Friday, March 31, 2017

My Top Picks for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival

Me at the 2016 Francis Ford Coppola hand and footprint ceremony

I can't believe it. I'm going to the TCM Classic Film Festival for the fifth time. In a row! After going to the 2013 TCMFF, it was inevitable that another festival would be in my future. But who knew I'd be going so many times? Not me.

And for the fifth time I'll be attending TCMFF as a member of the media. That means I'll be providing you with lots of coverage here and on my social media (follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and e-mail me if you're interested in my uncensored Snapchat coverage).

Without further ado, here are my top picks for this year's festival.


Red Carpet for In the Heat of the Night (1967) - I'll be missing quite a lot on Thursday in order to block off some time for the red carpet premiere. This is my favorite part of the festival. I'll either be in the bleachers or on the red carpet interviewing celebrities. More details to come. I'm most excited about the red carpet this year because Sidney Poitier will be there. Seeing him in person is a dream come true.

Requiem For a Heavyweight (1962) or The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) - The older I get the less ambitious I am about my TCMFF schedule. Both of these look like great screenings but Requiem is playing at the Chinese Multiplex and that means I can get to my hotel room a lot sooner. The Man Who Knew Too Much is all the way over at the Egyptian. That might be the deciding factor in this case because otherwise it'll be difficult to pick between the two.


Hand and Footprint Ceremony: Carl and Rob Reiner - I've been to the last 4 imprint ceremonies, 3 of which I covered on my blog (Jerry Lewis, Christopher Plummer and Francis Ford Coppola). These are a blast and I don't want to miss that one. If for any reason I can't get into this event, I have Cry, the Beloved Country (1951), starring Canada Lee and Sidney Poitier, on my list as a back-up.

Panique (1946) - I love French cinema and I'm starting to explore older classics. Directed by Julien Duvivie, the film is based on the novel by Georges Simenon and his son Pierre Simenon will be on hand for a pre-screening interview.

I'm not sure what to watch after Panique because I'll need to get in line early for...

Red-Headed Woman (1932) - This is by far my favorite Pre-Code. There's no way I can miss this one. If that means I have to skip a programming block, so be it.

High Anxiety (1977) - I'm looking forward to this Hitchcock spoof. Mel Brooks will be in attendance. This might sell out much like Blazing Saddles did a couple of years ago. So I have Cat People (1942) as my back-up. I love Cat People so it will be a difficult decision to watch a new-to-me comedy versus my all-time favorite horror classic.

Zardoz (1974) - I've never had the stamina for midnight screening but I might make a go of it this year. TCMFF usually hosts two midnight screenings during the festival. Both tend to be crazy and wacky cult classics made all the better with a live audience. Zardoz, starring Sean Connery in the most bizarre outfit ever to grace the screen, looks like it could be a lot of fun to watch with a crowd.


The China Syndrome (1979) - I can't pass up an opportunity to see Michael Douglas in person.

The Art of Subtitling - This Club TCM event sounds really interesting. Bruce Goldstein of Rialto Pictures will be on hand to the discuss the history subtitling foreign classics.

America America (1963) - This is a sleeper on the list and a lot of others who have shared their top TCMFF picks are skipping this one. But I'm definitely going. This is a wonderful film by one of my favorite directors Elia Kazan. Film critic Alicia Malone will be interviewing one of the film's stars Stathis Giallelis at the event. The movie deals with oppression, immigration and family. I reviewed this film back in 2011 and am eager to see it again.

Best in Show (2000) - I know, I know. This is a contemporary movie. But it's so hilarious and I'll need something light after watching America America. Some of the cast will be in attendance and I have my fingers crossed that Parker Posey, whom I idolized as a teenager and still do, will be a surprise guest. Even if she isn't there this will still be a great film to see on the big screen.

The Graduate (1967) - This is one of those big classics that is missing from my film history knowledge. I've seen parts of it including the ending but haven't seen it all the way through. It'll be shown at Grauman's Chinese which is my favorite of all of the TCMFF venues. Screenwriter Buck Henry will be interviewed before the screening.


Cock of the Air (1932) - I'll be waking up bright and early to get in line for this one. Recently restored with a controversial bit added back in, and with contemporary actors filling in with the missing soundtrack, this Pre-Code looks a fun curio.

I'm taking it easy on Sunday, will have an early lunch then will be headed early to Club TCM for...

Conversation and Book Signing with Dick Cavett - Cavett has interviewed everybody and has a lot of stories to tell. He's pretty interesting too. Did you know he used to be a gymnast? And that he wrote monologues for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson? I've read two of Cavett's books, Talk Show and Brief Encounters. Both are collections of essays from his New York Times column. I've listened to both books on audio and would be eager to have either one in print and signed by the man himself.

Hell is for Heroes (1962) - This war movie features four of my favorite people: Steve McQueen, Bob Newhart, James Coburn and Bobby Darin. Newhart will be at TCMFF to attend this screening and I'm excited to see him again. (Fun fact: I accidentally ran into Newhart's Book Expo America book signing several years back. When I turned around Robert Duvall was at the next booth signing his book. It's one of my favorite memories of celebrity sightings.)

Lady in the Dark (1944) - I'll be ending the festival with a screening of this Technicolor musical starring Ginger Rogers. I know nothing about this film and will keep myself "in the dark" so this can be a truly new experience for me.

My picks are subject to change. I've already changed by mind about 5 times before I made this list and I will probably change my mind again. What's great about the festival is that there are plenty of back-up choices. The worst thing about the festival is that you'll miss out on the majority of events.

See you in Hollywood!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Stars in Springtime

Even though we still have snow on the ground, I'm celebrating the fact that Spring is officially here! This month I've been sharing photos of classic film actors and actresses (mostly actresses) enjoying the blooms of the season and warmer weather. My series appeared on Twitter and Google+ with the hashtag #StarsinSpringtime but I thought I'd share some of the highlights of that series here. Enjoy.

Alan Ladd

Audrey Hepburn

Barbara Stanwyck

Bonita Granville

Buster Keaton

Cary Grant

Catherine Deneuve

Deborah Kerr

Doris Day

Dorothy Lamour

Francoise Dorleac

Gina Lollobrigida

Humphrey Bogart

Ingrid Bergman

Jean Harlow

Lauren Bacall

Mary Astor

Maureen O'Hara

Myrna Loy

Rita Hayworth

Robert Mitchum

Rock Hudson

Ruby Keeler

Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin

Sophia Loren

Susan Peters

Tony Curtis

Veronica Lake

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mary Astor's Purple Diary by Edward Sorel

Mary Astor's Purple Diary
The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936
by Edward Sorel
Liveright (W.W. Norton & Co)
October 2016
Hardcover ISBN: 9781631490231
165 pages

Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Powell's

It was the 1960s. Edward Sorel and his new bride had just moved into their apartment on the Upper East side of Manhattan. The hideous linoleum flooring in their new kitchen had to go. As Sorel dutifully ripped up the flooring he discovered something that would spark his imagination: newspapers from 1936 plastered with headlines about Mary Astor’s sex scandal. Sorel read the newspapers in utter fascination. His research would lead him to Astor’s autobiography, court documents and an interview Astor’s daughter Marylyn. Sorel had intended to create an illustrated book about Astor and the scandal but deadlines kept him from his goal. Five decades later and with fewer and fewer reasons to procrastinate, Sorel finally produced the book we have today.

“Mary [Astor] was a textbook example of what is taught in Psych 101: A child who has been denied love and affection from her parents is generally going to pursue love in all the wrong places.” – Edward Sorel

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 explores the life of actress Mary Astor with a focus on the courtroom scandal that rocked Hollywood in 1936. Born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke, the actress later dubbed Mary Astor, was off to a rough start in the business. Her father Otto Langhanke had seen an opportunity to exploit his daughter’s good looks and the family packed up and moved to New York City. He immediately saw dollar signs and his greed would have an adverse affect on Astor's life and career. After he bungled up an opportunity for her to work with D.W. Griffith, Jesse L. Lasky saw a photo of Astor that immediately captivated him. He gave her a contract and his publicity department dubbed her Mary Astor to give her an air of sophistication. It was the same photo, captioned "On the Brink of Womanhood", that also captivated John Barrymore. Warner Bros. was eager to please Barrymore and upon his request got Lasky to loan out Astor for Beau Brummel (1924). The 17 year old Astor and 42 year old Barrymore had a wild affair.

“She was smart, witty, and self-denigrating.” - Edward Sorel on Mary Astor

Mary Astor, On the Brink of Womanhood

Through excellent written and visual storytelling, Sorel weaves the tale of Astor's romances. Her first marriage to Kenneth Hawks, brother of Howard Hawks, ended in tragedy when his plane crashed on the set of his movie Such Men Are Dangerous (1930). Astor then married gynecologist Franklyn Thorpe. This union produced a daughter, Marylyn, and much contention. Thorpe was as greedy with Astor's earnings as was her father and their relationship quickly soured. She fled to New York City and had a wild affair with Broadway playwright George S. Kaufman. Unfortunately for Astor, her enthusiastic chronicling of their tryst in her purple diary was discovered by Thorpe. When Astor finally decided to divorce Thorpe and seek custody of their daughter Marylyn, Thorpe took her to court using the purple diary as ammunition. The scandal that ensued threatened Astor's work on her new film Dodsworth. Would they replace her? Could her career survive such a public controversy?

Sorel goes into detail about the affair and the scandal using any details he could get his hands on. While Astor and Kaufman were secretive about their affair and the infamous purple diary was eventually destroyed, Sorel cleverly imagines a conversation with Mary Astor's ghost in which she tells the story that otherwise is lost forever.

“I bet you spend too much time indoors watching old movies.” - Mary Astor's ghost to Edward Sorel

This book is also in part the story of Edward Sorel. He describes growing up in the Bronx and being a kid who loved to "draw pictures and go to the movies." He weaves in stories of his two marriages and his work as an illustrator. When Sorel steps away from the Astor story to tell his own, they never feel like deviations because he parallels his story with hers so beautifully. I enjoyed learning about Sorel as much as I did about Astor.

This book is a collector's item. It's lusciously produced and contains numerous pieces of exquisite art by Edward Sorel. The pieces accompany the text but also stand out on their own. One of my favorites is the big two page spread found on the endpapers. Astor lounges seductively as elements of her life make up the foreground and background.

Art by Edward Sorel from Mary Astor's Purple Diary

Mary Astor's Purple Diary explores the actress' life and scandal in a richly produced volume containing renowned Edward Sorel's beautiful artwork.

Thank you to Liveright for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Portrait of an Artist: The Life and Work of Edward Sorel

Monday, March 20, 2017

Portrait of an Artist: The Life and Work of Edward Sorel

Portrait of an Artist The Life and Work of Edward SorelOn a chilly Sunday afternoon, we headed into Boston for a very special event. Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center was hosting a grand opening for their new exhibition entitled Portrait of an Artist: The Life and Work of Edward Sorel. Celebrated artist Edward Sorel was on hand along his good friend legendary cartoonist Jules Feiffer. A dedicated room boasted a variety of art from Edward Sorel's long and industrious career.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sorel, he's known for his political, editorial and entertainment caricatures, cartoons and illustrations. His work has graced many covers of The New Yorker and has appeared in Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and many other illustrious publications. He's also the illustrator of several books including his latest one Mary Astor's Purple Diary which explores in both text and caricature Mary Astor's 1936 courtroom scandal. Woody Allen recently reviewed the book in The New York Times saying "in Sorel’s colloquial, eccentric style, the tale he tells is juicy, funny and, in the end, touching."

I spend some time browsing the exhibit which boasted a collection of his New Yorker covers, many individual editorials, photographs of Sorel and his family and a video loop displaying a short documentary. It was a very crowded exhibit with many folks eager to see the works on display. Of course I was drawn to Sorel's classic film related pieces. Familiar faces including Clark Gable, Mary Astor, Claudette Colbert, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and more are caricatured in his works. A particular favorite of mine is Sorel's Frank Sinatra illustration on the April 1966 cover of Esquire magazine.

Edward Sorel exhibit
Edward Sorel's Frank Sinatra portrait for Esquire
and other works
Edward Sorel exhibit
Edward Sorel exhibit
Edward Sorel exhibit
Illustration from Mary Astor's Purple Diary
and other classic film art

Me with a copy of Mary Astor's Purple Diary
and artist Edward Sorel in the background

Woody Allen's New York Times Book Review
Woody Allen's New York Times Book Review piece on display
After exploring the exhibit, we were all seated to hear from the special guests. First up was Cullen Murphy, editor-at-large Vanity Fair and son of acclaimed artist John Cullen Murphy. He's worked with Edward Sorel over 30 years. In his speech he reflected,

"If for some fluke, all the other sources of information in our society were to disappear and all that was left was the work of Edward Sorel on the walls, would the future get us right? And I think they would have our number."
Cullen Murphy, editor at Vanity Fair

Murphy also reflected on artist Jules Feiffer and asked the audience "how many people do you know who have won a Pulitzer Prize, an Obie award and an Oscar?" Feiffer won an Academy Award in 1961 for his animated short Munro (1960).

Jules Feiffer
Artist Jules Feiffer
If you work in the book industry like I do, Jules Feiffer is a familiar name. His work has appeared in countless books and periodicals and he's generally considered one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Feiffer was impressed with the exhibition and proud of his friend Edward Sorel. He remembered the very charged political time when he and Sorel were growing up in the Bronx. Feiffer said,

"During the great Depression... when everybody was poor and nothing was happening... there was this cultural explosion. There was radio from coast to coast with great comics and radio shows. There were movies. There was Fred and Ginger. There was William Powell and Myrna Loy. One could be a leftie radical, socio-communist during the week and on Saturday night you went to the movies. The movies were the religion."

Feiffer went on discuss the cultural shift when expressing very liberal points of view became dangerous. He noted that for three artists in particular, Feiffer, Sorel and David Levine, it joined them in "a kind of sensibility of protest." Each of them found their own unique style and way to express their political views. Feiffer says "Ed found his from the politics and the movies." He calls Sorel's art "a bombshell" and notes the sense of immediacy that comes the influence of the movies as well as Sorel's keen sense of place and architecture in his works. Feiffer joked that can never remember the name of Sorel's new book only because the original title "Screwball Tragedy" still sticks in his mind.

Edward Sorel
Artist Edward Sorel
Feiffer and the audience toasted honoree Edward Sorel who then proceeded to the stage to give his thanks to family, friends, colleagues and the Gotlieb Center. Sorel reflected that he wouldn't have been able to do what he did in the 1960s if Feiffer hadn't led the way with his innovation in the 1950s. Sorel joked that you should never call yourself a self-made man because it takes not only hard work but a lot of luck to get far in life. He remembers how lucky he was in the 1950s when it was a lucrative time to have a career. In his first year as a professional illustrator, he was fired 9 times yet each new job paid better than the last.

Me with Edward Sorel at his book signing

Following the talk there was a book signing. I was eager to meet Edward Sorel and have him sign my copy of Mary Astor's Purple Diary. I had a quick moment to tell him about my love of classic movies and to pose with him for a photo.

My husband Carlos got to meet him too and Sorel autographed his exhibition booklet.

This event was free and open to the public. If you have an opportunity to go to an event at the Gotlieb center I highly recommend it. Neither Carlos nor I had ever been there so we took the time to explore the various displays, many of which were classic film related. Here are some of our favorites displays.

Mary Astor display at the Howard Gotlieb Center

Pages from the edited manuscript of Mary Astor's autobiography

Carlos in front of the Michael Douglas display

A letter from Kirk Douglas to Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Lauren Bacall display at the Howard Gotlieb Center

Oscar statuettes. Left to right: Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady, Myrna Loy's Honorary Oscar, Gene Kelly's An American in Paris Best Picture Oscar

My review of Mary Astor's Purple Diary by Edward Sorel

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