Imagine me talking to Ben Mankiewicz on TCM!
I received an email in early June from Courtney O’Brien an Associate Producer on TCM’s Studio Group. Noralil Fores, who manages social media for the network had suggested me to Courtney to take part in a new project launching in November, a “Fan Favorites” spot during which Ben Mankiewicz would video-chat with fans about their chosen movies. Courtney asked for a list of ten films, favorite holiday-themed movies or family fare that I’d be willing to introduce on TCM – if I agreed, which of course I did after the shock wore off. Here’s the list I sent her:
1. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)
2. SUMMER STOCK (1950)
3. ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
4. PENNY SERENADE (1941)
5. THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934)
6. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)
7. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
8. THE BIRDS (1963)
9. CITY LIGHTS (1931)
Courtney got back to me almost immediately to say MEET ME IN ST LOUIS was perfect. AY, AY, AY. NOW I was nervous.
Fast forward to Tuesday, August 19th and there I am in front of my laptop talking to Ben Mankiewicz about MEET ME IN ST LOUIS, one of my all-time favorite movies and one I have an emotional connection to. I don’t think I stopped smiling – from nerves and excitement – through the entire discussion. By that day I knew who the other three fan favorites were, Paula Guthat, Joel Williams and Miguel Rodriguez, all friends of mine from Twitter, TCMparty and TCMFF so I couldn’t be more thrilled for all of us. We’d agreed not to divulge details of the new segment or our involvement until the time was right, but I think we were all bursting at the seams.
We shot in the order the movies will air on November 29, which means I was the first one to tape that day, the guinea pig as Ben mentioned and we experienced a few technical glitches. As a result I really don’t know what parts of our discussion will air, but I’m curious – and nervous. I don’t remember saying anything of substance about a movie I know a lot about. The trivia and back story related to MEET ME IN ST LOUIS didn’t come up, instead it was a casual conversation, during which I said brilliant things like “I really like it.” We discussed what it is about this particular movie that makes it a holiday essential, we talked about Tootie’s ascribing deadly diseases to her dolls and things like that. Toward the end Ben asked me what classic movie character I’d like to be and why and laughed when I had an answer at the ready. I won’t say what that character is, but hope my answer made it to the final cut.
There was one funny, slightly cringe-worthy behind-the-scenes moment when almost as soon as my face appeared on the monitor, before Ben walked onto the set, I heard the voice of one of the producers say to me, “Hey, I know you. Weren’t you the lady behind Maureen O’Hara during her interview?” Um…yes. Since the segment was taped in August the Maureen O’Hara interview that aired frequently during the month of July was still fresh on everyone’s mind. You may remember that O’Hara was TCM’s Star of the Month in July and during her entire interview with Robert Osborne taped at this year’s TCMFF I was standing right behind her so that my face was splattered all over the place, along with my partners’ in that particular limelight, Kellee Pratt and Annmarie Gatti. Many of us joked about it on Twitter so to have one of the TCM producers notice was a YIKES moment, although she was great. Despite these happenings I’m not an in-the-spotlight kind of person. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s all been a blast.
Ben Mankiewicz (as I’ve mentioned before) is the real deal. He’s friendly and approachable and put me right at ease during the taping. Actually, just as is the case when you run into any of the TCM staff at the TCM Classic Film Festival or anywhere else no one could have been nicer. They’re all testament to the brand loyalty inherent in TCM and these “fan favorites” segments strengthens that. I hope they continue. In any case for this great experience, this honor – to Ben, Courtney, Noralil and Mardy, the sound expert at TCM – a huge THANK YOU!! Incidentally, they sent the coolest-looking microphone to each of us for the taping and I felt like one of the stars of old-time radio using it. What a hoot!
If you’re interested in viewing the Fan Favorites segments, here’s the schedule – November 29th, all times Eastern:
Vincente Minnelli’s MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) at 12:30 (my pick)
Sidney Lanfield’s THE LEMON DROP KID (1951) at 2:30 (Paula’s pick)
Christian Nyby’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) at 4:15 (Miguel’s pick)
George Roy Hill’s BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) at 6:00 (Joel’s pick)
Despite the excitement about my TCM debut you may be surprised to learn it’s not the best programming planned on the network this month. Instead of choosing one classic star as its Star of the Month, TCM will feature many of the legends of the silent era every Monday night with themed marathons as follows:
- November 1st will honor the “great women of silent film,” with movies starring the likes of Mary Pickford, Pola Negri, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies and Alla Nazimova.
- On November 10th the spotlight will be on the men with films starring Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, Ramon Novarro among others. You may also want to pay special attention to the daytime programming dedicated to Claude Rains on this day, the anniversary of his birthday.
- November 17th is dedicated to the child stars of the silent era as well as to the only two actors to win Academy Awards for their work in silents films, Janet Gaynor and Emil Jannings.
- And on November 24th TCM shines the light on the silent film stars that are probably best known, even to non silent fans, the clowns! Featured will be movies starring Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Arbuckle, Laurel, Hardy and the (perhaps) lesser known Charlie Chase.
Also on the TCM November schedule and worthy of note:
- The month’s Friday Night Spotlight series will focus on Road Movies with the popular Bill Hader hosting the 16-film marathon. The films featured in this series run the gamut across genres and eras and include perennial classic favorites Frank Capra’s IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) and Preston Sturges’ SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941). I’m particularly excited about the TCM premiere of Jerry Schatzberg’s SCARECROW (1973), a well acted, interesting movie starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. By the way, Martin Scorsese’s monthly column, “Scorsese Screens,” is a discussion on “the road movie” this month, which you may want to take a look at.
- To coincide with the release of a new biography by Richard Zoglin, HOPE: Entertainer of the Century, TCM will air five films starring Bob Hope on November 4th starting at 8pm with Elliott Nugent’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939). No doubt this will be a fun night! Incidentally, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Zoglin’s HOPE book go here.
- The programming on November 11 will include five movies that feature “real-life heroes” to commemorate Veterans Day.
- November 18 is dedicated to the “No Place Like Hollywood” Auction presented by TCM and Bonhams to take place on November 24th in New York. The November 18th line-up includes several of the films that highlight items curated for the auction.
That’s it for now. There are many day-long tributes to classic stars celebrating their birth anniversaries as well as other guest programmers scheduled so be sure to visit the November TCM schedule for details. I couldn’t possibly mention them all if I want to save some energy for December when the Star of the Month will be Cary Grant. MON DIEU!
As always, THANK YOU TCM!