Film Legends

Richard Burton 

Stardust: TCM’s March Star of the Month

By Ed Garea

The Star of the Month for March is Richard Burton, one of the most talented — and tragic – actors ever to appear on stage and in film. 

Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins, Jr. in the Welsh village of Pontrhydyfen, Neath Port Talbot, on November 10, 1925. He was the 12th of 13 children born to Richard Jenkins, Sr, a coal miner, and Edith Maude Jenkins, who worked as a bartender. His mother died when he was barely two years old and he was raised by an older sister and brother at home. He excelled in athletics, especially rugby, for which he had a passion. He was also the first in his family to attend secondary school, though he dropped out in 1941 to help out the family by working in the mines. 


During the war, he served in the Port Talbot Squadron 499 of the Air Training Corps. He also joined the Taibach Youth Center, a youth drama group founded by Meredith Jones. It was led by steel worker and avid amateur thespian Leo Lloyd, who taught Richard the fundamentals of acting. As both Jones and Lloyd saw the latent talent in young Richard they encouraged him to return to school, and with the tutoring help of schoolmaster Philip Burton, whom Richard had known since youth, he passed the exams. In 1943, Philip became Richard’s legal ward and Richard changed his surname to Burton. Also that year Philip petitioned for Richard to enter Exeter College, Oxford as part of a 6-month RAF scholarship program for qualified cadets prior to active service.

While at Exeter, Richard was featured as Angelo in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Among those who caught his performance were John Gielgud, Terence Rattigan, and producer Binkie Beaumont. After his discharge from the RAF in 1947 he came to London and looked up Beaumont, who put him under contract. Over the next few years Burton took the London stage by storm, leading critics to label him “the next Laurence Olivier.” He starred as Prince Hal in Anthony Quayle’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 as part of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. While the play received mixed reviews, Burton received raves. 

Producer Alexander Korda signed him to a film contract, then lent him to 20th Century Fox for three films. His first film was the 1952 Gothic romance drama, My Cousin Rachel, with Olivia de Havilland. He followed that with The Desert Rats and The Robe (both 1953). He signed a contract extension with Fox for seven years and seven films and returned to England, where played Hamlet at the Old Vic. He spent the rest of the decade moving back and forth between the stage and the silver screen. Offscreen he had married fellow actor Sybil Williams in 1949, and they had two daughters, Kate and Jessica. His marriage to Sylvia fell apart when he began working with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Richard divorced Sybil, Elizabeth divorced Eddie Fisher, and the two married in  1964, becoming Hollywood’s most dynamic acting couple. Burton and Taylor’s marriage was stormy, fueled in part by Burton’s out-of-control alcoholism (he was reputed to have polished off five bottles of whiskey or vodka a day). They divorced in 1974, but remarried in 1975, though the remarriage lasted less than a year. He married actress Susan Hunt in 1976. That union lasted until 1982. His last marriage was to Sally Hay, which lasted from July 3, 1983, until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage on August 5, 1984.

Over time his heavy drinking affected the quality of his work and the quality of the films in which he appeared. TCM is devoting the evening from March 6-10 to Burton’s films. At this end we are quite disappointed that some of his more celebrated turkeys, such as The Exorcist, Part II (which has aired here before), Hammersmith Is OutThe Klansman, or The Assassination of Trotsky are not being shown … but there’s always the future.


March 6: Recommended tonight are his first film, My Cousin Rachel (8 pm), The Desert Rats (11:45 pm), and The Robe (3:15 am). Offscreen on My Cousin Rachel, he and Olivia de Havilland had a rather contentious relationship. She couldn’t stand him. The Desert Rats is an excellent war film about Rommel’s siege of Tobruk, with James Mason reprising his role of Rommel. And The Robe is a decent film about the aftermath of the crucifixion of Christ. Burton is a Roman officer who converts to Christianity, Jay Robinson gives a way over-the-top performance as Caligula, and Victor Mature just can’t act.

March 7: Anne Of The Thousand Days (10:15 pm) is a well-acted and scripted film about the ill-fated Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold), whose main mistake was to marry Henry VIII (Burton). Burton is fine, although Bujold steals the film. Look Back in Anger (1 am) is lauded as the first of the “kitchen-sink” dramas with Burton excellent as the embittered part-time trumpeter Jimmy Porter, Mary Ure as his wife, and Claire Bloom as the other woman in their lives. Written by playwright John Osbourne of Britain’s famous “Angry Young Men” of the late ‘50s. The film sparkles with great acting and bristling dialogue. For those who haven’t yet seen this gem, please do so. Record it, for you will want to savor its richness of performance later. Finally, there’s Alexander the Great (5 am) with Burton as the Macedonian conquerer, Frederic March as his father, Philip, and Barry Jones as his teacher, Aristotle. Excellent acting, but it lacks that epic sweep. However, it is better than the monstrosity Oliver Stone later gave us.

March 8: Start with Cleopatra at 8 pm, if only to see Liz and Dick in action. It’s terrible, but compulsive viewing. Next up is The Taming of the Shrew (12:15 am), a lively entry directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Finally, it’s that dull bomb, Doctor Faustus (2:30 am), which shows just how bad it can be when Liz and Dick walk through a film.


March 9: Liz and Dick go the slob route in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff? (8 pm). Who knew at the time that it mirrored their private lives? Neither David or I care for this overblown stinker, but if you do, why not drop us a line and tell us where we’re wrong? We’d greatly appreciate it. The V.I.P.S. is a rather constricted film about wealthy passengers stranded in Heathrow Airport who all have personal hurdles to clear. The Sandpiper (12:45 am) is one of the great train wrecks, with Liz and Dick spitting out howler after howler. Finally, the evening ends with The Comedians (3 am), an uninspired attempt to realize Graham Greene’s novel about political intrigue in Haiti, despite some good performances from the stars.


March 10: Begin with Where Eagles Dare (8 pm), a lively war drama with Burton and Clint Eastwood out to rescue an Allied general being held in a fortified mountain castle by the Nazis. Staircase (10:45 pm) is an absolute hoot, with Burton and Rex Harrison playing two old homosexuals, unintentionally funny. Villain (12:30 am is a fine crime drama with Burton as a paranoid crime lord who thinks everyone ales is a potential stool pidgeon. Ian McShane co-stars. Finally, Equus (2:15 am) is an awful adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s awful play with Burton as a tortured psychiatrist called in a treat a sexually repressed young man (Peter Firth) accused of a terrible act of animal cruelty. (He blinded six race horses who had supposedly witnessed his part in a clandestine sexual act in a stable.) Investigating, Burton’s doctor traces the boy’s repressive act to a family clash between his anti-religious father (Colin Blakely) and his very devout mother (Joan Plowright). The lad has transformed his mother’s Christ worship into one of horses. Oh, Brother. It might have been passable somewhat if not for all the acting that goes on, with long soliloquies and other meaningful readings of lines. Avoid if you can and are an animal lover.


John Hurt: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

"I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"

Character actor John Hurt, best known for roles in The Elephant Man and who enjoyed cult status as the first victim in Alien, died on January 25 at the age of 77. 


John Vincent Hurt was born on January 22, 1940, in Shirebrook, a coal mining town near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. His father, Arnold Herbert Hurt, was a mathematician who became of Church of England clergyman and served as vicar of St. Stephen’s Church in Woodville, south Derbyshire. His mother, Phyliss (Massey), was an amateur actress and engineer. 

When he was eight, Hurt was sent to the Anglican St. Michael’s Preparatory School in Otford, Kent, where he developed a passion for acting. His first role was that of a girl in a school production of The Bluebird. His parents didn’t think much of his chosen profession and encouraged him to become an art teacher instead. At 17, Hurt enrolled in Grimsby Art School and in 1959 won a scholarship at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, where he pursued an Art Teacher’s Diploma (ATD). In 1960 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts, where he trained for two years.

Hurt started out with small roles in television dramas. He made his film debut in Young and Willing (1962), playing the roommate of rebellious student Ian McShane. That same year, he appeared onstage at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Fred Watson’s Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger, a shocking play that ended with the gratuitous killing of a child by feeding him alcohol. 

Through the 1960s and early ’70s, Hurt’s appeared in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and The Dumb Waiter; Tom Stoppard’s Travesties; and opposite Nicol Williamson in John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence, all on the London stage.

After working mainly on television and the stage, he landed a role that brought him some attention, that of Richard Rich, an ambitious young man in pre-Elizabethan England who betrays Sir Thomas More (Paul Schofield) in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons. He earned a BAFTA nomination for playing Timothy Evans, a man hanged for murders committed by his landlord John Christie (Richard Attenborough) in 10 Rillington Place (1971). 

In 1975 he co-starred with Peter Cushing in The Ghoul. Later that year, in the TV play The Naked Civil Servant, his performance as flame-haired raconteur and social butterfly Quentin Crisp, whose outspoken gay flamboyance helped break down barriers to the acceptance of homosexuality in Britain, brought him to prominence and won him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. It also brought him to the attention of American audiences when the show became a hit in the States. In 2009 Hurt reprised the role in An Englishman in New York, a television movie that covers Crisp’s later years in New York.

The following year Hurt won widespread acclaim for his portrayal of Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial I, Claudius. In a 2002 documentary about the series, I Claudius: A Television Epic, Hurt revealed that he originally tuned the part down, but director Herbert Wise invited him to a special pre-production party in the hopes it would change his mind. He was so impressed when he met the rest of the cast and crew that he changed his mind and accepted the role.

In 1978 he played Max in Midnight Express, for which he won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award. He was also nominated for his first Oscar (Best Supporting Actor). Also in that year he lent his voice to Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings as Aragorn and also voiced the character of Hazel in the animated film adaptation of Richard Adams’s Watership Down. (In the 1999 Canadian television series of the book Hurt voiced the man villain, General Woundwort.)

In 1979 he appeared in a small role that later won him acclaim, that of Kane, who was the first victim of the title creature in the film Alien. (He would later reprise the role in Mel Brooks’s 1979 parody Spaceballs. As the little alien comes forth from his rib cage, he quietly wails, “Oh, no, not again.”)

He also appeared as Dostoevsky’s guilt tormented killer, Raskolnikov in the 1979 BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment, which was shown in the U.S. on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater.


In 1980 Hurt appeared in his best-known role, that of the deformed John Merrick in director David Lynch’s The Elephant Man. As Merrick he was unrecognizable as the monstrous-looking but gentle and civilized sufferer of a rare malady that enlarged his head, twisted his muscles and limited his speech and mobility. The role required seven to eight hours of makeup before each day’s filming and two hours to remove, but like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, Hurt’s superior acting ability enabled him not only to bring the character to life, but to endow him with sympathetic qualities. For this role he won a BAFTA and was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor, but lost both awards to the shapeshifting Robert DeNiro for his role in Raging Bull.  

Other major roles during this time included a starring role in Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend (1983), a wonderful turn as the Fool opposite Laurence Olivier’s king in Granada Television’s King Lear (1983), Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 (1984), the on-screen narrator in Jim Henson’s television series, The Storyteller (1988), and supporting roles as “Bird” O’Donnell in Jim Sheridan’s The Field (1990), and Buchanan in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990). 

In the 1990s Hurt’s theater career saw a resurgence. He appeared in London with Helen Mirren in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country. Later, at the Gate Theater in Dublin, he took on the title (and only) role in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, a portrait of a 69-year-old man revisiting his earlier life by means of listening to an old tape recording. It became a signature role for him as he performed it in London and appeared in a 2000 film version directed by Atom Egoyan. In 2011, at the age of 71 he reprised the role at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Returning to films, he starred as Stephen Ward, a English bon-vivant osteopath who is the friend and mentor of exotic dancer Christine Keeler in Scandal (1989), a film dramatization of the notorious Profumo affair that brought down the government of Harold Macmillan. In 1993 Hurt was the cross-dressing Countess in the adaptation of Tom Robbins’s novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993).


In 2001, he appeared in a film series that became de rigueur for English actors, the Harry Potter series. He played wand expert Mr. Ollivander in several of the films. 

Hurt’s other noted film roles include the almost unrecognizable Trevor Bruttenholm, the paranormal expert who discovers the young title demon in the sci-fi flick Hellboy (2004). He also starred in the role of Adam Sutler, leader of the Norsefire fascist dictatorship ruling Britain in V for Vendetta (2006). He was Professor Oxley, an archaeologist pal of the title character (Harrison Ford) in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). In 2011 he played the head of British intelligence, known only as Control, in John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the War Doctor in Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor (2013). One of his last roles was that of a Roman Catholic priest in Jackie (2016).

Hurt also finished four films set for release in 2017: That Good Night (in which he plays a terminally ill writer), Damascus CoverMy Name is Lenny, and a turn as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Darkest Hour.

His personal life was marred by frequent bouts with alcohol, which affected his life and work. In 1962 he married actress Annette Robinson. The marriage was a short one and ended in 1964. His longest relationship began in 1967, with French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, sister of fashion photographer Jean-Claude Volpeliere-Pierrot. They planned to marry after 15 years together, but on January 26, 1983, they went horseback riding near their house in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Volpeliere-Pierrot was thrown from her horse. Taken to the hospital, she slipped into a coma and died later that day. 

In September 1984, Hurt married American actress Donna Peacock at a local Register Office. The couple relocated to Kenya but divorced in January 1990. 

On January 24, 1990, Hurt married American production assistant Joan Dalton, who he had met while filming Scandal. With her, he had two sons. The marriage ended in 1996 and was followed by a seven-year relationship with Dublin-born presenter and writer Sarah Owens. The couple moved to County Wicklow, settling close to friends John Boorman and Claddagh Records founder and Guinness heir Garech Browne. The relationship lasted until July 2002, when the couple separated. 

In March 2005, Hurt married his fourth wife, advertising film producer Anwen Rees-Meyers. Finally realizing the deleterious effector alcohol on his relationships, he gave up drinking. He also quit smoking. The couple settled near Cromer, Norfolk. 

Hurt had also been active in the world of charity. In 2003, Hurt became a patron of the Proteus Syndrome Foundation (the condition that John Merrick suffered from), both in the United Kingdom and in the U.S. Since 2006, Hurt had been a patron of Project Harar, a British-based charity working in Ethiopia for children with facial disfigurements. In March 2013 he was announced as patron of Norwich Cinema City. In September 2016, The John Hurt Centre was founded as an exhibition space at Cinema City.

Over the course of his career Hurt had accumulated a number of awards. Included among them are two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award, and four BAFTA Awards – the fourth being a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions to British cinema. 

In 2004, Hurt was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2012 he was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear on a new version of his most famous artwork – the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The purpose was to celebrate the British cultural figures that Blake most admired in his life. 

In 2014, Hurt, along with Stacey Keach and Dame Diana Rigg, received the Will Award, presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company. In 2015 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition for his contributions to British drama. 


On June 16, 2015, Hurt publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer. He said he would continue to work while undergoing treatment and said that both he and his medical team were "more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome.” On October 12, 2015, following treatment, Hurt stated that his cancer was in remission.

Hurt died at his home in Cromer Norfolk, on January 25, 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. In addition to his wife he is survived by sons Alexander and Nicholas.


In an interview for the New York Times Magazine Hurt summed up his philosophy of acting: “In front of the camera you try to do subtle, telling things and hope the director, and the camera, notices. You can feel when you pass something through the camera. The old Alan Ladd story is the best one in that respect. He came back from a long day of shooting out in the dusty Arizona desert and someone said, ‘Did you have a good day, Alan?’ In his soft rasp, he said, ‘Yup, a couple of good looks.’”


France's Grande Dame of Cinema

By Christine

When Michele Morgan passed away on December 20 in Meudon, at the age of 96, France lost one of its grande dames of cinema. Her death was announced by President François Hollande, who called her “a legend who made her mark on numerous generations.” 


She was often referred to as the woman with the most beautiful eyes in the world, an appellation she received from her 1938 film, Port of Shadows. Jean Gabin’s character tells her, “You have beautiful eyes, you know,” to which she replies, “Kiss me.” The film was very popular, and as a result, the phrase caught on.

She was already an actress of note when she fled the German Occupation to America. But she came back after the war and it was as if she had never been away. Picking up almost right where she left off, she won the best actress award at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946 for her role in Andre Gide’s drama, La Symphonie Pastorale, directed by Jean Delannoy, for whom she worked frequently over the years.

I once interviewed the lovely Michele back ago more years that I care to remember. I was just a young tyro at the time, looking to make a niche for myself and she was so taken with my persistence and forthrightness that she agreed to sit down and share some of her time. We talked of many things, but what I remember most was her rather bitter memories of her stay in Hollywood during World War II. 

They (Hollywood) stifled me artistically. Their idea of handling an actor was to try to make me look just like everyone else. After Joan of Paris I thought maybe I could be a star; maybe it would lead to bigger things, but they couldn’t even be bothered to photograph me correctly.”

Michele continued. “Another thing that bothered me was their idea of a working day. A 15- or 16-hour day was considered normal there. I didn’t know how long the war was going to last, so I bit my tongue and did as I was told.”

While in America, Michele met and married her first husband, William Marshall, a band leader and later an actor and director. “We had only known each other for just about a month,” she said. “To this day I don’t know why I married him. I was very lonely when I came to America, torn away from the country where I was raised. He turned out to be nothing like the man I married. It was like living under a dictator, and after he was injured in the war, he only got worse. He called me ‘Mike’ because he couldn’t pronounce ‘Michele’ and he didn’t like France. So why did he marry a Frenchwoman? The only good thing that came out of it was my son Mike.” 

They had a very acrimonious divorce in 1949. “At the time I was having an affair with Henri Vidal, who I later married, he was having an affair with my friend Micheline Presle. He knew I wanted custody of Mike and had a private detective follow us. He eventually got his incriminating shot, and as I had no evidence of his adultery, he was awarded custody of my son. When he later married Micheline they lived in Paris and I could see my son on a regular basis. But then he moved back to America and it became harder and harder to see my son. Only after he finished his studies was I able to spend time with him.”


We spoke for quite a while. She told me that as she was unsure how long the war would last she decided to build a home in Los Angeles to remind her of France. Built in the style of a 19th century French farmhouse in the Benedict Canyon section of Los Angeles, it didn’t quite bring her the happiness she hoped for, whether with her marriage or her career. Years later it become infamous as the house were Sharon Tate and four others were brutally murdered by Charles Manson in 1969. 

She still shivered at the thought of the house. “It was somewhat isolated from the other homes in the area and had an eerie effect on me. Perhaps it was from staying there alone, but I frequently hard some strange noises. To keep myself company I hired a few maids, but they were of no help whatsoever. Good help was very difficult to find during the war, and when these people weren’t getting drunk they were sealing my jewelry and whatever else they could find. I was better off without them."

Once I married, he demanded I sell the place and move in with him. According to his family, a man loses honor if he moves into the woman’s place. So I sold the house, which was not a bad thing. Years later, when I read of the murders there, I knew I did the right thing. I think that place was cursed from the beginning.” 

She was born Simone Renée Roussel in Neuilly-sur-Seine (now Hauts-sur-Seine), a well-to-do suburb of Paris, on February 29, 1920. Her father was an executive at a fragrance company who lost his job after the Crash of 1929. He moved the family north, to Dieppe in Normandy, where Michele grew up. She began to attend stage shows at the Dieppe Casino and became so enamored with the idea of acting that she left home at the age of 15 with her brother Paul. They went to Paris, where she was determined to become an actress, taking acting lessons while working as an extra in several films to pay for her classes and rent. Her film debut was as an extra in Meet Miss Mozart (1936), a comedy starring Danielle Darrieux. It was then that she adopted the stage name of "Michèle Morgan,” reasoning that she didn’t look like a Simone, and that "Morgan" sounded more Hollywood-friendly and easy to pronounce the world over. “Morgan” came from the Morgan Bank in Paris.

Her breakthrough came in the film Gribouille (Heart of Paris, 1937), directed by Marc Allegret. Morgan plays Natalie Rouguin, a young girl on trial in the accidental death of her rich boyfriend. It looks bad for her, but one juror convinces the others to acquit after new evidence is discovered and she is released. Now free, she cannot find work of any kind and the juror who convinced the rest of her innocence takes her in, where she falls in love with his son. Hollywood remade it in 1940 as The Lady in Question with Brian Aherne, Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. Shortly after, she co-starred with Jean Gabin in Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows, 1938), about an army deserter and a teenage runaway directed by Marcel Carne;  Orage (Storm, 1938), with Charles Boyer; and Remorques (Stormy Waters, 1941) directed by Jean Gremillon.


During the filming of Port of Shadows, there was an incident between her co-stars Pierre Brasseur and Jean Gabin. At a cast dinner, Brasseur made several off-color and inappropriate remarks to Michele, which bothered Gabin. The next day, Brasseur apologized to Michèle and brought her flowers. However, later that day he had to shoot a scene where his character, Lucien, gets punched in the face by Gabin's protagonist, Jean. But instead of faking the punch, Gabin hit Brasseur full force, knocking him over. Brasseur know what it was for and said nothing. Ironically, the scene was later noted by critics, who lauded its “realistic feeling.”

When the Germans conquered France in 1940, Morgan fled to the United States and RKO, with whom she signed a contract while still in France. Her career started off well with Joan of Paris (1942), with Paul Henreid and Thomas Mitchell before being loaned to Universal for Two Tickets to London (1943) with Alan Curtis. She returned to RKO to make Higher and Higher (1943) with Frank Sinatra and Jack Haley, a film that did not do well either commercially or critically. From here on it was all downhill. She tested and was strongly considered for the role of Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, but RKO balked at the compensation Warners was offering and she was replaced by Ingrid Bergman. She would eventually work with Bogart in Passage to Marseille (1944), her next to last film in America. In 1945, she filmed The Chase, a film noir with Robert Cummings, for independent producers Nero Films, before returning to France.

She told me she wasn’t happy with any of the films she made in America, but nothing could compare with her experience filming Passage to Marseille.

That was my worst time in Hollywood. The director (Michael Curtiz) was the worst I ever worked with. All he did was belittle me. He offered no support. And apart from (Peter) Lorre, I received no help or support from my co-stars. I really can’t blame Humphrey Bogart, though. He had his own problems. I think he was going through hell, which is why I couldn’t blame him when he left his wife for Lauren Bacall.”

She was warmly welcomed back in Paris and immediately began working in La Symphonie Pastorale, where she played Gertrude, a young blind woman adopted by Jean Martens (Pierre Blanchar), a Swiss minister who raises her with his own four children. But as time passes and Gertrude grows into a very beautiful young woman, Martens finds himself falling in love with her. He refuses to admit this turn of events to himself and later fools his conscience by interpreting the Scriptures to his advantage. However, once she regains her eyesight in an operation she soon sees for herself how sin has corrupted the minister’s soul and decides to take her own life in shame. Though highly praised upon its release, both the film and its director came under heavy criticism from Francois Truffaut in Cahiers du Cinema among others and is now regarded as hopelessly dated and maudlin.


Morgan’s next film, The Fallen Idol (1948), with Ralph Richardson was notable as the straw that broke the back of her marriage to Marshall. While shooting in London, Michele and Marshall were staying at the Savoy Hotel. One day they ran into her good friend Micheline Presle, who was staying there before a trip to America. “I remember remarking to him about how beautiful Micheline looked,” she told me. “He told me he had already noticed that. I was too dumb to pick up on what was going on between them. He married her right after we were divorced. For someone who told me how he despised France and the French, he spent a lot of time here and married a few of our citizens. I didn’t bear Micheline any ill will. I thanked her for taking him off my hands. The only error I made was in not hiring a detective to follow him. Maybe if I had I would have gotten custody, but, frankly, I never expected him to sink that low.”

For her part, Michele married actor Henri Vidal (The DamnedThe Gates of Paris) in 1950. They remained married until his death in 1959. “Henri was very, very handsome,” Michele said. “He had the world at his feet, but he couldn’t overcome his demons. As a teenager, he was introduced to drugs and he could never kick the habit. I think in the time we were married he went to rehab about a dozen times. The drugs definitely affected him for the worse. He was jealous of whoever I was working with and believed I was having an affair. I remember working on a film with Jean Gabin (The Moment of Truth, 1952) early in our marriage. He was jealous, intensely jealous, of Jean and would show up on the set looking for me. (He knew Michele had a brief affair with Gabin while filming Coral Reefs in 1939.) God help me if I wasn’t on stage or in my dressing room. I used to tell him the drugs were killing him and that he would die early. I wasn’t surprised when his heart gave out at the age of 40.” 

Other notable films from the  late ‘40s and ‘50s include Fabiola (1949), The Proud and the Beautiful (1953), Les Grandes Maneuvers (1955, directed by Rene Clair) and Marie-Antoinette reine de France (Shadow of the Guillotine, 1956).   

In 1960, she married director, actor and writer Gerard Oury. Though they stayed married until his death in 2006 they lived in different domiciles. During the decade her career lost momentum, the main reason being the dominance of the French New Wave and its cutting of ties with classic French cinema and its stars in favor of discovering new faces. Truffaut had been a critic of her work since his days as a reviewer for Cahiers du Cinema. The only New Wave director she worked for was Claude Chabrol as a victim of Charles Denner’s murderous title character in Landru (Bluebeard, 1963), a faithful account of the notorious Henri Desire Landru, who murdered and dismembered more than 10 women during World War I. It had been previously adapted by Charlie Chaplin as Monsieur Verdoux in 1947. Michele’s character,  Celestine Buisson, is one of his victims. 

After appearing in movies of little interest for most of the decade, Michèle eventually decided to concentrate on other interests, such as painting, and limited her roles to occasional appearances over the following years. She made her stage stage debut in 1978 in Francoise Dorin’s Le Tout pour le tout (All For All).

Her final screen role was in La Rivale (1999), a film about love and age made for French television. 

But she kept busy nonetheless. Her art brought her a new world of fame and she he had a solo exhibition March 2 to April 30, 2009, at the Espace Cardin in Paris. She also presided over and served on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1977, she released her autobiography, With These Eyes, and founded her own tie label called “Cravates Michèle Morgan.”


Over the years Michele earned her share of awards. She was awarded the "Victoire du cinéma Français" for Best Actress in 1954, 1955 and 1956. In 1954, she won the “Triomphe du Cinéma” for her performance in The Proud and the BeautifulCinérevue magazine awarded her the prize for Most Popular actress in 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. In 1960, she was made a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 1967, she received the “Médaille de vermeil de la Ville de Paris” (Paris Vermeil Medal). In 1969, she was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, raised to Officer in 1994, to Grand Officer in 2009, and received the Grand-Croix in 2013. In 1975, she was made an Officer of the French National Order of Merit.

In 1992, she was given an honorary Cesar Award for her contributions to French cinema. In 1996, the Venice Film Festival awarded her the Career Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. And last, but not least, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1645 Vine Street).

Sadly, her son Mike died in 2005. He worked as an actor in both the United States and France, having been bitten by the acting bug when Michele brought him on the set of her film, The Grand Manuever. She is survived by several grandchildren. Her funeral was held at the Église Saint-Pierre in Neuilly-sur-Seine on December 23, 2016, and she was buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery. 


Jane Wyman 

Stardust: TCM’s January Star of the Month

By The Editors


TCM’s Star of the Month for January is Jane Wyman. Many people who still remember her today know her for being married to Ronald Reagan or for her long run on the TV soap Falcon Crest. Yet, she was a great actress who won the Oscar for her starring role in Johnny Belinda (1948) and also won three Golden Globes over her long career.

She was born Sarah Jane Mayfield on January 5, 1917, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Her father was a laborer for a meal company and her mother a stenographer and office assistant. Her mother filed for divorce in October 1921 and her father died unexpectedly the following year at age 27. After her father passed away, her mother moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and left young Sarah with foster parents, Emma and Richard D. Fulks. (Richard was the chief of detectives in Saint Joseph.) She adopted their surname, using it for her school records and her first marriage certificate. She attended Lafayette High School in St. Joseph, dropping out in 1932 at the age of 15.

She moved to Hollywood that year, supporting herself as a manicurist and switchboard operator before landing small uncredited parts in films. She was a “Goldwyn Girl” in The Kid from Spain (1932), a gold digger in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), a socialite in My Man Godfrey (1936), and a chorus girl in Cain and Mabel (1936). After taking the surname of her first husband and changing her name to Jane Wyman, she signed with Warner Bros. in 1936 as a contract player. Her first credited role came as Dixie the hat check girl in Smart Blonde (1937).


After years as a supporting player, she won notice for her role in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945). She received an Oscar nomination for The Yearling (1946), and as noted above, won the Best Actress statuette for Johnny Belinda (1948). Other notable films included Stage Fright (1950), The Glass Menagerie (1950), The Story of Will Rogers (1952), So Big (1953), Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Lucy Gallant (1955). Her last film was How To Commit Marriage (1969).

She also did quite a lot of television, beginning in the ‘50s. Her first guest-starring role was on General Electric Theater (1955), ironically, hosted by ex-husband Ronald Reagan. In 1957, she hosted the anthology series, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theater. Later she hosted The Bell Telephone Hour and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater. She went into semi-retirement in the ‘70s, appearing on only a few shows. In spring 1981, Wyman was cast as the scheming vintner and matriarch Angela Channing in The Vintage Years, which was reconfigured as the primetime soap opera, Falcon Crest (1981-1990).

Angela Channing revitalized Wyman’s career. She was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award five times (Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role and for Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Serial), and was also nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1983 and 1984, winning in 1984 for (Best Performance By an Actress in a TV Series). Over the years, health problems cut back her appearances, and in the ninth and final season, she was written out of the series as comatose in a hospital bed following an attempted murder.

After Falcon Crest, Wyman only had one more screen appearance as Jane Seymour’s mother in an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993). She then retired totally from acting, having appeared in 83 movies and nominated four times for an Academy Award (The YearlingJohnny BelindaThe Blue Veil, and Magnificent Obsession). She won the Golden Globe for Johnny Belinda and The Blue Veil. She was also nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (1957 and 1959).

She was married five times: to Ernest Eugene Wyman (April 8, 1933, to sometime in 1935), New Orleans dress manufacturer Arthur Futterman (June 29, 1937, to December 5, 1938), Ronald Reagan (January 26, 1940, to June 28, 1948), and twice to Hollywood music director and composer Frederick M. Karger (November 1, 1952, to December 7, 1954, and March 11, 1961, to March 9, 1965).

She died in her sleep from natural causes at her Rancho Mirage home on September 10, 2007. Because she was a lay tertiary (associate) of the Dominican Order, she was allowed to be buried in a nun's habit.

Wyman Essentials

January 5: Let’s begin at 8 pm with Public Wedding (1937). It was her first starring role and, as such, is an Essential. William Hopper, future psychotronic star who won fame for his role as investigator Paul Drake on the popular Perry Mason show from the ‘50s and ‘60s, was the son of powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.


At 10: 30 pm, it’s Brother Rat (1938), a harmless comedy about a VMI cadet (Eddie Albert) whose secret marriage to girlfriend Kate Rice (Jane Bryan) is about to become public with the news that she is pregnant. Priscilla Lane and Wayne Morris are the stars, but this is more of an ensemble piece. Wyman has a supporting role as Claire Adams, a friend of Lane who is set up on a blind date with Dan Crawford (Ronald Reagan). Things proceed from there. This is the movie where Jane met Ronnie and off-set sparks began to fly.

January 12: A bumper night of Wyman, beginning at 8 pm with her Oscar-winning turn in Johnny Belinda (1948). As the deaf-mute farm girl Belinda, Wyman gives one of the most sensitive performances on film. This was the first time in the Sound Era that an actress won the Oscar for playing a character who doesn’t speak. Co-star Lew Ayres, as Dr. Robert Richardson, teaches Belinda sign language and lip reading, and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.

At 10 pm, it Wyman in her Oscar-nominated role in The Yearling (1946) as Orry Baxter, mother of Jody (Claude Jarman, Jr.), whose pet deer threatens the family farm. Co-star Gregory Pack, as the family’s father, Penny, received a nomination for Best Actor.

Following at 12:15 am is Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945), a groundbreaking film that deals with the problem of alcoholism. Ray Milland is struggling writer Don Birnam, a talented man who takes solace for his lack of self-confidence by crawling into the bottle. Wyman is his girlfriend, Helen McBride, who loves him and wants to save him from himself. Newcomer Lillian Fontaine, who plays Helen’s mother, was herself the real life mother of sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.

As evening becomes early morning, Wyman stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 Stage Fright as Eve Gill, an aspiring actress who goes undercover as a maid in order to flush out who committed the murder that Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) is wanted for by the police, as she believes him innocent. The movie is overlooked by many film buffs as a misfire, but I believe it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated movies. Part of its reputation may come from the fact that Wyman never really connected with Hitchcock, who admittedly cast her with box office on his mind, as she had recently won the Best Actress award. Years later, Hitchcock revealed to Francois Truffaut, in his book Hitchcock, that he had “great difficulties” with Wyman stemming from her disguise as a lady’s maid. In this disguise, she was supposed to look unattractive, but each time Wyman saw the rushes she burst into tears over how unglamorous she looked on film, while co-star Marlene Dietrich was the epitome of glam. In response, Wyman kept improving her makeup every day until she rivaled Dietrich, and for Hitchcock, that caused her to lose the character. Stage Fright was the last movie Hitchcock filmed in England until 1971, when he made Frenzy.

January 26: Two of Wyman’s most iconic films are showing back to back, beginning at 8 pm with Douglas Sirk’s slick soaper, Magnificent Obsession (1954). A remake of Universal’s 1935 hit with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (directed by John M. Stahl), Rock Hudson takes over Taylor’s role as spoiled playboy Bob Merrick, whose irresponsibility behind the wheel of his speedboat leads to a crash and a diversion of life-saving equipment that could have saved the life of heart attack victim Dr. Wayne Phillips, a man who has done much good in the community. At first churlish, Bob falls in love with Wayne’s widow, Helen (Wyman). He attempts to give her a check, but she turns it down. After another accident, this time in a car, Bob is led to the home of Wayne’s friend, artist Edward Randolph. There he learns Wayne’s philosophy of life from Ed – that people can access their source of power, and thus live out their true destinies, only by performing works of great generosity in private and without compensation. So Bob, under the influence of this “Magnificent Obsession,” begins to do just that. When he bumps into Helen, he announces his plan, but she runs away – and straight into the path of an oncoming car. A resulting blood clot leaves her blind. As she copes, he secretly supports her and goes to medical school, eventually becoming a neurosurgeon, helping his patients both in and out of the hospital. When he learns that Helen is in a coma he operates to remove the old blood clot, saving her life and restoring her eyesight. He also learns she’s in love with him and we have a happy ending. Unlike Stahl, who treats his material in a straightforward manner, Sirk directs with a wink and a nod, making the film into more of a morality play. Today, it’s considered an example of high camp. And, as the original made a star out of Robert Taylor, the remake made a star out of Rock Hudson.


Then, at 10 pm, it’s another Sirk soaper, All That Heaven Allows (1955), again with Rock and Jane in the leads. This time, Wyman is a lonely widow who falls for her younger, hunky gardner, played by Rock. Set in a conservative New England town, their relationship is something of a scandal and Wyman must choose between the hunk and social acceptance. For years the film was dismissed as a woman’s weeper, but the resurgence of interest in Sirk caused cinephiles to take another look, and it is now seen as a beautifully stylized film with a sharp social critique. See it for yourself and decide on whether or not you agree.

Unexpected Pleasures

Two films made before Wyman became an acknowledges star merit our attention. 

January 6: At 7:00 am, it’s a lively little B, Private Detective (1939), with Dick Foran as a homicide detective who must reluctantly team with private eye Jane Wyman to solve the murder of a millionaire. Foran finds himself constantly upstaged by the wise-cracking Wyman is what is really a retooling of the Torchy Blaine series, However, the snappy dialogue and fast pacing make for enjoyable viewing.

January 19: At midnight comes one of the most enjoyable comedies from Warner Bros., Larceny, Inc. (1942) Edward G. Robinson is marvelous as J. Chalmers “Pressure” Maxwell, a recently released convict who finds he needs $25,000 to go into business. As the bank won’t lend him the necessary capital, Maxwell, decides on a scheme to break into the bank’s vault. He buys the failing luggage store next to the bank and plans to tunnel into the bank from his basement. Robinson has everything going for him: business is terrible and the street outside has been under construction seemingly forever. However, everything goes wrong, as customers begin pouring in and his fellow merchants elect him as their spokesman. His half-hearted plea to the city on their behalf to fix the street unexpectedly gets action. It seems that no matter what he does he succeeds. Wyman is his adopted daughter, Denny Costello, who falls for charming luggage salesman Jack Carson. Broderick Crawford and Edward Brophy shine as Robinson’s underlings, and Anthony Quinn is Leo, the guy with the original plan to break into the bank, which was turned down by Robinson. When he learns what Eddie G. and his cohorts are up to, he breaks out of jail to collect his cut. Director Lloyd Bacon does an admirable job of keeping everything in play and he is helped with a sharp script from Everett Freeman and Edwin Gilbert. The whole thing was based on the Broadway farce, The Night Before Christmas by S.J. and Laura Perelman.


Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

There’s an old adage the death comes in threes, but this time it more poignantly came in a dual setting. They couldn’t live without each other and they couldn’t die without each other.

Carrie Fisher, forever immortal for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died at the age of 60 on December 27, four days after experiencing a serious medical emergency on a flight from London to New York. 


On December 28, she was followed to heaven by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who succumbed to a stroke at age of 84. Reynolds had been discussing funeral plans for Fisher when she died.

Look up the word “trouper” in the dictionary and you will likely see Debbie Reynolds’ picture below it. She embodied the word. 

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas. Her father, Ray, was a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad and her mother, Maxene, was a homemaker who took in laundry to help make ends meet. 

With the promise of a better job, her father moved the family to California when Mary Frances was 7. She dreamed of going to college and becoming a gym teacher, but her career plans changed radically when she was named Miss Burbank 1948 with an act in which she impersonated Betty Hutton. Her reason for entering the contest was because everyone who entered received a silk scarf, blouse and free lunch. Two of the judges were movie-studio scouts, and she was soon under contract to Warner Bros., which changed her name to “Debbie Reynolds.” 

Although she wanted to be in show business, the family’s church, the Nazarene Baptists, forbade acting and considered movies sinful. However, her father saw her talent and gave his support, seeing it as a means of paying her college costs. Her mother then gave her support knowing that there would be no "evil" going on in her movies.

Her first film was an uncredited role in Warner Bros.’ 1948 comedy, June Bride, starring Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery. The studio dropped her option after six months and she signed with MGM.

In 1950, she made her debut with MGM in the musical comedy The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady, which starred June Haver and Gordon MacRae, as Maureen O’Grady. That same year, she played Helen Kane, the 1920s singer known as the boop-boop-a-doop girl, in Three Little Words and also appeared in Two Weeks With Love as Melba Robinson. In the movie she she sang “Aba Daba Honeymoon” with Carleton Carpenter. The song became a huge novelty hit.


Her breakthrough role came in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, a musical about how talkies put the silent movie out of business. She played Kathy Selden, a chorus girl who is hired to provide the voice for Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), the self-important co-star of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), with whom she falls in love.

Her roles reflected the current attitudes toward love, marriage and family. In 1953, she was the girl friend of Bobby Van in the musical comedy The Affairs of Dobie Gillis. In The Tender Trap (1955), she played a marriage-minded young woman opposite Frank Sinatra. In 1956, she starred as the daughter of Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine in Paddy Chayefsky’s The Catered Affair, about a poor working-class couple scraping to afford a decent wedding for their daughter. Later that year she starred with new husband Eddie Fisher in Bundle of Joy, a musical remake of the 1939 Ginger Rogers-David Niven comedy Bachelor Mother. And in the smash hit Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), she played the daughter of a moonshiner from the Louisiana swamps who falls in love with unconventional Southern gentleman Leslie Nielsen. The film’s theme song, “Tammy,” sung by Reynolds, gave her a second smash hit single (five weeks at No. 1). She also had begun appearing on TV, and was a semi-regular on The Eddie Fisher Show (NBC, 1953-57).

But it was her off-screen role with Fisher that made the headlines. In 1955, Reynolds married Fisher, a boyish singer known for his hits “Oh! My Pa-Pa” and “I’m Walking Behind You.” The young couple were quickly embraced by fan magazines and promoted as second only to Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh as America’s sweethearts. She and Fisher had two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher. Their best friends were producer Mike Todd and his new wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Trouble for the Fisher-Reynolds union began when Todd died in a private-plane crash in 1958. The Fishers immediately rushed to comfort the young widow. But Eddie Fisher’s comforting turned into a very public extramarital affair. The result was that Fisher and Reynolds divorced the next year with Fisher marrying Taylor weeks later. Their marriage lasted five years, with Taylor leaving Fisher for Richard Burton, whom she had met in Rome on the set of Cleopatra (1963).

Looking back in an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times almost 40 years later, Reynolds said that Taylor, “Probably she did me a great favor.” In Debbie: My Life, her 1988 autobiography, she described a marriage that was unhappy from the beginning, as nothing she did ever pleased her husband.

While Fisher’s career went into decline, Reynolds, now a single mother of two, rode the waves of a public sympathy that went well with her wholesome screen persona, ranking as one of the top 10 box-office stars in both 1959 and 1960.

Her film choices were mainly lighthearted romantic comedies, such as The Gazebo (1959), Say One for Me (1959), The Pleasure of His Company (1961), and The Second Time Around (1961). She broke this string when she appeared in the epic Western drama, How the West Was Won, in 1963. 


Her career peaked with the smash hit The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1964, a Western musical based on a true rags-to-riches story that was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Reynolds’ only nomination – for Best Actress. Other hit films from the ‘60s included The Singing Nun (1966), and Divorce, American Style (1967).

But as the Code began to crumble and movies became closer to real life – or, more to the point, real-ish, infused with and taking on social politics – the less that the buoyancy and breezy virtue epitomized by Reynolds seemed relevant.

In 1971, she tried to adapt to the new sensibility by starring in a train wreck with Shelley Winters called What’s the Matter with Helen?, a take on the classic battle of the hags film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? It was her only live action film of the decade. She managed to redeem herself by supplying the voice of the spider Charlotte in the classic animation, Charlotte’s Web (1973).

Reading the handwriting on the wall, Reynolds turned to television, beginning in 1969 with the ill-fated Debbie Reynolds Show. A sitcom in the I Love Lucy vein with Debbie as a wacky wife who wanted to be a journalist like her husband, it lasted only one season, more for its off-screen drama rather than the quality of its on-screen comedy. Reynolds, a vociferous non-smoker, complained long and loud to NBC about cigarette commercials during the show. NBC became so fed up it pulled the plug after one season.

At a stage in life where other could afford to take it easy, Reynolds was forced to the road after her second marriage to shoe magnate Harry Karl, whom she married in 1960, collapsed in 1973. By the time they divorced, he had gambled away or otherwise misspent his fortune and hers, forcing Reynolds to set out to re-establish herself financially.

She began to play Las Vegas, and in 1973, turned to Broadway and became a star all over again in the smash revival of the old musical chestnut Irene, for which she received a Tony nomination for best actress in a musical. In 1975, she played in a revue at the London Palladium. In 1976, she starred in a short-lived one-woman Broadway show, Debbie. Her last Broadway appearance was in 1983, when she took over the role originated by Lauren Bacall in the musical version of Woman of the Year. She adapted her formidable talent into a lively nightclub act that kept her in demand for the next 20 years, including touring the country with stage shows including Annie Get Your Gun and a new version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

During the ‘80s she also guest-starred on a number of television shows and starred in the short-lived Aloha Paradise (ABC, 1981) – a Fantasy Island/Love Boat rip-off with Reynolds as a female Ricardo Montalban – and starred as a cop whose partner was her son in the TV-movie, Sadie and Son (CBS, 1987).

Already a fixture in Las Vegas during the ’70s and ’80s, she and her third husband, Richard Hamlett, a Virginia real estate developer to whom she was married from 1984 to 1996, established their own hotel, casino and movie-memorabilia museum there, trying to cash in on the boom of nostalgia for the heyday of the studios with a collection packed with memorabilia she had obtained for decades. The largest collection of its kind in the world, Reynolds' memorabilia included over 40,000 costumes, including Dorothy's ruby slippers and the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in her infamous 1952 Life magazine photo spread. To keep there enterprise afloat, Reynolds performed constantly at her hotel's nightclub. But the financial problems were too much to overcome, and the property had to be sold in the ’90s.

Reynolds kept searching for a permanent home for her memorabilia collection. At one point it looked as if she would finally find one in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the home of Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood. But that fell through, and in 2011, a large portion of her collection was auctioned at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. Over the course of two sales, the first in June and the second in December, it took in a little more than $25 million, including $4.6 million for the dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the famous subway-grate scene in The Seven Year Itch

As daughter Carrie Fisher shot to stardom as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series and wrote semi-autobiographical novels, Reynolds for a while became better known as her mother rather than as an actress or singer.  


In 1996, Reynolds made a big-screen comeback as Albert Brooks’ often-clueless yet admirably self-possessed widowed mother in Mother. Her beautifully underplayed comic performance won her a Golden Globe nomination. 

The next year, she played Kevin Kline’s mother in the sexual-identity film comedy In & Out. And from 1999 to 2006, she played Bobbi Adler, Debra Messing’s sociable and uninhibited mother (who had a tendency to burst into show tunes) in the sitcom Will & Grace. To millennials, she is remembered as Aggie Cromwell, the beloved grandmother witch on the Disney Channel's Halloweentown movie series.

Reynolds continued working in both films and television into her late 70s. In 2013, she appeared as Liberace’s strong-willed mother, Frances, in the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra, with Michael Douglas as Liberace. She appeared in a 2016 documentary called Rip Rip, Hooray! about the life and career of comedian Rip Taylor, and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which was shown at the New York Film Festival in October 2016. Her son, Todd Fisher, also appears and is one of the producers. A documentary called Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age is slated for release in 2017. 

In her 2008 memoir, Wishful DrinkingCarrie Fisher often liked joked that while her mother was under anesthetic delivering her, her father fainted. “So when I arrived, I was virtually unattended! And I have been trying to make up for that fact ever since.” 

Carrie Frances Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, the first child of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Her parents divorced when she was a little over two, and her early years were spent traveling from movie set to movie set with mother Debbie and younger brother Todd. 

In 1973, she played a debutante in the Broadway musical Irene, which starred her mother, and also appeared in her mother’s Las Vegas nightclub act. In 1975, Carrie made her movie debut in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo, a satire of Nixon-era politics and the sexually driven future of Los Angeles. She played the precocious daughter of a wealthy woman (Lee Grant) having an affair with a promiscuous hairdresser (Warren Beatty). 


The next year found her competing in an audition with nearly two dozen other actresses (Cindy Williams, Amy Irving, Sissy Spacek and Jodie Foster among them) for the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ Star Wars. She won the part and the rest is history. Released in 1977, the movie turned her into an international movie star almost overnight, the first installment in a series whose characters lived “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Fisher established Princess Leia as a damsel who, while in distress, was never helpless. Her independence was seen in the way she faced down the villainy of Darth Vader. She had both the mettle to escape the clutches of the gangster Jabba the Hutt and the tender affection to tell Han Solo (as he is about to be frozen in carbonite) that she loved him.

She returned in three more films: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). In the last, she had become a battle-hardened general.

She had recently completed her work in an as-yet-untitled eighth episode of the main Star Wars saga, scheduled to be released in December 2017.

Off-screen, she was forthcoming about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which fueled her frequent bouts of depression and substance abuse, channeling these struggles into powerful comic works, including her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge, her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking (which later became a memoir), and The Princess Diarist.

Her substance abuse included such drugs as LSD, Percodan, and cocaine. After completing her role as April in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1985), she had nearly overdosed and had to have her stomach pumped. Afterward, she checked herself into a rehab program in Los Angeles. Those experiences later became the subject for her comic novel Postcards From the Edge, the chapters of which are variously presented as letters, diary entries, monologues and third-person narratives.

The other subject of the novel was her often fractious relationship with her mother. Postcards From the Edge portrayed Ms. Reynolds as a nonchalant, easygoing raconteur ill-suited for real life. The book was made into a movie in 1990, written by Fisher and directed by Mike Nichols, starring Meryl Streep as Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine as her movie-star mother.


Besides the movies motioned above, Fisher also appeared in The Blues Brothers (1980), The Man With One Red Shoe (1985), a segment in Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The ‘Burbs (1989), Drop Dead Fred (1991), Soapdish (1991), This Is My Life (1992), and Wonderland (2003), among others. She stole the movie as Meg Ryan’s best friend in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.

Turning to television, she parodied herself in Sex and the City and The Big Bang Theory. She also guest starred on A Nero Wolfe Mystery (A&E, 2002), 30 Rock (NBC, 2007), the British series Catastrophe (Channel 4, 2015), and was the voice of Angela on Family Guy (Fox, 2014-16).

Fisher’s personal life includes an engagement to Dan Ackroyd and a marriage to Paul Simon that lasted for about a year (his song, “Hearts and Bones,” is about her). In The Princess Diarist she finally reveled what many fans suspected – that during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she and Harrison Ford, who was married at the time, had an affair.

Survivors include her brother, Todd, daughter, Billie Lourd (from a relationship with the talent agent Bryan Lourd), and half-sisters, Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, the daughters of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens.


Gene Wilder: In Memoriam

A Little Nonsense Now and Then is Relished By the Wisest Men

By Ed Garea

Gene Wilder, the frizzy-haired comic star best known for his work with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, died August 29 at his home in Stamford, Conn., from Alzheimer's disease complications. He was 83. 


Twice Oscar nominated, for his role in “The Producers” and for writing “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks, Wilder was known in his films for playing a neurotic who frequently went from total hysteria to dewy-eyed tenderness, and back again, according to Variety. He told Time magazine in a 1970 interview, “My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria. After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

Wilder was the proverbial success story. He was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisc. His father, William J. Silberman, was a Russian Jewish immigrant who manufactured and sold novelty items like miniature beer and whiskey bottles. His mother, Jeanne (Baer), was diagnosed with rheumatic fever when Wilder was 8 years old. Her doctor told the young Wilder that if he directed anger toward his emotionally fragile mother, it might kill her. From the hours he spent trying to make her laugh, he developed an interest in theater. 

At the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting at the time, perform onstage. Totally fascinated by what he saw, he asked her teacher if he could become his student. The teacher replied that if he was still interested when he turned 13, he would take him on as a student. The day after he turned 13, Wilder called the teacher and was accepted. He studied under the teacher for two years. 

But when his mother felt that her son was not fully reaching his potential in Wisconsin, she sent him to Black-Foxe, a military school in Hollywood. His stay there was not a pleasant one; he was bullied and sexually assaulted, mainly because he was the only Jewish boy in the school. Wilder returned home and became involved with the local theater community, performing for the first time to a paying audience at age 15 as Balthasar in a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  

After graduating from Milwaukee’s Washington High School in 1951, Wilder continued his education at the University of Iowa, studying communications and theater arts. After graduating in 1955, he spent a year at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England, where, in addition to acting classes, he also took up fencing, winning the all-school fencing championship, according to Variety.


On September 10, 1956, Wilder was drafted into the Army, where he was assigned to the medical corps and sent to Fort Sam Houston for training. After training, he was given the opportunity to choose any post that was open. Wanting to stay near New York City to attend acting classes at Herbert Berghof’s HB Studio (and later at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg, where he studied “the Method”), he chose to serve as paramedic in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology in Phoenixville, Pa. 

In November 1957, his mother died from ovarian cancer. After his discharge from the Army, he returned to New York on a full-time scholarship from the HB Studio, supporting himself as a limo driver and fencing instructor. 

Feeling that Jerry Silberman did not have the right ring, he decided to adopt a stage name, and chose “Gene Wilder.” “Gene” from Thomas Wolfe’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel, and “Wilder” in honor of Thornton Wilder, whom he admired. 

Wilder made his professional debut in the Off-Broadway play Roots in 1961, followed by a stay on Broadway in Graham Greene’s comedy The Complaisant Lover, according to Variety. He won the Clarence Derwent Award as promising newcomer for this role. His performance in the 1963 production of Brecht’s Mother Courage with star Anne Bancroft was seen by her future husband Mel Brooks. A few months later, Brooks told Wilder that he was working on a screenplay called Springtime for Hitler, and Wilder would be perfect in the role of Leo Bloom. Brooks had Wilder promise him that he would check before making any long-term commitments.

Meanwhile, Wilder continued to work in the theater, acting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1963 and Dynamite Tonight and The White House in 1964. Afterward he understudied Alan Arkin and Gabriel Dell in Luv, eventually taking over the role. 

Wilder also worked in television, appearing in “The Sound of Hunting,” “The Interrogators,” and “Windfall” for The DuPont Show of the Week in 1962. In 1966, he appeared in the TV production of Death of a Salesman with Lee J. Cobb. He would later star in TV movies, including The Scarecrow (1972), Acts of Love and Other Comedies (1973), and Thursday’s Game (1974).


In 1967, Wilder made his film debut in a minor but memorable role as Eugene Grizzard in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). And after three years of not hearing from Brooks, Wilder was called to read with Zero Mostel, who had approval of his co-star in Brooks’ upcoming Springtime for Hitler. Wilder was cast as the neurotic accountant Leo Bloom in the feature film, now retitled The Producers (1967). His performance earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. 

He next starred in a dual role with Donald Sutherland in Bud Yorkin’s disappointing Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), a comedy set during the French Revolution, where he got a chance to display his fencing abilities. It was followed by another middling comedy, Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (also 1970).

In 1971, he auditioned for and won the role of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic that became one of his most beloved characters. Though the film was not an immediate hit, it has gained a cult following over the years, especially with children. It's a magic film filled with dream and nightmare scenarios. So many of Wilder's line still remain well known such as "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

Wilder followed this with a role in one segment of Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) in 1973. The film was a solid hit, with a domestic gross of $18 million against a $2 million budget.

After finishing filming, he began work on a script he called Young Frankenstein. After finishing a two-page scenario, he called Mel Brooks, who told him it sounded like “a cute idea,” but otherwise showed little interest. Meanwhile, Wilder was offered the part of The Fox in Stanley Donen’s musical adaptation of Saint Exupery’s classic The Little Prince. But right before filming was to begin in London, Wilder received an emergency call from Mel Brooks, who needed someone to play The Waco Kid in his Western parody, Blazing Saddles, after Dan Dailey dropped out at the last moment and Gig Young had to be hospitalized during filming. After the picture finished, Wilder returned to London and filmed The Little Prince.


After Blazing Saddles became a huge hit, Wilder and Brooks began co-writing Young Frankenstein. Wilder always defined his role with Brooks as to “make him more subtle, while his job was to make me more broad.” But there was an instance were Wilder was the Brooks-type and Brooks the Wilder-type while writing the movie. Wilder had an idea where he (Dr. Frankenstein) and the monster would tap dance together to “Puttin' On the Ritz.” Brooks was strongly against the idea, claiming it went too far, but after a test audience reacted with howls of laughter, Brooks relented and the scene went into the movie. 

The rights to Young Frankenstein were to be sold to Columbia, but after having trouble agreeing on the budget, Wilder, Brooks, and producer Michael Gruskoff signed with 20th Century Fox, where both Brooks and Wilder had to sign five-year contracts. Young Frankenstein was a commercial hit, with Wilder and Brooks receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The experience of working with Brooks encouraged Wilder to write and direct his own comedies. The first of these was The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), in which he included such Brooks regulars as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. It wasn't a critical or commercial hit. 

In 1975, Wilder's agent sent him a script for a film called Super Chief. Wilder accepted, but told the film's producers that he thought the only person who could keep the film from being offensive was Richard Pryor. Pryor accepted the role in the film, now renamed Silver Streak, and the two became Hollywood’s first interracial comedy duo.  

Wilder’s next project was The World’s Greatest Lover, inspired by Fellini’s The White Sheik, from 1952. He wrote, produced, and directed the film, which premiered in 1977, but it was a critical failure. This was followed by The Frisco Kid (1979), a Western comedy that was originally to have starred John Wayne, but Wayne dropped out and was replaced by the up-and-coming Harrison Ford. It fared no better than its predecessor. 


Wilder rebounded with Stir Crazy (1980), again starring Richard Pryor. directed by Sidney Poitier, it was an even bigger hit than Silver Streak, grossing more than $100 million. However, two more Wilder-Pryor pairings, See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991) provided diminishing returns. 

While filming Hanky Panky in 1982 for director Poitier, Wilder met and fell in love with Saturday Night Live comedienne Gilda Radner. She became his third wife shortly thereafter. Wilder and Radner co-starred in his most successful directing project, The Woman in Red (1984) as well as Haunted Honeymoon (1986), according to Variety. But Radner grew ill with ovarian cancer. He devoted himself to her care, working sporadically after that and hardly at all after her death in 1989. Her death led him, becoming actively involved in promoting cancer awareness and treatment. He helped create the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and Gilda’s Club. Also in 1989 Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another factor that caused him to slow down his working pace. 

In 1994, he starred in the failed TV series Something Wilder for NBC. In 1999, he wrote and starred in the two A&E mystery telepics The Lady in Question and Murder in a Small Town. He also appeared as the Mock Turtle in NBC’s 1999 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. His last acting stint was as Mr. Stein in a couple of episodes of Will and Grace in 2002-03, for which he won an Emmy.

In 2005, Wilder turned to writing, penning a memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art. Afterward he wrote fiction: the novels My French Whore (2007) and The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008); a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and the novella Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance (2013). Wilder is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991, and his nephew.

Before Radner, Wilder was married to actress-playwright Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz.


Garry Marshall: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

Garry Marshall not only created the classic sitcoms Happy DaysThe Odd CoupleLaverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy, but also directed a string of hit movies, including The Flamingo Kid, BeachesPretty WomanRunaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries. He died on July 19 at a hospital in Burbank, California, from complications of pneumonia after suffering a stroke. He was 81. 


Marshall was the classic American success story, born Garry Kent Marshall in the New York City borough of The Bronx on November 13, 1934. His mother, Marjorie Irene (née Ward; 1908-1983), was a tap dance teacher who ran a tap dance school. His father,  Anthony Wallace Marshall (1906–1999), was a director of industrial films who later became a producer – as Tony Marshall – on some of his son’s television programs. 

He was of Italian descent on his father’s side and German, English and Scottish on his mother’s. His father changed the family’s last name from "Masciarelli" to "Marshall" before Garry was born. Marshall attended DeWitt Clinton High School and matriculated at Northwestern, where he wrote a sports column for The Daily Northwestern, penning a controversial column suggesting that Northwestern leave the Big Ten Conference. 

After graduation, he began his career as a joke writer for comedians including Joey Bishop. He later joined the writing staff of The Tonight Show With Jack Paar. He also worked for the New York Daily News as a copy boy in 1959 followed by a stint as a sports statistician in 1960. In 1961, he moved to Hollywood, where he teamed with Jerry Belson, writing for The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Joey Bishop ShowThe Danny Thomas Show, and The Lucy Show.

Marshall and Belson struck out on their own as creator/producers for Hey, Landlord, which lasted one season (1966–67). In 1970, they adapted Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple for ABC and scored a substantial hit. Over the course of its five-season run, the show drew three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series. Stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall won individual Emmys for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series – Klugman twice (1971 and 1973) and Randall once (1975). 

In 1971, Marshall wrote the pilot for Happy Days, which was aired in 1972 as a segment of ABC’s comedy anthology series Love, American Style called “Love and the Happy Days.” George Lucas asked to view the pilot before deciding to cast the segment’s star, Ron Howard, in American Graffiti, which was released in 1973.


The success of American Graffiti, in turn, led to ABC picking up Happy Days for its 1974 schedule. The series began slowly, but steadily expanding its audience, becoming the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-1978 and No. 4 the following year. Henry Winkler, who played Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli became a pop culture icon; his leather jacket eventually winding up in the Smithsonian. 

In 1977, as the show searched for new ideas, the gang visit Hollywood, where Fonzie accepts a challenge to jump over a shark while on water skis. This decision later gave rise to the phrase “jumped the shark,” which was used to describe a show clearly past its prime and running on fumes. However, that is a misnomer for Happy Days. While the quality declined   that happens with nearly all long-running TV shows  and actors came and went, the ratings were still strong for years after that episode. It didn't go off the air until 1984.

While at the height of its success, Happy Days spawned two spinoffs. One was Laverne and Shirley (1976-83), starring Cindy Williams, who appeared in American Graffiti, along with Marshall’s sister Penny, who was Myrna Turner, Klugman's character's secretary on The Odd Couple TV show. The other was Mork and Mindy (1978-82), which made a star out of its lead, Robin Williams. Mork made two appearances on the show.

Marshall made his directorial debut in 1967 on his series Hey, Landlord and also helmed episodes of The Odd CoupleHappy DaysMork and Mindy, and Laverne and Shirley. The first feature film he directed was the comedy Young Doctors in Love (1982), a spoof of the long-running TV soap opera General Hospital, starring Sean Young and Michael McKean. A bit of trivia: Before making the film, he met actor Hector Elizondo during a pick-up basketball game. The two became fast friends and Elizondo then appeared in every Marshall movie.

His second film was The Flamingo Kid (1984), which he scripted from a story by Neal Marshall. A coming-of-age comedy starring Matt Dillon as a recent high school graduate who learns important life lessons while working during the summer as a cabana boy, it drew critical raves and decent box office. 

Marshall’s next venture was the comedy-drama Nothing in Common (1986) starring Tom Hanks as a successful ad man whose world falls apart when his mother, Eva Marie Saint, leaves his father, Jackie Gleason. Hanks now finds himself juggling his life to meet the needs of his parents, especially his father, who he realizes he never really knew. Though the critics weren’t as crazy about this as The Flamingo Kid, it still did decent business at the box office thanks to its star power. Marshall followed it with another modest success, the screwball comedy Overboard (1987), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Marshall’s first taste of success came with the 1988 tear-jerking chick flick, Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. The critics panned it, but the audience loved it, as it racked up a domestic gross of $57 million with an even more successful afterlife on home video. 


After directing The Lottery (1989), a short starring Bette Midler as a music teacher who loses her winning lottery ticket, Marshall hit the Hollywood lottery with the megahit Pretty Woman (1990), starring Richard Gere as a millionaire businessman who hires hooker Julia Roberts as an escort and winds up falling in love with her. Made on a budget of $14 million, the film grossed $178.4 million in the USA and $463.4 million worldwide. 

Marshall followed Pretty Woman with Frankie and Johnny, a adaptation of Terrence McNally’s play starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer that scored well with critics, but returned only $22.7 million against a budget of $29 million. But that was nothing compared with his next two films, the critical and commercial bombs Exit to Eden (1994) and Dear God (1996), which some critics said would have been better served as a TV movie. He managed to rebound with The Other Sister (1999), a modest financial success with Juliette Lewis as a mentally handicapped young woman and Diane Keaton as her mother.

Realizing what made him successful, Marshall reunited with his Pretty Woman stars Roberts and Gere for Runaway Bride (1999), about a reporter (Gere) whose latest assignment is writing a story about a woman he knows back home (Roberts) who keeps leaving her fiancés at the altar. Filmed on a $70 million budget, it grossed $309 million worldwide.

He followed this hit with another one: The Princess Diaries (2001), starring Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopiles, a normal teenager who learns that she is the heir to the throne of a European country named Genovia and now must becomes used to a totally different lifestyle. The film was followed by a sequel, The Princess Diaries 2. The films made a star out of Hathaway and its sequel was also big hits for Marshall.

The films he later made were nowhere near the commercial or critical successes he had in the past. Georgia Rule (2007), starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman, was a by-the-number weepie that turned a modest profit thanks to overseas grosses and home video sales. 

Valentine’s Day (2010) and its sequel New Year’s Eve (2011) were more commercially successful enterprises. Valentine’s Day, a story about three couples who break up and make up over the pressures of Valentine’s Day starred Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Bradley Cooper, and Eric Dane. It returned a worldwide gross of $216.4 million against a budget of  $52 miillion. New Year’s Eve, which was the same story set against the backdrop of New Year’s Eve and starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, and Halle Berry, returned $142 million against a budget of $57 million. Marshall’s last film, Mother’s Day, following the same formula and starred Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis, was released in April 2016. 


One facet of Marshall’s life that’s usually overlooked is he was also an actor with 83 roles to his name almost all of them uncredited or as a guest star. He played a U.S. recruiting officer in The Phony American (1961), with Christine Kaufman and William Bendix; an uncredited mafioso in Goldfinger (1964); a service station attendant in Fabian’s anti-drug Maryjane (1968); a plainclothes cop in the Dick Clark-produced Psych-Out for AIP in 1968; and chewing gum magnate Phil Harvey in the 1992 A League of Their Own (which he later reprised for the short-lived TV spinoff) for sister Penny Marshall, who directed. In television he had a recurring role as network head Stan Lansing on Murphy Brown (1994-1997) and Bernie in Father of the Bride (2004), besides numerous guest appearances and voice-overs for animated series,

Marshall even found time to pound the stage boards, appearing in Wrong Turn at Lungfish (co-written with Lowell Ganz), played L.A., Chicago and Off Broadway. The Roast, which he co-wrote with Jerry Belson, played Broadway in a production directed by Carl Reiner in 1980. In 1997, he and his daughter Kathleen founded the Falcon Theater in Burbank. Marshall also occasionally direct opera, including stagings of Jacques Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess, which opened the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005-2006 season, and Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, which played at the San Antonio Opera in January 2008.

Over his career, Marshall received a plethora of honors: the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award (1990); the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award (1995); the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of excellence and innovation in creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television (1996); the PGA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television (1998); the American Cinema Editors’ Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award (2004); and the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement from the Writers Guild of America (2014).

He was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame for his contributions to the field of television in 1997. In 2012, he was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters' Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He also has a star on the Walk of Fame. Northwestern University named a building specializing in radio/television/film production for him and his wife.

Marshall wrote two volumes of memoirs: Wake Me When It’s Funny (co-written with his daughter Lori in 1995), which recounted his first 35 years in Hollywood; and My Happy Days in Hollywood (2012).

Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married since 1963; son Scott, a film director; and daughters Lori, an actress and casting director, and Kathleen, an actress; a number of grandchildren; and sisters Penny Marshall, an actress and film director, and Ronny Hallin, a TV producer.


Patty Duke: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

At the age of 13, her name was listed over the title on the marquee for her Broadway hit play. At the age of 16, she starred in a sitcom that is still beloved by fans today and began a career in television that saw her win three Emmys. She also campaigned tirelessly for mental health awareness, AIDS research, and nuclear disarmament in addition to serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild. But her best accomplishment may have been her real-life role as a survivor; a force that refused to yield to whatever obstacles came her way.

Patty Duke, Oscar-winning actress and ‘60s television icon, died March 29 at a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was 69. The cause of death was sepsis caused by a ruptured intestine that she suffered a couple of days before, according to Duke’s husband, Michael Pearce.

Duke first came to public notice in 1959, when at the age of 12, she starred as Helen Keller in the original Broadway production of William Gibson’s drama, The Miracle Worker. Anne Bancroft co-starred as Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan. 


When Duke and Bancroft reprised their roles for the 1962 film version, Duke won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

She followed this by starring in an eponymous sitcom created by Sidney Sheldon that was launched in 1963 and ran on ABC until 1966. In the sitcom, Duke played the dual roles of Patty Lane, a typical Brooklyn teenager, and her worldly Scottish “identical cousin” Cathy Lane.

Quite a few critics were nonplussed over how a talented actress such as Duke could travel so quickly from the sublimity of an Oscar winning role to playing identical cousins living in Brooklyn.

But Duke supplied the answer in her 1987 memoir, Call Me Anna. She was a meal ticket.

Patty was born Anna Marie Duke in New York City on Dec. 14, 1946, the youngest of three children to John Patrick Duke, a handyman and cabby, and Frances (McMahon) Duke, a cashier. Patty, who was reared in Queens, described her mother as chronically depressed and prone to violence, and her father as an alcoholic who was forced by her mother to leave the family home when she was six.

Anna began acting around the age of 8, when she was taken on by John and Ethel Ross, a husband-and-wife-managing team who represented her older brother Raymond. The Rosses began by neutralizing Anna’s distinct Queens accent and changed her name to the more “all-American” sounding Patty, most likely after successful teenage actress Patty McCormick. 

As Patty Duke, she worked bit parts in television, appearing on the soap opera The Brighter Day, and also in print ads and television commercials. There were also tiny parts in films such as The Goddess and 4D Man. In 1959, before landing the part of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, Duke appeared in a television adaptation of Meet Me in St. Louis as Tootie Smith, the role played in the 1944 film by Margaret O’Brien.

To land the part of the young Helen Keller, the Rosses prepared her by blindfolding her and moving the furniture around. She also intensively trained by learning to do things without sight. The work paid off when producer Fred Coe cast her to play Keller. The role was a daunting one, requiring her to engage nightly with co-star Anne Bancroft in an ad-libbed, physical onstage fight that could last up to 10 minutes. At 13, her name was raised above the title on the marquee, believed to be the first to have her name above the title at such an early age.


Shortly after winning her Oscar in 1963 at age 16, the youngest at the time to win an Academy Award, she also scored another first when she became the youngest star at the time to have a television series bearing her name. The series, written by Sidney Sheldon, revolved around an incredible premise: two cousins so indistinguishable that they could pass for one another, which they often did over the course of the series. The public loved it and tuned in every week, along with purchasing related merchandise like dolls, clothes and board games.

For her part, as related in her memoir, Duke felt trapped, having to pretend she was younger than she was; not being consulted about anything; and having no choice in how she looked or what she wore. She wrote about the Rosses removing her from her home to live with them where they monitored her every movement, telling her what to wear, what to eat, what to do; even controlling her mother’s access to her. They billed Duke as being two years younger than she actually was and padded her resume with false credits. Duke also wrote about the Rosses introducing her to alcohol and feeding her uppers and downers to get her in shape to work. She also wrote that both sexually molested her on occasion. 

In addition, there were financial shenanigans. In 1959, Ross admitted to a congressional committee that Patty, who had appeared not long before on the TV quiz show The $64,000 Question, had been fed the answers by the show’s producers. Her area of expertise was spelling. She won $32,000 on the show, less the 15% fee the Rosses took. After she had broken with the Rosses as a young woman, she discovered that they had embezzled the vast portion of her earnings, about $1 million.

To escape from the Rosses, she married Harry Falk, an assistant director on The Patty Duke Show who was 13 years her senior, in 1965. During their marriage, she suffered from repeated mood swings and anorexia, drank heavily, and overdosed on pills a number of times. They divorced in 1970. A second marriage, to Michael Tell, was annulled after only 13 days.

In 1972, Patty married actor John Astin, billing herself as Patty Duke Astin during their marriage. They divorced in 1985. Her fourth, and final, marriage was in 1986 to Michael Pearce, an Army drill sergeant. They had met during the production of A Time to Triumph. It's the story of Concetta Hassan, a woman who struggles to support her family after her husband is injured but who eventually becomes a United States Army helicopter pilot, for which Pearce served as a consultant. The couple moved Idaho and adopted a son, Kevin, who was born in 1988. During the course of her marriage Duke occasionally used the name "Anna Duke-Pearce" in her writings and other professional work.


After The Patty Duke Show was canceled, Duke began her adult acting career by playing Neely O’Hara, a character loosely based on Judy Garland in the 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Suzann’s crap classic, Valley of the Dolls. It was a role she had campaigned to play, and one she hoped would cause audiences to leave her teen persona behind. However, while the film was a box-office success, audiences and critics alike had a difficult time accepting Duke in her new persona as an alcoholic, drug-addicted singing star. While the film is heralded today as a something of a camp classic, thanks in part to Duke's over-the-top performance, at the time, it almost sunk her career.

In 1969, Duke won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) for her starring role in Me, Natalie, a film in which she played an "ugly duckling" Brooklyn teenager struggling to make a life for herself in Greenwich Village.

In 1970, she won the first of her three Emmy awards for her starring role in the TV movie My Sweet Charlie, in which she portrayed a pregnant runaway who falls in love with a black man, played by Al Freeman Jr.


Duke won her second Emmy for her work in the 1976 NBC mini-series Captains and the Kings, and her third Emmy for playing Annie Sullivan (to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen Keller) in a 1979 TV adaptation of The Miracle Worker.

Duke played herself from her mid-30s onward in Call Me Anna, a 1990 TV movie based on her memoir. And over the years she had guest roles on many shows, including The Love BoatAmazing GraceTouched by an Angel and Glee.

And as if all this weren’t enough, Duke also has a successful signing career, including two Top 40 hits in 1965, "Don't Just Stand There" (#8) and "Say Something Funny" (#22).

Off-screen, she served a term as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988, the second woman (actress Kathleen Nolan was the first) to be elected to the position.

For years, Duke dealt with an emotional disability for which there was as yet no name. It led her to attempt suicide several times, and commitments to mental hospitals. Only in 1982, was she finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given proper medication, which included lithium as a medication and therapy. 


The treatment stabilized her and she became an activist for numerous mental health causes. She lobbied Congress and joined forces with the National Institute of Mental Health and National Alliance on Mental Illness in order to increase awareness, funding, and research for people with mental illness.


Rita Gam, Ken Howard and Jan Nemec: In Memoriam

Silent but Sexy, a Shadow and a Czech Visionary

By Ed Garea

Although the big news was the untimely death of Garry Shandling, three other notable people in the world of film also passed away.

Rita Gam

Rita Gam, a breakout star of the 1950s who went on to a lengthy career in film and television, died on March 22. Nancy Willen, Gam’s publicist, said the actress passed away in Los Angeles of respiratory failure. She was 88. 

Gam was born Rita Eleanore Mackay in Pittsburgh on April 2, 1927, to Milton A. Mackay, an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine who died when she was four, and Belle (Fately) Mackay, who was born in Romania.

She took her stage name from her stepfather, Benjamin J. Gam, a dress manufacturer who was born in Russia who her mother married in 1932. She was raised in Manhattan and attended the private Fieldston School in the Bronx. At the age of 17 she “ran away” from home – actually about 25 blocks – to a Midtown hotel, and found work modeling hats and selling stuffed pandas while pursuing an acting career in her spare time.

A founding member of The Actor’s Studio, she made her Broadway debut in Ben Hecht’s 1946 play A Flag Is Born alongside future husband Sidney Lumet. She appeared in three more productions before turning to television, where she guest starred in several series.


In 1952, she was signed by Clarence Greene, a producer for Harry Popkin, for the lead opposite Ray Milland in The Thief. The film was a slow-moving noir about a nuclear physicist in Washington who is also working as a spy for an unnamed foreign country. It was unique in that it was filmed without dialogue.

Gam’s performance caught the eye of Life magazine, which featured her on its September 1952 cover, describing Gam as a “silent and sexy” actress who “can express herself eloquently without words.” In just a few moments on the screen, the magazine noted, Gam “makes a striking movie debut without uttering a word.”

The publicity also caught the eye of MGM, which signed her to a long-term contract in October 1952. After serving a brief suspension in October 1953 for refusing a loan-out to Paramount to star in the Martin-Lewis comedy Living It Up (a remake of Nothing Sacred), she starred with Cornel Wilde in the exotic Saadia

While working for MGM, she shared an apartment with fellow newcomer Grace Kelly. They developed a close friendship that later led to Gam’s serving as a bridesmaid at the wedding of Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.

Other notable movie roles were Night People (1954) with Gregory Peck; Sign of the Pagan (1954) with Jack Palance and Jeff Chandler; Hannibal (1959) with Victor Mature; King of Kings (1961), as Queen Hernias; and Klute (1971) with Jane Fonda. Interestingly, she was offered a leading role in The Ten Commandments (1956), but during her interview with director Cecil B. DeMille, she confided that she was not religious, so he died not hire her.

At the 1962 Berlin Film Festival, she shared a Silver Bear award as Best Actress with Viveca Lindfors for her performance as Estelle in Tad Danielewski’s adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (aka Sinners Go To Hell ). Lindfors was also in the film as Inez.

Besides her work in film and television, she also played a leading role, along with Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Zoe Caldwell and others, with the Minnesota Theater Company in 1963 during the opening season of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

She also became a producer (with two documentary series, World of Film and World of Beauty, to her credit) and an author. She write two books: Actress to Actress (1986), and Actors: A Celebration (1988). 

Gam was married and divorced twice, to director Sidney Lumet (1949-1955), and book publisher and co-founder of The Paris Review, Thomas Guinzburg (1956-63). She is survived by daughter, Kate Guinzburg, a film producer, who worked in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Vin Rosa Productions; son, Michael Guinzburg, a novelist; and three granddaughters. 

Ken Howard

Ken Howard, who earned acclaim for his role in the television series The White Shadow, and as Thomas Jefferson in both the Broadway and film versions of 1776, died on March 23 at his home near Los Angeles. No cause of death was given. He was 71. 

Howard was also was the sitting president of SAG-Aftra, Hollywood’s largest union, which he helped form in 2012.


During the course of a 47-year career, Mr. Howard appeared in more than 100 movies and television series, including the previously mentioned The White Shadow, a critically lauded drama that ran on CBS from 1978 to 1981 when it was cut for low ratings. One of its problems with ratings was it aired at least two years opposite Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, typically the top two rated shows on the air at the time. Howard starred as a retired professional basketball player who becomes a coach at an urban high school. 

A stockbroker’s son, he was born Kenneth Joseph Howard in El Centro, Calif., on March 28, 1944. His family moved to Manhasset, on Long Island, where he starred on the high school basketball team. At Amherst College, he captained the basketball team and was a member of an a cappella group, the Zumbyes. He later studied at the Yale School of Drama, but left before graduation for the lights of Broadway, making his debut in 1968 in the original production of Neil Simon’s Promises, Promises with Jerry Orbach. 

In 1969, he originated the role of Thomas Jefferson in the Tony-winning musical 1776, a role that he repeated in the film version made the same year. In 1970, he won a Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his role as a young gym coach at a Catholic boys’ school in Child’s Play. His other Broadway appearances include Seesaw (1973), The Norman Conquests (1975), 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976), and Rumors (1988). He also starred as Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill in According to Tip (2008).

Howard made his film debut in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), co-starring with Liza Minelli. Other noted films were Such Good Friends (1971), The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie (1972), Second Thoughts (1983), Oscar (1991, with Sylvester Stallone), Ulterior Motives (1991), Clear and Present Danger (1994, with Harrison Ford), The Net (1995, with Sandra Bullock), Tactical Assault (2005), In Her Shoes (2005), Michael Clayton (2007), Rambo (also known as Rambo IV) (2008), A Numbers Game (2010), and J. Edgar (2010).

He received an Emmy Award for his performance Phelan Beale in the HBO production of Grey Gardens (2009). His last films were Better Living Through Chemistry (2013), The Judge (2014), The Wedding Ringer (2015), and Joy (2015).

But it was television where he was best known, primarily for his work as coach Ken Reeves on The White Shadow, which took its name from a nickname given to him by the Long Island Press, as he was the only Caucasian starter on the Manhasset High School varsity basketball team.

He co-starred on the series Adam’s Rib (1973), The Manhunter (1974-75), It’s Not Easy (1983), The Colbys (1985) and Dynasty (1981), Melrose Place (1994-98 as George Andrews), Crossing Jordan (2001 where he played Jill Hennessy’s father), Cane (2007), and as Hank Hooper on 30 Rock (2011-13). He also guest starred six times on Murder, She Wrote (1985-94).

Notable miniseries include The Thorn Birds (1983), Rage of Angels (1983), The Country Girl (1982), Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Rojas Smart Story (1991), Memories of Midnight (1991), Mastergate (1992), OP Center (1995), and Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder (2000). He also won a Daytime Emmy Award for the 1980 TV documentary,The Body Human: Facts for Boys.

A working member of SAG for over 40 years, he was first elected National President beginning September 24, 2009. He inherited a union suffering the effects of a strike by the Writers Guild of America and anxiety over shrinking pay as studios and television networks were tightening their belts.

His notable achievement was in negotiating the merger of SAG with the competing American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, significantly bolstering actors’ bargaining power and creating a union 160,000 members strong. He then won re-election campaigns in August 2013 and August 2015.

In addition to his acting and union work, Howard also served as National Spokesperson and Executive Board Member of the Onyx and Breezy Foundation (which grants financial aid to individuals and qualified rescues that benefit the welfare of animals), The National Kidney Foundation (Chancellor), and was a member, along with his wife Linda, on the Board of the Los Angeles Alzheimer's Committee.

He also authored a book, Act Natural: How to Speak to Any Audience (2003), and has lent his voice to more than 30 best-selling books on tape. 

Howard was married three times, to actress Louise Sorel (1973-75), Margo Howard, the daughter of advice columnist Ann Landers (1977-91), and retired stuntwoman Linda Fetters (1992-2016). He is survived by Linda and three stepchildren. 

Jan Nemec

A Czech director whose surreal, parable-like films made him one of the leaders, along with Miloš Forman, Jirí Menzel, and Vera Chytilová, of the Czech New Wave movement in the 1960s, died on March 18 in Prague. His death was announced by wife Iva Ruszelakova in the newspaper Dnes (Today). She did not give the cause of death. He was 79.

He was born in Prague on July 12, 1936. Proficient on the piano and clarinet, he thought about becoming a jazz musician until dissuades by his father, who thought that filmmaking was a more practical profession. He enrolled in 1956 at the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (also known as FAMU), where he was mentored by revered filmmaker Vaclav Krska.

For graduation in 1960, Nemec adapted an autobiographical short story by Arnost Lustig into the film A Piece of Bread about three prisoners who plot their escape while being transported by train from one concentration camp to another. While trying to steal a loaf of bread, they find themselves at one another’s throats.

Nemec’s first film was Diamonds of the Night (1964), an adaptation of Lustig’s wartime novel. Using a hand-held camera, Nemec spins a story of two young men who escape from a Nazi prison train and wander across a bleak landscape. Using such devices as flashbacks and simulated hallucinations, their thoughts and fantasies play out on the screen as they encounter strange scenes and even stranger people, resulting in an ending that leaves the viewer in doubt as to their fate.

It was all part of a style he invented and called “dream realism.” He relied on haunting imagery, flashbacks, using hallucinations and other dislocating devices to bend the narratives in directions viewers were not expecting.


His next film Report on the Party and the Guests (1966) is considered by many to be his masterpiece. A Buñuelesque allegory about a party that degenerates into a sinister game, the film drew the ire of the Communist authorities, in part because the sadistic host of the party resembled Lenin. The result was that the film ended up on the censor’s shelf for the next 20 years though it was available to be shown at the 1968 New York Film Festival.

He also contributed a segment to Pearls of the Deep, an anthology showcasing up-and-coming Czech directors, with all stories being based on the writings of author Bohumil Hrabal. Nemec's segment, The Poseurs, concerns two elderly residents at a clinic who spend their days bragging about their glamorous pasts, but later turn out to be nonentities.

He next completed Martyrs of Love (1967), a feature consisting of three love stories, each with a surreal overtone. The resulting furor from the censors forced Nemec to work outside the government-approved system. His next production, the short Mother and Son (Mutter und Sohn) in 1967, was shot while attending a student film festival in Amsterdam. The fact that it was made with financing from West German television and a Dutch film company further strained his relations with the Czech government. 

But it was the documentary, Oratorio for Prague (1968), that ultimately forced him to leave Czechoslovakia. The film, intended as praise for the new artistic freedoms under the reformist government of Alexander Dubcek, ended with scenes of Russian tanks rolling through the streets of Prague.

The film was smuggled out of the country and served as proof that the Soviet invasion was not by invitation of the Czech people, as was claimed. In addition, news programs worldwide broadcast the footage, and in 1988, Philip Kaufman even included it in his adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Nemec served as an adviser and appeared in a cameo as a documentarian interrogated for filming the invasion. 

Nemec attempted to leave the country soon after it was completed, but he was held until 1974, when he was able to leave for Germany, where he made several films for television, including an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1975). From 1974 to 1989, he traveled to Germany, Paris, Holland, Sweden and the United States, staying in the latter for 12 years. Unable to work in traditional cinema, he pioneered the use of video cameras to record weddings, including documenting the nuptials of the Swedish royal family.

He returned to the Czech Republic in 1989 after democracy was restored by the “Velvet Revolution.” He accepted a job teaching film at his alma mater. He also made the features In the Light of the King’s Love (1991);  Jmeno kodu: Rubin (Code Name: Ruby, 1997), a combination of documentary, fiction, and the supernatural that creates a collage of his country’s past, present, and future; the documentaries, Late Night Talks With My Mother (2001) and Landscape of My Heart (2004); Toyen (2005), a biopic of the Czech surrealistic painter; and The Ferrari Dino Girl (2010). Right before his death, he completed filming The Wolf of Royal Vineyard Street, a comedy based on his life. It will premiere in the Czech Republic on July 1. 

Nemec married four times: to costume designer and screenwriter Ester Krumbachova (1963-68), singer Marta Kubisova (1970-73), Czech language teacher Veronica Baumann (1984-2003), and film editor Iva Ruszelakova in 2003. In addition to his wife, Nemec is survived by a daughter, Arleta Nemcova.

Nemec was an uncompromising visionary. His vision was not only limited to cinema. In 2014, he protested against the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, by returning the medals given to him by the first president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel (who happened to be Nemec’s cousin).


George Kennedy: In Memoriam

The Dependable Sidekick

By Ed Garea

Like most actors who made their living in supporting roles, George Kennedy’s oeuvre included many films that were terrible, with absurd plotting, bad direction, and over-emoted acting. Yet, his versatility was noted by casting directors, and in a career that spanned five decades, Kennedy had 191 film and television roles to his credit. Kennedy, who died February 28 in Boise at the age of 91, played cowboys, drifters, G.I.’s, and other assorted tough guys, including convict “Dragline” in Cool Hand Luke, a role that earned him 1967's Best Supporting Actor Oscar.


Except for that performance and a handful of films, he most often played a peripheral role – the dependable sidekick, whose function was to set up the star.

He was born George Harris Kennedy, Jr. on February 18, 1925, in New York City. His father, George Harris Kennedy, was a musician and orchestra leader who dies when Kennedy was four years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother, Helen, who was a ballet dancer by trade. He made his stage debut at age 2 in a touring company of Bringing Up Father, and by age 7 was a radio DJ in New York City.  

After graduating in 1943 from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York, Kennedy enlisted in the Army and fought as an infantryman under George Patton in Europe during World War II. He intended to make the military his career, serving for 16 years and opening the Army’s first office of technical assistance for films and television, until a back injury forced him to find another line of work.

His experience led to his hiring as a technical adviser to The Phil Silvers Show, and soon he was appearing on screen as MP Sergeant Kennedy and given a couple of lines to speak in each episode. He would be quoted later as saying that his duties on the whole provided “a great technical ground.”


Other guest shots on shows such as Colt .45CheyennePeter Gunn, and Maverick confirmed the acting bug, and Kennedy decided to make acting his career. He was steadily employed as a guest star on various television series from 1959 to 1963 with only a few bit roles in movies such as Spartacus (1960), playing a rebel soldier who, during the scene when the Roman victors asked the crowd for Spartacus, had the last close-up as he yelled, “I am Spartacus.” In the 1961 Civil War drama The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, he had a meatier role as Nathan Dillon.

In 1963, Kennedy won notice for his performance as heavy Herman Scobie in the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie, Charade, a film often described as the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made. He also had roles in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), In Harm’s Way (1965), and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).

He returned to television as his main stock, winning a following for his portrayal of “Big Frenchie” in McHale’s Navy, which he parleyed into a role in the big screen version of the series (1964). Many of his television appearances were in Westerns, where Kennedy described his function: “The big guys were on TV and they needed big lumps to eat up. All I had to do was show up on the set, and I got beaten up.” His rugged but bland looks were right for almost any part.


In 1967, his fortunes changed. First he was cast as Maj. Max Armbruster in the cult World War II movie The Dirty Dozen (1967). Then he won the role that brought him the Oscar, that of Dragline, the convict leader in Cool Hand Luke who at first resents the new prisoner, Lucas “Luke” Jackson, played by Paul Newman, for his independence, but is later won over by Luke’s integrity and forcefulness, becoming the disciple who is ultimately responsible for his friend’s death. His mix of brutality and compassion in his portrayal reveled a hitherto unseen range and deftly illuminated the character of Luke.

From then on, movies became Kennedy’s stock in trade, usually in the supporting role. The television roles he took were as the star: Sarge, about a cop-turned- priest, in 1971-72, and The Blue Knight (1975-76), playing patrolman William “Bumper” Morgan, with the only major exception being Dallas, where he played corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay from 1988 to 1991.

In 1970, he played the improbable rescuer, Joe Patroni, the maintenance chief who comes to the rescue in the soapy, all-star, over-the-top Airport, a melodrama about a bomber on a plane, an airport socked in by a blizzard, and desperation everywhere. He reprised his role in the sequels, Airport ’75Airport ’77, and The Concorde ... Airport ’79, the only cast member to appear in all four. Because of this, he was sought for a role in the spoof, Airplane, as the airport dispatcher (a role that went to Lloyd Bridges), but according to producer Jerry Zucker, he turned it down because he was afraid of losing his Airport cash cow. 


But the Zuckers weren’t done with Kennedy, casting him in the hit movie The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), where he played Capt. Ed Hocken, whose role was to wince at the damage brought on by Leslie Nielsen’s bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin. Kennedy would repose the role in the two sequels that followed: Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). 

Other notable movies included Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), with Clint Eastwood, the ensemble disaster flick, Earthquake (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1975, again with Eastwood), The 'Human' Factor (1975), Death on the Nile (1978), the box office bomb, Bolero, with Bo Derek (1984), and The Delta Force (1986). 

He also co-starred in a Japanese movie, Ningen no shomei (Proof of the Man, 1977) as Ken Shufftan, a New York City detective who joins forces with Tokyo detective Koichiro Munesue (Yûsaku Matsuda) in pursuing a murderer of an American in Tokyo who has fled to the Big Apple. Tensions later arise when Munesue realizes Shufftan is the man who killed his father during World War II.

His last role was in the film The Gambler (2014), where he played Ed, the grandfather of Mark Wahlberg's character.

In 1991, Mr. Kennedy was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6352 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, California.

Off screen, Kennedy authored three books: Murder On Location (1983) a murder mystery set on a film shoot, Murder on High (1984), and a memoir, Trust Me (2011).


Kennedy married four times. Kennedy was married four times. He married his first wife, Dorothy Gillooly in the 1940s. He then married and divorced twice Norma Wurman (also known as Revel Wurman), with whom he had two children. In 1978, he married Joan McCarthy, who died a little over a year before his own death. The couple adopted four children, including granddaughter Taylor, whose mother, one of their children, was found unfit due to drug-abuse issues. In addition to grandson Cory Schenkel, Kennedy (who lived in Eagle, Idaho, near Boise) is survived by a daughter, Shannon Sullivan; four other grandchildren; and one great-grandson.


Setsuko Hara: In Memoriam

Japan's Everywoman 

By Ed Garea

She was one of Japan’s most beloved actresses, known for her subtle portrayals of women torn between family and their own desires, a sort of Everywoman for a Japan rising from the old feudal age into the modern world.

Best known for her films with director Yasuhiro Ozu, it seems at times as if she worked for no one else, yet her filmography shows she made more than 100 films during her long career, a career that might have been even longer were it not for her abrupt retirement at the age of 46.


Setsuko Hara, known among filmgoers in Japan as “the Eternal Virgin” (due to the fact she never married) and “the Japanese Garbo,” died on September 5 in Kamakura, near Tokyo, from pneumonia at the age of 95.

The Kyodo News Agency announced her death on November 25, stating that family members had waited until then, as per her last wishes to make the news of her death public.

Born Masae Aida in Yokohama on June 17, 1920, Hara dropped out of high school at age 15 with the encouragement of her brother-in-law, director Hisatora Kumagai, who promised her that she could find meaningful work at Nikkatsu Studios.

She made her movie debut in 1935 in director Tetsu Taguchi’s Tamerau nakare wakodo yo (Do Not Hesitate, Young Folks) as Osetsu, but it was her role in Arnold Fanck’s (who first made Leni Riefenstahl a star) German-Japanese production of Atarashiki Tsuchi (The New Earth) that she achieved popularity, playing a pure-hearted Japanese maiden who, after being rejected by her fiancé, unsuccessfully attempts to throw herself into an active volcano.

Now established in the public as the epitome of the Japanese woman in crisis, she was cast in a number of wartime propaganda films as the pathetic victim. In films such as The Suicide Troops of the Watchtower (1942) and Wakai Sensei (1942), she perfected the role of the pathetic victim.


In 1946, she was cast in Akira Kurosawa’s first postwar film, No Regrets for Our Youth, as Yukie Yagihara, the privileged daughter of a leftist university professor. Two suitors, both students of her father, romantically pursue her. Things turn darker when she decides to marry Noge (Susumu Fujita), the more radical of the two. They are arrested in 1941 for treason (as part of the antiwar protest) and imprisoned. After her release, and Noge’s execution, Yukie exiles herself to the peasant village where Noge grew up. There she devotes herself to Noge’s elderly parents, helping them bring in the rice crop, and also aiding their neighbors, who has previously castigated the family for producing a traitor.

Two other immediate postwar films cast her in a new role, that of the “new “ Japanese woman. She is optimistic, looking forward to a brighter future, cultured, yet with an eye of cynicism towards the men in her life. In Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s A Ball at the Anjo House (1947), she plays the daughter of a cultured family that was ruined by the war and must give up its mansion and find a new way to live. In Keisuke Kinoshita’s Here’s to the Girls (1949), Hara is the daughter of a formerly rich aristocratic family who is being pawned off as the wife to an uncouth factory owner.

It was also in this year that Hara was cast in a film titled Late Spring. Its director was Yasujiro Ozu, a director who began his career in the ‘20s as an imitator of the Hollywood style (many of his films were simply uncredited remakes of Hollywood product). He refined his style and technique during the ‘30s, and although being conscripted into the Japanese army and fighting in China, managed to make his way into the Japanese film and propaganda unit, planning films he had no intention on finishing and assisting with the technical duties on a few of the other productions.

During the postwar period, he put his wartime plans into action, developing a limited style based partially on his vision and partially on the dearth of funds available to him. Chained by his studio to plots already owned and given a stock company of actors (including Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama and Haruko Sugimura) with which to work, Ozu nevertheless managed to turn out films that were not only highly praised at the time, but which also became enduring classics. Working for him could be a trial in itself. A perfectionist who had to get every scene just right, it was not unusual for the director to shoot 30 to 40 takes of a long, dialogue-heavy scene, which placed his stars under more than normal pressure. Added to this was his preference for shooting his films during Tokyo’s hot, humid summers made working for him an even more daunting task. Yet the method bore fruit, for Late Spring was one such film, and Ozu made a megastar out of Hara by developing a new character for her. She became the modern woman with a string filial devotion, a character she would play in many a later Ozu production.


In Late Spring, she plays Noriko, a modern woman conflicted between her own needs and that of caring for her widowed father (played by Chishu Ryu, with whom she would frequently work in later films). On one hand, Noriko has the pressures of society, which tells her to marry and start a family; in the other, there’s the need to care for her father, who has become a sort of security blanket for her. Noriko would prefer the security provided by caring for her father, but it is apparent to everyone, especially to her father, that she must leave the nest and marry.

In their next collaboration, Early Summer (1951), Hara is once again an adult single woman – also named Noriko – living with her family and pressured to choose a husband. This time, however, her choice brings consequences, as the income lost by her departure leaves the family unable to afford the rent on their house. Nonetheless, everyone on the family campaigns to arrange a marriage, knowing that remaining single is a social death knell. She surprises her family in the end when she rejects their choice to marry a widower with a child and move to a village in the far north.

It as during this time that Hara began to form her enduring screen presence as a modern young woman whose outward good manners conceal a strong inner strength that helps her along pathways often strewn with difficult outcomes, no matter what the choice. It was also during this period that she worked with director Mikio Naruse, who helped her further develop and refine this persona, as Naruse was known for his complex female leads.

For his part, Ozu fully appreciated Hara’s versatility and talent: “Every Japanese actor can play the role of a soldier, and every Japanese actress can play the role of a prostitute to some extent,” he said of her in an interview. “However, it is rare to find an actress who can play the role of a daughter from a good family.”


Both star and director peaked professionally in the 1953 drama Tokyo Story, which has become a highly-ranked regular on film critics’ lists of the greatest movies. As with Ozu films in general, the plot is superficially simple. However, as the film rolls on we find that what seems basic at first is only leading to a host of psychologically complex situations that lie just beneath the quiet surface.

Tokyo Story begins simply enough: an elderly couple is traveling to Tokyo to visit their children. But as the film progresses, we see that not only are the children too busy to receive them properly, but that they have also become a burden to their children. The only one in the family who shows them the tenderness and devotion to which they are entitled is Noriko (Hara), their daughter-in-law whose husband was killed in the war. Although Noriko was bullied by the eldest sister to take the elderly couple off her hands for a day, she nonetheless takes a day off from work to take them sightseeing and manages to scrounge up a good dinner at her modest flat, borrowing sake from her neighbor. She and the couple are the only sympathetic characters throughout the entire film.

There is a brilliantly moving scene at the end after the mother has passed away. Noriko is sitting at the family home with the youngest daughter, Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa), who is sharply criticizing her siblings for their lack of devotion and respect. She turns to Noriko and asks, “Isn’t life disappointing?” To which Noriko tersely responds, “Yes. It is.”

Her work with director Naruse includes an extraordinary film titled Repast (1951) in which she is the wife of an Osaka stockbroker and discovers to her horror that he is sexually involved with his niece. She leaves him and returns to Tokyo, where she grew up, only to find it has become an alien and traumatized place. In 1954, she and Naruse made The Sound of the Mountain, based on Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata’s acclaimed novel.

By this time, Hara’s character seemed to be set in stone, although there were some exceptions, such as Kurosawa’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (1951). Here she went radically against type as the love interest of the title character and an aristocrat played by Toshiro Mifune. Although her performance was excellent, playing the part of a sexual temptress with a natural coolness, the film was not well received by both critics and the public, and Hara returned to the characters audiences expected her to play. 


Yet there was room to maneuver. In Ozu’s 1957 drama, Tokyo Twilight (his last black-and-white film), she was a proud young woman who summons the courage to leave her abusive and alcoholic husband, an option unthinkable to the typical Japanese wife, although in the end she returns resolved to make the marriage work.

In her last two films with Ozu, Late Autumn (1960) and the End of Summer (1961), Hara inverted her character from Late Spring and Early Summer. In Late Autumn, she is now the widowed parent of a grown daughter who does not to leave her to get married and start a family. But, as the parent, she knows that her daughter has to live her own life, despite the situation, and summoning considerable self-sacrifice, insists on her daughter leaving the nest.

In The End of Summer (1961), Hara reverses her role in Tokyo Story as the widowed daughter-in-law. Although older, she contemplates remarriage, with her family attempting to decide to whom she will be betrothed. She, however, insists on the right to choose her own partner, and the battle between desires and devotions rages on.

Her last role was as Riku in Hiroshi Inagaki’s 1962 actioner, Chushingura (47 Samurai), a retelling of the classic story of the 47 ronin, 18th-century samurai bent on avenging their slain leader.

It’s said that Ozu’s death from cancer in 1963 was a major factor in Hara’s sudden retirement. She went on record as saying that she did not enjoy acting and only did so to support her large, extended family. She moved to a small house in Kamakura (ironically where Ozu lived and where so many of his films were set), and was never seen again in public.

Any and all attempts to lure back into the spotlight were coldly rebuffed. A relative would turn away any reporter who visited in hopes of an interview with a terse, “She’s here and in good health,” and “She doesn’t give any interviews.” In 1992, a reporter with Yomiuri Shimbun actually managed a brief telephone conversation with the reclusive star. She told him, “I was not the only star shining, back then, everyone was shining.”

When a documentary on Ozu was made, there was some thought she would show up at the premiere, but as happened at his funeral, she declined to attend.

When Setsuko Hara retired, to many Japanese fans, it was as if they had part of their souls ripped away. She meant that much. I feel the same way; she was an extraordinary actress and personality. But to paraphrase Bogart, “We’ll always have Tokyo Story.”


Maureen O'Hara: In Memoriam

The Queen of Technicolor

By Ed Garea

She was a mainstay of American movies since her debut in 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and when Technicolor came into use, she seemed born for it due to her bright red hair, sparkling green eyes, and peaches-and-cream complexion, being labeled as “The Queen of Technicolor.”


We often thought of her as married to John Wayne, since they had done so many notable films together, but no matter what part in what film, she always managed to stand out as an independent woman; if not always sure of herself, at least standing on her own two feet and beholden to no one. In fact, her screen persona became not only part of her legacy, but also part of our conception of Irish women, for she seemed to epitomize them with her feisty hands-on-her-hips, right-in-your-face approach.

Though she’ll always be immortal on the screen, we have to say goodbye to Maureen O’Hara, who passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 24 at her home in Boise, Idaho, surrounded by family members. She was 95.

Johnny Nicoletti, her longtime manager, confirmed her death.

During her career, which lasted over 60 years with 65 credits, she played everything from a gypsy dancer in The Hunchback to a Welsh coal miner’s daughter in How Green Was My Valley (1941), to a French resister in This Land is Mine (1943) to a Macy’s department store executive in Miracle on 34th Street (1947).


She also starred in Westerns, period pieces, and even swashbucklers. Her best-known film is perhaps John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), where she starred opposite Wayne as Mary Kate Dannaher, the proud, passionate and stubborn woman who refuses to consummate her marriage to Irish-American boxer Wayne until he fights for her dowry. He does that in one of the most uproarious fight scenes in film history.

Wayne once paid her his ultimate compliment when he said, “I’ve had many friends, and I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara. She is a great guy.”

She was born Maureen FitzSimons on Aug. 17, 1920, and grew up at 32 Upper Beechwood Ave. in Churchtown, a suburb in the Dublin, Ireland, district of Ranelagh, the second of six children of Charles FitzSimons, a clothing-business manager and part-owner of a soccer team, and the former Marguerita Lilburn, an accomplished contralto. Besides his business, her father was also part owner of The Shamrock Rovers, a renowned Irish soccer team.

Maureen’s talents in the performing arts blossomed early. She began appearing in school plays as a child and was so good that she won multiple Feis awards for drama and the performing arts. That directly led to her entry as the age of 14 as a student into the prestigious Abbey Theater in Dublin, where she pursued her dream of classical theater and operatic singing. She won the All-Ireland Cup there for her portrayal of Portia in The Merchant of Venice.

In 1938, she was offered a screen test, arranged by American bandleader Harry Richman (who was then appearing in Dublin and had seen her perform) for a British film called The Playboy at Elstree Studios. A friend convinced her reluctant parents to allow it. In her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, she recalled being horrified by the results, particularly the way she looked in the heavy makeup and a gold lamé gown with strange, winglike sleeves that she had been given to wear. ("I was mad as hell and disappointed by the whole unprofessional event," she said.)

After appearing in minor roles in two 1938 British musicals, Kicking the Moon Around and My Irish Molly, she was contacted by Charles Laughton and his partner, Erick Pommer. Laughton happened to see the test and although he agreed that it was awful, he was nonetheless taken by her hauntingly beautiful eyes. He and Pommer signed her to a contract and promptly cast her opposite him as the orphaned Mary Yelland in director Alfred Hitchcock's British-made 1939 pirate yarn, Jamaica Innof which he was a producer as well as the star.

Laughton and Pommer, finding her given name of FitzSimons somewhat unmanageable, gave her the choice of either “O’Hara” or “O’Mara” as a surname. She chose the former.


The coming of World War II brought the film business in England to a virtual halt. Laughton signed with RKO and came to California to play Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He brought his protégé along for the part of the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. The film was a box office smash and RKO bought Maureen’s contract from Laughton. Unlike most stars of her era, she began at the top, and remained there, with her skills and talents only getting sharper with the passing years.

What enabled O’Hara to remain at the top went far beyond her dynamic beauty. She had a lovely soprano voice, developed by signing with her mother and siblings when she was young, and a natural athletic talent, probably inherited and developed by her father, who was an excellent soccer player and believed in physical games for his children. (In fact, she performed many of the stunts in her own films.) This, added to her desire to try anything, expanded her range of parts. She could easily transition from playing Tacey King in the suburban comedy Sitting Pretty (1948) to a diplomat’s daughter who disguises herself as a dancing girl in the 1950 actioner Tripoli to pirate captain Spitfire Stevens in the 1952 Yo-Ho-Ho-Matey pirate adventure Against All Flags with Errol Flynn.

O’Hara also had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of director John Ford, who cast her as Angharad in his 1941 multi-Oscar drama about Welsh coal miners, How Green Was My Valley. It was the first of five films she made with Ford, with whom she had a love/hate relationship, as exemplified later by her description of him in a interview with the Irish newspaper The Sunday Independent as “an auld devil and cruel as hell.”

As with any other major celebrity in the ‘50s, she was the feature of a slanderous article in the tabloid magazine Confidential. That article claimed she and a lover engaged in "the hottest show in town" in a back row in Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater. She sued for libel, presenting her passport as proof that she had not been in the country when the activity was supposed to have taken place. In a later interview with the Associated Press, she said, "I was making a movie in Spain, and I had the passport to prove it." The case was eventually settled out of court, and would be another nail in the magazine’s coffin that would lead to its eventual demise.


In 1960, just as it seemed that her career was winding down, she breathed new life by playing the title character in a television remake of Mrs. Miniver. Overnight, it seemed, she transformed herself from the fiery young love interest to the dependable, well-preserved wife/mother/widow, a career course she stayed with until retiring for good in 2000.

Some of her best-known roles in the ‘60s were as the mother of twins, both played by Hayley Mills, who conspire to reunite their divorced parents in the 1961 Disney comedy The Parent Trap; John Wayne’s feisty wife in McLintock, a 1963 Western adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew; the 1963 family drama, Spencer’s Mountain, with Henry Fonda, a precursor to TV's The Waltons; and a 1966 Western, The Rare Breed, with James Stewart. She said that one of the biggest thrills in her life was being inducted into the Western Hall of Fame.

O’Hara was married three times. In 1939, just before leaving for the United States, she married George H. Brown, a British film producer who later became the father of the magazine editor Tina Brown. He remained in England and the marriage was annulled in 1941. Later that year, she married her second husband, Will Price, a writer and director with whom she had her only child, a daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons, born in 1944. They were divorced in 1953.

In 1968, she married Gen. Charles F. Blair, an Air Force aviator who operated Antilles Air Boats, a small Caribbean airline, and whom she had known as a friend of her family for many years. O’Hara always said there was no man quite like Wayne, and in marrying Blair she wed the real-life version of what John Wayne had been on the screen: He had been a Brigadier General in the Air Force, a Senior Pilot with Pan American World Airways, and held many incredible record-breaking aeronautic achievements.


In 1973, O’Hara retired from films after making the TV movie The Red Pony with Henry Fonda. (The film went on to win the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence.) The couple relocated to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where they managed Antilles Airboats, a commuter seaplane service in the Caribbean, building it into a 27-plane commercial fleet covering the upper Caribbean and grossing $5 million a year. She also owned and published a magazine, The Virgin Islander, writing a monthly column called "Maureen O'Hara Says." After Blair’s tragic death in a plane crash in 1978, O’Hara took over Antilles after General Blair’s death in September 1978. As President and CEO, she was the first woman in that position for a scheduled American airline.

She sold her controlling stock the next year to Resorts International, though she remained as company president until 1981. A year earlier, she sold the Virgin Islander magazine to Gannett publishing, then split her time between her 25-acre estate overlooking Ireland's Bantry Bay and her home in St. Croix, until moving to a home in Boise, Idaho, near her grandson and his family after her retirement in 2000.

O’Hara eventually returned to film in 1991 as the overbearing mother of John Candy’s character in Chris Columbus’s 1991 comedy/drama Only the Lonely. In the ‘90s, she starred in three television movies: The Christmas Box (1995), Cab to Canada (1998) and her final screen appearance, The Last Dance (2000), in which she played a retired teacher helped by former student Eric Stoltz.

In 2004, she received an Irish Film and Television Awards lifetime achievement honor and published her autobiography, ’Tis Herself. In 2011, O'Hara was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. On Nov. 4, 2014, she received an honorary Oscar for "Lifetime Achievement" at the annual Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Awards.

Survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons of Glengarriff, Ireland; her grandson, Conor FitzSimons of Boise, and two great-grandchildren, Maureen O’Hara  is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, D.C., alongside her husband, Blair, who was a U.S. Navy pilot.


Mae Clarke Tribute

By Ed Garea

On August 20, TCM is devoting a day of its “Summer Under the Stars” tribute to the great Mae Clarke. Although she’s best known to film fans as the woman who takes a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney, Mae had a full career on the stage as well as on the screen.


Born Violet Mary Klotz in Philadelphia, Pa., on August 16, 1910, she grew up in Atlantic City, where he father worked as an organist in a motion picture theatre. She learned how to dance, and at the age of 13 was already performing in nightclubs and amateur theatricals. By 1925, she was working as a dancer and burlesque artist at the Everglades Club, earning $40 a week. It was there she would strike up a life-long friendship with fellow dancer Ruby Stevens, who later became known as Barbara Stanwyck.

In 1926, Mae got her break in “legitimate” theater, appearing in the drama The Noose with Stanwyck and Ed Wynn. She followed this with a role in the musical comedy Manhattan Mary in 1927. While working in vaudeville, Mae was screen-tested by Fox and landed her first role in Big Time (1929). In her next film, the musical comedy Nix on Dames (1929), she was given top billing. Afterwards, however, the quality of her films declined, and she left the studio a year later. 



Freelancing resulted in better parts, and she began to be typecast in “hard luck” roles. She played a prostitute in the Lewis Milestone-directed hit, The Front Page (1931), and on the strength of her performance, was signed by Universal’s Carl Laemmle, Jr. for the role of ballerina-turned streetwalker Myra Deauville in James Whale’s Waterloo Bridge (1931). Before taking on this assignment, she was cast, uncredited, as Kitty in The Public Enemy, with James Cagney, appearing in one of the most memorable scenes in film history. She was also third-billed as Henry’s Frankenstein’s bride in Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), with her most famous moment being terrorized by the Monster (Boris Karloff) in her bedroom.

In 1932, just as her career was taking off she suffered a nervous breakdown, most likely from a combination of overwork and marital problems. A serious car accident in March of 1933 further damaged her career, as did yet another breakdown in 1934. In addition, her sexy screen persona was restricted by the clampdown and strict enforcement of the Production Code. 



When she was given a clean bill of health and returned to the screen, it was in B-pictures, mainly at Columbia and Republic. Her most notable role was that opposite Cagney in Grand National’s production of Great Guy (1936). In 1949, she was reduced to starring as the female lead in Republic’s serial, King of the Rocketmen. During the 50’s she worked minor parts, mostly unbilled, with a few decent minor roles in Westerns such as Wichita (1955). Like many other actors looking for work, she turned to television and carved out a steady, if unspectacular, career, save for a few notable appearances on The Loretta Young Show. After he last film appearance in Melvin Van Peebles’ Watermelon Man (1970), Mae retired to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital and devoted her remaining years to her favorite hobby: painting in the style of Swiss abstract artist Paul Klee. She died there of cancer in April 1992.

The schedule for August 20 is as follows:

6:00 am – A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY (WB, 1966): Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward. A pioneer woman replaces her ailing husband in a poker game after he loses most of their money.

8:00 am – MOHAWK (Fox, 1956): Scott Brady, Rita Gam. When a Boston artist is commissioned to paint landscapes, he gets caught up in a land war between settlers and the Mohawks.

9:30 am – WICHITA (Allied Artists, 1955): Joel McCrea, Vera Miles. Wyatt Earp fights to tame a wild and crooked cow town.

11:00 am – THE FALL GUY (RKO, 1930): Mae Clarke, Jack Mulhall, & Ned Sparks. An unemployed druggist gets mixed up with gangsters.

12:15 pm – TURN BACK THE CLOCK (MGM, 1933): Lee Tracy, Mae Clarke. A middle-aged workingman gets to relive his life and make himself wealthy.

1:45 pm – PENTHOUSE (MGM, 1933): Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy. Framed for murder by the Mob, a lawyer enlists the help of a call girl to prove his innocence in this good, all-around mystery.

3:30 pm – PAROLE GIRL (Columbia, 1933): Mae Clarke, Ralph Bellamy. A wrongly convicted woman tries to make amends after her release from prison.

5:00 pm – THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN (MGM, 1934): Lionel Barrymore, Fay Bainter. A family pulls together when the patriarch is accused of embezzlement.

6:30 pm – THE MAN WITH TWO FACES (WB, 1934): Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor. An actor uses his skills to protect his sister from her sinister husband.


8:00 pm – WATERLOO BRIDGE (Universal 1931): Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass. James Whale directed this film an American soldier in love with a London dance-hall girl, not realizing that she’s a prostitute.

9:30 pm – FRANKENSTEIN (Universal 1931): Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, & Edward Van Sloan. The original with all censored scenes restored. A must.

10:45 pm – FAST WORKERS (MGM, 1933): John Gilbert, Robert Armstrong, & Mae Clarke. Construction workers become romantic rivals.

12:00 am – THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER (RKO 1932): Edna May Oliver, James Gleason. Schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers helps solve a murder at the aquarium.

1:15 am – LADY KILLER (WB, 1933): James Cagney, Mae Clarke, & Margaret Lindsay. Cagney is a criminal on the lam who wanders into Hollywood and becomes a star in this frantic comedy.


2:45 am – THE PUBLIC ENEMY (WB, 1930): James Cagney, Jean Harlow. William Wellman directed this electrifying rise and fall of a hoodlum as played by James Cagney.

4:15 am – THE FRONT PAGE (U.A., 1931): The original with Pat O’Brien and Adolph Menjou as Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns. It’s prehistoric and highly entertaining.


Omar Sharif: In Memoriam

By Christine

I'd rather be playing bridge than making a bad movie”

I first met Omar Sherif while covering a celebrity bridge tournament in Deaxville. I was immediately taken, not only with his physical beauty, but also his charm and stature. When he rose from his table to take a break, I then noticed his profile. It was one that most men would sell their soul to the devil to have. When he passed me by he smiled at me. For my part, I swooned.

I was – and still am – happily married. But I often wondered that if he showed me any encouragement, would I have broken my marital vows? Needless to say, I have never been tempted since, but there’s always that one – that one special person – who crosses your path and subjects everything to a fleeting reconsideration. Oh, well, it was only the briefest of encounters, less than momentary. He returned to his table, and after the day ended, left with a beautiful woman on his arm; one whose fur and jewelry spoke much louder than she could have hoped. I returned to my office, and later to my husband and children wiser in the knowledge that I didn’t succumb.


If he only knew of the endless afternoons we spent together in the dark of the cinema. I would often skip school to spend my time watching him. I don’t know how many times I saw Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago. I even saw his Egyptian films. Paris was always noted for its many “art houses” where one could take in movies from America to India to Vietnam.

My husband, bless his heart, is not a fan of Sharif. He likes many of the movies, particularly Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but as he once told me, “You overdosed me on that man.” To this I plead guilty. We have practically all his works on DVD and I confess to running them frequently. But as I tell my husband, “This is no mere mortal we’re discussing. This is Adonis in the flesh.” He laughs and retreats to his office for a few moments of sanity while I get my Omar fix.

And now the world is a sadder place, at least for me. On July 10, Omar Sharif died in Cairo from a heart attack. He was 83. Steve Kenis, his agent, relayed the sad news.

There are few actors who can fill a screen with the verve and panache Sharif brought to each of his roles. His dark, handsome presence commanded the screen whenever he appeared. He began his career in Egypt, his first film being Devil of the Sahara in 1954. His worldwide debut came in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, as Sherif Ali. Multillingual (he was fluent in Arabic, English, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish), Omar was also multicultural as well. He once told me during an interview that the worst fate that can befall an actor is to be typecast. And throughout his career he did his best to avoid that. In The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), he was an Armenian king; in Behold a Pale Horse (1964), he played a Spanish priest; The Yellow Rolls-Royce saw him as a Yugoslav patriot fighting the Nazis; in Genghis Khan (1965), he was the conquering Mongol leader, and Doctor Zhivago (1965) saw him as a Russian physician-poet during the Revolution. He didn’t stop there: in Night of the Generals (1967), he was a German intelligence officer; Funny Girl (1968), a shifty gambler, and, in his biggest career misstep, he played Che Guevera to Jack Palance’s Fidel Castro in the bombastic flop, Che! (1969).


Looking back, it could well be said that it was during the Sixties that Sharif’s career peaked. In Lawrence of Arabia as Sherif Ali, a chieftain who joins forces with Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence, he received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. Doctor Zhivago, usually regarded as his best role, gave him the starring role as a sensitive and brooding doctor/poet who begins a love affair – doomed from the start – with another man’s wife, played exquisitely by Julie Christie, amid the violence and anarchy of the Russian Revolution.

Zhivago couldn’t have been further away from his next notable role: that of a junior intelligence officer assigned to investigate a trio of generals, one of who is suspected of killing prostitutes, in Night of the Generals. It also reunited him with O’Toole. And he went from playing a Nazi to playing card-sharp Nicky Arnstein in 1968’s Funny Girl, with whom Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice falls in love.

Although Sharif’s career continued after the debacle of Che!, the choice roles shrank, along with the actor’s enthusiasm for his vocation. He loved to gamble and was a regular in casinos all over France. When he wasn’t at the roulette wheel or baccarat table, he could be found at the horse races. Sharif once told me that he never did anything halfway, and proved it by becoming an aficionado of horse racing. He had a long relationship with horse trainer David Smaga, and was often spotted at racecourses, with Deauville-LaTouques Racecourse being his favorite. He bought a couple of racehorses and won a couple of important races. His horse, Don Bosco, won the Prix Gontaut-Biron, Prix Perth, and Prix du Muguet. He also had a regular tipping column in a Parisian racing magazine.

Another pursuit that would take up more and more of his time was the world of competitive bridge, where he was widely regarded as an expert on the game. At one time, Sharif ranked among the world’s top 50 contract bridge players. He played an exhibition match before the Shah of Iran. He also wrote a number of books as well as penning a syndicated bridge column with Charles Goren and licensing his name to a bridge video game. He even found the time in 1977 to write his autobiography, with Marie-Therese Guinchard, titled The Eternal Male.

And if all this weren’t enough, Sharif was also a die-hard football fan and dedicated follower of the fortunes of Hull City. Sharif became a fan after sharing a flat with co-star Tom Courtenay during the filming of Doctor Zhivago. He became such an avid fan that, if he were not near a radio or television on match day, he would call the club and get the results. In 2010, Sharif received an honorary degree from the University of Hull in recognition of his fervor and used the occasion to meet his favorite player, prolific striker Ken Wagstaff.

If Sharif seemed to be most comfortable playing characters born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there was good reason. He was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932, in Alexandria, Egypt. His father, Joseph, was a wealthy timer merchant from Lebanon who settled in Egypt in the early 20th century. His mother, Claire Saada, was a Syrian beauty and noted society hostess. She frequently played cards with Egyptian King Farouk, who was a regular visitor until he was deposed in 1952.

In his youth, Omar was a chubby boy, and in the hope that he might lose some weight, his parents enrolled him at Victoria College in Alexandria. Young Omar found the school’s food quite appalling, and lost the weight. He also showed an aptitude for languages. He graduated from Cairo University with a degree in mathematics and physics and went straight to work in his father’s lumber company, specializing in selling exotic woods. This lasted for several years, until ennui got to him and he journeyed to England to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.


As noted earlier, he began his film career in Egypt, changing his name to Omar el-Sharif. (Sharif means “the noble man” in Arabic.) He soon shot to stardom, partially due to his successful paring with popular Egyptian actress Faten Hamama. They starred together in the 1954 drama Struggle in the Valley. In the movie, Hamama shared a kiss with him, although she had previously refused to kiss on the screen. The couple’s on-screen romance was continued off-screen as well, and in 1955 they wed in Cairo. In order to marry Hamama, Omar converted to Islam from his original Melkite Greek Catholicism. The marriage was a passionate one, but not a long-lasting one. They had a son, Tarek, who survives him, before separating in 1966 and divorcing in 1974.

A strong factor in the collapse of his marriage was the draconian restriction on travel instituted by the Nasser government, which impeded his ability to appear in international productions. He decided to remain in Europe and lived in Hollywood for a while, though he never really took to the attractions of Tinseltown. As he told me, “It provided me with fame but also brought with it a loneliness I couldn’t get past. I missed my homeland greatly.” After leaving Hollywood, he became a virtual nomad before settling down again in Cairo after Nasser’s death.

At any rate, Omar wasn’t really the marrying type. He never re-married after his divorce; too busy romancing his co-stars. In many of his films he carried on with a co-star, whether the leading lady or supporting player. His most notorious liaison was with co-star Barbra Streisand on the set of Funny Girl in 1968. When word of their affair reached Egypt, authorities there were aghast; Streisand, besides being Jewish, was also an outspoken advocate of Israel. For the Egyptians, this was tantamount to sleeping with the enemy. Even worse, their affair took place while the Six-Day War was in full swing. On the verge of being stripped of his citizenship, government officials asked him to justify himself. Sharif simply replied, “When I kiss a woman, I never ask her nationality or her religion.” He even had the temerity to appear in the 1975 sequel, Funny Lady, although James Caan, playing showman Billy Rose, was the romantic lead.

Other steamy affairs took place with Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Anouk Aimee, and Catherine Deneuve, with whom he starred in Mayerling, a 1968 film about the tragic love affair of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover, Baroness Mary Versara.

As the years wound into the Seventies, Sharif’s film fortunes began to fade. In an interview I had with him he blamed the reversal of fortunes on the rise of young, talented directors more interested in making films about their own societies, their own worlds. “There was no more room for a foreigner, so suddenly there were no more parts.” He freely admitted that he squandered his talent in favor of quick money, spending his time drinking away the weeks in the company of O’Toole and other hell raisers. His nights were spent gambling and he made up for his losses at the roulette tables by signing on to play the “foreign gentleman” in whatever picture he could find, regardless of quality.


Though he continued to make films, they were a far cry from the level of Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago. As the years went on, though, he became more selective about which movies. Many were television productions, such as Pleasure Palace, made for CBS in 1980, where he played a European playboy who comes to Las Vegas for a gambling showdown with a millionaire Texan. He was Russian Czar Nicholas II in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, a 1986 NBC production. And he played Prince Razumovsky in the A&E production of Catherine the Great, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.

But his film choices weren’t restricted to historical costume dramas. Sharif also liked to work in comedies that intrigued him, such as his brief appearance as Cedric in the Jim Abrahams/David Zucker spy spoof, Top Secret (1984). He told me he read the script and thought it was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen. He had to be in it.

In 2003, he produced and starred in M Ibrahim (original title M Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran), a French film directed by François Dupeyron in which he played a Turkish shop-owner who befriends a Jewish teenager. It was a huge hit in France and the public came out in droves. It earned him a Cesar Award (France’s version of the Oscars) and the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival, which he shared with Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams). In 2004, he played the wealthy Sheikh Riyadh in Hidalgo who invites American Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) to take part in the Ocean of Fire, a 3,000-mile survival race across the Arabian desert. His last released film is the French family drama Rock the Casbah (2013).

In May 2015, news broke that Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His son, Tarek El-Sharif said his father was becoming confused when trying to remember some of the biggest films of his career, mixing up the titles and often forgetting where they were filmed.


His death came less than six months after ex-wife Hamama’s death at the same age, reportedly also from heart failure. In addition to his son, he had two grandsons, Omar (also an actor) and Karim.


Christopher Lee: In Memoriam

Remembering a Psychotronic Legend

By Ed Garea

Christopher Lee, one of the giants of psychotronic films, has passed. A man who breathed new life into the Prince of the Undead and went on to lend his distinguished looks to a slew of films, both of the A and B variety, died June 7 in London. He was 93.

An official for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London confirmed his death, attributed to respiratory problems and heart failure, according to the Associated Press.

Although he made acting his life’s work after the war ended in 1945, it took 11 years until he made his breakthrough in 1956 playing the Creature in Hammer Studio’s The Curse of Frankenstein. The next year he starred in Hammer’s remake of Dracula. Released in 1958 as Horror of Dracula, the movie made him a worldwide star, and he never looked back.


He was born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee in London on May 27, 1922, the son of Lt. Col. Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a professional soldier, and Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, a member of an old Italian family.

He grew up along with older sister Xandra in the fashionable Belgravia neighborhood. His parents separated when he was four and divorced when he was six. His mother later married (and later divorced) banker Harcourt George St.-Croix Rose, and uncle of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The family settled in Fulham, where his stepfather maintained their extravagant lifestyle until his bankruptcy in 1939.

After attending Wellington College from age 14 to 17, Lee worked as a clerk for United States Lines and later Beecham’s. When Beecham’s moved out of London, Lee joined the Home Guard until he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941. A failure of his optic nerve grounded the would-be pilot and he volunteered with RAF Intelligence and the Special Forces during World War II, serving in Rhodesia, South Africa, North Africa, and Italy. After the war’s end, Lee, who spoke fluent French and German, worked at ferreting out high-ranking Nazis in occupied Germany before retiring from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant.

After the war’s end, Beecham’s offered him a job with a large raise, but Lee didn’t want to be tied down to a desk. A cousin suggested that he try acting, and introduced him to people at the Rank movie studio in London. He was signed to a seven-year contract and joined the Rank Organization in 1947, training in their “charm school.” Because of his height (6’5”), his appearances were limited. In his film debut, Corridor of Mirrors (1948), Lee, playing nightclub customer Charles, remained seated throughout his appearance, lest he tower over his fellow actors. Later in that year he was seen in an unbilled role as a spear-carrier in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

His career through the mid-‘50s saw him cast in small roles in films as diverse as Scott of the Antarctic with John Mills (1948), to 1951’s Captain Hornblower, R.N., with Gregory Peck (He was cast after the director asked if could speak Spanish and fence, both of which he was able to do) to 1952’s The Crimson Pirate with Burt Lancaster. He supplemented these tiny roles with appearances in television shows.


In 1956, at the age of 35, Lee auditioned for and won the role of The Creature in Hammer’s color remake of Frankenstein. Released in 1957 as The Curse of Frankenstein, it was a runaway hit. For once, Lee’s height didn’t work against him, but he was disappointed when he found he had no lines. He complained to co-star Peter Cushing about this during a break in filming. Cushing gently replied, “You’re lucky. I’ve read the script.” This exchange would cement a close friendship that lasted until Cushing’s death.

Satisfied with his work, Hammer offered him the lead role in their color remake of Dracula. Though the role only paid 750 pounds, it did offer stardom, and based on the returns of his previous film, looked to be another mega-hit.

With the use of color, Hammer could no longer rely on what sustained horror films in the age of black and white – shadows. Instead, blood became the new barometer of horror as color filming meant brighter lighting. Just as the role of the vampire count made Bela Lugosi into a sex symbol, so did the role make Lee a sex symbol. Seizing on the sex appeal potential of Lee, director Terence Fisher amped up the volume on the erotic, telling actress Melissa Stribling, who played Mina Holmwood, that after the scene where Dracula seduces and bites her, to exit her bedroom imagining she had just experienced the best sex of her life. She did as he suggested and the scene was done in just one take.

For his part, even co-starring with Cushing, Lee only had 13 lines, all of them in his scenes with John Van Eyssen, who played Jonathan Harker. The rest of his time was spent glaring, jumping and hissing.


Again, the film was a huge hit, and Lee began to be typecast into horror roles. He played Kharis the Mummy in 1959’s The Mummy, the heel in a French remake of remake of The Hands of Orlac, and a murderer who sells bodies to Boris Karloff in Corridors of Blood. Even when he played Henry Baskerville in Hammer’s color remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles, he still found himself in a horror-tinged film. He also played Chinese master villain Fu Manchu in a series of German-produced films in the ‘60s.

As for Count Dracula, he was far from bring done with his most famous portrayal. He would play the Count 10 more times, 7 of them for Hammer in a devolving series of films during the late ‘60s to early ‘70s with such titles as Taste the Blood of DraculaDracula A.D., 1972, and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. During his appearance with Cushing on the talk show Tomorrow with Tom Snyder, Lee reflected on the paltry salary he received on the Dracula films while they reaped multi-millions for the studio. Cushing remarked that the series kept becoming sillier and sillier, finding he, as Van Helsing, was chasing the Count in worse and worse movies. “What next,” he remarked, “Dracula in the DarkSearch the House for Dracula? Thankfully they ran out of ideas.”

Lee’s roles in the Dracula films gave him no lines to speak. Again he hissed his way through. Stories vary as to the reason: Lee claims that he refused to speak the lousy dialogue he was given while screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims there were no lines for him in the script. It has also been suggested that the reason may have been that, according to union rules, the more lines and scenes an actor has, the more he or she is to be paid. That may be one reason why his appearances in the sequels were brief.

In an interview with Total Film (www.totalfilm.com) Lee stated that he was virtually blackmailed by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films: I did have a big problem after the first two. I said to my agent, 'I don’t want to do this part again.' Because all they do is write a story and try and fit the character in somewhere, which is very clear when you see the films. They gave me nothing to do! I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in. Eventually I told them that I wasn’t going to play Dracula any more. All hell broke loose. I got frantic telephone calls from [Hammer honcho] Jimmy Carreras saying, 'I’m begging you! I’m on my knees. You’ve got to do this film!' I asked why and he said, 'I’ve already sold it to the American distributor with you playing the part.' Then he said something I’ve never forgotten because it was sheer blackmail: 'Think of the people you’re putting out of work.' That’s the only reason I did the last few Draculas. I didn’t want to be the reason for a hundred people not working.”

Lee did gain revenge of a sort when he starred in director Jesse Franco’s Count Dracula in 1970. It was faithfully based on the Bram Stoker novel and Lee got to speak Stoker’s lines.

Seeking to move away from the horror genre, Lee took on other roles, notably as Mycroft Homes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and a cameo as a gunsmith who builds Raquel Welch a special revolver in Hannie Cauler (1971). He also played the swashbuckling assassin Rochefort in director Richard Lester’s remake of The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers (1974), and notable Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). 



One of his favorite roles was that of Lord Summerisle, the hedonistic pagan chief who rules over an island where free love, public nudity, and ultimately, human sacrifice, is practiced in the 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man. In interviews, Lee noted that, although it was his favorite role, most remembered Britt Eklund and her nude dance.

In 1973, he founded his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., for whom he starred in the films Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). Meanwhile, he continued to move away from his horror image, even spoofing his most famous role of Count Dracula in the weak French comedy Dracula and Son (1976).

Lee moved to Hollywood in the late ‘70s, and while he remained a busy actor, the bulk of his film and television appearances were rather unremarkable. An exception was his appearance as guest host on Saturday Night Live in 1978. The highlight was his portrayal of Mr. Death in a sketch where he apologizes to a little girl, (Laraine Newman) for taking her dog. The two then get into a long conversation of why he has to do what he does. When asked about his portrayal in The Seventh Seal, he replies, “Ingmar Bergman makes movies I’ll never understand.”

In the 1990s, he decided to branch out into music, embarking on a music career including concerts and recordings. His material ranged from arias to show tunes, and in 2010, what he called “symphonic metal” with the album “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.” He released a follow-up album, “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death,” in 2013. Lee could be described as a frustrated musician. In his 30s, he applied to study at the Royal College of Music, but was rejected as being too old.

The dawn of a new century brought about a revival in Lee’s movie’s fortunes. He landed the role of the dangerously charismatic wizard Saruman, set on destroying the “world of men,” in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and would repeat the role in the other two chapters of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit movies. He also played the treacherous Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), and reprised the role in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. He also played Dr. Wonka, the father of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). In 2012, when he turned 90, he appeared as Clarney in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

Lee lived in Switzerland and California before returning to England. On June 16, 2001, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to drama. On June 13, 2009, he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List for his services to drama and charity, knighted by Prince Charles, and in 2011, he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

In 1960, a Danish friend and his wife introduced Lee to Danish painter and ex-model Birgit “Gitte” Kronecke. They were engaged soon after and married on March 17, 1961. Their daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee, was born in 1963. Both survive him.

Trivia:

In 1962, Lee auditioned for a part in The Longest Day, but was turned down because he did not look like a military man.

Lee appeared on the cover of the Paul McCartney & Wings album “Band on the Run” (1973). Also appearing on the cover were talk show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, actor James Coburn, boxer John Conteh, and pundit Clement Freud.



He was named 2005’s “most marketable star in the world in a poll conducted by USA Today on the strength of his appearances in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit series and the Star Wars films.

He and wife Birgit were listed as among the 50 best dressed over 50 by the Guardian in March 2013.

Lee was far from the occult characters he portrayed in movies. Despite rumors, he did not own a vast library of occult books. When giving a speech at the University College Dublin on November 8 2011, he said: "Somebody wrote I have 20,000 books. I'd have to live in a bath! I have maybe four or five [occult books]." Lee told them he had met "people who claimed to be Satanists. Who claimed to be involved with black magic. Who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it." He added: "I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind, you'll lose your soul."


In Memoriam: Gregory Walcott

Now You Just Hold On, Buster”

By Ed Garea 

He was an accomplished actor who appeared in such notable films as Mister RobertsThe Eiger SanctionNorma Rae, and Midway. He romanced Claudette Colbert in Texas Lady (1955), portrayed hard-as-nails drill instructors in Battle Cry (1955) and Delbert Mann’s The Outsider (1960), and was Gene Hackman’s psychopathic brother in Prime Cut (1972). He worked with such noted filmmakers as Raoul Walsh, John Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Steven Spielberg.


And yet, for all that, he is probably best known among cinephiles for the role of pilot Jeff Trent in Ed Wood’s cult classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Gregory Walcott passed away at his home in Canoga Park, Los Angeles, California, on March 20, 2015. His son, Men in Black puppeteer Todd Mattox, announced his death, which was attributed to natural causes. Walcott was 87.

For years afterward, Walcott avoided any reference to Plan 9 like the plague. In an interview with a reporter, he stated, “I will go to my grave not remembered for those meaty roles I did for the likes of John Ford or Steven Spielberg, but as the leading man in a film that many movie historians regard as the worst of all time. It's enough to drive a Puritan to drink!”

However, in recent years, his attitude softened greatly to the point where he made a cameo appearance in Tim Burton’s 1995 biopic, Ed Wood. He explained his position to the L.A. Times in 2000, “I didn't want to be remembered for (Plan 9). But it's better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don't you think?”

How Walcott came to star in Wood’s “masterpiece” is a story that like all stories connected with the film, is decidedly offbeat. In a 1998 interview for Filmax magazine, Walcott said he was approached by a friend, fledgling producer J. Edwards Reynolds, about starring in a sci-fi film opposite Bela Lugosi. “But Ed,” I replied, “Bela Lugosi is dead.” He was told not to worry, for director Ed Wood was going to use footage he shot of Lugosi before his death, and the footage would be blended into the film.

I refused at first,” Walcott said. “I read the script, and it was gibberish. It made no sense, but I saw Ed Reynolds as a naive, sweet man. I had done some pretty good things before that, so I thought I had a little credibility in Hollywood. I thought maybe my name would give the show some credibility. … The film was made surreptitiously. My agent didn’t even know I did it.”


The road for Greg Walcott was one many actors had trod. He was born Bernard Wasdon Mattox on January 13, 1928, in Wendell, North Carolina, outside Raleigh. He was raised in the nearby town of Wilson, where his father was a furniture salesman. He enlisted in the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II, and also saw action in the Korean War.

After leaving the service, his restless spirit took over and with a $100 in his pocket, he hitchhiked from the East Coast to California to pursue a dream of an acting career. Once there he studied the craft under Ben Bard. An agent spotted Walcott in a little theater play and helped him land his first movie role in Red Skies of Montana (1952). A couple of years later, he made something of a splash as a Marine Corps drill instructor in Raoul Walsh’s Battle Cry (1955), and the studio, Warner Brothers, signed him to a contract.

Aside from his role as Deputy Jess Foley in Texas Lady (1955), Walcott worked mainly in television with occasional film roles, mainly in Westerns, such as Warner Brothers’ Badman’s Country (1958), where he played Bat Masterson.

Then came Plan 9.


Walcott shot the film in late 1956 into the first part of 1957. As mentioned before, he took the role as a favor to J. Edwards Reynolds, a fellow member of his Baptist church who Wood conned into putting up the money for the film. Luckily for Walcott, the film took two years to find a distributor, and less than 20 release copies were struck, because the distributor, DCA, made Reynolds foot the cost of prints. It wouldn’t have made a difference at any rate, for the film played a week at most to empty houses. In 1961, it made its debut as late night fodder on independent TV stations. Thus, practically no one in the business knew Walcott appeared in it until the ‘70s, when the Medved Brothers gave the film a splash of publicity by naming it as the Worst Movie Ever Made in their book, The Golden Turkey Awards. Since then, Plan 9 and its director have become pop culture icons.

Regarding Walcott, in 1958, he appeared in a film almost as gruesome, critically speaking, as Plan 9. That would be Jet Attack (1958) from director Edward L. Cahn. Walcott is one of three pilots (with John Agar and James Dobson) sent behind North Korean lines to rescue a scientist held prisoner. There, they encounter a mysterious Russian nurse (Audrey Totter) who ultimately helps them in their mission, for she has fallen in love with Agar. (Yes, I know.)

In 1961, he won acclaim as drill instructor Sgt. Kiley in the Universal film The Outsider, the story of Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima. Walcott was third-billed behind star Tony Curtis (as Hayes) and James Franciscus. Later that year, Walcott co-starred as Det. Roger Havilland in NBC’s police drama 87thPrecinct (1961-62), based on the novels of Ed McBain.

Other prestige films he made during the ‘60s include On the Double (1961), with Danny Kaye, and Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), with Gregory Peck. Most of the paychecks during the decade were earned guest starring on television series, mainly Westerns such as Rawhide (5 appearances), The High Chaparral (2 appearances), The Big ValleyAlias Smith and Jones, and Bonanza (7 appearances).

In the ‘70s, he hooked up with Clint Eastwood, having earlier worked with the actor-director on Rawhide. He appeared in Joe Kidd (1972), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1975), and Every Which Way But Loose (1978). He said in later interviews that he enjoyed working for Eastwood, but noted that his character was the tough guy who was beaten thoroughly to a pulp by the star in the films.


Besides the Eastwood quartet, other major pictures Walcott appeared in included Prime Cut (1971), with Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express (1974), Midway (1976), with Charlton Heston, and Martin Ritt’s Norma Rae (1978), where he had a memorable role who hauls away Sally Field’s character during the famous protest scene.

Again, the bulk of his work in both the ‘70s and ‘80s came from television, where he frequently guest starred on series from Baretta, to The Six Million Dollar Man, to Dallas. His last appearance came in a cameo role as a potential backer in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994).

On the personal side, Walcott was married twice, first to Martha Garland, from 1948 to 1953, and later to Barbara May Watkins, to whom he was introduced at a party by Western legend Dale Evans. He married Barbara in 1954 and the marriage lasted for 55 years until her death in June 2010.

He also published a memoir, “Hollywood Adventures: The Gregory Walcott Story,” in 2003.

In addition to son Todd Mattox, Walcott's survivors include his daughters Jina and Pam and several grandchildren.


In Memoriam: Albert Maysles

It's Just a Shot Away

By Ed Garea

The world of documentary film lost one of its giants with the passing of Albert Maysles, who, along with his late brother David, was one of the giants of their unique American version of cinema verite, as illustrated in such films as SalesmenGrey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter.

To honor Mr. Maysles, TCM will air an evening of his documentaries tonight beginning at 8:00 pm.

Maysles died on March 5 of this year at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.



The Maysles Brothers were known for their departure from the usual documentary conventions in that they did not interview their subjects. As Albert explained it in a 1994 interview with The New York Times, “Making a film isn’t finding the answer to a question; it’s trying to capture life as it is."

He was born Albert H. Maysles in Boston on Nov. 26, 1926. His parents were both Jewish immigrants. His father, who emigrated from the Ukraine, was a postal clerk, and his mother, originally from Poland, was a schoolteacher.

The family lived in Dorchester and later moved to suburban Brookline, where Albert and younger brother David grew up. Albert was diagnosed with a learning disability, which he later credited with the development of intense listening skills that later served him well in documentary filmmaking.

Albert attended Syracuse University, from where he graduated in 1949 with a B.A. in Psychology. He later went on to earn his M.A. from Boston University, where he taught psychology for three years before switching to film. A trip to Russia to film a mental hospital was repeated the next year, but this time with a camera supplied to him by CBS, which permitted him to film his first documentary, Psychiatry in Russia, a silent film he made in 1955.

He followed this with Youth in Poland (1957), which began his collaboration with brother David. David, who had been working as a production assistant on Hollywood movies, served as co-director.

Their work impressed the famous documentarian Robert Drew. Drew, who has been called the “father” of cinema verite, invited Albert to be part of the crew, along with sound recordist D.A. Pennebaker, that produced the 1960 documentary Primary, which concerned the contest between John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey for the Democratic presidential nomination in Wisconsin.

In 1962, he and David established Maysles Films, making ends meet by producing television commercials for firms such as IBM and Merrill Lynch. Their 1964 film on the Beatles, in which they followed the rock group to three U.S. cities, was to form the linchpin of the DVD, The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit. They followed their work on The Beatles with two 1966 documentaries, Meet Marlon Brando, and With Love From Truman, both of which were well received by public and critics alike.



But it was their 1968 film, Salesmen, a study of four door-to-door Bible sellers who target the poor, which made their reputation. The 85-minute documentary follows the salesmen as the travel cross-country selling expensive Bibles to low-income families, and the accompanying crises they endure, including burnout.

They followed it that year with Monterey Pop, a deftly filmed account of the most famous pre-Woodstock concert gathering, featuring the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Who, and the Mamas and the Papas. An indication of how exactly the camera could follow the participants was evidenced by the oft-cited scene of Cass Elliot being deeply moved while listening to Janis Joplin’s set. At the end of “Ball and Chain,” Cass is caught saying, “Wow.”

Monterey Pop proved an excellent warm-up for what became their most famous documentary, Gimme Shelter (1970), about the 1969 American tour of the Rolling Stones, which ended with the tragedy that occurred during their concert at Altamont, California, in which a fan is shown being stabbed to death. The film became a staple of countless midnight showings across the country, earning critical admiration tempered by concerns that the Maysles Brothers were also exploiting the violence.



In 1975, they made what many critics consider their masterpiece, Grey Gardens, a portrait of Edith Bouvier and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, both cousins of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The mother and daughter were filmed living in squalor and isolation in a once grand mansion in East Hampton, N.Y. The house, infested with fleas and populated not only by the mother and daughter, but a large population of cats and raccoons, was brought to public attention as a result of a story in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine. When notified by the Suffolk County Health Department that the Beale women were to be evicted and the house razed, Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provide the necessary funds to repair the damage and bring the house up to village code.

Grey Gardens proved so popular that, over the years, it has taken on a life of its own, spawning a 2006 Broadway musical starring Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, and a 2009 HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as the Beales, with Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Onassis. The HBO production was nominated for 17 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning three, and was nominated for three Golden Globes.

Albert and David also made Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic (1987), which was nominated for three Primetime Emmys, winning two. Their last collaboration was Islands (1987) a study of the artist Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1987 Sundance Awards.

After David’s death from a stroke in 1987, Albert co-directed the 1992 Emmy Award winning Abortion: Desperate Choices, with Deborah Dickson and Susan Froemke.

Over the years since David’s death, Albert worked as director, co-director and cinematographer, on a wide range of subjects, from the Getty Museum, to Gypsy music, Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, extreme choreography, rock concerts, and artist Keith Haring. In 2001, he received the Cinematography Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for his documentary LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, about a Mississippi Delta family’s struggle against poverty. In 2006, he released The Beales of Grey Gardens, a new perspective on the Beales utilizing unseen footage from Grey Gardens. His latest project was Hollywood Renegade, a documentary about screenwriter Budd Schulberg and his times, to be released this year.

In 2006, he founded what is now the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem, and in July 2014, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Survivors include Gillian Walker, his wife of 39 years; two daughters, Rebekah and Sara; a son, Philip; and a stepdaughter, Auralice Graft.

TCM MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO ALBERT MAYSLES

8:00 p.m. GREY GARDENS (Rialto Pictures, 1976): Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith B. Beale, Jr. Documentary of a reclusive Long Island mother and daughter living in their own world at their mansion, “Grey Gardens.”

9:48 p.m. PORTRAIT OF AN ACTOR (Calliope Films, 1971): George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere. A portrait of George C. Scott, as related on the set of his film, The Last Run.

10:00 p.m. SALESMAN (Maysles Films, 1968): Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt. David Maysles directed this documentary about the adventures and misadventures of four door-to-door salesmen.



11:45 p.m. GIMME SHELTER (Maysles Films, 1970): The original rude boys of British rock, the Rolling Stones, tour America, culminating in a death at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in California.

1:30 a.m. MEET MARLON BRANDO (Maysles Films, 1966): Marlon Brando, Rex Morgan. A portrait of Marlon Brando, who is in New York to promote his film Morituri, goes awry when Brando becomes more interested in an interview conducted by a former winner of the Miss USA beauty contest.


In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

Live Long and Prosper

By Ed Garea

Leonard Nimoy, who won a global following as Mr. Spock, the human-Vulcan first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie versions of Star Trek, died on February 27 at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.


His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, attributing the cause to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy had announced last year that he was suffering from the disease, stating that it came from years of smoking, which he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

Although he had been acting in television and films since 1951, it was the character of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek that made Nimoy a household name in popular culture as he brought to life a character who was cerebral, resolutely logical, and imperturbable, known by his pointed ears, his unique salute and blessing, “Live long and prosper.” 

Born Leonard Simon Nimoy in Boston on March 26, 1931, the second son of Ukrainian immigrants Orthodox Jewish immigrants Max Nimoy, a barber, and Dora Spinner Nimoy. He was raised in the city’s predominantly Italian West End and sang in his synagogue choir.

He got the acting bug early, beginning at age 8 at a local theater and in high school productions. After graduation, he relocated to California to study drama at the Pasadena Playhouse. His start in the movies came with a bit part in the 1951 production of Queen For a Day, based on the popular radio (and later television) show. He also scored an unbilled part as a ball player in the 1951 movie, Rhubarb, a comedy about a cat that inherits a baseball team.

He scored the title role in the 1952 low-budget production, Kid Monk Baroni, as the disfigured leader of a street gang who becomes a boxer to escape his life in the “Little Italy” section of New York. Drafted into the Army in 1953, Nimoy began training for the infantry before being reassigned as an entertainment specialist, directing and hosting radio, television and stage shows for the Army’s Special Services branch.

After his discharge, he returned to California, studying at the Pasadena Playhouse and working as a soda jerk, movie usher, and cabdriver in between acting jobs, mainly in television, as he was cast in guest spots in such shows as Luke and the TenderfootNavy LogThe Man Called XHighway PatrolHarbor Command, and Broken Arrow. What few movies he appeared in during this period have become cult classics. In 1952, he was Narab, a Martian invader in the Commando Cody serial for Republic Studios, Zombies of the Stratosphere. His turn at the end to helping the forces of Earth against his planet somewhat foreshadowed his turn as Mr. Spock. He played Chief Black Hawk in Old Overland Trail (Republic, 1953), one in a series of oaters starring Rex Allen. He was the Army sergeant at the telex in 1954’s Them! After that, his only movie role in the ‘50s was as Professor Cole in the 1958 low-budget version of Robert Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters, titled the Brain Eaters.

As the ‘60s rolled around so did the quality of the television shows in which Nimoy worked. He began receiving guest shots on such shows as The Twilight ZoneWagon TrainSea HuntM SquadBonanzaPerry MasonDr. KildareDeath Valley Days, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., where he worked with future Star Trek shipmate and later close friend, William Shatner. In between assignments, Nimoy taught Method acting at his own school. But in 1963, a guest shot on the police drama, The Lieutenant, led to his big break.

The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was impressed with Nimoy’s performance and called his agent about a part in a new science-fiction show he was developing. Although the character was not yet fleshed out, Roddenberry told Nimoy’s agent that it would be extra-terrestrial, as the show was set in the 23rd century, and the space ship’s crew members were not just international crew, but interplanetary as well. The name of the show would be Star Trek.

Nimoy shot the pilot, which introduced his character of Mr. Spock and that of Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. NBC rejected it and plans were made for a second pilot with a somewhat different cast. Because Hunter had already committed to another project when the second pilot was to be filmed, Shatner was cast as Captain James T. Kirk.


As the character of Spock was unknown territory, Nimoy was given free rein to create. He incorporated his childhood memories of the kohanim blessing from his religious upbringing and created the Vulcan split-fingered salute, along with the salutation, “Live long and prosper,” which was an accompanying blessing to the prayer from Numbers 6:24-26.

Another of Spock’s trademarks was the result of improvisation. After reading in the script that Spock was to knock another character out cold with the butt of his phaser, Nimoy worked out a better solution: the Vulcan nerve pinch, claiming that Spock studies would have included knowledge of anatomy to be used in self-defense.

The character of Spock connected with the public and Nimoy was reported to have been receiving about 10,000 letters week, most of them from women. He also received an Emmy nomination for each season the show aired. After the show was canceled after a three-year run, however, Nimoy seemed pleased and highly reluctant to play the character again. He was the only member of the cast who did not sign up for a projected sequel in the ‘70s (abandoned for other reasons), and after much soul-searching, finally agreed to be part of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. The reason for this reluctance, he said in interviews, was the poor quality of writing on Star Trek, especially in its third  and last  season. But Nimoy was also reluctant to attend the Trek fan conventions that become wildly popular in the ‘70s. Fans were also dismayed by the title of his 1975 book, “I Am Not Spock,” which was taken by many as Nimoy’s rejection of, and distancing from, the character of Spock. Perhaps it was the very real fear of being permanently typecast, though he did have a successful run in Mission Impossible, which he signed on for right after Star Trek finished its initial television run, as Paris, an IMF agent who was a ex-magician and make-up expert.


But it seemed that Nimoy had a change of heart about Spock after the character was killed off in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (supposedly at his insistence). Given the chance to direct the next Trek installment, he seemingly made peace with the character, allowing it to be reborn in the course of the movie. He also directed Star Trek IV (1986) and Star Trek VI (1991), both of which he helped write, and guest-starred as Spock on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When director J. J. Abrams revived Star Trek in 2009, with an all-new cast, he included a cameo part for Nimoy as an older version of Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Of his work outside Star Trek, Nimoy received kudos for his work in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the 1982 TV movie A Woman Called Golda, where he played Morris Meyerson, the husband of Golda Meir, played by Ingrid Bergman. He also directed the successful 1987 comedy, Three Men and a Baby.

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the popular syndicated series “In Search Of ...,” which explored such mysteries as the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, and U.F.O.s. In addition, he narrated Ancient Mysteries on the History Channel, took on a recurring role on the science-fiction series Fringe and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Nimoy also performed on stage, appearing in such works as Fiddler on the RoofThe King and ICaligulaTwelfth Night, and My Fair Lady in regional theater, and Full Circle and Equus on Broadway. In 1975, he toured with and played the title role in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Sherlock Holmes, and in 1981, he starred in Vincent, a one-man show based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh.


If all this wasn’t enough, during and following Star Trek, Nimoy also released five albums of musical recordings. His first was titled Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space. His second album, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, features him singing as Spock. On the final three albums he sings popular folk sings and covers of works such as “Proud Mary” and “I Walk the Line.” Though the critics panned his recordings, fans ate them up, perhaps enjoying the campy performances.

He also published several books of poetry and photography, and came to terms with himself in his 1995 tome, “I Am Spock,” in which he said he hoped the book would place to rest the ugly and unfounded rumors about his relationship to the character. For the record, he said that he liked and admired Spock.

Regarding his personal life, Nimoy returned to college, earning his M.A. in Spanish from Antioch College in 1978. The school later awarded him an honorary doctorate.

His first marriage to actress Sandi Zober lasted from 1954 to 1987 and produced two children, Julie and Adam. In 1989, he married actress Susan Bey (cousin of director Michael Bay).


In Memoriam: Louis Jourdan

By Ed Garea
Louis Jourdan, the handsome, doe-eyed actor best known for his role in Gigi, and who to many seemed to be the epitome of everything French, died on February 14 at his home in Los Angeles, according to his official biographer, Olivier Minne.

For audiences from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, Jourdan’s good looks and sexy French purr made him the most popular French export since Charles Boyer. He specialized in playing the smooth Continental type, whether in musicals, dramas, or comedies. He became so identified with this role and such as his popularity that he was later spoofed by Christopher Walken as "The Continental" in a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live.


He was born Louis Henri Gendre in Marseilles on June 19, 1921, one of three sons of hotelier Henri Gendre, who organized the Cannes Film Festival after the second world war, and Yvonne, whose maiden name of Jourdan Louis took as his stage name. Henri’s work necessitated frequent travel, and the family followed him. Thus Louis was educated in France, Turkey and Britain, where he learned to speak perfect English, while being savvy enough to keep his slight soft French accent.

Jourdan knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor and studied under Rene Simon at the Ecole Dramatique in Paris. While studying, he began to appear on the professional stage, where he caught the attention of director Marc Allégret, who hired him as an assistant camera operator on his 1938 film, Entrée des Artistes (The Curtain Rises). A year later, Allégre cast him in his film debut, Le Corsaire (1939), starring Charles Boyer. But the outbreak of World War II interrupted the production, and the movie was never completed.

Jourdan continued to make films, before and after the German Occupation. But when he was ordered to make German propaganda films, he refused and fled to the Unoccupied Zone, where he continued to work in film. However, when the Gestapo arrested his father, Louis and his brothers went underground and joined the French Resistance. Louis helped print and distribute Resistance leaflets during this time.

With the Liberation in 1944, Jourdan found film and stage work easier to come by, the main reason being that, as he was in the Resistance, he was not tainted by having worked for Marshal Petain and entertained the Germans, as had many of his contemporaries.

In 1946, Jourdan married childhood sweetheart Berthe Frédérique (known as Quique) and went to Los Angeles after producer David O. Selznick promised he could make more of himself in Hollywood than he ever could in Paris. Selznick cast him as the slightly sinister valet suspected of murdering his employer in The Paradine Case (1947), starring Gregory Peck. This was done over the objections of director Alfred Hitchcock, who conceived of the character as a rough, earthy type. Hitchcock referred to Jourdan as “a pretty-pretty boy,” complaining that his casting “destroyed the whole point of the film.” But Jourdan’s relationship with Hitchcock was far better than his relationship with Selznick, who put him on suspension many times for refusing roles.


Jourdan followed up with a starring role in his next film, Max Ophüls’s masterly Letter From an Unknown Woman in 1948. Based on the story by Stefan Zweig, he played the debonair, womanizing pianist who seduces and abandons Joan Fontaine. The role allowed him to make the most of his smooth charm, and to play a complex character: an empty man who comes to realize in the end how much this emptiness has cost him.

In 1949, he starred in director Vincente Minnelli’s glossy version of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, as Rodolphe Boulanger, the lover of adulterous Emma Bovary, played by Jennifer Jones. 1952 saw him co-starring with Boyer in director Richard Fleischer’s The Happy Time, about a French family in Ottawa during the 1920s.

Jourdan returned to France in 1953 for Rue de l’Estrapade, and La mariee est trop belle (The Bride is Too Beautiful), with Brigitte Bardot, which wasn’t released until 1956 with the title Her Bridal Night. While in Italy in 1954 he appeared in Three Coins in the Fountain, playing the dashing Prince Dino di Cessi.

When not making movies, Jourdan kept busy in television, playing a police inspector in the ABC series Paris Precinct (1955). He guested on such prestigious programs as Studio OneThe Elgin Hour, and Celebrity Playhouse. He also made his debut on the Broadway stage in 1954, starring in an adaptation of Andre Gide’s The Immoralist, playing a repressed gay man embarking on marriage. Although his reviews were generally excellent, he found himself upstaged by the performance of a striking young supporting actor: James Dean. He returned to the New York stage the next year in Tonight in Samarkand, letting Hollywood know that he was not getting more of the serious film roles he wanted.


In 1958 came the role of a lifetime, playing Gaston Lachaille in director Minnelli’s Gigi. The film, which co-starred Maurice Chevalier and Leslie Caron, won nine Oscars, including Best Picture, and made Jourdan an international celebrity, as he sang the title song. But Jourdan did not receive a nomination (for this or any other movie in his career). Gigi did earn him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

In the ‘60s, the suave, Continental types that Jourdan specialized in began to fall out of favor with American moviegoers. He played the suave Philipe Forrestier in Can-Can (1960), starring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, and Chevalier. He also played Continental types in 1963’s The VIPs and the 1966 Made in Paris, as a fashion designer, before the bottom finally fell out.

With each passing year, Jourdan found himself cast more as the suave, charming villain than the suave, charming hero. He also made more of a living on television than in the movies, finding himself in demand as a guest star. In 1977, he gave a memorable and seductive performance in the title role of Count Dracula, a movie directed by Phillip Saville for the BBC. It was the closest version of the venerable vampire tale to Bram Stoker’s novel. In 1983, he appeared as the villainous Kamal Khan in the James Bond opus Octopussy. He also played the evil and oily Dr. Anton Arcane in Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing and its 1989 sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing.

In the mid-80s, he would return to Gigi, this time in a touring show and in Chevalier’s role. To the frequent criticism that he lip-synched his songs, he answered: “If I sang them live, the fragile little voice I have would go.”


His final film appearance came as a suave villain in director Peter Yates’s Year of the Comet (1992), an excellent caper about a rare bottle of wine. In 2010, he was named as a chevalier, or knight, of the Légion d’Honneur.

Jourdan was well liked in Hollywood, but noted for keeping his private life private. In 2014, he lost wife Berthe Frederique after 68 years of marriage. Son Louis Henry died in 1981 from a drug overdose at 29. Pierre Jourdan, a brother who was an actor and a theater director in France, died in 2007.


In Memoriam: Lizabeth Scott

She's a Femme Fatale

By Ed Garea

I didn’t want any part of her, but I kept smelling that jasmine in her hair, and I wanted her in my arms. Yeah. I knew I was walking into something.”  “Rip” Murdock (Humphrey Bogart), Dead Reckoning, 1947.

She was made for film noir: a sultry blonde with a smoky, come-hither voice who had romance on her mind and homicide in her heart. She played opposite such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Van Heflin. And though her heyday lasted only about a decade, her influence remains; fueled as much by her private life as by the femme fatales she played on screen.


Lizabeth Scott, nicknamed by Paramount, the studio that signed her in 1945, as “the Threat,” died on January 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 92. While the hospital confirmed the death, it did not list a cause, but her longtime friend Mary Goodstein stated the cause was congestive heart failure.

When Paramount signed her, the studio described her as “beautiful, blonde, aloof, and alluring.” Their plans were to cast her in the mold of Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake, two other blonde dames of noir. But critics and the public never saw her as being in the same league with Bacall and Lake; she was seen as more of a generic imitation. It wasn’t until years after her career flamed out that she was seen and appreciated for bringing something original to the hard-boiled characters she often played. In her book, Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film (1998), film historian Karen Burroughs Hannsberry called Scott “one of film noir’s archetypal femmes.”

She was born Emma Matzo on Sept. 29, 1922, in Scranton, Pa., one of six children of Ukrainian immigrant John Matzo and wife Mary (nee Pennock), who owned a grocery store. She attended Marywood Seminary, a local Catholic girls’ high school, but transferred to Scranton’s Central High School. After graduation, she spent the summer working with the Mae Desmond Players, a stock company in the nearby town of Newfoundland. That autumn she enrolled at Marywood College, but quit after six months, against her parents’ wishes, to move to New York City, where she enrolled at the Alvienne School of Drama. She took the stage name of “Elizabeth Scott,” and landed a small role with the touring company of the stage hit Hellzapoppin, where she had little to do, except to appear between sketches in stunning gowns is a series of comedy blackouts.

After the tour concluded, she returned to New York in 1942. Unable to get an acting job, she was hired as a fashion model by Harper’s Bazaar at $25 an hour. Later that year, Broadway producer Michael Myerberg cast her in a small role in Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. She also understudied star Tallulah Bankhead, but had no chance to substitute. When Bankhead left the show in 1943, Scott hoped to replace her as star. But the role was given instead to Miriam Hopkins, and Scott returned to modeling. But when Gladys George, who replaced Hopkins, became ill, Scott was called back to the show and won rave reviews. She later played the lead in the play’s Boston run, also to rave reviews and good business.

Later in 1943, when she was modeling after leaving the play, Warner Brothers producer Hal B. Wallis spotted her at her 21st birthday party held at the Stork Club in New York. Wallis scheduled an interview with Scott the following day, but she canceled it when a telegram asked her to replace Hopkins in the Boston production of The Skin of Our Teeth. 


In 1944, agent Charles K. Feldman, who saw her photos in Harper's Bazaar, invited Scott to Los Angeles. After failed screen tests at Universal-International and Warner Brothers, Scott again ran into Wallis, who told her that he would hire her if he had the power to do so. She thought he was jerking her around and left for New York. But Wallis left Warner Bros. and formed his own production company, which would release their product through Paramount. He called her again, and she came out to Los Angeles, signing a contract with Paramount. She was now known as Lizabeth Scott after dropping the “E” in her first name “to be different.”


Her debut film was the Ayn Rand-scripted You Came Along in 1945, in a role originally intended for Barbara Stanwyck. Scott played U.S. Treasury flak Ivy Hotchkiss, whose job was to look after three pilots on a patriotic bond-selling tour. She falls in love with one of the pilots, Major Bob Collins (Robert Cummings), but while she’s serious, he’s lackadaisical. Despite the efforts of the other two pilots (Don DeFore and Charles Drake) to keep her in the dark, she discovers why Collins isn’t serious: he has terminal leukemia. It wasn’t a smooth shoot for Scott; she experienced problems with leading man Cummings, though these were later worked out, and she had difficulties with director John Farrow, who made no secret of the fact he wanted Teresa Wright for the starring role. Another consequence of the film was the lifelong friendship between Scott and Rand.

On the strength of this film, Wallis next cast Scott as one of the leads in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946 over the protests of top billed star Stanwyck who, in a letter, said that she would not be co-starred with any other person other than a recognized male or female star. Nevertheless, Scott wound up in third place at the top behind Stanwyck and Heflin and ahead of Douglas, appearing in his first film. Wallis, notorious for a weakness for blondes, was obsessive with his new discovery to the point of demanding director Lewis Milestone reshoot certain scenes to feature more close-up of Scott. Milestone walked out, telling Wallis that if he wanted to reshoot the scenes, he could do so himself, which is just what he did.

It was during this time that the publicity for Scott from Paramount and Wallis began to backfire. Journalists began to notice the resemblance between Scott and Bacall, which, coupled with the studio’s nickname for Scott being “The Threat” (as compared with Bacall being nicknamed “The Look”), began the critical trend of marginalizing Scott in favor of Bacall.

Scott got her next starring role as a result of a loan-out from Wallis. Columbia was about to film Dead Reckoning with Bogart and Rita Hayworth. But Hayworth was busy filming The Lady From Shanghai, so Scott was imported to fill in. The film represented Scott’s first portrayal of a hard-boiled femme fatale. She plays Coral “Dusty” Chandler, the ex-girlfriend of Bogart’s murdered war buddy who’s a singer in a nightclub run by a local gangster. She knows more about the buddy’s murder than she lets on, and to keep Bogart from finding out the truth about his buddy, she seduces him into believing that she loves him. Both the film and Scott were hits, with the film typecasting her as a beautiful schemer caught in a whirlpool of jealousy, greed, betrayal and murder, but nevertheless irresistible.

Her fourth film was Desert Noir (1947), a coming-of-age noir with Scott as the rebellious daughter of Mary Astor, whose character, a casino and bordello owner, runs the corrupt town of Chuckawalla, Nevada. The film also starred newcomers Burt Lancaster and Wendell Corey.


In December 1946, Scott began filming on Wallis’s I Walk Alone, co-starring Douglas, Lancaster, and Wendell Corey. Scott plays torch singer Kay Lawrence, who befriends convict Frankie Madison (Lancaster), returning to New York after being in stir for the last 14 years. Kay’s boyfriend is Noll “Dink” Turner (Douglas), who owns the Regent Club. However, Madison claims that he’s Dink’s partner. Dink sends Kay to sweet-talk Frankie in order to stall for time, but the truth is that Dink, having tired of Kay, intends to dump her and marry socialite Mrs. Richardson (Kristine Miller).

The film, a big hit with audiences and seen as one of the classic film noirs today, contained even more drama behind the scenes. Originally titled Deadlock, the role of Kay was supposed to be Kristine Miller’s breakout role. But Scott, having read the script, decided she wanted the role, and prevailed upon Wallis, with whom she was involved in a hot and heavy affair, to give her the part, which he did. Miller wound up with the secondary role of the socialite. Her relations with Lancaster, previously romantic (it was rumored that they were to marry at one point) cooled to the point of near hostility. After filming wrapped, Lancaster tried to break his seven-year contract with Paramount, ostensibly on the grounds that it violated a previous freelance deal. However, he also admitted that he never wanted to work with Scott again.

Scott followed up I Walk Alone with two films that refined her femme fatale image even further. First up was Pitfall (1948), with Scott playing Mona Stevens, a model who becomes involved in a hot and heavy extramarital affair with bored insurance investigator Dick Powell. Powell soon finds himself competing for her with sociopath detective Raymond Burr, who is blackmailing Mona. She followed this with a film that many critics and viewers regard as her best performance and film: Too Late For Tears (1949). In this film, Scott is the ultimate femme fatale, Jane Palmer, who discovers $60,000 that had accidentally been thrown in the back of her husband’s car. She will go to any length to keep the sudden fortune, as witnessed by the bodies that begin to pile up. Unfortunately, the film bombed at the box office, resulting in bankruptcy for producer Hunt Stromberg.

One of Scott’s problems was that, despite appearing in nine films from 1946 to 1949, she failed to achieve the level of stardom and clout necessary to maintain popularity at the box office. Her health also contributed, for in 1949 she collapsed in hysterics during the filming of RKO’s The Big Steal, with Mitchum. Her illness was such that she had to quit the film. The doctors prescribed rest. By July 1949, Scott was sufficiently recovered to star in the Princeton (University) Drama Festival’s production of Philip Yordan’s Anna Lucasta. She also legalized her stage name.

Her films in the ‘50s were a mediocre lot, attributed in large part to her falling star. Dark City (1950) was a traditional noir with Charlton Heston (in his film debut) playing a bookie who is the target of the vengeful brother of a dead man he swindled. Scott once again played the torch singer-girlfriend. Two of a Kind (1951) featured Scott as a socialite who seduces gambler Edmond O’Brien into joining a caper. In The Racket (1951), another traditional noir, Scott plays a torch singer (for the last time), based loosely on mob moll Virginia Hill, who is caught up in a struggle between big city police captain Mitchum and local mob boss Robert Ryan. Red Mountain (1951) is a programmer starring Alan Ladd as a Confederate Army captain who goes west to join Quantrill’s Raiders. Scott is the wife of Arthur Kennedy, who along with Scott, join up with Ladd after he rescues Kennedy from a lynching.


In the midst of this, Scott traveled to England in October 1951 to begin filming Stolen Face, a Hammer Studio noir directed by Terence Fisher. It’s a uniquely nutty film about plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Ritter (Paul Henreid), who is devastated when the love of his life, American concert pianist Alice Brent (Scott) leaves him and reveals she’s engaged to another man. Dr. Ritter’s not about to take this lying down, and decides that if he can’t have the real thing, perhaps he can construct a duplicate to take her place. Which is just what he does when he meets horribly scarred convict Lily Conover (Mary Mackensie). A snip-snip here, a tug-tug there, and voila! Mary now looks exactly like Alice, and Scott now takes over the role as Lily. And, of course, he marries her. Not only that, Ritter gives her the same clothes, hairstyle, and so forth, as the departed Alice. Unfortunately for the good doctor, his pet theory, elaborated in the first part of the film, that physical deformities can lead to a life of crime, and if the deformities are removed, so is the criminal’s need to commit crime, falls by the wayside when Lily returns to her criminal ways. She steals jewelry and furs, with the doctor bribing shop owners to keep it on the QT. Just when it can’t get any worse, Alice pops back into Ritter’s life, and now he’s stuck with two Lizabeth Scotts. It presages Hitchcock’s Vertigo in a way, and Scott is wonderful in the dual role.

An important footnote here is that by casting Henreid, who was blacklisted in America because of his participation with the Committee for the First Amendment, Scott and Wallis were effectively among the first to break the Hollywood blacklist.

Returning to America, Scott began work on the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis vehicle, Scared Stiff, a remake of the 1940 Bob Hope-Paulette Goddard comedy, The Ghost Breakers. Scott plays the Goddard role, an heiress who inherits a haunted castle on Lost Island, off the Cuban coast. Although Scott would claim fond memories of working on the set in later interviews, it was not without its trials. Scott found Lewis’s impersonation of her offensive and made a point of telling him. Behind the scenes, a jealous Wallis was instructing director George Marshall against letting the romantic scenes between Scott and Martin get too steamy.

Scott’s last picture for Paramount was 1953’s Bad for Each Other, a drama set in Scott’s home state of Pennsylvania. She plays avaricious heiress Helen Curtis, who has her sights on recently returned Korean War physician Colonel Tom Owen (Heston), poor but idealistic. Despite her plans to encase him in her jewel-encrusted world, treating the imaginary illnesses of her society friends, Owen opts to leave that world to minister to the impoverished community. The film was a box office failure and ended not only her Paramount contract, but also her professional and personal relationship with Wallis. Scott was now a freelancer, going on to make a Western noir titled Silver Lode in 1954 and the JD drama The Weapon, in 1956. She also attended USC, where she audited courses in political science and philosophy, and began investing in real estate.

In April 1954, Scott flew to the Cannes Film Festival, where she spent time posing for photographers, wading barefoot in a fountain and the surf. Though she left immediately after the festival’s closing for London, her visit to France would come back to haunt her, both professionally and personally, damaging her film career beyond repair, for she found herself caught in the crosshairs of Confidential.

Confidential was the premier scandal sheet of its day. There were others, such as Hush Hush, but Confidential was the most popular by far. Bogart said of it, “Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.” The magazine developed a network of call girls, waiters, bellboys, journalists, private detectives, and even minor actors who would provide small bits of fact about celebrities. The magazine then elaborated on the facts, magnifying them with a great deal of innuendo, marked by the frequent use of puns and alliteration. Instead of stating outright that an actor had participated in a scandalous act, Confidential operated by suggesting that something scandalous has occurred. Because the stories contained a kernel of actual truth and could be attributed to reliable sources, for a time celebrities would be unlikely to sue the publication, if only because of fear of further revelations that would come out at trial. For those who found themselves splashed over the front pages, the advice was to wait it out until the scandal died down.

In September 1954, Confidential ran a story titled, “Why Was Lizabeth Scott’s Name in the Call Girls’ Black Book?” A police raid on a Hollywood bordello in 1954 uncovered some interesting evidence. A “little black book” seized on the premises contained one entry under ‘S’ that astounded the vice officers: Scott, Lizabeth (4), Ho-2-0064, Br-2-6111. According to the article, the cops could scarcely believe their eyes. “Could that name be that of the honey-blonde star they’d seen in a dozen top movies? If so, what was it doing rubbing elbows with a zesty collection of customers for a trio of cuddle-for-cast cuties?”

The magazine went on to state that when the cops questioned the older girls, all they said was “We don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” But then the article noted that one of the three girls arrested, a juvenile of 17, cracked enough to convince the cops that their first suspicions were right. Supposedly the cops called the number listed in the book, only to have Scott answering, “with her famous husky drawl giving her away.”

To this little nugget was added a myriad of suggestion and supposition. “Liz,” the article stated, “was a strange girl, even for Hollywood, and from the moment she arrived in the cinema city, she never married, never even got close to the altar.”

Her movie career,” the article continued, “went off like a rocket” with such hits as You Came AlongThe Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and Dead Reckoning, but faded just as quickly. Liz “had few friends and never went out of her way to make new ones.” But now, according to the article, she “was taking up almost exclusively with Hollywood’s weird society of baritone babes.”

Baritone babes” was the magazine’s euphemism for the Sapphic sisterhood, or what Hollywood insiders called “the sewing circle.” In what was par for the course with every Confidential story on lesbianism, Liz was linked to a Parisian lesbian named Frede: “In one jaunt to Europe she headed straight for Paris and the left bank where she took up with Frede, the city’s most notorious lesbian queen and operator of a nightclub devoted exclusively to entertaining deviates just like herself.” Well, she did visit France, taking in Cannes. Whether or not she visited Paris was of no consequence to the magazine, which was only getting started. The fact that Frede was a friend and ex-lover of Marlene Dietrich, whose own bisexualism was no secret, was enough to paint Scott with the taint of guilt by supposed association. In fact, Frede was the proprietor of the posh Parisian nightclub Carroll’s, where the stars of France performed to a mixed clientele. In her 1989 memoirs, Eartha Kitt, who began her singing career at Carroll’s in the late 1940’s, described Frede as “the most beautiful manly-looking lady in the world.” The article also quoted her as saying that she “always wore male colognes, slept in men’s pajamas and positively hated frilly feminine dresses.”

The truth about Scott was that she was a nonconformist to the core. Off screen she was fairly open about her life, loved wearing shirts and slacks, and unlike many other stars rumored to be gay, she refused the services of a studio-provided “beard” husband. When Scott saw the article she was furious, but instead of merely sitting by and waiting for the storm to blow over, she enlisted the services of lawyer-to-the-stars Jerry Geisler and sued the magazine for $2.5 million, accusing it of “holding the plaintiff up to contempt and ridicule and implying in the eyes of every reader indecent, unnatural and illegal conduct in her private and public life.” However, it is important to note that she did not sue the magazine for implying that she was gay, but rather for its allegations that she used the services of call girls. The outcome of the trial was never made public. Some reports state the suit was settled out of court, while others maintain Scott lost on a technicality.


Her movie career was in tatters, although ex-lover Wallis gave her the female lead in the Elvis Presley vehicle, Loving You (1957). She played Glenda Markle, a press agent who discovers young country singer Presley and sets him on the road to fame. Backstage rumors were that she was smitten with co-star Elvis and tried to pursue a romance. Whether or not she was successful is not known. The film did very well at the box office and Scott received favorable reviews, but for her, the joy of making movies had passed. “I simply decided there was more to life than just making films,” she said in a 1970s interview. “And, I proceeded to explore all of life’s other facets. None of us is ever too young or too old or too smart to learn or to create.” In fact, after Loving You, she would only come out of “retirement” to make one more film, Pulp, with Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney, in 1972, as a nymphomaniac princess.

Instead, she turned to other things, such as music. In 1957, she cut an album simply titled Lizabeth for Vik Records, a subsidiary of RCA Victor. The album, a mixture of torch songs and romantic ballads such as Cole Porter’s “I’m in Love Again,” also contains in the inner notes an interview with Earl Wilson, in which he states she is a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson, sleeps in the nude, loves deep-sea fishing, and adores sexy clothes (possibly a counter to the Confidential article). On April 23, 1958, she made her public singing debt on the CBS program The Big Record. The album was poorly received after its release, but since has become a cult favorite.

She also kept busy with television appearances, radio shows, and television voice-overs for juice and cat food commercials. In later years, living off returns from her many real estate investments, Scott led a quiet, private life at her house in the Hollywood Hills, helping to raise funds for museums, art galleries and charities (including hemophilia research and hunger). She turned down many requests for interviews and guest appearances, save for the occasional appearance for special screenings of her films. She also attended health clubs on a regular basis, and studied literature, philosophy and languages. There were rumors that she might marry Hal Wallis, but she remained steadfastly single, with Wallis marrying actress Martha Hyer instead.

Survivors include her brother Gus Matzo of Plymouth, Mich.; and sister Justine Birdsall of Middletown, N.Y.


In Memoriam: Rod Taylor


By Ed Garea

If there were one word that would describe the life and career of Rod Taylor, it would be Persistence.

Coming to Los Angeles with few precious credits, Taylor worked his way from the bottom up, taking anything that came his way and never letting down until his big break came.


The star of such favorite films as The Time Machine and The Birds, Taylor died at his home on January 7 at age 84. Daughter Felicia Taylor, a former correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, announced his death to the press.

Taylor was only the second Australian actor, after Errol Flynn, to gain fame on the Silver Screen.

Taylor was born Rodney Sturt Taylor on January 11, 1930, in Sydney, Australia, the only child of steel-construction worker and draftsman William Taylor and his wife, the former Mona Stewart, a children’s book author.

Growing up in the suburb of Lidcombe, Taylor’s first aspiration was to become an artist. As a teenager, he studied at East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. But the friends he made while there interested him in acting, and when he saw Sir Laurence Olivier in a Royal Vic tour of Shakespeare’s Richard III, his decision was firmly cemented.

His first professional appearance was in a local 1947 production of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance. 1951 marked his screen debut with an appearance in an Australian short, Inland With Sturt, about the famed British explorer Captain Charles Sturt, who was Taylor’s great-great-uncle. He also had a role in the 1953 Australian production of King of the Coral Sea, written by and starring Chips Rafferty. He was fourth-billed as “Jack Janiero,” a character who, along with Rafferty, takes over a sea salvage firm owned by a dissolute playboy and turns it into a going concern.

Taylor also made dozens of radio appearances and won a radio-acting award that would finance a trip to London, where he hoped to advance his career.

Before leaving for England, however, he won a small part in Long John Silver (1954), a sequel to Treasure Island, filmed in Australia with Hollywood stars. This inspired him to make a stop in Los Angeles to check out job opportunities. Though he was rejected by a major talent agency, he decided to stay awhile and try his luck.

This marked the beginning of a long, hard climb to stardom. He started with a role in the television production of Studio 57, following that with a role in Lux Video Theatre. Films were harder to break into. There was an uncredited role in 1955’s The Virgin Queen, starring Bette Davis; a small role in the Sterling Hayden Western, Top Gun (1955); and a tiny role in the 1955 Alan Ladd-Edward G. Robinson crime drama, Hell on Frisco Bay.

His next role was meatier, playing astronaut Herb Ellis in World Without End (1956), an above-average sci-fi flick made by the below-average Allied Artists studio. He followed that with a decent role as Debbie Reynolds’ fiancé in The Catered Affair (1956), and as the debonair boyfriend Elizabeth Taylor jilts for visiting Texan Rock Hudson in Giant (1956). His performance in Giant began to win notice, but it was soon back to small supporting roles, including a turn in the acclaimed Separate Tables (1958). Apart from the movies, Taylor made ends meet by appearing in a number of television shows.


It was in 1960, when he was cast as the star of George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1960), that Taylor finally broke through to stardom. He also starred as an American newspaper correspondent in the short-lived television series Hong Kong (1960-61), and as the voice of Pongo, the puppies’ father in the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians (1961). But it was his starring role as the object of heiress Tippi Hedren and later fighting off flocks of enraged birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds in 1963 that solidified his stature as a major star.

1963 was a busy year for Taylor, as he followed The Birds with a co-starring role in the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton drama, The V.I.P.s, a co-starring role with Rock Hudson in the war drama A Gathering of Eagles, and a starring role with Jane Fonda in the romantic comedy Sunday in New York. He won acclaim for his portrayal of German Major Walter Gerber in the World War II thriller 36 Hours (1964) with James Garner and Eva Marie Saint, and as Irish playwright Sean O’Casey in Jack Cardiff’s 1965 biopic Young Cassidy.

Other notable roles in the ‘60s included starring with Doris Day in the comedies Do Not Disturb (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and the lead role in the adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s Hotel (1967). The ‘70s saw him working mainly in television series and movies with the occasional foray into a film such as Zabriskie Point (1970), The Train Robbers (1973) with John Wayne and Ann-Margret, and the remake of the 1931 MGM classic Trader Horn (1973).


As the 1980s dawned, Taylor made only an occasional film, preferring to star instead in television movies and mini-series. His best-known role was as the title character’s father, Black Jack Bouvier in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981). He also had a recurring role from 1988 to 1990 in the nighttime soap Falcon Crest as Frank Agretti, the title vineyard’s long lost owner.

Perhaps his oddest role was as Doc, the town doctor/coroner in the 2007 Sci-Fi (now Syfy) original movie, Kaw, about a town besieged by thousands of flesh-eating ravens. He also came out of retirement at the behest of Quentin Tarantino to play Winston Churchill in his 2009 World War II film, Inglourious Basterds.

Taylor was married three times and divorced twice. His first marriage was to Australian model Peggy Williams, which lasted from 1951 to 1954. His second wife was American fashion model Mary Hilem (1963-69), with whom he had daughter Felicia. In 1980, he married American actress and dancer Carol Kikumura, who, along with daughter Felicia, survives him.

TCM will honor Taylor with an evening of his films on January 29. The evening is scheduled as follows:

8:00 pm – THE TIME MACHINE (MGM, 1960): Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux. George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s dystopia set in the year 802,701 with humans divided into peaceful Eloi and cannibalistic Morlocks.


10:00 pm – THE BIRDS (Universal, 1962): Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren. Alfred Hitchcock directed this ultimate tale of nature-gone-wild when birds suddenly begin attacking humans.

12:15 am – SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (MGM, 1964): Rod Taylor, Jane Fonda. A philandering pilot changes his ways fast when his sister contemplates a premarital fling.

2:15 am – YOUNG CASSIDY (MGM, 1965): Rod Taylor, Flora Robson, & Jack MacGowran. This is the story of playwright Sean O’Caseys’ involvement in the Irish rebellion of 1910.


In Memoriam: Luise Rainer

By Ed Garea

In the mid-Thirties, a meteor burned brightly over Hollywood. And like most meteors, it burned out quickly, but while it was active, it was one of the brightest ever to be seen in that town. That meteor was named Luise Rainer.


Rainer was the first actor to win multiple Academy Awards and the first to win them consecutively. She won the Best Actress statue for her performance as Anna Held in 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld, and Best Actress the next year for her performance as O-Lan in The Good Earth. Yet, her stay at the top of her craft was short, and by 1938, her career at MGM was over. She tried a comeback for Paramount in 1943 in the film Hostages, but we would not see her again on the silver screen until 1997 in the film The Gambler.

Rainer (pronounced “rye-ner”) was born on January 12, 1910, in Dusseldorf, Germany, into an upper-class Jewish family. Her father, Heinrich, was a businessman who settled in Europe after spending most of his childhood in Texas, where he was sent at the age of six as an orphan. Her mother Emilie (nee Konigsberger) was a pianist from a cultured family.

Her father wanted her to attend finishing school and eventually marry the “right sort” of man, but Luise, who was rebellious by nature, fell in love with the world of entertainment, inspired at the age of six by the circus. At the age of 16, she decided to follow her dream and become an actress. She began studying acting under the great Max Reinhardt, and by the age of 18, many critics were hailing her talent. She became a member of Reinhardt’s Vienna theater ensemble and scored several major successes on the Berlin stage, including George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.

She began her film career in Germany in 1930, and in 1934, was signed by MGM talent scout Phil Berg, who offered her a three-year contract, thinking she would appeal to the same audience that flocked to see Greta Garbo. Rainer, for her part, stated in an interview that she had no real interest in films until she saw the 1932 production of A Farewell to Arms. After that, she said, film moved to the forefront in her career. Her decision to leave Europe for America was made easier by the ascension of Adolf Hitler in Germany and his draconian anti-Semitic laws, which would have made it impossible for her to work in Germany.

She sailed to America aboard the Ile de France in 1935. The first thing her handlers at MGM had to do was to subdue her rather pronounced Mittel-European accent. Actress Constance Collier was given the assignment, and under her tutelage, Rainer’s command of English grew rapidly. She was then cast in MGM’s 1935 comedy-romance Escapade, after Myrna Loy turned the role down. It was a remake of the 1934 Austrian film Masquerade, starring William Powell as an artist who persuades the married Rainer to pose semi-nude for him, but when the illustrated poster is printed, it causes a potential scandal.


Her next film was The Great Ziegfeld, again co-starring Powell, in which she played the real-life character of Anna Held, the actress, singer and (scorned) common-law wife of the showman Florenz Ziegfeld, played by Powell. She almost didn’t get the part. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer thought the part was too small for such a star, but Irving Thalberg felt she was the only actress on the MGM lot that could play it. Shortly after filming began in 1935, doubts about Rainer’s ability to play Held began to circulate in the press, mainly centering on the fact that she didn’t resemble the Polish-born Held.

But as Thalberg predicted, Rainer more than held her own in the part. In what may be the most famous telephone scene in film history, the heartbroken Anna attempts to congratulate Ziegfeld on his marriage to Billie Burke (Loy). As the camera records her, she smiles through tears with a voice alternating between false gaiety and utter despair. As she hangs up that camera catches her breaking down into rivers of tears.

Later Hollywood legend would have Rainer writing the teary telephone scene for the film, and Mayer, thinking it too dreary, trying his best to excise it from the picture. Ironically, it is widely believed that it was that very scene, and Rainer’s tour de force performance in it, that clinched the Oscar. Rainer later said in an interview that she based her interpretation of the scene on Jean Cocteau’s play La Voix Humaine: "Cocteau's play is just a telephone conversation about a woman who has lost her beloved to another woman."

On the evening of the Oscar ceremonies, Rainer stayed home, not expecting to win. When Mayer learned she had won the award, he sent MGM publicity head Howard Strickling to her home to fetch her. As she finally arrived, master of ceremonies George Jessel mistakenly introduced her, a task that was originally scheduled for Bette Davis.

Now that she had the Oscar, pundits wondered how she would follow it up. Rainer’s next film was The Good Earth (1937), in the role of O-Lan. Her co-star was Paul Muni, playing her husband, Wang Lung. Muni’s casting actually opened the door for Rainer to play O-Lan. Thalberg’s original choice was actress Anna May Wong, but once Muni was signed, Thalberg knew the Hays Office would not allow even the slightest hint of miscegenation, even between an actual Chinese woman and a Caucuasian actor in yellow-face drag.


O-Lan presented a challenge to Rainer, as the character was the complete opposite of Anna Held. Whereas Held was talkative, O-Lan was practically mute, speaking only a few lines of dialogue throughout the movie, which required Rainer to do a complete turnaround. Again Mayer opposed her casting, wanting her to remain a glamorous star, while Thalberg enthusiastically supported her in her desire to stretch out in unaccustomed roles. She refused to wear heavy makeup or don a Chinese mask made especially for her by the makeup department, preferring to express herself without prosthetics.

The results of Rainer’s decision helped her to portray a Chinese woman far superior to those Loy assayed in her Oriental vamp phase or Katharine Hepburn in 1944’s Dragon Seed. In an interview in the late '90s, Rainer praised her director, Sidney Franklin, as "wonderful," and explained that she used an acting technique similar to "The Method" being pioneered by husband Clifford Odet's Group Theatre.

At any rate, she collected another Oscar as Best Actress, becoming the first actor to win in consecutive years and establishing a record for actresses that lasted 30 years before Hepburn matched it. Her win was considered something of an upset, the favorite being Garbo for her performance in Camille. She was on the threshold of greatness: the public adored her, and even rivals like Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, and Loy concurred. But suddenly her career went into free-fall. She came to see her Oscars not as a blessing, but as a curse, setting expectations so high as to be impossible to achieve. She made five more films for MGM, but with the exception of 1938’s The Great Waltz, they were critical and box office failures.

Because Reiner refused to be stereotyped and knuckle under to the studio system, Mayer refused to be sympathetic to her demands for serious roles. The fact that she was also fighting for a higher salary didn’t help matters either. She soon acquired the label of being difficult and temperamental, which caused her to miss out on serious roles such as the female lead in the Edward G. Robinson opus, The Last Gangster (1937), which, ironically went to Viennese actress Rose Stradner. Her last film for MGM was the disappointing Dramatic School (1938). By this time, Rainer was listed, along with Garbo, Joan Crawford, Shearer, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Francis, and others, as “Box Office Poison” by the Independent Theatre Owners of America.

After finishing Dramatic School, Rainer abandoned Hollywood for New York, where her then-husband, playwright Odets, was living.


Rainer was also unhappy off the set as well. Her marriage to Odets, whom she met at the Brown Derby while dining with Gershwin and composer Harold Arlen, and married in 1937, was also in free-fall. Odets cheated on her and, as she told Vanity Fair, reacted so coldly to the news she was pregnant that she opted for an abortion. Odets was also extremely jealous, even accusing Rainer’s friend Albert Einstein of having an affair with his wife. She and Odets divorced in 1940.

Her unhappiness also extended to Hollywood itself, which she saw as intellectually shallow and absurdly materialistic. In a 2009 interview with The Daily Telegraph, she said Robert Taylor had once invited her to lunch. When she asked him his ambition, he replied that he wanted to own 10 very good suits. That was why, she said, she preferred the company of George Gershwin, Thomas Mann, Frank Lloyd Wright, Einstein and other intellectuals and artists to that of Hollywood people. It all boiled over in her oft-repeated account of her last meeting with Mayer, which over the years became a Hollywood legend.

"Louis B. sent for me and said, 'I understand that you want to leave us.' I said, 'Yes, Mr. Mayer, my source is dried out.'" She explained that she had run out of inspiration. "He looked at me and he said, 'What do you need a source for? Don't you have a director?' What could I say? He looked at me for a long time," and then he delivered his you'll-never-work-in-Hollywood-again threat. She managed a dignified reply and leftheading first to New York City, and later relocating to Europe. She was not yet 30, and yet her Hollywood career was over. While in Europe, she studied medicine, aided orphaned refugees of the Spanish Civil War, appeared at war bond rallies in the United States and entertained Allied troops in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

When World War II broke out in Europe, Rainer fled to America with her family. Her German-born father was also an American citizen, allowing them all to escape Hitler and the Holocaust. Rainer returned to Hollywood in 1942, her contract at MGM long expired. David Rose, head of Paramount, offered her the starring role in an English film shot on location, but war conditions prevented her from accepting the role. Rose then suggested her in 1942 to take a screen test for the lead role in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), but Ingrid Bergman was cast. Rainer eventually settled on a role in Hostages (1943), telling the press during interviews that while it was something unspectacular, she nevertheless hoped it was a step back in the right direction. Alas, it was not to be and it wasn’t until 1997 that she would again appear in a film, taking a small role in the English production of The Gambler.

It’s not that she wasn’t tempted. Director Federico Fellini pursued her to play “Delores,” a cameo role he wrote for her in his 1960 film La Dolce Vita. But it never came off, even though she came to Rome, with the reasons still unclear to this day. One story has it that she insisted on writing the part herself, which for Fellini was a no-no. Another has it that she refused because the role required an on-set sex scene with co-star Marcello Mastroianni. At any rate, after her refusal, the role was excised from the screenplay.

She made sporadic television and stage appearances following her and her husband's move to Britain, appearing as Countess De Roy in an episode titled “Finest Hour” for the World War II television series Combat! It aired on December 21, 1965. In 1983, she played Dorothy Fielding in an episode of The Love Boat that aired on March 3.

Regarding her personal life, things took a turn for the better in 1945. Rainer married publisher Robert Knittel. The marriage was a very happy one, lasting until Knittel’s death in 1989. In 1946. they welcomed daughter Francesca. Rainer abandoned filmmaking, though, as previously mentioned, she did make occasional appearances on the stage and television. She and Knittel split their time between residences in Geneva, Switzerland and Eaton Square, London. Their London residence was an apartment in a building once inhabited by actress Vivien Leigh.

The couple loved travel, books, plays, and music. Their friends reflected their interests and included such luminaries as Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht. Of special interest to the couple was climbing in the Alps. “He was a mountain climber, and he taught me how to climb,” she recalled years after her husband’s death in 1989. “Robert went with a fiddle up to the Matterhorn, and at the top of the Matterhorn he played a Bach sonata.”

In the early 1980s, Rainer memorized all 900 lines of "Enoch Arden," Tennyson's epic poem, which she performed in Europe and the United States, including at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. After Knittel died, she maintained an active life in London.

Rainer returned to Hollywood for the 1998 and 2003 Academy Awards shows honoring previous Oscar winners, and in 2010 for the TCM Classic Film Festival, where she was interviewed by Robert Osborne and presented a screening of The Good Earth. 2010 was a special year for her, as she celebrated her centenary. She was feted at the British Film Institute, where she was interviewed before screenings of The Good Earth and The Great Waltz.

In 2011, Rainer was at the center of a controversy involving her inclusion on the Boulevard der Stars in Berlin, which was created to honor actors and directors from German film and television. Despite being Germany's only Academy Award winning actress, Rainer had been overlooked when the Boulevard opened in 2010. In 2011, she was nominated, but initially rejected by the jury (Senta Berger, Gero Gandert, Uwe Kammann, Dieter Kossliock, and Hans Helmut Prinzler).

In October 2010, New Zealand music executive Paul Baylay, who had noticed Rainer's omission on the Boulevard, began a campaign to get the actress a star. Baylay campaigned in Germany, lobbying press and politicians to have the actress and her work recognized. Baylay also picked up a key supporter when the Central Council of Jews threw their weight behind the campaign. In August 2011, the Boulevard der Stars finally relented, acknowledging Baylay’s Facebook, e-mail and letter campaign had been key in their decision to awarding an extra star to Rainer. And on September 5, 2011, Rainer traveled to Berlin to receive her star on the Boulevard der Stars.


The lights finally went out for Luise Rainer on December 30, 2014. She died at her home in London from complications from pneumonia. Besides daughter Francesca Knittel-Bowyer, granddaughters, Luisa and Nicole, and great-grandchildren, Luca and Hunter also survive Rainer.

TCM will honor Rainer with a marathon of her films on January 12 that was originally to celebrate her birthday. The schedule is as follows:

6:00 am – THE GREAT ZIEGFIELD (MGM, 1936): William Powell, Luise Reiner, & Myrna Loy. This lavishly filmed biography of Broadway’s great showman won Reiner her first Oscar.

9:00 am – BIG CITY (MGM, 1937): Spencer Tracy, Luise Rainer When officials attempt to pin a bombing on a taxi driver’s foreign-born wife and deport her. Tracy takes it to heart and fights back.

10:30 am – THE EMPEROR’S CANDLESTICKS (MGM, 1937): William Powell, Luise Rainer. Spies on opposite sides fall in love in pre-Revolution Russia.

12:00 pm – THE GOOD EARTH (MGM, 1936): Paul Muni, Luise Rainer. Sidney Franklin and Victor Fleming directed this epic adaptation of Pearl Buck’s classic novel about Chinese farmers battling the elements.

2:30 pm – DRAMATIC SCHOOL (MGM, 1938): Luise Rainer, Paulette Goddard. This ensemble piece about the struggles of a young actress on the stage and in marriage could’ve been better, but Rainer sinks it.

4:00 pm – THE GREAT WALTZ (MGM, 1938): Luise Reiner, Fernand Gravey. The story of waltz king Johann Strauss II.

5:45 pm – THE TOY WIFE (MGM, 1938): Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, & Robert Young. Southern belle Rainer finds herself torn between two suitors.


In Memoriam: Lauren Bacall

By Ed Garea

It’s a scene every cinephile has seen at least 100 times and can quote by heart, perhaps the most iconic scene in Hollywood history. It’s from To Have and Have Not, Howard Hawks’ light-hearted 1944 take-off on the previous year’s hit, Casablanca. Lauren Bacall’s character, Slim, a woman of total mystery, is visiting Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-boiled charter-boat captain she calls Steve, in his hotel room. During the course of their encounter, she kisses him. “What did you do that for?” asks Steve. “I’ve been wondering if I’d like it,” she answers. Steve gives her a quizzical look, “What’s the decision?” “I don’t know yet,” she says, and she kisses him again.

It’s even better when you help,” she tells him.

As she prepares to leave the hotel room, she turns toward Steve. “You know, you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” she says. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” With that she leaves. Bogart, with the expression of someone who just can’t believe his luck, thinks it over for a minute. Then he whistles to no one in particular, except maybe we in the audience.


And with that we have just grasped the essence of the allure of Lauren Bacall and why she became a star. She was Cool before there was such a thing as Cool. Known for her striking looks and husky, sultry voice, the result of a two-pack-a-day habit, she was the embodiment of the independent woman, a role she played in one form or another until her brand of sass died out in the ‘50s, replaced by the icy aloofness of Grace Kelly and the needy, borderline trashiness of Marilyn Monroe and her seemingly uncountable imitators.

If that wasn’t enough, she went and married the King of Cool himself, Bogart. They became the storybook Hollywood couple. In her memoirs she said “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it.” She called him Bogie and he called her Slim. She gave him a son, Stephen, named for Bogie’s character in To Have and Have Not, and a daughter, Leslie, named for Leslie Howard. Betty cut back on movie offers to be closer to her young family. It was heaven on Earth . . . while it lasted. Alas, it all came to an end in 1957 when Bogie passed away from cancer of the esophagus at the age of 57. Betty went into a professional and deeply personal tailspin.

Slowly she fought to re-establish herself as an actress, returning to Broadway, where she had not been since 1942. It took awhile, but good stage roles finally came her way and she made the most of them. A second marriage in 1961 to actor Jason Robards, Jr. ended in divorce in 1969, largely due to his alcoholism.

As the Bogart legend began to take off in the ‘60s, she was embraced by the public as his wife and leading lady, yet she felt trapped by it all, seeing herself as defined only as the Widow Bogart. She wanted to be known for her own accomplishments in the arts, but in interviews, she resigned herself to the inevitable. One can’t fight one’s history.

The road to becoming Lauren Bacall was not an easy one. She was born Betty Joan Perske in Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1924, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania, William and Natalie Perske. Her parents divorced when she was six years old; she would have no contact with her father after that. Her mother moved to Manhattan, adopting the second half of her maiden name, Weinstein-Bacal. So Betty Joan Perske became Betty Joan Bacal.

Her mother’s family was close-knit, but not an affluent one. Finances were always a problem as she grew up. Through the generosity of her Uncle Charlie, she was able to attend the Highland Manor School for Girls in Tarrytown, N.Y., graduating from grade school at age 11. She attended Julia Richman High School in Manhattan and studied acting at the New York School of the Theater.

She graduated from Julia Richman in 1940 and became a full-time student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she met fellow student, and first crush, Kirk Douglas. However, she was forced to leave after the first year because her family could no longer afford the tuition. A scholarship was out of the question: the Academy did not offer scholarships to women at that time.

With no other prospects she turned to modeling, landing jobs with David Crystal, a Seventh Avenue dress manufacturer, and Sam Friedlander, who made evening gowns. It was 1941, she was 16, and the jobs, when they came, paid little. During lunch hours she stood outside Sardi’s, hawking Actor’s Cue, a casting tip sheet, and hoping to catch the eye of producers. She also worked as an usher at Broadway theaters, and became a hostess at the newly-opened Stage Door Canteen.

Her efforts eventually landed her a walk-on part in a Broadway play called Johnny 2 x 4. Though it paid only $15 a week and closed in eight weeks, it was a beginning. Meanwhile, her job as an usher led her to make the acquaintance of Paul Lukas, who would serve as an informal mentor, with his advice proving crucial to her career development.

Later that year, producer Max Gordon cast her in Franklin Street, a comedy directed by George S. Kaufman. The play had a hard time catching on with the public and closed out of town for what was called “retinkering.” It would be her last time onstage for 17 years.

Returing to New York, a friend introduced her to Nicolas de Gunzburg, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. He invited her to come to his office the next morning and took her to meet Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor. Vreeland spotted her talent and photogenic potential, and asked her to return the next day to meet the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. She took test shots, and a few days later Vreeland called with a job offer. It paid $10 an hour, a substantial sum in those days.

During this time Betty added an extra “L” to her last name to avoid the constant errors in pronunciation. She worked steadily for Vreeland, appearing in a number of advertisements. But it was a full-page, color picture of her standing in front of a window with the words “American Red Cross Blood Donor Service” on it - a poster of a besuited, independent woman caught up in the war effort. Lit rather provocatively and noirishly, the picture caught the eye of Columbia Studios, David O. Selznick, and Howard Hughes, each of whom sent inquiries. But it was a woman she had never met, Nancy “Slim” Hawks, which led to the offer she couldn’t refuse. Slim showed the picture to husband Hawks, who immediately spotted a connection between the young model and his wife. Hawks and partner Charlie Feldman offered to sign her to a seven-year, personal contract. Betty accepted, and, at the age of 18, left for Los Angeles by train with her mother. She would start at the princely sum of $124 per week.

Hawks became a surrogate father and she in turn allowed him to live out his fantasy of becoming a Svengali, taking a kid from nowhere and molding her into a superstar. He renamed her “Lauren,” to add a little glam, as ”Betty” was too friendly. He also had her work on deepening her voice (he disliked women screeching), sitting in her car up on Mulholland Drive reading The Robe aloud by the hour, and the aforementioned two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. She was also on call as a protégé at parties, so Hawks could show her off to various studio heads and the like, all the while searching for the perfect vehicle to launch her film career.

He finally found it in his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. Hawks planned the film to be a wittier take on Casablanca, and, as with all his adaptations, the only resemblance between the original and the adaptation was the title. Hawks created a character for Bacall, a woman of mystery named Marie Browning. From scant clues provided in one of the original drafts of the screenplay, it seems that Slim is a kept woman whose sugar daddy was killed by stray gunfire during a police raid at the hotel where they were staying. However, in the final cut, Hawks dispensed with explanations - they weren’t necessary. We first meet her when she picks the pocket of an obnoxious client (Walter Sande) of the story’s main character, charter ship owner Harry Morgan (Bogart). She quickly develops a flirtatious relationship with Morgan. He calls her “Slim” (Hawks honoring his wife), and she calls him “Steve.” He buys her an airline ticket to take her off the island, but she stays around to be with him.

To Have and Have Not is set on the Caribbean island of Martinique. The original location was to have been Cuba, but the Cuban government complained to Washington, which, in turn, informed Jack Warner. Besides, Martinique was more mysterious and romantic. Controlled by Vichy, it had the natural parallels to Casablanca. The leader of the Resistance approaches Steve to smuggle in an important figure, but he refuses. However, needing the money, Morgan agrees and soon incurs the wrath of the police. Therein hangs the plot.

When Bacall was informed who her co-star would be, she was less than thrilled. Bogart did nothing for the young Betty Bacall. In her memoirs she told of her mother and sister taking her to see Casablanca when it opened in New York. Although they all loved it, Rosalie was gaga over Bogart, proclaiming him to be sexy. Bacall didn’t share her sister’s enthusiasm; her idea of the ideal man was Leslie Howard or Cary Grant. That opinion was soon to change. As she said in her memoir, By Myself: “She thought he was sexy. I thought she was crazy . . . So much for my judgment at the time.”

When she finally met Bogart, she found him to be warm, funny, and supportive of a nervous young actress just embarking on her career. Bacall was so nervous at first that her head shook. To combat the shaking she tilted her chin downward to steady herself. She then looked up with her eyes toward the camera. The result was electrifying. When the film was previewed, audiences were enraptured. Bacall was both provocative and preposterous. If an older actress had delivered those lines about knowing how to whistle, audiences might have broken out into laughter. But when a young woman, trying to convince everyone in the room that she’s worldly, speaks them, the same lines evoke silent admiration. Hawks took advantage of the way she tilted her head, dubbing her as “The Look” in publicity.

Their relationship developed slowly. They became fast friends and the crew could see chemistry developing. One night, according to Bacall, after the day’s filming was finished, Bogart stood behind Bacall in her dresser as she brushed her hair. Suddenly he lifted her chin up and kissed her. Real life transcended their characters and Bacall knew she was in love.


There were two obstacles to their happiness. One was Hawks, who quickly caught on to what was happening. Jealous (he was intent on having her himself), he warned her not to risk ending her career just as it began. He also threatened to send her to Monogram Studios, sure death for a young actress on the rise. When she told Bogart later, he calmed her by pointing out that Hawks had too much invested to ship her to Monogram. He was proved correct when Hawks next cast the two in The Big Sleep. Hawks and the studio basked in the success of To Have and Have Not, and there was no way they would allow the private romance to derail further business, especially when they could build on said rumored romance to stir ticket sales.

The other obstacle was more daunting: Mayo Methot. She was Bogart’s third wife and his most tempestuous relationship. Known about town as “the Battling Bogarts,” they endured many a physical confrontation, usually brought on and fueled by large quantities of alcohol. The difference between the two was that while Bogart liked to drink, Mayo was a full-blown drunk whose worst side came out when loaded. She was not only dangerous, but also potentially lethal - once stabbing Bogart in the back during one of their fights. Bogie and Betty had to take care not to arouse Mayo, who, at any rate, was always suspicious of her husband.

During the filming of The Big Sleep Bogart told Bacall that he was giving Mayo one last chance. She had agreed to sober up, and it was the decent thing to do. Bacall was devastated. Their off-screen relationship affected the on-screen relationship as their innuendo took on new meaning. Bogart also began to miss days on the set. He was drunk, depressed, trying to save his marriage. He finally walked out on Mayo after coming home one day to find her liquored up and on the warpath. He took an apartment at the fabled Garden of Allah and began divorce proceedings. As his divorce wore on, the lovesick Bogey wired Bacall, “Please fence me in Baby - the world’s too big out there and I don’t like it without you.” When he was finally granted the divorce from Mayo, he and Bacall were married on May 21, 1945, at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, the home of Bogart’s close friend, writer Louis Bromfield. Bogie wept freely as he saw his bride walk up the aisle. He was 45; she was 20.

After their honeymoon it was back to work at Warner’s. Hawks had acknowledged defeat by selling her contract to Warner Bros. Bacall’s next assignment was the 1945 thriller, Confidential Agent, with Charles Boyer and Peter Lorre. Herman Shumlin was the director, and unlike Hawks, offered no guidance to the fledgling actress. The result was a performance that came off cold, not cool, without the zing of her Hawksian characters. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” she said in her memoir. “I was a novice.”


What helped her at the time was that while The Big Sleep had finished before Confidential Agent, it wasn’t released until the next year, 1946, due to changes and reshoots Hawks made to expand Bacall’s character. It also helped that her next two movies, Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948) were shot with Bogart as her co-star, though in both movies, the sassy Bacall was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a more self-effacing and low-key Bacall. She was beginning to wind down her movie career to concentrate on her marriage and start a family. And, in keeping with the Warner’s tradition, she was eventually suspended 12 times by the studio for rejecting scripts.

One other thing Bacall took time off for was politics. The Bogarts were among 500 Hollywood personalities to sign a petition protesting what they termed as the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ attempt “to smear the motion picture industry.” They flew to Washington as part of a group known as the Committee for the First Amendment, which also included Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, John Garfield, Ira Gershwin, and Jane Wyatt. Later, bowing to studio pressure, Bogart stated publicly that he believed the Washington trip was “ill-advised.”

The new Mrs. Bogart’s son, Stephen (named for Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not), was born on January 6, 1949. Daughter Leslie (named for Leslie Howard) followed in August 23, 1952. Still under contract to Warner Bros., Betty cranked out two films in 1950. The first, Young Man With a Horn, co-starred Kirk Douglas and Doris Day. The second, Bright Leaf, co-starred Gary Cooper. Both were considered decent films, but both fared badly at the box office. It wasn’t until 1953 that she had a box-office hit, playing the gold-digging Schatze Page in Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire, along with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.

She also remained active in politics, supporting Adlai Stevenson for president in 1952 and 1956. Back on the domestic front, she helped her husband host informal parties at their home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, sometimes as frequently as five times a week. She accompanied her husband to various film locations, and also ruled as den mother for what became known as the Hollywood Rat Pack. According to legend, the group got its name from Lauren Bacall after seeing Bogart and his friends return from a night in Las Vegas. “You look like a goddamn rat pack,” she said, and the name stuck.
Tired of suspensions from turning down crappy roles, Bacall bought out her contract with Warner’s. But it didn’t pay off the way she hoped, for all she got was a role in Douglas Sirk’s overrated soaper, Written on the Wind (1956), an unbilled cameo in Jed Harris and Rod Serling’s Patterns (1956), and a career girl who impulsively marries Gregory Peck in the passable Designing Woman (1957). Fortunately, there were other avenues to travel.

In the early ‘50s, the Bogarts began starring in radio dramas., such as the adventure series Bold Venture (in part based on To Have and Have Not). They expanded this in the mid-1950s to include television, starring with Henry Fonda in a live television version of The Petrified Forest, the 1936 film that starred Bogart, Bette Davis and Howard. Bogart reprised his role as Duke Mantee, while Bacall played Davis’s idealistic waitress, and Fonda played the dreamy Howard role. In 1956 Bacall co-starred with Noel Coward in a television production of his Blithe Spirit

In 1956, Warner Bros. had bought the rights to John P. Marquand’s novel, Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., a love story about a military man and a journalist based on Claire Boothe Luce. The studio pitched the idea to the Bogarts to star. Their last film together was Key Largo in 1948. The couple accepted, but even before pre-production planning began, Bogart told his wife that he’d had lunch with Greer Garson. Greer said she didn’t like his cough and insisted he go to see her personal physician, Dr. Maynard Brandsma, an internist at the Beverly Hills Clinic.

Brandsma examined Bogart and found an inflamed esophagus. Upon further testing, cancer was discovered. Bacall decided to put her career on hold to nurse her husband back to health and provide the children with an anchor during the troubled times. In By Myself, Bacall takes us through the painful details of Bogie’s demise and ultimate death. She notes his weight loss and his inability to eat solid food, the odor of decay in their bedroom and on his lips, the dumbwaiter he used to go from his room on the second floor to the first floor when guests arrived, and the never-ending hope they both had in a recovery until the doctors finally confessed to Bacall that everything they tried to eliminate the cancer had failed. She also described wearing the old robe she had worn in Dark Passage on the night he died in their bed, the sack in which Forest Lawn crematorium took Bogie’s lifeless body away, and how she tried to hide it from the children.


At Bogie’s funeral she displayed a model of his beloved boat, the Santana. She found keeping the real one too painful and, after a last trip during which she cleaned out his personal effects, she sold it. In trying to recover from her husband’s death, she fell into a relationship with Frank Sinatra that nearly bloomed into marriage; that is, until Frank got wind their engagement was leaked to the press and, blaming Bacall, cut her off cold. It turned out that Swifty Lazar had spilled the beans, but their relationship was over, and Bacall, in her memoirs, counts it as a blessing.

She was becoming disenchanted with Hollywood, noting that “Film is not a woman’s medium,” and that “If you weren’t the hottest kid in town, men stayed away from you.”  It was probably this disenchantment that led her back to the Broadway stage. In 1959, she starred in the George Axelrod comedy, Goodbye Charlie, playing a womanizer who is killed and returned from the grave as a woman. It only lasted for 109 performances, but her next parts would all be in hits.

Meanwhile, she met, and married, actor Jason Robards, Jr. While the union produced her third child, Sam, it ultimately failed due to Robards’ drinking. While Bogart could be a heavy drinker, there was a difference: Robards was a full-blown alcoholic, Bogart was not. Bacall, a non-drinker herself, was astounded at what alcohol did to her husband. When sober, Jason was fast, quick-witted, fun to be around, the loving parent. But, under the influence, he became surly, abusive, and neglectful of his children, leaving it to his wife to fill both parenting roles. Bacall, for her part, took time off to raise Sam. She also became a regular on the salon circuit between New York and Washington. Before she met Robards, Bacall moved to New York, purchasing a large apartment at the Dakota on Central Park West. This would be her home for the rest of her life.

As Sam got older, and to put space between her and Jason, Bacall took a lead role in Abe Burrows’ 1965 play, Cactus Flower, playing the prim assistant to a womanizing dentist played by Barry Nelson. Cactus Flower, based on the French play, Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, was a huge hit, eventually playing for almost three years and 1,234 performances - ironically at the same theater where Bacall ushered in the early ‘40s. When I.A.L. Diamond adapted it into a movie, Bacall was overlooked in favor of Ingrid Bergman, who won a Golden Globe in the part.

As for Hollywood, Bacall appeared in only three films during the ‘60s. Shock Treatment (1963), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), with Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis, and Paul Newman’s semi-noir, Harper (1966).

She divorced Robards in 1969 after learning he was having an affair. She notes in By Myself that the marriage was dead long before the discovery, and that the years allowed her to become less dependent on the men in her life.

In 1970, she returned to Broadway in the hit musical Applause, an adaptation of the 1950 film classic, All About Eve, with Bacall as the aging diva, Margo Channing, a role made famous by Bette Davis. Although she wasn’t much of a singer, the role was a perfect fit. It was also another hit, opening at New York’s Palace Theater and running for 896 performances. She won the 1970 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. When Bacall’s contract was up in 1971, she bowed out and, in an ironic note, was replaced by Anne Baxter, who had played Eve Harrington in the original film. Bacall would go on to play in the London production of the show and star in a 1973 TV-movie adaptation, using the London cast.


In 1981, she won another Tony for starring in the musical adaptation of the 1942 Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn classic, Woman of the Year. It opened at the Palace Theater and ran for 770 performances.

Her film work in the ‘70s, like the ‘60s, was sparse. She appeared as Mrs. Hubbard, one of many suspects, in the all-star Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and played the landlady in John Wayne’s last film, The Shootist (1976).

It turned out that her best work in the ‘70s was in a completely new field. Her 1978 memoir, Lauren Bacall: By Myself was a best seller and in 1980, won a National Book Award for Biography and Autobiography.

The 1980s were a mixed bag as far as Bacall’s film appearances went. She began with Robert Altman’s uneven ensemble piece, HealtH, in 1980. She then starred in the critical and financial bomb, The Fan (1981). She also appeared in the star-studded Appointment With Death (1988), with Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie’s master detective, Hercule Poirot. Despite good reviews, it performed poorly at the box office.

She also returned to her first love, the stage, in 1985, as Harold Pinter directed her in the first London production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. The ‘90s - and her late ‘60s - arrived, and Bacall continued to work. As she said in By Myself, “My goal in life has always been to work. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I had nothing to do but wander.”

To be honest, Bacall also needed the money. Although Bogart left a decent estate when he died, the government glommed over half. Maintaining an apartment at the Dakota and a house in the Hamptons costs real money, lots of it. Which is why, as age broadened her features, she restyled herself with the help of a trainer and a make-up artist. She also found time to pen a second volume of memoirs, titled Now, in 1994.

In 1990, Bacall had a small role as pulp fiction writer James Caan’s supportive agent in Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. She spent most of the ‘90s appearing in guest roles on television or in TV movies. As for theatrically released films, she had a minor role in Robert Altman’s all-star Pret-a-Porter(1994), and a really great role in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces (1997), where she played Streisand’s narcissistic, yet vulnerable, mother. It was perfect casting and Bacall was nothing short of brilliant. The role brought her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. 


Having won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actor’s Guild awards for Best Supporting Actress, the smart money was on her to win. But astonishingly, the Oscar went to Juliette Binoche for her part in The English Patient. I’ll never forget the look on Bacall’s face when Binoche was announced as the winner. I was dumbfounded. Hollywood had the chance to do the right thing and award an Oscar to a legend that blew away critics and public alike in her role. It wasn’t as if it were charity, giving an award to someone who had clearly seen better days. Bacall’s nomination in 1997 was her first, despite some 40-odd years of superb performances. It’s been put forward that Miramax Films, which produced The English Patient, campaigned heavily for their movie. However, consider some of the other travesties in Oscar’s history. Simply put, Bacall was screwed out of the award. Even Binoche was astonished by her victory.

However, Bacall was tougher than people supposed. The year before, she was given the Cesar, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for her lifetime body of work. Two years prior she was presented with the Commadeur des Arts et Lettres by the Minister of Culture, Jacques Toubon. Shortly after the Oscars, Bacall was selected as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted her one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history. As for the Academy, it took them until 2009 to present Bacall with a statue for “lifetime achievement.”

It was also during the ‘90s that Bacall began using her distinctive voice in television commercials and cartoons, doing everything from being a spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain to producing a line of jewelry with the Weinman Brothers Inc. to using her voice to hawk High Point coffee and Fancy Feast cat food.

As the new century dawned, her taste in films changed. No longer looking to secure parts in commercial movies, she instead looked to independent films. She appeared in two films for Danish director Lars von Trier, Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005), Birth (2004) for Jonathan Glazer (2004), and The Walker, for Paul Schrader (2007).

She also did a cameo in The Sopranos (2006) as herself, and is mugged by a masked man, who later turns out to be Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), mugs her. Her last listed credit was in 2014 as the voice of Evelyn in the cartoon Family Guy.

Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014, in her home at the Dakota from a stroke. She was 89 years old. Sons Stephen Bogart and Sam Robards, daughter Leslie Bogart, and six grandchildren survive her. 

If she had lived, she would be doing what she loved best – working.


In Memoriam: Robin Williams

The Genius of a Star Who Fell to Earth

By Mike Lano

Robin Williams was brilliant both as a comic and an actor and as many have said; there was no one like him and no one who did what he did. Nor ever will. Billy Crystal probably had it best simply tweeting "no words" upon learning his friend had died in contrast to so many other celebs and posers who either had a camera shoved in their faces or “social media'd” out trite stuff. Williams deserved more and thankfully got it from a few.

His daughter quoted a beautiful French poet/author in her tribute to her dad talking about entertaining the stars up there while Los Angeles' Comedy Store marquee said "Robin Williams, Make God Laugh." The Comedy Store was where Robin really broke in nationally after time spent in San Francisco and the East Bay. Paul Rodriguez, who Williams helped to get on the bill at The Comedy Store and L.A.'s Improv, was very moving while genuinely crying when he learned the news. As was Conan O'Brien and even Sly Stallone who talked about their private friendship in the 80's. Meryl Streep shed tears saying he was like a human volcano of thoughts and humor spewing joy all over the world. And one of the morning shows played the original Judy Garland version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz while footage of his many characters and roles were B-rolled. Powerful stuff.


Out here in Williams' Northern California, the television coverage has been nonstop. All our affiliate news are showing people camped out, laying out wreaths not just at his current Tiburon home (just north of Marin County and Sausalito) but people doing the same at his old San Francisco house in the Sea Cliff area near the Pacific Ocean and even at the Frisco mansion where the exteriors for Mrs. Doubtfire were filmed.

Throughout the 80's at Comedy Day In The (Golden Gate) Park, an only-in-SF, near all-day comedy event with hundreds of the top comics performing six-to-seven-minute sets, one after another, Robin usually was the “surprise” act that closed each show. I photographed and covered all of them at the time and posed him with Whoopi Goldberg (that's where he reportedly first met her) plus celebs like then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein (now a U.S. Senator) and later with then-Mayor Willie Brown, and so many others like Bob Sarlatte, who broke in with David Letterman.

At one of the earliest Comedy Days, I have a ton of pictures I took of Robin with his young son Zak with the flaming white Ric Flair hair. It was so white it looked bottle-bleached, yet it wasn't. In later years, the nanny, for whom he left his then-wife, was watching the kids while he'd do his thing with his good pals Rick Overton, Dana Carvey, and many others. Everyone out here has their stories of seeing Robin tooling down Van Ness Boulevard, one of our major arteries, waving to people with the top down in his old convertible (I saw him three times doing that in the 1980's). And a zillion of us were extras in his movie remake of Disney's Flubber when they shot at Treasure Island right off the Bay Bridge, and S.F.'s Embarcadero and Wharf areas - not far from that other island, Alcatraz.

So many of us were also lucky enough to have seen him perform decades ago at S.F.'s Davies Symphony Hall, the long gone and missed Holy City Zoo comedy club, and The Great American Music Hall, which music legend Boz Scaggs (and one of Robin's Marin County neighbors) co-owns along with his other club, Slims.


For all the varied and deep characters he created on TV and on stage (yep, he played Carnegie Hall and everywhere else, and some of us remember him opening for Steve Martin around 1975 at the then-Universal Amphitheatre in L.A.), his film roles were amazing. Right from The World According To Garp to Robert Altman's Popeye at the very start of his movie work. On up to a zillion projects, an Academy Award in 1998 for Good Will Hunting and four upcoming not-yet-released films, including Night at the Museum 3. Local legendary comic Brian Copeland, who hosted a weekday TV show on our ABC affiliate KGO (7 Live), and his own ABC radio show on Sunday, was thankfully quoted all over San Francisco ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox because Brian's own suicide attempts have been the subject of two one-man shows of his including Not A Genuine Black Man, which Williams had attended many times at various East Bay theaters. Few could understand the pain Williams was going through more than Brian, who was on my Legends Radio show just a few weeks ago.

Look up in the sky tonight. That's not the Perseus Meteor Shower putting on a show. It has to be the work of the great one, Robin Williams.


TCM to Show 24 Hours of Garner's Movies

By The Editors

TCM has preempted its regularly scheduled programming on July 28, starting at 6:00 am, in order to honor the late James Garner with a 24-hour marathon of his films.

Garner, who passed away on July 20 from natural causes, began his film career in 1955 with Warner Brothers, cutting his teeth in supporting roles. His first starring role came in the film Darby’s Rangers (1958), when he replaced Charlton Heston, who walked off the film.


However, he achieved stardom as a result of Warner’s placing him in a television series the studio launched in 1957, Maverick. Garner played Bret Maverick in the comedic Western, a role that fit his personality like a glove. The series was originally supposed to alternate between the Maverick brothers, played by Garner and Jack Kelly, but Garner became so popular that the show quickly became all about Garner’s character, who used his wits, rather than a gun, to settle disputes.

When it came to his onscreen roles, however, Warner’s stuck him in dull fare, such as Up Periscope (1958) and Cash McCall (1960). Garner took advantage of a suspension during the 1960 writer’s strike to sue Warner’s for breach of contract. He won and became a free agent, able to demand more for his services.

His first major role after his victory was a supporting one in The Children’s Hour (1961), starring Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn. Starring roles soon followed in such films as Boy’s Night Out (1962) and the acclaimed The Great Escape (1963). He followed that success with The Americanization of Emily with Julie Andrews (1964), and the war thriller 36 Hours (1965).

But Garner’s fame really came from television, and he returned to the small tube in 1971 with the short-lived western Nichols. In 1974, he took on his most renowned role, that of investigator in the hit series The Rockford Files (1974-1980) playing investigator Jim Rockford. A combination of injuries (suffered from doing his own stunts) and frequent pay disputes led to his quitting the series while it was still a hit.


He returned to the movies with choice roles in such hits as Blake Edwards’ musical, Victor/Victoria (1982), playing once more opposite Julie Andrews. He also won a plum role opposite Sally Field in the comedy Murphy’s Romance (1985), playing an older Wyatt Earp alongside Bruce Willis as Tom Mix in Sunset (1988), and a role as an ex-president in the comedy My Fellow Americans (1996), with Jack Lemmon.

He also returned to his television roots, reviving the role of Bret Maverick in a short-lived return on the iconic series (1981-1982), and also accepted a small role in the big screen version of the show (1994) opposite star Mel Gibson playing the role Garner made famous.

He filled in the time between big screen appearances bringing back his character of Jim Rockford with a series of television movies from 1994-1999, and playing Mark Twain in the TV movie Roughing It (2002). His last hit movie was the tearjerker The Notebook (2004), with Gena Rowlands.

Garner was also famous for a series of commercials he made with actress Marianne Hartley for Polaroid in the 1970s. The commercials became so popular people thought Garner and Hartley were married in real life.

A stroke suffered in 2008 led to retirement from films and television in 2010, and Garner lived quietly in Los Angeles until his death. He is survived by his wife, Lois Clarke, to whom he was married in 1956, his daughter Greta “Gigi) Garner, and his adopted daughter Kimberly, from Clarke’s first marriage.


Among the films to be shown on July 28 are his first, Toward the Unknown (1956) at 6:00 am, Grand Prix (1966) at 9:30 am, Darby’s Rangers (1958) at 4:00 pm, The Thrill of It All (1963) at 8:00 pm, The Americanization of Emily (1964) at 10:00 pm, The Children’s Hour (1961) at midnight, and Victor/Victoria (1982) at 2:00 am.


In Memoriam: Mickey Rooney

By Ed Garea

If there was anyone who could be said to be literally born into show business, it was Mickey Rooney. From his debut in Vaudeville at only 17 months of age, he remained a star until the day he died. It was said of Rooney that he could do it all: act, sing, play piano and drums, and anything else that was needed.

His son, Michael Joseph Rooney, confirmed Mickey’s death on April 6. Mickey was 93.

Rooney was born Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. in Brooklyn on Sept. 23, 1920. His father, Joe Yule Sr., was a headliner on the second-rate Vaudeville circuits, and his mother, Nell Carter, danced in a burlesque chorus line. Known as Sonny Yule, he grew up in boarding houses and practically lived backstage. His parents divorced when he was 4, his mother returning home to Kansas City, Missouri. It looked as though he would get the chance to lead a normal childhood when his mother spotted a notice in Variety that Hal Roach was looking for children for his Our Gang comedies.


Roach’s offer to Sonny’s mother was $5 a day, but she declined, waiting for a better offer. When none was forthcoming, she and Sonny returned to Kansas City for a while, then returned to Hollywood, where Sonny secured a job in a musical revue for $50 a week. A few months later he was in a Fox short titled Not to Be Trusted, under the name of Mickey McBan. His mother then answered an audition call for the role of Mickey McGuire in a series of shorts based on the popular “Toonerville Trolley” comic strip. He won the lead, and as Mickey Yule, appeared in 78 of the shorts from 1927 to 1932. When not acting on the screen, he provided the voice for Walter Lantz’s “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoons, released through Universal Studios. His mother wanted to change his professional to Mickey McGuire, but when “Toonerville Trolley” comic strip creator Fontaine Fox objected, she chose the moniker Mickey Rooney instead.

Rooney signed on with MGM in 1934. His first notable role for the studio was playing Clark Gable as a boy in Manhattan Melodrama. He continued moving up the ladder, with roles in Ah, Wilderness (1935), and reprising his stage role as Puck in Max Reinhardt’s adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream for Warners, where he appeared with James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, and Olivia de Havilland.


However, it was his role in a minor B film that sealed his path to stardom. A Family Affair, based on a 1928 Broadway play by Aurania Rouverol called “Skidding,” told of the trials and tribulations of the Hardy family in Carvel, Idaho. As Andy Hardy, youngest child of Judge James K. Hardy (Lionel Barrymore), Rooney’s part was strictly supporting, but the film took off at the box office and MGM decided to make a series out of it. Lewis Stone would take over the role of Judge Hardy for the rest of the series’ run, and Rooney saw his role as Andy turn from supporting to lead as the public couldn’t get enough of the Hardy family adventures. The series lasted for 15 films and is estimated to have earned over $75 million. He also won plaudits later that year for his role as a young deckhand in Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy.

Although the public saw Rooney as the squeaky clean Andy Hardy, his off-screen persona was said to be more in line with Whitey Marsh, the delinquent he played in 1938’s Boys Town. Jackie Cooper said it was Joan Crawford who initiated him into the world of adult sex. For the 16-year old Rooney, it was none other than Norma Shearer. They had a hot and heavy affair while Shearer was filming Marie Antoniette, making so much noise in her trailer that the crew on the film complained to Louis Mayer himself. The death of her beloved husband, Irving Thalberg, and the continuing mental problems of her sister, Athole (married at the time to Howard Hawks), were said to have driven Shearer off the rails, and Rooney was but one in a long line of lovers (including Jimmy Stewart and George Raft) she took until she wed for the second, and last, time in 1942. For his part in the scandal, MGM severely reprimanded Rooney, and the studio publicity machine kept it quiet. They weren’t going to lose their cash cow if it could at all be helped. In fact, it wasn’t until Rooney spilled the beans in his autobiography, Life is Too Short, that the general public knew of the affair.

Looking around for other vehicles for Rooney, MGM again hit pay dirt when it decided to team him with their number one ingénue, Judy Garland. Having discovered positive buzz in their first film, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), with Mickey playing a jockey tricked into throwing a race and Garland as the young woman who tries to help him, the studio next paired them in an Andy Hardy entry, 1938’s Love Finds Andy Hardy, with Garland playing Betsy Booth, a young lady visiting her relative, who lives next door to the Hardys. Though she has a crush on Andy, he regards her as too young. But she comes through at the end and gets Andy out of a jam with regular girlfriend Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford). The character of Betsy proved so popular with the movie-going public that Garland reprised it in two later films: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940) and Life Begins For Andy Hardy (1941).


Meanwhile, MGM also teamed the pair in a series of “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” musicals, beginning with Babes in Arms in 1939, where they put on a show to raise money for their out-of-work parents. It was MGM’s biggest money grosser of 1939 and earned Rooney an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. It was followed by Strike Up the Band (1940), where they raised money for a high school band contest; Babes on Broadway (1941), where they put on a show to send orphans on an excursion to the country; and, finally, Girl Crazy (1943), where they staged a rodeo to save their college from financial ruin. But the plots, such as they were, really didn’t matter. What really mattered was Judy’s voice, Mickey’s brashness and pluck, the music by such legends as the Gershwin brothers, and Rogers and Hart, among others, and the direction by veteran Busby Berkeley.

The year 1939 saw Rooney at the top of his game. That year, theater owners voted him the No. 1 box office star, ahead of second-place finisher Tyrone Power. In 1940, Rooney again took the crown, this time over Spencer Tracy. And in 1941, he made it three in a row, beating out Clark Gable. Also, at the 1939 Academy Awards, he and Deanna Durbin were presented with special juvenile Oscars for their contributions to the cinema. Besides the Hardy series and the musicals with Garland, Rooney also kept busy in films like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), Young Tom Edison (1940), Men of Boys Town (1941), A Yank at Eton(1942), The Human Comedy (1943 and his second Oscar nomination), and National Velvet (1944), with Elizabeth Taylor and his first adult role.

He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and until 1946 served in the Jeep Theater, a traveling troupe entertaining the troops, and acting as a personality on the American Forces Radio Network.

After his wartime service, however, he had a difficult time fitting back into Hollywood. MGM cast him in a new adult image as the lead in Killer McCoy, a remake of Robert Taylor’s 1938 boxing opus, The Crowd Roars. He also starred with Gloria DeHaven in the musical, Summer Holiday (1948), and as Lorenz Hart in Words and Music, a biopic about the songwriting team of Hart and Rodgers. But all three films failed at the box office; audiences now saw the qualities that made Rooney such a fan favorite during his earlier years as dated and annoying. Rooney settled his MGM contract in 1948 after a dispute about not being cast in their prestige 1948 war drama, Battleground, and began freelancing, appearing in nightclubs and in such forgettable fare as The Big Wheel (1949), Quicksand (1950), The Strip (1951), The Atomic Kid (1954), and Francis in the Haunted House (1956), where he took over from the departed Donald O’Connor as the talking mule’s sidekick. There were some gems in the mix, such as The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Bold and the Brave (1956, for which he garnered a Supporting Actor nomination), and Baby Face Nelson (1957), but these were few and far between. He tried to rekindle the magic with 1958’s Andy Hardy Comes Home, only to discover that the magic had left long ago.

Rooney fell victim to a series of demons in the ‘40s, including gambling (playing the ponies and craps), sleeping pills, alcohol, and, of course, marriage. Rooney was a serial monogamist, with eight marriages under his belt. He would divorce six times, with the divorce complaints focusing on the same issues: his fiery temper and his propensity to leave home for days and even weeks at a time.


The first of his marriages was to the 19-year old Ava Gardner in 1942 (he was 21). MGM fought against the marriage, and the subsequent divorce one year later. His next wife was Alabama beauty queen Betty Jane Phillips, who gave him sons Mickey Rooney Jr. and Tim Rooney. They would divorce in 1949. Spouse number three was actress Martha Vickers, who made a big splash as Lauren Bacall’s troubled sister in the 1946 noir, The Big Sleep. That union lasted until September 1952 and produced a son, Teddy Rooney. Mickey wasn’t back in circulation for long when he married spouse number four, Elaine Mahnken, who divorced her first husband while he was on probation for armed robbery. She took over the finances and brought Mickey to the cusp of solvency. He repaid her by going to Las Vegas and losing $50,000. That was that and they were granted a divorce in September 1958.

Again, Mickey wasn’t on the market for long when he married wife number five, Barbara Thomason, an aspiring actress. They had four children together: daughters Kimmy Sue Rooney, Kerry Yule Rooney, Kelly Ann Rooney, and son Joseph Kyle Rooney. It was during this marriage that Rooney declared bankruptcy, listing $500 cash in assets and almost $500,000 in debts, including $100,000 in delinquent taxes. In a settlement with the IRS, Rooney was grated an allowance of $200 a month, which forced him to borrow money to play the horses. But at least Barbara didn’t divorce him. A month after they separated in December 1965 and began a custody battle, Barbara Thomason Rooney was shot to death in Rooney’s Brentwood home by jealous lover Milos Milosevic, who then turned the gun on himself. The hit Rooney took in splashy tabloid publicity made him poison to many producers.

Rooney remained at large for a slightly longer period before wedding wife number six, Margaret Lane, in September 1966. That marriage had even less staying power, as the couple divorced in December 1967. It wasn’t until May 1969 that he wed spouse number seven, Carolyn Hockett. They had daughter Jonelle, and Mickey adopted Carolyn’s son, Jimmy, from a previous marriage. This one lasted almost six years, ending in divorce on January 24, 1975.

The multiple marriages and his other addictions, combined with an impulsive, mercurial nature, left Rooney is a state of perpetual need of funds. It was said that he earned $12 million before he was 40, and spent even more. When he was in desperate need of funds, playing Las Vegas was a safety valve – of sorts. As he said in his autobiography, he would often make $17,500 a week, then lose twice that amount at the crap tables.

At one point, in 1950, he was reduced to hawking Hadacol, a tonic with supposed health benefits (ironically, not unlike Vitajex) while touring the South with the “Hadacol Caravan,” an all-star revue extolling the dietary marvels of the product that also included celebrities like Milton Berle, Carmen Miranda, Chico Marx, Bob Hope, Cesar Romero, and Judy Garland, among others. Admission to the show was two Hadacol boxtops for adults and one for children. (Hadacol usually ran from $1.25 for 8-ounces to $3.50 for the 24-ounce “family size.”) Its inventor, Dudley LeBlanc, made over $10 million from sales until the government clamped down when it tested the mixture and discovered the “health” benefit came from it being 24 proof (12% alcohol).


And when films and Vegas proved to be not enough, there was television. He had a short-lived television series (33 episodes) on NBC in 1954-55. In 1957, he accepted a role on Playhouse 90 that a half-dozen other actors refused – that of a vicious, greedy and egomaniacal comedian named Sammy Hogarth in the teleplay, “The Comedian,” with a teleplay by Rod Serling and direction by John Frankenheimer. It was both a critical and commercial triumph, earning Rooney his first Emmy nomination. He followed this the next year with another critical triumph on Alcoa Theater starring in “Eddie,” a teleplay about a bookie who owes a fortune to loan sharks. He has until 6 pm to pay up, or else. It earned him another Emmy nomination.

However, no matter how any televised triumphs Rooney appeared in, his demons always left him broke and scratching for funds. He even tried his hand at directing, but the results were uneven at best. He did get to co-direct one of the all-time laff riots with Albert Zugsmith, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), in which he also starred, playing the Devil in, of all things, a padded snake suit.

But somehow he managed to revive his acting career by shifting his roles from leading to supporting. In 1961, he made a splash of sorts in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, playing the Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi. His broad, over-the-top, stereotypical performance is condemned today, but in 1961, it was considered hysterical. Rooney followed this with roles in the critically acclaimed Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) as Army, a boxing trainer who doesn’t want to sell his fighter down the river into a career as a pro wrestler. He also had a small, but lucrative, role in Stanley Kramer’s all-star extravaganza, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963), as Ding Bell, who with buddy Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett) is one of many chasing after a hidden fortune.

But, driven by his need for cash, he would take any role offered, starring with Hackett in Everything’s Ducky (1961) as two sailors who sneak their talking duck aboard their ship. It was a bad as it sounds. Another low budget wonder was AIP’s How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the last of the popular “Beach Party” series with Frankie and Annette. Rooney was “Peachy Keane,” a scheming ad executive looking for “the boy next door” and “the girl next door” for an advertising campaign. Also during this period he attempted another television series, this one called Mickey, where he played a hapless hotel owner. However, despite winning a Golden Globe Award, it only lasted for 13 episodes.

After the death of wife Barbara in January 1966, the resulting scandalous publicity made work hard to come by for Rooney. He would continue to plug away in mediocre movies such as Otto Preminger’s trainwreck, Skidoo (1968), the numbingly dull The Extraordinary Seaman (1969), and the excruciating The Comic(1969), with Dick Van Dyke. He would also pay the bills by guest starring on shows like “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Dean Martin Show,” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” He also made 13 appearances on “Hollywood Squares” between 1969 and 1976, and made 15 appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” between 1970 and 1973.

He would personally hit bottom with the death of Judy Garland in 1969. Liza Minnelli has been quoted as saying that she wanted Rooney to give the eulogy at her mother’s funeral, but decided against it because Rooney’s emotional state made her feel that he might not be able to get through it, given his long and close friendship with Garland.

Things began to turn around for Rooney in the 70s. He gave up the booze and drugs and became a born-again Christian. In 1978, he wed his eighth – and final – wife, Jan Chamberlain, a country singer he met through son Mickey Rooney Jr. Their marriage lasted longer than his previous seven combined. (They would permanently separate, though, in 2012.) Jan brought a focus to her husband’s life, making him the star of their show.


In 1979, Rooney gained some of his best notices and his last Oscar nomination for his performance as Henry Dailey, a once successful horse trainer who receives one last shot at immortality in The Black Stallion. In 1981, he finally won an Emmy Award for his turn in the television movie Bill as a developmentally disabled man who has spent most of his life in an institution and must adjust to living in the outside world. A reprise of the role in the 1983 sequel, Bill: On His Own, led to his fifth – and final – Emmy nomination. Also, in 1983, he was awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy “in recognition of his 60 years of versatility in a variety of film performances.”

In 1979, Rooney, along with fellow MGM hoofer Ann Miler, was approached by the duo of Ralph G. Allen and Al Dubin about starring on Broadway in an old-fashioned burlesque revue called Sugar Babies. He threw himself into the project with renewed energy, relying on his years in vaudeville to whip a motley collection of burlesque skits into shape. He would argue with the producers over every skit and every song, and was vindicated when the show opened on October 8, 1979, to ecstatic reviews from critics and strong sales. Both Rooney and Miller were nominated for Tony Awards. It would run for nearly three years after 1,208 performances. A road company with Carol Channing and Robert Morse headlining was unsuccessful – people wanted to see Mickey Rooney – so Rooney stayed four more years on the road with the show. In 1991, he returned to Broadway to star in The Will Rogers Follies, a review that played from May 1, 1991, to September 5, 1993, and 981 performances. And in 2007, he and wife Jan began touring in what they described as a “one man, one wife” show with the nostalgic title “Let’s Put On a Show.”

The coming of the new millennium failed to slow Rooney, as he appeared in Night at the Museum (2006) and The Muppets (2011) in addition to other movies. At the time of his death he was working on a new version of Jekyll and Hyde. His last live appearance was as a special guest on the TCM Classic Cruise in January 2013.

In 2011, Rooney obtained a restraining order against his stepson Christopher Aber and Mr. Aber’s wife, Christina, charging them with withholding food and medicine and forcing him to sign over his assets. He later filed suit against them, which was settled in 2013, with the Abers agreeing that they owed Rooney $2.8 million.

Also in 2011, Rooney repeated his allegations against the Abers in testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens.

He is survived by wife Jan Chamberlin; sons Mickey Rooney Jr., Theodore Michael Rooney, Michael Joseph Rooney, and adopted son Jimmy Rooney; daughters Kelly Ann Rooney, Kerry Rooney, Kimmy Sue Rooney, and Jonelle Rooney. Son Tim Rooney died in 2006.


TRIVIA

Besides his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, Rooney also published a murder mystery, The Search for Sonny Skies, in 1994.

He was a co-owner for many years of the Mickey Rooney Tabas Hotel in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

In Life Is Too Short, Rooney mentions a brothel called "The T&M Studio," where the girls looked like Hollywood starlets. Although there were many rumors of such a brothel, no one would admit to ever having been there, or even verify its existence. Rooney also wrote that Groucho Marx had taken him there once, and Groucho appeared to be on a first-name basis with many of the hookers.

According to one story, Mickey Mouse was supposedly named for Rooney. It seems that Walt Disney saw young Rooney while working on the first drawings of what was to become Mickey Mouse. He asked the child actor what he thought of the drawings and also asked what his name was. This later was proven to be false.

Rooney broke his leg while filming A Midsummer’s Night Dream and was doubled by George Breakston in many scenes. Breakston would later go on to play “Beezy” Anderson, Andy Hardy’s best friend, in the Hardy Family series.

Rooney is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest movie career: 89 years (1925-2014).

Norman Lear considered him for role of Archie Bunker, but Rooney rejected the project just as Jackie Gleason had because of the controversial nature of the role.

THE ESSENTIAL MICKEY ROONEY

Death on the Diamond (MGM, 1934), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (WB, 1935), Ah, Wilderness! (MGM, 1935), A Family Affair (MGM, 1937), Captains Courageous (MGM, 1937), Love Finds Andy Hardy (MGM, 1938), Boys Town (MGM, 1938), Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (MGM, 1939), Young Tom Edison(MGM, 1940), Strike Up the Band (MGM, 1940), The Human Comedy (MGM, 1943), Girl Crazy (MGM, 1943), National Velvet (MGM, 1944), Quicksand (UA, 1950), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Paramount, 1954), The Bold and the Brave (RKO, 1956), Baby Face Nelson (UA, 1957), The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (Universal, 1960), Requiem for a Heavyweight (Columbia, 1962), The Black Stallion (UA, 1979), Bill (CBS, 1981), Night at the Museum (20th Century Fox, 2006), The Muppets (Walt Disney, 2011), Driving Me Crazy (Keith Black Films, 2012).


In Memoriam: Shirley Temple

The Little Girl Who Saved the Big Studio

By Ed Garea

The death of Shirley Temple Black at the age of 85 on February 10 has opened up a treasure trove of memories for the film fans. Many movie buffs watched her films as children; they were frequently shown on television in the mornings or afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. My mother was a huge fan of Miss Temple’s work and often made me watch with her when I could have otherwise spent the hours with a good horror film on another channel or engrossed in the latest copy of Mad or Famous Monsters of Filmland. But I’m glad she made me watch, as the films deepened my appreciation of musicals.



Over the years her films came to be regarded as family classics and were hawked on VHS and later DVD to the public in frequent advertisements, assuring the purchaser that not only would he or she receive the original black and white versions, completely restored, but as a bonus would receive a colorized version of each films, as kids today are reluctant to watch anything not in color.

If anyone could have been said to born a movie star, it was Shirley Temple. Born in Santa Monica, California, on April 23, 1928, to businessman George Temple and his wife, Gertrude, she was prepped for bigger and better things beginning at the age of 3, when her mother enrolled her in dancing school.

In 1932, she was spotted by an agent from Educational Pictures and was chosen for a role in Baby Burlesks, a series of rather sexually-suggestive shorts in which children played all the roles. The children, all around the ages of 4 and 5, wore adult costumes that ended at the waist. Below they wore diapers outfitted with oversized safety pins. The shorts were rather obvious parodies of popular films, with Shirley imitating such stars as Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, and Dolores Del Rio.

As Educational Pictures was pretty much a shoestring operation, proper behavior was strictly enforced; any child that misbehaved on the set was locked in a windowless sound box with only a block of ice on which to sit. Shirley served her share of time in the box, claiming later in her autobiography that the experience did no lasting psychological damage and taught her the lesson that wasted time is wasted money.

After Baby Burlesks ran its course, Shirley was schlepped to a series of casting calls and auditions for bit parts that won her a few small roles. But age was threatening to erode her earning potential and as a remedy, her mother cut a year off Shirley’s age. She said in her autobiography that at her 12th birthday party in 1941 she was surprised to learn that she had really turned 13.

It was in 1934 that her career began to gather steam. She was chosen to play James Dunn’s daughter in Fox’s Stand Up and Cheer, one of many Depression musicals that suggested the best way to deal with the everyday misery is to sing and dance your way to happiness. Her initial Fox contract called for a salary of $150 per week, with an additional $25 each week for Gertrude. The contract also contained an option for seven more years and the stipulation that she was to provide her own tap shoes.

The critics gushed over Stand Up and Cheer, and Shirley made an additional eight movies in 1934, the earnings of which saved the studio from certain bankruptcy. However, it was with the release of Little Miss Marker, an adaptation of a Damon Runyon story for which Fox had loaned her to Paramount, that she became a star. Besides being a box office hit for a studio that badly needed one that year, the film also established the template for future Shirley Temple films.



In Little Miss Marker, Temple plays a child left with a bookie as a marker for her father’s gambling debts. As the film progresses she goes on to reform a gang of gamblers, bookies and race fixers. This carried over to her future films: she was cast as a sort of miniature adult who dominated the adults around her, solving problems with uncanny common sense and infusing them with her sense of unbounded optimism. Each of her films onward would simply be a variation of that basic story.

Besides being cute, Shirley was also given a trademark song to sing in each film, the better to sell records. So powerfully was she identified with some of the songs that even today when a film buff hears “On the Good Ship Lollipop” or “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” he or she cannot help but associate Shirley Temple with the music.

She was also supplied with a plethora of dancing partners, including Buddy Ebsen, Jack Haley, and George Murphy. But her best-remembered partner was the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, an African-American veteran of the Broadway stage, and one of the people credited with tutoring the great Eleanor Powell in tap dancing while working together on Broadway. His staircase dance with Shirley in The Little Colonel, the first of four films they would make together, is considered one of the greatest in the history of film musicals, and Robinson would always be remembered for his work with her.

She was so ensconced in the public’s mind by 20th Century Fox that any criticism of her could result in retribution against the critic. The studio famously sued novelist Graham Greene for his review of Wee Willie Winkie in the magazine Night and Day (which he edited as well). His crime was to question whether she was really a midget and exposed an uncomfortable truth when he wrote that her “well-shaped and desirable little body” was being displayed for the enjoyment of middle-aged male admirers.

Although the studio could certainly overcome any human obstacle in its way, it was powerless against nature, and as Shirley aged her box office appeal diminished. It’s been said that the best decisions are the ones not made, and in the case of MGM this certainly proved to be the case. MGM, having the rights to The Wizard of Oz, was bound and determined to have Temple play Dorothy Gale, but Fox refused to loan her out; instead they made plans to star her in a fantasy film of their own, The Blue Bird. MGM instead was forced to go to Plan B and cast Judy Garland as Dorothy, a move for which the gods of posterity would thank them.


But while The Wizard of Oz didn’t exactly light up the box office when released, it still fared much better than The Blue Bird, which made its way to the screen in 1940. A lengthy consideration of the pathetic box office returns combined with an appraisal of her advancing age led Fox to drop her contract at the ripe old age of 12.

Now outside the protective cocoon of the studio, Shirley found the real world a lot tougher than the one created for her movies. She enrolled in the seventh grade at the private and exclusive Westlake School for Girls, where she had trouble at first fitting in with her classmates. But after she began to relax she became a popular and sought-after companion, enjoying a happy and productive five years at the school.

Meanwhile, MGM signed her eight-months later and cast her in their 1941 comedy-romance, Kathleen. It was in the mold of her earlier films, only now she had to deal with the additional problems of adolescence. Kathleen did not live up to the studio’s fiscal expectations, so she was loaned to United Artists in 1942 for Miss Annie Rooney, and made two films on loan-out to David O. Selznick: Since You Went Away and I’ll Be Seeing You (both 1944). In 1945, she starred in Columbia’s Kiss and Tell, again on loan. But the changes from an adorable little blonde moppet to a rather ordinary brunette teenager resulted in her audience losing interest in her movies.

Her private life also took another turn when, supposedly determined to be the first in her Westlake class to become engaged, she accepted the proposal of 24-year old Army Air Corps Sergeant John Agar Jr. a few days before turning 17. They were married on September 19, 1945.

Act in haste, repent in leisure.” (I’m full of pithy quotes today.) That would be the motto of her marriage to Agar. While she adjusted to the new realities of married life and films, her husband wasn’t as fortunate. Years of being ignored and being dubbed “Mr. Shirley Temple” took their toll and Agar began drinking as a hobby. Following in the footsteps of his wife, he also went into acting, but lacked his wife’s charisma and acting ability, soon working his way down the ladder to where he was headlining Z-Grade films such as The Brain From Planet Arous and The Puppet People, and, most famously in the annals of bad movies, Zontar: The Thing From Venus, which gained a cult status, being featured on SCTV.

He did appear with his wife in John Ford’s classic Western, Fort Apache (1948), but while she had a featured role as Philadelphia Thursday, the daughter of Henry Fonda’s character, Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday, Agar was given the decidedly minor role of Second Lieutenant Michael Shannon O’Rourke, which did nothing for their already troubled marriage.

They divorced in December 1949, a year after the birth of their daughter, Linda Susan Agar. Less than a month later she met and subsequently married Charles Alden Black, a 30-year old assistant to the president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and a certified member of San Francisco’s blueblood community. Shortly after their marriage he was dropped from the San Francisco Social Register as punishment for marrying an actress, but the marriage took, lasting 55 years until his death in 2005. 

Another casualty of her marriage to Black on December 6, 1950, was her career in films, which she gladly gave up in favor of being a wife and mother. Charles adopted Linda, and she and Charles had two children of their own: Charles Alden Black Jr., born in 1952, and daughter Lori Alden Black, born in 1954. Both daughters were born in Santa Monica, California, at the same hospital, not to mention delivered by the same doctor who delivered Shirley years before.

During the Korean War, Black served as a Navy lieutenant commander and Shirley and the children followed him to Washington. Later, when she entered the diplomatic service, he would travel with her to her diplomatic postings.

As the ‘50s progressed, her films began to show up on television, grabbing huge ratings. This prompted her to accept an offer as host and occasional performer on a television series titled Shirley Temple’s Storybook, an anthology of adaptations of fairy tales. The series ran from 1958 to 1961.

Outside of show business, diplomacy, and politics, she is best known for her work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, of which she later became president. She became interested in serving for the Society after the disease struck down her brother George, who was making a name at the time as a professional wrestler. She also worked to found and develop the San Francisco International Film Festival, but resigned in 1966 as a protest over a decision to screen the Swedish filmNight Games, which she derided as “pornography for profit.”

Living in Washington spurred an interest in politics, and in 1967 she made an unsuccessful run for Congress to fill the seat left vacant by the death of California Republican J. Arthur Younger, losing in the primary to the Pete McCloskey. One newspaper headline read: "McCloskey Torpedoes Good Ship Lollypop."


In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed her to the five-member delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. In 1974 she accepted the position of Ambassador to Ghana, where to all accounts she performed in an outstanding manner, despite the reservations of professional diplomats concerning her appointment. After her tenure in Ghana (1974-76), she was later appointed as ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

She also had a well-publicized bout with breast cancer, during which she underwent a mastectomy. After the operation she held a news conference in her hospital room to discuss her experience and urge women who discovered lumps in their breasts to see a doctor instead of sitting home afraid to talk about it. The American Cancer Society credited her with helping to make it acceptable to talk about the disease.

Survived by her children, she stands today as a shining example that there can, indeed not only be life after the movies, but that the life can be a rich and accomplished one.

Trivia

According to Groucho Marx, his brother Harpo offered Shirley’s parents $50,000 to let him adopt her. They declined the offer.

During the filming of Little Miss Marker, co-star Adolphe Menjou reputedly referred to her as “an Ethel Barrymore at six,” and complained to director Alexander Hall about her “making a stooge out of me.”

Director Allan Dwan told Peter Bogdanovich, in his book Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors, that she was a quick study. All he had to do was tell her something once and she’d remember it. And if one of the actors gut stuck for a line, she’d tell him what the line was. “She knew it better than he did.”

From 1936 to 1939 she was America’s most popular movie star. Clark Gable was a distant second. Her popularity spurred a line of “Shirley Temple” dolls, which were the best-selling dolls of that decade. (Today collectors highly prize them.) She had sat on the laps of over 200 famous people, reportedly preferring the lap of J. Edgar Hoover. Amelia Earhart shared chewing gum with her, and she had several conservations with Eleanor Roosevelt. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood created a special drink and named it for her: the Shirley Temple, a nonalcoholic mixture of lemon-lime soda, grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry. Reportedly, she didn’t care for it.

When MGM picked up her contract, she was entering adolescence. She wrote in her autobiography that producer Arthur Freed summoned her to his office. Once there, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her. As she was ignorant of male anatomy she giggled loudly and he threw her out of the office.

Director John Ford, who got along splendidly with her during the filming of Wee Willie Winkie in 1937, gave her a hard time on the set of Fort Apache, reportedly asking her where she went to school and if she graduated.

When she came to Prague as ambassador she was surprised to discover that there had been a Shirley Temple fan club there 50 years ago. Numerous officials brought their old membership cards for her to autograph.

Daughter Lori played bass guitar for the rock band The Melvins and went by the moniker, “Lorax.” On a related note, Shirley appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Her career was the subject of a series of sketches on the Carol Burnett Show, where Carol played “Shirley Dimple.” She was also parodied on Saturday Night Live in a skit where she was played by Laraine Newman as the ambassador to Ghana. There, she cutely talks Ghana’s president, played by Garrett Morris, out of waging any more wars. 


In Memoriam: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Maximilian Schell

By Ed Garea

Two defining actors of their generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Maximilian Schell, died within 24 hours of each other, one through natural causes and the other through a drug overdose. Both added greatly to the film environment of their times.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was found dead in an apartment in the West Village of New York on Sunday morning of an apparent drug overdose.

A friend, who was concerned at not being able to reach him, discovered his body around 11:30 a.m., according to law enforcement officials.

At the scene, police found a syringe in his left forearm, with at least two plastic envelopes with what appeared to be heroin nearby. Five empty plastic envelopes were also found in a nearby trash bin.


Hoffman won the Academy Award in 2006 for Best Actor for his role in the film Capote, in which he portrayed the author Truman Capote during Capote's research for his book In Cold Blood.

Hoffman was nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category three times: for The Master (2012), Doubt (2008), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007).  He also was featured in a role in the popular The Hunger Games.

According to Variety, Hoffman had completed a detox program for substance abuse, including snorting heroin, last May. His struggle with alcohol and drugs began as a young man, and in a 2006 interview with the CBS program 60 Minutes, Heffman declared that he had been sober since the age of 22.

Hoffman was a prolific actor, having worked in films for the last two decades; films that often called for him to undertake a physical transformation. Besides appearing in films, he was also active on Broadway, earning two Tony nominations: one in 2000 for Best Actor (Play) for a revival of Sam Shephard’s “True West,” and as Best Actor (Featured Role – Play) in 2003 for a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”   

He was also the Co-Artistic Director of the LAByrinth Theater Company in New York, for which he directed Stephen Adly Guirgis’ "Our Lady of 121st Street" and “Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train.” In addition, he directed Rebecca Gilman’s "The Glory of Living" at the Manhattan Class Company.

Hoffman was born in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport on July 23, 1967. His interest and involvement in high school theatrics led him to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he graduated with a B.F.A. degree in Drama in 1989.

His feature film debut came in 1991 in an indie production called Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole (as Phil Hoffman), with his first role in a major release coming the next year in My New Gun. His breakthrough role came in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 production of Boogie Nights. Besides his Oscar wins and nominations, his other notable films included Twister (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Magnolia (2000), Almost Famous (2000), State and Main (2000), Red Dragon (2002), and Cold Mountain (2003).

Hoffman leaves behind three young children, a son and two daughters, with his partner, Mimi O’Donnell, a costume designer.

Maximilian Schell, probably the most successful German-speaking actor in English-language films since the silent days of Emil Jannings, died on early Saturday at the age of 83 in a hospital in Innsbruck, Austria, of natural causes (pneumonia). Schell's wife, Iva, who he married in August, was at his bedside when he passed.

Like Hoffman, Schell was a multi-faceted talent. Not only was he a celebrated actor with more than 100 film and TV credits, but he also achieved fame as a director of films, documentaries, plays and opera.

Schell was born in Vienna, Austria, on December 8, 1930, but his parents could read the handwriting on the wall concerning Austria’s future and fled to Zurich, Switzerland, where young Maxililian was raised. He attended the University of Basel, and began acting on the stage in 1952 and made his film debut in 1955 in the West German production of Kinder, Mutter und ein General (“Children, Mother and a General”).

His Hollywood debut came in 1958 in the World War II film,The Young Lions. The irony of his hiring is that the producers wanted his sister, Maria Schell, instead, but because of an unfortunate mix-up in communications, hired him instead. The producers were impressed with his work as Capt. Hardenberg, the friend of German soldier Marlon Brando. It was Brando who tutored Schell in English on the set, and so Schell gained fluency in both English and Brando’s native tongue, Mumble. 


He next gained notice in the role of the German defense attorney in the 1959 “Playhouse 90” production of Judgment at Nuremberg. This led to his being cast in the same role for Stanley Kramer’s Hollywood remake, for which he won a Golden Globe, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, and most importantly, the 1961 Academy Award for Best Actor, beating out fellow nominee Spencer Tracy. In addition he earned a 1962 BAFTA nomination as Best Actor for his work in the film.

He would gain two more Oscar nominations for acting: in 1976 as Best Actor for the Man in the Glass Booth (1975, with an accompanying Golden Globe nomination), and in 1978 as Best Supporting Actor for Julia (1977), for which he was also nominated for a Golden Globe and by the New York Film Critics Circle for Best Supporting Actor. He was twice been nominated for an Emmy for his TV work: in 1992 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special for Miss Rose White, and the following year as Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Lenin in the HBO film, Stalin, and won the 1993 Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, mini-series or made-for-TV movie for the film.  

Other notable films, in addition to those named above, were Topkapi (1964), The Castle (1968), The Odessa File (1974), director Sam Peckinpah’s war drama,Cross of Iron (1977), The Black Hole (1979), The Freshman (1979), where he was reunited with old friend Marlon Brando, and Deep Impact (1998).

As a director, his 1974 film, The Pedestrian, which he also wrote and starred in, was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film, and won a Golden Globe in the same category. His 1984 documentary about Marlene Dietrich, Marlene, was nominated in the Best Documentary category. Another notable documentary was My Sister Maria (2002), a mixture of documentary and staged footage about the career of his sister, Maria Schell, and his relationship with her.

And if all this weren’t enough, Schell was an accomplished pianist and conductor. His love for opera led him to produce and direct several, including Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” and Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavilier” for the L.A. Opera. He also spent time as a guest professor at the University of Southern California and received an honorary doctorate from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago.

In addition to his wife, Iva, Schell's survivors include a daughter, Nastassja, from a previous marriage to actress Natalia Andreichenko that ended in divorce, and a grandchild.


In Memoriam: Joan Fontaine

By Ed Garea

Joan Fontaine, who passed away on December 15 at the age of 96, had a long and notable career in films, on stage, and on television. Yet, the thing she will probably be remembered for most was her feud with sister Olivia de Havilland.

Joan was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, in that part of the city known as the International settlement. Both parents were British. Her father, Walter Augusts de Havilland, was a patent lawyer with a thriving practice in Japan. Her mother, Lilian Augusta (nee Ruse), was a stage actress who retired upon marrying. Joan was the younger of two daughters to the family. Her older sister was Olivia Mary de Havilland, who was born on July 1, 1916. The parents, who married in 1914, split up in 1919 when Lilian left after learning that Walter had availed himself of the services of geisha girls. The divorce was finalized in February 1925.

Joan was a sickly child, having developed anemia following a combined attack of the measles and a strep infection. A physician advised Lilian to move Joan to a warmer climate, and Lilian took Joan and Olivia to California, settling in Saratoga, a city in Santa Clara County directly west of San Jose. Fontaine’s health improved dramatically and she was educated at Los Gatos High School, taking diction lessons with Olivia after school. When she was 16 years old she returned to Japan to live with her father, and while there, graduated from the American School in Japan in 1935.

Returning to the United States later in 1935, Joan’s stage mother pushed her into films, as she did with older sister Olivia. Joan signed a contract with RKO, who immediately loaned her out to MGM. Since Mom, who reportedly favored Olivia, refused to let Joan use the family name, Joan took the moniker “Joan Burfield” (her stepfather’s name) when she made her movie debut in the 1935 Joan Crawford-Robert Montgomery MGM comedy, No More Ladies. Joan was billed ninth, as “Caroline,” an object of the wandering eye of Montgomery’s character.


Back at RKO she was idle for about a year-and-a-half, the only notable event in her career being to change her last name from “Burfield” to “Fontaine.” RKO pushed her slowly, with her first big break being cast opposite Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress (1937). She was supposed to be Fred’s love interest, but two things doomed the film: Joan couldn’t dance (theatergoers expected any partner of Fred Astaire to be able to dance), and she lacked the chemistry with Fred that he had enjoyed with Ginger.

After this she had two decent supporting roles in Gunga Din and MGM’s The Women, but it wasn’t until David O. Selznick chose her for the female lead in Rebecca that Joan hit stardom . . . and never looked back. The next year, she won the Best Actress Oscar for Suspicion (which everyone acknowledges was a consolation for not having won the year before with Rebecca) and was nominated a year after for her role in The Constant Nymph.

During this time, sister Olivia de Havilland had not won an Oscar. She had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind, but lost to fellow cast member Hattie McDaniel. In fact, de Havilland would not cop an Oscar for herself until 1946, when she won the Best Actress award for To Each His Own (1946). To say the sisters had a rivalry was putting it mildly. They couldn’t stand one another. Their feud began as children, according to Fontaine in her autobiography, with big sister Liv annoying young Joan while she was still in the crib. It later escalated to things like hair pulling, tearing her own clothes so Joan couldn’t wear them as hand-me-downs, and outright fistfights, one of which ended when Olivia broke Joan’s collarbone. As they got older and Joan got bigger, the physical was replaced with the psychological. After Olivia became a star in 1935, Joan, still looking for a regular gig, was pressed into service as her sister’s driver. And when Joan did hit it big, the tension increased.

Joan was nominated in 1942 by the Academy in the Best Actress category for her role in Hitchcock’s Suspicion the year before. Sister Olivia was also nominated for the same award for her turn on Hold Back the Dawn. Both sisters were to be seated at the same table, and Joan considered no-showing; she believed that as she didn’t win the award the previous year for a superior film, she had no chance of winning it now. However, when Olivia visited Joan on the set of her latest film with her dress in hand, Fontaine decided to attend. According to her autobiography, when Fontaine’s name was called out as the winner, she froze. She stared across the table, where Olivia was whispering to her in a commanding tone to get up there. Joan said that when she did arise to accept the trophy, she walked around the other side of the table so as to bypass Olivia, whom she was certain would trip her on the way up.


Their feud escalated even further over the years and reached the point of cold war: neither sister was speaking with the other. This war-of-the-sisters made for an indelible moment at the 1947 Oscars, where Olivia won Best Actress for To Each His Own. Joan, who was on hand to present the Best Actor award, hung around afterward backstage. After Olivia departed the stage holding the award, Joan stuck out her hand in congratulations, only to have Olivia snub it. The moment was caught in a photo by Hymie Fink of Photoplay, and remains to this day one of Tinseltown’s iconic photographs. Over time, the sisters somewhat reconciled, but the relationship was never a warm one, often diverging between hot and ice cold. In 1989, the sisters were reunited at the Oscars, but upon discovering they were staying in adjoining hotel rooms, Joan had her room changed and swore never again to attend another Academy ceremony, an oath she kept until her death. For her part, when notified of her sister’s death, Olivia issued a rare public statement: “I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of my sister, Joan Fontaine, and my niece, Deborah, and I appreciate the many kind expressions of sympathy that we have received." Unless Olivia writes something of their relationship, Joan’s autobiography remains the main source of our knowledge of the relationship between these two talented sisters.

If I were to be approached and asked as to which sister was my favorite, I would have to excuse myself. I loved seeing both in whatever film they happened to appear. My first memories of Olivia come as an 8-year old completely enraptured by Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, thinking that, I too would risk death to be with Maid Marian. Joan I didn’t catch until years later when I saw her in ads for the local New York market hawking the delights of Arnold sliced bread. I suppose it was either that or star in a bad horror films such as The Witches (1966). Joan did come out of retirement in the late ‘70s to do a few TV movies and series, among them the soaper Ryan’s Hope. But it wasn’t until I saw Rebecca at the age of 13 that I began to appreciate her ability – and her beauty. To me, she was the better looking of the sisters, but in terms of ability, both are equal in my eyes and remain as actors I love to watch no matter what sort of film they happen to be in.

My Favorite Fontaine:

Damsel in Distress (1937): Granted it’s not one of Astaire’s better films, but Joan is quite fetching as his love interest, Lady Alyce Marshmorton. OK, it’s basically the same old plot, but Joan comes off quite well, considering she doesn’t dance. The thing that always got me was the fact that someone that looked as emaciated as Astaire could score a doll like Fontaine, even in a movie.

Rebecca (1940): Joan is superb as the second Mrs. De Winter. No one can project timidity and beauty like Fontaine and make it totally work. I don’t know how bright Joan was in real life, but she projected the image of the gorgeous inhibited librarian-type to near perfection.


Suspicion (1941): With a character that’s nearly a repeat of her earlier turn as Mrs. De Winter, the role could hardly be called a stretch for Fontaine. She proved the perfect foil to Cary Grant’s easygoing con man and shnook. How Grant’s character could look at her and still call her “Monkey Face” was a mystery, even with that unflattering early ‘40s hairdo?

The Constant Nymph (1943): The picture’s not so hot, but Joan is superb. She and Ginger Rogers were the only adult actresses of that time who could rock the teenage look and make you actually believe they were that young. She manages to dominate the film, not an easy task when we can see that co-star Charles Boyer has left his teeth marks all over the scenery.

Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948): This is where one can really appreciate a good actress. Anyone less and we’d be bored out of our skulls, for this film takes a master to pull off properly. Directed by the great Max Ophuls, Joan plays lead character Lisa brilliantly, capturing both her vulnerable facet and later the mature, hardened Lisa, marrying a man for financial security and social respectability rather than love. We see in the film that the notion of romantic love makes the younger Lisa vulnerable and needy, and how Stefan (Louis Jourdan in a fine performance) takes advantage of this neediness. To make Lisa work requires an actress to be strong, yet subtle. Joan delivers on this in spades, aided by Ophuls’ excellent direction and equally strong performances by Jourdan and Marcel Journet.


Born to Be Bad (1950): Another film that’s not so hot. In fact, Joan’s character, Christabel, comes off as a junior grade Eve Harrington. Nicholas Ray’s direction doesn’t help matters, either. But Joan is still able to give her character some badly needed depth and a little oomph. It also helps when one has the sort of chemistry she had with co-star Robert Ryan. 


In Memoriam: Peter O'Toole

By Ed Garea


It always seems that, while one dies alone, death itself comes in bunches. In just two days back-to-back in December we lost two of the brightest lights in the Hollywood firmament.

Peter O’Toole passed on first, on December 14 at the age of 81, followed by Joan Fontaine a day later at the age of 96. We will cover her career in a subsequent article; for now we’ll concentrate on the great O’Toole and his films.

The thing that always amazed me about O’Toole was that he managed to last so long; one would have thought he would have drunk himself to death long ago. In his last years he sort of resembled an ill-kept grave. But what a talent: O’Toole was easily one of the most talented men ever to set foot on stage or screen. His T.E. Lawrence will always be remembered as one of the greatest performances ever on film, as will his portrayal of Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

As far as Oscar was concerned, O’Toole was always a bridesmaid but never a bride. He holds the record – eight – for having been nominated in the Best Actor category without winning.

He cemented his reputation as a brilliant actor in his late 20s, when he became the youngest leading man ever at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford. While there he also cemented his reputation as a hellraiser, fueled by goodly amounts of alcoholic beverages.

It was the latter reputation that almost caused producer Sam Spiegel to overlook him when casting the part of T.E. Lawrence, but director David Lean pitched for O’Toole and was rewarded when Spiegel saw O’Toole’s screen test and admitted to Lean that they had found their Lawrence.

Lawrence of Arabia took nearly two years to film, but upon its release O’Toole was now Filmdom’s latest superstar. Contrary to popular belief, it was not O’Toole’s first movie. He appeared in three previous films, the best known of which was Disney’s 1960 adventure, Kidnapped, in which he had a small role as “Robin McGregor.” He had third billing in the 1960 crime drama, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, about three IRA men in turn-of-the-century England who plan to rob the Bank of England of its gold bullion. O’Toole is the officer in charge of security at the bank.

Below are my favorite O’Toole performances, sorted by year.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962): Who doesn’t love this movie? Oh sure, we can find some crank on IMDb who hated it. It was overlong, not historically accurate, etc. However, they’re in the distinct minority. Lawrence is a majestic movie, the sort they don’t make anymore (for one thing, CGI may have killed off the epic). It has a great script, wonderful cinematography and pacing, and, most of all, solid performances from its cast. Despite this, however, the film is structured in such a way that if the leading man fails (most of Lean’s other epics rely on the same formula), so does the rest of the film. And O’Toole makes sure the film doesn’t fail, capturing the spirit, if not the history, of Lawrence the man. It’s a film that, despite its length, I can watch anytime.

Becket (1964): So how does one follow up on a triumph like Lawrence of Arabia? Why with Becket, of course. Using Jean Anouilh’s play as a basis, it’s the story of the turbulent relationship between King Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, childhood friends who later became bitter enemies when Becket got religion and stood up for the Church against the King, and was ultimately killed for it. O’Toole’s Henry is up against another heavyweight in Richard Burton’s Becket, in the days before Liz and booze destroyed his career. John Gielgud also turns in quite an effective performance in a supporting role as King Louis VII of France.

The Night of the Generals (1967): This is a nice little gem in the O’Toole oeuvre, a tale about three Nazi generals suspected in the murder of a Polish prostitute in Warsaw, now in Paris, where one is in on the plot to kill Hitler. O’Toole, as General Tanz, gives a good, suspicious performance. Could he be the murderer? Donald Pleasance and Charles Gray, as the other two suspected generals, also give excellent performances, as does Omar Sharif as the investigating officer on the case. The film does lose its focus with the kill Hitler plot in Paris, but overall it’s quite good, especially O’Toole.


The Lion in Winter (1968): O’Toole is once again Henry II, but this time the focus is not on his intrigue with Thomas Becket, but with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. It’s Christmas 1183. Henry, aging but still conniving, calls a meeting where he will name a successor. In attendance are his scheming wife, Eleanor, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John. Also called are his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he hopes to marry, and King Philip II of France. All want his empire, but only one will be named. O’Toole is having a field day. Having played Henry before, he is comfortable with the character. Katharine Hepburn is wonderful as Eleanor (she got the Oscar for her portrayal), and a young Anthony Hopkins shines as Richard. Watching O’Toole and Hepburn engaging in their game of political chess (Henry wants John as his successor while Eleanor favors Richard) is mesmerizing: two pros at the pinnacle of their craft. And for those looking for offbeat Christmas movies, the setting of this film should fit the bill.

The Ruling Class (1972): O’Toole is the mad 14th Earl of Gurney in Peter Medak’s wonderful satire on the upper classes. The Earl believes himself to be Christ, wearing glasses because it’s cold, resting himself on a crucifix, and suddenly breaking out into song and dance numbers. His peers and family think he’s quite mad. Yet, when he undergoes a metamorphosis, dresses as a Victorian gentleman while speaking of capital punishment and superior breeding, his peers think him not only cured but prepare him for his seat in the House of Lords. The real point is that the Earl is not cured at all; he now believes himself to be Jack the Ripper. For those who love dark comedy or simply want to see a different O’Toole, this is one to see.

My Favorite Year (1982): O’Toole is in his element in this hilarious comedy. It’s 1954 and King Kaiser (read Sid Caesar) is the biggest thing on television. His guest this week is swashbuckling actor Alan Swann. Now all Kaiser and his staff have to do is make sure Swann stays sober for his appearance, a task not as easy as it seems. As the dissolute Swann, O’Toole dominates the film. Although his character is supposedly based on Errol Flynn, there are a few touches based on O’Toole himself, such as the habit of not wearing a watch (“I don’t trust them, one hand is bigger than the other.”) and his preference for Pinch scotch. In fact, O’Toole’s performance is so true to his real life self that it’s hard to discern where Flynn ends and O’Toole begins. The idea of having junior writer Benjy Stone babysit Swann is based on the real-life incident of having then Caesar show’s junior writer, Mel Brooks, chaperone guest star Flynn around before his appearance on Your Show of Shows.

Ratatouille (2007): Having provided the voice of Sherlock Holmes in a series of animated films for Burbank Studios in Australia, O’Toole was no stranger to the genre. In this heartwarming animated movie from Pixar and Disney about a rat who dreams of becoming a great French chef, O’Toole supplies the voice of Anton Ego, food critic for “The Grim Eater,” and someone whose word can make or break a restaurant. Though he initially comes on as the villain of the piece, his character is the heart of the film because of his love of good food and his honesty. A large part of the fun in watching Ratatouille is listening to O’Toole resonant voice as Ego. Besides, if I didn’t mention this film, Steve Herte would never forgive me.


My Favorite Truffaut

Christine, Ed Garea and David Skolnick share their top five Francois Truffaut-directed films.

By Christine

When we lost Francois Truffaut at the young age of 52 from a brain tumor, we lost more than a director; we lost an artist who climbed to the status of a cultural icon in a little over a quarter of a century. He was easily the best director France has had since the days of Jean Renoir (we can only wonder about what sort of career Renoir would have had if not for the war), and our most prolific in terms of films that are now acknowledged as classics of the cinema.

There were no limits of genre for Truffaut; his films range from stark drama to the autobiographical to romantic comedy to science fiction. A jack of all trades? Yes, and in my opinion, a master of all. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Truffaut’s films successfully crossed over to the moviegoing audiences in other countries, especially America, where foreign directors had long been consigned to an “art house ghetto.” I think the reason for his success comes from the fact that he eschews the stridence of the political statement for the emphasis on the universal human condition. He had famously said that “life is neither Nazi, Communist, nor Gaullist, it is anarchistic.” For Truffaut, the human condition comes down to love: the abundance or lack of it; the elation it brings and the despair it imposes; the difficulty of communication with respect to being in love; and the resilience of children in the face of the lack of love.

Although many of his films were autobiographical, he also availed himself of other sources, ranging from Henry James to Cornel Woolrich to Henri-Pierre Roche. He once said that if the story was good, did it matter who the author was? That material could not be in better hands, for he had that rare ability to take such material and make it his own without compromising the integrity of that original material, a rare feat for a filmmaker.

I was asked by the editors to pick my five favorite Francois Truffaut films. Five. Five? A most difficult task to accomplish when every film he made is my favorite. But, yes, I suppose it must be five. Hence, beginning with number five, here is my list:

5. Vivement dimanche! (Finally Sunday, or Confidentially Yours, 1983): It was Truffaut’s last film, and sadly showed why he died all too soon. Keeping with his theme of love, this is a heartfelt tribute to the movies he grew up with; the movies he loved. Fanny Ardent is the secretary to businessman Jean-Louis Trintignant. When he is falsely accused of murder, she sets out to investigate and clear her boss in this wonderful mélange of film noir and suspense thriller alleviated by screwball comedy in a style that reminds us of Hitchcock. I loved the name of the secretary, “Barbara Becker,” a wonderful noir moniker denoting at once the Hitchcockian relevance – and reverence. Warning! This film should be recorded rather than seen live, for once viewed, you will want to see it again. When I saw Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery with my husband, we noticed the similarity between Allen’s movie and Vivement Dimanche! I shed more than one tear thinking about what Truffaut would have said about it.

4. Les Quarte cents coups (The 400 Blows, 1959): One can do no better in a film debut than create one of the enduring classics of cinema. The heartbreaking story of Antoine Doinel’s childhood was based closely on Truffaut’s own childhood. A realistic, and yet, extremely personal film about Doinel’s troubled childhood, it’s the very sort of film Truffaut challenged others to make. When I first saw it, it made me laugh, especially with the school scenes. Later it made me cry, when his mother abandons him in the reform school with the coldness with which one might dispose of an old piece of furniture.

3. Le Nuit americaine (Day for Night, 1973): A touching and hilarious look at the madness that comes with the making of a film. Truffaut stars as Ferrand, a director filming Je vous presente Pamela (Meet Pamela), the story of an English married wife falling in love and running away with her French father-in-law. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Ferrand is beset with problems large and small, from choosing the right props for a scene to the film lab ruining an expensive crowd scene to dealing with the actors themselves, including a leading lady recovering from a breakdown, a co-star more interested in romancing the script girl than the movie, an alcoholic actress who can’t remember her lines, and most hilarious of all, a cat that won’t hit his mark. For me, the beauty of this film is in the genius with which Truffaut put it together, establishing the difference between Ferrand, the character, and Truffaut, the director. As Ferrand he shoots Meet Pamela rather unexceptionally with a static camera, but as Truffaut, filming the behind-the-scenes story, he uses fluid camerawork. Day for Night is a technical term for night scenes shot during the day with an optical filter, and when we think about it, it sums up the picture perfectly. If it seems similar to a film Jacques Tati would make . . . well, Truffaut once confided to me of his admiration for Tati when I broached the subject. So let us draw our conclusions.

2. Baisers voles (Stolen Kisses, 1968): This is my personal favorite of the Antoine Doinel series. Antoine is dishonorably discharged from the army and returns to Paris, where he finds it difficult to adjust to civilian life. He takes on a series of jobs, going from a dismal turn as a night clerk at a hotel to working as perhaps the most improbable private eye in history, to a turn as a television repairman. For me the beauty of the film lies in its subject matter: an awkward age that we tend to ignore, one’s early twenties. I think for we French, the early twenties are more confusing than our teen years because until then everything is pretty well laid out for us. It’s when we have to assume the adult life that everything comes crashing down. For me that moment came after finishing my university studies balancing what it was I intended to do with my life while dealing with love in the form of a few boyfriends. I generally remained confused until my mid-20s when I began my career as such and shortly after that, meeting my husband, who made it all come together, proving that Truffaut was right about the power of love.

But alas, for Antoine Doinel, love was never that easy. It is difficult enough when thinking of his Christine, but when he’s in love with her, she’s not in love with him; and when she’s in love with him, he’s pursuing someone else. Look for the scene where Antoine and Christine spend the night, and in the morning he proposes to her with what looks like a bottle opener substituting for a ring. I think it’s one of the most beautiful and deeply poetic scenes in cinema history.


1. Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim, 1962): For me, it would take a really remarkable film to top Baisers voles. This should give the reader an idea of how remarkable Jules et Jim is. It’s not only Truffaut’s finest film, but also one I regard as one of the 10 best films ever made. It’s a riveting story of the love and friendship forged over a span of 25 years between best friends Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) with the free-spirited Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). I shall leave it to others to describe the plot, but the thing I have always found interesting is that the novel upon which the film is based in an autobiographical one. With this film Truffaut first begins to examine the very nature of love while creating a mise-en-scene of the world as a fable. In the first half of the film, as the three friends experience the joy of love, Truffaut’s camerawork expresses their euphoria. In the second half, when the three friends are facing disillusionment and loss, the camera reflects the mood and the film becomes subdued. It seems strange that a period drama adapted from a novel written by a 75-year old man should have such resonance with the youth of the time, but Moreau, Werner and Serre bring an infectious exuberance to their characters. Besides being attractive and charming, they also defy the conventional morality of society. Catherine is the epitome of the free spirit, moving freely from one lover to another; fighting for equality in her own way. Unlike Jules and Jim, who channel their desires through art, Catherine expresses her talents in the act of living itself; her essence lies in her very unpredictability. Yet, at the same time she is searching for love and the security that goes with it. It would seem that she finds it with Jules, but their temperaments are too far apart to reach an accord because Jules can never satisfy her need for adventure. 
  
And so ends my list. Writing about these films has caused me not only to remember them, but to also remember the man that made them. Perhaps that’s the true nature of love – the memory that never dies.


By Ed Garea

This month, TCM is planning a festival of Francois Truffaut movies. Each Friday during the month, four or five will be spooled to what I’m sure will be an eager audience. Many of Truffaut’s films were intensely personal, arising from incidents or episodes in his life. In the end, though, Truffaut ultimate scenario was his premature death at age 52 from a brain tumor.

An avid reader and intense film buff since childhood, Truffaut was a true autodidact. Beginning his career in films as a critic with Cahiers du Cinema in the early ‘50s, he made a name for himself with his 1954 essay, “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema,” which called out the old guard of French directors for their “stodginess,” and stating his preference for American films, even the low budget B variety. He was also the instigator of what came to be known as “the auteur theory,” which has since become part and parcel of our understanding of the intellectual fabric of cinema. For Truffaut, the creative personality of directors over the body of their work was more important than individual films themselves. Some of the directors he admired included Abel Gance, Jacques Becker, Max Ophuls, Roberto Rossellini, Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, and Alfred Hitchcock, a personal idol of Truffaut’s.

But as a director, while his technical expertise is to be admired, a far more important factor in evaluating Truffaut is the fact he’s a marvelous storyteller. All the technical competence in the world is worth nothing if a director cannot communicate his story to the audience. However, while I’m sure my colleagues here at The Celluloid Club see him as France’s greatest director, I see him only as France’s best director since the establishment of the revolution created by La Novelle vague, taking a back seat to the body of work of Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, Marcel Carne, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Jean Vigo.

Be it as it may, the three of us agreed to present our five favorite Truffaut films. While it would be easy to plug in what I believe to be his “artistic” and critical best, I’m taking the other road in that I’m listing what I consider to be his five most entertaining movies. Put it this way – if I were listing my five favorite Henry James novels, I would keep in mind that The Golden Bowl is his best, both critically and artistically, but it is not my favorite. That would be The Bostonians, which I believe to have the better story. It’s the same with Truffaut; his most critically acclaimed may not necessarily be my favorite, and as I lean towards the psychotronic in a director’s body of work, the reader will notice that this preference is evident in my choices. So, without further ado, below are my five favorite Francois Truffaut films.

5. The Bride Wore Black (1968): It’s sort of Truffaut’s homage to Hitchcock, even down to having Bernard Herrmann write the score. However, Hitchcock was never this obvious. Jeanne Moreau is mourning the fact that thugs whacked her fiancée at the church door right after he and Jeanne tied the knot. She thinks of killing herself, but gets an even better idea: why not track down the killers and kill them? At any rate, it’s a lot of fun, as Jeanne dispatches her victims in most interesting ways.

4. Stolen Kisses (1968): Not only is this is one of Truffaut’s most beautiful films, but it also shows the growth and maturity from his Nouvelle Vague days. Continuing the story of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), Truffaut’s alter ego from The 400 Blows, we discover he has been dishonorably discharged from the army for questionable character. So, he takes on a series of odd jobs while trying to find his niche in life. At the same time there’s the problematic relationship with the love of his young life – Christine Darbon (Claude Jade). Their problem is that they can never find themselves on the same page, which provides the basis for much of the film’s humor. As I noted before, watch for the scene where Antoine proposes to Christine. The camerawork is excellent and the score enhances the action on the screen.


3. Fahrenheit 451 (1966): This Truffaut film will not be screened during July’s celebration, but it’s a favorite of mine and deserves inclusion. It’s Truffaut’s first and only film in English; he co-wrote the screenplay and began shooting before he mastered the English language – and it shows. He was very disappointed with the awkward and stilted English dialogue, preferring the French-dubbed version, which he supervised. But no matter, for it’s still a compelling film based on Ray Bradbury’s book about a future society where books are burned. Watch for the book burnings: one of the books being burned is an issue of Cahiers du Cinema, and on its cover is a still from Breathless, for which Truffaut collaborated on the screenplay.

2. The 400 Blows (1959): Truffaut’s first and most autobiographical film, and one I can watch multiple times. It never grows old for me. While this is not, as many think, Jean-Pierre Leaud’s first film, it is the film that brought him to the attention of the public and secured a place for him in cinema history. He went on to play the same character, Antoine Doinel, for Truffaut four more times. It’s a touching story of a neglected teenager, brutalized both at home and at school, who responds by acting out: skipping school, sneaking into the movies, and petty theft. Truffaut’s mise en scene of a dingy Paris full of arcades, dingy apartments, abandoned factories, and regular working day avenues helps raise this above other films of the time. At the end, it presents the question of whether the punishment of Doinel fitted his crimes.


1. Day for Night (1973): I saw this long, long ago when I was first married. We went to a theater called The Lost Picture Show, believe it or not, to see a Truffaut double feature of Day for Night with The Green Room. Although I enjoyed both, Day for Night especially moved me. It’s a wonderful film about a director and his problems both on and off the set, as he has to deal with temperamental actors, an actress rescheduling because of her pregnancy, problems with the set, and other emergencies that suddenly crop up, calling for the filmmaker to be a fireman, a confidant, and a psychiatrist in addition to his directorial duties. It is extremely entertaining and one of the few Truffaut films I own on DVD. 


By David Skolnick

There are only few directors in the history of cinema who can compare to Truffaut. His films are incredibly well-made whether it's a comedy or a drama or, as in most cases, a combination of both. You'd think that because Truffaut made only 21 feature-length films, it wouldn't be that difficult to pick his best five. After all, I get to select nearly 25 percent of them. But because of the quality of each movie, the selection process is difficult. It means some of my favorite films - The Bride Wore BlackShoot the Piano PlayerMississippi Mermaid, The Man Who Loved Women and Stolen Kisses - didn't make this list.

5. Two English Girls (1971): This is a role reversal of Truffaut's classic Jules and Jim, made in 1962, about two men in love with the same woman. In Two English Girls, it is two women in love with the same man, Claude Roc, played by the incomparable Jean-Pierre Léaud, who stars in more Truffaut's films than any other actor and is the face of the French New Wave. Two English Girls takes place around the turn of the 20th century with Claude meeting an English woman, Muriel Brown (Stacey Tendeter), with the two immediately becoming close friends. She invites Claude to her family's estate hoping he'll fall in love with her sister, Ann (Kika Markham). The three are inseparable, but Claude falls for Muriel, who falls even harder for him. Their families insist they don't see each other for a year and if they're still in love after that time, they can be married. Claude spends most of the year having sex with several women in Paris and with only one month until the year is up, he breaks it off, devastating Muriel. Ann, who isn't assertive by nature, goes to France to confront Claude, but instead the two fall in love. While neither relationship works, the three characters are deeply affected for decades as a result of the passionate love each sister has for Claude and his love of them. It's a beautiful yet tragic film that has been wrongfully maligned over the years by some who can’t appreciate its underlying message of intense love never fulfilled.


4. The Woman Next Door (1981): Truffaut's second to last film, released three years before his death, The Woman Next Door tells the story of Bernard Coudray (Gérard Depardieu), a happily married family man living in the French countryside who's life gets turned upside down when Mathilde Bauchard (Fanny Ardant in her greatest role) and her husband move next door. It turns out Bernard and Mathilde had a passionate love affair years ago. They try to fight their feelings, but succumb to them. There are a few light-hearted moments in the film that initially comes off as a romantic comedy. But at its core, it is deep, dark and tragic with outstanding acting and beautiful cinematography. And that ending stays with you long after the closing credits. 

3. Day for Night (1973): This film permanently ended the friendship between Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, probably the second most important director of the French New Wave movement whose earlier films were groundbreaking, but made largely inconsistent movies the rest of his career. Day for Night is a film about making a film with Truffaut playing Ferrand, a director. Godard sent an angry letter to Truffaut after seeing the film. He complained that Truffaut’s character and Jacqueline Bisset, who plays Julie Baker, the lead actress in the fake movie, called Meet Pamela, don't have a sex scene in Day for Night as the two were a real-life couple at the time. Godard wrote a letter calling Truffaut "a liar" and then had the nerve to ask for money for his next film project. Truffaut's letter in response puts Godard in his place, calling him "a liar" by posing as a "victim" of the film industry system despite making whatever movies he desired. As for the film, it's an excellent portrayal of the difficulties and challenges of making a movie with the focus not only on the actors of the fictitious film, such as Bisset and Jean-Pierre Léaud, but also the crew members giving viewers a complete look at the process. What’s very interesting is the fake film comes across as trashy, simplistic and dull, sort of the anti-Truffaut movie. The acting is top-notch with Valentina Cortese stealing many scenes as Severine, a nearly washed-up alcoholic actress having trouble accepting that her better days are behind here. Also, kudos to Truffaut, who is great in his portrayal of the director. It's a beautiful tribute to cinema; a love letter from Truffaut to film without getting mushy or sentimental.


2. The 400 Blows (1959): This is Truffaut's debut feature-length film and it's a masterpiece. Before he made The 400 Blows, Truffaut was a film critic for Cahiers de Cinéma, a French film publication, and made no secret about what he saw as the shortcomings of the movie industry. Incredibly, he shows the world how to make a daring, brilliant film and helps create a movement that changed the face of movies, inspiring numerous directors in the decades since its release. Rather than stick with the traditional French formula for making movies, Truffaut championed films with strong, creative directors who personalize their work. Jean-Pierre Léaud had a small part a year earlier in King on Horseback, but this is his first leading role – a 14-year-old playing the 12-year-old Antoine Doinel, strongly based on Truffaut. As previously mentioned, he'd reprise the character in three other feature-length films (all are excellent with 1968's Stolen Kisses the best of the bunch) and a 30-minute short. You can see even at this age why Léaud would become Truffaut's go-to actor in many films and why at such a young age, he was already a gifted actor. He has a natural charisma, charm and talent, seemingly so at ease portraying the mischievous and misunderstood Antoine. Truffaut deserves a lot of credit for the brilliant filming of this movie, making the gritty, dirty streets of Paris the young actor's main co-star and helping to highlight the lost, confused existence of Antoine. Its final scene on the shoreline with a freeze-frame of Antoine’s face is among the most iconic endings to a film. Many directors, actors and film fans say this is their favorite movie. It's definitely in my top 15.

1. Jules and Jim (1962): Just edging out The 400 Blows as my favorite Truffaut film is this incredible movie. The plot takes place over a period of about 25 years before, during and after World War I, depicting the intense friendship between two men – Jules (Oskar Werner), an Austrian, and Jim (Henri Serre), a Frenchman – that is stronger than many marriages, and how it evolves because of the presence of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, one of cinema's all-time best actresses), an impulsive, captivating and enchanting woman. Catherine loves both men, marrying Jules before the war – he and Jim are fighting for opposing countries and fearful they'll meet in combat. After the war, Jim visits Jules and Catherine, who have a daughter. But things aren't good between the couple and Catherine, who's had several affairs, falls for Jim. Jules' love for her is so great that he agrees to divorce Catherine so she can marry Jim with all three of them, and the child, living together. But that marriage also has its problems. Jim leaves, but plans to return when Catherine becomes pregnant with his child. They don't get back together because of a miscarriage with Jules and Catherine becoming a couple again. That too is short-lived when the three meet years later and Catherine wants to get back together with Jim, who loves her but realizes there's no future for them as a happy couple. The acting is extraordinary, the voice-over narration by Michel Subor greatly enhances the storyline – narration can easily kill a movie – and everything works to perfection from the beautiful cinematography that uses photos, freeze-frame, archived footage and tracking shots to the storyline adapted from Henri-Pierre Roché’s book to Georges Delerue’s soundtrack. Passion and the impact it has on people is something Truffaut focuses on in a number of films, including The Woman Next Door. While the ending to that 1981 film is outstanding and memorable, the conclusion of Jules and Jim is even better. This is one of the finest films ever made. It is as much a piece of art as a master painting, a captivating song or a brilliant poem. It is easily the best French New Wave movie I've seen, and the greatest French film of all-time, which is as big a compliment as I can give because no other foreign country has made more quality movies than France.



Busby Berkeley: The Man Who Saved the Hollywood Musical

By Ed Garea

By the year 1933, the movie musical looked as if it were headed for extinction. The musical was a natural child of the revolution in sound technology; in fact, the first talkie was a musical – The Jazz Singer. Musicals were also a novel way to use the new technology in that, while the audience was being entertained in song, the studios were also figuring out who could speak and who couldn’t; who had charisma and who didn’t. Plus, with sound technology still in its primitive stages, placing a boom microphone over the stage while the assembled cast joined in song was far easier than the problems in drama with hidden microphones in plants and on women’s corsages, with the result being that actors were talking into those plants and corsages.

And – of course – the advantage of filming musicals in those early days was that almost every musical was a hit. But the other side of the coin was that every studio was filling their theater bills with them. It’s like candy: as a tasty treat, fine, but too much and the urge is lost. And it happened that way with the musical. Over 100 were released in 1930 to ever dwindling box office as the novelty wore off. In 1931, only 14 were released. Save for the emergence of Marlene Dietrich in such vehicles as Morocco, and the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers, the musical was in bad shape. In both cases, it was the curiosity about the stars rather than their vehicles that propelled the box office. In Dietrich’s case, her films were quickly shifted from being musicals as such to being dramas with music in them. She would often play a spy or shady character who also worked as a chanteuse or musician in a nightclub, palace or other venue. (Blonde VenusDishonored – where she played the piano, The Song of Songs, etc.)

And yet the itch to do a musical rested like an egg in the studios’ nest, waiting for the right time to hatch. Warner Brothers, a studio noted for more for their “ripped from the headlines” dramas starring Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, or Barbara Stanwyck, decided to take a chance with a book to which they recently purchased the rights, a novel by Bradford Ropes entitled 42nd Street. Amazing, isn’t it? 42nd Street plays just as if Warner Brothers had written it themselves. But no, there was an actual novel on which the movie was based.

While the studio would assign one of its usual directors to handle the story, they brought in Broadway veteran Busby Berkeley to handle the musical numbers. It was Berkeley’s novel approach to the combination of choreography and camera work that set his musicals apart. Of course, his lavish numbers for the movies contained scenery and an ensemble way too large to fit in any conventional Broadway theater, but this was Hollywood. His genius lay in the fact that he perfected the technique of synchronizing the filmed images to a previously recorded soundtrack. Thus, microphones and the problems inherent with them in those early days were not necessary to the action, and the camera no longer had to be imprisoned in soundproof booths. This gave them the freedom that they previously enjoyed during the Silent Age. Now for the first time, fluid camera motion and intricate editing were now possible, and this gave the musical an even greater range than previously. Berkeley took full advantage and then some by placing his cameras on custom-built booms and crafted monorails. 

What’s even more amazing about all this was that Warner Brothers, one of the most frugal studios in Hollywood, gave him the freedom to do so, even if it cost a few more pennies on the production side of the ledger. The result of this unexpected lavish spending was box office receipts that not only allowed the studio to survive those Depression days, but to actually flourish in the times.
  
42nd Street (1933) Director: Lloyd Bacon. Cast: Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Guy Kibbee, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, George E. Stone, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ned Sparks, and Allan Jenkins. Black and White, 89 minutes.

Sawyer, you listen to me, and you listen hard. Two hundred people, two hundred jobs, two hundred thousand dollars, five weeks of grind and blood and sweat depend upon you. It's the lives of all these people who've worked with you. You've got to go on, and you've got to give and give and give. They've got to like you. Got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't because your future's in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you. All right, now I'm through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!

Did we really talk like that back then?

This is it, the granddaddy of them all; the archetypical backstage musical; the one we all go back to when discussing the subject. It captures the essence not only of the Warner Brothers films, but also of the decade itself. Loaded with the gritty urban atmosphere and hip dialogue that was the hallmark of 1930’s Warner Brothers films, the movie was the genesis of several show business musical plot devices that later became well-worn clichés:

The hard-driving Broadway stage director whose finances, teetering health, or other condition finds him literally dying for a new hit;

     The egotistical star who gives everyone else a hard way to go, then right before the big performance, breaks a limb, paving the way for . . .

     The unknown, overlooked, but talented kid from the chorus who takes over the star's role on opening night and makes the musical into the biggest hit on The Great White Way.

We would believe that 42nd Street sprang full-blown out of the mind of Darryl Zanuck, but it wasn’t that way at all. As previously mentioned, the musical is actually derived from a novel of the same name written by Bradford Ropes and published in 1932. Ropes had worked as a dancer on Broadway and put his stage experiences into novels such as 42nd StreetStage Mother (filmed by MGM in 1933), and Go Into Your Dance.

Given its urban setting, 42nd Street was a perfect vehicle for Warner Brothers: it follows a Broadway musical from casting call to the opening performance. The backstage part of the movie meant constant action, so there’s sure to be no dead spots where the ingénue is romancing the juvenile or the cast director is making eyes at the chorine.

As the movie opens we see director Julian Marsh (Baxter) in the office of producers Jones and Barry. They want him at the helm of their new musical, “Pretty Lady,” and he is totally amenable. It seems that he was quite flush before the Crash, but now he needs the money. A phone call interrupts the meeting. It’s from his doctor, who tells him that he just got over a breakdown from too much work, and this new assignment could kill him. Thus we have Marsh’s motive: he needs the money, even if it will kill him. He’s also got another reason for taking the job: a money-drawing star in Dorothy Brock (Daniels). It seems her new sugar daddy, kiddie-car mogul Abner Dillon (Kibbee), is financing the musical.

Word about the new musical quickly goes out, and it is just as quickly discovered that everyone involved or soon-to-be-involved knows it beforehand anyway. This is done using a very clever montage of the sword being passed around. Soon the hopefuls arrive and among them is a woman with a monocle affecting an English accent, soon discovered to be Ann Lowell (Rogers), aka “Anytime Annie.” According to stage manager Andy Lee (Stone): “Not ‘Anytime Annie’” Say, who could forget ‘er? She only said ‘No’ once and then she didn’t hear the question.”

Another featured player introduced is Lorraine Fleming (Merkel). One of the stagehands notices that she’s been hitting the bottle. “Yeah,” another replies, “the peroxide bottle.” That leaves two characters: the juvenile, Billy Lawler (Powell), and the ingénue, Peggy Sawyer (Keeler), and we meet them in short order as Keeler accidentally enters Billy’s dressing room while he’s clad only in his underwear.

Now that we have the assembled the necessary players, the movie concentrates on the reason they’re assembled – to put on a show. Marsh is a no-nonsense, driven director. He’s fighting the clock to the opening while trying to get the best performances possible from the cast he’s chosen. And along the way he has to deal with problems that suddenly crop up, such as the fact that his leading lady, Dorothy Brock, is still in love with her old vaudeville partner, Pat Denning (Brent), seeing him on the sly. If her sugar daddy should find out, he could pull the plug in the whole shebang, and Marsh would left on the outside looking in. To put Denning in his place, Marsh calls upon a few underworld pals of his and they give Denning a message he’s sure to understand, capped off with a sock in the jaw.

But try as he might, Marsh can’t keep Brock and Denning apart and things come to a boil when Brock explodes at a pre-opening party. She ends up throwing everyone out, including her sugar daddy. She also breaks her ankle in the fracas and it looks as if the show is sunk. But Sugar Daddy Dillon has a solution: his new squeeze, Anytime Annie. Marsh turns the suggestion down, but Annie herself pitches for young Sawyer, telling Marsh that if she would turn down this chance of a lifetime, it must be in favor of someone who is really talented. So, it’s Sawyer. Marsh rehearses her until she almost collapses, but then she goes on not only to save the show, but to make it a hit as well.


Once the musical numbers begin, the movie belongs to Berkeley. The first number, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” about a young couple (Keeler and an uncredited Clarence Nordstrom) on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls, sets the tone. Berkeley expands the rail sleeper car into a huge stage, as the just married couple dances their way down to aisle to the accompaniment of Merkel and Rogers warbling a cynical parody of the lyrics. From there Powell takes over in his “Young and Healthy” number, accompanied by Toby Wing, a young actress who might best be described as Berkeley’s “protégé” at the time. A former Goldwyn Girl, it seemed as if the talented Wing was heading for bigger and better things, but her career inexplicably stalled and she reverted back to being the eye candy that filled out a scene.

Everything works up to the big finale, where Keeler sings the title song. Right before she goes on, Marsh gives her the big speech (quoted above). The finale, of course, is wonderful, with Keeler dancing on that we first think is a stage, but as the camera pulls back we see that it’s the top of a taxicab. Keeler has been criticized over the years for her “heavy-footed” dancing in this scene, but keep in mind that she was trained as an Irish step-dancer (yes, they had them even back then), and – anyway – she’s just fine as she is. What she can’t do, however, at least in this film, is act. It’s a good thing her lines were at a minimum, because she is clearly stage acting instead of film acting – and there is a difference, a big difference.

Another line that may at first go unnoticed with all the other innuendo flying around is Marsh’s entreaty to Andy Lee on the last night of rehearsals, asking Andy to come home with him that night because he’s lonely. In the Ropes novel, Marsh is clearly gay and his lover is the show’s juvenile, Billy Lawler, which is how Billy gets all his roles. But not even Warner’s in all its Pre-Code glory could go that far, and it was decided to make Billy infatuated with Peggy instead. Besides, a role such as that for the young Powell would have killed his career before it even got off the ground.

As a movie, 42nd Street was just another offering from Warner Brothers that year, albeit a very popular offering. Today it’s seen as a groundbreaking classic.

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) Director: Mervyn LeRoy and Busby Berkeley (musical numbers). Cast: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, and Ginger Rogers. Black and White, 96 minutes.

Although given the material and the time in which it was made, to think that this film is entirely original would be an erroneous assumption. Its roots go back to a 1923 Warners’ silent entitled The Gold Diggers, a comedy adapted from a play by Avery Hopwood about the uncle (Wyndham Standing) of wealthy young Wally Saunders (John Harron) and his efforts trying to dissuade him from marrying chorus girl Violet Dayne (Anne Cornwall) because he believes all chorus girls are ruthless gold diggers, only after a man for his money. When sound arrived the film was remade as Gold Diggers of Broadway in 1929. The story is essentially the same, only now music is added and the film was shot in two-strip Technicolor.

The success of 42nd Street caused Warners to examine other projects that might be suitable; thus it was only natural that Executive Producer Darryl Zanuck would green light Gold Diggers of Broadway for an update. The original play and movie focused on the efforts of two sisters to hit the big time. Gold Diggers of 1933 would center around three chorines – Keeler, Blondell, and MacMahon – in pursuit of not only their dancing careers, but also three rich men – Powell, William, and Kibbee. Their backstage hijinks would be clothed in a hodgepodge of mistaken identity and screwball romance, flavored with just enough innuendo to keep the audience’s attention in case things began to flag.

Just before filming was to begin, Zanuck and LeRoy decided to change the opening, and in doing so, created not only one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, but also a trademark scenario for movie musicals in general. The film was supposed to open with a semi-documentary montage of closed theaters, empty ticket agencies, and deserted office buildings. After the change, the picture opens on a theater stage, where we see a performance in progress. As the camera pulls away we see that it’s a dress rehearsal and the tune being rehearsed is “We’re in the Money,” with chorines dressed in outfits sporting coinage and Rogers singing a chorus in Pig Latin. It’s not only pure Berkeley, but also changes the entire tone of the movie. A musical is no place for realism – especially a musical set during the Depression.

Of course, as with any Busby Berkeley Warners’ musical, we eagerly await the end to see what Berkeley has come up with to entertain and enthrall us this time. And Gold Diggers of 1933 is no different – not only are we entertained, we are also awed with the amount of imagination that went into each number. “The Shadow Waltz,” where Berkeley used 60 electrically-wired violins and a huge curving staircase to feature them, was definitely awe-inspiring. The number “Pettin’ in the Park,” was one of the most risqué, even in those Pre-Code times, and had to be edited down to prevent some state censorship boards banning the film altogether. The “highlight” of the number was when the women are caught in a sudden rainstorm and have to change behind a flimsy screen. They re-emerge in metal costumes that seem to stump the men until a lecherous baby (played by Billy Barty) hands Powell a can opener.

“Pettin’ in the Park” was supposed to be the last number, but Berkeley moved it ahead, replacing it with a number he was inspired to write while in Washington D.C. during the march of the “Bonus Army,” a group of disaffected veterans from World War I that were seeking advance payment of bonuses due them during the next decade for their service during the war. The number, “Remember My Forgotten Man,” is sung by Blondell (voiced by Jean Cowan) and is a deftly produced and shot plea for those left behind by the economics of the times. It is darkly pessimistic and owes more to the German Expressionism of the ‘20s than the American optimism of the musicals of the ‘30s. It also brings the gaiety of the previous numbers to a crashing halt, giving us all something to think about as we leave the theater.


Trivia: Watch for the “call boy” paging the cast before the “Forgotten Man” number. It’s none other than Berkeley himself.
  
Footlight Parade (1933) Director: Lloyd Bacon. Cast: Jimmy Cagney, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert, and Claire Dodd. Black and White, 102 minutes.

Berkeley already had some ideas for musical numbers when Gold Diggers of 1933 wrapped production. He was thinking ahead and knew here’d be another musical soon down the road. Now all Warners had to do was supply the necessary backstage plot. While Zanuck and his assistants worked out those necessaries, the studio announced that none other than Cagney would star. As if another musical from the hot hand of Berkeley wasn’t enough to draw customers in, the added lure of Cagney playing against type was certain to draw a curiosity factor. What most fans didn’t know at the time was that Cagney got his start on Broadway as a dancer and was always eager to play the same in movies. As soon as he saw the posting for the role he began lobbying Jack Warner for the role. Zanuck immediately saw the box office potential of Cagney in the role and quickly acquiesced to his star’s request.

Now that they had the star, it was time to secure the supporting cast. Powell and Keeler were added; after all, they were a big hit in the previous two films, even to the point where fans thought they were an item offstage, not realizing that Keeler had been married to Al Jolson since 1928. (When Powell wed Blondell, some fans were dismayed, thinking that he was married to Keeler.) Speaking of Blondell, casting her was a natural, for no one in those days – absolutely no one – could deliver a comic line like her. McHugh, a close off-screen pal of Cagney’s, was also added in a supporting role, as were Warners stalwarts Kibbee and Herbert. Now all they had to do was come up with a passable plot to support the musical numbers.

Cagney is Chester Kent, a musical producer who finds himself out of work with the coming of sound. He may be down, but he’s not out. He convinces two partners to throw in with him in producing a series of live action prologues that will precede the feature film in theaters. However, everything’s not going as well as can be expected. For one thing, his main competitor, Gladstone, seems to have a knack for taking his ideas and beating him to the punch with them. There’s a leak somewhere, and Blondell as Nan Prescott, his loyal – and lovesick – secretary, is determined to find it. Nan also has other problems to distract her. For one thing, she and Cagney’s new gold digging girlfriend, Vivian (Dodd) don’t get along. But for Blondell, things come together when she discovers that the source of the leak is none other than Vivian herself, who has been secretly working for the competition. This leads to the best line of the picture, when Blondell is kicking Vivian out of the office – literally. Vivian asks what she’ll do now, to which Blondell replies, “Outside countess. As long as they’ve got sidewalks you’ve got a job.”

The prologue comes off well, highlighted to that point by Berkeley’s number “By a Waterfall,” featuring an 80-foot-by-40-foot swimming pool, lined with glass so that Berkeley could film the swimmers underwater. He designed their suits to as to create the illusion they were naked. They result was so impressive that the audience at the premiere gave it a standing ovation. (Point of logic: Kent is producing prologues to fit in theaters. How does one fit anything that size into a small theater?)

Now a glitch develops: the male lead in the “Shanghai Lil” finale (with Keeler impersonating a Chinese woman) gets too drunk to go on. Enter Cagney in his place, and he and Keeler bring the joint down with their exuberance. Now to the question that’s been on the minds of almost everyone who’s seen the film: In the “Shanghai Lil” sequence, is that John Garfield we see as one of the extras at the beginning? Almost each time I’ve discussed this movie with a film fan, that question always comes up. What’s really amazing is that Garfield in on screen for only 5/6 of a second, yet we remember him. Some historians think it’s him and point to the fact he was doing extra work in addition to his stage roles in Los Angeles at the time. But others, including Garfield’s daughter, insist it’s not him. All I can say is that, if it wasn’t Garfield, then he has an identical twin out there. I will leave the final word to my late wife, a big Garfield fan since she first laid eyes on him in Four Daughters. She said it was definitely Garfield in that scene and I will not disagree.

Both Warner Brothers and Berkeley would go on after this to produce Wonder BarDamesGold Diggers of 1935Stars Over Broadway, and Hollywood Hotel, using basically the same formula. And when something is overused it loses its novelty. This is what essentially happened: the formula used so successfully by Warners grew stale and was replaced with the Art Deco stylings of producer Pandro Berman’s Fred Astaire and Rogers musicals at RKO. Berkeley, however, would start afresh at MGM with Gershwin music and Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland as his stars, creating a new take on his by now classic style. And just when we began to believe we’d seen the last of Berkeley and 42nd Street, it popped up once again, this time on the Broadway stage and became the biggest thing on Broadway that year. What goes around comes around – only to go around and come back around again – and again.



Howard Hawks and the Intellectuals

By Ed Garea

The name of Howard Hawks carries a definite connotation. Known for his Westerns and action yarns, off the screen he was known as a “man’s man.” Before he found his passion working in Hollywood, Hawks served in the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I and after the war flew planes and drove racecars. When not on the set, Hawks spent his time hunting, fishing, golfing, driving fast cars, and piloting airplanes.
His circle of friends reflected his interests. Two of his closest friends were Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Hawks fished, hunted, collected guns, drank and womanized with both. Faulkner worked for Hawks as a screenwriter or contributor on a number of films, among them Air Force (1943), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Land of the Pharaohs (1955). 

Hemingway, though he never worked directly for Hawks, is famed in movie lore for an apocryphal story set in 1939 while the two were on a fishing – and drinking – trip. Hawks tells the story in Peter Bogdanovich’s book Who the Devil Made It? (The title itself originated from a quote by Hawks.):

I told Hemingway I could make a picture out of his worst book and he said, rather grumpily, “What’s my worst book?” I said, “That bunch of junk called ‘To Have and Have Not.’ ” He said, “Well, I needed money.” I said, “Oh, I don’t care about that part.” He said, “You can’t make a picture out of that.” “Yes, I can.” So for about 10 days we sat around, while we were fishing, and talked about how these characters met one another, what kind of people they were, and how they ended up. When I came back, I went over and bought the story and started in on the premise that Hemingway and I had evolved. 

Hawks has also wanted to make a film about the wartime escapades of his friend Hemingway with the famed war photographer Robert Capa, but the project never got off the drawing board.

But Faulkner and Hemingway served as more than friends, they also served Hawks’ ideal of what an intellectual should be; the word “intellectual” implies a man of action that can write a damn good novel or story. Nowhere in any of Hawks’ films will we find any interest in ideas as such. None of his films are built around a separate social or ethical theme. For Hawks, ideas are part and parcel of the situations, the actions, and the characters in his films. His films are unabashedly commercial: “I never made a statement,” biographer Todd McCarthy quoted him as saying. “Our job is to make entertainment. I don’t give a God damn about taking sides.” Seeing himself as a storyteller who used film, he never let an idea come between the story and audience.

That being said, he did have certain attitudes that were expressed in his films. Foremost is the attitude of male camaraderie. It’s what allows Hawks’ heroes to overcome adversity, and without it the hero cannot succeed. We need to stick together if we are to win. In his wartime Air Force (1943), it is when the crew of the Mary Ann comes together as a crew that the Japanese enemy starts being overcome. 

Even more representative of this attitude is Only Angels Have Wings (1939): Cary Grant heads a decrepit airmail and freight service in the Peruvian Andes. They only persevere because of their common bond. If a pilot cracks up and dies it’s because he didn’t have what it took, period. No excuses. Richard Barthelmess is a pilot who bails out when his plane gets in trouble, leaving its mechanic there to die. No one wants anything to do with him. It’s only when he refuses to bail out when his new plane is damaged and lands it with paralyzed mechanic Thomas Mitchell that he is finally accepted by his crewmates. 

Not even women are exempt: Jean Arthur is a showgirl stranded among them. Because she doesn’t understand what camaraderie is, she doesn’t care for what she sees as a cavalier attitude. It’s only when she becomes “one of the boys” that Grant is able to return her love and open himself up emotionally to her. This is the world of Howard Hawks.

So it stands to reason that he has no use for the intellectual as such; what we would refer to jokingly as “the egghead.” This sort of intellectual is incapable of action on his own. He’s lost in contemplation of some arcane idea or object necessary to realize his arcane idea. He’s separate from his peers because of this and cannot relate himself to the social world around him – the real world.

We can divide Hawks’ attitude to intellectuals into Prewar and Postwar. The Prewar Hawks saw the intellectual as a bumbling bozo living in a world estranged from that of ordinary society, a threat to no one but himself in his endless obsession with puzzles and objects. But, for Hawks, the Postwar intellectual is now seen as a threat: his creation of an agent of destruction capable of wiping mankind from the face of the planet signifies his anti-life stance. Worse, he doesn’t realize the gravity of what he has done. Far from being isolated from society he is now in positions of authority, but his lack of common sense and enthrallment with utopian ideals will doom us unless checked by those that do possess the common sense and commitment to life that he so clearly lacks.

Hawks has often said in interviews that the characters of David Huxley in Bringing Up Baby and Bertram Potts in Ball of Fire were exaggerations; and the same with Dr. Barnaby Fulton in Monkey Business. Hawks said he saw the role as a great comedy vehicle for Grant. As for The Thing from Another Planet, he said that he kicked it around with screenwriters Charlie Lederer and Ben Hecht and they decided the story needed a heavy (besides the Thing), so they chose the scientists. But this explanation by itself shows a great coincidence, one too great to be taken at face value. Huxley could have been presented as a normal man, without all the baggage. The same for Potts; why not make Stanwyck’s character the heavy, the boob? As for Monkey Business, why does Hawks go to the lengths he does to make Fulton look silly? As for The Thing from Another Planet, why isn’t everyone banded together to stop the invader? Why must there be a split and a war within the colony? No, the way he presents intellectuals and academics in his movies is perfectly in keeping with the Hawksian world-view, and that of his screenwriters.

Prewar

Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant), the hero of Hawks’ flawed screwball masterpiece, Bringing Up Baby, is a milquetoast paleontologist who’s been working for the past four years piecing together a brontosaurus skeleton in a museum. His fiancée and assistant, Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) is officious, smothering, and buttoned down to the extreme. She reminds us of Bebe Neuwith’s repressed Lilith in Cheers and Frasier. In marrying him, she declares that she’s more interested in David’s work than in him as a person. “Our marriage must entail no domestic entanglements whatsoever,” she tells David. It’s a sign that she will be the dominant in the family. For his part he simply acquiesces to her demands, one of which is winning a $1 million endowment from the wealthy Mrs. Carlton Random (May Robson) for the museum. Her lawyer, Alexander Peabody (George Irving), will make the decision on her behalf, so, as Alice reminds him, David must make a good impression. During David’s game of golf with Mr. Peabody he crosses paths with heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) and we know right away his life will never be the same. She’s capricious, acting for the moment as opposed to David. If we were to cast this in Freudian terms, we might say she is the Id to his Superego.


But unlike David and Alice, Susan is alive. She ruins David’s golf game – and meeting with Mr. Peabody – in an argument over whose golf ball it is on the course. From here on in with their relationship, she dominates him completely. But it is within this relationship that David finally begins to grow, for he is finally out in the real world, where things take place by chance and not through planning.

Most of the film’s shenanigans take place at the home of Susan’s Aunt Elizabeth (May Robson). David makes a bad impression on her at the door, and later discovers she is THE Mrs. Carlton Random. So David and Susan must hide his identity, lest her aunt find out who he really is and cancel the endowment. During their time together, a vertebrae David has been seeking to complete his skeleton finally arrives, but is taken by the family dog, named George. It is in their attempt to discover where George has hidden the bone that David’s world is turned upside down. Susan discovers that the gardener has accidentally let Baby (the leopard Susan’s brother sent her as a gift to her aunt and the Baby of the title) loose from the stable and she has mistaken a wild leopard from a nearby circus being carted off for Baby and lets the animal out of his cage.

The climax of the film occurs when Susan spots the wild leopard on the roof of Dr. Lehman’s house. Thinking it’s Baby she tries to coax it down, but Lehman, coming to the front door, sees only Susan (who he thinks is deranged, based upon his earlier meeting with her at a dinner club), drags her into the house, and calls for the constable. When Constable Slocum arrives, he sees David slinking around the grounds and arrests him as a Peeping Tom.

At the jail, Slocum, with the help of Lehman’s providing psychological theories, refuses to believe either David or Susan. When Elizabeth and her guest, Horace Applegate, arrive to bail the duo out, Slocum arrests them as well, believing they are impersonators. Unable to get Slocum to listen, Susan concocts a story that she is moll “Swinging Door Susie” and the others are “the Leopard Gang. This Slocum and Lehman swallow whole, and while they are writing it up, Susan escapes through a window. Enter lawyer Peabody, who is recognized by Lehman. He explains their real identities. Meanwhile Susan has captured the circus leopard and drags it in to the station. David now takes charge, probably for the first time in his life, and using a chair, backs the beast into an empty cell.

The ending of the film confirms David’s experience: Alice breaks off their engagement and David returns to his brontosaurus. Hearing Susan’s voice in the outer corridor, he scrambles up to a platform overlooking the skeleton. Susan climbs a nearby ladder on the other side of the brontosaurus, telling him that she has retrieved his bone and that Aunt Elizabeth gave her the million dollars, which she tells David she will donate to the museum. Initially, David is unmoved by her, but thinking over their weekend, admits that it was the best weekend he’s ever had and it was due to her. Susan, overcome, begins to swoon on the ladder and realizes that she’s losing her balance. As David tries to pull her to his platform, she lands on top of the skeleton, causing this one-of-a-kind restoration to collapse in a heap. David now shrugs it off and embraces Susan.

The collapse of the brontosaurus is our sign that David has left the ivory tower for the land of the living, and in embracing Susan (representing the life force), he trades the sterile for the vital. I said it was a flawed masterpiece. This is due to the horrible miscasting of Hepburn in a role she was ill-prepared to enact. It was her first comedy, and she simply wasn’t up to playing against Grant, who excelled at any type of comedy, from drawing room to madcap screwball. It was a role that screamed out for Carole Lombard, who could match Grant in frenetic energy without appearing obviously playing a comedy.

Sometimes overlooked is the marvelous performance in the film by Fritz Feld as psychiatrist Dr. Lehman. Upon running into Susan in a restaurant and getting into an argument with her over identical purses, he thinks she is deranged. And by his strict standards, she is. However, she never takes the time to explain and, more importantly, he never takes the time to listen. He’s too busy trying to pigeonhole her into some mental aberration or other. Later, when the equally daffy constable Slocum (Walter Catlett) takes Susan, David, and the whole bunch into jail, Lehman is there to concoct strange psychological theories based on the line of baloney Susan is feeding both of them. It begs the question of who is really deranged: Susan, or the authorities.

The next example of the Prewar intellectual skewered by Hawks is linguistics professor Bertram Potts, played by Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire (1941). Like David Huxley, Potts exists in a vacuum cut off from everyday society – and reality. He oversees a group of like-minded intellectuals that have spent the last nine years composing an encyclopedia. When the garbage collector (Allen Jenkins) drops by for help with a radio quiz, his colorful use of slang convinces Potts that his article on slang, composed only from research books, is already outdated, and he needs to do further research, which can only be had by going directly into the field. 


He goes to a nightclub, where he writes down every slang expression he hears. He also meets stripper Sugarpuss O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), inviting her to a slang symposium. She dismisses his invitation, but later learns that the D.A. is looking to subpoena her as a witness in his case against her gangster boyfriend, Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews). She now takes Potts up on his invitation and arrives at his doorstep later that night.  (In the Bogdanovich interview, Hawks says he based the plot on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.)

What begins as a match between two differing points of view ends up with them falling in love and Potts having to rescue her from Lilac, who has kidnapped her and taken her to New Jersey to be wed, as a wife cannot testify against her husband. Potts, accompanied by the professors and the garbage collector, comes to her rescue and Potts realizes he must fight Lilac. Knowing he has to fight Lilac, Potts has brought along a book on how to box, but it is of no help. Only when he discards the book and relies on his instincts is he able to subdue Lilac and his gang.

Both Huxley and Potts live in ivory towers, cut off from the world-at-large. And both are redeemed through the intervention of a strong woman rooted in the real world, with each experiencing an existential catharsis. David confesses to Susan in the end that their past weekend was the most fun he’s ever had, and Potts, thinking he’s speaking with another professor, confesses not only his love for Sugarpuss, but how she’s made him come alive. And that is the point Hawks is making in both films – the professors are dead, living in the past or in books. Because the Academic could only hurt himself, he was a comical figure and a subject for screwball comedy.

In Part Two, we’ll examine the scientist from Hawks’ Postwar view as constituting a threat. The threat from within comes in Monkey Business and the threat from without is seen in The Thing From Another World.

FILMOGRAPHY:

Bringing Up Baby (RKO, 1938) Director: Howard Hawks. Screenplay: Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde. Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, May Robson, Charlie Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, May Robson, Fritz Feld, and Alice Walker. B&W, 102 minutes.

Ball of Fire (Goldwyn, 1941) Director: Howard Hawks. Screenplay: Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Dana Andrews, Dan Duryea, Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, S.K. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, and Allen Jenkins. B&W, 111 minutes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bogdanovich, Peter – Who the Devil Made It? (New York: Knopf; 1997)

McCarthy, Todd – Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood (New York: Grove Press; 2000)



Bergman’s Trilogy of Faith

By David Skolnick

By 1961, Ingmar Bergman had cemented his place among cinema's greatest directors. 1957 saw him direct what many movie fans consider to be his two masterpieces – The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. They are notable for the themes that would define Bergman to moviegoers: religion, morality and humanity. He takes these themes to an even greater level in the three movies, called the “Trilogy of Faith” and released between 1961 and 1963.

Bergman has stated many times in interviews that he didn't intend for Through a Glass Darkly (1961) and the two follow-up films – Winter Light and The Silence (both released in 1963) – to be considered as a trilogy. But there is nevertheless a definite connection between the films. While there are no characters or storylines carried over from one film to the next, but the themes are strikingly similar. Like most of Bergman's films, there are no happy endings and they provide an insight into the human psyche. But the intensity in these three is much greater.

While Bergman addresses religion in several of his movies, these are more about God's silence and the potential horror rather than compassion a higher being would show in the face of tragedy and uncertainty. They also focus more on isolation – the number of actors in each film is minimal as are most of the settings – and the destruction of the family. And for those who equate Bergman with long movies, each film in the Trilogy films is under 100 minutes so you can take your time closely watching while attempting to understand them.

Through A Glass Darkly (Svensk Filmindustri/Janus Films, 1961) – Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow, and Lars Passgard. 89 min.

Bergman does his best to initially fool his viewers. The movie starts off with the four actors emerging from the sea laughing and in high spirits, spending time together on an island. (The movie is the first Bergman filmed on the island of Faro, which later became his home.) But as we quickly discover, things are not all that pleasant. Karin (Andersson) has just left a mental institution where she was treated with shock therapy to cure her of what appears to be schizophrenia, and is reunited with her husband Martin (von Sydow). They are on vacation with her father David (Bjornstrand) and her 17-year-old brother Minus (Passgard). Martin confides to David, a novelist, that there is no cure for Karin. She however believes she's turned a corner.

Martin loves Karin, but she is no longer able to show much emotion, except loyalty, for her husband. David has spent his entire life being emotionally detached from his children, which severely impacts Minus, who is dealing with teenage angst. Minus desires a real relationship with his father, who realizes he's been an absentee parent, but does nothing to change it. In a quiet moment, after giving the three others thoughtless presents from a recent trip, David breaks down in tears alone. Yet he tells his family that he's cutting his vacation short for another job. Also, David is experiencing writer's block and finds his inspiration for a potential novel in the deterioration of his daughter's mental state. He keeps a diary of her condition, which she discovers. She was going to lose touch with reality at some point soon, but her discovery of her father’s journal gets her there a little quicker.


Karin's delusions consume her and she goes into a room where she claims she hears the voices of other people behind wallpaper. She eventually comes to believe that God will reveal Himself to her in that room. The voices keep on talking and Karin confides in her confused and vulnerable brother about what she's experiencing. (While it isn't shown on camera, it's heavily suggested that Karin seduces Minus and the two have sex.)

Karin realizes she cannot live in two worlds and agrees to return to the asylum. But before that the voices call her back to the room telling her God is there. With a helicopter landing just outside the room, and with the windows open, the wind created by the blade opens a door in the room and Karin "sees" God. She screams in horror. After being sedated by Martin, Karin said God came to her as a spider – the “Spider-God” theme is in other Bergman movies – with a cold, calm, stony face who tried to unsuccessfully "penetrate" her.

Martin goes with Karin in the helicopter while David and Minus stay behind stunned by what they've seen. Minus, who has lost touch with reality because of his sister's delusions, wonders if he can go on. Despite what just happened to Karin, Martin speaks of God and love. "I don't know if love is the proof of God's existence or if it's God himself." The discussion brings great comfort to Minus. While some of that is in his father’s words, the mere fact that his father spoke to him is significantly more important. The film ends with a hint of optimism with a somewhat stunned/somewhat happy Minus saying, "Papa spoke to me."

The actors are authentic in their roles, particularly Andersson, who has the most-challenging part. The dialogue, while minimal at times, is insightful. While Karin slips in and out of reality, the film is real and meaningful. 

Winter Light (Svensk Filmindustri/Janus Films, 1963) – Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Gunnel Lindbloom, Max von Sydow, Allan Edwall, Kolbjorn Knudsen, Olof Thunberg, and Elsa Ebbesen. 81 min.

Bjornstrand shines in this film that pulls no punches when it comes to questioning God, and if He exists, why does he remain silent?

Bergman's films aren't light watching, but Winter Light challenges the viewer more than usual. Bjornstrand plays Tomas Ericsson, a pastor at a church whose congregation is getting smaller and smaller. The town seems to be dying, but more central to the film is fewer people are attending church. Tomas questions his own faith and relationship with God, and does a poor job of hiding it from the very parishioners that depend upon him for spiritual solace.

His problems began four years earlier with the death of his wife, the only woman he ever loved. Her death made Tomas reevaluate God to the point of wondering if He exists and if so, why has He left him living a horrible existence.

The parishioners include Marta (Thulin), the local school teacher who is in love with Tomas and has been intimate with him since the passing of his wife; Jonas Persson (von Sydow), who is depressed after learning China is developing an atomic bomb; and Persson's wife, Karin, who is deeply concerned about her husband's mental state.

Marta, an atheist, wants to marry Tomas, but he doesn't love her. She sends him a letter detailing their time together. Rather than have Tomas read it, however, Bergman gives us a close-up of Marta speaking the content of the letter, showing her vulnerability, loneliness and desire for passion in the monologue in a brilliant turn by Thulin. We learn that the pastor became repulsed after she developed a skin condition that initially caused a rash on her hands (stigmata perhaps). It became worse when the unsightly rash covered her entire body. Bergman cuts several times between the pastor and a sculpture of Jesus being crucified, located inside the church, to symbolically show Tomas' suffering. With that in mind, it's not a stretch to compare Tomas' rejection of Marta because of her skin condition as a religious rejection of the human flesh.

Jonas returns to the church seeking answers and understanding from Tomas about the Chinese developing the atomic bomb. But (doubting?) Tomas provides no help as he talks about his lack of faith rather than listening to his parishioner. In this scene, Bergman reintroduces the “Spider-God” from Through a Glass Darkly. Tomas tells Jonas that God used to be one “who loved mankind.” After his wife’s death, He became a “Spider-God, a monster.”

Tomas tells Jonas it is more logical for there to not be God so the atrocities people commit against each other make more sense. If God existed, He wouldn't let all such terrible things happen. Tomas also suggests if God exists, He is silent so there is no reason to put you faith in Him. This advice drives Jonas over the edge. He grabs his shotgun, drives off and kills himself. 

Tomas – with Marta along for the ride – agrees to tell Karin that Jonas is dead. He can’t offer sympathy or empathy (even though his wife died four years prior) and is left asking Karin if she wants to read some Bible verses with him. She rejects the offer.

Tomas, nursing a nasty cold throughout the film (Bjornstrand was actually sick during some of the time this was made), and Marta finally have it out with the latter begging the pastor to marry her so the two can be happy. Tomas is cruel, telling her that he never loved her, never will and she is nothing compared to his wife.

The film ends with Algot (Edwall), a sexton at the church, asking Tomas about Christ's final hours in which he is brutally beaten and crucified. Algot, a hunchback, said that Christ's physical pain didn’t last long. While it was certainly horrible, Algot believes the mental suffering – being rejected by his disciples and then hearing nothing but silence from God in his greatest time of need – was worse. Tomas agrees. Seemingly unaffected, Tomas conducts mass, the only steady activity he has in his miserable existence, even though Marta, who doesn’t believe in God, is the lone parishioner.

This is about an intense a film as you're going to see. At least in Through a Glass Darkly, Minus finally gets to have a conversation with his father that provides him with the tiniest glimmer of hope. There's nothing in this film that's uplifting. It’s depressing, but still fascinating and beautifully filmed. Bjornstrand, who is one of my favorite Bergman film actors, and Thulin are exceptional, particularly when interacting with each other. Bergman has said this was his favorite film he made. I've found others to be better, but it is certainly one of his most compelling and troubling films.

The Silence (Svensk Filmindustri/Janus Films, 1963)  Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindbloom, Hakan Jahnberg, Jorgen Lindstrom, and Birger Malmsten. 96 min. 

Thulin is back, this time as Ester, a seriously-ill language translator. She is traveling by train through portions of Europe with her free-spirited and beautiful but insecure sister, Anna (Lindbloom), and the latter's 10-year-old son, Johan (Lindstrom). It is obvious from the first time we see them that the sisters don't like each other, aren't close and resent each other. The first question I had was: "Why are they traveling together?" The answer is never given.

Ester has a major bronchial attack, forcing the trio off the train to allow her to rest in a hotel. The country they are in is on the brink of war. You can tell that by the tanks that appear in a few scenes. The country they are in, likely in Central Europe (though never mentioned by name), and from the appearance of tanks in a few scenes, we can infer that it is on the brink of war. The sisters don’t speak the language, but after a while, Ester is able to communicate with an elderly waiter/bell-hop at the hotel to have him bring her liquor for self-medication and cigarettes.

There is little dialogue in this film. (Well, it is called The Silence.) Some of the dialogue is in the language of the country the three are in with no subtitles for that fictitious language.

The Silence is more sexually explicit than most other Bergman films, and more so than any other he’d directed to that point. The movie includes a few nude scenes with Lindbloom, a couple having sex at a table at a cabaret with Anna a few feet away, and a masturbation scene with Thulin, whose character, we are led to believe, is a closet lesbian. 


The friction between the sisters (Ester is too clingy and judgmental) and boredom leads Anna to leave their hotel suite for a night out. Anna leaves behind her son, who is left to roam the hotel seeking ways to entertain himself. He has fun with a group of carnival troupe of dwarves, but after a few minutes, the main dwarf comes into their hotel room and puts an end to it. It’s sort of like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer after leaving the North Pole playing with other animals until their mother forces Rudy to get lost.

Johan is stuck with Ester, who frightens him likely because of the problems between his mother and aunt. He is loyal to his mother even though she leaves him behind at the hotel. After a while, Ester and Johan become somewhat close.

During one of her first times away from the hotel, Anna wanders into a cabaret with the couple having sex nearby. She also meets a restaurant waiter (Malmsten), who is very interested in her sexually.

When Anna returns alone, Ester accuses her of sleeping around, which was not the case. But she finds the waiter and an empty room at the hotel and has sex, largely because of what Ester said to her. She is also furious that her sister has become close to her son. Anna doesn't want to stay in the foreign country any longer, and the next day she and Johan get on a train heading for home, leaving Ester behind to die alone at the hotel. Before they leave, Ester gives a note to Johan, which he starts to read on the train. Anna takes the note out of her son's hands and reads it. It turns out to be a list of translated words to help the young boy on his journey through foreign countries on his way home.

There isn't much overt religion or references to God in this film. It's more about the lack of spirituality among those who only look to God in their time of desperate need. It took nearly 30 minutes into the film for the word God to be mentioned. As Ester realizes her life is quickly slipping away, she begs God to let her die in her home. But God is silent, not answering her. The characters in this film as well as Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Lights, ask a lot of God. They receive only silence in return.

Bosley Crowther, in his original review of the film in The New York Times, wrote that “what Mr. Bergman is trying to tell us is something each individual viewer must fathom and discover himself. Or, indeed, one may reasonably question whether he is trying to give us anything save a grim philosophical observation of a tragic aspect of life." While Crowther isn't much of a fan, I'm sure if Bergman read the review, he did so with a smile on his face.


The Artist and His Canvas: Early Bergman

By David Skolnick

In examining the complexities of people and capturing these on film, Ingmar Bergman has few peers.

His films go beyond merely being compelling and interesting; his goal is to give his audience a glimpse into themselves, and by extension, their humanity. It’s more than an artistic coincidence that Bergman seemed to know a lot about relationships: He was married five times, divorced four times, and had notable love affairs with three of his leading ladies: Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann.

In addition to disintegrating relationships, Bergman’s films focus on subtexts such as death, religion, loneliness, regret and self-examination. They’re also beautifully shot with lengthy close-ups that capture the moods and feelings of his films’ characters, many who are entertainers of some sort ranging from prima ballerinas and concert pianists to small-time traveling actors.

Rarely does a Bergman film have a happy ending and there are times in which there doesn’t seem to be an ending. Those movies are snapshots of life without a conclusion. 

It’s ironic that a comedy – the excellent 1955 film, Smiles of a Summer Night – gave Bergman his first international hit. Two years later, Bergman released The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, two classics that cemented his well-deserved status as one of cinema’s greatest directors. He would go on to make numerous other memorable films.

But we are interested here with Bergman’s earlier movies. Are they as good as his later work? Did they give clues as to what he would create?

I recently saw five of his early films. While Bergman, as with many artists, sticks to a central theme, he diverges and adds to it to give the audience the impression they’re not seeing the same movie at a different date, which can’t be said of many of his fellow directors/producers.


Torment (aka Frenzy) (1944): Bergman wrote the screenplay and directed small parts of this film, including the finale, but did not receive a directing credit. Alf Sjoberg is the film’s credited director, and he appears to have been a major influence on the young Bergman. If you watch Bergman-directed films you can see Sjoberg’s influence: The crisp black-and-white cinematography, effective use of shadows and  the slow mental breakdown of one of the main characters.
Torment is about problems at a Swedish high school, primarily caused by a cruel and sadistic Latin teacher, (Stig Jarrel). We never learn the teacher’s name, but all of the students and some of the other teachers appropriately call him Caligula behind his back. (Yeah, he’s that bad.) The movie focuses on one student, Jan-Erik Widgren (Alf Kjellin), the target for much of Caligula’s torture.
Widgren falls in love with a slightly older woman who works at a store near the school, selling cigarettes. A troubled soul, she tells Widgren of her victimization at the hands of a mysterious older man. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who is the older man.
Widgren is on the verge of quitting school with only two weeks left before graduation as he is unable to withstand any more cruelty from Caligula, but it gets worse. In a rage, the teacher kills the woman. Trying to cover up his responsibility for the death, the teacher concentrates on getting Widgren expelled. But this has a positive catharsis in the young man, giving him a direction in his life while Caligula, on the other end of Bergman’s spectrum, is condemned to loneliness and misery. He calls for his former student’s forgiveness; something he doesn’t receive.
It’s a good film with a strong performance from Jarrel and a solid script from Bergman. Look for Stig Olin, an early Bergman film regular, as Widgren’s friend, Sandman.



Crisis (1946): Bergman’s directorial debut in feature films. He also wrote the screenplay. While it stands on its own as a personal effort, it but pales in comparison to his later work.
A narrator at the beginning of the film sets the mood. “I wouldn’t call this a great or harrowing tale. It really is just an everyday drama.”
He’s correct. There’s nothing special about this movie, but ironically that is precisely what makes it special: Bergman’s knack of capturing and magnifying the ordinary; taking it from mere role play into an almost exact mirror of the human condition.

There are a handful of early Bergman film acting regulars in this film. Of particular note is Stig Olin, who has the best role as Jack, a lowlife con-man who develops a conscience at the end of the film. The movie’s featured character is Nelly (Inga Landgre), who would later play the wife of Max von Sydow’s knight in The Seventh Seal.

The plot centers around Nelly, who is raised in the country by a loving older woman, who is dying. Nelly’s birth mother comes to the small town when Nelly turns 18 and successfully manipulates her daughter into coming to the big city to help her at her beauty salon.

Bergman’s point is sacrifice versus selfishness; trust versus betrayal, but both the director and his storyline lack the necessary strength at this point and Bergman clutters the canvas with too many useless characters. The film stands more as a testament to the director’s own personal growth than to a cognizant storyline.

Thirst (Three Strange Loves) (1949): I had to stop about 20 minutes into this movie to read about what I was watching. That helped me considerably as I would have never figured it out on my own. The film goes from present time to flashbacks without giving any indication the latter are about the past. Bergman uses the flashback to supersede time itself, adding a fourth dimension to the character and delving even deeper into the interior life.

Thirst is about the unhappy marriage (surprise!) between Rut, a woman who was a ballet dancer (note Bergman’s fascination with entertainers), and Bertil. They’re returning on a train from a vacation in Italy as they recall past love affairs, none of which are happy. Rut’s affair with a married military officer resulted in her having a botched abortion, the consequences of which are that she can no longer bear children, and is the major factor in the couple’s tension.

The recollection of other unpleasant relationships causes great strain on their marriage, a strain that is only relieved when Bertil kills her. But does he? No, it’s only a dream. Bertil wakes up, and out of nowhere, they decide to give their marriage a real chance to succeed. Bertil’s dream symbolizes not only their tension, but that their lives previous were a dream. Now awakened into reality, they can only decide to slog on. (With the baggage the two of them have, I’d give them another few months, but the movie ends.)

In the hands of a lesser talent, it would be annoying but Bergman uses the film to help with our understanding of the characters. Background shots of lakes, clouds and forests and the unusual camera angles are used to define and move the characters along. For every moment in the film there is an equal moment when Bergman wishes to evoke a precise feeling, and we should not overlook this.

A note: Bergman didn’t write the screenplay. Herbert Grevenius, who also wrote Summer Interlude, did the honors here.

Thirst is choppy, sloppy, and confusing. It has a few Bergman elements such as the extreme close-ups and a nostalgic look at past relationships, even though they were bad. But it’s the most unBergman Bergman movie I’ve seen, and, ultimately, I found it less interesting than his other work from this period.


To Joy (1950): An excellent film about two members of a symphony orchestra (the theme of entertainer-as-hero), Stig Eriksson (Stig Olin again) and Marta Olsson (Maj-Britt Nilsson), who fall in love and marry. While I’m not a classical music fan, Bergman does an outstanding job in this film of using it to move the story.

Stig is an ambitious violinist who dreams of being a famous soloist. The problem is he just isn’t that good, which leads him to never be happy and believe the world is out to get him. The movie is told in Bergman’s favorite form, a flashback, and opens with Stig learning about the death of Marta and a child. Even though we know the tragic ending, the final scene is still incredible and moving.

There is little joy in this film, but it’s compelling nonetheless. There’s no doubt this is a Bergman movie, and an excellent Bergman movie at that. Besides the close-ups (no mere sleight of camera for Bergman, but an integral feature of the character), the back and forth of the relationship, and use of music, there are several scenes that allow the passion and love between Stig and Marta to be experienced, even through the tough times.


Summer Interlude (1951): At this point in his directing career, Summer Interlude was Bergman’s greatest film and a strong indicator of what he would do in the future. It’s almost as if Bergman is foreshadowing some of his greatest movies. There is one scene that has a dying woman playing chess with a priest (The Seventh Seal). The leads are seen picking wild strawberries. The summer is seen as the perfect season in this film, as it is in Smiles of a Summer Night. Summer is Bergman’s symbol for happiness: warm but all too short in the Scandinavian climate. We get the Bergman close-ups, the passionate but rocky romance, and questions about religion, all told in flashback. Maj-Britt Nilsson is the female lead (Marie) again. As in To Joy, she’s a ballerina, although this time she’s a successful one.

Marie is detached and off-putting, emotionally empty. It helps her focus on being a prima ballerina, but does nothing to overcome her isolation, and hurts her relationship with her boyfriend, David (played by Alf Kjellin), a newspaper reporter. That the two are together at all is somewhat of a mystery: he comes across as light-hearted while Marie is an ice queen, seemingly incapable of love or even basic, simple kindnesses.

We learn that Marie shut herself off emotionally because of a tragic love affair 13 years earlier with Henrik (Birger Malmsten in his eighth of 11 Bergman films) while on a summer vacation. The two fall madly in love, but Henrik dies when diving into water. (You’re supposed to check the depth of water before diving in head-first: a lesson Henrik learned the hard way.)

After that, “Uncle” Erland, an older family friend, takes advantage of Marie’s grief to engage in a love affair with her, which results in her emotional shutdown. The memories of Henrik return after Erland sends Marie the diary Henrik kept that summer and release the bottled-up emotions return for Marie, who recalls that wonderful time 13 years ago. Happiness for Bergman is always temporal and transitory. She comes to terms with her hatred of Erland, confides in her ballet master (Stig Olin once again!), and is finally able to show love for David.

In a telling moment during one of the film’s final scenes, Marie removes the heavy makeup she wears for the ballet’s last dress rehearsal. As she takes off the makeup, she is also exposing her true self, looking young and happy as she did during that magic and tragic summer with Henrik. While the symbolism is all too obvious, it still cannot distract us from the emotions we feel in this incredibly touching scene.

Bergman has called Summer Interlude “one of my most important films.” It definitely was a sign of things to come for one of cinema’s most talented and iconic directors.


The Progression of Myrna Loy

By Ed Garea

Sometimes I wonder that – if not for the arrival of sound – whether Myrna Loy would have been as a big a star as she became. And then there are times when I wonder that if not for MGM, whether Myrna Loy could have vaulted out of the supporting cast to stardom.

The story of Loy’s early years in Hollywood has become one of the essential stories in Hollywood mythology. Born Myrna Adele Williams in Radersburg, Montana, on August 2, 1905, she was raised on a ranch outside Helena by an adoring mother and father who encouraged her in the arts. Her father, besides being a rancher, was also the youngest person elected to the Montana State Legislature. When he died in 1918 during the influenza pandemic, her mother moved the family to Culver City, California.  Myrna was enrolled at the Westlake School for Girls, but when the administration dampened her theatrical aspirations, she left the school and enrolled at Venice High School, where she took part in various stage productions. (The school would later name its awards for Speech and Drama excellence, the ‘Myrnas.’)

At the age of 18, she landed a job as a dancer at Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Movie House. Spotted in a publicity photo of theater by Rudolph Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova, Myrna was invited to test for the part of the leading lady in their new production, Cobra. Though she didn’t get the part, she landed a small part as a vamp in Natacha Rambova’s movie, What Price Beauty?

In her early career, Loy toiled as The Vamp. From what I’ve seen of her early silents, she was Theda Bara with bared fangs: focused and dangerous to the men who crossed her path. She accepted a number of small roles, some uncredited, for various studios. The highlight of this period was a small and uncredited role as a Roman slave girl in Ben Hur.

In 1925, she changed her last name to Loy and signed on with Warner Brothers. The studio continued to place her in small parts, but a pivotal role came with her casting in Across the Pacific (1926), playing a half-caste woman. Later she began to become typecast as “the exotic,” playing Chinese, Asian Indians, American Indians, Mexicans, Eurasians, What Have You.  Without a doubt, her most embarrassing role was in blackface as the dusky Parisian Fifi in Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927). The leads, Ham (Tom Conklin) and Eggs (Heinie Conklin), were also in blackface and are AWOL in Paris, where they meet up with Fifi. They later discover she’s a spy and they follow her back to Germany and capture a general. It’s the usual stereotyped hijinks and Loy later said that she would never again appear in blackface even if it meant suspension. Though I applaud her sincerity, I still wonder why she had no aversion to playing as a Chinese or mulatto (in dark makeup), as those roles are equally demeaning.


 When Loy was allowed to step out of the typecast, she found her main purpose in the supporting cast, usually as a scheming vamp/bitch/trollop out to ensnare the leading man/discredit the leading lady/both. She did have a few starring roles, but in Poverty Row productions of which the best that could be said was that she acquitted herself well in the role.

Fortunately, the arrival of sound provided her with an opportunity to move into starring roles, for with so many silent stars failing voice tests, the competition was less. Myrna’s voice came across quite clear, with a natural tone. This, combined with her beauty, positioned her for bigger and better roles.

She left Warner Brothers and freelanced for Fox, RKO, and Poverty Row studios. She had an abbreviated part in Goldwyn’s production of Arrowsmith (1931), playing a New York socialite.  She made her way over to MGM, where her first role was a supporting one in Emma, starring Marie Dressler in one of her best performances. The release of a film made before she signed on with MGM, Vanity Fair, where she played the lead as Becky Sharp, nearly ruined her career. The word ‘inept’ is not strong enough to describe this mess made by Allied Pictures Corporation, a studio best known for its Westerns and which folded shortly after Vanity Fair bombed at the box office.

The immediate result was that Myrna continued in the roles to which she had become accustomed. Her best known efforts from this time were Thirteen Women (made on loan to RKO), where she received accolades as an embittered Eurasian who decided to whack her former schoolmates for revenge, and The Mask of Fu Manchu, where she played the arch-criminal’s daughter, Fah So Lee. [i]

Slowly, better roles began to come her way, as MGM began to expand her scope. 1933 was her breakout year. She received good notices for her work in When Ladies Meet and Penthouse, but it was The Prizefighter and the Lady, where she worked against Max Baer that not only cemented her in the mind of the public, but also the critics, and – most importantly – MGM’s front office. The rest, we say out of the need for brevity, is history.

We will examine four of her efforts in this early period, two in a supporting role, one in a featured role, and one in a starring role.

The Great Divide (First National, 1929): Starring Dorothy Mackaill, Ian Keith, Myrna Loy, Lucien Littlefield, and Creighton Hale. Directed by Reginald Barker.

The Great Divide was made twice before, in 1915 and 1925. This was the first attempt at a sound version. Music was introduced as an added incentive to get audiences in the theatre.

Stephen Ghent (Keith) has co-owned a mine near the Mexican border for 15 years, and for many of those years he’s been supporting the daughter of his long-dead partner in New York. Deciding to sell his interest, he attends the annual fiesta when he learns that his late partner’s representatives will be delayed. There he meets Ruth Jordan (Mackaill), his late partner’s daughter, for the first time. He’s dejected when he finds that she has become a hard-drinking party girl and becomes convinced that what she needs is a strong dose of the great outdoors and the simple life that accompanies it. So he disguises himself as a Mexican bandit and kidnaps Ruth, taking her to a cabin in the wilderness. Naturally they fall in love and Ruth embraces the virtues of the simple life.

Loy plays Manuella, a hot-blooded Mexican/Indian servant girl who’s warm for Stephen’s form. It’s she who, out of jealousy, sics the posse on Stephen when she learns that he’s taken Ruth to that lonely cabin in the woods. Even clad in dark make-up with a hilarious Spanish accent at times, Loy nevertheless manages to be the focal point of every scene in which she appears. If her acting appears pantomimed at times it’s because the movie was shot in both sound and silent versions for theatres that weren’t yet converted to sound.

The Naughty Flirt (First National, 1931): Starring Alice White, Paul Page, Myrna Loy, Douglas Gilmore, and George Irving. Directed by Edward F. Cline.

The Naughty Flirt was advertised at 78 minutes, but bad tests with preview audiences resulted in its being cut down to 57 minutes for release. Reportedly, one of those in a small role to be left on the cutting room floor was Bela Lugosi.

The star of the film is Alice White, Warners’ answer to Clara Bow. Her career as a star ended in 1933 when a scandal in which she was involved hit the front pages. White is doing her usual flapper role, this time as Kay Elliot, an heiress who is frequently in night court trying to explain her escapades. While at one session she decides to marry fortune hunting Jack Gregory (Gilmour) as a lark, but is spotted by lawyer Alan Ward (Page) who works for her father. After a phone call, Ward breaks up the proposed marriage and escorts her back home to Daddy (Irving). Of course, she’s smitten with Ward, but he avoids her like the plague, so she becomes a secretary in her father’s firm and tries to win him over. She succeeds and they become engaged. But during a stay at a country club dance, Jack’s mercenary sister Linda (Loy) arranges a frame to look as though Ward was visiting her room for some amour. The engagement is broken and Ward hands in his resignation at the firm. When Kay announces her intention to marry Jack on the rebound, Alan wakes up and crashes the wedding, winning Kay back.

Here we see Loy looking her normal self but still cast in a supporting role as a schemer. She does well in this role, dominating the scenes she’s in with both Page and Gilmour. But a mitigating factor is that neither Page nor Gilmour are good actors; Gilmour was out of the business by 1932 and Page by 1934. Loy’s one shining moment is when she frames Ward into coming into her room on the pretext that her heart is giving out and she needs brandy. It’s well done and Loy carries the scene. Too bad the bigwigs at Warners weren’t noticing.

When Ladies Meet (MGM, 1933): Starring Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, Alice Brady, and Frank Morgan. Directed by Henry Beaumont.

This film is an almost literal adaptation of Rachel Crother’s drawing room drama. Except for a few changes of scenery from one locale to another, it remains static. However, once we establish our interest, the characters are strong enough and the actors portraying them appealing enough to hold our interest.

Ann Harding stars as Claire Woodruf, the wife of philandering publisher Rogers Woodruf (Morgan). Morgan’s latest love interest is author Mary Howard (Loy) with whom he spends much time rewriting the final chapter of her novel. Complicating things is newspaper reporter Jimmie Lee (Montgomery), whose constant put-downs of Mary’s novel conceal the fact that he’s madly in love with her. After much give and take and scads of witty repartee by the characters, Jimmie, determined to break up Mary and Rogers, introduces Claire (who is oblivious to her husband’s plans) as his new girlfriend to Mary without revealing her true identity. Later, as the women talk in Mary’s bedroom, Rogers comes into the room and everything is exposed. With the cat now out of the bag, Claire provides Mary, in a blunt, common-sensical way, with her own personal take on love and straying husbands. Claire then tells Mary that she is prepared to give up her husband and leaves. Rogers, on the other hand, confesses to Mary that it’s really Claire that he loves, and in the end, it’s left to Jimmie to console a broken-hearted Mary.

This film is a real test for Loy for she’s working with extremely talented actors at what was considered the crown jewel of studios. Judging by the results, Myrna handled herself quite well in this heavyweight crowd. In her autobiography, she tells of paling around with Montgomery and Alice Brady (who as the cynical hostess, almost walks off with the movie), spending off hours in their company at Brady’s home. The film was later remade in 1941 with Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and Robert Taylor in the roles of Mary, Claire and Jimmie respectively. The remake is far glossier, but the difference in substance is the difference between the Pre-Code movies and their later counterparts. In the 1941 version, the dialogue isn’t as crisp and one gets the feeling that something is missing.

The Prizefight and the Lady (MGM, 1933): Starring Myrna Loy, Max Baer, Primo Carnera, Jack Dempsey, Walter Huston, and Otto Kruger. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke.

Here was a role I’m sure Loy accepted not for what it was, but for its potential down the road, which proved to be a wise choice indeed. The movie may have been fashioned around Max Baer, but it’s Myrna who delivers the knockout.

Baer plays Steve Morgan, a bartender with a dynamite pair of fists. While in the process of knocking around an unruly customer, he’s spotted by the Professor (Huston), a boxing coach who convinces Steve that he has a terrific future in prizefighting and takes him under his wing. While in the midst of his roadwork, he’s almost hit by Belle (Loy), a beauty who’s making a name for herself as a nightclub singer. The narrow miss causes Belle’s driver to lose control and flip the car over. Morgan rescues Belle from the auto and she’s unhurt, but both become smitten with each other. Though she’s currently the squeeze of underworld kingpin Willie Ryan (Kruger), Morgan won’t take “no” for an answer and it doesn’t take him long to win her away. They get married and Morgan’s career soars with a string of impressive knockouts. But Morgan can’t keep his eyes – or hands – off the other ladies. Things come to a boil and a despondent Belle leaves Morgan, going back to Kruger. Morgan in turn begins hitting the bottle hard and fires the Professor, just as he’s lined up a championship bout with Primo Carnera. During the fight, Morgan is taking a bad beating until he looks up and spots Belle with the Professor in the stands rooting him on. He rallies and fights Carnera to a draw. Ryan, seeing his future with Belle is hopeless, gives her over to Steve and helps the newly reunited couple rejoice.

The film was originally titled The Sailor, and as written by Frances Marion, was supposed to star Clark Gable as a gruff sailor who falls for the charming Loy. However, things changed when Gable was not available for filming and the studio signed Baer. Marion was ordered to change it to a boxing film. When she refused, other writers were brought in to adapt her script to the world of boxing. The original director, Howard Hawks, also begged off the film, uncomfortable with the way things were changing.  In order to save on the spiraling costs, Woody Van Dyke, a director with a reputation for economical filmmaking, was brought in.

Hawks was persuaded to stay on for two weeks in order to coach his friend Baer in the art of film acting. Baer turned out to be a natural before the camera, and dominates the film. A natural reaction for Loy would be to top Baer by overacting. But instead of playing against him, Loy underacts crucial scenes and plays off him, as in a dance where he would lead. The results are terrific and with the reviews and audience opinion, Myrna Loy had finally bridged the gap from supporting player to star. It didn’t hurt Loy, either, to have Van Dyke in the director’s chair. He was already a fan, having directed her in Penthouse (1933) and the two frequently put their heads together before a scene with Van Dyke providing suggestions. In her autobiography, Loy states that the only major mistake she made in her career was underestimating the presence of Baer’s physicality, but she handled him perfectly.

Ironically, a year after this film was released, Baer faced off for real against Carnera in a championship bout and knocked the champ down 11 times before the referee stopped the bout and awarded Baer the championship. Wrestling fans should look out for a cameo appearance by Strangler Lewis before the climatic bout.

The good press and box office from The Prizefighter and the Lady stood Myrna well, leading to a leading role in the classic Manhattan Melodrama, [ii] and finally to the role as Nora Charles in The Thin Man, from which she never looked back.

Edited by Steve Herte.


[i]  Loy was quoted in interviews as saying that Boris Karloff taught her more about the art of acting than anyone else she had met at the time. He looked out for her and gave her several important pieces of advice that she kept with her until retirement.

[ii] Polly Hamilton, Dillinger’s girlfriend at the time of his demise, said that it was Dillinger’s crush on Myrna Loy that compelled him to abandon common sense and attend the showing at Chicago’s Biograph Theater of Manhattan Melodrama.


My Favorite Hitchcock

To say we were surprised that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo topped the list on the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound decennial poll of the greatest films would be an understatement. Critics and directors are not typical moviegoers – obvious by some of the films on the list including Man with a Movie Camera (1929), La Jetee (1962) and Au hasard Balthazar (1966).


We certainly consider Vertigo (1958) to be an excellent film. But not only isn’t it the greatest movie ever made, it’s not even Hitchcock’s best.

While we’ll leave the debate on the greatest films ever made for another day, here are what we consider to be Hitchcock’s best films.


The Birds (1963)

By Steve Herte

Of the seven Alfred Hitchcock films I can recall having seen thus far, The Birds is my favorite because it is the most memorable for me. I saw it when it was on the big screen. The Catholic “Legion of Decency” made it more attractive by giving it a lower rating (it had the words “damn” and “hell” in it and was particularly graphic with gore). And by then I had seen Vertigo and Psycho also on the big screen and I was hooked on Hitchcock.

My three favorite scenes in The Birds are:

1. Early in the film when occasional bird strikes create a Rube Goldberg chain reaction that ends with a cigarette-smoker tossing a match (even though several people are screaming that he shouldn’t) and blowing up a gas station and several cars.

2. When Jessica Tandy as Lydia Brenner finds the body of her neighbor with the eyes pecked out and the camera zooms in twice on the twin pools of blood, (it gave me chills, especially with all the girls in the theater screaming).

3. The last scene where all the attacks and action just stops for no reason at all (just as it started) and the birds begrudgingly let Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren slowly leave Bodega Bay in their car.

I had heard that Hitchcock loved blondes because blood shows up better on them. It worked on Tippi. This was one of the first movies I saw that made me “read the book” – this one by Daphne DuMaurier – which, I was surprised, also gave no rhyme or reason for the birds’ sudden attacks, only hints. When the main characters are holed up in the beach house the book hints about “the larger birds” and I was thinking eagles and condors. I always theorized that it was because of the two caged lovebirds at the beginning, that and the “I can get anything I want” attitude in Tippi’s jet-setting character.

Later on, I saw the remaining four movies in my memory, MarnieThe Man Who Knew Too MuchRear Window, and To Catch a Thief, and continued to enjoy them and in each to try finding the great Mr. Hitchcock in his cameo appearances.

 Marnie (1964) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

By Ed Garea

The problem with choosing a favorite Hitchcock movie is limiting oneself to only one favorite. There are so many I could just sit down and watch again . . . and again . . . and again. However, there are two that stand out, and which I don’t feel get their share of credit. One is Marnie, an offbeat (even for Hitchcock) film about a kleptomaniac, played by Tippi Hedren.

The other is Shadow of a Doubt, a film that is one of Hitchcock’s darkest. Made in 1943, when the war dictated that films should be optimistic, this is one of Hitchcock’s most penetrating looks into the nature of evil and how it can suddenly come to a community where everything was wonderful and serene.

Kindly Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) is coming to visit. The anticipation is greatest with young Charlie (Teresa Wright), who was named after her favorite uncle. But as we know, Uncle Charlie is anything but kindly. In fact, he is a serial murderer, known as “The Merry Widow Killer” for having knocked off a succession of women for their money. The dawning realization by young Charlie that her uncle is a murderer is Hitchcock at his absolute best. Add Hume Cronyn, in his film debut as a nosy pulp-story fan, and a script by Thornton Wilder, and it becomes a film that can be repeatedly enjoyed without ever losing its punch. 

Psycho (1960)

By David Skolnick

Psycho is the only other Hitchcock movie on the Sight & Sound Top 50 list, tied for 35th place with three other films, including Fritz Lang’s brilliant 1927 film, Metropolis. The graphic violence and sexual content in Psycho are firsts for him, taking full advantage of the demise of the Hays Code restrictions.

If there is a movie moment that better captures the combination of sex and violence than the shower scene in Psycho, please point it out to me. It is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history and deserves the praise it receives. Leigh’s scream and look of pure terror, the shadow-like “mother” figure, the close-up image of the knife and the sound of it plunging into the body, the shower curtain coming down and the blood swirling as it goes down the drain is perfect and scares the hell out of those watching it. It was incredibly bold for Hitchcock to kill the female lead so early in the film, but it allows other aspects of the film to play out.

Anthony Perkins is not a personal favorite, but he gives the performance of his life – and was forever typecast as Norman Bates – with Hitchcock allowing the actor to explore the multiple dimensions of the character.

Vertigo is an outstanding film, but not only isn’t it my favorite Hitchcock movie, it’s not my favorite Hitchcock film starring James Stewart. That would be Rear Window, the 1954 film co-starring Grace Kelly.

How great was Hitchcock? An indication is there are a number of his films I find to be superior to Vertigo, including Shadow of a Doubt (1943), North by Northwest (1959), and The Paradine Case (1947).



Andy Griffith: In Memoriam

By Ed Garea

It may surprise some younger viewers that Andy Griffith even made any movies before going into television, especially as they were made in black and white, which with the younger generation is the equivalent of the Stone Age. Actually, Griffith first made his name on radio and on records as a comedy monologist. His routine, What It Was, Was Football, a description of a bemused backwoodsman trying to figure out the game of football, became a hit record in 1954.

He then starred in Ira Levin’s one-hour teleplay version of No Time for Sergeants on the United States Steel Hour, a television anthology series of the type popular in the ‘50s. Again Griffith was a bemused country boy, albeit one that was drafted into the Air Force, and the play dealt with his adjustment to the ways of military life. He expanded the role in Levin’s full-length Broadway play of the same name in 1955 and earned a Tony nomination for “Distinguished Supporting or Featured Dramatic Actor” at the 1956 Tony Awards. He won the 1956 Theatre World Award, a prize given for debut roles on Broadway. He appeared on Broadway for the last time in 1957, starring in the musical version of Destry Rides Again. It ran for 472 performances, over a year, and earned Griffith his second Tony nomination in 1960 for “Distinguished Musical Actor.” Again he lost, this time to Jackie Gleason for the musical Take Me Along.

But it is Griffith’s film career we are concerned with in this column. His first film was the starring role in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, a movie that tanked at the box office. His second was the film adaptation of No Time For Sergeants, which was a hit. Next, however, came the ill-advised Onionhead, a movie that performed so poorly that Griffith later credited it in interviews with convincing him to go into television.

The rest, as they say, is history. The Andy Griffith Show was a smash hit, and was still on top of the ratings heap when Griffith walked away, figuring that going out on top was better than waiting for the ax to fall. He did a succession of made-for-television movies until he was offered the lead in Matlock, a sort of country version of Perry Mason with Matlock as an expensive Atlanta lawyer who manages to exonerate his clients after some sharp detective work by his staff.

The films below are worth your time and trouble in our opinion and will provide an insight into Griffith as an actor.



A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957): Griffith’s first film and critically his best. Although it was a box-office dud when released, it managed to pick up notice and critical steam in the 90s thanks in large part to its repeated showings on TCM and the renewed interest in Elia Kazan. I remember watching it as a 10-year old with my mother. (August 3, 1963 to be precise. Hey, I looked it up.) It was shown on The Schaefer Award Theater, a fancy name for CBS’s The Late Show on one Saturday a month where “prestige” films were shown. I was completely dumbfounded by the film. This wasn’t the Sheriff Taylor I knew. This guy – this “Lonesome Rhodes” – was an out-and-out rat. But at the same time I was mesmerized by the movie and always remembered it. I didn’t see it again until it was shown on Channel 9 in New York in 1980. I told my wife (she had never seen it), and we pulled up to the television with the proverbial popcorn and watched. She, too, was blown away; she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that this was kindly, lovable Sheriff Taylor she was seeing, but on the other hand she said Griffith was never sexier than when playing a heel. Something about raw magnetic power, she said.

Although the film was made in 1957, it has never lost any of its timeliness and is still powerful and relevant today. Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) is a producer for a local radio station in rural Picket, Arkansas. Host of a morning show, she is interviewing convicts in the local jail. One of those is Andy Griffith. While at first he refuses, he quickly warms up when he gets a look at Neal and puts on a performance with his guitar that she deems so good that she offers him the role of the host on the morning show. She also dubs him “Lonesome” Rhodes when he refuses to give his name. The show quickly takes off, due to Rhodes’s homespun humor. It’s enough to land him a television show in Memphis, where he acquires a writer (Walter Matthau) for whom he has little, if any, use, but who supplies him with the material that gets him over with his audience.

When one of the sponsors withdraws after being kidded on the air (even though Rhodes’s kidding has sent sales through the roof), it looks like Rhodes is through in Memphis. However, office-boy-turned-agent Joey DePalma (Anthony Franciosa) has gotten him an audition in New York. Given a one-hour variety show, Rhodes proceeds to turn it into a huge hit. He becomes not only closely identified with the show’s sponsor, Vitajex, a worthless “energy” pill composed of caffeine, aspirin and dextrose, but he also becomes the personal protégé of the company’s owner, Gen. Haynesworth, a right-wing corporate owner who sees the potential in Rhodes as “a mover of people,” and begins a media blitz to build Rhodes into a superstar.

However, the assumption of more and more power and fame feeds Rhodes’s rapidly growing megalomania. His rotten side is now coming to the front more and more, with the only check being applied by Jeffries, who is in love with Lonesome and who Rhodes treats in a most despicable way until he needs her support. The final straw is when Rhodes promises to marry her but runs off to Mexico after judging a baton-twirling contest to marry the winner (Lee Remick). That and the growing danger in Rhodes’s affiliation with right-wing Sen. Worthington Fuller (Marshal Neilan) convinces Jeffries that she must destroy this Frankenstein monster she created, and she does so in a most unique manner when he’s least expecting it. Kazan uses a brilliant display of intercutting to show the decline and fall of Lonesome Rhodes after his gaffe. But as Matthau tells him after the fall, he’ll be back, perhaps in a slightly different package and nowhere near as big, but the public hasn’t yet seen the last of Lonesome Rhodes.


NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS (1958): Now this is the Andy Griffith we all know and love, playing a naïve, optimistic backwoods boy drafted into the Air Force. The movie derives its comedy from the premise that no one takes young Will Stockdale at his word. They rather insist on reading their own prejudices into him, which leads ultimately to their downfalls, as it were. All Stockdale wants to do is get along and enjoy himself serving his country, but others see him as a dangerous threat, starting with the overzealous draft officer (Dub Taylor) who comes to get him and places cuffs on him. (Taylor ignores the pleas from Will’s father, who says he never gave Will the draft notices because he didn’t want to lose him.) At the bus station, recruit Irvin S. Blanchard is put in charge because he had R.O.T.C. in college. Of course, the position goes right to Irvin’s head and he begins ordering Will around like a convict. 

For his part Will believes that R.O.T.C. is a disease and he should humor Irvin. Once at the base, Will runs afoul of his sergeant, Orville C. King (Myron McCormick). An altercation between Will and some of the other recruits that are bothering him and his friend Ben Whitledge (Nick Adams), leads King to make “Stockdale Permanent Latrine Orderly – P.L.O.” and is put in charge of cleaning the bathroom. Will thinks this is a special honor and soon has the plumbing clean and shining.

It comes to the attention of Gen. Smith that Will has not been classified, so King must take him through the ordeal of classification. This scene is neatly stolen by Don Knotts, playing a nervous corporal in charge of administering a manual dexterity test. With the results of the test, Ben, Will and the now demoted Sgt. King are sent to gunnery school, where King rises to the top of the class and gets his stripes back. Flying a B-25 bomber to Denver, the pilots place the plane on autopilot and fall asleep causing it to drift over an A-Bomb test area. Although Ben and Will bail out, they are presumed killed and a service is held for the “fallen heroes,” who unexpectedly show up in the middle. To hush the incident over both are transferred to the infantry, where Ben has always wanted to serve, along with Sgt. King, who accompanies them at Will’s request, because he’s “the best dang sergeant in the whole dang air force.”

It wasn’t much of a stretch for Griffith, who was reprising his Broadway role, but the film was a smash hit and was largely responsible for launching the career of Knotts.


HEARTS OF THE WEST (1975): This film, which has gained a cult following, is a wonderful, gentle comedy about the world of B-Westerns in the 1930s. Most films made about studios are indictments of an ego-driven and immoral system, but Hearts of the West plays almost like a valentine written by a man about the lovely films of his childhood.  Of course, rotten things take place all during the film, but these acts are done by such likeable characters that we smile instead of clenching our fists.

Jeff Bridges is Lewis Tater, a naïve young man who wants to write Western novels like Zane Grey. He travels to Nevada to a correspondence school that turns out to be a con run by two grifters out of post office boxes. When they try to rob him in his hotel room, he takes off in their car, which contains the proceeds of what they ripped off other customers.

Wandering in the desert, he meets Howard Pike (Andy Griffith), an actor in low-budget Westerns who takes Lewis on horseback to the movie set, where he meets Bert Kessler (Alan Arkin), the director, and Miss Trout (Blythe Danner) the script supervisor who takes a shine to the guileless young man.

He accompanies the company back to Los Angeles, where he gets a job as a stuntman with the company. He also develops a romance with Miss Trout, a friendship with Howard, and manages to write his first novel, a melodrama titled Hearts of the West, all while rising to become a cowboy star himself and foiling the con men that chase him throughout the latter part of the picture.


ONIONHEAD (1958): Andy Griffith is Alvin Woods, an irresponsible college students who breaks up with his girlfriend Jo (Erin O'Brien) and enlists in the Coast Guard as a way to duck combat duty in World War 2. After boot camp, he is sent to Boston and assigned to the U.S.S. Periwinkle as a cook. At a bar in Boston, he meets flirty Stella (Felicia Farr) and strikes up a relationship of sorts. Back at the ship, he runs into head cook "Red" Wildoe (Walter Matthau), who resents Al's fast advancement to cook and refuses to bunk with him.

After a series of mishaps, Al finds out that not only is Stella dating Red, but also that Red intends to marry her. Al tries to warn Red that Stella is a party girl, and should they be shipped out, Al may be distracted wondering where his wife is. But Al marries Stella anyway, Al is promoted to head cook and Red is transferred to the Algonquin. While Red’s at sea, Al keeps an eye on the flirtatious Stella and manages to keep her out of trouble. With the coming of war, the Algonquin is menaced by a German U-boat and sunk. The Periwinkle rides to her rescue and Al ends up helping to capture the submarine. Back at base, Al takes the fall for an officer’s misdoing and is stripped of his rank. But he does reunite with Jo and marries her before being shipped off to Greenland.

The problem with the film is that it tries too hard to be a comedy, drama and romance at once, a sort of merging of No Time For Sergeants and Mister Roberts, but the script is simply not there. Onionhead is directed by Norman Taurog, a director best known for some of Elvis’s atrocities in the ‘60s. Critics say that Walter Matthau steals the film, but if he were arrested for this “crime,” he would be charged at most with petty theft. 



Aline MacMahon: Beauty, Vitality and Truth

By Ed Garea and J Michael Kenyon

Aline MacMahon began as one of the great feisty, wisecracking dames in the Warner Brothers repertoire company, but the length of her career proved the depth of her talent – both on stage and the screen. Her forte was playing the ”character lead,” and this exceptional versatility allowed her to cross the boundaries from drama to comedy and back again with almost no effort, making herself believable and noticeable in whatever she undertook. She had what we call “intellectual beauty.” in that one could see the intelligence behind the beauty of the face. Though her looks were considered outside the Hollywood ideal, these same striking and melancholy looks caught the eye of both sculptor Isamu Noguchi and photographer Cecil Beaton, who immortalized them, respectively, in marble (“Beauty and Vitality and Truth”) and photography.

She appeared with the best Warner Brothers had to offer in the ‘30s, and when time demanded she move to lower-billed supporting parts in films, she responded with solid performances, one of which, in Dragon Seed (1944) earned her a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. When not on the screen, she went back to Broadway, where she first made her reputation.


She was born Aline Laveen MacMahon on May 3, 1899, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Of Irish/English/Russian ancestry, her father, William Marcus MacMahon, was the editor of Munsey’s Magazine, a pulp fiction monthly that eventually merged with Argosy Magazine in 1929. Her mother, Jennie Simon MacMahon, was content to be a homemaker until the age of 53, when she ventured into acting, reportedly at her daughter’s urging. After the family moved to Brooklyn (probably after MacMahon became editor of Munsey’s), Aline attended Erasmus Hall and graduated from Barnard in 1920, afterward training at the The Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan. She made her formal bow on Broadway in 1921, appearing in The Mirage. Her Broadway career then took off, first, as a comedienne specializing in impersonations, notably The Grand Street Follies (1922, described as “A Low-Brow Show for High-Grade Morons”), and Artists and Models (1925).

By 1926, she moved to dramatic roles, impressing as Ruth Atkins in Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon (1926). Her performance attracted the attention of both Alexander Woolcott and Noel Coward. Woolcott said she acted “with extraordinary beauty and vitality and truth,” while Coward found her “astonishing, moving and beautiful.”

She married architect Clarence S. Stein in 1928, after a long courtship. Stein was a proponent of the “garden city” concept of urban planning, using “greenbelts” to break up congestion in city neighborhoods. Along with colleague and friend Lewis Mumford, Stein spearheaded the movement for more livable cities, was credited with planning Radburn (now part of Fair Lawn), New Jersey, and with helping to design Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, New York.

Aline answered Hollywood’s siren call and arrived in Los Angeles in 1931. Universal had acquired the rights to Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s satirical play, Once in a Lifetime. It was about the effects talking pictures were having on the entertainment industry. Hired to play the role of wisecracking diction teacher May Daniels, she found that delays were plaguing the film. To fill in the idle time, MacMahon played the role of Daniels in a 1931 Los Angeles stage production.


Talent scouts for Warner Brothers spotted her, and she was signed for the film Five Star Final, one of the darkest movies ever made about newspaper life. She made a good impression as editor Edward G. Robinson’s secretary and was rewarded in typical Warners’ style with the terrible The Heart of New York (1932), about a hapless inventor; The Mouthpiece (1932), where she plays shyster Warren William’s secretary, and as loser Roscoe Karns’ wife in the wild comedy Week-End Marriage (1932).

Things did begin to get better that year, as she received good notices for her performance as compassionate nurse Miss Bowers in Life Begins, a con artist whose performance steals the Kleenex-heavy William Powell-Kay Francis starrer, One Way Passage, and her sympathetic portrayal as the put-upon first wife of mogul Robinson in Silver Dollar. Yes, she finally was able to bring the role of May Daniels to the screen as Universal finally filmed Once in a Lifetime. However, the film died quickly at the box office. 

Part of the reason things may have improved was because she stood her ground, adamantly, against the studio. This came about as a result of her refusal, pre-Code, to participate in a bedroom scene with William and a couple of other girls.  The scene made it into the picture – but not with MacMahon in it. Warners sued her for $25,000, largely, it was thought, to send a warning to other actors who might consider similar "disobedience." But when MacMahon stood her ground, Warners chose not to follow through with the litigation.


Screen audiences next saw Aline as chorus girl Trixie Lorraine in Gold Diggers of 1933. In it, she shares an apartment with fellow chorines Joan Blondell and Ruby Keeler, with the ladies on the lookout for casting calls and rich older men. Joan and Aline eventually hone in on the gullible Guy Kibbee and William, pompous bankers trying to save William’s brother (Dick Powell) from backing a show and marrying Keeler. Aline had the best lines in the movie: upon awakening, she tells roommates Joan and Ruby to “excuse me while I fix up the old sex appeal. The way I feel this morning I’ll need a steam shovel.” Later, when Powell threatens to walk out on the show, Aline tells him forthrightly his walking out would mean the show’s closing and a lot of girls would be forced to do things that, frankly, she “wouldn’t want on my conscience.”

She was top-billed in 1934’s Babbitt as Myra Babbitt, the long-suffering wife of George (Kibbee) and MGM’s Kind Lady (1935), but as the decade went on, the starring roles gave way to supporting characters, and only in the Bs would she be given star status. It was said that Warners built her career as a “character leading lady” and studio publicity insisted MacMahon preferred her supporting parts. Perhaps the studio mistook her professionalism for docility; no actor or actress would prefer a supporting part to stardom, no matter what the vehicle, and in an interview in the ‘70s, MacMahon confirmed that very point.


Though her roles in the ‘40s continued the trend of supporting roles, she was nominated for her performance as the Chinese mother of Katharine Hepburn’s Jade Tan in Dragon Seed. What was interesting was that MacMahon had sought to play the role of O-Lan in The Good Earth, a role that ultimately went to Luise Rainer. Her other notable role was as Mrs. Murray, the careworn, compassionate volunteer in The Search, who, with Montgomery Clift, tries to help Czech youngster Ivan Jandl find his mother in post-war Berlin. Her performance was matter-of-fact, economical (no unnecessary gestures or stage business) and precise. She hints at, rather than shows, the well of emotion hidden beneath the surface as she helps Clift, Jandl and the mother, Jarmila Novotna, in their quests. It’s a performance one can overlook at first, as the scenes between Clift with the boy and his mother are the centerpieces of the film, but as time goes on, her performance begins to stand out on its own. It so stuck with me (Ed) after I had seen it in college that when I noticed it was being shown on TCM years ago, I stayed up to catch it (my VCR was broken) and I was not disappointed in my memory.

Aline also stood out in Anthony Mann’s 1955 Western, The Man From Laramie, plot of which is the battle between Cavalry captain James Stewart with rancher Donald Crisp and his psycho son, Alex Nichol, over illegal sales of guns to the Apaches. As Kate Canaday, a rancher formerly engaged to rancher Alec Waggoman (Crisp), but now at odds with him, she gives Kate’s character real depth, noted by a review in Variety as “a socko portrayal of a tough old rancher.”

But after these triumphs, Aline and husband found themselves in trouble with the thought police of Congress and found themselves on something called a “graylist.” To be sure, the graylist was not the blacklist, which prohibited the hiring of the people listed on it. People were graylisted, largely, for supporting people who were either blacklisted or targets of HUAC. What precipitated this move for Aline and Clarence to the graylist is unclear, but to quote Gore Vidal: “Not only do our governors always know what’s best for us, they never let up.” Whatever, Aline found she was no longer employable in anything but B films, and from 1955 to 1960, when the prohibitions were finally lifted, there was no movie work to be had. Fortunately, she had her Broadway experience and also took on live television work, where the restrictions weren’t as strictly enforced. She finally returned to the big screen in 1960 in Anthony Mann’s Cimarron, with 12th billing as Mrs. Mavis Pegler. Critics then singled out her work as Aunt Hannah in Paramount’s 1963 drama All the Way Home for praise.

It would be her last Hollywood movie. She performed as a guest on various television shows and in a TV movie, For the Use of the Hall, a filmed adaptation of Oliver Hailey’s play, for the Broadway Theater Archive. She also worked for New York’s Lincoln Repertory Theatre and appeared in several distinguished productions until completely retiring in 1975. Her remaining years saw her devoted to various theatrical charities. In 1991, having survived her husband by 17 years and her mother by only six years, MacMahon succumbed to pneumonia, age 92. We should count ourselves fortunate that at least we have a considerable record of this amazing actress preserved on celluloid.

A Little Trivia: Aline’s mother, Jennie Simon, began her acting career at the age of 53 after the death of her husband. Encouraged by her daughter, Jennie worked mostly on stage, but performed in four unbilled parts for MGM, one (Tish, 1942) starring Aline. All four films were directed by S. Sylvan Simon, Jennie’s nephew and Aline’s cousin.

The Essential Aline MacMahon:

Five Star Final (WB, 1931), Gold Diggers of 1933 (WB, 1933), Heroes For Sale (WB, 1933), The Life of Jimmy Dolan (WB, 1933), Heat Lightning (WB, 1934), Babbitt (WB, 1934), Kind Lady (MGM, 1935), Dragon Seed (MGM, 1944), The Search (MGM, 1948), The Flame and the Arrow (WB, 1950), The Man From Laramie (Columbia, 1955), Cimarron (MGM, 1960), All The Way Home (Paramount, 1963), For The Use of The Hall (PBS, 1975).


Lloyd Bacon

By Ed Garea


Being film fans, we are well steeped in the legends of directors such as John Ford, William Wyler, and Alfred Hitchcock. Also, being film fans, we are also steeped in the legends that surround them. The most prevalent is what is the auteur theory, the brainchild of Francois Truffaut when he was a film critic writing for Cahiers du Cinema. It holds that a director’s film reflects his or her creative vision, as if the director were the primary auteur (French for author). We’ll cover this theory in detail in a future article, but the gist of our argument is that the theory (like most things French) is half-baked and, according to Truffaut himself, it was forgotten by the French, but still mentioned in American periodicals. The term “auteur theory” itself was coined by Andrew Sarris, film critic of The Village Voice and the theory’s greatest champion in America.

If films were art, then this theory might hold a little water. But they are not; rather, films are commercial ventures, made to make money. If they achieve the level of art, it is only accidental, and the director or producer that aims for art will soon find him or herself out of work. In the studio system it was not the director who pulled the strings, it was the producer, the moneyman. The director in most cases was just the employee chosen to bring the words the screenwriters committed to paper onto film and make sure the actors involved did their jobs. If a director proved to be one with a string of box office hits, then, in order to keep him around, he would be elevated to the rank of producer. This is easily noticeable when watching the start of a film. If it begins with the title “A John Ford Film” (or William Wyler, or James Whale, etc.), then the audience knows that John Ford is also the producer and has control of the film.

This is not to say that the role of the director was insignificant. In the studio system, everyone had a role to play in getting a picture made. Think of it as an assembly line, with each worker performing his or her assigned task. Each studio had a bevy of producers, all of who answered to a central voice. Irving Thalberg was that voice at MGM. At Warners, it was Darryl Zanuck, and later Hal Wallis. RKO had Pandro Berman. At Columbia, it was owner Harry Cohn who supervised production, and at Universal, the head of production was Carl Laemmle, Jr., son of the owner.

The assembly line approach was the most cost effective way not only to make movies but also to assure a steady supply of new films for the theaters. Many of the directors that toiled under this system are forgotten today in favor of those that had the weight to co-produce their product. One of the best, and most prolific, at this craft was Lloyd Bacon. He directed all genres from Westerns to musicals to gangster stories at a time when Warner Brothers films were seemingly released at the speed of light. In this article we will examine his life and two of his most representative films.


Bacon was born in San Jose, California on December 4, 1889. His father, Frank, was a playwright and actor and young Lloyd was enlisted into the family stock company. (In 1918 Frank co-wrote and starred in the Broadway hit “Lightnin’.”) Lloyd attended Santa Clara University, with the goal of a degree in law, but after appearing in a campus production of “The Passion Play,” he found he couldn’t get the acting bug out of his system. In 1911 he joined David Belasco’s stock company in Los Angeles, where he toured the country alongside Lewis Stone. The high point for Lloyd was a Broadway run with the hit “Cinderella Man,” for which he earned good notices. After a season in vaudeville, Lloyd ventured to Hollywood, finding work as an actor and stunt man in Gilbert M. Anderson’s “Broncho Billy” shorts. But the war called and Bacon interrupted his budding Hollywood career in 1917 to enlist in the Navy.

After the war, Bacon returned to Hollywood and eventually joined Mack Sennett’s studio as a gag writer. When he told Sennett of his desire to direct, the tightfisted producer gladly took him on, provided he still functioned as a gag writer. The experience he gained stood him well when he learned that Warner Brothers was looking for directors and he joined the studio in 1925, beginning what would become an 18-year association. At Warners his ability to bring in a film on time and within budget (the most important thing to a studio), earned him a staff position. His first big hit was 1928’s The Singing Fool, a follow-up to Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.  He followed that in 1930 with a big budget adaptation of Moby Dick, a hit when released, but sadly forgotten today.

During the Thirties Bacon helmed several of the studio’s biggest hits, such as 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. He directed the story while Busby Berkeley handed the musical numbers, with the irony being that Berkeley is given the credit as auteur while Bacon has been relegated to the trash bin of film history. But the reason Bacon was assigned to direct the story was in order to bring the film in one time and budget, as Berkeley’s excesses were well known even back then. Lloyd also helmed a few of Jimmy Cagney hits like Picture Snatcher and He Was Her Man in addition to directing the controversial for its time Pre-Code Kay Francis drama, Mary Stevens, M.D.(1933). However, Bacon became a victim of his own success, being consigned to the assembly line, where he churned out film after film, usually for the bottom portion of the bill, all on time and within budget. From time to time he was given a programmer (a film that played the “B” side of the marquee in big cities and the “A” side in small towns) to helm, such as Invisible Stripes and Knute Rockne, All American. His last film for Warners was the 1943 morale piece Action in the North Atlantic, with Humphrey Bogart.

Bacon moved to 20th Century Fox in 1944, where he was reunited with studio head Darryl Zanuck. His first feature for Fox was The Fighting Sullivans (1944), a morale film about five brothers who enlisted and were killed in the Pacific. His most important contribution while at Fox, however, may have been his unaccredited role in re-editing the Western classic My Darling Clementine; this in response to comment cards from preview audiences. He remained at Fox until 1949, and his remaining years were spent working for Columbia, Universal, Fox, and finally RKO.  His last film was She Couldn’t Say No for RKO, a comedy-drama starring Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons, released in 1954. Bacon was preparing another film for RKO when he died at age 65 from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1955.

Below are two representative films from the Bacon oeuvre, made fast, tidy, and cheap. Each returned at least twice its budget.

DEVIL DOGS OF THE AIR (WB, 1935): This has all the ingredients for a great film: story, stars, and director. Too bad it had such a lousy script. Pat O’Brien is Lt. William “Bill” Brannigan a Naval Marine lieutenant in San Diego. His good buddy Tommy O’Toole (James Cagney) is flying in to join. O’Toole is a freelance stunt pilot whose entrance to the airbase is full of tricks and takes us nearly four minutes to watch, warning us that there’s not much of a story here. O’Toole’s still the cocksure, arrogant guy Brannigan knew back in Brooklyn and he proceeds to upset the apple cart and also move in on Brannigan’s squeeze, Betty Roberts (Margaret Lindsay). 

The film is predictable and O’Toole eventually learns Marine discipline while Brannigan discovers that Mary is really in love with O’Toole, and so he applies for transfer to Virginia, leaving the door open for O’Toole to romance Ms. Roberts. The problem lies with the script. Cagney’s character seemingly has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, making his turnaround at the end totally unconvincing. Margaret Lindsay was an actress whose progression suddenly hit the ceiling and, looking at her acting, especially in this film, we can well understand why. She’s stiff and lifeless, raising the question of why Cagney and O’Brien would fight over her to start. Even Frank McHugh, cast as ambulance driver “Crash” Kelly (Funny, huh?) can’t give us any relief, as his character is novocained by the writers. 

I’m also wondering why Lindsay’s character, a civilian, is allowed to roam at will on a military base. Also, the scene where O’Brien proposes to her is so wooden as to make us laugh unintentionally as it takes her a while to figure out where his conversation is going. Obie: “I have something important to ask you . . . “I’ve been talking to several real-estate agents, and we could rent an apartment really cheaply . . . furnished, even.” AND she still has to wait before he says the magical words to figure out his meaning. (!) The big finale, a simulated attack, is meant to draw us in to find out if Cagney will rise to the occasion, but it falls completely flat. I found my enjoyment in a spotting the various supporting actors in the Warner’s stock company: names such as Russell Hicks, William B. Davidson, Ward Bond, Robert Barratt, and Helen Lowell. Well, I had to do something . . .

Trivia: The plot about the wild stunt pilot having to reform in order to fit within the military is repeated in Universal’s 1941 Abbott and Costello comedy, Keep ‘em Flying. In that movie the pilot is played by Warner’s alum Dick Foran.

INVISIBLE STRIPES (WB, 1939): Even though George Raft is the star, this is still a good actioner, with a supporting cast boasting Humphrey Bogart, Jane Bryan, Flora Robson, Paul Kelly, Marc Lawrence, Lee Patrick, Moroni Olsen, and the young William Holden – in his first film and third-billed! 

Raft is a parolee from Sing Sing who is having trouble finding a job because of his time in stir (hence the title). Holden is Raft’s young brother. He just got fired, he’s been engaged to Jane Bryan for over as year, needs money, and is tempted to down the same road as his brother. To stop him, Raft teams up with old prison buddy Bogart, who enlists him in Paul Kelly’s bank robbery gang. Raft goes along on a few jobs and uses the money to finance younger brother’s new garage, telling him the money was earned from commissions selling tractors. Right after Raft quits the gang, an armored-car robbery goes wrong, and Bogie is wounded. He hides out at Holden’s garage, unbeknownst to Raft, and has Holden drive the getaway car to his girlfriend’s place. 

Kelly and the boys think Raft has snitched and the cops track down Holden and figure he’s part of the gang. To set things right, Raft tracks down Bogie and learns that Kelly’s after the both of them. They shoot it out with Kelly and henchman Lawrence, both Raft and Bogie die, Holden is cleared and everybody lives happily ever after. Not a bad film. Raft, the star, basically plays the same character as in Each Dawn I Die, the crook bound by fate. I always got the impression watching him that acting was merely something he did because he couldn’t think of anything else. And Raft was no actor, but rather a movie star. Had he worked harder and took more chances on scripts and directors, he would have gone down in Gable’s league. 

Bogart, for his part, snarls well throughout and nobody dies like Bogie did in those 30s potboilers. Jane Bryan has little to do but stand around looking cute, which she does quite admirably. Flora Robson, the great English actress (Remember her as Queen Elizabeth in Fire Over England?) plays the mother of Raft and Holden; even more amazing is at the time she was a year younger than Raft (!). And as for Holden, if I didn’t see him in the opening credits, I’d have had a hard time recognizing him. He didn’t look like the hard-bitten Holden I remember so well from the ‘50s. If you’re looking for a good action film that doesn’t drag, this is the one to watch. And it’s always fun watching Bogart before he hit it big in High Sierra.  

Trivia: At one point in the film, down-on-his-luck Raft meets Bogart and Lee Patrick leaving a movie theater. The film playing, and conspicuously advertised in front, is You Can’t Get Away With Murder, which starred Humphrey Bogart.


Gino Corrado 

By Ed Garea
Edited by Steve Herte

The purpose of this column is to bring recognition to actors whom we’ve seen many times in the movies or on television over the years and whose name is always on the tips of our tongues. We no sooner recall it to mind than we forget it once again and it becomes a question passed around amongst movie buffs.

In this column, we are spotlighting an actor many people remember seeing at one time or another and yet whose name we can never quite recall for any length of time. It seems that as soon as we forget it, there he is once again in a movie or television show and the entire process starts over again to our eternal frustration.

In the case of Gino Corrado, it is entirely understandable, for this durable actor has – get this – appeared in 391 titles. No, I’m not making this up – 391 titles to his credit.

Granted, out of those 391 titles in which he appeared he is unbilled in all except for about 100. But still, this is an impressive number and a testament to the perseverance of hanging around at casting calls and getting steady work.


He was born Gino Corrado Liserani in Florence, Italy, on February 9, 1893. He attended the College of Strada in Italy, finishing his education at St. Bede College in Peru, Illinois. It’s not known if he accompanied his family to America or came on his own, but his first credited film is a 1916 short titled The Last Challenge. He played a boxing referee and was billed under the name “Eugene Corri.”

His next film was an uncredited appearance as “The Runner” in D.W. Griffith’s lengthy masterpiece, Intolerance. After this, for the next few years he received billing in various silent films, always under the name “Eugene Corey,” an Americanization of his last name.

Finally, in 1923, he was billed fifth under the name Gino Corrado in Sam Wood’s comedy, produced by Famous Players-Lasky, My American Wife, starring Gloria Swanson. Work – and billing – appeared quite steady in the silent ‘20s, but when the Sound Era hit Hollywood to stay, his credited billing suddenly dried up, as did the size of his roles. He appeared in many films, but the roles were smaller, almost walk-on appearances, and it was a rare day indeed when he was billed in the cast. Many of the uncredited roles he played were as chefs or waiters, which was ironic, because when he wasn’t working in films he earned a steady paycheck working as a real waiter.

Corrado holds a distinction of sorts, as he is the only actor to appear in Gone with the WindCitizen Kane, and Casablanca. He also made appearances in Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonThe Great Dictator, and The Grapes of Wrath.

Rare were the occasions when his role lasted beyond two lines. He did well playing a rurales captain in the John Wayne low-budget Monogram oater, Paradise Canyon in 1935. Here he received fifth billing. Oft times, though, he was paid more for his unbilled roles with major studios than he earned with billing in the Poverty Row films.

In 1936 he had a small role – and 13th billing – as Forrenza in The Oregon Trail, a John Wayne Western for Republic. He was given billing in two other Westerns made shortly after, one of which, Rebellion (1936) co-starred a young Rita Cansino, who later achieved superstardom as Rita Hayworth.

His last credited appearance came in 1946 in the Columbia short Honeymoon Blues, starring Hugh Herbert and Christine McIntyre. Corrado played Bruno the Swordsman. He also made a mark in several Columbia shorts starring The Three Stooges. His best performance was in Micro-Phonies (1945) as a pompous violinist/singer with whom The Stooges have several run-ins. The highlight of the short is when Moe, Larry and Curley become annoyed and shoot cherries into his mouth as he sings an aria.

His last appearance was as a shoe salesman in the 1954 Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy, Living It Up. After his retirement he worked as a maitre d’ at a Los Angeles restaurant.


Corrado died at the age of 89 on December 23, 1982, survived by wife (of over 50 years) Anna Alberti, whom he married in 1931. He is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, and his gravestone epitaph is etched with his video-screen image from Micro-Phonies, along with the inscription, “Forever on the Screen – Forever in Our Hearts.”

Special thanks go to reader Shelby Vick, who suggested Gino Corrado for this column.


Rita Tushingham

By Ed Garea  

One cannot mention the phrases “British New Wave” or “Swinging London Films” without mentioning the name Rita Tushingham. In two genres aimed at young men, she dominated. And it wasn’t due to her looks: with her ordinary figure and aquiline nose, she was hardly a threat to Liz Taylor. But she could act rings around Liz and a vast majority of the other female movie stars of the time. With those big, blue, expressive waifish eyes, and the way she carried herself, she caught your attention the minute she appeared on the screen.

Tushingham was born 14 March 1942 in Liverpool. She attended La Sagesse convent school in Liverpool, after which she began her career on the stage with an apprenticeship at the Liverpool Playhouse. While working backstage, she spotted an advertisement for auditions for an upcoming film titled A Taste of Honey. She answered the ad, and at the age of 19, was chosen to star in the film. The producers originally wanted Audrey Hepburn for the starring role, but she was far too expensive. Joan Plowright, who won the 1961 Tony Award for her stage performance as Jo, was unavailable.

What we will do in this article is to look at Rita’s films from the “British New Wave” and the “Swinging London” genres, both of which dominated the British film scene during the first half of the ‘60s. She became so identified with these movements (almost the poster girl), that when they faded, her career did the same. Though she continued to provide excellent performances in many other films to the present time, her career never again reached the heights it did during those magic years.


A TASTE OF HONEY (Bryantson,1960). Director: Tony Richardson. Starring: Dora Bryan, Rita Tushingham, Robert Stephens, Murray Melvin, & Paul Danquah.

This is the story of a poor working-class girl named Jo in northern England with a domineering alcoholic 40-year old mother, Helen (Dora Bryan). Jo and Mom fall out after Mom meets Peter and impulsively marries him. For her part, Jo meets a young black sailor named Jimmy. One thing leads to another and soon Jo is pregnant. Worse, Jimmy ships out and Jo is, as they say in Yiddish, “left mit a peckl (package).” She finds work in a shoe store and rents a flat on her own. 

Soon she meets a gay textile design student named Geoff and invites him to move in with her. When Jo discovers her condition, Geoff is supportive and even offers to marry her, telling her that, “You need somebody to love you while you’re looking for somebody to love.” Re-enter Mom, whose marriage has fallen apart. She clashes with Geoff, who decides he can no longer stay and moves out, leaving Jo and Helen to care for the impending baby. A downbeat ending, but this is British New Wave – there are no happy endings. 

Though Dora Bryan is top billed, it’s Rita that dominates the movie, taking us out of ourselves and making us care for her and her situation. Director Tony Richardson successfully walks the fine line between drama and melodrama, never allowing things to get out of hand, and Murray Melvin, as Geoff, gives a believable and moving performance, showing us how two outcasts flock together to survive the world. It’s definitely an A+ film – look for it next time it’s shown. 


A PLACE TO GO (British-Lion, 1962). Director: Basil Dearden. Starring: Bernard Lee, Rita Tushingham, Michael Sarne, Doris Hare, Barbara Ferris, & John Slater.

Tushingham followed up the acclaimed A Taste of Honey with this dud. Yet another “working-class” drama, it lacks the drive and clever drama of the previous film, replacing it instead with stale writing and below par acting. The film revolves around the Flint family, whose breadwinner, father Matt (Bernard Lee) is fired from his job as a dockworker for being “too mouthy.” Belittled at his former job, he is also belittled at home by wife Lil (Doris Hare), adding to his misery and feeling of being trapped. To put bread on the table, Matt becomes – are you ready? – an escapologist. The obvious symbolism is laughable, as are the dinner table scenes where the Flints fight it out and the bedroom scenes with embarrassing clinches. 

Meanwhile, son Ricky (Michael Sarne) joins forces with a gangster (John Slater) to rob the cigarette factory where he works. It also does nothing to advance Tushingham with either the critics or the public. Tushingham, meanwhile, is wasted in the role of Catherine Donovan, girlfriend of Ricky. Sarne, a pop star and movie-critic-turned-actor, is a double threat: can’t act and can’t sing. He went on to minor supporting roles in film and television, most notably his brief turn in the megabomb Myra Breckenridge. It’s not all a waste: the settings in the Bethnal Green section of London are well done and visually stunning for those who love cityscapes. But if released today, A Place to Go would go straight to video.

THE LEATHER BOYS (Raymond Stross Productions/Allied Artists, 1964) – Director: Sidney J. Furie. Starring: Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell, Dudley Sutton, Gladys Henson, Avice Landone, & Lockwood West.

Tushingham rebounds rather nicely in this excellent example of the British New Wave. She plays Dot, a 16-year old girl who can be best described as shallow, selfish and extremely vain. Her immaturity is all too obvious, and like most like her, she is attracted to her direct opposite, a guileless young boy named Reggie (Colin Campbell). Besotted with each other, they marry, but soon live to rue their wedding day as they discover marriage is not what they thought it would be. Reggie meets Pete, a flamboyant, extraverted biker and they become best friends, ultimately moving in together, leaving Dot on the outside looking in. While Reggie is trying to figure out what he wants from life, Pete knows what he wants: Reggie. Reggie, however, is so naïve that he never realizes Pete is gay until the final scene where Reggie waits in a closeted gay bar for his best mate and learns that the boat Reg thinks is going to take them to America is really sailing for Liverpool. Disillusioned, Reggie walks off, leaving Pete, but does not go back to Dot.

Although this synopsis sounds as if the film is heavily telegraphed, that’s not the case at all, thanks to great writing by Gillian Freeman (who also wrote the novel on which the screenplay is based) and the deft acting of both Campbell as Reggie and Dudley Sutton as Pete. Furie handles the cast superbly, tipping his hand neither way as to where the film is headed. Tushingham, for her part, plays Dot always on the edge of anger, but never crosses that line to where she gives the plot away, and it can be said that few play angry as swell as Rita. Adding to the total effect is the stark black and white photography adding to the feeling of hopelessness felt by the major characters. 

Thinking back, I can see the influences of the film on Mike Leigh and Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia. (In fact, leading lady Leslie Ash reminds me of Tushingham in her performance.) I last saw this film more than 30 years ago when I rented it from a now-defunct video store near where I worked. It was a terrible transfer: grainy, with a lousy soundtrack. If there is one movie crying out for restoration and rediscovery by film mavens it is The Leather Boys. 

GIRL WITH GREEN EYES (Woodfall, 1964) – Director: Desmond Davis. Starring: Peter Finch, Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave, Marie Kean, Arthur O’Sullivan, & Julian Glover.

This is a serious and touching a look at May-December romance and the coming to terms with change in a relationship. Rita is Kate Brady, an Irish girl fresh off the farm, who has come to Dublin, where she moves in with friend Baba Brennan (Lynn Redgrave). Soon she meets Eugene Galliard (Peter Finch), a considerably older writer whose wife has left him. Enchanted, she pursues him and despite his initial reservations, he invites her to live with him at his country home. As the relationship moves on, both come to realize they have nothing in common except their love. Kate’s feelings of inferiority cause her to become jealous and possessive while Eugene in turn becomes restless and sarcastic. They quarrel and Kate leaves. She and Baba are moving to London and Kate expects Eugene to come running after her. When she realizes that he’s not going to do that, she chalks it up to experience. 

Cinematographer Desmond Davis, here directing his first film, keeps the story in play and does a nice job of not letting things grow stale. Lynn Redgrave, here in an early role, gives us a hint of what is to come, as she nearly steals the film with her offbeat performance. Again, an excellent film that should not be missed the next time it appears.

While the first four movies were part of the British New Wave, the next, titled The Knack . . . and How To Get It, was a prime example of the “Swinging London” genre. “Swinging London” was a phrase coined by “Time” magazine in the April 15, 1966, issue and reflected the changing popular culture sweeping England. The ‘50s, with its rule of austerity and rationing, was over, replaced by a new optimism based on a growing youth culture influenced by all-night amphetamine-fueled dance parties, Italian fashion, and a new home-grown music reflected in the work of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks, among others. Fashion, music, and pop existentialism dominated the cultural scene, which marked the beginning of a true consumer culture in Britain. Models were the new icons and art took a psychedelic style, with loud colors and simple, yet outrageous subjects. 

Although England seemed to catch the new optimistic fever rather late as compared with America (the Kennedy election), and Italy (I would unequivocally state that Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was a major influence on the shaping of the Swinging London culture), it wholeheartedly adopted and further refined its influences, exporting them to other countries such as America (“The British Invasion”), and France, where it spurred on the students to riot against the status quo in Paris. But by 1969, it was all over. The election of Richard Nixon and the continuing debacle in Vietnam acted as a cultural thermidor with the cultural nadir reflected in the breakup of the Beatles and the movement inward.


THE KNACK . . . AND HOW TO GET IT (Woodfall, 1965) – Director: Richard Lester. Starring: Rita Tushingham, Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, Donal Donnelly, and William Dexter.

Directed by Lester, whose previous film was A Hard Day’s Night with the Beatles, The Knack is noted for its quixotic combination of rapid cutting and editing on a canvas that is evocative of Godard. “The Knack” of the title is a way of scoring with women. Our hero, a teacher named Colin (Michael Crawford, later of Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera) doesn’t have it, but his friend Tolen (Ray Brooks) does and Tom wants Tolen to teach him the art of the Knack. 

At the same time, Nancy (Rita Tushingham) gets off a London-bound train and is busy asking for directions to the local YWCA. Most of the action takes place at Colin’s home, where he has rented out rooms to both Tolen and Tom, an artist who plays the role of Puck, commenting on the action. Lester also adds a running chorus of older people commenting disagreeably on the action. We could have used subtitles here, since their comments are in London slang. Suffice to say that Colin gets much more than the Knack – he gets Nancy – while Tolen gets the gate. If you remember the era fondly, it’s definitely worth a peek, and if you’re too young to remember the era fondly, watch it anyway – it’s a window into a now defunct sub-culture: the world of mods and rockers.  


DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (MGM, 1965) – Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, and Rita Tushingham.

David Lean’s big-screen epic filming of Pasternak’s celebrated novel about the Russian Revolution was a must for every English actor worth his or her chops. Tushingham won a minor part as the love child of hero Zhivago (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie).


THE TRAP (Rank, 1966) – Director: Sidney Hayers. Starring: Rita Tushingham, Oliver Reed, Rex Sevenoaks, and Barbara Chilcott.

Like Zhivago, this is another change of pace for Tushingham. Set in the Canadian wilderness, it’s the story of a fur trapper (Oliver Reed) who kidnaps a mute woman (Tushingham) to be his unwilling wife. The development of their relationship sets this movie apart from others of the time, and today, it is rightly seen as a “lost classic.” Great acting from both leads, especially Rita, who plays her role without speaking a word. Look for it.

SMASHING TIME (Paramount, 1967) – Director: Desmond Davis. Starring: Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave, Michael York, and Ian Carmichael.

Brenda (Tushingham) and Yvonne (Lynn Redgrave) are two girls from the north of England who come to London to find their fortune. Yvonne becomes a model while Brenda turns to being a waitress. A series of misadventures sees them sabotaging each other’s dates, losing their jobs, and eventually switching jobs as Brenda becomes a model and Yvonne a waitress. Only when they learn to team together against the world do they begin to succeed. 

Although it’s a failed attempt to create a comedy team, Desmond Davis keeps things going smoothly with a loose rein. While the plot’s passable and the acting professional by all, one should just revel in the palette of the film: the bright, loud colors, clothes and attitudes. Possibly no films were helped more by the use of color that the “Swinging London” genre.

DIAMONDS FOR BREAKFAST (Paramount, 1968) – Director: Christopher Morahan. Starring: Marcello Mastrioianni, Rita Tushingham, Elaine Taylor, and Margaret Blye.

It’s Topkapi in Swinging London. Nicholas Goduno (Marcello Mastrioianni) is a playboy at loose in London. He is also a descendent of Russian aristocracy. Goduno wants to get back the jewels his father lost playing roulette on the very day he was born, as he has come to believe that they are rightfully his. The only way to do this, however, is to steal them. His opportunity comes when he learns that they will arrive in London as a museum display. 

To pull of the heist he put together a crack team of seven beautiful women. They include a “reformed” thief, an Asian stripper, a Marxist, a cat burglar, and, believe it or not, identical judoka triplets. Tushingham, besides being on the crack team, is also his current girlfriend. While the women are gorgeous and fun to watch, the film is otherwise a dull affair, with none of the snappy dialogue that made Topkapi so enjoyable. Mastroianni plays several roles besides Goduno; he also appears as other members of the royal family that appear in his mind as he contemplates the heist. Marcello also sings the rather catchy title song.


THE GURU (20th Century Fox, 1969) – Director: James Ivory. Starring: Rita Tushingham, Michael York, Utpal Dutt, Madhur Jaffrey, and Barry Foster.

Renowned sitar maestro Ustad Zafar Khan (Utpal Dutt) suddenly discovers that two young Brits have made the trek to his home in Bombay: pop star Tom Pickle (Michael York), who wants to learn the intricacies of the sitar, and Jenny (Tushingham), a hippie who wants spiritual guidance. Unfortunately, Tom has neither the patience nor the respect to properly learn the instrument, leading to friction. Jenny, on the other hand, has upset Khan’s household with her adoration. The clincher comes when the musician takes his visitors to meet his guru. The guru upbraids Khan for wasting his time on the two Britishers and ruining himself as a musician. 

Meanwhile, not only have Tom and Jenny fallen in love, but they come to the realization that they will forever be strangers in this strange land and so return to England to marry. The highlight of this tepid film is hearing the sitar. York is good as the snide pop star, playing his character with a sort of indifference to his surroundings, seeking instant knowledge. Tushingham’s role is less defined and it seems she has little motivation other than finding a husband. 

When director James Ivory and his partner, producer Ismail Merchant, have a wealth of material and a good-sized budget, the results are outstanding as the material manages to overcome Ivory’s laid-back directing style. But when they lack this and are saddled with a script that says everything meaningful within the first 25 minutes, then Ivory’s style becomes a bore.

After her turn in the dreadful The Bed Sitting Room (which works far better as a television special), Tushingham’s film career went into decline, working television series and supporting roles in less than stellar films. Her last film is 2012’s Outside Bet, with a small supporting role in a movie about a group of financially-desperate people that invest their savings in a racehorse hoping for one last huge payout.

Tushingham also spends much of her time as an activist in the battle against breast cancer, of which her daughter, Aisha Bicknell, is a survivor. The two are prominent supporters of Cancer Research UK’s Relay for Life, a fundraising and cancer awareness event. In July 2009, she received an Honorary Fellowship from John Moores University in Liverpool for her contributions to the performing arts.



Theresa Harris 

By Ed Garea

Edited by Steve Herte 

Theresa Harris had everything necessary to achieve stardom in Hollywood. She was gorgeous with a great pair of legs. She was a talented singer and dancer. She was also an actress, stage-trained. So, how come with all this going for her, did she ever miss out on superstardom in Hollywood?

The answer is simple: Theresa Harris was Black. Out of 84 screen and television appearances, she played a maid in 40 of them. That’s almost 50%. And many of her screen appearances were un-credited, including one in which she played an influential role.


This was not an anomaly: to be a Black performer in a lily-White industry meant accepting the sort of roles that couldn’t even be designated as supporting; in a sense, these were supporting roles to supporting players. There were many talented African-American actors in movies and it was extremely rare if any had a substantial part in a feature film. Roles like Dooley Wilson’s Sam in Casablanca were the glaring exception rather than the rule. If they weren’t playing maids or butlers, they were assigned the role of the Ignorant Darkie, playing the comic relief in a drama and heightening a comedy.

She was born on New Year’s Eve, 1906, in Houston to former sharecroppers Isaiah and Mabel Harris. Isaiah worked in construction while Mabel worked as a dramatic reader and taught school. The family moved to Southern California in the early 1920s where Theresa pursued music, graduating with scholastic honors from Jefferson High School and later from USC’s Conservatory of Music and Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music. She was bitten hard by the acting bug while in college, and after graduation, began appearing in local stage productions, eventually playing the lead role in the Lafayette Players’ production of Irene. It was only a short walk to Hollywood.

Her first role was an un-credited one as a singer in a Black nightclub in Paramount’s gangster opus, Thunderbolt, starring Harold Arlen, George Bancroft and Fay Wray. Although her scene was a short one, it was enough to garner notice from critics and audience like. She began looking for more work in films. The size of the role and the crediting was unimportant – getting experience was the goal. She appeared in Morocco as a camp follower and Arrowsmith as a native mother. But roles were un-credited. After that, she played a succession of maids. She was Thelma Todd’s maid, Laura, in the 1932 Marx Brothers comedy, Horsefeathers, but if you blinked, you missed her.

Her first credited role was as the Maid in the Little Rascals 1932 short Free Wheeling. After two more un-credited roles in Night After Night, with George Raft and Mae West, and The Half Naked Truth with Lupe Velez and Lee Tracy, Harris decided to move to Broadway, where she met greater success, but the lure of Hollywood proved too strong.

She continued to enjoy steady work from the 30s to the 50s, though rarely playing anything more than a maid, ladies’ room attendant, or a face in the crowd. (Perhaps her best known maid’s role was that of Zette, Bette Davis’s maid in 1938’s Jezebel.) Her last film was in 1958, the Gift of Love, playing the wife of one the lesser characters – unbilled, as usual.

Harris was as smart as she was beautiful. She wisely invested her film earnings, and being married to a physician, was able to retire to a financially secure life. She died at her home in Inglewood on October 8, 1985, from natural causes and was buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Were she born in, say, the ‘70s, her career path would have been very different. Still, when Harris was allowed a decent part, she more than acquitted herself. Following are the handful of movies where she did make a difference.

Professional Sweetheart (RKO, 1933): Harris has an unbilled role as Ginger Rogers’s maid. Rogers plays a radio singer who is the spokeswoman for Ippsie-Wippsie Washcloths – a role that requires her to live a pure life offstage. But she wants to smoke, drink and sow her wild oats. Harris helps Rogers along in this quest by teaching her to sing in a blues style. Near the end Rogers’s pursuer, Speed (Frank McHugh), hires Vera to sing in an effort to win Rogers back. Harris gets a chance to show off her singing voice and gets a chance to do more than sweep, dust and tell Missy how great she looks in that new dress. Still, she’s unbilled.

Baby Face (WB, 1933): This is the movie most fans talk about when discussing Harris. Baby Face is an amazing movie, especially for its time. It’s the movie that pushed the Pre-Code envelope to its breaking point and ultimately led to stricter censorship. It also cost Darryl Zanuck his job at Warner Brothers as Head of Production, as it intensified a long-standing rift between him and Harry Warner, and thus, Warner offered no resistance when Zanuck announced he was fed up and quit to form Twentieth Century Pictures.

Baby Face is concerned with the fortunes of Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck, who rises from being pimped out by her own father in his speakeasy (located in an unnamed industrial city) to reach the heights in New York as a rich courtesan of sorts. Harris is Chico, Lily’s best friend and co-conspirator in her rise from the bottom to the top. Early on in the movie, the lines of demarcation are drawn between Lily and her father. Dad wants to fire Chico because she breaks too many dishes, but Lily tells him that if Chico goes, then she goes with her. And, as she’s the main attraction at the speakeasy, Dad relents. We see that not only are Lily and Chico friends, but also friends on an equal footing. (Possibly lovers as well?)

Armed with the advice of her only real male friend, a bookseller who teaches Lily the philosophy of Nietzsche, Lily sets off with Chico after Dad is killed when his still blows up. Hitching a ride on a freight train, they are caught by the conductor, but Lily offers him “fare in kind.” Chico simply turns her back and sings “St. Louis Blues” as we know what’s going to occur next. As Lily lands a job in New York and begins her climb, Chico is right there. Because she cannot exist openly as an equal, she assumes the position of Lily’s maid. But we are wise to her real role as friend and co-conniver. Besides, what maid walks around in a fur collar?

Baby Face proved that Harris could do more than answer doors or serve coffee. But, times being what they were, that would be her most lucrative roles, unfortunately.

Buck Benny Rides Again (Paramount, 1940): This is a slight, but funny, comedy
about Jack Benny’s attempts to make Ellen Drew believe that he’s a real cowboy. Harris has a small, but decent role and gets to interact with Eddie Anderson, as Rochester, who (as usual) ends up stealing the movie.

The Flame of New Orleans (Universal, 1941): The first American film from exiled French director Rene Clair (fleeing the Germans after France fell in 1940). Again, Harris is a maid. But this film is more in the mold of Baby Face, as Harris is more than a maid to courtesan Marlene Dietrich, who is posing as a society woman and juggling two rich men, a banker and a sea captain against one another. Harris basically reprises Chico in this film, but has many more lines and Clair provides her with some real glamour shots, which reveal her natural beauty. It may well have been that her role was a major factor in the censors demanding large cuts in the film before it would be allowed to be released.

I Walked with a Zombie (RKO, 1943): This was Harris’ second film for producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur. Both had reportedly been impressed with her small, unbilled role in Cat People and offered her a role in this film. Again she played a maid, but the character is well developed and she has some good scenes with star Anna Lee. In fact, this might be her biggest part in a well-known film. Tourneur also spends time highlighting Harris’s beautiful face and animated expressions as she comes face to face with the undead. Despite the subject matter, which may not appeal to all, this is a film to watch to see Harris’s beauty and acting talent.

Out of the Past (RKO, 1947): In an unbilled part, Harris only has one scene in this classic noir, but director Jacques Tourneur knew she could do much with a very small part. She plays Eunice Leonard, Jane Greer’s former maid and has a dandy little scene with Robert Mitchum in the nightclub scene when Mitchum tries to find out where Greer has gone. Again, though a small part and only one scene, the role is important in moving the plot along and Harris acquits herself well.

Theresa Harris is a perfect example of how sheer perseverance can get one through a hostile universe. Though she would never get the chance to become a major movie star, her performances never give that fact away. Imagine what she could have done today. 


Kaaren Verne

By Ed Garea 

Ever watch a movie and spot someone whom you saw a million times in movies but whose name just won’t come to mind? And you scratch your head hoping that something will come, but it never does? This column begins a new series that will focus on those actors that you see countless times, but just can’t remember the name. They are supporting actors (or in some cases, character actors) that play the little roles that can often make or break a film depending on which actors are cast and how they are cast. Some of them you will have seen in about 100 movies; some you will remember from only a few films, but they stuck in your mind nevertheless. Some have gone on to bigger and better roles, while other languished in the “Bs.” Others began in A-list movies, but because of changing fan and studio tastes, made their way down to starring in B-movies. These columns feature a bio along with some of their more memorable movies.


One of those familiar, but forgotten faces of the ‘40s was that of Kaaren Verne. Born Ingeborg Catherine Marie Rose Klinkerfuss in Berlin, Germany, on April 6, 1918, she began her acting career on the stage as a member of the Berlin State Theatre.

A fervent anti-Nazi, she fled Germany in 1938 and went to England, where she began her film career with the 1940 drama Ten Days in Paris. From there, it was on to Hollywood, where, with the outbreak of war, Nazi refugees were a hot item. Warner Brothers wanted to change her name to Catherine Young, but Kaaren balked and the only thing she changed was the dropping of the extra ‘a’ in her first name.  

Her first American film was MGM’s 1940 Nick Carter programmer, Sky Murder. She played a German refugee suspected of sabotage and was third billed behind Walter Pidgeon (Nick Carter) and Donald Meek. This was followed by an uncredited role in MGM’s 1941 comedy, The Wild Man of Borneo, starring Frank Morgan as a loveable con man. She moved to Warners and made Underground (1941) for director Vincent Sherman. It was a film that saw her give an excellent performance as a violinist that secretly belonged to the German underground. The film also allowed her a reunion with fellow actor and anti-Nazi, Martin Kosleck, who had starred with her on the Berlin stage.

She followed Underground with All Through the Night (1941), where she played a cabaret singer whose father was being held in a German concentration camp and was forced to help the Nazis. It was there that she met her second husband, Peter Lorre, whom she married in 1945 after her divorce from musician Arthur Young. She also had a meaty role opposite Robert Cummings in King’s Row, and a featured role as scientist William Post Jr.’s girlfriend in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon for Universal.  

But then the roles dried up. Apart from The Seventh Cross there was little of note. The rest of her career was spent in television, though she had some small, yet good, roles in films like Ship of Fools and Madame X.  Her marriage to Lorre ended in divorce in 1950, though they remained close over the years following. After Lorre’s death in 1964, Kaaren and third husband, film historian James Powers, adopted Lorre’s daughter, Catherine. She died suddenly on Dec. 23, 1967, at the age of 49 of a heart ailment. Following are two of her better efforts.

UNDERGROUND (WB, 1941): This is an unpretentious little “B” about life in Nazi Germany shortly after the war has gotten underway. The Franken family is happy, as younger son Kurt (Warners “B” stalwart Jeffrey Lynn) is on his way home from the front. So what if he’s lost most of his left arm from a war wound? So what if his nickname used to be “Lefty”? It doesn’t matter, he’s home.

What does matter, however, is that brother Eric (Philip Dorn) is working with the Underground. And not only working, he’s The Voice heard over pirate radio condemning the Fuehrer and his happy gang. This particularly irks SS Colonel Heller (veteran Naughty Nazi Martin Kosleck), who would just love to get his hands on the group.

The tension in the film comes from the fact that while Kurt has come home disabled he is still a staunch supporter of the Reich. Kaaren Verne is a violinist at a café with who both bothers are in love. She is also a member of the Underground and is arrested and tortured by the Gestapo. This movie pulls out all the stops, actually approaching the line where suspense stops and Grand Guignol begins: Vile, nasty Nazis in spiffy splendor, sadism, torture, whips, dungeons, betrayal, sabotage, the righteous rants by the old professor  . . . you can find it all here.

The casting and tight direction makes it work and director Vincent Sherman doesn’t allow it to drift over to the realm of camp. There’s even some humor: Fraulein Gessner (Mona Maris, who gives the movie’s best performance), Heller’s secretary, mentions to one of Heller’s thugs early in the film that she heard a rumor that Goebbels and Goehring each have 5 million marks in a foreign bank account. Near the end of the film, Heller later repeats the rumor to Gessner; only the amount has risen to 10 million marks each. Nice touch.

Memorable Quote: Fraulein Gessner (after listening to one of Col. Heller’s aides brag about a gruesome new torture he’s invented and then complaining that Himmler will take the credit): Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get a promotion.