Thursday, June 20, 2024

RIP: DONALD SUTHERLAND

Donald Sutherland, the beloved actor who starred in scores of films from The Dirty Dozen, MASH and Klute to Animal House and Ordinary People to Pride & Prejudice and The Hunger Games franchise and won an Emmy for Citizen X, died Thursday in Miami after a long illness. He was 88.

The 2017 Honorary Oscar recipient also is the father of Emmy-winning 24 and Designated Survivor actor Kiefer Sutherland and veteran CAA Media Finance exec Roeg Sutherland. CAA confirmed the news to Deadline.

In some of his most well-known roles, he perfected a laconic, wry and dead-serious delivery as such characters as the cool-headed amateur murder investigator John Klute, opposite Jane Fonda’s terrified, erratic call girl Bree Daniels, in Klute; as the Hawkeye Pierce in the film MASH, where he played opposite Elliott Gould’s cut-up Trapper John; and in Nicolas Reog’s Don’t Look Now as skeptical John Baxter, who does not believe the claims of wife Laura (Julie Christie) that their recently dead daughter is reaching out from the other side.

In one early change-of-pace characterization, Sutherland played a sadistic fascist in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 epic 1900, in which his character gleefully swings a child by the heels, bashing the boy’s head against a wall.


Born on July 17, 1935, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Donald Sutherland amassed some 200 film and TV credits spanning more than 60 years, from guesting on episodes of 1960s series including Suspense, The Avengers, Court Martial and The Odd Man to last year’s Paramount+ drama Bass Reeves. His big break in movies came with Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 World War II drama The Dirty Dozen, playing Vernon Pinkley opposite Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Kennedy, Telly Savalas and others. A hit in theaters, it remains a seminal American war movie.

His next big role was as Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce in Robert Altman’s 1970 Korean War dramedy MASH. The alternatively harrowing and hilarious film earned five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, winning for Ring Lardner Jr.’s biting screenplay, and fueled the 1972-83 CBS series in which Alda Alda played Hawkeye.

Sutherland followed that with another star-laden war movie, 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes, playing Sgt. Oddball alongside Clint Eastwood, Don Rickles, Savalas and others. That led to perhaps his biggest star turn, in the 1971 Alan J. Pakula crime drama Klute. He starred opposite Fonda as New York Detective John Klute, who is hired to find a chemical company executive who has disappeared. Fonda won her first Oscar for the role, and Andy Lewis & Dave Lewis were nominated for their Original Screenplay.


Sutherland’s next big movie was Nicolas Roeg’s psychological thriller Don’t Look Now, which he followed up with the 1974 international espionage comedy S*P*Y*S, reteaming with Gould, and 1975’s Hollywood-set Day of the Locust. Starring with William Atherton, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith, he played accountant Homer Simpson, who covets Black’s aspiring actress Faye Greener.

With his film career in high gear, Sutherland starred in yet another big-name war movie in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, and then had a small role in the 1977 John Landis-directed farce The Kentucky Fried Movie, penned by future Airplane! filmmakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker.


1978 would see Sutherland headline three disparate films: heist comedy The Great Train Robbery with Seaon Connery and Lesley-Anne Down; horror thriller remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum; and the beloved early-’60s fraternity romp Animal House, also directed by Landis

He had a supporting but key role in the latter, playing Faber College English lit Professor Dave Jennings. His deadpan character bores his classes with lectures on John Milton in one scene and is sleeping with student Katy (Karen Allen) in the next. She was the girlfriend of Boon (Peter Riegert), one of the Delta Chi fraternity members. The cast also included John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, KEvin Bacon, Amadeus Oscar winner Tom Hulce and John Vernon.

Sutherland is survived by his wife Francine Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer; daughter Rachel; and four grandchildren. A private celebration of life will be held by the family. Donald made his last movie and television appearances in 2023...



Wednesday, June 19, 2024

WHAT A CHARACTER: MARGARET DUMONT

One of the true great straight ladies of comedy was Margaret Dumont. She was the comedic foil in many Marx Brothers movies, but she was actually a wonderful actress.Dumont was born Daisy Juliette Baker in 1882 Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of William and Harriet Anna (née Harvey) Baker. Her mother was a music teacher and encouraged Daisy's singing career from an early age.

Dumont trained as an operatic singer and actress in her teens and began performing on stage in the US and Europe, at first under the name Daisy Dumont and later as Margaret (or Marguerite - French for Daisy) Dumont. Her theatrical debut was in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast at the Chestnut Theater in Philadelphia; in August 1902, two months before her 20th birthday, she appeared as a singer/comedian in a vaudeville act in Atlantic City. The dark-haired soubrette, described by a theater reviewer as a "statuesque beauty," attracted notice later that decade for her vocal and comedic talents in The Girl Behind the Counter (1908), The Belle of Brittany (1909), and The Summer Widower (1910). In 1910, she married millionaire sugar heir and industrialist John Moller Jr and retired from stage work, although she had a small uncredited role as an aristocrat in a 1917 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.The marriage was childless, and Margaret would never marry again.


In 1925, she played a stuffy heiress in the Marx Brothers broadway show Coconuts. In the Marxes' next Broadway show, Animal Crackers, which opened in October 1928, Dumont again was cast as foil and straight woman Mrs. Rittenhouse, another wealthy, high society widow. She appeared with the Marxes in the screen versions of both The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930). Through 1941, Margaret appeared in seven Marx Brothers films. 

All together, Margaret appeared in 57 films from 1917 to 1964. Dumont played dramatic parts in films including Youth on Parole (1937), Dramatic School (1938), Stop, You're Killing Me (1952), Three for Bedroom C (1952), and Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956). Her last film role was that of Shirley MacLaine's mother, Mrs. Foster, in What a Way to Go! (1964).


On February 26, 1965, eight days before her death, Dumont made her final acting appearance on the television program The Hollywood Palace, where she was reunited with Groucho, the week's guest host. They performed material from Captain Spaulding's introductory scene in Animal Crackers, including the song "Hooray for Captain Spaulding." The taped show was broadcast on April 17, 1965. Dumont died from a heart attack on March 6, 1965. She was cremated and her ashes were interred at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles. She was 82, although many obituaries erroneously gave her age as 75.

In 2023, her remains were removed from non-public vaultage in the basement to a publicly accessible niche in the chapel columbarium. Margaret Dumont was the butt of many of Groucho Marx's jokes, but she definitely was quite a character!



Saturday, June 15, 2024

THEN AND NOW: CLINT EASTWOOD

 Here is legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood from 1966 and now 2024 - 61 years apart!






Tuesday, June 11, 2024

ANOTHER AWARD FOR MEL BROOKS

Mel Brooks entered even more prestigious awards territory on Sunday, upgrading his EGOT to a PEGOT as he was recognized with the Career Achievement Award at the 84th annual Peabody Awards.

Brooks became only the fourth person to win a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, behind Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno and Mike Nichols. Billy Crystal presented the comedy icon with the honor at the organization’s Los Angeles ceremony. (A PEGOT can also refer to a Pulitzer instead of a Peabody, which just Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch have achieved.)

“Mel is a genius who believes that comedy should push boundaries, challenge societal taboos and yes, be a little vulgar when the mood calls for it — and with Mel, the mood often calls for it,” Crystal told the crowd at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. “Mel is one of the big reasons that I have a life in comedy. His fearless genius and boundary-pushing humor have been my guiding light since day one,” adding that Brooks has steered him through some of the most pivotal moments of his career.

“For over 70 years, Mel has entertained us. I just want to ask you folks, where would we be without him?” Crystal mused, become noting that Brooks had become “only the fourth PEGOT winner in the process — it’s a big deal, I’m just an ET.”


In his speech, Brooks admitted he wasn’t entirely sure what a Peabody was for, teasing, “When they said, ‘You’ve won a Peabody Award,’ I said, ‘Oh, no shit.’ I thought maybe it was for being the best-looking guy in show business. I had no idea what this award — it’s mostly for electronics. If you’re good at electronics, you can win one of these.”

He joked that he’d like to say he humbly accepted the award “but I’m not humble… Humility is not a part of my vocabulary.” And noting the A-listers who have received the Career Achievement Award in the past, Brooks added, “It’s been won by a distinguished group of esteemed, well-worth [people] winning this award and I feel a little — you really want me to be part of this? These are people that go to good restaurants,” to big laughter from the crowd. In closing, the star declared, “I promised the George Foster Peabody people I will not sell this one.”

Sunday night’s Peabody Awards marked the first time the ceremony has ever been held in Los Angeles, versus its normal home in New York City; the move was initially planned for 2020, but the in-person show has been consistently derailed for the past few years by the pandemic and then by last year’s writers strike...



Monday, June 10, 2024

100 YEARS OF RHAPSODY IN BLUE

Today marks 100 years since the immortal song Rhapsody In Blue was first recorded. Written by George Gershwin, it was recorded on this day - June 10, 1924 by Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra on the Victor label with George Gershwin himself on piano...




Thursday, June 6, 2024

JEROME KERN AND HIS LAST MUSICAL

Jerome Kern (1885-1945) needs no introduction. Composer of more than seven hundred songs, among them "They Didn't Believe Me," "Look for the Silver Lining," "Who?" "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Make Believe," "Bill," "Why Was I Born?," "She Didn't Say Yes," "The Song Is You," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Yesterdays," "All the Things You Are," "I Won't Dance," "The Way You Look Tonight," "A Fine Romance," "Pick Yourself Up," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," "The Last Time I Saw Paris," "Dearly Beloved," "I'm Old Fashioned," and "Long Ago (and Far Away)," he worked with such renowned lyricists as Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, PG. Wodehouse, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, B.G. DeSylva and Herbert Reynolds in both theater and film. "The first to find a new form of melodic writing unlike that of his predecessors or contemporaries," according to Alec Wilder's American Popular Song (Oxford University Press, 1972), Kern is one of the giants in the pantheon of the Great American Songbook.


The 1946 Twentieth Century-Fox film Jerome Kern's Centennial Summer, produced and directed by Otto Preminger, turned out to be the last project Kern worked on before he died suddenly on 11 November 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage while walking at the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street in New York. An "undernourished score" as Stephen Banfield's Jerome Kern (Yale University Press, 2006) puts it, it nevertheless contains the songs "The Right Romance" (lyrics: Leo Robin), "Up with the Lark" (lyrics: Leo Robin), "Centennial" (lyrics: Leo Robin),"In Love in Vain" (lyrics: Leo Robin), "All Through the Day" (lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II), and "Cinderella Sue" (lyrics: E. Y. Harburg). Another song, "Two Hearts Are Better than One" (lyrics: Johnny Mercer) was published but in the end cut from the film. Other Kern tunes are used, namely "Long Live Our Free America" (lyrics: Leo Robin), "Railroad Song" (lyrics: Leo Robin), as well as Two Dachshunds and various polkas and waltzes as underscoring. Described by Roy Hemming in his The Melody Lingers On (Newmarket Press, 1986) as barely "bearable," Kern's score is not his best. Still, "In Love in Vain" spent thirteen weeks on Your Hit Parade and, according to Billboard's chart information, charted for Margaret Whiting and for Helen Forrest with Dick Haymes; and "AH Through the Day" spent twenty weeks on Your Hit Parade and had three charting records, by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Margaret Whiting. Moreover, the songs he composed with Hammerstein, Harburg and Mercer were retrieved from Kern's trunk of old songs after he grew increasingly frustrated with Robin's tardiness in providing lyrics. In the end, the film received two Academy Award nominations: one for best song ("All Through the Day") and one for best score (Alfred Newman).


Jerome Kern's Centennial Summer was Fox's response to the success of MGM's 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis, whose story, based on a series of short stories by Sally Benson, involves a family with three daughters at the time of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Based on a novel by Albert E. Idell, Jerome Kern's Centennial Summer revolves around a family in Philadelphia in the 1870s at the time of the Centennial International Exposition of 1876. Whereas one of the Smith family daughters in Meet Me in St. Louis falls for the boy next door, two of the Rogers daughters in Jerome Kern's Centennial Summer fall for a Frenchman who has arrived to prepare the French pavilion for the exposition. Just as MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939) was a response to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the Meet Me in St. Louis/Centennial Summer couple is an example of a tried-and-true tit-for-tat copycat Hollywood ritual that continues to this day. Both musicals take place before either World War, which makes them endearing reminders of more innocent, happier times...



Monday, June 3, 2024

RIP: JANIS PAIGE

Janis Paige, an exuberant nightclub performer who starred on Broadway in “The Pajama Game,” swung from a chandelier with Fred Astaire in the movie “Silk Stockings” and played a flirtatious waitress who tempts Archie Bunker to stray from his marriage vows on the sitcom “All in the Family,” died June 2 at her home in West Hollywood. She was 101.

Her death was confirmed by her friend Stuart Lampert, who said she had been in hospice but did not cite a specific cause.

Although Ms. Paige appeared in westerns and melodramas, she was best known as a scene-stealing comic actress in parts that often brandished her mile-long legs and flashing eyes. Film critic Alton Cook of the New York World-Telegram and Sun described her as “one of the most deft and engaging of our girl clowns.”

Talent scouts spotted her singing opera at the Hollywood Canteen, a club that catered to servicemen on leave during World War II. Within a year, she was under contract to Warner Bros. studios and cast in the film “Hollywood Canteen” (1944) as a hostess and aspiring actress who bewitches a wolfish soldier (Dane Clark). When he asks for a date, she fends him off with dramatic flourish: “I give so much of myself to my art, and there’d be so little left for you.”


She also played a gangster’s moll and chanteuse in the melodrama “Her Kind of Man” (1946) and had decorative roles in “Winter Meeting” (1948), starring Bette Davis, and “Wallflower” (1948) as the glamorous sister of studious Joyce Reynolds.

There were plenty of musical comedies in the mix, often with co-stars Jack Carson or Dennis Morgan. In the western “Cheyenne” (1947), she played a dancehall chanteuse who performs atop a bar.

Her other films included “Two Guys from Milwaukee,” “The Time, the Place and the Girl” (both 1946) and “Romance on the High Seas” (1948). The last marked the movie debut of Doris Day, whose studio career waxed as Ms. Paige’s rapidly waned.

Ms. Paige became a major Broadway star playing the union grievance committee leader in “The Pajama Game” (1954), a musical romance set amid labor-management tensions at a pajama factory. The show, which ran two years, won the Tony Award for best musical, provided an early showcase for the modern dance choreography of Bob Fosse, and featured a bevy of hit songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

Ms. Paige was turned down for the 1957 film version, which featured her Broadway co-star, John Raitt, opposite Day. “For the movie, they needed a box office name,” she told the Associated Press years later. “They wanted Frank Sinatra to play John Raitt's role. Frank considered it and turned it down. I would have played my role.”

“I never get devastated about things like that,” she added. “I’m lucky to have had the show. I always felt that way. There’s nothing like the original.”

The musical’s success — and her headline act at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles — made Ms. Paige a household name. She had a starring role on “It’s Always Jan” (1955), a short-lived CBS sitcom about a widowed cabaret star raising a young daughter. She also won a supporting role as a flamboyant Hollywood actress opposite Astaire and Cyd Charisse in “Silk Stockings” (1957).


The film was based on a 1955 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1939 movie “Ninotchka,” a romantic comedy starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. Ms. Paige provided the movie with some much-needed juice — especially her droll rendition of Cole Porter’s “Stereophonic Sound,” choreographed by Hermes Pan and culminating in Ms. Paige and Astaire gliding across the room, suspended from a chandelier.

“It was hard work, believe me,” she later told the Miami Herald, describing weeks of rehearsals. “I was one mass of bruises. I didn’t know how to fall … because I was never a classic dancer.”

She added that she was too intimidated by Astaire to refuse his idea for the chandelier sequence. “He showed me and said, ‘You think you can do that?’ And I said, ‘Sure, I can do that.’ Not knowing if I was going to fall on my face or not. I didn’t.”


She returned to Broadway in 1963 for “Here’s Love,” Meredith Willson’s musical adaptation of the 1947 Christmas film “Miracle on 34th Street.” In the role Maureen O’Hara originated on screen, Ms. Paige played a cynical working mother whose young daughter clings to an abiding faith in Santa Claus.

In 1968, Ms. Paige took over from Angela Lansbury in Jerry Herman’s long-running Broadway musical comedy “Mame,” playing a bohemian socialite caring for her orphaned nephew. “She looks glowingly well and sings, dances and acts with a sweet enthusiasm, but not perhaps the bittersweet enthusiasm Miss Lansbury presented,” New York Times theater critic Clive Barnes wrote. “She is less of a character but, as some compensation, perhaps more of a performer.”

In the movie comedy “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960), Ms. Paige had a vivid supporting role as an actress who slaps theater critic David Niven for giving her a bad review. She was part of Bob Hope’s USO shows and was a television stalwart, with appearances on variety shows, afternoon soap operas such as “General Hospital” and series including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Trapper John, M.D.” and “St. Elsewhere.”


Most memorable was a guest role on “All in the Family,” as a diner waitress with hungry eyes for Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker. Archie was a comically lovable bigot who, whatever his many faults, seemed devoted to his bighearted wife, Edith. Feeling neglected because of his wife’s volunteer work, he is susceptible to Ms. Paige’s unsubtle invitation to her home.

Ms. Paige told the Herald that she received mounds of angry letters for almost wrecking the Bunkers’ TV marriage. “My God, they hated me,” she said. “I had hate mail: ‘How dare you come between Archie and Edith? How dare you do this?’ And other people would write, ‘It’s about time he kissed somebody else, and I would have kissed you, too, if I had been there.’ ”

Donna Mae Tjaden was born in Tacoma, Wash., on Sept. 16, 1922. She was 4 when her parents separated and was raised by her mother and grandparents. Her mother encouraged her show business ambitions, which took her to Hollywood within a year of completing high school.

Her marriages to restaurateur Frank Martinelli Jr. and TV producer Arthur Stander ended in divorce. She was married to Ray Gilbert, the Oscar-winning lyricist of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” from 1962 until his death in 1976. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available...