Sunday Reads: Falling Stars… Special Stars… Stars and DeathPosted: August 11, 2013
August is a special month on TCM, it is when they have their Summer Under The Stars programming…where every 24 hour day is devoted to one special classic movie star.
We lost a few movie stars this past month, Dennis Farina and Eileen Brennan to name a couple…and in just the last two days…gone are a former Munchkin from the movie The Wizard of Oz, a 70’s actress that helped define the cultural changes facing women, sex, drugs and dysfunctional relationships in film…and a woman who blamed it all on the Bossa Nova.
Before we get to the stories of these fallen stars, let us take a look at some of the news making headlines this morning.
And I guess I should give you a heads up, this is one very long post…so get your coffee/tea/orange juice/prune juice/beer/champagne mimosa, or whatever it is you drink when you get up in the morning/ afternoon, because you will be sitting here a while reading this.
The man who kidnapped Hannah Anderson has been killed, but at least the Missing teen found safe in Idaho wilderness – The Washington Post
The volcano had rumbled the past year…and it finally erupted.
Earlier Saturday at UCLA, UN Ambassador Samantha Power Gives First Public Speech – ABC News
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used her first public speech Saturday night to urge young activists to demand results and criticized the UN and red tape-mired bureaucracies that don’t always prioritize progress.
Power told the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA that ideology and entrenched methods sometimes get in the way of the work of the UN, but praised those who get results and focus on problem-solving.
“Bureaucracies are built. Positions become entrenched. And while the United Nations has done tremendous good in the world, there are times when the organization has lost its way, when politics and ideology get in the way of impact,” she said.
This next story is ironic, in a twisted religious right-wing nut kind of way. Religious family abandons U.S., gets lost at sea
A northern Arizona family that was lost at sea for weeks in an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion will fly back home Sunday.
Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said Saturday that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us” when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.
But just weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio.
Their flights home were arranged by U.S. Embassy officials, Gastonguay said. The U.S. State Department was not immediately available for comment.
The island Gastonguay picked out is a small place in the middle of nowhere, it is out in the Pacific Ocean halfway between Hawaii and Australia….and they just took a small boat out for this major trek across the largest body of water in the world? What in the hell would make a person do such a thing? Could it be Satan? Nope…Could it be Jeeeeezuz? Maybe….but I tend to think it was, the stupid.
Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.
U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence.
Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.”
The Gastonguays weren’t members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer.
“The Bible is pretty clear,” she said.
Well, seems pretty clear to me that sailing off across the Pacific in a small boat can be dangerous.
In May, Hannah, her 30-year-old husband Sean, his father Mike, and the couple’s daughters, 3-year-old Ardith and (8 month old) baby Rahab set off. They wouldn’t touch land again for 91 days, she said.
At one point a fishing ship came into contact with them but left without providing assistance. A Canadian cargo ship came along and offered supplies, but when they pulled up alongside it, the vessels bumped and the smaller ship sustained even more damage.
Do you think the first fishing boat saw that the small boat was full of stupid, anti-woman, geezuz praying, gay-hating, religious tea-bag nuts and got the hell out of there? The prefect of police in Chile says that the Gastonguays did not have the knowledge, ability or expertise to navigate to Kiribati….(no shit) and what will the family do when they finally do get back to the states?
Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”
I suggest next time they try a country that does not require them to cross the world via ocean voyage to get there.
And since I touched on the abortion subject…let’s take a look at a few links on that chestnut.
This link to a post by Amanda Marcotte is something you may have missed,and I think it is an interesting point…but there hast to be much more to it than this: Abortion in Europe and America: To understand the difference, you can’t ignore religion.
Please give this article a full read…US abortion ban should not be foisted on Central African Republic: The UK and other donors must ensure US aid restrictions do not deny vital support to women raped in conflict
In his May 2013 report to the security council, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, noted the conflict’s devastating impact on women and girls, highlighting continuous reports of sexual violence including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery.
Mass sexual violence is not new to CAR. After failed coup attempts in 2001, widespread sexual violence was documented in the country from 2001 to 2003. Some of those crimes are being prosecuted by the international criminal court. The ICC prosecutor noted that “[t]his is the first time the prosecutor is opening an investigation in which allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings”.
I will just put this link here, with a warning…if you want to get angry, read it. It is about our special star out of the Lonesome Star State: On Abortion, Wendy Davis Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About – The Daily Beast by Kristen Powers
Just a few more links before we get to the Hollywood good times stories, after the jump.
I have to say I believe there is some truth behind this new biometric identification technique, I could always tell who the boys were on Jake’s football team with while they were wearing their uniforms and helmets by their style of walking around on the field…way better than when they stood right in front of my face. Recognizing people by the way they walk
News out of Egypt on the Archeology front: Scholars Recognize Egyptian Artifact Up for Auction – Archaeology Magazine
Hey Boston Boomer, did ya miss this falling star the other day? Midnight meteor over Boston | Today’s Image | EarthSky
EarthSky Facebook friend Ed Grzyb captured this Perseid meteor flying high over Boston shortly before midnight on August 7, 2013.
Although the 2013 Perseid meteor shower won’t be at its best until the nights of August 11-12 and/or August 12-13, we’re already getting many reports and images of meteor sightings.
Midnight to dawn viewing is best. At the shower’s peak, from northerly latitudes, you might see 50 or more meteors per hour, and from southerly latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps you’ll see about a third that many meteors. We’re already hearing reports of 10 or more meteors per hour.
This next thread I want to share is a rather long story about The monstrous serpent was real! Did the Gloucester fisherman see a massive tuna, or a serpent? And what are we conjuring, when we imagine the sea?
Well, whatever it was…it sure as hell wasn’t Moby Dick. Melville’s birthday was on August 1st, and I saved this link for you: On Herman Melville’s 194th Birthday, a Trio of Theories About Moby-Dick – Chris Heller and Caroline Kitchener – The Atlantic
Celebrate the legacy of a great American novelist with selected excerpts from essays from The Atlantic‘s archives.
To celebrate Melville’s birth, we’ve selected passages from those essays that explain three theories why Moby-Dick remains “one of the great books of the world.”
It’s Not A Story — It’s A Myth
It is generally recognized that the canons of the ordinary novel do not apply to Moby-Dick. If we applied them we should be forced to put it down as an inept, occasionally powerful, but on the whole puzzling affair. This was the opinion up to two decades ago. During those decades we have discovered Moby-Dick to be a masterpiece. What caused this shift in perspective? To put it simply, we discovered how Moby-Dick should be read. We must read it not as if it were a novel but as if it were a myth. A novel is a tale. A myth is a disguised method of expressing mankind’s deepest terrors and longings. The myth uses the narrative form, and is often mistaken for true narrative. Once we feel the truth of this distinction, the greatness of Moby-Dick becomes manifest: we have learned how to read it.(Clifton Fadiman, 1943)
…Or Maybe Not?
Since some very intelligent persons have taken Moby-Dick for an allegory it is proper that I should deal with the matter. They have regarded as ironical Melville’s own remark; he feared, he wrote, that his work might be looked upon “as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.” Is it rash to assume that when a practiced writer says a thing he is more likely to mean what he says than what his commentators think he means? I don’t know how critics write novels, but I have some notion about how novelists write them. They do not take a general proposition such as Honesty is the Best Policy or All is not Gold that Glitters; and say: Let’s write an allegory about that. A group of characters, generally suggested by persons they have known, excites their imagination, and sometimes simultaneously, sometimes after a time, an incident or a string of incidents experienced, heard, or invented appears out of the blue to enable them to make suitable use of them in the development of the theme that has arisen in their minds by a sort of collaboration between the characters and the incidents.(W. Somerset Maugham, 1948)
Melville Didn’t Worry About Pleasing His Audience
If he composed Moby-Dick in the way he did, it is because that is how he wanted it. You must take it or leave it. He would not be the first novelist to say: “Well, I might write a more satisfactory book if I did this, that, or the other as you suggest. I daresay you’re perfectly right, but this is how I like it and this is how I’m going to do it, and if other people don’t like it I can’t help it, and what’s more, I don’t care.”(W. Somerset Maugham, 1948)
Okay then, now on with the links and stories that focus on Hollywood…..so come on, and let’s talk about movie stars… let’s go to Hollywood!
Man, the folks from the silver screen have been dropping like flies lately. (It’s cliché but true.) If you need a refresher on whose dead, there’s a gallery of photos here: Celebrities Who Died in 2013
However, that does not include the latest photograph of the singer who died yesterday. R.I.P. Eydie Gorme
The singer and classic TV performer has died at the age of 84. Eydie Gorme passed away on today in Las Vegas after a short undisclosed illness. A well known nightclub performer in New York, Gorme joined Steve Allen’s local TV show in 1953. She soon was partnered with another singer on the show Steve Lawrence and the duo moved upward with Allen in 1954 when his show became NBC’s Tonight Show in 1954. The couple married on December 29, 1957. The next year, The Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Show debuted on NBC and lasted one season. Still, both solo and with Lawrence, the Grammy winner would show up on the small screen often over the next three decades. Gorme appeared on the Gary Moore Show, What’s My Line?, Password All-Stars,The Ed Sullivan Show, The Bob Hope Show, the Carol Burnett Show among other. As well as a big music hit in 1963 with Blame It On The Bossa Nova, she co-hosted The Kraft Music Hall for NBC in the late Sixties and hosted The Hollywood Palace on ABC in 1970. Gorme won a Primetime Emmy in 1979 for Steve & Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin. In 1997 and 1998, Gorme joined Rosie O’Donnell on her syndicated talk show. Gorme is survived by Lawrence and their son David.
This week we also lost one of the last remaining Munchkins…Margaret Pellegrini, original Munchkin was 89 (video)
Margaret Pellegrini, one of the last three surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” died today after suffering a stroke at her home in Phoenix. Pellegrini played a flower pot Munchkin and a sleepyhead villager.
In honor of Ms Pellegrini, the lights of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre were dimmed for one full minute.
The Munchkins first appeared in L. Frank Baum’s popular 1900 children’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” as the blue-wearing inhabitants of Munchkin Country. In the film four decades later, they were the more colorful residents of Munchkinland. References say that 124 different actors were employed as Munchkins in the film. The two known survivors are Jerry Maren, 93, and Ruth Duccini, 95.
Pellegrini is featured in the following clip.
And now there are only two Munchkins left.
You want to know what is really amazing?
Here we are, 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, 74 years since the premiere of Gone with the Wind…and one of the four main actors is still alive.
Both are living connections to a Golden Hollywood past that fascinates me and keeps me forever watching smart talking women, sharp looking men, and damn all around good quality film making. It just doesn’t happen that often anymore….ugh, what would I do without TCM, I tell you!
So before we get to the Karen Black tributes, here are a few tidbits on classic motion pictures:
Audiences will be lining up to see the premiere of a new movie from one of film’s greatest directors this October – 75 years after it was made.
Discovered last week in an abandoned shipping company warehouse in Pordenone, Italy, the long-lost film “Too Much Johnson” was the last movie Orson Welles’ directed prior to making “Citizen Kane” in 1941.
“Johnson” is one of Welles’ first-known professional films.
“They saw that it was something very special,” said Annette Melville, the director of the National Film Preservation Foundation. “It was going to be thrown out. It had been sitting there since the 70s.”
After realizing what it was, the owner of the warehouse notified the organizers of Pordenone’s famed silent film festival, where “Johnson” will now debut on October 9th.
Courtesy of George Eastman House & Cineteca del Friuli
Joseph Cotten (Billings) with Arlene Francis (Mrs. Dathis), who is surprised by her husband.
Paolo Cherci Usai, the senior curator of the Motion Picture Department at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., and co-founder of the La Giornate del Cinema Muto, said he was astonished when he found out about the film, which had been hidden in the same city where he worked for more than three decades.
I love it, and I am certain that Orson would have loved the way his film was found at the last minute…rescued if you will, just as it was about to be thrown out. Read more at the link.
For a look at another fabulous Hollywood Director/Producer: Stanley Kramer: Hollywood’s moral compass –Classic Hollywood: UCLA Film & Television Archive celebrates legacy of the socially conscious filmmaker in a new retrospective of movies he produced or directed.
As both a producer and a director, Stanley Kramer was fearless.
As a scrappy young independent producer in the late 1940s, he bought the rights to Arthur Laurents’ “Home of the Brave,” the hit 1946 Broadway play which exposed anti-Semitism in the military during World War II. But Kramer decided to up the ante, transforming it into a drama about racism, casting young African American actor James Edwards as the soldier who must battle discrimination in his all-white platoon.
“He felt that was the higher risk,” said his widow, Karen Sharpe Kramer, who added that the controversial subject matter caused “Home of the Brave” to be picketed when it was released in 1949. “He was full of integrity and honesty.”
Kramer, who died in 2001 at age 87, was Hollywood’s moral compass. He revisited themes of racism in films he directed, such as 1958’s “The Defiant Ones” and 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and he also tackled such hot button topics as anti-Semitism and the Holocaust (“Judgment at Nuremberg”), religious conservatives (“Inherit the Wind”), the futility of a nuclear war (“On the Beach”) and animal rights (“Bless the Beasts and the Children”).
His films may have angered some, but most of his 35 pictures won critical and commercial acclaim, receiving 85 Oscar nominations and winning 16 Academy Awards. In addition, Kramer received the Irving Thalberg Award in 1961 for his achievements as a producer.
The UCLA Film & Television Archive is celebrating the filmmaker’s legacy with a new retrospective, “Champion: The Stanley Kramer Centennial.” It begins Friday at the Billy Wilder Theater and continues through Sept. 29.
He also gave us It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World…that was one funny movie to laugh at….and I think we all agree on that.
Ah, but I have another director/writer theater presentation for you, it is on Preston Sturges…American Cinematheque celebrates comic genius Preston Sturges
For several years in the 1940s, Preston Sturges wrote and directed a series of flawless social comedies that were an intoxicating mix of sophisticated dialog and freewheeling slapstick.
The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood is honoring the filmmaker with the new retrospective “Sturges Rally: Comedy Built for Speed,” which opens Friday.
Sturges, who was born in 1898 and died in 1959, came from a wealthy family and, as a young boy, helped out his mother’s friend, Isadora Duncan, in her stage productions. A World War I veteran, he began writing short stories while recovering from an appendectomy. He scored his first big success on Broadway in 1929 with the comedy “Strictly Dishonorable.”
He moved to Los Angeles three years later and began writing such classic films as 1937’s “Easy Living.” He was frustrated with the lack of control over his scripts and made a deal with Paramount: He would sell them the script of his 1940 political satire “The Great McGinty” for $1 if he could direct it. Not only was his directing career born, he won the Academy Award for his screenplay.
McGinty is one of my favorite Sturges films, along with The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels…btw both of those films will be screened on the 15th:
Stanwyck, Henry Fonda and Charles Coburn are near perfection in his 1941 hit “The Lady Eve,” which screens Aug. 15. The second feature is his brilliant 1941 Hollywood satire “Sullivan’s Travels,” with McCrea and Veronica Lake.
The retrospective concludes Aug. 23 with a hilarious triple bill: “Easy Living,” also directed by Leisen, with the great Jean Arthur at her screwball comedy best; the lovely 1935 comedy “The Good Fairy,” directed by William Wyler and starring Margaret Sullavan, and the 1940 comedy “Christmas in July,” his second feature as a director, with Dick Powell and Ellen Drew.
Anyone who lives in Los Angeles should try to make it to one of these showings. All I can say in my best Napoleon Dynamite voice is,”Lucky.”
While looking for some of these pictures of classic Hollywood Stars I came across this article on William Holden: William Holden’s Unscripted Fall From Grace – The New York Sun
It seems especially fitting because it discusses a time frame that is just around the bend…on the other side of August.
Among the smorgasbord of genre-film delights on view in William Holden: A Different Kind of Hero, a 20-film tribute to the actor beginning today at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, are five Westerns, a paradigmatic prize-fighting picture, four war films, and Billy Wilder’s oft-quoted film-buff 101 cult classic “Sunset Boulevard.” And the timing is perfect: A midsummer-film fortnight that includes David Lean’s “Bridge on the River Kwai,” Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch,” George Seaton’s marvelous World War II spy picture “The Counterfeit Traitor,” Joshua Logan’s overripe hothouse flower of 1950s Americana, “Picnic,” and a rare screening of John Sturges’s crackerjack horse opera “Escape From Fort Bravo” seems tailor-made for the July heat and blockbuster-season doldrums.And yet, by rights, any tribute to Holden (1918-81) should really be undertaken after Labor Day. Whether playing leader, lover, loner, or martyr, Holden’s performances invariably bear an end-of-the-season autumnal sadness.
Oh, mmmm, I love the way he looks in that photograph. What a man!
You need to read the rest of that article…oh yeah, William Holden’s day on TCM is August 21st.
All above images separate from stories linked are from Pinterest.
Now we come to Karen Black.
Karen Black (Los Angeles Times / June 22, 1978)
These final two links are for Fannie. I saw them earlier this week and saved them for Sunday. I felt that Karen Black was an important figure to many of the women who read our blog…she must have struck a chord with some of you…you probably could associate yourself with the characters she played, or the type of men she was involved with on the screen or situation she found herself up against. She represented a time when women’s place in history was changing…or should I say evolving? Maybe it wasn’t really doing that, but Karen Black made some important films about women and their troubled lives. Maybe it was just being portrayed a bit more realistically on the screen? I don’t know, maybe not. But here are two articles that take a look at Black’s performances and her influence on women in film during the 1970s.
Over the course of a long and prolific career that saw her appear in nearly 200 films, Karen Black left her most lasting mark on Hollywood portraying women on the brink: hysterical characters teetering at the edge of dissolution or madness — or both — who chase desperately after their dreams, often stuck in dysfunctional relationships with hideous men.
After a long battle with ampullary cancer, Black died Thursday at age 74. Here are five films that helped cement her legacy:
“Five Easy Pieces” – In the acclaimed 1970 drama for which Black will be most singularly remembered, she portrays Rayette Dipesto, the borderline suicidal waitress girlfriend (with dreams of country music stardom) who is pregnant with Jack Nicholson’s piano-prodigy-turned-oilfield-wildcatter character’s child. Black was nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award and won the same category at the Golden Globes.
This next film is one that I thought was up there at the top:
“The Day of the Locust” – In director John Schlesinger’s adaptation of Nathaniel West’s scorching 1939 novel of Los Angeles existential torpor, Black portrays Faye Greener, a wannabe-starlet-come-arch-sexual-manipulator in ‘30s Hollywood.
The other three:
“Easy Rider” – Black’s role in director Bob Rafelson’s 1969 road-movie exploration of American counterculture is small but unforgettable. She portrays a New Orleans prostitute who imbibes LSD in a graveyard with the film’s motorcycle-riding protagonists, played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, in the lead-up to “Easy Rider’s” bloody climax.
“Nashville” – Playing Connie White, the glamorous country-singing diva out to undercut her singing rival in Robert Altman’s episodic ensemble drama, Black nabbed a Grammy for writing the songs “Memphis” and “Rollin’ Stone,” which she can be seen singing in the 1975 film.
“The Great Gatsby” – Portraying another tragic literary heroine, in this 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzergald’s Jazz Age classic, Black embodies Myrtle Wilson, the borderline-hysterical mistress to Jay Gatsby’s nemesis, Tom Buchannan, a role for which Black won another supporting actress Golden Globe.
The Great Gatsby never really translates well onto the screen…but that is my own opinion. Still, that is some amazing work. Really, if you have never seen Day of the Locust, you need to!
Karen Black redefined sexuality on-screen in the ’70s By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
Though actress Karen Black never stopped working, news of her passing this week at age 74 sent me back to the 1970s. That era — a transformative cultural moment for women in general — had the films I remember the actress in most.
In her working girl, Black fused the struggle between an emerging sense of sexual liberation for women and the gritty realities of the world’s oldest profession. In one way or another it was a struggle that played out in many of her best roles. She was both free and not.
This is a wonderful tribute…well, I think so, be sure to go and read the rest of Sharkey’s article. I will just end today’s post with these few remembrances from Sharkey above:
Much has been made in recent days about the kind of characters she played — strong women with attitude. But what I see is the sexuality Black brought to the screen in her most compelling work.
Black was a seductress for the modern age — and quintessentially so. In one film after another, you see her standing her own ground — and yet not standing alone. She tended to be found in the company of the anti-heroes of the times, the kind of men who wanted their lovers to be willful, but still at their beck and call. A reflection of the social conundrum of the day.
The actress had a great beauty, but in a distinctive way that set her apart from the beginning. There was a kind of craziness in her eyes that suggested an unpredictable woman, the type to change her mind at the worst possible moment. That sense of the uncertain made her exciting to watch.
Have a good day, try to stay cool and enjoy this Sunday’s reads!