#PayClassicsForward, Year 4

I adore playing along every December with Aurora at the blog Once Upon a Screen. Every year, she “gifts” readers with 12 movie-related categories (a la “The 12 Days of Christmas”) and invites other readers and bloggers to do the same. Click here for Aurora’s 2018 list. As for mine, see below!


One movie, one performer

Richard Pryor Live in Concert


Two Everymen in historical events

Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) in Zelig

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) in Forrest Gump


Three dressings-down

Cop Victor Mature daring gangster Richard Conte to shoot him in Cry of the City

Rex Harrison ripping Rudy Vallee’s coat apart in Unfaithfully Yours

Ruby Dee giving a motherly lecture to her gangster son (Denzel Washington) in American Gangster


Four TV-to-movie adaptations

The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew


The Addams Family

Wayne’s World

The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle


Five cross-country movies

Gun Crazy


North by Northwest

The Cannonball Run

Lost in America

Rain Man


Six baby plot twists

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek


Raising Arizona

Three Men and a Baby





Seven comic chases

Buster Keaton, some brides, and some rocks in Seven Chances


Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy aboard a runaway airplane in The Flying Deuces

The Marx Brothers tearing apart the train in which they’re riding in Go West

W.C. Fields’ car ride with a bandit in The Bank Dick

Ringo Starr getting sprung from jail in A Hard Day’s Night

Mel Brooks’ Western movie spilling out into the streets in Blazing Saddles

Nicolas Cage evading practically everyone after a robbery in Raising Arizona


Eight film critics

Gene Siskel

Roger Ebert

Pauline Kael

James Agee

Andrew Sarris

Stanley Kauffmann

David Denby

Carrie Rickey


Nine sexy moments

Jean Harlow unknowingly parading half-naked through a hotel lobby in Laurel & Hardy’s Double Whoopee

Joel McCrea helping Claudette Colbert unzip her dress in The Palm Beach Story

Lauren Bacall shaking her hips at the end of To Have and Have Not

The camera panning up Jane Russell’s legs in Son of Paleface


The “Shall We Dance?” number in The King and I

Sophia Loren climbing out of the water in Boy on a Dolphin

Sharon Stone kissing a train window in Stardust Memories

The upside-down kiss in Spider-Man

Adrienne Barbeau bouncing bralessly in Swamp Thing (Sorry!)


Ten lovely movies

Love Happy


Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Love and Death

Endless Love

Sea of Love

I Love You to Death

Shakespeare in Love

Down with Love

Must Love Dogs

Love Actually


Eleven nastier-than-nasty villains

The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) in The Wizard of Oz

Vera (Ann Savage) in Detour


Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Kiss of Death

Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather Part II

Noah Cross (John Huston) in Chinatown

Darth Vader (body by David Prowse, voice by James Earl Jones) in Star Wars

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in Die Hard

Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in GoodFellas

Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes) in Schindler’s List

Judge Claude Frollo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No Country for Old Men


Twelve movies by the numbers

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Man with Two Brains


Three Ages

4 Little Girls

Five Easy Pieces

The Sixth Sense

The Seven Year Itch

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years

9 to 5


11 Harrowhouse

12 Angry Men


We had some no-shows on Day 2, but we ended our blogathon of famous foursomes with a finale of finesse. So join us for the big closing number, as we present

Click here to link to the entries from Day 1. For today’s finale, click on each individual blog’s name to link to their entries (except for our first entrant, for which you’ll need to click on each of his entries’ names).


First off, Movierob gets our “Blogathoner of the Year” Award for contributing entries on five, count ’em, 5 movies: The first, second, and third movies of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; and the movie versions/extensions of the TV series Sex and the City and The A-Team.


Caftan Woman sings her praises of the close-harmony vocal quartet The Hi-Lo’s.


Tranquil Dreams shows us that friendship is in the genes (or is it jeans?) of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.


Realweegiemidget Reviews examines the lives of four people who want love but are afraid to get Closer.


An assassination threat on a former agent leaves him and three of his peers seeing Red, as chronicled by thoughtsallsorts.


Chevy Chase takes the concept of family vay-cay’s to a new extreme in National Lampoon’s Vacation, whose itinerary is well-detailed by Moon in Gemini.


Pure Entertainment Preservation Society details how a governess becomes the center of a widower’s family in Adam Had Four Sons.


And finally, what would a foursomes blogathon be without a tribute to TV’s best-known Miami seniors? Once Upon a Screen offers a touch of nostalgia (and grey) for “The Golden Girls.”

Our thanks to all of the wonderful bloggers who contributed such enjoyable entries, and to this blogathon’s followers who enjoyed them. Y’all come back now, ya hear?































Our blogathon is already chock-full of bloggers who take New Year’s Eve seriously! Time to get spiffed up for


Click on the name of each individual blog to read their entry.


An initially disappointing New Year’s Eve party turns out to have revelations for a young worker, as Cinematic Scribblings informs us in her blog about the Italian film Il Posto.


SeanMunger.com chronicles how New Year’s Eve turns cynicism into hope for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, in the Billy Wilder comedy The Apartment.


The loving and mystery-solving Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man and After the Thin Man inspire a Top 10 New Year’s Eve list from Once Upon a Screen.


Another Top 10 list (this one from Open Letters to Film) results from the flighty antics of Cher in Mermaids.


And finally, yours truly details how New Year’s Eve affects a group of free-thinking and -loving New York bohemians in the musical Rent.

We still have two days left to go in our blogathon, so keep us bookmarked for more great entries to come!








Bruce Altman, unheralded supporting actor


The following is my entry in the What a Character! 2017 blogathon, being co-hosted Dec. 15-17, 2017 at the blogs Outspoken & FreckledOnce Upon a Screen, and Paula’s Cinema Club. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ takes on some of their favorite character actors!


My chosen actor for this blogathon is Bruce Altman, but I’m afraid that my entry is going to be very brief, because even in the vastness of the Internet, there is very little information about him other than his voluminous TV and movie credits. If you’re really interested in him, probably the best source of info on Altman is this, an article summarizing a talk he gave to aspiring actors at the New York Film Academy. (One would guess that the reason for the scarcity of information about Altman is that that’s the way he wants it, and more power to him.)

Altman is one of those actors whom most people probably wouldn’t recognize by name, but as soon as they see him on-screen, they say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that guy before.” He graduated from the Yale School of Drama, began acting in off-off-Broadway shows in the 1980’s and has since gone on to a pretty rich career in television and cinema. Click here to see Wikipedia’s summary of the many series and movies in which he has appeared.

At his NYFA talk, Altman stated his philosophy as, “Never think you know what someone else is thinking.” He was referring to actors trying to second-guess the motives of casting directors and the like, but it’s obvious that Altman has also applied this philosophy to his own acting. In his best work, his acting consists of simply reacting. That doesn’t seem like much, but any straight man in a comedy act will tell you how important it is to have one guy who simply listens and doesn’t try to hog the stage for himself.

Below, I have embedded two clips of Altman’s appearances in movies that are very different in tone (and in time — look at the dates on these movies, and you’ll see how far Altman’s acting career has taken him). In Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), he plays a very disinterested customer trying his best to indulge an overzealous salesman (Jack Lemmon). In Matchstick Men (2003), he plays a low-key psychiatrist gently prodding a reluctant, tic-ridden patient (Nicholas Cage) for information about his past. Savor the work of this very fine supporting actor!










“Straight down the line” – The significance of the dialogue in Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)


The following is my first of two entries in the second annual “Billy Wilder Blogathon,” being hosted on June 22, 2015 by the blogs Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Click on the banner above, and read blogs devoted to Wilder’s huge catalog of film, TV, and written work!


(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

“Nobody knows anything.”

Screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote this epigram to summarize the Hollywood bigwigs who pretend they have the formula for box-office success when in fact they’re just fumbling around and hoping for the next big hit. But Goldman could just as easily have been describing the characters in Billy Wilder’s film-noir classic Double Indemnity.

Ostensibly, the story of Double Indemnity is that an unhappy married woman uses her wiles to con an insurance salesman into helping her kill her husband, make it look like an accident, and collect on the husband’s insurance policy. But the subtext of this movie is how its main characters puff their chests with pride at the thought that they are somehow smarter than the mere mortals with whom they must deal on a daily basis.

All of the characters speak in highly stylized dialogue (adapted by Wilder and Raymond Chandler from James M. Cain’s original novel) in an effort to show how superior they are. Yet in the end, it is exposed as a sad facade, symbolized by once-smug Walter Neff literally bleeding his confession into cylinder after cylinder of a cold, mechanical office dictaphone.

Let’s explore each of the characters and their varying levels of self-delusion.


Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) – Phyllis’ very aura oozes cheapness, from her platinum blonde wig to her showy ankle bracelet. Paradoxically, it is that very cheapness that she uses to lure in an insurance salesman with her plan to get rid of her older, layabout husband, of whom she has grown very tired.


Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) – An insurance salesman of 11 years, and smooth with a sales pitch. When he first meets Phyllis, he intends only to remind her husband that his automobile insurance policy is up for renewal. But Phyllis starts thinking out loud and, after trading notes with Neff, she realizes that she could conceivably have her husband sign up for a policy of which he was not aware, and then bump him off on the basis of the injury covered by the policy.

At first, Neff wants nothing to do with the scheme, but he is so taken in by Phyllis’ allure that he convinces himself that he has the insider know-how to help Phyllis pull off the plan.


Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) – Neff’s co-worker at the insurance office, and a top-notch claims adjuster. After a quarter-century on the job, Keyes can instantly spot a phony claim with the help of his “little man” — a sort of conscience-in-reverse that ties his stomach in knots until he resolves the bogus claim.

When Phyllis and Walter murder Phyllis’ husband, and then Phyllis submits the claim, Keyes is at first convinced by Phyllis’ sorrowful-widow routine. But soon enough, his “little man” takes over, Keyes concludes that Phyllis is working a scam with a partner, and he smugly assumes that the duo will have to reveal themselves sooner or later.


Lola Dietrichson (Jean Heather) – The daughter of Mr. Dietrichson, but not of Phyllis. Phyllis was Mr. Dietrichson’s second wife. Lola’s mother also died under mysterious circumstances — when Phyllis was her nurse. And before Mrs. Dietrichson died, Lola happened to see Phyllis trying on a black widow’s cap, as though she was practicing for Mrs. Dietrichson’s funeral.


Nino Zachetti (Byron Barr) – Lola’s hot-headed boyfriend, whom Lola finds out has been seeing Phyllis behind her and Neff’s backs. In the movie’s climax, Neff plans to set things up so that Neff will kill Phyllis and have Nino framed for the murder.


Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) – Well, it’s obvious from the get-go that this guy doesn’t know diddly-squat.

Other than Mr. Dietrichson, it turns out that all of the key characters know just enough to have their respective rugs pulled out from under them. Let’s review their ultimate outcomes.


Phyllis – She thought all she had to do was turn on her cheap charm to get anything she wanted. When Neff started getting cold feet after the murder, Phyllis could feel him slipping away, so she cuckolded two people for the price of one by shtupping Nino. It didn’t much help her in the end.


Neff – Like Jiminy Cricket serving as the conscience of Pinocchio, Barton Keyes was the voice inside Neff’s head that wouldn’t stop talking. In the end, Keyes’ assessment of Neff (in a different context) was succinct and accurate: “You’re not smarter [than your peers], Walter — you’re just a little taller.”


Keyes – In the film’s final scene, Neff’s only small smidgeon of satisfaction is that, for all of Keyes’ brilliant deductions, he never recognized that the culprit he was looking for was right across the desk from him. (“Closer than that,” Keyes tells Neff sorrowfully.)


Lola – The youngest of the bunch was wiser than her elders. She just didn’t have quite enough information to save her parents’ lives.


Nino – The smug punk never realized how close he got to an undue prison term. He’ll probably dump Lola for some older broad again.


Countless film historians have (quite rightfully) cited Wilder’s use of lighting, shadows, and unusual camera angles to heighten the story’s suspense and portend the characters’ fates. But Wilder knew that the dialogue was just as important an element of the story as the visuals. (Wilder scoffed when Raymond Chandler was initially left to write on his own for a week and came back with 80 pages of “useless camera instruction.”)

Talk is important to these characters. It’s as if it was their barrier, their smokescreen separating them from the rest of the world. But in the end, the smoke dissipates, and they still have to suffer the consequences of their sordid actions.

(If you enjoyed reading this, I hope you’ll click here to read my second “Wilder Blogathon” entry, about the movie that Wilder almost made with the Marx Brothers.)