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, 29 March 2015

Dirk Bogarde: 10 essential films.

The BFI (British Film Institute) has an interesting selection of "10 Best Films of ...." on their website. Dirk Bogarde is the latest choice, as per this link to the list, with comments and illustrations. 

Dirk would have been 94 yesterday, 28 March. While it is an interesting list (HUNTED, THE SPANISH GARDENER, VICTIM, THE SERVANT, DARLING, ACCIDENT, THE DAMNED, DEATH IN VENICE, THE NIGHT PORTER, DESPAIR) I would have made some changes.

I would have included THE BLUE LAMP and maybe DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (or AT SEA with B.B.), and swopped THE DAMNED (which is not a major role for him, much as I like Visconti's over-the-top operatic melodrama) for his blond arch-villain Gabriel in Losey's MODESTY BLAISE still a camp delight after all these years, one of my major cult movies, and we always like an excuse to print another picture of Monica Vitti in Losey's op-art spy spoof (see Modesty label). and I would rather Resnais's fascinating PROVIDENCE, 1977, than the mess that is DESPAIR (and I don't suppose we will ever see again his later television roles: THE VISION with Lee Remick, MAY WE BORROW YOUR HUSBAND which he adapted from Graham Green'e short story, or THE PATRICIA NEAL STORY where he is Roald Dahl to Glenda Jackson's Neal). 

Martin would say I am  name-dropping if I mention that I saw Bogarde's first appearance at the BFI in 1970 (I was 24) when he entertained the audience hugely, and got a chance to speak to him and he signed my programme - right, and as per Dirk label.

I also like his CAMPBELL'S KINGDOMSONG WITHOUT ENDI COULD GO ON SINGING and that lunatic farrago THE SINGER NOT THE SONG, he is terrific in JUSTINE too. As I have mentioned in posts on him before, 
Its a very long career from his early spivs and war heroes to those doctors and then those leading roles, he worked with all the new talent of the 50s and 60s as well as a lot of those European players, and his books are certainly readable as he certainly knew everyone! 

Dirk and Sophia Loren were my first movie crushes, I discovered them in the mid-50s when I about 10, so its been fun going back to their earlier stuff - a lot of Dirk's early films have been brought out of mothballs so its been fun catching THE BLUE LAMP, THE GENTLE GUNMAN, BOYS IN BROWNHUNTED, APPOINTMENT IN LONDON, CAST A DARK SHADOW etc. as per reviews, and those later routine items like THE HIGH BRIGHT SUN or HOT ENOUGH FOR JUNE.
Other lists available at the BFI page, include 10 essential Cary Grant, 10 essential Katharine Hepburn,10 British gay films etc. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Not so amazing, Grace

The Projector is now screening a new clutch of Trash Classics, and we are starting with the recent GRACE OF MONACO, which sank without a trace here (but now Sky Movies are showing it a lot). Actually it is not even entertaining enough to be a Trash Classic, it is just tepid and bad and gets dull halfway through its 90 minutes so one wants to fast-forward some of it, but it looks plush, a lot of money must have gone into it, but could they not have got a better script or story? It is not a biopic of Grace Kelly at all, but purports to show some fictional events:
The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly's crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco's Prince Rainier III and France's Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

It starts promisingly with that road she used to drive with those hairpin bends, and then we see Alfred Hitchcock arriving with a new script for the princess - it is MARNIE of course. It is amusing to see another Hitch impersonation to go with those other recent ones, but the first big mistake is here. We see the date on the screen - December 1961, and Hitch tells Gracie her co-star will be this new Scottish chap who is sensational in a new Cubby Broccoli film, but DR NO did not open until late 1962 - Hitch would hardly have signed Connery in 1961 ... he had not made THE BIRDS by then.

This farrago was widely reviled by and laughed at by critics across the world, it finally limped into London late (Nicole wisely cancelled London publicity tv appearances due to illness). It actually opened the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, no doubt as Monaco was just down the road from them. It is all about as truthful as the 1964 trash masterpiece HARLOW - a movie we love to hate here (Trash label) but that at least was more fun..
Nicole Kidman initially suggests Grace until we see her up close, but playing Grace has not harmed her career, she just keeps on filming, and was fun in PADDINGTON. (we liked her in THE PAPERBOY too). Tim Roth is all wrong as the podgy Rainer, and suggests nothing more than a suburban bank manager, and isn't that Robert Lindsey as Onassis. (bringing to mind Somerset Maugham's comment that Monaco or Monte Carlo was "a sunny place for shady people"). Old reliables like Derek Jacobi turn up as an old queen (sorry, nobleman) to tutor Grace - an Oscar-winning actress - on how to behave like a princess. This is where all credibility goes out the window. Grace gets to make a big speech at the end and we leave her there ,,,,  it all seems to be a simplistic story for those who know nothing about the real Grace Kelly or her career or movies.
We know Grace's marriage was no real fairy tale, she and Rainier were practically leading separate lives and she had a bolthole in Paris she used to visit, before that fatal accident. What we see here is a soapy melodrama - odd that director Olivier Dahan also did LA VIE EN ROSE about Edith Piaf.
GRACE OF MONACO may be a terrific Trash double bill with DIANA (no, I never wanted to see that). The two princesses met several times and oddly both died in strange car accidents ....

Coming Up: Shirley McLaine's excruciating WHAT A WAY TO GO, Ava Gardner's dreadful TAM LIN, Brigitte Bardot's terrible last film IF DON JUAN WAS A WOMAN !
Then: some classy European fare, starting with Jeanne Moreau and Alida Valli as nuns in the 1960 THE CARMELITES, and one of Sophia Loren's last Italian films before Hollywood called, the 1955 THE SIGN OF VENUS.
Plus the recent INTO THE WOODS and FOXCATCHER. We are going to be busy !

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fifties noir: This Is My Love = B-movie heaven

This was one of my first posts here, on a 1954 rarity, a superior B-movie I like a lot

THIS IS MY LOVE, 1954 - Linda Darnell is Vida, the unmarried sister of the more vivacious Faith Domergue married to crippled ex-dancer Dan Duryea who is very jealous of his young attractive wife. Vida lives with the mismatched couple and works in their diner and is engaged (or stringing along) a very dull boyfriend, until one day his friend, Rick Jason, walks in and seems the answer to Vida’s dreams. He is merely leading her along however until he meets the vivacious Faith, thus setting in motion a tale of rage, murder and revenge, played out in lurid colours as the girls sling hash in the diner. 

'50s lurid melodramas don’t come much better than this, as directed by Stuart Heisler. Unlike the glossy memodramas of Douglas Sirk, this is a gritty, downbeat affair. Linda Darnell is as terrific here as she was in A LETTER TO 3 WIVES
A friend of mine, Jerry, loves it too, and his IMDB review is perfect:
As soon as Franz Waxman's lush score swelled up over the credits I knew this one would deliver - and I wasn't disappointed. Vida (Linda Darnell) is a "spinster" who slings hash in her Brother in Law's diner and is engaged to the world's most boring man. Into the diner wanders her fiancĂ©e's army buddy - foxy Rick Jason - a "gas station casanova", and when left alone together Rick comes on to her... she plays hard to get - so hard to get in fact that Rick turns to her married sister Evelyn (Faith Domergue) for comfort, and the stage is set for resentment, deceit, adultery, jealousy, sibling rivalry.. and murder. 
This one really deserves to be better known. I'm not sure whether the lurid greens and purples that dominate the colour scheme are symbolic of the jealousy and anger simmering below the surface, and mark out Stuart Heisler as an neglected auteur... or it was just a lousy print. Connie Russell sings the title tune with lyrics as Darnell and Jason go out dancing. Dan Duryea is a bitter cripple. and Darnell is absolutely heartbreaking here - never knew she had it in her. Its everything I wanted from Douglas Sirk or late period Minnelli and never got. Absolutely delicious from start to finish and highly recommended. 9/10

[Rick Jason was back in the '50s diner milieu in the downbeat '57 Fox film of Steinbeck's THE WAYWARD BUS as the bus driver married to shrewish diner owner Joan Collins (which Linda has tested for and would have been ideal casting) and with down-on-her-luck stripper Jayne Mansfield also on board the bus]. 

Forties noir: Dead Reckoning

Humphrey Bogart is at his best as a hardboiled sleuth in this '40s film noir classic. In one of his most exciting roles, the inimitable Bogie plays Rip Murdock, an ex-G.I. trying to find out who framed his pal Johnny for murder - and then rubbed him out. Tracing his war buddy's shadowy past leads Rip to Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott) who was once Johnny's sweetheart. Now shes a chanteuse in a nightclub run by suave gangster Martinelli (Morris Carnovsky). Rip gets a taste of the beautiful blonde's seductive charms and soon finds himself ensnared in a twisted web of deceit and danger. Is Coral an innocent thrush - or is she a predatory siren leading Bogie to the DEAD RECKONING ?
as the dvd blurb says.
This 1947 noir is a nice discovery - a Bogie film I had not seen before and knew nothing about, but in the light of Lizabeth Scott's recent departure (at age 92) it seemed a good time to catch up with it. Its neat and very hardboiled, with some good dialogue, and director John Cromwell packs a lot into its 90 minutes - it has elements of THE MALTESE FALCON (with a duplicitious dame) and GILDA where the male bonds seem stronger than love for a female - Rip says he loved his dead pal more than he does Coral but he will get over his love for her ..... Riveting climax too and a surprise ending. That late 1940s ambiance is to the fore too, with those big cars and nightclubs, Scott wears some very 40s fashions including that snood for her hair.
Perhaps not one of Bogart's best - not another IN A LONELY PLACE or BIG SLEEP - but its filled with sharp witty dialogue and has all the noir trappings with lots of dark shadows, confessionals and voiceovers putting the murder plot in motion, as we see Rip (Bogie) looking at bodies in the morgue trying to find his lost pal - who was burnt to a crisp .... 
Poet and song-writer Fran Landesman (1927-2011) did a marvellous poem about Bogie, I love these particular verses:

With his five o'clock shadow / and his heart of pure gold /
He will always be Bogie / and he'll never grow old.

She's a girl who's in trouble / all her nights are like years /
She wears dresses of satin / and a necklace of tears.

She was Ida or Ingrid / till along came Bacall /
But he'll always be Bogie / and he's the king of them all. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Star Is Born in 1954 ...

Its interesting for A STAR IS BORN fans - thats the 1954 Cukor film obviously, not the Streisand abomination - to see an original review from 1954 when it had just opened. This is just a few comments (by Clayton Cole) from the Nov 1954 issue of "Films and Filming" which gave the film lavish praise and coverage in those early issues. 
A STAR IS BORN is a film of almost incomparable brilliance and richness whose brilliance and richness never intrude for their own sakes, but are used solely as aids in the unfolding of the drama, the colour is used in the most subtle way to increase the spectator's emotional involvement, set the mood of the scene and convey the emotions of the characters. The opening shots of a mammoth charity gala perfectly capture the overwrought atmosphere that prevails at any function of this sort in Hollywood: backstage, in the lobby where the struggle is to be seen, and on the street lined with fans who scream at the arrival of every preening celebrity ...(I also love that marvellous opening sequence with that rich Warnercolor adding depth). 
With this film Judy Garland takes her place among the few very great ladies of theatrical art, for added to all that we knew of her before there is now an emotional talent of the greatest depth. Throughout this enormously long film she never makes one wrong move or utters a false sound. Where before she was primarily a great entertainer, she is now that and so much more. The catch in the voice, the bubbling laugh, the pathos under the gaiety, are here used as manifestations of a character and not just as examples of virtuosity. 
James Mason's Norman Maine is no mere foil, but the most finely etched performance he has given since coming to Hollywood. His portrait of great talent disintegrated through drink is completely true, and even in the scenes of sodden drunkeness he is always Norman Maine. A STAR IS BORN is a film of great technical achievement that is illuminated throughout by the sensitivity and quality of its very particular star. (I know it was Brando's year, but Mason gets my award for best actor of 1954).

Ironically though next to the review on the page - below - is a still of Grace Kelly in that year's THE COUNTRY GIRL .... a portent then of the coming Oscars.  
We love A STAR IS BORN here at The Projector, as per the many other posts on it - see Garland/Cukor/Mason labels. It was in fact one of the first films I saw that year when I was 8, and like JOHNNY GUITAR its images were stunning to the young me, and have remained so. 

Think pink !

Another old favourite on cable TV: so lets have another look at the original PINK PANTHER, an enduring comedy favourite from 1963, that year of great movies we like, such as CHARADE, THE BIRDS, THE LEOPARD, THE SERVANT, TOM JONES, BILLY LIAR .... THE PINK PANTHER, like COME SEPTEMBER (1961) and CHARADE is a glossy entertainment that should be compulsory viewing every few years. Its follow-up A SHOT IN THE DARK in 1964 was all Clouseau and was reasonably ok, but I never felt the need to see any of the other ones, and certainly not that remake ...

The trademark of The Phantom, a renowned jewel thief, is a glove left at the scene of the crime. Inspector Clouseau, an expert on The Phantom's exploits, feels sure that he knows where The Phantom will strike next and leaves Paris for Switzerland, where the famous Lugashi jewel 'The Pink Panther' is going to be. However, he does not know who The Phantom really is, or for that matter who anyone else really is...

The fun here is seeing that cast going through their paces. Sellers walks away with the film, Clouseau was meant to be a subsidiary character - Niven and Wagner are fine as the real jewel thief and his young accomplice. Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dahla is wonderful in one of her first English roles - she was also in Fellini's 8 and a half, and Visconti's THE LEOPARD that year. Then there is Capucine, doing slapstick with her haughty glamour and wearing Dior. The long bedroom scene with her and Sellers was marvellous on the big screen, as was the long fancy dress party and those cars whizzing around before the very funny courtroom trial at the end, as Clouseau has to explain how his wife can save so much from the housekeeping to pay for her furs .... 
The whole look of the film captures that early Sixites vibe perfectly, at the ski resort of Cortina D'Ampezzo as Brenda De Banzie gushes over the princess and Fran Jeffries sings that "Meglio Stasera" ("It had better be tonight") to the apres-ski crowd. It is one of Blake Edwards' hits and one of  Henry Mancini's best scores. 1965's WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT? from Clive Donner was more of the same, capturing the mid '60s nicely as again Peter Sellers was chasing Capucine, while O'Toole and Romy and the others grooved to a Burt Bacharach soundtrack ...  Like those early Bonds, THE PINK PANTHER is essential early Sixties. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Tea and sympathy for a midnight cowboy

MIDNIGHT COWBOY was on television again and I had to go back to it, after not seeing it in decades, and I have been reading about the 1956 TEA AND SYMPATHY in those old "Films and Filming" magazines I got a batch of recently which led to digging out the dvd of that .... both are very 'gay interest' titles and maybe time to re-evaluate them ...
MIDNIGHT COWBOY, 1969 -The streets of New York are mean and dirty and paved with broken dreams in this Oscar-winning (the first X-rated film to win Best Picture Oscar) tale about the friendship between Jon Voight's rather dumb Texan gigolo/hustler and Dustin Hoffman's ratty grifter. The performances are so good you find yourself truly caring about this poor, luckless pair, and the film's late '60s period detail has its own charm too, as we take in that scuzzy New York of the time, and the Warhol crowd (Viva and others are here).
This was a hugely important movie at the time, and we all loved it. I liked the book too, by James Leo Herlihy (author of ALL FALL DOWN), and Schlesinger's film is a good adaptation, if a bit confusing in the flashbacks to what happened in Texas, setting dumb stud Joe Buck on his odyssey to New York where he finds all manner of lowlife as his dreams of becoming a stud to rich ladies is soon in tatters. 
There is that amusing scene with pickup Sylvia Miles in a scene-stealing few moments, as well as Brenda Vaccaro as the rich girl in a fur coat, and preacher John McGiver, and that poor kid in the cinema ..... The ending is suitably affecting as the greyhound bus arrives in Florida. Voight was probably never as good again (though he won the Oscar for COMING HOME in 1977) and of course Ratso is one of Hoffman's defining roles. Waldo Salt's screenplay and Schlesinger's direction are first rate as is the music score by John Barry and that song "Everybody's Talkin'" by Nilsson. It all defines the late Sixties.

TEA AND SYMPATHY probably defines the mid-Fifties too, a successful play by Robert Anderson, filmed by Vincente Minnelli in 1956, with the Kerrs - Deborah and John (no relation) recreating their stage roles, along with Leif Ericson as Kerr's husband and sports coach. 
Tom Lee is a sensitive boy of 17 whose lack of interest in the "manly" pursuits of sports, mountain climbing and girls labels him "sister-boy" at the college he is attending. Head master Bill Reynold's wife Laura sees Tom's suffering at the hands of his school mates (and her husband), and tries to help him find himself.
No wonder the play is not revived these days, it is excruciating to today's sensibilities, and the film never gets screened either - I don't recall it ever playing in Ireland either during my time there - it may have been banned!. I have been planning to return to Minnelli and his musicals and dramas, and have several lined up: THE BELLS ARE RINGING in 1960, KISMET, BRIGADOON and his comedy that I like a lot (purely for the Harrisons, Rex and Kay) 1958's THE RELUCTANT DEUBTANTE and his 1957 DESIGNING WOMAN - so there will be more on these soon - see Minnelli label for THE BANDWAGON  (maybe my favourite musical ever) and others like his 1962 drama TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN. Of course his other dramas include SOME CAME RUNNING, HOME FROM THE HILL, that remake of FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE and his delightful comedy THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER, all during his great period of the 1950s and early 60s. We caught up with GOODBYE CHARLIE too a year or so ago, as per preview, again- Minnelli label.
Back to TEA AND SYMPATHY: Vaguely effeminate boy (sensitive features, wavy hair, bouncy walk) with 'unmanly' interests (poetry, classical and folk music) and 'unmanly' accomplishments (sewing, gardening, playing the guitar) is believed to be "not a regular sort of fellow" by his father, his bruiser of a housemaster, and his fellow college students, every single one of whom sport crewcuts, and enjoy mountaineering, swimming, ball games, horsing around, strength contests, boasting about non-existent sexual conquests and smashing their tennis shots.... It is very easy to laugh at this sort of thing,of course, and years on TEA AND SYPMATHY is a laughable antique, its characters being so blatantly contrived to suit the author's ends.

Of course the censorship problems of the time (Homosexuality was a taboo subject in '50s Hollywood) required the film to be bracketed by a new start and end showing that Laura regretted her "sacrifice" of giving herself to Tom to prove that he was normal and not homosexual (gay was hardly the word here). Tom is now married as he revisits his old school, and gets that letter from Laura from her ex-husband .... and we flash back to how it all began, of course a lot of the boys and the coach seem more gay than poor "sister boy" Tom who is happy sewing with the women and listening to music, rather than playing sports and being one of the gang. It is all deliciously quaint now, but Minnelli gives it his usual gloss and makes it look good with good scope compositions and his usual flair for decor. 

Deborah is as one would expect sensitive, stong and understanding as Laura. Edward Andrews is at his most venal as Tom's father (a narrow-minded crude character) who is disappointed in him and has a horror of him "being different" and wants the coach to make a man of him! Perhaps the play (and Minnelli's movie) can be seen as a ruthless portrayal of the "straights" - Tom's father is a really dumb man, and most of the boys and the other women are insensitive types. There's Jacqueline De Wit again (obnoxious Mona Plash in Sirk's critique of small town American society: ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS) horrified at the idea of a boy sewing. 
A problem for me is that John Kerr is just not very interesting as an actor, here he is 25 playing 17, and he is all wrong (he was also wrong in SOUTH PACIFIC) - he often comes across as sullen and obnoxious, no wonder the other guys don't want him around and tease him by calling him "sister boy", he also has an annoying monotone voice. I would rather have seen Joan Fontaine and Anthony Perkins (who replaced the Kerrs on stage) in the roles. Its certainly a fascinating oddity now proving that Tom cannot possibly be gay if he slept with Deborah Kerr, as her adultery (for which she must pay) cures him of worries about his masculinity. On, those Fifties ! 
I suppose the film has historical importance. It provides a good perspective for comparing gaylife now to the mid-1950s - when this movie was made. Of course a generation ago the subject could not be hinted at - here in the TEA AND SYMPATHY era gayness is a problem to be avoided, in the early 60s ADVISE AND CONSENT era only the bad guy was gay or queer and of course in VICTIM the good guy had been gay once, was sorry about it, and hoped he would never do it again .... ADVISE AND CONSENT review at gay interest label, or May 2012 Archive.
The film is representative of people's sentiments then as the success of the play showed - apart from Deborah Kerr and Joan Fontaine playing it in New York, Ingrid Bergman did it in Paris. 

Sean models Vince

Or bonjour matelot. We knew Sean Connery modelled some clothes for Vince Man's Shop in London during his early days, but was he a 'name' in 1956? - this advert appears in the August 1956 issue of "Films and Filming" where he is clearly named.  This is obviously Connery too - right - in a dinky pair of shorts and a Capri shirt. - click to enlarge.

Connery, 85 now, had some TV credits in 1956 (DIXON OF DOCK GREEN etc), but his first screen credits were in 1957: HELL DRIVERS, and of course his Lana co-starrer ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER PLACE in 1958 and DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE in 1959, along with TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE, ON THE FIDDLE in 1961 and then that first Bond DR NO .....
More on Vince's fashions at Fashion/British/London labels. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Poldark and handsome

Connoisseurs of BBC costume dramas are well served with the new series POLDARK, a re-boot of a 1970s series which I never saw. After a so-so new MOONFLEET (TV label) and a dreadful version of JAMAICA INN (too dark and murky and one could barely hear the mumbled dialogue) it is good to see a sunny Cornwall in this new series, from the popular novels by Winston Graham. 

Ross Poldark returns to England after fighting in the American Revolution. His family and friends thought he was dead. The woman he hoped to marry is now engaged to his cousin. His father is dead, and the property (a ti mine) he has inherited has been allowed to deteriorate. It is the late 1700s in Cornwall, England. This is a family drama, but is also about the challenges and conflicts between the rich and the poor. It is a time when fishermen are not catching much fish, tin and copper mines are closing down because prices are too low, but the price of food and rents are high. Ross faces the challenge of making his land productive, caring for the tenants who rely on him, and trying to win back the woman he loved - or finding a reason to live without her.

Cue lots of horse-riding on clifftops, nice period costumes, and a slow burn relationship between Poldark and the girl he rescues Demelza - particuarly after Demelza sees his skinny-dipping in the sea from the cliff tops .... This has turned out to be enormously popular here, with females (and not a few blokes) all agog over Irish actor Aidan Turner, the ideal brooding (complete with that scar) and he wears the period clothes well. Poldark. Last night's episode featured Robin Ellis, the original Poldark, as the judge with a harsh sentence for a poacher, despite our hero's pleading for him. Warren Clarke, in his last role, has some juicy moments too as Podark's uncle whose son has married Elizabeth, Ross's beloved.  

Its all perfect for late evening Sundays with a gin and tonic to hand - ditto MR SELFRIDGE and INDIAN SUMMERS (set in a very colourful Simla in India in the 1930s). We are being spoiled at the moment. If the BBC want more Cornish swashbuckling I recommend a new version of Daphne Du Maurier's FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (I saw the 1944 film recently and this lady and the pirate saga could do with a re-boot too). 

Another new series BANISHED has got a lot of attention too, I have not seen any of it yet, but may tune in this week to see the beefed up, butched up Rossell Tovey in the lead - Russ is also in the gay LOOKING on as well now, where he usually has trouble keeping his clothes on each week ....

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Tab Hunter confidential

Here is the trailer for a fascinating new documentary - TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL, an entry in the current London BFI LGBT FLARE festival. For those who can't make that, it should be on dvd before too long. Based on his autobiograhy - a great read - with great clips, it should be fascinating viewing.. 
Tab (83 now) attended the screening and here is a clip of it:

Dirk and Rock read "Films and Filming"

I have published this photo before .... Dirk Bogarde and Rock Hudson in Italy in 1957. Dirk was filming CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM (set in the Canadian Rockies, but filmed in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy near ski resort Cortina D'Ampezzo, where this was taken "in Dirk's private sitting room" as he entertained Rock Hudson, who was filming his A FAREWELL TO ARMS in the same region. 
I wondered what they were reading and it turns out to be this April 1957 issue of "Films & Filming" with Cary and Sophia on the cover.. The two closeted stars (Dirk and Rock that is), at their peaks then, should have found it fascinating reading. 

I like the back cover advertisement for THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT with another Vince advert for leisure wear. This particular ad is fascinating too:
Vince presents: The Short BOXER COAT. This HUSKY Jacket cut in generous lines from 80% Woollen Coating has a luxury lining of warm Quilting. With leather buttons, very smart high collar and two side pockets this is the ideal garment for MOTORING - STROLLING or on your MOTOR-SCOOTER. £8.5.0. Please state chest size when ordering. 
Hand knitted PIRATE CAPS in ALL colours. 10'6d. Come and see our NEW Autumn range of leisure wear. 

Or more butch types could go for the "rugged look" with this casual coat ....

Weekend groove

A perfect moment recently - out in the car as "Get Ready" by The Temptations played on the radio as the sun shone. Its my song for the weekend. Smokey Robinson, who wrote it, also does a nifty version on his recent DUETS album with our own Gary Barlow. Nothing though tops Smokey's "The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage" which Paul Schrader used as background music as Richard Gere chose his Armani clothes in AMERICAN GIGOLO ...

Its good discovering new people too: currenetly I am listening to Matthew E. White - his FRESH BLOOD album hits all the spots, particularly "Rock n roll is cold". 

Cities: the streets of London

Cities are like people: they change, and you can't expect them to look exactly like they did 30 years ago. 

Today's "Daily Telegraph" property section has a feature "The true cost of living in London" which begins: "London's middle-class habitats have changed beyond all recognition in the past decade. The centre is now unaffordable to all but the super-rich, triggering a cascade effect as domestic buyers move out of Kensington and Chelsea to Clapham and Chiswick, while others set up camp in Raynes Park and Kilburn." - by Caroline McGhie. This chimes in perfectly with my own thoughts, done earlier today ....

Cities are never static,they change and develop all the time, sometimes we don't notice, but we certainly do now, here in London, as it becomes The City of The Future all around us. It is a global city of course but now the rate of development is staggering. I was uptown yesterday and again was amazed at how busy and crowded it was - and I speak as someone who spent all my working life in the city and the west end, including that 25 years in Regent Street and New Cavendish Street, so was right in the middle. I was standing under that Shard the other week, by London Bridge station, awaiting a friend from Ireland for a theatre date (ASSASSINS). London Bridge station too has been the scenes of over-crowding as frantic commuters tried to leap over or under the barriers to escape the crush, as their on-going rail improvements overrun with no end in sight ... 
Everywhere seems more crowded now, as more and more pour in - more workers, more tourists (and its not even Easter yet - usually a very busy time). Traffic is snarling up too, and that whole area around Victoria is an-going building site, making way for new rail improvements. A whole street has been torn down, which included a busy theatre bar, a gay bar, a gym and a supermarket. Crossrail is an ongoing development which will transform the city and property prices - which are escalating rapidly. I shudder to think what Tottenham Court Road looks like now, that development is supposed to be completed by 2017, as well as the Victoria Station area. I now read that Crossrail has the Curzon Soho cinema (where I saw that special THE SERVANT screening 2 years ago, with some of the cast present) in its sights. It will be a shame if that goes - soon there will hardly be any cinemas, bars or late night hangouts at this rate, as Soho too is being transformed and the bulldozers move in. The popular cabaret hangout Madame Jo-Jo's has closed, as has the Escape gay bar (I used to like that a decade or more ago), and the popular gay and busy The Yard has, for the moment, fought off a take-over bid, as the developers want to close the courtyard - a nice space in the middle of town - and build another apartment block above it. But if Soho is changed completely, then it is not Soho any more. The sleazy old Soho of Paul Raymond's empire has been sold to the property developers, so there will be yet more apartment blocks going up - like along the Thames, transforming the skyline.

They are also digging up over 3,000 skeletons from their burial place near the old Bedlam asylum, near Liverpool Street Station, again for rail developments.
And the latest is that Soho's Chinatown may not be there in five years time, the way restaurant rents are increasing .... restaurant owners have been voicing concern. 

Already working class suburban areas that I knew well in the 60s and 70s, like Balham and Stratford have been gentrified, pushing prices up - an ordinary terrace house is about half a million now - and the areas, which used to be full of shabby apartments and rooms to rent, have gone up in the world with the influx of new cafes, bars and trendy meeting places. Same thing is now happening to Brixton, Elephant & Castle etc. as those who can't afford posher areas move in - even now these areas are becoming unaffordable to ordinary workers. Meanwhile the rich investors from abroad are buying up available properties in Central London - but it seems to be a global phenomenon, same thing seems to be happening in New York and San Francisco. The ones who bought their houses 25 or more years ago and have mortgages paid off now find themselves living in very expensive properties - unless they sell up and move away to a cheaper part of the country it is not much good to them, particularly as their children cannot afford to move out and buy their own places ... people in their 20s and older are going back to live with their parents!

I can only say I am glad I arrived in London in the cheap and cheerful early Sixties - April 1964 to be exact, when I was 18, when they still had those "No Blacks, No Irish" signs in rooming houses, bur rooms and jobs were plentiful, with no zero hour contracts like now. The city was changing then too with all that new '60s developments (as in BLOW-UP) replacing the old wartime bombed-out areas . One would need to be a millionaire now to think of moving into Putney or Ealing - let alone Marylebone or Pimlico. I recently walked past that house in Chelsea where I shared an apartment with 3 friends during 1972/73, ok 40 years ago - in Draycott Place, just behind Peter Jones and Sloane Square. That was just several fairly cheap flats then - now those houses are done up and modernised and are several million each! The very rich are even digging down, creating extra floors underneath these "iceberg houses", causing endless disruption too. Trains too are full to capacity all the time now - on a recent trip to Ireland I had to stand on the train to the airport until it almost emptied out at London Bridge, at 6.30am in the morning! glad my commuting years are over and I shall be back in Ireland before too long. 

Update: 16 April: The famous gay pub The Black Cap in Camden High Street has now suddenly closed as well, this was one of the original gay cabaret pubs in London since the 1960s or earlier - where legends like Mrs Shufflewick, Regina Fong, Lily Savage, Julian Clary and others learned their craft and entertained legions over the years. It seems developers want to turn it into a block of flats .... it wasn't on my circuit as such, being a South London boy, though I had a few enjoyable evenings there ...  

Friday, 20 March 2015

Party like its 1999 ...

It looks like we won't be seeing the current eclipse, its too cloudy here in the London area, but it looks great on television from other locations ..... It is currently getting darker though as the moon passes the sun.
At least we got to see the 1999 eclipse perfectly - was that almost 16 years ago?, from the roof of my office in Regent Street, with special glasses of course. It was astonishing looking at these planets and moons aligning, almost like something out of 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. One felt at one with the universe and how we are all part of it, even our dear departed. 
Here I am at a music festival shortly after in my special edition eclipse tee-shirt, wonder what happened to that? What a day that was ... what I can remember of it!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Joni now - James Dean then ...

Joni Mitchell is certainly at the revered stage now. At the age of 71 she is the new muse for the  Saint Laurent fashion label, as per the photos in that recent issue of NEW YORK magazine (9 February - a copy is on its way to me, via eBay !). She looks rather severe here but still looks iconic.

There is another great new interview too - as per the link:
This follows on from the recent magazine features on her, and that recent 53-track compilation, as per posts at Joni label. 

There is Joni merchandise too: tote bags, tee-shirts, phone covers with iconic images of Joni. Also winging its way to me is a Joni tee-shirt, with this rather hippie design (right):
Joni used James Dean iconography in her 1980 concert film SHADOWS AND LIGHT - utilising that clip from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE - Jimmy in the red jacket fighting with his parents - for the song "In France they kiss on main street".
As it happens I have now got a new batch of 35 old "Films & Filming" magazines from the 1950s - before my time, I only started getting it in 1962, when I was 16, but have been collecting back copies, and found a delicious batch on eBay, reasonably priced, a few days ago. they arrived today:  Here is their tribute to James Dean in their November 1955 issue, which would have been out in October, just after his death: (I was 10 at the time and can just about remember the fuss about his death, and seeing his movies for the first time).

James Dean - Neurotic Angel 

James Dean, aged 24, was killed in a car crash a few days after completing his role in GIANT. The youngster might have been a giant among screen actors, if only he had heeded the studio warnings about his love for fast cars.
He was born in Fairmount, Indiana, and won the Indiana State Dramatic Medal as the best high-school actor in the state. Then he studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, later moving to New York where he gained promising notices for his stage performance in SEE THE JAGUAR. It was after he appeared as the Arab boy in THE IMMORALIST, adapted from Gide, that Elia Kazan gave him the lead in EAST OF EDEN. So he joined the group of Kazan discoveries, led by Brando and Clift.
Click image to enlarge ...
Whatever the shortcomings of EAST OF EDEN - and it had a mixed critical reception - Dean was established as an artist of major significance. Warner Brothers immediately put him into REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, a film about delinquents, yet to be seen in Britain, and GIANT. He was due to play the part of the boxer in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME
The news of his death reched the GIANT unit during the screening of rushes. Both Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson were visibly shocked.
Dean defied convention - he turned up to an important press conference in jeans and a dirty sweat-shirt - but, unlike many stars, took his art seriously. He performed Mozart, Bach and Beethoven with amateur ensembles. He was an avid reader.
His slight build made him look almost fragile. Yet the strength of his personality permeated everything he did. To many he will be remembered as the neurotic angel.