Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Late Great Davy Jones

Yesterday, 29 February 2012, the inconceivable for many Monkees fans (including myself) happened. Davy Jones died at the age of 66 from a massive heart attack. The outpouring of grief over Davy's passing has been incredible. According to NME, the plays of Monkees songs increased 3000% following Davy's death. On Google, Yahoo, and Twitter "Davy Jones" was one of the top trending topics, often the number one topic, for much of yesterday into today. Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, and numerable blogs have been filled with tributes to Davy. I know that I spent most of yesterday posting about him to various social media sites. And like many Monkees fans I spent much of yesterday and even today crying.

David Thomas Jones was born in Openshaw, Manchester, Lancashire, England on 30 December 1945. His father was a fan of horse races and often took young Davy to the Manchester racecourse. It was then perhaps natural that Davy would consider a career as a jockey. Before Davy would become a jockey, however, he entered the world of acting. In 1960 he made his television debut on an episode of  BBC Sunday Night Play. He went onto appear on both Coronation Street and Z Cars.

Although he had taken up acting, Davy still dreamed of becoming a jockey. He and his father approached The Manchester Evening News, who then sent them to trainer Basil Foster. Davy left school early to serve as an apprentice to Mr. Foster in December 1961. Davy enjoyed his time as a jockey, even participating in the stable lads' boxing championship. Despite his love of the sport, Davy would find himself drawn back into acting. One of Basil Foster's acquaintances who was a theatrical agent visited him one day in early 1962. Mr. Foster let it slip that Davy had done some acting.

It was only a matter of days before the theatrical agent contacted Mr. Foster to let him know that a production of Oliver! was being mounted on the West End and they needed someone to play the Artful Dodger. Basil Foster urged Davy Jones to audition for the part, although Davy was resistant to the idea as he wanted to remain a jockey. In the end Davy did try out for and won the role of the Artful Doger in Oliver! The musical proved to be an immediate hit. In early 1963 Oliver! moved from the West End in London to Broadway in New York City. On Broadway it repeated the same phenomenal success that it had on the West End.

Like the cast of many popular Broadway musicals, the cast of Oliver! was scheduled to perform a number from the play on The Ed Sullivan Show. As it turned out, Davy and other cast members of Oliver! appeared on what was probably the most historic episode of The Ed Sullivan Show ever, that night on 9 February 1964 when The Beatles made their first appearance on the show. Davy Jones watched The Beatles perform from the wings of CBS-TV Studio 50 (now known as The Ed Sullivan Theatre). Watching the reaction of the crowd to the Fab Four, Davy thought to himself that he wanted to be a part of that.

Davy's chance to become part of a rock band would not be long in coming. His work on Broadway and his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show would lead him to being signed to a contract to Screen Gems (the television wing of Columbia Pictures at the time) by Columbia executive Ward Sylvester. He made guest appearances on both Ben Casey and The Farmer's Daughter (on which he performed "I'm Going to Buy Me a Dog" a full year before it was recorded by The Monkees). He also recorded an album, David Jones, and three singles that were released on Columbia's Colpix label.  He performed on the shows Shindig and Where the Action Is.

Already signed to both Screen Gems and Colpix, it was natural that Davy Jones would be recognised as one of the possible stars of a situation comedy about a down on their luck rock band. Davy would compete for a place on the show against 436 other actors and musicians, including Danny Hutton (later of Three Dog Night), Paul Petersen (of The Donna Reed Show), Stephen Stills (later of Crosby, Stills, & Nash), and Paul Williams. In the end Davy, along with former child actor Micky Dolenz, musician and songwriter Mike Nesmith, and folk musician Peter Tork, was cast in the series The Monkees about a rock group of the same name.

The Monkees would not be an enormous success in the Nielsen ratings, but then it would appear that the Nielsens never reflected the true level of the show's popularity. Indeed, in addition to starring in the TV show, The Monkees were expected to record and perform songs. This would result in the release of five albums while the show was still in its first run, all of which saw phenomenal sales. Indeed, in 1967 The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Monkeemania did not end with the TV show or the records, as there was an extraordinarily large amount of Monkee merchandise on the market in the mid to late Sixties, everything from a lunch box to books to games.  Davy Jones figured prominently in the popularity of The Monkees. He was the most popular Monkee with young women and widely considered by most girls to be "the cutest Monkee."

Sadly, the success of The Monkees would not last long. NBC cancelled The Monkees towards the end of its second season.  Creator and producer of The Monkees, Bob Rafelson, and Bert Schneider produced the film Head, starring The Monkees and released November 1968 (two months after The Monkees left the air). Unfortunately, Head bombed at the box office, although it is now regarded as a cult classic. It was in early 1968 that NBC negotiated a deal in which The Monkees would appear in three specials that would be broadcast in 1969. Unfortunately, the special 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee proved so catastrophic both in the ratings and the response of critics that NBC cancelled the two further specials.

Through it all The Monkees continued to record and appeared on such television shows as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and The Johnny Cash Show. Unfortunately, their album sales started to decline after the cancellation of their television show. Citing exhaustion, Peter Tork left the band in early 1968. The Monkees continued with Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Mike Nesmith. In April 1970 Mike Nesmith left The Monkees to form his own band. Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz recorded what would be the last Monkees album for years, Changes, in 1970. A final single, "Do It in the Name of Love"/Lady Jane," was released in some countries as being by "The Monkees," although in the United States it was credited to Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. The Monkees then disbanded for a time in 1971.

Following the break up of The Monkees, Davy Jones continued to perform. In 1971 Davy released a solo album, Davy Jones, as well as several singles. He made guest appearances as himself on the shows Get Together, Make Room For Granddaddy, and, most famously, The Brady Bunch. He also guest starred on Love American Style. It was during this period that something unexpected happen. The Monkees once more started to grow in popularity. From September 1969 to September 1972 CBS aired reruns of The Monkees on Saturday mornings.  ABC aired reruns of The Monkees on Saturday mornings during the 1972-1973 season. In September 1975 The Monkees finally entered syndication, where it became extremely popular. With a whole new generation of Monkees fans having emerged since the show's cancellation in 1968, it should be little surprise that in 1976 the compilation album The Monkees' Greatest Hits actually charted.

To capitalise on the renewed success of The Monkees, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz joined forces with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who had written many of the band's biggest hits, including "Last Train to Clarksville") to form Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart.toured throughout the United States in the mid-Seventies. They also appeared on the shows as American Bandstand, Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, The Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah!  They also released an eponymous album in 1976. In mid-1976 a special featuring Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart called The Great Golden Hits of the Monkees Show aired in syndication. Despite having a album of all new material out, they performed no new songs on the special.

With little recording success, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, & Hart disbanded in the late Seventies. Davy guest starred on the show Horse in the House and he continued to perform on stage. It was in the late Eighties that The Monkees would re-enter his life. It was on 23 February 1986 that MTV (which still showed videos and music oriented programming at the time) aired a marathon of The Monkees. The response was so great to the Monkees marathon that not only did MTV add The Monkees to its regular schedule for a time, but Monkeemania re-emerged across the world. Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork then reunited for a "20th Anniversary Tour," with Michael Nesmith joining them for some dates (he could not do the whole tour because of his business commitments). A new compilation album, Then & Now....The Best of The Monkees, combining old material with new songs was released and actually charted, as did the single "That Was Then, This is Now." In 1987  a new Monkees album, Pool It!, was released, in which Mike Nesmith did not participate.

Davy continued to make guest appearances on TV shows, appearing on both My Two Dads, Sledge Hammer, and Boy Meets World. The Monkees reunited in 1996 for their thirtieth anniversary, recording the album Justus. Justus was the first Monkees album since Head in 1968 to feature all four Monkees. In early 1997 the special Hey, Hey We're The Monkees aired on the American Broadcasting Company. The concept of the special is that television shows do not end simply because they are cancelled and, having reached "Episode 781," The Monkees must find a plot that they had not done before.  From 1996 to 1997 The Monkees toured both the United Kingdom and the United States.

Davy continued to appear on television. From the late Nineties into the Naughts he appeared on such shows as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Lush Life, Meet the Royals, and Spongebob Squarepants. He appeared in the B-movie Sexina: Popstar P.I. (2007) alongside fellow Sixties icon Adam West. His last work in television was in 2011 as a guest voice on the animated series Phineas & Ferb. His last appearance on film was in the B movie Jackie Goldberg, Private Dick, which starred comic Jackie Mason.

Sadly, Davy's career came to an end yesterday, 29 February 2012. He had a massive heart attack while tending his horses at a ranch near his home in Florida.  He is survived by his wife Jessica Pacheco; his daughters Talia Jones, Sarah McFadden,Jessica Cramar, and Annabel Jones; three sisters, Hazel Wilkinson, Lynda Moore, and Beryl Leigh; his fellow Monkees Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork; and literally millions of fans.

As in the case of others who have had an enormous impact on my life, I believe any words I write are going to be inadequate with regards to my feelings about Davy Jones, his impact on me, or his impact on Anglophonic pop culture. As for myself, I have never known a world without Davy Jones. From as far back as I can remember I was a Monkees fan. It was the first show I watched faithfully. My sister, who was several years older than me, had the original LPs from the mid to late-Sixties. Throughout my childhood into my teens I played them so much it is a wonder I did not wear them out. The first cassette tape I ever bought was The Monkees Greatest Hits. The first show I ever bought on DVD was The Monkees.

While Mike Nesmith has been my favourite Monkee since childhood, I have always loved all of The Monkees. And I must confess I could identify with Davy Jones quite easily We were both short, brown haired, and slender (although even I was taller than Davy). We both grew up with and loved horses. And while I never had the luck with girls that Davy had on the TV show, I must confess like his character on The Monkees I was always a little bit of flirt. It should be little wonder that I would love Davy Jones. In him I could see something of myself.

 Indeed, I must confess I owe a good deal to Davy Jones beyond enjoying the shows and songs he made. On The Monkees Davy Jones generally conducted himself with an air of confidence, with only the occasional "short joke" to indicate that he was aware of his height at all. What is more, on The Monkees he always got the girl. In real life the girls were crazy about him too (indeed, yesterday when news of his death broke women from 16 to 64 were all saying, "He was my first crush..."). Davy Jones proved to me that one should not let his identity be determined by one's height. One could be short and still get the girl. Maybe that doesn't sound very important to many, but to a young man who is slightly below average in height it was a very important message to see and hear.

As to Davy Jones' impact on pop culture in the English speaking world and beyond, I think the reaction to his death both today and yesterday proves it cannot be adequately calculated. On every social media website or service I frequent Davy Jones was the number one topic of conversation. People posted videos. They posted pictures. They discussed what Davy and The Monkees meant to them. Indeed, as I said at the start of this article, I spent much of yesterday posting videos and posts related to Davy Jones on the various social media sites. That and crying.

In the end I do not think it is enough to say that Davy Jones was a great singer. It is not enough to point out that he was a star of a revolutionary show that was the first regular exposure Americans received to rock video. It is not enough to say that he was the teen heartthrob of both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Somehow he transcended all of these things. He became not only an icon, but a family member, a friend. For many of us guys he was the cool older brother we never had, the one with a great sense of humour who got all the girls. For many girls he was the cute guy they fancied, someone whose wit and charm made him much more appealing and approachable than other teen idols. Ultimately, I think Davy Jones was simply the ideal nice guy, the sort who always had a kind word and a joke for everyone.

Indeed, from the various Monkees fans I know who were lucky enough to meet him and the reports of various celebrities who worked with him, Davy Jones was the nicest person one could ever want to meet. According to Bobby Hart, in the Sixties when they were recording it was not unusual for Davy Jones to pay for the meals of Boyce and Hart and their band, as he knew they made less than he did.  Despite starring in one of the most popular sitcoms of all time and being a member of one of the biggest rock groups of all time, Davy Jones had no pretension. He was known to eat in the stable kitchens along with everyone else at the various racecourses he frequented. He  always had time for his fans and never talked down to them or treated them badly. Quite simply, he was the perfect English gentleman.

Given the many lives that Davy Jones touched, the way he comported himself with both his fellow performers and his fans, it should be little wonder that  his death has seen an outpouring of grief that is but rarely seen. It was not simply that he was a star of one of the most successful shows of all time. It was not simply that he was one of the most successful rock stars of all time. It was not even that he may have been the biggest teen heartthrob of any decade. It was that he was all of these things and yet he insisted on treating everyone, from movie stars to Monkees fans, with equal dignity. Davy Jones was a man who could have been forgiven if he had some arrogance. He was all the more admirable that he did not.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hard to Believe: The Death of Davy Jones

For only the second time in the history of A Shroud of Thoughts (the first was when Doug Fieger of The Knack died), I am too upset to write a proper eulogy. It was today that Davy Jones of The Monkees died at the young age of 66. I have never known a world without Davy Jones. He and The Monkees have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Is it any wonder then that I feel as if I have lost a beloved friend or cousin?

In fact, I cannot remember the first time I ever watched The Monkees. I know from my earliest memories that it was the first TV show I watched loyally. The Monkees was in reruns for much of my childhood and it was a rare thing indeed that I ever missed an episode. I also cannot remember the first time I ever heard a Monkees song. When I was very young The Monkees' songs were still frequently played on the radio. What is more, my sister is much older than me and owned the original LPs from the mid to late Sixties. My brother and I played them so often it is a wonder that they had not worn out.  The Monkees was in many respects the perfect show for me, a show set in a fantasy world where a struggling rock group could fight gangsters and aliens and win. The Monkees' music was also perfect for me. It was some of the earliest and most sophisticated power pop, easily on par with that of The Beatles or The Who.

While Mike Nesmith was always my favourite Monkee, I have to say I always identified with Davy. Like myself he was short and slender. Indeed, in many respects he was the perfect role model for me. Despite being below average in height, he was always confident and charming. And on The Monkees it was always Davy who got the girl. To some that might not seem important, but to a young man who was slightly shorter than most people (and I must point out even I was taller than Davy), it was very important to see someone who did not let his height determine who he was.

Of course, Davy was a role model in more ways than one. From my fellow Monkees fans who were lucky enough to meet him and from reports from various celebrities who had the opportunity to interact with him, Davy was always kind and soft spoken. Quite simply, he was the perfect English gentleman. One could do so much worse than behave in his life as Davy did in his.

Tomorrow I will write a proper eulogy, but for now I will leave you with two of my favourite Monkees songs on which Davy Jones sang lead. The first is "Valleri," written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The second is "Forget That Girl," written by Chip Douglas.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Erland Josephson R.I.P.

Erland Josephson, who collaborated with director Ingmar Bergman on many films, passed on 25 February 2012 at the age of 88.

Erland Josephson was born on 15 June 1923 in Stockholm, Sweden. He developed an interest in acting while very young. He was only 16 years old when he appeared in a production of  The Merchant of Venice directed by Ingmar Bergman. He went on to appear in several more stage productions directed by Mr. Bergman throughout the Forties and Fifties.

Mr. Josephson made his first appearance on film in Bergman's Det regnar på vår kärlek (1946). From the late Forties into the Fifties he appeared in such films as Eva (1948), Till glädje (1950), Sceningång (1956), Nära live (1958), Som man bäddar... (1958), and Ansiktet (1958). From the Sixties into the Seventies he appeared in such films as Vargtimmen (1968), Flickorna (1968), Eva - den utstötta (1969), Viskningar och rop (1972), Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973), Ansikte mot ansikte (1976), Al di là del bene e del male (1977), En och en (1978), Höstsonaten (1979), and Kärleken (1980).  Mr. Josephson appeared in the TV series Röda rummet. He was the head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Sweden from 1966 to 1975.

From the Eighties into the Naughts Erland Josephson appeared in such films as Montenegro (1982),Variola vera (1982), Fanny och Alexander (1982), Eva (1983), Angelas krig (1984), De flyvende djævle (1985), Saving Grace (1986), Offret (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), God afton, Herr Wallenberg - En Passionshistoria från verkligheten (1990), Prospero's Books (1991), Zabraneniat plod (1994), Pakten (1995), Magnetisörens femte vinter (1999), Trolösa (2000), Nu (2003), and Wellkåmm to Verona (2006). He appeared in the TV shows Il generale and Il giudice istruttore.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The 84th Annual Academy Awards

This year's Academy Awards were bittersweet for me. For the past many years (so many I've lost count) my best friend Brian would call me or I would call him after the telecast had ended and we would dissect the Oscars ceremony (everything from the winners to the ceremony itself). Sadly, this tradition came to an unexpected end with Brian's death on 12 June of last year. While I have always looked forward to the Academy Awards and I have always enjoyed them, this year the ceremony could not help bring to mind that I would not have my best friend with whom to discuss them. This post is then dedicated to his memory.

Over the past many years that I have watched the Oscars (ever since I was a lad), there have been some Academy Awards ceremonies that have infuriated me. Either they dragged on far too long, individuals or films I thought undeserving would win awards, or they would be just plain dull. Fortunately, the 84th Annual Academy Awards was not one of those ceremonies. I was quite happy to see the return of Billy Crystal. The youngsters can go ahead and complain about him not being hip or cool enough, he is funny and that's what counts the most when it comes to Oscar hosts. I particularly enjoyed the usual opening bit with Billy being inserted into various films (especially The Artist and The Adventures of Tin Tin). As is usual with Oscar hosts, some of Mr. Crystal's jokes fell flat, but then it seems to me fewer of his jokes bombed than those of many other hosts. Over all, I thought he did a very good job.

I also have to say that over all I was pleased with the presenters at this  year's Oscars. I thought both Colin Firth and Natalie Portman sounded very sincere in their presentations of the Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress categories, and they both have marvellous voices (honestly, if I could I would sound like Colin Firth). I thought Emma Stone and Ben Stiller's presentation of the Best Visual Effects Award was very funny. It was amusing seeing a perky and nearly hyper Miss Stone interact with an unusually staid Mr. Stiller. I found the cast of Bridesmaids presentation of the shorts categories very funny too--particularly the Martin Scorsese drinking game. I also loved seeing Sandra Bullock speaking fluent German again. In fact, the only presenter with or to whom I cannot say I was happy or indifferent was Angelina Jolie. I honestly do not think flashing one's right leg is a very classy thing to do at the Oscars at all. Beyond that act, however, I must also say that I thought Miss Jolie is far too skinny.  Never mind that she is so thin as to be unattractive, Miss Jolie is so skinny that I have to admit I am now a bit worried for her health. I am a good four inches shorter than Angelina Jolie and I rather suspect I weigh more than she does, and I am not fat by any stretch of the imagination!

One high point for me was a filmed skit by Lord Christopher Guest's troupe portraying a focus group commenting on The Wizard of Oz. I thought the skit was hilarious, particularly Fred Willard and his infatuation with the flying monkeys. I really think this should become a new Oscar tradition, with Lord Guest's troupe portraying a focus group tearing apart a classic film every year.

Of course, as much as I loved the skit by Lord Christopher Guest's troupe, I have to say that the best part of the Oscars were two acceptance speeches. The first came from Christopher Plummer, now the oldest Oscar winner for having won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Beginners. Not only was Mr. Plummer impeccably dressed, but he was charming, funny, and sincere all at the same time. I loved Mr. Plummer's quip to his award, "You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life." The other great acceptance speech of the night for me came from Jean Dujardin.  The French actor demonstrated his love for American movie history not only by thanking Douglas Fairbanks, but by giving the Academy an education in its own history as well! Like Mr. Plummer, Mr. Dujardin was also charming and very sincere in his acceptance speech. I can easily see why so many women are in love with him!

While I was happy with the Oscars ceremony for most part, as usual there were things that irked me about this year's Oscar ceremony. I was very unhappy with this year's movie montage. Unless I am mistaken, the oldest movie from which they featured a clip was Midnight Cowboy, which was released in 1969. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences then effectively ignored forty years worth of movie history! What makes this year's movie montage seem even worse is that it occurred in a year when some of the nominees (The Artist and Rango stand out in my mind) paid tribute to the classic films of the past. It would seem that while various motion pictures these days recognise the importance of American film history, the Academy thinks it's more important to show clips from the Twilight movies than Wings, Gone With the Wind or Casablanca!

I must also say that I was very unhappy with this year's In Memoriam segment. For the most part I thought it was tastefully done, although they could have used more clips. That having been said, this year it seemed as if they excluded more classic actors than they usually have. They entirely omitted James Arness (he made movies before his long run on Gunsmoke), James Farentino, Michael Gough, Barbara Kent, Harry Morgan, Charles Napier, Elaine Stewart, and Googie Withers.  While I do not wish to be overly critical of the Academy's choice of whom they did include in the montage, I will point out that each of these actors made many more movies than just four films! Excluding them (some of who, such as Harry Morgan and James Farentino, were very prolific) seems nothing short of a travesty to me. Really, I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to hire Turner Classic Movies to do the In Memoriam. TCM always does such a fantastic job with their "TCM Remembers" montages and they include nearly everyone!

Another complaint I had about last night's Oscars ceremony is that  I really think the honorary Oscars should have been awarded at the ceremony proper. Yes, I realise that giving James Earl Jones and Dick Smith their honorary Oscars would have added to the ceremony's running time, but then I would rather see the honorary Oscars handed out than much of the extraneous material that often pads the ceremony out. While I do enjoy Cirque du Soleil, I do not think they are necessarily more important than honorary Oscar winners.

While I know there have been many that have complained that the Best Song nominees were not performed, I have to say that I am not one of them. For me the performance of the Best Song nominees was always a low point in the Oscars ceremony, especially given the Academy's tastes in songs (having to sit through "Al otro lado del río" and "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" qualify as two of my worst experiences watching the Oscars). What disturbed me more is that only two songs were even nominated! One cannot tell me that the Academy could not have found two to three additional songs worthy of being nominated for the Best Song category!

While anyone who has read this blog regularly for the past several years knows I am not that interested in the fashions at the Oscars, I must say that one of the things I did not like at this year's ceremony was Jennifer Lopez's dress. While most of the other actresses were in these beautiful gowns, Jennifer Lopez was in this ugly creation that exposed far too much, umm, J-Lo. I honestly did not think the dress was attractive at all. As much as I hated Miss Lopez's dress, I thought Penelope Cruz's dress looked beautiful. It was absolutely gorgeous, to the point that Penelope Cruz looked like a fairy tale princess. Honestly, I think it was one of the best gowns I have seen at the Oscars for years. I guess while I am discussing fashion, I should mention that Uggie the Dog from The Artist looked adorable in his bow tie. He was definitely the best dressed dog at the Oscars.

I suppose I have discussed the ceremony itself enough and I should move onto the awards. This year I cannot say I had any strong preferences as to who should win in most of the categories. This was partially because I did not get to see some of the nominees, but also because it seemed to me that many of the nominees were worthy of winning. I must confess that I was rooting for Tree of Life to take both Best Picture and Best Director. I have always been a huge fan of Terrence Malick (and not just because we share the same first name) and I do feel that he has been overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for too long. After Tree of Life I was hoping that Hugo would win. While I have not yet seen Hugo, I am both a huge fan of Martin Scorsese and the book upon which it is based, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (if you enjoy young adult fiction, you must read this book). That having been said, I am not at all unhappy that The Artist won both Best Picture and Best Director. Indeed, while I doubt that The Artist will see a new era of silent films, I think it could make the motion picture industry more open to black and white films. I also think it could lead some movie viewers to seek out the original, classic silent movies, which could result in them becoming more widely available. Regardless of what one thinks of The Artist (the first silent film to win a major award in 83 years), then, I cannot see how any classic film buff can claim its winning Best Picture is a bad thing!

One category on which I did actually have strong feelings was Best Animated Feature Film. For one thing, I must admit that I am shocked that The Adventures of Tin Tin was not even nominated! There were many animation fans who thought it was the best animated film of the year. That having been said, I am very glad that Rango won. I honestly think it was the best animated film of the year. Not only is very funny and intelligently written, but for classic movie fans (especially fans of Westerns) it has a whole host of classic movie references. In many ways it is to animated films what the The Artist is to live action films.

Another category on which I did have strong feelings was the animated short film category. I really wanted The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore to win, which it fortunately did. This is a simply amazing animated short, that includes virtually every possible form of animation, from traditional cel animation to stop motion to CGI. It is on YouTube, so if you haven't seen it you have no excuse not to see it now!

Here I must say that it was good to see Christopher Plummer win an Oscar. My sister was actually shocked to learn that not only had he never won an Oscar, but he was only first nominated for one in 2010! I was also happy to see "Man or Muppet" by Bert McKenzie win for Best Song (even if there were only two nominees *grumble*). I honestly think it is perhaps the best song to have been nominated in the category in literally years and certainly better than its competition ("Real in Rio," from the movie Rio).

Over all, I must say I was not particularly disappointed in last night's Oscars, although obviously there are things I thought they could have handled better. I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to make sure that their montages include movies from the entirety of the Academy's history and not just the last forty years. I also think that perhaps the Academy should simply let TCM handle the in Memoriam montage, as the Academy has proven over the years they can't be trusted to handle it themselves! I also think someone better buy Angelina Jolie a cheeseburger. Or better yet, several. With those caveats in mind, I must say that I did enjoy last night's ceremony a good deal. I thought Billy Crystal was funny, as were Emma Stone and the cast of Bridesmaids. I loved both Christopher Plummer and Jean Dujardin's acceptance speeches. I thought Penelope Cruz's dress was beautiful. And I thought Uggie the Dog was so cute in his bowtie. Actually, that is one thing they really need for next year's Oscars. They really need have Uggie back at next year's Oscars, and may be some other dogs! Contrary to what critics may say, there have never been enough dogs at the Oscars.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Actor Peter Halliday Passes On

Peter Halliday, who starred in the TV series A for Andromeda and made numerous guest appearances on other shows, passed  at the age of 87.

Peter Halliday was born in 1924 near Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales. While he was still very young his family moved to Welshpool, Powys, Wales, which he called home. After his service in World War II, he joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1947. Three years later he joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (what is now known as the Royal Shakespeare Company).

Peter Halliday made his film debut in 1954 in the short "Fatal Journey," but his career would be primarily in television. In the Fifties he appeared on such shows as The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Hour of Mystery, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and Armchair Theatre. He also appeared in the mini-series The Citadel. He also appeared in the movies Pursuit of the Graf Spree (1956) and Dunkirk (1958).

It was in 1961 that he appeared as Dr. John Fleming in the science fiction, television serial A for Andromeda. The series also featured the first major role for Julie Christie, with whom Mr. Halliday would share an on screen kiss. Peter Halliday reprised his role as Dr. Fleming in the sequel to A for Andromeda, the television serial The Andromeda Breakthrough. Throughout the Sixties Mr Halliday made frequent guest appearances on such shows as Ghost Squad, ITV Play of the Week, Doctor Who, Danger Man, The Saint, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, and UFO. He also appeared in the films Dilemma (1962) and Captain Clegg (1962).

In the Seventies Peter Halliday appeared in such  films as Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), Clinic Exclusive (1972), Virgin Witch (1972), The Fast Kill (1972), Madhouse (1974), and The Swordsman (1974). On television he was a regular on the series Chico The Rainmaker. He appeared on such shows as Take Three Girls, Doomwatch, Colditz, Z Cars, Doctor WhoThe Sweeney, and Crown Court.

In the Eighties he appeared on such shows as A Kind of Loving, Doctor Who, Casualty, and Hannay. From the Nineties into the Naughts he appeared on such shows as Lovejoy, Men of the World, Holding On, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, The Bill, and Where the Heart Is. He appeared in the movies Remains of the Day (1993) and Lassie (2005).

Peter Halliday was an extremely versatile actor who could play a wide range of roles. He was best known as the heroic Dr. Fleming on A for Andromeda and its sequel, but he also played other sorts of roles. Among his roles on Doctor Who was Packer, the aggressive Security Chief of International Electromatics. In the movie Madhouse he played a psychiatrist. He played each role very well, even though they were often quite different. Although best known for his role in A for Andromeda, he will be remembered for much more.