Dennis Hopper, a true film rebel, died this weekend at the age of 74. The actor-writer-director passed away just two weeks after celebrating his birthday after a long and brave battle with prostate cancer.
Hopper began his acting career with appearances on episodic television in the early 1950's. In 1955 he appeared with his good friend, James Dean, in Nicholas Ray's "Rebel Without a Cause." He also appeared with Dean in "Giant," which was released after Dean died in a car accident in September 1955. The majority of the 1960s found Hopper on television, appearing in most of the popular series of the time, including "The Twilight Zone," "Bonanza," "Naked City" and others. In 1967 he appeared in the Roger Corman directed film, "The Trip," which was written by Hoppers friend Jack Nicholson. The star of the film was Peter Fonda, who would soon team up with Hopper to make film history. In 1968, Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern collaborated on a script they called "Easy Rider." Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson starred with Hopper making his directorial debut. The film earned Academy Award nominations for Nicholson's supporting performance and original screenplay. Hopper also earned a nomination from the Director's Guild of America and a prize for Best First Feature at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed "Easy Rider" with another cult classic entitled "The Last Movie." This film followed a film crew shooting a film in Peru and the problems that ensue when an actor is killed on the set. Hopper not only co-wrote and directed the film, he starred in it as well. Finding work in the states sporadic, Hopper went to Europe where he appeared in several films. He resurfaced in 1979 playing the photojournalist in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now." Stories of Hopper's eccentric behavior on the set (among the stories: he never bathed) kept him unemployed for several years. Then came 1986. In that year he resurrected his career by giving three outstanding performances in three very different films. In "River's Edge" he played Feck, an unsavory character who the local teens associated with. In "Hoosiers" he played a former basketball star, now an alcoholic, who earns redemption. And in "Blue Velvet" he played Frank Booth, quite possibly the craziest son of a bitch ever portrayed on screen. Much to his surprise Hopper earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work in "Hoosiers." I remember watching television the day the nominations were announced. Hopper had a television crew with him and when his name was called he remarked that he thought if he got nominated it would have been for "Blue Velvet."
Work now came readily to Hopper and he returned to it with gusto. Appearances in such films as "Black Widow," "Flashback," "True Romance" and "Waterworld" kept him busy in front of the camera, as did his voice work as the Storyteller for the popular children's series "Rabbit Ears." He also returned behind the camera, directing the films "Colors" and "The Hot Spot" among others. His role as Victor Drazen in the series "24" earned him accolades as well as the honor of being one of the best villains to appear on the show. He had a recurring role in the series "E-Ring" and most recently starred in the Showtime series "Crash." Even with his new success he was not without his troubles. In 1997 he was ordered to pay Rip Torn $475,000.00 in a defamation of character suit brought about by comments Hopper made on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Torn was originally cast to play the part in "Easy Rider" that Jack Nicholson ended up getting and Hopper said some unflattering things about Torn on the air.
In March of this year Hopper was awarded with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Of all the careers out there in the world, it seems to me that being a child star, either in television or film, is the worse. For every success story (Ron Howard and Jodie Foster are the two that spring to mind immediately...I'd like to think that Dakota Fanning is following in their shoes) there are literally hundreds that end badly. If you're smart, realize you won't be cute forever and plan for the future, you learn to do something else. Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years" and Peter Billingsley ("A Christmas Story") direct. Anna Chlumsky (Vada in the "My Girl" films) went to work for a publishing company, became a writer (food criticism) and only recently has returned to the occasional acting role. Television seems to be the hardest place to survive. Cute kids grow up into not always cute adults. Sometimes they just fade into obscurity ("The Munsters" Butch Patrick, Suzanne Crough, Brian Forster and Jeremy Gelbwacks from "The Partridge Family"). Sometimes they end up battling demons publicly (another "Partridge," Danny Bonaduce, Adam Rich from "Eight is Enough). But of all the television shows that relied on kids, the most tragic one seems to be "Different Strokes." Dana Plato had trouble finding work after the show, eventually appearing in an R-rated film that trumpeted her major nude scenes, also called "Different Strokes." After several arrests, including one for robbing a video store, Plato committed suicide in May 1999. Todd Bridges suffered the same professional fate as Plato, forever seen by casting directors as Willis. Years of drug abuse and a trial for the shooting of a drug dealer (Willis was charged with shooting a cocaine dealer 8 times in a crack house. His defense, headed by Johnnie Cochrane, was that he was so high on cocaine that he couldn't remember if he'd shot him or not) sunk Bridges as low as he could go. Thankfully, he appears to be back on the right track. The final, and most popular child on the show, was diminutive Gary Coleman, who passed away today at the age of 42 after suffering a head injury caused by a fall.
Coleman first came to the attention of television producers when he guest starred on "Good Times." Impressed with his maturity, as well as his size (Coleman had nephritis, a disease of the kidneys, and had endured two kidney transplants between 1973 and 1984). The illness stunted his growth), he was cast as the youngest of two inner city boys who are adopted by a wealthy New Yorker in the series "Different Strokes." By the time the first season had come to an end, Coleman had become known for his television punch line, "What choo talkin' about, Willis?" During the nine year run of the show, Coleman also appeared in several popular made for television movies, including "The Kid From Left Field" and "The Kid with the 200 IQ." Coleman made nearly $18 million during his television run. However, when he went to access his trust fund at age 18, he learned that his parents had put themselves on the payroll and that he only had less than a million dollars left, the majority of that in his parent's name. He successfully sued them, winning a judgement of $3.8 million. However, after the series ended, he soon found himself in the same boat as his co-stars, typecast as one character. His size also prevented him from pursuing more mature roles as he got older. In fact, he only found four acting jobs during the first four years after the show ended. As he got older Coleman became bitter at the Hollywood scene, going as far as to refuse to say "what choo talkin' about" when fans would request it. In 1993 he admitted to viewers of "Geraldo" that he had twice tried to commit suicide in the past. In 2003 he ran for Governor of California to replace Gray Davis, who had been recalled.
He appeared to once again embrace his past as Arnold Jackson when he appeared in the David Spade film "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," though most of his jobs were far away from the glamour of Hollywood, including a stint as a security guard. His marriage to 22 year old Shannon Price in 2007 led to a bitter appearance by the couple on the television show "Divorce Court" after both spouses had been arrested separately for domestic abuse. As he got older and entered his 40's Coleman began to have more health problems, including suffering two seizures in January and February of this year. It is unclear if the fall that led to his death was a result of any medical problems.
Dorothy Kamenshek, a former all star of the American Girls Professional Baseball League, died of natural causes this past Monday. She was 84. Kamanshek played for the Rockford Peaches and was the inspiration for the character played by Geena Davis in the film "A League of Their Own."
Michael Bay's production company, Platinum Dunes, recently paid New Line Cinema $60 million for the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I know I speak for everyone when I say I can't wait to see Raphael, Donnatello, Michaelangelo and Leonardo walking towards the camera in slow motion. And yes, I pulled those names from memory. Cowabunga!
Emma Roberts has replaced Ashley Greene in the cast of "Scream 4."
James McAvoy ("Atonement") is on track to play Professor Xavier in the upcoming prequel "X-men: First Class."
According to Harry Knowles, "The Hurt Locker" star Jeremy Renner has been signed to play Hawkeye in the upcoming "Avengers" film. No one at Marvel Films would deny or confirm the rumor.
Band on the Run by Paul McCartney
Jesus Christ Superstar - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice
With summer approaching I thought I would look at two albums that hold fond summer memories for me.
"Band on the Run" was Paul McCartney's break through album and his biggest hit since the break up of the Beatles. Released in time for Christmas 1973, with the record company hoping to catch on to the success of his past album, "Red Rose Speedway" as well as Paul's hit James Bond song "Live and Let Die." Despite critical acclaim the album did not shoot right to the top of the chart. However, with the successful release of the singles "Helen Wheels," "Jet" and the title track, the album eventually hit number one three different times in 1974. For the curious (and I know you're out there) you may have looked at the cover in the past and wondered just who was who on the cover. Well, to quote Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction," allow me to retort. Besides Paul and Linda McCartney, the group photo features guitarist Denny Laine (those three would be the main components of Wings), talk show host Michael Parkinson, actor/singer Kenny Lynch, actor James Coburn, author/chef/member of Parliment Clement Freud (Sigmund's grandson), actor Christopher Lee and boxer John Conteh, who would go on to win the World Light Heavyweight championship.
Here is a look at the rare promotional film McCartney put together for the release of the title track:
The film "Jesus Christ Superstar" holds many memories for me. It was actually the first film that I went to by myself. I was still living in Chicago at the time and was visiting my grandfather in St. Petersburg for a few weeks. I remember asking to go see it and my grandfather having to call my parents to get their permission. Having seen the stage show my dad was hesitant but relented when I informed him the film was rated G.
Of course the music entranced me but what really stood out to me was Ted Neely's performance as Jesus. I was so engrossed in the film that, when the entire cast drives off in busses after the crucifixion, I walked home in tears. It took my grandfather reassuring me that after the movie ended someone went back for Jesus to calm me down. I tell this story because it is part of another great memory. In 1993 the stage show was remounted as a tour featuring Neely as Jesus and Carl Anderson reprising his film role as Judas. After the show I went backstage and was happy to meet both men, who were still in costume. Let me say now that Ted Neely looked the same as he did in the film. Let me also say that I'm sure on Halloween he throws the robes on and wins every Halloween contest he enters. In those clothes he truly embodied my image of Jesus. I told him "I'm glad to see you're ok" and then proceeded to tell him my story. When I finished he softly asked me "and how is your grandfather?" "He passed away some time ago," I replied. He looked at me and said "I'm so sorry" and then gave me a hug. Wow! Later my friend Marty, who was standing behind Neely, told me he thought I was going to cry. And to be honest, I almost did. Who asks that question? I expected a laugh and "well, you can see I'm fine," not a question about my grandfather. Two more instances make this story even more special. The tour comes back through Baltimore 2 years later. Since then I've grown a beard and put on about 50 pounds. We go backstage again, say hello and when Neely comes up to me I say "I bet you don't remember me." Not missing a beat he replied "Yes I do...you're the little boy who thought they left me behind at the end of the film. I love that story and I tell it to everyone I meet." Wow! Now jump forward to 2008. Neely is doing the show in California and is a guest on Dennis Miller's radio show. I call in to tell my story and when I do Miller says "let's go to Michael in Kansas City." Before I can tell my story Neely says "is this the little boy who thought they had left me behind at the end of the film?" Holy crap! Of course it was and I told the story on air, seeming to actually move Miller. It's amazing how some memories keep on growing!
Here's a look at Neely in the film. FYI: at the age of 67 he still tours with the show and STILL hits the high notes.
Well, thats all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2010 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 ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.