Saturday, March 14, 2020

TCM Classic Film Festival 2020 Cancelled

This past week has seen many events cancelled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With regards to cinema, both the South by Southwest Film Festival and the remainder of Noir City Hollywood have been cancelled. It was on Thursday, March 12 2020, that Turner Classic Movies announced the cancellation of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

TCM's official announcement read "Nothing is more important to TCM than the safety of our fans. In light of the increasing public health concerns related to coronavirus, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival." The announcement was accompanied by a video message from Ben Mankiewicz, which I have embedded below.

Turner Classic Movies has stated that all pass purchasers will receive a 100% refund on their pass purchases. There is no need for written refund requests and refunds will take 10 to 15 business days to process. There will be a TCM Classic Film Festival in 2021. It will be announced in late summer or early autumn of this year. In the video Ben says that TCM has reached out to the many artists who had committed to attending the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival and asked them to attend the 2021 festival.

Here I have to say that I do not think various groups are being alarmist in cancelling events in California. So far there are 247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California. 11,400 people have been advised to monitor themselves for the virus. There have been 5 deaths from the coronavirus in California so far. Those numbers might not sound particularly large given the size of California, but it must be considered that coronavirus is a contagious disease and cases in California have continued to climb since January.

Of course, I am disappointed that the TCM Classic Film Festival has been cancelled I have never attended TCMFF and I was not going to this year, but I have always enjoyed the many photos, posts, and stories from my friends who have, as well as TCM itself. Even for those of who don't attend the festival, the TCM Classic Film Festival is a bit of a holiday along the lines of Halloween or Christmas. I know all of us look forward to it whether we attend TCMFF or not. That having been said, I am sure that this will make the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival all the more special.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Late Great Max von Sydow

Max von Sydow, the legendary actor who starred in films from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) to Flash Gordon (1980), died on March 8 2020 at the age of 90.

Max von Sydow was born Carl Adolf von Sydow on April 10 1929 in Lund, Scania, Sweden. He attended Lund Cathedral School where he learned English while very young. He became interested in the theatre after seeing a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Malmö during a class trip. He served in the Swedish Army Quartermaster Corps, where he changed his name to "Max" as people were constantly misspelling his name. The name "Max" came from a flea he had played in a sketch. Following his service he studied acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. He joined the Norrköping-Linköping Municipal Theatre in 1951 and in 1953 he joined the City Theatre in Hälsingborg.  Mr. Von Sydow made his film debut in 1949 in Only a Mother. Over the next few years he appeared in such films as Miss Julie (1951), Ingen mans kvinna (1953), and Rätten att älska (1956).

It was in 1955 that he joined the Malmö City Theatre, whose head director at the time was Ingmar Bergman. Mr. Bergman cast Max Von Sydow in the lead role of Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal (1957). The film, in which a knight plays a chess game against death as the plague overtakes Sweden, established Messrs. Bergman and Von Sydow on the international stage. It has since become one of the most iconic films of all time. The director and actor would ultimately make 13 films together. In the late Fifties Max von Sydow appeared in the Bergman films Wild Strawberries (1957), So Close to Life (1958), The Magician (1958), and The Virgin Spring (1960).  He also appeared in the movies The Minister of Uddarbo (1957), Spion 508 (1958), and The Wedding Day (1960).

In the Sixties Max von Sydow continued to appear in Ingmar Bergman's movies, including Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), The Silence (1963), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968), and The Passion of Anna (1969). He also appeared in such films as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), The Reward (1965), Hawaii (1966), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Made in Sweden (1969), and The Kremlin Letter (1970).

In 1971 Max von Sydow appeared in Ingmar Bergman's film The Touch. In the Seventies he also appeared in such films as Embassy (1972), The Exorcist (1973), Steppenwolf (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), Cuore di cane (1976), Foxtrot (1976), Voyage of the Damned (1976), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), March or Die (1977), Brass Target (1980), and Flash Gordon (1980). On television he appeared in the mini-series Kvartetten som sprängdes. He appeared on Broadway in The Night of the Tribades

In the Eighties Mr. von Sydow appeared in such movies as Victory (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983), The Soldier's Tale (1984), Dreamscape (1984), Dune (1984), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Duet for One (1986), The Second Victory (1987), Father (1990), and Awakenings (1990). On television he appeared in the mini-series Quo Vadis?, Christopher Columbus, The Last Place on Earth, and Gösta Berlings saga. He appeared in such TV movies as Samson and Delilah, Kojak: The Belarus File, and Red King, White Knight. He appeared on Broadway in Duet for One.

In the Nineties Max von Sydow appeared in such films as A Kiss Before Dying (1991), Oxen (1991), Needful Things (1993), Time is Money (1994), Judge Dredd (1995), Jerusalem (1996), What Dreams May Come (1998), and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999).  He appeared on television in the mini-series Den goda viljan and Radetzkymarsch. He guest starred on the TV shows The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Screen One. He was a regular on the show Professione fantasma.

In the Naughts Max von Sydow appeared in such movies as Vercingétorix (2001), Intacto (2001), Minority Report (2002), Heidi (2005), Rush Hour 3 (2007), Emotional Athematic (2007), Solomon Kane (2009), Shutter Island (2010), and Robin Hood (2010). In the Teens he appeared on the TV shows The Tudors and Game of Thrones. He guest starred on The Simpsons. He appeared in the mini-series Nuremberg and the TV movie Ring of the Nibelungs He appeared in the movies Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), Branded (2012), The Letters (2014), Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), Les premiers les derniers (2106), and Kursk (2018).

There is a good reason that Max von Sydow was an acting legend. Quite simply, he appeared in a wide array of movies in a wide array of roles. The first film he ever made with Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal, is considered one of the greatest films ever made. In it he played Antonius Block, a knight who returns to Sweden from the Crusades to find the country overtaken by the plague. He would play an entirely different sort of role in another Ingmar Bergman film, Through a Glass Darkly. In the film he played a doctor whose wife suffers from schizophrenia.

While Max von Sydow may be best known for appearing in the cerebral films of Ingmar Bergman, he appeared in many other sorts of films as well. Indeed, aside from Ingmar Bergman's movies, Mr. von Sydow may be best known for playing Father Lankester Merrin, the title exorcist in the classic horror movie The Exorcist. He may be equally well known for playing Flash's archenemy Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. Over the years Mr. von Sydow played several historical figures, including Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, Otto Frank in a 1967 television adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, Gustav Schröder in Voyage of the Damned, the apostle Peter in the mini-series Quo Vadis?, and Sigmund Freud in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode "Vienna, November 1908." In many respects Max von Sydow's career spanned the whole of cinema, from time honoured classics to big budget blockbusters to low budget genre films. And in all of them Max von Sydow gave great performances. Every film in which Max von Sydow ever appeared was better because he was in it.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

James Lipton Passes On

James Lipton, the actor, writer, and lyricist best known for hosting the long-running TV show Inside the Actors Studio, died on March 2 2020 at the age of 93.

James Lipton was born on September 19 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. His mother, Betty, was a teacher and librarian. His father was journalist, beat poet, and graphic designer Lawrence Lipton. His parents divorced when James Lipton was six. To help support his family, James Lipton went to work when he was a teenager as a copy boy at The Detroit Times. At the same time he acted at the Catholic Theatre of Detroit. He also worked in radio. It was following his graduation from high school that he played the role of The Lone Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid, on the hit radio show The Lone Ranger.

James Lipton enlisted in the United States Air Force during World War II. Following his service in the Air Force, he went to New York City in hopes of becoming a lawyer. To support his education, he continued acting. He studied acting under Stella Adler for two and a half years, under  Harold Clurman for four years, and Robert Lewis for two years. Eventually he abandoned his plans for becoming a lawyer to concentrate on acting.

In the early Fifties Mr. Lipton continued to appear on radio in such shows as Now Hear This. In the Fifties he appeared on such television shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Guiding Light, You Are There, Inner Sanctum, The Goldbergs, and Kraft Television Theatre. He appeared in the movie The Big Break (2003). It was during the Fifties that he also began work as a writer. He was a writer on the soap opera The Guiding Light. He also wrote on the daily serial The Edge of Night and he wrote an episode of The United States Steel Hour. In 1952 he appeared on Broadway in The Autumn Garden.

In the Sixties James Lipton wrote the books and lyrics for the Broadway shows Nowhere to Go But Up and Sherry!. He wrote episodes of the soap opera Another World and he served as head writer on the soap opera The Best of Everything. His book, An Exaltation of Larks, was published in 1968.

In the Seventies James Lipton wrote for the soap opera The Doctors and was head writer on the soap opera Return to Peyton Place. He wrote for three Bob Hope television specials, Happy Birthday, Bob; All-Star Birthday Party for Bob Hope... at Sea; and Bob Hope on the Road to China. He produced the Broadway shows The Mighty Gents and Monteith & Rand.

In the Eighties he was the head writer on the soap opera Capitol. He wrote the TV movies Mirrors (based on his own novel) and Copacabana.

It was in the Nineties that James Lipton created Inside the Actors Studio. The show was originally conceived to be a master class in acting and soon became one of the most popular and successful shows on the cable channel Bravo. James Lipton served as the show's host, interviewer, writer, and executive producer. He remained with Inside the Actors Studio until 2018.

In the Naughts James Lipton continued on Inside the Actors Studio. He also guest starred on the TV shows Cold Squad and According to Jim. He played himself in the movie Bewitched (2005) and provided the voice of The Director in the animated film Bolt (2008). In the Teens he guest starred on the TV show Suburgatory and had a recurring role on Arrested Development. He retired from Inside the Actors Studio in 2018.

I honestly think that to say James Lipton was one of the greatest television writers, hosts, and interviewers of all time would not be an understatement. As a writer he was articulate and eloquent, a master of words who could make things simple and clear so that even those unfamiliar with acting techniques could understand what he was saying. As an interviewer he was gifted not only with considerable knowledge of the craft of acting, but the ability to put his subjects at ease so that they would open up to him. James Lipton was able to get actors to discuss things on Inside the Actors Studio that they had not or would not discuss anywhere else. Frances Berwick, President of NBCUniversal's Lifestyle Networks (of which Bravo is one), called Mr. Lipton, "...a titan of the film and entertainment industry..." That he certainly was.