Saturday, October 9, 2010

Robby the Robot (b. 1956)

I have always liked sci-fi, even the early stuff.  Or maybe, especially the early stuff.  I was talking with friend and he mentioned Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956).  The movie is a classic of early sci-fi, with effects that are better than you would expect for the 1950s, and Robby was a technological wonder.

Forbidden Planet starred Walter Pidgeon (1897 - 1984) who was born when Jules Verne (1828 - 1905) was still alive, and Anne Francis (b. 1930) who put the Honey in "Honey West."  Other stars included Leslie Nielsen (b. 1926) before he discovered he was really a comedian, Jack Kelly (1927 - 1992) who played Bart Maverick, and Earl Holliman (b. 1928) who was in everything in the 1950s and 1960s.

Robby the Robot has 26 titles to his credit on IMDb.  He was built at a cost of $125,000 for Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy (1957).  But he was too talented to just sit in a prop department warehouse.

He started showing up on TV series' like "The Thin Man" with Peter Lawford, and "The Gale Storm Show" in the 1950s.  In the 1960s he was on "Hazel," "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," a couple of episodes of "The Twilight Zone," and "The Addams Family."  He appears in two episodes of "Lost in Space" where he gets to work with his younger brother, Robot B-9 (b. 1965).

Perhaps it was embarrassing, but he played Mildred on "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour."  He went on to redeem himself on "Columbo" and "Mork and Mindy" all in the 1970s.

He made a few more movies, including Gremlins (1984) and Earth Girls are Easy (1988).  His last listed work was in the Pamela Anderson (b. 1967) TV series "Stacked" in 2005.

I'm sure Robby isn't done working yet, but CGI can create much more realistic/terrifying/unusual robots.  Keep watching.  And enjoy the picture of Robby in his prime!

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Island Earth (1955)

1955 was a great time for sci-fi movies.  World War II was well behind us, we had nuclear weapons, we were working on space travel, and anything was possible.  The next threat to the world would have to come from outer space.  This Island Earth put forth a likely scenario, at least for 1955 tech.

Starring Jeff Morrow (1907 - 1993), Faith Domergue (1924 - 1999) and Rex Reason (b. 1928), all as scientists, but Morrow was actually an alien.  The notion that the invaders would send a complex machine called an interociter to a group of scientists to see if they could complete the task of building it and getting it to work, then use it to invade the Earth, was pretty scary back then.

The aliens were from Metaluna, which literally means "beyond the moon" and their planet is in trouble.  They appear to be asking for our help after choosing the best and brightest scientists with their test, but they really want to bump us off and take our home.  Rex and Faith showed them!

There were some others in this film who did well in their acting careers.  Richard Deacon (1921 - 1984) appears as a pilot, and later shows up on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."  Russell Johnson (b. 1924), who ends up on "Gilligan's Island" as the professor is also seen.

Most of the cast are relatively unknown today, but made many movies and TV appearances.  Robert Nichols (b. 1924) has 111 titles on IMDb.  He played Joe Wilson, who I believe was Rex Reason's assistant in building the interociter, if memory serves.  Nichols appears in The Thing from Another World (1951) which is popularly known simply as The Thing and also cast James Arness (b. 1923) in the title role.  He was in Monkey Business (1952) and Gentlemen Prefer Blonds (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, and a lot of great movies with great stars like Humphrey Bogart, Mickey Rooney and Bob Hope.

Lance Fuller (1928 - 2001) has 53 titles, Douglas Spencer (1910 - 1960) has 84 titles, Jack Byron (1885 - 1991) has 71 titles going back to silent films with This Island Earth being his last, and the list goes on.

We can forgive all the scientific mistakes they made because it was 1955.  This movie is fun, but a little long.  It goes well when you just want to kick back in the recliner and relax, or perhaps with some friends who have always wanted their own interociter.  I have friends like that!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Conquered the World (1956)

Yes, It did.  It Conquered the World (1956) is an early horror/sci-fi classic from the prolific Roger Corman (b. 1926).  Corman produced over 350 films, plus he directed 56, and even appeared in 34.  Most of his films can best be described as "campy," but he was helpful in giving many stars an early break.  Peter Graves (1926 - 2010) and Lee Van Cleef (1925 - 1989) star in this one.  It is not available on DVD apparently.

Beverly Garland (1926 - 2008) is also seen in a starring roles as Van Cleef's wife.  Garland has 186 roles on her list, starting in 1950 in the film noir classic, D.O.A. with Edmond O'Brien (1915 - 1985).  Most of her roles were single appearances on TV series'. 

Garland did have some regular roles on TV, starting with "Decoy" in the late 1950s, then "The Bing Crosby Show" in the mid 1960s, her big break as a regular on "My Three Sons" later that decade, and a stint on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" in the 1970s.  Two later TV series, "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and "7th Heaven" brought her into this century. 

As I look through the cast, most of the actors and actresses made their living by appearing on TV shows, and making an occasional movie.  Most are true Bit Actors, but some went on to more important work.

Russ Bender (1910 - 1969) shows 108 titles.  It was his third film, just after working on The War of the Worlds (1953) with Gene Barry (1919 - 2009).  He was the divorce court judge in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) with James Cagney, and in 1962 he was in That Touch of Mink and Days of Wine and Roses.  Most of his movies have titles like Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966).  His last work was on "Bonanza."

One more...Jonathan Haze (b. 1929).  Best known as Seymour Krelboin in Little Shop of Horrors (1960) which was also by Roger Corman, and was Jack Nicholson's fourth movie.  Haze has 38 titles starting with Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1954, and many of them are also with Corman.

That was fun.  Look through the titles produced by Roger Corman and you have the makings of a great Halloween party with film buffs!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roxanne (1987)

Roxanne from 1987 is a Steve Martin (b. 1945) film based loosely on Cyrano de Bergerac.  It is not one of the greatest comedies of all time, but it has its moments. 

Shelley Duvall (b. 1949) helps with the laughs...but she is very good at everything.  Daryl Hannah (b. 1960) and Rick Rossovich (b. 1957) are less adept at comedy but they do their best.  And how about this?  They are all still alive!  That's unusual for my blog.

Fred Willard (b. 1939) played the mayor and volunteer fireman in the small Colorado town.  Fred has 219 roles listed on IMDb, starting in 1966.  He worked in an interesting and transitional period on TV.  In his early appearances he worked with Burns and Schreiber and Bob Newhart.  He was a regular with Martin Mull (b. 1943) on "Fernwood Tonight" and reprised his role on "America 2-Night."

Willard had his own series called "D.C. Follies" where he worked with puppets in a bar.  He continues on TV in "Roseanne" and has appeared many times on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Willard's movie roles may not have been the best, with titles like Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy (1979) and Elvis is Alive! I Swear I saw Him Eating Ding Dongs Outside the Piggly Wiggly's (1998).  I have never seen either of them. 

Another interesting character actor in Roxanne is Michael J. Pollard (b. 1939) who plays another fireman, and appears to be a little slow.  He has 106 roles listed including many great, early TV series starting in 1959.  Look for him in "The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis," "Route 66," "Gunsmoke," and "Star Trek," among many others.

Pollard starred in a few movies as well.  Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970) with Robert Redford, and Dirty Little Billy (1972) about Billy the Kid.

Take a look at Roxanne and then read the credits at the end.  I am sure you will appreciate the talents of these Bit Actors and Actresses, but probably not recognize all the names.  The girl who plays Sandy the barmaid (Shandra Beri) has more credits as a costume designer than an actress, but she is pretty and plays the small part well.

And everyone mentioned above is still alive!  10-07-10 Correction.  I mentioned Burns and Schreiber above.  Jack Burns, born in 1933 is still alive but Avery Schreiber (1935 - 2002) is no longer with us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tony Curtis (1925 - 2010)

I guess everyone knows that Tony Curtis passed away last week.  He was born Bernard Herschel wonder he changed his name. 

In his early starring roles we find Houdini (1953) which I have always loved.  Let's look at that movie and some other people who worked with Tony.

Hodini's mother was very important to him, so much that he was obsessed with contacting her spirit after she passed away.  He would seek mediums who claimed to be authentic, and then he would end up exposing their tricks.  His friend, the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) of Sherlock Holmes fame, was a firm believer in the afterlife and being able to contact the dead.  Harry kept asking him for leads to authentic mediums, and then exposed them all as fakes.

Hodini's mother was played by Angela Clarke (b. 1912).  She has 64 roles listed on IMDb, starting in 1947 and going into TV.  Her last role was a TV movie in 1986 called "Killer in the Mirror" with Ann Jillian (b. 1950).  She also played Enrico Caruso's mother in The Great Caruso (1951) starring Mario Lanza (1921 - 1959).  In fact, she is listed as a mother in TEN of her roles.

Ian Wolfe (1896 - 1992) is another Bit Actor in Houdini.  He has been around, starting in films in 1934 after doing some stage work.  In his 288 titles are The Mighty Barnum (1934) starring Wallace Beery (1885 - 1949), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1925) starring Charles Laughton (1899 - 1962) and Clark Gable.  In 1938 he was in You Can't Take it With You and Blondie.  He was in Hitchcock's Saboteur in 1942.  I think I better move on because his roles are so varied and interesting, it could take an entire blog.

Connie Gilchrist (1901 - 1985) played in 117 titles from 1940 and a movie called Hullabaloo with Frank Morgan (the Wizard of Oz) and Billie Burke (The Good Witch of the East).  Possibly her biggest role was in Long John Silver (1954), and her last role was with Dick Van Dyke in 1969's Some Kind of Nut.

Some others in Houdini include Frank Orth (1880 - 1962) as a safe expert.  Frank has 176 titles on IMDb.  Barry Bernard (1899 - 1978) who has 68 titles, and Douglas Spencer (1910 - 1960) with 84 roles. 

Tony Curtis was a handsome man!  I am glad that we can continue to enjoy his movies, and I also appreciate Jamie Lee Cutris who wouldn't be here without him

BTW, my post about Blondie was just selected for re-posting on a new blog, Movie Fan Fare, which is hosted by Movies Unlimited.  Movies Unlimited is one of the most respected sources for movies, and they have an incredible catalog that is also sold by Turner Classic Movies.  It is a very good site and well worth a look.  I will add a button link on my page this weekend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mr. Smith on 34th Street

I just happened to bump into Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) yesterday on Turner Classic Movies.  I didn't watch it because I have the DVD, but this is a movie that belongs in every classic movie fan's collection. 

The scene I saw had Jefferson Smith was being sworn in as a senator.  There was an objection by another senator, played by Porter Hall (1888 - 1953).  I also remembered Hall in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) so I thought I would look him up.

It was worth the effort.  Hall was an actor on the stage and gave movies a try late in his career.  He usually played a villain, or just a grump.  His first two movies starred Claudette Colbert (1903 - 1996), and then Tallulah Bankhead (1902 - 1968).  His third was The Thin Man (1934), an early pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy.  Off to a good start, I would say.

Many westerns and many prison films follow.  Then he is a senator in Mr. Smith in 1939.  A comedy, His Girl Friday, and a western with John Wayne, Dark Command, in 1940.

In 1944 we see Hall in Double Indemnity with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwick and Edward G. Robinson, and then in Going My Way starring Bing CrosbyMiracle on 34th Street (1947) and Hall is the company psychologist, another bad guy trying to put Kris Kringle in a mental hospital.

It comes to mind that it would be a good thing to search out the lesser known films of some of these great Bit Actors.  In 1949 he was in Chicken Every Sunday with Celeste Holm (b. 1917), Dan Dailey (1913 - 1978), and Alan Young from "Mister Ed."  His next film the same year was The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend starring (listen to THIS cast) Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee, Hugh Herbert and Sterling Holloway.  That has to be a good movie, but neither is available on DVD.

Some TV time started in 1950, and another E. G. Robinson film, Vice Squad in 1953.  Porter Hall had 79 roles on the screen and in TV.  The people he worked with were truly incredible.

A small complaint with the new IMDb.  I can't find a link to search for movies that include a pair of people in the credits.  I used that feature a lot.  If anyone knows where it went in the redesign, please send me an e-mail!  I did write to IMDb about the oversight.  Thanx!

(Update 2011-02) That feature on IMDb is present, but difficult to find.  Go to the Search link at the very bottom of the home page, then click on the link for collaborations.  Whew!