Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Haul and Summer Reading Video



I'm being brave and venturing out into the world of YouTube again. I've done a few videos in the past but with much trepidation. I'm not comfortable with public videos, ratings or comments yet but I won't let that stop me from trying out some videos. I was inspired by (i.e. stole the idea from) Vanessa from Stardust who has an excellent YouTube channel and also Aurora of Once Upon a Screen... who encouraged me to be more adventurous with my blog.

In this video I share with you my recent book haul as well as my six summer reading titles. Enjoy!

P.S. The Fritz Lang film I was trying to remember was Harakiri (1919).
P.P.S. I promise to do shorter videos in the future. I just really like talking about Fritz Lang and books apparently.

Titles mentioned:
'Tis Herself by Maureen O'Hara
The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda by Devin McKinney
Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro
Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille by Scott Eyman

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes
Memoirs of a Professional Cad by George Sanders
Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast by Patrick McGilligan
Stepin Fetchit: The Life & Times of Lincoln Perry by Mel Watkins
Hollywood in Kodachrome by David Wills
The Dawn of Technicolor: 1915-1935 by James Layton and David Pierce

Monday, July 20, 2015

Memoirs of a Professional Cad by George Sanders

Memoirs of a Professional Cad
by George Sanders
Dean Street Press
Originally Published 1960
9781910570463 - Paperback

Barnes and Noble 
IndieBound
Powell's

“You should watch the film for George Sanders.” In one form or another this is a line I’ve repeated often during my years as a classic film fan. George Sanders could charm audiences regardless of the quality of the film he was in. He made fine classics such as All About Eve and Foreign Correspondent as well as questionable clunkers. Every single film he was in was improved simply by his presence.

“...on the screen I am invariably a sonofabitch, in life I am a dear, dear, boy.” – George Sanders

George Sanders charmed fans on the printed page as well with Memoirs of a Professional Cad. Written and published in 1960, this memoir is essentially a collection of essays broken up into 23 chapters and split into Books I and II. Each chapter has a specific theme or multiple themes as Sanders might decide to veer off into a rant or go on a tangent. As I was reading the memoir I started giving chapters different titles. For example chapter 9 I called “On impulsiveness”, chapter 11 “On how to say no and living the good life” and Book II chapter 4, “Musings on Albert, the butler”. With a few exceptions, most of the chapters stand alone as individual essays. Book II chapters 6 and 7 are presented as a pair. Chapter 6 recounts the filming of Solomon and Sheba which leads into chapter 7 which deals with the sudden death of Tyrone Power.

“To the best of my knowledge, my father came in the mail.” – George Sanders

The essays range on a variety of topics. We learn about his family and early days in Russia, his schooling in England and a variety of jobs he held before he became an actor. Sanders shared some hilarious stories of doing work for a cigarette-manufacturing company. He traveled through Argentina and Chile promoting the cigarettes. He came up with a clever marketing plan: dropping cigarette packages from a Bristol Bi-Plane into remote areas of Chile. He was “thrown out” of many jobs before this one but he seemed to make this one stick. However it all ended when he found himself in a duel with a widow’s fiancee and was consequently thrown into jail. His employer came to his rescue but only long enough to bail him out of a jail and bring him back to England. He was unceremoniously fired shortly after and both the fiancee and Sanders survived the ordeal.

“...the driving force of my life has always been laziness; to practice this, in reasonable comfort, I have even been prepared, from time to time, to work.” – George Sanders

This was a lucky turn of events because his next job brought him into the presence of budding actress Greer Garson. She introduced him to acting and legions of George Sanders fans should be forever grateful to her for doing so. In his memoirs, we learn about Sanders’ early days in theater, the time he bailed out of a Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway production of South Pacific and behind-the-scenes stories of films such as The Moon and Sixpence (1942), All About Eve (1950), Captain Blackjack (1950), Journey to Italy (1954) , Solomon and Sheba (1959) and Bluebeards Ten Honeymoons (1960)

George Sanders had some wonderful observations on Hollywood, acting, work, school, relationships and his own personal quirks. The book is endlessly quotable and I bookmarked many a passage that I heartily agreed with, that made me laugh or that made me scratch my head. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Observations:

“I arrived at the conclusion that to enjoy one’s life to its fullest, one must build contrast into it. And the more extreme the contrast the fuller the life.” 

“The average audience is also incapable of distinguishing between a good actor and a good part. The actor gets the credit every time when more often than not the credit should go to the writer.”

“The mortality rate among stars is extremely high, whereas a good character actor is almost indestructible.”

“It is one of the sad ironies of life that one has to make money in order to spend time but waste time in order to make money.”

“Common household services are better paid for in money than in marriage, which is liable to produce the disagreeable results of a grossly distended waistline coupled with conversation confined to comparative prices of ground beef.”

“To begin with, it is impossible to be in love with a woman without experiencing on occasions an irresistible desire to strangle her. This can lead to a good deal of ill-feeling. Women are touchy about being strangled.”

“To the Englishman it is a continual source of amazement and irritation that the rest of mankind does not consist of other Englishmen.”

Anecdotes:

“My first appearance on the screen was as one of the gods in The Man Who Could Work Miracles. The part called for me to ride half-naked and shiny with grease, at four o’clock in the morning during one of England’s coldest winters, on a horse which was also coated with grease.”

“For a long time I was considered the ideal actor to play sneering, arrogant, bull-necked Nazi brutes.”

On getting his Oscar for his role in All About Eve. “I was grateful and flattered to get mine, but apart from making my already large ego one size larger it did absolutely nothing for me.”

On Marilyn Monroe “I lunched with her once or twice during the making of the film and found her conversation had unexpected depths. She showed an interest in intellectual subjects which was, to say the least, disconcerting. In her presence it was hard to concentrate.”

“Zsa Zsa was like champagne, and I as her husband was hard put to it to keep up with her standard of effervescence”

“There was no air-conditioning in the studio and the heat was so great at times that one had to sit between scenes with ice cubes wrapped in towels pressed against all possible parts of the anatomy in order to survive.”


Sanders talks in detail about his failed marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor (and her obsession with hair dryers). He was writing his memoirs during a happy time in his life when he was married to Benita Hume. She’s only discussed once in the book at any length where Gabor’s antics take up entire essays. I also noticed that besides a fleeting mention of him in the first chapter, George Sanders does not talk at all about his brother, actor Tom Conway. I imagine at this point in Sander's life they were not on the best of terms.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for years. I have been hunting down an elusive copy of the original out-of-print hardcover but much to my dismay I could never find a reasonably priced one. That’s when Dean Street Press came to the rescue! This small British publisher brought George Sanders’ memoir as well as his two mystery novels back into print. They were very generous and sent me an e-book version of Sanders’ memoir which I was very grateful to read. I still want a physical copy but now I’m debating whether I’ll buy the reissue paperback or wait for a good original hardcover copy.

“I had had since the beginning a profound sense of unreality about my newly acquired profession which the atmosphere of Hollywood did nothing to dispel. I never really thought I would make the grade. And let’s face it, I haven’t.” – George Sanders

I really wanted to love this book but in the end I just really liked it. Some of the essays are absolute gems and others were so-so. Every chapter had some pearl of wisdom, bit of insightful musing or humorous anecdote to devour so I felt very satisfied by the end. The publisher suggests that Sanders’ memoir is somewhat fictional. There is an after by Ulla Watson, Sanders’ niece. She also backs up the claim of Sanders as unreliable narrator pointing out that Sanders often downplayed his skills and sometimes his lack of confidence caused him to bail out of projects.

Whether we can believe everything George Sanders says or not it doesn’t really matter. Memoirs of a Professional Cad is an entertaining and enthralling insight into the mind of one of the 20th century’s most charming actors.

This is my second entry for my 2015 Classic Film Book Summer Reading Challenge!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Coolest Classic Film Stuff I Own (Part Two)

Here is part two of my collection of classic film treasures. If you missed part one, make sure you take a look before you move on!



Books

Books books books. I love books. I especially love my collection of classic film books of which I have many. Every year I run a summer reading challenge to encourage myself and others to tackle their to-be-read pile of classic film books. Many classic film fans collect books whether they be biographies, memoirs, coffee table pictorials, scholarly text or reference guides. In my opinion, these books are the best way for me to learn about my interest. IMDb and Wikipedia is great but there is nothing like diving into a good book and getting absorbed into the world of an actor, actress, time period, movie studio, etc.



Autographed copy of a Jack Klugman book 

 I never got to meet Jack Klugman in person but I have something he once held in his hands! My signed copy of Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship by Jack Klugman is my most prized book in my collection.  Klugman was well-known for his TV work but he was in some wonderful films too including 12 Angry Men and Days of Wine and Roses. In this book he discusses his friendship with Tony Randall as well as their personal lives and acting careers. It’s like two biographies in one!


TCMFF media passes and social media buttons

I proudly display my media credentials and festival buttons on my cubicle wall at work. I look at them every day and they remind me of all the wonderful times I had at the 2013, 2014 and 2015 TCM Classic Film Festivals. I love that my name is clearly branded on each of the passes and the buttons are just fun to look at.




Buttons

How about even more buttons? I got the I Heart Movies button at a special screening of These Amazing Shadows (2011), a documentary about the National Film Registry. I was personally invited to a screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre by one of the directors of the documentary. (Thank you Kurt Norton!). It was such a wonderful event I accidentally covered the event twice within one post. Oops!  I’ll fix that eventually. The other buttons are from Kate Gabrielle’s line of Your Fan Club buttons. As you see I have ones for Joan Blondell, Norma Shearer, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Jack Klugman, Robert Osborne and Edward G. Robinson.


Classic Film Calendar made by Kate Gabrielle 

Let me gush about Kate Gabrielle  a bit. This woman is incredibly talented. She’s clever, thoughtful and has serious skills as an artist. Several months ago I commissioned a classic film themed calendar. I gave her some ideas, a list of my favorite classic film people, my favorite holiday (New Year’s Eve!), a few photographs and she turned all of this into a spectacular calendar. I can’t believe it! If you want to see all the months of the calendar, check out my original post about it.


Robert Mitchum themed birthday card and matching envelope

One year Kate Gabrielle sent me a birthday card with an image of Robert Mitchum from The Night of the Hunter (1955). She replaced the letters on his knuckles to read Happy Bday. I love this card! The envelope even came with an image of Mitchum dancing with hand drawn balloons. I have both the card and envelope up on my cubicle wall at work.

Classic film stamps 
 
I was a budding philatelist when I was a pre-teen but eventually abandoned the hobby. I picked it up again as an adult thanks to the USPS Legends of Hollywood series. In 2014, they honored Charlton Heston with a stamp and I got to attend the stamp ceremony and unveiling. This event was so spectacular and it’s one of my favorite festival memories. I lost an opportunity to buy first issue stamps, and to have them signed by Fraser Heston!. However, as soon as I got home I bought several sheets of stamps. Some of which I used for correspondence and bills and one sheet I kept as a memento.



Cinefest swag 

My first Cinefest was also my last. Cinefest 35 was the last Cinefest and I’m very honored that I had an opportunity to be there. Cinefest goers received printed pass and lanyard, a commemorative coaster and an informative festival booklet, all of which I have kept. While there I also purchased a copy of The Dawn of Technicolor and I got it signed by the two authors who had just done a presentation on technicolor earlier that day.


TCMFF Tote Bags

There is a lot of TCMFF swag to treasure and the tote bags are my favorite. This bag from 2014 beats them all. When I first saw it I wasn't too crazy about the shape and design. However, over time I've fallen in love with it. It's my go-to tote bag for books. Inside you'll find the book I'm currently reading, a notebook and a couple of pens. It's lightweight and the shape makes it lie flat against your side. It's the perfect bag!


TCM mug and blanket

Last but not least is my TCM mug and blanket set. It gets a bit cold at my work so I can often be found sipping hot tea from my TCM mug (I also use a 2015 TCMFF mug as well) and wrapped in my TCM blanket. The blanket was a birthday gift from Jonas and the mug was a birthday gift from Sebina ! Thank you Jonas and Sebina! I treasure these presents.

 I hope you liked my two part series. If you want to participate, please share your favorite classic film treasures either on your blog or on a Pinterest board! Submit your link in the comments section below, or e-mail me or tag me on Twitter.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Coolest Classic Film Stuff I Own (Part One)


Classic film fans are collectors. We can’t help it. Some of us collect movies, others collect autographs and paper ephemera while some chose to collect experiences and memories instead. Part of expressing our love for movies is gathering those objects and memories that mean the most to us.

I’d like to share with you some of the coolest classic film stuff I own. These are the objects in my collection I treasure and hold significant meaning to me. They remind me of special experiences and people I care about. They also remind me why I’m a classic film fan.

I’m splitting this up into two parts because I have quite a bit to cover. If you’re a classic film blogger I encourage you to create your own list. Don’t have a blog? Create a Pinterest board with your favorites from your collection. If you do create your own list please share with me in the comments section. I’ll gather them up and include them in a post on this blog.



My movie collection

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with my own movie collection. I have almost 600 movies on last count and most of them are on DVD or DVD-R. I have a small collection of Blu-Rays. It’s important for me to own these films in physical form versus digitally for reasons that would require an entire post to explain. I loved this media tower because it held my entire collection beautifully. Unfortunately it got destroyed during our recent move. RIP media tower.



Autographed copy of Conversations with Robert Osborne

I got to meet TCM’s Robert Osborne in 2014. He was doing a signing of the DVD of Conversations with Robert Osborne at the TCM Classic Film Festival. Osborne is the sweetest, kindest man on the planet. He was so gracious and loved spending time with his fans. I don’t own many autographs so I treasure this one especially.



Rare films sent to me by friends (mostly Jonas) 

I have a beautiful collection of rare and hard-to-find films thanks to dear friends. About 90% of these films are from my best bud Jonas from All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!. He’s amassed a trove of early treasures and he’s been so generous to send me copies of many delightful films. The picture above shows three of my favorites from this separate collection. (Don’t ask me where to buy these DVDs, they don’t exist!).


 Multiple copies of Bachelor Mother

Because why not?! Bachelor Mother (1939) is my all-time favorite movie and I’ve had multiple copies of it for years. It started it off with at least three VHS recordings off of TCM. Why so many? I lost one, created a new one plus a back-up only to find the original one later. Then when Warner Archive released it on DVD-R I abandoned my VHS copies and bought in on DVD. However the DVD was buggy and didn’t have the built-in 10 minute chapters that WAC DVDs usually have. I inquired with WAC about it and they said I must have a defective copy. When I bought my second one it had the same issue so I kept that one as a back-up copy. How did I come to buy the rest? WAC had one of their final big sales (before the post-WB layoff changes took place) so I decided to take advantage of that last 5 for $45 sale and buy 5 copies of Bachelor Mother. I’ve since sent a few to friends and I have one set aside for a future blog giveaway!




 Casablanca film poster 

This was a prize for winning second place at the Brattle’s Movie Trivia Night. It was a fantastic night and I came away from it with this fantastic poster.


Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg Wedding centerpiece  

At our wedding in 2012, I decided to forego the traditional centerpiece, a large bouquet of expensive flowers, and went with something different. Each of the eight tables at our reception had it’s own classic Hollywood couple presented in an Art Deco style frame with an image designed by my good friend Lisa Rudden. Guests could keep their centerpiece if they wanted but I made sure to snag the Shearer-Thalberg one. Now it sits on my bureau and is a wonderful reminder of my special day.



 Norma Shearer Painting

Created by the ever talented Kate Gabrielle, this was the first piece of art I ever commissioned. I love it! It’s taken from a scene from Norma Shearer’s silent film A Lady of Chance (1928). It’s one of my favorite silent movies and the beach scene is the epitome of what I think about when I imagine 1920s style. The pink background Kate Gabrielle chose really makes the black and white art pop!



My blog business cards

With art by Julianna Rose, these business cards match the current design of my blog. I really love Saul Bass’ title sequence designs and that was the inspiration behind these. I love making business cards with Moo because it’s very easy and customizable and the cards come out looking both professional and fun. I love handing these out at festivals or whenever I meet fellow classic film fans in real life.




Phone case

I’ve had a few classic film themed phone cases that I custom made myself with the help of CafePress. I have two Robert Mitchum cases and one for Susan Peters but they quickly got destroyed. It wasn’t long after that I discovered that Zazzle makes tough, durable cases you can customize. I made one with an image of Bonita Granville and Frankie Thomas from Nancy Drew, Girl Detective (1938) back in October of 2014 and it’s still holding strong. My phone case showcases my love for classic film to people in real life and I always get lovely compliments from non-classic film people when they see it.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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