Grace Kelly: Her Secret Hideaway [UPDATE]

Hello, readers! Some of you may remember my very first post on The Classic Movie Muse where I recounted my visit to Newport, Rhode Island, and the story behind Grace Kelly’s stay there while filming High Society (1956), her last Hollywood film. If you haven’t read that post, click here.

Recently I went back to Newport and discovered MORE of this soon-to-be princess’s hideaway…

I was there on a glorious sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, when to my surprise a whole new area of the beach appeared to me. This time around I was visiting at low tide, and the water that had hidden the shore on my last visit had gone, leading me to discover a new, expansive rocky cove.

I noticed an escarpment that looked like it had been traversed many times in the past, but not recently. Was this the path Grace took to and from the beach before the inn staff had built the staircase for her?

As I said in my initial post, I feel so honored to be able to walk in the footsteps of Grace Kelly, and no visit is complete without a time of reflection and thinking of Grace herself. She was a great lady who went after what she wanted with abandon. She was loving, passionate, and gentle. A star whose light on earth was dimmed too soon, but will continue to glow in the cinematic heavens forever.

It’s hard for me to believe how this place, a cherished spot of one of the most famous personalities in history, is still so obscure and unknown; but to me, that is part of the mystery and the beauty that is Grace Kelly Beach.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

It's Award Time! – The Liebster Award

A few weeks ago Zoe from Hollywood Genes nominated me for the Liebster Award! Thank you so much, Zoe! The Liebster Award is a way to reach out, connect, and encourage each other in the blogging community.

In order to accept this award there are a few rules to follow, so without further delay let’s begin…

The rules for the Liebster Award:

  1. Thank the nominator in your award post.
  2. Place the award logo somewhere on your blog.
  3. You must state up to 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Complete the questions that your nominator provided.
  5. Nominate as many bloggers as you’d like (11 is the maximum).
  6. Ask your nominees a series of questions (11 is the maximum).

11 Facts about Myself:

  1. I watched GWTW as a teen so many times I practically have the movie memorized and can push a play button in my head to “watch it” with sound included.
  2. I was told by two different people in the same day about ten minutes of each other that I look like Anne Hathaway.
  3. The books on my shelves can be divided into mainly four categories: film; fiction; interior design; and music/art.
  4. For a project in high school I had to draw all 50 of the US flags and as a result I still have a pretty good grasp of them.
  5. Classic film inspired me to take up ballroom dancing. I’m no Ginger Rogers, but I intended to develop my skills in this area as I absolutely love it.
  6. As a youngster I would pretend I was Esther Williams in our backyard pool and imitate her routine from the one film I had of hers.
  7. As a kid, I once ate a bowl and a half of plain Cool Whip in one sitting and haven’t touched it since.
  8. I play two instruments.
  9. My favorite classical composers are Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff. As for popular music, the Great American Songbook is my jam – Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein.
  10. The Phantom of the Opera is my favorite stage show. I have seen it three times, and would gladly see it again.
  11. I have never broken a bone – knock on wood!

My 11 Questions from Zoe

What is the strangest or most off-brand topic/thing you’ve blogged about?

I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for this one as I try to keep everything on topic as best I can.

Who or what inspired you to start blogging?

One day after watching a film and looking it up online, I came across some of the lovely blogs that I am in contact with now. I thought, “Hey, I wanna do what these people are doing – to join them by way of spreading and sharing my love of classic movies with others.” These films are too great to be lost to obscurity and deserve to be noticed and appreciated for the wonderful pieces of art that they are.

Recast one of your favorite classic movies (pre 1970s) with modern actors.

VERTIGO (1958)

  • Jessica Biel as Madeleine Elster
  • Daniel Craig as Scottie Ferguson
  • Reese Witherspoon as Midge Wood

Recast one of your favorite modern movies with classic actors.

THE ILLUSIONIST (2006)

  • Ingrid Bergman as Sophie
  • Gregory Peck as Eisenheim
  • Claude Rains as Inspector Uhl
  • Vincent Price as Crown Prince Leopold

What is a book that you would love to see adapted into a film and why? 

I read a book as a youngster that I loved called The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. It is a lovely tale with a wonderful message about being loved for who you really are – not for money, status, or appearance. The princess in the story is plucky, self-reliant, happy with who she is and takes the reins in delegating how her life plays out.

What do you consider the biggest misstep behind the scenes in the cinema world (i.e. not casting someone for a role, a specific directorial choice, a remake that shouldn’t have happened, an interview that went on to haunt someone, etc.)

No disrespect to Bogie, but if I was casting Sabrina (1953) I would have cast someone else as Linus Larrabee. Maybe Rock Hudson would have worked…I could see him playing the strictly business type turned soft by Audrey’s charms.

What do you consider the most fascinating film community scandal (past or present)?

Too many to name!

Which actor or actress do you think died way too soon and where would you have liked to see their career go had they lived?

Oh, there are so many I could go with here but my heart always goes out to Marilyn Monroe. She had the intelligence and the popularity to go up higher in the industry. She did have her own production company and I’m sure she could have kept going up the ladder if her life had permitted.

Which actor or actress missed their calling in a specific genre and why do you think they would or would have excelled in this vein? 

I would say Merle Oberon. In The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) she showed she had some comedic chops as well as being a fine dramatic actress.

Which 6 guests would you invite to your Hollywood party and why these specific 6? 

Oh yay, I love this question! I would invite Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, William Holden, Lucille Ball, and Marlon Brando. I think besides being very talented as well as some of my favorite actors, these six would make a fine bunch to give advice about many things and would be all around awesome to hang out with.

Which onscreen outfit would you wear everyday if you could and why did you pick this one?

Grace Kelly’s dress from Rear Window (1954). Because it would make me feel beautiful and the skirt looks roomy enough to move around in and be comfortable. Wearing white all day would make me nervous though! I wouldn’t want to get it dirty 😉

The Nominees

  1. Pure Entertainment Preservation Society
  2. The Classic Hollywood Blog
  3. Classic Film Journal
  4. Femnista
  5. Hollywoodland Photos

My Questions for the Nominees

  1. When did you first become interested in classic film?
  2. What is your favorite movie quote?
  3. If you had to choose 5 movies to take with you to a deserted island what would they be and why those 5?
  4. Who is the latest actor/director etc. that you’ve discovered and where/how did you discover them?
  5. What’s something you’ve learned about yourself from blogging?

Congrats to the nominees!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Nook – I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, The Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll

“We may never be fortunate enough to travel down a yellow brick road with a real Scarecrow or Tin Man or Cowardly Lion, but those lucky of us have had or do have our Totos. When we stroke and hold our own current four-legged friends, we think of all the dogs that came before. And we think of Toto.”

Willard Carroll

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love when a film adds an animal friend to the mix – whether it’s Gertrude the duck in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Asta from the The Thin Man series or Baby, the music loving leopard. Animals add an element of innocence, fun, or danger and can draw emotions from us in a way that a million words of dialogue cannot.

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any amount of time you’ll realize that I admire The Wizard of Oz, so when I saw that this book was available I knew I needed to add it to my collection. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.

In this charming book, you’ll discover the life of Terry, the little dog that nobody wanted, who became one of the movies’ most memorable pups and a beloved icon.

Before there was The Dog Whisperer, there was Carl Spitz – a German immigrant who changed the way we understand and train our dogs. When he started his Hollywood Dog Training School in 1927, dog training for the public was according to Spitz, “considered, in general, nonsense.” Spitz’s foundation for training was simple: firm, affectionate direction. As a military and police dog trainer, Spitz had devised a system of silent dog commands to be used by the deaf which he would later use for directing canines before the cameras.

Terry the Cairn Terrier was brought to Carl and his wife’s home for training (housebreaking), but after she completed her training Terry’s owners never paid their bill. The Spitz’s adopted little Terry as their own. She became a loved member of the family and eventually, a bonafide star – rechristened as ‘Toto.’

what did i enjoy?

The format – Throughout the telling of this heartwarming story are many visuals, presented in a scrapbook style highlighting Toto’s career. Production photos, photos of her life at home, press clippings, and memorabilia are heavily scattered throughout its pages.

Worth the price of admission alone are the inside covers inscribed to Toto by her many co-stars. My favorites have to be Judy Garland’s – “Dear Toto, I think I’ll miss you most of all (don’t tell Ray!)” and Jack Haley’s – “You warm this Tin Man’s heart!”

The star stories – In addition to Oz, Toto was cast in Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy and Bright Eyes (1934) with Shirley Temple, to name a few. The account of Toto’s first meeting with Clark Gable is particularly memorable.

In addition to discussing Toto’s career and life story, the book also talks about the other dogs in Carl Spitz’s kennel and the movies they were featured in. For instance, Buck, who starred with Gable in Call of the Wild (1935), was the first star to emerge under Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School. Another notable is Prince from Wuthering Heights (1939).

Carl Spitz with his prized pets before embarking on their tour (1942). The dogs were valued at $20,000 each!

The perspective – 99% of the time when reading about Old Hollywood I’m reading about humans. It’s interesting to change it up and see how a dog gets ready for a day of shooting, the problems they encountered while filming, or how the trainer prepares them for a screen test.

what would i change?

Nothing! I only wish it were longer.

who is this book for?

Any fan of The Wizard of Oz, classic movies, “rags to riches” stories, or dogs in general would enjoy this book.

Since this book is written from a dog’s perspective and Terry is telling you her story, I think this book would be great for kids who are showing an interest in classic movies, Oz fans in particular.

Virginia Weidler, Toto, and Gene Reynolds in a publicity photo for Bad Little Angel (1939)

want to know more?

In the introduction the author says how he was driven to write the book because at the time Toto did not even have an Imdb page! As of this writing, this book appears to be the only book dedicated solely to her. It was published in 2001.

I have found some information on Toto in The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz as well as The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 M-G-M Classic by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (I own the 2004 expanded edition).

You can purchase today’s book here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

It's Award Time! – Blogger Recognition Award

About a week ago, I was happy to learn that The Classic Movie Muse is the proud recipient of the Blogger Recognition Award! My fellow blogger, Sally Silverscreen at 18 Cinema Lane, was kind enough to bestow this award on me. Thank you so much, Sally! Sally’s blog covers everything from Hallmark movies to contemporary movies to classic movies and if you haven’t stopped by her blog yet, I highly encourage you to visit!

Here’s the link to Sally’s blog: https://18cinemalane.wordpress.com/

The rules for the award are as follows:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Place the award banner somewhere on your blog
  3. Share the story or history behind the creation of your blog.
  4. Provide two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.
  6. Share the exciting news with your nominees

The first two rules have been completed above, and now we move on to rule number three…

3. Share the story or history behind the creation of your blog.

Classic movies have always been one of my passions, but I never dreamed I’d have a blog about them. After watching a film, I usually look it up online to learn more about it, and one day I happened upon some of the blogs that I am in contact with now. The wonderful blogs and blogging community I encountered gave me a desire to start my own blog and to be a part of the community.

4. Provide two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.

Since I am a fairly new blogger myself (nearly 4 months) I don’t feel very qualified to answer, but one thing that always helps in life is to not compare yourself with others. No one else has the same perspective, gifts, and essence as you do. Let your voice be heard for that is what makes you unique.

My second piece of advice is to have fun! Enjoy the process, and when things get tough (writer’s block, etc.), allow yourself some time away and come back to it later with a fresh mind.

5. Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Love & War: Marriage in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Image: amc.com

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the Old South, is one of the best selling books of all time. When made into a film in 1939, it became an international phenomenon that has intrigued the public like no other. To this day, Gone With the Wind is still the most succesful movie ever made.

Ripe with complex characters, wonderful performances, and non-stop action, the film thrills in every way possible. In the midst of this sprawling epic are three couples with varying dynamics in their marital relationships. I would like to focus on these in particular: Gerald and Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s parents; Ashley and Melanie Wilkes; and of course, Rhett and Scarlett.

Gerald & Ellen O’Hara

Image: Pinterest

Gerald (Thomas Mitchell) and Ellen O’Hara (Barbara O’Neill) are the owners of the Tara plantation. Their pride and joy is wrapped up in every fiber of the land.

Image: gonewiththewindfandom.com

Ellen devotes herself to being the mistress of Tara and is a very capable one. A responsive mother to the emotional needs of her daughters, and a midwife to the women in town, she is highly respected in their community.

The relationship between Gerald and Ellen is platonic and respectful. Coming from the book, theirs was an arranged marriage and while Gerald was wild about Ellen, she did not feel the same about him. Ellen was in love with another man whom she could not marry due to her family’s disapproval. Gerald was always of the opinion that his wife was as happy as he was in their marriage, and I’m sure it would have broken his heart if he knew the truth.

When Ellen passes on, Gerald cannot function without her and sadly, loses his mind. His strength seemed to come from Ellen even before she passed, but it was most definitely buried with her when she died.

Ashley & Melanie Wilkes

Image: lanternhollow.wordpress.com

Our next couple, Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), are second cousins. In the film Ashley says, “She [Melanie] is part of my blood and we understand each other.” That pretty much summarizes their relationship – it is built upon understanding and familiarity. In the book, Ashley and Melanie share the same interests: reading, culture, and the arts. While this is not spoken of in the film, it is clear that they are cut from the same cloth. They both are peace loving people with not an aggressive bone in their bodies.

Image: directexpose.com

Although Ashley strings Scarlett along with hopes of romance, his heart belongs to Melanie. While he is drawn to Scarlett’s fire and passionate nature, he knows that a relationship between them would not be a successful one. Melanie is much better suited to him. She understands his nature and idolizes him, while he leans on and admires her quiet, gentle strength.

When Melanie passes, Ashley takes on a similar behavior that Gerald exhibited at Ellen’s passing. He then confesses to Scarlett that he cannot live without Melanie. “She’s the only dream I’ve had that didn’t die in the face of reality.” Like Gerald, Ashley’s strength comes from his wife, and it is at that moment Scarlett realizes how her affections have been misplaced for so long.

Rhett & Scarlett

Image: abcnews.go.com

It is love at first sight when Rhett (Clark Gable) first lays eyes on Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). He’s drawn to her beauty, her strength, and to the fact that she is just like him. Rhett admits to Scarlett that they are alike and meant to be together.”Bad lots – both of us. We are able to look things in the eye and call them by their real names.”

Scarlett has a disrespect for Rhett in the sense that he is not a genteel Southern gentleman whom she was raised to admire. He is a self made man who takes advantage of the war by making his own fortune off of it. He has no nostalgia for the Old South nor respects its ways. Rhett is a man of action, ready for whatever life throws at him. He is not the type of man Scarlett has been dreaming of marrying since she was a little girl. That place belongs to someone like Ashley.

Rhett proves himself a capable and trustworthy man despite his scandalous reputation. Although Scarlett doesn’t admit to loving him until the end of the movie, she does come to lean on him in times of need. That’s not something she could say for many of the other men in her life.

Image: Pinterest

You could say Scarlett uses marriage as a tool – sometimes as a weapon, other times as a shield. When she marries her first husband, it is out of spite to hurt Ashley. Not only that, she strategically marries into Ashley’s family, forever being tied to him. When she marries her second husband, it is to save Tara from being taken away from her. When she marries Rhett, it is for the security of never being poor. Unlike most women, Scarlett does not marry for love.

Rhett and Scarlett’s marriage is volatile, tempestuous, and passionate. The times we see them happy together are few, and the tension between them mounts as the film goes on.

Rhett seethes with jealousy as he observes Scarlett in her constant pursuit of Ashley and is deeply hurt by Scarlett’s rejection of him, while Scarlett believes that Rhett is in love with Belle, not with her at all.

Image: Pinterest

Their marriage is characterized by misunderstanding fostered by miscommunication. Neither of them can admit their true feelings to each other. The few times one of them comes close to having a transparent conversation, the other throws a jab and then they’re back to square one – arguing and bickering without coming to a resolution.

Rhett and Scarlett were both strong willed individuals and meant for each other, but Scarlett failed to see the cold, hard facts until it was too late.

Rhett and Scarlett rank right up there with literature and lore’s most famous lovers: Antony and Cleopatra; and Lancelot and Guinevere. However, unlike the aforementioned couples, Rhett and Scarlett did make it to the marriage altar – for better or worse.

This post is my contribution to The Wedding Bells Blogathon hosted by Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood. Click here to read the rest of the blissful entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

My Favorite Leading Men

Here we are – already almost through the first month of the year! Very hard to believe. With that said, I’ve realized that I haven’t done any favorites lists on this blog yet and thought it would be a fun way to spice things up a little. So today, I’ve decided to look at those men who helm the whole picture, opposite the fabulous leading lady of course! I’m going to list my favorites, the role(s) that made me a fan of them, and any other tidbits that I found interesting. Without further ado, let’s begin!

“For me, acting is not an all-consuming thing, except for the moment when I am actually doing it.”

william holden

One of my most watched movies as a teenager was Sabrina (1954). I loved the romance of the Cinderella story, Sabrina’s transformation in Paris, and the characters that inhibit the story. Another aspect I loved about this movie was Sabrina’s crush, David (William Holden). He was charming, handsome, and had a smile that could melt any girl’s heart. I loved the song “Isn’t it Romantic” and still think about David and Sabrina dancing whenever I hear it. What came through to me in this film were Holden’s playful and romantic sides. This was my first Holden film, and it wasn’t until later that I discovered he was much more than a romantic lead.

Ah, I love this film for so many reasons! Judy Holliday is absolutely marvelous in Born Yesterday (1950) as Billie, the uneducated arm candy mistress of a criminal boyfriend. In comes Paul Varrell, (William Holden) and treats the girl as if she were a princess. He listens to her uncritically, nonjudmentally, patiently, and then teaches her to think critically for herself. The chemistry between these two is just lovely as is evidenced by both the romantic and comedic moments.

What stood out to me in this film was how kind Paul is to Billie. His innate goodness shines through the character in a way that I haven’t seen in too many other leading men. It’s so beautiful to see. A little backstory, I’ve heard that it takes leading actors a great deal of humility to take on a role where they know they are going to play second fiddle to someone with a scene stealing part and some will even refuse to “stoop down” to that level. Holden was not of that mindset and supported Holliday (in her Oscar winning role) with grace and dignity.

“I’m no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me.”

clark gable

Clark Gable. The King of Hollywood. In my opinion, Clark Gable was one of the best personalities to ever grace the silver screen. Actually, he commanded it. I love his no nonsense attitude, his sense of humor, his calm, steady manner in times of crises, but most of all, I appreciate the vulnerability that came through in his performances. Underneath all of his bravado and machismo, there beat a gentle heart that needed love and care. In addition, he passed on his sensitive understanding of humanity to others.

Red Dust (1932). Screenshot by me.

Watch the scene in Red Dust (1932) when Clark is about to tell Gene Raymond how he and Mary Astor love each other. Gene Raymond tells Clark his and Mary’s plans for settling down and raising a family and of Mary’s love for their close knit family and friends. Clark’s manner and expression changes from being confident and in control, to sad and reflective, as he knows that he will have to give up Mary. It is a subtly effective, beautiful moment on film.

One of the many pleasures of watching Gone with the Wind (1939) is Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler. Rhett, besides Mammy, is the only one who sees right through Scarlett’s shenanigans and isn’t fooled by the innocence that she masquerades in front of others. He knows exactly who she is and sardonically calls her out on it, but loves her anyway. With Rhett, what you see is what you get. He is bold and honest, and respects those who are the same.

When Melanie comes to comfort Rhett after Scarlett’s accident, Clark gave us one out of the many golden scenes in Gone with the Wind. He encompasses Rhett’s guilt and pain, the tenderness and trust of his friendship with Melanie, and his doomed, tortured love for Scarlett all in one short scene.

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actors duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it is his dedication.”

marlon brando

Marlon Brando is a fairly new discovery for me. I know, I know, how can you be a classic movie fan and not know Marlon Brando? Crazy, right? I’d seen Guys and Dolls and heard about all the accolades for On the Waterfront through the years; but I wasn’t in a rush to see it as I thought it was all hype – that is, until I saw it.

In On the Waterfront, (1954) Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is a product of his unfortunate circumstances. He is caught in the middle of his allegiance to Johnny Friendly, the corrupt union boss who rules the docks, and his own moral compass. His goodness is brought to the forefront by his love for the sweet and innocent Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint). It is through their relationship that the tender side of this tough, hard nosed ex-prize fighter comes out, which Marlon beautifully portrays with the emotional sensitivity that became his trademark.

As a sculptor molds clay or a painter wields his paintbrush, Marlon becomes Terry before our very eyes taking us through each stage of Terry’s development and his emotional journey. Throughout the film, he transitions from a victim/accomplice into a courageous man who recognizes his own personal power and embraces it despite the great danger and opposition surrounding him. Marlon won an Oscar for his performance, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a towering performance, both heartbreaking and empowering, flawless in its execution, and should not be missed.

Now it’s your turn! Who are some of your favorites?

Image: Pinterest

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956): How One Woman's Convictions Changed a Country

Fortunately…I had my Deborah Kerr. She was heaven. She was the perfect Mrs. Anna. She understood Mrs. Anna completely. She understood the relationship between the two. And this is really what made the picture work.”

Yul Brynner

20th Century Fox’s production of The King and I (1956) is a sparkling gem in the crown of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. The terrific cast, memorable tunes, and universal message holds an undying appeal that continues to touch generation after generation.

While at first glance one would think the movie belongs to Yul Brynner, after all he has been identified with the king ever since originating the role on Broadway in 1951, and even the title of the film implies this; however, it is the pairing of Brynner with his leading lady, Deborah Kerr, and the chemistry between them that makes the movie truly come alive and take wing.

For us today, it is hard to imagine that Deborah Kerr was not the first choice for the role of the prim and proper English schoolteacher. Vivien Leigh was considered, but because of health issues she was not able to take on the project.

A notorious perfectionist, Yul Brynner was quite pleased with the casting of Kerr after having met and seeing her perform on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy. The two became good friends with a pleasant working relationship. There were even rumors of a romance between the two. Deborah Kerr later remembered,

“It was Yul who was the solid inspiration behind the movie. He knew and loved every line of the story and every note of the music, and it came out so well due to his insistence that this and that had to be done the way he wanted. He could be difficult, but only because he knew he was right.”

Deborah Kerr, as Anna Leonowens, not only beautifully holds the central heart of the film, she holds her own against the larger than life portrayal of Yul Brynner’s King of Siam. Her character is strong, uncompromising, and just as stubborn as the king; but she is also a lady of principle, propriety, and tenderness. She is the catalyst for change, a breath of fresh air in a place that is stale and harsh. All of these nuances come through in her performance making her a force to be reckoned with.

Anna’s differences with the king set off fireworks, both politically and sexually, resulting in one of the greatest and most romantic scenes in cinematic history – the “Shall We Dance” number. The two draw close together and majestically whirl around the dance floor in an unforgettable scene of unspoken joy, love, and desire.

Beneath the spectacle and grandeur of the film is the underlying principle of freedom and equality. Anna encourages the freedom of the Siamese people and the equality of women in every way she can. She supports Tuptim (Rita Moreno) in her desire to be with Lun Tha, and gives her Uncle Tom’s Cabin to read, inspiring her to dream of and believe in her chance of freedom. Anna encourages the people to think for themselves and perhaps most importantly, she inspires Prince Chulalongkorn’s decree that there will no longer be any groveling on the floor before the king, no doubt leading to more modernization for the people in his upcoming reign.

There is much to enjoy in the The King and I. The screenplay is marvelous, the music is delightful, and the sets and costumes are beautiful, but each time I watch it I’m always struck by Deborah Kerr’s brilliant portrayal of a courageous woman who influenced the change of a nation.

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr’s handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

This post is my contribution to The Second Deborah Kerr Blogathon hosted by Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Thanks for letting me participate, Maddy! Check out her great blog and the rest of the entries by clicking here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Loving Lucy: My Trip to Jamestown, NY (Part 2)

Happy New Year to all! I trust you have had a safe and happy holiday season with friends, family, and loved ones.

The very first post that I published on this blog was Part 1 of my trip to Lucille Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, New York, where I visited the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum and other sites around the city honoring the famous couple. To begin this new year, I thought it only fitting to start with Lucy once more and finally give you Part 2 of my trip.

But first, some trivia! A really fun aspect of the I Love Lucy show (besides the obvious) is how the zany and lovable Lucy Ricardo character mirrors Ball’s own life in several ways.

  • Lucy Ricardo was born in Jamestown, New York, just like Lucille Ball
  • Marion Strong, one of Lucy Ricardo’s friends, was Lucille Ball’s childhood friend
  • Lucy Ricardo mentions playing the saxophone in Celoron High School, the high school Lucille Ball attended

Bonus! The word “McGillicuddy” (Lucy Ricardo’s maiden name) was something that she and her friends called each other when they were young.

Lucille Ball had these similarities written into the script, no doubt adding a personal connection to the material, as well as enjoyment for her as a performer.

Before my trip, I read Lucy’s autobiography to further enhance my experience so I could put the pieces together while I was there. It was really fun seeing these places come to life and picturing Lucy in her stomping grounds before she took Hollywood and the world by storm.

Reading her book and seeing where she came from has led me to a greater understanding and appreciation of Lucy not only as a beloved and talented performer, but as an individual. I recommend both for Lucy fans and for those who are curious to learn more about the queen of comedy.

Now, off to Jamestown…

Lucy’s Birthplace

On August 6, 1911, in this little brown house, Lucille Ball came into the world delivered by her grandmother Flora Belle Hunt. There’s not much to see as the house is privately owned, but it’s definitely worth a drive by. The address is 69 Stewart Avenue in Jamestown.

After her birth, Lucy and her mother reunited with her father in Montana. Three years later they moved to Michigan when Lucy’s father died from typhoid fever at the tragically young age of twenty-eight. Lucy and her mother returned to Jamestown, her mother remarried, and looking for work out of state, she sent little Lucy to live with her husband’s parents. It wasn’t until Lucy’s grandparents bought a home in nearby Celoron that the family lived together under one roof again.

Lucy’s Childhood Home

In Celoron, NY, is the home where Lucy spent most of her childhood. Formerly 59 W. 8th Street, it is now 59 Lucy Lane.

I was eight and a half years old when we all moved into the little three bedroom house on Eighth Street in Celoron…I loved every inch of that weathered shingled house. It had a front porch and a back shed, and a small, dark front parlor separated from the front hall by portieres. These were the stage curtains for our innumerable productions as (brother) Freddy and I grew up.”

lucille ball

Sadly, the happiness of being together lasted only a short while for Lucy’s family. After an accident in the backyard that caused a neighborhood friend to be paralyzed, Lucy’s grandfather was put under house arrest and the house was auctioned as the result of a lawsuit. Lucy, fifteen years old, convinced her mother to let her go to New York City and enroll in drama school.

Presently the home is privately owned, but there are rumors that the owners plan on making it available for tours one day. Whether or not this is true, I’m not sure, but one can only hope! There is a whole website dedicated to the house, its history, and even an online shop. You can check it out by clicking here.

Lucille Ball Memorial Park

Many of the inspirations for our stage plays came from the fine productions we saw on summer evenings at Celoron Amusement Park, which was just a hop, skip and a jump from our house across a daisy field and a railroad track.”

lucille ball

To Lucy, it was known as Celoron Amusement Park. Today, it is Lucille Ball Memorial Park – the home of two statues of the famous resident with quite an interesting story of their own. “Scary Lucy,” unveiled in 2009, earned her name because she looks nothing like Lucille Ball. What was the artist thinking?! (I couldn’t even bear to take a full picture of her!) Both fans and locals revolted, and another statue was erected in 2016, “New Lucy.” This elegant and beautiful statue is worthy of her namesake as she stands proudly, welcoming visitors to the park.

Celoron Amusement Park was very important in Lucy’s life. In her book, she describes the place as a type of Disneyland, a fanciful escape from everyday life. Not only did she have one of her first jobs there as a teen selling hamburgers, she also witnessed plays as well as vaudeville shows. It was here that she gained a love of theater, spectacle, and show business.

Lake View Cemetery

The most humbling part of my trip was visiting Lucy’s final resting place at Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown. A line of red hearts lead the way through the cemetery to the Hunt family plot where she is buried along with her parents, brother, and grandparents.

At this moment of my visit I realized that I was the closest that I would ever be to Lucy. A sobering moment, indeed.

In this post I couldn’t even begin to cover Lucy’s life story and all that she accomplished, but it goes without saying that this woman has taught me so much about life. She has touched the world by her presence. She has been through so many hardships, but always managed to pull through with her wit, intelligence, and strength.

You know the saying Live, Laugh, and Love? That saying has been attributed to a poem called “Success” and I think it can certainly be applied to Lucy’s life.

LIVE

I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.L.B.

LAUGH

I’m happy that I have brought laughter because I have been shown by many the value of it in so many lives, in so many ways.L.B.

LOVE

Love yourself first and everything falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.L.B.

Thank you, Lucy, for the lessons, the laughs, and for being you.

Christmas with the Stars: Fred Astaire in The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979)

Welcome to the last week in our series, Christmas with the Stars! Over the course of this month we have explored some of the most enjoyable holiday gems that television has offered, but sadly, our time has come to a close. I can think of no better way to end the series than with the man who defines the sophistication and elegance of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Fred Astaire.

In The Man in the Santa Claus Suit, Fred is a costume shop owner (or is he…?) who rents three different men Santa Claus suits, thereby changing their lives. These three men are all at a similar place in their life’s journey. They are unaware of their own worth. Throughout the movie, Fred helps them realize their value and what they need to do in order to reach their full potential.

The Man in the Santa Claus Suit provides a living portrait of New York City in the 1970’s. The first shot is of the skyline with the Twin Towers standing proudly, followed by overhead shots of the bustling city. Over the credits, Fred sings the tune “That Once a Year Christmas Day/Once a Year Night” composed by three time Emmy Award winner Peter Matz. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this song before. Fred’s rendition is quite lovely, and I believe “Once a Year Night” deserves to be added to the anthology of Christmas songs.

Included in the cast are Gary Burghoff (MASH), John Byner, Bert Convy, Nanette Fabray, who co-starred with Fred in The Band Wagon (1953), and Harold Gould. Regrettably, Nanette and Fred don’t have any scenes together (insert a few tears), but I still think it’s neat that they worked on the same project together twenty-six years after The Band Wagon.

Eighty years old and still young, Fred charms in his second to last movie and last television performance (insert more tears). Truth be told, the most fun aspect of The Man in the Santa Claus Suit is waiting to see where the mysterious Fred is going to pop up next! He is credited with nine roles, and while viewing it becomes like a game of Where’s Waldo.

While Fred’s role adds a great deal of whimsy to this holiday drama, the movie is not without its drawbacks. Running at an hour and thirty four minutes, The Man in the Santa Claus Suit could have been edited considerably. The musical numbers by Fabray and Gould feel out of place, and it can be tiresome going back and forth between the three story lines.

So, what makes The Man in the Santa Claus Suit worth the watch?

The message of Christmas rings clearly in the resolution of this feel good holiday confection, plus you have the incomparable Fred Astaire infusing his special charm into the project.

When Fred isn’t on screen the movie suffers a bit, but when he does appear it is pure magic.

Watch The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979) here:

Perfect Pairing: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

You are viewing Part 4 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Thank you for joining me all month long for this special celebration of television work done by some of Hollywood’s greatest stars!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 1 of the series click here.

To view Part 2 of the series click here.

To view Part 3 of the series click here.

This post is my contribution to The Second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Thank you, ladies, for letting me participate in this end of the year celebration of the great Fred and Ginger!

Put on your dancin’ shoes, and head over HERE and HERE to read the other entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my lovely followers and readers!

Thank you for your kindness and supporting me in my blogging journey, I appreciate it more than you know.

The video below about Bing Crosby and his contributions to the war effort touched me and I wanted to share it with you. Besides, there’s no better way to spend the holiday than with wonderful memories of the Voice of Christmas.

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white.’

Bing crosby

Wishing you and those you love a happy and safe holiday season!