In the company of greatness

A guttural chuckle between bites of popcorn came from behind our movie theater seats.

Toes tapped to the film soundtrack.

My friends and I giggled with schoolgirl delight and amazement.

The 79 time Grammy nominated composer Quincy Jones was sitting behind us in the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.

Italian JobMoments before, Jones was interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz at the 2014 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival before “The Italian Job” (1969) starring Michael Caine. Jones composed the score for the film.

Jones’s music in the film is a quirky, 1960s English style with an English jig at the end.

“Nineteen year old Elton John said only a Brit could write a song like that,” Jones said. “I said, ‘Wanna bet?'”

“The Italian Job” is a British comedic caper film about a group of men stealing gold during a traffic jam in Italy. The film is also famous for it’s use of Austin Minis in the climactic heist.

“Michael Caine is one of the greatest guys,” Jones said.

Jones gave a mischievous chuckle while recalling the time he and Caine both dated actress Raquel Welch at the same time.

“That was funny,” he said. “OH that was funny.”

Other film scores Jones composed include “The Pawnbroker” (1964), “The Slender Thread” (1965),  “Walk Don’t Run” (1966) and “In Cold Blood” (1967). Along with his film work, Jones worked with musicians and performers such as Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

“Music in ‘In Cold Blood’ all boils down to building tension and then release,” he said. “The movie was filmed in the house where the actual murders took place. That was scary.”

Quincy Jones during an interview with Ben Mankiewicz during the TCMFF, April 11, 2014. Jones discussed his career and "The Italian Job" (Getty Images)

Quincy Jones during an interview with Ben Mankiewicz during the TCMFF, April 11, 2014. Jones discussed his career and “The Italian Job” (Getty Images)

Author of the novel Truman Capote was mad when he learned a “black guy” was composing the music to the film. Once Capote heard the score, he relented.

“Just drama–You know,” Jones said casually, waving his hand with dismissal.

Jones was approached by Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw to compose the music for “The Getaway” (1972), replacing composer Jerry Fielding at McQueen’s request.

“I composed the music for that film in 10 days,” Jones said. “You don’t let it get around Hollywood that you can compose a film in 10 days.”

His friendship with composer Henry Mancini helped him break into the business, he said.

“When composing for a film, you look at the script with the director and decide when the music stops and starts in the film,” Jones said.

Jones discussed his time in Hollywood and relationship with celebrities. Jones was good friends with singer, actor Frank Sinatra, who gave him a ring he still wears. However, Sinatra wasn’t kind to everyone.

1964: Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra in Sinatra's dressing room.

1964: Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra in Sinatra’s dressing room.

“He either loved you, or he would roll over you in a Mac truck while driving it in reverse,” Jones said.

After the interview, the 81-year-old walked a few rows back and sat right down behind us. He promptly received a bag of popcorn and became just another fan.

This is a follow up vignette from the 2014 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, April 9-April 14.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at




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.

Turner Classic Film Festival: Mitzi Gaynor and South Pacific


Last night (Thursday, April 25) I saw my first film at the Turner Classic Film Festival: South Pacific.
The film was shown poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel and introduced by Ben Mankiewicz with France Nuyen and Mitzi Gaynor as special guests.
Nuyen told about how she got her role in the film and was a French model. She went on set with high fashion makeup and was told to wash it off for the film. She cried because she thought she would be ugly.
Gaynor was hilarious. Her feistiness and off color stories could be compared to a Debbie Reynolds interview.
Gaynor got the role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific over actresses such as Susan Hayward, Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Doris Day and several others.
While Mankiewicz was interviewing Gaynor, she demanded he bring out his new baby for everyone to see. By the end, she had taken over the interview.
Hilariously Gaynor told of how she complimented her costar Rossano Brazzi on his good looks and Brazzi said, “I know.”
During the screening of South Pacific, people clapped after each song.
The ambiance of the film by the pool was beautiful.
This is just a brief post to keep y’all updated during TCMFF.

This morning I saw Jean Harlow in Libeled Lady (1936) and am now waiting to see Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) with Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard introduced by MacMurray’s daughter, Kate MacMurray.

More about Friday’s events in the next post.

The Comet goes to Hollywood


In roughly a week, I will be leaving my familiar North Carolina, small town surroundings for a solo adventure.
I’ll be attending my first Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) in Los Angeles, CA, which will involve flying alone for the first time.
Attending this festival has been something I’ve wanted to do since the festival started. But in 2010 and 2011, I was still in college and the event hit around exams.
In 2012, I was working at my first reporter job out of college-a three day a week newspaper in a small town. I was making an equally small sum of money, prohibiting me from saving enough to ever think of going to the festival.
At this same time last year I was going through a difficult personal time but not being at the festival hurt more.
As I cried real tears, watching photos of fans with Robert Osborne being posted, I vowed I would be in California in 2013. And now I’m going.
But that may be where the road to TCMFF begins but not my classic film passion.
As a small child, I thought every kid watched “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with their parents.
In middle school, I only listened to bands like the Monkees and Herman’s Hermits. I couldn’t understand why only one of my classmates had seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
In high school, I accepted I was different, if not weird. As I attempted to learn steps to the mambo in “West Side Story,” or chose to stay home and watch “The Lost Weekend” or “A Date with Judy” than go party with friends, I realized I was a classic film fan.
My teenage classmates considered it uncool-not that I cared-but once I got to college, it was embraced. I would hesitantly tell people, “I love old movies” and they would exclaim how cool it was.
By sophomore year of college, I started Comet Over Hollywood and was amazed to find how many other fans there were out there who were like me. They also loved the shots during the canteen dance in “Since You; Went Away” or appreciated the child acting of Virginia Weidler-most importantly they knew what I was talking about.
They were like me, a classic movie fan.
Now, working at a daily newspaper, I have the opportunity to spread even more film love with a weekly column. Since, I’ve receieved e-mails from readers telling me how they met spouses due to film love or thank me for helping them relive memories of seeing “A Summer Place.”
And next week from April 25 to April 29, I can connect with even more fans in person.
As for the movies I’m going to see? I honestly I haven’t made a rough game plan of what movies I’ll be attending-not only does newspaper reporting keep me busy, but I hope for my trip to be rather spontaneous.
However, I do know I’m interested in the screenings of “Libeled Lady,” “South Pacific” (Mitzi Gaynor is a favorite of mine), “It” and either of the Ann Blyth films (she’s also a favorite of mine)- but honestly those are the only films I remember seeing after a first glance at the film schedule. I know there are more.
And of course, I hope to see my hero and favorite person on the planet-Robert Osborne-even if it’s from 100 feet away.
So film fans and dear readers, I look forward to seeing you soon if you are attending. And if you are, please say hello.
I’ll be the blond who will still be saying y’all, even in Hollywood.
Jessica P.
The Hollywood Comet