Friday, April 3, 2009

Composer Maurice Jarre and Cowboy Star Monte Hale

Film composer Maurice Jarre and B Western star Monte Hale both recently passed on.

Maurice Jarre passed on March 28 at the age of 84. He won three Academy Awards as a composer and contributed considerably to the nature of music in epic films.

Maurice-Alexis Jarre in Lyon, France on September 13, 1924. Unlike many musicians, he came to it late. He dropped out of La Sorbonne, where he had been studying engineering, to enrol in the Conservatoire de Paris to learn music. As a composer he started in the theatre, writing for the Theatre National Populaire. His first score for a film was for the French documentary short "Hotel des Invalides" in 1952. His first work in a feature film would be on Henri Decoin's Le Feu aux poudres. It would be the film Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray (released in English as Sundays and Cybele) which would bring him to the attention of producer Sam Spiegel. Spiegel hired him to write the score for Lawrence of Arabia. With the score to Lawrence of Arabia, Jarre helped define the musical language of the Hollywood epic. Prior to Lawrence of Arabia, he had worked on The Longest Day, his first work on an English language film.

Jarre would go onto compose scores for such films as the 1963 remake of Judex, The Train, Doctor Zhivago, The Professionals, Grand Prix, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, and Crossed Swords. He later shifted to more subtle, often electronic scores, writing scores for such movies as Dreamscape, Witness, Fatal Attraction (an awful movie, but with a great score), and Ghost.

Maurice Jarre largely redefined the epic movie music score as it was known. As a percussionist, he increased the use of drums and percussion from what had previously been heard in epic movies. He also had an uncanny knack for perfectly capturing the mood of any film. If the the theme to Doctor Zhivago became ever present in our society for a time, it may have been because it fit the movie so well.

Legendary cowboy actor Monte Hale died 29 at the age of 89.

Monte Hale was born Samuel Buren Ely on June 8, 1919 in San Angelo, Texas. He may well have been born to be a singing cowboy. As a child he not only started playing guitar, but was a huge fan of cowboy star Ken Maynard. With money he earned from picking pecans and cotton, Hale bought his first guitar. He performed at county fairs and by 13 he was playing in clubs. During World War II he joined the Stars Over Texas Bond Drive. It was perhaps inevitable he would appear in film. He appeared in bit parts in such films as The Big Bonanza (1944) and Oregon Trail (1945).

Strangely enough, Hale's first major film role would not be in a Western, but in a sci-fi chapterplay titled The Purple Monster Strikes from 1945. He played Dr. Harvey in two chapters of the serial. He went onto appear in supporting roles in such films as Bandits of the Badlands (1945) and California Gold Rush (1946). His first starring role, as a character named Monte Hale, was in Home on the Range in 1946. Monte Hale would star as, well, Monte Hale, in nine more movies, from 1946 to 1949. While his films featured less singing than those of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, they featured considerably more action. Monte Hale continued to appear in B Westerns until the form died out in the early to mid Fifties, playing such roles as Bat Masterson in Prince of the Plains in 1949 and Pat Garrett in Outcasts of the Trail that same year.

Once the B Westerns died out, Hale returned to singing at clubs, fairs, and rodeos. He did continue to act, appearing in the movie Giant in 1956. He also made guest appearances on the TV shows Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Texan, Honey West, and Gunsmoke.

Monte Hale never quite had the singing career that either Gene Autry or Roy Rogers had, although he made up for this in comic books. He appeared in Monte Hale comic books from 1948 to 1956, as well as such titles as Cowboy Western Comics, Movie Comics, Real Western Hero, and Six-Gun Heroes. Comic books featuring Monte Hale would eventually be published in 27 different languages.

Monte Hale was pivotal in founding what would become the Autry National Centre of the American West. His friend Gene Autry had often expressed interest in founding a museum dedicated to the Old West. One night in the early Eighties, Monte Hale pointedly asked when he would found the museum. Monte Hale's wife, Joanne Hale would hold the post of executive director from the museum's beginnings until she retired in 1999. Monte Hale would serve on the museum's board until his recent death. He would also greet guests at the museum, donated his own white hat, guns, and gun belt, and encouraged other cowboy stars to contribute material for the museum's movie gallery.

Monte Hale was perhaps the last, great singing cowboy. And alongside Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Tex Ritter, he was arguably one of the best. His movies tended to be more action packed, which always appealed to me more as a boy than singing. And he had a bit more versatility than other cowboy stars, able to play a U. S. Marshal or a bank clerk with equal ease. He was also pivotal in seeing to it that the B Westerns of yesteryear were remembered. He not only co-founded what would become the Autry National Centre of the American West, but saw to it that its film gallery had some of the most legendary props from the genre. Monte Hale's passing is sad simply because it means the passing of an era, but because he was among the very best in his profession.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Andy Hallett R..I.P.

Singer and actor Andy Hallett, best known for playing the demon Lorne on the TV series Angel, passed on Sunday at the age of 33. He had suffered with congestive heart disease for the past several years.

Andy Hallett was born in Osterville, Massachusetts on August 4, 1975. He attended Barnstable High School and Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He loved singing as a child, but feared doing so publicly until at a concert Patti LaBelle invited him onstage to sing "Lady Marmalade" with her. Hallett moved to Los Angeles, where he was a runner for an agency, a property manager, and then personal assistant. He was performing in a Universal City blues revue when he met and became friends with Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Whedon persuaded Hallett to try out for the role of Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, more simply known as Lorne or The Host, on Angel. Lorne was an anagogic demon who could read people whenever they sang. He was the greeter at and owner of the karaoke bar Caritas. In all Hallett appeared in 76 episodes of Angel.

Andy Hallett was also the voice of the Cricket in the animated feature Geppetto's Secret.

Sadly, Hallett's career as a singer and actor would be cut short by his health. It was about a month after the last episode of Angel was shot that Hallett developed a tooth infection which led to cardiomyopathy. Hallett did not return to acting save for his voice work on Geppetto's Secret, although he continued to sing and appear at conventions.

I must say I am exceedingly sad at Andy Hallett's passing. Angel was among my favourite series of the early Naughts and much of this was because of its cast. Despite his inexperience in acting, Hallett proved to be an enormous talent. Lorne became one of the most beloved characters on Angel, appearing on the show from his first appearance in the second season to its final scene. What is more, Hallett was an exceedingly good singer with a great voice, as would befit the greeter at and owner of Caritas. He actually sung twice on Angel. It is sad that he had to die so young, before his career could really blossom.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Voice Artist Bob Arbogast Passes On

Bob Arbogast, known in Los Angeles, California as a radio personality but known elsewhere as a voice artist on cartoons and commercials, as well as a comedy writer, passed on March 21 at the age of 81. The cause was cancer.

Bob Arbogast was born in Bellingham, Washington on April 1, 1927. He attended John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, California. Following graduation he served in the United States Navy in 1944. He attended the Los Angeles City College and the University of Arizona following World War II. He was hired by WHB in Kansas City after its programme director heard Arbogast on the University of Arizona radio station. Arbogast would spend the next several years in radio, at WMAQ in Chicago, KSFO and KFRC in San Francisco, California, and KMPC, KLAC, KFI, and KGBS in Los Angeles. While at KLAC he wrote for Gary Owens, later to become famous as the DJ on Laugh In. Arbogast also appeared on KTTV in Los Angeles as well.

While working in radio, Bob Arbogast also worked in comedy. He created the Question Man while still at WHB in Kansas City, which would later be incorporated into The Steve Allen Show, albeit without Arbogast's permission. In 1958 Arbogast and future television writer Stanley Ralph Ross wrote the record single "Chaos, Parts 1 and 2." Although initially popular, radio stations would soon stop playing it when they figured out it was a parody of Top 40 radio. It was later revived by Dr. Demento. Arbogast and Ross also the book peak When You Hear the Beep and the album of parody songs My Son, the Copycat. He also wrote Jay Ward's unsold, live action pilot The Nut House. He also wrote for Sesame Street, The Pat Paulsen Show, and the notorious one night wonder Turn On.

Arbogast also worked as a voice artist. In fact, he may well have been most famous as the voice of General G.I. Brassbottom on the carton Roger Ramjet. He also provided additional voices for The Jetsons, voices for the short The Ruby Eye of the Monkey-God, the voice of Doc Warren on Hot Wheels, the voice of the Parrot and the Undertaker in the animated special Carlton the Doorman, and the voice of Theo on The Adventures of the American Rabbit. He also did a good deal of work in commercials, including the voice of the animated Granny Goose in Granny Goose commercials, and the first voice for the original "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" advertising campaign.

Bob Arbogast had a varied career and excelled at most everything he did. He was arguably one of the best voice artists around, providing thousands of hours of voice overs and voices for cartoons. In fact, while he primarily played General Brassbottom on Roger Ramjet, he also provided the voices of Noodles Romanoff and Ma Ramjet on the cartoon--three characters who sounded very different. It is little wonder that he was a legend in LA radio and fondly remembered by cartoon fans everywhere.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" by The Who

Tonight I am feeling a bit under the weather, so I am not up to a full fledged blog entry. In lieu of one, then, I thought I would leave you with a clip, courtesy of YouTube, of The Who performing "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" on Ready Steady Go! from 1965. I have to warn you--the video quality isn't the best.

"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" is interesting as the only time that a song was credited to both Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey. It was not the first song to use guitar feedback, as The Beatles had previously used it on "I Feel Fine." That having been said, it is believed to be the first to use feedback in a guitar solo. "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" has been covered by David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, and Ocean Colour Scene.