Friday, August 24, 2018

The Late Great Russ Heath

Russ Heath, the legendary comic book artist know for his work on Western and war titles, died yesterday at the age of 91. The cause was cancer.

Russ Heath was born in New York City on September 29 1926. He developed an interest in art at an early age. His father having once been a cowboy, Mr. Heath was influenced by such Western artists as Will James and Charlie Russell. It was while he was still in high school that he began freelancing for the comic book industry during summers off from school. In his senior year of high school he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He served stateside for nine months. Afterwards he worked as a "gofer" at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles. Eventually he found a job as an artist at what would become Marvel Comics in 1947.

Russ Heath's first work for the company that would become Marvel appears to have been the Two-Gun Kid story "Gun-Smoke Over Vulture Valley" in Wild Western #4 November 1948. Russ Heath would spend the next several years at the company that would become Marvel, illustrating the adventures of such Western characters as Kid Colt, Rex Hart, and Reno Browne. In the late Forties he illustrated a story in Venus #11 November 1950 and stories in Marvel Boy #1 December 1950. In the early Fifties he did some work on Marvel's sci-fi/horror titles as well, including Suspense, Adventures into Terror, and Journey into Unknown Worlds. In 1951 he illustrated one story in Frontline Combat #1, July/August 1951 for E.C. Comics. He did his first work for DC Comics in 1954. It was in Our Army at War #23 June 1954.

For a time in the Fifties, Russ Heath's was divided between Marvel and DC, working on war titles at both companies. By 1955 he was working almost exclusively for DC Comics, working on such titles as Star Spangled War Stories, Our Army at War, All-American Men of War, and G.I. Combat. He continued to work on DC Comics' war titles into the Sixties. Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein used (some would say "ripped off") some of Russ Heath's panels from All-American Men of War #89, February 1962, for his paintings "Whaam!", "Bratatta", and "Blam". It was also during the Sixties that he illustrated two advertisements that would appear in comic books for years, both for toy soldier sets. One was for Roman soldiers and the other for Revolutionary War soldiers. He later served as one of Harvey Kurtzman's assistants on the Playboy comic strip "Little Annie Fanny".

Russ Heath continued to work on DC Comics' war titles throughout the Seventies. From the late Seventies to the Eighties he worked as a layout artist on such animated television series as Godzilla, The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour, and Blackstar. He worked as a model designer, character design supervisor, and character designer on such animated TV shows as G. I. Joe  and The Karate Kid. In the Eighties he worked at Marvel on such titles as The Punisher and G.I. Joe a Real American Hero. He also worked with writer Cary Bates on a short-lived Lone Ranger comic strip in the Eighties. The Nineties saw Russ Heath doing work for both Marvel and DC. He continued to do occasional work into the Naughts and Teens. His last work was on Marvel's The Immortal Iron First in 2008.

Russ Heath was an incredibly talented artist and his work on various Western and war titles is matched by only a few. He paid meticulous attention to details, so that when he drew anything from a six gun to a fighter jet it looked more realistic than it would coming from most artists. Adding to the realism of any panels drawn by Russ Heath was that he was a master of lighting. I don't think it is far-fetched to say that if Mr. Heath not become an artist, he could have been a successful photographer or cinematographer. He truly was one of the greatest comic book artists of his time.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Dewey Martin R.I.P.

Dewey Martin, the actor who played Daniel Boone in episodes of Walt Disney Presents and appeared in the movie Savage Sam, died on April 9 2018 at the age of 94.

Dewey Martin was born in Katemcy, Texas. As a teenager he lived for a time in Florence, Alabama. In 1940 he enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a Grumman F6F Hellcat pilot. He fought at the Battle of Midway. Later, after being shot down, he was held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese until they surrendered. After returning to the United States he took up acting and appeared on the stage starting in 1946.

Mr. Martin made his film debut in an uncredited role in Knock on Any Door (1949) and appeared in the films Battleground (1949), The Golden Gloves Story (1950), and Kansas Raiders (1950). In the Fifties Dewey Martin appeared in the films The Thing from Another World (1951), Flame of Araby (1951), The Big Sky (1952), Tennessee Champ (1954), Prisoner of War (1954), Men of the Fighting Lady (1954), Last of the Pharaohs (1954), The Desperate Hours (1955), The Proud and the Profane (1956), and Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957). He guest starred on such shows as Studio One, Front Row Centre, Lux Video Theatre, Studio 57, Climax!, The Loretta Young Show, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Zane Gray Theatre, Walt Disney Presents, and The Twilight Zone.

In the Sixties Dewey Martin appeared in the films The Longest Day (1962), Savage Sam (1963), Flight to Fury (1964), and Cordillera (1964). He guest starred on the TV shows The Dick Powell Show, Laramie, Arrest and Trial, Death Valley Days, Burke's Law, The Outer Limits, Lassie, and Hawaii Five-O. In the Seventies he guest starred on the shows Mannix, Mission: Impossible, The F.B.I., Petrocelli, and Police Story. He appeared in the film Seven Alone (1974).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lee Grant in Detective Story (1951)

(This post is part of the Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews)

Lee Grant in Detective Story
It is very rare that an actor receives his or her first Academy Award nomination for his or her film debut. Among the very few who have done so is Lee Grant, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Detective Story (1951), the very first film she ever made. She played a small, but impressive role as a shoplifter in the film.

Detective Story was based on the 1949 play of the same name, in which Miss Grant had originated the role of the shoplifter. The 1951 film adaptation would differ only a little from the play, with some changes made so that the movie would conform to Hollywood's Production Code of the time. The film centres on Police Detective Jim McLeod (played by Kirk Douglas). Throughout the day various people pass through his precinct, among them the shoplifter played by Lee Grant and a pair of burglars played by Joseph Wiseman and Michael Strong. Detective McLeod finds himself investigating an obstetrician accused of performing abortions (illegal at the time), a case that will ultimately strike a little too close to home.

As mentioned earlier Detective Story was based on the play of the same name. It played on Broadway for 581 performances, with Ralph Bellamy originating the role of Detective McLeod. Only a few members of the original cast reprised their roles in the movie. As mentioned earlier, Lee Grant reprised her role as the shoplifter in the film. Joseph Wiseman and Michael Strong also reprised their roles as the burglars. Horace McMahon reprised his role as Lt. Monaghan. A few changes would also be made from play to the film due to the Production Code. With regards to Dr. Karl Schneider, it is never explicitly stated that he is an abortionist, although the dialogue is ambiguous enough that audiences at the time probably realised he was.

As mentioned earlier Lee Grant's role in Detective Story is small. What is more, in the original play the shoplifter was conceived as being in her forties. Only about 22 at the time, her question when offered a role in the play was "Can I play the old lady?" She thought all the other female parts in the play were boring. While her part in the film was small, it made for an impressive screen debut. Miss Grant's shoplifter is naive to the point that she is practically a wide-eyed innocent. She clearly has never been arrested before, as Detective Dakis has to walk her through the entire process. As might be expected, she is very nervous. What is more, Lee Grant plays her with a rather convincing New York City accent. Although she is only on screen for a few minutes, it is clear why Lee Grant was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the role

Sadly, despite an impressive film debut, Lee Grant would work very little in motion pictures in the Fifties, and only made a few more appearances on television. Her husband, screenwriter Arnold Manoff, had been a member of the Communist Party. As a result she found herself blacklisted. She then took what roles she could get. Fortunately her career would be revitalised in the Sixties, particularly after a regular part on the night-time soap opera Peyton Place.

Lee Grant would go on to have a long and successful career despite the blacklist. And it all began with a small role in Detective Story, a role she performed so well that she received an Oscar nomination for it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Godspeed Barbara Harris

Barbara Harris, the actress who appeared in Nashville (1975) and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), died today at the age of 83. The cause was lung cancer.

Barbara Harris was born on July 25 1935 in Evanston, Illinois. She began her career as a teenager as part of the Playwrights Theatre in Chicago. She was a member of the Compass Players and its successor troupe Second City, alongside such names as Ed Asner, Elaine May, and Mike Nichols. She made her television debut on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Beth" in 1961. In the Sixties she guest starred on the shows Naked City, Chronicle, Channing, The Defenders, and The Nurses. She made her debut on Broadway in From the Second City. In the Sixties she appeared on Broadway in Mother Courage and Her Children, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Apple Tree, and The Penny Wars. She appeared in the film Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (1967).

In the Seventies Miss Harris appeared in the films Plaza Suite (1971), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), The War Betweeen Men and Women (1972), Mixed Company  (1974), The Manchu Eagle Murder Caper Mystery (1975), Nashville (1975), Family Plot (1976), Freaky Friday (1976), Movie Movie (1978), The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), and The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979).

In the Eighties Miss Harris appeared in the films Second-Hand Hearts (1981), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Nice Girls Don't Explode (1987), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988). She guest starred on the show Middle Ages in the Nineties. She made her last film appearance in Grosse Point Blank in 1997.

Barbara Harris was a versatile actress capable of playing a diverse array of roles. She played ageing actress Allison in Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?. She was the scatterbrained country singer Albuquerque in Nashville.  In Family Plot she played the fake medium Blanche. In Freaky Friday she played the mother who switched bodies with her daughter. Barbara Harris played many very different roles over the years and she always gave a good performance.