Showing posts with label Alicia Malone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alicia Malone. Show all posts

Monday, August 1, 2022

Girls on Film by Alicia Malone

Girls on Film
Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies
by Alicia Malone
Mango Publishing
Paperback ISBN: 9781642506563 
March 2022 
224 pages 

This review was originally published at the Classic Film Collective Patreon in June 2022.

As movie lovers, what we watch during the different stages in our lives really shapes the person we become. This can have both positive and negative effects on our emotional well-being. Especially for women and minorities, who may see themselves reflected poorly or not represented at all in the movies that they consume. 

TCM host and author Alicia Malone explores the films shaped her life in her new book Girls on Film: Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies. This book is part memoir, part film analysis with a special focus on women in movies, a topic that Malone has been passionate about for many years. Each chapter in the book chronicles one pivotal stage in Malone's life and the movies that influenced her perception of society and herself. For example, watching National Velvet (1944) as a child helped introduced Malone to classic movies, especially ones about "heroic young girls. Her early fascination with Marilyn Monroe led her to film analysis. Learning from movie reviewers like Leonard Maltin and movie hosts like Bill Collins (Mr. Movies) and Robert Osborne led her to a career in television. Learning about Ingrid Bergman and Malone's encounter with a contemporary movie star helped Malone realize what she truly wanted out of life.

The chapters each have their own themes that tie into a time in Malone's life with mentions of several related movies and an in-depth look into a couple films in particular. These include: Merrily We Go to Hell (1932), Woman of the Year (1942), The Enchanted Cottage (1945), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962) etc. More contemporary movies include: Carrie (1976), The Little Mermaid (1989), Smooth Talk (1985), Mad Love (1995). etc.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include: 

"The curiosity about Marilyn Monroe led me to read film books for the first time and begin to consider beyond the images I saw on screen: to stop watching passively and start to question what was being presented to me, particularly when it came to women." — Alicia Malone

"Classic cinema felt like my secret. It was special, and my own experience—my private way of escaping life when I felt I needed to." — Alicia Malone

 "Watching classic movies with modern eyes can be a confronting experience, but one of the biggest ways we can keep classic films alive and relevant to the next generation is to engage with them. Society changes as the years go on, and our own attitude shift too, but classic films remain locked in their moment. They're time capsules, filled with relics of the past..." — Alicia Malone

They say that the more specific the story is the more universal its appeal. This definitely rings true with Girls on Film. While the book focuses on Malone's personal journey with movies and how it led to her different life decisions along the way, readers will find her story incredibly relatable. 

There were several moments throughout the book where a story Malone related triggered a core memory within me. I would put the book aside and stop to think about my own journey. It made me think of those halcyon days during high school and college when I would spent countless hours at a local Blockbuster perusing the shelves and picking just the right movie to watch. When she spoke of The Little Mermaid, I remembered how obsessed I was with that film as a girl. I played my VHS tape so many times (including 7 times in one day) that it broke. Back then Disney would limit their VHS releases of their major movies and it broke at a time when the movie wasn't available to purchase. So my mom bought be a Disney Singalong tape with an Under the Sea theme so I could at least watch a couple scenes from the movie. It held me over until I could watch The Little Mermaid again. And like Malone, Marilyn Monroe was one of several catalysts for my interest in classic film. 

Alicia Malone is a very private person and Girls on Film is a small glimpse into her world. I was particularly interested in reading about her early career in television, her work at press junkets, her start at TCM and her recent move to New England. My only complaint about the book that there weren't more stories about her work as a movie presenter.

Girls on Film is touching, relatable and ultimately grounded by a deep understanding of film history. A must read for any TCM fan.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth by Lana Turner

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth
by Lana Turner
Dean Street Press
250 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781914150791
Originally published 1982
New edition October 2021

This review was originally published at the Classic Film Collective Patreon in May 2022.

“Nobody put a gun to my head to get me to write this book. I did it for two reasons: to set the record straight about me, so that all the lies could be answered by the truth, and because the timing was right. “ — Lana Turner

Lana Turner was the epitome of a movie star. With her perfectly coiffed blonde hair, an enviable wardrobe of designer gowns, furs and jewels and her sultry stare, Turner's adoring fans worshipped her. Over the years she evolved with her roles from being the sweater girl in They Won't Forget (1937), the femme fatale in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and the queen of soaps in Peyton Place (1957) and Imitation of Life (1959). She wasn't always taken seriously as an actress and had to constantly prove her worth. After 5 decades of being in the business, she had over 50 movies to her name and a sole Academy Award nomination. Along with her success were also many personal troubles. She endured family tragedies, seven failed marriages and a scandal involving her daughter Cheryl and her mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Lana Turner and rumors would often spread like wildfire. In 1982, Turner decided to take matters into her own hands and tell her side of the story.

"Like many of the stars contracted into the old studio system, Lana was at the mercy of public opinion, which dictated every aspect of her life—including whom she could marry and have children with. And her story was not a Hollywood dream. There were many nightmares and heartbreaking tragedies she had to endure; which were then turned into fodder for public consumption.” — TCM host Alicia Malone

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth is an emotional memoir about a woman who lived to love but fell victim to the trappings of the Hollywood studio system. Like many movie star memoirs, you have to take this one with a grain of salt because it's clear that Turner wore her heart on her sleeve. The memoir is filled with candid tales of love and loss, of triumph and failures. It's a personal memoir but was also a way for Turner to protect her image and her legacy. 

Turner had developed a reputation as a glamorous movie star who was demanding on set. Reading between the lines, I see a woman who may have been temperamental but was also a shrewd business woman who knew her worth. She was a woman driven by emotion and instinct and built a life and career by a combination of her own rules and ones that were well established in the entertainment industry.

In the memoir, Lana Turner discusses many of her films and offers a little behind-the-scenes information on most of them. She only discusses her process a couple of times and focuses more on the people she worked with rather than her craft. Every single one of her seven marriages is discussed at length. It's clear that these men were emotionally volatile and were drawn to Turner's beauty, fame and financial success. There are also devastating stories about Turner's suicide attempt, her abortions, her stillborn births, her failed love affairs with Greg Bautzer and Tyrone Power and a few hints at a drinking problem. About three chapters are devoted to Johnny Stompanato, the events leading up to her daughter Cheryl Crane killing him in self-defense and the aftermath. Turner lacks some self-awareness at certain points but then in others she recognizes her shortcomings and also the struggles of being a women in a strict patriarchal society. The biggest takeaway about her many romances is that if the expectation had not been that she marry to keep up appearances, her husbands would have remained lovers instead.

Readers will learn more about Lana Turner as a woman rather than as a working actress. But there are still plenty of interesting old Hollywood tidbits from the book:

  • Lana Turner admitted to being naturally shy. Instead of butterflies she likened her nerves to "eagles, with flapping wings and tearing claws."
  • Her image as the sweater girl got Turner her start in Hollywood. But she quickly grew to dislike it.“That image clung to me for the rest of my career. I was the sexual promise, the object of desire. And as I matured, my facade did too, to an image of coolness and glamour—the movie star in diamonds, swathed in white mink.”
  • For Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), she pleaded with producer Carey Wilson not to put her in a sweater. She wore a bathing suit instead.
  • She had a congenital condition, Rh blood factor, which prevented her from taking on roles in films like Mogambo (1953) which were shot in "exotic" locations.
  • She met husband #1 Artie Shaw and husband #5 Frederick May on the set of Dancing Co-Ed (1939).
  • She claims to have become the highest paid actress in the world in early 1945.
  • Turner had this to say about the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice "It always amazes me that when Hollywood makes a really good movie, and some producer gets the bright idea to remake it, he comes up with something inferior to the original.”
  • She refused to star in A Life of Her Own (1950) with Wendell Corey. She fought with Dore Schary to get him off the picture (not because she didn't like him but because she didn't think he'd make a good co-star). Ray Milland was cast instead.
  • Despite the still recent Stompanato scandal, producer Ross Hunter still wanted her for Imitation of Life (1959).
  • Turner was going to star in Anatomy of a Murder (1959). At that point in her career she was fastidious about her look. Every detail from her hair, makeup and clothes had to be just perfect. When she made demands about her wardrobe, director Otto Preminger called to yell at her. Turner was not having it and asked her agent to pull her from the film.

Originally published in 1982, Dean Street Press released a new edition of Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth in October of 2021 in paperback and e-book formats. It includes an introduction by TCM host and author Alicia Malone.

Thank you to Dean Street Press for a copy of the book to review!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

2022 TCM Classic Film Festival: Opening Night Red Carpet Event


The 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival kicked off with the opening night red carpet event at the TCL Chinese Theatre leading up to a special presentation for the 40th anniversary of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). I was on hand to photograph and interview the special guests as they walked the red carpet. I'll have video clips from my interviews available on my YouTube channel and will be sharing them here too. In the meantime, here are some of the special guests who attended the event!

Actor Sean Frye who played Steve on E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

TCM host Prof. Jacqueline Stewart

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz with actor Mario Cantone

Dee Wallace who played Mary on E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Director Steven Spielberg and Dee Wallace 

Sound designer Ben Burtt

Jane Seymour, star of Somewhere in Time (1980)

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who played Cochise in Cooley High (1975)

TCM host Dave Karger

TCM host Alicia Malone

Aileen Quinn from Annie (1982)

Disney animator Floyd Norman

Film historian and TCM author Luis I. Reyes

George Stevens Jr.

Maxwell Caulfield

Pam Grier, star of Coffy (1973)

TikToker Jasmine Chiswell

Stay tuned for more coverage from the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Female Gaze by Alicia Malone

The Female Gaze
Essential Movies Made by Women
by Alicia Malone
Various Contributors
Hardcover ISBN: 9781633538375
November 2018

AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

“I think there is still a misconception that all directors are Cecil B. De Mille types with a loud voice and a whip. Perhaps maybe that’s why there’s always been some puzzlement about a woman in the director’s role.” – Gillian Armstrong

TCM host and film expert Alicia Malone's follow-up to her book Backwards and in Heels, is a comprehensive guide to the history of female directors in Hollywood and beyond. The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made By Women catalogs over 50 films, directed by women, in chronological order from 1906 to present day. The book is a mix of articles written by Malone as well as a variety of female film critics and experts.

Malone's articles in particular are in-depth studies of particular films with an examination of the plot, behind the scenes information and biographical details on the woman director. Malone also focuses on the director's career, especially before, during and after making the discussed film. A common thread in her research, something Malone will tell you herself, is that the success of a movie made by a woman director does not necessarily open doors to other work. Looking at the chronological order of the book we see far more female directed films in this century than in the previous one. However, even today, women directors still face an uphill battle to get their movies made.

“With conversations about women’s experiences in Hollywood currently at fever pitch, I am often asked how to best support women in film. The answer? Watch movies made by women.” - Alicia Malone

Why does this matter? If you're a woman on film Twitter, you've had a man try to explain to you (i.e. mansplain) that there is no difference between a male and female director in terms of the end product. But the truth is that there is a difference. A big one. Representation matters and having a diverse group of voices helps us avoid the reinforcement of stereotypes and caricatures and gives us new perspectives that both enlighten and inform. Malone's book is invaluable not only in that it spotlights the female filmmakers but it also explains how their visions made their film unique. Reading each essay, especially about the films I hadn't seen, felt like uncovering a new treasure.

In addition to Malone's articles are a variety of short form pieces by other female film critics. I was happy to see familiar names including friends Marya Gates, Farran Smith Nehme, Danielle Solzman and so on. In a few cases one movie is discussed twice and because the pieces are by two different writers it gives a nice balance of perspectives. And for those of you worried that the book is too one-sided, there are quotes from male voices too including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert Osborne, Roger Ebert, Barry Jenkins, etc.

The Female Gaze is more skewed to 21st century films but there are some fine articles about early movies that classic film fans will enjoy. Pieces on Alice Guy-Blache's The Consequences of Feminism (1906), Germaine Dulac's La Souriante Madame Beudet (1922), Dorothy Arzner's Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953). I wish there were a few more articles about classic female film directors. Maybe one on my favorite early female director Nell Shipman would have been a nice addition. If you picked up Kino Lorber's Pioneers First Women Filmmakers boxed set (review coming soon!), a collection of silent films made by female film directors, Malone's book would make for a nice companion.

Alicia Malone’s The Female Gaze shines a much needed spotlight on female filmmakers and their movies. This is an indispensable resource for film historians and feminists alike.

Thank you to Mango for sending me an electronic copy of The Female Gaze for review. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

6 Questions with Alicia Malone on TCM's Mad About Musicals

This month TCM in conjunction with Ball State University is hosting a free online course and month long programming called Mad About Musicals. The course started on June 3rd but they've extended the deadline for signing up to 6/17!

If you're participating in the course or just tuning in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to watch musicals, check out my interview with TCM host Alicia Malone. 

Raquel Stecher: What can those who signed up for the TCM’s Mad About Musicals course expect?

Alicia Malone: I’m jealous of everyone who is participating, because you get lessons by the knowledgeable and hilarious Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament, who you’ll also get to see on TCM doing some special intros alongside Ben Mankiewicz. You also get to see special interviews, movie clips and play games to test your expertise. And all of it works alongside the programming on TCM.

Raquel S.: What can viewers expect from TCM’s Mad About Musicals screenings this June and which films will you be introducing?

Alicia M: Throughout June viewers will be able to watch more than 90 musicals, selected from the 1920s through to the 1970s, showing every Tuesday and Thursday. I’ll be introducing the films on Tuesday evenings, and I feel very lucky that I get to introduce some of my personal favorites, such as Singin’ In The Rain (1952) and An American in Paris (1951).

Raquel S.: How did musicals evolve over the 20th century?

Alicia M: Doing preparation for this month has been so much fun, because watching a bulk of musicals in a short amount of time allowed me to see how they evolved. At the very beginning, musicals were used to showcase how sound could be used in movies. They were often Broadway adaptations, with sequences filmed on a stage. But then as they grew in popularity, studios (especially MGM) saw them as important vehicles for their biggest stars, and as technicolor began to be introduced, musicals got bigger, splashier and brighter than ever. But by the end of the 1950s these productions were getting too expensive, and audiences weren’t as interested in these pieces of escapism. Though every decade there comes a few new musicals, such as La La Land (2016), which looked to the past and became a huge hit.

Raquel S.: Why is it important to learn about film history and in this case the history of musicals?

Alicia M: I actually think musicals are a fun way to start learning about film history, because the two go hand in hand. Learning about film history helps you to enjoy watching movies. You start to be aware of what was happening at the time it was made, why the directors chose certain shots, songs or stars. And everything is influenced by what came before it, so I love being able to spot how films have changed but also stayed the same.

Raquel S.: Some folks love musicals and some don’t. What would you say to convince film lovers who are hesitant about musicals that this is a genre to enjoy?

Alicia M: I would tell them to look at the artistry of the filmmaking. The skill of the dancers, the costuming, the catchy songs, how sometimes a whole script was written around a group of completely different songs. Sometimes people are quick to write off musicals as being simple entertainment but there was a lot of care put into the making of these movies.

Raquel S.: What is your favorite musical and why?

Alicia M: My favorite is Singin’ In The Rain (1952). That might be a cliched answer, but I don’t care... it’s a film that always brings me joy. It’s also the film that I saw which made me love musicals in the first place. I watched it when I was really young, dreamed about doing that wall flip that Donald O’Connor does in ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and learned all the songs. I still put it on whenever I need a little pick-me-up. “Dignity, always dignity...” This is the movie I recommend to those who are skeptical of watching classic film in general, it has an energy that is infectious.

Many thanks to Alicia Malone for taking the time to chat with me about TCM's Mad About Musicals!

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