Classic Hollywood: Happy 100th birthday, Orson Welles!

I’m Susan King, the maven of all things Classic Hollywood here at the Los Angeles Times. I hope you enjoyed the first edition of my newsletter and continue to let me be your guide to this memorable world. As the recent TCM Classic Film Festival demonstrated, interest in the Golden Age of Hollywood is alive and well -- and growing.

Each Friday, I’ll guide you through the best in Classic Hollywood for the week, including the anniversaries of timeless films, must-see events in Los Angeles, TV milestones, the latest in DVD releases, a preview of my next Classic Hollywood column and notable deaths and births.

Speaking of which ... I'm a huge enthusiast of the influential and groundreaking Orson Welles. And this past Wednesday marked what would have been the 100th birthday of the writer-director-actor, the kind of soaring talent Hollywood has rarely seen before or since.

A true wunderkind, Welles was in his early 20s when he made his mark on Broadway and radio -- his 1938 radio presentation of “The War of the Worlds” was so realistc it terrified listeners -- and was just 25 when his first film, the 1941 masterpiece “Citizen Kane,” was released.

The American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica is presenting several of Welles’ films this weekend in celebration of his centennial. “Citizen Kane” and 1942’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” screen Friday evening at the Aero, with the rarely seen 1965 “Chimes at Midnight” and 1952’s “Othello” on tap for Saturday. His acclaimed 1958 noir “Touch of Evil” and the 2014 documentary “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles” are scheduled for Sunday.

Movie Milestone

The first big-screen James Bond thriller, “Dr. No,” starring Sean Connery -- my all-time favorite 007 -- had its premiere in London on Oct. 5, 1962. But the classic, which also starred Ursula Andress as original-model Bond girl Honey Ryder, Joseph Wiseman as the title character and Jack Lord as CIA agent Felix Leiter, didn’t hit the U.S until May 8, 1963. “Spectre,” the latest Bond flick and the fourth starring Daniel Craig, is set to open Nov. 6.

DVD Vault

Calling all Alfred Hitchcock aficionados. “Jamaica Inn,” the last film Hitch made in England before coming to the United States, is arriving on Blu-ray and DVD in a new restored edition this Tuesday from Cohen Media. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, the 1939 thriller stars Charles Laughton and a teenage newcomer by the name of Maureen O’Hara. The disc will feature commentary by movie critic Jeremy Arnold and a new video essay by Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto. Hitchcock would go on to make two other classics based on Du Maurier’s writing -- 1940’s “Rebecca,” which won the best picture Oscar, and 1963’s “The Birds.”

TV Rewind

I confess that back in the day I loved watching those glossy, star-studded prime-time soaps such as “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest” on CBS and, course, “Dynasty” on ABC. They were as addictive as popcorn drowning in real butter. So if you are in the mood for shoulder pads, big hair, preternaturally beautiful actors, two legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood and some deliciously over-the-top emoting, then check out “The Colbys,” which Shout! Factory is releasing on DVD this Tuesday.

The 1985-87 spinoff of “Dynasty” never caught on with viewers, but with a cast that includes Charlton Heston, Barbara StanwyckRicardo Montalban, Katharine Ross, Stephanie Beacham and Emma Samms and John James from “Dynasty,” it’s perfect binge-watch material for the Classic Hollywood couch potato.

Sneak Peek

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In this Sunday’s Classic Hollywood column, I visit with Emmy Award-winning actor William Daniels, of “St. Elsewhere” and “Boy Meets World” fame, and his wife of nearly 64 years, Bonnie Bartlett. Daniels just completed his autobiography and will be appearing as his “Boy Meets World” character Mr. Feeny in the Season 2 premiere of the Disney Channel’s sequel, “Girl Meets World.” And next month, the restored director’s cut of the 1972 musical “1776,” in which he reprised his Broadway role as Founding Father John Adams, will be released on Blu-ray.


On May 14, 1998, a classic sitcom aired its final episode and an Oscar-winning actor/singer icon died at the age of 82. Can you name the show and the legend? Check in next Friday for the answers.

From the Hollywood Star Walk

Notable births this week include Don Rickles (May 8); Richard Barthelmess (May 9); Johnny Grant (May 9); Fred Astaire (May 10); Irving Berlin (May 11); and Katharine Hepburn (May 12). Noteworthy deaths include Lena Horne (May 9); Alice Faye (May 9); Joan Crawford (May 10); and Erich von Stroheim (May 12).