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Classic Hollywood: Goodbye, farewell and amen

This is Susan King, a veteran entertainment reporter for the Los Angeles Times and guardian of the Golden Age of Hollywood galaxy. And this will be my last Classic Hollywood newsletter. After 26 years, I am leaving The Times today.

I hope you enjoyed my Classic Hollywood columns, the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page and my Sunday Classic Hollywood pieces as much as I loved writing them. 

I'm not retiring and hope I can continue to write about the bygone days of Hollywood. The Times' Classic Hollywood coverage will continue too. Thank you again for following me all of these years.

Because I was raised Catholic, as a kid I always had to check a list in the back of the church to see what films the Catholic Legion of Decency had condemned. If a movie was on the list, I wasn't allowed to go.

But those days are long gone.

Every Thursday in March, TCM is presenting an evening of these forbidden films hosted by Sister Rose Pacatte, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul order, founding director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies and a noted film reviewer. I met her a few years ago, and she's funny and articulate.

On tap for next Thursday are the 1951 remake of "M"; the 1954 musical comedy "The French Line" with Jane Russell; Roger Vadim's 1956 French romance "And God Created Woman," which made a star out of Brigitte Bardot; the 1957 hoot "Untamed Youth," starring Mamie Van Doren: and Jean-Luc Godard's groundbreaking 1960 New Wave noir "Breathless," starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

And if you want to learn more about censorship and the movies, then check out writer Jeremy Geltzer's fascinating new book from the University of Texas Press, "Dirty Words & Filthy Pictures: Film and the First Amendment."

TV Milestones

Mary Martin soared on TV for the first time in "Peter Pan" on March 7, 1955. "Peter Pan," which had just closed on Broadway, was television's first full-length Broadway production telecast live in color. The majority of the Broadway cast, including Tony Award winners Martin and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, reprised their roles for this delightful production, which garnered a record-breaking audience of 65 million viewers. Martin won an Emmy for her performance. The following January, "Peter Pan" was re-staged again live with great fanfare.

Most baby boomers like myself never saw those live productions but fondly remember the 1960 videotaped version with Martin and Ritchard, which was repeated several times on TV and is out on DVD.

Last year, the two live versions finally made their DVD and Blu-Ray debuts. Though only the black-and-white kinescopes survive, both versions of "Peter Pan" are just wonderful. Because they were live, there is a terrific spontaneity to them. I felt like I was a 5-year-old watching "Peter Pan," which isn't a bad feeling at all.

DVD Vault

Arriving on DVD Tuesday from Warner Archive is a triple bill of RKO Pictures anthology films that feature contemporary talent of the time with clips from vintage shorts starring such comics as Leon Errol and Edgar Kennedy.

Comedian Gil Lamb hosts 1949's "Make Mine Laughs," which features clips from Errol's "Beware of Redheads," as well as performances by orchestra leader Frankie Carle, ventriloquist Robert Lamouret and dancers Manuel and Marita Viera.

The 1948 "Variety Time" is hosted by Jack Paar, who also is the emcee of 1951's "Footlight Varieties." The latter features performances by the Sportsmen Quartet, the Harmonicats, Red Buttons and Liberace interspersed with segments from an old D.W. Griffith silent short called "Confidence" and an Errol short comedy called "He Forgot to Remember."

Reviews on all three films weren't stellar, but the trio sounds like a wonderfully bizarre time capsule.

Sneak Peek

In this Sunday's Classic Hollywood, I chat with the legendary Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine. She has written a fun new book, "Above the Line," about the trials and tribulations of making the independent comedy "Wild Oats" in the Canary Islands two years ago.

From the Hollywood Star Walk

Notable births this week include John Garfield (March 4); Rex Harrison (March 5); George Meeker (March 5); Dean Stockwell (March 5); Lou Costello (March 6); Rochelle Hudson (March 6); Rob Reiner (March 6); Bryan Cranston (March 7); Anna Magnani (March 7); Cyd Charisse (March 8); Claire Trevor (March 8); and Carole Bayer Sager (March 8).

The Music Man

This Sunday marks the 49th anniversary of the death of Nelson Eddy at age 65. Eddy was an opera singer who was "discovered" by Hollywood after a concert appearance at the old Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1933.

He became a superstar at MGM when he was paired with Jeanette MacDonald in 1935 for the operetta "Naughty Marietta." They ended up making eight films together until their partnership ended with 1942's "I Married an Angel."

Here is the L.A. Times obit as it appeared in the paper on March 7, 1967.

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