting things happen over the span of three and a half days that it can be difficult to put your arms around it to begin to describe it: Tearing up as 100-year-old Marsha Hunt was interviewed by Eddie Muller, standing inches away from former child star Claude Jarman, Jr. as I interviewed him on the red carpet, excitedly hugging and catching up with friends I only see once a year at the festival.

The 2018 TCMFF festival was my fifth time attending. The festival began in 2010, and my first year was in 2013. I have attended every year since, except I, unfortunately, was unable to attend the 2017 festival due to other obligations.

Covering the red carpet for the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival

TCMFF 2018 was full of firsts for me. It was my first year covering the red carpet arrivals (a separate post to come on this), my first time seeing a movie at the Cinerama Dome, and the first time my boyfriend, Brandon, attended the festival (and his first time in California). I even skipped all midnight screenings so I could sleep, something I generally don’t do. I also had the opportunity to visit the American Society of Cinematographers clubhouse with TCM Backlots, which was an amazing experience.

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Hooray for Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2018

The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival is a paradise for classic film fans.

After not being able to attend the 2017 festival, I have returned for my fifth TCM Film Fest. Throughout the festival, I will be sharing photos, short videos and tweeting quotes or facts shared during film interviews. I even hope to get in a couple of blog posts during the festival.

Outside the Hollywood Roosevelt, April 2018

Here’s how you can follow me:

· Twitter: @HollywoodComet

· Instagram: @HollywoodComet

· Facebook: Facebook.com/CometOverHollywood

For my top festival picks, I’m most looking forward to:

· Seeing actress Nancy Kwan, who I have been a fan of for awhile.

· The film “None Shall Escape” (1944) with guest star Marsha Hunt. I’m a fan of Miss Hunt and have never seen this film.

· A Star is Born (1937) on Nitrate. This is my favorite version of this story and it will be gorgeous on Nitrate film.

· Seeing fellow film fans and friends and discussing classic films with them!

Style on Display: Katharine Hepburn exhibit in South Carolina

Katharine Hepburn photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt for LIFE magazine in 1938.

When it comes to classic film actresses, Katharine Hepburn placed herself far from the crowd of studio starlets.

Her characters were strong, she didn’t attend Hollywood events, and she didn’t present herself in a soft, feminine manner.

“Kate wasn’t someone you could mold easily, that you could control,” said director Dorothy Arzner, who directed Hepburn in Christopher Strong (1933).

And when you think of Katharine Hepburn, you think of her clothing—particularly her pants, something so innocuous now but an article of clothing “polite” women of the 1930s and 1940s weren’t seen wearing in public.

These pants and other items of Katharine Hepburn’s costumes and clothing are on display in the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville, SC, as part of the “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen” exhibit, running through January 14. The costumes are on loan to the Upcountry History Museum from the Kent State University Museum. The Hepburn Estate donated Miss Hepburn’s collection to Kent State University Museum.

Costumes from the play version of “The Philadelphia Story” at the Upcountry History Museum.

“It was Miss Hepburn’s wish that her personal collection of her performance clothes be given to an educational institution. Her other personal effects were sold in a Sotheby’s Auction for charity,” said Jean L. Druesedow, director of the Kent State University Museum in an e-mail interview. “Her executors discovered the Kent State University Museum through friends of friends and Gladys Toulis, the first director of the Kent State Fashion School.”

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Nitrate is Hot: First time at the Nitrate Picture Show

Contemporary classic film fans have the luxury of watching older films in many different forms. Stream on Netflix, buy it on BluRay or DVD, watch it on their phone on YouTube, or turn the television to Turner Classic Movies at any point in the day.

But despite all of these options and opportunities, sometimes film lovers want to see the film the way it was meant to be shown—on the big screen. But the real treat is if the movie is projected on film, but not just any film—rare nitrate film.

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