Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CABARET Cast on TODAY Show

Savannah Guthrie is very lucky.  She had to the opportunity to interview cast members of the Oscar-winning film, Cabaret, this morning on NBC's "TODAY" show.  Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Marisa Berenson and Michael York were present to honor the 40th anniversary of that ground-breaking musical drama directed by the late Bob Fosse.  The director took us to 1931 Berlin to meet characters amusing themselves and others in a popular nightclub.  They party inside as the Nazi Party gains power outside.
Minnelli won the Oscar for Best Actress.  Joel Grey won for Best Supporting Actor.  Fosse won for Best Director and the film was nominated for Best Picture of 1972.
No offense to Ms. Guthrie but I wish I'd done the interview.  Or that I'd been her segment producer.  Was she aware of the source material, the stories by Christopher Isherwood, that inspired the original Broadway musical?  Was she aware of Joel Grey's long show biz history before he made the movie?  Did she know that Minnelli had Broadway credits and one Oscar nomination under her Halston belt before she won the Oscar for Cabaret?
Minnelli was not the first actress to play Isherwood's Sally Bowles on film.  Julie Harris starred as Sally opposite Laurence Harvey in the 1955 British film, I am a Camera.  The lady Marisa Berenson played in Cabaret was done by Shelley Winters in the 1955 drama.


I am a Camera and Cabaret are based on "The Berlin Stories" by Christopher Isherwood...just as the original movie musical, Gigi, was based on a short story by the French author, Colette.  Gigi won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1958.  Liza's father won the Oscar for Best Director.  I add that because Ms. Guthrie innocently mentioned the thing that "irritates" viewers of pre-Cabaret musicals is that people would burst into song.  Liza's mother, Judy Garland, and her father made some of Hollywood's best and most iconic "irritating" MGM musicals.  Vincente Minnelli's An American in Paris, a Gershwin musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1951.  Fosse's previous film was the movie version of his hit Broadway musical comedy, Sweet Charity (1969).  It wasn't a big hit but, obviously, Fosse learned a lot.  Society was changing.  The 1960s was a rough, revolutionary decade filled with shadow and light.  The sudden deaths of political heroes, the birth of The Beatles, the Vietnam War, Woodstock.  The Stonewall Riots of 1969 that were a major cry for Gay Rights.  Young audiences were seeing movies like Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, M*A*S*H, Midnight Cowboy and the first film to bring Liza an Oscar nomination, The Sterile Cuckoo.  They were moving away from the traditional big budget, bright Hollywood musicals like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Hello, Dolly!  With its provocative sexual frankness, its dark political undercurrent and its realism by placing the musical numbers in the cabaret itself, Fosse's adaptation broke new ground in movie-making and came out at just the right time socially.  Young viewers went to see it more than once.  They quoted Sally Bowles saying "Divine decadence."  Cabaret spoke to the frivolity, fears and sexual freedom of a new generation.  It also gave us unforgettable musical moments.
Liza Minnelli was the bridge between the Old World and the New World of movie musicals.  Her first screen appearance was at the end of a top MGM musical comedy, In The Good Old Summertime, starring her mother.  She watched her father direct his legendary musicals.  Under Fosse's direction, she got an Oscar nomination for making a musical drama.  Very few actresses achieve that.  Her mother did   with the 1954 remake of A Star Is Born, a film that blends Hollywood fame, true love, physical violence, alcoholism, self-loathing, suicide and showtunes into one tender story.  Judy Garland deserved that Best Actress Academy Award nomination.  Liza deserved hers.  Yes, I love seeing her do the "Mein Herr" number and her rendition of the title tune at the end is a knock-out.  But don't forget her dramatic scenes ... like when Sally has been stood-up by her father.  Funny, how life can imitate art.  That same thing happened to me when I tried to have dinner with my father, whom I'd not seen in 20 years.  Minnelli understood and revealed the essential sadness in Sally's heart covered up by her "shocking" behavior.
The effects of Cabaret are still felt.  When I was a VH1 veejay in the late 1980s, when the network still played music, I could see the influence of Fosse's editing in new MTV and VH1 music videos.  We saw its effects in the Best Picture of 2002, Chicago, based on a Bob Fosse Broadway hit.  We can see the influence of his innovative editing style, choreography and staging on current TV shows like Glee and NBC's Smash.

My first TV job in New York City was on WPIX/Channel 11.  I loved doing entertainment features on its weekday local magazine show.  I had the opportunity to interview Joel Grey live in the studio.  His real name is Joel Katz.  He's the son of Mickey Katz, a 1940s entertainer called "The Yiddish Spike Jones."  Joel won his Oscar for playing the Nazi-friendly Emcee.  I asked him how he felt, being a Jew, when he arrived to make a movie such as that in Germany where so many atrocities against Jews had been committed in the 1930s and '40s.  The actor appreciated the question and gave me a rich, honest answer.  He was quite emotionally moved upon arrival for that very reason.
Before his Oscar, Joel Grey won a Tony Award for his 1967 performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the original Broadway cast of Cabaret.  I would've loved to have interviewed him again this morning.  Savannah Guthrie was very lucky to be with the four stars of that 4-star classic musical.  A special Blu-ray edition of Cabaret comes out February 5th thanks to Warner Bros. home entertainment.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More Notes on Oscar Snubs

One night at dinner, a family member asked me about the Kathryn Bigelow "Oscar snub."  I'm still reading entertainment articles and hearing reports about her being "snubbed" by the Academy Awards because she didn't get a Best Director nomination for Zero Dark Thirty, which is nominated for Best Picture.  That same applies to Ben Affleck, who directed fellow Best Picture nominee, Argo.  But I've noticed that entertainment journalists and bloggers haven't called Quentin Tarantino "snubbed" for Django Unchained and Tom Hopper "snubbed" for Les Misérables.  They're up for the Best Picture Oscar but the men behind the camera are not up for Best Director.  For one thing, we can have up to ten nominees for Best Picture again.  There are five nominees for Best Director.  Starting with the Oscars for 1944, the number of Best Picture nominees was reduced from ten to five.  Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress for Gaslight, directed by George Cukor. The psychological thriller earned Charles Boyer a Best Actor nomination.
Angela Lansbury swept into the Best Supporting Actress Oscar race as the tart of a house maid.
Gaslight was nominated for Best Picture.  No nomination for director George Cukor.  With other classics such as Dinner at Eight, CamilleThe Women, The Philadelphia Story, A Double Life, Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike and Judy Garland's critically triumphant comeback in the 1954 musical remake of A Star Is Born on his resumé, Cukor deserved some Hollywood gold.  He got it for directing 1964's My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn.
Let's look at the Oscar race for 1954, a quality year for Hollywood films.  Audrey Hepburn was in the close thoroughbred horse race of a Best Actress category that year.  She was nominated for Billy Wilder's Sabrina opposite the favorite, Judy Garland for A Star Is Born, and new Hollywood sweetheart Grace Kelly.  Hard-working, glamourous Kelly had dressed down and gone dramatic in The Country Girl.  Of the five nominees for Best Picture, only two men were nominated for Best Director.  They were Elia Kazan (winner) for On the Waterfront, also voted Best Picture, and George Seaton for The Country Girl.  One of the other Best Picture nominees was Three Coins in the Fountain.  Cukor's A Star Is Born or Hitchcock's Rear Window should've been in its place.  In my humble opinion.
Hitchcock's classic starring Grace Kelly and James Stewart as a couple solving a murder and problems with their relationship did put him in the Best Director Oscar competition.
Jaws in 1975 changed and started a whole new Hollywood game of action/thriller summer movie releases.  People paid to get the water scared out of them by this big fish tale more than once.  Steven Spielberg directed Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw in a terrific, technically complicated box office blockbuster, smartly adapted from a best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, grandson of humor writer/1940s comic film actor Robert Benchley (Billy Wilder's The Major and the Minor and two Fred Astaire musicals -- The Sky's the Limit and You'll Never Get Rich.)  This is now a classic thriller.
Jaws -- nominated for Best Picture.  No nomination for Steven as Best Director.  Jump ahead to 1985.  The Color Purple scores 11 Academy Awards nominations.  They included a Best Song nomination, Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar category and Whoopi Goldberg up for Best Actress.  The Color Purple was nominated for Best Picture.  It was also adapted from a best-selling novel.
No nomination for Steven as Best Director.  He can tell you a thing or two about being snubbed.  Other directors who guided actors to Oscar nominations in films nominated for Best Picture include Norman Jewison (A Soldier's Story, 1984) and Barbra Streisand (The Prince of Tides, 1991).  They got the movies in the Best Picture race but they weren't nominated for Best Director.

That's just the way the Academy is.  When he was promoting Conspiracy Theory, I asked Mel Gibson about that.  He won what filmmakers Buster Keaton, Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, Preston Sturges and Alfred Hitchcock never did -- an Oscar for Best Director.  (Keaton and Sturges weren't ever even nominated in that category.)  Gibson won for Braveheart.  He took home another Oscar for producing it, Best Picture of 1995.
We still had five nominees for Best Picture back in those days.  I asked him if he felt that the Academy should consider changing the rules -- make the five nominees for Best Director automatically the people who directed the contenders for Best Picture.  He said, "No."  Leave the rules as they are.  Gibson's Braveheart beat out Apollo 13. That 1995 hit had multiple Oscar nominations with performers in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories.  Plus its Best Picture nomination.  No Best Director nomination for Apollo 13's Ron Howard, veteran actor and accomplished film director (Splash, Cocoon, Backdraft, Parenthood).

My point is -- I think entertainment journalists are making too much of this Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck Best Director Oscar nomination snub.  That kind of exclusion has been happening for over half a century in Academy Awards history.  Maybe they should ask what I asked Mel Gibson -- if the Academy should consider changing the rule for Best Director nominees.  That might make for a fresher angle on the story.  Just a thought.






Monday, January 28, 2013

Viola Davis at the SAG Awards

Yesterday on Twitter, during the celebrity arrivals before the Screen Actors Guild Awards show telecast began, I wrote "There must be better entertainment journalistic questioning other than 'Who did your dress?'"  Someone noted that the phrase is "Who are you wearing?"  She was correct.  Another person, a television blogger, lightly criticized me with these responses:  "people who watch red carpet arrivals want to know about fashion" and "just curious: why do you think people tune into red carpet show?"  I politely answered, "To see fashions.  But notice I didn't mention Red Carpet in my original Tweet.  I hear it a lot off the carpet now."  She was watching Red Carpet festivities on E!  I was watching a live Associated Press stream on the Los Angeles Times website.  The on-camera couple was off the Red Carpet but into fashion questions.  I believe entertainment reporters should do some homework.  Blend some good questions about the performer's work in with "Who are you wearing?"  Red Carpet coverage has become a one-hour department store commercial.  Did you see Viola Davis on the SAG Awards last night?

Marvelous!  She presented the award for Best Actor in a Movie.  If I was lucky enough to be in place for pre-show coverage, would I begin time with her by asking "Who are you wearing?"  No.  Because it's been asked.  I'd want my work to stand out the same way she wants hers to.  Viola Davis has an Oscar achievement on her resumé.  In the entire history of the Academy Awards, only two black women have more than one nomination to their credit.  Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis were each nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.  In the entire Academy Awards history -- which includes Oscar nominated actresses such as Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy Dandridge, Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Diahann Carroll, Diana Ross and Angela Bassett.  Amy Adams has four nominations.  Marisa Tomei has three.  I'd ask Viola if there are more opportunities now for minority actresses. I didn't write "black" because it's not just black women.  Rita Moreno won Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story.  Hollywood didn't stuff her mailbox with good scripts afterwards.  She never got another Oscar nomination.  The Joy Luck Club (1993) was full of good Asian actresses.  Look at Viola Davis in that photo.  She should be getting offers to star in biopics about famous singers Dinah Washington or Nina Simone.  Ms. Davis presented the award last night to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln.

One of the other Best Actor nominees was Denzel Washington for Flight.

His Oscar nomination, the sixth for the two-time Oscar winner, makes him currently the black actor with the most Academy Award nominations to his credit.  He and Viola Davis starred in the Tony-winning hit Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences.
They won Tony Awards for their acting work as the middle-aged married couple dealing with changing race relations in 1950s America.  Fences won the 1987 Tony for Best Play and the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama.  There has never been a movie version of this acclaimed play.  I'd ask Viola Davis if Hollywood has considered a film adaptation starring her and Denzel Washington -- and then I'd ask about her dress.
The original production starred James Earl Jones.  By the way, African-American playwright August Wilson won another Pulitzer Prize.  His play, The Piano Lesson, was voted Best Drama of 1990.  It won the Tony Award for Best Play.  I mentioned in a couple of blog entries last year that there's never been a big screen adaptation of any August Wilson Broadway play.  Sally Field was on the Red Carpet.  She's an Oscar nominee for Lincoln.  She had a SAG nomination for it, also as Best Supporting Actress.
There's a woman who had to fight for respect in the Hollywood factory the way Norma Rae had to fight for respect in her factory.  She'd been Gidget and The Flying Nun on ABC sitcoms.  She even recorded an album as The Flying Nun.
 But, in the early 1970s, she was not taken seriously in Hollywood even though she did fine work in made-for-TV movies opposite veteran Oscar nominees such as Jackie Cooper and Eleanor Parker.  Field took new acting classes and triumphed in a made-for-TV miniseries as Sybil, a young woman under psychiatric care for multiple personalities.

Even after that victory, her agent told her she didn't have the right stuff for movies.  I'd ask if that ex-agent ever congratulated her and apologized after she won her first or second Academy Award.  Also...being an actor is not just Red Carpets.  You have to do the work.  Is it true that, during her audition for Lincoln, she had to do a long improv session as Mary Todd opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln?  Her research must have been extensive considering that she got the part and an Oscar nomination.

Like Vivien Leigh (Gone With The Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire), Sally Field is a non-Southerner who won both her Oscars for playing Southern women (Norma Rae, Places in the Heart).  What is there about the character of Southern women that the native-born Californian connects to?  She went South again for Forrest Gump and Steel Magnolias.  I would've asked both Viola Davis and Sally Field how they felt the day they got their SAG cards and what was the project that got them into the union.  The last tweet I got from the TV blogger included this: "...I have no idea why people watch SAG Awards show -- least compelling awards show..."

I didn't tweet back that I watch because I've been a proud SAG member since 1988, thanks to the generous attention of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles.  Also, with great pride, I served on the New York City SAG Board for one year.  I didn't watch the Red Carpet SAG Awards telecast on E!, as she did.  I stayed with with live stream on the Los Angeles Times.  The young woman doing live coverage for the AP spotted Sally Field.  That entertainment reporter asked "Who did Sally Field say she was wearing?"  She added that Field looked "...very pretty and very age appropriate."




Saturday, January 26, 2013

On L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

I really dig this movie.  Although he didn't do the screenplay adaptation of his best-selling novel, writer James Ellroy told me on live TV that he digs it too.  L.A. Confidential is one of the best Hollywood movies of 1997.  Not all in sunny California is what it seems.  There are duplicates.  There's duplicity.  L. A. is full of secrets and cops are out after the truth.


I watched this 1950s crime story/murder mystery again.

You know the what biggest mystery of L.A. Confidential is?  How Kim Basinger was the only person in that entire cast to get an Academy Award nomination.

That still baffles me.

Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Danny DeVito at their best.   "...and the Oscar goes to...Kim Basinger."  That's Hollywood.

Here's a weekend DVD double feature tip for you:  Watch Lana Turner in the 1952 classic, The Bad and the Beautiful, directed by Vincente Minnelli.  This Hollywood-on-Hollywood tale spotlights an ambitious movie producer who is both the worst and best thing that could happen in the lives of three celebrities.  Kirk Douglas plays the producer.  If Lana Turner had ever been nominated for an Oscar during her years at MGM, it should've been for this performance as a co-dependent drunk who cleans up and becomes a star.  Like Liza Minnelli, Georgia's the daughter of a late show biz legend.

Follow that excellent Minnelli film with Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential.  The scene with cops and Lana Turner in a Hollywood nightspot will be even more festive.
Spacey's cop character, show biz-loving Jack Vincennes, walks by a movie theater showing Lana's new film, The Bad and the Beautiful, before he comes face-to-face with more corruption in this noir-ish thriller.  One more thing:  Before he became a network TV series star as The Mentalist, actor Simon Baker had a short role in L. A. Confidential.  Back then,  the new Australian import was billed as Simon Baker Denny.  He played a young and naive Hollywood hopeful questioned by Officer Jack Vincennes.

In this movie, didn't Simon Baker look a lot like 1940s/50s heartthrob Guy Madison?
Madison made his film debut as a sailor in Since You Went Away (1944).  The Best Picture Oscar nominee would be his first film with screen star Shirley Temple.
Guy Madison briefly dated director Vincente Minnelli's future wife and Liza Minnelli's mother, actress/singer Judy Garland, when he was in uniform.
The beefcake actor really shot to stardom as the hero in popular 1950s TV westerns.  Here he is showing Judy Garland his gun.

Notice the resemblance when you see Simon Baker give one of the several fine performances in L.A. Confidential.  Enjoy the double feature.





Friday, January 25, 2013

Obscure Movie Quote

"I'm telling you a mandingo ate my baby!"  ~Meryl Streep as Australian character in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained



Thursday, January 24, 2013

On ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE

If you're a shapely woman in your 30s seeking a new monologue to consider doing in acting class or for auditions, I have a tip for you.  There's a juicy one in this 1973 movie starring Robert Blake as an Arizona motorcycle cop.  He's the shortest cop on the force.  He carries himself like  a big guy.  The name of the movie is Electra Glide in Blue.
The title may be one of the reasons why it didn't capture wide box office attention.  It has that sort of "What the hell happened to America?" vibe that was popular in some movies of the time.  But those movies had better titles.  We saw dramas with titles like Five Easy Pieces, Taxi Driver, The Exorcist, Shampoo, The Hospital, Network, Chinatown, All the President's Men and Billy Jack.  Robert Blake gives one praiseworthy performance in a movie that should've had a better title.  Electra Glide in Blue sounds like an amusement park ride or a sexual lubricant.  Many moviegoers didn't know it referred to the motorcycle.  I have a feeling there was a lot of drama behind the scenes.  Not from Blake, but with the director and producers and screenwriters.  This was the only movie that James William Guerico directed.  He never got behind the camera again.  Guerico had made a name for himself in the rock music industry.  A producer, musician and songwriter, he produced the early hit albums by Chicago.  Later, he worked with Blood, Sweat & Tears.  That's why the soundtrack is so good.  Electra Glide in Blue has developed a cult following over the years.  Deservedly so.  If Robert Blake had ever received an Oscar nomination in his film career, if should've been for his  In Cold Blood performance.  In the excellent film adaptation of Truman Capote's acclaimed book, he played Perry, the less cold-blooded of the two killers.  But a killer just the same.
There's sort of a "Six Degrees of Humphrey Bogart" element in Electra Glide in Blue.  Before the In Cold Blood killer is executed, he talks about his miserable childhood.
Perry mentions the 1948 Bogart classic, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  When Blake was a child actor, he had a scene in that film opposite Humphrey Bogart.
Another Bogart classic is 1941's The Maltese Falcon.  Hollywood veteran Elisha Cook was opposite Bogart as a trigger-happy hood who follows private eye Sam Spade.
Cook plays a poor soul that Blake's Officer John Wintergreen tries to quiet and help.
Blake followed his  In Cold Blood performance with this -- and it's another good one.  Electra Glide in Blue is about dreams, disappointments, frustrations and how dreams got dashed in an America that changed drastically.  Severely.  Remember, this is after the decade in which President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and presidential hopeful Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.  There was the Vietnam War.  Blake's cop was a Marine in Vietnam.  When he got out, you know what Uncle Sam did for him?  Nothing.  He's a cop on a highway that seems to go nowhere.  He's not a perfect man but he's a good cop who doesn't always have the best luck.  He's by the book.  He gives a speeding ticket to a fellow law enforcement member who clearly broke the law.  He didn't cut the verbally abusive hotshot any slack.  That happens at the beginning of the movie.  It kicks off a running theme of the film:  Officer Wintergreen has to put up with a lot o' bullshit as a motorcycle cop.  He came back from Vietnam and distinguished himself on the force.  He didn't return an emotionally chipped man taking out anger on hippies.  True, he does use an Easy Rider movie poster at work for target practice.  But on the road, he treats hippies with respect.  He's just a guy in uniform pursuing an American dream.  But a lot o' bullshit gets in his way as things change.
He and his partner have to deal with all sorts of characters on that road.
His partner (so well-played by Billy Green Bush) could care less about these kooks.
The movie opens with a death by gunshot.  Suicide?  Murder?  John thinks it's murder.  He sees the case as his ticket to being kicked up to homicide and off highway patrol.  But then comes the frustration of having to work for a somewhat clueless, cigar-smoking boss.  Says one character:  "Incompetence is the worst form of corruption."
It doesn't show in his work but Wintergreen wishes he could start his life over.  Homicide would be a relief.  "I hate that motorcycle they make me ride," he reveals.  "Big John" does get kicked up to homicide and gets to trade in his helmet for a Stetson.
The movie gets off the track of the murder case when introducing us to other characters but it does eventually get back to it.  One character is Jolene, lovely to look at and delightful to see.  Built like a Playboy Bunny, she has frisky sex life with Officer Wintergreen.  Wintergreen and his boss go to the bar/restaurant where she works.  It's after closing time.  She's alone.  She's had a couple of strong drinks.  Jolene too has had some dreams dry up and blow away in the arid Arizona location.  She tells us about it while she shows off some dance moves.  She's no bimbo.  Jolene had talent.  The truth of her frustrations -- occupational, romantic and sexual -- comes pouring out.
She was Rockette in New York City for a year.  That takes training. Then she headed for Hollywood with her dance skills.  She comments on her old photos posted above the jukebox:  "Miss Peaches 'n' Cream, Miss Nice, Miss Naive."  Love and a frustrating marriage blocked her career drive.  She's looking at John, her occasional lover.  His dream came true. He's working homicide. "You got your hat and you got your badge and you got your boots.  You got it all.  Don't you, Johnny?  You got everything."  Her dreams didn't come true.  Jolene settled for less.  I watched that actress do this scene, this monologue, and I thought, "Oh, Girl!  You are workin' it!"  She is so good, so on fire in that scene.  I kept looking at her and she seemed familiar.  When the camera went in for another close-up, I said "Oh my gosh!  She was on Petticoat Junction!"
Jolene was played by Jeannine Riley, the actress who was my favorite of the three sisters on Petticoat Junction, the popular CBS sitcom.  She was on from 1963-1965.
She was busty, blonde Billie Jo Bradley.  She lived in Hooterville's Shady Rest Hotel with Kate, her widowed mother, her two curvy sisters and Uncle Joe...who was always "movin' kinda slow at the junction.  Petticoat Junction."  So the theme song said.
TV's future Batman, Adam West, played one of Billie Jo's beaux in Hooterville.
Who knew Riley had those dramatic chops?  And why didn't more movies display them?  The bar monologue of Jolene's is ripe for a 30-something actress to do in class or for a film/TV audition.  You've got a good 2-3 minutes in there.  Rent the DVD and check it out.
Another thing -- while Electra Glide in Blue falls short of being great 1970s film like Chinatown, Network or Taxi Driver, it's worth watching for the acting and for the cinematography.  It's beautifully photographed -- like a classic John Ford western.
Cinematographer Conrad Hall did that.  He photographed Blake previously.  Hall's black and white cinematography for 1967's In Cold Blood is art.  It's master class material.
Hall received an Oscar nomination for In Cold Blood.  He won Oscars for his work on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and American Beauty (1999).

Hall filmed Robert Blake as two men on opposite ends of the scale -- one a killer in black and white, the other a good cop in color.  Both have an essential loneliness.  Officer Wintergreen confides to a janitor, "Did you know that loneliness will kill you deader than a .357 magnum?"  Electra Glide in Blue and In Cold Blood prove how effective an actor Robert Blake was.  I believe he's the only kid from MGM's Our Gang comedy shorts of the 1940s who grew up to land lead roles in movies and television.  Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and Buckwheat surely didn't.  TV made him a star on the popular detective series, Baretta.  1970s films didn't seem to pick up the ball and run with his talents for whatever reason.  His reviews for In Cold Blood were stellar.  One can only imagine if Robert Blake had been given a chance to play Taxi Driver Travis Bickle, the disabled Vietnam vet in Coming Home, the military husband in Coming Home, Brody in Steven Spielberg's  Jaws or a character in that all-star disaster blockbuster, The Towering Inferno.  (That 1974 box office champ starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, William Holden, Jennifer Jones, Faye Dunaway, Robert Wagner....and O.J. Simpson.)
Other 1973 releases were Serpico, The Way We Were, The Exorcist, Mean Streets, The Last Detail, Paper Moon, The Sting, Last Tango in Paris and American Graffiti.

Electra Glide in Blue -- an overlooked 1973 film worthy of attention.  The film acting of Robert Blake deserves re-appreciation.  A CBS sitcom star stands out in a dramatic supporting role as an ex-Rockette.  And the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous.













Notes from Alice Faye and Don Ameche

If you're a fan of the late, great queen of Broadway...that legendary belter, Ethel Merman, then be sure to watch Turner Classic Movies ...