Saturday, April 30, 2016

50 Years Ago The Rolling Stones' Aftermath Hits No. 1

It was fifty years ago today that The Rolling Stones' album Aftermath hit no. 1 on the British albums chart. Aftermath was a historic album for Rolling Stones. It was the first album to consist entirely of songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Their first three albums had contained covers of material originated by other artists.

Aftermath contained some of The Rolling Stones' best known songs, including "Mother's Little Helper", "Under My Thumb", "Lady Jane", and "Out of Time". The version of Aftermath released in North America differed slightly from the one released in the United Kingdom. The songs "Out of Time", "Take It or Leave It", "What to Do", and, curiously,  "Mother's Little Helper" (which would be a hit single in the U.S.) were left off the album and the no. 1 single "Paint It, Black" was added to the album. "Out of Time", "Take It or Leave It", "What to Do", and "Mother's Little Helper" would later be included on later Rolling Stones compilation albums. While Aftermath hit no. 1 in the United Kingdom, it only reached no. 2 in the United States. In the U.S. it was kept out of the number one spot by The Beatles' compilation Yesterday and Today. Regardless, it spent fifty weeks on the Billboard albums chart.

Here is my favourite song from the British version of Aftermath, "Under My Thumb".

Friday, April 29, 2016

Classic Film Fans Defy Stereotypes

Society has a tendency to stereotype various groups of people, including the various fandoms that exist. Despite the prevalence of such, there is generally never any truth to these stereotypes. Not all Star Trek fans are nerds. Not all cat lovers are lonely spinsters. This is no less true of classic film buffs. Various stereotypes exist about classic film fans and pretty much none of them are true.

Indeed, perhaps the most common stereotype for classic film fans is that all of us are older folks. Indeed, even though I am an older member of Generation X, people are sometimes surprised that I am a fan of classic films. Strangely enough, they think I am too young to care about Humphrey Bogart or Hedy Lamarr! The fact is that there are a good number of younger people who love classic films. In fact, LA Weekly published an article just this week on why young people love the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. A number of my friends and fellow classic film fans were mentioned in the article. Now most of my friends mentioned in the article I would consider part of Generation Y, but I even know quite a few Millennials (people 24 and under) who also love classic films. The fact is a number of my classic film friends are considerably younger than I am. As prevalent as the idea is that most classic film fans are over 70, it isn't true at all.

Beyond the stereotype that all classic film buffs are over 70, there also exists the stereotype that all of us are Northern European in descent (or "white" in common parlance). This doesn't hold true any more than the stereotype that all classic film fans tend to be older. I am friends with classic film fans who are black, Hispanic, East Asian in descent, South Asian in descent, and a good number of other ethnicities as well. Frank Capra once described cinema as a "universal language" and I have no reason to doubt him given my experience. Film appeals to people of many different ethnicities, backgrounds, and ages.

Yet another stereotype about classic film buffs is that all of us are focused on the Studio Era or the Golden Age of Hollywood (roughly the Thirties through the Fifties). This doesn't hold true either. I have many friends who prefer the Silent Era to the Studio Era. I have yet other friends who prefer films made in the Seventies. I have still other friends who prefer films made places well beyond Hollywood. My favourite place and era for film is actually Britain in the Fifties and Sixties, although I love the films from the Golden Age of Hollywood as well.

Just as there are stereotypes about classic film fans in general, there are also stereotypes about what sorts of classic films appeal to certain groups of people. Among the most common of these stereotypes is that women generally don't like Westerns. Just as all classic film fans aren't over 70, not all Western fans are men. In fact, I know as many female Western fans as I do male Western fans. Perhaps the biggest John Wayne fan I know is a woman.

Just as it is assumed that women don't like Westerns, it is often assumed that men (at least heterosexual men) don't like musicals. Again this doesn't hold true. Musicals number among my favourite classic film genres and I know several other straight men who love them as well. Aside from Westerns it was quite possibly my father's favourite genre. He was the person who convinced me to watch My Fair Lady and in doing so not only introduced me to musicals, but Audrey Hepburn as well!

There are probably yet other stereotypes about classic film buffs out there, but these are the ones I have encountered most often. Most of them are based in preconceived notions society has about various categories of people (young people, men, women, et. al.). And like many preconceived notions they have little to no basis in reality. Classic films are classic films because they have existed for decades. And in that time they have been seen by many people. Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were introduced to them on local TV stations and cable channels. Many Gen Yers and Millennials were introduced to them through Turner Classic Movies. Their appeal is universal and transcends generations, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. Is it little wonder then that nearly every stereotype about classic film fans rings false?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Whole Lot of Turner Classic Movies News This Week

It would seem that this week has given fans of classic films and fans of Turner Classic Movies good reason to celebrate. Quite simply, there has been quite a bit of good news for fans of Turner Classic Movies.

Of course, among the news this week is the seventh annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Already many TCM fans attended the festival have posted photos to the various social media outlets, giving those of us unable to attend a means of experiencing the festival vicariously. This year's festival looks to be a great one, with a hand and foot print ceremony for Francis Ford Coppola outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Dame Angela Lansbury on hand for The Manchurian Candidate, Adam West and Lee Meriwether on hand for Batman (1966), book signings with Illeana Douglas and Rita Moreno, a conversation with Gina Lollobrigida, and much more. Of course, beyond the various events Turner Classic Movies Film Festival is a chance for classic film buffs to visit with their fellow fans. As someone who has never gotten to attend the festival, I must admit this is much of why I have always wanted to go.

Usually when the Turner Classic Film Festival takes place it is the single biggest piece of news for TCM fans that week, but that is not the case this year. It was on Tuesday that Filmstruck, a new, subscription film service, was announced. Filmstruck will be managed by Turner Classic Movies in partnership with the Criterion Collection. In fact, it will be the exclusive streaming service for Criterion.  Given the sheer number of films to which Criterion has the distribution rights, this can only be good news for classic film fans. Indeed, among the films that will be featured on Filmstruck are Seven Samurai, A Hard Day's Night, A Room with a View, and many more. Of course, given Filmstruck is being done in collaboration with TCM, it seems possible that some of the films from Turner's library may well be included on the service, although there has been no official announcement regarding that.

Yesterday Turner Classic Movies brought fans more good news. Quite simply, they announced the launch of their first official fan club, TCM Backlot. Quoting the press release from Turner, "TCM Backlot will give fans unprecedented access to all things TCM including exclusive content, never-before-seen talent interviews, archival videos from the TCM vault, an exclusive TCM podcast, as well as opportunities to win visits to the TCM set, attend meet and greets with TCM hosts and the opportunity to influence programming through online votes." The only downside to TCM Backlot is that it costs an $87 annual fee. This will put TCM Backlot out of reach for many Turner Classic Movies fans, who either cannot afford to join or won't be able to do so without drastically rearranging their finances. Regardless, it is certainly good news for those who can afford to do so and continues TCM's commitment to their fans.

Of course, as I write this the Turner Classic Film Festival is under way, so there might be much more news before the end of the week. At any rate, the week so far seems to have been very good one for classic film buffs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

James Noble R.I.P.

James Noble, who played the governor on the sitcom Benson as well as many roles on stage, died on March 28 2016 at the age of 94.

James Noble was born on March 5 1922 in Dallas. He studied both engineering and drama at Southern Methodist University for a time before serving in the United States Navy during World War II. Following the war he studied acting at he Actor's Studio in New York. He served as an assistant stage manager on The Big Knife on Broadway in 1949 before making his acting debut on Broadway in The Velvet Glove later that year. He made his television debut in an episode of The Actor's Studio in 1950.

In the Fifties James Noble had a recurring role on the soap opera The Brighter Day and guest starred on Studio One. In the Sixties he was a regular on the soap opera The Doctors. He had recurring roles on the daytime serials As the World Turns, The Edge of Night, and A World Apart. He guest starred on East Side/West Side, The Defenders, Directions, and Coronet Blue. He made his film debut in What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968). He appeared on Broadway in A Far Country and Strange Interlude.

Beginning in the Seventies James Noble played the absent minded Governor Eugene Xavier Gatling on Benson. He played the role from 1979 to 1986. He guest starred on McCloud, The Addams Chronicles, The Andros Targets, Starsky and Hutch, and Hart To Hart. He had recurring roles on the soap operas One Life to Live and Another World. He appeared in the films The Sporting Club (1971), Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1971), 1776 (1972), Who? (1973), Dragonfly (1976), Death Play (1976), 10 (1979), Promises in the Dark (1979), and Being There (1979). He appeared on Broadway in The Runner Stumbles.

In the Eighties James Noble continued to appear on Benson. He was a regular on the short lived series First Impressions. He guest starred on such shows as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Faerie Tale Theatre, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Bill, and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in the films Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), A Tiger's Tale (1987), You Talkin' to Me? (1987), Paramedics (1988), and Chances Are (1989).

In the Nineties he guest starred on such shows as Law & Order, Harry, City Central, and Where the Heart Is. He appeared in the film Bang (1995). In the Naughts he appeared in the film Glacier Bay (2006)  and guest starred on The Royal. In the Teens he appeared in the films Consequential Lies (2011) and Fake (2011).

James Noble was brilliant as Eugene X. Gatling on Benson, the kind hearted but scatter brained governor. Indeed, it is hard picturing any other actor in the role. Of course, Mr. Noble played many other sorts of roles. In fact, throughout his career he was cast as medical doctors in everything from Promises in the Dark to Chances Are. A good number of his guest appearance on television were as, well, doctors. That having been said, he played much more than doctors. He was the priest Father O'Flanagan in Airplane II: The Sequel, the President's Chief of Staff in Being There, and even important figures in American history (Jonathan Sewell in the mini-series The Addams Chronicles and Thomas Jefferson in the TV movie Equal Justice Under Law). Throughout his career James Noble played a wide variety of roles.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guy Hamilton Passes On

Guy Hamilton, perhaps best known for directing the James Bond movies Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), died on April 20 2016 at the age of 93.

Guy Hamilton was born on September 16 1922 in Paris. His father was a press attaché to the British Embassy in France. When he was still a lad he became a fan of the cinema and as a teenager worked as a clapperboard boy at the Victorine Studios in Nice among other jobs. He served as an apprentice to the director Julien Duvivier. When World War II started he returned to England and worked for the film library at Paramount News. He eventually joined the British Royal Navy. He served as part of the 15th Motor Gunboat Flotilla.

It was following the war that he started working as an assistant director, his first credit being They Made Me a Fugitive in 1947. In the late Forties and the early Fifties he served as an assistant director on Carol Reed's films The Fallen Idol (1948), The Third Man (1949), and Outcast of the Islands (1951), as well as on the films Anna Karenina (1948), Britannia Mews (1949), The Angel with the Trumpet (1950), State Secret (1950), The African Queen (1951), and Home at Seven (1952).

Guy Hamilton made his directorial debut with The Ringer in 1952. In the Fifties he directed the films The Intruder (1953), An Inspector Calls (1954), The Colditz Story (1955), Charley Moon (1956), Manuela (1957), The Devil's Disciple (1959), and A Touch of Larceny (1959). He co-wrote the screenplays for The Colditz Story, Manuela, and A Touch of Larceny.

It was in the Sixties that Guy Hamilton first became involved with the James Bond franchise. He was offered the chance to direct Dr. No (1962), but turned it down as he was not able to then leave Britain. Fortunately, he was able to accept the assignment for Goldfinger (1964). Goldfinger was not the only spy movie Mr. Hamilton directed during the Sixties. He also directed the Harry Palmer movie Funeral in Berlin (1965). Guy Hamilton also directed the controversial The Party's Over. Ultimately the film was so severely cut at the request of the British Board of Film Censors that Guy Hamilton asked to have his name removed from the film in protest. During the Sixties Guy Hamilton also directed the war movies The Best of Enemies (1961), Man in the Middle (1964), and Battle of Britain (1969).

In the Seventies Guy Hamilton returned to the James Bond franchise with Diamonds Are Forever (1971). He directed two more Bond films, Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). In the Seventies he also directed Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd (1980).  In the Eighties Guy Hamilton directed Evil Under the Sun (1982), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), and Try This One for Size (1989).

Arguably Guy Hamilton, along with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, invented what we now know as James Bond movies. While Dr. No and From Russia With Love had been released before it, arguably it was Goldfinger that set the pace for the entire franchise. The film featured more gadgets than the previous two Bond movies, as well as more repartee between Bond and M and a greater role for weapons master Q. It also introduced the use of a theme song over the opening credits ("Goldfinger" sung by Dame Shirley Bassey). Guy Hamilton also sped up the action from the previous films and essentially made everything in the film bigger than life. In the end Goldfinger would serve as a template for nearly every Bond movie made since. It should be little wonder that Mr. Hamilton would go on to direct more Bond movies, including two that are, in my humble opinion, among the best of the series (Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun).

Of course, Guy Hamilton directed much more than James Bond movies. He also directed Funeral in Berlin, one of the best spy movies of the Sixties. He had a talent for directing war movies. Both The Colditz Story and Battle of Britain are classics in the genre, while his other war films hold up very well. Guy Hamilton had a knack for directing action films, to the point that even when a particular film wasn't that good (Diamonds Are Forever being a perfect example), they were worth watching for the action scenes alone. Ultimately Guy Hamilton was the director who helped make "James Bond movies" JAMES BOND MOVIES and one who directed some of the best action films of the Fifties and Sixties.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Douglas Wilmer Passes On

Douglas Wilmer, who may have been best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's 1964 TV series Sherlock Holmes, died on March 31 at the age of 96.

Douglas Wilmer was born on January 8 1920 in London. He spent a good portion of his childhood in Shanghai, China, where his father worked as an accountant. He attended King's School in Canterbury, and Stonyhurst College. His training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) was interrupted by World War II. He served in the Royal Artillery in West Africa. Eventually he received a medical discharge due to having contracted tuberculosis.

Douglas Wilmer made his stage debut in repertory in Rugby, Warwickshire. In the late Forties and the Fifties he appeared frequently on stage. He made his television debut in 1954 in the BBC production It Is Midnight, Doctor Schweitzer. He made his film debut in 1955 in Lord Laurence Olivier's Richard III. In the Fifties he appeared in recurring roles in the TV series St. Ives, The Black Tulip, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Diary of Samuel Pepys. He guest starred on such shows as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Count of Monte Cristo, The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Dial 999, The Invisible Man, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Interpol Calling, Armchair Theatre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. He appeared in the films The Right Person (1955), Passport to Treason (1956), Pursuit of the Graf Spee (1956), and An Honourable Murder (1960).

The Sixties would see Douglas Wilmer at the height of his career. It was in 1964 that he first appeared as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series of the same name, playing opposite Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson. Despite being shot on a rather low budget, the show proved very popular in the United Kingdom and left a lasting impression. Even though he only remained with the series for 13 episodes, the Sherlock Holmes Society of London considered Mr. Wilmer to be the definitive Holmes. Douglas Wilmer left the show in 1965. Douglas Wilmer also had a very good film career in the Sixties. He appeared in some very high profile films, playing Moutamin in El Cid (1961), Pelias in Jason and the Argonauts (1964), and Henri LaFarge in A Shot in the Dark (1964).  He played Nayland Smith in Harry Alan Towers's films The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) and The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967).

In the Sixties Douglas Wilmer also guest starred on such TV shows as On Trial, The Strange World of Gurney Slade, Armchair Theatre, ITV Television Theatre, Ghost Squad, The Saint, The Avengers, The Baron, Journey to the Unknown, and U.F.O. He appeared in the films Cleopatra (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), The Golden Head (1964), One Way Pendulum (1965), Khartoum (1966), Hammerhead (1968), A Nice Girl Like Me (1969), The Reckoning (1970), Patton (1970), Cromwell (1970), and The Vampire Lovers (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Wilmer reprised his role as Sherlock Holmes in the comedy film The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975). He also appeared in the films Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971), Journey to Murder (1971), Antony and Cleopatra (1972), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), The Incredible Sarah (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), and Rough Cut (1980).  He guest starred on such shows as Love Story, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, The Protectors, Affairs of the Heart, Space: 1999, Romance and ITV Playhouse.

In the Eighties Douglas Wilmer appeared in the films Octopussy (1983) and Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984). He guest starred on the TV shows Shine On Harvey Moon and Blind Justice. His autobiography, Stage Whispers, was published in 2010. His last screen appearance as in a cameo in the Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall" as an old man at the Diogenes Club.

For many Douglas Wilmer will always be the definitive Sherlock Holmes. There can be no doubt that of the many actors who played the role he was among the best. That having been said, Douglas Wilmer played many other roles throughout his career. Not surprisingly, Douglas Wilmer played a number of similar characters throughout his career. He was Nayland Smith in two Fu Manchu movies. He was Emir Al-Mu'tamin in El Cid. In The Vampire Lovers he played vampire hunter Baron Hartog.Of course, not all of his roles were heroic in nature. In Octopussy he was MI-6's art expert, Fanning. In Unman, Wittering and Zigo he was the headmaster of a school. Douglas Wilmer even played villains on occasion.  Indeed, among his best known roles was that of the villainous Pelias in Jason and the Argonauts. Douglas Wilmer was a fine actor who could play a wide range of roles, and one who was good even when a particular film in which he appeared might not have been.