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.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

"100 thrillers to see before you die"

Here's a doozy for lovers of lists and thrillers. The British Film Institute has come up with 100 listed alphabetically. See them all at the link:
 http://www.bfi.org.uk/thriller/100-thrillers-see-before-you-die?

But what really is a thriller? Is CHINATOWN a thriller or a deep romantic drama with thrills added? 
I am happy with 90% of this list, most of the obvious choices are here - from Chabrol's LE BOUCHER (right) to THE BIG HEAT (below), but would have to fit in :
  • OBSESSION - DePalma, 1976
  • THE PARALLAX VIEW - Pakula, 1974
  • LE SAMOURAI - Melville, 1967
  • CHAIR DE POULE - Duvivier, 1963
  • COMA - Crichton, 1978
  • THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR - Pollock, 1975
  • LES MAUDITS - Clement, 1948
  • THE BIG COMBO - Lewis, 1955.
Next: Gloria Graham ...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Marilyn by Milton

She really was the most photographed woman ever, and this stunning new tome THE ESSENTIAL MARILYN MONROE with 280 full page photographs covers only 1953 to early 1957.
There have been other great Monroe picture books, but nothing tops this. Milton H. Greene was MM's friend, confidant and business partner - they produced two films; BUS STOP and THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL as he helped her break out of her 20th Century Fox contract, and did at least 50 photograph sessions with her.

A lot, in fact most, of these are new to me - only a few have been published before  - mainly the iconic "ballerina" shot which even my teenage niece had on her bedroom wall - mainly in Norman Mailer's 1973 biography which brought all the main photographs together, including those stunning "black session" shots never published during her lifetime. Greene was one of the ace photographers of the era and his son Joshua has curated this massive tome, and its a reasonable price too. The restored images just don't look 60 years old.
It shows Greene as up there with the other key Monroe photographers like Eve Arnold, George Barris, Bert Stern, Jack Cardiff, Lawrence Schiller (the 1962 pool pictures), Sam Shaw, Cecil Beaton etc, each capturing a different Marilyn. 
By 1957 Marilyn had moved on to marrying Arthur Miller and the Greene pictures were shelved. 
Massively recommended. Just don't drop it on your foot, like I did yesterday! 

Milton H. Greene (1922-1985), famous for his fashion photography and celebrity portraits from the golden age of Hollywood, met Marilyn Monroe on a photo shoot for Look magazine in 1953. The pair developed an instant rapport, quickly becoming close friends and ultimately business partners. In 1954, after helping her get out of her studio contract with 20th Century Fox, they created Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. Milton and Marilyn were much more then business partners, Marilyn became a part of the Greene family. By the time their relationship had ended in 1957, the pair had produced two feature films, in addition to more than 5,000 photographs of the iconic beauty. There was magic in Milton and Marilyn's working relationship. The trust and confidence they had in each other's capabilities was on full display in each photo.

Greene passed in 1985, thinking his life's work was succumbing to the ravages of time. His eldest son, Joshua, began a journey to meticulously restore his father's legacy. A photographer himself, Joshua spent years researching ways to restore his father's photographs as well as cataloging and promoting Milton's vast body of work all over the world. As a result, Joshua established "The Archives," a company committed to the restoration and preservation of photography. After spending nearly two decades restoring his father's archive, Joshua Greene and his company are widely regarded as one of the leaders in photographic restoration and have been at the forefront of the digital imaging and large-format printing revolution.

Now Joshua Greene, in conjunction with Iconic Images, presents The Essential Marilyn Monroe: Milton H. Greene, 50 Sessions. With 280 photographs, including many never-before published and unseen images, newly scanned and restored classics, as well as images that have appeared only once in publication, Greene's Marilyn Monroe archive can finally be viewed as it was originally intended when these pictures were first produced more than 60 years ago. These classic sessions - 50 in all - cover Monroe at the height of her astonishing beauty and meteoric fame. From film-sets to the bedroom, at home and at play, Joshua has curated a lasting tribute to the work of a great photographer and his greatest muse.

Poignant and powerful, joyful and stunning - these breathtaking images of an icon stand above all the rest. The Essential Marilyn Monroe: Milton H. Greene, 50 Sessions is sure to be a book that will become the platinum standard in photography monographs
.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Strictly 2017

Another year, another BBC dance  marathon for  winter weekends: STRICTLY COME DANCING. Of course  after 15 years with 15 contestants each year the pool of 'celeberities' diminishes, as, like last year, one wonders who most of these celebs are - but again one is pleasantly surprised as they take to the floor for some terrific dance entertainment. (I really only knew 5 of this current  crop.) Already, in the third week, the top half dozen are rising to the top. Here are some of the best so far .... (see Dance label for previous years)
Its the professional dancers who fascinate me, coming up with these routines each week - Janette and Katya are fearless (well she took on Ed Balls last year), Oti is a delight, and is there anything camper than Aljaz ....

RIP, continued

Suzan Farmer (1942-2017) aged 75. During my absence some big hitters have departed the  scene,  who have been praised enough (Sir Bruce Forsyth, Jerry Lewis - I would have nothing good to say about him), so we focus on those lesser mortals who get overlooked.

Suzan was one of those 60s girls who carved a niche on television and mainly Hammer films and who worked until 1980. A nice pleasant blonde - not one of the swinging IT girls (though she did marry Ian McShane), I particularly liked her in DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS in 1966 where she and Barbara Shelley make the mistake of staying overnight at that odd castle ... other roles include RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK, 633 SQUADRON, DANGER MAN, THE SAINT, and more.
More than a Hammer Scream Queen then, she was part of that bevy of attractive 60s actressses it was a pleasure to see, like Isobel Black, Suzanne Neve, Mary Peach, Anne Bell, Ann Lynn and the ubiquitious Gwen Watford and imperious Margaret Courtenay.

Sabrina (1936-2016) aged 80. Too young to remember Sabrina? (me too)  - ask your dad. The glamour model was a 1950s British TV fixture, in those Arthur Askey comedy shows where she had nothing to do much apart from showing off those stupendous 41" bosoms. A less talented Belinda Lee or Shirley Eaton, Sabrina kept in the public eye, moved to America and married a doctor in Hollywood and rather enjoyed the high life- quite good for Norma Sykes from Stockport. She died last November but her obituary has just been published. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Follies concert, 1985

A group of showgirls from the Weismann Follies in the 1940s reunite in the 1970s. Originally produced in 1971 where it was a critical success but not a financial one, Stephen Sondheim's musical may well be his masterpiece. In 1985, a staged concert of his musical directed by Herbert Ross has taken on near legendary proportions - purely for that cast.

Lee Remick and Barbara Cook are the two leads  and both are sensational. Lee, sleek and gorgeous, does a marvellous "Could I leave You", and that delicious "The Story of Lucy and Jessie", while Cook, who died last week but at her peak here, does that amazing "Losing My Mind".
Add in Carol Burnett, and a rather irritating Elaine Stritch, who rather murders "Broadway Baby", plus veterans like Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
The first half is rather bitty but its interesting seeing the players rehearse and mingle, and then do the actual Concert. It took 4 days in all for a cast recording. 
I saw FOLLIES last a decade or more ago, it will be great seeing the new National Theatre production next month.  It is being broadcast live to cinemas on November 16.  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Odd man out?

Thanks once again to Colin for finding this rarity: Alain, Marianne and a rather put-out Mick Jagger, for once not the centre of attention  - presumably to launch GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE in 1968 - if only the film had been better .....

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Summer re-views: Payroll - 1961

PAYROLL. A tough, tense thriller which I had enjoyed as a young teen in 1961, PAYROLL is a real treat now. Sidney Hayers film shows the exciting robbery and its aftermath as thieves fall out.

Ever since THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and RIFIFI this is the standard gangster robbery drama and it works again here. Nicely set around Newcastle, Johnny Mellor’s band of ruthless criminals plot and carry out a payroll robbery, with the help of crooked company employee Pearson (William Lucas) whose dissatisfied French wife Francoise Prevost soon realises what he is up to. She and Mellor (Michael Craig) are soon plotting to escape together, but had not reckoned on the grieving wife (Billie Whitelaw, excellent as ever) of the van driver who got killed in the robbery. She begins to track them down herself …. 

With Tom Bell and Kenneth Griffith as other gang members who soon fall out over the money and come to sticky ends. As the police close in, the gang begins to fall apart, with each desperately seeking a way out, and in their panic no one realises there is one adversary they have all overlooked. Pearson’s wife thinks she has the money, but is in for a surprise …. Mellor escapes to his boat but nemesis in the shape of Whitelaw waits for him.


Like 1960's THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN where Jack Hawkins' gang of gentlemen thieves also fall foul of a robbery gone wrong, PAYROLL is now a delicious time capsule of that long vanished British crime caper. Craig and Whitelaw are favourites of ours here and both excel in different roles for them.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Start the revolution without me - 1970

Here's a forgotten, over-looked treat for a dull afternoon - I saw it in 1970 but it seems we all forgot about it. 

START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME is a mostly hilarious farce sending up the French Revolution, as directed by Bud Yorkin, starring Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland (before their 70s peaks) as the mixed up twins - one rather dim (thats Gene) and the other terribly snooty. 

A great cast of farceurs are lined up: Hugh Griffith as Louis XVI, Jack McGowran, Murray Melvin, Victor Spinetti (as Count D'Escargot), Helen Fraser, Rosalind Knight, and best of all Billie Whitelaw as Marie Antoinette! AND Orson Welles narrates. Its  all a weird mix of Monty Python, A Tale of Two Cities etc. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

RIP, continued ....

Barbara Cook (1927-2017),  aged 89.  Barbara was one of the legendary Broadway divas and remained much-loved to the end. She starred in several musicals (starting with Bernstein's CANDIDE and as Marian the librarian in the original THE MUSIC MAN ("Till there was you"), and later re-invented herself as a top solo artist, after weight and alcohol problems, filling out Carnegie Hall, and also did several appearances in London. Sondheim insisted on her for that 1986 Concert version of FOLLIES, where in an all-star cast (Lee Remick, Elaine Stritch, Carol Burnett) her versions of "Losing My Mind" and "In Buddy's Eyes" are standouts. Thank goodness its on dvd. I must now check out her available recordings. 

Elsa Martinelli (1935-2017), aged 82. Italian actress, Eurobabe and model. Elsa was one of our Italian favourites, the slim fashion model stood out from the usual statuesque beauties. She was a top model by the mid-fifties and was spotted for the Kirk Douglas western THE INDIAN FIGHTER, where she certainly looked the part. She alternated between American and Italian films (such as my favorite, LA NOTTE BRAVA in 1959), and Vadim's dreamy vampire film BLOOD AND ROSES. Her best known role is probably that of Dallas in Howard Hawks' 1962 African saga HATARI! where she has that delightful sequence with the baby elephants "Baby Elephant Walk" as scored by Henry Mancini. She also squared up nicely to John Wayne. There was also a little seen Charlton Heston comedy, and we like her in the swinging London spy saga MAROC 7 in 1967, and slinky euro-thrillers like THE 10TH VICTIM. She was also in Welles' THE TRIAL and his bored companion in THE VIPs. Also in FOUR GIRLS IN TOWN in 1957, MANUELA, RAMPAGE and more.  
Robert Hardy (1925-2017), aged 91. The splendid Robert Hardy was another long-standing veteran of British theatre, film and television. I seem to have been watching him almost all my life .... his most famous role must be of the country vet in James Herriot's ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, a long runner in the 1970s and 80s. He also played Churchill several times. Other tv roles included THE TROUBLESHOOTERS, Sir Tobt Belch and other assorted Shakespeare roles, and he did CORIOLANUS with Olivier in 1959. I remember him as the Earl of Leicester in a 1967 BBc series KENILWORTH, and of course he was also in the HARRY POTTER films,
My employers engaged him to host a prestigious evening event at the Tower of London in the 90s, and he was a great success, despite it raining.

Sam Shepherd (1943-2017) aged 73. The acclaimed Pulitzer-prizewinning American playwright and actor, who captured aspects of American life perfectly with plays like FOOL FOR LOVE. His film career began with DAYS OF HEAVEN, and THE RIGHT STUFF and more routine fare with BABY BOOMSTEEL MAGNOLIAS etc. 

Hywel Bennett (1944-2017), aged 73. Popular British actor of his era, who later found success on television as SHELLEY and of in EASTENDERS etc. His film career though in the late 60s and early 70s was typical of the tatty fare the British cinema descended into then: that dreadful film of LOOT (review at Orton label) , PERCY, PERCY'S PROGRESS (about penis transplants), THE BUTTERCUP CHAIN, etc THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS was fitfully amusing in 1969. I never liked THE FAMILY WAY with that grotesque role of the father as played by John Mills, and his other two with Hayley Mills, TWISTED NERVE and ENDLESS NIGHT were rather unpleasant too. At least he progressed to Dennis Potter plays like PENNIES FROM HEAVEN.

Ty Hardin (1930-2017), aged 87. Ty was quite a busy guy what with 8 wives and 10 children, and fitting in playing BRONCO on tv and assorted movie roles in tough guy movies like BATTLE OF THE BULGE, CUSTER OF THE WEST, MERRILL'S MARAUDERS etc, but we have fond memories of him here in THE CHAPMAN REPORT in 1962 in those spray-on shorts, getting Glynis Johns all in a tizzy, or in BERSERK!, a circus cheapo made in England in 1967 where he is Joan Crawford's love interest.

Glen Campbell (1936-2017), aged 81. Another titan of American popular country music, The Rhinestone Cowboy's work with Jim Webb will endure, also in movies since TRUE GRIT in 1969

5th August 1962

I suppose we should mention that Marilyn Monroe departed on this date 55 years ago, in 1962. I remember it well, being 16 at the time, and we had seen her BUS STOP that Saturday night, 4th August, at our small town cinema in Ireland - while events must have been unfolding in Los Angeles.
Sunday the 5th I was sitting in a deck chair in the garden with the radio on, when a newsflash came on air ... it was hard to believe at the time, and course there were no rolling news channels or internet then, so we had to wait for the papers next day.

The first of the Marilyn features began unrolling that year - I loved (and still have) this late 1962 magazine, the swish upmarket London magazine TOWN, the first to feature those beach pictures by George Barris and a nice appreciation by David Robinson. This issue fetches quite a price now, as per my previous posts on it - MM labels.  

As with James Dean, one wonders what might have been - both Doris Day and Jeanne Moreau turned down Mrs Robinson in THE GRADUATE - could Marilyn have done it? or those 70s Ellen Burstyn roles in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW or ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE ... she might have been ideal if she could face getting older and being in her forties. THE MISFITS shows she was moving into black and white dramas, away from the fluff Fox was still casting her in ...

Next: Marlon in ONE-EYED JACKS - brilliant or bizarre?

Gina & her photos ...

My friend Martin came up with one of his cheap typical cracks on reading my piece on Gina at 90 - he had to wonder what she looked like now.

Well surprise surprise Martin, she looks fine. Here she is with some of her photos, including that one with Marilyn back in 1955. MM has been gone 55 years today, but I think Gina is going on for a while yet ....

I hope Martin's picture will be fit to be published when he hits 90 - just saying!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Imelda rehearsing Follies

She never stops!
Imelda played Mama Rose in GYPSY all last year ("Sing out, Louise"), and played Martha in the recent London revival of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? ("I do not bray") until recently - now she leads the cast of the new FOLLIES at the National Theatre this autumn - thankfully I have got my tickets for September ..... she's just a Broadway Baby. 
I dare say having Carson The Butler at home to run things helps.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Jeanne Moreau, RIP

We are sad indeed to read that French icon Jeanne Moreau has passed away at age 89. Moreau (1928-2017) also sang, directed and wrote screenplays and worked with an impressive roster of directors from her early days through the New Wave to the glory days of the 1960s: Malle, Truffaut, Demy, Antonioni, Losey, Bunuel, Duras, several collaberations with Orson Welles (THE TRIAL, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, THE IMMORTAL STORY), and Tony Richardson, and in popular films like THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCETHE TRAIN, etc,
 We particularly like her in Demy's BAY OF ANGELS in 1963, and Malle's LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD in  '58 and VIVA MARIA in 1965 with Bardot,
 theres also of course LA NOTTELES AMANTSEVETHE VICTORS, Ozon's TIME TO LEAVE, and many more in a long,illustrious career., as well as JULES ET JIM and THE BRIDE WOREO BLACK with Truffaut, and LES LIAISONS DANGEROUSES with  Vadim in 1959. Reviews at Moreau label.
 She was also a rather glum MATA HARI in '64. 
Often referred to as "the  French Bette Davis" she could  look beautiful or ravaged at will, her mother was English but after her parents separated she could have grown up in Hove rather than Paris ...
More on these at label, including Fassbinder's QUERELLE - Jeanne was nothing if not adventerous! - not to mention LES VALSEUSES, while Marguerite Duras's 1972 NATHALIE GRANGER is mesmerising. We will remember her long walks around Paris and Milan in those Malle and Antonioni classics, and saw her 1976 director debut LUMIERE at the Film Festival that year, its a surprising charmer.

actors and actresses again ...

Perhaps only another list obsessive would get my compulsion for compiling lists, particularly of favourite actresses and stars - the kind of thing one does in the middle of the night when trying t get back to sleep ... here are my top 30 actresses, and maybe 100 in all, and a lesser amount of actors, but I am not listing everybody - there are some major omissions!

Sophia Loren / Monica Vitti / Lee Remick / Romy Schneider / Marilyn Monroe / Katharine Hepburn / Bette Davis / Judy Garland / Garbo / Dietrich / Ingrid Bergman / Susan Hayward / Audrey Hepburn / Anouk Aimee / Julie Christie / Faye Dunaway / Deborah Kerr / Jean Simmons / Elizabeth Taylor / Ava Gardner / Janet Leigh / Kim Novak / Anne Baxter / Ruth Roman / Joan Fontaine / Olivia De Havilland / Catharine Deneuve / Francoise Dorleac / Kay Kendall / Maggie Smith.

I could do A LOT more …

Barbara Stanwyck / Julie Harris / Wendy Hiller / Cate Blanchett / Tilda Swinton / Sarah Miles / Lauren Bacall / Ida Lupino / Mary Astor / Kathleen Turner / Genevieve Bujold /  Jeanne Moreau / Simone Signoret / Maureen O’Hara / Lilli Palmer / Joan Greenwood / Jane Fonda / Vivien Leigh / Uma Thurman / Julianne Moore / Annette Bening / Capucine / Cyd Charisse / Linda Darnell / Gene Tierney / Loretta Young / Irene Dunne / Margaret Sullavan / Gladys Cooper / Celia Johnson / Edith Evans / Flora Robson / Peggy Ashcroft / Angela Lansbury / Natalie Wood / Doris Day / Debbie Reynolds / Ingrid Thulin / Stephane Audran / Marie Laforet / Claudia Cardinale / Silvana Mangano / Gina Lollobrigida / Brigitte Bardot / Isabelle Adjani / Elsa Martinelli / Lana Turner / Vera Miles / Jan Sterling / Jo Van Fleet / Patricia Neal / Anne Bancroft / Dorothy Malone / Shirley Knight / Kay Walsh / Pamela Brown / Glynis Johns / Susannah York / Billie Whitelaw / Vanessa Redgrave /  Lynn Redgrave / Claire Bloom / Ann Todd / Rosamund John / Dinah Sheridan / Virginia McKenna / Anna Magnani  / Fanny Ardant / Isabelle Huppert / Delphine Seyrig / Alida Valli / Gena Rowlands / Genevieve Page / Geraldine Page / Jessica Tandy / Shelley Winters / Gloria Graham / Eleanor Parker / Ann-Margret / Glenda Jackson / Jean Seberg / Thelma Ritter/ Eve Arden / Agnes Moorehead / Belinda Lee / Rosanna Podesta / Paula Prentiss / Melina Mercouri / Suzanne Pleshette / Tippi Hedren / Eva Marie Saint / Lauren Hutton / Margaret Leighton / Charlotte Rampling / Jane Asher / Jane Merrow / Eileen Atkins / Vivien Pickles / Ruth Gordon.

Better stop there ….
Omissions? Where are Meryl, Glenn, Shirley, Joan, Joanne, Judi, Nicole, Julia, Diane, Kate, Barbra, Liza, Julie etc? Don't look for Leo, Al, Jack, Dustin, Daniel, or any of the current popular names either ...

Actors:
My Top 10:  Dirk Bogarde / James Mason / James Stewart / Cary Grant / Gary Cooper / Humphrey Bogart / Montgomery Clift / Robert De Niro / Ralph Fiennes / Peter Finch.

The heavyweights:  Olivier / Alec Guinness / Marlon Brando / Rod Steiger / Burt Lancaster / Gregory Peck / Robert Mitchum / Heath Ledger / Mark Ruffalo / Charlton Heston / Robert Redford / Warren Beatty / Donald Sutherland / George Segal / Farley Granger / Robert Walker / James Garner / Rod Taylor / Colin Farrell / Lee Marvin / Charles Laughton / George Sanders / Claude Rains / Clifton Webb / Vincent Price / Charles Bickford / Jack Carson / and Jack Lemmon for SOME LIKE IT HOT.

The Europeans:  Alain Delon / Jean-Paul Belmondo / Jean-Claude Brialy / Jean-Louis Trintignant / Maurice Ronet / Jacques Perrin / Robert Hossein / Buno Ganz / Raf Vallone / Renato Salvatori / Marcello Mastroianni / Gerard Blain / Gerard Philipe / Jean Gabin / Max Von Sydow.

The British:  Albert Finney / Peter O’Toole / Alan Bates / Tom Courtenay / Ralph Richardson / John Gielgud / Trevor Howard / Harry Andrews / David Hemmings / David Warner / John Hurt / Michael York / Terence Stamp / Michael Craig / Stanley Baker / Stephen Boyd / Jack Hawkins / Nigel Patrick / James Fox / Peter McEnery / Tom Hardy / Tom Hollander / Alfred Molina / Ben Whishaw / Andrew Scott / Alan Cumming / Stewart Granger.

The lookers:  Jeffrey Hunter / Tab Hunter / Guy Madison / Fabian / Jean Sorel / Henri Vidal / Richard (AMERICAN GIGOLO) Gere /  Keanu (SPEED) Reeves / John Gavin / Channing Tatum.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Summer chillout

Its that time when we plan our summer chillout,  with chilled drinks and snacks on the balcony (we are ten floors up in a new apartment block, with some great views).  
Despite the massive popularity of Drake, Ed Sheeran etc, I find myself reaching back to my chillout cds from a decade ago, particularly this A Man Called Adam one recorded at Space, Ibiza - this disk has it all, super beats and fab tracks. I never tire of it. Also this magazine freebie mixed by Adam and Groove Armada
In fact anything by A Man Called Adam and Groove Armada would be fine, and for deeper funk, those Global Underground compilations by Danny Tenaglia, and the Murk crew (Funky Green Dogs) from Miami. Bliss guaranteed. Had some great club nights at Heaven with them too.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Nineties Nu-Soul Queens ...

For the weekend: a look back at those new '90s music divas  with their funky grooves that got us going then - line them up:
Des'Ree, Macy Gray (we wore out her first album), Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Adeva (I met her up close at Crash club on millennium night and she really is that fierce), Ultra Nate, Rosie Gaines, Donna Allen and Joyce Sims (love that "All'N'All" megamix), and Regina Belle ("You got the love") from the late 80s ....  they still sound terrific now. 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Gina - 90 !

We quite like Gina Lollobrigida here and she turned 90 yesterday! (Sophia is a mere 82, Jeanne Moreau almost 90 as well ...). We grew up on Gina movies like HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (she was a dazzling Esmerelda for us young kids), SOLOMON AND SHEBA, COME SEPTEMBER, WOMAN OF STRAW, NEVER SO FEW, TRAPEZE, etc. and she did some interesting choices in the 60s and 70s too (like Skolimowski's KING QUEEN KNAVE in '72), as she got more interested in sculpting and photography. 
We like this photo with her and Marilyn Monroe - presumably taken on the set of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH in 1955. Gina goes on and on, as per other posts on her. 

Khartoum. again.

KHARTOUM, 1966. I had forgotten how good KHARTOUM is, directed by stalwart Basil Dearden, and 2nd Unit (presumably those battle scenes) by veteran Yakima Canutt (the chariot race in BEN-HUR etc). It has two towering performances - Charlton Heston, steadfast as usual, as General Gordon, in his element unpeeling the layers of Gordon's complex character,  and a mesmerising turn (in a handful of scenes, but dominating the film) by Laurence Olivier as The Madhi - 
he is almost unrecognisable, blacked up here. This was Olivier's great late period, running the National Theatre, films like TERM OF TRIAL and BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (where he is almost ordinary) He was also playing OTHELLO to great acclaim at the time, also blacked up as the Moor, (it was also filmed, with Maggie Smith), after those iconic performances in RICHARD III, THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, THE ENTERTAINER and SPARTACUS.
His Madhi is a stunning creation.  The film is quite topical now, showing as it does the confrontation between Western imperialism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism - this time in the Sudan of the 19th century. Fascinating for those interested in its history and that of Egypt.
Add in Ralph Richardson on prime form as Gladstone, and familiar faces like Richard Johnson, Marne Maitland, Peter Arne, Nigel Green, Michael Hordern, Alexander Knox, Douglas Wilmer, Johnny Sekka. The story of how General Gordon (a fanatic to some) manages to hold Khartoum as the Madhi's forces attack is well told here and its totally engrossing as the beseiged city holds off the Madhi's forces., also effective is that opening sequence as the British army is led deeper and deeper into the remote Sudan as the Madhi's forces wait to attack ...
I didn't want to see it back in 1966 (when I was 20 and there were more trendy movies around), but seeing it now its marvellously done, with Heston back at what he does best, after his tepid performance in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY the year before, where Rex Harrison had the showier role as Pope Julius (as per recent review of that). Dearden too was branching out into international films after those British classics like POOL OF LONDON, THE BLUE LAMP, SAPPHIRE, VICTIM ....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Nocturnal Animals, 2016

Another polarishing experience  - a movie one will either love or hate, as per 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (see below). Tom Ford's NOCTURNAL ANIMALS was one of the big hitters of the last award season, but I had put off seeing it for a while.  I somehow felt it was not for me. His previous film, A SINGLE MAN, in 2010, was equally polarising, glamorising Christopher Isherwood's downbeat modern classic of crumpled middle-aged folk - hard to believe Colin Firth or Julianne Moore here, and the plot had major changes too - as per my review at the time (see A SINGLE MAN/ Ford labels) - there being no gun or suicide intent in Isherwood's original, and the whole thing being far too glamorous and high fashion for its 1962 setting. But enough of that ...

Image result for nocturnal animalsNOCTURNAL ANIMALS may be among the darkest films I have seen - meaning that lots of it take place in the dark and one can barely see what is happening ...

A "story inside a story," in which the first part follows a woman named Susan who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, a man whom she left 20 years earlier, asking for her opinion. The second element follows the actual manuscript, called "Nocturnal Animals," which revolves around a man whose family vacation turns violent and deadly. It also continues to follow the story of Susan, who finds herself recalling her first marriage and confronting some dark truths about herself.


Two stories dovetail here: one in which art gallery curator Amy Adams, who seems to lead a glacial existence in her art gallery and perfect home, receives a manuscript from her estranged husband Jake Gyllenhaal and then we see the story within the script as she reads it ... as it follows a man who suffers tragedy out in the Texan wilderness, as his family is abducted, and his mission to seek vengeance on the scuzzy lowlifes, with the aid of a local lawman Michael Shannon. It goes from noir to thriller but remains a disjointed melodrama. Adams and Gyllenhaal shine and we gone a scene each from Laura Linney and Michael Sheen. But what does it all add up to? Right: Tom Ford's 2006 VANITY FAIR Hollywood issue.  

'Gross Indecency' at the BFI ...

July 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark in LGBT rights - the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales (not Scotland?). Though the Sexual Offences Act 1967 hardly put a stop to persecution, it was a step forward in a climate of fear and ignorance, where any on-screen depiction of gay life assumed enormous currency. British cinema boasts a long history of carefully coded queers, but taboo-busting gathered steam in the late 1950s. This BFI (British Film Institute) season spans two decades, bracketed by the 1957 Wolfenden Report and the onset of AIDS in the early 80s. 
So says the introduction to the two-month BFI season, but as a young gay at the time - 18 in 1964 and new in London - there didn't seem to be any restrictions on our lives. There were a few bars and clubs one could go to, but the gay boom of the 1980s and 90s was a long way away. I remember those pioneering BBC "Man Alive" documentaries, and VICTIM (getting an extended run at the BFI) was an early success.
Image result for bfi gross indecencyThe season highlights several rare items I have reviewed over the past few years (gay interest/British labels) like SERIOUS CHARGE, THE LEATHER BOYS, THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, TWO GENTLEMEN SHARING, and they have dug up those two rather exploitative items THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE and the terrible STAIRCASE, as well as GIRL STROKE BOY and the transgender drama I WANT WHAT I WANT, as well as NIGHTHAWKS, and an extended run for PRICK UP YOUR EARS. There is also a rare 1960 TV production on the trial of Oscar Wilde with Micheal MacLiammoir's celebrated portrayal of Oscar (below) - but not the two Oscar Wilde films of that era. Or indeed the 1970 DORIAN GRAY or GOODBYE GEMINI with their looks at early London drag pubs like the Vauxhall Tavern - or those 60s British films DARLING and THE PLEASURE GIRLS with their uncomplicated happy homosexual friends of the heroines. Murray Head does a Q&A after a screening of SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY - one still remembers the audience gasp at kiss, when seeing the film a second time, at a suburban cinema ...
Television is also currently getting in on the act, with a raft of programmes on Channel 4 and maybe on BBC, as well as on MTV where sassy drag queens with attitude, led by Rupaul,  are playing appropriate pop videos, from the likes of Madonna, Kylie & Co. Rupert Everett did a nice programme last night 50 SHADES OF GAY, so it was back to Heaven, The Colherne and other gay London locations of the last 50 years; Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and others explored BRITAIN'S GREAT GAY BUILDINGS (more Heaven, The Vauxhall Tavern, Old Bailey, etc), and POP PRIDE & PREJUDICE covered the gay pop scene, with lots of Bowie, Boy George, George Michael, Jimmy Sommerville, Marc Almond, etc. 

BBC's Radio3 are even doing a 90 minute programme on the making of VICTIM, with actors playing Dirk and his partner, director Dearden, co-star Sylvia Syms etc. Presumably based on Dirk's version of its making, as in his "Snakes and Ladders" book. I don't think I need listen to that. Sylvia is still here of course, but presmably too old to play her younger self ...

Coming up is a new dramatisation of that inflential 1954 court case involving Peter Wildeblood and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with Mark Gatiss, AGAINST THE LAW, which BBC2 will screen this autumn - I also reviewed the previous 2007 one in 2013. A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL:

London Pride is this Saturday 8th, so the city will be thronged as will Brighton for Pride in August, with the Pet Shop Boys doing a full concert.  

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Genevieve

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of another of our great favourites - French/Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold .... the 70s was really her decade, we love her in De Palma's OBSESSION (see review, and a previous longer appreciation on her, at Bujold label) and Crichton's tense medical thriller COMA, and she is the best thing in the hilariously awful EARTHQUAKE. and we also love her in Lelouch's 1978 ANOTHER MAN, ANOTHER CHANCE, as per recent re-view. I never really liked ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS though. She later made interesting films like CHOOSE ME and still works now mainly in independent cinema. Viva Genevieve. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

20th Century Women

I had been looking forward to this - movie buff Martin had it as his "personal favourite" film of 2016 - and we all like Annette Bening. But I found I did not go overboard for this at all, finding it tedious, plotless, pointless, like the worst of indie cinema, so why bother reviewing it?

The story of a teenage boy, his mother, and two other women who help raise him among the love and freedom of Southern California of 1979.

Well, Annette Bening is marvellous as the perfect Mom, worrying about her 15 year old son - rather a blank here as played by Lucas Jade Zumann.  Elle Fanning is as dull and blank as she was in THE NEON DEMON and Greta Gerwig can't make much of her punk photographer, while Billy Crudup completes the lineup as the other lodger.
Set in Santa Barbara in 1979 it captures American suburbia nicely, with the hippie-ish folk. We watch in amazement as Bening lights up one cigarette after another (there is a price to be paid for that...), and has some rather nice moments when alone with her cat, and there is that nice climax as she flies over the ocean. But really, if I had been watching this in the cinema I would have walked by the half way point, and so it seems would a lot of the writers of the comments on IMDB, so its a rather polarising film which one will either love completely or feel mainly indifferent to. I felt the same about BOYHOOD the other year, another mainly plotless, aimless movie covering the same territory. 
Bening of course has been marvellous in so many things, from THE GRIFTERS to AMERICAN BEAUTY to THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT and here, 
Funnily enough I liked Mike Mills' previous film more: BEGINNERS from 2010, where Ewan McGregor is the son of aged Christopher Plummer who comes out as gay in his old age. That moved along nicely and had a plot one could relate to. His new film is semi-autobiographical, based on memories of his own mother and influences on his childhood. It all just seemed far too long and repetitive, but I better say no more about it in case others love it to death.  

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Susan's centenary ....

Susan Hayward, one of our favourites here, would be 100 on June 30. (She died aged 57 in 1975). Here, as tribute is the trailer for one of her '50s hits: I'LL CRY TOMORROW .... we will have to see it again. Its up there with her WITH A SONG IN MY HEART or I WANT TO LIVE!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A treat: Lee and Dirk in The Vision, 1987

A thousand thanks to Colin for finding this - one of my Holy Grails - a 1987 BBC film with two of my top favourites, which was only ever shown once by the BBC and since unavailable. It is now on dvd, so thanks again Colin - just what I needed after a few days in hospital. 
Dirk Bogarde and Lee Remick head an outstanding cast (including Eileen Atkins and Helena Bonham Carter) in this powerful drama from the creative team behind SHADOWLANDS. Originally screened (in January 1988) as part of BBC2’s acclaimed Screen Two strand, THE VISION is a disturbing reflection on an era of televangelists, burgeoning satellite channels and ruthless media manipulation – quite timely then for 30 years ago.
Bogarde plays James Marriner, a faded, unhappily married for TV presenter, reduced to margarine commercials and opening supermarkets, who is persuaded to front The People Channel – a right-wing, evangelical satellite network poised to launch in Europe. Determined to recruit “Gentle Jim” as a reassuringly familiar anchorman, the network’s steely, seductive boss Grace Gardner (Remick) proves hard to refuse.
As the network’s first live transmission looms, Marriner – whose personal life is now under surveillance – has become deeply uneasy about its aims. Garner, however, makes it clear than any attempt to alert viewers to her organisation’s true agenda, will bring about a devastating retribution. 
Written by William Nicholson and directed by Norman Stone. 
Eileen Atkins (in another of her then Mrs Glum roles) is Bogarde's unhappy wife, and Bonham Carter their daughter, Dirk and Lee play perfectly together, at this late stage in their careers - almost their final work. I met them both (separately) at the BFI in 1970 (I was 24) and got to talk to them both, as per other posts on them (see labels). Its a great role for Remick, which she plays with relish and looks great here in her early fifties, a few years before her death in 1991. (We also saw Atkins on stage then as Elizabeth I in Bolt's VIVAT REGINA with Sarah Miles as Mary Queen of Scots).
I suppose it now too much to expect to get Lee's other BBC productions, SUMMER AND SMOKE in 1972 and Henry James' THE AMBASSADORS, with Paul Scofield, in 1977, finally on dvd too? - in the meantime, great to see THE VISION again, and it is so timely, even if the 80s technology looks so dated now.  Then there are Bogarde's other TV productions, like THE PATRICIA NEAL STORY with Glenda Jackson ...

Friday, 23 June 2017

People we like: Janet Leigh

When I was doing those "People We Like" profiles here a few years ago (see label), one I somehow omitted was Janet Leigh - one of our perennial favourites, and always a pleasure in any movie. Janet (1927-2004) was a blonde California girl who famously got discovered when Norma Shearer saw her photograph at the ski lodge where Leigh's parents worked and, as legend has it, she was soon signed to MGM being one of their ingenues in the late '40s, in a variety of films. She was one of the LITTLE WOMEN in 1949, when HOLIDAY AFFAIR with Mitchum is a delightful Christmas classic. WHEN WINTER COMES was interesting too. The '50s though was her main era.

She is gorgeous in some costumers: SCARAMOUCHE in 1952, and cardboard castle time in comic strips like PRINCE VALIANT and THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, with her then husband Tony Curtis. She is a '20s flapper in PETE KELLY'S BLUES, and good in a tough cop drama ROGUE COP with Robert Taylor, both 1954. I somehow missed her and Curtis in HOUDINI
She also excels out west in Mann's THE NAKED SPUR in 1953. She was MY SISTER EILEEN in the delightful 1955 musical and gets to dance with Bob Fosse.  We like it a lot, as per review. 1956 saw her in Africa in a routine jungle saga SAFARI with Victor Mature. 1958 was maybe her peak year: with Heston in TOUCH OF EVIL, directed by Orson at his most flamboyant, a modern noir classic where she gets terrorised in a motel, hiding her broken arm most of the time; then the Boys-Own classic THE VIKINGS, filmed in Norway and looking great as photographed by Jack Cardiff, where we love her Princess Morgana, its a perennial that boys of all ages still tune into. There was also a comedy I like, THE PERFECT FURLOUGH (or STRICTLY FOR PLEASURE) in Paris, with Curtis, for Blake Edwards. The marriage to Curtis made them one of the star couples of the era. Then Alfred Hitchcock came calling .... 

I have written about PSYCHO a lot here. Janet may only have been in the first forty minutes, but her Marion Crane dominates the rest of the film, and it is surely a leading performance, and she looks great here. She will always be the girl in the shower at the Bates Motel ... Hitchcock told her he knew she could act and left the role up to her as long as he got what he needed for his camera setups. That long scene with Perkins at the motel is particularly effective.

Frankenheimer's THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was another classic in 1962, though her part was not major in it and she continued throughout the early Sixties: another musical: BYE BYE BIRDIE in '63, a comedy WIVES AND LOVERS, Paul Newman's estranged wife in HARPER in 1966. There was a Jerry Lewis comedy I saw around that time too, purely because she was in it. 
Lesser roles followed but she had more or less retired after a long happy second marriage (she and Curtis divorced in '62). John Carpenter lured her back with a role in THE FOG in 1980, starring her daughter scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. She also did a good COLUMBO episode in 1975. Janet also wrote some novels and a charming autobiography and seems to have been well liked by everybody. 
Howard Hughes liked her a lot, with her perfect figure, she did his JET PILOT with John Wayne in 1951, directed by Von Sternberg, but it was 1957 by the time Hughes stopped tinkering with it and released it. She looks marvellous emerging from that flying suit in that white tee-shirt, but says in her book that she had to arrange to never be left alone with Hughes, till he eventually found more willing actresses .... 
She will always be one of the essential actresses of the 1950s, along with Kim, Doris, Debbie, Lee, Jean, Deborah, Susan, Ava, Natalie etc. and did sterling work with Hitchcock, Welles, Von Sternberg, Mann etc. (above: Janet in a 1969 "Sight & Sound" interview).