Friday, July 14, 2017

Susan Cummings Passes On

Susan Cummings, a German actress who made frequent guest appearances on American television in the Fifties and Sixties, died on December 3 2016 at the age of 87.

Susan Cummings was born Susanne Gerda Tafel in Bavaria on July 10 1930. She was still a teenager when she worked both as a singer and as a model. She made her film debut as a singer in Merrily We Sing (1946), billed as Suzanne Tafel. She later appeared in an uncredited, bit part in An American in Paris (1951). In 1953 she appeared on stage in New York using the stage name Suzanne Ta Fel.  She made her television debut in episodes of Mr. District Attorney using the same name. After 1954 she would be billed as Susan Cummings.

In the Fifties Susan Cummings played Georgia in the single season TV show Union Pacific. She guest starred on such shows as Waterfront, The Lone Wolf, Adventures of the Falcon, Studio 57, The Adventures of Kit Carson, Science Fiction Theatre, The Ford Television Theatre, The Third Man, Perry Mason, The Man From Blackhawk, The Untouchables, The Millionaire, Gunsmoke, Peter Gunn, Bat Masterson, and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. She appeared in the films Security Risk (1954), Headline Hunters (1955), Swamp Women (1956), Secret of Treasure Mountain (1956), Utah Blaine (1957), Tomahawk Trail (1957), Man from God's Country (1958), and Verboten! (1959).

In the Sixties she guest starred on such shows as Laramie, Checkmate, Cheyenne, The Twilight Zone, and McHale's Navy. She appeared in the film The Street Is My Beat (1966). She appeared one last time on screen in the movie A Time for Love (1974).

Susan Cummings was certainly lovely. She was also fairly talented. During her career she played everything from secretaries to femmes fatales a cryptographer in the famous Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man". It was little wonder that she was so much in demand as an actress in the Fifties and Sixties.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Joe Robinson R.I.P.

Joe Robinson, the professional wrestler turned stunt man and actor, died on July 3 2017 at the age of 90.

Joe Robinson was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland on May 31 1927. Both his father and his grandfather had been champion professional wrestlers. Joe Robinson followed them into wrestling as "Tiger Joe Robinson". In 1952 he defeated Axel Cadier of Sweden to win the European heavyweight wrestling title at Royal Albert Hall. Mr. Robinson was already interested in acting at the time and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He appeared as Harry "Muscles" Green in a West End production of Arthur Kober's Wish You Were Here. After injuring his back Mr. Robinson decided to concentrate on acting.

Joe Robinson made his film debut in A Kid for Two Farthings in 1955. In the late Fifties he appeared in such films as Pasaporte al infierno (1956), Die ganze Welt singt nur Amore (1956), Murder Reported (1957), Fighting Mad (1957), The Flesh Is Weak (1957), The Strange Awakening (1958), Sea Fury (1958), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), and The Bulldog Breed (1960). He made his television debut in a guest appearance on Before Your Very Eyes in 1956. He guest starred on Hancock's Half Hour, Emergency-Ward 10, Meet the Champ, and The Strange World of Gurney Slade.

In the Sixties it was Joe Robinson and his brother Doug Robinson who trained Honor Blackman in judo for her role as Mrs. Cathy Gale on the hit TV series The Avengers. They also co-wrote the 1965 book Honor Blackman's Book of Self-Defence and appeared with Miss Blackman as her opponents in photos in the book. As might be expected, Mr. Robinson also guest starred on The Avengers, in the episode "November Five". He also guest starred on the TV shows The Saint, Pardon the Expression, and Theatre 625. He appeared in such films as Carry on Regardless (1961), Gli invasori (1962), Barabbas (1961), Ursus e la ragazza tartara (1961), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Taur, il re della forza bruta (1963), and The Undertakers (1969).

He made one last film appearance in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Mr. Robinson also worked as a stunt arranger on many films, including several James Bond movies. He retired from acting in the Seventies and opened a martial arts centre.

There can be no doubt that Joe Robinson was a skilled martial artist. When he was 70 he made headlines by fighting off a gang of eight muggers in Cape Town single-handedly. He was also very good at training others in martial arts, having taught Honor Blackman, Mrs. Gale herself. That having been said, he was a fairly good actor as well. He was quite convincing as sport master Roach in Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, as well as smuggler Peter Franks in Diamonds Are Forever. He was even good at comedy, as evidenced by his turn as neurotic fighter Dynamite Dan in Carry On Regardless. Joe Robinson generally played heavies known more for their fighting prowess than their intelligence or personalities, but he was talented enough that he could do other roles as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Save Net Neutrality

As long time readers know, I try to avoid politics on this blog. Quite simply, A Shroud of Thoughts is dedicated to nostalgia and pop culture, and I prefer for my posts to only address things related to those subjects. Unfortunately, there is one particular issue that could not only affect this blog, but hundreds of other blogs, small websites, not to mention every single American who uses the internet. Because of this, I feel that I must speak up.

Quite simply the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC)) chairman Ajit Pai is heading a move to do away entirely with the Net Neutrality rules that have governed the Internet from its earliest days. For those of you who are wondering what Net Neutrality is, it is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should allow access to all content and applications without favouring or blocking certain products or services. Opponents of Net Neutrality want to do away with it so ISPs could create "fast lanes" for those companies that can afford them. Those of us who could not afford to pay would then be stuck in the "slow lane".

To say this would be catastrophic would be an understatement. If ISPs were allowed to create "fast lanes", it would essentially only benefit large, powerful, established corporations. A tech company that is just starting out probably would not be able to afford to pay to be in a "fast lane", and as a result would probably wither on the vine. In other words, had Net Neutrality not existed in the Nineties, such giants as EBay, Amazon, Google, and many others would have never come into existence or, if they had, they would have closed up shop very quickly. Quite simply, Net Neutrality is good for the economy.  Of course, an end to Net Neutrality would not just impact tech startups. It would also affect non-profit organisations such as libraries, museums, and churches, schools, hospitals, and even small local governments. Want to go online and check to see if your children have school the next day or if they're out for snow? Without net neutrality you might not be able to. Your school might no longer be able to afford to pay to be in a "fast lane"!

Net Neutrality becomes even more important when one considers that in most of the United States consumers have very little choice in ISPs. I feel very lucky in that I have a choice of two different internet service providers. Many people only have access to one. If one's ISP then creates "fast lanes" and he or she suddenly finds himself or herself left in the dust, he or she will have little choice but to put up with it or move to a an area where the choices in ISPs are better. Given the fact that only a few companies control broadband in this country, they probably wouldn't have much luck if they did move.

To give you an idea of how important Net Neutrality is, such Internet giants as Google, Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, and others are participating in today's Day of Action to protect Net Neutrality. It is estimated that 80,000 websites are taking part in today's protest. No less than Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web himself, has spoken out against the move to do away with Net Neutrality rules. In a tweet today, he said, "#NetNeutrality allowed me to invent the web without having to ask for permission. Let's keep the internet open!" That's right, without Net Neutrality we would not even have the World Wide Web!

If you are an American who enjoys surfing the web and enjoys seeing what you want to see on the internet, please write, email, or call your Congressman and your Senators, and, most of all, contact the FCC.  Here  Fight For the Future's "Battle for the Internet" site, where you can learn more and take action. Net Neutrality is much too valuable to lose.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The 1st Anniversary of Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen

It was one year ago today that my friend Lyndsy Spence's biography of Margaret Lockwood, Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen, was published by Fantom Films. Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen was the culmination of many years of work on Lyndsy's part. When I first encountered Lyndsy, she already had plans for writing a Margaret Lockwood biography. It was a little over five years later that the book was published. She has on more than one occasion described it as her dream project.

You can read my review of Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen here

Lyndsy Spence recently started a vlog and a few days ago she talked about the anniversary of Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen. You can watch it below.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Elsa Martinelli Passes On

Elsa Martinelli, the beautiful Italian star who appeared in such films as The Indian Fighter (1955), Blood and Roses (1960), and The V.I.P.s (1963), died on July 8 2017 at the age of 82. The cause was cancer.

Elsa Martinelli was born in Grosseto, Tuscany on January 30 1935. She delivered groceries and worked at a bar before she was discovered by designer Roberto Capucci in 1953. She then began a highly successful career as a model, appearing in Mr. Capucci's first collection. She modelled for Ford Models in Paris and New York City. She made her film debut in one of the segments of the film Se vincessi cento milioni (1953).  She then appeared in an uncredited part in Le rouge et le noir (1954) before starring in her first Hollywood film, The Indian Fighter, in 1955.

In the Fifties Miss Martinelli appeared in films made in Europe, Britain, and Hollywood, including La risaia (1956), Donatella (1956), Four Girls in Town (1957), Manuela (1957), La Mina (1958),  I battellieri del Volga (1959), La notte brava (1959), Et mourir de plaisir (1960--better known in English as Blood and Roses), and Le capitan (1960).

The Sixties not only saw Elsa Martinelli continue appearing in films made in multiple countries, but also saw her appear on television as well. She starred in such films as Hatari! (1962), The Trial (1962), The V.I.P.s (1963), Rampage (1963), La fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (1965),  La decima vittima (1965), Maroc 7 (1967), Le plus vieux métier du monde (1967--known in English as The Oldest Profession), Woman Times Seven (1967), Un dollaro per 7 vigliacchi (1968), Candy (1968), If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969), and OSS 117 prend des vacances (1970).  She appeared on the TV show The Rogues.

In the Seventies Miss Martnelli appeared in the films La araucana (1971), La part des lions (1971), and Garofano rosso (1976). She guest starred on the TV shows Return of the Saint and Astuzia per astuzia. In the Eighties she played Anastasia on the TV series Atelier. She appeared in the films Sono un fenomeno paranormale (1985), Pigmalione 88 (1988), and Arrivederci Roma (1990). In the Nineties she played Carlotta Pirri on the TV series Alles Glück dieser Erde. She guest starred on the TV series Il barone. She appeared in the film Once Upon a Crime... (1992) and Cabiria, Priscilla e le altre (1999). In the Naughts she played on the TV show Orgoglio.

Elsa Martinelli was certainly beautiful. The Sydney Morning Herald described her as "...a kind of Audrey Hepburn with sex appeal." While I would argue that Audrey Hepburn had plenty of sex appeal, I do agree that Elsa Martinelli was very similar to her. Like Audrey she was a gorgeous brunette. Like Audrey she was very stylish. And like Audrey she had a very coy sort of charm. Of course, while Elsa Martinelli was beautiful and charming, like Audrey she was also a very talented actress. In Donatella she played the title character, a simple and honest daughter of a bookbinder. In Four Girls in Town she played a very different role from Donatella, that of Italian beauty Maria Antonelli, whose primary gift is in drawing men to her In Hatari! she played yet another different role, that of animal loving photojournalist Anna Maria "Dallas" D'Alessandro. Elsa Martinelli wasn't just another pretty face. She was an actress who could play a rather wide variety of roles and do them well.