OK, this is being done Friday morning so no telling who may go between now and when I sit down to finish.
Gloria Stuart, who at age 88 became the oldest person ever nominated for an acting Academy Award, passed away this past weekend after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 100.
Born on July 4, 1910 in Santa Monica, California, Ms. Stuart attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she appeared in both student and local theater productions. In 1932 she was discovered and signed by a talent scout for Universal Studios, where she appeared in no less then five features that year. Her acting skills got her noticed and later that year she was named one of twelve "Baby Stars" by the Western Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Among her fellow nominees: future screen star Ginger Rogers. In 1933 she co-starred for director James Whale in "The Invisible Man." She later appeared in "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" with Shirley Temple and co-starred with Don Ameche in "The Three Musketeers." She also had a role in Busby Berkeley's "Gold Diggers of 1935" opposite Dick Powell. In 1936, she and other actors, including Melvyn Douglas, James Cagney, Paul Muni and Frederick March, unhappy with the way things were going in Europe, founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. Finding her lack of film roles not to her liking, and possibly worried about the political temperature of the country at the end of World War II (some organizations accused the Anti-Nazi League of being a communist front) she left Hollywood in 1946 to return to the theater.
In 1975 she returned to Hollywood via an appearance on television's "The Waltons." She worked steadily in both television and film, appearing in several made for television movies as well as on the big screen in "Mass Appeal," "Wildcats" and one of my all time favorites, "My Favorite Year." Fans of the film will remember Ms. Stuart as the woman celebrating her anniversary that Peter O'Toole dances with. She "retired" in 1989 but in 1995 found herself back on television because of the actions of another. Ms. Stuart happened to live directly across the street from the house where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered. One year later Ms. Stuart was coaxed back to the big screen by director James Cameron, who cast her as the older Rose in his blockbuster "Titanic." For her performance in the film, Ms. Stuart was nominated for several awards, including both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor. The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, of which I am a member, named her the Best Supporting Actor of 1997 for her work in "Titanic." Ms. Stuart was the only member of the films' cast and crew who was actually alive when the ship sank and ironically played a character that lived to be 100. The film gave her a second career and she continued to work until 2004.
Three time Oscar nominated director Arthur Penn passed away on September 28, a day after his 88th birthday, at his home in Manhattan of congestive heart failure. Mr. Penn had been ill for about a year according to his business manager Evan Bell.
Born in Philadelphia, Penn got his start directing several of the scores of "Playhouse" television programs in the 1950s, honing his craft on such shows as "Producer's Showcase," "Playhouse 90" and "Playwrights '56." In 1957 he directed a television production of William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker" and later served as director when the show was transplanted to Broadway, where it received (4) Tony Awards, including Best Play and, for Mr. Penn, Best Director. It seemed a natural fit that when the play was made into a movie that Mr. Penn would also direct that. The film received (5) Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Costume Design. On Oscar night both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke took home awards for their performances. His next film gig was to be "The Train," starring Burt Lancaster. However, after one day of shooting Lancaster was unhappy with Penn's vision of the film and he was replaced by John Frankenheimer.
His next film was the under-performing "Mickey One." It was while working on "Mickey One" that Penn and the film's star, Warren Beatty, began discussing making a film about 1930s gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. This was a project that Beatty took to heart and he soon decided to produce the film as well as star in it, with Penn directing. Beatty, whose career was really beginning to slide, felt comfortable under Penn's relaxed style of direction. Of course, film history shows that "Bonnie and Clyde," which was made for $2.5 million (money the studio thought was being thrown down the drain) would go on to gross almost $50 million. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and would go on to win two. Penn earned his second directing nomination and Beatty received the first two of his astonishing fourteen career nominations.
When Penn returned to the big screen he did it with "Alice's Restaurant," a comedy based on the popular song by Arlo Guthrie. Once again, Penn's laid back style paid off with his third Academy Award nomination. Penn entered the decade of the 1970s with "Little Big Man," a film which featured Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, a 100 year old Indian who survived the battle of the Little Big Horn. The rest of his output in the 70s was not as successful. "Night Moves" was a slight detective film starring one of his "Bonnie and Clyde" actors, Gene Hackman, while "The Missouri Breaks" is best remembered for the fact that Marlon Brando appears in drag. In 1981 he directed "Four Friends," based on a script by Steve Tesich, who had just won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Breaking Away." The film bombed with both critics and audiences. He teamed up again with Hackman for 1985's "Target," a kidnapping thriller that did moderately well at the box office. He followed that up with the suspenseful "Dead of Winter." He ended the 1980s with the under-performing comedy "Penn and Teller Get Killed," his last feature film.
According to Evan Bell a memorial for Mr. Penn will be held before the end of the year.
Tony Curtis, who rose up from poverty in the Bronx to become one of the biggest film stars in Hollywood, died this week in Las Vegas from cardiac arrest. He was 85.
The screen star, born Bernard Schwartz in 1925, had little formal education and, when he was of age, joined the Marines, where he served for three years. After his discharge, and realizing the G.I. Bill would pay for his schooling, Curtis headed to New York City where he enrolled in the New York Dramatic Workshop. It was while doing small bit roles that he was spotted by an agent who helped him get signed to a seven year contract with Universal Pictures. The newly named Anthony Curtis (he later shortened it to Tony) arrived in Hollywood in 1938 and soon found himself in small roles, usually in the background. That changed when he landed a part opposite James Stewart in "Winchester '73." In 1957 he hit the big time, starring as ruthless press agent Sidney Falco opposite Burt Lancaster's J.J. Hunsecker in "Sweet Smell of Success." The next year he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in "The Defiant Ones." He next co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in the film that was chosen by the American Film Institute as the Greatest American Comedy of all time, Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot." In the film Curtis and Lemmon play musicians who disguise themselves as women to hide out from gangsters. As phony millionaire playboy Shell Oil, Jr., Curtis pays homage to his friend Cary Grant with a performance that never goes over the top.
Wanting to pursue more dramatic roles, Curtis took the role of Antonius, kind of a "gentlemen's gentlemen" to Laurence Olivier's Marcus Licinius Crassas in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus." Due to the censors of the time, the "relationship" between Antonius and his master was never highlighted, though restored footage in the film's early 1990's reissue confirmed what many filmgoers already knew. Curtis gave a fine performance in the film, though some critics took him to task for his strong Bronx accent. Other notable films in the 60s include "The Great Race," "Captain Newman M.D." and, in one of his greatest dramatic performances, "The Boston Strangler." He even showed up, as "Stony" Curtis, in an episode of "The Flintstones."
In the 1970s Curtis found success on television, co-starring opposite future James Bond Roger Moore in "The Persuaders" and Robert Urich in "Vega$." He continued to appear in films, but the roles were not as great as in the past. Movies like "Lepke," "The Bad News Bears Go To Japan" and "The Manitou" (Three decades later and Curtis' Bronx accent still rings in my ears when, finding out that the tumor on Susan Strasberg's neck actually contains the fetus of a shaman, he exclaims "On huh NACK?"
As his acting career slowed down, Curtis concentrated on his other love, painting. His work was so acclaimed that in 2007 one of his surrealist works went on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Curtis was married six times and is survived by his last wife, Jill. He had six children in all, including two daughters with his first wife, Janet Leigh, that followed their dad into acting: Kelly and Jamie Lee Curtis.
ROCK AND ROLL HONORS
This week the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released their list of this year's nominees for induction. The artists and my thoughts:
Alice Cooper - Yes. Cooper is still going strong almost 40 years after songs like "Schools Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" rocked the charts. In fact, he'll be here in KC next week on a double bill with Rob Zombie. His contributions to "shock rock" are undeniable.
Dr. John - Yes. This New Orleans musical legend actually began his career in the mid 1950s as a guitarist. However, after having one of his fingers removed by a bullet during a fight he concentrated on the piano. He has successfully mixed many different types of music including blues, jazz, pop, zydeco and rock. His debut album "Gris Gris" was chosen by Roling Stone magazine as number 143 of it's top 500 albums of all time. In 1973 his single "Right Place Wrong Time" hit #9 on the charts.
J Geils Band - Yes. Led by guitarist John Geils, this Boston-based band, formerly the J. Geils Blues Band, has been around since the late 60s. Their peak period was 1980-82, which include the single "Love Stinks" as well as the release of the "Freeze Frame" album, which spawned the #1 hit "Centerfold." The title tune was also a hit, peaking at #4. Fronted by lead singer Peter Wolf (who left the band in 1985) the group always struck me as the ultimate frat party band. I caught them in Germany in 1982 when they opened for the Rolling Stones and their energy on stage was infectius. Wolf rejoined the band in 1999 and they group plays periodic shows, most recently this past August when they opened for fellow Boston band Aerosmith at Fenway Park.
Donna Summer - Tough call. She was a mainstay on the radio for a decade and scored huge hits with songs like "Last Dance," "Macarthur Park," "Bad Girls" and "She Works Hard for the Money." I wouldn't have a problem with her being inducted but I don't have a vote. I will relate a great story about her though. In high school I had a friend that was a HUGE Donna Summer fan. One Monday morning he wasn't in school. Not there on Tuesday either. His folks called around because they had no idea where he was. Gone Wednesday as well. On Thursday he was back in school. Where had he been? Over the weekend he had gone to Lakeland to see Donna Summer in concert. Back then concerts were usually "General Admission," which meant you could sit/stand where you wanted to. The earlier you got there the closer you got to the stage. Thanks to the Who that is no longer the norm. My friend was right in front of the stage and during the concert he handed Ms. Summer a bouquet of roses he had brought. She thanked him for them and, later on during the show, invited him to come backstage. He spent the next four days ON TOUR WITH DONNA SUMMER! She took him along as the tour made it's way to Jacksonville and Atlanta. After the Atlanta show she put him on a plane home.
The Beastie Boys - Yes. If only for the album "Licensed to Ill."
Bon Jovi - Yes. They quickly distinguished themselves from the other "hair bands" of the 80s by churning out some kick ass rock and roll.
Chic - Another tough call. Led by guitarist Niles Rogers, the group turned out some major hits in the late 70s and early 80s, though they were pretty much catagorized as a disco group. However, their sound was also very influential. The song "Good Times" is said to have inspired such songs as "Rapper's Delight" by Grandmaster Flash, "Rapture" by Blondie and even "Another One Bites The Dust," which came together after Queen bassist John Deacon sat in on the recording session and observed the bass line Chic's Bernard Edwards was laying down.
Neil Diamond - Hell yes! As my mother's favorite performer EVER I could not deny Neil. But, my mom aside, Diamond has been churing out hits, both for himself and others, for 50 years. From the Monkees to UB40 and everywhere in between, Diamond has been a major voice in music.
Donovan - Later. I can see him making it as an "influence." Too many bigger contributors ahead of him this year.
LL Cool J - The Ladies Love Cool James but I don't think the hall will. No.
Darlene Love - Hard to call. She made her name mostly as a backup singer, recording with such stars as Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Sonny and Cher. She often worked with producer Phil Spector, who featured her on such songs as "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "He's A Rebel." Spector finally put her name on a record label when he released Love singing "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry." Her biggest hit came when she and Mama's and Papa's singer Michelle Phillips supplied the voices of the "cheerleaders" on Cheech and Chong's #15 "Basektball Jones." In the mid 80's she portrayed herself in the Broadway musical "Leader of the Pack," bringing the house down every night with her rendition of "River Deep, Mountain High." She should also get points for playing Danny Glover's wife in the "Lethal Weapon" movies.
Chuck Willis - Yes. The "King of the Stroll," Willis was an enormous influence in the early days of rock and roll. His songs were covered by everyone from Buddy Holly to Otis Redding to Elvis Presley. Hell, Kanye West recently sampled Willis' "(It's Too Late)She's Gone" for his song "Gone." Willis died at the age of 30 in 1958 after undergoing surgery.
Laura Nyro, Joe Tex, Tom Waits - Not this year.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I MAKE FROM THESE MOVIES - LET'S FIND OUT
George Lucas has announced that he will reissue all six of the "Star Wars" films in 3D, starting in 2012 with "Episode One." Why? It's a known fact that regular films transferred to 3D look like crap. Sure, you get an added depth of field on screen, but I'm not paying $17.00 (my estimate of a 3D ticket price in 2012) to see Jar Jar's big head on screen!
The Beatles Anthology 1 - The Beatles
Smell The Glove - Spinal Tap - Original Soundtrack for the film "This is Spinal Tap"
In 1995 Apple Records released the first of three "Anthology" albums featuring the Beatles. Set to coincide with the ABC television presentation of "The Beatles Anthology," the albums were a collection of odds and ends that fans had not heard before, including recording outtakes, different versions of familiar tunes and rare radio and television appearances. It also included almost a bookend for the band: "In Spite of All the Danger," which Paul and John recorded as young men while still with the Quarrymen and "Free As A Bird," which was heralded as the Beatles first new single since 1970. A demo of the song, written and recorded by John Lennon, was taken into the studio and, with additional contributions from Paul, George and Ringo, a "new" Beatles single was released. They would also do the same thing on "Real Love" for the second anthology album.
Here's a listen to "In Spite of All the Danger:"
I was going to put up the official video for "Free As A Bird," but I found this great clip that a fan has made that looks like the band got back together. Great job:
Often called the first "mockumentary," Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap" chronicled the recent American Tour of one of England's loudest bands. With all of the music written and performed by Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, many people who saw the film thought they were a real band. Their popularity grew so much that the trio did tour after the film opened. 20 years later they toured again, only as an accoustic trio, with a show billed as "Unwigged and Unplugged!"
Here are two classic songs from the album:
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
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