Seminal Image #220

Scorpio Rising
(Kenneth Anger; 1964)

May 31, 1915

90 years ago today, Eleanora Fagan, better known to time and memory and Billie Holiday was born.

Here are six images of her:

Within her art; 1957

Hearing a wordless siren's song; a publicity still with Louis Armstrong, 1947

Where does it all go to, I wonder; sometime in the 40s

She ponders the vista of her future; 1955

A rare moment of tranquility; near the end.

Unleashing her muse, both tender and wild; sometime in the 40s

(my immense thanks to Bob Keser for reminding this addled brain what day it was)

The Art of the Centerfold #9

Terre Tucker
(Miss November; 1963)

The Art of Cinema #67

Teenagers from Outer Space
(Tom Graeff; 1959)

Seminal Image #219

Da zdravstvuyet Meksika!
(¡Que Viva Mexico!)
(Sergei Eisenstein; 1931-1932)

Cine Francaise #3

(Kurt Gerron, Roger Le Bon; 1932)

Seminal Image #218

There's Always Tomorrow
(Douglas Sirk; 1956)

They Were Collaborators #48

Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol

Seminal Image #217

(Aleksandr Dovzhenko; 1928)

The Art of the Centerfold #8

Sally Duberson
(Miss January, 1965)

When Legends Gather #35

John Ford and Samuel Fuller

Seminal Image #216

Viaggio in Italia
(Voyage to Italy)
(Roberto Rossellini; 1953)

Adventures in American Filmmaking #29

Today's adventure: No, Foolish Wives director Erich Von Stroheim isn't about to fire cameraman Ben Reynolds permanently. He's merely indulging in a little target practice on the beach as his character Count Sergius Karamzin. Still, given Stroheim's famous temperment, this might have been a good day to call in sick.

El Cine Del Oro #12

El Monstruo Resucitado (Chano Urueta, 1953)

Stacks o' Wax #6

The Eddie Albert Album (Columbia, 1966)

Although usually lumped in with other so-called "Golden Throats" like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the late Eddie Albert had an extensive musical theatre background, including the original Broadway production of The Boys From Syracuse and taking over from Robert Preston in The Music Man. Still, it seems slightly incongruous that the star of Green Acres would get hip with the young crowd by covering Bob Dylan (Don't Think Twice It's Alright and, of course, Blowin' in the Wind), Simon and Garfunkel (Homeward Bound) and Gordon Lightfoot (For Lovin' Me) in his familiar avuncular manner. Just to be on the safe side, they include a new version of the Green Acres theme, lest anyone be disappointed.

But, as Eddie himself puts it (in the liner notes to The Eddie Albert Album):
"It's thrilling to open up a piece of music and see words that speak in a deeply true, way-out-of-the-heart feeling and experience of an individual. No one can miss the song and poetry of Paul Simon, or confuse it with Bob Dylan, or be unmoved by either. In a world of computers and machines, the young poets of today, whose medium is the popular song, speak with individuality, with strength, and with a beauty that rekindles the flame in our hearts for justice, for brotherhood, for equality, for love and for every valuable feeling in the world. I'm glad I live in a time when these voices ring out clearly; they're stronger for me than the whirr of computers and the blast of jets."

Eddie Albert Dead at 99

Well . . . this sucks.

Eddie Albert, an immensely underrated actor, has passed after a very long and productive life.

Here's the Associated Press account, written by that old stalwart Bob Thomas:

LOS ANGELES - Eddie Albert, the actor best known as the constantly befuddled city slicker-turned-farmer in television's "Green Acres," has died. He was 99.

Albert, who appeared in movies and television for more than 50 years, died of pneumonia Thursday at his home in the Pacific Palisades area, in the presence of his longtime caregivers and son Edward, family friend Dick Guttman said Friday.

Albert achieved his greatest fame on "Green Acres" as Oliver Douglas, a New York lawyer who settles in a farm town with his glamorous wife, played by Eva Gabor, and finds himself perplexed by the antics of a host of rural residents, including a pig named Arnold Ziffel.

Albert was nominated for Academy Awards as supporting actor in "Roman Holiday" (1953) and "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972).

The actor moved smoothly from the Broadway stage to movies to television. Besides his 1965-1971 run in "Green Acres," he costarred on TV with Robert Wagner in "Switch" from 1975 to 1978 and was a semi-regular on "Falcon Crest" in 1988.

He was a tireless conservationist, crusading for endangered species, healthful food, cleanup of Santa Monica Bay pollution and other causes. He had remained healthy even in old age.

"Three days ago he was playing basketball in his wheelchair with his granddaughter," Guttman said. "He stayed very vital."

Seminal Image #215

(Otto Preminger; 1944)

Great Madmen of the 21st Century #1

Phil Spector
(earlier this week at an evidentiary hearing in his first-degree murder case)

Seminal Image #214

(Constantin Costa-Gavras; 1969)

The Art of Cinema #66

Sadie Thompson
(Raoul Walsh; 1928)

Housekeeping Matter #13:
Tom's Apology

I just wanted to take this opportunity to apologize to our regular visitors for the absence of new content in the last few weeks. I truly haven't had the time to update the blog as frequently as I'd like; mostly because of (gag) writing commitments that have consumed virtually all of my free time. Since this is probably going to continue for the next few weeks, I felt it necessary to express my regret.

This doesn't mean I won't be doing updates. I will (and Stephen'll still be working his magic). I just might not be able to do it every day, thassall.

Tom Sutpen

It's Official:
Kinks Better Than Beatles!

The public have spoken!

(Although Days or She's Got Everything beat the pants off You Really Got Me, but I guess those beer commercials pay the bills. Don't get me started about the Hewlett-Packard ads though.)

Howard Morris Dead at 86

Howard Morris (1919-2005)

His newswire obituary says comic actor Howard Morris is best known for playing lonesome hillbilly Ernest T. Bass, but true children of the television age revere Morris for his role as one of Sid Caesar's trusty supporting players on Your Show of Shows in the early '50s. Morris, in my mind, is probably best remembered for playing the clinging Uncle Goofy in a This is Your Life spoof, but his ability to play his part as a cog in the wheels of comedy was superlative, and his flexible voice made for a bounty of work in cartoon voiceover and character parts for years after.

My personal favourite Morris work is his narration of the Academy Award-winning cartoon short Munroe, based on the Jules Feiffer comic about a toddler who gets drafted into the U.S. army. Morris gives it a folksy spin, without overselling the humour of the situation.

Perhaps not a comic genius, per se, but a comedic technician of the highest order.

Seminal Image #213

(Blake Edwards; 1981)

Ancient Voices #5

Maybelle, Sarah and A.P. Carter

Seminal Image #212

Il Deserto Rosso
(The Red Desert)
(Michelangelo Antonioni; 1964)

The Art of Civil War #2

Front Popular! (1936)

Cine Francaise #2

La Fausse maîtresse
(Twisted Mistress)
(André Cayatte; 1942)

Selling the Silents #16

(Tiptoes, Herbert Wilcox)
From the 1927 Paramount Release book

A silent adaptation of the George Gershwin musical (well, it must have made sense to somebody) starring Dorothy Gish, with "Will Rogers: World's Best Known Comedian" and "Nelson Keys: Famous Funmaker of Charlot's Revue" Fun! Jazz! Lillian who?

El Cine Del Oro #11

Huracan Ramirez
(Joselito Rodriguez, 1952)
Contrary to popular belief, Mexican cinema isn't all masked wrestler movies, but there are a lot of masked wrestler movies, and Huracan Ramirez is one of the earliest. Fans of the genre would find it rather disappointing, as Ramirez is actually a lounge singer who moonlights as a wrestler and doesn't spend much screen time in his guise as el lucha libre. But from humble beginnings...

Stacks o' Wax #5

(Vanguard Records, 1960)
"Why read the Bible? Rather, why should I read the bible for you? If ever there was a book everyone can read for himself, it's the Holy Bible; in its several English translations alone it's been distributed literally by the billion in the four hundred and some years since it was first printed in that language. It has long been commonly called 'The Good Book'; in many families up through the early years of this century it was the ONLY book. The very word 'bible' derives from the Greek for 'little book.' From the little red-edged editions the Gideons were putting in hotel rooms before I was born to the beautifully illustrated deluxe publications modern colour presses have made possible, the Bible can safely be considered available to everybody." -Charlton Heston

You probably can't see it, but this copy of In the Beginning: Charlton Heston Reads From The Five Books of Moses is personally autographed to me by Chuck, "For Steve, good luck" in the upper left hand corner. Heston was in Nova Scotia in 1991 shooting the Disney TV movie The Little Kidnappers, and as luck would have it, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Coral Sea was in port in Halifax at the same time. Heston couldn't pass up a chance to visit the boys in uniform, and members of the press were invited to join him on his tour of the ship for a photo opportunity. Needless to say, as a reporter at a local radio station, a photo op wasn't a promising news venture, since we were told we wouldn't actually be able to talk to Heston, but I figured I'd make the most of it and see what happened.

I'd found the Heston album a year or two before at a flea market, so I brought it along, and while the press were following ten paces behind while Heston was accompanied by a phalanx of officers--"Look at those magnificent machines," he was heard to say in awe of the airplanes on the deck--but I took the LP out of my kitbag and was able to catch the actor's eye. He started laughing (imagine a stentorian "HA! HA! HA!") and came over, saying "I thought they burned all of these!" and graciously signed the cover for me. I attempted to get him on tape, but the wind on board the carrier was so bad that hardly any of what I asked him about filming in the province and the whereabouts of the full-length director's cut of Major Dundee--okay, my memory on this point is a bit sketchy--was barely discernible.

I was quickly ushered away by the officer in charge of corraling the press, and Heston soon disappeared below decks, but I found myself oddly mesmerized by that stature and that voice. Even though as a feisty punk I found his politics abhorent, and hadn't yet discovered some of his best work in films like Will Penny and Touch of Evil, I suddenly grasped the concept of "presence" and ultimately what it is that makes someone a movie star.

As for the record, it's pretty much what you'd expect, that familiar voice in drawn out cadences, with a swelling orchestra and chorus fading in and out. It's funny to find Heston on a lefty folk label like Vanguard Records, but I guess that's what happens after you part the Red Sea.

Seminal Image #211

Made in U.S.A
(Jean-Luc Godard; 1967)

The Art of Cinema #64

Alkali Ike's Misfortunes
(Gilbert M. Anderson; 1913)

The Art of the Centerfold #7

Kathy Douglas
(Miss October, 1960)

This Week's Weegee #15

The Art of Cinema #63

Divorzio all'Italiana
(Divorce, Italian Style)
(Pietro Germi; 1961)

Seminal Image #210

The Boston Strangler
(Richard Fleischer; 1968)

Frank Gorshin Dead at 72

Wow, this is really a piece of my childhood gone. Batman was my first favourite show--yes, I was one of those kids who ran around the neighbourhood with a towel around his neck--and Frank Gorshin's Riddler was always my favourite villain (at least until hormones kicked in and told me to give Julie Newmar's Catwoman another looksee).

For years, all I knew of Gorshin was his turn as the puzzling trickster in green tights, but then I saw clips of him doing his impeccable impressions on Ed Sullivan and elsewhere, and caught him in movies from Invasion of the Saucer Men to 12 Monkeys, and realized what a fine character actor he truly was. He really deserved that Emmy nomination for playing a two-tone alien on Star Trek. Tonight I'll watch him in one of his final roles on CSI: Crime Scene Investigations (directed by Quentin Tarantino, for anyone who cares).

Gorshin had a habit of turning up in the strangest places, whether it was the musical Bells Are Ringing, or Otto Preminger's Skidoo, where his presence was always a welcome surprise. And my favourite bit of trivia about Gorshin is the fact that when he appeared in The George Raft Story--and Raft was one of his many impressions--he played a character named Moxie. How could I not love that?

Seminal Image #209

Advise and Consent
(Otto Preminger; 1961)

Jimmy Martin Dead at 77

Jimmy Martin, one of the finest vocalists . . . forget about Bluegrass . . . in America has passed away. He was 77.

When Legends Gather #34

Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis

(follow that . . . . . . . . . . Stephen)

Seminal Image #208

(F.W. Murnau; 1926)

The Golden Age of Prurience #22

(December, 1962)

The Present Day Composer #16

Raymond Scott (1908-1994) in his workshop with some of his toys.