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.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Showpeople (9): annual movie trade fair time again

Oscar fever weekend arrives as the latest award ceremony gets underway. I do not anticipate too many, if any, surprises - Jeff Bridges will hardly win 2 years in a row (that hasn't happened since Tracy or Hanks) and after losing to Bridges last year it is certainly Firth's turn this time. A piece on morning television this a.m. was all gush about the glitz and glamour - it was a fashion showbiz event to them, they had no interest in the movies - but then that was hardly aimed at the movie buff crowd!

But when did it all become about the red carpet and the dresses and the jewels and the parties and the exposure - probably since it started really but only now with all the television rolling exposure and our new celebrity culture it is a whole new ballgame. Back in the '50s though we only had reports and photos of the (much smaller) ceremony in the fan magazines and annuals as a record of the event. Here are a few:Top: Dana Wynter, Angela Lansbury and Joan Collins performing a skit "We're glad we are not nominated" at the 1958 shindig. The '58 winners: GIGI producer Arthur Freed, Burl Ives, Susan Hayward, David Niven, Ingrid Bergman (presenting) and Maurice Chevalier (besg supporting actress Wendy Hiller presumably didn't attend); on to the 1962 awards and a glamorous Joan Crawford graciously shares the limelight with winner Gregory Peck and presenters Sophia Loren and Max Schell (1961's winners). Joan accepted the award for the absent Anne Bancroft, thus putting Bette Davis's nose out of joint! and a page of pictures from the 1957 show [click picture twice to enlarge]. Nowdays though one is hard pushed to remember who won a year or two ago!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


1957! What a great year to be 11 and starting to going to movies on one's own or with friends and family. That whole decade 1954 - 1964 was my first decade of moviegoing [which nicely co-incides with that fascinating mid-century era of cinema as the modern movie world began circa 1960, or so it seems to me], which I started aged 8 in Ireland in '54 and then I was 18 in '64 newly arrived in London. As per my post on 1954 (label) JOHNNY GUITAR was the first movie I was taken to, which was so vivid and exciting for me, followed by various westerns and A STAR IS BORN. I was also taken during 55 and 56 by my parents to see those hits like THE KING AND I, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, TRAPEZE, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS etc, but 1957 marked the year I was allowed to start going on my own - our small town in Ireland had 2 local cinemas which changed programmes several times a week and had lots of revivals and double features. As we did not have television in Ireland then (it did not arrive until the early 60s) we saw lots of movies on the big screen. Ideal!

It was a great year for muscials and sophisticated entertainments. For me particularly those gems like Cukor's LES GIRLS, Donen's FUNNY FACE, Minnelli's DESIGNING WOMAN [Peck and Bacall above in that perfect 50s interior], and musicals like THE PYJAMA GAME (Doris at her peak and that sizzling "Steam Heat"), WHAT LOLA WANTS, PAL JOEY and Fred and Cyd in SILK STOCKINGS. I discovered Sophia Loren in BOY ON A DOLPHIN and LEGEND OF THE LOST where she and John Wayne were super in this sahara western, Gina in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, Lee Remick made a terrific debut in A FACE IN THE CROWD. Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela and Robert Mitchum as the marine were terrific in Huston's HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON and of course Kerr and Grant in AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER.

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI was the big hit, and that western GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL with Burt and Kirk at their peak, Disney's OLD YELLER, Elvis in LOVING YOU and JAILHOUSE ROCK. I remember a particular Hollywood magazine I had with stories of the hit films RAINTREE COUNTY, THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, TAMMY, FUNNY FACE, LOVING YOU and rushing to see those movies. It was that great era for stars like Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Burt, Kirk, Rock, Tony Curtis, Peck, Clift, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Susan Hayward, Kay Kendall, Jeffrey and Tab Hunter, Natalie Wood, Sandra Dee, Joanne Woodward, Shirley McLaine, Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield in WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER, James Stewart in a western I liked NIGHT PASSAGE with Audie Murphy and Brandon De Wilde, and of course anything with Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn.

It was also the year of those great dramas like 12 ANGRY MEN, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, THE WRONG MAN and PATHS OF GLORY. I later discovered Anna Magnani's great performance in Cukor's WILD IS THE WIND and caught up with Antonioni's IL GRIDO, Fellini's CABIRIA and those two essential Bergmans: THE SEVENTH SEAL (bottom) and WILD STRAWBERRIES as well as finding out about films like KANAL or THE CRANES ARE FLYING with the arrival of magazines like "Films and Filming", more serious than the usual "Picture Show" or "Photoplay" or the Hollywood fan magazines (usually with Marilyn on the cover or the latest on Liz or Debbie).

The more rubbish movies of the year which we liked included the hilariously awful THE STORY OF MANKIND and Hedy Lamarr as THE FEMALE ANIMAL. Stanwyck had 2 good westerns TROOPER HOOK and 40 GUNS. (I have reviewed several of these on here already, 50s label). Jeff Hunter and Robert Wagner were the James Brothers for Nick Ray in THE TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES. Pat Boone starred in APRIL LOVE. Preminger offered SAINT JOAN which became a resounding failure. SOMETHING OF VALUE was a good Hudson drama set in Africa with Sidney Poitier, Dana Wyner and Wendy Hiller.

There was another SISSI film with Romy Schneider and English cinema came up trumps with dramas like WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN (that was Yvonne Mitchell, left above), Stanley Baker in the tough HELL DRIVERS with young Sean Connery and Patrick McGoohan on their way up, Peter Sellers scored in THE NAKED TRUTH, and the Rank Organisation came up with some hits: Dirk Bogarde and Baker again in CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM a Hammond Innes adventure set in Canada (but filmed in the Italian dolomites), Belinda Lee heading the cast of the period drama DANGEROUS EXILE, Stephen Boyd and Tony Wright in the wartime drama SEVEN THUNDERS, and Tyrone Power and that great cast (including Boyd again) in the Shepperton tank all at sea for SEVEN WAVES AWAY (or ABANDON SHIP!).

Fox also came up with some heavyweights from some best-sellers: Power, Ava and Flynn heading THE SUN ALSO RISES, Lana leading PEYTON PLACE and yes Boyd again, with Joan Collins in ISLAND IN THE SUN - Harry Belafonte's theme song was one of the hits of that great year!, and their great ensemble of contract players, led by Joanne Woodward, Jeff Hunter and Patricia Owens in NO DOWN PAYMENT. Fox also gave us the film of Steinbeck's THE WAYWARD BUS with Joan (Collins) and Jayne which is a very rare movie now, but I caught it a while ago. (1957 label)
It is probably heresy but one '57 movie that just does not do it for me is LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON which I finally saw a while ago; liking Audrey, Cooper and Wilder as I do I was looking forward to this but for me it was like a failed souffle, though I see Wilder's intention of re-creating 'the Lubitsch touch', and far too long too!

Soon: 1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1964 (I have already done 1954, 1960, 1962.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Angela through the decades ...

Angela Lansbury! She is still going strong in her mid 80s. How amazing she is. I was watching THE HARVEY GIRLS on afternoon television the other day, and there is Angela just about 20 playing older than her years, being mean to Judy, and kicking up a storm as the saloon entertainer, just after her lovely performance as Sybil Vane in the 1945 PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. (She had began aged 18 in Cukor's 1944 GASLIGHT). She was also playing older, in her 20s, opposite Tracy and Hepburn in the 1948 STATE OF THE UNION.

Her '50s movies were a varied bunch, an early Tony Curtis movie, a western with Randolph Scott (LAWLESS STREET), hilarious with Danny Kaye in THE COURT JESTER. 1958 was a good year: with Orson Welles in the starry THE LONG HOT SUMMER as his very Southern ladyfriend, and the English socialite in Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE as the catty friend competing with Kay Kendall and Rex Harrison in launching her daughter on high society. Then she was in Australia for SUMMER OF THE 17TH DOLL with Anne Baxter, had a nice cameo in THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, and another catty role with Sophia Loren in the under-rated A BREADTH OF SCANDAL in 1961.

The 1960s brought those great mother roles, famously as Laurence Harvey's in Frankenheimer's 1962 classic THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (she was only 3 years older than him), Elvis's in BLUE HAWAII and I particularly like her Annabel, also in 1962 for Frankenheimer in ALL FALL DOWN, as mother to Warren Beatty and Brandon de Wilde. She is fun with Peter Sellers in the lovely THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, and pops up in MR BUDDWING, among others like her impoverished aristocrat in THE ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS, 1965 with Kim Novak, and less so in the awful HARLOW as Jean's mother - one hopes she got a good paycheck for that! Her first real lead movie role was that other impoverished aristocrat in Hal Prince's wonderful SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE where Michael York works his way through her family, restoring her fortunes (it was called BLACK FLOWERS FOR THE BRIDE in the UK), and also Disney's BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS.

Angela finally became a Broadway star with MAME (her duet "Bosom Buddies" with Bea Arthur as Vera Charles is just perfect), she played GYPSY in London (when I saw her during a very entertaining session at the National Film Theatre discussing her career), and also on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Albee's ALL OVER sharing the stage with Dame Peggy Ashcroft - Angela certainly worked with them all. There was also the short-lived Sondheim musical ANYONE CAN WHISTLE with Lee Remick, who also starred with her in a sugary tv christmas film A CHRISTMAS STORY.

Angela also lived in Ireland for a time, so was perfect as the Irish granny in the film of Colm Toibin's story THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP in 2004. Oh, there was also that long-runniong tv series MURDER SHE WROTE ...

Angela has recently been in NANNY MCPHEE and on Broadway in a revival of Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT as Madame Arcati, a very physical role for a woman in her 80s!. It would have been nice to have seen that, but I dare say her Salome Otterbourne in DEATH ON THE NILE must be the next best thing. She has also just been in that revival of Sondheim's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC as Madame Armfeldt. It is a remarkable career by a remarkable much loved star. Looking forward to seeing her in the next series of DOWNTON ABBEY later this year.

Below: the London National Film Theatre announcement of her 1973 appearance: (click to enlarge)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Dirk's fan magazines

I have written about Dirk Bogarde quite a bit on here (as per label), he fascinated me ever since I saw him in that perfect Rank Organisation film CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM back in '57 when I was 11, then it was on to A TALE OF TWO CITIES, THE WIND CANNOT READ and all the others, and catching up with those earlier ones as well - the Doctors, the war films, the spivs. Then of course his great run in the '60s, taking risks with VICTIM, THE SERVANT and those Loseys. I still love MODESTY BLAISE! It was fascinating meeting him in 1970 when he did a lecture apperance at the London National Film Theatre (at the time DEATH IN VENICE was opening) - and of course his books and novels have all been essential. Dirk of course worked with and knew everybody from all the rising English talent to those European ladies, so it was fascinating reading about Kay Kendall, Judy, Capucine, Julie Christie, Monica Vitti, Losey, Visconti and all the rest. (Right, his album of romantic songs - he more or less recites the lyrics over syrupy arrangements, its a kitschfest now).

Back in the 50s though the fan magazines had a field day with all those studio shots of Dirk at his various homes, with his dogs, horses and devoted staff. I bought the Fan Star Library one when it was published in 1958, but it was a delight to pick up his life story in pictures recently. What a treasure it is, particularly his "romance" with Jean Simmons which could not be ... (click images to enlarge) (it also has fictional stories on those other bachelors Rock Hudson and Monty Clift). I have now though got another early '50s Dirk to watch APPOINTMENT IN LONDON another wartime drama with the lovely Dinah Sheridan, it should be as enjoyable as that delicious CAST A DARK SHADOW from 1955, another of his spivvy roles. He and Jean were reunited, by the way, at a BAFTA tribute to him sometime in the early 90s when she appeared to discuss their SO LONG AT THE FAIR.

Friday, 18 February 2011

And the Grammy goes to ...

Award season is in full swing in Feburary. We have already had the BAFTAs and the BRITs (the English music awards) and the Grammys this week .... now for the Oscars!

I had not seen a Grammy show before, it is not much taken notice of here in the UK - but the latest 2011 one popped up on a cable channel and it made fascinating viewing for a first time viewer ...(usually American shows like American Idol or Dance With The Stars are not viewed much here, they are on minor cable channels, as we have our own shows like X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing which the whole country watches - the US versions are somehow too glitzy for us - but the Grammys were fascinating).

Surprisingly, a lot of my old favourites turned up ... as well as the new music sounds - Lady Gaga emerging from the egg (and that very Madonna sounding "Born This Way"), the all-conquering Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Usher, the country trio (including Norah Jones and Keith Urban) doing Dolly's "Jolene" - and best of all the crazy mix of Cee Lo Green and Gwynneth Paltrow doing that version of his "Forget You".

But there were Aretha, Barbra, Mick Jagger and Dylan! I bought Bob's "Maggie's Farm" back in the '60s, bizarre to see him performing it now. Jagger can still turn it on. The Aretha tribute was nice [glad they included "Ain't No Way"] and then there was the clip of Aretha herself, much slimmed down, one trusts she is recovering (?). She has always been top of my top favourites, along with Joni Mitchell, Streisand and a few others - I have so many of the albums and singles and it was of course terrific to see her live during her two London shows in '68 and '70 (before she stopped flying) and then her later renaissance in the 80s and 90s.

Barbra and Kristofferson re-united (don't mention their 1976 film to me ... I hate it) were interesting too. Is it really 45 years since I saw her on the stage in FUNNY GIRL in 1966? Will we ever see Joni in public or performing again? We will though all be glitzed (or glazed) out by the end of the current awards season.