The music swells to a crescendo as the black-and-white image of Bette Davis’ visage fades from the screen. Alicia Malone swings her feet off her diminutive mid-century sofa and leans forward as Davis’ piercing eyes glare back at her. And with a slow burn, the 1964 horror obscurity Dead Ringer comes to an end. Alicia leans back, mesmerized, even a little fatigued, as she pets her cat, Miss Hayworth, and with a devilish grin, says, “Davis still had it. The studios said she was past her prime, but even after Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? she continued making interesting films.”
A thought suddenly occurs to her as she grabs a notebook, jots something down, then gestures towards the television, and muses: “Besides, look at those eyes! You can’t deny the power of Bette Davis’ eyes. There was even an ’80s song about her eyes… wasn’t there?”
Turner Classic Movies host Alicia Malone is the embodiment of the romantic adage that you can literally live your dreams. With her striking red hair, green eyes and penchant for vintage clothing and home decor, Malone wears a modest smile which betrays an insatiable curiosity. Having grown up in Australia’s capital of Canberra, the stylish movie buff moved to Los Angeles in 2010 with a suitcase and a journal filled with goals.
“When I arrived in L.A. I remember I wrote down my biggest dreams,” she recalls. “At the top was ‘Work with TCM (host?).’ I broke it down to small steps. I was content knowing it could take years, or not at all. But eight years later, here I am! And it’s even more wonderful than I imagined.”
Watching Malone introduce a movie on the famed network, it’s clear she fits right in with such TCM luminaries as Ben Mankiewicz, Eddie Muller, the late, great Robert Osborne and fellow newcomer Dave Karger. Her grasp of classic cinema is impressive, not only in the detailed scripts she writes, in which she describes the film’s historical context, but also with her unique presentation and candor. “I try to focus on the story that I find the most interesting — whether it’s about the making of the movie or the bio of the filmmaker,” she reveals of her process. “Ultimately, I hope my enthusiasm transfers through the screen and to the audience.”
The TV host admits she latched on to the classics at an early age. “I started with films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, because of my fascination with Marilyn Monroe, and Rear Window, because that was the first time I started to understand directing,” she explains.
In addition to hosting innumerable screenings, panels and events for TCM, Malone has also written two books about the history of women filmmakers, The Female Gaze and Backward and in Heels. For this cinema fan, women in film — or the lack thereof —is not only a fascinating subject, but a wake-up call. “I started speaking to gender inequality in film when I realized how many people simply weren’t aware there was an issue,” she says. Luckily, the subject of women filmmakers easily fits in with her ongoing obsessions. “Classic films are time capsules. Through movies, you can learn about history, society, culture, politics…” she trails off, looking down at her ’50s swing dress, before concluding, “And fashion!”