Tuesday, December 30

REVIEW: The Imitation Game





Directed by Morten Tyldum
2014 Historical Drama
1 hour 54 minutes
From The Weinstein Company

Starring
Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode
Matthew Beard
Allen Leech
Mark Strong
Charles Dance
Rory Kinnear
Steven Waddington

Saturday, December 27

REVIEW: Big Eyes





Directed by Tim Burton
2014 Drama
1 hour 45 minutes
From The Weinstein Company

Starring
Amy Adams
Christoph Waltz
Danny Huston
Krysten Ritter
Jason Schwartman
Terence Stamp
Jon Polito
James Saito

Friday, December 26

REVIEW: Unbroken





Directed by Angelina Jolie
2014 War Drama
2 hours 17 minutes
From Universal Pictures
and Legendary Pictures

Starring
Jack O'Connell
Domhnall Gleeson
Garrett Hedlund
Takamasa Ishihara
Finn Wittrock
Alex Russell


Thursday, December 25

REVIEW: Into the Woods





Directed by Rob Marshall
2014 Musical
2 hours 4 minutes
From Disney

Starring
Meryl Streep
Emily Blunt
James Corden
Anna Kendrick
Chris Pine
David Huttlestone
Lilla Crawford
Tracey Ullman
Mackenzie Mauzy
Billy Magnussen
Christine Baranski
Johnny Depp


Tuesday, December 23

The Directors: Don Siegel

He was best known for his tough-guy movies and more specifically for five films he made with Clint Eastwood.  (In the end credits for Eastwood's western masterpiece, Unforgiven, he gave a thumb's up to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.)  He worked with quite a number of the Hollywood greats but for whatever reason, he never took on an auteur status nor did he ever gain any great fame with the general public.


Friday, December 19

REVIEW: Foxcatcher





Directed by Bennett Miller
2014 Drama
2 hours 14 minutes
From Sony Pictures

Starring
Steve Carell
Channing Tatum
Mark Ruffalo
Sienna Miller
Vanessa Redgrave
Anthony Michael Hall

Tuesday, December 16

Good 60s Films: The 7th Dawn

1964 War-Romance Drama
From United Artists
Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Starring
William Holden
Capucine
Susannah York
Tetsuro Tamba
Michael Goodliffe
Allan Cuthbertson
Beulah Quo


Friday, December 12

Newman in the Sixties

It would be a daunting task to write about Paul Newman's 80+ films, all of which I have seen and a great many of which I regard as some of America's finest films.  Along with William Holden, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, I consider Newman one of my favorite actors and like the others, one of this country's best.  But writing about all of his work is simply not possible in this format so we need to break it down.  We'll do it by decade... and yes, we'll do "Newman in the...whatever" as we skip along.  The 60s, however, produced an amazing amount of brilliant work, 19 films in all, along with a number of duds.  This decade offers four (of the 10) films in which he costarred with his wife, Joanne Woodward.

Tuesday, December 9

An Embarrassment of Bitches

Valley of the Dolls

1967 Drama
From 20th Century Fox
Directed by Mark Robson

Starring
Barbara Parkins
Patty Duke
Paul Burke
Sharon Tate
Lee Grant
Tony Scotti
Martin Milner
Robert Emhardt
Susan Hayward

Friday, December 5

Peppard

Always fairly lubricated and given to surliness, impatience and rudeness, George Peppard would occasionally come to my pay window for talent payroll at Universal Studios to collect a check for some TV show or movie. Most often he would send one of his minions to collect the check and funny thing... they were usually as disagreeable as he was. If I were to judge him solely by these encounters, I would have disliked him. But I was rather taken by his blond-haired, blue-eyed mischievous handsomeness and an admiration for his acting in some films I immensely liked.

Tuesday, December 2

Good 60s Films: The Pink Panther

1964 Comedy
From United Artists and
The Mirisch Company
Directed by Blake Edwards

Starring
David Niven
Peter Sellers
Robert Wagner
Capucine
Claudia Cardinale
Brenda de Banzie
Fran Jeffries
James Lanphier

Friday, November 28

Count 10 and Pray

Dolores Hart was a young actress in the late 1950s, most famous for playing the love interest of Elvis Presley in two films, and shortly after her 10th film was released in 1963, she joined an abbey in anticipation of her monastic life as a nun.  For many years I lost track of her until just a couple of years ago when a documentary on HBO brought her back into the public consciousness... or at least mine.

Tuesday, November 25

The Directors: Stanley Kramer

I fondly remember Stanley Kramer as the man who made message movies.  He is one of those who made me pay attention to directors instead of just actors.  I found his films to be entertaining with something to say, a point of view which was of a liberal bent.  As a young person, I learned things about life from a few of his films.  And every film he made prior to the 70s, I quite liked... with one exception. 

Friday, November 21

REVIEW: The Theory of Everything







Directed by James Marsh
2014 Biographical Drama
2 hours 3 minutes
From Focus Features

Starring
Eddie Redmayne
Felicity Jones
Charlie Cox
Maxine Peake
Emily Watson
David Thewlis
Simon McBurney
Christian McKay


Tuesday, November 18

Zanuck's Mistresses

He really was a piece of work.  I have mentioned Darryl F. Zanuck more times than any other studio mogul, perhaps due to the fact that he ran my favorite studio, 20th Century Fox.  I have probably covered his contract stars more than any other studio as well... with more to come.  He seemed to have an unerring instinct for what the public wanted, in terms of stories, directors and performers, and he saw to it that we got it.  But his legacy doesn't stop there.

Friday, November 14

Yvette Mimieux

I suppose no one who recalls her will go out of their way to laud her as one of the screen's great actresses.  Hepburn, Davis and Stanwyck likely went to their graves knowing their positions were secure.  And there are still others who would find it easier to pigeon-hole her as a mere starlet, a blonde apparition who floated in a gauze-like manner through colorful scenes of glossy MGM productions.  But I fall somewhere in the middle of these revelations.  I always enjoyed her and thought she brought a refreshing honesty to her roles that left me eager to see her next film.

Tuesday, November 11

German Actors I Hardly Knew

I suppose it was the war that kept German actors from gaining the kind of popularity in America that some other Europeans achieved... especially  those in England, Italy and France.  Of course there was always Dietrich to shoot that theory down but I still cannot recall many back in the sizzling sixties that we're discussing.  But here are three who did capture my attention, albeit briefly.

Friday, November 7

Woody Strode

He was a tall, imposing, handsome, muscular, gentle giant who first made a name for himself in sports and ended up a movie actor. He was most famous for his roles in John Ford movies.  Along the way, unfortunately, he was stereotyped in jungle movies and some other nonsense parts but he was way more capable at his craft than what was required in films like those.  It's likely you have seen and enjoyed him in some good films.

Tuesday, November 4

Good 60s Films: Hud

1963 Drama
From Paramount Pictures
Directed by Martin Ritt

Starring
Paul Newman
Melvyn Douglas
Patricia Neal
Brandon de Wilde

Friday, October 31

Three More from Fox

Here are three more actresses who were under contract to 20th Century Fox.  All came to our attention in the mid-late 50s but were still around in the 60s and later.  One thing that makes this trio a bit more bonded than some others we've written about is they were the stars of 1959s The Best of Everything.

Tuesday, October 28

The Directors: Robert Aldrich

It may be that his name is not as familiar to the general public as some of his more heralded contemporaries.  But I think I can assure you that you have heard of many of his films, some of which could even be among your favorites.  Much of his work holds up quite well.  He was fond of the anti-hero and often placed him in a tug-of-war with his principles. 

Friday, October 24

REVIEW: St. Vincent





Directed by Theodore Melfi
2014 Comedy Drama
1 hour 42 minutes
From the Weinstein Company

Starring
Bill Murray
Melissa McCarthy
Naomi Watts
Jaeden Lieberher
Chris O'Dowd
Terrence Howard

Tuesday, October 21

Jackie B

When I first came across Jacqueline Bisset in the 1960s, I found her to be one of the most beautiful actresses I had ever seen.  Adding to the lustre was that she seemed so unaffected by her beauty which made her all the more alluring to me.  If that wasn't enough, her voice, so clear and direct, often seemed like it wanted to start speaking French mid-sentence.  Then she really had me.  It's a love affair that continues to this day.


Saturday, October 18

REVIEW: The Best of Me


 
 
 
 
Directed by Michael Hoffman
2014 Romance Drama
1 hour 57 minutes
From Relativity Media

Starring
Michelle Monaghan
James Marsden
Luke Bracey
Lianna Liberato
Gerald McRaney



Tuesday, October 14

Good 60s Films: Two for the Road

1967 Comedy Drama
From 20th Century Fox
Directed by Stanley Donen

Starring
Audrey Hepburn
Albert Finney
William Daniels
Eleanor Bron
Gabrielle Middleton
Claude Dauphin
Nadia Gray
Jacqueline Bisset

Friday, October 10

REVIEW: The Judge






Directed by David Dobkin
2014 Drama
2 hours 21 minutes
From Warner Bros. and
Village Roadshow

Starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Duvall
Vera Farmiga
Billy Bob Thornton
Vincent D'Onofrio
Jeremy Strong
Dax Shepard
Leighton Meester
Ken Howard

Tuesday, October 7

Battling Coworkers

Of course we've all had coworkers we didn't get on with, maybe didn't speak to or had a battle royal.  Movie stars can have the same problems and some of those times it hits the press.  And often when their feuds make the news, it's called creative differences.  Other times one or more of the parties deliberately alerts the press.  Some are just plain difficult to get on with and a few to follow have actually been in more feuds than the one I am listing.  Be sure to duck.

Saturday, October 4

REVIEW: Hector and the Search for Happiness





Directed by Peter Chelsom
2014 Comedy-Drama
1 hour 54 minutes
From Relativity

Starring
Simon Pegg
Rosamund Pike
Toni Collette
Stellan Skarsgård
Jean Reno
Sebelethu Bonkolo
S'Thandiwe Kgoroge
Christopher Plummer

Friday, October 3

REVIEW: Gone Girl





Directed by David Fincher
2014 Crime Drama
2 hours 29 minutes
From 20th Century Fox
and Regency Films

Starring
Ben Affleck
Rosamund Pike
Neil Patrick Harris
Tyler Perry
Carrie Coon
Kim Dickens
Patrick Fugit
David Clennon
Lisa Banes
Sela Ward

Tuesday, September 30

From 20th Century Fox

Just for a sense of fair play, instead of showcasing three actors from 20th Century Fox in the 1960s, here are three actresses.  They were all talented ladies but for various reasons, they never quite made it to the top.  You baby boomers and older should have little trouble remembering them or some of their work.  Let's meet them again.

Friday, September 26

REVIEW: The Skeleton Twins





Directed by Craig Johnson
2014 Dramedy
1 hour 33 minutes
From Roadside Attractions

Starring
Kristen Wiig
Bill Hader
Luke Wilson
Ty Burrell
Boyd Holbrook
Joanna Gleason

Tuesday, September 23

Good 60s Films: Tender is the Night

1962 Drama
From 20th Century Fox
Directed by Henry King

Starring
Jennifer Jones
Jason Robards
Joan Fontaine
Tom Ewell
Cesare Danova
Jill St. John
Paul Lukas

Friday, September 19

REVIEW: This Is Where I Leave You






Directed by Shawn Levy
2014 Comedy Drama
1 hour 43 minutes
From Warner Bros

Starring
Jason Bateman
Tina Fey
Adam Driver
Rose Byrne
Corey Stoll
Timothy Olyphant
Connie Britton
Kathryn Hahn
Dax Shepard
Debra Monk
Abigail Spencer
Jane Fonda

Tuesday, September 16

Claudia Cardinale

Perfect for my tribute to the 1960s, Claudia Cardinale arrived in the U.S. from Italy in the early part of that decade, made a splash in a few popular American films, broke some hearts, puffed up some libidos and before decade's end, bid a hasty arrivederci.  It was our loss.

Saturday, September 13

REVIEW: The Last of Robin Hood





Directed by Richard Glatzer
and Wash Westmoreland
Biographical Drama
1 hour 24 minutes
From Samuel Goldwyn Films

Starring
Kevin Kline
Susan Sarandon
Dakota Fanning

Friday, September 12

The Directors: Robert Wise

To movie fans, he is probably best-known as the Academy Award-winning director of two of the most famous musicals of all time, The Sound of Music and West Side Story.  Within the industry he was known as a master craftsman, enormously respected by his peers, with his use of carefully composed images, tight editing and fast pace.  He also made some incredibly successful films.

Tuesday, September 9

Good 60s Films: West Side Story

1961 Musical
From United Artists
Directed by Robert Wise
and Jerome Robbins

Starring
Natalie Wood
Richard Beymer
Russ Tamblyn
Rita Moreno
George Chakiris


Friday, September 5

Rambling Reporter I

A while ago a good friend, a regular reader of this thing, said he quite liked it (purr...!) but proffered you're soooo nice about everything.  I know I gush a bit (!) but this is, after all, called My Romance with Movies not My War with Movies.  I guess he was suggesting I get snarky once in awhile.  Well, ok, I can channel a witchy-bitchy side if I really have to so I am responding to my friend with this... a new idea... a monthly (or so) column where I'll just let my hair down a little.  But don't get too used to it.  I'll be back to gushing real soon.  You heah?

Tuesday, September 2

Jim and Paula

Who are they? Jim and Paula who? Well, all you sixties' movie fans know the answer right off, don't you? You youngins may be a bit flummoxed. They are Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss and for a while, at the dawning of the sixties, they were the go-to comedy couple and quite popular. Her first four films costarred him. For awhile they were regarded as a new screen team. Together, it was said they could be the new William Powell and Myrna Loy... and indeed, I was probably not alone in seeing them as Nick and Nora Charles. Both were so adept at physical comedy and could deliver the most droll lines. Hutton, it was said, could fill the shoes of Jimmy Stewart and Prentiss seemed a natural successor to Rosalind Russell.

Friday, August 29

A Brief Stay in the Limelight

When I think of the movie world of the sixties, I am reminded of the slew of actors and actresses who had a brief flicker of fame and then they pop up in lesser movie parts, soon to TV and guest-starring roles in Murder, She Wrote.  I think this happened during the 60s more than any other decade preceding it.  Truth be told, talented though they were, most of them never did have it... that special something, that chemistry that zooms you to the top and keeps you there. 


Tuesday, August 26

Second Leading Men

They are not to be confused with character actors although sometimes they become that.  They are also not to be confused with leading men although they sometimes land a role that is the lead.  The three actors showcased here, David Brian, Jack Carson and Zachary Scott, were all Warner Bros contract players who never quite rose to the upper echelons.  But like all actors worth their salt, they contributed greatly to your experience of watching that movie.

Friday, August 22

Good 60s Films: Splendor in the Grass

1961 Drama
From Warner Bros.
Directed by Elia Kazan

Starring
Natalie Wood
Warren Beatty
Pat Hingle
Audrey Christie
Barbara Loden
Zohra Lampert
Fred Stewart
Gary Lockwood
Sandy Dennis
Joanna Roos
Jan Norris
Martine Bartlett

Tuesday, August 19

Burton Without Taylor

He of the mellifluous, baritone voice, the pock-marked face and raging energy wanted desperately to be an actor.  More than that, he wanted to be the greatest actor in the world.  He wanted to snatch that appellation away from Laurence Olivier.  One day, however, Olivier would say to Richard Burton... Make up your mind, Dear Heart.  Do you want to be a great actor or a household word? 

Friday, August 15

Bacall

Let's not think of this as your standard obit.  First of all, I am leaving off the RIP in the heading because I'm not sure Bacall can rest in peace.  My guess is it's not in her DNA.  She was restless, haughty, opinionated, frequently unkind, angry and completely full of herself.  She was never soft, certainly not in real life, and there aren't too many film roles that showed a sweet-natured side either.

Tuesday, August 12

My 10 Favorite Movie Scenes

If you think it's difficult to come up with my 50 Favorite Films, imagine the stress I've caused myself coming up with my 10 favorite scenes.  Eight of them will be a bit of a review because they come from my favorite films and two are films not a part of that list. 

Friday, August 8

REVIEW: The Hundred-Foot Journey






Directed by Lasse Hallström
2014 Comedy-Drama
2 hours 2 minutes
From Touchstone

Starring
Helen Mirren
Om Puri
Manish Dayal
Charlotte Le Bon

Tuesday, August 5

The Directors: Norman Jewison

It's most appropriate to discuss this director for my 1960s piece because he started in that decade and I quite admired five of his seven sixties films.  He's directed just 25 films and produced most of those.  He seems to have picked his stories carefully.  Some of his dramas shed light on racial issues and social injustice or  simply the nature of the justice system.  He has managed a comedy or two that are wonderfully satirical and one that is as delightful a rom-com as one could ever want.  He even guided a couple of large-scale musicals.

Friday, August 1

RIP James Shigeta

I always quite liked him... good actor, great voice, easy-going manner, classy. He was the only male Asian-American actor to play romantic leads in decades. It was considered quite daring at the time, that in a couple of his films, the objects of his affection were Caucasian women. So he was a bit of a trendsetter but, of course, his being Asian also limited his opportunities and his being at the top of his game had a short shelf life.

Tuesday, July 29

Those "Parrish" Girls

I just reviewed Parrish (1961) and before that posting I did one on its star, Troy Donahue.  He wasn't the sole focus of the film.  I mentioned that part of my interest in it was watching old pros Claudette Colbert, Karl Malden and Dean Jagger.  But for many a highlight of the film were the three actresses who portrayed the love interests of Parrish.  I thought we'd give each of them a little attention here.  They are, of course, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Sharon Hugueny.

Friday, July 25

Good 60s Films: Parrish

1961 Drama
From Warner Bros.
Directed by Delmer Daves

Starring
Troy Donahue
Claudette Colbert
Karl Malden
Dean Jagger
Connie Stevens
Diane McBain
Sharon Hugueny
Hampton Fancher
Dub Taylor

Tuesday, July 22

Troy Donahue

It seems like I've heard all the jabs... he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag... that's not acting, it's pouting... if you saw one of his movies, why would you see another... he displays emotions from A to A-... lamentably wooden... one of Hollywood's most synthetic creations... pretty to look at but nowhere else to go... and even from an A Chorus Line song: If Troy Donahue could be a movie star, then I could be a movie star.  One day he's a 1960s phenom and the next living on the streets.  Well, not quite the next, but it would come.

Friday, July 18

Suzanne Pleshette

Oh, wasn't she lovely?  When she first came on the scene and I heard that sultry voice, noticed that flirty manner, dark hair, big smile and almost-perfect face, I was so smitten.  There were some young beauties of her time (three coming up soon) but no one captured my attention then quite like Suzanne Pleshette.

Tuesday, July 15

Good 60s Films: Light in the Piazza

1962 Drama
From MGM
Directed by Guy Greene

Starring
Olivia de Havilland
Yvette Mimieux
Rossano Brazzi
George Hamilton
Isabel Dean
Barry Sullivan

Friday, July 11

Good 60s Films: Cape Fear

1962 Drama
From Universal
Directed by J. Lee Thompson

Starring
Gregory Peck
Robert Mitchum
Polly Bergen
Lori Martin
Martin Balsam
Jack Kruschen
Telly Savalas
Barrie Chase

Tuesday, July 8

My First Favorite Aussie

There were two Aussies before him in the forms of Errol Flynn and Peter Finch, but I hadn't paid much attention to them.  Rod Taylor, in all his handsome, cocky, masculine, muscular glory, spoke to me and he certainly qualifies to start our sweep of the 1960s since that was the decade of his greatest fame.

Friday, July 4

Movie-Making in the 1960s

Do movies reflect a sign of the times or are the times reflected in the movies?  I'll go for both.  Each decade has something different to say about the movies.  Talking films were still in their infancy in the early 1930s, which is likely why I didn't much care for them.  That same period is when the production code (the overseer of movie morals) was established.  The 1940s were troubling times, about war and loss, longing and romance.  The 1950s provided escapism; the war was over and sweetness and sunshine were the order of the day.  And then came the 60s.

Tuesday, July 1

Review of My 50 Favorite Films-- and What's Next

Writing about my 50 Favorite Films has been the most fun I've had with the blog so far.  I have loved watching each of them again and then settling in to some serious contemplation as I take various trips down Memory Lane.  I have immensely enjoyed reading the comments some of you have taken the time to write, both pro and con, about my choices. 

Friday, June 27

Heath Ledger

Like with a handful of Hollywood deaths (James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood), I could tell you where I was when I heard that Heath Ledger died.  Some of you may find this silly because, after all, I didn't know Heath Ledger or any of the others.  And to just get some borders around this one, I haven't a clue as to where I was when I heard my father died and I certainly knew him.  But one thing all of the actors I mourned had in common is that they died way too soon... two from automobile accidents, two under highly suspicious circumstances.  Another is that they were people I was mad about and whose new films I was not ready to give up.

Tuesday, June 24

The Directors: Ang Lee


As of this writing, he has only made a dozen films but they have enabled him to become one of the most important and respected directors in America and around the globe. Furthermore, no Asian director has ever touched his kind of success on both sides of the Pacific. Most all of his films have picked up honors from film groups worldwide.  Actors want to work with him and if they have worked with him, they want to do it again. The same can be said for writers, producers, cameramen, costumers and most any technician interested in being involved in a film on some grand scale.  His gift to me was directing my favorite film of all time.

Saturday, June 21

REVIEW: Jersey Boys






Directed by Clint Eastwood
2014 Musical Biography
2 hours 14 minutes
From Warner Bros.

Starring
John Lloyd Young
Erich Bergen
Vincent Piazza
Michael Lomenda
Mike Doyle
Christopher Walken

Friday, June 20

Off to the Canadian Rockies

It started innocently enough.  For some reason I got it into my head that it might be fun to attend a gay rodeo.  I mentioned it to a friend who agreed he'd like to come along.  We Googled appropriate sites and came up with one in Calgary.  Of course it wasn't lost on me that Calgary was where Brokeback Mountain was filmed.  Hey, why not figure out some location sites for BBM and combine seeing them with the rodeo? 

Tuesday, June 17

Brokeback Mountain: Favorite Movie #1

2005 Drama
From Focus Features
Directed by Ang Lee

Starring
Heath Ledger
Jake Gyllenhaal
Michelle Williams
Anne Hathaway
Randy Quaid
Linda Cardellini
Kate Mara
Scott Michael Campbell
Anna Faris
David Harbour
Graham Beckel
Peter Robbie
Roberta Maxwell

Friday, June 13

Picture Quiz IV

Ok, let's give this one a try.  You know you're doing pretty well with these Picture Quizzes.  Don't lie.  There's no scoring... just figure out the names of these 10 movies and you're just too smart for your own good.

Tuesday, June 10

REVIEW: The Immigrant

 
Directed by James Gray
2014 Drama
2 hours
From The Weinstein Company

Starring
Marion Cotillard
Joaquin Phoenix
Jeremy Renner
Dagmara Dominczyk
Angela Sarafyan

Friday, June 6

The Wounded One

Born as Phylis Isley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1919, she was pathologically shy as a child.  Her parents, who had a traveling tent show during good-weather months and owned and ran a movie theater during winters, thought she should perform as a way to curb her shyness.  She balked but would eventually acquire a raging ambition to become an actress, but the shyness never really went away and was joined by severe emotional and mental problems she would have for the rest of her life.  By the time she made an impact on the silver screen, we knew her as Jennifer Jones.

Tuesday, June 3

Original Casting Ideas

I get into actors in their roles.  I am quite taken with who is considered for such and such a role or perhaps who should have been considered.  Often great plans and studies are put into play before someone is cast... always important to find just the right actor.  It's certainly true that insightful casting can bring about more of those dollars into the studio's coffers.  And I have always had such great fun reading who was originally considered for a part or actually signed for it or even who starting filming but dropped out.  Here are some of my favorite casting original ideas or might-have-beens.

Friday, May 30

Dunaway

Joan Crawford once wrote... of all the actresses only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the courage and the class it takes to make one a real star.  I might take exception to that but Joan didn't consult me.  If I had consulted her, however, I might have told her that I am not at all surprised she assessed Dunaway in such a way.  In my mind's eye, they are not all that different as actresses and as movie stars they seem to be almost twins. 

Tuesday, May 27

June Allyson

In MGM's 1974 tribute to itself, That's Entertainment, hostess Elizabeth Taylor referred to her Little Women costar, June Allyson, as MGM's most popular musical sweetheart.  Really?  Well, ok, Judy Garland, Jane Powell and Kathryn Grayson, I guess you can go home now.  No need to stick around.  To be fair, Allyson was one of MGM's most popular stars, that's for sure.  The public embraced her whole-heartedly and her pictures were rousing successes.  And while it's true she did sing and dance, she was hardly in the same league as the ladies just mentioned and a few more who aren't.

Friday, May 23

Van Heflin

He was a most reliable actor, mainly a character actor as I see it, although he did have a number of romantic leads while under contract to MGM in the 40s and would later play leads in a slew of decent B flicks.  No matter what he played one could always count on Van Heflin to deliver the goods.

Tuesday, May 20

Robert Ryan

It's always been said that off screen Robert Ryan was a very nice man but let's be clear... he could portray some of the meanest, most low-down, unsavory characters when the part called for it.  In fact, when I first saw his work when I was a young kid, he rather scared me.  I wouldn't call him a character actor exactly.  As a younger actor, he often had lead roles and sympathetic parts, but more often than not, he was a sinister second lead.  As he aged, he certainly fit comfortably into good-guy character roles.

Friday, May 16

Jan Sterling

She was one of those 1950s smart-mouthed actresses that caught my complete attention.  The more platinum blonde she became, the more hard-bitten and the easier it was for trouble to find her.  Jan Sterling was a damned good bad girl and often had that smart mouth shut permanently by movie's end.  Even when she played a good girl, she was still sassy and knew how to bait a man better than a worm on a fishing hook.  Her striking looks often gave way to a malaise and a weariness.  She knew her craft, that was always apparent.  Yet somehow, for some reason, she never made it to the heights that she might have.   

Tuesday, May 13

Sapphic Traffic

What in the hell was going on in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s that produced so many big lesbian stars?  Are you aware of that?  Maybe it was something in the water or the intoxicating scent of the ever-present orange blossoms or even fresh Los Angeles air. 


Friday, May 9

The Directors: George Sidney

He was what was called a studio contract director.  He was not independent, not a free-lancer.  He was contracted by MGM to do what he was told to do.  In my piece on director Richard Brooks, under contract to the same studio, I mentioned how he bristled at being an indentured servant.  People like Brooks strove for autonomy.  Directors like George Sidney didn't mind at all being told what to direct and when to do it.  Lucky for us he did his job so well. 

Tuesday, May 6

Lilli Palmer

Looking for a book in my library I came across Change Lobsters and Dance, actress Lilli Palmer's terrific mid-70s autobiography.  After reading a few pages, I knew I had my newest posting on an actress I have greatly admired for quite some time.  Her acting was always so engaging and intelligent and her book, by the way, was a total delight, written with style and humor, not written in the usual Hollywood way.

Friday, May 2

Jack Palance

Sudden Fear was my first Jack Palance film and it was a most appropriate title.  He scared me into wide-eyed silence.  Before I could recover I saw him in Shane and shook in my boots.  He was often quiet but his stare seemed to bore a hole in me.  He spoke in a way that was so smarmy and spooky.  His face, which I would come to learn caused a certain angst in many, could make me go cold.  I grew out of this as I got older, of course, but one day as a pedestrian he passed in front of my car while I was stopped at a light at Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds in Beverly Hills and I sat there rather frozen.  Had sudden fear struck again?


Tuesday, April 29

Robert Taylor

Oh, how the ladies drooled over this actor.  I know my mama did.  There was no one like him for her... not even equally handsome Tyrone Power.  In the 1930s and 40s they were the cat's pajamas, I'll tell you.  Well, wait, the 30s were well before my time and I was still pretty young in the 40s, but this is what my mama always said.  I was with her the day she saw him from through our car window and I thought we were going to have an accident.

Friday, April 25

Silvana Mangano

While I am still in a European frame of mind but always willing to write about those actresses who have charmed me over the years, we go to Italy again and check out Silvana Mangano.  She is quite likely not known to young people, certainly not those in America, although perhaps her fame has endured in her homeland. 

Tuesday, April 22

In Their Nineties


Since writing about Doris Day turning 90, I have been giving some thought to those still alive who are also in their 90s.  I began making a list and then Mickey Rooney, one of the first on the list, passes away at 93.  A friend texted me an RIP on Rooney (I think we try to be first to alert the other on famous deaths but she usually beats me) and she said something about those still alive.  So I picked up my list and added a few more names.  I thought I would share with you.  You may know all this or maybe not all.  You probably know some I am not thinking of.  Would love to hear.  Well, anyway, here are those capturing my attention.

Friday, April 18

The Directors: Jean Negulesco

His career can easily be divided into two parts.  The first was some masterful film noir work, mainly at Warner Brothers, and secondly at 20th Century Fox where he steered big-budget, big-cast, glossy productions in comedy, drama, romance and musicals.  I was practically raised on his Fox work.  I didn't miss a single one of them from the 1950s.  It was only later when I went back and familiarized myself with his earlier work that I could scarcely believe it was the same director.

Tuesday, April 15

The King's Quartet

Elvis Presley made 31 films.  Twenty-five of them are among the worst films ever made.  Ever.  Two more are passable and four of them aren't bad at all.  I still don't know if any of the four are all that good, but they certainly stand apart from those crappy 25.  After we drizzle some back story on you, we'll highlight those four.


Friday, April 11

Tom Tryon

Doing the last piece on Romy Schneider and mentioning her film, The Cardinal, made me think of the actor who played the title role, Tom Tryon.  In fact, I haven't been able to stop thinking about him.  And I was reminded of a time in the 1960s when I also couldn't stop thinking about him.  So I've decided to see what I could come up with.

Tuesday, April 8

Romy Schneider

I have never much cared for foreign language films because I don't want to take my eyes off beautiful faces to do all that reading.  But in 1958 I was taken by a neighbor to the local art house to see Christine, a French-language film starring Romy Schneider and soon-to-be boyfriend Alain Delon.  It was my first experience with foreign language films and I formed an immediate dislike, much to my neighbor's chagrin.  But I could not take my eyes off Schneider or Delon, so beautiful were they.

Thursday, April 3

Happy 90th, Doris

Let's all wish Doris Day a happy 90th birthday.  I am doing an alternate-date posting (not on my usual Friday) to celebrate the actual day.  I'm imagining her spending it, happy as can be, letting a pack of dogs lick birthday cake frosting from her fingers.

Tuesday, April 1

Who Is Dewey Martin?

I knew of him because his decade of fame was the 50s.  He was talented, handsome, mercurial and mysterious.  He appeared in a few films that I quite liked and then he disappeared.  Forever.  Has he passed away?  I'm thinking not because even the deaths of long-ago movie actors usually still get reported, but who knows?  It would be just like Dewey Martin to handle his death as mysteriously as he did his life.

Friday, March 28

MGMs Latin Lovers

Érase una vez habia dos ídolos latinos que tomaron Hollywood por asalto. Había algunos antes de ellos.... ooops, sorry, I got carried away. Once upon a time there were two Latin heartthrobs who took Hollywood by storm. There were some before them and there have been a slew since. But during the 50s primarily we had two of them at Hollywood's glamour studio.  Let's see who they are.

Wednesday, March 26

REVIEW: Enemy






Directed by Denis Villeneuve
2014 Mystery Drama
1 hour 30 minutes
From Pathé and A24

Starring
Jake Gyllenhaal
Mélanie Laurent
Sarah Gadon
Isabella Rossellini


Tuesday, March 25

REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel






Directed by Wes Anderson
2014 Comedy Drama
1 hour 40 minutes
From Indian Paintbrush

Starring
Ralph Fiennes
Tony Revolori
F. Murray Abraham
Willem Dafoe
Adrien Brody
Edward Norton
Harvey Keitel
Bill Murray
Jeff Goldblum
Saoirse Ronan
Jude Law
Jason Schwartzman
Tilda Swinton
Owen Wilson
Tom Wilkinson



Friday, March 21

To Kill a Mockingbird: Favorite Movie #2

1962 Drama
From Universal Pictures
Directed by Robert Mulligan

Starring
Gregory Peck
Mary Badham
Phillip Alford
Brock Peters
Robert Duvall
Rosemary Murphy
Frank Overton
John Megna
James Anderson
Collin Wilcox
Estelle Evans
Paul Fix
William Windom
Ruth White
Alice Ghostley

Tuesday, March 18

Lollo

TCM just finished showing some of Gina Lollobrigida's films and now I find myself thinking about her.  I don't exactly spend a lot of time thinking about her and today I've thought about her several times.  What do I really know of her?  How close is her screen persona to the real woman?  Was she really as temperamental as they say?  What's she up to today?  So I thought, hell, let's just do a posting on her. 

Friday, March 14

A Trio of Character Actresses

Time to get acquainted or reacquainted with three superior character actresses... Mildred Dunnock, Jessie Royce Landis and Mildred Natwick.  You've seen each of them in countless movies, no doubt, because they made some big ones.  There aren't enough words to clarify what these ladies brought to films and yet all were primarily stage performers, appearing on Broadway throughout their careers.  Let's get to know them better.

Tuesday, March 11

The Directors: Robert Redford

It was inevitable he would direct.  He spoke of it a number of years before he finally did.  He always paid good attention to everything on the movies he acted in.  He pulled as much information out of his directors as he could and he had worked with some of the best.  He was a controlling person anyway and the way to control everything on a film is to take over the directorial reins.  He may have been one of the brightest stars in the Hollywood galaxy, but he was never one of them. 

Friday, March 7

Suzan Ball

She and I discovered movies the same year... 1952.  Of course my discovery came in candy-stained seats at Peoria's Beverly Theater and hers was on the silver screen courtesy of Universal-International.  My romance with the movies, however, lasted a lot longer than hers.

Tuesday, March 4

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye

I need to send a thank you card or something to Amazon for its policy of recommending books.  Without that I might not ever have heard of an astonishing bio on actress Barbara Payton.  Who, you say?   It's called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, (BearManor Media, 2013).  I can't tell you the last time I enjoyed a book so much or found one so profoundly sad. 

Friday, February 28

Whatever You Say, L.B.

Here's a piece on Van Johnson, MGM's boy nextdoor, a sunny little confection of razzle-dazzle who for a number of  years brought many dollars into the cash registers that L. B. Mayer counted.  But before we can bring any truth to the red-headed actor's story, it is important to understand a thing or two about Mayer and the times in which their story unfolded.

Tuesday, February 25

Sheree North

In the heyday of the great studios, when their contract stars misbehaved or threatened retirement or didn't renew their contracts, studio heads usually had someone waiting in the wings to take over.  My favorite studio, 20th Century Fox, is a great example of this and at one time it spanned three decades and four blondes. 

Friday, February 21

Jeffrey Hunter

Jeff Hunter was standing in front of me in a long line at the Santa Monica Post Office back in 1963... only I didn't know it for awhile.  What I did know was that the man standing in front of me had the greatest backside to look at while standing in a long line.  I remember he had a great haircut, a great tan and was wearing sweats that fit like I wished mine did.  As we slid our packages along the table as the line moved, he turned around, looked straight at me, and made a grunting sound to express his boredom.  Thankfully he didn't say anything intelligible because I could never have managed a single syllable in return, so blinded was I by his handsomeness.

Tuesday, February 18

Steve Cochran

He was a B movie star, a reckless adventurer and a sexual athlete who was more famous for his shenanigans off screen than he ever was on screen.  In fact those peccadilloes in real life likely contributed to his being shunned in reel life.  Considering the egos of movie stars, one could argue the point that he wanted to rise in the Hollywood echelon, but I'm not so sure.  Cochran loved to play, loved to tempt the fates, loved to mess with people's heads.  He snickered at being a Hollywood bad boy.

Friday, February 14

Perfect Casting

I've come up with a dozen performances that I call perfect casting.  Now, listen, I mean perfect... as in no one else could have done this role but the magical one who did it. 

Tuesday, February 11

The Directors: Sydney Pollack

I said in my review of Out of Africa that Sydney Pollack is the best director of his time with a superb body of work.  It's a powerful statement because there were some terrific directors during Pollack's long stay in the sunshine.  But I am sticking with it.  There are no words to say how I was drawn to his work.  He is one of the few directors about whom I could say I have seen every movie the man has directed.

Friday, February 7

REVIEW: The Monuments Men





Directed by George Clooney
2014 War Drama
1 hour 58 minutes
From Columbia Pictures and
20th Century Fox

Starring
George Clooney
Matt Damon
Bill Murray
John Goodman
Jean Dujardin
Hugh Bonneville
Bob Balaban
Dimitri Leonidas
Cate Blanchett

Tuesday, February 4

Out of Africa: Favorite Movie #3

1985 Autobiographical Drama
From Universal Studios
Directed by Sydney Pollack

Starring
Meryl Streep
Robert Redford
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Michael Kitchen
Malick Bowens
Joseph Thiaka
Michael Gough
Suzanna Hamilton
Rachel Kempson

Saturday, February 1

REVIEW: Labor Day






Directed by Jason Reitman
2014 Drama
1 hour 51 minutes
From Paramount Pictures
and Indian Paintbrush

Starring
Kate Winslet
Josh Brolin
Gattlin Griffith
Clark Gregg
Brooke Smith
Tom Lipinski
Maika Monroe
James Van Der Beek
Tobey Maguire

Friday, January 31

Still More Character Actors

It's been awhile since we've done a posting on character actors and I think it's high time we correct that.  How about another trip down memory lane to connect those oh-so-familiar faces with names and a bit of bio?  The three gentlemen in the center ring today, Edgar Buchanan, Elisha Cook Jr. and John McIntire, I first came across in westerns.  All worked plenty in other genres but all filled a saddle in many a film.  They worked a great deal.    Buchanan was in 90 films, Cook was in 98 films and McIntire did 63.  On top of this was a very great deal of television, including TV movies.  Two of them were regulars in one or more TV series.  Let's get to know them a little better:

Tuesday, January 28

He Said, She Said

I started this posting some time ago.  I have been collecting quotes from the famous and about the famous.  They can be funny, bitchy, sad, mean-spirited and enlightening.  Regardless, I think it's time to wrap it up and send off to you. 

Friday, January 24

The Directors: Douglas Sirk

It was only appropriate that I latch on to director Douglas Sirk because his biggest films came in the 1950s, the decade that my romance with movies began.  I saw all of  his films from that decade, not necessarily because I rushed out to see them but because Mama wanted to see them and if she wanted to see a movie, we packed up and headed out.

Tuesday, January 21

The Sound of Music: Favorite Movie #4

1965 Musical
From 20th Century Fox
Directed by Robert Wise

Starring
Julie Andrews
Christopher Plummer
Eleanor Parker
Richard Haydn
Peggy Wood
Charmian Carr
Nicholas Hammond
Heather Menzies
Duane Chase
Angela Cartwright
Debbie Turner
Kym Karath
Ben Wright
Daniel Truhitte

Friday, January 17

Jane Russell

She was never the girl nextdoor type, no siree.  It is no accident that her most famous photograph has her lounging seductively on a stack of hay, peasant blouse down over one shoulder, gun in hand, pout on face and breasts prominent enough to make a red-blooded boy forget about the gun, the pout and the hay.

Thursday, January 16

Oscar Nominations

I wasn't going to do a posting on the Oscar nominations but then I watched them being announced and got all caught up in the excitement.  Or maybe it was because Chris Hemsworth was reading them.  As is the case with every Oscar year, there were predictable nominees and also some surprises.  I cannot do every category here but let's hit some highlights.


Tuesday, January 14

REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis





Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
2013 Musical Drama
1 hour 44 minutes
From CBS Films

Starring
Oscar Isaac
Carey Mulligan
John Goodman
Justin Timberlake
Garrett Hedlund
Ethan Phillips
Robin Bartlett

Saturday, January 11

REVIEW: Lone Survivor





Directed by Peter Berg
2013 War Drama
2 hours 1 minute
From Universal Pictures

Starring
Mark Wahlberg
Taylor Kitsch
Emile Hirsch
Ben Foster
Eric Bana
Yousuf Azami
Ali Suliman

Friday, January 10

REVIEW: August: Osage County





Directed by John Wells
2013 Drama
2 hours 1 minute
From The Weinstein Company

Starring
Meryl Streep
Julia Roberts
Ewan McGregor
Chris Cooper
Julianne Nicholson
Margo Martindale
Juliette Lewis
Benedict Cumberbatch
Abigail Breslin
Dermot Mulroney
Misty Upham
Sam Shepard

Tuesday, January 7

RIP Juanita Moore

Most unfortunately this dear lady will be unknown to most people unless one is very familiar with the 1959 Imitation of Life.  In that case, you know exactly who she is.  Although she worked for a decade before the film and would work many years afterwards, she never again gathered such praise and fame as she did playing Annie Johnson in Imitation of Life.  Moore died on New Year's Day in  Los Angeles, where she lived most of her life.  She was 99.

Friday, January 3

The Hunk

Victor Mature was called all kind of names and The Hunk was simply one of them.  A few others were lush Lothario, Technicolor Tarzan, overripe Romeo, the loafer, glamour boy.  I'm sure there were more.  His distinctive, often-brooding Mediterranean good looks generally found him in films that were pure escapism.  No one would accuse him of being a great actor and that would include him.