Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category
There were a lot of deaths over the weekend, but I was away from a computer with an Internet connection for most of it. Getting caught up:
He was loamy meadows and smoky skies, river valleys and steel mills, like the plant where his father, Milfred, worked (“Steel, Michaeleen, steel in pig-iron furnaces so hot a man forgets his fear of hell”) until just in front of the Depression, Milfred took a job as greenkeeper and pro (mostly greenkeeper) at Latrobe Country Club. Nobody addressed him as Milfred, except Doris when she was of a fanciful mind. To most, he was Deacon. A few said Deke. Arnold called him Pap.
It may just be me, but the tone of these obits rubs me kind of the wrong way. It seems like they’re saying “José Fernández, noted pitcher, is dead. Also two other guys, but they weren’t famous baseball pitchers, so who cares?” (And, yes, I understand that they’re withholding names until families are identified. But it still kind of reads like the other two guys just don’t matter.)
(Also: strict boat control.)
“L.A. Confidential” was a swell movie. I wouldn’t mind watching that again.
D. Keith Mano. I was most familiar with him as a National Review writer, and was unfamiliar with his work as a novelist.
Edward Albee, noted playwright (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).
I remember when I was growing up in Houston, Albee came to town – I think they were doing the world premiere of one of his works at tha Alley Theatre, though I can’t for the life of me recall what it was – and it was a huge deal at the time. As a teenager, I didn’t understand why; in retrospect, it may have been that Albbe’s coming to town put sort of stamp of cultural legitimacy on the city, at a time when many people outside Houston thought of it as a grotty oil boom town.
Thing I had forgotten:
He was also involved in one of the great flops in Broadway history, becoming a script doctor for the producer David Merrick’s 1966 staging of the musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which starred Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain and closed on Broadway before it opened, after its fourth preview.
The Onion A/V Club is reporting the death of noted author William Patrick Kinsella. Kinsella is perhaps most famous for the novel Shoeless Joe, which, of course, was filmed as “Field of Dreams”
(I’ve never read any of Kinsella’s work, though I’d consider it: some of the things I’ve read about his work indicate he’s more interesting and complex than those other lyrical magical baseball happy horseshit writers. I did see the movie and didn’t care much for it, but, yoy know, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.)
(Amazon also lists something called “Rice Field of Dreams”. Turns out this is a documentary about the Cambodian baseball team; whle that sounds interesting, I was thinking it was some sort of Hong Kong movie. Perhaps one of those one-eyed priest/apprentice monk things Lawrence likes, where the good guys have to use martial arts and magic to battle evil spirits. Add some sort of sports element – not necessarily baseball, maybe soccer – and I’m sure it would make money.)
We were watching movies last night, and a question came up. I don’t remember the exact context, but basically: was The Paper Chase actually John Houseman’s first film?
The answer turns out to be: yes, and no, and it’s interesting.
Before The Paper Chase, Houseman is listed as having an uncredited (and I assume small) role in the film adaptation of Seven Days In May.
But before that, in 1938, Houseman was in something called Too Much Johnson. Just the name sparked immense hilarity among our little group (though to be fair, it was also late) but there’s an interesting story here. Too Much Johnson was never shown in public while Houseman was alive…
As most of my readers probably know, long before he was Professor Kingsfield, Houseman had quite a stage career. Among his other credits, he was a leading member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. Welles had an idea: he wanted the Mercury Theatre to do an adaptation of a 1894 comedy, also called “Too Much Johnson”, by William Gillette. But he also wanted to integrate a silent film into the stage production.
Welles planned to mix live action and film for this production. The film was designed to run 40 minutes, with 20 minutes devoted to the play’s prologue and two 10-minute introductions for the second and third act. Welles planned to create a silent film in the tradition of the Mack Sennett slapstick comedies, in order to enhance the various chases, duels and comic conflicts of the Gillette play.
There’s some very funny stuff about Welles editing the film, in his hotel suite, while up to his knees (according to Houseman) in nitrate film. Another of Welles collaborators recalls the film catching fire in the projector, Welles being so absorbed in the editing he didn’t even notice…
“What I remember, most remarkably, is me running with the projector in my hand, burning, trying to get out of the door into the goddamn hallway, and Houseman racing for the door at the same time … while Orson, with absolutely no concern whatsoever, was back inside, standing and looking at some piece of film in his hand, smoking his pipe.”
Anyway, they put the film together and went to stage “Too Much Johnson” at a place called the Stony Creek Theatre in Connecticut before they took it to Broadway. But there was a problem: the ceiling in the Stony Creek Theatre was “too low” for film projection. So the Mercury Theatre staged “Too Much Johnson” without the movie part. Depending on who you believe, the audience reaction was poor. In any case, Welles shelved the “Too Much Johnson” project before he finished editing it: in later years, he claimed that he’d looked at the stored footage, and it still looked pristine. But that footage was destroyed in a 1970 fire at Welles home, and the movie was presumed lost…
…until 2008, when a copy was discovered in Spain. The film was restored and shown for the first time in late 2013. In 2015, the combined film/stage production was staged for the first time. And now you can watch the 66 minute work print and reconstructed 34 minute edit of “Too Much Johnson” at the National Film Preservation Foundation website.
This is probably too much “Too Much Johnson” for most of you, but I make no apologies for my interest in Welles and his work, and I think this is a great story even without Welles and Houseman.
After the jump, topic changes…
Leslie H. Martinson, noted television and film director.
His film credits included the 1966 “Batman”.
Anna Dewdney, author of the “Llama Llama” children’s books, passed away far too young. This makes me choke up a little bit:
The late great Jon Polito.
I hate to be lazy here, but I’m going to point to the respectful and comprehensive A/V Club obit. (Though couldn’t they have found something better for Detective Crosetti than the misguided “Homicide” movie?)
(And I need to see “Miller’s Crossing” again.)
Also among the dead: Jim Pruett, legendary Houston radio personality turned prominent (and often quoted in the media) gun store owner. Mike the Musicologist tells me he sold the store a while back; I’ve actually wanted to visit it, but the last few times I’ve been down to Houston it just hasn’t worked out for one reason or another.
There’s a nice obituary in today’s Statesman for Tom Anderson, who passed away a few weeks ago.
Mr. Anderson was the carillon player at the University of Texas since…well, since Jesus was a private:
He played from 1952 until 1956 while a graduate student. In 1967, a year after he returned to UT to work in the international office, where he was assistant director, UT President Harry Ransom asked him to serve as carillonneur, and he continued to play until about three years ago.
I never met Mr. Anderson, but I remember when we toured the Tower some years back, he came up in conversation: the tour guide told us that he always said he was going to keep playing until he could no longer physically make the climb.
He was 93 when he died.
Marvin Kaplan has also passed away. He is perhaps best remembered as Henry Beesmeyer on “Alice”. though he was also in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “The Great Race”.
Finally, I intended to note this one earlier in the week, but the past few days have been hard. Jeremiah J. O’Keefe passed away on Tuesday. He was 93.
Mr. O’Keefe was a Corsair pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the “Death Rattlers”. During the course of his first combat mission, on April 22, 1945, he shot down six enemy planes.
The squadron claimed 23 of the 54 Japanese planes downed that day. Two other Death Rattlers also scored five or more kills. Maj. Jefferson D. Dorroh Jr., the squadron’s executive officer, downed six planes. Maj. George C. Axtell Jr., the commanding officer, scored five. An article on the battle in Time magazine carried the headline “One Deal, Three Aces.”
In a statement, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said that the decision not to disclose his condition was not made out of vanity but so that the many children who loved Wilder from his role as the eccentric candy-maker Willy Wonka wouldn’t feel worried or confused. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” Walker-Pearlman said.
In his first major role on Broadway, Mr. Wilder played the chaplain in a 1963 production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.” The production ran for less than two months, and he came to believe that he had been miscast. The good news was that he met the boyfriend of the star, Anne Bancroft: Mel Brooks, who wore a pea coat the night he met Mr. Wilder backstage and told him, “You know, they used to call these urine jackets, but they didn’t sell.”
Convicted Ponzi scammer and boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman.
(Remember O-Town? I do, but only because I had a friend who was into “Making the Band” at the time.)
Jack Riley has also passed away. He was in a whole bunch of stuff, including some of the lesser Mel Brooks movies, but he was best known and regarded (at least to me) as Elliot Carlin on “The Bob Newhart Show”.
I can’t really find a clip I like, but this one comes close:
For the record: John McLaughlin. Should have noted this yesterday, but the day got past me.
Two more obits: we were waiting for the NYT to do a David Huddleston obit. Now they have. And it includes a great photo of him and Cleavon Little from “Blazing Saddles”, too.
Yeah, we can see that.
Also among the dead: Chris Costner Sizemore. “Who?” The actual woman who the book (and movie) The Three Faces of Eve was based on.
Her new marriage turned out to be not an ending at all; she endured a fragmented identity until the mid-1970s, seeing several psychiatrists after Thigpen and Cleckley, until, in the care of a Virginia doctor, Tony Tsitos, her personalities — not three but more than 20, it turned out — were unified.
By most accounts, for the last four decades or so, Mrs. Sizemore lived a productive and relatively serene life as a mental health advocate and painter. She died on July 24 in Ocala, Fla. She was 89. Her son, Bobby Sizemore, said she had a heart attack.
The sunny narrative of Mrs. Sizemore’s triumphant second act was called into some question in 2012, when Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist specializing in dissociation, published a book, “The Rape of Eve,” in which he accused Dr. Thigpen of having exercised an unethical, Svengali-like influence over Mrs. Sizemore and manipulating her for nefarious purposes during and after his treatment of her ended. Dr. Thigpen died in 1999.
From the Department of I Kid You Not (talking about the campaign against the show, which was considered excessively violent and anti-Italian by some):
One prominent defender was Ayn Rand, who, writing in The Los Angeles Times, characterized “The Untouchables” as “profoundly moral.” Ms. Rand was particularly taken with Mr. Stack. His “superlative portrayal of Eliot Ness” was, she declared, “the most inspiring image on today’s screen, the only image of a real hero.”
Yes, we are trying to work on the DEFCON updates.