Here’s a jaw-dropping Christmas number from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s 1984 Christmas TV special. Kenny prefaces the song by saying it was written by Dolly and is “destined to become a Christmas standard.” Do you even know any Dolly Parton fans who remember this song? And dig those nonchalant people in the church pews. Would you be sitting stone-faced if something like this came dancing through your church? I’d be more like one of the horrified onlookers at “Springtime for Hitler.”
Happy Black Friday, fellow campers! For those of you happily holed up in your home rather than facing the perils of discount shopping, I bring you The MovieMovieBlogBlog Holiday Special. Throughout the day, I will provide you with my favorite holiday-video moments for your enjoyment.
First up: For me, the holidays don’t officially begin until I hear Denis Leary deliver his ode to the worst elements of the season. (WARNING: Very strong language and imagery to follow.)
Just when you think you’ve read it all, along comes “The Silent Movie Star Sandwich Contest.”
It’s being hosted by my blogger-friend Fritzi at her blog Movies Silently, and if you could resist plugging such a unique contest, you’re a stronger man than I am. Please follow the link below for all the details:
This week on The Gangsters All Here, it’s a two-for-one special as Paul Henreid — best known to film buffs as Victor Laszlo, the good guy in Casablanca — does a complete 180 as a villain and his doppelganger in a film-noir entry, The Scar (also previously released as Hollow Triumph).
(WARNING: Spoilers follow!)
Heinreid (who also produced the movie) plays recently paroled criminal John Muller. Muller wastes no time reverting to his old way, rounding up his old gang and planning a heist on a high-looted and well-protected casino. When that project works out less than swimmingly, Muller retreats to another city, where he discovers he has an uncanny resemblance to a local psychologist named Victor Bartok (also played by Henreid). Indeed, the only major physical difference between the two is a prominent scar on Bartok’s face. But heck, if Muller can ditch his own trashy life and take over someone else’s tony existence, he’s not going to let a little thing like a facial scratch stop him, is he?
On a scale of 1 to 5 fannies, this movie gets a 4. I would give it a 5, but frankly, that business about the scar gets a little hazy in the movie’s second half. However, that won’t deter you from enjoying powerhouse performances from Henreid as well as Joan Bennett as Bartok’s seen-it-all secretary. And if you look really closely, your eyes will pop at the sight of Jack Webb in the early role of a hitman who’s nicknamed “Bullseye”! Goodness, what would Joe Friday have to say about that?
The following is my entry in The Girl Week Blogathon, being hosted Nov. 16-22, 2015 by the blog Dell on Movies. Click on the above banner, and read a variety of bloggers’ tributes to their favorite movie actresses and heroines!
There’s an interesting book titled Brave Dames and Wimpettes, in which novelist Susan Isaacs posits that most modern movie heroines still use old feminine wiles instead of brainpower to get what they want. Urgently recommended viewing for Ms. Isaacs would be Panic Room, one of the best thrillers of the early 2000’s.
The movie’s heroines are Meg Altman (Jodie Foster), a recent divorcee, and her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart, essaying one of her first movie roles at the tender age of 11). They’ve just moved into a three-story Manhattan home of the kind to be found more easily in movies than in Manhattan. The prime draw of this house is its “panic room.” In the event of a burglary or similar emergency, the resident locks himself inside this room and uses its separate phone line to call the police.
On their very first night in the house, Meg and Sarah find out just how good to be true this room is, when three unruly burglars break in. It happens that the house’s previous owner left a few million dollars behind in the house, and wouldn’t you know it, the money’s in the same panic room where Meg and Sarah lock themselves. Oh, and for good measure, Meg didn’t have a chance to get the separate phone line hooked up.
Yeah, I know, this whole set-up could happen only in the movies. But before the thrills are unleashed, the movie takes the time to set up the relationship between Meg and Sarah, and it’s nicely done. Because we get to know them for a while, we have a stake in their peril.
And believe me, these are not two women who sit around screaming and waiting for some moronically written boogie-men to kill them. Simply because the marvelous screenplay by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) allows these women to think, they manage to stay one step ahead of the burglars, who eventually find themselves cowering as much as those wimpettes Isaacs writes about.
Except for some overly swooping camera movement at the beginning, David Fincher’s direction is as perfectly taut as you could hope to find in a thriller.
As for the lead actresses — what a wealth! With her interplay with Foster and her remarkable subtlety, even in 2002 it looked as though Kristen Stewart would be…well, the next Jodie Foster.
And what is there to say about Foster? I find her one of the most beautiful women in movies, simply because she makes intelligence sexy.
Watching a seeming no-brainer like Panic Room is like expecting an ice-cream cone and getting a dinner at Four Seasons.
The name of this week’s The Gangsters All Here movie gets straight to the point. The movie is called The Hoodlum — a title so generic, it’s the movie equivalent of slapping a white-with-black-lettering label on a can of beans. But there’s nothing generic about the guy who plays the title role…
It’s Lawrence Tierney!
The Hoodlum is directed by Max Nosseck, who directed Tierney in his breakout role in Dillinger (1945). But by the time of this movie, both Tierney’s and Nosseck’s careers had hit bottom — Tierney due to a lot of jail time earned by off-screen drinking and brawling, and Nosseck because he went from Dillinger right b;lkack to the B- and worse-type movies he’d previously been doing.
One could almost say that the bitterness of these two men burst forth in this movie and made it work. Tierney plays Vincent Lubeck, a career criminal whose career is so vast, it’s lovingly detailed in the movie’s prologue. Lubeck gets paroled due to a lucky break, but he still comes out of jail declaring that life has never given him a chance and will continue to not do so. So when Lubeck gets a good look at both (a) a loot-filled armored car that passes his way every day, and (b) his brother’s sob-sister-and-virginal girlfriend, what do you think are the chances that he’ll try to nab both?
On a scale of 1 to 5 fannies, I give this movie a 4-½. Tierney sizzles from start to finish, and the movie is uncompromising in nearly every aspect of its subject matter (especially for 1951). I deduct a half-star only because the movie begins with that weariest of tropes, a plea to the jailhouse warden from the convict’s elderly mother. But if you stick with the movie right to the end, you’ll see that even this cliche gets turned on its head.
The following is my entry in the 4th annual What a Character! Blogathon, being hosted Nov. 21-23, 2015 by the blogs Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to a wide range of character actors throughout the history of movies!
This is all of the obituary that The New York Times could see fit to give a performer who appeared in 207 movies and TV episodes and four Broadway productions. “Ned Glass, an actor”? That’s kind of like saying, “Charlie Chaplin, a comedian”!
Glass falls squarely into the category of “I’ve seen that face a million times, but I couldn’t tell you his name.” He must have laughed all the way to the bank, as he made a 50-year career out of playing such anonymous shnooks.
Born Nusyn Glass in Poland to a Jewish family, he emigrated early to America, grew up in New York City, and began his show business career in vaudeville. He acted and directed on Broadway until 1936, when he started his film career as an M-G-M contract player.
Famous actors flitted about Glass’ orbit. Producer-actor John Houseman helped him get early film roles. Glass was also a neighbor-friend of The Three Stooges’ Moe Howard, and he appeared in several Stooges shorts. This led to an “urban myth” that Howard pulled strings to get Glass into the Stooges’ films; in reality, Howard had minimal input into his movies’ casting. Glass made several screen appearance alongside his neighbor nevertheless.
Glass with Curly and Moe Howard in the Three Stooges short “Nutty but Nice.”
Glass was also a favorite of Stooges directors Jules White and Del Lord. Buster Keaton buffs can easily spot Glass in Keaton’s 1939 Columbia short subjects A Pest from the West and (shown below) Mooching Through Georgia.
It would take an entire blog to cover all of Glass’ movie appearances. You might remember him as Doc in West Side Story (1961), “Doc Schindler from Chicago” in Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie (1966), and alongside Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959) and Charade (1963), among countless other movie roles.
Glass also made many TV appearances. He was a regular on “Julia” (1968-1971, starring Diahann Carroll as a widowed nurse) and the short-lived sitcom “Bridget Loves Bernie” (1972-73, about families colliding when an Irish-Catholic girl marries a Jewish guy). Fans of “The Honeymooners” will remember him from the episode “Pal o’ Mine” as Ed Norton doppelganger Teddy Oberman, whom Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) briefly befriends after he has a spat with Norton. (The episode is embedded at the end of this blog entry. Also, click here for a pictorial of some of Glass’ most notable movie and TV appearances.)
For an actor so prominent in movies and on TV, little about Glass’ private life is documented. Apparently, he was briefly blacklisted in the 1950’s, during which time he found work as a carpenter. Glass was married to actress Kitty McHugh, making him brother-in-law to character actor Frank McHugh and bit player Matt McHugh. Kitty McHugh committed suicide in September, 1954, and Glass later married actress Jean (also known as Jhean) Burton. That marriage ended in divorce.
With so little information about his personal life, Glass’ film and TV roles are nearly all we have to go on in order to “know” the man. As noted in the entry on him in Wikipedia, “Short and bald, with a slight hunch to his shoulders, Glass was immediately recognizable by his distinct appearance, his nasal voice, and his pronounced New York City accent.” Judging from his considerable (and mostly memorable) body of work, Glass was content to let his work speak for itself.
(Below is the “Honeymooners” episode where Glass made his guest appearance; he first arrives on the scene at the 17:40 mark.)
Because good news can never be shared too early, I am psyched–simply psyched–to be announcing:
It’s back! Once again I would like to extend a warm invitation to movie-loving bloggers to pay tribute to the one and only Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton, our solemn-faced funmaker in the flat hat. Buster’s work has not only delighted generations of fans from around the world, but has inspired countless filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to Werner Herzog to the fine folk at Pixar. He is one of our most beloved screen legends, and this February we’re going to celebrate his legacy.
When: Sunday, February 7 and Monday, February 8, 2016.
Where: Right here on Silent-ology!
How: To sign up, pick a Keaton film/topic to write about then leave me a comment at the bottom of this post. You can also send me a message (don’t forget to include your name and your blog…
The following is my entry in The Criterion Blogathon, being hosted Nov. 16-21, 2015 by the blogs Criterion Blues, Speakeasy, and Silver Screenings. Click on the above banner, and partake of nearly 200 bloggers’ reviews of movies from The Criterion Collection!
It’s rare that a man gets to write his own obituary. It’s even rarer when he turns it into a movie musical. But stage-and-screen choreographer-director Bob Fosse did just that in All That Jazz, definitely not your grandfather’s musical.
Film buffs will argue that this is merely Fosse’s musical version of Federico Fellini’s famously autobiographical 8-1/2. Grousers will complain that it’s Fosse’s self-serving take on a very self-indulgent life. For me, at least, it’s never less than fascinating. It might not be a musical where you come out humming the tunes, but it has imagination oozing from every frame.
Jaws’ Roy Scheider plays Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon, a goateed satyr who tries to keep too many plates in the air at once, artistically and in his personal life. The story shows Gideon trying to nurse along a potentially disastrous Broadway musical, finish the final cut on a bio-flick that looks suspiciously like Lenny (Fosse’s story of Lenny Bruce), and juggle several relationships with women of his past and present.
Fosse definitely stacked the deck by casting many of his former lady-loves, including Ann Reinking as Gideon’s current lover, and Jessica Lange as his blunt-talking Angel of Death. Nevertheless, Fosse is hardly easy on himself. Gideon is a boozer, pill popper, and genial ignorer of any advice that might help him lead a longer and happier life.
This soon culminates in a hospital hallucination that is a supreme tour de force, not to mention the first musical to ever include a scene of open-heart surgery. (It’s graphic, but in context, it’s all too appropriate.)
In one of the weirder career highs of movies, this has to be Scheider’s peak. Gideon is all too self-destructive, but Scheider shows us the charisma that has everyone in Gideon’s life going along for the ride. The rest of the cast is great as well (including Wallace Shawn and John Lithgow in early roles).
Most musicals are all-out to please a huge audience. One gets the feeling that with All That Jazz, Fosse was the audience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t savor his high as well.
Just wanted to acknowledge that the final entry in the ‘One’ of My All-Time Favorite Movies Blogathon managed to come through, despite her ill health. Phyllis Loves Classic Movies posted her entry for Mickey’s Gala Premiere late last night. Please click here to read it! And thanks again to her and all of the other entrants for all of their wonderful blog entries for making the blogathon such a success!