Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Late Great Peter Fonda

Peter Fonda, son of legendary actor Henry Fonda and star of such films as Easy Rider (1969), The Hired Hand (1971), and Ulee's Gold (1997), died yesterday, August 16 2019, at the age of 79. The cause was lung cancer.

Peter Fonda was born on February 23 1940 in New York City. He attended college in his father's home state at the University of Nebraska Omaha. While there he joined the Omaha Community Playhouse. He made his only appearance on Broadway in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole in 1961.

Peter Fonda made his film debut in Tammy and the Doctor in 1963, but his career would soon take him away from such mainstream films. After appearing in The Victors (1963), Lilith (1964), and The Young Lovers (1964), he appeared in the first of American International Pictures' outlaw biker films, The Wild Angels in 1966. He followed it with Roger Corman's psychedelic film The Trip (1967) and Histoires extraordinaires (1968), a portmanteau film directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, and Federico Fellini. He appeared in Roger Vadim's segment "Metzengerstein" alongside his sister Jane. Of course, his greatest claim to fame would come with Easy Rider (1969). Not only did Peter Fonda play Wyatt (AKA "Captain America") in the film, but he also co-wrote the screenplay Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern. Its screenplay was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Even as his film career was unfolding in the Sixties, Peter Fonda appeared on television. He made his television debut on the acclaimed series Naked City in the episode "The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos" in 1962. He also guest starred on such shows as The New Breed, Wagon Train, The Defenders, Channing, Arrest and Trial, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, 12 O'Clock High, Insight, and The Red Skelton Show. He appeared in the TV movies High Noon: The Clock Strikes Noon Again and Certain Honorable Men.

Peter Fonda began the Seventies with what would become one of his most respected films, the Western The Hired Hand (1971). During the decade he appeared in such films as The Last Movie (1971), Two People (1973), Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974), Open Season (1974), Race with the Devil (1975),  92 in the Shade (1975), Killer Force (1976), Fighting Mad (1976), Futureworld (1976), Outlaw Blues (1977), High Ballin' (1978), and Wanda Nevada (1979). His only appearance on television during the Seventies was the TV movie The Hostage Tower in 1980. In the Seventies Mr. Fonda also took to directing. He directed The Hired Hand, Idaho Transfer (1973), and Wanda Nevada.

In the Eighties Peter Fonda appeared in such films as The Cannonball Run (1981), Split Image (1982), Daijôbu, mai furendo (1983), Dance of the Dwarfs (1983), Peppermint-Frieden (1983), Spasms (1983), Certain Fury (1985), Mercenary Fighters (1988), Hawken's Breed (1988), The Rose Garden (1989), and Fatal Mission (1990). He also contributed to the script of the film Fatal Mission. On television he appeared in the TV movies A Reason to Live and Sound.

It was in the Nineties that Peter Fonda once more received critical recognition, this time for the movie Ulee's Gold (1997). For the lead role of Ulee Jackson in the film he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Lead Role and the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. He also appeared in such films as Family Express (1991), Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993), South Beach (1993), Deadfall (1993), Molly & Gina (1994), Love and a .45 (1994), Nadja (1994), Escape from LA (1996), Painted Hero (1997), Welcome to Hollywood (1998), The Limey (1999), South of Heaven, West of Hell (2000), Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000), and Second Skin (2000). On television he guest starred in a two part episode of the TV series In the Heat of the Night and appeared in the TV movies Don't Look Back, The Tempest, and The Passion of Ayn Rand.

In the Naughts Peter Fonda appeared in the films Wooly Boys (2001), The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), Cobrador: In God We Trust (2006), Ghost Rider (2007), Ghost Rider (2007), Wild Hogs (2007), 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Japan (2008), The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll (2009), and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009).  On television he appeared in such TV movies as The Laramie Project, The Maldonado Miracle, A Thief of Time, Supernova, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. He appeared in the mini-series The Gathering. He guest starred on the show ER.

In the Teens Peter Fonda appeared in the films The Trouble with Bliss (2011), Smitty (2012), Harodim (2012), House of Bodies (2013), As Cool as I Am (2013), Copperhead (2013), The Ultimate Life (2013), The Harvest (2013), Jesse James: Lawman (2015), The Runner (2015), The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017), The Most Hated Woman in America (2017), You Can't Say No (2018), and Boundaries (2018). On television he guest starred on the shows CSI: NY, Hawaii Five-0, The Blacklist, HR, and Milo Murphy's Law.

Peter Fonda was not simply the son of an acting legend, but he was a legend himself. Easy Rider was not only one of the films that ushered in the New Hollywood era of the late Sixties and the Seventies, but the film that placed independent cinema on somewhat equal footing as Hollywood, both with regards to critical acclaim and the box office. It was the third highest grossing film of 1969. Throughout his career Peter Fonda would continue to appear in independent films, from Dirty Mary Crazy Larry to Ulee's Gold.

Peter Fonda was extremely prolific, and over the years he appeared in many films that did not necessarily receive a good deal of critical acclaim, but even when a particular movie wasn't very good, Mr. Fonda always was. Over the years he gave a number of impressive performances. He was Wyatt, the freewheeling biker in Easy Rider. He was the saddle tramp Harry Collings in The Hired Hand. Arguably his best role was in Ulee's Gold, playing a beekeeper who is trying to put his family back together. He was motorcycle dealer battling Satanists in Race with the Devil and a Pinkerton agent hunting a dangerous outlaw in 3:10 to Yuma (2007).

While as the son of Henry Fonda,  Peter Fonda was Hollywood royalty, he never behaved like royalty. I have never heard of anyone recount a bad encounter with him. Mr. Fonda was known for being friendly and down to earth. On Facebook Scott McGee of TCM told how he was writing and producing a remembrance of Henry Fonda on the cable channel and he made a pre-interview phone call to Peter Fonda, who along with his sister would narrate the remembrance. Mr. Fonda turned out to be warm and candid and easily talked for an hour. Whenever he attended the TCM Classic Film Festival he was known for being warm and cordial with fans. When his family announced his death, they described him as a "sweet and gracious man," something both those who worked with him in Hollywood and his many fans would agree. Peter Fonda always went his own way and in doing so he revolutionised Hollywood, all the while remaining a true gentleman throughout his career.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The 50th Anniversary of Woodstock

I have to admit that I really don't remember the Woodstock Music and Art Fair (also known as the Bethel Rock Festival and the Aquarian Music Festival and more simply known as "Woodstock"). In August 1969 I was only 6 years old and my parents were of an age that they would take little interest in a rock music festival. At best I vaguely remember some murmurings from older adults about "hippies" and "New York," but those memories may be of something else entirely. Regardless, it was fifty years ago yesterday that Woodstock began. I have already written an in-depth, two part post on the festival on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary (you can read it here--please forgive the lack of images, as something wiped the images on my posts several years ago). Here I will discuss some of the festival's impact on pop culture.

While neither children nor older adults took  much interest in Woodstock at the time it took place, there can be no doubt that it was a seminal event for Baby Boomers (sometimes called "the Woodstock Generation") and rock music. Many of the acts that performed at Woodstock would become legends, including Ritchie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, The Band, and Jimi Hendrix. The event was also remarkable in the sheer number of young people gathered in one area with no reported incidents of violence. Not only have there been a number of documentaries on the festival (beginning with the official documentary Woodstock in 1970), but Woodstock has played a role in the plots of several movies and TV show episodes.

What is more, the impact of Woodstock on pop culture was felt almost immediately. The character of Woodstock in the comic strip Peanuts had first appeared in 1966, but remained unnamed until Charles Schulz named him "Woodstock" after the festival. The festival was naturally parodied in Mad magazine in 1970 with a poem by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Sergio Aragonés titled "I Remember, I Remember The Wondrous Woodstock Music Fair" that references the traffic jam on the way to the festival and the difficulty of getting close enough to actually hear the music. National Lampoon would also parody Woodstock in their 1973 stage show Lemmings. Among the show's sketches were "Welcome to the Woodshuck Festival: Three Days of Peace, Love, and Death; plus band introductions throughout." A live album of the show would be released in 1973 and a video recording of one of the shows would be released years later. The Simpsons episode "D'oh in the Wind" featured Abe Simpson, his wife Mona, and young Homer at the festival.

Woodstock would also be remembered in song. The most famous song about the festival may be "Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell. What might be the most famous version of the song was released by Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1970. That same year Melanie, who performed at the festival, released , "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," based on her experience of the event.

Like the Apollo 11 moon landing earlier in 1969, Woodstock would not be referenced in many movies and TV shows in the Seventies and Eighties. Among the earliest was the movie The Omega Man (1971). In the film the protagonist, Neville, watches the documentary Woodstock in a theatre. While there would be several documentaries about the festival over the years, the festival would not be referenced in many narrative movies and TV shows until the Nineties.

Perhaps because it was the year of the festival's thirtieth anniversary, 1999 would see the festival referenced both in a film and on television. Not only does the Apollo 11 moon landing play a role in the movie A Walk in the Moon (1999), but so does Woodstock. In the film Pearl Kantrowitz's husband Marty (who has been working away from home) cannot return home because of the traffic jam caused by the festival. As to Pearl herself, she goes to the festival, as do her children (without her knowledge).

It was also in 1999 that Woodstock played a role in two TV movies. A portion of the TV movies The '60s followed a family through important events of the decade, including Woodstock. VH1 aired a biographical film on the band Sweetwater, who played at Woodstock. As might be expected the movie covered the events of the festival.

A 2010 episode of the TV show Cold Case departed from history in homicide detective and cold case expert Lilly Rush investigating the murder of a GI at Woodstock (as noted earlier, there were no violent incidents reported at the festival). That same year the Canadian film Frisson des collines  (2010) was released. The film followed a twelve year old boy as he tried to travel from his small town in Quebec to Woodstock in order to see his idol Jimi Hendrix. More recently the DC's Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Virgin Gary" had the Legends travelling in time back to Woodstock to deal with a historical anomaly there.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was one of the pivotal event of the 20th Century and it has been referenced in many more movies and TV shows, even when its events are not pivotal in the plot. As time passes there can be no doubt that its impact on pop culture will only grow.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

There are those films that proved to be a failure at the box office only to become cult films after their initial release. Among those films is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Upon its initial release it bombed at the box office, only to find new life on VHS. Since then it has developed a loyal cult following. As to why The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has developed a cult following, much of it might have to do with the cast, which included such luminaries as Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, and others. Much of it might have to do with the film itself, which a rather features a strange plot that cannot be summarised easily.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension centres on Buckaroo Banzai, a neurosurgeon, physicist, rock star, and test pilot who faces a group of aliens from the 8th dimension known as Red Lectroids from Planet 10. Here I have to point out that this rather simplistic synopsis doesn't begin to explain The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which simply has to be seen to be believed.

The origins of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension go all the way back to 1974 when screenwriter and director W. D. Richter's wife read the novel Dirty Pictures from the Prom by Earl Mac Rauch. She recommended the novel to Mr. Richter, who then got in touch with Mr. Rauch. The two stayed in touch, and Earl Mac Rauch eventually moved to Los Angeles where the two began discussions about a character called Buckaroo Bandy that Mr. Rauch had created and was considering as the main character in a screenplay. W. D. Richter gave Earl Mac Rauch $1500 to develop a screenplay. Mr. Rauch began several attempts at stories about Buckaroo before finishing a treatment. In the process the character was renamed "Buckaroo Banzai." Ultimately, the finished screenplay would be written by Earl Mac Rauch and Neil Canton, who with Frank Marshall was brought on to produce the project.

According to Earl Mac Rauch in an interview in the July 1984 issue of Starlog, he was inspired by "all those out-and-out, press-the-accelerator-to-the-floor, non-stop kung fu movies of the early '70s." That having been said, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension also seems to owe a lot to old time movie serials, pulp magazines, and science fiction movies. Indeed, Buckaroo Banzai himself could be included in the tradition of such pulp heroes as Doc Savage, who boast a vast array of knowledge while being assisted by a number of highly skilled aides.

Buckaroo Banzai certainly has no shortage of highly skilled aides. He is the leader of the rock band The Hong Kong Cavaliers, who also assist Buckaroo on his various adventures. The Hong Kong Cavaliers are a diverse group. Perfect Tommy (played by Lewis Smith) is handsome and vain, and has a diverse number of skills. Reno Nevada (played by Pepe Serna) is a dangerous, but highly intelligent saxophonist with The Hong Kong Cavaliers. Rawhide (played by Clancy Brown) obviously comes from the American West and is the most grounded of the Cavaliers. Perhaps the most interesting of Buckaroo's various aides is New Jersey, whose given name is Dr. Sidney Zweibel (played by Jeff Goldblum). A surgeon like Buckaroo, he dresses like a cowboy and has knowledge of other fields as well. While it seems clear New Jersey has assisted Buckaroo Banzai on earlier adventures, he is not yet a member of The Hong Kong Cavaliers at the start of the movie. Buckaroo Banzai asks New Jersey if he has considered joining him full-time, to which New Jersey asks if there is an opening. Buckaroo replies positively and then asks if he can sing. New Jersey tells him that he can sing a little and dance.  Needless to say, well before the end of the film he is part of the group.

Of course, these are not the only Hong Kong Cavaliers, nor are The Hong Kong Cavaliers the only ones who assist Buckaroo Banzai. There are also the Blue Blaze Irregulars, a large number of ordinary people including both children and adults, and then there is Buckaroo's research organisation the Banzai Institute. All of these together compose Team Banzai.

It is perhaps because of how unusual The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is that 20th Century Fox made no effort at the sort of promotion movies usually receive, beyond some licensing and magazine advertising.  Word about the film was spread through science fiction conventions in 1984, including free Buckaroo Banzai headbands distributed at Star Trek conventions. 20th Century Fox made no real effort to promote the film to a mainstream audience.

Given the lack of promotion, it should have surprised no one that it failed at the box office. Ultimately it earned only $6.2 million in North America and earned back only half of its production costs. That having been said, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension did earn a few positive reviews from notable critics, including Vincent Canby, Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael. While The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension bombed at the box office, it would find new life on premium cable channels and particularly on home video. It has since become a cult film.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was clearly meant to be the beginning of a franchise. The closing credits even tease Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Of course, given the movie's meagre box office, the sequel would never be made. Over the years, however, a "Buckaroo Banzai" franchise has emerged. In 1984 there was a novelisation published by Pocket Books and a Marvel Comics adaptation. Beginning in 2006 Moonstone Books began publishing comic books featuring adventures of Buckaroo Banzai both before and after the 1984 film. There have been two attempts to launch a "Buckaroo Banzai" TV series. The first was in 1998 when the TV network Fox announced the development of a series to be titled Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient Secrets and New Mysteries. The series never came to fruition. In 2016 director Kevin Smith announced a "Buckaroo Banzai" TV series he would make through MGM Television. Plans for this proposed television series ended when Kevin Smith left the project due to MGM suing Earl Mac Rauch and W. D. Richter, the creators of Buckaroo Banzai, over the rights to the character.

A bomb upon its initial release, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has since become a cult film. In some circles it is even regarded as a classic. That is quite an achievement for a film that seems impossible to adequately describe.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

Bob Bailey, who played Johnny Dollar
Among the many radio shows produced during the era of Old Time Radio, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar has an honour that it shares with Suspense alone. Quite simply, on September 30 1962 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense would become the last radio dramas from the Golden Age of Radio to air new episodes. For enthusiasts, this date is considered the end of Old Time Radio.

The best known format of the show centred on Johnny Dollar, a freelance insurance investigator characterised as "the man with the action-packed expense account." He usually worked for the Universal Adjustment Bureau, who would send him on a variety of cases, from stolen art to acting as a bodyguard for a rich man whose life had been threatened. Each episode would end with Johnny totalling his expense account. He would end it, "End of report. Yours truly, Johnny Dollar."

While Johnny Dollar is best remembered as a freelance insurance investigator, he did not start out that way. In fact, he wasn't even "Johnny Dollar." The show was originally to be called Yours Truly, Lloyd London. Why the name was changed remains a bit of a mystery, but it seems possible that it was to avoid possible legal action from famous insurance company Lloyd's of London. The 1948 audition show (the radio equivalent of a television pilot) featured Dick Powell in the role of Johnny Dollar. Mr. Powell passed on the series to do Rouge's Gallery and Richard Diamond, Private Detective instead. Charles Russell was then cast in the role. As originally conceived, Johnny Dollar was not an insurance investigator and there was actually very little to differentiate him from other private eyes on radio. He was simply another wisecracking, tough as nails detective, with the only thing to differentiate him from other private detectives being his habit of tipping waiters, bellhops, et. al. with silver dollars.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar received some fairly negative reviews upon its debut, but it turned out to be a success regardless. That having been said, it would go through changes in its leading man. Charles Russell remained with the show until January 1950, after which Edmund O'Brien took over. Mr. O'Brien would remain until September 1952. He would be followed by John Lund who remained with the show until the end of its initial run in September 1954.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar would remain off the air for over a year. In 1955 an audition show was made that totally revamped the format of the show. No longer a private detective, Johnny Dollar was now the familiar freelance insurance investigator with the "action-packed expense account." Gerald Mohr played Johnny Dollar in the audition show, but it would be Bob Bailey who would play him in the regular series. Bob Bailey would remain with the show for several years, becoming arguably the most popular actor in the role. While during the original series Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar had been a once a week show, the revival was a five day a week serial. In 1956 it would become a once a week show again. Curiously, for most of its run the revival of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was a sustaining program on CBS. That is, it aired without a sponsor.

Bob Bailey remained with Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar until November 1960. It was then that the show moved to New York City. Unwilling to move, Mr. Bailey left the show and Bob Readick took over. He remained until June 1961, after which Mandel Kramer took over. He remained until the show went off the air.

During most of its run, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar did not feature much in the way of a supporting cast. In the mid-Fifties Virginia Gregg played Johnny's girlfriend Betty Lewis. That having been said, there were some fairly big name actors who regularly appeared on the show, including Parley Baer, Ed Begley, William Conrad, John Denher, Jack Kruschen, Howard McNear, and yet others.

As with many radio shows, CBS would attempt to bring Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar to television. In late 1949 CBS made a pilot with Charles Russell, then the voice of Johnny on the radio, in the role. It would have aired live on the West Coast and then through kinescope in the rest of the country. CBS did not pick up the show. It was in 1956, following the radio show's revival in 1955, that CBS prepared another pilot, this one based on a script by E. Jack Newman (who had written for the radio show). This attempt seems to have gotten no further than the discussion stage. In 1959 Screen Gems was working on a television pilot for Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, but it apparently never made it beyond the discussion stage as well.

It would be in either late 1961 or early 1962 that MGM-TV and Project III Enterprises made a pilot for a half hour Johnny Dollar series that would have debuted in the 1962-1963 season. The pilot starred William Bryant and Blake Edwards served as executive producer. The music was even composed by Henry Mancini. Unfortunately, CBS passed on the pilot.

While Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar aired one last time on September 30 1962, it would not be forgotten. Reruns of the show have aired on various radio stations through the years, and episodes are widely available on CD and MP3s. In 2003 Moonstone Books published a graphic novel based on the radio show. Since then it has published further Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar books.

In total, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar would run twelve years. And while it is not remembered among the general population beyond those of a certain age, it remains a favourite among Old Time Radio enthusiasts. In an era when more recent properties are constantly being rebooted and re-imagined, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar seems ripe for revival. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Baby Love" by The Supremes

It was fifty-five years ago today that The Supremes recorded "Baby Love." The song was written by the songwriting team of Holland–Dozier–Holland, who had written the group's previous hit, "Where Did Our Love Go." It was produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. In the United States, it would be the second (after "Where Did Our Love Go") of five consecutive no. 1 singles for The Supremes. In the United Kingdom "Baby Love" would be their first no. 1 record there.

Without further ado, here is "Baby Love" by The Supremes

Monday, August 12, 2019

Production Designer Sy Tomashoff Passes On

Sy Tomashoff, who served as a production designer on various soap operas, died on August 1 2019 at the age of 96.

Sy Tomasonhoff was born on September 11 1922 in New York City. He attended City College in New York City before he attended the Engineering Officer Training Program at Carnegie Tech at the start of World War II. During the war he served under General George S. Patton as a rifleman. He received the he Combat Infantryman Badge and a Bronze Star for valour. Following the war Mr. Tomashoff attended Carnegie Tech, where he received a  bachelor's degree in 1950.

His career in television began as a set decorator on the anthology series Armstrong Circle Theatre. He also served as a set decorator on The Edge of Night. He served as an art director on the primetime shows East Side/West Side and For the People. It was in 1966 that he began his stint as production director on Dark Shadows. He also served as an associate producer on the show. Over the years he served as a production director on Ryan's Hope, as well as The Bold and the Beautiful, on which he was a production designer for 13 years.

While I cannot say anything about Mr. Tomashoff's work on other soap operas, his work on Dark Shadows was incredible, particularly given the show's limited budget. This was particularly true of Collinwood Mansion, which was all carved wood, stained glass, and shadowy areas. If Dark Shadows was particularly spooky, it was largely due to Sy Tomashoff's production design.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Comic Book Artist Ernie Colón Passes On

Comic book artist Ernie Colón, whose career spanned sixty years, died on August 8 2019 at the age of 88. The cause was cancer.

Ernie Colón was born on July 13 1931 in Puerto Rico. He grew up on the mainland of the United States. He started his career in comic books as a letter at Harvey Comics. He later did uncredited work on some of the company's titles, including Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. The first work for which he was credited as an artist was on Wham-O Giant Comics #1 (April 1967), a title published by the toy company Wham-O. It was on the story "Kaleidoscope of Fear." Mr. Colón worked on both Gold Key Comics' Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom and Warren Publishing's comics magazines Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella.

In the Seventies he did work for Atlas/Seaboard on their titles Grim Ghost, Thrilling Adventure Stories, Tiger-Man, and Weird Tales of the Macabre. He also did work at Marvel on Battlestar Galactica; John Carter, Warlord of Mars; and Savage Sword of Conan. In the Eighties he worked at DC on several titles, including Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld; Arak, Son of Thunder; Atari Force; Blue Devil; The Brave and the Bold; Cosmic Boy; DC Comics Presents; House of Mystery; Legion of Super-Heroes; Omega Men; Secret Origins; The Unexpected; and The Warlord. He also continued to do work at Harvey Comics. He worked at Eclipse Comics on Airboy.

In the Nineties Ernie Colón worked at Marvel on such titles as 2099 Unlimited, Doom, and Mighty Mouse. He worked on Dreadstar at Malibu Comics. He worked at DC on Scooby-Doo. At Harvey Comics he worked on Beetlejuice, Hot Stuff, Monster in My Pocket, Richie Rich, Ultraman, and Wendy the Good Little Witch. Mr. Colón worked on Magnus, Robot Fighter and Solar, Man of the Atom.

In addition to his work in comic books, he also worked on the weekly comic strip Spycat for the Weekly World News and several non-fiction projects. 

Ernie Colón was certainly a talented artist. He was also certainly versatile. He worked on everything from comic books for young readers (such various Harvey Comics titles and Marvel's Star Comics) to titles for adults (Warren Publishing's horror titles). He worked on a wide variety of characters as well, everything from Caspar the Friendly Ghost to Conan the Barbarian to The Black Widow.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The 50th Anniversary of the Death of Sharon Tate

It is a sad fact of my life that it has been haunted by the deaths of actresses. In the summer of 1969 I was only six years old and it is from that summer that I have my first clear memories of the deaths of celebrities. The first was Judy Garland, already familiar to me as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz (1939), who died on June 22 1969 at the age of 47. The second was Sharon Tate, who was murdered fifty years ago today. At the time I was only familiar with Miss Tate as Janet Trego on reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies, and I remember no details about her death from the time, probably because my parents shielded me from it. As I grew older I would see more of Sharon Tate's work, everything from The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) to The Wrecking Crew (1969). I would also learn the details of her death, and I was horrified. Well into my teens I was disturbed by the fact that one of my childhood crushes had been brutally murdered. Sadly, for many years Sharon Tate would be best remembered as a murder victim.That well-known hair stylist Jay Sebring, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger were also murdered that night would often be overlooked. Regardless, it has always seemed a tragedy to me that Sharon Tate is better remembered for the events of August 9 1969 instead of her career.

Having died at only 26, Sharon Tate's career was a short one. That having been said, she left an impact larger than many better known stars. Both Filmways and MGM had faith that Miss Tate would be a major star, so much so that in 1967 a short promotional film, All Eyes on Sharon Tate, profiling the young actress was released to theatres. For her role in Valley of the Dolls (1967) Sharon Tate was nominated for the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. In the late Sixties Sharon Tate was an actress whose star was on the rise. There can be little doubt that she was poised for superstardom.

Sharon Tate's ascent to stardom is remarkable given she had been shy since her childhood. As a little girl she often had difficulty making friends because she was so timid. Despite this, she entered beauty pageants from when she was very young and it was on pageant stages that her shyness evaporated. She was drawn to acting and appeared as an extra in both Barabbas (1961) and Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962). She made her television debut in an episode of The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom in 1960. Having befriended Richard Beymer on the set of Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, when her family moved to Los Angeles in 1962 she sought out his agent, Harold Gefsky.

Harold Gefsky introduced Sharon Tate to Martin Ransohoff of Filmways Inc., who signed her to a seven year contract. Miss Tate was initially cast in the role of Kate Bradley's blonde daughter Billie Jo on Petticoat Junction, but Martin Ransohoff ultimately decided Sharon Tate lacked the experience and self confidence for a regular television role and cast Jeannine Riley instead. Despite this, Miss Tate would appear in a semi-regular role on one of the biggest sitcoms on television at the time.  On The Beverly Hillbillies Sharon Tate played the role of secretary Janet Trego in a brunette wig. She would also make guest appearances on another Filmways show, Mister Ed.

Sharon Tate continued to appear on The Beverly Hillbillies from 1963 to 1965. She would have a walk on in The Americanization of Emily (1964). She tried out for The Cincinnati Kid (1965), but both Martin Ransohoff and director Sam Peckinpah decided she was not ready yet. She also unsuccessfully tried out for the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music (1965).  It was in 1966 that Martin Ransohoff finally decided Sharon Tate was ready for feature films.

It was in 1966 in the British film Eye of the Devil (released in the United States in 1967) that Sharon Tate had her first significant role in a feature film. Sadly, aside from giving her experience, Eye of the Devil did little to advance Sharon Tate's career. The film made little money in the United States and largely went unnoticed. Despite this, 1967 would still prove to be Sharon Tate's year. Her next film, Don't Make Waves (1967), received mixed reviews and was not a smash hit, but it did get Miss Tate noticed. In Don't Make Waves she played a beautiful surfer named Malibu whom Tony Curtis's character, Carlo, decides to pursue. There are some who believe that Sharon Tate's character in Don't Make Waves inspired the Malibu Barbie doll, first produced in 1969.

Sharon Tate was next cast in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). Director Roman Polanski initially wanted Jill St. John for the role, but Martin Ransohoff convinced Polanski to cast Sharon Tate instead, provided she wore a red wig. While The Fearless Vampire Killers did very well in Europe (where it was released under the title Dance of the Vampires--Le bal des vampires in France, Tanz der Vampire in Germany, and so on), it fared badly in the United States. Since then it has become a cult film.

While both Don't Make Waves and The Fearless Vampire Killers would fail on their initial release in the United States, Valley of the Dolls would prove to be a worldwide hit. It was based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. While the film did not receive particularly good reviews, for her performance in the film Sharon Tate received a nomination for the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. In the film Miss Tate played Jennifer North, a beautiful actress based on both Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe. Like Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer worries that she is noticed more for her looks than for any talent she might have. That Jennifer did not appear to have much talent is what set the character apart not only from Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe, but Sharon Tate herself. Despite her considerable talent, Miss Tate was sometimes simply dismissed by critics and journalists as simply being a beautiful girl. That she projected vulnerability and sensitivity as Jennifer North in Valley of the Dolls is proof that she was much more than another pretty face.

Fortunately, it would be with Sharon Tate's next film that critics would finally take notice of her talent. The Wrecking Crew was the fourth and final Matt Helm starring Dean Martin. In the film Miss Tate plays Freya Carlson, a Danish guide from a tourism bureau assigned to Helm. Freya is a bit clumsy, but nonetheless a skilled combatant. Miss Tate shined in the role, having been coached in the martial arts by the film's "Karate Advisor" Bruce Lee. While reviews for the film would be mixed to negative, critics gave Sharon Tate overwhelmingly good notices for her performance, noting her gift for comedy.

Sadly, The Wrecking Crew would be Sharon Tate's penultimate film. Her next film, the comedy 12+1 (also known as The Thirteen Chairs), was released after her death, on October 7 1969 in Italy and on July 8 1970 in the United States. It would be the first film on which Sharon Tate received top billing. Once more she also gave a bravura performance, proving once and for all that she was a great comic actress. It would also be her final film.

Particularly with regards to stars who have a meteoric rise such as Sharon Tate had, there is a tendency to place them on a pedestal. People forget that they were flesh and blood human beings. That having been said, by all accounts Sharon Tate was a wonderful human being as well as a talented actress. As mentioned earlier, she was shy when she was young, and suffered from a lack of self-confidence even into adulthood. Even as an adult, like many beautiful women, Sharon Tate did not see herself as particularly beautiful. Sharon Tate had a sense of humour, even about herself. She jokingly referred to her role in Don't Make Waves (in which she spends most of her time in a bikini) as "sexy little me" and would later say to a reporter about the film, "It's a terrible movie." While Sharon Tate was terribly shy when she was younger, she was also warm hearted and sensitive, and was known for her kindness. She loved animals, particularly dogs. She was also very intelligent. When she was younger she actually thought about becoming a psychiatrist. Actress Sheilah Wells in an interview published in Screenland in November 1969 said of Sharon Tate, "With all her beauty, everyone loved her. I never heard anyone say a bad word about her, not even another actress. And in this town that's not only a rarity, it's an impossibility!"

If millions of little boys like myself had crushes on Sharon Tate, I have to suspect that it was not simply because she was beautiful. In her various roles Miss Tate's vulnerability, sensitivity, sense of humour, and intelligence shone through. One could believe Sharon Tate was a truly nice person and, unlike many movie stars, she actually was. The tragedy of Sharon Tate's death is not simply that she was brutally murdered, but that the career of an immensely talented actress and a truly good person was cut short. For years Sharon Tate has been best known as a murder victim. It is time that she is remembered for being Sharon Tate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Vanessa Marquez on Streaming Media

From Fire and Ice
It is August and I have not been doing well the past few days. In a few weeks it will be the first anniversary of the death of my beloved Vanessa Marquez. Nearly one year later I am much better than I was immediately following her death, but I am still grieving deeply. I am still apt to break down crying at odd moments. Certain songs will bring a flood of tears. I cannot bring myself to think about the events of August 30 2018 or the circumstances of her death.  And I am still very, very angry at both the city of South Pasadena and their police department. There are still days when I don't really feel like getting up in the morning.There have been some good things that have happened in the past few months. I was able to attend a screening of Stand and Deliver (1988) in Los Angeles and meet in person many of Vanessa's friends with whom I have been in touch. I had the honour of assisting in the scattering of Vanessa's ashes and I am now in regular touch with her mother.

Of course, while Vanessa was the woman I love, she was also a talented actress with a remarkable career. Sadly, much of her work isn't widely available. Her second feature film, Night Children (1989), is only available on VHS. The TV movie, All Lies End in Murder (1997), doesn't appear to be available anywhere. Sadly, the same is true of her guest appearance on the TV show Nurses, which I remember well from when it first aired. As hard as it is to believe given it was a hit TV show, Nurses is available on neither DVD nor streaming. Fortunately, much of the rest of her work is available on streaming. Here is a list of her film and TV appearances available on streaming media. I give the price for rental or purchase of each one. Where there is not a price it is either free or free with a subscription to the particular service (for example,a subscription to Hulu).

Stand and Deliver (1988)

This is Vanessa's film debut and features her best known role aside from Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. Believe it or not, Vanessa had almost no acting experience when she played Ana Delgado in the film. It is widely considered a classic and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2011. I consider it an Essential.

Amazon Prime Free with an Amazon subscription to Starz, otherwise it is $2.99 to rent and $12.99 to buy.
Google Play  $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
YouTube $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.

Wiseguy (TV series)

Prior to its fourth season,  Wiseguy star Ken Wahl left the show in a dispute with CBS over the series's direction. He was replaced by Steven Bauer as United States Attorney Michael Santana. For the second story arc of the fourth season, Vanessa was set to have a recurring role as Santana's niece Consuelo Burns. Billy Dee Williams was set to play the big bad for that story arc. Unfortunately, CBS cancelled the show before the story arc could unfold. Vanessa appeared in the episodes "Changing Houses" and "Point of No Return." The latter episode did not air on CBS and would not become available until the fourth season was released on DVD in 2009.

Amazon Prime $1.99 to rent , $14.99 to buy the whole 4th season

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage (TV movie 1991)

This film centres on Cheryl Ladd as a woman wrongly convicted of drug trafficking. Vanessa has a significant role as one of the women she meets in prison.

Amazon Prime Free on Prime, otherwise $1.99 to rent, $7.99 to buy. It is under the title Other Side of Love.
DailyMotion Available in two parts.

Seinfeld "The Cheever Letters", Season 4  Episode 6 1992

Vanessa has a brief appearance as the receptionist of the Cuban Embassy. Vanessa once told me that this was her appearance that most consistently paid residuals. Little wonder given how often Seinfeld is still aired on television!

Amazon Prime $2.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season
Vudu $1.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season.
YouTube $1.99 to rent the episode, $19.99 for the whole season.

Twenty Bucks (1993)

This is my favourite feature film in which Vanessa appeared besides Stand and Deliver. Twenty Bucks follows a $20 bill as it passes from person to person. Vanessa plays Melanie, the girlfriend of a boy who gets hold of the $20 bill and plans to use it to illegally buy wine (he's under the drinking age). Vanessa has significant screen time in Twenty Bucks and gives one of her best performances. And while I must admit to some bias where Vanessa is concerned, she is utterly adorable in the film.

Google Play $3.99 to rent, $12. 99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy.
YouTube $3.99 to rent.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)

If you were close to Vanessa or even one of her devoted fans, do not watch this movie. Several years ago Vanessa convinced me to watch it and I told her I would never watch it again as I did not like what happened to her character (who is named "Terry"). Given how I feel about her, she understood. Particularly now, given the circumstances of her death, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence would be difficult viewing for anyone who loves Vanessa.  It is the second sequel to Maniac Cop, a film about a homicidal, undead police officer.

Amazon Prime free with Prime membership.

Father Hood (1993)

Father Hood stars Patrick Swayze as a small time criminal who frees his children from an abusive state run home. Vanessa appears briefly as one of the kids he frees. Father Hood really can't make up its mind whether it's a family comedy or an action movie, and it really isn't very good as either one. That having been said, Vanessa does give a very good performance for the brief time she's in the movie.

Amazon Prime $3.99 to rent, $17.99 to buy.
Google Play $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy.
Vudu $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy.
YouTube $2.99 to buy.

Culture Clash (TV series)

Vanessa was a regular in the first season of this show starring the famous performance troupe of the same name. Sadly,  according to Ric Salinas of Culture Clash, Fox will not allow them to release the TV series on DVD and it is not available on streaming. Fortunately, Vanessa uploaded many of her clips to her YouTube channel. If you are one of Vanessa's fans, this is a must see for you. The clips display her full range of talents, including singing (Vanessa had a beautiful voice)!


Melrose Place (TV Series) "The Doctor Who Rocks the Cradle", Season 3, Episode 12

Vanessa played Linda Cortez, one of Dr. Shaw's patients, a young married mother who is carrying stillborn baby to term. 

Amazon Prime Free with Prime membership, $1.99 for one episode, $14.99 for a whole season
CBS All Access
Google Play 1.99 for one episode, $14.99 for one whole season
YouTube $1.99 for one episode

 ER (TV Series)

Vanessa appeared in the first three seasons of ER in what is probably her most famous role, that of Nurse Wendy Goldman. From what I have observed over the years, Wendy was easily one of the most popular characters on the show. Sadly, she experienced both sexual harassment and ethnic slurs on the set and was fired when she reported it. Never mind firing her was wrong, I think it was a big mistake on the parts of the producers. Quite frankly, I think Vanessa's dismissal was the first step in what would be a rapid decline of the show. After the fourth season I didn't find ER worth watching.

Amazon Prime $1.99 to rent episodes, $2.99 to buy episodes, $9.99 to rent a season, $24.99 to buy a season.
Google Play $1.99 to rent episodes, $19.99 to buy a whole season.
Vudu $1.99 to rent episodes, $19.99 to buy a whole season.
YouTube $1.99 to rent episodes.

Malcolm & Eddie (TV series)

Vanessa guest starred in two episodes of the third season and one episode of the fourth season of the sitcom Malcom & Eddie. She played Janice Ramos, a cocktail waitress in Malcolm and Eddie's club. The size of Vanessa's role varies from episode to episode, but she is adorable in all of them. She is in the third season episodes "The Fool Monty" and "As You Strike It," and the fourth season episode "Worst Impressions."


Fire and Ice (TV movie 2001)

Sadly, this would be Vanessa's last significant appearance in narrative television or narrative film (she did have a cameo in the Star Wars fan film Return of Pink Five in 2006). Fire and Ice is a romance film based on the novel by Carla Fredd. While it aired on BET, it differs only a little from similar films that have aired on Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. That having been said, it is worth it to see Vanessa. Vanessa gets a good deal of screen time, more than some of the actors billed above her. She is also the most beautiful I have ever seen her in film or television. As usual, she gives a great performance.

YouTube (free, but divided up in parts)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Barry Coe R.I.P.

Barry Coe, who starred in the early Sixties series Follow the Sun and guest starred on TV shows from Bonanza to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died on July 16 2019 at the age of 84. The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome.

Barry Coe was born Barry Clark Heacock in Santa Monica, California on November 26 1934. His mother would later marry Joseph Spalding Coe Sr. and his name would become Joseph Spalding Coe, Jr. His biological father, Frank Heacock, was a writer and publicist for Warner Bros. He died in an automobile accident in 1940.

Barry Coe attended he University of Southern California. It was while he was on a trip to Palm Springs that he was discovered by talent scout. Afterwards he signed with 20th Century Fox. He made his film debut in House of Bamboo in 1955. In the late Fifties he appeared in the films How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), On the Threshold of Space (1956), D-Day the Sixth of June (1956), Love Me Tender (1956), Peyton Place (1957), Thundering Jets (1958), The Bravados (1958), A Private Affair (1959), But Not for Me (1959), One Foot in Hell (1960), and The Wizard of Baghdad (1960). He made his television debut in an episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour in 1955. He guest starred on Cheyenne and another episode of The 20th Century Fox Hour.

Barry Coe began the Sixties as the star of the short-lived adventure TV series Follow the Sun. Barry Coe guest starred on Bonanza as Little Joe Cartwright's older half brother (they shared their mother in common) Clay Stafford. It was planned for him to be join the cast as a regular, but objections from the cast resulted in him not joining the show. In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows General Hospital and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea., He had a recurring role on Bracken's World. He appeared in the movies The 300 Spartans (1962), A Letter to Nancy (1965), The Cat (1966), and Fantastic Voyage (1966).

In the Seventies Mr. Coe appeared in such films as The Seven Minutes (1971), One Minute Before Death (1973), Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls (1973), McArthur (1977), and Jaws 2 (1978). He guest starred on the shows Mission: Impossible, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and ABC Afternoon Specials. He appeared in the mini-series Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers. In the late Seventies and early Eighties he appeared as ""Mr. Goodwrench" in commercials for General Motors' dealers service departments known at the time as "Goodwrench."

Monday, August 5, 2019

Thank You for a Successful 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon!

I wanted to thank everyone who participated in this weekend's 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon. This year we saw entries covering films from the Forties to the Naughts. Several different genres were covered as well, from comedies to dramas. If you want to read all the posts, you can do so here.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Genevieve (1953)

(This blog post is part of the 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts)

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was first made in 1896 and was originally called "The Emancipation Run." That first Run was meant to celebrate the recently passed Locomotives on Highways Act 1896, which finally allowed motorcars on the roads of Britain. It was revived as the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 1927. To be able to join the Run, one's car must have been made before 1905. Here it must be stressed that it is not a race and the Royal Automobile Club forbids the cars from going above 20 MPH. 

It is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run that lies at the heart of Genevieve, the highly popular 1953 comedy. Genevieve centres on young barrister Alan McKim (played by John Gregson), whose father had made the Run every year before World War II. Since the end of the War it has been Alan who has always made the Run. Alan's patient wife Wendy (played by Dinah Sheridan) always accompanies him each year. As to Genevieve, she is the McKims' 1904 Darracq. The McKim's friend Ambrose (played by Kenneth More), an advertising salesman, also takes part in the Run, driving a 1905 Spyker. Each year Ambrose has a different woman accompany him, and this year it is the model Rosalind (played by Kay Kendall). Although they are good friends, Alan and Ambrose have a rivalry with regards to their cars and the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, with Ambrose often making remarks that make it clear he thinks Genevieve is a junker. To this end, even though it is pretty much forbidden, the two men decide to turn the return trip from Brighton to London into a race between the two cars. 

Given Genevieve is a very English comedy about a very English tradition, some might be surprised to learn that the film originated in the mind of an American. Screenwriter William Rose was born in Jefferson City, Missouri. When World War II broke out in 1939, he travelled to Canada and volunteered for service. Ultimately he served in the Black Watch and married an Englishwoman, Tania Price. He then remained in Great Britain after the War, writing such films as Once a Jolly Swagman (1948) and Gift Horse (1952). It might also come as surprise that it took sometime before anyone expressed an interest in the screenplay for Genevieve. Eight producers would reject the screenplay before at last Henry Cornelius, who had directed Passport to Pimlico (1949), bought it with the intention of both producing and directing. 

Even once Henry Cornelius had picked up Genevieve, it would face some hurdles before making it to the screen. Henry Cornelius had worked at Ealing as both an associate producer and a screenwriter on such films as Painted Boats (1945),  Hue and Cry (1947),  and It Always Rains on Sunday (1947). With the success of Passport to Pimlico he decided to ask for more money from Ealing. When they refused, he simply parted ways with the studio and went independent. Mr. Cornelius decided to return to Ealing with Genevieve. While Michael Balcon, who headed production at Ealing, knew Genevieve would likely be a hit, the studio's filming schedule was so busy that they had no room for Henry Cornelius to make Genevieve. Mr. Balcon then suggested to Mr. Cornelius that he try Earl St. John, Executive Producer of the Rank Organisation. Mr. St. John was not enthusiastic about Genevieve, even going so far as telling Henry Cornelius that if he made the film he would likely be fired. Fortunately Henry Cornelius persisted and eventually he was able to strike a deal with Earl St. John. Rank would provide 70% of the £115,000 budget provided Henry Cornelius could finance the rest. Fortunately, Henry Cornelius was able to through the National Film Finance Corporation.

Another hurdle in Genevieve being made into a film was the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, who sponsored the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The club did not like the idea of the film at all, particularly the race back to London that occupies the latter part of the film. Quite simply, the idea of any kind of race went entirely against the ideals of the club. To placate the Veteran Car Club, it was agreed that no special costumes would be required of the members participating in the film and that they could drive their own cars with passengers of their own choice. Furthermore, the Rank Organisation paid a lump sum to the Veteran Car Club to cover various out of pocket expenses. Those Veteran Car Club members who had participated in the filming of Genevieve would later be given tickets for the premiere of the film at the Leicester Square cinema in London. As if this was not enough, Genevieve begins with a tongue in cheek disclaimer: "For their patient co-operation, the makers of this film express their thanks to the officers and members of the the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Any resemblance between the deportment of the characters and any club members is emphatically denied--by the Club."

Originally Guy Middleton and Dirk Bogarde were the choices for the two male leads in Genevieve, but both men turned the roles down. According to Dinah Sheridan, Claire Bloom was the first choice for her part. What is more, originally Genevieve was not intended to be Darracq. In the original screenplay it was two British cars that would have made the run from Brighton to London. Alan McKim would have driven either a Wolseley or Humber, while Ambrose Claverhouse would have driven a Lancaster. As it turned out, no one who owned a Wolseley, Humbler, or Lancaster was willing to loan their cars to Rank for filming. Norman Reeves consented for them to use his vintage Darraq, which was a French automobile, while Frank Reese loaned them his Spyker, a Dutch automobile. 

Upon its release Genevieve received overwhelmingly positive reviews. It also did well at the box office in Britain, becoming the second most popular film there in 1953. It also did respectively well in the United States. Genevieve was nominated for two Oscars, Best Original Screenplay and Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film and was nominated for BAFTA Awards for Best British Actor (Kenneth More) and Best Film from any Source. Its success would lead to further comedies from Rank.

Seen today it is easy to understand why Genevieve was a success. At the heart of the film are the relationships between the characters. Alan and Wendy McKim are clearly very much in love, but at the same time they have been married long enough to sometimes get flustered with each other. Alan is close friends with Ambrose, but their pride is still enough for them to have a strong rivalry when it comes to their cars. Rosalind would rather be anywhere but in an antique car in the English countryside, but eventually gets caught up in the spirit of the Run. Between William Rose's fine script and the performances of John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More, and Kay Kendall, the characters seem like real people. Furthermore, any complications during the race from Brighton to London fully stem from the characters or the English countryside. Unlike the race films of the Sixties and Seventies, a race such as the one in Genevieve could conceivably take place.

Seen today Genevieve might seem a bit quaint. It is certainly a very charming film. At the same time, however, it is rooted in reality. The conflicts between the various characters are timeless, so that the basic plot of the film would not be out of place even in a movie seen today. As long as people fall in love and marry, and as long as men argue over whose car is better, Genevieve remains a film that is relevant to this day. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

The 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon is Here!

The Sixth Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon has arrived! The Rule, Britannia Blogathon is meant to celebrate classic, British films. While many think of Hollywood when they think of movies, the fact is that many classic films originated in the United Kingdom. From the Gainsborough melodramas to the Ealing comedies to the Hammer Horrors, the United Kingdom has made many contributions to classic film. The British Invaders Blogathon will last from today (August 2 2019) to Sunday (August 4 2019).

Cinematic Scribblings: "The Show Must Go On: The Entertainer (1960)"

Cinema Essentials: "Hell is a City (1960)"

Caftan Woman: "The 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon: The Detective (1954)" 

MovieRob: "A Single Man (2009)"

The Stop Button: "Gregory's Girl (1980, Bill Forsyth)"

Cinema Essentials: "The Iron Maiden (1962)" 

Pale Writer: "The Importance of First Impressions: Pride and Prejudice (2005)"

Realweegiemidget Reviews: "FILMS… I Don't Want to be Born / The Devil Within Her / The Monster/ Sharon's Baby (1975)" 

MovieRob: "The 6th Annual Rule Britannia Blogathon – Robin and Marian (1976)"

Silver Scenes: "20 Great Little Known British Films of the 1940s-1960s" 

Crítica Retrô: "A Dama de Espadas (1949)/The Queen of Spades (1949)"

A Shroud of Thoughts: "Genevieve (1953)" 

Moon in Gemini: "The 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon: The L-Shaped Room (1962)"

MovieRob: "The 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon: The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964)" 

Silver Scenes: "Nor the Moon by Night (1958)" 

Retromoviebuff: "Crooked House: Gaslight (1940)" 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

TCM's Summer Under the Stars 2019

Tomorrow August begins, which for Turner Classic Movies fans means the start of Summer Under the Stars, the month long marathon in which TCM dedicates an entire day to one star. This year has a stellar line-up, featuring not only well-known classics but lesser known classics as well. I am particularly looking forward to August 6, when they celebrate Lena Horne and show Stormy Weather (1943);  August 15, when they celebrate Rod Steiger and show two of my all time favourite movies, The Loved One (1965) and In the Heat of the Night (1967); August 16, when they celebrate Irene Dunne and show The Awful Truth (1937); August 19, when they celebrate Buster Keaton and show The Cameraman (1928), The General (1927); and Sherlock, Jr. (1924); and August 21, when they celebrate Joel McCrea and show The Most Dangerous Game (1932).

Like most Summers Under the Stars, this year's edition features many newcomers to the marathon. As shocking as it might seem given she was the top box office star for the Thirties, this marks Shirley Temple's first time on Summer Under the Stars. I am not at all a fan of the movies she made as a little girl, but I adore many of her movies she made once she entered her teens, especially The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947). Shirley Temple's day is August 4. Another newcomer to Summer Under the Stars that one would have thought would have been honoured many times before is also one of my all-time favourite actors, Mevlyn Douglas. They are showing some of his best movies on August 5, including Arsene Lupin Returns (1938) and Ninotchka (1939). On August 10 they honour one of only three PEGOT winners and still one of the sexiest women to ever live, the legendary Rita Moreno. The line-up includes West Side Story (1961) and Marlowe (1969). August 13 is dedicated to Brian Donlevy, another legend one would have thought would have been honoured before. They are showing some of his best films, including The Quatermass Xperiment (1956). The next day, August 14, they honour Liv Ullmann with her films including Autumn Sonata (1978). On August 15 TCM celebrates incredible character actor Rod Steiger, whose films I count among my favourites I mentioned earlier. August 20 is dedicated to Dorothy Maguire, with films including A Summer Place (1959). August 22 will be a treat for Pre-Code fans, as it is dedicated to the beautiful Leila Hyams. Among her films they are showing are the legendary horror movies Freaks (1932) and Island of Lost Souls (1932). On August 25 they honour Dustin Hoffman with such films as The Graduate (1967) and Marathon Man (1976). August 27 TCM celebrates Walter Brennan, showing such films as Rio Bravo (1959) and To Have and Have Not (1944). Finally, August 24 is dedicated to Paul Lukas with such movies as The Lady Vanishes (1943) and The Three Musketeers (1938).

Anyway, this looks to be one of the best Summer Under the Stars in some time, which is saying something given how good they have been the past many years.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Gone to California

For those you who have been wondering where I have been the past few days, I have been in Hollywood, California. I attended a panel discussion and screening of Stand and Deliver at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, where my beloved Vanessa Marquez was honoured. I met the members of the cast with whom I have been in touch and those I had yet to make contact with. It was an enjoyable evening (I had fun), but bittersweet for obvious reasons. On Instagram and Twitter I have posted a few photos from the event.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Twitter's Redesign is a Big Mistake

Today Twitter rolled out its new redesign to me. In a post on the Twitter Blog from July 15 2019, Twitter claims that the new design is "...a refreshed and updated website that is faster, easier to navigate and more personalized." It also claims that the redesign has "Easy Access to Your Favourite Features." To say that many Twitter users, myself included, disagree with them would be an understatement. The redesign doesn't seem faster than the old design and it is certainly not easier to navigate. It certainly does not give users easy access to their favourite features.

Indeed, it would seem the reaction of Twitter users to the redesign is universal hatred for it. Today I spent several minutes reading through tweets related to the redesign and I found no one who actually liked it. Now to a degree this can be expected. Many, perhaps most people, don't like change. That having been said, there are so many people speaking out against the redesign, often quite vehemently, that I think there is more behind people's reactions than a mere dislike of the redesign. Quite simply, the redesign was poorly executed and actually makes Twitter harder to use than the old design.

To begin with, the Twitter redesign is simply unattractive. There is far too much blank space on either side of the screen. The sidebars are too wide and the centre column for tweets is too narrow.  Overall, it just looks a bit cluttered. If the redesign were merely ugly, that would not be a problem.  Unfortunately there are other problems that make Twitter harder to use. To begin with, the feed is set to Twitter's algorithm determined "Home" feed, just as the Twitter mobile app is. Now, just as on the app, one can switch to "Latest Tweets" by clicking on the stars at the top of the feed. That having been said, I suspect that like the mobile app this means it will switch back to the "Home" feed sooner or later, requiring the user to manually switch it back to "Latest Tweets." Quite frankly, this is something that has always annoyed me about the app. I much preferred the old Twitter web design where one could simply turn the algorithm off in settings and never see the algorithm determined feed again.

Another problem, and one that makes the redesign harder to use, is that Notifications, Messages, Lists, Profile, et. al. are in the left sidebar rather than at the top. For me at least, it makes more sense to have such important things as Notifications, Messages, and, in particular, the Profile at the top. I think this might be true of many people. You'll notice other sites generally have their navigation bars (or menus, if you prefer) at the top. Facebook has its so you can reach your profile, friend requests, notifications, and so on at the top. The web version of Instagram has it so one can reach his or her likes and profile at the top and even on the mobile app one can access messages at the top (everything else is at the bottom, which seems more reasonable than having it on the left). Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, and various other social media sites have navigation bars at the top. Now I am not a fan of Facebook and some of these other social media services (some I don't even use), but I think there is a good reason they have their navigation bars at the top. I think it makes it easier for users to navigate the sites than having them in a sidebar does.

Of course, this brings me to another way that the redesign is harder to use. To reach Settings and privacy, Help Centre, et al., one must press a "More"  button and then press on whatever one wants. The old design one simply clicked on his or her profile picture to access a drop down window through which he or she could access these things. Quite simply, I think the redesign makes it harder to reach such things as Settings, Help Centre, et. al. Indeed, while I never used Moments, I have heard complaints from people who do that now they have to click the "More" button.

As to the Trends that occupied the left sidebar in the old design, they are now in a sidebar on the right. This doesn't really present any problems, except that it seems to display fewer Trends. The old design displayed about ten Trends, while the redesign only displays about five. This makes it harder to see what is trending.

Among the biggest problems with the redesign is the feed itself.  Despite Twitter's claim that the redesign is faster, I haven't seen any evidence for that claim. When scrolling down it not only seems slower than the old design, but even a bit jerky. I am honestly puzzled as to why Twitter is claiming the redesign is faster. It doesn't seem to be on Firefox or Chrome on a desktop using Windows 10.

Now it is true that Twitter rolled out some nifty new features with the redesign. For fans of Dark Mode, there is an even Darker Mode called "Lights Out." One can also control the font size of tweets, and there are new colour options. Twitter has also made it easier to switch to another account if one has multiple accounts. Unfortunately, I am not sure any of these new features make up for the fact that the redesign is poorly designed and harder to use.

Ultimately, I think the mistake that Twitter has made with its redesign is that they have made it like the mobile app. It's as if they took the worst aspects of the mobile app and applied them to the desktop site. Quite frankly, I think this is backwards. I have never enjoyed using the mobile app and, except for those times when I don't have access to my computer, I always use the desktop site for that reason. The old design was easier to use, easier to navigate, and faster than the mobile app. I can't say the same for the redesign.

Given the reaction users have had to the Twitter redesign, I think they are going to regret having gone forward with it. In 2018 Snapchat introduced a dramatic redesign that its users hated. Ultimately they  lost users and its stock actually dropped as much as 20%. In the end Snapchat had to make changes to the redesign. I rather suspect the same thing could happen to Twitter given how much users dislike the new design. While many media outlets have pointed out that users always hate changes to the designs of social media services and that eventually they adjust to those changes, I think that is not true in every case. Aside from Snapchat's controversial redesign, there is also the example of Facebook's double column Timeline. Users never warmed to it and eventually Facebook had to change it. If users eventually stop complaining about a social media service's redesign, it may be because they simply realise that their complaining is doing little good, not because they have grown to love the new design. Ultimately, I don't think people are ever going to like Twitter's new design and it could cost them users.

In the end, I think it would be best for Twitter if they scrap the redesign and return everyone back to the old design. If they want the website and the mobile to look and behave the same, then they ought to come up with a design that makes the mobile app look and behave more like the old web design, not the other way around. Put Notifications, Messages, et. al. at the top of the page. Give users back a means of permanently disabling the algorithm sorted feed in settings. They can keep many of the new features. I think if they come up with a design that draws on the old design for both the web and mobile and ditch the redesign, Twitter users will be much happier.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Late, Great Rutger Hauer

Rutger Haeur, the Dutch actor known for playing the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982) and Navarre in Ladyhawke (1985) among many other film roles, died on July 19 2019 at the age of 75 following a short illness.

Rutger Hauer was born on January 23 1944 in Breukelen, Netherlands. His parents were both drama teachers. At 15 he ran away from home to join the Dutch merchant navy. He returned to Amsterdam in 1962 and attended the Academy for Theatre and Dance there. His acting training was interrupted when he served as a combat medic in the Royal Netherlands Army. Afterwards he joined the experimental acting troupe Noorder Compagnie. He remained with them for several years.

His television debut came when he was cast as the lead in the medieval drama Floris in 1969. In the Seventies he reprised the role of Floris in a German remake of the series, Floris von Rosemund. He also had a recurring role in the TV series Duel in de diepte and the mini-series Voor koningin en vaderland. In the Seventies he appeared in the TV shows The Pathfinders, and  Waaldrecht. He made his film debut in 1973 in the movie Turks fruit. In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Repelsteeltje (1973) and Pusteblume (1975) before making his first English language film, The Wilby Conspiracy in 1975. For the remainder of the decade he appeared in the films Keetje Tippel (1975), Das Amulett des Todes (1975), Het jaar van de kreeft (1975), Max Havelaar of de koffieveilingen der Nederlandsche handelsmaatschappij (1976), La donneuse (1976), Soldaat van Oranje (1977), Pastorale 1943 (1978), Mysteries (1978), Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf (1979), Grijpstra & De Gier (1979), and Spetters (1980).

In 1981 Mr. Hauer made his first appearance in an American film, playing a psychopathic terrorist in Nighthawks. It was in 1982 that he played what might be his most famous role, Roy Batty, in Blade Runner. In the Eighties he appeared in such films as Chanel Solitaire (1981), Eureka (1983), The Osterman Weekend (1983), A Breed Apart (1984), Flesh+Blood (1985), The Hitcher (1986), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1986), La leggenda del santo bevitore (1988), Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989), Blind Fury (1989), In una notte di chiaro di luna (1989), and The Blood of Heroes (1989).

In the Nineties Rutger Hauer appeared as the villain in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). In the Nineties he appeared in such films as Past Midnight (1991), Split Second (1992), Beyond Justice (1992), Nostradamus (1994), The Beans of Egypt, Maine (1994), Surviving the Game (1994), Omega Doom (1996), Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1997), Simon Magus (1999), Partners in Crime (2000), and Wilder (2000). On television he appeared in several TV movies as well as the  mini-series Il principe del deserto, Lexx, Merlin, and The Tenth Kingdom. He also appeared on the TV show Screen One and several TV movies, including Fatherland.

In the Naughts Mr. Hauer appeared in the TV series Alias, Smallville, and Salem's Lot. He appeared in the TV movie The Poseidon Adventure, Starting Over, and The Prince of Motor City.  He played Earle, the crooked businessman who had taken over Wayne Enterprises, in the movie Batman Begins (2005). In Sin City (2005) he played the corrupt Cardinal Roark. He also appeared in such films as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), In the Shadow of the Cobra (2004), Minotaur (2006), Moving McAllister (2007), Barbarossa (2009), and Happiness Runs (2010).

In the Teens Rutger Hauer had recurring roles on the TV shows True Blood, Galavant, Channel Zero, and Porters. He guest starred on the shows Wilfred, The Last Kingdom, and Mata Hari. He appeared in such films as Spoon (2011), Dracula 3D (2012), Life's a Beach (2012), The Letters (2014), Drawing Home  (2016), The Broken Key (2017), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), Samson (2018), and The Sonata (2018).

Rutger Hauer was an incredibly talented actor. While it seems certain he will always be best remembered as Roy from Blade Runner, he played his share of heroes as well. He was Navarre in the medieval fantasy Ladyhawke. He played a blinded swordsman in Blind Fury. In Split Second he played a police detective tracking down a serial killer. Of course, he was well known for his villainous roles, and he played several throughout his career, from the title psychopath in The Hitcher to Lothos in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Cardinal Roark in Sin City. Rutger Hauer was well known for the many action movies in which he appeared, but he also played many non-action roles as well. He was a television journalist in The Osterman Weekend, a philandering status seeker in Eureka, and a member of a poor family who was convicted of hunting deer out of season in The Beans of Egypt, Maine. He played everything from priests to spies to police officers. He played both Dracula and Van Helsing at various points in this career. Rutger Hauer certainly had incredible range as an actor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Denise Nickerson Passes On

Denise Nickerson, the child actress who played Amy Jennings on the soap opera Dark Shadows and Violet Beauregarde in the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), died on July 10 2019 at the age of 62. The cause was complications from seizures and a stroke.

 Denise Nickerson was born on April 1 1957 in New York City. The family moved to Miami, Florida when she was still a baby. She was only two when she appeared in a TV commercial for a Florida heating company. She was 4 years old when she was discovered by Zev Buffman, a Florida theatre producer, at a local fashion show. She later appeared as Wendy in a production of Peter Pan at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.

Miss Nickerson made her television debut in an episode of Flipper in 1965. It was in 1968 that she began playing Amy Jennings, the orphaned sister of Tom and Chris Jennings (twins both played by Don Briscoe). She continued on the show until 1970. She also appeared on the soap opera The Doctors and she later had a role on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Denise Nickerson was also a regular on the children's show The Electric Company, playing Alison (one of the Short Circus, a singing group on the show). She guest starred on the shows Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; The Brady Bunch; and The Wonderful World of Disney. She appeared in the TV movies The Neon Ceiling; The Man Who Could Talk to Kids; If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever?; The Dark Side of Innocence; and Bert D'Angelo/Superstar. In 1968 she had appeared in an unsold pilot starring Bill Bixby titled Rome Sweet Rome. She also appeared in a 1977 commercial for Burger Chef, as well as other commercials.

Denise Nickerson made her film debut in 1971 in Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory. She also appeared in the films Smile (1975) and Zero to Sixty (1978). Miss Nickerson also appeared on Broadway in the productions Sherry! (1967) and Our Town (1969).

Denise Nickerson retired after the movie Zero to Sixty to become a nurse. She later became an accountant.

Denise Nickerson was certainly talented as a child actress. While best known for playing the bratty Violet in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, she was capable of playing other roles quite well. The role of Amy on Dark Shadows was certainly a far cry form Violet. In Zero to Sixty she played 16 year old repo agent "Larry," who was different from both Violet and Amy.

From all reports Miss Nickerson was also a very sweet woman. She attended Dark Shadows conventions, and everyone who met her remarked on her kindness. In real life, Denise Nickerson was the exact opposite of Violet Beauregarde. A talented child actress and a very nice woman, she will be missed by her fans.

Monday, July 22, 2019

David Hedison Passes On

David Hedison, who appeared in the movies The Fly (1958) and Live and Let Die (1973) and starred on the TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, died on July 19 2019 at the age of 92.

David Hedison was born Albert David Hedison, Jr. on May 20 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1945 and served for 18 months. He attended Brown University where he became interested in the theatre. He studied acting under Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse and under Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio. He made his Broadway debut, using his name Al Hedison, in Much Ado About Nothing in 1952. He later appeared on Broadway in A Month in the Country in 1956.

David Hedison made his television debut in an episode of Danger in 1954. He was credited Al Hedison in episodes of Kraft Theatre and Star Tonight. In 1958 he signed with 20th Century Fox and his stage name was changed to David Hedison ("David" being his middle name). He was the lead on the TV show Five Fingers, which ran from 1959 to 1960. He made his film debut in 1957 in The Enemy Below. Mr. Hedison appeared in The Fly (1958), Son of Robin Hood (1958), and The Lost World (1960--the first film in which he was credited as "David Hedison").

In the Sixties he played Captain Lee Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He guest starred on the show Hong Kong; Bus Stop; Perry Mason; The Saint; The Farmer's Daughter; Journey to the Unknown; and Love, American Style. He appeared in the films Marines, Let's Go (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Kemek (1970.

In the Seventies David Hedison played Felix Leiter for the first time in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). He also appeared in the film North Sea Hijack (1980). Mr. Hedison guest starred on such shows as ITV Saturday Night Theatre, BBC Play of the Month, The F.B.I., The New Perry Mason, Shaft, Medical Center, The Manhunter, Cannon, Ellery Queen, Family, Barnaby Jones, Wonder Woman, The Bob Newhart Show, Benson, and Charlie's Angels.

In the Eighties David Hedison had a recurring role on The Colbys. He appeared in the mini-series A.D. He guest starred on such shows as Nero Wolfe, Hart to Hart, T. J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Amanda's, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, Love Boat, Simon & Simon, Knight Rider, Crazy Like a Fox, The A-Team, Trapper John M.D., Hotel, and Murder, She Wrote. He reprised his role as Felix Leiter in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill (1989), making him the only actor to play the character twice in the history of the franchise. He appeared in the films The Naked Face (1984) and Smart Alec (1986).

In the Nineties Mr. Hedison had a regular role on the soap opera Another World. In the Naughts he had a role on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He appeared in the films Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001), Spectres (2004), and The Reality Trap (2005). He made his last appearance in the film Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk (2017).

David Hedison was a very talented actor, well suited to playing heroic roles. He was perfect in the roles of Captain Crane and Felix Leiter. While Mr. Hedison would play many heroic roles over the years, he was capable of playing other roles. Indeed, aside from Felix Leiter his most famous role may be that of obsessive, amoral scientist André Delambre in The Fly. In Kemek he played a writer who tests the drug of the title. While David Hedison played many heroic roles through the years, he was capable of playing many other sorts of roles as well.