Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we’re featuring Rick Armstrong, the founder of the Classic Movie Blog Association and the reason why we’re here! Rick blogs at the Classic Film & TV Café.
CMBA: Why did you start your blog?
Rick: I’ve always enjoyed writing about films. I moonlighted as a newspaper film critic for several years and then my wife Mary and I wrote the Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series (aka The Movie List Book). Around 2008, I discovered TCM’s Classic Film Union, which was sort of a “Facebook for classic movie fans.” I had a lot of fun writing about classic movies and interacting with other film buffs. Unfortunately, a couple of folks started flooding the site with their content or using it to discuss topics other than cinema. So, in September 2009, I decided to create my blog: the Classic Film & TV Café. Like many CMBA members, I knew nothing about blogging, so it was an adventure at first. Also, my original intent was to manage a collaborative blog and I invited a handful of other people to join me (including former CMBA head Patty Schneider). Over the years, the others dropped out for personal reasons or to start their own blogs. Since 2015, my wife and I have written all Café content except for occasional guest posts.
CMBA: In your 2015 profile on the CMBA website, you mentioned your interview with Piper Laurie. Who are some of your other favorite interviews?
Rick: I’ve been fortunate to interview some wonderful actors. Piper Laurie was indeed delightful and I was able to spend an afternoon sitting next to her at a nostalgia convention. Elke Sommer, Julie Adams, and Audrey Dalton were utterly charming. Barbara Bain, Ruta Lee, Jacqueline Scott, and Constance Towers shared some wonderful anecdotes, especially in regard to working in television in the 1960s. I was particularly impressed by the respect that Barbara Bain held for ex-husband Martin Landau as an actor and a drama teacher. Ron Harper was a friendly, frank, down-to-earth person (e.g., he didn’t like working with George Burns). We talked at length at another convention and watched one of his rarely shown movies, Savage Season (1971), together.
CMBA: Besides classic movie and TV blogging, what are some of your other passions?
Rick: Watching classic films and TV shows with my wife Mary is my #1 passion! We also enjoy watching British detective shows like Shetland, Foyle’s War, Poirot, and Endeavor. I also love to walk our two dogs, Tony (a long-haired Chihuahua) and Sienna (a Dachshund-Terrier mix), daily. We’ve been blessed to have loved several dogs over the years. Dogs are the most wonderful of all animals!
CMBA: What is a classic TV show that you love, but most people don’t know about -- and what do you love about it?
Rick: Two little-known shows that I always recommend are Man in a Suitcase (1967-68) and Coronet Blue (1967). The former is a sharply played, well-written British series starring American actor Richard Bradford as a disgraced former espionage agent known only as McGill. Branded a traitor by U.S. intelligence, he makes a living doing freelance work in Europe and Africa – dealing with blackmailers, protecting stool pigeons, finding kidnapped victims, recovering lost art treasures, etc. Coronet Blue stars Frank Converse as a man who is attacked aboard a luxury liner and tossed overboard. He is rescued, but with no memory of his past except for the words “coronet blue.” It’s also well-scripted with intriguing plots, and features great guest stars such as Juliet Mills, Susan Hampshire, and Denholm Elliott.
CMBA: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Rick: I have a doctorate of education degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. My major was instructional systems technology.
CMBA: If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?
Rick: Assuming TCM could get the broadcast rights to these films, I’d opt for a day of classic made-for-TV movies. The 1960s and the 1970s were a “Golden era” for television films and featured stellar writers (e.g., Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Gene Roddenberry) and good actors (e.g., Angie Dickinson, Suzanne Pleshette, Ray Milland, Myrna Loy). I’d limit my seven picks to lesser-known films that appeared on the ABC Movie of the Week (1969-75):
Seven in Darkness (1969) – A plane crashes in the wilderness and all its passengers are blind.
Daughter of the Mind (1969) – A psychic researcher investigates when a famous scientist claims his dead daughter has been appearing to him. Stars Ray Milland and Gene Tierney.
Along Came a Spider (1970) – A thriller with Suzanne Pleshette. It’s a wonderfully twisty plot, so no details.
How Awful About Allan (1970) – A man (Anthony Perkins) suffering from psychosomatic blindness returns home to live with his sister (Julie Harris), but thinks someone is trying to kill him.
Dr. Cook’s Garden (1971) – Is there a pattern to the deaths in a small rural town where a kindly physician (Bing Crosby) and his protégé (Frank Converse) practice?
The Birdmen (1971) – During World War II, POW prisoners try to fly to freedom by building a glider. Incredibly, most of the film really happened! The unusual cast features Richard Basehart, Chuck Connors, Doug McClure, Tom Skerritt, and Max Baer, Jr.!
Assault on the Wayne (1971) – Sabotage aboard a nuclear submarine with Leonard Nimoy, William Windom, Lloyd Haynes, and Sam Elliott.
CMBA: If you had a bucket list, what would be on it?
Rick: I’ve done most everything on my bucket list: wrote a book; got a doctorate degree; visited England, Scotland, and Prince Edward Island; and – of course – married a fabulous person who loves classic movies and TV, too. However, there are some DVD sets that I’d love to see produced: the complete ABC Movie of the Week (see above!) and seasons 2-4 of the brilliant 1961-65 legal TV series The Defenders. Those would be awesome.
I also want to reach 25,000 followers on Twitter. If all goes well, that may happen this year. I have a grand time with my Twitter followers. I host monthly “tournaments” on classic films and TV shows. The results are interesting, but the comments from my followers are the best part!
We thank Rick for participating in our Q & A profile and encourage you to visit the Classic Film & TV Cafe!