Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Out of the Past - 2012 Classic Movie Gift Guide

It's that time of year again! If you have a classic movie fanatic in your life, you know the know who has everything and is impossible to shop for, here are some cool gift ideas. I have not included DVDs or Blu-Rays because we are all familiar with that trepidation that precedes gift buying, when you wonder whether the recipient has the gift already or not. I have listed below some really unique gift ideas that your loved one will probably not already have.

 Enjoy and happy holidays!


Make sure your image is at least 234 X 490 and that your design has a blank space at the top left (the above image is inverted).


For that fan of The Women (1939) . Just make sure it doesn't come with a one-way ticket to Reno, Nevada!

Because everyone needs one of these in their homes.


They can double as a dress. Just watch Gone with the Wind (1939) for inspiration.


That gentleman in your life will look as good as Robert Walker in The Strangers on a Train (1951)

Williams-Sonoma - $89.95

I'm sure they'll do a much better job at making coffee with this gadget than Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) did in Woman of the Year (1942)

Yellow Raincoat

For that special person who gets that glorious feeling to sing in the rain. Make them happy again!

Ray-Ban RB4164 Sunglasses
$94.98 (sale price)

For that conniving person who needs to hide the evil behind their eyes with a pair of sunglasses.
I wish Kate Gabrielle's print of Leave Her to Heaven (1945) was still available!

UPDATE: The above print is available at Kate's society6 store

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (9)

Happy Birthday to Me! - I share my birthday with the following actors and actresses:

Kathryn Grant
Charles Emmett Mack
Ricardo Montalban

Nostalgia and Comfort - 2012 has been a year of major change for me and sometimes I want things to just slow down. I find some comfort in thinking about the past, looking at old pictures and watching movies that I know well and love. As I said in my previous Catching Up post, I have been having a difficult time with new-to-me movies. There is too much new in my life I need some more familiar.  I have found that if I watch one or two old favorites that I am more open to watching a new movie. For example, after watching Tony Rome (1967) and Ocean's 11 (1960), two of my favorite 60s standbys, I was more than ready to watch the new-to-me movie Walk Don't Run (1966). Too bad I didn't watch that during the Olympics! What a perfect tie-in.

Here are the films I have stacked by our DVD/Blu-Ray player so I have them ready to go whenever I need some comfort movie viewing.

From top to bottom:
Ocean's 11 (1960) (looks so much better on Blu-Ray!)

I have also been reaching far back into my childhood and have been thinking about some of my favorite childhood cartoons. One of them in particular is Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a Disney cartoon from the late 1980s. I have been singing the song around the house (much to Carlos' dismay, he dislikes my random bouts of Gangnam Style dancing too). I even added the Gummi Bears DVDs to my Netflix queue so I can watch them again. Just yesterday, my friend Lisa forwarded me a link to none other than Alicia Keys performing her version of the Gummi Bears theme on Jimmy Fallon's late night show. What a strange coincidence. To have been thinking of this show and relishing the memory AND to have one of my favorite singers perform the song on TV. Weird how the universe works like that sometimes.

What's your favorite comfort movie? Which cartoon did you love as a child?

Monday, November 19, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those stories that has eluded me for years. It was taught at my high school but I had taken certain English classes with certain teachers in a particular arrangement that skirted around having to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn't avoid it, it was avoiding me. I had never seen the movie either. I was grateful for an opportunity to read the book and watch the movie on the big screen.

Since I had read the book very recently, I had it fresh in my mind and because I hadn't seen the movie before I came to it not knowing what to expect.

The movie stays true to the book but it is very different. There are lots of characters missing and lots of scenes that were left behind. In the book, Atticus is very much a secondary character. The main focus is Scout and her brother Jem. It's really their world and point of view that we are experiencing.

When you read a book, the characters come to you with a blank state. The author builds the characters the way he or she wants and we as the reader visualize them in our mind. It's a very different experience with a movie. We are provided with visuals and with actors playing the parts that we would have otherwise created in our minds. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch when we watch the movie but when we read the book Atticus Finch is our visualization of Atticus Finch.

Having read the book so recently, I was waiting for certain scenes and characters to appear and felt a bit worried when they didn't. But I realized that the book could provide me with more information while the movie only had a couple of hours to deliver the story. While the book focuses mostly on the child characters, the movie HAS to focus on Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch because Peck is the star. He's the draw, the anchor to the story and what keeps the plot going. In the book it's very much about Scout and Jem. Not to say that the two unknowns who played the children didn't get their screen time or were neglected in the film. I thought the film beautifully portrayed the importance of both Scout and Jem's roles in the story. There are two very touching scenes that effectively portray the innocence of children and the injustice adults sometimes do to each other. One is when Atticus is in front of the jail protecting his client and local men come to kill the accused. Scout, Jem and Dill, particular Scout, confront the local men and they ashamedly walk away. In another scene, Scout shows affection to Boo Radley (played by a very young very blonde Robert Duvall in his first role) who is incredibly shy and mostly ignored by the other townsfolk but came out of his shell to help Scout and Jem. While the film really focuses more on Atticus than the book does, I felt like the movie honored the importance of the children as well!

While I liked the book better than the movie, I think the film is quite a masterpiece. Gregory Peck did an amazing job portraying Atticus Finch. It's really a marvelous performance and I'm sure a lot of folks with knowledge of Peck's career will say it's one of his best roles.

Did you watch To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) on the big screen last Thursday? What did you think?

Thank you to Harper Perennial and Fathom Events for the book and a chance to see the movie! Much appreciated.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (8)

Anna Karenina (2012) -  While I love classic movies, what you may not know about me is that I also have a deep love for period films, especially adaptations of classic novels. Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books and I was excited to see that a new adaptation was being released into theaters. For some reason I became absolutely determined to win advance screening tickets to this film and I entered every online contest I could. I ended up winning a couple tickets from a local Whole Foods for an advance screening last Wednesday.  (They ended up being two tickets for four instead of two tickets for two, oops!). I got a gorgeous pass and when we left the movie they handed out these great tri-fold double-sided posters (see above).

It was a really good film despite Keira Knightley being in it. One of the reasons I don't watch as many period films as I used to is that she seems to be in a lot of them. If Zooey Deschanel ever decides to do Period Films I will have to give up the genre entirely.

It's good to note that Anna Karenina (2012) is partly choreographed and a lot of the sets are on stages that change and open up into other sets. If you don't know this up front or if you are not okay with this, the movie might not be as enjoyable. This reminded me of an adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like it from 2006 in which you got glimpses of a real contemporary audience which reminded you that this is a performance. I loved the blending of reality with fantasy. With Anna Karenina, the stages remind you that this is a production and it also gave the filmmakers more liberty to be visually expressive with history and fantasy.

It's a beautiful film and I thought it was well-executed. I don't understand why they didn't just put Jude Law in the role of Vronsky instead of an unknown. Besides Keira Knightley, Jude Law and I'll make the case also for Emma Watson because I love her, everyone else in the film are minor actors or up-and-coming ones. I think the two major roles should have gone to the two major actors. Downton Abbey fans will recognize the familiar faces of Michelle Dockery (who looks just like my friend Haze who went to the movie with me!) and Thomas Howes who have minor roles in the movie.

One thing I have to say is that there is a gory scene in the beginning of the film which I thought they could have done away with. When I left the film, it's the one scene that stuck in my head. And that should not have been the case.

Will you see Anna Karenina (2012)?

Period Films - Do you like period films? If so, which ones? I have to say that I do not enjoy historical classic films as I do contemporary ones. I feel like todays film makers have a lot more pressure on them to be historically accurate whereas using Victorian style clothing in Pride & Prejudice (1940) (it's Regency not Victorian!). Also because of Hays Code and heavy-handed movie studios, film makers often had to change major plot points or characters in order to please the big bosses. Personally, I would like to know more about the decision behind making Lady Catherine de Bourgh a nice character at the end of the P&P 1940 adaptation (sorry for the spoiler!).

Advance Screenings - I have only been to one other advance screening and that was in 2004. A lot has changed since that time and I noticed while watching Anna Karenina that there were several guards at the theater waving some sort of laser thing over the audience. Also, they checked our bags for recording devices. Someone told me that at some advance screenings they'll take your cell phone and only give it back when the movie is over!

2013 Turner Classic Movies Festival - For those of you who have gone to this festival in the past, what advice do you have for those of us who are going or who are contemplating going in 2013? Cinematically Insane has a nice post detailing the differences between passes from 2012 and 2013 and offers some advice on what to invest your money in and Laura from Laura's Miscellaneous Musings gave me a good tip about standby lines for evening shows ($20 to get in if there are open spots). Any other advice?

Have a good week!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with Margaret Talbot, author of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century

I have had the privilege of interviewing Margaret Talbot, author of the book The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century and daughter of classic film actor Lyle Talbot. Check out the interview below and if you haven't heard about this amazing book yet make sure you read my review.

Raquel: Why did you decide to write The Entertainer?

Margaret: I’d grown up listening to my Dad’s stories about his show biz career, and like most kids listening to their Dads holding forth at the dinner table or wherever, I tuned in and out of them. But as the years went by, and especially after my father died, in 1996, I thought about those stories more and more—it helped me to feel close to both my parents again, and I missed them a lot. And I realized that when you strung my Dad’s stories together, they told a bigger story about the rise of entertainment in the 20th century. I’ve always loved history, and I thought this would be a way to convey cultural history through an intimate, personal lens.

Raquel: What do you think your dad, actor Lyle Talbot, would think of the book?

Margaret: I think, and my siblings agree with me, that he would be thrilled. He wasn’t a writer at all, but he was a reader and a great story-teller, and would have been pleased as punch to see his story in book form.

Raquel:  What’s the one thing you’d like people to get out of reading your book?

Margaret: That it’s possible to make a deeply satisfying working life in a creative profession where there is a star system--and you are not a star-- so long as you have the attitude my Dad had, which was: I am lucky to be able to do the work I love. 

Raquel: What was the hardest part of the writing or research process?

Margaret: Honestly? Having to stop researching and writing it. So long as I was working on the book, I was still in communion with, having an on-going conversation with, my parents. When I finished the manuscript I felt like I was saying good-bye to my Dad for a second time.  

Raquel: The age gap between you and your dad was pretty big. I am in the same situation with my dad being 53 years older than me. How did that affect your relationship with him?

Margaret: I’m very interested to hear that, because it’s not that common—though it may become more so, as both men and women postpone having kids till they are older. In general, I thought it was a boon. My Dad was kind of gallant and old-world; I liked the connection to the past he gave me, and especially to old Hollywood glamour, but in a kinder, gentler version. And because he was a worldly person with an active mind, who kept acting and doing public appearances and interviews into his 90s, he didn’t seem all that elderly, even when he was. Possibly all that memorization you have to do as an actor, especially in the theater, which he did a lot of in his later years, helped keep his mind sharp.  

Raquel: Why did you decide to write The Entertainer not as a straight biography of your dad but as a story of your dad alongside the story of the twentieth century he lived in?

Margaret: He wasn’t enough of a star to sustain a straight biography. But that was actually an advantage in doing the kind of book I wanted to do. I didn’t have to cover every movie he made—and he made some really lousy ones!—or try and be comprehensive as you would if you were writing a biography of Katharine Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart. Also, as I say in the book, he had this Zelig-like life, where he turns up in all these facets of entertainment history: from traveling carnivals and magic shows in the Midwest in the teens, to tent theater and stock companies in cities like Memphis and Dallas in the 20s, to Hollywood, pre-Code movies and the studio system in the 30s, including helping to found the Screen Actors Guild, to the dawn of family sitcoms, with Ozzie and Harriet, the Bob Cummings show, and Leave it to Beaver (actually my brother Steve was the regular on Beaver, but my Dad did guest spots.) So his life really lent itself, I thought, to providing a narrative thread for a larger history.  

Raquel: What’s your favorite of your dad’s movies?

Margaret: I’d have to say “Three on a Match,” the ultimate pre-Code potboiler in my opinion, with a great cast: Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Warren William, and in a memorable small role, as a really vicious young hood, Humphrey Bogart.  

Raquel: Which of your dad’s stories is your favorite?

Probably the story of his screen test, which I tell in an excerpt from the book that ran in The New Yorker (but in more detail in the book!) I’m also partial to my parents’ love story.  

Raquel: My friend Bob from the blog Allure asks, “What I found interesting about Lyle Talbot, he seemed at ease as a good guy or a bady guy. Did he have a preference?"

Good point. He genuinely liked playing both. But I think as he got older, and a lot of the good-guy parts were police chiefs and commissioners (much staring with grim intensity into the camera while gripping a desk and vowing to get the perp, as in the pretty good nuclear noir “City of Fear” from 1959), he liked the bad—or at least flawed—characters better.  

Raquel: Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Margaret: I live in Washington, D.C. with my husband, writer Arthur Allen, and our teenagers, Ike and Lucy, who lucky for me, have always had a taste for black-and-white movies. They started with the Marx Brothers, moved on to Hitchcock, and are now watching silent movies even I haven’t seen yet (like the 1921 Swedish horror move “The Phantom Carriage.” It’s apparently really good!) We’re also lucky to live near the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, Md., a fantastic art and revival movie theater, where we go often. (The theater is screening a Lyle Talbot series in December, starting with “Three on a Match,” and showing a number of other films you don’t get to see that often, like William Wellman’s punchy and amusing “College Coach.”)

 Staff writer, The New Yorker author, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century (November, 2012; Riverhead)

Thank you so much to Margaret Talbot for taking the time out to answer my questions and thank you to Lydia of Riverhead Books for arranging the interview.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (7)

Oh Wedding Day - Many thanks to J.P. from the blog Comet over Hollywood for sending me this lovely picture of actress Susan Peters on her wedding day with director Richard Quine. I had never seen it before!

 How well do you know my favorites? - Play my IMDB Quiz! Make sure you play the Genius version for even more fun. 

Old Favorites versus New-to-me Classics - I have been going through a difficult time lately. I feel trapped with no way out. Every time I find a glimmer of hope it seems like there is always someone that comes along to block it out. Whenever I feel blue, I can't be bothered to watch new movies. I know a lot of you watch movies by the boatload but I just can't handle that. Watching a film that is new to me can be an emotional ordeal. There is a lot to take in and to think about. When I'm feeling blue, I find that old favorites are comforting. Movies that I know well, that I know I will enjoy and that have no mystery. What kind of movies do you like to watch when you are blue?

Maybe a viewing of one of my all-time favorites Nancy Drew - Detective (1938) will cheer me up.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warner Archive Wednesday - College Coach (1933)

Title card for College Coach 1933

College Coach (1933) is a film that combines two of my favorite themes in early films: sports and collegiate culture. Calvert College is in trouble. They just put some money into their science department and now they are on the brink of bankruptcy. They get the idea to hire Coach Gore (Pat O'Brien), a college football coach whose success in developing teams that draw crowds and win championships is well-known. The board of the college figure that a healthy and attractive football program will bring enough revenue to help the college recover from it's financial crisis.

Coach Gore hires athletes to be fake college students so they can play on the college's football team and bring the success that the college is looking for. Two of his hired players Buck Weaver (Lyle Talbot) and Phil Sargeant (Dick Powell) don't see eye to eye.

And not only that Weaver has an eye for Gore's wife (Ann Dvorak). Things become complicated as Gore continues to neglect his wife, as Weaver causes more problems and as Sargeant figures out he really wants to study chemistry and the chemistry department is dependent on the football team's success in order to continue.

I love the dilemma between academics and sports. We all know that talented athletes are highly sought after my colleges and universities. And even today there is still debate about how much a school should invest in it's academics versus it's sports. Sports definitely bring more public recognition to a school than academics (unless we are talking about Harvard or MIT or something). ESPN will not be covering students doing a particularly tough chemistry experiment but will cover their basketball game. In College Coach (1933), the college's academics is the poorer cousin to the much more handsome prospect of a robust football program. There is contention between them both with the hired players passing classes without having to do any studying.

College Coach is a fun movie with a good cast. It's not particularly collegiate. Some of the early scenes show students at games, together in dorms expressing their college spirit. The focus of this film is definitely the business behind college football and how the manipulation of Gore and his hired players causes problems for the school and for personal relationships.

Technically it's a pre-code but it's pretty tame. There is one scene in which Weaver (Lyle Talbot) hangs up a picture of a swell looking dame on a shelf much to the dismay of Sargeant. Weaver points to the picture and proclaims: "How would you like to stick your finger in..."

OH MY GOODNESS! I was so scandalized until he finished

How would you like to stick your finger in her coffee?

Phew! Also, who sticks their fingers in girls' coffees? Is this a thing? Is it to break the bubble of personal space?

Fun fact: A very young John Wayne has a bit part as a college student.

John Wayne in a bit part in College Coach 1933 with Dick Powell

College Coach (1933) is available from the Warner Archive and at various online retailers.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix, watched on TCM or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Entertainer by Margaret Talbot

The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot
The Entertainer:
Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century
by Margaret Talbot
November 2012
Riverhead (Penguin)
Hardcover ISBN: 9781594487064
$28.95 US retail

In her captivating, impeccably researched narrative - a charmed combination of Hollywood history, social history, and family memoir - Margaret Talbot conjures warmth and nostalgia for those earlier eras of '10s and '20s small-town American, '30s and '40s Hollywood. She transports us to an alluring time, simpler but also exciting, and illustrated the changing face of her father's America, all while telling the story of mass entertainment across the first half of the twentieth century. - Riverhead Books

Margaret Talbot's The Entertainer is not simply a biography about her father the actor Lyle Talbot. Rather the book consists of two parallel stories; one of Talbot's life as a man and career as an actor and the other about the evolution of Hollywood and the entertainment industry in the twentieth century.

This book is a portrait of an entertainer placed firmly on the canvass of twentieth century history. The Entertainer is a charming book with a lot of insight and thoughtfulness and a rich abundance of information. The book chronicles Lyle Talbot's life and career almost chronologically. There are several jumps back and forth through time but the course keeps steady and it reads as though you are moving forward continuously rather than simply jumping around.

Margaret Talbot doesn't try to romanticize her father. She is frank about his drinking problem and how he never became a major movie star. But this book is also an ode to the father who she knew and loved dearly. Their age gap reminds me very much of the one I have with my own father (52 years in my case and almost 60 in hers). Her father was secretive about his romantic past, much like my own is now. A lot of what Margaret Talbot found out about her father Lyle's girlfriends and wives was from her research.

Speaking of research, the author relies a lot on the memories of her father as well as the stories that her father told her and the ones shared by family and friends. She also relies on scrapbooks, photographs, clippings, receipts, menus, telegrams, postcards and other papers saved over the years. She revisited taped interviews and transcripts and dug up articles and interviews from various publications and read many biographies, novels and books on history and criticism. She recounts a lovely story about a man finding a photo scrapbook of her father at a yard sale, realizing it's importance and contacting her about transferring the book back to the family. I'm sure a lot of people would have kept those photographs or sold them so it's nice to hear that someone was generous enough to give them to the family for safe keeping.

The book clocks in at over 400 pages and includes 45 black and white photos which appear throughout the text. This type of design is my ideal as the photos appear with the relevant text to go along with it. It keeps me from flipping back and forth from a photo insert to where I had left off reading (which I have done many times in the past with other books).

For those of you who are looking for a book about an actor's life, without all the salaciousness of other biographies and with plenty of context, then look no further than this book. I wish there were more books like this one; kind yet frank portrayals with lots of added information. I would go so far to call this book an enhanced biography. I found The Entertainer to be absolutely charming, well-written and insightful.

Check out the official Pinterest board for The Entertainer!

Disclosure: Thank you to Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin) for providing me with an advance readers copy of the book to review.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (6)

Celebrities in my town - I helped break a local news story that a scene from the HBO movie Clear History (2014) was being filmed in my town. Not only that the location was a block away from where I live. The film will star Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Jon Hamm (OMG), Kate Hudson and more. It's being directed by Larry David and he's the only celebrity anyone saw.

Another pair of celebrities in my town - Laurel and Hardy!

My town has a Halloween parade every year. That's right. A Halloween parade. And each year I see this miniature car with two guys pretending to be Laurel and Hardy. I always miss taking a picture of them but I got one this year!

TCM Classic Film Festival 2013 News - Tickets will go on sale November 15 and they haven't announced the full lineup but have revealed some of the events. There will be a gala to celebrate the restoration of the film Funny Girl (1968). I wonder if Barbra Streisand will be in attendance. Or perhaps Omar Sharif. I'd much prefer to see Omar Sharif! Other films being screened include The General (1926) with Alloy Orchestra playing live musical accompaniment, a restoration of Giant (1956)  and The Great Escape (1963). So far this is looking kind of disappointing. I have already seen the Alloy Orchestra perform, I have no interest in Funny Girl and watching newly restored brown face in Giant doesn't necessarily appeal to me. If Carroll Baker and/or Rod Taylor made an appearance, I think it would be worth going. And if James Garner attended the screening of The Great Escape that would be amazing. So far I'm not impressed. I look forward to see the full lineup which should be announced very soon.

At this point, it looks like I have a very slim chance of going. Finances are definitely a problem with my recent hospital visits and my car issues. But if the festival is truly amazing (Kirk Douglas, Olivia de Havilland or Joan Fontaine, Mickey Rooney, etc.) then I might make the sacrifice financially to go.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Naked Prey (1966)

Cornel Wilde as The Man running away from the tribes men who are chasing him down like prey.

I remember Ginger from Asleep in New York raving about Cornel Wilde and dreaming about him in the buff. And in an episode of Mad Men, Don Draper is asked if he has seen The Naked Prey (1966). It's mentioned that Cornel Wilde is mostly naked in the film. Both of those nudity references got my interest piqued.

The Naked Prey (1966) is directed by Cornel Wilde who also stars in the film. He plays "the man" a nameless Westerner who is put in a very difficult situation. His colleague refuses to give a tribe a gift for their leader. This stirs their ire and their whole group, including members of another African tribe, are humiliated, tortured and killed. They leave Cornel Wilde's Man for last.

He's stripped down to nothing and released. He gets a head start but that's it. After a little while, a group of men from the tribe hunt him down like the naked prey he is.

I was both horrified by the story and impressed with Cornel Wilde's performance. I don't really see the appeal of  watching Cornel Wilde naked on screen. He had a very fit body but given the circumstances of the story I just felt bad for him. No lust involved! In fact, I really just wanted to give him water and food.

The theme of predator versus prey holds the story together as the man continues to elude the tribal men who hunt him down. The man witnesses snakes killing birds, lions killing antelopes, and one tribe killing another tribe. It's interesting to watch how resourceful both prey and predator become in the game of life. The tricks both the man and his hunters develop in order to achieve their goal.

I highly admire Cornel Wilde for taking on such a project. There is very little dialogue, conditions must have been harsh and the work was very taxing on his body. I've read that he was ill during the filming and that at one point he was bitten by a snake. Also to expose his body like that, to both the elements and to film audiences, must have taken a lot of courage.

 For me the hardest scene to watch was the stock footage of the elephants being shot down one by one. I also had a difficult time watching the captured men being tortured in various inhumane ways. The story was originally about Native Americans and took place in North America. However, the South African government gave the filmmakers an incentive to work on their land so the story was changed to suit the setting.

The movie is available on DVD from Criterion. You can rent it from Netflix. I recommend at least one viewing of this! It's quite a remarkable film.

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