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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

In Memoriam - 2013

My own list of notable people (and others) we lost in 2013 whose time on this planet left some impression, big or small, on me. Of course, like all the other lists, it doesn't include everybody, so feel free to remark on anyone you'll miss in the comments.

In Memoriam - 2013

First and foremost, a fond farewell to my sister:
 Susan Linzer,  
née Susan Lee Chadwick.
December 21, 1955 - March 20, 2013

Jim Boyd
Actor
November 11, 1933 - January 2, 2013

Ned Wertimer
Actor
October 27, 1923 - January 2, 2013

Tony Lip
Actor
July 30, 1930 - January 4, 2013

David R. Ellis
Director / Actor / Stunt man
September 8, 1952 – January 7, 2013

Mariangela Melato
Actor
September 19, 1941 - January 11, 2013


Conrad Bain
 Actor
February 4, 1923 – January 14, 2013

Lloyd Phillips
Film Producer

December 14, 1949 – January 25, 2013

Patty Andrews
Singer
 February 16, 1918 – January 30, 2013

Robin Sachs
Actor
February 5, 1951 – February 1, 2013

Reg Presley
Singer

June 12, 1941 – February 4, 2013

Stuart Freeborn
Make-up Artist
September 5, 1914 – February 5, 2013

Richard Briers
Actor
 January 14, 1934 – February 17, 2013

Ray Cusick
Production Designer
May 1928 – February 21, 2013

Cleotha Staples
Singer
 1934 - February 21, 2013

Bonnie Franklin
Actor
 January 6, 1944 – March 1, 2013

Frank Thornton
Actor
January 15, 1921 - March 16, 2013

Don Payne
Television / Screen Writer
May 5, 1964 - March 26, 2013

Richard Griffiths
Actor
July 31, 1947 – March 28, 2013

Phil Ramone
Music Producer
January 5, 1934 – March 30, 2013

Jane Henson
Puppeteer
June 16, 1934 - April 2, 2013

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Novelist / Screenwriter
May 7, 1927 - April 3, 2013

George Gladir
Comic Book Writer
 September 27, 1925 - April 3, 2013

Roger Ebert
Film Critic
June 18, 1942 -April 4, 2013

Carmine Infantino
Comic Book Artist
May 24, 1925 – April 4, 2013

Annette Funicello
Actor / Singer
 
October 22, 1942 - April 8, 2013

Jonathan Winters
Actor / Comedian
November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013

Richard LeParmentier
Actor
July 16, 1946 – April 15, 2013

Storm Thorgerson
Graphic Designer
February 28, 1944 - April 18, 2013

E. L. Konigsburg
Writer
February 10, 1930 – April 19, 2013

Allan Arbus
Actor
 February 15, 1918 - April 19, 2013

Chrissy Amphlett
Singer

 October 25, 1959 – April 21, 2013

Margaret Groening
Inspiration for Marge Simpson
 March 23, 1919 - April 22, 2013

Ray Harryhausen
Special Effects Animator

June 29, 1920 - May 7, 2013

Aubrey Woods
Actor
 April 9, 1928 – May 7, 2013
Bryan Forbes
Film Director / Screenwriter / Actor
July 22, 1926 – May 8, 2013

Dr. Joyce Brothers
Psychologist
October 20, 1927 – May 13, 2013

Arthur Malet
Actor
September 24, 1927 - May 18, 2013

Ray Manzarek
Musician
February 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013

Jean Stapleton
Actor
June 19, 1923 – May 31, 2013

Elaine Laron
Songwriter
1930 - June 6, 2013

Elroy Schwartz
Television Writer
June 23, 1923 - June 14, 2013

James Gandolfini
Actor
September 18, 1961 – June 19, 2013

Jerry Dexter
Actor / Voice-Over Artist
April 18, 1935 - June 21, 2013

Richard Matheson
Writer
February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013

Charles Foley
Game Inventor
September 6, 1930 – July 1, 2013

P. J. Torokvei
Television Writer / Producer / Actor
March 19, 1951 - July 3, 2013

Dennis Burkley
Actor
September 10, 1945 - July 14, 2013

Vincenzo Cerami
Screenwriter
November 2, 1940 - July 17, 2013

Mel Smith
Actor / Film Director
December 3, 1952 – July 19, 2013

Dennis Farina
Actor

February 29, 1944 – July 22, 2013

Cosmo Allegretti
Actor / Puppeteer
April 6, 1927 - July 26, 2013

J. J. Cale
Singer / Songwriter
December 5, 1938 - July 26, 2013

Eileen Brennan
Actor
September 3, 1932 - July 28, 2013

Michael Ansara
Actor / Voice-Over Artist
April 15, 1922 - July 31, 2013

Margaret Pellegrini
Actor
September 23, 1923 - August 7, 2013

Karen Black
Actor
 July 1, 1939 - August 8, 2013

Jack Clement
Songwriter / Music Procucer
April 5, 1931 - August 8, 2013

Henry Polic II
Actor
February 20, 1945 - August 11, 2013

Lisa Robin Kelly
Actor
March 5, 1970 - August 14, 2013

Elmore Leonard
Novelist / Screenwriter
October 11, 1925 - August 20, 2013

Sid Bernstein
Music Promoter
August 12, 1918 - August 21, 2013

Gilbert Taylor
Cinematographer
April 12, 1914 - August 23, 2013

Julie Harris
Actor
December 2, 1925 - August 24, 2013

William Froug
Television Writer
May 26, 1922 - August 25, 2013

Barbara Hicks
Actor
August 12, 1924 - September 6, 2013

Bill Wallis
Actor
November 20, 1936 - September 6, 2013

Otto Sander
Actor
June 30, 1941 - September 12, 2013

Jay Robinson
Actor
April 14, 1930 - September 27, 2013

Faz Fazakas
Special Effects Designer / Puppeteer
1918 - September, 2013

Ed Lauter
Actor
October 30, 1938 - October 16, 2013

Lou Scheimer
Animation Producer
October 19, 1928 - October 17, 2013

Hal Needham
Stunt Man / Film Director
March 6, 1931 - October 25, 2013

Marcia Wallace
Actor
 November 1, 1942 - October 25, 2013

Lou Reed
Musician
March 2, 1942 - October 27, 2013

Roger McGee
Actor
December 9, 1926 - October 27, 2013

Graham Stark
Actor / Comedian
January 20, 1922 - October 29, 2013

Marc Breaux
Choreographer
 November 3, 1924 - November 19, 2013

Nelson Mandela
Activist / Politician / Philanthropist
July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013

Eleanor Parker
Actor
June 26, 1922 - December 9, 2013

Peter O'Toole
Actor
August 2, 1932 - December 14, 2013

Joan Fontaine
Actor
October 22, 1917 - December 15, 2013

James Avery
 Actor
November 27, 1948 - December 31, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Study in Classic Horror- ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953)

If there’s one thing you can say about the Abbott and Costello monster movies, it’s that, despite the comedy, they were willing to let the monsters be monstrous.  They quite smartly leave the shtick to Bud and Lou when I’m sure it was tempting to just have Mr. Hyde slip on a banana peel. That being said, it still seems this movie could have been funnier. Not that it’s unfunny; it definitely has its moments; I certainly laughed out loud when Bud Abbott, usually oblivious to the dangers that threaten his partner, screamed in terror at his first glance at Mr. Hyde. It just doesn’t quite reach its potential.

I guess what I really wanted was a completely different script. Abbott and Costello are at their funniest when they’re doing their, mostly verbal, stage routines. Here the humor mostly boils down to Costello’s wild takes when confronted with danger. A sequence when Lou is transformed into a giant mouse gets some mileage, as does the two-Hyde climactic chase, but it still doesn’t quite hit the mark.

And then there’s Karloff. Just as with the previous Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, his talents aren’t used to their full potential. In his performance I see ghosts of the film that could have been. It’s no secret that uncredited stuntman Eddie Parker stood in for Karloff for the Hyde scenes, and given the physical demands of Hyde in the film, I can see where they might have been difficult for the aging actor, but I would have loved to have seen what the movie could have been like if only Karloff could have played both parts; a movie where there is more to Hyde than simply running and snarling. Also, I’m afraid the characterization of Jekyll leaves much to be desired. He gets one monologue where he articulates his desire to rid the world of evil impulses thus bringing an end violence and bloodshed, but he quickly abandons that desire to become the monster so he can eliminate those he feels have wronged him. In fact, his role as the jealous older man echoes his role in The Climax. The Karloff performance I would have liked to see is the Jekyll who made that monologue juxtaposed with a more sinister conniving Hyde.

I suppose this is really more of an unfair entry on the film that wasn’t than the one that was, and I apologize for that. Overall, I certainly don’t think this was a bad film. It was still a lot of fun; I just can’t escape the notion that it could have been much more.


Supporting features:

Tom and Jerry in Fraidy Cat (1942)

The Our Gang short The Kid From Borneo (1933)

Next time:
Son of Dracula (1943) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, and Evelyn Ankers
 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Study in Classic Horror- THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928)


Between my enjoyment of Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary and my appreciation for the works of Victor Hugo, I was really looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint. While it joins the list of films in this project that aren’t really horror, it may be my favorite of the silent works. Certainly in the horror genre it’s hard to top The Phantom of the Opera, but judged as a film of any genre, it comes darned close to being a masterpiece. With The Cat and the Canary Leni, through use of artful camera shots and creepy art direction made a wonderful atmospheric dark comedy that delivered a well-balanced dose of laughs and chills. With The Man Who Laughs he got to apply his skills to an epic.

The story is that of a nobleman’s son who is kidnapped and disfigured by gypsies, his love for the blind girl he grew up with, and the events surrounding the reclamation of his birthright. Gwynplaine’s disfigurement has left a permanent grotesque grin on his face, and he has become famous throughout the French countryside as a carnival performer known as the Laughing Man.

Like most epic films of the time, it’s very melodramatic, and maybe a tad simplistic, but as a whole I’d say it belongs on the must-see list of any die-hard film buff. There are many memorable performances by the likes of Cesare Gravina, Brandon Hurst, Olga Vladimirovna Baklanova, and, of course, the lovely Mary Philbin, but most of all, we have Conrad Veidt’s amazing turn as the title character. In a time when performers had to resort to exaggerated gestures and facial expressions in order to convey a concept or emotion, Veidt delivers his entire performance through his eyes. Whether with the disturbing grin, or with the lower half of his face covered, those eyes communicate every nuance of Gwynplaine’s tortured existence. 

I’m glad to have spent some time with this story, even if it is the Hollywood take on it. I’ll have to explore the book in the future, and hope I’ll get the chance to see the 2012 French adaptation.

I’ll close with one last tip of the hat to Paul Leni. Based on the two films I’ve seen, I’d say he was ahead of, and died well before, his time.

Supporting features:

Daffy Duck in Nasty Quacks (1945)

The Our Gang short Forgotten Babies (1933)

Next time:
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff, and Eddie Parker



Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Memoriam - 2012

My own list of notable people (and others) we lost in 2012 whose time on this planet left some impression, big or small, on me. Of course, like all the other lists, it doesn't include everybody, so feel free to remark on anyone you'll miss in the comments.

In Memoriam - 2012

Victor Arriagada Ríos, aka Vicar
Comic book Artist
April 16, 1934 - January 3, 2012

The Senator
Cypress Tree
c. 1500 BC – January 16, 2012

Dick Tufeld
Actor / Voice over artist
December 11, 1926 - January 22, 2012


Robert Hegyes
Actor
May 7, 1951 – January 26, 2012

Ian Abercrombie
Actor / Voice over artist
September 11, 1934 – January 26, 2012

Ben Gazzara
Actor
August 28, 1930 – February 3, 2012

Bill Hinzman
Actor
October 24, 1936 – February 5, 2012

David Kelly
Actor
July 11, 1929 – February 12, 2012


John Severin
Comic Book Artist
December 26, 1921 – February 12, 2012


Steve Kordek
Pinball Machine Designer
December 26, 1911 – February 19, 2012

Jan Berenstain
Author / Illustrator
July 26, 1923 – February 24, 2012

Davy Jones
Singer / Actor
December 30, 1945 – February 29, 2012



Ralph McQuarrie
Film Conceptual Artist
June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012


Robert B. Sherman
Songwriter
December 19, 1925 – March 5, 2012


Jean Giraud, aka Mœbius
Comic Book Artist
May 8, 1938 – March 10, 2012


Sid Couchey
Comic Book Artist

May 24, 1919 – March 11, 2012


Jim Duffy
Animator
July 2, 1937 – March 23, 2012

Earl Scruggs
Musician
January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012


Dick Clark
Television Host / Producer
November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012


George Lindsey
Actor
December 17, 1928 – May 6, 2012


Maurice Sendak
Author / Illustrator
June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012


Tony DeZuniga
Comic Book Artist
November 8, 1932 – May 11, 2012

Donald “Duck” Dunn
Musician
November 24, 1941 – May 13, 2012

Dee Caruso
Television Writer
April 7, 1929 – May 27, 2012

Dick Beals
Voice Actor
March 16, 1927 – May 29, 2012


Jim Unger
Cartoonist
January 21, 1937 – May 29, 2012

Richard Dawson
Actor / Television Host
November 20, 1932 – June 2, 2012


Ray Bradbury
Author
August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012


Frank Cady
Actor
 September 8, 1915 – June 8, 2012


Judy Freudberg
Film  / Television Writer
July 12, 1949 – June 10, 2012

Henry Hill
Mobster Turned Informant
June 11, 1943 – June 12, 2012

Susan Tyrell
Actor
March 18, 1945 – June 16, 2012

Lonesome George
Pinta Island Tortoise
c. 1912 – June 24, 2012

Nora Ephron
Screenwriter
May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012

Don Grady
Actor
June 8, 1944 – June 27, 2012

Andy Griffith
Actor
June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012

Ernest Borgnine
Actor
January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012

Donald J. Sobol
Author
October 4, 1924 – July 11, 2012

Celeste Holm
Actor
April 29, 1917 – July 15, 2012

Tom Davis
Television Writer / Comedian
August 13, 1952 – July 19, 2012

Sally Ride
Astronaut
May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012

Sherman Hemsley
Actor
February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012

Mary Tamm
Actor
March 22, 1950 – July 26, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch
Composer
June 2, 1944 - August 6, 2012

Mel Stuart
Director
September 2, 1928 – August 9, 2012

Carlo Rambaldi
Special Effects Artist
September 15, 1925 – August 10, 2012

Joe Kubert
Comic Book Artist
September 18, 1926 – August 12, 2012

Ron Palillo
Actor
April 2, 1949 – August 14, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter
Actor
November 20, 1919 – August 14, 2012

Tony Scott
Director
June 21, 1944 – August 19, 2012

Phyllis Diller
Actor / Comedian
July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012

Jerry Nelson
Puppeteer
July 10, 1934 – August 23, 2012

Neil Armstrong
Astronaut
August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012

Hal David
Songwriter
May 25, 1921 – September 1, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan
Actor
December 10, 1957 – September 3, 2012

Andy Williams
Singer
December 3, 1927 – September 25, 2012

Herbert Lom
Actor
September 11, 1917 – September 27, 2012

Turhan Bey
Actor
March 30, 1922 – September 30, 2012

Alex Karras
Athlete / Actor
July 15, 1935 – October 10, 2012

Lucille Bliss
Voice Over Artist
March 31, 1916 – November 8, 2012

Larry Hagman
Actor
September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012

Reinhold Weege
Television Writer
December 23, 1949 – December 1, 2012

Dave Brubeck
Composer / Musician
December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012

Rusty Mills
Animator
December 16, 1962 – December 7, 2012

Ravi Shankar
Musician
April 7, 1920 – December 11, 2012

Charles Durning
Actor
February 28, 1923 – December 24, 2012

Jack Klugman
Actor
April 27, 1922 – December 24, 2012

Gerry Anderson
Television Producer
 April 14, 1929 – December 26, 2012