Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Cook’

Hobnobbing with Stars at Film Noir Fest

Monday, May 17th, 2010

(from L) Jeffrey Taylor, June Lockhart & Charles Schlacks at the Film Noir Fest

In 1955, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of a lonely, homely guy named, “Marty,” against Hollywood heavyweights Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra and James Dean. He starred as a gangster in “From Here to Eternity,” but Ernest Borgnine was best remembered for the 1962 TV series, “McHale’s Navy.”

On Thursday night, May 13, Borgnine attended the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival as its guest commentator. He’s now 93.

The B movie that starred Borgnine was called, “Pay or Die,” from 1960. He played a police lieutenant who battled extortionists in New York’s “Little Italy” neighborhood.

“Ernest Borgnine was bright, and funny and entertaining,” said Jeffrey Taylor, of Green Cafe in Idyllwild, who has attended the Film Noir Festival for the past 10 years. He was a good friend of the festival’s originator, Arthur Lyons.

“He came right up and shook my hand,” added Taylor. “He seemed more like 60 than 93.”

Anne Robinson gets cozy with Jeffrey Taylor of Idyllwild

Besides Borgnine, the Film Noir Festival’s lineup of guests included June Lockhart, Julie Garfeild, Ann Robinson, Don Murray and Tommy Cook.

The best part of the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival, added Taylor, was hobnobbing with the stars. They provided onstage interviews, autographs and cocktail parties. “Anyone who wanted to, could come up and talk to them.”

He said he’s been to other Film Noir festivals where the stars are secluded or wisked offstage right after the show.

“I hope they always keep that special element,” Taylor said.

At this Film Noir festival, he met and got autographs with all of them. Then he hangs the autographed playbills on the walls of his screening room in his office where he hosts weekly “Movie Night” that feature Film Noir films.

“I like everything about the festival,” said Rosemary Barnhardt, from Idyllwild and Palm Springs. Her comments were included in an article in the Palm Desert Sun newspaper on Friday.

Like Taylor, Charles Schlacks, Jr., an Idyllwild resident, considers spending all day in the Camelot Theater watching old crime dramas the best form of a vacation. He took four days from his printing business to come. He proudly wore a black T-shirt from 2008 that repeats Lyons’ favorite line about Film Noir, “It’s all in the story.”

Each day of the four-day event, there were star interviews and autograph signings. The first day was Borgnine, who was a big hit.

The next day, Friday, May 14, Alan Rode, head of the Film Noir Festival for the past two years, brought up Borgnine again.

“I got up early this morning to read the paper (the Palm Desert Sun), to see what they said about us, and who was already there, but Earnest Borgnine,” Rode said. “He was reading the paper and signing autographs for veterans.”

Setting up: June Lockhart and Alan Rode talk onstage at the Film Noir Festival

According to the imdb web site, Borgnine spent 10 years in the Navy after high school, and portrayed military personnel throughout his long career, namely “McHale’s Navy.” Apparently, he is still beloved by many of them.

“He wanted me to tell you that he had a great time last night, and really enjoyed himself here at the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival,” Rode said, as everyone applauded.

That Thursday, Anne Robinson was the special guest at the 1 p.m. show called, “The Glass Wall” from 1953. It was directed by Maxwell Shane, and starred Vittorio Gassman, Gloria Grahame and Robinson. It was about an immigrant who was wrongly denied his visa entry into New York City.

Later, June Lockhart was the special guest for the 7:30 p.m. show, “Bury Me Dead,” from 1947. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and its cinematographer was John Altman, and starred Lockhart, Cathy O’Donnell and Hugh Beaumont.

After the show, Lockhart took the stage with Rode for a 15-minute interview. She was funny, witty, intelligent, and remembered many details of the show and its stars.

She said that the business suit that she wore during most of the movie was way too big for her, and they fixed it with lots of safety pins attached to her underwear.

June Lockhart signs Charles Schlacks' Film Noir book, as fans wait their turn

Lockhart remembered Altman’s lighting throughout the film, because he insisted on getting rid of all of the overhead lights.

“Some of them on the set didn’t like him because it put them out of jobs,” she said.

However, Lockhart especially liked Altman’s lighting when it changed on Beaumont’s face.

Towards the end of “Bury Me Dead,” when it was evident that Beaumont intended to harm Lockhart, Altman moved the lighting from Beaumont’s face to only his eyes. It had a sinister, werewolf effect.

Lockhart kept tabs on her co-star Beaumont, who died in 1982. Later on in his life, he became an ordained minister and grew Christmas trees.

When Rode asked her about her family upbringing, Lockhart surprised the audience by saying, “Thomas Edison introduced my mother and father.”

Rode asked her about her long career, which included some beloved TV shows, such as “Lassie,” and “Lost in Space.”

During “Lassie,” Lockhart said it was difficult at first to speak to the dog on camera.

“They would have a trainer with a treat on either side of you,” Lockhart said. “And when I’d speak my line, and then I’d have to wait until Lassie would speak and the trainer would give her a treat. But, after awhile, you’d learn to tune out the trainers.”

Although Lockhart appeared in 200 episodes of “Lassie,” Rode said its director wasn’t too pleasant to work with.

“He was gruff, and not always kind,” Lockhart admitted. “He”d always say, ‘Get the dog and the girl.”

After the interview, fans crowded around Lockhart to speak briefly to her and get her autograph. Many of the photos they had her sign were from her “Lassie” and “Lost in Space” days. Schlacks had her sign a Film Noir book, and Taylor had her sign his playbill.

As luck would have it, a woman walked right in front of my camera as I was taking a shot of Lockhart and Taylor.  He turned around, “Did you get it?”

I moved around trying to get a better position as Taylor stood next to her. The flash didn’t go off. I motioned to Schlacks to sit next to her.

“What’s happening here?” Lockhart asked, as I fumbled with my camera. I asked if she’s pose for a picture since  I missed it earlier. I changed my batteries, said a silent prayer, and snapped the picture.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Lockhart teased. “I wasn’t ready. I think I was looking down.”

So I took it again. “Now, make sure that you’re happy with it, or we’ll take it again,” Lockhart said. “There’s no rush.”

I looked at the photo, and it was perfect. I glanced around at the others who were waiting patiently, and bowed out quickly, blushing all the way.

I think she meant what she said. June Lockhart was not only a smart, beautiful and talented women, but she was also incredibly nice.

For those who like hobnobbing with really nice stars from the old B movie crime dramas, be sure and come to the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival next year. For more information on its lineup, visit www.filmnoirfest.org and www.greencafe.com.

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