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Archive for November, 2016


Lola Albright



Lola Albright
Lola Albright


TCM Overview:

A charming but often miscast leading actress, with a tough style reminiscent of Barbara Stanwyck, Lola Albright was shown at her best in “A Cold Wind in August” (1961). She won the Best Actress award at the 1966 Berlin Film Festival for her performance in “Lord Love a Duck” as Tuesday Weld’s mother who turns suicidal when she thinks she has ruined her daughter’s life. Albright was also known to TV viewers as Edie Hart, the girlfriend of Craig Stevens’ “Peter Gunn” (NBC, 1958-60; ABC 1960-61).

Albright was a switchboard operator, stenographer and photographer’s model while doing bit dramatic roles to learn her craft. She made her film debut with a small part in “The Pirate” (1948), with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. She was seen with Garland and Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade” (also 1948) but won her first real notices as the wife of a boxing match manipulator who becomes involved with a fighter (Kirk Douglas) in “Champion” (1948). Some of her roles were unchallenging, such as in “The Tender Trap” (1955), where Albright was merely one of the women in Frank Sinatra’s life. Yet, for all the programmers, there were shots such as “A Cold Wind in August,” in which Albright again won critical acclaim, this time for playing an aging stripper. Albright’s film career petered out around 1968, the year she played David Niven’s wife and the mother of a nubile teen-age daughter in “The Impossible Years.”

Unlike other film actors who were slow to take the plunge into TV, Albright was actively working in the medium from 1951, when she guest-starred in two episodes of “Lux Video Theatre.” Throughout the 50s, she appeared made numerous guest appearances, including several during the 1955-56 TV season as a love interest on “The Bob Cummings Show.” Albright was on “Peter Gunn” for its entire three-season run and, in 1965, replaced an ailing Dorothy Malone for part of the season on “Peyton Place” (ABC). She continued appearing on episodics, particularly those of Universal TV, into the early 80s. She never really clicked in TV-movies, appearing in only three: the thrillers “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” (NBC, 1967) and “Terraces” (NBC, 1977) and the melodramatic “Delta County, U.S.A.” (ABC, 1977).


Christine Norden

Christine Norden
Christine Norden

“Independent” obituary by David Shipman:

Mary Lydia Thornton (Christine Norden), actress, born Sunderland 28
December 1924, married 1944 Norman Cole (one son), 1947 Jack Clayton,
1953 Mitchell Dodge, 1956 Herbert Hecht, 1980 George Heselden, died
London 21 September 1988.

ChristineNorden occupies a small, but secure, niche in British film   history as Alexander Korda’s first post-war star.   British film-stars of the pre-war period, Gracie Fields and George Formby always excepted, were there courtesy of the stage (Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh) or Hollywood, allowing them to work here (Leslie Howard, Robert Donat). But during the war the British cinema discovered a flock of artists who were genuine box-office attractions, starting with Margaret Lockwood and James Mason. Korda, returning to production in Britain in 1945, had either to filch or borrow these (in this respect he was far more successful with behind-the-camera personnel) or create his own. The first he created was Christine Norden. She was also the last.

The publicity lie was that he spotted her in a cinema queue. Well, they got a lot of press mileage out of it. Picturegoer, Picture Show and the popular press featured her prominently: British moviegoers panted for their first glimpse of her.   Since she was blonde and sexy, and since Miss Lockwood had made this an era of wicked ladies, it was not surprising that Korda chose for her first role that of a devious night-club singer, in Night Beat, but the film itself went out without his London Films logo because he did not think it of a standard to re-introduce his work. Its hero (Ronald Howard) was a cop going bent because of Norden, who is more interested in a ‘you’re my sort’ affair with a slimy night-club owner (Maxwell
Reed): at the climax she sings his favourite song, has a big drunk scene and falls to her death. She and the film were ludicrous, but she, at least, could claim inexperience.

Korda and MGM (since she was technically under contract to both, as he had signed her during his brief association with that company) loaned her the following year to Premier, the company started by the Ostrer brothers after their break from Rank. With Rank, the Ostrers had mined gold with a series of pseudo-Gothic melodramas: but Isle of Paris proved the beginning and end for Premier. Norden played the Second Empire courtesan Cora Pearl, engaged in a duel of whips with the heroine – Beryl Baxter, obviously chosen for her resemblance to Miss Lockwood. The critic CA Lejeune felt that she would be failing in her duty if she discouraged anyone ‘from sharing this unique experience .. . Such stupendous imbecility in a film, delivered with such portentous gravity in such excruciating dialogue, demands a sort of recognition.’

Miss Norden’s hysterical performance could not now be explained by inexperience; Korda gave up on her fifth film for him, Saints and Sinners, a load of blarney co-starring her male equivalent, Kieron Moore, which literally emptied cinemas. She carried on vamping four more times, twice in unabashed B movies, then left to discuss Hollywood offers’. It was true that she had married an American – her second husband had been Jack Clayton, later to direct Room at the Top but American show-business was not too welcoming: in 1960 she did
manage to get a role in a Broadway musical, Tenderloin, but not one which enabled her to get her name on the adverts.

In 1983, the National Film Theatre showed Isle of Paris, and in a flurry of press releases Miss Norden announced that she had no intention of making a comeback. She did, however, appear at the National Film Theatre with a press agent, in a profusion of diamonds and an elaborate pill-box hat, her full-length velvet dress under a riding habit in several shades of green, none of them too different from the paint on the walls of NFT 2. She laughed a little too loudly during the duel scene and the rest of us laughed through all of it.Miss Lejeune was right: for connoisseurs of bad movies it is the most
cherishable of them all.


Bernard Archard





Bernard Archard
Bernard Archard


“Guardian” obituary:

The actor Bernard Archard, who has died aged 91, established a forbidding presence as Lt Col Oreste Pinto, a character based on a real-life wartime counter-espionage interrogator, in the BBC television series Spycatcher (1959-61). Tall and angular, with receding hair and a prominent chin, he became a regular authority figure and inquisitor, though not in leading roles.   Archard was born in Fulham, London, where his parents were mayor and mayoress; his father was also a jeweller. He won a scholarship to Rada (1938-39), and an early stage role came as Orsino to Jessica Tandy’s Viola in Twelfth Night at the Regent’s Park open air theatre.

During the second world war, he was a conscientious objector, and was sent to work on land owned by the Quaker movement. At the Edinburgh Festival in 1948, in a production of the Glyndebourne Children’s Theatre, he met fellow actor James Belchamber, who was his partner for nearly 60 years.ore   Making his way around regional repertory, Archard worked at Chesterfield with Margaret Tyzack and at Sheffield with Paul Eddington, Peter Sallis and Patrick McGoohan; like many, he believed McGoohan to be a truly great actor, and they worked together again in a couple of episodes of McGoohan’s 1960s TV series Danger Man.   In the mid-1950s, Archard and Belchamber ran a touring repertory company, based in Torquay, with Hilda Braid among its players. They also collaborated on the book and lyrics for Our Jack, a musical based on Walter Greenwood’s The Cure For Love, in 1960.

Nevertheless, by 1959 Archard was thinking about emigrating to Canada with Belchamber. He postponed his trip to appear in a TV medical drama, then again to do Treason (1959), a Sunday-night play about the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler. Unknown to him, this rush of work resulted from a plan by writer-producer Elwyn Jones to demonstrate his suitability for Spycatcher.

Masterminded by Robert Barr, Spycatcher was also produced in the documentary manner, to the extent that Archard was not given billing in the Radio Times until some time into the run. Unlike later, action-orientated spy series, Pinto’s half-hour cases, sometimes little more than two-handers, were based on true stories. The debriefing of wartime refugees afforded many opportunities for Archard’s incisive qualities. One episode saw him get the desired answers from a suspect by throwing darts at a photo of Hitler.

Running for three seasons, the series brought Archard much recognition; he was wryly amused about receiving “two direct offers of marriage and about a dozen oblique ones”. Athough half of the episodes still exist, it has never been revived. Nonetheless, when on a continental tour of My Fair Lady in 1983, Archard’s presence in Amsterdam caused excitement – Pinto having been Dutch.

He was proud of his role as a magistrate in Terence Rattigan’s last play, Cause Celebre, in the West End in 1977, with Glynis Johns. Anthony Shaffer’s mocking The Case of the Oily Levantine, at the same venue, Her Majesty’s Theatre, two years later, was less successful. However, a full-scale theatrical disaster came with Peter O’Toole’s Macbeth at the Old Vic in 1980. Archard played Duncan; he had previously been Angus in Roman Polanski’s film version, in 1971.

In the film version of Dad’s Army (1971), Archard was a regular general dismissing Captain Mainwaring as a “damn bank clerk!” He was in several of the popular Edgar Wallace B-movies, as well as John Huston’s playful The List of Adrian Messenger (1963); he and Huston had a mutual friend in Deborah Kerr.

He was the Duke of Wellington in Number 10 (YTV, 1983), an anthology series depicting prime ministers. For publicity purposes, the actors who took the roles were photographed with Margaret Thatcher; Archard was not impressed by her, but then, he had been a lifelong reader of this paper. He also played a government figure in Hidden Agenda (1990), Ken Loach’s controversial film derived from the John Stalker inquiry.

After retiring in his early 80s, Archard lived contentedly in Somerset with Belchamber, who survives him.

· Bernard Joseph Archard, actor, born August 20 1916; died May 1 2008


Theodore Bikel

Theodore Bikel
Theodore Bikel


“Guardian” obituary from 2015:

The actor and folk-singer Theodore Bikel, who has died aged 91, was a multilingual polymath whose career on stage, screen and television stretched across seven decades. As a character actor in film, the thickset Austrian-born Jew was called upon to play a vast range of foreigners, many of them in uniform. But if truth were told, Bikel, who had a fine baritone speaking and singing voice, was given little chance to shine (or sing) in his 50-film career.

More satisfying was his finely toned performance as Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, whom he played more than 2,000 times all over the US. Although Zero Mostel originally created the part on Broadway in 1962, and Topol played it in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film, for US theatregoers Bikel became identified as much with the role as Yul Brynner was with The King and I. Bikel, who criticised Mostel for his “improvised shtick”, based Tevye on his grandfather, who had “a similar lively relationship with God”.

Nevertheless, Bikel considered the musical, based on stories by the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, “a charming show, but shtetl lite”. Thus there was more sense of tragedy in his one-man show Sholem Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears (2008), in which he sang in English and Yiddish, and in the documentary Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholem Aleichem (2014).

Apart from Fiddler on the Roof, the other Broadway musical with which Bikel was associated was The Sound of Music (1959-63), in which he created the role of Captain von Trapp (played in the film by the more handsome Christopher Plummer). During the out-of-town tryouts for the hit musical, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein felt that the captain should have a song that bids farewell to the Austria he loved. Using Bikel’s guitar-playing and folk-singing talents, they wrote Edelweiss. The simple, patriotic song in waltz time ends with the line: “Bless my homeland for ever.”   However, Bikel had little cause to bless his homeland. Born in Vienna, he fled with his family to Palestine after the Nazi invasion in 1938. His father, an insurance salesman and ardent Zionist, named his son after Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of Zionism. Bikel, who began acting in his teens, providentially made his professional stage debut as a Tsarist village clerk in Tevye the Milkman (1943), based on Aleichem, at the Habimah theatre in Tel Aviv, after which Bikel co-founded the city’s Cameri theatre a few years later.

In 1946, Bikel went to London to study at Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) before getting small roles on the West End stage. One of them happened to catch the attention of Michael Redgrave, who recommended him to Laurence Olivier, at the time directing the first UK production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1949). Bikel was praised in the difficult role of Mitch, the sensitive mother’s boy, who awkwardly courts Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh).   His other London stage success was as the Russian colonel in Peter Ustinov’s satire The Love of Four Colonels (1951).

At the same time, Bikel’s film career began with John Huston’s The African Queen (1951) where, at the climax on board ship, he is the unflinching German naval officer prepared to hang Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn for spying. Huston cast him again in Moulin Rouge (1952), in which Bikel has a short scene as King Milo IV of Serbia (miswritten Milan IV on his calling card), one of the first people to buy a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec (José Ferrer). Bikel then cropped up briefly in British war films as a Dutch prisoner in The Colditz Story (1955), and a German officer in Above Us the Waves (1955).

He continued in much the same way, but in bigger parts, when he went to Hollywood after appearing on Broadway in Tonight in Samarkand (1955) as a French police inspector opposite Louis Jourdan. In The Enemy Below (1957), Bikel is the sympathetic second-in-command on a U-boat in the second world war, being hunted by the American captain (Robert Mitchum) on a destroyer.

For Stanley Kramer, Bikel played a sadistic French general ordering the execution of rebel Spaniards (including Frank Sinatra) during the Napoleonic wars in the absurd, overblown epic The Pride and the Passion (1957) and an American at last in The Defiant Ones (1958). Bikel was delighted to be given the role of the sheriff in pursuit of two escaped convicts chained together (Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier), for which he had an impeccable southern accent. Of his Oscar-nominated performance, the New York Times noted: “In the ranks of the pursuers, Theodore Bikel is most impressive as a sheriff with a streak of mercy and justice, which he has to fight to maintain against a brutish state policeman.”

Back to foreigners, Bikel was effectively slimy as a Greek fifth-columnist pitted against foreign correspondent Mitchum in 1941 before and after the German invasion of Greece in Robert Aldrich’s The Angry Hills (1959). However, perhaps his best remembered film role, albeit a very short one, was as the phonetics expert Zoltan Kapathy, who hopes to expose Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) as a fraud in My Fair Lady (1964), but finally declares her not only Hungarian but of royal blood. Kapathy is later described by Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) as that “hairy hound from Budapest. Never leaving us alone. I’ve never known a ruder pest!”

Bikel won the role of the Russian captain of a submarine that accidentally runs aground on the New England coast in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming! (1966), because he was able to play a convincing Russian speaker. Off the beaten track, Bikel found himself in 200 Motels (1971), a surrealistic vision of life on the road for Frank Zappa and his band Mothers of Invention. As government agent Rance Muhammitz, Bikel is a satanic figure who wanders around dispensing hamburgers from a fuming briefcase.

Meanwhile, Bikel had a parallel career on television, appearing mainly as eastern Europeans in series such as Ironside, Charlie’s Angels, Falcon Crest and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Another side to his life arguably brought him more fame than acting. From 1955, Bikel recorded many albums including Jewish and Russian folk songs backed by him on acoustic guitar. In 1959, he co-founded the Newport Folk festival, where he often teamed up with Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez.

In the 1960s, Bikel became increasingly involved with civil rights causes – he was arrested protesting against the Vietnam war – and was an activist for the Democratic party. His offstage activities included his hands-on presidency of Actors’ Equity (1973-82), and of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America from 1988. Among his other interests were keeping the Yiddish language alive and his love of Israel, though not an uncritical one.

Bikel is survived by his fourth wife, Aimee Ginsburg, whom he married in 2013, and two sons, Robert and Daniel, from his second marriage, to Rita Weinberg Call. That and his first marriage, to Ofra Ichilov, ended in divorce. His third wife, the conductor and pianist Tamara Brooks, died in 2012.

Theodore Meir Bikel, actor, singer and political activist, born 2 May 1924; died 20 July 2015