Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Orry-Kelly - he's back ...

A hefty 420 page tome landed on my coffee table yesterday - Orry-Kelly's memoirs from 50 years ago - in a glamorous book crammed with photos and Orry's true story of his youth in Australia and move to New York in 1932 when he took up with another aspiring young man: Archie Leach from Bristol. They moved in together as they pursued their respective careers. The penny-pinching Archie of course became Cary Grant (who later moved in with Randolph Scott to save rent money ...) - we get Orry's take on all that, as he of course became one of the leading dress designers in Hollywood: the book's full title is: WOMEN I'VE DRESSED - THE FABULOUS LIFE AND TIMES OF A LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD DESIGNER.

Reading the rave review in the weekend papers I felt this had to be a con, a fake concocted by some hack - but its the real thing. Orry's 50 year old memoir was found in a pillowcase by his great-niece in her laundry room, and its been given the full gloss treatment by reputable publishers Allen & Unwin, and is well worth the price for the photos alone.  

Orry (1897-1964) was a costume designer per excellence (he was chief costume designer at Warner Bros from 1932 to 1944) and won an Oscar three times (AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, LES GIRLS, SOME LIKE IT HOT); he dressed Hollywood's leading ladies including Bette Davis in all her great movies (JEZEBEL, DARK VICTORY, NOW VOYAGER etc), Ingrid Bergman in CASABLANCA, he was great friends with Fanny Brice, Kay Francis and Roz Russell, he liked Olivia  but clashed with her sister Joan, loved working with Kay Kendall and has some delicious stories on making LES GIRLS, a particular favourite of ours here - see label - and also clashed with Marilyn Monroe when designing those incredible dresse for her on SOME LIKE IT HOT, where he also dressed Jack and Tony in those 1920s costumes .... he also did THE CHAPMAN REPORT, SWEET  BIRD OF YOUTH, GYPSY, AUNTIE MAME and so many more.
He did several Billy Wilder films and when he died of liver cancer in 1964 pall bearers at his funeral included Cary, Tony Curtis, Wilder and Cukor. 

He had quite a wild time when young in Sydney - he was 17 when he moved there -  and we get it all in detail, before his move to the States. Its page 160 before he arrives in Hollywood .... and became one of the great designers, on a par with Adrian, Irene Sharaff, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Jean Louis ... he often worked on as many as 60 films a year. We get some Garbo stories, and he used to dine with Cukor, Cole Porter, and the Hollywood elite. He did have a problem with alcohol in his later years ... but comes across as as a happy, likeable guy - widely perceived to be gay, but he kept that under wraps here - well, it was written over 50 years ago (and Cary was still alive). So, highly recommended .... there will hardly be a more glamorous book this year.  

It is also going to be a film: WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED, directed by fellow Australian Gillian Armstrong, who writes the foreword here. That should be fascinating too. 

Vanity Fair 2016 Hollywood

But first. another look at that 2001 cover for their first music issue.  Interesting seeing David Bowie and Joni Mitchell side by side here - flanked by Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris etc. (Joni it seems is now doing well, according to Chaka Khan who is doing a tribute album on her). 
The 2016 Hollywood issue is not quite as good as their previous, but has a few good features, including one on those Sixties British movies like BLOW-UP, THE KNACK, ALFIE, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT - nothing new, but nice to see them featured, and also a history of THE MALTESE FALCON. The layout, again by Annie Leibovitz, features a collection of Hollywood ladies - including this year's Oscar nominees, box-ended by Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton - who seems to have been photoshopped in at the end - I'm afraid Diane hasn't been in anything relevant for years .... again one wonders if all 13 ladies were there at the same time, maybe 3 or 4 at a time perhaps as part of a composite whole ?
Nothing though tops their 2001 issue, where Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Meryl and Vanessa were the highlights surrounded by those newer girls: Blanchett (who gets to be a lot of covers), Winslet, Paltrow (ditto), Kidman, Cruz .....

Suite Francaise

Today's guest reviewer is my good pal Jerry, another IMDB regular - we meet every few months for an afternoon of drinks, chat, gossip and swops and lends of obscure dvds ..... I am actually seeing him again this Saturday, as we had to postpone our Christmas meeting. Here is his take on SUITE FRANCAISE which he enjoyed a lot .... it ticked a lot of boxes for him, liking Kristin and Matthias as he does ...
"SUITE FRANCAISE, 2014 - Would you let a hot Nazi occupy your back parlour? is the probing ethical dilemma at the heart of this lush,smooth, well mounted and extremely silly but engaging tale of forbidden love. Michelle Williams is our heroine - living in occupied France in a small village - her husband a POW in Germany. Billeted with her is Bruno, a nice Nazi (hunk du jour Matthias Schoenaerts) - we know he is nice because he plays the piano, minds his Ps and Qs - and doesn't much like executing the villagers. Before you can say "Vive la Difference" Michelle loses her scruples and her knickers and they are at it all over the manor house. Will Michelle's mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas in full frosty bitch mode) get wind of their romance? Will Matthias' superiors discover their illicit liaison? Will love build a bridge or lead to the firing squad ? - Good range of supporting villagers - at the top of the social spectrum are Lambert Wilson & Harriet Walter as the Mayor and his wife - (unluckily made an example of) .. at the bottom are dirt poor farmers Sam Riley & Ruth Wilson - and somewhere in between with her legs in the air is village bike Margot Robbie, who figures the German soldiers are fit and horny and therefore fair game (and I'm with her all the way on that one - the scene of the Soldiers performing their ablutions in the village square look like out takes from the Night of the Long Knives in Visconti's THE DAMNED ). It's all very old fashioned and tense towards the end as Riley kills the nasty Nazi who is after Wilson and hides out in KT's attic, and Matthias finds his loyalties tested . It ends a bit abruptly - the source being an unfinished manuscript by a holocaust victim discovered years after the event. Williams , who I admired greatly in TAKE THIS WALTZ and the MARILYN film - is very variable here - and KST could do this sort of part in her sleep - and whilst Schoenaerts is good I think he looks better with a beard (see FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD) Wilson seems like a star in the making - highly recommended to anyone who likes old school romances of a VERBOTEN nature - don't let the lukewarm reviews - "Mon Dieu!" said The Standard  - and absence of any other support put you off. Directed by one Saul Dibb." 

Yup, its an ideal treat for a wet afternoon, with some chocs to hand ..... don't let those snooty movie buffs who only see important films put you off. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Hardy & Mad Max ....

"My name is Max. My world is fire and blood. Once, I was a cop. A road warrior searching for a righteous cause. As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy... me... or everyone else." - So begins MAD MAX; FURY ROAD as Max narrates ..... Then, what follows is a bonkers non-stop action movie to end all action movies - no wonder it is nominated for 10 Oscars - it will be interesting to see how many it takes home.

We enjoyed the previous MAX MAD movies, particularly that first one, and George Miller returns to the helm here. Tom Hardy is now Max, mainly silent at first while Charlize Theron has probably her best role as Furiosa, and Nicholas Hoult is unrecognisable as Nux, 
The stunts and action sequences are spectacular - its a non-top ROAD RUNNER cartoon, a bananas car chase , as Max and Furiosa have to work together to fight their evil foes. There's over 1,450 very diverse reviews on it over at IMDB so its really hit a nerve. One wonders though how they have enough gasoline for all that driving, and do they manage without eating anything? There isn't really any character development or plot as such apart from the extended car chase - but hey, thats enough for a lot of people. 

The Hardy boy seems everywhere at the moment - after ten years or so. It was fun the other day seeing him as Handsome Bob in a re-run of Guy Ritchie's ROCKNROLLA from 2008 in that amusing scene with Gerard Butler, and there he was in MARIE ANTOINETTE too, when I saw it again the other day. INCEPTION, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES were also megahits. His clothes seem to fall off him almost as often as Russell Tovey's or Matthias Schoenaerts or Fassbender ..... there is that scene on Hampstead Heath in SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE in 2006 (see review at Hardy label), and the internet has that scene in a Finnish sauna: DRIVEN TO EXTREMES: COLDEST ROAD - where he is beaten with twigs in a sauna - its on YouTube and there are some gifs.  He will be sans underwear again in a new project TABOO currently filming. ...

This year, MAX MAX is a super-hit, he also scores in THE REVENANT and may get a Supporting Actor Award, I will be seeing LEGEND next week (my pal Jerry is passing it on to me this weekend) where he plays both Kray Brothers, which should be a tour-de-force, the recent THE DROP was interesting too .... looks like another busy year for him then. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Hail Caesar ?

Here's a new one! I had not heard of the Coen Brothers new one HAIL CAESAR! but it features Channing Tatum doing a sailor number (a la Gene Kelly?) , and Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton are in it too (see A BIGGER SPLASH below), along with Clooney ..... sounds intriguing at the very least ! 
The BFI says: "25 years after BARTON FINK the Coens revist Capitol Pictures with another colourful portrait of studio-era Hollywood. This time its the 1950s and Capitol boss Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is making a prestige Roman epic, but all hell breaks loose when star George Clooney is kidnapped. Many familiar faces - Tilda Swinton as Hedda Hopper (didn't Helen Mirren also portray Hopper in TRUMBO..) - populate an extraordinary cast." There's also Tatum doing a camp musical number, and Scarlett Johansson as perhaps Esther Williams doing a swimming number ....
We can see it when it opens here in March, (There really was an Eddie Mannix at MGM back in the day, a Mr Fixit for the stars). 

ANOTHER Bigger Spash !

Now that the Oscar-bait movies are all released and on show, its good to see some interesting new international movies appearing here in London. I am very intrigued by the new A BIGGER SPLASH - no, not another Hockney - but Luca Guadagnino's new film which - intriguing for me - seems a remake of Jacque Deray's stylish French thriller LA PISCINE from 1969 which re-teamed Alain Delon and Romy Schneider with Maurice Ronet whose daughter was played by Jane Birkin - a very stylish murder story around that swimming pool.

This time around its Ralph Fiennes in it seems towering form, with Tilda Swinton as a Bowie-esque rock star on holiday, who it seems stays silent after throat surgery, and with hunk de jour Matthias Schoenaerts as her lover. The daughter is Dakota Johnson (the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffiths, and granddaughter of Tippi Hedren). I loved Guadargnino's operatic melodrama I AM LOVE in 2009 - a modern Italian classic, where Tilda was amazing again (see Tilda label), so we are looking forward to this one -  Fiennes and Swinton are never less than compelling and both seem on top form here; we will be rushing to it when it opens here on Feb 12.

Another modern Italian classic I loved was Paolo Sorrentino's THE GREAT BEAUTY in 2013, so his new one, in English, YOUTH also has to be a must-see. I don't rush to Michael Caine films but will have to make an exception here, it also has a good role for Harvey Kietel and it should at least be interesting to see Caine and Jane Fonda (if they have scenes together) 50 years after their teaming in Otto's HURRY SUNDOWN back in 1966 ... what a lulu that was (Fonda label). This poster is not the one being used here in the UK.
Hilarious reading the reviews on DIRTY GRANDPA - maybe the worst film Robert De Niro has churned out in recent years? He is entitled to do as he pleases of course in his 70s, but hard to picture Travis Bickle of TAXI DRIVER or Jimmy Doyle of NEW YORK NEW YORK or his RAGING BULL or GOODFELLAS appearing in drivel like this ... surely he could have said no this time ? I suppose we will be laughing at it in due course ...... 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

People we like: Glenn or Gilda ?

I had Glenn Ford pegged as one of those new post-war guys who came along after World War II - like Peck, Lancaster, Douglas, Mitchum - but, like his pal William Holden, Ford stole a march on them as he and Holden were in movies by the late 1930s - by 1946 Ford, after a busy time in genre movies, had worked his way up to co-starring with not one but two Bette Davis sisters in A STOLEN LIFE - then, came GILDA !

GILDA is a noir riot now - a fusion of sexual heat, jealousy, fear and hatred - terrific stuff!
Johnny Farrell is a gambling cheat who turns straight to work for sinister casino owner Ballin Mundson. But things take a turn for Johnny as his alluring ex-lover Gilda, whom he has come to hate, appears as Mundson's wife, and Mundson's machinations begin to unravel.
Ford's Johnny Farrell comes over like a sleazy punk on the make, down Argentina way, as he falls in with nightclub owner and racketeer George Macready - the two men seem to have an odd almost homoerotic relationship, and then Mundsen returns from a trip with his new wife: Gilda, an old flame of Farrell's and the sexual tensions build up, to that delirious climax. Rita is in her element here, and Glenn matches her all the way. It remains a key film noir set in that mythical 1940s world of nighclubs and casinos.

Ford has always been a person we like here, amiable (usually), unassuming, keeping busy shifting effortlessly between dramas, westerns, comedies - looking equally at home in a suit, military outfits or cowboy gear - but not in a toga or tights, like Bogart he just looked too modern for period films.  He seems curiously under-appreciated now, usually ignored by the fan mags, but was a busy actor right through the Fifties and into the mid-Sixties - and was effective as an ordindary, everyday hero.

Lang's THE  BIG HEAT in '53 and Brooks' THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE in 1955 were two of the major dramas of the era, as well as more routine items like TRIAL, RANSOM, and the romantic INTERRUPTED MELODY. He and Gloria Graham were also back with Fritz Lang for HUMAN DESIRE in '54. His westerns included THE AMERICANO, JUBAL, THE VIOLENT MEN, 3.10 TO YUMA, COWBOY, THE SHEEPMAN, CIMARRON in 1960, and then there were comedies like TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON (with Brando playing Japanese), two with Debbie Reynolds: THE GAZEBO and I remember IT STARTED WITH A KISS  being very funny.  He continued into the Sixties with two for Minnelli: the 1962 odd re-working of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE and the charming THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER in 1963. He was effective as the FBI agent in Blake Edwards' EXPERIMENT IN TERROR with Lee Remick, also 1962 - see Ford label, and the 1964 airline crash drama FATE IS THE HUNTER.  He was re-united with Bette Davis too (in a supporting role this time) in Capra's schmaltz-fest A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES in 1961, before BABY JANE revived her career.  
I did not get a chance to see Delbert Mann's DEAR HEART in 1964, it played the lower half of double bills here, but it seems well regarded, with Geraldine Page and Angela Lansbury. (I've just had to order it ....). Ford's later westerns like THE ROUNDERS also ended up as the lower part of double features.  There were also several more with Rita Hayworth, though not quite in the GILDA class: AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD, THE LOVES OF CARMEN, and THE MONEY TRAP in 1965 - poor Rita did not last long in that one.  

Ford (1916-2006) lived to be 90, had a long career, with over 100 credits - his last major role being Superman's earth father in SUPERMAN in '78. His first wife was dancer Eleanor Powell and it seems he romanced a lot of hollywood ladies .... and was a decorated war hero too - receiving the French Legion of Honour medal.
Next: The Hardy boy .... and then "Mitchell Leisen - Hollywood Director"

Monday, 1 February 2016

RIP. continued ...

January was indeed a cruel month: Bowie, Rickman, Frey (see RIP below) - and then on the last day of the month, news of the passing of Britain's best-loved broadcaster, another British veteran actor, and another American rock musician ....

Sir Terry Wogan (1938-2016), aged 77.Terry Wogan - where does one begin? The Limerick boy got into radio broadcasting and Irish television before his move to England, where he seemed part of the cultural fabric for decades: those radio shows, tv series like BLANKETY BLANK, his famous annual commenting on the EUROVISION song contest, and of course hosting the annual CHILDREN IN NEED charity marathon. He also continued with his radio shows and remained immensely popular and much-loved. We will miss Sir Terry and his twinkle a lot and that wit, affable good humour and that soothing Irish voice. His 1980s chat shows on the BBC - three times a week - were a must too, as the genial host got visiting stars talking - often without they having a book or movie to promote. These were an event before multi-channel television and endless talk shows with everyone having something to plug - Terry just chatted amiably to the likes of Loren, Bacall, Curtis, Hudson, Quentin Crisp, Fanny Craddock, Barbara Cartland and assorted eccentrics and celebrities, while the likes of Grace Jones (see below), Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston sang. Nice to see these re-run recently.  His 2012 travelogue on Ireland now was fascinating stuff too. 

Frank Finlay (1926-2016), aged 89. Finlay was another highly-regarded imposing actor from the National Theatre stable of the 1960s. He played Iago to Olivier's OTHELLO (for which he was Oscar-nominated), scored highly on television as CASANOVA in 1971 and the hit series A BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE in 1976. A towering presence in his prime one could not mistake him for anyone else - I also passed him in the street once (- working in Central London as I did in Regent Street for 25 years one got used to seeing well-known people walking by...). He kept busy on stage, film and television for over 50 years - movie roles included ROBBERY, I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSISNAME, CROMWELL, GUMSHOE, and Porthos in the Lester MUSKETEER films, and Polanski's THE PIANIST. I saw him on stage at the National in their successful run of the Italian comedy classic SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY. He was also a great Salieri in AMADEUS.

Ettore Scola  (1931-2016) aged 84. Well-regarded Italian director who helmed some favourites of mine; A SPECIAL DAY with Loren and Mastroianni in 1977, THE PIZZA TRIANGLE (JEALOUSY, ITALIAN STYLE) in 1971 with Vitti, Marcello again and Giancarlo Giannini. THAT NIGHT IN VARENNES is also a fascinating curiosity (Mastroianni as Casanova), He helped prepare the Criterion Blu-ray release of A SPECIAL DAY recently, which I got just before Christmas, where he is interviewed - reviewed recently, see below. 

Jacques Rivette (1928-2016), aged 88. Masterful French director of arthouse classics like CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, LA BELLE NOISEUSE, L'AMOUR FOU.

Paul Kantner (1941-2016), aged 74. American musician and songwriter, founder member of the 1960s counterculture group Jefferson Airplane (later Jefferson Starship) which he founded with Grace Slick and Marty Balin. They brought their psychedelic light show to London for that great 1968 all-nighter with The Doors at The Roundhouse in Camden, which I have written about here before, I was 22 and with my hippie friends, we were all bombed of course. I liked their album SURREALISTIC PILLOW.

Sheila Sim (1922-2016), aged 93. Actress wife of Richard Attenborough (who died in 2014 - see RIP-2 label, where I mention my meeting with the Attenboroughs at the BFI in 1970 as they were standing next to me as we waited for the Dirk Bogarde lecture .... and were so friendly). Her films include A CANTERBURY TALE and PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.

Here's Grace ......

Fascinating to see this clip again, from the BBC The Terry Wogan Show in 1985. We loved Grace then and this track ..... got the album too. Go, Grace ..... RIP Sir Terry. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Perfect 1980s pop ...

Brighton, 30th August 1985. 
"Sooner or later this happens to everyone - just when you least expect it, waiting around the corner for you" ....

Good news too that the Pets have a new album out in April and are doing some summer dates at The Royal Opera House in London - we saw them during their residency at The Savoy in 1997, and at the Tower of London in 2006 - as well as various festivals and Pride events. Bring them on ...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ben-Hur, 1925

Finally, I have put on that 1925 silent version of BEN-HUR, which was included in that 3-disk dvd pack on the 1959 film some years ago, and what a fascinating contrast it is to compare both. 
First of all the silent version looks marvellous, with some tinted and early colour inserts, particularly that first 15 minutes as we follow Joseph and Mary (a beatific Betty Bronson) and the Three Wise Men and that star in the sky and some good crowd scenes, its all like some Victorian tableaus - it was from a Victorian novel .... two stunning set-pieces are the galley scene as Ben toils at the oars - with that naked man in chains - and the sea battle is well done, and the other of course is the chariot race at Antioch, which is merely stupendous, as it is in the later version. Several horses met their end here ...

Its the characters and the script thats woeful here, of course being a silent nothing is fleshed out or developed. The spirited Esther of Wyler's film is  a simpering ninny here playing with her doves, we barely see Quintus Arrius - a gruff, old man - with none of the subtle interplay between him and Ben, while Messala (Francis X Bushman) is a one-dimensional cartoon villain who barely recognises Ben when they meet again. There is also a vamp, Ires - who has to find out who the mysterious charioteer is .... he though is Ramon Novarro who is a perfect Ben. (We like Ramon too in MATA HARI with Garbo in 1931). The rest is pure standard silent movie fare. Never has the quip "loved Ben, hated Hur" been more apt. I will appreciate the 1959 film a lot more next time I look in on it, its a sublte, complex masterpiece compared to this version by Fred Niblo - though it must have astounded audiences at the time. The younger Wyler and Henry Hathaway were also involved in its production as assistant directors, which unusual for the time, was filmed in Italy - but the chariot race was filmed back in California where most of the stars of the day played uncredited extras for the race. This dvd restored version (by Thames Silents) has another great score by Carl Davis.
Here are some shots from the 1959 version: Heston and Boyd; plus Bette Davis visiting her old director Wyler.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

ANOTHER Marilyn exhibition ....

A new Marilyn Monroe exhibition is opening in London at The Little Black Gallery (http://www.thelittleblackgallery.com)
and yes it is billing it as showing some rarely-seen images of MM - but of course they are not. These images (available as framed prints at rather stunning prices) have been available for a long time - and featured heavily in Norman Mailer's 1973 iconic book on Monroe. My teenage niece even has this MM image by Greene on her bedroom wall ...
The photos here are by two of the main photographers who knew and worked with her: namely Milton Greene who look some of the best portraits of her in the mid-1950s (he had become her friend and they set up her production company which made THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL in 1956), and Douglas Kirkland who did those - yes, iconic - shots of her wrapped in that silk sheet, in 1961. (Other great MM photographers were - as mentoned before - Eve Arnold and Bob Willoughby, George Barris who did those great beach photos with her in 1962, and Bert Stern whose "Last Sitting" caught a darker Monroe ...

The Greene pictures though are marvellous and certainly worth looking at. 

People We Like: Dorothy Malone

Idly looking at Robert Aldrich's 1961 western THE LAST SUNSET - not seen that since I was a kid - on TV yesterday afternoon, I was again struck by how watchable and magnetic Dorothy Malone is. Maybe not a star of the front rank, she was one of those reliable ladies - like Vera Miles, Shelley Winters or Martha Hyer - who forged a long career, and was probably at her cinematic peak in the 1950s. 
Dorothy first caught one's attention with that scene in the bookshop with Bogart in Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP in 1946 - even then she was someone unusual. As she matured her sultry, rather bruised looks made her a Hollywood blonde to watch - up there with Janet Leigh, Kim Novak and the others: Lana Turner, Grace Kelly, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield ..... Dorothy was one of those girls who fitted in well out west, being an expert horsewoman - among her westerns are solid items like WARLOCK in 1959, FIVE GUNS WEST, QUANTREZ, and TENSION AT TABLE ROCK
Her other plentiful credits include YOUNG AT HEART, the army wife seducing young Tab Hunter in BATTLE CRY (both 1954), romancing Liberace in SINCERELY YOURS - Dorothy made everything look convincing; ARTISTS AND MODELS, MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, TOO MUCH TOO SOON, THE LAST VOYAGE, FATE IS THE HUNTER and her final screen credit BASIC INSTINCT in 1992. 
Maybe her biggest hits were for Dougas Sirk in the mid-50s: her Best Supporting Actress win for WRITTEN ON THE WIND in 1956 as the trampy nymphomaniac with that killer mambo dance, and THE TARNISHED ANGELS in 1957. 

The 1960s saw her going successfully into television as Constance McKenzie in the very long running series PEYTON PLACE, which ran for years. Among her husbands was French actor Jacques Bergerac (who had also married Ginger Rodgers). Dorothy is 90 now and one trusts she is well after some serious illnesses.

Aretha sings Carole King, again ...

Words are not necessary. 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Richard, Robert or Leo ?

In the early 1800's, a group of fur trappers and Indian traders are returning with their goods to civilisation and are making a desperate attempt to beat the oncoming winter. When guide Zachary Bass is injured in a bear attack, they decide he's a goner and leave him behind to die. When he recovers instead, he swears revenge on them and tracks them and their paranoiac expedition leader down.

A synopsis for THE REVENANT?  (which since it opened here last weekend has been praised in the highest terms and is expected to sweep all before it at the Academy Awards) .... er, no, its from a 1971 Richard Harris western (shot in Spain) titled MAN IN THE WILDERNESS by Richard C. Sarafian - I remember it but did not want to see it at the time (not being one of Mr Harris's greatest admirers) but it now seems to have been re-discovered, and it also features John Huston in the cast. 
Worth another look perhaps - is THE REVENANT a souped-up new version with all the technical wizardy now available - including that very realistic bear? The names may have been changed for the Harris version, but it seems he is playing Hugh Glass - as DiCaprio does in the Inarritu new classic. 

Then there's Robert Redford as JEREMIAH JOHNSON, another mountain man in the wilderness in Sidney Pollack's 1972 western - not the same story of course, but it shows that sagas of mountain men coping with everything nature (and other humans) can throw at them are nothing new .....those trappers and mountain men also feature of course in films like YELLOWSTONE KELLY and HOW THE WEST WAS WON (both Stewart and Fonda as trappers). Plus of course one of Kevin Costner's biggest hits DANCES WITH WOLVES, in 1990, (which even beat Scorsese's GOODFELLAS as Best Film) where his disillusioned cavalry officer leaves 'civilisation' to live in the wilderness and mix with the Natives ... we loved it at the time, don't know how I would feel about it now. 

Lets see how Leo does this time round - he is already on the Oscar campaign trail here, deigning to appear on heavyweight political shows (just like Cate did when campaigning for that BLUE JASMINE award a few years ago...). 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Fort Dobbs, 1958

Having eluded a posse, a wanted man rescues a woman and her young son from a Comanche attack. He then escorts them to the presumed safety of a U.S. Cavalry fort. Trouble develops along the way when the woman comes to believe that her rescuer was responsible for the recent death of her husband.

That late '50s period was that great time for westerns - not only on tv, but at the movies: 1956 - THE SEARCHERS; 1957 - 3.10 TO YUMAGUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRALNIGHT PASSAGE; 1958 - MAN OF THE WESTTHE BIG COUNTRYCOWBOYTHE LAW AND JAKE WADE; 1959 - RIO BRAVOTHE HANGING TREEWARLOCKTHESE THOUSAND HILLS; 1960 - THE UNFORGIVENNORTH TO ALASKA, 1961 - Brando's ONE EYED JACKS; 1962 - HOW THE WEST WAS WON, etc. after of course those great early '50s westerns like HIGH NOONSHANEJOHNNY GUITAR (the first movie I saw, aged 8 - as per other reports here), DRUMBEATWHITE FEATHER etc, and of course Ford with Wayne, James Stewart with Anthony Mann, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher - see Western label for more on these. Now lets mix in Clint, who while no Wayne or Cooper has an agreeable Western presence, like Randolph Scott, or Dale Robertson or Guy Madison, and whose films while programmers are not without interest:

Sterling Hayden as JOHNNY GUITAR has a line: "Sometimes all a man wants is a smoke and a cup of coffee" - well, sometimes all I want for a snowy afternoon indoors is an unpretentious western ... 

FORT DOBBS, 1958 – A pleasing, tense if minor western from that great era for oaters. I remember this as a kid - we didn't get to see cowboy stars like Clint or Dale Roberston in their tv shows (no tv in Ireland then!) so caught their movies. Directed by the ever reliable Gordon Douglas (studio hack supreme) it casts man of few words Clint Walker as Gar, a wanted man on the run who stops to assist lone Virginia Mayo and cute kid Richard Eyer, as the Commanches attack their homestead. She thinks he killed her husband so tensions mount as they cross Indian territory – then Brian Keith and his guns turn up! The surprise here is that this is in black and white, when even routine westerns were in colour, but the monochrome is surprisingly effective. Walker soon removes his shirt to display that impressive physique, 

Eyer is as good as he was in FRIENDLY PERSUASION, but Mayo impresses the most – shorn of her usual glamour she delivers a compelling portrayal, particularly when she wakes and realises she is naked under her blanket and her wet clothes are drying (there's more than a few nods to RIVER OF NO RETURN here). The Indians of course are just faceless savages … its nicely worked out, there is no overt romance as such between the leads but a nice slow burn as she has to trust him, its one western that delivers. I liked it almost as much as SEVEN MEN FROM NOW! Clint went on to other oaters like YELLOWSTONE KELLY in '59 and the ridiculously enjoyable GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS in 1961 (if only for Roger Moore's godawful Oirish accent) and NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY, as well as co-starring with the likes of Rock and Doris (SEND ME NO FLOWERS) and Sinatra, and is still here in his late-80s. Then it was time for that other Clint to step to the fore, with all those spaghetti westerns ...

Saturday, 16 January 2016

1950: party boys - or stag night at the steamroom ...

What young actors had to do to get publicity in those 1950s fan mags!  My IMDB pal Melvelvit (a denizen of their Classic Film Board) unearthed this feature from a 1950 issue of "Modern Screen" featuring young chaps around town (Hollywood) entitled: "Stag Night At The Steamroom" - it was a more innocent time of course, but this comes across as so screamingly gay now - even down to a naked Rock Hudson (risque for 1950) getting a rubdown .... add in young Tony Curtis and occasional cowboys Scott Brady and Hugh O'Brien and John Bromfield (?) - all clients of that notorious Hollywood agent Henry Willson, if his other clients like Rory Calhoun and Guy Madison were included as well, the steam room would certainly have steamed up!

Rock and Tony were starting out then -both had small parts in that year's WINCHESTER 73 (see Westerns label).  Here is the full feature, with that delirious text.:

 http://themave.com/bijou/50/stagnite1.htm

"The heat is on at Finlandia, the only place a man is put on the shelf - and likes it" ...

Saunas must have been a new concept then, as the feature goes into all the details of what having a sauna entails. There is lots of saucy banter here, and the boys get fed too: "huge cuts of roast beef, turkey, ham, scandanavian cheese and lots of potato salad". One gets pretty hungry working up a sweat - fruit juice, soda and beer were also on tap, then it was time for a nap. Eating and drinking at the sauna does seem a little counter-productive ...

Scott Brady went on to play the Dancin' Kid in that cult western JOHNNY GUITAR, one of my enduring favourites and the first film I ever saw aged 8, suddenly it seems a lot gayer now. He also paid his dues in many westerns like THE MAVERICK QUEEN with Stanwyck. It seems he did not marry until later in life ("The seemingly one-time confirmed bachelor decided to settle down in 1967 at age 43") and developed into a reliable character actor, with later roles in THE CHINA SYNDROME and GREMLINS (he died aged 60 in 1985). Hugh O'Brien, 90 now, of course did lots of westerns too (SEMINOLE, TAZA SON OF COCHISE, WHITE FEATHER, BROKEN LANCE) while Rock and Tony were soon heading for the A-list, leaving layouts like this behind them. Thirty years later in 1980 when perhaps past their prime they were reunited for the enjoyable camp farrago THE MIRROR CRACK'D
Below: Scott Brady with Crawford and Sterling Hayden in JOHNNY GUITAR.