Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Shape of Things to 2015

2014, a busy year in my world, seems to have passed in a about a half-hour or less, and now 2015 is at the door. Here's what my crystal ball predicts may be in store for me on the classic film front in the new year...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Character: Cecil Kellaway

Cecil Kellaway is among a handful of older character actors active during Hollywood's heyday who brought to the screen a delectable combination of warmth, kindliness and good cheer that I call "old guy charm." Other members of this twinkly-eyed pack of golden boys include the likes of sweet and snuggly S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, shyly unassuming Henry Travers, rascally Charles Ruggles and spry ol' Harry Davenport.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


2014 has been jam-packed with anniversaries significant to classic film lovers. The year has marked not only the on-screen centennial of Chaplin's "Little Tramp," but also the centenary birth dates of many silver (and Technicolor) screen luminaries including Alec Guinness, Hedy Lamarr, Ida Lupino, Tyrone Power, Jane Wyman and Richard Widmark. 2014 also marks the diamond anniversary of the premiere of Gone with the Wind 75 years ago in December, 1939. And 70 years ago On the Town, the musical that catapulted the writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green to fame, made its much-heralded debut on Broadway in December, 1944. The pair went on to script its 1949 screen adaptation as well as screenplays for Singin' in the Rain (1952), Auntie Mame (1958) and more.

There's been much to celebrate, and the revelry continues.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hair-raising Tales


Léonard Autié (Monsieur Léonard) was the imaginative 18th century hairdresser responsible for creating the wildly elaborate coiffures of Marie Antoinette. The rococo hairstyles he concocted during her heyday were called poufs, and several of the fantastical coifs he whipped up for her rose 36 inches or more from the top of her head.  In her offbeat and whimsical Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins describes one of Autié’s first important hairstyles for Marie Antoinette, the pouf d’ inoculation - a celebration of Louis XIV’s vaccination: “a rising sun and a serpent holding a club as he shimmied up an olive tree nestled into her hair. The sun symbolized the king. The olive tree stood for peace. The slinky serpent represented medicine, with its club to clobber disease.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

SPELLBINDER: The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

Hollywood films about Hollywood behind the scenes didn’t begin or end with Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), but none has painted a more glamorous/gimlet-eyed portrait or better mirrored the town’s notion of itself at a particular moment. It was mid-20th century, just as the old order - the studio system - was about to collapse. David Raksin, composer of the film’s sinuous score, characterized this cinematic self-reflection as “…an affirmative appraisal, one that captures the spirit of the time and place with cunning eloquence; and when it looks at the scars and wrinkles, it is with a lover’s eye. In 1952 we were still infatuated with our little world…”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

About Memory, Movies, More...

I’ve been noticing lately that my mind has developed a stubborn habit of drifting, and one of the places it seems to wander most often is into that vast mental warehouse where my memories are kept. I would say that this “mind drift” is worrisome except that it is so frequently pleasurable.

For example, the other day I found myself remembering Strawberries Romanoff.

When I was in my 20s and harbored aspirations to be quite a bit more sophisticated than I was, I mastered a few snazzy recipes, simple but compliment-inducing dishes I’d whip up for small dinners or buffet occasions. My default dessert for a while was Strawberries Romanoff. I haven’t made this confection for decades but when the thought of it popped into my head recently so did distinct memories of berries drenched in Grand Marnier being whirled into a mixture of softened ice cream and whipped cream…and served with chilled champagne.

Monday, June 30, 2014



Last year the San Francisco Symphony launched its first film series, film nights at Davies Symphony Hall where the classics played onscreen while the orchestra performed their scores live. It was a runaway success, with sold-out screenings and glowing reviews (one of those rave reviews was mine). Thus, the way was paved for another series, and the symphony has just announced the schedule of films set for its 2014/2015 season,"From ruby slippers to Brando at his best, cinematic greats are made even greater when accompanied live by the San Francisco Symphony...":

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Platinum Blonde and Beyond" Revisited for MGM's 90th Birthday

From June 26 - 28, in honor of the 90th anniversary of the founding of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Silver Scenes is hosting the MGM Blogathon. This post, originally published in 2011, has been updated and re-published as my contribution for the blogathon. Click here for links to all participating blogs. 


Saturday, May 24, 2014


The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting a Fabulous Films of the '50s blogathon from May 22 - 26. This is my entry for the event - click here for links to all participating member blogs.
Doris Day began to make her way as a big band singer in 1939. She scored several million-selling records during her singing career, beginning with "Sentimental Journey," her hit with Les Brown’s band in 1945. Her next million-seller came in 1948 with “It’s Magic,” but her biggest hits were songs from two of her popular mid-‘50s films, “Secret Love” from Calamity Jane (1953) and “Que Sera, Sera” from The Man Who Knew Too Much (1955). Day’s last hit single, Everybody Loves a Lover was released in 1959. Coincidentally, Pillow Talk, a frothy sex comedy, and a new direction in type for her, was also released in 1959 and it would change the course of her career. For the next four years she would reign as queen of the box office starring in bubbly romcoms, most often opposite Rock Hudson.

While she was still churning out hit records in the '50s, Day starred in a movie that was all but forgotten once her screen persona shifted and she became the super-feminine, stylishly gowned and bouffantly coiffed icon of the early ‘60s. The Pajama Game (1957) is an overlooked and underappreciated pièce de résistance of a musical that contains one of Day’s most captivating performances – along with 11 songs, quite a few of them show-stoppers…and more.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tyrone Power and Loretta Young: The Romantic Comedies of 1937

Once upon a time there was a feudal kingdom known as 20th Century Fox and in it lived a handsome prince and a beautiful princess… 

A too-fanciful opening? Maybe not, given that the prince and princess in this particular tale are Tyrone Power and Loretta Young. Talented, in the blossom of youth and blessed with storybook good looks, the two were becoming the American equivalent of royalty – Hollywood movie stars - when they first began working together in the 1930s. Under contract to Fox, the pair first shared the screen (along with Janet Gaynor, Constance Bennett, Don Ameche and Paul Lukas), if just barely, in Ladies in Love (1936), a Budapest-set precursor to 1953’s Bacall/Monroe/Grable vehicle How to Marry a Millionaire. The movie was a success, the studio deemed Power and Young a matched set, and in 1937 starred them opposite each other in three lighthearted screwball comedies in rapid succession.

POWER-MAD, the Tyrone Power Centenary Blogathon

He rose to movie stardom at the ripe young age of 22 and remained an international star for another 22 years, until his sudden death in 1958. During those two-plus decades, Tyrone Power was top-billed in hit films of many genres, from romantic comedy to disaster epic, musical, costume drama, western, adventure, wartime drama, swashbuckler, prestige literary adaptation, biopic, courtroom drama and even film noir. He also made time to serve as a pilot in the Marine Corps during World War II and to carve out a stage career for himself after the war. His wedding in Rome to his second wife, Linda Christian, caused a near-riot. When he collapsed and died, at age 44, while filming a King Vidor-directed biblical epic in Spain, it was headline news around the world. His private funeral in Hollywood was attended by filmdom's great luminaries and his burial was a mob scene of frenzied fans.

Today, May 5th, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary Tyrone Power’s birth, and my co-host, Patti of They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To, and I are celebrating with this blogathon honoring his life and career.

Click on the links below for contributions from participating bloggers. And thanks to everyone who is taking part for joining in to pay tribute to one of the true legends of Hollywood's Golden Age.

In addition, today Movies, Silently takes a look at one of the silent films of Tyrone Power, Sr., Sweet Alyssum (1915), released when Ty, Jr. was just a year old...


Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Tyrone Power Centennial

This month brings the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary actor Tyrone Power, “The King of 20th Century Fox."  As part of a nationwide centennial celebration, The Northbrook Public Library in Northbrook, IL, welcomes actress Taryn Power-Greendeer on May 2nd at 2:00 p.m. in the Multi-Media Department.  The daughter of Tyrone Power and actress Linda Christian, Taryn was only 5 when her father died at the age of 44 in 1958.  She will talk about growing up as the daughter of a film idol and the process of learning how to separate the man from the myth.  A feature of her talk will be the fascinating search she and her older sister, Romina, undertook in an attempt to discover the real Tyrone Power.  A Limited First Edition of Searching for My Father, Tyrone Power by Romina Power, available only at centennial events, will be on sale at the event. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Mid-day Thursday, April 10, as I waited for my repeatedly delayed flight to depart SFO for Burbank, I had to admit to myself that I'd made a miscalculation in planning my trip to the TCM Classic Film Festival.  I'd known for a few days that I would be arriving too late to attend both the Wednesday night "Tweetup" party I'd been invited to and the Press Day event set for Thursday morning. Now I was beginning to wonder whether I'd even arrive in time to check in at the festival press office and be able to attend opening night events.

By the time my plane finally landed and I managed to get to the Roosevelt Hotel, the press office was closed and its staff was down the street working the red carpet. Luckily for me, my contact, a hard-working member of the PR team named Chelsea, came back to the hotel as quickly as she could and signed me in. Armed with badge and goody bag, I was off to the entrance of the Chinese Theatre and got there just as most of the press and spectators were leaving the red carpet area. But Tippi Hedren was as late as I was and so I had a chance to snap a few quick photos of her before she moved on and the carpet was retired for the evening.
Tippi Hedren, April 10, on the red carpet

Monday, March 31, 2014

Roman à Clef: All About Eve...and Margo

In black-and-white, from left: Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis and Elisabeth Bergner; front and center: Bette Davis, Gary Merrill and Anne Baxter in a color still for All About Eve (1950)

In the spring of 1987 Joseph Mankiewicz was staying at the Hotel Cipriani on the lagoon in Venice, Italy, where he had come to be honored with a prestigious Leone d'Oro award. While there he received an unexpected call one day from a woman he described as "absolutely desperate-sounding." What she said to him came as a surprise - and he didn't believe her:

"Mr. Mankiewicz, this is Eve...the Eve you wrote the movie about. I was the girl who stood outside the theatre..."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating Tyrone Power’s 100th Birthday

A One Day Blogathon on May 5

Monday, May 5th is the 100th anniversary of Hollywood mega-star Tyrone Power’s birth, and Patti of They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To and I will be hosting a blogathon in celebration of his life and career - Power-Mad, a one-day event.

Participants are invited to review the actor’s films (one blogger per film, please), post a photo spread or a biographical essay (you might cover his life in general or strictly his movie career, his military service during World War II or his post-war stage career, or...) – basically, feel free to get creative.

If you'd like to participate please send an email to me at and include your name, your blog's name and web address, and the title/subject of your post. Or leave a comment below or at They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To.

Click here for all participating blogs/websites!


Monday, March 24, 2014



The full schedule of screenings and events set for TCM’s 5th annual classic film festival had just posted on the network’s website and I was eager to see what the four days and nights from April 10 – 13 have in store. As I scrolled through the listings for each day, I began feeling a little panicky. So many choices and so little time! To quote Holly Golightly out of context, “I must say, the mind reels!”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Classic Hollywood Films, Classic Foreign Posters

Notorious (1946) - French movie poster
I love the posters of France, Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries of Western and Eastern Europe that were created for movies made during Hollywood's golden years. This tiny ‘gallery’ contains some of my favorites, all of them evocative and most as exciting as the films they publicize. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beginning this Spring - Classic Film Nights in California’s Wine Country

The historic Napa Valley Opera House on Main Street in Napa, California, first opened its doors in 1880 with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. Those doors closed in 1914, the theater having sustained damage from San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and changing times - vaudeville was in decline and movies were growing ever more dominant. The historic building was saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s when it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places and, a few years later, due largely to a challenge grant from the Mondavi family, money was raised for its restoration. In 2003, the theater’s doors opened once more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Coming Soon: Roman à clef

According to J.E. Luebering of the Encyclopædia Britannica, a roman à clef ("novel with a key") is a work of fiction that has "the extraliterary interest of portraying well-known real people more or less thinly disguised as fictional characters." This tradition apparently began in 17th-century France, "when fashionable members of the aristocratic literary coteries...enlivened their historical romances by including in them fictional representations of well-known figures in the court of Louis XIV." Modern novels, short stories, films and television dramas have dutifully, sometimes scandalously, continued this longstanding tradition:
  • Somerset Maugham's 1919 novel, The Moon and Sixpence, the saga of an English stockbroker who abandons his family to become an artist and live out his years pursuing his passion in Tahiti, was loosely based on the life of French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. The novel was adapted to the screen in 1942 (starring George Sanders), served as the basis for an opera of the same name in 1957 and made its way to television in 1959 with Laurence Olivier in the starring role.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reel San Francisco Stories

Christopher Pollock's annotated filmography of the San Francisco Bay Area

While visiting Northern California, evangelist Billy Graham once commented, "The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I'm here." Not only lovely, the region is also uniquely photogenic, and many, many films - more than 600 - have been shot in San Francisco and the surrounding area over the past nearly 90 years.

My interest in local film locations and history dates back to the 1990s when I worked in offices located at 170 Maiden Lane, a building that had, years earlier, been part of Ransohoffs, a high-end San Francisco department store. The offices were posh, with lofty ceilings, wide archways and other elegant touches. Notably, the archway motif was echoed by tall arched mirrors that adorned several walls. I learned that the floor had once housed Ransohoffs' dress salon. And then one day an architect (the company I worked for was a design firm specializing in destination resorts and hotels) told me that a classic scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo had taken place within our walls. This bit of information motivated me to do some research and I learned that though the sequence in which Scottie Ferguson takes Judy Barton shopping for a new wardrobe had not actually been filmed on site, Hitchcock had replicated the setting - precisely - on a Hollywood sound stage, just as he had recreated the Podesta Baldocchi florist shop and Ernie's restaurant for the film.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Welcome back, Christian!

A week or so ago Silver Screen Modiste, the website of my dear blogger friend Christian Esquevin, was hi-jacked. When he discovered that he was no longer in possession of his site's domain name, Christian also discovered it would now cost him an arm and a leg to try to get it back. Instead, he has reconstituted it as Silver Screen Modes and, as of today, Christian is back online with more fascinating insights on classic film costume design.

Click here to visit Silver Screen Modes and enjoy Christian's assessment of the costume design nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards.

Zhang Ziyi in Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, Oscar-nominated for Best Costume Design

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Now Playing in San Francisco: Noir City XII

San Francisco's annual Noir City film noir festival is in progress now at the city's iconic movie palace, the Castro Theatre.

This year the festival theme is international and features noir from Argentina, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain and - of course - Hollywood. Though the festival is at its mid-point, many great classics have yet to be screened:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Touch of Lubitsch - Tuesday on TCM

Loves of Pharaoh (1929) stars Emil Jannings
Beginning at 6:15 am Eastern/3:15 am Pacific on Tuesday, January 28, Turner Classic Movies will treat its viewers to thirteen hours of 'the Lubitsch Touch'.

Kicking off TCM's birthday tribute/Lubitsch-fest will be the spectacular The Loves of Pharaoh (1922), a grand silent historical epic. Made in Germany and financed by Paramount's European film Alliance (EFA), the film would be the last in the series of such epics Lubitsch directed during his reign as something of a 'German DeMille.' He was soon on his way to America, where his star would continue to rise.