Friday, January 8, 2021

Tanya Roberts Passes On

Tanya Roberts, who appeared in movies such as Sheena (1984) and TV shows such as Charlie's Angels and That '70s Show, died on January 4 2021 at the age of 65. The cause was a urinary tract infection.

Tanya Roberts Victoria Leigh Blum was born on October 15 1955 in the Bronx, New York. She spent her early years in New York City and later moved to Mississauga, Ontario to live with her mother. She eventually returned to New York City where she began a career as a model. She studied acting at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen. It was at this point that she took the stage name "Tanya Roberts."

Tanya Roberts appeared in ads for such brands as Excedrin, Clairol, and Ray-Ban and on off-Broadway productions such as Picnic and Antigone. During this period she also worked as a dance instructor for Arthur Murray Dance Studios. She made her film debut in Forced Entry in 1976. In the late Seventies she appeared in the movies The Yum Yum Girls (1976), The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), Fingers (1978), Tourist Trap (1979), California Dreaming (1979), and Racquet (1979). She made her television debut in the TV movie Zuma Beach (1978). She appeared in the TV movie Pleasure Cove (1978) and guest starred on Greatest Heroes of the Bible and Vega$. Starting in 1980 she played Julie Rogers on the final season of Charlie's Angels.

In the Eighties Tanya Roberts's career was dominated by movie appearances. During the decade she appeared in the films The Beastmaster (1982), I paladini - Storia d'armi e d'amori (1983), Sheena (1985), A View to the Kill (1985), Body Slam (1986), Purgatory (1988), Twisted Justice (1990), and Night Eyes (1990). She guest starred on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. She appeared in the Mike Hammer TV movie Murder Me, Murder You.

In the Nineties Tanya Roberts appeared in the films Inner Sanctum (1991), Legal Tender (1991), Sins of Desire (1993), and Deep Down (1994). She was a regular on the TV show Hot Line and later had a regular role on That 70's Show. She provided a voice on The Blues Brothers Animated Series. She guest starred on Burke's Law, Silk Stalkings, and High Tide. In the Naughts she continued to appear on That 70's Show. She guest starred on Eve and Barbershop.

Tanya Roberts was always a pleasure to see on the screen, even when a particular show or movie was not especially good. She lit up the screen not simply with her looks, but also with enthusiasm she brought to her roles. Whether playing Mike Hammer's secretary or Midge Pinciotti on That '70s Show, she was always enjoyable to watch.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Godspeed Barbara Shelley

Barbara  Shelley, who established herself as one of the foremost scream queens of her time in a number of Hammer Films, died on January 4 2021 at the age of 88. The cause was COVID-19.

Barbara Shelley was born Barbara Kowin in Maylebone, London on February 13 1932. She began her career as a model in 1951. This led to her appearing as a small role of fashion commentator in the Hammer Films movie Mantrap in 1953. She was credited under her given name. In 1953 she visited Rome and met actor Walter Chiari. This led to her appearing in the Italian films Luna Nova (1955), Destinazione Piovarolo (1955), I quattro del getto tonante (1955), Motivo in maschera (1955), Lacrime di sposa (1955), Ballata tragica (1955), Mio figlio Nerone (1956), Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge (1956), and Suprema confessione (1956). In 1957 she starred in her first horror film, Cat Girl. She appeared in The End of the Line (1957), before appearing in her first Hammer production The Camp on Blood Island (1958). It was followed by the  movie,  Blood of the Vampire (1958). She finished out the Fifties appearing in the films The Solitary Child (1958), Deadly Record (1959), Bobbikins (1959), Murder at Site 3 (1959), Village of the Damnded (1960), A Story of David (1960). Barbara Shelley made her television debut in the Italian TV show I tre moschettieri in 1956. She guest starred in the shows Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, Solo for Canary, ITV Television PlayhouseBBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Charlesworth, White Hunter, The Invisible Man, Interpol, Rendezvous, Danger Man, and BBC Sunday-Night Play.

In the Sixties Barbara Shelley continued to appear Hammer Horrors, including Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Gorgon (1964), The Secret of Blood Island (1964), Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966), Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). She also appeared in the movies Postman's Knock (1962), Death Trap (1962), Stranglehold (1963), and Blind Corner (1964). On television Barbara Shelley was a regular on the show Rupert of Hentzau. She guest starred on BBC Sunday-Night Play, Suspense, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, The Saint, Ghost Squad, Route 66, The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Third Man, The New Phil Silvers Show, No Hiding Place, Detective, The Human Jungle, Hazel, The Farmer's Daughter, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 12 O'Clock High, The Donna Reed Show, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, Preview Tonight, Intrigue, The Avengers, Vendetta, ITV Play of the Week, Champion House, The Revenue Men, Man in a Suitcase, Mr. Rose, Counterstrike, The Troubleshooters, and Paul Temple.

In the Seventies, Barbara Shelley appeared in the movie Ghost Story (1974). She was a regular on the TV show Oil Strike North. She appeared in the movies John Halifax, GentlemenPeople Like Us; and Pride and Prejudice. She guest starred on Bachelor Father (the British series); The Troubleshooters; ITV Saturday Night Theatre; Z Cars, Hadleigh; Dixon of Dock Green; Justice; The Hanged Man; The Two Ronnies; and Crown Court.

In the Eighties Barbara Shelley guest starred on Bergerac, By the Sword Divided, Jackanory Playhouse, Doctor Who, The District Nurse, and EastEnders. She appeared in the mini-series The Borgias and The Dark Angel.

Barbara Shelley was a very talented actress and perfectly suited to Hammer Horrors. She could go from being serene or taciturn to being outright evil in a film, and be realistic doing so. Over the years she played a variety of roles, from a palaeontologist's assistant in Quatermass and the Pit to one of Dracula's victims to the Tsarina's lady-in-waiting in Rasputin, the Mad Monk. Regardless of the role, she always gave a good performance.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Gerry Marsden Passes On

Gerry Marsden, leader of Gerry and The Pacemakers, died on January 3 2021 at the age of 78. The cause was a heart infection.

Gerard Marsden was born on September 24 1942 in Toxteth, Liverpool. His father was a railway clerk, and also played ukulele. Mr. Marsden's parents encouraged both young Gerry and his brother Freddie to take up musical instruments. While young Gerry took up guitar, his brother Freddie learned to play drums.

It was in 1959 that Gerry Marsden, his brother Freddie Marsden, and their friends Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon formed the skiffle group Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars. The Mars Company objected to the name, and so they became Gerry and The Pacemakers. Like The Beatles and other Merseyside skiffle groups, Gerry and The Pacemakers soon switched to play rock 'n' roll. Gerry and The Pacemakers often played the same Liverpool clubs as The Beatles, Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, and other Merseyside bands. Also like other Liverpudlian bands, Gerry and The Pacemakers played in Hamburg, West Germany.

It was after meeting Brian Epstein at his NEMS record shop that Gerry and The Pacemakers became the second group, after The Beatles, signed by Mr. Epstein. Brian Epstein got Gerry and The Pacemakers a record deal with Columbia Records. Their debut single, "How Do You Do It," went to no. 1 on the UK singles chart, so that Gerry and The Pacemakers beat The Beatles to having a no. 1 record (The Beatles' first no. 1 record, "From Me to You," reached the top spot three weeks later). It was immediately followed by two more no. 1 records, "I Like It" and a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone."

While Gerry and The Pacemakers topped the charts in the United Kingdom and were considered rivals to The Beatles, their first few singles failed to chart in the United States. "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" became their first American hit. Peaking at no. 6 in the UK, it went to no. 4 in the U.S. A reissue of "How Do You Do It" then peaked at no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band later had a hit with "Ferry Cross the Mersey," which peaked at no. 8 on the UK singles chart and no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Gerry and The Pacemakers also had hit albums. How Do You Like It went to no. 1 on the UK album chart. Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying went to no. 29 on the Billboard album chart. While Gerry and the Pacemakers' Second Album failed to chart in Britain, Ferry Cross the Mersey went to no. 19 on the UK album chart and no. 13 on the Billboard album chart. Gerry and The Pacemakers also appeared in their own movie, Ferry Cross the Mersey. Released in January 1965, it was historic in that much of the movie was shot on location in Liverpool.

Unfortunately, success proved to be short-lived for Gerry and The Pacemakers. Following their single "I'll Be There," they would not chart with a single in the United Kingdom until "Walk Hand in Hand." After "Girl on a Swing," their singles failed to chart in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The album Girl on a Swing failed to chart in the United States. Gerry and The Pacemakers disbanded in October 1966.

Beginning in 1968 Gerry Marsden became a long running host of the British children's show The Sooty Show. He appeared on the West End in the play Charlie Girl. Beginning in 1967 he also launched a solo career, releasing several singles between 1967 and 1976. In 1972 Gerry Marsden formed a new Gerry and The Pacemakers with Jose McLaughlin, Billy Kinsley, and Pete Clarke.This new Gerry and The Pacemakers recorded for the BBC Radio show The John Peel Show.

In 1985, following the Bradford City stadium fire, Gerry Marsden formed the charity supergroup The Crowd. They recorded a new version of "You'll Never Walk Alone," which had become a football anthem for Liverpool FC since its original release. In 1989 he joined Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Stock Aitken Waterman, and The Christians to re-record his song "Ferry Cross the Mersey" as a charity single for the Hillsborough disaster fund.

While the success of Gerry and The Pacemakers was brief, particularly when compared to such contemporaneous bands as The Rolling Stones, and The Who, it was significant. For a time they were considered The Beatles' chief rivals. And while many of Gerry and The Pacemakers' singles were written by others, Gerry Marsden achieved immortality as a songwriter with "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey." And while his stint as a rock star was brief, Gerry Marsden maintained a presence on television and he had a successful career performing in cabarets. His last appearance was in the Cilla Black television documentary Cilla: The Lost Tapes just last year. Gerry Marsden certainly achieved immortality in his native Britain and elsewhere.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Godspeed Joan Micklin Silver

Joan Micklin Silver, who directed such movies as Hester Street (1975) and Crossing Delancey (1988), died on December 31 2020 at the age of 85. The cause was vascular dementia.

Joan Micklin Silver was born on May 24 1935 in Omaha, Nebraska. Her family were Russian Jewish immigrants who operated a local, family owned lumber company. In 1956 she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. It was that same year that she married Raphael Silver, to whom she remained married until his death in 2013. Raphael Silver's father was noted rabbi, Abba Hillel Silver. Raphael Silver served as a producer on her films.

In 1967 Joan Micklin Silver and her husband moved to New York City. There she began her film career writing scripts for children's educational films made by Encyclopedia Britannica. In 1972 she directed her first film, the documentary short "The Immigrant Experience: The Long Long Journey." It was followed by the shorts "The Fur Coat Club" in 1973 and the short "The Case of the Elevator Duck" in 1974. She made her feature film debt as a director with Hester Street (1975). Hester Street received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Carol Kane. In 2011 it was included in the National Film Registry. Hester Street was followed by Between the Lines (1977) and Head Over Heels (1979). She co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film Limbo with Linda Gottlieb. Mrs. Micklin Silver also directed the TV movie Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which aired in 1976..

In the Eighties Joan Micklin Silver directed the TV movies How to Be Perfect in Just Three Days (1983) and Finnegan Begin Again (1985). What was her biggest popular success, Crossing Delancey, was released in 1988. It received a Golden Globe nomination for Golden Globe for the film, for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical for Amy Irving. It was followed by the comedy Loverboy (1989).

In the Nineties Joan Micklin Silver directed the TV movies A Private Matter (1992), In the Presence of Mine Enemies (1997), and Invisible Child (1999). She directed segment 2 of the anthology TV movie Private Stories: Women on the Inside (1991) and an episode of the TV show Sisters. She directed the feature films Big Girls Don't Cry... They Get Even (1991) and A Fish in the Bathtub (1998). In the Naughts she directed the TV movies Charms for the Easy Life (2002) and Hunger Point (2003).

In addition to her work in film and television, she and directed the play A... My Name Is Alice with Julianne Boyd.

Joan Micklin Silver may well have been one of the most courageous directors in film history. It was not enough that she was a female director working in a field dominated by men; many of her films were not of the sort that the movie industry thinks of as commercial. Hester Street not only centred on Russian Jewish immigrants, but contained dialogue in Yiddish. Studio executives thought Crossing Delancey was "too ethnic." As it turned out, Crossing Delancey appealed greatly to audiences, receiving positive reviews and doing modest box office. It has since become regarded as a classic.

What made Joan Micklin Silver such a great director is that she often gave audiences glimpses into worlds with which they might not be familiar, filled with three dimensional characters. Both Hester Street and Crossing Delancey gave audiences a glimpse into Jewish life, although the movies are set a century apart. Between the Lines centred on an alternative newspaper in Boston. Even her more mainstream movies, such as Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even, focused on worlds with which the average viewer might not be familiar. The protagonist of Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even was a teenager who belonged to a large, dysfunctional family, whose father has been married multiple times. It is sad that the Hollywood establishment so often resisted Joan Mickin Silver, as many of her projects were never produced. We are fortunate in having the seven features that Mrs. Micklin Silver directed, but we could have had much more. She was certainly a daring and talented director.