HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS, a half hour documentary that aired weekly during the 1963-64 season on NBC television, ranks one of the best of its kind behind-the-scenes look at classic Hollywood to ever be documented. Narrated by that distinctive voice of screen actor Joseph Cotten, this series featured a different theme every week, ranging from entire half hour focusing on certain legendary stars as Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and/or Rita Hayworth, as well as the careers of then newer faces of the screen or current box office attractions as Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and/or Natalie Wood. This show also focused on certain Hollywood themes, ranging from the gangster films, the musicals, war dramas, swashbucklers, comedies, just to name a few. The majority of the show details on the movies ranging from the silent era up to the present day, which for the series detailes documents as recent as 1964.
Predating the similiar and well written 1976 documentary of THAT'S HOLLYWOOD (ABC), narrated by another distinctive voice of character actor Tom Bosley, HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS is highlighted by many film clips of Hollywood's past, ranging from classic scenes of famous films to rarely seen segments from obscure ones. While I cannot detail every episode from this series, I do recall having personal favorites, including entire half hour documents on the legendary Al Jolson, The Hollywood Musicals (featuring dance sequences choreographed by Busby Berkeley, Dick Powell crooning to Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald singing separately or together love ballads, etc.), as well as seeing outtakes, such as an intended comedy scene on Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in the chess game sequence from THE BLACK CAT (Universal, 1934) in which these "masters of horror" call each other not by on screen character name but the names that made them famous, DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS lasted only one season, and in later years, portions of the series were used to fill in the extra time following the end of an afternoon or evening movie before the next program, whether being the local news or another movie lineup at the top of the hour. During the "nostalgia boom" era of the 1970s, movies about classic Hollywood movies did quite well on prime time television. Because HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS was filmed entirely in black and white, this show slowly began to fade out on local reruns before the end of the '70s decade. Small independent TV stations like WPHL, Channel 17, in Philadelphia, for example, would continue to air this series quite frequently in pre 1975. The last time I came across HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS on television was after moving to the state of Florida in late 1984, and finding it scheduled on a daily lineup during the way after midnight hours on WFTV, Channel 9, in Orlando. When it was aired as late as 5 a.m., the VCR machine, which became a new object in the household, became very handy to have around.
While HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS only lives in memory to an avid movie fan who might have caught this in the past, it has left a lasting appeal, right down to the opening and closing theme song with titlecards superimposing in front of a director's chair and movie camera. One can only hope that a cable channel such as Turner Classic Movies might pick up the option to present this documentary series as part of its lineup, for that it's well documented, very interesting and highly recommended.
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