Olympics to Hollywood: Vera Ralston

Vera Hrubá Ralston

At the start of World War II, Olympic athlete Vera Ralston found herself without a country. The Nazis invaded her home country of Czechoslovakia while she was touring in the United States with ice skating shows. The United States became her home, and she turned to acting as her ice skating contemporaries Sonja Henie and Belita had.

Born Vera Hrubá, Vera studied ballet as a child and turned to ice skating when she was 10 years old, according to her 2003 Los Angeles Times obituary.

She competed for Czechoslovakia in the women’s figure skating singles in the 1936 Winter Olympics, which are now famous because of Adolf Hitler’s attendance. Vera came in 17th place at the Olympics.

Continue reading


Turner Classic Film Festival: MacMurray, Harlow, Hitchcock, Bow and Wayne



Friday (April 26) is the first full day of the Turner Classic Film Festival and it has been amazing.
Above is a photo of Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (1947).
The next photo is the ceiling of the Egyptian Theater where I saw “Notorious” (1946) and “It” (1927).
Today’s films that I saw:
-Libeled Lady (1936) starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. I’ve seen it several times and can say its a favorite comedy of mine.
TCM’s Scott McGee introduced the film and said, “Screwball comedy is a lost art” which I would agree with.
Libeled Lady was advertised the first “all-star cast” since Dinner at Eight, McGee said.
It’s really amazing to sit in a theater where people applaud when Harlow comes on screen and die with laughter during Powell’s trout fishing scene.
-Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) starring Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray.
I LOVED this one. A really fun comedy about a couple who decides to get a divorce in 1941 but both serve during WW2. When they return, Goddard, who’s career as a WAC is giving marriage advice, isn’t so sure about the divorce but MacMurray already has a new bride picked out.
MacMurray’s daughter Kate spoke before the movie and told wonderful stories such as:
-John Wayne set up her parents June Haver and Fred MacMurray at a costume party. MacMurray’s previous wife had passed away as did Haver’s boyfriend.
“Mother was dressed as a saloon girl, maybe that’s what did it,” MacMurray said.
-MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-After making The Apartment-where he plays a cad-the MacMurray family was at DisneyLand. A woman approached him and hit him with her purse because she had taken her family to see the movie. “That wasn’t a Disney movie,” she told him. MacMurray felt uncomfortable playing his roles in Billy Wilder films “The Apartment” and “Double Indemnity” since they weren’t his customary nice guy, comedic roles.
-Carole Lombard got him a raise at Paramount
-Haver met MacMurray before the costume party while making a film. Haver said he was so sweet and would bring his lunch, usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Rose McGowan spoke before the film and said it was a favorite of her’s. Hitchcock’s creative shots looked excellent on the big screen, but I must confess I dozed off. Not because I was bored but the 3 hour time change and lack of food (there’s literally no time to eat) made me tired.

-It (1927) starring Clara Bow. This was the first time I had seen a silent film with a live orchestra accompanying and it was AMAZING. Biographer David Stenn who wrote “Clara Bow: Running Wild” spoke before the film and called her a “great natural talent of movies.”
It is a really fun silent film, which coined Bow as the “It” girl. But as a dachshund owner, my favorite line is “I feel so low I could walk underneath a dachshund on stilts.”

-Hondo (1954): starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page. This was the first 3D movie I’ve EVER seen. It was amazing. I’ve always said She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was my favorite Wayne film but seeing Hondo for a second time may have changed my mind. The film is a perfect example of Wayne’s ruggedness and western appeal as he fights off the Apaches. In short, John Wayne is my ideal man.

That’s all for tonight! I opted to skip out on the midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space to gear up for tomorrow’s films.
For updates during the day: check me out on Twitter @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens. If you don’t have a twitter account, you should still be able to find me even by googling my name and Twitter.
Apologies in advanced for any typos. I’m using WordPress on my phone which is slightly cumbersome.

“I felt so low I could walk under a dachshund on stilts”

Dachshunds are probably the cutest dog to ever walk the planet. Maybe I’m a little biased, but their foot long torsos, stubby little legs, floppy ears and clown-like mischievousness is hard to resist. No wonder so many actors and actresses had these adorable hot dogs.

I generally don’t do long strings of photo posts, but I have noticed that lots of these cute German dogs pop up in movies and in celebrity homes. I also am really homesick for my best four-legged friend, Molly. Here is a list of stars who had these cute dogs:

*The quote above is from the Clara Bow silent film “It” (1927)

Fatty Arbuckle

Joan Blondell

French Charles Boyer and English Ronald Colman cuddle the little German

Claudette Colbert

Joan Crawford and her famous Baby and Boopshem

Marion Davies and her dachsie

Brian Donlevy

Clark Gable

Jean Harlow and her pup

Walter Huston and his dog spending quality time

Alan Ladd with his two children

Diana Lewis (aka Mrs. William Powell) and her doggie

Carole Lombard (Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had dachshunds together)

Julie London

Adolphe Menjou and his puppy

William Powell

Romy Schneider

Dean Stockwell

Anna May Wong

Even The Duke had a dachshund

Author of the blog and her dachshund Molly, Christmas 2009


Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page or Follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet

Happy 4th of July, Pilgrim

Today we celebrate the birth of America. I thought about what makes me think “Now that’s America” when I watch old movies. Here are a few things that I thought of:

John Wayne looking VERY attractive in “Stagecoach” (1939).

John Wayne: What other actor is so widely known and associated with America? His roles are usually a cowboy or a soldier. My favorite role of his is from “They Were Expendable” which is probably one of the best World War 2 movies along with “Battleground.”
Many of my friends and others have criticized John Wayne as always playing the same role, or playing himself. I personally don’t see the issue with this when so many of today’s actors like Katherine Hegel or Jennifer Aniston play the same role over and over again. The only difference is John Wayne played meaningful, strong and manly roles while those actresses are always dizzy, confused dames. To me, John All-America actor. He even played football in college, what could be more American than that?

Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple in my favorite movie, “Since You Went Away” (1944)

The 1940s: Another thing that embodies America is the 1940s war era. I suppose I am a bit romantic about patriotism because I crave a patriotism that no longer exists. During World War II, men were willing to fight for the country and those on the home front who couldn’t fight did all they could to help out. Victory Gardens were grown, cooking grease was saved and sent to the military, women sacrificed their silk stockings and painted their legs. People gave up daily luxuries that people today would refuse to give up.

LIFE magazine: LIFE magazine used to be the top publication. I can’t think of a magazine published today that can compare to LIFE. It showed the world the truth about war, the current fashions and let them in on celebrity lives. Even more so, it was a magazine that was started to revolve around photo journalism. It has some of the best photos and photographers like Robert Capa who showed us what war really was.

Harry James in “Best Foot Foward”

Other things:
-Pin-Up girls: Betty Grable, Esther Williams or Rita Hayworth. They all had sex appeal, but that same attainable, girl next door quality.
-Big Band music: No one can play a trumpet better than Harry James and Tommy Dorsey always seemed like one of the most likeable fellows. Glenn Miller even died while he was flying to a USO show during World War II.-Irving Berlin: Jerome Kern once said, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music, he is American music.” The man wrote “White Christmas”, “Cheek to Cheek” and “Putin’ on the Ritz”, who else can you say that about?

Also happy birthday to: Louis B. Mayer, George M. Cohan, George Murphy, Gloria Stewart, Eva Marie Saint and Stephen Boyd.

Happy 4th of July!

Ziegfeld girls in 1936

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

Hollywood Dads and Star Babies

On Father’s Day we remember the times dad taught us to drive, checked our oil and watched “Calamity Jane” with us.  I would also like to remember Hollywood fathers that had children who also went on to have film careers.  Here are a few of my favorite Hollywood families.

Like father, like son:

John and Patrick Wayne in “The Searchers” (1956)

John Wayne and Patrick Wayne-

Can you think of a more attractive father and son? Patrick Wayne had big cowboy boots to fill but had a modest career as an actor. Patrick was born in 1939, when his father made one of his most successful films “Stagecoach.”  Patrick was 11 when he made his first film, “Rio Grande” with his father. John and his son were in the ten films together including:
Rio Grande” (1950),”The Quiet Man” (1952), “The Searchers” (1956), “The Conqueror” (1956), “The Alamo” (1960), “The Comancheros” (1960), “Donovan’s Reef” (1963), “McLintock” (1963), “The Green Berets” (1968) and “Big Jake” (1971).

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. in 1936 on the set of “Jump for Glory”


Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.-

Another attractive, father and son duo: Douglas Fairbank Sr. and Jr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was born into Hollywood royalty. Daddy Fairbanks was one of the silent screen’s biggest idols and Junior became a heart-throb (at least mine, he is my desktop background).
“I never tried to emulate my father. Anyone trying to do that would be a second-rate carbon copy,” Fairbanks Jr. said. However, both men were known for their swashbuckling roles.
Jr. had a successful career, best known for his role with Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen in “Gunga Din” (1939) and “Sinbad the Sailor” (1947).
Both men were married to some of Hollywood’s top actresses. Senior to Mary Pickford-their estate was known as “Pickfair”- and Junior to Joan Crawford.

Ed and Keenan Wynn in 1948 at a hospital charity event.

Ed Wynn and Keenan Wynn-

Not as handsome, but definitely funny.  Keenan helped his father Ed get a Hollywood career, according to IMDB.  Keenan always played the pal, heel or funny man in the movies while Ed was the bumbling clown.  The father and son team were in the Disney movies “The Absent Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber” together in the 1960s.



 Daddy’s little girl:

John and Hayley Mills-

“Acting is just a natural thing in my family. Other boys and girls go into the family business. So do we,” Hayley said.
John Mills had a successful career in England starring in films like “This Happy Breed” and”Hobson’s Choice.”
Hayley’s made success in Disney movies such “Pollyanna” and “Parent Trap.” Dad cashed in at Disney in the movie “Swiss Family Robinson’s” playing the father.
The two were in the 1959 thriller “Tiger Bay” and the 1966 comedy/drama “The Family Way.”

Robert and Elizabeth Montgomery

Robert and Elizabeth Montgomery-

Robert Montgomery started in movies when talkies shook Hollywood. He shocked audiences with Norma Shearer in the sex comedy/drama “The Divorcee” (1930). He showed war wasn’t all patrotism and glamour in “They Were Expendable” (1945) and let audiences see how he solved a murder through his eyes literally (we only saw his face in the movie a few times) in “Lady in the Lake” (1947).

In contrast, his daughter Elizabeth, starred in the wholesome 1960s television series, “Bewitched.”  Elizabeth got her start after appearing on several episodes of her father’s series, “Robert Montgomery Presents,” according to IMDB.  “I guess you could say I’m a TV baby,” Elizabeth said.

Alfred and Patricia Hitchcock-

The master of suspense had one daughter. Patricia didn’t have a huge film career, but she did act in three films that her father directed. Her largest role was as Barbara, Ruth Roman’s little sister, in “Strangers in a Train” (1951).  She also had a bit role in “Stage Fright” (1950), was a secretary in “Psycho” (1961) and appeared in several episodes of “Alfred Hitchcok Presents.”

Some actors are less than complementary about Hitch, but he and Patricia had a good relationship. The book “Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism” analyzes “Stage Fright,” comparing Patricia’s and Jane Wyman’s similar appearances. The joking but loving father-daughter relationship between  Wyman and her father in the film characterized Patricia and Hitchcock’s relationship, according to the book.     Other film fathers:-Edgar Bergen: puppet, Charlie McCarthy and daughter, Candice-Lloyd Bridges: sons Beau and Jeff-Lon Chaney: son Lon Chaney, Jr. of “Of Mice and Men” (1939) fame-Tony Curtis: daughter Jamie Lee-Kirk Douglas:  son, Michael-Henry Fonda: son Peter, daughter Jane-Rance Howard: songs Clint and Ron-Walter Huston: director son, John-Robert Keith: son, Brian of “Family Affair” and “Parent Trap” fame-Gordon MacRea: daughter, Meredith of “Petticoat Junction” fame-Joel McCrea: son, Jody of beach movie fame-Vincent Minnelli: daughter, Liza-Lyle Talbot: son Stephen (Gilbert from “Leave it to Beaver”)

Happy Father’s day to the star of our household, my dad, who has to put up with three daughters and their shopping, complaining and movie musicals. Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.