DATELINE – HOLLYWOOD, CA!
It was a veritable who’s-who Friday night at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax as The Retro Set held their “coming out party” with a screening of the 1936 screwball comedy classic Libeled Lady! Classic Film Fans, internet “taste-makers,” – why the very Elite of the Blogosphere were in attendance when The Retro Set’s founders Jill Blake and Carley Johnson, as well as Creative Director Wade Sheeler took to the stage and introduced themselves to their comrades in ink. Marya E. Gates from Cinema Fanatic and Peter Avellino from Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur lined up outside and upon entrance, traveled back in time as The Retro Set treated every guest to popcorn and a soda, then with only the donation of a measly buck, one thin silver dollar, got to enter a raffle with prizes that made everyone feel like a king. DVDs, coffee mugs, journals and tote bags from TCM, and the beautiful coffee table book, Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) signed by author Darrell Rooney himself, were just a few of the gifts awaiting hungry Hollywood hands.
Then once seated, Matt Patterson from Warner Archive became a virtual Kris Kringle himself, handing out DVDs from the label’s collection, all for free! “It’s too much to imagine,” one attendee was overheard saying.
Once seated and the 1930s music faded, Sheeler, Blake and Johnson ascended the stage, explaining the purpose of The Retro Set’s evening of festivities; describing their mission as a “movable cineaste feast,” bringing classic, art and popular films to folks all across the country. “Too often film viewing has become a DVD or movie streamed to your living room, all by yourself. We want to make moviegoing a communal experience again; make it an event – a night out,” Johnson trumpeted.
She then introduced guest speaker Darrell Rooney, the foremost collector of Jean Harlow memorabilia, to give further insight into the Harlow mystique. He read from personal letters, and described the relationship between two of Libeled Lady‘s stars: Harlow and William Powell. Sniffs could be heard over the hushed silence, as Rooney rhapsodized over the early loss of one of the screen’s greatest legends.
Then lights faded, iconic Leo the Lion roared from the screen, and Libeled Lady was off and running. Laughter and joy filled the theatre as Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, William Powell and Harlow herself reminded all of us what makes a classic film a classic.
Afterwards, Sheeler returned to thank all the donors who helped make the evening possible: Brandie Ashe, Joel & Wanda Blake, Helen Bracken, Charles Coleman, Peter & Gail Field, Erin Gilley, Sean Fitzgibbons, Rachel Herman, Martin Hildebrand, Jill Jones, Anne Marie Kelly, Kimberly Luperi, Ben Model, Megan Morgan, Jack & Mary Outlaw, Jana Pennell, Jessica Pickens, Kristen Sales, Helene Sheeler-Johnson, Karen Sheeler, Mark & Carmella Sheeler, Molly Shock, Garrett Solomon, Megan Wilson, Heather Schmitt, Jason & Lauren Metzger Warner and our donors who chose to remain anonymous.
Then it was time for a party, as only the Hollywood elite could throw. The backdoors to the theatre opened, and the guests made their way out to a fairyland of twinkling lights and bubbling champagne. The strains of Tinpan Alley standards and Western swing pervaded the air, as Texas Western Swing Hall of Famer Elana James and her duo filled the golden patio with the sweetest music this side of the Mississippi. Jake Erwin slapped his impressive stand-up bass, and Dave Stuckey plucked his guitar like the virtuoso he is. Even Elana’s dog Eva seemed to enjoy the charming locale.
More delectables came the guests’ way as salads and sandwiches (And dessert too!) from Hollywood’s popular “I Panini di Ambra” filled the belly of these hungry Hollywood-ites! Wine and Champagne flowed. Then, like the best Hollywood parties, the management threatened to shut the joint down as revelers got carried away. Not before the musicians returned to the stage for an encore, and Blake and Sheeler fished into the raffle jar to name the winners of the coveted gifts, did the evening end.
Much too quickly, the night was over and these Fairfax Boulevard babies were swept home with the memory of black & white Screen Immortals and the rapturous chords of Western swing filling their nighttime dreams.
Bravo Hollywood! Bravo The Retro Set! Stay Classic, America!
Want to feel like part of the party? Order Elana James new CD, “Black Beauty” here!
Purchase your copy of Darrell Rooney’s Harlow book here!