Friday, December 14, 2018

TCM Remembers 2018

Turner Classic Movies released their TCM Remembers for 2018 this afternoon. Of all the TCM Remembers (and I have seen all of them), this one was the most painful to watch. I always cry during TCM Remembers, but this time I totally broke down and I am still sobbing a half hour later. Quite simply, Turner Classic Movies included my dearest Vanessa Marquez in this year's TCM Remembers. Vanessa loved TCM so much, to the point that I am convinced that she was the biggest TCM fan I ever knew. Being included in TCM Remembers alongside classic movie stars she loved, not to mention Gary Kurtz (who produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back), is the highest possible honour she could have ever received.  I have to point out that Vanessa is the very first TCMParty member to ever be featured on TCM Remembers. I want to thank Turner Classic Movies for including the woman I love more than any other in my life. Also included are such luminaries as Dorothy Malone, Rose Marie, Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Burt Reynolds.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Facebook Needs to Fix Its "Your Year on Facebook" Review for Users

Every year in December Facebook rolls out its "Year in Review" feature (this year called "Your Year on Facebook") to its users. For those unfamiliar with the feature, it allows users to choose timeline posts, photos, and other things from the user's past year on Facebook, creating what could be described as a "highlights video" of the year. Now for many people this will means photos of a child's graduation, the birth of a grandchild, the first photos from a new job, or other happy events. Unfortunately, 2018 was not a particularly happy year for many people. In my case, 2018 will always be the year that my beloved Vanessa Marquez died. Given my post announcing her death got more reaction than any other post I made all year, one would think Facebook would let me choose it to be featured in my "Year on Facebook" video. After all, it not only addresses the defining moment of 2018 for me, but it addresses one of the most important events in my entire life. Sadly, Facebook does not include it among the posts I could choose to be featured in my "Your Year on Facebook" video. In fact, from all appearances, Facebook excluded any posts that received "sad" reactions from other users.

To say I am very angry with Facebook would be an understatement. To me it is as if they are saying that Vanessa's death was not the most important thing to happen during my year and that Vanessa did not matter. To me excluding any and all posts in which I addressed her death is an act of callousness and cruelty, however unintentional it was. I complained to Facebook several times and demanded that they fix it so that I could include one of the posts in which I addressed her death. I finally gave up, made a screenshot of one of the posts in which I address Vanessa's death, and uploaded it to my video as a photo. I really should not have had to have gone to all that trouble just to insure my "Your Year on Facebook" video was an accurate representation of what 2018 was for me.

Now in some ways I can understand why Facebook chose to exclude any posts about sad events in people's lives. Some of you might remember the controversy in 2014 when Facebook's "Year in Review" included a photo of an individual's recently deceased daughter, a photo of an individual's dog who had died that year, and a photo of a person's apartment that had burned, among others. Many of these people were upset that Facebook's algorithm chose to feature these events in their "Year in Review" videos, reminding them of tragedies that had occurred in their past year. I can certainly understand that. Everyone grieves in their own way. That having been said, the key words are "Facebook's algorithm chose to feature these events". It seems to me that Facebook could set their algorithm up so that it would not automatically feature sad posts in the initial editing stage of the video, but make it so that those posts would still be available for those of us who do want to feature them in our "Your Year on Facebook" videos.

Now, as I said, I can understand why some people might not want to be reminded of the tragedies that have happened in their past year, but I am not one of those people. I wanted to acknowledge in my "Your Year in Facebook" video that I lost the dearest person in my life. To me, failing to acknowledge Vanessa's death in my "Your Year on Facebook" video would be inherently dishonest. It would be a misrepresentation of what 2018 has been for me. While I managed to include one of the posts in which I reference Vanessa's death in my "Your Year on Facebook" video by taking a screenshot of it, I should not have had to. I should have been able to choose one of the posts in which I acknowledged her death as the post featured in the video. I am hoping that Facebook will yet fix my "Your Year on Facebook" video so that I can include the relevant post. I have always faced my grief head on and I am not going to stop because Facebook wants to pretend 2018 was all sunshine and lollipops for me.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Godspeed John D. F. Black

John D. F. Black, the screenwriter who wrote episodes of such shows as Lawman, Star Trek, and Hawaii Five-O as well as co-writing the screenplay for the movie Shaft, died November 29 2018. He was 85 years old.

John D. F. Black was born on December 30 1932. His first screenplay was for the film The Unearthly (1957), using the pen name Geoffrey Dennis. His first teleplay was for an episode of Surfside 6 in 1961. During the Sixties he wrote one of the most notable episodes of Star Trek, "The Naked Time", for which he was nominated for a Hugo Award. He also served as an associate producer on the show in its first season. He wrote several episodes of the shows Lawman, Mr. Novak, Laredo, Hawaii Five-O, and Room 222. He also wrote episodes of the shows Have Gun--Will Travel, The Untouchables, Combat!, The Fugitive, Run for Your Life, Cimarron Strip, Insight, The High Chaparral, The F.B.I., The Virginian, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He wrote the screenplays for the movies Gunfight in Abilene (1967), Nobody's Perfect (1968), and Three Guns for Texas.

In the Seventies he co-wrote the screenplay for Shaft (1971) with John Shaft's creator Ernest Tidyman. He also wrote the movies The Carey Treatment (1972), Trouble Man (1972) and Survival (1976). He wrote several episodes of Room 222, Hawaii Five-O, and Charlie's Angels. He also wrote episodes of The Bill Cosby Show, Getting Together, Jigsaw John, The Streets of San Francisco, Delvecchio, and The Man From Atlantis. He wrote the TV movies Thief; Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate; The Fuzz Brothers; Wonder Woman; and The Clone Master.

In the Eighties he wrote episodes of Hell Town; Star Trek: The Next Generation; and Murder, She Wrote.

A good argument can be made that John D. F. Black was one of the best television writers of the Sixties and Seventies. He had a talent for grasping the characters of a TV show with only a single episode. "The Naked Time" is a perfect example of this talent, containing as it does a character-defining scene for Mr. Spock. Over the years he wrote some of the best episodes of several classic TV shows, from science fiction shows to dramas to sitcoms. If John D. F. Black was very much in demand as a television writer, it was because he was just so good at it.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Channing Chase Passes On

Channing Chase, an actress who played Pete Campbell's mother Dorothy on Mad Men and also appeared on such shows as Night Court and ER, died on October 6 2018. She was 79 years old.

Channing Chase was born on June 25 1939 in Nashua, New Hampshire.She earned a Bachelor of Arts at the the University of New Hampshire. She made her first appearance on stage at the Charles Playhouse in Boston. She later went to New York City where she established a career in commercials. She appeared in commercials for Toyota, United Airlines, McDonald's, Progressive, Discover, Glade, and First Nationwide Bank. She appeared at the LaMaMa Theatre in New York City and toured with the musical "Promises, Promises"

In 1982 she moved to Hollywood. In 1984 she made her television debut in the TV movie My Mother's Secret Life. In the Eighties she guest starred on such shows as Duck Factory, Santa Barbara, One Big Family, Newhart, Night Court, Out of This World, and Murphy Brown. She appeared in several TV movies, including Billionaire Boys Club. She appeared in the feature films Surrender (1987), No Man's Land (1987), Chances Are (1989), The Rain Killer (1990), and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). In the Nineties she appeared in four episode story arc on the TV show ER. She guest starred on such shows as Empty Nest, Sisters, Family Matters, Diagnosis Murder, Coach, Cybill, Home Improvement, and Port Charles. In the Nineties she appeared in the films Clifford (1994) and The Big Day (1999).

From the Naughts into the Teens Miss Chase played the recurring role of Dorothy "Dot" Campbell on Mad Men. During the Naughts she also appeared on the shows Emeril, Life with Bonnie, Cold Case, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Courting Alex. She appeared in the films Stealing Havard (2002), You Did What? (2006), Americanizing Shelley (2007), Evan Almighty (2007), and Stolen Lives (2009). Her last appearance on television was in the TV movie My Santa in 2013. Her last appearance on screen was in the feature film This Lonely Place in 2014.

Channing Chase was a very talented actress, although over the years she played more than her share of patrician characters. She certainly had a knack for playing blue bloods. In some respects, the role of Dorothy Campbell was simply another such character. That having been said, the role did give her a chance to display her acting talent. Later in the show's run, Mrs. Campbell developed dementia and her behaviour became erratic, something that Miss Chase played perfectly. While Channing Chase played mostly aristocratic roles, she had the talent to make each one different.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Wright King Passes On

Wright King, an actor who appeared on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire, on television in the TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive, and on film in Planet of the Apes (1968), died on November 25 2018 at the age of 95.

Wright King was born on January 11 1923 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. He graduated from high school in Mount Vernon, Illinois. He then attended the St Louis School of Theatre, from which he graduated in 1941. During World War II he enlisted in the United States Navy. He made his Broadway debut in A Streetcar Named Desire, in which he played the Newspaper Collector. In the late Forties and the Fifties he also appeared on Broadway in The Bird Cage and Borned in Texas.

Mr. King made his television debut in 1949 in an episode of Captain Video and His Video Rangers. The following year he guest starred on such shows as The Ken Murray Show, Lamp Unto My Feet, and Starlight Theatre. In the Fifties he was a regular on the TV show Johnny Jupiter. Later in the decade he played Jason Nichols on Wanted: Dead or Alive, the sidekick of bounty hunter Josh Randall (played by Steve McQueen). He also guest starred on such TV shows as The Gabby Hayes Show, Studio One, Suspense, The Adventures of Ellery Queen, Robert Montgomery Presents, The Philco Television Playhouse, The Big Story, Kraft Television Theatre, State Trooper, You Are There, Father Knows Best, Maverick, Cheyenne, The Loretta Young Show, Sugarfoot, The Rebel, and Johnny Ringo. He made his film debut in 1951 in A Streetcar Named Desire, reprising his role as the newspaper collector. In the Fifties he appeared in the films The Bold and the Brave (1956), The Young Guns (1956), Stagecoach to Fury (1956), Hot Rod Rumble (1957), The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959), and Cast a Long Shadow (1959).

In the Sixties he guest starred on such shows as Checkmate, Tales of Wells Fargo, Have Gun--Will Travel, Bronco, The Twilight Zone, Rawhide, Perry Mason, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Gunsmoke, 12 O'Clock HighThe Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Invaders, Mannix, Lancer, and Dan August. He appeared in the movies Dangerous Charter (1962), King Rat (1965), Planet of the Ape (1968), and Finian's Rainbow (1968).

In the Seventies Wright King guest starred on such shows as Room 222, The Streets of San Francisco, McCloud, How the West Was Won, Most Wanted, Police Woman, and Logan's Run. He appeared in the film Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973). His last appearance on film was in House Made of Dawn (1987).

Wright King was certainly a talented actor. While he might be best remembered as youthful bounty hunter Jason Nicholas on Wanted: Dead or Alive, he played a wide variety of roles. He played a reporter in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Shadow Play" and  a gunslinger in the Sugarfoot episode "Wolf". In Planet of the Apes he was Dr. Galen, the chimpanzee veterinarian (which, this being the Planet of the Apes, meant he treated humans).  Over the years he played a wide array of roles in his various television guest appearances and appearances in movies, and he always gave a good performance.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Late Great Ken Berry

Actor, dancer, and singer Ken Berry plays a large role in many of my childhood memories. Like many I first saw him in the Western spoof F Troop, which ran only two seasons but would be repeated in syndication to this day. I also saw him in the continuation of The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D. A little later I would see him in a short lived variety show, The Ken Berry "Wow" Show, where he got to display his song and dance talents. He was also a frequent guest on The Carol Burnett Show. Whether as Captain Wilton Parmenter or a song and dance man, I have been a fan of Ken Berry nearly my entire life. Sadly, Ken Berry died on December 1 1985 at the age of 85.

Ken Berry was born on November 3 1933 in Moline, Illinois. He decided he wanted to be a dancer and singer when he saw dancers at a carnival when he was 12 years old. He was a fan of movie musicals starring Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Young Mr. Berry took tap dance lessons and at age 16 he joined the Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program.With the program he toured for 15 months, not only visiting several towns in the United States, but also the United Kingdom and Europe.

After graduating from high school, Ken Berry enlisted in the United States Army. He was initially assigned to the artillery, but after appearing on Arlene Francis's TV show on ABC, Soldier Parade, he was transferred to Special Services. There he served under Sergeant Leonard Nimoy (later best known as Spock on Star Trek), who encouraged him to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1956 he opened for Abbott & Costello's stage act in Las Vegas. In 1957 he joined Ken Murray's Las Vegas show, The Ken Murray Blackouts. He made his debut on Broadway in The Billy Barnes Revue in 1959. He also appeared on Broadway in 1961 in The Billy Barnes People.

While still in the military Ken Berry made his television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, in addition to a few other television appearances. He made his television debut as a civilian on The Chevy Showroom Starring Andy Williams in 1959. The following years he would make guest appearances on Harrigan and Son and Hot Off the Wire. He had the recurring role of Woody on The Ann Sothern Show that same year.

The Sixties would prove to be a very busy time for Ken Berry. He had the recurring role of Lt. Melton on Ensign O'Toole and from 1961 to 1964 he played the recurring role of Dr. John Kapish on Dr. Kildare. It was in 1965 that he played his first lead role in a TV show. Mr. Berry played Captain Wilton Parmenter, the accident prone cavalry commander on the Western spoof F Troop. The show proved very popular, but ended its run after only two years because some individuals at Warner Bros. thought the show was too expensive. It would prove to be a perennial favourite as a rerun in syndication ever since. Ken Berry followed the success of F Troop with Mayberry R.F.D., which was essentially The Andy Griffith Show without Andy Griffith. It ran three seasons and was still high rated when it was cancelled as part of the Rural Purge.

In the Sixties Ken Berry also guest starred on such shows as Michael Shayne, Hennesey, The Gertrude Berg Show, General Electric Theatre, Alcoa Premiere, Mr. Novak, Burke's Law, Combat!, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Rogues, Hazel, No Time for Sergeants, Rawhide, 12 O'Clock High, The Lucy Show, and The Andy Griffith Show. He made his first guest appearance on The Carol Burnett Show in 1968 and guest starred frequently on the show for the rest of its run. He also guest starred on such variety and talk shows as The Garry Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Woody Woodbury ShowThe Ed Sullivan Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Engelbert Humperdinck Show, The Art Linkletter Show, Laugh In, The Andy Williams Show, and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. He also appeared on various game shows. Mr. Berry had uncredited roles in the movies Two for the Seesaw (1962) and The Lively Set (1964), and appeared in the film Hello Down There (1969).

In the Seventies Ken Berry had his own, short lived variety show, The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show. He guest starred on the shows Love American Style, The Brady BunchMedical Centre, Ellery Queen, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, Apple Pie, The Love Boat, Little House on the Prairie, CHiPs, and Fantasy Island. He continued to appear frequently on The Carol Burnett Show. He guest starred on such variety shows as The Julie Andrews Hour, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, NBC Follies, The Dean Martin Show, and The Sonny Comedy Revue. He also appeared on such games shows as Hollywood Squares and Tattletales. He appeared in several TV movies, including Li'l Abner, The Reluctant Heroes, and Letters from Three Lovers. He appeared in the feature films Herbie Rides Again (1973), Guardian of the Wilderness (1976), and The Cat from Outer Space (1978).

In the Eighties Ken Berry played Vinton Harper, Mama's good natured but none too bright son, on Mama's Family. The series had evolved out of Carol Burnett's recurring sketches "The Family" on The Carol Burnett Show. The show ran on NBC from 1983 to 1984 and then in first run syndication from 1986 to 1990. He guest starred on the shows Fantasy Island, Gimme a Break, and Small Wonder. In the Nineties he guest starred on The Golden Girls and Maggie Winters. He was a guest voice on The New Batman Adventures.

Ken Berry also toured with productions of Sugar, The Music Man, and I Do! I Do!.

Ken Berry had regular, semi-regular, or recurring roles on seven different shows, including lead roles in F Troop and Mayberry R.F.D. and as host of The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show. If Ken Berry was so much in demand on television, it was because he was so very talented. Mr. Berry was an incredible comic talent. A trained dancer, he had a gift for physical comedy, which was often put to good use on F Troop. What is more his comic talents weren't merely limited to the sitcoms or movies in which he appeared. Mr. Berry was incredible in the many sketches in which he appeared on The Carol Burnett Show. Of course, Ken Berry was also an incredible song and dance man. His talents were most visible on his various guest appearances on variety shows and his short-lived variety show The Ken Berry 'Wow' Show, as well as commercials for Kinney Shoes in the Seventies and Eighties. It was classic movie musicals that had made Ken Berry want to be a singer and dancer, and I think it is safe to say that had he been born in an earlier time he would have been a star of movie musicals. While Ken Berry will always be remembered for his roles in F Troop, Mayberry R.F.D., and Mama's Family, he did so much more.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Late Great Nicolas Roeg

Nicolas Roeg, who directed such classic films as Don't Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), died on November 23 2018 at the age of 90.

Nicolas Roeg was born on August 15 1928 in London. His family lived across from the road from Marleybone Studios. He was around 19 years old when he got a job there, operating the clapperboard. He eventually worked his way up to camera operator, serving in such a capacity on such films as Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951), Circumstantial Evidence (1952), Bhowani Junction (1956), The Man Inside (1958), Tarzan's Great Adventure (1959), The Trial of Oscar Wilde (1960), The Sundowners (1960), and Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961). He was in charge of second unit photography on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and provided additional photography for Casino Royale (1967).

Eventually Mr. Roeg went from being a camera operator to a cinematographer. His first cinematography credit was on Information Received in 1961. In the Sixties he served as cinematographer on such films as Band of Thieves (1962), The Caretaker (1963), Dr. Crippen (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The System (1964), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), and Petulia (1968).

It was in 1968 that Nicolas Roeg became a director with the movie Performance (1970). While the film was produced in 1968, it would be shelved for two years because its distributor Warner Bros. was uncomfortable given its sexual content and violence. In the Seventies Nicolas Roeg directed Walkabout (1971). He followed it with the classic Don't Look Now (1973), now regarded by some as one of the greatest British films ever made. He followed Don't Look Now with The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), the cult classic starring David Bowie as an alien who visits Earth. He closed out the Seventies with the film Bad Timing (1980).

In the Eighties Nicolas Roeg directed the films Eureka (1983), Insignificance (1985), Castaway (1987), Track 29 (1988), and The Witches (1990). He directed one of the segments in the anthology film Aria (1987). In the Nineties he directed the films Cold Heaven (1991) and Two Deaths (1995). His last film was Puffball in 2007.

Mr.Roeg also did some work in television, directing the TV movie Sweet Bird of Youth (1989), the TV movie Heart of Darkness (1993), the 1996 mini-series Samson and Delilah, and a 1993 episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, among other projects.

Nicolas Roeg was certainly a talented director. His years as a cinematographer allowed him to make visually daring films in such a way that other directors couldn't. Mr. Roeg's films could also be challenging. Both Performance, Don't Look Now, and Bad Timing pushed the envelope as to what was acceptable in film at the time. Both Walkabout and The Man Who Fell to Earth were intellectually adventurous. Even when directing a more mainstream film, such as The Witches, Mr. Roeg went out on a limb with regards to the film's visuals and content. If Nicolas Roeg is remembered as a director, it is because he was a very singular one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Christmas Movies on TCM in December

Every December Turner Classic Movies shows classic Christmas movies and even some not so classic holiday themed movies. Indeed, for many of us watching Yuletide movies on TCM is something of a tradition. Sadly, it is sometimes difficult for fans of holiday movies to keep track when their favourites are airing. To make things easier, then, I have compiled a listing of the Christmas movies airing on TCM next month. Here I must confess that I only included movies in which the holiday plays a central role in the plot. I have excluded movies in which Christmas plays a role in only a smart part of the over all movie. While I adore Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), I do not include it in the listing for that reason (in fact, my favourite time of year to watch it is spring). I also include none of the versions of Little Women (which, umm, I don't adore..) for the same reason.  I will say that I am disappointed that TCM is not showing either The Apartment (1960) or Bell, Book, and Candle (1959) this season which are two of my go-to holiday movies.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list. All times are Central.

December 1
Beyond Tomorrow (1940) 7:00 PM
The Bishop's Wife (1947) 9:45 PM

December 1
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) 5:30 AM
A Christmas Carol (1938) 7:30 AM
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) 7:00 PM
Holiday Affair (1949) 9:00 PM

December 8
Meet John Doe (1941) 11:00 AM
Three Godfathers (1936) 1:15 PM
Holiday Inn (1942) 7:00 PM
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) 9:00 PM

December 9
Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 7:15 AM
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) 7:00 PM
O. Henry's Full House (1952) 9:15 PM December 15
Holiday Affair (1949) 11:00 AM
Trail of Robin Hood (1950) 7:00 PM
3 Godfathers (1949) 8:30 PM

December 16
The Shop Around the Corner (1940 5:00 AM
In the Good Old Summertime (1949) 7:00 AM

December 17
Lady on a Train (1945) 7:00 PM
The Lady in the Lake (1947) 9:00 PM

December 19
Never Say Goodbye (1946) 4:30 PM
Bachelor Mother (1939) 7:00 PM

December 22
Santa Claus (1959) 3:15 AM
Remember the Night (1940) 7:00 PM
Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 9:00 PM

December 23
Period of Adjustment (1962) 12:45 AM
A Carol for Another Christmas (1964) 2:45 AM
Scrooge (1935) 5:00 AM
Bush Christmas (1947) 7:30 AM
O. Henry's Full House (1952) 10:45 AM
Susan Slept Here (1954) 1:00 PM
Holiday Inn (1942) 5:00 PM
The Holly and the Ivy (1942) 7:00 PM
A Christmas Carol (1951) 9:00 PM

December 24
Beyond Tomorrow 5:00 AM
The Great Rupert (1950) 8:30 AM
Babes in Toyland (1934) 10:00 AM
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) 11:30 AM
Holiday Affair (1949) 1:15 PM
Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 3:00 PM
The Bishop's Wife (1947) 7:00 PM
A Christmas Carol (1938) 9:00 PM
In the Good Old Summertime (1949) 10:30 PM

December 25
Meet John Doe 12:20 AM
Desk Set (1957) 2:45 AM
Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) 5:00 AM
3 Godfathers (1938) 7:00 AM
Bundle of Joy (1956) 9:00 AM
Bachelor Mother (1939) 11:00 AM
Fitzwilly (1967) 12:30 PM
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) 2:30 PM
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) 4:45 PM

December 27
Susan Slept Here (1954) 10:00 AM

December 31
The Thin Man 7:45 AM

Monday, November 26, 2018

Godspeed Pablo Ferro

Graphic designer and title designer Pablo Ferro died on November 16 2018 at the age of 83. The cause was complications from pneumonia. Mr. Ferro designed titles for movies from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) to L. A. Confidential (1997).

Pablo Ferro was born on January 15 1935 in Antilla, Oriente Province, Cuba. As a child he enjoyed drawing. When he was 12 his family moved to New York City. His father left the family two years later. To help his mother support his family, young Pablo Ferro took whatever odd jobs he could get. Among these jobs was that of an usher at a cinema specialising in foreign films. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the movies. He taught himself animation using one of legendary animator Preston Blair's books.

Mr. Ferro attended the School of Industrial Art. In the early Fifties, he served as an illustrator at the company that would become Marvel Comics. In the mid-Fifties he freelanced as an animator for Academy Pictures and Elektra Studios. It was while he was at Elektra that he designed the first version of the NBC peacock. He began directing television commercials later in the Fifties. It was in 1961 that he formed the partnership Ferro, Mohammed & Schwartz, Inc. with animator Fred Mogubgub and comic book artist Lew Schwartz.

Pablo Ferro broke into title design with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Stanley Kubrick had seen Mr. Ferro's commercials and, as a result, hired him to create the movie's trailer. Suitably impressed by the trailer that Pablo Ferro had created, he asked him to create the film's title sequence as well. He formed his own company, Pablo Ferro Films, in 1964. In the Sixties he would also create titles for Woman of Straw (1964), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), and Midnight Cowboy (1969).

In the Seventies Pablo Ferro served as a title designer on the films A Clockwork Orange (1971), Harold and Maude (1971), Bound for Glory (1976), Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977), Handle with Care (1977), Last Embrace (1979), and Being There (1979). In the Eighties he served as title designer on the films Second-Hand Harts (1981), I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982), Amityville 3-D (1983), Swing Shift (1984), No Way Out (1987), Prince of Darkness (1987), No Man's Land (1987), Johnny Be Good (1988), Beetlejuice (1988), Married to the Mob (1988), Oro fino (1989), Heart Condition (1990), Maniac Cop (1990), Pump Up the Volume (1990), Darkman (1990), and Book of Love (1990).

In the Nineties Mr. Ferro designed titles for such movies as Career Opportunities (1991), Mobsters (1991), The Addams Family (1991),  Malice (1993), Addams Family Values (1993), Philadelphia (1993), Milk Money (1994), To Die For (1995), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Mrs. Winterbourne (1996), That Thing You Do! (1996), Anna Karenina (1997), L.A. Confidential (1997), Men in Black (1997), Good Will Hunting (1997), As Good as It Gets (1997), Hope Floats (1998), Beloved (1998), and For Love of the Game (1999).

In the Naughts Pablo Ferro was the title designer for Bones (2001), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), Men in Black II (2002), The Truth About Charlie (2002), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), The Door in the Floor (2004), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Iowa (2005), Tweek City (2005), Starter for 10 (2006), Cthulhu (2007), The Ministers (2009), Howl (2010), and How Do You Know (2010). In the Teens he designed titles for the movies Larry Crowne (2011), Men in Black 3 (2012), and Sins of Our Youth (2014).

Over the years Pablo Ferro also served in the editorial department and created montages for such films as Handle with Care (1977), Second-Hand Hearts (1981), Beatlemania (1981), Trouble in Mind (1985), No Man's Land (1987), Pump Up the Volume (1990), Darkman (1990), Mobsters (1991), and The Truth About Charlie (2002). He also designed titles for a few TV movies.

Pablo Ferro was revolutionary when it came to movie titles. He utilised rapid cuts, hand-drawn titles, and multiple images shown on the screen all at once. What is more, his titles always fit the movie. His titles for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb made it clear that the film was a comedy. His titles for The Thomas Crown Affair fit a heist film. Short of Saul Bass, there was probably no greater title designer than Pablo Ferro.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ken Swofford Passes On

Ken Swofford, who played Frank Flannigan on the TV show Ellery Queen and Quentin Morloch on the TV show Fame, died on November 1 at the age of 85.

Ken Swofford was born on July 25 1933 in Du Quoin, Illinois. He attended the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He made his television debut in a guest appearance on Surfside 6 in 1962. In the Sixties he guest starred on such shows as The Big Valley, Cimarron Strip, The Wild Wild West, I Spy, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, Adam-12, The Outcasts, The Virginian, Here Come the Brides, The F.B.I., Lancer, The Odd Couple, and Mission: Impossible. He had uncredited role in the movies Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), Father Goose (1964), First to Fight (1967), Gunfight in Abilene (1967), How Much Loving Does a Normal Couple Need? (1967), and The Lawyer (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Swofford played the recurring role of journalist Frank Flannigan on the single season of Ellery Queen. He also had the recurring role of Lt.. Griffin on the TV show Switch and J.J. on The Eddie Capra Mysteries. He appeared in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man--Book II. He guest starred on the shows Gunsmoke, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rookies, Columbo, The Girl with Something Extra, The Waltons, The Partridge Family, Dirty Sally, Kung Fu, Amy Prentiss, Paper Moon, Petrocelli, Police Story, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Rockford Files.  He appeared in the films The Andromeda Strain (1971), Bless the Beasts and Children (1971), Skyjacked (1972), One Little Indian (1973), The Black Bird (1975), and The Domino Principle (1977).

In the Eighties Ken Swofford had a regular role on the TV show Fame. He guest starred on such shows as The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, Code Red, The Fall Guy, Trapper John M.D., Knots Landing, Riptide, Knight Rider, Remington Steele, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Falcon Crest, Max Headroom, Highway to Heaven, Simon & Simon, Our House, The Wonder Years, Dynasty, and Dallas. He appeared in the films S.O.B. (1981), Annie  (1982), Hunter's Blood (1986), and Black Roses (1988).

In the Nineties Mr. Swofford guest starred on such TV shows as Matlock;. Baywatch; Murder, She Wrote; and Diagnosis Murder. He appeared in the films Thelma & Louise (1991), The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991), and Cops n Roberts. Into the Naughts he was the voice of Coach on the animated TV series Recess.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

I want to wish all of my American readers a happy Thanksgiving! And without further ado, here is this year's batch of vintage Thanksgiving pinups.

First up is the lovely Ann Byth with a Thanksgiving greeting!

Next up is model Dusty Anderson with a large, feathery friend!

If I were that turkey, I wouldn't trust Angela Greene with that musket!

Debbie Reynolds at Plymouth Rock!

Leila Hyams prefers friending turkeys to shooting them!

And the only thing better than turkey for Thanksgiving is turkey served by Ann Miler!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Late Great William Goldman

Legendary novelist and screenwriter William Goldman died on November 16 at the age of 87. The causes were colon cancer and pneumonia.

William Goldman was born on August 21 1931 in Chicago. In 1952 he graduated from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Afterwards he was drafted into the United States Army where he served in the Pentagon as a clerk for two years. He earned a Masters of Arts at Columbia University. It was in 1956 that he started writing his first novel, The Temple of Gold. It was published in October 1957 by Knopf.

Mr. Goldman would write several more novels over the years, including Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow (1958), Soldier in the Rain (1960), Boys and Girls Together (1964), No Way to Treat a Lady (1964), The Thing of It Is... (1967), Father's Day (1971), The Princess Bride (1973), Marathon Man (1974), Magic (1976), Tinsel (1979), Control (1982), The Silent Gondoliers (1983), The Colour of Light (1984), Heat (1985), and Brothers (1986).

William Goldman began working in the theatre when he and his brother, playwright and screenwriter James Goldman, did some rewriting on the musical Tenderloin (1960). They then collaborated on the play Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole (1961). They also collaborated on the musical A Family Affair (1962), with music by John Kander.

It was through his novel No Way to Treat a Lady that Mr. Goldman became a screenwriter. Cliff Robertson read an early draft of the novel and hired him to adapt Daniel Keyes's short story "Flowers for Algernon" as a movie. It was before Mr. Goldman had even finished the script, Mr. Robertson suggested him for rewrites on the spy spoof Masquerade (1965). William Goldman finished his screen adaptation of "Flowers of Algernon", but Cliff Robertson did not like the finished product. He then hired Stirling Silliphant to write a new screenplay for what would ultimately become the film Charly (1968).

In the late Sixties William Goldman wrote the screenplay for the movies Harper (1966) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). William Goldman had researched the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for eight years. He was paid $400,000 for his work, then the highest price ever paid for a screenplay. He would ultimately win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film.

The Seventies would see William Goldman write the screenplays for The Hot Rock  (1972), The Stepford Wives (1975), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), All the President's Men (1976), Marathon Man (1976--based on his own novel), A Bridge Too Far (1977), and Magic (1978--based on his own novel). The Eighties would see Mr. Goldman adapt what might his most beloved novel, The Princess Bride, for the screen. Save for perhaps Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the 1987 film The Princes Bride would become perhaps his most beloved film as well. He also adapted his own novel Heat as the 1987 film of the same name and Stephen King's novel Misery as the 1990 novel of the same name.

In the Nineties William Goldman wrote the screenplays for Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), Year of the Comet (1992), Chaplin (1992), Maverick (1994--based on the TV series of the same name), The Chamber (1996), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), Absolute Power (1997), and The General's Daughter (1999). His next two screenplays would both be based on Stephen King novels, Hearts in Atlantis (2001) and Dreamcatcher (2003). His final screenplay, Wild Card (2015), was another adaptation of his novel Heat.

Mr. Goldman wrote several works of non-fiction, including The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway (a look at the 1967-1968 Broadway season) and Hype and Glory (on his experiences as a judge at both the 1988 Cannes Film Festival and Miss America Pageant). His book Adventures in the Screen Trade remains a must-read for anyone interested in screenwriting. 

Arguably William Goldman was one of the greatest writers of the late 20th Century. He had a knack for creating interesting characters, as seen in both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride. He also had a knack for dialogue. Indeed, his screenplays remain among the most quotable ever written. Aaron Sorkin referred to Mr. Goldman as "the dean of American screenwriters", and it is very difficult to argue that he wasn't That he was a gifted writer of novels and non-fiction makes him even more remarkable. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot

Today is the 80th birthday of Gordon Lighfoot. He has often been called Canada's greatest songwriter, and it is hard to argue with that assessment. Over the years he has written several hits, including "If You Could Read My Mind", "Sundown", and "Rainy Day People". Among his most famous songs (and perhaps his biggest hit) was "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". The song is based on something that actually happened. It was on November 10 1975 that the freighter the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior during a storm. The entire crew was lost and it remains the largest ship to ever sink in the Great Lakes.

Gordon Lightfoot was inspired to write the song after reading an article in Newsweek on the disaster. It appeared on his album Summertime Dream (released in June 1976) and was released as a single that August. It went to no. 1 on the Canadian singles chart and no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here with out further ado, is Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".


Friday, November 16, 2018

A Few Updates

Today has proven to be a difficult one with regard to making blog posts. Sadly, that has not been unusual for me since August 30 2018. Nothing has ever disrupted work on my blog the way that Vanessa's death has. I sometimes find it a struggle to keep the blog going. Indeed, it was about a month ago that I wrote only two posts in an entire week. That is a first for A Shroud of Thoughts, as I have always previously written at least three posts per week. To make matters worse, legendary novelist and screenwriter William Goldman has just died. Having just written a eulogy for Stan Lee, I did not quite feel up to writing another epic eulogy. I will then simply provide you with a few updates on myself, this blog, and the classic film community.

As to myself, I have entered the TCM 25 Anniversary Fan Contest. For those few of you might not have heard about it, in honour of their 25th anniversary next April, Turner Classic Movies is holding a contest in which the individual makes video dedicating a film to a special someone in his or her life. Twenty five lucky fans will be chosen to introduce the film on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz. I won't name the film I chose, although I think anyone who knows me can guess to whom I am dedicating it. Of course, if one knows to whom I am dedicating a film, it probably wouldn't be too hard to guess which film it is. Some of my TCMParty pals have also entered, including Beth Ann of Spellbound by Movies, Chris of Blog of the Damned, and Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled. If I am chosen as one of the 25, it will actually be my second time on TCM. Many of you will remembered that in April 2015 I introduced A Hard Day's Night with Ben as a fan favourite.

With regards to this blog, I will be posting my usual schedule of holiday movies airing on Turner Classic Movies in December later this month. And, of course, next Thursday will be my traditional Thanksgiving pinups. Next month I will also have a post on the wonderful Thelma Ritter for this year's "What a Character!" blogathon, as well as my usual holiday posts (although this year they will be interrupted on December 21 by a very special post).

Of course, I assume most classic film buffs have heard the news about FilmStruck, the beloved streaming service that was a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and Criterion. Sadly, Warner Media announced that FilmStruck will be shutting down on November 29. This led to an outpouring of support for the service, with such luminaries as Guillermo del Toro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright, and others weighing in. While it appears that FilmStruck is history despite such support, yesterday Criterion announced the launch of a new streaming service, the Criterion Channel, next spring. This news has made many classic film buffs happy. As for myself, I would also like to see a revival of Warner Archive Instant. They never did add the classic Warner Bros. TV shows to Filmstruck!

Anyhow, that is all I have for now. I hope to have William Goldman's eulogy ready for tomorrow. If not, there might be another filler post!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Late Great Stan Lee

To say Stan Lee was a legend in the comic book industry is a bit of an understatement. In the early Sixties he took Marvel Comics, which was simply one of many comic book companies during the Golden Age and the Fifties, and turned it into a worthy competitor to industry giant National Periodical Publications (now known as DC Comics). It was during this period that he co-created some of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history: The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and many others. He also revolutionised comic books by introducing superheroes with human flaws and everyday problems. Stan Lee also revolutionised the comic book industry in the way he interacted with its fans. The Bullpen Bulletins featured news and a column by Stan himself, Stan's Soapbox, and was included in nearly every Marvel comic book for decades. Stan encouraged fans to think of both comic book creators and fans as a community. Having begun his career at the company that would become Marvel Comics in 1939, he was also possibly the last living link to the Golden Age of Comic Books. Sadly, Stan Lee died yesterday morning, November 12 2018, at the age of 95.

Stan Lee was born Stanley Lieber in New York City on December 28 1922. He was a voracious reader growing up, and read works by such authors as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain. He started reading Shakespeare when he was only 10. He also loved going to the movies, particularly Errol Flynn's swashbuckler films. Stan was only 17 when he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He had pretensions of becoming an author of "serious" literature. It was in 1939, when Stan was still only 17, that he was hired as an office gofer at what would evolve into the modern day Marvel Comics. It was owned by the husband of Stan's cousin Jean, Martin Goodman, who had been publishing pulp magazines for many years and was entering the newly burgeoning field of comic books. It was legendary comic book artist and writer Joe Simon, then editor at the company, who hired Stan.

Stan's initial duties at the Martin Goodman's group of companies were hardly glamorous. He had to insure the artists' inkwells were full. He got lunch for the artists and writers. He proofread pages. Stan finally broke into writing with the text filler "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics no. 3 (May 1941).  For it he used the pen name "Stan Lee", wishing to save his given name for when he wrote works of "serious" literature. It was not long before Stan Lee graduated from writing filler to a backup feature, "'Headline' Hunter, Foreign Correspondent". It was in Mystic Comics no. 6 (August 1941) that the first superhero created by Stan Lee, The Destroyer, appeared.

It was in late 1941 that editor Joe Simon and art director Jack Kirby (the partnership who had created Captain America) left in a dispute over wages with Martin Goodman. Mr. Goodman appointed Stan, then shy of 19 years old, as the  interim editor. He proved to be so good at the job that he would become editor-in-chief, a position he would maintain until 1972.

It was in early 1942 that Stan Lee entered the United States Army. He served in the Signal Corps, writing training manuals. He was later part of the Training Film Division, where he worked on training manuals, training films, and the occasional cartoon. Stationed stateside, Stan Lee was able to continue his career working for Martin Goodman during World War II.

Towards the end of the Forties, the Golden Age of Comic books came to an end and superheroes went out of fashion. Throughout the Fifties Stan Lee found himself writing in a variety of other genres, including Westerns, science fiction, humour, horror, romance, and swashbuckling adventures. During the Fifties the company would experience two setbacks. Outcry cover the content of comic books in the late Forties and early Fifties would lead to the formation of the Comics Code Authority, which oversaw the content of comic books for decades. Under the Comics Code, comic books were initially highly sanitised. In fact, it was after the introduction of the Code that comic books sales fell dramatically. Competition from television did not help.

The other setback would occur with the collapse of the American News Company, a distribution company which distributed the majority of comic books (as well as magazines and newspapers) in 1957. Without a distributor, Martin Goodman ultimately had to go to the Independent News Co. a distributor owned by National Periodical Publications (now known as DC Comics). The Independent News Co. put strict limits on the number of titles Martin Goodman could publish a month. They went from publishing 40 to 60 titles a month to merely 8 to 12. Mr. Goodman downsized the company to the point that Stan Lee was one of the very few employees remaining.

It was in 1961 that the company finally became known as "Marvel Comics" (which was also the title of the very first comic book ever published by Martin Goodman, Marvel Comics no. 1, cover dated October 1939). The first two titles to bear an "MC" box on their cover were the science fiction anthology book Journey into Mystery no. 69 (June 1961) and the teen humour title Patsy Walker  no. 95 (June 1961).

That having been said, it would be later in the year that Marvel Comics would truly get started. At the request of publisher Martin Goodman, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four. The team made their debut in Fantastic Four no. 1 (November 1961). The Fantastic Four differed from earlier superheroes in that they actually had human flaws, and everyday problems shared by most human beings. The Fantastic Four proved successful, so that they were followed by more new Marvel superheroes, most of them co-created by Stan Lee. With Jack Kirby, Stan co-created Ant-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, The X-Men, and Black Panther. With Steve Ditko, Stan co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. With Bill Everett, he co-created Daredevil. Like The Fantastic Four, all of these characters were written as complex individuals with everyday problems with which the average person could identify.

At the same time, Stan revolutionised how comic book companies interacted with their fans. While comic books had featured "letters to the editor" pages for years, Stan took Marvel Comics well beyond this. The splash pages of stories not only named the writer and artists, but even the letterer. The Bullpen Bulletins page in nearly every Marvel  comic book included news about Marvel's staff and the company's various titles. Included with the Bullpen Bulletins was a monthly column by Stan Lee called "Stan's Soapbox". Through all of this Stan encouraged a sense of community between Marvel Comics and its fans.

Stan Lee continued to write several Marvel titles until 1972 when he became the company's publisher, at which point he stopped writing monthly comic books. He would continue to be the public face of Marvel Comics for years. In 1977 he and artist John Romita, Sr. began the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper comic strip, which Stan would continue to write for the rest of his life. In their final collaboration, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby produced Marvel's first graphic novel, The Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience, published in 1978.

It was in 1981 that Stan moved from New York City to Los Angeles in order to develop Marvel's film and television properties. He still occasionally wrote comic books for Marvel, including various works featuring The Silver Surfer, The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #10 (1990), and various other projects. In the Nineties he would step away from regular duties at Marvel Comics. He formed Stan Lee Media in 1998 with Peter Paul. An internet-based company, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2000. With Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman, in 2001 Stan Lee formed POW! (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment. The company continues to exist to this day and has produced the animated series Striperella for Spike TV, the TV film Lightspeed, the reality show Who Wants to Be a Superhero? for Sci-Fi Channel, and various other projects.

From 2001 to 2002 Stan Lee wrote a comic book entitled Just Imagine... for DC Comics in which Stan reimagined various classic DC characters. Of course, Stan was also known for his many appearances in films based on Marvel properties. Starting with X-Men in 2000, he appeared in a cameo in nearly every film based on a Marvel property, including Spider-Man (2000), Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and man others. He also appeared in films that were not associated with Marvel, including The Ambulance (1990), Mallrats (1995), and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018). He also appeared on television, including a cameo in an episode of the TV show Heroes, a guest appearance on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, a guest appearance on Entourage, and various other shows.

Stan Lee's legacy is a complicated one. He has often been accused of taking more credit than he was actually due. This was acknowledged in the comic book industry as early as 1968 when a parody of Stan Lee, called "Stan Bragg", appeared in the DC Comics title Angel and the Ape. Stan Bragg would cross out the names of creators in the credits of comic books and replace them with his own. In particular, Jack Kirby was not happy about Stan Lee receiving sole credit for the many characters he and Stan created together. It would lead to Mr. Kirby's departure from Marvel in 1970. Jack Kirby was so angry about the situation that he would parody Stan Lee with the character of Funky Flashman in the pages of Mister Miracle. Funky Flashman was a conman and huckster always trying to capitalise on the work of others.

While Stan Lee might have taken too much credit for the characters he created with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Bill Everett, there can be little doubt that he deserved some of that credit. In fact, whatever Stan's contributions to various individual characters might have been, it seems likely that the then revolutionary idea of all too human superheroes who had their own foibles, personal problems, and neuroses originated with him. After all, it is the common thread running through characters he created with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Bill Everett.

It must also be pointed out Stan Lee revolutionised the way comic book companies interact with fans. Comic book fandom has existed since the Golden Age, but it was Stan who engendered a true sense of community between fans and creators through the Bullpen Bulletins that appeared in every issue of Marvel comic books for years, as well as his column Stan's Soapbox. Stan did not simply treat Marvel's readers as fans, but as friends as well.

Indeed, this can be seen in his individual interactions with fans. I know plenty of people who met Stan Lee in person and all of them said he was wonderful. I never met Stan in person, but I interacted with him from time to time on social media. No one could be nicer. Stan treated his fans as his friends and as a result he was always friendly, kind, and courteous towards them. And he always expressed appreciation for this fans. Unlike some celebrities, Stan knew his career depended on his fans. Mark Hamill, who himself has always been known for his relationship with his fans, wrote on Twitter of Stan Lee, "He was everything you hoped he would be & MORE. I loved this man & will never stop missing him. They say you should never meet a childhood idol. They are wrong." Stan may not have always been the nicest guy to his co-creators, but to his fans he was wonderful.

Of course, the importance of Stan Lee to Marvel Comics can not be stressed enough. He constantly pursued deals that would expand Marvel Comics into television and movies. And eventually those deals would pay off. If Marvel Comics has dominated the box office for the past many years, it is in a large part due to Stan Lee.

Stan Lee's impact on the comic book industry and on popular culture in general is inescapable. He co-created several of the most popular characters in comic book history, and was responsible for introducing superheroes who were more human than had been seen before. He changed the approach of comic book companies to their fans. He also constantly promoted Marvel Comics, insuring that it would remain DC's only serious rival for years. That having been said, what Stan might be best remembered for is his relationship with his fans. Stan was possibly the first comic book creator to step from behind the curtain and interact with his fans, and he treated his fans as if they were his friends. If many are mourning the loss of Stan Lee, it is because they feel they have lost a friend.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Raymond Chow Passes On

Raymond Chow, the founder of Golden Harvest who was pivotal in the careers of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, died on November 2 2018 at the age of 92.

Raymond Chow was born on October 8 1927 in British Hong Kong. He attended Saint John's University in Shanghai and graduated with a degree in journalism. In 1951 he went to work for the Voice of America's office in Hong Kong. He also worked for The Hong Kong Standard. In 1958 he went to work as a publicist for the Shaw Brothers Studio. It was after he complained about the quality of the Shaw Brothers' movies that studio chief Run Run Shaw invited him to contribute his own ideas on scripts. Eventually Mr. Chow would become the production chief of the Shaw Brothers Studio. It was in 1970 that he left the studio along with fellow Shaw Brothers executive Leonard Ho to found their own studio, Golden Harvest.

In the beginning Golden Harvest had problems competing with the Shaw Brothers. All of this changed after Mr. Chow saw Bruce Lee giving a martial arts demonstration on Hong Kong television. Bruce Lee was known for having played Kato on the American TV series The Green Hornet and having made several guest appearances on American television, as well as appearing in the Hollywood film Marlowe (1969). The Shaw Brothers had offered Bruce Lee a contract, but he would sign a two film deal with Golden Harvest after the studio offered him $15,000 per film, a share in the profits, and a say in the production of the films. Bruce Lee's first film for Golden Harvest, The Big Boss (1971), proved to be an enormous success. Golden Harvest would later make history by co-producing Bruce Lee's film Enter the Dragon (1973) with Hollywood studio Warner Bros., as well as Bruce Lee's own Concord Productions.

Even after Bruce Lee's death, Golden Harvest would continue to be a success with the Hui Brothers' comedies and the films of Jackie Chan. Golden Harvest would also produce the movies The Cannonball Run (1981) and Cannonball Run II (1984), as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies of the Nineties. It was in 1997 during a financial crisis in Asia that Golden Harvest started to fail. Raymond Chow retired in 2007 Wu Kebo, who owns the Orange Sky Entertainment Group. Orange Sky and Golden Harvest would be merged in 2009.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mourning Vanessa Marquez

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."
(Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

It has been ten weeks since the worst day of my life. It was on that day that my beloved Vanessa Marquez was killed. My parents had me when they were older, so that while I am only 55 I have already experienced the deaths of many loved ones in my life.  My parents, all of my aunts and uncles, many of my cousins, and even one of my best friends has died. None of those deaths caused the amount of grief I have felt in the wake of Vanessa's death. I can speak in cliches about how I felt about Vanessa. I can say that I love her more than anyone else in my life. I can say that she was my best friend, my soulmate, the girl of my dreams, and the love of my life. In the end, however, words are inadequate to describe how I feel about Vanessa. When she died it felt as if part of my soul was torn away, and it still feels as if a part of me is missing.

The night before she died, I had made a post to Instagram stating that as Stand and Deliver (1988) was 30 years old, it was now a classic movie. This naturally meant that Vanessa Marquez was then a classic movie actress. What is more,  I named her as my favourite classic movie actress. When I told Vanessa that I had posted my favourite classic movie actress, she guessed it was Ann Blyth. I told her it was another actress who was pretty and petite. She was very happy to learn it was her. She was also surprised, although there was no reason she should have been. It had long been obvious how I felt about her. There was nothing that night to indicate what would follow that next day.

That next day Vanessa was having very bad seizures. She had me contact the paramedics. Someone else, apparently her landlord (about whom the less is said, the better), had called the police. I had to go to our local historical society's museum to work that afternoon. I texted her when I got back. After waiting for a reply I ran a search on the internet. It was about 8:00 PM Central Time that I learned that there had been an incident involving an unnamed 49 year old woman at the address of Vanessa's apartment. My worry gave way to panic. It was a little before 11:00 PM Central Time that I learned from The South Pasadenan that the woman was my Vanessa. I notified some of our mutual friends with the sad news and then posted the news of her death to both Facebook and Twitter. Not only was I in shock, but I was in more emotional pain than I have ever experienced in my life.

I also broke down crying immediately and, although I went to bed, I did not sleep at all that night. I continued crying throughout the night. It was in the early morning that the thought occurred to me that it would simply take an overdose of my blood pressure medication to put an end to my suffering. I dismissed the thought because a) I did not want my friends and family to go through the sort of grief I was experiencing; b.) it occurred to me that I had to remain alive to see that Vanessa received justice and to protect her reputation; and c.) I knew Vanessa would be very angry with me if I took my own life. Please do not worry about me. I never had suicidal thoughts before, I have not had any suicidal thoughts since, and I know I won't ever again, but the fact that I had those thoughts at all is a mark of just how much I was hurting.

I continued crying well into August 31 and would not stop until around 1:00 PM Central Time. In the meantime my Twitter feed had blown up with condolences from many. There were also requests from reporters for interviews and a few loathsome tweets from trolls (all of whom I reported and blocked--apparently one of my tweets made the news sources). I did not respond to the reporters, as in the early morning of August 31 I was still crying so hard that I probably would have been incomprehensible, not to mention I worried that they might figure out the true nature of my relationship with Vanessa. I have always been very selfish of my privacy and I was not yet ready to become known as "the boy who loves Vanessa Marquez" (which I think will be my epithet now and it doesn't bother me at all). It was later in the day that I consented to talk to Amanda Lee Myers of Associated Press as I am familiar with her work and I knew she would be sympathetic. Even then, it was difficult making it through the interview. Several days later I would talk to Daniel Vazquez of The South Pasadenan, who was also very sympathetic.

I didn't eat anything on August 31 and I continued to eat nothing on September 1. I simply had no appetite at all. In fact, I wouldn't eat anything until the evening of September 2. I did get some sleep, but not much. I awakened on both September 1 and September 2 crying. While I would resume eating, I did not sleep well for much of the month of September and it was not unusual for me to have nightmares when I did sleep. I cried every single day, usually multiple times. I don't know how many times I listened to "Paint It, Black" by The Rolling Stones, "Gone Away" by The Offspring, "Don't Go" by Matthew Sweet, and "I Don't Believe in Love" by Queensryche. I talked with our mutual friends. It felt good to talk to people who loved Vanessa and who loved me, and who were the only ones who realised just how important Vanessa was to me.

Another thing that comforted me though the month was that I was able to take part in the memorial for Vanessa held in South Pasadena after a fashion, even though I could not attend. I wrote a short piece about Vanessa for the memorial. I also chose two of the songs performed there: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (it was The Wizard of Oz that made Vanessa decide she wanted to be an actress) and The Beatles' "In My Life" (Vanessa was a Beatles fan and she loved the song--I always identified it with her as well). The cast and crew of Stand and Deliver held a memorial for Vanessa in October at the Los Angeles Theatre Centre, and they requested that the piece I had written for Vanessa be read there too.

Of course, given how Vanessa died I was and still am very angry. I feel as if the woman I love was taken from me due to gross incompetence, criminal irresponsibility, and possibly even malice. I am not alone in believing that what happened to Vanessa was wrong, and there are those of us who are still seeking to get her justice. Until such time as the parties responsible for her death are brought to justice,  I will harbour a good deal of anger towards them.

Regardless, I am much better than I was in September. As September became October I stopped crying every single day, although I do still cry on a somewhat regular basis. There are still certain songs to which I cannot listen without breaking down crying, and I know there are certain movies that I probably can't watch without doing so (The Apartment is my second favourite movie of all time, but given I always thought of Vanessa as my Miss Kubelik, I don't know if I am quite ready for it...). Every day I watch Vanessa's videos just to hear her voice, and I talk to her every night before I go to bed, whether she can hear me or not. While I am making it out of my grief and I know that there is one day I will be free of it, I also know that until the day I die I will always miss Vanessa.

I also know that there will never be another woman in my life. I know many will want to tell me that I will find someone else one day, but I know for a fact that this is not true. Vanessa was a singular woman. She was beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful, generous, and warm hearted. We had a good deal in common and got along perfectly together. We both knew secrets about each other that no one else knew. She would have been special even if she had never been a star of movies, television, and the stage.  I always wanted to move to California to be with her. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I wanted to marry her. I have had girlfriends in the past, but I can honestly say that Vanessa was the only woman I ever truly loved. There really isn't any woman who could ever compete with her and it would be unfair of me to ask any woman to compete with a ghost. And, to be honest, I am perfectly fine with spending the rest of my life alone. After all, it is not every Missouri farm boy who can say that he fell in love with a beautiful Hollywood actress and had that love returned. Vanessa Rosalia Marquez was and will always be the only girl for me.

I know the coming months won't be easy. Vanessa would have turned 50 next month and I know her birthday will be difficult for me to get through. My birthday this coming March will be difficult to get through as well. In the end, however, while I wish Vanessa had not died, especially not the way she did, and I will always miss her, I am thankful to have had such a special relationship with her. I was closer to Vanessa than I ever had been to anyone in my life, and I will always cherish our time together. And I know that when I die, I will have someone very special waiting for me in  the afterlife. While in the end I wish things had gone differently, I think with Vanessa I had an experience that only a very people ever have in life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of The Monkees' Movie Head

It was 50 years ago that Head (1968), best known as the only feature film to star The Monkees, premiered in New York City. Its premiere was only around two months after the last episode of the TV shows The Monkees had aired on NBC. While the show had only been a moderate success in the Nielsen ratings, the band created for that show, also called The Monkees, had proven to be an enormous success on the record charts, with four number one albums and three number one singles to their credit. Unfortunately, Head would see the beginning of a slow decline for the band. The film would bomb at the box office, while the soundtrack album would peak at only no. 45 on the Billboard albums chart. Despite its lack of initial success, Head has since become a cult film and is highly regarded even by those Monkees fans who might not have understood it upon first seeing it.

Like the TV show The Monkees itself, Head originated with director and producer Bob Rafelson. According to Mr. Rafelson's daughter Gabrielle in an article in The Guardian published in 2011, with the film he wanted to tell about The Monkees' "...manipulation, protest and substantial talents. He felt the true story, in abstract [form], would be more than worth the telling." Bob Rafelson introduced The Monkees to one of his friends, actor and screenwriter Jack Nicholson. It was in late 1967 that Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson, and The Monkees met at a hotel in Ojai Valley, California to brainstorm the movie, reportedly with assistance from a good deal of marijuana. A tape recorder was kept running the whole time and Jack Nicholson used the resultant tapes to write the screenplay. Bob Rafelson later claimed he developed the film's structure while on LSD.

Given the fact that they had taken part in the brainstorming session for the movie that would come to be called Head, The Monkees were none too happy when they learned they would not be given screenwriting credit. Led by Michael Nesmith, The Monkees except for Peter Tork, staged a walk-out on the first day of shooting. Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Davy Jones returned only after an agreement was struck to pay The Monkees more money. Unfortunately, the damage was already done to the relationship between The Monkees and Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. After Head, The Monkees would never work with the man who created the show on which they had starred again.

Head would go through various titles before its premiere on November 6 1968. One of its working titles during production was Changes. For a preview screening in Los Angeles in August, it was simply called Movee Untitled. It was ultimately titled Head partially as a drug reference and partially so Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider's next production could be advertised as coming "..from the guys who gave you Head."Of course, their next production would be Easy Rider (1969).

Unfortunately there would be signs that Head would not go over well even before its premiere. The aforementioned preview in Los Angeles in August 1968 proved to be disastrous. After the preview screening the film was edited down from its original 118 minutes to 86 minutes. The film's initial promotional campaign probably did not help matters. Posters simply featured a head shot of then multimedia artist John Brockman (later a literary agent) with the title of the film. After Head moved from limited release in New York City to wide release across the nation, Columbia Pictures would retain the "John Brockman" campaign while launching a more traditional campaign that sought to capitalise on The Monkees as the stars of the movie.

Upon its initial release Head received definitely mixed reviews. Renta Adler of The New York Times gave the film a somewhat negative review, writing that it "..might be a film to see if you have been smoking grass or if you like to scream at The Monkees, or if you are interested in what interests drifting heads and hysteric high school girls." The Motion Picture Herald gave the film a much more positive review, stating, "The humour, format and comment of Head make it attractive, entertaining and welcome." The review in Daily Variety fell somewhat between these two extremes. In the end, critics came to no real consensus with regards to Head, with some liking the film, some disliking the film, and some simply indifferent towards it.

While critics gave the film mixed reviews, audiences simply avoided Head. Ultimately it only made about $16,000 at the box office, far short of its admittedly meagre $790,000 budget. Much of the problem with Head might have been the fact that the movie was made to appeal to the counterculture, who largely considered The Monkees personae non gratae. At a screening in Greenwich Village, many in the audience walked out of the film the moment The Monkees appeared on screen. At the same time Head probably did not appeal to The Monkees' core audience, who at that time consisted primarily of teenagers and children.

Indeed, in some respects Head was a far cry from the TV show The Monkees. The film touched upon much darker material than the sitcom ever had, including war and the downsides of celebrity. To a large degree Head even deconstructed The Monkees themselves. At the same time, however, Head is not as far removed from the TV show The Monkees as some people have claimed over the years. It shared with the series the same freewheeling, often surreal humour and parodies of such established genres as war movies and Westerns. In between various sequences would be what could only be described as Monkees romps (such as "Can You Dig It" performed in a harem).

Indeed, music is as important a part of Head as it was the TV series. The film featured songs by The Monkees themselves ("Circle Sky" by Michael Nesmith and "Can You Dig It?" and "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" by Peter Tork),  Carole King (who co-wrote "Porpoise Song (Theme from Head)" with Gerry Goffin and "As We Go Along" with Toni Stein), and Harry Nilsson ("Daddy's Song"). Interestingly enough, the Head  soundtrack would be the only album to feature no songs by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who wrote the bulk of The Monkees' hits.

Despite the failure of Head at the box office and its mixed reception from critics in 1968, the film has since developed a cult following. It made its television debut on The CBS Late Movie on December 30 1974 and has since been shown on many other television outlets, including Turner Classic Movies. Among the many fans of Head are directors Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. And while many Monkees fans in 1968 may have been puzzled by Head, today it is loved by many Monkees fans. Head may have flopped in 1968, but it has since become a success.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Late Great James Karen

Character actor James Karen was not exactly a household name, but anyone who had ever watched a few American TV shows or movies would immediately recognise his face. He was one of the most prolific and talented character actors of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, with a career that spanned seventy years and included stints in film, television, and on Broadway. For the classic film community he was something even more than a great character actor. Mr. Karen had been a close personal friend of the great Buster Keaton and had a wealth of memories about the legendary actor and director. Despite his talent, his many credits, and his friendship with Mr. Keaton, James Karen was wholly unassuming. If one did not already know it, he or she might not realise that James Karen was a famous character actor. He was a kind and generous man who called many in the classic film community friends. For his thoughtfulness and his kindness he was among most the most beloved figures in the classic film community. Sadly, James Karen died on October 23 at the age of 94.

James Karen was born Jacob Karnofsky on November 28 1923 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Russian born Jewish immigrants. His father never learned to read, so the elder Mr. Karnofsky took young Jacob to silent movies to read the titles for him. As a youth, he was walking home from Union Street School, past the Little Theatre, when he was stopped by Congressman Daniel J. Flood, who was an amateur actor, who asked if he was a Boy Scout. Young Jacob said that he was and Congressman Flood gave him a part in a comedy playing at the theatre. He enjoyed the experience so much that he stayed with the theatre for quite some time and decided to pursue acting as a career.

In 1940 he left home for New York City to pursue a career in acting. It was at that point that he adopted the stage name "James Karen". He studied under acting teacher Sanford Meisner and appeared at the Neighbourhood Theatre there. Upon the United States' entry into World War II in 1941 he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. For part of the war he served as a cryptographer in Alaska. Following the war he returned to New York to return to acting. He was at the Actors Studio for a time and was Karl Malden's understudy in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He made his debut on the Broadway stage in 1948 in Six O'Clock Theatre. From 1950 to 1951 he appeared on Broadway in An Enemy of the People. He made his television debut in an episode of The Philco Television Playhouse.

In the Fifties James Karen appeared on Broadway in An Enemy of the People and Third Best Sport. He guest starred on Lux Video Theatre. It was in 1956 that James Karen met Buster Keaton. He worked with Mr. Keaton in touring productions of the comedy Merton of the Movies.

In the Sixties he made his film debut in Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965). He appeared in the films Hercules in New York (1970) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970). He guest starred on the shows Car 54, Where Are You?; The Defenders; and Directions. He had stints on the soap operas As the World Turns and All My Children.  He appeared on Broadway in A Cook for Mr. General, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice, Cactus Flower, The Birthday Party, The Only Game in Town, and The Engagement Baby. In 1965 he appeared alongside his friend Buster Keaton in the short simply titled "Film".

In the Seventies he appeared in the TV mini-series Blind Ambition. He had a recurring role on the show Eight is Enough. He guest starred on the shows The Invisible Man, Starsky and Hutch, The Waltons, The Streets of San Francisco, The Bionic Woman, Hawaii Five-O, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, Executive Suite, Serpico, Delvecchio, The Blue Knight, The Kallikaks, Rafferty, Family, Lucan, Lou Grant, One Day at a Time, and The Rockford Files. He appeared in the movies Rivals (1972), Amazing Grace (1974), All the President's Men (1976), Capricorn One (1977), Opening Night (1977), F.I.S.T. (1978), The China Syndrome (1979), and The Jazz Singer (1990). On Broadway he appeared in The Country Girl and A Moon for the Misbegotten. He was a standby for the role of George in a revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

In the Eighties Mr. Karen had a regular role on the TV show The Powers of Matthew Star. He guest starred on such shows as The Jeffersons, Knots Landing, Dallas, M*A*S*H, Quincy M.E., Simon & Simon, Trapper John M.D., Hardcastle and McCormick, Family Ties, The Paper Chase, Dynasty, Cheers, Moonlighting, 227, Melba, Amazing Stories, Magnum P.I., Sledge Hammer!, The Golden Girls, MacGyver, Murphy Brown, Highway to Heaven, and Charles in Charge. He appeared in such films as Take This Job and Shove It (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Time Walker (1982), Frances (1982), Sam's Son (1984), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Jagged Edge (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), Wall Street (1987), Return of the Living Dead: Part II (1988), and The Closer (1990). He appeared in the short "The Roommate".

In the Nineties James Karen had a recurring role on The Larry Sanders Show and a regular role on Ned and Stacey. He guest starred on such TV shows as Matlock, L. A. Law, Designing Women, Coach, Melrose Place, Hearts Afire, The Commish, Touched by an Angel, Dark Skies, Seinfeld, and The Practice. He appeared in such films as The Unborn (1991), Stone Soup (1993), Congo (1995), Piranha (1995), Nixon (1995), Behind Enemy Lines (1997), Joyride (1997), Girl (1998), Fly Boy (1999), and Thirteen Days (2000). He appeared in the short Tick, Tick, Tick (2000).

In the Naughts Mr. Karen had a regular role on the TV show First Monday. He guest starred on the shows The Nightmare Room, JAG, Judging Amy, Unscripted, and Cold Case. He appeared in such films as Mulholland Dr. (2001), Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy (2006), The Pursuit of Happyness (2007), Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007), Dark and Stormy Night (2009), Jack and the Beanstalk (2009), and Sympathy for Delicious (2010). He appeared in the shorts "Jane Bond", "Flickering Blue", "Office Court", and "Heart Medicine".

In the Teens James Karen appeared in the films The Butterfly Room (2012), Dark Canyon (2012), America's Most Haunted (2013), Rain from Stars (2013), Bender (2016), Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk (2017), and Cynthia (2018). He appeared in the shorts "Pride" (2011) and "Humanity" (2016).  He was a guest voice on the animated TV series The Cleveland Show and American Dad!.

In the Northereastern United States, Mr. Karen appeared in commercials for Pathmark supermarkets for nearly three decades. He was known by many in New England as "the Pathmark Man” or “Mr. Pathmark".

James Karen was certainly a prolific actor. He appeared in a large number of TV shows and movies over the years, as well as making several appearances on Broadway. He was also certainly versatile. He was best known for playing authority figures, both good and evil, but he could play other roles as well. Indeed, among his best known movie roles was that of smarmy real estate agent Mr. Teague in Poltergeist  and doomed medical warehouse manager Frank in Return of the Living Dead. Over the years he played doctors on shows ranging from Family to Quincy M.E. His roles over the years ranged from judges to lawyers to politicians to clergy. Quite simply, James Karen could play anything.

I never had the honour of meeting James Karen, but for me he was most definitely a friend of friends. He regularly attended both the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival in Hollywood and the Buster Keaton Celebration in  Iola, Kansas. Many of my fellow film buffs knew him and counted him as a dear friend. In many ways, James Karen seemed less to me like a famous character actor than a beloved uncle of many of my friends whom I had never met. He was friendly, cheerful, warm-hearted, and kind. He had a great sense of humour and was always eager to share his memories of the great Buster Keaton. If James Karen ever met a fellow classic film fan he didn't like, I never heard of it. James Karen was more than a great character actor to members of the classic film community. He was a beloved friend, a wealth of memories, and a true gentleman.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween 2018

When people think of Halloween, they naturally think of trick or treating and the candy that comes with that activity. Here at A Shroud of Thoughts the chosen treat is a bit of cheesecake. Here, then, is this year's batch of classic Halloween pinups.

First up is model WWI era model Dusty Anderson, who is the cat's meow!

 Next up is Lillian Wells, who is relaxing a bale of hay!

Here is Nan Grey relaxing beside a jack o' lantern!

Eleanor Todd has her broom ready!

Clara Bow and a giant jack o' lantern!

 And it wouldn't be Halloween without Ann Miller!


Happy Halloween!