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Archive for February, 2014

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Rona Anderson

Rona Anderson
Rona Anderson

Rona Anderson was a staple of British B movies of the 1950’s.  She was long ,arried to Gordon Jackson.   She died in 2013.

Her Guardian obituary by Ronald Bergan:

In the 1950s, while watching a second feature before the “big picture” at their local cinema, regular British filmgoers would often have seen Rona Anderson, who has died aged 86. Anderson starred in 20 movies between 1950 and 1958, mostly well-crafted, low-budget thrillers. Opposite such luminaries as Robert Beatty, Jimmy Hanley, John Bentley, Paul Carpenter and Lee Patterson, Anderson was the classy girlfriend who helps the hero solve a murder, usually via a visit to the criminal underground, all within the hour allotted to the film.

According to the Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter, Anderson “had this incredible, porcelain-like face, too beautiful for film … The camera likes angularity, to see the edges, and I think Rona’s face was just too perfect.” Whatever the reason, Anderson made few major movies, though she appeared in many popular television series, such as The Human Jungle (1964), Dr Finlay’s Casebook (1965), Dixon of Dock Green (1966-71) and Bachelor Father (1970-71), and on stage throughout her career. She was also busy in the 1960s, bringing up her two sons with the actor Gordon Jackson, to whom she was married from 1951 until his death in 1990.

For the actor Kenneth Williams, a friend for more than 30 years, the Jacksons were a surrogate family. In an entry in his diary for 8 July 1957, Williams notes: “Gordon & Rona at 7.30 which was as delightful as ever. A sweet most delectable pair whom I enjoy enormously.” Seven years later, the more usually waspish Williams writes: “Went up to see Gordon & Rona. They gave me lunch and I stayed till about five. I had a lovely time. The boys were marvellous. They’re a lovely family.”

Unlike Jackson, for so long the token Scotsman in British war films and action movies, who later found wide fame as the butler Mr Hudson in Upstairs, Downstairs, Anderson had a “posh” English accent – obligatory for British leading actors in the 50s – although she was born, raised and educated in Scotland, with a short time as an evacuee in Ottawa, Canada, during the second world war.

Anderson, born in Edinburgh, started acting at an early age, training at the Glover Turner Robertson School in her home town. From 1945 until 1949, she was a member of the Citizens’ theatre, Glasgow. Her first film role was as one of the passengers in the spy thriller Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948). Her second was opposite her future husband in Floodtide (1949), a romantic drama set and shot mainly on Clydeside.

In the episodic Poet’s Pub (1949), Anderson was Joanna, the daughter of obnoxious Professor Benbow (James Robertson Justice), the nemesis of her poet boyfriend, Saturday Keith (Derek Bond). One of her rare A-pictures was Scrooge (1951), with Alastair Sim in the title role. In a tender scene with George Cole as Scrooge’s earlier self, Anderson plays his one true love, telling him that they must part forever because “another idol has replaced me in your heart. A golden idol.”

In the cold war “quota quickie” spy drama Little Red Monkey (1955), Anderson got the chance to play opposite the Hollywood tough guy Richard Conte. After two tepid pictures in the 1960s – The Bay of St Michel (1963), about the search for Nazi loot, and Devils of Darkness (1965), in which Anderson tangles with vampires in Brittany – she had the role of Miss Lockhart, the chemistry teacher, in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), a rival of Maggie Smith’s Miss Brodie for the attention of the music teacher, Mr Lowther, played by Jackson.

From time to time through her career, Anderson returned to the stage. At the 1960 Edinburgh festival, she appeared in the Scottish poet Sydney Goodsir Smith’s epic historical play The Wallace; she was in the first stage production of Brian Clark’s Whose Life Is It Anyway? at the Mermaid theatre, London, in 1978, in a cast headed by Tom Conti and Jane Asher; and in 1981, she played the mother of Diana, princess of Wales in the Ray Cooney comedy Her Royal Highness …? at the Palace theatre, London, with Marc Sinden as Prince Charles.

Anderson is survived by her two sons, Roddy and Graham.

• Rona Anderson, actor, born 3 August 1926; died 23 July 2013

Her Guardian obituary can be accessed on-line here.

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Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters

Shelley Winter’s obituary by Veronica Horwell from 2006 in “The Guardian”:

Two blondes paid the rent at 8573 Holloway Drive, Los Angeles, a block south of Sunset Boulevard, in 1951. Both were starlets on studio contracts, and they commiserated with each other over the bones in basque bodices, diets and other career impositions. On Saturday mornings, they played classical records and read the accompanying booklets about composers, and once they sat down to list the famous men they dreamed of fucking.

The younger, Marilyn Monroe, listed Albert Einstein and Arthur Miller among her hunks. The wiser woman, Shelley Winters, who has died of heart failure aged 83, stuck to movie studs. She lived to make most of them, and hang out with a couple of Oscars as well.

She was born Shirley Schrift in St Louis, officially in 1922 (though some sources still say 1920) and the family soon moved to Brooklyn. Her father was jailed for arson – and later cleared – when she was nine. On Wednesdays, she would slip into the Broadway theatres to catch the matinees, and as a teenager she competed with half of America for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Director George Cukor bought her a Coke and asked her about her acting ambitions, which were serious.

She worked in Woolworth’s – “I wasn’t pretty enough for the candy department so they put me to work selling hardware” – where she led the other girls in a strike for unrestricted access to toilets. They won, but Woollies would not re-employ her. “I’d have made a damn good union organiser,” she said years later. “Look at the facts. There are no more padlocks on the loos in Woolworth’s.”

She went to acting school, took the advice of her opera singer mother, Rose, and stumped round the borscht circuit; she was appearing in the musical Rosalinda on Broadway in the early 1940s when the president of Colombia Pictures, Harry Cohn, went backstage and said, “Listen kid, you think you could do the same thing in front of a camera?”

Her first screen appearance was in What a Woman! (1943). But it took “Shelley” (from her favourite poet) “Winters” (her mother’s maiden name plus a publicist’s “s”) seven years to “climb out of the studio wastebasket”. She did it by way of lowclass victimhood – as a waitress strangled by Ronald Colman in George Cukor’s A Double Life (1947), a gas station Myrtle run over by Gatsby’s car in The Great Gatsby (1949) and a factory girl drowned by the man who got her pregnant in A Place in the Sun (1951), her first Oscar nomination.

Her southern widow, in The Night of the Hunter (1955), was about as far as Winters could develop that persona: “she has a rich body” is the character’s introduction in the screenplay, although she ends up as a dead body, her hair drifting in the river. As Ian Cameron once wrote, Winters too easily played the female equivalent of Peter Lorre, her quivering pathos inviting martyrdom.

While playing an extra in The Big Knife (1955), she said, “Those lousy studios, they louse you up and then they call you lousy.” She seemed to be describing her relative movie non-progress: she had displayed the clavicles and the lips just fine, but her attitude was too visible.

With her press agent, she began to make herself over into “this personality, a dumb blonde with a body and a set of sayings”. She scripted her own wisecracks (“I did a film in England in the winter and it was so cold I almost got married”). Dylan Thomas had sent her letters, and she had sent him to a shrink who failed to cure the drink; on a visit, she “asked why he’d come to Hollywood, and, very solemnly, he said to touch a starlet’s tits. Ok, I said, but only one finger.” Her other literary buddy, Tennessee Williams, didn’t even peek.

But Winters was also a pro, who studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio, working towards the “ability to reveal myself, the willingness … you act with your scars … if you want the best, you have to fight for it”. In the year of The Night of the Hunter, she left for the Broadway stage, and did not return to cinema until 1959, when she came back a changed woman – her truer self.

“Overeaters anonymous, it’s my only religion,” she said of her expanded flesh. This emphasised her kept-woman-of-the-Hapsburg-empire appearance, although the calorie intake was all-American, her favourite meal being tuna on rye with a chocolate milk shake.

She won an Oscar for her first substantial role in this mother-matron-madam mode for The Diary of Ann Frank (1959), and made the embonpoint and dirty laugh work for her through the 1960s: a slut of a mum in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1963); the racist mom in A Patch of Blue (1965, another best-supporting Academy award); the bordello boss Polly Adler in A House is not a Home (1964) – a variation on her whore-for-intellectuals in The Balcony (1963); a Tommy-gun-wielding Bloody Mama (1970); and a passenger in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Only a few films utilised her ability to distance herself funnily – pulling the alarmed Alfie (1966), or unafraid of falling among Indians in The Scalphunters (1968) because “they’re only men”.

For all her lack of the camera-ready face of her friend Liz Taylor, Winters was desired. Maybe it was that rich body. Her under-age affair with a fellow thespian ended in pregnancy, an abortion and her refusal of a marriage offer because “you’re a bit-part actor and I’m a potential star”. There were three brief marriages: the first, in wartime, was to Paul Mayer, a US army air force captain; the others were to an Italian actor, Vittorio Gassman (with whom she had a daughter) from 1952 to 1954, and an Italian-American actor, Anthony Franciosa, from 1957 to 1960.

Winters published two volumes of autobiography, Shelley, Also Known as Shirley (1980) and Shelley II: The Middle of My Century (1989). In those brash works, she consumed much of the beefcake on that 1951 wish list. “The only way to keep warm in this apartment is to get into bed. My body generates a great deal of heat,” mumbled Marlon Brando. “Fuck me please and send a copy of your speech later,” she demanded of a prosy Burt Lancaster. She ended up in bed five times with William Holden after Christmas studio parties.

Winters thought masculine star attempts at style hilarious, and would say so, with her mink eased off the shoulder and a glass of fizz in hand. She once described how, during a private movie showing at Errol Flynn’s house, a bed slipped into the room, complete with small bar, icebox and the top sheet turned back, as the ceiling mirror rolled away to to reveal the heavens through a magnolia tree in flower. She was more a faux-leopard-skin couch gal herself.

In all, there were 150-odd films (“Have you seen them all, honey?” she inquired of a gushy interviewer), including an artistic production shot in Italy but never released as they lost the soundtrack, and a wicked scene in A Portrait of a Lady (1996), where she nearly upstaged John Gielgud on his “death-bed”. She was a success on Broadway in Minnie’s Boys (1970), playing the mother of the Marx Brothers, had variable reviews for her off-Broadway playwriting debut, One Night Stands of a Noisy Passenger (1970), and recurred as TV sitcom Roseanne Barr’s grandmother in kaftan and watch cap. Roseanne did look and sound as if she had inherited granmaw’s motormouth.

Towards the end, Winters lunched with her camp court almost daily in Los Angeles’s Silver Spoon Schwabs, complaining about the hernias those basques had caused and recalling Marilyn fondly. She transported a visiting journalist around town in her limo – “See,” she said, pointing to her gold star in the pavement, “I’m there with all the communists.”

“I could face respectability over 60,” she confided, secure among multiple chins, fur coats and Impressionist paintings: ” I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful … But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.” She is survived by Jerry DeFord, her companion since the early 1980s and her daughter.

· Shelley Winters (Shirley Schrift), actor, born August 18 1922; died January 14 2006

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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Matt Damon

Matt Damon
Matt Damon

 

TCM overview:

Despite his all-American persona, actor Matt Damon has thrived in roles that ran counter to his mom-and-apple-pie image. Whether playing a combative mathematics genius, a serial killer hunting the rich and famous or a lethal spy unable to recall his identity, Damon built a strong and respected career tackling characters against type. After appearing in several supporting roles, Damon forged his own path with best friend Ben Affleck by writing and starring in “Good Will Hunting” (1997), which earned the duo an Academy Award for Best Screenplay while opening numerous doors. From there, he delivered a brief but acclaimed performance as the titular soldier in “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), followed by a more devious part as a social-climbing killer in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999). Though he stalled a bit with “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (2000) and “All the Pretty Horses” (2000), Damon became a bona fide star by aptly trading one-liners with the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the stylish action comedy “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) and its sequels. But Damon became his own man with “The Bourne Identity” (2002), which allowed him to solo drive a successful action franchise that earned big box-office dollars and critical acclaim across the board. By the time he landed a meaty leading role in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning thriller, “The Departed” (2006), Damon was one of the biggest stars working in Hollywood.

Damon was born on Oct. 8, 1970 in Cambridge, MA and raised in nearby Newton. His father, Kent, was a stockbroker and his mother, Nancy, a professor of early childhood education at Lesley College. When Damon was two years old, his parents divorced, leaving him to be reared by his mother in a commune-style home back in Cambridge. Because of the open and creative environment, Damon developed a taste for artistic endeavors at an early age. Although he acted onstage in school plays and declared his intention to pursue that career when he enrolled at Harvard University, Damon found it difficult at first. He made his feature debut screen with a one-line role of Adam Storke’s younger brother in “Mystic Pizza” (1988). In 1991, Damon ditched Harvard 12 credits shy of his bachelor’s degree in English, choosing instead to co-star opposite Brian Dennehy as a medical school dropout in the made-for-cable movie, “Rising Son” (TNT, 1990).

With his acting career on the rise, he excelled as an anti-Semitic preppie in “School Ties” (1992), but later stated that the competition for the roles in his age range was fierce. Nearly all the young men in “School Ties” had auditioned for the co-starring role in “Scent of a Woman” (also 1992), but that plum role opposite an Oscar-winning Al Pacino went to Chris O’Donnell. In fact, Damon and O’Donnell often competed for roles, with the latter generally winning out. Meanwhile, Damon proved adequate as the narrator of Walter Hill’s revisionist Western “Geronimo: An American Legend” (1993), only to be overshadowed by more seasoned actors, notably Gene Hackman and Wes Studi. On the other hand, he all but pulled the rug out from under Denzel Washington in “Courage Under Fire” (1996), offering a vivid turn as a guilt-ridden veteran of the Persian Gulf War tormented by an incident in battle. He even lost 40 pounds to achieve the gaunt, haunted look of the character.

When he was at Harvard, Damon began writing a script about a troubled mathematics genius with childhood buddy Affleck. They fashioned a screenplay that soon became the talk of Hollywood, with studios bidding competitively for the project. Old friend and director Kevin Smith did his best to get it noticed by the Weinstein brothers at Miramax, going to bat for his two buddies. In 1994, Castle Rock initially purchased the rights for over a half-million dollars in a pay-or-play deal. The story then focused on Will, a South Boston resident with superior intelligence whom the government attempts to recruit. A year later, with the project in turnaround, Miramax purchased the rights and the script evolved to focus more strongly on the emotional difficulties of the leading character. Before “Good Will Hunting” went before the cameras, however, Damon landed his first screen lead as a newly-minted crusading attorney in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of “John Grisham’s ‘The Rainmaker'” (1997). The one-two punch of the two leading roles – undoubtedly assisted by the resulting mythology building for Damon and Affleck as writers and actors – solidified the actor’s status as the so-called “It” boy of 1997, along with Affleck. Earning a Best Actor Academy Award nomination and sharing an Oscar win for Best Screenplay with Affleck only upped his profile and provided Academy Award history with one of its most fairy tale-like moments when, as their respective mothers sat in the audience, the two young men ran cheering to the stage, breathlessly thanking everyone in funny, quick succession. The twosome came off as simply normal guys who had struggled to make it in showbiz and finally hit the big time – something many people could relate to, thus making their win that much sweeter.

Director Stephen Spielberg tapped Damon to play the title role in the World War II epic “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), a film worthy of critical praise for its showy camerawork and impressively staged battle set pieces. As the soldier whose three brothers have been killed in action, the all-American looking Damon was in only the last third of the film, but still managed to make a significant impression. He fared less well as the poker hustler-turned-law student who agrees to help his ex-con best friend in “Rounders” (1998). In this redux of Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” (1974), Damon relied on his winning personality, warm smile and good looks than on his acting ability, giving more of a movie star portrayal than a real performance. Repaying writer-producer-director Kevin Smith for his assistance on “Good Will Hunting,” he joined Affleck to play a pair of fallen angels trying to get back into heaven in the oddly dark comedy, “Dogma” (1999). Damon followed by undertaking the more challenging title role of an American who decides to murder his traveling companion (Jude Law) and assume his identity in Anthony Minghella’s well-crafted “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), resulting in one of the actor’s most intense performance. Newcomer Law received the lion’s share of the spotlight after giving a charming performance, but it was Damon’s obsessive, bespectacled killer who was the glue that held the beautifully shot film together.

Damon’s career hit a brief but worrisome slump with the release of three creative and box office duds in a row: director Robert Redford’s lethargic “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” with Damon as a washed up golf pro opposite wise caddy Will Smith; “All the Pretty Horses,” director Billy Bob Thornton’s failed adaptation of novelist Cormac McCarthy’s romantic Western; and a small supporting turn in Van Sant’s by-the-numbers “Finding Forrester” (2000). The actor recaptured his A-list caché when he joined the all-star cast of Steven Soderbergh’s remake of “Ocean’s Eleven,” playing pick-pocket and aspiring big-time thief, Linus Caldwell, in the popular hit – a role he returned to for the sequels “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007). His next film was a complete about-face from a polished crowd-pleaser: Damon and Casey Affleck starred (and co-wrote) the largely improvised drama “Gerry” (2002), a little-seen effort directed by Van Sant about two men named Gerry who are stranded in the desert during a hiking mishap. Although an intriguing experiment, it proved to be unfit for mainstream audiences.

Over the years, Damon cultivated a reputation as one of the most affable movie actors in Hollywood and frequently collaborated with friends to give their projects a boost. His desire to help others get their careers off the ground led he and Affleck to create the HBO reality series, “Project: Greenlight” (2001-02), which documented and bankrolled untried aspiring filmmakers’ attempts to create a motion picture to be released by Miramax; the show resulted in the films “Stolen Summer” (2002) and “The Battle of Shaker Heights” (2003), both executive produced by Affleck and Damon. The duo also created and produced the short-lived “Push, Nevada” (ABC, 2002-03), an interactive mystery show that gave viewers the chance to solve the crime and win $1 million. Damon also had a cameo in films by his friend, Kevin Smith, including “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001) and “Jersey Girl” (2004); and in films from his “Ocean’s Eleven” collaborators, including “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2002); and up-and-coming filmmaker pals, such as the creators of the comedy “Eurotrip” (2004). As a voice actor, Damon lend his distinctive vocals to the films “Titan A.E.” (2000), “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron” (2002), “The Majestic” (2001), and “Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” (2004).

Demonstrating his increasing diversity and believability, Damon took on the role of the amnesiac über-spy Jason Bourne in the film adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s sprawling espionage novel, “The Bourne Identity” (2002), a crackerjack thriller that did solid box office business and became a mega-hit on home video. The actor would reprise the role for the equally well-crafted but ultimately unsatisfying sequel “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004). Demonstrating a flair for goofball comedy, Damon delivered a wickedly funny turn on the small screen as Jack’s scheming rival to join the gay men’s chorus in a 2002 episode of the hit NBC sitcom “Will & Grace;” a role he reprised the following season. Damon next literallyjoined Greg Kinnear to play one-half of a pair of conjoined twins in the flawed but still winning comedy, “Stuck On You” (2003), a silly romp from the Farrelly Brothers that proved to be a rare miss for the filmmaking duo.

His next film cast him opposite Heath Ledger as a fictionalized version of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, the Bavarian fairy tale spinners known as “The Brothers Grimm” (2005), reimagined by director Terry Gilliam as a pair of curse-removing con artists who are suddenly tasked with solving a genuine mystery that will ultimately inspire their famous stories. Damon showed a great deal of panache and charisma as practical scoundrel Wilhelm, but the story ultimately left him too little to do; the film itself lacked the spark and imagination expected of a Gilliam project. Behind the scenes, Damon was credited with frequently playing peacemaker between the embattled Gilliam and the films’ producers, the Weinstein brothers. At the end of that year Damon delivered a fine turn in the complex potboiler, “Syriana” (2005), playing an oil industry analyst living a comfortable life in Geneva until the death of his son while visiting an oil-rich country, drives him to obsession with helping the country’s benevolent prince (Alexander Siddig) raise his nation with sound business dealings.

Damon next joined an all-star cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson for “The Departed” (2006), playing a hardened criminal employed by a crime syndicate who infiltrates the police while his counterpart (DiCaprio) on the force g s undercover in the mob. Based on the excellent Hong Kong action thriller, “Infernal Affairs” (2002) and directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Departed” earned a huge helping critical kudos prior to its release as well as several Academy Award wins. In “The Good Shepherd” (2006), a historical look at the beginnings of the CIA, Damon played Edward Wilson, a bright, idealistic Yale student recruited by the OSS to work intelligence during World War II. While later helping to form the CIA, he becomes disenfranchised during the heightened suspicions and deep-rooted paranoia of the Cold War. In 2007, Damon revived two favorite characters for a second time, appearing as Linus Caldwell in the much-improved “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007), and Jason Bourne for “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), who comes out of retirement to defeat arch rival, The Jackal, in a once-and-for-all showdown.

In 2009, Damon made a cameo appearance on the hit Hollywood sitcom, “Entourage” (HBO, 2004-2011), playing a hyper-real version of himself in an effort to pressure Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) into donating money to his real-life charity, OneXOne, only to grow more and more angry as Vince continues to avoid him. Back in features, he reunited with Steven Soderbergh to star in “The Informant!” (2009), a dark political comedy in which he portrayed Mark Whitacre, a former high-ranking executive at Archer Daniels Midland who blew the whistle on the company’s illegal price-fixing scheme, only to find himself in trouble with the FBI himself when they discover he has embezzled $9 million. The role earned Damon a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in Musical or Comedy. He next starred in “Invictus” (2009), director Clint Eastwood’s compelling sports drama about how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with South African rugby star Francois Pienaar (Damon) to unite their country. Damon earned his second Golden Globe nomination that year, this time for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, as well as Screen Actors Guild and Oscar nominations in the supporting category.

After reteaming with Greengrass for the war thriller “Green Zone” (2010), Damon played a factory worker who communicates with the dead in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” (2010). Also that year, he delivered a fine performance as Texas Ranger La Boeuf, who joins a determined 14-year-old (Hailee Steinfeld) and a gruff bounty hunter (Jeff Bridges) in tracking down a notorious gunman (Josh Brolin) in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-nominated Western, “True Grit” (2010). In a rare small screen turn, Damon played the pilot boyfriend of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) in episodes of “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-2013), which earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. He also served as the narrator for “Inside Job” (2010), the Academy Award-winning documentary that explored the root causes and high-level players involved in the 2008 economic crisis that revealed widespread corruption by U.S. financial services. The following year, Damon starred in “The Adjustment Bureau” (2011), a romantic thriller about a man fighting for his own destiny that was loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “The Adjustment Team.” The film proved to be a moderate hit with both critics and audiences.

Not done by a long shot, Damon had much more to offer that year. He reteamed with Soderbergh once more for a 21st-century update of the disaster movie with “Contagion” (2011), in which he played a father desperately trying to save what remains of his family after a deadly pandemic rapidly depopulates the earth. On a lighter note, he lent his voice to the microbial Bill the Krill, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery with his pal Will (Pitt) in director George Miller’s animated sequel “Happy Feet Two” (2011). The industrious actor then capped off the year by starring in director Cameron Crowe’s endearing comedy-drama “We Bought a Zoo” (2011), the story about a man and his family whose recently purchased home contains a fully stocked zoo that has fallen into disrepair. Clearly catching his breath, Damon had a relatively quiet 2012, with his only feature release of the year being “Promising Land,” another thoughtful collaboration with Van Sant-this time focusing on the issue of fracking in a script that he co-wrote with fellow star John Krasinski. In 2013, Damon portrayed the gay lover of Liberace (Michael Douglas) in Soderbergh’s esteemed HBO TV movie, “Behind the Candelabra.” Shifting gears radically, he next endured futuristic slum life and being turned into a weapon of class warfare in the high-concept film “Elysium” (2013), remarkably the actor’s first live-action outing to fall unquestionalbly into clear-cut science-fiction territory.

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Glenn Close

Glenn Close
Glenn Close

 

TCM overview:

Seemingly born atop the Hollywood A-list, actress Glenn Close established herself as one of the finest performers of her generation – or any other, for that matter – with her first film, “The World According to Garp” (1982), for which she earned the first of several Oscar nominations. For the rest of the 1980s, Close quickly became a top leading lady who eventually achieved infamy with her portrayal of a psychotic woman avenging a lost affair in one of the decade’s most notorious movies, “Fatal Attraction” (1987). Unlike most film stars, however, Close was more than happy to oscillate from the big screen to television to Broadway; often with even more critical and award success. She played Queen Gertrude to Mel Gibson’s “Hamlet” (1990) and voiced Cruella de Vil in the animated classic, “101 Dalmatians” (1996). Close earned critical acclaim as well as Tony Awards for her work on Broadway in “Death and the Maiden” (1992) and the musical “Sunset Boulevard” (1994). Following quality turns in “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” (2000) and “Nine Lives” (2005), Close was Emmy-nominated for her portrayal of Capt. Monica Rawling on season four of “The Shield” (FX, 2002-08). But it was her performances as high-stakes litigator Patty Hewes on “Damages” (FX/Audience Network, 2007- ) that proved to be her most significant small screen role. Regardless of the medium, Close remained one of Hollywood’s premier actresses.

Born on March 19, 1947 in tony Greenwich, CT, Close was raised one of four children in an upper-middle class family headed by William Close, a surgeon whose affiliation with the conservative salvation group Moral Re-Armament led him to relocate the family to the Belgian Congo where he ran several medical clinics. At the time, Close was 13 years old and subsequently received her education at boarding schools in Switzerland, followed by Choate Rosemary Hall back in Greenwich. During high school, she took an interest in theater, joining a repertory group called The Fingernails. After she graduated, Close spent several years touring with the folk-singing group Up With People, before leaving to attend the drama school at William and Mary in Virginia. Close graduated late from William and Mary – she was 27 years-old – but immediately found work in New York City with the Ph nix Theatre Company, appearing in “Love for Love” and “The Member of the Wedding.” Close was cast as Mary Tudor in the Richard Rodgers’ musical “Rex” (1976), then jumped to television, making her small screen debut as a homewrecker in the made for television movie, “Too Far to Go” (NBC, 1979).

Close made her breakthrough on Broadway with a supporting role in the musical “Barnum” (1980), playing the patient wife of the famed 19th century showman. Thanks to her performance, acclaimed director George Roy Hill became aware of Close – he was attracted to her sense of composure, the exact quality he was looking for in an actress to play Jenny Fields in “The World According to Garp” (1982). Though nervous about starring in her first feature after years on stage, Close nonetheless was spot-on in her performance as the prim, hard-nosed mother of an aspiring novelist (Robin Williams), whose own novel about her life raising a son as a single mother becomes a feminist rallying cry. Due to her impressive work, Close earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, triggering a run for several Oscar nods in the 1980s – including three consecutive – that ultimately netted zero wins. She next co-starred in the Baby Boomer ensemble comedy-drama “The Big Chill” (1983), earning her second Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as one of seven college friends gathered together to reminisce after the suicide of one of their own.

A third Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role followed her performance in “The Natural” (1984), starring as the childhood sweetheart of a former bush league ballplayer (Robert Redford) finally getting his chance to play in the big leagues. Returning to Broadway, Close won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Mike Nichols’ staging of Tom Stoppard’s romantic comedy, “The Real Thing.” With firm footing on stage, television and the silver screen, Close was able to alternate between the three throughout the 1980s, all the while attempting to undertake parts with depth on her path to becoming one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies. In the groundbreaking TV special “Something About Amelia” (ABC, 1984), Close played a woman who gradually comes to realize her husband (Ted Danson) has been having sex with their daughter (Roxanne Zal). She kept alive her award nomination streak, earning a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special. Her status as a lead actress was confirmed with a solid performance as a lawyer romantically entangled with a client in “Jagged Edge” (1985) and as a woman sharing her home and her body with a ghost of a silent film star (Ruth Gordon) in “Maxie” (1985).

While she steadily earned a reputation as an actress of the highest caliber, Close gained a great deal of notoriety for what became her most controversial role. In “Fatal Attraction” (1987), Adrian Lyne’s dynamic and enormously successful psychological thriller, Close achieved infamy playing Alex Forrest, an obsessive woman with whom a family man (Michael Douglas) engages in a one night stand when the wife and kids are away. When the married man tries to break off the affair, Alex starts to terrorize him and his family in a bizarre and psychotic attempt to win back his affections. For two-thirds of the film, “Fatal Attraction” was a compelling look at the cause and effect of infidelity, until the final third when it digressed into standard revenge thriller territory, complete with a double-scare death scene straight from the horror movie cliché handbook. It was later revealed that Lyne was forced to reshoot the original ending – which depicted Alex committing suicide and framing the cheating husband for murder – after test audiences rejected it. Close later expressed her disappointment with the reshoot, claiming that her portrayal of a damaged, but sympathetic character was undermined by the more fantastical redo. Nonetheless, Close earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role and a whole lot of notoriety, as people often acted afraid of her on the streets, so powerful and frightening was her portrayal.

Close followed her “Fatal Attraction” performance as a sexually manipulative aristocrat in the “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988), which again earned her a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She brought surprising sympathy to the role of the pathetic, frivolous society matron Sunny von Bulow in the darkly humorous “Reversal of Fortune” (1990), then proved rather effective as a youthful Gertrude to Mel Gibson’s mature “Hamlet” (1990). In 1991, Close made her first foray into TV movie-producing with “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (CBS, 1991), a touching drama that depicted Close as a woman who answers a widowed farmer’s newspaper ad for a new wife and mother to his two children. Close earned two Emmy Award nominations; one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special; the other, as a producer for Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special and Miniseries. Back on stage, she won her second Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in the politically charged “Death and the Maiden” (1992), though she subsequently lost out to Sigourney Weaver when the play was adapted to film.

Because of the popularity and success of “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” Close revived her role of replacement wife and mother in “Skylark” (CBS, 1993). On the big screen, Close seemed to be settling into a bit of a rut, starring in “House of the Spirits” (1993), a sweeping melodrama that tried in vain to mimic the sexual tensions of “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Reversal of Fortune.” She bounced back with “The Paper” (1984), playing the power-hungry publisher of a New York City tabloid that is host to an assorted cast of characters, including a beleaguered editor (Michael Keaton) struggling between family and career, an editor (Robert Duvall) with prostate cancer, and an alcoholic columnist (Randy Quaid) who winds up passing out on the couch. Attempting her first leading musical role, Close played silent screen star Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical “Sunset Boulevard.” In reincarnating this larger-than-life character immortalized onscreen by Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic, Close achieved a personal and creative triumph, though not without controversy. Patti LuPone, who originated the role in London, had been slated for the Broadway production. But Close received better reviews for her characterization in Los Angeles, leading to her taking over the New York production. Though some critics found fault with her singing and over-the-top acting, Close nonetheless won her third Tony Award for Best Actress.

On the heels of her Tony triumph, Close won her first Emmy for her nuanced portrayal of a real-life U.S. Army colonel who disclosed her lesbianism and fought to stay in the military in “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” (NBC, 1995). Perhaps as a nod to Norma Desmond, Close chewed the scenery as a Nancy Reagan-like first lady in Tim Burton’s ode to 1950s sci-fi B-movies, “Mars Attacks!” (1996). She carried the Desmond vibe over to her depiction of Cruella De Vil in Disney’s live action take on the cartoon classic, “101 Dalmatians” (1996), a role she also reprised in the sequel “102 Dalmatians” (2000). Close delivered an emotional performance as a mother whose AIDS-afflicted son has come home to die in “In the Gloaming” (HBO, 1997), a role that earned her a fifth Emmy Award nomination. After playing a female prisoner of war in “Paradise Road” (1997), she was a U.S. vice president coping with the kidnapping of the president in Wolfgang Petersen’s goofy action thriller, “Air Force One” (1997).

After a third go-round playing a fill-in wife and mother in “Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s Edge” (CBS, 1999), Close further proved her ability for depicting forceful women in Robert Altman’s sunny ensemble comedy “Cookie’s Fortune” (1999), playing the niece of a widowed family matriarch (Patricia Neal) who discovers her body after a suicide and rearranges the death scene to make it look like a murder. In “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” (2000), Rodrigo Garcia’s engaging anthology of loosely connected stories about five very different women dealing with various life problems, Close played a successful physician in the segment “This is Dr. Keener,” who cares for an ailing mother while contending with her own loneliness. When a remarkably accurate tarot card reader (Calista Flockhart) makes a house call, Dr. Keener begins to assess the true emptiness of her own condition.

Despite Close’s venerable career as a lead actress, she recognized that major roles were harder to come by for an actress her age. Further retreating into independent and low-budget films seemed to confirm that her time as a top box office draw was at an end. She did, however, experience a rebirth on television, where she once again found challenging roles. In “The Ballad of Lucy Whipple” (CBS, 2001), Close played a widowed mother of three who travels to California during the Gold Rush of 1850 to start a new life, clashing with her spirited 13-year-old daughter who d s not share her mother’s dream. Meanwhile, she tackled the role of Nelly Forbush in an adaptation of the famed musical “South Pacific” (ABC 2001); had a hilariously high camp guest spot as an eccentric photographer on “Will & Grace” (NBC, 1998-2006), which earned her yet another Emmy nod; and starred in “Brush with Fate” (CBS, 2003), an adaptation of Susan Vreelands’ collection of stories that trace the history and ownership of what may be an undiscovered painting by 17th century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer.

Back on the big screen, she essayed a couple of supporting roles, appearing as a dutiful mother obsessively tending to her comatose son in “The Safety of Objects” (2001), then as an American academic in Paris who quietly observes her naive assistant (Kate Hudson) have an affair with a married Frenchman in “Le Divorce” (2003). In 2005, Close tackled a role made famous by Katharine Hepburn, playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter” (Showtime, 2004), the wife of King Henry II (Patrick Stewart) who is newly released from prison after staging a coup. Close earned her first Golden Globe Award for this dynamic portrayal, winning the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television. She also chalked up Best Actress wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Emmys. Close followed with a part in the ensemble “Strip Search” (HBO, 2004), a look at how crime and punishment had changed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Taking a rare foray into a full-blown comedy, Close grandly hit all the right notes as too-perfect Claire Wellington, the grand dame of the Stepford society of subservient spouses in the otherwise failed satirical remake of the thriller, “The Stepford Wives” (2004). The actress then took on her first regular role in a television series, joining the cast of the gritty crime drama “The Shield” (FX, 2002-08) in its fourth season, playing the shrewd new precinct commander Capt. Monica Rawling, who offered redemption to the series’ antihero Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). Producers credited a 30 percent rise in viewers due to her presence, but the actress chose to depart at the conclusion of her first season so she could be closer to her East Coast family. Nonetheless, she earned heaps of critical praise, the admiration of the regular cast, and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2005. Stepping back into the more comfortable realm of character-driven drama, she appeared in the weighty “Heights” (2005), playing the mother of a New York City photographer (Elizabeth Banks) who begins to rethink her open marriage, while her daughter has second thoughts about her pending nuptials with her lawyer fiancé (James Marsden).

Comfortable shifting from television to film, as she had been throughout most of her career, Close gave a typically strong performance in the ensemble anthology “Nine Lives” (2005), playing a widowed mother whose life has been taken over by her precocious young daughter (Dakota Fanning). After matriarchal supporting roles in “The Chumscrubber” (2005) and “Evening” (2007), Close made a triumphant return to series television with “Damages” (FX, 2007- ), playing the simultaneously revered and reviled Patty Hewes, a high-stakes litigator in New York City who takes on a bright and ambitious protégé (Rose Byrne) during a major class action lawsuit targeting a ruthless corporate CEO (Ted Danson). Hewes shows her protégé exactly what it takes to win at all costs, making it clear that often fortunes – and lives – are at stake. Close’s gritty portrayal earned the actress a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama and an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, both in 2008. Close repeated the triumph when she won the Emmy in the same category the following year. While “Damages” found new life on the Audience Network after being let go by FX, Close found the time to return to movies. She starred in Rodrigo García’s indie drama, “Albert Nobbs” (2011), in which she played a 19th century woman who disguises herself as a man to gain employment in poverty-stricken Ireland, only spend the next 30 years growing increasingly confused about her own identity. The role earned Close a Oscar and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Actress.

Thed above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

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Tony Hadley

Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley

 

“Mirror” article on Tony Hadley from 2013:

The singer says that at the height of his fame the only way he could trust himself to stay faithful to his first wife Leonie was to go on bender

Eighties heartthrob Tony ­Hadley had so many offers from besotted fans he would drink himself into oblivion to resist the temptation of sleeping with them.

The Spandau Ballet singer says that at the height of his fame the only way he could trust himself to stay faithful to his first wife Leonie was to go on benders.

“There were always so many beautiful women throwing themselves at us,” he says. “One time we had 40 models in our hotel suite – someone had called an agency and invited them along.

“We were mobbed everywhere we went and it was tough to resist all that temptation, so the best thing to do was get so p***** I couldn’t have done anything anyway.”

He tells how at the time he had a young family and wanted to “uphold certain standards”.

Tony’s marriage to Leonie, mum of his three oldest children, eventually broke up – but he says he never strayed during the band’s heyday.

Now happily married to PR girl Alison Evers, the 53-year-old pop legend has two more children, Zara, six, and Genevieve, 17 months.

Despite having been in the business for 30 years now, he reveals how he is still faced with endless temptation.

“Charity ladies days are wild,” he says, laughing. “Me and Davina McCall both support Action Medical Research and during events we’re on the top table.

“It’s like a wedding except all the other tables are full of 250 housewives who like to lunch.

“They start off very demurely and they’re all dressed to the nines. But then all of a sudden the wine starts flowing and the volume levels become unbelievable. They’ve been known to raid the stage when I start singing.

“No one’s ever actually given me their keys, but I have had women say, ‘How about it?’ It’s definitely not my idea of fun.”

But while Tony has never enjoyed that aspect of rock ’n’ roll life, he does admit he wasn’t a total saint.

“I went over the edge when I was in the band,” he says. “I did a lot of crazy things when I’d been drinking. One time, in a hotel, I tried to jump off one balcony to another balcony and the guys had to catch me as I was about to leap off. I’d have died if I’d jumped.

“Another time I jumped, drunk of course, on to a ­moving sports car and rolled across the bonnet and dented it.

“I’m lucky the guy didn’t shoot me.”

He says he did manage to resist drugs though, adding: “I’ve been offered them loads of times but I’ve never touched them. I’m fascinated by what makes people want to take drugs.

“When you see someone snorting a line off a toilet seat, it’s gross. And I don’t get how you can tie a band around your arm and inject yourself.”

With fellow bandmates Gary and Martin Kemp, Steve Norman and John Keeble, Tony had 23 hit singles, including True, Gold and Through The Barricades. Spandau Ballet sold 20 million albums worldwide.

But the band split acrimoniously in 1990 and a huge battle over songwriting royalties ended up in the High Court in 1999. Tony and the Kemp brothers didn’t speak to each other for a decade. The band eventually reunited in 2009.

“Twenty years of harbouring grudges, and 10 of not even talking was weird,” says Tony. “Looking back I wish we’d never let it get to that stage. We were just 16 when we got together, and as you get older you become less confrontational. If I had my time again, I’d have handled things ­differently.”

The first time round for the band, Tony would get bras and knickers thrown at him. Now he says it’s red roses and, ­bizarrely, cookies.

“I said once I liked chocolate chip cookies and now I get full packets of them thrown at me on stage,” he reveals. “I wish I’d said it was Cartier watches.

“Fans used to write love letters to me, but I haven’t had any marriage ­proposals.”

That’s just as well or Ali might have had something to say about it.

“She keeps me in line,” he laughs. “And having children at my age keeps me young. Zara is bouncing off the walls and full of energy, and Genevieve is on the go from the minute she wakes up.

“When I met Ali I was torn about whether I wanted more kids or not, but then you fall in love and it happens and it’s great. Having five children is like, ‘Wow’.”

Being a dad to young kids at his age puts him in the perfect position to comment on Simon Cowell’s impending fatherhood. “Simon is a great guy and will be a fantastic dad,” he says. “He’s the same age as me, and he’ll have plenty of energy.

“I’ve met Simon a few times through the charity work he does, and he’s great with kids. Zara loves him.

“He has a fantastic rapport with children.

“People say 53 is too old to be a dad, but I don’t think so. It’s the input you have that counts, and you’re more experienced and worldly-wise.”

With plans to release a new solo album in the autumn and tour dates lined up for October, Tony still finds time to be a hands-on dad.

He admits things were different when his older kids – Tom, 29, Toni, 26, and Mackenzie, 22 – were little.

“I’m around a lot more now because I’ve stopped doing the block tours I did with Spandau,” he says.

“Although when the album comes out I’m going to be promoting that and I’ll be in Australia and New Zealand.

“But generally I have a lot more quality home time as I’m not going off for months and months. I want to appreciate every moment with the kids now as they’re only young for a finite amount of time.”

Tony’s fans these days aren’t the hysterical teens they once were. “The majority of my fans are 30-plus,” he says. “But I have some who are in their late 60s.

“On the other side, I also get kids who are 17 or 18 who are into the whole 80s thing and like tracks like Gold.

“The reaction was incredible after it was played at the Olympics last year, but even I was sick to death of it in the end.” Tony has made no secret of the fact that he’s a big fan himself of One Direction. “They should take advantage of the money, fame and girls, and fill their boots,” he says.

While he admits that watching Harry Styles and co makes him nostalgic, he says he is happier now than he was back in the early days of his career.

“Life has come good for me,” he says. “I have a beautiful family and a great career, and I’m actually earning more now than I was in the 80s.

“When I’m asked, ‘Do you have any regrets?’ I always say, ‘No, I don’t have any’.”

The above “Mirror” article can also be accessed online here.

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Michael Socha

Michael Socha
Michael Socha

 

IMDB entry:
Michael Socha was born on December 13, 1987 in Derby. He is an actor best known for his role as Tom in Being Human (2008). His parents Robert Socha and Kathleen Lyons are Jewish, his grandparents immigrated from Poland during World War 2.

Socha was a rebellious pupil who often skipped school. At the age of 11 Michael unsuccessfully auditioned for the lead role in a school musical play, but won the lead role of Bugsy Malone in another play years later.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

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James McAvoy

James McAvoy
James McAvoy

IMDB entry:

McAvoy was raised in Drumchapel, Glasgow, by his grandparents after his father, also called James and a roofer by trade, abandoned his mother when James Jr. was 7. He went to St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Jordanhill, Glasgow, where he did well enough and started “a little school band with a couple of mates”.

McAvoy toyed with the idea of the Catholic priesthood as a child but when he was 16, a visit to the school by actor David Hayman sparked an interest in acting. Hayman offered him a part in his film The Near Room (1995) but despite enjoying the experience McAvoy didn’t seriously consider acting as a career, though he did continue to act as a member of PACE Youth Theatre. He applied instead to the Royal Navy and had already been accepted when he was also offered a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

He took the place at RSAMD and when he graduated in 2000, he moved to London. He’d already made a couple of TV appearances by this time and continued to get a steady stream of TV and movie work until he came to British public attention in 2004 playing Steve McBride in the successful UK TV series Shameless (2004) and then to the rest of the world in 2005 as Mr Tumnus in Disney’s adaptation of ‘C. S. Lewis”s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).

Since then he and his easy facility with accents (no, wait, what? he’s Scottish?) have been much in demand.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: IMDb Editors

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Harry Guardino

Harry Guardino
Harry Guardino

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:

Virile Brooklyn-born actor Harry Guardino, with dark, wavy hair and a perpetual worried look on his craggy-looking mug, started out in the acting school of hard knocks, slumming for nearly a decade in small, obscure ‘tough guy’ film parts in the early to mid 50s. A definite man’s man, he finally attracted some attention on the Broadway stage with “A Hatful of Rain” (1956) and was nominated for a Tony for “One More River” in 1960. By then, juicier film roles began to gravitate his way, stealing the thunder out from under Cary Grant and Sophia Loren as a comic handyman in Houseboat (1958). Harry went on to play other brash guys with and without a comic edge to them in both crime and war stories such as Pork Chop Hill (1959), 5 Branded Women (1960), Hell Is for Heroes (1962), Madigan (1968), Dirty Harry (1971) and The Enforcer (1976), the last two pairing up with Clint Eastwood. He even played “Barabbas” in the classic bible epic King of Kings (1961) for a change of pace and scenery. More and more, however, TV became Harry’s favorite medium. He portrayed district attorney “Hamilton Burger” in the 70s revival series of “Perry Mason” and co-starred in dozens of grim, rugged mini-movies often as a street-smart cop. Not so true to nature, he found an unlikely outlet in musical theatre in later years, going on to star in productions of “Woman of the Year” and “Chicago”. A solid, durable, all-round actor, he died of lung cancer in 1995 at age 69.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

“Independent” obituary by David Shipman:
Harry Guardino will be best remembered on this side of the Atlantic for his Lieutenant Bressler, the permanently perplexed superior officer of Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Dirty Harry (1971) and The Enforcer (1976), one of the several sequels. Given that Callahan’s methods of handling both crooks and his fellow officers was anything but orthodox, Bressler had every reason to be worried.

Guardino owed his role in the first of these to the director, Don Siegel, who had originally cast him Hell is for Heroes (1962), as the decent sergeant who gets killed (the film was set in France in 1944). Siegel used him again in Madigan (1968), as Rocky Bonaro, assistant to another eccentric police detective (Richard Widmark). Bonaro had found him easier to handle than Callahan – amused and tolerant and fiercely loyal, but inclined to be edgy when he’s reminded of his lesser status.

Guardino was an engaging actor, always convincing but typecast in movies and television: of the 50 or so roles he played in both media all but a dozen were top cops, men of integrity – so much so that it seems strange to come across him in another 1968 movie, The Hell with Heroes, in which he played a ruthless racketeer, or in Any Which Way You Can (1980), an Eastwood vehicle in which Guardino is a New York mobster.

He made his movie debut in Flesh and Fury (1952), in which Tony Curtis played a prizefighter, but was not really noticed till he was seen being understandably impressed by Sophie Loren’s physique in Houseboat (1958), directed by Melville Shavelson. As the boat’s Italian owner (and handyman) he stole every scene in which he appeared; Shavelson cast him as the band player who befriends Red Nichols (Danny Kaye) in The Five Pennies (1959), and in 1961 Guardino played Barabbas in King of Kings (1961).

Throughout this period he commuted between Hollywood and the television studios (such series as Dr Kildare, The Untouchables, The Dick Powell Show and a dozen television movies). He first appeared on Broadway in End as a Man (1953), followed a year later by A Hatful of Rain. With his movie successes under his belt he returned to star in the Stephen Sondheim / Arthur Laurents musical Anyone Can Whistle (1964), playing a visiting physician recruited by the mayoress, Angela Lansbury, to help her solve the town’s problems. Lee Remick was also in the cast, and it was the first musical for the three of them, if for only nine performances. The reviews indicated some self-indulgence, to which Sondheim later admitted, but because of the recording made the day after it closed it is probably the biggest “cult” item of all failed shows.

Guardino was to have better luck in his second musical, but in the meantime he was on Broadway in The Rose Tattoo (1966), in which Maureen Stapleton reprised the role she had first played in 1951. He was less happily employed in another Tennessee Williams play in 1968, The Seven Descents of Myrtle, as the dying Lot whose new wife, Estelle Parsons, dallies dangerously with his despised brother, Chicken, played by Brian Bedford – an odd concoction of bizarre obsessions and incestuous passions which moves dangerously close to self-parody.

In 1981 he was in a musical with Lauren Bacall, Woman of the Year, based on the Tracy-Hepburn movie of 1942, about two journalists of opposing tastes and views who embark on a stormy marriage. Once, when asked why the lady didn’t get top-billing, Tracy replied “This is a movie, not a lifeboat, dunderhead”; in this case Bacall was billed above the title and Guardino below: but as with their predecessors this was not a barrier to a close friendship during the Broadway run and the tour.

David Shipman

His “Independent” obituary can be accessed online here.

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Eli Wallach

Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach

Eli Wallach dies at the age of 98 in June 2014.

Tom Vallance’s “Independent” obituary:

An accomplished star of screen, stage and television, and a practitioner of the “method” style of acting, Eli Wallach will be best remembered for his roles in two classic Westerns: as Calvera, the leader of the terrorising bandit gang in The Magnificent Seven (1960), and as wily outlaw Tuco in Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), but his diverse gallery of memorable characters included his role as the prospective seducer of the child-like bride in Elia Kazan’s sensational Baby Doll (1956), the actor’s screen debut at the age of 40, which won him a Bafta award as “best newcomer”.

His numerous other screen roles included one of the cowboys whose time has passed in The Misfits (1961) with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and Don Altobello in The Godfather Part III (1990). Television roles included Mr Freeze in the popular series Batman in the 1960s (“I received more fan mail about that role than all my others put together”), and in 1954 London theatregoers saw him in the West End as the star of the hit comedy, The Teahouse of the August Moon at Her Majesty’s Theatre. He was still acting in 2010, when at the age of 94 he appeared in Roman Polanski’s The Ghost.

Wallach was born in 1915 in Brooklyn, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants who ran a confectionary store. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1936 with a degree in history; while there he acted in a play with future stars Ann Sheridan and Walter Cronkite. He also learnt to ride a horse, a skill that would later prove useful.

He went on to study at City College of New York where in 1938 he received a master’s degree in education. He also began to attend the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, where he studied under Sanford Meisner and first encountered the method style of acting.

During the Second World War, he served in the army, in a military medical unit. On his return to New York, he became one of the first members of the Actors’ Studio, alongside Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. When Marilyn Monroe joined the Studio, Wallach became a close friend, and later worked with her in The Misfits, stating, “I’ll say this about Marilyn; she makes every male think that she is trapped in the castle tower and each one of them will rescue her. That was her ability to capture the male imagination.”

Wallach made his Broadway debut in Harry Kleiner’s Skydrift (1945), as the crew chief of seven paratroopers killed while flying a mission over Japan then granted one last visit to their loved ones. The fantasy ran for only seven performances, after which Wallach was part of the short-lived American Repertory Theatre in 1946 productions of King Henry VIII (as Thomas Cromwell) and Androcles and the Lion (as Spintho).

In 1948 he co-starred with actress Anne Jackson in an off-Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s This Property is Condemned. “We had a few arguments about how the roles should be played”, he related. “We settled it all by getting married.” The couple, who frequently worked together on stage, had three children together.

He was a sailor in the hit play, Mister Roberts (1949), but his first major triumph was his superb depiction of an earthy Sicilian truck-driver opposite Maureen Stapleton in Williams’s The Rose Tattoo (1951), for which he won the best actor Tony award. He returned to Williams for his role as a fighter in Camino Real (1953), and after starring in London as the mischievous Oriental interpreter in John Patrick’s comedy The Teahouse of the August Moon, he took over the role in the Broadway production.

One of the most controversial incidents in Wallach’s career came when he was cast as army private Angelo Maggio in the film From Here to Eternity (1953). He was abruptly replaced by Frank Sinatra shortly before filming commenced, and although Wallach later claimed that he turned the role down to appear in Camino Real, more sinister rumours – involving Sinatra’s Mafia connections – have always persisted.

Elia Kazan, a mentor since his days at the Actors’ Studio, gave him his first movie role in Baby Doll, that of a cotton-gin owner who spends a provocative day with the child bride (“under-age and over-developed”) of his rival. Set in a particularly sleazy South, the film was described by Time magazine as “just possibly the dirtiest American picture ever legally exhibited”, but received four Oscar nominations and won Wallach the Bafta award as best newcomer.

He returned to the UK in 1957 to appear in Rudolph Cartier’s production of Elmer Rice’s gripping drama, Counsellor at Law for BBC Television’s Sunday Night Theatre, after which he lectured in Rome with Anna Magnani before returning to New York to play a 95-year-old man in an off-Broadway version of Ionesco’s The Chairs.

Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Murray Schisgal’s absurdist comedy Luv were further examples of Wallach’s enthusiasm for the off-beat rather than the safe choice.

Despite having once said that “Movies, by comparison to the stage, are like calendar art next to great paintings”, he made more than 70 films, including Henry Hathaway’s splendid caper movie Seven Thieves (1960), with Rod Steiger and Joan Collins; How the West Was Won (1962), as another villainous outlaw; Lord Jim (1965), as a wicked feudal war lord; How to Steal a Million (1966, a comedy in which he was Audrey Hepburn’s fiancé and an obsessive art collector), The Deep (1977); The Two Jakes (1990); and Night and the City (1992). In 1995 he narrated the documentary Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey, and his last screen role was that of a respected financier in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010).

Wallach, who was given an honorary Academy Award in 2010, once said, “Acting is the most delicious experience in life. When I’m supposed to be feeling despair on the stage, what I really feel is that I’m sitting on top of the world.”

T

The above “Independent” obituary can also be accessed online here.

TCM overview{

One of the most respected actors in American performance, Eli Wallach’s career never quite matched his long list of stage credits in terms of quality, but he had nevertheless contributed some memorable characters to film. Movieg rs knew him best for a pair of similar characters – the cruel Mexican bandit Calvera, whose raids on a poor village prompt the formation of “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), and as the scheming, scene-stealing Tuco in Sergio Leone’s groundbreaking spaghetti Western, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (1967). But Wallach’s career stretched back a decade prior and continued on well into the 21st century, during which he played almost every ethnic type and moral stripe under the sun. While his record on the big screen remained spotty, Wallach thrived on television with an Emmy-winning performance in “The Poppy is a Flower” (ABC, 1966) and a campy turn as Mr. Freeze on “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68). Over the years, he remained under the radar while performing onstage or in lesser-known pictures, only to resurface in projects like the revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1978), the acclaimed miniseries “The Executioner’s Song” (NBC, 1982) and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather III” (1990), in which he had a memorable scene as a mobster who dies while eating poisoned cannoli. By the time the nonagenarian delivered award-worthy small screen performances on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (NBC, 2006-07) and “Nurse Jackie” (Showtime, 2009- ), Wallach’s place as one of Hollywood’s most venerated character performers had been assured.

Born Eli Herschel Wallach on Dec. 7, 1915 in Brooklyn, NY, he made his performing debut as part of an amateur production while still in high school. At some point in his early life, Wallach lost the sight in his right eye, the result of a hemorrhage (Wallach was vague about the date in his autobiography). After gaining a BA from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters’ degree in education from the City College of New York, Wallach earned a scholarship to New York’s prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse, where he first cut his teeth on the Method style of acting. After graduation in 1940, he landed a smattering of minor stage roles before WWII intervened; he joined the Army in 1941 and served as a medical administrative officer, being dispatched to numerous points across the globe, including Hawaii, Casablanca and France. It was in the latter location that his superiors learned of his acting background and asked Wallach to mount a production to entertain the recuperating troops. With the assistance of other members of his company, Wallach wrote and performed “This is the Army?” a satirical revue in which he played Hitler, among other roles. It would be the first of many memorable villains Wallach would play during his long career.

After being discharged from the service, Wallach resumed his acting career and made his Broadway debut in 1945. He also joined the Actor’s Studio, spending two seasons with the American Repertory Theater before blossoming into a major stage star in the early ’50s – thanks to a pair of Tennessee Williams plays, “The Rose Tattoo” and “Camino Real.” The former landed Wallach a Tony Award. The actor returned to the theater frequently over the next six decades in countless productions ranging from Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” “Teahouse of the August Moon,” and “Mister Roberts.” In 1948, he met and married fellow actress Anne Jackson, with whom he had appeared in countless stage productions, as well as the 1967 comedy “The Tiger Makes Out,” which he also co-produced. They year 1956 marked the beginning of Wallach’s screen career in the controversial Elia Kazan feature “Baby Doll.” As earthy Sicilian Silva Vaccaro, who lustily pursues the teenage bride (Carroll Baker) of hapless mill owner Karl Malden, Wallach generated considerable heat for his non-traditional leading man, undoubtedly contributing to the film being banned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and several international markets. The buzz generated by “Baby Doll” boosted Wallach’s profile in Hollywood and overseas, where he won a BAFTA for his work in 1957. He was soon busy with numerous film projects – often playing mad, bad and dangerous variations on the Vaccaro personality, including the psychotic hitman in Don Siegel’s gritty noir “Lineup” (1958); Sgt. Craig, who spits insults even after a horrific facial injury in “The Victors” (1963); and as Poncho/Baron von R litz, he teamed with Edward G. Robinson and fellow Method advocate Rod Steiger in “Seven Thieves” (1960), a glitzy caper.

Wallach’s profile by the early 1960s was significant enough for him to share top billing with Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner in “The Magnificent Seven” and Clark Gable and Marilyn Monr (who babysat Wallach’s daughter Roberta during the film’s troubled shoot) in “The Misfits” (1961) – the fabled last film for both Monr and Gable. He was also a frequent guest star on television, especially anthology series like “Playhouse 90” (CBS, 1956-1961) and “The Hallmark Hall of Fame” (CBS, 1951- ), for which he was a notable Dauphin opposite Julie Harris’ Joan of Arc in “The Lark” (1957). He also made an amusing Mr. Freeze (one of three actors to play the character) on two episodes of the campy series, “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68). On a more prestigious note, Wallach won an Emmy for “Poppies are Also Flowers” (1966), an all-star drama penned by Ian Fleming and produced in part by the United Nations about the international drug trade.

By the mid-1960s, Wallach was a dependable character actor with a knack for foreign characters who often wielded a degree of swagger and occasional menace. In addition to the Mexican Calvera and the Italian Guido in “The Misfits,” Wallach was a Greek kidnapper in the Disney film “The Moon-Spinners” (1965), an amorous Latin dictator on the make for American female president Polly Bergen in “Kisses for My President” (1964), and an Arab shah in “Genghis Khan” (1965). In 1967, Wallach traveled to Italy to film the third in a trilogy of operatically violent Westerns for director Sergio Leone; his performance as Tuco in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was arguably his best turn on screen; one that allowed him to work with his full and formidable acting palette. Over the course of Leone’s three-hours-plus masterpiece, we were shown all sides of Tuco – from the duplicitous creep who would abandon his own partner in crime (Clint Eastwood) in the middle of the blazing desert, to the loyal friend who rescues Eastwood from the same fate, to the wronged brother who lashes out against his sanctimonious priest brother, to the sympathetic victim of a cruel sadist (Lee Van Cleef) who will go to any length to discover a cache of hidden gold. Wallach tackled each of these emotions with a vigor and humor that was positively riveting in every scene. His performance was a key element in the film’s worldwide success.

Despite being nearly killed on three occasions during the making of the iconic film (due to faulty and lax production issues), Wallach acknowledged the movie’s impact on his career on numerous occasions after its release. He even named his 2005 autobiography The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage and in 2003, he and Eastwood re-dubbed 18 minutes of footage that had been excised from the film before its 1967 release in America. Wallach also returned to Italy several times to appear in other “spaghetti Westerns,” usually as variations on Tuco. Wallach was supposed to reunite with Leone for the film “Duck, You Sucker” (1973), but scheduling conflicts prevented this from happening (his role was later assumed by Rod Steiger).

Wallach remained as busy in the ’70s and ’80s as he did in the previous decade, though his roles were largely character parts and the quality frequently ranged from top Hollywood product to low-budget fare. Among his better films from the period were “Cinderella Liberty” (1973), in which he played a tough-as-nails Navy lifer; “Movie Movie” (1978), Stanley Donen’s clever tribute to vintage Hollywood melodramas and musicals; John Huston’s Bicentennial-themed short “Independence,” in which he captured the intelligence and wry humor of Benjamin Franklin. Wallach also appeared in numerous TV movies, including the thriller “A Cold Night’s Death” (1973), co-starring Robert Culp, about scientists losing their grip in the Arctic; the drama “Skokie” (1981) co-starring Danny Kaye, about Holocaust survivors facing neo-Nazis; and the thriller “The Executioner’s Song” (1982), based on the Norman Mailer book about serial killer, Gary Gilmore. But Wallach also enlivened plenty of junk during this period, too, including “The Deep” (1977), the wretched Satanic thriller “The Sentinel” (1977), and the overwrought teens-on-drugs TV feature, “The People” (1970).

As the 1980s wore on into the 1990s and the new millennium, Wallach continued to answer the call for character parts – long after many of his contemporaries had passed on. He was a near-sighted hit man in the limp Kirk Douglas-Burt Lancaster comedy, “Tough Guys” (1986), a psychologist testifying against a seemingly deranged call girl (Barbara Streisand) in “Nuts” (1987), the candy-loving Don Altobello in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather III” (1990), and Ben Stiller’s sympathetic rabbi advisor in Edward Norton’s wry comedy, “Keeping the Faith” (2000).

In 2003, he reunited with his friend and former co-star Clint Eastwood to play a cagey storeowner in “Mystic River” – for which he was uncredited. As Wallach entered his ninth decade, he did not appear to slow down in the least. He was a former blacklisted TV writer on an episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2006- ) and enjoyed sizable roles in “The Hoax” (2006) – about Clifford Irving’s bogus biography of Howard Hughes – and “The Holiday” (2006), in which he played a charming elderly screenwriter befriended by Kate Winslet in the romantic comedy. Wallach found himself back in play at the Emmy awards after a 20 year absence, earning a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his performance on “Studio 60.” After voiceover roles in “Constantine’s Sword” (2008) and “The T Tactic” (2009), Wallach returned to the small screen as a dying elderly man for an episode of “Nurse Jackie” (Showtime, 2009- ). His performance earned the 94-year-old an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

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Mark Ryan

Mark Ryan
Mark Ryan