Saturday, March 2, 2013

The 80th Anniversary of King Kong (1933)

It was 80 years ago today that King Kong (1933) premiered in New York City at Radio City Music Hall. The film's premiere in Los Angeles was a few weeks later on 24 March 1933. It was on 7 April 1933 that King Kong went into wide release across the United States. It proved to be phenomenally successful, a true blockbuster of its era. It was the Jaws or Star Wars of its day.

In some respects it is surprising that King Kong would prove to be one of the most successful and influential films of all time. Fascinated by gorillas from boyhood, Merian C. Cooper developed the concept of a film centred on a giant gorilla on a remote island.  Even in a day when jungle movies (both documentaries and dramas) were common, it was an unusual concept. It should then perhaps not be surprising that when Mr. Cooper took the concept to Paramount in the early Thirties, they turned it down as too expensive as it would have involved on location shooting in Africa and Komodo (initially Kong would have battled Komodo dragons instead of dinosaurs).

Fortunately, two events would bring King Kong to the screen. The first occurred when Merian C. Cooper became David O. Selznick's executive assistant at RKO in 1931. As part of his deal with Mr. Selznick, Mr. Cooper could make his own films. The second event occurred when Merian C. Cooper saw the test footage for stop motion animator Willis O'Brien's proposed film Creation. Mr. O'Brien had been trying to convince RKO to make the film for seven years, and spent $100,000 for approximately twenty minutes of test footage. In the end Creation was cancelled, but the test footage convinced Merian C. Cooper that through Mr. O'Brien's stop motion animation he had an economical means of producing his film about a giant ape.

With a budget of $672,000 King Kong was definitely a big budget film for its era. What is more it was a special effects showcase, in many respects the 2001: A Space Odyssey of its day.  Willis O'Brien's stop motion animation was on the cutting edge for the time. While stop motion animation had existed in some form since the 1890's, on King Kong Mr. O'Brien made improvements to the technique that would pave the way for everything from Ray Harryhausen's classic films to Gumby. Contrary to popular belief, special effects extravaganzas did not begin with Star Wars, much less 2001: A Space Odyssey, as King Kong was one of the first.
In addition to its impressive special effects for the time, King Kong was one of the earliest talkies to feature its own original score. For King Kong RKO had wanted Max Steiner to simply reuse music form previous productions as a cost cutting measure. Fortunately, Merian C. Cooper thought King Kong should have an original score. As a result Mr. Cooper paid Mr. Steiner $50,000 out of his own pocket to compose an original score for the film. In the end RKO would repay Merian C. Cooper the money he had spent on the score.

Indeed, King Kong was not only an early special effects extravaganza, it was also an early blockbuster. In the film's first four days at Radio City Music Hall in New York City each of its ten shows a day were sold out. What is more the film grossed $89,931 in those first four days, which set a record at the time. It not only repeated this success upon its premiere in Los Angeles, but also when it was released nation wide. Audiences literally had to stand in line at cinemas to see the film across the United States. In the end King Kong would gross $1,856,000 in its initial release, which made it one of the highest grossest films of its time. It also single handedly saved RKO, which at that time had been in receivership.

In 1933 movie merchandising was very much in its infancy, so that even given the success of King Kong it did not produce a good deal of merchandise in the Thirties. That having been said, it did produce two significant pieces of merchandise.  Indeed, it was one of the first films to have a novelisation of its screenplay published. Originally Meriam C. Cooper had hired the legendary Edgar Wallace to write the novelisation as a means to promote the film. Unfortunately Mr. Wallace died before he could complete the novel. Mr. Cooper then turned to his friend Delos W. Lovelace, a former reporter turned fiction writer, to write the novel. Based on the first script of King Kong, the novelisation would differ from the movie in some ways. Regardless, it sold well and has remained in print for years. Beyond the novelisation of King Kong, a collection of sheet music based on Max Steiner's revolutionary score was also published. Of course, since its initial release King Kong has produced a huge amount of merchandising.

The success of King Kong naturally meant that there would be a sequel. The Son of Kong was rushed into production and released in December 1933. It would not repeat the success of King Kong. The film received largely negative reviews and only did modest business at the box office. Since then Toho Studios made two films featuring King Kong (King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 and King Kong Escapes in 1967). There have also been two remakes: the notorious 1976 remake by producer  Dino De Laurentiis and the 2005 remake directed by Peter Jackson. In 1966 Rankin/Bass produced an animated series loosely based on the original film. There have also been books, comic books, puzzles, and tons of other merchandise based on the original King Kong.

There can be no doubt that much of the initial success of King Kong was due to its revolutionary special effects. The combination of rear projection and stop motion animation had only been attempted a few times before, most notably on The Lost World (1925) on which Willis O'Brien had also worked. That having been said, special effects were not the only reason behind the success of King Kong. Had it been a Depression Era equivalent of a Michael Bay film, a special effects spectacle empty of any personality, it would have long ago been forgotten. The fact is that King Kong is a well crafted film that just happens to have special effects.

Indeed, King Kong arguably has one of the best stories of any film in cinematic history. It is essentially a variation on the tale of beauty and the beast, in which the "beast (in this case, Kong)" falls in love with the beauty (Ann Darrow, played by Fay Wray) and is destroyed in the end. The film's story is made all the more emotionally gripping by the fact that audiences could actually sympathise with the "monster." Through Willis O'Brien's stop motion Kong could actually express emotions and seem as real as the actors in the film. As a result audiences knew Kong was in love with Ann and then felt sorry for him. It is for this reason that Kong's death atop the Empire State Building remains one of the most iconic scenes in film history.

King Kong was both one of the earliest blockbusters and one of the earliest special effects extravaganzas. At the same time, however, it was very much a film with a heart. It is the fact that it is a film with heart that has allowed it to last for 80 years. There can be no doubt that people will still be watching it 80 years from now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dalek Designer Raymond Cusick Passes On

Raymond Cusick, who served as a production designer for the BBC for years, died on 21 February 2013 at the age of 84. The cause was heart failure. He is perhaps best known as the man who designed the Daleks, the iconic villains on the long running programme Doctor Who

Ray Cusick was born in Lambeth, London in 1928. He attended Borough Polytechnic where he studied science and mathematics in preparation for a career in civil engineering. When he grew bored with studying to become a civil engineer, he left school to enlist in the British Army. He was stationed in Palestine and did not particularly enjoy his time in the Army. Once he returned to England he completed a course in teaching. Afterwards he took a job with the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff, Wales. For a time in the late Fifties he taught art, abandoning his teaching job for a position at the Wimbledon Theatre in London. He remained there for three years. 

Ray Cusick entered the television industry when he became a designer for the Granada programme Chelsea at Nine. He moved from Granada to the BBC, doing his first design work for the Corporation on the series Stranger on the Shore in 1961. Over the next few years he served as production designer on the shows Pops and Lenny, Hugh and I, Z Cars, Sykes and A, The Mind of the Enemy, and Dr. Finlay's Casebook. In 1963 he began what would become a three year stint as the production designer for Doctor Who. "The Daleks (also known as "The Mutants" and "The Dead Planet") would be the first episode of Doctor Who on which he worked and it was also the first episode to feature the Daleks. While script writer Terry Nation created the basic concept of "The Daleks," it was Raymond Cusick who created their appearance. The Daleks proved extremely popular, to the point that they not only propelled Doctor Who to success, but they also became an outright fad in mid-Sixties Britain. With "The Chase," aired during the second series of Doctor Who, Ray Cusick redesigned the Daleks. giving them the design that they would have (with only a few changes) until 2010. 

Following Doctor Who Ray Cusick worked on the shows Broome Stages, Out of the Unknown, The Forsyte Saga, Boy Meets Girl, Thirty Minute Theatre, Cold Comfort Farm, The Jazz Age, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, W. Somerset Maugham, Menace, and Biography. In the Seventies he worked long stints as the production designer on the programmes The Pallisers and The Duchess of Duke Street. He also worked on such shows as Paul Temple, Eyeless in Gaza, Clouds of Witness, Comedy Playhouse, Quiller, Madame Bovary, RentaghostThe Les Dawson Show, The BBC2 Play of the Week, and To Serve Them All My Days. In the Eighties he worked on such programmes as When the Boat Comes In, BBC2 Playhouse, Play for Today, Objects of Affection, Black Silk, and Miss Marple.

There can be no doubt that Ray Cusick had a lasting impact not only on Doctor Who, but on British pop culture as a whole. While Terry Nation created the initial concept of the Daleks, it was Ray Cusick who brought them to life with his design. Ray Cusick's Daleks were something that had never been seen before. Unlike previous cyborgs and robots on film, the Daleks resembled human beings in no way, shape, or form. Indeed, lacking legs they seemed to simply float over the ground. Had the Daleks not proven so popular it is quite possible that Doctor Who would not have lasted past its first series, let alone fifty years this November.

Of course, it is important to remember that the Daleks were not Raymond Cusick's work on Doctor Who, nor was Doctor Who the sum total of his career. Ray Cusick designed a number of incredible, science fiction landscapes and fantastic aliens on Doctor Who, all of this on a shoestring budget. He also did impressive design work on a large array of programmes, from historical dramas like The Forstye Saga to fantasy sitcoms like Rentaghost. In a quarter of a century with the BBC, Ray Cusick proved himself to be both a reliable and talented designer, one capable of producing impressive designs with little to no money. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

85th Academy Awards

For the first time in years, perhaps since I was a lad, I did not see any of the films nominated for Best Picture. This was due largely to the fact that I was broke much of last year and as a result saw fewer movies than I had in many years. For that reason I do not have much of an opinion on the various winners. That having been said, I watched the 85th Academy Awards as it is a tradition for me. Some people watch the Super Bowl regardless of which teams are playing. I watch the Oscars.

I have to say that I generally do not watch the Academy Awards ceremonies with high expectations. There have been too many times that ceremonies have been dull, over long, and often both. This year's Academy Awards ceremony was no different. I seriously did not expect too much and, quite frankly, I thought it was a bit dull. I know that there are many who seriously disliked Seth MacFarlane's performance as this year's host. In fact, the press concentrated on how offensive many thought Mr. MacFarlane's jokes were. Now while I have to say I do not find jokes about gays and Jews acceptable, I do not think Mr. MacFarlane was that offensive. People seem to forget that it was just last year that Billy Crystal, regarded by many as the best Oscars host in many years, appeared in blackface in the ceremony's opening. And then it was only a few years ago that Chris Rock mocked the Oscars before the ceremony began and offended actors by making light of them (I am a fan of Chris Rock, but I do think he was a bit too edgey for the Oscars). Keeping in mind that the Golden Globes are not the Oscars by any stretch of the imagination (I can't take them seriously at all), Seth MacFarlane was not nearly as offensive as Ricky Gervais was hosting the Globes.

No, my problem with Seth MacFarlane was not his occasional political incorrectness. Instead it was the fact that most of the time he just wasn't very funny. Of course, this did not surprise me at all, as I have always found that Seth MacFarlane is very inconsistent when it comes to humour. What I expected from Mr. MacFarlane is the same thing I expect those rare times I watch Family Guy. It is either going to be uproariously funny (the Stewie and Brian episodes) or one big yawn (the Peter Griffin episodes). Unfortunately, it seemed to me that Seth MacFarlane was in Peter Griffin mode most of the night. Quite simply, he was not very funny.

Of course, the presenters and winners at the Academy Awards can make up for any deficits on the part of the host. Unfortunately, I was not particularly impressed with many of the presenters and very few of the winners' speeches. Indeed, for whatever reason Daniel Radcliffe (known worldwide as "Harry Potter") was paired with Kristen Stewart, who proved that she is as wooden as an Oscar presenter as she is in her acting roles. I understand that she had cut her foot and was in pain, but quite honestly I did not see that she behaved any differently than she always does. As to the presenters with whom I was impressed. I have to say that I thought Meryl Streep did a very good job, as did Jack Nicholson and the First Lady Michelle Obama. As to the winners, I must say that if I did not have a schoolboy crush on Jennifer Lawrence before the 85th Academy Awards, I would now. She tripped on her way up to receive her Oscar for Best Actress, which was understandable given her dress (here I should make a side note that they really should have people there to help the winners up the steps). Despite this she was funny and charming and delightful in her acceptance speech. I also loved Daniel Day Lewis's acceptance speech for Best Actor. He was extremely funny, making me think he would be a very good comic actor.

Beyond the awards themselves, I have to say that I was happy with the tribute to the James Bond movies. I thought the film montage was well done and seeing Dame Shirley Bassey was the highlight of the evening for me. I thought the tribute to film musicals was well done, although I have one caveat about it.  Why was Chicago (released in 2002) the oldest musical in the tribute? First, while there was a small cycle towards musicals in the late Nineties and early Naughts, the decade of the Naughts was not particularly known for its musicals. Second, when I heard there was to be a salute to movie musicals, I assumed it would cover the entire history of movie musicals, from 42nd Street to Les Misérables. I honestly think the musical tribute would have played better had they had music from the greatest musicals of all time in addition to a few recent favourites. Singing in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, My Fair Lady, and many others could have been included. Speaking of music, this brings me to my second biggest complaint of the night. Did they have to inflict Barbara Streisand upon us? Now I like Miss Streisand as an actress (I think she is wonderful in that regard) and she seems like a nice person, but I have always hated her singing. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I would have much rather heard the heavenly Dame Shirley Bassey or Norah Jones sings a bit more!

Indeed, the inclusion of "The Way We Were" sung by Barbara Streisand galls me even more given how brief the In Memoriam segment was and how many people were omitted. It is the omissions in the In Memoriam segment that angered me the most about the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, to the point that it cast a pall over the rest of the ceremony for me. Now they almost always leave someone out of the In Memoriam, but this year they left out some very big stars. Indeed, how can you play "Tara's Theme" at the awards, but leave Ann Rutherford out of the In Memoriam segment? Never mind that she was a supporting actress in Gone With the Wind, she was also an extremely popular star in the Thirties and Forties. She made over 80 movies and, while I may be wrong, I seem to recall she was the most popular pin up during World War II. To add insult to injury they also left out Harry Carey Jr. Not only did he star in what is often regarded as the greatest Western of all time, The Searchers, but he made well over 100 films. Ann Rutherford and Harry Carey Jr. were not the only stars they omitted in the In Memoriam segment either. Andy Griffith, Dorothy McGuire, Phyllis Thaxter, and many others were also omitted. Now the Academy did have an online gallery to honour those not included in the In Memoriam segment of the ceremony, but to me that is not good enough. When one has made the kind of contributions to film history that Ann Rutherford and Mr. Carey did, they deserve to be remembered during the ceremony. While I realise many may not agree with me, they could have cut Miss Streisand's song and included every important star who died last  year in the In Memoriam segment.

Of course, I suspect the reasons behind the tribute to musicals that included no musicals made before 2002 and the abbreviated In Memoriam segment may be due to the same reason. Quite simply, the Academy is trying to appeal to younger viewers. I suspect this is the reason that the 85th Academy Awards largely ignored movie history in favour of more recent films (the James Bond tribute was an exception). I suspect it is why no musicals older than 11 years were included in the tribute to musicals and popular stars of yesteryear were excluded from the In Memoriam segment. I suspect it might also be the reason that in press releases, promotions, advertising, et. al. the 85th Academy Awards was simply referred to as "the Oscars." I have to wonder that this is not attempt to make the Academy Awards seem new and fresh and thus appeal to the younger generation. This seems rather silly to me, as the term "Oscar" is no more new, fresh, or appealing than "Academy Award." The awards have been called "the Oscars" for so long that no one really knows when it began, except that it was apparently in the early Thirties. I rather doubt that calling the ceremony "the Oscars" drew more young viewers, then, for the simple fact that everyone knows "the Oscars" are the exact same thing as "the Academy Awards" and, as far as many are concerned, always have been!

By now I think most of you realise that I think the Academy's pursuit of younger viewers has hurt the ceremony itself. What is more I also think that in de-emphasising older stars, older films, and movie history the Academy may actually attract fewer young viewers. In many years of blogging and being on various social media sites, I have come to the realisation that most of my acquaintances who are also classic film fans tend to be young. Most of them are under the age of 40. I only know a few Baby Boomers (people over the age of  52) and older who are classic film buffs. This is perfectly understandable when one realises that Turner Classic Movies began in 1994 and as a result there is an entire generation ("the TCM Generation" one could call them) who have grown up watching classic films. Instead of de-emphasising film history in the awards ceremony, then, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should be emphasising film history. I can guarantee that many of my younger friends would be delighted to see clips from pre-Code movies and songs from Forties musicals!

Anyhow, I hope that this review of the 85th Academy Awards ceremony does not sound overly negative. In all honesty I have to say I enjoyed the awards over all and I cannot say that it was any better or any worse than other Oscar ceremonies I have seen. Indeed, despite what some in the press might have you believe, Seth MacFarlane was not the worst Oscars host I have ever seen. In the end I have never seen a perfect Academy Awards ceremony, and this one was no different.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jim Backus' 100th Birthday

Few actors have permeated American pop culture as much as Jim Backus. He was the voice of one of the most popular cartoon characters of the 20th Century, Mr. Magoo. As if that was not enough, he also played Thurston Howell III on one of the most popular (and most rerun) sitcoms of the 20th Century, Gilligan's Island. And while Quincy Magoo and Mr. Howell remain his most famous roles, Mr. Backus also appeared in many movies (everything from Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town to Rebel Without a Cause), TV shows (I Married Joan and Blondie), and radio shows (The Alan Young Show and The Danny Kaye Show). It was 100 years ago today that Jim Backus was born.

Jim Backus was born on 25 February 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in Bratenahl, a suburb of Cleveland. Even before he became famous Mr. Backus encountered those associated with Hollywood or would be. His kindergarten teacher was none other than Margaret Hamilton, forever remembered as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939). When he attended the Kentucky Military Institute one of his classmates was Victor Mature. Even a bit of a clown while young, Jim Backus was expelled from the Kentucky Military Institute for riding a horse through the mess hall. When he moved to New York City to pursue his acting career, his roommates were Keenan Wynn and Martin Gabel.

Although he is now known for his work in motion pictures and television, Jim Backus would get his start in radio. In late Thirties he was a regular on the short lived radio show Kay Thompson and Company. By May 1942 he was the narrator on This Nation at War. In June he received his own short lived show (it only lasted three weeks). In 1943 he was briefly the star of a show called Flashgun Casey, which would become better known under the name Casey, Crime Photographer. While Casey, Crime Photographer would run for years, Mr. Backus was its star for only a few weeks. In 1944 he appeared on another short lived radio show, Gaslight Gaieties. It ran all of three weeks.

Fortunately, Jim Backus's fortunes would change. In May 1945 Jim Backus made his debut on The Alan Young Show. He played Alan Young's rival, the rich and snooty Hubert Updike III. Hubert Updike III would not only be the prototype for many of Jim Backus's film characters, but also for Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island. It was the same year that he made his first appearance on The Danny Kaye Show as Mr. Singleton, the show's fictional sponsor. At the height of his radio career Jim Backus appeared on as many as 15 programmes a week, often in uncredited parts.

Gifted with one of the best voices in radio, it would not be long before Jim Backus would work in animated cartoons. He made his debut in the Bugs Bunny short "A-Lad-in His Lamp" in 1948, playing the voice of a genie who plagues the rascally rabbit. While Jim Backus was uncredited for "A Lad-in His Lamp," this would not be the case for his next cartoon. "The Ragtime Bear (1949)" was a UPA cartoon and marked the debut of Mr. Magoo, possibly Jim Backus's most famous character. The bear of the title was supposed to be the star of the short, but instead it was near sighted Quincy Magoo and his nephew Waldo who stole the show. As a result UPA launched an entire series of Mr. Magoo shorts. Mr. Magoo proved extremely popular in the Fifties and Sixties. Two of the theatrical shorts won Oscars (When Magoo Flew" and "Magoo's Puddle Jumper") for Short Subject (Cartoon). Mr. Magoo would appear in his own feature film (1001 Arabian Nights from 1959) and three TV series (the syndicated Mr. Magoo Show, the NBC primetime series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo,  and the CBS Saturday morning show What's New, Magoo?).  Mr. Magoo would be used in both print and television ads for General Electric for years. Over the years he would also be used in advertising for everything from Stag Beer to Sterling Optical. Mr. Magoo would remain the character with whom Jim Backus was most identified until the debut of Gilligan's Island introduced Thurston Howell III. And even then, an argument could be made that he was equally identified with both. In addition to Mr. Magoo, Jim Backus was also the voice of Wally the Bird in Western Airlines commercials. His catchphrase was "Western Airlines, the o-o-only way to fly."

Of course, animated theatrical shorts would not be Jim Backus's only venture into motion pictures by any stretch of the imagination. Over the years he appeared in several feature films. He made his feature film debut in 1949, the same year that Mr. Magoo first appeared, in the comedy One Last Fling. While One Last Fling is now largely forgotten, Jim Backus would go onto appear in some very well known films. He played a supporting character in the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn vehicles Pat and Mike (1952) and the Marilyn Monroe film Don't Bother to Knock (1952). Although best known for his work in comedy, Jim Backus's most famous feature film role may well be Frank Stark, the weak willed father of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Over the years Mr. Backus appeared in such films as Francis in the Navy (1955), Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), The Opposite Sex (1956), The High Cost of Loving (1958), Macabre (1958), A Private's Affair (1959), Boys' Night Out (1962), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), Critic's Choice (1963), It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), Hurry Sundown (1967), and others.

Of course, aside from Mr. Magoo today Jim Backus is best known as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island. Thurston Howell III was essentially a variation on Hubert Updike III from The Alan Young Show. He was an exaggerated caricature of the New England upper class, down to having attended Harvard (and despising Yale) and packing a trunk load of clothes for what was to have been a three hour tour. While Gilligan's Island is perhaps the most famous show on which Jim Backus starred, it was by no means the only one. He was one of the stars of the Fifties sitcom I Married Joan with Joan Davis. In the 1960-1961 season he had his own show, The Jim Backus Show, on which he played the owner of a minor wire service that was always on the edge of bankruptcy. He later played Mr. Dithers, Dagwood's boss, on the Sixties sitcom adaptation of the comic strip Blondie. In addition to the shows on which he was a regular Jim Backus made several guest appearances on shows over the years, including Four Star Revue, Climax, The Millionaire, 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, Make Room for Daddy, Maverick, The Beverly Hillbillies, Daniel Boone, The Wild Wild West, and many others.

Jim Backus also wrote several books, most of which he co-wrote with his wife Henny Backus. Among his books were Rocks on This Roof, What Are You Doing After the Orgy?, Only When I Laugh, his memoir Backus Strikes Back, and his autobiography Forgive Us Our Digressions: An Autobiography. Jim Backus also made various comedy recordings, including the novelty song "Delicious" with Phyllis Diller, "Cave Man," and others.

During his career Jim Backus would become strongly identified with two very popular characters, Mr. Magoo and Thurston Howell III. It was largely because of his talent that Jim Backus never became typecast despite being recognised for two characters who were nearly inescapable in American pop culture in the late 20th Century. This was perhaps largely due to Mr. Backus's talent. He was not only a great character actor, but a great voice artist as well. His characters could sound dramatically different. Indeed, it must be pointed out that not only did Messrs. Magoo and Howell sound very different from each other, despite both being wealthy they were very different characters. Although he played a good number of wealthy caricatures like Hubert Updike III and Thurston Howell III throughout his career, Jim Backus played a wide variety of characters. He was the weak willed father in Rebel Without a Cause, Dagwood's temperamental boss on Blondie, Joan's often put upon husband Bradley on I Married Joan, and several other roles. Jim Backus had a gift for taking characters and not only making them three dimensional, but making them different from any characters he had played before or anyone else had ever played. If Mr. Magoo and Thurston Howell III are remembered today, then, it is largely because Jim Backus made them seem real.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The 70th Anniversary of George Harrison's Birth

It will be seventy years ago tomorrow that George Harrison was born in Liverpool. As one of The Beatles he would become one of the most famous rock musicians and songwriters of all time.  Indeed, following his work with The Beatles he continued to be a force in the music industry, both as a solo artist and as a part of such projects as The Travelling Wilburys. He is often counted among the greatest guitarists of all time.

On a more personal level, George Harrison has always been my favourite Beatle besides John Lennon. He wrote some of my very favourite Beatles songs, including "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Taxman," "I Want to Tell You," "Something," and so on. He is also the only Beatle with whom I have somewhat of a connection, however tenuous it may be. His sister Louise lived in Benton, Illinois, not far from St. Louis, and George visited her there. While visiting his sister, he saw the sites around Illinois and St. Louis. Although it would be years before I realised it, then, I may well have walked in the same places that George Harrison had! Currently Louise Harrison operates a theatre in Branson, Missouri.

I have already summarised George Harrison's career and his impact upon me in a post on the 10th anniversary of his death. I will then leave you with something much better than any words I could say: some of my favourite songs by George Harrison.