Travels with My Parents: TCMFF Through New Eyes

I returned to Hollywood by way of North Carolina last week for my third Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). I was excited to visit with my fellow film lovers and bloggers, hear classic film stars discuss their careers, and watch films on the big screen- the way they should be seen.

But this year had a new layer of excitement: My parents were joining me for their first ever TCMFF. After going to the festival on my own for two years, my travel buddies were the people who originally introduced me to classic film when I was a baby.

After we left Hollywood, I realized our only photo together was documenting their first In-N-Out Burger experience. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

After we left Hollywood, I realized our only photo together was documenting their first In-N-Out Burger experience. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

This wasn’t Mom and Dad’s first time in Hollywood. My family took a trip to Los Angeles in 2006, so they were familiar with the craziness of Hollywood Boulevard complete with people dressed in disheveled Spongebob costumes or impersonating Prince’s singing.

Since my first year at TCMFF, I knew they needed to come. After two years of care giving for my grandmother and her estate, my parents took a much needed vacation to what like to call “The Disney World of Classic Film.”

We pretty much stuck together the whole festival, because we shared similar interests in the films that we watched. These are their post festival reactions:

Julie Andrews was wisked quickly down the red carpet before "Sound of Music." (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Julie Andrews was wisked quickly down the red carpet before “Sound of Music.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Mom (Lisa):
I really had a good time. I enjoyed seeing a lot of the movies and meeting all of the bloggers of websites that I have been reading for so long. My favorite was the Disney film “So Dear to My Heart,” because it was such a sweet, simple story and I really enjoyed it. It would be nice if Disney would put it out on DVD. My other favorite was “Why Be Good?” with Colleen Moore. It’s almost 90 years old and it raised a lot of the same concerns that you see now, which I thought was interesting. I also really liked “Reign of Terror.” We were one of the last people in the theater and by pure accident we were on the front row, five feet away from where Norman Lloyd was going to be interviewed. Errol Flynn’s family sat beside us during “The Sea Hawk,” which was also really cool. I loved hearing Jane Withers speak during the Hollywood Homes Movies at the Roosevelt because she was a hoot. I also loved seeing Sophia Loren. We were two rows away and she looked fantastic. The overall festival was a great experience. It was very well done and everybody there was very friendly and helpful. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t enjoy, except I wish I could have seen even more films. We will definitely have to go back another year to see Robert Osborne. I hope he’s feeling better so he can be there. I would love to hear his interviews.

Actress Sophia Loren being interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz before "Marriage Italian Style" (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Actress Sophia Loren being interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz before “Marriage Italian Style” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Dad (Bill):
The two movies I enjoyed the most were “Why Be Good?” and “Don’t Bet on Women.” I liked the earlier movies, because it was interesting to see that many of the ideas between then and now are relatively the same. Cinematically, my favorite was “Psycho.” It was really worked well on the big screen. It’s one of my favorite films, and I have never seen it on the big screen. The way it was presented was very impactful. I enjoyed all of the interviews we saw. Norman Lloyd was interesting because he is 100 years old and has amazing commentary with all of his stories. He has worked with so many different people! I enjoyed seeing Sophia Loren, because she is truly an icon. I have heard about her since I was a kid and it was amazing seeing her in person. The whole film festival was very organized. My only disappointment was there were several movies that I wanted to see all scheduled at the same time and I couldn’t see them all.

I always love meeting and visiting with readers, film fans and fellow blogger friends. My favorite film of the whole trip was “Reign of Terror,” a new-to-me film. It was my top pick of the festival and I was thrilled that I was able to see it; I was actually the last person who got into the theater before they filled up. The cinematography by John Alton under the direction of Anthony Mann was breathtaking and innovative. I enjoy Robert Cummings as an actor and loved having the opportunity to see him in darker role. “Reign of Terror” is unique, because it is a mix of film noir set during the French Revolution with some humor mixed in; not something you come across very often. Character actor Arnold Moss was probably my favorite character in the film as the delicious snake-in-the-grass Fouché. He had all the best lines.

Robert Cummings and Arnold Moss in "Reign of Terror."

Robert Cummings and Arnold Moss in “Reign of Terror.”

Another notable feature about TCMFF is you have the opportunity to see several films that either haven’t been seen in many years, because they were lost or in a restoration process, or it’s a screening of the restoration’s debut. It’s always a special experience to watch a silent film with a live accompaniment, but it was extra special to be there for Carl Davis’s premiere of the new score for “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” Live accompaniments may not be anything new for some people but that is something you seldom (or never) experience in many areas of the southeast.

Along with my parents joining, this year was a little different, because I had a few new experiences. We got into Los Angeles a little earlier and had the opportunity to do a little sight seeing. It was also my first year in the bleachers watching the red carpet events. It was fun cheering for Julie Andrews, Shirley Jones, and even the passholders, as they entered Gruaman’s Chinese Theater. I also took some time to see the handprint ceremony with Christopher Plummer, who seemed like a gentleman. It was a hilarious coincidence that I ended up sitting beside Errol Flynn’s grandson, Sean, in “The Sea Hawk.”

The 2015 TCMFF may be my favorite year so far, because nine of the 14 films I saw were new-to-me. The only downside was that TCM host Robert Osborne was unable to attend. Along with all of his other fans, I send warm wishes for a speedy recovery.

Shirley Jones on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Shirley Jones on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Queen Christina (1933)
Sea Hawk (1940)
Reign of Terror (1949)
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Why Be Good? (1929)
So Dear to My Heart (1948)
Air Mail (1932)
The Loved One (1965)
Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
Don’t Bet On Women (1931)
Psycho (1960)
Marriage Italian Style (1964)

Christopher Plummer exits Grauman's Chinese before his handprint ceremony. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Christopher Plummer exits Grauman’s Chinese before his handprint ceremony. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Special Guests:
Robert Morse- red carpet and “The Loved One”
Shirley Jones- red carpet
Marty Ingles- red carpet
Diane Baker- red carpet
Norman Lloyd- red carpet and “Reign of Terror”
Film editor, Anne V. Coates- red carpet
Julie Andrews- red carpet
Christopher Plummer- red carpet and his handprint ceremony
William Shatner – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Shirley MacLaine – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Alex Trebek – Plummer’s handprint ceremony
Errol Flynn’s daughter, Rory Flynn- “The Sea Hawk”
Errol Flynn’s grandson, Sean Flynn (Sean and Rory sat next to me in The Sea Hawk)
Peter Fonda- “Young Mr. Lincoln”
Film Historian, Leonard Maltin
Composer Carl Davis – “Steamboat Bill Jr.
George Lazenby- “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
Director Tom Schiller- “Nothing Lasts Forever”
Zach Galligan- “Nothing Lasts Forever”
Director Edgar Wright- “Psycho”
Sophia Loren – “Marriage Italian Style”


Norman Lloyd on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Norman Lloyd on the red carpet at TCMFF. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

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Woman of a Thousand Faces: Remembering Eleanor Parker

Eleanor Parker as the Baroness in "Sound of Music" (1965).

Eleanor Parker as the Baroness in “Sound of Music” (1965).

Today’s audiences know her as the Baroness; the mean blond who was Julie Andrews’ romantic rival in “The Sound of Music” (1965).

Though her role in the 1965 musical is memorable, the talents of Eleanor Parker are so much more than that.

Parker started out at Warner Brothers studios in the early 1940s. She was fresh faced, pretty and red-headed.

Born in Ohio, Parker moved to Hollywood in 1942 and was discovered while sitting in the audience at the Pasadena Community Playhouse by a Warner Brothers talent scout, according to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen.

Parker’s first role was in 1941, a deleted scene in the Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland film “They Died With Their Boots On.” This role was followed by short films, bit parts and B-movies. One of these early jobs included a voice on a record to a soldier husband in the Cary Grant war film, “Destination Tokyo” (1943).

Eleanor Parker in the 1940s

Eleanor Parker in the 1940s

But her first major role with Warner Brothers was alongside John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet and Paul Henried in “Between Two Worlds” (1944). The all-star cast is on a boat in the afterlife; waiting to see if they will go to heaven or hell.

Her next major role came in the romantic World War II drama, “The Very Thought Of You” (1944) with Dennis Morgan as her romantic co-star. Beulah Bondi and Henry Travers as Parker’s parents, who vehemently disapprove of her romance and eventual marriage to a soldier.

Parker showed her versatility as an actress from films like “Pride of the Marines” (1945), a drama about disabled war veterans co-starring John Garfield, to “Never Say Goodbye” (1946), a comedic romp set around Christmas with Errol Flynn.

She displays her acting abilities best in one of her top, and possibly most disturbing, roles in the prison drama “Caged!” (1950). Parker goes into jail as a naïve and innocent young woman and leaves hardened and cold. One horrifying scene includes Parker’s head getting shaved as a punishment. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Caged” but lost to Judy Holliday for “Born Yesterday.”

A year later she was getting drunk on tequila and flirting with Fred MacMurray in the comedy “Millionaire For Christy” (1951).

It’s no wonder that Eleanor Parker has been dubbed “Woman of a Thousand Faces.”

John Garfield, Clark Gable, Stewart Granger, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart are just a few of the top leading men she acted with.

“You didn’t go to her films to see Miss Parker being Miss Parker in a different dress and locale,” wrote Doug McClelland in his book “Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces.” “You went to see what person she had created on film.”

Parker helps husband John Garfield adjust to living life without sight in "Pride of the Marines" (1945). (LIFE)

Parker helps husband John Garfield adjust to living life without sight in “Pride of the Marines” (1945). (LIFE)

Parker was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress two other times:

-“Detective Story” (1951) –Parker plays the wife of Kirk Douglas who was involved with and got pregnant from a racketeer before their marriage.

-“Interrupted Melody” (1956) –the biographical film about Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence who becomes paralyzed due to polio.

She also played a woman with multiple personality disorder in “Lizzie” (1957), the same year Joanne Woodward played a similar role in “The Three Faces Of Eve.” It was Woodward who won the Oscar that year.

In a 1988 interview, she said she was a character actress. That her roles were too diverse that her own personality never “emerged on screen,” according to an article from USA Today.

In her private life, she was shy and collected classical records, according to an April 30, 1945, LIFE article, “Eleanor Parker: Actress plays ‘Of Human Bondage,’ role that made Bette Davis famous.”

McClelland’s book suggests one reason Parker is forgotten today is because of her quiet, private life.

“I’ve prided myself on not dreaming up tales to see my name in print,” McClelland quotes her as saying in an interview.

Some of my personal favorite films of Parker’s include: “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947), “Woman in White” (1948), “Never Say Goodbye” (1946), “The Very Thought of You” (1945), “Pride of the Marines” (1945) and “Valley of the Kings” (1954).

Parker plays a fiesty female in "Scaramouche" (1952)

Parker plays a fiesty female in “Scaramouche” (1952)

Eleanor Parker is one of those actresses that lights up the screen and makes the movie. The only films I remember not enjoying of Parker’s were the Rudolph Valentino biopic “Valentino” (1951) and “The Oscar” (1966). Neither of the films were bad because of Parker, but bad script writing.

Parker passed away today at the age of 91 due to complications from pneumonia, according to the Associated Press.

“Eleanor Parker was and is one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known,” said “Sound of Music” co-star Christopher Plummer in Parker’s USA Today obituary. “Both as a person and as a beauty. I hardly believe the sad news for I was sure she was enchanted and would live forever.”

Goodbye to one of Warner Brothers’ brightest and most talented stars. “The Very Thought of You” will always make your fans smile.

Turner Classic Movies will be honoring Eleanor Parker on Tuesday, Dec. 17 (ET):
6 a.m. – The Very Thought of You (1944)
7:45 a.m. – Of Human Bondage (1946)
9:45 a.m – The Woman in White (1948)
11:45 p.m. – Caged (1950)
1:30 p.m. – Scaramouche (1952)
3:30 p.m. – Interrupted Melody (1955)
5:15 p.m. – Home from the Hill (1960)

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Classic film in music videos: Wind it Up by Gwen Stefani

This is March’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s classic film references in music videos.

Lead singer of No Doubt, Gwen Stefani made two solo albums after the band’s split- Love.Angel.Music.Baby (2004) and Sweet Escape (2006). Personally, I was a big fan of both and disappointed Gwen hasn’t made another, but that’s beside the point.

“Wind it Up” is the first single released from the Sweet Escape album and it loops part of the Rogers and Hammerstein song “Lonely Goatherd” throughout the song.

Still from the 1965 film "Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Eleanor Parker.

In the music video Stefani recreates several scenes from the 1965 film version of “Sound of Music” including:
-Dressing up in a (rather short) nun costume
-Dancers in blond wigs and plaid uniforms dressed to look like the Von Trap children
-Recreating the “My Favorite Things” scene by singing in bed to the dancing Von Trap children
-Gwen looks at curtains and makes them into outfits, like Maria does in “Sound of Music”
-Playing a giant key like a guitar, much like the “Do Re Mi” scene

What do you think?

Before the video was released in 2007, Gwen Stefani got Julie Andrews’ approval to recreate her iconic role in the video.

“She actually called and asked if I would mind if she used it,” Julie Andrews said in 2007.  “She does a lot of good yodelling. She’s great. She yodels better than I do. It’s a wonderful video too.”

Check back in April for the next classic film reference in music videos.

Contest info coming soon!

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