CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with Crystal Kalyana Pacey who blogs at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood. Crystal recently completed studies in Freelance Journalism and is now a registered journalist.
What sparked your interest in classic film?
My fascination with the golden age of Hollywood dates as far back as 1999. I was 12 years old, and in my final year of primary school. Midway during that year it was announced that “us” the graduating students were going to do The Wizard of Oz for the end of year graduation play. This meant that we had to undergo many hours of rehearsal, as well as sitting through repeated viewings of the film. As a result, I developed an extreme obsession for Judy Garland, and I was on the quest to find out as much about her as I possibly could. Although she had piqued my curiosity, I was still too young to prolifically research her life and dig deep into her filmography. My method of study was to flood my Mother and Grandmother with questions pertaining to Garland. The one aspect that shocked me the most was when I discovered that Dorothy ( Judy Garland ) had died in 1969 of a prescription pill overdose. The fact that Judy was no longer alive upset me greatly. I suddenly realized that I would never have the opportunity of meeting the woman that I idolized immensely, but I was richer for having discovered her and I knew that a world full of Garland treasures were awaiting me.
My interest in Judy Garland escalated during high school when my Grandparents gifted me her movies on DVD. While watching Garland's films, I began to take notice of her co-stars and I would collect their films whenever I could. This exposure led me to pursuing the likes of the other stars from the golden era, and gradually I broadened my horizons and branched out of the Judy Garland circle. It also helped that my Mother, Grandmother, and my Late Great Aunty Pat supported me on my journey into the world of classic cinema. They have fond memories of watching the old movies on television when they were young and they were constantly giving me recommendations and telling me which actress or actor I should discover next. I could go on and on telling you my discovery story, but I'm afraid I'm boring you all – so I will end it there.
What other film genres do you favor?
I love classic films in general, but like most people I have my favorite genres. Usually, I tend to watch more drama, comedy, Film Noir, and thriller/mystery type productions, but I am occasionally in the mood to see a great western. It depends on the films synopsis and what I feel like watching at the time.
Name three films that most classic film fans love, but you hate, and if you can tell us why?
My answers could have me dodging bullets. I understand that the films that I'm about to list are high on everyone's radar – so the fact that I dislike them will probably shock most people, but please remember that this is just my opinion. Without further ado, here are the movies that I find terribly overrated and downright boring:
It's A Wonderful Life ( 1946 )
Double Indemnity ( 1944 )
His Girl Friday ( 1940 )
I know you are a big admirer of Katharine Hepburn. What is it about Hepburn that connected with
I think what initially connected me with Katharine Hepburn was her films and her indomitable presence on screen. I first discovered her during an interstate visit back home. I remember my Great Grandmother watching On Golden Pond in the back room of my grandparents house. I wandered in to see what she was doing and she automatically summoned me to sit on the bed with her and watch the movie that was about to commence on the television. My initial reactions were filled with enthusiasm. I had no idea what the movie was about, but the thought of cozily snuggling up in bed and drinking cups of tea and eating deserts with my beloved Great Grandmother thrilled me. As soon as the film started, I instantly knew that it was going to draw my attention, and needless to say, I was right. It would be an understatement to state that I was immersed in the story alone. I was also impressed with Katharine Hepburn and even then I had a slight inkling that she would one day become my all-time favorite. At the time of my introductory, I had just finished year 10 – so I had not yet read any biographies on Hepburn, nor did I know anything about her. Less than a year later a news flash ran across the television announcing her death. I was saddened to learn of her passing, but it made me want to discover her even more. Shortly after, I purchased a Hepburn biography that was reduced in price at my local Borders book store. Upon reading about her life, I realized that my connection with her was much deeper than what I had initially witnessed on the exterior. To my surprise, many of Katharine's personality traits closely mirrored mine, and we actually had a lot in common. I also admired her for making pants fashionable for women, and even to this day I'm still in debt to her for that.
I know you’re working on a book about Hepburn. Is there anything you can reveal to us about:
biography, photo-book, look at her films, etc. ?
Writing a book is a lengthy process. The most important step is research and assuring you have amassed enough information. Never rely solely on the internet or media as your major source. In order to produce an accurate and loving biography is to interview family members, former co-stars and those closest to the person you’re writing a book on. I also strongly advise any aspiring authors to detour away from the myths. If you are writing a biography on a person who has had previous books published on them, it is essential to approach a different angle and try to unleash all the rare stories pertaining to the actor or actress. During the research stage for my Katharine Hepburn book, I've managed to tap into unknown sources by reaching out to people who have not been interviewed for any previous biography on Hepburn. I've also learnt to never leave a stone unturned. As I've discovered, you can attain really interesting and unique stories in the most unusual places.
At the moment I'm not going to reveal any of the rare information that I've uncovered. I would much rather keep everyone in suspense until my book is published. All I will say is that the research phase is very rewarding. I've spoken to some renowned people on the phone, and I have many more interviews lined up. I feel honored to be writing the Great Kate's life biography. Moving forward, my publishing company has assigned me my next book project, and I'm beyond thrilled to announce that Lucille Ball is the subject for my next biography. Stay tuned.
What do you find is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
For me, the most rewarding thing about blogging is the recognition. I'm a person who yearns for feedback, but unfortunately, I find that my articles receive very little comments, which can be very frustrating when you spend hours researching and writing an article. The most important thing however, is that I enjoy writing about classic cinema. I also find it a bonus when I give the criminally underrated and lesser-known films more exposure.
What movies would you recommend to someone who “hates” classic films?
This depends on each individual taste. If the person was more into comedies, the first film I would recommend is Bringing Up Baby. However, I would also urge them to delve into Lucille Ball's filmography and television series, for example I Love Lucy. I think Lucy would serve as a great stepping stone into the world of classic cinema. But if their preferred genre was thriller, I'd strongly advise them to watch The Spiral Staircase, or a great Film Noir title starring Joan Bennett or Barbara Stanwyck. Another movie that stands as the perfect introductory to the golden age is Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, which in my opinion is quality entertainment that everyone can enjoy.
What makes a film "classic" in your opinion?
I consider any film made during the silent era right up to 1969 a classic. In my opinion, movies that were made in 1970 and onwards lack the quality and aesthetics that the films from the golden age possessed.
Do you have an interest in other pop culture arts?
Yes. I have a diverse range of interests. While classic cinema is the main foundation of my obsession, I am also passionate about the golden age of television, and music – especially Judy Garland, Petula Clark, Mario Lanza, Neil Diamond, and Nat King Cole – though my music tastes transcends many genres. In addition to that, I have a great interest in cooking and travelling.