Broadway Bound Musical Blogathon: Funny Girl (1968)

Finally! A Blogathon dedicated to Broadway musicals and films. I would like to thank Rebecca from Taking Up Room for choosing musicals as her theme for her first ever Blogathon. Congratulations Rebecca; and, I hope this will become an annual event. Please check the link below to find more posts on a variety of wonderful musicals.

https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/

I have to be honest, for years, I was not a fan of musicals. I found the story lines boring, predictable and unbelievable. Even during the few times I actually liked a song or dance, I definitely did not enjoy the whole movie; nor, did I ever watch a “whole” movie musical. Unfortunately, I can just see Walt Disney turning in his grave. As a matter of fact, I avoided them as much as possible. However, all that changed when I forced myself to sit through a musical from beginning to end. The movie that drastically changed my disdain for all films, musical, was Funny Girl.

So how was I forced to watch this movie? 

The first time I watched Funny Girl (1968), I was home, alone. As a college student, I was working pretty hard on my double major (History and Education). That glorious day, the gods smiled; and, my classes were cancelled due to hurricane warnings. So, I ended up “free” to warm up some left over chili and become a couch potato.

On television, the Tuner Movie Classics (TMC) channel had just announced their movie lineup for the day and evening. As the fates would have it, the best thing to watch on TV that day was a dreaded musical.  I self talked myself into giving it a try. I learned that it was nominated for seven Oscars and four Golden Globe awards. Barbra Streisand, in her first movie role, won both awards as Best Actress. So, I watched my first musical, twenty-two years after its release date.

So, how did I have the staying power to endure watching a whole musical?

As I was getting my fatty “free day” ready, a loud weather alert began beeping as a warning banner ran across the bottom of the screen.  The hurricane alert had escalated from a 3 to a 4.  Hurricanes are seasonal storms in Florida. You kind of get used to them.

However, I still had some chores to do in case the hurricane disrupted power lines and water. I had little time to complete the “Hurricane Drill.” I found the candles and matches, located the flashlight and radio, located extra batteries, and filled the bathtub with water.  Now,  like a true Floridian, I decided to continue with my plan: Watch Funny Girl.

Unfortunately, as the storm became louder and more destructive, I became overly anxious; and I have to admit, a bit fearful.  Even so, the only thing I could do was to hunkered down on the couch with the volume, turned way up. I gave Funny Girl my undivided attention.

From Broadway To Film

In 1964, Funny Girl successfully opened on Broadway with recording star Barbra Streisand cast in the lead and co-staring Sidney Chaplin. Her energetic portrayal of comedienne, Fanny Brice was brilliant. Producer Ray Stark, then turned this “Hit” Broadway show into a movie released in 1968. The legendary, William Wyler, was asked to direct. He was known for his sensitive direction of actors and his ability to display actors in profound moments that made their characters more realistic. It is almost an understatement to say he was one of the best directors in Hollywood.

A Tiny Bit of Behind The Scenes History

During the making of this film in 1967, the Israeli-Egyptian Six Day War broke out. Most of the movie’s  financiers were Jewish as well as the cast.  Omar Sharif is Egyptian. Many wanted Sharif fired including Streisand’s mother. Jewish director Wyler fought to keep him.

According to an article for TMC by Andrea Passafliume, Sharif relates this story in his autobiography.  This is Wyler’s words, as repeated by Omar Sharif:

We’re in America, the land of freedom … and you’re ready to make yourselves guilty of the same things we’re against? Not hiring an actor because he’s Egyptian is outrageous. If Omar doesn’t make the film, I don’t make it either!”

You have to love “99-Take Willie.”  To add oil to an already burning fire, Streisand and Sharif began a love affair, although both were married but separated from their spouses. To add to this, publicity released pictures and posters of Streisand and Sharif kissing. Egyptian newspapers condemned him for kissing and acting with a Jew. The film was banned and never been released in that country. I am sure their “decency codes” would not allow the film’s released for other reasons too:  The suggested sexual overtones and the drinking or smoking. Unfortunately, Sharif’s citizenship was denied and his Vista revoked so that he could never return to his homeland. Clearly, he paid a high price his art that would haunt him the rest of his life.

A Summary of The Movie  

This is the movie trailer.  I like this trailer because it depicts the very first words spoken in the movie: Hello Gorgeous.

Eventually, Fanny will keep coming back; until, one the musicians takes pity on her. They need a substitute for a roller skating routine. Fanny can barely keep from falling down as she crashes into the other girls. She literally ruins the act; but, she was so funny the audience begs her to do a song. She and the rest of the world discovers she has a great voice, and a star is born.

Here is a clip of Fanny singing  for the first time on stage

After this performance, Fanny is backstage explaining to the other show girls that Ziegfeld, himself, will knock on that door and her to be one of his “follies.” Then, someone is knocking on the door. Fanny opens the door to the most handsome man she has ever seen. She freaks out and slams the door in his face.

Then, she catches her breath and opens the door again. An awkward start to be sure. He explains how much he enjoyed her performance. Fanny is uncomfortable with the compliments from such a “gorgeous” man. She even slips and says he is gorgeous when she was thinking it. She tries to remedy her blunder by saying that she meant that his shirt is gorgeous.

Before Nicky leaves, the theater owner passes by and says a friendly hello to him. Then, Fanny reminds the owner has hired with pay.  He realizes she wants to know how much pay. As he walks away, he yells back: $25.00 a week. Nicky informs him that he will pay her $35.00 a week. He explains a friend of his told him to be on the look out for fresh talent. The owner makes Fanny a counter offer: $40.00. Then, Nick offers her $45.00. The owner exasperated makes his final offer: $50.00. Nick said that $50.00 was as high as he was authorized to go.

As the owner walks away again, he shakes his head as he realizes that he is paying Fanny double from what he originally intended.  Giggling Fanny asked Nick the name of his friend who has him looking for talent.  Nick confesses that there was no friend. He made it up.

Fanny was rather shocked: You took a gamble?

Nick said: That’s what I do.  I am a gambler.

Fanny offensively says: Yeah, but you gambled with my life.

Nick says: Isn’t that what you did tonight on that stage?

So, Nick is a charmer, sophisticated, well-educated, elegant, a world traveler, wealthy,  comfortable with the upper social classes, and is a total con artist. Fanny was head over heels in love. Yet, Nick was not interested in changing any part of his life. He liked being free to do whatever he wanted, without a second thought about anyone else. As a matter of fact, Nick directly leaves Fanny to race his thoroughbred horse in Kentucky.

The next time Fanny meets Nick she is working in the Follies for Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pigeon). Fanny is convinced that Nick got her the job.  After Fanny’s debut with the Follies, Nick sends her a dozen yellow roses and invites her out to a sleek dinner club. Fanny sadly refuses because her mother is giving a party in her honor; and, the whole neighborhood is coming. Instead, Fanny hesitantly invites him to her party located in a Brooklyn family owed bar; and to her surprise, he graciously accepts.

Nick blends in very well with friends and family. As a matter of fact, he is invited to a penny ante poker game with the local elderly ladies. They had no idea who they invited to their table. His shuffle alone should have alerted them to his expertise. However, being the charmer, he allowed them to win, even though he was holding the winning hand.  He didn’t fool Fanny’s Mama Rose (Kay Bedford).

Her observations were right on the money: He fits in like a friend and not a stranger. He looks at home. He should fit in like a stranger. Fanny relies: He is a gentleman. He fits in anywhere.

Rose relies: A sponge fits in anywhere. A stranger should look a little strange.

Later, that evening Nick confesses to Fanny that he gets lonely but he loves his freedom. Fanny confesses that she is too busy to have a boyfriend. They both admit that they feel lonely at times. It is in this scene Streisand sings her now standard: People

Of course, Nick’s “work” allows him to travel; and, he must leave, again. They will not see each other for over a year. Eventually, you realize something is definitely off about Nick; but, you hope, like Fanny, you are wrong. You start feeling that these two people have to get together; but, you wonder, like any relationship, will it last.

A year later, they will meet again and go on their first date. The film is laden with Brice’s comedic one liners. Yet, it is in this scene with Nick that one of those quips, really took me by surprise. To me it was the most hilarious line in the whole movie. Nick compliments her on the color of her dress because it looks wonderful with her eyes. Fanny retorts: Yeah, well that’s just my right eye. I hate what it does with the left. Later in this same scene, Sharif and Streisand sing a duet about the basics of human relationships.

The Movie continues through their years together, good and bad; until, the marriage sadly ends. The final song, My Man, was sung on stage right after Fanny learns her marriage is practically over. This scene is such a stand alone moment in the movie. Streisand’ mesmerizing performance is unforgettable. There is a little more about this scene I would like to mention later in this post.

Dancing?

Unlike most musicals, this movie has very little dancing. The only dancing in this film happens when it was part of the story. For instance, when Fanny is asked to dance a waltz by her man crush, Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif), she dances. However, the camera is focused on Fanny’s overwhelmed expressions. We see her as she mentally drools over her handsome dance partner.

In addition, whenever the Ziegfeld Follies do a dance number on stage, there is some dancing; but, only because it is part of the stage act. So, this musical, like all musicals, uses song to help tell the story; however, this film does not use dance to move the story along.

Personal Favorites

There are great songs, breathtaking scenes, gorgeous costumes, and a fascinating story. Many of the musical numbers are truly unforgettable. I especially like the scene when Fanny decides to quit the show at the train station and follow Nick before his transatlantic ship sails away. The rest of her show friends try to talk her out of it. That’s when she belts out: Don’t Rain On My Parade!

Not only is this one of my favorite musicals; but, as a woman, I found it inspirational too.  Brice and Streisand were forces to be reckoned with. Against the odds, they each made it and did so doing it their own way. Their confidence, intelligence and strong will power keep them going.  For this movie, all of the magic and creative forces that went into making this film is what all films should try to accomplish.

Directors Know What Is Best

There are many elements to making a great film; but, having a great director is at the top of the list. An example of this is evident in the closing scene. True, to Wyler’s genius, he used the knowledge that the off camera relationship between the leading stars was ending. In the final scene, when Fanny must sing My Man knowing her relationship with Nick was over, Wyler kept Sharif behind the curtains during the scene. She knew he was there; an, they talked between takes.  With every note she sung, you could almost feel her heart painfully breaking. This was perfect magic.

The 2 hours and 38 minutes goes by pretty fast. Which of course is a compliment to the movie itself.

The Real Fanny Brice

This movie was made only 13 years after the real Fanny Brice passed away in 1951. She was considered as a comedic genius and had one of the best singing voices in the 20th century. She was intelligent, witty,  and a consummate performer. There were few who had such a command of the stage. In person, she was elegant and very classy. Those who knew her personally, said she was always herself; and she treated everyone the same. One of my favorite quotes from Brice is actually great advice for everyone.  This is her life lesson shared

Let the World know you,

As you are,

Not as you think you should be,

Because sooner or later, if you are posing,

You will forget, to pose,

Then, where are you?

No matter, what misery was in store in the life of Fanny Brice, she took it in stride and literally rolled with the punches. The “real” Fanny Brice was hugely popular on the stage and on the radio. She used her God-given talents to entertain millions; and, she always left her audience in appreciation of her enjoyable performance and usually, in much laughter.

If you have read some of my posts before, you know I love history, especially personal history. I love learning how someone, through their defeats and victories, has come full circle to find their bliss or purpose. I ordered a biography on Brice’s life that I intend to review in another post for Life’s Daily Lessons. Until then, I will leave you with the knowledge that Brice worked on her radio show, The Baby Snooks Show, from 1944 to 1951. There was only one episode that was filmed for television. The night it aired, in May of 1951, Brice died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She claimed the show worked on radio but not on television. Here is the clip of that television episode.

I often wondered how she managed the mental discipline she needed to perform as six-year-old Baby Snooks at age 59. Truly, an amazing entertainer.

Reference Links:

https://www.google.com/search?q=funny+lady&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062994/

http://identity-mag.com/films-that-have-been-banned-in-egypt/

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/220494%7C0/Behind-the-Camera-Funny-Girl.html

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/220494%7C0/Behind-the-Camera-Funny-Girl.html

Michael Caine’s Little Voice?

Happy 85th Birthday to Sir Michael Caine! Cheers and a heart warming wish for a wonderful celebration. Two time Oscar winner, Sir Michael Caine has an amazing acting career with 167 movie credits, to date. He, Lawrence Olivier, and Jack Nicholson are the only actors to be nominated for an Oscar in five different decades. That is an impressive longevity in Hollywood. So, when the opportunity arrived to write a blog post about him, I couldn’t wait. There was only one problem, which film?

At first, I decided to write a review on one of my favorite Caine films, Gambit (1966) with Shirley MacLaine and Herbert Lom.  Then, I planned to compare it with its reboot made in 2012 with Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, and Alan Rickman.  I changed my mind and decided to compare another Caine movie, Alfie, with its reboot.  It offered Jude Law as the curious Alfie in 2004. Unfortunately, for Jude Law, Caine’s 1966 Alfie was much more convincing, sympathetic, and likeable. Actually, it didn’t matter which movies I compared to the original Caine movies. It always had the same result. Caine’s movies are better.

So, I changed my mind yet again. I decided on writing a post on one of his darker characters. This character reminds me of someone or someone’s I have had the displeasure of meeting in my life. Caine’s portrayal of the mean, despicable music promoter and talent agent, Ray Says. Caine’s portrayal is so believable that I hated the movie the first time I watched it. Then, I realized how brilliant his performance was in this film. He went places with that character that was just shocking. Now, I love watching this bittersweet comedy/musical: Little Voice (1998), even if I still flinch at Ray Says singing, It’s Over.

Before I begin, I want to give many thanks to Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews for Hosting The Marvellous Michael Caine Blogathon: From Alfie to Zulu.  I must say that Marvellous is a near perfect adjective to describe Sir Caine. To read more articles about this marvellous actor, please use the link below…

https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/welcome-to-day-1-of-the-michael-caine-blogathon/

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A Bit of Caine’s life and Cockney Accent

To understand my fascination with Michael Caine movies, it is important to understand his voice. If a Caine movie is on, I don’t need be in the room to know it. As long as I can hear Caine speaking, I will know it’s him. Especially, if he is allowing more of his natural dialect, Cockney, to shine through. Cockney is a London dialect from the “rough” Southeast end of the city. In the old British class system, if you spoke with a cockney accent, you would immediately be labeled as part of the “working class.”  As part of the working (lower) class, you might also be stereotyped as a funny but not too bright, uneducated, and unclean, poor person. I always think of English actor Charlie Chaplin’s lovable character: The Little Tramp when I think about this stereotype. It is no wonder that Chaplin’s characterization reminds me of this; since, he and Caine grew up in the same poor area of London. The area is known as the Elephant and Castle.

Although there is a certain amount of charm in Chaplin’s Tramp; Caine understood, in reality, that this insulting stereotype influenced people to keep them from a better life. His accent and dialect became a badge of honor for him. He would keep it his whole life. His Cockney hero growing up was his father. During WWII, he went off to fight the Germans for four years. During the war, the section of London that Hitler heavily bombed was Caine’s neighbor.

As a child, Caine watched movies that helped him escape the suffering for a while; however, there were no Cockney heroes in the movies, just the opposite. They were usually portrayed as the criminal, drunk or idiotic comedy relief.  Caine wants to be a Cockney hero for people still living there and struggling. He wants them to say: If he did it, so can I.  He never forgot where he came from nor does he ever want too.

Summary of Little Voice (1998)

Little Voice is based on a successful play written by Jim Cartwright ( The Rise and Fall of Little Voice). It stars: Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Annette Badland, and Phillip Jackson.

The story is rather simple. LV (Little Voice) (Jane Horrocks) is a crippling shy and fearful young woman who lives with her overbearing, narcissistic mother, who never shuts up. Their relationship is based on resentment and jealousy. The father was a barely surviving record shop owner who died years before. The only thing he left for his wife was a run down shop with a livable attached home. His favourite records became LV’s most cherished possessions. When she plays records by Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Billie Holiday, or Ethel Merman, she escapes to a fantasy world where she is singing, in their voice, these special songs for her father. She desperately wants to please him; so, she can see him smile and be happy. Which is something he didn’t experience much of while he was alive.

Her insensitive, and vulgar mother played perfectly by Brenda Blethyn (won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role) thinks LV is a kooky, weird and a total waste of time nut. I doubt there is a nurturing bone in this mother’s body.  LV is soft-spoken; but, around her mother she chooses to hardly speak at all. Probably, she can’t get a word in edgewise. Oddly enough, the mother’s best friend is a neighbor across the street who is mute, Sadie, (Annette Badland). These two friends is hilarious.

Mari (Mum) likes to hang out at the local nightclub owned by Mr Boo (Jim Broadbent). She likes to drink to excess and flirt around for a bit of fun and to feel desired by men. Here, she meets Ray Says (Michael Caine). To give you a taste of Mari’s exuberance and quirky ways, watch this funny clip of her telling Sadie how great it was to meet Ray Says in an open room cafe.

If Mari’s accent is too much, just play it over few times. Her meaning will come through. I love the way she refers to her derriere as her golden, old arse. The whole clip makes me laugh. Annette Badland is just brilliant with her facial expressions.  I assume Sadie is still a virgin.

Ray Says is a talent agent with no clients. He is a one hit wonder with a song he recorded thirty years ago, It’s Over. His fifteen minutes of fame expired years ago. Yet, he continued to squeeze every drop of life and passion out of it for years. He is a man afraid of change and refuses to let go of the past. He has met some good friends along the way; but, most have fallen to the wayside. Mr Boo is probably he most loyal friend. He loans him money to pay his debtors and gambling debts. Says is a desperate man at the end of his career rope. He keeps his 1960 Chevy, cherry red, Impala convertible as a status symbol of who he was.

In the meantime, electrical things keep shorting out at the record store/home. Even the phone. So, workers come to the house to replace the phone. One of the workers is young Billie (Ewan McGregor). He is intrigued by LV’s shyness because he too suffers fit. Billie finds a unique way of getting to know LV. He will eventually befriend her; and, they will share bits and pieces about each other’ s life.

Billie tells LV how much he enjoys taking care of homing pigeons and is worried about “Dwayne” who has not returned from France. LV tells Billie she never goes out of the house. It a start for the two of them.

On the Second night of Ray and Mari’s date, Mr Boo wants Ray to hear the angelic voice coming from LV’s window. Ray believes LV is his ticket back to success and fame. LV doesn’t sing for anyone but her Father. Watch how sleazy Ray convinces LV to do it for her father in front of an audience to make him proud.

When LV tells Billie, he knows right away that LV is being taken advantage of and he tries to make sure that Ray and her MUM is stopped. So, LV promises Billie it is for only one time. So, she performs and is a great success at Mr Boo’s Nightclub. The following day, Ray begs, borrows, gambles, pawns and steals to enough money to redecorate the nightclub and produce an expensive show, tailored around LV’s songs. He even invites “real” talent agents and music CEOs to watch LV perform. He can almost smell the ink on the contracts.

However, LV only promised one show. Why would a misogynist like Ray Says believe what a woman says? When Mari fails to get LV ready for the big night, Ray horrendously lashes out at her MUM.

Again, I don’t want to spoil the whole movie. However, I did mention before how Ray Says meanness near the end almost spoiled the movie for me. Well, I was not the only one with that problem. Here is a quote from highly respected movie critic, Roger Ebert concerning this meanness:  One problem is that the Michael Caine character, sympathetic and funny in the opening and middle scenes, turns mean at the end for no good reason.

This is one of the few times I have to disagree with Roger Ebert.  Ray Says has every reason to turn mean.  First of all, he too is a narcissist, like Mari. Unlike Mari, he can use the charm to get what he wants. He is not a NICE guy. He uses everyone. When he realizes his dream is dead and the mafia is ready to take him to his maker….He breaks down and screams that blasted song, It’s Over. It’s almost like a Greek tragedy for Ray’s bitter end.

Of course, there is so much more to this really funny movie. The most spectacular, besides the acting, is Jane Horrocks singing impressions. She is beyond good. I couldn’t believe she sang those songs. She was near perfection.  I erroneously thought she lip synched those songs.  Let’s just say, the movie must be pretty good; since, I laughed through nearly all of it.

Little Voice was more than a good movie for me.  It also allowed me to see that even an unlikable character is important to move the plot of the story along. I finally understood Michael Caine when he described the difference between a movie star and a movie actor. When this movie first started, I saw Michael Caine the movie star. However, near the end, I saw Michael Caine the movie actor. He admits in an interview that Ray Says is nothing like himself.  To him, Ray is so evil, he’s funny.  If you have not seen this movie, I think it would be worth your time. Here’s just a sample of Horrock’s LV performance.

REFERENCE LINKS:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000323/bio

http://www.michaelcaine.com/Biography

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=HkrxQyP6&id=D8C08B5BF2E7F1897279CE18D78DB7976A99612A&thid=OIP.HkrxQyP6XAb3zid1j_eREwEsDq&q=michael+caine+movies&simid=608046579561597969&selectedIndex=133&ajaxhist=0

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0147004/

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/little-voice-1998

More than an Award’s Show: Oscars, The Host and Forrest Gump (1994)

“It’s that time of year again when the best of the best in the film industry vie against each other for the coveted and sought after Oscar. The Academy Awards is celebrating its 90th year. On March 4th, it is hosted, for the second time, by popular late night talk show host and executive producer, Jimmy Kimmel.

JimmyKimmel Live! has been on ABC since 2003. To be on television for 15 years is no small feat.  Kimmel is a witty, entertaining comic who has an unassuming persona. To general audiences, he is likable.  Based on the title of this post, please do not assume that I am trying to imply that Jimmy Kimmel comes across like Forrest Gump or even that he looks like Tom Hanks. However, some people claim to see a resemblance

So, what am I implying? My claim is that Oscar nominees have worked on, contributed and created an Artistic film version of a great story. This story has attracted audiences due to its relevancy in their lives.  The social issues explored, alluded to or addressed in the film imitate real life. An example of this is the Oscar-winning movie: Forrest Gump (1995). It has numerous social ills that reflect its relevance. It is because of the importance of relevancy that Jimmy Kimmel is the perfect host for the Oscars. As far as hosting the Oscars, you could not find a better and more perfect host. Unlike The Last Week Tonight show with John Oliver or  Steven Colbert in The Late Show, Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmel Live! stayed out of the political fray; until, this year.

Soon after his son was born, a nurse noticed an unusual breathing pattern in the child. Jimmy Kimmel’s second child by wife Molly needed heart Surgery.  This life threatening medical problem for his infant son will later provide Kimmel with a social issue, child health care, that he felt he must address with his audiences. His concern was for thousands of children who need expensive medical care; but, whose parents could not afford it. Now, his show was not just about comedy, it now became relevant to every parent in his audience.

Over the years, the Oscar ceremonies has evolved from just an award show.  It has become a platform for social issues and injustices too. Watching the Oscars is not just about the red carpet, glamour, clothes, who will win, and the beautiful. Today, it makes social statements with interviews, ribbon pins or speeches.  Watching the Oscars has evolved into an event that is extremely relevant today.

This is an excerpt from The Washington Post quoting part of Kimmel’s monologue from last year’s Oscars:

He mentioned that the Oscars were airing in “225 countries that now hate us,” and said he was happy that Homeland Security let French Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert into the country.

The U.S. is divided right now, Kimmel said, and people have been telling the host that he needs to say something to unite everyone.

“Let’s just get something straight off the top: I can’t do that. There’s only one Braveheart in this room and he’s not going to unite us either,” Kimmel said referring to Mel Gibson. Then Kimmel said that the best thing to do would be for people to reach out to someone they disagree with and have a conversation. “That could make America great again,” he said.

If you were one of those people who did not see Kimmel’s heart wrenching pleas to politicians and lawmakers to extend funding for Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), I have included it below this paragraph. Again, his own infant son had to undergo heart surgery, not once but twice, as an infant and at age 7 months.  Kimmel’s  passionate cry  for  “common sense and decency” touched the hearts of millions. So, besides the fact that Kimmel is an excellent choice for hosting the Oscars due to his wit and comic timing,  he is also a relevant choice because he publicly cares about many social issues that people face today. By the way, CHIPS was not extended due to budget cuts.

Kimmel’s Plea For “Common Sense and Decency”

This clip is a little over 13 minutes.  If you have not seen it, you might like to watch it now.  Warning! If you do watch it, you will laugh; but, your eyes will tear up too. This is a parent who not only loves his child; but, who is also deeply concerned for other parents whose children are sick and; cannot afford healthcare without government assistance.

Once again, I believe that one of the common attributes of an award-winning film is its relevancy for people of today and in the future. I had to think about all the movies that touched my heart.  Nearly, all of them were Oscar-winning movies: To Kill a Mockingbird; On The Waterfront; Road To Perdition; Signs; The Prestige;  Rocky; Inception; Warrior; Locke; The Patriot; and so many more. The topics varied; but, they always had heart warming moments that touch my very soul.

Here is my favorite scene picks that personally affected me the most from Forrest Gump

The last 15 minutes of Forrest Gump is pure movie magic. Forrest (Tom Hanks) is recently widowed and raising his five-year old son as a single parent. When Forrest watches his little boy get on the school bus, alone for the first time, is when my eyes become floodgates. He sits on a tree stump at the bus stop; and, there he patiently waits for his son to return to him: safe and loved. This always brings tears to my eyes.  The relevancy should be obvious for any parent and perhaps children too. Especially, in light of the heinous acts of violence on America’s children in schools and on the streets. The unspoken fear of every parent: their child does not return to them after school or after play.

This first clip is Forrest caring for his sick wife and some discussion of what Vietnam War was like. Then, he visits her grave. It is nearly six minutes long. It goes by very quickly.

This next clip is very short: 36 seconds. Forrest is sending little Forrest on a school bus.  Haley Joel Osment plays Little Forrest in his first film role at the age of six.

This scene shows Forrest prepared to sit there on that tree stump; until, little Forrest returns. Besides the great story, the acting, the cinematography, the director, …music adds layers of complexity to the make a memorable scene.

Forrest Gump won six Oscars at the 1995 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. It was nominated for 13 Oscars.  Many critics agree that this movie is one of the top ten movies ever produced. I believe one of the reasons is its relevancy for the audience.  This movie addresses single parenting, the physically and mentally challenged, child abuse and incest, War, Veterans of war, Civil Rights, falling in love, burying a love one, revolutionaries, racism, social protest, drug addiction, bullies, etc…The list is long.  The story of Gump is a story of human kind; good and evil.

Forrest Gump touched my heart and will remain in my memory; but there were other winners that year that are definitely worth noting

Other Oscars winners that year that included parenting as part of the plot or subplot were The Lion King; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Legends of The Fall; and The Madness of King George. There were two other Oscar winners that did not have parenting as a subplot; but, they did address other social issues. Ed Wood addressed drug addiction, ageist, and acceptance of alternative life styles like transvestite. Speed addressed violence and the fear of a homegrown terrorist. The main point is that nearly all Oscar caliber movies have some kind of social relevance to engage its audiences. Thankfully, we can honor all those creative artists and their movie magic; especially when we have talented hosts like Jimmy Kimmel to guide the way.

I would like to thank Oscar’s Blogathon hosts:

In honor of the Oscars this year, Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club (Twitter -@Paula_Guthat); Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled (Twitter @Irishjayhawk66) and Aurora from Once Upon A Screen are hosting this year’s 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon.  Please use the following links below to read wonderful posts about Oscar movies and other Oscar topics!

Day One

Day One: 31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON

Day Two

Day Two: 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

Day Three

31 Days of Oscar: Oscar SNUBS, 2018 Edition!

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I do not own any of the images within this post

REFERENCE LINKS:

https://www.bing.com/images/search?cid=cs_IKtKEy2wCI4jbkN62yVl9Q&q=Forrest+Gump&cq=Forrest+Gump&FORM=IRCRIC&crslsl=466

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=1O325EnX&id=FDE7D24DDEE0099AA1677797B4EF8BE10500C899&thid=OIP.1O325EnX07YXKfeVtXh7zgHaFW&q=Jimmy+Kimmel+Family&simid=608055697775985312&selectedindex=114&mode=overlay&first=1

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/02/26/the-oscars-most-political-moments-a-running-list/?utm_term=.5ffc357154e6

Robin Williams Blogathon: Impressions

This actor and comedian will be missed for a very long time. Anyone who had caught his act or watched his movies knew there was some kind of genius lurking there. He was manically funny and his dramatic performances were near perfect. He won an Oscar for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting (1997); and, he had 83 nominations from various film industries and 63 wins. Whether drama or comedy, he sublimely did it all. The ancient Greeks would have considered him the consummate performer, like Buster Keaton. They are a combination of hilarious laughter and heartbreaking tears; or, as the Greeks considered it, an illusion of perfection within the arts of entertainment.  You only had to see Williams once, regardless where; and, he made an impression that you would not easily forget.

His improvisations were pure magic. As with most performing artists, many aspects of his personal life would make it into his act. For instance, he was very proud of his Scot heritage. You can see some of this in the following video clip. In this clip, he is impersonating a “pissed” (into his cups, smashed, drunk…) Scot. This particular Williams character ended up inventing the game of golf. Take a look, if you have not seen it or if you want to laugh again. This displays Williams’ trademark of energetic impersonations along with the hilarity of his wit.

Before I continue, I would like to thank Gill from Realweegiemidget and Crystal from In The Days of Classic Hollywood for hosting this much deserved tribute: Robin Williams Blogathon. To read or see more of this tribute, please use the following links:

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/announcing-the-robin-williams-Blogathon

https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/awakenings-1990/

The first fleeting impression I had of Williams was from TVs reboot of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In (1977).  Williams was mixed in a fast paced kaleidoscope of comedians doing their gags and short skits. However, he stood out even then. He was young, handsome, and wearing a funny-looking cowboy hat. He wowed me in only a few seconds. Anyone who saw him knew he was different and unique. I tried to catch the show the following week. Either, I missed it; or, it just didn’t never aired.

 

I don’t think I saw him again until the highly popular Mork and Mindy (19781982). He was not a cowboy this time. No, he was a cute, funny-looking space alien who is befriended by the pretty Mindy (Pam Dawber). For those who don’t remember it, this show is a cross between My Favorite Martian (1999) and the Earth Girls Are Easy (1989). For most of us, it was the first time we heard the words: Nano, Nano! Who knew then that “Nano” technology would be in our future?

 

Williams claims he was heavily influenced by many great performers and actors. However, I think his greatest influence came from comedic icon and the first inductee to the Comedic Hall of Fame: Jonathan Winters. If you seen Winters act when dressed as a women, you might think: this is Mrs. Doubtfire’s American cousin: Maude Frickert. If you never seen Winters impersonation of the 87 year old Maude, then I encourage you to watch the following short clip of “her” with Dean Martin. They are setting up a commercial for a sponsor of The Dean Martin Show in what they call a “station break.”

The jokes are a bit dated and sexist; but, it was “naughty” fun for audiences of the early 60s.  The similarities between the two crossdressing elderly, spitfire-characters cannot not be missed. Both are immensely enjoyed by their adorning fans.

After Mork and Mindy were married, they soon announced a baby on the way. Their half Alien/human newborn would be “hatched” into a baby named Mearth (Jonathan Winters). Due to Williams admiration of Winters, this should not have surprised people; but, it did. You had to watch it to understand how ridiculously funny those last few years were on that show with this comic marriage.  Those two together, Williams and Winters, was akin to a comedic molotov cocktail.

 

 

Here is a clip of them ten years later after the show ended. They are on the Johnny Carson Show. Carson had alreadied interviewed Williams before they brought out Winters.  Winters had just won an Emmy for another TV show; however, he did not attend the awards to receive it. Williams was obviously elated to be there with the iconic funnyman.  This clip is just a glimpse of what it must have been like with these two geniuses working together. Their respect and admiration for each other can be seen through the details.

In addition to Winters, Robin Williams credits others whose influence had an major impact on him, especially, when it came to acting. He loved watching British actor, Peter Sellers (Pink Panther, Doctor Strangelove or how I Stopped worrying and love the Bomb) and Dustin Hoffman (Tootie, Hook).  They each impressed upon him the need of learned, practiced characterization.  Each character, no matter how large or small the part, deserved serious study.  Hoffman taught Williams this during the making of Hook: Preparation is key to a great performance. This advice must of become extremely important to the “The King of Improvisation.”

Williams will be involved in 105 film productions. Most, if not all, delivered a character, good or evil, with a degrees of heart and humanity.

The first time one of Williams’ performances surprised me was in Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again (1991). This is a wonderful movie that salutes the styles of Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Wells. With that said, this movie has passion, murder, mystery and the possibility of reincarnation. It travels from post WWII in the United States (filmed in black and white) to the present (filmed in color). In the past, Branagh is German composer Roman Strauss. He marries a much younger musician, Margaret (Emma Thompson). She is murdered and Strauss is executed for the crime. In the present, Branagh is cynical private eye, Mike Church. Most of his work comes from tracking down missing heirs.

A lawyer contacts Church to locate a professionally ruined psychiatrist, Cozy Carlisle (Robin Williams). What a great name for a psychiatrist, Cozy. Apparently, that was his problem. He got too “ cozy” with his patients. Church locates him working in a grocery store’s freezer locker.

Church is called by his priest to come back to the orphanage (converted Strauss mansion) where he was raised. They have an female amnesiac who just appeared at their gates. Unfortunately, she is so traumatized, she is mute too. As if that is not enough, she has nothing on her to identify her. Church really doesn’t want to deal with this kind of case; but, his priest knows how to guilt him out. Once Mike meets this woman, he is immediately intrigued. He gives her a temporary name, Grace (Thompson).

Eventually, Mike ends up taking her to hypnotist, Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi) who also has a antique shop. Church and Grace learn of the Strauss murder under hypnosis. While in the hypnotic state, Grace appears to relive her past life as Margaret Strauss, (the murder victim). As a result, Grace finds her voice but not her memory of her life in the present. Church’s instincts tells him not to trust Madson.  Instead, he and Grace pay a visit to the bitter and angry, ex-doctor, Cozy Carlisle. Church wants his advice about the possibility of reincarnation.  The following two clips completely contain this conversation. Until this movie, I never seen Williams in such a dark role. It was brilliant, of course.

 

Even as this darker character, Cozy Carlisle, Williams delivers a punch line to Branagh’s Mike Church. I liked how this movie explores other beliefs. Although the answers differ by various religions, the questions remain the same (why we are here; or, what is our place in the greater scheme of things). The answers will always be debated; but, even with confusing answers, the questions are always pursued and are infinitely more interesting.

The following year Williams passed away, a very dark movie (his last) was released, Boulevard (2015). I was saddened that such lovely person as Robin Williams is not here anymore to make us laugh. No, I didn’t see it, nor at that time, did I want too.  However, time soften the heart; and, I decided I want to see it. I want to be fair in honoring all of Williams’ work.

For a while, I wanted to remembered the smiling and gifted performer in happier movies. A few years, after he passed away, Americans in the United States were given the “another” last movie with Robin Williams. It was released in the U.K. in 2015 but not in the States.  It is a scientific comedy…Yessss: Absolutely Anything. Williams does the voiceover for the dog, Dennis. The trailer looks funny; and, I am looking forward to watching it.

It is directed by Terry Jones (Monty Python) and it is written by Jones and Gavin Scott. I took the liberty of copying the cast lists from Wikapedia. Here is the link:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolutely_Anything#Cast

Feast your eyes on all of this talent.  As far as the voiceover cast, you might as well call it “Monty Python” with Robin Williams.

CAST:

Simon Pegg as Neil Clarke
Kate Beckinsale as Catherine West
Sanjeev Bhaskar as Ray
Rob Riggle as Colonel Grant Kotchev
Robert Bathurst as James Cleverill
Eddie Izzard as Headmaster, Mr. Robinson
Joanna Lumley as Fenella
Marianne Oldham as Rosie
Emma Pierson as Miss Pringle
Meera Syal as Fiona Blackwell
Mojo the Dog as Dennis the Dog

VOICE CAST

John Cleese as Chief Alien
Terry Gilliam as Nasty Alien
Eric Idle as Salubrious Gat
Terry Jones as Scientist Alien
Michael Palin as Kindly Alien
Robin Williams as Voice of Dennis the Dog
Again, I have not seen this movie; but, I guarantee you that I will by this weekend; even though, the movie received lukewarm reviews.  That’s nothing new. Most comedies receive lukewarm reviews; or, they are totally trashed. It just makes me happy that Williams, in the voice of “man’s friend,” comes from this space age comedy to make us smile, again.  Let me know in the comments if you seen it and if you enjoyed it.

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Again, that you Gill and Crystal for hosting the Robin Williams Blogathon.  Don’t forget to see more tributes to Robin Williams using the following links:

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/announcing-the-robin-williams-Blogathonhttps://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/awakenings-1990/

Reference Links:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.rogerebert.com/reviews/amp/dead-again-1991

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Williams

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0101669/

http://ew.com/article/1991/08/30/dead-again/

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D0CE7DB1F39F930A1575BC0A967958260

The Mad Scientist Blogathon

What is it about “mad scientists ” that is so appealing to film audiences? Is it their crazy ideas that fascinates?  Or maybe, it is their passion for possibilities of the unthinkable.  Real scientists like Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, or Leonardo Da Vinci were thought “mad” at times too. Their ideas shocked their contemporaries; and yet, their passions eventually changed our perception of our world which resulted in changing our lives for the better too. It is only natural that we find ourselves drawn to these “mad” geniuses. Christina Wehner and Ruth from Silver Screenings  invited bloggers to write a post about a mad scientist from the movies. Please use the link  below to read more blogs on movie scientists of all sorts:

https://christinawehner.wordpress.co

https://silverscreenings.org/2017/09/10/movie-scientist-blogathon-day-3-recap-the-lonely/

My original “mad scientist” was Doctor Frankenstein from the Mary Shelley’s book and from the multiple film incarnations of him. I also love comedies. Logically, I was going to write a post about Mel Brooks‘ Hilarious Young Frankenstein. However, as I was watching Igor (pronounced I-Gor not E-Gor) looking for a human brain, I had a better idea…Brains….the Human brain.

What if Dr. Frankenstein took the brain and put in in a dead body? I mean a body that wasn’t pieced together from many body parts. Just pick a whole dead body and put in a “good” brain.  Or, as Brain Surgeon Doctor Micheal Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) said:

Ladies and gentlemen, I can envision a day when the brains of brilliant men can be kept alive in the bodies of dumb people.

So instead of Young Frankenstein (1974), my post will be about another hilarious movie scientist, Dr. Hfuhruhurr, in the film, The Man Wiith Two Brains (1983).  This is the third of four movies that Carl Reiner directed that starred comedic, mastermind Steve Martin:

  1. The Jerk (1979)
  2. Dead Men Don’t Ware Plaid (1982)
  3. The Man With Two Brains (1983)
  4. All of Me (1984)

The three comedy writers who wrote The Man With Two Brains also wrote the screenplay for Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid: Carl Reiner, Steve Martin and George Gale. This movie mostly spoofs  horror films of by gone years. I feel it is only proper to mention each of the films since they not only inspired The Man With Two Brains; but, they have “mad” scientists who should not be ignored in a blog that honors them.

  • Donavan’s Brain (1953)
  • Blood Devils (1970)
  • They Saved Hitler’s Brian (1968)
  • The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1983)

A Brief look of these Four Horror Movies that Influenced The Man With Two Brains: All movie trailers are added at the end of this post. 

This first one, Donovan’s Brain, stars Nancy Davis. I think this is interesting because she will become the future First Lady married to President Ronald Reagan. In this film, she is marry to a kindly doctor who keeps a criminal’s brain alive; however, the evil brain slowly takes over the doctor’s mind and body.

The second movie is known as Blood Devils in the United States and Beast of Blood in the United Kingdom. This one is a rare treat because it is a Filipino Horror flick that is Dubbed in English. This movie has a disfigured evil doctor on an island who loves making zombies by transplanting heads. He keeps the head and body of a man-beast alive. The head controls its detached body. The last scene in this movie trailer is a funny due to the dubbing process.

Third movie has one of the most unique titles that I ever heard: They Saved Hitler’s Brain. Besides the title, the making of this movie is unique too.  They had a theatrical release of this 70-minute movie in 1963. Then in 1968, the movie distributor asked UCLA students to add 20-minutes more footage to the ending. This was adapted for television. According to this movie, Hitler didn’t shoot himself in the head. His Nazis henchmen smuggled his living head to an island near a country, Mandoras , in South America to be attached when the Third Reich could be revived. Hence, it prompted another movie title: The Madmen of Mandoras.

The last horror film to influence the comedy writers of The Man With Two Brains is The Brain That Would Not Die (1983).  This time the mad scientist has a girlfriend whose head is decapitated in a car wreck.  He keeps her head alive while she begs him to allow her to die. When he tells her he knows what he is doing because he has done it before.  Even though he created a living mess with the poor guy.  She really begins to hate her boyfriend as he goes lurking for a body to attach to her head.  He is little choosy too because his looks for victims at a burlesque show and a beauty pageant. The head really hates it when he decides to killed an old ex-girlfriend for a body. The head nags him so much, he tapes her mouth shut.

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These four movies influenced the making of The Man With Two Brains. In this film, we meet “mad scientist” or should I say mad Brain Surgeon, Doctor Hfuhruhurr who perfected the “cranial screw-top” brain surgery. He describes his over inflated talents  to a reporter in this way:

My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed, and will probably make my name live beyond eternity.

When he asks the reporter to read his statement back, he asked him to remove the word “probably” because it made him sound to “wishy, washy.”

Dr. Hfuhruhurr is a widower who still grieves for the lost of his wife and soul mate. He explains to the reporter that a gardener, Ramon, gave him a Barbie doll that was made with his dead wife’s hair. He keeps the doll on the dash of his car. While driving he explains to the reporter. Suddenly, he accidentally hits Delores Bennett ( Kathleen Turner) with his car. He immediately goes to help her and tells a four-year little girl, who witnessed the accident, to go for help. Carl Reiner says this is his favorite scene in the whole movie because that amazing little girl, who could not read, memorized her lines so well that the scene was shot in one take.  The following video is that scene and many more chuckles too.

He operates to save her life. I love the cats that keep showing up during surgery.  Doctor “H” yells at them to “Scat! Damn cats around here.” Little does he know, Delores is a recent widower. She is looking for another wealthy man to marry in order to scam him from all of his money; until, he “accidentally” dies and will leave her even more money through his insurance which is left to her through his Will.

Kathleen Turner is so smooth, sexy, and decadent in this movie.  It was an eye opener for audiences to see her in a comedy after seeing her explosive portrayal as Matty Walker in noir thriller, Body Heat (1983). She claimed she wanted to do a comedy because Delores is so outrageous and “it wasn’t a token female role.”  Besides, the fact she could work with creative funny men like Reiner and Martin must have attracted her too.

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They marry.  But you feel this gold digger is going to be wife in name only. After the preacher pronounces them man and wife and that he may kiss the bride, she turns her cheek to the Doctor ” H” to kiss and says, “Not now.”  He is sexually frustrated for six weeks; before, he tells his new wife that he is going on  a business trip that can easily be a substitute for a honeymoon too. They travel to Venice where unbeknownst to them there is an “elevator killer” terrorizing the women of the city.  Here he meets another “mad scientist” Doctor Alfred Necessiter (David Warner). I love to watch Warner’s work in anything.  He is such a great actor.

Doctor Necessiter discovered a radical technique to store living brains of the victims of the Elevator Killer. Because the killer injects the victims with window cleaner, it allows the doctor to keep the brain alive. However, the brains only have a limited time to live in the liquid before it dies. In addition, he has perfected a method of transplanting a human brain in a gorilla.

While visiting the Necessiter, Dr. H finds he can communicate with one of the ladies brains. She has the sweetest voice (uncredited Sissy Spacek) and although, no one can hear hear her she communicates to Dr. H using telepathy. He is intrigued and wants to help her out of her darkness. He later learns the brain’s name is Annie Uumellmahaye. You just know by the unusual names that they are meant for each other: Hfuhruhurr and Uumellmahaye 💖

Carl Reiner wanted Annie and Dr. H to have a loving romance that time and memories could not prevent. He believes “Random Harvest” (1942) to be the greatest of movie love story. It stars Greer Garson and Ronald Colman This movie inspired the greatest romance of man and brain in the movie.

 

He decides to kidnap Annie and keep her until he finds a suitable dead body to attach her head. The trip to the morgue turns up some pretty bad options. He confessed to Dr. Necessiter  “I cannot F**k a gorilla.” Unfortunately, Dr. “H” decides to murder a woman for her body.

One of the funniest moments in this film is when jealous Delores follows her husband who goes out on a date with Annie’s stolen brain. Their confrontation is hilarious.

I am not going to spoil this movie but writing what happens from this point. I will say it has more surprises; and, it stays hilarious to the end.  Michael Hfuhruhurr represents all kinds of scientist.  He is good, mad and lonely. He is a perfect match for the Scientists Blogathon (2017).  Again, thank you Christina Wehner and Ruth from Silver Screenings for allowing me to add this post late, despite Hurricane Irma (2017). I have decided to watch all five of these horror flicks Halloween week, one for each day.

I hope you will enjoy watching this very funny horror movie.  If you want to read more about a variety of film scientists in this Blogathon, please use the following links below.

https://christinawehner.wordpress.com

https://silverscreenings.org/2017/09/10/movie-scientist-blogathon-day-3-recap-the-lonely/

Print

 

The Man With Two Brains was inspired by the following movies. Here are the Trailers

 

 

Carl Reiner said he loved the movie, Random Harvest (1942). It is a tender love story. That tenderness inspired him as he help write somebody of the movie script for Man With Two Brains (1987).

Reference Links:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085894/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/brain_that_wouldnt_die

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0265870/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065456/

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/17516/Donovan-s-Brain/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_Harvest_(film)

 

 

 

 

Third Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: Cactus Flower (1969)

In 1938, she was like no other actress in Hollywood.  She came to Hollywood already a film star in Sweden.  She made six Swedish films before David O. Selznick wanted to her to star in the remake of one those Swedish films, Intermezzo (1939). At first she refused because she did not like his terms. However, he changed the terms and offered again. With a better contract, she agreed to star in the American version that movie. However, Hollywood, being Hollywood, wanted to personally remake Bergman too. They immediately sent her instructions/demands. Again, she surprised them when she refused to have her teeth fixed, shave her eyebrows or change her German sounding name.

She was a healthy, natural beauty who preferred to not wear makeup except lightly, for work or special events. She was a professional when it came to work. She was never late or required special treatment while making her movies.  When she signed a contract, she never renegotiated for more money because the movie became more profitable than originally planned. For ten years, she was successful and well respected by her peers and the public.  She starred in such classics as Gaslight (1944); For Whom The Bells Toll (1943); The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945); Notorious (1946); Casablanca (1942); Spellbound (1945); Joan of Arc (1948) ….

Yet in 1950, she left Hollywood in the whirlwind of scandal.  She went from being one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood to the most despicable, at least in the eyes of public opinion. The “witch hunt” even went so far that a senator from Colorado claimed Ingrid Bergman as “a powerful influence for evil.”  Of course, she was Blacklisted and could not find work in Hollywood after that.

What did she do to deserve such a hateful public outcry?

She left her husband and daughter in the states, to go make a movie in Italy.  Roberto Rossellini was the director of her latest film, Stromboli (1950). Both, actress and director, were married to other people when they began their affair.  Then, she became pregnant; and, declared her love for Rossellini and refused to go back to her husband.  It didn’t matter to the public that they each had been separated from their spouses long before they met.

In 1956, she made her first comeback American movie, Anastasia.  Although this was an American film, it was made in England.  It was nearly 20 years later, before Bergman would walk on a sound stage in Hollywood California again. In 1969, the year of flower power, the sexual revolution, hippies, and Vietnam, Bergman came back to a different America and Hollywood. At age 54, she would star in her first comedy.  She is in full bloom in this 1969 romantic comedy: Cactus Flower. She was quoted as saying:

I always wanted to do comedies; but, nobody discovered this until my old age….they think all Swedes are like Greta Garbo.

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This movie’s premise uses the sexual revolution of the 60s as it’s backdrop for a comedy based on the complex relationships between the sexes. Comparing the strict sexual rules of the 50s to the slacked morales of the 60s and 70s is quite a jump in a cultural turn around. Much of this social change can be attributed to the FDA approving The Pill as a contraceptive in 1960.  For the first time in the history of women, we were given control of when, who, and where they wanted to have children. This equated to sexual freedom.

I had not seen this movie since 1969.  So, I rented it to refresh my memory. Surprisingly, enjoy the humor and one liner jokes.  The script is still witty and sharp. Also, the theme of the movie is still as relevant today as it was in 1969, since equality between the sexes continues to be debated today.

Some of The Other Actors

Walter Matthau is one of those actors with perfect comedic timing.  He has a dead pan delivery (like the straight man in a comedy act) that sounds authentic enough to make his one liners funny.  The amazing thing about this is he can be the finny straight man with any person in any scene. As I watched his hilarious performance in this movie, I realized how much I missed him in his other movies, especially the “grumpy old man” with Jack Lemmon.

Of course, it is a rare treat to see Bergman in a comedy. Who knew she could be so funny?  It is always wonderful to watch her in any movie at any age.  In this film, she plays a uptight, stern nurse in her 40s who is single; but, in love with her playboy boss.  Bergman always possesses that cinema magic with her on screen presence and stage performances. You literally cannot take your eyes off her.

Goldie Hawn was mostly known as Televison’s Rowen and Martin’s “it girl” who danced in her bikini with a ditzy blonde personal. It shocked many people at the time to learn that she shared the screen with the likes of Bergman. This is Goldie Hawn’s first feature in a big budget movie; and, she is so compelling as the booty call girlfriend she won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Bergman was nominated for Best actress but lost to Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brody.

Rick Lenz is an actor that mostly disappeared after this movie.  Too bad because he holds his own pretty well as the potential love interest behind Julian.  The whole time I watched his likable performance, I kept thinking of a young Jimmy Stewart.

Summary of the movie: Cactus Flower

A single dentist (Walter Matthau) who has an much younger girlfriend (Goldie Hawn) feels pressured to marry her. He has just one problem. In order to avoid commitment and marriage, he lied and told her that he is already married. After seeing each other for over a year, this young, idealistic girlfriend realizes she cannot continue the relationship; unless, he agrees to tell his wife the truth; then, they can get divorced so she and he, the dentist, can marry.

Despite the fact that this is a comedy, it begins with a very depressing subject, suicide. After Julian Winton (Matthau) misses their one year anniversary dinner, Toni (Hawn) decides to write Julian a letter explaining why she would rather kill herself then to continue living with constant disappointment and loneliness.

We see Toni coming out of her Greenwich Village flat, in her fluffy pink slippers and overcoat, to put a letter into the mail box. Once back in her flat, she slowly puts out the candles on the table set for two. After she sadly looks over the clean plates and unopened bottle of wine.  She goes to the gas stove and turns on the gas. She then proceeds to lie on her bed with her arms crossed, awaiting death.

Luckily, a neighbor, Igor Sullivan (Rick Lenz) comes out of his apartment into the hall smelling gas.  He locates that the origin of the smell which is coming out of Toni”s apartment.  He bangs on her door and gets no answer.  He climbs out on the fire escape and breaks into her apartment through a window.  He turns off the gas and opens the windows and doors, fanning the gas with his arms.  Seeing Toni unconscious on her bed, he tries to wake her up; but, she doesn’t respond. He performs CPR on her. When she comes too, she thinks it is Julian trying to kiss he. She gives Igor a passionate kiss. They have a sweet conversation as to why she is dating a married man.  Ironically, Toni claims it is because Julian is honest. He told her right away that he was married.  According to Toni, she has been lied too all her life. Julian was the first descent man that she has ever met.

When Julian gets Toni’s letter, he runs out of the office scares to death that he would find her dead. Of course, she is not.  But, Toni insists he quit his wife and marry her. Julian is so relieved she is alive and shocked that she would attempt suicide over him, he promises to get a divorce right away. Then, Toni insists that she meet the wife as part of her conditions.  She wants the wife to know that they would be supportive of her too. Like I said, Toni is a very idealistic young lady.

Julian has a dilemma.  Where can he find a woman to pretend to be his wife? A wife that he has been married too for over ten years? He could of course tell Toni the truth and risk losing her forever. Then again, is her emotional well being strong enough to accept the truth without her trying to harm herself?

His dental assistant and office manager is Stephanie Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman). She is extremely professional, competent and loyal; and, she is secretly in love with Julian. You probably know of a few women who match this description from the work place.  Sometimes, they jokingly refer to themselves as the “Work wife” as opposed to “house wife.”

Julian explains to his moocher friend, Harvey Greenfield (Jack Weston), why he likes Nurse/Miss Dickinson:

She is like a wife. A good wife, devoted, competent, takes care of everything for me during the day. And at night, she goes home, to her home. And I go home with no problems or cares, to my girl. My life is arranged the way I like it.

The title Catcus Flower is symbolic of Nurse Dickinson.  On the outside, she is sharpe, prickly and surviving.  But, as the years go by, there is a beautiful flower inside that is ready to bloom. You can actually see this in two different photographic of her taking care if this office plant.

Of course, Julian is going to ask Miss Dickinson out for a drink; so, he can ask her to lie and pretend to be his wife.  After working for him for over ten years, he has never asked her out for anything after work.  It is a mad guess to figure out what must have been going on in her love sick mind when he actually suggests they have a few drinks.

There are many funny one liners in this movie, I could barely keep up. In other words, I laughed a lot and the movie didn’t get dragged down by over sentimentality like many Romantic comedies. This comedy is so good that Adam Sandler did a remake in 2011,  Just Go With It, with Jennifer Anniston playing Bergman’ s role.

To give you an idea of a Bergman one liner, when she comes into the patient’s room to double check dental instruments and secure the body cover up on patient, Harvey Greenfield, he says to her:

“Hey! I was reading the other day about a dentist in New Jersey who had topless nurses.”  As she adjusts his cover up, she says, ” I didn’t know you were interested in reading.”

You can image how these lies begin to unravel into bigger lies which makes this movie a great comedy. Because, Nurse Dickinson will attempt to help Julian secure Toni’s love. I hope if you haven’t seen this Bergman comedy, you don’t miss a chance to see it. I just like to add a comment about Goldie Hawn. She wrote her autobiography titled: A Lotus Grows in Mud. I just thought it was meaningful that she picked another flower that will only bloom once it has beaten the odds of the struggle and surviving. This certainly speaks volumes for anyone who has gone though horrendous life events and out stronger and better from it.  This quote from the book explains it succinctly:

The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one”.[1]

Ingrid Bergman’s last movie was made for television on the life of Israeli Prime Minister, Goldie Mier. Bergman died of breast cancer on her birthday, August 29th in 1982. She had just turned 67 years old. Without question, she left us far too soon. Thankfully, she also left us with over 50 films of her life work that will inspire actresses and women in general to be strong, work hard and to be true to themselves.

Ingrid Bergman, is honored in a Blogathon which is hosted by Virginie Pronvost of The Wonderful World of Cinema.  I would like to thank Virginie for the invitation to submit my post with various other excellent bloggers who are focused on a variety of Bergman’s movies. To read more posts about Bergman and her work, please use the link below.

https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/the-3rd-wonderful-ingrid-bergman-blogathon-is-here/

 

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Link References

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Lotus_Grows_in_the_Mud

http://www.alternet.org/story/153969/how_the_sexual_revolution_changed_america_forever

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/allen_steve_t.html

 

 

 

 

Judy Garland loves The Pirate (1948): A Garland Blogathon

Anyone who personally knows me will tell you that I am a sucker for pirate movies. Obviously, it is the “romantic notion” of a pirate that I enjoy and not the criminal element of real piracy that still exists today. The idea of a noble pirate like Sir Frances Drake, who historically was “the greatest sea dog” of all time, sailing around the world on The Golden Hind to escape capture by Phillip II of Spain is an exciting tale.  Just think of it, Drake was the first Englishman to circumvent the globe in order to keep the gold “booty” he stole from the Spanish king…classically, awesome. Drake aka el Draque (The Dragon) was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and participated in the naval battle to stop the invasion of the Spanish Armada.  To the English he was a hero; to the Spanish he was a criminal. This is history; however, in the world of the arts our “Bad Boys” can do and be anything we so choose, even being chased by a crocodile with a clock in its belly.

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Basically, the romanticized idea of a  pirate or privateer is a talented captain who is much like a “James Bond,” but sailing the seas and not driving an Aston Martin. In reality, some of them secretly worked for a government or group of investors.  The fantastical captains were strategically brilliant, expert sword fighters, charmingly witty, loved music and the spirits (Ho, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum), had a lusty libido, and were fearless in face of danger.

From movies of all genres (dramas, comedies, horror, and musicals…) and even in Disney theme parks, the pirate is a common sight. So, when I was invited to pay tribute to the beautiful and glamorous Judy Garland, I immediately chose her pirate movie.  This post is part of a Blogathon celebrating the work of Judy Garland.  It is graciously hosted by Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-judy-garland-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

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Since, I admit to my pirate weaknesses, I should acknowledge that I am also a fan of television series Once Upon a Time.  Of course, I am happy Emma Snow (the savior) played beautifully by Jennifer Morrison fell in love with Captain Hook played by devilish handsome Colin O’Donoghue. Who could resist?

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Whatever the influence from history, movies, books, or location, pirates are part of the general population’s psyche.  Now, what does this have to do with a post about Judy Garland’s The Pirate?  Well it explains how I could fall (Hook, line and sinker) for the storyline of this MGM, 1948 musical. Although this film was a bust, it lost over two million dollars at the box office, I feel it had the potential to be a great movie.  Okay, given it is not a great movie, it is still enjoyable and has some of the greatest dance and song scenes ever recorded.

There is a myriad of reasons why movies fail.  For instance, a movie like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971) is an example of a movie that failed at the box office: but, later not only becomes a children favorite, but a cult classic, and later a successful remake in 2005 with Johnny Depp.  Although the The Pirate (1948) is unforgivably underrated, it is enjoyable and  entertaining. This film not only stars the multi-talented actress and singing star, Judy Garland; but, also the versatile Gene Kelly. In addition, it showcases an energetic dance number by the amazing Nicholas Brothers; luscious music by the suave Cole Porter; and, all of this delivered under the artful direction of Vicente Minnelli (married to Garland at the time).

So, how did this movie become underrated?  

Part of the reason is because two dance and song scenes were cut from the movie for different reasons.  With these cuts, it left gaps that gave the audiences at the time a sense that something was missing.  Plus, this was released only three years after World War II.  Although Spain was a neutral country, it was still a fascist country under Franco.  The Cold War, and the House Committee of  Un-American Activities were beginning to rear their ugly heads.  Many American audiences were more than cautious about being influenced by what they perceived as propaganda. This is one explanation out of many that explains why this musical failed so miserly at the box office.

Another reason, some say it failed was a result of the music.  Some believe the Cole Porter Tunes didn’t match the story.  I personally do not feel that way.  It is true, there is not a heavy influence of Spanish rhythms or beats in the music to enhance the setting in the Spanish Caribbean Port of San Sebastian.  However, the emotional lyrics matched the story very well.  And, let’s face it, Garland could sing the words off a traffic ticket and people would swoon. There is one thing Cole Porter did that might have hurt this movie.  He agreed to write the music if he could name the pirate after a friend, Macoco. The name sounds like a special hot drink at Starbucks. Latte, anyone? You could find a better pirate name from the following list:

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If I could change anything, it would be the character development of the two main leads. Serafin’s character (Gene Kelly) trying to “sell the life of a traveling troupe” to Manuela’s character (Judy Garland) has an sound of untruthfulness or Con job. An actors life should have sounded as romantic as the life of a pirate. Plus, he speaks so quickly, he sounds too smug to be charming. Manuela is a nobleman’s daughter.  The romantic side of her character should have been developed more. Manuela’s final decision of what to do with the rest of her life should not have been so obvious.  The dilemma of choosing happiness over her family, reputation, duty and money is not an easy one to make. Yes, I did find the script to be lacking.  There were six writers involved in this project.  Only two of them were credited. So, another reason the movie might have failed could have been a simple matter of ” too many writers” spoiling the script.

Manuela Dreams of Life With The Black Macoco

Manuela (Judy Garland) is a young woman who has just come of age. Her aunt Inez (Gladys Cooper) has just told her that an arranged marriage has been negotiated on her behalf with the mayor of the city, Don Pedro Vargas (Walter Slezak).  Manuela learns of her newly betrothed just after she describes, (romantically sings “Mack The Black” to her lady friends.  When Judy Garland sings, you are in her world of possibilities.  No one interprets a song like she does.  She sings of “Mac’s” (Macoco) bravery; his heroic acts of fighting; and, his treasure and gold. She dreams of her pirate, the Black Macoco, falling desperately in love with her and sailing away with her to see the world.

Manuela is well aware that her aunt and uncle took her in as an orphan with no diary of her own to attract husbands. The mayor is a self made man who is at least 20 some years her senior.  She feels beholden to their care in taking care of her.  Plus, it isn’t so so bad since the Mayor is rich and is a world traveler.  Angela’s dream of seeing the world could come true.  During a meeting is set up between her and the mayor, he assures her that although he is not cultured, he has seen the world and will tell her all about it.  He has no wish to travel again because he  cannot bear the sea.  Instead, he enjoys just staying home since it is quite, peaceful and safe. Then, Manuela is told the mayor is paying for her new wardrobe.  To seal the deal, he gives her a beautiful bejeweled extremely expensive engagement ring.

Crushed, Manuela begs her aunt to allow her to take 30 minutes by herself to look at the sea wall.  They are in town to meet with the dressmaker who is making alterations to her new wardrobe from a famous Paris fashion House, Maison Worth.  Just one last  trip to the sea by herself, she begs.  At least then she could see some corner of their world on an adventure. The aunt nervously grants her that wish.  It is near the sea wall that she meets a touring actor, Serafin (Gene Kelly).  He falls instantly in love with Manuela.  How do we know? Because, he calls every woman he meets “Nina.”  It saves him the trouble of remembering their names.

There is a great song and dance that Kelly does as he sings about all the town Ninas. During his dance routine he uses carnival poles. This might be the first pole dancing performed on screen.  After a brief meeting with Manuela, he begs her to give him her name. She informs him that she will soon be married; and, he tells her that she must not marry a “pumpkin.”  Before, she leaves, he invites her to his performance later that evening.  Before the show begins,  Sarafin sees her in the audience and decides to hypothesize her as part of his act.  But, what he really wants to do is plant the idea that she might love him.

While under hypnoses and  to his surprise, she reveals her infatuation with the notorious pirate. She sings about the Black Macoco.  This is one of the song and dance routines taken out of the picture.  It is known as the Voodoo scene.  When Louis B. Meyer saw the clip of this song and dance, he became enraged and demanded all the negatives of it be destroyed. The recording of the song survived. Someone took some movie clips and pictures of the revised scene with Judy singing Mack the Black again but at a much faster tempo.   This video is on YouTube; but,  I added that link below.  The beginning of this song is kind of creepy.

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=WKhytfI1UKg

The Tale of Two Scenes (Dance and Song) Cuts: Too Much Sex or Too Much Diversity

Eventually, Serafin borrows Macoco’s identity in his pursuit of Menuela. There is a lot of fun here before Manuela has her revenge for his deception.  Serafin is so convincing in his act, the mayor has him arrested as Macoco. It is during his trial that one of the best dance scenes in the history of film was cut out of the movie, Be A Clown. Gene Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers are incredible in this unbelievable routine. It was cut out of the film before it could be showed in Southern cities.  This was a time of law enforced segregation.  It was the first time a white and black men were filmed dancing together. Eerily, there is a part of the routine where they dance to close to the gallows and see three nooses hanging.  All three of them cringe and quickly dance away as part of a joke.  Unfortunately,  after the Northern cities saw the film, the Nicholas Brothers were blackballed and could not find work in Hollywood. So, they left the continent to find work in Europe.  They would return in 1964 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This great dance routine can be seen in the DVD version.  Hereit is to view it now.  It is not to be missed.

Not to spoil the surprise ending, Garland and Kelly will sing and dance this song again, dressed as clowns. Four years later, the song Be a Clown will be plagiarized by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed for another Kelly film, Singing In The Rain. They changed the title to Make em Laugh. Kelly did not sing the song in that movie, Donald O’Connor did. Cole Porter did not legally make a claim that the  song was used without his permission.

https://www.bing.com/search?q=be+a+clown+garland&form=EDGTCT&qs=PF&cvid=7f80993c1d3c4473a334e8398af45e26&cc=US&setlang=en-US

Final Thought

Despite the problems with the script and the cut and piece editing of the dance scenes, I still enjoyed this Garland movie. Personally, I am happy that she had the opportunity to share her romanticized pirate in one of her  movies.  Honestly, regardless of the movie, Garland and Kelly are simply a joy to watch and listen to.  This was the second of four projects planned for Garland and Kelly.  The first was For Me and My Gal (1942), The Pirate (1948), Easter Parade (1948) and Summer Stock (1950).  Kelly broke his ankle during the filming of Easter Parade and was replaced by Fred Astaire.     

What is truly amazing is that Garland, the consummate performer, could make this look and sound so good, especially  when you learn that she smoked four packs of cigarettes a day during the filming of this movie; and, she was also not at her best mentally or physically.  She missed 99 days out of the 135 filming days for illnesses.  It was during the filming of this movie that she received psychiatric treatment that was paid for by the studio. This was a first for any studio because they usually dock expenses out of their actors’ pay.

Like all Garland fans, I wish her life could have been better because she really deserved it. Who knows what may have happened if she went to nursing school and had a different life. What I do know is that she was so amazingly talented that even today, when we  hear her sing, watch one of her movies or listen to her interviews, we feel warm inside because she has made a special place in our hearts. With that said, here is a clip gym from the film, For Me And My Gal.  Garland and Kelly are shinning bright and at the top of their game as they “Show ’em.”

 

This post is part of a Blogathon celebrating the work of Judy Garland.  It is graciously hosted by Krystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  To read more posts on the work of Judy Garland, please use the link below.

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-judy-garland-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

 

SOURCES:

http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Garland-Judy.html

Link list of historical Pirates:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pirates

 

 

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Goin’ South with Jack Nicholson

There are only a few Western comedies that I like:  I enjoy Mel Brooks Blazzing  Saddles (1987) with Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little and Paleface (1955) with Bob Hope and Jane Russell.

However, neither of these have an authentic Western feel to them. Which is one of the reasons why Goin’ South (1988) with Jack Nicholson and Mary Steenburgen has been added to my personal Best List.  This movie has all the standard elements that is in a Western Hollywood movie: cowboys, outlaws, a posse, bar room fights,  saloon gals, shoot outs, rail road building, bank foreclosures, Mexicans and Indians, romance, jealous suitors, love for a horse ( named Speed), etc…. Even with all the Hollywood fanfare, Goin’ South has more.

This movie has  some historical content within its sense of time and place.  The time is during the late 1860s – 1870s and the place is a Texan town, near Mexican border. One of the reasons that it seems so realistic is due to the filming location.  Along with some film history, the location used was in  Durango, Mexico.  This was John Wayne’s favorite filming location. The town is basically the same  set Wayne used for the movie Chisum (1970). They only changed some colors and signs.

Another aspect of the authenticity of this film is the historical background of the character, Henry Moon.  He once rode with the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders who became an embarrassment to the Confederate government during the Civil War (1861 – 1865).  The Raiders followed the command of William Quantrill who basically did what ever he wanted to do.  Under his command, they perfected the use of guerilla warfare successfully against Northern Union troops. However, when Quantrill led a retaliation raid against Northern sympathizers, and massacred 180 civilian men and boys, the Confederate government decommissioned Quantrill (1863).  Eventually, Quantrill loses control of his men (known as Bushwhackers); and, they  split up into smaller bands of outlaws.

From one of these groups, a smaller group of outlaw gangs emerges. It is the infamous gang is known as the  James – Younger Gang (Jesse and Frank James’ gang).  To many Southern people, these outlaws were heroes still fighting the war against the corrupted North and their carpetbaggers ( unscrupulous opportunists). This is one of the reasons they were able to elude the law.  Many southern home welcomed these outlaws and hid them too.

Henry Moon wanted to ride with the Younger Gang; but they didn’t think Moon was cunning enough to keep up with their criminal standards. They were probably right.  Henry decided to  start his own outlaw gang of thieves, the Moon Gang.  Hollywood has given these Raiders much attention over the years.  Here are just a few, who rode with Quantrill on film.

 

Another historical bit of authenticity in this movie, is the town ordinance.  It is now estimated that over 750,000 men were killed during the Civil War. In the 11 Southern states that fought the war, it created a shortage of eligible marrying men. To help the womenfolks and the procreation of the Southern population, some towns had a special ordinance to save a man (not for a murder) from execution. Some people might have preferred the rope when compared to the idea of marrying. Henry Moon was not one of those people.

Nicholson Directs and Stars

This is Jack Nicholson’s second film as Director and his first, of two films, with him as a leading man and director. This project was not planned this way.  Nicholson only wanted to Direct this film. Fortunately, things didn’t work out as planned.  I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Henry Lloyd Moon (horse thief) as brilliantly as Nicholson.  This performance is pure Jack, TNT.  There is a lot of manic energy and fun when Moon makes himself act a fool just for the fun of it.  He can also be crass and appalling while at the same time make you laugh so hard that tears appear in the corner of your eyes.  Nicholson’s performance comes across like a shot of whisky: a bit strong at first, then soothes to a delightful perfection.

One the best decisions Nicholson made as a director is making sure that Mary Steenburgen received the female lead in his film.  As a working waitress and trying to break into show business, she auditioned for the part of Julia Tate.  While waiting in the casting office, she briefly met Nicholson.  He  gave her one page to read.  That page grew to many pages of reading; until, three hours later, she was hired.  This film is her debut appearance in a major motion picture.

The Plot

Henry Moon is a criminal about to be hanged as a horse thief.  In the old west, there was nothing as low as a horse thief.  As a matter of fact, some people thought hanging was too good for them.  However, after the Civil War (1860 – 1864), there is shortage of men.  In some western towns, there was a town Ordinance that allowed a property-owning woman to save a man from being hanged provided they got married.  Once married, the redeemed man was required to stay on probation for the rest of his natural life.  Meaning, he must never break the law.  This includes no alcohol consumption, no beating his wife, no gambling, or running away. For some, this would probably be a true test to their character. For Henry Moon, this was “down right” impossible.

The movie begins with a posse chasing Moon on his trusty steed, Speed.  They race over a dusty Texan terrain.  Moon is trying to reach the Rio Grande; so, he can cross over into Mexico. Texan law men cannot arrest him there.  Moon is barely ahead of them as he and Speed continue to swim/walk/run across a small section of the river. Once on the other side, Speed exhaustively falls down. Moon is excitedly jumps around and screams like a maniac: We made it. You can’t touch me.  The law men continue their pursuit and ride through the river.  They promptly rope the running Henry Moon to the ground and arrest him and his horse.

While awaiting his execution, Moon isn’t aware of the town ordnance for saving a condemned man (as long as he is not a murderer). So, when groups of ladies come in to “get a gander” of him, Moon is verbally abusive to them.  He said he felt like a caged animal on display.  Besides being on exhibit, Henry only visitors is his outlaw gang.  He was hoping for them to break him out of jail.  Sadly, they were not up to saving poor old Moon.  They just came to say goodbye and  see if he had anything that he wanted to give to them before he left this earth.  Moon’s gang is composed of one woman, Hermine, (Victoria Cartwright) and three men: Hog (Danny DeVito), Big Abe (Jeff Morris) and Coogan (Tracey Walter).  DeVito would later direct Nicholson in Hoffa (1992).

Sheriff Andrew Kyle (Richard Bradford), lets Moon know it is time for him to go and proceeds to explain the town ordinance to him too.  Moon realizes too late that is the reason all those women coming in to have a look at him.  After all the insults the town’s women endured by Moon, most of them wanted to see him hang.

The first time Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen) sees Henry Moon, he is standing on a Scaffold with a thick rope around his neck and his hands tied behind his back.  He is begging for any women to take him and save his life.  Two saloon girls, sitting in chairs are watching the hanging event from the end of the street. One remarks to the other one:  This one is pretty stupid.  He is sure to hang.

There is one fragile, elderly widow, Frances, who is moved by Henry’s pleas. She claims him for her own. The Sheriff reminds her that she is a “mite elderly” to be a bride. Frances does care because “he was a veteran of the war; and, he deserved a second chance.” Henry is so elated that after the rope is removed from around his neck, he jumps down and gives her a cuddle.  She is so overwhelmed; her heart stops beating; and, she kneels over dead.

Video clip of elderly Florence savings Moon from a hanging

As they are dragging poor old disappointed Moon back up to the scaffold, soft-spoken, Julia claims him for marriage. Everyone is in shock.  The Sheriff asks her several times if she drunk.  Deputy Sheriff Towfield (Christopher Lloyd) is in unbelief because he has begged Julia to go out with him for a date; and she refuses. Don’t worry about Lloyd getting the girl because he does later in the film Back to the Future III  (1990) as the Professor falls in love with the schoolmarm (Steenburgen).

Mary Steenburgen’s  is totally convincing as the shy, refined and secretive Julia.  Julia Tate is a young lady who sees her marriage to Moon as a marriage of convenience for a business transaction, only.  She is no more attracted to Moon than she was to the Deputy Sheriff Towfield. In other words, the marriage is a sham, not real.

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The wedding ceremony
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The Newlyweds and their neighbors

Once the couple is married, Julia wastes no time in letting Henry know why she married him.  She needed him as a laborer to work her secret mine.  They only had 30 days before the bank foreclosed on her property.  At the same time, the government was taking her land under Eminent Domain law; since, they needed to build a railroad through the property too.  So, she had to put up with a noisy land surveyor from the railroads while she was trying to keep her gold mine a secret.

As Julia is explaining all of this to Henry, he knows all too well how all of this is going to work out.  He asks her if her recently deceased father believed there was gold in this secret mine.  Julia tells him that her father did not “believe enough.”  Henry says, “Sounds like he was the brains in the family.”

As if the two don’t have enough problems, the neighbors come over to welcome Henry and to advise the newly weds on what married people do best. Little do they know that this newlywed couple have no plans to consummate their marriage.  One lady even goes as far as telling Julia if she is uncomfortable during copulation: Just think of canning peaches. Moon is very disappointed when he finds out Julia does not want to can peaches with him.  To add more stress to Henry’s unfulfilled desires about his bride, he discovers that she was a virgin too.  Not since the African Queen (1951), has there been such an unlikely romantic pairing as Henry Moon and Julia Tate.

So, as they work the mine, hating each other and sometimes, really liking each other, they discover gold.  Now, this is a business partnership Moon can really get behind.  They work as fast as they can and decide to take some of the gold to town to lock up in a box at the bank.  Just like vultures who smell dead meat so does Moon’s old gang smell gold.  They make a surprise visit bringing gifts of alcohol.  Non-drinking Julia gets drunk and lets it slip about the gold.  Henry, being Henry, makes a deal to betray Julia behind her back.  But, he soon realizes he has fallen in love.  The question is does she love him? And for that, I hope you watch the movie for yourself to find out.

Christopher Lloyd is his usual quirky, funny self.  Unfortunately, John Belushi is not. I hate to say it because I really like Belushi’ s work.; but, his talents were wasted in this movie.  His character was underdeveloped; and, he used a  stereotypical Mexican accent which is not funny to me.  He had just completed Animal House the same year as this movie.  Although he was a well-known comedian on television’s Saturday Night Live (1975) he was not a film star yet. Goin’ South was he second movie; and, it was released after Animal House was released.

lloyd-and-belushi-in-south

Some Behind the Scenes Drama

Apparently, Nicholson and Belushi constantly clash on set.  It must have been difficult for both of them.  When Belushi was asked how he liked working with Nicholson the Director, he said: In the end, Jack treated me like shit on Goin’ South.  I hate him. When Nicholson was asked what he thought of the director, he said: The Director of this film is one selfish demanding egomaniac.  And the leading man isn’t much better. 

In truth, Nicolson treated his cast as extended family on set.  According to the producers of the movie, Belushi had a “short fuse” and was constantly fighting with them. When they did not give in to his petty demands, he sulked.  The more his sulked; the less his role became.  This is unfortunate because it would have been interesting to see what his totally engaged talents would have done in the final outcome of this movie.

When Christopher Lloyd was attended a Back to The Future Convention in 2016, he was asked which movie did he have the most fun making.  He said, Goin’ South; and, he wished more people knew about it.  That is “one fun little movie.” I couldn’t agree more Mr. Lloyd.

Happy 80th Birthday Mr. Nicholson, this  April 22, 2017.  This is part of a Jack’s 80th Birthday Blogathon hosed by Gill at Realweegiemidget.  Thank you Gill for such a lovely invite to your Blogathon.  I hope you, the reader,  will want to read more posts about  other Nicholson films.  I almost did this blog on “The Last Detail” (1973) which is my number one Nicholson movie.  So, I am really looking forward to reading  the blogs at this site. Just click on the link below to find more about this amazingly, gifted actor and Director and his work.

https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/

jack42

References:

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/4597/Goin-South/articles.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077621/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

http://www.binghamton.edu/history/docs/Hacker-Hilde-Jones_Civil%20War.pdf

 

A Funny Thing Happen: Buster Keaton

 

Why Do We Still Remember Buster Keaton?

Even though it has been 100 years since Buster Keaton started making movies, his film shorts and movies keep collecting new fans every year. They have a timeless appeal to the human heart and funny bone.  It is with great honor, that I can contribute this post  to the celebration of one of the greatest film makers of all time.  If you love movies, Keaton movies are a must to watch. To learn more about him and his movies there are several posts to  read  thanks to Lea S from Silent-ology. She is hosting this Keaton Tribute.  You can find these posts on Keaton using the link below:

https://silentology.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/blogathon-update-the-third-annual-busterthon-is-almost-here/#more-27136

buster-blogathon-the-third-2

Buster Keaton helped pioneer the movie and Television industry; however, he did so much more.  Besides acting,writing, directing, producing, choreographing and doing his own stunts,  he mentored and continues to influence comedians and film makers today. He started making movie shorts (around 22 gag minutes) at a time when most film was thought to be a collection of pictures, flickering quickly across a reel of film. Moving pictures or Flickers, as they were called at the turn of the 20th century, were a novelty past time for potential trill seekers, vaudeville gags or even a bit of pornography.

To explore and celebrate Keaton’s stage and film work, I wanted to look at some elements of his Genius, some historical basics about theater, his movement from one performing art to another, and finally his to his last movie: Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum.

Elements of Genius

Comedians like Keaton, Chaplin, and “Fatty” Arbuckle took the everyman (underdog) and bought him to heroic heights using their own brand of comedy.  While Chaplin made a homeless man heroic, Keaton made the working man a hero.  Keaton’s hero was a regular guy trying to do the right thing, personally and professionally; but, life kept throwing obstacles in his way which forced him to become extraordinary.  Keaton’s dead pan or stoic expression when facing these obstacles became part of his trademark. How philosophically Greek of him!  Stoicism is a Greek/Roman world view or belief: Regardless of what life throws at you, it is your fate; so, no whining or complaining allowed. Just accept it and move on with your life.  Keaton’s stoic expression earned him the title, Mr. Stone face.

While the muscles in his face may have been set to stone acceptance, his expressive and soulful eyes screamed a myriad of emotions. If the eyes are the Windows to the Soul, Keaton’s eyes gave his audiences a grand tour.  Revered actor, Spencer Tracey, claimed the best performance is found in no performance, just quite, subtle, pauses.  This is definitely one of the many elements to Keaton’s genius: timing, soulful eyes and stoicism. His signature look also included a “pork pie” hat that he would eventually have to make himself. Keaton said a comedian does funny things; a good comedian makes “things” funny.  That hat is one of those things.

Some Art (stage comedy) 

Keaton was more than just an actor/comedian; he was a performer who understood the depth and history of his Art.  Just as philosophy (Stoicism) flourished in Ancient Greece and Rome; so did theater. According to the classics, there are two basic types of the human condition. These are considered divine or god-like: Sadness (includes ranges of loneliness, grief, loss, crying, and Tragedy), and Joy (includes ranges of elation, happiness, redemption, laughter, and Comedy). There is a rule for these two types; you cannot not have one without the other.  Remember the symbol for theater: the connected masks of two opposite expressions: One is laughter and the other is sorrow.  Some comedians have tried to define and explain comedy by using the expression, Tragedy Plus.  Comedian Sid Caesar explained it this way:

If you have no tragedy, you have no comedy.  Crying and laughing are the same emotion.  If you laugh too hard, you cry.  And vice versa.

The movie Forrest Grump is a perfect example of this: It is tragic story of a mentally challenged and physically disabled orphan boy  who is raised by a single mother who is willing do anything to help her son, and does.  His best friend  grows up being sexually abused by her father. She loves him too; but, as an adult cannot see pass his limitations.  He goes to college to play football and soon after is drafted in the Vietnam war where he finds himself, in jungle combat, holding  his only real friend in his arms as he dies of his wounds. Laughing yet?

Some in Hollywood claim a person looks determine their believability on film.  For instance, an odd looking person would be best suited for comedy rather than drama.  Of course the ancient Greeks couldn’t disagree more. So, while looking at these pictures of Keaton, we ponder the question: could Keaton have played Hamlet or been a leading man?

Born and Nurtured in the Performing Arts

Buster Keaton parents worked the Vaudeville circuit.  They were literally “on the road” doing a show in Piqua, Kansas when Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895.

Vaudeville is a multi-act (usually around 12 different acts) variety stage show that was popular in the USA and Canada during the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Since it started with an all-male audience, it had an element of the obscenely comical. Many Vaudeville performers eventually migrated to the flickers/movies. Some were successful and many were not.

Keaton’s father had a business partner: The great magician, Harry Houdini.  They owned a traveling show: Mohawk Indian Medicine Show.  They performed their acts and sold a “medicine” on the side.  It was Houdini who witnessed 18 month old baby Keaton tumbled down a long flight of stairs; after the fall, the toddler stood up as if nothing happened.  Houdini said, referring to the fall, “that’s a Buster.”  Keaton loved to tell that story; so, the nickname stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Keaton’s Dad understood the power of a pratfall in physical comedy.  Besides, he must have believed that a family that clowns together, stays together.  It did not take long for the toddler to became part of the act at the age of 3 years old.  While being thrown into the stage screen or elsewhere, in a skit about a child being disciplined, Keaton’s Dad soon realized that a laughing baby was not as funny as a straight-faced baby.  So, Keaton learned to control the urge to smile or laugh while performing the “toss about.”

From Vaudeville To Silent Movies and Life

Due to his father’s alcoholism affecting their act, Keaton’s mother took him and left Vaudeville for New York City.   Keaton meets and befriends  “Fatty” Arbuckle who is under contract to Joseph M. Schenck. Keaton is hired as his gag man (comedy writer) and eventually co-star. His first movie was The Butcher Boy.  By 1920, he had starred in 14 movie shorts with Arbuckle.

It is in silent movies that Keaton will precisely execute his hilarious stunts and surprising gags.  According to Keaton landing on his feet like a cat came natural to him.  He said you have to stay limp and break a fall with a hand or foot, if not, he would have been killed years ago. I have included a video link that highlight some of his most popular stunts. Any stunt he did with trains or grabbing and holding onto a moving vehicle mesmerize me.  Just remember, those stunts are done as you see them; so,  there were bruises and fractures involved.  He even broke his neck in a scene where tons of water fall on his head from a water tower.

Similar to one of Keaton’s movie plots, an obstacle interrupts the Young 22 year old’s life: World War I – The Great War. The last war to be fought by civilized man.  Or, so they believed.  Keaton served in the 40th Division in France.  Luckily the “Sunshine” Division delivered supplies to the troops.  It was a bit safer than fighting in ” No Man’s Land” between enemy trenches.  Nonetheless, it was still seriously dangerous work.  Keaton suffered an ear infection that left him with permanent partial hearing.

 

Keaton’s Impact on Silent Movies  

So, Keaton is born in Vaudeville, eventually makes history in silent films, and goes on to influence early television and finally perform in “talkies” movies.  To understand what I mean by making history in Silent movies, I’ll use the words of two experts.  One is by Orsen Wells. Many film historians believe Wells made the greatest movie in film history: Citizen Kane.  Wells said, The General (1926), which Keaton directed and starred, was cinema’s highest achievement in comedy and perhaps the greatest film ever made.  This is high praise indeed; but, he isn’t the only one singing Keaton’s praises. 

Film Critic Roger Ebert went even further with his praise: Keaton is the “greatest actor-director in the history of Film.”  I totally agree with both gentleman.  By influence in television, I mean he done things like write gags for people like Red Skelton and the Marx Brothers or tutored and influenced people like Lucille Ball in comedic basics and timing.  Most film experts agree that out of all the films he made the following three are Keaton masterpieces. If you only watch three Keaton’s films, make sure you don’t miss these three: Sherlock Jr. (1925) / The General (1926) / The Cameraman (1928)

A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum (1966)

Keaton’s career spanned from 1898 and ended in 1966. Just a few months before his death (February 1, 1966), he was working on  Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum in Spain from September to November in 1965. It is based on a book by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.  Their book is based on a collection of Roman plays by Plautus.  However most of the book uses one play in particular, Pseudolus (192 A.D). The book evolved into a criticality acclaimed and long running Broadway musical.

It is important to note that many elements of an ancient Roman play evolved into the elements of a successful Vaudeville stage show.  Music is one of the main attractions for both types of stages.  As a matter of fact, Greek/Roman plays kept a chorus of singers on stage that sang  the actions or emotions throughout the play. Not surprisingly, the movie begins with the main character singing the praises of the show to the movie audience.

The song, A Comedy Tonight, expresses the fun and surprises of people popping up in disguise, puns galore, mistaken identities, uniting lovers, outwitting adversaries, courtesans, music, some dancing, slamming doors, some transgender, and basically a giddy romp of daffiness. The music in the Broadway play and movie were brilliantly composed by Steven Sondheim. The movie is a combination of a Classic plot, vaudeville format, and  1960s views on equality and love.

Keaton’s character (Erronius) is a elder Roman senator.  Who is not only a bit blind and hard of hearing but also senile.  He has been away looking for his children who were kidnapped by pirates.  In the house next door, lives Michael Hordern (Senex) who is wealthy (Patrician) Roman citizen with a domineering wife, Patricia Jessel (Domina).  They have a horny 18 year old son (Hero) who is helplessly in love with the girl (Philia) from another house next to theirs.  Hero is played by a very young Michael Crawford (Phantom of the Opera).  Hero has never spoken but a few words to Philia.  He fell in love while watching her from his window.  It makes no difference because their love is ill fated since she is of lower birth (slave-courtesan [Virgin]. Philia lives in a brothel managed by the greedy, Pimp master, Phil Silvers (Marcus Lycus).

The star of this musical comedy is Pseudolus (Zero Montel) who is Hero’s personal slave. Since the  hero is an underdog (slave), it already sounds like a  Keaton movie.  Pseudolus is a quick witted and resourceful slave who is always looking for money in any way he can; usually by conniving, lying and trickery.  What he wants most is to be freed in this 1966 musical.  Pseudolus agrees “to get the girl” if Hero agrees to free him.  Of course in the original play, the idea of freeing a slave would never be part of their agreement. In 192 A.D., the Roman audience would have rioted and mobbed the festival Temple at such a suggestion.  Besides, if they had starting freeing slaves, which would have created Roman jobs, the Roman Empire may have not Fell as it did.

The plan is to get the girl; Hero will convince her to love him; then, they will runaway and live happily ever. However, they need a love portion to convince Philia she loves him. Remember, they haven’t actually spent time getting to know each other yet. This is a crazy, bold scheme that  Psuedolus is more than ready to implement in order to be free.

While Hero’s parents are away to visit the Mother-in-Law, Pseudolus and Hero pay a visit to the brothel House of Marcus Lycus to find the Philia.  Of course, they have to look at all the merchandise (ladies) that the House of Lycus has to offer.  None of them are Philia since she is not up for sell. They discover she is promised to a Roman Captain, Miles Gloriosus.   In the Broadway play, the Captain introduces himself to the audience in song, I am Parade.  Even Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain doesn’t hold a candle to this insufferable Captain’s view of himself. Later in the movie, he sings some of this in another song, Bring me My Bride.

Psuedolus lies to Lycus and insists he must buy her for Senex; or, he will be beaten or worst. He cannot tell Lycus that it is Hero really wants to buy the girl.   Since Hero is only 18 years old, he cannot buy a slave. Again, ideas from the 1960s change the original storyline. This movie was made during the Vietnam war when 18 became the average age for a soldier serving overseas.  Many 18 year olds were drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam while at the same time they not allowed to vote or buy alcohol in the states.

Lycus explains to Pseudolus that he is very frighten of the Captain because a few years ago he sold him a “dud virgin.” So, it is very important that virginal Philia is perfect for this flesh transaction.  Besides, Lycus doesn’t trust Pseudolus. He doubts that he has the money to buy Philia.  He is correct. Psuedolus lies and tells him he came into money from his uncle who was recently killed. Here is one of many gags straight out of Vaudeville:  Psuedolus’ uncle was an elephant trainer who was killed during the mating season.

However, when Lycus revels to  Psuedolus that Philia is from Thrace, quick witted Psuedolus lies and tells Lycus that  Thrace is in the droves of a terrible plague. So, if the Captain would be angry enough to kill him over a “dud virgin” what might he do to him for inflicting the plague on his House?  Lycus rightfully becomes even more frightful and being a greedy businessman realizes His House of the Courtesan are also exposed to this horrendous disease. Cunning Psuedolus offers to take the “infected”girl from House of Lycus to the House of Senex (Hero’s Dad). And as an added a favor, he will pretend to be Lycus and face the Fearsome Captain, himself. Lycus believes he has manipulated Psuedolus to his advantage. Of course, we know Psuedolus out maneuvered Lycus.

So, Hero and Psuedolus bring Philia home. To calm her, they lie by telling her the Captain will come for her there.  In the meantime, Hero is running around Rome looking for the ingredients for a love portion.  However, the head slave, Hysterium  (Jack Gilford), who is the best groveling, obedient slave in Rome, discovers Philia and knows Psuedolus must be behind this confused girl’s presence. He threatens to tell the master and expose the whole sham. Psuedolus uses some good old fashion blackmail to convince Hysterium to help the lovers runaway before their master (Senex) returns and finds out.

Senex (Hero’s Dad) is ordered to go back home early; since, he broke a gift for his Mother-in-law. When he returns, he finds Philia, who thinks he is her Captain.  She offers herself to him.  Luckily they don’t get very far before they are discovered. To explain her presence, Senex is told she is the new maid. This is when the guys sing a very sexest song, Everyone Ought to have a Maid while posing throughout Roman ruins.  Psuedolus needing to get Senex out of the house before the Captain shows up uses his master’s desire for the new maid (Philia) to convince him to bathe in the empty House of Erronius, just next door; so, he could have more privacy with Philia later.

While in the House of Erronius,  Senex is singing and cooing about his future conquest. It is at that moment, Erronius (Keaton) returns home after 20 years of searching for his children.  I love the fact that Keaton worn a Roman hat that reminds his fans of his signature pork pie one.

In one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Erronius  (half blind and deaf) is stopped from entering his house by Hysterium who just left his singing master in the bath. Erronius tells  Hysterium  of his kidnapped children by pirates. He explains that he has traveled the world to find them.  Even though twenty years has passed, he will know that they are his children because they both worn a ring like his: The rings have a gaggle (at least seven) of geese carved into each of them. Hysterium is desperately trying to keep the old senator from entering his house. Senex is singing so loudly that even near deaf Erronius says it sounds like his house is haunted. Hysterium  immediately repeats to him that he cannot enter that house because his house is haunted. At that moment, Pseudolus overhears them. He hears Erronius say he needed a soothsayer. Psuedolus disguising himself as a soothsayer tells the senator to run around the seven hills of Rome seven times in order to get rid of the haunting.  Here is a clip  of that scene.

Keaton’s First Scene in Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Keaton was very ill while making this movie.  Most of his stunts were done by others.  However, that is not how Keaton “rolled.” There is a scene where Keaton runs into a branch of a tree and falls hard to the ground.  It is typical Keaton stunt because you don’t see it coming; and, it is hilarious. Keaton did that stunt himself without warning to the director or anyone else. I think Keaton knew that this movie was his swansong.  He passed away a few months after the movie wrapped in November of 1965. He passed away from  lung cancer on February 1, 1966.  The movie was released in October of 1966. His third wife of twenty six years, was with him at home. People said he was restless and played cards the night before he died.   He had come full circle in his life.  He started in Vaudeville in 1898 and ended his career making a movie that is as vaudeville as you can get in 1965. Comedy and Tragedy coming together and making perfectly divine laughter and sadness.

 

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh Koran

None of the images are owned by me

References:

Links:

SONG LYRICS BY STEVEN SONDHEIM: Comedy Tonight (Prologue)

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/stephen+sondheim/comedy+tonight_20170416.html

SUMMARY OF ORIGINAL PLAY: PSUEDOLUS BY PLAUTUS (ancient Roman playwright, April of 192 B.C. [Third Day of Feastival])

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudolus

The Art of A Gag: by Every Frame A Painting         https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=UWEjxkkB8Xs

Biography link

http://www.biography.com/people/buster-keaton-9361442