Interview with Author Michelle Morgan

CreamThe other day I was at my doctor’s office and her assistant noticed I had a book in my hand. “Oh, what are you reading?” she asked making conversation. I told her it was a biography about Thelma Todd. She gave me a blank stare that easily said, who? I explained that Todd was an actress back in the 1920’s and 1930’s who worked with the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy. My answer seemed to satisfy her and we went back to my examination business. This seems to sum up what most people remember, if at all, about Thelma Todd. That and the fact  her death, more than eighty years ago, remains one of Hollywood’s most interesting unsolved cases. Continue reading

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Brute Force (1947) Jules Dassin

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Jules Dassin’s Brute Force is a brutally, cruel, claustrophobic prison film that will turn your knuckles bloody to the skin. This was the director’s first venture into the world of film noir. It has a tough hard core texture, thanks to not only Dassin’s sharp direction, but the cinematography of William H. Daniels (The Naked City, Lured) and the music score of Miklós Rózsa (Ministry of Fear, Woman in Hiding). Continue reading

Mamma Roma (1962) Pier Paolo Pasolini

Mamma_RomaIt took more than thirty years for Pier Paolo Pasolini’s second film, Mamma Roma, to arrive on American shores. Made in 1962, the film finally had its day in 1995 thanks to Martin Scorsese, our patron saint of forgotten cinema. The film made the art house circuit beginning at the Film Forum in New York and then made its way around the country. Why did it take so long? Well, it began when the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival where the local police declared the film obscene. The film made its way around Europe, but met with the scissors from local censors snipping at what they considered objectionable material. Even after the critical and financial success of his third film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, both here and in Europe, there were no takers to bring his earlier work to these shores. Continue reading

The Narrow Margin (1952) Richard Fleischer

The Narrow Margin - TitleEarly in his feature film directing career Richard Fleischer made a series of exciting low budget film noirs, among them, The Clay Pigeon, Follow Me, Quietly, Armored Car Robbery and his masterpiece, The Narrow Margin. Photographed in deep rich black shadowy light, most of the film taking place on a cross country train. The confined space results in a claustrophobic tense ride filled with twists and turns that do not let up for a second. Continue reading

The Vermont Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Money

Von Trapp Resort_DSCN1069-1069On our recent trip to Vermont, one of the stops we made was to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Yes, it’s the same Trapp, or should I say von Trapp, family that went merrily along singing in the hills of Austria’s Alps while the Nazi’s were taking over the country. The film and the play are a simplified version of what the real family story is about. And from what I read in an interesting article, the real Maria von Trapp was not as sweet and delicate as either Mary Martin’s stage version nor Julie Andrews wholesome variety. The real Maria von Trapp was a strong tough woman.

The family, after fleeing Nazi Germany, settled in Vermont in 1942. They opened up their original home as a ski lodge, however, it burned down in 1980. Three years later, they opened up the current much larger lodge. The structure is set on more than 2,400 acres of property which includes biking and skiing trails and much more.

I am no fan of the movie. I saw it way back in the sixties when it was playing as a roadshow engagement at the Rivoli theater on Broadway with my parents. It has haunted me since. I know that  this is considered a mortal sin to some film lovers, but hey,  I am in good company. When Rex Harrison saw the musical on Broadway, he commented that “it was the first time in my life I rooted for the Nazis.” Anyway, if anyone is still reading this, we did stop at  the Lodge to look around and I thought I would share a few photos since I would think fans of the film would like to see this. Hope you enjoy. Continue reading

Juano Hernandez and Intruder in the Dust

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Juano Hernandez’s early days are not clearly defined. Various sources claim he was born in either 1896, 1898 or 1900. A consensus seems to be for the 1896 date…but who knows. All agree he died in 1970 and that he was born in Puerto Rico to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Brazilian decent. Hernandez was orphaned pretty early on and soon was living with an aunt in Brazil. It was while living in Brazil that Hernandez got his first taste of performing. The young boy joined a group of street kids and began performing in public: singing, dancing and acrobatics. Juano eventually joined a carnival and worked his way around Latin America and the Caribbean, eventually making his way into the United States. During this period, he taught himself to read, write and learned various languages. A multitude of jobs followed from working in the circus to becoming a professional boxer. Continue reading

Short Takes: Recent Viewings

Grandma (2015) Paul Weitz

Grandma_for-oldiesStrained relationships, the kind we all face at one time or another in life with both family and friends, is at the heart of this small comedy/drama. It centers around the quirky and crotchety Ellie (Lily Tomlin), an aging poet who has not been able to write since her lesbian lover of more than thirty years passed away. Into her life comes her grandchild, young and pregnant. She wants to have an abortion but has no money.

The characters are well drawn and nicely performed though Lily Tomlin’s performance is a real standout. She’s just wonderful. Some jokes went over the head of the folks I saw the film with, particularly the one when they arrive at the abortion client and Tomlin quips about The Bad Seed who socked her in the face, No one else in the audience got the joke but me who busted out laughing amongst an audience of quietness. Continue reading