Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Screenwrier John Michael Hayes Passes On

Screenwriter John Michael Hayes, who worked with Hitchcock on Rear Window and The Trouble With Harry, passed on November 19 at the age of 89.

John Michael Hayes was born on May 11, 1919 in Worcester, Massachusetts. As a boy he contributed news articles on the local Boy Scouts to The Worcester Telegram and later Worcester's Evening Gazette. As still very young he work write articles for the Associated Press. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with a degree in business in 1941. He also for wrote for radio for the Crosley Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio. During World War II he served in the United States Army.

After World War II Hayes took up residence in California. Initially he worked once more in radio, writing for such shows as Inner Sanctum Mysteries, My Favourite Husband, The Adventures of Sam Spade, Alias Jane Doe, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

With a successful career in radio, Hayes was signed to a contract by Universal-International Pictures. He received his first screen credit on Budd Boetticher's Red Ball Express. He would go on to write three more movies before his first collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, on Rear Window, released in 1954. Considered one of Hitchcock's greatest films, Rear Window featured Jimmy Stewart as a photographer with a broken leg who comes to believe that a neighbour across the street has committed murder. The screenplay won an Edgar Award in 1955. Hayes was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay for the film. Hayes would go onto work with Hitchcock on three more films, including To Catch a Thief, the 1956 version of To Catch a Thief, and the comedy classic The Trouble with Harry. Hayes and Hitchcock parted ways after the director hired Angus MacPhail to help write the screenplay and insisted MacPhail also get screen credit. Hayes rejected this and even took the argument to Writer's Guild arbitration (who decided in his favour). Afterwards, he never worked with Hitchcock again.

Hayes would go onto write several notable films, including Peyton Place, The Children's Hour, The Carpetbaggers, and Nevada Smith. He also produced and wrote for the 1975 TV series Nevada Smith. In the Nineties, after many years away from screenwriting, he wrote his last film, Iron Will, released in 1994. Besides Rear Window, he was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay for Peyton Place, and nominated for WGA awards for Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and Peyton Place.

Hayes was not particularly prolific, but he was one of the best screenwriters of his era. It was not simply Hitchcock's direction that made Rear Window and The Trouble with Harry such great movies. Hayes had a gift for slightly offbeat characters (such as Stewart's L. B. Jefferies from Rear Window and the entire population of the small town in Vermont in The Trouble with Harry) and extremely witty dialogue. And he was very versatile, ranging from thrillers such as Rear Window to soap operas such as Peyton Place to Westerns such as Nevada Smith. Other screenwriters may have surpassed Hayes in the number of the screenplays they wrote, but not many matched him when it came to the quality of his work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thanksgiving Quiz

As regular readers of this blog probably already know, Beth of the lovely voice laid down a challenge for me at the first of the year. The challenge was simply this: I must create and post one pop culture quiz a month in A Shroud of Thoughts. The quizzes can have a single theme or simply be a collection of random things. At the end of 2008, the reader who has accumulated the most points throughout the year will win a pop culture related prize. For those of you curious about the prize, I decided that it will be a pop culture related key chain of the winner's choice, to cost no more than $5.00 (minus sales tax). The price limit is for the simple fact that I can't afford platinum plated key chains... I'll provide the answers on December 1.

Since Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States, I thought this quiz should be dedicated to this holiday. The questions are a little harder this time, but all the answers can be found in this blog except one (and it is a pretty easy one).

1. When and where was the first Thanksgiving held in the Thirteen Colonies?

2. In what year did Thanksgiving become a Federal holiday?

3. What famous song identified as a Christmas carol was originally written for Thanksgiving?

4. In What year was the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held (originally called the Macy's Christmas Day Parade, even though it was held on Thanksgiving?

5. What was one of the first four balloons in the parade and the first based on an animated character?

6. What happened to many of the pre-World War II balloons at the start of World War II?

7. On what network was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade originally aired?

8. In what year did the Underdog balloon debut?

9. In what decade was the phrase "Black Friday" applied to the day after Thanksgiving?

10. What movie star celebrated his 120th birthday on Black Friday last year (clue: he starred in a movie called, well, Black Friday)?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Imagine" by John Lennon

Tonight I am a bit tired and under the weather, so I thought I would simply leave you with a video courtesy of IFilm. The video in this case is the classic "Imagine" by John Lennon. It appeared on his 1971 album of the same name. The song reached number three on the Billboard singles chart. It reached number six in the United Kingdom. It has gone onto become one of the 100 most performed songs of the 20th century according to BMI. It has also consistently ranked in the top ten of various lists of the greatest rock songs of all time, including the 2004 list compiled by Rolling Stone of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (there it ranked number three).

While "Imagine" remains one of John Lennon's most popular songs (certainly his most popular solo effort), its origins are unknown. Most believe it is rooted in John Lennon's desire for a more peaceful world. Ultimately, it could go all the way back to 1963. Lennon's lyrics for "I'll Get to You" begin with "Imagine I'm in love with you, it's easy 'cause I know," a line remarkably similar to those in "Imagine."

Regardless, without further ado, here is "Imagine."