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Fascinating Collection! May 15, 2008

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 10:24 am

                                   Just one of many in Leonard Schrader\'s collection

Leonard Schrader, brother of Paul, passed away recently.  When a friend was going through the screenwriter’s effects, he found a collection of 8,462 lobby cards.

Check out the collection’s website: http://www.leonardschradercollection.com/

 

Sometimes the Same Old Gets Old May 14, 2008

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 10:14 pm

       Henry Fonda           James Dean

Many of our favorite actors have certain personas that follow them throughout their careers.  We fall in love with them, and watch role after similar role.  It’s comfortable film-viewing.  We know what to expect (hello, Steven Seagal) and we are rarely disappointed.

However, there have been some exciting moments in movie casting history.  Seeing a hero-by-trade as a villain adds a jarring effect to the film.  Do we look away?  Can we stand to see them playing so against type?  Some of them are disappointing, some are overrated (Tom Cruise in “Magnolia,” Grace Kelly in “The Country Girl”), but often some pleasantly surprise us.

Here are seven of my favorites:

1) Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs.”  His performance was so incredible that he has not been able to escape it in the years since.

2) Henry Fonda in “Once Upon a Time in the West.”  I grew up watching him in “Yours, Mine and Ours” and now he’s a murderous gunslinger?

3) Gregory Peck in “Boys From Brazil.”  Atticus Finch as an evil Nazi.

4) Laurence Olivier in “Marathon Man.”  Now we have Heathcliff as a Nazi, and adding to my paralyzing fear of the dentist.  “Iz it safe?”

5) Robert Mitchum in “Ryan’s Daughter.”  The tough, noir-era guy is now a sensitive, honorable man with an Irish accent.

6) Robert Stack and Peter Graves in “Airplane”: “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?…Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

7) Patrick Swayze & Wesley Snipes in “Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.”  This is a good-hearted guilty pleasure.  Swayze and Snipes in drag — need I say more?

And here are seven transitions I’d love to have seen or would love to see someday:

1) Dennis Hopper in something not psychotic of psychedelic.

2) Charles Bronson as a romantic hero.

3) Peter Lorre as a romantic hero.

4) Lee J. Cobb in anything upbeat and happy.

5) William Holden as a compelling villain.

6) Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson playing anything but the roles they’ve had for the past ten years.

7) James Dean as someone that wasn’t ridden with angst.

 

What are some of your favorites or some casting choices that you’d love to see?

 

Star of the Week: Charles Bronson

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 9:45 pm

Charles Bronson

 

Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky) was born on November 21, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania.  He was one of fourteen children born to his poor Polish immigrant parents.  His father, a coal miner, died when Bronson was ten.  At 16, Bronson worked in the mines to help support his family.  This lead to a lifetime fear of enclosed spaces, brought terrifyingly to life in “The Great Escape” (1963).

 

Bronson served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, flying one 25 missions and receiving a Purple Heart.  Afterwards, he used the G.I. bill to study art.  He enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse and was recommended to director Henry Hathaway by one of his teachers.  Bronson made his film debut “You’re in the Navy Now” (1951).

 

At the suggestion of his agent, the actor changed his name from Buchinsky to Bronson.  This was at the height of the McCarthy “Red Scare” era, and the agent was afraid “Buchinsky” would scare studios away.  Legend has it that Bronson got his new last name from the “Bronson Gate” at Paramount Studios.

 

Though many of his early film roles were uncredited, he was noticed by audiences as Vincent Price’s evil assistant in “House of Wax” (1953).  He soon found himself cast in tough-guy action flicks.  Roger Corman cast him as the lead in the low budget “Machine-Gun Kelly” (1958 ) and Bronson starred in his own television series, “Man with a Camera” the same year.


The 1960s seemed to bring upon the on-screen persona that would follow him for the rest of his career.  His characters spoke little but made their mark through lots of action.  He was the gunslinger Bernardo O’Reilly in John Sturges’ blockbuster “The Magnificent Seven” (1960).  The director cast him again as POW Danny Velinski in another smash hit, “The Great Escape.”  Bronson joined another testosterone-packed cast for “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).

 

European audiences were great fans of his minimalist acting style, and he spent time over there starring in several films.  One of the best is the Sergio Leone masterpiece “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968).  Leone later said that Bronson was one of the best actors he had ever worked with.

 

Bronson returned to American filmmaking in the 1970s, when he was cast in his best-know role.  Written with Henry Fonda in mind, “Death Wish” (1974) was a controversial hit.  The actor played Paul Kersey, a man avenging the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter, vigilante-style.  The film spawned four sequels over the next 20 years.

 

Later films include “Hard Times” (1975) with James Coburn and “Indian Runner” (1991), directed by Sean Penn.  His final role was as Police Commissioner Paul Fein in the television movies “Family of Cops (1995-1999).  Much of his work wasn’t loved by critics, but he remained unfazed: “We don’t make movies for critics, since they don’t pay to see them anyhow.”

 

Throughout his career he also appeared in several advertisements for items such as GE Batteries (1957), Japan’s Mandom cologne (1970s), and in print ads for the Motorcycle Industry Council promoting safety and responsible riding (1987).


Bronson was married three times.  He appeared onscreen a handful of times with his second wife, actress Jill Ireland.  He was introduced to her by her then-husband David McCallum during the filming of “The Great Escape.”  Bronson and McCallum acted alongside one another in the film.

 

Though he was known the world over as a hero, he was never thought of as a handsome man.  He himself described himself as looking “like a rock quarry that someone has dynamite.”  The man who looked like “a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long” died of complications brought on by pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease on August 23, 2003, just a few months short of his 82nd birthday.

 

Below are my top five picks of Bronson’s work.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

“Once Upon a Time in the West”: Known in Italy as “C’era una volta il West,” this is the epic story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica (Bronson) who joins with a desperado (Jason Robards) to watch over a beautiful widow (Claudia Cardinale) and protect her from an assassin (Henry Fonda).  I could go on and on about this film.  Everything is fabulous – the cinematography, the haunting music, the acting.  Cardinale could not be more beautiful, Fonda is cast deliciously against type, and Bronson and Robards are compelling anti-heroes.  Despite the brutality of much of the film, it is also quite romantic.  The tagline sets it all up: “There were three men in her life.  One to take her…one to love her…and one to kill her.”

 

The Great Escape 

“The Great Escape”: One of the great war movies of all time, this is the story of a real-life escape attempt from a German prisoner-of-war camp.  There is lot of action and all-star cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, et al.  The film alternates between thrilling, heartbreaking and patriotic, and sometimes is all three.

 

The Dirty Dozen 

“The Dirty Dozen”: The ultimate man’s movie, but exciting for anyone who tunes in.  A U.S. Army major (Lee Marvin) is assigned a thankless task.  He must rain and lead a dozen convicted murderers into an assassination mission during World War II.  This is another Who’s Who of tough guys – Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas.  Savalas is no Kojak in this one – he is so frightening, it’s almost reason enough for a rental.

 

The Magnificent Seven 

“The Magnificent Seven”: In a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954), a Mexican village hires seven gunmen to protect them from the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach).  Bronson again joins forces with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and is lead by Yul Brynner.  Lots and lots of fun.  This is another of Bronson’s sensitive tough guy roles, and he excels at it.

 

Death Wish 

“Death Wish”: This is Bronson’s most famous role.  The rape sequence is one of the most brutal and horrifying scenes I’ve ever experience on film.  (And on a weird note, a young Jeff Goldblum plays one of the thugs).  Bronson is sympathetic and proud, and Vincent Gardenia is believable as the police officer hunting him.

 

 

A Sunday at the Egyptian

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 8:19 pm

It is a moody, damp Sunday morning, yet another day of what I’ve been told is May Grey and June Gloom.  I walk through Hollywood, amazed as usual by the mixture of bedraggled homeless people and preppy Gen-Xers walking their dogs. 

 

I am going on a behind the scenes tour of my new favorite theatre, the Egyptian.  I wait in the main auditorium with five or so other people.  They reminisce quietly with one another about going to movies in the old days with five cents for candy.  They complain about the new days of overpriced concession stand items and violent slasher films.  I am decades younger than even the most youthful of attendees here, but I find myself nodding along.

 

I look up at the grand and awe-inspiring ceiling.  A giant relief sunburst against a teal blue sky covers most of it.  Red, green and blue keep the gold from being too glitzy, and a giant winged scarab sits below it.  Having always loved the mystery and splendor of ancient Egypt, I can’t get enough of it.  Even if your tastes fall elsewhere, you can’t help but gasp.

 

We meet our tour guide, Mark Simon.  He is a volunteer docent for American Cinematheque, the organization that owns and operates the Egyptian and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.  As we walk through the theatre, he gives us an abridged (and yet in depth) history of the theatre.

 

The Egyptian was built in 1922 (replacing the lemon grove that grew there), right when the film industry really started picking up speed.  In 1921, Nickelodeon theatres made 91 million dollars – that’s a lot of nickels.  Eighty-four percent of international film production took place in Los Angeles at the time, though mostly downtown.

This was Hollywood’s first movie palace, and took 18 months to build.

 

The Egyptian opened on October 22, 1922 with the premiere of “Robin Hood,” and soon became the prestige theatre.  Irving Thalberg took Norma Shearer to the opening of “The Gold Rush” on their first date.  “Don Juan” launched its run here, and was the premiere of sound in all of California.  Howard Hughes demanded that Grauman produce the premiere of his film “Hell’s Angels,” which was the largest premiere to date.  Fans and attendees numbered up to 250,000, and was the inspiration for the final scene in Nathanael West’s Day of the Locusts.

 

Sid Grauman, visionary and showman extraordinaire, is the man behind the magic (thought Raymond Kennedy was the architect).  He had originally made his money in San Francisco, but was lured to Los Angeles.  He built the Million Dollar Theatre (still standing downtown) in 1918.  He also built the Metropolitan at the same time as the Egyptian, which is still the largest theatre in California to date.  It sits 2000 people.  He also went on to open the Chinese Theatre down the road (a Kennedy design as well).  As our guide said, the Chinese was the theatre for “quantity” (films being shown) and the Egyptian was known for the “prestige.” 


The most hands on of bosses, Grauman ran the Egyptian for five years and only showed blockbusters.  He made sure that the silent films were accompanied by a 25-30 piece orchestra.  He was the national spokesperson for Wurlitzer organs, and had one in the Egyptian   He was a pioneer in the use of klieg lights, using them to draw attention to the premiere events.  Props from films filled the courtyard, and he hired extras from the films to appear in costume and often perform in opening pageants (staged by Grauman himself).

 

Mike Todd later bought the theatre, but sold it to United Artists.  UA owned it for several years, but ended up selling it to the Community Reorganization group, who held on to it for several years, not having the funds to do much with it.  With the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, the rush to restore it began.  Homeless people had been squatting in the building and there was significant water damage.  Community Reorganization sold it to the American Cinematheque for a single dollar, with the promise that the group would begin preservation efforts.

 

The firm of Hodgetts & Fung designed the project – “a preservation of surfaces.”  While there was significant restoration, they focused on updating the theatre for the modern day while keeping as much of the structure and design as it once was.  The sound system can be seen a few feet in front of the walls, in an effort to preserve them.  The sunburst relief is the complete original, though the years of tar from cigarettes had to be cleaned away.  The planters in the courtyard are new.  The storefronts (which sold Egyptian tchotchkes for a mere two years) remain.  Some of the original tile in the outside walls still remains, as does the fountain (though it no longer works).  One of the lamps is also original, though, in a funny turn of events, no one knows which one.  The Foundry apparently did such a good job restoring one and creating new ones, that we will probably never know which light is authentic.

 

Our guide described the theatre as “basically a big movie set.”  There are false doors and stairs that lead to nowhere.  A Bedouin guard would pace the roof announcing show times.  The hieroglyphics mean nothing, but feature characters like Tutmoses being guided by the gods.  My personal favorite is the border above the concession stand – it looks like the pharaohs ware watching movies, but they are really watching dancers and listening to music being performed.  Many people think the choice of design was due to the discovery of King Tut’s tomb that very year – however, Howard Carter’s great discovery happened five weeks after the theatre opened.

 

Behind the scenes, we got to see some original furniture from the ladies’ room, and a mold that had been used for some of the decorative elements.  I was allowed to stand in the singer’s box, where a performer would sing above the audience as they took their seats.  We met with Paul Rayton, one of the projectionists.  His technical knowledge of film is astounding, and you’ll be missing out if you don’t talk to him one of these days.

 

As our guide speaks about the downfall of Hollywood and the theatres in the area, I wonder if it is divine coincidence that I moved to this town just as it began to get cleaned up again.  I’ve been on quite the screenings kick, going to any old movies that I can.  To be able to see them in the authentic theatres is thrilling.  The Egyptian, which seats 250 people today, has allowed me to experience early film noir and David Lean epics better than ever before.  For a taste of old Hollywood, check the theatre out – and definitely go on the tour some morning.  Even if you’re not crazy about anything pre-1990, you will find yourself feeling like a part of a time gone by.

 

The tour, which is followed by a screening of Forever Hollywood, is $10.  For more information, and to purchase tickets in advance, visit the American Cinematheque at http://www.americancinematheque.com.

 

Summer Movie Preview June 21, 2007

Filed under: Film Reviews,Uncategorized — meganclose @ 9:32 am

The season of theater-filling blockbusters is upon us. “Spider-Man 3” is already shoveling in the money, and many other sequels will follow suit this season. Below are some of the more notable members of the summer movie line-up:

May 25:
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”: In the third installment of the “Pirates” franchise, Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) team up with the thought-to-be-dead Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to save Jack (Johnny Depp). The trio sail to the Far East in an attempt to save their friend and sometimes enemy from Davy Jones’ Locker. Regardless of the actual quality of the film, this will be a fun one to see. This series of films wasn’t supposed to do spectacularly well, but “Dead Man’s Chest” is expected to be one of the top five highest grossing movies ever.

June 1:
“Mr. Brooks”: Kevin Costner stars as a “potential” serial killer being tracked by a detective (Demi Moore). It co-stars William Hurt and Dane Cooke, the latter of which will be the obligatory comic relief. I personally haven’t actually liked Costner’s performances in any of his recent “comeback” films, and I doubt that what could very well be a generic film will bring out the best in him. Theoretically this could be a great comeback film for both Costner and Moore, but I doubt it.
“Knocked Up”: Another film from the genius of director Judd Apatow. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl (of “Grey’s Anatomy”) star as a couple who has a one night stand with the dreaded result – she’s knocked up. Judging by the previews, they decide to keep the baby, and hilarity ensues. This could be a big flop, but I think it will be worth checking out. Sometimes all you really need is a good laugh.

June 8:
“Ocean’s 13”: I cannot wait for this one. I know that “Ocean’s 12” was a bit blah, but in this one the entire team returns, with the addition of Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin. Apparently Reuben (Elliott Gould) has been ripped off by Pacino, and the twelve join with former foe Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to get revenge. The “Ocean’s” series are always so much fun to watch. Other than the obvious man candy buffet, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves immensely.

June 15:
“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”: I did not see the original “Fantastic Four,” but the title alone on this one makes me want to opt out. This team rejoins as well, and must fend off the Silver Surfer/Norrin Radd. I’d rather have another “X-Men.”
“Nancy Drew”: This confirms my thought that the film industry is trying to convince kids that actually reading stories is a bad idea. Why did they need to make a movie out of this? It stars precious Emma Roberts as Nancy, who solves a movie star’s death while on vacation with her father in Los Angeles. I guarantee that actually sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and reading “The Mystery at Magnolia Mansion” will be infinitely better.

June 22:
“Evan Almighty”: Former newsanchor Evan Baxter (from “Bruce Almighty”) is now a congressman. He is told by God (Morgan Freeman back again) that their will be a great flood and that he must build an ark. Steve Carrell is always fun, if a bit over the top and hammy a lot of the time. Hopefully this will be as humorous and successful as its predecessor, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
“A Mighty Heart”: Based on the book by Mariane Pearl, Mariane (Angelina Jolie) leads a frantic search for her kidnapped journalist husband, Daniel (Dan Futterman). This will be a hugely affecting movie regardless of how good it actually is, since we all know that the tragic outcome really was. Rumor has it that Pearl loves the way the film came out, so hopefully it will do her story and her late husband’s story justice.

June 29:
“Live Free or Die Hard”: I am a huge fan of the “Die Hard” trilogy, but I didn’t really feel like a fourth one had to be made. This time John McClane takes on an Internet-based terrorist organization. Apparently the organization is systematically shutting down the United States. Not for long! I hope that this film is a good one. Bruce Willis needs a successful one, and I hope they do the series justice.

July 6:
“Transformers”: Everybody I know has been talking about this one ever since it was in its early stages of development, so it will be interesting to watch just to see what all of the buzz has been about. Dueling alien robot races (I’m trying to suspend by disbelief) crash on Earth and battle for control over the power source that has kept their feud going for so long. “Transformers” is a Michael Bay film, so there will be explosions and special effects galore. Make sure you sit a few rows back from the screen.

July 20:
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”: Adam Sandler and Kevin James star as heterosexual firefighters who pretend to be gay in order to receive domestic partner benefits. This will either be hilarious or awful. It’s not usually the premise, but what you do with it. Hopefully we can see some of Sandler’s comedic talents without it lapsing into fart jokes.

July 27:
“The Simpsons Movie”: There is no way that this will be bad. Even though no one knows what the plot is, I’m sure all of the beloved Simpsons characters will make appearances. If this doesn’t explode at the box office, I don’t know what will.

August 3:
“The Bourne Ultimatum”: Matt Damon returns as spy Jason Bourne. This time he puts together the final pieces of his identity, as well as the mysterious Treadstone project. Joan Allen costars. The previous two films were fun and well-received, and hopefully the closure provided by the tying up of loose ends of the plot will satisfy.

August 10:
“Rush Hour 3”: Despite infinite delays, detective buddies Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan re-team to face off Chinese gangsters in Paris. The concept isn’t exactly original, but the two actors are always fun to watch and original director Brett Ratner returns.

August 24:
“Mr. Bean’s Holiday”: While I do love a good bit of British humor, Mr. Bean doesn’t really float my proverbial boat. However, the original the “Mr. Bean” is one of the highest grossing UK films ever, so fans will flock to this one. Bumbling, socially awkward Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) travels to the south of France on Holiday, and his video diary somehow ends up as a world premiere at Cannes.

Who needs to pay $10 to park at the beach when you can spend the same amount for some quality entertainment in airconditioning? Enjoy!

 

Star of the Week: Eli Wallach May 1, 2007

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 2:10 pm

eli.jpg

American film, television and stage actor Eli Wallach was born on December 7, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York.  He went on to graduate with a B.A. from the University of Texas in Austin, and was trained at the Actors Studio and the Neighborhood Playhouse.

His Broadway debut was in 1945, and in in 1951 he won a Tony for portraying Alvaro Mangiaco in Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.”  His first film was another work of Williams’, “Baby Doll.”  He was cast by director John Sturges as the Mexican bandit Calvera in “The Magnificent Seven,” but his best-known western is probably “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”  (He was Tuco, the “Ugly.”) 

He married actress Anne Jackson in 1948, and the couple, still married today, have three children.  Wallach, Jackson, and their daughter Roberta all have made guest apperances in “Law & Order,” though in different episodes. 

Though his collaboration with spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone was a successful one, their friendship soured.  Leone had asked Wallach to star in his upcoming film (“Duck, You Sucker”).  Wallach had a prior commitment, but according to the actor, Leone begged him to take the role.  Wallach cancelled the other offer and waited for Leone to raise some money to make the film.  However, the studio that agreed to finance the film insisted that Leone use Rod Steiger.  Wallach was hurt, and when he asked for a token payment for losing out on two jobs, the director decline.  Wallach said that he’d sue Leone, and Leone told him to “Get in line.”  The two never spoke again.

 Wallach published his autobiography, The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage in 2005.  He continues to act today, and was last seen in Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday.”

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“The Magnificent Seven”: In the remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese classic “The Seven Samurai,” John Sturges directs a motley crew of actors in this stellar cowboy story.  When a bordertown in Mexico becomes fed up with the vicious bandit Calvera (Wallach) stealing their food and terrorizing their families, three villagers head into town to buy guns.  While there, they meet Chris (Yul Brynner) and Vin (Steve McQueen), who agree to round up a few more men and come to protect the villagers.  The group includes Bernardo (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn),  Harry (Brad Dexter) and Britt (James Coburn).  Rousing action and great dialogue ensue.   “The Magnificent Seven” does to the cowboy movie what “Platoon” did to war  movies — it humanizes the generic characters and themes.

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“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:  Three men seek out a hidden fortune.  Blondie (Clint Eastwood), his occasional cohort Tuco (Wallach) and Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef).  Each knows one element of the treasure’s location and for that reason are tied to each other, though nobody wants to stick their neck out for anybody.  This epic film is set during the American Civil War and features Ennio Morricone’s beautiful, familiar music, as well as solid, enjoyable performances by all of the leads.

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“The Godfather: Part III”: Another epic, this is the final installment in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy.  Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is finally trying to make the family business legitimate, but keeps getting sucked back in.  At the same time, he is trying to link the family’s finances with the Vatican.  Corleone’s protege, Vincent (Andy Garcia) begins an ill-fated affair with Mary Corleone (Sofia Coppola, in a notoriously poor choice in casting), while the Don has to fight off rival gangster Don Altobello (Wallach).

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“Mystic River”:  Thirty-seven years after starring in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” with Clint Eastwood, Eastwood directed Wallach in a small part in this film.  After their lives are changed by a tragedy, childhood friends Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon) and Dave (Tim Robbins) are reunited when Jimmy’s oldest daughter is murdered.  Sean is investigating the case, and Dave soon becomes the prime suspect.  It is impossible to not get emotionally involved in this film.  The story is heartbreaking and the characters are fascinating.  All of the elements are first rate — direction, acting, writing, music, you name it.  Wallach makes a cameo as a liquor store owner that was robbed.

Photos courtesy of imdb.com

 

Stars of the Week: Gloria Grahame & Ward Bond April 24, 2007

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 11:54 am

gloria.jpg 

Best known for her portrayals of sultry ladies of the silver screen, Gloria Grahame was born Gloria Hallward in Los Angeles, California.  From her birth in 1923, Grahame was groomed to become an actress by her former stage star mother, Jean Grahame. 

Grahame so loved the craft that she quit Hollywood High just sort of graduation and made her way to New York.  There she appeared in a couple of Broadway plays, and was spotted by MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer.  He signed her to a contract with his studio for $250 a week.  Her first real public recognition came from her appearance in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (see below), on loan-out from MGM. 

After a short period longer, her contract was sold to RKO, and it was here that she would shoot to stardom.  She was nominated for an Oscar 1947 (“Crossfire”) and 1952 (“The Bad and the Beautiful”).  It was also during this time period that she would marry and divorce the director Nicolas Ray. 

Her career began to slow down in the late 1950s.  On-set, she began to get the reputation for being “difficult.”  Off-set, she became scandalized after marrying her former stepson, Anthony Ray, her fourth (and final) marriage.

Grahame returned to the New York stage, and died of cancer in October 1981.  She was survived by her four children, and her sister Joy, who was also an actress.

 

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“The Big Heat”: I haven’t seen this one in years and years, but “The Big Heat” is one of Gloria Grahame’s best-known performances.  Glenn Ford stars as Dave Bannion, a police detective investigating a fellow officer’s suicide.  It all seems routine, until someone claiming to have evidence is murdered and he is ordered off the case.  When a bomb meant for Bannion kills his wife (Jocelyn Brando), Bannion starts off on a path of vengeance, getting involved along the way with Debby (Grahame), the disfigured ex-mistress of mobster Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).  Directed by Fritz Lang, the film is based on a Saturday Evening Post serial.

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“The Bad and the Beautiful”: Though a bit dated, The Bad and the Beautiful is an interesting look into the mean world of Hollywood.  Told mostly through flashback, a director (Walter Pidgeon), an actress (Lana Turner), and a writer (Dick Powell) remember how uber-producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) did them wrong.  While it is predominantly Douglas’ film, each story gets an equal amount of time devoted to it.  Grahame shines as the writer’s wife, Rosemary, whose brief screentime give the film a good part of its poignancy.  This is a nice departure for the actress, as her character is much more of the girl next door type.  It won five Oscars in 1953, including a Best Supporting Actress award for Grahame.

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“In a Lonely Place”:  This is another dated film taking place in Hollywood.  Humphrey Bogart stars as a troubled screenwriter who may or may not have murdered a young woman.  Grahame co-stars as Laurel, his neighbor and alibi.  The two soon begin an ill-fated love affair.  As the police investigation continues, Laurel begins to be more and more conflicted over her boyfriend’s supposed innocence.  Bogart’s acting is cheesy, but it allows Grahame the chance to steal every scene she’s in. 

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Charmingly gruff actor Ward Bond made 271 film and television appearances in his thirty-one year career, averaging 10 to twenty films a year (30 in 1935 alone).  Quite the illustrious life for the former Benkelman, Nebraska boy.  While a student at the University of Southern California, he was a roommate and football teammate of John Wayne, who got him work as an extra.  When director John Ford upped Bond from extra to supporting player in Salute, the two became fast friends and would go on to work together 26 more times.

Things got a little complicated when this “ardent but intellectual patriot” became president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in the 1940s.  The ultra right-wing group’s main platform was the opposition to Communists in the United States, and became a major proponent in the blacklisting of the 1950s.  Because of this, many liberal directors worked to keep Bond unemployed.  For years he mostly appeared in movies with his buddy John Wayne or other similarly politically-motivated artists.  Bond made his comeback, though, in 1957 as Seth Adams in the television show “Wagon Train.”  He died in 1960 in a Dallas hotel room while in town to attend a football game.

His friendship with John Wayne was a life-long one.  Legend has it that Bond was hit by a car on the way to Wayne’s wedding, got some crutches and performed his best man duties anywayWayne read the eulogy at Bond’s funeral, and was left a shotgun that Bond had accidentally shot him with on a hunting trip many years earlier.

Inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Wardell E. Bond is survived by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a memorial park in his old hometown.

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“The Searchers”:  This is one of my favorite films of all time.  Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the Civil War, only to find his family massacred by Indians and his beloved niece, Debbie, kidnapped.  He vows to find her and bring her home, aided by his “half-breed” adopted nephew, Martin  (Jeffrey Hunter).  Their quest takes years, and Martin begins to worry that Ethan may not bring his niece home after all.  Common thought at the time was that once a white woman lived with the Indians too long, she was more like them (and therefore was greeted with the same fate as all of the other Indians).  While all of the great western elements are there, it is the relationships between the characters that bring the most depth to the film.  Ward Bond appears as Reverand Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton, who helps in their effort.

 

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“My Darling Clementine”: In John Ford’s re-telling of the events leading up to the showdown at the OK Corral, Henry Fonda stars as Wyatt Earp, who moves to Tombstone in an effort to avenge his brother’s murder.  He takes on the job as town marshal and deputizes his brothers, Virgil (Tim Holt) and Morgan (Bond) as deputies.  He has an embittered friendship with Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) and falls for Clementine (Cathy Downs), an old flame of Holliday’s.  The film reaches a tense climax during the Earp/Clanton brothers showdown.

 

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“Maltese Falcon”:  One of the best film noirs of all time, “Maltese Falcon” stars Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, the private eye of all private eyes.  After his partner is murdered while tailing a man, he learns that the woman who hired them, Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), is not who she says she is.  He becomes entangled in a dangerous hunt for a priceless statue.  Ward Bond plays Spade’s policeman friend, Tom.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life”:  It’s highly unlikely that you’ve never seen or heard of this 1946 classic.  While quite the box office disappointment upon it’s initial release, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a Christmas classic.  James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a devoted son/brother/husband/father/friend, who has always put everyone else’s needs and desires before his own.  One Christmas Eve, his Uncle Billy (Capra regular Thomas Mitchell) misplaces an $8,000 loan.  Knowing that he will more than likely be arrested and the savings and loan office he’s struggled to keep afloat for years will crumble, George becomes despondent.  After lashing out at his family, he gets drunk and decides to commit suicide.  Before he can do so, Clarence (Henry Travers) appears, identifying himself as George’s guardian angel.  He decides to show George what the world would be like if he hadn’t been born.  Gloria Grahame stars as Violet, a saucy local who has always had her eye on George (much to the chagrin of Mary Bailey, played beautifully by Donna Reed).  Ward Bond appears as Officer Bert, a loyal friend of George’s.  The acting is phenomenal, and you can’t help but loving life a little more after every viewing.

 

Photos courtesy of imdb.com