Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jean Harlow in Bacon Grabbers

Laurel and Hardy made a silent film in 1929 called Bacon Grabbers.  In it, in a small bit part, we see an 18 year old Jean Harlow as Edgar Kennedy's wife.  Harlow was born in 1911 and Kennedy was born in 1890, so I guess she prefers older men!

Its a pretty good film about L&H as debt collectors, going after Kennedy who hasn't paid for his radio.  They serve the summons and then try to repossess the item.  Of course, in a slap stick silent film, total destruction ensues.

Harlow made three films with L&H, plus a fourth where she is only seen in a photo as Ollie's sweetheart, Jeanie-Weenie.  She made eight films at Hal Roach Studios, and only about 41 films in her short life.

Some other parts in Bacon Grabbers were played by actors who really worked for a living.  I will cover Charlie Hall in another post, but he is a perennial favorite of all Sons of the Desert.

Eddie Baker (1897 - 1968) played the sheriff in this, one of over 200 roles he is in on film starting in 1917, and later on TV.  He made 71 at Hal Roach from 1917 to 1934, and he made five films with W. C. Fields.  Most of the early films are not famous, having been lost or just not popular because they are silent.  That is a shame because silent films can be great, and they should be viewed by film buffs.  After all, everything we learned about making films came originally from silents.

Harry Bernard (1878 - 1940) also appears as a cop.  He made a total of 148 films, over 90 of them with Hal Roach.  Both of these actors worked in multiple Laurel and Hardy films.

Go find a good silent film to watch.  Keep in touch with classic film web sites for silent film festivals, and read the Silent Movie Blog.  It is worth it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dolly Parton and Henry Jones

I watched a biography of Dolly Parton on TV last night.  She has always been one of my wife's favorites, and I certainly respect her abilities and her personal convictions.  She appears to be genuine, and truly appreciates and is thankful for her fame.  Great qualities for a performer to have, and she should be a role model for others.

She has been involved in hundreds of movies and TV shows, mostly on the soundtrack.  She appears in ten films, and is making another for a 2011 release.  Her first film was Nine to Five in 1980, also starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman

There was a wonderful bit actor in Nine to Five named Henry Jones. Jones was born in Philadelphia in 1912.  He acted in the theater and made his first film in 1943, This is the Army, a George Murphy film with Ronald Reagan.

By 1950, TV was looking for actors to play in the teleplays that were popular at the time.  Shows with names like, "The Ford Theater Hour," "Armstrong Circle Theater," "Schlitz Playhouse," "Lux Video Theater" and "The Revlon Mirror Theater" all beckoned, and Henry answered.

Henry appeared to be a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock and he appeared on his show many times in the 1950s and 1960s, plus he was in the movie Vertigo in 1958. 

In 1969 he was in a pair of westerns that were quite different.  First was Support Your Local Sheriff! starring James Garner, a comedy that I particularly like.  Henry played a town council member.  Then, he shows up as a bicycle salesman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  Butch was a new type of western at the time.  Not a simple story about white hats chasing black hats.  It is also a movie I like very much.

James Garner made Support Your Local Gunfighter in 1971, which also included Henry Jones.  It wasn't a sequel to Local Sheriff, but it utilized most of the same cast.  It also wasn't as good.

Henry had a great voice for a character actor, with a twang that he could manipulate into almost any kind of accent.  He continued playing on TV and making movies, through Nine to Five in 1980, and his last film on the big screen was The Grifters in 1990 starring Anjelica Huston and John Cusack, two more favorites of mine.  (I warned you before...I have a lot of favorites!)

He made seven more TV appearances until 1995, and has a total list on IMDb of 197 roles in 52 years.  Henry Jones brought a lot to TV and the movies, and I will remember his contributions fondly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

James Finlayson (1887 - 1953)

Where would Homer Simpson be if there were no Jimmy Finlayson before him?  It was Fin who would look into the camera and exclaim, "D'OH!" usually with great emphasis and one eye closed.  Homer was inspired by Fin.

Finlayson was born in Scotland and came to America in 1912.  He appeared in the theater until he landed in Hollywood in 1916 and took a stab at movies.  His first film was released in 1918 and by the next year, he was with Mack Sennett, where he worked until 1922.

Hal Roach was next, and it is here that Fin found a home and some great friends.  About half of his 240 or so movies were made there.  Fin made some silent films with San Laurel and some with Oliver Hardy before they were a team.  He then went on to make over 30 films with them as a team.

In the Sons of the Desert, we toast the memory of Fin at every banquet.  He was the perfect foil for L&H.  His role in Way Out West as the saloon owner trying to put one over on L&H and Rosina Lawrence is a comedy classic. 

Finlayson did make some dramas as well.  He appeared in The Dawn Patrol with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and For the Defense with William Powell both in 1930, and I am sure in others.

Later he was in The Great Victor Herbert in 1939 with Mary Martin, and To Be or Not to Be with Carole Lombard and Jack Benny in 1942.  In 1951 his health was starting to decline, but he made Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire and Here Comes the Groom with Bing Crosby

The moustache he wore while at Hal Roach was fake, so you have to look for him in the other films.  It will always be the Laurel and Hardy films that he is remembered for.  Watch him in Big Business, a 1929 silent film with Stan and Ollie as Christmas tree salesmen trying to sell Fin a tree.  It is easily one of the best silent comedy shorts ever made, and Fin is easily one of the best Bit Actors to ever live.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kevin Costner 1995 - 1997

I wonder why big name actors get involved in post-apocalyptic movie settings.  Look at the three movies Kevin Costner made in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

- Waterworld 1995.  Set in the future, after the polar ice caps melted and the world was engulfed in oceans.  A silly premise for a movie.  It could have been called Waterworld, the Search for Dirt.  It is filled with characters named, Nord, Bone, Djeng, and Depth Gauge.

Quite a few bit actors, though.  Michael Jeter was in 71 acting roles, including some good ones.  Patch Adams (1998), The Green Mile (1999) and Jurassic Park III (2001).  He is small of stature, and his roles tend to be a little off-base for some reason, playing the technical expert on either the good or the bad side of the story.

Jeanne Tripplehorn has a strange name, but she is a good actress.  She was in The Firm (1993) with Tom Cruise, a decent thriller.  She's been in 31 roles in the last ten years, and is a regular on "Big Love" on TV with Bill Paxton.  I think we will see her quite a bit in the future.

- Tin Cup 1996 was a sports movie about a down-on-his-luck golfer.  This puts Costner at his best, in a sports movie, with Rene Russo and a great cast of misfit golf groupies.  Supporting roles include Don Johnson and Cheech Marin.  Marin actually plays a guy trying to bring Costner's character back down to reality!

In the smaller roles, but larger than extras, we find Dennis Burkley (128 career roles), Rex Linn (72 roles), Mickey Jones (121 roles), and Michael Milhoan (77 roles).  This was a good movie.

- The Postman 1997 was set in the future, after the war, and Costner found a postman's uniform to wear.  He brings the world together by starting mail delivery, against all odds.

It was another silly movie.  As I look through the cast and the movies they have made, I find that they tend to make movies that I have no desire to see.  I watched Waterworld and The Postman once, simply because Costner was in them.  Disappointed both times.

Dear Mr. Costner,  If you are reading my blog, stick to sports movies, or at least to parts where you can play an average, likable guy.  Oh, and please, if you do another part as a Briton (Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves) at least TRY to use an accent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Baseball in the Movies

Somehow I found myself watching For Love of the Game from 1999 with Kevin Costner last night (again), and it started me thinking about baseball movies.  (Oh no!  He's thinking again!)  How many baseball movies are there?

If you enter "baseball" in IMDb, you get 149 hits under partial titles.  It didn't look very accurate, so I did a Google search for "movies about baseball."  That turned up this web site, and they list 199 titles.

Next many featured Kevin Costner?  That site lists four baseball movies with Costner.  Chasing Dreams from 1982 is one of Costner's first films, and apparently it was not very good.  Then there are the famous ones, Bull Durham in 1988, Field of Dreams in 1989 and For Love of the Game.  Those last three are all pretty good movies with lots of great bit actors.  Let's look at some of the interesting bit parts in For Love.

Vin Scully, the famous baseball announcer played himself.  He has had 11 acting roles plus 43 appearances as "self" over the years, including "Mister Ed" in an episode called "Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed" in 1963.  But he never really acted, he just did announcing and narration.

Bill and Sharon Costner, Kevin's real parents, appeared as his parents in a thought balloon during the end of the game.  They also appeared in Tin Cup four years earlier, another Costner sports film...different sport.

Director Sam Raimi's brother Ted had an extra part as a doorman.  Ted also has 80 roles of his own listed on IMDb.  Sam must be an interesting person.  He was amazing in a 1993 film called Indian Summer.  Sam has acted in 25 films, directed 16, written 19, and produced 40.  That's well rounded.

Larry Joshua played the obnoxious Yankee's fan in the airport bar.  Larry was also in Dances with Wolves with Costner in 1990.  He has 64 roles listed, mostly on TV, but with a good number of movies and a great NY accent.

Hugh Ross was the trainer for Coster's character, Billy Chapel, who helped him back after the accident.  Ross was in Wyatt Earp with Costner in 1994.  Are we seeing a pattern here?

I guess when you are as big in Hollywood as Kevin Costner, you can cast whoever you want.  That is not a bad thing, though.  If you know who they are and what they can do, you can more easily place them in a fitting part so they can bring more magic to the screen. 

Well, there isn't as much magic in For Love of the Game as there was in Field of Dreams, but its a pretty good movie that could really be called a chick flick for guys.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Stanley Andrews, the Old Ranger

I heard about Patricia Neal passing away yesterday, so I looked up her extensive filmography.  68 roles and she pretty much started in films as a star, right from Broadway.  Her first film in 1949 was John Loves Mary starring Ronald Reagan.

That got me thinking about Reagan's stint as the host of "Death Valley Days," which then brought to mind The Old Ranger, who preceded Reagan.  I watched that show many times, probably in a lot of reruns, but I didn't know the identity of The Old Ranger.

Any question like that is easily answered on IMBd.  Stanley Andrews was The Old Ranger.  Born in 1889, he later voiced Daddy Warbucks on radio in "Little Orphan Annie" from 1931 to 1936. 

He started doing bit parts in movies in 1933 making Roman Scandals with Eddie Cantor and The Goldwin Girls.  That was the first of 371 roles in movies and on TV.  Two films with Greta Garbo and two with Shirley Temple.  Seven Frank Capra films: including Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Meet John Doe with Gary Cooper; You Can't Take it with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Lifewith James Stewart; State of the Union with Tracy and Hepburn; and Riding High with Bing Crosby.

He made eight films with Cecil B. DeMille, from The Crusades in 1935 to The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952.  Five movies with Bob Hope, not including The Greatest Show on Earth, where Hope was just a spectator in the stands. 

The list is endless.  Many were "B" westerns and serials, and then Andrews started making television appearances.  Once again, he is best known as a western actor, and appeared with Roy Rogers and on many early TV westerns.  He was a regular on "The Range Rider" with Jock Mahoney and Dickie Jones and appeared frequently on "The Gene Autry Show" and "The Lone Ranger."

A lot of his work is probably forgettable.  I haven't seen the early 1950's serial Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders, and I don't hope to.  He was apparently in the first five chapters.  It is interesting that on many of the TV series he was in, he played different roles every time he appeared. 

He ended his career in 1965 on "Death Valley Days" as The Old Ranger and host when it was decided that a younger host was needed.  He passed away in 1969.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Mummy (1932)

There were other Mummy's (or is that mummies?), not including Billy Mumy.  They start in 1911, then 1912, Georges Melies made one in 1914, and a last silent version was released in 1923.  1932 was the best version of The Mummy according to almost everyone, except maybe Brendan Fraser fans.

A year after releasing Frankenstein with bit actor Boris Karloff, a new story of The Mummy came to the screen.  Karloff was now a big star, but this was his 85th appearance on the screen.

Several of the other stars in The Mummy had only made a few movies in their career.  Zita Johann played Helen Grosvenor, the female lead and the object of Imhotep's affection.  She only made eight films, preferring the theater.

We do see some prolific actors, though.  Noble Johnson played the Nubian, among his 146 roles from 1915 to 1950.  He was in six Cecil B. DeMille films.  In 1933 he was the native chief in King Kong.  He started making westerns, and became a Native American in the movies.  There must have been make up involved because true Nubians were very dark skinned!  Johnson was the founder of Lincoln Pictures, the first African-American film company.

Leonard Mudie, who played Professor Pearson, was in his fourth film, of what would become a 150 role career, including television.  He worked from 1921 to 1965 in a career that allowed him to rub shoulders with some incredibly famous people.  Many film buffs rate the 1930s and 1940s as the best two decades for movies, and I am one of them.

Look at this list of Mudie films -

  • 1934 Cleopatra - Cecil B DeMille and Claudette Colbert
  • 1935 Top Hat - Fred and Ginger (and five others with Astaire)
  • 1935 Captain Blood - Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland
  • 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood - Flynn and Basil Rathbone
  • 1939 Dark Victory - Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart
  • 1939 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Rathbone again
  • 1940 The Sea Hawk - Errol Flynn
  • 1944 Winged Victory with an all star cast
  • 1949 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Bing Crosby

Mudie went on to some TV roles as well and even appeared in the pilot for "Star Trek" in 1965, the year he died.

I haven't seen The Mummy in quite a few years.  It is time to look for it again!