Friday, January 20, 2017

10 Things You May Not Know About Thelma Ritter

Thelma Ritter is one of the most beloved character actresses of all time (at least according to me anyway). She appeared in many classic films starting with Miracle on 34th Street. Test your knowledge of this iconic actress by checking out the 10 facts below.

1. Family friend, director George Seaton, cast her in her first movie Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and her last, What’s So Bad About Feeling Good (1968).

2. She was uncredited in her first three movies: Miracle on 34th Street, Call Northside 777 (1948), and A Letter to Three Wives (1949).

3. Ritter was nominated for six Oscars—all for Best Supporting Actress.

4. Her first Oscar nomination was for her role as Birdie in All About Eve (1950).

5. Her name was above the title for the first time in The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951).

6. She played a character based on Molly Brown in Titanic (1953).

Thelma Ritter ruins James Stewart’s appetite in Rear Window.

7. She was not nominated for her role as Stella in Rear Window (1954).

8. Co-hosted the Oscar ceremony with Bob Hope in 1954.

9. She won a Tony Award for Best Actress (Musical) in New Girl in Town (1957) in a tie with costar Gwen Verdon.

10. She died nine days before her 67th birthday in 1969.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Screening of "The Model and the Marriage Broker" at Daystar Center February 14

Classic Movie Man Favorites Series: The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: February 14, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald


The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951) features Thelma Ritter in a rare starring role as marriage broker, Mae Swasey. Her office is located in New York City’s iconic Flatiron Building where she helps her shy and awkward clients find love and companionship. When she picks up the purse of model Kitty Bennett (Jeanne Crain) by accident, she decides to secretly become her marriage broker. You see, the model found out that the man she’s been dating is married, and Mae sees no future in that relationship. Without her knowledge Mae arranges for Kitty to meet Matt Hornbeck (Scott Brady), a young radiographer. Will Mae’s matchmaking be successful? And what about Mae? Will she find a love of her own? 

Jeanne Crain and Thelma Ritter

This underrated classic has a script by Charles Brackett (Sunset Boulevard - 1950, The Lost Weekend - 1945), cinematography by Milton Kranser (The Egg and I – 1947, All About Eve – 1950, Three Coins in the Fountain – 1954, An Affair to Remember – 1957), and direction by the legendary George Cukor (My Fair Lady - 1964). 

The film also boasts a first-rate supporting cast, featuring Zero Mostel and Nancy Kulp in their first movie roles. But first and foremost, The Model and the Marriage Broker has the incomparable Ritter in one of the best roles of her career.


This film is part of the Classic Movie Man’s favorites series.


Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Screening of “The Hard Way” at the Daystar Center January 17

Classic Movie Man Favorites Series: The Hard Way (1943)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: January 17, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald


Helen Chernen (Ida Lupino) wants out of Green Hill, the small, grimy industrial town where she grew up. When her younger sister Katie (Joan Leslie) catches the eye of a traveling vaudevillian Albert Runkel (Jack Carson), one part of the duo of Runkel and Collins (Dennis Morgan), Helen encourages Katie to elope with Albert. When Katie leaves Green Hill to go on the road with her new husband and his partner, Helen goes along with them. Helen carefully manages to incorporate Katie into the act, much to the dismay of his partner, Paul Collins. Eventually, Katie gets noticed by a Broadway producer and is cast in a featured role that puts her on the path to stardom. As Katie’s career blossoms, her marriage to Albert deteriorates. Helen’s drive to make Katie a major Broadway star takes its toll. When Katie is cast in a new dramatic play by a famous playwright, Helen thinks that she and her sister have finally made it. But have they really?

As the ambitious older sister, the New York Film Critics Circle voted Lupino Best Actress of the Year. Directed by Vincent Sherman (Old Acquaintance 1943, Mr. Skeffington 1944) and with cinematography by two-time Academy Award winner, James Wong Howe (The Rose Tattoo 1955, Hud 1963), The Hard Way still shines over 70 years after its initial release.

This film is part of the Classic Movie Man’s favorites series.

Backstory: The Hard Way is reportedly the veiled story of screen legend Ginger Rogers and her mother Lela. In order to avoid a lawsuit, the studio changed the relationship from mother and daughter to sisters.


Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Chicago Film Club field trip: “Singin' n the Rain” January 15 at ShowPlace ICON at Roosevelt Road

Where: ShowPlace ICON, 150W Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60605
When: January 15, 2017
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald
Run Time: 2 hours (approximate)

Ticketing: Tickets are available by clicking on the Buy Tickets button. If online ticketing is not available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating cinema.

Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Entertainment are thrilled to present Singin’ in the Rain 65th Anniversary, in select cinemas nationwide on Sunday, January 15The event also includes exclusive commentary from Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, who will give insight into this classic film. 

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor star in one of the greatest musicals ever filmed. Musician Don Lockwood (Kelly) rises to stardom during Hollywood's silent-movie era--paired with the beautiful, jealous and dumb Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). When Lockwood becomes attracted to young studio singer Kathy Selden (Reynolds), Lamont has her fired. But with the introduction of talking pictures, audiences laugh when they hear Lockwood speak for the first time--and the studio uses Selden to dub her voice.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen a classic film and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


I’ll be holding up a Meetup sign by the concessions near the theater entrance (TCM/Fathom Events movies are usually in first theater south of the concessions). Let’s try and meet at 1:45 p.m.


This film will be shown in the same aspect ratio as when it was originally released in cinemas.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Frank Capra’s “The Miracle Woman” screening at Daystar Center January 14

“Stanwyck on State Street” Film Series: The Miracle Woman
Where: The Venue 1550 at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street, Chicago, IL
When: January 14, 2017
Time: 6:45 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

Director Frank Capra (It Happened One Night and It’s a Wonderful Life) directed five movies starring Barbara Stanwyck. The Miracle Woman (1931) was their second collaboration and considered among their best. It’s a story of faith, disappointment, and redemption that was made at a time when American evangelism was at its peak.

Barbara Stanwyck and David Manners in The Miracle Woman

What’s it all about?
Stanwyck plays Florence Fallon whose pastor father is forced out of his church to make way for a younger man. Heartbroken over losing his pastorate, Florence’s father dies right before he’s set to give his farewell sermon. Florence starts to deliver her father’s sermon, but ends up scolding the church for firing her father so abruptly. After driving the congregation from the church with her fiery rebuke, Bob Hornsby, a con man, approaches her. He asks Florence to join forces with him to become a fake evangelist and faith healer. Bitter, disillusioned, and with no income of her own, Florence takes Hornsby up on his offer. In no time, “Sister Fallon” becomes a famous evangelist who heads a large church and whose sermons are broadcast over the radio. When one of Sister Fallon’s sermons helps a depressed, young blind man from committing suicide, Florence begins to reevaluate her life. Will she return to the faith of her father or will she continue to go down a path leading to her own destruction?

This pre-Code classic is as powerful today as it was 86 years ago. Filmmakers like Ron Howard (Apollo 13) consider it one of Capra’s best efforts.

The Miracle Woman is  part of the “Stanwyck on State Street” film series.

Barbara Stanwyck (left) and Frank Capra (right) made five films together

Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Debbie Reynolds made me love the movies

I grew up going to the movies. I’m old enough to remember a time when movies didn’t have ratings. When I was young, it was completely acceptable for a group of grade-school-age kids to go the movies without any adult supervision. Often on the weekends, our whole family would go to the movies. My sister, who is 8 years older than I, also took me to the movies on a regular basis. We probably saw every Disney movie released between 1963 and 1970. But the movie I most remember seeing from my childhood is How the West Was Won, which was released in the U.S. on February 20, 1963.*


How the West Was Won was the epic story of four generations of the Prescott family as they migrated from New York to the west. The film took place between 1839 and 1889 and was shot in the curved wide-screen Cinerama process, using three cameras filming simultaneously, with each camera capturing a third of the action. When shown in theaters, three projectors were required and they had to be synchronized exactly so that the three panels would match. Although this process was technically cumbersome and had its drawbacks, for a big sprawling production like How the West Was Won, it was perfect. The screen was so big and wide that it was almost overwhelming. I was six years old when I first saw it. The film’s scope and the story of the Prescott family mesmerized me. I remember being taken by both Carroll Baker and Debbie Reynolds who played Eve and Lilith Prescott respectively. But I was especially taken by Reynolds’s character. She was the rebellious sister who was funny and cute.

How movie theaters were set up for Cinerama

During one scene, the Prescott family is taken in by river pirates headed by Jeb Hawkins played by Walter Brennan (Amos from The Real McCoys!). With some help from fur trader Linus Rawlings (James Stewart), the Prescott family is saved. But the Prescotts don’t just sit around and wait to be rescued. Oh, no. And Lillith is not afraid to fight for her family. There is one memorable scene where Hawkins’s daughter, Dora (Brigid Bazlen), tries to escape with the Prescott family’s money, but is spied by Lilith. Lilith takes the sack of money from Dora and proceeds to smack her in the head with it! What a brave girl! From that moment on I was smitten with Reynolds’s character.

After the encounter with the river pirates, Older sister Eve ends up marrying Linus and the two homestead in Ohio, where Mr. and Mrs. Prescott died in the river rapids on their journey west.

The Prescott family sing a song with some other travelers west.
Debbie Reynolds is second from right next to her screen sister, Carroll Baker

Lilith decides to continue moving west and ends up in St. Louis as a dance hall girl where she meets gambler Cleve Van Valen (Gregory Peck). When he discovers that Lilith has inherited a California gold mine, he follows her on a wagon train taking her there. The two eventually marry and settle in San Francisco.

Publicity shot with (from left to right) Carroll Baker (Eve Prescott), James Stewart (Linus Rawlings),
and Debbie Reynolds (Lilith Prescott)

The story then turns to the Civil War, where Linus Rawlings is killed in battle. Eve and Linus’s oldest son Zeb (George Peppard) wants to enlist and join the fight, but once he does and sees the horrors of war, he has second thoughts. But he endures and after the war he meets one of his father’s fur trapping buddies Jethro Stuart (Henry Fonda). Zeb a lieutenant in the U.S. Calvary, is in charge of keeping the peace while the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads are racing to join the east and the west. Jethro is in charge of supplying the railroad crew with meat, as well as being a go-between with the Indians. When railroad man Mike King (Richard Widmark) breaks a treaty with the Indians, who retaliate by sending a stampede of buffalo through his camp, killing many women and children, Zeb resigns in disgust and moves to Arizona.

Reynolds and Gregory Peck who played her husband, Cleve Van Valen

We go back to Lilith who is now a widow forced to sell her home and possessions in San Francisco to pay off her debts. She travels to Arizona to meet her nephew Zeb and his wife Julie (Carolyn Jones) and their two sons Prescott (Stanley Livingston from My Three Sons) and Zeke (Bryan Russell) and their daughter, Eve. Lilith wants Zeb to manage her ranch, which is her one remaining asset. But before they can get to the ranch, Zeb, a marshall, has to do battle with the outlaw Charlie Gant (Eli Wallach). Zeb killed Gant’s brother in a gunfight and Gant has threatened Zeb and his family with revenge. An exciting fight takes place on a train with a large gold shipment. A shootout between Zeb and his men against Gant and his gang results in a fantastic train wreck. Gant and his men are all dead. Zeb and his family, along with his Aunt Lilith begin their journey to Arizona to start a new life.

George Peppard (Zeb Prescott), Reynolds, unidentified little girl, Carolyn Jones (Julie Prescott)

How the West Was Won was the first movie that I can remember being able to follow the narrative. For the first time it hit me that movies weren’t just images on a big screen. Movies could reach a person on an emotional level. I was able to relate to the Prescott family and their struggles and I was pulling for them. Debbie Reynolds’s character, fought with bandits, survived the rapids in Ohio, a wagon train Indian attack, had some success as a showgirl in St. Louis, made and lost a fortune in California, and eventually retires with her nephew and his family on a ranch. She was in the first and closing scenes, which tied all the generations together.


Seeing the film as an adult I find it still resonates with me. Reynolds’s performance holds up and is really quite remarkable. A very young looking 30 years old when she made How the West Was Won, Reynolds effectively portrays the young teenage Lilith, developing into the older and wiser showgirl and businesswoman. She is the film’s emotional anchor, holding her own with some of the biggest movie stars of all time.

It was my connection to Reynolds’s characterization of Lilith in How the West Was Won which led me to love the movies and appreciate the power of visual storytelling. Whenever How the West Was Won is on Turner Classic Movies, it’s hard for me to resist watching it, even though I have it on DVD (two copies actually!). The story, the stars, the musical score, all hold a special place in my heart and I have Debbie Reynolds, in part, to thank for that.


*How the West Was Won was released in U.K. November 1, 1962.

Happy New Year from Classic Movie Man

Jane Greer is ready for the New Year!

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