Film History: Tommy Lee Kirk

“Tommy Lee Kirk as Travis Coates”, “Savage Sam”, 1963, Walt Disney Productions, Cinematographer Edward Coleman, Director Norman Tokar

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in December of 1941, Tommy Lee Kirk was an American actor best known for his performances in films produced by Walt Disney Studios. His teen idol status became closely associated with the clean, wholesome product that Disney Studios produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

One of four sons, Tommy Kirk moved at the age of fifteen months with his family to California where they settled in Downey, a city in southeast Los Angeles. In 1954 at the age of thirteen, he  accompanied his older brother Joe to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse for a role in Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness”. Although Joe was not cast in a role, Tommy Kirk had his stage debut with a role consisting of five lines of dialogue. His small role was seen favorably by a representative from the Gertz Agency of Hollywood who signed him to a contract. 

Kirk made his first television appearance in an episode entitled “The Last of the Old Time Shooting Sheriffs” for the anthology drama series “TV Reader’s Digest”. He appeared in two more Pasadena theater plays and was cast in small roles on other television productions, including  “Gunsmoke” and “The Loretta Young Show”. In August of 1956, Kirk was given a long-term contract by Walt Disney Productions and became a member of the 1955 “The Mickey Mouse Club” television series. He next was cast as Joe Hardy for the Mickey Mouse Club series “The Hardy Boys” and performed in two serials alongside actor Tim Considine who played his older brother Frank Hardy. Broadcasted in that October, the show and Kirk’s performance were well received and led to his long association as a ten idol with the Disney Studio.

Tommy Kirk’s career accelerated with his casting as Travis Coates in the 1957 Disney film “Old Yeller”, an adventure tale of a boy and his heroic dog. Due to the success of his lead role in “Old Yeller”, Kirk became the Disney Studio’s first choice for future American teenager roles. In July of 1958, he was cast in “The Shaggy Dog”, a Disney comedy about a boy inventor who is repeatedly transformed into an Old English Sheepdog. This film, the second highest grossing film of 1959, teamed Kirk with Fred MacMurray, Annette Funicello and Kevin Corcoran, his former co-star from “Old Yeller”. 

With his Disney contract completed, Kirk went to Universal Pictures where he did English dubbing for “The Snow Queen”, a Soviet animated feature. As revenues increased from the screening of “The Shaggy Dog”, Disney Studios resigned Kirk to a long-term studio contract and cast him as the middle son, Ernst Robinson, in its 1960 family adventure film “Swiss Family Robinson”. This family film was followed by a second huge hit, “The Absent-Minded Professor”, a fantasy comedy starring Fred MacMurray as the professor and Kirk as Biff Hawk. Kirk was next cast in several films in which he costarred with actors MacMurray and Jame Wyman in the 1962 “Bon Voyage”, Ed Wynn in the 1961 “Babes in Toyland”, and Annette Funicello in the 1962 “Escapade in Florence”.

In 1963, Tommy Kirk appeared in Disney’s “Son of Flubber”, a sequel to “The Absent-Minded Professor” which became his last film with MacMurray. He next reprised his role as Travis Coates in “Savage Sam”, a sequel to “Old Yeller” which was not as popular as the original film. In 1964, Disney Studios cast Kirk as the student inventor in “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” where he played opposite Funicello. After it became an  unexpected box office sensation, a sequel entitled “The Monkey’s Uncle” was released in July of 1965 which was equally successful.

Kirk knew he was gay from an early age; however, due to the public intolerance at that time towards homosexuality, he felt isolated and believed that the exposure of his sexuality would damage his film career. In 1963 while filming “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones”, Kirk began a relationship with a boy, six years younger, who lived in Burbank. The boy’s mother informed the Disney Studio which fired him from his role in the 1965 John Wayne western “The Sons of Katie Elder”. Out of protection for its interests, the Disney Studios released Kirk from his contract. However due to the financial success of the “Merlin Jones” film, he was allowed to return to make the 1965 sequel “The Monkey’s Uncle”.

The news of Kirk’s termination from Disney Studios was not made public: he joined American International Pictures which needed a leading man to play opposite Annette Funicello in the 1964 “Pajama Party”. From 1964 to 1969, Kirk appeared in several popular teen-oriented films, musical stage productions of “The Music Man” and “West Side Story”, and mediocre sci-fi and beach films. Practically blacklisted by an industry which deemed outed gay actors as box-office poison, Kirk returned to the musical theater in his home state of Kentucky with appearances in such shows as “Hello, Dolly” and “Anything Goes”.

In 1970, Tommy Kirk did two movies that were not Screen Actors Guild productions, “Ride the Hot Wind” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror” which caused him to lose his SAG membership.. While loss of SAG membership does not disqualify someone from acting, most film productions hire only union members, thus limiting the opportunities for an actor to be hired. Depressed and angry, Kirk sought solace in drugs and once nearly died from an overdose. After overcoming his drug addiction, Kirk began a successful carpet-cleaning business in Los Angeles which he ran for twenty years. He continued to act occasionally, appeared in films and documentary interviews for the DVD releases of some of his best known films and TV shows, and occasionally made personal appearances at film festivals and nostalgia convention/memorabilia festivals.

Tommy Kirk came out publicly as gay in a 1973 interview with Marvin Jones that was published in the January 31st edition of Gay Today. He was studying acting at that time with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute while working in a Los Angeles restaurant. Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in October of 2006 alongside his former co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. In 2006, the first of the “Hardy Boys” serials was issued on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series. Royalties from the sales of the “Hardy Boys” serials provided Kirk an additional income. 

Tommy Lee Kirk died peacefully in his Las Vegas, Nevada, home at the age of seventy-nine on the 28th of September in 2021. His neighbor Beverly Washburn, an “Old Yeller” co-star, notified Kirk’s longtime friend and former Disney actor Paul Peterson, known for his role as the son on “The Donna Reed Show”. Peterson posted notice of Kirk’s death on Facebook mentioning in the message that Kirk’s family had disowned the gay actor.

Top Insert Image: Tommy Kirk, “Old Yeller”, 1957, Film Shot

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine”, 1956, “The Hardy Boys” Series

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk”, Studio Publicity Photo Shoot

Fourth Insert Image: hotographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk, Pajama Party”, 1964, Film Shoot

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Dorothy Lamour, Pajama Party”, 1964, Studio Photo Shoot

Film History: Clifton Webb

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in November of 1889, Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck, known professionally as Clifton Webb, was an American actor, dancer and singer. He is known for his roles in films, his Broadway appearances in successful musicals, and for his stage appearances in the plays of English playwright and actor Sir Noël Coward.

Clifton Webb was the only child of Jacob Hollenbeck, a ticket-clerk for the Indianapolis- St. Louis Railroad, and Mabel Parmelee, the daughter of a railroad conductor. In 1891, the couple separated and Mabel took young Webb with her to New York City in 1892. After the divorce was finalized, Mabel married Green B. Raum, Jr., a copper-foundry worker and the son of a former U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue; the new family settled in New York City on West 77th Street. 

Webb, at the age of five, began dancing lessons; two years later, he made his official debut in Carnegie Hall as a member of the Children’s Theater in a performance of Canadian author Palmer Cox’s children series “The Brownies”. This was followed with a vaudeville tour in which Webb appeared in “The Master of Charlton Hall” and performed as Oliver in “Oliver Twist” and as Tom Sawyer in “Huckleberry Finn”. As a young teenager, he studied painting with Realist artist Robert Henri, a pioneer of the Ashcan School, and music with French operatic baritone Victor Maurel. His studies with Maurel led to Webb’s debut in 1906 with Boston’s Aborn Opera Company’s production of Ambroise Thomas’s “Mignon”.

Returning to New York, Clifton Webb teamed with Mae Murray in a ballroom dance act; they toured a chain of vaudeville theaters known as the Keith Circuit and performed in Manhattan restaurants. Webb had his Broadway debut in April of 1913 with the premiere of “The Purple Road” at the Liberty Theater, in which he played the role of Bosco for one hundred-thirty six performances. Between 1913 and 1917, Webb was continually on the Broadway stage and appeared in such vehicles as Sigmund Romberg’s “Dancing Around”, Ned Waybum’s all-star revue “Town Topics” , and Cole Porter’s comic opera “See America First”. 

In 1917, Webb was the sensuous dancing star of “Love O’Mike”, a musical comedy produced by Lee Shubert and Elisabeth Marbury, a theatrical agent who lived in an open relationship with actress and famous interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl. By the middle of the 1920s, Webb was one of Broadway’s highest-paid stars and reached his apex with the 1930 “Three’s a Crowd” and the very successful 1933 “As Thousands Cheered”, which featured the steamy torch song “Moanin’ Low” sung by Webb and actress Libby Holman. 

In 1935, Webb relocated to Hollywood where Metro Goldwyn Mayer, who hoped to make Webb a successful dancing star like RKO’s Fred Astaire, gave him an eighteen-month contract at three-thousand dollars a week. He was to star opposite Joan Crawford in a musical entitled “Elegance”; the picture was abandoned, however, Webb was paid all his money. For the next eighteen months, he was not offered any work but made many high-profile social appearances. He  often appeared wearing white gloves and a top hat, with his mother Mabel on his arm and his poodle Ernest, after Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, trailing behind on a leash.  

In 1938, Clifton Webb returned to New York’s Broadway in “You Never Know”, written by his longtime friend Cole Porter. The stage version of “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, starring the stage and film actor Monty Woolley, premiered in the fall of 1939. Webb was cast as the acidic character Sheridan Whiteside for its touring version, a role in which he remained for eighteen months. In 1941, he played the character Charles Condomine, a successful novelist curious about seances,  in the initial performances of Noël Coward’s comic play “Blithe Spirit”. 

Webb is probably best known today for his many film appearances. In his mid-fifties, he was chosen by director Otto Preminger, despite objections from 20th Century Fox’s Darryl Zanuck who though Webb too effeminate, to play the evil radio columnist Waldo Lydecker in the 1944 film noir “Laura”. Webb’s performance won him wide acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The Fox Studio signed him to a long-term contract, which provided Webb with work for the rest of his career. His first role under contract was as a suave villain in Henry Hathaway’s 1946 film noir “Dark Corner”. This was followed with his role of elitist Elliott Templeton, playing opposite Gene Tieeney, in the 1946 “The Razor’s Edge” for which he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

Clifton Webb achieved stardom with his role of Mr. Belvedere, a snide know-it-all babysitter with a mysterious past, in the 1948 comedy film “Sitting Pretty”, based on the 1947 novel “Belvedere” by Gwen Davenport. This role became so popular that it was followed with two sequels: the 1949 box office success “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” and the 1951 “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell”.  In 1950, Webb and actress Myrna Loy played the roles of efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the parents of twelve children, in the film “Cheaper by the Dozen” which made Webb one of the biggest stars in the United States. 

In addition to these comedic films, Webb played more serious character roles for 20th Century Fox. He starred in the 1952 Technicolor film biography of bandmaster John Phillip Sousa entitled “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Webb’s most dramatic role was the brave but doomed husband of Barbara Stanwyck’s Julia Sturges in the 1953 “Titanic”, the winner of the 1954 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The following year, he appeared as the novelist John Frederick Shadwell in the romance film “Three Coins in the Fountain”. Webb appeared in the 1956 British war film “The Man Who Never Was”, based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II, and as a sarcastic but self-sacrificing Catholic priest in the 1962 “Satan Never Sleeps”, his final film role. 

Clifton Webb was one of the few gay actors to appear in decidedly heterosexual character roles, most notably the devoted husband who fathered twelve children in “Cheaper by the Dozen”. Obsessively proper, correct and well-mannered, he lived his bachelor life as close to being openly gay as any leading actor in Hollywood could be. Although he lived with his mother until her death in 1960, Webb threw lavish parties and enjoyed the company of young men who gathered poolside at his pink stucco house in Beverly Hills. His friends included many member of the gay circles in the film industry: Noël Coward, Cole Porter, actor Monty Woolley, director George Cukor, stage and costume designer Oliver Messel, film director Irving Rapper, actors William Hanes and Jimmie Shields, among others.

Due to health issues, Webb spent the last five years of his life as a recluse at his home in Beverly Hills. He suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of seventy-six, at his home on the 13th of October in 1966. He is interred in a crypt in the Abbey of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside his mother. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Webb was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard. An archive of his papers, including typed manuscripts, notes, correspondences, financial records and Webb’s last will and testament, is housed at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Note: Clifton Webb’s portrayal of the character Mr. Lynn Belvedere was the model for the “Mr. Peabody” character in the animated cartoon series “Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends”, which ran from November of 1959 to June of 1964.

Film History: Alejandro Amenábar

 

Photographers Unknown, A Collection of Thirteen Men

Born in Santiago in March of 1972, Alejandro Fernando Amenábar Cantos is a Spanish-Chilean film director, composer, and screenwriter. In August of 1973, his family relocated to Spain where they settled in Madrid, initially living in a camper-van and later moving to a complex in Madrid’s outer neighborhoods. From the age of fifteen, Amenábar was passionate about cinematic art; he also wrote stories and musical compositions for the guitar and keyboard.

Amenábar began his education at The Immaculate Piarist Fathers, a parochial multi-discipline school in Madrid, and later transferred to the secular Alameda de Osuna Institute, one of Madrid’s prominent private schools. After graduating, Amenábar enrolled at the sciences faculty of Madrid’s historic, public research Complutense University where he studied cinema and directing. There he met people who would lend support to his career in cinema including Argentine journalist Carlos Montero, actor Eduardo Noriega and Mateo Gil Rodriguez,  a filmmaker who would co-write most of Amenábar’s films.

In 1991, Alejandro Amenábar released the first of his short films, “La Cabeza (Head)”. The script, based on an urban legend, was written by Mateo Rodriquez and Amenábar, who also composed the musical score in collaboration with Alfredo Alonso. This film earned Amenábar a prize from the Amateur Independent Film Association. His second short film, the 1992  “Himenóptero”, was shot on location at Alameda de Osuna Institute, his former high school. Amenábar wrote the script and music for the horror suspense film, was director and editor, and performed the only male role. (Note: Hymenoptera is a large order of insects which includes wasps, bees, sawflies and ants.)

At the age of twenty-two, Amenábar released his first full-length film, the 1996 “Tésis (Thesis)”, which secured his reputation as one of Spain’s most promising  cinematographers. This film, which commented on the Spanish film industry, Hollywood’s influence on the industry and the voyeurism of the horror genre, was nominated for eight Goya awards, of which it won seven including Best Film. In 1997, Amenábar released the science-fiction based, psychological thriller, “Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)”, which starred Penelope Cruz and Eduardo Noriega. The rights to this movie were later acquired by actor Tom Cruise who directed and starred in the American remake entitled “Vanilla Sky”, with Penelope Cruz playing the same role of the original film.

Alejandro Amenábar followed his success with an English language movie in 2001, entitled “The Others”, a psychological, gothic horror film. Written and directed by Amenábar, the supernatural film relied on tension built during disturbing scenes for its horror rather than the use of special effects. “The Others”, with its film score by Amenábar, was a box-office success and won seven Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. It also won three Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, and Best Supporting Actress for Fionnula Flanagan, who played the housekeeper Bertha Mills.

In 2004, Amenábar had another success with his “Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)”, based on the true life story of Ramón Sampedro. Paralyzed from the neck down, Sampedro fought a thirty-year campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity.The film won fourteen Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In 2008, Amenábar released the historical drama “Agora”. Written by Mateo Gil and Amenábar, the biopic told the life story of Hypatia, the fourth-century female mathematician and astronomer who investigated the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system of the solar system and the heliocentric model that challenged it. Winning seven Goya Awards, the film had limited release in the United States but was Spain’s highest grossing film of 2009.

After a seven year hiatus, Alejandro Amenábar released his psychological horror mystery film “Regression” in 2015. The film premiered at the 2015 San Sebastián International Film Festival. In 2019, he released the Spanish-Argentine historical drama “While at War”, the plot of which tracks the plight of writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in 1936 Salamanca, a city controlled during the Spanish Civil War by the Rebel faction. 

In addition to composing the scores of his own films, he laid the sound tracks for Josè Luis Cuerda’s 1999 coming-of-age film“Butterfly’s Tongue” and Mateo Gil’s 1999 mystery film “Nobody Known Anybody”, among others. 

Top Insert Image: Mateo Gil, “Alejandro Amenábar, Himenóptero”, 1992

Third Insert Image: Javier Aguirresarobe, “Alakina Mann, The Others”, 1992, Written and Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Warner Brothers

Sergei Parajanov

Sergei Parajanov, “The Color of Pomegranates”, 1969, Computer Graphics, Film Gifs

The 1969 Soviet art film “The Color of Pomegranates”, written and directed by Sergei Parajanov, is a visual, poetic treatment of the life of the eighteenth-century Armenian musician and poet Sayat-Nova. The film is presented in a series of chapters depicting the poet’s life in active tableaux, presented with little dialogue. Each chapter, framed through Sayat-Nova’s poems, is indicated by a title card: Childhood, Youth, Prince’s Court, The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death, and Death. Narration on the film was done by Armenian-born renowned actor Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, known for his role in the 1979 “The Meeting Place Can Not Be Changed”. 

Four actors took the role of Sayat-Nova at different stages in his life, with Soviet Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli, notably playing six roles in the film, both female and male. The film was shot at numerous historical sites in northern Armenia, many being medieval churches in the Lori Provence, including the Sarahin Monastery and the St. John church at Ardvi. Filming was also done at the Old City of Baku, Azerbaijani, and in the countryside near the David Gareja Monastary in Eastern Georgia. 

Objections were made by the Communist Party and the Soviet censors  to Parajanov’s poetic, stylized treatment of the poet’s life, citing that it failed to educate the public. As a result, the original title “Sayat-Nova” was changed to “The Color of Pomegranates” and any references to Sayat-Nova’s name was removed from the credits. The Soviet officials also objected to the amount of religious imagery in the film and removed a substantial portion of it. Although the State Committee for Cinematography initially refused to allow the film to be shown outside Armenia, it did allow the film, now with a seventy-seven minute running time, to premiere inside Armenia in October of 1969.

Filmmaker Sergei Yutkevich,  the 1962 People’s Artist of the USSR and a script-reader on the State Committee, recut the film by a few minutes to appease the authorities and created Russian-language chapter titles for easier understanding by the public at large. He also changed the order of some of the sequences in the film. This seventy-three minute version ultimately received only limited distribution in the rest of the Soviet Union. 

The digital restoration of “The Color of Pomegranates” was completed in 2014 by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation with the help of Cineteca di Bologna. It was re-edited as close as possible to the Sergei Parajanov’s original version, with its premier held at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. Parajanov’s film premiered in the US at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in September of 2014 and the 52nd New York Film Festival in October of 2014.

Marlene Dietrich, “Lili Marleen”

Marlene Dietrich, “Lili Marleen”, 1945, Decca Records

Marlene Dietrich was born on December 27th of 1901 in Berlin, Germany, with the given name Maria Magdalene Dietrich. Growing up, she studied French, English, and the violin at a private school, with the aspiration of becoming a professional violinist. Later in her teen years, Dietrich decided to explore acting, enrolling in Austrian-born theater director Max Reinhardt’s drama school, eventually acting in small parts on stage and in films. Because of her family’s disapproval of theater as a profession, she changed her name to Marlene Dietrich.

Dietrich married Rudolf Sieber in 1923 and, with his help, was able to get the small role of ‘Lucy’ in director Joe May’s 1923 “Tragedy of Love”. After the birth of their only child Maria in 1924, the marriage began to fail, leading to a separation but not a divorce. During this time, Paramount Studios signed to a contract director and filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, who already had produced a number of notable films. In 1929, Sternberg was sent to UFA, Paramount’s studio in Berlin, to direct the sound production of “The Blue Angel” based on Heinrich Mann’s book “Professor Unrat”.

Sternberg cast the little-known Marlene Dietrich in the female lead role of Lola Lola, the cabaret singer and dancer whose allure would attract and lead to the decline of Professor Unrat. With her sophisticated manner and sultry looks, Dietrich naturally fit into the role and became a star. The 1930 “Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)”, the first talking picture in Germany, became a big hit, eventually making Dietrich an international star with its English language version in the United States.

In April of 1930, Marlene Dietrich moved to America. Working once again with Sternberg, she starred in the 1930 romantic-drama “Morocco” with actor Gary Cooper. The film received four Academy Award nominations; Dietrich was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, her one and only Academy Award nomination.She continued in her next films to play the femme-fatale roles, creating new more-masculine fashion trends for women and challenging accepted views of the female image.

Dietrich made several more films working with director Sternberg: the 1931 successful spy film “Dishonored”, “Shanghai Express” in 1932, “The Scarlet Empress” in 1934, and her personal favorite film “The Devil is a Woman”, a 1935 romance film set in Spain in which she played a cold-hearted temptress. A strong opponent of the Nazi government in Germany, she disassociated herself from the German film companies and became a US citizen in 1939, resulting in the banning of her films in Germany. During the war, Dietrich traveled extensively, entertaining the troops, selling war bonds, and recording anti-Nazi messages to broadcast in Germany. 

Following the war, Marlene Dietrich worked with director Billy Wilder on his 1948 film “A Foreign Affair” and the 1957 film “Witness for the Prosecution” with actor Tyrone Power, based on the book by Agatha Christie. She also played strong supporting roles in director Orson Welles’ famous 1958 film-noir “Touch of Evil” and in Stanley Kramer’s 1941 courtroom drama “Judgement at Nuremberg”. As her acting career faded, Dietrich began a successful singing career in the mid-1950s performing from Las Vegas to Paris, and finally singing in Germany in 1960, her first visit since the war.

Marlene Dietrich gave up performing in the middle of the 1970s, moving to Paris and living in near-seclusion. She did agree to provide some audio commentary for the documentary “Marlene”, filmed by Maximillian Schell in 1984; however, she would not appear on camera for the film. Marlene Dietrich, one of the most glamorous leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, died in her Paris home on May 6th of 1992 and was buried next to her mother in Berlin.

The song “LiLi Marleen” is a German love song that became popular during WWII throughout Europe and the Mediterranean among both Axis and Allied troops. Written in 1915 as a poem of three verses by Hans Leip, a school theacher, it was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and recorded for the first time by Lale Andersen in 1939.  In 1944 the Morale Operations Branch of the US Office of Strategic Services initiated the Muzak Project. Marlene Dietrich recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including “Lili Marleen”, which became a massive success. This version of the song with Dietrich singing eventually became recorded as a single by Decca Records in 1944 and released in 1945.

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Marlene Dietrich”, 1948, Gelatin Silver Print, Encyclopedia Britannica

Second Insert Image: Eugene Robert Richee, “Marlene Dietrich”, Publicity Photo for 1931 “Disnonored”, Gelatin Siver Print, Paramount Pictures

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Marlene Dietrich in Uniform for USO Camp Shows, London”, September 25, 1944, Gelatin Silver Print, Associated Press

Bottom Insert Image: Clarence Sinclair Bull, “Marlene Dietrich”, 1944, Publicity Shoot for “Kismet”, Gelatin Silver Print, Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Busby Berkeley, “By a Waterfall”

Artist Unknown, Busby Berkeley,’s “By A Waterfall” Scene, Computer Graphics, “Footlight Parade” Film Gifs

Lyricist Irving Kahal and composer Sammy Fair had a sixteen year collaboration which started in 1926 and lasted until Kahal’s death in 1942. Among their many notable songs was the 1933 “By a Waterfall”, written for Warner Brothers Picture’s “Footlight Parade”, the third film in the 1933 Gold Diggers Trilogy. The vocal performances were done by actor-singer Dick Powell and actress-singer Ruby Keeler. 

Directed by Lloyd Bacon and presenting great cinematography by George Barnes, “Footlight Parade” contained opulent musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley whose routines contributed to the film’s success. Berkeley’s extravagant arrangement features his trademark human waterfall with its synchroniised water ballet of diving and swimming chorus girls, who produce elaborate, geometric patterns in the water.

One entire sound stage was filled with a twelve by twenty-four meter swimming pool with walls and floor made of glass. Two weeks were required for the one hundred chorus girls to practice their routines in it before shooting began. The six days of actual filming required that twenty thousand gallons of water per minute be pumped across the set to produce the required effects.

Besides the placement and movement of the dancers, the cameras also had to be positioned to film the entire scope of the choreography. Berkeley set his cameras in motion on monorails and custom-built booms to get the correct angle of shot. Since Berkeley was not hampered by the need to shoot multiple images at once for continuity, he was able to expand his creative potential by fluid camera motion and the use of intricate editing, creating fantasy out of the movement.. 

Murders in the Zoo

Advertising Poster for “Murders in the Zoo”, 1933, Directed by A. Edward Sutherland, Paramount Pictures

“Roars, shrieks, and cackling of the wild animals on the screen at the Paramount yesterday were echoed to an amazing degree by the audience, at times driven to a mild state of hysteria by scenes in ‘Murders in the Zoo’.”         – John Scott, “’Murders in Zoo’ Opens on Screen”, Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1933

Riz Ahmed in “Encounter”

Riz Ahmed as Malik Khan in “Encounter”, Directed by Michael Pearce, 2021

“Encounter” is a 2021 drama-thriller film directed by Michael Pearce from a screenplay written by Pearce and British screenwriter Joe Barton. It is a story of a recently paroled man, suffering from a mental disturbance, who abducts his two sons and flees on a road trip. The film stars Riz Ahmed as Malik Khan as the parolee, Janina Gavankar as  his wife Piya, and Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada as the two sons, Jay and Bobby Khan. Misha Collins plays Dylan, the mother’s new partner, and Octavia Spencer plays Hattie Hayes, the federal law enforcer attempting to retrieve the children.

In October of 2018, Film4 Productions and Raw, both British film production companies, agreed to produce the film. The principal photography began in October of 2020; by November of that year, all the cast members had joined the production. Amazon Studios became the distributor. “Encounter had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival and an international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. It was later screened at film festivals in London, Chicago, and Philadelphia. “Encounter” appeared on Amazon Prime Video on the 10th of December in 2021.

Born in December of 1982, Riz Ahmed is a British actor and rapper. He has won multiple awards for his acting, including a London Film Critics’ Circle Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Ahmed appeared in the 2016 action film “Jason Bourne”, the Star Wars anthology film “Rogue One” as the character Bodhi Rock, the 2018 film “Venom” as Carlton Drake, and Ruben Stone in the 2020 “Sound of Metal”, which earned him his second Golden Globe nomination and his first Academy Award nomination.

Twenty Million Miles to Earth

“Twenty Million Miles to Earth”, 1957

Ray Harryhausen’s original design for the monster was a giant cyclops, similar to the one he later used in the 1958 “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. He discarded the idea after making a clay model of it, and eventually settled on the reptilian Ymir. The Ymir roars in the film are variations of elephant roars sped up and modulated in pitches at different rates.

Since he planned to use a real elephant for some of the footage in the zoo, Ray Harryhausen asked for one that was 15 feet tall, but the film studio was only able to procure an eight-foot-tall one for him. In order to make the elephant look much bigger, a 4’6″ actor was cast to play the zookeeper.

Reblogged with thanks to http://ensalada-de-lengua-de-pajaritos.tumblr.com

Mothra

Promotional Poster for “Mothra”, Columbia Pictures, 1962

A kaiju is a Japanese film genre that features giant monsters, usually attacking major cities and engaging the military and other monsters in battle. It is a subgenre of tokusatsu entertainment, which deals with science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

Tokusatsu has its origins in early Japanes theater, specifically in kabuki with its action and fight scenes, and in bunraku, which utilized some of the earliest forms of special effects, specifically puppetry. Modern tokusatsu, however, did not begin to take shape until the early 1950s with the conceptual and creative birth of Godzilla, one of the most famous kaiju monsters of all time.

Mothra is a kaiju that first appeared in Toho Company’s 1961 film “Mothra”, developing into a recurring character in the Godzilla franchise. She is typically portrayed as a colossal sentient caterpillar or imago moth, accompanied by two miniature humanoids speaking on her behalf.

Unlike other Toho monsters, Mothra is a largely heroic character, having been variously portrayed as a protector of her own island culture, Japan, and the Earth. She became one of Toho’s most poputlar monsters, second only to Godzilla in its total number of film appearances.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of June, Solar Year 2018

Jumping Rope

June 1, 1890  was the birthdate of the American character actor, Frank Morgan.

Frank Morgan was an American character actor whose career spanned four decades, most of it under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He was born in New York City, the youngest of eleven children. His family earned its wealth h distributing Angostura bitters, allowing him to attend Cornell University. Both Frank and his brother Ralph Morgan went into show business, first on the Broadway stage and later into motion pictures.

After Morgan’s film debut in the 1916 “The Suspect”, he provided support to his friend John Barrymore in the 1917 “Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman”, an independent film produced in and about New York City. Morgan’s career expanded when talkies began, his most stereotypical role being that of a befuddled but good hearted middle-aged man. By the mid-1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, impressed by his performances, signed him to a lifetime contract.

Morgan’s best remembered film performances, playing six roles, are in the 1939 “The Wizard of Oz”: as the carnival huckster “Professor Marvel”, the gatekeeper at the Emerald City, the coachman of the carriage drawn by “The Horse of a Different Color”, the guard who initially refuses to let Dorothy and her friends in to see the Wizard, the Wizard’s scary face projection, and the Wizard himself. Morgan was cast in the role on September 22, 1938, after the studio tired of negotiating the salary of W.C. Field for his possible participation in the role.

An actor with a wide range, Morgan was equally effective playing comical, befuddled men such as Jesse Kiffmeyer in the 1937 “Saratoga” and Mr. Ferris in 1944’s “Casanova Brown”, as he was with more serious, troubled characters like Hugo Matuschek in “The Shop Around the Corner” and Professor Roth in “The Mortal Storm” released in 1940. A musical-comedy film centering on Frank Morgan was released by MGM in 1946 entitled “The Great Morgan”. The film is a compilation of unrelated short subjects and musical numbers built around the premise of Morgan trying to produce a movie.

Morgan died of a heart attack on September 18, 1949, while filming “Annie Get Your Gun”. He was replaced in the film by Louis Calhern. His death came before the 1956 premiere televised broadcast on CBS of “The Wizard of Oz”, which would make him the only major cast member from the film who would not live to see the film’s revived popularity and its becoming an annual American television institution.

Frank Morgan was nominated twice for Academy Awards: Best Actor for his role in the 1934 “The Affairs of Cellini” and Best Supporting Actor fo “Tortilla Flat” released in 1942. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for his work in radio and one for motion pictures. Both were dedicated in 1960.

Francis Lee: “God’s Own Country”

“God’s Own Country”, Directed by Frances Lee, 2017, Computer Graphics, Gay Film Gifs

“God’s Own Country” is a 2017 British drama film written and directed by Francis Lee in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Josh O’Conner and Alec Secăreanu.. The plot follows a young sheep farmer in Yorkshire, England, whose life is transformed by a Romanian migrant worker. The film was the only UK-based production to feature in the world drama category at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the world cinema directing award. It was released in the United Kingdom on the 1st of September 2017.

“God’s Own Country” was banned in some Arab countries due to explicit sex scenes between the two main actors. Romania was the only country in Easter European where the film was screened. The film won the Harvey Award at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, presented by the Teddy Awads program for LGBT-related films.

Note: The film is a quiet, moving exploration of loneliness and the beginning of intamacy between the two male characters. It is a quality story almost on par in its effect with the breakthrough feature length film “Brokeback Mountain”. It is available on disc from Netflix, and is online at Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.

Studio Ghibli

Images from “The Red Turtle”, 2016, Written and Directed by animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, Co-produced by Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli in association with Why Not Productions

Studio Ghibli: A Retrospective

A massive retrospective of legendary Studio Ghibli’s most recognizable creations, including a massive model of the airship from 1986 classic, “Castle in the Sky”, opened on July 8, 2016, on the observation deck of the Roppongi Hills Tokyo City View. Stationed 52 stories above the Tokyo skyline, the Studio Ghibli Expo is a must-visit for any fan fascinated by the depth of these animated worlds.

While the centerpiece is a massive display of flying machines—a career-long obssession for the master animator, Miyazaki—there are also three decades of posters, advertisements, movie stills, t-shirts, toys, lunchboxes, and puzzling creations, including a massive Ghibli-themed vase, all crammed onto the walls. Stills from classic Miyazaki films are displayed along Ghibli’s modern endeavors, like Cannes darling “The Red Turtle”. The show offers Ghibli-themed treats for all the senses. There’s a bar manned by a life-sized Totoro mannequin, and decorated with massive acorns worthy of Totoro’s home in the camphor tree. A café called The Sun offers 11 Ghibli-themed food items, like a soot sprite-inspired burger colored charcoal black, and an egg and toast dish reminiscent of Pazu’s specialty in Castle in the Sky.

Christophe Gans, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”

Brotherhood of the Wolf, Directed by Christophe Gans, Narrated by Jaques Perrin, 2001

Brotherhood of the Wolf (French: Le Pacte des loups) is a 2001 French historical horror-action film directed by Christophe Gans, written by Gans and Stéphane Cabel, starring Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, and Vincent Cassel.

The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan; parts of the film were shot at Château de Roquetaillade. The film has several extended swashbuckling fight scenes, with martial arts performances by the cast mixed in, making it unusual for a historical drama. It was well-received with critics praising its high production values, cinematography, performances and Gans’ atmospheric direction.

An older film with a werewolf horror atmosphere; a good thriller to watch.

최종병기 활 “War of the Arrows”

최종병기 활 (Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal), War of the Arrows; Directed and Screenplay by  Kim Han-min, 2011, Korea

“War of the Arrows” is a 2011 South Korean historical action film starring Park Hae-il, Ryu Seung-ryong and Moon Chae-won. Set after the Second Manchu invasion of Korea, the film is about an archer who risks his life to save his sister from slavery under Prince Dorgon’s rule.

Praised by critics for its fast pacing and combat sequences, the film drew an audience of 7.48 million, making it the highest grossing Korean film of 2011. It was also honored at the 48th Grand Bell Awards and the 32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards, including Best Actor for Park, Best Supporting Actor for Ryu, and Best New Actress for Moon.

Note: I happen to be a great fan of Korean martial arts and detective movies. I find them exciting, full of action, great stories with great actors. I put this movie on my list of best movies. Most martial arts movies involve action with blades; but this movie is about a mostly overlooked martial art: archery. Great action scenes with unbelievable arrow shots. I also give it many stars just for the starring actor Park Hae-il, a great actor.