Saturday, May 31, 2014

Farewell to the Alma Mater!

Hat's off to the graduating class of 2014 whoever you may be! Early June is approaching and that means it's graduation time......throw off those mortarboards and give a hip-hooray and a high-ho farewell to the college that you will never see again.

For those who'd like to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or perhaps have a chance to fantasize about the college experience they never had, we present you with a selection of some of our favorite college-themed films. They may not be the cream of the crop, but they certainly do embody the All-American college spirit. So tuck away your cap and gown with mothballs, hock your textbooks, and start taking notes....

The Freshman ( 1925 ) 

An awkward college student becomes the hero of the day when he helps his campus' football team win a championship pennant. Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict. 

College Rhythm ( 1934 )

A college football team fights to help win money so an old department store can modernize itself. This zippy yarn features memorable tunes like, "Goo-Goo" and "Take a Number from One to Ten". Jack Oakie, Joe Penner, Marie Brian, Helen Mack. 

Dancing Co-Ed ( 1938 ) 

When the female half of a famous Hollywood dance team takes time off to have a baby, their manager plants a dance pro at a college and then announces a nationwide college dance tournament to find a new "star". Lana Turner, Richard Carlson, Ann Rutherford, Lee Bowman, Artie Shaw. 

A Yank At Oxford ( 1938 ) 

A Yank invades the ol' campus across the pond but finds he has a large chip on his shoulder which his classmates help to knock off just in time for him to help Oxford win the famous team regatta. Robert Taylor, Maureen O'Sullivan, Vivien Leigh, Edmund Gwenn.

Blondie Goes to College ( 1942 ) 

Dagwood decides to go to college and Blondie takes along to keep him out of trouble. Whilst there, the Bumsteads attract suitors for each other and get into a heap of trouble. Meanwhile, Baby Dumpling is sent off to military school and becomes a sergeant. Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton, Larry Sims, Janet Blair.

Here Come the Co-Eds ( 1945 ) 

Two ballroom dancers find themselves the new caretakers at the Bixby College for young ladies, where they proceed to help the basketball team win a match. Lou Costello, Bud Abbott, Peggy Ryan, Martha O'Driscoll, Lon Chaney Jr.

Good News ( 1947 )

A college football star finds he enjoys concentrating an French lessons more than football, when he has Juney as his teacher. Peter Lawford, June Allyson, Joan McCracken, Mel Torme, Patricia Marshall. 

Mother is a Freshman ( 1949 )

A poor widow finds she can put her daughter into college through a family scholarship so long as she attends college herself. Instead of concentrating on schoolwork, "mother" winds up falling in love with the English Lit professor. Loretta Young, Van Johnson, Betty Lynn, Rudy Vallee, Barbara Lawrence. 

Take Care of My Little Girl ( 1951 ) 

A young woman enters college and learns the hard way that sorority life isn't what it is all cut out to be. Jeffrey Hunter, Jeanne Crain, Mitzi Gaynor, Dale Robertson, Jean Peters. 

Bonzo Goes to College ( 1952 )

An intelligent ape ditches the circus life to become the pet of a prof. He ends up becoming a star player on the football team in this sequel to "Bedtime for Bonzo". Maureen O'Sullivan, Charles Drake, Edmund Gwenn, Gigi Perreau, Gene Lockhart. 

The Affairs of Dobie Gillis ( 1953 ) 

Girl crazy Dobie Gillis has a whale of a good time at college much to the chagrin of his steady gal pal in this entertaining MGM musical. Bobby Van, Debbie Reynolds, Hans Conreid, Bob Fosse, Lurene Tuttle.

High Time ( 1960 )

The founder of a nationwide chain of hamburger restaurants decides to take some time off to further his education and joins his kid's college. Bing Crosby, Nicole Maurey, Tuesday Weld, Fabian, Richard Beymer. 

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes ( 1969 )

Dexter Riley accidentally undergoes a shocking experience and finds he now has the brain of a computer. He's a cinch to earn Medfield College the coveted $100,000 prize at the upcoming Academic Challenge. Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, joe Flynn, William Schallert, Alan Hewitt.


Hollywood taught us some interesting, albeit useless lessons, through these films. Bonzo taught us that even chimps can make a rousing success of themselves in college. We also learned that comradery between classmates was more important than schoolwork, and being great at sports could get you anywhere in life, until you sprained an ankle. But don't take our word for it, check these films out for yourself and when you're ready to head back to your old alma mater for the 20th reunion, then sit back and enjoy some films that give you a little more accurate look at the post-college days ahead, such as Spring Reunion and H.M Pulham Esq

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

We felt like being particularly cruel this month and posting a truly obscure Impossibly Difficult screenshot. This lovely scene is from an excellent, but very underrated classic. It was noteworthy for launching the film career of one of Hollywood's biggest actors.

As usual, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Good luck guessing!


Caftan Woman correctly guessed The Farmer Takes a Wife ( 1935 ). This film introduced Henry Fonda to audiences in theaters across America and shot him to instant fame. Fonda first became Dan Harrow on stage, before he was asked to reprise his role for the film version. Later, in 1953 The Farmer Takes a Wife was remade as a musical starring Betty Grable and Dale Robertson.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Giant ( 1956 )

"Bick, you shoulda shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill"

Uncle Bawley's words do not fall on deaf ears, rather they echo the sentiment felt by the entire Benedict family and little do they realize that Jett Rink's solitary oil well on Reata land will launch the emergence of an industry that will change the face of Texas.

Edna Ferber's sprawling western saga of a Texan family comes to life in George Steven's 1956 film adaptation. Giant tells the story of a wealthy cattle baron, Jordan "Bick" Benedict ( Rock Hudson ) who comes to Maryland to purchase a horse from Horace Lynnton ( Paul Fix ), a socially prominent doctor. While staying at his home he meets, falls in love with and marries Lynnton's beautiful daughter Leslie ( Elizabeth Taylor ). Bick transports her from the lush green countryside of Maryland to his dusty isolated ranch called Reata, an enormous 600,000 acre cattle spread run by himself, his sister ( Mercedes MacCambridge ) and his staff of Mexican farmhands.

Once at Reata, Leslie undertakes changes that reflect her well-bred upbringing and stubbornly refuses to let Texan folkways stop her from being considerate and helpful to the Mexican people. We follow Leslie as she grows from a delicate flower from the east into a tough leathered matriarch. We follow Bick as he rises from a cattle rancher to an oil millionaire in his competition against Jett Rink ( James Dean ), a despised ranch hand who first strikes oil on Reata land. Together they build a marriage mixed with tenderness and turbulence to create a dynasty spanning three generations.

At its heart Giant is an intimate story of compromise and adjustment. Leslie learns to adapt herself to her surroundings and become a true Texan without compromising her values. She becomes such a part of the ranch that none of Bick's family, friends or neighbors could imagine what Reata would be like without her. More importantly, Bick comes to accept that life on Reata cannot remain the same as when his father ran the ranch. He comes to accept that his children want to lead lives of their own in different professions and, in the subtle finale, finds that his racial views have been completely changed.

"Honey, you don't act that way towards those people. You're a Texan now"
"Is being a Texan a state of mind? I'm still myself"

The evolving Benedict family symbolizes the state of Texas itself which was adapting and moving away from its agrarian existence. Modern ways of thinking were pushing out old-fashioned notions of bigotry, child-rearing, and woman's place in the home.

The strong-willed Leslie was the instigator to many of these changes but even more so was that substance known as black gold - oil. The oozing stinking liquid was converting humble farmers into millionaires overnight and, with their pockets bulging with more cash than they knew what to do with, they had little desire to hold onto archaic beliefs of the past. It was an exciting time and they were proud to be in the throes of new inventions, discoveries, ideas, and new modes of transportation.

When Edna Ferber's epic novel was first published in 1952 it received much criticism. Texans resented being known as racially intolerant folk and despised the character of Jett Rink. Nevertheless, the book was immensely popular and, like Ferber's previous novels, quickly caught the attention of Hollywood producers who clamored to obtain the film rights. In making her decision, Ferber chose to go with Warner Brothers because George Stevens was undertaking the project. She appreciated his love for the story and his promise to remain faithful to her novel. 

Many actors in Hollywood were eager to get a part in the film, predicting what a prestigious production it would be. For the three leading characters, Stevens considered casting Grace Kelly, William Holden and Montogomery Clift. Alan Ladd and Robert Mitchum were also under consideration for the role of Jett Rink, but Stevens chose to go with James Dean, a talented young man who was quickly making a name for himself at Warner Brothers.

The cast of Giant was primarily very youthful. Rock Hudson, only 29 at the time, was given one of his first opportunities to demonstrate his dramatic acting ability and proved to be excellent as Bick Benedict. This was a pivotal film for Elizabeth Taylor as well who, at only 23 years of age, was launched to new heights as a dramatic actress. In Giant she recreates the literary Leslie and gives her a depth which was lacking in the original novel.

Carroll Baker was making her debut film performance as Luz, the Benedict's daughter, even though she was three years older than Taylor. Dennis Hopper had a brief, but substantial role himself as Jordy, their independent-minded son.

Along with these youthful characters, Stevens cast a number of excellent seasoned supporting actors including tough-as-nails Mercedes McCambridge; the delightful Jane Withers as the Benedict's neighbor and best friend ( who had been called out of retirement for this part ); the lovable Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley, a gentle man whom Leslie particularly adores; and Paul Fix as Dr. Lynnton. Also rounding out the cast is Sal Mineo, Earl Holliman, Elsa Cardanas, Rod Taylor ( billed as Rodney Taylor ), Judith Evelyn, Carolyn Craig, and Victor Millan.

"Money isn't everything, Jett" 
"Not when you've got it"

Location shooting for Giant began on June 6, 1955 in Marfa, a small town south of Pecos, Texas, where the cast and crew spent two months filming the scenes in and around Reata. 

"It was such a happy time", Jane Withers recalled, sharing a sentiment felt by most of the cast. However, tragedy struck eight days after Dean's final scenes were shot, when the cast, assembled in the screening room at Marfa, heard that James Dean had been killed in a car crash. Warner Brothers had banned Dean from racing during the production for fear that he may injure himself while filming was progressing.

In addition to its fine script and cast, a major part of Giant's appeal lay in its magnificent score, composed by the Russian immigrant Dimitri Tiomkin, who was one of Hollywood's most talented western film composers. His score for Giant weaves strains of old Texan favorites such as The Yellow Rose of Texas with classical music ( Clair de Lune ) and heart-thumping melodies of grandeur.

George Stevens invested three years of his life into making Giant, taking no pay for his work as director, instead choosing to have part interest in the final film rights. Stevens had faith in the script, production crew, and his own directorial skill; he had profound respect for his audience and for this reason made certain that every scene was the best it could be, no matter how many retakes or different camera angles it took to get a scene just right.

"Well....after a hundred years the Benedict family is finally a success"

At one point, nearing the end of the long editing stage, George Stevens Jr. grew impatient to complete the picture. Stevens reminded him, "Just think how many man hours people will spend watching this film over the years. Don't you think it's worth a little more of our time making it a better experience for them?"

Giant was released at a unique time during the 1950s when America was at its grandest. Texas was huge and booming with energy and so was the rest of the country. When Giant premiered on Nov. 24, 1956, it earned critical acclaim and became the top grossing film in Warner Brothers history. In some theatres it played for three months straight. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards but went on to win only one Oscar ( for Best Director ) competing against Mike Todd's epic Around the World in 80 Days.

That extra effort that Stevens and the cast and crew put into making the film all that more special has been appreciated by audiences for nearly 60 years. In its gentle way Giant grows from an intimate portrait of two newlyweds to a film of gigantic proportions, equal to the entertainment it provides. Decades later, other sagas such as Dynasty, Dallas, and The Thorn Birds imitated Giant's scope which drew the audience into the individual characters and the family as a whole. 

The film inspires a love for the tumbleweed ridden country known as Texas, its cattle, its oil, its people, and its history. Giant makes you proud to be a Texan, whether you were born one or not, and inspired audiences around the world to share in an admiration for the state that has become so much apart of America's heritage. 

This post is our contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association's marvelous Fabulous Films of the 1950s Blogathon. Be sure to head over to the main site to check out all the great coverage of your favorite films of the '50s. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Picnic ( 1955 )

The Classic Film and TV Association is hosting The Fabulous Films of the 1950s blogathon and I have chosen to highlight two films of the 1950s that are particularly dear to me - Picnic and Giant. Every year, when the flowers awaken from their dormant slumber and the magnolias begin to blossom, a familiar urge, as certain in approaching as spring itself, begins to stir within - the urge to watch Picnic. The film is indelibly linked in my mind with spring and, regardless of its Labor Day setting, the glow of May can be observed in every scene. 

Picnic focuses on the impact a vagabond drifter makes on the womenfolk in a sleepy Kansas town during the course of one summer day. Hal Carter ( William Holden ) is a bum, come to Kansas to seek out his old college roommate Alan Benson ( Cliff Robertson ) in the hopes that he will find him a job at one of his father's granaries.

"I gotta get someplace in this world. I just gotta."

Upon arriving, fresh off of a freight train, he meets Helen ( the marvelous Verna Felton ) a kindly old lady who gives him some apple pie and introduces him to her neighbors, Flo Owens ( Betty Field ) and Flo's two daughters, the tomboy intellectual Millie ( a miscast Susan Strasberg ) and the bashful beauty queen Madge ( Kim Novak ) who is going steady with Alan. Rooming with the Owens is Rosemary Sydney ( Rosalind Russell ), a local spinster schoolteacher. 

On the surface, each of these women are satisfied and content with their lives, but within they are frustrated and longing for something more. Flo Owens was deserted by her husband years ago and wants to see her daughters married off to better men than he. Rosemary Sydney, the amiable teacher always "good for a laugh" is tired of being a spinster and wants to marry Howard Bevans ( Arthur O'Connell ), a local shopkeeper. Millie is jealous of her older sister's beauty, while Madge thinks her mother favors Millie and is frustrated at being admired for her looks alone. 

"I'm tired of just being called pretty". 

When Hal arrives, his raw virility awakens in the women memories of bygone romances or, in the case of Rosemary, long-awaited for love. Every movement he makes, every muscle he flexes, sexually arouses suppressed feelings within these gals. 

William Inge's Pulitzer Prize winning play Picnic set pulses racing to packed crowds and enjoyed a successful 477 run performance at New York's Music Box Theatre in the spring of 1953. The original cast featured Ralph Meeker as Hal, Janice Rule as Madge, Eileen Heckart as Rosemary, and Paul Newman as Alan Benson. Incidentally, it was during the run of Picnic that he met his future wife, Joanne Woodward. Newman was also understudy for Meeker and often rehearsed his scenes with Rule's understudy, Joanne Woodward. 

Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn purchased the rights to the play at the sum of $300,000. He knew that he wanted William Holden to play the lead role, but it took some coaxing to convince the 37-year-old actor that his age would not make a difference in the essence of the story. Holden reluctantly agreed and, as this was the final film in his seven picture contract with the studio, had to settle for a paltry $30,000 fee. Holden worked out at a gym to get into shape for the part and even permitted to have his chest shaven for his brawny sequences. Carroll Baker was tested for the role of Madge but it was decided that she was too childlike for the role, and Columbia's newest sensation Kim Novak was signed instead. 

Susan Strasberg was making her screen debut as Millie, fresh off of a Broadway success with the lead role in The Diary of Anne Frank. Cliff Robertson also earned his first big screen role as rich boy Alan Benson. The role of Howard Bevens suited Arthur O'Connell so well that director Joshua Logan asked him to reprise it for the film. This launched O'Connell on a long and steady career as a Hollywood character actor. 

Production on Picnic began on May 16, 1955 on location around Hutchinson, Kansas. The production crew on Picnic was top-notch and included cinematographer James Wong Howe, screenwriter Daniel Taradesh ( From Here to Eternity ) and composer George Duning. Duning revived the 1930s classic "Moonglow" for the famous dance sequence and it became a hit song once again, with the dance itself becoming one of the best remembered love scenes of the 1950s. 

Logan, the director of the stage play, was selected to take helm for the film version and made an impressive directorial debut, in his subtle but compelling filming. His master strokes are in the scenes of the Labor Day picnic itself. As the camera slowly pans across the people, it unobtrusively captures vignettes straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. There are mothers with their children, elderly couples, rowdy boys, girls warbling a duet, speeches being made, the band playing old sweet songs and marching tunes, and through it all two babies wailing. All of these elements combine to create a tapestry of American life during the early 1950s. 

The principal characters are enjoying the picnic as much as anyone there and compete in all of the group events - the balloon blowing contest, ring toss, spoon catching games, and best of all, the pie eating contest, where Howard bribes a boy to push the contestant's faces into the pies. 

After the festivities of the day the group lazily gather together under the shade of a grove of cottonwoods and here Hal begins to realize what it is he has been searching for in life. It is a town, a place, a home that he wants. Proud as he is of his father and his old man's boots, he does not want to fill them and be a drifter all of his life. He wants a sense of belonging, either to someone or someplace. 

As evening begins to fall, everyone wanders off in pairs...Hal walks with Millie and tells her of his admiration for people with artistic talent and the love for the finer things in life; Howard and Rosemary share a bench to admire the sunset; Helen and Flo gently swing together grateful for each others company; and Alan and Madge retreat to the rivers edge to discuss their future together. 

"Look at the sunset. It's like the daytime didn't want to end. It's like the daytime was gonna put up a big scrap and set the world on fire to keep the nighttime from creeping on."

The picnic is a focal point for all of the principal characters and it is after the sun sets that their emotions begin to sizzle and finally ignite and explode like the Labor Day fireworks themselves. 

Picnic is an extremely well-written film rich with characters of substance and at its core it is the story about the inevitability of change happening to the best laid plans. Sometimes this change is welcome and sometimes it is not. 

"I got so used to things as they were. Everything was so prim. The geraniums in the window, the smell of mama's medicine, and then he walked in and it was different . He clomped around like it was still outdoors. There was a man in the house and it seemed good". 

Hal is a character that we have all met at one time or another, in a variety of different forms. He represents that person that comes into your life when you were least expecting it and disrupts everything and everyone around you. He is an intruder, and whether it is for good or bad, the change these intruders bring about cannot be ignored. 

Picnic opened in limited release on December 7, 1955 and was distributed nationally on February 16, 1956. It won critical acclaim, was nominated for six Academy Awards ( Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Music, Best Color Art Direction and Best Editing ) and grossed a whopping $6.3 million upon its release. Fifty-nine years later, Picnic remains a gem of a picture and rightly deserves its place as one of the Fabulous Films of the 1950s. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

What's My Line? ( 1950 -1967 )

"Mystery challenger, will you enter and sign in please!"

These familiar words, spoken by moderator John Daly, announced the approach of the "mystery challenger", the closing highlight of the weekly CBS program What's My Line?. Every Sunday thousands of viewers across America would gather in front of their television sets at 10:30 pm to watch their favorite panelists try to guess the occupations of three random guests. 

During its peek years, this panel consisted of the dapper pun-lovin' Bennett Cerf, co-founder and publisher of Random House books, the lovely actress and radio personality Arlene Francis, the delightful journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, and a guest panelist, such as David Niven, Tony Randall, Danny Kaye, or Martin Gabel ( Arlene Francis' husband ). Often it was a male guest star so that the panel was always neatly composed of two men and two women. 

Host John Charles Daly, a veteran radio and television newsman, was as appealing as any of the panelists and greatly contributed to the show's formula and its success. When a potentially confusing question was posed, Daly, who was always on the side of the guest challenger, enjoyed clarifying the question with a befuddling response. Often, in his attempt to stump the panel, guests with particularly unusual occupations were selected. These ranged from the slightly unorthodox ( hog caller, goat shepherdess, bed pan manufacturer ), to the incredible ( manhole designer, cow washer, tea kettle whistle tester ).

"Is it bigger than a breadbox?"

What's My Line? was fun and addictive viewing and it quickly gained a large audience following its February 2, 1950 debut, which originally featured Dorothy Kilgallen, Louis Untermeyer, Hal Block, and Arlene Francis. The show's premise was simple and yet engaging : a guest would be introduced by Mr. Daly, sign his or her name on a chalkboard and then approach the panel, who would be given a random guess as to what their occupation may be. For the audiences benefit, the real occupation was revealed on screen, while the panel began asking questions to determine what their job really was. The panel was permitted to ask only questions which could be answered with a "yes" or "no" and for every "no" answer Daly would flip a $5 card over. Ten negative answers and the panel was declared stumped. 

"Ten flips and they are a flop!"

In order to obtain a "yes" the panel often worded their questions in the negative ( "Am I right in assuming you do not sell a product?" ). The $50 prize was inconsequential to the real point of the game - the enjoyment of watching the panel quiz the contestant. In reality, all guests were paid $750 for appearing on the show, regardless of whether they stumped the panel or not. 

From the early 1950s until the show's cancellation in 1967, a formal dress code was adopted which elevated the program from an amusing game show to sophisticated adult entertainment. Its immense appeal and high stature drew in many top-billed personalities who seldom made television appearances, some of which included : Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon, Irene Dunne, Maureen O'Hara, Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney Maurice Chevalier, and Claudette Colbert. 

What's My Line? won three Emmy award for Best Quiz or Audience Participation Show during its 25 season run, and a Golden Globe for Best TV Show in 1962. The series was so successful in the States, that it spawned several international versions ( the panelists on the German program, Was bin Ich?, sported jazzy wing-tipped masks ), a radio version and a live stage version. 

To this day, What's My Line? has a large fan of followers who watch its reruns on the Game Show Network and on Youtube. Its popularity is a testament to the engaging personalities of the three main panelists, who would have made the show entertaining regardless of what the game was about.  

The Panel 

Bennett Cerf - was born on May 25, 1898 and is chiefly known for being one of the founders of the publishing firm Random House. After Cerf graduated from college he briefly worked as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune before becoming vice-president of the publishing firm, Boni and Liveright. In 1925 he formed a partnership with Donald S. Klopfer to purchase the rights to the Modern Library from B&L and they went into business for themselves, increasing the popularity of the library and selecting trade books at "random" for publishing. Cerf's great talent for forming friendships soon brought in contracts from Eugene O'Neill, William Faulkner, James Michener and Truman Copote. In 1935, he married actress Slyvia Sidney, but the union lasted less than a year. In 1940, he wed again, this time to a cousin of Ginger Rogers, Phyllis Fraser. He was an occasional panelist on Who Said That? which led to him being invited to What's My Line? and ultimately staying with the syndicated show until his death in 1975. Onscreen and off, Cerf was known for his wit and humor and wrote over 11 riddle and joke books. 

Arlene Francis - was born on October 20, 1907, the daughter of an Armenian portrait photographer. Francis got her start doing stage acting in 1928. In the mid 1930s she married Neil Agnew, who worked in the sales department of Paramount Pictures. His job required frequent time spent away from home and this eventually led to them divorcing. In 1946 she wed actor and producer Martin Gabel, with whom she was married until his death in 1986. Francis wore a heart-shaped diamond pennant, which Gabel had given her as a gift, almost continuously on What's My Line?. Aside from her many stage appearances, she hosted numerous radio programs ( What's My Name, Blind Date, Monitor ) as well as hosting a midday chat show on WOR-AM for over 24 years. She was also host and editor-in-chief of the daytime show, Home from 1954-57. During the 1960s Francis appeared in several films ( The Thrill of it All ), and penned a couple of books, including a cookbook. Arlene Francis passed away in 2001. 

Dorothy Kilgallen - was born July 3, 1913 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the daughter of a Hearst newspaperman and became a newswoman/journalist herself. In 1936, she dropped out of college at the age of 23 and took a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal. That same year she competed with two other news reporters in a race around the world, placing second and writing about her experience in a book, Girl Around the World which was turned into a film starring Glenda Farrell. In the late 1930s she married actor Richard Kollmar and started work on a column, The Voice of Broadway, which was syndicated to 146 different newspapers until her death in 1965. This column, which stated celebrity news in brief, often dished out a scoop of gossip for its readers, which many celebrities disliked. A true investigative reporter, Kilgallen often put her nose where it wasn't wanted. In the mid-1950s she covered the Dr. Sam Shepard trial, UFO sightings, and President John F. Kennedy's death. A history of government criticism and her claims to "bust open the JFK murder" leads many to believe that she was bumped off by the CIA. 

After Dorothy Kilgallen's death in November, 1965, her seat on What's My Line? was filled by various guest stars. The show continued on for two more seasons ( one in color ) before getting cancelled in 1967. Francis and Cerf enjoyed being panelists so much that they returned in 1968 when producers Mark Goodson and Bill Rodman decided to bring back the show as videotaped telecasts syndicated for afternoon and early evening schedules. Wally Bruner became the new host and Soupy Sales was added as a regular on the panel. This series continued on until 1975, when Bennett Cerf passed away. 

Favorite Mystery Challengers 

The highlight of the quiz show, for audience members, was the appearance of the mystery challenger, often a movie star. What's My Line? featured some of the best guest stars seen on any series, and below we have highlighted some of our favorite mystery challengers for those who wish to hunt for these episodes online. Enjoy! 

  • Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, Groucho Marx, Ernie Kovacs ( Kovacs also appeared on the panel many time ), Buddy Hackett, Irene Dunne, Danny Kaye, the panelists spouses, Bobby Darin, Bette Davis, Andy Devine, Jose Ferrer, Julie Andrews, Doris Day. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Announcing the MGM Blogathon!

Get Ready to Roar!  

( Update : for a complete list of participants click here! )

In honor of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the greatest film studio of all time, the granddaddy of them all, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Silver Scenes will be hosting an MGM Blogathon from June 26-28th, 2014, right smack In the Good ol' Summertime. 

It will be a three day event celebrating the great stars, character actors, films, and behind-the-scenes personnel from the golden age of MGM : 1925-1959. Between these years when Leo the Lion heralded a film, audiences knew they were in for a treat. 

From the fledgling days of MGM, through the wonder years of Irving Thalberg, on up until the collapse of the studio system in the late 1950s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made their mark in the film industry with quality productions, a galaxy of stars covering all ages, and publicity campaigns that were like no other. Poignant romances ( Waterloo Bridge, Camille ), ambitious spectacles ( Marie Antionette, The Good Earth ), and entertaining musicals ( Rose Marie, Million Dollar Mermaid ) shot out of the studio at lightning speed and set the mark for other studios to follow. 

As has often been noted, MGM never made a "B" film. There were secondary flicks such as The Thin Man or Calling Dr. Kildare, but no matter how low the budget, all films proudly bore the MGM stamp of excellence. 

A 90th anniversary deserves a whale of a good celebration and what better way to celebrate then through the written word.

The MGM blogathon will take place during that Strange Interlude between the start of summer and the Fourth of July : June 26-28th. You can submit as many posts as you'd like and, just to spice things up a bit, we're going to select the best written post as The Champ, the Topper of them all, and award the blogger with an original Mickey Rooney photo from the Silverbanks Pictures Archives

Note : Only posts submitted between June 26-28th will be eligible for the award.

Are there any rules to this blogathon? Heck no! Listen Darling, you can write about any topic you want just so long as it has to do with MGM. If you want to write about an experience/memory watching an MGM film that is alright too. But since it's going to be a Big Parade and we'd like cut down on the Greed we have this one request to make : no two participants can write about the same film or star. Make your choices quickly then, for when a topic is gone, it's Gone with the Wind.

Why, we're so generous with the rules that if you want to join in on the fun AFTER the blogathon ends, you're welcome! If Winter Comes and we're still getting submissions we'll be happy. There are no Forbidden Hours nor forbidden bloggers. All are welcome...the Bad and the Beautiful, Freaks, and even Laughing Sinners. No Invitation is needed, no topic is Too Hot to Handle and there are No Questions Asked ( but all will be answered ). We want to create a spot for classic film fans to find great posts on their favorite MGM films, all in one place. The celebration will be lasting all year long! 

If you want to join in on the fun :  just click on the comment box below and leave your name, blog site and the topic you would like to write about. You can also email us at silverbankspictures at gmail ( you know the rest ). 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced some of the greatest films in cinema's history; featured more stars than there were in the heavens; and had some of the most talented directors, producers, screenwriters, and technicians the world has ever known....but just in case you can't think of any ideas at the moment, here are some suggestions :

Stars : Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Frank Sinatra, Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Mickey Rooney, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Robert Taylor, Jane Powell, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, Spencer Tracy, Fred Astaire, Myrna Loy, William Powell, Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy.

Films : The Women, Gigi, Ben-Hur, Singin' in the Rain, When Ladies Meet, A Date with Judy, Mogambo, Mrs. Miniver, Elephant Walk, National Velvet, State of the Union, The Three Musketeers, Daddy Long Legs, An American in Paris, Chained, Dinner at Eight, Manhattan Melodrama, Queen Christina, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Grand Hotel, He Who Gets Slapped, Naughty Marietta, Waterloo Bridge, Camille, The Good Earth.

Series : Andy Hardy, Tarzan, Maisie, The Thin Man, The Little Rascals, The Fast Series, Dr. Kildare, Tom and Jerry, Lassie.

Behind-the-Scenes : Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Douglas Shearer, William Tuttle, Cedric Gibbons, Helen Rose, Dorothy Jeakins, James Wong Howe, Natalie Kalmus, Victor Fleming, Clarence Brown, Busby Berkeley, George Cukor, Arthur Hornblow Jr., Irving Berlin.

Now that you've heard the Good News, it's time to Get Happy and join The Band Wagon! Beg, Borrow, and Steal an idea if you have to ( although we don't recommend stealing Personal Property  ) but let's celebrate this monumental occasion*, this Shining Hour, in style! 

Stay tuned for posts throughout the coming month - and throughout the year - celebrating the history of this grand studio. Banners are available below, so please post them on your site and help promote this roaring good event! 

* On a side note, another fantastic film studio - Columbia Pictures - is celebrating it's 90th anniversary this year as well. 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Little Minister ( 1934 )

Margaret Perry is hosting The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon which kicked off on May 9th and we at Silver Scenes could not resist joining in on celebrating one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the silver screen. Our contribution to the event - The Little Minister - came out of the 1930s, one of Hepburn's busiest decades as an actress. 

The Little Minister is a charming film about a recently ordained minister (John Beal) of a small Scottish village who gets rebuffed by his congregation when he falls in love with a wild gypsy girl (Katharine Hepburn). At first, he wins the respect of the townsfolk when he stands up against the town bully Rob Dow (Alan Hale). Dow is the leader of the village weavers who are planning a rebellion against their employer, Lord Rintoul (Frank Convoy), who has cut their salary. But, when the minister brazenly associates with the sprightly gypsy of the woods, Babbie, and announces his plans to marry her, he is practically tarred and feathered before it is found out that she is really the illustrious Lady Babbie, ward to Lord Rintoul, in disguise. 

Sir James M.Barrie's whimsical tale "The Little Minister" was beloved by the masses since its first publication as a novel in 1891. The famous American stage star Maude Adams made the play a huge success both in England and America. In 1921, both Paramount and Vitagraph released film versions of The Little Minister starring Betty Compson and Alice Calhoun, respectively. 

Katharine Hepburn had always adored Maude Adams and when she heard that RKO was planning to make The Little Minister a major production with Ginger Rogers in the lead role, she was anxious to secure the part of Lady Babbie herself. Pandro S. Berman, the head of RKO, was more than happy to cast her in the role, hoping to restore her to her star status after the dismal failure of her previous film, Spitfire

The husband and wife team of Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason were brought in to weave a screenplay that would parallel their Oscar-winning script of 1933 - Little Women. In fact, most of the production team of Little Women were reunited for The Little Minister, which RKO lavishly bestowed with a $648,000 budget. It was the studio's most expensive production of the year and was released as their Christmas gift to the nation. Berman was secretly hoping for a major success but alack and alas, the film did not regain its expenses. Even though it brought in respectable business, it lost $9000. 

Katharine Hepburn considered her portrayal of Babbie as a "rather fancy performance" years later, looking back on the film. The role of Babbie called for a girl with an almost other-worldly elfin quality and "I think I'm probably just too down-to-earth for that" Hepburn admitted. 

George Cukor, one of Hepburn's favorite directors, was busy making David Copperfield over at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and could not be called upon to take the helm of The Little Minister. In his place, Richard Wallace (The Shopworn Angel, Sinbad the Sailor) did a marvelous job. 

The film itself is an enchanting fantasy and from its opening scenes lures the audience into the picturesque village of Thrums. Max Steiner's lovely score, which incorporates old and familiar Scottish tunes, carries our hearts into the highland while RKO's resident wizard of design, Van Nest Poglase and Carroll Clark, lend the film a total sense of authenticity by way of their meticulous set designs. No expense was spared in making The Little Minister the high-class production that it was. In addition to the leading actors, Donald Crisp, Lumsden Hare, Andy Clyde, Dorothy Stickney, Reginald Denny, Eily Malyon, and Mary Gordon also starred. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hot Off the Presses!

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!.....Mickey and Judy just got the news and are ready to share it live coast-to-coast : Silver Scenes WILL BE HOSTING THE MGM BLOGATHON this summer. Hot diggity doooo! Tune in back here on Monday to read more about this breaking news.