Wednesday, July 3, 2013

4th of July Pin Ups 2013

Tomorrow is the 4th of July,  so I thought I would post some classic, Hollywood pin ups that are in the spirit of the holiday.

First up is the beautiful Ava Gardner, taking her risks by riding a firecracker.

Next up is Charlene Holt, getting ready to light a rather large explosive.

Next up is military themed Dona Drake.

Ann Rutherford in the holiday spirit.

Cyd Charisse celebrating the 4th of July with Tom and Jerry.

And, of course, it wouldn't be the 4th of July without Ann Miller!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jim Kelly R.I.P.

Jim Kelly, a martial artist probably best known for his roles in Enter the Dragon (1973) and Black Belt Jones (1974), died 29 June 2013 at the age of 67. The cause was cancer.

Jim Kelly was born on 5 May 1946 in Millersburg, Kentucky. Part of his childhood was spent in San Diego, although he would return to Kentucky to graduate from Bourbon County High School in Paris, Kentucky. He attended the University of Louisville, but left during his freshman year to study Shorin-ryu karate. Mr. Kelly had studied karate since 1964. He first studied the martial art in Lexington, Kentucky and then later in Chicago. He earned his black belt in California. It was in 1971 that he won  the World Middleweight Karate title at the 1971 Long Beach International Karate Championships, in addition to other titles that year.

In 1972 he made his film debut in a small role as a karate instructor in the film Melinda. He was cast as Williams in Enter the Dragon (1973) at the last minute when the original actor dropped out. Jim Kelly would go onto appear in several films in the Seventies, including starring in the title role in Black Belt Jones (1974). He also appeared in Three the Hard Way (1974), Golden Needles (1974), Take a Hard Ride (1975),One Down, Two to go (1976), Hot Potato (1976), Black Samurai (1977), The Tattoo Connection (1978), Death Dimension (1978), and Mr. No Legs (1979).

After 1979 he rarely appeared on screen. He made a guest appearance on the show Highway to Heaven in 1985. In 1994 he appeared in the films Ultimatum (1994) and Stranglehold (1994).  His last appearance was in 2009 in the film Afro Ninja. In later years he operated a tennis club in San Diego, California.

Jim Kelly was not necessarily a great actor, but he was a great martial artist. That fact made him perfect for the films in which he appeared in the Seventies. Indeed, he was the first African American martial arts star. As such he found himself in major roles in two film genres forever identified with the Seventies: martial arts movies and Blaxpolitation movies. While many of his films could hardly be considered classics even in the loosest usage of the term, in many respects Jim Kelly paved the way for black action heroes in mainstream films. It is perhaps in part because of Jim Kelly that Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and many others have starred in action films that might have featured white actors in earlier years.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy 97th Birthday to Olivia de Havilland!

Today is Olivia de Havilland's 97th birthday. Along with her sister, Joan Fontaine, she is one of the last remaining stars from the Golden Age of Film. What is more, she is the one of the biggest stars of all time. Not only was she one of the lead actors in what is the biggest film of all time when adjusted for inflation (Gone with the Wind), but she starred in a large number of films that are now regarded as classics. In honour of Miss de Havilland's birthday, I thought I'd look back at her career with a few photographs of her.

This is from It's Love I'm After, a 1937 screwball comedy in which she co-starred with Bette Davis and Leslie Howard (two years before they would appear together in Gone with the Wind). It is one of my favourite Olivia de Havilland films.

Olivia de Havilland in her most famous role, as Melanie Wilkes (née Hamilton) in Gone with the Wind)

Olivia de Havilland in what may have been her best performance, as a mental patient in The Snake Pit. This was a very important film, as it actually led to reforms at mental hospitals across the United States).

Olivia de Havilland and Yvette Mimieux in a still from The Light at the Piazza. The film was largely shot on location in both Florence and Rome. 

A screen shot from Olivia de Havilland's penultimate film, The Swarm. I have to confess it is not one of my favourite movies in which she appeared!