Meet the dynamic dame behind the book, ‘Dynamic Dames’

One of the film books I’ve been looking forward to the most this year is TCM’s Dynamic Dames, their latest book in collaboration with Running Press. Author and film historian Sloan Deforest, who previously wrote Must-See Sci Fi: 50 Films that are Out of this World, is back and delivers a loving tribute to the unforgettable actresses and female characters that have inspired countless generations of women and men. In Dynamic Dames, Deforest shows 50 heroic females spanning film history. We see precode bad girls, mothers, women of mystery, survivors and superheroines. I recently spoke to Deforest about the book and her process putting it together. Thank you to Running Press for giving me this opportunity. For the readers, I hope you find the dynamic dame within. 

1. This is a book I feel like I’ve personally been waiting for especially now when we continue to hear the phrase “strong female lead” even though strong females have been around since films have existed. What inspired you to delve into this topic?

Yes, the term “strong female lead” is bandied about a lot in Hollywood. As an actress, I would see the casting notices frequently use this description. But the actual number of films headed by heroic women is still pretty skimpy compared to the early days of film. From roughly 1910 to 1950, at least half of the top stars were female, and women were the target audience demographic. Those were such glorious days. I wanted to celebrate some of the most inspiring leading ladies of that bygone era, and also gather some more contemporary “strong female leads” for the book. I personally like all kinds of movies—including Sergio Leone westerns and action movies with nary a female to be found—but the ones with powerful women calling the shots are especially fulfilling to me. Maybe that’s why I was driven to write Dynamic Dames.

2. I really enjoyed how you broke it down into different eras and genres, is there a particular one that you yourself enjoy most?

I love comedy, so “Ladies Who Laugh” may be the most fun section for me. I think Roger Rabbit put it best: “A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Sometimes in life it’s the only weapon we have.” Audiences seem more willing to side with empowered women when they are funny, like one of my all-time favorites, the smart and sassy Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. I also grew up watching Melanie Griffith in Working Girl and Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby and Adam’s Rib. I’ve probably taken a few pages from these ladies’ books in the way I deal with people.

3. In your research, what was one thing you discovered that you think will surprise viewers?

I think some readers will be surprised to learn how many behind-the-scenes women were responsible for these Dynamic Dames. The majority of characters in the book were either inspired by real women, written or produced by women, or the roles were largely shaped by the actresses who played them. Even when the screen credits don’t reflect it, the actresses had more of a creative hand than is apparent at first glance. Today Greta Garbo would be called a producer on Queen Christina. She had so much power she was basically a silent producer. Then there are the actresses who lobbied to be cast in roles that they weren’t initially wanted in, and triumphed: Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones, Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. The list goes on. Making these discoveries in the research process was one of the most thrilling aspects of writing the book.

4. Who is your favorite dynamic dame?

I feel a little like a mother with fifty daughters! It’s difficult to play favorites. I genuinely enjoy and respect all of these women, plus the long list of others who didn’t make the cut. That being said, the comedy ladies I mentioned previously are among my favorites. There’s also Clarice Starling, Ida Lupino as Lily Stevens in Road House, Mary Poppins, Hermione Granger, Ellen Ripley, and Thelma and Louise too. As for my favorite classic-era actress, I would place Greta Garbo and Barbara Stanwyck in a tie for first place. Their artistry, emotion, outer beauty and inner fire leap right off the screen. They never fail to inspire me.

5. What do you hope readers will walk away with after they read the book?

I hope readers are reminded of some great movies they forgot about, and are inspired to seek out those they never saw. It would be great if readers develop a new appreciation for movies about women who are the hero of their journey. These stories used to be commonplace in Hollywood, but since the 1960s, they have been fewer. Yet they are still here. Dynamic Dames have never gone away because they are fascinating, and because women keep going to the movies. We always will, and we want to see ourselves reflected on the screen . . . or the selves we wish we could be.

Dynamic Dames is out now. It is available at your local bookstore or on TCM’s official website here.

Third time, lots of charm: The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

IMG-4856I can’t believe this year marked my third visit to the TCM Classic Film Festival. Can I say I’m a veteran now? I’m not so sure but it doesn’t matter because as always, it did not disappoint. Just when I think TCM can’t get any better, they outdo themselves.

This year was the 10th anniversary of the festival and the 25th for the network. These milestones added an extra level of excitement and glee to the whole event. Passholders walked around with 10-timer ribbons, buttons in honor of Robert Osborne, t-shirts with their favorite film stars, you name it. The spirit of old Hollywood was a live and well on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard.

IMG-4855

This year I was honored to take part in the TCM Ambassador program along with several other fans to create content for social media channels. It was a unique experience to work with the marketing team and get to know them a bit better. The Ambassador program is similar to the social media producer program they had a few years ago and I really appreciate TCM’s openness to input from fans, you truly feel like a part of the network.

Team Aurora

There were many highlights for me during this trip but the most special was the screening of Sleeping Beauty with two of the original animators in attendance. When it comes to technology, we’ve come so far from when that film was made so to see hand drawn animation on screen with two people instrumental in bringing it to life was really neat. The film was Jane Shattuck-Takamoto-Baer and Floyd Norman’s first jobs and in their voices, you can hear their pride for their work. Sleeping Beauty marked the end of hand drawn animation and Norman discussed the colossal resources that were given. Baer and Norman are so proud of their places in Disney history. The two said despite what people have heard of Walt Disney, they were hired for their talents and treated with the utmost respect. The two also agreed that Walt Disney Studios was a pioneer in hiring women and POC talent.

Pardon me, it’s Miss Angie Dickinson

One of the great thrills of the TCM Classic Film Festival is getting to hear from your favorite stars. This year Angie Dickinson was in attendance and I knew I had to be there at her introduction to Ocean’s 11. I always thought Angie Dickinson was cool but seeing her in person confirmed it. The leading lady strutted onto the poolside stage in platform heels and a black beret with a youthful swagger that reminded me her 87 years are just only numbers. She was so candid and had a great rapport with Ben Mankiewicz, I wanted to see a show with these two watching her films.

Blinded by the Goldblum!

Weirdly when it comes to movie crushes, Jeff Goldblum is one of my earliest. I thought he was so funny and cool in Jurassic Park when I was 11. He’s only aged well in the ensuing years and is now the internet’s boyfriend. The weekend before TCMFF, I had my bachelorette party and Jeff Goldblum was part of the decor (G-rated, if you’re asking). On Twitter, Niki over at The Way We Watch and I bonded over our mutual love of Goldblum and even discovered we owned the same Jeff shirts. We didn’t know each other but ended up being the first two people in line and had the best time. We, along with Erin of Miss Honey Hale and Julia of Cinema Crossroads, were so giddy and excited about his introduction to Nashville that the few hours we waited flew by.

Goldblum was joined by Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley and Joan Tewkesbury. During the panel, I was entranced by Goldblum but also admiring of what a gentleman he is. The movie meant a lot to Blakley and he gave her such support as she spoke about her experiences its production. The film is one of Goldblum’s earliest roles and he was so funny explaining his weird role and how he got it.

After the discussion was over, the four of us bolted out of the theater waiting to see if we’d catch a glimpse of him on the way out. We waited for a bit and had about lost all hope…until we saw Keith Carradine walked by without anyone and then we knew Goldblum had to be behind him and lo and behold.. HE WAS! Goldblum had handlers with him and we truly were at a loss for words. I think we ended up screaming gibberish but he turned around and waved hi before being whisked away. The moment is so surreal and hilarious. I’m not doing it justice but it’s something I’ll always remember.

Keisha (@cinemacities) captured the moment he waved goodbye to us and our screams.

“You guys are the hardcore nerds!”

Another super fun screening was the Peter Lorre classic Mad Love introduced by Bill Hader. Hader is one of my favorite comedians and his impressions of Peter Lorre and Vincent Price are two of my favorites so I knew I just had to be at this screening. Anyone who is a fan of Hader knows just how much of a fan he is of classic movies and TCM. Hader is a friend of the network who hosted Essentials Jr. and also contributed to spots on the now deceased FilmStruck streaming service. In the final month of FilmStruck, Hader famously pleaded for people to save it when he accepted an award calling FilmStruck, “his favorite thing ever.”

When Hader got up to the stage he introduced us as ‘the hardcore nerds’ to be watching a black and white horror movie at 9:30 a.m. He was so giddy about his love for the film during the intro, even doing his Lorre impression to boot. After he introduced the film, he sat with his daughter to watch it.

Stars, they’re just like us!

I’d like to thank everyone involved in putting on the TCM Classic Film Festival. I can’t imagine just how much work goes into putting it on but it was yet again an unforgettable experience and I can’t wait to attend again.
signature

Double Takes: Joel McCrea and Miriam Hopkins

hopkins mccrea double takes

One of the things I miss most about Classic Hollywood are screen teams. I feel like I don’t go to the movies any more for stars, it’s usually for the latest remake or franchise. We can criticize the studio system for MANY things but one of the things I love are screen teams. They were so many frequent pairings, it’s easy to sing the praises of Doris Day/Rock Hudson, Joan Crawford/Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn, and ignore countless others.

In this new series, Double Takes, I’m looking at some of my favorite screen teams that I think are worthy of another look. This year, I started on a big Joel McCrea kick after catching The More The Merrier for the first time. While him and Jean Arthur are magnetic together (that stoop scene!), I devoured more of his filmography and found myself in love with the films he made with Miriam Hopkins.

McCrea and Hopkins were paired in five films together and each of them are very different. Much has been written about Hopkins and discussions about her these days tend to lean into her feud with Bette Davis and Hopkins’ reputation as a difficult woman. Colleen, the writer of the blog “An Appreciation of Miriam Hopkins,” once wrote to McCrea about his experiences working with her and McCrea couldn’t have been nicer in his note he sent her, saying,

richest“She was a professional gifted young lady – she was never difficult with me – and seldom with anyone that treated her with the respect she deserved. . . . She was a fine actress and I was an unproven actor – she was adorable to me (a former cowboy) trying to make good.”

I start with this quote because it gives insight behind the chemistry these two shared onscreen. The first film the two made together is the romantic comedy, The Richest Girl in the World. McCrea plays Dorothy Hunter, the richest girl in the world, but nobody actually knows who she really is because she’s spent her life hiding herself for fear of gold diggers. She switches places with her secretary in hopes of finding a man who will love her for who she is. During her quest, she meets and falls hard for McCrea’s Tony Travers. It’s easy to see why Warner Brothers decided to pair the two again. They made a great team and a scene in a dark den with the two by a fire sells it. The two match in wits and their glances bring the heat more than the flames in the fireplace.

The physical contrast between the two draws you, as a viewer, in. At 6’2, McCrea towered over his leading ladies including Hopkins who was just 5’1. There’s an added sensuality to this. When McCrea embraces Hopkins, his movement gives an aura of protectiveness to his love for her. His characters are crazy about her but want what’s best for her.

They would reteam the next year for Barbary Coast, an adventure film directed by Howard Hawks. It takes place during the Gold Rush in San Francisco with Hopkins as a tough gold digger (actual gold, not men) and McCrea is a naive poet. The first scene they share together is a sweet moment where Hopkins’ character escapes from Edward G. Robinson’s crooked saloon keeper during a rainy evening into McCrea’s house. McCrea hasn’t seen a woman in years and is instantly smitten by her presence. Their sparks are instant and set the romance of the film in motion.

splendorTheir next film Splendor has McCrea playing a man from a once wealthy family who falls in love with Hopkins, a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks. In this film, McCrea’s family faces bankruptcy. They’re not happy about McCrea marrying Hopkins and treat her like the dirt they think she is. This family is so terrible, the matriarch blackmails Hopkins into sleeping with a wealthy man that could jumpstart McCrea’s career.  What will she do? As a young couple, Hopkins and McCrea are perfect and you root for them because their chemistry is so good. Hopkins is put through the ringer and she is so good at conveying her character’s pain being in the middle of her love for her new husband and his horrible family. McCrea is charming as ever and you feel for him too. He’s oblivious of what’s actually going on, thinking his hard work and talent are the reason for his success.

The fourth McCrea/Hopkins pairing is in These Three, an intense adaptation of the play, The Children’s Hour, however, this film changes the homosexual theme into a heterosexual one and focuses mostly on the lie. The love triangle involves Hopkins, McCrea and Merle Oberon. Hopkins is the standout in this as the doomed Martha (Fun fact: she would appear in the film remake as Martha’s aunt). In this film, McCrea gets engaged to Oberon but it’s in his moments with Hopkins where the real sparks fly. These two are just an undeniable pairing.

Their final film together is the screwball comedy Woman Chases Man. Hopkins does a great job at handling the rapid fire dialogue of the genre. The five films in which they were paired also mirror the versatility these two had as actors. Hopkins has often been criticized as too theatrical or wooden perhaps that’s due to her voice but I think she’s far from that. Hopkins plays an ambitious architect trying to get millionaire McCrea to fund her project. On the whole, this is probably my least favorite of their films, but their scenes make up for it. Watch out for Broderick Crawford in an early role.

woman chases man 2

Each of these films, except for Splendor, are available on DVD via Warner Archive.

Do you have a favorite screen team? Let me know in the comments!

signature

Audrey Hepburn: The Resistance fighter you probably didn’t know about

There’s a new book about Audrey Hepburn in bookstores but this one shines a light on a part of the actress’ life many people don’t talk about. In Dutch Girl, author Robert Matzen chronicles the five years she lived during Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. I’ve read countless biographies on Hepburn and many of them discuss this but not in the scope and detail you’ll find in Dutch Girl. Hepburn was only 11-years-old when the Germans began their occupation in the Netherlands. The film delves deep into her daily life during this time, how the war impacted her family and her work in the Dutch resistance movement. It is harrowing but not exploitative, written with empathy and respect for its subject. It’s a must-read for Hepburn fans and fans of history and classic film.

I had the honor of interviewing Matzen about the book and his research. I’d like to thank him for his time to answer my questions and for writing such a riveting book.

This is the final book in your trilogy about Hollywood and WWII, what drew you to dutch girl audrey hepburn robert matzenthis theme?

Fireball began as a one-off–a book about perhaps the most dramatic weekend in Hollywood history, when Carole Lombard went down in a plane crash and her husband Clark Gable raced to Las Vegas on the thought he could save her. Mission, about Jimmy Stewart’s combat career in the war, hung out there as another great untold Hollywood story because Stewart refused to talk about his war record. Audrey’s story was similar–there were things she simply would not discuss about World War II and that proved to be an irresistible challenge to me. So here were three stories about the war years, each previously untold, each with a leading Hollywood celebrity as the focus. I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to be the one to tell these stories, and other authors can kick themselves for missing the opportunity.

I’m so grateful you decided to dig into Audrey Hepburn’s story. It’s something overlooked when it comes to her image. What do you think readers will be most surprised by when they read this book?

What I’m already hearing is that readers are unprepared for the horrors that Audrey witnessed–the agony of life under the Nazis and the personal, day-to-day fear instilled by that regime; the dire situation Audrey faced personally when the Nazis cut off food from the Dutch people at the end of 1944; and then the sheer terror when the battle came to Audrey’s backyard not just for days but for months on end. Readers will be reorienting themselves to the fact that the young woman from Roman Holiday had been inches away from  death by bullet or bomb eight years earlier. And more than once.

Hepburn’s family has been supportive of the book, contributing to the forward. These were painful memories for their mother, how was it like connecting with them on this difficult subject? Why do you think now is the time that this part of her story is told? 

audrey hepburn 50s

I  intentionally withheld the manuscript from the family until all research was completed and a draft was finished. I didn’t want family interference until I had built my case, and so it was with some trepidation I approached Audrey’s sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti. So imagine my surprise when Luca wrote back immediately and enthusiastically. He had heard there was an author working in the Netherlands for abook about his mother in the war, but he couldn’t track down who it was. We became fast friends and collaborators at that point because he’s the family historian and was eager to read my manuscript to help him “connect the dots” on his mother’s past. Then he started feeding me information from the family archives that helped meconnect some dots, and magic happened at that point.

As for why now, Audrey remains as popular as ever, with timeless appeal and a message of peace, of hope, of selflessness, and of acceptance of people of all skin colors that resonates in these troubled times. Dutch Girl explains why she became this person; it was because of the war she experienced and her personal determination to do what she could to not let history repeat itself. As Luca said, “The war made my mother who she was.”

How did your perspective on Hepburn change during the writing of this book?

I was like everyone–I was aware of Audrey Hepburn and thought she was a beautiful woman, and her work for UNICEF was praiseworthy. But I wasn’t what you’d call a fan. After living with her for going on three years, my admiration has grown to be boundless because of what she survived, how she conducted herself in the war and afterward, and how she surmounted the memories, pain, and trauma to become a champion for peace.

What do you hope readers will walk away with after reading this book?

I think readers will know Audrey a lot better. They will marvel at her secrets and why she was determined to keep them. They’ll understand her personal courage, and what made this very private person tick. Above all, maybe a few readers will look at their own past hardships or traumas, things that have caused pain–maybe bitterness, and use Audrey as an example of turning those negatives into positives to make the world a better place.

Dutch Girl is now available wherever books are sold. 

DUTCH GIRL BLOG TOUR (1)

Dim the house lights: My picks for the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

I am ecstatic to be returning to California for my third TCM Classic Film Festival. Can you believe it’s my third? I can’t either!

This year, I will be covering the festival here on my blog and also serving as ambassador for the network. I can’t wait to bring you coverage from multiple social media channels. I’m truly honored to be a part of this and look forward to what’s in store!

This year’s theme is “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies” and while there are romantic films, you’ll find plenty of other offerings as well. The nitrate series is coming back for the third year and there’s a mix of new classics, too. Looking at you, Star Wars.

To the schedule!

THURSDAY, APRIL 11TH
angie dickison oceans.gif

I will be starting my TCMFF with an old favorite: Ocean’s 11 with Angie Dickinson in attendance. In the humble beginnings of my classic movie fandom I went through a Rat Pack phase. I loved listening to old Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin records and I vividly remember a Rat Pack week on A&E that featured each of their biographies and a rare tv special from the ’60s. Ocean’s 11 is a fun film that I enjoy a great deal. Dickinson is a candid and vivacious storyteller. It’s also a poolside screening. This will be a treat and a great way to kick off the fest.

It’ll be cutting it close but I hope to make it to the screening of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg across the street at House Multiplex 1. I saw this for the first time late last year on the final night of FilmStruck and kept thinking that I really need to see it on the big screen. The colors are so rich and vibrant. TCM answered the call. I have no doubt that on the big screen it will take my breath away.

FRIDAY, APRIL 12TH

This will be the most packed day of the festival for me. I will start bright and early with the 9:30 a.m. screening of Dorothy Arzner’s Merrily We Go To Hell. I’ve never seen this film so I’m going into it blind but I make it a point to see at least one precode at every fest. This will follow my tradition. Fredric March and Sylvia Sydney? SIGN. ME. UP.

I debated on this block between Sleeping Beauty and The Descendants: Growing up in Hollywood panel at Club TCM. I strongly recommend the panels at Club TCM. They are engaging, candid and always a good time but because Disney is so protective of its library and the film’s animators will be on hand to discuss the film, I have to go with Sleeping Beauty.

myfavwife_grant.gif

After that screening, I will hope back in line at the Egyptian for My Favorite WifeI’m a big fan of Mario Cantone having seen him on Broadway and of course in Sex and the City. If you follow him on Twitter or have seen him as a guest programmer on TCM, you’ll know his love for the classics is deep. Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant will discuss the film with Cantone before it screens. I’ve been watching a lot of 90210 since the passing of Luke Perry and she was on the show which is a funny tidbit. She’s a great storyteller and I strongly recommend her book about her dad, Good Stuff.

Although I swore I would never watch Steel Magnolias again after it broke me, it’s screening at TCMFF with Shirley MacLaine. I can’t not go to a theater where I have the chance to be in the same room as Shirley MacLaine! Who needs food? Shirley will feed my soul.

The marathon of a day will come to a close with Do the Right Thing featuring Ruth E. Carter who just won the Oscar for costume design for her gorgeous work on Black Panther.

SATURDAY, APRIL 13

I’ll be sleeping in during the first block of offerings Saturday and then make it to Fox: An Appreciation. I’ve long talked about how much Fox and their films mean to me and now that the studio has been gobbled up by Disney, I am intrigued to see what this presentation will offer.

After this I will book it to House Multiplex 1 to get in line for…JEFF GOLDBLUM. I’m a huge fan like the rest of the internet so I plan to go in ahead of time as he will be a big draw. I want to get a good seat to see Dr. Ian Malcolm.

I’ll round out the day with my first nitrate screening of the fest: Samson and Delilah. Truthfully, I’m not big on biblical epics but this is a Cecil B. DeMille fan and it’s bound to look gorgeous on nitrate.

SUNDAY, APRIL 14

And just like that, it’s the final day! The one film I’m looking forward to the most is the final film being shown at the festival. It’s… THE DOLLY SISTERS.

betty dolly sisters.gif

You all know how much I love Betty Grable and this will be the first time I see a movie of hers on the big screen. And…it’s on nitrate.

I will cry.

Well, there you have it! The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival.

What films do you plan on seeing this year? Let me know in the comments and see you in Hollywood!

 

signature

Lost in the shadows: William Holden and film noir

holden_turning point.pngHappy Noirvember! The month dedicated to hard boiled detectives, sassy dames and suspense. Never heard of Noirvember? It started in 2010 by Marya E. Gates on her blog to watch as many film noirs as she could and since then, it’s blown up into a full on celebration of noir on social media and beyond.

Keeping with my year-long project #Holden100 for William Holden’s centennial, I contacted Turner Classic Movies to speak with the “Czar of Noir” himself Eddie Muller about Holden’s films in the noir genre. Like many actors of his era, Holden wasn’t immune to film noir and made four films in the genre including one of its best, Sunset Boulevard.  Below are his answers to my questions.

1. Like many actors of the classic Hollywood era, William Holden also dabbled in the film noir genre with The Dark Past, Sunset Boulevard, The Turning Point and Union Station. In my opinion, Holden’s ability to play sardonic characters who grapple with their own humanity made him a perfect fit for this genre. Where do you see Holden in film noir canon?
The short answer: Under-used. Paramount saw him mainly as a romantic leading man
and tried to cash in on his handsome, virile appeal during his “prime” years. But Billy
Wilder understood the drama in watching a guy like that unravel, which of course is
what typically happens in noir. One of my biggest disappointments is that Holden never
got to play the role for which he was perfectly suited: private eye Philip Marlowe. To me,
he embodies the character as written by Raymond Chandler: more a cynical intellectual
than a genuine tough guy. As you say, “a sardonic character grappling with his
humanity.” The movies never show Marlowe smoking a pipe and working out chess
problems, which he did in the books. Holden could have sold THAT Marlowe very
convincingly. And we know he can do a great voiceover. His narration in Sunset
Boulevard might be the best voiceover ever.

2. In The Dark Past, Holden plays a killer. It was a different William Holden than the public had seen before. Do you consider The Dark Past a film noir or is it more in the vein of a psychological thriller?
It’s part of the obsession Hollywood had in that era for psychiatry, which was a relatively
new phenomenon. It had been made once before, in 1939, as Blind Alley, in which
Chester Morris played the killer. I actually like that film better. It’s basically a hostage
drama with an overdose of Freudian psychobabble. Holden is fun to watch, but I’m not a
big fan of this film.

holden_sunsetboulevard3. Sunset Boulevard is Holden’s breakout film and arguably the most important film of his career. Many point to this as a landmark film noir. Can you explain why it’s revered that way for some people who make think of film noir in a nuts and bolts way like a film noir is, “When there’s a detective and there’s a femme fatale?” 
Some people don’t think of Sunset Boulevard as noir because Norma Desmond is not the typical femme fatale. I totally disagree. My only definition of a femme fatale is “The last woman you should ever meet and you can’t resist her.” That pretty much defines Joe’s relationship with Norma. There’s so much grotesque stuff in this movie, and such a sense of dread and opulent squalor that Holden’s performance tends to go unnoticed, even though, as you say, it’s his “breakout” film. But remember—he also made Born Yesterday the same year, which was much more popular with the public. Although he was overshadowed in that film by both Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford, that image of Holden—bright, smooth, attractive—is what the public liked. Which is why Wilder, the great contrarian, cast him against type in Stalag 17, which won him the Oscar. The recent 4K restoration of Sunset is amazing for how it enhances Holden’s performance—you can really see his wonderful silent reactions to Swanson in their scenes together. He’s absolutely brilliant.

4. In Union Station, Holden was paired again with Nancy Olson and in this film, he plays a tough cop. Holden and Olson made a total of four films (two of them were film noirs) but they never seemed to take off as a screen team. Do you think they had potential to be a film noir team but the scripts just weren’t there? 
I think they were both a bit wasted in Union Station. There isn’t much to the characters;
the studio was just trying to cash in on their chemistry in Sunset Boulevard, without
bothering to create interesting characters. Frankly, anybody could have played Holden’s
part in this movie. It’s an OK film, with some great sequences, but the characters aren’t
developed. As for her potential in noir, Nancy Olson was a bit too much of the spunky
good girl. She is perfect in Sunset Boulevard, but she was never really used that well
again. Or at least I haven’t seen the movie in which she’s that good again.

5. The Turning Point is one of my favorite William Holden films but it seems to be rarely seen. I’m so happy its Paramount restoration has been shown at Noir City festivals this year. Can you tell me about the restoration process and what are your thoughts on The Turning Point?
holden_turning pointWe lobbied Paramount for many years to revive this film. It is an underseen,
undervalued part of the film noir “continuum,” an important and representative example from the early ’50s, and one of the best stories by Horace McCoy, who is mostly known as the author of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They. After Sunset, this is my favorite noir featuring William Holden; he’s great in it. As for the new DCP, Paramount did it from a scan of the original negative. I don’t believe there was the same amount of restoration
that went into Sunset Boulevard, but I’m just thankful that Andrea Kalas, who runs the
studio archive, made sure it got done. I believe Kino is putting it out on Blu-ray.

6. Looking back at his film noir roles, I think these four films speak to what a versatile performer William Holden was. He could play a villain, a cad and a hero with ease. Holden would have turned 100 this year. What do you think is the legacy he leaves behind?
He’s a better actor than he often gets credit for. Because he’s handsome and he makes
it looks easy, as you say. And I don’t want to overlook some great performances he
gave later in his career. He’s tremendous in The Wild Bunch, absolutely tremendous.
Pike Bishop is one of the most vivid and believable characters ever, especially for a
western. Peckinpah was a genius, like Wilder. He saw something in Holden that others
couldn’t or didn’t want to see. A depth and a sadness. And it comes out in two other
roles from around the same time, Eastwood’s Breezy and, of course, Network—in which
his great work is, again, overshadowed by the bigger, brassier performances around
him, Finch and Dunaway especially. But he’s the heart of that film, and does a
heartbreaking job with it. Holden grew old pretty fast (the drinking didn’t help) but he
wasn’t afraid to show it onscreen, which led to some very moving later performances.

Many thanks to Eddie Muller and Turner Classic Movies for taking the time to discuss William Holden and film noir. You can catch Eddie on Noir Alley every Saturday at midnight and Sunday at 10 AM ET on Turner Classic Movies. 

signature

An actor meets his idol: William Holden and Fredric March

fredric march birthdayFredric March was born 121 years ago today.  Considered widely as one of the greatest talents of his generation, the actor was respect by his peers. William Holden also considered him one of his acting idols. The two costarred together in two films, Executive Suite and The Bridges at Toko-Ri. An actor meets his idol: William Holden and Fredric March. The ladder was even considered to be Holden’s favorite among his films.

Holden’s companion Stefanie Powers once said: “(William Holden) was never nostalgic about his films. The one film that he would talk about, his favorite film was The Bridges at Toko-Ri. It had been his second time working with Fredric March, and he loved and admired him. Every younger actor of his day realized the worth of this great craftsman, and never more than the way they worked together in Bridges At Toko-Ri,

holden_march

To spotlight March’s birthday I spoke with writer and Fredric March historian Jill Blake about his work and his films with William Holden in this special audio entry of Flickin’ Out. You can listen to our conversation below and follow Jill on Twitter @biscuitkitten.

Nancy Kwan and the importance of ‘representation matters’

nancykwan_suziewong.jpgThe new film, Crazy Rich Asians, will open this Wednesday in theaters. This isn’t just another summer romantic comedy. This will be the first film in 25 years to center on an Asian-American story featuring an all Asian-American cast. Insert the shock face emoji because this is a rather sad statistic. The film is based on the best selling book written by Kevin Kwan. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear from his distant cousin at the TCM Classic Film Festival, the iconic actress Nancy Kwan.

Nancy Kwan is the first Chinese actress to achieve mainstream Hollywood stardom. Her success happened by a happy accident when she landed the role of Suzie Wong in the film, The World of Suzie Wong in 1960. (more on the crazy turn of events later). I was so excited to hear that she was attending the festival that I knew I just had to go. Kwan has an unmistakable presence onscreen. She is strikingly beautiful but also playful and tender. Her characters always exuded confidence and charisma.

When I was waiting for her discussion to begin, an Asian woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation. She was with her daughter and told me how she traveled from Pittsburgh just to see Nancy Kwan after hearing she’d be in Hollywood. She told me she was an extra in a film of Kwan’s many years ago and how excited all of the other extras were to see her during its production. She described Nancy Kwan as “her Elvis,” and elaborated by saying how Nancy Kwan represented women like her and it was important for her to see herself onscreen. It’s here that I must stress that representation onscreen isn’t just a catchphrase or a hashtag on social media. It opens our eyes to all that the world around us has to offer and it helps us connect with our own selves in the process. When Kwan walked onto the stage, I’ll never forget glancing over to the woman who had tears in her eyes and a smile beaming from ear to ear. That’s the power of representation.

The World of Suzie Wong was Kwan’s big break. She was just 20-years-old when she was discovered by producer Ray Stark. The  film was already in pre-production with French-Vietnamese actress France Nuyen in the title role, a role she originated in the Broadway production. She and director Jean Negulesco were fired from the film and after Kwan and Richard Quine were hired to replace the two, the entire crew had to go back to Hong Kong to re-film scenes.

In conversation with historian Donald Bogle at the TCM Classic Film Festival, Kwan was a delight. She shared stories about her career, the people she worked with and gratitude for her opportunities yet it was also a bit poignant because Hollywood only let her go so far. Something William Holden told her during the making of The World of Suzie Wong stuck with her all these years, “You can do a big film and be very successful but in order to sustain a career, you have to have roles written for you.” Unfortunately, Nancy Kwan didn’t have as many as she had hoped but that doesn’t stop her from cementing her status as a glass ceiling breaker among Asians in Hollywood.

Despite that, she remains optimistic for the future of Asian representation in film and also stated that she was excited for the release of Crazy Rich Asians in an interview with NBC. Unfortunately, if you were hoping for a cameo, she is not a part of the film.

To hear the entire conversation from the festival, you can listen here thanks to Julia over at Cinema Crossroads.

Nancy Olson at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival

nancyolson_still.jpg

One of the highlights of this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was hearing the fabulous Nancy Olson speak. I’ve been a fan of Olson’s for a while now and she is a great storyteller. Whether it be on television or in person appearances, she is always candid, respectful and full of memories and moxie. She’s attended the festival before but has eluded me. When I saw her on the lineup this year, I knew I had to make it. Olson is now 89 and her memories are as sharp as ever.

The theme for this year’s festival was “From page to screen” and what better film to spotlight than Sunset Boulevard? Arguably it’s one of the greatest screenplays ever written. On top of that, it’s William Holden’s centennial year so I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to hear, in person, from someone who worked with him four times! I love the screen teaming of Olson and Holden. There was a great deal of respect between the two and it shows on film.

Olson_TCMFF.jpg

Below is the raw audio of Olson’s talk with Micheal Feinstein at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival.

My thoughts on William Holden in NETWORK (1976)

This week’s guest blogger is Dominique Lessing from the blog, Miss Classic Film.

Holden_NetworkUBSIt’s very special to be able to relieve a moment where an artist and in this case an actor and a piece of written material fuse together at the perfect moment in time to create a monumental moment on screen. This is what magically happened to William Holden in the year of 1976. It seems fitting that as we celebrate his centennial this year, that we acknowledge the timing of his life and artistry during this period in his career.

When Holden received the script of NETWORK by Patty Chayefsky he was in the prime of his fifties. Only at that time in his life could he have played news division president, Max Schumacher who had been through all the ropes professionally and personally, and still was finding himself grappling with possessing real meaning in his life. With an illustrious career behind him Holden brought all his wisdom, truth, and compassion to the part which he never could have done if he had taken this role in his twenties or thirties.

As I watched this film for the twentieth time for his centennial what drew me in to his character was his loyalty and truth. Now, I know what you are thinking, this is a film about fabrications, deceit, phoniness, and ego, how could I see such admirable qualities in NETWORK but Holden gives it to us in all his complexities and rawness. Right from the beginning of the picture when he witnesses his friend news anchor, Howard Beal get slashed and made into a spectacle on live television, again and again, it’s Holden who stands up and lets him even stay at his apartment to avoid the media frenzy. We quickly see that he is the only one at the station or in what it seems all of New York City who remotely cares about what happens to Beal. I also know what you’re going to tell me next, he may have been a good friend to Beal but he certainly wasn’t a good husband, let’s not forget his stint of running off with Faye Dunaway for months while all the television studio chaos is going on… Yes, this is true but Holden speaks his truth. He does.

holden_network

Whether you want to call it a midlife crisis or an act of betrayal in his marriage, what is certain and what we see is a character who doesn’t let his desires cloud his need to live in an honest way. When he goes off to live with the Faye Dunaway he knows in his heart it is the truthful thing to do. Holden then in the end leaves Dunaway because he cannot keep living dishonestly to himself because he knows that she doesn’t know how to love him or want to. Yes, this is what in the end makes him such a great character in Network, and why it is one of Holden’s films. He gives a man who is grappling with how does one be authentic when everything surrounding him has become a freak show of fabrication to gain attention and wealth.

I believe more than ever that we all need William Holden today because as our media society becomes closer and closer to the world of NETWORK, seeing a man like him who makes us think about how we are behaving and with what values is immensely important. I am forever grateful for this film and for this man, William Holden for giving us such a character depicted on screen.

Many thanks to Dominique for taking part in Holden100. Follow her on Twitter here.

For more of Holden100, click here.

Holden_Vertical