The OTHER Classic Halloween Movies

It’s hard to make a more iconic Halloween movie than Halloween, but that’s not to say that there aren’t legions of other films where Halloween plays a critical role. Much like Christmas, Halloween is such a big holiday in the American imagination that it appears in a number of films that aren’t directly about Halloween, or even horror. Last year, the Post took a look at “The OTHER Classic Christmas Movies,” so it’s only fair that we do the same for Halloween.

10. Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever on YouTube Movies

For some reason, the first three modern Batman films all rotated around some kind of holiday celebration. 1989’s Batman featured the Gotham City bicentennial, 1992’s Batman Returns took place at Christmas, and 1995’s Batman Forever landed on Halloween. The holiday doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall plot, but it shows up significantly later in the film. Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey), having discovered Batman’s secret identity and fool an unusually dim Alfred (Michael Gough) using Halloween costumes. With Alfred’s guard down, the villains and their henchmen invade Wayne Manor, destroying much of the mansion and Batcave while kidnapping Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and setting up a final showdown between the villains, Batman (Val Kilmer), and his new partner, Robin (Chris O’Donnell).

9. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Esther discovers the truth about the street car prank (Uploaded to YouTube by WarnerArchive)

EVERYBODY knows that Meet Me in St. Louis is where we got “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But not everyone quite recalls that the movie basically takes place over most of a year from 1903 until the World’s Fair opens in 1904. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Sally Benson, which was originally presented as a string of short stories in The New Yorker. The Halloween sequence represents a pivotal moment in the plot’s central relationship. Esther (Judy Garland) has been in love with John (Tom Drake) from a distance for a while. However, her sister Tootie alleges that John hurt her while Tootie was out for trick-or-treat. Esther attacks John in a rage, but Tootie admits that John actually protected her and sister Agnes from the police after a bungled prank. Esther’s apology to John leads to their first kiss.

8. Mean Girls (2004)

Halloween from Mean Girls (Uploaded to YouTube by The Paramount Vault)

Tina Fey took on a terrifying subject when she adapted Mean Girls from Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabees, and that was the teenage trauma associated with high school cliques. Mean Girls covers a lot of ground when it comes to how young women interact, including social expectations versus reality, the spitefulness that can arise in a compressed setting like a high school, and how kids are often unaware of the damage that words can do. One key scene takes place at a Halloween party; the lead-in starts off light, playing off of the ongoing trend of hyper-sexualized costumes, but it takes a turn when Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is betrayed at the party, setting her on a course that affects the rest of the film.

7. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

The trailer for We Need to Talk About Kevin (Uploaded to Movieclips Trailers)

A soul-crushing novel made into a soul-crushing movie, We Need to Talk About Kevin deals with one of the worst possible nightmares for a parent: what do you do when your child is the one who conducts a school massacre? The epistolary novel by Lionel Shriver was made into a haunting film starring Tilda Swinton as Kevin’s mother, Eva. As Eva drives home one night, the demons plaguing her and her family seem to come to life, moving in and out of the shadows as she sees them out her car window. It is, however, only Halloween, but the frightening vista underscores Eva’s own inner turmoil and the tragedy that has played out over the course of Kevin’s life.

6. The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)

The Mountain Troll scene (Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips)

Take a hugely successful book series. Recruit appealing newcomers for the young leads. Add some of the most accomplished adult actors in England. Never stray too far from the books. Spend ten years becoming of the one best loved movie series of all time. We all watched that work for the Harry Potter series. Obviously, the magic-based series lends itself to Halloween. Moreover, since every book roughly covers one school year, it’s easy to slot those scenes in the plot. Each book at least references Halloween. Not all of the films touch on it, although there are recurring references. A running concern is the fact that Voldemort was originally defeated on Halloween Night. Rowling also tied important events to the holiday in the first four books. Easily one of the most memorable Halloween scenes is in the first book and first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When a Mountain Troll gets into the school, the student body panics. Only Harry and Ron keep their cool to try to find Hermione. Making their way to the girls’ restroom, they find Hermione under attack by the creature. Encouraged by Hermione, Ron performs a spell that uses the troll’s own club to knock him out. Not everyone is pleased (Quirrell is a double-agent, Snape is annoyed), but Professor McGonagall gives the lads points for saving their friend.

5. The Crow (1994)

The Crow trailer (Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers)

The supernatural revenge thriller based on the comic book series by James O’Barr found tragedy in the on-set death of leading man Brandon Lee and triumph in the critical and financial success of the film and its soundtrack. The plot turns around October 30th, once known as Devil’s Night in Detroit for a phenomenon of arsons taking place on that date over several decades; on one Devil’s Night, Eric Draven and his fiancée, Shelly, are murdered on the day before their wedding (which would have been Halloween). Draven returns one year later to deal out harsh vengeance on those responsible. The city, already portrayed in a dark and gothic manner by director Alex Proyas, also has the trappings of Halloween, including trick-or-treating children that pass Draven in costume.

4. Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen trailer (Uploaded to YouTube by Legendary)

Based on the medium-changing comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (seriously; it’s on Time’s list of 100 Best Novels from 1923 onward), Zach Snyder’s Watchmen takes great pains to present an adaptation that’s as close to the page and panel as possible. The story takes place in an alternative 1985 where Nixon is still president and America won the Vietnam War thanks to the intervention of the super-powered Dr. Manhattan. Though the story constantly jumps in time, the main narrative is set in 1985 on the verge of Halloween . . . and nuclear holocaust. Halloween imagery sneaks in at the edges, and several critical plot developments (many of which are horrifying in their own right) occur across October 31 and November 1.

3. The Karate Kid (1984)

The trailer for The Karate Kid (Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers)

One of the more memorable Halloween scenes from any high school-related film happens in The Karate Kid. At a Halloween dance, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) wants to be with Ali (Elisabeth Shue), but he’s been trying avoid the bullying of Johnny and his Cobra Kai buddies. Daniel cleverly dresses in a shower costume to conceal his identity. But when Johnny breaks off from the other Cobra Kais (who are all dressed in matching skeleton costumes and facepaint) to smoke weed in the bathroom, Daniel takes the opportunity to rig up a hose and douse Johnny. The Cobra Kais chase Daniel down and deal him a violent beating until Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) intervenes. Miyagi dismantles the bullies by himself and helps treat Daniel’s injuries. Soon after, Miyagi begins to train Daniel so that he can confront the Kais at the All-Valley Tournament.

2. E.T. (1982)

The Halloween scene from E.T. (Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips)

Is there anyone who doesn’t know E.T.? What you might not recall is that Halloween actually plays a crucial role in advancing the plot. E.T. wants to “phone home” so that his people can come back for him. However, Elliott and his brother Michael need to sneak E.T. and the communication array he’s built to the nearby woods where they’ll have a better chance of making contact. That’s where Halloween comes in. The boys use that most reliable of disguises (from a kid’s point of view): a white sheet ghost costume. They first have to convince their mother that they’re actually taking their little sister, Gertie, out, which works. Although a chance encounter with a kid dressed as Yoda distracts the alien, they are still able to get him to the forest to make his call.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

The Halloween attack from To Kill a Mockingbird (Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips)

Speaking of important scenes occurring at Halloween . . . the climactic action of To Kill a Mockingbird happens on Halloween night after a pageant where Scout is dressed as a giant ham. As Scout and her brother Jem walk through the woods toward home, they are attacked. Scout can’t see much because of her costume, but she realizes that someone else stopped their attacker. It soon becomes clear that they were attacked by Bob Ewell, whom Atticus had shamed in court. The man who saved them was their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley. As Atticus and Sheriff Tate piece together events, they realize that Boo stabbed Ewell, killing him. However, Tate decides to list it as an accident, sparing Boo the attention and circus of a trial.

Featured image: leolintang / Shutterstock

The Struggles of Judy Garland

Originally published April 2, 1955.

On-screen, she melted the audience’s hearts. But even at the triumphant peak of her career, Judy Garland worried herself sick. The true story of the dazzling, unhappy star.

I dropped in at Warner Bros. studio in Burbank the other day and found the old battleground strangely demure. The absence of Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan, who kept things in an interesting uproar a few years ago, was not enough to account for the calm. There was a kind of postoperative shock about it.

As it turned out, this environmental strangeness was easy to account for. Judy Garland had recently made a picture, A Star is Born, at Warners, and many old hands were still awed by what had happened.

A Star is Born cost $6,000,000 instead of about half that sum, because Judy came to work only when she felt like it. Or she would come, look things over, hide in her dressing room, weep and depart. She might return the next day or she might not.

After finishing this picture, her first in nearly four years, Judy barely had time to sleep late after the premiere before an old and familiar lament echoed through Hollywood. You can hear this bewildering recitative today wherever two or three industry people are gathered together.

It begins invariably with professions of love and esteem. It takes various forms, but the gist is this: “She’s the greatest, that girl. Got the most exciting talent in show business.

Who else can belt over a song like Judy Garland? She’s the greatest, that’s all. I tell you, I love her. I love her, but…”

Judy Garland today is a short, soft-spoken young woman of 32. She has the same naive sort of charm she has exhibited in more than 40 motion pictures. She uses her enormous brown eyes appealingly, like a gracious child. She proves to be an entertaining storyteller and imitator.

On the whole, Judy has made the happiest and most tuneful pictures — but she has been Hollywood’s unhappiest star. Roger Edens, who wrote many of her great song hits, puts it like this: “She ought to enjoy being the enormous international celebrity she is. But she doesn’t enjoy it. She doesn’t know it. She has more talent than anybody who ever came along, but she doesn’t understand that either. Everybody loves Judy, but she thinks nobody loves her.”

When Judy first went to work at M-G-M in 1935, she was 13 years old, thick around the middle and as strong as a pony. She was not especially pretty when Louis B. Mayer and Arthur Freed put her under contract, but she had those swimming dark eyes, a clean fresh kind of charm and the stout torso it takes to sing out a brassy song. She had been singing since she was 3 years old and had been called “little leather lungs.” Years later she said this “leather-lung” title humiliated her — she would rather have been told she was a pretty little girl, or even a nice little girl. Judy liked to sing, everyone at M-G-M recalls, but she hated work and resented authority.

She grew up, literally, before the eyes of millions of spectators.

An Overworked Actress

Dorothy and the Scarecrow
Judy Garland and Ray Bolger

From the beginning, Judy’s pictures were big, requiring long, wearying rehearsals and recording stints, dancing and acting as well as singing. Judy threw herself into each production as if it were a last-ditch stand. But her closest friends insist that she never wanted to be a movie star at all. She merely wanted to sing and would have preferred to make records for jukeboxes.

She had a tendency toward gaining weight, and M-G-M laid down stern dietary laws to Judy, who responded hysterically: She refused to eat either lunch or dinner and kept up this starvation regime for years. Breakfast and then black coffee and cigarettes for lunch and dinner — four packs a day.

Hedda Hopper tells me she once saw Judy trying to do a dance sequence and almost dropping from exhaustion.

“I’m too hungry,” it’s said she told her director.

“Get on with it and you won’t feel hungry,” the director said.

Long hours of lming and starvation exhausted her, and then insomnia set in. Judy’s solution for that problem: She took pills. The next step was pills to wake her up. She became
a virtual automaton, turned off and on by formulas.

Judy earned $5,000 a week, later $150,000 per picture, and saved not a cent. But where the money went, nobody knows.

Judy ceased to be biddable in 1945. She was world-famous, hungry, sleepy and unhappy. She held up productions, a cardinal sin in Hollywood, wept in her dressing room and cried that no one loved her.

In May 1949, Judy walked out on the studio. It began with her refusal to go on with Annie Get Your Gun, produced by her old friend and admirer Arthur Freed. Judy worked for six weeks, recorded all the songs — now collector’s items — then fled from M-G-M at the lunch hour one day and wailed she could not go on.

She was suspended and taken off salary. She was broke. But it was Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, who sent her to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and paid the bill. Judy stayed there 11 weeks, started to sleep regularly and gained weight.

Then the studio called her back for Summer Stock, produced by Joe Pasternak. “Too fat,” they said again. More hysterics and more delays, but the picture was finally finished. It was not a great picture, but it made Judy’s fans happy.

After this, she went right into Royal Wedding. This one she never finished — again she ran — and Jane Powell was called in to take over. The studio suspended her. The long-term contract was dissolved at Judy’s request. This left her alone, jobless and broke. Her reputation for neurotics, delays and temperament was now so widely known that no producer with a clear head would consider her for a picture.

Road To Redemption

Judy Garland
Judy Garland in a General Electric radio ad

But there was a man named Sid Luft. Mr. Luft, a former test pilot for Douglas Aircraft, once private secretary to Eleanor Powell, the dancer, and by this time an independent promoter, is a handsome and muscular fellow who exudes confidence. Luft had little money and was known only as a clever operator, but he appeared virtually out of nowhere and offered Judy the three things she desperately needed — sympathy, strength and a way to escape from M-G-M. He took it for granted that people mean what they say when they profess to love Judy.

Acting fast on this principle, Luft went to M-G-M and had no trouble at all borrowing Roger Edens, who is under contract there, to write a show. He offered the show to London’s famous Palladium, where only the most reliable stars are considered, and the offer was snapped up. Judy opened there on April 10, 1951, tripped and fell flat on her face before a distinguished opening-night audience.

“Go on, Judy, we love you!” the Londoners screamed to her. She went on in concert pitch and scored a damp-eyed triumph.

Later that year she brought vaudeville back to the great Palace Theater in New York. She was overweight again, but when she sang “Over the Rainbow,” Broadway gave Judy, then 29, the kind of sentimental, sobbing welcome usually reserved for the aged great. There has possibly never been a finer personal triumph on stage. Judy collapsed from overwork after six weeks, but she rested a few days, returned and enjoyed a run of 19 weeks. Night after night, audiences called out the old refrain, “Judy, we love you!”

“That was the real start of the Garland Legend,” Roger Edens says. “She did become legend then, but she doesn’t know it yet.”

Sid and Judy brought the show on to Los Angeles and another tearful, shrilling triumph. In the spring of 1952, after columns of speculation had been printed, they were married near Hollister, California. It looked for sure now as if Judy had lived up to her famed “Over the Rainbow” song and had found, at last, what she could do and how to be happy doing it.

But by the end of the year, Judy faced a traumatic legal battle with her mother, with whom she had been estranged for several years. The unsavory story was rehearsed again in the press, and some who used to say ‘‘I love Judy” decided they were wrong. Judy collapsed and went under the care of a doctor.

When Judy finally emerged, it was to make A Star is Born, at Warner Bros., and, as noted in the beginning, she approached this as fearfully as a child in the dark.

“She was terrified,” Luft said the other day. She hadn’t made a picture in nearly four years. “She thought she was through and washed up all over again. That’s why she made that picture so difficult. But she gave an Academy Award performance, didn’t she?”


Click to read the original article, “The Star Who Thinks Nobody Loves Her” by Cameron Shipp, from the April 3, 1955, issue of the Post.


This article and other features about the stars of Tinseltown can be found in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, The Golden Age of Hollywood. This edition can be ordered here. 

Post Week in Review: Schallert, The Simpsons, and a Summer of Beer and Chicken Fingers

RIP William Schallert, 1922–2016

William Shallert
William Schallert

Just a month after we lost Patty Duke, her TV dad passes away. William Schallert died at the age of 93 last Sunday.

Now, this is the part of the celebrity obituary where I usually give a list of some of the TV shows and/or movies the person has been in, but if I were to do that for Schallert, it would take up the rest of the column. The man was in pretty much everything from 1947 until 2014, so I’ll just link to his IMDb page so you can read it for yourself. He received a Fulbright fellowship after graduating from UCLA and lectured at Oxford University, was a founding member of the Circle Theater, and was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1979 to 1981. His wife of 66 years, Rosemarie Waggner (who acted under the name Leah) passed away last year. They had four sons and seven grandchildren.

I was hoping that one of the cable networks would have a tribute marathon for Schallert this week or next, but I can’t find anything. And then I remembered that there’s a tribute marathon for him that’s on every single day. It’s called “television.”

Homer Simpson Will Be Live This Sunday

Stephen Colbert has a running bit right now on The Late Show featuring Cartoon Donald Trump, an animated version of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee that he talks to. It seems like the interview is done live, not one of those situations where it’s either prerecorded or Colbert asks the questions live and via good timing the answers were animated and taped beforehand and appear natural. Colbert actually has a live conversation with him, and the animation seems to change depending on what Colbert asks. I don’t really get how they do it.

Something similar is happening this Sunday night at 8 p.m. on Fox. There’s a new episode of The Simpsons, and Homer will actually be live on the episode, answering questions from viewers via phone. They’ll do two shows, one for the east coast and one for the west. Apparently, it’s done by “motion-capture filming.” Maybe that’s how they do the Colbert segment, too.

If you’d like to ask him a question, call (888) 726-6660 on Sunday between 8 and 8:30 ET or 8 and 8:30 PT. You have to be over 18, but if you’re reading this, I assume you are.

Also at 8 p.m. this Sunday: an hour-long 60 Minutes tribute to Morley Safer, who retired this week after 46 years with CBS.

Coming Soon: Judy Garland on Tour!

If you were too young to see Judy Garland sing live, you’re in luck. She’s going on tour again.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some Walking Dead scenario, it’s going to be Garland’s hologram. It will be called “Hologram USA’s Judy Garland Hologram Tour“ and will debut in Hollywood and London at the same time in 2017. She was chosen via a poll that asked people which celebrity they’d like to sing again via hologram. I would have picked Frank Sinatra, but then I wouldn’t have put the word hologram twice in the name of the tour either.

Like Homer Simpson, the effect will be done partly via motion-capture technology. Unlike Homer, you won’t be able to talk to her.

This Summer, Budweiser Is America

I know it seems like this election season has been going on for years, but remember that we still have seven months before we choose a new president. Imagine how loooooong this summer is going to be, with the speeches and the TV ads and the two conventions. People might want to drink to get through it all.

And you can be patriotic while you drink, because Budweiser is renaming their brew “America” for the summer. They could have waited a while and come out with two different beers, one named “Donald” and one named “Hillary” (or “Bernie” if you think it’s not over yet). They could have figured out which beer was more popular and given us a prediction for what’s going to happen in November. Hey, that would be just as accurate a prediction as we’ve gotten from the media pundits so far this election.

The “America” name will only be on beer sold in the United States, so if you don’t live here, you’ll have to just to live with the old Budweiser name, at least until Christmas or so.

It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good (Literally)

If you’re going to create a product based on a slogan, I guess this seems like a natural. KFC has made a nail polish that tastes like chicken, and it’s called Finger-Lickin’ Good. There are two varieties that line up with their menu: Original and Hot & Spicy. Unfortunately, there’s no Extra Crispy version for those of you who bite your nails.

Maybe this will start a trend, and we’ll see nail polish that tastes like Ring Dings or Lay’s Potato Chips or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Budweiser should make a beer-flavored nail polish, though I guess that would lead to certain problems.

Space: 1969

The Gap has a new ad. You can probably see immediately what’s wrong with it.




In a defense, The Gap responded to that tweet saying they didn’t mean that there was a space shuttle in 1969. The ad just refers to the year they opened. Uh-huh. I don’t buy that explanation for the ad, and I bet you don’t either.

It’s National Apple Pie Day

It doesn’t seem quite right that Apple Pie Day is in May — feels more like a fall or winter food holiday — but it’s today. Here’s a recipe for a classic apple pie, and here’s one with a twist: a cheddar cheese crust.

Today is also Friday the 13th. So try to avoid black cats, make sure you don’t walk under any ladders, and remember to count to ten before opening a jar of pickles.

Okay, I made up that last superstition, but it makes just as much sense as the other two, and maybe we can start a new trend.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Governor George Wallace shot (May 15, 1972)

The Alabama governor, who famously stood in front of the University of Alabama to block two black students from attending, was shot and paralyzed by a busboy at a mall in Laurel, Maryland.

Bobby Ewing is alive! (May 16, 1986)

Dallas aired what is probably the most-hated plot twist in the history of television, but I kinda liked it. Even if it did mean the entire previous season never happened and Gary and Val’s son on Knot’s Landing was named after Bobby for no reason.

New York Stock Exchange founded (May 17, 1792)

I bet you didn’t know the NYSE went back that far.

Frank Capra born (May 18, 1897)

He directed my favorite movie — not just holiday movie, but favorite movie, period — It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christopher Columbus dies (May 20, 1506)

He wasn’t really the first person to land in North America, but he has his own holiday anyway.

Blue jeans patented (May 20, 1873)

The article of clothing it’s hard to imagine the world living without was invented by Jacob W. Davis and patented by Davis and Levi Strauss.