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End Credits #31: Cinema's 2015 Lost Treasures

 

These are some of Cinema's sad departures of 2015 taken from my personal notes soon after the tragic events took place:

 

  

More shocking news of sudden loss has occurred in the film making community: James Horner has died at age 61. The composer was piloting a small plane when it crashed in California. He probably brought more attention and prominence to the art of film scoring than any other composer in the history of the medium from his score, by way of its quadruple platinum selling soundtrack, to Titanic which included the song ‘My Heart Will Go On’. When he was at the top of his game, as he so often was, film goers and film music fans alike would be treated to some of the most unapologetically melodious music ever created, music straight from the heart, that time and again transcended the films for which they were composed and will forever thrive in our memories. Some of my personal favourites of his were: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Mighty Joe Young, Troy, The Mask of Zorro, The Perfect Storm and A Beautiful Mind. Now that his “voice” is silenced, we’ll never know what future inspired themes we might have enjoyed from this immensely talented artist. This is very sad news indeed. At least we have his past magical compositions to cherish for the rest of our lives. James Horner (August 14, 1953 - June 22, 2015) R.I.P. 

  

 

 

 

 

Another U.K. actor of great prominence has sadly left us: Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922 - June 11, 2015) whose on screen presence typically instilled total subservience from others, has passed away at age 93. His voluminous contribution to the acting profession is well known and highly regarded especially his work in the horror genre with Hammer Studios and his contribution to the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Hobbit franchises. He will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mel Brooks, Ron Moody, Frank Langella

Mel Brooks, Ron Moody, Frank Langella

An extremely talented actor has left the scene: U.K. born Ron Moody (January 8, 1924 - June 11, 2015) has passed away at the age of 91. He is best known as the definitive Fagin which he played on both The West End and the Broadway Stage before the Screen version in the hit musical Oliver!. For the 1968 Academy Award winning Best Picture he was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor. I will remember him most fondly for his zany portrayal as Vorobyaninov in the 1970 Mel Brooks comedy The Twelve Chairs (pictured in the middle).

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Chartoff (August 26, 1933 - June 10, 2015) has died at age 81. He was an amazingly accomplished film Producer and helped to bring both commercial and critical successes such as Point Blank, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, 1974's The Gambler, Rocky, Raging Bull, True Confessions, The Right Stuff and 2014's The Gambler, brilliantly to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Meara (September 20, 1929 - May 23, 2015) the multi-talented comedienne and actress has sadly died at age 85. In her early years as a performer, she and her husband Jerry Stiller performed under the name 'Stiller and Meara' becoming regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show. Her lively performances graced the films The Out of Towners (1970), Lovers and Other Strangers, The Boys from Brazil, Fame, Awakenings, and Night at the Museum not to mention numerous television shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For news about others in the film industry who have sadly left us this year, see the Pinterest Board here.

"Now Listen To Me..."

 

Just some thoughts on current happenings:

 

There are 53 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:

 

Just kidding, kind of. I'll highly recommend three for June that are all part of TCM Summer of Darkness premiering Friday June 5 and running consecutive Fridays through the entire months of June and July. The series will be hosted by well known film noir aficionado Eddie Muller and contains numerous films that are exciting, engaging and most of all tremendously enjoyable. More information on the schedule, a free online film noir course, and special U.S. theatrical screenings of Double Indemnity (previously reviewed here) can all be explored by clicking on the "TCM Summer of Darkness" image above. Keep in mind this special program lists all showings at Eastern Standard Time.

 

My first recommendation is widely considered to be the first film noir: Boris Ingster's (1940) Stranger on the Third Floor. Aside from having many of what would become hallmarks of the genre, i.e. a wrong man accused (actually two), expressionistic photography and lighting, plus a pervasive atmosphere of guilt, paranoia and doom, this is a film that most assuredly fits my personal definition of noir as a story whose subject is crime but more importantly one that focuses on internal motives. In the crime films of the 30's like Public Enemy, Little Caesar and The Roaring Twenties the reason for their characters' criminal pursuits, or those who tried to investigate or stop them, was given little attention. Typically, for the bad guys it was external influences, to get ahead in tough times and for the good guys simply to do their job. The best of these "gangster" films were flashy, fun, full of energy and bravado but didn't tell us much about the human psyche behind all of the nefarious activities their characters engaged in.

Stranger on the Third Floor changed that. A reporter helps convict a man to death but later believes he may have made a mistake. Another murder takes place but this time the reporter himself is accused and finds out first hand not only what it's like to be wrongly suspected, but to live in fear for his life while helpless to investigate further. Thankfully he has a devoted fiancee who can pursue his leads and hopefully uncover the real killer before it's too late. The mind set of this reporter is targeted all the way through, which helps make this film more and more captivating as the story progresses. It contains an outrageously vivid dream sequence full of abstract, disproportionate images, sharp angles and sinister shadows to further absorb us. When we do finally meet the killer, (a perfectly cast Peter Lorre), he too has a terrifying but complex psychological back story which provides the added personal dimension noir films are noted for.

These distinctive and brilliantly conceived RKO films noir were typically short in length, but long on staying power. For the noir novice, I can think of no better introduction to this genre. It reveals itself on TCM Friday June 5 at 8:30 am PST (11:30 am EST).

 

 

 

 

My next recommendation is 1947’s The Gangster. Like Stranger on the Third Floor, this noir was made on the cheap but contains complex characters that help it punch solidly above its grade. Barry Sullivan plays the title role of Shubunka as comfortably as fireside marshmallows, running the numbers racket in a waterfront area known as Neptune Beach with the police and local underlings both securely in his pocket. Shubunka has little charm or grace. He oozes cynical contempt for practically everyone who crosses his path. That’s one of this film’s, and noir’s, greatest strengths: The audacity to place a character’s weaknesses front and centre. Instead of trying to artificially enhance the self-serving Shubunka with likeable 30’s gangster mannerisms of poise and style, the noir storytellers here defy us not to care what happens to a person consumed with unpleasant but identifiably realistic personality traits. Not only that, Shubunka’s one redeeming attribute, namely his genuine feelings for another, is the one characteristic that will most contribute to his tragic downfall.
 

This fascinating little known noir is full of an idiosyncratic group of actors all of whom were, or would become, better known for their appearances in more recognizable films noir such as Joan Lorring (Three Strangers, The Verdict), John Ireland (Railroaded!, Raw Deal), Akim Tamiroff (Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil), Henry Morgan (Dark City, Scandal Sheet), Sheldon Leonard (Somewhere in the Night, Decoy), and Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, The Phantom Lady). Even Charles McGraw has a small role (T-Men, The Narrow Margin). Sullivan’s co-star was the U.K.’s answer to Sonja Henie, Belita, who just the year before The Gangster was released, made another terrific noir with Sullivan for the “poverty row” King Brothers Productions entitled Suspense, the plot of which allowed Belita to show off her formidable ice skating skills. The Gangster was the last and by far the most distinguished film directed by Gordon Wiles (Charlie Chan’s Secret, Prison Train) who would return to work as an Art Director on 1950’s The Underworld Story released the year of his death at the age of only 46. The Gangster will set foot on TCM ground Friday June 12 at 5pm PST.  

 

 



 

My final TCM recommendation will be familiar to readers who frequent this site: Once again it’s Hidden Gem #10 They Won’t Believe Me, previously reviewed here along with some words of admiration from The Summer of Darkness’ host Eddie Muller in the comments section below. Last time the channel organized a screening, it became an understandable casualty of a late substitution for one of Eli Wallach’s films after the actor passed away. I’m sure this time it will be a go and I strongly encourage readers to partake in one of noir’s most strikingly unusual and imaginative tales. It is believed to be appearing on TCM the morning of Friday June 26, at 5am PST.

TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right hand corner of TCM's program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My soundtrack recommendation for the month of June is composer David Shire’s gorgeous score to Return to Oz. Sometimes a composer is so inspired to enhance the imagery on screen, he creates sonic pictures of his own that transcend the score’s purpose and that is precisely what has happened here. We soundtrack lovers certainly don’t have the right to expect a “stand alone” work of such creative originality, but when it does occur we are certain to indulge ourselves. Please join us. This very special 2 CD soundtrack has been recently issued by Intrada Records, and can be read about in detail and ordered by clicking on the accompanying image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Birthday shout out to the supremely talented actress Gena Rowlands who turns 85 on June 19. What an array of amazing performances she’s given us, from those in some lesser known films such as A Child is Waiting and The Spiral Road, to some better known but still worthy of more attention in Lonely are the Brave and Faces, and finally culminating in those monumental tour de force portrayals in A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria. She’s a legendary performer who’s thankfully still going strong. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

My video recommendation this month is in keeping with the theme of noir: Michael Mann’s superb epic neo-noir, Heat.

Its primary greatness derives from the depth of its characters, perhaps on a more grandiose scale than say The Asphalt Jungle but highly effective nonetheless. This is achieved through an unflinching focus on their reactions and behaviour in a multitude of ever-changing situations. For instance, parolee Haysbert having to work in an awful fast food joint, Portman's deep desire for some kind of relationship with her biological father, and Noonan's calm and careful description of the bank layout. There's Kilmer's turbulent relationship with his wife Judd, who for Kilmer, will finally take a tremendous chance on by giving him a simple but profound hand gesture. Still another remarkable scene occurs between acting titans Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, the former a cop and the latter his prey, who take a “time out” to have an electrifying meeting of the minds at an L.A. diner. There are plenty of other "wow" moments. Personal insights into relationships abound throughout this sprawling crime saga, and the countless number of people who helped make this film a supreme artistic achievement should all be extremely proud of the result.

Edward Bunker (1933 - 2005)

Edward Bunker (1933 - 2005)

Not so well known was an unofficial contribution made by the late author, actor and former convict Edward Bunker. Bunker wrote the novel No Beast So Fierce while in prison and director Mann took a strong liking to it. The novel was later optioned by star Dustin Hoffman and made into the film Straight Time (Hidden Gem #51). Bunker was Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. He also wrote Animal Factory and the screenplay for Runaway Train which closes with the “No Beast…” Shakespeare Richard III quote he was so fond of. He worked as a technical adviser on both Straight Time and Heat, with the latter’s Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Kevin Gage and Dennis Haysbert, teaching them how to think, act and react like ex-cons. (Of course he didn't have to teach actor Danny Trejo anything since they had previously met in prison). Author James Ellroy praised No Beast So Fierce as "the most gritty and realistic novel about armed robbery", which makes sense because that was Bunker's profession! He was also the inspiration for Jon Voight’s behind the scene fix it man, ‘Nate’, in Heat.
 

 

Both Heat and Thief, Mann’s previous crime thriller, contain “high-end” burglar counterparts to the low end “smash and grab” criminals in Straight Time, but all 3 films benefit greatly from strong real life characterizations. Heat's shoot-out staged in downtown Los Angeles is so frightfully realistic it is said to have influenced a couple of real life bank robbers, who staged a similar heavily armed gun fight in an L.A. suburb a couple of years later. This pulse pounding, gritty and uncompromising thriller is a natural evolution of the caper genre and has not been bettered since. Ben Affleck's The Town came close, but was spoiled by a self-conscious feel-good conclusion.

Heat is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video and can be ordered from Deep Discount, who ship internationally from the U.S., by clicking on the Blu-ray image.

 

 

 

 

 

A.G.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten: Cinema's Most Treasured Images Part 6 (#51 - 60)

I'll continue with some of Cinema's most treasured images bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in ascending order with #51 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected. 

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Time Out

This orchestra is incredible. I wrote a review of a different concert they did in October of 2013, (See: Treasured Appearances #3) The gorgeously romantic piece performed below is from That Hamilton Woman composed by Miklos Rozsa.

Golden State Pops Orchestra, conducted by Steven Allen Fox. Paul Henning - violin. Varèse Sarabande 35th Anniversary Gala - May 11, 2013. Warner Grand Theatre - San Pedro, California. http://www.GSPO.com

Sterling Silver Dialogue #17

 

Sterling Silver Dialogue From The Movies:  

Do you know where they're from? Answers coming soon.

 

"How tall are you, Yolanda?"
(reply) "With heels or without?"
(response) "With anyone. Me, for instance."
 

 

“Young lady! Are you trying to show contempt for this court?”
(response) “No. I’m doin’ my best to hide it.”

 

(about to gamble at cards) "Is this a game of chance?"
(response) "Not the way I play it, no."

 

 

“I didn’t make disparaging remarks about your steak.  I merely said that I hadn’t seen that old horse you use to keep outside around here lately.”

 

 

“You know I’ve been mad about you from the first time I laid eyes on you. Why, you’re my whole world! What do you want to do, drive me to the mad house?!”
(response) “No. I’ll call you a taxi.”

 

(announcing to several men at a bar) “It’s better to be looked over than overlooked”

 

“Great town St. Louis. You were born there?”
(reply) “Yes”
(response) “What part?”
(reply) “Why, all of me.”

 

"Ruby, I must have you... your golden hair, your fascinating eyes, your alluring smile, and lovely arms..."
(response) "Wait a minute. Is this a proposal, or are ya takin' inventory?"

 

“Are you in town for good?”
(reply) “I expect to be in town but not for good.”

 

 

"What if she's right - he didn't do it, and they give him the chair?"
(response) "Suppose they do? What difference does it make? There's too many people in the world anyway."
(reply) "What's the use of talking to you? You think everything's a joke."
(response) "My son, it is. If it weren't, life wouldn't be worth living."

 

 

(a substitute teacher announcing to his students) "It's gonna be a really tough project. You're gonna have to use your head, your brain, and your mind, too."

 

(to his “fellow” teachers during a meeting) “Those that cannot do, teach. Those that cannot teach, teach gym.”

 

(to his students) "Ok, here's the deal. I have a hangover. Who knows what that means?"
Frankie: "Doesn't that mean you're drunk?"
(teacher's response) "No. It means I was drunk yes-ter-day."

 

 

"What’s your nationality?"
(reply) "I’m a drunkard."

 

 

"Don't talk to me about self-respect. Self-respect is something you tell yourself you've got when you've got nothing else."

 

 

"Well, don't you even say 'Good night'?"
(response) "It's good-bye, and it's tough to say good-bye."
(reply) "Why is it? You've never seen me before tonight."
(response) "Every guy's seen you before somewhere. The trick is to find you."

 

 

"You see, if you make believe hard enough that something is true, then it is true for you."

Exploring the Artifacts #7: Slavko Vorkapich's Golden Lessons Part 3

Slavoljub "Slavko" Vorkapić (March 17, 1894 – October 20, 1976)

Slavko Vorkapich arrived in Hollywood in 1921. He was an actor, painter, film artist, editor and director, but most importantly to movie lovers and students who knew him, a Film Educator.

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End Credits #29: Cinema's 2015 Lost Treasures

I asked guest blogger Bob DiMucci if he would be so kind as to provide another of his informative and entertaining tributes to Lizabeth Scott and her cinematic accomplishments and he's come through like a champ. My sincerest thanks. (A.G.)

Born Emma Matzo in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Scott attended the Alvienne School of the Theatre. There she studied for 18 months, where she resisted attempts by the teachers to pitch her voice higher. During this time, Scott read Maxwell Anderson's "Mary of Scotland," a play about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, from which she derived the stage name "Elizabeth Scott." She would later drop the "E" from Elizabeth.

Scott appeared in road companies of several productions before, in 1942, landing the position of understudy for Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder's then new play, "The Skin of Our Teeth." A rivalry developed between Bankhead and Scott, and Scott left the production when Miriam Hopkins was signed to replace Bankhead.

The Films of Lizabeth Scott

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