Friday, October 13
Tuesday, October 10
In the1930s she was an original. Some say Mae West came close and I say that's an insult to Harlow. West was about as sexy as a bag of cement and she couldn't act her way out of a paper sack. Unquestionably Harlow first became famous for her hair, an electric, very white, platinum blonde which enhanced her sexy demeanor. She would in time become known as a good comedic actress.
Friday, October 6
Tuesday, October 3
1937 Comedy Drama
Directed by Gregory LaCava
Samuel S. Hinds
Directed by Gregory LaCava
Samuel S. Hinds
Saturday, September 30
Friday, September 29
Tuesday, September 26
Friday, September 22
He got my attention when I was quite young because he directed some westerns I much admired. He also directed many adventure films and crime dramas, two other genres I have always been drawn to. He was a tough guy in real life and as a director but he never minded getting as much as he gave in that department. It's probably one reason he was drawn more to male-driven stories and worked often with actors like Cagney, Flynn and Bogart. He and I also had in common a love of those sassy, smart-mouthed actresses with some of his favorites being Virginia Mayo, Ida Lupino and Jane Russell.
Tuesday, September 19
Friday, September 15
It comes well-pedigreed being the fifth oldest film studio in the world. It is also the second oldest American studio (behind Universal) and is the only one of the Big Six still in Hollywood. Like all but one of the big studios it was founded by a savvy Jewish businessman from Europe who saw early on that there was a future for him in the entertainment business.
Tuesday, September 12
The gentleman once said about himself and his most frequent co-star... we weren't acting, we were just two people in perfect timing. Indeed. The always-dapper dude from Pittsburgh and the rancher's daughter from Montana made 14 films together and seemed so perfect for one another that much of the public thought they were married in real life. Interestingly (for Hollywood types), they weren't even romantically involved.
Friday, September 8
Tuesday, September 5
I saw him several times in the late 1950s at the ultra-glam Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. As I outlined in a piece I called The Caddy, I was hopelessly trying to be one. Gable and I had seen one another several times in passing. One day we were in an area alone together and he looked at me, flashing that famous smile, and asked me if I was new. He seemed very nice and not at all like the world-famous movie star he was. He also looked even older than he appeared on the screen. I thought he appeared quite worn out from his jaunt around the links but was trying to cover it up. I was rarely in awe of meeting movie stars but I made an exception for him.
Friday, September 1
To be perfectly upfront, it took me years to get into films of the 1930s. Oh sure, I liked some movies from that time but I generally just found them to be so old, mostly in black and white and kind of corny. In some ways, a bit of that still feels the same but let there be no doubt I have come to appreciate the decade. Quite a number of the movies are classics, a large number of actors remain among the most memorable of all-time and the decade undeniably had some bouts with history.
Tuesday, August 29
Saturday, August 26
Friday, August 25
I think the last decade that could be called wholesome was the 1950s. We've drifted away from that every decade since and even by 1970 it seemed like an anachronism. And yet... and yet at least three actors tried to make careers out of that very trait. Good looks, a sense of decency, a touch of innocence, a knack for tackling emotions and they were ready to go. And even in the hard core 70s they were able to pull it off. And then one day they no longer could. Their first names all start with an R. Any idea who they might be?
Tuesday, August 22
We're starting a new series called Remakes which will highlight films that have been made more than once. Sometimes the title is maintained, sometimes not. Usually the original is by far the better film and occasionally the remake is surprisingly good. There have been times the remake becomes a musical where the original was not. We'll see what we come up with. Let's begin with Stagecoach.
Friday, August 18
Tuesday, August 15
He is the greatest of maverick writer-directors whose most notable accomplishment-- and it's considerable-- is being the founding father of U.S. independent film-making. Some may say one of the founding fathers and while that may technically be true, in my estimation no one was ever more dedicated to putting out indie films than this man. Let's consider that the Independent Spirit Awards (televised every year usually one day ahead of the Oscar show) honors the best new film-maker with the prestigious John Cassavetes award.
Friday, August 11
Here is half of one of the most legendary actress-director screen partnerships in Hollywood history. There have been a number of other pairings but few evoke the stirring memories created by beautiful Gena Rowlands and her maverick husband, John Cassavetes. Together, they were king and queen of the indies for 20 years, a deluxe duo who brought a searing realism to films like we'd never seen before.
Tuesday, August 8
Friday, August 4
Tuesday, August 1
Friday, July 28
Hollywood certainly never had a problem with recycling. It was accomplished most effectively with a trio of young women (often roommates) in search of husbands. The stories were all pretty trite and pointless but the actresses were almost always quite fetching and once in awhile the locations (usually European) made the film look more like an exciting travelogue with pretty hostesses. 20th Century Fox made a fortune with this well-worn plot. Here are a dozen of them:
Tuesday, July 25
Friday, July 21
Tuesday, July 18
She never worked that much in the movies, certainly not as much as some of her contemporaries and one wonders why. And let's get it out there and you can mull it over as we chat... Judith Anderson was a magnificent actress. She was highly-trained, a masterful stage actress, a vigorous interpreter of the classics and could have out-acted most of those contemporaries whom she merely supported in films. Was she identified as too much of a stage actress to even be offered much of a career in films? Was she too formidable for some? Did her playing Mrs. Danvers stall a future career? Was it her looks? Her closeted lesbianism? What exactly?
Friday, July 14
Tuesday, July 11
The movies were fortunate to have had Mike Nichols want to come aboard as a director. He had established himself as part of a sharp-edged comedy team and would ultimately be one of the most awarded directors on Broadway. But you know what? He thought he had something to offer to the movies and as it turned out, he was so right. With just his first and second films, he gave Hollywood a face-lift. Some would say it was needed, some would offer it wasn't. He is a director whose films I made sure I saw (with one exception) and I was almost always rewarded with a great time.
Friday, July 7
She's one of those for whom we don't need a last name. We know of whom we're speaking. It seems more reasonable that I would have done a posting on her when I did my tribute to the 1940s since that was her most acclaimed decade but for one reason or another it didn't work out. On the other hand it's not totally a head-scratcher to bring her up as part of our salute to the 1970s since she was not only still working but won her third Oscar in that decade. So let's see what we can say about Ingrid Bergman.
Tuesday, July 4
Friday, June 30
Tuesday, June 27
Jack Nicholson has spent his long career being one of the great movie stars... in my estimation, one of the greats of all time. When it comes to comedy, he's one of the best and his turns at drama render him positively riveting. As of this writing he has made 60 movies as an actor, three as a director, six as a writer and eight as a producer. He has been nominated for 12 acting Oscars (the most of any male actor) and won three of them. He made 19 films before he came to worldwide attention in 1969s Easy Rider. Every decade since he has made a collection of memorable films. Here are those from the 1970s.
Friday, June 23
Tuesday, June 20
Someone once described her as a Boticelli cracking a malicious grin. I regarded her as the high priestess of movie comediennes in the 1970s whose deadpan expressions drove me crazy with laughter and whose voice was truly her best instrument. She was a sensation on Broadway, a multiple Tony nominee, and she admitted she owed her movie career mainly to Mel Brooks with an extra nod to Peter Bogdanovich.
Friday, June 16
Here we have 10 more actors who indeed had some odd careers. Some had a famous role... and then nothing. There are even a couple of Oscar nominees. Several were young and simply never graduated to adult roles. Some come from acting families and didn't make the cut. Some were very talented. Let's see who they are.
Tuesday, June 13
Being as fond of writers as I have always been, it has been fascinating for me over the years to become more aware of what movies come from the pen of the same person. So, like any good sleuth, I have looked them up, always finding a few surprises along the way. Of the 25 people listed, some have written an original work, some are adaptations of previously-published works and some are cowritten with others not mentioned. I have not specified which is which. Check it out:
Friday, June 9
Tuesday, June 6
Friday, June 2
Tuesday, May 30
Here are three more actors who have added immeasurably to the films they have appeared in but despite looks and talents have never become the big stars they likely once aspired to be. I can't say that I have particularly followed their careers and yet I gave seen them all in countless films. I suspect what they have in common is a certain blandness, which, unless one is Harrison Ford, it doesn't turn into a golden career. Let's see who they are and perhaps enjoy a trip down Memory Lane.
Friday, May 26
He was more successful and renowned as a screenwriter than a director and in both fields the result was edgy, noirish, brutal, sexual and existential and often focused on social alienation and cultural revolt. There is no doubt he deserved his place among
that movie brat club of directors of the late 70s although he only made two films in that decade.
that movie brat club of directors of the late 70s although he only made two films in that decade.
Tuesday, May 23
For awhile in the late 1970s, Jill Clayburgh and I had a little romance, although she was unaware of it. She made her mark playing strong, independent women and that was and is my favorite kind of woman. She and Fonda, Dunaway, Burstyn, Marsha Mason and a few others ruled in those days and I saw most all of their films. Clayburgh, in particular, though seemed to be more accessible than the others and she had a wonderful flair for comedy.
Friday, May 19
Anticipation was feverish when Rex Harrison took to the podium in 1966 to announce the best actress winner for 1965. There were two British Julies in contention and most expected the last name to be called would be Andrews for her world-famous performance as Maria in the mega-hit The Sound of Music. But the surname he called out was Christie and for a little-known film (in the States) called Darling. It seemed astonishing and even more so because she was not nominated for her own mega-hit the same year, Dr. Zhivago. The world would sit up and take notice of everything this beauty would do but stardom would never be her cup of tea.
Tuesday, May 16
Friday, May 12
He was a director of early Czech New Wave comedies who came to American films in the early 70s and directed an impressive but small collection of them about rebels, eccentrics and unlovable celebrities. Due to his upbringing, he found the subject matter he wanted to explore in most of his films... the outsider who resists giving in to those who want to control his life. He has enjoyed themes of liberty and free speech. After arriving on American shores he rather quickly won two Oscars for best direction. He seemed to have much to say so one wonders why he has worked so little as a movie director.
Tuesday, May 9
Friday, May 5
He was one of those powerful actors... booming voice, intimidating presence, a messenger of raw honesty. He made 56 big-screen appearances, countless and often most prestigious television movies and revered Broadway performances. Jason Robards was not only considered the premier interpreter of playwright Eugene O'Neill, but that work owes Robards a debt of gratitude for keeping the plays in the public's consciousness.
Tuesday, May 2
Friday, April 28
Max von Sydow has managed to balance his acting career on two different planes for many years. On the one hand he started out in his native Sweden as director Ingmar Bergman's gloomy alter-ego and then morphed into an internationally sought-after character actor with an intellectual bent, often specializing in austere villainous roles. His tall, imposing, often severe and mysterious presence can occasionally give way to a glorious smile. However one cuts it, this is a most watchable actor who has performed in foreign productions across the planet.
Tuesday, April 25
She doesn't look like a movie star and when I see her on the big screen I never catch her acting. What she brings to her work is a seamless naturalness and extraordinary intelligence unlike almost anyone I've ever seen. It's not like watching her up on that screen at all but rather like chatting with her on my sofa. And the strangest thing is that she has never much acted like a star, never courted publicity or attention and yet she's made movies longer than most and is still at it.
Friday, April 21
Ford, Hitchcock, Huston and all that crowd, no matter where they were as the 1970s dawned on that great sunny playground called Hollywood, must have wondered whatinthehell was happening to their profession? Or for that matter... Hollywood itself. Everybody was pissed off, against more than they were for, making depressing movies about real life and doing drugs. It seemed like a movement to the old guys and they were sure no good could come of it. Like all good movements, a leader is needed or at least a symbol. Enter Hal Ashby.
Tuesday, April 18
Friday, April 14
It's been some time since I've read an autobiography/memoir and my life works better when I have one going. Alec Baldwin has put together a bright and breezy one, ready for public consumption. I should tell you that I like Alec Baldwin and always have. There was a time I, um, really liked him but that's another posting. He's always impressed me as honest and sometimes a little loose-lipped and I thought the combination of the two would make for a good read. From my point of view he didn't disappoint.
Tuesday, April 11
How about meeting a few folks from behind the scenes? For the most part, for a majority of the public, these are some unsung heroes. Within the industry, of course, these are heroes whose praises were sung all the time. Most actresses remember who dressed them for a particular film and we're visiting the movie colony's most famous costumer. All actors care very much about how they are shot... we're speaking cinematographers here. Stunt people are revered as well and the one we're saluting also handled directing B units on some of his films. A director's best friend is an editor and whether you know it or not, she's yours, too. Let's visit this first group of four.
Friday, April 7
She is probably as identified with the 70s as anyone could be although by the end of the decade there wasn't a lot of steam left. She had a near-genius IQ and a hunger to become noticed and acting was an easy call. While she certainly had moments of delivering heartfelt performances, her rather quirky personality and unusual look found her engaging in a number of unorthodox performances in oddball films.
Tuesday, April 4
Friday, March 31
Tuesday, March 28
He was a unique character in a number of ways. He looked like he knew his way around the docks of his native New Jersey with his misshapened, gaunt face and tough-guy demeanor and fists to back it all up. At the same time, he had been a voracious reader since a childhood bout with rheumatic fever that kept him in bed for long periods of time. He ultimately became a stage actor with a background in the classics. He could be rough around the edges and yet kind and thoughtful. He was an ideal candidate to become one of the leading figures of the film renaissance of the 1970s.
Friday, March 24
Here are three actors, one man and two women, I very much liked at the height of their fame. Each made a contribution to the movie world in his or her own way in the 60s and 70s and then seemed to disappear, at least from American screens. Sometimes it seems to me that the further we get away from the 40s, the shorter careers were. All are Canadians with two being specifically French-Canadians, born in Quebec, and the other comes from the opposite side of the country, British Columbia. Any idea who they might be?
Tuesday, March 21
Friday, March 17
Once upon a time there were four acting brothers and their last name was not Baldwin. It was Bottoms and don't think we didn't have some fun with that back in the 70s. Their first names are Timothy, Joseph, Sam and Ben. They have had varying degrees of success-- Timothy, by far, the most successful-- and today he is the most remembered of the four although the youngins today probably haven't heard of any of them.
Tuesday, March 14
He came into his own in the 1970s with a trio of wonderful conspiracy thrillers, often called the Paranoia Trilogy, and his influence was celebrated throughout the entire decade. The public flocked to his films because they knew they were in for a helluva good time. He directed two stunningly-talented women to best actress Oscars. Before he directed he was a producer and part of a duo whose stamp on a film meant accolades for both. What seems odd is that such a sophisticated filmmaker would not only fall in a slump from which he wouldn't truly recover but that his total directorial output was a mere 16 films.
Friday, March 10
There are some actors and actresses that I have the hardest time understanding how they made it in Hollywood. They are usually not very talented and not good-looking, two prerequisites to carving out a successful career. And there are others who are quite handsome or beautiful and may or may not have talent and they don't make it. Some fell by the wayside because they just could never relate to the crazy business of movie-making. Some had behavior issues or got a case of Mr. Bighead. Some it's just plain perplexing. Let's look at some odd movie careers.
Tuesday, March 7
France loves its cinema and for years has held three actresses in iconic status. There's the sex kitten Brigitte Bardot, the beautiful ice queen Catherine Deneuve and the subject of today's posting, one of the great screen goddesses of our time, by far the best actress of the three, the luminous Jeanne Moreau.
Friday, March 3
Tuesday, February 28
He delivered stern, raucous, steely-eyed performances, full of mischief, temperament and arrogance. When he was in a scene, it was pretty difficult to watch anyone else. While he began acting in the late 40s, he didn't really come into his own until the 70s and then he seemed to be everywhere. It might have gone on forever, but sadly Robert Shaw was dead by the end of the decade.
Friday, February 24
Tuesday, February 21
From Paramount Pictures
Directed by Sidney Lumet
From Paramount Pictures
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Friday, February 17
The bloom is still on this English rose. She would fit into most any decade I am highlighting in these pages because she started movie acting in the late 1940s and made a movie for television as late as two years ago. There is a delicacy about her lovely looks but she was always tougher and more resilient than perhaps many people gave her credit for. I think the greatest compliment to bestow upon her is the great respect she has been accorded over the years. Any production is most lucky to have Claire Bloom.
Tuesday, February 14
When in 1954 I heard that Elizabeth Taylor and rampaging pachyderms were going to split open the silver screen in Elephant Walk, we know I had to go. I was a wee bit of a thing but I knew a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Playing her rather childish, boozy husband was Peter Finch. I had no idea who he was and he's lucky I paid any attention to him at all considering his competition. His character seemed bedeviled and oh so moody. I guessed that the actor was that way, too. I thought I was on to something.
Friday, February 10
Tuesday, February 7
She burst onto the world scene in the late 1960s with her independence, intelligence, slightly androgynous looks and saucer-like, mocha nipples, all of which were in full bloom in most of her subsequent movies. For my money, I didn't think I'd ever seen anyone quite like her. The 1970s were unquestionably her most acclaimed decade. By the early 1990s she was doing TV movies and then said goodbye to it all and went into politics. What a career! What an actress! What a woman!
Friday, February 3
Tuesday, January 31
We can probably conclude that she is the same blithe spirit today that we realized she was when we first became aware of her 57 years ago. Oh, like a lot of us as we age, she's let go of an assortment of childish notions, especially the ones that no longer serve her. There was a time when she seemed to court attention and then thumb her nose at any criticism. She would do it her way. And that is one of the mainstays in her life. She still does it her way but she's a bit more mellow about it.
Friday, January 27
He spent a long career playing military men. What is fascinating about that is that he was twice turned down for military service and although he was ultimately accepted, he was eventually discharged because he was found mentally unstable. Trevor Howard played authoritarian roles most of the time. It was difficult for him to blend into the woodwork.
Tuesday, January 24
Friday, January 20
Tuesday, January 17
Friday, January 13
For a short while, he was at the very center of the American New Wave that I referred to in my piece on Movie-Making in the 1970s. Like his contemporaries, he wasn't looking for the cotton candy, happiness and Technicolor of the past, but rather a bitter look at truth, disillusionment and seemingly focusing on what folks were against rather than what they were for. When Bob Rafelson starting directing films, it was during a period of commercial and artistic revival. He and other brat-boy directors usually had a film school background, ventured freely into the counter-culture and were young and catered to them.
Tuesday, January 10
All these years later it doesn't really matter whether I saw Brad Davis or not but I am pretty sure I did... twice. Both occasions were fleeting and a few weeks apart at the same gay bar. It was late, the bar was dimly lit and most of us had probably had a few too many. Dancing was not a specialty at the bar but here was this shirtless person dancing around by himself with a crowd gathered around him.
Friday, January 6
Tuesday, January 3
Unless I live long enough to see another such decade, for me the 1970s will be the one that produced the most significant change in films. The end of the 60s certainly brought about some vital considerations (Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Easy Rider, The Wild Bunch, 2001: A Space Odyssey... I mean helllloooo), and as fine and revolutionary as those films were, the industry itself was still operating with training wheels. By the time the 70s were over, those wheels were not only long gone but we could scarcely catch our breath.