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, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

PSB ROH

Rave reviews for The Pets at The Royal Opera House, we did not get tickets in time though for their 4-night season - but at least they are doing a Tour next year, so may catch it then. We had already of course seen their great residency at The Savoy in 1997 - was that 19 years ago? scary .... and their 1999 tour (with that Zaha Hadid set) in Brighton; and their 2006 concert at The Tower Of London, plus a few of their Pride appearances.

After 30 years (42 Top 30 singles since 1985) the Boys are still going strong, still doing great concerts (check the dvds for ther O2 and Glastonbury sets), the recent albums have been great again, they were in the 2012 London Olympics parade,  plus their musical CLOSER TO HEAVEN, their soundtrack for BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, their ballet and those inventive videos and singles with all those great remixes. THE POP KIDS are still SUPER. POP ART  indeed. 
As James Hall said in "The Telegraph": The show encompasses high culture, club culture, theatre, cinema, political satire and a mind-bending laser show. Oh, and dozens of dancers in fluorescent inflatable sumo suits throwing shapes as though their lives depended on it ... This is no Greatest Hits set, a third of the 23-song set is taken from this year's SUPER and 2013's ELECTRIC, both produced by Madonna producer Stuart Price and both up-tempo celebrations of dance culture ... The setting is extraordindary, from the stalls one could look up to see five tiers of people dancing among the lasers and the gilded balconies, the Opera House recast as a temple to hedonism. Below, the orchestra pit became a rave cave. Call it incongruous, call it bonkers, call it wonderfully eccentric - this show is all of these." 2017 here we come !  

Friday, 22 July 2016

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York ...

To the Almeida Theatre in London for their current production, The Bard's RICHARD III in a highly praised production by director Rupert Goold, with Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave.
Well, no, not to the theatre itself, but to my local multiplex where the live performance was being screened, as it was in cinemas around the world. This was actually the first of these popular live theatre screenings I had been to - and it was like having a seat in the stalls, well apart from the girl next to me with a tub of popcorn and bottle of cola - I hate the stench of popcorn! - and then two old dears arrived late after 15 minutes in, and yes, they had to sit next to me too, disturbing all of us as they got to their seat and settled themselves. But apart from that .... Lets see what the Almeida says:
The Almeida will broadcast Artistic Director Rupert Goold's production of RICHARD III, with Ralph Fiennes as Shakespeare's most notorious villain and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret, live to cinemas in the UK and around the world today 21 July.
Almeida Theatre Live will give worldwide audiences the opportunity to see plays from the stage at the Almeida's London home for the first time. The Almeida Theatre and distributor Picturehouse Entertainment are partnering to broadcast RICHARD III, produced by Illuminations.
The production will be filmed using multiple cameras around the stage and auditorium, with John Wyver as producer. 
Rupert Goold said: "The chance to take the work of the Almeida to international audiences via live cinema screening is a new and timely venture for us that I'm extremely excited about. Working with Picturehouse Entertainment and Illuminations on this broadcast I'm really looking forward to seeing how audiences around the world react to our Richard III on the big screen."

Vanessa had previously worked with Fiennes on CORIOLANUS and THE WHITE COUNTESS film with daughter Natasha and sister Lynn. Great to see her back on stage and in fine form at 79, after that heart attack last year - as per this illuminating interview with her from The Guardian newspaper: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jun/13/vanessa-redgrave-interview-simon-hattenstone

Fiennes of course is on a roll at the moment, he was also recently in THE MASTER BUILDER this year, and stunning in A BIGGER SPLASH, did a neat cameo in HAIL, CAESAR and of course we loved THE GREAT BUDAPEST HOTEL.
He is of course electrifying as Richard and makes the lines sing, as does Vanessa as Queen Elizabeth, its a sort of modern dress production, complete with cell phones, but why is she dressed in a boiler suit and carrying a plastic doll? 
Anthony Sher was also a terrific Richard, almost playing him like a giant spider, and we love the Olivier 1955 version - see review, Olivier label. The one recent Richard we had not seen was the 1995 Ian McKellen one, unavailable for a long time - we finally got a German dvd recently, but I found it practically unbearable with that 1930s Fascist background and far too tricky and full of special effects, with tanks, and Battersea Power Station as the Tower of London just did not work for me at all - great supporting cast though, including Maggie Smith as Queen Elizabeth. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

An Olly double bill: The System / The Triple Echo

Back to 1964 and 1972 for these interesting Oliver Reed films, from that time when the British film industry was thriving ... This is my 2008 IMDB review of THE SYSTEM (now getting screenings on UK tv):
"A blast from the past for those young in the early 60s is the belated DVD release of THE SYSTEM (US Title: THE GIRL-GETTERS) made in 63 and released in 64 - when I saw it aged 18 when it would have played here in the UK for a week on release as part of a double bill and then promptly vanished without trace until I saw the DVD yesterday. It comes with a nice 8 page booklet too setting the film in context which is a model of its kind, if only more DVD re-issues followed suit! (The Best of British Collection: "films that entertained the post-war generation"). Its the kind of movie that talks to you if you are the age of the characters on screen ...

The film directed by Michael Winner with marvellous black and white photography by Nicholas Roeg (and a title song by The Searchers!) is set in one of those English seaside towns (Torbay and Brixham in Devon) following a gang of young men, led by the then very charismatic Oliver Reed, and their amorous pursuits over the summer and is actually a perfect compendium of European cinema trends of the time - there are Antonioniish moments (the tennis game here has a real ball) and it ends like LA DOLCE VITA in a Felliniesque dawn at the beach as the disillusioned characters realise the summer is over. Fellini's I VITELLONI is also a reference here. The script by Peter Draper anticipates elements of DARLING and BLOW-UP (particularly that long scene with Reed and Merrow at his apartment, and yes, her blown-up photos are pinned to the walls too - he too is a photographer becoming disillusioned with it all). 
It sports a great cast of English young players of the time (Barbara Ferris, Julia Foster, Ann Lynn, John Alderton) as well as reliables like Harry Andrews. Of the young cast David Hemmings (rather in the background here) would two years later personify the 60s when chosen by Antonioni for his lead in BLOW-UP. Jane Merrow (Hemmings' girlfriend of the time, and a replacement for Julie Christie who was doing BILLY LIAR) is perfect as Nicola the cool rich girl whom Reed falls for but she plays the game better than he does and is in complete command of any romance, as he realises she was just toying with him for the summer, so its payback time for all the 'birds' he discarded. (I got to meet her myself and had a nice long conversation with her when she was doing a play in 1966, while David was off filming BLOW-UP; she also co-starred in another favourite THE LION N WINTER in '68).

Winner of course may be a figure of fun now [he died in 2013], one forgets that in the '60s before those DEATH WISHES etc his films caught the moment as well as any by Richard Lester (THE SYSTEM could be Winner's THE KNACK), Losey, Schlesinger or the underrated Clive Donner, with titles like THE JOKERS and I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATS'ISNAME where Reed was meant to be his character from THE SYSTEM five years later.
In all its a perfect early '60s movie full of sounds and faces and the mood of that time just as the Swinging Era was taking off. For anyone interested in English cinema or remembers the era, its a real pleasure to see again 50+ years later !"

THE TRIPLE ECHO is perfectly 1972 too, though set in wartime England in the early Forties, and Glenda gets that 1940s look perfectly right with her swagger coats and perms. This is from a H E Bates story and is a perfect little British film of its era, as directed by Michael Apted. 
Brian Deacon is good too as the soldier who deserts to stay with Glenda on her remote farm, after fixing her tractor, and who disguises himself as her 'sister' and finds he likes it as he makes the mistake of leading on Olly's brute of an army officer .... as per my review, Glenda/Reed labels. Good to see it on television again too. They tried to jazz it up for America titling it SOLDIER IN SKIRTS with a lurid poster, but it is so much better than that. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

MORE French capers .....

I did a post last week on French gangster flicks, I now find out (thanks, Daryl) that there is a retrospective season in New York until 2 August celebrating these very films. Its LES DURS featuring the work of 3 French tough guys: Jean Gabin, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Lino Ventura - with a lof of Alain Delon on show too. 

LES DURS” is a three-week, 32-film festival spotlighting three French tough guys: Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. The festival includes both classics and rarities, with many 35mm prints and DCPs imported especially for the series.

I had not even heard of TWO MEN IN TOWN (DEUX HOMMES DANS LA VILLE) from 1973 by Jose Giovanni - it had never played here- the third teaming of Gabin and Delon (after the slick Verneuil flicks MELODIE EN SOUS SOL in 1963, and the entertaining caper movie THE SICILIAN GANG in 1969). I have had to order a copy, so will be reporting on that in due course.

They are also showing a wide range of other films by the tough guys, like Belmondo's high-octane comedy thriller L'HOMME DE RIO (which we have raved about before, Belonondo label) and his Truffaut twisted romance LE SIRENE DE MISSISSIPPI (ditto) with Deneuve - her sister Francoise Dorleac is deliciously funny with Belmondo in RIO.  The delirious blurb on it says:
(1964, Philippe De Broca) A blow dart-wielding thug snatches a rare statuette from the Musée de l’Homme; anthropologist Jean Servais (Rififi) is kidnapped in broad Parisian daylight; serviceman Jean-Paul Belmondo begins his 8-day leave by changing to civvies in a Métro entrance and witnesses fiancée Françoise Dorléac (Catherine Deneuve’s sister, killed in a car accident 3 years later) getting kidnapped herself – and then the chase begins: by motorcycle, shoe leather, flight to Rio de Janeiro sans ticket or passport, airport baggage carrier, cable car, pink car complete with green stars and a rumble seat, water skies, Amazon river boat, seaplane, jungle vines…all shot in breathtaking widescreen and color. Even as Dorléac, rescued, is kidnapped again, Belmondo performs his own blood-curdling stunts against that sugar loaf Rio skyline and across that under-construction, unearthly architecture of Brasilia (even parachuting almost into the jaws of a hungry croc). Non-stop spoof of…James Bond? More like a pre-Raiders Raiders – but does Belmondo get back in time from that leave? Co-scripted by Jean-Paul Rappeneau (later director of Cyrano de Bergerac), with music by Georges Delerue (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Jules and Jim, and The Conformist). DCP restoration. Approx. 114 mins..

Full details of the films (which also include those Jean-Pierre Melville classics like LE DOULOS and ARMY OF SHADOWS and those early Gabin classics) are at the link:  and I have been meaning to watch Belmondo in De Broca's LE MAGNIFIQUE, so maybe this week ...

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Vic and Janet go on Safari in 1956

Here is a delicious programmer from 1956, and amazingly, Janet Leigh says in her autobio that they really went to Africa to film it - whereas Susan Hayward and Mitchum over at Fox never left the backlot for their African adventure WHITE WITCH DOCTOR, neither did Susan & Ty Power in UNTAMED; Dirk Bogarde and Virginia McKenna also did one, SIMBA, for Rank about the same time, they never left Pinewood. KINGS SOLOMON'S MINES - the 1951 one with Stewart Granger and Deb Kerr is probably the best of these 50s treats (which MGM cannibalised for WATUSI in 1959), and at least they went to Africa, as of course did Huston with THE AFRICAN QUEEN, Ford for MOGAMBO and Hawks with HATARI!; then there was BORN FREE and THE LION plus of course there were endless 'African' potboilers like TANGANYIKA, BEYOND MOMBASA, MOZAMBIQUE etc .... I also remember seeing a black and white African drama SOMETHING OF VALUE in 1957 from a popular Robert Ruark novel, with Rock Hudson and a young Sidney Poitier, but its never cropped up anywhere since. 

A fond childhood memory is looking at the stills layout of current films in the windows of my local cinema The Astor and seeing the stills of SAFARI and then seeing the film, I particularly remember Janet in a canoe in the rapids as crocs slither into the river .... Its your standard African saga wih a rousing climax as the Mau-Mau attack, but better than usual, with John Justin, Earl Cameron, Niall McGuinness and the usual faces, directed by Terence Young who went on to do ZARAK and other trash favourites before helming the first two James Bond epics DR NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

During the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya in the 1950s, settler-hunter Ken Duffield is a hired guide for a lion hunting party but he also hopes to find the Mau Mau rebel who killed his family. 
Vic strides through it with his standard expression - whether shooting a rogue elephant or grieving over his son, but Janet is lovely here, just after MY SISTER EILEEN and before reporting to Mexico for TOUCH OF EVIL and then off to Norway for THE VIKINGS ....  Victor went on to dates with that other blonde Anita Ekberg in 2 guilty plreasures we like: INTERPOL and ZARAK, also by Terence Young. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cleopatra out-takes ...


Elizabeth Taylor and veteran actor Finlay Currie on the set of CLEOPATRA. But Finlay wasn't in CLEOPATRA you say - quite right, his part was surgically removed when they were cutting the 6 hour epic down to a more manageable 4 .... pity Finlay didn't make the cut here, he was in so many other epics, from QUO VADIS? to BEN HUR

FILMS IN REVIEW is a fascinating little magazine I missed at the time, its good discovering them now, like that 1988 one with a terrific interview with Lee Remick looking back over her career, and this recent acquisition I found on ebay, dated January 1988 with a good feature on CLEOPATRA, going through the original Mankiewicz screenplay for his proposed six hour version, which would be shown in two parts. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox soon put paid to that and the 4-hour version that exists now is as much as we are going to get. 
I don't think there will be any A STAR IS BORN-type restoration here! 
Other deletions, apart from Finlay, included background material on those other characters like Ruffio, Sosigenes, Apollodorus, Octavian, etc. 

I like this particular scene closing the first half, as Cleo sails away, its perfectly written, acted, and scored with that great Alex North score.
Among the supporting players we also like Richard OSullivan (the little boy in DANGEROUS EXILE) as the petulant young Pharoah, Gregoire Alsan as the scheming Pothinus, and Pamela Brown's all-seeing high priestess, and of course we love the opulent sets and costumes, as discussed before, and that great panning shot over the bay of Alexandria as Caesar arrives ....  There is still a lot to enjoy in CLEOPATRA not least Rex as Caesar and as befits a Mankiewicz film, the dialogue is to savour.

Sophia and the bay of Naples

1960's IT STARTED IN NAPLES was a big hit with 14 year old me back then - it played two nights at one of our local two cinemas and I went both nights ..... Sophia back in Italy and with Clark Gable! and Vittorio De Sica The film is a riot of fun too.

Nice now to see Sophia at 81 back in Naples and given the freedom of the city. Of course she is from the Naples area (Pozzuoli) and it has featured largely in her career from 1954's NEAPOLITAN FANTASY, De Sica's GOLD OF NAPLES, SCANDAL IN SORRENTO, the Naples section of YESTERDAY TODAY & TOMORROW etc.  The 2014 short by her son, THE HUMAN VOICE (included in the dvd/blu-ray of A SPECIAL DAY (see Loren label) pictures her too looking out over the bay, its very affecting. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

French gangster flicks

French gangster films of the Fifties and Sixties are often said to be derivative of their American film noirs, but its a genre I can return to happily many times, in the company of directors like Meville and Duvivier, and those players who sum it all up: Gabin, Delon, Belmondo, Hossein,Vidal ...
I particuarly like Henri Verneuil's 1963 MELODIE EN SOUS SOL (or THE BIG SNATCH) where old lag Jean Gabin comes out of prison with one last heist in mind, on a Cannes casino, and hires impulsive, if not reckless, young hotshot Delon to help it. Its taut, tense, the raid goes ok, and then there is that climax at the swimming pool with the bag of swag... 

The daddy of all French heist movies must be Dassin's RIFIFI in 1955, with that long central silent robbery carried out in real time (Dassin did it again, more colourfully in his 1964 TOPKAPI); one of the RIFIFI guys Robert Hossein directed a lot of tense thrillers too, superior B-movies perhaps, but try looking away from  THE WICKED GO TO HELL or  TOI, LE VENIN or UNE MANCHE ET LA BELLE. (Hossein label).   
Jean-Pierre Melville's taut, spare, acerbic thrillers like 1967's LE SAMOURAI (Delon as ice cool killer - see review, Delon label), and his exemplary ARMY OF SHADOWS in 1969 are masterworks, and we like LE CERCLE ROUGE too (Delon, Montand, Ventura) and the delightfully silly THE SICILIAN CLAN where hi-jacking an airliner in flight seems so easy, as Delon and Gabin again team and fall out while seen-it-all cop Ventura is on their trail ....  
  
We also particularly like Duvivier' CHAIR DE POULE (HIGHWAY PICKUP) that jet-black noir from 1963 with hoods Hossein and Jean Sorel (both in their 80s now and still going, as indeed are Delon and Belmondo) fall out over that robbery and a duplicitous dame. Its brilliant: as per: 
http://osullivan60.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/fantastic-french-flick.html

Rene Clement scored here too, as with his masterwork PLEIN SOLEIL and with Delon again in LES FELINS in 1963.  Get a Delon or Belmondo or Melville boxset and enjoy. Malle's LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD too in 1958 ... while Alain and Belmondo are great fun in BORSALINO (left) in 1970.
Below: Sorel and Hossein in CHAIR DE POULE, 1963 - and, right, in 2015.

Deborah's Sister Clodagh and Sister Angela

Two of our enduring favourites were screened again recently, and despite having them on disk I had to tune in once again. We simply love Deborah Kerr's two nuns:  the superior Sister Clodagh in Michael Powell's masterwork BLACK NARCISSUS from 1947, when Deborah was all of 26 and in charge of those nuns in that convent in the high Himalyas - as per my other posts of it, so I won't repeat myself, see Narcissus label.
A decade later in HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALLISON in 1957 she is that much simpler Irish nun Sister Angela alone on that pacific island (it was filmed in Tobago).... as this blurb states:  As World War II rages, tough marine Robert Mitchum is stranded on a desert island with nun Deborah Kerr. Cracking romantic chemistry in this ace John Huston adventure. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin the veteran who scripted that chemistry in 1932's RED DUST and and its 50s remake MOGAMBO as well as the fun western NORTH TO ALASKA (his last credit is a Jean Seberg movie I love MOMENT TO MOMENT in 1965. 

We have written about this before, here - see Kerr, Powell labels - it remains a deeply affecting movie, among Huston's best, I certainly prefer it to his similar AFRICAN QUEEN. MR ALLISON actually has a lot of affinities with Mitchum's RIVER OF NO RETURN in 1954 - people in the wilderness having to survive while surrounded by hostile enemies, and there's the similar scene where there Mitch has to warm up numb Marilyn Monroe, and here the wet sister Angela; they catch and cook a moose in RIVER, its that unfortunate basking turtle in MR ALLISON .... 
Deborh's nuns are as iconic as her governesses (THE KING AND I, THE INNOCENTS) and she worked with Huston several times, also in the silly 60s spoof CASINO ROYALE in 1967 and to great effect in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA in 1964. She and Mitchum had great chemistry together, as also in THE GRASS IS GREENER in 1960 and perfectly in Zinnemann's THE SUNDOWNERS which should have bagged her the 1960 Best Actress Oscar, in fact, as I mentioned before, I would have made it a tie with her and her friend Jean Simmons (not even nominated for ELMER GANTRY where her co-stars Burt and Shirley Jones got their awards) - Liz could still have (deservedly) won in 1966.  It would have been culmination of Deborah's and Jean's great decade, the two British roses who went to Hollywood and were very big stars indeed in the 1950s and early '60s. But it was not to be .... Deb's nuns though remain an evergreen treat. She also teamed with Mitchum again later in that 80s telefilm about an army reunion. of course had great chemistry with frequent co-stars Cary, Burt, Niven, Brynner,  More on her at Kerr label. 

Showpeople: The Burtons and Sophia ...

Not seen this one before: Liz Taylor visiting Richard and co-star Sophia Loren on the set of their THE VOYAGE, Vittorio De Sica's last film, filmed in 1973 and not released until much later ....
Only 3 years earlier I had seen, as mentioned before, The Burtons with director Joseph Losey and veteran film critic Dilys Powell at the CINEMA CITY exhibition at The Roundhouse in London ..... 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Vanessa on BLOW-UP again ...

Thanks to Daryl for emailing me about a new Vanessa Redgrave interview where she discusses making the 1966 Antonioni film BLOW-UP in considerable detail - the interview is 42 minutes - for when you have the time. 
She also discussed filming with Antonioni and his directing methods in that 1993 British documentary series we like HOLLYWOOD UK (right), hosted by director Richard Lester, where she shows what Antonioni wanted from her, how he wanted her to sit and move her body and be part of the fabric of what he was creating. Fascinating stuff for those who still regard this cult classic. 
As the You/Tube text states:
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Antonioni's iconic film Blow-Up, the team behind Fashion & Cinema - a series of events, on-stage conversations and screenings exploring the relationship between fashion and cinema - bring together legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave CBE and photography expert and Deputy Chairman of Christie's Philippe Garner, co-author of the book Antonioni's Blow-Up. The film shaped understandings of contemporary fashion photography and shocked with its portrait of London in the swinging sixties, casual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Director Antonioni consulted local journalists to help build a picture of the lifestyle of the most fashionable young photographers. David Hemmings's character is a composite of elements that reference David Bailey, Terence Donovan, David Montgomery and John Cowan, whose studio became a principal set.
(Terence Stamp still insists it was all about him and he had been promised the part by the Italian maestro. I have the Garner coffee-table book on the film, which covers it all, with those great images we like so much)..
Vanessa is now on stage here in London in the Ralph Fiennes RICHARD III, being broadcast to cinemas on July 21, we shall be watching. I saw her on stage twice, in a 1973 stylish production of Coward's DESIGN FOR LIVING, and sometime in the '80s in Martin (BENT) Sherman's odd A MADHOUSE IN GOA, Vanessa always mesmerises on stage. 
Another fascinating 1960s interview with Vanessa here:

Off to The Ritz with Treat and Googie ...

Terence McNally's play THE RITZ about the farcical goings-on at a gay sauna seemed an odd choice for Richard Lester in 1976 - the year he also did ROBIN AND MARIAN, but actually it suits his madcap humour, so evident in those '60s Beatles films A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and HELP!, plus THE KNACK, PETULIA, oddities like HOW I WON THE WAR and THE BEDSITTING ROOM and those '70s entertainments like his MUSKETEERS films, ROYAL FLASH and the tense JUGGERNAUT - see reviews at Lester label. 

Gaetano to avoid a "hit" on him by Carmine, tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can't find him. He is taken to The Ritz, a gay bathhouse where he is pursued amorously by "chubby chaser" Paul B. Price and by entertainer Googie Gomez who believes him to be a broadway producer. His guides through the Ritz are gatekeeper Abe, habitue Chris, and bellhop/go-go-boys Tiger and Duff. Squeaky-voiced detective Michael Brick and his employer Carmine locate Gateano at the Ritz, as does his wife Vivian. It gets funnier and funnier ....

Gaetano: Listen, there's something I have to tell you...
Chris: You're not gay?
Gaetano: [relieved] No!
Chris: What, are you a social worker or something?
Gaetano: No, but I didn't know that everyone in here was...
Chris: GAY! See? It's not a bad word. You might try using it sometime.
Gaetano: You mean to tell me that everyone in here is gay?
Chris: God, I hope so. Otherwise I just paid ten dollars to walk around in a towel in front of a bunch of Shriners.

The cast is uniformly amusing, especially Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez, an untalented Latin singer whom Weston mistakes for a drag queen. She frequently steals the show from everyone. Moreno got a Tony Award for her Broadway portrayal of that role. Also good is the improbably squeaky-voiced detective played by Treat Williams. 
Some of the resulting mayhem is very funny indeed; some stretches are more ho-hum. Nevertheless, it is a generally successful piece of entertainment regardless of one's sexual orientation.
We know Rita Moreno from way back to THE KING AND I; Jack Weston always amuses, as in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and CACTUS FLOWER, and Treat was a treat in Forman's HAIR, Lumet's PRINCE OF THE CITY and as Stanley to Ann-Margret's Blanche in that ;80s television STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. F.Murray Abraham (AMADEUS Oscar-winner) is a scream as Chris, and then there is Vivian Vance ... The humour is broad farce and the gays are not treated meanly. Lester keeps it all bubbling nicely, The reviewers at IMDB loved it, 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Gay Metropolis 1940-1996

Weaving oral history with precise cultural analysis, THE GAY METROPOLIS is the definitive social, cultural and political history of gay life in the major cities of the world over the last fifty years. Focusing on New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin, Kaiser chronicles how urban centres have been crucial in the genesis and evolution of gay culture. THE GAY METROPOLIS combines intimate stories of people as famous as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Gore Vidal, and as little known as Sandy Kern, a young Brooklyn woman who first heard the word 'lesbian' when a neighbour spied her with her arm around her girlfriend at the end of a wartime blackout.

This was a fascinating read when I first read it a decade or more ago, but I had lent it to a friend and never got it back ..... so I was pleased another friend mentioned it again recently, so I got another copy and enjoyed reading it all over again. As social history it can't be beat. Charles Kaiser has concentrated on New York, but it does not detract from an overall understanding of the 20th Century gay tapestry. 

We go from the closeted 1940s where though, as in wartime London, gay life flourished in secret * (see that extract from Gore Vidal's THE CITY AND THE PILLAR below), to the even more closeted 1950s when being gay was as bad as being a communist and they were hounded from government posts, and there was no mention of gay life anywhere, to the start of the gay, black and women's liberation movements of the 1960s, culminating in that Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the success of plays like THE BOYS IN THE BAND. It was routine in the early sixties for gays to kill themselves in films like ADVISE AND CONSENT, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR and THE SERGEANT, at least the British film VICTIM made an impact, as did SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY at the start of the 1970s when gay activism took to the streets and became more visible as the decade wore on, climaxing with the gay decadence of disco, Studio 54, "After Dark" magazine and the availability of gay material on those new video-cassettes .....

The 1980s though is a whole different story as that strange new illness began making inroads into the gay community and how it responded in the face of political indifference from the Reagan goverment...  there are lots of life stories here, and its all uplifting stuff by the mid Nineties - now 20 years later, the changes to gay life would be unimaginable then.  I think its an essential item for any gay bookshelf, maybe next to Vito Russo's THE CELLULOID CLOSET. Not only that, a very engaging read!  

Kaiser shows how before the sexual freedoms of the Seventies, World War II was a great liberator: "the war had caused a great change. Inhibitions had broken down. All sorts of young men - away from home and their towns and farms for the first time - were trying out all sorts of new things". 

Gore Vidal's 1948 novel THE CITY AND THE PILLAR set in Forties New York:
"Jim went straight to a Times Square bar frequented by soldiers and sailors. He studied the room carefully like a general surveying the terrain of battle. Then he selected his objective: a tall Army Lieutenant with broad shoulders, dark hair, blue eyes. Jim squeezed in beside him and ordered a drink. Jim's leg touched the Lieutenant's leg, a hard muscular leg which returned the pressure. 
"You in the service?" asked the Lieutenant. His voice was slow, deep, far Western.
"Yeah, I was in the army too"
"What outfit?"
They exchanged information. The Lieutenant had served with the infantry during the invasion of North Africa. He was now stationed in the South as an instructor. 
"You live around here?"
Jim nodded. "I got a room downtown".
"I sure wish I had a place. I got to stay on a sofa wih this married cousin".
"That sounds pretty uncomfortable".
"It sure is".
"You could", said Jim, as though he were thinking it over, "stay at my place. There's plenty of room".
The Lieutenant said no, he couldn't do that; they had another drink and then went downtown to bed.

Next, we are going off to that 1970s gay sauna THE RITZ !