Saturday, January 20, 2018

RIP: DOROTHY MALONE

Dorothy Malone, the sultry blond actress who won an Academy Award for playing an unapologetically bad girl in “Written on the Wind” and found television stardom as a repentant one on “Peyton Place,” died on Friday in Dallas. She was 93.

Her daughter Mimi Vanderstraaten confirmed the death, at an assisted living facility, where Ms. Malone had lived for the last 10 years.

Ms. Malone was 31 and had been in Hollywood for 13 years when she was cast as Marylee Hadley, a spoiled, sex-crazed young Texas oil heiress, in “Written on the Wind” (1956). The film, directed by Douglas Sirk, Hollywood’s master of glossy melodrama, also starred Rock Hudson and Robert Stack.

The three starred again together two years later in Sirk’s drama “Tarnished Angels,” in which a reporter (Mr. Hudson) falls for the sultry wife (Ms. Malone) of a barnstorming pilot (Mr. Stack).

But Ms. Malone’s career appeared to succumb to what some call the Oscar curse. After winning the award, for best supporting actress, she never had as juicy a role again. Seemingly well-chosen follow-up parts — among them the suicidal first wife of Lon Chaney (James Cagney) in “Man of a Thousand Faces” (1957) and the self-destructive daughter of John Barrymore (Errol Flynn) in “Too Much Too Soon” (1958) — did little to advance her career.


Dorothy Eloise Maloney was born on Jan. 30, 1924, in Chicago and grew up in Dallas, one of five children of Robert Ignatius Maloney and the former Esther Smith. Two of her sisters died of polio in childhood, and a brother was fatally struck by lightning in his teens.

Ms. Malone attended Southern Methodist University, where an RKO talent agent saw her in a 1943 school production and soon whisked her away to Hollywood. She was accompanied by her mother.

Ms. Malone’s first credited feature-film role was in “Too Young to Know” (1945), a war drama with Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton. But she was first noticed, by audiences and the film industry alike, in “The Big Sleep” (1946), in which she played a seductive bookstore clerk who took off her glasses, loosened her brown hair (Ms. Malone’s natural hair color) and invited Humphrey Bogart to stay awhile. That year she also played Cole Porter’s bright-eyed cousin in the Porter biography “Night and Day,” which starred Cary Grant.

For the 1954 musical romance “Young at Heart,” Ms. Malone went blond to play Doris Day’s sister and found that audiences liked her that way. She made seven films in 1955, among them “Artists and Models,” a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy in which she played Shirley MacLaine’s roommate and Martin’s love interest; “The Fast and the Furious,” an early Roger Corman production (connected with the later series of films in name only); “Battle Cry,” in which she seduced Tab Hunter; and “Sincerely Yours,” in which she played Liberace’s fiancée.


When movie roles thinned out, Ms. Malone turned to television, appearing in a wide range of series. Shortly after she played Van Johnson’s wife in the 1976 mini-series “Rich Man, Poor Man,” she placed ads in Hollywood trade publications seeking work — in television, onstage, anywhere.Photo

Ms. Malone and Mr. Hudson in Douglas Sirk’s 1958 movie “Tarnished Angels.” CreditEverett Collection

One of the juicier roles that came afterward was that of an assassinated president’s slightly crazy mother in the film “Winter Kills” (1979). She was also in two “Peyton Place” reunion television movies, along with other original cast members.

Her final film appearance was as a smiling lesbian ax murderer in “Basic Instinct” (1992).


Ms. Malone married and divorced three times. Her first husband (1959-64) was Jacques Bergerac, a French actor who later became a cosmetics company executive. They had two daughters. A brief marriage to Robert Tomarkin, a stockbroker, in 1969 was annulled after only a few weeks.

Besides her daughter Mimi, Ms. Malone is survived by her other daughter, Diane Thompson; six grandchildren, and her brother, Robert B. Maloney, a senior federal district judge in Dallas.

Ms. Malone’s bad-girl image endured throughout her life. In 2004 an exhibition of photographs by the filmmaker John Waters included nine images of Ms. Malone with the upturned collar that was her subtle sex-symbol signature.

But from the beginning, she seemed to appreciate the value of that typecasting.

“She is a strumpet of the first order,” Ms. Malone said of her sexy character in “Written on the Wind,” speaking to The Dallas Morning News in 1956. “It certainly will be talked about.

“And there’s nothing an actress needs more, inside of Hollywood and out, than to be talked about — for a performance, I mean.”


Friday, January 19, 2018

WHAT I'M WATCHING - JANUARY

Here is Pittsburgh it is cold and snowy, so in my household there has been a lot of television watching this month. This new feature will highlight some of the movies, series, and specials I have been watching on television for the month.


1. GOOD NEWS (1947) - When my son was born, I started to groom him to be a classic movie lover like myself. My son is all sports - all the time, and he has little time or interest for movies at all. My daughter is five years old now, and loves anything with music. So the one snowy Saturday I put on one of my favorite classic movie musicals Good News, and we both watched it. The musical has really two non singers as the leads - June Allyson and Peter Lawford, but the songs and numbers make it. My son looked up annoyingly from his tablet when my daughter and I started dancing to the number "Pass The Peace Pipe", which is one of my favorite numbers. The whole movie is full of gems from the 1920s including the show stopping finale "Lucky In Love". It was great to see such a young Mel Torme in the film as well. Peter Lawford was a good looking actor who would ruin his looks in a matter of 15 years after this movie from booze and pills. Nevertheless Good News was a great film to watch on a lazy afternoon.


2. THE SANDLOT (1993) - This is one of the few films my son does like to watch. Since it is on HBO On Demand now, we can watch it at anytime. The movie came out when I was 18, and I really don't remember the film. I didn't see it until a couple years ago. It is a great movie that shows life in the 1960s when baseball was king. A lot has changed though. It makes me sad seeing kids just running around their neighborhood and not worrrying about locking their doors, because that is certainly not the case anymore. In the past three months, I must have watched this film 20 times. If nothing else is on television, The Sandlot is the movie I put on! I love the story about a lonely boy called Smalls (I was Smalls!) that comes out of his shell when he meets the other boys in the neighborhood. He discovers his love of baseball to the backdrop of 1960s America. I wish I would have had a sandlot in my life when I was young. This is one of the few films that both of my kids agree to watch together!


3. GET OUT (2017) - This movie is not for everyone. It's another film that I missed when it was in theaters. My wife saw it first and recommended it to me. I was reluctant to watch it, but I did one night when everyone was asleep. It's considered a horror movie, but it is so much more!  It stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a black man who visits the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams); at their home, the servants are black and act strangely. Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener costar. I can't wait to see Daniel Kaluuya in more roles. The movie is not grusome and overly violent, but the tense suspense was great. The movie starts out as what I thought was a movie about racial profiling and it ends up being a movie about medical experiments! The movie isn't for the faint of heart, but I loved it!

This is what I'm watching this month...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

BORN ON THIS DAY: ROBERT STACK

On this day 99 years ago, the great Robert Stack was born! Robert Stack was born Charles Langford Modini Stack in Los Angeles, California on January 13, 1919, but his first name, selected by his mother, was changed to Robert by his father. He spent his early childhood in Europe. He became fluent in French and Italian at an early age, and did not learn English until returning to Los Angeles.

His parents divorced when he was a year old, and he was raised by his mother, Mary Elizabeth (née Wood). His father, James Langford Stack, a wealthy advertising agency owner, later remarried his mother, but died when Stack was 10.

He had always spoken of his mother with the greatest respect and love. When he collaborated with Mark Evans on his autobiography, Straight Shooting, he included a picture of himself and his mother. He captioned it, "Me and my best girl." His maternal grandfather, the opera singer Charles Wood, studied voice in Italy and performed there under the name "Carlo Modini." On the paternal side of his family, Stack had another opera-singer relative: the American baritone Richard Bonelli (born George Richard Bunn), who was his uncle.


When Stack visited the lot of Universal Studios at age 20, producer Joe Pasternak offered him an opportunity to enter the business. Recalled Stack, "He said, 'How'd you like to be in pictures? We'll make a test with Helen Parrish, a little love scene.' Helen Parrish was a beautiful girl. 'Gee, that sounds keen,' I told him. I got the part."

Stack's first film, which teamed him with Deanna Durbin, was First Love (1939), produced by Pasternak. This film was considered controversial at the time. He was the first actor to give Durbin an on-screen kiss.


Stack won acclaim for his next role, The Mortal Storm (1940) starring Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart, and directed by Frank Borzage at MGM. He played a young man who joins the Nazi party.

 He was borrowed by United Artists to play a Polish Air Force pilot in To Be or Not To Be (1942), alongside Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Stack admitted he was terrified going into this role, but he credited Lombard -- who he'd known personally for several years -- with giving him many tips on acting and with being his mentor. Lombard was killed in a plane crash shortly before the film was released. 

Stack served in World War II and returned to movies, where he would be a force for the next 50 plus year, and the rest is history...



Saturday, January 6, 2018

RIP: JERRY VAN DYKE

Jerry Van Dyke, who after decades in show business finally emerged from the shadow of his older brother, Dick, with an Emmy-nominated role in the long-running ABC sitcom “Coach,” died on Friday at his ranch in Arkansas. He was 86.

Jerry’s wife, Shirley Ann Jones, who confirmed the death, said his health had deteriorated since a traffic accident in 2015.

From the beginning, Mr. Van Dyke’s television career was intertwined with his brother’s. One of his earliest TV appearances was in 1962 in a two-part episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as Stacey Petrie, the would-be comedian brother of Dick’s character, Rob Petrie.

A boisterous performer who supported himself with a banjo-and-comedy stage act when television or film roles were scant, Mr. Van Dyke was a ham to his brother’s more dignified persona. But while Dick had runaway success early on, with the Broadway show and film “Bye Bye Birdie,” the Disney musical “Mary Poppins” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” his brother’s career was long defined by a string of short-lived projects, like “The Judy Garland Show” and the game show “Picture This.”


The worst of his projects was the sitcom “My Mother the Car,” which ran for one notorious season on NBC beginning in September 1965. He played a man who buys a car that contains the spirit of his deceased mother, voiced by Ann Sothern. The premise seems far-fetched, if not bizarre, but fantastical sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” became popular around the same time. “My Mother the Car” never caught on and was savaged by critics.

“When people talk about bad television, ‘My Mother the Car’ is the show that pops to mind,” Mr. Van Dyke told The A.P. in 1990.

He went on to have prominent roles in other series that did not last long, like “Accidental Family,” “Headmaster” and “13 Queens Boulevard,” and largely supported himself with his stage show. His brother, meanwhile, enjoyed more success, including a lead role in the 1968 Disney film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a musical about a flying car.


But in 1989 Jerry Van Dyke landed the role of Luther Van Dam, the assistant coach to Craig T. Nelson’s head football coach, Hayden Fox, on “Coach.” They worked together to lead the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles, often with guest appearances by professional football figures like Troy Aikman, Dick Butkus and Jerry Jones, as well as actors like Lucy Liu, Drew Carey and Mary Hart.

Van Dam, a bumbling, subservient second banana who had occasional moments of pathos, was a reliable source of laughs on the show, which ran until 1997.

Jerry McCord Van Dyke was born on July 27, 1931, in Danville, Ill., to Loren Van Dyke, a traveling salesman, and the former Hazel McCord, a homemaker. He was a little more than five years younger than Dick, and like his brother started a comedy act as a teenager, honing his skills at nightclubs and strip clubs.


“I couldn’t do anything else,” he joked to USA Today in 1990. “I decided to be a comedian at 8 years old and didn’t tend to my studies in school. Had I known how to do anything else, I would have quit. Many times.”

He performed at bases around the world during a stint in the Air Force in the mid-1950s. He appeared as a guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” had walk-on roles on “Perry Mason” and “The Andy Griffith Show” and appeared in the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara Western McLintock! (1963), one of a handful of movies that he acted in.

Mr. Van Dyke married Carol Johnson in the mid-1950s; they divorced in the mid-1970s. Besides his wife, Ms. Jones, and his brother, survivors include a daughter, Jerri Lynne, and a son, Ronald, both from his first marriage; and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Kelly Jean Van Dyke-Nance, died in 1991.

After “Coach,” he appeared in sitcoms like “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope.” The Van Dyke brothers kept playing siblings together into old age, including on the ABC sitcom “The Middle” in 2015...


MARLENE DIETRICH AND THE UNISEX TUXEDO

Marlene Dietrich made the tux luxe for all.

Born in Berlin as Marie Magdalene Dietrich, she became a star during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The image she’s best remembered is her turn in a man’s tux with top hat and white tie in Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film Morocco. Google even remembered Marlene Dietrich’s 116th birthday—and her gender-defying tuxedo—with a December 27th doodle.

Her boundary-pushing performance—Dietrich, playing a cabaret singer, kisses a woman in the audience—stunned and titillated audiences, according to the BBC. Dietrich’s big-screen appropriation of the men’s tuxedo was a long leap at a time when women wearing trousers was still far from accepted.

The era of her widest fame included the World War II years when women stepped into factories and manufacturing to support the US war effort, events that helped set in motion the ongoing struggle for greater equality between the sexes. As the Costume Society  wrote last year of her wardrobe, “at times, Dietrich looked far better in suits than men themselves.”


She was also a bisexual star when homosexuality was a crime in many jurisdictions, and elevated drag to a new level. Today’s doodle was illustrated by Sasha Steinberg, who was a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, performing as Sasha Velour. “Despite the pressures of the time, she followed her own course, especially in terms of politics and gender,” Velour said.

Her film career extended into the 1970s, as did her international cabaret appearances. Decades after Dietrich’s pioneered her signature look, Yves Saint Laurent designed “le smoking,” the first tuxedo for women. It came to symbolize “female liberation,” according to a statement for the 2005 exhibition Yves Saint Laurent Smoking Forever.

Dietrich, who died in 1992, is remembered as a symbol of liberation in various forms. After Hitler’s Nazi regime took control of Germany, she became an exile, went to war zones to encourage American troops and traveled widely to promote the sale of war bonds. She resisted repeated attempts by the Third Reich to lure her back and instead became an emblem of a free Germany...



SOURCE

Monday, January 1, 2018

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE - WEB EPISODE 3

Happy New Year! Here is episode 3 of my pod cast on You Tube. I think the bugs and kinks of episode 2 has been corrected. I hope you enjoy the episode, and please keep the comments and suggestions coming...