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PCR #169. (Vol. 4, No. 25) This edition is for the week of June 16--22, 2003.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! A very quick appearance by me this week as my son's baseball team is traveling the great state of Kansas. Shall we begin?

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ANDY'S LETTER
Thank you, Andy, for sharing your memories of the theatres on the St. Pete side of the bay. I know Matt and I have visited many of them in our travels growing up. One I sincerely remember was Seminole Mall, where I saw the Dario Argento film, "Suspira." Unfortunately, General Cinema was recently gobbled up by AMC. I'm trying to find someone who might have a sound wave of the old GC music. Tampa Bay Center opened in 1976. I believe Will Moriarty was an original mall store employee, as was I.. And thanks for bringing up the Country Dinner Playhouse. When I wrote for the Plant High School student paper, I went there to interview Karen Lynn Gorney, who was appearing in a show there. This was probably 6 months after Saturday Night Fever had opened. She was kind of spacey, in my opinion. Only later, when I got back to school, did I see why. As I was talking to her, I had my note pad upright with the bottom cardboard towards her. On the back, my BEST FRIEND MATT had written "Karen Gorney makes me HORNY!" Sad to say, she still does.

TERENCE'S LETTER
Ah, Terence! It is with tongue in cheek that I read your letter. I'm hoping that you wrote it in the same way. Yes, maybe us "old guys" do a lot or reminiscing. I personally love the idea that people like Nolan, Matt, Andy or anyone else can read my stuff and say, "Hey, I remember that place," or "Yeah, I like that movie too." I only hope that 20 years from now, when you are my age, that you will have some fond memories of places and things you saw and who was with you when you saw them. After all, that is what memories are.

PASSING ON
Two actors left us this past week:
   WILLIAM MARSHALL: One of the biggest stars of the "blaxploitation" era of film making, William Marshall passed away on June 11 in Los Angeles due to complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 68. An acclaimed Shakespearean actor whose portray of the title role in "Othello" is often compared to the great Paul Roebson's, Marshall did the occasional television and film role while teaching acting workshops at the University of California, Irvine in the 1960s. PCR readers may remember his work on the original "Star Trek" series and appearances on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." In the early 1970s, he gained a huge following by appearing in "Blacula" (and it's sequel) and "ABBY." In the late 1980s he reached a new generation of fans as The King of Cartoons on "Pee Wee's Playhouse." In the early 1990s he appeared in such films as "The Fisher King" and "Maverick." His final screen appearance was in 1996s "Dinosaur Valley Girls." In 1981, he again portrayed "Othello," having the performance committed to video tape.
   HUME CRONYN: An actor who was comfortable anywhere, be it the stage, television or films, Hume Cronyn passed away this past Sunday at his Connecticut home from prostate cancer. He was 91. Probably best known for his later film work with his wife, Jessica Tandy, Cronyn was also known as a writer and director. In 1945, he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor academy award for his work in the film, "The Seventh Cross." He adapted the play, "Rope's End" and turned it into the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "ROPE." After winning a Tony award in 1964 for his role of Polonius in "Hamlet," (a role he transferred to the film of the same name) he began appearing more and more on television and in movies. He was nominated for 7 Emmy awards and won 3. He worked in such films as Cleopatra, The Parallax View, Rollover, The World According To Garp, Cocoon, *batteries not included, Cocoon: The Return and The Pelican Brief. He and Tandy became Broadway's first couple, appearing in such plays as A Delicate Balance, The Gin Game, The Fourposter and Foxfire. In 1994, the couple received a special Tony award for lifetime achievement. After more then 50 years of marriage, Tandy passed away in 1994. Cronyn remarried in 1996 and is survived by his wife Susan Cooper.

GREGORY PECK - AN APPRECIATION
It seems these days that leading men in Hollywood come and go daily. In this time of big box-office and cookie cutter plots, you really are only as big as your last film. Almost 60 years ago, Gregory Peck went to Hollywood and he not only became an instant star but remained one until his death a week ago Wednesday at the age of 87.

Born April 5, 1916, Eldred Gregory Peck was the son of a strong willed mother from Missouri and a druggist of Irish descent. His parents divorced when he was 6, and he spent a few years living between them. At age 10 he was sent off to a Roman Catholic military academy. He attended the University of California at Berkley where he majored in English. It was while he was walking on campus one day that he was approached by the director of the school's little theatre. He needed someone tall to play a role in an adaptation of "Moby Dick" and Peck accepted the part, thinking it would be fun. It turned out to be more then fun for Peck, who would go on to appear in five school productions in his senior year.

After graduation, Peck headed to New York City. While working as a tour guide at NBC, while supplementing his income as a barker at the 1939 World's Fair, Peck studied his chosen craft with such well known teachers as Stanford Meisner and Martha Graham. In 1942, he made his Broadway debut in the play, Morning Star. Though the show was not a success, it got Peck noticed. A talent agent brought him to Hollywood where he soon made his film debut in 1944's Days of Glory.

What followed was the start of one of the most prolific careers in film history. In his first five years in Hollywood, Peck received four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for his work in Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and Twelve O'clock High (1949). Many people tried to talk him out of doing Gentleman's Agreement, in which he portrayed a reporter who poses as a Jewish man to investigate anti-Semitism. The film went on to win the Academy Award as Best Picture.

A long time supporter of Franklin Roosevelt, Peck was very active in the political scene. He was an early supporter of Harry S. Truman in the 1948 presidential election. In the early 70's, he produced an anti-Vietnam documentary, Trial of the Catonsville Seven and, in 1987, fought to keep Robert Bork from being appointed to the Supreme Court.

In 1962, he finally received the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. As an attorney appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in the deep south, Peck drew on much of his 46 years of life experience. Recently this year, in a poll conducted by the American Film Incident, the character of Atticus Finch was named the top motion picture hero of all time. Other notable films in his career include Spellbound, Roman Holiday, Moby Dick, The Guns of Navarone, The Omen, MacArthur and The Boys From Brazil. His acting career ended as it began, coincidentally, when he played Father Marple in the 1998 television presentation of Moby Dick.

Mr. Peck was married twice. His first marriage, to Greta Rice, produced three sons. Following their divorce in 1955, he married Veronique Passani. They had two children, son Anthony and daughter Cecilia. Carrying on the family tradition, both children are actors.


Well, that's it for this week. This weekend I brave the wild Kansas cities of Emporia and Ossawatome! See ya!


"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.