Friday, February 8, 2013

Peter Gilmore Passes On

Actor Peter Gilmore, who starred in the series The Onedin Line and many "Carry On" films, died on 3 February 2013 at the age of 81.

Peter Gilmore was born on  25 August 1931 in Leipzig, Germany to British parents. From when he was six years old he lived in Nunthorpe, Middlesborough, North Yorkshire. He studied at the Friends’ School in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire. He left school when he was 14 to work in London in a factory. It was after his National Service in the British Army he attended PARADA, a preparatory academy for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He was expelled from the academy after two terms. He then began a career as a vocalist. He appeared with the George Mitchell Singers, Harry Secombe, and comic Al Read. From 1954 to 1956 he was with the Crazy Gang revue Jokers Wild at Victoria Palace Theatre. It was in the mid-Fifties that he began acting in commercials in the Republic of Ireland, West Germany, and the United States.

It was in 1958 he made his television debut in an episode of Ivanhoe. The executive producer of the show was Peter Rogers, the producer of the "Carry On" films. Over the next several years Mr. Gilmore appeared on the shows If the Crown Fits, The Rag Trade, and Emergency-Ward 10. He made his film debut in Bomb in the High Street (1961). In 1963 he appeared in his first "Carry On" film, Carry On Cabby. He went onto appear in Carry on Jack (1963), Carry on Cleo (1964), Carry on Cowboy (1966), Follow That Camel (1967), Carry on Doctor (1967), Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968), Carry On Again Doctor (1969),  and Carry on Henry VIII (1971).  During the Sixties he also appeared in such films as Every Day's a Holiday (1965), You Must Be Joking! (1965), Doctor in Clover (1966), The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), I've Gotta Horse (1966), The Jokers (1967), Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and My Lover My Son (1970).

For most of the Seventies Peter Gilmore was the star of The Onedin Line. He also appeared on the series The Persuaders, Dead of Night, and The Main Chance. He appeared in the films Freelance (1971), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and Warlords of Atlantis (1978). In the Eighties he starred on the show One by One. He appeared in the programmes The Manions of America, Doctor Who, and Haggard. He appeared in the film The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987). In the Nineties he appeared in his last "Carry On" film Carry On Columbus (1992). He appeared on the shows Casualty, Heartbeat, and Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

Peer Gilmore was fine actor who had a talent for both drama and comedy. I will always remember him for the "Carry On" films, where he had impeccable timing and a delivery that was perfect for comedy. At the same time, however, he did very well in his many years on The Onedin Line and the other dramatic roles in which he appeared. He was a versatile actor who could do a number of roles and do them all very well.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Make Up Artist Stuart Freeborn R.I.P.

Legendary makeup artist Stuart Freeborn died at age 98 on 5 February 2013.

Stuart Freeborn was born in Leytonstone, London on 5 September 1914. He grew up in Beckenham, Kent. Even as a boy he was fascinated with creating characters, making himself up into a variety of characters from literature. He got his big break when he was only 21 and successfully passed himself off as Beckenham as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. The end result was that he was interviewed by the police and got a job at Alexander Korda's Denham Studios. The next several years he worked uncredited on the films Rembrandt (1936), Wings of the Morning (1937), 21 Days (1940), and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). During World War II he was trained for the RAF, but was disqualified from service because of haemophilia.

In the Forties Mr. Freeborn worked on such films as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I See a Dark Stranger (1946), Green for Danger (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Silent Dust (1949), Obsession (1949), and Madeleine (1950). In the Fifties he worked on such films as The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), His Majesty O'Keefe (1954), The Dam Busters (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Mouse That Roared (1959), Kidnapped (1960), Oscar Wilde (1960), and The Hands of Orlac (1960).

In the Sixties Mr. Freeborn would do some of his best known work. He did makeup for such films as Mr. Topaze (1961), The Young Ones (1961), Tarzan Goes to India (1962), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). In the Seventies he worked on such films as 10 Rillington Place (1971), Blind Terror (1971), Young Winston (1972), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975), The Omen (1976), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Superman (1978), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Superman II (1980).

In the Eighties Stuart Freeborn worked on such films as The Great Muppet Caper (1981), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Superman III (1983), Top Secret! (1984), King David (1985), Santa Claus (1985), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).

There can be no doubt that Stuart Freeborn was one of the greatest makeup artists of all time. Although he now best known for his work on the first Star Wars trilogy, he had established himself as a master of his craft long ago. In The Mouse That Roared he transformed Peter Sellers into three different characters. He did it again in Dr. Strangelove. He created the ape men in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even before the Fifties and Sixties he did some remarkable work, transforming Alec Guinness into Fagin for Oliver Twist. Few makeup artists could create characters as convincingly as Stuart Freeborn could. Indeed, it is remarkable that while he was nominated for BAFTA for Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, he was never nominated for an Oscar or any other BAFTA Awards. Not only should he have been nominated several times over, but he should have won several times over. Few makeup artists were as talented as Stuart Freeborn.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Godspeed Robin Sachs

Robin Sachs, who appeared in movies from Hammer's Vampire Circus (1972) to sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest (1999) and TV shows from Upstairs, Downstairs to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, died 1 February 2013 at the age of 61. The cause is unknown as of yet.

Robin Sachs was born in London on 5 February 1951. He was the son of actors Leonard Sachs and Eleanor Summerfield. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Following his time at RADA, Mr. Sachs performed with various repertory theatres in the United Kingdom. He eventually appeared on London's West End, in productions of The Astronomer, Gay Lord Quex, Henry IV, and Pericles.  In 1972 he made his film debut in the cult classic Vampire Circus. The same year he appeared in Henry VIII and His Six Wives and in 1977 he appeared in The Disappearance. He made his television debut in the programme Love and Mrs. Lewisham. He was a regular on the series Rob Roy. He also appeared on the shows ITV Playhouse; Upstairs, Downstairs; Ten From the Twenties; Quiller; Centre Play; and Crown Court.

In the Eighties Robin Sachs was a regular on the show Chessgame. He appeared on such programmes as Lady Killers; Brideshead Revisited; Tom, Dick, and Harriet; Number 10; C.A.T.S. Eyes; Rumpole of the Bailey; and A Fine Romance He appeared in the film A Flame to the Phoenix (1985). In the Nineties and into the Naughts Mr. Sachs had a recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the evil sorcerer and Giles' archenemy Ethan Rayne. He made his American television debut on an episode of Jake and the Fatman and appeared on such shows as The Bill; Babylon 5; Murder, She Wrote; Diagnosis Murder; Walker, Texas Ranger; Nowhere Man; and Nash Bridges. He appeared in the films Innocent Adultery (1994), Ravager (1997), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and Galaxy Quest (1999).

In the Naughts and the Teens Mr. Sachs appeared on such shows as Star Trek: Voyager; Alias; Torchwood; NCIS; and Castle. He appeared in the films as Northfork (2003).

Robin Sachs was an exceedingly talented actor gifted with an amazing voice. In fact, later in his career he provided voices for several different video games. In his work on film, on stage, and in television, he may have been best known for his roles as villains. He played Ethan Rayne on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an amoral sorcerer  who apparently thrived on chaos.  In the movie Galaxy Quest he played General Roth'h'ar Sarris, the deceitful and sadistic military commander bent on genocide. While he may have been best known for playing villains, Mr. Sachs could play a variety of roles. In the film Ravager he played a micro-surgeon with a drug habit. In Northfork he played a British expatriate living in a small Montana town. Robin Sachs was a talented actor with a great voice, who could play a wide variety of roles.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Late Great Reg Presley

Reg Presley, lead vocalist and founding member of The Troggs, died yesterday at the age of 71. The cause was lung cancer.

Reg Presley was born Reginald Ball in Andover, Hampshire, England on 12 June 1941. After he left school he became a bricklayer. It was in 1964 in Andover that The Troglodytes were formed, later shortening their name to The Troggs.  It was in 1965 that Reginald Ball was given his stage name, Reg Presley, by Keith Altham of The New Music Express. It was the same year that The Troggs were signed by Larry Page, manager of The Kinks, to his Page One Records. He leased them to CBS for their first single, "Lost Girl." Released in 1966, the single went nowhere on the charts; howver, their next single would prove to be one of the seminal hits in rock 'n' roll. "Wild Thing" had been recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965, but made little impact on the charts. On the other hand, The Troggs' cover of the song went to number two on the UK singles chart, number one on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S., and number on the Canadian singles chart. A dispute over American distribution rights led to the single being released on two different labels: Fontana and Atco. With the success of "Wild Thing," Reg Presley retired from bricklaying.

The Troggs  followed "Wilid Thing" with several more hits. "With a Girl Like You" went to #1 in the United Kingdom and #29 in the United States. "I Can't Control Myself" went to #2 in the United Kingdom and #43 in the United States. ""Love Is All Around" went to #5 in the United Kingdom and #7 in the United States. Along with "Wild Thing," these songs would be the only hits The Troggs would have in the United States, but they had several more in the United Kingdom. "Any Way That You Want Me (#8 in the UK)," "Give It to Me (#12 in the UK), "Night of the Long Grass (#17 in the UK)," and "Little Girl (#37 in the UK)" all made the top forty.

Unfortunately, by 1968 The Troggs had run their course. In March 1969 the and split up and individual members pursued solo project, including Reg Presley. In 1969 he released a single, "Lucinda Lee." The Troggs reformed later in 1969 and began recording as a band again. Unfortunately, while the band would release singles in 1969 and 1970 and into the Seventies, they never again had a hit outside of the Republic of South Africa (where both "The Raver" and "Feels Like A Woman" charted. The band continued to release singles into the Nineties, with the last being a remake of "Wild Thing" in 1993. During the period they also continued to release albums. Black Bottom in 1982, AU in 1990, and Athens Andover in 1992 (a collaboration between The Troggs and three members of R.E.M.).

Reg Presley also released singles as a solo artist, including "Let's Pull Together" in 1970 and  "--'s Down to You, Marianne" in 1973. In later years Reg Presley studied a number of outré subjects, including alien abductions, crop circles, alchemy, and ancient civilisations. He outlined his beliefs in the 2002 book Wild Things They Don’t Tell Us. Mr. Presley also patented a fog warning system.

As the leader and lead vocalist of The Troggs, Reg Presley would have a lasting impact on rock music. The Troggs were the prototypical garage band, and would influence garage bands to come, including Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The MC5, and The Ramones. Music critic and historian Lester Bangs described The Troggs as the "godfathers of punk," and their influence could be seen in such punk bands as The Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks. Over the years The Troggs' songs have been covered several times, including "I Want You (by The MC5)," "Anyway That You Want Me (by Spiritualised)," "Love is All Around (by both R.E.M. and Wet Wet Wet), and "66-5-4-3-2-1" by Ulver. The many covers of "Wild Thing" over the years undoubtedly owe more to The Troggs' hit cover of the song than The Wild Ones' original. The Troggs primitive style and Reg Presley's stylised vocals would have a lasting impact on rock music from garage rock to punk to power pop.

While The Troggs had an image that was somewhat sexualised (indeed, "I Can't Control Myself" was banned by the BBC), Reg Presley led a life that was hardly that of a rock star. While Mr. Presley was a chin smoker (he smoked as many as 80 cigarettes a day), he never took illegal drugs. What is more, he was married to the same woman, his wife Brenda, for 49 years. He never moved away from Andover, living in a rather modest house there. He also remained very approachable all of his life. Despite being the head man of one of the best known rock bands of the Sixties, he was always nice to his fans and never dismissed him. He may have belonged to a band whose name brought to mind cave men, but in reality Reg Presley was a true gentleman.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Commercials 2013

American football fans may wish to disagree, but I suspect for many of us the Super Bowl is a series of commercials interrupted by an American football game. It is certainly when many large corporations vie for attention from viewers with what they hope will be their best and most memorable ads. Sadly, this is not always the case and often the commercials aired during the Super Bowl are as bland as those aired during any other time of year. I have always found this odd, as one would think given the amount of money that Super Bowl commercials cost, companies would go the extra length to produce quality commercials.

This year was no different, as many of the commercials were somewhat forgettable. The Becks Sapphire commercial and the Lincoln commercial "Steer the Script."  And while I know a few people who thought Ram Trucks' "Farmer" spot was good, I found it rather dull. While I have always loved Paul Harvey's monologue on farmers, I think it demanded more than a slideshow to accompany it.

Of course, it is definitely better to have a bland, forgettable commercial than one that is outright bad, and a few Super Bowl commercials this year were downright bad. Among the worst of the lot was the Wonderful Pistachios spot "Oppa Psy Style." By now I suspect anyone who liked "Gangham Style" is probably tired of it, not to mention there are a good many people like me who hated the song from the beginning. Kia's "Space Babies" spot just seemed stupid and poorly done to me, which is sad given how much the spot probably cost to produce and then air. As to the absolute worst commercials, I would say the second worst spot was Etrade's "Save It." When is Etrade going to realise that there are many of us (perhaps most of us) think the Etrade Baby is creepy? Whenever I see one of those commercials, I don't think, "Hey, I want to do business with Etrade," I think, "That baby is plotting to kill me in my sleep!" Amazingly enough, Etrade did not have the worst commercial this year. That dishonour goes to GoDaddy's "Perfect Match." First, I think most of us are very uncomfortable watching two people make out. Second, the commercial feeds into the idea that intelligent people (particularly those skilled with computers) are unattractive. Would have it really hurt GoDaddy to have used a handsome actor in horn rimmed glasses? Granted, the making out portion of the ad would have still been, well, gross, but at least they would not be furthering a stereotype that in my experience isn't true.

One thing I do have to say for this year's Super Bowl ads is that they were less sexist this year. And by "less sexist," I am not talking about the objectification of women. Instead I am talking about the spate of commercials the past many years that portrayed men as stupid boors. I still remember Bud Light's commercial "Book Club," in which one man is so stupid that he doesn't know Little Women is a book. While this year's Super Bowl commercials dropped the "men are stupid" angle, at least two have been accused of being racist. One of these was the Volkswagen spot "Get Happy." In the spot a Minnesota born office worker of European American descent who owns a Volkswagen walks around speaking with what is supposed to be a Jamaican accent. While from Twitter I know there are those who disagree, I thought "Get Happy" was racist. After all, whatever humour was supposed to had in the commercial was from a stereotypical, exaggerated, Jamaican accent.

The other commercial that has been accused of racism is Coca-Cola's spot "Coke Chase." The commercial features different groups of characters racing across a desert for a bottle of Coke: cowboys on horses, showgirls in a bus, Mad Max types on motorcycles and in dune buggies, and an Arab with a camel. Arab American groups have claimed that the commercial is racist in that it portrays Arabs as backwards. I have mixed feelings about it myself. On the one hand, the Arab in the commercial does conform to a degree to Western stereotypes about Arabs, both in the way that he is dressed and in that he has a camel. On the other hand, it seems to me that he is meant to be an anachronism, in the same way that the cowboys in the commercial are (cowboys today would not be riding horses). And there is nothing to indicate that the Arab in the commercial is either backwards or stupid. While I can't quite make up my mind as to whether the ad is racist, what I do think is racist is racist is that Coca-Cola had an online poll asking viewers who should win the race for the Coke and the Arab was not included at all. It really doesn't matter if they intentionally left out the Arab or forgot about him, either way being excluded from winning the race is disturbing. In excluding the Arab from winning the race, Coca-Cola effectively applied a different standard to him than the cowboys, showgirls, or Mad Max types. That to me is the definition of racism.

Of course, among the commercials aired on the Super Bowl were a few spots for movies. While it is one of the big summertime movies, I must admit I was underwhelmed by the ad for Iron Man 3. The scene chosen for the spot just seemed to me to be a generic, "superhero rescues people" scene and did not incline me to rush out and watch the film when it comes out. I was even less impressed by the commercial for Fast and Furious 6.  In fact, I am rather surprised that they bought time during the Super Bowl for the film. While Fast Five did well at the box office, it did not do so well that I think it would warrant spending the kind of money one must spend to get an ad on the Super Bowl for its sequel. While I cannot see why there was a commercial for Fast and Furious 6 during the Super Bowl, I can fully understand why there was one for Oz: The Great and Powerful. Not only is it one of Disney's big releases this year, but it is directed by Sam Raimi and inspired by a classic work of literature (L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). As to the spot itself, I thought it was a bit too short. I would have liked to have seen more. That having been said, it was impressive.

As to my favourite spots, I am listing them below along with embedded video.

"Got Millk"? The Mushtache: I thought this was one of the funniest commercials from last night's Super Bowl, and it has a very simple premise. The Rock is out of milk and as he goes to get more he is confronted with the sort of situations he might encounter in his films. It is a hilarious clip and it demonstrates that The Rock can do comedy.

Audi "Prom:" Audi's prom isn't so much a funny commercial as it is a "feel good" commercial. A father lets his son borrow his Audi and it gives him the self confidence he needs. It has a nice storyline that anyone has felt like an underdog can appreciate.

Tide "Miracle Stain:" This could well be the perfect Super Bowl commercial. It deals with American football fanaticism and in such a way that it is connected to the product being advertised (laundry detergent). What is more it is very, very funny. Whether one is a huge fan of American football or not, one will get a laugh from this ad.

Oreo "Whisper Fight:" What happens when two people get into a fight over Oreos in a library? According to this commercial, a lot of hilarity. This commercial unfolds like a classic comedy movie short, with the situation growing more and more ludicrous as it goes along. The fact that everyone is whispering makes it all the funnier.

Taco Bell: "Viva Young:" I suppose some might think this spot, in which a group of old people go out on the town, is exploitative, but I don't myself. Instead to me it has a sense of joy about it. I mean, here are a group of elderly people who refuse to conform to society's view of their place in  it, and instead act as if they were much younger. It is then not only funny, but self affirming in a way. And I must confess I love that Spanish version of fun's "We Are Young (one of my favourite songs from the past few years).

Mercedes Benz "Soul:" This could be the ultimate Super Bowl ad. It was enough that it features Willem Dafoe as The Devil, but it features Kate Upton and Usher as well. It also has The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as background music! The concept behind the ad is simple: The Devil make the offer of a Mercedes Benz and "everything that goes along with it." This commercial is genuinely cinematic in scope, with its own storyline and incredible cinematography and direction. What's more it is very funny.

Budweiser "Brotherhood:" This is my favourite commercial from last night's Super Bowl. It's not particularly funny, although it is very touching and sweet. And if you have ever owned horses, you will know that it also rings true. By the way, the foal featured in the beginning was born on Warm Springs Ranch near Booneville, MO, which is only about an hour from my hometown!