So,  what’s up with our fascination with the great ape anyway?

King Kong captured the public’s imagination back in 1933 when his love for a human beauty was his undoing in the original film starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot.   To be sure, the original film introduced the world to special effects and big budget action movies, but there are other metaphors and themes that continue to tweak our interest in the big gorilla.

Writers/Directors Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger explore  the history and continuing curiosity and affection for the original movie in their documentary Long Live the King which will be screened following the  Hooray for Hollywood, Chef’s Table Dinner 1 on April 11 at Wine Country Inn will follow the screening.

Brian Kelly Jones,  a Sacramento entrepreneur, and Scott Weitz, a 20 year veteran of theme park productions, are the Producers for Long Live the King

Besides Dietz and Geiger,  Victoria Riskin, Wray’s daughter who is a psychologist, author,  television writer/producer and human rights activist,  and Alexis Iacono, the actress who was a friend and played Wray in the Broadway production,  will participate in a virtual interview before the screening.

Arn McConnell, a.k.a. Craven Lovelace to his radio and podcast fans, will be moderator for our Long Live the King screening.

Bidding for The Chef’s Table Dinners on the Online Auction closes at Midnight, March 31. 

Bidding on original movie star caricatures, books, posters, memorabilia, vacations, wine & goodie baskets, and much more on the Online Auction closes at Midnight April 30.

Homage to Native Son Dalton Trumbo

Born in neighboring Montrose, CO, Dalton Trumbo grew up in Grand Junction, where he graduated from high school and worked as a cub reporter for the Daily Sentinel.  While attending the University of Colorado, he worked on the Boulder Daily Camera as well as  the campus newspaper, yearbook and newspaper.

After his father died, Trumbo worked  the night shift for 9 years in a  Los Angeles bakery and attended UCLA, then USC.  Never losing his zeal for writing,  he continued to pen movie reviews, short stories and novels,  which were rejected.

He kicked off his professional career in the 1930s contributing to popular magazines the Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Vanity Fair and the Hollywood Spectator, where he became managing editor in 1934.    He left the Spectator to become a script reader for Warner Brothers Studios.

His first published novel Eclipse, which focused on the Depression years and relied heavily on his early life in Grand Junction, brought local scorn for the fictional account of life in his hometown and the thinly disguised characters he had known.    Other works, such as Johnny Got His Gun in its depiction of the aftermath of World War I, were no less controversial

Trumbo also wrote award-winning screenplays and became the highest paid scriptwriter in Hollywood in his early years.   He worked on important films like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Kitty Foyle and Our Vines have Tender Grapes in the 1940s.

During the ‘40s. his alleged affiliation with  the Communist Party and isolationist political views, particularly his sympathy for the Russian people over the Nazi invasion, brought him to the attention of anti-Communist writers and the notorious Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI).   Trumbo and other writers who refused to testify before Congress were blacklisted in 1947 and could not work openly in the industry as a result.  He moved his family to Mexico City and cranked out a steady stream of scripts under other names  for B-movie studios, work he didn’t think was particularly good.

While blacklisted, Trumbo did write some top-quality scripts like The Brave One  (1956) and Roman Holiday (1953) both of which won Oscars that were awarded to pseudonymous authors.  Thanks to Otto Preminger, Kirk Douglas and others, the blacklisting collapsed in the 1960s and he was given credit for many of his works including the iconic films Exodus, Spartacus, Papillion, Johnny Got His Gun and Hawaii,  to name a few.

Trumbo married Cleo Fincher in 1938.  Their three children include Nikola (1939), a psychotherapist; Christopher (1940), a screenwriter, filmmaker and expert on the blacklisting era, and  Melissa (1945), a photographer.   Trumbo died of a heart attack in 1976.  Cleo passed in 2009 at age 93.  Christopher died  in 2011; Nikola in 2018.

Brian Cranston won the Best Actor Oscar in 2016 for his portrayal of Dalton in the biographical movie Trumbo (2015). He also won the SAG-AFTRA best actor award, as did the cast for Best Ensemble, and Helen Mirren for Best Female Supporting Actor.

Dalton Trumbo’s legacy in the film industry lives on.

Screening of Roman Holiday

A special screening of Roman Holiday, a romantic comedy directed by William Wyler, will highlight the lighter side of Trumbo’s screenwriting accomplishments. In 1954 he won an Oscar for Best Writing for the movie,  while then newcomer Audrey Hepburn won for Best Actress and Edith Head, for Best Costume Design.

The film is a departure from Trumbo’s typically serious social commentary.    It’s a light-hearted rom com shot in black and white when color was popular for that genre.  Also, the leading lady was a young actress who had not attained her apex of stardom.  Wyler defied convention again and hired the blacklisted Trumbo and Assistant Director Bernard Vorhaus, who also worked under a pseudonym.

’Coincidentally, Trumbo also won for Best Screenplay with co-writer John Dighton, but couldn’t accept it because he was blacklisted.   The award went instead to Ian McLellan Hunter who fronted for him. His credit was reinstated in 2003 when the movie was released on DVD. He  was given full credit in 2011, as was Vorhaus.

The movie also starred Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Other nominations included the categories of best directing, motion picture, cinematography/black and white, art direction, best film editing and screenplay.   It won multiple awards in Great Britain, the Golden Globes, Venice Film Festival. New York Film Critics. Directors’ Guild and others.  It’s been named a Top Ten Film, by the National Board of Review and National Film Registry.

Judged by their peers at the Writers Guild of America, Trumbo, Dighton and even Hunter won Best Written American Comedy. The American Film Institute ranks Roman Holiday at #4  in both its 100 Years…100 Passions as well as its Top Ten romantic comedies. Not bad for a small-town boy!

The film was shot on location and at Cinecitta studios in Rome.

Your Host, Miffie Blozvich

Miffie is uniquely qualified to guide you through an exploration of Dalton Trumbo’s life and undeniable contributions to the film industry.   Her involvement with Trumbo and his family came about in 2005 when she was the Community Relations Manager for Mesa County Public Libraries.

In that position, she coordinated the reprinting of Dalton Trumbo’s first novel, Eclipse as a fundraising effort for the library. That was the catalyst for honoring Trumbo with a sculpture two years later, an Art on the Corner piece that welcomes patrons to the city’s Avalon Theatre on Main Street.

Trumbo in Tub, as we affectionately call the work,  was the springboard to a 13 year-long effort to recognize historically significant leaders in the community through the Legends of the Grand Valley Historic Sculpture Project.  The irony of Trumbo’s much maligned early novel Eclipse sparking such honors would not be lost on its author.

Miffie has been involved in fundraising and non-profit organizations in the Grand Valley for over 25 years. But, serving as Co-Chair for Legends Project has been a highlight of her life, especially getting to know the Trumbo Family. Because of her relationship, Trumbo’s  family is contributing  a  number of limited-edition of family photos to the Hooray for Hollywood online auction.

The Envelope, Please!

Wine Country Inn is proud to host

The 92nd Academy of Arts and Sciences Annual Awards Show
in the Vineyard Ballroom Theatre following Chef’s Table Dinner 3.

Dessert will be served during the screening.

And the Oscar goes to

YOU

for your Outstanding Performance in Supporting

MarillacHealth in its continuing effort

to serve uninsured and under-insured patients in our community.

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!

Frank Dietz

You might say Frank Dietz is a triple threat in Hollywood.   He is a working writer/producer/director as well as an actor and animator.

Trained as an actor and artist at State University at Oswego, the New Yorker  cut his teeth on a series of what are now considered low-budget,  cult horror films  (Zombie Nightmare and Black Roses).   After relocating to Los Angeles, he wrote scripts for independent features, including Naked Souls, Cold Harvest and Magic in the Mirror for Paramount.

Switching gears, Dietz joined Walt Disney Studies as an animation artist in 1996.  He worked on Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan and Atlantis-The Lost Empire. Then in 2007/2008 he received  “Artist of the Year”  from the first Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.

Another role includes the comedy The Lost Skeleton Returns Again where he met his collaborator Trish Geiger.   They created Benevolent Monster Productions and went on to produce the documentary Beast Wishes-The Fantastic World of Bob and Kathry Burns,  which garnered several awards.   Their next documentary was about the legendary King Kong, Long Live the King, which is being screened at Edesia’s Hooray for Hollywood in Palisade, CO on April 5.   That film also has won “Best Documentary” at several film festivals.

More recently, Dietz appeared in the comedy I Hate Kids, which was released in January 2019.  Directed by John Asher, the film stars Tom Everett Scott, Tituss Burgess, Rhea Seehorn, Julie Emery, Rachel Boston and Marisa Tomei.

Dietz’s Damn Dirty Geeks podcast focuses on genre movies and television and features guest stars such as Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead, comedian Dana Gould and actor Tom Everett Scott.

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Trish Geiger

Trish Geiger is a busy lady.  Besides directing and producing, she is an award-winning actress and singer.

Geiger earned her MFA in Acting at Brooklyn University, where she studied with F. Murray Abraham.  She has earned her way as an actress/singer as well as teacher of acting, music, art and storytelling at Lincoln Center Institute, Fairleigh Dickenson University, Oberlin College, Playwrights Theater of New Jersey and Preparatory Center for the Performing Arts, respectively.

Geiger’s better-known work includes roles in Larry Blamire’s horror movie spoofs Trail of the Screaming Forehead, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and  Dark and Stormy Night,  films which she also produced.  While she was documenting the filming,  she met Bob Burns, who played the Gorilla, and wrangled an interview through the efforts of fellow actor Frank Dietz.

Geiger discovered that Bob and his wife Kathy had quite a collection of movie props, which included the original King Kong armature from 1933.   After Geiger and Dietz  launched Benevolent Monster Productions, they produced Beast Wishes-The Fantastic World of Bob and Kathy Burns.  The film went on to garner several “Best Documentary” awards.

Intrigued by the King Kong armature during Beast Wishes…, the new partners were inspired to make Long Live the King,  a documentary on King Kong.     Although she knew little about the ”Eighth Wonder of the World,”  Geiger learned that Dietz had a long-time interest and knowledge. Their second effort also collected multiple “Best Documentary” festival awards.

Since 2009, Geiger has devoted herself to a new documentary Maestro Messenger, a film about well-known Choral Director Paul Salamunovich,  who has worked on such Hollywood films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and True Confessions.  This, she says, is her true labor of love.  She is hoping to wind up her work this Spring.

Geiger, who hails from New Jersey, now lives in the Los Angeles area with her four “ridiculous cats.”  She is a co-founder of the website insidewink.com, which showcases good people, places and things “happening all around us.”

benevolentmonsters.com
insidewink.com

Victoria Riskin

As the daughter of a legendary Hollywood parents movie star Fay Wray and screenwriter Robert Riskin,  Victoria Riskin had quite a springboard to an illustrious career in her own right.

Last year Riskin published  Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir,  a Hollywood love story which focuses on “the woman who stole the heart of King Kong” and the man who “is one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, an Academy Award winner, producer and longtime collaborator with Frank Capra on eight pictures.”

The couple were parents to three children,  Robert Riskin Jr., Victoria and Susan Saunders Riskin.    Robert Sr. died in 1955;   Wray passed in 2004  at the age of 96.

A licensed psychologist, Riskin practiced for 15 years before launching a successful career as a writer and producer. After representing screen and television writers through the Writers Guild of America West,  she rose to become president of the organization which her father had founded some 75 years prior.

She served on the International Board of Human Rights Watch for 12 years and chaired its Hellman-Hammett Committee which distributes funds internationally to persecuted writers.

As her book points out, King Kong not only elevated Riskin’s mother to the top of the Empire State Building, but also lifted her to the heights of film immortality.   Wray starred in more than 120 movies with such co-stars Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and William Powell, to name a few. Her career bridged the industry from silent films to talkies and television. King Kong alone is credited with saving RKO Studios from bankruptcy.  She also wrote plays for regional theatres.

Her father, an originator of the screwball comedy genre and populist voice of the little guy with Frank Capra,  Riskin went on to write sophisticated stage plays and screen comedies that blended humor and romance, wisecracking and idealism.   In 1935 It Happened One Night won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Writing. He and Capra collaborated on many projects such as The Miracle WomanPlatinum Blonde, American Madness, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon and Meet John Doe.

Riskin currently serves on the Board of Directors of National Public Radio station KCRW in Santa Monica.  She resides in Martha’s Vineyard with her husband of 40 years, writer-producer David W. Rintels.

Alexis Iacono

Worldwide audiences know this New York native by her Female Goblin character’s voice in the popular World of Warcraft Cataclysm (2011) and World of Warcraft Legion (2016) video games, but those are only a few of her industry credits.

She also has done multiple voice characters in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned, as well as roles in the black and white short film Prescott Place, Leigh Scott’s The Horror Anthology: The Penny Dreadful Picture Show-The Slaughter HouseThe Black Dahlia Haunting and Blue Caprice.

Iacono’s stage roles include Elle in The Meadowlark and Fay Wray in King Kong off Broadway. She studied at HB Studio and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City.  She credits her exposure to a world class theatre and arts community where she grew up in Bayside, Queens for her career path.

More recently Iacono has branched out as an independent film producer producing features such as feature film The Pipeline,  the documentary Layin’ the Pipe and  Escape From Ensenada with Noel G (Fast and the Furious) and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).   She was an Associate Producer in Thomas Churchill’s Nations Fire (2018),  starring Bruce Dern and Gil Bellows,  as well as a production assistant at AFX Studio for America Horror Story Season 6,  and Jamie Lee Curtis’s Scream Queens. Currently Iacono is working as a production assistant for Steve Wang at Alliance Studio.

Arn McConnell, Moderator

Arn McConnell, a.k.a. Craven Lovelace to his radio and podcast fans, is the ideal moderator for our Long Live the King panel. While he is known locally for his work in broadcast television and teaching video film making and animation at Western Colorado Community College, he also has the professional chops and a deep knowledge of the original King Kong movie to keep the discussion lively.

An award-winning animator and filmmaker with over 35 years-experience in New York and Colorado Western Slope film and broadcast video industry, McConnell’s credits are impressive. He was the original editor of Beavis and Butthead show on MTV. He directed the first film role of the acclaimed late actor James Gandolfini (who went on to Soprano’s fame) in the cult film Shock! Shock! Shock! In 1999 his short film Fun for Men was an official selection for the New York Underground Film Festival.

Additionally, McConnell created Notes, a short-form radio program and podcast. He has written for various publications and currently hosts the Sunday night broadcast The Museum on KAFM Community Radio. He is a recipient of the Colorado Broadcasters Award and multiple Colorado Press Assn. accolades. By day, McConnel is Communications Coordinator for the Western Colorado Alliance.

And as if he didn’t have enough on his plate, McConnell has generously gifted our Hooray for Hollywood fund-raiser for MarillacHealth with his expert touch on multiple tasks. Look for his caricatures of iconic stars, animation at the VIP luncheon and the commercial that will air on our host station KKCO News 11, the local NBC affiliate.

McConnell deserves an Edesia statuette for his many contributions! So here’s to you Arn / Craven! Bravo!