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.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Another Marilyn exhibition - I'm going to this one ...

Marilyn Monroe: The Legacy of a Legend is the latest MM exhibition of her dresses, letters, jewellery etc. and is currently on here in London at The Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour,, until June 20 and admission is free. I do not know The Design Centre, but I think I will be heading there before too long - we will file a report.  MM of course would be 90 today 1st June ! The legend goes on .....

As the flyer puts it:
"Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, in collaboration with Julien’s Auctions, presents a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most enduring screen icons. Epitomising the high glamour of 1950s Hollywood, take a journey through Marilyn Monroe’s life and work, transported into her world through the lens of style, fashion, photography and film. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see original designs from the David Gainsborough-Roberts collection, featuring costumes worn by Marilyn in seven notable films such as ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘No Business Like Show Business’, as well as never-seen-before personal treasures. In a stunning contrast between Marilyn’s private life and her dazzling public persona, personal papers including her journals, handwritten letters, drawings and poetry from the Lee Strasberg estate reveal her intellectual curiosity, vulnerability and humanity. Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour is a leading platform for a broad spectrum of creative disciplines. A world-leading destination for excellence in luxury interiors, it supports cuttingedge expression across the design agenda, making it a natural home for this event. This will be the first, and only time, that these remarkable pieces are available for public viewing in the UK. Following a worldwide tour, they will go on sale at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on 19 – 20 November."

More info at their site:

Theatre news 2: Oscar hits Broadway

I was surprised to see that recent revival of David Hare's THE JUDAS KISS about Oscar Wilde, which we enjoyed and wrote about a bit back in 2012, has now arrived on Broadway, with Rupert Everett once again getting rave reviews for his great performance as Oscar - surely the best part of his later career. That London production which I saw initially at the Hampstread Theatre was also the debut of Ben Hardy - recently in EASTENDERS, the BBC soap and he is now Angel in the latest X-MEN. Rupert is also now in dastardly mode in the new BBC series THE MUSKETEERS, which is an enjoyable romp.

I was drawn to THE JUDAS KISS as I had seen the original production a decade or more ago, with Liam Neeson and Tom Hollander as that very petulant Bosie. The Everett re-boot had a successful London west end run too before going on tour, my pal Martin saw it in Dublin.
Here is Rupert writing for The New York Times on Oscar and the play's genesis this time round,
and the paper' review:

More on Oscar (and Peter Finch's portrayal of him) and Rupert at labels.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Laughter in the Dark, 1969

Or: The Burton film that wasn't .... Tony Richardson's LAUGHTER IN THE DARK seems a very rare movie now, there are only 3 comments on it on IMDB - It had a short London run back in 1969, but I caught it on its one screening on BBC2 here, and it then vanished until I got a copy from my pal Jerry - a rare movie hound, always tracking down esoteric items.

This Tony Richardson film caused some publicity at the time, as it was began with Richard Burton who did a few scenes before being sacked for being drunk and causing problems. His replacement was the equally erratic Nicol Williamson, and its an ideal role for him, (he had just done HAMLET at The Roundhouse in 1968, also filmed by Richardson).

Nicol Williamson, Anna Karina and Jean-Claude Drouot star in Tony Richardson's bold adaptation of the Nabokov novel. Updated to 1969 London from pre-Hitler Germany of the early '30s, it's the story of a successful art dealer (Williamson) who becomes so enamored with a degenerate usherette/grifter (Karina) that he literally destroys his life. He loses his wife, his daughter, his job and his eyesight, and finally his life.

Williamson, in a role meant for and started by Richard Burton, gives a great performance, playing an even more obsessive Humbert Humbert. Drouot (from Agnes Varda's LE BONHEUR)  is excellent as the malevolent artist/gigolo who is Karina's real love. The casting of Karina is a bit odd and her French accent is never accounted for. Nevertheless she successfully conveys pure evil. It is one of the international roles she was doing at the time (as in JUSTINE, Visconti's THE STRANGER, MICHAEL KOHLHAAS etc). Siân Phillips (before she became a grande dame) is Williamson's no-nonsense wife. Cast also includes Peter Bowles, and it captures that late Sixties London high life perfectly. Like the films of Nabokov's LOLITA and KING, QUEEN, KNAVE (John-Moulder Brown label) it is another mordantly funny heartless tale, and maybe one of Richardson's most effective films.
A nice in-joke here is that the cinema where Karina works is the old NFT (National Film Theatre, now the BFI Southbank in London, where I idled away a lot of the Seventies) - as the cinema did not sell refreshments in the audiorium. (It was also used as the cinema in Winner's I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATS'ISNAME). 
As recorded previously, Richardson had a problematic '60s after the enormous Oscar-winning success of TOM JONES in 1963, bankrolling his and Woodfall's following films, as he indulged himself with Jeanne Moreau in MADEMOISELLE and THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR, and the expensive  THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE in 1968, all of which under-performed, putting it mildly, so big things may have been expected of LAUGHTER IN THE DARK, but as Losey found out, the Burtons were losing their box office cachet by then ...

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dona Herlinda thinks the world of you

We are back online after almost a month! BT seemed unable to connect it to this new apartment block we moved into over 3 week ago! But you know, one could practically live without it, as we decanted ourselves into our new living space and got used to high-rise living 10 floors up - great views, particularly at night! Now we are back, starting with a brace of too little known gay items from the 1980s - both full of pleasures. Here is what I wrote on the Mexican DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON and the 1988 British comedy WE THINK THE WORLD OF YOU, a few years ago. Great to see them again ..

This 1986 film from Mexico is as delightful now as it must have been then. Director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo presents a comedy of manners raising the lid on sexuality in Latin America, and how a family can resolve things so everyone gets what they want.

Widowed Dona Herlinda wants what she sees as every woman's right: to be loved and cherished and for her only son to be married and provide her with grandchildren. But Rodolfo is gay and in love with Ramon, a music student. But with goodwill on all sides, including that of Olga, the bride-to-be, all ends happily as Dona Herlnda makes Ramon part of the family. This charming comedy is perceptive, discreet, unshocking and witty and recommended to all but the most blinkered. 

Rodolfo is the surgeon son of Dona Herlinda, a wealthy widow, expertly played by Guadalupe del Toro, Rodolfo is having a relationship with Ramon, a music student, but they can never find time to be alone at the cramped house where he lives. Dona Herlinda, who obviously must know what is really going on between her son and Ramon, invites the young man to move to her large house in Guadalajara, but she also wants Rodolfo to marry and present her with a grand-child. The film is endearing, the characters very much alive, and the many twists and turns on the story make this movie funny and poignant at the same time. Arturo Meza (Ramon), Marco Antonio Trevino (Rodolfo) and Leticia Lupercio (Olga) suit their roles perfectly. Hermosillo seems the only openly gay Mexican director and he is still making movies. I shall have to investigate further ...
Rodolfo, who must cover his true nature, begins to see Olga, a young woman from his same circle. He proposes and marries her, breaking Ramon's heart in the process. Dona Herlinda, who is more intelligent than she is given credit for, pulls strings to keep Ramon at her home and decides to expand the house so that Rodolfo and Olga can move in with the grandson and live together happily ever after. Olga wants to study and travel so the arrangement suits her, and the boys can be together too.

Of course, the film is in simple terms a fun story, but deep inside it touches a lot of themes that have been taboo in so many societies. Usually mothers aren't as accepting as this Dona Herlinda, who acts as a procurer for the son she loves by inviting the young lover, Ramon, to come live with her. One deeply amusing scene has Dona Herlinda and Ramon together at a music event, while Rodolfo and Olga are away on honeymoon. Ramon is affected by the music and begins to cry, as Dona Herlinda without a word passes him a hankie. It ends with the expanded family all together as the son toasts his wonderful mother, who smiles serenely back at us.
Hermosillo seems a very interesting director, I should see other of his films, I caught one on television once, another gay related story, starring Fassbinder's muse Hanna Schygulla. His movie reminds me a lot of Almodovar of whom more later.
I particularly like WE THINK THE WORLD OF YOU in 1988, an engrossing drama from the novel by J R Ackerley with Bates as the solitary civil servant who falls for the neglected Alsatian dog of his sometimes lover, a spiv well played by Gary Oldman. The marvellous cast includes Liz Smith and Max Wall as Oldman’s malevolent parents and Frances Barber as his opportunistic wife all out to make capital from Bates’ involvement with Oldman. Both Alan and Oldman play it perfectly together and the scenes with Alan and the dog are a joy as is the 1950s period detail. Man and dog are happily re-united at the end as Oldman after a spell in jail has to settle for dull, if noisy, domesticity with that screaming infant!

Or as the BFI put it: "OK, so its not as great as Ackerley's perfect novel, but its an intelligent, entertaining gay movie - rare in Britain. Alan Bates plays the literary gent bosotted by ex-sailor boy Johnny (Gary Oldman) and his grotesque working class family and their Alsatian dog. Baically its more about class than anything else, and therefore typically British. Often witty and astringent, and finally moving". UK 1988, director: Colin Gregg." 
Bates playing gay again (as he did in BUTLEY, NIJINSKY, AN ENGLISHMAN ABROAD, 102 BOULEVARD HAUSSMAN) is a joy as usual - and Oldman, a year after his Joe Orton in PRICK UP YOUR EARS - see recent review, gay label - is compulsive as usual, while Frances Barber in one of her early roles is perfection as the grasping wife. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Jupiter's Darling, 1955

"Esther Williams stars as the beautiful woman whose love saves Rome in this whimsical musical delight. The year is 216 BC and almost all of the known world has fallen to the mighty Hannibal of Carthage (Howard Keel). In a bold and daring move, Hannibal has crossed the Alps with his army of men and elephants and is prepared for his final assault on Rome. As the new Roman dictator Fabius Maximus (George Sanders) frets about what to do, his fiancée the spirited and wilful Amytis (Esther) decides to visit the legendary barbarian general herself. Captured and accused of being a spy, she is brought before the formidable Hannibal who orders her to be executed. Amytis’s plea to “spare Rome” intrigues Hannibal and, inevitably, he falls under her spell. Now the might general must decide which he covets more: the conquest of Rome or the heart of the woman he loves. “A spectacular musical” JUPITER’S DARLING is sure to win you over."
This is my original review in 2010:
JUPITER'S DARLING. Another '56 musical
peplum  the only Esther Williams movie I saw in the cinema, its her last musical too [directed by George Sidney]. Set in Ancient Rome Esther is promised to emperor George Sanders (who is dominated by his mother Norma Varden! above); 
enter Howard Keel as a splendid Hannibal - he is as good here as in his other musicals like KISS ME KATE, KISMET or CALAMITY JANE. Marge and Gower Champion are terrific too and do a great number with painted elephants (real ones, not CGI). Esther does a bit of swimming (with moving statues, right) and saves Hannibal's life - he can't swim! This cheerful farrago would be a great double bill with MGM's other ridiculous costumer THE PRODIGAL where Lana is the pagan priestess and Edmund Purdom that prodigal son, great MGM production values though you have to laugh when Edmund wrestles with the stuffed vulture and Lana has some ritzy barely-there outfits before being stoned by the mob ...

I am now taking a week or so off, as moving house, going up in the world, in a new apartment block, 10 floors up - great views, especially at night!. We will return with more reviews, including a modern noir double bill: Fritz Lang's HUMAN DESIRE with MAN TRAP, Lester's hilarious and very gay THE RITZ from 1976, the original SHOWBOAT from 1936, and KILL YOUR DARLINGS .... 

The Gambler from Natchez, 1954

Regular readers will know that 1954 was my first year at the movies, when aged 8, and taken to the cinema by my parents in Ireland. Dad took me to westerns like JOHNNY GUITAR, SITTING BULL, DRUM BEAT, SHANE, and THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ - western star Dale Robertson was my first movie crush! He is effective here, effortlessly gambling or swordfighting or romancing Debra Paget as the riverboat girl, and he also looks spiffing in his military outfit. (My mother and aunts must have taken me to A STAR IS BORN and other musicals, which I also loved...).

Returning to New Orleans, following four years of army service in Texas in the 1840s, Captain Vance Colby finds his father, a professional gambler, has been killed. The police tell him his father was killed while caught cheating in a card game by Andre Rivage, an arrogant young dilettante. Vance protests that his father was an honest gambler and never used marked cards, but the police inspector tells him there were witnesses. 
Aided by a riverboat owner, Captain Barbee, and his daughter, Melanie, Vance sets out to clear his father's name and avenge his death.
Its a nice period western now, with riverboats (like Tyrone Power's similar THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER about the same time) as Dale seeks revenge on the killers of his gambling father who are led by dastardly Kevin McCarthy, Thomas Gomez is Debra's riverboat father, and its all splendid, directed by Henry Levin, script by Irving Wallace. 

RIP, continued

Madeline Sherwood (1922-2016). Immortal as 'Sister Woman' or Mae Pollitt in the 1957 CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Sherwood was a Broadway actress of note, with some other good movie credits, as in SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, PARRISH, HURRY SUNDOWN and THE FLYING NUN from 1967-1970. She had trained with Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio and created the role of Abigail in Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE in 1953. But she will always be the vicious, greedy Sister Woman whom Gooper (Jack Carson, right) married to please Big Daddy ...

Barry Howard (1937-2016). Barry was one of the stars of popular 80s British sit-com HI-DE-HI as the waspish Barry Stewart-Hargreaves, part of the holiday camp dance team with his equally supercilious wife Yvonne (Diane Holland). How we enjoyed watching them. He was also a great panto dame, often with that other camp sitcom star John Inman (Mr Humphries of ARE YOU BEING SERVED?). Barry had a long career on tv and stage - a great entertainment stalwart. 

Forgotten movie stars - an occasional series: Anna, Nils

Anna May Wong (1905-1961)
The first Chinese-American movie star, a third-generation American, she managed to have a substantial acting career during a deeply racist time when the taboo against miscegenation meant that Caucasian actresses were cast as "Oriental" women in lead parts opposite Caucasian leading men (even Katharine Hepburn in DRAGON SEED in 1944!). The discrimination she faced in the domestic industry caused her to go to Europe for work in English and German films, as in PICCADILLY in 1929 or   Von Sternberg's SHANGHAI EXPRESS with Marlene Dietrich in 1932. One of her final roles was in Ross Hunter's PORTRAIT IN BLACK in 1960 and she was signed to play in Hunter's FLOWER DRUM SONG before her death. 
Her IMDB biography is fascinating showing the racism of the time when Asian women could not be cast opposite white actors or have leading roles in films. Anna should be a major discovery now.

Nils Asther (1897-1981)
Nils was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1897 and raised in Malmö, Sweden. He moved to Hollywood in 1927, where his exotic looks landed him romantic roles with co-stars such as Garbo, Pola Negri and Joan Crawford, and his exotic Chinese warlord in THE  BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN with Barbara Stanwyck in 1933. Although his foreign accent was a hindrance in "talkies", his Hollywood career continued until 1934 when he was blacklisted for breaking a contract and went to Britain for four years. After his return to Hollywood in 1938, his career declined and by 1949 he was driving a truck. In 1958, he returned to Sweden, where he remained until his death, making occasional appearances in television and on stage. He was also unabashedly gay at a time when gays remained discreet about their sexual orientation so there was no public suggestion of impropriety.
Next: Charles Farrell, Ramon Novarro, Anton Walbrook - who may not be so forgotten ...