New Classic Film Series: Mondays at the Montalban

Though most people today may remember Ricardo Montalbán for his work on television—Star Trek and Fantasy Island, to name a few—he first came to fame under contract at MGM in the 1940s and ’50s in roles that touted him as a handsome “exotic” type, a kind of Ramon Novarro or Rudy Valentino for the postwar set. Throughout his film career, he starred in a variety of romances, comedies, noirs, and westerns, and that section of his life is the subject of a new classic film screening series at the historic Hollywood theater that now bears his name: The Montalbán, at Hollywood and Vine.

Jerry Lewis Honored at Chinese Theatre

After what seemed to be an excessively long wait considering his lengthy career, comedy icon Jerry Lewis was honored today with a cement imprint in the courtyard of the TCL Chinese Theater (née Grauman), where his newly pressed hand and footprints will join the likes of everyone from Joe E. Brown to Marilyn Monroe. The short ceremony, held in the shadow of the famous Chinese facade, featured introductions from TCM’s own Robert Osborne and director Quentin Tarantino, who expressed an entire generation’s worth of respect for the star.  Lewis took the stage last, sharp as ever, cracking loving jokes at the expense of the staff, fans, and photographers, and getting his hands and feet caked in cement for the sake of Hollywood immortality. He was also a special hero for the crowd of mostly fans in the bleacher area, repeatedly asking his personal friends in the front rows to sit down so the adoring crowd could see him. What a guy!

Gloria Swanson: After Sunset

When Patricia at Caftan Woman posed the idea of the Diamonds and Gold blogathon, my immediate thought was to cover Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, as it’s one of the meatiest roles ever for a woman “of a certain age” in classic film, and one of my favorite and most endlessly rewatched films. However, when I realized I couldn’t quite place anything Swanson had done after that film in my memory, and saw that there weren’t a ton of quantifiable entries in the all-knowing eyes of IMDb, I became a bit concerned that she had embodied her performance as the misanthropic Norma Desmond a little too fully, and that I’d have to write an epilogue about how she’d frittered away the rest of her life unhappily attempting to further pursue an acting career. A bit more research revealed, though, that that worrisome scenario was far from the actual case. Despite not appearing in many more films after Sunset, Swanson lived in an incredibly full life throughout her 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and was a fascinatingly unique, well-rounded woman all the way up to the end.

Vera Chytilová (1929 – 2014)

Very sad to read today that radical Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová has died, albeit at the well-lived age of 85. She’s most famous for the irreverent feminist film Daisies (Sedmikrásky), but with a career that spanned decades—and governments—Chytilová’s influence was anything but limited.