Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Obit watch: June 17, 2017.

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

Helmut Kohl, former German chancellor.

John G. Avildsen, noted film director. Among his credits were “The Karate Kid” and “Rocky”, the movie that shouldn’t have won Best Picture in 1977, but beat out the far superior “Network”.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anita Pallenberg, sometime actress:

In quick succession, she was cast in “Candy” (1968), based on Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s erotic novel, as a sexy nurse; in “Barbarella” (1968), Roger Vadim’s futuristic space fantasy, as a cruel brunette dictator who dresses in black lace and sparkles and calls Jane Fonda’s character “pretty-pretty”; and “Dillinger Is Dead” (1969), as a woman whose husband (Michel Piccoli) is inspired by a newspaper headline to shoot her.

She may, perhaps, have been better known for her relationships with Brian Jones (“who was reported to have physically abused her”) and after him, Keith Richards. (“She lived with Mr. Richards from 1967 through 1980, and had three children with him.”)

In 1977, Mr. Richards was arrested and charged with heroin possession in Toronto, and as a couple the two entered rehab.

Finally, there’s an interesting obit for Marine Corps Capt. Arthur J. Jackson, who passed away at 92 last Sunday.

During WwII, Jackson (at the time a private first class) committed serious acts of badassery during the invasion of Peleliu:

Loaded up with grenades, he charged the pillbox, raking it with automatic fire while discharging white phosphorus grenades and other explosives. He was credited with killing all 35 occupants.
Continuing alone and again at tremendous peril, he repeated the same maneuver at 11 smaller pillboxes that contained another 15 Japanese soldiers.

He received the Medal of Honor for his actions. After the war, he became a commissioned officer in the Army and then in the Marines.

On the night of September 30, 1961, as a company commander at Guantanamo Bay, he discovered a Cuban who worked as a bus driver (“even though he expressed openly pro-Fidel Castro sympathies and was under surveillance by naval intelligence”) in a restricted area of the base. Jackson and his executive officer decided to escort the Cuban, Ruben Lopez, off the base. But the gate they were using was locked: Jackson sent his XO to get something to break the lock with. And while the XO was gone, Jackson claimed that Lopez “lunged at him” so he shot and killed Lopez with his sidearm.

Jackson and some other Marines buried Lopez in a shallow grave on base. Cutting to the chase, the truth eventually came out, and Jackson was allegedly “thrown out” of the Marines.

Capt. Jackson, who said he long felt “ashamed” of his Guantanamo killing, did not speak publicly about the incident until an Idaho Statesman reporter interviewed him in 2013.
He said his key concern was his “understanding” of a treaty between the United States and Cuba that could have resulted in his detention in a notorious Cuban prison.
“I hoped no one would find out,” he told the newspaper. “The world found out.”

Obit watch: June 6, 2017.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Peter Sallis, knock-around British actor, has passed away at 96. (Edited to add 6/7: NYT obit.)

He was in a whole bunch of stuff, including a role on “Doctor Who” and voice work in the animated “The Wind in the Willows” TV series. In England, he may have been most famous for his role in the long running TV series, “Last Of the Summer Wine”: he played Norman Clegg from the start of the series in 1973 until it ended in 2010.

In the US, he may be better known as the original voice of Wallace in the Aardman Animations “Wallace & Gromit” films.

Tribute from Nick Park here.

Roger Smith, “Jeff Spencer” on “77 Sunset Strip”. He was also married to Ann-Margret and was her manager for many years. (edited to add: NYT obit.)

There’s a great story (recounted in Joe Bob Briggs’ Profoundly Erotic among other places): after Ann-Margaret fell in Lake Tahoe, Smith “commandeered” (some sources say “stole”) a small private plane and flew from Burbank to Lake Tahoe and back again, in some accounts through a thunderstorm, with his seriously injured wife, so she could get treatment and reconstructive surgery at UCLA instead of in Lake Tahoe. (As you know, Bob, she made a full recovery. My recollection is that the reconstructive surgery that UCLA did was actually cutting edge work for 1972.)

Obit watch: June 5, 2017.

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Jimmy Piersall, noted center fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

Piersall was an outstanding center fielder, a solid hitter and a two-time All-Star, playing in the major leagues for 17 seasons.

However, he was better known for off-field reasons:

The Red Sox demoted Piersall to the minors in June 1952, hoping he could gain control of his emotions, but his antics continued, and he entered a mental hospital in Massachusetts a month later. He remained hospitalized for six weeks, undergoing shock treatment and counseling for a nervous breakdown.

He returned to the Red Sox, and later wrote a book about his illness and recovery, Fear Strikes Out.

“Mr. Piersall’s courageous description of his struggles with manic depression, now called bipolar disorder, helped bring the disease and its treatments out of the shadows,” Dr. Barron H. Lerner, professor of medicine and population health at the New York University Langone Medical Center, wrote in The New York Times in 2015. “It was really a big deal 60 years ago.”

The book was also famously adapted as a movie, with Anthony Perkins playing Mr. Piersall.

“I hated the movie,” Piersall wrote in his 1985 memoir. Perkins, he said, gave a fine performance but looked foolish trying to play baseball. He maintained that the movie included events that had never happened, and that he had never blamed his father for his breakdown.

(The 1985 memoir is The Truth Hurts.)

And hey, I haven’t brought this up in a while!

Piersall later had broadcasting jobs with the Texas Rangers beginning in 1974 (doing color and play-by-play for televised games) and with the Chicago White Sox from 1977 to 1981, and was teamed with Harry Caray. He ultimately was fired after excessive on-air criticism of team management.

Yes, Jimmy Piersall does indeed show up in Mike Shropshire’s Seasons in Hell. As I recall, at one point he threatens to beat the crap out of Shropshire: they later made up when the team was sold and the new owner hired Mr. Piersall as a salesman and doubled his salery.

Very brief notes on film.

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Lawrence, on Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye:

Let’s not watch this again.

Also:

It’s more competently directed than Manos, The Hands of Fate at least…

Obit watch: May 23, 2017.

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Anne Dick, Philip K. Dick’s third wife. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

Roger Moore.

(Edited to add: NYT obit, which was not up when I posted earlier.)

Followup: apparently, and contrary to the NYT report which I relied on, G.I. Joe had two daddies.

Obit watch: May 15, 2017.

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Powers Boothe, noted knock-around actor.

He attended Southwest Texas State University — he said he was the first one in his family to go to college — and then received a master’s degree in drama from Southern Methodist University.

(Apologies for not posting this earlier, but it took a while for the NYT to post their obit, and none of the other sites that had obits posted were ones I wanted to link to.)

Obit watch: April 27, 2017.

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Jonathan Demme passed away yesterday. Which is a damn shame, because I wanted to ask him why he thought it was a good idea to remake “Charade” and “The Manchurian Candidate”.

But I suppose I have to give him a pass for those. “The Silence of the Lambs” is a faithful adaptation of the book, and a great movie it its own right.

And not that he ever needed it, but he would have earned a lifetime pass from me for “Stop Making Sense”.

Come to think of it, “Swimming To Cambodia” was a swell movie, too.

And I actually saw “Swing Shift” when it was in theaters, but I was unaware of the whole editing controversy, and really don’t remember the movie well at this distance. It might be worth a re-watch, but I think I want to see “Melvin and Howard” and “Handle With Care”/”Citizens Band” first.

Obit watch: April 7, 2017.

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Don Rickles: NYT. LAT. AV Club.

Joe Harris passed away on March 26th, though the NYT didn’t get around to reporting it until a week later. Mr. Harris was a commercial illustrator who is credited with creating the original Trix rabbit. Later on, he joined Total TeleVison, a company that produced Saturday morning cartoons. There he created Underdog.

Yeah, the animation may not have been great, but it did have one of the best cartoon theme songs ever.

Question for the huddled, wretched masses yearning to breathe free: what are some of the other great cartoon theme songs? Off the top of my head, I love the themes for “SuperChicken” and “George of the Jungle” (I have been known to quote the “SuperChicken” theme at work.) Oddly enough, I also have fond memories of the “Hong Kong Phooey” theme (and when are we going to get a live action “Hong Kong Phooey” movie?). Am I just a sucker for good theme songs wrapped around bad animation?

Obit watch: April 5, 2017.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Radley Metzger, film director. (“The Opening of Misty Beethoven”, “Camille 2000″)

I realize this is a little obscure, even by my standards. But I’d actually heard of Radley Metzger by way of Roger Ebert’s memorable review of “Camille 2000″. (I believe this is reprinted in I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a book every film buff should have.)

So that made 85 times he had seen “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Eighteen times to go. I wonder if he was the guy who sat behind me the last time I saw it at the Clark. He was reciting the dialog under his breath and when the usher protested, he flashed a card with the name Fred C. Dobbs on it.

True crime notes.

Monday, March 20th, 2017

I don’t want to seem like I’m making light of this story: it’s awful, and I hope the victims are able to achieve some level of peace.

But when you see a headline like

Vegas jury convicts War Machine of 29 counts

on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s website, it gets your attention.

“War Machine”, in this case, is Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver.

Koppenhaver went by his birth name during the two-week trial but had legally changed it to War Machine during his 19-fight MMA career.

The jury deadlocked on attempted murder charges, but found him guilty of the other crimes. It isn’t clear to me if those include the eight counts of “domestic battery” that his lawyer conceded to.

He could face up to life in prison.

And I hope he does every damn day of it.

[The female victim – DB] testified that Koppenhaver attacked her after [the male victim – DB] left. The jury saw photos of [the female victim] with a broken nose, missing teeth, fractured eye socket and leg injuries. She also suffered a lacerated liver.

In other words, he beat the shit out of them both. But he apparently reserved special attention for her.

[The female victim] said she fled her home and ran bleeding to neighbors when Koppenhaver went to the kitchen to fetch a knife.

He has been serving a 1½- to four-year sentence for violating his probation on a 2009 conviction for attempted battery involving a 21-year-old woman.

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On what I hope is at least a slightly less depressing note, here’s something I stumbled across in my reading over the weekend, but haven’t had time to dig into in depth: Taylorology. This apparently started out as a zine in the old pre-Internet/”Factsheet Five” days, but eventually migrated online.

What’s it all about? Quoting the introduction:

TAYLOROLOGY is a newsletter focusing on the life and death of William Desmond Taylor, a top Paramount film director in early Hollywood who was shot to death on February 1, 1922. His unsolved murder was one of Hollywood’s major scandals. This newsletter will deal with: (a) The facts of Taylor’s life; (b) The facts and rumors of Taylor’s murder; (c) The impact of the Taylor murder on Hollywood and the nation; (d) Taylor’s associates and the Hollywood silent film industry in which Taylor worked. Primary emphasis will be given on reprinting, referencing and analyzing source material, and sifting it for accuracy.

The Taylor murder is one of those great unsolved Hollywood mysteries that everyone seems to have a theory about; some of those theories may even have an element of truth to them. Bruce Long, who runs Taylorology, has collected a great deal of archival material related to the Taylor case. And he’s a man after my own heart: he mentions in the biographical information on his site that he first became interested in the case when he was nine.

When I have some spare time (mumble years from now, the way things are going) I’d like to dig deeper into this site. One thing I can give Mr. Long credit for: he’s steered me away from purchasing one of the more famous books on the case. (Actually, I stumbled across Taylorology by reading another book on the case that references the website. Apologies for being elliptical, but I may do a brief review of the second book in the near future.)

Welles. Welles Welles Welles. Welles.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Netflix has signed on to help complete and release “The Other Side of the Wind”, Orson Welles’ legendary last and unfinished film.

I do want to see this, even though I don’t have Netflix (and won’t pay for it just for this). I have a pretty strong suspicion that this is…not going to be good. But hey, Welles! (What I’m really hoping for is a Criterion package like they did for “F Is For Fake”.)

(And can someone explain to me why I keep confusing “The Other Side of the Wind” with The Wind Done Gone?)

Other unrelated stuff:

By way of Lawrence, follow-up on Captain Bill Dowling and his funeral. (Previously.)

“He was a mean son-of-a-buck, but very tender-hearted … and very competitive,” John Dowling said Tuesday of his older brother. “He made the best out of it. He didn’t get sour, he didn’t get upset. The life lesson he could teach the world – no matter what your situation, you can choose to be happy.”

From the WP: a summary of the players in the “Fat Leonard” scandal, including the eight recent indictments.

Edited to add: One other minor follow-up that I forgot to add: the NYT obit for Mother Divine. I don’t think it adds much over the WP obit, but I did want to note it for the historical record.

Obit watch: March 7, 2017.

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Robert Osborne, the Turner Classic Movies guy. I wish I had more to say about him, but I rarely have cable and thus rarely watch TCM.

Dr. Thomas Starzl, noted surgeon. Among other accomplishments, he did the first liver transplants and pioneered the use of anti-rejection drugs.

Dr. Starzl later described those early liver transplants as both a “test of endurance” and “a curious exercise in brutality.” It involved, he explained, “brutality as you’re taking the liver out, then sophistication as you put it back in and hook up all of these little bile ducts and other structures.”