Saturday, March 2, 2019

Godspeed Nathaniel Taylor

Actor Nathaniel Taylor, perhaps best known for playing Lamont Sanford's son Rollo on the classic sitcom Sanford and Son, died on February 27 2019 at the age of 80.The cause was a heart attack.

Nathaniel Taylor was born on March 31 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was an electrician before becoming an actor and was working in that capacity at the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles. Larry Clark, who taught film workshops at the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles, asked him to try out for a part. He had Mr. Taylor read a few lines and then sent him to the room of fellow St. Louisan Redd Foxx. The two talked about St. Louis and eventually Mr. Taylor would be cast in the role of Rollo Larson on Sanford and Son.

Nathaniel Taylor made his film debut in Listen to the Man in 1969. On television he guest starred in the shows The Bold Ones: The Senator and The Bill Cosby Show. It was in 1972, on the first season of Sanford and Son, that Mr. Taylor first appeared in the role of Rollo Larson. He would continue to appear on the show for the rest of its run. He also made a guest appearance on the Sanford and Son spin-offs Grady and was a regular on the spin-offs Sanford Arms, and Sanford. He guest starred on the shows Adam-12, Harry O, Police Story, What's Happening!!, and 227. He would later have a recurring role on Redd Foxx's Eighties sitcom The Redd Foxx Show. He appeared in the movies Trouble Man (1972), Black Girl (1972), As Above, So Below (1973), Willie Dynamite (1974), Passing Through (1977), and The Hunter (1980). He would later teach acting and take part in community theatre.

On Sanford and Son, Rollo was often the target of Fred Sanford's scorn and even distrust. Despite this, Rollo was easily the coolest character on the show. He was streetwise and smooth talking, and always dressed in the snazziest, hippest clothes. Nathaniel Taylor played the role perfectly. Of course, Nathaniel Taylor played other roles than Rollo. On What's Happening!! he was Rerun's brother-in-law Ike, a compulsive gambler who often targeted Rerun with his humour. On The Redd Foxx Show he played Jim-Jam, the owner of the local Chinese restaurant. Nathaniel Taylor was certainly a fine actor with a gift for playing comedy. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Godspeed #TCMParty Member Andrea Rosen

Last night #TCMParty members (including myself) received word that Andrea Rosen has died. Andrea was a long time member of #TCMParty and had met many fellow #TCMParty members at the annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. Many #TCMParty members counted her as a dear friend.

I was not as close to Andrea as many of my #TCMParty friends were, but I always enjoyed interacting with her during TCMParties. She was a very sweet lady, and one who had a great sense of humour as well as incredible wit. She was always guaranteed to be on hand for Noir Alley, to the point that when Noir Alley returns March 9 it won't seem the same without her. Quite simply, to sum Andrea up in terms of the film noir she loved so much, Andrea was one classy lady.

My condolences go out to her husband Richard and her many friends in the TCM community.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Black Oscar Winners Before 1990

Even now it is clear that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has some progress to make with regards to diversity. A prime example of this is the In Memoriam segment of the recently held 91st Academy Awards. Aretha Franklin, who may well have been the single biggest name to die last year, was omitted from the In Memoriam segment, despite having appeared in several movies. Mexican American actress Vanessa Marquez was left out of the In Memoriam segment despite a petition with 8700 signatures encouraging the Academy to include her, as well as numerous letters, phone calls,and emails. Sadly, despite several people of colour that could have been included in the In Memoriam segment, it seemed to be primarily filled with white faces.

Of course, it must be admitted that the Academy has made progress in the past few years. This was the first time in Oscars history that the majority of Oscars in the acting categories went to people of colour. People of colour won other major awards as well. The incredible Ruth Carter won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for Black Panther (2018), becoming the first African American woman to ever win in that category. Legendary director Spike Lee won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman (2018), his first ever Oscar win. Over the years blacks, in particular, have made great strides with regards to the Academy Awards. Unfortunately this has been the result of a very slow process that has taken literally decades.

The first ever African American to win an Oscar was also the first ever African American ever nominated. At the 12th Academy Awards in 1940, Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Gone with the Wind. Sadly, Miss McDaniel was not treated with the respect one would expect of an Oscar nominated actress. The 12th Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. At the time the Cocoanut Grove did not allow blacks, so that producer David O. Selznick had to petition the nightclub for Hattie McDaniel to be allowed to attend the awards. To make matters worse, Miss McDaniel was not permitted to sit at the Gone with the Wind table alongside her white co-stars, but was instead taken to a small table against a wall where she sat with her date F.P. Yober, and her white agent, William Meiklejohn.

It would literally be years before another black actor won an Oscar. It was in 1964 that Sir Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards and only the second black actor to win an Academy Award . It was for his role as Homer Smith in Lillies of the Field (1963). Fortunately, Mr. Poitier was treated much better in 1964 than Hattie McDaniel had been in 1940. Sir Sidney Poitier would later win  a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Even after Sir Sidney Poitier won an Oscar in 1964, it would be several years before another black artist would win an Academy Award. At the 44th Academy Awards in 1972, Isaac Hayes won the Oscar for Best Original Song for  the "Theme from Shaft".  It would be over ten years before another African American would win an Oscar. It was at the 55th Academy Awards in 1983 that Louis Gossett Jr. became the first male African American to win the award for Best Supporting Actor. It was for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). To go off topic a bit, it was for the same movie that Buffy Sainte-Marie became the first indigenous woman to win an Academy Award. It was for Best Original Song for "Up Where We Belong". She shared the award with co-writers Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings.

The Eighties would finally see a good deal of progress for black artists with regards to the Oscars. In 1984, at the 56th Academy Awards, Irene Cara became the first black woman to win the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Flashdance..What a Feeling" for the movie Flashdance (1983), an award that she shared with her co-writers Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey. In 1985, at the 57th Academy Awards, Stevie Wonder won Best Song for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red (1984). That same year Prince won the Oscar for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain (1984). In 1986 Lionel Ritchie won the award for Best Original Song for "Say You, Say Me" from the movie White Nights (1985). In 1987 Herbie Hancock became the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Original Score, which he won for the movie Round Midnight (1986). In 1989 Willie D. Burton became the first black winner of the Oscar for Best Sound, sharing the award with Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, and Vern Poore for the movie Bird (1988). Mr. Burton would win the award a second time in 2007 for the movie Dreamgirls (2006). The year 1990 would see two more black artists win, both for the movie Glory (1989). Denzel Washington won Best Supporting Actor for the movie and later won for Best Actor for Training Day (2001) in 2002. Russell Williams III won Best Sound for Glory, sharing the award with Donald O. Mitchell, Gregg Rudloff, and Elliot Tyson.

Since the Nineties several black actors and other artists have won Oscars, showing great progress since the Golden Age of Hollywood when Hattie McDaniel was the only black person to ever win an Academy Award and was not even permitted to sit at the same table as her co-stars. Sadly, such strides have not been made for other groups of ethnicities. Merle Oberon (who was part Indian and part Maori) remains the only Asian to ever be nominated for Best Actress. No one of Asian descent has ever been nominated for Best Actor. The Academy has a similarly poor track record with regards to Latinos, Edward James Olmos remaining the only Latino to ever be nominated for Best Actor. The Academy has an ever worse track record with regards to the indigenous peoples of North America. To this day Chief Dan George and Graham Greene remain the only male Natives nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Chief Dan George for Little Big Man and Graham Greene for Dances with Wolves). Yalitza Aparicio is the only indigenous woman nominated for Best Actress, for the movie Roma. While the Academy has made great strides with regards to diversity, it is clear that they have much further to go.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I Am Angry About the In Memoriam Segment During the Oscars Telecast

Every year, on the day after the Oscars ceremony, I usually do a review of the ceremony itself. That isn't happening this year. Like many classic film buffs I was disappointed and angry at the many people omitted in this year's In Memoriam segment that aired during the telecast. In my case I was so disappointed and angry that I missed much of the rest of the ceremony. I had to look up who won Best Actor this year on the internet.

As to the primary source of my disappointment and anger, I think those who know me and those who read this blog probably know what it is. Quite simply, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences omitted my dearest Vanessa Marquez from the In Memoriam segment. They did this despite a petition to include her in the In Memoriam segment during the telecast having reached 8700 signatures. This petition was well publicised, with stories on it in such sources as The Los Angeles Times and Deadline. I know for a fact that the Academy received multiple letters, emails, and phone calls urging them to include Vanessa in the In Memoriam. I wrote the Academy a letter myself and signed another that had 59 other signatures. Not only did several people express their frustration at the Academy for having omitted Vanessa from the In Memoriam on Twitter and elsewhere, but several news sources, including The Los Angeles Times, Variety, and yet others noted her omission.

Now I know that many people will point out that I am biased with regards to Vanessa. After all, my feelings for her are no secret, not even in Hollywood. That having been said, I think there are some very good reasons that the Academy should have included Vanessa Marquez. First, Vanessa was a remarkably talented actress. She had a talent for transforming herself into any character she chose, and played such diverse roles as Ana Delgado in Stand and Deliver (1988), Melanie in Twenty Bucks (1993), and Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. In every single review I have read of various plays in which she appeared, even when the play itself might not have been reviewed favourably, Vanessa was singled out for praise. Second, Vanessa was a true pioneer with regards to Latina actresses. At the time that Vanessa's career was flourishing, there was very little in the way of representation of Latinas in film and television. When she appeared on ER, Vanessa was one of the few Latinas to appear regularly on American television. What is more, Vanessa played non-stereotypical roles. Never in her career did she play a part that could be described as a stereotype. Third, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has historically had a problem with diversity, particularly with regards to Latinxs, Native Americans, and Asians. Vanessa Marquez is not the first Latina to be snubbed with regards to the In Memoriam segment that aired during the telecast by a long shot. In 2013 the Academy omitted Lupe Ontiveros from the In Memoriam segment, despite a career that spanned nearly 45 years. It is to be noted that those who were included in last night's In Memoriam segment were mostly white. If the Academy truly wanted to prove they have no problems with diversity, they should have included Vanessa and other people of colour in last night's In Memoriam.

While the Academy ultimately chose not to include Vanessa in the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars telecast, I would like to thank everyone who signed and shared the petition to include her in the In Memoriam. I would also like to thank everyone who wrote letters and emails to the Academy, and made phone calls to the Academy. In particular I would like to thank actress Lydia Nicole (who set up the petition to begin with), #TCMParty co-founder Paula Guthat (who alongside myself tweeted it regularly since October), the cast of Stand and Deliver (who promoted it and got it out to a wider audience), actress Julie Carmen (who tweeted it several times), and everyone who supported adding Vanessa to the In Memoriam in some way, shape, or form. Vanessa always seemed to think that she was underappreciated as an actress. I always told her that she was wrong, that people not only appreciated her, but loved her. I am glad to say that the campaign to get Vanessa added to the In Memoriam telecast has proven once and for all that Vanessa was very much appreciated and loved by many around the world. 

Of course, my beloved Vanessa Marquez was in good company in being omitted from the In Memoriam segment of last night's Oscars telecast. Many were outraged that the legendary Carol Channing was omitted from the In Memoriam. While Miss Channing appeared in only a few films, the films in which she appeared were significant and she was a long-time supporter of the Academy. They also excluded Stanley Donen, the director of such legendary films as Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. While Mr. Donen died only recently, today we have the technology to edit film and video very swiftly. Indeed, I could have added Mr. Donen here at home with the video editing software I have! Even if they did not have time to add Stanley Donen, they could have at least mentioned him prior to the In Memoriam segment. They also excluded legendary singer Aretha Franklin, who appeared in several films and probably had a greater impact on popular culture than many who were included. As to yet others who did not appear in last night's In Memoriam segment, they include Julie Adams, Joseph Campanella, Mary Carlisle, Dick Miller, Abe Vigoda, and yet others. Despite this, the Academy had plenty of time to include publicists and agents in the In Memoriam segment that even Academy members in the auditorium probably did not recognise. Sister Celluloid has an extensive list of those who were omitted in the In Memoriam on her blog.

What makes the omissions during this year's In Memoriam segment all the more worse is that people have been complaining about beloved actors, actresses, and directors being omitted during In Memoriam segments for literally years.  Indeed, in 2013 they omitted such heavyweights as Harry Carey Jr., Andy Griffith, Dorothy McGuire, and Ann Rutherford. Every year the Academy omits people from the In Memoriam segment, and every year viewers are outraged. You would have thought they would have learned by now.

The past many years both ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have been concerned about the falling ratings of the Oscars ceremony. Quite frankly, I think much of the reason ratings have been falling is the omissions during the In Memoriam. I know a few people who have entirely stopped watching the Oscars simply because they have grown increasingly angry about the many omissions during the In Memoriam segment. What the Academy ought to realise is that the In Memoriam segment should be made for the viewers at home, not members of the Academy. That means that they should include people that the viewers know and love, such as Carol Channing, Aretha Franklin, and Julie Adams. And when a petition for someone like my beloved Vanessa reaches 8700 signatures and receives nationwide coverage in the press, they should be sure to include her in the In Memoriam segment. What the Academy has to realise is that when they omit someone that the audience loves and respects, the audience is likely to take it as a personal insult. They can always omit the publicists and agents. Believe me, no one in the audience will notice.