Western Roundup: McCrea Ranch

Western Roundup: McCrea Ranch

Joel McCrea has been one of my favorite actors since I was a teenaged classic film fan, and in the ensuing decades my admiration for Joel, as both an actor and a person, has only deepened.

Joel McCrea could do it all: Hitchcock, classic comedies, and of course Westerns. But while Joel loved working in the movie business, he famously listed “rancher,” not actor, as his occupation on tax returns. The center of Joel’s life was living with his family on his beloved ranch in Moorpark, California.

Joel McCrea Ranch Welcome Sign
Welcome to the McCrea Ranch!

It was thus a dream come true when I first had the opportunity to visit Joel’s ranch when it opened for public tours in 2011. I’ve been privileged to visit McCrea Ranch on several occasions since then, and I’d like to take Western Roundup readers along on my most recent visit to the ranch in May 2019, sharing a bit of the ranch’s history along the way.

Joel McCrea Ranch Horse
“I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore.
I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.”
– McCrea

The occasion for my latest visit was the ranch’s annual Cowboy Cookout fundraiser, which helps to support ongoing restorations at the ranch, where California’s film and ranching history intersect.

Joel McCrea Ranch View
Beautiful view from the Ranch

Joel bought the ranch in the early ’30s with the encouragement of his mentor, Will Rogers. Joel and his bride, actress Frances Dee, moved into the ranch soon after their wedding in October 1933. They raised three sons: Jody (born 1934), David (born 1935), and when the first two boys were grown, along came Peter (born 1955). The McCreas lived on the ranch for decades, until Joel’s passing on their 57th wedding anniversary in 1990.

Joel McCrea Frances Dee
Joel McCrea and Frances Dee in Wells Fargo (1937)

The McCreas grew oats and barley along with raising cattle. Whenever I visit I muse how surprised many people would be at the simplicity of the McCreas’ lifestyle; there’s nothing “movie star” about it. Their home was sprawling and comfortable yet many of the rooms are quite small by modern standards, heated with simple wood-burning stoves. The decor included a sampler hand-stitched by Joel’s mother and a bedstead which had long been in the McCrea family, shipped around Cape Horn to reach California.

Joel McCrea Ranch House
The front of the McCrea home

Views of the McCreas’ front porch and yard, which includes a treehouse and a simple “swimming hole” only filled during the summer:

Joel McCrea Ranch Porch
Joel McCrea Ranch Yard
Joel McCrea Ranch Porch View

Before their deaths the McCreas donated much of their land to local groups including the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. After Joel’s death the family donated 225 acres, including the ranch house, to the Conejo Recreation and Park District.

A Visitor Center opened on the ranch in 2011, with informative displays about the family and the ranch and a short introductory documentary. Several areas of the ranch, including the milk house and the ranch shop, are available to tour on days the ranch is open for visits. Joel’s 1947 pickup is parked at the ranch, and it still runs!

Joel McCrea Ranch Visitor Center Sign
McCrea Ranch Visitor Center sign
Joel McCrea Ranch Exhibit Home and Family
McCrea’s family and home life exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Ranching Life Exhibit
“Ranching Life” exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Frances Dee Exhibit
Frances Dee exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Memorabilia
McCrea Memorabilia

The Ranch is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Joel McCrea Ranch National Register of Historic Places
McCrea Ranch noticed in the National Register of Historic Places

Today David McCrea’s son Wyatt lives on the ranch and spearheads work preserving it for future generations. He’s on the left in this photo taken at the Cowboy Cookout with stuntman Diamond Farnsworth, son of actor-stuntman Richard Farnsworth:

Wyatt McCrea and Diamond Farnsworth
Wyatt McCrea and Diamond Farnsworth

Actor Bruce Boxleitner, who chatted with fans at the cookout, is another supporter of the ranch, serving as the on-camera host and narrator of the Visitor Center documentary.

Bruce Boxleitner
Bruce Boxleitner

My husband Doug visiting with William Wellman Jr. at the cookout. Wellman’s father directed Joel in Reaching For The Sun (1941), The Great Man’s Lady (1942), and Buffalo Bill (1944).

William Wellman Jr. McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019
My husband Doug visiting with William Wellman Jr. at the cookout.

Here’s a look at the cookout scene. Live music was provided along with a terrific barbecue!

McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019 View
McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019

Many items were raffled off to raise additional funds for ranch preservation. I was thrilled to win these original posters for The Virginian (1946)!

McCrea Ranch Raffle including an original The Virginian Poster
Raffle including an original The Virginian Poster!

Events are periodically held at the ranch by the Conejo Recreation and Park District, so Western fans should be sure to watch their website for upcoming events when planning a visit to Southern California. Classic film fans who’d like to help support the preservation of McCrea Ranch for future generations may visit the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation for more information.

– 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 , , , , | 7 Comments

Silents are Golden: A (Brief) History of Early Hollywood

Silents are Golden: A (Brief) History of Early Hollywood

Today Hollywood, California is one of the most famous places in the world, the thriving axis of the movie industry. For decades it’s drawn countless dreamers hoping to make it in “the industry.” Real estate up in its hills is bought and sold for millions. And, of course, it attracts perpetual hordes of tourists strolling its famous Walk of Fame or hoping for glimpses of celebrities in nearby Beverly Hills.

Hollywood, California, USA

But there was a time when this same bustling neighborhood of Los Angeles was a sleepy little stretch of hilly farmland ten miles east from the city, accessible only by a gravel road and populated by a few hundred people. Little did the residents of this quiet community know what vast changes were in store–especially once those “movies” came to town (as they would nickname early filmmakers, not knowing “movies” referred to films).

In the 1880s, the now-famous Hollywood hills were mostly wild land, covered in scrubby thickets and cacti. Nearby was the Cahuenga Pass, once the site of two early 19th century battles between settlers and Mexican authorities (in the days before California was an independent state). The valley nearby was ideal for barley and orange groves, which thrived in the near-constant sunny weather.

A Very early glimpse of Hollywood, California
A very early (and empty) glimpse of Hollywood, California

In 1886 real estate developer H.J. Whitley and his wife were honeymooning in the area. He would write in his diary that while they gazing at the valley from a vantage spot up in the hills, a Chinese man stopped by with a wagon and greeted them, explaining in a thick accent that he was “hauling wood.” To Whitley, the phrase sounded like “holly wood,” which had a certain ring to it. Having started over 100 towns in the past, Whitley decided this quiet corner of southern California needed one too, and that it should be called “Hollywood.”

Whitley would purchase 480 acres in the valley, and began guiding it through a modest development phase. A year later, rancher Harvey H. Wilcox purchased 120 acres. His wife Daeida happened to hear about the “Hollywood” name, and the couple decided it was a nice fit for their new estate. On the deed to their land, they put down “Hollywood,” which made it an official part of the area’s history.

Downtown Hollywood circa 1907.
Downtown Hollywood circa 1907.

By the turn of the 20th century, the young town had a couple of markets, a post office, a hotel, restaurants, and a single streetcar line. In 1904 voters even outlawed liquor in their community. Being so small and in such a desert-like area, getting an adequate water supply was a constant challenge. In 1910 Hollywood had to petition to merge with Los Angeles. One of the changes this entailed was renaming its main street, Prospect Avenue, to Hollywood Boulevard.

A 1905 postcard showing Prospect Avenue, Hollywood, California
A 1905 postcard showing an (unpaved!) Prospect Avenue.

The film industry had first crept into the Los Angeles area around 1906, when the American Biograph and Mutoscope Company established a modest studio. The following year the little Selig Company arrived, having been busy making one-reelers all around the U.S. It’s thought that the first drama to be made entirely on California soil was Selig’s The Power of the Sultan, starring Hobart Bosworth – and the filming location was a vacant lot next to a Chinese laundry. More filmmakers began to be drawn to Los Angeles, attracted by the sunshine, warmth, and varied scenery. Forests, deserts, valleys, and beaches were either nearby or a short journey away. The first director to make a film in Hollywood itself was apparently D.W. Griffith, who shot his two-reel In Old California there in 1910. And in 1911 the first Hollywood studio officially opened: the Nestor Motion Picture Company, which got to work churning out one-reel Westerns and dramas. 

Nestor Motion Picture Company
Nestor worked in this abandoned tavern (the stage is behind it)..

It’s thought that another reason Hollywood drew filmmakers was its safe distance from New York and Chicago. In those early cinema days, a “Patent War” had erupted between various film companies and the enforcers of Thomas Edison’s many motion pictures patents. Some disputes actually erupted into violence. The Hollywood area likely seemed a good refuge from all the drama, especially since the Mexican border was within a hundred miles.

By the 1910s, the moving picture business was turning into a profitable industry, and Hollywood was (rather unwittingly) becoming its capital. Residents soon grew used to those “movies” filming here, there, and everywhere throughout the town, often quickly setting up in the middle of the street to film a cowboy shootout or asking to borrow someone’s yard as a location for the afternoon. People did get annoyed, however, when filmmakers working in Griffith Park fired off blank cartridges that startled the local wildlife. (Since the park was so vast, studios could even erect impromptu film sets which often remained undiscovered for days.) While their presence was generally tolerated, “picture people” wouldn’t be considered respectable for a few more years, and often had a hard time finding housing.

On set of an early western film in Inceville - Hollywood, California
On set of an early western film at Inceville

As early as 1915, the Patent War had calmed down and the majority of U.S. films were being made in southern California, concentrated in Hollywood. Major directors, including Griffith, Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett, and Cecil B. DeMille had all settled in the area. Major stars like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford were entrancing audiences in theaters around the world. By the end of the 1910s, Hollywood was officially the cinema’s home, and its population was exploding–as were the numbers of tourists seeking their favorite “players.” New buildings and roads sprang up in the hills and valleys like weeds. The marriage of squeaky-clean superstars Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 was perhaps a turning point in the industry. The two built an elegant home they dubbed Pickfair and entertained visiting aristocrats and other famous names. This brought a sense of respectability to motion pictures, and in time, some of those aristocrats even did bit parts in films. 

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks put their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. 1927
Mary and Doug put their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Hollywood boomed in the 1920s, and many actors and directors would make fortunes in real estate. An exclusive new housing development up in the hills dubbed “Hollywoodland” originated one of the world’s most famous landmarks. The developers decided to perch a giant sign spelling out “Hollywoodland” near the peak of one of the hills (it was lit by neon lights at night!). While the “land” would be removed during a 1949 and it would be rebuilt in the 1970s, the sign has graced that spot ever since.

a pre-1949 look at the original Hollywoodland Sign
a pre-1949 look at the original Hollywoodland Sign

In the past decades, Hollywood has experienced both ups and downs. In 1960 it commemorated its storied history by launching the Walk of Fame. Hollywood Boulevard would experience periods of seediness and neglect, especially in the ‘80s, but by the 2000s, the neighborhood began cleaning itself up. The Dolby Theater was built to house the Oscars ceremony and a shiny new Hollywood & Highland center was created, prominently decorated with replicas of the elephants from Intolerance. Today Hollywood continues to draw tourists and TV cameras from around the world. All in all, it’s been an extraordinary evolution for an area that was once a sleepy town nestled among quiet orange groves.

–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

Posted in Posts by Lee Stans, Silents are Golden | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Glory” (Giveaway runs now through July 6)

Win tickets to see “Glory” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun July 21 and Wed July 24

CMH continues with our 4th year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 8th of our 14 movie ticket giveaways for 2019, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Glory” – on the Big Screen — starring Matthew Broderick,Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman.

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

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, July 7, between 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.

glory fathom events

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday July 21 and Wednesday July 24 at select times. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a 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 July 6 at 6pm EST…

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

Although not officially a classic-era film, what in your opinion makes “Glory” a classic? 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: Glory” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents – you can enter too at http://ow.ly/n8iP50uIABe

*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 clas…@gmail.com 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: The heart-stopping story of the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War, GLORY stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. Broderick and Elwes are the idealistic young Bostonians who lead the regiment; Freeman is the inspirational sergeant who unites the troops; and Denzel Washington, in an Oscar®-winning performance (1989, Best Supporting Actor), is the runaway slave who embodies the indomitable spirit of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts. This truly classic American Civil Warm film is sure to reach you to your core. This special two-day event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies. 

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest. (see contest rules for further information)

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

Good Luck!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

The Funny Papers: Summer Drive-In Double Feature – Bachelor Flat (1962) and How Sweet It Is! (1968)

The Funny Papers: Summer Drive-In Double Feature – Bachelor Flat (1962) & How Sweet It Is! (1968)

Summertime brings back nostalgic reflections for all of us. Depending upon your generation, background, and interests, your particular memories will bring you back differently. For us cinephiles, there are classic films that harken back those carefree days of summer. It seemed more than fitting to serve up a pair of classic, silly comedies reminiscent of the old drive-in, to kick off this summer properly.[

Richard Beymer and Tuesday Weld  in Bachelor Flat (1962).
Richard Beymer and Tuesday Weld warm up on the beach in Bachelor Flat (1962).

In Frank Tashlin’s Bachelor Flat (1962), this 60’s sex comedy brings us to a beach house in Santa Monica. Starring Terry-Thomas (as Prof. Bruce Patterson), Celeste Holm (as his fashion designer fiancée, Helen Bushmill), Richard Beymer (as the law school student neighbor, Mike), Tuesday Weld (as her daughter, Libby). And amongst the character roles, there is one very charming Dachshund named “Jessica.”[

Richard Beymer, Tuesday Weld and Jessica, in Bachelor Flat (1962).
Camper trio: Tuesday Weld, Richard Beymer and “Jessica”

All the ingredients are present for a fun summer salad of slapstick: silly slapstick situations, over-sexed motives and sex stereotypes wrapped nicely in PG standards, anglo/Brit cultural stereotypes presented softly for humorous effects, and of course, a perfect California beach setting along the Pacific Coast highway. A Jack Cummings production filmed in CinemaScope, this film transports us to a colorful escape of comedy comfort food.

Bachelor Flat (1962) Richard Beymer Tuesday Weld and Terry-Thomas
Beymer, Weld, and Terry-Thomas make a comedy of brassiere errors

The British invasion was just around the corner for America when this was filmed, so the comedic stylings of Terry-Thomas in the lead was the perfect pick. He portrays an associate professor at the local college of archeology. He dons 3 piece suits, a bowler hat, umbrella, and his signature gap-toothed grin with British charm. And for an American twist, every female student is obsessed with his polished, well-mannered restraint that they pursue him like hormonal teenagers after the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night (1964).

Much of the plot centers around the numerous young women who chase after Professor Patterson. There’s a scene of female students anxiously awaiting his arrival in class that could be a mirror of a very similar scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981), as female students crush on Harrison Ford’s Jones (also an archeology professor). While the professor stays in his fiancee’s summer beach house as she is away in Paris, his neighbor is the dreamy Richard Beymer, Mike, who lives with his dog Jessica in his camper in her parking pad. As an audience, we are supposed to believe attractive women only go out with Mike to get closer to the Professor. My fondness for Beymer’s tall dark looks, large overbite and freckles believe otherwise.

Bachelor Flat (1962) Terry-Thomas Car
Obsessed fans stop at nothing to garner the professor’s attention.

The real troubles begin when Helen’s 17 year-old daughter Libby shows up unexpectedly. Not only did Libby skip out on her boarding school (which her truancy is a bigger problem than is addressed because she may have actually missed graduating from high school) but because Helen failed to even mention she has a daughter to Bruce, her surprise visit is shrouded in further lies to her true identity.

Clip from Bachelor Flat (1962)

It all gets muddled with mixed-up identities and farces of characterizations. Additionally, a large dinosaur bone- a gem of discovery by the professor- is buried by Jessica. The hunt is on. This time the cinematic parallel takes us back to mirroring to a famed screwball comedy, with a dog named “George” in Bringing Up Baby (1937). Overall, it’s a sweet, nonsensical summer flick.

As for the second feature in this double dose at the retro drive-in, I’ll stick to the theme of 1960s comedies that tackle both battle of the sexes and the generation gap with Jerry Paris’s How Sweet It Is! (1968).

How Sweet It Is! (1968) James Garner, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald Losby
James Garner, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald Losby take a whacky summer vacation

As common for summertime classics, settings are often placed either on the beach or on vacation. In this film, we take a whacky journey with James Garner as photographer Grif Henderson, Debbie Reynolds as his wife Jenny, and Donald Losby as their son Davey on a European vacation. But, as inevitable with a good comedy, things do not exactly go as planned.

How Sweet It Is! (1968) James Garner and Debbie Reynolds
Garner and Reynolds want to make love, not war

From the very beginning scene, we see evidence plus strong innuendo that Mr. and Mrs. Henderson may be parents of a teenager, but their romantic relationship remains very healthy. Grif is worried that his father-and-son time left with his flower-child son is slipping away. Taking a gig as a photographer for the high school girls’ trip to Europe, with his son Davey tagging along as assistant, Grif intends to get his father/son trip in. But Jenny wants a European vacation too. She makes arrangements to rent a villa and unofficially join them for part of it.

The assumption is that things go awry when mom meddles. Beginning with Jenny’s first step into planning her part of this trip, she is a victim of a scam in renting a villa. And coincidentally, Terry-Thomas plays a brief role as the conman. The true owner of this palatial villa is a very handsome and suave Maurice Ronet as wealthy playboy Philipe Maspere. Nearly tapped out on funds from paying upfront to the shyster, Jenny naively accepts Philipe’s more than accommodating offer to stay at a ridiculously discounted rate.

How Sweet It Is! (1968) Donald Losby
Davey tries to impress his girlfriend with Free Love protesting

While there is a very soft take on the generation gap and counterculture focus, the bigger theme is a good old-fashioned romantic comedy. Conflicts arise for both Grif and Jenny as others compete for their affections, while they attempt to prove they are both still very much attracted to each other. There is an implication they are each dealing with a middle-aged crisis of sorts, with each thwarting off pursuers while simultaneously proving their own “sexual mojo prowess.” This seems a bit on the absurd side to me considering how young and attractive both are. In 1968, Garner is a ridiculously handsome age 40 and Reynolds is adorable as ever at an incredibly fit age of 36.

Clip from How Sweet It Is! (1968)

One of the funniest ongoing bits come every time Reynolds flashes her bikini in various situations, creating lusty havoc wherever she goes. Yes, mom still “has it.” Another favorite for me is a small part portrayed by Paul Lynde, as the ship’s purser. I’m an enormous fan of his scene-stealing work, so even his very minor roles can bring magic. The man had a natural instinct for comedy. On deck, Lynde’s character is a flustered and scolding type, calling out everyone as “animals.” Later we find him in a brothel, of all places, disapprovingly referring to the others as perverts. All in all, this film is an entertaining trip from reality.   

How Sweet It Is! (1968) Paul Lynde
Paul Lynde delivers his hilarious characterizations both at sea and on land

The Rom-Coms of the 1960s such as these tackled generational clashes and coming-of-age within the counterculture but with a far lighter touch than the harsh realities of the world around them, including the Vietnam War. As an escape, several of these films took an extreme redirection towards the silly romantic comedies and parodies. I’ve written about this subgenre before, which you can read HERE, or explore the CMH site for more comedies and quotes within this category. Meanwhile- see you at the retro drive-in!

–Kellee Pratt for Classic Movie Hub

When not performing marketing and social media as her day gig, Kellee Pratt writes for her own classic film blog, Outspoken & Freckled (kelleepratt.com). Kellee teaches classic film courses in her college town in Kansas (Screwball Comedy this Fall). Unapologetic social butterfly, she’s an active tweetaholic/original alum for #TCMParty, member of the CMBA, Social Producer for TCM (2015, 2016), and busy mom of four kids and 3 fur babies. You can follow Kellee on twitter at @IrishJayHawk66.

Posted in Posts by Kellee Pratt, The Funny Papers, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cooking with the Stars — Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

Cooking with the Stars — Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

Montgomery Clift Headshot
Montgomery Clift

If you’ve read my Cooking with the Stars column in the past, you may know that I usually choose the actors and recipes that I review for a reason. Most of the time it’s because I want to honor a legendary star on his or her birthday or celebrate a particular time of year, but this time around I’ll be changing things up a bit. For June I’ll be celebrating a birthday that means more to me than all the rest, but it isn’t because of a classic film star.

June 19th marks the birthday of my biggest supporter and my best friend: my sister, Diana. She adores classic cinema nearly as much as I do, and the time that she spends giving me feedback and editing my posts makes much of what I do possible. For those reasons and many more, I’ve known for quite a while that I’d use this month to pay tribute to her, but at first, my idea was to write about one of the many stars who shares a birthday with her like Pier Angeli, Louis Jourdan, or Gena Rowlands. However, the more I thought about doing this, the more I realized that she isn’t as big of a fan of these stars as she is of some others. Above all else, I wanted to write about someone whose work makes her the happiest, so ultimately, I decided to honor my sister by examining the legacy and testing out a recipe of an actor who means the world to both of us: Montgomery Clift.

Montgomery Clift, Lois Hall in Dame Nature (1938).
Montgomery Clift, seen here with Lois Hall in the Broadway production of Patricia Collinge’s Dame Nature in 1938.

Edward Montgomery Clift was born on October 17, 1920, in Omaha, Nebraska to William Clift, the vice-president of the Omaha National Trust Company, and his wife, Ethel. Monty had two siblings, a twin sister named after their mother (though she went by Sunny) and an older brother named after their father. Clift’s mother, who was adopted, believed that she was descended from northern American aristocracy. She devoted a great deal of time, as well as the family’s money, to search for the truth about her heritage and raise her children in a life of luxury. Monty and his siblings spent their childhood traveling through Europe, becoming fluent in three languages and receiving the best private education that money could buy.

As the stock market crashed in 1929, however, so did the privileged life of the Clift family. They were forced to move to New York while William slowly but surely recuperated his losses, and by the time Monty reached young adulthood, the family could afford to send his brother to Harvard and his sister to Bryn Mawr. College life wasn’t as fit for Monty, who joined a summer stage production instead of continuing his education; this was successful enough to result in his debut on Broadway in 1935. In the following years, Clift developed a prolific career on the stage in roles written by true visionaries such as Tennessee Williams, Moss Hart, and Thornton Wilder, opposite talents like Alla Nazimova, Fredric March, and Tallulah Bankhead. In 1939, Clift participated in one of the United States’ very first television broadcasts as part of the cast of Noël Coward‘s Hay Fever and later followed up that success with an appearance in 1941’s There Shall Be No Night, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)
Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in a scene from A Place in the Sun (1951). Audiences clamored for Clift and Taylor as soon as they graced the silver screen together, and they were dubbed “the most beautiful couple in Hollywood”

Clift suffered from dysentery the following year, which rendered him ineligible for service in World War II. This exception gave him the opportunity to travel to Hollywood, where he snagged his first role opposite John Wayne in the seminal western Red River (1948). Clift displayed a gifted and uninhibited persona that would change the way that actors would perform for generations to come from the first moment he appeared onscreen, popularizing a unique acting style that would eventually be known as the Method. Next, he made The Search (1948), one of my personal favorite films of Clift’s where he portrays a soldier who rescues a child who has survived a concentration camp. The feature was made after Red River (1948) but released first, which technically made Clift one of only six men to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his debut performance. He lost the Oscar to Laurence Olivier‘s portrayal of Hamlet (1948), but it was only the beginning of his incredible career in pictures. His next few characters were morally ambiguous, even teetering on the precipice of villainy in films such as The Heiress (1949) and one of his most critically acclaimed movies, A Place in the Sun (1951). He portrays George Eastman in the latter film, an opportunistic drifter who attempts to murder his pregnant girlfriend, played by Shelley Winters, in favor of an alluring heiress played by Clift’s dearest offscreen friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Monty was nominated once again for an Academy Award, and this time he was the fan favorite to finally win. Charlie Chaplin called A Place in the Sun (1951) “the greatest movie made about America”, and Clift even received a vote from his rival Marlon Brando, but it was Marlon who would ultimately take home the gold for his iconic role in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra on the set of From Here to Eternity (1953)
Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra on the set of From Here to Eternity (1953). Both Clift and Sinatra would be nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in this film, but only Sinatra would win.

Montgomery Clift kept himself busy throughout 1953 with three highly successful pictures: Alfred Hitchcock‘s I Confess (1953), Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953), and what’s perhaps known as his masterwork, From Here to Eternity (1953). While most people involved with the project believed that Clift was wrong for the latter part of Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a soldier who faces prejudice from his superiors after refusing to participate in their regiment’s boxing team, his performance would earn him yet another Oscar nomination. Monty took a break from acting after that, which led to a grand build-up for Raintree County (1957), his first Technicolor film and his second on-screen pairing with Elizabeth Taylor. However, production came to a halt on the evening of May 12, 1956, as Clift was involved in a near-deadly car accident on his way home from a dinner party hosted by Taylor after falling asleep at the wheel of his car and crashing into a telephone pole. Close friend and fellow actor Kevin McCarthy witnessed the accident and drove back to call Taylor, her husband Michael Wilding, and Rock Hudson for help. As soon as they arrived on the scene, Taylor entered the car and crawled into the front seat, removing two of Clift’s front teeth from his throat and saving him from choking. Hudson then pulled him out of the car and the group shielded him from the press until an ambulance arrived.

Montgomery Clift on the set of The Misfits (1961).
Montgomery Clift on the set of The Misfits (1961).

After over two months of recovery and plastic surgery, Monty returned to finish Raintree County (1957), but he had become heavily dependent on alcohol and painkillers. Clift continued to work in Hollywood after his accident, still excelling as an actor despite his off-screen complications in films like The Young Lions (1958), which he considered his favorite performance. He stated, “Noah, from The Young Lions (1958), was the best performance of my life. I couldn’t have given more of myself. I’ll never be able to do it again. Never.” Some of his other later successes include Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), The Misfits (1961), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1962), for which Clift received his final Academy Award nomination. His final film was The Defector (1966), a Cold War thriller which gave Monty some favorable reviews. Despite his poor health due to substance abuse combined with his previous conditions, Elizabeth Taylor specifically chose him to star opposite her in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). However, on July 23, 1966, before filming began, Montgomery Clift passed away from cardiac arrest in his home at the age of forty-five. His funeral lasted only fifteen minutes and was attended by a hundred and fifty guests, including the likes of Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall. He was laid to rest by his mother in Friends Quaker Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

From what I can tell, this recipe is dated around 1949 to 1950, shortly after the release of The Heiress (1949) as it gives the film a mention: “The Heiress (1949) has just about made a major star out of Monty, but he still prefers to live in his walk-up Manhattan flat and do all of his own cooking in a small, room-for-one kitchen. His Italian coffee is out of this world, but he calls Crabmeat Rarebit his favorite recipe because ‘I like seafood, and this is an unusual seafood dish.'”

  • 2 – cups top milk or cream
  • 3 – tablespoons flour
  • 3 – tablespoons butter
  • ½ – teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ – cups crabmeat, fresh or canned
  • 1 – tablespoon celery, diced fine
  • Buttered toast (I used four slices total)
  • 3 – tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Parsley, to taste
  • Combine top milk or cream, flour, butter, and seasoning in a saucepan. Cook until thick, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in cooked crabmeat and celery and continue cooking until mixture is piping hot.
  • Pour over toast slices, top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Serves 4.

Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit
My rendition of Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit.

This recipe doesn’t specify what kind of toast to use, but I would definitely recommend using a type of bread with some weight to it. Instead of picking a regular loaf of sliced white bread off of the grocery store shelf as I would normally do when making toast, I headed over to the bakery and grabbed some ciabatta rolls for this recipe, which I cut in half and toasted. I’m so glad that I made that call because this dish ended up being absolute heaven!

The sauce is really luscious and thick and the bread that I chose didn’t get soggy like a normal white bread would or disintegrate under the weight of the crabmeat. The celery and parsley add that bit of freshness that this dish really needs and keeps it from being too rich, and altogether I think it’s perfectly balanced. Part of the reason why I adore writing these articles is that I love trying food that’s out of my comfort zone. I’ve probably eaten crab less than five times in my whole life and I’ve never had rarebit. I didn’t think that hot crabmeat would be something that I would enjoy, but Montgomery’s recipe really surprised me. It was out of this world, and it’s moments like those that make this column worth every bit of effort.

The combination of toast with the buttery sauce and the soft texture of the crab actually made me think of breakfast and brunch, and as strange as that might seem when you look at the ingredients, I think this is really a perfect meal for any time of day. I would definitely give this recipe four out of five Vincents, because as incredible as the taste of Clift’s rarebit is, it’s really not something that I can see appealing to the masses. I have enough crab left over to make this again and I probably will, but crab is a pretty pricey ingredient that I can’t see myself eating often, and I wouldn’t say that it’s worth buying just to make this casual dish on any sort of regular basis. At the end of the day, I would absolutely recommend trying this outstanding meal, but you probably won’t want to make it and eat it over and over again.

Cooking with the Stars Recipe Rating – 4 out of 5 Vincents:

Vincent Price Rating
Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit gets a well-deserved 4 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 , | 2 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: Rosalind Russell

Classic Movie Travels: Rosalind Russell – Connecticut and San Francisco

Rosalind Russell Headshot
Rosalind Russell

Throughout her career, Rosalind Russell portrayed a wide range of strong female characters. From her witty performance as Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940) to Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame (1958) and so many more, Russell enjoyed much success as a comedic and dramatic lead and tended to regularly play professional women.

Catherine Rosalind Russell was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. Her father was a lawyer, while her mother was a teacher. Russell was one of seven children and the family also employed two servants to help manage the household. Russell was actually named after the ship on which her parents once traveled.

Being part of an Irish-American Catholic family, Russell attended Catholic schools such as Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and Marymount College in New York. She remained a devout Catholic all her life. After graduating, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Though her parents thought that she was studying to become a teacher, she actually intended to become a comedic actress. As a result, when she finished her schooling in New York City, she acted in summer stock productions in Connecticut against her parents’ wishes.

A young Rosalind Russell
A young Rosalind

Soon after, Russell moved to Boston and worked at a theater repertory, where she also took voice lessons. Though she began to build an operatic career, she had difficulty singing higher notes and did not pursue the career further. Instead, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was hired as a contract player for Universal Studios. Ultimately unhappy with Universal, she aimed to work for MGM. Unfortunately, she was not able to break her Universal contract. As time went on and MGM approached her for a screen test, she found MGM to be a far more positive experience and signed a contract with them instead.

Newly under contract with MGM, she made her film debut in Evelyn Prentice (1934) in a small role. However, Russell received positive reviews and progressed to appearing in many comedies, such as Forsaking All Others (1934) and Four’s a Crowd (1938). She was also cast in dramatic roles, such as Craig’s Wife (1936) and The Citadel (1938). By 1935, she was essentially seen as a replacement for Myrna Loy and took on several roles initially envisioned for Loy.

Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940)
Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940)

Over time, Russell found herself carrying an image of sophistication but establishing a reputation as a comedienne. After a successful performance in the all-female comedy, The Women (1939), Russell continued to explore her knack for comedy with the hit film, His Girl Friday (1940). Her performance as a quick-witted reporter in His Girl Friday became one of her most iconic performances, despite the role being turned down by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, and more. She followed this film with other comedies, including The Feminine Touch (1941), Take a Letter, Darling (1942), and My Sister Eileen (1942), in addition to other dramatic films.

During this time, Russell’s co-star in His Girl Friday, Cary Grant, introduced her to Danish-American producer Frederick Brisson. Brisson fell in love with Russell upon watching The Women while he was traveling. The two eventually met when Brisson was staying at Grant’s guest house during the filming of His Girl Friday and married in 1941, with Grant acting as best man at their wedding. They would remain married for 35 years until Russell’s passing. The couple had one son named Carl Lance Brisson.

In 1944, Russell made no films due to health problems and major losses in her family. Two of her siblings passed away at that point, contributing to her ill health.

Russell also spent her time on stage, offering a Tony Award-winning performance in Wonderful Town (1953), which was a musical version of My Sister Eileen. However, her most memorable role would be as an eccentric aunt in Auntie Mame—a role which she carried out on stage and in the 1958 film.

Auntie Mame, Rosalind Russell, 1958
Auntie Mame, Rosalind Russell, (1958)

In the 1960s, Russell continued to appear in films, including Gypsy (1962) and The Trouble with Angels (1966), among others. In fact, before shooting began on The Trouble with Angels, Russel was contacted by a former school friend and mother superior in St. Louis to attend a fundraiser for a Catholic girl’s school she was grounding. Russell felt that the film itself would be an excellent fundraiser and convinced Columbia Pictures to hold the premiere in St. Louis, where ticket proceeds went to the school’s building fund. In addition to her work as an actress, she also wrote the story for the film The Unguarded Moment (1956) under the pen name C.A. McKnight.

At this point in her life, Russell was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Shocked by how little treatment options were available, Russell advocated for more research and education relating to the illness.

Russell passed away on November 28, 1976, from breast cancer. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Today, Russell’s legacy is celebrated in a number of ways. In 1910, she was listed as living at 34 Chestnut Ave. in Waterbury, Connecticut. Here is a shot of the property today:

Russell residence at 34 Chestnut Ave. in Waterbury, Connecticut
Russell residence at 34 Chestnut Ave. in Waterbury, Connecticut

In 1920, she lived at 114 Willow St. in Waterbury, Connecticut. This is what the property looks like now:

Rosalind's next residence at 114 Willow St. in Waterbury, Connecticut
Rosalind’s next residence at 114 Willow St. in Waterbury, Connecticut

On one of Russell’s return trips to her hometown, Russell was present at a plaque dedication ceremony outside of the State Theater at 137 E. Main St. in Waterbury. Neither the theater nor plaque remain today.

Russell is also honored at the Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis. Her portrait and a description of her work hangs in the lobby, as Congress made a grant in 1979 to establish the research center, in honor of her Congressional appointment to the National Commission on Arthritis. The building is located at 350 Parnassus Ave, #600, San Francisco, California.

Portrait of Russell Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis
Portrait of Russell Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis

Russell was an admirable woman who devoted herself to her career and causes about which she was passionate.

–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

Noir Nook: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Phyllis Dietrichson

Noir Nook: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Phyllis Dietrichson

If you know me at all, you’ll know that my favorite noir, hands-down, no question, is Double Indemnity (1944), which tells the story of an insurance salesman who teams with a fatal femme to murder the woman’s husband. From the unique opening credits featuring the shadowy figure walking slowly toward the camera on a pair of crutches to the perfect, noirishly somber final scene, there’s nothing I don’t love about this film. And one of the things I love most is the femme fatale character, Phyllis Dietrichson, flawlessly played by Barbara Stanwyck. Sexy, shrewd, and ruthless, Phyllis is one of noir’s coldest and most unforgettable dames, and I’m devoting this month’s Noir Nook to the top five reasons why I can’t get enough of her!

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson Entrance
Barbara Syanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944)

1) Phyllis’s entrance. We first meet Phyllis when insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) shows up at her house in an attempt to secure an auto insurance renewal. While Walter is at the door gabbing with the maid, Phyllis appears at the top of the stairs, clad only in a towel, having just emerged from a sunbath. After only a few seconds in her presence, Walter’s tongue is practically hanging out of his mouth. He can barely keep an appreciative smile from curving his lips, or stop cracking lame, suggestive jokes. And when Phyllis exits stage left to slip into something a little less comfortable, we learn what a powerful impact Phyllis has made on him: “I was thinking about that dame upstairs and the way she had looked at me. And I wanted to see her again. Close. Without that silly staircase between us.”

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson Persuasion
Stanwyck and MacMurray

2) Phyllis’s powers of persuasion. After their first brief meeting, Phyllis makes an appointment for Walter to return to her home, when her husband and maid are conveniently away. This gives her the opportunity to “throw a little more business [Walter’s] way” by suggesting that her husband, who works in the oil fields, should have accident insurance. She manages to subtly convey that her marriage is not a happy one (“Sometimes we sit here all evening and never say a word to each other.”), but she overplays her hand when she posits taking out the insurance without her husband’s knowledge. Walter’s no fool – “You want to knock him off, don’t you?” he asks – and wastes no time hightailing it out of there, but Phyllis is nothing if not determined. She shows up at Walter’s apartment that evening, wearing a tight sweater and telling him that he left his hat at her home earlier (he didn’t). Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” Walter’s offering her a drink and admiring her perfume and agreeing to help her murder her husband.

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson Nerves of Steel
Dietrichson is an unflinching charachter with nerves of steel

3) Phyllis’s nerves of steel. Throughout the film, Phyllis demonstrates that, when faced with circumstances that might cause others to collapse in defeat, she is completely unflappable, including her steely reaction as her husband is murdered just inches away from her.  My favorite example is the scene where she’s summoned to the office of the president of the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company, where Walter works as a salesman. What she doesn’t know before she enters the office of the “big boss” is that Walter is inside. But once she encounters him, she doesn’t bat an eyelash, coolly acknowledging that she’s met him before, and steadily accepting a glass of water from him. And later, when the company president offers his theory that Mr. Dietrichson committed suicide, Phyllis launches into a righteous rant that leaves the president speechless: “I don’t like your insinuations and I don’t like your methods. In fact, I don’t like you, Mr. Norton!”

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson Wardrobe
Dietrichson’s wardrobe mirrored her dark sembalance

4) Phyllis’s wardrobe and accessories. Whether she was clad in tailored slacks and a trench coat or a fancy white pantsuit, Phyllis’s wardrobe was always well-appointed. And it wasn’t just her clothes. In the scene at the insurance company, she’s wearing a smoking-hot black hat with a veil that’s to absolutely die for, and she’s seen several times with a pair of sunglasses that I’d happily purchase tomorrow if I could. Her stylish clothes and trimmings were perfect for a dame of her poisonous persuasion.

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson Change of Heart
“I only wanted him dead. . . Nobody’s pulling out. It’s straight down the line for both of us. Remember?”

5) Phyllis’s last-minute change of heart. Until her final scene, Phyllis was single-minded, cold-blooded, calculating, and resolute: “You planned the whole thing,” she emotionlessly tells Walter in one scene. “I only wanted him dead. . . Nobody’s pulling out. It’s straight down the line for both of us. Remember?” Even near the end, she’s seen calmly setting the stage to kill Walter – dim lights, soft music, gun hidden under the cushion of her chair. And she doesn’t hesitate to shoot Walter the first chance she gets. But when she’s given the opportunity to fire a second, unquestionably fatal round, she’s struck by a sudden attack of conscience, or love, or something. She doesn’t seem to know herself what’s come over her. But I can’t deny that whatever it is, I like it – it makes her, even if just for a few seconds, a little more human.

What do you think of Phyllis Dietrichson? Do you love her as much as I do? Leave a comment and let me know. And stay tuned for future Noir Nook posts for Top Five Reasons!

– 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, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Hitchcock and the Censors – Book Giveaway (June)

Hitchcock and the Censors
We have SIX Books to Give Away this month

John Billheimer meticulously catalogs the filmmaker’s battles with the censors, both mischievous and profound, in fantastically readable fashion.”― Eddie Muller, Film Noir Foundation founder, and TCM Host

It’s time for our next book giveaway contest! CMH is very happy to announce that we will be giving away SIX COPIES of Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky, from now through July 13.

Billheimer dives into Hitchcock’s interactions with Production Code officials on a film-by-film basis as he fought to protect his creations

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, July 13 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on six different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • June 8: One Winner
  • June 15: One Winner
  • June 22: One Winner
  • June 29: One Winner
  • July 6: One Winner
  • July 13: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday June 9 at 9PM EST on Twitter. And, please note that you don’t have to have a Twitter account to enter; just see below for the details…

In Lifeboat, the German U-boat captain (Walter Slezak) and an American millionaire (Henry Hull) — as representatives of fascism and capitalism, respectively, they incurred the wrath of the Office of War Information because the captain was so much more competent than the millionaire and the other representatives of the democracies.


And now on to the contest!

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, July 13 at 9PM EST — BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

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

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message*:
Just entered to win the “Hitchcock and the Censors” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub

Why do you love most about Hitchcock and/or his films?

*If you do not 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 clas@gmail.com 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 Book:  In Hitchcock and the Censors, author John Billheimer traces the forces that led to the Production Code and describes Hitchcock’s interactions with code officials on a film-by-film basis as he fought to protect his creations, bargaining with code reviewers and sidestepping censorship to produce a lifetime of memorable films. Despite the often-arbitrary decisions of the code board, Hitchcock still managed to push the boundaries of sex and violence permitted in films by charming―and occasionally tricking―the censors and by swapping off bits ofdialogue, plot points, and individual shots (some of which had been deliberately inserted as trading chips) to protect cherished scenes and images. By examining Hitchcock’s priorities in dealing with the censors, this work highlights the director’s theories of suspense as well as his magician-like touch when negotiating with code officials.

Click here for the full contest rules. 

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

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

Good Luck!

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon by clicking here:


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Musical Interlude: Doris Day in Musicals

Musical Interlude: Doris Day in Musicals

As a teen, Doris Day had dreams of becoming a dancer, but after her leg was broken in an accident when a train hit her car, her original plan of heading to Hollywood to dance was changed. She then reinvented herself as a singer and gained fame as the singer with Les Brown and his Band of Renown.

When Doris Day did make it to Hollywood, her former life as a dancer and her singing talents – along with her acting ability — made her a triple threat and a natural in movie musicals.

As we remember the late Doris Day, here are a few of the musicals she made throughout her career…


Romance on the High Seas (1948)

Romance on the High Seas

Doris Day played the lead in her first film as nightclub singer Georgia Garrett. Married couple Elvira (Janis Paige) and Michael (Don DeFore) don’t trust each other, so Elvira sends Georgia on a cruise to pose as her so Elvira can stay home and spy on her husband, while Michael sends a private detective (Jack Carson) on the cruise to spy on Elvira. Peter falls in love with Georgia — thinking she is Elvira — and thinks he will be in big trouble with Michael.

Romance on the High Seas is delightful, and a different role than Day’s later musical roles. She sings fabulous Sammy Cahn lyrics, smokes cigarettes and is full of sass — all in Technicolor!


Lullaby of Broadway (1951)

Lullaby of Broadway

Doris Day plays Melinda Howard, a singer who comes to New York to visit her mother Jessica (Gladys George). Melinda believes that her mother is successful and lives in a mansion, but in reality, she is a former singer and alcoholic. Servants and a millionaire, Adolph Hubbell (Cuddles Sakall), help perpetuate the farce for Melinda’s sake. Hubbell, who is also a Broadway producer, decides to star Melinda in his next show.

Lullaby of Broadway is an often overlooked Doris Day musical, co-starring Gene Nelson as her Broadway co-star and love interest. The movie is filmed in vibrant Technicolor, and also has a sad, touching side since it involves a daughter and her mother. Something to note: Notice how the beginning of Doris Day’s number “Lullaby of Broadway” begins by highlighting only her face. Director David Butler mimicked how Busby Berkeley filmed Wini Shaw singing “Lullaby of Broadway” in “Gold Diggers of 1935” for this number.


I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951)

I’ll See You in My Dreams

This is a biographical film about lyricist Gus Khan (Danny Thomas) who wrote several popular songs such as “It Had To Be You” and “Pretty Baby.  The film begins as Khan meets his composing partner Grace (Doris Day) and the two eventually marry. The film spans from 1908 to the 1930s, and follows Kahn’s career and marital ups and downs.

I’ll See You in My Dreams is a quiet dramatic musical that is a special favorite of mine. Danny Thomas and Doris Day have great chemistry and play well off each other. While there are many serious moments in this musical, including the 1929 stock market crash, Mary Wickes who is also in the film, provides some comic relief.


On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

On Moonlight Bay

This duo of films follows the Winfield family from 1916 to 1918. The first film, On Moonlight Bay, starts with the Winfields as they move to a new neighborhood and their tomboy daughter Marjorie, played by Doris Day, who soon falls in love with her college student neighbor, Bill Sherman (Gordon MacRae). Because of Bill’s ideas about marriage and banks, her parents (Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp) are uncertain about him. Meanwhile, her younger brother Wesley (Billy Gray) gets into trouble. In the follow-up, ‘Silvery Moon,’ Bill returns from World War I and has to figure out his life path and whether or not that will include marriage.

These two heartwarming Warner Bros. musicals are in the same vain as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) – homespun, and following the life of a family for one year. There is a great deal of humor too, plus gorgeous Technicolor, and of course beautiful songs performed by Day and MacRea. They are two of my favorite Doris Day films – simply because they make me feel good.


Calamity Jane (1953)

Calamity Jane

In a fictionalized biographical musical about Calamity Jane, played by Doris Day, Calamity believes she’s in love with Lt. Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), but Lt. Gilmartin has fallen in love with the new, lady-like singer in town, Katie Brown (Allyn Ann McLerie). Much to her surprise however, Calamity soon discovers that she’s actually falling in love with her frenemy, Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel).

Calamity Jane is such a fun film! The songs funnily mimic some that are from “Oklahoma” (compare “Windy City” to “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City”), and there isn’t a bad song in the whole film. “Secret Love” even won the Academy Award for Best Song.


Love Me or Leave Me (1955)

Love Me or Leave Me

In this biographical musical drama, Doris Day plays Ruth Etting, a popular singer of the 1920s and 1930s, whose life was controlled by gangster and eventually husband, Martin “the Gimp” Snyder (James Cagney). 

While James Cagney sang and danced in other musicals, he didn’t here. His character is purely abusive to Etting. The songs that Doris Day performs in this film are all hits that Ruth Etting would have performed in the 1920s and 1930s, except for two original songs “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” and “Never Look Back.” Doris Day’s performances of “Shakin’ the Blues Away” and “Ten Cents a Dance” will knock your socks off. The character of Ruth Etting was substantially different than other roles Day had up to this point — she smoked, drank, her costumes were sexier and her character ends up bitter and hard. If she ever won an Academy Award, it should have been for Love Me or Leave Me.


Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

Set in the early 1900s, the Wonder Circus is run by Pop Wonder (Jimmy Durante) and his daughter Kitty (Day Day), with their main attraction Jumbo the Elephant. The circus is floundering financially and unpaid performers are quitting left and right to join other shows. Kitty hires a drifter, Sam (Stephen Boyd), who does odd jobs and various performances. Kitty falls for Sam, but Sam may also not be trying to help the circus succeed.

While Billy Rose’s Jumbo may not be Doris Day’s best musical, it’s notable because it’s her last movie musical. She left films altogether six years later in 1968. Jumbo’ is very colorful and has some fun numbers like “It Must Be Love” with Doris Day performing on horseback. Stephen Boyd is also an unexpected surprise to see in a musical and is quite easy on the eyes.


– Jessica Pickens for Classic Movie Hub

Jessica can be found at cometoverhollywood.com and on twitter at @HollywoodComet. In addition to her overall love of classic movies, she has ongoing series on her site including “Watching 1939″ and “Musical Monday.”

Posted in Musical Interlude, Posts by Jessica Pickens | Leave a comment

Film Noir Review: Dark Passage (1947) Is Bogie & Bacall’s Unsung Classic

“It’s wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in this world.”

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall remain one of the most famous couples in Hollywood history. Between the former’s gruff cynicism and the latter’s razor-sharp wit, they were an ideal screen pairing who managed to elevate films like To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) to classic status. That said, there is one Bogart and Bacall film that has fallen into relative obscurity: 1947’s Dark Passage. Not only is the film primed for rediscovery by fans, but I’d wager that it’s the duo’s most underrated collaboration. Let’s crack open the vault and investigate why…

Bogart, at the height of his stardom, plays a fugitive named Vincent Parry. He was sent to prison for murdering his wife, but he escapes during the film’s opener and goes on a search to find the real killer. Along the way Parry meets Irene Janson (Bacall), a painter who agrees to shelter him and aid in his search. Fairly standard pulp stuff, right? Well, not exactly. The reason the film put off audiences in 1947, and continues to do so today, is that we don’t see our star’s face for the entire first act. Instead, the camera assumes Parry’s point of view, and goes as far as to have the other actors speak into the lens to sell the gimmick.

The film’s original lobby card.

Now this wasn’t altogether new for film noir. At the top of the year, Robert Montgomery had released his detective yarn Lady In the Lake, which made use of a similar POV technique. Where that film falls short, and Dark Passage succeeds, however, is that “Passage” uses the technique in a manner that serves the story. Parry’s face is plastered all over town, and he has to get plastic surgery to conceal his identity. Because we cannot see Bogart’s face, the film manages to sell us on the notion that he looks like someone else. (We are actually provided a face via newspaper clippings; that of actor Frank Wilcox).

The reliance on the POV technique pays off after the character has his surgery. In a triumphant piece of staging, the camera pulls around to reveal both Parry’s new face and Bogart’s iconic mug (“I look older”). Delmer Daves is not a filmmaker who’s often praised by modern critics, but his ability to use the technique without losing sight of the story is worth noting. Without such a deft hand, the film could have been a shallow exercise in camerawork.

Vincent Parry’s transformation.

Bolstering Daves’ work in front of the camera is his talented leading lady. Bacall is given a difficult task here, as she has to sell the romance between her character and Parry almost single-handedly. Had she not been able to do so, the transition from the POV technique to the scenes with Bogart in the frame would have been jarring. Fortunately, Bacall maintains her breathy magnetism even when she’s saying her lines right into the lens. The scene where Irene and Parry first have dinner is a shining example. Her reactions; her ability to bounce off of Bogart’s line delivery with a smirk or a suspicious glance, are a testament to her nuanced taste as an actress.

I’d also like to commend Dark Passage for its extensive and often breathtaking coverage of San Francisco. The city is treated as an ominous force within the story, especially when a post-surgery (and likely drugged) Parry has to find his way through a maze of endless stairs and jagged streets. It’s the perfect setting to convey Parry’s fractured state of mind, while subtly conveying the slim chance he has of locating his wife’s killer. The film also does a great job of highlighting lesser known areas in San Francisco, as Parry’s investigation takes him through the Fillmore District, Telegraph Hill and the Filbert Steps. (The current residents at Irene’s apartment sometimes place a Bogart cutout in the window as a nod to the film!)

A publicity still of Bogart and Bacall.

Of course, all the camera techniques and scenic locations wouldn’t matter were it not for the baseline chemistry of the film’s stars. Bogart gives a wonderfully nimble performance here, hinting at the neurotic tendencies that would color later films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The Caine Mutiny (1954). Bacall breaks away from the teenage sirens she initially played in favor of a matured, complicated woman. Both expand their star personas, while sharpening the chemistry they forged both onscreen and off.

I won’t spoil the final act of the film, given its “hidden gem” status, but I will say that the final shot is the perfect summation of Bogart and Bacall’s timeless appeal. It’s quintessential film noir, given its bittersweet tone, and quintessential Hollywood, given its glamorous spin. The song that plays them off effectively doubles as my thoughts on the entire film: “Too Marvelous for Words.” A-

TRIVIA: Film noir regular Dane Clark is the voice on the radio when Parry escapes police custody.


–Danilo Castro for Classic Movie Hub

Danilo Castro is a film noir aficionado and Contributing Writer for Classic Movie Hub. You can read more of Danilo’s articles and reviews at the Film Noir Archive, or you can follow Danilo on Twitter @DaniloSCastro.

Posted in Film Noir Review, Posts by Danilo Castro, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments