Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Gods and Generals and Civil War Stuff

I took a look at the actor who played the ill-fated confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett in Gods and Generals (2003).  Pickett was the general who led a charge up Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg.  This action wiped out his entire division with about 50% casualties.  It was a blow that the confederacy would never overcome, and a turning point of the Civil War.

The actor was Billy Campbell (b. 1959).  This paragraph may seem like a temporal paradox, simply because Gods and Generals was the prequel to Gettysburg, but was filmed ten years later.  So, Pickett was played by Stephen Lang (b. 1952) in the earlier movie, Gettysburg, which took place after Gods and Generals; and in Gettysburg, Billy Campbell played Lt. Pitzer, a definite demotion (or promotion, if you go in filming sequence?).  I think it would have been easier on bloggers if they filmed the movies in historical sequence.

Back to Billy Campbell.  Campbell played Luke Fuller on "Dynasty" in his first important role.  He was then in "Crime Story" and played Det. Joey Indelli.  In 1991 Disney put him in The Rocketeer.  That was a light movie with a pretty good story and a great cast.

Between Gods and Gettysburg, he was in several movies, though none of note, and was again regular on several TV series'.  Since Gettysburg, he worked in the television series' "The O.C." and "The 4400" and a few more movies.  His career is still active, and I guess he is a bit more than a Bit Actor.

The other Gen. Pickett was Stephen Lang.  Lang had an early good role in Dustin Hoffman's TV version of "Death of a Salesman" and a little later played the title role of "Babe Ruth" on TV.

1993 brought him Gettysburg and also Tombstone, where he played Ike Clanton.  He worked with Steven Seagal in Fire Down Below, then played George Washington on TV in a series called "Liberty! The American Revolution."

Lang has been in 77 roles in movies and TV, and his biggest hit (megahit) is Avatar from 2009, the highest grossing film of all time.

Well, I covered one more character from the Civil War.  This could become a completely separate blog!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gettysburg (1993)

We watched Gods and Generals (2003) last night...I guess we were in a Civil War mood.  Gods and Generals was the prequel to Gettysburg but it was made 10 years later.  Gods and Generals was written by Jeff Shaara, who is the son of Michael Shaara who wrote Gettysburg.  Its a family thing.

As far as the town of Gettysburg, it is a wonderful place for any history buff.  My wife and I spent our honeymoon there.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast that was one of the original buildings on the battlefield near (Union) General Meade's headquarters.  The building was moved when the government bought the battlefield to preserve it.

The fun thing about Civil War movies and books is that the era is so well documented and there are so many historians and re-enactors out there, you can be sure that the more recent the movie, the more accurate it will be.

Both of these movies utilized re-enactors for realism.  Those guys and ladies are fanatics about getting it all right, plus they come with their own, period correct costumes and arms.  I heard they had a great time during the filming of Gettysburg because there were so many cannon used, it was almost like being there in 1863.

I had previously written about another Civil War movie, The General (1923) by Buster Keaton.  Maybe it was not very accurate, but it was based in fact.  And it is one of the best silent films ever made.

Lets look at some of the minor actors in Gettysburg and Gods and GeneralsTed Turner appears in both films as Col. Patton.  I believe he had something to do with producing them as well. 

If you watch anything about the Civil War on The History Channel, you will recognize the name Brian Pohanka.  Pohanka was in Gettysburg and he was the location advisor for the film.  Sadly, Pohanka died at age 50 of cancer in 2005 and did not appear in Gods and Generals.  I bet he would have liked to. 

My time for today has left me, so I must cut this post a little short.  I will try to pick up this train of thought tomorrow.  I would also like to do more research.  Stay Tuned!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pat Flaherty

I was looking at the filmography of Pat Flaherty (1897 - 1970) and it is impressive, especially for someone who was not much more than an extra.  He managed to appear in almost 200 films in about twenty years, from 1934 to 1955.  I bet some of them are your favorites.

After World War I, he started his working life as a baseball player and then a football player, and took up acting later.  I suppose his military career and then his sportsmanship caused him to be cast many times as a cop or prison guard, or as a baseball player or umpire.  I counted three roles as an umpire, three as a manager, and at least one each as a baseball player, polo player and hockey player; plus more than 45 roles as a cop or guard; and many more as a detective, deputy or whatever!

Here are some stars Flaherty worked with:
Humphrey Bogart 7 films
James Cagney 6 films
Gary Cooper 5 films
James Stewart and George Raft, 4 films each
Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, 3 films each
Twice each with Henry Fonda and William Powell
And he was in two Frank Capra films.

Some of his films are true classics as well.  Not necessarily because he was in them...they had big stars...but he was a part of the whole picture, adding his talent and character to the films.

The Thin Man (1934), Bright Eyes (1934) with Shirley Temple, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) with Charles Laughton, My Man Godfrey (1936), A Star is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor, His Girl Friday (1940), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Great Dictator (1940) with Charles Chaplin, Meet John Doe (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) where he played the bar patron who warns Curtin and Dobbs about McCormick, The Asphalt Jungle (1950), and Pat and Mike (1952).  What a list!

Flaherty was also a technical advisor on sports films, and is credited with teaching Gary Cooper how to pitch in The Pride of the Yankees in 1942, and was advisor for The Babe Ruth Story in 1948.  Pretty impressive for an actor who was uncredited in 155 of his 199 roles!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sheb Wooley (1921 - 2003)

I guess everyone over the age of fifty or so remembers the 1958 hit song The Purple People Eater.  It was recorded by Sheb Wooley.  In addition to being a country musician, Wooley was also an actor.

Born Shelby F. Wooley, he started out as a musician, and that led to radio and then movies.  His first film was Rocky Mountain in 1950 with Errol Flynn

Here's an interesting tidbit.  It is suggested that Wooley recorded the famous Wilhelm scream, a sound effect that has been used in over 150 movies, including Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.  The scream was originally recorded for a 1951 film, Distant Drums, starring Gary Cooper, and Wolley had a small part in it.  It was found during the making of Star Wars on a reel labeled "Man being eaten by an alligator."

A better role was given to him in 1952's High Noon.  He played Ben Miller and tried to gun down Gary Cooper.  1955 brought him Man Without a Star starring Kirk Douglas, and in 1956 he was in Giant with giants Liz Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson.

I think Wooley must have preferred westerns, because that was basically what he did.  There were quite a few TV westerns as well, including all the popular ones from the 1950s and 1960s.  He played Pete Nolan in "Rawhide," working with Clint Eastwood.

He made a few more good movies.  1967 The War Wagon with Kirk Douglas and John Wayne.  1976 The Outlaw Josie Wales working with Clint Eastwood again.  And in 1985, Silverado with Kevin Costner and Kevin Kline.  All westerns.

You know the saying, "what goes around, comes around?"  In 1988 Purple People Eater was made into a movie.  It starred Neil Patrick Harris who played "Doogie Howser" starting the next year on TV; was the first film for a six year old Thora Birch who was later in two Tom Clancy films, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), and was the teenage temptress in American Beauty in 1999; plus Ned Beatty, Chubby Checker and Little Richard (The Original Georgia Peach).

It looks like Sheb Wooley had quite a career on screen for a guy who is known for a comedy recording in 1958!  BTW, it sold 3 million copies and was #1 for six weeks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts (1937)

I was a Boy Scout leader for about 15 years and I am an Eagle Scout father, so the title above caught my eye.

Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts was Tex Ritter's ninth movie.  Westerns in the 1930s have incredible casts.  This one also stars Marjorie Reynolds who played Peg Riley in "The Life of Riley" on TV, Horace Murphy and "Snub" Pollard as Tex's sidekicks, and Tommy Bupp as one of the Boy Scouts.  Bupp was in It's a Gift (1934) a favorite of mine starring W. C. Fields.

Hank Wardon (1901 - 1992) has a small part.  He appears in Stagecoach (1939) with John Wayne.  But, he was in 16 of The Duke's films, starting with Stagecoach up to 1973 in Cahill US Marshal.  He's in a dozen Tex Ritter films.  He has over 200 roles on his list at IMDb.  Notably he was in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), several Ma and Pa Kettle movies, The Music Man (1962), Good Times (1967)  (This was billed as Sonny and Cher's only movie together, but they did make Wild on the Beach two years earlier.), and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1978, just to name some non-westerns.

Some other great Bit Actors in Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts were: Philip Ahn (1905 - 1978) with 180 roles, Ed Cassidy (1893 - 1968) with 267 roles, Lynton Brent (1897 - 1981) with 263 roles, and Forrest Taylor (1883 - 1965) with over 400 roles from 1915 to 1963.

A lot of these guys and gals got to work together in many films, and that may be one reason the early westerns are timeless.  Everyone knew what to expect from the others, and they were cast in parts that would take greatest advantage of each one's strength.  I would also imagine that rehearsal time was short because they all knew each other's moves.

I can't fail to mention that The Beverly Hill Billies band backs up Tex, and also cast was Troop 13 of the Los Angeles District of BSA.  I am sure they made this film to bolster BSA membership, but the story (and Tex Ritter) probably took the lead.  The ratings on IMDB weren't that great!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day and Ulverston

We have company for Labor Day so I will leave you with some old pictures of Ulverston, England.  Ulverston was the birthplace of Stan Laurel, one of the greatest comics of all time.

These are from a packet of postcards I received at the Sons of the Desert convention in London and Ulverston in 1984.  If you ever get the chance to visit beautiful Ulverston, in the Lake District just above Blackpoool, please do, and make sure you stop by the Laurel and Hardy Museum.  Enjoy the pics.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vincent Barbi (1912 - 1998) in The Blob

I thought I'd take a look at the cast list for The Blob (1958) once again.  Yesterday we covered Olin Howland, the first Blob victim in the movie.

Vincent Barbi played George the cafe owner.  I will assume that was the diner where the Blob met an electrifying end, because I don't remember any other cafe in the film.  The diner used in the film is often mistaken for a diner that was near the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville.  That Phoenixville diner has been torn down and replaced by a large chain pharmacy.  The diner used in The Blob was located about 18 miles from the Colonial Theater, in Downingtown, PA.  A new diner has been erected on the same foundation as the original diner, but I believe it is still open.

Back to Vince.  Vince Barbi was born in Italy and his first few films were made there.  He worked with some great stars in his early days.  Richard Attenborough in The Baby and the Battleship (1956) (A film I have never seen or even heard of), and Audrey Hepburn, and Henry Fonda in War and Peace also in 1956.

He worked with James Cagney and Shirley Jones in Never Steal Anything Small (1959, just after The Blob) another one I am unfamiliar with.  Cagney would have been about 60 when he made this musical.

Many of his mid-career films seem dark, with titles like Pay or Die (1960), Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962) and Convicts Four (1962).  Perhaps to retain his sanity he also appeared on "The Jack Benny Program" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on TV in that era, and Vince made some comedies as well.

It seems that he fell into less main-stream projects after that, making The Astro-Zombies in 1968 and an X-rated film Lady Godiva Rides in 1969.  Then more terrible titles...Bunny and Clod and Lisa's Folly (1970), The Exotic Dreams of Cassanova, Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song and The Corpse Grinders in 1971, Blood Orgy of the She Devils (1972), and even more.

In 1975 he was cast in a small role in Capone with some real stars, Ben Gazzara, Harry Guardino, Sylvester Stallone, etc.  He also was way down on the cast list in Raging Bull in 1980.  At this point in his career he is approaching 70 years old, and I don't know how his health is.

He made eight more films, listing a total of 65 roles in film and on TV, from 1954 to 1994, and I am unfamiliar with the majority of them.  Once again, we see the life of a non-star, but an important part of movie making, the Bit Player.