Like other movie lovers, Danielle Dimengo will tune into the Academy Awards on Feb. 26. But as she watches the crop of contemporary actors and filmmakers claim their Oscars, she may be tempted to switch channels to Turner Classic Movies (TCM). For this 29 year old’s true affection lies with the stars and movies of yesterday.
Dimengo, a dietitian in Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, inherited her love of classic Hollywood movies from her parents, especially her mother Chris.
For the past 4 years, Danielle, her mother and her sister, Kelly, have attended the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood at the end of April. The festival allows them to watch 4-5 classic films per day – in Hollywood’s historic theaters like the Egyptian and TCL Chinese, which opened in the 1920s. In between showings, there are opportunities to meet TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, see their favorite actors and directors interviewed during in-depth “conversations,” and take in film trivia games, book signings and exhibits of film memorabilia.
“The festival is held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – 4 days of watching great movies on big screens, learning all of the back stories and details about how they were made, and meeting other people who share your passion,” said Danielle. “It’s like stepping back into time and Old Hollywood.”
Attendees are made to feel like movie stars themselves. They can grab a chaise lounge and watch a movie poolside, dress up in their finest clothes and walk the red carpet, and mingle with celebrities at a party sponsored by Vanity Fair.
Over the years, the festival has given Danielle the opportunity to meet Liza Minelli and Mickey Rooney, watch Kim Novak’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s “handprint ceremonies,” and listen to Talia Shire (Adrian) reminisce about the making of “Rocky.” Last year, famed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein discussed “All the President’s Men,” the movie based on their book about Watergate and the end of the Nixon presidency.
“Yes, we do eat a lot of popcorn,” Danielle said with a laugh, “and Raisinets. By the time the festival is over, I can’t look at another Raisinet.”
In between the festival events, they often squeeze in excursions to Beverly Hills or the Santa Monica Pier.
Chris was determined to pass her love of classic film onto her 3 children – James is the youngest of the 3 – as it was passed onto her from her own grandmother who first took her to see “Bambi” on the big screen at age 5.
From the earliest of age, Danielle recalls cuddling up with her mother watching movies starring Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Natalie Wood, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. Both Chris and Danielle consider “Gone with the Wind,” their all-time favorite movie but they also enjoy romantic comedies and suspenseful Alfred Hitchcock movies. Danielle and her father, Steve, share a love of old westerns.
Even school projects and vacations led back to movies.
“After reading Tennesee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire,” we watched the movie with Stanley Kowalski brought to life by Marlon Brando,” Danielle said.
When the family took a trip to San Diego in 2006, they were initially unaware of all the movie history associated with their hotel, the Hotel Del Coronado. Most notably, the classic comedy, “Some Like it Hot,” starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, was filmed there in 1958 and the hotel played it non-stop.
“We came together as a family to watch it at least once a day for 7 days,” said Danielle. “It’s one of our best vacation memories.”
Danielle tunes into TCM nightly, often with boyfriend, Mario, where she loves listening to Osborne, the film historian, and Mankiewicz, the film critic, introduce films and share the minutiae that makes watching them all the more enjoyable. She is also a big fan of TCM’s website and Facebook page, which are now featuring “31 Days of Oscars” content.
“There’s nothing like those classic movies,” said Danielle. “Even though they are in black and white, they still draw you in. You don’t need color and all those special effects. The story itself is all you need.”