ReelJewels.com made it’s way onto the Internet on October 7, 2000. It was born of frustration that many musical stars were being overlooked due to something as silly as film library accessibility and copyrights. TCM is and was King and at the time they didn’t play as many 20th Century Fox, Parmount, and Universal Films as AMC once did. TCM is expanding the films they air now and I’m so grateful for that. In early days prior to TCM expanding, I wanted to be able to share the things I had collected and provide digital media in a way that was accessible. YouTube wasn’t founded until 2005 and there were few websites offering audio at the time. Wanted to build a community for young film fans as well. Let’s face it, film buffs can be an opinionated lot and new film fans are often shut down when they don’t have a complete knowledge of an actor, film, or even a basic knowledge of film history. It was incredibly frustrating to watch young people be shot down on classic film forums and give up on the community all together. So, I did what I could at the time—uploaded sound clips, used early gifs on all the home pages so you had a sense of motion and life, and tried to make it accessible to younger film fans. I opened email lists for every star and tried to build communities. Later on, I built a forum where lasting friendships were made. Even started a podcast, ReelCast, as a platform for younger voices. Incredibly proud that young women jumped at the chance to join me. Women are are often not represented well in film commentary.
What was not as common in the first 10 years of the site are bots that could take down vulnerable code. That happened to one of the sites on my server which took down everything else several years ago and rebuilding the way I envisioned this to be has been tedious. Websites like this are much less popular due to the availability of media on YouTube and the community feel of Facebook, etc, so it’s taken a while for me to start rebuilding. I never envision this to be a complete work. I do hope it will continue to grow.
My interest in classic film musicals stemmed from my love of music which was inherited from my mother more than anyone else. Whilst opening presents on my third birthday, my father remarked, “Better be a Bing Crosby record or she won’t listen to it.” Better than anything else I can think of, this event shows my early love affair with music that was recorded slightly before my time.
Throughout my childhood, I never really lost touch with music, although my father pushed me more into sports (eventually I became quite good at jump roping and taught around the world). Even with jump rope taking a great deal of my time, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston waltzed in and out of my life while Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas” record was played year round. I vividly remember singing ‘Over The Rainbow’ on my tricycle with my dog as Toto and splashing through puddles ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ as early as five years old. I spent much of my time listening to records and singing. As an only child and a very introverted one at that, I revelled in my alone time.
When I was around twelve years old, musicals came back into my life to the point where I personally started to fret over my health. I was never one to go along with the crowd and while everyone else loved Boys II Men and En Vogue, I was in love with The Music Man and My Fair Lady. By the time I was fourteen, I discovered Judy Garland. That was the end of me. Previously, I had watched many classic films and loved greats like Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant (so many others)—this was something different though. Judy had something special that I could really relate to (and provided a connection to my late grandmother that I never was able to know, but who I later found was a fan well). I felt, like many, Garland gave absolutely everything she had to her audience and with such sincerity that is rarely seen today and in Judy Garland’s case—never will be seen again.
It did not take long to learn that people my age really did not know anything of classic movies and even less about Judy Garland as anything but Dorothy Gale. I felt this had to be corrected, especially as I began to join online communities for Judy and there were very few people my age. It was far worse for stars like Alice Faye and Nelson Eddy. They possessed talent in so many fields of entertainment and were practically forgotten by generations. Some Garland fans only latch onto her films and don’t explore any other musicals of her era—seeing her as the epitome of the musical and everything else pales in comparison. I think this is a mistake. Though Judy, I agree, is ‘the one and only’ of her kind, there is so much more out there to discover which completely over-shadow some of the ‘talent’ (this was a time when there was no digital editing of the tracks—all the talent completely depended on the entertainer him/herself) that exists today.
The film stars that are represented on this site are people I have a great deal of respect for as far as their talent as seen on reel after reel of their films, recordings, and radio appearances. It seems I have become obsessed with reminding my peers, young and young at heart alike, that these gifted artists were once part of our popular culture both in the United States as well as the rest of the world. Not always is entertainment about sensationalism as it seems to be more or less today—true talent is found in artistic ability, sincerity, beauty, romance and a touch of enchantment that brings our chaotic world a little peace of mind if only for the time it takes to watch a few reels of film.
My love of musicals has continued into other countries. I’ve been catching up on early British musicals of late and I’ve also developed a love for Indian Cinema over the last four years. If you haven’t watched any south Asian Cinema and you love musicals you should give it a try. If you’re interested you can follow my film watching progress on Letterboxd where I go by NellieKelly. I try to watch 100 new-to-me classic films a year. If you’re newer to classic films, my greatest advice is to keep a log of the films you watch with at least a basic review. This is a really, really great way to do that. It’s a wonderful community, too, where you can find a lot of inspiration to branch out. I’ve created a couple lists that may be of interest such as “Musicals That Hit A Happy Note” and a listing of operettas recorded on film.
With my love for early standards, it was only natural for me to find musicals as I did. More natural was my need to preserve the history of these performers and show people just a glimpse of what they were about and what we can find once again in our own world.
Transporting you to a film era of wonderful artistic talent and glamour—
Yours in film in and song…
Ginny L. Sayre