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Troy Donahue

Troy Donahue
Troy Donahue

 

Troy Donahue was one of the most popular young Hollywood actors for a brief period in the very late 1950’s and early 1960’s.   He was born in 1936 in New York City.   He made his movie debut in a small part in Universal’s “Man Afraid” which starred George Nader.   Troy Donahue was featured as Susan Kohner’s boyfriend in “Imitation of Life” and then in 1959 made a major breakthrough in Warner’s “A Summer Place” opposite Sandra Dee .   He had the lead in “Parrish” with Claudette Colbert and Karl Malden.   By the mid-1960’s his me was a teenage burglar who gets killed in the first few minutes of the movie. The studio then put him into five pictures in 1958, among them This Happy Feeling, in which he spent most of his small part willing a wounded seagull to fly, and Monster On The Campus, which saw him as a student terrified by a giant fish and by a professor turned neanderthal. In Douglas Sirk’s magnificent melodrama, Imitation Of Life (1959), he had the brief but significant role as Susan Kohner’s boyfriend.   He died in 2001.

Ronald Bergan’s “Guardiuan” obituary:

“If Troy Donahue could become a movie star, then I could become a movie star,” sings a character in the Broadway musical, A Chorus Line. It is an affectionate put-down of the hunky, blond, blue-eyed teen idol, wildly popular during the era of generation-gap movies in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Donahue, who has died of a heart attack aged 65, shot to star status in A Summer Place (1959), in which he and Sandra Dee made love to the strains of the ubiquitous title-song on a Maine beach. For a short time, the film made him the top fan-mail recipient – mostly from adolescent girls – at Warner Bros studios. “They’d ask me to light a cigarette, and when I did, they screamed and fell down,” he recalled.

However, by the mid-1960s, he was all washed up, so that when producer Robert Evans was offered Marlon Brando for The Godfather (1972), he declared, “Sonny Tufts, Troy Donahue, Tab Hunter, Fabian – put them all together, Brando is colder.”

Troy Donahue was born in New York as Merle Johnson Jr. His father was head of the motion picture division of General Motors; his mother was an aspiring actress. He studied journalism at Columbia University, but acting took up most of his time. After appearing in local rep, his beachboy good looks got him a Hollywood contract and a new name, coined by Henry Willson, the agent who came up with the pseudonyms “Rock Hudson” and “Tab Hunter”.

“It was part of me 10 minutes after I got the name,” Donahue said years later. “It feels so natural. I jump when people call me by my old name. Even my mother and sister call me Troy now.” As an in-joke, he played a character called Merle Johnson in The Godfather Part II (1974).

As part of Universal’s stable of young talent, Donahue made his screen debut in Man Afraid (1957), as a teenage burglar who gets killed in the first few minutes of the movie. The studio then put him into five pictures in 1958, among them This Happy Feeling, in which he spent most of his small part willing a wounded seagull to fly, and Monster On The Campus, which saw him as a student terrified by a giant fish and by a professor turned neanderthal. In Douglas Sirk’s magnificent melodrama, Imitation Of Life (1959), he had the brief but significant role as Susan Kohner’s boyfriend.

But it was Warner Bros who saw Troy Donahue’s potential and cast him in four soap operas directed by Delmer Daves, beginning with A Summer Place. He then got the title role in Parrish (1961), playing a young Connecticut tobacco grower having trouble with three seductive girls (and with his lines).

There followed Susan Slade (1961), in which he was a shy horse-doctor who married Connie Stevens, despite the fact that she was pregnant by another man; and Rome Adventure (1962), in which Suzanne Pleshette opts for the American art student Troy over the Latin charms of Rossano Brazzi.

Troy Donahue and Pleshette married in 1964, though the union only lasted a year. None the less, the couple co-starred in Raoul Walsh’s western, A Distant Trumpet (1964), with Troy as an expressionless lieutenant defending a fort.

Previously, he had appeared in two television series, Surfside 6 and Hawaiian Eye. His fleeting time in the limelight came to an end with My Blood Runs Cold (1965), in which he risked his good-guy image as an insane killer who believes he has been reincarnated and is in love with a girl from a past life. It ended his Warner Bros contract.

After a few years away from the screen, Donahue returned, with his clean-cut looks dirtied up, as a Charles Manson-like figure in Sweet Saviour (1971), a nasty exploitation movie. A scene of him knifing people during an orgy was an indication of how much things had changed in the film business.

After his brief moment as a weak Wasp intruder into the Mafia family of The Godfather II, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, even spending a summer homeless in Central Park, New York. However, by the early 1980s he had sobered up. “I realised that I was going to die,” he explained. “Worse than that, I [thought I] might live the way I was I was living for the rest of my life.”

In 1989, John Waters gave the almost unrecognisable Donahue a cameo role in Cry-Baby (1989), thus paying tribute to one of the great teen idols of the 1950s, the era in which the film was set. In his latter years, he eked out a living giving acting classes to passengers on the Holland-America cruise line.

Donahue, who was married four times, and was living with the Chinese-born mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao when he died, is survived by a daughter and son.

 Guardian obituary can be accessed on-line here.

TCM Overview:

The status as a teen idol of this blond, blue-eyed heartthrob leading man of the 1960s lasted longer than the memory of many of his films. Troy Donahue is perhaps best recalled for his film role as Sandra Dee’s beau in “A Summer Place” (1959) and for his starring roles as Sandy Winfield, one of the three sexy young detectives, on “Surfside Six” (ABC, 1960-62) and as Philip Barton, hotel social director, of “Hawaiian Eye” (ABC, 1962-63). For all his many screen appearances, the most lasting will undoubtedly be one of his smallest–that of Merle Johnson (also Donahue’s real name), prospective groom to Connie Corleone Rizzi in “The Godfather, Part II” (1974).

He was studying journalism at Columbia University and pursuing an acting career in stock productions when he landed his first film role, a bit part in “Man Afraid” (1957). Later that year, he supported Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack in “The Tarnished Angels”. Despite such foolishness as the low-budget “Monster on the Campus” (1958) and several other small roles in teen-oriented fare, Warner Bros. signed Donahue to a multi-year contract in 1959. His first film for the studio, the sudsy “A Summer Place”, cast him as the son of booze-soaked Dorothy McGuire and Arthur Kennedy and boyfriend of the then-Number One female teen star, Sandra Dee. Their pairing was a popular one and briefly put Donahue on equal footing with Elvis Presley and Pat Boone as a teen idol. Warner Bros., eager to capitalize on Donahue’s ability to sell tickets at drive-in theatres, cast the actor in such typical efforts as “Palm Springs Weekend” (1963), a predictable romp stocked with the popular faces of the moment.

When his contract with Warner Bros. ended, Donahue was cast by Raoul Walsh in “A Distant Trumpet” (1964) as a fighting cowboy matched with Suzanne Pleshette, to whom he was briefly married. As the teen audience matured and tastes changed, Donahue found himself starring in such forgettable efforts as the murder mystery “Come Spy With Me” (1967). He had not worked in films for three years when Francis Ford Coppola hired him for “The Godfather, Part II”. After the film’s release there were a lot of “Wasn’t that Troy Donahue?” remarks on TV talk shows and in the press, and columnists seemed to be wishing him well, but perhaps soured on Hollywood “promises,” Donahue plunged into low-budget films with gay abandon. Some, such as “Cockfighter” (1975), had an artistic, interesting bent, but most were on the order of “Deadly Prey” (1987), “Sexpot” (1988), and “Attack of the Party Nerds” (1989). He did make cameos, along with other teen favorites of the 50s and 60s, in such films as “Back to the Beach” (1987), and John Waters’ “Cry Baby” (1990), but Donahue seemed to disappear from mainstream fare. He could be seen in the 90s signing autographs at $10 per 8×10 glossy at Hollywood memorabilia collector shows alongside many other faces used and discarded by Hollywood.

 

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Anne Francis

 Anne Francis
Anne Francis

 

 

 

Anne Francis is one of the true icons of 1950’s Hollywood cinema and 1960’s television. This is thanks to three cult classics which she starred in 1955, “Forbidden Planet”, “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “The Blackboard Jungle” which introduced the song’Rock Round the Clock’ and in 1965, the TV series “Honey West”.   She was born in New York in 1930 and her first film was “Portrait of Jeannie” which starred Jennifer Jones in 1948.   Sadly, Anne Francis died in 2011.

Her Guardian obituary by Ronald Bergan is as follows:

Anne Francis, who has died of complications of pancreatic cancer aged 80, is now best remembered mainly due to the lyrics “Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet \ Oh-oh at the late night, double-feature, picture show”, which were sung over the opening credits of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and for the cult science-fiction movie to which they refer, Forbidden Planet (1956). The only woman in the cast of Forbidden Planet, Francis had a sprightly charm and a wide-eyed child-like innocence as Altaira, the space-age Miranda in the transposition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest to a distant planet.

The mini-skirted teenaged daughter of the exiled Dr Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) has never seen any man except her father until a group of US astronauts, led by Commander John J Adams (Leslie Nielsen), arrive. While never exactly exclaiming “O brave new world that has such people in it!”, she expresses it with her eyes and is quite curious and happy to learn about man-woman relationships, and the art of kissing, from the new arrivals. Warned by her father to avoid contact with the earthmen, she beams up Robby the Robot (Ariel). “Robby, I must have a new dress, right away,” she tells the android. “Again?” he responds. “Oh, but this one must be different! Absolutely nothing must show – below, above or through.” “Radiation-proof?” “No, just eye-proof will do.”

The curvaceous, blonde, 5ft 8in Francis, with a becoming little mole next to her mouth, was never eye-proof, especially during the films of the 1950s that launched her career proper and sealed her fame. Born in Ossining, New York, she came to public notice in her childhood. “I didn’t come from a show-business family; neither of my parents were involved in it,” she said in 1997. “Actually, someone said to my mom that they thought I’d make a good child model, so she took me up to the John Robert Powers modelling agency, which was the top one in New York City at that time. We were sitting in the outer office with a lot of other folks and Mr Powers himself came out of his office door, looked around the corner, pointed at me, and said, ‘I’ll take that one!’ And that’s how it all started, when I was just six years old.”

She started performing on children’s radio and then moved on to Broadway, aged 11. Billed as Anne Bracken, she played alongside Gertrude Lawrence and Danny Kaye in the Kurt Weill musical Lady in the Dark (1941). There followed several radio soap operas before she signed a one-year contract with MGM. However, the studio only gave her bit parts in three films. It was not until 1950 that she was given her first chance to act on screen, in the United Artists production So Young, So Bad. Although the latter half of the title was also applicable to the latter half of this tale of delinquent girls in an authoritarian reform school, Francis was excellent as an abused teenage mother, lusting after the humane doctor (Paul Henreid).

The role brought her to the attention of the studio boss Darryl F Zanuck, who signed Francis to a 20th Century-Fox contract. Among the five films she made for Fox were two lightweight pictures in which she played the daughter of prissy Clifton Webb, Elopement (1951) and Dreamboat (1952), before being allowed more maturity and period dress as a landowner in 19th-century Haiti in the title role of Lydia Bailey (1952).

But it was on her return to MGM that she co-starred in a range of good movies with a range of good parts, belying her reputation, derived from Forbidden Planet, of an innocent, doll-like performer. In Rogue Cop (1954), she plays the drunken discarded moll of a gangster (George Raft). In John Sturges’s superb Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) – where she was, as in Forbidden Planet, the only woman in the cast – she takes the role of a seemingly tough garage owner in jeans, who doesn’t want to help John J Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) discover the secret of her town where “somethin’ kind of bad happened”, and who meets a tragic end.

Francis was also involved in the then sensational, now dated, juvenile delinquent school drama, Blackboard Jungle (1955). She played the pregnant wife of a dedicated teacher (Glenn Ford), who is the victim of threatening notes and phone calls from a depraved student. It was a strong performance among many, though the film is best remembered for being the first with a rock’n’roll soundtrack, by Bill Haley and the Comets. She was even more impressive as Paul Newman’s war-widow sister-in-law in The Rack (1956), and in The Hired Gun (1957), she is sentenced to hang – unusually, for a woman in a western – for the murder of her husband.

It was not long, however, before she “disappeared” for many years into television, only to emerge spasmodically on to the big screen to remind audiences that she was still around. “I had reached the end of my rope as a contract player at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They were always looking for a new face, so I thought, forget it, I want to go back and do television. In those days, that was the death knell for an actor. You worked television, you didn’t do film. Of course, they cross over all the time today.”

Among the films in which she starred was Girl of the Night (1960), a bold (for the time) and gritty film noir in which she portrayed a high-priced prostitute, exploited by her madam and pimp, until she finds help in psychotherapy. “It is the one film I’m most proud of,” Francis stated. “I was going through analysis at the same time and I was playing going through analysis on that film. It was quite a workout, and it really beat me up.”

Francis had her own TV series, Honey West (1965-66), in which she shone as a sexy and liberated detective, aided by John Ericson (who had played her weak brother in Bad Day at Black Rock). The role won her a Golden Globe and she was also nominated for an Emmy. For the next three decades there followed scores of television guest spots, including four episodes of Dallas in the early 1980s.

In 1982, Francis wrote a book entitled Voices from Home: An Inner Journey, which was about her belief in mysticism and psychic phenomena. In 2007, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and immediately underwent chemotherapy and had surgery to remove part of her right lung. Francis, who was married and divorced twice, is survived by two daughters, Maggie and Jane.

• Anne Francis, actor, born 16 September 1930; died 2 January 2011.

The Guardian obituary can also be accessed on line here.

Her IMDB entry:

One tall, cool drink of water, the beautiful, curvaceous, mole-lipped Anne Francis got into show business quite early in life. She was born Ann Marvak on September 16, 1930 in Ossining, New York (which is near Sing Sing prison), the only child of Phillip Marvak, a businessman/salesman, and the former Edith Francis. A natural little beauty, she became a John Robert Powers model at age 6(!) and swiftly moved into radio soap work and television in New York. By age 11, she was making her stage debut on Broadway playing the child version of Gertrude Lawrence in the star’s 1941 hit vehicle “Lady in the Dark”. During this productive time, she attended New York’s Professional Children’s School.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer put the lovely, blue-eyed, wavy-blonde hopeful under contract during the post-war World War II years. While Anne appeared in a couple of obscure bobbysoxer bits, nothing much came of it. Frustrated at the standard cheesecake treatment she was receiving in Hollywood, the serious-minded actress trekked back to New York where she appeared to good notice on television’s “Golden Age” drama and found some summer stock work on the sly (“My Sister Eileen”).

Discovered and signed by 20th Century-Fox’s Darryl F. Zanuck after playing a seductive, child-bearing juvenile delinquent in the low budget film So Young So Bad (1950), Anne soon starred in a number of promising ingénue roles, including Elopement (1951), Lydia Bailey (1952) and Dreamboat (1952) but she still could not seem to rise above the starlet typecast. At MGM, she found promising leading lady work in a few noteworthy 1950s classics: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955); Blackboard Jungle (1955); and the science fiction cult classic Forbidden Planet (1956). While co-starring with Hollywood’s hunkiest best, including Paul NewmanDale RobertsonGlenn Ford and Cornel Wilde, her roles still emphasized more her glam appeal than her acting capabilities. In the 1960s, Anne began refocusing strongly on the smaller screen, finding a comfortable niche on television series. She found a most appreciative audience in two classic Twilight Zone(1959) episodes and then as a self-sufficient, Emma Peel-like detective in Aaron Spelling‘s short-lived cult series Honey West (1965), where she combined glamour and a sexy veneer with judo throws, karate chops and trendy fashions. The role earned her a Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award nomination.

The actress returned to films only on occasion, the most controversial being Funny Girl(1968), in which her co-starring role as Barbra Streisand‘s pal was heartlessly reduced to a glorified cameo. Her gratuitous co-star parts opposite some of filmdom’s top comics’ in their lesser vehicles — Jerry Lewis‘ Hook, Line and Sinker (1969) and Don Knotts‘ The Love God? (1969) — did little to show off her talents or upgrade her career. For the next couple of decades, Anne remained a welcome and steadfast presence in a slew of television movies (The Intruders (1970), Haunts of the Very Rich (1972), Little Mo(1978), A Masterpiece of Murder (1986)), usually providing colorful, wisecracking support. She billed herself as Anne Lloyd Francis on occasion in later years.

For such a promising start and with such amazing stamina and longevity, the girl with the sexy beauty mark probably deserved better. Yet in reflection, her output, especially in her character years, has been strong and varied, and her realistic take on the whole Hollywood industry quite balanced. Twice divorced with one daughter from her second marriage, Anne adopted (as a single mother) a girl back in 1970 in California. She has long been involved with a metaphysical-based church, channeling her own thoughts and feelings into the inspirational 1982 book “Voices from Home: An Inner Journey”. Lately, she has spent more time off-camera and involved in such charitable programs as “Direct Relief”, “Angel View” and the “Desert AIDS Project”, among others. Her health declined sharply in the final years. Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007, the actress sadly died on January 2, 2011, from complications of pancreatic cancer in a Santa Barbara (California) retirement home.

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

Her IMDB entry can also be accessed here.

“Time” magazine tribute by Richard Corless:

ee androids fighting Brad and Janet /
Anne Francis stars in
 Forbidden Planet /
Uh-uh-uh-uh, oh-oh —
At the late night, double feature, picture show.
— “Science Fiction Double Feature,” a song from Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show

The poster artwork for Forbidden Planet — MGM’s 1956 reworking of Shakespeare’s The Tempest into a science-fiction parable of ego vs. id — showed a fearsome cyborg holding a sleeping blond in a diaphanous gown that highlighted her gaudy curves. The blond was Anne Francis, the machine was Robby the Robot, and the poster had nothing to do with the movie: Robby was a gentleman scholar among automatons, a protector of Francis’s character Altaira, not a menace to her. But that image may be the one that sprang to the minds of moviegoers this week, when the actress’s death was announced. Francis died Sunday, Jan. 2, of pancreatic cancer at a rest home in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was 80.

A lifelong trouper in radio, TV, theater and films, Francis is best known for a flurry of mid-’50s MGM features, for a couple of indelible episodes of The Twilight Zone and for her one-season TV sleuth series Honey West in 1965-66. In her admirers’ memories, she conjures up a description that her co-star William Lundigan enunciated in their 1951 comedy Elopement: “Tall, blond, willowy, sort of ripples when she walks… She’s got those Minnie Mouse eyes, turns ‘em on you like a pair of headlights. Her voice is soft and husky — kind of makes you feel as though your back is being scratched.” (See NewsFeed’s tribute to Anne Francis.)

It happens that Lundigan is talking about another woman, but the attributes fit Francis, who was only 20 during theElopement shoot. She was tall (5ft.-8in.), a seemingly natural blond, with large, lasering blue eyes and an expressive alto voice. Francis also had a forehead so high and smooth that she could have been one of the Metalunans from another ’50s space epic, This Island Earth. The actress’s signature feature — a mole just to the right of her lips — was so distinctive, it was written into the Elopement script. “What’s that?” asks her groom-to-be Lundigan. “It’s a mole,” she replies. “I was born with it. Don’t you like it?” He smiles and whispers, “I like everything you were born with.”

She was born Sept. 16, 1930, with that mole and a work ethic that never quit. The daughter of Philip Marvak, a businessman, and his wife Edith, Anne was a photographer’s model by her fifth birthday. (Pictures from the breadth of her career can be seen on annefrancis.net, the website she maintained until shortly before her death.) She was on television when it was just a gadget, appearing in CBS-TV’s first color tests before World War II. At 10 or 11 she was on Broadway with Gertrude Lawrence in Lady in the Dark and spent her teens in countless radio soaps, including Portia Faces Life and When a Girl Marries, where her child’s voice matured into its permanent, woman timbre. In 1948, when she was 17, she got bit roles in the MGM musical Summer Holiday and David O. Selznick’s Portrait of Jennie. She was back in New York, working on TV’s proto-thriller series Suspense in 1949, when Hollywood casting directors noticed that this reliable young actress was also a knockout.

There’s no doubting Francis’s worthiness as a pinup. Yet what came across, in her two-decade movie and TV prime, was not sultry ostentation but a preternatural poise and a questioning intelligence. Her beauty cloaked her brains without obscuring them. In one sense, she was a blend of Hollywood’s two most popular female types in the ’50s: the bombshell blonds Monroe and Mansfield — an adolescent’s notion of squeaky-voiced sexuality — and smart, slim vixens like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. You’d think someone would have seen Francis as the golden mean between these extremes, yet the studios that employed her (Fox from 1951 to 1954, then MGM for the next three years) had trouble deciding what to do with her.

Their frequent solution: cast her as a gorgeous bookworm, whose closest relationships are with father figures. That prim, stern comedy star Clifton Webb played her doting dad in two films: Elopement, with Francis as a prodigy of architectural design, andDreamboat (1952), where her character is a literary scholar in horn-rimmed glasses and a trim gabardine suit; she’s writing her college thesis on the contention that Homer was not the sole author ofThe Iliad and The Odyssey because “No one man could write so much trash.” In Forbidden Planet she is the science-loving daughter of the planet’s only adult human, Walter Pidgeon; and in The Rack she is Pidgeon’s daughter-in-law, trying to help young Paul Newman through a wartime charge of aiding the enemy. In these roles, her hair was always pulled back, in an implicit dare for any man to let it down and unleash the beast. That was the goal of Francis’s young male co-stars: the thawing of an ice goddess.

The women Francis played usually saw men as curious subjects for further research. She treats her first kiss with Jeffrey Hunter in Dreamboat as an alien-earthling encounter, peculiar but pleasing. In her best-known role as Altaira, isolated on the Forbidden Planet after catastrophes have wiped out her mother and the rest of the colony, has grown up with only her father and a deer and a tiger she treats a pets. When she spots her first male humans — astronauts from Earth — she says, “I so terribly wanted to meet a young man, and now three of them at once!” When she invites spaceship commander Leslie Nielsen to join her for a swim in the pool, he notes regretfully that he didn’t bring his bathing suit. “What’s a bathing suit?,” she asks. Teetering toward camp, the movie is played seriously by the whole cast. And no one had a tougher challenge than Francis, since she’s wearing either various forms of a 23rd-century cheerleader tunic, or nothing.

In these busy years she played opposite some of Old and New Hollywood’s top leading men: Newman, Dick Powell in Susan Slept Here (as a vamp who morphs into a spider-woman during the film’s comic ballet sequence), Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Bad Rock (as the only woman in a threatening town) and Glenn Ford in The Blackboard Jungle(as Ford’s ailing, pregnant, jealous wife). She appeared with Ford again in the 1957 Navy comedy Don’t Go Near the Water, with Earl Holliman stealing her from wolf-man Jeff Richards, just as Nielsen had from Warren Stevens inForbidden Planet. That comedy, which demoted her to second female lead, ended her MGM contract and, oddly, cued a three-year absence from major film and TV work when Francis was still in her 20s — and at the presumed peak of her appeal.

Movies were increasingly a man’s preserve; women who wanted meaty roles often went into TV drama, where the pay was less and the shooting schedules brisk but the rewards of fully imagined and realized characters greater. In his first season of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling gave her one such juicy part in the episode “The After Hours.” She played Marsha White, a young woman shopping in a department store for a gift, a golden thimble, for her mother. But an elevator operator takes her to the store’s ninth floor, deserted except for an insulting sales girl and, in the showcases, just one object: her thimble. Locked in overnight, she comes to realize her strange destiny. A gloss on the Philip K. Dick theme of the android who dreams he’s human, “The After Hours” focuses every scene on Francis, monitoring her face for clues, as bafflement escalates into rage and then settles into acceptance. It’s a splendid use of Francis’s persona: at once friendly and doll-like, human and otherworldly.

In 1960 she took the starring role in Girl in the Night, an indie-style drama about a lonely call girl misused by her madam (Kay Medford). Francis thought this was her best film work, and the film is remembered warmly but fuzzily; it is not available on DVD. She did lots more TV, including her second Twilight Zone: the ultra-weird “Jess-Belle,” Earl Hamner, Jr.’s folk-horror tale about a mountain girl so desperate for another woman’s man that she makes a pact with a witch and turns into a leopard. That was 1963, and two years later Francis got a shot at starring in her own TV action drama, Honey West.

The first hour-long series named for its female character, Honey West was based on Skip and Gloria Fickling’s pulp-novel series about a woman who took over her late father’s detective business. Mixing clichés from private-eye and international espionage stories, then flipping the gender, Honey was a Bond babe — Jane Bond — put in charge of the franchise, and comfortable with the power it gave her. She bested bad men with her karate skills, navigated hairpin turns on high-speed chases in her top-down sports car and, just as important, displayed the business-running executive skills only men of the era were supposed to possess. Honey had a hunky male assistant, Sam Bolt (John Ericson), but he was there mainly as eye candy for the women in the audience. The men had Francis’ efficient allure, her newly fluffy blond hair and, of course, her facial mole, which was featured so prominently in the opening-credit sequence you’d think it was the co-star.

Aaron Spelling, the show’s executive producer, was no militant feminist; 11 years later he would multiply Honey by three, give this trio the sort of patriarchal boss Honey never needed, and call it Charlie’s Angels. As the overseer of Honey West, Spelling made sure sensuality took precedence over suspense. A smarty-pants sex object, Honey wore earrings she could toss like darts to emit tear gas. She often sported tights that looked as if they’d been borrowed from Diana Rigg in The Avengers. Once she went undercover in a showgirl outfit with tiger stripes, which was appropriate for this feral beauty, since her character also kept a pet ocelot named Bruce (a cousin to Francis’s tiger playmate in Forbidden Planet and to the leopard she morphed into on (The Twilight Zone). All this animal attraction should have kept the show running for years, but it was canceled after one 30-episode season.

Truth to tell, that was about it for the iconic phase of Anne Francis’s celebrity. She was 35 when Honey West went south, and the actress who entered show business as a child would keep working for another 35 years. In the 1968 musical Funny Girl she was billed a generous fourth but virtually invisible, except when Barbra Streisand disses her at the start of the first act’s climactic (and climatic) number “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Thereafter, Francis had no big roles in big movies, instead becoming one of those aging performers of medium wattage who stay employed by joining the perennial bus-and-truck company of TV series guest stars. Webb, as her stuffy father in Dreamboat, had sneered at television as a phenomenon that “encourages people who dwell under the same roof to ignore each other completely.” But for Francis it was a meal ticket that she cashed in for 60 years, from those early color tests in 1940 until her retirement in 2000.

In her post-Honey decades, Francis guested on a few comedy series — The Drew Carey Show and, as Bea Arthur’s college roommate, on The Golden Girls — but concentrated on the hour-long dramas. She graced The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, Columbo, Kung Fu, Barnaby Jones, Police Woman, Dallas (in a recurring role),Jake and the Fat Man, Murder, She Wrote and such Spelling confections as S.W.A.T., The Love Boat, Vega$, Fantasy Island (four times) and, it’s only fair, Charlie’s Angels. All in all, in the second half of her career, she racked up credits in more than 100 films and TV shows. Could that be a record for most series as a guest star? Hard to say, but the gal kept gamely at her craft.

She married twice, both times for three years: at 21 to director Bamlett Price, Jr., and at 29 to Dr. Robert Abeloff; they had a daughter, Jane. After the dissolution of her second marriage in 1964, Francis was on her own. In 1970, she became the first single woman in California to be allowed to adopt a child — a girl named Maggie. Francis wrote a self-help book in 1982 and lent her support to many charities, including Direct Relief, which sends medical supplies to victims of civil unrest, and Angel View, for the physically challenged. She promoted these causes on annefrancis.net, which currently carries this message from 2009: “Dear Friends, Due to health issues, I’m unable to process my fan mail in a timely manner…. For those of you who’ve previously sent me fan mail and autograph requests, I’ll try to process them when I am able to do so.”

Even though she had retired 10 years earlier, survived lung cancer in 2004, and was ailing from the pancreatic cancer that finally felled her, the brainy, beautiful blond from the Forbidden Planet never stopped working, never ceased doing what she did best: being Anne Francis.

For this affectionate tribute to Anne France by “Time” Magazine, please also click here.

 

 

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Eddy Grant

Eddy Grant
Eddy Grant

The great Eddy Grant is best remembered for his music especially the early 1980’s hit “I Dont Wanna Dance”.   He has contributed his music to many movies and appeared as an actor twice including “Mustard Bath” in 1993.   He was born in 1948 in British Guiana.   Grant had his first number one hit in 1968, when he was the lead guitarist and main songwriter of the group The Equals, with his self-penned song “Baby Come Back“.[3] The tune also topped the UK Singles Chart in 1994, when covered by Pato Banton featuring Robin and Ali Campbell of the reggae group UB40.[4] Notably, he openly used his songwriting for political purposes, especially against the then-current apartheid regime of South Africa. The Clash recorded a version of “Police On My Back” for their Sandinista! set. (“Wikipedia)

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Burt Lancaster

 

Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster was an intriguing actor who gave many tremendous performances although he sometimes, to my mind, marred some movies with his overuse of his grin.   He was born in New York in 1913.   He began his show business career as a circus acrobat and used his athletic prowess in many of his movies.   He had a starring role opposite Ava Gardner in his first movie “The Killers” in 1947.   He has had many cinema highlights including “The Flame and the Arrow”, “The Professionals”, “The Leopard”, “Airport” and “Atlantic City”.   He died in 1994 at the age of 80.

TCM overview:

Fame came to Burt Lancaster with his first film role, as the doomed Swede in Universal’s “The Killers” (1946), but the former circus acrobat knew better than to leave his career in other hands. After less than two years in Hollywood, Lancaster formed his own production company and took the lead in such popular successes as the Technicolor swashbucklers “The Flame and the Arrow” (1950) and “The Crimson Pirate” (1952) and the noble failure “Sweet Smell of Success” (1959), later called one the greatest films of all time. The athletic, savvy but passionate Lancaster remained a box office draw for 20 years, winning a 1961 Academy Award for playing the corrupt evangelist “Elmer Gantry” (1960), but his power to pull in moviegoers waned with the death of the studio system and his own disinterest in acting the Hollywood hero. Lancaster took chances in such challenging films as “The Swimmer” (1968), “Castle Keep” (1969) and “Ulzana’s Raid” (1972) while his best work through the next decade was often in European features like “1900” (1976) and “Atlantic City” (1980), which netted him an Oscar nomination. In his later years, the actor was better known to younger Americans from TV spots for MCI, the ACLU, and AIDS research, and for his final film role in the hit “Field of Dreams” (1989). Five years after his death in 1994, the American Film Institute pointed a new generation of film fans Burt Lancaster’s way when they conferred upon him the posthumous designation of living legend. Burton Stephen Lancaster was born on November 2, 1913, in the largely immigrant community of East Harlem in New York City. Lancaster’s father, a second generation Irish-American and postal clerk at Manhattan’s General Post Office, had won song and dance competitions in his youth based on the strength of his rich tenor voice and his mastery of several musical instruments. His mother, the former Elizabeth “Lizzie” Roberts, had had three children before him and one after his birth, who died in infancy. Lancaster’s given name was in tribute to the surgeon who delivered him. Growing up in an Irish-Protestant household, he learned the ideals of honesty and charity but developed a yearning for adventure while exploring the streets of Manhattan. Early work came with a paper route and a job shining shoes outside of Macy’s Department Store. A preteen Lancaster was knocked down by automobiles no less than eight times and once broke his nose falling from a fire escape. During the Depression, he performed in plays at the Union Settlement House in East Harlem and worked as a basketball coach. An incident in which Lancaster was stabbed accidentally by a friend led to a near fatal staph infection and a year’s confinement in bed. A star basketball player at DeWitt Clinton High School, Lancaster continued to New York University on an athletic scholarship. He quit NYU in 1932 to join the one-ring Kay Brothers Circus. After a single season, Lancaster moved to the Russell Brothers Circus and, later, with his marriage to acrobat June Ernst, to the three-ring Barnett Brothers Circus. Lancaster finished out the 1935 summer season working at Luna Park in Coney Island before going on government relief. Applying for a job with the Works Progress Administration, he performed in WPA-sponsored circuses. After an injury to his hand and the dissolution of his first marriage, Lancaster worked as a lingerie salesman in Chicago and singing waiter in New Jersey before joining the U.S. Army’s Twenty-First Special Service Division during World War II. As part of the Army Service Forces, Lancaster put on shows for shell-shocked soldiers fresh from the frontlines, relying on his talents as a gymnast and vaudevillian to entertain the troops and his facility as a scrounger to retrieve props and costumes from bombed out buildings in Rome. Back in the United States post-war, Lancaster pursued an acting career with some diffidence. He made his Broadway debut as Burton Lancaster in Harry Brown’s wartime drama “A Sound of Hunting,” the source for Edward Dmytryk’s 1952 film “Eight Iron Men.” Though the production closed after 12 performances, Lancaster caught the eye of Hollywood agent Harold Hecht. Hecht provided Lancaster with an introduction to producer Hal Wallis, who paved the way for the actor’s debut as the doomed Swede in Robert Siodmak’s noir classic “The Killers” (1946) at Universal. Siodmak and cinematographer Elwood Bredell employed stark chiaroscuro lighting to offset Lancaster’s angular face and chiseled physique, creating an instant Hollywood star, along with his co-star Ava Gardner. Reviews of the day referred to Lancaster as a “brawny Apollo” and a “brute with the eyes of an angel.” He celebrated his success by inhabiting plush new digs in Malibu’s Pacific Palisades, into which he would move his family and his second wife, Norma Anderson, with whom he had already conceived one child. Lancaster’s film roles through the next few years traded on his tough guy image in such films as Jules Dassin’s “Brute Force” (1947), Byron Haskin’s “I Walk Alone” (1948) and Robert Siodmak’s “Criss Cross” (1949). He varied the image slightly, playing Barbara Stanwyck’s weakling husband in Anatole Litvak’s “Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948) and Edward G. Robinson’s conscience-bound son in Irving Reis’ “All My Sons” (1948), a personal project for which he took a $50,000 salary cut. With agent Hecht, Lancaster formed his own production company. Hecht-Lancaster enjoyed its first popular success with the swashbuckler “The Flame and the Arrow” (1950), directed by Jacques Tourneur. This and subsequent films, such as Michael Curtiz’ “Jim Thorpe: All American” (1951) and Robert Siodmak’s “The Crimson Pirate” (1952), allowed the actor to showcase his natural athleticism, while straight dramas such as Daniel Mann’s “Come Back, Little Sheba” (1952) and Fred Zinnemann’s “From Here to Eternity” (1953), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, encouraged him to stretch and mature as a performer. Pushing into middle age, Lancaster enjoyed a string of star turns in such high-profile productions as Robert Aldrich’s “Vera Cruz” (1954) opposite Gary Cooper, Daniel Mann’s “The Rose Tattoo” (1955) with Italian actress Anna Magnani, and as the title character in Joseph Anthony’s “The Rainmaker” (1956), co-starring Katharine Hepburn. Lancaster tried his hand at directing a feature with “The Kentuckian” (1955) and financed with Hecht and producer James Hill the Academy Award-winning “Marty” (1955), starring Ernest Borgnine. A pet project was the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster production “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957), a scalding expose of the New York publicity industry with Lancaster playing a thinly-veiled caricature of gossip columnist Walter Winchell. Shot on location in Manhattan by James Wong Howe and briskly directed by Alexander Mackendrick, the film was a box office disappointment whose failure wounded Lancaster deeply. More successful that year was John Sturges’ “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (1959), in which Lancaster played frontier lawman Wyatt Earp to Kirk Douglas’ hair-trigger Doc Holliday. Lancaster won an Academy Award for his portrayal of corrupt evangelist “Elmer Gantry” (1960) but the milestone also marked the downward arc of his tenure as a Hollywood leading man. Nonetheless, the actor received another Oscar nod for playing Robert Franklin Stroud, a criminal recidivist known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962), and traveled to Italy to work for Luchino Visconti in “The Leopard” (1963), opposite Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. A crowd pleaser for Lancaster was “The Professionals” (1966), a rousing Western co-starring Lee Marvin, Woody Strode and Robert Ryan. More pet projects included John Frankenheimer’s “The Train” (1964), Frank Perry’s “The Swimmer” (1968), and Sydney Pollack’s “Castle Keep” (1969). Uninterested in playing heroes or characters with whom he was in agreement politically, Lancaster seemed to relish thwarting audience expectations. Going through the motions in Arthur Hiller’s cash cow “Airport” (1970), Lancaster was more in his element in a string of revisionist Westerns, among them Robert Aldrich’s grim Vietnam parable “Ulzana’s Raid” (1972). He directed a second film, the murder mystery “The Midnight Man” (1974), and traveled to the Middle East to appear as “Moses, the Lawgiver” (1976), with his own son Bill contributing a cameo as the young Moses. Better late-life roles for Lancaster were as Robert De Niro’s autocratic grandfather in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900” (1976) and as a military advisor in the Vietnam War drama “Go Tell the Spartans” (1979), directed by Ted Post. Now firmly in elder statesman mode, the actor scored sterling notices for his roles as an aging gangland flunky in Louis Malle’s “Atlantic City” (1980) – which earned him his fourth and final Academy Award nomination – as an elderly outlaw in Lamont Johnson’s distaff Western “Cattle Annie and Little Britches” (1981), and as an astronomy-obsessed Texas oilman in Bill Forsythe’s wry comedy “Local Hero” (1983). Near the end of his life, Lancaster capped his career by reteaming with frequent co-star Kirk Douglas for Brian De Palma’s “Tough Guys” (1986), playing the dying patriarch of a sprawling but dysfunctional Long Island family in Daniel Petrie’s “Rocket Gibraltar” (1988) and appearing in the small but memorable role of an aging baseball rookie who remembers his glory days with the Chicago White Sox in the Kevin Costner classic “Field of Dreams” (1989). The production marked Lancaster’s last feature film appearance and one of his most successful. In his final years, Lancaster was a tireless spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the People for the American Way, liberal political organizations either targeted for derision by then-President George H. W. Bush as un-American or founded to counter the demographic swing in the United States toward conservatism. Lancaster also appeared in print ads supporting aid for AIDS and TV spots that urged consumers to be wary of the bold claims of the large pharmaceutical companies. Though he projected the image of ageless vitality well into his seventies, Lancaster was plagued by heart troubles, requiring quadruple bypass. In 1990, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Burt Lancaster died of a heart attack on Oct. 21, 1994, at his home in Century City, CA, just weeks before his 81st birthday. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked the actor at 19th on its list of “50 Male Movie Legends.” By Richard Harland Smith

The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.


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Sarah Miles

Sarah Miles
Sarah Miles

Sarah Miles is regarded as one of the major stars of 1960’s British cinema who went on to have some major successes internationally before becoming a best selling author.   She was born in 1941 in Essex.   She trained at RADA in London.   She had a non-speaking part in “The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone” with Warren Beatty and Vivien Leigh in 1961.   That same year she had a major role in “Term of Trial” opposite Laurence Oliver and Terence Stamp.   She then starred in “The Servant” opposite Dirk Bogarde and James Fox, “I Way Happy Here” (which was made in Lahinch, Co Clare) and “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”.   In 1970 she starred in “Ryan’s Daughter” which was directed by David Lean.   It was harly reviewd at the time but is now regarded as a major film classic.   Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s she made such movies as “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing” with Burt Reynolds in Hollywood, “The Hireling”, “The Big Sleep”, “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea” with Kris Kristofferson, “White Mischief” and “Hope and Glory”.   She is the widow of the great playwright Robert Bolt.   An interesting article on Ms Miles can be accessed here.

TCM Overview:

As talented as she was unconventional, British Actress Sarah Miles rose to the forefront of the British New Wave movement in films opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and Robert Shaw, and under such renowned directors as David Lean and Michelangelo Antonioni. She garnered critical acclaim in various London stage productions prior to miraculously landing her film debut as a co-star opposite her screen idol Olivier in the psycho-sexual drama “Term of Trial” (1962). Miles’ torrid affair with Oliver – a then-married man old enough to be her father – would be one of many trysts carried on with some of film’s biggest names throughout the years. Other projects like “The Servant” (1963), “The Ceremony” (1963), and “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970) threatened to typecast her as a habitual adulteress, a trend only bolstered by the details of her personal affairs. Her turn opposite Burt Reynolds in “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing” (1973) was overshadowed by the suspicious death of her personal manager on location, just as he admirable work opposite Kris Kristofferson in “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” (1976) was eclipsed by her and her co-star’s onscreen nudity. After a rough patch, both personally and professionally, Miles gained a bit of much deserved respectability with more mature performances in films that included “Steaming” (1984) and “Hope and Glory” (1987). Although largely retired by the late-1990s, Miles continued to entertain with a series of tell-all memoirs, proving that real life can indeed often be more entertaining and salacious the anything committed to film.

Sarah Miles was born on Dec. 31, 1941 in the town of Ingatestone, Essex, England to mother, Vanessa Miles, and father, John Miles, a prominent engineer and architectural designer. As a child, Miles attended the nearby private girls school of Roedean for a time, before eventually being expelled for her disruptive behavior. Calling in favors and lying about her exceedingly precocious daughter’s age, Miles’ mother managed to enroll her at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the age of 15. Five years later, the 20-year-old actress made her London stage debut in a 1961 mounting of “Dazzling Prospect,” in addition to making her first television appearance in an episode of the British newspaper drama “Deadline Midnight” (ITV, 1960-61). Miles grabbed the attention of audiences with her feature film debut in Peter Glenville’s “Term of Trial” (1962), as a sexually-awakening student who becomes infatuated with her kindly instructor (Laurence Olivier), only to destroy his reputation with claims of impropriety after he declines her coquettish advances. Behind the scenes, her poorly-concealed affair with Olivier – who was at the time married to actress Joan Plowright and was 35 years her senior – gained her as much tabloid ink as did her impressive performance. It would not be the last time that Miles’ personal affairs would threaten to overshadow her professional work in the press.

After being nominated for a Best Newcomer award by the British Academy of Film and Television for her work in “Term of Trial,” Miles followed with another young seductress role in “The Servant” (1963), a psychological role-reversal drama based on the Robin Maugham novel of the same name. Adapted to the screen by playwright Harold Pinter, the film starred James Fox as a wealthy young Londoner and Dirk Bogarde as his Machiavellian manservant who turns the tables on his susceptible employer. She played a similar character, as the unfaithful girlfriend of unjustly convicted prisoner Laurence Harvey, in the exploitation movie “The Ceremony” (1963). In an attempt to distance herself from the “bad girl” roles for which she was becoming known, Miles took part in the madcap aeronautical comedy “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” (1965), followed by her lead role in the romantic drama “I Was Happy Here” (1966). By now considered a part of the London’s hip British New Wave movement, she appeared only peripherally in Michelangelo Antonioni’s hugely influential art film “Blow-Up” (1966), prior to committing herself to a string of stage roles, most notably that of Mary of Scotland in a 1967 production of “Vivat! Vivat Regina!,” written by her new husband, Robert Bolt.

After her film sabbatical, Miles returned to the screen as the bored and promiscuous wife of cuckolded Irish schoolteacher Robert Mitchum in David Lean’s “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970), a loose adaptation of Madame Bovary written by Bolt, who was a frequent collaborator of Lean’s. Although not initially well-received in the U.S. upon release, the film – which played well with European audiences – won two Oscars and earned a nomination for Miles. It also introduced Miles to Mitchum, who she would have an affair with years later, after her divorce from Bolt. Shortly thereafter, Bolt made his directorial debut with the disappointing “Lady Caroline Lamb” (1972), a historical biopic that cast Miles as the eponymous serial adulteress, openly carrying on affairs with the likes of Lord Byron (Richard Chamberlain) and the Duke of Wellington (Laurence Olivier). The film met with scathing reviews, leading to – as some speculated – Bolt’s abandoning of future directorial plans, and possibly, the collapse of his marriage to his creative muse. The actress followed with director Alan Bridges’ “The Hireling” (1973), cast as an aristocratic woman who engages in a brief, doomed romance with her chauffeur (Robert Shaw).

Also on screens that year was Miles’ fateful collaboration with rising Hollywood sex symbol Burt Reynolds in the Western romance “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing” (1973). More notable than the film itself – which met with indifference in theaters – was what took place behind the scenes. In addition to her illicit affair with her co-star during filming, the tabloid press was enthralled by the sudden and mysterious death of Miles’ manager, David Whiting, who was found dead in the bathroom of her hotel room. Reportedly, Whiting had become obsessed with Miles and was distraught over her romantic liaison with Reynolds, to the point of accosting the actress in her room just prior to his death. In an investigation that lasted weeks, Miles was considered a “person of interest,” and despite Whiting’s death ultimately being determined a suicide, the scandal would plague the actress for years to come. Attempting to put the sordid events of the past behind her and fearing that her career was on the verge of ruin, Miles made her U.S. television debut in a lavish adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (NBC, 1974), surrounded by an impressive ensemble cast that included Michael York, James Mason, and Anthony Quayle.

Miles returned to the screen opposite Kris Kristofferson in the oedipal drama “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” (1976). The attempt at adapting the revered novel by Japanese author Yukio Mishima to a screenplay set in England would be more remembered for its then-daring nude scenes between Miles and Kristofferson than for any artistic merit as a film. Not a particularly stellar period for Miles professionally, it was also a time of personal upheaval, when she divorced Bolt that same year. Free of any marital commitments, she reteamed with her “Ryan’s Daughter” co-star Robert Mitchum – both on and off-screen – for a modern day remake of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” (1978). Later, Miles helped out her brother, director Christopher Miles, when she turned in a cameo as a film star in his “Priest of Love” (1981), a literate account of the last years of writer D.H. Lawrence (Ian McKellen), and that same year appeared with Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed in the utterly forgettable killer-snake-on-the-loose thriller “Venom” (1981).

Miles turned in a more realistic performance alongside Vanessa Redgrave in the women’s drama “Steaming” (1984), based on the critically-acclaimed play of the same name. However, she returned to genre fare with Donald Sutherland and Faye Dunaway in the Agatha Christie mystery “Ordeal by Innocence” (1985). Now embracing her more mature screen persona, she played two titled women (Lady Ashley and Lady Sybil, respectively) for the television miniseries “Harem” (ABC, 1986) and “Queenie” (ABC, 1987). Still, Miles was not quite done with playing sexually insatiable, morally ambiguous characters, as evidenced by her turn in Michael Radford’s Kenyan-set murder mystery “White Mischief” (1987). The actress surprised many when she next delivered a highly effective change-of-pace performance as a harried mother in the blitz-torn London of John Boorman’s semi-autobiographical wartime drama “Hope and Glory” (1987). On television, she played an aging courtesan-turned-countess in the romantic melodrama “A Ghost in Monte Carlo” (TNT, 1990), followed by a turn as a domineering wife (supposedly) poisoned by her husband (Michael Kitchen) in the “Masterpiece Theater” production of the crime docudrama “Dandelion Dead” (PBS, 1994).

Encouraged to write by her former paramour Olivier, Miles penned three memoirs – beginning with 1993’s A Right Royal Bastard and concluding with Bolt from the Blue in 1996. Among the revelations presented was the minor bombshell that while having an affair with up-and-coming filmmaker Steven Spielberg in the early ’70s, she became pregnant, only to have an abortion due to his perceived ambivalence. Another somewhat unsettling eccentricity of Miles’ – one that had been leaked to the public years earlier – was the fact that she had for decades been a practitioner of urine therapy, ingesting the bodily fluid once to twice daily for its purported health benefits. Not surprisingly, this only further cemented her reputation as an unrepentant eccentric in the eyes of many. Other writing efforts included her debut work as a novelist with the publication of Beautiful Mourning in 1998. Although semi-retired, Miles returned to acting in the little-seen Italian WWII action drama “Days of Grace” (2001), followed by another Italian production, the art world thriller “The Accidental Detective” (2003). Remaining in England for her next production, she had a guest role in an installment of the long-running mystery movie series “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (A&E, 2004), starring David Suchet as the fastidious Belgian detective.

By Bryce Coleman

The above TCM overview can also be accessed here.

 

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James Caan

 

James Caan
James Caan

James Caan is regarded as one of the leading actors of film in the 1970’s.   He was born in the Bronx, New York in 1970,  His first major film role was in 1964 when he played a punk in the Olivia De Havilland movie “Lady In A Cage”.   Stardom came with his role as the brain damaged football player in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Rain People” in 1968.   Coppola cast him as one of the Corlone brothers in the iconic “The Godfather” in 1971 with Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.   Caan and Pacino’s career really took off and throughout the 1970’s both enjoyed major stardom.   Caan’s films at this time included “Rollerball”, “A Bridge Too Far” and “Come A Horseman”.   Caan though turned down some major box office hits such as “Blade Runner”, “Kramer V’s Kramer” and “Apocalypse Now”.   He stopped acting on fim between 1982 and 1987 and then resumed his career in a more low key fashion in such films as “The Way of the Gun”, “The Yards” and “This Is My Father”.

TCM overview:

Despite an up-and-down career that was mired by excess and irrational behavior, actor James Caan was a gifted performer who was as capable of pulling heart strings as he was of breaking someone’s kneecaps. Caan emerged from the cauldron of New York City’s thriving acting scene in the 1950s to become a noted player on the stage and on television. Though he graduated to films soon after his salad days in New York after swearing off television for the next several years, he had his first big breakthrough on the small screen, playing dying football player Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song” (ABC, 1971). His performance in what was considered to be one of the best television movies ever made earned Caan considerable acclaim, as well as an Emmy Award nomination. But the following year put Caan on the map permanently, with his energetic portrayal of the hot-headed Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), a role with which he was forever identified – most notably in the numerous mobster roles he played in the ensuing decades. While he had several bright spots as a leading man throughout the years, including as a television regular on “Las Vegas” (NBC, 2003-08) and as the victim of an obsessive fan in the disturbing film, “Misery” (1990), Caan settled into a niche as character actor more often than not, performing some variation of the mobster role that made him famous.

Born on March 26, 1939 in The Bronx, NY, Caan was raised in Sunnyside, Queens one of three children by his father, Arthur, a butcher and his mother, Sophie. Both his parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany who fled the Nazis before the war. He attended P.S. 150 – Christopher Street School in Brooklyn, where he caused untold amounts of trouble and was eventually kicked out, though whether or not dropping a fellow student out of a window on a bet contributed to his departure remained unclear. Caan eventually made his way to the Rhodes Preparatory School, where he continued raising hell while stuffing the ballot box to become president of the student body, as well as playing several sports, including baseball, basketball and football. After graduating a year before his fellow classmates, Caan attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. He majored in economics and continued playing football, but soon found himself homesick. Caan soon transferred to Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, which is where he discovered acting.

With the prospect of entering the meat delivery business with his father as his one career option, he began taking acting seriously, studying with such esteemed coaches as Wyn Handman at the American Place Theatre and Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. After spending several years honing his craft in the classroom, he had one of his first parts in “La Ronde,” Arthur Schnitzler’s examination of early 20th century class division and sexual mores. He made the jump to the small screen with episodes of various popular television shows, including “Naked City” (ABC, 1958-1963), “The Untouchables” (ABC, 1959-1963) and the anthology series “Alcoa Premiere” (ABC, 1961-63), which featured a new one-hour drama every week. Following episodes of “Doctor Kildare” (NBC, 1961-66) and “Ben Casey” (ABC, 1961-66), Caan began his film career with an uncredited walk-on as an anonymous soldier in the Billy Wilder comedy “Irma La Douce” (1963). He made his official film debut in the campy thriller “Lady in a Cage” (1964), playing a ruthless thug who terrorizes a wealthy widow (Olivia de Havilland).

Within just a few years after making his screen debut, Caan landed his first leading role, starring in Howard Hawk’s tense race car drama, “Red Line 7000” (1965). He followed with a supporting turn as a young gunslinger opposite John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in Hawks’ gritty, but redemptive Western, “El Dorado” (1967). Now determined to carve a career in film, Caan starred in the psychological thriller, “Games” (1967), which he followed with a turn as an American astronaut who journeys to the moon only to discover the Russians beat the United States to the punch in the early Robert Altman feature, “Countdown” (1968). After starring in forgettable movies like “Journey to Shiloh” (1968) and “Perlas Ng Silangan” (1969), Caan was a brain-damaged hitchhiker who encounters a disillusioned housewife (Shirley Knight) trying to escape the trappings of her domestic life in one of Francis Ford Coppola’s first features, “The Rain People” (1969).

Continuing along in features, he starred as the titular former high school basketball player in the failed adaptation of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” (1970). In the long-forgotten romantic comedy “T.R. Baskin” (1971), he was the short-time beau of a naïve young woman from the country (Candice Bergen) trying to make it in Chicago. Though he vowed to stay away from television, Caan eventually returned to the small screen for what became his breakout role; playing cancer-stricken professional football player Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song” (ABC, 1971). Based on Piccolo’s life and career, Caan delivered a moving performance as the Chicago Bear running back whose brief life was enhanced by his close friendship with football legend Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). Their mutual respect and admiration helped both through trying times – Piccolo helped Sayers in his struggles with injuries and racism, while Sayers was by Piccolo’s side throughout his fatal illness. Widely hailed as one of the most affecting television movies of all time, “Brian’s Song” was a significant boost for Caan, who earned an Emmy nomination for leading actor.

Caan’s triumph in “Brian’s Song” was mere prelude for his next performance in Coppola’s opening installment of his legendary crime saga, “The Godfather” (1972). Though he originally auditioned to play the cold and calculating Michael Corleone, a role that eventually went to then-unknown Al Pacino, Caan was deemed more suited to play the hot-headed Sonny, the eldest son of crime family head Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and next in line to take over. Sonny’s impetuous nature opens the floodgates to violence when he inadvertently paves the way for a hit on his father, which in turn leads to bloody retaliation while the Don recovers. In one memorable scene among many, he delivers a savage beating on his brother-in-law, Carlo (Gianni Russo), who is caught abusing Sonny’s sister, Connie (Talia Shire). But Sonny’s vengeance ultimately leads to his downfall when Carlo sells him out to a rival family, who take him down in a hail of bullets at a toll both by a gang of Mafia hit men. More than the sum of its parts, “The Godfather” was a huge hit while being hailed as a cinematic masterpiece at the same time. Numerous awards and nominations were bestowed upon the landmark film, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Caan at the Academy Awards.

Building off his newfound fame derived from playing Sonny Corleone – a role with which he would be forever identified – Caan starred in the loose adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella, “The Gambler” (1974). Caan played a well-respected literature professor hopelessly addicted to gambling, which gets him into serious trouble with a local bookie (Paul Sorvino). That same year, he co-starred with Alan Arkin in “Freebie and the Bean” (1974) before moving on to play a sailor who falls for Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty” (1975). As Billy Rose, he oozed charm as well as displayed a passable singing voice opposite Barbra Streisand’s reprisal of Fanny Brice in “Funny Lady” (1975), the entertaining, but familiar sequel to “Funny Girl” (1968). But most of his post-“Godfather” turns during the 1970s were either less-than-prestigious or box office duds. His one bright spot was starring in the futuristic sci-fi sports actioner, “Rollerball” (1975), playing a legendary veteran of a brutal sport caught up in a world where violence has been outlawed, resulting in an oppressed population needing an outlet to satisfy their bloodlust. Though not the biggest hit at the time of its release, “Rollerball” became a cult classic for later generations.

From “Rollerball” on throughout the rest of the century, Caan struggled to return to his heyday of the early 1970s. Though he failed for the most part, there were occasional turns where the Caan of old emerged. Meanwhile, he suffered several personal setbacks due in large part to his restless and unruly behavior, problems with substance abuse, and multiple marriages plagued by rumors of abuse. Caan was lost among an all-star ensemble cast that included Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Michael Caine and Gene Hackman in Richard Attenborough’s epic war film, “A Bridge Too Far” (1977). He gave a solid performance as an easy-going cowboy in the uneven contemporary Western, “Comes a Horseman” (1978), followed by a solid turn opposite Marsha Mason in the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s autobiographical play, “Chapter Two” (1979), which was unable to duplicate its Broadway success. Caan delivered one of his best performances in years with Michael Mann’s feature debut, “Thief” (1981), playing a professional jewel thief who longs for a normal life, but only after he pays off a crime boss (Robert Prosky) with one last job.

That year marked a turning point in Caan’s personal life, when his beloved sister, Barbara, died of cancer. Devastated by her loss, Caan spent the ensuing years trying to recover and even declined to speak of her death decades after. Meanwhile, his career began to spiral, with Caan suffering a box office dud playing the ghost of Sally Field’s lovable, but philandering choreographer husband – modeled on Bob Fosse – in “Kiss Me Goodbye” (1982). Frustrated with the direction his career was taking, Caan unofficially retired from the business and spent the next five years away from filmmaking. Instead, he split the majority of his time between his children and sinking deeper into drug addiction. He also watched his bank account dwindle, thanks to a shady accountant who helped relieve him of some money. But he re-emerged in the latter half of the decade to play a disillusioned Army sergeant who tries to dissuade a young private (D.B. Sweeney) from fighting in Vietnam in Francis Ford Coppola’s mediocre, “Gardens of Stone” (1987). He followed with a turn as a cop who is angry and resentful of an alien race integrated into human society in “Alien Nation” (1988).

As Caan entered the 1990s, the features in which he starred were more hit and miss, with many projects falling on the latter side of the ledger. Though noted for his sympathetic turn as a successful writer held captive by a deranged fan (Kathy Bates) in “Misery” (1990), he failed to win any converts with his song-and-dance routine alongside Bette Midler in “For the Boys” (1991). Caan delivered an inevitable spoof on his gangster image in “Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992), a modest hit that claimed to be nothing more than a slice of madcap entertainment. After starring as a coach of an unruly college football team in “The Program” (1993), Caan won critical plaudits for his turn as the cranky father of a small-time business man (Dennis Quaid) in “Flesh and Bone” (1993). It was around this time that Caan became fodder for the tabloid news. First, he was one of the first stars to be associated with notorious Hollywood madam, Heidi Fleiss. Just a month later, he was questioned for 10 hours by police when he woke up in a friend’s apartment with an aspiring actor, Mark Alan Schwartz, dead on the lawn after falling several stories from the fire escape. Schwartz’s death was later determined to be accidental.

While his marriage to third wife, Ingrid Hajek, was deteriorating, Caan was noted for his longtime friendship to Ronald Lorenzo, a drug trafficker who was sentenced to 11 years hard time in federal prison. In early 1994, he was arrested in North Hollywood on a misdemeanor for allegedly waving a loaded semiautomatic pistol in the face of rapper Derek Lee, a charge that was later dropped due to lack of evidence. Making life even more difficult were accusations of physical abuse, when a woman named Leesa Anne Roland sued Caan for battery, accusing that he beat her in a Century City hotel. The suit was later dismissed. Meanwhile, a year after being linked to Heidi Fleiss, Caan checked into the Exodus Recovery Center in Marina Del Rey, CA to treat his addiction to cocaine. Though tarnished, he continued to work regularly, emerging from the ashes to star alongside his son, Scott, who was making his acting debut in the crime drama, “A Boy Called Hate” (1995). In director Wes Anderson’s own debut, “Bottle Rocket” (1996), Caan played an eccentric con man who enlists three aimless young men (Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson) to perform a daring, but ill-conceived heist.

Though long associated with violent films, Caan was a surprise choice to co-star opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the action thriller “Eraser” (1996), which he followed by appearing opposite Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans in the action comedy “Bulletproof” (1996). After a barely noticed turn in the stark Western, “North Star” (1996), Caan returned to television for his first small screen role since “Brian’s Song,” playing famed gumsh Phillip Marlowe in the less-than-stellar adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s unfinished novel, “Poodle Springs” (HBO, 1998). Having appeared to have put his controversial private life behind him, Caan turned out a series of solid journeyman performances, playing a Mafioso in “Mickey Blue Eyes” (1999), a movie stunt man targeted for murder in “In the Shadows” (2000), a mob-tied lawyer in “The Way of the Gun” (2000), and a corrupt New York Transit Authority employee in “The Yards” (2000). After reviving his 1974 gambler for the contrived “Luckytown” (2001), Caan found himself back on television again, playing a former outlaw-turned-prison warden in “Warden of Red Rock” (Showtime, 2001).

Caan returned to the small screen as his career advanced, not only finding more available work, but also more challenging material. He starred as a Navy captain trying to cover up the causes of an explosion aboard the U.S.S. Iowa that killed 47 sailors in the fact-based docudrama, “A Glimpse of Hell” (FX, 2001). In “The Lathe of Heaven” (A&E, 2002), he was a demented psychiatrist who uses a young man’s (Lukas Haas) ability to alter reality with his dreams to remake the world to match his vision of perfection. He next turned in a performance as a small town sheriff investigating the death of his son with the police officer (Johnathon Schaech) who may have killed him in “Blood Crime” (USA Network, 2002). After a career that had now spanned several decades, Caan made his debut as the star of a television series, “Las Vegas” (NBC, 2003-08), playing tough-as-nails casino security chief “Big Ed” Deline, who is also a loving family man despite his past as a director of counter intelligence for the CIA. Though not exactly Emmy material, “Las Vegas” debuted to strong ratings and favorable reviews throughout its run. Caan lasted four years and was replaced by Tom Selleck for the show’s final season.

Caan had a few tricks left in his movie career when he turned in a tough comedic performance as the flummoxed birth father of a man raised by North Pole elves (Will Farrell) in the goofy holiday charmer, “Elf” (2003). In “City of Ghosts” (2003), actor Matt Dillon’s directing debut, he was a shady businessman whose front man and partner (Dillon) comes looking for him in Cambodia. After a small turn as the unnamed Big Man in Lars Van Trier’s “Dogville”(2004), Caan joined his co-stars Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall to reprise their famous roles for the video game, “The Godfather: The Game” (2005). Once free from his obligations to “Las Vegas” in 2007, the actor was able to star in more projects, including a return to the Mafia world for “Wisegal” (Lifetime, 2008), a fact-based crime drama about the rise of a female mobster (Alyssa Milano). He then appeared as the President of the United States in “Get Smart” (2008), the big screen adaptation of the beloved 1960s television series, starring Steve Carell as the awkward government agent Maxwell Smart.

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.
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Tim Roth

 

Tim Roth
Tim Roth

Tim Roth has built up a considerable body of fine work in film since his debut in 1982 in “Made In Britain” as a white power skinhead.   He has worked with Quentin Tarentino in “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”.

TCM overview:

With a resume that boasted an assortment of villains and ne’er-do-wells, actor Tim Roth often had to avoid being typecast in order to play roles that demonstrated his extraordinary talents. Equally at home in both comedy and drama, Roth made an immediate impression as an unrepentant skinhead – complete with swastika tattoo on his forehead – in his first onscreen performance, “Made in Britain” (1982). He quickly became in demand after playing an assassin-in-training in “The Hit” (1984), then made a name for himself in the United States as a troubled Vincent Van Gogh in Robert Altman’s “Vincent & Theo” (1990). But it was his work with Quentin Tarantino in “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and “Pulp Fiction” (1994) that cemented his status as one of the top stars of the independent world. Following an Oscar-nominated turn in “Rob Roy” (1995), Roth settled into playing varying degrees of malcontents before cracking big budget Hollywood with a major role in “Planet of the Apes” (2001) and stealing the show from everyone else. After disappearing into several foreign-made films, Roth re-emerged to play the arch-villain in “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), once again solidifying – and perhaps perpetuating – his image as Hollywood’s go-to bad guy.

Born May 14, 1961 in London, England, Roth was raised in middle-class Dulwich by his father, Ernie, a journalist and former member of the British Communist Party, and Anne, a landscape painter and school teacher. Forced to switch from a comfortable primary school to The Strand comprehensive in nearby Brixton, Roth encountered a rougher crowd unappreciative of his proper English accent. After quickly developing his cockney accent, Roth resigned himself to a life of taking speed and digging art in the midst of a nascent punk movement. While in school, he auditioned for a part in a musical version of “Dracula,” which sparked a previously nonexistent desire to pursue an acting career. He eventually made his way to Camberwell College of Arts, where he continued to delve into drugs, art and co-eds. But he soon dropped out of school and secured his Equity card while taking on a job selling advertising space while he worked fringe theater at night. Though many of the theaters were out in the middle of nowhere, Roth did manage to hone his chops on the works of Jean Genet and August Strindberg, though that sometimes meant performing to an audience of one.

Roth stumbled around for several years until he had one of those spontaneous, life-changing moments. In the early 1980s, while repairing a flat bicycle tire outside the Oval House, a community theater that was hosting auditions for a television movie to be directed by Alan Clarke. Instead of getting a tire pump, he was granted an audition, subsequently landing the leading role of Trevor, a violent and remorseless skinhead rebelling against anything that dares cross his path, in “Made in Britain” (1982). Roth was downright terrifying with a visceral performance, attracting immediate attention from audiences and critics. Roth made his feature debut with Mike Leigh’s wry working-class drama, “Meantime” (1983), playing a shy young man down on his luck struggling with his family to make ends meet. But it took Stephen Frears and a bottle of bleach to catapult Roth into the limelight. As the dyed blond apprentice killer learning his new trade from an old pro (John Hurt) in “The Hit” (1984), Roth offered a strong turn that was both brutal and endearing.

With a heavy helping of positive reviews, Roth was able to parlay his role in “The Hit” into a budding career, playing variations-on-a-thug in films like “Return to Waterloo” (1985), “Murder With Mirrors” (CBS, 1987) and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” (1989). In a change of pace, Roth played a troubled character of an altogether different sort in Robert Altman’s biopic “Vincent & Theo” (1990), which examined the relationship between the Van Gogh brothers. Playing against actor Paul Rhys’ controlled take on Theo, Roth’s Vincent was rife with the energy and desperation of a creative, but ultimately troubled mind. He lent the same kind of force to his pairing with Gary Oldman in Tom Stoppard’s screen version of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” (1990), a wildly absurdist take on Shakespeare’s most notorious pair of supporting players. Roth’s game performance impressed aspiring filmmaker Quentin Tarantino enough to offer Roth the role of Mr. Orange, a critically-wounded undercover cop posing as a thief in the brutally violent crime thriller, “Reservoir Dogs” (1992). Adopting a flawless American accent and spending most of the movie wallowing in a pool of his own blood after a jewelry heist gone bad, Roth more than held his own with the likes of Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn and Steve Buscemi.

In the obscure, bleak independent drama “Jumpin’ at the Boneyard” (1992), Roth played a man who nearly beats his crack-addled brother (Alexis Arquette) to death after catching him in a robbery. Roth followed as real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather in the two-part miniseries “Murder in the Heartland” (ABC, 1993), earning critical plaudits for his frighteningly realistic performance. Reuniting with Quentin Tarantino, Roth memorably portrayed a small-time stickup artist who gets an unexpected comeuppance from a reforming hit man (Samuel L. Jackson) while trying to rob a coffee shop with his Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) in “Pulp Fiction” (1994). Buried beneath the hoopla surrounding “Pulp Fiction” was another crime thriller, “Little Odessa” (1994), starring Roth as a hit man for the Russian mob, assigned to do a job in his old neighborhood of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. Though he received notice and acclaim for both parts, Roth found himself sinking deeper into the mud of being typecast as a crook or killer. Even a supporting turn in “Rob Roy” (1995), playing the scheming, obsequious fop Archibald Cunningham, was ultimately along the same lines. He did, however, wow critics and audiences enough to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

While he tried to break the tide with a comic turn as a bellhop – the unifying element in the four-part anthology “Four Rooms” (1995) – the results were mixed. Roth gamely tried to be what each director wanted, but came off more mannered than amusing. Meanwhile, he returned to form as the recently released convict whose attraction to a debutante upends her nuptial plans in Woody Allen’s musical “Everyone Says I Love You” (1996). Roth displayed a modest set of pipes when called upon to warble two songs. Paired with rapper Tupac Shakur in “GRIDLOCK’d” (1997), Roth once again plumbed the depths of a troubled man; this time, a drug-addicted musician trying to clean up. After appearing as the ruthless real-life Dutch Schultz in “Hoodlum” (1997), Roth went against type a bit in “Deceiver” (1997), playing a wealthy yuppie suspected of murder. Roth finally shed his bad guy image in Giuseppe Tornatore’s English-language debut, “The Legend of 1900” (1998). Cast as the adult incarnation of a music prodigy who spent his entire life on a luxury liner – a character that was more symbolic than real – Roth delivered a sweetly touching performance that allowed him to spread his wings.

Like many actors, Roth secretly harbored a desire to become a director. He eventually made his debut with “The War Zone” (1999), an intense family drama about a brother and sister who willingly engage in incest. In translating Alexander Stuart’s controversial novel to the screen, Roth took great pains not to sensationalize the material. Using an evenhanded approach, he meticulously crafted a powerful and devastating film. Displaying virtuosity with his actors, including the relatively unknown Lara Belmont and Freddie Cunliffe, Roth elicited amazing work and proved that if he ever grew weary of playing screen villains, he could easily find a home behind the cameras. His career in front of the camera continued unabated with a supporting role as the Marquis de Lauzun in the costume drama “Vatel” (2000), which he followed with a supporting role as a sleazy owner of a strip club in the dismal crime comedy “Lucky Numbers” (2000). After playing the lethal right-hand of a scheming Cardinal (Stephen Rea) in the martial arts-tinged actioner, “The Musketeer” (2001), Roth donned a prosthetic monkey suit to portray the militant General Thade in “Planet of the Apes” (2001). Though the film was a major disappointment, his portrayal was cited as the best, eliciting true fear in viewers.

Having settled into a comfortable career that encompassed both major Hollywood blockbusters and little-seen independents, Roth continued to play stock-in-trade roles as unrepentant thugs while delving every now and then into unchartered waters. He played a stage hypnotist in 1930s Germany with dreams of starting a Ministry of the Occult in Hitler’s government in “Invincible” (2002), then portrayed Oliver Cromwell, who helped depose Charles I (Rupert Everett) with General Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott), in “To Kill a King” (2003). After forgettable supporting roles in the drama “The Beautiful Country” (2004) and the supernatural thriller “Dark Water” (2005), Roth joined an ensemble all-star cast that included Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta for “Even Money” (2006), a compelling, but flawed drama that depicts various lives being destroyed by drugs and gambling during the weeks leading up to a championship basketball game. Roth then starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s return to directing, “Youth Without Youth” (2007), playing a septuagenarian professor struck by lighting who suddenly finds himself aging backwards and going on the run from international authorities.

Returning to the blockbuster world, Roth played Emil Blonsky/Abomination, chief adversary to Edward Norton’s “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) – a major blockbuster that became one of the summer’s biggest hits despite relatively mixed reviews. From there, the actor took on a rare leading role on the small screen with “Lie to Me” (Fox, 2009-2011), a procedural drama where he played a clinical researcher who uses his skills of interpreting facial expressions and body language to solve crimes for police and the FBI. The show received mainly good reviews from critics and started its three season run on a positive note with enough of an audience to make it a hit. But by the end of that initial season, however, viewership dropped off significantly – a trend that continued throughout the following two seasons until the network finally canceled the show in May 2011. Meanwhile, Roth continued to appear on the big screen, starring as an owl-like angel in the British-made suburban fantasy “Skellig” (2009). After playing a legendary action director who winds up dead in the indie showbiz comedy “Pete Smalls Is Dead” (2010), Roth was a New York detective who holds a key piece of evidence that can take down a shady businessman (Richard Gere) in the financial thriller “Arbitage” (2012).

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.
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Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy

 

 

 

Tom Hardy is one the rising young actors of British movies who is now making an international reputation with his roles in “Inception”, “Thinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and especially “The Dark Knight Rises”.   He is currently making “Mad Max 4 : Fury Road” in the role undertaken previously by Mel Gibson.   He was born in Hammersmith, London in 1977 .  His first major acting role was in TV’s Band of Brothers” in 2001.   Since then he has made his mark in such films as “Layer Cake”.   An actor on the rise is Tom Hardy.

TCM overview:

Tom Hardy set tongues wagging in the U.K. with raw-nerved performances in “Stuart: A Life Backwards” (BBC, 2007) and “Bronson” (2009), and in the U.S. as well with a scene-stealing performance in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster, “Inception” (2010). With this trifecta of projects, he found himself vaulted from rising U.K. heartthrob to Hollywood breakout-star-in-the-making. A native of suburban London, Hardy stumbled through an adolescence of recidivist juvenile delinquency and drug-addiction to channel his energies into drama. He won some high-profile early acting jobs, seeing his first major screen time in the youthful ensemble of the epic HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers” (2001), and turning in an intense performance as the intergalactic villain in “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002). A crack cocaine habit nearly derailed his career, but upon sobering up, he served notice he was a dramatic force to be reckoned with, winning raves and awards for his 2003 performances in the West End productions of “In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings” and “Blood.” He won the romantic lead of the Earl of Leicester in the 2005 BBC miniseries “The Virgin Queen,” the first of a series of critically lauded prestige television projects that would include “Stuart: A Life Backwards” and classic film remakes “A for Andromeda” (BBC, 2006), “Oliver Twist” (BBC, 2007) and “Wuthering Heights” (ITV, 2009). He would show a distinct penchant for playing tough guys in U.K.-produced indie features such as Guy Richie’s “RocknRolla” (2008) and “Bronson” before his hilarious turn as a dream-walking thief in “Inception” put him on the fast-track to higher-profile films, including Nolan’s much-anticipated third Batman film series installment and the title character in a “Mad Max” reboot. A sinewy ball of thespian intensity, Hardy earned his growing renown not only as a simmering bad boy, but as a ferociously charismatic leading man.

He was born Edward Thomas Hardy on Sept. 15, 1977, the son of Edward and Anne Hardy, a writer and artist, respectively, in Hammersmith, London, U.K. Growing up in East Sheen, an adolescent Hardy had developed a rebellious streak as he bridled against his suburban environs and rigid boarding school protocols. He developed an alcohol abuse problem as a teenager, wound up expelled from one school, periodically spent nights in jail cells for disorderly conduct, and even found himself arrested and facing serious charges for stealing a car and gun possession – all while still a teenager. He avoided doing hard time, he later said, only because his co-conspirator was the son of a British diplomat. At 19, his distinctive physiognomy landed him on a supermodel search competition on the U.K. morning show “The Big Breakfast” (Channel 4, 1992-2002), which he won, initiating a brief career in modeling. He attempted to focus his energies on acting, attending Richmond College for the Performing Arts, but wound up expelled again after skipping too many classes. He studied Method acting at Drama Centre London, but he continued to live on impulse; in 1999 he married a woman he had known only three weeks. He cut his studies short when he won one of a raft of plum parts for young actors who populated Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s ambitious “Band of Brothers,” the HBO miniseries that put faces on ordinary grunts of one U.S. Army company amid their journeys through WWII-torn Europe. A similar casting call would land him back in U.S. military garb for Ridley Scott’s telling of the U.S. military debacle in Somalia, “Black Hawk Down” (2001), and the military theme to his career continued with the lead in the French Foreign Legion drama, “An English Legionnaire” (2002).

Hardy’s next job had the potential of being a true breakthrough role, as he went shorn-headed to play the twisted, scheming young clone of Capt. Jean Luc Picard in the latest entry in the Star Trek franchise, “Star Trek: Nemesis.” But the film opened to bad reviews and concurrent with Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and wound up severely under-delivering at the box-office. At one point in 2002, Hardy’s boozing and drug addictions caught up with him, and, as he recalled in the London Telegraph, he blacked out and woke up on a Soho street “with a crack pipe, covered in blood and vomit.” His marriage collapsed and, with his parents help, he checked himself into detox and submitted to a regimen of psychotherapy. He channeled his pathos into his craft, returning in 2003 to live theater by taking roles in “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings” and “Blood.” His performances lit up the critical radar, prompting The Evening Standard to bestow upon him its “Most Promising Newcomer Award” in 2003 and the Society of London Theatre to make him a nominee for its Olivier Award in the same category the next year. He picked up some inauspicious indie film parts in “The Reckoning” (2003), “Dot the I” (2003), “LD 50 Lethal Does” (2004), “EMR” (2004) and “Layer Cake” (2004), a caper film starring future-James-Bond Daniel Craig. But he would draw more buzz for his ongoing London theatrical work, including a turn in the visceral play about a family haunted by incest, “Festen,” in which he “exudes a dangerous unpredictability,” per the The Independent newspaper.

Hardy made the jump to Brit TV in 2005, reuniting with “Band of Brothers” star Damien Lewis in the ITV World War II drama, “Colditz,” the tale of Allied POWs held in the notorious German prison camp, specifically focusing on Lewis’ character’s escape to Britain to woo the woman Hardy loves and to surreptitiously thwart the latter’s own escape attempts. Hardy would turn up in a succession of BBC productions, including “Gideon’s Daughter” (2005); the remake of the opera “Sweeney Todd” (2006); a remake of the 1961 Brit sci-fi classic “A for Andromeda,” and the lavish serial retelling of Queen Elizabeth’s history, “The Virgin Queen,” with Hardy playing the Earl of Leicester, the love of the monarch’s life. Hardy diversified his résumé somewhat, founding his own repertory company, Shotgun Theatre Company, for which he directed a production of his father’s first play, “Blue on Blue.” He also earned paychecks for some low-budget sci-fi outings, “Minotaur” (2006) and “Flood” (2007); bolstered his indie credentials with turns in Sofia Coppola’s revisionist take on the notorious French queen, “Marie Antoinette” (2006) and the Brit ensemble romantic comedy “Scenes of a Sexual Nature” (2006); and ventured into series television as a handyman with an unseemly agenda in the BBC’s eerie small-town drama, “Cap Wrath” (2007). In 2007, he won the central role of the womanizing libertine Dormiant in the National Theatre’s production of George Etherege’s classic play, “The Man of Mode.” Also that year, Hardy had a supporting turn as a sleazy street thug in the indie crime thriller “w Delta z” (2007). It began a run of gritty roles in which he would bring texture and depth to unsavory characters: the scurrilous Bill Sikes in a BBC retread of “Oliver Twist;” a gay gangster in Guy Richie’s slick London underworld caper film “RocknRolla;” and notoriously violent Brit convict Charles Bronson in “Bronson,” for which he won the British Independent Film Award for best actor.

Largely hailed as his tour de force was Hardy’s portrayal of Stuart Shorter in the 2007 BBC outing, “Stuart: A Life Backwards,” dazzling critics and viewers in the role of a muscular dystrophy-stricken, homeless alcoholic who recounts a violent menagerie of abuse and crime that brought him to his low station. In 2008, the performance earned Hardy a BAFTA Award nomination. He showed true range in 2009, upping the ante on his bad-boy ethos in “The Take” (Sky, 2009), a crime-thriller miniseries in which he played an ex-con out to right all the wrongs done to his family while he was in prison. He also put his smoldering stamp on the role of Heathcliff in a dark ITV update of “Wuthering Heights,” playing the erstwhile Olivier role such that Kathryn Flett, writing in The Observer, referred to his portrayal as “thoroughly dangerous to know in all the right ways the man is sex on fire.” His co-star on both projects, Charlotte Riley, shared the sentiment, and she and Hardy began a relationship, eventually to be engaged in 2010. Early that year, he took his first major American theater lead in the U.S. world premiere of Bret Leonard’s play “The Long Red Road” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. In summer 2010, he showed up in director Christopher Nolan’s special-effects thriller “Inception,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a corporate espionage specialist specializing in raiding people’s minds in their dreams. DiCaprio hatches a one-last-heist scenario to reclaim his life, bringing along a team of dream specialists, including Hardy with his rapier-sharp patter as an in-dream shapeshifter. Nolan was impressed enough with his work that he would cast Hardy as the ferocious, chemically enhanced muscleman Bane in the third outing of Warner Bros.’ rebooted Batman film series, “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). Hardy was also tapped to take over for the real-life scandal-prone Mel Gibson as the lead in George Miller’s long-anticipated fourth entry in his “Mad Max” series, “Mad Max 4: Fury Road.”

The above TCM overview can now be accessed online here.

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Stanley Baker

Sir Stanley Baker
Sir Stanley Baker
Sir Stanley Baker
Sir Stanley Baker

Stanley Baker

 

 

 

Stanley Baker is one of the most under-appreciated actors on film.   He specialised in tough guy roles in war movies and gritty thrillers, mainly in the UK in the 1950’s and 60’s.   He is interesting in that he produced many of his films.   From Wales, he was born in the Rhonda in 1928, he was a contemporary of Richard Burton but I think he was a far better actor and brought great shades of nuance to his many characters.   Unfortunately as he went bald young, in some of his films he wore unsuitable hairpieces which were sometimes a distraction to his performances.   He should have  gone the Sean Connery route and occasionally be bald on film or else have had more suitable wigs.   That been said, he was a terrific actor and one of my favourites.   Thankfully many of his films are on DVD and I have included here the covers of the more interesting ones.   He is best known for “Zulu” but I especially like “Hell’s Drivers” from 1957 and “Hell Is A City” from 1960.   Sadly he died at the early age of 48 in 1976 in Malaga, Spain.   Robert Shail has written a very good biography which is available.

“Quinlan’s Movie Stars”

Forecful Welsh-born actor whose career progressed predictably from villains you love to hate to tough and sometimes crooked central characters.   His hard incompromising crime films of the early 1960s pioneered the way for a new realism, especially in terms of dialogue.   His star faded in the 1970s.

TCM overview:

Commanding Welsh leading man who began his career as a teen in 1943 and bristled through a series of British actioners and crime thrillers of uneven merit as tough villains and criminals throughout the 1950s. “The Cruel Sea” (1953) established Baker as a screen presence and won him a long-term Rank contract. In the late 1950s and early 60s he broke out of his typecasting in several exceptional films by both Cy Endfield and Joseph Losey (“Blind Date” 1959, “Accident” 1967) and co-produced several of his own films. He was knighted in 1976, just before his death

IMDB entry:

Stanley Baker was unusual star material to emerge during the Fifties – when impossibly handsome and engagingly romantic leading men were almost de rigueur. Baker was forged from a rougher mould. His was good-looking, but his features were angular, taut, austere and unwelcoming. His screen persona was taciturn, even surly, and the young actor displayed a predilection for introspection and blunt speaking, and was almost wilfully unromantic. For the times a potential leading actor cast heavily against the grain. Baker immediately proved a unique screen presence – tough, gritty, combustible – and possessing an aura of dark, even menacing power.

Stanley Baker came from rugged Welsh mining stock – and as a lad was unruly, quick to flare, and first to fight. But like his compatriot and friend Richard Burton, the young Baker was rescued from a gruelling life of coal mining by a local teacher, Glyn Morse, who recognized in the proud and self-willed lad a potent combination of a fine speaking voice, a smouldering intensity, and a strong spirit. And like Burton, Stanley Baker was specially and specifically tutored for theatrical success. In fact, early on, Burton and Baker appeared together on stage as juveniles in The Druid’s Rest, in Cardiff, in Wales. But later, by way of Birmingham Repertory Theatre and then the London stage, Stanley Baker charted his inevitable course toward the Cinema.

Film welcomed the adult Baker as the embodiment of evil. Memorable early roles cast the actor in feisty unsympathetic parts – from the testy bosun in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) to his modern-day counterpart in The Cruel Sea (1953), to the arch villains inHell Below Zero (1954) and Campbell’s Kingdom (1957) to the dastardly Mordred inKnights of the Round Table (1953) and the wily Achilles in Helen of Troy (1956). For a time there was a distillation of Baker’s screen persona in a series of roles as stern and uncompromising policemen – in Violent Playground (1958), Chance Meeting (1959), andHell Is a City (1960). But despite never having been cast as a romantic leading man, and being almost wholly associated with villainous roles, Stanley Baker nevertheless became a star by dint of his potent personality.

Although now enthroned by enthusiastic audiences Stanley Baker was obviously aware he need not desert unsympathetic parts – and his relish in playing the scheming Astaroth inSodom and Gomorrah (1962) and the unscrupulous mobster Johnny Bannion in Concrete Jungle (1960) was readily evident. But soon there were more principled, if still surly characters, in The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Games (1970), Eva (1962), and Accident(1967), the latter two films reuniting Baker with the American ex-patriot director of The Criminal, Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker also established a fruitful working relationship with the Canadian director Cy Endfield, following their early collaboration on Hell Drivers(1957). When Baker inaugurated his own film production company – it was Endfield he commissioned to write and direct both Zulu (1964) and Sands of the Kalahari (1965), with Baker allotting himself the downbeat roles of the martinet officer John Chard in Zulu and the reluctant hero Mike Bain in The Sands Of The Kalahari.

Baker must have felt more assured in disenchanted roles – as further films from Baker’s own stable still promoted the actor in either criminal or villainous mode – as gangster Paul Clifton in Robbery (1967) and the corrupt thief-taker Jonathan Wild in Where’s Jack?(1969). The success of Baker’s own productions was timely and did much to enhance the prestige of what was then considered an ailing British film industry. Stanley Baker also took the opportunity to move into the realm of television, appearing in, among other productions, the dramas BBC Play of the Month: The Changeling (1974) and BBC Play of the Month: Robinson Crusoe (1974), and also in the series How Green Was My Valley(1975).

Knighted in 1976 it was evident that Stanley Baker may well have continued to greater heights, both as an actor and a producer, but he succumbed to lung cancer and died at the early age of forty-nine. But his legacy is unquestioned. He was a unique force on screen, championing characterizations that were not clichéd or compromised. He established his own niche as an actor content to be admired for peerlessly portraying the disreputable and the unsympathetic. In that he was a dark mirror, more accurately reflecting human frailty and the vagaries of life than many of his more romantically or heroically inclined contemporaries. There have forever been legions of seemingly interchangeable charming and virile leading men populating the movies – but Stanley Baker stood almost alone in his determination to be characterized and judged by portraying the bleaker aspects of the human condition. Consequently, more than twenty-five years after his death, his sombre, potent personality still illuminates the screen in a way few others have achieved.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: David Wishart

Often played tough working class characters

Trivia (25)

Awarded a knighthood in Harold Wilson‘s resignation Honour’s List in June 1976. At the time his knighthood was announced, Baker thought he had beaten his lung cancer following surgery in February of that year. However, although the tumour in his lung had been removed, it had spread into his chest and attached itself to his heart. Since no further surgery was possible, he had only a maximum of nine weeks to live anyway. Three weeks after the announcement of his knighthood, Baker was hospitalized in Spain with pneumonia. As he had died without making the journey to be formally knighted at Buckingham Palace, he cannot be referred to as Sir Stanley, but Queen Elizabeth IIagreed that his widow Ellen Martin could use the title “Lady Baker”.
A dedicated socialist, he made political broadcasts for Harold Wilson‘s Labour Party in Wales and was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
He was warned not to address a CND rally prior to the release of Zulu (1964), in case his left-wing political activism hurt the film’s performance in the United States.
At the beginning of his career he was typecast as villains until Laurence Olivier invited him to play Henry Tudor in Richard III (1955).
In November 2006 a Lounge dedicated to his life and work was opened by his widow, Lady Ellen Baker and his sons at Ferndale Rugby club in the village of his birth.
At the beginning of his career he struggled to break into films, but a few days before his 22nd birthday he was given the role of the bosun in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.(1951).
At the time of his death he had been planning to play a rapist in a film, with his Zulu(1964) co-star Michael Caine playing a detective.
At his peak he earned £120,000 for each film he made, at a time when the average house cost just £3,000. He owned a large house in London and a holiday villa in Spain, while his children attended private schools in England.
His wife Ellen and Richard Burton believed Baker’s performance in How Green Was My Valley (1975) was so good because he was playing his own father.
In May 1972 he was one of the co-organisers of the Great Western Bardney Pop Festival in Lincoln.
He formed Diamond Films for the making of Zulu (1964). And later Oakhurst Productions.
He was a close friend of Richard Burton from childhood until they fell out in 1967.
With the success of Concrete Jungle (1960), Baker all but displaced his polar oppositeDirk Bogarde to become Britain’s most popular star. However, Zulu (1964) was his last huge success. His career was damaged by the commercial failure of Sands of the Kalahari(1965) and Robbery (1967), although the latter received favourable reviews.
His breakthrough as an actor came in 1950 in Christopher Fry‘s anti-war play “A Sleep of Prisoners” alongside Denholm Elliott and Leonard White. The production later toured the United States.
His father lost a leg in an accident in the mine and was thereafter unemployed until the Second World War took men away into the services. His elder brother Freddie, a miner, died of pneumoconiosis early in 1976 after many years of debilitation and sickness.
He was awarded the freedom of Ferndale, and in a ceremony which he attended in 1970, the local council placed a plaque on the house where he was born.
He had intended to produce Zulu Dawn (1979).
He was offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No (1962), but turned it down because he was unwilling to commit to a three-picture contract. Baker may have regretted this decision, since a few years later he asked producer Albert R. Broccoli about the possibility of playing a villain in a Bond movie.
Turned down many Hollywood offers during the 1950s because he wanted to keep the British film industry going. Nevertheless he was much in demand for American films. The producers of Helen of Troy (1956) were so desperate to cast him that they did not mind which part he played.
Although born in Wales, Baker spent most of his formative years in England since his parents moved to London in the mid-1930s.
In a floral tribute sent to Stanley Baker’s funeral, Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Butheleziwho had worked with him in Zulu (1964) described him as “the most decent white man I have ever met”.
Baker served in the Royal Army Service Corps from 1946-1948.
Although he regretted not accepting the part of James Bond himself, Baker was a friend of and outspoken admirer of Sir Sean Connery‘s work in the role.
Bore a striking resemblance to his contemporary fellow actor, Australian Rod Taylor.
The part that would have been played by Baker in 1979’s “Zulu Dawn” was enacted by Burt Lancaster.

Personal Quotes (10)

It’s impossible to direct yourself in a movie.
I’m a dedicated Socialist first of all, I suppose, because … I saw the things that happened to … my family, and to the people around me. That sort of existence must stay in your mind.
I made up my mind years ago, that the best parts in films always went to the villain. I was determined to corner the bad man’s market.
If it hadn’t been for one man, just one man who luckily took me up, I would have always hated school and I would probably have ended up as one of the criminals I’ve played too many times on the screen.
I was a complete dud at school. I hated school. I got into awful trouble. Before I met Welsh school teacher Glyn Morris every teacher thought of me as a good-for-nothing.
[on Anthony Quinn] I personally like big acting, like that of Anthony Quinn. He is the quintessence, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the actor who is able to control big emotion for the screen. A lot of lightweight performances on the screen don’t work for me because I can’t see anything behind them. With Quinn, it’s difficult not to see everything behind it.
[on Elia Kazan] He chose the actors that he wanted, made the film he wanted to make, and he made it the way he wanted to make it with absolutely no contribution or interference from the major distributors at that time. That was a major step forward at that time in the film industry. He was a pioneer and he made it possible for other people.
Mine is a hell of a face, but ;it keeps me in work because there aren’t many like it.
[Of Sybil Williams] We came from the same village. We were close friends. When I heard that Rich [Richard Burton] and Sybil had got together, I thought, “The lucky bastard”. She was the best thing that ever happened to him.
I thought, “Yes, Rich [Richard Burton] has gone a little further than usual, but he’s going to be his old self again before long. Oh, what a fool he made of us. Well, not really us. Only himself . . . I loved Rich very much, and thank God we became friends again, but I didn’t like what he did to Sybil. He lost himself when he met Elizabeth Taylor.
The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Stanley Baker

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Colin Morgan

Colin Morgan
Colin Morgan

Colin Morgan was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1986.   He plays the title role in the BBC television series “Merlin”.   His films include “Parked” and “Island”.   He has also been featured in “Dr Who” on television.

IMDB entry:

Colin Morgan is a Northern Irish actor, best known for playing the title character in the BBC TV series Merlin. Morgan attended Integrated College Dungannon, winning the ‘Denis Rooney Associates Cup’ for best overall student in the third year, before gaining a National Diploma in Performing Arts from the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education in 2004. He went on to study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, where he graduated from in 2007. In November 2010, the Belfast Metropolitan College honored Morgan with an Award of Distinction for his contribution to the Arts

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Stefanie Gubbi)

Graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2007.
He is a vegetarian.
Has a brother named Neil.
His mother, Bernadette, is a nurse, and his father is a painter and decorator.
After studying at the Belfast Institute, he went to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
Obtained a National Diploma in Performing Arts at Belfast Institute of Further & Higher Education in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2004.
Was still in drama school when he was cast by director Rufus Norris to make his professional debut in the title role of the stage adaptation of DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize winner “Vernon God Little” at the Young Vic in 2007. Colin Morgan has credited this role as his first big break.
Is Lactose Intolerant.
Is a strong swimmer.
Favorite actor is Sean Penn.
IMDB entry above can also be accessed online here.