The Classic Film Fangirling Tag: Unleashing the Inner Fan

Hello, all! I sincerely hope you are keeping well and staying safe. The delightful Miriam @CineGratia and Lee @TotalleeLeeMac have created a super fun tag to get us all out of the slump that we find ourselves in these days and get our brains going! And what better way to do that than to talk about the movies we love. Thanks for putting this together, guys! It definitely got my brain on the right track again – a much needed tonic 🙂 You’ll want to check out their tag videos here and here.

Miriam and Lee have provided 10 questions to answer (which seem harder than they look at first glance!) that you can respond with via social media or a blog post using the hashtag #ClassicFilmFangirlingTag.

So without further ado, let’s begin…

1. If there is one film whose quotations you identify with the most, which one would it be?

If I can twist the word ‘identify’ a bit to mean ‘resonate’ then I would absolutely choose Gone With the Wind (1939). This movie has meant so much to me throughout the years and Scarlett’s famous line “After all, tomorrow is another day” is one of the reasons why. There’s hope in knowing that there is a tomorrow – that things don’t always stay the same, that the future offers new opportunities for personal growth, for fulfilling our dreams, and for the betterment of our world.

2. Name a minor character from a film whose backstory you would love to see explored in a spin-off film of their own.

I’m having a hard time coming up with a backstory I’d like to see but I can think of a sequel! The film noir Leave Her to Heaven (1945) boasts one of the most monstrous female characters in film, but hidden in her shadow is the quiet, meek adopted sister, Ruth (played by Jeanne Crain). At the film’s end it makes me think of what happens to Ruth and Richard after the credits roll. Could they find happiness after what happened? Do the shadows of the past creep into their marriage? I’d like to know…

3. If you could have been an extra in any film, which one would it have been?

For this answer I’m going with Top Hat (1935). I love musicals and where the music is – is where I want to be. Imagine standing on the side lines and seeing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance together IN PERSON. Absolutely magical…after that experience I could die a happy girl!

Which scene would you have loved to have been part of?

I would love to have been a dancer in the big production number “The Piccolino.” There is some fun, outrageous, Berkeley-esque business going on with streamers and an extravagant big-white-set (Venetian style) that only RKO could produce!

4. If you could have attended any film premiere in history, which one would it have been?

Cat People (1942) was unlike anything audiences had seen up to that time. They were used to “creature features” such as Universal’s string of successful horror flicks, whereas in Cat People the monster was suggested and hardly seen. It would have been fun to be in the audience and get caught up in the story with them – to jump with them at the jump scares, and to scream with fright during the pool sequence.

5. If you could have signed up with a studio of the era which one would you have chosen and why?

This is an easy one for me to answer. I would have gone with MGM. The films they made, the stars and creatives they had under contract are among my personal favorites. I also love the prestige, glamour, and sophistication associated with the studio.

6. If you could take a prop/souvenir from one of your favorite classic films what would it be?

It’s all about the shoes! The Wizard of Oz (1939) contains some of the most iconic images in cinema, and the ruby slippers might just be at the very top of the list. Never failing to bring wonder and magic to audiences of all ages, the slippers are a symbol of adventure, magic, imagination, and a reminder that no matter where life takes us, our home is where our heart truly belongs.

I’ve been fascinated with these shoes forever. Not only are they sparkly, beautiful, and nostalgic, they are the ultimate symbol of Hollywood studio era moviemaking at its finest.

7. Which classic film character’s wardrobe would you most like to raid?

I’ve answered this question on an award post before which I’ll link right here, but there so many beautiful costumes in film that this question could be answered a million different ways! So, today I’m going with Gene Tierney as Lili Duran from On the Riviera (1951) with designs by Oleg Cassini. Not only does Lili have the perfect loungewear (and bedroom), she’s all set for the beach, and the ballroom as well.

8. Which restaurant, cafe, or other eatery featured in a classic film would you love to dine at?

I’ve always been intrigued by The Brown Derby ever since seeing the I Love Lucy episode “L.A. At Last.” The idea that the walls were covered with pictures of the movie stars who floated around in that eatery sounded so exciting! The Brown Derby is featured in some classic movies such as What Price Hollywood (1932).

When I went to Disney World a few years ago, I simply HAD to eat at the recreated restaurant at Hollywood Studios theme park. It was a lot of fun, but imagine my disappointment when no movie stars strolled in!

9. If you could have dinner or coffee (at that place) with a star, who would it be and why?

Again, I’ve answered this on that same award post, but I’m always up for meeting another film star! If I was going to The Brown Derby, I would be remiss if I didn’t choose to go with with William Holden 😉

10. If you could have attended an Oscar gala, which year would you pick?

1940! The energy and creativity that was in the air that night must have been inspiring to absorb, and how thrilling it would have been to see GWTW sweep the awards, to hear Vivien Leigh’s acceptance speech for her Best Actress Oscar, to see “Over the Rainbow” win for Best Original Song. A legendary and unforgettable night to be sure!

And that’s it…Stop by Miriam and Lee’s YouTube channels for some more classic film goodness – you’ll be glad you did!

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!

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!