Noir Nook: Peggy Cummins – Her Path to Film Noir

Noir Nook: Peggy Cummins – Her Path to Film Noir

As we begin another noir year, I thought this would be a perfect time to take a look at one of my favorite noir femmes, Peggy Cummins, and the path that she traveled to reach the realm of film noir.

A diminutive blonde with emerald-green eyes, the star of Gun Crazy (1950) was born Margaret Diane Augusta Cummins on December 18, 1925. Her parents lived in Killiney, just outside Dublin, Ireland, but baby Peggy was born in Prestatyn, North Wales; while visiting a relative toward the end of her pregnancy, Peggy’s mother was stranded by a storm that prohibited Channel crossings.

Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950)
Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950)

Peggy was drawn to acting from an early age; when she was seven, she started taking dance lessons, and in her first performance, she played a boy in The Duchess of Malfi at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. She was paid a box of chocolates for the role. This kicked off Peggy’s appearances in a variety of stage productions; at one point, she even appeared in two plays at the same time, changing her costumes in a taxi as she went from one theater to another. When she was 13, Peggy’s London debut in Let’s Pretend attracted the attention of Hollywood, and before long, she signed with Warner Bros. and was assigned to the British production, Dr. O’Dowd. On the day that filming completed, however, World War II was declared, and the contract was canceled by mutual agreement. Peggy honed her craft over the next several years, appearing in three British films, playing 1,000 performances in Junior Miss at the Saville Theatre in London, and portraying the title role in Alice in Wonderland in an eight-week run at the Palace Theatre. She was hailed by one enthusiastic critic as “the most enchanting performer of this decade,” and Hollywood came calling again.

A young Peggy Cummins in Dr. O'Dowd (1940)
A young Peggy in Dr. O’Dowd (1940)

Inking an agreement with Twentieth Century-Fox, Cummins arrived in America in 1945 and found herself in the midst of a feverish search for an actress to star in the studio’s production of Forever Amber, based on the popular Kathleen Winsor novel. By early 1946, Cummins had landed the role, joining a cast that included Cornel Wilde, Vincent Price, and Reginald Gardiner, with John Stahl in place as director. But just two months after filming began, Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck called a halt to the proceedings and, at a cost of $1 million, dismissed Cummins from the part and recast it with Linda Darnell. Other casualties were John Stahl, Vincent Price, and Reginald Gardiner, who were replaced with Otto Preminger, Richard Greene, and George Sanders. A year later, Zanuck told a Photoplay reporter: “We realized that Peggy could act the role, but could never look it. She was too young.” As for Cummins, while she reportedly “brokenhearted” over losing the role, her dismay was no doubt considerably lessened when the film received less than stellar reviews upon its release. “When I saw it,” Cummins said years later, “I just felt relieved.”

Peggy Cummins and Vincent Price in Forever Amber (1947)
Peggy Cummins and Vincent Price in Forever Amber (1947)

Meanwhile, Cummins was well-received in The Late George Apley (1947), in which she played the lead; she was praised for her “considerable vigor and authority.” This was followed by the noirish Moss Rose (1947); Green Grass of Wyoming (1948), a romance about rival families in the horse racing business, and Escape (1948), in which she starred opposite Rex Harrison. She was then cast in Gun Crazy (1950) – initially released as Deadly Is the Female – which is now considered to be one of the seminal examples of the noir canon.

In her role as Annie Laurie Starr, Peggy played a woman obsessed with securing the type of life that she dreamed of – by any means necessary – and her reluctant partner in crime was aptly portrayed by John Dall. Although there were a few reviewers who weren’t bowled over by the film, Cummins was almost universally applauded, with one critic noting her “commanding performance,” and another noting that she was “permitted to burn up the screen without apologies. She is the female – hence, deadly.”

Stay tuned for future posts on the journey to the big screen of noir’s femmes and hommes. And let me know if you have any special favorites that you’d like to see me cover!

– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:

Posted in Noir Nook, Posts by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silver Screen Standards: The Court Jester (1955)

Silver Screen Standards: The Court Jester (1955)

I turn to colorful, upbeat musicals whenever I feel sick or depressed, especially in the winter, when I most need a bright escape from dark, dreary days stuck indoors. Recently I found myself revisiting one of my very favorite examples of the genre, the 1955 medieval comedy, The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye as a carnival entertainer turned resistance fighter against a murderous, usurping king. This silly, charming picture is a star-studded confection featuring one of Kaye’s most memorable performances, and it’s a perfect choice for family viewing with its lively musical numbers and infectiously quotable lines.

The Court Jester (1955) Danny Kaye
Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) performs the “Maladjusted Jester” song for the king and his court.

Written and directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, The Court Jester packs in a mind-boggling number of memorable stars, which makes it required viewing for anybody interested in classic movies. We get Kaye, of course, topping the bill, but his two leading ladies are Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury – a hard pair to choose between, indeed! Basil Rathbone heads up the villains’ side as the scheming Sir Ravenhurst, a role that echoes his performance as Sir Guy in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Other instantly recognizable stars include Mildred Natwick as the mesmerist lady in waiting Griselda and John Carradine in a brief but notable appearance as the real Giacomo. Michael Pate, Alan Napier, Cecil Parker, Robert Middleton, Herbert Rudley, and Edward Ashley fill out the cast, with Middleton particularly imposing as the ursine Sir Griswold. Finally, the ensemble group billed as “Hermine’s Midgets” makes its only screen appearance as the protagonist’s loyal carnival friends.

The Court Jester (1955) Angela Lansbury, Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns
Leading ladies Angela Lansbury and Glynis Johns give Danny Kaye’s hero plenty of opportunities for romance and misadventure.

The story draws heavily from familiar swashbucklers, a relationship underlined by Basil Rathbone’s presence in the picture. Kaye’s character, Hubert Hawkins, has joined up with a band of fighters who live in the forest under the leadership of the Black Fox (Edward Ashley), a hero of the Robin Hood stamp whose name and mask also recall Zorro. The rightful heir to the throne is a baby with a distinctive purple pimpernel birthmark on his posterior, a nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel and his calling card. Instead of Robin Hood’s archery contest, Hawkins enters a more traditional tournament against Sir Griswold, creating a comical version of the climactic tournament fought by Ivanhoe. Rathbone, of course, had played the heavy in both The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro (1940), which makes Hawkins’ final duel with Sir Ravenhurst as inevitable as it is fun to watch.

The Court Jester (1955) Basil Rathbone Danny Kaye
Basil Rathbone stars as the villainous Sir Ravenhurst, who thinks Hubert Hawkins is the real Giacomo, a deadly assassin who only pretends to be a harmless court jester.

In this adventure, Hawkins is an unlikely hero, having spent most of his time with the outlaws entertaining the men and taking care of the royal infant. He gets a chance to prove himself when he and Maid Jean (Glynis Johns) encounter a famous jester, Giacomo (John Carradine), en route to the king’s palace. Hawkins impersonates Giacomo and appears at court, not knowing that Sir Ravenhurst has actually summoned Giacomo because the jester is also a skilled assassin. Hawkins quickly gets out of his depth, especially when Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury) decides to be in love with him and orders her hypnotist attendant to ensure his success. Hawkins ends up having to fight a rival knight for Gwendolyn’s hand while trying to save the royal baby and restore order to the kingdom, and along the way, he manages to perform a number of songs and sight gags that keep the peril from being taken too seriously.

If the wacky action, lively songs, and memorable cast aren’t enough, The Court Jester also boasts some ridiculously repeatable dialogue that even the youngest classic movie fans can appreciate, whether it’s the often used “Get it? Got it. Good” exchange or the deliriously silly tongue twister about the vessel with the pestle. Be warned, though, that showing this movie to kids ensures that you will hear these lines for weeks, if not years, afterward. The songs also include several bits that might well tickle young funny bones, especially the “Maladjusted Jester” number that Kaye performs fairly late in the film.

If your family is clamoring for more of Danny Kaye after the mandatory December viewings of White Christmas (1954), The Court Jester is a perfect post-holiday follow-up. For more of Kaye’s work with Frank and Panama, try Knock on Wood (1954); you’ll also find Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen (1952) and Merry Andrew (1958). Kids will most likely recognize Glynis Johns from the original Mary Poppins (1964), but track down the charming mermaid comedy Miranda (1948) if you want to see her as a comedic leading lady in her prime; the sequel, Mad About Men (1954), is also worthwhile. While you’re at it, show the family Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) to get another taste of the musical and comedic genius of the legendary Angela Lansbury, who most recently made a cameo appearance as the balloon lady at the end of the 2018 film, Mary Poppins Returns.

Jennifer Garlen pens our monthly Silver Screen Standards column. You can read all of Jennifer’s Silver Screen Standards articles here.

Jennifer is a former college professor with a PhD in English Literature and a lifelong obsession with film. She writes about classic movies at her blog, Virtual Virago, and presents classic film programs for lifetime learning groups and retirement communities. She’s the author of Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching and its sequel, Beyond Casablanca II: 101 Classic Movies Worth Watching, and she is also the co-editor of two books about the works of Jim Henson.

Posted in Posts by Jennifer Garlen, Silver Screen Standards | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monsters and Matinees: Tiny Terrors Bring Big Thrills

Monsters and Matinees: Tiny Terrors Bring Big Thrills

Have you ever felt a weird sensation on your leg and reached down to bat it away? Or thought you saw something on the floor and jerked your leg thinking it was a spider – or worse?

Me too. A lot.

As much as I am fascinated by movies with oversized bugs, I also am intrigued by the opposite – films with living beings the size of a doll.

Because of the inherent cuteness of tiny people/animals, they often are used in kid-friendly fantasy films like Gulliver’s Travels, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1957) and Mothra (1961) which introduced us to the unforgettable singing twins called The Shobijin.

More recently, tiny people were played for laughs in Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Night at the Museum (2006) and Ant-Man (2015).

The family cat (standing by a dollhouse) goes after his master,
now the size of a doll in The Incredible Shrinking Man.

But there’s a sinister side to the small wonders theme and it comes in two ways: tiny things that terrorize people and small people who are terrorized. For example, in the wonderfully taut Twilight Zone episode The Invaders, Agnes Moorehead was pursued by minuscule aliens. But in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), it’s the tiny person who is in danger as the family cat threatens his shrunken master.

My favorite example of a tiny terror is in Tod Browning’s 1936 The Devil-Doll where a wrongly imprisoned man sets miniaturized people loose to exact vengeance on those who framed him. The film is an intriguing mix of horror and pathos and though the scenes of a tiny person attacking a full-sized human seem silly, they are tense.

If you expand this subgenre beyond people, I don’t think anyone would argue that the voodoo doll from Trilogy of Terror holds the top spot in the Tiny Terrors Hall of Fame. (Is it the creepiest thing ever on film? I think so.)

Still, I am more freaked out by films where the tiny people are the ones being terrorized. In some weird, unrealistic way, I relate to them and wonder what I would do if I was in their tiny shoes. (I do the same thing watching a giant creature feature.)

Whether you’re a regular-sized human running from a giant menace or a mini person cornered by an average-sized insect, you are much smaller than the danger you are facing.

Let’s use the tarantula as an example. In my favorite large creature film, creatively titled Tarantula, the spider grows to a size that eventually dwarfs buildings. In The Incredible Shrinking Man, however, the tarantula is normal in size but is giant compared to the tiny man. Does it really matter, then, who is “normal” in size? When you’re looking up at a creature much larger than you, the terror is the same.

Whether it’s an oversized arachnid in Tarantula (top) or a tiny man facing an average-sized tarantula in The Incredible Shrinking Man, the danger is the same.

Even the title character in Dr. Cyclops (1940) – a crazed scientist who has developed a way to shrink people – understands this. “Perhaps you are not small at all – perhaps everything else is big,” he tells one of his miniaturized victims.

Another fascinating aspect of films with mini-people is the inherent danger they face from practically any common object because of their minuscule size. (Look out for that falling cookie – it’s about to crush you!)

And there’s no one to help them – the only full-sized humans who know of their plight usually put them in the predicament in the first place. Screaming won’t do anything – their voice takes on the sound of a buzzing insect.

Miniaturized people try to call for help but no one can hear them in Attack of the Puppet People.

Trying to escape with those little legs is almost as pointless, a problem broached by both Dr. Cyclops (“You will find the world far away for legs as short as yours.”) and in Attack of the Puppet People (two escaped miniatures calculate it will now take them six times as long to walk a mile to safety).

No one hears them, no one sees them. These tiny people are on their own and must devise clever ways to survive. It always makes me wonder: Would I be up to such a big task?

Suggested movies to watch

Here are four of my favorite films featuring miniaturized people under the horror/B-movie banner.

The Devil-Doll (1936)

Tod Browning’s film is an intriguing mix of horror and sadness. It feels like someone took a plotline – a banker is framed by his co-workers and spends nearly 20 years in jail – and made two movies (a horror film and sad family drama), then spliced them together.

Lionel Barrymore plays Paul Lavond, the wrongly imprisoned banker who has escaped Devil’s Island with the sickly scientist Marcel (Henry B. Walthall). He learns Marcel has been experimenting with shrinking living objects to 1/6th their size to help stop world hunger. Lavond is horrified to see animals and people turned into mindless miniature versions of themselves but realizes he can use them to fulfill his vengeance.

Still a fugitive, he travels to Paris disguised as a kindly old woman which allows him to get close to the three bankers who betrayed him as well as see his beautiful daughter Lorraine (25-year-old Maureen O’Sullivan).

The facial expressions of Rafaela Ottiano are entertaining throughout The Devil-Doll. Here she delights in the dancing of two people she helped make tiny.

Browning plays the horror extremely well. In one nerve-wracking scene, police are in the house of a banker who has received a note to confess by “the tenth hour” or die. The tension dramatically increases with each tick of the clock as a tiny man with a poisoned dagger slowly approaches to strike the fatal blow at his feet. (You’ll be thinking twice the next time you feel that tingling sensation by your ankles.)

Notes: This film is worth watching just for the animated facial expressions of the fantastic Rafaela Ottiano, who also starred in She Done Him Wrong, As You Desire Me and Curly Top.

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Pay no attention to the title or accompanying artwork – you won’t find attacking puppets in this film.

Instead, the danger is from a lonely (but demented) doll maker named Mr. Franz who miniaturizes people and uses them as playthings like a child with a toy. He keeps them in suspended animation and displays them in tubes in his doll shop (creepy), only waking them to dance, sing (the song is You’re My Living Doll) and entertain him.

He’s so out of touch, he thinks he’s doing them a favor. “I haven’t really harmed you – you get the best of care,” he tells his “funny little people.”

They try multiple times to escape (six of them give the team effort to lift a telephone receiver and call for help). When they finally get away, they’re in even more danger from life-sized objects. It’s not easy being small.

Notes: The film is directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also did the special technical effects and wrote the story. The movie shown at the drive-in is Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man, which was released a year earlier in 1957. B-movie favorite John Agar plays Bob, the salesman who makes the unfortunate mistake of falling for the office secretary. The familiar actor playing Mr. Franz is John Hoyt, whose lengthy career includes When Worlds Collide and a long list of television shows from Hogan’s Heroes and The Virginian to Perry Mason.

Dr. Cyclops (1960)

This is another demented scientist movie, but in this case, his experiments are out of greed (he has discovered a rich deposit of radium), not altruism.

In a remote laboratory in the Peruvian jungle, the once-brilliant, now twisted Dr. Thorkel (Albert Dekker) has summoned other scientists for help because of his failing eyesight. When he then quickly tries to send them away, they refuse, do a bit of snooping and find themselves shrunken to about a foot tall. As Thorkel, dubbed Dr. Cyclops by one of his victims, realizes his minis are reversing and will soon be back to normal size, things turn deadly.

Notes: Nominated for Oscar for visual effects by Farciot Edouart and Gordon Jennings, the film was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack (King Kong).

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

While vacationing at sea with his wife, a man gets stuck in a “fog” from a passing cloud. Months later, he notices his clothes are getting big and bigger until a doctor confirms the unexplainable: he is shrinking. While his celebrity rises with his new stature, his life falls apart. Forced to move inside a dollhouse, when even that becomes too big for him he turns despondent with the realization that he will continue to shrink, possibly until he is no more. Don’t look for a happily ever after here.

Trivia: Richard Matheson co-wrote the screenplay which is an adaptation of his story The Shrinking Man. It is one in a long list of B-movies directed by Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula) and is on the National Film Registry.

Toni Ruberto for Classic Movie Hub

Toni Ruberto, born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., is an editor and writer at The Buffalo News. She shares her love for classic movies in her blog, Watching Forever. Toni was the president of the former Buffalo chapter of TCM Backlot and now leads the offshoot group, Buffalo Classic Movie Buffs. She is proud to have put Buffalo and its glorious old movie palaces in the spotlight as the inaugural winner of the TCM in Your Hometown contest. You can find Toni on Twitter at @toniruberto.

Posted in Monsters and Matinees, Posts by Toni Ruberto | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Classic Conversations: Chatting with Barbara Rush on Her 93rd Birthday

Barbara Rush with Rock Hudson and Jeffrey Hunter

It’s no secret that I’m in love with Barbara Rush, star of stage, screen, and television. She appeared in some of my favorite movies and added immeasurably to every one of them. And her co-stars were equally legendary. The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman, Come Blow Your Horn with Frank Sinatra, three Douglas Sirk films with Rock Hudson including Magnificent Obsession, The Young Lions with Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and Montgomery Clift, the hard-hitting Bigger Than Life opposite James Mason, and so many others, including two iconic sci-fi films, When Worlds Collide and It Came from Outer Space which was based on a Ray Bradbury Story. On television she starred in an award-winning version of What Makes Sammy Run? and was a regular on the long-running Peyton Place and, much later, Party of Five. She even played Gotham City villain Nora Clavicle on a hilarious episode of Batman

Danny Miller with Barbara Rush at the TCM Classic Film Festival (Photo: Bob Vodick)

Barbara has been a friend of my wife’s family for many years, having starred in plays written by my father-in-law, Oliver Hailey, and mother-in-law, Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. It’s a joy knowing her in real life and seeing that she is the polar opposite of a diva. I’ve interviewed her a few times including at the TCM Classic Film Festival where she has introduced several of her films. Barbara was a very close friend of TCM’s late host, Robert Osborne, and has many wonderful stories about him. 

Having already talked to her about her illustrious career and her many famous co-stars, I wanted to catch up with Barbara on her 93rd birthday for Classic Movie Hub to chat more generally about what it was like to be a star back in the 1950s when she first burst upon the scene. Of course, as you’ll see from the very beginning of our freeform chat, she refuses to accept that moniker and tends to deflect most praise she receives for her career.

I headed to Barbara’s gorgeous home in Beverly Hills where Hedda Hopper once reigned. Barbara must have burned a lot of sage at the manse following Hopper’s era because the energy in the house is homey and friendly even though it looks like where you’d hope your favorite movie star lived. At 93, Barbara is as vibrant and gorgeous as ever and it’s always a joy to talk with her. 

Danny Miller: Happy Birthday, Barbara! 

Barbara Rush: Oh, thank you, Danny! I’ve made it this far!

We’ve talked about your films and co-stars a lot, but today I just wanted to chat for a bit about what it was like being a “star” back when you first made a splash in Hollywood. 

A star? Oh goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in my life. I’m just a movie actress, sweetheart, I’ve never even had a passing thought that I’m a star!

Well, you are one, whether you like it or not! 

I was just happy to have a job! I was working at the Pasadena Playhouse with a bunch of former GIs after the war. We’d do different scenes and it was fun because I got to do all of the women’s parts. Movie scouts used to come to see us from time to time and one day one of these people approached me and asked me if I wanted to do a screen test at Paramount. 

Were you reluctant in any way to do that? Did you have your heart set on working in the theater?

Are you kidding, Danny? I said, “I get to go to Paramount? Thank you! What time should I be there?” (Laughs.) I honestly couldn’t believe they were interested in me. So I did the test and, to my utter surprise, they liked it and put me under contract.

How long between signing the contract and getting your first film?

They put me right away into the movie version of the long-running radio and TV show The Goldbergs which starred Gertrude Berg. 

Right, Debby, the shiksa girlfriend, I love that movie! Do you remember the first time you saw yourself up on the big screen?

I really don’t, but I used to go to the rushes whenever I got the chance. I remember Laurence Olivier came to talk to us once at Paramount and he told us it was very important for actors to watch the rushes to see what you liked and what you didn’t like. I know some actors don’t like to see themselves in that way but I always found it helpful.

You never had issues with the way you looked on screen? Of course you were always so gorgeous, why would you?

I never thought too much about my appearance, to be honest. I was just happy whenever it seemed that I knew what I was doing!

Did being under contract immediately change your life in a big way?

Well, I moved! I had been living with this couple in Pasadena and taking care of their child. The father was a doctor and I think the mother was part of the Gamble family which was pretty famous in Pasadena. 

Whoa, I never heard this. 

I was probably making about $15 a week at the Pasadena Playhouse so it was a good living arrangement where I not only didn’t have to pay rent, they paid me a little bit. But when I started at Paramount they moved me over to the Studio Club with a bunch of other actresses which was just wonderful. There were so many great people there, I remember being good friends with Peggy Dow, remember her? And Marilyn Monroe was there for a while. It was really fun, like being in a sorority! 

Oh, how cool, it sounds like Stage Door

Yes, very much so! I remember being close this wonderful girl named Renata that was being trained by the famous opera singer Lotte Lehman. We had a little stage at the Studio Club and people would get up and perform, it was really fun. Renata was just great but her parents made her quit, I wonder whatever happened to her. I had such a wonderful time at the Studio Club. We had a very pretty dining room and you could invite a male guest which I used to do a lot because I had just met (first husband) Jeffrey Hunter. 

Where did you meet him? 

He was doing a screen test on the lot and I happened to run into him. 

And you thought, “Oh, look at that handsome young actor, he’s cute?”

I thought a lot more than that! (Laughs.) It was more like “Wow!” And “Look at those blue eyes!” So I invited him to the Studio Club for dinner and the lady who was in charge got us tickets to a show, I think it was at the Shrine. We started going out quite a bit.  

Jeffrey Hunter and Barbara Rush at a 1954 movie premiere

Did the studio have any issues with you two dating? I think he was at Fox when you were at Paramount, right?

I don’t think they cared that much. We were kind of in the same boat in terms of our careers at that time. But we had so much fun. I think I brought a lot of culture into his life and he enjoyed it. We were very young.

Barbara with Jeffrey Hunter

And then you got engaged pretty quickly?

Yes, he decided we should get married. He gave me a ring, his parents came out from Wisconsin, it was all planned. And then one day he came to me and said, “Barbara I don’t think I can get married, I’m having second thoughts.”


I said, “That’s fine, we don’t have to.” And then I went off on location in Sedona to do a picture called Flaming Feather with Sterling Hayden and Forrest Tucker. They have these Indian caves in Sedona and I remember in one scene I was slung over the villain’s back, I think it was Richard Arlen. I was just hanging there, looking down while he was dragging me to the caves, and all of a sudden, I look up and there’s Jeffrey Hunter who had come to Arizona to say that he wanted to get married after all. He stayed for the rest of the shoot and then we slipped off to Las Vegas and got married. 

Did the studio mind that you didn’t have a big wedding?

Oh, they definitely wanted us to have one when I first told them about it but we fought them and said we didn’t want anything like that. By then, Hank (Jeffrey Hunter’s real name) was getting a lot of attention at Fox. Then, a few months later he said to me, “Barbara, I don’t think we should be married,” but this time I said, “Too late, Hank! I’m not going for that again!” That kind of thing went on and on but then I got pregnant and we had Christopher. Hank wasn’t there, he was off in England making a film.

Did he ever pressure you to stop your career after having a child?

Oh, never! And I had no intention of doing so. My mother helped take care of the baby.

It sounds like you were an ideal studio contract player in many ways. Did you like being under contract?

Definitely! I had a job and I was getting paid! 

You made so many movies in those early years. How did you find out what your next film would be?

They’d just tell you. I don’t remember every trying out for a part, I would just be informed what the film was and where to go.

And you never objected or worried that some of them weren’t good parts?

No, Danny, I just wanted to work. I honestly didn’t think about it. I made a lot of movies for Paramount and then went to Fox. The only role I ever really wanted to do was The Three Faces of Eve. I wanted that so badly, as did every other actress in town, but Joanne (Woodward) got it and won the Oscar.

You would have been amazing in that part. Did you fantasize about winning an Oscar yourself?

No, I never thought like that. 

Barbara with James Mason in Bigger Than Life

At the very least, you should have been nominated for Bigger Than Life, that was such an amazing performance. 

I was only mad that James Mason wasn’t nominated for that picture. He was extraordinary.

He was, but so were you! You sound like one of the most grounded people to ever step foot in Hollywood.

I was just realistic. I loved to work, I enjoyed being there, and I would have happily done anything they asked me to, I never refused a role. 

Barbara with Rock Hudson in Taza, Son of Cochise

We’ve talked about the studio’s crazy decision to make you an Indian girl with Rock Hudson in Taza, Son of Cochise. I love the film but you never even thought to yourself, “This is ridiculous!”

Oh, no, why would I? I loved my gorgeous Indian costumes and we had such fun making that picture, I’ve told you how much I loved working with Rock! I had a wonderful time on location in Utah. My character’s name was Oona and Rock always called me “Oona, Dos, Tres!”

Barbara with Dean Martin in The Young Lions

Did you like your performances in those earlier films?

I learned how to act from the actors I worked with, like James Mason, for example. I just watched everything they did. That was better than any acting class. Working with Paul (Newman) or on The Young Lions with Brando, Dean Martin, and Montgomery Clift was an acting school in itself. I remember a scene in that when Dean Martin and I were discussing how he was trying to avoid going to war. Montgomery Clift gave me such great advice for that scene. He told me to make it more confusing. He thought it was too obvious that I was trying to get information from Dean so he told me to hide that and be much more subtle. After the scene, Hope Lange came up to me and said, “Oh Barbara, I wish I could do what you do!” And I said, “I didn’t do a thing, that was all Montgomery Clift!”

Do you look at your films now and think you got progressively better?

I never thought of it that way, I just tried to be that person, whoever she was, and not Barbara Rush. 

Did you ever ask a director if you could do a scene over again? 

Only when we got the dialogue wrong, then I would say something. Other than that, I always left it to the director. Fortunately, I worked with some of the best like Douglas Sirk. He was such a wonderful director, I always thanked him for hiring me.

Barbara with Frank Sinatra in Come Blow Your Horn

As low-key as you are about your acting, you seem to have always had a lot of confidence.

Oh, Danny, the first time I worked with Frank Sinatra I was a basketcase! Warren (Cowan, Barbara’s second husband) represented Frank so I knew him a little socially, but I never dreamed I’d make a film with him. I was completely intimidated, even more so because I knew Frank hated to rehearse. I was so nervous that I called Carolyn Jones who had just worked with Frank. And she told me what to do. I came up to him on set and said, “Mr. Sinatra, can I talk to you?” And then said, “First of all, call me Frank, what can I do for you, Barbara?” And I said, “I’m from the stage and I know you don’t like rehearsing, but I have to rehearse at least one time, I don’t think I can do the scene otherwise.” And he said, “Baby doll, of course I can do that for you. CLEAR THE SET! Barbara and I are going to rehearse.”

That’s sweet. And I so love your films together, I thought you had great chemistry.

He was so nice to me and he would find a way to give me my gorgeous wardrobes. I remember we were making Robin and the 7 Hoods together when President Kennedy was assassinated. Howard Koch drove onto the lot to tell us the news, it was just awful. Frank was very close to the Kennedys and he was just was devastated, he just kind of shriveled up. We had to shut down the picture for a few days, and then as soon as we came back, Frank Jr. was kidnapped so that ended it for good. Frank never came back to the picture.

Whoa, how did they ever finish the movie?

With some very careful editing! I had been rehearsing this big musical number I was going to perform with Frank called “I Like to Lead When I Dance” and I was thrilled I was going to sing and dance in a movie with Frank Sinatra! I was so excited and rehearsed for a long time. But because of everything that happened, we never got to do it. It’s probably my biggest disappointment from my entire career!

Ugh, I would have loved to have seen that! Legend has it that Sinatra could have a very bad temper, you never witnessed that?

He never got angry with me. If he felt he was respected, he would do anything for you. You can’t believe all of the people in Hollywood he helped, often anonymously like Lee J. Cobb who was having a very hard time. He would have his secretary send cashier’s checks to people who needed money. I remember how much Frank loved Dean Martin. Dean had such a different style of working. He’d come to the set and say, “Tell me what we’re going to do today.” So different from Frank. I remember being at Dean’s home once for dinner and he had a hole-in-one earlier that day and was so excited he said it was the best day of his life! I loved his singing, and Frank’s, and also Sammy Davis, Jr., who I knew very well. You just can’t ask for better voices than those. 

Barbara and Robert Stack at the 1960 Academy Awards after presenting the Oscars for Best Costume Design

I remember seeing photos of you presenting at the Academy Awards. Was that a fun thing to do?

Oh, yes. But probably different than it is today. I did my own hair and makeup and I remember asking them if I could walk out barefoot because my shoes were killing me, I had a hard time with high heels. I remember driving to the Oscars one year with Paul Newman, I think it was at the Shrine. The parties were fun, but I always wanted to go to a real ball, like the one Audrey Hepburn goes to in War and Peace. But I’ve never been invited to one. 

What?! Get this woman to a ball immediately! We’ll have a birthday ball in your honor!

Oh, thank you, Danny, I’m ready!

The following video was created by Sara Henriksson for Barbara’s appearance last September at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival where she was honored.


–Danny Miller for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Danny’s Classic Conversation Articles Here

Danny Miller is a freelance writer, book editor, and co-author of  About Face: The Life and Times of Dottie Ponedel, Make-up Artist to the StarsYou can read more of Danny’s articles at Cinephiled, or you can follow him on Twitter at @dannymmiller

Posted in Birthday Legends, Classic Conversations, Classic Movie Hub, Posts by Danny Miller | Tagged | 5 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: Nell O’Day

Classic Movie Travels: Nell O’Day – California

Nell O'Day
Nell O’Day

While the Golden Age of Hollywood has stars that are iconic to this day, some are more underrated. After viewing the restoration of King of Jazz (1930), many up-and-coming performers–some of whom were already established vaudevillians–caught my eye. In addition to the likes of Jeanette Loff and Marion Stadler, Nell O’Day also brought a fine enthusiasm to the screen. 

Nell Roach was born on September 22, 1909, in Prairie Hill, Texas, to Edward E. Roach and Mildred Livonia McClellan Roach. Nell’s mother descended from Elder John Parker, who was massacred at Fort Parker, Texas. Cynthia Ann Parker, his granddaughter, was captured, raised with the Comanche Indians, and became the mother of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Indians.

She began her career in the entertainment industry as a child dancer in the early 1920s, taking on the stage name of Nell O’Day. According to the 1920 census, the family was comprised of Mildred in addition to O’Day’s older sister, Isabella, and O’Day. Edward had passed away in 1918.

Upon leaving Texas, Mildred was working in a photography studio, while O’Day was employed in public theater. In the same decade, O’Day would find herself performing with the Tommy Atkins Sextet and carrying out her first on-screen roles.  This led to a part in King of Jazz (1930) in addition to a role in a stage play, Fine and Dandy, with dancer Eleanor Powell

Nell O'Day Young
A young O’Day

O’Day’s first starring role was in Rackety Rax (1932) alongside Victor McLaglen and Greta Nissan. She followed this with several comedy shorts opposite Harry Langdon and more secondary parts in feature films, including This Side of Heaven (1934), Woman in the Dark (1934), and The Road to Ruin (1934). She would also make a small number of Western films during the same period.

By the 1940s, O’Day was becoming a regular in Western films and started to receive starring roles in them, typically opposite the likes of Johnny Mack Brown, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, Max Terhune, and John ‘Dusty’ King. Thanks to her experience as a talented equestrian, she signed a contract with Universal and fulfilled a recurring cowgirl role in a series of hoss operas opposite star Brown and his sidekick, Fuzzy Knight. She would also appear in Westerns for other studios, including Republic and Monogram. Her last starring Western role would be in Boss of Rawhide (1943).

O’Day began to express an interest in writing plays and screenplays. She co-wrote The Monster Maker (1944) with her first husband, Larry Williams, but only Williams received screen credit. Neither she nor Williams was ever paid for the screenplay.

Nell O'Day western
O’Day in a western get-up

Though O’Day occasionally performed on stage, she retired in 1945 after performing in the Broadway’s Many Happy Returns. She made one more movie, a non-Western, entitled  The Story of Kenneth W. Randall M.D. (1946). O’Day then devoted her time to writing. One of her successes was the play The Bride of Denmark Hill, which was later turned into a BBC-TV production.

O’Day would write and grant interviews until the end of her life at age 79. She died from a heart attack on January 3, 1989, in Los Angeles, California. Her burial location is unknown.

Today, there are few tributes to O’Day that remain.

Her family home in 1920 stood at 282 S. Rampart Blvd in Los Angeles, California. Today, the location is a strip mall.

Nell O'Day family home at 282 S. Rampart Blvd in Los Angeles, California
Nell O’Day’s family home today

While the 1920s home no longer stands, her residence in 1940 remains. At that time, she lived in the El Cerrito apartments, located at 1800 El Cerrito Pl in Los Angeles, California. 

Nell O'Day residence 1800 El Cerrito Pl in Los Angeles, California
1800 El Cerrito Pl in Los Angeles, California

Due to the fact that so few locations remain, the best way to enjoy her work is to view her filmography and read her interviews. 

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Love Story (50th Anniversary)” (Giveaway runs now through Jan 18)

Win tickets to see “Love Story” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide
Sun Feb 9 and Wed Feb 12

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

CMH continues into our 5h year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 2nd of our 15 movie ticket giveaways for 2020, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets* to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Love Story (50th Anniversary)” – starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw — the way it was meant to be seen – on the Big Screen!

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, January 18th at 6PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, January 19between 6PM EST and 7PM EST. If a winner(s) does not have a Twitter account, we will announce that winner(s) via this blog in the comment section below.

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the film’s release

*Prize Tickets will be available while supplies last for select AMC, Regal, and Cinemark cinemas nationwide. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Important: Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a AMC, Regal, and Cinemark theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings and/or screening times for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, January 18 at 6pm EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What is it about “Love Story” that makes it a classic — even today, 50 years after its release? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: Love Story (50th Anniversary)” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here:

*If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

About the film: Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) and music student Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw) share a chemistry they cannot deny—and a love they cannot ignore. Despite their opposite backgrounds, the young couple put their hearts on the line for each other. When they marry, Oliver’s wealthy father threatens to disown him. Jenny tries to reconcile the Barrett men, but to no avail. Oliver and Jenny continue to build their life together. Relying only on each other, they believe love can fix anything. But fate has other plans. Soon, what began as a brutally honest friendship becomes the love story of their lives. This beloved film was nominated for seven Academy Awards®, including an Oscar®-winning musical score that became the poignant theme of the timeless romance. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this romantic classic returns to cinemas and includes exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies.

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest.

BlogHub members ARE also eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events | Tagged | 6 Comments

Cooking with the Stars: Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry

Cooking with the Stars: Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry

Loretta Young Headshot
Loretta Young

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for more stars and more delectable recipes! I feel like Loretta Young has been on my ever-growing list of stars that I’ve wanted to cover for ages, but this month seemed like the perfect time for many reasons. Like many of you, I’m sure, I recently dusted off my copy of The Bishop’s Wife (1947) over the holidays, which has made me realize how underappreciated and seldom discussed Loretta is nowadays in comparison to other actresses of her time. Even though she was one of my favorite actor Tyrone Power‘s most frequent leading ladies, I’m sorry to admit that even I don’t know much about her. I figured the arrival of the new year would be the perfect time to learn new facts about stars and try new types of cuisine. Besides, January 6th marks Loretta’s 107th birthday, and on February 10th, many of her belongings will be auctioned off in partnership with Julien’s Auctions. It seems like 2020 will be Young’s year at last, and I can’t wait to dive more into her career and her curry recipe!

Georgiana Belzer, Sally Blane, Loretta Young, and Polly Ann Young
The Young sisters, left to right: Georgiana Belzer, Loretta’s half-sister who later married actor Ricardo Montalban, Sally Blane, Loretta Young, and Polly Ann Young.

Loretta was born under the name of Gretchen Young on January 6, 1913, in Salt Lake City, Utah to Gladys and John Earle Young. Her parents separated when she was only two, and by age three Gretchen’s mother relocated along with Gretchen and her two older sisters, Polly Ann and Elizabeth Jane to Hollywood. Due to Mrs. Young’s connection to her brother-in-law, an assistant director during the early days of cinema, Gladys’ three daughters all began careers as child actresses, with Gretchen receiving her first role at the tender age of four in The Promise Ring (1917). Her performance, though uncredited, caught the eye of silent star Mae Murray, who was so taken with little Gretchen that she offered to adopt her.

Gretchen ended up living with the Murrays for a year and a half, after which she moved back in with her mother, who by this time ran a boarding house with the help of her daughters. After appearing uncredited in The Sheik (1921), Gretchen took a break from acting so she could finish school, though it wasn’t long until she found herself drawn to the screen once more. Her role in Naughty but Nice (1927) attracted the attention of another famous face: John McCormick, husband, and manager of legendary star Colleen Moore, who saw potential in the newcomer and decided to sign her to a contract. The name Loretta was given to the actress by Moore, who later claimed that it was the name of her favorite doll.

Loretta Young and Lon Chaney Laugh Clown Laugh (1928)
Loretta Young earned her first starring role in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) opposite Lon Chaney at the age of fifteen.

Loretta entered the world of films with a bang, going from near obscurity to starring opposite Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) within just one year. She continued to work steadily and build her star status from the end of the silent era, making a smooth transition to early talkies. She averaged anywhere from six to nine films during any given year, and by 1930 she was so popular with audiences that her elopement at age seventeen to Grant Withers, Young’s costar in The Second Floor Mystery (1930), made headlines. Their marriage was annulled the following year, which ironically coincided with the release of their second onscreen pairing, Too Young to Marry (1931). The end of her marriage didn’t stop Loretta’s ascent into the stratosphere, however, as she continued to star in scores of pre-code classics, many of which still hold up today, such as Platinum Blonde (1931), Employee’s Entrance (1933), and Heroes for Sale (1933).

By the mid-1930s, Loretta decided to leave her home studio, First National, for rival Twentieth Century Pictures, which was on the verge of merging with Fox to create 20th Century Fox. She had previously worked there on a loan-out basis, and the career move led to her transforming from a successful actress in the industry to become one of the most renowned leading ladies in Hollywood, but that wasn’t the only major change that was to come in her life at the time.

Loretta Young and her daughter, Judy Lewis.
Loretta Young and her daughter, Judy Lewis. Loretta did not publicly admit that she and Clark Gable were Judy’s biological parents until the posthumous release of her memoirs.

In January of 1935, Loretta journeyed to Mount Baker, Washington with the rest of the cast and crew of her newest feature, Call of the Wild (1935) co-starring MGM’s biggest leading man, Clark Gable. Despite his marriage to Maria Franklin and his multiple liaisons with Joan Crawford, Gable was drawn to Loretta, and while she was as flirtatious with him as she was with many of her other leading men, her strict Catholic upbringing made her careful not to take their relationship any further.

However, in a case of what’s now considered sexual assault perpetrated by Gable, Loretta became pregnant in the spring of the same year. In a very rare occurrence for the time, Loretta was adamant about keeping her child by any means necessary and decided to feign illness to the public and hideaway in Europe until she gave birth to daughter Judy on November 6, 1935. At first, Loretta placed Judy in the custody of her housekeeper, then in an orphanage until she was able to formally adopt the child. After a brief two months in recovery, Loretta returned to the screen in Ramona (1936), 20th Century Fox’s first three-strip Technicolor feature. The remainder of the 1930s was filled with picture after picture that each succeeded at the box office, and during this time she became most notable for her pairings opposite Tyrone Power in Café Metropole (1937), Second Honeymoon (1938), Suez (1938), and one of my absolute favorite films, Love is News (1937).

Loretta Young, seen here on March 20, 1948 with her Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Farmer’s Daughter (1947).
Loretta Young, seen here on March 20, 1948, with her Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Farmer’s Daughter (1947).

Loretta continued to work steadily throughout the 1940s, and though she was still highly successful as a star, only a few of her works in this decade have gone on to become well-known to modern audiences, including The Stranger (1946) opposite Orson Welles, the more recently beloved Christmas classic The Bishop’s Wife (1947) with Cary Grant and David Niven, and most importantly The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), which earned Young her first and only Academy Award for Best Actress. Her win came in the twilight of her career in motion pictures, as Loretta made only a handful of films during the late 1940s and early 1950s, but her next career move put her in front of a larger audience than ever before. Her television show began in 1953 as Letter to Loretta, an anthology series in which each episode was a dramatized response to one of her fan letters. This idea was scrapped after the show’s second season in favor of The Loretta Young Show.

Due to her overwork on the show during this time period, Loretta did not act in all of the show’s episodes, but each airing featured an introduction and conclusion featuring the actress in a stunning evening gown. The show ran until 1961, after which The New Loretta Young Show, a fictionalized sitcom starring Loretta and her six television children, attempted to take its place but quickly floundered in comparison to the original. Young spent the following decades focusing on charitable causes along with her friends and former costars, especially charities related to Catholicism. She passed away on August 12, 2000, of ovarian cancer at the age of eighty-seven and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups stock
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup celery
  • ½ cup diced raw potatoes
  • ½ cup peas
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder, stirred in a teaspoonful of hot stock

  1. Brown the onion and pepper in butter.
  2. Add stock, salt, celery, and potatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add peas, chicken and curry powder. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with hot boiled rice and India chutney. Serves 6.
Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry
My version of Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry.

As I touched on before, Indian food is largely new to me. I’ve dined with people who are more well-versed in this type of cuisine, but this is one of the first times that I can recall ever cooking any kind of curry before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I prepared Loretta’s recipe exactly as stated, though the fact that the recipe includes chicken that’s already been cooked left some room for experimentation. I decided to cook two large chicken breasts in a buttered pan first, seasoning with salt, pepper, curry powder, and a touch of coriander and cloves. Sautéeing the onion and pepper in the butter and the fond left from the chicken added just the right amount of flavor to the end result, so I would highly recommend doing the same if you fancy remaking this dish. In retrospect, the one mistake I very likely made while recreating this recipe was using the wrong type of “green pepper”.

The phrase “green pepper” in vintage recipes has frustrated me for years now because it’s so vague and I nearly always buy the wrong variety. I was confused about why so little pepper was required here until I realized that the recipe was likely calling for a spicy green pepper-like a serrano, jalapeno, or chili pepper, and of course, I bought and used green bell pepper. While it may have made a difference in heat, I was still highly satisfied with my version, more than I ever thought I would be! I was so proud that my first attempt at Indian food yielded some of the best Indian food I’ve tried. On paper, I wasn’t sure about the balance of ingredients, but in the pot, everything harmonized into one scrumptious and cohesive dish. The curry flavor is present, yet not overbearing, and the chicken and potatoes make this entrée very filling! If this is a dish that intrigues you as much as it did me, I urge you to dive right in and make this a weeknight staple in your kitchen. I’m so glad that our first recipe of the year has earned a perfect five out of five Vincents!

Vincent Price rating
Loretta Young’s Chicken Curry gets 5/5 Vincents

–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub

Samantha resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is the author of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, a blog that sheds light on Hollywood films and filmmakers from the 1930s through the 1960s. Her favorite column that she pens for her blog is Cooking with the Stars, for which she tests and reviews the personal recipes of stars from Hollywood’s golden age. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Samantha also lends her voice and classic film knowledge as cohost of the Ticklish Business podcast alongside Kristen Lopez and Drea Clark, and proudly serves as President of TCM Backlot’s Philadelphia Chapter. You can catch up with her work by following her @classicfilmgeek on Twitter.

Posted in Cooking with the Stars, Posts by Samantha Ellis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: An American in Paris” (Giveaway runs now through Jan 5)

Win tickets to see “An American in Paris” on the big screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide
Sun Jan 19 and Wed Jan 22

“I got rhythm, I got music…who could ask for anything more”

CMH continues into our 5h year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 1st of our 15 movie ticket giveaways for 2020, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets* to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: An American in Paris” – starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Oscar Levant — the way it was meant to be seen – on the Big Screen!

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Sunday, January 5th at 12noon EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, January 5between 6PM EST and 7PM EST. If a winner(s) does not have a Twitter account, we will announce that winner(s) via this blog in the comment section below.

An American in Paris, winner of 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Music

*Prize Tickets will be available while supplies last for select AMC, Regal, and Cinemark cinemas nationwide. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Important: Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a AMC, Regal, and Cinemark theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings and/or screening times for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Sunday, January 5 at 12noon EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What is it about “An American in Paris” that makes it a classic — even today, 69 years after its release? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: An American in Paris” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here:

*If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

About the film: Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron sing and dance to the music of George and Ira Gershwin in this winner of six Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. When ex-GI Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) remains in Paris to pursue life as an artist, he is discovered by a wealthy patroness interested in more than his art. But Mulligan falls in love with a French shop girl (Caron) who is engaged to his best friend. This musical classic includes exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies.

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest.

BlogHub members ARE also eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 18 Comments

Announcing our 2020 Year-Long Partnership with Fathom Events: “TCM Big Screen Classics” Movie Tickets Giveaways!

Classic Movie Hub and Fathom Events Partnership Continues!
Year-Long Movie Ticket Giveaways to 
TCM Big Screen Classics

For the fifth consecutive year, Fathom Events and TCM present TCM Big Screen Classics — a year-long series of 15 movie classics shown on the Big Screen, each accompanied by insightful, specially-produced commentary from favorite TCM hosts. And — CMH is thrilled to say that — also — for the fifth consecutive year — we will be partnering with Fathom Events for our monthly classic movie ticket giveaways.

That said, Classic Movie Hub will be giving away tickets to each of the TCM Big Screen Classics playing throughout 2020. And, just like last year, it will be simple to enter… All you have to do is check back on this Blog every month OR follow us on Twitter at @ClassicMovieHub or on Facebook for our monthly contest announcements. Then complete that month’s entry task, and you will be entered into a random drawing to win a pair of tickets to that month’s movie event! That’s it!

And — if you can’t wait to win tickets, you can purchase them online by visiting, or at participating theater box offices.

So, now, as they say, let’s get the show on the road — with a list of the movie events. 

An American in Paris, Jan 19 and 22:Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron sing and dance to the music of George and Ira Gershwin in this winner of six Academy Awards®, including Best Picture.

Love Story, Feb 9 and 12: Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) and music student Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw) share a chemistry they cannot deny – and a love they cannot ignore. Despite their opposite backgrounds, the young couple put their hearts on the line for each other. 

The Color Purple: Feb 23: Academy Award® winner Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey star in director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple.

King Kong, March 15: In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

A League of Their Own, Apr 26, 27 and 29: Big league box office stars Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks pitch up as The Rockford Peaches, a brash and ballsy team of tryers with a talent they were never meant to have and the guts to take it all the way!

Airplane!, May 17 and 20: Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty join panicky passengers, inept ground controllers and an inflatable auto-pilot (named “Otto,” of course!) in the disaster-film spoof voted “one of the 10 funniest movies ever made” by the American Film Institute.

The Shining: details to follow.

Annie: June 14 and 17: Director John Houston’s film adaptation of the Broadway smash hit, ANNIE, which in turn was based on the perennial cartoon favorite, Little Orphan Annie. This musical extravaganza features stunning performance by Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry and Albert Finney.

Blues Brothers June 28 and July 1: Comedy icons John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star in the outrageously funny musical comedy The Blues Brothers.

Ghost, July 19 and 22 : One of the most memorable romantic films ever and winner of two Academy Awards®, Sam (Patrick Swayze), living as a ghost, discovers his death wasn’t just a random robbery gone bad. 

Babe, Aug 9 and 12: Academy Award® winner and Best Picture nominee, Babe is the inspirational story of a shy Yorkshire piglet who doesn’t quite know his place in the world.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Sept 13, 14 and 17: Richard Dreyfuss stars as cable worker Roy Neary, who along with several other stunned bystanders experience a close encounter of the first kind – witnessing UFOs soaring across the sky. After this life-changing event, the inexplicable vision of a strange, mountain-like formation haunts him.

Psycho, Oct 11 and 12: Join the Master of Suspense on a chilling journey as an unsuspecting victim (Janet Leigh) visits the Bates Motel and falls prey to one of cinema’s most notorious psychopaths – Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nov 8 and 9: A feisty misfit sent to a mental hospital inspires his fellow patients to assert themselves, much to the chagrin of the strong-willed head nurse, who turns out to be more dangerous than any of the inmates. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey and the play by Dale Wasserman.

Fiddler on the Roof, Dec 13 and 14: Director Norman Jewison offers this uplifting classic about a poor Jewish milkman (Topol) in Czarist Russia who, along with his devoted family, battles financial challenges and growing anti-Semitism within his village.

Please stay tuned for contest announcements throughout the year for your chance(s) to win!


–Annmarie for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | 3 Comments

Western RoundUp: Noir-Tinged Westerns

Noir-Tinged Westerns

Around this time last year, in a column titled Christmas in the West, I took a look at a pair of Christmas-themed films starring Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Alas, there are very few Westerns with a Christmas theme, so this year I’m going to swing in a totally opposite direction, into the bleakness of winter, with a look at “Noir-Tinged Westerns.”

These are darker Westerns than the norm, with a style strongly influenced by the postwar film noir movement. They often have a crime or mystery theme and a hero who is psychologically conflicted or morally ambiguous. Here are a few of my favorite “noir Westerns” of 1947-48, presented in alphabetical order:


Blood on the Moon (Robert Wise, 1948)

Blood on the Moon starring Robert Mitchum

This is one of my top favorites in this Western subgenre, and it’s sadly underseen as it’s not yet available on DVD in the United States. Fortunately it does turn up occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.

The noir credentials behind Blood on the Moon are strong: It comes from the “House of Noir,” RKO, and was directed by Robert Wise, who the previous year directed Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor in one of my very favorite film noir titles, Born to Kill (1947)Blood on the Moon was filmed by Nicholas Musuraca, who did superb work on many film noir titles, including the all-time noir classic Out of the Past (1947). What’s more, Blood on the Moon stars Out of the Past star Robert Mitchum.

Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Mitchum

Mitchum plays Jim Garry, a “loose rider” (love that term) who finds himself in the middle of a range war. Barbara Bel Geddes is on one side of the battle, with Robert Preston on the other; Bel Geddes plays a spunky gal who’s a good shot, who just might reform the gun-slinging Garry.

As shot by Musuraca, the movie has terrific atmosphere, from the rainstorm which opens the film to a shadowy barroom brawl and moody, cloud-filled skies.

Blood on the Moon Publicity Still

The script by Lillie Hayward was based on a story by Luke Short, whose work inspired other “noirish Westerns,” including Ramrod and Station West, both discussed below. The script puts forth a tough story which veers from heartbreak to humor. One of the best moments has Walter Brennan, who has previously endured an enormous loss, kill a man and then laconically say to a surviving character, “I always wanted to shoot one of you, and he was the handiest.”

The deep supporting cast includes noir legend Charles McGraw, along with Tom Tully and Phyllis Thaxter. ’30s cowboy star Tom Keene also appears in a supporting role; in this later phase of his career, playing small supporting roles, Keene changed his billing name to Richard Powers.

A highly recommended film worth seeking out.


Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1948)


Robert Mitchum stars again, this time as the psychologically tormented Jeb Rand, who’s troubled by a childhood nightmare he doesn’t really remember; he simply knows something in his earliest years went very wrong.

Jeb was adopted at a young age by Ma Callum (Dame Judith Anderson), and things get a little odd when Jeb falls in love with his adoptive “sister,” Thorley (Teresa Wright). They’re not actually related, of course, and that’s actually the least strange aspect of Jeb’s family life; at one point he must shoot his adoptive brother (John Rodney), and then there’s Ma Callum’s brother-in-law (Dean Jagger) who wants to kill him. But why?

Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright

The interesting script was written by Wright’s husband, Niven Busch. Mitchum tended to be a deceptively low-key performer, but here his Jeb is positively stoic as he deals with everything thrown his way, including his own wife threatening to shoot him on their wedding night!

Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright

There’s much to absorb watching this film, from the well-acted, very troubled characters to the mystery to the film’s visual style. Famed cinematographer James Wong Howe does a marvelous job creating the film’s memorable, literally dark look, with many scenes shot at night.

The excellent supporting cast includes Alan Hale Sr. and Harry Carey Jr.

I’ve seen this Warner Bros. film several times and always notice new things, which I feel is one of the marks of a really good movie.


Ramrod (Andre de Toth, 1947)


Western favorite Joel McCrea stars in Ramrod, which was directed by Andre de Toth. McCrea plays a recovering alcoholic who had fallen into drinking after the deaths of his wife and child. Dave accepts as job as “ramrod” for rancher Connie Dickason (Veronica Lake, who was married to de Toth). Connie is at odds with her father (Charlie Ruggles), who had driven her fiancee out of town, and unknown to Dave she arranges a stampede that kills multiple people.

While McCrea’s Dave has a troubled past, he’s still the straight arrow viewers expect from the actor. Lake’s Connie, on the other hand, is a coldhearted femme fatale who’s only looking out for No. 1 — and thankfully she has a nice comeuppance at movie’s end.

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea

The great cast also includes Preston Foster as a villainous rancher allied with Connie’s father; Arleen Whelan as the woman who quietly loves Dave; Donald Crisp as the upright sheriff; and best of all, Don DeFore in a scene-stealing role as McCrea’s charming, sexy sidekick. (Yes, Don DeFore! Who knew?!)

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea

A dozen years later de Toth directed another dark Western, Day of the Outlaw (1959), which I wrote about here last year.

McCrea would likewise go on to star in another noirish Western, Colorado Territory (1949).

Ramrod was distributed by United Artists. It’s another terrific movie whose reputation has grown over the years.


Station West (Sidney Lanfield, 1948)

Station West

I briefly wrote about Station West here close to a year ago in a column on “Unexpected Western Leads,” but it’s worth looking at this title a little more in this different context.

Station West is another movie from the “house of noir,” RKO. It teams a pair of stars from film noir classics, with Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet) as an undercover detective and Jane Greer (Out of the Past) as the saloon gal who also proves to be something of a femme fatale. Film noir regular Raymond Burr is also on hand playing a nervous lawyer.

Dick Powell and Jane Greer

Powell’s detective, Lt. John Haven, is on a mission to solve the murders of two soldiers in a frontier town where he’s not entirely sure who he can trust.

In some ways this is the most “noir” of the quartet of films discussed here, having the feel of transporting Powell, Greer, and Burr’s typical film noir characters straight into the Western milieu.

Thanks to Frank Fenton and Winston Miller’s great screenplay, Powell offers up sardonic quips and wisecracks on a par with his earlier role as Philip Marlowe. There’s also a fistfight between Powell and Guinn “Big Boy” Williams which is quite memorable for its realism and brutality; like Marlowe, Powell’s Lt. Haven is smart but also finds himself “worked over” pretty well.

Jane Greer and Dick Powell

Greer gets a chance to sing as the mysterious saloon owner, and there’s also some wonderful singing by Burl Ives which offers commentary on the action. I enjoy noting that while Greer and Ives sang in this film, former musical star Dick Powell did not!

The superb photography was by Harry J. Wild, who had shot Powell’s Murder, My Sweet a few years previously, as well as Powell and Burr’s Pitfall, released the very same year. The scenes with beautiful cloud and rock background formations were filmed by Wild in Sedona, Arizona.

There are a few other titles of this era which could also be described as “noir-tinged.” If anyone would like to recommend a favorite not mentioned above, please feel free to make suggestions in the comments!


— Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns.  She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals.  Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.

Posted in Posts by Laura Grieve, Western RoundUp | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments