Ann Savage – Ruthless Femme Fatale Dies

    340xJust read in the New York Times that B-film star Ann Savage who created one of the most ruthless of Femme Fatales in Film Noir died on Sunday. She was 87 years old. Savage co-starred with Tom Neal in Edgar Ulmer’s low budget pulp masterpiece “Detour.” Other films included “Apology for Murder”, “Midnight Manhunt”, “The Unwritten Code” and “The Last Crooked Mile.” Her last film appearance was in Guy Maddin’s 2007 film “My Whinnipeg.” 

Attached below is a link to the New York Time Obit.


Below Ann Savage discusses Detour

Remembering Six Who Won’t Be Forgotten



    The notable deaths in 2008 seem merciless. Young, middle age and old, death took no prisoners. Here are six passings that affected me deeply

    The world is going to be a different place without George Carlin explaining the quirks in our language and how we go about our life and yes, those seven words you can never say of television (unless its HBO). The music will not be the same without Jerry Wexler, who along with Ahmet Ertegun was responsible for producing some of the finest soul music ever recorded on the great Atlantic Records label. Artists included Aretha Franklin, Wilson “Wickett” Pickett, Ray Charles,The Drifters and  in 1968, Wexler signed Led Zeppelin to the Atlantic label. Sunday mornings will shine less bright without Tim Russert on “Meet the Press.” Russert pulled no punches and asked the hard questions no matter what side of the political fence his guest sat on. Director Jules Dassin whose films “Brute Force”, “The Naked City”, “Night and the City” and “Thieves Highway” are treasures for film noir lovers. Actor Richard Widmark whose career-making role as Johnny Udo, the crazed psychotic killer in the 1947 film “Kiss of Death” is a landmark in crime movies. The famous scene where he pushes the old lady down a flight of stairs is still shocking fifty years later. Last but far from least, I am going to miss Paul Newman, the last great superstar of the last century. Starting out as an imitation Marlon Brando and James Dean, Newman’s career reached levels that neither of his counterparts ever did. Goodbye Fast Eddie.

What Are You Watching on New Year’s Eve

    I don’t do New Year’s Eve parties. My wife likes to stay at home and me, well, ever since I had a job years ago where I had to work as late as 10PM on New Year’s Eve I came to dislike the New Year’s revelry. Fortunately, I am no longer in that job. What has become an annual tradition is coming up with some favorite movies to watch on New Year’s Eve. I have four marathon sets that I usually choose from, though I’m open to trying something new. Which will it be this year; well the final decision isn’t made until the last minute because it all depends on the mood I’m in. The films on my list are all light and fun. I don’t want to be watching Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” on New Year’s Eve. Anyway, I am going to list the four marathons in the order that I have spent the most New Year’s Eve’s watching.


1-Marx Brothers marathon consisting of “Duck Soup”, “Horse Feathers” and “Monkey Business.” For a while, it seemed like almost every other year I played the Marx Brothers films, though it has been two years now so they are a strong contender for this year.


2- Woody Allen marathon consisting of “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan” and “Manhattan Murder Mystery.” If there is anyone I love more than the Marx Brothers, it’s Woody Allen, so ending the year and bringing in the year with Woody could be the way to go. If fact, that’s how I started 2008 with Woody Allen.


3- Gene Kelly marathon consisting of “Anchors Aweigh”, “On the Town” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” Joyous, fun and some of the greatest dancing ever!


4- Billy Wilder marathon consisting of “Some Like it Hot” and “The Apartment.”  I have recently watched these films so they are long shots for this year’s marathon. Then again, I never get tired of them.



So which will it be? I don’t know, though right now, I am leaning toward the Marx Brothers however, today is only December 28th and I am currently reading a new book called “Sinatra in Hollywood.” I have just finished reading chapters on the three Sinatra-Kelly musicals, which certainly has whetted my appetite to watch my Kelly marathon.  Of course, like I said earlier, the Marx Brothers films I have not watched on New Year’s Eve for a couple of years so……..then again there’s Woody. What to do?


I would love to hear if anyone out there watches movies on New Year’s Eve. What do you watch? Maybe I ‘m ready for something completely different. Hmmm, maybe a Monty Python marathon.


Happy New Year to all!!!

Director Robert Mulligan Dead at 83



Film director Robert Mulligan died this past Saturaday. He was 83 years old. Mulligan was best known for his classic film of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” For Gregory Peck it was a peak performance for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor portraying Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer who, in the early 1900’s,  defends a black man (portrayed by Brock Peters) falsely accused of raping a white woman. The film won two other Oscars for Best Screenplay from Another Source and Art Direction.  It was also nominated for Best Picture.  

  He started directing in television in the 1950’s, making his film debut with “Fear Strikes Out.” Other films included “The Rat Race”, Love With a Proper Stranger”, “The Great Imposter”, “Baby, The Rain Must Fall”,  “Inside Diasy Clover”, “The Nickel Ride”, “Bloodbrothers” and “Up the Down Staircase.”  

Below is the New York Times Obit.



It’s A Not So Wonderful Life


 Should George Bailey have gone to jail for the $8,ooo shortfall at the Savings & Loan? Probably, even though his neighbors helped make restitution the money was still taken.

At least that’s what Wendell Jamison, from the New York Times,   states in this fun and alternate look of the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The Hitchcock Papers

Check out my new blog:  “The Hitchcock Papers” All Hitchcock, all the time.  Only a couple of items posted right now but more coming soon!

Spellbound by Beauty

   spellbound-by                                                                                                               Donald Spoto’s new biography of Alfred Hitchcock, “Spellbound by Beauty” is his third and final book on the subject of the director. Spoto’s first book “The Art of Alfred Hitchcock” published in 1976 focused on Hitchcock’s films. In 1983, after his death Spoto came out with a more in-depth biography, “The Dark Side of Genius” that focused on not only his work but his odd personal life as well. This time around, Spoto zooms in on Hitchcock and his strange working relationships and obsessions with the actresses in his films.

    The dark side of Alfred Hitchcock gets a lot darker here, as Spoto reveals a man who is consumed with self-dislikes that translated into strange, sexually repressed love-hate relationships with his leading ladies. Spoto shows us a man with a proclivity for telling dirty and embarrassing stories to his leading ladies, sometimes even attempting to force himself, sexually, though unsuccessfully on them.  He also, depending on his attraction or lack of attraction to them, could be bored and totally ignore them especially if they were pushed upon him by a producer, such as Anne Baxter was in “I Confess” by Jack Warner.

.  Toward the end of his career, he seems to have become even more unhinged and obsessed. While many of the stories are unsettling, the most painful is Hitchcock’s obsession, and there is no other word for it, with Tippi Hedren who he signed to a seven-year contract and literarily tortured during the filming of “The Birds.” Hedren spent a week being pecked on by hundreds of real birds until she just could not take it anymore. Additionally, she was subject to constant sexual harassment from Sir Alfred. One of Hitchcock’s close associates Peggy Robertson told Hedren after his death that he never got over his crush on her.         

    To his credit, Spoto spends a good portion of the book not only on Hitchcock but also on telling us the leading ladies stories as well. He includes the most famous of Hitchcock heroines such as Grace Kelly, and Ingrid Bergman as well as the almost forgotten like Nova Pilbeam.  Many of the women have since told of their experiences working with Sir Alfred and from what is said, he seemed to enjoy forcing these schoolboy inflictions of dirty jokes and embarrassing stories on many of them including Grace Kelly who responded to him that she heard worst at boarding school. Madeline Carroll in “The 39 Steps” endured being left handcuffed to Robert Donat long after the cameras stopped rolling as a taste of Hitchcock’s sadistic humor. 

    normal_a12072753902On the other hand, he had a friendship that lasted long after the film ended with Ingrid Bergman who, like Kelly, appeared in three of his works. While he seemed to have a schoolboy crush on Bergman he also respected her and avoided his usual  pranks or crude behavior that he reserved for some of the less powerful actresses who did not have the strength or influence to fight back. Anne Baxter says that the director made her feel unattractive and forced her to dye her hair to a more acceptable blonde color more fitting the Hitchcock heroine.

    The book also enlightens those of us not already aware of Hitchcock’s cinematic obsessions that continually play out in his films, like sex, strangulation, voyeurism, murder, and bondage.  The victims or the ones in jeopardy are usually the women. He appeared to enjoy “torturing” actresses more than the actors, though in general Hitchcock seemed to see all actors as an annoyance, always being more concerned with the camera than the actors.  Hitchcock comes across as egotistical, sexually repressed, crude, unhappy, uncaring and childlike in behavior. Spoto does not justify or condone the filmmaker in anyway.  

    One must also remember this was time before the term sexual harassment was ever heard, or could be considered a legal offense. Actresses like Tippi Hedren, whose career Hitchcock threaten to ruin if she did not have sex with him had no legal recourse. No one would have listened. At most, she would have been told, “that’s the way it is, deal with it.” By the way, she did not sleep with him and he did forestall her career rarely letting her work while under contract.

    For a fan of Hitchcock, as I am, this read was unsettling.  I admire Alfred Hitchcock for his movies and his talent yet realizing the man was a strange troubled figure with, as they say today, many issues.

The Musical Voice of the Civil Rights Movement Folksinger Odetta Dies

odettasingsfolksongsOne of the great folksingers of the 1950’s and 1960’s died Tuesday in New York City. Odetta was a force in the Civil Rights Movement singing ” O Freedom” at the 1963 March on Washington Rally.

A contempary of Pete Seeger and Tom Winslow, she was a major influence on such artists was Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen. According to the New York TImes Obituary Bob Dylan said in 1978 “The first thing to turn me on to folk singing was Odetta.” Below is the link to the NYT obit.

Roger Ebert Article: Death to Film Critics!

Attached is a link to a sobering article on the status of film criticism in America today.

No Man of Her Own (1950) Mitchell Leisen


 Released in 1950, the film stars Barbara Stanywck and John Lund, it was directed by Mitchell Leisen from a screenplay by Sally Benson and Catherine Turney, based on the novel “I Married a Dead Man” by Cornell Woolrich who wrote it under the pen name William Irish. This was the first of four film versions to have been made from the book. In 1983, there was “I Married a Shadow (Jai Espouse une Ombre) starring Natalie Byle. In 1996 came “Mrs. Winterbourne” with Ricky Lake and in 2001 a made for TV movie called “She’s No Angel” with Tracy Gold. By the way, do not get this film confused with the 1932 Clark Gable/Carole Lombard “No Man of Her Own,” the only thing they have in common is the title.

Helen Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck), a woman with an immoral past finds herself pregnant and dumped by her low life lover Steve Morley (Lyle Bettger) for another dame. He slips Helen some money and a train ticket underneath the door of his apartment and tells her to get lost, go back home to San Francisco. Thus begins a series of events, wild as they are, that will change everyone.

On the train heading home Helen meets Hugh and Patrice Harkness (Richard Denning and Phyllis Thaxter) a newly married couple who are on their way to Hugh’s parents’ house in Illinois where Patrice will meet her in-laws for the first time. Like Helen, Patrice is also pregnant. Enroute, Helen and Patrice become chatty, sharing some bonding moments; Patrice even lets Helen try on her ring. Just at this moment, the train derails resulting in a deadly crash. Hugh and Patrice are killed while Helen is injured ending up in the hospital. With the ring still on her finger everyone in the hospital assumes she is Patrice Harkness. Helen, her life at a dead end, allows the misunderstanding to continue and soon finds herself lovingly welcomed into the home of Hugh’s parents. Hugh’s brother, Bill (John Lund) is immediately attracted to her but he is also a bit suspicious of her however, he says nothing. Though at first feeling guilty, Helen eventually settles into the middle class, middle America home as both she and the baby are warmly embraced by the Harkness family. Life is good until her former creep of a lover Steve resurfaces, seeing dollar signs, he has a scheme of  his own.

“No Man of her Own” is a well-paced atmospheric tense noir and Barbara Stanwcyk gives another one of her effective performances with a strong female character. She is especially impressive during the marriage ceremony scene which is all part of Steve’s blackmail scheme. We here her in voice over telling us what she is thinking, yet if your watch her eyes, they reveal even more than what is said. The biggest problems with the film are a weak performance by John Lund who comes across as just plain bland and unexciting. Additionally, at forty-three years old, Barbara Stanwyck is a little too old for the role though, as I mentioned earlier, she gives her usual strong performance. Finally, I have not read the Woolrich novel on which the film is based however, from what I have read in doing research the book’s ending is much bleaker than the happy ending tacked on to the film. The darker ending would have made for a much stronger film than the obligatory happy studio ending.

 A few words must be said for Lyle Bettger who is excellent as the totally despicable slimy Steve, Helen’s cold hearted blackmailing boyfriend. Bettger made a career in mostly “B” films and later on TV typically as a villain. Here he is effectively vile and loathsome, he makes you just want to take a shower and wash his slime out of your system.

If you ever read a biography on Billy Wilder you would come to believe Mitchell Leisen to be the worst director ever to sit behind a camera. Wilder claims Leisen ruined his scripts (“Midnight” and “Hold Back the Dawn”, both co-written by Charles Brackett) and this is what made him determined to become a director himself, to protect the written word. Preston Sturges also complained about Leisen cutting his scripts (“Easy Living” and “Remember the Night”). So are Leisen directed films that bad? Well, I have seen “Midnight” and it is a funny and smartly written and well directed film as is “Hold Back the Dawn.” As for the Sturges written “Remember the Night” it is a nice blend of romantic comedy with some dark drama and a Christmas season background. It also is a precursor to the reuniting Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck four years before Wilder’s “Double Indemnity.” Leisen’s films are always visually stylish thanks to his background in art direction and costumes. In his time he was a well-respected and versatile studio director, despite Wilder and Sturges thinking, who did well whether it was a romantic comedy, melodrama, or musical. He sometimes even mixed them together as he did with “No Man of Her Own”, a blending of woman’s melodrama with noirish overtones and doing it successfully. Other Leisen films include “Hands Across the Table”, “Swing Low, Swing High”, both with Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray, “Arise My Love”, “I Wanted Wings” and “The Mating Season.”