Over the Rainbow: Land of Oz in North Carolina

Though Dorothy Gale and her friends are from Kansas, they also have a home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Located in Beech Mountain, N.C., the Land of Oz is a park that opens to the public a limited amount of times per year. For the last 20 years, the Autumn at Oz festival has welcomes thousands to the former amusement park. This year’s event was held Sept. 9, 10 and 11, bringing out approximately 8,200 people.

The Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz, Beech Mountain

The Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz, Beech Mountain

There was a Wizard of Oz amusement park in North Carolina?
Land of Oz was originally an amusement park that opened in 1970 and owned by Grover Robbins, who also owned Tweetsie Railroad, a train and wild west theme park in Boone, NC. Robbins leased the Beech Mountain property and wasn’t sure what to do with it until he teamed with park designer Jack Pentes, who said the trees reminded him of the haunted forest in the “Wizard of Oz” (1939), according to Land of Oz representative Sean Barrett.

Debbie Reynolds with Carrie Fisher at the opening of Land of Oz in 1970.

Debbie Reynolds with Carrie Fisher at the opening of Land of Oz in 1970.

Actor Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the film, was at the 1968 groundbreaking , according to the Land of Oz website. Actress Debbie Reynolds, who collected Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film memorabilia, partnered with Robbins to provide some costumes and props from the 1939 film for a small museum located on the amusement park property. Reynolds attended the June 1970 grand opening with her daughter Carrie Fisher. The park originally consisted of one ride, character houses, Emerald City, an amphitheater, shops and a restaurant.

But the amusement park only operated for 10 years. In 1975, a fire crippled the park which destroyed the amphitheater and adjacent shops and restaurants. The museum was also broken into and items such as Dorothy’s original dress were stolen.

The park closed in 1980, but was bought in the 1990s. Now, the park is opened part-time for the yearly fall event.

“Many people think the park is abandoned,” Barrett said. “It’s not abandoned and never was.”

Myself, my parents and the Wizard of Oz characters at Land of Oz

Myself, my parents and the Wizard of Oz characters at Land of Oz

So what is this festival?
I first learned about Autumn at Oz in 2013 and have wanted to go ever since. Unfortunately, I always was too late with ticket purchases and it was always sold out. This year, I bought my ticket the day Autumn at Oz went on sale and was finally able to make it. (Tip: If you’re interested in going, follow their Facebook page and pounce when ticket sales are announced in August)

The night before heading to Autumn of Oz, I pre-gamed for the event by revisiting the film.

Sunday morning on Beech Mountain started out as chilly and foggy. Oz fans loaded up on buses that drove up the mountain to the former amusement park. When you enter the park, everyone is greeted by Dorothy. You then follow a trail where you run into Professor Marvel, Mrs. Gulch and the farm hands before entering Dorothy’s farm home. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry shoo you into the cellar because a storm is coming.

In the tornado

In the tornado

It’s sort of like a fair fun house in the storm cellar with the sounds of the film’s tornado all around you. You exit the tornado into a crooked, disheveled house. On the other side of the rainbow, the coroner is there to inform you that you killed the Wicked Witch of the East.

You hit the Yellow Brick Road where you meet—and take pictures with—the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, Glinda the Good Witch and the Tin Man. The witch’s castle guards divert your path down towards the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle through the haunted woods filled with flying monkeys. You find your way out and end up in Oz to meet the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oops! (Photo by Comet Over Hollywood)

(Photo by Comet Over Hollywood)

It was fun to see the actors in character and watch small children react to each one. After seeing photos online of Land of Oz, my goal for attending Autumn at Oz was to see the old amusement park so I could take photos for Comet Over Hollywood.

The visit lasted two hours from bus ride up the mountain, seeing the sights, meeting the Oz characters and heading back down the mountain. It wasn’t too brief or too long.

While Land of Oz is a fun place for children, most of the attendees were “Wizard of Oz” loving adults.

A film released 77 years ago still touches nostalgic memories for fans and is an important part of childhood for many. Throughout the day, I heard people quoting the film, commenting that they dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween as a child, or would watch it when it aired annually from 1959 to 1991.

“Wizard of Oz” is just one of a long list of films made during the great year of 1939. And while many of the other films still resonate, none of them touched as many lives and generations as the one starring a little girl who realizes there’s no place like home.

Most of the Characters

Professor Marvel

Professor Marvel

Aunt Em

Aunt Em

Miss Gulch

Miss Gulch

The Tin Man

The Tin Man

The Cowardly Lion

The Cowardly Lion

Glenda the Good Witch

Glenda the Good Witch

The witch's guards

The witch’s guards


The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West


Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2016: The Films

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a week since I flew out to Los Angeles for my fifth Hollywood visit and fourth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (TCMFF).

Ready to cover the festival on Thursday night.

Ready to cover the festival on Thursday night.

Last year, my parents joined me for the TCMFF, but this year I traveled solo for the event. I originally announced that I wouldn’t be attending TCMFF this year. Two weeks prior, I was in Washington, D.C. for a Bernard Herrmann festival and wasn’t sure if I could swing it. However, everything happily worked out and I was heading back to Cali-for-i-A again and humming “Going Hollywood.”

I arrived on the Wednesday the day before the festival started, giving me the opportunity to attend a book signing of the film fashion book “Creating the Illusion” by Jay Jorgensen and Donald Scoggins. I was most excited about this presentation because it was held at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which is located in the Laskey-DeMille Barn. Built in 1913, the barn was one of the first studios in Hollywood. In 2006, I tried to visit the museum but it was closed.

The museum had interesting pieces of memorabilia such as Marion Davies’ doll collection, a costume from the 1925 Ben-Hur, and the Charlie Chaplin outfit Gloria Swanson wore in Sunset Blvd.

Marion Davies' doll collection at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

Marion Davies’ doll collection at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

The festival ran from Thursday, April 28 through Sunday, May 1. TCMFF begins in the evening on Thursday with two film slots. There is also a red carpet event where the celebrities attending the festival walk the red carpet before the opening film, which was “All the President’s Men.”

This year, I skipped the first and two films to watch the red carpet attendees and was able to see:

  • Former child star, Darryl Hickman
  • Actor, producer Norman Lloyd
  • Former child star, Ted Donaldson
  • Actress Lee Meriwether
  • Actor and former TCM Essentials host, Alec Baldwin
  • Actress Katharine Houghton
  • Director Roger Corman
  • Actor Louis Gossett
  • Chris Lemmon, son of Jack Lemmon
  • Italian actress Gina Lollobrigdia
Darryl Hickman on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica Pickens)

Darryl Hickman on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica Pickens)

Gina Lollobrigdia on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica P.)

Gina Lollobrigdia on the red carpet (Photo: Jessica P.)

Lee Meriwether on the red carpet.

Lee Meriwether on the red carpet.

The films I saw during throughout the festival included:

    • Los Tallos Amargos (1956)—An Argentinian noir. The title translates to “The Bitter Stems”
    • He Ran All the Way (1951)—John Garfield’s last film before his 1952 death
    • When You’re in Love (1937)—World premiere restoration with special guest Jennifer Grant, Cary Grant’s daughter
    • Batman (1966)—with special guests Lee Meriwether and Adam West
    • Manchurian Candidate (1962)—with special guest Angela Lansbury
    • Roar (1981)—Midnight screening of Tippi Hedren Film
    • 90th anniversary of Vitaphone—A presentation on the dawn of sound and 7 shorts
    • The Long Goodbye (1972)—with special guest Elliot Gould
    • Band of Outsiders (1964)—with special guest Anna Karina
    • Gog (1953)—Midnight showing of 3D restoration
    • One Potato, Two Potato (1964)—with special guest director Larry Peerce
    • Network (1976)—with special guest Faye Dunaway

Of these films, my favorites were “The Long Goodbye” (1972) and “One Potato, Two Potato,” but neither of these were new discoveries for me. In fact, I just watched both in February and March 2016. However, I enjoyed so much on my television that I wanted to revisit both on the big screen, and I don’t regret it. My TV in my apartment is quite small, and when I watched “The Long Goodbye,” I felt like I missed some important nuances at the beginning. The film was gorgeous on the big screen in 35mm, and I loved seeing it with an audience, especially when they started to chuckle when a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in an early role. It was equally cool to see this screening because Elliott Gould was interviewed prior to the film and I also saw him interviewed at Club TCM an hour before.

Elliott Gould interviewed by Alec Baldwin at the Roosevelt Hotel. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Elliott Gould interviewed by Alec Baldwin at the Roosevelt Hotel. (Photo/Jessica P.)

“One Potato, Two Potato” is a very simple film but has a message that’s more powerful than almost any other film I have ever seen. While I was crushed at the ending when I watched it on my TV, I was sobbing in the movie theater.

Of those new-to-me favorites, I really enjoyed “When You’re in Love” with Cary Grant and Grace Moore because it was a fun and humorous musical romp. The 90 years of Vitaphone screening is also in my top two favorite festival moments. Audiences had the opportunity to see Vitaphone shorts that hadn’t been viewed in 87 years! My favorites of the seven shorts were the comedic duo, the Beau Brummels and Baby Rose Marie (who you may know from the Dick Van Dyke Show) singing her heart out. I also really enjoyed “Roar” (1981). It was so bizarre and disturbing, but I also have never laughed so much during a film while not being certain if I should laugh or not. It’s incredibly difficult to describe how you feel while watching it, so I suggest looking it up.

Least Favorites:

Anna Karina with Ben Mankiewicz

Anna Karina with Ben Mankiewicz

Of all the films I watched, I wasn’t a fan of “Band of Outsiders,” which is probably an unpopular opinion. Of the French New Wave filmmakers, I’m a François Truffaut fan (who also used Bernard Herrmann as a composer) and not so much Jean-Luc Godard. It was awesome to see Anna Karina but the film to me dragged. I guess some people would automatically say “It’s because you didn’t get it” because I feel like it’s one of those films people say they liked just to sound smart. But I fell asleep and didn’t feel like I missed much. I also was pretty surprised when Anna Karina said it took three weeks for her male co-stars to learn “The Madison” dance. Maybe it’s because I’m a dancer, but it looked like a dance that anyone could learn in a day.

Films I Regret Not seeing:
There are some time slots that I regret eating during. I most regret missing “Private Property” (1960) because I was eating lunch. Other films landed during films or presentations I was attending. I hate that I missed “A House Divided” (1931), Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934), Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), the documentary “Harold and Lillian,” “I’ve Always Loved You” (1946) and “Repeat Performance” (1947).

Many TCMFF fans missed the 1933 pre-code “Double Harness” starring William Powell and Ann Harding and I was almost shocked by the popularity. It’s a great film and has been shown frequently on TCM since it was restored in April 2007 with several other presumed to be lost films such as Rafter Romance, One Man’s Journey and Stingaree. I guess I figured most TCM viewers had watched it in the past, especially because it aired a few months back during the pre-code festival on TCM. FYI: It’s airing Friday, May 27, at 11 a.m. ET.

Director Francis Ford Coppola during his hand and foot print ceremony. (Photo/Jessica P.)

Director Francis Ford Coppola during his hand and foot print ceremony. (Photo/Jessica P.)

This year I saw the least amount of films I have ever watched at TCMFF. This is partially because I opted for some of the special events like director Francis Ford Coppola’s hand and foot print ceremony (which was attended by director Peter Bogdanovitch), an interview with Elliott Gould held in Club TCM at the Roosevelt Hotel, a presentation on the Art of Film Scores by Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino, and “My First Time in Hollywood” with presentations by Nancy Olson and David Ladd.

Met an old friend in Hollywood

Met an old friend in Hollywood

I also took some time to stop and eat at least one meal a day. For those of you who have never attended, you have to make a difficult decision: Do I eat? Or do I see this really cool film that I’ve never seen before? Since I got sick the last two years, I decided to take a few breaks and not push myself too hard. For example, at my first festival in 2013 (when I was a few years younger), I watched 16 films with no meal breaks. This year I watched 11.

And even while not booking ever slot with a film, it was still an outstanding time. I’ll be back next year, and most likely with my parents.

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

TCM Classic Film Festival Musical Monday: When You’re in Love (1937)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

love2This week’s musical:
“When You’re in Love” (1937)– Musical #547

Columbia Pictures

Robert Riskin

Grace Moore, Cary Grant, Aline MacMahon, Henry Stephenson, Thomas Mitchell, Catherine Doucet, Luis Alberni, Gerald Oliver Smith, Emma Dunn, George C. Pearce, Scotty Beckett (uncreditd)

Opera singer Louise Fuller (Moore) who is stuck in Mexico and needs to get back so she can hold a music festival that she promised her uncle (Stephenson), but she can’t get back into the U.S. Jimmy Hudson (Grant) is unable to pay his hotel bill in Mexico. Fuller and Hudson’s lawyer’s decide the two should get married so they can get home, Fuller pays Hudson’s debts and they could divorce after six months. Though they start off fighting, love blossoms.

-The world premiere of the film’s restoration was at the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.
-Director Robert Riskin wrote and directed the film. It was a very loose retailoring of “It Happened One Night” for Moore, The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures by Bernard F. Dick
-Writer Robert Riskin’s only try at directing

Grace Moore and Cary Grant in "When You're in Love"

Grace Moore and Cary Grant in “When You’re in Love”

-Grace Moore performing Minnie the Moocher

Notable Songs:
-“Minnie the Moocher” performed by Grace Moore
-“Our Song” performed by Grace Moore
-“The Whistling Boy” performed by Grace Moore
-“Vissi D’Arte” performed by Grace Moore

My review:
I’ve seen all of Cary Grant’s films–except for some of his early 1930s movies. Not only was it a treat to finally see this rare film, it was even more amazing to see it on the big screen and in all it’s newly restored glory, thanks to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. I didn’t even arrive at the festival, thinking I would be getting a Musical Monday post out of it.

I really enjoyed “When You’re in Love.” While everyone knows Cary Grant as a huge star, at the time of this film he wasn’t as famous as his operatic leading lady: Grace Moore, a name many people don’t remember today. As I’ve watched musicals over the years, I’ve seen almost all of Miss Moore’s nine films made during her brief Hollywood career and I find her likeable. She’s beautiful and has a gorgeous voice.

Nicknamed the “Tennessee Nightingale,” Moore was a Ziegfeld Girl in the Ziegfeld Follies and had 16 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera. Her Hollywood films helped make opera popular with mainstream audiences. Sadly, Moore died in 1947 at age 48 in a plane crash near Copenhagen.

While watching this movie with an audience, I realized few of them were familiar with Grace Moore. When I saw that “When You’re in Love” paired Cary Grant and Grace Moore, I automatically knew it was a musical. But when leaving the theater, I heard some grumblings of “I didn’t know that was going to be a musical” from fans who only wanted to see Cary Grant.

Grant and Moore are both very funny, and there is a fun scene with Grace Moore performing Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” while Grant plays the piano. Another favorite scene of mine involves Moore singing with a group of children and little uncredited Scotty Beckett is on her lap. There are close-ups of the various children’s faces and some of their reactions were hilarious.

But you can’t give all the credit for this film’s charm to the lead actors. The supporting cast is what really makes the film special, especially Aline MacMahon and Henry Stephenson who are always fantastic. One character actor, elderly George C. Pearce, had what I think was the funniest moment in the film: He answers the phone, asks them to hold on, puts on his glasses, and tells them to go ahead. Funny, because relevant to everyone’s life.

If you have the opportunity to every catch this film, do. It’s great fun and one that we haven’t been able to really enjoy for a long time.

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

Comet in Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2016


Comet will be in Hollywood this week!

We’ll be attending our fourth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, which is Thursday, April 28, through Sunday, May 1.

For those who have never attended, this is like a film 10k — no running (you may power walk between film — but equally as exhausting. From 9 a.m. to after 12 a.m., you watch classic film after classic film with other fans who know and love Cary Grant or Roland Young as much as you do.

Though you are sleep and food deprived (you either watch films, pack snacks or skip a film to eat) the TCM Film Festival is truly Walt Disney World for classic film fans.

There isn’t a great deal of downtime, but I’ll do my best to post while I’m in Hollywood. In addition to this page, here are other ways to follow me:
Twitter: @HollywoodComet
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet
Or here! CometOverHollywood.com

Festival explores radio, film career of composer Bernard Herrmann

Film composer Bernard Herrmann is mostly known for a film that he originally disliked.

“When we left the screening of ‘Psycho,’ he said, ‘Wasn’t that the biggest piece of crap you’ve ever seen?’” said the film composer’s eldest daughter, Dorothy Herrmann. “Daddy had no use for Psycho until it became a cult classic.”

However, those shrieking, staccato violins that played during a rather violent shower scene is may be what he’s best known for.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Dorothy Herrmann spoke last weekend during a Bernard Herrmann festival—from April 15 through April 17—in Washington, D.C. The PostClassical Ensemble, Georgetown University, AFI Silver and the National Gallery of Art co-hosted one of few festivals that celebrates the composer’s life and career in film, radio and symphony.

Along with the weekend celebration, AFI Silver screened films scored by Herrmann throughout the month including “Hangover Square,” “Vertigo” and “The Bride Wore Black.”

Along with myself, fans and Herrmann’s family traveled from Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, North Carolina, California and Pennsylvania, to pay tribute to the composer. During the weekend festival, Herrmann historians and musicologists delved into the composer’s work.

Continue reading

Behind the Screen at the Museum of the Moving Image


The film and television industry have shaped the way society behaves from the way they dress to the toys they play with.

The Museum of the Moving Image, located in Astoria, NY, celebrates TV and film of the past and present through exhibits that highlight everything down to film makeup and costuming, equipment used behind the scenes and the editing process of screenplays.

Exhibits also show where and how it all began from optical toys from the 1800s to early color television cameras.

In late July, I visited the Museum of Moving Image and enjoyed exploring their Behind the Screen exhibit which included everything from sketches by Orson Welles to a Margaret O’Brien doll. Below are photos from the visit:

All Made Up: 


Life masks of actors. The front mask is of Dorothy McGuire in “The Enchanted Cottage” (1945) with Anthony Quinn in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962) to the left. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


A telegram sent by Orson Welles to Maurice Seiderman in reference to make-up–specifically rubber noses–for the film “Compulsion” (1959). Sent in Sept. 1958. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Sketch made by Orson Welles in August 1958 of how he wanted his makeup to look in "Compulsion" (1959).

Sketch made by Orson Welles in August 1958 of how he wanted his makeup to look in “Compulsion” (1959). (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)


Photos of Orson Welles exhibiting the makeup process for “Compulsion” (1959).

Wig worn by Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein (1935). (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Wig worn by Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The white streaks was designed by makeup artist Jack Pierce to suggest her birth by electricity. The wig was made by the Max Factor Company and was reconstructed for the museum of Josephine Turner in 1991 who was the head of the wig-making department at Max Factor from 1935 to 1965. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Wig worn by Bette Davis in “Jezebel” (1938). (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Wig worn by Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” (1963). The wig was designed by MGM’s hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff and constructed by Bill Huntley of Wig Creations in London. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


Script for the Sidney Lumet directed film, “Network” (1976), written by Sidney Chayefsky. The red crayon is Lumet, who would cross out dialogue after it was filmed. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


Replica of Robin Williams’ makeup for “Miss Doubtfire” (1993). (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


Costume worn by Hedy Lamarr as Delilah in “Samson & Delilah” (1949), directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The gown was designed by Edith Head. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

For the Fans and Consumers: 


Various film fan magazines ranging from 1911 to 1980 including: Motion Picture, Photoplay, Picture Play, Motion Picture Classic, Film Fun, Real Screen Fun, Modern Screen, Silver Screen, Screen Romances, Movie Story, Screen and Television Guide, Screenland Plus TV-Land. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)


Lupe Velez on the cover of a October 1931 issue of Picture Play. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Brandon B.)


Bette Davis on the cover of Modern Screen, promoting “The Letter.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)


William S. Hart on the cover of a June issue of Motion Picture.



Shirley Temple and the Dionne Quintuplets on an issue of Modern Screen. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


Exhibiting how films affected the toy industry with film themed board games, dolls and paint books. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


A Pinnochio doll based off of Walt Disney’s 1940 cartoon. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


Silent film actor Rudolph Valentino on 1935 “beautebox.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)


“Our Gang” coloring book. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Doll of child actress Margaret O’Brien (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Lantern slide, which were used during intermission in modern film houses, which were used between 1916 and 1929. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)

Lantern slide, which were used during intermission in modern film houses, which were used between 1916 and 1929. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)



Film promotion posters and programs. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)

Film Cameras: 


Edison 35mm Projecting Kinetoscope, Model D, 1912.


Pathe 35mm Projector from 1905. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)


Edison 35mm Projecting Kinetoscope, 1897. This sold for $100 at the time. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)


Three-strip Technicolor camera, Model EF-2, 1940. (Comet Over Hollywood/Brandon B.)



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