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, 28 June 2015

Sophia in 1979

I love this shot of Sophia in 1979 (the year I saw her in London when she was signing her first autobio, at Selfridges very crowded department store) - and this, from last year ... lots on Loren at label.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Judy: That Old Feeling

Words are superfluous.

Joni moments ....

I love this Joni Mitchell video for her "Dancing Clown" where she is having fun with her cat and doing the dishes - I had it on the video cassette of hers COME IN FROM THE COLD
Plus some Joni moments I had not seen before ....
She is in her element here, and looks great, making music with those jazz guys like Herbie Hancock ... The 1996 interview is interesting too - the annoying on screen text stops after 10 minutes! 
We love that long (one side of the vinyl double album) "Paprika Plains" too, from DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER in 1978. As the comments say: "In this concert for piano and orchestra there are so many sounds, images, colors. It evokes so many places of brilliant light. This composition has one of the greatest endings I ever heard. The last four minutes with Jaco on bass is paradise".
We hope she is well and improving after her recent illness and hospitalisation. There has been little information about her condition since she entered a Los Angeles hospital on May 26th, but David Crosby has told "Rolling Stone" magazine that it seems she suffered from a brain aneurysm when she collapsed at home and was not found for some time, and cannot speak, but hopefully she will be responding to treatment.  
More Joni of course at label, including the time I met her in 1972. 

10 (or more) gay classics

Its Pride weekend here in London too, the parade will be getting underway shortly and then a fun afternoon in Trafalgar Square and other venues, as the town will be heaving over the weekend. I enjoyed all those ones in the various parks over the years .... particularly Clapham Common in 1997 ... and those Brighton ones too with all the gang. I wouldn't though like being stuck in a crowded Trafalgar Square for the afternoon - much nicer to be sitting on grass and not hemmed in ...

My Facebook pal Martin has complied a list of 10 essential gay films - which caused a lot of interest. So, I had to compile my own, in date order, its a little more than 10 though ... (reviews of most of these can be found at the 'gay interest'  label). 

VICTIM, 1961 – Dearden
SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY, 1971 - Schlesinger
FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, 1975 – Fassbinder
DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON, 1985 – Hermosillo
PRICK UP YOUR EARS, 1987 – Frears
MAURICE, 1987 - Ivory
BAD EDUCATION, 2004  - Almodovar
THE LINE OF BEAUTY, 2006 – Dibb.
CLOUDBURST, 2011 - Fitzgerald
THE NORMAL HEART, 2014 – Murphy

Then, bubbling under, there's 
PRIDE, 2014 – Warchus / LOVE IS STRANGE, 2014 – Sachs / ANGELS IN AMERICA, 2003 – Nichols. / AN EARLY FROST / OUR SONS / PARTING GLANCES / WEEKEND / PRIEST / BENT / GODS AND MONSTERS / PRESQUE RIEN / and from the days of Seventies hedonism: TAXI ZUM KLO  and should one include BOYS IN THE BAND? (I never wanted to see CRUISING).

And I might have to investigate: 
PLAN B – from Argentina. Other world titles include UNDERTOW from Peru and FREEFALL from Germany. Gay cinema does not have to be all dramatics: the Italian comedy LOOSE CANNONS is a whole lot of fun while dealing with coming out issues. One I did not like was STRANGER BY THE LAKE ... nor, on reflection, Tom Ford's glossy high fashion version of Isherwood's rather downbeat A SINGLE MAN, totally changing the plotline too ... as per my review. 

And great gay performances: Apart from Dirk Bogarde's gay-themed movies, praise to Peter Finch for his magnificent Oscar in THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE in 1960, and SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY in 1971, Tom Hanks in PHILADELPHIA, Michael Douglas as Liberace, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig for their tortured double act in the downer that is LOVE IS THE DEVIL ... then there's actors like John Hurt, Jude Law, Michael York, Tom Hollander, Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Rupert Graves who have played gay several times.

That interesting remake of A ROOM WITH A VIEW for TV in 2007 certainly brought the Reverend Beebe (Mark Williams) out of the closet, whether chatting up the roughies or with a decided gleam in his eye as he joins the boys for that skinny dip ...

My pet peeve though is when gay characters are needlessly killed off, for a plot contrivance or to wind thing up (LOVE IS STRANGE, CLOUDBURST, maybe BROKEBACK ...), I was particularly incensed by that first MARIGOLD HOTEL (as per my review, Maggie Smith label), when Tom Wilkinson's gay character drops dead after his story arc is completed, as though they didn't know what to do with him - couldn't he have continued living in India like the straight people? Looking at MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING again the other day it was bliss to see Rupert and Julia in that perfect ending.
Also, not 'gay' as such, but certainly 'gay interest' are titles like Visconti's trio DEATH IN VENICE, THE DAMNED, LUDWIG; those French films by Ozon and Techine; or Almodovar or Fassbinder, or Bill Condon and Todd Haynes; plus that 1976 Richard Lester comedy THE RITZ (I really must have another look at that soon); Hitch's ROPE; PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT and Mingehlla's THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, and the 1970 black comedy SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. CABARET too I suppose ...
There's a lot more  here: 


Mary J. Blige wowed Glastonbury festival - with the rain pouring down - last evening, doing terrific versions of her "No More Drama" and "Family Affair" which I used to bop to, a decade or more ago ... Here is that delicious video of her and George Michael tackling Stevie Wonder's sublime "As" - it very clever, George and Mary J are everyone in the club.
And I had never seen this before: George joins Paul McCartney for a lively version of a favourite Beatles classic "Drive My Car" at the London Live 8 concert .... take it away, boys.
George's "Outside" is a fun video too, and we love his OLDER album . timeless stuff, and those duets with Aretha, Elton, Astrud Gilberto etc.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Weekend treat: Kay and her trumpet

We love Kay Kendall's trumpet playing in the delicious 1953 British comedy GENEVIEVE .... enjoy it again, 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bette Davis eyes

So, 1,500 posts clocked up, and I still have a few more to do ... now some Bette Davis highlights.
1930s: After her stunning performance in OF HUMAN BONDAGE in 1934, she won Oscars for DANGEROUS in 1935 (never seen that!) and JEZEBEL in 1938, the first of three stunning ones with William Wyler - THE LETTER in 1940 and THE LITTLE FOXES in '41. She also scored in the 30s in THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX and DARK VICTORY. MARKED WOMAN was a terrific one too ...

1940s: She reigned supreme in those classy "women's pictures" (the men were away at war) like NOW VOYAGER, THE GREAT LIE and OLD ACQUAINTANCE, and finished the '40s with that delirious Trash Classic BEYOND THE FOREST, her last at Warners ... "What a dump" indeed! She was often "a vixen in furs" (DECEPTION) or else noble and self-sacrificing (OLD ACQUAINTANCE) or sometimes both as in her first pair of twins in A STOLEN LIFE
1950s: began well with the timeless ALL ABOUT EVE, I also like the melodramatics of THE STAR in '53 and THE VIRGIN QUEEN in '55, WEDDING BREAKFAST (THE CATERED AFFAIR) in '56. By 1959 she was playing another great queen - Catherine The Great - in a cameo in JOHN PAUL JONES, as well as a cameo with Alec Guinness in THE SCAPEGOAT.

1960s - Her fortunes, like Joan Crawford's, revived in the 1960s with the success of BABY JANE, but I prefer the outrageous DEAD RINGER where she plays twin sisters Margaret and Edie, or the delirious Trash of WHERE LOVE HAS GONE .... she was also fun wearing that eyepatch in THE ANNIVERSARY in 1968.
1970s/1980s: After the dreadful BUNNY O'HARE and lots of TV, Bette was back in big pictures doing that delightful double act with Maggie Smith in DEATH ON THE NILE. She continued into the 1980s despite health problems, and scored a late quality role, with Lillian Gish in THE WHALES OF AUGUST in 1987. Bette died in France in 1989, aged 81. She always said her tombstone would read "She did it the hard way".  .... Her great (and not so) roles continue to fascinate us. It was great seeing her take the stage at the BFI in 1972, as I have reported here before.  See Bette label for more ... 

Dame Flora

Now that most surviving British actresses are automatically made Dames of the British Empire (Joan Collins, Shirley Bassey as well as people like Julie Andrews, Elizabeh Taylor, Angela Lansbury whose careers were created away from the UK) a Dame may be a trifle devalued, but back in the 1940s it certainly meant something as Edith Evans, Flora Robson, Celia Johnson, Gladys Cooper etc earned their honours by hard work and their illustrious careers. Today, we look at Dame Flora, always a pleasure to see and listen to - she had the most perfect speaking voice. Never a great beauty (and she never married or had children), she created a great body of work on stage and screen and also television. I never saw her on the stage, where she had lots of successes at the Old Vic, and in plays like Henry James's THE ASPERN PAPERS and LADIES IN RETIREMENT. She was a memorable Lady Macbeth too on Broadway in 1949.

Flora (1902-1984) had her first screen success as Elizabeth I in the 1937 FIRE OVER ENGLAND, with the young Olivier and Vivien Leigh. James Mason was also a juvenile here. Summoned to Hollywood she re-created the Virgin Queen in that marvellous swashbuckler, Curtiz's THE SEA HAWK in 1940, where she and Erroll Flynn are great together. It was a war effort movie, complete with her stirring speech to her troops at the end. In America she had also been effective in Wyler's WUTHERING HEIGHTS as the housekeeper (she turned down Mrs Danvers in REBECCA as she didn't want to play two housekeepers in a row). She also scored as Ingrid Bergman's Creole servant in SARATOGA TRUNK, filmed in 1943, but not released until 1945, when she also blacked up again to play Vivien Leigh's faithful slave Ftatateeta in CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA. She had also played Livia in Josef Von Sterberg's aborted I CLAUDIUS in 1937, and looks marvellous in the fragments that survive.
She was the embittered spinster in POISON PEN, and another efficient spinster in 2,000 WOMEN, a perfect 1940s British war effort. Other 40s movies include Michael Powell's masterpiece BLACK NARCISSUS where she is the nun who plants flowers instead of vegetables in that Himalayan convent; 
GOOD TIME GIRL, and another perfect spinster in HOLIDAY CAMP in 1947. SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS was another, where her malevolent Countess Von Platen (bottom, right) steals scenes as she tries to hold on to her lover Stewart Granger. She also excelled in MALTA STORY, and Losey's baroque THE GYPSY AND THE GENTLEMAN in 1958.
Her Chinese empress was a fascinating creation in 55 DAYS AT PEKING in 1963, and she was in a good Miss Marple, MURDER AT THE GALLOP (as the murderer, of course). She has a good moment as the Mother Superior in the all-star THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES in 1965, and also played Sean O'Casey's mother for John Ford in YOUNG CASSIDY, that fascinating film began by Ford and finished by Jack Cardiff. Ford also included her as one of his SEVEN WOMEN for his swanslong in 1966. 
She continued as Betsy Trotwood in a TV DAVID COPPERFIELD and roles in films as diverse as THE SHUTTERED ROOM, EYE OF THE DEVIL, THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR and Miss Pross in a TV A TALE OF TWO CITIES, and Miss Prism in a IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, as well as the Queen of Hearts in a ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND in 1972. Her last cinema role was as one of the witches in CLASH OF THE TITANS in 1981. These are just highlights of a long career, where she played her roles with passion and conviction as well as grace and integrity. 

Dame Flora lived in Brighton, where I lived for several years. The Brighton Council named the town's buses after their many famous residents, it always made me smile to see the bus named Flora arrive. 
She is certainly one of the People We Like. As that great site Poseidon's Underworld says about her:  "A revered performer of immense commitment and skill, she could say more with a dour glance than some folks could with a page of lines. With so many actresses now opting to stay forever “young” through surgery and whatever else, we're in short supply of these stern, aged, expressive types of character actresses. With Robson in a film, we know we're in for a treat".  Today, Dames Maggie and Judi continue the great tradition. 
The biography on her by Kenneth Barrow (I got a second hand copy on Amazon signed by Dame Flora and the author) refers to her as "The Avant-garde actress of her generation, she worked in Hollywood during the golden years, won respect for playing Shakespeare and the classics, was a successful star in the commercial theatre, as well as being the first of her great contemporaries to comes to terms with radio and television,and she has worked with the most notable names in theatre and cinema."
Above left: Robson with John Ford. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Delon & Laforet, again

And to round off this session on 1960s French glamour, here once again are some terrific stills of Alain Delon and Marie Laforet in Rene Clement's PLEIN SOLEIL from Patricia Highsmith's THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY .... feel the heat of the mediterranean ...

Deneuve & Dorleac

More French 1960s glamour ... with sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac in Jacques Demy's LES DEMOISELLES DEROCHEFORT, a great from 1967 - its marvellous on the big screen as Demy gets all of Rochefort dancing with our sisters - add in Gene Kelly, blonde sailor Jacques Perrin, dancing boys George Chakiris and Grover Dale, as well as eternally chic Danielle Darriex as the girls' mother and bliss is assured. More on this at Demy label .... 

Francoise perished in a car accident in 1967 .... she was certainly an essential Sixties beauty and French star. We like her in THAT MAN FROM RIO, LE PEAU DEUCE, even GENGHIS KHAN and that Michael Caine film. See my fuller appreciation on her at Dorleac label.

Anouk and 1960s glamour ...

I have not featured French actress Anouk Aimee here for a while, she is certainly another favourite whom I like in so many films, particularly UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME in 1966 ... and JUSTINE and of course Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA and more, as per Anouk label. French glamour does not get more mysterious. Good to see she is still going too in her 80s now and still looks marvellous. She was LOLA for Jacques Demy and also in his MODEL SHOP in 1969, and she was married to Albert Finney too ... (below, right). 

We aso like her Sapphic queen in SODOM AND GOMORRAH, a treat from 1962, left.
She was also a longtime friend of Dirk Bogarde's and appeared in the TV film of his novel "Voices In The Garden".

Dirk and Capucine in 1960 ...

Dirk Bogarde and Capucine posed for a lot of photos circa 1960, they year they made SONG WITHOUT END that ritzy biopic about Franz Liszt, as per this catche of photos by Peter Basch, which I had not seen before. 
It probably suited them to be seen as an item at the time, good publicity for both. She did spend some time at his country home of the time, as per his books including "Snakes and Ladders". They remained friends (though he was not very kind about her in his "Cleared For Take-Off" which covered her suicide in 1990), She was involved with William Holden by 1962 and they made two films together (THE LION in 1962, and THE SEVENTH DAWN in '64), there is also a photo of her here (Showpeople label) showing her visiting Holden and Audrey Hepburn on the set of PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES, filmed in 1962 but not released until 1964 - I saw it the other day and its terrible, not even worth commenting on. Audrey had also been close with Holden during their SABRINA a decade earlier, but he was heavily drinking during their PARIS film. Audrey and Capucine were also friends ... 
And for more glamour here's Dirk with Julie in DARLING, 1965, and with Monica as MODESTY BLAISE ..... there's also pictures of Dirk with Julie AND Monica at that DARLING premiere in 1965, again see labels. 

and I had not seen this shot of Dirk as Gabriel in MODESTY BLAISE before either - in that op art cell!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Monica Vitti in 1977 ...

and some new photos from MODESTY BLAISE, 1966 ..... does Sixties glamour get any better?
Thanks too, once again, to Colin for finding me the January 2 1977 UK "Sunday Times" colour supplement, with Monica on the cover and an interview with her inside. I had this at the time but misplaced it over the years. Fascinating to see it again, and it also has an interview with the young Ian McKellen. Here's what it says on Monica then ...
Monica Vitti was that high-strung lady who floated through those starkly beautiful Antonioni films of the early Sixties like L’AVVENTURA and LA NOTTE. In Italy these days she has, surprisingly, made herself a new reputation a a comedienne but in her next film MIMI BLUETTE she plays a more symbolic role. The setting is pre-1914 Paris; she plays the part of a dancer who goes from country to country searching in vain for her lover”. It was a project MGM bought for Garbo back in the 1920s, but was never made.

So starts a “Sunday Times Magazine” feature on Vitti in their colour magazine, dated 2 January 1977, where Monica is interviewed at her Rome apartment by Meriel  McCooey and photographed by Eva Sereny.

Vitti is a remarkable looking woman, a combination of strength and delicacy, Her fashionably untidy, silky blonde hair surrounds a fine-skinned face quite a stubborn jaw, all illuminated by alert green eyes, her nose has a slight curve and she avoids being photographed in profile.

In her Rome apartment which looks out on the Tiber, she was wearing a pastel patchwork dress trimmed with different laces which she picks up in markets and second-hand shops. She looked like a hippie butterfly and the effect was calculatingly ethereal. Her sitting-room is filled with priceless bric-a-brac, Tiffany lamps, oriental rugs, good sculpture, a coffee-table overflowing with non-coffee-table books, and pink and white blossom everywhere. “I bought this flat 16 years ago with the money from my first film. But I was so insecure that I kept all my clothes at my mother’s and used to go home to sleep”.

She was reading theatre notices in “The Sunday Times”  spread out over her huge cretonne-covered sofa. She reads in English, French and Italian, and in a husky come-to-bed voice speaks a little English, a lot of French and an enormous amount of quick-fire Italian. “I would love to go back to the theatre. I started in Rome (her hometown) when I was 14. I played a woman of 45 covered with lines and a snow-white wig. I thought that was what a woman of 45 looked like. But I did have this deep throbbing voice. When I began making films I was physically very different from the ideal Italian beauty. Loren and Lollobrigida were much more acceptable. But something happened with Michelangelo and myself – together we invented some stories, using little bits of autobiography, a soupcon in L’AVVENTURA, some in LA NOTTE. I was living materal".

In Antonioni’s films, Vitti seemed like to express the boredoms and tensions of modern women. You felt she was caged and longed to escape, vulnerable, trapped, brought to the brink by her environment.
“Antonioni was the only Italian director who told the woman’s story. The only creative man to take their problems seriously. After me, he didn’t make stories about women. We lived together for seven years. He still has the apartment above and we see each other constantly. He is my best friend.”  They did not contemplate marriage - “I decided at 12 that I didn’t want to marry. It’s a terrible life, so enclosed. Anyway, there are too many children in the world, why add mine."
"When we parted I had to change. I wanted to do comedy …. But it was difficult to get the audience to accept me, they were waiting for this neurotic woman.” Now she is very popular, she has made many hilarious comedies, such as THE GIRL WITH THE PISTOL and THE PIZZA TRIANGLE and THE SCARLET LADY, which are seldom shown outside Italy. She bought the rights to MIMI BLUETTE three years ago – the film was made by Carlo Di Palma last October in France and Morocco.  
“But I hate to fly. I went to Africa by car, it took five days there and 5 back. I refused a lot of work in America because of this, though Antonioni and I once went to New York and Mexico. But I was terrified in America, I didn’t like to watch the way the women get old. Anyway I love Europe, its so original, so full of faults."
Nowadays she says she lives alone: “A very simple life. When I’m not working I go to the cinema every night. Sometimes its very difficult. I am three dangerous things: a woman, an actress and not married, so I suppose I will work until I’m ninety.”

Flash-forward to now and Monica, in her 80s, has been in seclusion for some years, - as per other posts on her, see label. MIMI BLUETTE never made it to the UK either and seems unobtainable now. She married Roberto Russo in 1995 according to IMDB ., Antonioni died in 2007 - here they are with Alain Delon at Cannes in 1962 for the screening of L'ECLISSE.