Carroll Baker: An interview on “Baby Doll” and Hollywood’s studio days

Carroll Baker will be attending a screening of “Baby Doll” (1956) this weekend, Saturday, Aug. 17, in Winston-Salem, NC through the RiverRun Retro film series. Following the film, Ms. Baker will be interviewed by film historian Foster Hirsch. Learn more about how to get tickets.

Today, Ms. Baker is retired from films and is now an author. Her fourth book, Who Killed Big Al?, was published this May.

I interviewed Ms. Baker on the phone about her career and upcoming appearance:

Comet Over Hollywood:
Have you ever done anything with River Run Film before?

Carroll Baker:
My daughter has. Um, she, she does the short films with her students. She’s an acting teacher. She went to the festival (River Run International Film Festival) last year, and I think she’ll go again this year. Then Rob came to New York. And then he came up with this incredible thing of doing, uh, and evening with just me. They do wonderful stuff. So the screening will be of “Baby Doll” and then Foster Hirsch, a film historian, will interview me, and we will talk about my new book, “Who Killed Big Al?”

Comet Over Hollywood:
I had some questions about your career that I was going to ask. So we’ll start kind of at the beginning of it all. What made you get into acting? What interested you about the craft?

Actress Carroll Baker in the 1950s

Carroll Baker:
Well, you know, this is a long story. My mother and father had divorced, and I was living with my father in Pennsylvania. We didn’t have very much money. And when I graduated from high school, I was working in a factory. All my girlfriends had gone to university. The boy I was in love with went to university. And, and I said to myself, “I’m just not going to be stuck in this small town working in a factory.”

Because of my mother, I had taken dancing lessons. So when I was off work, I would go to our attic, which had a wooden floor. I used to tap, tap, tap and follow Ann Miller’s routines. So then my mother said, “Well, why don’t you come for a while and stay in Florida with me?” Well, that was terrific, because in Florida they have every conceivable club, like the Lions Club. And I got my first engagement there dancing. I earned $20. I kept getting dancing engagements and went to beauty contests.

We went to Daytona Beach and there was an International Convention of Magicians. There was this one magician, named Burling Hull and he called himself the Great Volta. So He was retired, and he didn’t have an assistant. He said, “I’m inventing acts now, and I’ve invented an act that’s just for a woman. It’s the magic jewel act.” So I went to stay with he and his wife and practiced really hard. And learned how to do this magic act. And this ties me into North Carolina! I was booked on Kemp Time, which was one of the last vestiges of vaudeville. It was a western show. Everybody famous you could think of was in it, like Elvis Presley. Virginia Mayo did her act with Pansy the Horse.

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Watching 1939: Each Dawn I Die (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Each Dawn I Die (1939)

Release date: July 22, 1939

Cast: James Cagney, George Raft, Jane Bryan, Victor Jury, Louis Jean Heydt, Alan Baxter, Maxie Rosenbloom, Stanley Ridges, Paul Hurst, Thurston Hall, Willard Robertson, Edward Pawley, Pete Wray, George Brancroft

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: William Keighley

Plot:
Reporter Frank Ross (Cagney) is hot on the trail of a story that will expose corruption in the district attorney’s office. To stop him from writing further, the district attorney’s frames him in a murder and Frank lands in jail.

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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.

Musical Monday: The West Point Story (1950)

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.

This week’s musical: The West Point Story (1950) – Musical #336

Studio: Warner Brothers

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Doris Day, Gene Nelson, Alan Hale Jr., Roland Winters, Jerome Cowan

Plot:
Broadway director Bix Bixby (Cagney) is down on his luck because he has a problem with betting on horse races. Gambling prevents him from getting a good show and from marrying his sweetheart Eve (Mayo). Bixby is persuaded by a producer to help put on an all-male show at West Point Military Academy because the producer wants his nephew, Tom (MacRae) to leave the Academy and come perform on Broadway. Coming from a show business background, Bixby has a hard time understanding the cadets and their schedules. He’s thrown off campus and is only allowed to come back if he enrolls as a cadet.

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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!

Memorial Day Musical Monday: Hollywood Canteen (1944)

Musical:
Hollywood Canteen” (1944) –Musical #139

Sierra Exif JPEG

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Delmar Davies

Starring:
Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton, Dane Clark
Cameos:
Bette Davis, John Garfield ,The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Jack Carson, Joan Crawford, Helmut Dantine, Faye Emerson, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Sr., Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Dorothy Malone, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Eleanor Parker, Roy Rogers (with Trigger), S.Z. Sakall, Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Dorsey, Donald Woods, Andrea King, Joyce Reynolds and The Golden Gate Quartet.

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Musical Monday: Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930)

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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.

This week’s musical:
Sweet Kitty Bellairs –Musical #358

Sweet_Kitty_Bellairs_1930_Poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Claudia Dell, Ernest Torrence, Walter Pidgeon, Perry Askam, June Collyer

Plot:
Flirtatious Kitty Bellairs (Dell) goes to Bath, England, on holiday and all the men are after her, including Lord Varney (Pidgeon). Though she’s a flirt, she sings “in spite of my thirty or forty affairs, I’ve lost not a bit of my virtue.” On her way to Bath, her carriage is stopped by a robber who says he won’t rob her if he gives her a kiss. While Kitty is visiting her friend Julia (Collyer), her husband Lord Standish (Torrence) leaves her. Kitty gives Julia the advice to gussy up and pretend that she has a lover, which works in making Lord Standish jealous.

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Trivia:
-This film was announced to be in Technicolor in a April 11, 1930 news brief. “Although it was reported last week, that the production was to be done in black and white, a last minute dispatch from the coast states the final decision to be in Technicolor.” Though the film was shot entirely in Technicolor, only a black and white print survives.

Highlights:
–Walter Pidgeon singing

Notable Songs:
-Highwayman Song performed by Perry Askam
-My Love, I’ll Be Waiting for You performed by Claudia Dell and Walter Pidgeon
-You, I Love But You performed by Claudia Dell
-Dueling Song performed by Ernest Torrence, Perry Askam, Edgar Norton, Lionel Belmore, Douglas Gerrard and others

Walter Pidgeon in costume for "Sweet Kitty Bellair"

Walter Pidgeon in costume for “Sweet Kitty Bellair”

My Review:
Somehow these early talkie films-whether they are musical, drama or comedy- are tiresome to me. “Sweet Kitty Bellairs” is better than most of them, but still not outstanding. It’s a humorous little musical romp lasting only an hour long. I believe it’s brief length is the only reason it’s bearable.
It has the added bonus of seeing early Walter Pidgeon and we get to hear Pidgeon and Ernest Torrence sing.
The story itself got poor reception in 1930 but received high praise for it’s color film.
It’s just disappointing the the Technicolor print no longer exists.

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