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Classic Hollywood: The magic of Hepburn and Grant

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his is Susan King, a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times and guardian of the Golden Age of Hollywood galaxy. Every Friday in my Classic Hollywood newsletter, I share my passion about everything vintage, including movie and TV milestones, notable births and deaths, fun events happening in Los Angeles, the latest in DVDs and books, and memories of the legends I’ve met over the years.

This Saturday marks the 52nd anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorites, the romantic thriller “Charade,” starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. I saw this as a kid at the Manor Theatre in San Mateo and just loved it. Now it's hard for me to pass up "Charade" any time it’s on TV. What's not to love? The Henry Mancini score and song “Charade” is one of his best; you have terrific Paris locales; Peter Stone’s script is witty, sexy and suspenseful; and Stanley Donen's direction is fast-paced and deftly entertaining. The supporting cast — including James CoburnGeorge Kennedy and especially Walter Matthau — is top notch.

But it's the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn that makes it a must-see. Though Grant was 59 and Hepburn was 33, they fit together like a well-worn glove.

Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in "Charade." (Universal)

Stone got a lot of mileage out of the age difference: 

Hepburn to Grant: “Here it comes, the fatherly talk. You forget I'm already a widow.”

Grant: “Well, so was Juliet, at 15.”

Hepburn: “I'm not 15.”

Grant: “Well, that's your trouble. You're too old for me.”

Around town

The UCLA Film & Television Archive is presenting its 2004 restoration of the first feature-length film comedy — “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” from 1914 — this Saturday afternoon at the Billy Wilder Theater. Marie Dressler, who appeared in the stage version of the comedy, stars in this Mack Sennett-directed farce along with Charlie Chaplin, who eschews his Tramp character to play a cad. 

Despite its historical significance, “Tillie” had been poorly treated over the decades. It was edited and altered so many times that it became a pale version of its former self. The restoration work took two years to complete, and more than 13 sources were used to bring “Tillie” back to life.

In 2004, I talked with former UCLA film preservationist Ross Lipman about the restoration.

From left: Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler in "Tillie's Punctured Romance." (UCLA Film and Television Archive)

“The film changed ownership about a zillion times,” he noted as to why the film fell into such disrepair. “Each time somebody released it, that would change it in some way. Literally, they would cut out a scene here and there and restructure a scene. The next thing you know, it was making no sense. The film was cropped, and the speed was changed. It became a huge hodgepodge.”

To restore the film, Lipman put out a call to international archives and even private collectors for prints and other material from the movie. “I ended up comparing 30 different copies of the film.”

The end result is the most complete version of “Tillie” available.

Don’t touch that dial

TCM is celebrating the centenary of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ernest Lehman on Tuesday evening with five of his best films: 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” 1957’s “Sweet Smell of Success,” 1959’s “North by Northwest,” 1956’s "Somebody Up There Likes Me” and 1954’s “Executive Suite.”

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Warner Bros.)

Author! Author!

Authors of books about Hollywood will be on hand Saturday from noon to 4 p.m at the Hollywood Heritage Museum to sell, sign and talk about the history of Hollywood. Among those appearing are Donald L. Scoggins and Jay Jorgensen (“Creating the Illusion”), Mary Mallory (“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays”), Marsha Hunt (“The Way We Wore”), Cari Beauchamp (“My First Time in Hollywood”) and The Times’ Charles Fleming (“Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Hollywood").

From the Hollywood Star Walk

Notable births this week include Jeff Bridges (Dec. 4); Deanna Durbin (Dec. 4); Wink Martindale (Dec. 4); Walt Disney (Dec. 5); Fritz Lang (Dec. 5); Little Richard (Dec. 5); Otto Preminger (Dec. 5); Dave Brubeck (Dec. 6); Wally Cox (Dec. 6); Agnes Moorehead (Dec. 6); Fay Bainter (Dec. 7); Rod Cameron (Dec. 7); Ted Knight (Dec. 7); Kim Basinger (Dec. 8); David Carradine (Dec. 8); Sammy Davis Jr. (Dec. 8); Beau Bridges (Dec. 9); Broderick Crawford (Dec. 9); Kirk Douglas (Dec. 9); Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Dec 9); and Dick Van Patten (Dec. 9)

The director's director

This Friday marks the 28th anniversary of the death of film, theater and opera director Rouben Mamoulian at age 89.

A founder of the Directors Guild of America, Mamoulian directed the innovative 1929 musical “Applause,” starring Helen Morgan; led Fredric March to his first Oscar in 1931’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; and helmed the first three-strip Technicolor feature film, 1935’s “Becky Sharp.”

He also directed the original productions of the Broadway musicals “Porgy and Bess," “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.” But he frequently clashed with studio heads, which led to his being replaced on the 1944 noir classic “Laura” by Otto Preminger and later the first version of Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra.”

Here is the L.A. Times obituary as it appeared on Dec. 6, 1987.

For more vintage Hollywood, go to the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page and follow me on Twitter at @mymackie.

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