Saturday, December 31, 2011

JANE RUSSELL (1921-2011)


Born: June 21st, 1921 (Minnesota)

Died: February 28th, 2011 (Respiratory heart Failure)

Marriages: Bob Waterfield (1943-1968), Roger Barrett (08/68-His death in 11/68) & John Calvin Peoples (1974-His death in 1999)

Children: Due to a botched abortion early in life she become infertile and adopted three children with Waterfield; Tracy, Thomas & Robert John.

Success: Starred in over 20 films, of which her popular era was in the 40's to 50's.

Interesting Fact: She organized an adoption fund (WAIF) that has found homes for 51,000 children

Awards: Winner of 6 awards and footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater along side Marilyn Monroe

Hidden Gems: "Outlaw" (1943) "The Paleface" (1948) "Gentlemen Prefer Blonde's" (1953)

*Jane did a few movies with Hope like this one called "The Palface" in 1948

Friday, December 30, 2011

HARRY MORGAN (1915-2011)


Born: April 10th, 1915 (Michigan)

Died: December 7th, 2011 (Pneumonia)

Marriages: Eileen Derchon (1940-Her death in 1985), Barbara Bushman Quine (1987- His death)

Children: Four Sons; Christopher, Charles, Paul & Daniel

Success: Most known for his perfomances in "Dragnet" & "MASH" and also appeared in over 100 films

Interesting Fact: In several episodes of "MASH" he is painting actual portriats of other characters in the show

Awards: Was nominated 12 times for an Emmy, winning one of them, in 1980 and also received two other awards.

Hidden Gems: "Support Your Local Sheriff" (1969), "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954), "Ox-Bow Incident"(1943) & "High Noon" (1952)

*Here is a scene from "MASH" that shows his amazing talent. The pictures in the backround are mostly drawn from him.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FARLEY GRANGER (1925-2011)

Born: July 1st, 1925

Died: March 27th, 2011

Success: Starred in nearly 40 films and known for his films with Hitcock.

Interesting Fact: His two favorite films were "Strangers on a Train" (1951) and "They Live by Night" (1949)

Awards: One nomination & two "Walk of Fame Awards"

Hidden Gems: "Strangers on a Train" (1951), "Hans Christian Andersen" (1952) & "Rope" (1948)

*A fan made compilation of scenes from "Strangers on a Train" (1951)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PETER FALK (1927-2011)


Born: September 16th, 1927 (New York)

Died: June 23, 2011 (Alzheimer’s disease)

Marriages:  Alyce Mayo (1960-1976), Shera Danese (1977-His death).
Children: Adopted Catherine (Private Detective) & Jackie
Success: Best known for his TV series “Columbo” also appeared in about 50 movies from 1958-2009.
Interesting Fact: Was turned down at Colombia Pictures for only having one eye.
Awards: 18 Nominations (two of which Oscars) and 19 Wins
Hidden Gems:The Great Race” (1965), "It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963), "Murder by Death" (1976)

*One of my many favorite scenes from "The Great Race". "HIT THE BUTTON MAX"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BETTY GARRETT (1919-2011)


Born: May 23, 1919 (St. Joseph, Missouri)

Died: February 12, 2011 (Aortic Aneurysm)

Marriage: Larry Parks on September 8, 1944 until his death in 1975

Children: Garrett Parks (Composer) & Andrew Parks (Actor)

Success: Appeared in 6 hit musicals and countless TV shows with steady parts in two

Interesting Fact: She and her husband was blacklisted by the HUAC in the 50's

Awards: Won a Golden Globe for her role in "All in the Family" and her Hollywood star for the walk of fame on May 23, 2003

Hidden Gems: "Neptune's Daughter" (1949), "On The Town" (1949), "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1949)

*Here she is in "Neptune's Daughter" (1949) with Red Skelton singing "Baby It's Cold Outside" in it's first premier to the public.

Monday, December 26, 2011



This week, for the specialty topic, I wish to dedicate each day to at least five of the great actors and actresses who have passed away within this year. Stars they were to us in life and now like stars in the sky, their performances continue to entertain and inspire us. If you haven't seen the commercial on TCM for their dedication then you can view it here:

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Now that I have done a few posts, I hope to create a schedule. Here is what I have planned for the following months and hopefully years. Each week of the month I hope to have a theme centered around an Actor/Actress, Director or Movie Genre along with many other ideas. In fact I hope to use a pattern just like this:
-Week one, Actor/Actress of the week.
-Week two, Costume Designer, Screenplay, Cameraman or Composer of the week.
-Week three, Director of the week.
-While week four will be centered around a special theme such as genre, religion, era or any other misc. ideas.
Each day will cover a different aspect of each theme just like I have done with Capra. I hope you enjoy and add comments. If you have any additional ideas you would like to see, please let me know.

Friday, December 23, 2011


-Was born in Sicily
-His last name, "Capra," was translated "She-goat" to show his families relationship with the land.
-He was Catholic.
-Immigrated to the US in 1903 when he was six.
Frank & his wife Lucielle with
one of their Sons
-Graduated from High School, and attended the California Institute of Technology.
-Studied Chemical Engineering and graduated in the spring of 1918.
-Enlisted in the army as a Second Lieutenant during WWI.
-Became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in 1920.
-Around this time he suffered from an undiagnosed burst appendix.
-Hopped freight trains for a few years.
-He married actress Helen Howell in 1923 but they divorced in 1928.
-Married once again to Lucielle Warner in 1928, of which, they had a daughter and three sons.
-Wrote scripts for the Silent Star Comedian Harry Langdon.
-Started his life-long partnership with Harry Cohn and his studio, Columbia Pictures, in 1928.
-Later in life Capra would only make one MGM movie whis was an unsuccessful "State of the Union" in 1948.
-His adaptation to the new sound pictures was as a direct result of his College degree.
-It was said of him by Cohn as his films were released, "It was the beginning of Columbia making a better quality of pictures"
-His salary was raised from $1k a movie to $25k per year.
-His first real sound picture was "The Younger Generation" in 1929.
-Some have stated that this picture was close resemblance to Capra's own life as an immigrant, of which, Capra denied.
-His favorite screenwriter was Robert Riskin, of which, most of the wise-cracking and sharp dialogue came from in Capras films.
"It Happened One Night" Oscars
-"It Happened One Night" was the first to win all five of the top Oscars; Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. (This was not repeated until 1975 with "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest).
-After his success and the making of "Broadway Bill" he conceived the new dimension of conveying a message to the public through his films.
-"Mr. Deeds Goes To Town" and "You Can't Take It With You" also won him the Best Director Oscars totaling in the only three he would receive.
-He received three nominations for Best Director:
     -"Lady For a Day" won out by Frank Lloyd's "Cavalcade"
     -"Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" won out by Victor Flemming's "Gone With the Wind"
     -"It's a Wonderful Life" won out by William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives"
-The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 on having the film, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" removed from public distribution.
-Capra himself questioned whether or not to release a "political" movie as WWII began, but realized it was rather a movie about America's democratic ideals.
-Harry Cohn paralleled his concern on releasing this film to the feelings of Abraham's who was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.
-Nominated for 11 Academy Awards but only winning two, was unfortunately contributed to the other releases in the year; "Gone with the Wind" & "The Wizard of Oz."
-Before France became occupied by the Nazi's they chose this film as their favorite stating it as the film that most expressed the "perseverance of democracy and the American way."
Distinguished Service Medal
presented by General Marshal
-Film author Richard Glazer speculated that John in "Meet John Doe" was an expression of Capra's rise from drifting to a national figure.
-On Dec. 11th 1941 after Pearl Harbor Capra quit directing and enlisted in the Army for the second time at age 44.
-Capra said of this; "I had a guilty conscience. In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, the downtrodden. Yet I had begun to like the Aga Khan. The curse of Hollywood is big money.
-He was assigned to work directly under Chief of Staff George C. Marshall on directing War Documentaries.
-Footage used came from military and government sources and many newsreels secretly found from enemy sources.
-Walt Disney aided with animated charts and many famous Hollywood composers like Alfred Newman and Dimitri Tiomkin created the background music.
-Winston Churchill ordered that all of them be shown to the British public in theaters.
-After his career ended, Capra regarded these films as his most important work.
-As a Colonel he received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.
-Capra along with William Wyler and George Stevens founded "Liberty Films" which only had on completed film, "It's a Wonderful Life."
-As a box office disappointment it still was nominated for five Academy Awards.
-The movie has been listed by "The American Film Institute" as one of the top 100 films of all time.
-He was sent to India to combat the Communist films and defend the right of Free Enterprise.
-On his return Secretary of State Dean Acheson commended Capra for "virtually single-handily forestalling a possible Communist take-over in Indian films."
-In the 1950's his ideas that had been popular to depression-era and pre-war audiences, became less popular to the prospering post-war Americans.
-Directed two more films with Paramount; "Riding High" in 1950 and "Here Comes the Groom: in 1951.
-Though Capra was not called to testify by the HUAC he was still a prime target because of his past associations with blacklisted screenwriters.
-He said of this time; "The winds of change blew through the dream factories of make-believe... The hedonists, the homosexuals, the hemophiliac bleeding hearts, the God-haters, the quick-buck artists who substituted shock for talent, all cried: 'shake 'em! Rattle 'em! God is dead. Long live pleasure! Nudity? Yea! Wife-swapping? Yea! Liberate the world from prudery. Emancipate our films from morality!'"
-He re-enlisted a third time at age 53 when the Korean war broke out, but was rejected for his age.
-Retired from Hollywood in 1952 at the age of 55.
-Another of his last pictures was "Pocketful of Miracles" made in 1961 which was a remake of his earlier film in 1933 "Lady for a Day."
Frank Capra with Jimmy Stewart
-Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty by vote, declared May 12th 1962 as "Frank Capra Day"
-On this occasion John Ford announced that Capra had also received the Order of the British Empire by the recommendation of Churchill.
-In 1982 he received the AFI Life Achievement Award.
-In 1986 he also received the National Medal of Arts.
-He Died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 94 in 1991.
-He was buried at the Coachella Valley Public Cemetery in Coachella, California.

 All of these above were facts on Capra's life I was unaware of until now. How touched I am by his heroism and American ideals that he so powerfully expressed on films and through-out his life. I am sure that I have missed quite a few and would appreciate your comments to add to this list.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


This is a hard one. So many of them are family classics and I love to watch them over and over again. I would have to say though that "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is my favorite and here is why.

Everyone loves an underdog and the movie itself, when it first came out, was disliked by politicians for obvious reasons. Another reason is the beautiful celebration of America's monuments and history. When I was younger we had the luxury of traveling all over the United States. Seeing someone else, Jefferson Smith, have appreciation for them is heart warming.

What I also love, which is what I love about Capra films in general, is the different roles he gives to each of the actors. Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell and Beulah Bondi. Each one in his films but each one as a different character. If you want to see this contrast just watch "Mr. Smith..." and "You Can't Take It With You." There you will also see Lionel Barrymore as a jolly, carefree, father figure instead of the twisted, decrepit, old miser in "It's a Wonderful Life." Here are some illustrations:

Jim Taylor
Anthony P. Kirby

Tony Kirby & Alice Sycamore

Jefferson Smith & Clarissa Saunders

Diz Moore
Uncle Billy Bailey

Henry F. Potter
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof


                                        FRANK CAPRA
1930Pluto DiscoveredStarting in 1922 to 1932 Capra made over 20 movies many of them Silent and including shorts.
1931America adobts their National Anthem
1932Scientest Split the Atom
1933Hitler becomes chancelor in Germany"The Bitter Tea of General Yen"
Prohobition Ends"Lady for a Day"
1934Dust Bowl"It Happened One Night"
1935Social Security enacted
1936Nazi Olympics in Berlin"Mr. Deeds Goes to town"
1937Japan envades China"Lost Horizon"
1938Chamberlain announces "Peace in our time""You Can't Take It With You"
1939WWII Begins"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
1940Battle of Britain
1941Japan attacks Pearl Harbor"Meet John Doe"
1942Battle of StalingradFrom 1942 to 1945 Capra made 11 War Documentory movies
1943Italy joins the Allies
1944D-Day"Arsenic and Old Lace"
1945V-Day and Atomic Bomb Dropped
1946Churchill "Iron Curtain" Speech"It's A Wonderful Life"
1947Sound Barrier broken by Chuck Yeager
1948"Big Bang" Theory Formulated"State of the Union" (MGM)
1949China becomes Communist
1950Senator McCarthy begins Red Scare"Riding High"
1951Color TV Introduced"Here Comes the Groom"
1959Castro becomes Dicatator of Cuba"A Hole In the Head"
1961Berlin Wall Built"Pocketful of Miracles"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


What I love about Capra is his real to life, down to earth story telling. Who hasn't ever felt like George Bailey now and then? Who hasn't had a quirky family member or two like Alice Sycamore, or been accused that their a little off like Long Fellow Deeds? Each story and all the others talk about something we don’t like to ponder because to us it may not be funny. Frank helps brings the humor out of it. Steven Spielberg said of him that "He celebrated the noblest impulses of woman and man, showed all of us our dark side and then pointed a flashlight at the way out" (USA Today, September 4, 1991).

He knew how to use the talents of some of the greatest actors of all time: Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. He took what they had to offer and then immortalized them in performances of a life time. His film, "It Happened One Night" in 1934, was the first to win all 5 major Academy awards which never had been done before. This success would not be repeated until 1975 with "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.” He made one of the best Christmas, Halloween and Political movies of all time, which proved his ability to master any area. Something I've noticed most of all is not his use of dialogue but his use of Silence. Here are some examples:

Lost Cause. No words, just expressions.
The Bridge. Here and later in front of his old house Stewart
has no script just feelings.
The right to remain silent. Though this scene is full of dialogue
Coopers silence speaks louder.
Confusion. Grant, before his suave days, explaining a scene
through his facial expressions.
Each scene of silence has a different meaning and with a different reaction; Compassion, Soul Searching, Humiliation and even humor.

Director of the Week:

Frank Capra (Francesco Capra)

Born: May 18th, 1897 (Italy)

Died: Sep 3rd, 1991 (Heart Attack)

Winner of over 11 awards, three of which were Oscars

Directed over 50 movies

"My films must let every man, woman and child know that God loves them, that I love them, and that peace and salvation will become a reality only when they all learn to love each other."

"During the dark decade of the 1930s, director Frank Capra became America's preeminent filmmaker, leavening Depression-era despair with his irrepressible optimism of the Everyman triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds. Packaging hope for the hopeless, his goodwill movies were as important to national morale as Franklin D. Roosevelt's famed Fireside Chats and well-deserving of the three Best Director Oscars they brought him.

"A true rags-to-riches story, Capra rose above his working-class immigrant background to earn a degree in chemical engineering and serve in the U.S. Army in WWI, only to enter into filmmaking once his post-war career options became limited. He received his start in comedy, helping vaudeville star Harry Langdon make it big in Hollywood, before landing a deal with notorious head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn. During this time, Capra segued from the silent era to talkies with action pictures like "Flight" (1929) and "Dirigible" (1931), before commencing his lifelong collaboration with writer Robert Riskin on the first of their socially-conscious films, "American Madness" (1932).

"Capra reached fruition with "Lady for a Day" (1933), only to suffer public embarrassment after believing he had won the Oscar for Best Director. But he received his due the following year with "It Happened One Night" (1934), the first movie to ever sweep the five major categories at the Academy Awards. Capra entered into a particularly fruitful period with "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), which he followed with the classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), starring James Stewart as the director's prototypical idealistic Everyman triumphing over evil.

"During World War II, Capra reentered the U.S. Army to make several acclaimed wartime propaganda movies, including "Prelude to War" (1942), which won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Upon his return to narrative filmmaking, Capra reunited with Stewart on "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), a heartwarming tale that failed at the box office during its initial release, but later became a perennial holiday classic. That last film proved to be Capra's last great achievement, as the director made several underwhelming films over the next two decades before officially retiring and moving out of Hollywood. With a career that celebrated patriotism, idealism and small-town American values, Capra's strength as a filmmaker marked him as a true giant of Hollywood's Golden Age."
Excerpt from

*Climax of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Nominated for Best Picture in 1940 but won out by "Gone With the Wind."

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Through this Blog I hope to create an atmosphere of shared thoughts and opinions on the Movies of the past. I plan on doing this with creating topics of the month, trivia questions, and most popular lists. In the future I hope that either you or I will uncover even more cinema and create new favorites. If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them!