Saturday, April 24, 2021

TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court in May 2021

Gregory Peck in To Kill a

Each Wednesday night this May, Turner Classic Movies will be showing films set in the courtroom. On TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court, the channel will show courtroom movies ranging from those focused on murder trials to those that aren't quite so serious.

TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court begins on Wednesday, May 5 with movies centred around murder trials. Wednesday, May 12 features comedies set in the courtroom. Wednesday, May 19 centres on military trials. Finally, on Wednesday, May 26 movies focused on various social issues will air. Below is the schedule for TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court. Among the films airing are 12 Angry Men (1957) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) on May 5, Adam's Rib (1949) and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) on May 12, Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) and Paths of Glory (1958) on May 19, and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Inherit the Wind (1960) on May 26.

TCM Spotlight: Order  in the Court looks like it will feature a large number of great movies. If I have only one caveat about it, I think I would have tried to fit The Caine Mutiny (1951) on May 19. It possibly my favourite movie touching upon a court martial. Regardless, TCM Spotlight: Order in the Court is something to look forward to in May.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Godspeed Tempest Storm

Tempest Storm, the legendary burlesque performer, died on April 20221 at the age of 93.

Tempest Storm was born Annie Blanche Banks on February 29 1928 in Eastman, Georgia. She left school when she was in seventh grade to work as a waitress. At age 14 she married a Marine in order to emancipate herself and escape parental abuse. The marriage was annulled after only 24 hours. She was 15 when she married a shoe salesman from Columbus. It was six months the she left for Hollywood.

She was 17 years old when she was working as a cocktail waitress in Los Angeles when a customer told her that she would be great as a striptease performer. She auditioned for Follies Theatre talent manager Lillian Hunt who hired her as a chorus girl. It was after a month that she became a stripper. Lillian Hunt told her that she needed a stage name and gave her a choice between "Sunny Day" and "Tempest Storm." Six years later she would legally change her name to "Tempest Storm."

Tempest Storm would go onto become of the most successful burlesque performers of all time. She first performed in Las Vegas in 1951 at the Embassy Club. She was a regular performer at the El Rey theatre in Oakland, California. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 1953, initially performing at the Star Theatre there before moving to the Capital Theatre in Portland. In 1956 Tempest Storm became the highest paid burlesque performer of all time when she signed 10 year contract with the Bryan-Engles burlesque production company. In 1957 she began performing at the Dunes in Las Vegas.

>Tempest Storm appeared in burlesque movies such as Irving Klaw's Teaserama (1955) alongside Bettie Page,  as well as such films as French Peepshow (1950), Paris After Midnight (1951), and Striptease Girl (1952). In 1973 she opened for The James Gang while they were on tour, even playing Carnegie Hall. She headlined on the Las Vegas Strip as late as 1987. Tempest Storm retired in 1995, but performed would still perform occasionally. In 1999 she performed at the O'Farrell Theatre in San Francisco, California in honour of the theatre's 30th anniversary.

Alongside such performers as Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr, and Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm was responsible for bringing burlesque into the mainstream.. Indeed, she was among those who elevated striptease to an artform. In 1969 she gold The Wall Street Journal, "I think taking off all your clothes--and I've never taken off all my clothes--is not only immoral but boring. There has to be something left to the imagination. If you taken everything off, you please a few morons and chase all the nice people away." Tempest Storm's knowledge of the importance of the tease,  and the skilful way in which she teased, gave her a career that lasted nearly 50 years. She was truly the last of the great strippers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Late Great Jim Steinman

Jim Steinman, the composer, lyricist, and record producer who worked with Meat Loaf and other artists from Bonnie Tyler to The Sisters of Mercy, died on April 19 2021 at the age of 73. The cause was kidney failure.

Jim Steinman was born on November 1 1947 in Hewlett, New York. He graduated from George W. Hewlett High School in 1965. He earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1969.

It was at Amherst College that Jim Steinman began his career as a composer. In 1968 he was responsible for music for adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man. That same year Ge directed a production of The Beard at the college. It was in in the summer of 1968 that he contributed music to the Island Theatre Workshop's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Baal that took place at Martha's Vineyard.

It was while he was a senior at Amherst College Jim Steinman wrote the musical The Dream Engine in order to fulfil the requirements for an independent study course. The musical was performed in April 1969 at the Kirby Theatre at Amherst College and later played in Holyoke for a few performances. In 1971 Jim Steinman was responsible for the music in the puppet show Ubu, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's 1888 play Ubu on the Hill. In 1972 he worked with his friend from college, Barry Keating, on a musical entitled Rhinegold at the Mercer Arts Center. Rhinegold was inspired by Richard Wagner's opera Das Rheingold.

It was in 1973 that his song "Happy Ending" appeared on Yvonne Ellman's album Fool for Love, making it Jim Steinman's first song to be commercially recorded and released. It was also in 1973 that Jim Steinman wrote the musical More Than You Deserve. Among the actors in the musical was Meat Loaf. The song "More Than You Deserve," from the musical of the same name, was released as a single. It was in 1975 that Jim Steinman provided music and lyrics to Thomas Babe's Kid Champion at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

In 1976 Jim Steinman provided the music for the musical The Confidence Man (based on the novel by Herman Melville), with the book and lyrics by Ray Errol Fox. It was in 1977, while Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf were with The National Lampoon Roadshow, that Jim Steinman began development of what would become Meat Loaf's album Bat Out of Hell. Released in October 1977, Bat Out of Hell went to no. 14 on the Billboard album chart, no, 9 on the UK album chart, and did well elsewhere in the world. It produced the hit singles "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." In 1979 Mr. Steinman wrote the theme to the sitcom Delta House. He wrote the score for the 1980 feature film A Small Circle of Friends.

Bat Out of Hell was followed by Meat Loaf's album Dead Ringer and Jim Steinman's only solo album, Bad for Good, both in 1981. Jim Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler's 1983 album Faster Than the Speed of Night and wrote two songs for it, including the hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart." That same year he wrote the song "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" for Air Supply. In 1984 he produced Billy Squier's album Signs of Life. That same year he contributed two songs to Meat Loaf's album Bad Attitude. He provided the songs "Nowhere Fast" and "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" for the movie Streets of Fire (1984).

In 1986 Jim Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler's album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire and wrote four songs for the album, including the song "Holding Out for a Hero" (earlier featured in the movie Footloose). In 1987 Jim Steinman produced the song "This Corrosion" for The Sisters of Mercy's album Floodland. In 1989 he provided two songs for the movie Rude Awakenings. That same year the album Original Sin was released. It was by Pandora's Box, a group assembled by Jim Steinman. It was the following year that Jim Steinman co-wrote the song "More" with lead singer Andrew Eldritch for The Sisters of Mercy's album Vision Thing.

It was in 1993 that Jim Steinman reunited with Meat Loaf for the album Bat Out of Hell Two II: Back in Hell. The album produced the hit "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." He would provide two songs for Meat Loaf's follow up, Welcome to the Neighbourhood. That same year he provided two songs for Bonnie Tyler's album Free Spirit. He provided lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1996 musical Whistle Down the Wind. He composed the music for the musical Tanz der Vampire (based on Roman Polanski's movie The Fearless Vampire Killers). Its book was by Michael Kunze. It made its premiere in Vienna in 1997.

The Naughts would see Jim Steinman's song "A Kiss Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" featured on The Everly Brothers' album On the Wings of a Nightingale: The Mercury Studio Recordings. He composed several songs on Meat Loaf's album 2006 Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf had begun work on the album in 2001, but Mr. Steinman did not ultimately produce the album. The album had been at the centre of a dispute over the phrase "Bat Out of Hell," which Jim Steinman had trademarked. In the Teens Jim Steinman contributed to Meat Loaf's album Braver Than We Are. He composed the music and wrote the book for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical. It premiered at the Manchester Opera House on February 17 2017.

Jim Steinman's songs were as close to grand opera as rock music ever came. His work was bigger than life and often over the top, something for which critics sometimes looked down on his music. And while he may not have always been a favourite of the critics, he was a favourite with music consumers. He produced several hits over the years and a good argument can be made that the careers of Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler would not have been the same without him. Certainly is music produced much of the soundtracks of younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xer's lives. To use myself as an example, Bat Out of Hell remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Jim Steinman was certainly one of the best composers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.