Turner Classic Movies Host Robert Osborne welcomed Dame Joan Collins Wednesday evening, July 22, to host four films as part of its ongoing Guest Programmer Series.
Collins, an actress and author, received her damehood from the Prince of Wales in March of 2015, as reported by The Daily Mail. Her career as an actress, however, began in Hollywood at Fox and MGM studios. As a TCM Guest Programmer, Collins chose 25 of her favorite films, and four were screened on Wednesday evening. TCM Host Robert Osborne questioned Collins about her experiences in Hollywood, her choice of films, and her associations with many classic film industry professionals.
Osborne noted that TCM had been wanting Collins to visit as a Guest Programmer for some time, and Collins stated that she was happy to be invited to participate, and “extremely honored.” The films screened included “Gilda,” “Boom Town,” “The Women,” and a musical update of “The Women” from 1956 with stylish Helen Rose gowns entitled, “The Opposite Sex.” Collins claimed that “The Opposite Sex” was the first film that allowed her to reveal her talents as a villainess.
While Collins was being roasted by The Friars Club in May of 2015, The New York Post revealed that she related a story about how women are perceived and claimed “there is this old saying that goes around in Hollywood,” Collins quipped. “At 20, a woman is like America. She’s fresh and new and ready to be discovered. After 40, a woman is like Asia — she’s mysterious, exotic, inscrutable. After 50, a woman is like Australia — not easy to get to, but when you get there she is warm and welcoming. After 60, a woman is like Africa. Everyone knows where it is, but no one wants to go there.” Collins appearance on TCM revealed she chose four films with prominent roles acted by some of the most important women from the Classic Hollywood era like Rita Haworth, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Norma Shearer, June Allyson, Ann Sheridan, and Joan Blondell.
Collins’ first choice, “Gilda,” was a film she had seen “20 years ago” and stated that “I’m a big fan of film noir,” and that “Gilda” is a “perfect thriller.” She also thought the costumes were stunning, and discussed how classic film stars were unusually distinctive looking with personal styles of their own. As for “Boom Town,” she noted that Claudette Colbert went to bed with her false eyelashes still intact in the film, and stated that was a normal on-screen procedure for Holywood at that time.
As a star working at MGM, she enjoyed the camaraderie in the large hair and makeup facility at the studio, and claimed that MGM stylist Sydney Guilaroff “reigned supreme.” Collins recalled being with Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, June Allyson and others all at once while having their hair styled, curled, dried and set, and wondered ” how we ever got on the set.”
A young man hanging around the mail room on the MGM lot seemed quite “confident” in himself according to Collins as she reminsced with Osborne, and the young man in question had dark, curly hair. He asked Collins for a date, as well another actress working on the lot by the name of Yvette Mimieux. That young man just happened to be Jack Nicholson, the Oscar-winning actor and well-known ladies’ man.
As for “The Women, ” Osborne thought Collins’ choice of the film made in 1939 was “so interesting” because of the follow-up feature. Collins starred as Crystal Allen in”The Opposite Sex,” a musical remake of “The Women” made in 1956, which also employed male actors included in the action on the screen. The TCM host felt that the cleverness of the 1939 film was in part due to the logical locations of certain scenes where only women would have been allowed, like a perfume shop or a women’s spa.
Collins chose “The Opposite Sex” because “I did the remake,” and “I thought that would be very interesting to show.” ‘The Women’ was made in black and white, and it was just women and there were no men. It was very modern for the times, I think, because people weren’t dashing off to Reno to get a divorce. Divorce was a relatively new thing in 1939, but I think it holds up rather well.”
The scene with Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen talking on the phone to Stephen Haines during “The Women” seemed “contrived” as far as Collins was concerned, and she felt it was ” a little slapstick.” and didn’t quite “ring true to me.” Since Collins recreated the role in “The Opposite Sex,” she might have studied Crawford’s interpretation more carefully than the other roles in “The Women,” but also revealed to Osborne, who seemed to be extremely thrilled at Collins appearance as a Guest Programmer that “women do gossip, it’s true, but I think they gossip slightly more subtly. When women get together there’s a huge sisterhood. It was extremely clever. Only George Cukor could have done that.” Collins also stated that director Cukor “brought great performances out of the women” in the film.
As for comparing 1939’s “The Women” and 1956’s “The Opposite Sex” made 17 years apart, she told Osborne “they’re very different” and remarked on the “change in attitude” and ” the clothes.”
Collins’ costars in “The Opposite Sex,” were also fondly remembered. Collins said that “Leslie Nielsen was good, but wasn’t he so completely different from the roles he played in the 70s?” She also “really liked Dolores Gray” and found Ann Miller “very funny.”
Relating an odd coincidence concerning two aspects of her lengthy career induced Collins to reveal that “my nemesis in Dynasty was called Crystal.” The popular 80’s telelvision series featured Collins in her iconic role as perpetuallly devious Alexis Carrington Colby, and solidified her persona with popular culture at the time. She “never really thought that she’d “made it” as a major Hollywood star like “Audrey Hepburn” until after the first night Dynasty aired. While Collins was driving down Mulholland Drive, a group of children were screaming her name, and “we hate you, we hate you.” After that, she often answered her private phone with the greeting “Dynasty, #1 show.”
Before the end of her Guest Programming stint, Osborne again thanked Collins for joining him, and Collins said she “had been wanting to do this for years.”
Films screened during Joan Collins’ TCM Guest Programmer visit can be viewed on the TCM Mobile App.