No, he is not a movie star, but my grandfather, Chester Loncki. I would like to dedicate this blog to him on what would have been his 90th birthday this Veterans Day.
My grandfather was part of the Greatest Generation.
One of the reasons I love old movies is because of my grandfather. I used to watch them with him all the time, and ask him about the old stars. I remember his laughter at Laurel and Hardy. Some of his other favorites were “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Mrs. Miniver,” “It’s A Wonderful Life.” He used to take my mother to see the Summer Classic Movies at the Warner Theater in Erie. (Why did they ever stop showing these?!)
I also got my interest in old music from my grandfather. He played accordion with his Polka Band and played other types of music. I have all of his sheet music and his large collection of records of which I have increased by astronomical amounts.
I would also like to honor him on Veterans Day because he was a veteran of World War ll and was involved in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. A quiet man who was called to do his duty right after high school graduation like so many brave young men. He was wounded at St. Lo on July 17, 1944, four years to the day his father died. He was presented the Jubilee of Freedom Medal by the government of France in 1997.
He used to write letters during the war to my grandmother as they were friends first, and thank God my grandmother kept several of them. He would tell her what he was doing, what he ate at the Red Cross Club, and simple little things that helped pass the time. One of the things he enjoyed was the movies they showed the soldiers. And this is what I want to make an occasional series in my blog. The movies my grandfather saw during the war.
So this is for my beloved grandfather who passed away in 2007, (whom I called “Paco.” I called him that instead of grandpa for some reason and it stuck!) I miss him every day.
The first movie I will talk about is “Keep Your Powder Dry,” from 1945, starring Lana Turner, Laraine Day, and Susan Peters. It was so good, he saw it twice! My grandfather’s review from his August 30, 1945 letter was, “It was a picture about the WAC’s and it was comical and I enjoyed it very much.”
When I saw this film, I agreed with my grandfather’s sentiments exactly. Though I usually enjoy her in movies, it was hard to like Laraine Day in this picture. She played an army brat who was a know-it-all and she expected everyone to play by the rules. Lana Turner plays a rich heiress who won’t come into any more of her money unless she gives up her selfish ways. She enlists in the WACS and finds out she likes it and feels like she is doing something worthy. Susan Peters plays the wife of an army officer overseas. Also in this film are Agnes Moorhead who plays a tough Lieutenant Colonel with a heart, June Lockhart as another WAC, and Natalie Schafer as one of Lana’s socialite friends. This was a morale booster for women in the service.
Sadly, after this movie was made, Susan Peters was involved in a hunting accident with her husband, actor and later director, Richard Quine, and she was paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. She died in 1952 at the age of 31 from complications of her injury and also she had given up the will to live.
Skyscraper Souls (1932)
When it comes to Rudolph Valentino, so much has been said, both fact and fiction. Although I greatly admire him, it is hard to know what else to say.
Mostly everyone knows or should know who Valentino was, and the reason they do is because of his tragic death. He was biggest silent film star of his day, struck down in the prime of his life. Valentino died at a New York City hospital after collapsing at the Hotel Ambassador. Despite surgery for appendicitis, he developed peritonitis and then pleurisy and died on August 23, 1926.
There was mass hysteria, women committing suicide, thousands coming to the funeral in New York City’s St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church. A funeral train from New York to California brought Valentino to another huge mourning at the Hollywood Cemetery (now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery.)
I would like to present some interesting stories I have gathered on Valentino from a couple sources.
Rudolph Valentino’s brother, Alberto Guglielmi, (Valentino’s family name) recalls in Kevin Brownlow’s, “Hollywood The Pioneers,” how moved he was at the American peoples outpouring of grief when he accompanied Valentino’s body by train from New York to California. Of particular interest to me personally was a stop in of all places my hometown of Erie. “I was awakened just before dawn, he said, “when the train stopped, and I was informed that a group of people from Erie who had come with guitar, mandolin and the great majority were Italian. They asked permission to sing and play some Italian songs for the memory of Rudy. It was very touching.”
Even though the train did not stop through all the towns, many people were kneeling by the rails just to see the funeral procession.
**Robert Parrish recalls in his book, “Growing Up in Hollywood,” that his first brush with cult of Hollywood celebrity was with the funeral of Rudolph Valentino. He was in fifth grade at Santa Monica Boulevard School less than a mile from twenty-three film studios. That morning, which was September 7, 1926, his mother Reesie Parrish was reading the morning newspaper at the breakfast table. She read about Valentino’s fiancée, actress, Pola Negri. According the paper account, Negri had arranged the funeral train and accompanied Valentino. “My mother read aloud, “ ‘Rudy’s sweetheart brings body. In the solemnity of the death car, with the blush of the desert morning against the windows on which the shades were partly drawn, the emotional Polish actress was alone with her dead.’” Robert’s mother was visibly upset, but his father was unmoved and was waiting for his toast. She continued, “ ‘ It was, perhaps, the last time the lovers could be alone for days to come, for screenland begins its tribute this afternoon. Every great star and director will be at the ***Hollywood Cemetery to bid farewell to the star of stars.’ “Miss Negri, attired in a simple but striking black costume, was sobbing audibly. Although apparently on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she walked steadily forward to the car where the mortal remains of Valentino lay in the heavy silver-bronze casket.’ “ “ ‘ Ah, dear,” she sobbed, as tears coursed down her cheeks in pitiable grief, “we will soon be home; home, my dear, where you were so happy and life and love were so sweet.” ‘ “ ‘ As she arose and bowed her head over the bier, a delicate little flower dripped from her hand to the draped casket. ‘ “
Robert’s mother wiped away tears. His father was unimpressed. Robert left for school but found weeping women blocking Santa Monica Boulevard by the cemetery. At eleven in the morning the principal announced that school would be closing and that they should go right home. He watched as she and the other women teachers joined the other grievers. Instead of going home, Robert and a friend went to watch the dramatic proceedings. Ladies were trampling other graves just to get to the crypt, flowers and wreaths were everywhere, even a wreath from Mussolini. Even a plane had dropped flowers from the sky.
I found it interesting to find an account by someone who was there, but Robert Parrish’s recollections are told rather sarcastically, and that I did not appreciate.
**On a side note, the only reason I have this book is because Robert Parrish (who later became an award winning film editor and director,) youngest sister was actress Helen Parrish, who I have devoted a website to and am continuing my research on.**
**The cemetery was originally called "Hollywood Memorial Park" until 1998 when it was changed to Hollywood Forever.
Sources cited: Hollywood The Pioneers, Kevin Brownlow, Pictures: John Kobal. COLLINS St. James’s Place, London 1979
Growing Up in Hollywood, Robert Parrish, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London 1976
I don’t know how it started, but I guess it’s been with me all my life.
In August of 1989, Betty Grable was on the cover of American Movie Classics Magazine and an old soul was born.
From complications of my premature birth, I have cerebral palsy. Because I was not as active as most children, I believe it gave me more time to appreciate things.
I have always loved History. I watched biographies and old movies. Thomas Edison was my hero, the inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, and motion pictures. (I was actually Edison for Halloween in 2nd grade.) I always knew who Harold Lloyd was and the picture of him hanging from the clock. I knew who Charlie Chaplin was, etc. Around the new millennium, I watched specials about the century and learned about Mary Pickford among others. I also wanted to be Johnny Carson. While others my age were interested in video games, sports, and power rangers, the old things drew me in.
They made me happy and for some reason, I could relate. I always felt I was born at the wrong time.
It also helped that my mother and grandfather were into old movies too. And we would watch them together.
Who else after taking some acting classes at the age of 9, would convince my acting teachers to let me sing “Over There,” (from seeing and falling in love with “Yankee Doodle Dandy”) after a performance of “Aesop’s Fables!”
It is within the past five years I decided I have to do something beside watch these old films. So why not try and locate the old stars that were left and try to interview them?
I started to write a lot of letters to classic movie stars. The first one to call me was Ann Rutherford! I have also interviewed Donna Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, Joan Leslie, Dickie Moore, Jane Powell, Marsha Hunt, Jimmy Hawkins, Paul Peterson, and Diana Serra Cary. Diana told me to change my writing name to Robb Sulecki for a more professional sound; however, I still like Bobby.
I met Ann Rutherford at Kent State University (which she had arranged) on September 25, 2010. I brought her a dozen roses and picked out a necklace I found in a store near my college. She hugged me and we talked as if we were old friends! I also met Ann’s dear friend, Al Morley and Robert Osborne from TCM! I sat next to Ann at dinner at a gala that night! It was one of the greatest moments in my life!
I am the creator of http://www.helenparrish.com/ and http://annrutherford.weebly.com/
My previous blog was http://bobbysuleckigoldenage.blogspot.com/ but it will soon be obsolete.
I have had a few articles published in “Classic Images” Magazine, and now I am starting my blog, in hopes to reach a wider audience.
My future goals are to come to Hollywood, and later possibly collaborate with others on books and documentaries, and of course continue my research and writings.
**** It took a long time to get this much done, as I am not totally computer savvy. I hope you will support me and my writings and blogs to help further my career. ****
**** I know it doesn't look like much now, but I have many ideas and surprises that I hope will impress you! ****
**** Stay tuned! First blog coming is about two forgotten child stars! ****