Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

THE GOLDEN AGE OF GOSSIP
What Legendary Movie Stars Said about Each Other
Part Two of a Four-Part Series

Though two-time Oscar winner Spencer Tracy is widely regarded as one of the acting greats of the “golden age,” not all of his co-stars were so keen on him. For instance, Melvyn Douglas complained that director Elia Kazan had lots of grief with Tracy on Sea of Grass [1947] because Tracy and leading lady Katharine Hepburn ignored Kazan because they felt they were “these two great unreachable stars and they’d do everything their own way.”

Spencer Tracy and Katharine HepburnSpencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

Said co-star Douglas, “Spencer Tracy refused to go on location, so they went out and photographed all that grass blowing in the wind and we acted before plates [projected images] of that.”

Douglas also said Tracy was “so stout he needed a little ladder to get onto his horse.”

The very classy Irene Dunne also had some negative memories of Tracy, her co-star in A Guy Named Joe [1943].

“He’d wanted Kate Hepburn for the part of the female flying ace, Dorinda. And [director] Vic Fleming had turned him down flat, saying she wasn’t at all right for it. So when I showed up, Spence was rude, brusque and even made a pass at me.”

Though director Fleming assured Dunne things would improve, they didn’t and she finally had to complain to studio chief Louis B. Mayer, who visited the set and made it clear to Tracy he needed to clean up his act. After that, Dunne said, Tracy was very nice to her.

Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne in A Guy Named JoeSpencer Tracy and Irene Dunne in A Guy Named Joe

On the other hand, both Dunne and actor Van Johnson remembered that Tracy insisted the shooting schedule on A Guy Named Joe be held up to allow newcomer Johnson to recover from an auto accident injury that required plastic surgery. It was a breakout role for Johnson and Tracy saved him from being replaced by another actor.

Fay Wray also had a difficult time with Tracy, her co-star in Shanghai Madness [1933], remembering him as, “A strange man. Undoubtedly a great actor. But so wracked by personal problems. He came on to me. He came on to every girl. And when he drank, look out!”

Tracy’s frequent co-star, Katharine Hepburn, despite her four Academy awards, also had left some of her fellow actors with negative opinions.

Gloria Swanson, who was being courted to replace Hepburn on Broadway in the title role of Coco, decided against taking the part after she attended a matinee and “saw Kate swanning about and thought she was just awful. Imagine a woman who loves to dress in men’s slacks cast as a great French designer!”

Ralph Bellamy, who worked with Hepburn in Spitfire [1934], recalled how Hepburn loved to throw her weight around.

“The original male lead was Joel McCrea, but Hepburn had him dismissed. I don’t know why.”

Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up BabyKatharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby

Joseph Cotten also remembered Hepburn teaming up with actor Paul Scofield to insist that director Tony Richardson fire Kim Stanley from the cast of A Delicate Balance [1973]. Richardson bowed to their plea, fired Stanley, replacing her with Kate Reid. Cotten was also in the original Broadway production of The Philadelphia Story with Hepburn and Anne Baxter remembers how Cotten comforted her when she was fired during tryouts for the stage play.

“Kate Hepburn had me fired because she charged I was getting big laughs,” Baxter recalled.

On the plus side, though, was the praise of Hepburn from Cary Grant, who made four memorable films with her.

“A real character,” he said. “She’ll try anything.”

Grant described how game Hepburn was for trying a very dangerous stunt in the final scenes of their Bringing Up Baby [1939] when they’re atop a dinosaur skeleton in a museum and it collapses under them.

“I trained Kate myself,” recalled Grant, who once worked as an acrobat. “She was fearless. There was no mattress on the floor. I had her let me grab her, not by her hands because her arms would pop out of the sockets. I grabbed her by her wrists and we’re up there tossing back and forth as the skeleton crashes. Scariest thing I’d ever done, but Kate said it was wonderful and talked about deserting acting for acrobatics!”

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This is Part Two of a four-part series…

–James Bawden and Ron Miller for Classic Movie Hub

Retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller are the authors of Conversations with Classic Film Starsan astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more.

You can purchase the book on amazon by clicking here:

Posted in Books, Guest Posts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hitchcock Halloween DVD Giveaway (October)

Announcing The CMH “Hitchcock Halloween” DVD Giveaway!

I am very happy to announce the second of our very special Halloween Contests this month! And this time, it is in honor of the Master of Suspense! That said, from Monday September 25 through Saturday, October 29, Classic Movie Hub will be giving away a total of FIVE Alfred Hitchcock DVDs!  And, this time, it’ll be winner’s choice — each winner will be able to choose their preferred Hitch DVD prize: either Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound, North by Northwest or Alfred Hitchcock Legacy of Suspense!

Classic Movie Hub Hitchcock Halloween DVD Giveaway

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So, now let’s get down to business…

In order to qualify to win one of the above Alfred Hitchcock DVDs via this Twitter contest giveaway, you must complete the following task by Saturday, October 29 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on five 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. And remember, you’ll be able to pick your prize — either Rebecca, Notorious,Spellbound, North by Northwest or Alfred Hitchcock Legacy of Suspense!

  • Saturday, October 1: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 8: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 15: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 22: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 29: One Winner

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub or this Blog (depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST (for example, we will announce the first winner on Sunday October 2 at 9PM EST on Twitter or this Blog).

So, enter if you dare :)

Alfred Hitchcock, bang

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible” – Alfred Hitchcock

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, October 29 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 CMH Hitchcock Halloween DVD Giveaway” courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub #DVDGiveaway #Hitchcock #Halloween

THE QUESTION:
What is your favorite Alfred Hitchcock film and why? 

*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.

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

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

See complete contest rules here.

And if you can’t wait to win these DVDs, you can purchase them on amazon via the below links (click on images, art may vary):

           

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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

Kino Lorber “Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923” DVD and Blu-Ray Giveaway (October via Twitter)

Buster Keaton Birthday Celebration DVD/Blu-Ray Giveaway!
Qualifying Entry Task for Twitter

Comic Legend Buster Keaton was born on October 4th, way back in 1895 (over 120 years ago!) – and yet we still laugh and marvel at his work today! That said, in celebration of Buster Keaton’s birthday this month, CMH is thrilled to be giving away FIVE COPIES of “Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923″ via Twitter, courtesy of our friends at Kino Lorber! This fun and historical 5-Disc collection includes all 32 of Keaton’s extant silent shorts, 13 of which were produced under the tutelage of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. AND, stay tuned here on this blog, because we’ll also be giving away ONE MORE COPY of this DVD Set via a separate Facebook/Blog giveaway as well (details to follow later this week). That said…

In order to qualify to win one of these Sets via this twitter contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, October 29 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick one winner on five 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. Please note that each winner will be able to choose their preferred format: DVD or Blu-Ray.

  • Saturday, October 1: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 8: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 15: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 22: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 29: One Winner

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub or this Blog (depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST (for example, we will announce the first winner on Sunday October 2 at 10PM EST on Twitter or this Blog).

Buster Keaton The Shorts Collection 1917-1923

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, October 29 at 10PM 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 “Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923” courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @KinoLorber #DVDGiveaway

THE QUESTION:
What is your favorite Buster Keaton film and why? And if you’ve never seen a Buster Keaton film, why do you want to win this DVD Set?

*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.

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Buster Keaton One Week, Robert Arkus CollectionBuster Keaton “One Week” (Robert Arkus Collection)

About the DVD: As new generations discover the magic of silent cinema, Buster Keaton has emerged as one of the era’s most admired and respected artists. Behind the deadpan expression and trademark porkpie hat was a filmmaking genius who conceived and engineered some of the most breathtaking stunts and feats of visual trickery, while never losing sight of slapstick cinema’s primary objective: laughter. Produced by Lobster Films, BUSTER KEATON: THE SHORTS COLLECTION includes all 32 of Keaton’s extant silent shorts (thirteen of which were produced under the tutelage of comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle). These 2k restorations were performed utilizing archival film elements from around the world, and promises to be the definitive representation of Keaton’s early career. Watching these films in succession, one witnesses the evolution of an artist — from broad knockabout comedian into a filmmaker of remarkable visual sophistication.

Arbuckle And KeatonBuster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle, “The Garage” (Robert Arkus Collection)

Films included in the set include: The Butcher Boy (1917), The Rough House (1917), His Wedding Night (1917), Oh Doctor! (1917), Coney Island (1917), Out West (1918), The Bell Boy (1918), Moonshine (1918), Good Night, Nurse! (1918), The Cook (1918), Back Stage (1919), The Hayseed (1919), The Garage (1920), One Week (1920), Convict 13 (1920), The Scarecrow (1920), Neighbors (1920), The Haunted House (1921), Hard Luck (1921), The “High Sign” (1921), The Goat (1921), The Play House (1921), The Boat (1921), The Paleface (1922), Cops (1922), My Wife’s Relations (1922), The Blacksmith (1922), The Frozen North (1922), The Electric House (1922), Day Dreams (1922), The Balloonatic (1923), The Love Nest (1923)

For more information, visit the Kino Lorber Website here.

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Click here for the full contest rules and more details. 

You can visit Kino Lorber on their website, on Twitter at @KinoLorber or on Facebook.

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).

If you don’t want to wait to win, you can purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray on amazon by clicking here OR you can use the below 20% off coupon code to purchase it at the Kino Lorber online store:

Buster Keaton Shorts 1917-1923 Coupon Code

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Happy Halloween! Young Frankenstein DVD Giveaway (October)

Announcing our Happy Halloween “Young Frankenstein” DVD Giveaway!

We decided to do something a little special this year for Halloween — so this will be the first of two Halloween-themed DVD giveaways we’ll be doing this month. That said, we will be paying tribute to the late great Gene Wilder and the comic genius of Mel Brooks, by giving away FIVE COPIES of Young Frankenstein (or shall I say Fronkensteen???) from Monday, September 26 through Saturday, October 29.

In order to qualify to win one of the DVDs via this contest giveaway, you must complete the following task by Saturday, October 29 at 8PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on five 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.

  • Saturday, October 1: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 8: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 15: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 22: One Winner
  • Saturday, October 29: One Winner

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub or this Blog (depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 8PM EST (for example, we will announce the first winner on Sunday October 2 at 8PM EST on Twitter or this Blog).

Young Frankenstein DVD cover

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts see below) to be completed by Saturday, October 29 at 8PM 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 Happy Halloween Young Frankenstein #DVDGiveaway courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub #MelBrooks

THE QUESTION:
What do you love about the film Young Frankenstein and why? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to win the DVD?

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can 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.

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

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

See complete contest rules here.

And if you can’t wait to win the DVD, you can purchase them on amazon via the below links (click on image):

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

“TCM Big Screen Classics: The Shining” Movie Event Ticket Giveaway (September 30 – October 15)

Win Tickets to see “The Shining”
on the Big Screen!
in Select Cinemas Nationwide October 23 & October 26!

CMH is thrilled to announce the October edition of our monthly movie ticket giveaways, courtesy of Fathom Events! This month, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: The Shining” on the Big Screen!

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. (check theater listings here; please note that there might be slightly different theater listings for each date)

Here’s how you can enter to win a pair of tickets:
In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below task by Saturday, October 15 at 10PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, October 16, 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.

TCM Big Screen Classics: The Shining

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, October 15 at 10PM EST…

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

THE QUESTION:
Although “The Shining” is not a classic-era classic movie, many people do consider it a ‘new Hollywood’ classic. That said, what is it about this film that makes it stand out to you as ‘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:
Just entered to win tickets to see “The Shining” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #TCMBigScreen

*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.

About the film: From a script he co-adapted from the Stephen King novel, director Stanley Kubrick melds vivid performances, menacing settings, dreamlike tracking shots and shock after shock into a milestone macabre. In a signature role, Jack Nicholson (“Heeeere’s Johnny!”) plays Jack Torrance, who’s come to the elegant, isolated Overlook Hotel, as off-season caretaker with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). Torrance has never been there before – or has he? The answer lies in a ghostly time warp of madness and murder.

IMPORTANT NOTE for all prizing: This is a special two-day-only event at select theaters nationwide on Sunday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. 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 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).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, TCM Big Screen Classics | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Many Sides of Eddie Cantor: Five Anecdotes

The Many Sides of Eddie Cantor…

Eddie Cantor making his trademark pop-eyed expressionEddie making his trademark pop-eyed expression

According to writer H.L. Mencken, Eddie Cantor’s work in the 1930s did more to pull America out of the Great Depression than all government measures combined. He was appropriately nicknamed the Apostle of Pep. More than a decade before the Depression struck, audiences could not help but smile and laugh watching Eddie energetically sing, clap his hands, bounce about, and give a knowing roll of his trademark pop-eyes as he crooned such unforgettable songs as “If You Knew Susie” and “Makin’ Whoopee.” He was best known as Florenz Ziegfeld’s greatest musical comedian, but he went on to great fame in film and on the radio. Ziegfeld considered him a “son”— which meant a great deal to Eddie given his hardscrabble upbringing, Below are five anecdotes that show the many sides of the great Ziegfeld star.

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A teenaged Eddie Cantor, circa 1910A teenaged Eddie, circa 1910

1) Eddie was raised by his grandma, Esther Kanter, who came from Russia to help sustain the family after his father, Mechal, a fiddler, failed to find work. Eddie’s mother died of pneumonia when he was only two years old; his father abandoned his young son after his wife’s death, leaving Esther to raise him. Esther would tell Eddie he was an orphan, but when Eddie had children of his own, he told his son-in-law that the worst thing a man could do was desert his children; his vehemence in this statement suggests that he knew the truth about his father. Perhaps Eddie’s own experience made him the devoted family man he was. He remained married to the same woman, Ida, for forty-eight years (until her death in 1962) and had five daughters.

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Eddie Cantor, Ida, and their five daughters, circa 1938Eddie, Ida, and their five daughters, circa 1938

2) Eddie never finished eighth grade, but because of his talent at recitation was asked to recite at numerous promotion ceremonies. He became a working man at the age of twelve, first as a guerrilla to guard against strike breakers and next as a spokesman for various politicians. “I spoke for and against everybody,” Eddie stated. He earned more money honing his skills as a comedian, making funny faces at passerby and holding out his hat after they laughed. Eddie knew the only kind of employment truly for him was as a comedian. He tried his luck on amateur night at local theaters, calling himself an “Impersonator and Polish Dialectician.”

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Eddie Cantor on a promotion campaign for the March of Dimes, circa 1945Eddie on a promotion campaign for the March of Dimes, circa 1945

3) Eddie worked exhaustively to relieve the suffering of Jews overseas, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to send refugee children to Palestine. While he set up trust funds to keep his children and wife comfortable after his death, Eddie asserted that he did not want to die a rich man and wanted to give away as much money to help others as possible while he was alive. “I’ll do anything in this world to help kids,” Eddie stated. He came to be seen as a leader in the Jewish American community; he even wore a yellow star sewn on his jacket in sympathy with European Jews for the entirety of the war. He devoted much of his time raising money for the expansion of the Surprise Lake Camp for boys that had been so integral to his childhood and for wounded World War II veterans in army hospitals. Perhaps Eddie’s most famous charitable work was the March of Times, an organization he created with President Roosevelt, who had become a personal friend, to cure infantile paralysis.

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Eddie Cantor and Ida in their older years, circa 1948Eddie and Ida in their older years, circa 1948

4) The philanthropic and always funny Eddie did have a dark side. His tireless work still kept him from home to the extent that, in her toddlerhood, when his daughter Marjorie opened the door to him she did not recognize him and called to Ida, “That man is here again!” His daughters remember Eddie as being best with them when they were younger. As they matured, they communicated less well, inevitably arguing over “politics, the latest styles, marriage, children, and the changing tastes in entertainment.” Eddie’s relationship with his wife, Ida, grew more distant as well. Ida was often called long suffering; she virtually raised the girls herself and had to cope with rumors of Eddie’s infidelities on the road and the judgments he expressed at home. He allegedly warned his daughters and wife to watch their weights if they wanted to remain healthy, yet he would bring home boxes of chocolate to them after each tour of his shows. He argued that his feelings would not change for Ida even “if she weighed 300 pounds. Ida is a permanent thing.”

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Eddie Cantor and his most famous discovery, Deanna Durbin, circa 1935Eddie and his most famous discovery, Deanna Durbin, circa 1935

5) In film and on radio, Eddie discovered many well-known personalities including Dinah Shore. He also gave Deanna Durbin and Eddie Fisher their starts in the business and tried to get a young Ginger Rogers into a Ziegfeld show when she was a struggling actress on Broadway. Comedian Joan Davis was another star he helped to make a success

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Outspoken about his beliefs and disbeliefs, Eddie gained some enemies, but he gained more friends who saw him as a leader in the community. Eddie never appreciated the breadth of his accomplishments. His jokes were self-deprecating; he thought of himself as the little fellow on and off the stage and screen. For over forty years, Eddie proved to be a big fellow, tirelessly blending comedy with his staples of work, family, and faith.

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–Sara and Cynthia Brideson for Classic Movie Hub

Sara and Cynthia Brideson are avid classic movie fans, and twin authors of Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway’s Greatest Producer and Also Starring: Forty Biographical Essays on the Greatest Character Actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era, 1930-1965. They also are currently working on comprehensive biographies of Gene Kelly and Margaret Sullavan. You can follow them on twitter at @saraandcynthia or like them on Facebook at Cynthia and Sara Brideson.

If you’re interested in learning more about Cynthia’s and Sara’s books, please click through to amazon via the below links:

    

Posted in Posts by Sara and Cynthia Brideson | Tagged | Leave a comment

Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Joan Crawford – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

 CMH is thrilled to share the first in a special four-part series by James Bawden and Ron Miller, authors of “Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Age”… And don’t forget, you can enter to win a copy of the book this month on the CMH Blog courtesy of University Press of Kentucky.  Hope you enjoy the series!

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THE GOLDEN AGE OF GOSSIP
What Legendary Movie Stars Said about Each Other
Part One of a Four-Part Series

Most movie fans who love the classic films of Hollywood’s “golden age,” probably have a pretty good idea what film scholars and movie critics think of the great stars of that era because their printed opinions have been circulating for generations.

But what did their fellow actors—the ones who actually worked with them—think of such luminaries as Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby?

Conversations with Classic Film Stars

In our new book, Conversations with Classic Film Stars, James Bawden and I collect our in-person one on one interviews with 34 great film stars from the 1920s through the 1950s—and you may be surprised by how candidly some of them talked about the actors mentioned above—and a great many more.

For instance, many of us probably have been deeply influenced in our opinions of Joan Crawford by Mommie Dearest, the scathing best-selling memoir by her daughter, Christina Crawford, and the subsequent movie version, which portrayed Joan as a mean-spirited tyrant who mistreated her children for years.

Fay Wray, the King Kong star, gave some credence to that image of Crawford in her interview from our book. Though Wray remembered that Crawford wrote her a nice welcoming note when she joined the supporting cast of Crawford’s Queen Bee [1955], she also remembered that Crawford liked to choose a younger cast member to berate on every picture and, on that film, picked the film’s ingénue, starlet Lucy Marlowe.

Joan CrawfordJoan Crawford

“When she had to slap pretty little Lucy Marlowe, she did so with such fury it could be heard all over the sound stage,” said Wray.

Melvyn Douglas, who co-starred with Crawford in The Gorgeous Hussy [1936], was amazed at the entourage of “servants, hairdressers, maids, personal assistants, even her chauffeur” that Crawford brought to the set with her. As a prank, Douglas arranged to bring in his own crowd of “helpers” one day. Crawford got the joke, all right, and wasn’t too happy about it.

“Joan was not amused,” said Douglas. “and I got chewed out by director Clarence Brown, who told me he was having enough problems with Joan before this calumny.”

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis What Ever Happened to Baby JaneJoan Crawford and Bette Davis What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

In her interview, actress Anna Lee also confirmed the rumors that Crawford played dirty tricks on co-star Bette Davis while the three of them were working on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? [1962].

“I could feel all those evil vibes slipping through the doors,” said Lee. “It is true Joan weighed herself down with jockey weights when Bette had to drag her across the floor.”

But Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who was Crawford’s first husband as well as her co-star in films, gave some valuable insight into Crawford’s character that may help explain some of the dark turns her moods often took in later life.

“She came from the poorest circumstances,” Fairbanks Jr. said, “Joan was terribly competitive. She never knew her father. She washed tables at the boarding school where her mother worked. Later, she was a taxi dancer and danced with escorts for 10 cents.”

Joan Crawford and Douglas FairbanksJoan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

That very difficult early life may have toughened Crawford in many ways, but Fairbanks said even her success in the early years of her career in the late 1920s, when they both were working in silent movies, didn’t take away her feelings of insecurity.

“She was petrified of crowds,” Fairbanks said. “At premieres she’d be sweating right through her dresses. She assumed with talkies she’d disappear just as [Clara] Bow faded fast. She was all career. On our honeymoon, I took her to Europe and she hated every minute of it except when we’d head for the local MGM distribution office where she could do some publicity.”

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This is Part One of a four-part series…

–James Bawden and Ron Miller for Classic Movie Hub

Retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller are the authors of Conversations with Classic Film Starsan astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more.

You can purchase the book on amazon by clicking here:

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Our Endless Numbered Mayberry Days

The 27th ‘Mayberry Days’ Festival, September 21-25… 

Twenty-six years ago, on the thirtieth anniversary of The Andy Griffith Show’s televised debut, the citizens of Mount Airy, North Carolina, gathered for the first Mayberry Day.

A couple hundred people turned out at City Hall for the opening ceremony of what was then a one-day festival staged in Andy Griffith’s home town. The mayor arrived dressed as Mayor Stoner, his Mayberry counterpart. The Mount Airy High School chorus sang the Andy Griffith theme a cappella.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, The Andy Griffith ShowAndy and Don

Much has changed since then. The 27th Mayberry Days, which opens on Sept. 21, occupies five days of the calendar and sits at the center of an $80 million tourist industry in little Surry County. The annual fete now draws twenty-five thousand of the most devoted Andy Griffith Show fans to the real-life Mayberry.

Here is how I described the 2012 festival, which I attended, in my book Andy and Don:

        At 10:00 a.m. Friday, the stage of the Blackmon Amphitheatre filled with an ensemble of Mayberry royalty: character impersonators, descendants of dead cast members, and a few frail souls who once played actual parts on Andy’s show. . . . Downtown, an entire fleet of Ford Galaxie 500s had been parked along Main Street at regular intervals. The lines at Barney’s Café and Opie’s Candy Store snaked out their doors. Those stores were modern Mayberry replicas; Walker’s Soda Fountain was the real thing, open since 1925. Andy Griffith had worked there one summer as a bicycle delivery boy, back when it was a pharmacy.

For a series whose last new episode aired nearly half a century ago, The Andy Griffith Show boasts a fan base of remarkable depth and devotion. Yet, there was a time when hardly anyone regarded Griffith as a particularly memorable work of television.

The tenth and twentieth anniversaries of this homespun Hollywood confection passed with little fanfare. Nostalgia took root slowly, first with the organization of an Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club in 1979, then with the publication of a scholarly, book-length study of the Griffith Show in 1981, and then with the triumphant (and top-rated) Return to Mayberry television movie in 1986.

Opie's candy store in mount airy, NC, Andy Griffith Home TownOpie’s Candy Store

By 1990, “Mayberryana” was a booming business. The Griffith Show aired on more than one hundred stations, including superstations WGN and TBS. Millions of fans who had grown up with Mayberry videotaped reruns in earnest so that they might share them with their own children one day.

The first Mayberry Day was thrown together rather hurriedly to celebrate the impending anniversary. Here’s how I describe it in my book:

             The Andy Griffith Show. But something in all that was charming, authentic. And in 1990, many still-living Mount Airians had genuine Andy Griffith stories to share. By the time the press and the public rolled in, shopkeepers had dutifully pasted photographs of Andy and Barney all over the historic downtown, and Russell Hiatt’s barbershop had been rechristened as Floyd’s. 

With the passing of time, and in the absence of a remake or revival, one might have expected Mayberry Days to run its course. Observers repeatedly predicted its demise, particularly with the 2012 passing of Andy Griffith. That summer, the Wall Street Journal envisioned Andy’s death as “the beginning of the end for a tourism trade based on a show that began 52 years ago in black and white and is now in limited reruns with an aging fan base.”

Yet, Mayberry Days soldiers on, drawing upon the talents of a dwindling number of surviving Griffith Show actors, actors’ children, and character impersonators. The warmest welcome these days is generally reserved for Betty Lynn, who portrayed Barney Fife’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou, on twenty-six Griffith episodes, and who turned ninety this year. Betty makes her home in Mount Airy.

betty lou andy griffith museum AP photo Gerry BroomeBetty Lou at the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy (AP photo: Gerry Broome)

What other television show commands such a following?

I pulled up The Hollywood Reporter’s 2015 list of “Hollywood’s 100 Favorite TV Shows,” the most recent effort to rank television’s greatest works. I scanned the list for programs of the Griffith Show’s stature: The Dick Van Dyke Show, the ‘60s Emmy powerhouse from Griffith creator Sheldon Leonard, at #47; All in the Family, vanguard of the Norman Lear real-life-as-sitcom revolution in the early ‘70s, at #39; Star Trek, the ‘60s cult classic that launched a thousand sequels, at #35; The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that masterpiece of feminist comedy, at #19; The Twilight Zone, whose creator, Rod Serling, worshipped the Griffith Show, at #17; I Love Lucy, perhaps the most influential television program of the 1950s, at #8; and Seinfeld, whose namesake star seeded his scripts with little Griffith Show tributes, at #5.

Of those programs, only Star Trek seems to rival the Griffith Show for enduring appeal. And consider how many times the Star Trek brand has been reborn on television and film. There is no Andy Griffith: The Next Generation, and I suspect there never will be.

There are good reasons, I think, why the Griffith Show has never gone away. Here’s one more snippet from Andy and Don:

            There is something iconic, something quintessentially American, about The Andy Griffith Show. The program appeared at a moment of dramatic flux in American society. People were leaving farms for factories and towns for cities. The civil rights movement was waxing, and antiwar protests were brewing. It was a time of assassinations, electrified music, and slackening standards on sex and drugs. Yet, the Griffith Show refused to embrace those changes, or even to acknowledge them. Instead, the program trained its gaze backward, revisiting and reviving the rural Americana of the 1930s. . . . The Griffith Show helped viewers recall a simpler time, helped them reconnect with their own past, at a moment when Americans desperately needed the reminder.

I searched the Hollywood Reporter’s list for The Andy Griffith Show, but I could not find it. Evidently Andy Griffith is not one of Hollywood’s 100 Favorite TV Shows.

And that reminds me of a quote once attributed to the late, great Dick Linke, Andy’s longtime manager.

“You can have New York and Los Angeles,” Dick told a reporter from TV Guide. “Give me the rest of the country, the mashed potato belt.”

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–Daniel de Vise for Classic Movie Hub

Daniel de Visé will be traveling to Mount Airy, birthplace of Andy Griffith, to sign copies of his book Andy and Don at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 23, during the annual Mayberry Days festival. The venue is Pages Books, Mount Airy’s bookstore, located on Main Street in the historic downtown.

Daniel is Don Knotts’ brother-in-law.  Andy and Don is a lively and revealing biography and the definitive work on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and two of America’s most enduring stars. The book features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men and a wealth of new information about what really went on behind the scenes. Click below to purchase Andy and Don on Amazon.

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Classic Movie Legend Tribute: Claudette Colbert

 

Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Claudette Colbert, born on September 13th, 1903!

The realm of Classic Hollywood sometimes gets a bad rap for being a place rife with misogyny. And, of course, these criticisms are not without merit. I think we can all agree that the seats of power in all of America at the time were pretty much boys clubs. Despite the trend, however, no one can deny the number of powerful, strong women that graced the silver screen in Classic era of cinema. From Bette Davis to Katharine Hepburn, from Marlene Dietrich to Olivia de Havilland, Classic Hollywood is full of women who took control of their careers, doing it their way even if cost them their lucrative contracts or public adoration. And today, I would like to focus on one such woman: birthday girl Claudette Colbert.

Claudette ColbertClaudette Colbert

What I have always admired about Colbert was how she was able to maintain such control over her image. From the way she put herself together in the morning to how she dictated the strands of illumination that fell on her face, every single part of her image was carefully controlled and artfully crafted by no one other than Miss Colbert herself. Her keen sense of aesthetic awareness came from her childhood love of the arts. In fact, before catching the acting bug sometime in her late teens, Colbert’s aspirations were in the visual arts and not in performing. Trained primarily in painting, Colbert understood how light, shadow, and composition has an overall affect on the mood of a frame, the tone of a scene and how those together help craft an actor’s performance. So when Colbert entered the Hollywood stage, she made sure everyone around her knew exactly how she wanted to be portrayed.

Colbert would spend years working her way up the Hollywood hierarchy, learning the subtle nuisances of acting and cinematography along the way. By the time she became one of Hollywood’s top stars in the mid-1930s, she wanted, and more importantly GOT, complete control of her own image. While most starlets were more than happy to let the elites of Hollywood create their physical image via hair and make-up, Colbert would dictate exactly how she wanted to appear on camera, never letting go of her trademark bangs that would become so monumental to her now iconic image. She would also show up to the set and analyze the lights, often refusing to let the cameras start rolling until she was sure everything was lit to her advantage. Heck, she even had sets built around the fact that she would only be photographed from her left side! She also had the power to hire her own camera and lighting men for her projects, ensuring she would maintain a constant and familiar image of excellence in all her films.

Claudette Colbert, her best side is her left sidePhotographed from her left side, yeah that’s her best side

So, let us raise of glasses and enjoy a birthday toast to one of Hollywood’s most willful and strong women: Miss Claudette Colbert.

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

 

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Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Facebook/Blog Giveaway Contest (August)

Conversations with Classic Film Stars:
Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era” 

Book Giveaway 
via Facebook and this Blog

Okay, now it’s time for the Facebook/Blog version of our  Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era” Giveaway Contest! This time we’ll be giving away TWO copies of the book, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky. And, remember, we’re also giving away FOUR MORE copies via Twitter this month as well, so please feel free to enter that contest too…

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, October 1 at 10PM ESTWe will pick two winners via a random drawing and announce them on Facebook and here on this Blog the day after the contest ends (Sunday October 2).

If you’re also on Twitter, please feel free to visit us at  @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FOUR MORE books there as well! (Click here for twitter contest details as well as more information about the book.)

Conversations with Classic Film Stars Contest

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ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, October 1 at 1oPM EST — 

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

THE QUESTION:
If you could transport yourself back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood, what classic movie star would you want to meet and why?

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.

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About the Book: In Conversations with Classic Film Stars, retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller present an astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more. Each interview takes readers behind the scenes with some of cinema’s most iconic stars. The actors convey unforgettable stories, from Maureen O’Hara discussing Charles Laughton’s request that she change her last name, to Bob Hope candidly commenting on the presidential honors bestowed upon him. Humorous, enlightening, and poignant, Conversations with Classic Film Stars is essential reading for anyone who loves classic movies.

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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 it on amazon via the below link (click on image):

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Books, Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 17 Comments