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Archive for September, 2014

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Vincent Price

Vincent Price
Vincent Price

TCM Overview:

A cultured and debonair star with a mellifluous voice, actor Vincent Price developed a reputation portraying campy villains in a number of horror films. Though he began his career on the British stage, Price made his name as a supporting character player in noirs like “Laura” (1944), “The Long Night” (1947) and “The Bribe” (1949) before becoming inextricably tied to horror, thanks to his turn as the vengeance seeking wax sculptor in the classic “House of Wax” (1953). From there, he solidified his standing with “The Mad Magician” (1954) before appearing in mainstream studio fare like “While the City Sleeps” (1956) and “The Ten Commandments” (1956). After earning cult status with “The Fly” (1958) and its sequel “Return of the Fly” (1959), Price began a collaboration with low-budget producer Roger Corman on a series of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, including “House of Usher” (1960), “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961), and “The Raven” (1963). He hit a career low point with a pair of overly-campy James Bond spoofs, while revealing his role as the arch villain Egghead on “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68). Price wound down his career in the next decades using his distinctive voice in a number of projects, most notably Tim Burton’s stop-motion short “Vincent” (1982) and Michael Jackson’s seminal music video, “Thriller” (1983). Price made his final film appearance in Burton’s fantastical “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), before succumbing to lung cancer in 1993 and leaving behind a legacy forever entwined with the horror genre.

Born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, MO, Price was raised in a wealthy home by his father, Vincent, the president of a candy manufacturing company, and his mother, Marguerite. Price received a top-notch education, attending the private St. Louis Country Day School before earning bachelor degrees in history and language from Yale University. While attending the Ivy League school, he began to dabble in performing, particularly in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Price moved on to the University of London, where he studied history and studied art at the Courtald Institute. During his time in the British Isles, Price began to perform on stage professionally and made his stage debut in a production of “Chicago” at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. In 1935, he delivered a sterling performance as the Prince Regent in the Gate Theatre’s production of “Victoria Regina,” which made its way across the Atlantic for a triumphant performance on Broadway. Price’s success on stage soon led to a film career, starting with his debut in “Service De Luxe” (1938) and graduating to more prominent parts such as Raleigh in the costume drama “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939).

Price soon moved into playing the villain in several films and turned in strong performances in straight dramas, notably in Otto Preminger’s “Laura” (1944), opposite Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, and Anatole Litvak’s “The Long Night” (1947). Price continued to play the heavy in noirs like “The Web” (1947), “Rogue’s Regiment” (1948) and “The Bribe” (1949), before landing the lead role of a conman and expert forger in “The Baron of Arizona” (1950). Following supporting roles in “His Kind of Woman” (1951) and “The Las Vegas Story” (1952), Price became almost exclusively associated with the horror genre, thanks to his role as the revenge-driven sculptor in the 3-D classic of the macabre, “House of Wax” (1953), a film with which he was indelibly entwined for the rest of his career, and that led to starring roles in other horror pictures like “The Mad Magician” (1954). He next supported Victor Mature and Piper Laurie in the noir thriller “Dangerous Mission” (1954), and had a cameo as the real Casanova in the Bob Hope comedy “Casanova’s Big Night” (1954). After turns in Howard Hughes’ troubled production “Son of Sinbad” (1955) and Fritz Lang’s “While the City Sleeps” (1956), his theatrical flair was also put to good use as the villainous Baka in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic remake of his “The Ten Commandments” (1956), starring Charlton Heston and Yule Brynner.

While amassing a number of supporting roles in major pictures, Price continued to be a star in lower budget horror, and further cemented his stature in that genre as the scientist-turned-fly’s brother in the cult favorite “The Fly” (1958) and the sequel “Return of the Fly” (1959). He also appeared as an eccentric millionaire in the original version of “House on Haunted Hill” (1959), which was remade 40 years later. In the early 1960s, Price began appearing in movies produced by American International Pictures, a busy studio that specialized in churning out cheapie teen genre fare for drive-ins. He often worked with famed low-budget director Roger Corman, for whom he starred in a series of stylish gothic chillers loosely based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, including “House of Usher” (1960), “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961), “The Raven” (1963), and “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964); AIP sometimes teamed Price with aging Hollywood icons Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. He went on to appear in “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine” (1965), an obvious spoof of the James Bond classic “Goldfinger” (1964), which spawned the dreadful sequel “Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs” (1966).

Price was also a fine arts collector, chef and lecturer of some note. He published books on art and cuisine, ranging fromDrawings of Delacroix (1962) to The Come Into the Kitchen Cook Book, (1969), co-authored with second wife Mary. From 1966-68, Price gleefully spoofed his onscreen image playing the villain Egghead on the camp series “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68), a role that he relished. Meanwhile, he broadened his horizons and made his Broadway musical debut in “Darling of the Day” (1968), before touring the United States and later the world in “Diversions and Delights,” his one-man play about Oscar Wilde. He continued to appear onscreen, of course, delivering classically campy turns in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971) and its sequel, “Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972). Price counted “Theatre of Blood” (1973) among his favorite credits, in which he played Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean ham who exacts bloody vengeance on his critics by dispatching them in recreations of the Bard’s famous death scenes. He next starred in the British-made horror film “Madhouse” (1974) and stayed across the pond for the strange comedy “Percy’s Progress” (1974), about a man who undergoes the world’s first penis transplant.

Price next starred opposite Sam Waterston and Donald Pleasence in the thriller “Journey into Fear” (1975) and joined the all-star cast of the spoof “Scavenger Hunt” (1979), which featured an ensemble cast that included Tony Randall, Cloris Leachman, Roddy McDowall, James Coco and Ruth Gordon. In the late-1970s, Price found the horror movies were not as popular as they once were and began shifting toward more voiceover work, having already been noted for his rarified diction tinged with a hint of malice. He also found his career to be winding down just a bit, and thus made fewer appearances as he had in the past. In 1981, he began serving an eight-year stint as the urbane, gently sinister host of the PBS series “Mystery!” (1980-88), which showcased adaptations of famed horror stories. At the same time, he was contacted for his services by two self-avowed Vincent Price fans. First, Price was asked to narrate up-and-coming filmmaker Tim Burton’s stop-motion short, “Vincent” (1982), as well as supplied the spoken word narration for Michael Jackson’s landmark song and video “Thriller” (1983). He next appeared onscreen opposite old friend Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the horror spoof “House of the Long Shadows” (1983), and followed that with a turn in the over-the-top “Bloodbath at the House of Death” (1984).

Price provided the voice for the diabolical Professor Ratigan, the Dr. Moriarty-like villain of the Disney animated feature, “The Great Mouse Detective” (1986). His last major role in a feature was Mr. Maranov, the transplanted Russian nobleman who charms Bette Davis and Lillian Gish in Lindsay Anderson’s “The Whales of August” (1987). Price was a major influence on filmmaker Tim Burton, who idolized his screen persona as a child and led to the morbid adoration that was the subject of “Vincent.” Burton later cast him as the kindly old inventor who creates the titular “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), a role that was cut down in size because of Price’s worsening emphysema brought about by a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. The brief, but charming appearance proved to be Price’s last appearance on film. He later made an appearance on the small screen in the television movie “The Heart of Justice” (TNT, 1993), the very last time he was on any screen. Price eventually succumbed to lung cancer on Oct. 25, 1993. He was 82 years old.

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed on line here.
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Tracy Reed

Tracy Reed
Tracy Reed

Obituary from “The Stage” in 2012:

t was inevitable that Tracy Reed, who has died at the age of 69, would follow a career in the performing arts. She was born Clare Tracy Compton Pelissier in London on September 21, 1942, her name honouring her grandmother, the distinguished actress Fay Compton, who was briefly married to the drunken HG Pelissier, founder of the Follies concert party.

Carol Reed, who directed The Third Man, was her stepfather and one of her step-cousins was the hellraising Oliver Reed.

In her early years, Tracy Reed played roles in long-running television series, such as Emergency Ward 10, Dixon of Dock Green and The Avengers. At one point, she was considered a contender to replace The Avengers’ co-star Diana Rigg.

But she really made her mark in Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece, Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), a black comedy about nuclear warfare, which owed part of its instant popularity to the Cuban missile crisis, then still fresh in the minds of audiences. Cast as Miss Scott, the mistress of General Buck Turgidson, played by George C Scott, she was the only female member of the cast. Her other big film was the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967).

Reed retired from acting in 1975. She was married four times, first to Edward Fox. Their daughter Lucy, who became Viscountess Gormanston, told The Independent on Sunday: “The marriage was doomed from the start, but they never stopped being close friends. They really loved each other so much.”

Reed’s third husband was Bill Simpson, who played the title role in BBC Television’s Dr Finlay’s Casebook (1962-71), which centred on a general medical practice in the fictional Scottish town of Tannochbrae in the 1920s. Reed herself appeared in the programme from 1967 to 1969.

 

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

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John Loder

John Loder
John Loder

 

IMDB entry:

A tall, debonair, immaculately-groomed British leading man best known for his pipe-smoking chaps, actor John Loder (ne John Muir Lowe), the son of a British general, first served in Gallipoli in WWI and was a German prisoner of war at one point. Upon his release he actually stayed there in order to run a pickle factory. An interest in acting developed during this period and he showed up in a few German film bits before returning briefly to England. Talkies had become the new rage in the late 1920s and Loder tried his luck in Hollywood. He appeared in The Doctor’s Secret (1929), which was Paramount’s first talking picture, and although the “veddy British” actor seemed to show promise, his persona was a bit too cut and dried for American tastes. Gaining little ground as a leading man there, Loder eventually returned to England to embellish his resumé and did so with plush, princely co-leads in musicals and intrigue such as Love, Life and Laughter (1934) and Sabotage (1936).

When WWII hit England, Loder returned to America where he fell immediately into “B” movie roles playing various aristocrats and other stuffed shirts in support. He also appeared on Broadway. Two of his five wives were actresses: French star Micheline Cheirel and Hollywood goddess Hedy Lamarr. In the late 1950s he married his fifth wife, Argentinian heiress Alba Larden, and eventually he semi-retired to her ranch. He penned an autobiography in 1977 entitled “Hollywood Hussar” and died in 1988 at age 90.

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

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Diana Rigg

Diana Rigg
Dame Diana Rigg

 

TCM overview:

The poised, effortlessly versatile veteran of stage, film and television for over five decades, Dame Diana Rigg was a rara avis: a flawless interpreter of Shakespeare and other classical stage work, as well as a thinking man’s sex symbol as Mrs. Emma Peel, the catsuit-sporting crime fighter on “The Avengers” (ITV, 1961-69). Rigg’s cool beauty and knack for witty banter made her an idol among male viewers during the 1960s, but she struggled to overcome the character’s superhuman charms after leaving the show. She instead found lasting fame and respect on Broadway and television, where she netted Tony and Emmy awards as formidable figures like Medea and Mrs. Danvers in “Rebecca” (ITV, 1996). Though fondly remembered for “The Avengers” decades later, Rigg’s body of work made her one of the most accomplished and respected actresses in the business.

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Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford

IMDB entry:

Lucille LeSueur’s parents separated before she was born. By age 16 she had three different stepfathers, one of whom (a vaudeville theater manager) had given her the name Billie Cassin. By 1915 she, her brother Hal and their mother lived in Kansas City, and Billie worked in a laundry with her mother and also as a menial to pay school tuition. Winning an amateur dance contest in 1923 led to chorus work in Chicago, Detroit and New York. On New Year’s Day of 1925 she left for Hollywood. Before her second picture, a Photoplay contest led to the name Joan Crawford. With Our Dancing Daughters (1928) she became a star. She had a string of successes playing socialites or rags-to-riches shop girls, most notably as Crystal Allen in The Women (1939). She stayed with MGM for 18 years, signing with Warners in 1943. Mildred Pierce (1945) was a defining role and won her an Oscar.

After more than 70 films, she married Alfred Steele, chairman of the board of the Pepsi-Cola Co., a company with which she remained as a board member and spokesman after her husband’s fatal heart attack in 1959. In 1972 when the company’s executives saw no further use for her, they pushed her out. After that, she referred to the CEO as “Fang”.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) brought new careers to both Crawford andBette Davis in 1962–although the two despised each other–but the ensuing roles were neither numerous nor flattering. Horrified by a photo taken of her in 1974, she retired completely, devoting herself to Christian Science and the increasing use of vodka. Her four adopted children received little from her $2-million estate: $77,500 each for Cathy and Cindy, nothing for Christopher or Christina Crawford “for reasons best known to them”.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

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Sean Penn

Sean Penn
Sean Penn

TCM overview|:

Hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Sean Penn earned multiple Oscar nominations for his onscreen intensity and proved a powerful filmmaking talent at the helm of his own character-driven dramas like “The Crossing Guard” (1995) and “The Pledge” (2001) – all the while remaining the ultimate Hollywood outsider. Penn originally broke through with his iconic turn as stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982), but he established himself as a serious actor with “Bad Boys” (1983), only to be hounded by paparazzi due to his high-profile, short-lived marriage to Madonna, which resulted in the box-office dud “Shanghai Surprise” (1985) and violent run-ins with photographers. He entered a long and slightly less turbulent marriage to Robin Wright, while earning acclaim as a smarmy lawyer in “Carlito’s Way” (1993) and a death row inmate in “Dead Man Walking” (1995). After “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999) and “I Am Sam” (2001), Penn won the Oscar for his portrayal of a streetwise father out to avenge his daughter’s murder in “Mystic River” (2003). Meanwhile, he traded his bad-boy persona for political outspokenness, which included calling for the impeachment of President Bush while rankling conservatives for hobnobbing with reviled world leaders. Still, Penn continued to deliver onscreen with “Milk” (2008), though his refusal to play the Hollywood game earned him an unshakable reputation as hostile and arrogant. Despite such opinions, no one could deny that Penn’s work was consistently of the highest caliber, making him a modern-day Marlon Brando.

Sean Penn was born on Aug. 17, 1960 to actors Eileen Ryan and Leo Penn. His father was a drama teacher at the Actor’s Studio who had fled from L.A. to New York during the 1950s after he was blacklisted from Hollywood for refusing to testify in anti-Communist hearings. While performing in a production of “The Iceman Cometh” on Broadway, he met actress Ryan. The pair married and moved back to Los Angeles, where Penn had a successful career as a television director and Ryan raised the couple’s three sons, Michael, Sean and Chris, before returning to acting later in her life. Eldest brother Michael – who went on to make a name for himself as a songwriter and musician – had all the musical talent, and youngest brother Chris was the spirited extrovert, while the middle Penn was serious and shy; an unlikely acting candidate. But from a young age, Penn was fascinated by filmmaking. When he was not surfing the beaches of Malibu, he was shooting films with a Super 8 camera. Out of necessity, he also wound up in front of the camera.

After graduating from Santa Monica High School, Penn began learning the technical aspects of stage production with an apprenticeship at the Group Repertory Theater, as well as studying acting with famed drama instructor, Peggy Feury. Before he was 20 years old, he had produced his first play, the one-act “Terrible Jim Fitch” by “Midnight Cowboy” author Leo Herlihy, and decided that if was going to be serious about his career, he needed to spend some time working in New York. Penn drove across country and very quickly was starring on Broadway in “Heartland” (1981), where he turned heads as the timid teenage son of an abusive father. A casting agent caught his performance and called Penn in to read for a role in “Taps” (1981), where he provided strong support as Timothy Hutton’s more level-headed roommate in the sleeper drama about cadets who take over their military academy. A newly confident Penn headed back to Los Angeles having no idea his life was about to change. The following year, he scored mainstream success in Amy Heckerling’s superior teen comedy, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982), where his portrayal of the perpetually stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli introduced catchphrases like “let’s party!” into the American lexicon. While it was only a supporting role, unknown Penn received top billing, dominated the movie poster, and emerged as a future star.

Jeff Spicoli became a pop cultural touchstone for eighties youth, but interestingly enough, the light comedy role was an anomaly in Penn’s drama-based career. The next year he garnered excellent reviews in “Bad Boys” (1983), a tough urban melodrama about life inside a juvenile prison, following it up with the charming WWII-era, coming-of-age film “Racing With the Moon” (1984), where he seemed equally at home in his first romantic lead opposite Elizabeth McGovern. The pair became romantically involved over the course of the film and were engaged for a short while before Penn met someone whose talent – or, at least her ability to market the talent she did have – matched his own. Madonna, who was at that time a fringy New York club talent who had not yet taken over the pop music landscape, met Penn and was instantly smitten with the actor who was already gaining a cocksure reputation off-screen. In 1985, Penn gave an outstanding performance in “The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985), a fact-based drama where he portrayed an erratic, small-time drug dealer who gets in way over his head when his greed leads him to become a spy for the KGB. During the year, the career of limelight-loving girlfriend Madonna began to take off, creating a rift between she and Penn, who was notoriously private and uninterested in “movie star” attention. Their summer 1985 wedding was a nightmarish circus of paparazzi and helicopters that interfered with the lovers’ ability to even hear each other’s vows as they circled above the Malibu Cliffside. It was a bad omen of things to come.

In the 1986 film “At Close Range,” Penn was in top form as the unloved son of a rural career criminal. The actor held his own opposite the scenery-chewing Christopher Walken and worked alongside mother Eileen Ryan (as his onscreen grandmother) and brother Chris while his wife sang the hit “Live to Tell” on the film’s soundtrack. Penn and Madonna co-starred in perhaps the worst film of Penn’s career, “Shanghai Surprise” (1986), a dull adventure set in 1937 China. While filming “Colors” (1988), where Penn co-starred as a cocky young cop opposite police force veteran Robert Duvall, Penn was arrested for assaulting an extra who was attempting to take his picture and spent 30 days in a Los Angeles jail after removing his prop uniform. The media had long painted Penn as a “bad boy,” mainly due to his disinterest in playing the Hollywood fame game, refusing to promote his films, as well as his tendency to come off as arrogant in interviews. It was no surprise then that his detractors got a lot of mileage from the violent outburst and subsequent arrest. However, “Colors” – a solid police drama set in the gangland of Los Angeles and directed by reformed bad boy Dennis Hopper – did quite well at the box office and marked one of Penn’s more commercially accessible outings.

Penn’s ill-fated marriage to the ever-evolving Madonna ended in 1989. It was no surprise then that the actor retreated from the weary spotlight to the comfort of friendships with writer Charles Bukowski, Dennis Hopper and other Hollywood oddballs with whom he shared a creative and intellectual sensibility. He collaborated with playwright David Rabe on the Los Angeles stage production of “Hurlyburly” and offered one of his strongest screen performances as a possibly psychotic American officer who instigates the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl in Brian De Palma’s “Casualties of War” (1989), which was scripted by Rabe. “State of Grace” (1990), Penn’s last acting appearance for three years, cast him as an undercover cop who infiltrates his old Irish mob. The film paired him for the first time with future wife Robin Wright, whose artistic sensibilities mirrored his own, making for an intensely talented if volatile couple in the years to come. It was around this time that Penn grandly announced he was retiring from acting to concentrate on writing and directing, making an impressive indie film debut with “The Indian Runner” (1991), a moving character study featuring David Morse and Viggo Mortensen as two brothers on opposite sides of the law. Say what they would about Penn’s offscreen mystique, critics were aware that he had enormous promise as a director and storyteller.

The need to finance another of his own movies prompted Penn to return to the screen in 1993, giving a harrowing, Golden Globe-nominated supporting performance as a coke-crazed criminal lawyer in Brian De Palma’s “Carlito’s Way” (1993) which proved well worth the wait. With salary in hand, Penn turned his attention to his second writer-director effort, “The Crossing Guard” (1995), featuring one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances in years as a man destroyed by the death of his young daughter at the hands of a drunk driver (David Morse). Later that year, Penn delivered arguably one of his own best performances as a Louisiana death row inmate counseled by a nun (Susan Sarandon) in Tim Robbins’ bleak but balanced examination of capital punishment, “Dead Man Walking” (1995). The actor who was commonly referred to as one of the best actors of his generation was lavished with official praise, including nominations from the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Actors Guild, an Independent Spirit Award win, and an Academy Award nomination, though Mr. anti-Hollywood was conspicuously absent from the event.

Wright and Penn separated in 1995 and in typical tumultuous fashion, decided to marry in the spring of 1996. Penn remained busy, copping the Best Actor Prize at that year’s Cannes Film Festival for his turn as a mentally unstable loser who seeks out his former wife after 10 years in Nick Cassavetes’ “She’s So Lovely” (1997), which co-starred Wright. Penn, who also served as executive producer, delivered an emotionally pure portrait of a man tortured by love and followed this up with David Fincher’s psychological thriller “The Game” (1997), co-starring Michael Douglas. Penn directed his parents in a Los Angeles stage production of Irish playwright Graham Reid’s “Remembrance” and returned to the screen to play a drifter whose paranoia increases when he becomes stranded in a desert town in Oliver Stone’s “U-Turn” (1997). Penn’s open criticism of Stone’s talent raised eyebrows, but when he vocalized his desire to work with famously infrequent film director Terrence Malick, the director responded by giving Penn a headlining role in his adaptation of “The Thin Red Line” (1998). Opening at the same time as Malick’s WWII saga was the film version of Rabe’s “Hurlyburly,” an ensemble piece dominated by Penn’s powerhouse performance as a Hollywood agent permanently wired on coke and weed. He won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Actor for this lesser-seen effort.

Despite rumblings from the set that Penn did not want to be there, the actor gave a winning performance as the brash, mostly unlikable jazz guitarist at the center of Woody Allen’s Depression-set comedy, “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999), a role that garnered his second Academy Award nomination as Best Actor and marked his second no-show at the festivities. Finally setting aside pronouncements that he was going to retire from acting at any moment, Penn remained active before the cameras with roles in Phillip Haas’ adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s “Up in the Villa” (2000), Julian Schnabel’s art-house rendering of Cuban p t and novelist Reinaldo Arenas’ “Before Night Falls” (2000) and Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Weight of Water” (2000). He returned to the director’s chair with “The Pledge” (2001), a thriller starring Jack Nicholson that earned respectful reviews. Later that year, Penn garnered a third Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his work as a mentally-challenged man seeking custody of his young daughter (Dakota Fanning) in “I Am Sam,” a surprisingly treacly and audience-pandering effort from the generally edgy Penn.

Lest Penn’s followers fear that this clichéd, heart-tugging melodrama signaled a shift towards mainstream Hollywood, the dyed-in-the-wool outsider reasserted his position by launching a series of political commentaries on the Bush administration and its threat to invade Iraq. He began by taking out costly full page ads – open letters, essentially – in The Washington Post and The New York Times which begged the president to “help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror.” The eerily prescient statement was followed by the actor’s visit to Iraq in December of 2002 and a publishing of his journalistic observations in his local newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. In the meantime, Penn returned to his ferocious onscreen territory at the invitation of Clint Eastwood, who directed Penn in the Boston-set crime drama “Mystic River” (2003), where he played a man consumed with rage over his daughter’s murder and enlists childhood friends (Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins) in the homicide investigation. Penn’s trademark intensity was finally recognized with wins from the Golden Globes as well as the Academy Awards, though his first visit to the Oscars was not without feather-ruffling drama, as Penn’s defense of Jude Law (following a criticism in jest by host Chris Rock) was picked up as further evidence of the actor’s exhausting seriousness.

Penn delivered yet another virtuosic big screen turn in “21 Grams” (2003), where he played a dying professor who receives a heart transplant that consumes him with guilt. That role also resulted in a flurry of nominations and wins on the festival circuit and accolades from many film critics. Penn topped himself yet again with “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” (2004), in which he played an emotionally and socially disconnected furniture salesman whose tenuous grip on sanity slips away when he plots to highjack an airliner and crash it into the Nixon White House. In 2005, Penn made a journalistic visit to Iran and again reported on his layman’s observations for The Chronicle, and followed with a guest speaker spot at the “Out of Iraq Forum” hosted by the Progressive Democrats of America. That same year, the passionate activist was on the scene in a drowned New Orleans after the decimation of the region by Hurricane Katrina, rescuing people and pets by boat faster than the National Guard had managed, openly expressing his disgust at the slow national response later in interviews. Further demonstrating his growing interest in politics, Penn took a starring role in the Sydney Pollack-directed thriller “The Interpreter” (2005), playing a federal agent assigned to protect a U.N. translator (Nicole Kidman). That international blockbuster trounced the remake of “All the King’s Men” (2006), a plodding fictionalized chronicle of Louisiana governor Huey P. Long starring Penn and based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize novel.

After weathering some backlash for a journey to Venezuela to meet with controversial president Hugo Chavez – to say nothing of dealing with the unexpected death in January 2006 of younger brother, Chris at age 40 from cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart, Penn unveiled “Into the Wild” (2007), his fourth feature directorial effort and among the top-grossing of his independent film offerings. Penn adapted the screenplay from Jon Krakauer’s fact-based book about an idealistic college graduate (Emile Hirsch) who drifts around the country in search of an authentic, free lifestyle, finally settling in the wilds of Alaska. Penn was honored multiple times for his successful adaptation of the challenging story, which often relied on Hirsch’s lone screen presence and no dialogue, and earned the director nominations from the Director’s Guild of America and the Writer’s Guild of America, in addition to multiple Best Director wins at several international film festivals. Following tabloid gossip over his divorce filing with Wright-Penn at the end of 2007 and subsequent withdrawal in the spring of 2008, Penn returned to screens in the title role of “Milk,” Gus Van Sant’s biopic about influential gay activist and San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk. Only weeks after its release, he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, which was soon followed by a win at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. He would go on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his role in “Milk.”

From there, Penn played former U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson, whose CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), is outed for political reasons by George W. Bush’s administration in Doug Liman’s hailed political thriller “Fair Game” (2010). He went on to reunite with Terrence Malick for the reclusive director’s existential drama, “The Tree of Life” (2011), where he played an adrift older man who reminisces about life with his father (Brad Pitt) in the 1960s. Later that year, he delivered another offbeat performance, this time playing a retired goth rocker who looks for his dead father’s Auschwitz tormentor in Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s comic drama “This Must Be the Place” (2011). Of course, Penn did not go very long without being the subject of tabloid headlines. In 2010, after finalizing his divorce with Wright early that year, he caused an uproar in the British media for his remarks about colonialism directed at the United Kingdom over the ongoing dispute with the Falkland Islands. But Penn did display his humanitarian side by co-founding the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which helped thousands of victims from the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 and led to his appointment as Haiti’s Ambassador-at-Large in 2012, becoming the first non-Haitian to ever hold the post.

 Teh above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

 

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Al Corley

Al Corley
Al Corley

Wikipedia entry:

Al Corley (born May 22, 1956 in Wichita, Kansas) is an American actor, singer and producer. In the late 1970s, he worked as a doorman at Studio 54. He would later appear in a VH1 Behind the Music special on Studio 54 to recount his experiences.

Corley is best known as the first actor to play Steven Carrington on the 1980s soap opera Dynasty. After that, Corley acted in 14 movies, then produced five. Corley left Dynasty at the end of the second season in 1982[1][2] after complaining about Steven’s “ever-shifting sexual preferences”[3] and wanting “to do other things”.[2] The character was recast in 1983 with Jack Coleman; the change in appearance attributed to plastic surgery after an oil rig explosion.[1][2] Coleman remained on the show until 1988, but Corley returned to the role of Steven for the 1991 miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion when Coleman was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.[3]

He was also known as a singer in the 1980s. His 1984 new wave single “Square Rooms“, from his debut album of the same name became a number one hit in France (in 1985), also reaching No. 6 in Switzerland, No. 12 in Italy (in 1985), No. 13 in Germany, No. 15 in Austria and No. 80 in the U.S. The same year, he released “Cold Dresses”, which was also a big hit in France, reaching No. 5. His second album, Riot of Color was released in 1986, and a third album, Big Picture followed in 1988.

He was married in 1989 to actress Jessika Cardinahl. They have three children: Sophie Elena, Ruby Cardinahl and Clyde Nikolai Corley. Before his marriage, he had a brief romance with pop star Carly Simon. It was Corley (with his back to the camera) that appeared with Simon on the cover art shot for her 1981 album Torch.

He resides in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles.

The above Wikipedia entry can also be accessed online here.

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Timothy Daly

Timothy Daly
Timothy Daly

 

Wikipedia entry:

James Timothy “Tim” Daly (born March 1, 1956) is an American stage, screen and voice actor, director and producer. He is best known for his television role as Joe Hackett on theNBC sitcom Wings and for his voice role as Superman/Clark Kent in Superman: The Animated Series, as well as his recurring role of the drug-addicted screenwriter J.T. Dolan on The Sopranos for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. He starred as Pete Wilder on Private Practice from 2007 to 2012.

Daly was born in New York City,[1] the only son and youngest child of actors James Daly and Mary Hope Newell.[He is the younger brother of actress Tyne Daly, who is 10 years his senior, and is a brother-in-law of television and film composer Mark Snow.[3] He has two other sisters, Mary Glynn (Snow’s wife)[4] and Pegeen Michael. He is of part Irish ancestry. Daly attended The Putney School,[5] where he started to study acting.

Daly began his professional career while a student at Vermont‘s Bennington College, where he studied theatre and literature, in which he now holds a Bachelor of Arts,]and acted in summer stock. He graduated from college in 1979 and returned to New York to continue studying acting and singing.

Daly debuted on stage when he was seven years old in Jenny Kissed Me by Jean Kerr, together with his parents and two sisters. He appeared for the first time on TV when he was 10 years old in an American Playhouse adaptation of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen, which starred his father James Daly. He dreamed about a sports or music career and also considered becoming a doctor or a lawyer, but finally decided to become an actor. Daly started his professional acting career when he appeared in a 1978 adaptation of Peter Shaffer‘s play Equus.

His first leading film role was in the film Diner, directed by Barry Levinson, in which he shared screen time with actors including Kevin Bacon and Mickey Rourke. Starring roles soon followed in Alan Rudolph‘s feature, Made in Heaven, the American Playhouse production of The Rise & Rise of Daniel Rocket, and the CBS dramatic series, Almost Grown created by David Chase.

In theatre he has starred in the Broadway production of Coastal Disturbances by playwright Tina Howe opposite Annette Bening and received a 1987 Theatre World Award for his performance. He has also starred in Oliver, Oliver at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Mass Appeal by Bill C. Davis and Bus Stop by William Inge at Trinity Square Repertory, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at the Santa Fe Festival Theatre, A Knife in the Heart and A Study in Scarlet at the Williamstown Playhouse, and Paris Bound at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. During this time, Daly also starred in the CBS television miniseries I’ll Take Manhattan as Toby Amberville.

Daly describes himself as being highly self-critical in regards to his career. In an interview with New Zealand ‘ZM’ radio personality Polly Gillespie Tim was quoted to say “I think part of it (his self-critical nature) is passed down to me from my parents who are actors. The theatre was our temple… When you entered you were expected to live up to the example of this glorious place.”

The above Wikipedia entry can also be accessed online here

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Phillip Friend

Philip Friend
Philip Friend

 

From “Answers” :

British actor Philip Friend made his stage bow in 1935 and his film debut in 1939, after which he settled into his peculiar niche as the bargain-counter Errol Flynn. The titles of Friend’s English and American films pretty much tell the whole story: Sword in the Desert (1949), Buccaneer’s Girl (1950), The Story of Robin Hood (1958). Friend was cast in the potentially star-making title role in The Highwayman (1951), based on the famed Alfred Noyes narrative poem. Alas, this movie barely moved until the last five minutes–just long enough for Friend and leading lady Wanda Hendrix to get killed off and then reappear as ghosts. Philip Friend was active in movies, TV and Broadway until the ’70s, always one tiny step away from true stardom. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/phillip-friend#ixzz3G1lvdTCY

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Mel Torme

Mel Torme
Mel Torme

 

IMDB entry:

A professional singer at the age of three, Mel Torme was a genuine musical prodigy. As a teenager, he played the drums in Chico Marx‘s band and earned the nickname “The Velvet Fog” because of his smooth, mellow high baritone voice. In the 1940s, he formed his own group, the Mel-Tones, one of the first jazz-influenced vocal groups. As a solo musician, he had a number one hit in 1949 called “Careless Love” and several lesser hits. He also acted in films and wrote several books, including biographies of Judy Garland and Buddy Rich. Torme’s career included some songwriting, too. One of his most well-known compositions, “The Christmas Song”, was written in midsummer as Torme relaxed by the pool.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Sujit R. VarmaT

Tom Vallance’s obituary of Mel Torme in “The Independent”:

SINGER, ACTOR, writer, composer, arranger, drummer and pianist, Mel Torme was extraordinarily versatile, but he will primarily be remembered as one of the supreme popular vocalists of this century, a superb song stylist equally persuasive handling tender love-songs, swinging rhythm numbers or giving a cool jazz sound to the best of popular song.

As a singer, his name ranks in the top echelon along with Crosby and Sinatra, but he excelled them when it came to jazz stylings, particularly with the series of superb recordings he made with arranger Marty Paich starting in the mid-Fifties. As a composer, his best-known work, “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .”), is a perennial favourite, and his books include a novel, a biography of the drummer Buddy Rich and his own autobiography, It Wasn’t All Velvet. That title is an oblique reference to the label given him by the disc jockey Fred Robbins, “The Velvet Fog”, an attempt to sum up the warm, mellow timbre that gave Torme’s voice its unmistakable individuality.

Torme (his surname originally had no accent) was born in Chicago in 1925, to Russian-Jewish immigrants. His father was a grocer, but Mel’s musical talents were promoted by his mother, who demonstrated sheet-music in Woolworth’s and taught her young son new songs as they came out. He later cited as other influences the radio, to which he was “addicted”, and the woman who used to look after him during the week but played barrel-house piano with an all-girl band at weekends.

At the age of four, Torme made his singing debut with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra at the Blackhawk Restaurant for $15 a session. It was while seated on the drummer Carlton Coon’s knee that Torme decided he also wanted to play the drums. By the age of six, he was a regular vaudeville performer at weekends, his income helping support the family during the worst of the Depression, and until his voice changed he was one of the busiest child actors on radio.

The youngster’s two greatest enthusiasms were movies and swing music, particularly that of Duke Ellington. At Hyde Park School in Chicago he played drums in the school band, and at 15 composed his first song, the Ellingtonian “Lament for Love”, which became a hit in 1941 when recorded by Harry James. Torme (he had now added an accent) left high school in 1942 when the veteran bandleader Ben Pollack offered him a job drumming and singing with the Chico Marx band (actually formed and led by Pollack). The following year he made his screen debut in Higher and Higher.

Though primarily a showcase for the new crooner teenagers were swooning over, Frank Sinatra (already regarded by Torme as “the best singer in the world”), the film featured Torme in several numbers including a lively duet with Marcy McGuire, “Minuet in Boogie”. For his next film, Pardon My Rhythm (1944), Torme wrote two of the songs as well as playing the drummer boyfriend of teenage soprano Gloria Jean.

It was a time when vocal groups were extremely popular, and Pollack told Torme he had found a quartet of college graduates, the Schoolkids, who needed a lead-singer and arranger. Impressed by the talents of the four singers (Sheldon Disruhd, Betty Beveridge, Ginny O’Connor and Bernie Parke), Torme fashioned them, with himself as lead vocalist, into one of the finest groups of the time, the Mel-Tones, inspired by the pioneering work in group harmonies already done by the Modernaires, Six Hits and a Miss and Kay Thompson. “I patterned the group after a saxophone section,” said Torme, “with two altos (the girls), two tenors (Bernie and myself) and a baritone (Sheldon).” When Disruhd was drafted into the army, singer- arranger Les Baxter replaced him, and the team appeared on screen with Torme in his next film, Let’s Go Steady (1945), which had songs by Torme and co-starred June Preisser.

In 1946 Torme had small roles in two movies, Night and Day and Janie Gets Married, while with the Mel-Tones he filled a heavy schedule of radio and armed services appearances. During a brief period with Decca records in 1945 the Mel-Tones cut two sides with Bing Crosby, but it was their 1946 period with Musicraft that produced their finest recording work, including their classic version of “What is This Thing Called Love?” with Artie Shaw’s orchestra, hailed as “ahead of its time” by Orchestra World. “What made the record a stand-out,” said Torme later, “were the advanced harmonies, the originality of singing backgrounds to instrumental solos and the overall hard-swinging sound.”

Another of Torme’s outstanding arrangements was “It Happened in Monterey”, for which he wrote special lyrics and effectively used “Ramona” (a song by the same composer, Mabel Wayne, and with the same chord structure) as counter-melody. At the end of the year the group, which appealed to connoisseurs more than the general public, disbanded and Torme went solo.

Signed by MGM, he made his best film, Charles Walters’s musical Good News (1947), in which as one of the collegiates attending Tait College he sang “The Best Things in Life are Free” and was part of the ensemble numbers “He’s a Ladies’ Man” and “Lucky in Love” – his solo of “Just Imagine” was cut from the final print. In Words and Music (1948), the film biography of Rodgers and Hart, he sang “Blue Moon” – he was originally also scheduled to duet “Mountain Greenery” with June Allyson but the number was instead performed by Perry Como and Allyn McLerie.

“Blue Moon” was to become Torme’s first solo record hit, reaching second place in the Hit Parade, and it started Torme’s “Velvet Fog” period in which he was a favourite of teenagers. “I spent most of the Fifties getting over the `Velvet Fog’ image,” he later said.

As a composer he had formed a fruitful partnership with ex-drummer Robert Wells. Their evocative “Christmas Song” was recorded by Nat “King” Cole in 1946 and subsequently by virtually every top singer including Sinatra and Crosby. Other songs included “A Stranger in Town” and “Born to be Blue”, while for Disney’s 1948 film So Dear To My Heart they successfully conceived an extended narrative paean to rural pleasures, the eight-minute “County Fair”. This piece was a precursor to a 35-minute tone poem written by Torme alone in 1949, “California Suite”, which became Capitol Records’ first long-playing album when recorded by Torme with the Mel-Tones and Peggy Lee (as “Susan Melton”).

Although his records were a hit with teenagers and disc-jockeys, Torme’s debut at the Copacabana night-club in New York was disastrous, his youth and self-confidence alienating the elderly patrons. “I sang Harold Arlen’s `Ill Wind’ and a lot of other high-class material,” he said later. “I thought I was going to kill those people and I was greeted with ennui.” The columnist Dorothy Killgallen called him “an egotistical little amateur” and other reviews were equally unkind. The singer later confessed that he was never one to proclaim false modesty or downgrade his talents. (The comments in his autobiography about his former wife, the British actress Janette Scott and her mother Thora Hird would certainly win him no awards for gallantry.) “All my wives have been beautiful,” he once said, “but I’m bad at picking women who are good for me.”

Though the early Fifties were productive – records for Capitol, numerous personal appearances, his own television show mixing music and interviews (“one of the first chat shows”, he said later), his career musically went into highest gear in 1955 when he signed with a new jazz label, Bethlehem Records, and was told to choose his own material and arrangers.

This was a golden age for lovers of popular music, the long-playing album having transformed the record industry. Classic albums like Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours, Peggy Lee’s Black Coffee and Ella Fitzgerald’s Song Books were being made.

Just as Sinatra had discovered the perfect arranger for his style in Nelson Riddle, Torme discovered Marty Paich, who had been writing for Shelley Manne’s small jazz group. “They were jazz charts for horns, but rich in content and ideas. I had a strong idea he would be a masterful writer for strings and woodwinds.” The album It’s a Blue World, with Paich one of five arrangers, was released on Torme’s 30th birthday and was followed by an even better set, the first wholly Torme-Paich album, entitled Mel Torme and the Marty Paich Dek-tette (“a 10-man combo patterned after the Gerry Mulligan Tentet and the early Miles Davis nonet sides”).

One of its numbers, “Lulu’s Back in Town”, with an introduction composed by Torme (“You’ve heard about Margie . . .”), was to become one of the singer’s trademark songs, along with “Blue Moon” and “Mountain Greenery”. The last-named song had been part of Torme’s programme when he appeared at the Crescendo Club in Los Angeles in 1954. His performance had been recorded live by Coral Records and in mid-1956 it was issued in Britain. The disc jockey Alan Dell played “Mountain Greenery” to tremendous audience response, the track was quickly issued as a single and it shot to No 1 on the Hit Parade. Coming to Britain, Torme made a successful tour of the country, topped the bill at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London for two weeks, and made records with Ted Heath, Cyril Stapleton and Roland Shaw.

The following year Torme made his acting debut on television with an acclaimed performance as Mickey Rooney’s brother in Rod Serling’s The Comedian, directed by John Frankenheimer, and he recorded another album with the Paich Dek-tette, Mel Torme Sings Fred Astaire. When the Bethlehem label went out of business, the Torme-Paich collaboration continued on other labels – for Tops they made Prelude to a Kiss, on which Torme provided linking dialogue between the songs, which included Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For”, and for Verve they made three superb sets: Torme, which included such neglected gems as “Gloomy Sunday” and “The House is Haunted” and an eight-minute arrangement of Arlen and Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” that transforms the number into a rhapsodic tone-poem; Back in Town, which reunited Torme with the Mel-Tones in the clarity of stereo recording; and Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley.

These albums demonstrate that cool jazz need not necessarily be cold, ballads such as the wistful “Nobody’s Heart” being immensely moving without becoming mawkish. Torme was, wrote the music critic Will Friedwald, “a perfect example of what a jazz-derived pop singer should be . . . His ability to breathe life into the words of a song rivals anyone this side of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.”

In 1963 Torme was asked to work on Judy Garland’s television series, writing special material, selecting songs and occasionally performing. The traumatic events that followed became the subject of a book by Torme, The Other Side of the Rainbow (1970). Torme’s other books included a western, Dollarhide (1955, written under the assumed name Wesley Butler Wyatt and later adapted by Torme as an episode of the television series The Virginian), a novel about a singer, Wynner (1985), his autobiography It Wasn’t All Velvet (1988) and Traps (1991), a biography of his great friend the late drummer Buddy Rich. In 1978 the two men had made an album, Together Again – For the First Time, but the most productive partnership that Torme had in later years was with the pianist George Shearing.

In 1982 the couple were recorded live at a concert and the resulting record won Torme a Grammy Award as Best Male Jazz Vocalist. The following year their next album, Top Drawer, won Torme the award for a second time and further albums followed, most of them displaying the Torme voice as rich as ever, his phrasing as persuasive, his sense of pitch and rhythm as sharp. Shearing’s eloquent piano was particularly appropriate on such ballads as “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”.

In 1975 Bing Crosby was asked by a disc jockey whose records he would want to have on a desert island. Along with jazz musicians, Crosby mentioned just one vocalist – Torme; adding, “Any singer that goes to hear this guy sing has got to go and cut his throat. He’s the best musical performer I’ve ever seen.” Torme himself told the jazz critic Whitney Balliett 11 years ago: “I’m a dogged perfectionist with a desperate desire to be super- professional. Do I dare say I finally am?”

Melvin Howard Torme (Mel Torme), singer, songwriter, actor, composer, pianist, drummer and arranger: born Chicago 13 September 1925; four times married (two sons, three daughters); died Los Angeles 5 June 1999.

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