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, 30 July 2014

Summer views: Summertime, 1955

SUMMERTIME, 1955. David Lean’s entrancing film of Arthur Laurents’ “The Time of the Cuckoo” effortlessly draws one in again, no matter now many times one has seen it. I wonder though what it would be like if the homlier Shirley Booth, who played it on the stage, had re-created her role as Jane Hudson, the spinster secretary from Akron, Ohio, on the loose in Venice. Jane considers herself independent and happy to go it alone, but you can feel very alone in a strange, new beautiful city, we can feel her ache with loneliness among the crowds in the Piazza San Marco, then suddenly she is aware of the handsome man who is watching her … 

The angular Katharine Hepburn is fascinating here, whether shooting film with her camera, or (famously) falling into the canal. There is also of course the obliatory cute kid to show her around. She wears a fascinating collection of outfits too. Rosanno Brazzi is the very essence of a romantic handsome Italian to set any unmarried woman aflutter, even though it turns out he is married. The other American tourists are amusing cartoons, and Isa Miranda has the most fabuous little hotel with great rooms and views (actually a mix of different locations and a purpose-built set). At least the film catches Venice in the mid-50s before the endless tourists and giant cruise ships which may now be causing damage to the lagoon. 

Our lovers meet in his shop with those red glass goblets and soon he is taking her to Murano that island where the glass is made, she meets his son (Jeremy Spenser) too which makes her realise Vittorio is married. The climax as Jane leaves on the train, after that night of passion, endlessly waving goodbye is certainly an emotional one  … surely she won’t be going back to her old life back in Ohio? Surely Venice and her little romance has awakened her …. It is one of Lean’s perfectly shot and directed “little” films before he went for the larger canvas of his later opuses. Hepburn too scores one of her best ‘50s films.

Arthur Laurents though, at his waspish best, who wrote the original play “The Time of the Cuckoo” is less than enamoured with star and director in his memoir, writing that “Shirley (named Leona Samish) came by boat to Venice on a budget holiday, her clothes were bought on a secretary’s salary, and with an ordinary camera. Kate Hepburn’s Jane Hudson flew to Venice in gowns by Adrian. On arrival she whips out an expensive movie camera and proceeds to photograph everything in sight with the expertise of a professional. She comes to Venice to change outfits, flirt archly with a good-looking man, but preserve her very-long-held virginity at all costs. She does lose it – as a screenload of fireworks in the Venetian sky tells us – and to her surprise she likes what it takes to lose it. But at this point Jane decides to leave Venice... 
Why? Because the picture has gone on long enough. Her given reason is that she has always stayed too long at a party. The picture itself is a beautifully photographed travelogue, a coffee-table book on film. What little story it tells is mawkish and sentimental, made more so by the maudlin performance of its star whose weeping threatens to overflow the troubled canals. At the very end of the movie there is a moment, wonderfully shot and conceived, where Di Rossi runs frantically along a railway station platform with a flower for Jane, who is on a fast moving, departing train. He doesn’t catch up and she is left, looking back at him, her eyes leaking like an old faucet.... 
SUMMERTIME was moderately successful at the box office and Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar. The screenplay was credited to H E Bates, a first-rate English novelist, it should have been credited to Hepburn and Lean, true believers that stars can do anything they want, even write. In this aspect of the movie business they were unoriginal. 

Kate scored again though in 1956 with DESK SET (which I like a lot), from another play which Shirley Booth had originated on stage! She and Kate had become friends during the stage run of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY where Booth had played Kate Imbrie. Booth of course had won her own Oscar with COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA, from the William Inge play, in 1952 and also appeared in other films like THE MATCHMAKER (the origin of HELLO DOLLY). Laurents’ book is one of those fascinating show-biz memoirs, with all the best stories, including his long time relationship with Farley Granger.  
Venice scores here too, usually it is the background for death or plague as in DEATH IN VENICE or DON’T LOOK NOW….

Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer views: A Streetcar Named Desire, 1984

I have just watched the 1984 versison of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Ann-Margret and Treat Williams, which I imagined would be Tennessee-lite, but was very involving and emotional, with great art-direction and that late 1940s look. Is it a quality production of the play, is Ann a creditable Blanche?

I have liked Ann in several items lately (like THE TWO MRS GRENVILLES and her 1966 THE PLEASURE SEEKERS, as per label here) and she seems to be ticking all the boxes here, even if too shrill at the start but by the second half she is terrific. No one could ever be as good as Vivien Leigh but Ann has a creditable stab, with all those lines we know: about the Tarntula Arms, and "I don't want realism, I want magic", "deliberate cruelty is unforgiveable" and of course "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" for that great climax. Beverely D'Angelo is good too as Stella.

Stanley though is Treat Williams who seems to have bulked up and looks sexy enough. He plays him as an infantile brute. Treat was fun in THE RITZ and in HAIR and great in PRINCE OF THE CITY (and still looks good now), (Treat label), but Brando he ain't. 
Looking at it again it seems a very cruel work, as Blanche is stripped of everything and Kowalski gets away with raping her, as she is carried off to the looneybin.

It is also well directed by John Erman (who has done a lot of 'gay interest' items: AN EARLY FROST, Anne again in OUR SONS and THE TWO MRS GRENVILLES, Lee Remick's THE LETTER, THIS YEAR'S BLONDE, THE LAST BEST YEAR, Midler's STELLA etc), with Travilla dressing Ann, Sydney Guilaroff doing her hair, and Marvin Hamlish doing that rather good score.

I'd love to have seen Faye Dunaway and Jon Voight, or Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. Any other famous Blanches? The only one I saw on the stage was Claire Bloom's in London in 1974. (Claire Bloom label). Gillian Anderson is just about to open in a new production here in London. One has to feel a bit sorry for Jessica Tandy - the original Blanche with Brando in Kazan's first 1947 production, but the part became so associated with Vivien Leigh after the movie and her playing it in London.
Ann is certainly the most voluptuous Blanche - she knows her effect on men, maybe that is all she has left, as she is - as she says - all played out. The reason she makes the journey to New Orleans is because she has burned all her bridges after losing the family home and her reputation with her erratic behavior and poor judgment.  "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at -- Elysian Fields!" Desire and Cemeteries were actual streetcar lines in New Orleans and Elysian Fields is a street in the French Quarter (where Stella and Stanley live), but Williams used them as a metaphor. 
She strives to start anew but she can't escape her past nor her illness. Still, she refuses to see herself as she is but instead creates the illusion of what ought to be, and like an actress playing a role, shes very theatrical and selects her wardrobe with tremendous care. But it's a front. People with mental illness who try to pass themselves off as "normal" eventually begin to crack under the pressure. That's what happens to Blanche. She starts out seemingly normal, but eventually the facade wears off. She is now at a dead end (Elysian Fields). Elysian Fields in mythology is the land of the dead, ruled by Hades.
Ann still looks marvellous now in her 70s, in new series of RAY DONOVAN (right).

Next: more hot summer night movies: SUMMERTIME, 1995, and THE GREENGAGE SUMMER, 1961, and my favourite scene from A LETTER TO THREE WIVES ....

Sunday, 27 July 2014

RIP continues ...

Dora Bryan (1923-2014), aged 91. Dora, a British icon of stage, screen and television, got to a good age but had been unwell for some time. She was well known in Brighton where I lived a decade or so ago, as she had a hotel business there. Its always a pleasure seeing her in a small part in films as varied as THE FALLEN IDOL or ODD MAN OUT from the '40s onward, where she was often a good time girl in a mac. She is particularly hilarious as the other  less-attractive (than Glynis Johns) mermaid in MAD ABOUT MEN in 1954 - below with Glynis, in DESERT MICE and of course her best known role in A TASTE OF HONEY, which she made her own, and for which she was a BAFTA (more on this at Rita Tushingham label). Later of course she popped up in everything from DINNERLADIES to AB FAB to ST TRINANS and LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE. I saw her in a revival of CHARLEY GIRL in the '80s where her co-star was no less than Cyd Charisse.
And of course who could forget her 1963 novelty hit single: "All I Want for Christmas is a Beatle"!
James Shigeta (1933-2014), aged 81. The first Asian-American leading man? Born in Hawaii, he had a long career in television and film, playing leads in BRIDGE TO THE SUN opposite Carroll Baker, in 1961, and of course FLOWER DRUM SONG. He also appeared in DIE HARD, LOST HORIZON (1973) and a host of TV shows from MURDER SHE WROTE to MATT HOUSTON and IRONSIDE.

Alan Stanbrook (1938-2014) aged 76. respected writer about cinema, writing for magazines like "Films & Filming" (I remember his by-line well) and writing obituaries and showbiz featuresfor newspapers like "The Daily Telegraph".

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Forgotten '60s British movies: Two Left Feet

TWO LEFT FEET captures 1963 in aspic as we follow our teenagers in that pre-Beatles, pre-swinging decade where everything is in black and white. I was 17 myself then (also wearing those popular striped shirts) in my small town in Ireland, so can easily identify with the guys here. Michael Crawford is the rather gormless, callow lead, looking for a girlfriend, or just sex (just like his role in THE KNACK in 1965, maybe the best known and most popular of these movies) but he cannot dance property - hence, the two left feet.  We see him initially venturing into the West End of London, looking at all the neon lights of Piccadilly and looking at the girlie magazines in a shop window before he goes to a nudie cinema to see some soft porn, popular at the time.

At work, he and mates (including David Lodge) are fascinated by the new waitress at the cafe they go to - she is the more mature Nyree Dawn Porter (playing 23 to his 17!), but she is intrigued by young Michael and agrees to go on a date with him to the local hotspot, 
where they meet smart teens David Hemmings and Michael Craze (both of whom were boy sopranos, Hemmings, when 12, sang Miles in Benjamin Britten's TURN OF THE SCREW) - here they are mixed up kids but Crawford and Nyree are soon doing the Twist and being part of their group. Nyree though wants to be with Craze as Crawford meets nice girl Julia Foster. Events twist and turn as Hemmings and his girl get married young (cue hilarious wedding scene with Uncle Michael Ripper), and Crawford and Julia finally get together, after an appearance by Bernard Lee as Crawford's dad who helps him see the light.
Hemmings and Crawford
Directed by Roy Baker from David Stewart Leslie's novel, it is an affectionate look at those early Sixties before everything began to take off a year or so later - these are real working class teenagers (as opposed to the types in say a pop film of the time PLAY IT COOL). It also captures that young cast as they too were going places - Nyree Dawn Porter in THE FORSYTE SAGA in '67, I saw Crawford in the 1966 play THE ANNIVERSARY though he did not do the Bette Davis film); while Hemmings and Foster were also in Michael Winner's THE SYSTEM, another key British 60s movie in 1964, while Crawford did several with Michael Winner, like THE JOKERS, then Antonioni chose Hemmings over Terence Stamp for his Swinging 60s London classic BLOW-UP, making him the icon of the age; Julia was one of ALFIE's girls - the nice one who gets married to his friend, she is also amusing in that Trash Classic ALL COPPERS ARE, as reviewed here .....(London label).

TWO LEFT FEET deserves to be better known, good to see it on dvd, and is a great London film, along with WEST 11, A PLACE TO GO, THE LEATHER BOYS, THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, SOME PEOPLE and BILLY LIAR (not exactly a London film)  - all from that era, see British/London labels for reviews.

Friday, 25 July 2014

British trio 2: Dirk, Sophia, Asquith ....

A trio from director Anthony Asquith, and producer Anatole de Grunwald, showcasing Dirk Bogarde and Sophia Loren .... 

THE DOCTOR’S DILEMMA, 1958. A plush production of a Shaw play by Anthony Asquith and produced by Anatole de Grunwald. I remember seeing this as a kid but found it too talky. It is still too talky now but has other redeeming features. The play is about a Harley Street specialist who can cure tuberculosis, so artist’s wife Leslie Caron calls to see him to see if he can help her husband who is wasting away. The stuffy medical man  Sir Colenso (John Robinson) is resistant but the wife has her charms, particularly as kitted out in fetching Cecil Beaton creations. 
Caron by Beaton, 
click image to enlarge
Dirk Bogarde as Louis Dubedat initially charms the doctor and his colleagues who include Robert Morley and Alistair Sim, so at least witty conversation is the order of the day, but the artist is revealed to be an immoral wastrel and it turns out he and Caron are even bigamously married. The surgeons debate the ethics of saving such a man or one of their own, an exceedingly good modest fellow. Bogarde gets a hilariously overlong deathbed scene, and there follows a nice scene at the gallery showing his work, as Sir Colenso and the supposed Mrs Dubedat meet a final time …

LIBEL, 1959. Much more entertaining is this 1959 courtroom drama, also by Asquith and de Grunwald. Dirk Bogarde again is the lead, playing a double – even a triple – role as the baronet accused of being an imposter by visiting Canadian Paul Massie, who shared a wartime prison camp with Mark Lodden and another soldier Frank who was able to impersonate him, as they looked rather alike. Massie now thinks Lodden is an imposter, played by Frank, and is determined to expose him. A sleazy newspaper with a grudge against Lodden pubishes the libel, and we are off to court. Lodden though has memory problems since their wartime escape and even his devoted wife Olivia De Havilland has her doubts as to his real identity as the case proceeds, as she often feels he is not the same man as he was before the war …. Opposing barristers are Robert Morley and Wilfrid Hyde White with Richard Wattis as judge, so a satisfying case is unveiled. ‘Number 15’ is also brought in, a brain-damaged solider who may be either Frank or Lodden. Olivia sees the look of horror on her husband’s face and believes he is guilty. 
It turns out that Frank tried to kill Lodden during their escape to take over his identity, but Lodden left Frank brain-dead as he fought back. Lodden now remembers a medal Olivia gave him and which is hidden in the jacket Nr 15 was found in, which is Lodden’s jacket. It is now revealed that Lodden is the real baronet, and Mr 15 the vegetable-like Frank. Apologies all round and Lodden forgives his wife who could not confirm his identity in the witness box …. An agreeable time-waster for a wet afternoon then

THE MILLIONAIRESS, 1960. Anthony Asquith’s film of Shaw’s play is given the full 20th Century Fox treatment but seems forgotten these days, but I recall it being quite popular at the time  - in fact when it played for 2 nights at my small town cinema I was back the second night too, 
as to the 13 year old me Sophia Loren here seemed the most stunning creature I had ever seen, even more so than in her earlier films. Epifania of course was played on stage by Edith Evans and Katharine Hepburn (when touring Australia) but Fox were going for glamour here and Sophia certainly provides it. 
She dazzles, in a riot of Balmain outfits and hats, whether jumping into the Thames (that London skyline is so different now...) or having temper fits as she sets her hat at Indian doctor Peter Sellers.
 Sellers and Loren did a record album too with several amusing sketches, and even had a popular top ten hit with “Goodness Gracious Me”. “Banger and Mash” and “I Married A Englishman” are still brilliantly funny …. The film though is an odd concoction but has several amusing moments with sterling support from Alistair Sim, Vittorio De Sica (in his umpteenth film with Sophia), Dennis Price, Gary Raymond and Miram Karlin.

Anthony Asquith (1902-1968) son of Prime Minister Asquith, was nicknamed Puffin, and became one of the sterling British directors, up there with David Lean and Michael Powell or Carol Reed. 
His 1938 PYGMALION is still a classic, and I love his 1945 war classic THE WAY TO THE STARS (reviewed here, War label), and his perfect THE BROWNING VERSION in '51, and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST in 1952. 
The perfect director for Rattigan or Shaw or Wilde then. He continued into the '60s with those 2 hit all-star confections THE VIPs (with The Burtons and scene-stealers Maggie Smith, Margaret Rutherford, Orson Welles and more, and its quaint fog-bound 'London Airport'!) and THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE which I remember seeing at its first run at the huge, plush Empire in Leicester Square, in 1965 when I was 19. It was a treat to see a big movie like that then at its first run plush cinema. Such fun to see Moreau pouting as Rex discovers her infidelity; Ingrid Bergman enjoying herself with Omar and Joyce Grenfell; and Delon scoring in one of his first English roles. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

British trio 1 ....

Some British '50s moves I had not seen before and now appreciate a lot …

THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH, 1957.  I can’t believe I had not seen this before. What a marvellous entertainment it turns out to be, as nice young marrieds Virigina McKenna and Bill Travers interit a cinema at Sloughborough (a nice play on English town names!) 
and when they travel there imagine it is the Grand, a very grand edifice, but no, it is the Bijou – a rundown fleapit next to the railway line (and yes its that amusing joke again, as in A LETTER TO 3 WIVES, when the the trains rattle by…). Every town then had a fleapit, though probably not as decrepit as the Bijou (mine when new in London in 1964 was the Coliseum, Harlesden, where one happily saw re-runs of EL CID or FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE as well as new double bills including SHE or 10 LITTLE INDIANS).

This is a perfect 1950s British comedy, produced by that regular team of producer Michael Relph and director Basil Dearden, screenplay by William Rose. It now seems to be called BIG TIME OPERATORS on IMDB! It would make a terrific double bill with  HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE.

The casting is the thing here, apart from the married leads, there’s the trio of the Bijou’s staff: Margaret Rutherford as cashier Mrs Fazakerley, Peter Sellers as Percy the projectionist and Bernard Miles as Old Tom the janitor. Percy is the only one who understands how the old equipment works. Leslie Philips is the suave solicitor who advises the new owners they have to get the cinema up and running again to maximise its worth, as they intend to sell the site to rival Grand owner, hissable Francis de Wolff, who is keeping an eye on their progress and tries to sabotage proceedings with a bottle of whiskey …. Our new owners  do not want a cinema but to travel to places like Samerkand …  How this is resolved is deliciously worked out, Sellers is a revelation here, he really becomes that old man. Sidney James of course is also present and correct. A delicious treat for anyone who remembers the fleapit cinemas of their youth, and another great Basil Dearden film from his very prolific period.

VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, 1958.  Also by Basil Dearden, and scripted by James Kennaway, and is a tough thriller/topical drama of the time about juvenile delinquency, with Stanley Baker as the cop/Juvenile Liaison officer in Liverpool. David McCallum (before his MAN FROM UNCLE era) is the dangerous pyromaniac on the loose and he seems to be apeing Marlon Brando’s WILD ONE as a rock’n’roll hoodlum. Anne Heywood is his older sister (who might get romantically involved with Baker) and the family also includes those two naughty twins Baker is looking after - the school kids all look so typically Fifites. There’s also Peter Cushing as the local well-meaning priest, John Slater, Tsai Chin and other regulars like Melvyn Hayes, as we see how these huge inner-city estates are breeding grounds for juvenile delinquency, as in NO TREES IN THE STREET, below. It builds to a shattering climax where school-children are held hostage by the now demented McCallum, which has echoes of real-life tragedies. I don’t imagine this will be shown on television ever again due to this protracted school siege …  

NO TREES IN THE STREET, 1959. A solid drama from the pen of Ted Willis (WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN), and directed at full tilt y J. Lee Thompson, another drama of poverty breeding delinquents, this is a roller-coaster ride, starting in the 1950s present as teenager David Hemmings is caught and warned by Ronald Howard about the dangers of getting into trouble with the police. What follows is a long flashback about Tommy (Melvyn Hayes again) who wants the good life he sees local racketeer Herbert Lom enjoys with his flashy suits and flashy dames like Carole Lesley (right, with Lom)
Tommy though is stuck in a tenement block with heavy drinkers like parents Stanley Holloway, Joan Miller, Liam Redmond, and his good sister Sylvia Syms who tries to steer him in the right direction. Lom though wants Sylvia and finally wears down her resistance until she comes to her senses. 
But Tommy goes to work for Lom, and ends up with a gun and killing a shop-keeper. The snivelling killer returns to the family as the police (Ronald Howard again) close in.  
We are back in the present for the coda, when young Hemmings (left, and right, with Syms)  promises to be good, as Howard and wife Sylvia see him go. 

Next British trio by Anthony Asquith & Anatole de Grunwald: Dirk in THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA, 1958and LIBEL,1959, and Sophia as THE MILLIONAIRESS, 1960. Book your tickets now ... 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The cat's miouw !

LE CHAT (THE CAT), 1971. A masterclass in screen acting from two of France’s greats: Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret in this version of a Simenon novel as directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre.  Julien and Clemence are a long-married couple who now seem to detest each other and share their house without talking – he has transferred his affections to his cat. Their state of war exists as the neighbourhood around them, in suburban Paris, is pulled down and their own house is due for demolition too. Each shops for themselves as their feud escalates. Clemence worked as a circus acrobat but now has a limp, while he becomes every more grumpy and isolated. Events come to a climax with a gun – she shoots the cat, which he puts out with the rubbish! Then he moves out to stay with Annie Cordy at her hotel but he is no happier as Clemence hangs around the streets watching him. He moves back but then tragedy strikes …. 

It is an absorbing drama with both stars note-perfect, at first I thought it was shaping up to be a savage black comedy, but then it just gets sombre and grim as we reach a very downbeat ending. Granier-Deferre (who was married to Susan Hampshire in the '60s), like Claude Miller, made several absorbing dramas and entertainments without ever getting the kudos of the Truffauts. (Trintignant and Romy Schneider are both terrific in his THE LAST TRAIN, review at French label and I have his LE VEUVE COUDERC, another Simenon, with Delon and Signoret, to watch),. This one does not disappoint either. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Hot town, summer in the city ...

Our Tropical Heatwave continues .... "hot and humid nights to be expected" ... We re being told to stay indoors, not to jump into rivers, to keep hydrated (thats easy, I just drink lots of cold liquids - I particularly recommend the Stella Atrois new French cidre) as we see gasping commuters coping with those hot trains and buses. Cool fresh rain is promised for tomorrow after some summer storms - bring it on, the flowers and plants will love it ...
Summery songs? How about: "Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks / "Summer in the City" - the Loving Spoonful / any version of "Summertime", maybe Ella's or Nina Simone's / Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" or "Night in the City" + "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" / Nelly's "Hot in Herre" (produced by Pharrell, whose "Happy" certainly is a must / The Beatles "Here Comes The Sun" / Bob Marley's "Sun is Shining" .... thats enough to be going on with.

RIP continues ...

James Garner (1928-2014), aged 86. We always liked James, he was a pleasing presence and an attractive, amiable guy, great at comedy too, particularly with Doris in THE THRILL OF IT ALL, where he drives home and into the swimming pool that was not there that morning ... he was CASH McCALL, and his hits include THE GREAT ESCAPE, 36 HOURS was one I particularly liked, and THE AMERICANISATION OF EMILY and with Julie again in VICTOR/VICTORIA, and of course all those ROCKFORD FILES
He was also of course one of the first tv western stars (MAVERICK) to make it big in movies, an ideal co-star for the likes of Audrey, Lee Remick, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak and a host of others in films like MR BUDDWING, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF, MARLOWE and MURPHY'S ROMANCE. GRAND PRIX from 1966 is actually in this afternoon's tv schedules here on the BBC, we will be tuning in. Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor and John Gavin were similar new '60s leading men who also started out in the late '50s, but James seemed the best of them. He had an astonishing early life too, and saw action in Korea, before ending up acting. 

Elaine Stritch (1924 -2014), aged 89. 'Broadway Baby' and legend, quite at home in London too where I saw her one-woman show ELAINE STRITCH AT LIBERTY, a decade ago, and we also saw her in Tennessee's play SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS and Neil Simon's THE GINGERBREAD LADY.. Films included the 1957 A FAREWELL TO ARMS and the Tony Curtis comedy THE PERFECT FURLOUGH (reviewed here recently) and Resnais's PROVIDENCE in 1977. She was in Noel Coward's SAIL AWAY and Sondheim's COMPANY where she immortalised "The ladies who lunch". Luckily she has been preserved in the concert version of Sondehim's FOLLIES (with Lee Remick, Barbaba Cook et al). Known for her caustic wit and frank tales of her romances as well residing at the Carlyle in New York and at The Savoy in London, we will raise our glass to Elaine later ...

Paul Mazursky (1930-2014) aged 84, American director and screenwriter, who had a winning streak in the late '60s and '70s ... his dramatic comedies were nominated for 5 Academy Awards including his AN UNMARRIED WOMAN nominated for Best Picture. Other hits included BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE, SCENES FROM A MALL etc. Roger Ebert stated that "Mazursky has a way of making comedies that are more intelligent and relevant than most of the serious films around".

Bobby Womack (1944-2014). Soul legend, singer-songwriter, musician, Bobby wrote the Rolling Stones early hit "Its All Over Now", just one hit in a career coverig 50 years. He worked with Sly & The Family Stone, Janis Joplin and played on several Aretha Franklin albums. 

Jacques Bergerac (1927-2014) handsome French actor who had a brief hollywood career in the '50s - amusing in my favourite LES GIRLS in '57, GIGI in '58 and with Susan Hayward in THUNDER IN THE SUN in 1959 where they are Basque peasants fighting Indians en route to California. Jacques married two Hollywood stars: Ginger Rogers and Dorothy Malone, and later, like Cary Grant, went into cosmetics, Revlon.  Below: Bergerac with Kay and Mitzi in Cukor's LES GIRLS.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Harold, Maude & Vivian ...

Self-destructive and needy but wealthy teenager Harold is obsessed with death and spends his leisure time attending funerals, simulating suicides trying to get the attention of his indifferent, snobbish and egocentric mother. When Harold meets the anarchic seventy-nine-year-old Maude at a funeral, they become friends. Meanwhile, his mother enlists him in a dating service and tries to force him to join the army. On the day of Maude's eightieth birthday, Harold proposes to her but he finds the truth about life at the end of hers. 

Finally up from the vaults, Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE, a cult film if ever there was one (it and SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE (reviewed here at Lansbury, York, gay interest labels) were our big cult favourites back in that pre-video world of the early '70s - one had to catch them during their brief runs whenever they turned up), it is now though back on dvd and Blu-ray to entrance a new generation.
Its a deliciously morbid tale (written by Colin Higgins) of a suicidally obsessed young man (Bud Cort) who strikes up a relationship with that odd old lady he keeps seeing at funerals of strangers they both go to. Factor in Vivian Pickles as his mother with all those dates (like Sunshine Dore) she arranges for him, laugh as she fills in the questionnaire .... more on her soon! 
With its spine-tingling Cat Stevens sountrack and great images, Ashby's enduring weirdie continues to delight us now. I also recently got Ashby's 1970 THE LANDLORD, another cult item that captures that era perfectly, we will be re-seeing and reviewing it before too long.... Ashby's biggest hit was COMING HOME in 1978 (but I never wanted to see his BEING THERE in 1980). He died in 1988. Writer Colin Higgins also wrote and directed NINE TO FIVE and FOUL PLAY (before dying of Aids aged 47 in 1988).

Bud Cort had an odd appearance and an odd career and is still working now, he was often used by Robert Altman. Ruth Gordon of course is that hollywood veteran actress and writer, in films as far back as Garbo's TWO FACED WOMAN in 1941, but scored as those odd old ladies in INSIDE DAISY CLOVER, ROSEMARY'S BABY, LORD LOVE A DUCK and of course HAROLD AND MAUDE.

People We Like: Vivian Pickles.

Vivian is an amazing Britsh actress, as unique as Kay Kendall or Joan Greenwood, or Alison Steadman or Imelda Staunton or Brenda Blethyn now  - Vivian too has a unique voice and manner. Harold's preoccupied mother may be her best screen role. In her 80s now, she was in a recent BIRDS OF A FEATHER tv comedy series, and was a stunning Mary Queen of Scots opposite Glenda Jackson's ELIZABETH R, she also had that cameo in Scheslinger's SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY in 1971, and I remember her in BBC series of VILE BODIES. She was Mrs Bennett in a 1967 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and was Isadora Duncan in Ken Russell's 1966 film on Duncan in a long career of interesting choices.