Friday, March 18, 2011

The Late Great Michael Gough

Actor Michael Gough, who played Arthur in the classic Hammer version of Dracula and made a memorable appearance on The Avengers as Dr. Clement Armstrong (inventor of the dreaded Cybernauts), passed yesterday at the age of 94.

Michael Gough was born in what is now Kuala Lumpur, Mayalasia on 23 November 1917 to English parents. He attended Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells, and Durham College. For a brief time he attended Wye Agricultural College before dropping out to join the Old Vic Theatre School. He played small roles as part of the Old Vic Company and first appeared on the West End in Dorothy Sayers' The Zeal of Thy House. During World War II he was a conscientious objector, serving in the Non-Combatant Corps. Following the war he rejoined the Old Vic. He made his debut on television in an adaptation of Androcles and the Lion in 1946. He made his film debut in Anna Karenina in 1948.

In the late Forties in to the Fifties Mr. Gough appeared several times on stage in the West End. He also appeared in such films as Saraband (1948), The Sword and the Rose (1953), Rob Roy the Highland Rogue (1953), Richard III (1955), Reach for the Sky (1956), and Horrors of the Black Museum (1959). It was in 1958 that he appeared in one of his most notable roles, as Arthur in the Hammer adaptation of Dracula. He also appeared on television on Rheingold Theatre, Sherlock Holmes, BBC Sunday Night Theatre, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. He appeared as Squire Mercer in the mini-series Dancers in Mourning. He appeared on Broadway in Compulsion (1959).

In the Sixties Michael Gough appeared in such films as Mr. Topaze (1961), Konga (1961), the Hammer version of Phantom of the Opera (1962), Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), They Came From Beyond Space (1967), Berserk (1967), Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968), Women in Love (1969), Julius Caesar (1970), and Trog (1970). He appeared on such shows as ITV Play of the Week, The Man in Room 17, The Saint, Orlando, Dr. Who (as the Celestial Toymaker),  The Avengers, and  The Champions. He played Mr. Bennett television mini-series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In the Seventies Mr. Gough appeared in such films as The Corpse (1971), Henry VIII and His Seven Wives (1972), Horror Hospital (1973), The Legend of Hell House (1973), The Boys from Brazil (1978), and Question of Love (1978). He appeared in such shows as Colditz, The Protectors, Moonbase 3, QBVII, Sutherland's Law, and Blake's 7. In 1979 he appeared on Broadway in Bedroom Farce.

In the Eighties Michael Gough appeared in such films as Venom (1981), The Dresser (1983), Top Secret (1984), Oxford Blues (1984), Out of Africa (1985), The Fourth Protocol (1987), and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988).  In 1989 Mr. Gough first played Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler, in Batman. He would reprise the role in three sequels. He appeared on such shows as Brideshead Revisited, Smiley's People, Dr. Who, Crown Court, Inspector Morse, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. He was a regular on the series Blackeyes.

From the Nineties into the Naughts, Michael Gough appeared in such films as The Wanderer (1991), Let Him Have It (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), The Advocate (1993), and Sleepy Hollow (1999). He did voice work for both The Corpse Bride (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). He was a regular on the TV series The Diamond Brothers and Sleepers. He also appeared on such shows as Children of the North, and The Good Guys.

While the average person most likely remembers Michael Gough best as Alfred in the Nineties Batman movies, he had a long career and play many different roles. Indeed, when I think of Mr. Gough, it is not Bruce Wayne's long suffering and extremely loyal butler who comes to mind, but the crazed Dr. Armstrong in The Avengers episode "The Cybernauts." He was every bit as convincing as a mad genius in that episode as he was the Dark Knight's butler. Of course, this points to why Mr. Gough had such a long career. He was extremely versatile. Michael Gough played everything from an evil thriller writer who compels his assistant to commit crimes about which he can write (Horrors of the Black Museum) to Leo Tolstoy (in an episode of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones). He played all of these roles very convincingly. Most character actors become known for a particular type of character. Michael Gough played nearly every type of character there was.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Movies

(For those who are wondering, I will eulogise the great character actor Michael Gough tomorrow when I have more time to write a eulogy deserving one so talented.)

As many of you may already know, I do not celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It is not that I have any thing against the holiday, but the truth is that I am primarily English and German in descent, and I do not have one single drop of Irish blood in me. Indeed, we never celebrated St. Patrick's Day at home when I was growing up, and I knew very few people who did. I feel that if I did celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I would simply be misappropriating someone else's holiday for my own--it would be like celebrating Hanukkah for me.

That having been said, I have always appreciated Irish mythology, folklore, culture, and brunettes, so that I do enjoy the fact that others so celebrate St. Patrick's Day and I do enjoy wishing those who celebrate the day a happy one. Keeping this in mind, I gave thought to what would be suitable movies to watch on St. Patrick's Day. I think these movies would fit the bill.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959): Okay, Sean Connery could not speak in a proper Irish brogue if he wanted to (indeed, he even had that Scottish accent as Bond, who is presumably English...), .and I rather suspect that some of the characters could qualify as outright Irish stereotypes, but when I think of Ireland, I must confess this is the first movie that comes to mind. Let's face it, the movie is based on the books by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh and like the books draw heavily upon Irish folklore. Indeed, the film centres on leprechauns and even features a pooka, a shape changing spirit of Celtic mythology, a banshee, and the cóiste-bodhar (the ghostly, death coach which carries the deceased to the afterlife). Besides being firmly rooted in Irish folklore, the movie is generally fun in the way most movies made by Disney were in the late Fifties and early Sixties.

Finian's Rainbow (1968): Okay, Petula Clark is about as convincing as an Irish girl as Sean Connery was an Irishman and I am not sure I can entirely buy Tommy Steele as a leprechaun., but I still enjoy Finian's Rainbow. Never mind that Fred Astaire proved that he was still a skilled dancer with this movie. Never mind that the songs are enjoyable and fun. The plain truth is that like Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Finian's Rainbow draws a bit upon Irish folklore. Indeed, central to the plot is that Finian took off with a pot of gold and hot on his heels is the leprechaun who owns it.

The Quiet Man (1952): I must admit, The Quiet Man is a idealised picture of Irish society. Its portrayal of an Ireland unaffected by the divisions of religion, class, or ethnicity is even more of a fantasy that either Darby O'Gill and the Litlte  People or Finian's Rainbow. And I elieve the movie's story does have some fundamental flaws. That having been said, I do like The Quiet Man. After all, the film gives us some magnificent shots of the Irish countryside, as well as Victor Young's fantastic score. I must also confess I have a fondness for the film because of its two leads.--John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara remain two of my favourite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994). The novel upon which it was based, The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry, was originally set in Scotland, but for practical reasons the movie was set in Ireland. Both deal with the shape shifting creatures known as selkies,  common not only to Irish and Scottish folklore, but Faoerese and Orcadian folklore. Regardless, speaking as someone without a drop of Irish blood in him,  The Secret of Roan Inish has a very Irish feel to it to me. Indeed, much as I picture Ireland itself in my mind (even if it is not actually that way), The Secret of Roan Inish is a fluid blend of mythology, nature, and is people. Most of the film's appeal is then twofold--its cinematography, with shots of the rugged Irish coastline, and the relationships between young Fiona (Jeri Courtney) and her tale telling grandfather (Mick Lally). The Secret of Inish is a wonderful family film that, sadly, most people have never seen.

This is my very short list of films that I would think anyone who celebrates St. Patrick's Day would do well to watch. If I celebrated St. Patrick's Day, I would watch any of them (although, I will confess, Darby O'Gill and the Little People is my favourite). Please let me know if you can think of any other films suitable for St. Patrick's Day viewing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Facebook, AGAIN...Please Forgive Me

Okay, given that I have not done too many real blog posts of late, I hope you forgive me if I once more vent about Facebook. As anyone who reads this blog well knows, I have repeatedly complained about changes the social networking site has made the past few years. Most recently I posted about the changes Facebook made to user profiles and to fan pages. Now I have yet another complaint against a change made by Facebook, which like other recent changes have reduced the usability of the site. Namely, now one submits his or her comments by hitting the enter key on one's keyboard.

On the surface, this might not sound like a bad idea. After all, wouldn't it be easier to simply hit "Enter" on one's keyboard than press a submit button? For brief comments that might be fine, but if you are like most of my friends and myself, you like to have paragraphs, which could once be created by hitting "Enter."  Unfortunately, hitting "Enter" will now submit one's comment rather than create a new paragraph, thus forcing one to comment again if he or she wants to add anything in another paragraph!

Fortunately, unlike the changes to both the profiles and the pages, there is a work around to this problem. One can create page breaks in comments, thus allowing for paragraphs, by hitting "shift + enter (well, on PCs anyway...)." Granted, this is not as easy as hitting "enter" to create a new paragraph, but it is better than not being able to create paragraphs at all. At any rate, perhaps with some luck and by some miracle Facebook will do away with having one hit "Enter" to submit comments and put the pages and profiles back to the way they once were. Sadly, I rather suspect they won't.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Only Love by Cheap Trick

I feel I have to apologise for not posting so far this week. Sadly, it has been a rough week at work and I feel a little under the weather. Since I do not feel up to a full post, I will simply leave you with one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands, "It's Only Love" by Cheap Trick.