A Personal Update on Where I’ve Been, and How I’ve Been Incorporating Old Hollywood Into My Life in a Time of Crisis

Hi, everyone! I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been active on this blog. Musings of a Classic Film Addict is one of the things in my life that I’m the most proud to contribute my time and effort to, and it’s incredibly saddening for me when I have to neglect it for any period of time for any reason. I was so excited to write an entry for the Movie Scientist Blogathon and pay tribute to the incomporable Jerry Lewis at the same time by reviewing The Nutty Professor (1963), but unfortunately I was unable to participate, and I thought that I owed my readers an explanation for my absence. As you might know, I call the town of Saint Petersburg, Florida my home, and these past few weeks have been especially trying as it was in the direct path of Hurricane Irma. As a result, we spent a good amount of time in preparation before I decided to evacuate with my precious pup Mozart and stay with my family further inland while my fiancé decided to stay and weather the storm. Irma passed over us on the night of September 10th, and continued to pose a threat throughout the 11th as the wind and rain continued at tropical storm levels. While the homestead and our belongings luckily suffered no damage, the situation was still a stressful one, and what was worse for me is that this catastrophe occurred just before my 21st birthday on the 13th of September.

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Here’s to Wakulla Springs and the vacation that didn’t come to pass! I hope I can visit soon. (Photo c. 1940s)

My fiancé and I had been planning the occasion since May, and he took off of work for the entire week surrounding my birthday so that we could travel north to the Wakulla Springs Lodge (where the underwater scenes of my favorite classic horror film, Creature From the Black Lagoon (1953) was filmed) to celebrate and so we could both get a much needed vacation. I tried my best to maintain contact with the hotel before and during the hurricane, as I was well aware that they would be affected too. The staff told us the day before our reservation to call the next morning on the day of our reservation in order to see if the hotel would be open and allow us to visit. I didn’t get to mention this to them, but that posed a problem as we were told to call at ten in the morning while the hotel itself is a five-hour drive from us, and check-in time was at three in the afternoon. That’s short notice even for me! I did as they asked anyway, and if you can believe it, they didn’t answer at all no matter how many times I tried to call, so I suppose they were indeed closed due to the storm. Of course I understand what happened considering the circumstances and after witnessing the destruction in my own area, but I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed as I wanted to write an article about my visit for this blog and I wanted to incorporate Old Hollywood into my birthday somehow.

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Theatrical poster for High Society (1956), one of the many movies that helped me through this past week.

Luckily I still managed to do that in a small way, as my family stayed in a conference room at my father’s workplace, which doubled as a shelter from Hurricane Irma. It was a lovely building with a glass ceiling (which we’re grateful didn’t shatter onto us), and because it was located at a power plant, we had electricity the entire time unlike millions of other victims of the storm. Even better, the room had a television and a DVD player, and since I brought the majority of my classic film collection with me I spent nearly all of my time watching them. My sister and I started with Random Harvest (1942), which she watched for the first time and absolutely adored, before we moved on to High Society (1956), I Love You Again (1940), This Gun for Hire (1942), and of course finishing the marathon with one of our mutual favorites, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Most of them were “feel good” flicks that made us forget our troubles, which was more than welcome, and I especially loved seeing one of my personal favorites again, High Society (1956). I always feel like that film was made for me, and hearing Bing Crosby serenade Grace Kelly with the song “I Love You, Samantha” (which happens to be my name) was more comforting than being wrapped up in a warm blanket in the middle of winter. My actual birthday, if you were wondering, ended up being as incredible as I could hope for considering everything we’d been through. My family moved into a nearby hotel as their home lost power during the hurricane, but my sister and I spent most of the day at our local mall buying beautiful dresses on clearance, eyeing jewelry that was also on clearance, and filling our carts with Marilyn Monroe hand soap that was only a dollar.

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A picture of my first drink, the French 75!

My fiancé met with us at the mall and we checked out everything there was to see before going to Olive Garden for my birthday dinner. Say what you might about Olive Garden, but to me it’s my favorite chain restaurant by far as I adore the food, the atmosphere, and of course the occasional Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra tunes being played over the speakers. Of course I made a solemn vow to make my first legal drink one that relates to classic film, and my drink of choice was a French 75, a cocktail made with gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and topped with champagne and a twist of lemon. The drink was invented during World War I by British soldiers who combined the gin that they brought from home with the champagne that they received from the French, and it was named after their lightweight yet powerful artillery gun. The French 75 is the only beverage mentioned by name in the iconic film Casablanca (1942), and of course I ended up enjoying it more than anything else I had that evening. Interestingly enough, the bartender had never heard of one before, and as I asked for it at the bar the other bartenders and a few patrons were interested enough to form a small crowd as they watched it being made. I felt quite special after that! As if the restaurant was made for me too, our server was incredibly sweet, interested in old movies as well, and against all odds also named Samantha! If the restaurant wasn’t so busy that night we probably could have discussed the subject at length, but everyone involved in the celebrations had fun nonetheless. My sister and dad brought balloons and cake with my name on it, and at the end of the meal they brought out presents, which I’d completely forgotten was a part of birthdays after all of the commotion that the storm brought about.

My wonderful fiancé got me the largest size of Dolce & Gabbana’s Dolce Rosa Excelsa, a perfume that’s been my favorite since it came out (but always too expensive for me to actually buy, so I merely sprayed it on every time I visited a department store), which once again involved Old Hollywood into the occasion as the perfume’s spokesperson is none other than one of my favorite living actresses, Sophia Loren. My family certainly stepped up to the plate too with a stunning sapphire necklace that matches my engagement ring, which happens to be my birthstone as well. That’s about where the classic film references end, but before we left, our waitress Samantha gathered all of the other waiters together, sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and presented me with a delicious chocolate mousse and cream dessert, which I thoroughly enjoyed. From there we all headed back to the hotel, where my sister and I played drinking games and I got as tipsy as I could (it’s not as easy when you’re playing with a lightweight) before my fiancé and I headed home, which I’m delighted to say has power. At the end of the day, I’m sure that my readers can agree that there’s nothing like your favorite movies and your favorite people to get you through trying times, and I honestly don’t know what this past week would have been like without the likes of my loved ones, Bing Crosby, and the delicious drinks of Casablanca (1942). I can only hope that others who have survived Hurricane Irma (or any disaster on his or her birthday, for that matter) had people and movies to lean on for hope and comfort, and trust me when I say that I fully intend to return to this blog now that I realize how much I need old movies in my life!

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Rest in Peace, Adam West (1928 – 2017)

5I am at such a loss for words right now. Though television is not my main area of interest, over time I’ve been trying to watch more classic television shows because luckily many of the actors from them are still with us. Without a doubt, Batman was the first one that I watched and thoroughly enjoyed, and I owe that to Adam West. I developed such a crush on him in particular because his kindness, thoughtfulness, and chivalrous manner shined onscreen and was so apparent that I nor anyone else could help but love him. I continued watching the series because of Mr. West, and while I still have a few more episodes to go, I feel even more compelled to honor him by watching them now. Before I even finished the first season of Batman, I wrote Adam a fan letter and bought a picture for him to sign. I never sent them to him because I had been preparing to attend a local convention and hoped that he might make an appearance there, and I hoped that I could dress up as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (the villainess who almost marries Batman, of course), and tell him in person how much I admired him and his work. It always hurts just a little bit more when you never get the chance to tell someone that you idolize just how much you appreciate them, but I’m sure that Mr. West knew how much he was loved by his fans and just how terribly we all will miss him.

Universal Studios Has Demolished An Important Part of Old Hollywood History

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It’s with a heavy heart that I write about some severely underreported news: Universal Studios in Hollywood has demolished four of their soundstages (Stages 22, 23, 24, and 25 to be exact), putting in motion a five-year plan to demolish their older stages in order to make room for theme park expansions and a newly renovated backlot. Inside Universal first broke the news two days ago, and while I was stunned at first, my feelings quickly turned into sadness and honestly a bit of anger once I began researching some of the history that these stages posessed. Below I’ve decided to point out some of the iconic films and television shows that were filmed on Stages 22-25, as well as what’s next for Universal Studios.

Stage 22

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Stage 22, like most of the other stages that have been or will be torn down, was the birthplace of quite a few films that we know and love, including but not limited to: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1947), To Catch A Thief (1954),  Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Airport (1970), and The Sting (1973). Stage 22 was also the home of some television shows like Murder She Wrote (1984-1996), and CSI (2000-), as well as some more modern films like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), the remake of Psycho (1998), Hulk (2003), and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004).

Stage 23

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The only two films shot at Stage 23 that would be considered Old Hollywood are Harvey (1950) and The Sting (1973), but this stage holds a great deal of recent history. The Rockford Files (1974-80), the legendary television series starring lovable classic film actor James Garner was filmed there (James Garner’s fan page on Facebook is actually how I learned about this upsetting demolition), as well as the original television series starring The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), the original Jurassic Park (1993), The Cat and the Hat (2003), and the second and third installments of the wildly popular Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and At World’s End (2007).

Stage 24

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As an Old Hollywood fan, the demolition of Stage 24 upsets me perhaps most of all. Two of Rock Hudson’s best films were filmed here, Pillow Talk (1959) and Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964). From season three onward, Lucille Ball’s show Here’s Lucy (1968-1974) also found a home at the lot.

Stage 25

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Last but not least of the recently torn down soundstages, Stage 25 was where the Oscar-winning film Written on the Wind (1956) and the John Belushi classic The Blues Brothers (1980) were shot.

I wish I could say that Universal’s demolitions ended with these stages, but unfortunately there will be more to come. The studio plans to tear down Soundstages 29, 33-37, and 41-44, along with a rehearsal hall. Not all of these offer up any classic film nostalgia, but the some certainly do, like Stage 29, which housed the courthouse exterior of To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Stage 33 also served as the filming location for the Debbie Reynolds hit Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), and Stage 44 was one of the many places where the legendary Hitchcock thriller The Birds (1963) was filmed.

As tempted as I am to try to do something about the future destruction, I really don’t believe that it would do much good this late in the game. I think all we can really do is offer a moment of silence for these locations that were home to some of the greatest stars and films of all time.