Archive for September, 2013

Movie Star Memories: Jimmy Stewart

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

I was blessed to have met one of the most talented and versatile of Hollywood’s actors — James Stewart (Jimmy Stewart) — twice.

The first time I encountered Jimmy in person was at a book signing for his delightful book Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. I have to confess that I was annoyed at how slowly the line to get into the bookstore was moving, but when I discovered the reason why, I didn’t mind the wait as much. Jimmy took the time to engage in genuine conversations with everyone who asked him to autograph a copy of his book. If people asked him questions, he responded. If people told him a story, he listened. Everyone simply had to wait their turn.

That was fair, I thought to myself. Jimmy had a reputation for doing what was right by people, and his patience and engagement with his fans was just further evidence of that.

Finally, it was my turn. I offered my book to Jimmy and exchanged a few pleasantries with him while he signed it. Then I told him that I enjoyed writing poetry myself and he encouraged me to keep writing. He was just like I’d hoped he would be: a kind and even sweet gentleman. I wished I would have had some long questions to ask him or a good story to tell him so I could linger a bit longer with him, but I didn’t, so I moved on. Over the years since, I’ve often re-read his poems and smiled when I recalled his encouragement for me to keep writing my own.

Later, I met Jimmy at the University of Virginia’s film festival. That time I was prepared with a couple of good questions to ask him. But the woman in line in front of me stole my thunder by boldly kissing him on the cheek without warning! Jimmy looked surprised and then laughed. Those of us in the crowd around him applauded. I had to give her credit for a great idea, but regretted that I hadn’t thought of it first!

I was to encounter Jimmy one final time in person. On a trip to California one spring, my mom and I attended a worship service at Jimmy’s longtime church, Beverly Hills Presbyterian. We saw him in the congregation but didn’t want to disturb his worship by approaching him. Instead, we simply exchanged smiles with him from afar. What an appropriate place for me to last see Jimmy in person!  His faith guided his entire career, and God used that career to inspire countless people through his films.

Movie Star Memories: Ginger Rogers

Friday, September 27th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

Ginger Rogers is my favorite of all Hollywood movie stars, because of her gracefulness, energy, and versatility. The first time I met Ginger — at the American Film Institute’s film ball in Washington, D.C. in 1984 — I was a painfully shy preteen and she was as graceful offscreen as she appeared onscreen. When I finally mustered enough courage to approach her and tried to speak, the words came out so softly that she couldn’t hear me and had to ask me repeat myself. I did (with a nervously pounding heart), but soon learned that I could relax, because she was a genuinely kind person who made me feel at ease. She invited me to sit near her for the rest of the evening, and I had a few more opportunities to talk briefly with her.

The next morning, we met again when I waited outside the press conference Ginger held while donating her one of her dancing dresses from the movie Top Hat to the Smithsonian Institution. She remembered me from the night before and took the time to encourage me to keep being bold and follow my dreams, including my dream of one day becoming a journalist. Part of the reason I had the confidence to pursue that dream — and see it come true — was because I looked to the confident Ginger as my role model.

I had the blessing of meeting Ginger numerous times later on, such as at another Smithsonian event, a stop on her book tour to promote her autobiography, and the Kennedy Center Honors. Each time she encouraged me to be confident and place my trust in God to empower me in life. She was truly a great lady!  Learn more about her faith in this article I wrote about her centennial for Crosswalk.com in 2011.

 

Movie Star Memories: Bob Hope

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

Meeting Bob Hope was a thrill for me because he was — and still remains — my favorite comedian of all time. True, Bob had a team of wonderful writers working for him to produce many of the jokes he used. But Bob himself was also a witty guy who would make astute and entertaining comments in conversation. So it was no surprise to me learn that Bob was often personally involved in the creative process along with his joke-writing team.

The first time I saw Bob in person was when he performed at George Washington University. I was just a teen but a fervent fan of Bob’s timeless humor, and so was my dad. So the two of us attended the show together and laughed through every minute of it.

Later, I met Bob briefly at the Kennedy Center Honors, and he was just as I’d hoped he would be: a witty gentleman with a mischievous sense of humor. I tried to follow him around for a while without seeming like a stalker, just so I could eavesdrop on his conversations with others. Every word he said was just as sharp as the jokes he told.

Bob knew that the best humor didn’t have to rely on shock value or cheap tricks. Bob’s humor was respectful of people yet still uproariously funny, because it had both love and wisdom at its core.

Movie Star Memories: Ann Miller

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

I met Ann Miller briefly after a performance of the musical Sugar Babies, in which she was appearing with Mickey Rooney on a national tour that had stopped in Washington, D.C. Ann had sung and danced her way throughout the high-energy show (a tribute to burlesque) impressively — especially considering that she was a senior citizen at the time. She even did some of her signature super-fast tap dancing.

She was quite down-to-earth, which was a pleasant surprise. Her elaborate makeup and ultra-glamorous demeanor had given me the impression that she would be rather unapproachable, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Underneath her over-the-top appearance, Ann was a warm and friendly person.

Movie Star Memories: Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

When former Hollywood movie star Ronald Reagan served as president of the United States during the 1980s, I encountered him several times in person at the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual event in Washington, D.C. that celebrates the professional legacies of some of the best American performing artists.

He was smiling whenever I looked at him — and his smile seemed to light up his eyes. That mesmerizing smile was what struck me most about him.

While I didn’t have a chance to talk with him directly, I did overhear some of his comments to others, and they were all lighthearted musings about the various artists who were being celebrated.

Ronald Reagan actually seemed to me to be more like a boy than a man. He seemed too  playful, somehow, to be the leader of the free world. But when I consider how he served as president, I think he was really one of the best free world leaders the world has ever seen. A serious demeanor simply wasn’t necessary for his success.

Years later, when I visited his presidential library in California after his death, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a portrait of him composed entirely of jellybeans — the candy he loved to snack on at the White House. It reminded me of the playful boy-man I’d seen joking around at the Kennedy Center Honors years ago.

Movie Star Memories: Lillian Gish

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

While most of the movie stars I’ve met over the years are those from Hollywood’s golden age (1930s to 1950s, my favorite era), I did get to meet one of Hollywood’s silent era stars — the wonderful Lillian Gish — at a Smithsonian Institution event in Washington, D.C. celebrating the first century of movie-making.

Lillian’s career spanned an impressive amount of time: from 1912 to 1987. Although she continued working on various projects long after “talkies” (movies with sound) hit theaters, her best-known work was in silent movies. Lillian became known for her ability to captivate audiences with her extraordinarily expressive face — a talent best showcased in silent films.

Silent movies were her favorites, Lillian admitted when I met her, but she took the lessons she’d learned about how to convey emotion on camera visually  in silent films and transferred that knowledge to sound films, with great success.

What struck me most about Lillian was how strong her spirit was compared to how diminutive she was physically. While us audience members interviewed her, she commanded the stage with impressive authority. I could definitely picture her doing the many dangerous stunts that she did for her silent films, such as jumping off runaway horses, filming while live ammunition was firing around her, and laying down on an ice slab that was floating down a river toward a waterfall. Lillian did all of her own stunts in her many popular silent films, and her spunk and confidence was evident many years later!

Movie Star Memories: Angela Lansbury

Monday, September 9th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

I met the graceful Angela Lansbury after she spoke at an event honoring the centennial year of the graceful Ginger Rogers in 2011. It was fun to hear Angela — a major star in her own right who is soon due to receive an honorary Oscar — talk about how she’s a fan of Ginger, my favorite Hollywood star of all.

What struck me most about Angela was her elegance and vitality. A true English lady, Angela spoke with a quit wit and dressed with style. Though she was in her 80s, the only sign of her age was her white hair. In every other way, she appeared much younger. Seeing how energetically she interacted with those of us at the event, I could easily imagine her running across a stage somewhere, as she had done so often before in her long career in live theater (for which she’s probably even better known than for her movie and television roles).

Movie Star Memories: Dick Van Dyke

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

Checking out of the New York Hilton hotel one morning back in 1985, I waited in line behind a man who was handling his own checkout transaction at the front desk, and as I listened to his conversation with the hotel employee, I noted that he was especially positive — a real gentleman who didn’t just go through the checkout process in a businesslike way, but took the time to speak encouraging words to the hotel staff.  I didn’t think anything else about it until the man turned around and I could see his smiling face: It was Dick Van Dyke.

Dick is known for often playing cheery characters onscreen (such as in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) during his long and varied career. How nice it was for me to see that he displayed a positive attitude off the screen.

That positive attitude I saw from Dick years ago made news recently when he was rescued from his flaming car on a California freeway. Just a few hours after nearly dying, Dick tweeted a photo of his charred car and joked: “Used Jag for sale REAL CHEAP!!”

What a wonderful attitude!

Movie Star Memories: Sally Field

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

In this blog series, I’ll describe my impressions of various movie stars I’ve met over the years. Hope you enjoy reading about your favorites, and that you’ll be inspired to check out my Hollywood novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and electronic formats through Amazon.com.

When the Smithsonian Institution celebrated the 100th anniversary of the motion picture industry in 1986, it invited three different actresses to represent their respective eras of Hollywood: Lillian Gish (the silent film era), Ginger Rogers (the golden era), and Sally Field (the modern era). Each of these great actresses fielded questions from an audience on different evenings, about what it was like to make movies in Hollywood during those times.

Sally Field, who was both smart and friendly, spoke often about how she studied the work of other actors and actresses who had gone before her to learn more about her craft. She enjoyed not just making movies, but also watching them. She was a star, but she never forgot the importance of being a fan, as well.

I was impressed by Sally’s emphasis on lifelong learning. She’s an astute observer of human nature as well as the craft of making films, and her wisdom comes through in her onscreen performances.

Even though it has been many years since I met her, I continue to fondly remember that evening at the Smithsonian every time I watch Sally’s great acting in a movie, such as the great film Lincoln in which she costarred last year.