Saturday, August 7, 2010

Waking Ned Devine (1998)

Waking Ned Devine was a wonderful movie.  It is about a little town in Ireland where one resident wins a lottery, and how the entire town reacts.

It was made as an independent film, and shot on the Isle of Man.  The filming is beautiful, and every single character is portrayed perfectly by every actor and actress.

My only problem with this film, is the cast members.  Most of them are unknown in the USA, and many of them have only been seen here in TV shows or films that needed Irish background characters.  They are almost all of British or Irish descent.  I am unfamiliar with almost all of them, but of course, that doesn't mean there isn't some great acting in their work as well.  I bet I have seen many of them in some movies, though!

The lead is played by Ian Bannon (1928 - 1999).  His first role was on BBC TV in 1956, and IMDb lists 103 credits.  A look at his list turns up a few movies I've seen or at least heard of.  Flight of the Phoenix in 1965 with James Stewart, "Jayne Ayre" with George C Scott on TV in 1970, Gandhi in 1982 with Ben Kingsley, and Braveheart in 1995 with Mel Gibson.  He played "the leper" in Braveheart, and I am wondering if it was the father of Robert the Bruce.  That was a fairly important role, and his voice did sound similar.

David Kelly (b. 1929) has the most memorable part in the film.  I so much want to give the entire film a complete review, but to do so would absolutely ruin it for you if you haven't seen it.  Kelly started on TV in 1951 and has 93 roles.  He was in The Italian Job with Michael Caine in 1969, but mostly he was on British TV.

Fionnula Flanagan and Susan Lynch hold the female leads in Waking.  Of the two, Flanagan has more international roles, but they both show how good they are in their art.

This is a little, feel good movie that should not be missed, especially if you like British humour.  If you've seen "Faulty Towers" or "Are You Being Served" you should add Waking Ned Devine to your list of movies.  Sit down with a pint of Guinness and enjoy the film.

Friday, August 6, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when it first came out.  I believe it was at the Cheltenham Theater in the Gimbels shopping center.  I was 18 years old and can remember how thought provoking the movie was.  My friends and my future wife would discuss the film in ethereal terms, trying to make sense of it, as young adults are wont to do.  Of course, I had no idea what it meant...and I still have no idea what it means.  Gimbels is gone, as is the old RKO Cheltenham Theater, and that wife is history too!

The cast was good, although I didn't really know any of the actors at the time.  A look at some of the minor roles 42 years later is interesting.  Douglas Rein was the voice of HAL 9000, the computer on the space ship.  He was also the voice of HAL in 2010, which was made in 1984.  Now it's 2010...I wonder what else they have in mind?  Their predictions are falling behind.

Vivian Kubrick, the eight year old daughter of producer/director, Stanley Kubrick, played Dr. Floyd's daughter whom we see on the video phone on the shuttle.  She was in four of daddy's films, including The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).  She is 50 now.

It looks like 21 people were in the credits as Apes!  That reminds me of the line in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman says, "I did an entire endive salad once!" to his agent while trying to get the TV soap part as Tootsie.  I guess "Ape" would look good on any actor's resume...certainly better than "Salad!"

One of the astronauts was played by Mike Lovell, apparently no relation to real astronaut Jim Lovell, the star of Apollo 13.  Not the movie, the space mission!  But he was in the movie Apollo 13 as well, as the captain of the USS Iwo Jima, welcoming himself (played by Tom Hanks) back from space.

Glenn Beck was another astronaut in 2001.  He was born in 1935 and started in films in 1960.  In 23 roles in movies and on TV he has some good ones.  He was in Dr. Strangelove in 1964 and The Bedford Incident in 1965.  His last USA release was in 2007, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.  He is in a 2009 movie called Hit the Big Time that was filmed in Las Vegas, but only released in the UK.

Is 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic film?  I guess it is, if you can figure it out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


TCM is showing Tarzan movies today.  I thought I should pay homage to the first screen Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln.  The silent classic, Tarzan of the Apes, was made in 1918.  Please don't buy it if it was colorized!

Elmo was born in 1889 and on IMDb is credited with 80 movies from 1913 to 1952, the year he died.  I hadn't looked into his past before, and I was surprised.  He had small parts in Birth of a Nation in 1915, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 with Lon Chaney.

After his last silent film, King of the Jungle in 1927 when an actor was mauled on the set, Lincoln took a step back from movies.  He started in bit roles in 1939 but never became popular again.  He was in another Tarzan movie in 1942, Tarzan's New York Adventure with Johnny Weissmuller in the title role, and he also worked in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939 with Charles Laughton.  His last film was Carrie in 1952 with Sir Lawrence Olivier and Jennifer Jones.

Tarzan of the Apes also starred Enid Markey as Jane.  Curiously, she worked in silents until 1923 making 61 of them, then took a break starting again in talkies in 1945.  Maybe I have discovered the Curse of Tarzan the Silent Ape Man!

Enid worked in TV in her later years and appeared on "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Gomer Pyle, USMC" among others.  Her last film was in 1968, The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Bit Actors of Wrath

In 1940, the big movie was The Grapes of Wrath with Henry Fonda.  It won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Director, and had five other nominations including Best Picture.  Everyone knows Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell in the lead roles, with John Caradine, Charley Grapewin, and Zeffie Tilbury bringing in the supporting cast perfectly.

Actually, Zeffie Tilbury is probably not a household word.  I can't remember her name coming up around the dinner table lately, but she was in 74 films.  The first ten, starting in 1917, were silent.  She lived from 1863 (the year of the Battle of Gettysburg) to 1950 (the year I was born). 

She played Aunt Lucy in After the Thin Man in 1936, and worked twice with Laurel and Hardy, but her scenes in Block Heads in 1938 were deleted.  She also made a few other films at the Hal Roach Studios, including Second Childhood in 1936 with Our Gang.  Her last film of note was Sheriff of Tombstone with Roy Rogers in 1941, and one movie after that with no great stars and her role going uncredited.

Way down at the other end of the cast list, under the uncredited parts, we find Bill Wolfe who played a square dance caller.  Here is a bit actor who worked with many great stars.  He made six films with Roy Rogers, five with W. C. Fields, five with John Wayne, and worked with Laurel and Hardy in Way Out West in 1937.  According to IMDb, of Bill Wolfe's 83 films, he never received screen credit. 

I like looking at the careers of child actors as well.  One of the kids in the film was Wally Albright.  Born in 1925, he would have been 15 in Grapes.  He started acting when he was only four years old.  He appeared as Wally in six Our Gang shorts at Hal Roach, including one of my favorites, Hi, Neighbor! in 1934 where he played the rich kid with a toy fire engine.  The gang has to build their own fire engine out of a junk pile, and then they race!

He made 61 films by the time he was 17 years old, and two more in his twenties.  Other than Our Gang, his big film would have been Captains Courageous in 1937, but he was way down on the cast list.  I guess he made a living at the time, but early actors (especially child actors) didn't really make enough to plan for retirement.

I don't pretend to be a film scholar, but I hope my notes create interest in some of the lesser known actors and actresses who made the movies what they are.  Like I have said before, there are a lot of Bit Actors to write about!  Do me a about Zeffie at dinner tonight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dennis Hoey (1893 - 1960)

I was watching The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) on TCM Essentials Jr. the other night.  A movie I have seen many times and always enjoy.  I won't give away the ending if you are new to the classic Rathbone/Bruce series.

In that movie, the second of the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce offerings, E. E. Clive played Inspector Bristol of Scotland Yard.  Dennis Hoey was not in that one!

Dennis came along in 1943 as Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.  He appeared as Lestrade in six of the Sherlock Holmes films, until 1946 in Terror by Night

It is interesting to note that the character of Inspector Lestrade has appeared 57 times.  The latest is in the release of Sherlock Holmes this year with Ben Syder in the title role.

Hoey has appeared in 73 roles from 1927 to 1952, with only a few late appearances on TV.  In 1941 he was in A Yank in the R.A.F. with Betty Grable and Tyrone Power, and he had a better part in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman in 1943 with Lon Chaney Jr and Bela Lugosi.  That movie also starred Lionel Atwill who played Professor Moriarty in some of the Holmes films, and of course, Dwight Frye from the original Dracula

I don't know how, with his heavy British accent, but he played a Nazi in They Came to Blow Up America in 1943 with George Sanders and Ludwig Stossel.  Many small parts follow...1944 National Velvet, 1948 Joan of Arc, etc.

He ended his movie career in an uncredited part in Plymouth Adventure (1952) with Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney and Van Johnson.  A Bit Actor to the end, he will always be remembered as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard.  Maybe because it was a good rhyme.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do You Miss Joey Heatherton?

Do you even remember Joey Heatherton?  She was born in 1944 and was truly one of the sexiest singer/actresses to hit the screen.

She made a dozen films, some for TV, and appeared on a dozen TV shows as a guest star, all from 1960 to 2002.  She appeared nude in Playboy in 1997 at age 53.

Early in her career, she worked for Perry Como and Dean Martin.  She must have been quite fetching in her teens!  (How do you like the word fetching?)  She was a talented singer and dancer and eventually had a show in Las Vegas.

When she toured with Bob Hope and the USO Show between 1965 and 1977, Hope described her as "nine feet of girl in four feet of leopard skin."

Her film career didn't really amount to much, but there were a few good films.  Where Love has Gone in 1964 with Bette Davis, "Of Mice and Men" on TV in 1968 with George Segal, Bluebeard in 1972 with Richard Burton and Raquel Welch, and in a surprisingly bad film, she played Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington in 1977. 

Happy Hooker had an incredible cast!  George Hamilton, Ray Walston, Jack Carter, Phil Foster, Will Hutchins, Larry Storch, Billy Barty and Harold "Odd Job" Sakata.  I've never seen it, but I would venture a guess that there were more than a few beautiful women in the film as well, but it is still rated a stinker.  I guess it takes more than a large, famous cast to make a good movie.

Joey's career went downhill with her drug use, and now all we can hope for is a comeback.  Anything is possible.  I bet it would be easier if Dean Martin was still around.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Little Margie

For some reason, my post about Gale Storm (1922 - 2009) was deleted.  Well, I know the reason...I screwed it up.  I was adding labels to all of my posts, and this one looked kinda funny.  I tried to fix it, and got an HTML error.  Next thing I know, it was gone.

The post was about a guest at one of our Sons of the Desert banquets in Philadelphia.  The year, I believe, was 1998.  She was lovely, and spoke of her career to everyone.  Gale was joined by William Windom (b. 1923) at that banquet, another friendly, warm, easy to talk to person.

While going through some of my memorabilia from the Sons of the Desert, I came across the autographed picture below.  In a later post, I will try to recreate the missing info on Gale and her career.  Sorry!