Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Jorge in Sao Paulo, Martin in Derry & Colin, and Donal.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

RIP, Twinkle

One of the odder 1960s pop careers ended recently with the death of Twinkle (1948-2015). Who? you may ask ..... Twinkle was a 60s dolly bird who had a brief pop career in 1964 - just the one hit actually: "Terry" a mawkish lament to a dead motorcycle boyfriend. I can vaguely remember it, it reached Number 4 in December 1964, when I was 18. 

Like Marianne Faithfull or Joanna Lumley, Twinkle was actually a posh bird (real name Lynn Ripley) and enjoyed her fleeting fame, touring with the young Rolling Stones, she wrote "Terry" when she was 14 - her boyfriend was Des Cluskey, one of The Bachelors (don't ask), who helped her secure a contract with Decca. Soon, she was on THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS and other pop vehicles. She later married Graham Rogers (who was The Milk Tray Man in the TV adverts) and she later performed on the 60s nostalgia circuit. RIP Twinkle. 

Grant & Stewart -v- Cooper & Gable ...

Cary Grant and James Stewart now seem the most popular and timeless of the classic male stars – maybe each having done 4 films with Hitchcock, which are always on show somewhere, helps? (NOTORIOUS, REAR WINDOW, VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST are certainly timeless classics). Whereas Clark Gable and Gary Cooper seem not as popular now and did not leave any late classics for us to mull over –well, apart from the elegaic THE MISFITS for Gable …

Both Grant and Stewart also had runs of popular films in the second half of the Fiftes; Grant squiring the likes of Kelly, Kerr, Bergman, Loren and continuing into the Sixties with the tailormade hit CHARADE, before bowing out in 1966; whereas Stewart also that run of Anthony Mann westerns and popular hits like THE GLENN MILLER STORY and ANATOMY OF A MURDER, he too continued into the Sixties playing bumbling fathers in Fox comedies and still busy in westerns.

Gable and Cooper though had gone by the dawn of the Sixties – Gable dying at 59 in 1960, and Cooper aged 60 in 1961. Like Spencer Tracy they seem to have aged rapidly, perhaps after years of hard living. Their later films, while entertaining and popular enough at the time, do not get much exposure these days ... more on them at labels. 

Wyler’s FRIENDLY PERSUASION may be Coop’s last big hit, in 1956, we like it a lot and he is perfect in it.. He followed this with LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON which - despite Audrey Hepburn -  was a lesser-seen Wilder (which did not work for me at all), then a Jerry Wald literary adaptation (from O’Hara) for Fox: TEN NORTH FREDERICK, and two tough westerns: Mann’s MAN OF THE WEST and Daves’ THE HANGING TREE, in Rossen’s turgid THEY CAME TO CORDURA in 1959 he and Rita Hayworth are both touching – two beauties ravaged by time (what a difference 20 years makes), and he finished with two Michael Anderson thrillers made in England: he is effective in THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE with Heston, but ill-at-ease as the murder suspect (as if he would kill Deborah Kerr!) in the weak THE NAKED EDGE in 1961.

Gable after some routine westerns scored with Doris Day in TEACHER’S PET, and guyed his older image in the delightful BUT NOT FOR ME with Lilli Palmer and Carroll Baker in 1959, and was then off to romance Sophia Loren (30 years younger than him) in the popular IT STARTED IN NAPLES (left) before returning to the States for the tough shoot of THE MISFITS for Huston. Did all the delays and doing those stunts with the horses bring on his early demise? He certainly looked sadly aged here.

Perhaps if they – Coop and Gable – had the longevity of Grant and Stewart we may have seen more from them and maybe some more classics – not from Hitchcock though, by the Sixties he was using younger actors: Rod Taylor, Connery, Newman. 
Perhaps the Grant and Stewart personas with their constant sense of humour (even in serious roles)  fitted in better with suit-and-tie mid-century America, and those Hitchcocks certainly helped, Gable and Coop seemed more at home at war or out west. Gable used to finish at 5.00pm every day regardless and seemed happy doing mainly routine fare, cast with the likes of Lana Turner, Jane Russell or Ava Gardner. At least his later films got him Doris Day, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, and of course he had those constant revivals of GONE WITH THE WIND to keep his brand alive. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Cannes 2015

An email from the BFI on the Cannes Prize winners. 
French director Jacques Audiard has won this year’s Palme d’Or for his drama Dheepan, the story of a Tamil refugee trying to make a new life in France. A Cannes veteran, Audiard previously competed for the top prize with his 2012 film Rust and Bone and won the Grand Prix for A Prophet in 2010.
This year’s Grand Prix was awarded to the Holocaust drama Son of Saul, the acclaimed debut film by Hungarian director László Nemes, while the festival’s Jury Prize went to The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and backed by the BFI Film Fund.
Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien took best director for his venture into the martial arts genre with The Assassin, with best screenplay going to Mexican writer-director Michel Franco for the emotional Chronic, starring Tim Roth.
Many people’s favourite for the best actor prize, Roth lost out to Vincent Lindon for The Measure of a Man (La Loi du marche). The best actress award was shared between Rooney Mara for Todd Haynes’s much-heralded Patricia Highsmith adaptation, Carol, and Emmanuelle Bercot for Maïwenn’s Mon roi.

Left: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Justin Kurzel's pared down MACBETH - marvellojus reports on this, we cannot wait to see it, seems its up there with the Polanski and Welles versions. HAMLET may be my most-seen Shakespeare (6 films and 6 stage productions to write about..) but I have always loved the wild poetry and imagery of 'The Scottish Play; ...(I also have the Nicol Williamson and Ian McKellen filmed theatre versions to report on). 

French new wave veteran Agnès Varda, director of classics such as Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), was honoured with a special lifetime achievement Palme.
It is the first time the coveted award goes to a woman and has only been given out three times before -- to Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci. It recognises "renowned directors whose works have achieved a global impact but who have nevertheless never won the Palme d’Or".
We have liked Varda, now 86  - right, ever since her CLEO 5 TO 7 and LE BONHEUR and her film about her husband Jacques Demy JACQUOT DE NANTES, and her later BEACHES OF AGNES. She has also been honoured this year at Brighton where she has had an exhibition. 
Cannes remains a byword for fashion and glamour, its been amusing seeing people with no movie to promote still posing on the red carpet as though they are important ... 

Cannes as usual as highlighted some fascinating films coming our way, even if, as in the case of CAROL (see Highsmith label) we will have to wait till end of the year to see them, during the next Award Season buildup .... Then there is THE LOBSTER and that new Deneuve STANDING TALL, and again, MACBETH ...

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Yes vote for Eurovision

Its the annual campfest of Eurovision again, now in its 60th year, and coming live tonight from Vienna. Somehow, though its a laughable show people do not take seriously, Eurovision seems to be bigger than ever. Tonight 27 countries are competing (which makes it a marathon slog) to out-sing, out-camp and out-glitter each other - including Australia ! - don't ask, but the show is very popular there, so if they win will it be from Sydney next year? The odds though are on Sweden, with a great modern song and a hunky guy (Mans Zermerlow and "Heroes" - though Russia, Israel and Italy are also strong this year. Pity Ireland did not, once again, make the final cut. 
Here I am (below, left) on Eurovision night 1970 - ok, 45 years ago ... with best pal Stan, and his Italian friend Giorgio. Irish singer Dana won that night. Of course back then in that pre-internet world it was an achievement by the BBC to get all these European countries connected by television, and Katie Boyle would announce the results on those old scoreboards. In those days Eurovision was ruled by France, Italy, Monaco and Ireland. Abba, Celine Dion and others were launched on the show. Then it became a byword for kitsch, as people held Eurovision themed parties, and then once Eastern Europe joined they all began voting for each other - the best part of the show is often the results as one sees who has voted for who. It will all be forgotten of course by tomorrow, until next time. 
Other excitements in Ireland though, as they are counting the results on yesterday's referendum on same sex marriage, and the it seems it will be a YES, though by what majority we are not sure yet .... its actually quite emotional seeing much Ireland has changed since the country I left in 1964 when 18 .... (62%),
Yes, it was a win for Sweden as 40 counties voted - Sweden, Russia and Italy were soon the top three, leap-frogging over each other until Sweden had a clear untoppable lead. Maybe the video projections incorporated into the song swung it -or hunky Mans in his leather trousers? Poor UK, bottom of the league again with just 5 points ...at least not down to Zero like Germany or Poland. 

Winchester '73 in 1950

I remembered seeing WINCHESTER '73 as a kid, at one of those Sunday matinees, when us '50s kids saw revivals of older movies (the 1942 costumer, Tyrone Power's SON OF FURY was another favourte), but had not seen it since. Catching it this week it is indeed a classic western, full of great moments and Anthony Mann certainly keeps us watching, as that gun is passed on from owner to owner and back to James Stewart, who won it initially. Stewart and Mann made a great series of westerns, some of which are classics of the genre: THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, THE FAR COUNTRY, THE NAKED SPUR, BEND OF THE RIVER etc. (I like Stewart's 1957 NIGHT PASSAGE too, though it not by Mann). Like Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher they were a great time, and not just in westerns. (Mann also did that delicious Trash Classic I love: SERENADE in 1956 with Mario Lanza and Joan Fontaine, as well of course as epics like EL CID and FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, he created some great widescreen images.) 

In a marksmanship contest, Lin McAdam wins a prized Winchester rifle, which is immediately stolen by the runner-up, Dutch Henry Brown. This "story of a rifle" then follows McAdams' pursuit, and the rifle as it changes hands, until a final showdown and shoot-out on a rocky mountain precipice. 

Great set-pieces include the Indians attacking the cavalry troop (Tony Curtis, left, has a few moments here as a young trooper) while a pre-hunk Rock Hudson (above) is the Indian chief intent of warfare and getting those new guns for himself. 
Dan Duryea is splendidly repellent as usual, and Steve McNally provides a good final shoot-out with Stewart. Venal Charles Drake is travelling with saloon girl Shelley Winters and they have some good moments too, particularly when the Redskins attack.  Jay C. Flippen and John McIntrye are good support too. 
This remains one western one can enjoy anytime, it would probably get shown more often if it had been in colour. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Its a penny serenade in 1941

George Stevens' PENNY SERENADE from 1941 is one Cary Grant-Irene Dunne film I had not seen before, I love them in THE AWFUL TRUTH in 1937 and quite liked them (with Cary's pal Randolph Scott) in MY FAVOURITE WIFE in 1940, but this 1941 I never somehow got around to and it did have a sort of mawkish reputation .... so here it is, and I am rather amazed by it.

As Julie prepares to leave her husband Roger, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, which reminds her of events in their marriage. One is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back as she ponders their present problems and how they arose ....

Grant is a surprise here with his family man role, quite different from the sophisticated characters he usually played, and has a great scene when the judge is going to take their child back because of his lack of income. Irene Dunne is natural and warm and often quietly funny as she is in many of those movies of hers that we like, like Margaret Sullavan she should be a lot better appreciated now - they never play a false note. George Stevens, as in GIANT and others, creates marvellous moments as we follow our leads through the ups and downs of family life and the sadness which is part of the whole damn thing, as she has a miscarriage.due to an earthquake (well-staged) when they are in Japan - and one knows something awful is going to happen to their adopted girl at that Christmas play, which teeters on the edge of mawkish sentimentality. It is a bittersweet story dealing with infant death and possible divorce, and how some couples just have to have children to be complete, and the ending seems quite far-fetched but I suppose believeable for that Forties audience. Edgar Buchanan and Beulah Bondi provide solid support. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Stella, 1955

Melina Mercouri's first film (at the age of 35) STELLA, directed by Michael Cacoyannis, is an astonishing drama, a Greek version of CARMEN .... one watches fascinated as this tale of love and revenge builds to a stunning crescendo. 

Stella is a taverna singer who has romances but doesn't want to compromise and settle down. She hates the idea of marriage, particularly to a man who wants her to stay at home with babies and in fact lock her up. She is a restless, rebellious Greek woman who plays with men and enjoys her life as much as she can. But when she meets a young football player Mitso, things get complicated. He forces her to agree to their marriage and he and his mother fix the date, but Stella realises she cannot go through with it, despite knowing how the jealous Mitso will react. The stage is set for a Greek tragedy.

Melina is marvellous in the early scenes, fascinating all the men, whom we see doing those Greek dances and enjoying their masculine culture in the bars and taverns. Women are very much subordinate here - apart from free-living Stella. 
She tires of her current beau - Aleko - despite he having bought a piano for her; he later kills himself.. Once she and the sporty Mitso set eyes on each other, their passions erupt ...... We also get to know Stella's pals at the tavern, the girl who is jealous of her success with men and the older woman who tries to protect her. There is also a pertinent scene with Mitso's mother who makes it clear what her son expects in a wife and how it is best not to thwart him ... but Stella, like CARMEN will face her own destiny. Instead of going to her wedding she goes dancing with that 19 year old admirer dancing into a frenzy, as does Mitso back at the taverna .... 

George Foundas is Mitso - he was also in Cacoyannis's ZORBA THE GREEK where he also stabs the Greek widow (Irene Papas) whom his son killed himself over. 
STELLA was at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 where Mercouri met Jules Dassin whom she married - their NEVER ON SUNDAY was that sensation in 1960 and all their work was at least interesting. The vivid music score here is by Manos Hadjidakis. Cacoyannis went on to several other fascinating movies like THE TROJAN WOMEN and odd misfires like THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT in 1967 (Trash label), and of course the huge hit of ZORBA ...
This was the mercurial Mercouri's first cinema role and Melina (1920-1994) mesmerises here, as indeed she did in most of her roles: in NEVER ON SUNDAY, PHAEDRA, Dassin's LA LOI, TOPKAPI, 10.30 PM SUMMER and the rest. Check the Melina label for more reviews. 

As I mentioned in other posts, I had an afternoon with Melina back in 1968 when she led a march and demonstration in Trafalgar Square in London protesting about poverty in Biafra, Africa. I was an idealistic 22 year old and Melina led the march, resplendent in a long red dress and lots of gold chains. She of course became a Greek MP and campaigned for the return of those Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Mary Renault: the history woman (and Nancy too...)

How nice to come across a full page feature on Mary Renault in the weekend papers .... as the writer of the article, Bettany Hughes, will be discussing Renault at the Hay Literary Festival (here in the UK) later this month. 

Renault (1905-1983), maybe rather forgotten now, was the author of those great historical novels which my generation grew up on: THE CHARIOTEER (an early 'gay interest' title, about two gay servicemen in the 1940s, it could not be published in America until 1959), THE KING MUST DIE, THE BULL FROM THE SEA, THE MASK OF APOLLO, THE PRAISE SINGER and in particular those novels about Alexander The Great, which I loved and read several times: FIRE FROM HEAVEN about the young Alexander and THE PERSIAN BOY ("one of the greatest historical novels ever written" capturing the ancient world completely) about when Alexander was Great and conquering the known world as he ventured into Persia and beyond. There was also a third novel FUNERAL GAMES about the aftermath of Alexander' death in 323 BC. She also wrote a non-fiction account of Alexander: THE NATURE OF ALEXANDER.

Renault herself was a fascinating character - one of those great novelists of my era, along with Patricia Highsmith, Iris Murdoch, Edna O'Brien and Muriel Spark. Renault was that rare thing: a happy lesbian with a lifelong relationship (with Julie Mullard - they moved to South Africa in 1949 where Renault wrote her novels, in a beach house called Delos)  - unlike Highsmith and her solitary life ending up alone in Europe. Renault died of cancer aged 78 in 1983. 
Mary Renault was a global best-seller with 8 Greek-themed historical novels, and six contemporary ones. Her real name was Eileen Mary Challans, born in 1905, in the London suburb of Forest Gate. How she developed that love and interest in the ancient world is astonishing. Luckily she got to Oxford where she was taught by JRR Tolkien.  She trained as a nurse and treated casualties in the Second World War where the sheltered graduate quickly learned of man's capacity for war and inhumanity.   
Her novels on same sex love are bold and dignified at a time when this kind of stuff was kept under wraps, and the certainly opened our eyes to the wonders of the ancient world, for which we thank her. 

Renault reminds me of that other well-known 1950s lesbian: journalist and writer Nancy Spain (1917-1964), a Roedean girl who became a prominent writer for the Sunday papers, was on TV a lot, and was friends with Marlene Dietrich among others. She was also pals with fellow broadcaster and "What's My Line?" game show veteran, that gruff 'confirmed bachelor' Gilbert Harding. Nancy and her girlfriend were killed when their plane crashed near Aintree racecourse on their way to the races in 1964, pity she didn't get to comment on the rest of the '60s. She was a high-living gal and was a lot of fun and just 46. Her pal Noel Coward wrote in his diary: "It is cruel that all that gaiety, intelligence and vitality should be snuffed out when so many bores and horrors are left living." I've just had to splurge out on Rose Collis's book "A Trouser Wearing Character" on Nancy and her era. Collis also wrote that delicious bography of Coral Brown: "This Effing Lady". One can read more about Nancy here:

Cate's CAROL wows Cannes, Maggie is in the van

... but we have to wait until winter to see them.
Todd Haynes's CAROL finally gets unveiled at Cannes. This is one we are eagerly awaiting, another FAR FROM HEAVEN maybe as Haynes gives his version of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel "The Price of Salt" featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and those early '50s fashions. 
First comments are sensational - maybe this has been held back (it was filmed last year) to get over the success of Cate's BLUE JASMINE ?  Cate of course does marvellous red carpet, what a dress she is wearing here ! and she can certainly work that '50s fashion plate look (as she did in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY).
It looks like (here in UK) we will have to wait till November - 6 months time! - to see CAROL when it goes on release here, presumably held back for next awards season. Just like how AMOUR was held up few years ago ...
Here is the rave review by Tim Robey from our "Daily Telegraph":
 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/carol/review/

French director Agnes Varda, now 86,  gets a well-deserved special award on Sunday. 
Catherine Denueve always looks sensational at red carpet events - this year at Cannes was no different:
And we also wait until December for the film of Alan Bennett's play THE LADY IN THE VAN with Maggie Smith reprising her stage role. James Corden gets into this too .... (but of course he was one of Alan's HISTORY BOYS). Some winter goodies to look forward to then. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Francois, Francoise, Charlotte, Catherine, David, Tom

A relaxing Sunday with warmer weather, the newspapers and some interesting stories on favourites of ours, before cooking dinner and later unwinding with a drink at hand, for that 1940s wartime saga HOME FIRES ....

An interesting interview with Francois Ozon (right) in "The Irish Times" where the gay French director talks about his new film THE NEW GIRLFRIEND (about to open here) and has some interesting comments, particularly on those films of his featuring women like Deneuve or Rampling. As the paper's feature (by Tara Brady) says: "8 WOMEN brought together France’s grandest dames for a 1950s-set musical murder mystery; 5x2 plays five key scenes from a divorced couple’s relationship backwards; SWIMMING POOL exuded Hitchcockian menace as Charlotte Rampling became a young woman’s reluctant caregiver and voyeur; POTICHE saw Catherine Deneuve as a rejected trophy wife, lead her husband’s employees to rebel.
Many of Ozon’s films are smaller, more tightly focused; TIME TO LEAVE sees a young man push everyone away as he enters the final stages of terminal cancer".
"Charlotte Rampling is one of many actors who have returned again and again to the troupe of Ozon players. Others include Ludivine Sagnier and Catherine Deneuve.
“There is a lot of pleasure in working with women,” says Ozon. “Very often actresses are more pleasurable and easier to work with than men. There are some actors I work with and once is enough. But there are others, like Charlotte, who have a depth and maturity.”
What is it, I wonder, about French cinema’s love affair with a certain kind of British woman, such as Rampling, Jane Birkin and Kristin Scott Thomas.
“In France we have a fascination with foreign actresses,” Ozon says. “One of the most popular French actresses of the 1970s was Romy Schneider who was German. And then there are the English actresses who fell in love with French men and come to France. They often tell me the French offer very good parts as a woman gets older. In England or America they get to play the mother or the grandmother.”
Ozon has had Hollywood offers since Swimming Pool became a global sensation, in 2003. But the director is not for turning.
“In America, film is not about art or culture. It’s a business. So they make movies for teenagers, because it’s easier. And they have a different way of working. The producer does not direct the film, but they do make all of the decisions. The director is a technician more than an artist. I don’t want to work that way. I don’t feel the necessity of losing my soul.” 
Charlotte Rampling herself is interviewed too in "The Daily Telegraph" - 'Le Legende' at 69 now feels she has "the face she has earned". Like Catherine Deneuve her career spans 50 years and she still works now, turning down scripts she does not like - "it has to be something that makes me want to leave the house, where I can stay very happily with my books and my cats". Presumably, like playing a barrister in that second series of BROADCHURCH for British television recently (we loved the first series, the second less so... ). She has come a long way from the 'partying Sixties It-girl' with The Look, as exemplified by her breakthrough film GEORGY GIRL in 1966. Interesting to see that this year she is starring with Tom Courtenay (another Sixties actor in it for the long haul) in 45 YEARS, by Andrew Haigh (LOOKING tv series, WEEKEND) which is an unsettling portrait of a marriage. . She credits Ozon and working with him on UNDER THE SAND as revitalising her and re-realising her potential as a cinema actor. She is as busy now as she has ever been: "I'm working because good work is coming"

Catherine Denueve, another Ozon regular, could probably say the same. Her STANDING TALL was the opening film at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and as the Times put it: "Deneuve adds punch to delinquent drama", where she is the steely judge in this gritty downbeat drama. The critics were not sneering, as at last year's opener GRACE OF MONACO. Let's hope London sees this new Deneuve drama before too long .... I found Catherine hilarious in Ozon's POTICHE with her portly housewife out jogging and communicating with nature, before taking over the family factory to avert a strike and then going into politics, and her dancing with the even portlier Depardieu a delicious treat, with that Seventies background, and the increasingly gay son (Jeremie Rennier). See Ozon label for reviews on all these, his serious TIME TO LEAVE is devastating too. 

BBC4 ran a fascinating documentary as well on French popular song - chanson - where a very spry Petula Clark, now 82, took us through the golden years of French popular song from Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet, including Petula's own French career, to that great early Sixties era, with Francoise Hardy and the others. Francoise was the Face of the early sixties, her Vogue 4-track EPs were the first records I bought, even before The Beatles. Utter bliss then. Francoise too is still going and still singing though the hair is short and silver grey now. 

Tom joins the Hockney set
David Hockney is back in the news too with a new exhibition at the Annely Juda Gallery in London, with some fascinating new paintings. The artist, now 77, is selling that house in Bridlington  in East Yorkshire, where his assistant Dominic Elliott died in 2013. His new work includes 'The Potted Palm' - below - which include Olympic diver Tom Daley and his partner scriptwriter Dustin Lance Black, who are now part of the Hockney circle, David said he likes Tom and praised his coming out last year, of course Tom does lots of diving into those blue pools, but not making "a bigger splash"! Hockney - subject of many posts here, see label - recently bemoaned the demise of what he calls Bohemia, the lifestyle once led by gays, who now want to get married, settle down and have children - he finds them boring and conservative, wanting to lead ordinary lives ... He now goes to bed at nine, and don't go to parties or films as he has got increasingly deaf. He continues to work though, as he says "When I'm painting, I feel 30. Of course I have no plans to retire, artists don't retire. So I'll go on until I fall over, dying ideally at the easel". One somehow feels that other blonde painter who smoked endlessly - Joni Mitchell, maybe still in a coma and also in her Seventies, would somehow agree. Hockney also said in another recent interview that "maybe" the love of his life was Gregory Evans, his 62 year old manager, they were lovers for over a decade but have worked together for 40 years - not Peter Schlesinger of A BIGGER SPLASH then ... The new paintings are certainly fascinating and sees Hockney going in a new direction. 

Binge on boxsets ...
Having a binge with boxsets seems to be the new way to watch television - not just an episode a week any more. and now that Netflix can put whole series on-line, one can certainly binge on them - I am rationing my GRACE & FRANKIE episodes (as per recent post), and got their HOUSE OF CARDS reboot on dvd. Has television ever been better? Despite all the crap stuff, there are some terrific series out there, our Sky Atlantic being particularly good (like HBO with THE NORMAL HEART and other dramas). PENNY DREADFUL is particularly stunning - amazing sets and gothic horror mixing in Frankenstein's monster, Dorian Gray, bloody vampires, werewolves and other assorted Victorian nightmares - Eva Green, Rory Kinnear (a touching monster, left), Timothy Dalton, Billie Piper, Helen McCrory and upcoming Douglas Hodge and Patti Lupone will keep one watching .... not for the faint-hearted! I have not even got around to GAME OF THRONES or BREAKING BAD or ...
THE AFFAIR looks like another must see, after recent stunning series like HAPPY VALLEY and the delicious Sky sitcom by Ruth Jones: STELLA  - now on Series 4 with those inhabitants of Pontyberry in deepest Wales. More please ! Hard to believe Ruth's Stella was also GAVIN & STACEY's Nessa and LITTLE BRITAIN's Myfanwy (with Daffydd, the only gay in the village) and played Hattie Jacques too. Actress and writer Ruth, right, with Patrick Baladi. 

Incidentally, I will have to catch the new MAD MAX: FURY ROAD this week, I need a big screen experience with an action movie everyone seems to love .... I will probably be seeing it in 3D!

Friday, 15 May 2015

BB. King, RIP.

"The thrill is gone" indeed. Glowing notices just now for the late B.B. King (1925-2015) who has died aged 89. The blues legend and ace guitarist is probably the last of that dying breed, those Delta bluesmen (like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker) who burst into the mainstream in the 1960s, as the young English rhythm'n'blues admirers like Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones etc. covered their songs and wanted to play with them. B.B. played to the hippies at the Filimore in San Francisco and toured endlessly - I saw a concert of his in London in 1971 - he was also a regular at The White House. 
That journey from share-cropping to being feted as the best blues musician of his era, with those plaintive songs and soaring guitar, can really never happen again. Like "Howlin' Wolf's London Sessions" album with Clapton and the others, B.B. also recorded with the likes of Clapton and U2. Aretha covered B.B.'s "The Thrill Is Gone" and terrific though it is, it can't match B.B. RIP indeed. 
B.B. shows that playing the blues is a lifelong gig - he was doing over 100 concerts a year well into his 80s. 

Something for the weekend ....

Another chance to use this stunning photograph of Joan Crawford, by ace Magnum photographer Eve Arnold - from a new book on her; EVE ARNOLD: MAGNUM LEGACY

I have done several posts on Arnold (who died in 2012 three months short of her 100th birthday - she was born in 1912) on her work with the Magnum photo-agency and had published several books, including one on Marilyn Monroe - Arnold had covered the shoot of THE MISFITS in Nevada in late 1960 and also did several shoots with Marilyn in the '50s, they seemed to get on well.

She also did a wonderful book (FILM JOURNAL) on the various locations she covered in the '50s and '60s when she photographed almost everybody from Mangano to Loren and Anouk to Vitti and Vanessa - she must have been as prolific as Bob Willoughby as she too was on the sets of some of my favourite movies such as BLOW-UPMODESTY BLAISE and JUSTINE. Check the Eve Arnold label for lots more of her wonderful images, from that great era of the photo-journalists for  magazines like LOOK and LIFE.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Design: 1970s 'sunshine pop' (& '90's Innocence)

Colin sent me a link to this intriguing and very tuneful cover of Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move" by a group, Design - it is so very 1973, this is exactly how we looked then (like me and my first colour television, right). But how come I never heard of Design before? 
There is another video clip too, showcasing their great vocal harmonies:  
Their website looks intriguing , with all the details .... http://www.designvocalgroup.com/
Its like going back to those heady days of TAKE THREE GIRLS on the BBC.

A CD of two of their albums has just arrived - I suspect Colin had something to do with it. The notes include "Tripping the light fantastic of breezy west coast harmony pop mixed with atmospheric melodic folk pop - here are the third and fourth albums by the UK six piece vocal group whose sound was described as "the perfect musical accompaniment to a garden party in the blazing sunshine". Get ready for summer then ..... 
The group were together almost 8 years, they recorded more than 150 radio shows and appeared on more than 50 television shows. They also released five albums and thirteen singles. Sadly, a foundling member, Geoff Ramseyer, died aged 25 after leaving the group in 1976 - he is in the clip above, in the floral shirt. The rest of the group later disbanded and did different things - moving to Australia etc, but got together for their reissued recordings in 2011. Thanks again, Colin. 

In a way it reminds me of this great vocal track from the 1990s, by another harmony group Innocence, and it also mixes in a hint of Pink Floyd ! Chill out then.
Comng soon: TEN SONGS OF  MY LIFE - as based on Martin's Facebook item. I think it will be more than ten though, at least twenty ... 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The life and death of a film magazine

Issue 3: December 1954
My early cinema-going years seem to have coincided with the run of that British film magazine "Films and Filming" which I have written about here a lot, and used lots of covers from its glory years. It began in October 1954 – the year I began seeing movies, aged 8 in Ireland (JOHNNY GUITAR being the first film I saw – what a vivid introduction to movie! – followed by A STAR IS BORN and going with my father to see those 1954 westerns like DRUM BEAT, THE COMMAND, SITTING BULL …. ). I did not catch up with "F&F" though until the Sixties ...
The recent job lot of 40  1950s issues
I got  (for a very good price) on eBay. 

I caught up with “Films and Filming” (after growing out of “Picture Show”, “Fans Star Library” and “Photoplay” and Hollywood magazines like “Screen Album” or “Movieland and TV Time”) about 1962, when I was 16 and eagerly devoured each issue - it was a new way of looking at movies and their makers and that expanding European cinema. The look of the magazine had a makeover then – for the new happening decade. It also had a lot of contact advertisements and a certain gay vibe, as per those ads for Vince’s Man Shop (see Fashon label). I put an ad in myself when I was 17 ("Boy 17 seeks penfriends, male/female, under 21" – what is amusing now is that a 17 year old would find over 21’s too old …) and got replies from all over the world: England, Malta, USA and Australia, and am still in touch with one of them, Mike now in San Francisco, a Worthing boy, who became a good friend.  I moved to London in 1964 when 18 so "F&F" became my monthly bible for movies. (Penfriends - writing each other letters - was what people did then, before Facebook, cellphones and the internet). 
200th issue, May 1971
100th issue, Jan 1963
I worked for the magazine for a year, when between careers, in 1975-76, doing subscriptions, writing some reviews etc. and got to know the friendly crowd there then: the reclusive owner, Philip Dosse, and his distribution manger, Tony Fleck, and Olive who did the accounts, and the guys working with me, Brian, Jim, Roy, Baxter, and Pamela whom I went to various shows with. We never saw the editor, Robin Bean, who it seems only emerged at night and did all the work on the magazine from his apartment at Earls Terrace, off Kensington High Street. The magazines were published on a shoe-string, from a basement flat in Artillery Mansions in Victoria Street. These were quality magazines on fine art paper, “Films and Filming” was one of a stable of seven, all published by Dosse’s Hansom Books – there were “Arts and Artists”, “Books and Bookmen”, “Music and Musicians”. “Films and Filming” was their big seller, as was the authorative “Plays and Players” – a great record of London theatre during those years.

The subscriptions were all done by hand, in that pre-computer era, written on cards, and subscriber’ names and addresses were stamped on tin plates for the machine to print them out on envelopes. Of course it would all be computerised now. 
Instead of being out on the London arts scene as a major arts magazines publisher, Dosse - a genuine eccentric - would sit and stuff magazines into envelopes and answer the switchboard, we had several interesting conversations about the history of the magazine. Unfortunately it did not pay very well, so after a year I left for “pastures new”. There were some binders and back issues available too.

I later got to know the F&F editor Robin Bean, by post, as the magazine was in decline by the late Seventies – but it had a good run since 1954, for a private publisher. “Sight and Sound” by contrast was funded by the BFI, practically their house magazine. “Films and Filming” was the only quality British film monthly then, as “S & S" was a quarterly, published four times a year, until it went monthly in the '90s. (I liked the ‘60s and ‘70s “Sight and Sound” – it had a nice style and was a contrast to “F&F”, but I did not care for its monthly rebirth). “Films and Filming” by then had departed the scene. Philip Dosse could not keep it going and in 1980 the magazine folded after his suicide.

I exchanged lots of ideas with Robin Bean, its editor, and still have his letters. He was very bitter about the way the magazine folded leaving them all unpaid. I did some reviews for him, and started a video column for that new sensation: the emergence of VHS and how it revolutionised our film-viewing. Now one could own and collect films, as we spent the ‘80s scouring “Radio Times” for movies to record, as one’s collection of video-cassettes grew, and then pre-recorded movies to buy !

1965 pop movies issue
Bean tried to keep the magazine going, but did not succeed (he died in 1992, aged 53, of asthma and bronchitis, according to "Variety", whose obituary said: "After studying at the London School of Economics, Bean joined the magazine in 1961 and edited it from 1968 to 1980, attracting notoriety with his sexually explicit picture spreads. He later launched the monthly clone, “Films,” which ran until 1985, and “Movie Scene” (1985-86). He subsequently worked as a free-lance assistant to director Michael Winner, a neighbour"), The magazine was revived and had a new look, for a few years, under the editorship of well-known film writers and critics Allen Eyles and then John Russell Taylor. I still bought a lot of issues, but it was not the same. Belows right: the revamped 1980s style.
Nice to see the old “Films & Filming” issues command a market on eBay, where I have now purchased all those 1950s issues from before my time, so I have the complete run from Oct 54 to Dec 1959 and into the '60s and '70s. 
All magazines have their great era and "F&F" was great in the '50s and '60s, and up to about the mid-'70s (1974 being particularly good). But looking at a 1960 issue and a 1980 one the decline is sadly evident. It was certainly an achievement to have kept the magazine going during those great decades for movies charting the changing movie scene. They are still very readable and collectable. I trust my posts on it help keep the memory of the magazine alive. 

As I said here back in 2010: it introduced so many of us to the potential of cinema as just more than mere entertainment - it covered the best of world cinema with interviews and features on and by all the leading players and directors. That 1961 Italian cinema issue is priceless now with its features by Antonioni, Visconti, Fellini, Pasolini etc. Interesting too seeing how the magazine changed from the staid '50s through the liberated '60s (when being the zeitgeist that it was, it became THE magazine for gay cineastes) to the mature '70s. I could spend hours going through those bound copies...

There are several histories of "Films and Filming" including at this link: 
www.academia.edu/2023952/_A_sensible_magazine_for_intelligent_film-goers._Notes_for_a_History_of_Films_and_Filming_1954-1990 
and a shorter,witty feature in Number Two of the gay (or queer as they call it) magazine LITTLE JOE in 2011 by Justin Bengry, whom I corresponded with about the magazine and my memories of it, which he incorporated in his feature. 
Below: the magazine's 30th anniversary tribute, an issue from each year from October 1954 to October 1984. (click images to enlarge...)