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Archive for June, 2012

Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Music Legend, Richard Rodgers, born today, June 28 in 1902!

I must confess, I absolutely love classic music!  And in celebration of one of the most prolific composers in American history, here is a brief pictorial tribute to Richard Rodgers — the first person to win the ‘EGOT’ (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar AND Tony). And, if that isn’t enough, Rodgers also won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (for South Pacific, in recognition of music as an integral and important part of the theatrical experience)!

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Pal Joey, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Rodgers and Hart, directed by George Sidney

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote the songs for Pal Joey starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth (left) and Kim Novak (right). Iconic songs included “I Could Write a Book,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”

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The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews, music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, directed by Robert Wise

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II: what can I say except that there are SO MANY wonderful musicals written by Rodgers and Hammerstein — among them Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and Flower Drum Song. My all-time favorite however (ever since I was a little girl) is without-a-doubt, The Sound of Music. Who could ever forget the iconic image of Julie Andrews whirling around in the beautiful Alps singing the title song!

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In this Sept. 6, 1999 file photo, Jerry Lewis sings "You'll Never Walk Alone" as his final song of the 1999 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon in Los Angeles.  (Rodgers and Hammerstein, Carousel)

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II: And last but not least — the ultimate tribute — Jerry Lewis singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from Carousel) as the final song of his annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. (source: ABCnews.go.com: Sept. 6, 1999 Jerry Lewis sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as his final song of the 1999 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon in Los Angeles.)

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Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

 

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Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Billy Wilder, born today, June 22 in 1906!

The dictionary describes a hero as follows: A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities. And of course, every child has a hero growing up. For some it was Superman, for others it was their parents and for me? Well, for me it was birthday boy, Billy Wilder.

Years ago, when I was a little lass in middle school, I decided I wanted to be in the movie industry. What exactly did I want to do, you ask? Well, I wanted to make movies by writing them. And as an aspiring young screenwriter, it should come as no surprise that my idol became Billy Wilder. It seemed to me, no matter what genre he took on, be it comedy or noir, drama or satire, Wilder knew how to hit every beat, progressing the story along at the perfect pace with the perfect actors to make the perfect movie. Surely the credit belonged to the craft of being a great writer, right? I mean, he writes what goes on the screen. Well, that’s what Wilder thought — that is until he sent his scripts to the directors. One by one, he saw his movies being altered sans his consent or his approval. So, what did he do? He did the most proactive thing he could; he became a director himself, taking complete control over his own ideas.

So, I followed in my idol’s footsteps and decided to become a director. As it turns out, that was the defining moment in my life, thus far. From there I studied film as much as I could, easily watching at least two movies a day. I eventually applied to multiple film schools on the east coast and chose to attend  the Purchase College Film Conservatory AKA the best decision I’ve ever made.  So please, indulge my fan-girl heart as we look at three films directed by my hero, the man who unknowingly impacted the course of my life, Billy Wilder.

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Billy Wilder directs Gloria Swanson in my favorite film Sunset Boulevard (1950)

…..Audrey Hepburn as sabrina in sabrina, classic movie actress, billy wilder

Billy Wilder directs Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden in my first Wilder film Sabrina (1954)

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shirley mclaine and jack lemmon. the apartment, classic movie actress, billy wilder

Billy Wilder directs my favorite romance, Jack Lemmon and Shirley McLaine in The Apartment (1960)

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Where Is He Now?

At this moment in time, Christoper Lee is 90 years old, and while he hasn’t been turning out movies like he used to, the fact he’s still acting is extremely impressive and exciting. It’s weird to say this about an actor who appeared in so much, but at the beginning of the 21st century, Lee had a resurgence in his career and has appeared in 22 films already. And in 2001, he appeared in the role that many modern day audiences would remember him for: Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings wasn’t the only recent series he would act in though! He was just getting started. He would appear in Star Wars Episodes II and III as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, and would lend his voice to the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars for the same character. What’s impressive about this role is that, while there is plenty of swordplay that takes place in the film, Lee claims to have done most of the swordplay himself. For this film, Lee would have been between the age of 80-85 roughly. That just shows his dedication to his acting and how hard he works. And that he is an ageless wizard.

Lee has always been a favorite actor of director Tim Burton, and because of this, Lee has appeared in five of Burton’s films since 1999. His first appearance was a small role in the film Sleepy Hollow, but this would lead to larger roles. He was given the role of Pastor Galswells in Corpse Bride, and then played a small role in Burton’s take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as the father of Willy Wonka, dentist Dr. Wilbur Wonka. He was also in the original cut of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — as the spirit of Sweeney Todd’s victims called The Gentleman Ghost. The role however would end up being cut from the film because Burton felt that the songs from the part were too theatrical for film. Lee has appeared in Burton’s two most recent films, voicing the Jabberwocky in Alice in Wonderland and appearing in the adaptation of Dark Shadows as Clarney. He has also leant his voice to the most recent Tim Burton film, Frankenweenie, which will be released October 5th of this year.

Lee would end up appearing in the Oscar-Nominated film Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese as Monsieur Labisse. I remember when I first watched the film, I was unaware that he was in it — but once the camera cut to him, I just knew that it couldn’t have been anyone else. Speaking as someone who only truly knew him for his role as Saruman (and I’m sure I can speak for plenty of people in my generation) — Lee is so magnificent that when he appears on our screen today, we immediately know that this is Christopher Lee in front of our eyes.

Even though Lee reached the young age of 90 recently, he still isn’t stopping. In fact, he will be appearing in what may be two of the most successful films of all time within the next year and a half. Lee will be taking on the role of Saruman again in the Peter Jackson directed films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Being such a big fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, I absolutely cannot wait and see what comes next. An Unexpected Journey will hit theaters December 14th, and it’s a guarantee that I will be there. There and Back Again will be in theaters December 13, 2013, and, again I will guarantee that I will be there.

Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub

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Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Jane Russell, born today, June 21 in 1921!

What does a classic film fanatic think of when the name Jane Russell pops up? I think a certain Howard Hughes quote might answer that question fairly succinctly, “There are two good reasons why men to go to see her.” Despite those…let’s call them assets, she was able to break the mold of pure sex symbol and become a successful Hollywood actress, working in a number of genres.

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Jane Russell and her assets in the western The Outlaw. (1946, Howard Hughes director)

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Jane Russell and some friends in the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. (1953, Howard Hawks director)

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jane russell and robert mitchum, his kind of woman, classic movie star, john farrow

Jane Russel and her kind of man in the film noir His Kind of Woman (1951, John Farrow director)

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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One of the most respected actors of all time, Christopher Lee has been in the industry since 1946, and has performed roles in about 275 films, making him the Guinness World Record holder. Lee was born on May 27, 1922 in Belgravia, Westminster to Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee and Contessa Estelle Marie. His parents would separate when he was young, and he would live with his mother and sister in Switzerland. Lee would enroll in Miss Fisher’s Academy located in Wengen. His family would end up returning back to London, and Lee would attend Wagner’s private school. Afterwards, he would spend some time at Summer Fields School, and after being denied a scholarship for Eton, would wind up attending Wellington College.

It wasn’t until 1946 where Lee began his road to acting in films, when he signed a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation, a British entertainment company. He would make his debut in the Gothic romance film Corridor of Mirrors, directed by Terrence Young, in 1947. He would also make uncredited appearances in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet in 1948 and John Huston’s Moulin Rouge in 1952. Lee would make his first film for Hammer in 1957, The Curse of Frankenstein, where he played Frankenstein’s Monster, while his close friend Peter Cushing would play the Baron. It was in 1958 where Lee would take on the character that would stick with him forver, when he played Dracula in a film of the same name for the same company. Peter Cushing would end up taking on the role of Doctor Van Helsing.

He would take on the role again in Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. This particular performance is notable for the main reason that Lee has no lines and only hisses his way through the film. There are two sides of this story, the first being that Lee refused to speak the poor dialogue that he was given. The second being that screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims there were no lines for Dracula at all. Lee and Cushing would end up appearing in 8 Dracula films that were produced by Hammer Films (he did appear in another Dracula film, but it was not associated with Hammer).

Breaking away from the Dracula-ness of Lee’s life, he has appeared in so many more films. Lee would appear in three seperate Sherlock Holmes films, playing Sir Henry Baskerville in The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1959 (alongside Peter Cushing, who played Holmes), then playing Sherlock Holmes himself in the 1962 film Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and finally in the Billy Wilder directed film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in 1970.

It did seem like Hammer Films did own Lee’s life between the years of 1957 to 1977, as he would appear in numerous other films for them. But in 1973, he would appear in The Wicker Man, which he states is his personal favorite. Lee played the role of Lord Summerisle, and was so attracted to the role written by Anthony Shaffer, that he gave his services to the film for free. After this role, he completely left the horror genre for good. In 1974, Lee would end up becoming a James Bond villain, playing the role of assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. By the end of the 1970’s, Lee had already appeared in 137 different films, and would only appear in more as time went on.

Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub

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Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Errol Flynn, born today, June 20th, 1909!

Although Errol Flynn is often remembered most as the nefarious, swashbuckling hero of a bygone era, his abilities as an actor can often be overlooked. So today, the day of this glorious classic star’s birth, I would like to remember him not only as a brazen hero of fantastical proportions, but also as an actor who demonstrated a passion for his craft.

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We’ll start with Errol Flynn, the swashbuckler in Captain Blood (1935, Michael Curtiz director)

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Errol Flynn and betty davis, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, classic movie star, michael curtizBut we shall not forget Errol Flynn demonstrating the complexities of an Earl infatuated with concepts of love and power in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939, Michael Curtiz director)

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And of course we can’t forget Errol Flynn, the romantic General Custer, taking his last heroic stand in They Died with Their Boots On. ( 1941, Raoul Walsh director)

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Just wanted to invite everyone to visit me at TheCinementals.org every Monday — where I will be posting a weekly article called “Cinementally Speaking” highlighting my favorite ‘birthday week’ quotes.

Here’s the first official article:

Welcome to Cinementally Speaking! I will be highlighting my favorite ‘birthday week’ movie quotes here every Monday. Of course, there are so many great quotes, it’s going to be difficult for me to choose — but here we go!  READ MORE

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