Saturday, September 11, 2021

The 20th Anniversary of 9/11

It was twenty years ago today, on the morning of September 11 2001,  that the terrorist organization al-Quaeda launched four attacks against the United States of America. It began at 8:46 AM Eastern Daylight Saving Time when a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. It was at 9:03 AM that another plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Centre. At 9:37 AM Eastern Daylight Saving Time a plane hit the west side of the Pentagon. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was due to hit a location in Washington, D.C. Having learned of what had happened to the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, several heroic passengers attempted to seize control of the pane from the cowards who had hijacked it. In the ensuing struggle, the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 AM Eastern Daylight Saving Time.

I would like to take this time to remember those who died at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93 twenty years ago today.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Late Great Michael Constantine

Michael Constantine, who starred on the classic television sitcom Room 222 and appeared in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), died on August 31 2021 at the age of 94.

Michael Constantine was born Gus Efstratiou on May 22 1927 in Reading, Pennsylvania. His parents were both immigrants from Greece. He graduated from Reading High School and for a time he was the manager of a local grocery store's dairy department. It was a friend who had left for New York City in order to become an actress that convinced him to pursue a career in acting.

Michael Constantine studied acting with actor Howard Da Silva. He made his debut on Broadway as a replacement in Inherit the Wind. Later in the Fifties he appeared in the plays Compulsion and The Miracle Worker. In the Sixties he appeared on Broadway in The Egg and Arturo Ui.

Michael Constantine made his debut on television in an episode of Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1958. In 1959 he guest starred on the shows Brenner, The Catholic Hour, The Big Story, and Deadline. In 1960 he guest starred on The Play of the Week. In the Sixties he was a regular on the short-lived sitcom Hey, Landlord, on which he played photographer Jack Ellenhorn. It was in 1969 that he began a five year stint as Principal Seymour Kaufman on Room 222. He made several guest appearances on The Untouchables, playing a different character each time. He also guest starred on the shows The Asphalt Jungle, Cain's Hundred, The New Breed, The Detectives, Target: The Corruptors, The Defenders, Naked City, Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Sam Benedict, The Beachcomber, The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Dakotas, Vacation Playhouse, Channing, The Eleventh Hour, The Greatest Show on Earth, 77 Sunset Strip, Arrest and Trial, The Richard Boone Show, The Twilight Zone, The Great Adventure, The Rogues, Slattery's People, The Outer Limits, Profiles in Courage, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Trials of O'Brien, Perry Mason, Death Valley Days, Hogan's Heroes, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, My Favorite Martian, Run for Your Life, The Dick Van Dyke Show, 12 O' Clock High, The Jean Arthur Show, I Spy, T.H.E. Cat, The Road West, Combat!, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Fugitive, Dundee and the Culhane, Iron Horse, Ironside, The Invaders, The Flying Nun, Gunsmoke, The Danny Thomas Hour, The Good Guys, Mission: Impossible, The Virginian, and The Name of the Game.

In the Seventies he continued to star on Room 222. He played the lead on the short-lived sitcom Sirota's Court. He played The Sorcerer in several episodes of the "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" segment of The Krofft Supershow. He guest starred on the television shows The Odd Couple; The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Love, American Show; The Bold Ones: The New Doctors; The Streets of San Francisco; Kojak; The Manhunter; Police Woman, MacMillan & Wife; Ellery Queen; and Fantasy Island. He appeared in the mini-series Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue and Roots: The Next Generation, as well as several TV movies.

In the Eighties Michael Constantine guest starred on the shows Vega$; Trapper John, M.D.; Palmerstown, U.S.A.; Darkroom; American Playhouse; Lou Grant; It Takes Two; Benson; Quincy, M.E.; The Powers of Matthew Star; Amanda's; The Fall Guy; Matt Houston; The Love Boat; Hotel; Mike Hammer; Mama's Family; Masquerade; Finder of Lost Loves; Airwolf; Highway to Heaven; The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible; Remington Steele; Blacke's Magic; Crazy Like a Fox; Magnum, P.I.; MacGyver; The Law and Harry McGraw; Simon & Simon; Probe; Friday the 13th: The Series; Murder, She Wrote; Hunter; Snoops; Free Spirit; Island Son; and Midnight Caller.

In the Nineties Mr. Constantine guest starred on the shows Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order, The Cosby Mysteries, New York News, and Cosby. In the Naughts he reprised his role as Gus from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding in the short-lived sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life. He guest starred on the shows Judging Amy, In-Laws, and Cold Case.

Michael Constantine made his film debut in The Last Mile in 1959. In the Sixties he appeared in the movies The Hustler (1961), Island of Love (1963), Lonnie (1963), Quick, Before It Melts (1964), Beau Geste (1966), Hawaii (1966), In Enemy Country (1968), Skidoo (1968), If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969), Justine (1969), Don't Drink the Water (1969), and The Reivers (1969).

In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Peeper (1975), Voyage of the Damned (1976), and The North Avenue Irregulars (1979). In the Eighties Michael Constantine appeared in the movies Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1982), Pray for Death (1985), In the Mood (1987), Prancer (1989), and By a Thread (1990). From the Nineties into the Teens he appeared in the movies Deadfall (1993), My Life (1993), The Juror (1996), Thinner (1996), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016).

Michael Constantine was a remarkable actor. He excelled as Seymour Kaufman, the principal with the dry wit, on Room 222. He even won an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy for the role. Of course, he will also be remembered as the Windex wielding father of the bride, Gus, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Over the years he played many different roles, all of them well. While he was only on screen briefly in The Hustler, he remains memorable as Big John. He was also memorable as U.S. Army veteran Jack Harmon in If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium. And while the characters for which Michael Constantine is best known tend to rather pleasant, he could play villains. In The Untouchables episode "The King of Champagne," he played Edmund Wald, a bottle manufacturer who decides to start illegally making champagne (keep in mind The Untouchables was set during Prohibition). Of course, he also did a turn as campy villain The Sorcerer on "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl." Michael Constantine was capable of very nuanced performances. In the Twilight Zone episode "I Am the Night--Colour Me Black," Michael Constantine played a sheriff who was conflicted about a man who is about to be executed. Michael Constantine was a truly great actor who gave many good performances throughout his life.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Why Is TCM Showing Noir Alley So Late on Saturday Night?

Ever since it first began airing on Turner Classic Movies, I have been a huge fan of Noir Alley, the programming block dedicated to film noir. While Noir Alley originally only aired at 9:00 AM Central on Sunday, they eventually began showing it at 11:00 PM Central on Saturday as well. Given I am not a morning person, I have preferred watching Noir Alley on Saturday night ever since TCM started doing so. Indeed, I am usually just waking up at 9:00 AM on any given day of the week!

Unfortunately, of late TCM has been showing Noir Alley later than 11:00 Central on Saturday night. Three out of the four airings of Noir Alley in July did not begin until 11:30 PM Central. Last week, once again, Noir Alley did not air until 11:30 PM on Saturday. This week is even worse. Noir Alley won't air until 12:00 Midnight Central. While I am willing to stay up late those times when TCM shows Noir Alley at 11:30 PM on Saturday, 12:00 Midnight is a bit late even for me. My choices seem to be either to DVR it or get up early Sunday morning to watch it.

I know for a fact that I am not the only person who doesn't like it when Noir Alley airs later than 11:00 PM on Saturday, as I have seen others complain about it on Twitter as well. And, going by the number of TCMParty participants on Twitter, I think they might well have more viewers for the Saturday night showing of Noir Alley than they do the Sunday morning showing. The TCMParties for Noir Alley are always bigger on Saturday night than they are on Sunday morning, sometimes much bigger. I would think that TCM would then want to take advantage of the huge audience for noir on Saturday night and air Noir Alley consistently at 11:00 PM Central.

Of course, as displeased as I am with TCM airing Noir Alley late on Saturday night, I know much of why they have been doing so. Quite simply it is the fact that TCM has been showing two movies over 120 minutes regularly on Saturday night. For instance, this Saturday they are showing To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) followed by The Hustler (1961). Because both films clock in at over two hours, that pushes Noir Alley back to a much later time slot. While I love both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hustler (To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite movies of all time), I would much prefer TCM only showed one of the two movies on Saturday night and followed it with a shorter movie so that Noir Alley begins on time. If TCM wants to show two big movies back to back, they can always do so on another night of the week when there is no regularly scheduled, late night programming that will be disrupted.

Anyway, I hate complaining about TCM and I often think we should be thankful that we have it at all. That having been said, airing Noir Alley late seems to have become a regular occurrence of late and it is starting to grate on my nerves. When Noir Alley only aired on Sunday morning, I sometimes missed it because I overslept. It would be much easier if I could simply tune in at 11:00 on Saturday night and watch it before I go to bed as I usually do.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Rob Roy (1995)

When it comes to Scottish folk heroes, only a few are better known than Rob Roy McGregor, most often referred to only as "Rob Roy." A cattleman by trade, he borrowed a good deal of money to enlarge his herd. Unfortunately, his chief herdsman disappeared, which led Rob Roy to default on his loan. This led to him being labelled an outlaw. It was after  James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose seized Rob Roy's property that Rob Roy began a feud against the Duke. Another version of the story is that Rob Roy's property was seized following the Jacobite Uprising of 1715 and that the Duke of Montrose bought the property in 1720 from the Commissioners of Enquiry. Either way, Rob Roy continued his feud against the Duke of Montrose  until 1722. In doing so he would attain fame that lasts to this day. Indeed, it was in 1723 that The Highland Rogue, a fictionalized story about Rob Roy was published. Sir Walter Scott's 1817 work Rob Roy would only add to his fame.

Since then there have been several works about Rob Roy, of which the 1995 movie Rob Roy might be the most famous. With regards to film, there were two adaptations before the 1995 film. Rob Roy (1922) was released in the silent era. Walt Disney also made a film based on Rob Roy's story, Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue (1953). Rob Roy (1995) was very loosely based on the novel Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott and it did depart from history a good deal as well.

While Rob Roy (1995) wasn't particularly faithful to Sir Walter Scott's book or Rob Roy's actual life, it was shot in actual locations in Scotland. Among the locations were Glen Coe, Glen Tarbert, Drummond Castle, Crichton Castle, Rannoch Moor, and many others. Some of the locations in the Highlands could only be accessed by helicopter.

If the locations in Rob Roy were all genuinely Scottish, it must be pointed out that its leading man wasn't. Playing Rob Roy was Liam Neeson, who was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. While Liam Neeson is Irish, he did do a fine job of speaking with a Scottish accent in Rob Roy. His usual County Antrim accent isn't to be heard. Rob Roy wasn't the first movie based on folkore in which Liam Neeson had starred. One of his earliest roles was Sir Gawain in Excalibur (1981).

Rob Roy (1995) may have been unfaithful to Sir Walter Scott's work. It may have departed from history a good deal. Its leading man wasn't even Scottish. That having been said, it did receive largely positive reviews upon its release on April 7 1995. Roger Ebert described it as "...a splendid, rousing historical adventure..." The critic at Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+. What is more, Rob Roy has its fans to this day. Some of us even consider far superior to another 1995 Scottish film that just happened to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

While Roy Roy does depart from history, it features some great performances by Liam Neeson, Sir John Hurt, and Tim Roth. What is more, the script goes far more in depth on the characters than many historical adventure movies have before it. The sword fight at the climax ranks among the best ever made, easily matching those in Scaramouche (1952) and Ladyhawke (1985). Rob Roy isn't particularly well remembered today, but it really should be.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Late Great Ed Asner

Many actors are called legends, but in the case of Ed Asner calling him a legend may well be an understatement. He played Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then for several more years on the drama Lou Grant. He made many guest appearances on television. He appeared in several movies and on Broadway. On top of this, he provided voices for both animated TV shows and animated movies. Ed Asner was nothing if not prolific and, what is more, he never retired. Sadly, Ed Asner died on Sunday, August 29 2021, at the age of 91.

Ed Asner was born on November 15 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up just across the border in Kansas City, Kansas. He developed an interest in acting when he was still a boy and took part in his school's radio program. After graduating from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas, he attended the University of Chicago. He dropped out after one year and afterwards worked at a variety of jobs, including stints as a taxi cab driver, an encyclopaedia salesman, a worker in an auto plant, and so on. All the while he was working towards becoming a professional actor.

In 1951 he was drafted into the United States Army and he was stationed in France. His service ended in 1953, after which he went back to Chicago. There he worked with the Playwrights Theatre Company, which would give rise to the Compass Players, which itself would give rise to Second City. He then moved to New York City where he found work both in television and on stage. He made his debut on Broadway as a replacement in Threepenny Opera in 1956. He made his television debut in 1957 in an episode of Studio One.

In the Fifties Ed Asner guest starred on such shows as Studio One, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Decoy, Kraft Television Theatre, Omnibus, and Play of the Week. In the Sixties he made multiple guest appearances on Route 66. He guest starred three times as Frank Radcliff on Slattery's People. He also guest starred on the shows Naked City, Target: The Corruptors, Outlaws, Cain's Hundred, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Sam Benedict, Alcoa Premiere, The Untouchables, The Eleventh Hour, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Virginian, Dr. Kildare, Stony Burke, Breaking Point, The Nurses, Ben Casey, The Lieutenant, The Outer Limit, The Richard Boone Show, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Defenders, The Reporter, The Farmer's Daughter, Mr. Novak, Profile's in Courage, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Amos Burke Secret Agent, A Man Called Shenandoah, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Rat Patrol, Run for Your Life, Gunsmoke, The Felony Squad, The Fugitive, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Iron Horse, The Wild Wild West, The Invaders, Mission: Impossible, Judd for the Defense, The F.B..I., Ironside, Medical Center, The Name of the Game, Here Come the Brides, and CBS Playhouse.

It was in 1971 that Ed Asner began playing WJM-TV producer Lou Grant on the classic sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He won three Emmy Awards for the role on the show. When The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended, Lou Grant was spun off into his own show, Lou Grant, on which he had moved back to San Francisco to work as an editor on the newspaper The San Francisco Call-Bulletin. While The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a sitcom, Lou Grant was a drama that often dealt with important issues. He won two more Emmy Awards for playing Lou Grant on the show. In the Seventies Ed Asner also appeared on the mini-series Rich Man Poor Man (for which he won another Emmy) and Roots (for which he won yet another Emmy). He also guest starred on the shows The Mod Squad, Cade's County, Rhoda (playing Lou Grant), The Wide World of Mystery, Hawaii Five-O, Police Story, Insight, and Great Performances.

In the Eighties Ed Asner continued playing Lou Grant on the show of the same name. He starred on the shows Off the Rack and The Bronx Zoo. He guest starred on the shows The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible, Tall Tales & Legends, Highway to Heaven, American Playhouse, The Disney Sunday Movie, and D.C. Follies. He appeared in the mini-series Tender is the Night. In the Nineties Mr. Asner was a regular on The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Hearts Afire, Thunder Alley, and The Closer. He was a voice regular on the animated shows Fish Police, Batman: The Animated Series, Captain Planet & The Planeteers, Gargoyles, Freakazoid!, Spider-Man, Zorro, and Max Steel. He was a guest voice on Dinosaurs. He guest starred on the shows Higher Education, Roseanne (once more playing Lou Grant), Mad About You, Dead Man's Gun, Life with Louie, Soul Man, Ask Harriet, Hercules, Maggie Winters, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and Arli$$.

In the Naughts he was a regular on Center of the Universe, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Line. He was a recurring voice on the animated series Spider-Man. He guest starred on the shows Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Ellen Show, ER, The Practice, The Dead Zone, Star-ving, CSI: NY, and The Sarah Silverman Program. He guest starred on the animated shows King of the Hill, Grim & Evil, Duck Dodgers, Justice League Unlimited, W.I.T.C.H., The Spectacular Spider-Man, and WordGirl.

In the Teens Ed Asner had recurring roles on the shows Working Class, Michael: Every Day, Forgive Me, Dead to Me, and Kobra Kai. He appeared on the animated shows Young Justice, The Boondocks and American Dad!. He guest starred on Royal Pains, The Middle, Hot in Cleveland, Hawaii Five-0, Regular Show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Maron, The Glades, The Crazy Ones, Men at Work, Mom, Chasing Life, The Good Wife, Criminal Minds, Murdoch Minds, Bennie's, Bones, Heaven's Waiting Room, MacGyver, The 5th Quarter, Modern Family, Briarpatch, Cobra Kai, Central Park, and Grace and Frankie. In the Twenties he is set to reprise the voice of Carl from Up on the animated series Dug Days. He will appear in a guest appearance on the show The Premise.

Ed Asnser made his Broadway debut as a replacement in Threepenny Opera in 1956. He appeared on Broadway in 1960 in Face of a Hero. He appeared again on Broadway in 1989 in Born Yesterday. In 2012 he appeared on Broadway in Grace.

Ed Asner made his film debut in the Elvis Presley movie Kid Galahad in 1962. In the Sixties he appeared in the films The Satan Bug (1965), The Slender Thread  (1965), The Venetian Affair (1966), El Dorado (1966), Gunn (1967), Change of Habit (1969), Halls of Anger (1970), They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970), and  Do Not Throw Cushions into the Ring (1970). In the Seventies he appeared in the films Skin Game (1971), The Todd Killings (1971), The Wrestler (1974), and Gus (1977).

In the Eighties Mr. Asner appeared in the movies Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), O'Hara's Wife (1982), Daniel (1983), The Christmas Star (1986), and Westward to China (1989). He provided voices for the animated films Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987) and Happily Ever After (1989). In the Nineties he appeared in the films JFK (1991), Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1995), Academy Boyz (1997), The Fanatics (1997), Basil (1997), Hard Rain (1998), Love and Action in Chicago (1999), The Bachelor (1999), Above Suspicion (2000), and Bring Him Home (2000).

In the Naughts Ed Asner played two of his best known roles,. He was Santa Claus in Elf (2003) and provided the voice of Carl Fredrickson in Up (2009). He appeared in the films The Animal (2001), Island Prey (2001), Donzi: The Legend (2001), Missing Brendan (2003), The Commission (2003), Happily Even After (2004), Crab Orchard (2005), All In (2005), Ways of the Flesh (2006), Hard Four (2007), Gigantic (2008), Christmas Cottage (2008), Channels (2008), and  Not Another B Movie (2010). He was the narrator for The Triumphs of William Henry Harrison (2009).

In the Teens Ed Asner appeared in the films Hopelessly in June (2011), Absolute Killers (2011), Let Go (2011), Identical (2011), Should've Been Romeo (2012), Foodfight! (2012), Elephant Sighs (2012), Audrey (2014), The Games Maker (2014), Citizens United (2015), Love Meet Hope (2016), Stars in Shorts: No Ordinary Love (2016), Boonville Redemption (2016), Joe's War (2017), In Vino (2017), Yamasong: March of the Hollows (2017), The Gliksmans (2017), Saving Christmas (2017), Santa Stole Our Dog: A Merry Doggone Christmas! (2017), Waiting in the Wings: Still Waiting (2018), The Parting Glass (2018), Angels on Tap (2018), Honor Among Men (2018), Barking Mad (2018), The Garden Left Behind (2019), Faith, Hope & Love (2019), M.O.M.: Mother of All Monsters (2019), Rain Beau's End (2020), and Senior Entourage (2021). He provided voices for the movies Frozen in Time (2014) and CarGo (2017). There are about three yet to be released films featuring Ed Asner that have either been completed or are in post production.

Ed Asner was the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985. He was also a member of several non-profit organizations, including the Survivor Mitzvah Project, the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund, and Defenders of Wildlife, among others.

Ed Asner worked as an actor for around seventy years and he was nothing if not prolific. Of course, the very reason that Mr. Asner could be so prolific is that he was also very good. There can be no doubt that he will always be remembered as Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant. It was his talent that turned Lou Grant into one of the most memorable characters on American television. He played many other roles throughout his career, some of which were very different from Lou Grant. He was the villain in the John Wayne Western El Dorado, wealthy landowner Bart Jason. It was a role about as far from Mr. Grant as one could get. He excelled as Captain Davies, the slave ship commander who was tormented by his conscience, in the mini-series Roots. On Hawaii Five-O (and its reboot, Hawaii Five-0), he played the smuggler August March. Among his best roles was Carl Fredrickson in Up. He took a role that could have simply been played as a grumpy old man and gave Carl pathos. It was one of the best performances ever given by a voice actor.

On Pixar's social media accounts, the studio said of Ed Asner that he was "...our real life Carl Fredrickson: a veneer of a grouch over an incredibly kind and loving human being." His castmates and others who had met him throughout his life echoed Pixar's sentiments, not only recognizing him as an acting legend but a very kind man. I have friends who had the opportunity to meet Ed Asner and all of them echo those same sentiments. Ed Asner was a kind, thoughtful man with a great heart and a great sense of humour. Indeed, one of my friends told how when SAG had an open house in the Eighties, Ed Asner as the union's president stood at the door and welcomed every single guest. Ed Asner was a truly great actor and a fine gentleman as well.