TCM 20th Anniversary Video

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 5.13.38 PMTurner Classic Movies has posted their 20th anniversary video, and it’s an appropriately elegant tribute to a network that has slowly grown into a way of life for scores of fans.

Produced by Tim Reilly of TCM, directed by Scott Lansing of the Atlanta-based Sabotage Film Group, and scored with the song “Calling All Gamma Rays” by Quiet Hounds, the stylish, 2 1/2 minute film features newly shot original footage, as men and women of all ages are slowly drawn to the channel, each bringing their own taste, history, and life experience to their appreciation of classic film.


Congratulations to TCM on their first two decades. Here’s to 20 more years, at least.

Posted in TCM | Tagged | 6 Comments

Update: Roll ‘em! TCM’s Bus Tour Goes Hollywood

ben-mankiewicz-tcm-325Last updated 3/02/14 4:00 p.m. 

Turner Classic Movies is celebrating its 20th birthday, but the viewers are getting the presents.

The network announced today the launch of the TCM Movie Locations Tour: Los Angeles, a three-hour bus trip “through movie history” in Tinseltown, with free admission for everyone on every trip. Beginning Friday, March 14, TCM will offer 20 excursions  “throughout Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and surrounding areas” that pair “modern and classic film clips with visits to the locations where they were filmed.” Each luxury coach is branded with the TCM logo, seats 45, and comes equipped with a 65-inch HDTV monitor which will feature movie excerpts and specially produced video segments with on-air host Ben Mankiewicz.

LAThe tour departs from the historic TCL Chinese Theatre and runs Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m. for four weekends: March 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, and April 4-6. Then, beginning Wednesday, April 9, TCM will offer 8 excursions in conjunction with their fifth annual Classic Film Festival (April 10-13). The tour makes its final trip on Monday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m. – 20 years to the day that Robert Osborne threw the switch and launched the channel in Times Square in 1994. (I’m hoping to be on that trip, so make sure to say hello if you are too. Just don’t get weird and possessive, because I need my space, man.)

Announced locations include Echo Park (CHINATOWN), the 2nd Street Tunnel (BLADE RUNNER, THE TERMINATOR), Bryson Apartments (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE GRIFTERS) the Gilmore Gas Station (L.A. STORY), the Bradbury Building (BLADE RUNNER, THE ARTIST) and Union Station (THE WAY WE WERE, SILVER STREAK).

busThis West Coast offering follows up on the success of the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York City, which kicked off on August 22 with Osborne and actress Jane Powell. (I was on that trip, and you can see my pictures here.) TCM also waived admission on the New York tour from December 1 through 20, with more than 1,000 free trips snapped up by fans around the Holidays. The New York tour is operated by On-Location Tours and usually costs $40 for adults and $27 for kids; it’s offered thrice weekly, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

In Los Angeles, the network is partnering with Starline Tours, which TCM says was founded in 1935 and is “the oldest tour organization in Los Angeles.” The guides will be provided by Starline, not TCM, so manage your expectations in that regard. I’ve taken the NYC tour with two different guides and found them both to be engaging and entertaining, though not necessarily classic film historians. As for the tour itself, if you don’t mind “contemporary classics” mixed in with your oldies, you’ll have a fine time. Plus, you’ll be on a road trip with 44 other old movie weirdos. What could be more fun than that?

Admission in Los Angeles is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

UPDATE  2/27/14 10:00 p.m. - Less than eight hours after the announcement, all 20 tour dates are sold out. No word yet on whether the network will offer the option to standby for sold out trips, add additional trips, or extend the tour beyond April 14.

UPDATE: 2/28/14 2:30 PM – TCM tweeted that tickets for 7 of the tours are still available. “We had more seats available than we’d allotted for two dates. We corrected link issues on other dates that prevented RSVP.”

UPDATE: 3/01/14 2:30 PM - Everything except 3/28 and 4/4 has sold out again. Keep checking, though, because the ticket situation seems to be somewhat fluid.

UPDATE: 3/02/14 4:00 PM - Everything appears to be sold out again.

The following are the 20 dates for the TCM Movie Locations Tour: Los Angeles offered at launch:

TCM Movie Locations Tour: Los Angeles (March 14 – April 14)

Friday 3/14 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday 3/15 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Sunday 3/16 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Friday 3/21 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday 3/22 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Sunday 3/23 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Friday 3/28 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday 3/29 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Sunday 3/30 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Friday 4/4 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday 4/5 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Sunday 4/6 – 10 a.m. SOLD OUT
Wednesday 4/9 – 1:30 p.m. SOLD OUT
Thursday 4/10 – 9:30 a.m. SOLD OUT
Thursday 4/10 1:30 p.m. SOLD OUT
Friday 4/11 – 9:30 a.m.  SOLD OUT
Friday 4/11 – 1:30 p.m. SOLD OUT
Saturday 4/12 - 9:30 a.m. SOLD OUT
Sunday 4/13 – 9:30 a.m. SOLD OUT
Monday 4/14 – 9:30 am. SOLD OUT


Posted in TCM | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Good, the Bad and the Stretched

Robert OsborneThis is a story about good news and bad news. It’s also a tale of one man’s obsession with film and television aspect ratios, and why you should be too (if not obsessed at least aware).

We’ll start with the Bad News, because that’s the way my mind works. I was out of town for work last week and without Turner Classic Movies (and beloved host Robert Osborne) from Monday through Friday. Like most hotels that cater to business travelers, the Anaheim Convention Center Marriott doesn’t offer TCM on their in-room TVs. (Although they do have at least five different sports channels, including, I think, the ESPN Middle School Archery Network.) Perhaps someone, some day, can explain to me why only one hotel in my two decades of traveling for work has carried TCM. (For the record it was the Rosen Shingle Creek, which sounds like a communicable skin rash but is really a resort and convention center in Orlando.)

watch_TCMGood News: TCM has a new mobile app,  appropriately called Watch TCM, that allows cable and satellite subscribers to watch the network on their laptops, iPads, iPhones and Android devices when they’re away from home. (It was originally going to be called TCM Now, but that may have sounded too rude and demanding for a network based in the notoriously polite South.)

Bad News: Unfortunately, I can’t Watch TCM away from home because I’m a Time Warner Cable subscriber (at least until Comcast buys me) and Time Warner is the only national provider that doesn’t support the Watch TCM app. That meant I had to endure five days of TCM withdrawal. Cold turkey.

musicman_lGood News: I was able to watch TCM on my United Airlines flights, both to and from the West Coast. On Monday I flew from Newark to Orange County and watched THE MUSIC MAN (1962) live on TCM on a 15.4-inch seatback monitor, courtesy of DirecTV. And Friday night I enjoyed Bette Davis and Charles Boyer in ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO (1940) on the red eye from LAX to Newark.

Bad News: Like all good things in life, TCM on a Plane is not free. United charges $7.99 for “over 100 channels of DirecTV programming” (107 to be exact), along with 8 channels of recently released movies (like GRAVITY, THOR: THE DARK WORLD, and ENOUGH SAID).  It’s a bit cheaper ($5.99) for flights of two hours or less, and it’s free for first class. But the last time I was in first class was never, so I’m out of pocket $16 to watch two movies that I could have watched at home for free.

797413Good News: United’s DirecTV also offers other channels that appeal to nostalgia lovers. Over the course of my two flights, I watched The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island on TV Land, The Dukes of Hazzard with special guest Loretta Lynn on CMT (Country Music Television, don’t judge), The Golden Girls on The Hallmark Channel, and Laff-A-Lympics on Boomerang.

“Mommy, that man is watching Scooby-Doo,” a little boy sitting next to me whispered on my outbound flight.

“Actually, it’s not Scooby Doo; it’s a Laff-A-Lympics episode from 1977,” I said, while pulling out my ear buds. “Scooby is just one of the team captains on the show. It’s on Boomerang, which is channel 298.”

When I came back from the rest room I noticed that the kid and the mom had been re-seated. I’m not sure why.

Anyway. Back to the Bad News: Although the United seatback monitors are 16:9 widescreen, DirecTV appears to be sending 4:3 standard definition feeds for most channels to the United flights. That means that every one of the more than 200 TVs on both planes I rode on this week was stretching a square picture to fit a rectangular screen.

If you know me, you know this is not okay. But I couldn’t very well run up and down the aisles yelling, “There are too many motherfucking incorrect aspect ratios on this motherfucking plane!” That kind of thing can get you on a TSA Watch List.

handleGood news: Just as I was about to demand a refund for my stretched TCM (with appropriate righteous indignation), I noticed a button marked “zoom” on the upper right of my armrest keypad. Pressing this button shrinks the stretched feed back to a square, with gray bars on the left and right of the frame. (This is known as pillarboxing, because the vertical bars on both sides look like pillars.)

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, Will! You and your rants about aspect ratio. You are so cute!”

Well, that’s true. I am cute. But I also like movies and TV shows to be presented properly, the way the Creator intended. And if you don’t believe that stretching from a 4:3 square to a 16:9 rectangle is noticeable, take a look at this before and after photo from The Golden Girls.

Golden Girls

In the stretched version, Betty White looks like she stuck her hand into an electrical socket. Sure, it was the ‘80s, but the hair wasn’t that poufy. I know; I was there.

You can also see what I mean in these screen shots from Gilligan’s Island. Life is hard enough for the Skipper stuck on an uncharted desert island (it’s technically not a “desert,” but whatever) with Gilligan as a first mate; we don’t have to stretch him into clinical obesity and a Type 2 Diabetes risk.


Not surprisingly, the stretching was most noticeable in the movies broadcast on TCM. THE MUSIC MAN was originally filmed in a widescreen format called Technirama (a competitor to CinemaScope) at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. On the standard definition TCM feed (which is a broadcast as a square, like TVs used to look), THE MUSIC MAN (and just about any film made for theatrical release after the mid-1950s) should be letterboxed, with black bars above and below. And, when properly viewing the standard def (square) TCM feed on a modern, 16:9 TV, any widescreen film should be window-boxed, with black bars on all four sides of the image. This may look weird, but it’s correct. And it’s the only way to see the entire image as the director intended when you’re watching a 4:3 letterboxed source on a 16:9 TV. Those of you who don’t have TCM HD are familiar with watching movies this way. (Hello, Verizon FIOS customers!)

In fact, a 2.35 film like THE MUSIC MAN will even be letterboxed on a widescreen TV when watching TCM HD or a DVD or Blu-ray, since the film is wider than the 16:9 rectangular screen. Cable networks (not TCM), and some streaming services (like Netflix) routinely fudge this by cropping wider aspect ratio films to fill your screen, because God forbid there should be any black space.

Meanwhile, back on the plane, auto-stretching the square, 4:3 feed of the letterboxed transfer of THE MUSIC MAN to eliminate the bars on the left and right of a 16:9 seatback monitor expands the aspect ratio from 2.35 to roughly 2.55 (or greater), which is comparable to stretching Rose Nylund and the Skipper from a square to a rectangle. Here’s a comparison (notice the stretching on Shirley Jones’ hair, just like Betty White’s):

Music Man

Sadly, I couldn’t walk up and down the 30+ rows of each plane and suggest to my travel mates that they press their zoom buttons and reduce the size of the image on their screen because “you’re watching it wrong.” The only thing I could do is watch the movie correctly on my monitor, and hope that people walking past my seat would notice the difference and follow my example. I acknowledge that this is unlikely, but a man can hope.

Music Man End

Happily, we end on Good News, because my first-ever experience of watching TCM live on a plane in the correct aspect ratio – ended with my first-ever visit to the John Wayne Airport in Orange Country. As a man who stood up for his principals in countless films, I think The Duke would have approved of my efforts.


Posted in Screening Report, TCM | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Update #11: Spend a Night in CASABLANCA with TCM on March 4

TCM_20_Casablanca_Poster. 3/03/14 7:00 p.m.

TCM announced on Twitter that private, pre-screening receptions would be held for fans in Chicago, Seattle & Philadelphia. Reply to their tweet for a chance to be selected!

Original Post – 2/18/14 4:03 p.m. (ET)

Turner Classic Movies has announced the twenty U.S. cities that have been selected as hosts for FREE national screenings of Michael Curtiz’s CASABLANCA (1942) on Tuesday, March 4 in celebration of the channel’s 20th anniversary. Ten were chosen by TCM, and ten were selected (at least in part) by fans during three weeks of national voting on the TCM website. TCM says that more than 10,000 fans around the country voted, which is pretty good for a country in which only half the people vote to elect a president.

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the following places, you’ll be looking at one of the most beloved films of all time on the big screen, kid (cities in bold were selected by fan voting). If not, you’ll always have Paris.

March 4, 2014 7:30 p.m. – TCM CASABLANCA Screenings
UPDATE  3/02/14 7:00 p.m. - 15 of the 20 screenings are sold out – see below

Atlanta – Regal Atlantic Station SOLD OUT as of 2/20/14 5 p.m. ET
Baltimore - Landmark Harbor East
Boston - AMC Boston Commons
Buffalo - Regal Walden Galleria SOLD OUT as of 3/02/14 7 p.m.
Chicago - Music Box
Dallas - Angelika Film Center SOLD OUT as of 2/23/14 6 p.m. ET
Denver - Landmark Mayan SOLD OUT as of 2/19/14 11 p.m. ET
Detroit - Uptown Palladium SOLD OUT as of 2/20/14 5 p.m. ET
Houston - Regal Edwards Marq’E SOLD OUT as of 2/22/14 7 p.m. ET
Los Angeles - Landmark West SOLD OUT as of 2/19/14 1 a.m. ET
Miami - AMC Aventura
Minneapolis - Landmark Lagoon SOLD OUT as of 2/20/14 5 p.m. ET
New York - AMC Lincoln Square SOLD OUT as of 2/18/14 11 p.m. ET  Second screen added! SOLD OUT again as of 3/02/14 7 p.m.
Orlando - Regal Winter Park  SOLD OUT as of 2/20/14 5 p.m. ET
Philadelphia –  Ritz East  SOLD OUT as of 2/19/14 11 p.m. ET
San Diego - Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas SOLD OUT as of 2/21/14 12 a.m. ET
San Francisco - Cinemark Century 9 SF Centre SOLD OUT as of 3/02/14 7 p.m.
Seattle - AMC Pacific Place
St. Louis - Wehrenberg Chesterfield Galaxy  SOLD OUT as of 2/19/14 11 p.m. ET
Washington, DC - Landmark E Street SOLD OUT as of 2/22/14 7 p.m. ET

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 12.04.24 PMFirst-come, first-served tickets are available to reserve on the TCM website. You’ll be asked to enter your name, email, zip code, birthdate, gender and ethnicity. You can chose to request one or two tickets, and once you register, the location of the screening will be confirmed. You can print your pass directly from the gofobo screening RSVP site, or you can request that a pdf file be emailed to you for printing later. REMEMBER: a ticket doesn’t guarantee entry. Screenings are first-come, first-served, so make sure to arrive early.  No word yet on screening formats or special guests in any of the cities. I’ll update this post when I learn more.

Get your tickets now!

UPDATE 2/18/14 5:20 PM (ET)

According to a TCM spokesperson, CASABLANCA will screen in DCP (digital projection) in all 20 cities.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 12.42.55 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 12.33.06 PM

Posted in TCM | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Return to Walton’s Mountain

the-waltons_thumbOn March 30, 1978, in the final episode of the sixth season of The Waltons, Emmy-winning actress Ellen Corby returned to the role of Grandma Esther Walton after surviving a near-fatal stroke fifteen months earlier.

The 66-year-old veteran character actress was partially paralyzed and her ability to speak was severely impaired. Producer Earl Hamner Jr. (who wrote Spencer’s Mountain, the autobiographical novel upon which the series was based, and also served as narrator) could have decided to kill Grandma off, or recast the role, as he would later do with the character of John-Boy after star Richard Thomas left the series. Instead, he chose to write Corby’s illness and recovery into the storyline. It was a bold decision, and Corby’s willingness to perform on national television in a physically compromised state was enormously courageous.

grandma3I was 9-years-old when Grandma Comes Home aired and it was, by far, the most realistic hour of television drama I had ever seen. I saw the sorrow in Corby’s eyes as she tried to form sentences, and the anger and fear when she could not. I watched as Grandpa (Will Geer, who died only months later), grandkids Jason (Jon Walmsley), Ben (Eric Scott), Jim-Bob (David W. Harper), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton), Erin (Mary Beth McDonough), and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler), son John Sr. (Waite) and daughter-in-law Olivia (Michael Learned) tried to help her, speak for her, and protect her, when all she wanted was to regain the ability to do things on her own.

The idea that a person’s own brain could mutiny and sabotage their body was chilling to me, like the stuff of science fiction. But this was real, and I understood that. I also began to grasp in some small way the power that the continuing narrative of a quality television show can wield on the audience, as we develop relationships with characters over extended periods of time, and, in the case of The Waltons, bid them goodnight at the end of each episode.

Not long after I watched Grandma Comes Home, my own grandmother suffered a similarly debilitating stroke, at roughly the same age. Nanny was a lot like Corby’s character, with a shoot-from-the-hip style and little patience for nonsense. She could barely speak when she got home from the hospital, and my mother, always uncomfortable with inactivity and feelings of powerlessness, started finishing her sentences for her, with the best of intentions.

“Don’t finish Nanny’s sentences,” I told my mother. “She needs to do it herself.”

I learned that from The Waltons.

TCDWALT EC001This distant memory popped into my head on Thursday evening when I heard that Ralph Waite, the actor who played patriarch John Walton Sr. for nine seasons on CBS and in six reunion movies for NBC, had died at age 85.

Born in White Plains, New York in 1928, Waite only started acting in his 30s and ending up landing his career-defining role at age 44, after memorable turns in films like COOL HAND LUKE (1967) and FIVE EASY PIECES (1970).  He maintained a successful career for the rest of his life, with recurring roles in recent years on NCIS (as the father of series star Mark Harmon’s character), Bones, and Days of Our Lives.

“He died a working actor at the top of his game,” said Michael Learned, who played his wife longer than most real marriages last. “He was a loving mentor to many, and a role model to an entire generation.”

Waltons_1972Although I didn’t watch every episode of The Waltons – it was scheduled against Welcome Back, Kotter, required viewing for 4th graders in 1978 – what I recall most about Waite was the unadorned realism of his performance. While other TV dads seemed artificial, Waite reminded me of my own father: sometimes gruff, sometimes cheerful, but always a straight shooter and an honorable man. It’s a character that stays with you, like an old friend or family member you haven’t seen for many years, but remember fondly. And it’s been lovely to see the find remembrances of Waite in the last 24 hours.

Thinking about all this today gave me the urge to revisit the series and I was shocked to discover just how easy that is to do, all these years later. The Waltons is currently on three different national cable networks, which air a combined 42 TV episodes per week(!) And this is not a special marathon in honor of Waite’s passing; this is just standard operating procedure. I don’t know how long this has been going on, or how long it will last, but 2014 is like 1933 again on Walton’s Mountain.

11A_00003100The Hallmark Channel, airs the series a dozen times per week, Monday – Thursday at 7, 8, and 9 p.m. (ET). Their show page includes a bulletin board, trivia, and many classic clips, which you can watch for free (even if you’re not a cable subscriber). The Inspiration Network (which may be in your listings as INSP) broadcasts an astounding 20 shows per week, Monday – Friday at 10 a.m. and 4, 7, and 8 p.m. (ET).  Their webpage also includes a (sort of) funny Duck Dynasty-themed promo. And Uplifting TV (aka UP or UpTV) airs 10 episodes per week – Monday – Friday at 9 and 10 a.m. (ET). Their site contains episode summaries for the next 22 broadcasts.

This means you can watch at least one Waltons episode during six of the 24 hours of each weekday. Here’s a handy pocket guide:

The Waltons Nationwide Cablecasts: Monday – Friday

9 a.m. – UP
10 a.m. – UP And INSP
4 p.m. -  INSP
7 p.m. – INSP and Hallmark (no Friday on Hallmark)
8 p.m. – INSP and Hallmark (no Friday on Hallmark)
9 p.m. – Hallmark (no Friday on Hallmark)

Even if you’re not familiar with these channels, if you get cable it’s likely you have them (or at least one of them). Hallmark is available in nearly 86 million homes, INSP in 75 million and UP in 65 million. Interestingly, all three launched as Christian-themed TV networks: Hallmark in 1992 as the American Christian Television System and the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN/ACTS); UP in 2004 as The Gospel Music Channel; and INSP in the early ’70s as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s PTL Satellite Network. (Yes, that Tammy Faye Bakker.)

In addition to the TV episodes, this Sunday, February 16, UP will be airing two of the six reunion movies produced for NBC: A WEDDING ON WALTON’S MOUNTAIN  (1982) at 9 a.m. and A WALTON WEDDING (1995) at 11 a.m. The later features Ellen Corby’s penultimate performance as Grandma. She continued to play the role for two decades after her stroke, allowing the character to see her grandchildren marry and have children of their own.

Waltons_S7For those without cable, 47 episodes from seasons 1 and 2 are available to purchase for streaming on Amazon Instant for $1.99 each or $29.99 for a season pass. All nine seasons, as well as the reunions and the original, 1971 made-for-TV movie featuring Andrew Duggan as John Sr. and Patricia Neal as Olivia are also available on DVD. The individual season box sets range in price on Amazon from $13.99 to $37.60, and my friend and fellow classic TV fan Frank Gruber says you can pick up complete season sets for as little as $7.99 at Target and Wal-Mart. So far I’ve watched three episodes streaming, and, while they’re not necessarily meticulously remastered, they are unedited and commercial free.

In October of 2013, the entire surviving cast of the series gathered for a reunion photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly. “You know, this may be the last time we’re all together,” David W. Harper (Jim-Bob) said. “This is a chance for us to come full circle.”


Posted in Classic TV | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Remembering Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

blackAs usual, Robert Osborne says it best.

“Shirley Temple was a good friend and an extraordinary human being who, after being the most famous person in the world at age 6 and Hollywood’s pint-sized queen at age 7, grew up to be such a lovely, civic-minded citizen, wife and mother, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to two countries,” the TCM host said today in a statement. “There will never be another one like her.”

Temple, who became Shirley Temple Black in 1950 when she married World War II hero Charles Alden Black, died of natural causes at her Woodside, California home late Monday night at age 85. Despite her retirement from the big screen at the age of 22, and a transition to a second career in government in which she served under four U.S. presidents, Black never surrendered her status as one of the most recognizable icons of classic film. And she likely never will.

3b653a70d5eb13160005b01f3999958eTCM announced today that they’ve scheduled an evening-long tribute to Black on Sunday, March 9 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The eight-film, 13-hour marathon begins with Alan Dwan’s HEIDI (1937), based on the famed novel by Johanna Spyri, and concludes with one of Black’s final films, THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947), opposite Ronald Reagan at 4:15 a.m.

While audiences didn’t necessarily buy the romantic pairing of the teenaged Temple with the 38-year-old future president, the two developed a lifelong friendship that led to Black’s service as a foreign affairs officer-expert in the Reagan State Department (1981-1989). Black’s career in diplomacy actually began in 1969, when President Richard Nixon named the 41-year-old former Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 6.20.31 PMchild star a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. This followed an unsuccessful run for the House of Representatives in 1967, in which Black, a Republican hawkish on Vietnam, lost to Rep. Pete McCloskey, a Korea and Vietnam vet who was decidedly anti-war. Later assignments included Ambassador to Ghana (1974-1976), Chief of Protocol at the State Department under President Gerald Ford (1976-1977, first female to hold that role), and Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) under President George H. W. Bush.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 7.11.41 PM“Shirley Temple had the greatest short career in movie history and then gracefully retired to, as we all know, the far less strenuous life of public service,” President Bill Clinton said at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989. “From her childhood to the present day, Shirley has always been an ambassador for what is best about America.”

In a sense, Shirley Temple’s career as a political figure began in the mid-1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt used her to rally a populace disheartened by lingering economic catastrophe.

“As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right,” F.D.R. said. “When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”

TCM Remembers Shirley Temple BlackSunday, March 9
4:30 p.m. – HEIDI (1937)
6:15 p.m. – STOWAWAY (1936)
8 p.m. – BRIGHT EYES (1934)
9:30 p.m. – THE LITTLE PRINCESS (1939)
11:15 p.m. – I’LL BE SEEING YOU (1944)
2:30 a.m. – A KISS FOR CORLISS (1949)
4:15 a.m. – THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947)

Politico has more info on Black’s career in foreign service, and an excellent photo gallery.

Other remembrances of Black can be found at Self-Styled Siren, Nitrate DivaBacklotsTrue Classics, The Examiner (Jennifer Garlen), Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, Chinephiled (Danny Miller), Stardust, and Christy Putnam. The New York Times obit is here. And Leonard Maltin has a great piece about meeting Black while he was reporting for Entertainment Tonight in the late ’80s.

Posted in Classic Film, TCM | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Take a Look, I’m In a Book!

cover B3I’ve written a lot of things since I got my first professional credit at the ripe old age of 15, but I’ve never been published in a book. Now, thanks to Monster Serial: Morbid Love Letters to Horror Cinema, a new anthology of fright film reviews, I can cross one more thing off my bucket list.

Edited by Wallace McBride, Monster Serial is an anthology of writing about an eclectic collection of horror movies, from early Talkies like DRACULA (1931), THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) through the present day (but mostly pre-2000, which will be good news for anybody who reads this blog). Contributors include McBride (a friend since he guested on my late, lamented podcast), Patrick McCray, David-Elijah Nahmod, Ansel Faraj, Jonathan M. Chaffin, Sara McBride, and “Herb Gillman” who writes (coincidentally?) about CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954).

936full-the-tingler-posterI contribute a 2,000 word essay on William Castle’s THE TINGLER (1959) with Vincent Price, a film I’ve watched at least fifteen times, including six times in theaters with the legendary Percepto! electrified seat gimmick. Sadly, my butt has been buzzed only once, on my first viewing at New York City’s Film Forum sometime in the 1980s. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since, from coast to coast (a midnight screening at the TCM Film Fest in 2011 remains a highlight of my life, even though I didn’t get a “shock.”)

Monster Serial also features an introduction by film historian Gregory William Mank, cover art by Chaffin, and some inventive layout by McBride (who also runs the award-winning Collinsport Historical Society blog, a must for fans of the 1960s Dark Shadows TV series). It’s available in good, olde fashioned print form and for the Kindle. And, if you buy me a plane ticket, I’ll come directly to your house and read it to you using a collection of funny character voices and period costumes.*

A second Monster Serial volume is planned for this spring, and I’ll be contributing to that as well, God willing and my blood pressure don’t rise.

Here’s a list of the films that are reviewed in Monster Serial:

199758_1020_ADRACULA (1931)
PSYCHO (1960)
THE OMEN (1976)
ALIEN (1979)
INFERNO (1980)
THE BLOB (1988)

 *Offer limited to attractive women who are pre-approved by my girlfriend. Not valid in Alaska because it’s too cold there and I can’t stand the cold. It depresses me. 

Posted in Classic Film | Tagged | 17 Comments