Saturday, June 29, 2019

A Reminder for the Sixth Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon

This is a reminder that I will be hosting the 6th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon from August 2 to August 4 2019. If you are interested and would like to write post for the blogathon, the rules are here in the original post from June 1.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Max Wright Passes On

Max Wright, best known for playing Willie Tanner on the sitcom ALF, died on June 26 2019 at the age of 75. The cause was lymphoma.

Max Wright was born on August 2 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career on stage and made his Broadway debut in The Great White Hope in 1968. He continued to appear on Broadway in the Seventies in such productions as The Cherry Orchard, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Stages, Once in a Lifetime, The Inspector General, King Richard III, and Lunch Hour. He made his television debut in 1974 in a production of Etienne that aired on Great Performances. He appeared in the TV movies Red Alert and Playing for Time. He made his film debut in Last Embrace in 1979. He appeared in the movies All That Jazz (1979) and Simon (1980).

The Eighties would see Mr. Wright work extensively in television. He played Dabney Coleman's boss on the comedy Buffalo Bill, director of the Humanidyne Institute Dick Stetmeyer on Misfits of Science, and, of course, Willie Tanner on ALF. He guest starred on Hart to Hart, WKRP in Cincinnati, Open All Night, Code Red, Tales from the Darkside, I Gave at the Office, After MASH, E/R, Code Name: Foxfire, Benson, Cheers, Comedy Factory, You Are the Jury, and Faerie Tale Theatre. He appeared in the films Reds (1981), The Sting II (1983), Fraternity Vacation (1985), Touch and Go (1986), Soul Man (1986), and Going to the Chapel (1988).

In the Nineties Max Wright returned to Broadway in the productions Ivanov and Twelfth Night. He was a regular on the TV series Dudley and The Norm Show. He appeared in the mini-series The Stand. He guest starred on the shows Murder, She Wrote; Who's the Boss?; Ghostwriter; Quantum Leap; The Powers That Be; Murphy Brown; Roc; Monty; Friends; The John Laroquette Show; Early Edition; Aaahh!!! Real Monsters; High Incident; Mad About You; and The Drew Carey Show. He appeared in the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon. He appeared in the films The Shadow (1994), Grumpier Old Men (1995), A Midsummer's Night Dream (1999), and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). In the Naughts he guest starred on the TV show A Minute with Stan Hooper and appeared in the movie Easter (2002).

Max Wright will probably always be remembered as Willie Tanner on ALF, and with good reason. Aside from being the most successful television show on which he appeared, he was also very good on it. Mr. Wright made believable a show with a premise that some in the audience might have found unbelievable. Of course, Max Wright played other uptight characters similar to Willie on other shows, including Buffalo Bill and Misfits of Science. That having been said, he could play other types of roles. As hard as it can be to imagine, Mr. Wright played Nazi scientist Dr. Mengele in the TV movie Playing for Time and did a fine job doing it. In All That Jazz Max Wright played producer Joshua Penn, who survives largely on Dexedrine pills and cigarettes. In Reds he played a historical figure, flamboyant editor, author, and playwright Floyd Dell. Max Wright was an immensely talented actor who leaves behind a number of memorable roles.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Godspeed Billy Drago

Billy Drago, who played Frank Nitti in the movie The Untouchables (1987) and had a regular role on the TV show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., died on June 24 2019 at the age of 73. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Billy Drago was born William Eugene Burrows Jr. on November 30 1945 in Houston, Kansas. His mother was Romany and his father was thought to be Chiricahua Apache in descent. After graduating from high school he worked as a stuntman at Boot Hill in Dodge City. He attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence. After graduating from college he was a radio host for a time before joining an acting company. He eventually moved to New York City where he began his acting career. He took his grandmother's maiden name to avoid confusion with another actor with the last name Burrows. Billy Drago made his television debut in the TV movie No Other Love in 1979 and that same year he appeared in two episodes of the TV show The Chisholms. He made his film debut in Windwalker in 1980.

In the Eighties he played Deputy Mather in Pale Rider (1985) and Frank Nitti in The Untouchables (1987). He also appeared in the films Cutter's Way (1981), Invasion U.S..A. (1985), Vamp (1986), Hunter's Blood (1986), Banzai Runner (1987), Hero and the Terror (1988), Freeway (1988), Dark Before Dawn (1988), True Blood (1989), Gwang tin lung fu wui (1989), Prime Suspect (1989), and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990). He guest starred on the shows Strike Force, Gavilian, Cutter to Houston, Automan, Partners in Crime, Hardcastle and McCormick, Trapper John M.D., Moonlighting, Hunter, Hill Street Blues, The Fall Guy, T. J. Hooker, The Wizard, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Monsters.

In the Nineties he played the primary villain, John Bly, on the TV show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. He played another recurring villain, Barbas, the Demon of Fear, on the TV series Charmed. He guest starred on the TV shows Walker, Texas Ranger; Nash Bridges;  and The X-Files. He appeared in the films Diplomatic Immunity (1991), Guncrazy (1992), Lady Dragon 2 (1993), The Outfit (1993), Deadly Heroes (1993), Never Say Die (1994), Lunarcop (1995), Phoenix (1995), Mirror Mirror 3: The Voyeur (1995), Drifting School (1995), Blood Money (1996), Mad Dog Time (1996), Blue Devil, Blue Devil (1996), Convict 762 (1997), A Doll in the Dark (1997), Monkey Business (1998), Soccer Dog: The Movie (1999), Lima: Breaking the Silence (1999), Very Mean Men (2000), and Mirror Mirror 4: Reflections (2000).

In the Naughts Mr. Drago continued to appear on Charmed as Barbas. He guest starred on the TV shows Masters of Horror and Supernatural. His last television appearance was on the TV movie Ghost Town in 2009. He appeared in the films Death Game (2001), Desert Rose (2002), The Circuit (2002), Welcome to America (2002), Mysterious Skin (2004), Demon Hunter (2005), Seven Mummies (2006), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Lime Salted Love (2006), The Dead One (2007), Moving McAllister (2007), Zombie Hunters (2007), Rounds (2008), Dark Moon Rising (2009), The Ritual (2009), and Downstream.

In the Teens Billy Drago appeared in the films Balls to the Wall (2011), Night of the Templar (2013), Low Down (2014), and The Dance (2014).

Billy Drago was best known for playing villains, and there should be very little wonder why. He was very good at playing them. He even played historical gangsters on more than one occasion, including Frank Nitti in The Untouchables and Lucky Luciano in The Outfit. His two recurring roles on television were villains, John Bly on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Barras on Charmed. He had a memorable turn as a villainous hoodoo man in The X-Files episode "Theef." That's not to say Billy Drago couldn't play good guys. He played a good guy in the Monsters episode "Cocoon," and another good guy in the movie Diplomatic Immunity. While it was rare that he played good guys, Mr. Drago always did well when he did. Despite being typecast as a heavy, from all reports Billy Drago was a nice guy. His Brisco County co-star Bruce Campbell said of him, "He was sinister and understated on screen, sweet and humble off screen." A good guy in real life, Billy Drago was very good at playing the bad guy. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bryan Marshall Passes On

Bryan Marshall, who appeared frequently on British television, in Hammer films, and in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), died yesterday, June 25 2019, at the age of 81.

Bryan Marshall was born in Battersea, London on May 19 1938. He attended the Salesian College in Battersea and trained in acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He performed at the Bristol Old Vic. He made his television debut in an episode of Teletale in 1964. In the Sixties he had a regular roles in the TV series United!, Spindoe, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Villette. He appeared in the mini-series Vanity Fair. He guest starred on the programmes No Hiding Place, Gideon's Way, R3, Dr. Finlay's Casebook, Redcap, This Man Craig, The Forsythe Saga, Sanctuary, Sat'day While Sunday, The Informer, Z Cars, The Saint, Softly Softly, The Avengers, ITV Playhouse, Strange Report, and Special Branch. His film debut was in the Hammer Film Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). He appeared in three more Hammer movies: The Witches (1966), The Viking Queen (1967), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). He also appeared in the movies Alfie (1966), Mosquito Squadron (1969), and I Start Counting (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Marshall had regular roles on the TV shows Sam and the River, Warship, Rooms, and Buccaneer. He appeared in the mini-series Persuasion and Murder at the Wedding. He guest starred on the shows The Onedin Line, The Frighteners, New Scotland Yard, The Frighteners, Villains, Play for the Day, Dixon of Dock Green, Country Matters, Menace, Thriller, My Good Woman, BBC Play of the Month, Softly Softly: Task Force, Late Night Theatre, Churchill's People, Piccadilly Circus, Crown Court, Out, The Professionals, The Boy Merlin, Airport Chaplain, Armchair Theatre, and Dick Turpin. He appeared in the films Man in the Wilderness (1971), Because of the Cats (1973), The Tamarind Seed (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and The Long Good Friday (1980).

In the Eighties Bryan Marshall was a regular on Prisoner: Cell Block HGolden Pennies, and Embassy. He was the host of Australia's Most Wanted. He appeared in the mini-series Tanamera - Lion of Singapore. He guest starred on The Chinese Detective, Tales of the Unexpected, A Country Practice, Special Squad, Neighbours, Pulaski, The Flying Doctors, Mission: Impossible, and Rafferty's Rules. He appeared in the films 4D Special Agents (1981), BMX Bandits (1983), Bliss (1985), Hot Target (1985), The Man from Snowy River II (1988), and The Punisher (1989).

In the Nineties he guest starred on the shows Time Trax, Blue Murder, Water Rats, Big Sky, The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Thief Takers, Halifax f.p., Heartbeat, The Knock, and The Bill. He appeared in the films The Phantom Horseman (1992), Country Life (1994), Chicken (1996), Hard Edge (1997), and Selkie (2000).

In the Naughts Bryan Marshall guest starred on the shows Dalziel and Pascoe, Home and Away, Stingers, and All Saints. He appeared in the movie Courts mais GAY: Tome 13 (2007). His final appearance on screen was in the 2012 mini-series A Moody Christmas.

Bryan Marshall was an extremely talented actor, able to play villains or heroes with equal skill. Over the course of his career he played everything from doctors to military officers to lawyers. There seemed to be no role that he could not do.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Godspeed Bob Dorian

Ten years before Turner Classic Movies launched, there was another cable channel that showed classic movies. American Movie Classics (AMC) launched on October 1 1984, and it specialised in movies made before the Fifties. In many ways AMC paved the way for TCM. Like TCM, AMC would sometimes show marathons of related movies (for example, the Marx Brothers films). In 1993 AMC started holding an annual Film Preservation Festival coordinated alongside the Film Foundation. And like TCM, AMC had its own congenial hosts who introduced movies. While Gene Klavan and Nick Clooney would later introduce movies that aired during the daytime, the host most closely associated with American Movie Classics was Bob Dorian. Bob Dorian was the host of primetime movies on AMC for well over a decade. Sadly, Bob Dorian died on June 15 2019 at the age of 85.

Bob Dorian was born Robert Vierengel on April 19 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Dorian was a movie buff even as a child. He would often spend Saturdays watching three or more movies all for the price of a dime. He would later work as a movie usher. He began acting when he was 14 and over the years he would hold a number of different jobs. He did stand-up comedy for a short time, as well as trapeze catching in a circus. He played bass in a New York City based jazz group called Four Dimensions. Prior to working as the host of AMC, his greatest claim to fame may have been as a magician. He used the stage name "the Amazing Dorian." He was a member of the Magic Castle. Mr. Dorian appeared on the 1976 television special Magic at the Roxy alongside Carl Ballantine and David Copperfield.

As an actor Bob Dorian's most famous role would come with The Evil Dead (1981), on which he was the voice of an archaeologist on a tape recorder that triggers the events in the film. It would be an acting job that would lead directly to becoming the host of American Movie Classics. In the early Eighties he appeared as Dracula in a commercial for a video game. The shoot lasted two days and he wound up talking about old movies a good deal with the producer on the commercial, Norm Blumenthal. When Norm Blumenthal helped launch AMC, he remembered Bob Dorian and asked if he would be interested in hosting the new cable channel. The job was originally meant to last only six months. Ultimately Mr. Dorian was a host on AMC from its launch in 1984 to 2000. He left the channel not long before it shifted its format so that it no longer showed classics exclusively, but also aired commercials as well (originally movies were shown uninterrupted on AMC).

In addition to hosting AMC, he had a recurring role on the channel's first original series, Remember WENN. After leaving AMC he guest starred on the TV show Ed and appeared in the movies The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), Hollywood Ending (2002), Strike the Tent (2005), and Mnemonica (2009).

Bob Dorian also worked as an actor on stage, most notably appearing in a touring production of the stage version of The Wizard of Oz. With Dorothy Curley he wrote the book Bob Dorian's Classic Movies: Behind the Scenes of 100 Great Movies from Hollywood's Golden Years, published in 1990.

In many ways Bob Dorian was the perfect host for AMC. He was always careful to emphasise that he was not a film historian, but merely an actor and a fan. That having been said, Mr. Dorian was more knowledgeable than the average fan, with a wealth of stories upon which to draw. He also displayed a remarkable enthusiasm for movies. It was clear watching Mr. Dorian that he loved movies, whether he was introducing a classic such as Citizen Kane (1941) or a not-so-classic such as Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952). Bob Dorian's love for movies continued well after he left AMC. In a 2009 interview with the web site Go Fatherhood, he said that he watched six to eight movies a week (mostly on TCM).

Of course, it must be kept in mind that Bob Dorian was not only a host on AMC, but he was also a well-respected magician. He was a long standing member of the Magic Castle and continued his magic career even after he had become a host on American Movie Classics.

Over the years many young people have been introduced to classic movies through Turner Classic Movies. Before TCM, however, there were many introduced to classic movies by American Movie Classics. Bob Dorian played a large role in the early success of AMC. He provided a friendly, avuncular presence that often made the introductions more entertaining than the films being shown.