Saturday, May 30, 2020

Anthony James Passes On

Character Anthony James died on May 26 2020 at the age of 77. The cause was cancer.

Anthony James was born James Anthony on July 22 1937 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His parents were Greek immigrants. His father, who owned and operated a restaurant called The Mayflower, died when he was only 8 years old. It was when he was 18 years old that he and his mother moved to Los Angeles. In order to pay for acting lessons he cleaned restrooms. He reversed his name to create his stage name, Anthony James.

Anthony James made his debut with one line in an episode of the short lived series T.H.E. Cat in 1966. He made his film debut as Frank in In the Heat of the Night (1967). In the Sixties he guest starred several times on Gunsmoke, and in four episodes he played the hillbilly Elbert Moses. He also guest starred on the shows The High Chaparral, Cimarron Strip, The Big Valley, Hawaii Five-O, and Bonanza. He appeared in the movies P.J. (1968), Sam Whiskey (1969), and tick...tick...tick (1970).

In the Seventies Anthony James guest starred on such shows as Ironside, The Mod Squad, Search, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rookies, Police Story, S.W.A.T., Charlie's Angels, Starsky and Hutch, Man from Atlantis, Vega$, Quincy M.E., and Tenspeed and Brownshoe. He appeared in the movies Vanishing Point (1971), Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972), High Plains Drifter (1973), The Teacher (1974), Hearts of the West (1975), Burnt Offerings (1976), Return from Witch Mountain (1978), Texas Detour (1978), The Fifth Floor (1978), and Ravagers (1979).  He appeared in the mini-series Rich Man Poor Man.

In the Eighties Anthony James guest starred on such shows as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Matt Houston, Knight Rider, V, Riptide, Hunter, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, Sledge Hammer, Simon & Simon, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Beauty and the Beast. He appeared in the movies Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. (1981), Wacko (1982), Blue Thunder (1983), Nightmares (1983), World Gone Wild (1987), and Mortuary Academy (1988).

In the Nineties he guest starred on the TV shows Father Dowling Mysteries and Married with Children. He appeared in the movies The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Unforgiven (1992).

Mr. James retired in the Nineties and moved to the Boston area where he pursued his career as an abstract painter. In 1994 he published the book Language of the Heart, a collection of artwork and poems. In 2014 he published his memoirs, Acting My Face.

Anthony James is well known for playing a long line of sleazy, often outright evil characters. He was the racist cook Ralph in In the Heat of the Night. He was the outlaw Cole Carlin in High Plains Drifter. In Blue Thunder he played one of the worst of the bad guys, Grundelius. Although it might have seemed that way, not every character played by Anthony James was necessarily a villain. While Elbert Moses on Gunsmoke was not particularly honest, he was not particularly evil either, a much more humorous character than most played by Mr. James. Anthony James was a very talented actor who gave several great performances.

Friday, May 29, 2020

HBO Max Is Somewhat Disappointing

Today I started the free trial of HBO Max, the new subscription streaming service from WarnerMedia Entertainment. Sadly, I am not particularly impressed with it, particularly given a subscription costs $14.99 (compared to $8.99 for Netflix's Basic Plan and $5.99 for Hulu's Basic Plan). In my opinion, it's not really worth $14.99.

That is not to say there aren't things I like about HBO Max. I have to say that I am impressed with their selection in the Turner Classic Movies section. It is true that they have a lot of classics that most classic film buffs have already seen and seen multiple times at that. As might be expected, they have The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Gone with the Wind (1939), King Kong (1933), and so on. That having been said, they also have quite a few movies that some classic film buffs might not have seen. They have a good selection of classic foreign films, such as The 400 Blows (1959), 8 1/2 (1963), Cries and Whispers (1972), and Seven Samurai (1954). Their selection of silent movies could be better. While they have quite a few Charlie Chapliin movies, they are missing Buster Keaton's The General (1926), The Navigator (1924), and other key films. They are lacking many other well known, classic, silent movies as well. Regardless, HBO Max has more classic movies than most streaming services around.

I also have to say that, as might be expected, they do have a good selection of HBO originals. If one wants to watch Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, Game of Thrones, or Six Feet Under they can. They also have quite a good selection of HBO's original movies. If I have only one complaint with their selection of HBO originals, it is that they don't have some of their older made-for-cable movies. While it is nice to be able to re-watch many of HBO's original shows, it would also be nice to watch some of their older movies as well.

I have to admit that HBO Max does have a good selection of recent movies. They have all of the Harry Potter movies and such recent films as Wonder Woman (2017). I can't see anyone complaining too much about their offerings of recent movies, although there are some obvious titles missing (why do they have Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but not Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?). 

While HBO Max does fairly well with regard to classic films and HBO originals, it falls down in other areas. Their selection of TV shows leave a lot to be desired, with the only shows pre-dating the Nineties being Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as Josie and the Pussycats and Jonny Quest. Given HBO Max belongs to WarnerMedia, I was hoping that they would have a big selection of television shows from the history of Warner Bros. Television. Where is Maverick? Where is 77 Sunset Strip? Where is ER? Their selection of television shows leaves a lot to be desired for a classic television fan. Indeed, I can still watch Friends on about two or three channels on my cable system! I don't need a streaming service for that. I would like a streaming service for many of the classic Warner Bros. Television shows, particularly the older ones.

Sadly, HBO Max also fails with regards to their selections of DC properties as well. There are some movies and television shows based on DC characters that are not available on HBO Max for some reason. The classic 1966 Batman TV series is missing, as are the classic Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV series, the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman The Animated Series, and several others. As a lifelong DC Comics fan, I am seriously disappointed in their offerings under the DC section.

In the end, I can't help but be disappointed in HBO Max. It would be one thing if the streaming service was more inexpensively priced, but at $14.99 I was expecting much, much more. In fact, HBO Max makes me think it would have been a better idea for WarnerMedia to have revived the streaming version of the Warner Archive and stocked it with classic films from the various film libraries owned by Warner, the classic Warner Bros. Television shows, various DC Comics shows, and so on. I think something like that would be much better than HBO Max the way it is now. I would certainly be much more likely to subscribe to a service like that! As it is, I have already cancelled my HBO Max subscription

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Jazz in Film on TCM This June

The Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather
Next month the TCM Spotlight is on Jazz in Film. Turner Classic Movies airs movies touching upon jazz in some way, shape, or form each Monday and Thursday night in June.

Each night is devoted to different categories of films. Monday, June 1, is devoted to classic jazz scores. Among these movies are A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Thursday, June 4 really has no category, but it features two movies with primarily African American casts: Cabin in the Sky (1940) and Stormy Weather (1943). Stormy Weather is a must see. Not only does it feature  performances by Lena Horne, Ada Brown, Mae E. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Cab Calloway among others, but what I consider the greatest dance number in any film--the Nicholas Brothers performing to Cab Calloway's "Jumpin' Jive."

The category on Monday, June 8 is "The Life of a Jazz Musician," including Young Man with a Horn (1950) and Some Like It Hot (1959). The category fo Thursday, June 11 is Battle of the Big Bands and features such films as The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Gene Krupa Story (1959).

On Monday June 15, the theme is Jazz Noir and includes such films as Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and Farewell, My Lovely (1975). On Thursday, June 18 the focus is on International Jazz and features such films as Elevator to the Gallows (1958) and Knife in the Water (1962).

Monday, June 22 focuses on Real Jazz and Art House Jazz, and features such films as Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) and Blowup (1967). Thursday, June 25 is the final night of the TCM Spotlight on Jazz in Film. The categories that night are Billie Holiday Double Feature and Blues in the Night, including the films New Orleans (1947) and Pete Kelly's Blues (1955).