Think Pink: The Enduring Appeal of Lady Penelope

ladyp01Last week I celebrated the 100th birthday of Orson Welles and this week I’m celebrating another milestone, the 50th anniversary of THUNDERBIRDS and the International Rescue team featuring secret agent extraordinaire, Lady Penelope.

This popular “Supermarionation” series of television shows and feature-length films debuted on British TV in September of 1965 but Lady Penelope made her first appearance nine months early within the pages of the comic book magazine, TV Century 21. Lady Penelope’s early introduction indirectly resulted in her becoming somewhat of a special ambassador for THUNDERBIRDS and she managed to entice both male and female comic readers with her stories of “Elegance, Charm and Deadly Danger.” This coming Saturday (May 9th) TCM viewers will be able to see Lady Penelope as well as her fellow International Rescue team members in THUNDERBIRD 6 (1968) airing at 8 AM EST – 5 AM PST. In anticipation of THUNDERBIRD 6 and in celebration of the THUNDERBIRDS 50th anniversary, I thought I would explore the enduring appeal of Lady Penelope who, along with her pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce and trusty sidekick Parker, has managed to capture the imagination of children and adults for the past 50 years.

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Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)

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BATMAN is coming to Turner Classic Movies! The revered DC superhero is making his network debut on Saturday, March 7th and viewers will able to tune into TCM every morning (7AM PST – 10Am EST) for the next few months to catch an episode of Columbia Picture’s original 1943 film serial. Serials or “Chapter Plays” were often cheaply produced shorts that were typically shown with cartoons and newsreels before feature films. This format came into prominence during the silent film era and remained viable until the 1950s but fell out fashion due to the development of home television. While many believe that the popularity of superheroes and comic books adaptations are a relatively new phenomenon, the truth is that they’ve been an accepted form of entertainment for decades although until recently they were mostly regulated to short format serials and television. Columbia adapted many well-regarded comic books and strips for the screen including SUPERMAN (1948), TERRY AND THE PIRATES (1940), MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN (1938), THE PHANTOM (1943), BLACKHAWK (1952) and BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (1945). BATMAN was one of the studio’s most popular productions and it’s earned an important place in comic book history for a number of reasons, which make it a particularly fascinating footnote in the Caped Crusader’s ongoing fight against crime and corruption.

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The Wonderful World of Disney Comes to TCM

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As a kid growing up in 1970s my Sunday nights revolved around The Wonderful World of Disney. It was my cherished respite before the much dreaded school week began and I savored every last minute spent in front of the family television set. At the time, residents in the San Francisco Bay Area where I was born and mostly raised, only had access to 10 or 12 available channels to choose from and many of those were locally run and operated. There were no video stores renting movies in those days and the idea of streaming films directly into your own home was merely a faraway fantasy. In these limited environs, The Wonderful World of Disney offered kids and adults of all ages a surprisingly diverse and family friendly smorgasbord of programming that included animated and live action films, nature documentaries, educational shorts and special broadcasts made especially for television. Much to my delight, Turner Classic Movies has recently teamed-up with The Walt Disney Studios for a new on-going program called Treasures from the Disney Vault hosted by Ben Mankiewicz and film critic Leonard Maltin that’s making its debut this coming Sunday night on December 21st. TCM’s impressive 8-hour block of television is a throwback to The Wonderful World of Disney of my childhood and I hope it will introduce a new generation to the wonderful treasures hidden deep within the vaults of the Disney Studios.

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Holiday Greetings from The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come!

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This week TCM is presenting two classic Christmas films on December 7th in association with Fathom Events and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. You can see A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) at participating theaters across the country and as my fellow Morlock, Susan Doll pointed out in her post about the event earlier this week, they make for great family friendly holiday viewing.

I personally have a soft spot for just about every film version of A Christmas Carol. This is partially due to the fact that one of my first and last acting roles was in a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale mounted by my elementary school where I got the opportunity to play the spooky silent specter of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And like countless other readers, I’m also simply enamored with Dickens’ story of an old miser visited by four phantoms on Christmas Eve who inspire generosity and teach him to love life again. Nearly 175 years have passed since it was originally published but A Christmas Carol still has the power to chill us to the bone and warm our cold hearts during the winter holiday.

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Ghost Stories: THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946)

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October has arrived and as usual, TCM has scheduled a nice selection of films this month that will undoubtedly appeal to classic horror film obsessives like yours truly. Among the Hitchcock thrillers, silent scares, mummy movies and horror anthologies airing you’ll be able to tune in every Thursday and catch some spooktacular ghost movies. I love a good ghost story and if you happen to be one of the few who regularly keeps track of my blog posts you know that it’s a film genre I’m particularly fond of so I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight one of my favorite ghostly movies that’s airing this evening; the fun, family friendly and still surprisingly fresh Abbott & Costello horror comedy, THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946).

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You’re Invited! Join the #TCMParty on Twitter

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If you watch a lot of television you’re probably familiar with hashtags or #hashtags that programs now regularly promote to reach audiences on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. On PBS for example viewers are encouraged to use the hashtag #DowntonPBS, #DowntonAbbey or #Downton when watching their popular series DOWNTON ABBEY and during events such as the 2014 Winter Olympics many hashtags including #Sochi2014, #Olympics2014 and #TeamAmerica were regularly used online. Hashtags are a simple way to link conversations about a topic on social media sites so anyone can search for them easily and join in the discussion. And if a hashtag becomes popular on Twitter it can become a ‘trending topic’ that gains national or even international attention.

A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching. Recently @TCM_Party celebrated their third year anniversary on Twitter so I decided to reach out to them and ask a few questions about what they do and how TCM viewers can participate. @TCM_Party host, Paula Guthat (aka @Paula_Guthat) was kind enough to get back in touch with me and what follows is a brief Q&A about the group and their events.

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A Killer Stalks the Streets of San Francisco in Edward Dmytryk ‘s THE SNIPER (1952)

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You can currently stream THE SNIPER online at Watch TCM

A few weeks ago I finally caught up with THE SNIPER (1952) on TCM, which tracks the brutal crimes of a gun-wielding maniac stalking women on the streets of San Francisco. The film boasts an impressive pedigree that includes director Edward Dmytryk, producer Stanley Kramer, screenwriters Harry Brown along with Edna and Edward Anhalt, cinematographer Burnett Guffey and composer George Antheil but outside of screenings on TCM, it has been somewhat hard to see until recently thanks to a Columbia DVD release in 2009.

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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

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If you watch TCM regularly you’re probably aware that the classic movie channel is curating the upcoming event What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic at Auction being organized by Bonhams. This highly anticipated auction is taking place November 25th in New York where interested bidders as well as curious film fans can also see a preview of the items on display beginning November 20th and running through November 25th. According to the official press release the auction features “a stunning array of costumes, props, scripts, production designs, production memos, movie posters and other rare treasures from some of the greatest films of all time.” And the crown jewel of the lot is the original falcon statue used in THE MALTESE FALCON (1945), which may fetch a hefty seven figure sum. And best of all? A portion of the auction proceeds will be going to The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by director Martin Scorsese to preserve and protect motion picture history.

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Reconsidering Aldo Ray: Chapter Two

rayswimmerThis is the second part of my two piece article on actor Aldo Ray. The first part can be found here.

When THE MARRYING KIND was released in 1952 Aldo Ray was praised for his portrayal of a blue-collar man struggling to keep his fractured marriage together. Film critic Bosley Crowther singled out Ray’s performance in his review for The New York Times:

“…the big surprise of this picture is the talent of Mr. Ray in presenting a richly appealing and naturally complicated young man. Not handsome but sturdy in appearance, and possessed of a melting, husky voice, he has a gift for flowing humor and straight-faced pathos that is almost beyond belief. His winning performance of the husband is a great factor in this film.”
- Bosley Crowther (March 14, 1952)

Ray’s everyman quality earned him lots of fans and critical praise early in his career but it was hard won. During the film’s production director George Cuckor ordered Ray to take ballet lessons because he moved like a football player. Studio chief Harry Cohn also insisted that Aldo Ray (DeRa at the time) change his name to John Harrison but Ray refused to answer to his new name on set and was applauded by the film crew who backed his rebellious decision. The teamsters, who were proud of their own ethnic heritage, admired Ray’s determination to try and keep his distinctly Italian name intact. A compromise was eventually worked out and Aldo DeRa became Aldo Ray instead of John Harrison.

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Toshiro Mifune is….Sinbad?

The TCM Movie Morlocks blogathon tribute to Toshiro Mifune continues as I revisit THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD, a film I first saw as a kid at the National Theatre in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Although TCM is not airing this in their Mifune lineup scheduled for Thursday, August 9th, it is worth checking out (if you have an all region DVD player) to see another side of the celebrated Japanese actor that Western audiences rarely get a chance to see.          [...MORE]

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