Archive for the ‘journalism’ category
The Kitty Packard Pictorial is pleased to be back with another installment of the Kitty Corner, a series spotlighting some of the very best film blogs on the web, and the masterminds behind them. Today, The Pictorial sits down with the lovely Jessica Pickens of “Comet Over Hollywood.” Pickens, a journalist based out of South Carolina, has been blogging since 2009 and her adventures in the classic filmdom have brought her into the company of legendary actresses such as Dolores Hart, this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival– and into the hearts of classic film lovers. Pickens sat down with The Pictorial to talk about her career as a journalist and classic film blogger.
The Kitty Packard Pictorial: I think it’s safe to say that in the classic film blogosphere, your blog “Comet Over Hollywood” is one of the most loved, and certainly one of the most consistently well-written. The question I ask to start off with any blogger is: How would you define “Comet Over Hollywood,” and why does it exist?
Jessica Pickens: Back in 2009 when I was a sophomore in college, I guess I felt frustrated because no one around me understood why classic films were so great. I thought, “Surely there is a way I can spread the word and get people to understand.” This was pre-Twitter popularity. Blogging was something my journalism professors said we should do and most of us weren’t. We sort of dismissed it. But then I thought, maybe a blog is just how I could do that. “Comet Over Hollywood” is really just a place where I express my film love, and maybe try to present things to people in a way they may not have thought of. Like, Rebecca and Elephant Walk being so similar– or even doing the [classic movie] beauty tips. Read more ►
In the days before Hulu and YouTube and Netflix streaming and iPhone apps, waaaay back in a time where communication wasn’t instant and deferred gratification was still a cultural commodity—the movie magazine serial thrived.
Think about it. Let’s say it’s 1940. A film comes out in the cinema, you pay your quarter, watched it, went home and … well. That’s pretty much it. Sure you can revisit the film again at the theater, but there really wasn’t an afterlife for your favorite film of the moment. You weren’t waiting for it’s DVD release. There wasn’t a TV station to pick up the rights for rebroadcast. There was no Internet for downloading favorite scenes or watching instantly (whether legally or not so legally). If you really loved a film and wanted to have a personal interaction with it in your own home— that personal relationship with film that we take for granted—you could find solace either on the radio with programs like Lux Radio Theater, or in the pages of the movie magazine.
Popular films were serialized, often published within a month or two of the film’s initial theater release. The writing was campy at best, chockablock with the sort of gushy prose that permeated movie magazine of the day, but the spreads were asplash with color, plentiful photo stills, and definitely captured the spirit of the film enough to satisfy even the most ardent movielover before their next trip back to the cinema.
I absolutely adore reading these movie serials from Hollywood’s golden age and thought it would be fun new feature for the Pictorial to start posting some of them on a regular basis.
It Happened in Brooklyn is a low-budget, B-musical from 1947, starring a very young Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Kathryn Grayson. The film does not hold up very well today (wasn’t much of a hit upon first release either) and it’s serialization in the June 1947 issue of Screen Romances is actually more fun than the film itself. But it’s a prime example of the movie serial and as good a place as any to start our new feature.
It reads like a Nicholas Sparks novel, but without all the gooey schmaltz. A collection of over 300 wartime letters penned by GIs and addressed to actress Donna Reed during WWII’s darkest years have been released, after nearly 65 years of being hidden away in a shoebox in Reed’s Beverly Hills home.
Written on impossibly humid South Pacific midnights and achingly cold Eastern European mornings when memories of home flickered like a fading dream and the soul grasped for a tangible reason to keep vigilant, these letters were cries for hope and comfort in a savage world of never-ending nightmares. And their comfort was found in young Miss Reed: “the girl back home” that they were fighting for.
The world was far from a global village then: 7,000 miles mean nothing now with twitter and facebook and iPhones—the faces of your loved ones are never more than a click away. But in 1944, a single black and white photograph of your best gal was the only thing to keep you connected across the 7,000 miles of ocean and jungle that separated New Jersey from New Guinea. And for these GIs, Donna was their ideal best gal.
The letters were authored by kids, really—all of 19 and 20 years old. Young soldiers who couldn’t have known that their earnest scrawls would, 65 years later, become truly important pieces of history. But Reed, who passed away 1986, must have felt the importance of it all and kept 341 of them quietly tucked away. The Guardian put it this way: “Reed kept the letters because she saw them as precious mementoes of an age when innocence and slaughter were locked together.”
“Mom never mentioned them,” said Reed’s youngest daughter Mary Owen. “I had no idea she was such an important symbol to these guys.” Betty Grable’s legs and Rita Hayworth’s negligee’s might more readily pop into mind on the subject of wartime pinups—but “Reed probably came closer than any other actress to being the archetypical sweetheart, wife and mother.” Said biographer Jay Fultz.
So just why is this discovery so meaningful? The Guardian newspaper has captured the heart of these exceptionally revelatory letters in a beautifully written post on their film blog so I hand the mic over to them:
“We have a war now in the Middle East that has gone on longer than America’s involvement in the second world war. And maybe there are Hollywood people who send letters and glossy photographs signed, “Good luck!” But, of course, the guys out there have endless digital coverage of their wives and girlfriends now – some of it cheerfully pornographic – and so they hardly need dreams. You can add that there really aren’t people like Donna Reed any more.
Still, the discovery of that shoebox seemed like a revelation of real history, of where we have come from and of what movies can never mean again. You have to wonder how many times Reed looked at the shoebox and thought of throwing it out. We only know that she kept it. But you have to be an awful cynic to decide that that was because she had forgotten it. The men were expendable, perhaps, but not the messages.”
Who says that no one in LA reads? At least the fine folks at Jacket Copy do, the LA Times most excellent book blog. They recently posted a great review of Jeffery Vance’s Douglas Fairbanks biography , a delicious excerpt from T.C. Boyle’s The Women (Frank Lloyd Wright and the women who loved him) and are they ever abreast of the latest developments in all things literati—even including a sale at the Library of America.
Regardless of your particular abode of dwelling, Jacket Copy is a great way keep a reading list that is, not only current but also relevant.
Another magazine cover and advertisement plucked from my collection. The Modern Priscilla was a precursor to the Women’s Day magazines we know today: sewing patterns, recipes, cooking tips and trends fill the pages. These magazines don’t have the wit or flash of, say, the era’s Vogue and Cosmopolitans, but they are still fun to read. Color ads are few, but do they ever pop!