The Searchers: Meeting Lana Wood

Hello readers! This is a very special post as on September 15 2016 at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge IL. I met Lana Wood at a 60th anniversary screening of The Searchers. My lovely Father escorted me for the night- as he was so generous to take a day off work so I could go! Thanks again, Daddy! (also thanks for the pictures!)

It was surely a night to remember, and I’m so glad to share my experience with all of you!

But before I go any further, I’d like to dedicate this post to the man who introduced me to John Wayne and his movies when I was 9, my late grandfather, Mr. Joseph Kasper. Although he couldn’t accompany me to the screening last night, I just know how thrilled he would have been for me and how excited he would have been to see John Wayne on the big screen. The Duke was my Grandfather’s favorite movie star and he always used to say, “I like John Wayne because he reminds me of me”. I know my Grandfather was with me in spirit last night, and for that I couldn’t be happier.

Photo by Emily Graziano

The screening of The Searchers took place at the glorious art deco Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge IL. It was built in 1928 and in 1975 was officially declared a historic building. Its name “Pickwick” was chosen by the then Park Ridge Mayor, William Malone, for the character of Samuel Pickwick from Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers.

The night kicked of with pre- show at 6:30 with music by Jay Warren. Ms. Lana Wood arrived shortly after signing autographs before and after the screening.

Autographs were $20, however all proceeds were to help homeless dogs and cats at no kill shelters! A generous donation on Ms. Wood’s behalf.

I was lucky enough to get Lana’s autograph before the screening and get a picture with her as well!

When I got to the front there were about ten pictures to choose from (ranging from Searchers stills to Diamonds are Forever Plenty O’Toole candids). I asked the man sitting next to Lana which one would be best and he suggested the picture of Lana and Natalie together, as it was a studio picture taken to promote the movie. Ms. Wood then chimed in exclaiming, “Oh yes this one! Its the two Debbies together!”. With that, I took their advice.

Photo By Emily Graziano

Lana also graciously signed the inside of my Searchers’ blu-ray sleeve, to which the man beside her said was a “good idea” that I brought it.

I also had the pleasure to tell Lana how wonderful it was for me to meet her and that this was my first time viewing The Searchers. I explained I never had met a celebrity before and I told her how honored I was to meet a real movie star. Ms. Wood was ever so generous saying she was “glad” I came out. I also asked her of how she liked Chicago, with her response being “Oh, I love it!”

But the coolest part was when we took this picture together (which my Dad took for me!) I stood next her her and she exclaimed “Finally! someone I’m taller than!” It felt so surreal- but it was so amazing- I felt like I was dreaming!


At seven o’clock she began her Q and A session. She talked of her memories of Sean Connery and being the bond girl, John Wayne, her sister Natalie, and of course her recollection of making The Searchers.

She recalled the dust storms and how, when she would take a bath the storms made the water come out orange at first. She talked about Patrick Wayne and how both she and Natalie just “adored” him. Ms Wood furthermore revealed her favorite film of Natalie’s: Splendor in the Grass because Natalie was brave enough to take off her cuff that hid her protruding wrist bone. Lana explained Natalie wanted to “bare it all” for this film.

I myself got to ask Lana a question which was “What was your favorite role of your career?” She happily remarked it was a “lesser known mini series {QB VII} with Anthony Hopkins“. She even “parted ways” with her agent as they believed she was too good for the small role and if she took the role, they didn’t want to represent her. But she said the most important part was the character and in the end she was even nominated for an Emmy.

Lana talked for about 40-ish minutes before the film played, with it starting at about 7:40.

I was just in awe of the movie, especially on the big screen- seeing John Wayne in his signature role in a cinema setting was just too cool. It was certainly something I’ll never forget and all other viewings of The Searchers from here on out will never amount to the glory it was last night.

I hope in the future I will be able to go to more events such as this! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m just thankful I didn’t pass it up. I’ll always remember the magical evening and I no longer wonder why The Searchers is considered the best, for it 100% is the best of the best.


Film review Mister Roberts (1955)

My First post of the new year brings me back to those film reviews I’ve been promising! This one will be about 1955’s Mister Roberts.

Featuring an all star cast- Henry Fonda, William Powell, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon (who for this role, won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars that year), Mister Roberts is one of the funniest World War II movies ever made. It has no combat scenes, no trenches, and no gun shots, yet the film still creates the feel of the on going World War.

For me personally, I watched this film for William Powell (this film is his final screen appearance), but it wasn’t long into watching before I started to adore the other actors too! Henry Fonda is really good (looking.. ahem 😉 ) and Jack Lemmon cracked me up! James Cagney, although playing the “bossy” boss also gives a wonderful performance.

Mister Roberts (1955 movie poster).jpg

The entire film takes place on a cargo ship in the middle of the Pacific (titled Reluctant). Each one of the main characters has their own mini subplot while being stuck on the ship. Henry Fonda plays the title character who longs to be a part of the action, Jack Lemmon plays his “buddy” and prankster Ensign Frank Pulver (who wants to lighten up the mood), while William Powell plays their fatherly figure “Doc”. James Cagney rounds out the cast as the ship’s uptight and stern Captain whose number one priority is his beloved Palm tree.

One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie has to be the scene where Doc makes scotch for Pulver (in order to impress a nurse at the base of an unnamed South Pacific island). After all, who else would you trust to make you some home made alcohol other than Mr. Nick Charles himself 😉

I don’t want to giveaway the ending, but I will say that there is a bit of an unexpected shock that comes to one of our characters. Every time I watch, I know its coming and yet I still have the same reaction upon seeing it unfold.

An interesting note about this film is the behind the scenes problems between Director John Ford and Henry Fonda. The two men have worked together previously (and in some of the best films ever made too- My Darling Clementine and The Grapes of Wrath for starters), but for Fonda, the final straw came when Ford punched him in the jaw. According to IMDB, it was then (along with Ford’s emergency gallbladder operation) that the director had to be replaced with Mervyn LeRoy – and to this day there is speculation as to who directed what.

I for one sure can’t tell the difference between the two- and sometimes wonder what made Ford and Fonda part company- as they never worked together again. Yet another secret behind the mysterious nature of John Ford.

In the end, I feel everyone should give Mister Roberts a chance- even though it’s considered a “guy” comedy- I say it has something for everyone (ladies there’s four classic leading men in uniform!!!) ….

…..And it definitely teaches the best method of how to get rid of your boss’s precious (but irritating) foliage!






Noirvember 2015- Leave her to Heaven (1945)

Hello again fellow Classic movie and Noirvember fans! Deciding I don’t have time to blog about all the Noirvember films I watch, I’ve decided to review ones I really really love. Other non- noirs will follow soon, as there are many films I love! 😉

Anyways today’s brief (I need to do these earlier in the day!) review will be about a noir, another Gene Tierney flick, the 1945 Twentieth Century Fox smash box office hit (and now classic!) Leave Her To Heaven. Also Starring Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, and Vincent Price this beautifully shot Technicolor Oscar winning film (best color cinematography- yes, indeed!!) was Fox studio’s highest grossing picture of the 1940s!

                                                        (Photo Wikipedia)

The always wonderful Ms. Tierney stars as Ellen Berent, a character that is a true femme fatale- one that gives Gilda a run for her money!

When we first meet Ellen on the train, she meets novelist Richard Harland (Wilde), a handsome writer- and automatically falls for him- enough to make her forget her fiance, Russell Quinton (Vincent Price, yep, he’s jilted, again). As Ellen and her family arrive at the lake house, she and Richard do grow closer and very fast too- after all Ellen loves him very, very much- so much in fact, she goes crazy jealous when he talks to his own brother Danny, and is green with envy when he casually talks with Ruth… her sister. Richard and Ellen eventually marry, but not even marriage is enough for Ellen, in terms of ensuring Richard is hers… and only hers. How far is Ellen willing to go? Here’s the short and simple version of her plan! A- get rid of the brother, B: get rid of their (eventual) child and C: remove her sister from the picture.

(Photo from DVD Beaver) Ellen.. beautiful, loving….and jealous

How she does it (if she does it!) and what happens after I won’t tell, but lets just say Gene Tierney deserved to win that Oscar (really, Joan Crawford wins? why!) and the ending reveals a shocking confession from one of our main characters. I say everyone must see this film! Its wonderful and a fantastic color noir!

Oh and a final piece of advice.. when it comes to swimming, never ever push yourself too far  😉

Noirvember 2015 Day 1- Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

Hello felllow classic film/ Noirvember fans! To begin my film blogging, I’ve decided to try and blog about each noir I watch (this one is a brief post, with not much detail!). The first noir for Noirvember 2015 I watched was Where the Sidewalk Ends, (1950) starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews


                                              (Photo from Wikipedia)

I was really excited to watch this film, as I had previously watched the two actors in Laura (1944). Gene and Dana have such amazing chemistry together (no wonder they made five films together!) and I think they are both very underrated actors from the Golden Era.

In general, Dana Andrews is just so handsome and is one of only a handful of men who can actually rock a fedora and overcoat look! {next to Cary Grant, William Powell, Humphrey Bogart, and Mr Nathan Page of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries}. The lovely Gene Tierney is wonderful in this role- not as mysterious as her most famous character Laura, but in this film I think of her to be a guiding force to Dana’s character- someone who will encourage him to do the right thing. Ms. Tierney also wears some amazing pieces designed by her then husband, Oleg Cassini.


I personally thought the film to be so good, I ordered it from Amazon the next day!!!

In the film, Mr. Andrews plays a Police Detective, Mark Dixon, but he soon finds himself on the opposite side of the law when he accidentally kills a man, Ken Paine, in self defense. Dixion does get rid of the body, but then fate takes a turn when he is assigned to find Paine’s killer! Not wanting to get caught, he pins the blame on an old enemy (Tommy Scalise), but by doing so, he inadvertently puts the suspicion on cab driver Jiggs Taylor. And things really start to get complicated when Dixon falls for Morgan- Paine’s estranged wife- and Jiggs’ daughter!!!!

Will Dixon confess and come clean? or will he put his position on the line and keep up his story? And what will Morgan ever think if she finds out he put the blame on her father?

Watch and Find out!!!