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.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Perfect 1980s pop ...

Brighton, 30th August 1985. 
"Sooner or later this happens to everyone - just when you least expect it, waiting around the corner for you" ....

Good news too that the Pets have a new album out in April and are doing some summer dates at The Royal Opera House in London - we saw them during their residency at The Savoy in 1997, and at the Tower of London in 2006 - as well as various festivals and Pride events. Bring them on ...

Friday, 22 January 2016

Fabiola, 1949

Sticking with vintage epics & peplums (see the 1925 BEN-HUR below), the 1949 Italian FABIOLA may well be the first of those costumers that became so popular in the 1950s and early 60s. It is a gleaming black and white production, directed by Alessandro Blasetti, starring the French husband and wife team of Henri Vidal and Michele Morgan. He is the gladiator ambitious to get ahead, and she is Fabiola, popular with the people - the daughter of a senator who is murdered early on. The film does start to drag half way, with too much dialogue, but once we get to the gladiators and the arena with those wild animals on the loose, it certainly livens up.

In ancient Rome a love story blossoms between Fabiola, daughter of a senator, and Rhual, a gallic gladiator. When Fabiola's father is killed, the Romans blame the Christians and the persecution begins. Rhual confesses to be a christian and is accused of the murder and sentenced to fight to death in the arena.

Morgan (now in her 90s) is an alluring presence, but the hunky Vidal (more on him at label) died young - aged 40 in 1959. The large cast also includes Michel Simon, Franco Interlenghi , Rina Morelli, Paola Stoppa and Massimo Girotti as the martyr St Sebastian. Its certainly worth a look if your taste runs to sword-and-sandal stuff set in ancient Rome with Christians in peril and Roman mobs lusting for their gruesome entertainments. Its almost as much fun as QUO VADIS,

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ben-Hur, 1925

Finally, I have put on that 1925 silent version of BEN-HUR, which was included in that 3-disk dvd pack on the 1959 film some years ago, and what a fascinating contrast it is to compare both. 
First of all the silent version looks marvellous, with some tinted and early colour inserts, particularly that first 15 minutes as we follow Joseph and Mary (a beatific Betty Bronson) and the Three Wise Men and that star in the sky and some good crowd scenes, its all like some Victorian tableaus - it was from a Victorian novel .... two stunning set-pieces are the galley scene as Ben toils at the oars - with that naked man in chains - and the sea battle is well done, and the other of course is the chariot race at Antioch, which is merely stupendous, as it is in the later version. Several horses met their end here ...

Its the characters and the script thats woeful here, of course being a silent nothing is fleshed out or developed. The spirited Esther of Wyler's film is  a simpering ninny here playing with her doves, we barely see Quintus Arrius - a gruff, old man - with none of the subtle interplay between him and Ben, while Messala (Francis X Bushman) is a one-dimensional cartoon villain who barely recognises Ben when they meet again. There is also a vamp, Ires - who has to find out who the mysterious charioteer is .... he though is Ramon Novarro who is a perfect Ben. (We like Ramon too in MATA HARI with Garbo in 1931). The rest is pure standard silent movie fare. Never has the quip "loved Ben, hated Hur" been more apt. I will appreciate the 1959 film a lot more next time I look in on it, its a sublte, complex masterpiece compared to this version by Fred Niblo - though it must have astounded audiences at the time. The younger Wyler and Henry Hathaway were also involved in its production as assistant directors, which unusual for the time, was filmed in Italy - but the chariot race was filmed back in California where most of the stars of the day played uncredited extras for the race. This dvd restored version (by Thames Silents) has another great score by Carl Davis.
Here are some shots from the 1959 version: Heston and Boyd; plus Bette Davis visiting her old director Wyler.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


The death of British TV screenwriter Robert Banks Stewart (RIP, below) reminds us of two of his biggest successes - SHOESTRING, that quirky private eye series set around Bristol (1979-80) and which caught that new 1980s vibe nicely, and BERGERAC which followed and was an even bigger success - repeats are still on television here. Trevor Eve made his name as the rather rumpled radio detective - and among the actors who featured was a young Daniel Day Lewis - below.  I need to dig out that box set filed away ...

ANOTHER Marilyn exhibition ....

A new Marilyn Monroe exhibition is opening in London at The Little Black Gallery (
and yes it is billing it as showing some rarely-seen images of MM - but of course they are not. These images (available as framed prints at rather stunning prices) have been available for a long time - and featured heavily in Norman Mailer's 1973 iconic book on Monroe. My teenage niece even has this MM image by Greene on her bedroom wall ...
The photos here are by two of the main photographers who knew and worked with her: namely Milton Greene who look some of the best portraits of her in the mid-1950s (he had become her friend and they set up her production company which made THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL in 1956), and Douglas Kirkland who did those - yes, iconic - shots of her wrapped in that silk sheet, in 1961. (Other great MM photographers were - as mentoned before - Eve Arnold and Bob Willoughby, George Barris who did those great beach photos with her in 1962, and Bert Stern whose "Last Sitting" caught a darker Monroe ...

The Greene pictures though are marvellous and certainly worth looking at. 

People We Like: Dorothy Malone

Idly looking at Robert Aldrich's 1961 western THE LAST SUNSET - not seen that since I was a kid - on TV yesterday afternoon, I was again struck by how watchable and magnetic Dorothy Malone is. Maybe not a star of the front rank, she was one of those reliable ladies - like Vera Miles, Shelley Winters or Martha Hyer - who forged a long career, and was probably at her cinematic peak in the 1950s. 
Dorothy first caught one's attention with that scene in the bookshop with Bogart in Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP in 1946 - even then she was someone unusual. As she matured her sultry, rather bruised looks made her a Hollywood blonde to watch - up there with Janet Leigh, Kim Novak and the others: Lana Turner, Grace Kelly, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield ..... Dorothy was one of those girls who fitted in well out west, being an expert horsewoman - among her westerns are solid items like WARLOCK in 1959, FIVE GUNS WEST, QUANTREZ, and TENSION AT TABLE ROCK
Her other plentiful credits include YOUNG AT HEART, the army wife seducing young Tab Hunter in BATTLE CRY (both 1954), romancing Liberace in SINCERELY YOURS - Dorothy made everything look convincing; ARTISTS AND MODELS, MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, TOO MUCH TOO SOON, THE LAST VOYAGE, FATE IS THE HUNTER and her final screen credit BASIC INSTINCT in 1992. 
Maybe her biggest hits were for Dougas Sirk in the mid-50s: her Best Supporting Actress win for WRITTEN ON THE WIND in 1956 as the trampy nymphomaniac with that killer mambo dance, and THE TARNISHED ANGELS in 1957. 

The 1960s saw her going successfully into television as Constance McKenzie in the very long running series PEYTON PLACE, which ran for years. Among her husbands was French actor Jacques Bergerac (who had also married Ginger Rodgers). Dorothy is 90 now and one trusts she is well after some serious illnesses.

Aretha sings Carole King, again ...

Words are not necessary. 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Richard, Robert or Leo ?

In the early 1800's, a group of fur trappers and Indian traders are returning with their goods to civilisation and are making a desperate attempt to beat the oncoming winter. When guide Zachary Bass is injured in a bear attack, they decide he's a goner and leave him behind to die. When he recovers instead, he swears revenge on them and tracks them and their paranoiac expedition leader down.

A synopsis for THE REVENANT?  (which since it opened here last weekend has been praised in the highest terms and is expected to sweep all before it at the Academy Awards) .... er, no, its from a 1971 Richard Harris western (shot in Spain) titled MAN IN THE WILDERNESS by Richard C. Sarafian - I remember it but did not want to see it at the time (not being one of Mr Harris's greatest admirers) but it now seems to have been re-discovered, and it also features John Huston in the cast. 
Worth another look perhaps - is THE REVENANT a souped-up new version with all the technical wizardy now available - including that very realistic bear? The names may have been changed for the Harris version, but it seems he is playing Hugh Glass - as DiCaprio does in the Inarritu new classic. 

Then there's Robert Redford as JEREMIAH JOHNSON, another mountain man in the wilderness in Sidney Pollack's 1972 western - not the same story of course, but it shows that sagas of mountain men coping with everything nature (and other humans) can throw at them are nothing new .....those trappers and mountain men also feature of course in films like YELLOWSTONE KELLY and HOW THE WEST WAS WON (both Stewart and Fonda as trappers). Plus of course one of Kevin Costner's biggest hits DANCES WITH WOLVES, in 1990, (which even beat Scorsese's GOODFELLAS as Best Film) where his disillusioned cavalry officer leaves 'civilisation' to live in the wilderness and mix with the Natives ... we loved it at the time, don't know how I would feel about it now. 

Lets see how Leo does this time round - he is already on the Oscar campaign trail here, deigning to appear on heavyweight political shows (just like Cate did when campaigning for that BLUE JASMINE award a few years ago...). 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Fort Dobbs, 1958

Having eluded a posse, a wanted man rescues a woman and her young son from a Comanche attack. He then escorts them to the presumed safety of a U.S. Cavalry fort. Trouble develops along the way when the woman comes to believe that her rescuer was responsible for the recent death of her husband.

That late '50s period was that great time for westerns - not only on tv, but at the movies: 1956 - THE SEARCHERS; 1957 - 3.10 TO YUMAGUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRALNIGHT PASSAGE; 1958 - MAN OF THE WESTTHE BIG COUNTRYCOWBOYTHE LAW AND JAKE WADE; 1959 - RIO BRAVOTHE HANGING TREEWARLOCKTHESE THOUSAND HILLS; 1960 - THE UNFORGIVENNORTH TO ALASKA, 1961 - Brando's ONE EYED JACKS; 1962 - HOW THE WEST WAS WON, etc. after of course those great early '50s westerns like HIGH NOONSHANEJOHNNY GUITAR (the first movie I saw, aged 8 - as per other reports here), DRUMBEATWHITE FEATHER etc, and of course Ford with Wayne, James Stewart with Anthony Mann, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher - see Western label for more on these. Now lets mix in Clint, who while no Wayne or Cooper has an agreeable Western presence, like Randolph Scott, or Dale Robertson or Guy Madison, and whose films while programmers are not without interest:

Sterling Hayden as JOHNNY GUITAR has a line: "Sometimes all a man wants is a smoke and a cup of coffee" - well, sometimes all I want for a snowy afternoon indoors is an unpretentious western ... 

FORT DOBBS, 1958 – A pleasing, tense if minor western from that great era for oaters. I remember this as a kid - we didn't get to see cowboy stars like Clint or Dale Roberston in their tv shows (no tv in Ireland then!) so caught their movies. Directed by the ever reliable Gordon Douglas (studio hack supreme) it casts man of few words Clint Walker as Gar, a wanted man on the run who stops to assist lone Virginia Mayo and cute kid Richard Eyer, as the Commanches attack their homestead. She thinks he killed her husband so tensions mount as they cross Indian territory – then Brian Keith and his guns turn up! The surprise here is that this is in black and white, when even routine westerns were in colour, but the monochrome is surprisingly effective. Walker soon removes his shirt to display that impressive physique, 

Eyer is as good as he was in FRIENDLY PERSUASION, but Mayo impresses the most – shorn of her usual glamour she delivers a compelling portrayal, particularly when she wakes and realises she is naked under her blanket and her wet clothes are drying (there's more than a few nods to RIVER OF NO RETURN here). The Indians of course are just faceless savages … its nicely worked out, there is no overt romance as such between the leads but a nice slow burn as she has to trust him, its one western that delivers. I liked it almost as much as SEVEN MEN FROM NOW! Clint went on to other oaters like YELLOWSTONE KELLY in '59 and the ridiculously enjoyable GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS in 1961 (if only for Roger Moore's godawful Oirish accent) and NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY, as well as co-starring with the likes of Rock and Doris (SEND ME NO FLOWERS) and Sinatra, and is still here in his late-80s. Then it was time for that other Clint to step to the fore, with all those spaghetti westerns ...

Saturday, 16 January 2016

1950: party boys - or stag night at the steamroom ...

What young actors had to do to get publicity in those 1950s fan mags!  My IMDB pal Melvelvit (a denizen of their Classic Film Board) unearthed this feature from a 1950 issue of "Modern Screen" featuring young chaps around town (Hollywood) entitled: "Stag Night At The Steamroom" - it was a more innocent time of course, but this comes across as so screamingly gay now - even down to a naked Rock Hudson (risque for 1950) getting a rubdown .... add in young Tony Curtis and occasional cowboys Scott Brady and Hugh O'Brien and John Bromfield (?) - all clients of that notorious Hollywood agent Henry Willson, if his other clients like Rory Calhoun and Guy Madison were included as well, the steam room would certainly have steamed up!

Rock and Tony were starting out then -both had small parts in that year's WINCHESTER 73 (see Westerns label).  Here is the full feature, with that delirious text.:

"The heat is on at Finlandia, the only place a man is put on the shelf - and likes it" ...

Saunas must have been a new concept then, as the feature goes into all the details of what having a sauna entails. There is lots of saucy banter here, and the boys get fed too: "huge cuts of roast beef, turkey, ham, scandanavian cheese and lots of potato salad". One gets pretty hungry working up a sweat - fruit juice, soda and beer were also on tap, then it was time for a nap. Eating and drinking at the sauna does seem a little counter-productive ...

Scott Brady went on to play the Dancin' Kid in that cult western JOHNNY GUITAR, one of my enduring favourites and the first film I ever saw aged 8, suddenly it seems a lot gayer now. He also paid his dues in many westerns like THE MAVERICK QUEEN with Stanwyck. It seems he did not marry until later in life ("The seemingly one-time confirmed bachelor decided to settle down in 1967 at age 43") and developed into a reliable character actor, with later roles in THE CHINA SYNDROME and GREMLINS (he died aged 60 in 1985). Hugh O'Brien, 90 now, of course did lots of westerns too (SEMINOLE, TAZA SON OF COCHISE, WHITE FEATHER, BROKEN LANCE) while Rock and Tony were soon heading for the A-list, leaving layouts like this behind them. Thirty years later in 1980 when perhaps past their prime they were reunited for the enjoyable camp farrago THE MIRROR CRACK'D
Below: Scott Brady with Crawford and Sterling Hayden in JOHNNY GUITAR.

45 years

A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receive shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.

Well yes, that is the basic plot of this highly-regarded indie British flick - but it is a slow-moving, leisurely paced examination of a marriage which may be coming apart at the seams, just as the couple - Kate and Geoff - are holding a party to celebrate their 45 years - he was ill for their 40th and may not be around for the 50th .... We see their contented life in retirement in Norfolk: that idyllic cottage, walks with the dog in the country, boat trips. Suddenly though Geoff gets a letter - something from the past has come back. 50 years earlier he and his then girlfriend Katya were holidaying in the Alps when she fell into a glacier and was killed. Her body has now been found preserved in ice. This is unsettling for Kate as she sees how it affects her husband, who is now up in the loft in the middle of the night, digging up old letters and photos. Then it is revealed that he is listed as her next of kin, as they had pretended to be married (it was 50 years ago) ...

Kate becomes unsettled by it all as she slowly thinks their 45 years is all a sham, that she has been second best all along, which is unbearable to her, as Geoff confesses he would have married Katya if the accident had not happened..She braves the ladder to the loft herself and sees all the slides of a maybe pregnant Katya - but Kate and Geoff had never bothered taking pictures of themselves By the time the party comes round, there may not be a marriage to celebrate .
It is virtually a two-hander for Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as we get absorbed in their lives and wonder how it is going to pan out. We grew up watching them in screen since their early '60s triumphs (BILLY LIAR, GEORGY GIRL). Sir Tom has quietly excelled over the years on film, stage and television. Charlotte was 'The Look' as directors like Visconti, Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet wanted her for their films, then came the controversial THE NIGHT PORTER, as she settled in France and became (like Romy Schneider before her) a fixture of French cinema, with some adventerous choices (MAX MON AMOUR, HEADING SOUTH) and she excelled in those Francois Ozon films like the unsettling UNDER THE SAND and SWIMMING POOL. Lately she has been back on British television in the underwhelming second series of BROADCHURCH and LONDON SPY. Here, she mesmerises under Andrew Haigh's direction as Kate reacts to Geoff and what she finds out about him. 
We leave them at the party with that long close-up showing emotional devastation as "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" plays on and on ...

I was not too enthusiastic about Haigh's previous film: the 2011 gay romance WEEKEND, which seemed too contrived, but 45 YEARS is something else indeed - a melancholy chamber-piece as the ghost of Katya hangs over this troubled marriage. At least Rampling got an Oscar nomination which will boost the film's visibility, after being snubbed by BAFTA. It is certainly worth 90 odd minutes of your time. There is a sense of Antonioni alienation here too, particularly as Kate wanders around that market town .... 

RIP, continued ...

Alan Rickman (1946-2016), aged 69. Fulsome tributes indeed for Alan Rickman, one of Britain's leading actors equally at home on stage, television and film. He first came to my attention as Obadiah Slope in that great BBC adaptaton of Trollope's BARCHESTER CHRONICLES in 1982 - one to see-see.  His first film was as the villain in the first DIE HARD and he was also the delirious panto villain in ROBIN HOOD, PRINCE OF THIEVES, as well as more serious fare in TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY and CLOSE MY EYES, MESMER, LOVE ACTUALLY and he directed THE WINTER GUEST. I like his steadfast Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee's SENSE & SENSIBILITY in 1995. He made his stage reputation of course with LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, and he was in all the HARRY POTTER films as Severus Snape. I passed him once in Oxford Street, London. RIP indeed. 

Glenn Frey (1948-2016), aged 67. Another '70s rock legend gone - not another cancer death, but caused by complications after intestinal surgery and pneumonia. It was fascinating seeing the opinionated Frey in that recent Eagles documentary on the history of the band, he of course was a founding member and co-wrote a lot of their hits, with Don Henley. He was one of the main singers in the band, as well as producer and later did some acting, during the band's hiatus. He sang lead vocals on hits like "Take It Easy", "Tequila Sunrise", "Already Gone", "New Kid In Town" and had a successful solo career too. We liked The Eagles a lot back then, and still get a kick from them now.

Robert Banks Stewart (1931-2016), aged 84. British (Scottish actually) writer who created some ground-breaking crime series for the BBC in the late 70s and early 80s, set in attractive locations: mainly SHOWSTRING which I loved, with Trevor Eve as the crumpled private eye/radio presenter, set around Bristol, in 1979 and 80, but when Eve did not wish to do a third series, Stewart came up with BERGERAC set in Jersey, another huge hit from 1980-1990). Stewart certainly knew how to write for prime-time television, and also wrote early scripts for shows like CALLAN and THE AVENGERS, and also produced LOVEJOY and THE DARLING BUDS OF MAY and MY UNCLE SILAS

Silvana Pampanini (1925-2016), aged 90. She was one of the new post-war Italian beauty queens who was soon in the movies, paving the way for that other Silvana - Mangano, plus Lollobrigida and Loren, though oddly not following them into international cinema. She was certainly a star name in Italy - I have not seen much of her output, but like WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC in 1952, with a young Loren in support. It is a delirious tale of girls being sold into slavery after competing in a gruelling dance marthon - I reviewed it a while back, Italian-2 label. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie, RIP

It is not often a celebrity death pulls one up short - our favourites do get old and die - but putting on the television this morning for the news and weather, and seeing that picture of David Bowie (left) with the tag 1947-2016 made one gasp - rather like learning about the deaths of Princess Diana or John Lennon or Elvis back in the '70s - and get tearful seeing all those clips and innovative videos. One just did not think of Bowie as 'old' - he seemed a timeless, current artist - with that new album two years ago, and the latest one just out, which I have not even heard yet, but have just seen that astonishing video for "Lazarus".. Perhaps not being so visible in recent years had a lot to do with it - the internet will go into overdrive about him now and expect all those albums to be selling again. Would the sudden passing of Jagger, McCartney or Dylan be as newsworthy?, as the TV stations here are preparing tributes ... 

Of course I spanned the Bowie era, in the '70s we had to have those influential albums, and iconic singles. After he left Ziggy Stsrdust behind Bowie developed into a fascinating man and artist as he turned to acting and taking up soul and dance and then that Berlin period .... I loved the YOUNG AMERICANS album which I had on cassette and played all the time, and STATION TO STATION: "Golden Years", "Fame", "Win", "Fashion", "Blue Jean", "Boys Keep Swinging" etc. I loved his version of the ballad "Wild Is The Wind", and then the 80s glossy look of LET'S DANCE with Nile Rodgers, and those collaborations with Queen: "Under Pressure".(love his and Annie Lennox's version), with Jagger in the fun throwaway "Dancing in the Street", and "Hello Spaceboy" with the Pet Shop Boys. The Berlin albums though, with Brian Eno, will prove more infuential - LOW, HEROES, LODGER ... I love his "Putting out fire with gasoline" used in Schrader's CAT PEOPLE
The movies were varied too, from Roeg's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH to the vampire gloss of THE HUNGER and with Marlene Dietrich for a few minutes in JUST A GIGOLO in '77 (where he is in Berlin and she is in Paris). The tours were amazing too, as The Thin White Duke took to the road - Serious Moonlight indeed.  His later years seemed more relaxed, living in New York with Iman and family and then suddenly putting out that new music, and keeping his illness secret. David certainly knew how the play the fame game. RIP indeed to a giant of popular culture and a true enduring legend. 
I worked in Regent Street, in London, for over 20 years and Heddon Street was just behind us - even then tourists would be looking for the exact spot where they shot the iconic cover for the ZIGGY STARDUST album ...
My first longtime partner (from 1974-84) is full of surprises. This, from him today:
"Sad about Bowie. I briefly worked with him as a Saturday boy at Brixton Market greengrocers stall, he had lied about his age and was sacked after two Saturdays. He had to be 14 , I think he was 12". He never mentioned that during our decade together when I was playing Bowie a lot!   

Sunday, 10 January 2016

BAFTA goes dafta ....

Award Season madness is here once more!  Watch those actors on the award trail - even if they won last year! BAFTA announced its nominations and puzzled/annoyed a lot of us, the Golden Globes are tonight, and the Academy Awards nominations are out later this week ....

BAFTA (the British awards) chose to ignore maybe the best British film of the year: 45 YEARS and its great performance by Charlotte Rampling - which seemed a shoo-in after all the rave revews , but then they also ignored Timothy Spall and MR TURNER last year.  Tom Hardy has also been ignored here, despite having 4 films out this year. .... plus I hardly see Rooney Mara as 'supporting' as per my other comments on CAROL, and, much as we like her, Julie Walters hardly merits a nod for BROOKLYN, where she phones in her standard performance and is barely in the film. Alicia Vikander (new to us) is nominated twice - as lead and supporting - so they may hardly want her to go away empty-handed ..... ROOM has not even opened here yet, so we know nothing about it. Ditto Leo's THE REVENANT
Maybe its a moot point who is up for best actress - sorry, Saoirse - as I am sure BAFTA will not want to miss honouring Maggie Smith one more time, 57 years after her first nomination as most promising newcomer in 1959, and a mere 47 years after her win for MISS BRODIE for what may well be her last leading role. 

Tom Hooper winning-director of the pedestrian KING'S SPEECH gets nominated for THE DANISH GIRL while the more interesting and quirky Andrew Haigh gets ignored for 45 YEARS ..... which is only nominated as one of the Best British Films .
The awards are dished out at the Royal Opera House on Valentine's Day, Feb 14 .... meanwhile, 45 YEARS has just arrived, so we will review it properly tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

RIP continues ....

Haskell Wexler (1922-2015), aged  93. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler photographed some great movies such as WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? in 1966, and directed MEDIUM COOL in 1969, an essential '60s film, about a TV news reporter who finds himself right in the middle of the late '60s zeitgeist, in particular the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. His other 80 credits include: early '60s items like ANGEL BABY, THE HOODLUM PRIEST, Kazan's AMERICA AMERICA, THE BEST MAN, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (he could do glamour as well as grit), ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, and more, and had been working until recently. 

Vilmos Zsigmond (1930-2016), aged 85. Four time Academy Award nominee Vilmos Zsigmond, who won the award as director of photography for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, had left his native Hungary after the Russian invasion in 1956 and started his career in Hollywood (after a couple of shorts in his native country) photographing low budget exploitation films, eventually working up to projects like Robert Altman's McCABE & MRS MILLER  and THE LONG GOODBYE, giving them his distinctive look, Brian DePalma kept him busy with that favourite of mine OBSESSION, and  BLOW-OUT, and he lensed Michael Cimino's THE DEER HUNTER. and HEAVEN'S GATE, plus Rydell's THE ROSE and Boorman's DELIVERANCE Another essential 1970s Director of Photography then, and according to IMDB he had several projects lined up for 2016.

Robert Stigwood (1934-2016) aged 81. Australian music mogul who quickly realised the cross-over power of pop, film and theatre as he dominated the 1960s and 1970s music scene, managing groups lke Cream, The Who, The Bee-Gees, and behind films like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, TOMMY and GREASE. A rare flop for him was SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, which nobody wanted to see. He also managed Eric Clapton for a long time. The "flamboyant" Stigwood never married and lived his last years in seclusion, but was certainly one of the music biz's major names and lived the high life with all those yachts and parties ... 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

1966 and all that ...

Its official, 1966 is now 50 years ago - those of us who were young then, and there will have fond memories .... as I shall return to.
After some good reviews I just had to order this new book by music journalist Jon Savage, taking us through the year month by month, mainly focusing on the music - all those fab singles out every week and those groundbreaking albums. I did not realise though it would be such a heavy tome of 650 pages ... too big to carry around for casual reading on the train!  Let's look at the blurb:

2016 will see the 50th anniversary of defining year in global pop cultural history, 1966. Jon Savage's exploration of the key highs, lows and revolutionary moments, will be at the centre of reflection on what made that year so uniquely resonant. extraordinary year in popular culture.
'The 'Sixties', as we have come to know them, hit their Modernist peak. A unique chemistry of ideas, substances, freedom of expression and dialogue across pop cultural continents created a landscape of immense and eventually shattering creativity. After 1966 nothing in the pop world would ever be the same. The 7 inch single outsold the long-player for the final time.
Jon Savage's 1966 is a monument to the year that shaped the pop future of the balance of the century. Exploring canonical artists like The Beatles, The Byrds, Velvet Underground, The Who and The Kinks, 1966 also goes much deeper into the social and cultural heart of the decade through unique archival primary sources.
From Haight Ashbury to pirate radio, via the prosecution of the Rollling Stones and the arrival of the first double-album by a major artist (Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde), 1966 represents both a watershed and a high water mark in post war culture,
This book has music at its heart – whether looking at Joe Meek, Motown, Stax, the Velvet Underground, the Byrds, the Kinks, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band or Tom Jones; music both reflected the times and changed them. From songs of protest – to those lampooning the protesters - from folk rock to soul and the emergence of rock, music pours forth from the pages and will make you reach for your own collections to play those songs, which still sound so fresh and relevant today

England was at the forefront of the new changes in the air, a trend picked up by TIME magazine with their Swinging London cover story ..... other British successes included all those trendy films, the new Hovercraft crossing the channel on a cushion of air, the Harrier Jump Jet, and of course England winning the World  Cup. But what did 1966 mean to me? How was I living then? 

Well I was just 20, and finally left my bedsitter/furnished room in North London where I had been since I arrived in London in April 1964, aged 18. My younger brother had arrived in London too and took over my room, as I moved on .... I had found a room in smart Bayswater, sharing a large apartment in Queens Gardens - where I played Bob Dylan and Francoise Hardy 4-track Extended Play disks, and Paul Simon's "I Am A Rock", and The Beatles RUBBER SOUL was still top of the charts - as would their REVOLVER later that year.  . I could walk up to Notting Hill Gate at night, for late night movies at the Classic Cinema, and began exploring the city and going to the theatre. There were some good shows that year: FUNNY GIRL with that new sensation Barbara Streisand - which I saw from the front row! and THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN up in the cheap seats at the Old Vic. THE KING'S MARE was an amusing comedy about Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, which I enjoyed and some evening when I was out in theatreland I passed the stage door and there was actress Jane Merrow so we had a great conversation - as she sang a song in the play based on a Bob Dylan tune ... I had liked her in THE SYSTEM - it turned out she was David Hemmings' girlfriend at the time. I did not know then that he was off making BLOW-UP for Antonioni at the time - that would be the sensation of 1967 in the then swinging city. We prowled around the Prince of Wales theatre too hoping (in vain) to see Streisand - but got her co-star Kay Medford instead. There was also Ingrid Bergman's success in A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY, I got the cast autographs for that - and was taken backstage by a showbiz acquintance to meet the cast of the hilarious THE ANNIVERSARY and they all signed the programme: Michael Crawford, Sheila Hancock, Mona Washbourne, June Ritchie, Jack Hedley, James Cossins - most of them were in the 1968 film.

The movies just kept coming: I joined the crowd at the premiere of MODESTY BLAISE hoping Monica Vitti would be there, she was not but I saw Dirk Bogarde with Rosella Falk (Mrs Fothergill) on his arm, Monica, Dirk and Terry were my pin-ups of the year.. Other hits of the year were Bergman's PERSONA, Lelouch's UNE HOMME ET UNE FEMME (where Anouk Aimee was perfection, when not endlessly fiddling with her hair), and Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck wonderful together in ARABESQUE - a very 60s confection. WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? was a stunner Malle's VIVA MARIA has the 'house full' sign up when a friend and I turned up to see it at The Curzon in Mayfair. (still here, for now, as the developers move in). "Films and Filming" and "Sight & Sound" kept us up to date with all the new movies.  

I used to go to the big Classic cinema in Baker Street for revivals (not having a television then), and that new vegetarian store Cranks had opened next to it, I was in there one day and there was a small Japanese woman shopping next to me - I knew she was Yoko Ono, then (before John Lennon) a performance artist and avant garde film-maker (her film with all those naked bottoms!)  who featured in those new Sunday supplements. Another Sunday supplement regular was artist David Hockney - I went too to one of those new gay bars in Pembridge Road, Notting Hill - and recognised him there - looking at me, with the peroxide hair and the round glasses - perhaps he was over from California? I did not linger though and left after finishing my drink .... perhaps if I had stayed I might have been one of those boys in a blue pool ...

It was time though to move again - we moved a lot in those days, sharing apartments for maybe 6 monhs or so. Now it was on to West Kensington sharing a pad with 2 friends of a friend - it was just a temporary thing - Julie Christie it seemed lived in an apartment block there which we passed a lot, but never saw her., I saw that famous World Cup win there on a small black and white set (it was still the era of just two TV channels - imagine! - which closed down early and no colour) - no wonder young people were out making music and being creative and creating their own events. 

Finally, that autumn it was down to Clapham South, where I became a South London boy, sharing another flat with Stanley - who turned out to be my best friend, until he died in 1992 - we sharing flats on and off up to the early '70s and again later in the mid-80s before romance took me off to the South Coast for a decade or more .... We finally got television then, and that new trendy station BBC2 opened - LATE NIGHT LINE UP, MAN ALIVE documentaries - including one on those still illegal gays dancing in their clubs and wearing white polo neck sweaters; the popular soap THE NEWCOMERS, and crime series Z-CARS and even DIXON OF DOCK GREENDR WHO (Patrick Troughton) at Saturday teatime followed by THE SIMON DEE SHOW - all in shades of gray, and Sunday afternoon drama serials like a great THREE MUSKETEERS with Jeremy Brett, and KENILWORTH.on BBC2. It was also the year of that hard-ditting drama CATHY COME HOME and saw the start of Alf Garnett in TILL DEATH DO US PART. Later in the decade we loved those comedy shows like ME MAMMY (Anna Manahan and Milo O'Shea) and BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR where June Whitfield (still going now) had a knowing twinkle in her eye whenever mentioning a neighbour who "lived down by the maisonettes and was good to his mother". 

We began frequenting the West End coffee bars and early gay discos when the teens danced to Tamla Motown - The LE DEUCE in D'Arblay Street was a particular favourite.. So, 1966 ended on a high - but 1967 would be even better: as psychedelia hit London (we already liked that West Coast sound of The Mamas and Papas, and the New York combo The Lovin' Spoonful), BLOW-UP hit town in March and it was like seeing oneself up there on the screen, and then The Beatles released SERGEANT PEPPER .... Stan and I and Linda, the girl upstairs, went stark raving mad. We went to see The Stax Tour, just before Otis Redding took that fatal flight. 1968 brought Aretha Franklin to town and I joined the hippie set seeing The Doors and Jefferson Airplane at the Roundhouse at Camden, where everyone was on acid - ditto at 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY in Cinerama and so much more, like going to the Middle Earth club in Covent Garden and getting the hippie magazine "International Times" and that new weekly listings mag "Time Out" ...  Above right, me sporting the tousled Rolling Stone look on Clapham Common in '66.