Tomorrow Night: “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” on PBS

LangeTomorrow night on the PBS American Masters series at 9PM (check local listing for exact time and date in your area), the premiere of a full length feature documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange. According to press releases “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” will feature “newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.” The film is produced, written and directed by Emmy award winning Dyanna Taylor, the granddaughter of Lange and her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor. Continue reading

Colombo: Murder by the Book (1971) Steven Spielberg

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I was never a big fan of Colombo. I did watch it. However I found the disheveled, cigar chomping, looking like he just rolled out of bed, wearing the same clothes he wore the day before, annoying. For some people, that was all part of his charm. That everydayness quality made him the guy next door.

Colombo seemed to be the kind of guy who did not have a clue. You wondered, how the heck he ever made Lt. But you soon come to realize, underneath this rough exterior, he was way ahead in the game. The sloppy clothes, the clueless look were all a façade, at least the clueless look was, all distractions to throw suspects off. That said, there were two reasons why I would watch the show. There were many episodes that rose above the ordinary TV fare and second, Peter Falk. Falk always had a down to earth quality.  Oh yeah, he also had some cool friends like John Cassavetes and Ben Gazarra (1). Continue reading

Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933) Lloyd Bacon

MSMDStereotypes run amuck in this Warner Brothers pre-code from 1933. Yet it is these categorizations that make this pre-code interesting to watch. It begins on the Lower East Side of New York, Orchard Street to be specific, an ethnic neighborhood which at various times was filled with Jewish, German, Italian and Puerto Rican immigrants among others. The script focuses on an Italian family. Tony has called for a doctor, his wife is giving birth, and he’s crying for help. An ambulance arrives with a doctor in tow, our heroine, Mary Stevens (Kay Francis). Tony is shocked. My God, the doctor is a woman! No, no, no, he wants a real doctor…a man! Having already lost one child, he threatens Mary with a machete if she fails to help his wife through to a successful birth. Mary locks herself in the bedroom with the expectant mother while Tony is being restrained by the police (called earlier by the frightened ambulance driver). As expected, the baby is successfully delivered and all is well. This short opening scene reveals how far we have come in our labeling of people and yet it also reveals how far we still have to go. I am sure there are still men out there who do not want to be treated by a female doctor just because she is a woman. Continue reading

Reality – What a Concept

DEAUVILLE FESTIVAL: THE ACTOR ROBIN WILLIAMSThere was an unrelenting speed, a stream of maniacal comedic wildness, to Robin Williams that was unpredictable. It was a madness that fueled the audience with laughter of the highest of highs, and for Williams, with the lowest of lows. His sudden and unexpected death leaves our troubled world with the loss of a unique talent that brought laughter at a time when we all need it. With Robin Williams, you had to pay attention or you missed so much. He could never be in the background on your TV while you did the dishes. The jokes came way too fast.

To say, he was a genius is not an overstatement. His mind, and his mouth, moved at a twisted rate of unimaginable speed. While you were laughing at one joke, there were ten you missed. You sat there in amazement laughing and wondering how the hell does he do it?

Many younger audiences discovered Williams with Popeye, or maybe it was Hook. Other, even younger fans, first discovered him in Disney’s Aladdin and Shrek. For me, I go way back to the days when he made his first appearances as Mork from Ork in two episodes of Happy Days. This led to fame and fortune with his own series in Mork and Mindy. It was one of those shows everyone watched whether they admitted it or not.

But Robin Williams proved he was more than just a comedic genius. He was a damn fine dramatic actor too. He proved it in films like Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Academy Award, Dead Poet’s Society and the lesser known One Hour Photo. Williams demonstrated he could play is loud and wild as well as quiet, controlled and thoughtful.

Like all geniuses, he was one of a kind and we were lucky to have him in our life. Thanks Robin! Continue reading

Tony Rome (1967) Gordon Douglas

TOnyRome23The private detective film made a comeback in the mid to late 60’s thanks to the Paul Newman starring 1966 film Harper. (There were shades of Bogart and a good story line thanks to the source novel The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald). Other films soon followed (P.J., Marlowe) in its successful path including Tony Rome released the following year.

By 1967, Frank Sinatra’s film career was once again on a slide downward, unlike Newman’s who pretty much ruled the screen in the 1960’s. The original Jersey Boy made three mediocre films in a row (Marriage on the Rocks, Assault on a Queen and The Naked Runner). They were films he walked through and he looked as bored as the films were themselves. With Tony Rome, Sinatra, the actor, found his way back with the kind of smart ass, wise guy loner the public always kind of felt the singer/actor was in real life. Sinatra does look a bit too old for the role, he was 51 and looked even older. Just compare a photo of 51 year old Brad Pitt next to Frank, the difference is obvious. However, that hard, tired face and look surely adds to the aura. Continue reading

False Images = Faulty Facts

 

JAMES DEAN ON LOCATION FOR THE FILM "GIANT" IN MARFA, TEXAS. 1955The information highway can and does contain a lot a detours. For researchers it can be a slippery road to travel. In writing this blog, I have done my share of research and have come across much misinformation and even some outright attempts to deceive. You can’t always believe what you read or see.

Richard C. Miller began his career as a photographer when he submitted a photograph of his baby daughter to The Saturday Evening Post and it was not only accepted, but made the cover of the magazine. His met Brett Weston, son of Edward Weston, during the war and they became friends and photographed together. After the war, Miller worked for various magazines and around 1946 photographed a young model named Norma Jean Dougherty, soon to change her named to Marilyn Monroe, selling the photo to True Romance magazine. Miller went on to photograph a wide variety of subjects including some Hollywood work in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. During the making of Giant, Miller shot the above photo of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor in Dallas, relaxing during the making of George Stevens’ epic modern day western. Continue reading

Rock Prophecies (2009) John Chester

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Ever since the birth of Rock and Roll, behind the scenes there have always been the shooters, the camera guys with the long lens photographing the musical gods in action. From its earliest days, when William “Red” Robertson captured a young sensuous, gyrating Elvis Presley on a Tampa stage in 1955, to today’s photographers shooting our musical idols on stage and behind the scenes, rock and roll photographers have provided us with the moments we remember long after the show is over. In some cases, those behind the lens have become famous themselves like Bob Gruen, Lynn Goldsmith, Jim Marshall and Robert M. Knight.    Continue reading