Looking back on twenty years of looking back

December 24, 2019

In December 1999 the world was looking forward to a new millennium, and I made a screeching 180' turn in the opposite direction, feet planted firmly in the 20th century. As everyone scrambled to prepare for Y2K I confronted the more pressing concern that my local video store wasn't stocking nearly enough Jimmy Stewart movies on VHS. Who needs The Backstreet Boys' Millennium when December 1963 was what a night!

I was in eighth grade and home from school on Christmas vacation when my mom turned on AMC and I became completely and totally enraptured by How to Steal a Million. Peter O'Toole's crystal blue eyes and Audrey Hepburn's aura of chic captured me heart, body, and soul. Nothing in my life had ever hit me like this. It was love, unconditional love. It's not unreasonable to say that movies have been there for me for my entire adult life. They've wrapped me up in their warm embrace, provided comfort whenever I needed it, and whispered to me that I'm not alone. They're a constant, as ever-present as my heartbeat, the thought that always sits on the edge of a reverie-- "now would be a good time to watch a movie."

How to Steal a Million sparked a fanatical interest in Audrey Hepburn. I rented all of her movies that I could get my hands on, pored over her biographies at the library, and immediately signed up to volunteer with UNICEF. Audrey Hepburn turned me into a teenage tornado of compassion and altruism. I became the local volunteer representative for my area and attended the UNICEF annual gala in Washington, DC. I spoke in front of my school board, joined (and became president of) our town's Youth Advisory Committee, and interned at the Mayor's Office. I painted faces for charity, gave talks to elementary school students, and got my school to put Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes in classrooms. I started an annual dance for senior citizens hosted by teenagers, and launched a poster contest for kindergarteners. I owe every single one of those acts to Audrey Hepburn and the ways in which her kindness and good-heartedness inspired me to harness those qualities in myself.

Every school project from December 1999 onwards was about classic movies. I printed out photos of my favorite movie stars and affixed them to my folders and notepads, a different star for each subject. Rudolph Valentino - History. Charles Boyer - French. Robert Montgomery - English. In high school I had to write a big paper for GT and I chose to write about film restoration. To this day, it is one of the highlights of my entire life that I got to interview Robert Osborne for my paper. The kind TCM employee (his first name was Shane, I don't remember his last, but he was to me as much an angel as Clarance is to George Bailey) sent me oodles of TCM paraphernalia including a pen, a watch, a set of magnets, and -- still one of my most cherished possessions -- a signed copy of Robert Osborne's book. I will never forget his kindness in helping to make a nerdy, fledgling classic film fan's dreams come true. It is insane to me now that I have a friend who works at TCM (*waves hello to Diana, who is LIVING THE DREAM!*) and that maybe she'll be able to work her Clarence magic for some other young film fans, too.

Ten years into my classic movie obsession, I started this blog. (If you're counting, that means this blog has been kicking for ten whole years. Three more years and it'll be the same age that I was when I first stared into Peter O'Toole's baby blues!) I don't blog as often as I did that first year, but I'm so glad that I've kept it up. Earlier this year I renamed my blog from "Silents and Talkies" to "The Films in My Life: a personal journal of cinema" and I feel like it's a much more accurate reflection of the content. This is my film diary. I love to write when a movie really moves me, and tack photos to these digital pages in the same way that Robert Montgomery was plastered all over my English notebooks. I wish that the internet had existed in its current form when I was 13, starstruck by old movies, and totally alone. Sometimes I'm seized by an unhealthy jealousy when I see young classic film fans interacting on twitter, recalling the days in the early aughts when my schoolmates bullied me for liking dead actors and my only respite was... more dead actors. Nobody my age "got it" and until I started this blog in 2009 I legitimately believed I was the only person in the world under the age of 80 who knew who Guy Kibbee was.

The classic film community is so much larger than I ever could have dreamed as a teenager, demographically much younger, and so inclusive. But I always feel like I'm on the outside looking in -- I just don't have whatever tools are necessary to build lasting friendships (with a few exceptions) or to ease my way into a conversation without feeling like I'm butting in. I feel like that might be why blogging initially came more easily to me than social media has. This blog was like my own little club house, and when people would leave comments it was like they climbed up the ladder and knocked to come in. Social media is more like a playground game where everyone is tossing the ball to each other and I don't have the nerve to join in. (Does my brain relate everything in my life back to school? Unfortunately, yes.) Anyway, this incoherent paragraph is all to say -- I was so wrong when I thought I was alone in this particular interest. There are so many people around my age (and, now that I'm the ripe old age of 33, much younger than me) consumed by their love of classic film, and even if I have a hard time interacting with those people, my little universe is all the better for their presence in it. One time at the TCM Classic Film Festival a friend and I were discussing our favorite James Gleason movies. I've thought of that moment often, pausing to reflect on it as a gift to my lonely teenage self. I never imagined a world in which another person my age knew who Cary Grant was, let alone James Gleason.

There are just so many (too many!) things that I want to cram into this post that I think I have no other recourse but to break up my thoughts into a few different posts. I want to write about all of my classic film obsessions - ALL OF THEM - from the first moment I laid eyes on Frank Sinatra in February of 2000 to the moment that Chad Everett walked onto my projector screen this past April and Zing! went the strings of my heart, and all of the Robert Montgomerys, Alain Delons, and Ronald Colmans along the way. I want to write about my all time favorite go-to ride-or-die movies, the ones that I know by heart. I want to write about which movies recall certain memories or times in my life. About the phase I went through when I started my art "career" in which I named every single painting after the movie I was watching while I painted it. I want to write about TCM schedule memories -- the year that Summer Under the Stars featured Dirk Bogarde and I just about lost my mind over him, or the year that Shelley Winters died and her tribute preempted a day of Robert Montgomery movies and I held it against her for a LONG time. I want to write about actors that I've come around to after disliking them for years (cough, Glenn Ford, cough) and movies that, after two decades of consuming classic movies like they were air or water, I still have not watched yet (cough, The Sound of Music, cough.) And I want to write about the movies that have been the most personal to me, ones that I see myself in, or ones that reflect my own life in a way that makes me feel okay about who I am or where I am (or, more accurately, where I'm not.)

I said once in a blog post that movies are my boyfriend, and I still feel that way. Someone recently asked me why I've never dated and my reply boiled down to "I have Chad Everett and Alain Delon, I'm good!" While some romance films can obviously make a single person feel somewhat lacking, movies have always made me feel whole. Everything you could say about a significant other can be said about my love for movies. They complete me. They're THE ONE. In a world full of thousands and thousands of things to love, we found each other. And we're celebrating our twentieth anniversary this month. I think that's pretty great.

Chad Everett original negatives

December 17, 2019

This year I had the great fortune of a) discovering Chad Everett and b) finding a handful of original negatives with rights that I could scan and share with you here! These are my absolute favorite pictures of him and I'm so thrilled that I was able to snag these so that they could be enjoyed by everyone who googles his name or stumbles on this blog post.

The photos were taken by the photographer Harry Langdon, and although they aren't dated they seem to be from the late 1960s. My favorites are the ones with his dog. I'm guessing it's Gus, his half-Great Dane, half-Boxer who also made a few guest appearances on Medical Center!

You can click on the photos to see or download much larger versions and frame them, make them your phone background, what have you ;)

A 21st Century Bobbysoxer

December 12, 2019

Today marked 20 years that I've been celebrating Frank Sinatra's birthday with my family, listening to his music all day long, dining on pasta with his signature sauce recipe, and partaking in a double feature of his films. The tradition started when I was 14 years old in 2000 and so obsessed with the man that every single thought revolved around him, including most of my school papers and homework. I was digging through some of my old mementos from middle school and high school tonight and I came across two essays that I wrote about Frank Sinatra. They're a little funny to read now ("Though he eventually died, as we all do") it was so fun stumbling on this little time capsule of my teenage obsession. I also found an analysis on the lyrics from "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" (as sung by Frank Sinatra) and my teacher had added a little notation next to Sinatra's name that said "I should have guessed."

While this probably isn't of particular interest to anyone but me, I wanted to commit these two essays to the blog archive for posterity. I'm sure if 14 year old me had a blog these love notes to Frank Sinatra surely would have made their way on there, so I'm doing past me a favor. Without further ado --

He Knocked The Socks Off The Bobbysoxers

Some call him "The Voice." Some call him "Ol' Blue Eyes." Some call him "Chairman of the Board." But there is one name that is indisputable: The greatest singer ever to grace the world with his voice. His name, of course, is Frank Sinatra.

Born Francis Albert Sinatra to Dolly and Marty Sinatra of Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 12, 1915, Sinatra knew he wanted to sing even at age seventeen. After attending a Bing Crosby concert with his girlfriend, Nancy Barbato (later, in 1939, she would become his first wife), Sinatra remarked, "Someday, that's gonna be me up there." And within a couple of years, he was the one up there. It wasn't long before, in 1935, Sinatra joined The Hoboken Four in the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, gaining the most amount of the votes to that date. Following Major Bowes came a contract with the Harry James Orchestra, which eventually lead to a more prestigious job: singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

It was mostly during his time with Dorsey that Sinatra gained fame and renown. Not too long after singing with Dorsey, Sinatra and his agent, George Evans, decided that it was time Sinatra went out on his own. Despite the fact that Dorsey wasn't thrilled with the idea, Sinatra left and went on to become one of the world's most famous celebrities.

When he first opened at The Paramount in New York City, one of his first concerts as a solo artist, hundreds of policemen were called in to hold back the crazed fans who, in anger of not getting tickets, were breaking store windows and creating havoc on Times Square. The bobby-sox clad girls fainted while listening to his music, screamed when he looked towards them, and rushed out of school early to buy his new records, which usually came out each month. During World War II, Sinatra was at the top of his career. Sinatra was classified 4-F because of a punctured left eardrum, therefore could not head to the battlefield. He often attributed his rise to fame to the fact that he was the only one around, "I was the boy in every corner drugstore who had gone off to war."

Sinatra's celebrity status came to somewhat of a half in 1951 when his world seemed to crumble to pieces. Over the course of a year, Sinatra divorced his wife, lost his money, lost his voice, and lost his fans. Sinatra's reputation as a womanizer seemed to haunt his home life, and despite the birth of his third child, Christina, Sinatra and his wife separated. In 1951, while on stage, Frank Sinatra's throat hemorrhaged. Never again would he have the soft flowing voice that he did in the forties. For forty days, Sinatra was not allowed to speak. He often spoke of those days, saying that it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

In 1953, Frank Sinatra picked up a role that would gain him his first Academy Award. The film was From Here to Eternity and the role was Angelo Maggio. Once Sinatra starred in this role, he never again encountered anything to the likes of what he went through in 1951. From Here to Eternity was followed by a number of dramatic and comedic roles. Among his best was The Man With the Golden Arm, for which he was nominated for yet another Academy Award.

Sinatra's singing continued to grow as the years went by. A sense of loss crept into his sad songs, and life into his swinging ones. Sinatra had the ability to make any song worth listening to, and any movie worth watching. It is no secret that on May 14, 1998, when Frank Sinatra died at the age of 82, the world lost one of the most talented people of the twentieth century.

Why Frank Sinatra is my hero.

Class. Style. Swagger. Life. All of these words seem to define the best entertainer of our century, Frank Sinatra. I love him for many, many reaons, most of which have to do with his extraordinary talent. But the reason he is my hero is his outlook on life. Never before have I run across anyone more caught up in the art of living than Frank Sinatra. I can cite hundreds of quotes that prove how much Ol' Blue Eyes loved living (and to prove how pathetic I am, I must say I know them all by heart.) ... "You gotta love livin, baby, cause dyin' is a pain in the ass" ... "do you know what a loner is? A loser." ... "Let's start the action!" ... "Live each day like it may be the final day." ... just to name a few.

Sinatra was the ultimate life-liver. If anyone lived life to the ultimate fullest, it was Sinatra. Though he eventually died, as we all do, he was the only one who made it seem like maybe there really was a secret to being immortal. As he grew older, he extended the age-old toast "may you live to be a hundred..." to "may you live to be five thousand, and may the last voice you hear be mine." After reading countless books on Frank Sinatra, I've become accustomed with his lifestyle. The man hardly ever slept, staying up to the wee small hours with his buddies from The Rat Pack, and getting up to make movies and records every day. But yet he stayed on top of the world. I think his song "I've Got the World on a String" is the best song to put Sinatra's life into words, and it is that life that I have come to admire so much. I wake up each day wishing I could live like him - play off sad feelings with a joke or a song, hang out until 2am with my best pals, take a drink (vanilla creme soda in my case, as opposed to Jack Daniels) and live it up each night. To make each minute count, that was Frank's philosophy.

Many people see a hero as someone who has saved a life, or done something for the betterment of all humanity. I see it as someone who has made an impact on the way you live your life; the way you get up, eat, sleep and live. I see a hero as someone who has changed your life for the better and made you realize how valuable your life is, not theirs. A hero shouldn't be someone to build a shrine to, it should be someone whose own actions have helped you improve yourself and your outlook on how you can live your own life. Frank Sinatra has made such an impact on my life; if only he could be around to find out how much of an impact. Listening to his words of wisdom, and his music as much as I do, there is no doubt in my mind that if I live to be 100 or 5,000, the last voice I hear will be Frank Sinatra's.