Thursday, August 30, 2018

Giveaway: Miss D & Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis

Miss D & Me
Life with the Invincible Bette Davis
by Kathryn Sermak
with Danelle Morton
Hachette Book Group
288 pages
Paperback edition
On sale: September 11, 2018

AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

What was Bette Davis REALLY like? Her longtime assistant Kathryn Sermak, who worked with Davis in the final years of her life, published a memoir offering a peek at the world of a legendary actress. Readers get an insight into a working relationship that blossomed into a sweet friendship. Sermak discusses how she got the job, her time with Davis, trips to New York and Paris, Davis' stroke, the publication of B.D. Hyman's scathing 1985 memoir and much more.

When the hardcover edition of Miss D & Me came out last year, I had the pleasure of seeing Kathryn Sermak at a Harvard COOP event where she had an audience Q&A and discussed her years with Davis and her journey to publication. When I went up to get my book signed, I briefly chatted with Sermak. She admired by TCM Classic Film Festival bag and told me an anecdote of Bette Davis's friendship with TCM's Robert Osborne (Davis called him "Bully" and she called him "Spuds").

Thanks to the good folks at Hachette Book Group, today I'm offering my readers an opportunity to get their hands on a paperback copy of Sermak's memoir!

President Ronald Reagan, Kathryn Sermak and Bette Davis (Robert Osborne in the background)

Publisher description: 

Miss D & Me is a story of two powerful women–one at the end of her life and the other at the beginning–and how they changed each other forever. 

 As Bette Davis aged, she was looking for an assistant, but she found something more than that in Kathryn Sermak: a loyal and loving confidante, a co-conspirator in her jokes and schemes, and a competent worker whom she trained to never miss a detail. 

 For ten years, Kathryn was at Miss D’s side–first as an employee and then as her closest friend. Throughout their time together, Kathryn had a front-row seat to Davis’s late-career renaissance, as well as to the humiliating public betrayal that nearly killed her beloved boss and benefactor. Miss D & Me is an intimate account of the last years of the unique and formidable Bette Davis–a tale of extreme kindness, unfailing loyalty, breathtaking style, and the beautiful friendship that endured through it all.


Open Internationally!

Three winners will receive a paperback copy of Miss D & Me

Contest ends Sunday September 3rd at 11:59 PM EST

To enter: 
Please leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Bette Davis movie is and why. 
Also leave your e-mail address in the comment so I can contact you if you win.

Three winners will be selected at random on Monday September 4th and will be announced below. I will also contact winners privately via e-mail. All e-mail addresses will be edited out of the comments after the contest is done to honor your privacy. Must be 18 or older to enter.

Good luck!

Congratulations to:

Brittaney B.
Shelley F.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Summer Reading Challenge - Second Round-Up

Recent addition to my home library. Sterling Hayden's Wars by Lee Mandel

Andy W. of Journeys in Darkness and Light
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb

Erica of Film Exodus
Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream by Ronald L. Davis

James of Dark Lane Creative
Classic Hollywood Style by Caroline Young

Jeremy of Pillow Shots
Moments That Made the Movies by David Thomson
Ozu: His Life and Films by Donald Richie

of Critica Retro
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Lee of
By Myself (and then some) by Lauren Bacall (see above)
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Raquel S. of Out of the Past
Must See Sci-Fi by Sloan De Forest

Rich W. of Widescreen World
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Photo via Robby

Robby C. on Instagram
Clint: The Life and Legend by Patrick McGilligan
Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford by Scott Eyman
Tippi: A Memoir by Tippi Hedren

Sarah A. on Goodreads
Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's Love I'm After (1937)

"I can't understand why a man I'm so crazy about takes such a fiendish delight in tormenting me." - Bette Davis as Joyce Arden

They hate each other. They love each other. Stage actors Joyce Arden (Bette Davis) and Basil Underwood (Leslie Howard) have the most tempestuous romance. Under the lights and in front of an eager audience they deliver stunning performances, but backstage things can get ugly. After one rousing rendition of Romeo and Juliet, Basil is cornered by an infatuated fan. What he doesn't realize is this is no ordinary fan. She's wealthy socialite Marcia West (Olivia de Havilland). She truly believes she's in love with Basil, much to the dismay of her fiancee Henry Grant Jr. (Patric Knowles).

"Love for breakfast. Love for lunch. Love for dinner."

When Henry confronts Basil about this dilemma, Basil offers to help. Especially to repay the debt Henry's father paid him when the stock market crashed back in 1929. As Basil and his butler and partner-in-crime Digges (Eric Blore) act out one of Basil's original plays, Henry has an idea. Basil should visit Marcia's family and cause such a ruckus that she'll fall out of love with him. It'll be exactly like a performance in a play! But there are two major obstacles awaiting Basil. He doesn't realize that the woman he's fooling with dramatics is the same fan who visited him in his dressing room on New Year's Eve. Also Basil promised Joyce that they'd get married on New Year's Day and she's about to throw his plans for a loop. Can Basil save Henry and Marcia's relationship and his own or will it all end in tragedy?

"From now on I doff the mantle of a Romeo and assume the role of a cad." - Leslie Howard as Basil Underwood

Based on the original story by Maurice Hanline called Gentlemen After Midnight, It's Love I'm After (1937) was directed by Archie Mayo for Warner Bros. The project was born out of Leslie Howard's request for a comedic vehicle. He needed a break after a succession of dramatic roles, one of them which happened to be Romeo in MGM's Romeo and Juliet (1936). Olivia de Havilland, a fairly new contract player for Warner Bros. had recently appeared in Mayo's Call It a Day (1937). Two years later de Havilland and Howard appeared in Gone With the Wind (1939) together, clinching their status as Hollywood legends. De Havilland was added to the cast pretty early on and in fact they started shooting scenes with her, Knowles, Howard and Blore even before a leading lady was secured.

Getting a leading lady for the film was easier said than done. Leslie Howard initially wanted Ina Clare or Gertrude Lawrence, two stage veterans, to appear opposite him. In the end, neither had the screen presence to be viable options. Howard had worked with Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934) and the Archie Mayo directed movie The Petrified Forest (1936). The two didn't get along and Howard was hesitant about working with her again. But if they wanted an actress who sparkled on screen they could do no wrong with Davis. When Davis was cast, the production was already well on its way. In fact, a July 1937 issue of Screenland shows behind-the-scenes pictures of the making of the film but does not mention Bette Davis whatsoever. Her character appears more so at the beginning and end of the film so plenty of scenes could have been shot without her. Before It's Love I'm After, Davis was hospitalized for exhaustion. She took a tumble into the orchestra pit during the filming of the Romeo & Juliet scenes and suffered a minor injury.

When I came across this movie, I was immediately drawn by the star power. Davis, Howard AND de Havilland? Of course I had to watch this! All three play to their strengths. Davis as the tempestuous actress who runs hot and cold, Howard as an actor's actor and de Havilland as a starry-eyed youth with a tender heart; not a stretch for any of them by any means. And one of my favorite child actors, Bonita Granville, plays to her strengths as the bratty spoiled teenager.

But it's not Davis, nor Howard, nor de Havilland, nor Knowles nor even boisterous little Granville who steals the show. It's character actor Eric Blore. If you enjoy Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, Blore is a familiar face. He often played waiters and butlers and in It's Love I'm After he plays Digges, Howard's underpaid but devoted assistant. The script really gave Blore many moments to shine. He's got a lot of terrific scenes, delivers some great lines and serves as both straight man and comic throughout the story. He's the most sensible character but he's also caught up in the magic of the theater. Blore's Digges anchors the movie and I'd go so far as to say he's the #1 reason you should watch it.

It's Love I'm After (1937) is a zany film with lots of great witty one-liners and insults. Come for Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland and stay for Eric Blore.

It's Love I'm After (1937) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection. When you use my buy link you help support this site. Thanks!

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I purchased It's Love I'm After (1937) from the WB Shop.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Silent Movie (1976)

This post is sponsored by DVD Netflix

"What's the matter with you? Don't you know who I used to be?" 

Once celebrated film director Mel Funn is working on his comeback project. With the help of his best buds Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) they set out to make his dream happen. The trio stop by Big Pictures Studios to meet with the Studio Chief (Sid Caesar). Rival studio, Engulf and Devour, run by Engulf (Harold Gould) and Devour (Ron Carey), wants to put Big Picture Studios out of business. Funn offers Studio Chief his idea to save the company: the first silent movie made in over forty years. What could go wrong? With Studio Chief in the hospital, Funn and his crew set out on an adventure to get the biggest stars to be in their picture.

Silent Movie (1976) pokes fun at the film industry while paying homage to the silent films that started it all. This backstage comedy is 99.9% silent. Only one word is uttered and of course the actor to speak it is renowned mime Marcel Marceau. Because why not? Silent Movie is filled with hilarious gags, physical comedy that will leave you in stitches. It has one of the best line-ups of guest stars of any movie. In addition to Marceau, the comic trio recruit Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft (Mel Brooks' wife) and Paul Newman. Each cameo comes with its own highly entertaining comedy sequence. My favorite one was with Liza Minnelli. Brooks, Feldman and DeLuise dress up in suits of armor and enter the studio commissary where Minnelli has lunch. The trio don't know how to move gracefully in their clunky armor and chaos inevitably ensues. I watched that one scene four times before I could even move on to the rest of the film. It's that good.

On the heels of the success of Blazing Saddles (1974), his homage to Westerns, and Young Frankenstein (1974), his homage to classic horror, Brooks was in a position to tackle another genre, one near and dear to his heart.

"I never cared about religion, but I prayed to silent movies. It was my contact with things soulful. I'd go [to the silent movie theater] as often as I could." - Mel Brooks

According to Brooks biographer Dale Sherman (Mel Brooks FAQ), the idea came from writer Ron Clark who presented it to Brooks at a party. Brooks wasn't so sure about Clark's idea. How would a silent movie appeal to a modern audience? According to Sherman, Clark suggested "a movie in color, set in the current time, with all the modern camera techniques available, and with big movie stars... but without sound."

Brooks worked with Clark on the script and added his previous collaborators Rudy De Luca and Barry Levinson to the project. 20th Century Fox was on board with the idea, thanks to the nostalgia boom of the 1960s nad '70s and Brooks' recent box office success. However, just to be safe, the studio wanted Brooks to record sound. Just in case the whole silent movie aspect didn't pan out. But Brooks was confident it would work. The only sound added was Marceau's single word of dialogue, John Morris' score and synchronized sound for the various gags.

Then there was the cast. DeLuise and Feldman, Brooks' co-stars, were on board early on. Bernadette Peters, who plays Brooks' love interest, replaced Madeline Kahn who had to drop out. Then there were the guest stars. Brooks couldn't offer them much money. However, it wasn't a lot of work and it was a great opportunity to be featured in a movie poised for box office success. Caan, Reynolds, Minnelli and others agreed because who wouldn't want to work with Brooks circa 1976? Steve McQueen wanted the Paul Newman part but when he heard it was taken and that his friendly screen rival would be in the picture, he bowed out.

Silent Movie was made for $4 million and grossed over $36 million. It got mixed reviews but a lot of laughs.

Disclaimer: As a DVD Nation director, I earn rewards from DVD Netflix. You can rent Silent Movie on

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (11)

It’s time for some more classic film books! Because you can never have enough of those. Right? I’m way over due on my latest new books round-up. For those who have been waiting, thanks for your patience.

Whether you need a last minute option for your summer reading or you’re shopping early for the holidays, I have a robust list of new books that you’ll want to snap up.

Are you new to my list? Here are the details. Links lead to Goodreads and to buy pages on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powells. Shopping through my buy links helps support my site. Thanks!

Books include biographies, memoirs, scholary texts, coffee table books and more from a variety of publishers. Publication dates range from July to December 2018 and these are subject to change.

Happy reading!

The Girl in the Balcony
Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet
by Olivia Hussey
Foreword by Franco Zeffirelli
Kensington Publishing Corporation
320 pages –July 2018

Discoveries from a Lifetime of Film Fandom
by Leonard Maltin
Paladin Communications
400 pages – July 2018

Edmond O'Brien
Everyman of Film Noir
by Derek Sculthorpe
167 pages –  July 2018

Bare Knees Flapper
The Life and Films of Virginia Lee Corbin
by Tim Lussier
119 pages –  August 2018

The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine
by Samantha Barbas
Chicago Review Press
304 pages – September 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powells

The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman
by Constantine Santas and James M. Wilson
Rowman and Littlefield
224 pages –  September 2018

The Hero and the Grave
The Theme of Death in the Films of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa and Serio Leone
by Alirez Vahdani
175 pages –  September 2018

The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson
by W.R. Wilkerson, III
Chicago Review Press
352 pages – September 2018

My Life in Song
by Jarmila Novotna, edited by Willian V. Madison
University Press of Kentucky
290 pages – September 2018

by Sally Field
Grand Central Publishing
512 pages – September 2018

by Jean-Luc Godard
558 pages – September 2018

by Luis I. Reyes
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
299 pages – September 2018

Me and Mr. Welles
Travelling Europe with a Hollywood Legend
by Dorian Bond
The History Press
224 pages – September 2018

The Music of Charlie Chaplin
by Jim Lochner
256  pages –  September 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble

Olivia de Havilland and the Golden Age of Hollywood
by Ellis Amburn
Lyons Press
440 pages –  September 2018

A Star is Born
Judy Garland and the Film that Got Away
by Lorna Luft and Jeffrey Vance
Running Press/TCM
248 pages – September 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Thrills Untapped
Neglected Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1936
by Michael R. Pitts
250 pages –  September 2018

edited by Christina Gerhardt
Wayne State University Press
384 pages – October 2018

Bing Crosby
Swinging on a Star
The War Years, 1940-1946
by Gary Giddins
Little, Brown and Company
736 pages – October 2018

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off
And Other Lessons in Life
by Michael Caine
Hachette Books
368 pages – October 2018

The Call of the Heart
John M. Stahl and Hollywood Melodrama
edited by Bruce Babingotn and Charles Barr
John Libbey and Company
250 pages – October 2018

Christmas in the Movies
30 Classics to Celebrate the Season
by Jeremy Arnold
Running Press/TCM
208 pages – October 2018

How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capiatltist History
by William C. Rempel
Dey Street Books
432 Pages – October 2018

An Illustrated History of Filmmaking
by Adam Allsuch Boardman
88 pages – October 2018

by Jonathan Rinzler
Foreword by Fraser Heston
Harper Design
304 pages – October 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Lost Images from the Hollywood Photo Archive
by Colin Slater
Lyons Press
160 pages –  October 2018

by Carol Bolt
Hachette Books
704 pages – October 2018

The Road to Oz
The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece
Julius Scarfone and William Stillman
Lyons Press
392 pages –  October 2018

The Extraordinary Partnerships Behind Cinema’s Greatest Scores
Elliott & Thompson
256 pages – October 2018

The Art of the Film Poster
by Ian Hayden Smith
University of Texas Press
288 pages – October 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

From Battlefield to the Big Screen
Famous Actors in the Second World War
by Melody Foreman
Naval Institute Press
256 pages –  November 2018

Cinematic Encounters
Interviews and Dialogues
by Jonathan Rosenbaum
University of Illinois Press
296 pages –  November 2018

Hollywood’s Forgotten Master
by Gwenda Young
Foreword by Kevin Brownlow
University Press of Kentucky
448 pages – November 2018
Amazon Barnes and Noble

Classic Egyptian Movies
101 Must-See Films
by Sameh Fathy
The American University in Cairo Press
320 pages –  November 2018

by Robert Nott
250 pages – November 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powells

Hedy Lamarr
An Incredible Life
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
by Willian Roy and illustrated by Sylvaine Dorange
176 pages –  November 2018
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowells

Hollywood by Hollywood
The Backstudio Picture and the Mystique of Making Movies
by Steven Cohan
Oxford University Press
304 pages –  November 2018

Hollywood's Lost Backlot
40 Acres of Glamour and Mystery
by Steven Bingen
Lyons Press
288 pages –  November 2018

Le Cinema Francais
An Illustrated Guide to the Best of French Films
by Anne Keenan Higgins
Running Press
136 pages –  November 2018

Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
by Karina Longworth
Custom House/Harper Collins
416 pages – November 2018

Studying Horror Cinema
by Bryan Turnock
256 pages – November 2018

Alfred Hitchcock: The Complete Films
by Paul Duncan
680 pages –  December 2018

All That Heaven Allows
A Biography of Rock Hudson
by Mark Griffin
272 pages – December 2018

by James L. Neibaur
277 pages –  December 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France
by Joseph Harriss
277 pages –  December 2018
Amazon – Barnes and Noble

In Theaters Everywhere
A History of the Hollywood Wide Release, 1913-2017
by Brian Hannan
237 pages –  December 2018

The Seminal Horror Film, Its Predecessors and Its Enduring Legacy
by Rolf Giesen
153 pages –  December 2018
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowells

Spaghetti Westerns: A Viewer's Guide
by Aliza S. Wong
Rowman and Littlefield
304 pages –  December 2018

Previous round-ups
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (1)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (2)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (3)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (4)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (5)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (6)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (7)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (8) 
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (9)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (10)

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook