Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

It is almost time to ring in a new decade.  I will probably be taking the next two days off from my Blog, but I will check in to see any comments that may show up.  Now, what to watch during the holiday weekend?!?

There are more movies that take place, at least in part, during a New Year's Eve party than you would think.  Here are my two suggestions.  Please watch them in this order.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972) is first.  From the hey-day of disaster films, and with an all star cast, the movie starts at the New Year's Eve party, and everything goes down from there.  (Sorry!)

Poseidon won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song.  It also received a special achievement award for visual effects, and it was nominated for seven other Oscars.  Now tell me, how often have you heard the song, The Morning After since 1973?

As far as the cast, where do you start?  Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters, Red Buttons, Ernie Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, Carol Linley, Stella Stevens, Jack Albertson, Pamela Sue Martin and Arthur O'Connell

I think all the Bit Actors they hired to make the film died in the first 15 minutes.  At least they got to the party. 

In the Bit Part category, we see Leslie Nielsen as the ship's captain, just a few years before he decided he should be a comedian.  We also see Sheila Allen, wife of producer/director Irwin Allen.  Basically the rest are listed as Man, Woman, or Falling Man in the cast list.

Finish the evening with When Harry Met Sally (1989).  This is Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal at their best.  Carrie Fisher has a good part that can help you get over her Star Wars role as Princess Leia.

The movie winds through the lives of a man and a woman who knew each other in school.  As the years go by they keep getting together and drifting apart, but never as a couple.  Their frank interactions are unconsciously bringing them together, with no topic of discussion off limits for them.  The final scene is at the New Year's Eve party.

Again, there are no Bit Actors that easily stand out in this movie.  When you think about it, that is what a Bit Part is.  It should add to the feel of the movie without taking the attention away from the story or the stars.  There are 35 names below the main characters in the cast list, and I really don't remember most of them in spite of seeing the movie several times. 

I do remember the couples being interviewed about their relationships.  That is a highlight of the movie for me.  They are all veteran actors and you believe they have all been married for a lifetime.  Their professional delivery in those scenes is heartwarming.

The Poseidon Adventure first so you can have a few drinks to help you through the disaster.  Then, try to time When Harry Met Sally so that you ring in the new year at the same time as Meg and Billy.  By that time in the movie, you are ready for a Happy New Year kiss.  And as far as New Year's Resolutions...just try to pay better attention to the Bit Actors!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teahouse of the August Moon

I am still thinking about a good New Year's Eve movie to recommend, but The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) came to mind for some reason.  It has nothing at all to do with the holiday, but it's a good movie, and any holiday is reason enough to watch a good movie.

Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004) was given top billing, and he did a stellar, out-of-character job with the part.  It is said that many people complained to the theater managers when the movie came out because they thought Brando wasn't in it.  In fact he has major screen time throughout the movie, but he is playing a Japanese character.

The other three stars, Paul Ford (1901 - 1976), Glenn Ford (1916 - 2006), and Eddie Albert (1906 - 2005) are all at their best, working together with Brando.  None of them stands out over the others, but Glenn Ford and Eddie Albert work particularly well together. 

If you haven't seen the film, it is about the American occupation of Japan after WWII, and a team in Okinawa who are supposed to teach democracy.  Glenn Ford is sent to a small village and instructed to build a school house (pentagon shaped).  When he appears to be cracking up, his superior (Paul Ford) sends in Eddie Albert, a psychologist, to see what can be done.  They are both taken in by the villagers, and comedy ensues.

Most of the bit parts are played by Asians, and they are mostly unknown here, although many have extensive acting credits.  Harry Morgan (b. 1915) played a sergeant, and he was already a star.  I have always like Harry, ever since I can remember, probably starting with "Dragnet."  He is 95 years old now, and I wish him well.

The only other Bit Actor worth talking about is Harry Harvey, Jr. (1929 - 1978).  Son of Harry Harvey (1901 - 1985), Harry Jr. was in 89 roles, compared to dad's 419 titles. 

Junior's first movie was Tell Your Children (1936), which was re-released as Reefer Madness.  He went on to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) starring Danny Kaye, and in 1956 he appears in Forbidden Planet with Robbie the Robot (b. 1955).  Then a bunch of TV guest work.

That was fun!  Now go see The Teahouse of the August Moon and I am sure you'll agree.  If you still need a suggestion for New Year's Eve, please see this New Year's post at MovieFanFare.  That's a great blog, too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Post

I hope your Christmas was filled with movie memories.  I saw many DVDs and Blu-ray discs given out at my family gathering, and some liquid refreshment to go with it.  I came home with a very nice Kentucky bourbon gift.

Over the holidays we watched A Christmas Story (1983) from the creative mind of Jean Shepherd (1921 - 1999).  It is based on his novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.  Even though they were not mega-stars, Melinda Dillon (b. 1939) and Darren McGavin (1922 - 2006) were big stars and brought a lot of talent to the film.

Perhaps there was some over acting, but the movie is supposed to be the memories of Jean Shepherd's youth, seen after the years have embellished them.  Over acting was required to make it more fun.  The choice of music was interesting as well.  I noticed some Peter and the Wolf used when Ralphie and his friends encountered the neighborhood bully.

Of course Melinda Dillon was in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as her big role.  Close Encounters was the top grossing film of all time, until E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial blew it away in 1982. My favorite scene of hers in A Christmas Story is when she is trying to get Ralphie's little brother to eat.

Darren McGavin always seemed to play the same character in everything.  No one will forget his expression of pride when he wins the crossword puzzle contest and receives his "major award."  I remember him well from his TV series, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" in the 1970s.  His screen work started in 1945 and he has 180 titles in IMDb, mostly TV work.  In one movie role he played the gambler in The Natural (1984) but was uncredited.

Ralphie was played by Peter Billingsley (b. 1971).  Cute is not enough to describe him in the movie!  Those blue eyes were captivating, and his expressions, priceless.  He was, at 12 years old, the star of the film.

Billingsley has been successful in Hollywood as a producer, director and actor.  He has 31 titles as an actor.  A Christmas Story was his fifth movie.  He produced ten titles, about half of them on TV, and he directed Couples Retreat just last year.

Most of the other children in this film didn't fair well in acting, except maybe Zack Ward (b. 1970).  Zack has 85 titles so far, although none of them are really big hits.  He makes a living, and that's the important thing.

I must now look forward to New Year's Eve movies.  Any suggestions?

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Swing Time Christmas

Any time is a good time for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, especially if its Christmas time and the movie is Swing Time (1936).  Swing Time won an Oscar for best music, and Hermes Pan was nominated for another for best dance routine.  Plus, Ginger was never prettier!  Even with whipped cream in her hair.

The best Christmas scene in this movie is the snow scene.  It was shot on a sound stage, which is obvious, but you do get a little cold watching it, especially when Fred gets a face full of snow as Ginger starts the car!  The song, A Fine Romance, sung during the snow scene really helps warm you up.

Alas, the rest of the cast never comes to mind when you think about Fred and Ginger.  Their ten films together include some of the finest dancing you will ever see, so why remember the cast, or even the story line?

Well, there were others in the cast.  Who can remember Betty Furness (1916 - 1994) on "What's My Line" in the 1950s and "To Tell the Truth" in the 1960s?  She was there, in one of her 45 movie and TV roles.  Betty was also in Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Fred and Ginger.

Victor Moore (1876 - 1962) appears as well.  He has 71 roles to his credit, including 23 silent short films in 1917 alone.  He also made two movies with Bob Hope, Louisiana Purchase (1941) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) also with Bing Crosby.  Look for Moore in This is the Army (1943), a Ronald Reagan movie starring George Murphy (1902 - 1992).  Moore's last film was The Seven Year Itch (1955) with Marilyn Monroe.

Here's a Bit Actor to know...Helen Broderick (1891 - 1959).  Swing Time is one of her 35 movies.  She was also the mother of Broderick Crawford (1911 - 1986) who has 140 titles listed.  And I didn't know they were both born in Philadelphia, just like this Blogger!

Two more and we'll call it a day.  Eric Blore (1887 - 1959) has 86 wonderful titles.  I think I may come back to him in another post.  Blore was in The Lady Eve (1941), among his other work from 1920 to 1955.  And let's not forget Georges Metaxa (1899 - 1950) who only made 12 films, but did a great job at Ricky Romero, the band leader who gambles with Fred for his band.

I hope everyone reading has a wonderful Christmas.  I appreciate all the comments and e-mails I have received since I started this project, and several of you have become regular correspondents.  That's what makes this fun...sharing and discussing the great moments and great personalities in film.

I will not be writing tomorrow, but keep watching for more Bit Part Actors.  There are a lot of them!  Spend some time with Fred and Ginger over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Vacation

I know, it isn't really a classic.  But you have to admit, this Chevy Chase (b. 1943) film has some good lines, good slap-stick, and the most important thing, it has Mae Questel (1908 - 1998).

Christmas Vacation (1989) was Mae's last film, in a career that includes 382 titles starting in 1930.  Mae is best known as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in cartoons.  Her Betty Boop voice is a copy of the original Boop-Boop-A-Doop girl, Helen Kane (1904 - 1966). 

I had the pleasure of meeting Mae twice, while I was a bored member in The Sons of the Desert.  The first time was at a banquet in New York City, and then she came to the Philadelphia SoD convention in 1986.  She was fun, and always ready to tell a story about the old days.

Mae entertained us on banquet night, singing with Vince Giordano's Nighthawk Orchestra.  You can see some of her performance in the Emmy award winning TV documentary "The Revenge of the Sons of the Desert" filmed by Sandy Marshall at the convention.  (You'll see me in it as well!)

Mae's later films included a voice part in Bells Are Ringing (1960), Funny Girl (1968), Zelig (1983) a Woody Allen film where she did the voice of Helen Kane, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) again as Betty Boop. 

I'd also like to recognize Doris Roberts (b. 1930) who played the lush (used as a noun) mother-in-law.  Doris is a perfect Bit Actor.  She has 127 titles listed, starting in 1952.  She was in A New Leaf in 1971 and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three in 1974, among a lot of other work.  She also made a lot of TV remakes of famous movies, like "Bell, Book and Candle," "It Happened One Christmas" a remake of It's a Wonderful Life, and "The Diary of Anne Frank."

And we can't forget William Hickey (1927 - 1997).  I have written about him in my post on The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Check out my archives. 

The rest of the cast does a great job supporting this Chevy Chase showcase.  Beverly D'Angelo (b. 1951) is charming as always.  Juliette Lewis (b. 1973) plays Chase's daughter.  She is now making quite a name for herself as an actress with 56 titles.  Johnny Galecki (b. 1975) was the son, and he now has 46 titles.

Veteran actors, E. G. Marshall (1914 - 1998), John Randolph (1915 - 2004), Miriam Flynn (b. 1952), and the ever strange Randy Quaid (b. 1950) all add their magic to the film, without interfering with Chase's antics. 

As I said, for a real classic movie fan, this will probably never be a classic.  But if you are in the mood for something lighter than A Christmas Carol, this just might be perfect.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bit Actors Blog Label Problem

I was just looking at my blog layout.  My problem is that there are a LOT of subjects in my chosen topic.

A few weeks ago I added a label cloud on the right of my blog.  It would allow you to look for a name or title, and simply click on it to go to relevant posts.  I have now added labels for about half of my existing posts, and the cloud is really looming large.

I changed it to an alphabetical list, which isn't much better, but it is easier to read.  I am afraid if I continue adding labels, the list will be much longer than the page allows, causing it to look off balance.

I still think labels are a good thing, so I will continue adding them.  I hope I can find a solution.  Maybe I can figure out a way to put the labels as a separate page.  I can make two label lists, one for titles and one for names, but that is considerably more time consuming.

I hope you keep reading!  I am still having fun writing about my friends.  Any suggestions from experienced Blogspotters can be left in the comments or sent to me at bitactors@gmail.com

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Bridge on the River Kwai...for Christmas?

A recent acquisition of mine is the recently restored collector's edition of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).  Now, how do I justify writing about a WWII movie at Christmas time?  No problem...this is a GREAT gift idea!

Columbia Pictures and Sony have released it just in time, and in a gift package that is perfect for any movie buff.  The box includes both a DVD and Blu-ray disc.  They are packaged in a 32 page book, with the Blu-ray disc in the front and the DVD in the back.  You also get a dozen small copies of the lobby cards.  See one below.

The pages of the book contain movie posters, a list of credits, stories about the film, and a LOAD of photos.  A lot of content is from the original 1957 souvenir book.

The disc has a few special features, including stars William Holden (1918 - 1981) and Sir Alec Guinness (1914 - 2000) on "The Steve Allen Show."  Actually, he didn't receive his title until 1959, so he wasn't 'Sir' at that time.

The movie itself is worthy of a blog post.  It earned seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Alec Guinness).  The cast list is pretty short, though, and leaves me little in the way of Bit Actors to talk about.  I believe that the main characters, played by Holden, Guinness, Jack Hawkins (1910 - 1973) and Sessue Hayakawa (1889 - 1973) all shared equally in the success of this film.

There were a few others who played the prisoners, and of course there was a good number of Asians playing their captors.  Hayakawa had quite a career, spanning the years 1914 to 1966 and 103 titles.  He worked with many stars including Jerry Lewis in The Geisha Boy (1958).

This release is a bargain.  If you don't receive it as a present, make sure you buy it for yourself!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Elf

One of my favorite modern Christmas movies if Elf from 2003, starring Will Ferrell (b. 1967) as Buddy.  I don't particularly like Will Ferrell, but he pulled this one off well.

I do like most of the rest of the cast.  Who doesn't like Bob NewhartZooey Deschanel (b. 1980) is always quirky, but she is endearing in Elf.  Plus, I like her as a blond!  Mary Steenbergen (b. 1953) is the perfect wife to James Caan (b. 1940), as she shows him that its OK to care about others.

In the smaller parts; Ed Asner (b. 1929) plays Santa.  I mentioned Faizon Love (b. 1968), who played the store manager, in one of my posts a few months ago.  His 45 roles will keep growing. 

Elf was the second movie for Daniel Tay (b. 1991) who played the son.  He was born in New York, so his accent was easy to come by.  He now has seven titles on IMDb, and today, Dec. 17, is his birthday.  Now he is 19, and I hope he uses his acting skills to create a long career. 

Peter Dinklage (b. 1969) stands 4' 5" and played a high-power writer, who is insulted by Buddy the Elf.  His size may limit the roles he is offered, but he has talent.  He can use that talent to create a character for himself.  He has 45 titles already on IMDb, so it must be working.

Let's not miss Ray Harryhausen (b. 1920) who was the voice of a polar bear cub in the animation.  Harryhausen is a well known name in classic fantasy film circles as the animator who made the stop-action sequences for the Sinbad movies in the 1960s.  One famous sword fight scene with skeletons was filmed at the rate of 13 frames (one half second of film) per DAY!

And finally, Leon Redbone (b. 1949) was the voice of Leon the Snowman.  Redbone has been popular for many years as a very stylish pop singer.  He has only worked in two movies, but in this one he is perfect.  Under the credits, he can be heard signing Baby its Cold Outside with co-star Zooey Deschanel.  Deschanel has a second career as a wonderful jazz singer.

See Elf again this year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prancer

I happened to catch what most classic movie fans would call a modern Christmas movie.  Prancer was released in 1989.  Modern is relative, this movie is 21 years old.  Perhaps some younger readers remember it as a classic.

Prancer has quite a good cast.  Sam Elliott (b. 1944) brings his deep voice and gruff character acting to bear as a down-on-his-luck apple farmer.  Cloris Leachman (b. 1926) is the mean old lady who hates kids and loves her plants.  And then there is Elliott's daughter who is about to be sent to live with her aunt because her mother died and her father has too much to worry about...

Well, I guess you can see how this story will end.  I didn't even get to the reindeer!  I didn't have to, it's a Christmas movie.

The daughter is played by newcomer Rebecca Harrell (b. 1980) in her first movie.  It's a big part for an eight year old, and her reviews were very complimentary.  Harrell has only made nine appearances in movies and TV, and is now a producer, mostly of environmental documentaries.

Harrell's friend in the movie is young Ariana Richards (b. 1979) who was already a veteran actress.  Prancer was her seventh role and third movie.  Richards' next movie was Tremors (1990) and then she went on to play Lex in Jurassic Park in 1993 and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) the first sequel, in a much smaller role.  Richards is now a talented painter.  Visit her web site, Gallery Ariana.

Two other actors in Prancer had smaller roles, but are quite well known.  Abe Vigoda (b. 1921) has 92 titles on IMDb.  At almost 90 years old, he is still working. 

We also see Michael Constantine (b. 1927).  Constantine is famous for My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), but he has 171 titles listed so far.  How many of you remember him as the principal on "Room 222" in the late 1960s?  Both of these guys are top notch Bit Actors.

Prancer may not be a blockbuster, but it is a well made, family movie that some call a classic.  The performance by Rebecca Harrell is excellent, and it is easy to see why she was cast.  Somehow I doubt that she did much acting in Prancer, it just came naturally.

Oh, by the way, the title role was played by a reindeer named Boo.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Letters to Juliet

So many movies, so little time!  I watched a few movies over the past week.  Some new, some old, and not all holiday themed.  Now we need to discuss some Bit Actors.

Letters to Juliet (2010) is a nice, light romance filmed in the Tuscany region of Italy.  Amanda Seyfried (b. 1985) stars, and she appears to be quite talented.  Her big movie break was in Mamma Mia! (2008).  I guess I like her because she is from Allentown, PA, not far from me. 

Vanessa Redgrave (b. 1937) plays her role perfectly, and her real life husband, Franco Nero (b. 1941) shows how sexy you can be at 69 years old.

Seyfried's fiance in this movie was played by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (b. 1971).  We don't see much of him, and I am glad she called the wedding off.  She opted instead for Christopher Egan (b. 1984), who only has 14 titles on his list, but should do well in his career.  I think we will see much more of him.  He is quite handsome and has a nice voice for film.

All of the above are vying to be (or actually are) stars.  The only true Bit Actor, other than the list of Italians who filled in the smaller roles, was the New Yorker editor played by Oliver Platt (b. 1960).  Platt is talented, and appears to be happy playing supporting roles.  In this movie, his 58th (or so) role he is uncredited.

Platt's career started in the late 1980s on TV and he quickly got into some movies.  He was in Married to the Mob (1988) with Alec Baldwin; Working Girl (1988) with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith; Flatliners and Postcards from the Edge in 1990; Indecent Proposal and The Three Musketeers in 1993; Executive Decision and A Time to Kill in 1996; and he is also doing a few TV series.  That's a lot of work.

In the movies I have seen of his, he either blends into the background, or plays his part to the hilt.  A Time to Kill was an excellent courtroom drama with a perfect cast, including Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson.  All talented actors.  Platt plays an assistant lawyer to Matthew McConaughey, and with a southern drawl, pulls it off beautifully.  But he never detracts from the story or the other characters.

Lastly, Ashley Lilley (b. 1986 in Scotland) plays one of Juliet's secretaries.  Lilley only has five titles on IMDb, and she also appeared in Mamma Mia! with Seyfried.  Small world.

Letters to Juliet is worth the rental.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

I guess we should start talking about your movie list for the next two weeks.  I took a look at the keyword 'Christmas' at IMDb.  2,809 listings have Christmas written all over them.  Just to review, you can sort the list by rating or year, and it is littered with TV shows and TV Movies.  We'll skip TV for now.

If you go by ratings, and discount the anomalies like The Godfather (1972), the number one Christmas movie is A Jersey Christmas from 2008.  I have never head of it...or of anyone in the cast.  I guess when you have only a few reviews (mostly by cast members) anything can be at the top.  Jersey got 22 votes compared to The Godfather with 424,200 votes.  Let's look deeper, and only at Christmas movies.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) came in at #52.  No contest.  It is one of the best Christmas movies.  A foreign film from 1961 called Placido came in at #82, just three places after a TV documentary called "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show."  Placido sounds like a decent entry on the list, but will be difficult to find.  No doubt many men consider Victoria's Secret a gift from Santa.

After passing such Non-Christmas movies like The Apartment (1960 - which actually has some Christmas aspects, but wasn't really a Christmas movie) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), I think I will give up on IMDb's list.  It needs some housecleaning.

The MovieFanFare blog has voting going on now for favorite classic Christmas movies.  Take a look at it.  The top four as of this morning are It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), White Christmas (1954) and A Christmas Carol (1951).

I voted for the fourth place A Christmas Carol, originally titled Scrooge, starring Alastair Sim (1900 - 1976).  It is a movie that has the look of being ten years older than it was, and if you let yourself get into the mood of the film, you will be moved by Sim's performance on Christmas morning, after his three ghostly visits.  Plus he does a great polka.

Happy Christmas, and keep reading.  I will fill in the Bit Actors in the next week or two.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Angels and Demons

Tom Hanks (b. 1956) is one of my favorite actors and producers.  His body of work is diversified and immense.  He is equally at home in a rom-com (Sleepless in Seattle - 1993, or You've Got Mail  - 1998), or a heavy duty war drama (Saving Private Ryan - 1998).  He pulls off light comedy and serious roles equally well.
I watched Angels and Demons (2009) yesterday, and it was enjoyable.  This was Hanks' sixth collaboration with Ron Howard (b. 1954). Hanks and Howard work well together.

It is a big movie with a twisted story line and a huge cast, exactly what you'd expect from a big star and a big director.  It has some problems, such as Ewan McGregor's (b. 1971) Scottish accent, in his role as an Italian priest.  And, as in most action movies, I simply can't swallow the amount of punishment a character's body can withstand and manage to keep going.

Let's look at some of the smaller roles.  Stellan Skarsgard (b. 1951) was intense, as usual in a dramatic role.  But I keep seeing him in Mamma Mia! (2008) and that always shakes my impression of him.  I must learn to watch the movie at hand and not connect it to every other role the actor has played.  In fact, I think I drive my wife crazy when I mention other movies an actor has done.

Skarsgard has done 108 so far, and his portrayal of Bootstrap Bill Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean series was spooky!  In 1997 he was in Good Will Hunting, and brought out his intense face as a math professor. 

The female lead was played well by an Israeli actress, Ayelet Zurer (b. 1969).  With only 26 titles, most of them foreign, I think we can expect to see more of her.  Look for her in Munich (2005) and Vantage Point (2008). 

One of the cardinals was played by Armin Mueller-Stahl (b. 1930).  Again, Stahl was outstanding.  His role was as the cardinal in charge of the voting procedure for a new Pope.  He subtly shows the internal conflict between his personal ambition to possibly become the next Pope, and the duty to God he holds close to his heart. 

Stahl first came to my attention on TV in "Twelve Angry Men" (1997) starring Jack Lemmon, and then in The Game (1997) starring Michael Douglas (b. 1944).  If you haven't seen The Game, what's stopping you?!?!?  It is another great, twisted story.  And Stahl may be one of my favorite Bit Actors.

The assassin is played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas (b. 1973) from Denmark.  Kaas has 47 titles on IMDb, most of them foreign.  My guess is that his voice was dubbed, since he had no accent in this film.  He is a handsome man, so I would expect larger roles for him in the future.

Angels and Demons is worth watching.  If you like action films, pick it up and make sure you have The Da Vinci Code (2006) as well.  It's a good pair to have on a winter weekend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poor Little Rich Girl

The year was 1936 and Shirley Temple (b. 1928) had already won an Oscar.  Poor Little Rich Girl was her 34th movie role...that was in only five years of acting!

Poor Little Rich Girl was a pretty good movie, but maybe not as good as some of her bigger hits.  Watching it made me think that you certainly won't see movies like this being made these days.  The message she gave was that it is OK for an eight year old to wander off at a train station, and everyone will take you in and feed you, etc.  No one checked to see if she made it to her new school safely.  It was a different era, the depression, and I guess they wanted people to take care of each other.

But, I digress.  Temple was the star and this blog isn't about stars, no matter how cute.  Let's dig into the wealth of Bit Actors chosen for this movie.  (And everyone else was a Bit Actor when Shirley Temple made a movie.)

Jack Haley (1898 - 1979) who played The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939) was a song and dance man who took Shirley in, so he could put her in the act.  Haley also made Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm with Shirley in 1938.  Alice Faye (1915 - 1998) played Haley's wife.  A wonderful singer, her voice added a lot to the act, and the movie.

Gloria Stuart (1910 - 2010) played the love interest of Shirley's father.  A beautiful woman who went on to make 77 appearances in the movies and on TV.  You will remember her as Old Rose on the mega hit Titanic in 1997.  She was even beautiful at 87.

Shirley's father was played by Michael Whelan (1902 - 1974).  This was his fifth film.  In the 1950s he was in quite a few westerns on TV, but even with 80 titles in his filmography, none appeared to be big hits.  (I'd say, Bit Actor.)

In a small part you can find Jane Darwell (1879 - 1967).  I think my favorite Darwell role is Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).  With 202 roles, it would take a long time to see everything she did, from 1913 to 1964.  Her last film was Mary Poppins (1964).  She played The Bird Woman...tuppence a bag.

In an even smaller part, Fred "Snowflake" Toones (1906 - 1962) plays a porter at the train station, being type cast as usual.  With 214 acting roles, Snowflake had quite a career.  Billy Gilbert (1894 - 1971) gets to do a double take as a waiter, but he has no lines, and no sneezes.  He does have 220 titles listed on IMDb, from 1929 to 1962.

Lastly, let's mention Tony Martin (b. 1912) who had a song and a closeup.  Tony went on to marry Alice Faye the next year.  Not bad, Tony!  That marriage only lasted four years, but then he married Cyd Charisse (1921 - 2008), and that one lasted 60 years.  Faye went on to marry band leader Phil Harris (1904 - 1995) and that marriage lasted 54 years.

I couldn't find Poor Little Rich Girl on DVD.  Maybe it will eventually show up.  In any case, every classic film collection should have some early Shirley included.  Mine does.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Some Blog Notes

Hi all!  I need to take a posting space and cover some details with you.
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I finally found out what the Labels are for on the bottom of my posting screen!  I have added a "Label Cloud" on the right.  It will automatically add links to previous posts as I add the labels.  It will take a while, but I will eventually go through all of my older posts and add labels for everything. 

With such a ripe topic as Bit Actors and Actresses, I expect the Label Cloud to loom quite large!  I hope it helps you find a post on your favorite movie or performer.
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Recently I have been having some discussion with other bloggers, and that has been most enjoyable.  I joined a group called the Classic Movie Blog Association a while ago.  Please take a look at that web site when you have a chance.  There are some very talented and knowledgeable people who write their own blogs about movies, and I am sure you will find great information and enjoy your time there.

Topics are varied and can be on a specific star, genre, or simply a collection of movies the writer enjoys.  There are youngsters as well as OFs like myself.  I find it refreshing to hear what the younger set has to say about classic movies I have enjoyed for years.
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Lastly, I will be leaving the Blogosphere for a week, starting tomorrow.  We will be traveling to Florida to visit my father-in-law, and get some much needed rest.  Use that time to browse my archives and leave some comments.  After you have read everything, check out CMBA.  

Never fear, I will return on Sunday, December 12, 2010.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TRON

The new movie TRON: Legacy is about to be released, so I thought we should look at the original, TRON (1982).  Both are from Walt Disney Pictures, of course.

Jeff Bridges (b. 1949) and Bruce Boxleitner (b. 1950) reprise their roles from 28 years ago.  They were in their thirties when they made the first one, and they are still playing computer games!  I wonder if the younger stars discussed the fact that many weren't even born when the original was released.

Back to 1982.  Barnard Hughes (1915 - 2006) appears in TRON and 94 other titles on IMDb.  He also had quite a long stage career.  He started in film in the 1954 movie, Playgirl with Shelley Winters (1920 - 2006).  In 1961 he was in The Young Doctors, with Dick Clark (b. 1929).

Other highlights in Hughes' career include Midnight Cowboy (1969); his own TV series called "Doc" in the mid 1970s; Oh, God! in 1977; Da in 1988, based on the play in which he also starred; Doc Hollywood (1991); and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993).

David Warner (b. 1941) also had a bit part.  He made 195 movies and TV shows in the past 48 years.  Look for him in:
Tom Jones - 1963
The Omen - 1976
The Thirty Nine Steps (remake 1978)
Time Bandits - 1981
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - 1989
Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country - 1991

And he appears in large parts in the two top money making films of all time, Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2004).   Quite a career, and a very important supporting actor.  He has such a forceful personality, at least on screen. 

There are other Bit Actors in TRON who are just as important, especially when creating a stark, unearthly place to present a story.  My guess is that the stunt actors also had some extra screen time.  People like Tony Brubaker, who has 148 stunt credits and 48 acting credits.  Being a stunt actor is not an easy job.

Charlie Picerni is another stunt man with 319 stunt credits and 61 acting credits.  These guys were in movies like Die Hard (1988) and True Lies (1994).  Now that's action...and hard work.

Now for the bad news.  TRON is available at Amazon, but the DVD is $84.  The funny thing is the VHS tape is listed at $129!  You really should see the original before seeing the remake.  Then you get the full picture.  Maybe other sites, like Movies Unlimited or half.com have better deals, or you can get it from Netflix.

BTW, make sure you check out the Movie Fanfare blog.  They just posted another of my previous blog posts.  I am very happy they enjoy my stuff!  This one is on Robby the Robot.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Moonstruck

I just mentioned Moonstruck (1987) in a comment, and that got me thinking again.  I really like that movie.  A wonderful cast, a great script, and good direction.  The movie works.

But it doesn't work without Bit Actors.  Two that come to mind are Loretta Castorini's aunt and uncle who run a grocery store.  Of course Loretta is played by Cher (b. 1946).  Julie Bovasso plays Rita Cappomaggi, and Louis Guss plays Raymond Cappomaggi. 

Julie Bovasso (1930 - 1991) only has 29 title on IMDb, released from 1958 to 1992.  She spent most of her career on the stage and doing other work, such as writing.  She was also the dialog coach on Moonstruck, which was more important than you would think.  She was able to blend the Italian and New York accents into something truly believable.  Bovasso also did this for Prizzi's Honor (1985).

Perhaps her most famous role was as John Travolta's (b. 1954) mother in Saturday Night Fever (1977).  A few other movies she was in are The Verdict (1982) with Paul Newman, and Betsy's Wedding (1990) with Alan Alda (b. 1936).

Louis Guss (1918 - 2008) has 102 titles starting in 1957.  Born in New York, his accent came easy.  He did a lot of TV throughout his career.  We see him in The Godfather (1972), and he is in The Laughing Policeman (1973) which was a strange movie starring Walter Matthau (1920 - 2000) as a cop.  Matthau should never be cast as a cop.

Here are some of his better titles -
Harry and Tonto (1974)
Fun with Dick and Jane and New York, New York in 1977
Highlander (1986)
Used People (1992)
The Cemetery Club (1993)

But he also made movies like -
H.O.T.S. (1979)
Girlfight (2000)
A Tale of Two Pizzas (2003)

The fact is that he didn't do much on the large screen, but what he did was good.  I only counted 31 movies, the rest was television work, but I think Bovasso had better titles. 

Moonstruck has many Bit Actors in the mix.  Think of the waiters in the little Italian restaurant, and the bakery girls.  Add them up and you have a great way to spend an evening.  Champagne cocktails, anyone?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Nightmare

After writing about Thanksgiving movies, I got to thinking about other holiday themed movies over the years.

Under the IMDb keyword 'Christmas' there are 2807 titles listed.  Not all of them really say Christmas to me, including The Godfather (1972), but IMDb is really a Wiki.  My guess is that Christmas has more movies than any other holiday, by a long margin.

Now try to think of an Easter movie.  Easter Parade (1948) starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire is the only one for my money.  There are 137 titles under that keyword, including Annie Hall (1977) and American Psycho (2000).  Not movies I think of while eating my butter cream egg.

My vote for the most ambitious holiday movie goes to...are you ready?...Nightmare Before Christmas from 1993.  Think about it.  Here is a movie you can run all the way from Halloween through Christmas, that's a three month audience, and it's not a bad movie!

Tim Burton's (b. 1958) story works very well.  The original music was written by Danny Elfman (b. 1953).  The stop-motion filming of real models give it a retro quality that is missing from computer generated animation.  And the voice cast is wonderful.

Elfman did the singing for the the main character, Jack Skellington, and Chris Sarandon (b. 1942) was his speaking voice.  Sarandon's first wife was named Susan, and I believe she is now a bigger star than he, although Chris has 90 titles on IMDb.  Chris is a Bit Actor all the way.


Catherine O'Hara (b. 1954) was the female lead, Sally.  Look for her in 80 more titles, including Beetle Juice (1988).

William Hickey (1927 - 1997) has been one of my favorite Bit Actors for years.  He has 86 titles and played the villain, Dr. Finklestein.  His early movies go back to 1957 when he was in Operation Mad Ball with Jack Lemmon (1925 - 2001), Ernie Kovacs (1919 - 1962) and Mickey Rooney.

Hickey was also in Little Big Man (1970) with Dustin Hoffman, because of his wonderful voice.  In 1986 he worked with Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose, a medieval detective story that is so moody, it earned a place in my collection.  (That's not very hard, though.  I have hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes.)

Hickey made another Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation in 1989 with Chevy Chase (b. 1943).  He was hilarious as Arthur in Forget Paris (1995) starring Billy Crystal (b.1948) and Debra Winger (b. 1955), constantly singing, "You asked for it, you got it. Toyota." in that droll voice, until they put him in a home.

Back to Nightmare, Paul Reubens (b. 1952) also had a part.  I should have recognized his voice as Pee Wee Herman.  Reubens isn't famous for much, other than Pee Wee and a run in with the law, but he has 76 titles on IMDb, and is doing quite a bit of voice work.

I will work on a Christmas movie list.  One with some great Bit Actors.  But maybe some that are less well known.  It's a Wonderful Life is TOO EASY!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Movies

Once again, I have had some computer issues.  I must get some bills out of the way so I can upgrade!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving film? That’s, at once, an easy and difficult question to answer.  There are few movies dedicated to Turkey Day that I can find, so picking a favorite should be easy…if you can find one.

There are a dozen films with the exact title, Thanksgiving, but all are shorts or documentaries, including several short horror films.  Not great for an after dinner screening.

There is one 1912 movie called Thanksgiving from Reliance Film Company, but it has no details so it is probably lost.  Reliance made over 600 films between 1910 and 1916 when they were either bought of went out of business.  Interestingly, Frank Capra (1897 – 1991) made his first film at Reliance in 1915 as a film editor.

IMDb also has a keyword feature, so I searched for ‘Thanksgiving.’  235 results!  I sorted them by rating, so I could suggest the best results, and wanted to see only big screen releases.  I think the Hallmark Channel makes a Thanksgiving movie every year, so TV movies are out.  There is one at the left, if you are interested.

The top rated movie under that keyword was, Rocky (1976)!  Next came Hannah and her Sisters (1986).  Neither of those a saying much about the holiday, at least to me.

Third choice, BINGO!  Miracle on 34th Street from 1947.  This is probably the best choice.  It starts at the staging area for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.  From there you get a top notch, heart-warming story, with a bit of fantasy and a happy ending.

Let’s try something else. Keyword ‘Pilgrims’ has only four results, and only one was a theatrical release, a 1944 short called I Am an American.

On to keyword ‘Pocahontas’…with better results. Pocahontas (1910) is the first entry, a short film starring Frank Hall Crane (1873 – 1948) and no actress listed for the title role on IMDb.  Two more silent shorts were made in 1923 and 1924 called Jamestown and Pocahontas and John Smith.

Talkies…Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953) starring Anthony Dexter (1913 – 2001) who has 24 titles, and Jody Lawrance (1930 – 1986) who has 22 titles.  No reason to change the title from ladies first!

The next feature film is the only recent one named Pocahontas, the 1995 animated version from Walt Disney.  I doubt that Poca looked much like Disney’s drawings, but it was a hit movie.  If you have kids, this is a good after dinner option.

The last film entry is Pocahontas: The Legend (1995) starring Sandrine Holt (b. 1972) and Miles O’Keeffe (b. 1954).  It scored only a 2.7 on the IMDb ratings and was panned for it’s historical inaccuracies, as are most Poca movies.  The real story was based mostly on John Smith's memoirs, and he apparently embellished the story a bit.  Maybe he wanted to be a screen writer.

So it looks like Miracle on 34th Street is the best choice for an after T’giving dinner movie. Maybe football would be better…NAH!  I’m a movie guy.  But I can only take 34th St once a year.

Let me know your choice.  Leave a comment.  I will work on Christmas movies earlier so I can get something posted sooner!  I hope your Thanksgiving Day was restful, and filled with family and friends…and perhaps a good movie.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hollywood Homicide

I had the misfortune to choose a free, on-demand, Harrison Ford movie this weekend called Hollywood Homicide (2003).  I guess Mr. Ford can't have all hits.  This one would not be on my "must have" list, but I won't hold it against Harrison!

It is a story about two detectives in LA, who are working on a murder case.  Both detectives have second jobs.  Ford is a real estate agent, and the other lead, Josh Hartnet (b. 1978), is an aspiring actor.  There is a very serious murder to be solved, but for some reason they thought it would be funny to let their second jobs get in the way of everyday police work.  It wasn't.

Example:  After a really exciting car chase, Ford gets into an elevator with several innocent bystanders.  He is bloody, carrying a gun, and his cell phone rings.  He closes a deal on a house while riding the elevator, then smiles at the others.  I would have let the call go to voicemail.

Notwithstanding, there were many Bit Actors involved in this movie, and some of them were pretty good.  I don't have to write about good movies, just good Bit Actors!

When the titles were rolling, one name stuck out...Gladys Knight (b. 1944), without The Pips.  That may be one reason I watched the movie.  She played the mother, and a former Motown singer, of a witness to the murder.  Gladys only has 15 titles as an actress, but she was good in this one.  As they are talking about rappers, Ford says, "I don't get the music."  Knight replies, "You ain't s'posed to get the music." in a perfectly timed response with just the right expression.

Bruce Greenwood (b. 1956) played one of the bad cops.  He has a long career in the works with 103 titles, starting in 1977.  I vaguely remember him in "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s.  He also played Dennis Wilson, one of the original Beach Boys in "Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys" in 1990. 

In 1992 Greenwood worked with Wesley Snipes (b. 1962) in Passenger 57.  As the years passed, he works in a few more TV series' and a pretty good list of movies:
1997 - Father's Day with Robin Williams (b. 1951)
1999 - Thick as Thieves with Alec Baldwin (b. 1958)
2000 - Rules of Engagement with Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946)
2004 - I, Robot with Will Smith (b. 1968)
2005 - Capote
2009 - Star Trek

Lou Diamond Phillips (b. 1962) is another good actor.  He has 97 titles on IMDb, and I particularly liked him in Courage Under Fire (1996) as an intense (and guilty) soldier who eventually commits suicide.  In an earlier film, he played Richie Valens in La Bamba (1987). 

All in all, if you get to see this movie for free, it might be worth the effort.  The action scenes are very good, but the comedy needs a lot of work.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Andy Clyde

We caught the 1935 movie Annie Oakley last night on Encore Westerns.  Not a bad movie, very entertaining, but it was certainly not very factual.  Barbara Stanwick (1907 - 1990) played the lead, with Preston Foster (1900 - 1970) and a young Pert Kelton (1907 - 1968) in tow.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Andy Clyde (1892 - 1967) in a good supporting role.  I remember seeing Andy in a lot of early TV reruns and B-westerns when I was a child.

Andy was born in Scotland and was popular in vaudeville and music halls there, in the 1920s.  He came to America and started making silent films in 1921.  Not long after his debut he began working at Mack Sennett, and eventually had his own series of short comedies.  In his early silent days, his titles are not much to talk about, but he did get to work with Ben Turpin (1869 - 1940), Harry Langdon (1884 - 1944) and other greats.

Actually, some of the titles are quite humorous.  The Half-Back of Notre Dame, Scarem Much, Lizzies of the Field, and Riders of the Purple Cows all in 1924; Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies, Sneezing Beezers, and Dangerous Curves Behind in 1925, etc.  Some of these should be worth looking into.  Up until 1933, Andy Clyde made about 170 films at Mack Sennett.  With his good voice and Scottish accent, he easily made the transition to talkies.

My guess is that the two reel comedy was such a popular item, all the studios were cashing in with whoever they had on contract.  Of course, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy were the most popular. Educational Films Corporation of America had Andy's contract after he left Sennett.  Not exactly a good studio name for comedy shorts!

Andy started working in features.  Annie Oakley (1935) as I mentioned above, It's a Wonderful World (1939) with Claudette Colbert (1903 - 1996) and Jimmy Stewart, Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) with Raymond Massey (1896 - 1983).

His formula for success was playing an old man of one sort or another.  His large mustache added character to this character actor.  He found another repeating role as one of Hopalong Cassidy's sidekicks, and he worked with William Boyd (1895 - 1972) in about 36 films in the 1940s, and then went on to Hoppy's TV series.

Andy worked in quite a few television shows, including some repeating roles in "Circus Boy," "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," "The Texan," "The Real McCoys," "No Time for Sergeants," and "Lassie."

He also never gave up on his comedy shorts and made them well into the 1950s.  It was a format that was dying, though.  Theaters were ending the full show presentation that had included a B-movie, a few cartoons, perhaps a newsreel, and a feature...and started showing just a feature film.  The features were getting longer, and money was getting tighter now that TV was taking some of the audience.

With 378 titles listed on IMDb, I think Andy Clyde had a wonderful career.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Una Merkel

Una Merkel (1903 - 1986) is one actress I cherish.  She had an enormous career spanning 1923 to 1968.  And no one era of hers is better than any other.  She was good in everything!

She made two silent films and then in 1930 was cast in the D. W. Griffith (1875 - 1948) movie, Abraham Lincoln, starring Walter Huston (1884 - 1950) in the title role. 

In 1931 Merkel is in an early sound version of The Maltese Falcon starring Ricardo Cortez (1900 - 1977) as Sam Spade.  That movie had quite a cast, including Bebe Daniels (1901 - 1971) famous for 42nd Street in 1933; Thelma Todd (1906 - 1935) who worked with Laurel and Hardy; and Dwight Frye (1899 - 1943) who played in the wonderful 1931 Carl Laemmle hits, Dracula and Frankenstein.  Una also appears in 42nd Street, her only Busby Berkeley film.

In 1939 we find her in a strong supporting role with Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again (as you know, one of my favorites), and then she makes Some Like it Hot the same year with Bob Hope.  She works with Hope and Crosby in Road to Zanzibar in 1941.  As all fans of comedy know, she played Myrtle Souse in The Bank Dick, W. C. Fields' classic in 1940.

She appears in The Merry Widow twice.  In 1934 with Maurice Chevalier (1888 - 1972) and Jeannette MacDonald (1903 - 1965), and in 1952 with Lana Turner (1921 - 1995) and Fernando Lamas (1915 - 1982).

Television appearances start around 1952 in "Four Star Playhouse" and "Schlitz Playhouse."  Merkel will continue making movies and TV shows for the rest of her career. 

In 1961 she is cast in the Haley Mills (b. 1946) Brian Keith (1921 - 1997) movie The Parent Trap.  She made two other Disney films, Summer Magic (1963) again with Haley Mills, and A Tiger Walks (1964) again with Brian Keith

Una Merkel's final work of her 114 titles was in "I Spy" in 1968.  She was never a huge star, but her voice and talent, and her odd name which is apparently her real one, have kept her at the top of the Bit Actor list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some Women of the Silent Era, not Bit Players!

I just feel that I must mention a few wonderful actors and actresses of the silent era.  Perhaps some of my readers are young and lack the exposure to silent films.  Then again, I have never seen a Theda Bara (1885 - 1955) film, but her name is known to me.  Some of these made a few talkies near the end of their career, but I will keep it mainly silent.



Theda Bara was one of the biggest stars in the early days of motion pictures.  Her screen name was an anagram of "Arab Death."  (Kewl!)  She made 44 films from 1914 to 1926, when she married and retired from the screen. 

Bara played a vampire in the 1915 movie A Fool There Was, and she became known as "The Vamp" which created the term.  In 1917 she had her biggest role in Cleopatra, which became a megahit movie.  Sadly, only about four of her films exist today.  If you get the chance to see one, it would be worth it.

Mae Murray (1889 - 1965) was "The girl with the bee stung lips."  She made 41 movies from 1916 to 1931.  She began her career dancing with Vernon Castle (1887 - 1918), and became a star Ziegfeld Girl before making movies.  Her big movie was The Merry Widow (1925) co-starring with John Gilbert (1899 - 1936).  Mae was a victim of her own poor voice when talkies became popular.

Mary Philbin (1902 - 1993) made 31 movies in just eight short years starting in 1921.  Philbin has what appears to be a complete biography written on IMDb with loads of info about a forgotten star.  And she was a star.  She co-starred in the original Phantom of the Opera in 1925 with Lon Chaney, sending thousands of fans screaming from the theaters as she unmasked the Phantom.

Philbin became a recluse after she retired.  She did come back into the spotlight a few times.  She came to a memorial service for Rudolph Valentino (1895 - 1926) in 1988, and attended the opening of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway by Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948), and once more to promote a book on The Phantom by Philip J. Riley. 

Pola Negri (1897 - 1987) would make about a dozen talkies, even one in 1964 (The Moon-Spinners) with Haley Mills (b. 1946).  She is known for more than 50 silent films starting in 1914, but her heavy Polish accent really ended her career.

Negri has some interesting tidbits in her history.  She was engaged to Charlie Chaplin before she met Rudolph Valentino, and apparently she was Adolph Hitler's favorite acrtress.  Who knows for sure?

Last, for today, Edna Purviance (1895 - 1958).  She was one of Chaplin's favorite actresses and if you have seen much Chaplin, you surely have seen Edna.  She was in about 40 of his films including The Kid (1921).  The Kid was the movie Chaplin made when he met one of his future wives, Lita Gray (1908 - 1995). 

Purviance was kept on Chaplin's payroll all of her life, and I am sure many have wondered if she was more than just an actress for him.

There are just a few names above, but they are important names.  People like that were the foundation of what movies have become.  Their work has inspired many, and even their looks have created styles that lasted.  And they were easy on the eye!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Barry Nelson

I don't believe that Barry Nelson (1917 - 2007) was ever much more than a Bit Actor, at least on film.  He was a well respected actor on Broadway and television, and no one would deny that he had great talent.

He has 86 titles listed on IMDb.  His first film was Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) starring William Powell (1892 - 1984) and Myrna Loy (1905 - 1993), and you know how much I like the Thin Man series.  He has a starring role the next year in A Yank on the Burma Road

Also in 1942 we find him working with Lew Ayres (1908 - 1996) and Lionel Barrymore in Dr. Kildare's Victory, and then with Abbott and Costello in Rio Rita.  The war years brought some war movies.  Bataan and A Guy Named Joe in 1943, and Winged Victory in 1944.  Winged Victory has a great cast and is something I will look for.

Barry starts early on television in 1948.  He is in several teleplays on "The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre" and "The Ford Theatre Hour."  Do you think spelling it 'Theatre' adds some class to the small screen?  I believe those years were the start of the best part of Nelson's career. 

In 1954 he is cast as the first James Bond to hit the screen.  "Climax!" aired an hour long version of Casino Royale, written by Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964) just two years earlier.  That role has enshrined Barry Nelson in the trivia question world.

The 1950s and 1960s see him in all sorts of television roles, including "Zane Grey Theater," "The United States Steel Hour," "Twilight Zone," "Kraft Suspense Theatre," several with Alfred Hitchcock, and of course "Love, American Style."

In 1970 he is an airline pilot in the blockbuster disaster movie, Airport, with Dean Martin (1917 - 1995) and Burt Lancaster (1913 - 1994).  And in 1974 he works with Carol Burnett (b. 1933) and Walter Matthau (1920 - 2000) in Pete 'n' Tillie

In the 1970s to 1990 he is in everything on TV (again), from "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" to "Battlestar Galactica."  He would be right at home doing roles on "Dallas," "Magnum, P.I.," and "Murder, She Wrote."

Barry's last film was The Shining in 1980.  Anyone who can hold their own with Jack Nicholson is OK with me, and worthy to be mentioned as a great Bit Actor.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Left Handed Gun

A 1958 movie about Billy the Kid was called The Left Handed Gun.  As we now know, The Kid (Henry McCarty 1859 - 1881) was actually right handed... and he didn't make any movies.  Paul Newman (1925 - 2008) played the title character.  This film was supposed to be about his teenage years, Billy the Kid was about 22 when he died, but Newman was 33 when the movie was made.  That's most of the bad stuff, so let's talk about the bit parts.

The westerns of the golden age of film include a lot of stunt men.  This one is no different.  Boyd "Red" Morgan (1915 - 1988) has 161 acting roles, and 79 stunt roles listed.  He worked from 1936 to 1984, including 11 movies with John Wayne

I watched most of TLHG last weekend.  I wasn't sure, but I thought I saw Denver Pyle (1920 - 1997).  His name is listed in the credits on IMDb.  That brings up a point.  When I go to the theater, I always stay until all of the credits roll.  Do you?  It is amazing how many people it takes to make a movie and they deserve to have their name read by someone.  When The Left Handed Gun played on TV (one of the western channels, I think) they sped up the credits, and then shrank (Is that a word?) them down to run an ad at the same time, making it impossible to read.  I hate that.

Back to Denver Pyle.  He has 259 roles spanning 50 years.  He should be recognized.  He may even rate his own B. A. Blog post soon.

James Best (b. 1926) has been in 180 titles starting in 1950.  His fifth film was Winchester '73 (1950) which is one of my favs.  He is in non-westerns, too.  The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) starring Paul Hubschmid (who?) (1917 - 2001), The Caine Mutiny (1954) with Humphrey Bogart, and the classic Forbidden Planet (1956), among others. 

A bit later, look for Best in Three on a Couch (1966) with Jerry Lewis, and Sounder (1972) with Cicely Tyson (b. 1933) and Paul Winfield (1939 - 2004).  His last film so far was Moondance Alexander in 2007, a family movie about a teenage girl and a horse, starring Don Johnson (b. 1949).  No, Johnson wasn't the teenage girl.  That part went to Kay Panabaker (b. 1990) who now has 36 titles in her 20 years.

One more.  Hurd Hatfield (1917 - 1998) was in 71 roles from 1944 to 1991.  Not exactly a household name, but in his second film, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), he had the title role.  That movie had a great cast and good reviews.  Hatfield did a few historical films over the years.  Joan of Arc (1948), King of Kings and El Cid in 1961, and Von Richthofen and Brown in 1971.

I don't think any of the actors highlighted above would be considered stars in their own right, but it can't be denied how much they contributed to movies over the span of their careers.  Next time you go to the theater, don't forget to read the credits!

Monday, November 15, 2010

William Sanderson

William Sanderson (b. 1944) is from Memphis, Tennessee, and the accent does him well.  He started out on the stage in NY, and proceeded to TV and movies.  He now has 113 titles listed on IMDb. 

His first two films in 1977 were foreign, one in Italy and one in Japan.  I have no idea how that came about.

His next two films were nothing to write home about.  Horror films called Fight for Your Life and Savage Weekend.  Then, in 1979 he worked in The Onion Field with James Woods (b. 1947), Ronny Cox (b. 1938), and Christopher Lloyd (b. 1938).  A step up. 

1980 - Coal Miner's Daughter starring Sissy Spacek (b. 1949) and Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946)
1981 - Death Hunt with Charles Bronson (1921 - 2003) and Lee Marvin (1924 - 1987) and Raggedy Man, also with Spacek.
1982 - Blade Runner with Harrison Ford (b. 1942), Rutger Hauer (b. 1944) and Daryl Hannah (b. 1960), perhaps his biggest movie.

Sanderson has quite a mix of films in his list.  He is in many horror films as well as quite a few comedies.  It appears he can do almost anything, from Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) with Chuck Norris (b. 1940) to Fletch (1985) with Chevy Chase (b. 1943).

In the late 1980s he became famous as Larry in "Newhart" with Bob Newhart (b. 1929).  "My name's Larry.  This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl."  I still laugh at that!

In 1991 he was in the Disney feature, The Rocketeer, a throwback to the 1930s.  But not all his films were hits...or even good.  Skeeter (1993) was about giant, mutant mosquitoes, with the tagline, "Earth is the Final Breeding Ground." 

He was in a better movie, The Client in 1994, starring Susan Sarandon (b. 1946) and Tommy Lee Jones.  But I can't remember him in it.  In 2003 he plays Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill in Gods and Generals, the prequel to Gettysburg (1993). 

Sanderson also kept busy on TV in several series' including "Deadwood" in the mid 2000s.  He has quite a filmography, but if you see him acting, you just can't quite remember his name.  The sign of a good Bit Actor.