Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 86-Year Old Sitcom Star

The other night, I couldn't sleep.  So I turned on an old movie that I thought would lull me off to Dreamland.  Quite the opposite.  I found a Sidney Lumet movie starring Sean Connery, Martin Balsam and a boyish-faced new actor named Christopher Walken.  1971's THE ANDERSON TAPES is a Manhattan crime story that woke me right up thanks to the famed Sidney Lumet directorial excellence.  As I was watching, there's one scene -- of many -- that I love.  The masked gang pulling off the high-tone apartment building heist enters the apartment of two old ladies.  Two bickering old ladies.  The crustier one breaks me up laughing because she's not in the least intimated by the gang.  In fact, she rats out that her roommate is 73 and secretly reads erotica.  Sidney Lumet's 1971 film, THE ANDERSON TAPES, reminded me of something that an acting coach said to our class about ten years ago:  "You never know how old you'll be when your big break finally comes."  This stage and screen veteran was proof of that quote.
Let me explain.  The senior lady who like to read erotica was played by Margaret Hamilton, veteran screen character actress who was famous for playing the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The shorter, white-haired lady was actress Judith Lowry.

Judith Lowry had a look that just popped onscreen, whether she had dialogue or not.  Your eye just went to her.  With that "old lady" look, she was often a bit player who worked for some celebrated directors:  Ida Lupino in THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS (1966), William Friedkin in THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKEY'S (1968), Bob Fosse in SWEET CHARITY (1969) and she had a nice small role as Nanny Annie in the film version of the play THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS (1972) starring Joanne Woodward and directed by Paul Newman.

Then came 1975.  One of the popular spin-offs from THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW was PHYLLIS starring Cloris Leachman as the former landlady to Mary Richards.  Phyllis Lindstrom suddenly became a widow and has moved in with relatives in San Francisco.  Judith Lowry was cast as "Mother Dexter," a fun and feisty old lady.

Judith Lowry became one of the breakout characters of that spin-off sitcom.  She was fabulous.  Viewers loved her so much that she went from a recurring to permanent character during the run of the show.  Also, the widow "Mother Dexter" marries her 92-year old boyfriend in one memorable episode.
Judith Lowry passed away during the run of PHYLLIS.  She died a sitcom star in 1976 -- age age 86.

"You never know how old you'll be when your big break finally comes."

If you've never seen Lumet's THE ANDERSON TAPES, it's worth a look.
It's a crime caper drama about surveillance that came out during the Watergate scandal.  The great cast includes comedian/actor Alan King, Dyan Cannon and Ralph Meeker.

This movie marks Christopher Walken's film debut.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chris Hemsworth is Hot and THOR

Over the summer, I'd grown weary of superhero movies featuring caped characters and musclemen with extraordinary powers.  I wanted to see films that had real humans dealing with real life problems.  Well, I have to admit that now, in the fall, I would love to go see Chris Hemsworth in THOR:  RAGNAROK.  Why do I want to see it?  Because I have read a few raves from folks who have seen it.  They say that it's funny.  That makes it different from the previous THOR adventures.  I like Chris Hemsworth.  He's not Daniel Day-Lewis in the acting department but he's got a warm, likable presence.  And, let's face it, he's got the perfect physique to play a superhero.  I really liked Hemsworth a lot as the clueless male eye candy office secretary in the GHOSTBUSTERS reboot. He tickled the heck out of me in that one.  I hadn't seen him let loose and be goofy in any of his other films.  The GHOSTBUSTERS reboot with the gender bender element of casting four women in the roles originally done by four males back in the 1980s did not do well at the box office. A lot of folks missed Hemsworth's comedy turn in it.  Now he's THOR again.
I blame fanboy misogyny for the GHOSTBUSTERS lukewarm box office reception.  I was stunned to read the online complaints about women taking on the roles.  Pardon my language but, as a Brit might say, "Oh, for f*ck's sake.  It's a bloody sci-fi fantasy comedy!  Grow up, you men of America!"  I didn't see the 2016 GHOSTBUSTERS starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones during its theatrical release.  This year, I spent a weekend with two married friends and their son.  After we ate dinner, we just felt like watching an entertaining movie at home.  We hadn't seen GHOSTBUSTERS, so we rented it.  We broke up laughing in its first five minutes.  And all the best parts were not in the trailer.  We were entertained and pleasantly surprised.  Kate McKinnon, SNL cast member, was hysterically funny.  Chris Hemsworth was one of the pleasant surprises.  He was s hoot in scenes with Melissa McCarthy.  GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 was solid Saturday night entertainment at home.  I wonder if the actor's work as Kevin in GHOSTBUSTERS inspired the THOR director to let Hemsworth bring some humor to his superhero role.
That whole Twitter backlash against the female casting of GHOSTBUSTERS really irritated me.  Those women should've returned for a follow-up adventure.

When I was just starting my career, I was an entertainment reporter in the 1970s.  Movie studios would send out booklets promoting what was on their slate for the upcoming year.  We entertainment press people would get those booklets. Not all the projects mentioned would get made and not all the casting mentioned would come to be.  For instance, 20th Century Fox sent out its booklet one season and promoted THE KAREN SILKWOOD STORY starring Jane Fonda.  Well, that story did become a biopic -- but it was SILKWOOD starring Meryl Streep.  A Fox film adaptation of the popular stage play A COUPLA WHITE CHICKS SITTING AROUND TALKING was slated to star Jill Clayburgh and Susan Sarandon.  It never got made.  Then there was a sci-fi horror story called ALIEN in the works.  It would star Paul Newman.  It didn't.  At that time, Newman was really hot and highly paid.  He may have been too expensive for the film's budget.  He may have passed on the project.  An unknown new actress named Sigourney Weaver got the lead in a gender bender approach to the character.

It worked.  It was a futuristic sci-fi horror thriller and we had no problem with Sigourney Weaver becoming a new action hero.

If you never saw the "Girl Power" twist on GHOSTBUSTERS, give it a chance.  You will definitely get some laughs.
 Now here's a trailer featuring Hemsworth in THOR:  RAGNAROK.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Classic Film Double Feature, Race & Journalism

Occasionally, I like to recommend a classic film double with two films that have something in common.  That's exactly what I'm about to do in this short post.  I just watched the 1940 classic, HIS GIRL FRIDAY directed by Howard Hawks.  For as old as it is, it's still fresh and funny.  Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play journalists working for the same newspaper.  He's the editor.  She's his ace reporter.  They were married.  They divorced.  She's on the brink of marrying some sweet dorky guy and becoming a housewife.  A major news story breaks.  Her ace reporter skills kick in again while she and her ex are meeting and soon they're both on the story at a breakneck pace.  A man is about to be hanged for murder.  They know that the man is not a cold-blooded murderer but a top politician wants the execution to happen to assure him re-election.  If you haven't seen this classic, you should.
In one scene, the fast-talking editor, his former ace reporter/former wife, and her fiancé go out to lunch.  They start talking about this big news story.  The two newspaper journalists mention that a black cop was shot and the black vote is very important to the white politician.  That shady politician wants the hanging to happen so he'll have a job.
Rarely, if ever, in Hollywood films of that time were African American voters ever acknowledged.  Rarely, if ever, did we hear that their votes were important to a white politician.

I would put HIS GIRL FRIDAY on a double bill with Fox's 1935 newspaper drama, ONE MILE FROM MIDNIGHT.  This good movie, I'm sure, would get more attention than it does if the little girl in the film had been played by Fox's big star, Shirley Temple.
Claire Trevor (William Wyler's DEAD END, John Ford's STAGECOACH and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for KEY LARGO) takes a cab to Harlem, gets out, walks down the street by herself, unafraid, relaxed with all the black folks on the sidewalk, and focused on doing her job.  She's an ace newspaper reporter.  She heard of a good story and heads to Harlem to investigate.

A sweet, light-skinned black woman works as a seamstress and has a cute little girl.  The little girl, it turns out, is not light-skinned like the seamstress.  She's really a white girl who's been somewhat adopted and is having a happy life.  She's really the daughter of a convict who was killed trying to escape.  The reporter will get the scoop on all that and the whereabouts of the birth mother.

The seamstress has a boyfriend.  He's a cop who's beloved in the Harlem community.  The cop is played by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, famous for movies in which he danced with little Shirley Temple that same decade.
The seamstress is played by the fabulous Fredi Washington.  The actress, a light-skinned black woman herself, scored a triumph as the maid's daughter in the original IMITATION OF LIFE, a 1934 race drama starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers. Just like IMITATION OF LIFE, this Fox film showed Fredi Washington not as a domestic and as a well-dressed, smart woman.  ONE MILE FROM MIDNIGHT has black actors in non-stereotypical roles.  One more thing -- the story does not end with Fredi Washington's character as a "tragic mulatto."  I won't reveals how it ends, but the final scene is a happy one.

Fredi Washington and Claire Trevor are very good together in this short, fast-paced film. Reportedly, Washington refused to pass for white so Hollywood studio execs could give her upscale roles, so her solid acting skills were not utilized.  Roles for black actors and actresses were limited then.
Washington returned to stage work in New York City.  Also, it was great to see Bill Robinson not have to play a house servant.

The little girl in ONE MILE FROM MIDNIGHT was played by Joan Carroll.  At MGM in the mid 1940s, she'd appear a big box office hit.  She'd play one of the little sisters to Judy Garland's character in Vincente Minnelli's MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Beah Richards, Great Supporting Actress

Like Sidney Poitier, Beah Richards made Hollywood history with her great skills as an African American performer.  The Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress of 1967 were Estelle Parsons for BONNIE AND CLYDE, Katharine Ross for THE GRADUATE, Carol Channing for THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, Mildred Natwick for BAREFOOT IN THE PARK and Beah Richards for GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER.
Ms. Richards made history as one of the few African American women who had been nominated, at that time, in the category.  I think she may have also made history as the first black actress who had key roles in two of the five films nominated in the Oscar category for Best Picture.  In both films, she had scenes with lead actor Sidney Poitier.  In GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, she plays the Los Angeles mother of the distinguished widower doctor who has found love again after years of grief over the tragic loss of his wife and little boy.  The surprise is that the doctor's fiancée is white.
The L.A. parents have flown up to San Francisco to meet her and her parents.  The fiancée's parents are played by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.
I wish Beah Richards had been given the opportunity to be in another film with Katharine Hepburn. The two actresses bond so well in the film as women who bless the union of their children but are hurt with the opposition to the marriage that comes from their husbands.  Richards gives a beautiful performance.  It's not a showy role yet the complicated feelings and the emotions that wash across her face are done with such effortlessness that they almost seem subliminal.  At first Mrs. Prentice is shocked at the airport when she meets her son's fiancée and sees that she's white.  In the next scene, notice her face as she and John's father sit in the back seat as Dr. John Prentice sits up front.  His fiancée is driving.  Mrs. Prentice's face has gone from shock and concern to tenderness.  She looks at John, realizing that his long-broken heart has healed.
At the home of the Draytons in San Francisco, it's not just a meeting of different races but also of different classes.  John's father is a retired mailman in L.A.  San Francisco, in Northern California, often came off as being tonier and more cultured than Los Angeles in Southern California.  The Draytons are very well to do.  He's the owner of a newspaper, a prominent newspaper that's known to champion social issues.  Very liberal.

Sex is touched on in this film.  Keep in mind that, as John's gruff father states, interracial marriage is still illegal and a crime in several American states. (The Supreme Court would change that in a year.)  Joanna confides to her mother (Hepburn) that she and John have not been sexually intimate.  John wanted to wait until after they said "I do."  In a scene that I bet clinched Beah Richards getting an Oscar nomination, Mrs. Prentice truthfully calls out Mr. Drayton (Tracy) on his opposition to the marriage.  She's aware that society may not be ready for an interracial marriage. John and Joanna would surely have to deal with some bigoted attitudes.  But Mrs. Prentice tells him that her husband, whom she dearly loves, and he have forgotten what being fully in love like this is like.  That most men forget those feelings as they get older and sexual desire decreases.  That scene is a major heart and a highlight of the movie.  Beah Richards, a veteran of Broadway and film, did a lot of TV.  Like several black actresses, TV gave her more work opportunities than Hollywood did after she received an Oscar nomination.

In Norman Jewison's IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, a murder mystery and race drama set in the Deep South, Beah Richard's is a totally different character.  She's not genteel and loving like Mrs. Prentice.  She's hard and has no love for the white people who treated her as an inferior.  She's Mama Caleba, a woman who performs backroom abortions.  She has a disdain for Detective Virgil Tibbs (Poitier), feeling that he sold out working for the white man.  Tibbs has to cut through this racial humiliation from one of his own to get to vital information in solving the case.  He can instantly turn her disdain and disrespect into fear by hitting her with the reality of jail time for doing the secret work she does on white women if she does not comply.
 IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1967.

With her nomination, Beah Richard was the fourth African American woman in history to be up for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  She followed the groundbreaking Hattie McDaniel, winner for 1939's GONE WITH THE WIND, Ethel Waters in 1949's PINKY and Juanita Moore of 1959's IMITATION OF LIFE remake.

She was the first nominee whose character was not seen as a domestic.  When Stanley Kramer's GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER ends, it ends with a scene that you never, ever would have seen at MGM during Tracy and Hepburn's famous years there in the 1940s.  Or at any other top Hollywood studio for that matter.  The white mother escorts the black mother into the dining room for dinner.  The black characters and the white characters sit at the same tastefully set table for dinner.
Beah Richards was a superb actress.  I wish she had received another Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.  She was brilliant in 1998's BELOVED directed by Jonathan Demme.  By the way, the winner of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1967 was Estelle Parsons.

I wrote another post on GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER earlier this month, if you'd like to read it.  Go back to October 11th.

Friday, October 27, 2017

NIck Nolte and Songs by Prince

Director, writer and producer James L. Brooks has had a golden touch in television and movies.  He shaped THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW into a successful sitcom that made TV history.  He won Oscars for directing, writing and producing the Best Picture of 1983, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.  Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson also won Oscar for it.  His production BROADCAST NEWS brought him Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture of 1987.  His production AS GOOD AS IT GETS brought him Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture.  Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt won Oscar for it.  In between BROADCAST NEWS and AS GOOD AS IT GETS was a James L. Brooks comedy film that went over like fried liver sandwiches as a children's birthday party.  This kind of flop happens to us all in show biz.  You work hard to make a project pleasing but it just doesn't click.  His flop project was 1994's I'LL DO ANYTHING starring Nick Nolte as a good but unsuccessful screenwriter and divorced dad.  His bratty little girl is staying with him while he doggedly seeks employment in Hollywood so he can be a responsible parent.
The original cut of this James L. Brooks original screen comedy co-starring Albert Brooks, Tracey Ullman and Julie Kavner had nine original songs -- written by Prince.  Reportedly, all the songs were cut after the film's previews.  According to an article in The Los Angeles Times the year of the film's disastrous release, Albert Brooks did a couple of songs, Julie Kavner did one and Tracey Ullman did one.  Also, in the original cut, Nick Nolte had made his singing debut with a song by Prince.  The Times article went on to report that there was a demo tape circulating with the deleted numbers on it.  Said one astonished professional songwriter who played the tape for friends at a party, "It's like Springtime for Hitler in The Producers."
Do these original songs by the late, great Prince still exist or did he have them destroyed?  Has anyone besides those actors, writer/director James L. Brooks and a few others in Hollywood heard them?
They may very well be awful but, because they were written by Prince, I'd be extremely interested in hearing them anyway.

I love James L. Brooks.  He was one of my all-time favorite guests on VH1 back in the late 80s.  After my VH1 contract expired, he graciously took a meeting with me in his 20th Century Fox lot office and gave me 45 minutes of his time.  I've had agents who never even gave me that much time.  I saw I'LL DO ANYTHING.  As much as I love James L. Brooks, I did not love that musical comedy with, after previews, became just a comedy.  No music.  The highlight of I'LL DO ANYTHING is the face of Nick Nolte.  He was in his early 50s...but looked like he was 30-something.
If you know anything about those missing Prince songs, please let me know.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Brilliant Star, Hedy Lamarr

If she was alive, I bet she would have loved the movie HIDDEN FIGURES -- especially the real-life character played by Taraji P. Henson.  I just had to share this while it's still posted.  I believe it's from cable's GetTV, a network that features vintage TV series, talk shows and such.  Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian actress who swam nude in a dramatic 1933 European film called ECSTASY.  She was discovered, came to America and signed with MGM Studios in Hollywood.  The beauty was a very popular box office star at MGM in the 1940s.  Hedy Lamarr was stunning and starred opposite some of the studio's top male stars such as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart and William Powell.
In a move typical of Hollywood at that time, she was covered with "exotic" make-up and cast as a Congo vamp in the story of adventure in Africa called WHITE CARGO.  Yes, the Austrian immigrant played a Congo seductress named Tondelayo.  But the movie was a big 1942 hit.
She was in 1941's ZIEGFELD GIRL with Judy Garland and Lana Turner...
...and, for Paramount in 1949, she starred in Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic SAMSON AND DELILAH with Victor Mature.
While Hollywood and moviegoers were struck by her sensational looks, very few were aware of her even more sensational brain.  Now we know that Hedy Lamarr, during her glamour girl Hollywood heyday, was an inventor and technology pioneer.  Her technology genius was unknown to Merv Griffin in 1969.

This excerpt is an example of why I would love to host a talk show again.  Screen star Hedy Lamarr is Merv's guest -- along with...Woody Allen, Leslie Uggams and Moms Mabley.  Yes...Jackie "Moms" Mabley.  Thank you, Merv Griffin.

Hedy Lamarr...and Moms Mabley.  I am so glad I found that vintage video online.

That was 1969.  Come 1974, Harvey Korman would play Hedley Lamarr in BLAZING SADDLES.
Here's a short feature highlighting the technological brilliance of Hedy ... not Hedley ... Lamarr.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lucille Ball on Sexual Abuse

Television's legendary Queen of Comedy was aware of the problem when she was a contract player at RKO Studios in the 1930s.  The late, great Lucille Ball told a class of show biz hopefuls about it back in the 1970s.
Brava to all those brave women who have come forth with accounts of sexual harassment that they'd kept secret for years.  The Harvey Weinstein scandal and the shockingly similar details of his alleged grossly inappropriate sexual behavior from those women has rocked Hollywood.  I'm glad these stories are coming forward.  This kind of toxic masculinity and vile sexual disrespect needs to end.

Comedian, actor and writer Taylor Negron was a very dear buddy of mine.  He was bright, gifted talent taken by cancer two years ago at age 57.  We'd both grown up in Southern California at a time when veteran movie and TV stars were still accessible, when they took time to share their knowledge if they sensed you truly were interested in hearing and learning from it.  I heard Taylor on NPR talk about his Tuesdays with Lucy.  He was one of the aspiring young actor in classes at Sherwood Oaks Experimental Film School on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street.
 Lucille Ball was the star of the internationally famous I LOVE LUCY sitcom, a hit CBS show in the 1950s that brought her, at age 40, the kind of stardom that years of Hollywood movie work hadn't.  I LOVE LUCY made Lucille Ball a head of the extremely successful Desilu Productions.  She went to Taylor's classes and spoke.  According to Taylor's piece, which I'll transcribe in part, she was in tears during the open of her first appearance in the class.  Someone dear to her had died.  In May 1977, Lucille Ball told the class:

"The kindest, most lovely woman in the world died an hour ago.  Lela Rogers.  Ginger's mother."

Ginger Rogers, star of RKO classic musicals with Fred Astaire, was a special guest star on one of Lucille Ball's post-I LOVE LUCY spin-offs in 1971.  In 1937, Ginger and Lucy whipped out wisecracks as struggling New York City actresses who live in a women's theatrical boarding house.  The RKO movie, STAGE DOOR, was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture.  Ginger was a big star then on the RKO lot.  Lucy was a screen newcomer.  Here's a clip.
Lucy continued about Ginger Rogers' mother:  "In the early '30s when women came to Hollywood and they got off the train, they were met by men who impersonated agents and studio executives offering them rides.  The men raped these women,"  Lucille let the tears roll.

"Lela Rogers created the Hollywood Studio Club, a place where young actresses could live, and be safe from these rapist men.  In those days, when you were raped, a girl never mentioned it."

Ginger Rogers had a big comedy hit with a project that marked Billy Wilder's first time as film director.  The movie was THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, a 1942 Paramount release.               
Ginger played Susan Applegate, a sweet young lady supporting herself with a job in Manhattan.  She's so fed up with having to outrun married, middle-aged men chasing her around the room that she's headed back to her hometown.  But something happens when she gets to the train station.  She doesn't have enough cash for one adult ticket. She disguises herself as a 12-year old so she can board with a reduced fare.  A responsible and respectable military officer becomes her guardian, believing that she is a kid, and -- you guessed it -- she falls for him but has to figure out how to grow instantly from 12 to 22 and steal him away from his selfish, unpatriotic fiancée.
In one scene, Susan Applegate goes home to her mother in Iowa.  Lela Rogers, Ginger's real life mom, played Susan's mother in THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR.  She was very good.

Not only did Ginger Rogers introduce and dance to new songs in now classic RKO musicals with Fred Astaire, she was a pro at screwball comedy roles.  She won the Best Actress Oscar for RKO's 1940 feminist drama, KITTY FOYLE.

Lela Rogers was an accomplished woman who was devoted to helping her daughter achieve a successful film career.  According to Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers' mother helped a lot of other women, daughters of parents she never knew, by creating the Hollywood Studio Club.  I'm so glad Taylor Negron shared that story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Mel Gibson Comeback Comedy

He was one of our hottest movie stars of the 1980s thanks to entertaining action thrillers like MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and the LETHAL WEAPON movies.  Not only did he star in 1995's BRAVEHEART, he won the Best Director Oscar for his skills behind the camera and he got another Oscar as producer when it won for Best Picture of the Year.                                     
He directed another box office smash -- 2004's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.  Then some of his off-screen behavior didn't seem so...Christian.  Like his hard drinking and recorded rants with offensive comments about women, Blacks, Mexicans and Jews.  And he was rude to members of the entertainment press.
There was a time when the summer weekend opening of a new Mel Gibson action adventure was a top story on shows like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT.  That changed.  He starred in a big action movie called GET THE GRINGO in 2012 when press about him had not been flattering.  The movie quickly went to DirecTV.
Gibson directed Andrew Garfield to a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 2016's World War 2 biopic, HACKSAW RIDGE.  Gibson got an Oscar nomination for Best Director.  So, it seems he got control of himself and is on a comeback trail. TV is airing spots for his upcoming comedy with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, DADDY'S HOME 2.

A red flag to Mel's 2010-2011 meltdown came in 1991.  Apparently, he'd been drinking before an interview.  He made homophobic remarks.  Said handsome movie star Gibson to the foreign reporter:  "With this look, who's going to think I'm gay?  I don't lend myself to that type of confusion.  Do I look like a homosexual?  Do I talk like them?  Do I move like them?"

Don't get me started.

Mel's film career began in Australia.  Here are shots of him as Max in 1979's MAD MAX.  Max converses with a bald acquaintance who was watering plants.  Look at their fashion statements.

Gibson clicked with Australian TV viewers in the 1979 TV film called TIM.  Piper Laurie co-starred.  Look at this Australian promo for TIM, notice his fashion statements of think of his quote, "With this look, who's going to think I'm gay?":

DADDY'S HOME 2 opens November 10th.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Catholic Guilt over BOOGIE NIGHTS

Praised by movie critics and graced with Oscar nominations, it's the film that could've been also known as TERMS OF ENDOWMENT.  Former pop star turned Oscar-nominated actor Mark Wahlberg now hopes that our Heavenly Father forgives him for playing porn star Dirk Diggler in BOOGIE NIGHTS.  I read this Oct. 20th news in The Chicago Tribune.  Personally, I still categorize BOOGIE NIGHTS as one of the top ten best American films of 1997.  Director Paul Thomas Anderson received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Julianne Moore was an Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress and -- for delivering one of the finest performances of his long movie career -- Burt Reynolds was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Director Paul Thomas Anderson showed us that Mark Wahlberg, formerly known as the pop star Marky Mark, was more than just MTV music video eye candy.  He could handle dramatic film material.  He was excellent as the working class young guy in Southern California.  In his home, the air is thick with misery.  He and his father have been emotionally beaten down by his shrew of a mother.  The young guy has an ordinary job in a nightspot kitchen.  He's generously endowed.  Apparently, he can make some cash on the side just by letting men see it.  Like he's a $5 footlong at Subway.  His youth is rather pathetic and the heat of his mother's anger forces him out of the house and into another dysfunctional family.  But this family accepts him and makes him feel special.  He's been discovered by a maker of X-rated movies. The young discovery with the extra large penis gives himself a new name -- and a star is born.  Or porn.  But he will have a rise and fall in a changing area of the movie business.
As The Chicago Tribute reported, Mark Wahlberg was on stage addressing a group of fellow Catholics.  He was onstage in Chicago with Catholic Cardinal Blase Cupich.  Wahlberg was in Chicago to support Cardinal Cupich's effort to draw young people into the church.  Wahlberg remarked, "I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I've made some poor choices in my past."  He went on to say that BOOGIE NIGHTS is at the top of the list.
Wow, Mark Wahlberg.  How will fellow cast members and the director/screenwriter feel about that statement?  And if the Cardinal and the folks in the audience are strict Catholics, they wouldn't have seen BOOGIE NIGHTS in the first place and would not have gotten a glimpse of what made Dirk Diggler a superstar.
When I was a kid, Mom and Dad would often get The Tidings as they left Sunday mass.  That was the Catholic newspaper for the L.A. archdiocese.  The Tidings always had a list of movies that Catholics could see and a list of movies that were "morally objectionable."  My passion for movies started when I was in grade school, so I paid attention to Hollywood news as fervently as I paid attention to cartoons on TV.  When Billy Wilder's KISS ME, STUPID starring Dean Martin and Kim Novak came out, Catholics were forbidden to see it.  I'll put it like this -- if you went to see KISS ME, STUPID and, when it was over, you got hit and killed by a drunk driver when you were crossing the street, you could go immediately to Hell and possibly be seated next to members of Hitler's Third Reich...just because you saw a Billy Wilder sex comedy.  Mom and Dad seemed to make it a point to see every film based on work by Tennessee Williams because all those movies were "morally objectionable."  I'm proud of them for that.  I'm proud to be Catholic but I am not about to let the Church tell me what film art I can and cannot see.

As for Wahlberg, remember him back in the Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch hip-hop days?  Remember what he started doing onstage?  He'd finish a song and drop his pants, standing in his drawers as a commercial for Calvin Klein underwear.  What about Scorcese's THE DEPARTED, the film that brought Mark Wahlberg an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor of 2006 -- didn't a character hold up a dildo in that crime thriller?  Then there are the comedies that Mark Wahlberg did with a potty-mouth stuffed bear, TED (2012) and TED 2 (2015).  I wonder if Cardinal Cupich saw those.

Mark Wahlberg needs to relax with the Catholic shame, in my opinion.  As an actor, he's got nothing to be ashamed of in BOOGIE NIGHTS.  It's an exceptional film.  I wish I'd had the opportunity to act in a film that good.  If I had, I would've taken my rosary to Sunday mass to say prayers of thanks.
Next month, Mark Wahlberg will be seen in the comedy DADDY'S HOME 2.  He'll star opposite fellow Catholic, Mel Gibson.  They'll play father and son.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


In my previous blog piece, I wrote about some realistic visual detail in a silent film classic, THE CROWD.  That 1928 drama was directed by King Vidor.  The newlyweds in New York City, the housewife and the office employee husband, live in a small, low-income apartment.  In a sequence that takes place on Christmas Eve, we see the wife happily making dinner.  Relatives are coming over from her side of the family.  The husband is getting ready and the bathroom door is open.  Several times, see inside the small bathroom.  There's a sink and a toilet.  When the Motion Picture Production Codes would minimize film-making freedom starting in the early 1930 and be pretty strict through the 1950s, you would not see toilets in Hollywood films.  There would be large, glamorous bathrooms -- like the one Lana Turner had as a ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) or Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker had in LAURA (1944), but you would never see a toilet.  In the bright Doris Day and David Niven comedy, PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES (1960), we see a family outgrow its Manhattan apartment and move to a big house in Connecticut.  There's a scene in the apartment bathroom.  The toilet is implied.  We don't see it.  THE CROWD gave us a realistic look at working class life in the big city.
The production codes were moral guidelines.  Basically, codes felt like the unlikable, conservative new principal in a high school for the performing arts.  Starting in the early 30s, there were rules against nudity, scenes of passion and lustful kissing, discussions of sexual aberrations, too much alcohol for a good time (Prohibition was in effect) and interracial relationships.  Those were some of the production code no-no's.  Realism like Vidor's in THE CROWD would disappear for a time as the Hollywood film-making technology advanced.
Directors like Billy Wilder (SOME LIKE IT HOT, THE APARTMENT) and Alfred Hitchcock artistically challenged the codes by showing that they'd grown outdated because society had grown up.  Look at Hitchcock's masterpiece.  Just like Vidor's THE CROWD, Hitchcock shows us a toilet.  It's a realistic visual because it's in a motel bathroom next to the shower.

Hitchcock's 1960 shocker was a groundbreaker.  And a box office champ.  Just like Doris Day and Grace Kelly, blondes who had a "good girl" movie image and did lead roles for Hitchcock, Janet Leigh was blonde and had graduate from years of a "girl next door" image at MGM in the 1940s.  Come the 1950s, she'd be half of one of Hollywood's hottest couples.  She was married to Tony Curtis.  Hitchcock cuts away that "good girl" image and makes her a sexy, smart, non-virgin.  I'm sure you've seen PSYCHO and don't need me to tell you what puts her character, Marion Crane, on the road to the Bates Motel.
Not only does Hitchcock do the unheard of -- he kills off the leading lady played by a top Hollywood star in the first third of the movie -- he has her character fall over dead in a close-up with....a toilet.
If you had shown an MGM leading lady in the same shot with a toilet in the 1940s, the head of studio boss L.B. Mayer would've exploded like those of the evil aliens hearing Slim Whitman music in MARS ATTACKS!

Janet Leigh received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for PSYCHO.

Three of the top ten box office hits for 1960 were PSYCHO, Billy Wilder's THE APARTMENT and PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES.

In a way, an ordinary toilet became a visual symbol of early realism and later revolution in film-making.

There's a new documentary out about the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO.  From IFC Films, it's called "78/52."  The title refers to the number of shots and the number of edits in that terrifying murder scene.  Here's a link to click onto for the trailer.  Watch:

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