In 2019, I decided to post a series of interviews with members of both the genealogical and old Hollywood communities, hoping to find common ground between the two and learn more about some people whose online presence I truly enjoy. Welcome to the Hollywood/GenesCrossover Interview series! For the original post in this series and to see the complete list of interviewees, click here.
I e-met Nell around the time I was running my Bridesmaid blogathon and film challenge; I had never attempted either before and I truly appreciate the encouragement she offered. I love her brand as the movie mom and have found her reviews incredibly helpful in trying to figure out what to watch with my own kids (a challenge, to be sure!). Ready to e-meet Nell, too? Let’s get to it!
Name: Nell Minow — Moviemom
Tell us a little about yourself (anything goes!):
I was movie critic for my high school and college papers, studied film in college, and then went to law school and had children and did other things for a while. I started posting movie reviews to the internet in 1995, when most people online were military or academics. I wrote as the Movie Mom because I had young children and I saw parents in video stores (remember those?) asking the teenagers behind the counter what was suitable and not too scary for their kids. Five years later, every publication and corporation had a website and Yahoo, which didn’t even exist when I began, asked me to be their movie critic. My first book about movies, The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies, led to my being invited to review movies every week on radio stations across the country. Now I’m an editor and critic at rogerebert.com and still write for Moviemom.com, the Motion Picture Associaton of America (MPAA) website thecredits.org, and Medium.
What is your earliest memory of watching a classic film? What did it do for you? Why do you remember it?
My dad says the first movie I ever saw in a theater was the Disney film Westward Ho the Wagons when I was four, and that after that I wanted to see a movie every day. Now I do! But the first film I remember seeing in a theater was another Disney film: Snow White. I instantly became a fan of Disney animation, musicals, and sitting in a dark room watching stories on a big screen.
Who are your top 3 favorite old Hollywood stars and why (1900s-1960s)?
Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and William Powell. Well, those are my picks today — tomorrow it might be Tracy and Hepburn or Barbara Stanwyck, or the Marx Brothers. But I keep coming back to Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and William Powell for their effortless elegance, range from romance to comedy to drama, impeccable timing, and pure movie star magic. When I was pregnant with our son, the doctor told us he would recognize our voices from hearing them in utero. My husband said, “Then he’ll recognize Cary Grant’s voice, too, because she watches a lot of old movies.”
What are your top 3 favorite classic films and why?
The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, and Ball of Fire— Smart, witty comedies with so much insight about what we want from each other and the challenges of intimacy.
How does classic film feature in your life today?
When I turn on the TV, I always start with TCM first, and I check the schedule every few days in case I need to record something. Over my desk is a poster our daughter gave me from To Catch a Thief. Everyone in my family quotes old movies. I recently asked on Twitter what movie line people’s families quote most often and gave two examples of ours: “I hope that old man got the tractor beam out of commission or this is going to be one short trip” (Star Wars: A New Hope) and “That should be in the briefs” (My Favorite Wife). And I wrote a book with descriptions of 500 classic movies for families to share, another one called 101 Must-See Movie Moments (great moments from neglected movies, neglected moments from great movies), and others with 50 great movie mothers, 50 great movie fathers, and 50 great movie proposals and weddings.
What is your favorite website(s) dedicated to old Hollywood? Why do you find it so enjoyable or useful?
I rely on IMDB and Wikipedia for a lot of information about old movies, detailed cast and crew listings, behind the scenes information. Others I like are: Journeys in Classic Film, TCM, The Blonde at the Film, and Frock Flicks.
Do you have a family (or personal) connection to old Hollywood? How so?
Our daughter is a costume designer in Hollywood and she sometimes sends photos of costumes she comes across in her work with name labels from stars like Rock Hudson or Janet Leigh. Once she texted to say she was standing on the spot where Margaret Hamilton melted in The Wizard of Oz!
My mother played Henry Fonda’s secretary in Advise and Consent. You can see her sitting behind him at the hearing and handing him some papers. It was filmed in Washington and a number of local people were extras. When they saw how pretty my mom was, they gave her some screen time!
Which film star are you most often compared to or you think you look the most like? Does anyone else in your family (parents/grandparents) have an old Hollywood doppelganger?
My mother used to say I looked like Audrey Hepburn when I was young! But you’d have to be my mother to see the resemblance.
We all know that classic film fans appreciate characters with moxie. Who is your most moxie filled family member or ancestor and why?
My wonderful grandmother was an immigrant with education only through high school but she forced the Milwaukee school system to take her disabled son, my uncle, a generation before the law required accommodation in schools and jobs. My parents have always been fierce in pursuit of justice and making the world a better place, with too many good works to name, and my sisters and I have tried to follow their example and pass it along to the next generation.
Which is your favorite (fictional) film family and why?
The Sycamores in You Can’t Take it With You— because they are all so encouraging of each other’s dreams. Runners-up: the Marches in Little Women, the Winstons in Houseboat (who would not want to have Sophia Loren and Cary Grant as parents?), the Gilbreths in Cheaper by the Dozenand Belles on Their Toes, the Mackays in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and the Browns in National Velvet because Anne Revere is my favorite movie mother.
Find Nell online here:
@moviemom on Twitter
themoviemom on Facebook
If you are a member of the online old Hollywood and/or genealogy community and would like to be interviewed for this series, please reply in the comments or message me on Twitter @hollywoodgenes.