Olympics to Hollywood: Bruce Bennett/Herman Brix

Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix? He went by either name

You may know him as actor Bruce Bennett who played Joan Crawford’s ex-husband in Mildred Pierce (1945) or perhaps as yet another actor who played Tarzan. Others know him by his birth name Herman Brix, which he was using when he won an Olympic silver medalist.

Before the Olympics and Hollywood, Bennett played football for the University of Washington when they competed in 1926 Rose Bowl Game against the University of Alabama. In that game he played against future actor Johnny Mack Brown, who was half back for Alabama. Alabama won the game 20-19.

In 1928, Herman Brix competed on the United States team in the Summer Olympic games in Amsterdam—also attended by Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe—and won a silver medal for men’s shot put in the track and field portion of the games. Brix threw the shot put 15.75 meters, breaking the world shot put record with his toss. But  then his teammate John Kuck followed with a throw that set a new world record. Kuck won the gold.

Herman Brix competing in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

Herman Brix competing in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

1928 Olympic Track and Field Ceremony: USA's John Kuck with the gold, German's Emil Hirschfeld with the bronze and USA's Herman Brix with the silver.

1928 Olympic Track and Field Ceremony: USA’s John Kuck with the gold, German’s Emil Hirschfeld with the bronze and USA’s Herman Brix with the silver.

Bennett started his film career in 1931, putting his football skills to use as a football extra in “Touchdown!” (1931). He broke his shoulder during the filming which kept him from making the United States team for the 1932 Los Angeles games. It also caused him to lose the role of “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932) to another Olympian: Johnny Weissmuller.

Bennett later had the opportunity to play Tarzan in “The New Adventures of Tarzan” (1935) and “Tarzan and the Green Goddess” (1938), billed as Herman Brix.

Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t pleased with Johnny Weissmuller’s inarticulate, “crude” representation and preferred Bennett for the role, according to Bennett’s 2007 New York Times obituary.

Playing Tarzan and billed as Herman Brix

Playing Tarzan and billed as Herman Brix

“So when Mr. Brix’s Tarzan is discovered by explorers in the 1935 movie “The New Adventures of Tarzan,” he intones: “Why, yes, I’m Tarzan, also known as Lord Greystoke. How may I help you?,” his obituary said.

He acted under the name Herman Brix—the name that originally made him famous—from 1931 to 1939. He then changed it to Bruce Bennett and acted in nearly 100 films.

“I realized the name Herman Brix was associated with Tarzan, so I made up a list of seven or eight names and asked people which they liked best. Bruce Bennett was the name I came up with,” Bennett told his 2001 biographer, Mike Chapman.

Along with “Mildred Pierce” (1945), Bennett’s other notable films include “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) with Humphrey Bogart, “A Stolen Life” (1946) with Bette Davis and “Nora Prentiss” (1947) with Ann Sheridan.

While Hollywood and acting was a large part of his life—from 1931 to 1973— so were athletics. When Bennett passed away, he requested memorial donations to the Olympic Committee.

Billed as Bruce Bennett with Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce" (1945)

Billed as Bruce Bennett with Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce” (1945)

But he was most proud of his marriage to his wife Jeannette for 67 years, who passed away in 2000, he told the University of Washington Alumni Magazine in 2002.

It’s a little confusing about which name to call him. He rose to fame as an athlete with the name Herman Brix and his Hollywood career was most profitable with the name Bruce Bennett. His son Christopher Brix told the Los Angeles Times in 2007 that he answered to either name.

“He’d answer to either name,” Christopher Brix said. “I think he was proud of both.”

He went by either Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix. Pictured in 1993 with his shot put and a photo of himself from the Olympics.

He went by either Bruce Bennett or Herman Brix. Pictured in 1993 with his shot put and a photo of himself from the Olympics.

Don’t miss our other Olympic spotlights:

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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

Favorites:
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

Comet in Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2016

tcmff16

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

Upcoming Comet blogathon: Child Stars

Hello folks,

No, this isn’t an April Fools joke.  Comet Over Hollywood is hosting it’s second blogathon.

It’s been nearly a year since I held my first blogathon: “Gone Too Soon” honoring actors who passed away before the age of 50.

Child stars in "Our Gang"

Child stars in “Our Gang”

My sophomore blogathon effort will be recognizing child stars.

This includes any child actor or actress who performed in films or on television. Topics can vary from a specific individual, non-profits who help young actors or to general treatment of children in the Golden Era.

This post is to gauge interest, but if you would like to go ahead and reserve your topic, feel free to leave a comment doing so.

I’m scheduling the blogathon Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, 2013.

I look forward to hearing your post ideas and will post blog banners in mid-April. Thank you all for reading Comet Over Hollywood.

Love,

Jessica

Those interested so far:

Comet Over Hollywood– Review of Dickie Moore’s book “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (And Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car) and review of Annette Funicello’s book “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”

My Love of Old Hollywood- Freddie Bartholomew

Journeys in Classic Films-Natalie Wood or Sandra Dee

Hollywood Revue Blog – Baby Peggy

A Person in the Dark– Hayley Mills

The Motion Pictures– Skippy Homeier

The Filmelist 

Portraits by Jenni – Jane Withers

Girls Do Film– Jackie Coogan

Critica Retro– Dean Stockwell and Roddy MacDowall

Aurora’s Gin Joint– George Winslow

Silver Screenings– Billy Chaplin

The Lady Eve– Tommy Kirk

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.

Easter at the Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl has held historic performances from Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1934 to the Beatles in 1964 and 1965.

It also holds an Easter sunrise service every year.

The tradition started in 1919 when silent film stars held a sunrise service near the area of the Hollywood Bowl. The service was then moved to the site in 1921, when the Bowl was basically a rocky, weedy hillside that had excellent natural acoustics, according to the Hollywood Bowl’s website.

Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 1921.

Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 1921.

At the 1921 service, the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed and over 800 people attended.

In 1922, the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed for 50,000 at the Easter Service and the Hollywood Bowl officially opened four months later on July 11, 1922.

Easter Service in 1922 with 50,000 people in attendance.

Easter Service in 1922 with 50,000 people in attendance.

The shell on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, in 1928 but seems to have been removed for the service.

Hollywood Bowl Easter service in 1928

Hollywood Bowl Easter service in 1928

The Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service is held every year but has been canceled at least three times in recent years: in the mid-1990s for renovations, 2010 due to lack of funding and 2012 for maintenance on the Hollywood Bowl, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Ariel view of the 1929 Easter service

Ariel view of the 1929 Easter service

Mary Pickford attends the Hollywood Bowl Easter Service in 1953 on her 61 birthday. She is recites the "Salutation to the Dawn."

Mary Pickford recites “Salutation to the Dawn” in 1953 on her 61 birthday.

17,000 attend the service in 1956

17,000 attend the service in 1956

Easter service in 1962

Easter service in 1962

Happy Easter everyone!

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Evolution of a classic film fanatic

It started with a girl named Maria and a boy named Tony who thought something was coming. That’s what I usually tell people when they ask how I became a classic movie fan: it happened on a fateful March evening in 2003 when I saw “West Side Story” (1961). I became obsessed, end of story.

But my “West Side Story” obsession (which is a whole other blog post) isn’t even close to where my classic film education began. Let’s travel back in time to 1988, the year I was born. Or maybe 1991, I would have been a bit more coherent to films at age three.

My parents introduced my two older sisters and me to classic film at an early age. Some of these movies were Disney movies like “Lady and the Tramp” or “Swiss Family Robinson” or family friendly movies like “White Christmas” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Tom Drake and Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944)

I  distinctly remember watching “Meet Me in St Louis” when I was five or six and thinking that Judy Garland looked pretty or laughing at Julie Newmar’s name “Dorcas” in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

Basically classics have always been in my life, but as a child I never realized that they were old and thought all of these wonderful movies were brand new.

My real interest in movies started when I was in third grade and I saw the cartoon version of “Anastasia” on a rainy November day in 1997. No this isn’t a classic movie, but it started a long line of movie obsessions to come.  I mean, I even thought I was somehow the lost princess Anastasia Romanov. I was hooked.

Fast-forward to middle school. I became interested in shows on TVLand, The Monkees and 1960s pop culture. I was interested in anything old, and naturally gravitated towards movies, which is probably where it all began.

But the real gateway drug to the classic film addiction was “West Side Story” (1961). On an evening in March 2003, my dad said, “You like musicals and old movies; you should see ‘West Side Story.’” He later said he created a monster and wasn’t joking at all.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” (1961), the film I was obssessed with for two years.

From “West Side Story,” I snowballed into a musical love and I went out of my way to tape them off the television. I started a new musical list that is  still growing at 390 titles.

I then found actors I liked, like Doris Day and Jane Powell, and wanted to see their movies and the interest just grew and grew and grew. Now, I’m not obsessed with one particular actor or movie, it’s more that I’m crazy about the whole classic film shebang.

As a rule I only watch movies from the beginning of film to the mid-1960s. Pre-code movies are great because their vulgarity is done in a tongue-and-check way that sometimes can go by unnoticed if you aren’t paying attention. Once you get into the 1960s and beyond, the plots run thin in an attempt to be artistic, nudity isn’t rare and morals go out the window. Also actors from the Golden Era were fading away and the studio system was crumbling.

I guess if I had to make an analogue with how it all started, “West Side Story” would have been that first beer that led me into old movie alcoholism. It didn’t matter what I watched as long as it fulfilled my movie viewing needs. I think my viewing is a bit more mature than that now. Sure I still watch a few clunkers, or watch a stinker movie for the sake of fulfilling a classic actor list (like “Night of the Demon” for Dana Andrews) but it is just all part of the experience.

What kind of movie fan am I now?

•I make monthly lists from Now Playing to tape; usually 30 to 40 movies a month. We use A LOT of VHS tapes.

•I only buy books, paper dolls, posters or anything of that nature that is movie related. I often search Ebay for classic film memorabilia, and as much as I would enjoy Lana Turner’s evening bag from “Imitation of Life”, as a 21-year-old college student, that really isn’t in my budget.

•I don’t have any real obsession now. I have my favorite movies, actors and actresses but no one that I hyperventilate over when I think about them. I guess the only movie that would come close to that is “Since You Went Away” or the actor Van Johnson.

•I want to meet Robert Osborne one day. He is my hero and I think we would

Robert Osborne: My hero

be best friends. Robert, if you just happen to be reading this, let’s meet in Atlanta and have lunch, okay? I’m just in South Carolina so it’s not that far.

•I’ve come to realize that the Hollywood I dreamed about in middle school and early high school is non-existent now. I used to dream about going to Hollywood and thinking it would be like it was during the Golden Era: clean, historically preserved and bowing down to Hollywood greats like Joan Crawford. My family took a family vacation there in 2006 and I’ve realized there is nothing for me there. Hollywood is not interested in preserving history, and even though the Hollywood Bowl was cool, it’s not like Kathryn Grayson will be singing a concert there ever again.

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