Archive for December, 2015
David Weston (born 28 July 1938, London) is an English actor, director and author. Since graduating from RADA in 1961 (having won the Silver Medal for that year) he has acted in numerous film, television and stage productions, including twenty-seven plays in Shakespeare‘s canon. With Michael Croft he was a founder member of the National Youth Theatre. Much of his directing work has been for that organisation; he has directed also at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and a number of other theatres in London. He wrote and narrated a series of non-fiction audio books, including Shakespeare His Life and Work which won the 2001 Benjamin Franklin Award
Weston was educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, during the time that Michael Croft, founder of the National Youth Theatre, was there creating drama of a very high standard. In 1956 Croft directed a school production ofShakespeare‘s Henry IV, Part 2, which, when revived as a NYT production at the Toynbee Hall Theatre the following year, attracted the attention of the national press. Weston played Falstaff, a character singled out by The Times in its praise of the play’s comedy.
In August 1960 Weston played Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. Directed by Croft and given in modern dress, this was only the second appearance by the company of the NYT in London’s West End. John Shrapnel played Caesar, Neil Stacy Brutus and Alan Allkins Cassius. The play was judged a “youthful success” by the theatre critic of The Times; Weston’s performance was said to have successfully caught an opportunist spirit effectually hidden by a rough charm.
The Times was more muted in its praise of the Electra and Oedipus Rex of Sophocles in a double bill put on by RADA at its Vanbrugh Theatre, Bloomsbury in February 1961. Weston played Creon in Oedipus Rex; his bluff characterisation was described as strongly supportive.
In 2011 Weston published Covering McKellen: An Understudy’s Tale, a memoir of the year he spent as Ian McKellen‘s understudy in the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s tour of King Lear directed by Sir Trevor Nunn.
In 2014 Weston published Covering Shakespeare: An Actor’s Saga of Near Misses and Dogged Endurance, a memoir of his experiences performing in productions of Shakespeare’s plays.
Michael Jayston was born on October 29, 1935 in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England as Michael James. He is an actor, known for Nicholas and Alexandra (1971),Emmerdale (1972) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972). He has been married to Elizabeth Ann Smithson since 1978. They have two children. He was previously married to Heather Mary Sneddon and Lynn Farleigh.
Sahl is a Canadian-born American comedian and social satirist, considered to be the first modern stand-up comedian since Will Rogers, a humorist in the early 20th century. Sahl pioneered a style of social satire which pokes fun at political and current event topics using improvised monologues and only a newspaper as a prop.
Sahl spent his early years in Los Angeles and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he made his professional stage debut at the hungry i nightclub in 1953. His popularity grew quickly, and after a year at the club he traveled the country doing shows at established nightclubs, theaters and college campuses. In 1960 he became the first comedian to have a cover story written about them by Time magazine. He appeared on various television shows, played a number of film roles, and performed a one-man show on Broadway.
Television host Steve Allen claimed that Sahl was “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.” His social satire performances broke new ground in live entertainment, as a stand-up comic talking about the real world of politics at that time was considered “revolutionary.” It inspired many later comics to become stage comedians, including Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters and Woody Allen. Allen credits Sahl’s new style of humor with “opening up vistas for people like me.”
Numerous politicians became his fans, with John F. Kennedy asking him to write his jokes for campaign speeches. After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, however, Sahl became obsessed with what he saw as the Warren Report‘s inaccuracy and conclusions, and spoke about it often during his shows. This alienated much of his audience and led to a decline in his popularity for the remainder of the 1960s. By the 1970s, however, his shows and popularity staged a comeback which continues to the present.
The above “Wikipedia” entry can also be accessed online here.
“New York Times” obituary from 2013.
Renowned for her lustrous voice, Claramae Turner sang more than 100 times with the Metropolitan Opera. But she is best known — or, more precisely, best unknown — for having introduced “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” the sentimental ballad indelibly associated with Tony Bennett.
That song, with music by George Cory and lyrics by Douglass Cross, was written for Ms. Turner, an operatic contralto, in the early 1950s and published in 1954. She sang it often as a recital encore.
Then along came Mr. Bennett, who had a hit with it in 1962, won two Grammy Awards for it (record of the year and best male solo vocal performance) and has lived with it happily ever after.
Mr. Bennett’s recordings of the song have sold millions of copies. It has also been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Tennessee Ernie Ford and a torrent of others.
Ms. Turner, who died on May 18, at 92, in Santa Rosa, Calif., was also known to audiences as Cousin Nettie in the 1956 film version of “Carousel,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
In that picture, which starred Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae, Ms. Turner sings the enduring standards “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.”
At the Met, where Ms. Turner appeared regularly from 1946 to 1950, her roles included Amneris in Verdi’s “Aida,” Marcellina in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” Erda in Wagner’s “Siegfried” and Auntie in Britten’s “Peter Grimes.”
Reviewing her Met debut, as Marthe in Gounod’s “Faust,” in The New York Times, Noel Straus wrote, “Miss Turner accomplished some of the most able vocalism of the evening.” He added, “Hers is a warm, rich voice, admirably trained.”
Claramae Haas was born on Oct. 28, 1920, in Dinuba, Calif., near Fresno. She got her start, fittingly, in San Francisco, as a chorister in the San Francisco Opera.
She progressed to leading roles with the company, including Azucena in Verdi’s “Trovatore” and Madame de Croissy in the United States stage premiere of Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” in 1957.
In New York, Ms. Turner sang the original Madame Flora, the title character of “The Medium,” by Menotti, which had its world premiere at Columbia University in 1946.
After leaving the Met in 1950, Ms. Turner performed regularly with the New York City Opera, where she sang Carmen, Madame Flora and many other roles. During this period Mr. Cory, a friend from her San Francisco days by then unhappily transplanted to New York, began work on “I Left My Heart” for her.
Ms. Turner’s first marriage, to Robert Turner, ended in divorce; her second husband, Frank Hoffmann, died before her. A resident of Santa Rosa, she leaves no known immediate survivors, according to F. Paul Driscoll, the editor in chief of Opera News magazine, who confirmed the death.
Ms. Turner’s discography includes Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”; “The Tender Land,” by Aaron Copland; and the Verdi Requiem.
It does not include “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which she simply never got around to recording.
The above “New York Times” obituary can also be accessed online here.
Kevin Corcoran was a very popular child actor in Disney movies of the late 1950s and very early 1960s. He died in 2015 at the age of 66.
The name Walt Disney immediately conjures up Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons, as well as perennially popular animated features such as The Jungle Book and Bambi. But Disney was also once a purveyor of “live-action” family-friendly movies that spotlighted child actors, a favourite among whom was Kevin Corcoran, who has died of cancer aged 66.
Corcoran’s acting career with Disney began at the age of six when he appeared on television in a Mickey Mouse Club serial called Adventures in Dairyland (1956). In it he played a pugnacious little boy named Moochie, a nickname that stuck to him throughout his childhood and beyond. Walt Disney was so impressed with Corcoran’s debut that he had a special role written for Moochie in another Mickey Mouse Club serial, Further Adventures of Spin and Marty, which was aired the same year.
In 1957 Corcoran was given a leading role in Old Yeller, one of the best and most poignant boy-and-his-dog movies, still remembered as being a defining childhood experience for many baby boomers. Set in Texas in 1869, the film, discreetly directed by the Disney stalwart Robert Stevenson, tells of how Arliss (Corcoran) and his older brother Travis (Tommy Kirk) adopt a large yellow dog of indeterminate pedigree – “the best doggone dog in the west” as the title song declaims. At the tear-jerking climax, Travis is forced to shoot the faithful pooch, which has contracted rabies, much to the distress of Arliss.
Corcoran went on to play Kirk’s slightly brattish kid brother again in four further movies, in which Kirk, eight years Corcoran’s senior, would portray a character going through a painful puberty, often irritated by his mischievous and talkative brother. “Don’t you ever run out of questions?” Kirk asks Corcoran in Old Yeller.
In the comedy-fantasy The Shaggy Dog (1959), Corcoran, though younger, is wiser than Kirk who, because of an ancient curse, is turned into a large sheep dog at inopportune moments. As the youngest member of the shipwrecked SwissFamily Robinson (1960), Corcoran collects all sorts of animals, getting in the way of Kirk, who is more interested in a girl he has helped rescue from pirates.
The screen brothers had a similar awkward relationship in Bon Voyage! (1962) as part of a “typical” American family on a tour of Europe. In Savage Sam (1963), a disappointing sequel to Old Yeller, Kirk and Corcoran reprised their roles, this time bickering over the defunct canine hero’s son. At one stage the boys’ uncle (Brian Keith) tells Kirk: “All little brothers hate bossin’. You’ve got to learn how to outfigger him.”
Other Disney movies in which Corcoran had leading roles were Pollyanna (1960), where, as Jimmy Bean, a mischievous orphan boy, he counterbalances the sweetness and light spread by the 12-year-old heroine (Hayley Mills), and Toby Tyler (1960), in which he played the title role, another orphan, this time running away from his foster parents to join a circus, where he makes friends with an endangered chimpanzee.
However, after A Tiger Walks (1964), another animal movie aimed at children – a tiger is threatened with death after escaping from a circus – Corcoran, at the grand old age of 15, quit acting. “I decided to retire when I realised that I knew more about movies than the guys making them,” he said.
He had already been in the business for a long time, having, from the age of four, had brief roles in several feature films even before he signed with Disney. These included The Glenn Miller Story (1954) as the bandleader’s son; as the childhood incarnation of the lead character Paul van Riebeck (Tyrone Power) in Untamed (1955), and as one of Quaker farmer Ernest Borgnine’s children in Violent Saturday (1955). Corcoran’s real sisters, Noreen and Donna, played the other children.
Born in Santa Monica, California, to Kathleen and Bill, an MGM studio policeman, Corcoran had seven siblings, all of whom did some film acting. “While my father was working at MGM, he heard that children were needed to play some extra roles,” Corcoran recalled. “By the time I arrived – No 5 of eight children – the Corcoran kids had been established in the industry.”
Young Kevin was fortunate to come along during a successful period of Disney’s live-action movies. But Disney was fortunate too, because Corcoran embodied its vision of the “American everykid”, who the studio saw as “a highly intelligent human being – characteristically sensitive, humorous, open-minded, eager to learn, [with] a strong sense of excitement, energy, and healthy curiosity about the world in which he lives.”
After his early retirement from acting, Corcoran went to California State University, where he graduated with a degree in theatre arts. He then returned to Disney, later working as an assistant producer, but mainly as an assistant director, on a number of television series – including Baywatch and Murder, She Wrote. Over the years he was persuaded to play small parts in one US-based television series (My Three Sons, 1967) and two films (Blue in 1968 and It Starts with Murder in 2009).
He is survived by his wife, Laura (nee Soltwedel), whom he married in 1972, by three sisters, Che, Noreen and Kerry, and by a brother, Hugh.
• Kevin Corcoran, actor and director, born 10 June 1949; died 6 October 2015
Michael Smiley was born in 1963 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is an actor, known forPerfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), The World’s End (2013) and Kill List (2011). He is married to Miranda Sawyer. They have one childIn 1993 he was a runner up at the So You Think You’re Funny competition at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
If you don’t already own a bicycle then be prepared to want to rush out and buy one after you hear how the star of stand-up, TV and film enthuses about them
The Holywood-born comic and actor believes bicycles are THE best invention of the past 100 years.
While Michael’s acting career has seen him star in a long and impressive list of movies and TV dramas, last year he landed his dream job when BBC Northern Ireland asked him to hop on his bike and visit many of his old stomping grounds around the province for a new three-part series.
Beginning tonight, Something To Ride Home About sees Michael indulge his infatuation for cycling, giving his own unique comic insight into the places and the people who share his zeal for two wheels.
It was his love affair with bikes which led to his acting debut when a friend created a character for him – Tyres O’Flaherty, the bicycle riding raver who starred in two episodes of the cult Channel 4 sitcom Spaced.
It was based on Michael’s days working as a cycle courier in London before he got his big break on stage as a stand-up comic.
Currently in Kerry filming sci-fi romance The Lobster with Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, Smiley is very open when I ask him about all aspects of his life and career.
Strikingly, even though he has lived in London for the last 30 of his 51 years he hasn’t lost an ounce of his strong Northern Irish accent. Nor is there a hint of a superstar ego, despite his considerable success and fame as both a comic and actor.
Married twice and a father of four, Michael and his first wife Merilees – whom he describes as his childhood sweetheart – left Northern Ireland in 1983 to start a new life in London.
The couple, who are still best friends, have two children, Dillon (30) and Jasmine (26).
Michael’s second wife, meanwhile, is journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer, with whom he has two children, Patrick (8) and Frankie May (3).
Incidentally, Merilees is godmother to his two younger children. He says: “We all get on great and are best mates.”
Michael grew up in Redburn in Holywood and recalls the story of his birth which he says his late parents were often fond of telling him: “I was born in my mum and dad’s bedroom in the winter of 1963.
“The snow was up to the window ledge and my poor dad had to walk to my granny’s house in Belfast to get milk and coal. It was that winter everyone references as one of the worst and my first cot was a bottom drawer in my mum’s dresser.
“I was the baby of the family. I have a brother, John, who lives in America and a sister, Collette, who still lives in Holywood. My mum passed away three years ago and my dad seven years ago and my big sister is great, she has always been there for me.”
Growing up he describes himself as “a wee tearaway” who was “always chasing girls, blowing smoke and drinking cider”.
Mum Alice was a seamstress and dad Frank a post office engineer, and they worked and saved hard to give their youngest a good education, paying for him to go to boarding school from the age of 11 until 16.
“Unfortunately it didn’t really work,” says Michael. “I wasn’t an ideal pupil. I was a bit skittish and had a short attention span and was really hyperactive. I still haven’t settled down.
“After boarding school I went to college in Belfast but I felt slightly disjointed and in the Eighties there was nothing really happening in Northern Ireland apart from the Troubles.
“There was a bit of a music scene in Belfast but no big bands were really coming to the city and I didn’t know any creative people back then, no writers or actors or musicians.”
He decided to move to London when he was 20 with no real career goal.
He did various jobs working on building sites and spent some time on the dole before getting a job as a cycle courier.
It was a friend who recognised his natural talent for making people laugh and persuaded him to go on stage at an open mic night in London in 1993.
“He used to drag me to comedy clubs and one night persuaded me to take a slot which I did and my life changed,” recalls Michael.
“It was amazing. I got up on stage and I was so excited and nervous and that night I couldn’t sleep. I just felt this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
“I started to write material and for the next 20 years I did stand-up all over the world.”
He was writing and performing one-man shows in Edinburgh when he got the chance to make his acting debut in 1999 in a role that was specially written for him.
“Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson were writing Spaced for Channel Four and they based the character Tyres O’Flaherty on me from my time as a cycle courier. They asked me to play him and I jumped at it.”
Two series of seven episodes of Spaced each were broadcast in 1999 and 2001 on Channel 4, and became an instant cult hit, not only for the witty dialogue and numerous pop culture references, but also the ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship of the two leads.
A long list of acting roles followed including playing Jordan, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, in 2008 horror film Outpost, as well as a Tyres-like zombie cameo in old pal Pegg’s movie Shaun Of The Dead.
In 2003, he guest starred in the Doctor Who audio drama Creatures Of Beauty and in 2004 appeared in an episode of Hustle as Max the forger.
He has also appeared in all three series of The Maltby Collection on Radio 4 as Des Wainwright, an eccentric security guard who keeps repeating himself and reminding people he was in the SAS. In 2010, he reunited with his Spaced co-stars for a major role in the film Burke And Hare and further cemented his cult credentials in 2011 after starring in the graphic and bleak British horror film Kill List.
The film received critical acclaim, and earned him the Best Supporting Actor award at the 2011 British Independent Film Awards.
Last year he appeared in an episode of BBC1’s Ripper Street as George Lusk, and the critically acclaimed Channel 4 shows Utopia, as Detective Reynolds, and Black Mirror, as Baxter.
The list of credits goes on and on and this year he has been just as busy, playing Micky Murray in BBC Four’s The Life Of Rock and filming one of the first episodes of the eighth full series of Doctor Who, playing a character by the name of Colonel Blue. While he is enjoying great success and increasing recognition, Michael remembers all too clearly what it was like to be unemployed. “I spent a long time not knowing what I wanted to do and being fearful of life and worrying about not being able to support my wife and family,” he says.
“It wasn’t a happy time for me, but I am blessed with good friends and beautiful relationships in my life.
“It took other people to see the talent and I think that for many people it takes those who love you to help you.
“At school I never settled and was always the class joker. Now I’m older I realise that exams at school give you the ability to concentrate.
“Its only now that I am capable of doing that, although there is still a wee part of me that wants to run around and blow raspberries.
“Real success takes work. It has taken me 20 years to be an overnight success.
“You have to work hard; it doesn’t just drop in your lap. Each time you learn from your mistakes and so the next time you can do it better.
“It’s like an education for my soul. I feel like I am learning every day now when I wasn’t as a child.”
Although he does return home from time to time to see his sister, his new BBC series filmed last year was his first chance to spend some quality time at home since he left for London 31 years ago.
The fact that he got to spend it indulging his passion for his beloved cycling was incredible to him, and it’s obvious he loved every minute.
He lifts cycling onto a whole new plain as he extols its many virtues. “I’ve always had a love affair with cycling. Bicycles are by far the best invention of the past 100 years, they save your life.
“People in villages were able to escape and find work through bicycles and were able to shop for food at markets and get their kids to school.
“Cycling helps you get fitter and it also helps the planet. It calms the body and dispels depression.
“If you are feeling p****d off, just cycle for five minutes and I can guarantee you that you won’t be feeling that anymore.
“You meet other cyclists and it lifts your spirits. It’s not like being stuck in a gym – you are out in the countryside, smelling our cows*** and freshly-cut grass and feeling the sun on your face and the rush of fresh air. You meet a better class of people and as HG Wells said, ‘When I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair of the human race’.”
On his travels with the series he rides some of our most stunning local scenery, tries some alternative cycling disciplines and meets a number of local enthusiasts including a world record holder, and Newtownards-born cycling world championship gold medallist – and BBC NI Sports Personality of The Year 2013 – Martyn Irvine.
“The fact it wasn’t studio-based really appealed to me, I loved it,” says Michael.
“Chris Jones of Green Inc had the idea for the series and I just thought it was fantastic.
“When I left Northern Ireland in the 1980s I remembered it as being very parochial back then.”The show made me realise there were three types of people in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – the ones who left and never came back, the ones who left but came back and the people who stayed. To me the people who didn’t leave are the real heroes”Despite all the rubbish that was going on they stayed and educated their kids and did what they could under difficult circumstances. It was incredible to get the chance to talk to these people and to get a bit of the Northern Ireland craic. “No one has a turn of phrase like we have here, or the humility.
“I got to talk to Isobel Woods in her home. Isobel set and held Irish records for cycling which were not broken until about six years ago. “She still holds seven records no one has broken. “She broke my heart, she is my hero, and I just fell in love with her.” The show has renewed Michael’s love for his home country and has given him a new goal – to buy a camper van and tour Ireland with his children. “Sadly I haven’t got back home much over the years, mainly for funerals,” he says. “I am going to change that next year and buy a Mazda Bongo and take my children touring the north and south of Ireland.”
Michael Smiley: Something To Ride Home About begins on BBC1 Northern Ireland tonight at 10.20pm
In Something to Ride Home About, Michael begins his journey in Belfast and visits St George’s Market, before meeting one of only six Penny Farthing owners in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, viewers also get a sneak peek behind the doors of a community cycle workshop which provides repairs and servicing for bikes in the city. And after a visit to his home town of Holywood, Michael gets to meet keen cyclist, acclaimed photographer and one of his own personal heroes, Bill Kirk, in Newtownards.
He also experiences a hairy moment with a ladies cycling club in Armagh, drops in on a world record holder in Lisburn, puts himself on trial against the clock in Dungannon and meets a fellow comic on the banks of the Foyle. Producer Chris Jones, from Green Inc, says: “In my opinion, Smiley is our finest actor and funniest comedian. “We were thrilled to be working with him on this series that lets Michael revel in two things he’s brilliant at: cycling and telling funny stories.
“It’s his first outing as a presenter on a BBC NI series and you won’t need to be a cyclist to enjoy it. Yes, although Smiley is a keen cyclist he didn’t cover the full length and breadth of Northern Ireland but he certainly brings us to some breathtaking and interesting places and we get to meet some very fascinating people with great stories to tell with a lot of laughs guaranteed along the way with Michael. Maybe it might inspire some people to get on their bike!”
The above “Belfast Telegraph” article can also be accessed online here.
Ronald Lacey was born on June 18, 1935 in the suburbs of London. He began his career in 1961 after a brief stint in the Royal service. He attended The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. His first notable performance was delivered at The Royal Court in 1962’s “Chips With Everything”. Lacey had an unusual pug look with beady eyes and cherub’s cheeks which landed him repeatedly in bizarre roles on both stage and screen. However it was his unforgettable demonic smile and peculiar Peter Lorremannerisms that would bring Lacey a short period of fame in Hollywood. After performing on British television throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, Lacey finally landed the role for which these characteristics could be used to full advantage. In 1981 he was cast as the villainous Nazi henchman in ‘Steven Spielberg’ ‘s widescreen blockbusterRaiders of the Lost Ark (1981) He followed this with a series of various villainous roles for the next five to six years: Firefox (1982) with ‘Clint Eastwood’, Sahara (1983) withBrooke Shields, and Red Sonja (1985) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lacey turned in two hilarious cinematic performances in full drag (Disney’s Trenchcoat (1983) with Margot Kidder from 1982 and Invitation to the Wedding (1983) from 1985 – in which he played a husband/wife couple!). Sadly his career began to wane in the late eighties and Lacey died in London of liver failure on May 15, 1991. A tremendous talent with great depth and many facets, Ronald Lacey will be remembered best for his small but significant role as the dapper yet psychotic Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.
One of the most prolific performers on stage, screen and in television since the late 1950s, Rip Torn was a versatile character actor and occasional lead who brought prodigious, often overpowering energy and confidence to every role he embodied – no matter how dramatic or insignificant the project. He left his native Texas in the late 1950s to make his name in show business, but found the task more daunting than imagined, so he headed for New York to train under Lee Strasberg and soak up experience in theater. His reputation as a formidable talent brought him back to Hollywood, where he essayed a vast array of characters in features ranging from “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1962) and “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965), to experimental features like “Maidstone” for Norman Mailer. Torn worked steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, gaining praise for his solid performances and an Oscar nomination for “Cross Creek” (1983), before vaulting to the mainstream with his Emmy-winning turn as the fearsome Artie, producer of “The Larry Sanders Show” (HBO, 1992-1998). The success of that series turned Torn into a go-to for bullish tough-love types in comedies ranging from “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004) to “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006- ), all the while solidifying him as one of the most respected and versatile figures in the acting business.
The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.