Tag Archives: mary pickford

Trailblazing Women to be Highlighted on Turner Classic Movies in October

tw2b

For the second year in a row, Turner Classic Movies will pay tribute to significant contributions to the film industry by women, through their Trailblazing Women series in partnership with Women in Film. Last year’s programming was a huge success, with a spotlight on female directors in what has become a crushingly male-dominated industry. This year’s theme will be “Actresses Who Made a Difference,” focusing on those women who contributed to issues outside of acting, and made waves that are still felt today in the film world and beyond.

The month-long Tuesday/Thursday night programming is hosted by Illeana Douglas, joined by a different female guest each night who will discuss the actresses, why they were chosen, and introduce a film made during a significant period in their life. On the first night, October 4, Douglas will be joined by the leading expert on women in early Hollywood, Cari Beauchamp, author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood. The subjects on the first night will be three actresses who seized the idea of the traditionally male studio executive and turned it on its head.

pickfordopener2

Mary Pickford was one of the most prominent figures in early Hollywood, both on and off the screen. While moviegoing audiences knew her as “Little Mary,” a perpetual little girl in curls even at the age of 30, in reality she was a woman with an steel will and iron constitution, a shrewd businesswoman and a savvy investor who knew the industry inside and out. In 1919, she founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, and subsequently founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which (now operating as the Motion Picture and Television Fund) still serves those in need in the industry. She will be discussed and profiled in conjunction with Little Annie Rooney, a movie she produced and performed in at the height of her position as a head of United Artists Studio in 1925.

original

Lucille Ball, former contract player at RKO and “Queen of the Bs,” decided in 1950 to join with her husband Desi Arnaz to form their own production company, Desilu, in order to pitch a series based on Ball’s radio program My Favorite Wife. The series eventually became I Love Lucy, the production company became one of the most formidable forces in the business, and Lucille Ball became one of the most influential figures in movies and television. In 1960, she became the sole owner of Desilu and was directly responsible for shows such as Star Trek and The Untouchables getting to air. The movie Yours, Mine, and Ours was made in 1968, while Lucille Ball was serving as the powerful president of Desilu.

mary-grant-tinker-320

Following directly in Lucille Ball’s footsteps was Mary Tyler Moore. 3 years out of her debut hit series The Dick Van Dyke Show (in which she broke significant ground for women on television in her own right), Moore created MTM Enterprises with husband Grant Tinker in order to pitch The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1969. The show premiered the following year and lasted for 7 phenomenal seasons, during which time MTM Enterprises grew and produced not only the show’s spinoffs, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant, but also the popular  The Bob Newhart Show, Hill Street Blues, and St. Elsewhere. The movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, chosen to represent Mary Tyler Moore this first evening, was made in 1967, in the in-between time just after Moore’s run on The Dick Van Dyke Show ended, and MTM Enterprises began.

Other nights to watch with significant women profiled:

Bette Midler, discussing women who controlled their own destiny, including:

  • Olivia de Havilland, the first person to make a major dent in the studio system by winning a contract case against Warner Bros. The ruling, the De Havilland Decision, is still cited often in entertainment law cases. She will be profiled in conjunction with Devotion (1946), filmed in 1943 but unable to be released until after she won the lawsuit.

54c8ef1634a37c51d5ebb4b7ea401aec

  • Marilyn Monroe, who left her Twentieth Century Fox contract behind to study at the Actor’s Studio in New York, only to return and demand director approval on all her projects–then form Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1956 in which she had full control over her work. Her work will be discussed with The Prince and the Showgirl (1956), produced by Marilyn Monroe Productions, as an example.

Jane Fonda, discussing women activists, including:

  • Myrna Loy, who served as the co-chair on the Advisory Council of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, campaigned actively against McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, and became the first Hollywood personality appointed to U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. One of her best-loved movies, The Thin Man (1934), will be shown to profile her onscreen work.
  • 193679

Dr. Emily Carman, discussing actresses’ wartime contributions, including:

  • Bette Davis, who together with John Garfield established the Hollywood Canteen, where soldiers could eat and be entertained for free while on leave. A semi-Hollywood movie, Hollywood Canteen, was made in 1944 to promote the canteen and enhance the war effort, and TCM will show it this evening.

tumblr_l06m4cfstv1qzuqk3o1_1280

  • Hedy Lamarr, who developed frequency-hopping technology to help with communication between Allied forces, an invention that is still used today in cell phones, wifi networks, and Bluetooth technology. The Conspirators (1944) will be shown to highlight Hedy Lamarr’s war efforts as well as her film work.

Be sure to tune in every Tuesday/Thursday in October for what promises to be a timely and informative look at a group of women who made a difference in the betterment of their industry and their world.

Advertisements

Book review: THE FIRST KING OF HOLLYWOOD: THE LIFE OF DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS

Douglas Fairbanks

With his swashbuckling persona, jaw-dropping acrobatics and million dollar smile, Douglas Fairbanks was the definition of what it means to be a movie star. Known equally well for being half of the most influential celebrity power couple of the 1920s, and for his lavish estate known as Pickfair that he owned with wife Mary Pickford, Fairbanks was the personification of Hollywood fame combined with silent-era high living.

Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro (1920).

In her new book, The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks, longtime Fairbanks expert and historian Tracey Goessel writes in exquisite and meticulous detail of the star’s life, rise to fame and his sometimes difficult marriage to Mary Pickford. It is a book written with obvious love, and crafted to give the reader a full and accurate picture of a complex character.

There is truly no one better to write this book than Tracey Goessel. A Fairbanks devotee for decades, she is on the board of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and has contributed enormously to the visibility of both Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the world of silent film for many years. When I heard that a Douglas Fairbanks biography by Tracey Goessel was coming out, I knew immediately that it was going to be definitive.

Right from the beginning, Goessel gives us the reasons why the man known as “Doug” in the industry (though Mary Pickford always called him “Douglas”) remains important 76 years after his death. Goessel notes the fact that we have Fairbanks to thank for the Oscars (he co-founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz (he gave Victor Fleming his start), and for the latest releases from United Artists (he co-founded the company). Her assertions are thought-provoking and accurate. There are very few silent stars who remain as relevant and modern as Douglas Fairbanks, both in his legacy and his onscreen persona.

United_Artists_contract_signature_1919

D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks signing the contract that established United Artists.

Goessel’s level of detail about Fairbanks’ early life is nothing short of astounding. She has traced his family tree and stories connected with it back several generations, and provides several wonderful stories regarding the early life of the man who would become Douglas Fairbanks. She shows how his early aptitude for mischief, drama and acrobatics affected his rise to fame and shaped who he became onscreen. My favorite story from his early years in film deals with an early role in a film called The Habit of Happiness. Goessel relates that in order to make the blue-collar extras laugh in a scene where they were supposed to be entertained, Doug told the smuttiest jokes he could think of–so smutty, that the lip-readers in the preview audience were offended.

glass_slide_habit_of_happiness_sleeping_style_num2_tb01362_c

Before his film stardom, Fairbanks was in a Broadway play in New York when a group of Biograph players, including Mary Pickford, came to see the show. D.W. Griffith said to Mary regarding Doug: “Now there’s a fellow who will someday make a great impression in pictures.” He made a great impression on Mary as well, and they began a relationship, marrying in 1920 very shortly after Mary procured a divorce from her then-husband Owen Moore. As husband and wife they lived at Pickfair, a monumental estate at 1143 Summit Drive in Los Angeles that was host to countless industry parties and get-togethers.

Again, the level of detail in Goessel’s account is marvelous. We are shown the inner workings of the most powerful couple in Hollywood, including all its difficulties when they both stray from fidelity–Mary with Buddy Rogers and Douglas with Lady Sylvia Ashley–and despite trying to make their marriage work, they simply couldn’t.

00w/49/arve/G1905/056

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

Another triumph of this book is the interweaving of what was going on in Hollywood with the events of Fairbanks’ life. A prime example is the attention that is given to the advent of sound in the mid-1920s, during which all of Hollywood was waiting on baited breath to see what would become of this new technology. Pickford and Fairbanks were in the audience when John Barrymore’s Don Juan premiered, the first full-length film to feature a Vitaphone score, and from the beginning he wasn’t too thrilled with the prospect of sound on film. Indeed, Douglas Fairbanks was one of sound’s victims–his second-to-last film, ironically, was The Private Life of Don Juan.

This is highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in Hollywood of any era. The modern film aficionado will see countless links to the modern era, while the classics fan will see the rise and fall of one of the all-time great film stars. Tracey Goessel has written a book fit for Douglas Fairbanks. And that’s saying a great deal.

If you would like to order it, here is the link to the book on Amazon.

See you next time!

Research in France, Classic Movie Events and Upcoming TCM Programming

I am back in the United States after a wonderful August researching Marion Davies in France. The research is going well, and I did have some downtime to enjoy the country with a good friend, including several days in beautiful, rugged Corsica and tranquil northern Provence. I came back in late August, and am happy to be returning to blogging!

There are several classic movie events going on right now that I would like to touch on, and I would also like to give an update on what will be happening on TCM soon, an important special programming note for the month of October.

Cinecon, the oldest classic film festival in the country, wraps up today in Hollywood. This was its 51st year of showing rare movies from the archives, alongside a magnificent memorabilia dealer room that is worth the price of admission in itself.  Cinecon prides itself in the obscure and the unknown, so if you go to this festival, do not expect to celebrate your old standby classic stars. Instead, you will hear hearty cheers for such names as Ted Healy, Will Ryan, and Lynn Bari, names dear to those who often attend Cinecon every September. It takes place at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood over Labor Day weekend, and boasts a huge number of returnees each year–Cinecon is a true mecca for fans of the obscure.

While not specifically a classic film festival in itself, the Telluride Film Festival is happening this weekend in Telluride, CO. This is one of the preeminent film festivals in the United States, and this year is host to several classic film-related showings. Today is a showing of the new Swedish documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year and making waves at film festivals internationally. Through letters, diaries, and interviews with her loved ones, the movie tells the story of one of the most captivating women in Hollywood (and one of the most controversial at the time of her stardom) on the 100th anniversary of the year of her birth. The festival is also screening Hitchcock/Truffaut, an interview with filmmakers regarding how François Truffaut’s 1966 book Cinema According to Hitchcock has had an impact on their individual styles.

In addition, I am sad to have missed most of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars programming during the month of August, but my friend Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film hosted a blogathon during the entire month of August that chronicled each day of Summer Under the Stars. Check out the blogathon entries and see how the month played out on TCM. Next month, however, I am looking forward to TCM’s look at the women who shaped the movies. Hosted by Ileana Douglas and co-hosted by such luminaries as writer Cari Beauchamp (the author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Early Hollywood) and director Alison Anders (director on Sex and the City and the movie Gas Food Lodging), the month will be filled with classic and contemporary movies made by women working behind the camera. It promises to be a fascinating look at an integral part of Hollywood that gets little attention, even today. The series begins October 1.

Two cinematic legends: star and producer Mary Pickford with her great friend, screenwriter Frances Marion.

Have a wonderful Labor Day, and see you next time!

2013 at Backlots–A Year in Review

A big thank you to my readers for making 2013 a true banner year for Backlots. Here are some of the things that happened on the blog this year:

My attendance at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival was far and away one of the highlights of the year. A true movie lover’s paradise, the TCM Festival attracts classic film aficionados from the world over, and TCM certainly delivers the goods. It was great fun interacting in person with my fellow bloggers, whose work I know so well online, and making new classic film friends. A wonderful experience!

For the second year in a row, Backlots covered the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this past summer. As usual, it was a fantastic event with presentations unparalleled in their quality. Highlights for me included a screening of the hilarious Marion Davies movie The Patsy, an interactive talk with Winsor McKay expert John Canemaker,  and the breathtaking gamelan accompaniment set to the Balinese silent film Legong: Dance of the Virgins by the Sekar Jaya Gamelan Ensemble. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival never disappoints. Stay tuned next year’s festival which will be held over Memorial Day Weekend, and on January 11 for their special celebration of The Little Tramp at 100–celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Chaplin’s The Little Tramp. I will be at both events!

Last month, I was honored to be invited to blog for the Warner Bros. 90th Anniversary Tour. We bloggers were treated to a day of exploration at the studio, led by a professional guide, and topped off with lunch at the commissary. We had special access to the costume department and several areas off limits for regular tour members, and it was indeed a special day. Again, I met so many fellow bloggers and had such a good time. Thank you, Warner Bros., for organizing this wonderful day for us!

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 4.45.57 PM

The classic film community was graced with several magnificent new books this year. I had the pleasure of conducting interviews with Victoria Wilson, author of A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940, and Kendra Bean, who is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait and a personal friend of mine. Both of these works are great monuments in and of themselves. A Life of Barbara Stanwyck is a gargantuan book that features 860 full pages of text and another 200 for source notes, and has proven to be the quintessential, definitive book on the actress. My reading of this book, though it took me less than 2 days, is one of the highlights of my year. Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is so chock full of previously unseen photos of this staggering beauty that the reader simply cannot put it down. It is displayed prominently, face forward, on my shelf so as not to obscure its beauty. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to interview these two gifted writers, and I thank them for their interviews with me. Read Victoria Wilson’s interview here, and Kendra Bean’s here.

In what was perhaps my most meaningful personal success of 2013, I had the great privilege to interview Joan Fontaine in honor of her birthday. This was her last birthday, and her last interview. Joan was frail and her health declining, so she kept her answers short. The length of her answers does not matter to me. My interview with Joan Fontaine remains the single greatest privilege Backlots has ever had. Click here to read it. Rest in peace, dear Joan.

This is the video I made in memory of Joan Fontaine. I hope you enjoy it.

Wow, readers. What a year. 2014 is already shaping up to be an equally marvelous year! Here’s to what’s to come, and to you, loyal readers, for helping to make this blog what it has become.

Dueling Divas–THE ENTRIES

imageedit_3_7970005247

By Lara Gabrielle Fowler

It’s Sunday, everyone, and the divas are out in full force! I will be updating this page throughout the day as the entries come in. Here is our list of duels so far:

Vanessa oversees legendary rivals Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford squaring off in several dueling rounds in a delightful post over at Stardusthttp://bwallover.blogspot.ca/2013/12/dueling-divas-blogathon-joan-crawford.html

Linda Darnell and Rita Hayworth compete for the love of Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand at Critica Retro. Don’t forget to hit Le’s handy translate button if you don’t speak Portuguese! http://criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2013/12/quem-vai-ficar-com-ty.html

At Girls Do Film today, Vicki explores Dark Mirror, Olivia de Havilland’s tour-de-force playing a mysterious pair of twins. http://girlsdofilm.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/the-dark-mirror-olivia-de-havilland-as-terry-and-ruth-collins/

Java’s Journey referees the duel between Judy Holliday’s “Ella” and Valerie Allen’s “Olga” in Bells Are Ringing. http://javabeanrush.blogspot.com/2013/12/dueling-divas-ella-vsolga-in-bells-are.html

Movies, Silently gives Mary Pickford’s dual role in Stella Maris epic treatment in this exhaustive post about the film. http://moviessilently.com/2013/12/22/stella-maris-1918-a-silent-film-review/

Angela at The Hollywood Revue gives us a rundown of Dead Ringer and Bette Davis’ dual role in it. http://hollywoodrevue.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/dead-ringer-1964/

Silver Screenings sings the praises of not one Edward G. Robinson, but TWO, in The Whole Town’s Talking. http://silverscreenings.org/2013/12/21/the-dual-edward-fan-club/

Sepia Stories gives us a view into the lives of Mary Pickford, her mother, and their nemesis Olive Thomas, who wanted to marry Mary’s brother Jack. Fun read! http://sepiastories.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/thomas-vs-pickford-backlots-third-annual-dueling-divas-blogathon/

Christy over at Sue Sue Applegate gives us a rundown of June Allyson and Joan Collins in The Opposite Sex…and also gives us some insight into the rivalry between June Allyson and Joan Blondell over mutual hubby Dick Powell. http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/that-darn-smack/

My own entry–Backlots takes a look at Margo Channing and Eve Harrington in All About Evehttps://backlots.net/2013/12/22/dueling-divas-blogathon-margo-channing-vs-eve-harrington/