Saturday, February 5, 2011

Actor Michael Tolan R.I.P.

Actor Michael Tolan passed on January 31, 2011 at the age of 85.The cause was heart disease and heart failure.

Michael Tolan was born Seymour Tuchow on November 27, 1925 in Detroit. He graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit. Following graduation he was with a repertory company in Detroit. He studied under Stella Adler in New York. He also won a fellowship to study acting at  Stanford University. It was while he was at Stanford that he was cast as gangster James Malloy in the movie The Enforcer (1951).

Throughout the Fifties Mr. Tolan appeared in such films as Insie the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951), Fort Worth (1951), The Savage (1951), Hiawatha (1951), and Julius Caesar (1953). His career would primarily be on television and on stage. In the Fifties he appeared on such shows as Inner Sanctum, The Web, Kraft Theatre, Studio One, Decoy, Diagnosis: Unknown, and Omnibus.

In the Sixties Michael Tolan played Dr. Tazinski on The Nurses and Jordan Boyle on The Senator (one of the series that aired under the umbrella title The Bold Ones). He appeared on the shows Armstrong Circle Theatre, Naked City, The United States Steel Hour, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Felony Squad, Tarzan, The Invaders, The Rat PatrolMannix, Mission: Impossible, and Dan August.He appeared in the movies Roseanna (1967), Hour of the Gun (1967), Journey into the Darkness (1968), The Lost Man (1969), and John and Mary (1969).

In the Seventies Mr. Tolan appeared in such shows as  Nichols, Circle of Fear, Owen Marshall: Counsellor at Law, The F.B.I., Barnaby Jones, Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, McMillan and Wife, and Kojak. He appeared in the films The 300 Year Weekend (1971) and All That Jazz (1980). From the Eighties into the Naughts Mr. Tolan appeared in such shows as Nurse, Law and Order, and Murder She Wrote. He appeared in the films Talk to Me (1984), Presumed Innocent (1990), and Perfect Stranger (2007).

Michael Tolan also had a stage career. He made his Broadway debut in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter in 1955. He would later appear in such plays as The Genius and the Goddess (1957) and Unlikely Heroes (1971). He also helped found the American Place Theatre, a successful Off Broadway playhouse.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Maria Schneider Passes On

Actress Maria Schneider, who starred in such films as The Passenger (1975) and Jane Eyre (1996), passed yesterday at the age of 58 after a long illness.

Maria Schneider was born on 27 March, 1952 in Paris. Her mother was Marie-Christine Schneider, the Romanian model, and her father was actor Daniel Gélin. Born out of wedlock, her father would not acknowledge her until she was a teenager. At age fifteen she left the German town in which her mother was raising her for Paris. There she made a meagre living as a model and sometimes a film extra. It was legendary actress Brigitte Bardot who came to her rescue. She put her up in her home and found her an agent at William Morris.

Miss Schneider started in films with small roles in such film as L'arbre de Noël (1969) and Les Femmes (1969). Her first credited role came with Les jambes en l'air (1972). She appeared in such films as La vieille fille (1972) and What a Flash (1972) before appearing in her famous role in Last Tango in Paris (1972). The film was controversial for it sexual explicitness, so much so the MPAA ratings board gave it an "X" rating (even today it is rated "NC-17"). Miss Schneider became a sex symbol over night, much to her dismay. She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress. She would spend much of her career trying to escape the image Last Tango in Paris had conveyed. She appeared in the films The Passenger (1975) and La Baby Sitter (1975). Her career declined in the late Seventies.

In the Eighties she appeared in such films as Merry-Go-Round (1981), Yoroppa tokkyu (1984) and Bunker Palace Hotel (1989). She appeared on the TV series L'or noir de Lornac.  In the Nineties she appeared in such films as La condanna (1991), Au pays des Juliets (1992), Jane Eyre (1996), Something to Believe In (1998), and Actors (2000). In the Naughts she appeared in such films as La repentie (2002), La Clef (2007), and Cliente.She appeared on the shows Maigret and A.D. La guerre de l'ombre,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Video Tribute to Audrey Hepburn

Here is the second video I have made with Windows Moivemaker, a tribute to Audrey Hepburn. The song is Doris Day's version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me (my favourite version is the one by Cass Elliot, but I wanted one that was closer to Audrey's golden age from the late Fifties to the mid-Sixties). I used more transitional effects on this video, in part because, unlike my previous video, the shifts from image to image could be somewhat jarring. Anyhow, without further ado...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Composer John Barry Passes On

John Barry, who composed scores for James Bond films and many other movies, passed on 30 January 2011 at the age of 77. According to the BBC he died of a heart attack.

John Barry was born John Barry Prendergast in York on 3 November 1933. His father managed various cinemas throughout York, leading young John Barry to take an interest in movies. He showed a talent for music early, learning piano and trumpet. It was while serving in the military in Cyprus that Mr. Barry began performing as a musician. In the mid Fifties he served as an arranger for Ted Heath's Orchestra. In 1957 he formed his own band, The John Barry Seven. It was in 1959 that he broke into television, composing the theme to the series In 1960 he broke into movies, writing the score for the movie Never Let Go. Over the next few years he composed the score for the movie Beat Girl (1960) and the 1961 Girl on the Roof.

Eventually John Barry would come to the attention of the producers of a film called Dr. No, with whose score the producers were unhappy. John Barry gave them a new score (although Monty Norman would be credited with the "James Bond Theme"). John Barry's success with Dr. No would lead him to score most of the Bond films up to The Living Daylights (1987), as well as such films as Man in the Middle (1963), Zulu (1963), A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), The Knack...and How to Get It (1965), King Rat (1965), Born Free (1966), The Wrong Box (1966), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Petulia (1968), The Lion in Winter (1968), They Might Be Giants (1971), King Kong (1976), The Deep (1977), The Game of Death (1978), The Black Hole (1979), Howard the Duck (1986), Dances with Wolves (1990), Chaplin (1992), The Scarlet Letter (1995), Playing by Heart (1998), and Enigma (2001).

Mr. Barry also composed extensively for television, including the themes for the shows The Human Jungle, Juke Box Jury, Vendetta, The Newcomers, Discs a Go-Go, The Persuaders, The Adventurer, and Great Mysteries.

John Barry was definitely one of the greatest film composers of all time. While "The James Bond Theme" itself is credited to Monty Norman, the scores of Dr. No and the further James Bond movies were all written by John Barry. Additionally, John Barry would compose such iconic scores as the ones for Born Free, The Lion in Winter, Mary Queen of Scots, and Dances with Wolves. His style was bigger than life, which made it perfectly suited for spy films such as the Bond movies, The Ipcress File, and The Quiller Memorandum. Few film composers achieved as much as John Barry did.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Resurrecting Dead Celebrities....For Commercials

In the Nineties there was a disturbing trend in American television commercials in using often long dead celebrities. The cycle began in 1987 with an advert in which Fred Astaire danced not with Ginger Rogers, but with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Dirt Devil apparently thought the spot was successful, as they would follow it up with further commercials featuring the long dead Fred Astaire.

Sadly, it would not be long before other companies would follow Dirt Devil's suit in using dead stars to advertise their products. In a 1991 Diet Coke commercial, Elton John played for Humphrey Bogart, and Louis Armstrong. Diet Coke would follow up this ad with one featuring Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, and Groucho Marx. In 1997 John Wayne was featured in a commercial for Coors Light. The trend towards using dead celebrities in commercials would continue into the Naughts. In 2005 Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence from the movie of the same name was used in a commercial for the Volkswagen Golf. Much to the relief of classic film buffs, the cycle appeared to end not long after that. Sadly, it would seem that another commercial recently debuted, featuring two more dead celebrities.

The offender is once again Volkswagen, this time using Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in an ad for the Jetta. Below is the offending commercial:

Personally, I had hoped that this particular trend in commercials had ended in the Naughts. Sadly, it seems as if Volkswagen wishes to revive it again. My objections to this spot and all the others which have gone before it are quite simple, and I believe that they are shared by most classic film fans. The first is that the use of a long dead celebrity in an advertisement is simply demeaning to that celebrity. This holds true of having Fred Astaire dance with a Dirt Devil and even more true of having John Wayne appear in something possibly as objectionable as an advert for light beer. Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, Groucho Marx, John Wayne, and the other stars who have been used in these adverts were very serious about their craft and are highly regarded by critics and fans alike. To use them in commercials for vacuum cleaners, cars, and beer is treating them as something of a joke, something they most certainly are not.

The second is that these commercials are obviously being made without the permissions of the stars. After all, the dead cannot exactly give permission to advertisers to use their image or their work in a commercial. It is quite possible that Gene Kelly would have objected to advertising Volkswagen cars and I think very likely the Duke would have objected to advertising Coors Light. Being a Coca-Cola drinker myself, I know I would be very unhappy if I was famous and after I died my image was used to sell Pepsi....

My hope is that this latest commercial featuring Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor will be the last commercial to use dead celebrities in their adverts. To me it is demeaning to the stars themselves and, given they cannot give permission for their images or work to be used, it is disrespectful as well. I must admit, I would think twice of buying any product in which the manufacturer used the image or work of one of my favourite stars from the past.