Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photo of Some Friends, Sons of the Desert

Below is a photo that I took at a 1979 banquet of the Two Tars Tent of The Sons of the Desert.  I have spoken of the Sons before, but if any readers are new, the SoD is the international organization dedicated to the films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Each city has a local group called a tent.  The Two Tars meet in the Philadelphia, PA area.  At the banquets they always try to have guests who were involved in some way with L&H or at Hal Roach Studios, or were active in the era.  These days they are getting much older and hard to find.

Here is the pic -

Copyright 1979 Allen Hefner

In the picture (from left to right) we see Red Stanley (1900 - 1980), his wife Anita Garvin (1906 - 1994) and Rosina Lawrence (1912 - 1997).

Red Stanley was a musician and appeared in only nine movies.  He was a delight to talk with.  He worked in films with Betty Grable, Fred MacMurray, Harriet Hilliard (of Ozzie and Harriet), Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake in Blondie Goes Latin (1941), and was uncredited as a trombonist in The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) with Jack Benny.  He married Anita in 1930.

Anita Garvin was one of the most endearing supporting actors used by Laurel and Hardy.  She appeared in 94 films from 1924 to 1940, including about 11 with The Boys, plus some films with Laurel or Hardy, sans the other.  About a third of her films were made at Hal Roach Studios.  My favorite of hers with The Boys was Blotto, a 1930 short where Anita played Stan's wife.  Stan and Ollie thought they would put one over on her and take her hidden liquor to a club.  She had replaced it with cold tea before they left, but they got blotto anyway.  It is one very funny movie.

Rosina Lawrence was one of the nicest people you could ever meet!  Someone once said that she was so sweet, if she went out in the rain, she would melt.  Rosina made 30 films from 1924 to 1939, when she married and became a housewife.  She was popular in some Our Gang comedies as well as some of the best Laurel and Hardy movies.  She had a major role in Way Out West (1937), considered one of their finest feature films.

Rosina's first husband died in 1973.  She married John McCabe in 1987.  McCabe (another acquaintance of mine) was the founder of The Sons of the Desert.  Look for his books about Laurel and Hardy and also Charlie Chaplin.

I have fond memories of all these people, and I will continue to share them with you.  Back in those days I shot these pics on film.  I am in the process of scanning them, which is quite a project!  I just picked up a negative and slide scanner (Thanks, eBay!) and have loads more to go.

Please respect the photographs I have taken.  If you want to use them, please ask first.  It's probably OK, I just want to know and maybe receive credit under the pic!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Governor's Movie

After writing this blog for a while, I am still trying to figure out the best way to go about it.  As I look back, there seem to be three basic formats that I use.  I can choose a Bit Actor or Actress and write about him or her.  I can choose a movie and write about the Bit Parts that made that movie something about which to write.  Or I can write about a famous star and the Bit Players who surrounded the star.  The last one works best for earlier actors such as Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy.

I think the movie format may be the most satisfying.  Many of the people I write about are not well known, and you may pass the blog if I title it Kevin Peter Hall (1955 - 1991).  Who was he?!?  Well, Kevin was the actor who played the Predator (and also the helicopter pilot) in Predator (1987) with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was in only 21 roles on film and TV in his short life.  He died of Aids at age 36.

Kevin was Harry in Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and also in the TV series in the 1990s by the same name.  His very first role was as a mutant bear in Prophecy (1979).  He has also played other aliens and monsters.  What would these movies be without a talented 7' 2" actor in the extensive makeup?

The Governor's Movie is, of course, Predator.  Schwarzenegger is governor of California and Jesse Ventura (b. 1951) was governor of Minnesota, and both of them find themselves in the jungle fighting Kevin Peter Hall.  Arnold wins...Jesse dies.  Kevin really doesn't look the type!

Who else was in PredatorSonny Landham (b. 1941) played Billy, the Native American soldier (also killed).  Landham has 57 roles listed on IMDb.  In the 22 years since Predator he has only made 17 films.

The girl who played Anna was Elpidia Carillo (b. 1961) and she is very popular in Mexico.  She has a total of 55 roles listed, and she does appear on TV shows such as "Miami Vice" and "ER" in the USA, plus some other movies with big stars, Beyond the Limit and Under Fire in 1983, and Things You can Tell Just by Looking at Her (1999) with an all star cast.

Other than Elpidia and Arnold, pretty much everyone else in the movie dies.  So let's look forward to a better weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dale Dye

Dale Dye (b. 1944) is a military man who served in the Marines, spent five years in Viet Nam, received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor, and became a military advisor to the film industry.  He has appeared as a Bit Actor in 72 roles (film, TV, video games, voice).

IMDb can be a little gray when it comes to the number of films an advisor actually works or appears in.  He is listed as advisor on 48 films.  That could be fairly accurate.  His films include quite a few big ones with many great actors and actresses.

His second film was Platoon (1986) which won four Oscars.  He was the military advisor and also appeared as Captain Harris.  Not a bad start.  A few years later he is in Born on the Fourth of July (1989) with Tom Cruise.  He made four films with Cruise.

1991 brought him JFK with Kevin Costner.  Another Oscar winner.  A Steven Seagal movie, Under Siege, in 1992 that was actually nominated for two Oscars.  Then Guarding Tess in 1994 with Shirley MacLaine and Nicolas Cage

The stars Dye worked with are so famous that I am not putting in their life dates!  I will add the movie release dates just to jog your memory.

Natural Born Killers (1994) a controversial movie starring Woody Harrelson, breaking out of his "Cheers" comedy mold.  In Outbreak (1995) Dye worked with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and was able to arrest Donald Sutherland at the end of the movie.

Mission: Impossible (1996)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Rules of Engagement (2000)
"Band of Brothers" in multiple episodes

He even voices about ten video games.  I wonder how much money there is in that?

Captain Dye has made quite a good living on the skills he learned in the Marines.  His company is called Warriors, Inc. and he has a good web site as well.

A big thank you to him for making movies like Saving Private Ryan so realistic.  I think it is important to bring the horrors of war to the screen, along with the heroism.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hank Mann

Have you heard of Hank Mann (1887 - 1971)?  He made over 400 movies, from 1912 to 1959. 

I may assume that some of my readers are young, say under 40, and may not be familiar with silent films.  Some may have never even seen a silent.  If you haven't, you are missing a lot and should seek some out. 

Hank Mann made about 200 silent films, roughly half of his work.  Well over 60 were with Mack Sennett (1880 - 1960).  24 were with Mabel Normand (1895 - 1930), 26 with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1887 - 1933), and 14 with Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977).  He is one of the original Keystone Kops, and someone on Wikipedia credits him with the idea.

Mann played a prizefighter in Chaplin's last silent film, City Lights (1930).  He had already made several talkies by then.  He also appears in Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940).

He made many great movies.  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, The Maltese Falcon, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Arsenic and Old Lace, and On the Town.  In his last ten years of acting he made 90 films.  He made 19 films in 1951 alone. 

He made four films with Abbott and Costello, seven with Jerry Lewis, two with Bob Hope, and five with James Cagney.

Hank Mann is another great Bit Actor who helped make the movies what they are today.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Right Stuff (1983)

I haven't seen The Right Stuff (1983) in quite a few years.  That is about all I can take of a movie that is over three hours long.  Any movie that long will be dragging in parts, The Right Stuff is no exception.  It did win four Oscars though.

The story is a good one and the cast is great.  It has lots of detail and lots of history, and it tells what it must have been like for fearless test pilots being recruited for a truly dangerous assignment.  And this is not fiction. 

All of the stars of The Right Stuff were up-and-coming stars at the time and most have gone on to successful careers.  So let's look at some of the less than top names in the cast.

We see Mary Jo Deschanel (b. 1945) in her first movie.  She is the mother of Zooey Deschanel (b. 1980) and wife of director of photography, Caleb Deschanel (b. 1944).  A movie making family.

Royal Dano (1922 - 1994) played the minister who would show up at the pilot's funerals.  Perfectly cast for this film, he exudes a sinister aura.  Dano has 182 roles listed on IMDb, starting in 1950.  He played Elija in Moby Dick (1956) with Gregory Peck.  He also shows up in all the great 1960s westerns on TV. 

Bit Actor Harry Shearer (b. 1943) and big star Jeff Goldblum (b. 1952) both appear as recruiters in small roles in this film.  Shearer has 127 roles to his credit and is the voice of Ned Flanders on "The Simpsons."

An actor named Robert Beer played Dwight D. Eisenhower, a role he played in two other movies...actually, in every movie he has been in.  But casting presidents is not limited to newcomers.  Donald Moffat (b. 1930) was cast as Lyndon B. Johnson.  Moffat has 116 roles on IMDb starting in 1956. 

The wives of the pilots were also cast well.  Barbara Hershey (b. 1948), cast as Chuck Yeager's wife Glennis, is a perennial favorite.  BTW, the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound was named for his wife, Glamorous Glennis.  It can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum.

I am also a fan of Veronica Cartwright (b. 1949), cast as Gus Grissom's wife, Betty.  She is the sister of Angela Cartwright (b. 1952), another famous actress.

Finally, look for the real Chuck Yeager (b. 1923) as the bartender.  I bet he was handy to have around so the filmmakers could pick his brain. 

I was able to catch The Right Stuff and it is sitting in my DVR.  I may have to break it up to two evenings, but it is time to watch it again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Frank Talk About Sex

That blog title may get your attention!  Sex and the Single Girl was a big hit in 1964.  The main characters, Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), Tony Curtis (b. 1925), Henry Fonda (b. 1925), and Lauren Bacall (b. 1924) are all talented and made it great.

As far as frank talk about it, there was only one cast member in the movie named Frank, Frank Baker (1892 - 1980).  He made over 100 films starting in 1916, and 15 of then were silent.  His career was full of big movies, but you probably don't recognize his name.  He was a bystander in My Fair Lady (1964), released just before Sex where he played a pretzel vendor as the cars drove by.

Some great Bit Actors are in this film.  Look for Larry Storch (b. 1923) from "F-Troop;" Stubby Kaye (1918 - 1997) who became famous but was never really in anything good, he was just in everything; and Edward Everett Horton (1886 - 1970) who worked for nearly 50 years from 1922 until his death.

This was the last film of Otto Kruger (1885 - 1974), another good actor who had a mysterious air about him.  He was in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942), and High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper

One of my favorite Bit Actors is Max Showalter (1917 - 2000).  He had 88 roles from 1949 to 1984.  He was in two Marilyn Monroe movies, Niagara (1953) and Bus Stop (1956).  Other great films of Showalter's, Hellcats of the Navy (1957), Elmer Gantry (1960), The Music Man (1962), and How to Murder your Wife (1965) just after making Sex and the Single Girl.

Natalie Wood was particularly sexy in this film, entirely on purpose, as were the other two young women, Fran Jeffries (b. 1937) and Leslie Parrish (b. 1935).  Jeffries was a lounge singer in Las Vegas and only appeared in five films.  Parrish had a long acting career appearing in 70 roles from Daddy Long Legs in 1955 to Crash! in 1977 with Jose Ferrer, plus a lot of television.

Sex is great!  I mean the movie.  But you knew that.  I would have loved to follow Natalie Wood's career if she hadn't died so young.  She is missed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lili (1953)

As a child I used to listen to my parent's records.  Many were 78 rpm discs that we played on the old RCA console, and later my father (who worked at RCA in Camden, NJ) added a turntable to play 33 and 45 rpm records.

One of those old records was the soundtrack to Lili (1953).  Leslie Caron (b. 1931) was the star.  She was 22 years old when she made this movie, playing a 16 year old girl.  Her first film was An American in Paris (1951) with Gene Kelly (1912 - 1996) and is certainly the film she is most remembered for.  Lili was her fifth film.
Lili had many of those 1950s actors and actresses that nobody remembers.  It also included Zsa Zsa Gabor (b. 1917) as a magician's assistant, also in her fifth film.  I would classify Zsa Zsa's role here as a bit part.  Zsa Zsa has had quite a career as a film sexpot.  One scene in Lili has Zsa Zsa and Leslie dancing, each wearing the same dress.  It was clear who had the more voluptuous figure.  We hope Zsa Zsa makes a good recovery from her recent illness.

Mel Ferrar (1917 - 2008) played one of the love interests, the puppeteer.  He is an accomplished actor/director/producer with 105 roles on IMDb.  He was married for a time to Audrey Hepburn.  Lili was his seventh film.  Look for him in later hits; The Longest Day (1962), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), and on TV in "Falcon Crest."

As I watched the credits (and I always watch the credits!) I was surprised to see Amanda Blake (1929 - 1989) in Lili as Peach Lips.  I didn't recognize her, but she must have been one of the magician's other girls.  Amanda Blake was Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke," among over 40 other roles, including A Star is Born in 1954 with Judy Garland.  I should watch for her on screen.

It is a shame that this film is so forgotten.  It is not readily available on DVD and I was fortunate to catch it on TCM. Robert Osbourne called it one of the biggest sleepers of all time.  Search for it if you can.  It is a magical film with great music (the music one an Oscar) by Bronislau Kaper (1902 - 1983).  Kaper wrote the score for over 130 films from 1930 to 1972, including White Cargo (1942), Gaslight (1944), The Red Badge of Courage (1950), Them! (1954 - the giant ant movie, remember?), BUtterfield 8 (1960), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).  Best of all is Leslie Caron interacting with the puppets, who come alive for her and for the viewers.