Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: the Disney World of classic movies

It’s like Disney World for classic film fans.

Rushing from place to place and waiting in lines for entertainment.

Robert Osborne introducing "Desert Song" (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne introducing “Desert Song” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Turner Classics Movie’s Robert Osborne could be considered the “Walt Disney” of the whole event.

Yes for classic film fans, the Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) may be considered the “happiest place on Earth,” where thousands of people spend four days doing nothing but watching classic films and enjoying each other’s company.

Since this was my first year attending TCMFF, I can’t compare it to past years but several have said it was the best year ever, and I would believe it. After three years of wanting to go to TCMFF, I was not disappointed. I had a ball.
There were several times- riding on the plane, sitting in a movie theater, walking down Hollywood Blvd.- that I thought “Am I really here?”

I visited Hollywood once before in 2006 on a family vacation and was left rather dismayed by the disregard of history and confused by the odd people dressed like Marilyn Monroe and Shrek outside of Graumann’s Chinese Theater (now TCL Chinese).

But even those people desperate for attention in their costumes and passing out their CDs didn’t cheapen TCMFF.

Typical me. Photo bombing a TCM picture outside the Egyptian (there I am on the left in the green)

Typical me. Photo bombing a TCM picture outside the Egyptian (there I am on the left in the green)

In fact I felt like I excitedly drifted along on a cloud of old Hollywood splendor; only thinking about which movie I would watch next.

And after years of being a classic film fan I was finally with people who understood what I was talking about. I could toss around names like Van Johnson, Edward Everett Horton or mention the slang “pre-code” and every one knew exactly what I meant.

It’s an uncanny feeling to be sitting in an audience waiting to watch “Libeled Lady” and have the audience applaud when stars Jean Harlow and William Powell enter on screen.

I haven’t seen many classic films on the big screen and it’s a special experience. Not only did I realize how much I liked some films, but I noticed more. Facial expressions and shifting of eyes that you may miss on the small screen.

Though I blogged each night on my phone, I wanted to do one last review of the festival.

Films viewed during the festival:

France Nuyen, Ben Mankiewiczi and Mitzi Gaynor poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel

France Nuyen, Ben Mankiewicz and Mitzi Gaynor poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Thursday, April 25:
-South Pacific (1958)
Starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, Juanita Hall and France Nuyen
With guests Mitzi Gaynor and France Nuyen
The film was shown poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel and hula dancers performed before the film.

For more on Thursday: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2013/04/26/turner-classic-film-festival-mitzi-gaynor-and-south-pacific/

Friday, April 26:
-Libeled Lady (1936)
Starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy
“Screwball comedy is a lost art,” said TCM’s Scott McGee before the film.
The whole audience also cheered as McGee said he was a huge fan of William Powell’s.

Kate MacMurray introducing "Suddenly It's Spring"

Kate MacMurray introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

-Suddenly, It’s Spring (1947)*
Starring Paulette Goddard, Fred MacMurray, MacDonald Carey. Introduced by MacMurray’s daughter Kate.
MacMurray’s daughter shared wonderful stories about her father including: MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Introduced by Rose McGowan
It (1927) starring Clara Bow
This was my first silent film with a live orchestra accompaniment.
“Clara was a great natural talent of movies,” said Bow biographer David Stenn.
-Hondo (1954) starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page Introduced by Leonard Maltin.
This was my FIRST EVER 3D film.
For more on Friday: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2013/04/27/turner-classic-film-festival-macmurray-harlow-hitchcock-bow-and-wayne/

Saturday, April 27:
-Bugs Bunny Cartoons for his 75th birthday
Very clever of TCM to start a Saturday with cartoons. Leonard Maltin introduced the cartoons saying how Warner Brother’s cartoons were the first to have the characters talk at the screen.

(Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)


-Alfred Hitchcock’s A Lady Vanishes (1936) Introduced by 98-year-old actor Norman Lloyd.
Lloyd gave up a tennis game to speak before the film and said A Lady Vanishes and 39 Steps were the last two English films Hitchcock made and were both perfection.
“I tell film students, don’t go to film school. Just watch 39 Steps,” Lloyd said.

-Desert Song (1943)* starring Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot. Introduced by Robert Osborne
A film that had not been shown over 50 years due to copyright, this was my 500th musical that I’ve seen.
It seems fitting that my 500th musical would end with me meeting Robert Osborne afterwards.

Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth introducing Mildred Pierce (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth introducing Mildred Pierce (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

-Mildred Pierce (1945) starring Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, Jack Carson, Eve Arden
Introduced by Robert Osborne and Ann Blyth
“I have nothing but wonderful memories of Joan,” Blyth said.
-Island of Lost Souls (1932) starring Charles Laughton, Lelia Hyams, Richard Arlen
I love that TCM also ended nights with a horror film at midnight.
For more on Saturday: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2013/04/28/i-have-nothing-but-wonderful-memories-of-joan-mildred-pierce-and-ann-blyth/

Sunday, April 28
-Come September (1961) starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollabrigida, Bobby Daren, Sandra Dee
Introduced by Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer
-I Am Suzanne (1933)* starring Lilian Harvey and Gene Raymond. Introduced by MoMa archivist Katie Trainor
Though this film was very odd (the plot revolved around marionette puppets), it was worth seeing. Trainor said the film had not been seen in 80 years. This was also my 501st musical
-It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
The General (1926) and One Week (1920) starring Buster Keaton. Introduced by Robert Osborne
A special screening because it was the second to last film to be shown in Graumann’s before being remodeled to IMAX. The crowd booed when Osborne announced this.
For more on Sunday: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2013/04/29/and-so-it-ends-review-of-the-last-day-of-the-tcm-film-festival/

Along with the films it was a pleasure to meet so many fellow bloggers and Twitter pals in person. Especially since I have talked to many of you for three years. There were screams of excitement and embracing as we kindred classic film souls finally met in person.

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With knees shaking, I met my favorite person in the whole world, Robert Osborne

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With another favorite, Ben Mankiewicz

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Sad to be returning home, I ran into TCM’s Scott McGee who was on my flight home!

My favorite film of the festival: “Suddenly, It’s Spring” (1947). I had never seen it and it was wonderful. MacMurray’s daughter also gave one of my favorite talks during the festival

My favorite day of the Festival was Friday since it held so many firsts for me.
Now, as I sit on my couch back in North Carolina, I can only count the days until next year.

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

And so it ends: Review of the last day of the TCM Film Festival

As I sit waiting for my flight to Atlanta, GA from Los Angeles, CA, here is a recap of the last day (Sunday, April 28) of the TCM Film Festival. Tomorrow I’ll write a review of the overall experience.

Come September (1961) starring Rock Hudson, Sandra Dee, Bobby Darin and Gina Lollobrigida. I started the last day of the festival with the frothy, fun romantic comedy set in Italy. Though other great films such as Gilda, Badlands and Yankee Doodle Dandy were also showing, I was in the mood for the familiar and colorful film after a late night. According Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer this wealthy “white telephone” aristocrat film was filmed during a time that Italian films had more socialist themes so this film was slightly behind its time.

I Am Suzanne (1933) starring Lilian Harvey and Gene Raymond.
This is one of those movies that I sat there through the majority of the movie thinking, “What the heck?”
It was an odd film but worth seeing.
I considered going to see Ann Blyth talk before Kismet (1955). However, though I love Blyth, I don’t like Kismet so I chose a film I had never seen before.
“I Am Suzanne” was introduced by Museum of Modern Art film archivist Katie Trainor, she said the film had not been seen in 80 years.
The oddness of the film is due to the fact that the plot revolves around puppets. Marionette puppets.
Raymond is a puppeteer and Harvey is a (very bad) dancer. Raymond is so entranced by Harvey that he wants to model a puppet of her. Harvey’s issue is that though Raymond loves her, she feels he loves the puppet version more than her. The film ends with a 10 minute puppet and dance performance. I plan on doing a full post on this film so stay tuned.

It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. I considered going to see a more serious movie during this film block but decided “Hey, it’s the last day. I’m going to have fun.” It’s terrific watching a 1930s comedy and hearing an audience erupt in laughter. You notice the subtle comedic glances and moments more on the big screen.

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The General (1926)- This was the big finale of the night shown in Graumann’s Chinese (or now called TCL Chinese). The crowded screening started with the 1920 Keaton short “One Week” and both films were accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. I had seen both the General and One Week before, but it’s an amazing experience to watch it on the big screen with live music.
But even more special, it’s the second to last film shown in Graumann’s before the historic theater will be remodeled to IMAX. The crowd boo-ed as Robert Osborne said that but told everyone to take in the architecture before it’s gone. So above is a photo of the ceiling of the theater

Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I hope to return next year. I hope you have enjoyed my updates as well.

“I have nothing but wonderful memories of Joan”-Mildred Pierce and Ann Blyth

A packed house at the Egyptian Theater rose to their feet, cheering like Freddie Mercury was entering the building.
But the applause was for a petite, doll-like and lovely actress: Ann Blyth.
Blyth introduced Mildred Pierce (1945), a film that she plays Joan Crawford’s spoiled daughter, Veda.
Robert Osborne interviewed her, pointing out that it was lucky Blyth wasn’t typecasted as bad girls after this film. In fact, her roles were usually sweet after this.
He also pointed out that she tried to dispel negative Joan Crawford rumors.
“I have nothing but wonderful memories of Joan,” Blyth said.
Blyth also told about attractive men she worked with such as Tyrone Power who had beautiful brown eyes.
When she went on to MGM to be in musicals she said “It was a heavenly experience and I had the opportunity to sing beautiful music.”
She quit acting because she didn’t like the direction films were going in but later found that was a mistake because she had been considered for “The Three Faces of Eve.”
She also said she still sees friends such as Jane Powell, Jane Withers and Joan Leslie at least three times a year.
The best part of Mildred Pierce was when the whole audience cheered when Joan Crawford slapped Ann Blyth.

Saturday morning I saw:
-Bugs Bunny Cartoons for his 75th birthday: Leonard Maltin introduced the cartoons saying how Warner Brothers cartoons were the first to have the characters talk at the screen. I’ll admit I had a bit of a moment while watching, thinking about my childhood. Classical music and old actors were also introduced to me by classic cartoons.

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-A Lady Vanishes (1938): Introduced by Leonard Maltin and 98 year old Saboteur actor, Norman Lloyd. He gave up a tennis game to speak. He said A Lady Vanishes and 39 Steps were the last two English films Hitchcock made and were both perfection.
“I tell film students, don’t go to film school. Just watch 39 Steps,” said Lloyd.

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Desert Song (1943) starring Dennis Morgan. Robert Osborne introduced the film so I sat in the front like a nerd so I could get a close picture. Osborne said this movie hadn’t been seen in 50 years because of copyright problems. As a musical fan and Dennis Morgan lover, I have always wanted to see this movie. I have also seen the 1953 remake with Kathryn Grayson and Gordon MacRea so I was comparing the two as I watched it. The 9143 version was colorful and beautiful, but I enjoyed the leading lady and plot better in the 1953 version. Osborne stayed and watched the film as well because he said this was the film he was most looking forward to. After the film I waited outside and got a photo with him.

-Island of Lost Souls (1932) starring Lelia Hyams, Richard Arlen and Charles Laughton. I went to the midnight showing of this film. I’d seen it before last summer but it was awesome to watch this freaky film so late at night. I think several of the viewers fell asleep. Running around and watching movies all day is very tiring!

Apologies in advanced for any typos. I’m using WordPress on my phone which is slightly cumbersome.

Now its the last day and I’m waiting to go in to Come September. Follow me @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens.

Random from Comet: Now Playing Guides and moving

Comet Over Hollywood has been moving and Cary Grant helped!

I wanted to apologize for the lack of posts lately.

A year ago, Comet moved to Elkin, N.C. to work at my first reporting job at the Elkin Tribune, which I discussed in a the post Jessica Pickens: Girl Reporter.

A year later, I’ve moved on to a new job. Coming full circle, I’m now working in Shelby, N.C. at the newspaper I interned during the summer of 2010 when Comet Over Hollywood was born.

Do to the moving and lack of internet, I haven’t been able to continue the Classics in the Carolinas series.

In other exciting news, Turner Classic movies spotlighted Comet on their Twitter and Facebook page! In a moment of procrastination during packing, I took this photo:

Roughly 106 Turner Classic Now Playing Guides on my apartment floor.

I first started subscribing to the Turner Classic Movie Now Playing Guide in October 2003 and am currently still a subscriber. Since then I have kept every Now Playing Guide because of the great articles and covers, that usually feature the Star of the Month.

I posted the photo on Twitter and was retweeted by TCM and then put on their Facebook page and labeled as a “Super Fan” – A welcome treat to a bittersweet move.

Do you subscribe to the TCM Now Playing Guide? Have you kept them? What is your favorite cover?

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

The day we’ve all been waiting for: Robert Osborne’s return

This is for the  Welcome Back, Bob! Blogathon celebrating Robert’s return to Turner Classic Movies on Dec. 1. Hosted by Carley (@MissCarley) from The Kitty Packard Pictorial and Will McKinley (@willmckinley).

Robert Osborne returns to TCM Dec.1

Silence always sweeps over my household whenever the prime time introduction begins on Turner Classic Movies. My family likes Robert Osborne, but they also know they might get in trouble if they talk during his words of wisdom.

Even non-classic movie fan friends know about my love for Robert. My senior year of college, I walked into Winthrop’s student newspaper office on my birthday. The desktop background of my computer had been changed to a photo of Robert Osborne saying Happy Birthday to me.

Robert Osborne birthday desk top background, thanks to my friend Devang Joshi

One of my favorite Robert Osborne moments was when he was interviewed by one of TCM’s programmers during Oscar month 2009. He told about how he went to journalism school, went to Hollywood, became friends with Lucille Ball and how that catapulted his career of film history. Ball told him to combine his journalism skills and film knowledge and write a book.  This was inspiring to me as a sophomore journalism student who also loves film.  A distant and most likely unattainable dream is to follow in his footsteps and do the same thing.

Though I haven’t had the good fortune to meet Mr. Osborne like so many other fans, his introductions are so personal, informative and sweet that you feel like you are his best friend. It’s like he’s sharing his knowledge with you and only you.  On New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2009, he even wore a tuxedo and toasted a glass of champagne to the camera.

It was pretty Earth-shattering for me, as well as for all other Turner Classic Movie fans, when he announced his extended vacation. I was very upset, but honestly not very surprised. He looked tired and not quite himself. Mr. Osborne certainly deserved a rest-particularly after reading today that he hadn’t had a vacation in 17 years!

This is the closest I've ever gotten to Mr. Osborne

Jane Powell is one of my favorite actresses and I enjoyed hearing from Leonard Maltin, but none of the guest hosts came close to the personal panache Robert offers. Fortunately, I have so many movies recorded off of TCM-some dating to 2009-that I was still able to get my Robert Osborne fix during his absence.

One of my life goals is to meet Mr. Osborne but for now I’m happy enough with his return. Unfortunately, on a reporter’s salary and living on my own for the first time, I can’t afford cable and won’t be able to watch his first prime time introductions after five months on Thursday, Dec. 1, but my mother promised to record it for me.

Welcome back, Robert Osborne and thank you for all you have taught us film fans.

With much love and admiration,

Jessica Noelle Pickens

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page .

Take my pulse, Lew Ayres: Medicine in Old Movies

One summer Turner Classic Movies showed almost all of the 15 “Dr. Kildare” movies from the 1930s and 1940s…and of course I had my mother tape every single one. So for a a couple of weeks my family sat down and fell in love with Dr. Kildare (Lew Ayres), Mary Lamount (Laraine Day), Nurse Molly Byrd (Alma Kruger), Hospital Admin Dr. Carew (Walter Kingsford) and of course Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore).

Each movie was cute, somewhat suspenseful and always had a bit of comic relief from Dr. Gillespie-who was wheel chair bound due to Barrymore’s arthritis.

The most interesting thing about the Dr. Kildare series is seeing how much medicine has changed. Part of me is thankful to live in contemporary time with up to date medical technology, but I still want to live in the 1940s.

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It is also interesting to see the way they cure some of the medical cases. For example, in “Dr. Kildare’s Strange Case” (1940), a man is found on the street who was seemingly out of his mind. As it turns out the man had schizophrenia and they cured it. (Also notice how they pronounce the word in old movies: Ski-zo-FREE-nia)

Yes that’s right. Dr. Kildare cured schizophrenia. Amazing since even today it is incurable. The man was unconscious and given a shot that makes him go back to a “primate state and go through the stages of man until he is himself again.” And it works. The man is better, finds his wife (he also had a case of amnesia) and lives happily ever after.

However, the Dr. Kildare series isn’t the only movie that suggests schizophrenia can be cured. In the film “Bewitched” (1945), sweet Phyllis Thaxter has a voice inside of her head telling her murderous things such as to kill her fiancé. At the end of the movie, her psychiatrist helps her see which personality wins out.  She is cured and back to normal.

Moving away from schizophrenia, in “The People vs. Dr. Kildare,” Dr. Kildare performs an emergency surgery on ice skater Bonita Granville at the scene of a bad car accident. Granville then finds that she can’t walk (though her leg healed properly) and sues Dr. Kildare.  I may not be a med student, but I find it questionable that Kildare performed the surgery outside in an area that was not sanitary.

I will say I appreciate the bluntness of Dr. Gillespie. Doctors would be sued if they talked to their patients the way Gillespie barks at his, but they are usually cured and he gets the point across.

Here is an example of Dr. Gillespie’s doctor tactics:
Dr. Gillespie: Well, Mr. Ingersoll, good morning, and how are you feeling today?
Patient, Rufus Ingersoll: Never felt better in my life!
Dr. Gillespie: Oh ho, that’s fine. That’s fine…because your system’s in a state of collapse. Sit down before you fall down!

“Emergency”-My favorite TV show

Though the medical practices of Dr. Kildare might seem archaic by today’s standards, they certainly seemed up to date for the standards of the 1940s. The doctors were in New York City -not the country doctor seen in many other movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

Actually, the medical practices you see 30 years later in the television show “Emergency!” (1972 to 1979) aren’t much different. Nurse Dixie McCall, Doctor Bracket and Doctor Early seem like they are the only employees at Rampart General Hospital. My family and I always joke that those three doctors were the only doctors in the hospital because they did it all: Deliver babies, perform surgery and general practice.

Regardless of the questionable terminology and medical methods of the “Dr. Kildare” series, don’t let it turn you off. After watching all 15 movies, you will feel like Laraine Day, Nat Pendleton, Lew Ayres and Marie Blake are part of your family.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page and Radio Waves Over Hollywood Facebook page.

Confessions of a VHS User

222 classic movies on VHS tapes

Recently my mother told me that we had an estimated 222 movies taped off of Turner Classic Movies. Why you ask?

Every month I flip through the “Turner Classic Movie Now Playing Guide” and make a list of 20 to 50 movies to tape.

Our family owns a DVR but we use VHS tapes, because they hold more, are reusable and usually give us higher quality.

I tape so many movies so I can fulfill the many lists I have made to organize my old movie obsessions.

Here is a very brief summary of the lists I have so far:
-Movie Musical list: I have currently seen 374 musicals. I started this list back in 2004 when I was in 9th grade.  This includes any movie musical I have seen, new or old; anything from a Kay Kyser musical to “Chicago.”
-Silent Movie list: This currently only has 40 movies. I only started really getting interested in silent films in late 2008 and just started the list in March 2010.
-Screen teams: This is a list of famous screen teams such as Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy and William Powell, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.  I try to see all of the movies the screen teams were in together.
-Movies Series: Similarly to the Screen Teams list, I am trying to see all the movies in certain film series such as Andy Hardy, Dr. Kildaire and Maisie.
-Actresses Lists: I have 47 actresses that I am trying to see all of their movies. A few of these are Jean Arthur, Bette Davis and Kay Francis. So far I’ve only seen all of Judy Garland’s movies.
-Actors Lists: Similar to the actress list, except with 19 actors. Lists include Van Johnson, Dana Andrews and George Brent.

Recently, I have started a rather ambitious list. It is all of the movies from 1939- a total of 514 movies and I have only seen 84.

“The Rains Came”: 20th Century Fox’s contribution to the 1939 royalty

The year of 1939 is important not just for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind,” but it also birthed other well known movies such as “Ninotchka,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Stagecoach” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

It’s amazing to look at all of the films that came out during what is known as “Hollywood’s Greatest Year,” and I was inspired to try to see all of them.

Turner Classic Movies showed a documentary in the summer of 2009 called “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year.” The documentary said the reason this year was profitable was the United States was slowly getting out of the depression and the film companies were able to fund bigger projects.

However, this glory only lasted one year.  Two years later World War II hit, actors were drafted and America and Hollywood put their efforts toward the war on the home front and overseas. Once the war was over, the tone of America and movies changed from light and happy 1930s films to darker and angsty melodramas, according to the documentary.

In a way, this is why I want to make the list. I feel like when people hear 1939, they think of “Gone with the Wind” or “Wizard of Oz,” but there were so many other special movies that year. I want to see if the other films that you don’t hear about have that same magic. Who knows, once I finish watching all 514 movies maybe I’ll try my hand at writing a book.

Making the list took maybe three days, however I know that the watching process will take much longer. I’m worried about being able to track some of the movies and making it through low budget crime movies.

Wish me luck!

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

Let’s talk about a little pet peeve of mine…

Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) surrounded by Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), Betsy Booth (Judy Garland) and Cynthia Potter (Lana Turner).

How I define a classic movie fan and my pet peeve of the old movie ‘posers’ . I know I am a little fanatical and old movies are my life, but if you are going to claim to like old movies you have to know your stuff.

Another thing that drives me crazy is what consumers and manufacturers consider when it comes to classic movie merchandise (not including books, there is an abundance of wonderful film books). Everywhere you go, you see mugs, purses, T-shirts, magnets, etc with four people on them 1.) Marilyn Monroe 2.) Audrey Hepburn 3.) James Dean 4.) John Wayne. Then I go to Los Angeles with high hopes of Doris Day and Esther Williams merchandise, but I was quickly dismayed. In Hollywood, the movie mecca of the world, they still carried the same crap that they sell in Greenville, South Carolina. (Don’t get me wrong, I like Dean, Wayne and Hepburn but I want some variety.)

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