Saturday, August 12, 2023

Chicano-Chicana Heritage Month

The Chicano Moratorium March of 1970

If you're one of those people who keep track of the news, you may have seen where Representative Lou Correa of California reintroduced a resolution that would recognize August as Chicano-Chicana Heritage Month. The resolution is sponsored by more than sixty members of Congress. Representative Correa credits leaders in Orange County, California with bringing the resolution to his attention. A majority of Orange County's population is Hispanic, with the majority of Hispanic people being of Mexican descent. Indeed, of the Latinos in United States, 61.4% of them are Mexican in descent. As to the term "Chicano," it was originally derogatory, but was adopted by Mexican Americans as their own during their fight for civil rights in the Sixties.

Representative Lou Correa noted the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year, but he also said, "Is the Cuban struggle the same as the Mexican American struggle? Probably not. We have similarities, but it's not the same." He noted that Mexican American history is connected to the Southwest, the farmworker movement, fighting for desegregation, and opposition to the Vietnam War.

As to why August should be Chicano-Chicana Heritage Month, it on August 29 1970 that a march conducted by the National Chicano Moratorium Committee Against the Vietnam War took place in East Los Angeles. It drew 30,000 individuals. At the time it was the largest action against the Vietnam War ever taken by one ethnicity.

Personally, I am all in favour of official recognition of Chicano-Chicana Heritage Month. For one thing, I think the heritages of the various people who make up the United States should each be honoured with a month of their own.  While Hispanic Heritage Month certainly is important, as Representative Correa pointed out, I agree with him that we really need a month dedicated to Mexican American heritage. The term "Latino" is rather monolithic, and covers a number of different people with different cultures. For another thing, my dearest friend and a woman I adored, Vanessa Marquez, was a Chicana and very proud of her Mexican heritage. I also have many other close friends who are Mexican Americans and proud of that fact.

Over the years I have written several posts that have dealt with Mexican American culture or individual Mexican Americans. In honour of Chicano-Chicana Heritage Month, I then thought I would post links to a few of the posts I have written dealing with movies, music, and TV shows that feature Mexican Americans or Chicano culture.

"The 75th Anniversary of Ritchie Valens's Birth", May 13 2016

"My Beloved Vanessa Marquez", August 31 2018

"Stand and Deliver Turned 30", October 5 2018

"The Waltons Season 8, Episode 23: 'The Medal'", October 6 2020

"The Ring (1952)", October 8 2022

"The 30th Anniversary of Blood In Blood Out (1993)", April 30 2023

"The 80th Anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots", June 8 2023

"The 30th Anniversary of the TV Show Culture Clash", July 31 2013

Friday, August 11, 2023

Sharon Farrell Passes On

Sharon Farrell, who appeared frequently on television and appeared in such movies as 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) Marlowe (1969), and It's Alive (1974),  died on May 15 2023 at the age of 82.

Sharon Farrell was born Sharon Forsmoe on December 24 1940 in Sioux City, Iowa. Growing up she studied ballet. She toured with the American Ballet Company. She also worked with a road production of Oklahoma!. She made her television debut in 1961 in an uncredited role in an episode of the show Naked City. In the Sixties she was a regular on the short-lived TV series Saints and Sinners. She guest starred on the shows Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Empire, My Favorite Martian, Death Valley Days, Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Lieutenant, Arrest and Trial, Wagon Train, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Gunsmoke, Burke's Law, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ben Casey, Rawhide, I Dream of Jeannie, My Three Sons, Dr. Kildare, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, Run for Your Life, Iron Horse, The Virginian, The Wild Wild West, Premiere, Medical Center, Storefront Lawyers, and The Name of the Game. She made her film debut in 1962 in 40 Pounds of Trouble. She appeared in the films Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966), A Lovely Way to Die (1968), Marlowe (1969), and The Reivers (1969).

In the Seventies Sharon Farrell had a regular role in the last season of Hawaii Five-O. She guest starred on the television shows The Name of the Game; The D.A.; Banyon; Marcus Welby, M.D.; The New Perry Mason; Love, American Style; The F.B.I.; Chase; The Fisher Family; Insight; Dr. Simon Locke; Petrocelli; The Wide World of Mystery; The Six Million Dollar Man; Harry-O; Kolchak: The Night Stalker; Police Story; McCloud; Bronk; Doc; Police Woman; Gibbsville; Switch; Man from Atlantis; The Wonderful World of Disney; and Mrs. Columbo. She appeared in the films The Love Machine (1971), It's Alive (1974), The Premonition (1975), The Fifth Floor (1978), The Stunt Man (1980), and Out of the Blue (1980).

In the Eighties Miss Farrell appeared in the movies Separate Ways (1981), Sweet Sixteen (1983), Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Night of the Comet (1984), Can't Buy Me Love (1987), and One Man Force (1989). She guest starred on the TV shows Small & Frye and Freddie's Nightmare.

In the Nineties she began a six year run as Florence Webster on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. She guest starred on the TV shows Matlock and JAG. She appeared in the movies Lonely Hearts (1991), A Gift from Heaven (1994), Beyond Desire (1995), White Cargo (1996), Timeless Obsession (1996), and Last Chance Love.

Sharon Farrell's last appearance was on the TV show Broken at Love in 2014.

Sharon Farrell was a talented actress. In It's Alive she played the mother of the monstrous, mutant baby who goes on a killing spree, even as she tries to protect the child. In Marlowe she played Orfamay Quest, the Kansas woman who hires Philip Marlowe to find her brother. In the Marcus Welby, M.D. episode "He Could Sell Iceboxes to Eskimos," Sharon Farrell played the estranged daughter of a man who has just had a stroke. In Night of the Comet she played the stepmother of the protagonist Sam, who Sam doesn't get along with. Sharon Farrell was very prolific (particularly when it came to television) and she always gave a good performance.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Centenary of Rhonda Fleming's Birth

Actress Rhonda Fleming was born Marilyn Louis 100 years ago on this date in Hollywood, California. She would become known as the "Queen of Technicolor" because of the many Technicolor swashbucklers and Westerns in which she appeared.  A classic beauty with red hair and green eyes, she certainly photographed well in colour. Rhonda Fleming died in 2020 at the age of 97, and I eulogized her on that occasion (you can read my post there). With that in mind, I will leave you with pictures from throughout her career.
Rhonda Fleming's first substantial movie role was in Alfred Hitchcock's movie Spellbound (1945). She played Mary Carmichael, a patient at the mental hospital Green Manors.

Although Rhonda Fleming is well known for her roles in Technicolor movies, she also appeared in film noirs, including one of the greatest of all time. In Out of the Past (1947) she played Meta Carson, the secretary of Leonard Eels (Ken Niles), a corrupt lawyer in the employ of villain Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Here she is with Robert Mitchum.

The musical comedy A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949) was one of the Technicolor films in which Rhonda Fleming starred. She played Alisande la Carteloise, the love interest of Hank Martin (Bing Crosby).

The Golden Hawk (1952) was one of the Technicolor swashbucklers in which Rhonda Fleming appeared. In the film she played Captain Rouge, a female pirate, a rival of the movie's protagonist, the pirate Kit "The Hawk" Gerardo (Sterling Hayden).

Rhonda Fleming appeared in several Westerns, among them Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). She played Laura Denbow, the love interest of Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster).

Rhonda Fleming's last feature film appearance was in The Nude Bomb (1980), which was very loosely based on the TV series Get Smart (1965-1970). In the film she played Edith Von Secondberg, a fashion designer and the second wife of scientist Nino Salvatori Sebastiani (Vittorio Gassman), an agent of KAOS.

Rhonda Fleming went into semi-retirement in 1960, so that she only had a few movie and television credits following that year. She had made a good deal of money through investments in real estate. Her final appearance was in the short "Waiting for the Wind" (1991), in which she appeared with her Out of the Past co-star Robert Mitchum.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The Late Great Robbie Robertson

Robbie Roberson, best known as guitarist and singer in The Band, died today, August 9 2023, at the age of 80 after a lengthy illness.

Robbie Robertson was born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5 1943 in Toronto. His mother, Rosemarie Dolly Chrysler, was  Cayuga and Mohawk, and had been raised on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. His biological father, Alexander Klegerman, was Jewish and had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. His mother married James Robertson while still carrying Robbie Robertson. It was while Robbie Robertson was growing up on the Six Nations Reserve that he became interested in music. For two summers as a teenager Robbie Robertson worked for touring carnivals.

Robbie Robertson played guitar in high school bands. One of his bandmates in a band called The Suedes joined Ronnie Hawkins's band The Hawks as their keyboardist. Robbie Robertson served as a member of Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks' road crew and later replaced Scott Cushine as the band's bassist. Eventually, Robbie Robertson became The Hawks' lead guitarist. Levon Helm was The Hawks' drummer at the time, and he and Robbie Robertson became close friends. By 1961 The Hawks' line-up would also include  Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson. This line-up toured with Ronnie Hawkins from 1961 to 1963. They also recorded with Mr. Hawkins on Roulette Records. It was in early 1964 that The Hawks and Ronnie Hawkins parted ways.

The group recorded singles as both Levon and The Hawks and The Canadian Squires. Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson also played blues artist John Hammond's 1965 album So Many Roads. It was in 1965 that Bob Dylan sought to hire Robbie Robertson as the guitarist for his backing band. Robbie Robertson initially refused Bob Dylan's offer, but did play two shows with Bob Dylan. Robbie Robbie Robertson then suggested that Levon Helm be hired as the band's drummer, and the two performed as part of his backing band.

It was in 1967 that Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and later Levon Helm gathered at a pink ranch house in Woodstock, New York (dubbed "Big Pink" by the group) to work on music for the feature film You Are What You Eat. They also conducted recording sessions with Bob Dylan, both at Mr. Dylan's home in Woodstock and at Big Pink. Eventually the group, at last simply called "The Band," would sign a contract with Capitol Records. Their debut album, Music from Big Pink, was released in July 1968.

From 1969 to 1977, The Band would record six more studio albums. They also released several singles, including "The Weight,' "Up on Cripple Creek"/"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "The Shape I'm In," and more. The Band decided to take a hiatus, and their farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco was filmed by Martin Scorsese and released as the film The Last Waltz in 1978. While The Band would later regroup, for the most part it would be without Robbie Robertson. In 1994 Robbie Robertson played as part of The Band upon the occasion of their induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Even while he was a part of The Band, he did production and session work outside of the group. He produced Jesse Winchester's 1970 debut album. He played guitar on Ringo Starr's 1973 solo album Ringo. He also played on Ringo Starr's 1974 album  Goodnight Vienna. He also played with Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon. Hirth Martinez, Eric Clapton, and Neil Diamond in the Seventies.

Robbie Robertson's first, self-titled solo album was released in 1987. It would be followed by five more solo albums, last of which was Sinematic in 2019. From the Eighties to the Nineties he co-produced the Tom Petty and The Heartbrakers song "The Beat of Everything" on their album Southern Accents. played on The Call's album Reconciled, and producef the song "Love in Time" for Roy Orbison's album King of Hearts (released in 1992 after Mr. Orbison's death).

Robbie Robertson also had a considerable career in film. He starred in the 1980 film Carny. He also acted in the film The Crossing Guard (1995). He worked a good deal with Martin Scorsese, serving as the a music producer, music consultant, or music supervisor on the movies The King of Comedy (1982), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), Shutter Island (2010), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Silence (2016), and The Irishman (2019). He was the composer on the films The Colour of Money (1986), The Irishman (2019), and the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).

While Robbie Robertson was a consummate musician, he was strongest as a composer and songwriter. He was essentially a storyteller, with most of his songs telling stories, often firmly entrenched in American and Canadian tradition. He also wrote some of the best soundtracks to Martin Scorsese's films, He certainly had a lasting influence on various music artists, including artists as diverse as The Grateful Dead, Elton John, and George Harrison. Indeed, he is counted as being instrumental in the creation of the music genre known as Americana.  Few music artists had the impact that Robbie Robertson did

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

"Three Cool Cats" by The Coasters

Today is International Cat Day, so I thought I would share "Three Cool Cats" by The Coasters. It was released on March 17 1958 as the B-side of their single "Charlie Brown." The Beatles certainly liked the song. A cover of "Three Cool Cats" was among the 15 songs The Beatles recorded for their audition for Decca Records in 1962. When the group was recording the album Get Back, which was retitled and released as Let It Be, in January 1969, "Three Cool Cats" was among the songs they recorded. "Three Cool Cats" has also been covered by The Ferris Wheel, The Suicide Commandos, Ry Cooder, and Cliff Richard, among others.

Monday, August 7, 2023

The Late Great William Friedkin

William Friedkin, who directed the classic movies The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973), and To Live and Die in LA (1985), died today, August 7 2023, at the age of 87.

William Friedkin was born on August 29 1935 in Chicago. He graduated from Senn High School in the Edgewater neighbourhood of Chicago. As a teenager he went to the movies often and became interested in the art form. After graduation, in 1953, he responded to an advertisement from a television station for someone to work in their mailroom. As it turned out, he went to the wrong station, WGN, who hired him to work in their mailroom. It was their that Fran Coughlin, writer and columnist, became his mentor. William Friedkin eventually became floor manager at WGN and then director of live television.

It was in 1962 that he directed his first television documentary, The People vs. Paul Crump. In the Sixties he directed more television documentaries: The Bold Men, Pro Football: Mayhem on a Sunday Afternoon, and The Thin Blue Line. He also directed episodes of the documentary television series Time-Life Specials: The March of Time. In 1965 he directed an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Off Season." The first feature film he directed, Good Times, was released in 1967. In the late Sixties he went onto direct the films The Birthday Party (1968), The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), and The Boys in the Band (1970).

In the Seventies William Friedkin directed the movies The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973), Sorcerer (1977), The Brink's Job (1978), and Cruising (1980). He also directed the documentary Conversation with Fritz Lang (1975). In the Eighties he directed the movies Deal of the Century (1983), To Live and Die in LA (1985), Rampage (1987), and The Guardian. He directed an episode of the revival of the television series The Twilight Zone, as well as music videos for such artists as Laura Branigan, Wang Chung, and Barbara Streisand. He directed the TV movies C.A.T. Squad and C.A.T. Squad: Python Wolf.

In the Nineties he directed the feature films Blue Chips (1994), Jade (1995), and Rules of Engagement. He directed episodes of Tales from the Crypt and Rebel Highway, as well as the TV movie 12 Angry Men. In the Naughts he directed the movies The Hunted (2003) and Bug (2006). He directed the documentary short "The Painter's Voice" and two episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

In the Teens he directed the movie Killer Joe (2011) and the documentary The Devil and Father Amorth (2017). His final film, an adaptation of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.

William Friedkin also wrote much of what he directed, including the TV documentary The Thin Blue Line, the feature film Cruising, the feature film To Live and Die in LA, the feature film Rampage, the feature film The Guardian, and the documentary short "The Devil and Father Amorth." He had cameos in the Wang Chung video "To Live and Die in LA" and the movie Without Limits (1998). He was a guest voice on The Simpsons in 2017.

William Friedkin was an incredible director, with gift for visuals. Indeed, he sometimes took risks in his attempts to capture his creative vision. What is more, he treated genre films with the same seriousness that another director might treat a drama. In another director's hands The French Connection would have been a mere action film and The Exorcist a mere horror movie. In Mr. Friedkin's hands they were considerably more. While William Friedkin may be best known for The French Connection and The Exorcist, he was nothing if not versatile. Good Times was a comedy musical starring Sonny & Cher. The Night They Raided Minsky's was another musical comedy. He followed these films with The Boys in the Band, one of the first dramas to feature mostly gay characters. And while he is best known for his feature films, throughout his career, he directed documentaries throughout his career. In the end, William Friedkin was one of the greatest directors of the late 20th Century.