Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

An Argo/Tout Sweet Birthday

Today is my birthday, and I celebrated by going to see Argo with a friend.  Sometimes the movies that have a lot of Oscar buzz leave me cold.  I recognize their excellence but I feel disconnected, without an emotional involvement in the characters and story.  Not the case with Argo.  I was totally engrossed from the beginning, which gives a brief but helpful overview to the events leading up to the Iran hostage crisis.  I was a junior in high school when it began, and while I was aware of the overall situation during those years, I was also busy living my teenage life.  The movie made me realize how little attention I’ve paid to the major historical events in my lifetime.  Anyway, I recommend Argo, even though the hair and fashions will make you cringe.  Believe me, I was cringing then, too.

After the movie, my friend and I headed to Tout Sweet Patisserie, Yigit Pura’s new dessert shop in Union Square.  It’s a lovely space, with a delightful staff and a great view of the Square.  I had the Petit Tout Sweet cake and my friend had the sous-vide poached egg sandwich.  I met Yigit Pura a couple of years ago at the GLAAD Media Awards, and again last October at the Meals on Wheels calendar signing at Macys.  I’ve been following the progress of Tout Sweet through facebook and twitter, and today was the perfect day to visit.  Yum!

Happy Birthday, Colleen Moore

Colleen Moore was born on this day in either 1899 or 1902, depending on whether you believe the official reports or her own autobiography.  I’ve only seen one of her films, Her Wild Oat (1927), but I got to see it on the big screen at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  She was a delight.  My favorite actresses are feisty and independent, and she was both.  She had an interesting connection with silent film comedian Buster Keaton—they both broke their necks filming on train tracks.  In different movies, of course!  Her autobiography Silent Star is a favorite of mine, and here are some of the photos from it.  Moore died in 1988, but she is not forgotten, even though many of her film were lost.  Happy Birthday, Ms. Moore!

Her Wild Oat, with director Marshall Neilan.

With popular western actor Tom Mix.

With her Packard.

The Dark Knight Rises

A friend invited me to attend a special screening of The Dark Knight Rises last night with her family.  This was not a midnight show.  It was at 6:30pm at the San Francisco Metreon, where we saw the long line of people waiting for the midnight screening.  The Metreon was also showing the special Batman Trilogy for $25.  We arrived a little late and missed the very beginning of the film.  It was all a bit chaotic, trying to find the right place to check in and hurrying down the long corridor with 15 screens.  Naturally, ours was the last one.  The five of us didn’t end up sitting next each other, but we quickly grabbed seats on the aisle and tried to figure out what we’d missed.

It’s very difficult to discuss this film for two reasons.  In light of the Aurora tragedy, I can’t help flashing on the scenes in the film that depict random violence aimed at crowds of Gotham citizens in public places, and even mentioning this brings me to the second reason.  I hate plot spoilers, and in this case, they’re hard to avoid.

I’ll start with what I liked best.  I didn’t realize Tom Conti was back on the big screen, and it took me a scene to recognize him.  This was partly due to the way he was filmed in his first scene and his Russian accent, partly because I haven’t seen him in years.  I adore Tom Conti.  My favorite Conti film is Saving Grace (1986).  He plays a pope who gets accidentally locked out of the Vatican and goes to a small village to help rebuild an aqueduct.  He was also in Shirley Valentine (1989), American Dreamer (1984) and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983).  He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his performance in Reuben, Reuben (1983).  Lately he’s been doing a lot of voice work and appearing in British television that hasn’t made it to the States.  Just seeing him in The Dark Knight Rises made the movie a treat for me.

I also really enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  I liked his character and his performance, and his presence gave me someone to really care about.  Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Matthew Modine, and Gary Oldman were also excellent.  Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard were both fine, but I’ll admit to being less focused on the females.

Christian Bale has fascinated me since I saw him in Empire of The Sun.  I’ve followed his career closely, and I’ve seen most of his films over the years.  I even went to the opening day matinee of Newsies, which makes me part of an exclusive group, since almost nobody else saw Newsies in the cinema.  Bale is well known for punishing his body to meet the demands of his roles, and his Batman looks older than his years.  So does Bale.  I think he did well, but it wasn’t an easy performance to watch.

I said this in my post about The Avengers, and it’s even more the case with The Dark Knight Rises.  I still find it very disturbing to watch Manhattan, or Manhattan-like cities, blown up and terrorized onscreen.   You can’t separate Batman from Gotham, but in general, there are just too many movies that show large cities being destroyed.  Why can’t filmmakers come up with something else to do with all these great CGI effects?

After the movie, the five of us found each other and compared notes.  One of our party stopped to get popcorn and was directed to the wrong screening by an employee.  He ended up at the Trilogy screening and saw Batman Begins instead.  He’d never seen any of the films, so he didn’t realize he was seeing the wrong one until he tried to find us when it was over.   With all the references to Harvey Dent and the events from the previous films, we all could have used a Batman refresher.

I woke up to the news of the Aurora tragedy, and it’s already coloring my impression of the film.  I’m glad I got to see it before the shootings, and I’m not sure I would have gone to see it otherwise.  I will caution anyone sensitive who sees it now.  A major plot point involves an explosive trap for Gotham police.  There are at least two scenes with gunmen attacking crowds, and I can’t help wondering if these should be trimmed, now that this horrible tragedy has happened.  My prayers go out to the victims and their families.

Fuller, Crawford, and Grey Flannel

In my continuing passion for finding extras in old movies, here’s an interesting connection between favorites Robert Fuller and Johnny Crawford.  They were both extras in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) starring Gregory Peck.  Fuller appears as a soldier in a scene at a field medical station.  This scene also features DeForest Kelley; both actors went on to play well-known television doctors.   Johnny Crawford plays a boy in Italy delivering a box of groceries.  His older brother, Robert Crawford Jr, co-starred in Laramie with Fuller three years later.

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Robert Fuller in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Johnny Crawford in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

Johnny Crawford in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

This entire movie is on YouTube.  Crawford’s moment is at 0:29:50, and Fuller appears at the 0:49:45 mark.

Robert Fuller: Extra

I’ve been trying to watch my favorite westerns with actor Robert Fuller.  Netflix keeps skipping over my Laramie and Wagon Train discs,which are “short waits.”  Two months is NOT a short wait!  Anyway, what they’ve been sending are movies in which Fuller appeared as an extra.  You can understand why they’re pretty far down on my queue!  Still, I watch them, enjoy them, find Fuller, and make a collage.  Here’s Calamity Jane (1953) starring Doris Day and Howard Keel.  Fuller doesn’t appear with these leads.  He just has a few brief seconds onscreen giving flowers to actress Adelaid Adams (played by Gale Robbins) and exiting backstage behind her.

Robert Fuller as an extra in Calamiity Jane

Robert Fuller as an extra in Calamiity Jane (click to see larger versions)

Later, Fuller was an extra in Friendly Persuasion (1956), starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins.  He was chosen to appear with Cooper and (Peter) Mark Richman in the shooting gallery scene because his sideburns were real.  Another actor in this film was John Smith, who would later star with Fuller in Laramie.  Fuller sits right behind Smith in the Quaker meeting scene at the beginning of the film.

Robert Fuller in Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper

Robert Fuller in Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper (click to view larger)

Still not enough young Fuller?  Check out my latest YouTube videos:  Fuller’s 1958 appearance in Rin Tin Tin, and United States Marshal (1959) with a nasty Charles Bronson.

(If you’re saying to yourself, “Not another Robert Fuller post!” just keep this in mind.  I have about fifty other collages that I haven’t shared!)

Waiting for Grabbers

I’m excited today about the reviews for Grabbers, the little Irish horror film that I first mentioned in my stage door series on Richard Coyle.  The reviews coming from the Edinburgh International Film Festival are as promising as the initial reports from the set in Donegal, back when I first started following this movie.  After Being Human (the original Brit version, of course) and Sherlock, I also have to express my affection for Russell Tovey.  Grabbers sounds awesome, and I’m still waiting for a release date in the US.  Hurry up, film folks!

Ruth Bradley, Richard Coyle, and Russell Tovey in Grabbers

Ruth Bradley, Richard Coyle, and Russell Tovey in Grabbers

Cowboys and Blondes

There’s an interesting connection between the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and the TV western Laramie (1959-63).  Actually, two connections.

Laramie star Robert Fuller grew up dancing, which isn’t surprising, since his mother and stepfather were both dancers and instructors.  Fuller danced in the chorus of several movies, including the famous number “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  With his sideburns dyed grey and a grey mustache, I spotted young Fuller (age 19 or 20) just once, in this shot behind Marilyn Monroe.

Young dancer Robert Fuller behind Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Young dancer Robert Fuller behind Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Soon after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Robert Fuller was drafted.  He served for two years in Korea before returning to LA in 1955.  He spent several years working as an extra and a stuntman.  He took acting lessons from Richard Boone, guest-starred in many TV series, and went on to play Jess Harper in Laramie, his first starring role.  Retired now and ranching in Texas, he appears at various western festivals, talking to fans about his fifty years of work.  I’d love to hear him tell about this particular shoot!

The other Laramie connection?  Hoagy Carmichael wrote the music for two of the songs performed in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: “Is Anyone Here for Love?” and “When Love Goes Wrong.”  Carmichael later played Jonsey in season one of Laramie, with Robert Fuller, John Smith and Robert Crawford, Jr.  Hollywood was once a place where chorus boys and songwriters could grow up to be cowboys!

Robert Fuller (Jess Harper) and Hoagy Carmichael (Jonsey) in Laramie

Robert Fuller (Jess Harper) and Hoagy Carmichael (Jonsey) in Laramie

(L to R) Hoagy Carmichael, Robert Fuller, and Robert Crawford Jr. in Laramie (with John Hoyt's back)

(L to R) Hoagy Carmichael, Robert Fuller, and Robert Crawford Jr. in Laramie (with John Hoyt’s back)

Marilyn Monroe in Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. I had to include this one just because I love pink.

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