December 31, 2016
I'm so pleased to look over at my archives and see that 2016 was the most I blogged on Silents and Talkies since 2010. I was incredibly close to averaging at least one post per week (hello 2017 goal!) I was going to add one more post to the 2016 total, rounding up my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, recapping the TCMFF, and some of the other fun movie-related events I got to attend, but the clock's a ticking, the window for squeezing in a comprehensive year-end round up is narrowing by the second, and I think it's just going to have to wait until next year (like, two days from now. "Next year" jokes never get old.)
So for now, I just want to wish you a Happy New Year and remind anyone who hasn't seen it yet that I made a video for NYE last year and it's my favorite thing I've ever done in my whole entire life and I swear on Dirk Bogarde's giant champagne glass that it will make you smile.
Happy New Year!
December 19, 2016
I saw this on Hamlette and Deb's blogs and decided to join in! I didn't include Two English Girls in any of my answers, but as a consolation prize I made it the header image for the post. It was definitely a contender for favorite period dresses. Muriel probably has my favorite period "look" with her steampunk sunglasses, which honestly deserve their own post...
1. What's your favorite Period Drama movie?
Jules et Jim (with an honorable mention for Doctor Zhivago)
2. What's your favorite Period Drama series?
Foyle’s War. Michael Kitchen owns my heart.
3. Which Period Drama do you dislike the most?
I’m going to go with Gone with the Wind. I don’t necessarily dislike it, I just think it’s kind of overrated and I have no desire to re-watch it. (Although I have to admit these sleeves are TO DIE FOR.)
4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit?
I haven’t seen either, eek! I’ll go with Little Dorrit though because Dickens is my mom’s favorite author and Tom Courtenay is in it.
5. Your favorite Period Drama dresses?
Olivia de Havilland’s dresses in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I’m patiently waiting for a Medieval style comeback... *fingers crossed*
6. Who's your favorite Period Drama character?
Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.
7. If you could join a royal ball, which dress would you wear? (Pick a Period Drama dress)
I know there’s a specific dress that I’m forgetting (and I’m 99% sure it involves giant bell sleeves) but after spending WAY too much time trying to remember my mystery dress, I finally settled on Drew Barrymore’s angel dress from Ever After.
I really shouldn't say "settled" though because this dress is pure magic.
8. What's your favorite Jane Austen movie?
I’d normally answer Clueless, but since this is a period drama tag that probably doesn’t apply here. So my runner-up would be Emma.
9. Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife?
Downton Abbey, but only up until they kill off Sybil because I couldn't keep watching afterwards. (but Chummy on Call the Midwife is one of my favorite tv characters. I adore Miranda Hart.)
10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhouse or Marian of Knighton?
11. Which couples of a Period Drama do you like the most? (Pick at least four)
Henriette and the Duc de Praslin in All This and Heaven Too
Phryne Fisher and Jack in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Becket & King Henry’s bromance in Becket
Lara and Yuri Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago
12. And last, which Period Drama villain do you like the most?
Death in The Seventh Seal!
December 17, 2016
In Late Spring (1949) Noriko is a 27 year old girl who lives in post-war Japan with her father. They lead a very happy existence until her aunt decides that the time has come for Noriko to get married. The film is one of the best I've ever seen (it now occupies the #1 spot on my 2016 new-to-me favorites list.) It's breathtakingly beautiful, subtle, and gentle... cinema at its absolute finest. If you want to learn more about the movie, the themes, the camerawork, definitely look at the reviews on letterboxd or imdb. There's a lot of good, insightful stuff there. As usual, though, if you're looking for "good" or "insightful" I'm not your girl. If you want to read more about why I connected with this movie and completely dried out my tear ducts in the process, however, please continue...
I watched Late Spring (1949) for the first time last weekend, and it was the most emotional experience I've ever had watching a movie. About forty or so minutes in I could tell my eyes were getting watery. Then I felt the slick stream of tears cascading down my cheeks... a steady flow of water traveling my face and landing in little droplets on the collar of my shirt. By the end of the movie, I was actually ugly-face sobbing. I've been an obsessive movie fan for close to two decades now and this has never happened to me before.
I loved this movie so much that I knew instinctively when it was over that it was one of the best movies I've ever seen in my entire life. It wasn't even a thought, just a truth that had to be acknowledged. I loved this so much. I actually haven't stopped thinking about it all week. I haven't even watched any other movies since last Saturday, because I just don't feel ready to part with it yet. Does that sound crazy? I just connected to this so much.
I turned 30 a couple weeks ago, and actually handled it better than expected (and way better than I handled 29.) This time last year I was so full of self-doubt about my path in life. I've been single for my entire life. I've never even been on a date. It's partially because I'm really shy, partially because nobody ever asked, and partially because I like being alone. But I didn't realize just how important that last part was until this year. I REALLY like being alone.
My solo trip to Europe this summer made me fall in love with solitude. I've always known how much I enjoy alone time, but to me that always meant having to stay home and read or watch movies (both of which I love, but I assumed things like trips and concerts had to be buddy activities. They don't.) Suddenly my future started shifting in my mind, changing from "reclusive, lonely old maid dies in her apartment and nobody discovers her body for 2 months, during which time her cats ate her face" to "awesome solo adventurer dies in her apartment and nobody discovers her body for 2 months, during which time her cats ate her face."
This stuff was all blossoming in my subconscious since I got back from Rome. When 30 approached, I wasn't as unnerved as I thought I'd be, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was suddenly okay with what had previously been a terrifying milestone.
Then I watched Late Spring last week.
I related to Noriko so much that her fate -- resigned to an arranged marriage -- was almost unbearable. I realized how incredibly happy I am with my life, how much I love being around my family (she lives with her father, I live with both parents and my younger brother) and how society often forces us into one-size-fits-all life events, even if it's not what we actually want. The main difference is that Noriko lived in 1949 Japan and I live in 2016 America. I don't have a pushy aunt trying to marry me off. I don't have friends pestering me about finally settling down. While it's still obviously common to couple off and start a family, it's not expected. It's not required. I have a choice. And as I watched Noriko being nudged into a future that she didn't desire, I suddenly realized how fortunate I am to be able to decide my own fate.
I may be interpreting this movie all wrong (although I'm of the belief that there's actually no wrong way to interpret a movie, we all should be able to get from movies whatever we personally need) but it seems to me like Noriko and her father both end up unhappy because of the way things "should be." When her father tells her that her mother wasn't happy, and he often found her crying on the kitchen floor, I imagined Noriko following in her footsteps, pushed into marriage and away from a life she loved. Most movies perpetuate the notion that "happily ever after" only happens after a trip down the aisle, but Late Spring tells a different tale, and it's one that resonated very strongly with me.
I'm dedicating all of my future single adventures to Noriko, a heroine ahead of her time, an independent spirit trapped in a traditional time, a glowing light snuffed out by societal conventions. She didn't get a happily ever after, but she helped me discover my own, and for that I'll always be grateful.
November 28, 2016
When I jumped on the pin-making bandwagon a few months ago I noticed there's a deficit of classic film related enamel lapel pins on the market. I scoured the internet to find as many as I could and collected them here for a little Christmas shopping/wish list kind of post. I already have the Gone with the Wind pin (#17) and I ordered the Hitchcock one the minute I laid eyes on it (#11.) A few pins were designed by me, but most of them are from other artists.
Honestly this was all I could find on classic movies, which kind of bummed me out! If you have any suggestions or ideas for a pin that you'd love to see exist let me know in the comments and I'll try to make it happen!
1 - Tippi Hedren pin from Demonic Pinfestation
2 - A Trip to the Moon pin from my shop
3 - Silent Film Intertitle pin from CreatorCollab
4 - Marilyn pin from Memento Mori Goods
5 - George Lassos the Moon pin from The Silver Spider
6 - Phantom of the Opera pin from Buddha Bit
7 - Sophia Loren quote pin from my shop
8 - The Man Who Came to Dinner pin from my shop
9 - Glow in the dark Psycho pin from That's Fancy Eh
10 - Jingle Bell Rock (Hudson) pin from my shop
11 - Hitchcock pin from Nacho Scratcho
12 - The Shining Redrum door pin from Quasi Visual Arts
13 - Holiday pin from my shop
14 - Vincent Price pin from Two Ghouls Press
15 - Funny Girl pin from Grackle Distro
16 - Glow in the dark Vertigo pin from my shop
17 - Frankly My Dear pin from Jennis Prints
18 - Maltese Falcon pin from my shop
19 - Hedy Lamarr pin from Ici Pici Pins
20 - Night of the Hunter pin from CreatorCollab
November 21, 2016
Yesterday I had the enormous pleasure of seeing Isabelle Huppert do a live Q&A at The Metrograph in New York City. Huppert is widely considered to be one of the best actresses (if not the best) of her generation, and being in that room last night you definitely got the sense that you were in the presence of an icon.
My own personal admiration for her is comparable to how I feel about my favorite classic Hollywood actress, Barbara Stanwyck. They both have a quality of effortless perfection about their work. They are masters of their craft. They blend seamlessly into their roles and exude a powerful sense of confidence, but at the same time, both are able to tap into this authentic vulnerability that you rarely see on screen. And, as I learned last night, Huppert also emulates Stanwyck off-screen in her modesty, professionalism, grace, and wit.
Huppert chose all of the movies for her Metrograph retrospective (although I got the sense that Metrograph was unable to procure a lot of her choices. She kept asking about specific films that she thought she had included, but the moderator said they were unable to secure the rights or unable to obtain a copy. None of her Chabrol films were included for this reason, apparently.) including Abuse of Weakness, White Material, The Piano Teacher, Amateur, and Home. The Q&A I attended was preceded by a screening of her 2012 film In Another Country, by Hong Sang-soo.
I hadn't seen it before, but it easily entered my "favorite new-to me movies of the year" list. The film starts out with a girl dreaming up a screenplay to distract her from family problems. She dreams up three scenarios, each featuring a French woman visiting a small coastal town in South Korea. In the first segment, Huppert plays a director on holiday with the family of a South Korean filmmaker. In the second segment, she plays a married woman impatiently waiting for her famous lover to join her for a one-day tryst. In the third segment she plays a divorcee whose husband has just left her for his South Korean employee. In each scenario, she meets the same group of people and has similar but varying interactions with them -- asking a lifeguard for directions to a lighthouse, borrowing an umbrella from the girl who runs the hotel, eating barbecue with another family. The film is a light and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but I think the best word to describe it is sweet. And it had SUCH a perfect ending. When the last scene was ending I thought to myself "PLEASE let this be the last scene, it would be tragic if it continued after this. It's too perfect." Some movies just keep going past that sweet spot, but this one knew exactly where and how to end. I loved it.
As soon as the film was finished, Huppert came out for a Q&A. In the very first question she couldn't remember the word for "lighthouse" and someone from the audience helped her out. It was hilarious because one of the ongoing jokes (probably THE ongoing joke) in In Another Country centered around Huppert's character trying to communicate the word 'lighthouse' to the South Korean lifeguard. It really set the tone for an intimate, fun event where Huppert engaged with the audience as if we were all old friends.
Here are a few of my favorite anecdotes from the event:
- Somebody asked if there is any director she hasn't been able to work with yet that she'd love to. She was incredibly modest about it, trying to say that she only wants to work with people who want to work with her. But then she did kind of let it slip that she'd love to work with Woody Allen. I'm personally not a fan of his, but for her sake I hope word gets out to him. Isabelle Freaking Huppert wants to be in one of your movies, Woody. Make it happen.
- While working on Heaven's Gate, Godard came to Montana to visit Huppert, as they were going to be working on a movie together. She asked him if he could just give her an idea of what her character was going to be and he said "the face of suffering." haha! She also told her Heaven's Gate director, Michael Cimino, that Godard was visiting and he excitedly asked if she could bring him around to the set. She passed the message on to Godard and he said he was too tired. He just stayed in his hotel and never visited the set.
- Huppert was VERY impressed with her feline costar in her 2016 film Elle. She said it was a trained cat and it was the first time she ever worked with a cat that was basically an actor.
- Huppert and her family own a repertory theater in Paris in the 6th arrondissement. She said her son does all of the programming now, and it looks like right now they're wrapping up a Lauren Bacall retrospective! I'm definitely going to check this out next time I'm in Paris!
- In Another Country was shot in NINE DAYS. Huppert was talking to director Hong Sang-soo about his next project and he causally asked if she'd want to be in it. He had no script, no plot, no plans except for the location. She agreed and the next month she flew to Seoul where she was met by the director and her male costar at the airport. Her hair was done at a beauty salon in Seoul, and her wardrobe in the film was selected from her own closet by the director. Sang-soo wrote the screenplay as they filmed, giving out scripts the night before shoots. Apparently they were intended to shoot for two weeks but after nine days he said "that's it!" and called a wrap. She said that their follow-up film (shot last year and scheduled to be released soon) was shot in only five days!
- She said she doesn't like to call her roles "characters." She prefers to just think of them as other people, who are also her. I honestly think this is more than semantics, it's indicative of how much her (I don't want to say characters but) characters feel like real people.
All in all, this was an incredibly fun evening and I'm so glad that I braved the harsh winds yesterday to go out for this event. And now I'm even more determined to track down more of Isabelle Huppert's films. As of now I've mostly limited myself to the ones I've been able to stream on Fandor, Hulu (now FilmStruck), or Mubi. But now I think I'm going to have to start tracking down those elusive DVDs. Oh boy!
November 03, 2016
Monica Vitti's ennui is one of the reasons I love cinema. Her sad, bored, lonely, searching characters in the films she made with Antonioni are simultaneously relatable and aspirational. She is alternately a volcano of emotion and a bottomless pit of emptiness. Claudia, Valentina, Vittoria, and Giuliana are completely different women but she portrays each of them with the same solemn resolution, adding dimension to roles that, in less gifted hands, could have fallen flat.
I love her work with Antonioni. I always include Claudia whenever I do those "which fictional characters represent you?" memes. L'Avventura is one of my desert island movies. But Vitti's talents didn't end with melancholy expressions of chronic boredom or modern discontent. In a career spanning almost four decades, Vitti constantly displayed an uncanny knack for comedy. While her sullen expression might have left a lasting impression on the landscape of cinema, her laugh echoes through history, waiting to be heard.
It's often stated that Vitti turned to comedy after the Antonioni films, but in reality they were a brief departure from the genre -- two of her first films, Ridere! Ridere! Ridere! (1954) and Le Dritte (1958) were comedies. And, one could even argue, there is an element of comedy at play within her work with Antonioni. Her humor, spontaneity, and force-of-nature energy are on full display when Claudia is making faces in the mirror or dancing to "Mai!" in L'Avventura, when Vittoria wrestles and imitates corny lovers with Piero in L'Eclisse, when Giuliana tries quail's eggs in Red Desert.
This vitality comes through even more-so, though, in her comedies. I have yet to see the pre-L'Avventura ones that I mentioned above (sadly the non-Antonioni films are very hard to find in America... see this post for an elaborate story about the lengths to which I had to go to find and watch "On My Way to the Crusades I Met a Girl Who...") but I've managed to track down several of her 60's-70's comedies and I highly recommend them.
The most famous (and most readily available) is Modesty Blaise. This was actually my introduction to Monica Vitti, who starred opposite one of my favorite actors, Dirk Bogarde, in the English spy spoof. Vitti plays the titular character, a super mod spy who changes outfits and hair colors in the blink of an eye, and Bogarde plays her arch-nemesis, Gabriel, an over-the-top white-haired villain who drinks from giant champagne glasses with goldfish swimming in them. It's one of the most fun movies I have ever seen, although after countless viewings I still have no idea what's going on plot-wise.
But it's a prime example of Vitti's light comedic touch. It actually feels light. Effortless. Gentle. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Vitti and Terence Stamp, playing the Robin to her Batman, sing a little duet while eating ice cream.
Isn't that beautiful? And light as a feather. I love the hat tilt, the way Stamp and Vitti reach for a kiss before sinking into their seats. It's comedic choreography, well timed, simple, and sweet.
I think the mark of a great comedienne is the mannerisms -- it's not just about being able to deliver a punchline. Aside from Modesty Blaise, all of Monica Vitti's films were in Italian, and despite the language barrier I still find her humor absolutely charming. It's the mannerisms. It's the almost Chaplin-esque facial expressions. I think she would have excelled in silent film, although one would definitely miss her perfect intonations and that raspy, delightful laugh.
Her flair for creating Antonioni's weary women trying to make sense of the alien world around them lay in her ability to communicate with the audience through her expressions. I firmly believe you could watch L'Avventura with the subtitles off, and, just by watching Vitti's face, completely understand what the movie is saying. She brings this same talent, this ability to convey thoughts and emotions through gesture and manner, to her comedy.
My two favorite Vitti comedies are The Scarlet Lady, in which she stars as a revenge-obsessed woman opposite Maurice Ronet, and The Pizza Triangle (alternate titles are A Drama of Jealousy and Jealousy, Italian Style but I swear it's a comedy) which co-stars Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini. The Scarlet Lady is (drum roll!) available on amazon, on a Region 1 disc (so you can play it in the US) with English subtitles (woo hoo!) Unfortunately The Pizza Triangle doesn't seem to be commercially available in the US, but I found a copy here if you're interested.
Or you can go back and re-watch the Antonioni films, paying close attention to those fleeting glimpses of a rare comedic talent. Like Garbo before her, Monica Vitti was a natural at honing in on and reflecting the weight of existence on screen.... and when she laughs, it is a revelation.
October 31, 2016
Happy Halloween! A couple weeks ago I got obsessed with the idea of making a Halloween video set to a Bauhaus song. I wanted to do Spirit, but then I re-listened to She's in Parties and it just seemed to fit so well with the ethereal spookiness of early 30's horror and Val Lewton films. I have enough footage saved to my computer now to do one with Spirit as well, but I think I'll save that for next year.
But for this year, here's "She's in Parties" by Bauhaus, with clips from the following films: Isle of the Dead (1945), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Dracula (1931), Night Monster (1942), The Old Dark House (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935), Frankenstein (1931), The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), The Black Cat (1934), The Seventh Victim (1943), Nosferatu (1922), Doctor X (1932), Bedlam (1946), Cat People (1942), Horror Island (1941), The Leopard Man (1943), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941)
October 19, 2016
This was the last book that I wanted to read for Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge, which ended on September 15th. But in a beautiful fusion of procrastination and serendipity, I didn't get around to reading it until this week, when leaves are falling, the wind is starting to moan --not quite howling just yet-- and Halloween is definitely in the air. It's the perfect time of year to dive into a book about one of my favorite spooky movies!
I've read a handful of BFI books now, and Cat People by Kim Newman is my favorite. I've really enjoyed all of them, but some can get so caught up in the production details that they don't really spend too much time on the film itself. The bulk of this book devotes itself to deconstructing each scene, and it's absolutely fascinating. Production details can be interesting too (and this book isn't lacking in that department) but I'm personally way more interested in the actual film than the budgeting details. There's a reason I chose to read a book about a movie instead of a book about economics, haha :)
The author is a huge fan of the movie, which comes in handy when you're talking about a film that some people might not appreciate. He defends it valiantly from its detractors and diligently answers critiques with reasons why its supposed shortcomings make the film even better. He even included a particularly spiteful review from Stephen King and rebutted the complaint that the film was too obviously shot on a soundstage ("When I was supposed to be worrying about whether or not Jane Randolph was going to be attacked, I found myself worrying instead about that papier-mache stone wall in the background." UGH. For someone renown for his wild imagination, King certainly had a hard time using it when watching this movie.)
One interesting observation that really stuck with me was about which characters the audience is supposed to sympathize with. Modern audiences like Irena, Simone Simon's character, and feel sorry for her. But at the time of its release, did audiences instead see themselves in the milquetoast Kent Smith and All-American but nevertheless brazen husband-stealer Jane Randolph? Was French Simone Simon (playing Serbian here) a foreign, unfamiliar character whose exotic appeal had lured Kent away from his waspy Girl Friday? Newman writes in the book that the film is clearly trying to switch heroines halfway through the film -- in the scenes in which Randolph's character is in danger, we are supposed to be rooting for her. But do we? My heart is still with Irena, the poor romantic girl stuck in a body that she can't control.
Newman also gives us some background information about the sets used (or I should say, re-used) in the film. Val Lewton was an ace at recycling old sets, and here there are quite a few that will look familiar to you once you know where else you saw them! The inside of Irena's building with the giant ornate staircase is from The Magnificent Ambersons. Kent Smith's workplace is from The Devil and Miss Jones. The park is from an Astaire-Rogers musical (not sure which one.) For the infamous pool scene, they actually used an existing apartment building that had the right claustrophobic feel, with eerie underwater lighting. (On location shooting, take that, Stephen King!)
I've seen the film countless times so I didn't feel like I needed to revisit it before reading the book. However, now that I've learned so much about the film, gained so many insights into the characters and the psychology of the movie, I'm eager to watch it again with a newfound understanding.
October 17, 2016
Today is my one year Alainiversary! On October 17th, 2015, I fell down an Alain Delon rabbit hole and I've been watching his movies as if they were air and I couldn't breathe without them ever since.
About a week ago I received this signed photo in the mail. I could have fainted. I actually sat down right where I was standing, my eyes so fixed on the writing that someone would have had to physically move my head to get me to stop looking at it.
I don't know how to say this. I just... this means a lot to me. I don't care if it sounds silly or sad, but for some of us celebrity crushes are kind of all we have. I celebrate mine, and I embrace them. They make me goofy-grin happy! They are benchmarks in my life. There were my Sinatra years, my Bogarde years, and now my Delon years.
I enjoy the hunt, that desperate search to find every last movie they ever made. I like scouring ebay for weird memorabilia (favorite Sinatra find: a McDonalds lapel pin that says "Fry me to the moon", favorite Bogarde find: a comic book with an illustrated [and highly embellished] biography, favorite Delon find: Japanese fan magazines and an 81" poster for Any Number Can Win.) I like watching and rewatching the movies over and over again until I can close my eyes at night and play them on the black velvet underside of my eyelids*.
And I enjoy celebrating their anniversaries. Sinatra started on February 14th, 2000 when I was making a Valentine's Day mixtape for my parents (always the coolest kid around, it's nothing new) and Bogarde started on August 10, 2009 during TCM's Summer Under the Stars. I had seen Alain Delon before in Once a Thief and The Yellow Rolls Royce but it didn't *hit me* until I watched The Girl on a Motorcycle last October. It's not even really his film, it's 95% Marianne Faithfull, but his few scenes sealed my fate. Hook, line, and sinker, for a whole year.
Looking back on this little cinematic love affair, I can't believe how many Alain Delon related opportunities came up this year. Last December I got to see Purple Noon at The Film Forum. In February the Film Society at Lincoln Center showed an original print of La Piscine. In July The Film Forum showed a few Delon films, but the only one I was able to see was Deux Hommes dans la Ville. The reason I couldn't see the other ones? I was in Paris, where I got to see Le Samourai at Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé! And while I was there I also managed to pick up an Alain Delon coffee table book at a little DVD shop, along with some movies that were missing from my collection.
And then finally, my autograph. What beautiful timing. An Alainiversary present from the man himself! ;)
*paraphrasing Nabokov here
October 13, 2016
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going on the TCM Classic Film Bus Tour in New York City. I'm a TCM Backlot member and they had a promotion a few months back where you could get the tickets, normally $49 each, for only $6! I got tickets for me and my parents, and the savings alone actually paid for my Backlot membership, so that was pretty cool!
I had done the LA tour during the 2014 TCM Film Festival, but I was itching to do the New York one since it's more like "home turf" to me :) I couldn't help but compare/contrast while I was on the bus, but I feel like my own preferences and sensibilities definitely influenced my opinions. I like New York better than Los Angeles. I like that it's kind of rough and dinged-up and a lot of days in NYC are spent trying to figure out how to navigate around a local parade or avoid falling into an open construction site, lol! It's not as shiny and sparkly as LA, but I love that. It feels more homey and cozy. When you're in New York, it's more like you're actually in a movie while LA feels like you're on set.
The tour bus in LA was TCM branded, had giant picture windows and a large flat screen tv in the front of the bus. The New York bus was a little worse for wear, was not TCM branded, and it had a sole travel-size-dvd-player screen for everyone to watch. But I liked it more.
For one thing, our guide, Jason, was WAY better than our LA guide, who my friends and I nicknamed "casually sexist tour guide Mike" because of the way he flippantly inserted demeaning misogynist comments into so many of his film anecdotes. Jason was knowledgeable and clearly was a true classic film fan. It was obvious that he was excited about the tour and film history, and his excitement was contagious. I found myself getting pretty pumped about locations for films I've never even seen, like Ghostbusters or Plaza Suite.
The tour kicked off with the "New York New York" number from On The Town screening on the DVD player as we drove off to our first destination. Then Robert Osborne came on (the screen, not the bus, haha!) and spoke a little bit about which NYC films made him fall in love with the city and move there. He said that Woody Allen's Manhattan is his favorite New York film, which really caught me by surprise. I'm not a fan of that film at all, but I have to give it some credit now, I guess, if it has the Osborne seal of approval!
Throughout the tour he'd ask the bus driver to pull over for a minute, at which point he'd play a clip from a film that was shot on the location we were stopped at. Above you can see On the Town playing on the DVD player while we were parked next to the subway stop in the movie.
This is actually not the best example (it's just the only one where I happened to take a photo of the screen and the location!) because this scene from On The Town was actually filmed on a soundstage! They had tried to film on location here, but because Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were so popular, they had a difficult time getting work done with all of the crowds they were drawing!
We made a couple of stops along the way, the first one being Zabar's, where You've Got Mail was filmed.
I should mention here that I felt like the tour was kind of post-1970's heavy, so for any of those militant TCM fans who think classics stop at 1960 you might want to steer clear of this tour. There were definitely a decent amount of older film locations -- I'm going to list every film at the bottom of this post -- but most of the movies are post 1960. There were a lot that seemed like weird choices to me, actually, like Moscow on the Hudson and Baby Boom. I'd be the first to acknowledge that some of the more modern films (if you can even call them that when they're 20-30 years old already) are bona fide classics but those seemed like odd choices to me for a TCM Classic Film tour.
Anyway, speaking of bona fide modern classics -- You've Got Mail. I love this movie (although I kind of hate how it ends!) so I was excited to stop at Zabar's. This is where Meg Ryan gets in the "cash only" lane when she only has a credit card.
36 Sutton Place is where the girls lived in How to Marry a Millionaire!
Of course we had to drive by Tiffany's! If I was in charge of the tour I think I would have come prepared with pastries and let everyone go stand outside the window for a little early morning contemplation a la Audrey Hepburn.
This is where Elizabeth Taylor hails a cab in Butterfield 8. Our tour guide joked that only in the movies could someone hail a cab in NYC and actually get one immediately. I think he might have been forgetting that the person hailing the cab was Elizabeth Taylor ;) Pretty sure she could get ten cabs just by stepping outside the door...
This is the street where Sally gets her Christmas tree in When Harry Met Sally, another one of my modern favorites. I should mention here that -- assuming every tour operates in the same order that mine did -- the left side of the bus is definitely the side to be on. My parents were sitting on the left and my mom kept trying to take photos for me because I was missing everything on the right side. (So thank you to my mom for a lot of these photos!)
Finally, we stopped at the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe took her iconic Seven Year Itch promo shots. I was wearing a mini skirt so this was my pathetic attempt at "doing a Marilyn" on the subway grate, haha!
The subway grate actually isn't marked, there is literally no way to know it's even there unless you know the exact address (southwest corner of Lex and 52nd, the 2nd subway grate in from the street) before you go there. Apparently classic film fans are trying to get the city to declare it a historical landmark so that they can at least get a plaque for it, and I really hope that works out! My only complaint about this stop is that the bus parked in the spot where you'd have to be standing in order to get a photo from the same angle as Marilyn's original pictures. It's a small pet peeve though!
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the tour. I learned so many interesting facts about movie history in New York that will definitely be on my mind whenever I'm in the city now. Did you know that tenement residents were evicted in order to build Lincoln Center in their place? Before it was torn down the city let the crew of West Side Story come in and shoot in the abandoned neighborhood. I thought that was so sad!
Ideally I would love it if the tour was successful enough that they made one for Lower Manhattan (this tour only went through midtown and uptown) which is where I like to go whenever I'm in New York. I feel like there's a lot of material there, definitely enough for another tour! I'd also LOVE if they made a Paris tour. I couldn't stop talking about it to my parents after the tour was over. I started plotting out which movies I'd include, which locations, trivia to ask during the tour. I almost want to write out a whole Paris tour and just send it to TCM with my fingers crossed that they'd take me up on it, haha!
But right now we just have an LA tour and a NYC tour and I loved them both. If you love movies, I don't think the small things like bus branding or tv screen size will affect your enjoyment of the tour. The most important things are the locations, the information, and the tour guide, and the NYC tour excelled in all three departments. I'd actually do it again if the opportunity came up.
Here are the films that were included in the tour, in order of date:
Mounted Police Charge (1896), King Kong (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), Nothing Sacred (1937), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Naked City (1948), On The Town (1949), Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town (1950), It Should Happen to You (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), West Side Story (1961), Barefoot in the Park (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Producers (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Cactus Flower (1969), The Out of Towners (1970), Plaza Suite (1971), Serpico (1973), The Way We Were (1973), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Network (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Superman (1978), Manhattan (1979), Eyewitness (1981), Arthur (1981), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Splash (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Heartburn (1986), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Baby Boom (1987), Wall Street (1987), Three Men and a Baby (1987), Moonstruck (1987), Working Girl (1988), Big (1988), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You've Got Mail (1998)