The 52nd annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theater over Labor Day Weekend
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Cinecon is back! That’s right. Over this coming Labor Day Weekend (September 1 – September 5), cinephiles from around the country (and possibly the world) will gather at Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theater to view remarkable films, thrilling celebrity guests and a collection of movie memorabilia during the 52nd Annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival.
Just some of the highlights include a new restoration of 1930’s King of Jazz with Paul Whiteman and an all-star cast that will screen on Saturday night. A special film tribute to Jack Oakie will consist of Looking for Trouble (1934) with Spencer Tracy (1935), Sitting Pretty (1933) with Ginger Rogers and Tin Pan Alley (1940) with Alice Faye. American Asian stars, Anna May Wong and Philip Ahn (both Los Angeles natives) battle alien smugglers in Daughter of Shanghai (1938). Also see the lovely Dolores Del Rio in the rarely screened classic Ramona (1928), along with Warner Baxter. Some rare and early films made at Fort Lee, New Jersey—before Hollywood was Hollywood— will screen, and there will be a sneak peek at an episode of The Clown Princes of Hollywood (2016) from the new DVD collection Silents Please: The Great Comedians.
For Western fans, there will be Gary Cooper in The Spoilers (1930), Ken Maynard in The Fighting Legion (1930) and in a more modern tale, there is Sky High (1922) starring Tom Mix as a border patrol agent who is fighting smugglers.
Special highlights will include restored shorts of Laurel & Hardy; the great director Ernst Lubitsch’s silent production of So This is Paris (1927), and a 12-part pre-code serial from Universal called The Jungle Mystery (1932) that will run periodically throughout the festival.
Bob Birchard speaking at Cinecon 48.
At 5 PM on Friday, September 2, 2016, there will be a memorial held for former Cinecon president, Bob Birchard, who passed away on May 30, 2016. In addition to his dedication to overseeing Cinecon for many years, Bob was a well-respected film historian, author and film editor. He will be missed by many especially by everyone in the Cinecon family. The memorial is open to the public, and all are welcome.
Marsha Hunt, recipient the 2016 Cinecon Legacy Award in a scene from
“None Shall Escape” (1944)
This year, the Cinecon Board of Governors announced the presentation of the inaugural 2016 Cinecon Legacy Award to the legendary actress, author, and activist Marsha Hunt. The award will be presented to her in person on Friday, September 2 at the Egyptian Theater following a screening of her personal favorite film, None Shall Escape (1944), the story of what war crimes trials might be like following World War II. This movie was released two years before the actual Nuremberg trials.
Besides The King of Jazz (rarely seen in the last 70 years), there are a few films I am looking forward to including Universal’s sparkling new restoration of the Marx Brother’s classic Animal Crackers (1930) containing footage originally cut by the scissors-happy American censors. Then there is A Million Bid (1927), a silent melodrama of love, motherhood, death and amnesia, starring the beautiful Dolores Costello (and grandmother of the present-day actress, Drew Barrymore). Also, plan to be scared silly during The Last Warning (1929), a pre-cursor to Universal’s horror legacy with ghosts, and murder in an eerie, deserted Broadway theater, starring the also neglected stars Laura La Plante and Montagu Love.
In addition to the great actors mentioned above, at Cinecon 52 you will also see more films featuring Patsy Ruth Miller, Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Monty Banks, Abbott and Costello, Claire Trevor, Ralph Bellamy, Madge Kennedy, Thelma Todd, Eva Novak, Douglas Fairbanks, Betty Grable, John Boles, Dixie Lee, Jack Haley, Richard Conte, Lynn Bari, Bing Crosby, Blanche Sweet and many, many more.
These classic films and much more will screen at the historic Grauman’s Egyptian Theater (home to the American Cinematheque) So if you have not reserved your seat, go to the CINECON website and find out how you can enjoy five days of non-stop classic films and fellowship with like-minded cinephiles in the heart of Hollywood. See you there.
Cinecon 52, Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood.
Marsha Hunt talks about her friendship with Anthony Dexter
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Yesterday, January 19, was Anthony Dexter’s 100th birthday. In celebration here is a repeat of an article I posted more than three years ago about Marsha Hunts friendship with the actor.
I was first introduced to Marsha Hunt by Margaret O’Brien while working on the book I wrote on her career (Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography). A few years later I renewed that friendship through my late friend Jimmy Bangley. On occasion we would visit with her and talk about Hollywood and watch old films at her Sherman Oaks home.
Marsha Hunt, who was equally at home with light romantic comedy or heavy dramatic roles, first appeared in films in 1935 in Paramount’sThe Virginia Judge. Her later work at MGM included Pride and Prejudice (1940), Lost Angel (1943) and Smash-up, the Story of a Woman (1947). Her film career came to an abrupt halt due to the communist witch hunt of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Though blacklisted, Marsha appeared on stage and occasional television roles over the next few decades. She has been seen in Matlock, Murder She Wrote and as an alien in one of my favorite shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation. She recently appeared in the short film, The Grand Inquisitor (2008) playing the widow of a possible serial killer.
Since 1980 she has been the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks and in 1993 she wrote, The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and ‘40s, a book filled with fashion, film history and inside Hollywood stories.
Marsha Hunt and me the night we talked about Tony Dexter
When I began researching my book on Rudolph Valentino (The Valentino Mystique), I learned that Marsha appeared in a Sacramento production of the musical, The King and I, playing the role of Anna with Anthony Dexter as her King. Dexter, of course, played the silent film idol in the 1951 bio-pic, Valentino, so one evening several years ago, I asked Marsha what she thought of Valentino and about working with Tony Dexter. What follows is her response:
“Of course I remember Valentino. By the age of eight I had already seen The Sheik and his films with Vilma Banky. Valentino smoldered, didn’t he? That was fine with me. I got his message loud and clear, even at a young age.
“I remember when Valentino died. There were two deaths that summer – my grandfather and Rudolph Valentino. I remember everyone being concerned and upset because one person had died and that was really quite awesome to me. That was probably the first indication of the scope of fan-hood — of hero worship — a matinee-idol-kind-of-madness that could sweep a country.
“As for Tony Dexter, I first met him when he was the King and I was Anna. Do you know the story of my doing The King and I? I had never found the courage to do a musical. I had sung in half a dozen movies but nobody knew it was me. They assumed that I’d been dubbed by a singer. They sort of thought ‘if she could sing she’d be a singer so this must be somebody else’s voice.’
“It was 1958 and I was in New York in a Broadway show at the time (The Tunnel of Love with Johnny Carson). Musicals and straight plays have different matinee days so actors can go see each others shows. So on one of those matinees, I was finally able to see The Music Man (with Robert Preston) and there sitting behind me was Russell Lewis and Howard Young, the producing team of the Music Circus Theatre in the Round in Sacramento. They had asked me over the years if I would do a musical and I always said ‘no thank you.’ I had done my only tour play with them when they produced T.S. Elliot’sThe Cocktail Party, which I did with Vincent Price and a wonderful cast – Estelle Winwood and some great people.
“So there was Lewis and Young sitting behind me at The Music Man and we went backstage to see Bob Preston together. And then they walked me to my theatre because there wasn’t time to go back uptown until my evening show, and the entire way they were giving me hell and saying ‘Marsha, you are the most cowardly person we know. You are afraid to do a musical and you have just seen and heard what an actor, who is not a singer, can do on stage.’
“And of course they were right. Bob Preston was absolute magic. And I was so spellbound by Preston and what he had done that I said ‘yeah maybe so,’ and they said, ‘well you’ve seen it – you heard what an actor can do with a singing role. Now will you promise to do something for us this summer?’ And in my weakened condition I said yes. And they held me to it.
“So when I got back home they said ‘Okay, what’s your show — what are you going to do for us?’ And I didn’t know, but it seemed to me if I didn’t make history as a singer, that it better be a good acting role, and the best acting role I knew in a musical was Anna, so I suggested The King and I, and they made me do it. And that’s how I became involved in the play and first met Tony Dexter.
“One of the first things that struck me about Tony Dexter was – and I don’t mean that it was obtrusive – but he didn’t have an ego. And I was amazed during rehearsals, this Anthony Dexter, who had played Valentino; larger than life, you know, macho man dramatic hero of all womanhood, didn’t seem to have an ego.
“He was conscientious and professional and terribly nice, but I saw none of the ‘me first’ quality that the King was made of. He was playing the King and ruler of all that he surveyed, and I found myself wondering in rehearsal how Tony Dexter was going to succeed as the King. But he was an actor and it all came true in his performance as rehearsals progressed. He grew muscles of ego as well as insistence on having his way. I was so proud of him for not imitating (Yul)Brynner — there was nothing of Yul in his King; he found his own King. He was awfully good.
“I knew that he had played Valentino so I can’t honestly say whether I would have noticed the resemblance or not. I was busy trying to ‘de-Valentino-ing’ him in my mind and seeing him as the King of Siam. He wore Asian makeup to a degree – he was bronzed in that wonderful Pacific-colored skin that isn’t brown and isn’t yellow. Its Filipino — it’s a wonderful bronze shade. And he was superbly built. He did just fine in what minimal costuming he had.
“We rehearsed for a week and then performed the show for a week, and that’s it. And if they took pictures they never sent them to us. He sang surprisingly well. I remember, of course, the moments of friction and attraction that happened between the King and Anna and the “Shall We Dance” routine was wonderful as a number. It was such an experience together because there were all types of magic going on between us.
“For my costume, I was given Gertrude Lawrence’s hoops which were made of steel and were five foot in diameter in graduating size, and linked from one hoop to another so they all stayed equidistant from one another. Then I started twirling, and those hoops got their own momentum, they went like holy blazes. And there is Tony – poor Tony, barelegged – and through the layers of my thin petticoats, the steel hoops cut grooves into his shinbones – its not very upholstered at your shin bones, and he was bleeding by the end of our dance so they had to cover the widest link with padding so he got bumped but not cut.
“We had almost no time together except in rehearsal and I didn’t get to know him then, but he was clearly a nice man as well as intelligent, and as I said, no ego. What surprised me was hearing from Tony out of the blue well after the show had closed. He would call me maybe once a year in the 1960s and 70s. And he just wanted to chat. It was so sweet. He knew I was married, so he was making no pitch. But I was so complemented that he remembered an experience we briefly had of intense work together, and wanted to renew our acquaintance.
“And then after Robert (Marsha’s husband, screenwriter, Robert Presnell, Jr.) died I began to hear from him maybe three to six times a year. He was living alone and he must have been very lonely. He called just to chat. I remember my beloved friend John Anderson, a wonderful character actor, who lived just a few blocks away. The Andersons and Presnells used to do things together. We’d go to screenings at the Academy, or out to dinner — we were very fond of them.
“Then Robert died and the Andersons looked after me. And we did things as a threesome and then Pat (Anderson) died of emphysema and that left John and me. We were such good friends and one time I asked him ‘Did you every know someone named Tony Dexter?’ And he said, ‘What made you think of that name?’ I told him that Tony had called earlier that day and wondered if he knew him. He said, ‘That’s amazing because I also hear from him occasionally (they made a movie together).’ So I don’t know how many people Tony called, but every now and then he called John Anderson as well as me. Now maybe we’re the only two people he did call but John was so touched that Tony just wanted to visit.
“Anyway, Tony had a thing about the film I made with Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice — he adored the film and he adored me in it. Every time it ran he had to call me and say so. And there’s nothing I could say about it. He would just carry on about my Mary. He treasured that performance.
“I sent him my book (The Way We Wore) because he was so devoted, and there wasn’t anything else I could do for him. I had a sense that he was lonely, and I just thought he might enjoy it. Well, he went to pieces over it and he said he was now the big man on his block — that all his neighbors and friends was dropping by to ripple through some more pages and catch up. They loved the book and he was so grateful.
“Then, he did a really touching thing. He looked up my birthday and sent me a twenty dollar bill. To send me money on my birthday — I found it so touching. I wanted to send it back because I had a feeling things were probably pretty tight for him and twenty dollars made a difference, however I felt it might hurt his feelings so I kept it and told him I had a splendid dinner.
“I never saw him in person again after we did The King and I — we only spoke on the phone through out all those years. I think he developed a mild crush on me because in his letters and cards he began to sign his name rather romantically. And he left sweet messages at Christmas time, sending me cards and things. It was so dear. Never until I was widowed though, because he was quite conscientious about that.
“But I liked him and I thought it was a pity that a man that nice and that gifted – at least from the one thing I saw him do — wasn’t having a better time toward the end. I would ask him how he was feeling and he’d make light of it, but it was clear he was not in the best of health or spirits, and so we’d talk for a long time — as long as he wanted to because I thought it mattered to him. And that’s all I can tell you about Tony Dexter.”
Anthony Dexter died on March 27, 2001 in Greeley, Colorado.
Cinecon 48 is history! The annual festival began last Thursday and ended yesterday and over the course of five days screened 43 classic films, shorts and documentaries at the legendary Egyptian Theater. Among the films shown were such rare gems as 15 Maiden Lane (1936) starring Claire Trevor and Caesar Romero and directed by Allan Dwan; the silent, Wild Bill Hickcok (1923) played by Cinecon favorite, William S. Hart; the crowd pleasing bio-pic, Diamond Jim (1935), the story of James Buchanan Brady, fondly known as “Diamond Jim,” starring Edward Arnold in the title role and Jean Arthur in a supporting role.
Other highlights included The Goose Woman (1925), The Bedroom Window (1924), and the Kate Smith film, Hello, Everybody! (1933). Some of my favorites include Diamond Jim, Upstream (1927), the once-lost John Ford film about vaudevillians starring Raymond Hitchcock and Grant Withers, the Cecil B. DeMille scenario, The Circus Man (1914), She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) with Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy and the documentary about the Silent Movie Theatre, Palace of Silents.
Some of the special guests who appreared this year and talked about their filmes were Marsha Hunt, Phyllis Coates, Richard L. Bare, Samantha Eggar and Carleton Carpenter.
Phyllis Coates,Richard L. Bare and Carleton Carpenter were honored at this years Cinecon banquet with the Career Acheivement award. Carpenter was presented with his award by his Two Weeks With Love (1950) costar, Debbie Reynolds. The couple sang their hit song from the film, Aba Daba Honeymoon to a very appreciative audience. Jack Larson, best-known as Jimmy Olsen on TV’s Superman, presented his former costar, Phyllis Coates with her award. Coates played Lois Lane on the series first season. Director Richard L. Bare, who directed such classic television shows as Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and several episodes of the Twilight Zone was given his award by Linda Henning who played Betty Jo on Petticoat Junction.
There was a great selection of films shown at this year’s Cinecon and the banquet was one of the most entertaining in recent years. Many thanks to the Cinecon officers and committee: Robert S. Birchard, Jim Harwood, Marvin Paige, Stan Taffel, Sharon Arndt, Bryan Cooper, Stella Grace, Sue Guldin, Danny Schwartz and Maureen Solomon.
A personal thanks to volunteer coordinator Stella Grace and her group of volunteers which included Woolsey Ackerman, Nick Beck, Vivienne Benjamin, Amy Bowker, Paul & Kristina Bunnell, Annette Bursteen, Michael Cable, Rancen Collins, Sandy Dubois, Allan Ellenberger, Joan Engberg, Isabel Falck, Allison Francis, Sue Garland, Bill Goodwin, Sue Guldin, Mary Mallory, Ludmilla & HarryMartinez, Charlie McCollister, Ann McFerrin, Oriana Nudo, Betty Petit, Jane Reed, Robert Richard, Ronn & Carol Roe, Susan Shapiro, Ruth Silney, Norman Triplett, Laura Wegter, Rex Wegter, Rachel Wegter and Tyler, Seth Wegter and Mary Zickefoose.
See you at Cinecon 49 on Labor Day weekend, 2013!
Following are some candid photos from this past weekend, mostly from the banquet (Photos by Allan R. Ellenberger):
Volunteers Allison Francis and Robert Richard (left) help veteran Cinecon
attendee, Sharon Schwartz at Loew’s Hollywood Hotel on Highland Avenue.
Crowd gathers for the Cinecon banquet (recognize anyone?)
Cinecon president, Robert S. Birchard opened the banquet
Actresses France Nuyen and Colleen Gray
Former Superman costars, Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane) and Jack Larsen
(Jimmy Olsen) meet prior to the banquet. Author Anthony Slide is looking on.
Cinecon officer and banquet emcee, Stan Taffel greets Mary Ellen Dix,
wife of actor Bob Dix (son of Richard Dix)
Actress Linda Henning introduced director and honoree Richard L. Bare
Cinecon honorees, Richard L. Bare and Phyllis Coates. Bare and Coates were once husband and wife for less than ten months (1948-1949). At one point Bare asked her about their marriage and she held her thumb and index finger about an inch apart and said, “It lasted this long… but it was interesting.”
Jack Larsen introduced honoree Phyllis Coates
The legendary Debbie Reynolds introduced her former costar
and Cinecon honoree, Carleton Carpenter
Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter entertain the
audience with a rendition of “Aba Dabba Honeymoon”
Debbie Reynolds and Jack Larsen
Debbie Reynolds, Cinecon committe member, Bryan Cooper
and Carleton Carpenter
Mary Ellen Dix and Richard Anderson
Carla Laemmle, neice of Universal founder Carl Laemmle
Miriam Nelson and Barbara Hale who played Della Street on Perry Mason
Julie Newmar of Catwoman fame talks to a fan
Jane Withers chats with Marsha Hunt
Cinecon committee members, Sue Guldin and Stella Grace
Child stars have been an enigma since the first celluloid shadows flickered across the silver screen more than 100 years ago. From little Mary Pickford to Macauley Culkin, they have created images to adore and cherish. Unfortunately, in real life, some were more like the Bad Seed.
Many actors have dreaded working with child stars, if not for their precociousness then for their ability to steal scenes. The famous line attributed to W.C. Fields sums up the attitude of many actors: “Any man who hates small dogs and children can’t be all bad.”
Contempt for child actors did not only lie with actors. Producer Nunnally Johnson once claimed he would like to charge $500 for just looking at a talented child. “For talking to the same,” he added, “$50,000!” Ironically, Johnson’s grandson is a child actor who appeared as Will Robinson in the feature film Lost In Space (1998).
During the Thirties, Shirley Temple was the most popular child star. In the Forties, a new crop of youngsters popped up to challenge the young moppet, including Virginia Weidler, Bonita Granville, and Jackie “Butch” Jenkins. But the one who was arguably the most talented of all the child stars of her day—or since—was Margaret O’Brien.
O’Brien was voted one of the Top Ten Box Office Stars two years in a row. The National Board of Review twice named her as Best Actress, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed upon her their Most Outstanding Child Actress Award. These honors and countless others were given to Margaret O’Brien—all before the age of ten.
Margaret did not have the precociousness of Shirley Temple or the impishness of Jane Withers, but she possessed something that many adult actors desperately lacked—she had talent!
I first met Margaret O’Brien seventeen years ago when a mutual friend, MTV film star Randal Malone, made the initial introduction. At the time, I was researching my biography on silent screen star Ramon Novarro, who worked with Margaret in Heller In Pink Tights (1960). Margaret was gracious enough to relate her experiences with the former Latin lover and from that grew a series of interviews for another book, this one on Margaret’s film career, Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography (McFarland, 2000). Today is Margaret’s 74th birthday and to celebrate, the following interview is the first part from our numerous meetings about her MGM films and the legendary people she has met.
AE: You’ve been in show business for almost 70 years now. How did you get started?
Margaret O’Brien: My mother had taken me to photographer Paul Hesse, who used some of my pictures on magazine covers. From those pictures, I got an audition at MGM for a very small role in Babes On Broadway (1941). At the audition I used the phrase, “Don’t send my brother to the chair. Don’t let him fry.” You see, I had an uncle who had got into some problems—my mother’s brother—and she had to go down to the court house and try to get him off. So my mother prompted me to say to the lawyers, “Please don’t send my uncle to the chair.” So, I used that line when I auditioned for Babes on Broadway, and they used it in the film. And it was that line that later got me the part in Journey For Margaret.
AE: And “Journey For Margaret” (1942) was the part that brought you to everyone’s attention.
Margaret O’Brien: Yes, I wanted that film so bad because I really felt I was that child. My name was not Margaret at the time. It was Angela. But I really became Margaret, and when I got that part, I had my named legally changed to Margaret. I was also able to cry easily, and the film called for a heavy crying scene. That also helped me get the part.
AE: You worked with the late Robert Young in “Journey For Margaret” and “The Canterville Ghost” (1944). What was he like?
Margaret O’Brien: When I first met Robert Young, we became very close, and we have stayed friends through the years. In fact, I felt if I ever wanted to be adopted, I’d like to be adopted by Robert Young. I just felt at home with everyone I worked with in the movie.
AE: In the movie you always carried around an empty incendiary bomb casing.
Margaret O’Brien: Yes, that sort of became my toy. It was like a doll to me. But afterwards when the movie was finished they took it away because they thought it was best that I didn’t go to sleep with a bomb at night.
AE: You worked with the legendary Lionel Barrymore in “Dr. Gillespie’s Criminal Case” (1943) and “Three Wise Fools” (1946). What was he like?
Margaret O’Brien: He became the grandfather that I never had because I never knew my real grandfather. Lionel Barrymore and I became very close, and he would make me rag dolls. He was very respectful of me and treated me as an actress. I became very fascinated with the Barrymore family, and Lionel would tell me stories of his family’s life in the theater. At the wrap party for Three Wise Fools, Lionel gave me his mother’s pin that had been worn by all the Drew women on opening night. He had been looking for someone to give this pin to, which he called one of the crown jewels of the theater. So, he gave it to me. It was a great honor.
AE: He comes across as a little crotchety sometimes in his films. Was he really that way?
Margaret O’Brien: He’d pretend to be sometimes, but he wasn’t at all. Not at all. All you’d have to do is get a sad look, and he’d try to do something for you.
AE: You worked with some very talented directors in your career. There was George Sidney in “Thousands Cheer” (1943).
Margaret O’Brien: I think George Sidney was one of our finest directors. He directed some wonderful musicals. And I only regret that I wasn’t able to do more pictures with him. And then Joe Pasternack produced Thousands Cheer and several other of my films. Joe was very overwhelming. He was Russian, and I always wanted to make sure I wouldn’t make a mistake because I was afraid he’d get mad at me or something. But he was really—all in all—very nice and very sweet. I would see him on the lot all the time, so I was very familiar with him.
AE: Roy Rowland directed you in three pictures. What was he like?
Margaret O’Brien:Roy Rowland and his wife became like a part of our family. And his son, Steve, acted in some of my movies. Roy was a very nice and gentle type director who would lead you to what he wanted you to do. He never yelled or screamed so I felt very at home and comfortable.
AE: Roy Rowland directed you in the film “Lost Angel” (1944), that was written specially for you after your success in “Journey For Margaret.” What are your memories of making this film?
Margaret O’Brien: On Lost Angel, I had a big crush on James Craig. I was always following him around. I thought he was so handsome. And then I’d get jealous when he had scenes with Marsha Hunt, because I thought she was taking away my boyfriend. But Marsha was very nice and very understanding. She knew I had a crush on James Craig. And then I worked with Bobby Blake on the film. I also had a little secret crush on him, except he had to be mean to me in the scenes. But it was fun because I got to push him down during a fight.
AE: In 1944 MGM loaned you out to 20th Century -Fox to do “Jane Eyre” (1944) with the legendary Orson Welles. What was that like?
Margaret O’Brien: I loved wearing the costumes in that film because I would usually get the poor bedraggled costumes, and this was one time that I got to be dressed up and wear the wig with the curls. Also, on all my movies I never wore make-up, but on this one they put a little pancake make-up on me. I thought that was the greatest. Of course, I loved wandering through the sets. I was always fascinated, even as a child, by antiques and ancient times. I always felt I should have been born in the 17th or 18th century. They really had a big stone castle with authentic furniture.
AE:- What was Orson Welles like?
Margaret O’Brien:Orson Welles was very tall—I always thought of him as a very big gentleman that could just envelope you. Orson in his big capes always reminded me of a foreboding figure—but he wasn’t actually. I had seen Wuthering Heights, and he kind of reminded me of that.
AE: Did he work well with children?
Margaret O’Brien: He was nice, but he was a little more distant. There were no complaints. The only thing with Orson was that he would take about a hundred takes for one line, and that got real boring to me because I’d have to sit there. I was used to working through a scene. But there were times when he wanted a lot of takes even if I was just saying, “Hello, Mr. Rochester.”
AE: Was that his idea or the directors?
Margaret O’Brien: A lot of it was his because sometimes he would mumble, and they had to get the clarity and it would take some time, and that’s why they would take a lot of takes. So that part was very boring to me, and I would tire out. I’d like to get in the mood and get going and that would stop the momentum.
AE: How many hours were you allowed to work a day?
Margaret O’Brien: I had to be on the set at 9 o’clock. Then I had three hours of school during the time they were lighting the set. We were always busy. Then we would stop at 6 o’clock.
AE: When you had a break in filming, did you go back to school or could you play?
Margaret O’Brien: We’d go right to school, then we’d go back and do the scene again. Once we were finished with school, then we could play. You had to have a lot of concentration because you’d have to break right out of a scene and go concentrate on something totally different, which we all seemed to be capable of doing.
AE: Not many people are aware that you did a war-time short with James Cagney called “You, John Jones” (1943).
Margaret O’Brien:James Cagney was wonderful. He was very warm and understanding. You, John Jones was my mother’s favorite. I think she felt my acting was the best in that one, especially the scene where I’m in the concentration camp.
AE: Yes, weren’t audiences concerned about you because they really thought you were shell-shocked?
Margaret O’Brien: Yes, Mervyn LeRoy, who directed You, John Jones, was the one who really got me to look like I was shell shocked. It wasn’t easy to get a child to play a realistic death scene like that.
AE: During World War II, you volunteered your time to entertain the soldiers and help raise money for the war effort.
Margaret O’Brien: Yes, You, John Jones was where I first did the Gettysburg Address. I used it in a lot of things during the war when I made public appearances before the soldiers, especially at the Hollywood Canteen. That film brought such a realistic feeling to me about the war that I wanted to help in the effort. I really felt for some of those children just as I had learned to feel about the war orphans during Journey for Margaret. The war was something real to me.
On Monday in PART TWO you can read about Margaret’s experiences with Charles Laughton, Judy Garland and Wallace Beery
Hollywood Heritage presents a special “Evening @ the Barn” with
in person with the 50th Anniversary Presentation of her documentary, unseen since 1960:
“A Call from the Stars”
Thursday February 18, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Marsha Hunt is a remarkable woman, and Hollywood Heritage is delighted to be hosting this event.
“A Call from the Stars,” is a 1 hr. documentary Marsha produced that raised money and awareness for the U.S. Committee for Refugees. 14 of Marsha’s celebrity friends participated, including Paul Newman, Bing Crosby, Joanne Woodward, David Niven, Harry Belafonte and Jean Simmons. The special aired on Los Angeles television February 10, 1960, in observance of the United Nations “World Refugee Year.”
This special “Evening @ the Barn” is a Fundraiser to assist filmmakers in the completion of the feature documentary “Marsha Hunt: Sweet Adversity.” Selected clips from this film will be shown, and you can find more information by clicking here to visit the documentary’s website.
Please note that, as this is a fundraiser, admission is $10.00 for both members and non-members. We recommend reservations for this event, as the Barn’s seating is limited to 110 persons. Please phone in your reservation at (818) 762-6608
Raffle tickets will be sold for an autographed copy of Marsha’s beautiful and “hard to find” coffee table book, “The Way We Wore: Fashions of the 1930’s and 40’s and Our World Since Then.” For more information, please contact the documentary’s co-producer, Roger C. Memos at (310) 717-9364 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marsha Hunt with “A Call from the Stars” will be presented in the HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE MUSEUM in the Lasky-DeMille Barn
(Across from the Hollywood Bowl)
2100 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90068
Admission sold only at the door, but advance reservations requested.
Doors open 7 p.m., program starts 7:30 p.m.
Refreshments available for purchase.
FREE PARKING as usual.
If arriving by Metro, we are a short walk north of the Hollywood/Highland red line station.
REMINDER: The Hollywood Heritage Museum has a capacity of only 110 guests. Once the capacity is reached, we will not be able to seat anyone else, due to fire regulations.
Please reserve in advance by calling (818) 762-6608.
Cinecon 44 is now history. From August 28 through September 1, film fans gathered at the Egyptian Theater in downtown Hollywood to enjoy more than 35 classic films. Some of the highlights included Damon and Pythias (1914); Ruth Roland in The Devil’s Bait (1917), and The Menace (1934) with Bette Davis.
I had the opportunity to volunteer at this year’s event, something I haven’t done in more than ten years, so I didn’t get to watch all the films but did enjoy some of the more rare ones. Some of my favorites included I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby, a 1940 Universal comedy starring Broderick Crawford as Public Enemy #3 and Jessie Ralph as his Ma Barker-like mother — only more fun.
The Mollycoddle (1920) stars Douglas Fairbanks who plays — against his usual swashbuckler roles — Richard Marshall V, who is descended from a long line of Arizona heroes. According to the program notes, the term ‘mollycoddle’ was popularized by Theodore Roosevelt to denote “an overly indulged and spoiled young man.” Fairbanks is the ‘mollycoddle’ of the film, being Arizona-born but raised in England, he is your stereotypical British fop. By the end of the film he quickly reverts to his ancestral heritage. Wallace Beery plays the heavy and Ruth Renick is the love interest.
The Poor Nut was a collegiate-comedy starring Jack Mulhall and an adorable Jean Arthur has a supporting role. The bookish-looking Mulhull with his unkempt curly hair, glasses and nerdy, ill-fitting apparel was a big hit with some of the ladies in my group who thought he was “adorable.” I didn’t see it, but his performance was excellent and the film enjoyable.
And probably my favorite film was The Ninth Guest (1934), a Columbia who-dunit starring Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin and a cast of recognizable character actors. The plot is similar to Agatha Christie’sTen Little Indians, but was adapted from a novel by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning. Eight people are invited to a penthouse party by an anonymous host only to discover that they are locked in with fellow guests whom they loathe. The host introduces himself through a radio hook-up as “the ninth guest” and announces that each guest will die before the night is over. However, as the program notes stated, the real star of the film is the Arte Moderne set. Catch this one if you get the chance.
The special guests this year included Walter Mirisch, Warren Stevens (The Case Against Brooklyn), Elena Verdugo (House of Frankenstein) and Celeste Holm (Champagne For Caesar).
The officers of Cinecon are Robert S. Birchard, president; Marvin Paige, vice-president; Michael Schlesinger, secretary and Stan Taffel, treasurer. The officers and their staff accomplished another great year considering the passings of Cinecon veterans, Harold “Rusty” Casselton, preservationist; Alex Theater projectionist George Crittenden and Robert Nudelman of Hollywood Heritage. The recent Universal Studios fire also wiped out many of the scheduled films for this years event.
A special thanks to volunteer coordinator, Stella Grace and her right hand, Sue Guldin. Stella cracked the whip when needed and at the same time showed her tender side. Thanks Stella — can’t wait until next year!
Attendees at the banquet this year included Celeste Holm, Warren Stevens, Elena Verdugo, Pat Hitchcock, Ann Robinison, Sybil Jason, Kathleen Hughes, Stanley Rubin, Jane Withers, Ann Rutherford, Mary Carlisle, Jayne Meadows, and many more.
Jimmy Bangley in front of the grave of his idol, Bette Davis
AMERICAN ACTOR, WRITER & FILM HISTORIAN
BORN: July 11, 1956, Suffolk, Virginia
DIED: December 8, 2004, West Hollywood, California
My friend Jimmy Bangley would be 52 years-old today. Jimmy left us more than three years ago — much too early — and he is still missed. To celebrate here are some snap shots (Jimmy was never without a disposable camera) of Jimmy with a few of his celebrity friends who also cared about him.
With Academy Award nominated actress, Sally Kirkland
With Academy Award nominated actress, Linda Blair and friend
With comedian Rip Taylor
With actress Marsha Hunt who is holding an article that Jimmy