Hollywood legends and fans sail down memory lane on TCM Cruise


With the moon above and the stars shining bright in the sky the Jazz Age poolside party was in full swing as guests donned fashions from the Roaring Twenties while they danced the Charleston cruising the Caribbean Sea.

With the moon above and the stars shining bright in the sky the Jazz Age poolside party was in full swing as guests donned fashions from the Roaring Twenties while they danced the Charleston cruising the Caribbean Sea. Women dressed in fringed flapper dresses, feathered boas, and sequined headbands as the men sported pinstripe suits, bow-ties and fedora hats. While this scene sounds like it’s straight  out of a classic film from the 1920’s–it was actually the Jazz Age theme night party aboard the Celebrity Constellation during the TCM Classic Cruise.

Check out Veronica’s TCM photo gallery to the top right!

Thousands of fans set sail for the second classic film cruise which departed from the Port of Miami and made stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. TCM hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz  were joined by classic film stars Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Arlene Dahl, Sally Ann Howes, and Norman Lloyd. Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek made a surprise appearance to host special activities and trivia contests during the sold-out cruise.

Excited guests saw their dreams become reality as they rubbed elbows with their favorite movie stars during the five-night voyage. Throughout the star studded journey, cruisers screened classic films; attended candid conversations with the classic film stars; played trivia games; listened to panel discussions; took swing lessons; and screened silent films with arrangements performed by the Alloy Orchestra. During the nautical adventure, Academy-Award winning actor Rooney, whose career has spanned 90 years spoke about his high stepping musical, Strike Up the Band; National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor; the boxing classic, Requiem for a Heavyweight; and Boys Town, the biopic based on Father Edward J. Flanagan’s work with underprivileged children. Photo: TCM

Hundreds of guests cheered, waved and took photos of the star who was elated to be onboard.

“These are fans and they’re on a cruise to say hello to us,” said Rooney. “Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, they’re all wonderful people–I’m proud to be associated with Turner Classic Movies.”

In between fun in the sun, the onboard activities and watching movies in the Celebrity Theatre with popcorn at the entrance; cruisers also toured an exhibit of renowned film caricaturist Al Hirschfeld and met the people behind TCM.

“The response is so overwhelmingly positive,” Mankiewicz said about the cruise. “There’s just so much enthusiasm.”

The TCM host has Hollywood roots dating back to his grandfather, screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and great-uncle Joseph Mankiewicz, a film director, screenwriter and producer. Over the years, he has interviewed many classic film stars and says he has been lucky enough to consider them friends. “I just feel so incredibly fortunate and so incredibly blessed,” he said.

Before the screenings, fans were treated to conversations with the stars conducted by the TCM hosts. Mankiewicz says preparing for the interviews is a role he takes on with respect and responsibility.  

“I want to do them justice,” he explained. “The crowd wants to love them so that helps but you want to make sure that the crowd feels good about them.”

The always entertaining Reynolds, an Oscar and Emmy nominated actress spoke about her role in the beloved musical, Singin’ in the Rain; Richard Brooks’ blue-collar drama The Catered Affair; and the vivacious musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

“It’s been a wonderful life, so it’s fun to talk about events that have been enjoyable for me and to share it with other people, if they’re funny or if they’re interesting. Most things that I’ve gone through are pretty interesting,” she said.Photo: TCM

Singin’ in the Rain has been called the greatest movie musical of all time and has truly stood the test of time. The experience was very special for Reynolds despite her grueling work schedule learning the high energy dance routines with co-stars Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.

“To just become ok was not good enough for Gene Kelly; you had to be the best so you had to really work hard. When you work under Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and Cyd Charisse–these great dancers–you either keep up or you fall aside so I worked really hard,” she remembered. Her dedication to her career paid off and the iconic film continues to delight audiences. “It turned out to be legendary,” she said. “When a picture lasts as long as this one has and still makes people laugh, smile and feel young–it makes you happy.”

Legendary Hollywood beauty and MGM star, Dahl, was also onboard and discussed her films; Woman’s World and Journey to the Center of the Earth. During her time in Hollywood, she penned a popular syndicated beauty column which was an experience she’ll cherish forever.

“I was the only actress interviewing other actors and actresses and I think that’s why I got to interview Bing Crosby and Marlon Brando, who never did interviews. I interviewed Elvis and he was terrific–such a gentleman. I interviewed him over lunch; he pulled the chair out for me and he had great manners. I said you have beautiful manners who taught you those manners? He said, my mother, she died too early.”

Dahl’s currently writing a book about the social life in Hollywood. Her first dinner party was at the home of Sir Charles and Elsie Mendl and given for Cole Porter. She was seated next to film star Clark Gable and classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein and was worried about dinner conversation. In the end she spoke with Gable about fishing in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota since that’s where he hunted and fished and talked to Rubinstein about her childhood piano lessons!

Dahl explained that having events like the TCM Cruise is a great way.

“To bring back memories for those who lived during that time like me, and for younger people to know what stars were really like.”

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During the cruise, Lloyd, an actor, director and Emmy nominated producer of stage, film and television talked about A Walk in the Sun, and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Saboteur. Lloyd recalled working with Hitchcock, the master of suspense, revealing, “Working for him was dreamy because in my case and other actors like Joe Cotton and others he took you in almost in a family way. You were invited to his home for dinner parties, to his country house up in Santa Rosa which overlooked Monterey Bay it was so beautiful–all of that. He took you in, he had a delicious humor.”

Lloyd also worked with one of the most influential artists in the industry, the great Charlie Chaplin, who he remembers as “Genius. That’s it! There’s no other explanation, even though when I arrived in his life the great period which was in the early 1920’s was over but still he was doing Limelight which I was in and it’s a beautiful film, it’s a touching film.”

In the classic children’s musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tony nominated actress and singer Howes, portrayed her unforgettable role as Truly Scrumptious. The adorable scene where her character pretends to be a wind-up doll and must perform a dance for the King and his court was her favorite memory. She recalls nailing the elaborate scene in one take.Photo: TCM

“I thought how embarrassing to get up in front of 300 extras and I thought, Oh I’m going to mess this up and I hope I don’t. Quick little prayer and off I went for the first take and didn’t make one mistake. All the extras became an audience suddenly and I got this great round of applause which I loved so I felt I was at home,” in regards to filming the famous scene.

While walking around the ship, Howes thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet fans. She said their kindness and gratitude was touching, “They have a wonderful way of saying thank you and we can thank them—they’re so loyal and wonderful!”

One of the most sought-after celebrities onboard was Osborne, the always charming and knowledgeable TCM host. Cruisers are continually intrigued with the stories of his early days in Hollywood from dabbling in acting to befriending Lucille Ball and attending swanky parties. He met many stars of the Golden Era and those encounters and friendships have served as first-hand experiences when he talks about classic films. He shared on the cruise that the most interesting classic star he interviewed was the talented Bette Davis.

“She was trained in that old Hollywood where you’re not so darling unless you bring something to the table so she always would have stories to tell and stories that you hadn’t heard before.”

The author and historian lit up the stage with his charismatic personality and talent for sharing his wealth of information. Whether he’s introducing a film on a cruise, live event or TV he has certain criteria he likes to meet explaining, “I want to say something that’s going to intrigue people if they haven’t seen the movie and may not be planning on staying around to try to pull them in; and I am trying to appeal to a film buff that knows a lot about movies and gets some information maybe he or she hasn’t heard before.”

Even though the cruise is over, fans continue to enjoy classic films the way they were meant to be seen “uncut and commercial-free” on TCM along with entertaining and informative content from hosts Osborne and Mankiewicz.

Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook

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Photo credit: TCM

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