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!

Book Nook – The Charms of Miss O’Hara: Tales of Gone with the Wind & the Golden Age of Hollywood from Scarlett’s Little Sister by Phillip Done

Gone with the Wind. When I first saw it, I fell in love. It had everything a great movie should have: an amazing cast; costumes that took my breath away; elaborate sets; not to mention a glorious score; and a story that is both heartbreaking and strangely encouraging at the same time. Some say there will never be another movie to its equal. Some think it’s vastly overrated. It is certainly controversial by today’s standards, but no matter one’s preference it has certainly infiltrated our culture and become part of our vernacular. Gone with the Wind is here to stay.

Beyond the vastness of the movie and the legend comes a true story about an author who had a chance meeting with the woman who happened to play Carreen in Gone with the Wind. You may also know her as Andy Hardy’s long suffering girlfriend in the Andy Hardy series. Her name? Ann Rutherford. In this delightful biography and tribute, author Phillip Done takes us through his encounters with Miss Rutherford, his visits to her home, and the wonderful stories she lovingly tells about her life as an actress in Old Hollywood.

Reading this book is like sitting down with Miss Rutherford and listening to her recall her life’s story. The book is so warmly written, and her adorable, vivacious personality jumps off its pages. For instance, she refers to Gone with the Wind as The Wind. Miss Rutherford had a wonderful sense of humor, a joy for life, and by the end you feel as if you have gained a dear friend.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) with Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Lana Turner

For a number of years, Ann was under contract to the studio who boasted they had “more stars than there were in the heavens.” Ann’s recollections of the inner workings of her most beloved MGM and the glittering actresses who worked there are fascinating. Some of the stars she mentions are Greer Garson, whom she called Greer Dear, Lana Turner, and she reflects on the first time she heard Judy Garland sing (as part of The Gumm Sisters).

Gone with the Wind (1939)
-Screenshot by me-

I particularly enjoyed reading the behind the scenes tidbits on The Wind: how Ann got the part; how she influenced Selznick’s choices in the makeup department; her memories of filming; her opinions of her cast mates; and her exciting experience of attending the premieres and Oscar ceremony.

Ann with Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) at the Hollywood premiere – 1939

I also appreciated Ann’s never ending commitment to the promotion of the picture by donating her memorabilia to the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum in Atlanta and proudly attending various events honoring the film throughout her life.

Olivia de Havilland, Evelyn Keyes, Ann, and Victor Jory at the 1960’s showing of the film

Image: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/37/17/15/371715fed4e28326df0a91ec19a8df8a.jpg

Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O’Hara), Ann, and Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) – 2002

Image: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/movies/12keyes.html

The story of how Ann got into the movies is quite fun in itself, and the lengths she went into preparing for her first roles are both astounding and hilarious; however, that just barely scratches the surface of what this book contains. Throughout her career, Ann worked in radio, television, and built up an extensive filmography. Her leading men included John Wayne, Gene Autry, Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Red Skelton.

The Lawless Nineties (1936) with John Wayne; Of Human Hearts (1938) with Jimmy Stewart; The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) with Errol Flynn

Images: Pinterest

Several surprises lie in wait for those who go on to read The Charms of Miss O’Hara. I don’t want to spoil the fun by giving everything away!

Whistling in Dixie (1942) with Red Skelton and Diana Lewis

For this classic movie fan, this book is paradise. I’ve read my copy twice already, and I know that I will read it again and again. It’s like stepping into a time machine and going back into the glorious, magical days of Old Hollywood led by a friend who knows all the people you’ve always wanted to meet and who’s been to the places you’ve always wanted to go.

Thank you, Phillip Done, for such a wonderful book and tribute to an inspiring lady who was truly as charming as the title indicates.

You can buy today’s lovely book by clicking here.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

-Images are in the public domain unless otherwise noted-

Book Nook – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young

Hitchcock’s Heroines, by Caroline Young, is a beautiful coffee table style book that is written from a unique perspective – that of the leading ladies and their working relationship with the famous director. This topic has been discussed in the past, but never with such style and visual splendor.

This book takes us on a guided tour of (almost) each film that Hitchcock made. Each film is given eight spreads which cover the production of the movie, how each actress was cast, her personality and style preferences, and what she thought of the Master of Suspense. In addition, the plot of the film and a brief biography of each actress are clearly and neatly presented.

Full page black and white and color images abound, making this a real treat for the eyes. There are numerous costume sketches, behind the scenes photos, costume test and production photos – enough to warrant repeat viewings of this book.

what did i enjoy?

I love how Hitchcock’s stylistic choices for his characters are discussed in detail and how these choices contributed to the storytelling. I also enjoyed learning how the actress’ personal style choices came through in the final design for her character.

Edith Head, the legendary costume designer, gets some time to shine in this book as well, as she was part of Hitchcock’s “dream team” and worked on some of his most successful films. It’s great to hear her personal thoughts about collaborating with the director and how she worked to make his creative visions come to life.

what would i change?

I was surprised that not every Hitchcock film was included in this book. The one that immediately comes to mind is I Confess along with Strangers on a Train. Granted, those films are not as well known as The Birds and Vertigo but I still would have liked to see them included and learned the behind the scenes facts about them as well.

who is this book for?

I’d recommend this book for any fans of Hitchcock or Grace Kelly. Since Grace has been called” the ultimate Hitchcock blonde” there are lots of photos and commentary about her and Hitch’s collaborations, making this a must for any Grace fan. I’d also recommend this book for those interested in costume design, Old Hollywood style, and female character studies.

want to know more?

Those who would like to know more about this topic might enjoy Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto. I haven’t read Spellbound, but Hitchcock’s Heroines seems like a coffee table version of Spoto’s book.

Warning: this book DOES contain spoilers! If you want to avoid them I’d suggest watching the movie you’re interested in learning about before reading the related section.

You can buy today’s book, Hitchcock’s Heroines, by clicking here.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in a promo shoot for Rear Window (1954)

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!