Sunday, November 27, 2016

Come Fly With Me

Was there anything more glamorous than a movie star flying during the golden era of aviation? I remember when I was a little girl and my parents and I dressed up to fly. It was a big deal. I even remember having a TWA bag (too bad we didn't keep it!). Today air travel is a lot more casual but we can still dream of the time when flying in style was a must.

This month I gathered a collection of various photos of classic film stars flying to what I imagine are exotic locales or movie premieres. I named the collection Come Fly With Me after Frank Sinatra's song and the 1963 film. I posted the full collection on my Twitter, Facebook page, Google+ Collection and on my Pinterest as well. Here are a few of my favorites:

Altovise and Sammy Davis Jr. at Heathrow Airport
Altovise and Sammy Davis Jr. at Heathrow Airport
Brigitte Bardot flying Air France
Brigitte Bardot flying Air France

Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve flying Air France
Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve flying Air France

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra with a private jet
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra

Faye Dunaway
Faye Dunaway

Gina Lollobrigida flying KLM Dutch Airlines
Gina Lollobrigida flying KLM Dutch Airlines

James Garner and his wife Lois flying TWA
James Garner and his wife Lois flying TWA

Jerry Lewis flying American Airlines
Jerry Lewis flying American Airlines

Dorothy and Robert Mitchum at the airport
Dorothy and Robert Mitchum

Paul Newman flying Alitalia
Paul Newman flying Alitalia

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier

Sophia Loren at a Pan Am lounge
Sophia Loren at a Pan Am lounge

Telly Savalas and family at Heathrow Airport
Telly Savalas and family at Heathrow Airport

Robert Wagner and Spencer Tracy flying TWA
Robert Wagner and Spencer Tracy flying TWA

Yul Brynner at the airport
Yul Brynner

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide

Is your loved one a bonafide classic film nut? Do you have absolutely no idea what to get them for the holidays? Look no further! I have some excellent ideas for you. These gifts range in price and fit any budget and will be guaranteed to please.

For the classic film fan who thinks they've seen it all but still wants to see more...

FilmStruck is a new streaming service created by the folks at Turner Classic Movies in collaboration with Criterion. Available on a multitude of devices this service streams a variety of indie and foreign films that will appeal to the film buff with sophisticated tastes. There is no gift membership option yet but you could always offer to purchase one of the plans for your loved one. $6.99 a month gets you the FilmStruck channel, $10.99 a month gets you FilmStruck and the Criterion Channel and you can buy a year's membership for both channels for a one time fee of $99.

For the time traveler...

Fitzpatrick Traveltalks

Take an armchair trip around the world with James Fitzpatrick "The Voice of the Globe". Warner Archive collects 186 of the Fitzpatrick TravelTalks shorts presented in glorious Technicolor. Fitzpatrick traveled the world capturing images of far off lands and familiar terrain here as well. These MGM shorts are from the 1930s to the early 1950s and are narrated by Fitzpatrick. Chances are your beloved has seen some of these on TCM but this is the first time they've all been made available on DVD-MOD and the newest Volume 3 completes the set. These are so much fun to watch and if your loved one is like me and adores time traveling with the help of movies and documentaries they'll love these! Each volume retails at $29.99 (the first two are on sale right now at 30% off!)

For the ultimate TCM fan...

Me at the Francis Ford Coppola Imprint Ceremony TCMFF 2016

You're buying them a trip of a lifetime with this pass. The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival will be held in Hollywood April 6 to the 9th. The Essential Pass is sold out but other passes are still available. The Classic Pass is your best deal at $649. It gets you into everything except for the opening night movie and gala. I've been to this festival four times and each one was life changing. Read my extensive coverage of TCMFF for some ideas of what to expect.

For art lovers...

Many classic film fans are familiar with Kate Gabrielle's work. We've worn her fan club pins everywhere, especially at #TCMFF. Beyond her pins she's got great art prints, brooches, patches, pocket mirrors, greeting cards and more. My favorite piece from her collection is this fabulous Gene Tierney art print ($15) inspired by a scene from Leave Her to Heaven (1945). Add a frame to this and you have a fantastic holiday gift.

For the classic film fan on the go...

My TCM tote bags come in handy. I take them with me everywhere. I even have a TCM gym bag for my exercise gear. Tote bags are a great way to express your passion in simple and efficient manner.

For classic film enthusiasts who enjoy new movies too...

Fandango Gift Cards

Need to pad a holiday present with something extra? A Fandango gift card would help get your movie lover to the theatre to see some future classics. 

For Boston area classic film fans...

Membership to a repertory theatre

If the recipient of your gift is Boston based you could do no wrong by getting them a membership to one of our fine repertory theatres. These show classic movies on the big screen regularly and a membership supports their love for old movies and helps keep these wonder theatres in business. The Harvard Film Archive screens foreign and obscure classics and an individual membership is $55 and includes discounts, free screenings, special access and a subscription to their program calendar. The Brattle Theatre in Harvard has a wide variety of classic, cult and indie screenings as well as other events and special programming. A basic membership is $80 is includes 12 free passes plus concession stand coupons, discounts at several local shops and eateries and more. The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline is an art house theatre with new and classic film screenings. A Film Buff membership is $75 a year (and tax deductible!) and includes free passes, member only benefits, discounts at the concession, on tickets and on merchandise and more. Not in Boston? Check if your classic film lover has a local repertory house with a membership option.

For bookish classic film fans...

If your movie lover is also big on reading, classic film books are a must. You can buy a set of titles as a nice bundle or add one to a package you're putting together. You can find a list of the most recently released titles on my latest New & Upcoming Classic Film Books round-up. Above titles include:

Retail $22.00
Not available until just after Christmas so you'd need an IOU.
by Shawn Levy
Retail $27.99
Calling all classic film fans! What present would you absolutely love to receive during the holidays? Tell me in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Filmmaker Victoria Negri on working with Robert Vaughn

Victoria Negri and Robert Vaughn on the set of Gold Star (2016) - Photo by Ben Jarosch

I'm pleased to present you with a guest post from filmmaker Victoria Negri who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the new independent movie Gold Star (2016). Based on a true story, Gold Star follows Vicki as she deals with the complications that arise from her 90 year old father's recent stroke. Her father is played by Robert Vaughn and this is his final film. I had the privilege of watching this film recently and I marveled at the fine storytelling, Vaughn's amazing performance and how much the story reminded me of my own father's illness. I'll have a full review of the film on the blog soon. In the meantime enjoy this guest post.

Robert Vaughn in Gold Star (2016)

"Today, Robert Vaughn would have been 84 years old. I initially wrote this blog post about working with Robert the night before his passing, and have since edited it. Everything about working with him is surreal now that he’s gone. Trying to sum up what working with him means to me personally and my career overall is challenging.

My debut feature film, Gold Star, which I also star in and produced, is loosely inspired by my experiences caring for my father during his last year alive, after he suffered a stroke that left him speechless and mostly paralyzed. It’s an unconventional father/daughter story, one that I hope honestly portrays ideas surrounding the ways we process the inevitability of aging and death.

I initially set about to cast an unknown actor in the role of my dad. I admired films with non-actors, and wanted someone who felt “real,” perhaps someone who had recovered from a stroke in real life and could realistically portray it in a movie. After meeting with several non-actors, I abandoned the idea, fearing hiring someone almost 90 years old without experience would prove to be too difficult. I hired casting director Judy Bowman in New York to help me in my quest to cast the role of Carmine, my father in the film. Robert Vaughn, Oscar nominee, Emmy winner and veteran of more than sixty years in the business, was at the top of our list.

It was a fairly straightforward process. We reached out to him, sent him the script, made an offer through his manager, and he accepted.

I met Robert a month-and-a-half before we began production. I drove to his house in Connecticut, through wooded back roads, up steep hills, past beautiful homes. His residence was at the end of a long street. As I walked up the front path, I did a few relaxation breathing techniques I learned in yoga and Tai Chi classes, trying to prepare myself, and was quickly interrupted by a booming, old school Hollywood kind of voice, “Why hello, Victoria.” I was startled. Robert was on his front steps already waiting for me. I nervously handed him a box of cookies from my favorite bakery that I bought for him and his wife, and followed him inside.

I sat across from him in his beautiful living room, his Emmy Award shining not far from me on his mantel. Surrounding us were photos he took with The Beatles, his frequent co-star Steve McQueen and others, a beautiful wooden desk and a large, black grand piano once performed on by Judy Garland.

We chatted about his career and his interest in the script. I bluntly asked him why he said yes. What about the film stood out, I wondered. Surely he gets many offers.

Robert Vaughn in Gold Star (2016)

His answer surprised me. He said he’d never had the challenge of playing someone recovering from a stroke and facing such a severe physical handicap (with no lines of dialogue on top of it), and that he wanted to see if he could do it. We spoke a lot about his love for Hamlet and Shakespeare and his first acting role when he was very young in Three Billy Goats Gruff. I asked him what kind of acting techniques he preferred. He told me over the years, he took what worked for him and developed it into his own sort of technique that could not be pinned down to any specific method.

Robert was genuinely curious about my process of writing, why certain things were in the script. He asked fantastic questions about certain scenes, and listened carefully. I told him a lot about my father and specifics on how the stroke affected him. The fundamental question he wanted to know to help him play the character was, “What kind of a man was your father? What was his a mantra he had or thing he lived by?” And I remember my reply was, “Mind over matter.”

He noticed me staring at the photos and gave me a tour of them. I’ll never forget him proudly pointing at a photo of The Beatles, saying, “They asked to meet me.” Before I left, he handed me his autobiography, signed it and told me to read it. I was home this past weekend in Connecticut for his funeral and a screening of the film (both on the same day, which was extremely emotional), and I looked at the inside of the book. Robert signed the book, “Victoria, best of luck on your great adventure.” Making and releasing this film has been a five-year adventure so far, and thanks to Robert, it has been great.

Robert Vaughn and Catherine Curtin in Gold Star (2016)

On the train ride back to New York City after our initial meeting, I poured through his autobiography, quickly becoming more and more intimidated and in awe of the man I’d be working with. He had a doctorate, writing his thesis on the blacklist. He was good friends with the Kennedy family, he was well-read and passionate about Shakespeare, not to mention a fantastic writer of his own. He had hilarious anecdotes about working with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, and talked a bit about his relationship with Natalie Wood. If you haven’t read his book “A Fortunate Life,” make it a priority.

Working with Robert on set was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. He was selfless. He put his faith entirely in me, which built my confidence up. Whatever I said, he trusted. He told some crew members, “Who knows her story better than her?” There were times I’d let the camera roll in close-up on him, and we would improv back and forth. Because he has no lines in the film, I’d tell him what he should physically get across, see what he did with his face and body, and let it play out. In one particular scene, he joked with me afterwards saying, “You’ve got enough for one film from that entire take.”

My film was by no means a multi-million dollar production. We shot most of Robert’s scenes in my childhood home, and spent two days on location at Gaylord Rehab Facility in Wallingford, Connecticut. Robert spoke with my sister, who was on set a few days, in between takes, asking her questions about my family, further probing into his character. I believe he was always watching, taking notes. I saw him looking at photos and studying paintings my father made. He was an intelligent actor with a true old-school work ethic. He showed up on time, trusted his director completely, played within the world I set up for him, and filled each take with a full, multi-layered character.

Robert Vaughn and Catherine Curtin in Gold Star (2016)

I am lucky to have worked with him. In completely trusting me on set, despite the fact that I was a complete unknown, he empowered me with confidence. His trust was the best kind of mentorship a first time writer-director like me could have asked for.

Last week, we screened Gold Star at Gaylord for National Caregivers Month. The emotions I felt watching Robert’s performance on screen for the first time since his passing were complicated. I’m proud and honored to have his last performance on film be in my movie. Watching the film now, it adds another new layer of meaning. The film was initially meant to process what it was like losing my father, but now, as I watch it, I’m processing losing Robert as well.

I am more determined now than ever for Gold Star to get out into the world, so that Robert’s last performance can be seen by as wide of an audience as possible, to honor his remarkable legacy as a true movie star."

Stay tuned about future festival screenings and follow us for news
Official Site:
Twitter: @GoldStarFilm

- Victoria Negri

The cast and crew of Gold Star (2016) photo by Ben Jarsoch

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