Unless I'm placed in a functional time machine or am zapped by magic, I'll never meet Carole Lombard, one of the great Howard Hawks heroines (seen with him above on the set of "Twentieth Century"). However, this weekend I was blessed to meet two legendary actresses who also worked with the great director, although only one of them could be classified as a "heroine" -- Angie Dickinson, shown below with Hawks on the set of 1958's "Rio Bravo"...
...and Joan Collins, seen with Hawks and Jack Hawkins during the making of 1955's "Land Of The Pharoahs." (Actually, she's now Dame Joan Collins, in case you haven't heard -- more on that later):
Both were among the celebrities on hand for a two-day memorabilia show at the Westin hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. (So was my Facebook friend Francine York, always a treat to see.)
Another Facebook friend of mine, Jenny Peters, a former high school classmate who's now an entertainment writer, said after I told her I had met Dickinson, "We love Angie." After meeting her, I can see why. Dickinson's now 83 and wears slacks to cover up her famous legs. But she doesn't need to show them off at her age, not when her ebullient personality more than makes up for it. (Below is Angie from a TCM Classic Film Festival of a few years back.)
After she signed a '70s-era photo (for which I had paid either $25 or $30), I gave her a Carole & Co. business card, noting she and Lombard were fellow Hawks heroines. She smiled, remembered the Carole film in question was "Twentieth Century," and we continued talking about movies. "Have you seen 'St. Vincent' yet?" she asked me, a reference to my name. "Go see it -- Bill Murray is wonderful," adding she was disappointed Murray didn't receive an Academy Award nomination. Based upon her enthusiasm for the film, I now feel obliged to find a Los Angeles theater where it's still playing (and I've liked Murray's work in "Groundhog Day," among other things).
Angie and I talked for several minutes -- by this time of day, there wasn't much of a line behind me -- and she was a pure delight. Add me to the many members of the Angie Dickinson fan club.
In case you haven't heard, Joan Collins can now be addressed as Dame Joan Collins, the same title bestowed upon fellow British acting legend Diana Rigg; she received the honor from Queen Elizabeth a few weeks ago for her work on behalf of children's charities. So how is one to refer to the status of Joan, shown with the queen at a reception after receiving the award? Was it "damehood," I asked her? She smiled and nodded.
A bit later, I got an autographed photo of her from the memorable "Star Trek" episode where she played a 1931 social worker; we talked briefly and she was genuinely nice (and still attractive, as that photo with the queen makes clear). Alas, I had forgotten her Hawks connection, so I didn't ask her about that. While Collins is mainly remembered as the scheming Alexis on "Dynasty," she had a substantial film career for which she gets relatively little credit.
Among the other celebs I talked to were sitcom showrunner legend Garry Marshall, Jon Provost of "Lassie" fame and a number of other notables. Memorabilia dealers abounded, and I purchased 13 DVDs or sets for $40 (including two collections of the hard-to-find 1950s "Dragnet" TV series), as well as five Lombard tobacco cards from the early '30s, highlighted by this Garbaty classic:
Sunday, it was off to the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard for an event called a "Tribute To Marvin Paige," a longtime casting director known as "the mayor of Old Hollywood"; he helped cast films ranging from "Breakfast At Tiffany's" to "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Paige also was a film historian, an all-around good guy and, alas, one of the people I arrived too late to meet; he passed on following injuries from a car crash in November 2013, the year before I came west. Here he is with Anne Jeffreys from the "Topper" TV series:
Paige's friends -- and there are many -- honor his memory each January as part of the Marvin Paige Legacy Project, as he collected a huge array of memorabilia (and let us note the passing this weekend of his East Coast equivalent in that department, New York television and radio legend Joe Franklin). This year's event was called "A Meal, A Movie, and Marvin!", as those attending chowed down on some food in the Egyptian lobby, followed by the film, the 1961 Academy Award winner for best picture, "West Side Story" -- and one of the film's Oscar winners, George Chakiris, also was on hand (he's in the center of the picture below as the leader of the Sharks gang).
As was the case with "Meet Me In St. Louis" a year ago, "West Side Story" was one of those films whose music I was familiar with (my family owned the soundtrack album), but I had somehow never seen, though I knew the story was a contemporary adaptation of "Romeo And Juliet." Thankfully, that now has been rectified, and hearing the music and its many classic songs within the context of the movie makes that Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein collaboration all the more memorable.
To close, my favorite version of a "West Side Story" song, Barbra Streisand's magnificent "Somewhere" from "The Broadway Album" late in 1985. She placed it in an outer-space context, and that seemed to resonate with me and many others in the wake of the Challenger disaster of January 1986 (in fact, it was 29 years ago this Wednesday). I'm not the most avid fan of Streisand, but her epic performance is a triumph by any measure.