Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Aux armes, citoyens, Formez vos bataillons, Marchons, marchons!

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

I could claim that I wanted to split this out into a separate obit for reasons. Which is true, but I also didn’t find this one until after the previous post.

The WP is reporting the death of Madeleine LeBeau at the age of 92.

Ms. LeBeau (sometimes credited as Lebeau) was the last surviving credited cast member of “Casablanca” (1942), which the American Film Institute lists as the second greatest movie of all time. “Citizen Kane” is No. 1, according to the film preservation group.

Ms. LeBeau played Yvonne, the girlfriend Rick throws over. She’s also in my favorite scene from what is one of my favorite movies ever:

I believe Ms. LeBeau is the teary eyed woman about 1:30 in, the one who isn’t Bergman and isn’t holding the guitar. Interestingly, Ms. LeBeau’s then-husband, Marcel Dalio, was Emil the croupier (“Your winnings, sir.”)

Ms. LeBeau made her screen debut in a 1939 drama, “Young Girls in Trouble.”

One of her last film roles was in “8 1/2”.

Edited to add 5/17: NYT obit.

Obit watch: April 14, 2016.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Two! Two! Two themes in one!

Theme 1: people who had interesting lives and careers.

Anne Jackson, noted actress.

Ms. Jackson, who had endured a difficult life growing up in Brooklyn, carved out an impressive stage career of her own. Critics hailed her range and the subtlety of her characterizations — including all the women, from a middle-aged matron to a grandmother, in David V. Robison’s “Promenade, All!” (1972) — and a housewife verging on hysteria in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absent Friends” (1977).

She was also married to Eli Wallach from 1948 until he died in 2014. And they were good together:

They both won Obie Awards for their work in Mr. Schisgal’s 1963 Off Broadway double bill, “The Typists” and “The Tiger.” They also starred in his hit 1964 Broadway comedy, “Luv,” directed by Mike Nichols, which ran 901 performances and won three Tony Awards, and in another pair of Schisgal one-acts, “Twice Around the Park,” on Broadway in 1982.

Arthur Anderson. He was perhaps most famous as the voice of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. But he did a lot of other stuff, including working with Orson Welles:

After acting in “The Mercury Theater on the Air,” Mr. Anderson was cast in 1937 as Lucius, the herald to the 22-year-old Welles’s Brutus, in a Broadway production of “Julius Caesar” set in Fascist Italy. Arthur sang, accompanying himself on a ukulele camouflaged as a lute.
His most memorable moment during the show occurred offstage. After heeding an order to stop hurling light bulbs at a brick wall, he decided to light matches to test the melting point of the sprinkler heads. Besides setting off a fire alarm, he triggered a deluge just as Brutus ascended the pulpit above the body of Caesar on the stage below.

Remember, folks, the sprinkler is not a toy, nor is it a load-bearing device.

Theme 2: the death penalty.

Jack H. Smith passed away a few days ago.

Mr. Smith had convictions for robbery-assault and theft in 1955 and another robbery-assault conviction in 1959 that earned him a life prison term. He also had a prison escape attempt in 1963.
He was paroled from his life sentence on Jan. 8, 1977, after serving 17 years. One day short of a year later, on Jan. 7, 1978, Mr. Smith and an accomplice were arrested in the killing of Roy A. Deputter, who was shot to death while trying to stop a holdup at a Houston convenience store known as Corky’s Corner.

Mr. Smith’s accomplice testified against him and was sentenced to life. Mr. Smith was sentenced to death:

Mr. Smith, a former welder who completed only six years of school, arrived on death row on Oct. 9, 1978, and remained there until his death.

Joe Freeman Britt also passed away a few days ago. He was a prosecutor in North Carolina:

As the district attorney for Robeson and Scotland Counties from 1974 to 1988, Mr. Britt oversaw cases that led to more than 40 death sentences. Only two of the defendants were executed — appeals court rulings led to many altered sentences, and some suspects were later exonerated [Emphasis added: -DB] — but his courtroom record ranked him at one point among the country’s most prolific advocates for capital punishment.

After his time as a prosecutor, he became a judge:

Mr. Britt’s candidacy for the court seat was not without controversy. His opponent, a Native American, died in what the authorities concluded was a domestic dispute. The death essentially guaranteed a victory for Mr. Britt, and it prompted a period of unease and suspicion. Investigators, however, never accused Mr. Britt or his supporters of wrongdoing.

Obit watch: April 8, 2016.

Friday, April 8th, 2016

E.M. Nathanson.

Nathanson was perhaps most famous as the author of The Dirty Dozen, based on a story told to him by Russ Meyer (!) and adapted into a movie that I’ve never actually seen. I wonder if Lawrence has a copy…

Obit watch: April 5, 2016.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Winston Moseley is burning in hell.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell with you, and you think I’m being harsh: Moseley is the man who killed Kitty Genovese.

Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.

I apologize for quoting at length from the NYT obit, but there are some interesting things in it that deserve to be called out. For example:

While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.
But the account of 38 witnesses heartlessly ignoring a murderous attack was widely disseminated and took on a life of its own, shocking the national conscience and starting an avalanche of academic studies, investigations, films, books, even a theatrical production and a musical. The soul-searching went on for decades, long after the original errors were debunked, evolving into more parable than fact but continuing to reinforce images of urban Americans as too callous or fearful to call for help, even with a life at stake.


Captured five days later during a burglary, Mr. Moseley confessed to the murders of Ms. Genovese and two other Queens residents: Annie Mae Johnson, 24, who had been shot and burned to death in her South Ozone Park apartment in February, and Barbara Kralik, 15, who had been stabbed in her parents’ Springfield Gardens home the previous July. Both women had been sexually assaulted.
Mr. Moseley was never tried for murdering Ms. Johnson or Ms. Kralik, though he recited details only the killer could have known, the police said. He testified at the trial of Alvin Mitchell, who had already been charged in Ms. Kralik’s murder. The conflicting accounts left a hung jury. Mr. Mitchell was convicted in a second trial.

Well. I wonder what happened to Mr. Mitchell. (I tried a Google search, but “Alvin Mitchell” is too common a name.)

In 1968, on the visit to a Buffalo hospital for treatment of a self-inflicted injury at Attica, Mr. Moseley overpowered a guard, took his gun and fled. In his several days on the loose, he took five hostages and raped a woman before he was finally recaptured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He received two 15-year terms, to run concurrently with his life sentence.

That’s something I didn’t know. (It is perhaps worth noting that Moseley was originally sentenced to death for the Genovese murder, but had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment on appeal.)

Also among the dead, and one I’ve been meaning to note: Adrienne Corri, actress, perhaps most famous for her role in “A Clockwork Orange”.

Erik Bauersfeld.

Obit watch: March 9, 2016.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

I have to note this one: Kathryn Popper has passed away at the age of 100.

Ms. Popper had a very small, almost microscopic, role in “Citizen Kane“: she appears as a photographer at the very end of the movie, and has two lines.

According to the NYT, she was the last surviving person to have appeared in the film: Jean Forward Baker, who dubbed Susan Alexander’s voice, is still alive.

Her first visit to New York was with Welles to promote “Citizen Kane.” She moved to the city a year later, befriended many celebrities, wrote a hibachi cookbook and never left.

I’m guessing this is the cookbook?

Also among the dead: George Martin, noted record producer, perhaps most famous for his work producing an overrated mediocre band with a few toe-tappers.

Random notes: March 1, 2016.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

The HouChron ran an article about the various official state weapons, tied to Tennessee naming the Barrett M82 as the official state rifle.

Problem is, as part of the continuing creeping BuzzFeedification of the HouChron, it was a shallow slideshow. So instead I’ll link to Wikipedia’s list. Thoughts:

  • Pennsylvania, Indiana, and West Virginia have all named historic firearms. Hard to argue with those, especially the long rifle.
  • Arizona has the Colt Single Action Army revolver, which is a fine gun, but doesn’t seem to be uniquely Arizonan, so to speak. I guess there’s that whole Wild West association…
  • I guess if you’re going to pick a gun to represent native son John Moses Browning, the 1911 is a fine choice. For a pistol. Now how about the Winchester Model 1894 as the official state rifle, guys?
  • And speaking of Winchesters, yes, it does fill me with indescribable delight down to the very bottom of my shriveled coal-black heart that Alaska’s state rifle is the pre-64 Model 70.
  • Hey, whatever happened to that movement to make the Walker Colt the Texas state gun, anyway?

In other news, Lawrence’s review of “Hail, Caeser!” is up. I think he liked it more that I did, but I also don’t think we’re all that far apart on it. Elaborating on a couple of Lawrence’s points (some spoilers):

  • I like Hobie’s character arc, too. He seems to be underplaying how smart he really is for much of the movie, but there’s a scene between him and Eddie Mannix that made me think, “Wow, Eddie’s going to leave the studio for Lockheed…and Hobie’s going to become the new fixer.” He could pull that off. But what I liked even more was the scenes between Alden Ehrenreich’s Hobie and Veronica Osorio’s Carlotta Valdez (basically Carmen Miranda with the serial numbers filed off). Those two actors are totally convincing as a couple that’s surprisingly good together. Lawrence talked about wanting to see the imaginary movies within the movie more than the actual movie itself: I agree. And I’d also love to see a movie about Hobie and Carlotta, and their rise from cowboy actor/Latin singer-dancer to deeply in love Hollywood power couple over a period of, say, 50 years.
  • The Thora Thacker / Thessaly Thacker thing is a clever gag that just didn’t quite work for me. But there’s the gem of another good movie in there: identical twins who are bitter childhood rivals and become bitter adult rivals, both working the Hollywoood gossip industry…I’d watch that movie, too, especially if the Coen brothers directed it.
  • Where did the police raid on the Communist house come from? Did Hobie call the cops before pulling Baird Whitlock out? Did he call Eddie, who called the cops? Did somebody on shore spot the Russian submarine and call the Coast Guard? Was there something I missed, or did a scene perhaps get cut?

Obit watch: March 1, 2016.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

George Kennedy. NYT. A/V Club.

Yes, yes, Naked Gun. But also “Cool Hand Luke”.

And this thought isn’t original to me, though I don’t remember where I first encountered it: Joe Patroni had a rather interesting aviation career. He started out as a mechanic in “Airport“, and wound up pilot in command (?) of the Concorde nine years later. (I honestly don’t remember what he did in the other two “Airport” movies, but he was in them, and was the only actor to appear in all four.)

(Interestingly, Wikipedia says Kennedy was a pilot in real life.)

Edited to add: I intended to also mention (but ran out of time) Kennedy’s two police series:

  • “Sarge”, which I’m a little young to remember; I think we were watching “Five-0” at the time, anyway. But “Sarge”, as the Wikipedia entry notes, was showing up on RTN for a while as part of “The Bold Ones” wheel. (This is odd, as “Sarge” was really more of an “Ironside” spinoff.)
  • “The Blue Knight”, which should be closer to what I’m able to remember, but I don’t think I ever saw an episode of it. That’s odd, as it would have been right up my alley. I think it was right around this time that I read Wambaugh’s book

Random notes: February 22, 2016.

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Two from the NYT:

Save the endangered Long Island skeet!

Harper Lee was a big fan of Opus. Yes, the penguin, from “Bloom County”.

Mr. Breathed could barely believe what he was reading: “How ironic is that here, she is desperately upset that I’m letting my character die for her when millions around the world, for generations, have been upset that she let her characters end?” he said, referring to Ms. Lee’s never publishing another book until the contentious release of “Go Set a Watchman” last year.

Borepatch left a most gracious note on the last obit watch, which was much appreciated. I’ve been feeling like all I do is write obit watches these days. It also feels kind of lazy sometimes; but I like to think that there’s some historical value, if not now perhaps in the next few years, in noting these deaths and how they were covered.

And every once in a while you find an obit for someone who didn’t get the attention that Harper Lee or Scalia got, but deserves some attention. Speaking of that…

And speaking of lazy, I do have some longer pieces I want to write. Some of them are still in draft status, waiting for things to come together. Then there are some things that I expected to be able to write longer form entries about that just haven’t materialized yet.

I’d love to be able to write about my ongoing experiences with the Austin Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy, for example. But we’re only two sessions in and the first one was mostly back-patting. I’m hoping that there will be things that are worth writing about (and that I can write about without breaking any rules) soon. (If you’re really interested in the actual police academy and the training process, there’s a set of videos up on YouTube.)

Quick movie note: Lawrence and I went to see “Hail, Caesar!” yesterday. Lawrence liked it more than I did. I don’t think it is a bad movie, but it seemed slight and insubstantial.

We watched “Burn After Reading” a few weeks ago, and I liked that a little more: it may have something to do with almost everyone in “Burn” being utterly insane. (Especially John Malkovich’s character; but then, Malkovich adds that extra special touch to everything he’s in. I’m still not going to see “Zoolander 2”, though.)

TL,DR: wait for “Hail, Ceaser!” on streaming.

Obit watch: January 27, 2016.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

For the historical record, Abe Vigoda: NYT. A/V Club.

I loved “Barney Miller” (and really need to pick up the complete box set when it gets cheap), and I don’t remember being a fan of “Fish”. And I actually saw the Broadway revival of “Arsenic and Old Lace” with Vigoda and Jean Stapleton the last time I was in NYC. That was a lot of fun.

But the one thing that stands out for me when I think about Vigoda is this:

It might be because I saw it again recently, but I think this is an amazing scene. Watch Vigoda’s face, and the range of emotions he goes through: shock, disappointment, resignation, and that heartbreaking last line: “Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times’ sake?” Who else could have played that scene?

Obit watch: January 14, 2016.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Alan Rickman: NYT. A/V Club.

I was actually going to embed my favorite Rickman moment here, but the NYT beat me to it.

I’d kind of like to see Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny, but I’m not going to pay $150 for the DVD…

TMQ Watch: January 12, 2016.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

As always, after the jump, this week’s TMQ


Obit watch: January 11, 2016.

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Florence King: NYT.

The cultural boils Miss King sought so vigorously to lance included:
Political correctness; feminism (“Feminists will not be satisfied,” she wrote, “until every abortion is performed by a gay black doctor under an endangered tree on a reservation for handicapped Indians”); environmentalism; the antismoking lobby; sentiment; intimacy; weakness; special pleading; lack of breeding (“No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street”); gay liberation; far rightism; far leftism; mild to moderate leftism; democracy (“I believe in a Republic of Merit in which water is allowed to find its own level, where voters, like drivers, are tested before being turned loose”); the Constitution; children (“In order to molest a child you must first be in the same room with a child, and I don’t know how perverts stand it”); the human race.


Angus Scrimm also passed away over the weekend. He knocked around quite a bit, doing guest shots on various TV series (including “Alias” and “Trapper John M.D.”) and movies. He was perhaps best known as “The Tall Man” from the “Phantasm” movies. Interestingly, he also wrote liner notes for Capitol Records:

During his tenure at Capitol, Scrimm penned liner notes for artists like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and even the Beatles under the byline “Rory Guy”; he won a Grammy in 1974 for “Best Album Notes, Classical” for Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Even after the success of Phantasm, Scrimm continued to write liner notes.