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.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927-2013), aged 85. I wrote about her just last week after watching A ROOM WITH A VIEW again (below) - surprisingly, the scriptwriter for most of those Merchant-Ivory films was not Indian at all, but a German Jew, a lot of whose family perished in the war. After her marriage to an Indian she settled in India before moving to America. She won Booker Prize for her novel HEAT AND DUST, which she also scripted for Merchant-Ivory (with Jhabvala, right), who approached her in 1960 to make a film of her novel THE HOUSEHOLDER, which started that rewarding partnership, resulting in Oscars for her scripts of the E.M.Foster films ROOM and HOWARD'S END; others included THE GURU, THE EUROPEANS, THE BOSTONIANS, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. She did not though script MAURICE.

Milo O'Shea (1926-2013), aged 86, veteran Irish actor and funny man. Last year a lot of musical talent departed - it may be comedians this year (having already lost Richard Briers, Richard Griffiths, Frank Thornton). Milo was an all-round theatre man, popular in films too:  Duran Duran in BARBARELLA, the friar in Zeffirelli's ROMEO & JULIET, THE VERDICT, ULYSSES, LOOT (right, with Richard Attenborough and Lee Remick, one to revisit ..), and in tv in THE WEST WING, CHEERS, and that great BBC series ME MAMMY, scripted by his friend Hugh Leonard, with the great Anna Manahan - how we loved that in 1969-71, but seems impossible to see now. He did STAIRCASE on stage opposite Eli Wallach, in a long career on stage in Dublin, London and New York.

Roger Ebert (1942-2013), aged 70, became the first American film critic to win a Pulitzer prize, having turned reviewing into a branch of showbusiness when he and Gene Siskel launched their influential film review show on tv in Chicago in 1975; by the early 1980s it was attracting a weekly audience of three and a half millions viewers. The “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from Ebert and Siskel, was delivered to the camera in the manner of ancient Roman emperors deciding the fate of gladiators. A double “thumbs up” was considered a much sought-after seal of approval by the Hollywood studios. Their shows did not appear here in the UK though  (we were lumbered with the BBC's middle-of-the-road movie pundit, Barry Norman).  I like Ebert's book THE GREAT MOVIES. At least his reviews, like those of Pauline Kael's, are preserved in their books.

Sara (Sarita) Montiel (1928-2013) - terrific in Anthony Mann's SERENADE, (he was one of her husbands)  perhaps the best of the Mario Lanza films, a delirious 1956 Warners melodrama with that lush colour and great compositions and Sarita (as she was then) certainly stood out ... its from a 40s James M Cain novel where the Joan Fontaine character is a man! (review at Fontaine label) Almodovar plays tribute to Montiel in his BAD EDUCATION (Almodovar label). Montiel was also in VERA CRUZ and RUN OF THE ARROW as well as remaining a huge star in Spain, perhaps a more flamboyant Jane Russell type ...

Annette Funicello (1942-20132) - "Theres a Muscle Beach Party in Heaven". I never saw Funicello in anything, we did not have the Disney Musketeers when I was growing up in Ireland, but we knew all about Annette and Frankie Avalon and those Beach Party movies .... sadly, she had been unwell for some time with M.S. 

and just in, news of the death of Margaret Thatcher, aged 87 after being unwell for some years. Whatever one felt about her and her policies (such as the infamous Section 28 or that bonkers poll tax) she was indeed a towering, colorful figure in British politics, perhaps the only Prime Minister since Churchill (or Blair) to have stood out so much or to have made such a difference, unlike today's lot.  As The Huffington Post succintly put it:
"Love her or loathe her, one thing's beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain. The Iron Lady who ruled for 11 remarkable years imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation _ breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace. She left behind a leaner government and more prosperous nation by the time a mutiny ousted her from No. 10 Downing Street.
For admirers, Thatcher was a savior who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance. For critics, she was a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich.
"Let us not kid ourselves, she was a very divisive figure," said Bernard Ingham, Thatcher's press secretary for her entire term. "She was a real toughie. She was a patriot with a great love for this country, and she raised the standing of Britain abroad."
Thatcher was the first _ and still only _ female prime minister in Britain's history. But she often found feminists tiresome and was not above using her handbag as a prop to underline her swagger and power. A grocer's daughter, she rose to the top of Britain's snobbish hierarchy the hard way, and envisioned a classless society that rewarded hard work and determination."
She certainly symbolised the '80s in all its dated aspects now. I expect there will be wall to wall coverage  .... 

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