Friday, April 1, 2011

An Interview with Actress Scarlett O'Neil

You may not recognise the name "Scarlett O'Neil," but I suspect in a few years you will. Scarlett O'Neil is a talented young actress who has already appeared in commercials, short subjects, independent films, and in the major motion picture Piranha 3D.  Following is my interview with this up and coming star.


Terence: Now many people might think you were named for the old comic strip character, Invisible Scarlett O'Neil, but that's not the case. Who were you named for?

Scarlett: Actually, a lot of people think I was named after Scarlett Johanssen. I'm not sure why. She is only a few years older than me, so that wouldn't make much sense. I'm glad I'm not named after her. I'm not convinced that's even her real name. Anyway, I was named after Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. My mom loves that movie. My older sister is named Tara after the plantation, and my younger sister is Bonnie B from Scarlett's daughter. Out of the three names, I personally think I have the best one. It's also funny because I was the only one of the sisters that has brown hair like Scarlett O'Hara.

Terence: How did you become interested in acting? And have you always wanted to be an actress?

Scarlett: I've wanted to be an actress as long as I can remember. I was watching the Rugrats one day when I was little, and it came to me that I needed to act. It was really strange how suddenly that feeling came over me, and it's been with me ever since. I want to act because it's another world. It's a world of fantasy where anything can happen, and I love that. That is the only reason I've modelled as well. Modelling is acting without words to me. I don't consider myself to be a hot swimsuit model, but I can pretend to be and it works.

Terence: What have you done so far as movies and the stage?

Scarlett: I've done more theatre than film. I acted in a lot of school plays during high school, and I did a few church stories in college. I can't really remember the first film I did. Isn't that strange? My first photo shoot was when I was 18 years old, and I was acting officially soon after that. I was featured in Piranha 3D, and I have done countless independent films such as Monique and Hollywood Gamble. Hollywood Gamble was my first film that I made in LA, and I hope to make many more soon. My main goal is to act in film, but I wouldn't mind acting in television as well. I've been meeting with casting directors so hopefully something good will happen soon.

Terence: Are there any arts besides acting that you have pursued, such as writing, singing, dancing, etc.?

Scarlett: I haven't pursued anything else as a career if that's what you mean. I'm not sure if modelling counts, but modeling was never my dream job. I do that to build a fan base, and it does help me get noticed from casting directors. I do love to write though. I have a lot of followers on fanfiction, but I try to keep that world separate from my acting world. I love to write. I also love to dance and sing. I did Irish dancing when I was younger, but I prefer ballet. I also love horseback riding.

Terence: What movies have inspired you in your life?

Scarlett: That's a hard one. I don't know if any movies have actually inspired me. I know that certain people have, and stories throughout history inspire me every day, but I don't know about a film. I think all movies are amazing. When you sit back and think about it, we are actually watching real people through a little box in our family rooms. That really is mind bobbling, and I'm sure if we traveled back in time 100 years, people would never have believed that this could really happen.

Terence: Is there any particular genre of movie in which you would prefer to act?

Scarlett: It doesn't matter to me at all. I'll act in anything. My favourite genre right now is horror, but that is because I am trying to find a movie that will really scare me. Casting directors have told me time and time again that I am perfect for the girlfriend type, and so I will probably be playing a lot of those. I'm also double jointed in both arms which basically means I can break my arms on command. Horror movie directors LOVE that. In every horror film I've done, the director was like, "In this scene, we're going to break your arms". It's classic.

Terence: What actors have inspired you in your career?

Scarlett: Well, my favourite actress is Vivien Leigh. If she didn't play Scarlett, I might not have gotten my name. She was a brilliant actress, and she was beautiful. She took acting seriously, and she wanted to act since she was a child as well. I also love Lillian Gish simply because she was one of the first actresses to perform on film, and she was talented. I think I am partial towards the old actors like Buster Keaton and Mary Pickford simply because they were the first. I also love Judy Garland and Clark Gable. As for the newer actors, I think Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta Jones are amazing. Alex Reid from England (Beth from The Descent) has a promising career, and Johnny Depp continues to inspire me in everything he is in. I also love Matthew Gray Gubler, but that might be because he is adorable. =)

Terence: Okay, now for the big question. How many times have you seen Gone With the Wind?

Scarlett: Does anyone really want to know that? I think I have seen it more times than I can count which is sad seeing as the movie is over 3 hours long. I also have the behind the scenes edition, photographs, letters from set, interviews, and the dolls. Isn't that fun?

Terence: Any closing thoughts?

Scarlett: I had a fun time with this interview. The questions were interesting, and I love to talk about movies. Any of the readers can feel free to add me on Facebook, MySpace, or follow me on Twitter. Just look up my name and I am the one and only. =)


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Late Great Farley Granger

Farley Granger, who appeared in such films as Rope (1948), They Live By Night (1949), and Strangers on a Train (1951), passed at the age of 85 on 27 March 2011.

Farley Granger was born on 1 July 1925 in San Jose, California. The family moved to Los Angeles after the stock market crash of 1929 killed his father's car dealership. It was his mother who pushed young Farley Granger into entertainment, in hopes that he would become a tap dancer. He was not yet 18 when he appeared in the play The Wookie in which both Samuel Goldwyn and Lillian Hellman noticed him. He then found himself making his film debut in Hellman's The North Star (1943) at the tender age of 17. It was followed by Lewis Milestone's The Purple Heart (1944).

Farley Granger's acting career was interrupted by a stint in the Navy during World War II. Unlike many actors the war did not hinder his career. In fact, after being demobilised he found himself cast in one of his best known films by the most famous director he was ever to work with. The film was Rope (1948). The director was Alfred Hitchcock. He would be directed by another notable director, Nicholas Ray, in the classic They Live By Night (1949) before Mr. Hitchcock would use him again in Strangers on a Train (1951). In between these films he appeared in such movies as Enchantment (1948), Side Street (1950), and Edge of Doom (1950).

Sadly, Mr. Granger was not able to capitalise on his success in such films as Rope, They Live By Night, and Strangers on a Train, largely because of the roles Samuel Goldwyn chose for him. Appearing in such films as Behave Yourself (1951) and Hans Christian Andersen (1952), Farley Granger bought out his contract with Samuel Goldwyn in 1953. For the remainder of the Fifties Farley Granger appeared in the Italian film Senso (1954), The Naked Street (1955), and as Harry Kendall Thaw in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955). He began to appear more and more on television, appearing in such series as Schlitz Playhouse, The 20th Century Fox Hour, Climax, Wagon Train, and The United States Steel Hour.

Sadly, the Fifties would be the only decade in which Farley Granger would be a matinee idol. The Sixties saw him performing on stage and appearing on television. He appeared in such series as Run For Your Life, Ironside, Get Smart, Hondo, The Name of the Game, and Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in the films Guerilla Strike Force (1970) and the spaghetti Western comedy My Name is Trinity (1970). In the Seventies Farley Granger would appear in more films, but they were most often of the low budget variety. He appeared in the films Something is Crawling in the Dark (1971), Amuck (1972), The Red Headed Corpse (1972), The Serpent (1973), The Man Called Noon (1973), Arnold (1973), and Savage City (1974). He also appeared in the TV series Nakia, Ellery Queen, The Invisible Man, One Life to Live, and The Edge of Night.

From the Eighties into the Naughts Farley Granger appeared in such films as The Prowler (1981), Death Mask (1984), Very Close Quarters (1986), The Imagemaker (1986), and The Next Big Thing (2001). He appeared on such shows as Tales from the Darkside and Murder, She Wrote.

Farley Granger was an actor whose career should have been bigger than it was. His heyday, roughly from 1948 to 1957, was all too brief. He obviously had a good deal of talent, enough to play a variety of roles. He could play the sympathetic protagonist, tennis pro Guy Haines, in Strangers on Train, but then turn around and play jealous and not quite sane husband Harry Kendall Thaw in Girl on the Red Velvet Swing. Even when he was doing low budget movies in the Seventies, Farley Granger was still an actor capable of good performances. He proved this playing none too honest lawyer Evan Lyons in the cult film Arnold. It seems likely that had Mr. Granger received better roles early in his career, he could have kept up the momentum in his career built up by Rope, They Live By Night, and Strangers on a Train. He certainly had the talent to do so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sir Dirk Bogarde's 90th Birthday

It was 90 years ago today that actor and novelist Sir Dirk Bogarde was born. In his native Britain he would become the number one box office star of the Fifties and there he remains a household name. In the United States, Sir Dirk Bogarde is not a household name, yet chances are good that most Americans have seen at least one movie starring the actor.

Sir Dirk Bogarde was born Derek van den Bogaerde in Hampstead, London. Given his parents' occupations, it was perhaps inevitable that young Dirk would go into some artistic field. His father, Ulric van den Bogaerde, was art editor for The Times. His mother, Margaret Niven, had been an actress. As surprising as it may be, Sir Dirk Bogarde was not set to go into acting as a young man. After attending Allen Glen's School in Glasgow and University College School in London, he attended the Chelsea College of Art and Design with the intent of becoming a commercial artist. While he would work as a commercial artist and scenic designer in the Thirties, young Dirk would abandon art for acting.

Sir Dirk Bogarde studied acting with the Amersham Repertory Company, It was in 1939 that he made his debut on the West end in the play Cornelius. At the time he was billed as Derek Bogaerde. It would also be in 1939 that he would make his film debut, in an uncredited role as an extra in Come On George (1939). His acting career would be interrupted by World War II, in which he served in the Queen's Royal Regiment. Following the war, he returned to acting. It would be his agent who give him the name by which he would become known, "Dirk Bogarde." He was signed by the Rank Organisation, but it would be Wessex Films which would give him his first leading role. Stuart Granger had been set to star in Sin of Esther Waters. Mr. Granger would drop out of the production, after which Wessex Films cast Sir Dirk Bogarde in the role. Following Sin of Esther Waters the Rank Organisation signed Sir Dirk Bogarde to a long term contract.

Sir Dirk Bogarde would play a number of different roles for the Rank Organisation, but it would be the comedy Doctor in the House (1954) which would make him a star. The first of the "Doctor" series, Mr. Bogarde played Simon Sparrow, a role he would reprise in three more films. Appearing in such films as The Sleeping Tiger (1954),  A Tale of Two Cities (1958) , and Libel (1959), he became a major star in the United Kingdom, the number one box office draw of the Fifties in that country. He would continue with a string of successes in the Sixties, becoming one of the most respected actors in the world.

Sir Dirk Bogarde's success was most like due to his skill as an actor. It is true that he was a handsome leading man type. Indeed, when people think of a Dirk Bogarde character, it is a charming, sophisticated Englishman that is most likely to come to mind. That having been said, throughout his career Sir Dirk Bogarde played a variety of roles, many as different from each other as night and day. While he became known for playing the charming Dr. Simon Sparrow in the "Doctor" series, Sir Dirk Bogarde was capable of playing characters who were not at all likeable. This is most obvious in The Night Porter (1974), in which he played a former and still quite sadistic S.S. officer. He would also play a rather sadistic Nazi in the controversial film The Damned (1969). Here it must be pointed out that while these characters are not at all likeable, they are hardly cardboard villains. Like any other character, Sir Dirk Bogarde made them three dimensional. Indeed, Sir Dirk Bogarde could go from likeable to somewhat unlikeable in the course of one film. The Mind Benders (1963) features one of his most impressive performances. While Dr. Henry Longman is a fairly likeable fellow at the beginning of the film, he is not quite so likeable by the film's end (I cannot say more without spoiling the plot).

While Sir Dirk Bogarde is often regarded as a British Cary Grant or a British Rock Hudson, he was quite capable of playing the average Englishman. In the comedy Hot Enough for June (1964) he played Nicholas Whistler, who is not only a rather average Englishman but something of a slacker. When he finds himself in the middle of spy intrigue, he does not suddenly develop skills he did not realise he had, but instead reacts as the average person would--that is, he is bewildered, confused, and scared. In Accident (1967) Sir Dirk Bogarde played an Oxford professor going through a mid-life crisis. Sir Dirk Bogarde could quite as easily play such average Englishmen as he could the more villainous or heroic types.

Of course, Sir Dirk Bogarde played his fair share of heroes. Perhaps none is more notable than Sydney Carton in the 1958 version of A Tale of Two Cities. Here Sir Dirk Bogarde plays a man who was something of a reprobate and slacker, but who in the end finds it in himself to make the ultimate sacrifice. While Ronald Colman had played Carton in 1935 version, arguably Sir Dirk Bogarde's Sidney Carton is the most impressive. In The Password is Courage played Sergeant Major Charles Coward, a real life British officer who plotted an escape from a German prisoner of war camp during World War II.

Here it must be pointed out that Sir Dirk Bogarde was not only an actor. In later years he would also become a successful author. Starting with A Postillion Struck by Lightning, Sir Dirk Bogarde wrote several memoirs and autobiographies. In 1980 his first novel, A Gentle Occupation, would be published. It would be followed by five more.

Sir Dirk Bogarde was an extremely talented and versatile actor, who played a wide variety of roles in his lifetime. He was also a successful writer and novelist, proving that he had more talents than acting. It is a shame that he is not better known in the United States, as I rather suspect he was more talented than many better known actors here. Few actors could play a heroic figure in one film, a base villain in another, and an average bloke in yet another. Sir Dirk Bogarde played them all.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Houdini's Assistant Dorothy Young Passes On

Dorothy Young, who served as Houdini's stage assistant for one year on tour, passed on March 20 at the age of 103.

Dorothy Young was born on 3 May 1907 in Otisville, New York. Her father was a minister and her mother a church organist. In Manhattan, at only the age of 17 in 1925 she won an audition to be Houdini's stage assistant. Miss Young shared the stage with Houdini, possibly the most famous magician and escape artist of all time, and his wife Bess. Sadly, Houdini would pass in 1926. In that year, however, people did take notice of Miss Young. A skilled dancer, she teamed up with Gilbert Kiamie and toured the country as a dancing team called Gilbert and Dorothy. She would later dance in a few movies, including Flying Down to Rio (1933).

Miss Young would outlive both Houdini and his wife Bess. Houdini died in 1926 of peritonitis. Bess Houdini died of a heart attack in 1943. Even decades after the death of Houdini and his wife, Dorothy Young would not reveal the secrets of how Houdini performed his illusions. She said in an interview with the PBS series American Experience, "I was sworn to secrecy, never to divulge any of Houdini's secrets."