Thursday, April 30, 2009
Born in Detroit in 1930, Wagner's family moved to L.A. when he was seven-years-old. Despite caddying for the likes of Clark Gable, he wasn’t discovered until he was eating with his parents at a Beverly Hills restaurant. His film career began in 1950 and led to later roles like Number Two in Austin Powers, a role I’ll never quite be able to forget.
Anyway, hottie Natalie Wood was the lucky minx who picked him up. The two got married in 1957 and Hollywood called it the most “glittering union of the 20th century” (Remember, Tom and Katie weren’t even born yet). Wagner and Wood only lasted until 1962, got divorced and then remarried 10 years later, a union that lasted until 1981, when Wood tragically drowned after falling off the yacht that the two had been re-married on.
Wood may have been the only true love of his life, but Wagner was the love of many other women’s fantasies. Therefore, he is today’s Matinee Man.
She was voted one of the top sex stars of the 1970s in Playboy magazine.
Wood suffered an intense fear of drowning ever since an accident during the filming of The Green Promise (1949). Elia Kazan had to trick her into doing water scenes in Splendor in the Grass. Ironically, and tragically, she died of drowning at the age of 43.
She also had a sense of humor! On April 23, 1966, she became the first performer voted the year's worst by the Harvard Lampoon to show up and accept her "award."
At first I thought maybe Katie Holmes could play Natalie Wood, if she was a bit shorter, and Kristine thought Catherine Zeta Jones, if she was a bit younger. But in this picture isn't Wood the spitting image of Katharine Heigl?!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Thanks to a little extra youtube time (our boss is on vacation in Europe), I came across a trailer for the original Mary Poppins. Only the creator made the 1964 family movie look like a horror flick. I never want to watch it again.
Monday, April 27, 2009
But of course, my highlight so far was something you didn’t need special permission to attend. It was Friday's free outdoor screening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! Picture this: a theater set up right off of the Hudson River, gorgeous spring weather, the sun setting over the city, and Paul Newman and Robert Redford robbing their way through the West. Does it get any better?
The special screening was in honor of the film’s 40th (!) anniversary, and more specifically Tribeca was honoring Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman. Goldman’s colleagues, including Tony Gilroy (the Bourne movies, Michael Clayton, State of Play), were on hand to sing his praises and Mr. Goldman himself was there to say a few words and introduce the film. (Hey, did you know that Goldman also wrote the screenplays for The Princess Bride, All the President’s Men, Misery and Marathon Man?) Quite a career.
So in honor of Goldman and his brilliant words, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite quotes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“Boy, I’ve got vision and the rest of the word wears bifocals.” – one of my favorite movie lines, probably ever.
“Who are those guys?” – what would this movie be without this oft repeated line?
“What could they have here that you could possibly wanna buy?” – Sundance to Butch after Butch suggests you could get more for your money in Bolivia
“Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?” – Sundance to Butch after he blows up an entire train car
The two thieves don’t say much, but when they speak, it’s gold. Plus, seeing the film again made me realize how much I really, really, really don’t want anyone to remake it. Leave a good thing alone. And if you haven’t seen this flick, do it. No matter where you see it—outdoor festival or not—it’ll be one of remember.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This Matinee Man has been a long time coming. Mostly because I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture the greatness that is Marlon Brando. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954), two films I’ve oft referenced on this blog, happen to be the two main films that began my obsession with the classics—and incidentally, my obsession with Brando. As Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar he was ruthless, unrefined and sexy. As Terry Malloy in Waterfront—for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar—he was vulnerable, conflicted and…sexy. The two performances were nothing short of brilliant. Even if you haven’t seen the movies, I guarantee you know their two most famous lines: “STELLLAAAA!!!” and “I coulda been a contenda…”
Of course, the man had his issues (all tortured artists do) and he didn’t always pick the best projects. More often than not he acted in crap. More likely than not because he thought acting was crap. Between Waterfront and The Godfather there wasn’t much to speak of, unfortunately. (And please don’t bring up his physical appearance in his later years. It pains me.) Brando just didn’t realize how great he was, and perhaps that is one of the main reasons why he was so great.
He once asked his Godfather co-star James Caan what he would want if his wishes came true. When Caan answered that he'd like to be in love, Brando said, "Me too. But don't tell my wife." (He was married 3 times.)
Here he is at the ripe old age of 23 during his first screentest!
But that’s not all. Harlow managed to ignite two phenomena that are still relevant in popular culture today.
It’s true. First off, before Harlow, Hollywood producers cast mostly dark-haired women. Once she hit the scene, peroxide sales in the States skyrocketed. You can't hit up a single Bon Jovi concert these 70-something years later without seeing swarms of black roots.
Meanwhile, ladies, if you’ve ever told a guy that you’re going to slip into something more comfortable as you step into that motel bathroom, you can thank Harlow for that as well. It was in the 1930 movie Hell’s Angels when Harlow asked the question, “Would you be shocked if I changed into something more comfortable?"
There’s hardly been anyone more worthy of to be named one of our Siren Centerfolds. In fact, she should have been the first. Regardless, here’s the “Original Blonde Bombshell,” Jean Harlow...
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
But not one of the lists I found included the name Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Strange, seeing as the man directed 20 films over a 26-year period and whose extensive family tree branches out across the entire entertainment industry. Why is it, then, that Mankiewicz is left out? Is it because his last name is just too darn hard for people to spell? Do people—aside from film geeks like me—know his contributions?
What’s interesting about him is that he’s simultaneously known in the biz for his great successes, as well as quite possibly the biggest movie disaster in Hollywood’s history. Let’s start with the good: The years 1949 and 1950 were kind to Mankiewicz. In 1949, he wrote and directed A Letter to Three Wives which netted him two Academy Awards. He repeated his success a year later with an even more popular movie—All About Eve. Again, Mankiewicz took home two Oscars. To date he's the only filmmaker to have won Oscars for writing and directing two years in a row.
Then it hit like the plague. And by “it” I’m talking about Cleopatra, the four-hour long 1963 epic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that took two-and-a-half years to make and cost $44 million. That’s $300 million by today’s standards! To be fair, it wasn’t really Mankiewicz’s fault. He was the second director on the film, after the first director realized he couldn’t hack it. Mankiewicz himself said of Cleopatra: it was “conceived in a state of emergency, shot in confusion, and wound up in a blind panic.” He ran himself into the ground—directing the movie by day and writing the script by night. (Liz Taylor almost died, like, four times during filming, but that’s another post for another day.)
At least he wasn’t in denial (I could’ve made a very bad Egyptian pun right there) once the film was released. At the premiere, host Bert Parks called the film “a wonderful, wonderful achievement.” Mankiewicz replied, “You must know something I don’t.”
And that right there is, briefly, why you should know Joe Mankiewicz. Because, really, where would Spielberg and Scorsese be without him?
Now for that impressive family tree:
- His older brother was Herman J. Mankiewicz, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Citizen Kane.
- His sons are writer/director Tom Mankiewicz (who penned Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die, wrote and directed Dragnet) and producer Christopher Mankiewicz (Runaway Jury).
- His nephews are writer Don Mankiewicz and Frank Mankiewicz, a noted writer and Democratic political strategist who once worked as Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary.
- His great-nephews are radio and television personality Ben Mankiewicz (who currently co-hosts At the Movies), producer John Mankiewicz (House) and journalist Josh Mankiewicz (Dateline NBC).
A rumor that been haunting me for days – nay, almost weeks – has surfaced. According to sources (who I’ve been unable to track down and hurt), Tom Cruise and John Travolta are interested in remaking the … “classic” isn’t even a good enough word for it … are interested in remaking Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You read that correctly: this guy and this guy reportedly think they can turn themselves into these guys.
A remake of Butch Cassidy is a great idea, don’t get me wrong. But no one wants to see Lt. Pete Mitchell and Vinnie Barbarino’s dads dodging authorities throughout the dry plains of the old west.
Listen, I don’t mean to be the Negative Nancy all of the time, but Hollywood really needs to start holding up its end of this bargain and stop coming up with such crap ideas.
Story and picture source.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
I haven’t gotten my forwarded copy of the book yet (call me, Harmony!), but based on the Post’s description, I can’t help but cringe at the portrait Levy paints of a man who has done so much – and so quietly – for the world around him without asking anything in return.
According to the biography, Newman was a functioning alcoholic who wore a bottle opener around his neck. He put away “beer after beer after beer,” allegedly chasing a case or more a day with scotch. According to onlookers, says Levy, Newman was seen “drinking beers on the set, in his office, at parties, during interviews, watching TV, getting ready for TV and relaxing after dinner.” I can’t even… Listen, there’s a time and a place for beer, I’m sure, but a party certainly isn't one of them. And relaxing after dinner? Who did this guy think he was, some sort of bootlegger?
Another searing allegation is that Newman cheated on his wife with a journalist during the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The reporter was doing a puff piece at the time and this whole story was borderline believable until Levy wrote that the reporter was the one who ended things. She allegedly told Newman, “You’re always drunk, and you can’t even make love.”
Call me a skeptic, I don’t really care, but getting Paul Newman drunk all the time would be the only way most of us would get him into bed in the first place. I don’t know any woman who would have ended a relationship with him just because of that. Heck, I know people who would still date the guy if they had enough smelling salts and a heater on hand.
Listen, it’s all well and good if Shawn Levy wants to write a book about all the stories people who worked near Paul Newman want to tell now that he’s passed away, but let’s call it what it is, huh? A feature story for Star magazine. No more than a tabloid. It’s a slap in the face to Newman, his wife of 50 years, his children and all of the positive things he did during his life. Can we let a man rest in peace.
Since Robin Hood is swinging into action again, I thought I’d pay homage to the man who originated this adventurous hero on-screen: Errol Flynn. The dashing actor—who, like Crowe, is also Australian—was known for the swashbuckling charmers he played in films and for the boozing womanizer he played in real life. He was also known for his brawling--hey, another thing he has in common with Crowe. And get this, the phrase "In like Fynn" came from his 1942 trial for statutory rape. Lovely. His fast-living ultimately took its toll, however, and he died of a massive heart attack at age 50. But here are a few of his most famous films from his prime (all, coincidentally, co-starring Oliva de Havilland).
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Captain Blood (1935)
Dodge City (1939)
Which Robin Hood do you prefer? Flynn’s lithe, men-in-tights interpretation? Or Crowe’s more rugged, manly approach? I’m not a big Flynn fan, but I am a ho for Crowe. (Gladiator, 3:10 to Yuma (another remake), L.A. Confidential, A Beautiful Mind…come on!) Plus, Crowe could totally take Flynn in a fight. I mean, we’ve all seen what he can do with a telephone.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Welles once dated Eartha Kitt and called her "the most exciting woman in the world."
He caused a public uproar when he decided to have Rita Hayworth cut and bleach her long red hair for his film, The Lady from Shanghai. Many in Hollywood believed it contributed to the film's dismal box office numbers.
There’s a movie currently waiting for release called Me and Orson Welles, about a teenager who gets cast in the Mercury Theatre production of Julius Ceasar directed by a young Orson Welles in 1937. It stars Zac Efron and Claire Danes, and also features Zoe Kazan! Christian McKay portrays Welles, but if you ask me it should have been Michael Gladis.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Please feel free to laugh out loud—I know I did. To be sure, Marilyn wasn’t the brightest bulb, but certainly Linds could have dug up a more clever quote than that! What it amounts to is yet another attempt by Ms. Lohan to show her devotion/admiration for the destructive star. Guess she feels like they are kindred spirits because of their tabloid troubles and personal drama. Last year, Linds recreated (or at least tried to) Marilyn’s famous nude 1962 photoshoot for New York magazine. And she’s not the only young Hollywood actress with some Marilyn ink. Transformers babe Megan Fox has a truly hideous Marilyn Monroe head slapped right in the middle of her forearm.
Sure, Marilyn was glamorous, but she was also tragic. Let’s hope all this ink is to remind these Hollywood hotties of what fame can do to them if they’re not careful.
Even her wedding was a Hollywood affair. The church ceremony at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral was filmed by MGM and made into the documentary The Wedding in Monaco. The 600 guests included David Niven, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner and Conrad Hilton.
But Grace Kelly didn't much care for the Hollywood glitz. “Hollywood amuses me,” she once said. “Holier-than-thou for the public and unholier-than-the-devil in reality.”
She was close friends with Josephine Baker, and championed racial equality.
In 1993, she became the first American actress to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I did a post a while back about famous celebrity spawn. But how about famous celebrity grand-spawn? Zoe Kazan’s not exactly famous yet, and her grandfather Elia Kazan wasn’t so much a celebrity as he was one of the greatest freakin’ directors of all time—but you get my point.
On Monday, I attended a pre-Tribeca Film Festival screening of The Exploding Girl, starring Miss Zoe Kazan, and it’s clear that film is certainly in the family genes. In case you’re not familiar, her granddad directed at least four of my favorite films—A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Baby Doll and East of Eden—in addition to being a revered stage director. Plus, he coaxed some of the most memorable performances in cinema from the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean. My favorite quote from him is his assessment of those two talents:
“Dean's body was very graphic; it was almost writhing in pain sometimes. He was very twisted, as if he were cringing all the time. Dean was a cripple anyway, inside -- he was not like [Marlon Brando]. People compared them, but there was no similarity. He was a far, far sicker kid and Brando's not sick, he's just troubled.”
Ha! Love it.
Two generations later, Zoe Kazan is poised to make her own mark on the acting world. Last year she appeared on Broadway in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull opposite Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard, and in the film Revolutionary Road opposite Leonardo DiCaprio (she was the secretary he cheated on Kate Winslet with). In the small, indie flick The Exploding Girl, she plays Ivy, a college student returning to her Brooklyn neighborhood for summer break. The simple, intimate film gives us a glimpse of a transitional period in her life as she sorts out her feeling for a platonic old friend. (There’s even a scene on a rooftop pigeon coop reminiscent of On the Waterfront (above)) The film depends a lot on silent close-ups of Zoe’s cherubic face—and she conveys subtle expressions brilliantly.