Just like everybody goes to Rick’s, everybody knows Leonid Kinskey, whether they know his name or not. Kinskey portrays Sascha, the voluble Russian bartender, in that classic of all classics, Casablanca (1943). We meet him quite early on, when Yvonne, Rick’s latest ex-girlfriend, has had a little too much to drink and needs to be escorted home. But as I learned, there’s more to Kinskey than Sascha. Not that I won’t bask in the glory that is Casablanca first…
Paula’s note: This post is one of several by movie maven Jack Deth that I have had the pleasure of hosting on this site. See the rest here.
Welcome Bloggers, Cinephiles, Film Fans, and Aficionados of “Just Plain Good!”
Having received an invitation from our hostess Paula to expand and illuminate that arena of young and unrecognized talent usually relegated to the back of a crowd or corner of a set before being noticed and given lines to speak and scenes to execute, I would be remiss to not give it my best effort and reach back to an unsung purveyor of the thespian craft, who literally started off in the background of Midnight Cowboy, Alice’s Restaurant, Little Big Man, and Cold Turkey in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Plying his craft while being one of many. Building up a body of work and a reputation for being able to fill any slot for any type of dumpy, balding, kind of slimy, local or municipal bureaucrat, guard, telegrapher, cop, or barber. Sometimes affixing a Southern accent, or sticking to his high-pitched, upstate New York pronunciations, while using whatever was at hand to enhance his many characters. Before crossing my path in a big way in a small, very personal cinematic gem ramrodded by Dustin Hoffman and directed by Ulu Grossbard. A film which also prompted the parole of recidivist convict, Edward Bunker (Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs), through his semi-autobiographic novel, No Beast So Fierce. Which makes up the two fingers of Rye for this…
Shot & A Chaser: M. Emmet Walsh
“I’m very enthusiastic about the Academy Awards because if there were no Oscars, we wouldn’t have as many good movies as we do have.” – Robert Osborne
The Oscars — both maligned and praised — are always cause for celebration and we’re here to do just that.
For the fourth consecutive year Paula’s Cinema Club (my Twitter handle @Paula_Guthat) joins forces with Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon A Screen for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, running February 6-27, 2016. We started this event to coincide with Turner Classic Movie’s 31 Days of Oscar marathon, during which the network shines the spotlight on the storied history of the Academy Awards. All the deets, including participating blogs & their chosen topics, after the jump…
WE’RE BACK for number 4!
The WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon honors the players who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading actors wished they had. Aurora, Kellee, and I never tire of seeing them show up in films or paying tribute to their talents, and as the previous three installments of this event have proven, neither do you.
And so here I am with Day 1 of the 4th annual WHAT A CHARACTER! I know you can’t wait to read all the fabulous posts. Before you jump in though, we’d like to thank all the participants for their understanding as we re-scheduled the blogathon from last weekend due to world events. We really appreciate your patience.
UPDATE – November 21: WHAT A CHARACTER! Day 1 Posts are here.
UPDATE – November 13:
The WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon has been postponed until next weekend, November 21-22-23. We will promote everyone’s post as usual during those three days. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
WE’RE BACK for number 4!
WHAT A CHARACTER! — a phrase borrowed from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) so that we could dedicate a blogathon to those whose names few remember, but whose faces are familiar – honors the players who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading actors wished they had. Aurora, Kellee, and I never tire of seeing them show up in films or paying tribute to their talents, and as the previous three installments of this event have proven, neither do you. So here we are with the fourth annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon.
Greetings all and sundry!
When receiving an invitation from our gracious hostess, Paula, to indulge in a favored pasttime and add to many and varied perspectives of Cinematic History, I would be remiss if I didn’t break out a fresh set of coveralls, miner’s cap, and excavation tools to dig deep and rummage about neglected corners of massive archives, tales, anecdotes and personal experience regarding a visionary and trailblazer of cinema from the late 20th Century to the present. Though, not in an arena most would expect. So, allow me a few moments to align, refine and define…
Roger Corman: Rebel, Pioneer. The Guy With The Arrows In His Back!
One may ask where a transplanted Michigander, graduate of Beverly Hills High and Stanford University, with a degree in Industrial Engineering in hand, got his start and first taste of 1947 Hollywood and “The Film Business”? Why, in the Mail Room at Twentieth Century Fox, of course!
Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), the old-time Hollywood actor whose gangster roles may have carried over into real life, arrives 40 minutes in to Mike Hodges’ 1972 neo-noir, Pulp, and he is only in three scenes. But his presence dominates. Gilbert is the reason that our protagonist, pulp fiction writer Mickey King (Michael Caine), lands in this particular shadowy maze of circumstances, and, through Rooney’s apparent total disregard for likability, the character becomes a standout in a film well-stocked with eccentric characters, plot twists, political machinations, and dark humor.
King lets us know in a perfectly noir voiceover that he is an advocate of quantity over quality in his writing. His goal is to generate 10,000 words a day, no matter what. He writes under a variety of pseudonyms for a publisher who matches him in shadiness. Summoned to the office one day, he is asked to ghost-write an autobiography for an actor. The actor’s emissary, Ben Dinuccio (Lionel Stander), is a gangster right out of Central Casting. He tells King that the subject’s identity and location must remain a secret. If the author agrees to work on the project, he will be sent on a 5-day sight-seeing tour, and another go-between will make contact at some point on the road, ultimately leading him to his still-unknown subject.
Suffice to say, King is intrigued, and then progressively less so, as he endures quite an entertaining (for us) rigamarole, including an attempt on his life. Just before he finally arrives at the isolated island home of his mysterious quarry, he learns the latter’s identity: Preston Gilbert, who was, according to King, “one of screen’s immortal mobsters, hero-worshipped and imitated around the world,” but is now “a two-bit blown-out film star.” Director Hodges also wrote the script and based the character on George Raft, who had a faded career and inconvenient Mafia ties.
Rooney had already shown in films like Baby Face Nelson and Quicksand that he was interested in going beyond the apple-pie persona that had made him famous, and in Pulp, he was not afraid to appear narcissistic, pathetic, or repellent. We first meet him cooking in a sauna, savagely berating the attendant, who has fallen asleep.
He then orders the attendant to get into the sauna himself, in a shot emphasizing his shorter stature.
Gilbert is no one to mess with…he seems as nasty as anyone Raft, Edward D. Robinson or Jimmy Cagney ever portrayed…the attendant does as he’s told. Next we see the actor getting ready for dinner. In showing us Gilbert’s vanity, Rooney completely abandons his own. Parading around in his skivvies, posing in front of his gigantic mirrored closet, bellowing along to a phonograph record, putting on a toupée…
At dinner, Gilbert reveals more of his loudmouthed unlikability. He is demanding with his staff, coarse and insulting to his wife, and doesn’t even respect his elderly mother. When Gilbert hears there’s someone trying to kill King, he is elated. Despite King’s misgivings, they begin to work on the book, which is completed in a week. Then a couple of scenes later, at a book wrap dinner, Gilbert is murdered. He had been such a practical joker that at first no one believes he’s actually dead, even though they saw it happen. The rest of the film is King’s attempt to find out whodunit, not because he feels any particular affection for Gilbert, but because the same person(s) are after him.
There is much to recommend Pulp: a solid, irony-laden neo-noir plot, witty lines, sight gags, and great performances from everyone from the bit players to Caine to Lizabeth Scott, one of noir‘s best actresses. One of the most interesting of these aspects to me, though, is Rooney’s brief turn as swaggering has-been Preston Gilbert, a role which showcased the actor’s dedication to his craft and willingness to be seen in an unflattering light. Pulp wouldn’t be the same undiscovered classic it is without him.
This post is part of the getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Once Upon a Screen, and Outspoken & Freckled, taking place throughout the month of September. Please visit the getTV schedule for details on Rooney screenings throughout the month and check out the megapost for a complete list of entries. You can access the entire getTV schedule here and check to see if getTV is available in your area here.
In April of this year the world lost Mickey Rooney, an entertainer whose career spanned an unbelievable nine decades. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 23, 1920, Rooney was on the Vaudeville stage almost before he could talk, and appeared in his first movie at the age of six. From there the movies became his life. With sidesteps into radio and television Mickey Rooney maintained an enviable relationship with audiences for nearly the entire span of his life.
The audience and I are friends. They allowed me to grow up with them. I’ve let them down several times. They’ve let me down several times. But we’re all family.
Mickey Rooney would have celebrated his 94th birthday this September, and in tribute, getTV is dedicating a substantial portion of the month’s programming to him. Kellee (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, and myself, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club, are thrilled to join forces with getTV for their first ever blogathon collaboration to celebrate Rooney’s career with The getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon, running the entire month of September.
As the posts are published, I will update the blogathon megapost. Check back there for great new Mickey Rooney posts throughout September.
All about getTV
getTV is a digital subchannel available over the air and on local cable systems dedicated to showcasing Hollywood’s legendary movies. The network, operated by Sony Pictures Television Networks, launched in February 2014. It features Academy Award® winning films and other epic classics titles. getTV distribution is close to covering nearly 70 percent of all U.S. television households across 65 markets, including 40 of the top 50 designated market areas (DMAs). The network is broadcast by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Univision Television Group and Cox Media Group owned stations and others. For information, visit getTV and connect with the network on Facebook and Twitter @getTV.
getTV’s programming in September will include a Labor Day Marathon dedicated to Mickey Rooney as well as themed double features every Thursday at 7 PM EST, as follows:
Thursday, September 4 – Nautical Musicals
Richard Quine’s SOUND OFF, 1952: 7:00 PM ET; 10:40 PM ET
Richard Quine’s ALL ASHORE, 1953: 8:50 PM ET; 12:30 AM ET
Thursday, September 11 – Crime Tales
Peter Godfrey’s HE’S A COCKEYED WONDER, 1950: 7:00 PM ET; 10:40 PM ET
Richard Quine’s DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD, 1954: 8:45 PM ET; 12:25 AM ET
Thursday, September 18 – Military Comedy
Don Taylor’s EVERYTHING’S DUCKY, 1961: 7:00 PM ET; 11:10 PM ET
Richard Quine’s OPERATION MAD BALL, 1957: 8:50 PM ET; 1:00 AM ET
Thursday, September 25 – Young and Older Mickey
Roy William Neill’s BLIND DATE, 1934: 7:00 PM ET; 12:20 AM ET
Carl Reiner’s THE COMIC, 1969: 8:35 PM ET; 12:20 AM ET
The getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon
If you’d like to submit a blog post (or several) dedicated to Mickey Rooney – on his life, career, television work or a particular film – you can do so by submitting the entry to any one of the event hosts throughout the month of September.
We ask only that you please do the following:
- Leave us a comment or send us a Tweet with your preferred Rooney topic
- Let us know when you post your entry so we can promote it
- Please copy @getTV on all tweets related to this event
- Include the blogathon banner provided by getTV (above) in your post as well as the following statement:
- “This post is part of The getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club taking place throughout the month of September. Please visit the getTV schedule for details on Rooney screenings throughout the month and any of the host sites for a complete list of entries.”
- Have fun!
OPERATION MAD BALL – Once Upon a Screen
THE BLACK STALLION – Outspoken & Freckled
NATIONAL VELVET – Minoo for Classic Movie Hub
BLIND DATE – Paula’s Cinema Club
ALL ASHORE – Vintage Cameo
‘Andy Hardy’ vs. 1950s Rooney – Critica Retro
THE ATOMIC KID – Jack Deth
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – Girls Do Film
Rooney at Disney – Margaret Perry
HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI – Blog of the Darned
STRIKE UP THE BAND – [This] Girl Friday
MY PAL, THE KING – Sister Celluloid
“The Comedian” on “Playhouse 90” – Caftan Woman
KILLER MCCOY – Another Old Movie Blog
BOYS’ TOWN – AnnMarie at Classic Movie Hub
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD – Maeghan
LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY – Once Upon a Screen
BLIND DATE – Rob
BABES ON BROADWAY – The Hollywood Revue of 2014
Wow…this is such an awesome blogathon idea. The trouble is limiting it to just 10 movies. It looks like the deadline for the lists is March 31. Poor Cap…that’s a lot of movies.
This isn’t the first blogathon I have organised, however it has been thrown together very quickly. I have just see an extended trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In it we see Steve Rogers make a note in a pocket note book. A list of things he missed out on in the time he was frozen that people have recommended he should catch up on. Towards the bottom of the list there are two movies Rocky and Rocky II. This got me thinking, what ten movies would you recommend a person who had been frozen between 1943 and 2011.
The make-up of the list is up to you. It could be an historical record of what he missed, something to cheer him up/take his mind of things or just your favourite movies from the period.
The movie is released at the end of the month in the…
View original post 66 more words
by Jack Deth
Greetings, all and sundry!
It’s my great pleasure to accept Paula’s gracious invitation to add a different perspective to the current Oscar Blog~A~Thon and its many unique facets.
Opting for the less-discussed, though aesthetically important variant that today has been given criminally short shrift amongst the plethora of romantic comedies. Where a logo T-shirt, jeans, sandals or sneakers will suffice for the guy, while skinny jeans, a midriff top and heels works for the girl.
For this dissertation, I want to go back to the familiar stomping grounds of the 1970s and a little-known novel replete in the history of its time. The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray was adapted by that master of detailed storytelling, Stanley Kubrick, who devoted 300 days in 1973 and ’74 to splendid on-location cinematography around the estates, castles, valleys and marshes of Ireland, creating a lavish, occasionally luscious feast for the eyes.
A film about unadulterated social climbing within the strict confines of 18th-century English morals, mores and etiquette, where words, or lack of them, contain great destructive or constructive power. Enhanced and highlighted by meticulously detailed and constructed costumes.
To that end, allow me to introduce a perfect cure for a bout of the flu, or dreary rainy or snowy days, when the weather outside is far more miserable than you wish it to be, and you are in need of an opulent distraction: Barry Lyndon (1975).
Barry Lyndon begins with ne’er do well, Redmond Barry (quietly adequate Ryan O’Neal) trying to improve his lot in life after the death of his father in a duel, leaving Barry and his mother to scheme amongst monied families. Falling in love, being rejected and getting revenge, before running off to Ireland.
Joining the British Army to survive the French at the Battle of Minden. Before deserting and trying his luck at the gaming tables. In search of a sponsor or a titled friend.
Barry’s a very busy boy and finds himself in the employ of a minor spymaster and gambler (Hardy Kruger). Forming an alliance at the gaming tables and shady dealing with new, well-off friends and acquaintances. Working their way across Europe to placate Barry’s desire to make money the old fashioned way. Marrying it!
The apple of Barry’s eye is the beautiful, willowy, wealthy and widowed, Countess of Lyndon. Outwardly delicate and sedately seductive Marisa Berensen, whose gaze, occasional glare and silence carries more weight than pages of written dialogue!
She is seemingly wedded to intricate gowns constructed of rigid whispering taffeta and flattering loose silk, and even more elegant hats. Gliding about parquet floor sally ports or the polished woods of grand halls, posture perfect and temperament mild as she and Barry are wed. With her young son, Lord Bullington (Dominic Savage as an infant and child; Leon Vitale, later in life), who sees Barry for what he is and despises him. Even more so as a baby step brother, Bryan Patrick is added to the equation, upon whom Barry ridiculously and lavishly dotes.
I won’t go into heavy detail, but Barry does what he does. Going through paramours and the Countess’ wealth with carefree and sloppy abandon, as Lord Bullington’s anger grows. Intrigues about inheritances arise, and Barry’s mother (Marie Kean) tries to take over, bringing about a duel and ending that may seem sad, but is ironically well deserved.
With a slow moving, yet intricate morality play of this size, acting, is of course essential to sell the story. Yet it is costuming that seems to rise above and take center stage in cementing time and place. In a film that is essentially an opulent, lush and moody oil painting brought to life.
We’ve all heard of Mr. Kubrick’s insistence in designing camera lenses for shooting in available candle and sunlight. Also the exactly of its time Schubert-heavy piece that comprise its soundtrack. The costumers are the unsung heroines and heroes are never seen in front of the camera, but their meticulous hard work and attention to design and detail adorns the film and makes things whole.
Huge kudos to 1976 Best Costume Design Oscar winners Milena Cannonero and Ulla-Britt Sonderlund, aided by Norman and Yvonne Dahms, Gloria Barnes, and Jack Edwards, for their vision in regaling Ms. Berensen in soft tones and period pastels, while making British Redcoats even more bold and empowered on the field of battle. And to Colin and Frances Wilson, for creating minor miracles with elegant head wear.
Note: This film is available for viewing on You Tube.