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

Rock_Prophecies

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

Billboards on Broadway

itch2Back in the glory days, Times Square had more movie theaters than there were peanuts in a peanut factory. The bright lights of the theaters were part of what lit up the Great White Way. Today, there is not one movie theater to be found in the Broadway area. Some of those now long gone palaces were huge like the Roxy that had close to 6,000 seats. As big as the theaters were, the signs advertising the movies were even bigger. Sometimes they were ever better than or at least as interesting as the movies themselves. Continue reading

Hands of the Ripper (1971) Peter Sasdy

Ripper

Who knew Jack the Ripper had a daughter? I didn’t. Well, Hands of the Ripper a 1971 Hammer film assumes it’s so and naturally, she’s a daddy’s girl. Murderous as her dear old dad. Young Anna’s (Angharad Rees) problems begin after she witnesses, as a very young child, old Papa Jack murdering her mother. Some 15 years later we see Anna has been taken in and cared for by Mrs. Golden (Dora Bryan) a fake medium and part time pimp. Not exactly an agent of the Children’s Aid Society!

When a Member of Parliament pays for the young girl’s sexual favors, actually taking her virginity, her harrowing memories of her mother’s brutal death trigger psychotic episodes turning her into a maniacal killer. A Dr. Prichard (Eric Porter) takes the poor girl in. Prichard, an early student of Freud, believes he can find a cure to Anna’s deep rooted “problem.” Unfortunately, while under the doctor’s care Anna continues her murderous rage. Continue reading