Friday, May 25, 2018

"Friday on My Mind"

Friday has always been my favourite day of the week. Of course, as a child it meant that for the next few hours and two days there would be no school. In my family it also meant that we would go grocery shopping as soon as my brother and I got home from school. Along with groceries we usually got soda, candy, and comic books. For a good portion of my childhood at least one of the television networks had a movie anthology on Friday night, so I could look forward to watching a movie on TV. It was on Friday night that I first Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), Yellow Submarine (1968), the Planet of the Apes movies, and the "Matt Helm" movies. As an adult Friday has meant that I would off work for the weekend.

Of course, I am not the only who loves Friday. Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats loved Friday enough to write a song about it. "Friday on My Mind" would go to no. 1 on the Australian and New Zealand charts, no. 6 on the British chart, and no. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would ultimately become The Easybeats' biggest hit worldwide. It should be little wonder that in 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) named it the "Best Australian Song" of all time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Movie Poster Designer Bill Gold Passes On

Bill Gold, a graphic artist who designed movie posters from Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) to J. Edgar (2011), died on May 20 2018 at the age of 97. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Bill Gold was born on January 3 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. He was interested from art from a young age and won art prizes at Samuel J. Tilden Hgh School. He received a scholarship to Pratt Institute, where studied advertising and illustration.

After graduating from Pratt Institute he asked the art director of the poster department of Warner Bros.' New York City office for a job. He had young Mr. Gold design posters for such older films as Escape Me Never (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) as a test. The art director was impressed with Bill Gold's work and as a result he was hired. His first assignment would be one of the all time classics, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). The second film for which he designed a poster would be another all time classic, Casablanca (1942). Over the next several years he would design posters for such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rope (1948), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Mister Roberts (1955), and Splendour in the Grass (1961). During World War II he served three yeas in the United States Army Air Force, making training films.

In 1962, after Warner Bros. closed its New York advertising unit, Bill Gold founded Bill Gold Advertising. As might be expected, Warner Bros. was one of his chief clients. Over the next many years he would design posters for such films as The Music Man (1962), My Fair Lady (1964), Fiddler on the Roof (1970), Alien (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), The Untouchables (1987), and Unforgiven (1992). Over the years he worked with several well-respected directors on multiple projects, including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, John Boorman, Clint Eastwood, and several others. He collaborated for decades with illustrator Bob Peak, who worked on several of Bill Gold's posters. Not only did Mr. Gold's career span eight decades, but it also involved work on over 2000 posters.

Bill Gold was a remarkable poster designer, remarkable all the more because he had no discernable style. Mr. Gold always designed his posters so that they fitted the movies they were for. His poster for Casablanca (1942) was notably different from his poster for Strangers on the Train (1941), which was in turn different from his poster for Alien (1979). While he varied his style according to the movie he was promoting, his posters were always eye-catching. A poster designed by Bill Gold would always be noticed.

Below are some examples of Mr. Gold's work:

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

Giant (1956)

Barbarella (1968)

The Exorcist (1973)

Alien (1979)

On Golden Pond (1981)

Unforgiven (1992)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The TCM Memorial Day Marathon 2018

Again this year Turner Classic Movies will be showing military-themed movies in honour of Memorial Day. This year's Memorial Day marathon begins on May 25 at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central and lasts through May 28. This year will see some truly great films aired.

Obviously the annual Memorial Day Marathon will see several war movies aired, including some of the classics of the genre. TCM is showing The Guns of Navarone on Friday, May 25 at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central. If is followed by The Dirty Dozen  at 11:00 PM Eastern/10:00 PM Central. On Memorial Day itself they are showing The Great Escape at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central, followed by The Bridge on the River Kwai at 11:00 PM Eastern/10:00 PM Central. Over the weekend Turner Classic Movies will also be showing such classic war movies as Twelve O'Clock High, Kelly's Heroes, Darby's Rangers, Where Eagles Dare and yet others.

Of course, there are also films for those who might not particularly like war movies. TCM is showing two of the all time great military themed comedies. At 3:30 PM Eastern/2:30 PM Central they are showing No Time for Sergeants. It is followed by Mister Roberts at 5:45 PM Eastern/4:45 PM Central. For those who love the patriotic morale boosters of World War II, TCM is showing Thousands Cheer, Stage Door Canteen, and Hollywood Canteen early Saturday morning. For those whose tastes run more to drama, TCM is showing From Here to Eternity at 8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central on May 26 and The Best Years of Our Lives at 5:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Central on Memorial Day itself. There is even a movie for fans of film noir. On Noir Alley there will be The Clay Pigeon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Late Great Clint Walker

Clint Walker, who played the title role in the classic TV  Western Cheyenne and appeared in such films as Send Me No Flowers (1964) and The Dirty Dozen (1967), died today at the age of 90. The cause was congestive heart failure.

Clint Walker was born Norman Walker in Hartford, Illinois. He left school at age 16 to work for a living. He worked in a factory, and then on riverboats before finding work in the merchant marine. He and his family later moved to Long Beach, California where he worked as a port security guard a nightclub bouncer. He then moved to Las Vegas where he served as a deputy sheriff who provided security for the Sands Hotel. It was there that actor Van Johnson suggested Mr. Walker go into acting. It was studio head Jack Warner who renamed him "Clint Walker"

Clint Walker made his film debut in an uncredited role as a Tarzan-type character in The Bowery Boys film Jungle Gents (1954). He appeared as a Sardinian Captain in The Ten Commandments (1956). Clint Walker was then cast as Cheyenne Bodie in the TV Western Cheyenne. Debuting in 1955, Cheyenne was the first hour long Western, the first of Warner Bros.' successful line of Westerns (which included Maverick and Sugarfoot), and one of the first adult Westerns. Along with Gunsmoke and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, it sparked a cycle towards Westerns that lasted for five years. The show proved highly successful, making Clint Walker a household name nearly overnight. Mr. Walker had a cameo as Cheyenne in the Maverick episode "Hadley's Hunters" (the Warner Bros. Westerns and even their detective shows took place in the same shared universe, years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe). While still starring on Cheyenne, Clint Walker appeared in the films Fort Dobbs (1958), Yellowstone Kelly (1959), and Requiem to Massacre (1960).

In the Sixties Clint Walker played the role of millionaire Bert in Send Me No Flowers (1960) and the role of the quiet and meek Samson Posey in The Dirty Dozen (1967). He also appeared in the films Gold of the Seven Saints (1961), None But the Brave (1965), The Night of the Grizzly (1966), Maya (1966), More Dead Than Alive (1969), Sam Whiskey (1969), The Great Bank Robbery (1969), and The Phynx (1970). On television he guest starred on 77 Sunset Strip, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and The Lucy Show.

In the Seventies Mr. Walker starred in the short-lived TV series Kodiak. He appeared in the mini-series Centennial. He appeared in the TV movies Yuma, Hardcase, The Bounty Man, Scream of the Wolf, Killdozer, Snowbeast, and Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women. He appeared in the films Pancho Villa (1972), Baker's Hawk (1976), The White Buffalo (1977), and Deadly Harvest (1977).

In the Eighties Clint Walker appeared in the films Hysterical (1983) and The Serpent Warriors (1985). He guest starred on the TV show The Love Boat and appeared in the TV movie The All American Cowboy. In the Nineties he provided the voice of Nick Nitro in the movie Small Soldiers (1998). He guest starred on the TV shows Sweating Bullets and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. He reprised his role as Cheyenne in the TV movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.

Clint Walker was perfect as Cheyenne Bodie, the quiet spoken drifter who could use his firsts or his gun when the time came. It should be little surprise that most of the roles played by Mr. Walker resembled Cheyenne to some degree or another. Bert in Send Me No Flowers was so soft spoken, kind, and good natured that he was perhaps the only man who could be considered as a serious rival to Rock Hudson. In The Dirty Dozen Samson Posey was soft spoken and even meek, but can become very angry when pushed too far. Certainly Clint Walker played soft spoken, good natured heroes well. He was certainly suited to the part. Good natured in real life and an enormous man (he was 6 foot 6 inches tall), he was a striking figure. It should be little wonder that Cheyenne  would play a role in sparking the cycle towards Westerns on television in the late Fifties.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Godspeed Patricia Morison

Patricia Morison, the dark haired beauty who appeared in such movies as Dressed to Kill (1946) and Song of the Thin Man (1947) as well as on Broadway in Kiss Me Kate and The King and I, died yesterday, May 20 2018, at the age of 103.

Patricia Morison was born Eileen Patricia Augusta Fraser Morison on March 19 1915 in New York City. Her father was William Morison, a Belfast born playwright who acted under the name Norman Rainey. Her mother, Selena Morison (née Fraser), had served in British Intelligence during World War I. She graduated from Washington Irving High School in New York City. She then studied at the Arts Students League and at the same time studied acting at Neighbourhood Playhouse. She studied dancing under Martha Graham.

Miss Morison made her debut on stage at the Provincetown Playhouse in the musical revue Don't Mind the Rain. In 1933 she was cast in the short-running production Growing Pains, but did so badly that she was fired during rehearsals. The young Miss Morison (who was only 18 at the time) cried so hard that they gave her a walk on in the play. In the late Thirties she appeared on Broadway in the  productions Victoria Regina and The Two Bouquets. Her performance in Two Bouquets brought her to the attention of talent scouts from Paramount Pictures, who signed her to a contract. She made her film debut in Persons in Hiding in 1939. In the late Thirties she appeared in such films as I'm from Missouri (1939), The Magnificent Fraud (1939), Untamed (1940), and Rangers of Fortune (1940).

Sadly, Paramount would not utilise Miss Morison to her full potential. She appeared primarily in B movies at the studio. In the early Forties she appeared in such films as Romance of the Rio Grande (1941), The Roundup (1941), One Night in Lisbon (1941), Are Husbands Necessary? (1942), and Night in New Orleans (1942). Following Night in New Orleans Patricia Morison left Paramount and went freelance. For the remainder of the Forties she appeared in such films as Silver Skates (1943), The Fallen Sparrow (1943), Calling Dr. Death (1943), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Dressed to Kill (1946), Queen of the Amazons (1947), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), Song of the Thin Man (1947), The Prince of Thieves (1948), and Sofia (1948). She appeared on Broadway in Kiss Me Kate, originating the role of Lilli Vanessi. She made her television debut in 1950 in an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents.

In the Fifties Patricia Morison played Dr. Karen Gayle in the TV show The Cases of Eddie Drake. She guest starred on such shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, The Jackie Gleason Show, Four Star Playhouse, Screen Directors Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers, and Have Gun--Will Travel. She appeared in a television adaptation of Kiss Me Kate, reprising her role as Lilli. On Broadway she appeared in The King and I. She appeared in the movie Song Without End (1960).

In the Sixties she guest starred on the TV shows The United States Steel Hour and Directions,. She appeared in another adaptation of Kiss Me Kate, once more playing Lilli. She appeared in the movie Racing Fever (1964). In the Seventies she appeared in the movie Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). In the Eighties Miss Morison appeared in the TV movie Mirrors and guest starred on the classic sitcom Cheers. In the Nineties she guest starred on the TV show Gabriel's Fire and appeared in the movie The Long Day Closes (1992).

In later years Miss Morison devoted herself to painting. She had several art shows in the Los Angeles area. In December 2012, at the age of 97, she appeared in Ladies of an Indeterminate Age at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

I have always thought Patricia Morison was poorly utilised by Hollywood. She was much more than a striking, raven haired beauty. She was also a very talented actress. She gave an impressive performance as the femme fatale Phyllis in Song of the Thin Man. She was also impressive in her brief appearance as the Empress Eugenie in Song of Bernadette. Even in the many B-movies in which she appeared, Patricia Morison gave good performances. That she had considerable talent can be seen in the fact that she was apparently better appreciated on Broadway than in Hollywood. She originated the role of Lilli in Kiss Me Kate and took over the role of Anna in The King and I. She spent much of her career touring with or appearing in stock productions of such plays as Kismet; The Merry Widow; Song of Norway; Bell, Book and Candle; and many others. Patricia Morison was enormously talented. It was a shame that Hollywood did not seem to realise that.