My dad, the practical movie watcher

My dad, Bill Pickens, is a practical movie watcher.

When the Wicked Witch of the West cries “I’m melting!” after water is thrown on her in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) he says, “Water wouldn’t make her melt. She would dissolve.”

James Stewart as George Bailey asks Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy how he lost the money in "It's a Wonderful Life."

James Stewart as George Bailey asks Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy how he lost the money in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

When Uncle Billy in “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946) loses the check that would save George Bailey’s bank, my financially responsible father is furious.

In mystery films, he is always trying to figure out the plot twist or who-done-it before the movie is over.

Maybe it’s because he’s an engineer.

But along with teaching me to drive, helping me with long nights of math homework and moving me into new apartments in college and for jobs, my dad has always been supportive of my classic film watching.

Classic films are what my parents grew up on and in return, showed my sisters and me when we were young.

It was even my dad who suggested that I watch “West Side Story” (1961) in 2003 since I was starting to show an interest in musicals.

When I became obsessed with the movie, trying to learn the dances and listening to the soundtrack every day my dad later said he “created a monster.”

But without my dad suggesting that film, I wouldn’t have gone on to see 502 musicals.

Whenever I’m home, my mom, dad and I pick out a classic movie to watch together in the evening. I try to pick out one I didn’t want to watch without them or that I feel everyone would enjoy.

Doris Day as a sheep raising suffragette in "The Ballad of Jose" (1967)

Doris Day as a sheep raising suffragette in “The Ballad of Jose” (1967)

My dad has been a pretty good sport over the last 10 years with my selections. He has sat through frothy musicals such as “Luxury Liner” (1948) starring Jane Powell and even sat through Doris Day’s last and probably worst film “The Ballad of Josie” (1967).

Another time my mom and I had him watch the smutty 1950s film “A Summer Place” (1959) starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.

We chuckled as Dad shouted things about Sandra Dee’s crazy mother in the film. He made jokes like “Whatever you do that woman shoots dogs, I wouldn’t trust her” about Dorothy McGuire who was also in “Old Yeller.”

Doris Day singing "Deadwood Stage" in "Calamity Jane" (1953)

Doris Day singing “Deadwood Stage” in “Calamity Jane” (1953)

One of the only movies he has ever snuck out on and never returned was “Calamity Jane” (1953). I think it was the rather long song “The Deadwood Stage” that starts as soon as the movie begins that drove him from the room. I guess I don’t blame him.

But my favorite movies to watch with my parents are World War II films and thrillers. We all seem to enjoy those.

Films like “Battleground” (1949), “The Longest Day” (1962), “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944) and “Objective Burma” (1945) are some of our favorite war films.

Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne movies and live action Disney films are more of our favorites.

Some of dad’s other favorite films are “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “TThe King and I” (1956) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

I guess I’m a pretty terrible daughter. After my dad has watched everything down to “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935) and “Rose Marie” (1936), I have never seen “Lawrence of Arabia.” I guess well have to watch that sometime.

Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)

Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)

I call my mom the agent of my blog Comet Over Hollywood, because she proof reads everything and listens to my ideas.

But my dad has helped out with my film interest as well.

In 2006 we went on a family vacation to Hollywood to tour studios such as Paramount and take pictures of the hand prints in the cement outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Recently when I was traveling again to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, my parents drove me two hours to the Atlanta airport. Atlanta was a straight flight to Los Angeles and they worried about their youngest child making a connecting flight.

When I was a child, I don’t think my parents had any idea what sort of film fanatic they were creating as they introduced us to old movies, but I don’t think they mind.

Happy Father’s Day!

2007 at Disney World with dad

2007 at Disney World with Dad

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

Birthday Blogathon: Film #3 To Kill a Mockingbird 1962

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday.

Early Thursday evening was characterized with screeching tires.

I was running late for the TCM screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) in Charlotte, N.C., showing in movie theaters all over the United States for one day. I had already planned on trying to see the movie, and then was fortunate enough to win tickets from True Classics blog in a contest.

Now I’m not sure I would categorize it as a favorite classic film like other movies I have written about in the past, but I do really enjoy it.

It had been a long time since I had seen the film, probably since the first time I watched it in Miss Presley’s freshman English class at Eastside High School. Watching a classic film in a high school classroom ruins the experience; kids talking and laughing at the movie, the teacher pausing to discuss literary elements.

There I was on the front row, up close and personal with Gregory Peck. Seeing the film on a movie screen for probably the first time since I was 14 was unreal.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch defending Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

Starring: Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, Robert Duval as Boo Radley, James Anderson as Bob Ewell, Mary Badham as Scout, Phillip Alford as Jem

Brief Plot: Set in the 1930s and based off of the 1960s book, the film follows children growing up in Alabama and their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, as he defends a black man who has been accused of rape.

Key moments in the film: 

Scout (dressed as a ham) and Jem walking home from an agricultural pageant.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” in my opinion, is a flawless film with several scenes that stick with you:

-Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog.

-Scout’s friend Walter putting syrup on his dinner.

-Rev. Sykes telling Scout, Jem and Dill to stand up after Tom Robinson was found guilty, because their “Father is Passing.”

-Scout running walking through the woods in a ham costume.

-The way Boo Radley presses against the wall when they see him behind the door, and Scout looks at him closely and says, “Hey Boo.”


Children: The children who play Dill, Jem and Scout have great comedic timing and also act with a lot of heart. I think my favorite thing about the children is that they act like regular kids: Running out the door as fast as they can to school, spitting on hinges so they won’t squeak, believing in rumors

Atticus Finch shooting a rabid dog

Gregory Peck: Of course, the performance that stands out the most is Gregory Peck’s as Atticus Finch. The 1963 Academy Awards are one of those years that you wish every Actor in a Leading Role could have won.  There have been times when I think, “Why didn’t Jack Lemmon when the Oscar for ‘Days of Wine and Roses’?” or “Why didn’t Peter O’Toole win for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’?” And then I see that Gregory Peck won for his role in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and see why they didn’t. Peck plays the role with so much heart and integrity. From defending a man who was innocent to saying goodnight to his children, he is believable as a father and citizen.

Obviously, several people remember Peck’s speech in the courtroom. But for me, it’s the little moments that really make the part, such as when he’s talking to Scout about his pocket watch and how she would get her mother’s pearl necklace, struggling with his glasses as he tries to shoot the dog or when he reacts to Bob Ewell spitting in his face.

Atticus telling Scout how she will receive her mother’s pearl necklace and a ring.

Supporting Characters: The supporting character’s make the film as well. James Anderson plays a loathsome Bob Ewell, Paul Fix is the epitome of a Southern judge who also seems sympathetic for Tom Robinson and Estelle Evans as Calpurnia shows compassion for the children that she’s cared for since their mother died. But most of all, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson. He isn’t in the movie very much but the scene of him testifying in court about how he supposedly raped Mayella Ewell is perfect.

To Review: The film of “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be considered thin compared to the book, it leaves out a lot of coming of age experiences that Scout and Jim encounter. However, compared to many film adaptations of novels, I think the film highlights important issues while still addressing the racial issues and children growing up in the 1930s South. Seeing it on the big screen was by far my best classic film screening of the three I have attended (the others being “West Side Story” and “Strangers on a Train”). No one was talking around me-no quoting allowed of quotes or singing aloud. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit in a theater packed with other classic film fans. One last thing, I have to admit that I teared up when Scout said, “Hey there, Boo.”

The end

This concludes Day 3 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Have to admit, I got a little behind. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .