The 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
Novelist, Playwright, Film Historian, New England Historian and now Biographer, Jacqueline T. Lynch is a multi-talented artist who also brightens up blogland with three always interesting and intelligent blogs: Another Old Movie Blog, New England Travels and Tragedy and Comedy in New England.
Ann Blyth: Actress Singer Star is her most recent book. It’s a thorough in depth fascinating look at the career of the beautiful, diminutive in height, but big in talent and compassionate actress. Blyth made 32 films: dramas, comedies, adventure, and musicals. She could act, sing and dance, yet today is mainly remembered for her role as the spoiled and vile daughter of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. In this new and important biography, Ms. Lynch rectifies the situation by giving Ann Blyth her rightful place as one of cinema’s greats. Continue reading
If you have not read part one of my interview with Dwayne Epstein, author of the new biography Lee Marvin: Point Blank, just click right here and you would be directed right to it. The book is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and bookstores everywhere. In part two we discuss “The Dirty Dozen,” “The Killers,” Robert Aldrich, Angie Dickinson, The Inglorious Bastard Sons Lee Marvin and much more.
John: Let’s jump over to John Wayne. They made three films together; two of course were with John Ford. How did they get along?
Dwayne: Oh, they got along very good, they liked each other. In terms of their persona and screen chemistry, Lee Marvin’s first wife told me something great. That if you watch them on screen, “they both do what they do, they have their own thing, but,” she said, “John Wayne was like a big old bear, the way he appeared on screen, and the way he acted. Lee was more like a panther; he was sleek, he could pounce on a moment’s notice with coiled energy and with that in mind they kind of danced around each other and they had that great chemistry.” I like that image of them, one’s a bear and one’s a panther. They got along great. They really liked each other. There’s a story that didn’t make it into the book that I can tell you real quick. This was told to me by Kennan Wynn’s son, Ned Wynn or Tracy Wynn, I don’t remember which one because I interviewed them both. Anyway, Kennan Wynn was Lee Marvin’s best friend. When he was between films and not having a project lined up; he would drink and he and Kennan Wynn were drinking buddies. I believe it was Tracy who told me that that generation of men were pretty tough and he said, “John Wayne was probably the toughest of them all. My father and Lee got drunk and went down to Mexico and partied on John Wayne’s yacht and John Wayne took it to a point and then said, ‘that’s it’ and threw them off the yacht and into the Gulf of Mexico.” He only took crap from them up to a point. Continue reading
David Koenig’s new book Danny Kaye:King of Jesters is the first full scale backstage look and critical analysis of Danny Kaye’s life and career. A multi talented performer, Koenig devotes individual chapters to each area of Kaye’s career from his early days in the Catskills to his later work on stage, radio, TV and in movies. Koenig gives full detailed accounts, many directly from those who knew and worked with Kaye, along with backstage stories on the making of his greatest roles including “The Court Jester,” “White Christmas” and many others.
Koenig’s also looks at Kaye’s relationship, both private and professional, with his wife Sylvia Fine who wrote many of Kaye’s best known songs (Pavlova, Anatole of Paris) as well his lifelong commitment as an Ambassador for UNICEF.
Those looking for a detailed biography might be disappointed but that was not the author’s intent. Instead Koenig shines a light on the many talents of an almost forgotten Hollywood figure today. Comedian, singer, dramatic actor, dancer, mimic and orchestra leader unique for his rapid fire ability to speak and sing wordy twisted dialogue and lyrics.
David Koenig is the author of such best sellers as “Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland,” “Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks,” and “Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World.” David is also the chief editor for the business journal “The Merchant Magazine.” Continue reading
This is part two of my interivew with Stunt Double Martha Crawford Cantarini whose book “Fall Girl: My Life as a Western Stunt Double” is available from McFarland Books via their website, just click here or order by phone at 1-800-253-2187. If you have not read part one of the interview you can find it right here.
Except for the Love Me Tender shot, all photos are from the personal collection of Martha Crawford Cantarini, my deepest thanks for sharing.
John: Would you tell us a little about your mother?
Martha: My mother was gorgeous. All the polo fans would walk right by the likes of Rita Hayworth, Joan Bennett, etc and ask my mother for her autograph. She would replay, “yes of course, but I am nobody”. They would say, “you MUST be.” Her picture on page 63 of my book was taken at Paramount. Frank
Borzage was a big director at Paramount and one of the polo players, he was the first director to receive an Academy Award, arranged for a test. She had done quite a bit of ‘little theater’ work. She photographed like a glamorous Claudette and poor Claudette could not stand that. She was big enough to stop her at Paramount. Sam Woods, the producer, wanted to put her under personal contract to him for a Broadway show that ran for many years but she turned it down preferring to be a full time mother. Mother and Carl were both show stoppers. Every time we went out Carl was asked for his autograph. They thought he was Richard Dix time after time after time. It was cute once at a party when Bing Crosby introduced himself to Carl . . . as if he needed an intro! He said, he had always wanted to meet him.
In the early days of films, actors did their own stunts; stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were well known for their abilities to perform daring acts of bravado to thrill audiences. As time went on, the studios realized they had expensive investments in their stars and began to use stunt doubles to perform the most dangerous stunts. Still, they did not tell the naive public it was not their favorite movie star falling out of widows, rolling down hills, riding runaway stagecoaches and jumping through fires, they let the illusion remain. Today, of course we all know about stunt men and women, they are even given screen credit at the end of the film unlike years ago when they remained anonymous. Many home videos today include extras focusing on stunts and how they were created. Though many of the movies today have become more infantile filled with actions and little else these days, audiences are much more sophisticated when it comes to stunts and how films are made.
Chrystopher Spicer’s new book “Clark Gable in Pictures” is more than a series of photographs as the title may suggest. What the author gives us is an engaging and fascinating opportunity to peak into what seems like part family album and part behind the scenes look at the man who was known as the “King of Hollywood.” Many are published here for the first time giving us a rare inside look into the private life of a public figure and iconic golden age movie star. On its own the book is an informative read and look at different phases of Gable’s life; it is also a nice supplement to Spicer’s full length 2002 book, “Clark Gable: Biography, Filmography, Bibliography,” also published by McFarland Books.
Many of the photographs are extremely rare, including the only known photograph of Gable’s mother, Addie. The photos are divided into sections reflecting different periods of the actor’s life. His Early Life, Acting Life, Military Life, Social Life, Recreation Life and Married Life are all given a separate chapter. Each photo is followed by detailed background information that makes even some of the seemingly mundane photos come to life and make us take a second look in a new light.
The author provides a personal and candid look at Gable’s childhood, growing up, his early days as an actor, his love of race cars, fishing, hunting with friends, his time in the military, hanging out with other stars and his family life with wives and children. Many of the photos, in fact most, are not professionally shot but snapshots taken by friends and family. It all adds up to an absorbing portrait in pictures and words of one of Hollywood’s greatest legends.
The book is published by McFarland Books and is available via their website, just click here or call 800-253-2187.
Below is my recent interview with the author. Continue reading