Shown below is my full collection of drawings related to film.
Quick navigation to a specific portrait:
The American actress Amy Adams, known for both her comedic and dramatic performances, is among the highest-paid actresses in the world. Her accolades include two Golden Globes and nominations for five Academy Awards and six British Academy Film Awards, yet personally speaking, apart from her cameo in “Catch me if you can” (2002) I remain largely unfamiliar with her work. Nothing deliberate on my part you see, just one of those things.
Nevertheless, she seems a sensible lass, maintaining that “the more that people know about me, the less they’ll believe me and my characters.” She attracts little gossip or tabloid attention, and strives to keep a healthy work-life balance with her husband and child.
At the end of the day, it’s only a job innit? – albeit a rather well paid one………………..
The word osteoporosis literally means porous (spongy) bone. It causes one’s bones to become fragile, so they break more easily.
Bone is made up of minerals, mainly calcium salts, bound together by strong collagen fibres, and has a thick, hard outer shell, referred to as the cortex, although the terms cortical bone, and sometimes compact bone are also used. Inside this, there’s softer, spongy bone (or trabecular bone) which has a honeycomb-like structure. Bone is a living, active tissue that’s constantly renewing itself. Old bone tissue is broken down by cells called osteoclasts and replaced by new bone material produced by cells called osteoblasts.
The balance between the breakdown of old bone and the formation of new bone changes at different stages of our lives. In the case of osteoporosis, the disease progresses silently, with no symptoms, until a bone breaks or fractures. In 2000, Ursula Andress discovered that she was afflicted with the disease, a shocking diagnosis for a woman who, despite her passion for good food, still regularly skied, swam and walked miles each day. For millions of cinemagoers, who remembered her iconic appearance in “Doctor No,” it barely seemed possible that the ultimate Bond girl could now be facing a life of immobility.
An accomplished Shakespearean actor, appearing at such venues as the Queen’s Theatre, the Lyceum Theatre, and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in England as well as theatres in New York City, Paris, Antwerp and Brussels, Harry Andrews eventually moved into films, imposing his tall presence in trademark tough military officer roles throughout the 50’s and 60’s. His performance as Sergeant Major Wilson in “The Hill” alongside Sean Connery earned Andrews the 1965 National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor and a nomination for the 1966 BAFTA Award for Best British Actor.
His raison d’etre was straightforward : “I don’t want to be a star but I want to be a good actor in good parts” and his presence – all granite face and square jaw – made him standout. It was ironic that he had difficulty in memorizing lines. Sometime later co-star Alan Bates thought him very courageous for his obvious triumph over this impediment. Bates further remarked that Andrews’ great sense of humor and no-nonsense personable character made him a favorite with younger actors as a continuous well of encouragement and learning experiences. Though his parts were smaller as he grew older, he filled each of his roles, big or small – over 100 of them – with a giant’s footsteps.
The longevity of his screen life was even more remarkable for the dark secret he harboured throughout his career, a hidden facet to his makeup that could have destroyed him, both professionally and personally.These were unforgiving times………………….
In addition to his near peerless abilities as a dancer of supreme invention, Fred Astaire was also a gifted ‘personality singer’. He was, single-handedly, responsible for introducing audiences worldwide to the very best entries in the Great American Songbook of the first half of the Twentieth century. Whatever his vocal shortcomings – a noticeable lack of ‘legato’, wavering pitch, punched notes and overuse of portamento – he was always able to embody the song’s syncopation, in a performance that was warmly engaging.
Astaire’s stage and subsequent film and television careers spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films, several award winning television specials, and issued numerous recordings. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, and is best known as Ginger Rogers’ dancing partner and romantic interest, with whom he co-starred in a series of ten Hollywood musicals which transformed the genre.
Summing up his immense influence, Gene Kelly, another major innovator in filmed dance, was moved to say that “the history of dance on film begins with Astaire”.
They say Bond girls are forever and in many ways they are. Countless repeats on television ensure we can never forget the celluloid image of them at their alluring best. One of the most fondly remembered is Claudine Auger, a retired French actress who started her career in the early 1960s. At the age of 15 she became 1958’s Miss France. She attended the St. Joan of Arc College and the Paris Drama Conservatory, and got an uncredited film role while still studying. On the set, she met the film’s writer and director, 41 year old Pierre Gaspard-Huit. They married two years later, and Pierre’s influence helped to propel Claudine’s European career.
By the time she got her role in “Thunderball” in 1965, she had starred in over ten films, which were mostly lower budget French productions. She was vacationing in Nassau at the time, and co-producer Kevin McClory had spotted her and suggested that she audition for Domino. The role as Domino Derval greatly accelerated her European career and she would go on to star in many films and TV shows, mostly in French, Italian and Spanish whilst working on the occasional British production like “Secret Places*” (1984) opposite Jenny Agutter.
Talking to Matt Tyrnauer of ‘Vanity Fair’ in early 2011, Lauren Bacall reflected on her life:
“I think there are certain things you have to face about yourself,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Sometimes you think: I’m the Queen of the May—I can do anything. The great thing about life is—the terrible thing about life is—that everything is mixed up. All the things that you thought were one way suddenly turn out to be another way. You might say that my honorary Oscar was a high point in my life, but it actually represents to me the worst thing I’ve ever done. So it’s very weird. But nobody’s perfect, as Joe E. Brown [the actor who had the last word in ‘Some Like It Hot’] said. Right?”
Bacall continued, “I don’t think anybody that has a brain can really be happy. What is there really to be happy about? You tell me. If you’re a thinking human being, there’s no way to divorce yourself from the world.”
There was always something unusual about Stanley Baker’s looks and screen persona. In an era where impossibly handsome and engagingly romantic leading men thrived, he appeared ill at ease with the studio system, being essentially forged from a rougher mould.
Revisiting his looks for my drawing, I was reminded of his angular, taut, austere and unwelcoming features. The merest hint of a lantern jaw suggests a taciturn, even surly character, with a predilection for introspection and blunt speaking. Baker was almost wilfully unromantic for his times; a leading actor cast heavily against the grain. Like millions of cinemagoers, he was a unique screen presence – tough, gritty, combustible, possessed of an aura of dark, even menacing power. Yet cancer claimed him at the appaulingly early age of forty eight, and in the years since his sad demise, his reputation has unjustly diminished. His position therefore, amongst the pantheon of British film greats, is in need of some much deserved re-evaluation.
Brigitte Bardot arrived in St Tropez, all ‘succulent pout and legs long like golden rope’, with her then husband, the director Roger Vadim, to film ‘And God Created Woman’ in 1956. Bardot walked on to that hot crisp sand by the waterfront in the old town, the Port des Pecheurs, a relative unknown. She emerged from its warm mirrored sea an icon of female sexuality, a totem to erotica. Like the siren she looked, her lure was powerful and immediate, attracting photographers and playboys, film stars, producers and those that sought fame and counsel with the famous. Twelve years later, when she walked up a St Tropez red carpet on the arm of Sean Connery for the premiere of their western ‘Shalako’, she was ready to turn her back on an acting career that had propelled her to stardom. It would take another five years but in 1973, she slipped away from the limelight at the comparatively early age of thirty eight.
Jean Cocteau perhaps summed Bardot up best when he said “I’ve always preferred mythology to history. History is composed of truths that become lies, mythology of lies that become truths”. The previous seventeen years had nearly killed her. It was time to park the myth and face reality.
When he was good, Alan Bates was very good indeed, as behoves one of the best actors of his generation – a performer of real substance, power and sophistication. Whether on film or on the stage, he was consistently courted by the best British directors of his day.
He excelled in the role of the tormented soul, a man denied true love by social divides and puritanical thinking. In his private life, he was an unabashedly free-spirited individual, given to flights of romantic fancy and of course, prone to breaking hearts along the way. In many ways, this dark and immensely appealing persona mirrored the inner torment of his personal world, a life sadly tainted in his final years by real tragedy.
Oscar winner Warren Beatty, wrapped principal photography on his Howard Hughes movie in May 2014, his first starring role since he directed himself in “Town and Country” in 1991.
Vaguely bored with tinseltown, he had devoted the preceding two decades to raising his children and ‘talking politics.’
The $27m romantic drama, which began filming in February 2014, had been a lifelong ambition for Beatty and focused on the latter years of the eccentric billionaire. It followed Martin Scorsese’s 2004 portrayal of Hughes’s early life in ‘The Aviator’ and represented, what many perceived, would be the enigmatic star’s last screen portrayal.
Senta Berger is highly respected and enormously popular, star and co-producer of many German speaking television programmes,and remains politically active as a Social Democrat, campaigning for disarmament and on environmental issues. Since February 2003, she has been president of the German Film Academy, which seeks to advance the new generation of actors and actresses in Germany and Europe.
For my generation, she was this beautiful European actress who dominated the leading lady role in films that caught the coattails of the Bond phenomenon – ‘The Spy With My Face’ (1965) adapted and extended from ‘The Double Affair’ television episode of ‘The Man From Uncle’ (1964), ‘The Quiller Memorandum’ (1966) with George Segal and ‘The Ambushers’ (1967) with Dean Martin as Matt Helm.
Give her some credit. Even today, Halle Berry can only laugh when she is asked what went through her mind when she heard her name read out on Oscar night 2002.
“Do you know, I can’t even tell you because I think I just checked out of my body,” she says. Her eyes widen. “I don’t remember walking up those steps. I know what happened after that because I’ve seen the video. But when they said my name I looked at my mom and I looked at my husband and I can’t even remember seeing their faces.”
Berry’s acceptance speech was certainly memorable. Clutching her statuette for best actress for her role in the film ‘Monster’s Ball’ – the first time in the Academy’s 74-year history that it had been awarded to a black woman – she struggled to articulate her emotion. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” she sobbed. “This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me – Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett – and it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
She has insisted all along that she hadn’t contemplated winning, or practised a speech beforehand. Personally, I wish she had; for that speech of hers redefined cringe-worthiness.
Just what the hell is it about acceptance speeches? Nowadays, I can safely predict just how uniformly dreadful they will be, and whilst, I wouldn’t waste a single minute watching the Oscars ceremony or slightly lesser grade awards programmes for that matter, I compulsively tape them if only for the thrill of fast forwarding to the award winner announcements. Positively and consistently awful, each winner demonstrates that, despite their on-screen presence, off-screen they are scattered, inarticulate and unprepared.
Jacqueline Bisset never expected to win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in the 2013 Tv series “Dancing on the edge”. However, even if she never expected it, she had to know that there was still, statistically speaking, a chance she could win. When she got up on stage, she stood silently for what seemed like an eternity, trying to gather herself and to think about what to say. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and it took not one, but several attempts for her to speak fluently.
… and the moral of the story? – If there’s any chance whatsoever that you’re going to need to get up in front of a crowd, have an opening line planned, three bullets, and a closing line. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. But it shouldn’t be less than that, either.
In her late 80’s, Honor Blackman remains as feisty as ever and refreshingly blunt. Whether tirelessly campaigning on behalf of Equitable Life annuitants or questioning the wisdom of Royalty in a British democracy, nobody could accuse her of hypocrisy. This, after all, is a woman who declined a CBE.
A veteran of British films—she made her debut in the late 40’s—she will be forever associated with two characters, Cathy Gale, John Steed’s first female co-star in ‘The Avengers’, and as Pussy Galore, Ian Fleming’s lesbian thief brought back onside by Sean Connery in the third Bond epic ‘Goldfinger’. Despite the seductive voice and hourglass figure, she has both demanded and received respect from her male actors. A karate and judo student in the 60’s, she has, in her own words, ‘a terribly good uppercut.’ When she was ten, she knocked out two boys who were bullying her younger brother – not a woman therefore, to mess with…
It isn’t simply her acting ability that has made Cate Blanchett a two time Oscar winner. There’s also much to her character’s hair and makeup that affects the psychology behind her performances.By her own admission, she prefers to play against the look: “If a character appears particularly unhinged, with makeup running down her face, I like to play her as if she has it together. I think that juxtaposition makes it so much more interesting.”
In her most recent role – “Carol,” (2015) – she had to pluck her eyebrows nearly every day to achieve a very stern look. “I just hated it. I much prefer a natural approach to beauty. You know, Coco Chanel always said to take one thing off before you leave the house, and I think that also applies to makeup.”
I like her face. It’s an interesting one, which makes it infinitely more memorable onscreen than the stereotypical beach bimbo look so beloved by millions.
Perhaps more than any other single entry within my portfolio, Dirk Bogarde, to my mind, has undergone some seriously favourable reassessment as the person behind his public image. This original impression I had of him, based upon several key interviews given in the last quarter of his life, was of a waspish, secretive and challenging interviewee, in effect as one friend put it to me “a nasty piece of work.” I believe this misinformed impression of mine to have been considerably wide of the mark even though not completely erroneous.
Humphrey Bogart was admitted to hospital in 1956 suffering from weight loss, a persistent cough, and difficulty swallowing. His symptons had begun about 6 months before admission with gradually progressive difficulty in swallowing foods. During the 6 months prior to hospitalization, he had lost approximately 30 pounds in weight and his frequent coughing spells, coming on in paroxysms, would often last for thirty minutes or more.
The man known to millions of cinemagoers as ‘Bogie’, had esophageal cancer and in early 1956 underwent a nine and a half hour resection of an esophageal tumor and adjacent lymph nodes. He also received postoperative chemotherapy. The actor recovered and regained some weight, but after six months he suffered a recurrence, for which he was treated with a course of radiotherapy. He remained at home during the next few months, where he died with the recurrent disease on January 14, 1957. For his family and friends, the loss was palpable yet in the eyes of the world, it was merely the beginning of a more than fifty year enduring odyssey that would make him one of the most iconographic stars of all time.
Helena Bonham Carter
A kooky person is someone who is consciously ‘offbeat,’ both in their general demeanour, appearance and lifestyle. Of course, such deviations from the norm – our general expectations of people – may have little more than benign implications for others in their immediate orbit, whereas in more extreme cases, the ramifications can be seismic.
Helena Bonham-Carter has described herself in just such a manner. Understanding therefore, whether the behaviour of such people is merely motivated by a ‘devil may care’ attitude or a more disconcerting series of reasons is of course, quite another matter.
Surrounded by the picturesque green rolling hills of the Santa Susana Mountains, the Porter Valley Country Club boasts an 18-hole golf course and driving range, and remains an ideal setting for business and social events. Designed by the course architect Ted Robinson in 1968, this extraordinary golf course in the San Fernando Valley offers challenging greens with kikuya grass fairways and rough.
The irish born actor Stephen Boyd – an avid golfer – was playing a round at the club with his devoted wife in June 1977, when he complained of feeling unwell. Seconds later, he collapsed, and was rushed to the Granada Hills Community Hospital in a fire department ambulance, where he would be pronounced dead within the hour. He was just shy of his forty sixth birthday.
He first came to cinematic prominence in the 1956 movie “The man who never was,” an almost prophetic title for an actor who has undeservedly slid more and more into obscurity since his untimely demise. Theories abound as to why his once promising career derailed so badly, but most amount to little more than pure conjecture. What appears clear however, is that this versatile star and affable individual, was undeserving of such a fate.
Richard Burton’s diary entry for 28 May 1969 reads as follows:
‘Marlon [Brando] has yet to learn to speak. Christ knows how often I’ve watched Marlon ruin his performance by underarticulation. He should have been born two generations before and acted in silent films’.
The most famous proponent of method acting, Brando, nearly a decade after his passing, remains indisputably one of the great American exponents of his art. Achieving a reputation such as this, in light of Burton’s commonly held view, is even more remarkable. Like him or loathe him, he exuded a raw animal magnetism and mercurial personality throughout his movies that transcended his diction; director Martin Scorsese referring to him as “the marker” whilst adding that “There’s ‘before Brando and after Brando’.” He became a box-office star during the 1950s, during which time he racked up five Oscar nominations, along with three consecutive BAFTA Award wins in a leading role. As an actor therefore, his achievements speak for themselves, though as a man, his reputation remains infinitely more convoluted.
The Italian born actor, Rossano Brazzi made his film debut in 1939, when he was twenty six. In his 40’s, he would be propelled to international fame with his role in the English-language film “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954), followed by the leading male role in David Lean’s “Summertime” (1955), opposite Katherine Hepburn. In 1958, he played the lead as Frenchman Emile De Becque in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.”
The Original Soundtrack to the film was released in 1958, becoming a major success, reaching No.1 in both the US and UK. In the US, the album stayed at No.1 for seven months – the fourth longest run ever. In the UK, the album remained in the top five for 27 consecutive weeks before reaching No.1 in November 1958. It stayed at the top for a record-breaking 115 weeks (the first 70 of these consecutively – including the whole year of 1959), and remained in the top five for 214 weeks. More than anything, it is Brazzi’s appearance on the album’s front cover opposite Mitzi Gaynor that will ensure a certain level of continuing interest in his career from generations to come. The irony of it all is that – like so many members of the cast – his singing voice would be dubbed throughout.
The actor’s other notable English-language films include The Barefoot Contessa (1954), The Story of Esther Costello (1957), opposite Joan Crawford, Count Your Blessings (1959),The Light in the Piazza(1962), and The Italian Job (1969).
Pierce Brosnan lost his 42 year old daughter, Charlotte, to ovarian cancer on June 28, 2013. I read about his loss several days later whilst in flight en-route to the Canary Islands for my annual leave.
The same disease had claimed the actor’s first wife, former Bond girl Cassandra Harris twenty two years previously, and the news reminded me once more of that sad but inevitable maxim, namely; that ‘no-one has it all.’ In Brosnan’s case, this philosophy has near unbearable overtones. Essentially, a devoted family man, ‘his’ has not been a life of largesse nor excess – a more undeserving victim of such personal tragedy therefore, one would be hard pressed to imagine in movie circles.
Separating fact from fiction with some people is a near Herculean task. I’ve spent quality time with certain individuals only to realise that, even after a year, what I could write about them would not even fill the back of a postage stamp. The actor Yul Brynner, was one of those characters, both exotic and charismatic in equal measure, confounding reporters and biographers with a constantly changing background story about his formative years. He often claimed to be a half-Swiss, half-Japanese male named Taidje Khan or Youl Bryner, born on the island of Sakhalin; in fact he changed the story in virtually every interview.
Famous for his work on stage and in film, the actor is now being toasted for his longtime passion for photography. The subject of a four-volume box set and stunning exhibition at New York’s Lehmann Maupin Gallery in 2012, Brynner was taking pictures of his family, celebrity friends, and his fellow actors even before he won both a Tony and Oscar for his role as the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘The King and I.’
Handsome with his distinctive shaved head, and blessed with a mix of European and Gypsy savoir-faire, Brynner was adored by fans and a prized pal to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Charlie Chaplin.
Reading extracts from the Richard Burton diaries, I was drawn to one particular comment that seemed to epitomise the unrealised potential of his great talent. In one of the more lucid moments in time for such a chronic alcoholic, he concedes that he and his wife share an attitude to acting, and to life: “Both Eliz[abeth] and I agreed solemnly that we never want to work again but simply loll our lives away in a sort of eternal Sunday.” And then he adds: “Quite right too. We are both bone-lazy.”
His fellow actor Dirk Bogarde, was not the recipient of universally positive reviews for every written work he published, be it his four volume autobiography, novels or literary reviews, yet he engineered a systematic and sustainable work schedule of typing each and every morning at his home in France and ultimately produced a literary body of work. Burton, born Richard Walter Jenkins, was incapable of adhering to such a disciplined ethic. It was partly the drink but it was also an eternal malaise; a form of wilful self destruction. Yet amidst the apathy, there was that imperious, darkly satanic, magisterial voice, honed to near perfection as a student by his mentor Phillip Burton.
Gerard Butler’s workout & Diet for his appearance in “300” (2007) is available on the net. A punishing four month schedule was required to obtain that Spartan Physique, and understandably, his appearance today is not as toned. Like millions of men, he has more important things to do than endlessly pumping iron, not least of all, securing diverse and interesting film roles.
Never afraid of fresh challenges, he took the lead singing role in the film adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera,” (2004), impressing both composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and the film’s director Joel Schumacher, in equal measure.
Popular with the ladies and still a bachelor in his mid 40’s, he appears to be enjoying life whilst retaining strong connections to his native Scotland.
Nicholas Cage grew up watching James Bond and realised, studying Sean Connery, that a career in action would keep him working. It’s not the Oscar he won for ‘Leaving Las Vegas,’ or his charming performances in ‘Adaptation’ and ‘Raising Arizona’ that fuel demand for him. It’s the roughly $2bn in revenue grossed by his blockbuster movies, some of which he had to be talked into making.
“I really didn’t want to make that,” he says of ‘Moonstruck.’ “I wanted to make ‘Vampire’s Kiss,’ because I was still trying to live my punk rock dreams. I did not want to be in a big splashy romantic comedy with Cher.”
My own favourite amongst his films – and a movie I return to every Xmas – is “Family Man.” He might not have realised it at the time, but in making a fresh interpretation of the theme explored in “It’s a wonderful life,” the actor was establishing a form of ‘seasonal immortality’ for himself; a celluloid legacy that will endure long past the wham bam action blockbusters.
In 1992, Michael Caine published “What’s It All About?”, a rather engaging autobiography, in which he described how a hardscrabble childhood in the South London project called the Elephant and Castle had turned into an unexpectedly successful, sometimes brilliant career. Approaching 60 at the time, and suspecting his acting days were behind him, his light and lively retrospective was brisk and entertaining, rapidly becoming a bestseller.
Then came the surprise of the next 18 years, into which Caine packed 35 more films, an occasional turn on TV, earned an Oscar for “The Cider House Rules” in 2000 and a nomination for “The Quiet American” in 2003. A sequel “The Elephant to Hollywood”, was published in 2011, yet despite his impressive work of recent times with a new generation of actors and directors, the book remains preoccupied with his distant past. Frankly, at the risk of being brief, blunt and extremely unkind, I found it a godawfal yawn, redolent with bonhommie and amusing anecdotes, yet with precious little insight into what makes Maurice Micklewhite truly tick. Apparently, after more than half a century in the business, we’re asked to believe that the actor remains nonplussed at his movie stardom. I couldn’t even complete one whole chapter. Thank God the version I skimmed over was a library title – the thought of even a £2 charity shop purchase would have sickened me.
Phyllis Calvert was an English film, stage and television actress, and one of the leading stars of the Gainsborough Pictures studio melodramas of the 1940s. Adapting to, but also sidestepping changing trends, she would sustain a career for more than half a century.
Whilst British films were widely considered Hollywood’s poor relation, the ‘B movie’ nevertheless played a pivotal role in the postwar era of austerity and reconstruction, with its brisk, but civilised attempts at anglicising the ‘film noir’ genre. At its worse, it promulgated the stereotypical image of the upper classes with their clipped BBC accents – resplendent in their ‘all white,’ with tennis racquet and fruit cordial close to hand – yet on memorable occasions, it presented a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural mores of the times, as well as some of their more pernicious flaws. In this post war environment, Calvert would thrive, becoming one of the nation’s favourite female stars, alongside Margaret Lockwood.
Suitably imbued with an astonishing work ethic, Claudia Cardinale, now 75, has made over 135 films in the past 60 years, and still does two or three a year. Added to which, her part in classics like ’8½,’ ‘The Leopard,’ ‘Once Upon a Time in The West’ and ‘Fitzcarraldo’ keep her busy on the festival and “lifetime achievement award” carousel.
If she couldn’t act, which she must certainly can, the entire male population would have forgiven her those films she made in the 60’s and 70’s, for it’s no disservice to give Cardinale’s physical attributes some of the credit for her success. A generation of postwar cinephiles, (I’ll hold my hands up here as well), rhapsodised over her earthy voluptuousness, her hourglass figure, her “bedroom eyes”, and her cascading brunette tresses.
She was the embodiment of postwar European glamour and was packaged as such, on screen and off. It’s almost like she had sexiness thrust upon her. Factor in the husky voice, and God was clearly smiling the day she was born. I’ve been delayed even making a start on this commentary, drooling over her portfolio of pictures on Pinterest.
In a magically memorable movie moment in 1951, French-American actress Leslie Caron danced her way into millions of hearts as Gene Kelly’s ballerina ingénue in ‘An American in Paris’. Within the next several years, ‘Lili’, ‘Daddy Longlegs’ with Fred Astaire and her enchanting incarnation of ‘Gigi’ propelled her into fully-fledged Hollywood stardom while she was still in her early 20s.
With a self driven work ethic, everything else was always going to take a back seat, including her private life. When film roles slowed, she fashioned an alternative career as a fiction writer, but there was also a decade’s worth of drink and pills as the actress descended into chronic depression.
Madeleine Carroll earned the princely sum of $250,000 in 1938 which, US inflation adjusted, is the equivalent of $4,452,500 in today’s terms.
At the peak of her success she was the highest-paid actress in the world and is probably best remembered for her appearances in Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” (1935) and two others, “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1937) and “My Favourite Blonde” (1942.)
She is also noted for virtually abandoning her acting career after the death of her sister Marguerite in the London Blitz, to devote herself to helping wounded servicemen and children displaced and maimed by the war.
Clearly one of those rare individuals not entirely seduced by the fame game……………
Before Brando there was Monty, the blueprint for rebellious masculinity and prototypical antiheroism.
I was twenty when I first read Patricia Bosworth\‘s highly regarded biography of the actor, and I recall being shocked at the excesses of what was essentially a debauched life. By the end of the book, the tragedy of his early demise at the age of 46, had been replaced by a personal sense of incredulity that he had survived that long, such being the intensity of his day to day life. Struggling with his sexual orientation whilst applying precious little restraint, consuming alcohol and narcotics in copious quantities, Clift\‘s recklessness denied his public the undeniable pleasure of a lifelong cinematic career, yet to this day, his more naturalistic performance style remains peerless. Only his truncated film résumé has prevented him from achieving the iconic status that many movie historians feel he rightfully deserves. In any event, their assessment of Montgomery Clift\‘s reduced status amongst the pantheon of movie greats is not a view I share.
There’s something about outspoken individuals with little regard for political correctness that make me laugh. With barely a thought for the potential impact on their career, they just speak their minds, no matter what the potential consequences. The Duke of Edinburgh springs readily to mind as an obvious example – with his passing, we shall be sadly bereft of the ‘mock horror factor’ he brings to the world.
The urge to join Twitter is tempting when everyone from the Prime Minister to the Pope is posting messages about their daily lives. But actor George Clooney says anyone who is rich and famous and on the social media site is a ‘moron.’
Speaking in an interview with Esquire magazine, the Hollywood star also says the pressures of the 21st Century would have been too much for the stars from the ‘golden age’ of cinema.
George – I’m laughing already…
Celebrities invariably enjoy an unexpected career renaissance just before their untimely passing. So it was with James Coburn, one of “The Magnificent Seven.” The tough guy actor would win an an Academy Award in 1998 for his portrayal of a dissolute father in “Affliction,” a return to cinematic prominence after a ten year battle with chronic arthritis that had paralysed his left hand. Still working prodigiously, he would die suddenly in 2002 from a fatal heart attack at the age of 74.
My own particular favourite amongst his movies is “Cross of Iron,” which deftly sidesteps the stereotypical characterisations so prevalent in war films. The principal protagonists are German soldiers, unconcerned with the politics of Nazism, and overtly preoccupied with both impending defeat and life thereafter.
She’s the last great star from the halcyon period of British cinema ,who conquered American television in the 80’s.
A trouper to the end, one botox injection and a pathological fear of the knife was sufficient to make her rely once again on her rather unique gene pool. Bitch as they might about the alleged excessive ‘slap’ and the hairpieces, but millions of anonymous female trolls won’t look like Joan Collins when they’re 81. Its all in the bone structure you see, and trust me, I draw enough to know what I’m talking about.
This portrait of Sean Connery dates from 1963, at a time of professional and personal changes in his life. He had just married his first wife, the actress Diane Cilento and fatherhood was looming – his first and only child Jason being born that April.
Later that year he would complete three movies, including his second Bond outing, and revisit Hollywood for the first time since the late 50’s to work for the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Kevin Costner is ‘old school’, an actor capable of delivering a performance of earnestness and honesty that connects with his audience. The glue that holds many a film together, he boasts the ‘everyman’ appeal of a James Stewart – no mean feat in the corporate driven marketing world of modern day Hollywood.
For sure, there have been ‘turkeys’ in his celluloid CV, but also some outstanding and thought provoking appearances. On the cusp of 60, he’s hot property again, but somewhat wiser to it all.
“There’s something you should know about me, Max. I’m very, very choosy… I’m also very, very suspicious; very, very irrational, and I have a very, very short temper. I’m also extremely jealous and slow to forgive. Just so you know.”
Fanny Chenal letting Max Skinner know the score in the movie “A Good Year,” (2006), was my first introduction to the French actress Marion Cotillard. Ridley Scott’s movie stars a charmless Russell Crowe as a ruthless, workaholic investment broker who inherits a run-down Provencal chateau and vineyard from a philosophical, Francophile uncle (Albert Finney), becoming inexorably drawn into the sleepy continental existence so alien to his normal persona. Along the way, he is charmed by the intoxicating Miss Chenal in a feelgood movie that, whilst compromised by some underdeveloped characterisation and a maiden whose romantic resistance thaws faster than icecream in a microwave, is still an engaging experience. It’s a radical departure from the normal blockbuster genre for Mr Ridley and no less satisfying, despite the absence of CGI laden effects.
I have drawn Daniel Craig as 007. I think most people would agree that the makeup team got the look right for the role by working on a close cropped hairstyle. There was much opposition to the official announcement that he had secured this much coveted role, with particular emphasis on his colouring. No, we didn’t expect a blond James Bond but the chosen style definitely deflected attention away from this minor quibble.
A veritable everyman of stage and screen, both big and small, but relatively unfamiliar to American audiences, Michael Craig – still active at 90 – is of Scots heritage, born in India to a father on military assignment. When he was three, the family returned to England, but by his eleventh year, they had moved on to Canada – where he undoubtedly acquired his North American accent. He can currently be seen reminiscensing about his early film career on “Talking Pictures,” a recent interview commissioned by the nostalgia channel.
Craig left school for the Merchant Navy at 16, but finally returned to England and the lure of the theater. By 1947, he debuted on stage and, in 1953, Sir Peter Hall gave him his first lead stage role. In the meantime, he was trying his hand at extra work and had speaking roles by 1954. This eventually led to discovery by Rank Films and a list of lead movie roles into the early 1960s. When his 7-year contract with that company expired, he was optioned by Columbia Pictures and his Hollywood career commenced. Yet his American work is perhaps only modestly remembered in two films, ironically co-American productions with the UK, “Mysterious Island” (1961), and Australia, the Disney TV installment, “Ride a Wild Pony” (1975).
By the mid-1970s, Michael Craig’s TV and film work was heavily concentrated in Australia where he still resides. The depth of roles he has undertaken, both comedic and dramatic, includes memorable and solid character pieces . As a screen writer, he has written for and created several British TV series. Never far from the stage and remarkably for his age, he remains a remarkably familiar face in both London and New York theatrer.
From his Rank Films period and for my money, he was particularly noteworthy onscreen in “The Angry Silence” (for which his screenplay was Academy award nominated), and the war film “Sea of Sand” for which he would receive a BAFTA nomination for best actor. Also of note is “Sapphire,” the 1959 British crime drama that focused on racism in London toward immigrants from the West Indies. Exploring the underlying insecurities and fears of ordinary people that existed towards another race, the film’s overt racism might date it, but the underlying themes remain topical.
Labelled ‘box office poison’ by the same industry that had first brought her to fame, and tired of promoting war bonds on behalf of the national effort, there now lay ahead the ignomy of a screen test for a role that was tailor made for her. There was little encouragement from Director Michael Curtiz, who made his views crystal clear to Warner Brothers executive producer Jack Warner. “She comes over here with her high-hat airs and her goddamn shoulder pads…why should I waste my time directing a has-been?”
The actress herself, remained guarded about the finished film, fearful of a sub par noir entry in the fabled Warners cannon and feigned illness before the 1946 Academy Award ceremony. Nominated for her starring role in ‘Mildred Pierce’, considered by many to be a comeback vehicle after a three year absence from the screen, the former Queen of Hollywood was convinced the night would belong to Ingrid Bergman for her role in ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ and elected not to attend the ceremony. Feigning influenza, she failed to attend the industry’s most important night of the year and repaired to her bed. Upon hearing that she had in fact prevailed, the woman christened Lucille Fay LeSueur, transformed herself for the waiting press with make up and hair styling to receive the best actress statuette at her bedside. The pictures stole the next day’s front pages and upstaged everyone else who won that night. Against all expectations, Joan Crawford was back where she belonged and ahead of her would lay some of her most enduring film roles.
Russell Crowe appears to be calming down, after years of confrontational episodes in his life. The 51-year-old, who has starred in films including ‘Noah’ and ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ told Australian Woman’s Weekly: “You have to be prepared to accept that there are stages in life. So I can’t be the Gladiator forever.”
He has little sympathy for actresses who complain about the lack of opportunities for older women. Dame Janet Suzman, for example, said that casting directors “lose interest” in older actresses, adding: “If you’re peachy and young, the world’s your oyster.”
But Crowe believes the problem comes from 40-year-olds who still want “to play the ingénue, and can’t understand why they’re not being cast as the 21-year-old.”
“If you are willing to live in your own skin, you can work as an actor. If you are trying to pretend that you’re still the young buck when you’re my age, it just doesn’t work.”
That’s Russell – always prepared for some plain talking.
At 50 years of age Tom Cruise sits at the very top of his professional game as the most ‘bankable film star’ in the world. From 1992 to 2006, he had an almost unbreakable string of $100 million-plus grossing hits, an unprecedented track record in modern Hollywood. Recent entries in his film canon have not performed as well, yet his 2013 release ‘Oblivion’ has shown there’s more to his appeal than the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise.
He appears personable, gracious towards his fans, restrained in the face of provocation, (the idiot who squirted him with water at a London premiere being a case in point), and financially astute. He is well respected amongst directors and technicians, and is an ever popular interviewee, yet unsettling aspects to his private life have once again, brought into public focus, the continuing operations of the Church of Scientology. As the accusations and denials about this religious organisation abound with ever increasing regularity, one ever present thought prevails – someone, somewhere, is lying.
It isn’t just her native country’s national soccer team that has won plaudits in recent years. Penelope Cruz, forty year old mother of two, was the first Spanish actress in history to receive both an Academy Award and a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There are now strong rumours that she will co-star with Daniel Craig in the next 007 epic, due to begin filming in August 2014. If the role does materialise, then she will become the oldest actress ever to play a Bond girl – Honor Blackman was a mere 37 when she filmed ‘Goldfinger’. Let’s applaud the producers if they pull this one off, for ageism is a malaise all too prevalent in the film industry. A high profile role such as this, could well herald a seismic shift in attitudes towards older actresses playing glamourous roles. About time too…
Maria Grazia Cucinotta
Ok – not the obvious ‘girl next door’ type, but a useful introduction to your parents if you’re keen on an early inheritance. Just one sight of the immodestly dressed Italian actress and former Bond girl, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, should be sufficient to bring on your father’s fatal heart attack!
Perhaps best known for her role in the film “Il Postino” (The Postman), her appearance in the Bond film “The World is not enough” was sadly limited to the pre title sequence. Thirty years earlier, she would have lasted much longer, if only due to Connery’s distinct preference for the dark continental types.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but a parade of the last ten years’ worth of leading Bond girls would have drawn a terse response from the original 007. “What the hell have you sent me?!” , or something to that effect…
Miss Cucinotta, on the other hand, would have passed muster.
The man christened Bernard Swartz led quite a life, Hollywood stardom, narcotic addiction, promiscuous sex, and alienation from his children when they were growing up.
For millions, he was a superb lightweight comedian and matinee idol, but for me, there was always the promise of so much talent that he squandered in pure celluloid froth. I defy anyone to watch ‘The Sweet Smell of Success’ and even more importantly, ‘The Boston Strangler,’ without acknowledging a powerful actor with the ability to convey the widest range of emotions.
Unfortunately the man, better known as Tony Curtis, seemed more preoccupied with ‘fucking himself senseless’. One can only wish he had encountered a three legged woman early on to satisfy his sexual curiosity. Perhaps only then, the wrangling and bitter arguments surrounding his life, and last will & testament – six children by six wives – might have been avoided.
A prolific presence in films and on television for nearly five decades, British actor Peter Cushing, OBE, became an international icon as the star of countless horror films, including “Curse of Frankenstein” (1956), “Horror of Dracula” (1958), “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1959), “The Mummy” (1959), “The Vampire Lovers” (1970) and “Horror Express” (1973). Frequently cast opposite his longtime friend, Sir Christopher Lee, Cushing gave definitive portrayals of monster maker Victor Frankenstein and vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing for England’s Hammer Films throughout the ’60s and ’70s, while appearing in numerous other horror films for international companies.
A magnetic and always-believable screen presence, his roles for Hammer became the stuff of horror movie legend, yet his versatility is perhaps best illustrated in an overlooked early 60’s gem of a British B movie “Cash on Demand.” As the fastidious, autocratic provincial bank manager targeted by Andre Morell’s duplicitous thief and forced to assist him in a meticulously planned robbery, Cushing’s performance is first rate, his character’s OCD-wracked nerves tested to their limit by his adversary’s efficient cruelty and threats against his family………………..
It would take a lengthy legal dispute between Eon Productions and MGM to derail Timothy Dalton’s tenure as 007, and many Fleming purists still bemoan the financial wrangles that would keep one of, if not arguably THE BEST Bond off the big screen between 1989 and 1995. A Shakespearean actor with a hugely varied film CV, the actor found himself free of his contract. Interviewed in 2014 about his role in the horror drama ‘Penny Dreadful’, Dalton recounted this period in his life.
“Mr. Broccoli, who I really respected as a producer and as a friend, asked me what I was going to do when it was resolved. I said, ‘Look, in all honesty, I don’t think that I will continue.’ He asked me for my support during that time, which of course, I gave him.” By the time the lawsuit was resolved several years later, Dalton had changed his mind. “When [the next movie] did come about, it was probably four or five years later,” and when Cubby asked if I would come back, I said, ‘Well, I’ve actually changed my mind a little bit. I think that I’d love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done, and consolidate them into a third.’ And he said, quite rightly, ‘Look, Tim. You can’t do one. There’s no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You’d have to plan on four or five.’ And I thought, oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long. So I respectfully declined.”
A great shame for the franchise, and both an understandable yet mystifying decision. After all, Eon had been delighted to lure Connery back for one last paycheck in ‘Diamonds are forever,’ so denying Dalton the opportunity to bow out with a tour de force third film seems in retrospect, a wasted opportunity.
Alongside a litany of diverse screen roles, Matt Damon is perhaps best known for his starring roles as Jason Bourne in the Bourne franchise (2002–16) and as a con man in the Ocean’s Trilogy (2001–07).
The actor has a wife, Luciana, whom he met while filming in Miami in 2003 when she was working behind a bar, and the couple have four daughters ranging in age from four to 16 – Alexia, from Luciana’s previous relationship, Isabella, Gia and Stella. Damon is a self-confessed family man. He has a rule that they will never be apart for more than two weeks while he’s filming. His daily life is so average, even the paparazzi have decamped from outside his home in Los Angeles because he never does anything that merits a photograph.
Interviewed in 2008, he was moved to say: “I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”
One immensely bankable, and evidently intelligent movie star.
Bereft of a gorgeous face or an eye catching figure, Bette Davis was nonetheless a spellbinding talent and, in my humble opinion, the greatest actress of them all.
As Charlotte Vale, the spinster who defies her domineering mother to discover love, heartbreak and eventual contentment in ‘Now Voyager’, she embodies the very essence of repressed dreams in the ultimate Hollywood melodrama. In ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane’, she is the grotesquely made-up gargoyle with long blonde ringlets, standing over her slumped, crippled sister, viciously kicking her from head to foot and in the process scaring me witless. I was twelve when I first saw the movie, and her character’s gradual descent into insanity unnerved me more than any season of Hammer Horror movies.
Best of all, there was Margo Channing, the highly regarded yet aging Broadway star of ‘All About Eve,’ who can see right through Eve Harrington’s insincerity. Depressed by her 40th birthday, any acknowledgement of her fifth decade makes her “feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off.” She looks at her longtime director and bitterly complains: “Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it 20 years from now. I hate men.”
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Rupert Pumpkin in ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983) signposted today’s toxic desire for fame at any price. In one of the most dedicatedly obnoxious performances ever attempted by a major movie star, Pupkin is a jittery, obsequious bulldozer of needy self-regard, with only one goal in life: to perform his stand-up comedy routine on ‘The Jerry Langford Show’ (the fictional re-invention of Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight’ programme that ran on NBC for decades.)
It’s one of the last photographs of him. There he is in his newly acquired Porsche 550 Spyder sports car, complete with shades on a sunny California morning. Sitting alongside him is his friend, mechanic Rolf Wutherich. It’s September 30, 1955 and the moment will be captured by Sanforth Roth, the internationally known photographer whose work had, by then, appeared in Time, Life, Look, Fortune, and Paris Match, amongst others.
Roth was following James Dean to do a photo feature on an amateur road race he was attending in Salinas. The journey would be over 300 miles and at the last moment, the impetuous 24 year old opted to drive his new car rather than towing it. The Ford station wagon had a trailer for the Spyder attached, but it would never be used.
Roaring off ahead, there would be no question of tailing the Porsche and when he next saw the vehicle, Roth would end up capturing on film the actor’s transition from promising newcomer to stellar immortal.
Catherine Deneuve is the foremost French actress of her time, and still actively working more than fifty years after her first screen appearance.
In the thriller ‘Repulsion’ (1965), directed by Roman Polanski, she portrayed a troubled virgin who becomes a killer, before appearing as a frigid housewife turned prostitute in 1967’s ‘Belle du Jour,’ directed by Luis Buñuel. Success gave her the opportunity to star in comedies, a fairy-tale adaptation as well as in darker roles. Though Deneuve mainly focused on French productions and co-productions, she has appeared in several American films, including the cult vampire film ‘The Hunger’ (1983), opposite David Bowie.
I first recall seeing her in only her second english language movie “The April Fools” (1969) opposite Jack Lemmon, a sweet and rather sentimental movie, largely out of circulation for over forty years until a recent DVD release.
Outside of movies, Deneuve became the face of Chanel perfume during the 1970s, and in the following decade, she was the real-life model for Marianne — the national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. This led to her image being used nationally on her country’s coins and stamps.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s films are rarely cheesy and cheery, but they post excellent box office returns. The 2013 adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’, from director Baz Luhrmann, seemed like a tough sell. But with DiCaprio at the helm, the film, a remake of the Robert Redford 1974 hit, easily topped $250 million at the box office making it the director’s most successful movie ever.
His biggest hit is still the 1997 film ‘Titanic’ which is the second-highest grossing film of all time. If the price of success is celluloid death, then the actor appears content enough for the majority of his on-screen characters to meet their maker.
Julie Burchill, a writer I recall first reading in the mid-70’s when the weekly purchase of the NME (New Musical Express) was ‘de-rigeur’, reviewed ‘The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood’ by Diana McLellan, for ‘The Guardian’ newspaper in 2001. I own the book – acquired at a fraction of its recommended retail price – because from time to time, I have to take a break from all the pseudo intellectual material I read, to bask in the glow of 400 pages of pure ‘Hollywood style’ salacious gossip.
Her review recounts how ‘The golden age of Hollywood Saphhism’ (apparently the correct spelling is sapphism, a less common noun for lesbianism) – ran for three decades from the 1920s with the influx of the decadent Europeans, to the 1950s when the vicious snooping of the House Un-American Activities Committee crucified communists, liberals and the sexually flexible alike.
Blanket scrutiny of this nature left few individuals in ‘tinseltown’ sleeping peacefully, and Marlene Deitrich would never number amongst the fortunate few…
Walt Disney was the impresario of a troop of young women, most of them under 25—a casting director’s dream of all-American acolytes—who made the screen light up, not with feathered swan dives or the perfect tip-tap of a patent-leather heel, but by making water shimmer or a tail wag just so. It was a job complicated by his unrelenting perfectionism — ‘Jiminy Cricket’ requiring 27 different colors—but reducible to a simple imperative of the time: ever nimble but never showy, their job was to make what the men did look good.
Whilst roughly 100 of his male employees were responsible for bringing his initial vision to the big screen, it was the young women – neither downtrodden factory workers nor madcap flappers who jumped into fountain – who were caught in the sand trap of repetitive, highly precise work where eyes strained, waistlines shrank, and some even fainted. Yet Disney knew they loved what they did and wanted to be the best. Understanding their motivation was key to extracting 85 hours a week of focused concentration from them for the princely sum of $16!
Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman): (informing Palmer about his upcoming transfer to Major Dalby’s department): “You won’t have much time for cooking. Dalby ‘works’ his men, and he doesn’t have my sense of humor.”
Palmer (Michael Caine: [Said with a straight face] “Yes, sir. I will miss that, sir.”
An air of mystery and menace to the very balance of scientific power seems to surround the pressing problem Civil Intelligence has to solve, namely the curious kidnapping and brain-draining of a slew of distinguished scientists. The protagonists involved seem eminently qualified.
There’s Dalby, chief of Civil Intelligence, a bristly-mustached, guardsman type, quivering with efficiency and sarcasm as played by Nigel Green. There’s Ross, chief of Military Intelligence, who has curiously passed the buck, and, in Guy Doleman’s slippery portrayal, seems not quite worthy of trust.
During the 1940s and ’50s, Doleman was one of the busiest actors in Australia, appearing in the majority of films made there at the time, and first coming to the attention of a wider cinematic audience when he starred in the post- apocalyptic thriller “On the Beach” (1959) opposite Gregory Peck. In the 60’s, his film and television appearances in such productions as “The Ipcress File,” “Funeral in Berlin,” “Thunderball,” and “The Prisoner,” would ensure he remained both a familiar face, yet a largely unknown name for decades to come.
This portrait of Diana Dors dates from April 1961, when the actress returned home to Britain after a period of eleven months working continuously in America. She was twenty nine, and her shoulder length locks were newly shorn; a move many a woman struggles to undertake irrespective of whether she looks more attractive or not. For some strange reason, the fairer sex appears to view the transformation as a fond farewell to youth, no matter how absurd the notion.
Britain’s greatest sex symbol, Diana’s on-screen worldliness contrasted markedly with Monroe’s apparent naivity, yet unlike her American counterpart, she would live long enough to demonstrate her versatility in a range of dramatic and comedic roles. Today, more than three decades after she succumbed to ovarian cancer at the age of fifty two, Dors is largely overlooked, remembered only by those old enough to have witnessed her meteoric rise and fall. Monroe, on the other hand, who only demonstrated true potential as a dramatic actress in a brace of movies, remains the eternal icon. Where fame and legacies are concerned, shit truly happens…
The archetypal Hollywood movie star of the postwar era, Kirk Douglas built a career with he-man roles as soldiers, cowboys and assorted tough guys in over 80 films. His restless, raging creations earned him three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and one Golden Globe win for his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in “Lust for Life” (1956). But besides his lasting mark as a seething strong man with a superhero-like head of hair and the most famous dimpled chin this side of Shirley Temple, Douglas was a Tinseltown innovator and rebel. As one of the first A-listers to wrest further control of their career by founding an independent production company, he also effectively ended the 1950s practice of blacklisting Hollywood talent suspected of communist ties when he insisted on crediting famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for his script adaptation of “Spartacus” (1960).
I can barely believe it, but he’s now a sprightly 102 years of age and perhaps best sums up the secret of his longevity himself:
“Age is in the mind. I’ve survived a helicopter crash and back surgery. i have a pacemaker. i had a stroke that almost made me commit suicide. But I tell myself, I have to continue growing and functioning. That’s the only antidote for age”.
The diabolical charm, slicked-back hair, city-college chip on his shoulder, and era-defining “greed-is-good” mantra, all combined in an intoxicating cocktail, to make the character of Gordon Gekko an all-time corporate anti-hero. The film ‘Wall Street,’ was a cautionary tale of greed turning an intelligent and ambitious man into a criminal, who generates ‘added margin’ on his stockmarket dealings off the pain of others. Embarrassingly, the next generation of Wall Street embraced him as an icon and followed his business model. As Gekko said: “If you need a friend, get a dog.” The role brought Michael Douglas his Best Actor Oscar, a near perfect two hour rollercoaster encapsulation of his real life.
Robert Downey Jnr
The Sherlock Holmes franchise has been reinvigorated in recent years, both with the acclaimed BBC Tv series and the wonderfully engaging cinematic incarnation, featuring Robert Downey Jnr as the ace detective and Jude Law as Doctor Watson.
With a new script in the works and Guy Ritchie signed on for directorial duties, there\‘s a green light from Warner Bros for the third Holmes instalment.
Downey Jnr reportedly loves filming in England, so much bodes well for the third movie.
She’s ‘got a thing’ about the operatic diva Maria Callas. In 1997, Faye Dunaway played the singing star on stage for a year in Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play ‘Master Class.’ It was great casting given the similarities between the career and personalities of Callas and Dunaway; they were both seen as perfectionists whose run-ins with directors had them castigated as prima donnas. But Dunaway argues: “That woman changed an art form and not many people can say that. Callas is to opera what Fellini is to cinema.”
For the last few years, she’s been embroiled in a directorial effort to bring Callas to the big screen, yet production delays and lawsuits have threatened to derail the project. Don’t bet against her completing the film though – the Oscar winning actress is a born fighter.
Clint Eastwood has consistently been amongst the top five most popular actors in America for more decades than even he would care to remember. Add in his position as a highly respected director, he’s also an accomplished musician, freely giving of his time to guest on numerous documentaries about his favourite artists. At eighty three years of age, he shows no sign of slowing down, the rapport he enjoys with his fellow actors rejuvenating his muse in surprisingly diverse ways.
His life has also involved public service, his two year period in the 80’s as mayor of Carmel focused on improving the town’s amenities rather, than as a launching pad for a wider political career. A popular figure therefore, except perhaps amongst a group of women who have been romantically linked with him. As his track record testifies – eight children by six different partners, it’s been a life of hedonistic indulgence.
Modern water-based face and body paints are made according to stringent guidelines, thus ensuring their non-toxic, and invariably non-allergenic compound characteristics. Temporary staining may develop after use, but it will fade after normal washing. These are either applied with hands, paint brush, and synthetic sponges or natural sea sponge, or alternatively with an airbrush.
Contrary to the urban myth perpetuated over more than half a century ago by the James Bond movie “Goldfinger,” a person is not asphyxiated if their whole body is painted. In the mid 60’s, there was clearly some belief that the body’s skin did, in fact, aid in absorbing oxygen, and thus the skin “breathed.” It is in fact, immaterial how much of the skin is blocked by paint or anything else, as long as a person can take in oxygen through the mouth or nose. Nevertheless, prolonged use of body paint is not recommended due to the risk of heat stroke.
Cinemagoers nevertheless, believed that it was possible to die in this manner, and Eon productions took no chances with its star, ensuring that her breasts were protected by gold cones and that her stomach was left untouched.
For the twenty seven year old Shirley Eaton – already a stalwart of more than twenty British films – her five minute appearance in the third 007 movie would cement her iconic status, a position she continues to enjoy at film conventions around the world.
In the earliest stages of her career, Swedish actress Britt Ekland was “famous for being famous” as the wife of film comedian Peter Sellers. Often depicted as a “tortured genius” Sellers was in fact a “genius who tortured” and the impressionable young swede suffered greatly at his hands. Asked many years later whether he was madly in love with her or simply mad, her answer was refreshingly forthright: “I think today we would say he was bipolar, although that word is bandied about so often. He had mental problems and he should have been on therapy. If I’d met him today I would know so much more, but I didn’t. I had no experience of that sort of life but I learnt very quickly.”
Shirley Anne Field
Shirley Anne Field’s big break came when director Tony Richardson chose her from a hundred girls, to play beauty queen, Tina Lapford, opposite Sir Laurence Oliver in ‘The Entertainer’ (1960).
It was the culmination of steep learning curve that had taken her from a brief spell in modelling, and some small parts in films and game shows alongside such well-loved performers as Tommy Cooper, Hughie Green and Bob Monkhouse, to a significant role in Michael Powell’s classic ‘Peeping Tom’ (1960), in which the auburn haired actress would appear as a temperamental film star.
Still working in her mid 70’s, fewer parts are inevitably coming her way. This is partly due to the aging process and the dearth of suitable roles, but also competition from four of her rival grand dame actresses.
Of Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Eileen Atkins, she has said:
“They have sewn up the market, those women. They are the four bankable names and they are used over and over again. It’s all down to luck. ‘The Queen’ changed Helen’s life – and people’s whole perception of her changed.”
Nevertheless, her acting ability is not in doubt, and when she burst onto the scene, she was undoubtedly a vision that captured the imagination of millions of men, including President Kennedy and Frank Sinatra.
Mention the word “hellraiser” and the names O’Toole, Harris and Burton readily spring to mind. In a rather more understated fashion, one could include the name Peter Finch.
At the turn of 1977, his film career was once again in the ascendency. Having recently completed filming on an excellent television movie, “Raid on Entebbe,” he was doing the obligatory rounds of US network interview shows to promote “Network,” his latest motion picture. He hated such promotion but in this case was almost glad to do it because he believed so strongly in the film and thought he could win an Oscar. He was pretty excited, drinking way more than he should and tired when on January 13, 1977, he appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Johnny Carson and others commented on how worn out he looked but laughed at his jokes, one of which included something about dying of a heart attack.
The following day in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel that’s exactly what he did. He was only sixty, but a liver function test would have told a different story. It had been after all, one hell of a life, and poignantly he would win the best actor Oscar award two months later and to this day, is still the only person to do so posthumously.
Times change, and in the modern world of mass communication, it seems rather quaint that national newspapers would have run the headline “Finney lost in the Amazon”. It was 1975, and touring the Galapagos islands with his partner Diana Quick, the esteemed actor Albert Finney had decided to stay on. He sent a cable postponing a meeting with 20th Century Fox in Hollywood, but it never arrived. The couple ended up in Ecuador and were having breakfast in bed one morning when they saw the local paper running a picture of him on the front. Diana said: “Something awful has happened to you”. Up the Amazon they were decidedly not, but rather, safely ensconced at a five-star hotel in Quito.
Truly magical days when one could step off the carousel of life, and remain incommunicado. I practice it sometimes at weekends, just leaving the mobile phone untouched. We’ve been brainwashed into believing a meaningful life can only exist with 24/7 accessibility. I hate it.
In the end, it all came down to a bottle of hair dye. After serving his apprenticeship and with stardom beckoning, Colin Firth almost lost out on the role that would secure his leading-man status, because TV executives thought his hair was too ginger for the dashing Mr Darcy.
There was opposition to his casting from writer Andrew Davies, who had adapted \‘Pride and Prejudice\’ for the small screen and Alan Yentob, then BBC1 controller. Fearing that the actor would not be brooding enough for the lead role, it was decided to dye his hair a much darker shade shortly before production began in 1994. Women loved him, and I could barely contemplate drawing him in any other role.
‘The Last of Robin Hood’, is a 2013 film biopic about actor Errol Flynn’s relationship with Beverly Aadland in the late 50’s.
A decade and a half earlier, Flynn’s career as a matinee idol and swashbuckling film star had dimmed thanks to scandalous reports of alcoholism, womanizing, and the alleged sexual assault of two underage girls.
By his own autobiographical admission, his wicked, wicked ways continued unabated, and when he died in 1959, he reportedly passed away in the arms of his teenage girlfriend, the aforementioned Miss Aadland, a former chorus girl whom the actor had allegedly begun dating when she was only 15. You’ve got to laugh – old Errol viewed recidivism less as a character flaw, and more as a religious calling…….
It got ecstatic reviews and a spread in Life magazine, but essentially bombed at the box office in 1957. Yet by 2002, “Twelve Angry Men” would be listed 23rd among the best films of all time in an Internet Movie Database poll.
The compelling, provocative film examines twelve men’s deep-seated personal prejudices, perceptual biases and weaknesses, indifference, anger, personalities, unreliable judgments, cultural differences, ignorance and fears, that threaten to taint their decision-making abilities, cause them to ignore the real issues in the case, and potentially lead them to a miscarriage of justice.
Fortunately, one brave dissenting juror – played by Henry Fonda in one of his finest roles – votes ‘not guilty’ at the start of the deliberations, because of his reasonable doubt. Persistently and persuasively, he forces the other men to slowly reconsider and review the shaky case (and eyewitness testimony) against the endangered defendant.
When I met Jane Fonda in 2006, I had the opportunity of telling her how much her father’s film meant to me. There was a quiet nod of approval, before she answered me; “yes that was a great one, wasn’t it?”
I met Jane Fonda in 2006 at a book signing session. She was in England promoting her autobiography, and in view of the fact that she would be appearing less than ten miles from where I live, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of meeting her; besides the shop also boasted a rather nice coffee area. Sadly, the Chesterfield branch of the Peak Bookshop would close in 2007, just one year after being voted runner-up in The Sunday Times’s ‘Bookshop of the Year’ poll. At the time, the owners, Kate and Jonathan Spencer-Payne, blamed internet and supermarket rivals for the closure. Whilst I do make purchases from Amazon, my conscience is clear over the demise of this shop as I would buy at least four titles a year from the outlet; a shame really that others couldn’t follow my lead.
The queue to meet Ms Fonda was orderly and patient, allowing me the opportunity to spend ten minutes with her. She included within her signed dedication a love heart, a rather personalised entry absent from other signed copies I was able to surreptitiously view. ‘The old charm’s worked again I see’, my wife affectionately teased me afterwards.
Glenn Ford appeared in scores of films during his 53-year Hollywood career. The Film Encyclopedia, a reference book, lists 85 movie appearances from 1939 to 1991.
He was invariably cast as the handsome tough, but his acting talents ranged from romance to comedy. His more famous credits include “Superman,” “Gilda,” “The Sheepman,” “The Gazebo,” “Pocketful of Miracles” and “Don’t Go Near the Water.” An avid horseman and former polo player, Ford appeared in a number of Westerns, “3:10 to Yuma,” “Cowboy,” “The Rounders,” “Texas,” “The Fastest Gun Alive” and the remake of “Cimarron” among them. His talents also included lighter parts, with roles in “The Teahouse of August Moon” and “It Started With a Kiss.”
My own favourite amongst his vast oeuvre is the much overlooked film noir “Experiment in Terror,” filmed on location in San Francisco in 1962. Co-Starring Lee Remick, Ross Martin and Stephanie Powers, it’s a directorial tour-de-force from Blake Edwards, just before he descended into Pink Pantheresque farce. I first caught the movie on a late night showing in the early 70’s, and whilst the inclination to hide behind the sofa was long gone, being twelve years of age didn’t stop me squinting at certain key scenes. The first twelve minutes of the film are nothing short of extraordinary, principally in their use of distinctive lighting, allowing the garage scene in which bank clerk kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is terrorised by an asthmatic Red Lynch (Ross Martin), to draw its energy from the shadows and contrast. From that point on you’re hooked, Ford’s scenes as FBI agent Ripley providing the only moments of calm amidst the unrelenting suspense.
It’s an all pervading thought that the man needs ‘cranking up’. Watching him on televised chat shows, it’s a rather painful experience – not that he makes his interviewer feel uncomfortable, on the contrary he’s as affable and self deprecating as one could wish for – it’s just all rather ‘slow motion.’ If he’s really considering the ramifications of everything he says, then we should pity him such self awareness. Fortunately, the explanation is far simpler.
Harrison Ford may have appeared in countless movies and received the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute, yet by his own admission, he is afraid to give a speech or talk in front of a group of people. According to the actor, public speaking is, “a mixed bag of terror and anxiety.” Even when the character he is playing must make a speech, he experiences the same feelings.
The slim, blond Englishman makes his private call in a hotel phone booth.
“The Jackal is blown. Wolenski talked before dying. Repeat: The Jackal is blown.”
From this pivotal moment, director Fred Zinnemann ramps up the tension in the movie version of Frederick Forsyth’s best selling novel, as the undeterred OAS hired assassin continues with his assignment to eliminate President de Gaulle.
Written in just thirty five days, the story is faithfully recreated on film, and would make an international star of Edward Fox, an actor who had worked principally in the theatre throughout the preceding decade.
I first saw James Fox on the big screen when I was six. There he was – tall, blonde and with those boyish good looks – the inevitable winner of the London-Paris air race in “Those Magnificent men in their Flying Machines.”
An extremely talented actor, he possessed the uncanny ability to brilliantly portray young men of various backgrounds wrestling with their sexual identity and social class. Even as the swinging 60s were still taking shape, he appeared to be everywhere, acting alongside some of the great names of the decade, like Dirk Bogarde and Mick Jagger.
To many it seemed he might be one of the victims of the showbiz explosion. In his early thirties he suffered a type of breakdown, gave up acting completely, found religion, and took himself off to be a door-to-door salesman in Yorkshire. After a decade away from the limelight, Fox would return from his celluloid sabbatical to appear in several high profile movies.
Martin Freeman has stealthily racked up an incredible portfolio of work; taking in The Office, Sherlock, The Hobbit and now Fargo: a 10-part TV series based on the classic movie of the same name where he stars, alongside Billy Bob Thornton, in a series with brand new characters, based in the world created by the Coen Brothers in 1996.
In late 2014, he played Richard III in a three month production run at London’s Trafalgar Studios, before gearing up for more of Sherlock. An immensely talented actor, blessed with a diverse range of emotional skills, it is my personal opinion that he will produce his greatest work in the next decade.
Clark Gable stood alone atop the motion-picture world in 1939. He’d won an Oscar for his performance in ‘It Happened One Night,’ had just completed his role as Rhett Butler in ‘Gone with the Wind’, and had finally settled down with the actress Carole Lombard, his third—and he was sure – final—wife.
Three years later, Lombard died in a plane crash, and her death would change everything. Gable would subsequently distinguish himself during the war, flying on numerous missions as a rear gunner and aerial photographer yet his subsequent Hollywood career would be littered with box-office bombs, an increased appetite for Scotch, bitterness toward MGM executives and the rather obvious taint of a man who had clearly lost his one true love and his vigor for life.
In his autobiography “In and out of character” Basil Rathbone recalls working with Garbo on the 1934 movie “Anna Karenina.” He had met her six years earlier when he and his wife Ouida had been invited to lunch with Jack Gilbert, the great silent star and Garbo’s lover. Rathbone observed her fascination with the food before her and was overwhelmed by her beauty. He records in his book her very simply coiffered longish fair hair and the exquisite texture of her skin. The longest natural untouched eyelashes he had ever seen, her lack of makeup and simple flowered dress all added to her lustre. Later that day, he was her doubles partner at tennis and suitably distracted by her beautifully proportioned body, played the worst he could recall in years!
What stunned Rathbone years later on the set of their film together, was the fact that they were formally introduced and at no time throughout the ensuing two month shoot did she ever make reference to having met him before! Nevertheless, he was overwhelmed by her consumate ability and felt her presence onscreen as his wife wrought from him one of the finest performances of his career. Imagine his disappointment on the last day of filming when she refused his entreaties for a signed photograph as a souvenir of his time working with her. She remained in his mind, as indeed she did for millions of others, an enigma.
In 1990, Ava Gardner was living in London with her housekeeper. She had spent her twilight years making dates with whomever she pleased and according to neighbours, would take her pet corgi out the door for walks every day. She had been plagued with ill health in recent times, including 2 strokes and pneumonia yet was working on her autobiography. Her last words to her housekeeper were, “I’m so tired.” She died in her flat on January 25th 1990, at the age of sixty seven and was flown back to the United States, where she would be buried alongside her parents, in Smithfield.
It had been one hell of a life and perhaps at the core of her problems lay a character trait she recognised all too clearly in herself. Talking to a close friend she was moved to say :
“Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.”
James Garner’s death in July 2014, came as no surprise to his close friends and family. The popular actor, who had open-heart surgery in 1988 and suffered a stroke in 2008, died of natural causes at the age of 86. He had been in poor health for a number of years.
How ironic, that news of his death should have broken on the very day that the BBC screened his 1966 movie “Grand Prix”. According to the film director Ron Howard, ‘people around F1 said he had the talent to be a pro driver’.
Looking fit, tanned and engagingly handsome, the very essence of his popular appeal is encapsulated in that movie. Yet Garner’s ability ran far deeper than mere lightweight froth, a Tv Emmy and Oscar nomination the merest hint of a multi faceted acting talent.
We are fortunate to have this celluloid legacy to enjoy – as a young man, he was wounded twice in the Korean conflict, some years before he commenced his acting career in the late 50’s.
If sentimentality truly represents an exaggerated form of self-indulgent tenderness with an underlying tinge of sadness, then Greer Garson in her heyday at MGM studios, came to personify this human emotion. She appeared to effortlessly combine an everywoman quality with grace, charm, and refinement, winning the Academy Award in 1941 for her role in ‘Mrs. Miniver’, a role for which Winston Churchill was heard to say, did ‘more for the war effort than a fleet of destroyers’.
Reigning supreme at the box office for a full decade, her co-star Christopher Plummer remembered; ‘Here was a siren who had depth, strength, dignity, and humour – who could inspire great trust, suggest deep intellect and whose misty languorous eyes melted your heart away!’
Garson earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, and fourteen of her films premiered at Radio City Music Hall, playing for a total of eighty-four weeks—a record never equaled by any other actress.
Les Ambassadeurs Club – 5 Hamilton Pl. London. W1J 7ED. A card game is underway, and a mysterious gentleman is dominating the table. A glamorous young lady in a red dress, unwilling to fold, asks the house to cover her for an extra £1,000. “I admire your courage, Miss . . .?” says the young man.
“Trench. Sylvia Trench,” replies the young lady. “And I admire your luck, Mr . . .?” “Bond. James Bond.” The lady, will later accept an invitation from the MI6 agent for golf the following day, but events take a different turn as all moviegoers know well. The scene was actually filmed at Pinewood Studios between a nervous Sean Connery and an assured Eunice Gayson. A veteran of British films, she was already thirty three, and her brief cameo would afford her the distinction of being the cinema’s first Bond girl.
During promotional work for his 2002 movie ‘Signs’, Mel Gibson spoke at length about his marriage. At the time, there had been no lurid tales of romantic shenanigans, though the actor wasn’t afraid to admit that the union hadn’t always been perfect.
‘The whole relationship thing is tough, any time. I’ve been married for 22 years and people don’t go that far these days. It doesn’t happen. You’re going to get ups and downs and you’re going to get days when you really want to strangle each other. That is just going to happen. It doesn’t matter who the other person is. You can think, ‘Well, if I find someone else’, but that’s bullshit. You’re going to go through the same old shit with anybody. You just have to adapt and give and take and receive and give. So you might as well stay where you’re at and figure it out’. Love? Nah – doesn’t come into it\’…
Sound words but unfortunately, the actor was unable to take his own advice. After 26 years of marriage, he and Robyn Gibson separated on 29 July 2006. In a 2011 interview, the actor stated that the separation began the day following his arrest for drunk driving in Malibu. What followed afterwards was ‘something else’.
I’ve lost count how times I’ve heard someone remark about a major movie – “Not as good as the book.” Perhaps it’s that mental image we build up in our own minds; somehow the big screen visualisation cannot match our expectations.
Nestling on my book shelves is “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen. I’ve read the book twice, was captivated as a child by the Gemini and Apollo space programmes, and therefore read recently with interest that Damien Chazelle is currently directing Ryan Gosling as Armstrong in an upcoming screen adaptation, which depicts the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
The film is set to be released in the United States on October 12, 2018 and perhaps the most challenging aspect of this project will be how well the actor handles the all American hero’s enigmatic personality.
Gloria Grahame is best remembered today for her awesome femme fatale roles in such classic film noirs as “Crossfire”, “In a Lonely Place”, “Macao”, “Sudden Fear”, “The Big Heat”, “Human Desire”,“The Naked Alibi”, and “Odds Against Tomorrow”. She also featured in Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a wonderful life’ as Violet, the good time girl saved by George Bailey, yet by the mid 60’s her career was confined to supporting roles in television productions.
A turbulent life that ended at the comparatively young age of 57, Grahame was fixated on her looks, undergoing habitual plastic surgery on evidently nonexistent flaws. One such operation would leave her with an immobile top lip, an impediment all too apparent in her latter day roles. Whilst the old maxim ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, was clearly alien to her, she was nonetheless an excellent actress, if at times a difficult personality to work with.
Portraying variations on a character won\‘t secure an Oscar and if the truth be told, Cary Grant never came close to winning one. But he was debonair – oh how he was debonair! He wore a suit better than anyone in Hollywood, and he made acting seem like living. Over the course of his long career, he fixed standards of what it meant to be “urbane” with almost everything he did, both on and off screen.
Enviously imbued in equal measure with panache and grace, we can never miss a film of his in my household. My wife loves him, and I know my place…
In 2010, after turning 50, Hugh Grant declared he “should settle down”, adding that “I don’t want to be 70 and alone. I want children to look after me.”
He clearly wasn’t joking as his subsequent exertions – three children in as many years by two women – amply testify. Passing comment on the behaviour of others inevitably raises accusations of bias, hypocrisy, and proselytization and in any event, he’s busy antagonising legions of female commentators anyway, so I certainly shall not bother.
Nevertheless, whilst giving evidence in 2011 at Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into press standards and ethics in London, the actor admitted that he had no good name to protect – a clear reference to his infamous liaison with a prostitute in the 90’s – thus ostensibly deflecting any accusation of self vested interest from his campaign motives.
But it’s really not as simple as that, and with the responsibility of financially providing for three children under the terms of The Children Act 1989, schedule 1, the actor is probably just now coming to the realisation that, whilst women do think a lot about sex, their thought process is invariably focussed on what the act will achieve for them. Here’s to waking up…
Eva Gaëlle Green is a French actress who started her career in the theatre before making her film debut in 2003 in Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial film ‘The Dreamers.’ She achieved international recognition when she appeared in Ridley Scott’s ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005), and portrayed Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ (2006).
Since then, she has starred in independent films ‘Cracks’ (2009), ‘Womb’ (2010), and ‘Perfect Sense’ (2011). She has also appeared in the television series ‘Camelot’ (2011), and played Angelique Bouchard in Tim Burton’s big-screen adaptation of ‘Dark Shadows’ (2012). In 2014, she played Artemisia in the ‘300’ sequel, ’300: Rise of an Empire,’ and Ava Lord in Frank Miller’s and Robert Rodriguez’s‘Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.’
Green considers herself nerdy: “When people first meet me, they find me very cold.. I keep myself at a distance, and I think that’s why I’m so drawn to acting. It allows me to wear a mask.” She lives alone and, by her own account, leads a low-key life when she’s not working. When asked in an interview what people would be surprised to find out about her, she responded “I guess people would be surprised to find out that I am a bit of a homebody. I do not like clubbing or going to wild parties. After a day of shooting, I love to come home and relax by the fire with a glass of wine and a good book. Boring, huh?’
Oh well, at least she’s not above the odd racy photoshoot, as my portrait testifies!
What is it about the general public that believes actors should continue working until they drop? The perceived glamour of a life in Hollywood? Exotic foreign locations? A never ending thirst for adulation, and recognition from their peers? Or perhaps a belief that they can never remotely hope to find another rewarding pursuit to match performing before a camera?
Gene Hackman quietly retired from motion pictures after 40 years of sterling performances, and a brace of Oscars. Since 2004, he has forged a successful alternative career as a novelist, and admits a ‘one off’ return to acting at the age of 85 is unlikely.
Time therefore, to review a wonderful celluloid legacy.
My affinity for Tom Hanks is not difficult to understand. He is a Jimmy Stewart for our times, another decent, courteous, approachable, white, middle-class Hollywood everyman with a screen persona that is irresistible, even though he himself might flinch at any comparison with an icon who could easily take his place in the cinematic equivalent of Mount Rushmore.
In the 1990s, Hanks compiled an imposing record of box office hits, emerging as arguably the most powerful and well-respected actor in Hollywood. In 2002, he was honoured with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the youngest actor ever to receive that honor.
Maybe good guys finish first after all………………….
Danielle Andrea is America’s ‘scream queen’, a reputation she acquired for her roles in various horror films, four of these in the ‘Halloween’ series. Still immersed in ‘slasher’ movies, she recently took over the role of Marybeth Dunston in the ‘Hatchet’ series, for ‘Hatchet II’ (2010) and ‘Hatchet III’ (2013).
A “slasher” is autonomy’s fiercest enemy. He doesn’t care about boundaries and he doesn’t fear punishment for violating them. He simply catches us at our most vulnerable, and then kills us in a most personal way. There’s little cowardice involved in the process. Planting a car bomb and watching from a safe distance holds no appeal; this character is hooked on intimacy and wants to feel you die.
I always admired “Psycho” as a superior horror movie and I saw “Carrie” in the mid 70’s, but generally speaking, the genre leaves me unfazed. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, simply loves them. Of course, they can make me jump out of my skin, but I can’t be bothered to waste two hours enduring such reactive emotions.
Familiar to worldwide audiences for her roles in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and the Bond epic ‘Skyfall,’ Naomie Harris would stretch out in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,’ with her portrayal of Winnie, the estranged wife of the anti-Apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist.
Interviewed in 2010, the actress confessed to being focused on her eyes when sat in front of a mirror. Reinforcing my own views on pencil portrait art, she added; ‘It’s true about the eyes being the window to the soul. Your face can be etched with worry, and twisted by ageing, but the eyes tell the true story of who you are.’
Richard Harris was once quoted as saying “I hate commitment of any kind, and that’s why I’ve got two ex-wives. It scares me.”
This sentiment permeated his entire life; offered the role of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter movie, he instinctively rejected the project for fear of being saddled with a long-running series and there matters would have ended had it not been for the intervention of his eleven year old granddaughter. Slowly acquiring all those skills of persuasiveness and manipulation that epitomise the female character, she begged him to reconsider and when her overtures proved unsuccessful she applied the ultimate pressure by threatening never to talk to him again if he refused the role.
“What could I do?” moaned Harris. “I wasn’t going to let her down.”
The self admitted hellraiser went before the cameras again and the film was a box-office phenomenon, putting Harris firmly back in the public eye with a whole new generation of fans. The role would prove a fitting last hurrah to a great talent bedevilled with demons.
Carole Landis was a vibrant, beautiful 20th Century Fox starlet of the 30s and 40s. Starring in films like “Moon over Miami“ (1941) or “My Gal Sal“ (1942) with Rita Hayworth, she was a favorite GI pin-up during the World War II era. Her career would be tragically curtailed when she was found dead in her apartment on July 5, 1948. The coroner’s verdict was suicide by an overdose of sleeping pills, but her family has remained unconvinced for decades.
She had hosted a lavish Fourth of July party, followed by an intimate dinner with her on-off lover, the actor Rex Harrison. He was the last person to spend time with her, and the first one to find her body. He reportedly lied to the police, and told them he was just friends with Carole. In reality, the pair had been involved in a widely known extra-marital affair. At the time, Harrison was married to the actress Lilli Palmer. Landis and Harrison had broken up, only to be reunited – but probably not reconciled – at the time of the party.
Throughout his life, the man forever associated with the character of Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” would act like a bounder and garner a reputation as a highly disagreeable character. That’s as may be – and in life, it’s up to acquaintances and family members to reach their own conclusions – yet on occasions, his behaviour would ‘cross the line,’ and his cavalier attitude towards women and ‘affairs of the heart’ would lead to two suicides. Harrison, a connoisser of fine wines, and a man who dressed with more panache than any of his movie contemporaries, would discover that emotional discord can end in events far more serious than broken crockery.
Laurence Harvey divides opinion. More than forty years after his premature death at the age of forty five, it remains nigh impossible to form any obvious opinion of the man as either an actor or a person, so polarised being the recollections of those who knew him.
If he was a hustler, then he was also decidedly ambitious, a not uncommon trait in the young. If his reptilian good looks, bisexuality and outward affability endeared him to a number of important theatrical people, then they were equally prepared to be charmed. So consumed as they are with their own aura, we must credit him with sufficient charisma to divert their attention from themselves.
Here’s the actress Anne Hathaway, suitably attired for a quiet day at home with her domestic cleaning chores.
Lemon washing up liquid, flash and Dettol multi surface cleaners, and not forgeting Mr Muscle window and glass, she’s ready for the arrival of her team of workers. It’ll be an exhausting day, issuing instructions and delegating tasks, whilst she reclines on the sofa viewing her latest portfolio of super glam photos.
Hopefully there’ll be enough time to apply another coat of lip gloss, before rushing into her husband’s arms as he walks through the door after a day at the office.
Bless – just another day in the life of your regular ordinary suburban housewife!!!
There comes a point in time when every student of the second World War sits down to watch Charles Frend‘s 1953 classic, “The Cruel Sea”. The film is a triumph as an unsentimental depiction of the ugly realities of war at sea, the hardships endured by the serving crews , their roller-coaster emotions and their pride in mission accomplishment. In the film, Captail Ericson is portrayed by Jack Hawkins, truly one of the most loved British actors of all time.
As the film critic Paul Page so aptly put it:
“His face, cut from British stone, is to many, the face of the golden age of British cinema.”
In 1966, cancer of the larynx would destroy his distinctive voice, but not his desire to continue acting. A victim of his own 3 pack a day habit, I well remember hearing him interviewed after his voice box had been fitted. He would appear in films right up until his death, his dialogue dubbed in post-production by either Charles Gray or Robert Riett.
His continuous work schedule, though limited to cameo roles, spoke volumes for the deep affection in which he was held by so many industry people.
Salma Hayek first scorched stateside cineplexes as the fiery border town bookseller who romances Antonio Banderas’ vengeful “mariachi” in “Desperado” (1995). A favorite of the film’s renegade writer-director Robert Rodriguez, the former telenovela star from Mexico gained a foothold in the American movie business in independent film, and as a favorite on men’s magazines “Sexiest” lists.
I must confess to being broadly unfamiliar with her work, a fact unlikely to cause the actress sleepness nights. After all, she is a spokesmodel for various cosmetics companies, has fostered celluloid ambitions that far outstrip roles associated with her hourglass figure and smoldering on-screen charisma, and oh yes – she’s married to a billionaire. She has problems in her life – everyone has – but she can hardly go publicly overboard on them. Money, and owning lots of it, rather rules out too much empathy from the press, and its millions of readers.
Nevertheless, the actress has garnered an Academy Award-nomination for her starring role as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in “Frida” (2002), a project she laboured long and hard at to bring to the big screen, and is a respected production executive. So life’s not so bad!
‘The Conqueror’, a Cinemascope disaster of epic proportions, was filmed throughout the summer of 1954 amidst the scenic red bluffs and white dunes of Escalante valley, near Saint George, Utah. With a location selected principally for its similarity to the central Asian steppes, and premiered in February 1956, it is now reviled as one of the worst films of the decade, if not all time. The sight of John Wayne brandishing his sword as Genghis Kahn, put the proverbial Hollywood boot into the Mongol warrior’s legacy, and precious few of the cast would ever look back on the shoot with any sense of professional satisfaction.
The Atomic Energy Commission had tested 11 nuclear weapons the year before, and during shooting, levels of radiation were high. By 1980, 91 of the 220 cast and crew had been diagnosed with cancer, with 46 fatalities recorded up to that point. These included Wayne himself, Susan Hayward and the film’s director Dick Powell.
Though journalists have often linked this radiation exposure with the seemingly high incidence of cancer diagnosis, the statistics – by late 1980 – remained at one with the general US population. Many of the principal actors were, by their own admission, heavy smokers, so the true implications may never be determined. In any event, ‘The Conqueror’ will probably never live down its reputation for being not only terrible, but perhaps literally toxic as well.
Gilda with alzheimer’s disease. For millions of americans in 1980, separating their memories of the ultimate ‘femme fatale’ from the sixty two year old retired actress now diagnosed with that most debilitating of mental illnesses, was an uncomfortable reminder of how quickly the passage of time can irrevocably change us all. That it should have happened to one of the most glamorous actresses in cinema history, an exquisitely beautiful woman who was also an exceptionally talented dancer, seemed barely believable. Sporting her shoulderless gowns and diaphanous, breast-emphatic blouses, she represented an era in Hollywood where pure undistilled sex was left to the audience’s imagination.
Her memory loss, mood swings and temper tantrums had, of course, been ever present in her life for years. Handling a turbulent private life and changing cinematic trends, had taken its toll. At the end, she was incapable of even looking after herself.
In July 2012, ‘Tippi’ Hedren spoke during a panel discussion on HBO’s upcoming “The Girl,” a television production which recounts her troubled relationship with the director Alfred Hitchcock during the making of “The Birds” and “Marnie”, half a century ago.
“I think he was an extremely sad character,” she said; “We are dealing with a brain here that was an unusual genius, and evil, and deviant, almost to the point of dangerous, because of the effect that he could have on people that were totally unsuspecting”.
I remain uneasy with ‘The Girl’ as a production, since it treats every word of Hedren’s story as true, steadfastly siding with the living — who can sue for libel — over the dead, who can’t. That may be fair, but it’s worth noting that we have only Hedren’s word for what happened when she and Hitchcock were alone, and even some of his public behavior is open to interpretation.
Adding, at the HBO event, that she was one of those people directly affected by his genius, the actress conveniently omitted to mention that the director’s alleged behaviour had nonetheless provided her ‘professional raison d’être’ with the world’s press for decades. Without him, would she ever have amounted to that much as an actress, and would we still be interested to this day, in what she has to say?
Audrey Hepburn returned to television screens in 2013 in a newly created CGI advertisement promoting Galaxy chocolate. For a single minute, in a piece of work that took over a year to create, she is once again mesmerisingly beautiful, captivating men’s hearts and minds and reminding us, as if we could ever forget, of her oscar winning debut in 1953’s “Roman Holday.”
The production raised numerous legal and ethical arguments over the future use of such imagery but in Audrey’s case, the ad had the blessing of the late star’s sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, who said: ‘It perfectly captures our mother’s playful spirit.’
These are difficult days for those entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining Hitchcock’s legacy and professional reputation. Recent screenings of the HBO movie “The Girl” have promulgated the notion that the famed ‘master of suspense’, subjected his leading lady Tippi Hedren, to aggressive sexual advances during the filming of “The Birds” and “Marnie.” Furthermore, in response to her rejection, he allegedly acted vengefully toward her on the set and then, when she was unwilling to work with him again, refused to let her work for other directors. He was suitably empowered to do so because of the contractual hold he had over her and she was, without doubt, subsequently blacklisted. Hedren herself, waited decades before making her story public and that – as they say – is that, except that it’s never just ‘that’ is it?
Ben is the pride of his wealthy Southern California suburbanite parents who have prepared a welcome, home-coming cocktail party for their recent graduate and invited all of their friends, rather than his, to the party. In this early scene, his father finds his son upstairs and wonders if anything is wrong. Inarticulately, Ben tells his father that he is rudderless – he has no plans or direction to his life and is worried about his future:
Ben: I’m just…
Mr. Braddock: …worried?
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Ben: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Ben: I don’t know. I want it to be…
Mr. Braddock: …to be what?
Before Ben can draw breath, he becomes the object of focus for Mrs Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner.
Welcome to “The Graduate,” one of the key, ground-breaking films of the late 1960s, and one that helped to set in motion a new era of film-making. The influential film is a biting satire/comedy about a recent nebbish, East Coast college graduate who finds himself alienated and adrift in the shifting, social and sexual mores of the 1960s. With an accompanying soundtrack from Simon & Garfunkel, it made a star of Dustin Hoffman, in only his second film. In his thirtieth year, the actor was effortlessly able to shed a decade. More than four decades on, his career – including two Best Actor Oscars – has barely missed a beat……..
Aside from test match cricket, there were few passions in Trevor Howard’s life, except perhaps alcohol; a shame really, because ‘the sauce’ would edge him out of romantic roles at the tender age of 47 after filming wrapped on ‘Malaga’ (1960). Starring opposite the wonderful Dorothy Dandridge, the film would signpost the culmination of his years as a leading man, his features became increasingly craggy and his voice even raspier with the passage of time. Within two years, he was a confirmed supporting actor, starring opposite Marlon Brando in “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962).
I first saw John Hurt on the big screen in Fred Zinnemann’s “A Man for All Seasons” (1966) with Paul Scofield (Hurt played Richard Rich), and his performance marked him out as an emergence force in British cinema. Four years later, he was the unforgettable Timothy Evans, the innocent framed victim in Richard Fleischer’s “10 Rillington Place” (1970), with Richard Attenborough as the sinister landlord and killer John Christie.
In over 150 roles, he defined himself as the “universal misfit,” a towering performer admired by his peers, and recognised by the director David Lynch as “simply the greatest actor in the world.”
A huge Beatles fan, he forged a connection with the band, appearing in George Harrison’s first cinematic production “Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs” (1974.) In 1982, he guested in one of Paul McCartney’s promo videos, and later narrated a film of the ex-Beatle’s 1989/90 World Tour.
“The Naked Civil Servant” (1975, “Midnight Express” (1978), “Alien” (1979), “The Elephant Man” (1980), “Champions” (1984), “The Field” (1990) etc….. the list is long. Appearances in the “Harry Potter” franchise would latterly bring him a new generation of fans.
A sad loss indeed…………..
Bulldog Drummond is a British fictional character, an imperial adventurer created by Herman Cyril McNeile, and the hero of a series of novels published from 1920 to 1954. Drummond has the appearance of an English gentleman, a man who fights hard, plays hard, lives clean and goes outside the law when he feels the ends justify the means.
It is widely believed that Ian Fleming was influenced by Drummond, when he sat down to write his first Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’. The series of original Bulldog Drummond films starred Ronald Colman in the title role. The series was discontinued in 1951, but following the success of the Bond movies, reappeared with Richard Johnson in the title role, in ‘Deadlier Than the Male’ (1967) and ‘Some Girls Do’ (1969).
Johnson himself, was director Terence Young’s first choice for the role of James Bond 007 but the actor declined the part of cinema’s most famous super-spy. “I don’t think I would have wanted the contract. Sean (Connery) didn’t want the contract for seven years. He hated it eventually. And I would have liked it probably less than he did.”
Between 45 and 90 out of every 100 women carrying BRCA genes develop breast cancer. A cell needs to have a number of mistakes in its genetic code before it becomes cancerous. Doctors call these mistakes faults or mutations and most of these gene mutations develop during our lifetime. They can occur due to substances we come into contact with that cause cancer or they can happen because of mistakes that cells make when copying their genetic code before dividing into two new cells.
Most of these abnormal cells die or are killed off by one’s immune system. It usually takes many years to gather enough genetic mistakes, so this is one of the reasons that cancer is generally more common as we get older. However, it it is possible to be born with a gene fault that may increase the risk of cancer beyond the average statistical probability. For carriers of a BRCA1 mutation, based on very large studies of thousands of women, the lifetime risk for invasive breast cancer is 65%.
The Oscar winning actress, Angelina Jolie said her lifetime risk was 87%, based on earlier studies in the 90’s which analysed families where all members were affected. Whatever the figure, she wasn’t happy with the odds, displaying remarkable courage in undergoing radical surgery in order to ‘buy time’.
I’ve always felt sympathy for the small-part player, the unsung hero that is the supporting actor. They turn up regularly on stage, television and films, becoming instantly recognisable through their sheer workload, yet fame eludes them. One cinemagoer in ten thousand would be able to name them.
So here’s to the legacy of Geoffrey Keen, who had minor roles in over one hundred films, many of them personal favourites of mine. An underestimated character actor, he was rather self deprecating about his work, whilst admitting that “it’s a very exciting thing to get a mediocre part and give it a third dimension – to make a character a real chap instead of being cardboard.”
So prodigious was his workload that I’ve sometimes been convinced he appeared in films even when the opening credits suggested otherwise. In any event, as I’ve said before – and for better or worse – this is my website so Mr keen gets a look-in.
Monaco, the micro-sized sovereign state, has been ruled by the Grimaldis for over 700 years. The Principality has its own democratic and freely legislative assembly and is a member of the international community. Whilst not a member of the European Union, it complies with both international and European laws and regulations. It is also represented in the United Nations and in the Council of Europe. The notion of Monaco as an offshore tax haven persists to this day yet all its residents pay VAT on goods and services and corporations face a 33% tax on profits unless they can demonstrate that three-quarters of their turnover is generated within the confines of the principality.
The Principality employs around 38,0000 mostly French nationals in its tourist and service industries and a further 3,000 in commerce and environmentally friendly manufacturing. In the 21st century it has been able to balance its books without placing heavy tax burdens on its inhabitants.
It is therefore difficult to recall that Monaco was both picturesque and near bankruptcy when Rainier, who had not yet turned 26, succeeded his grandfather, Louis II, in the spring of 1949. His position looked untenable but within a decade he had transformed the Principality’s finances through two alliances, one with a Greek Shipping magnate and the other via a dowry for marrying a beautiful Hollywood actress and the daughter of a wealthy American family. His investment ultimately helped renew what passed in Monaco for its only natural resource, the fabled gambling casino at Monte Carlo.
Alexander Knox (16 January 1907 – 25 April 1995) was a Canadian actor and author of adventure novels set in the Great Lakes area during the 19th century.
Like all great supporting actors, he commanded professional respect from his peers whilst enjoying the anonymity of a “normal life.” As a child, my earliest recollection of him was as the surgeon who operated on Douglas Bader in “Reach For The Sky” (1956) yet by then he was already twelve years on from a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination for his leading role in “Wilson,” the biographical film about American President Woodrow Wilson. In the 60’s, he made notable appearances in “The Damned,” (1963) and guest appearances in three Sean Connery movies “Woman of Straw,” (1963),“You Only Live Twice,” (1967) and “Shalako” (1968).
Born in Flint, Michigan, on March 11, 1935, Nancy Kovack is a rare example of an actress with the gifts of talent, beauty, comedic timing, and brains. As a teenager racking up beauty contest titles in her native Michigan, the stunning glamour girl also proved to be brilliant as well. With a reported IQ of 158, she graduated from the University of Michigan before the age of 20, and by the late 1950s, found herself in New York working in television.
Like millions of men of a certain age, I’m rather partial to Nancy for her role in that most enduring of Greek mythological tales ‘Jason and the Argonaut’ (1963), whilst on a more personal level, the composition of her cheekbones reminds me of my wife.
Heddy Lamarr was that rather unique combination of brains and beauty. Raven-haired with a virtually symmetric face, she was a sight to behold, a pure vision that belied her rather pedestrian acting ability. The screen siren, known for remarking that “any girl can be glamorous — all she has to do is stand still and look stupid,” was in fact, highly intelligent.
Fleeing from Nazi-controlled Europe, she starred in blockbuster films and went on to create “spread spectrum” technology, a key innovation that laid the groundwork for mobile devices today. Her most interesting film role would have been autobiographical, but sadly she remains vastly under appreciated as a scientist in the 21st century.
Once a successful circus aerialist, Burt Lancaster’s natural athleticism brought him to the early attention of top Hollywood producers. The strapping, blue-eyed, blonde with the legendary grin, later referred to Hollywood as “nothing more than a big circus,” and when fate brought him into the big top, he seized centre ring.
Seen strutting her stuff on BBC television in “Feud – The Bette & Joan Story(2017),” Jessica Lange once again reminds us of a formidable acting talent that throughout a forty year career, has seen her collect two Oscars, a Tony and five Golden Globes. An astute observer of changing trends in popular taste, she made the transition from Hollywood to television without seemingly missing a beat.
My portrait dates from 1990 when she filmed “Blue Sky,” a movie consigned to the back-burner for four years after the collapse of Orion Pictures. When she finally picked up her second Oscar in 1995 for her portrayal of Carly Marshall, it was probably the longest ever gap between the end of filming and ultimate peer recognition. A plush platinum star turn, Carly is bi-polar, a party animal whose overt sexuality is habitually mixed with less frequent phases of physically destructive behavior. Her husband Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), enjoys the fact that other men find his wife attractive, which is partly why he allows her to act the way she does in public. Much more than simply a film about two people who deserve each other (depending on one’s perspective), it’s a reminder of life in 50’s America and the omnipresent threat of nuclear war.
With the huge success of the James Bond film franchise, starting with “Dr No” in 1962, a plethora of spin-offs appeared throughout the 1960s. They followed the original recipe of exotic locales, an evil genius who wishes to take over the world, a laidback, oversexed super spy hero and a bevy of (mostly treacherous) beautiful women. Among the actresses portraying the last of these was Daliah Lavi, who sadly passed away this year at the age of 74.
Almost all Lavi’s film career took place in that swinging decade when she was most likely to be seen in miniskirt and kinky boots, or displaying her underwear. The multilingual Lavi (born in the British Mandate of Palestine) had already made several French, German, Italian and Hollywood films before she starred as a sexy double agent opposite Dean Martin in “The Silencers” (1966), the first of the “bosoms and bullets” Matt Helm series.
Jean-Jacques Annaud, the French film director who first came to my attention when he helmed the Sean Connery thriller “The Name of the Rose”, also worked on “Enemy at the Gates,” a 2001 war epic that details the battle of wits between two top snipers during the Stalingrad conflict in World War II. Loosely based on war stories told by Soviet marksman Vasily Zaitsev, the film, much derided upon its initial release for factual inaccuracies, starred Jude Law and yet retains to this day, hallmarks of a first rate thriller. Following hot on the heels of “The talented Mr Ripley,” it put the actor ‘on a roll’ that would peak with “Cold mountain” two years later.
In Ian Fleming’s novel ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,’ the character of Tracey tells Bond:
‘Make love to me….do anything you like. And tell me what you like and what you would like from me. Be rough with me. Treat me like the lowest whore in creation. Forget everything else. No questions. Take me.’
It’s little wonder the books found near universal appeal amongst a generation of men still seemingly enshrined in post war austerity. Unfortunately, for George Lazenby, with little acting experience beyond humping a Fry’s chocolate bar across our television screens, landing the most coveted cinematic role possible after Connery’s initial abdication, did little but provide a licence to behave abominably towards women. Recalling her time working on the Bond film for a 2012 one hour documentary about her life and career, Dame Diana Rigg was still moved to describe him as a ‘shit.’ Where women are concerned, memories are indeed long.
A stalwart character player for nearly 50 years, Bernard Lee distinguished himself in more than 100 films, playing innumerable Inspectors (Cherry in “The Blue Lamp,” Superintendents (regularly in the Edgar Wallace Mysteries of the early ’60s), Brigadiers, Colonels and the like, his fame coming to rest as ‘M’ in the first eleven Bond movies.
For film aficionados, the lasting image of Lee is as Sergeant Paine in “The Third Man” (1949), dogged and loyal, shot by Harry Lime to no purpose – or perhaps the troubled father in “Whistle Down the Wind” (1961). As an example of his versatility, there is his portrayal of the bullying shop steward Bert Connelly, in “The Angry Silence” (1960), a radical departure from the more benign characters he usually played.
He would face both tragedy and ill health in his final years, but is fondly remembered by cinemagoers of a certain age. His contribution to the Bond franchise – a portrayal that met with the approval of Ian Fleming – ensures his continuing legacy via successive generations of 007 enthusiasts.
A 6’5” tall world champion fencer, fluent in six languages, a man who participated in more on-screen sword fights than any actor in history, a soldier who served his country during World War II, and the oldest person to ever record lead vocals on a heavy metal album project, Christopher Lee first appeared on screen in 1948.
Arguably the most prolific actor in cinematic history, with more than 350 big-screen credits to his name, he was still active to the very end, at 92.
Beat that, if you can.
There were actually three women in Alfred Hitchcock’s shower – Janet Leigh herself, Marli Renfro – a Dallas born stripper who was Miss Leigh’s body double and more curiously, one Myra Davis, who was present for lighting check ups.
Leigh’s character is stabbed to death, but of what little we do see, it is Renfro’s body that is assaulted in such violent circumstances. Marli might well have met her death years later at the hands of a ‘Psycho obsessive’ but like many in the film industry, he found her almost indistinguishable from Myra. Suitably confused, there would be tragic consequences, and a distinctly gruesome coda to that most infamous of Hollywood scenes……
I never saw “Gone with the Wind” until I was twenty one years of age. This was no conscious decision on my part, but in the pre-video era (and I’m talking about 1980), films did the initial round of the theatrical circuit, were occasionally reissued on the big screen years later for a limited run and, budgetary constraints permitting, eventually purchased by television companies for an agreed number of broadcasts. The most famous Hollywood film of them all had received no such UK transmission, and therefore I felt an unexpected ‘one night only’ showing at my local cinema a too important opportunity to ignore. That’s when I first saw her, the overnight sensation on London’s West End stage who went on to conquer Hollywood when she beat 1,400 other actresses to snare the most coveted screen role of the century as Scarlett O’Hara.
The following year (1940) when she married Laurence Olivier, she would become one half of the world’s most glamorous showbusiness couple, feted like royalty and drawing huge crowds as they played Shakespeare on tour.
But the beautiful, brilliant star could be a spoilt, demanding diva, and behind the scenes she wrestled with physical and mental illnesses that would destroy her marriage and send her to an early grave. Today, we would recognise her problem as a form of bi-polar disorder, but for her husband, it was a question of dealing with life’s day to day problems.
In his autobiography, Olivier described her illness, saying: ‘Throughout her possession by that uncanny evil monster, manic depression, with its ever-tightening spirals, she retained her own individual canniness – an ability to disguise her true mental condition from almost all except me, for whom she could hardly be expected to take the trouble.’
Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau
Analysing the cultural differences between English and American humour has perplexed film commentators for years. Whilst the contrast in the spelling of the word (humour or humor) is blindingly obvious, the subleties of its application are less apparent.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Americans don’t fully appreciate irony and that, whilst applied liberally all over British film productions, is more sparingly utilised by our brethren across the big pond.
All well and good then, and a useful starting point to my dissertation except that, in the case of acting genii like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, their comedic sense of timing transcended all cultural and language barriers. You’ve no sooner established some ground rules and this pair rips up the first page. I’ve been abroad and witnessed their work dubbed in Spanish, French. Italian and German. Whatever the dialect, they’re still funny. Strewth, they could even have filmed a skit arguing the merits of genii and geniuses as the plural of genius and I would have paid a ticket to see them. Versatility as a word, could not do sufficient justice to their immense acting technique.
Virna Lisi was one of a plethora of European movie beauties who proved over the course of her long career, that she was capable of more than just visual performances.
My earliest recollection of her talent for light comedy was a co-starring role in “How to murder your wife” (1965), alongside Jack Lemmon and Terry Thomas. The film would have been amusing without its witty script – just the thought alone of wanting to kill her off would have been hilarious enough for any red blooded male. Blonde or brunette, it really didn’t matter – you’d notice when she was in your orbit!
In 2013, she was embroiled in a legal battle with her “toy boy” former lover, and in 2014, her son and sole heir to her £30m fortune, would move swiftly to have his mother’s affairs managed by a court-appointed administrator, amidst fears fears that a coterie of young male advisers might be taking advantage of the former screen siren.
The actress, famously dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world” during her heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, was incensed at this interference. “I am perfectly capable,” she told the several high profile newspapers, adding that she still “travelled the world” despite her advanced years.
At 86, Gina Lollobrigida’s present circumstances typify those of millions for whom several all important questions must be asked – when do we start ‘losing it’ and is it possible to recognise those early signs ourselves?
We may all find some people irritating, but for most of us, the phrase “You’re driving me mad” is only an example of sheer exasperation. Not with Chief Inspector Dreyfus.
Doctor: ‘Describe your thoughts. Get them out in the open. You’ll feel much better.’
Dreyfus: ‘All right. See, it’s always the same. Clouseau is sitting there, in a chair, just like you, with his back to me. Then suddenly, my hands go round his throat, and I begin to squeeze. It’s wonderful. It’s marvelous. I’m squeezing. And the more I squeeze, the freer I feel. I’m in ecstasy. And then suddenly, suddenly my problem is solv-ved.’
Dreyfus, as played by the Czech born Herbert Lom, was a masterful creation. It says much for the actor’s near effortless ability to handle both dramatic and comedic roles, that he could consistently give Sellers a run for his money in the long running “Pink Panther” film series.
Mind you, it’s doubtful he would have sustained a 60 year career in film and television until his death at 95, if he hadn’t changed the name on his birth certificate – Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru !!
Before Goldie Hawn and Meg Ryan there was Carole Lombard. The original ditzy comedienne, she combined vulnerability with purposefulness, striding through every turbo charged scene like a whirlwind, whilst her adoring public revelled in the explosive chemistry she enjoyed with each and every co-star.
Talented, funny and indubitably attractive, with a wonderfully warm and clear speaking voice, she was equally at home with physical and verbal comedy. At one point, Hollywood’s highest paid female star, she broke the stereotype mould in private, swearing amongst friends like a trouper, and would die tragically young at the age of thirty three in a plane crash.
Whilst most of us receive any communication from the taxman with some trepidation, we nevertheless comfortably expect to resolve any dispute within a matter of months. For some individuals though, an investigation can last years if not decades.
In 2013, a court ruling in Italy put paid to a 39-year legal dispute between the Oscar-winning film star Sophia Loren, and the Italian tax authorities. The 79-year-old Loren, who lives in Switzerland, was quoted as saying she was happy with a ruling by the Supreme Court that said her 1974 tax return was indeed covered by a 1982 tax amnesty. _ ‘A saga that has lasted nearly 40 years is finally over,‘ Loren was quoted by the ‘La Stampa’ daily as saying,: _’I always look to the future and I leave bad experiences like this one behind me.’ Loren’s advisers, had applied one of Italy’s more common amnesties, calculating that she owed tax on 60% of her income for that year, with the authorities insisting on an additional 10%.
The actress famously spent 17 days in prison in 1982 in a separate tax dispute — an incident that drew crowds to the jail near Naples. The pink 15 foot square cell with an unbarred window, sported a bed, television and separate bathroom. She was not compelled to share with other inmates and was able to dress as she pleased. Let us therefore not get too carried away with the courage of her convictions. For all the adversities she has faced throughout her life, this incident does not rank highly amongst them.
Known in her time as ‘The First Lady of Film,’ the film actress Myrna Loy was never nominated for an Oscar; and in 1991 the Academy atoned for this astonishing oversight by giving her a special Award.
With a pert face, crinkly smile and velvet voice, the auburn-haired actress was universally called the “perfect wife.” Spunky, unflappable and appropriately cool or warm, she was the ideal marital partner of the dapper William Powell in the 1934 hit comedy-mystery “The Thin Man.” Five popular sequels would follow.
In the mid 40’s, Loy would complete the transformation from ‘ideal wife’ to ‘ideal mother’ in later successes like “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) and “Cheaper by the Dozen” (1950). A personal favourite of mine is “Mr Blandings builds his dream house,” in which she co-starred with Cary Grant.
In addition to being a huge Hollywood star in the 30’s and 40’s, Loy carved out a role as a highly respected spokesperson for international social issues. A supporter of the UN and a prominent figure in UNESCO, she also served on the Civil Rights Commission. In the 1950s, she was vocal and influential in her condemnation of Hollywood ‘witch-hunt’ blacklisting.
Carol Lynley came to Britain in the mid 60’s to shoot a movie with Laurence Olivier entitled “Bunny lake is missing.” The film failed miserably in America at the time, but has now become a cult classic. To this day, the actress looks back upon her performance with justifiable pride.
“I always say it’s ‘my’ movie, but there are some other people in it like Lawrence Olivier, Noel Coward and Keir Dullea”, she says laughing, “It is a wonderful movie, and a wonderful feeling of vindication, because when it came out in America, it was a total flop because the studio wouldn’t give it any support, nothing. I cried for a year, because I worked so hard and I knew it was good. And it hurt that it disappeared. But about 15 years ago, the museums started showing it in retrospect programmes. It is one of Otto’s (Otto Preminger) great films, it was a feeling of vindication for all of us.”
Here’s Ann Margret as vampy Melba, getting hot and bothered at a cock fight or just about anyplace else, in ‘The Cincinnati Kid’ (1965).
Spelling trouble for ‘The Kid’ (Steve McQueen), she’s smouldering and conniving, self centred, disatisfied with her husband, utterly focused on her perceived needs and ever ready to deploy her considerable charms to mix things up with the next man. The thrill is in the seduction, dragging men down to her own level with a lascivious grin. Caught in the act with McQueen, she’s positively purring, walking past Tuesday Weld as she exits the bedroom leaving the couple to their recriminations and pain.
In real life, married to Roger Smith, an American actor and screenwriter since 1967, the Swedish born actress, singer and dancer, has experienced the highs and lows of life, both professionally and personally. Despite accidents and illnesses (her husband has been suffering with Parkinsons since 1980), she epitomises the ‘showbusiness trouper’ and remains much admired for it.
There was something about Lee Marvin.
Maybe it was that impossibly low baritone, or face freshly cut from granite. Whatever it was, he was undoubtedly one of the great bad guys of them all. A more rugged version of American masculinity is hard to find on screen.
Director John Boorman was moved to say: “The profound unease we feel in identifying with an evil character in a movie is the recognition that we may be capable of such evil. Lee knew from his war experiences, the depth of our capacity for cruelty and evil. He had committed such deeds, had plumbed the depths and was prated to recount what he had seen down there.”
In his best selling book – “The New Biographical Dictionary of Film,” David Thomson wrote that Marvin “had such a way of looking—gazing, even – when blank hostility faded into hopeless desire – he was so strong, he leaves alleged rocks like Wayne or Schwarzenegger looking artificial.”
Leaving a loved one with a ‘life interest’ in a will trust ensures, finances permitting, that the survivor may continue living to the standard they have become accustomed to. This ‘interest’ will grant the widow/er, the use of property(ies) and enjoyment of a continuing income stream for the rest of their natural life, but will not confer upon them, the right to bequeath the ‘capitalised’ value of this benefit to whomever they choose, when they die. This form of financial planning is therefore vital when an individual re-marries, particularly where there are children from the first marriage.
Unfortunately, under the terms of his will, James Mason left everything to his second wife, the actress Clarissa Kaye, thus ensuring a sixteen year legal battle between his children and his widow and thereafter, her executors.
The ramifications were not purely financial but religious as well. For many years, Mason’s only offspring had no idea where their father’s ashes were, until lawyers traced them to a bank vault in Geneva, thus necessitating further legal action to get them released for burial.
Wide-eyed, with cheekbones that could scrape the ceiling, Natasha McElhone has a face that can best be described as distinctly interesting and God I should know, I’ve drawn enough of them in my lifetime to make the distinction between those that are, and those that aren’t. I could of course, talk at length about what’s wrong with her face or if that’s unkind, to what degree her features deviate from the notion of accepted beauty. But here’s where matters take a comical turn, because ultimately she’s a real ‘head turner,’ a point in case where attractiveness makes a mockery of all the conventional rules.
An English actress of stage, screen and television, best known for her roles in American films such as ‘Ronin,’ ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Solaris,’ in addition to the US Tv series ‘Californication,’ personal tragedy would bring out hitherto unknown writing skills after her husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2008. Her book takes the form of a series of letters to him, sometimes documenting the daily trivia of life, but also dealing with how she and their young children were coping with their loss.
“After You: Letters of Love, and Loss, to a Husband and Father,” was published in July 2010.
My portrait of McGoohan dates from the mid-60’s and his second stint as special agent John Drake in the long running ITC series “Dangerman.”
I always enjoyed his rather foppish persona as Drake that would instinctively lull his opponents into a false sense of security. A devout catholic, he refused any sexual scenes with actresses in his professional work and this led to interesting interplay with his leading ladies, forever unsure of their female charms.
Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, is a recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received two Academy Award nominations, four BAFTA nominations and five Emmy Award nominations in a genre spanning career, ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. His notable film roles include Gandalf in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogies and Magneto in the ‘X-Men’ films.
He was quoted several years ago as saying that he had never met a gay person who had come out and regretted it, thus sending a powerful message to people hiding their sexuality. “Anyone in public life who comes out, comes out primarily for themselves, and their life is immediately improved. That’s what happened to me,” he said. “The world [became] a slightly better place.”
Unfortunately, he seems to have taken it upon himself to “out” fellow actors seemingly content to keep their private lives just that – private.
In a German interview from the 2012 premiere of the first Hobbit film, Ian McKellen supposedly said the following:
“Just look how many openly gay actors in the “Hobbit” there were: two of the dwarves, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace.”
Considering that only two of the named individuals are openly gay, perhaps his comments are less appreciated than he might think. In any event, who cares?
I first saw Steve McQueen on the big screen when my parents took me to see “The Thomas Crown Affair” in 1968. Like many paying customers, they found the then revolutionary split screen technique rather disconcerting although it was used to great effect that same year in “The Boston Strangler”.
The “King of Cool”, as he was already referred to, was sartorial elegance personified yet at the time I had no idea what a radical departure the role of Thomas Crown represented from his normal screen persona, or how unsuitable for the part he had been initially considered by Hollywood agent Norman Jewison. By the end of the 60’s McQueen was undoubtedly living the good life but ahead of him lay a mid life crisis that would ultimately destroy his first marriage and pitch him into the most self indulgent movie production of his or any actor’s career.
The actress Eva Mendes – Ask Men’s No 1 2009, People’s Most Beautiful At Any Age 2012 – is rather glamorous. Up close she is so striking you feel as if you are rubbernecking: skin silky, face radiant and lynx-like, lethal cheekbones with rollercoaster curves.
She has fronted ads for Cartier, Revlon, Morgan, Cocio, Campari, Thierry Mugler’s Angel fragrance,Calvin Klein’s Seductive Comfort lingerie and Vogue spectacles. She has been a spokeswoman for Pantene, Reebok Easytone trainers and Australia’s 30 Days of Fashion & Beauty. In 2009 she was named Magnum Ice Cream’s Global Pleasure Ambassador (one for the passport, that) with a remit that included liaising with the firm’s professor of pleasure and hosting a pleasure summit in Istanbul. It was here that she divulged that chocolate, hard work and three massages a week do it for her.
Perhaps still not quite an A list Hollywood celebrity, she has nonetheless added some notable celluloid performances to her CV – Denzel Washington’s mistress in the 2001 police drama Training Day; Joaquin Phoenix’s sexy squeeze in the compelling 2007 cop thriller We Own the Night; and perhaps best of all – the canny, fast-talking gossip columnist Sara Melas in Hitch, the 2005 blockbuster romantic comedy that costarred Will Smith as the dating coach she falls for.
Throw in some tasteful glamour photographic shoots, and one has plenty to visually admire.
Vera Miles refused co-operate on the two Hitchcock biopics filmed in 2011, the then 83 year old preferring to leave research ‘consultancy duties’ to her grandson.
As Jessica Biel, the actress chosen to play Vera Miles in the ‘Psycho’ themed film ‘Hitchcock’, was moved to say:
“Vera Miles wasn’t interested… Vera is alive and did not want to speak to me because she doesn’t have a public life and is not interested in a public life.
“I don’t think that was an insult to me but her grandson was available and so I picked his brain for hours. He’s married and was very nice and (a) very respectful guy, and he was very unsure about me at first. He is very protecting of his grandmother, but he was the best historian on her career and who she was at the time of Psycho.”
“Her life is exactly what she wanted. I feel it’s very challenging to have a private life. It’s been very hard for me to have any sort of privacy in life. I get that it’s a balance you have to try and create but it’s very hard.”
Sir John Mills
A wiry, former song-and-dance man, John Mills would become one of the most significant of all British film stars, and in his nearly 60-year career appeared in well over a hundred films, as well as substantial theatre and TV performances.
One of life’s true gentlemen, the many testimonies of individuals fortunate enough to have met him bare testimony to his humility, and self effacing demeanour.
Blessed with a professionally rewarding and much fulfilled private life, Mills was one of life’s fortunate individuals and had the good sense to recognise it.
Helen Mirren married American director Taylor Hackford,(her partner since 1986) on 31 December 1997, his 53rd birthday. By her own admission, marriage had never previously figured amongst her personal ambitions. On page 242 of her autobiography ‘In the Frame’, she writes about past male relationships and why she did not marry any of them:
‘I don’t mean to be flippant, but I think a part of that was that I did not need to wear the dress. Maybe a lot of women get married because they are longing to wear that big white dress and the beautiful tiara, look lovely and get their makeup done. They crave to be the centre of attraction for a day at least.
I had the opportunity to experience all that by being an actress. I had beautiful dresses handmade for me, make-up done on me, people looking at me and so forth as a part of my profession. So that particular reason for getting married was not pertinent. I was also happy not to be particularly responsible to anyone or for anyone except my work and myself’.
He was admired, even feared in some quarters, but he was never a beloved character. The day after Robert Mitchum succumbed to lung cancer, the actor James Stewart died, diverting all the press attention that was gearing up for him. So it had been for much of his career, a lack of respect for authority perhaps, and certainly an imposing physical presence, he was never good ‘ol Bob, not the sort of person to accord over familiarity with.
In 1958 he produced ‘Thunder Road’, writing the story and the anthemic rock ’n’ roll title song. For the high-speed saga of bootleg liquor-smuggling down South, Mitchum wanted no less than Elvis Presley to play his younger brother and so the pair met, Presley bringing along his ‘Memphis Mafia,’ Mitchum arriving with a bottle of scotch. “Here’s the fuckin’ script,” he said. “Let’s get together and do it.” Elvis replied that he couldn’t do the picture without manager Colonel Tom Parker’s permission. “Fuck the Colonel. I’m talking to you!” bellowed Mitchum.
There are so many obvious images of Marilyn Monroe as a glamour pin up girl and Hollywood sex symbol that I instantly rejected them all, opting instead to capture Norma Jean Baker, her alter ego and the young woman for whom life’s early experiences would indelibly affect her emotional stability.
She is often described as one of the most beautiful women of all time, ardently pursued by many men, yet the one enduring love affair of her life remained the relationship she enjoyed with the camera, a medium that fully recognised and appreciated the meticulous calculation that went into creating her “natural beauty.” A size twelve with less than yard long legs, a bump on her nose, a widow’s peak that proved difficult to dye and less than plumpish lips, turning into Marilyn was a four hour labour of love that could run adrift at anytime, necessitating a complete restart of the process, but it was worth it as she well knew. Once ready, it only took a flick of her internal switch to light up any room with a luminosity that has endured for more than fifty years since her untimely death.
Marilyn Monroe exhibited a rare genius. Publicists marvelled at her ability to generate publicity; makeup artists saluted her skill at their craft; photographers rated her one of the greatest models of their age. She studied with top acting, singing and movement teachers to create her era’s greatest dumb-blonde clown. Voluptuous and soft-voiced, the Marilyn we know exemplified 1950s femininity. Yet she mocked it with her wiggling walk, jiggling breasts, and puckered mouth. Most of all – and this is what intrigues me as an artist – she could tone her blonde bombshell image down, project sadness in her eyes, and, like all great clowns, play her figure on the edge between comedy and tragedy. This ability alone, will forever mark her apart from pretenders to her crown.
Like most children of the 60’s I first became aware of Roger Moore in his role as Simon Templar, the Saint, the fictional hero of the novels written by Leslie Charteris.
Perhaps more than even his dashing debonair ways, his impeccable looks and his on screen insouciance, I was attracted to his comedic skills and in particular his way of imbuing the phrase “but darling….” with such a wonderful ring of insincerity.
Here’s Kenneth More, looking rather pensive, as well he might, on the run from the authorities in the 1959 Rank remake of “The 39 Steps”.
The movie is rightly regarded as a rather shallow reinvention of Hitchcock’s 1935 original, and whilst More’s affability and leisurely demeanor do little to ramp up the tension, the film still has an undeniable charm. Shot in colour, director Ralph Thomas makes effective use of the location shoot in Scotland to convey the sheer expansiveness of a genuine man hunt. Undeniably the most popular star of his day at the British box office – his portrayal of Douglas Bader in “Reach for the sky” a distinct career defining moment – More’s affability and bulldog breed persona would ensure another major hit for producer Betty Box.
As the 60’s dawned, changing trends in public taste would reduce the actor’s status to celluloid anachronism, yet displaying considerable foresight, More would reinvigorate his international reputation with “The Forsyte Saga”, the landmark 1967 BBC Tv series which would receive worldwide syndication and laudatory reviews.
It is often said that ‘a light which burns twice as bright burns half as long.’ This adage has perhaps, never applied more than to the freckled faced, green eyed beauty Janet Munro, an actress best known for her starring roles in such Disney classic movies as, ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People,’ ‘Third Man On the Mountain’ and ‘Swiss Family Robinson.’
Her dramatic roles included ‘Bitter Harvest,’ and a truly outstanding performance in ‘Life For Ruth,’ a role which won her a nomination for Best British Actress in the 1962 BAFTA (British Academy Awards).
Sadly her greatest drama would be played out in a private life beset with health problems, two failed marriages and alcoholism. She would die from a heart attack caused by chronic ischaemic heart disease at Whittington Hospital, North London in 1972, aged just 38 years old. Today, she is a largely forgotten star of British cinema, but perhaps I can do ‘my little bit’ to redress the balance.
OMEGA has produced some of the most famous and iconic watches throughout its 120 year history. In that time, its renowned timepieces have been to the moon and back with Apollo astronauts, as well as adorning the wrists of kings, queens, presidents, explorers and visionaries.
The italian actress Caterina Murino is an Omega ambassador. Not only is she seen in public with top of the range Omega’s, but she also wears them on-screen, for example in the 007-movie ‘Casino Royale,’ and the mini-series ‘Zen.’ When she’s not busy filming, the tri-lingual beauty can be found opening new Omega boutiques around the world. Naturally, as you would expect, she’s never late for an appointment!
Widely touted as the natural cinematic successor to Sean Connery in the late 80\‘s, Liam Neeson\‘s career would nonetheless take unexpected and less mainstream twists, before culminating in his work with Stephen Speilberg on “Schindler’s list” (1993).
His reinvention, as a Charles Bronson-esque vigillante for the millenium, was therefore a hitherto unforseen direction; a knee jerk reaction perhaps, to the tragic loss of his wife under the most bizarre of circumstances.
2009’s ‘Taken’ was a career rebirth that would give him a coherent persona, after decades of industriousness with no clear through line. The actor believed the film would end up going straight to DVD, and initial preview screenings would indeed trend toward incredulous giggles. Nevertheless, an unexpected hit, with box office receipts topping $225 million worldwide, it proved to be a catalyst for more of the same.
Commercially he’s on a roll – let’s hope there’s some thespian credibility left over when the commercial juggernault grinds to a halt.
Donald Mills Pearce travelled to Venice, Spain, Denmark, France, Portugal and Bombay as a merchant marine. Having missed out on combat duty as an infantry soldier for being under age he now encountered a post-war Europe with a thriving black market and at eighteen years of age became involved in counterfeiting American money. He attempted to pass some counterfeit bills to a police officer in Marseilles, and was arrested, tried, and sent to prison. Assigned to a work detail outside the prison grounds, Pearce escaped, making his way to the Italian border. The French officials had taken his seaman’s papers, so he forged new ones and signed on a ship to Canada. He crossed from Canada into the United States, where he began a new career—burglary.
He became a safecracker, and in 1949, at the age of twenty, was arrested for burglary necessitating a two year period of penal servitude in the Florida Department of Corrections chain gangs. Reflecting later on this experience, he published his first novel, Cool Hand Luke in 1965, and subsequently went on to write the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for the 1967 film version which starred Paul Newman in one of the defining roles of his illustrious career…
He’s been criticised for sometimes overplaying himself – the louche and roguishly charming predator in his private life – effortlessly transferred to the big screen. Yes, he’s been guilty of sleepwalking through various roles, yet Nicholson’s 12 Oscar nominations make him the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy Awards.
He has twice won the Academy Award for Best Actor, for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and for ‘As Good as It Gets’. He also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the 1983 film ‘Terms of Endearment’.
Sadly, there are rumours afoot, hotly denied by his closest friends, that the 76 year old is struggling to learn his lines. Perish the thought therefore, that Nicholson, the original ‘Jack the Lad’, could be found wandering inconsolably through Beverley Hills, in anticipation of the warm welcome awaiting him back home from a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, yet unable to recall where he lives.
In his early 60’s, Bill Nighy is contemplating a future living alone. An ascetic, his home is populated mainly with books and clothes but little else. Living in Soho is not, however, without its problems. Apparently, he cannot contemplate the rest of his life without a dog for companionship. A move to the country may therefore become a necessity.
In 2008, he split from the actress Diana Quick after a 27 year relationship. Rarely one for the nightlife, he professes to be ‘happy on my own’ yet according to the playwright Sir David Hare, it hasn’t always been quiet introspection for the actor – ‘There’s been a lot of rampaging around’.
David Niven appeared on “Parkinson” in 1981 to renew a professional relationship with the popular journalist and interviewer that had commenced nine years earlier with his first appearance on the top rated BBC Tv chat show. When he returned to his hotel after taping the interview, he was greeted by more than twenty messages from friends aghast at his seemingly inebriated state, a perfectly logical presumption in view of his slurred speech. Yet the actor never drank before a show, so concerned was he about suffering a stroke on prime time television.
A year later and diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as motor neurone disease, Niven would have given anything to attribute his condition that night in 1981 to “the sauce;” a more debilitating illness for such a wonderful raconteur seemingly unimaginable. As ever, he dealt with this blow the way he had dealt with previous setbacks in life. When asked why he seemed so incredibly cheerful all the time he was wont to say: “Well, old bean, life is really so bloody awful that I feel it’s my absolute duty to be chirpy and try and make everybody else happy too.”
The detective turned private eye turns nonchalantly from the bar, to observe the strikingly attired woman dining with her husband. As he watches her, he is overcome with a vision of erotic mystique, as some powerful hidden force renders him almost incapable of diverting his gaze back to the half empty glass in front of him. Eventually the couple finish their meal and as they depart the restaurant, the woman serenely floats by like a tableau vivant, slow and stately in her black evening gown and green cape. She pauses in front of him, in voluptuous Olympian profile, with a luminosity that matches every contour of her beautiful face. The man is transfixed and this unusual assignment will draw him into a primal, elemental drama in love and sex.
The film is “Vertigo” and the woman who will overwhelm James Stewart’s sensibilities is Kim Novak.
As a teenager, Peter O’Toole scribbled a pledge in his notebook: ‘I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony’.
A natural eccentric, the actor’s legendary love of drinking only accentuated his off-beat behaviour, leaving the world agog at his escapades when fame threw a spotlight on them.
He appeared in many acclaimed films, but is best remembered for his lead role in David Lean’s 1962 blockbuster “Lawrence of Arabia” in which he played T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British army officer who fought with Arab irregular troops against Ottoman Turkish rule in World War One.
Soon after he died on December 14, 2013, O’Toole’s daughter Kate said the family had been overwhelmed “by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us”. Many admirers expressed the hope that he would ‘rest in peace.’
They had to be joking!
Laurence Olivier is generally considered to have been one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. No less an authority than Spencer Tracey once stated that Olivier was “the greatest actor in the English-speaking world”, and twelve Oscar nominations, with two awards (Best Actor and Best Picture for the 1948 film ‘Hamlet’), two honorary awards including a statuette and certificate, five Emmys, and three Golden Globes and BAFTAs, testify to this assertion. The youngest actor to be knighted as a Knight Bachelor, in 1947, and the first to be elevated to the peerage two decades later, he was the founding artistic director of the National Theatre Company in 1963, a post in which he remained for a decade, and had earlier filled the same post at the Old Vic after the Second World War.
Naturally, I am very familiar with much of his screen work and yet – just as with Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing – whilst I can technically appreciate both men’s virtuosity, I never come close to habitually luxuriating in their legacy. In my efforts to write as objectively as possible, it is clearly time once again, for me to tread carefully.
Based on the true story of two jailed criminals who took up gardening as part of their rehabilitation, and eventually went on to compete at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the film ‘Greenfingers’ stars Clive Owen as a prisoner nearing the end of his sentence for the murder of his brother.
Transferred to Edgefield open prison in preparation for his release, his mind is opened to the wonders of horticulture by cellmate Fergus Wilks (David Kelly – best known as the Irish rogue builder O’Reilly in ‘Fawlty Towers’), who tends lovingly to his pot plant and peppers his speech with proverbs, advising Colin to, “make friends with your misfortunes or you’ll always be angry.”
It’s a much maligned film, and Owen’s performance attracted some criticism for excessive understatement, yet despite my undiluted indifference towards gardening – apart from occasions when I amuse my wife with a single minded focus on weeding – I just love the story. My God, the things one can admit to with a self build website!!
There was something about Al Pacino’s performance in ‘Serpico’ that resonated within me; a sense of world weariness yet incorruptible consistency in the face of a failing police system. My father had lent me the book by Peter Maas, newly reissued to tie in with the film of the same name. Directed by Sidney Lumet, a stalwart of such classics as ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and ‘The Hill,’ and with a leading man already making waves after his appearance in ‘The Godfather,’ the movie couldn’t fail to deliver.
Nominated for a best actor Oscar, one of seven citations to date, Al was on a roll yet the coveted statuette would elude him for another nineteen years.
For many British cinemagoers of a certain age, their earliest recollection of the italian actress Luzianna Paluzzi will be her appearance in ‘Sea Fury’ (1958) opposite Stanley Baker. I saw the film many years later, and was impressed with her assured performance as the young woman whose father is intent on marrying off to a middle aged sea captain. Fate intervenes when the wandering Baker comes on the scene, and love eventually finds its true course. Her command of the english language was clearly commendable, and a cinematic career would stretch through until 1980 when she married for the second time; a union that endures this day.
Now 77, she is best remembered as the assassin Fiona Volpe, in the Bond film ‘Thunderball’ (1965), a praying female mantis happy to devour her victims sexually, before despatching them with either a gun or rocket fueled motorbike.
There he is on screen – that authority figure of quiet dignity and uncompromising single-mindedness – who beguiled cinema audiences in their droves for more than two decades.
Then there was the darker side to his film persona, a man fatalistically possessed by hidden demons that push him toward the brink of madness and murder, culminating in his performance as Dr. Joseph Mengele in “The Boys of Brazil” (1978), a late career volte- face that shook critics to the core and alienated his admirers in equal measure.
One of the postwar era’s most successful actors, Gregory Peck was long the moral conscience of the silver screen; his performances embodying, almost without exception, the virtues of strength, conviction, and intelligence, so highly valued by American audiences.
George Peppard Byrne, Jr. October 1, 1928 – May 8, 1994) was an American film and television actor.
He secured a major role when he starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), portrayed a character based on Howard Hughes in The Carpetbaggers (1964), and played the title role of the millionaire sleuth Thomas Banacek in the early-1970s television series Banacek. I remember the series well containing as it did, some innovative story lines for its day.
I recall Maria Perschy with wistful nostalgia for some earliest times spent at the local cinema with my parents in the 60’s. There she was, an already established film star in Germany,France and Italy, now making her mark in Hollywood under the stewardship of veteran director Howard Hawks. She would appear in a number of American films, most notably the 1962 biopic ‘Freud’ and the 1964 Rock Hudson comedy, ‘Man’s Favorite Sport?’ Her route to the American Market had also involved a stint in British films; indeed the first time I ever saw her was in ‘633 Squadron.’
How sad therefore, whilst researching her career, to discover that cancer had claimed the Austrian beauty in 2004 at the age of sixty six. Not everything it seems, about my website, is a pleasurable experience.
Molly Peters was a gorgeous and voluptuous British blonde bombshell actress and model who alas only appeared in a handful of films and TV shows during her regrettably fleeting acting career in the mid 60s.
Born in Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk, England in either 1939 or 1942, Peters started out as a glamour model and among the men’s magazines she graced the covers of and/or posed in pictorials for were “Playboy,” “Modern Man,” “Calvalcade,” “Beau,” “Ace,” “Parade,” “Best for Men,” “Dapper,” and “Escapade.” By today’s standards, these photographic sessions were tame personified.
Molly would achieve her greatest enduring cult cinema popularity with her memorably sensuous portrayal of Patricia Fearing, the fetching masseuse who gets seduced by James Bond at the Shrubland health club in “Thunderball.” She was discovered by director Terence Young and has the distinction of being the first Bond girl to be seen taking her clothes off on screen. In the wake of her 007 stint, Peters acted in two more movies and popped up on episodes of the TV shows “Armchair Theatre” and “Baker’s Half-Dozen.” Her acting career would be abruptly cut short after a documented falling out with her agent. A fleeting moment of fame, but an enduring one nonetheless because thanks to constant re-screenings of the films for successive generations, Bond girls truly are forever.
Interviewed in October 2013 by Nisha Lilia Diu, Michelle Pfeiffer was keen to reiterate the motivation behind several of her recent film projects. She had wanted ‘to play with our obsession with youth and the ludicrous degrees to which women will go to reclaim it’.
‘The loss of youth, the loss of beauty – it definitely plays havoc with your psyche’, she was moved to say; ‘There’s this transition from – “Wow, she looks really young for her age” to “She looks great for her age”. And there’s a big difference. I’m now at “She looks great for her age”. Laughing a trifle ruefully, she added: ‘There is certainly a mourning process to that. But you know, it’s kind of liberating. I don’t need to look younger than I am, because it ain’t gonna change anything’.
For an actress of such considerable renown, these concerns will surely prove to be academic. Her career is unlikely to miss a beat.
Personal taste, by its very definition, is an individual characteristic, and unsurprisingly therefore, public opinion about the unquenchable thirst for information about Brad Pitt and his wife Angelina Jolie, is very much divided. For me personally, having viewed Clint Eastwood’s directorial work “The Changeling”, it became evident that Jolie is an actress of some considerable depth. Unfortunately, I’ve never managed to come to any firm opinion about her husband. Jealousy? – not really, since I’ve never failed to comprehend the physical appeal for many women, of certain actors.
So what is it about Brad Pitt? For millions, he defines ‘blandness,’ and yet he has received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and three Academy Award nominations in acting categories, and received two further Academy Award nominations, winning one, for productions of his film production company Plan B Entertainment.
Clearly he is a ‘Hollywood Heavyweight’ so let’s all agree that it’s ‘my problem.’ Better still therefore, to investigate – on that most superficial of levels – why we like certain stars whilst remaining unmoved by others.
Ingrid Pitt’s breakthrough came when James Carreras, one of the founders of Hammer Films, cast her in ‘The Vampire Lovers,’ based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla. Pitt, wearing low-cut, transparent gowns, played Mircalla Karnstein, a 200-year-old lesbian vampire who seduces her female victims before sucking their blood.
Although Pitt had a series of other roles in film and on television, it was her 1970s vampire films which drew a cult following, with fans crowning her ‘England’s first lady of horror.’ Pitt embraced it, writing occasional columns for websites such as ‘Den of Geek’ and making frequent visits to conventions and festivals.
Her most attractive feature – in my view, and there were many – was a wonderful self deprecating demeanour, a trait lacking in so many women.
‘It’s great meeting the fans,’ she once wrote on her fansite, ‘Pitt of Horror.’
‘They tell me that I am more beautiful now than when I was making films a quarter of a century ago. All lies, of course, but sweet.’
An ‘Indian summer’ is a heat wave that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of considerably above-normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost. The term is also widely used in a human context, to signify a period of great happiness or success that occurs late in a person’s life or career.
Never more could this definition apply, than to the career of Christopher Plummer. Having bagged a clutch of awards – two Emmys, a brace of Tonys, a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a BAFTA Award, the man known to millions for his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp in ‘The Sound of Music’ would become, at the age of 82, the oldest actor ever to win an Academy Award in 2012, for his supporting role in ‘Beginners.’ It’s been one hell of a career, and richly deserved.
The white chief of police and the black homicide investigator begin questioning the wealthy plantation owner about the recent death of a wealthy business entrepreneur from Chicago who was planning to build a factory in Sparta, Mississippi. Mr Endicott, who represents the very worst in a perceived white Anglo Saxon Protestant supremacy that has bedevilled the southern US states for decades, is initially cordial towards the coloured officer and noting his obvious interest in horticulture, asks Virgil Tibbs, the man he has just been introduced to, whether he has a favourite flower. Tibbs confesses a partiality towards epiphytics whereupon Endicott eulogises on the correlation between this type of orchid and the negro race since both require care, feeding and cultivating. As the conversation progresses, Endicott realises that he is a suspect and slaps Tibbs whereupon the officer slaps him back. “There was a time” the clearly agitated host confirms, “when I could have had you shot.”
The scene is from “In the heat of the night,” a full three years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and one of the first times in any major motion picture where a black man has reacted to provocation from a white man in such a way. There is some uncertainty about the origins of the scene; whether it existed in first draft form or whether it was included at the insistence of the forty year old actor portraying the homicide expert. Either way, it was symbolic of Sidney Poitier’s lifelong involvement in black activism, a role he would be ultimately recognised for on August 12, 2009, when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama. Surpassing even the heights he had scaled as an Oscar winning actor, the award symbolised his lifelong campaign for racial harmony, in essence his cri de coeur.
Daniel Radcliffe has enjoyed his fair share of the limelight since the \‘Harry Potter\’ franchise turned him into a movie star. But it seems the actor has little sympathy for celebrities who post updates on the internet and then complain about constant intrusions into their privacy.
Hitting out at stars who write about their personal lives on Twitter and Facebook, his comments have found support from other quarters including Sir Elton John, who is said to hate celebrity culture and is sick of seeing stars tweeting and posting updates on Facebook.
Radcliffe has gone on record as saying that he tries hard to avoid the limelight. Interviewed on Sky News he was unapologetic about his views, making it perfectly clear, that in his opinion: ‘There’s certain things you can do to make it a lot easier on yourself\’.
During the heyday of Hollywood’s swashbuckling epics, the genius behind the few truly memorable fencing duels was not a director like Michael Curtiz, Maurice Tourneur or Rouben Mamoulian, or stars like Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power – it was Fred Cavens.
In ‘The Mark of Zorro,’ the combination of Mamoulian’s taut direction and the choreography of father & son Cavenses fooled more than a few viewers into believing Tyrone Power could expertly duel. Thankfully, they had no need to tutor the leading man’s co-star for the actor with the rawboned, knife sharp visage and physique had been studying fencing from the age of eighteen; indeed, he might have been a world-class champion had he been sufficiently interested in tournaments. He fought his own duels & the only unrealistic aspect to them was that in film after film, he failed to kill the hero. Agile and adept with all three primary weapons, foil, sabre and épée, the South African born British actor had no need to call upon his penchant for disguise. Watching from the sidelines as the cameras rolled, Fred Cavens was in no doubt that Basil Rathbone was an expert swordsman.
In the fall of 2013, Robert Redford was once again newsworthy, garnering rave reviews for his latest film project whilst being formerly acknowledged at a $200-a-plate gala for his unstinting work on behalf of the State of Utah.
As owner of the Sundance resort and steward of the land around it, as founder of the Sundance Institute, as head of the Sundance Film Festival that draws thousands of visitors to Utah every year, and for filming some of his best-known movies there— including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Jeremiah Johnson” and “The Electric Horseman” — he has spent half his life promoting the State.
At the age of 77, the actor remained as uncomfortable as ever with laudatories, admitting that they ‘make me shy’. An environmentally and socially conscious individual, Redford was never cut from traditional Hollywood cloth, preferring instead to make his mark on Tinseltown from afar.
There’s no doubting that this boy’s ‘hot’ at the moment, but having just won an Oscar for his moving portrayal of one of the world’s most famous men, Eddie Redmayne in now literally switching roles playing a woman, the.transgender pioneer Einar Wegener – later known as Lili Elbe – in “The Danish Girl.”
The movie, set in the 1920s, is a love story about how Wegener, a painter, was persuaded by his wife Gerda Waud (played by Alicia Vikander) – who was also an artist – to pose for her in women’s clothes, after one of her models failed to show. In time, he became Lili and started on the transformation into a woman.
If it’s true that a soccer team is at its most vulnerable just after scoring, then Redmayne could be on the road to sheer folly. Only time will tell.
Despite her Supporting Actor Oscar winning performance in “From Here to Eternity” (1953), Donna Reed will no doubt be remembered for generations to come, as Mary Hatch, the dutiful wife of James Stewart’s beleaguered small-town hero in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). The most widely loved Christmas movie of them all, she was not even first choice for the role.
Reed would be loaned from MGM to RKO Radio Pictures, and whilst the movie would not be an immediate success, it would ultimately attain cult status with the lapse of its copyright and repeat TV broadcasts.
In an era where rather vacuous celebrities do the obligatory round of chat shows in order to promote some new product, it’s good to be reminded of stars who could be both interesting and engaging.
Oliver Reed’s appearance on “The Parkinson Show” in the early 70’s is just one example, and if some of his latter day drunken rampages were embarrassing, I was always able to laugh with him. He brought uncertainty to the cosy televisual world of solid family entertainment, and once admitted that his greatest regret was having insufficient time to drink every pub in the world dry, and to screw every female that walked.
He was surely jesting to some degree but then again, for a man who once famously downed 106 pints of beer over a the course of a two day marathon binge, everything and everyone must have looked attractive!
One can only speculate on the immense contribution to 70’s brewery industry profits that Ollie and his mate Keith (‘the Loon’) Moon, made during their innumerable nights on the tiles. Just thinking about the pair makes me laugh.
Keanu Reeves has been the subject of media scrutiny in 2014, being photographed on several occasions sitting on a bench outside his New York hotel with a drink and cigarette.
The 49-year-old seemingly enjoys his own company, but for the past few years his tendency to be photographed looking lonely has built something of a reputation. ‘Sad Keanu’ quickly became an internet meme following pictures which range from him eating a sandwich on a park bench, to celebrating his birthday alone with a cupcake.The campaign gathered so much steam that representatives for the actor felt compelled to speak out to reassure fans about his well-being.
Perhaps a matter of some disinterest, but a subject with great potential if we are to consider the central theme of solitude and its varying effect on people.
Dear God, if I ever needed reminding just how fickle fame can be, then the recent passing of Burt Reynolds was a timely reminder. How could I explain to anyone under the age of forty how huge a film star he truly was in the 70’s? Watching a re-run of his Piers Morgan interview, you couldn’t help but feel for a man who had –by his own admission – emotionally hurt the greatest love of his life. He hadn’t repaired the relationship, he hadn’t atoned for his behaviour and mistakes, and they hadn’t made up. The sadness was etched all over his face. That’s “heavy duty” in anyone’s book.
There were professional regrets as well. Over the years, he had turned down a lot of roles that would wind up becoming iconic characters. In an interview with Business Insider, he recalled how he could have played the first American James Bond, but felt – quite wisely – that 007 was a role only an Englishman could play. Before Harrison Ford took a break from carpentry to play Han Solo, Reynolds was allegedly offered the role in “Star Wars.” But for some reason, the actor just didn’t connect with the part. “Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it,” Reynolds said.
The pivotal mistake in his late forties– and therefore at a time when he needed to reconnect with more serious roles – was “Terms of Endearment.“ James L. Brooks wrote the lead male character especially for Reynolds, but the star said no, as he’d already committed to playing in “Stroker Ace.” While all these choices didn’t affect his career at the time (Reynolds did just fine in the ’70s without Bond or Solo), overall they hurt his legacy. He could have been an Oscar-winner or part of one of the most popular franchises of all-time. Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, and Harrison Ford were all taken seriously in a way that Reynolds never was. Perhaps if he’d said “yes “a little more, things might have been totally different.
I loved Hans Gruber. There’s something about a villain you want arrested but not killed; after all, if he ends up on the slab, he’s not going to end up in the sequel.
“I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane – and since I’m moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.” It’s a beautifully crafted rebuke ; after all, it was every viewer’s mistake to presume some loftier aim behind the Nakatomi Plaza heist. Perhaps it was the German accents that got us all on the wrong track, yet as Hans would have been the first to exclaim – “What’s wrong with stealing a stackload of money?”
It was Alan Rickman’s first screen appearance after a long apprenticeship in the theatre. Endlessly quotable, Gruber’s mind is as sharp as his suit and neat goatee – and the biggest testimony to Rickman’s charismatic performance is that part of you wants him to get away with it.
It’s a joy to behold his finest hour; that moment when, after hours of hard work, the Nakatomi vault opens, and Gruber is bathed in heavenly light as the fruits of his labour appear. Sadly, two hours later, he’s sidewalk squelch, and we’re all consigned to those ever more preposterous ‘Die Hard’ sequels.
June Ritchie is not a name that will be familiar with the millennium cinema going generation, yet for those of a certain age, she is fondly remembered for a handful of notable 60’s kitchen sink dramas, several high profile television guest starring roles and a number of notable theatrical appearances.
Born in Manchester, England, in 1938. Ritchie trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, where she later became an Associate Member. She started off her acting career with the Stretford Childrens Theatre in Manchester, before landing her first major film role in the kitchen sink drama “A Kind of Loving” (1962, John Schlesinger). Shot in the fall of 1961 and released the following year after being given an X certificate by the British Board of Film Censors, this ‘well-wrought romance’ situated in the industrial area of Lancashire, retains a period charm whilst reflecting formative attitudes towards love and sex.
Within two years, she had made two films with Ian Hendry – “Live Now Pay Later” (1962) and “This is my street” (1964), and appeared opposite Sylvia Syms as a prostitute in the dour drama “The World Ten Times Over” (1963). She then married, devoting time to her husband whilst forsaking commitment to a full time career. She would nevertheless, continue working for the next twenty five years before retiring from screen work in the late 80’s. During this period, she also starred in the 1975 Thames TV musical special “Soap Opera,” along with Ray Davies of the Kinks, who wrote the songs for the programme.
In the last few years, her professional engagements have been largely focused on British radio plays.
Edward G. Robinson
A mesmerising screen presence, Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) may have lacked the physical stature and good looks of a leading man, but he more than compensated with the passion and authority of his acting. Forever identified with the snarling gangster of ‘Little Caesar’ (1931), in real life he was a man embued with great kindness, generosity, civiity, and a passionate love of fine art.
In any professional meritocracy there are winners and losers, but occasionally an industry leading light is consistently overlooked. Robinson was never once nominated for an academy award – an oversight that beggars belief – yet with hindsight, he is now rightly considered one of the greatest actors of te 20th century.
If you are unfamiliar with his body of work, then give today’s mindless CGI epics a well deserved rest, and discover his oeuvre. Even the minor entries in his cinematic cannon are emblematic of acting at its finest.
Despite her exotic looks and French name, Yvonne Romain is a born and bred Londoner.
Fondly remembered by fans of the Hammer horror series of the 50’s and 60’s, she has been married to the Oscar winning composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse since 1958. A near sixty year marriage in Tinseltown is a rarity in itself, and some explanation can be found in her decision to turn down a seven year contract with the director Frederico Fellini, as it would have meant spending considerable time in Rome away from her Hollywood based husband and little son. Once based in the US, she gradually moved away from the film business.
She starred opposite Sean Connery in two of his pre-007 movies, and her stunning 38-22-36 figure would have made her an ideal Bond girl. As it was, she would move onto star with Oliver Reed as his mother in ‘Curse of the Werewolf,’ his fiancée in ‘Captain Clegg,’ before sharing her third and final screen appearance with him in her last Hammer outing ‘The Brigand of Kandahar.’
Today, at 77, she can be occasionally seen at Film memorabilia fairs, in addition to supporting her husband at his various musical events.
Finely attuned to changing times and trends, Renee Russo has given up firstly, – on a high profile modelling career, secondly, – a peak commercial period as a leading actress and now, after a six year hiatus from Hollywood, is comfortably embarking on a third phase, – starring as maternal-like figures in several high profile movies.
Now sixty, she either possesses inherently good genes, or remains more fixated on preserving her looks than she’ll ever publicly admit. Either way, it’s all of little importance. She’s working when she wants, handling the daily demands of sustaining an ostensibly stable marriage, and providing motherly guidance to her twenty year old daughter – much therefore, to be appreciative of…
Eve Marie Saint
Eve Marie Saint is still acting in her 90th year!
Here she is at 34 during the shooting of ‘North by Northwest’ (1959) – Hitchcock’s commercial zenith, until his entrée into the horror genre with ‘Psycho’ the following year.
Saint has confessed an envy for the respect and movie roles accorded veteran British actresses Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, whilst lamenting ageism in American cinema..
“We don’t have quite that attitude in Hollywood,” she said in a recent interview, whilst sidestepping the familiar industry practice of fudging one’s birthdate.
“You reach a certain age and you’re so proud that you’re walking and breathing, and loving and working and all of that at 90,” she said. Amen to that.
Susan Sarandon has enjoyed a long career in Hollywood, in an industry that places great emphasis on beauty and youthful appearance. Now aged 67, the Oscar winner has lived through the experience of aging in Hollywood and says that she’s gained several insights from her decades in the business.
Ageing, Sarandon says, is a large reason why older women have trouble finding work in Hollywood, perhaps more so than any other reason. “You’re so punished in this business. When people say, ‘Do you think you’ve lost work because of your politics?’ I say, ‘No, You lose work because you get old and fat!’” “That’s when they write you off in Hollywood.”
Some plain speaking here – not so sure though whether dating a man more than thirty years her junior is quite the direction to take. Still, we’re all owed one moment of madness in our lives – unfortunately in Tinseltown, it’s more akin to a permanent religious calling.
Where does one start a commentary with a man like Peter Sellers? By all accounts he loved, entertained, mystified, baffled and emotionally tortured several key persons in his lifetime. He literally died thirteen times when he was 38, fantasised to a point where his wildest dreams seemingly became reality, was a manic depressive, and sought solace in astrology as a means to understanding his life.
Amanda Seyfried is an American actress best known for her roles in “Mean Girls” and “Mamma Mia!”
A keen interest in taxidermy also sets her apart from other Hollywood starlets. Seyfried has revealed that, “When taxidermy is done well, it’s an amazing piece of art. I love animals and they’re very easy to look after when they’re dead. I have a horse, a miniature horse, it’s a baby.”
Her love life is now coming under press scrutiny. Journalists beware – they may find themselves on her mantlepiece in the afterlife!!!
It’s the cinematic entrance actors can only dream about. Appearing out of a desert mirage, his slow three minute entrance is one of the times when the film best takes advantage of its long running time.
Inching ever closer towards Lawrence and his Bedouin guide, director David Lean creates visual ambiguity and genuine tension from a drawn out entrance as this man, covered nearly head to toe in black, comes into focus astride a camel. Friend or foe? The central question is answered when he pulls out a gun and kills Lawrence’s guide. Explaining that the man was drinking water from a well without permission, we begin to understand his character, and the complexities of a conflict that Laurence will struggle to comprehend.
The film is “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), and this scene would create movie history making an international star out of the Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.
It’s the merest of ice cold sneers, a near contemptuous air of superiority as the assassin looks down briefly at his silencer and then back at his impending victim.
“The first one won’t kill you; not the second, not even the third… not till you crawl over here and you KISS MY FOOT!”
The dialogue is chillingly delivered by the steely blued eyed actor and the agent on his knees (played by Sean Connery), looks desperate, his options disappearing by the second. This scene from the second 007 epic, a moment anticipated by cinemagoers throughout the preceding ninety minutes, turned the enigmatic Robert Shaw into a genuine bona fide star.
Jean Simmons was an authentic beauty even in the age of Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. Rather more understated than her rivals, she had an early monopoly on every quixotic female role going, yet grew in stature after she moved to America to become a valued actress. Her generally proper, if not patrician, manner had an intriguing way of conflicting with her large eyes, those dark and inviting limpid pools that complemented a mouth that turned up at the corners as the devil in her took hold.
She was a huge star and yet she had commercially peaked by her mid twenties. Thereafter, there would be the occasional reminder of what might have been – her role in “Home before dark” (1958) as a woman having a nervous breakdown, and then as the 60’s petered out, her performance in ‘The Happy Ending’(1969), which secured for her a second oscar nomination as a woman reflecting on a lifelong unhappy marriage. An escalating drink problem blighted her latter day career but she recovered well and contributed some worthy, if largely overlooked, performances in major television productions. It just could have all been so very different.
Dame Maggie Smith
She has the workload of a woman half her age, and by her own admission, there is little chance of voluntarily slowing down. Work fills a void in her life, and she knows it.
Bereavement in 1998, after years of marriage to the love of her life, playwright Beverley Cross, has left a void that she fills by immersing herself in a role. After several years of widowhood, the veteran star admitted she was still struggling to come to terms with her husband’s death, saying: ‘Everybody says it gets better, but I don’t think it does. It gets different\’. Elaborating further on the subject of loneliness, she added : It seems a bit pointless. Going on one’s own and not having someone to share it with.’ Warming to the theme of aging, she also said she didn’t like it and added:
‘I don’t know who does. Noel Coward- and I don’t mean to name drop, but he said, ”The awful thing about getting old is that you have breakfast every half-hour.” And that’s sort of what it is. I can’t understand why everything has to go so fast\’.
My portrait of the actress Romy Schneider dates from 1968, a period in her life when she was married to the director Harry Meyen, a former half-Jewish intern who had been tortured at the hands of the Gestapo during World War II. Traumatised by his war experiences, the man was a depressive and would later hang himself.
I first became aware of her in several of the English speaking roles she undertook in the 60’s – ‘The Cardinal’, a rather overblown religious epic, and the more commercial ‘What\‘s New Pussycat’ and ‘Triple Cross’. Unfortunately, despite an interest in European cinema forged at an early age by my father’s insistence on watching unknown actors – ‘They appear more believable’ he would repeatedly tell me – I have never had the opportunity to watch much of her oeuvre.
The epitome of french movie sophistication and ‘chic glamour’, there was a fragility to this Austrian born actress that would ultimately prove tragically prescient.
“I’m just an unhappy 42-year-old woman and my name is Romy Schneider,” she would admit in one of her last interviews.
Elke Sommer, the gorgeous Teutonic temptress was one of Hollywood’s most captivating imports of the 1960s. Blonde and beautiful, Berlin-born Sommer, with her trademark pouty lips, high cheekbones and beehive hair extensions, proved irresistible to American audiences, whether adorned in lace, leather, lingerie or her native lederhosen.
As a young man, and to my mind at least, she seemed everywhere in Hollywood – “Don’t bother to knock,” “The Victors,” “The Prize,” “The Money Trap,” – the noir genre’s last gasp – “The Venetian Affair,” “The Oscar,” “Deadlier than the male,” and “Zeppelin,” – a young multi-lingual woman with the impossibly attractive lower lip, she appeared first on any casting director’s short list for big budget movies.
Kevin Spacey loves Blighty. Despite his concerns over knife related crime, the artistic director at the Old Vic Theatre in London has vowed to maintain his home in the UK.
“I love living in London,” says the New Jersey-born Kevin. “I can say with all sincerity that London is my home. I will never renounce being American but there is a part of me that is British now. I may go for dual citizenship – who knows?”
Hope he’s got a good financial adviser, and someone infinitely more competent than those cretins depicted in his film “Margin Call” (2011). It’s required viewing for anyone interested in the 2007-08 Wall Street financial crisis. Check it out.
Jill St John
“Men I like, have two things in common – they are smart and they have power.”
Boasting an IQ of 162 herself, it’s unlikely Jill St. John was joking when she made this statement. Her list of affluent husbands is a long one, and boyfriends even longer. This after all, is the woman who once famously admitted that “the longest period of celibacy for Jill St. John is the shortest distance between two lovers.”
Demonstrating a more romantic edge to her personality, she was also once quoted as saying that “I love the idea of belonging to one man, and having one man belong to me.” Unfortunately, by the time she finally settled down with her fourth husband – the actor Robert Wagner – she was courting press controversy by involving herself with a man whose wife had died under mysterious circumstances. Furthermore, a 2014 US biography of the late Sidney Korshak, known in Hollywood as “the Fixer”, would allege that at the height of secret negotiations to end the Vietnam war in 1972, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state, was sharing the actress’s bed with the aforementioned Hollywood lawyer notorious for his mobster connections. While Kissinger’s relationship with St John was widely reported — to the dismay of President Nixon, who thought his secretary of state received too much publicity for his fondness for beautiful women — only a few Hollywood insiders were aware of her links to Korshak, a man thirty three years her senior.
I suspect the former Bond girl is taking it all in her stride. Hollywood stars are phlegmatic by nature – they know the past ALWAYS catches up with them.
I’ve always admired Terence Stamp as an actor unafraid of playing his age. He is possessed of a modesty that verges on the self-deprecating, even if his hair loss rankles.
Oscar-nominated for his screen debut in Peter Ustinov’s film of Herman Melville’s ‘Billy Budd’ (1962), before becoming one of the defining actors of swinging 60s Britain, Stamp was also associated with some of the most beautiful women of their day, like Jean Shrimpton and Julie Christie.
Roles in Ken Loach’s ‘Poor Cow’ (1967) and John Schlesinger’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1967), earned him critical acclaim, yet sadly, when he finally committed to marriage at the age of 64, he chose a woman 35 years younger than him. Predictably, the union was over after five years, with unreasonable behaviour on his part being cited during the divorce proceedings. It could have been down to mental and physical cruelty, but my money’s on him leaving copies of ‘Readers Digest’ lying around on the lounge carpet.
When leading man roles dried up, he merely adjusted to a career as a character actor rather than a top-billed star, continually seeking out creatively interesting projects – starring as a retired gangster living in Spain in Stephen Frears’s ‘The Hit’ (1984), a transsexual in the Australian road movie, ‘The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ (1994), and, most recently, as an ageing husband coming to terms with his wife’s illness in Paul Andrew Williams’s ‘Song for Marion’ (2012). When he threatened to break Michael Douglas in two in ‘Wall Street,’ there was nothing if not the merest suggestion that, faced with a similar confrontation, you’d take him at his word!
Nobody can accuse Jason Statham of slouching and face to face with the man, few would dare. Since he broke through in 1998 with ‘Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’, Mr Six-Pack has clocked up twenty-four onscreen appearances, concentrating mainly on action movies.
It’s easy to denigrate these mainstream pot boilers, but the cinematic experience has never been confined solely to highbrow art and thought provoking material. Like millions, I’m sometimes too tired to really think, and watching Mr Statham’s preposterous antics always raises a smile. It’s a genre that can be re-invented for every generation and right now, he’s widely acknowledged as the King of his field.
Dolores Jane Umbridge is the ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’ teacher, and Senior Undersecretary to the Minister himself in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She is a short, squat woman described as resembling a large pale toad, with “short, curly, mouse-brown hair.” She speaks with a quiet, childish, high-pitched voice, and loves kittens, chocolate cakes, biscuits, tea and other cute things, decorating her office with related paraphernalia. She has a tendency to speak to people she feels are her lessers in a very condescending tone, as if they are simpletons or very young children.
Played to perfection by the actress Imelda Staunton, it is merely one in a series of acclaimed roles the London born actress has appeared in over the last three decades.
Chief Gillespie may be rascist, but he’s also an intuitive judge of character. Turning to the reluctant negro homicide detective – a man who unbelievably earns a hundred and sixty-two dollars and thirty-nine cents a week – he’s sufficiently pumped up by now, and more than ready to press all of Virgil Tibb’s buttons.
“Just once in my life, I’m gonna own my temper. I’m telling you that you’re gonna stay here. You’re gonna stay here if I have to go inside and call your chief of police and have him remind you of what he told you to do. But I don’t think I have to do that, you see? No, because you’re so damn smart. You’re smarter than any white man. You’re just gonna stay here and show us all. You’ve got such a big head that you could never live with yourself unless you could put us all to shame. You wanna know something, Virgil? I don’t think that you could let an opportunity like that pass by.”
It’s a masterful performance, and Rod Steiger’s portrayal of a bigoted Chief of Police would bring him a much deserved Best Actor Oscar for “In the heat of the night” in 1968.
It is doubtful that many visitors to my site would be familiar with the name Jeanette Sterke, yet the Czech born actress was a familiar face on British television in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. More committed to the theatre and her family than films, her stock could have risen far higher.
In 1963, when she starred as the sympathetic nurse in the Norman Wisdom hit comedy “A Stitch in time” – the highest grossing film in Britain that year – her career potential appeared limitless. Twenty nine, attractive with a hint of vulnerability, she was already a mother of two and married to the actor Keith Michell, best known for his various portrayals of King Henry VIII in film and theatre. In an earlier age, she could have been Britain’s answer to Greer Garson, but the swingin’ 60’s demanded a more assertive type of character, and the opportunity passed her by. Henceforth, film, television and theatrical work would be confined to supporting roles only.
Internet resources on her are threadbare, biographies non- existent; the task therefore of writing about her, challenging to say the least.
I first saw Stella Stevens on the big screen in “The Nutty Professor” (1963) starring opposite Jerry Lewis. I must have been about six years of age, so the movie would probably have been on a theatrical re-run. I was certainly too young to have seen it first time around, but in the pre-video era, certain movies were resurrected for the school holidays. As a young man, my father had seen many of the famous Lewis-Dean Martin comedies before the acrimonious breakup of their partnership. Like all children, I loved Jerry and I didn’t pay much attention to Miss Stevens.
Years later, the BBC re-screened the film by which time I was in my teens. You’d better believe I paid a whole lot more attention to her the second time around. She was, quite simply, very pretty, a ‘real sweetie’.
“I don’t want to get married — ever — to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do.”
Ben Okri, the Nigerian poet and novelist wrote : “We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It’s just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn’t have expected.”
The frustrated character is George Bailey, the film is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the man who played him would define his screen persona in the role. Commenting on his death President Bill Clinton was moved to say that :_ “America lost a national treasure today. Jimmy Stewart was a great actor, a gentleman and a patriot.”_
Personal taste is a curious thing. We form initial impressions about screen stars which remain singularly difficult to displace, so I’ve got to hand it to Meryl Streep. Here’s an actress that I admired so greatly, that I singularly failed to miss any one of her big screen appearances up to and including “Out Of Africa” (1985).
Unfortunately, starting with that overblown epic – a movie redeemed only by composer John Barry’s sweeping score – and with the exception of “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995) and “The River Wild,” (1994), she’s singularly managed to alienate me ever since. We can start with those bloody foreign accents – “I haaad a faaarm in Aaaafreecar,” which somehow she has managed to convince herself she can do, such professional conceit culminating in her Oscar winning portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Readers are advised to check out the 2009 BBC Tv drama “Margaret,” a fictionalisation of the life of Thatcher and her fall from the premiership in the 1990 Tory leadership contest. Starring the wonderful Lindsay Duncan – Christ, one can even conjure indecent thoughts over Lindsay if only she’d put her handbag down for long enough – it’s a majestic performance, now sadly overlooked because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts decided dear Meryl had pulled it off again. For God’s sake, it’s like trying to imagine Edward Fox playing JFK and bagging an Oscar winning performance into the bargain.
Streep apparently demurred when initially offered the role, but was presumably convinced of the project’s merit and her ability to carry it off by her agent, or her well concealed ego, or perhaps by the whole of America. In any event. coming a mere three years after her widely praised vocals in the big screen adaptation of “Mamma Mia,” let’s now all bow down to the woman who renders all other actresses superfluous.
So here’s my portrait of Meryl from the period 1977-84 when she simply captivated me with her brilliance, those heady, long forgotten days before versatility became her buzzword, and she began irritating me beyond belief.
Donald Sutherland has been nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards, winning two for his performances in the television films “Citizen X” (1995) and “Path to War” (2002); the former also earning him a Primetime Emmy Award.
An Inductee of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Canadian Walk of Fame, he also received a Canadian Academy Award for the drama film “Threshold” (1981). He is undoubtedly one of the best actors who have never been nominated for an Academy Award. Oh for sure, Hollywood gave him an Honorary Award in 2017, you know, the one they give out when they realise they’ve messed up over countless decades dishing out that coveted little statue to “one-hit wonders” and underserving egomaniacs. Still, at least someone remembered.
Now 83, and with a continuing work ethic that makes most of us look like real slouchers, retirement is clearly not on his agenda…………………………….
Sylvia Syms celebrated her 80th birthday this year (2014). In the mind’s eye she is still the strikingly beautiful young English rose who became one of the brightest stars of our national cinema in the 1950s. My portrait is from ‘Ice Cold In Alex’ with John Mills, just one of her fondly remembered films in a career that has seen her appear opposite a who’s who of greats from Julie Andrews and Orson Welles to Michael Caine and Helen Mirren.
Youth and beauty pass, (she has suffered from depression and spinal problems that, by her own admission, do not assist in keeping her weight down), but real talent never fades and that’s why Sylvia is still active as a vibrant and versatile character actress.
My portrait of Miss Taylor dates from 1958 when she was filming “Cat on a hot tin roof”. A mere 26, she would be widowed during the shooting schedule when her third husband, the film producer Mike Todd, died in a plane crash.
She was an exquisitely beautiful creature. With typical bluntness, Richard Burton once described her effect on the opposite sex when he said “Elizabeth only has to walk into a room and every man wants to unzip himself and stick it in her”.
Paramount studios invited Rod Taylor to Hollywood from his native Australia in 1956 to ‘have a look at him.’ And look they did, and more than enough for producer Hal Wallis to exclaim “Who is this bum with the broken nose?” The actor responded with a curt ‘stuff it,’ and a period on the beach kicking his heels and catching fish would ensue.
Taylor’s career would ultimately take off as the 60’s kicked in, with his starring role in the big screen adaptation of H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine,” and he would go on to appear in several high profile movies throughout the next dozen or so years. His co-stars included Eizabeth Taylor, James Dean and John Wayne, but ultimately, he will be best remembered for playing second fiddle to flocks of over aggressive birds.
After appearing in a number of films, Charlize Theron starred as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in ‘Monster’ (2003). No less a literary luminary than film critic Roger Ebert would describe it as “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema”.
For this role, Theron would win the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 76th Academy Awards in February 2004
Like millions, I absolutely adored Terry Thomas.
Whilst there could never be a compelling case made for him as a fine actor – he would play the same character time and time again – he was nevertheless an international top drawer. In more than 50 films, many of them comedy classics, he was the quintessentially English cocktail of dandyishness and dastardliness, suitably embellished with the lightest of touches.
To British cinema-goers of the Fifities and Sixties, and across the great pond in America, he was instantly recognisable – that gap-toothed smile, the scruffy moustache like a slug on the upper lip, those inimitable catch-phrases; “You’re an absolute shower,” “Jolly good show,” “Hard cheese,” he had an indefinable air of untrustworthiness about him that was eminently appealing to both sexes.
She was the face of ‘Laura’, the bewitching portrait in oil who captivated the the heart and mind of Dana Andrews in Otto Preminger’s 1944 film noir. Most notably, she was the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland, opposite Cornel Wilde, in the film version of the best-selling novel, ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ by Ben Ames. The scene on the lake where she engineers the death of her husband’s disabled younger brother, is an object lesson in chilling impassivity. The role would secure her an Oscar nomination.
In real life, she was plagued with mental health problems, her 1979 autobiography detailing endless bouts of depression and the occasional lapse into delusion. Doubtfull that she would ever conquer her illness, but steadfast in her refusal to be defeated by it, she wrote at the time:
“Depression is only a temporary thing. I’ve often thought that if people who committed suicide could wake up the next morning they’d ask themselves, ‘Now why in the world did I do that?’”
Richard Todd was an Irish-born British stage and film actor, who served his country during World War II. On 6 June 1944, as a captain, he participated in the British Airborne Operation Tonga during the D-Day landings, and was among the first British officers to land in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. A fitting background therefore, for a man who would go on to portray military heroes in a number of distinguished British films – Wing Commander Guy Gibson in ‘The Dam Busters,’ Major John Howard in ‘The Longest Day,’ and Commander John Kerans in ‘The Yangtse Incident.’
After the war, he would return to the theatre, eventually becoming one of the most popular actors of his day. His private life would be less fortunate – two failed marriages, and the suicides of two sons. His own mother had taken her life when he was nineteen, prompting the notion of some genetic predisposition within the family bloodline. Studies in recent years have dispelled this theory, yet the fact remains that suicides do run in families. Living long enough to see it all unfold – Todd was 90 when he passed away – the actor must have wondered how accountable he was for such unspeakable tragedies.
Known as “The Sweater Girl” because of the tight cardigans that hugged her physique, Lana Turner would become a major star and a beloved pin-up in the 1940’s. She had a B-17 Flying Fortress named after her in World War II, but it was not until 1946, with ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice,’ that she she would be recognised as a real major talent.
Beautiful and ‘dangerous by association,’ her career was waning by the mid 50’s, but before her reinvention as a mature actress in ‘Peyton Place*’ and ‘*Imitation of life,’ her lifelong penchant for unsavoury male partners would bring trouble galore for at least one of her leading men.
By early 1958, 27 year old Sean Connery had acted opposite Turner in ‘Another Time, Another Place,’ been threatened at gun point by her insanely jealous lover, and was now paying the price for disarming and ‘laying him out cold.’ Filming for Disney in Burbank, he was holed up in the San Fernando Valley with a contract allegedly out on his life. Johnny Stompanato, his adversary on that english film set, was by now dead – stabbed to death by Turner’s protective daughter Cheryl – but his mob boss Mickey Cohen, another former lover of the Hollywood actress, remained unconvinced, and was reportedly holding others accountable. One phone call from an associate of Turner’s advising the young scotsman to ‘get outta town,’ had been sound enough advice. Dallying with ‘Hollywood incarnate’ the year before – the pair had become close enough for rumours of an affair to surface – now seemed pure folly. As Connery would realise, some women are truly best left alone.
In 1965, the actor known to millions around the world was concluding work on his Ph.D in political science. Approached by the President of the university, he was asked if he would host Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel when they visited the campus for a speech to students and faculty. As he was escorting Kennedy to the student rally, the enthusiastic crowd suddenly rushed forward and appeared ready to crush the senator’s car. The man carrying the hopes of a generation for the “second coming of Camelot,” turned to the man who regularly saved the world each week on television, and asked the obvious question; “What would Napoleon Solo do in a case like this?”. For one of the few times in his life Robert Vaughn had no obvious answer, but he would have plenty to say in the coming years as a staunch anti-Vietnam campaigner. A man with strong political convictions and diverse literary interests, he was never going to lead a life of constant ‘A’ list celebrity parties and meaningless female dalliances.
According to Wikipedia, Robert Wagner is best known for starring in the television shows ‘It Takes a Thief’ (1968–70), ‘Switch’ (1975–78), and ‘Hart to Hart’ (1979–84). For British viewers of a certain age, one might also add ‘Colditz’ (1972-74). In films however, it says much for a prematurely stalled career that he is now best known for his role as Number Two in the Austin Powers trilogy of films (1997, 1999, 2002). Nevertheless, he has consistently found work in that most insecure of professions, maintaining an enviable reputation as a hard working, punctual, self effacing star.
In his lifetime, he has taken plaudits where due, and shrugged off criticism of his less demanding roles. Unfortunately, what he cannot escape is the suspicion that he murdered his wife in 1981 – a feeling shared by millions. In 2012, the Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner amended Natalie Wood’s death certificate and changed the cause of her death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors”. The document also stated that the circumstances of how Wood ended up in the water were “not clearly established.” The police however, stated that Wagner was not a suspect in the case. Nevertheless, such a statement was unlikely to appease his detractors, and viewed with the benefit of hindsight, he may, on that fateful night, have simply been too sagacious for his own good.
They say there’s a first time for most things in someone’s life. In the case of Denzel Washington, director Antoine Fuqua knew he’d have to pull out some stops to convince the actor to saddle up for “The Magnificent Seven.”
After all, Washington had never done a Western, and there were big shoes to fill: Yul Brynner leading an immortal cast (including Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson) in the original 1960 tale of gunslingers banding together to save a Mexican village from marauding bandits.
It’s fresh acting and directorial challenges that sustain him. The Oscar winner, whose films have grossed more than $2bn (£1.2bn) at the box office, is one of the biggest draws in cinema but has never made a follow up movie. The notion of a ‘franchise commitment’ sits uncomfortably with him. A western in 2016 suggests he’s as unbending as ever.
Emma Watson has been acting in films since she was ten years of age. Now twenty five, she has accomplished more in this short period of time than most do in a lifetime. After being appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, she captivated thousands when she launched her HeForShe campaign with a moving speech on feminism in September 2014. In addition to starring in numerous popular films, the actress graduated from Brown University with a degree in English literature.
As an actress and activist, Watson is redefining what it means to be a celebrity in young Hollywood.
John Wayne was active in Republican elections and never shy about his devout patriotism. In 1975, he was sufficiently invigorated to discuss left wing liberalism:
“…I always thought I was a liberal but I came up terribly surprised when I found I was a right wing conservative extremist…I have always listened to every human being I’ve ever met about how I should feel. But this so-called new liberal group… they never listen to your point of view and they make a decision as to what you think and they’re articulate enough and in control of enough of the press to force that image out for the average person. For some reason, maybe it’s these pictures, they have not been able to do that with me…it hasn’t affected my career in popularity in spite of the fact that they’ve tried to make them do it”.
“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent’s point.
Certain statistics however, do not lie, like Racquel Welch in her prime – all 37-22-35 of her. Inevitably typecast, when the Hollywood actress and sex symbol appeared singing and dancing in two Tv specials “Racquel” (1970), and “Really Racquel” (1974), red blooded males awoke from their visual slumber. It was obvious that there was more to her than met the eye.
Today, she is a successful businesswoman, with a best selling line in wigs and health and fitness DVDs, in addition to her duties as a spokesperson for Foster Grant eyewear. At 74, she also remains anything but your average looking grandmother!
Orson Welles was the archetypal ‘enfant phenomenon,’ a major theatrical star by his early 20’s whose meteoric rise to pre-eminence crystallised on Halloween night 1938, with a live radio production that would scare the living daylights out of his native America.
CBS had been sufficiently impressed with Welles’s turn as Lamont Cranston in ‘The Shadow’ on radio, to offer his Mercury Theatre group of players an hour-long weekly show to do, essentially, whatever the hell took Orson’s fancy. Taking his cue, he would stage a radio play adapted from H.G. Wells’ ‘War Of The Worlds,’ framing the story of an alien invasion so that it sounded like an emergency broadcast interruption of regular programming. There was panic in the streets. with some people contemplating suicide, instead of being brutally murdered by one of those heat-rays reportedly rendering many asunder, as described on the radio.
Falling in line with the impeccibly brilliant life he had led thus far, RKO Pictures gave Orson the best contract ever in Hollywood history – complete artistic control. He could write, direct, cast, edit and star in his movies, without any interference from the studio. With all the genius, talent and great big brass balls he could muster, in his first attempt in a medium he was a total stranger to, Orson Welles cranked out what has been considered by many to be the greatest film ever made – “Citizen Kane.”
Thereafter, as popular legend would have it, the maestro’s career would go into near permanent freefall. I don’t agree and so time therefore, to rewrite history and get a sense of perspective on things.
The actor’s Bible always recommends avoiding movies with children – they’ll steal every scene they’re in.
Distancing himself from this golden rule, Bruce Willis has always interracted well with his younger co-stars – notably in “Mercury Rising” and “The Sixth Sense” – whilst never being overshadowed. Sixty last year, the actor would be wise to ditch the formulaic actioners, and consciously seek scripts with real human interest. He’s really rather good at it.
Perhaps her celluloid ‘coming of age’, Kate Winslett stepped out from the shadows of Joan Crawford to star in Sky Atlantic’s five-part drama, ‘Mildred Pierce’ in 2011.
Fusing sex and cooking into one beguiling mix, the ‘Titanic’ heroine offers male viewers their two primary interests in equal measure, in a production that remains unwaveringly true to James M. Cain’s 1941 novel. Whilst the overall effect is somewhat less satisfying than the 1945 film noir that took shameless liberties with plot, characters and settings, Winslett excels throughout. Largely unfamiliar with her more recent work, and approaching the series with some trepidation, I was nevertheless reassured to see her handle the role with aplomb…
Ray Winstone is facing up to his advancing years with some practicality. Warned by his director that “Noah” was going to be a tough shoot – lots of lifting, not to mention some very heavy rainfall and rough-housing with Russell Crowe – the actor was duly philosophical. “…. I’m 57 years of age, and I’m not in the fittest condition of my life. But I’ve got this thing where I like a bit of pain. I like getting up in the morning feeling bruised and battered. Just as well as it turns out. I’d never met Russell before, but we got on fine, even when we were bashing the granny out of each other – which we did plenty of.”
“Although I loved doing Noah, I got really homesick. When I was 28 or 29 I’d go out drinking or whatever after a day’s shooting, but not anymore. I mean, we had our moments on this. Russell had a beer with us a few times – he’s very social, Russell. But on the whole I’d go back to my apartment after a day being thrown off the Ark and I’d think what I’d really like is a massage or a sauna. Most of the time, though, I didn’t even manage to do that. Most of the time I just lay on the couch and fell fast asleep.”
Don’t be fooled though. It’s still not time to try pushing him around!
In 1981, Norman Wisdom appeared in a British television drama ‘Going Gently,’ as a dying patient in a cancer ward. Stephen Frears’ poignant script would provide the actor with an opportunity for delivering a beautifully measured performance and one that would deservedly scoop a richly deserved BAFTA award. He might have been ‘out of fashion’ for years before his death in 2010, but that never meant I had to listen to uninformed and narrow minded opinions about his status as a film icon.
In a career spanning seventy years, the little man’s physical comedy provided a last link with the music hall era, whilst earning him hero status in Albania. A wonderful crooner and distinctive drummer, he numbered Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth amongst his biggest fans, and was Britain’s biggest box office star throughout the 50’s and early 60’s. In character as Norman Pitkin, the five-foot-two Wisdom was the eternal errand boy, comically resplendent in a tight suit and upturned flat cap. Railing against the injustices of the world, his exhortation “Mr Grimsdale,” was a rallying call to arms for millions of cinemagoers, resolutely supportive of the eternal underdog.
Even as a child actress, Natalie Wood radiated a sense of seriousness and intelligence beyond her years in virtually every performance. In “Tomorrow is forever,” she played the role of a war torn orphan refugee opposite Orson Welles and Claudette Colbert with an authentic german accent. Radiating warmth and grace in every scene, her soft brown eyes reflected every emotion she was conveying on screen, a riveting celluloid presence that belied her tender years, being as she was at the time, a mere eight years of age. Subsequently, she moved into adult roles, a successful transition in part attributable to her innate work ethic, but also the career management of her overbearing mother.
Sadly, she had a perceptible lack of foundation. The late Tom Mankiewicz, the American screenwriter whose credits included several James Bond films, was one of her closest friends. In his opinion, “studio life from an early age had cut Natalie off from so much, and she was eager to make up for it, but I often had the impression that she never knew exactly how to live her life.” By the time of her death, she was keen to avoid becoming bitter and lonely and in order to stay on an even keel, as Mankiewicz saw it; “Natalie needed all her cards, and she was very afraid of losing her beauty card.”
There was always a certain quality in Teresa Wright’s acting that appealed to me. Maybe it was that little worried look, or the unquestioning naivity of her optimism – emotions she could conjure within seconds if the scene demanded it – but above all, she would remain true to herself, and more than able to earn Hollywood stardom on her own unglamorized terms.
Few actresses have had such a meteoric start to their Hollywood careers as the fetchingly, unpretentious actress. She won Oscar nominations for her first three films, a record still unequalled, and five of her first six movies – including ‘The Little Foxes,’ ‘Shadow of a Doubt,’ and ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ – all personal favourites of mine – are acknowledged classics.
Susannah York’s earliest work thankfully survives – a 1959 television production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” opposite a pre-Bond Sean Connery, and her cinematic debut as the daughter of Alec Guinness in the classic war drama, “Tunes of Glory” (1960).
Free-spirited and unreserved, she had no trouble at all courting controversy in some of the film roles she went on to play, gaining special notoriety in the lesbian drama “The Killing of Sister George” (1968). A few years later, she and Elizabeth Taylor traveled similar territory with “X, Y and Zee” (1972). I personally recall seeing her on the big screen at seven years of age as the daughter of Sir Thomas More in “A Man for all Seasons,” and several years later in more mainstream movies like “Battle of Britain” and “Gold”.
She won a BAFTA and secured Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her delusional Jean Harlow-like dance marathon participant in the grueling Depression-era film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”_(1969). Always one to pursue challengingly offbeat roles as opposed to popular mainstream work, several misfires left her clinging to rewarding pay days as Lara, the Man of Steel’s mother in _“Superman” (1978) and its sequel “Superman II” (1980). With very little material to work with in either film, a concurrent career as a fiction writer for children would blossom iin addition to stage directorial work.
Moving into the millennium, she re-engaged with television audiences in two BBC series, “Casualty” and “Holby City.”
At age 67, Susannah showed up once again on film with a delightful cameo role in “The Gigolos” (2006), and seemed ripe for a major comeback, perhaps in a similar vein to the legendary Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren. Sadly, it was not to be. Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, the actress died in January 15, 2011, six days after her 72nd birthday. Her film oeuvre is chequered, but nonetheless worth revisiting, beginning with her first major starring role in “The Greengage Summer.”
Loretta Young, the chiseled-cheeked leading lady, the very embodiment of Hollywood elegance and flawless beauty, appeared in nearly 100 movies made from 1927 to 1953. Amongst them was “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), surely one of the most enduring Christmas films of all time.
Interviewed years after her celluloid retirement, she inadvertently offered an astute insight into relationship problems, in a manner that extended way beyond the superficial world of actors mingling together throughout a three month shoot.
What is it about making a movie together that makes everybody fall in love with each other?
Well, first of all, everybody puts his and her best foot forward. You only want them to see your best looks. You only want to let him see your best humour and your best condition and your best everything. And everybody treats you as if you’re a king or a queen and it seems so normal, perfectly normal. The parts are written that way; you look longingly and she’s in love. I don’t know how these young people do these things today.
Born in Treboeth, a suburb and historical village in the Mynydd-Bach ward of Swansea, Catherine Zeta Jones was brought up in a modest semi-detached home, before moving with her parents to St Andrew’s Close in Mayals.
In 2014, she and her husband, the actor Michael Douglas, purchased an $11 million home in Bedford, Westchester County in an effort to rekindle their marriage. The couple had separated for several months the previous year, after the actress underwent treatment for bipolar disorder whilst Douglas was recovering from treatment for throat cancer.
‘A list’ Hollywood couples are an easy target for the gutter press, and Zeta-Jones opened herself up to all kinds of innuendo when she became involved with the much older Douglas and his family dynasty in 1999. Nevertheless, despite the ups and down, and two children later, the marriage endures.
It’s difficult to avoid being judgemental, since the pre-nuptial agreement with her husband entitles her to $2.8 million for each year the marriage remains in effect. Whilst there’s every suggestion that she loves him – her reaction to his illness was all too apparent – the element of perseverance so obviously lacking in millions of marriages is clearly financially incentivised.