Favorite Movie Channel
Of all the many TV channels available today, my favorite continues to be the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) offering. On that channel I frequently see movie luminaries with whom I had personal contact.
Case in point occurred last month when two flicks of a very different nature featured many Reno locations. The films were “Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble” and “Charley Varrick”.
The Andy Hardy series was one of the most profitable for MGM in the early forties and helped enthrone Mickey Rooney as the box office king when older, more established actors like Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart went off to World War II.
In the “Blonde” show, the puckish Rooney is, as usual, up to his ears in trouble – this time with a University official, played by the usually serious actor Herbert Marshall. Naturally, Andy’s father has to somehow get him out of his predicament and actor Lewis Stone does his usually yeoman job. In the movie, one of the stars besides Rooney—who was a regular on stage in the Mapes Sky Room here—is the University of Nevada Campus. All of the outdoor sequences were shot on “The Hill” as were many subsequent films, such as “Mother Was a Freshman” (Loretta Young and Van Johnson), “Apartment for Peggy” (William Holden and Jeanne Crain) and “Belvedere Goes to College” (Shirley Temple and Clifton Webb).
Of the three above films, I was fortunate enough to have bit parts in “Apartment” and “Belvedere”. Also, I worked with Rooney on several other occasions, most notably when he appeared here during the Winter Olympics.
In “Belvedere”, I had the singular pleasure of being called upon by the director to serve as Shirley Temple’s escort during evening parties in the Sky Room. My most embarrassing moment came when Shirley, a well known dancer, asked me to escort her to the dance floor. Star of “Varrick” was Walter Matthau, whom I first met when he appeared here in a segment of the TV series “Route 66”. Since cast and crew were ensconced at the Mapes, one of the key scenes in the film was shot in the casino portion of the hotel. The “66” show was a weekly staple on TV and was about two young guys in a vintage Corvette who travelled the historic route and had exciting adventures along the way. Although the City of Reno was never on Route 66, the area was selected as a good one in order to film two segments of the series. One segment was on Reno/Virginia City and the other was filmed at Squaw Valley. Matthau served as a guest star, along with the two principals in the show who were played by George Maharis and Martin Milner. I had met Milner several years before when he was a cast member of “60 Saddles for Gobi” which starred Richard Widmark and was shot primarily at Pyramid Lake.