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It Could Be You

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Elizabeth Lawrence is Betty Jo Tucker!

My friend, radio talk show hostess and award-winning author, Betty Jo Tucker has recently relaunched her book “It Had to be Us.” It’s a romantic memoir, sure to tickle the fancy of young-at-heart lovers. It’s available on Kindle for $5.99. Royalties are donated to THE IMAGINATION LIBRARY, a children’s literary project sponsored by the Dollywood Foundation.

Betty Jo is offering lots of bonuses, including a copy of her book “Confessions of a Movie Addict,” which I enthusiastically recommend, especially if you love movies as I do. For more details, check it out here.

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Why the Academy Awards Go On and On

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“I just want to thank everybody I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

—  Kim Basinger,

winning Best Supporting Actress for  “L.A. Confidential” in 1998

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Remembering Funny Men

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

Despite appearances, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin had a lot in common.

They were both born into poor families in the late nineteenth century, Fields near Philadelphia in 1880 and Chaplin in London in 1889.  Before catapulting to fame during the silent movie era, Fields was in vaudeville.  He started as a juggler, appearing as a genteel tramp with a scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo, somehow managing to keep cigar boxes, hats, and other flying objects up in the air.

Chaplin, too, began on the vaudeville stage doing comedy sketches.  His impersonation of a drunk dressed in evening attire and top hat, attempting to light a cigar on a light bulb, was one of his most popular roles.

In character, Fields was a hard-drinking misanthrope, playing hustlers and card sharks with an animosity towards dogs and children.  Disputing this, Fields declared, “I like children – fried.”

Chaplin’s “the Tramp” was a good-hearted character who, regardless of his predicament which he often brought upon himself, acted like the perfect gentleman.  The Kid, “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear,” featured seven-year old Jackie Coogan as “the Tramp’s” adopted son and sidekick.

The public adored both Fields and Chaplin, but both were lonely. “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend,” Chaplin once bemoaned.

Explaining to his family his aversion to Christmas and other “silly holidays”, Fields lamented, “It’s because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road — as I was for so long . . . and around the world seven times–finds himself all alone on the days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It’s not too good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.”

"Christmas Charlie" -- By: Mike Margolis

“Christmas Charlie” — By: Mike Margolis

Still Fields would boast, “Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”

Ironically, Fields died on Christmas day, 1946.  In his will, later contested by his estranged wife and one of his two sons (both named William, after the old man), he left a portion of his estate to an orphanage “where no religion of any sort is preached.”

By coincidence, Chaplin, too, passed away on Christmas day, 1977, survived by two sons (including Charles Spencer Chaplin III) from an early marriage and eight children from his fourth and last marriage with Oona O’Neill.

What tremendous legacies these funny men left. They always made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. We remember them with joy in our hearts and good will to all.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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100 Years Ago in Pop Culture: The Birth of a Filmmaker

In 1913 actor and filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille began shooting The Squaw Man In Hollywood.

A romance? A Western? Hollywood's first feature-length film

A romance? A Western? Hollywood’s first feature-length film

It was a bit of an accident that DeMille and his crew were there.  They had planned to locate to Flagstaff, Arizona, but the weather was so bad that December, nor were the vistas as spectacular as expected, that they took the train to the end of the line and decided to stay, the California climate and scenery being perfect for their endeavor.

The Squaw Man, a romantic drama based on a play, involves an English peer falsely accused of a crime his cousin had committed.  He escapes to the American West and marries an Indian woman, only to return home, without his wife who had died, when he is cleared of all charges.

The six-reeler, the first feature length film made in Hollywood, was a huge success.  DeMille, rather taken with the story, remade the move twice, again as a silent in 1918 and then as a talkie in 1931.

Tyrannical on the set, he wore a whistle around his neck and carried a large megaphone, so his instructions were loud and clear.  Although not an actor’s director, he was loyal to his actors, casting Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson, Gary Cooper, Robert Preston, Paulette Goddard, and Charlton Heston in multiple pictures.

DeMille became a celebrity in his own right, dressing the part in an open-necked shirt, riding pants, and boots. However, in his cameo appearance as himself in Sunset Boulevard (1950), he wore a conservative dark suit and tie.

The director’s best known endeavors came late in his career.  He made Samson and Delilah in 1949, The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952, and The Ten Commandments in 1956.  In Egypt filming the Exodus scene for the later, then-75-year-old DeMille climbed to the top of the massive Ramesses set and suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Against his doctor’s orders, DeMille was back directing the film within a week.

Setting his sights on the stars, DeMille was planning a movie about space travel, when he died of a heart ailment in January, 1958.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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Let’s Go to the Movies

I love this time of year.  No, I’m not thinking about holiday parties or hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” for the twentieth time in a television commercial. And I certainly won’t spend the month putting together my New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about the movies!

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

The Oscar buzz has already started. Frontrunners, per pundits, include 12 Years A Slave and Gravity with Captain Phillips gaining.  It’s a competitive awards season, some even call it “cluttered”. For me it means more movies worth watching and performances to appreciate.  I’m partial to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (which I saw last weekend) and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.  

There’s more comedy, drama, romance, fantasy out there: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, Philomena, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

And more to come.  David O. Russell’s American Hustle with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence (what a cast!) is in theaters December 18. The Disney movie Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks (who might be nominated for Best Actor for Captain Phillips) playing Walt Disney opens everywhere December 20, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and Matthew McConaughey, again, but in a supporting role) opens Christmas Day. The trailers are wild.

I haven’t seen everything I’ve mentioned, nor will I.  I’m usually guided by the reviews, good or bad.  But I’ll be drawn to the cinema again and again.  If I have an appetite for action, I might take in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a runaway success.  It stars a talented young actress who has already scored an Oscar. 

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

“Let’s Go to the Movies” from Annie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wftKf04N5r0

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It’s Still Happening in Vegas

HarperCollins published my first book, Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide, several years ago.  But this book review by Betty Jo Tucker from Author’s Den and Movie Addict Headquarters on blogtalkradio is new!

Thank you, Betty Jo.

bigbooksmlLas Vegas Weddings: Book Review

By Betty Jo Tucker

Author Susan Marg deserves kudos for her impressive research in connection with “Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide.” It’s an entertaining read packed with fascinating information about how Vegas weddings intertwine with the history of the town itself.

It’s also fun reading for movie addicts like me, mostly because Marg highlights the nuptials of so many film stars who got hitched in Las Vegas. What a treat to find out the revealing facts behind weddings of such glamorous actors and actresses as Angelina Jolie, Michael Caine, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Nelson Eddy, Bette Midler, Joan Crawford, Richard Gere, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley!

And speaking of Elvis, Marg includes an entire chapter titled “What’s a Wedding without Elvis”? She writes, “While there is an impersonator for any celebrity…it is the King that couples clamor for.” There are hundreds of Elvis impersonators in Vegas, of course, and it’s no problem to hire a fake Elvis to escort the bride down the aisle and to serenade the newlyweds after the ceremony. The book also features a chapel guide that helps prospective brides and grooms plan their own wedding festivities in Vegas.

It’s no wonder Vegas and Hollywood seem like a perfect match, so I’m pleased that Marg mentions various films about Las Vegas — including Honeymoon in Vegas, Vegas Vacation, Viva Las Vegas, Fools Rush In, and Ocean’s Eleven. She points out that movies like these have played an important role in making Vegas weddings so popular

Despite the massive amount of information in Las Vegas Weddings, it flows seamlessly. Marg has a breezy, appealing style that draws us in and keeps us interested. Her book also presents some rare photographs of celebrities. I especially love the one of Michael Caine and his beautiful bride as well as the photo of Elvis and Ann-Margret dancing together while filming Viva Las Vegas!

I think this book would make a wonderful holiday gift for movie fans.

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From the Small Screen to the Silver Screen

In its November 4, 2013 issue, New York magazine released its second annual assessment of “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars”.  Their ranking took into account such variables as box office, likability, and Oscar wins and nominations.  Mentions on Twitter counted, too.

From one to one hundred. Photo by: Mark Morgan

From one to one hundred. Photo by: Mark Morgan

Surprise!  Robert Downey Jr. was number one, again, as Iron Man 3 smashed records at the 2013 box office.  Ok, if we’re going by the numbers determined by a formula.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, and Brad Pitt follow on the list. No surprise there, considering such movies as Django, Silver Linings Playbook, The Heat and Gravity, and World War Z, respectively.

However, it was Will Smith at number 6 who caught my eye.  His stated goal was to become “the biggest movie star in the world,” and that he probably was – at some point in time. Smith began making movies while his sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) was still on the air.  Blockbusters came next.

That got me thinking. What other actors have made the transition from television to the movies and are considered “valuable” in 2013? There are many of them still going strong, per New York.

Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies), Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street, not to be confused wtih the 2012 comedy starring Jonah Hill), and Jennifer Aniston (Friends) are in the top sixteen.

If we consider SNL cast members, there’s Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, both of whom have had quite fruitful movie careers, as well as Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, who write as well as perform.

Freaks and Greeks was a jumping off point for James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel, although the series was cancelled after twelve episodes.  We loved Mila Kunis in That ’70s Show, Jennifer Garner in Alias, Steve Carrell in The Office, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Third Rock from the Sun, and we love them today.

Justin Timberlake appeared on The New Mickey Mouse Club.  I think that counts.

Do you remember Rawhide? That goes back a while. It was a Western in black and white, no less.  Well, Clint Eastwood is still around, still valuable. So, too, is Bruce Willis, having a huge career playing the fast-talking wiseguy from Moonlighting.

I’m sure I missed some.  I’m not as up on television, as I used to be. But ask me about Mad Men or The Good Wife.  Go ahead, ask me.  As for Jon Hamm and Julianne Margulies, I think their stars are golden in any medium.  And that’s worth something.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To see New York’s “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars,” visit: http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/most-valuable-movie-stars.html#/all/vulture-rankings

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5 Ways to Enjoy a Hollywood-Style Halloween

Hollywood is haunted.  Make no bones about it. There are skeletons in the closet and rumors rattling the actors.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the walking dead. So, do as the fear-mongers on Sunset Boulevard do, and have a spirited Halloween.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.  Now that's scary.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Now that’s scary.

1. Rent a costume.

Are you having trouble deciding to be traditional or original?  Dressing as a gangsta like James Cagney or a rapper such as Jay-Z? Then visit the Western Costume Company. They rent thousands of costumes from major motion pictures for Halloween. Even if you’re located in another part of the country, their website has some great ideas.

2. Wear makeup instead of a mask.

If you go this route, take some advice from Oscar-winning makeup effect artist Rick Baker: “Painting on a face is like painting on a canvas.  You have to understand the principles of highlight and shadow.”  To participate in the zombie zeitgeist, that’s so today, “Use oil-based paint sticks for the black shadow and a black eyebrow pencil to add lines and highlights.”

3. Put on your dancing shoes.

At Hollywood Forever Cemetery the party to celebrate Dia de los Meurtos, on November 2 this year, starts rockin’ after dark with hundreds of Aztec Ritual Dancers in full costume and musical performances on three stages.  What’s happening at your local burying grounds?

4. Visit a haunted house.

If the current residents of the house where Ozzie and Harriet and their sons David and Rickie lived in Hollywood have experienced unusual phenomenon, who’s to say that the dwelling down the street  wouldn’t make the perfect place to hold a séance.

5. Watch a movie.

Heads will roll and bodies will pile up, whether you’re into icky, creepy, bloody, gutsy, scary or all of the above.  After all, movies are what Hollywood does best.

Halloween: it’s not just about the candy anymore.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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My Facebook Fan Page

Charlie Chaplin eats his boot in "The Gold Rush."

Charlie Chaplin eats his boot in “The Gold Rush.”

I have created a Facebook fan page for Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown.

But the best part: for every “like”, comments count, too, I am donating a penny to the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF). Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, also founders of United Artists started this private, non-profit charity  over 90 years ago  to help those in the movie industry who had fallen on hard times.  It hasn’t gotten any easier.  Today the fund serves more than 150,000 people annually with healthcare and other social services.

Charlie Chaplin once said, “We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.”

So, please, go to Facebook and “like” Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish.  And if you love silents, film noir, westerns, or some other genre on the silver or small screen, ask your friends to ask their friends. The pennies will add up.

Ready, set, click.   Thank you.

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For more information on MPTF, visit: http://www.mptf.com

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Five Years Ago in Popular Culture: The Death of a Gentleman

Newman and Woodard 1960.

Newman and Woodard 1960.

Unflappable, Unbeatable. Unforgettable. Paul Newman, also known as King Cool, died five years ago at the age of 83.  Known for his philanthropic generosity and passion racing cars, as well as his stage and screen presence, his career spanned decades.

Newman made his movie debut in 1954 in The Silver Chalice, a historical drama, for which he later apologized for his performance.  No matter.  By 1958 he was one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood, going tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Eva Marie Saint in Exodus (1960).

Newman also went mano a mano with his equally celebrated male costars. In 1961 he appeared on the silver screen in The Hustler with Jackie Gleason.  Twenty-five years later he reprised his role as “Fast Eddie” in The Color of Money with Tom Cruise.

Fellow actor Robert Redford and Newman formed a special bond.  Their easy-going camaraderie, in evidence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973), spilled over to life itself.

When asked if he would make a sequel with Redford following Redford’s Indecent Proposal (1993), Newman replied, “”Like a rocket!” Then he added, “I’d shack up with anyone for a million dollars. I’d shack up with a gorilla for a million, plus 10 percent.”

Redford might not have been as pleased to be on a set with Newman again.  “He tells the worst jokes.  And that wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t keep repeating them over and over.”

Newman’s relationship with actress Joanne Woodward also began on a movie set.  Their marriage, his second, reached the fifty-year mark, one of Hollywood’s longest lasting.  Although they briefly separated because Newman had an affair during the filming of Butch Cassidy, he famously paid her the ultimate compliment: “Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”

If those aren’t the words spoken by a gentleman, what are?

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved