Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Trump & His Strawberry Moment

DATELINE:  Bogart & Trump as Captain Queeg

Trump seeks op-ed writer!

Like Captain Queeg on the USS Caine, President Trump is cracking up and cracking open a tin of frozen strawberries.

Queeg went bananas over his tin of strawberries, and Trump has gone bonkers over the anonymously opened fruit can. It belonged to him alone, and no one else was allowed near his favorite dessert.

The defining moment for Humphrey Bogart in the 1954 movie version of The Caine Mutiny went over the top in his role as President Trump, er…Captain Queeg. He rolled ball bearings in his fingers when under stress, or did he put on a MAGA cap on the bridge?

The paranoid commander-in-chief (during an important World War II mission) scientifically tested his can of strawberries to determine if someone was pilfering small amounts every day. He came to a disturbing conclusion that he could trust no one on his senior staff. It left his senior staff scrambling over whether the leader was losing his marbles.

Anyone of them could be a dangerous op-ed writer.

He assembled the entire crew and threatened them with treason for stealing his beloved personal  stash of strawberries.

How much  It reminds of the White House under T-rump, the dreaded dinosaur of politics.

Eventually the senior officers instigated a mutiny, invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to forcibly remove Captain T-Rump, er Queeg, from the bridge of command.

Of course, the story and movie were complete fiction. No one could ever envision of total nutcase taking over the lives of a crew and subjecting the country to his dangerous and ridiculous whims and tweets.

It could not happen unless there were complicit officers on the command to leave the deranged paranoid alone and let him do whatever crazy notion entered his twisted noggin.

It’s nothing like Washington, D.C., in the 21st century.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                               

Cold Sweat and Unexpected Chills!

 DATELINE: Partial Classic Movie!

 James Mason Mason holds gun on Bronson.

Usually you can tell when James Mason, grand star of the past, took on roles for the money. He once told mega-movie critic Pauline Kael that these sort of films were candidates for the “ashcan.”

While traversing latest streaming lists of old movies now available, we came across something called Cold Sweat from 1970. It appeared to be a routine Charles Bronson crime thriller. It dated from before Death Wish, which meant it presented Bronson in a less iconic and caricatured role.

As the credits rolled, as there was no trailer, the shock value increased. Though Amazon Prime listed the costar as Jill Ireland, Bronson’s wife, the film’s leading lady was Liv Ullmann, fresh off her think-piece and highly acclaimed Ingmar Bergmann art house classics.

Good grief, she plays Jill Ireland in this film! Well, you might as well bring in Laurence Olivier to play Jimmy Olson, cub reporter. Of course, Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland shows up as villain Captain Ross’s girlfriend Moira to round out the lunacy.

Sure enough, the third name on the film belongs to James Mason. Yikes. And what is more, the film was based on a Richard Matheson novel: yes, the man who gave us The Incredible Shrinking Man and so many other classic stories. This was his adventure story, Ride the Nightmare. It is not vintage Matheson.

When Mason showed up in the story, first in a shadowy flashback as a younger man a dozen years earlier, he only makes a background cameo. He is the leader of a villainous gang of prison escapees.

He also plays an American and a Southerner. Yikes, and double yikes. You mean you won’t have Mason doing what he does so well: a modulated, upper-crusty bad guy sucking each line like it’s a morsel of his last meal.

That usually signaled that James Mason was doing a walk-through in what he considered a meritless movie. Here, he dons a blue sailor cap with the rim pulled down. He also pulls down every other word in what appears to be an Alabama twang via Oxford.

Nevertheless, it is an unknown Bronson film with James Mason, Liv Ullmann, Jill Ireland, and a story by Richard Matheson. You could do worse, though Mason and Ullmann were not happy on this movie set, nor with Bronson, until the paychecks arrived.

 

 

The Lost Career of Richard Cromwell

 DATELINE: Baby Face Curse

Cromwell holding clock 

Cromwell Holding Clock in Tom Brown of Culver!

Baby-faced Richard Cromwell was a shoo-in to play the panty-waist Baby-Face Morgan for a poverty-row movie production. He was always professional on the set.

Cromwell’s character is the unlikely son of Machine Gun Morgan, notorious crime boss in the syndicate. With all the FBI overwhelmed with World War II Nazis and saboteurs at home, the mob needs a front man and fall guy. Cromwell’s looks bring disparaging remarks and innuendo as he is propped up as a fake mob boss.

In case you hadn’t caught on, this was meant to be a comedy, featuring dumb blonde secretaries and mugs who are morons.

Cromwell’s career was already in the toilet, owing to the closed shop from the studios. After the pinnacle years of the 1930s when Cromwell appeared with Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, and other stars, he was in rapid descent.

He married Angela Lansbury when he was 35 and looked like a teenager at the altar. Their marriage lasted only a few months and later rumors came forth that he was gay.

Cromwell remained on the periphery of Hollywood, having many friends in the industry. When he tried to make a comeback at age 50 in 1960, he became ill and did not survive, replaced in the movie.

In Baby Face Morgan, he is referred to as a kid when he was 33. A few years later, the same fate of looking young befell Audie Murphy for his entire career.

Cromwell’s movie is only passable to watch with flat yokel humor. It’s one of the forgotten tragedies.

 

 

 

Hostiles: Not So Friendly West

DATELINE: How the Western Is Lost

 Bale's beard Bale’s Beard

A few more Westerns like writer/director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles and the Western will be killed unceremoniously, gutted “from stem to stern” as they repeatedly say in this movie. And don’t smile when you say that, pardner.

Though we might make a comparison to John Ford’s The Searchers, we’d be way out of line. Though Ford’s John Wayne classic dealt with Indian massacres and brutal revenge, it was also human in its emotions and veered away from tedium in the stunning Western settings.

Christian Bale is a laconic cavalry captain who participated in a massacre of native Americans at Wounded Knee—and now in his final assignment must take a hostile chief and his family to a Montana sanctuary by order of the President.

Constantly prattling on that he merely follows orders, he is prepared not to follow these orders. Yet, this hero is like a good Nazi soldier, doing only his job. Cruel violence pockmarks the storyline amid the tedium. All we hear is discouraging words.

In the older Westerns, you had some likeable characters and some sense of humor to keep sane in the desolate West. Here, the characters are driven mad by their dour natures.

The Captain rescues a woman whose family has been killed by Comanches, and she joins the odd caravan through desert and mountain settings. Along the way we meet Ben Foster as a nasty Indian killer (apparently along to re-team Bale from their successful work in 3:10 to Yuma). Also along briefly is young star Timothy Chalamet, wasted mostly as an inexplicable French horse soldier out west.

Costars are impressive actors like Wes Studi, Stephen Lang, and Scott Wilson. They give the film true grit, however unhappy their roles are.

Bale is so laconic that his imperial beard has more life than he. Not a twitch from that mustachioed hero

The film is so serious about its political messages, all mixed up with revisionism and apologies, that we recognized the genre only in fleeting glimpses. The movie is in the long run, long and predictable.

 

 

Karate Kid: Reboot to the Nose

DATELINE:  YouTube Returns LaRusso to Cobra Kai Saga

Zabka

We were never a fan of the 1984 Rocky-style movie for karate kids, but did find its stars interesting. Ralph Maccio never recovered, and William Zabka (the blonde pretty boy bully) should have had a grand career.

Reboot and kick on high might be a good way to go. This is also more interesting than watching Leave it to Beaver cast as adults, a few years back. There is something both alarming and satisfying to see that the child is father to the adult.

We followed Zabka as the son of the Equalizer on the 1980s TV show and were sorry he never caught on.

Now we find the twosome reunited in a YouTube series about the characters LaRusso and Lawrence 35 years later. It is a hit, and it’s not hard to see why. These actors and their character are now fully developed with middle-age. They are interesting—and have an appeal to a generation that grew up and older too.

Not much has changed in terms of their mutual differences and dislike of the other.

It makes the rivalry more interesting. Of course, the obligatory teenagers are at the core of mentoring through karate teaching. Copious film clips to the original action highlights the tales, though Pat Morita can only appear in flashback.

The actors are wonderful: indeed the bad guy of yore, Zabka, is now refreshingly antihero—and Maccio continues to play the obtuse victim of his own life.

The series has been renewed for a second season, which is good news because this is funny, fast, and well-done, much of a surprise considering it comes from a new TV/internet network where expectations may not be high.

 

Heaven Forbid: Rage in Heaven

DATELINE:  Koo-Koo Bird Special

 Two-faced Sanders

Note the two faces of George Sanders in the publicity still!

If you think you have seen Rage in Heaven, you may be mistaken. Around the same time came other movies called Leave Her to Heaven and Heaven Can Wait. Worse yet, the latter film also starred Robert Montgomery.

In this movie, Mr. Montgomery may not be above suspicion (after all, he carried an old lady’s head in a hatbox in Night Must Fall). Here too Ingrid Bergman is fresh off being driven mad by her husband in Gaslight, and everyone’s favorite reprobate, George Sanders, is never trustworthy!

This is the sort of movie where we have to trust the psychiatrist (Oscar Homolka) who let the dangerous psycho escape and looks kind of fishy in every scene.

You may begin to think this movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock or perhaps Mel Brooks. A mysterious inmate of a Parisian insane asylum has escaped—and shows up in Merry Olde England.

So, your usual nuthouse quotient is higher than normal.

As for us, we never did like the way Robert Montgomery looked at Fluffy the cat, and George Sanders was simply too too nice hereabouts. As for Bergman, she looks like she wants to catch the next plane to Casablanca.

This period piece of fluffy nutter came from a novella by James Hilton who had given us Lost Horizon, Random Harvest, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Lightning did not strike twice, or thrice, even with notable Christopher Isherwood doing the screenplay.

However, this is an MGM movie with a pedigree, and is first-class all the way to the nuthouse.

 

 

 

Portrait of a Fantasy Classic

DATELINE: Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie

Brackman Jennie Brackman Painting Used in Film!

Portrait of Jennie is unusual movie fare by any standard—whether it is today or when it was released in 1949.

Back then, audiences were better educated for sure. The movie starts out with quotes from Euripides and Keats on mortality and the philosophy of death. As if to prove you are not in Kansas, the film uses the stunning music of Debussy’s “Nuages,” with an assist from Dmitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann. Phew!

You don’t have music like this as background audio nowadays!

Unsuccessful painter of landscapes, Eban Adams (Joe Cotten), cannot find a plug nickel for his work in 1934. When he begs art dealers Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway to buy one of his pictures, they take pity on him. However, the price is to be told there is no love in his work, in critique by a spinster art collector.

When he meets a turn-of-the-century little girl in Central Park, she tells him she will grow up fast to marry him. Lo and behold, when he sees her again, she is older, and then again older. He is enchanted, and forced to do detective work to find her.

The twosome finally conclude that there is some error in the time-space continuum, no mean feat considering when the movie was made. They are not supposed to cross paths, let alone find the love of their lives, of all time.

You know that something is afoot when the screen goes garish green toward the climax.

The actual prop portrait of Jennifer Jones, breathtakingly beautiful, was actually done by Robert Brackman—and kept in the library of producer David O. Selznick, married to Miss Jones at the time.

With another gallery acting job by Joseph Cotten—and an assist from Ethel Barrymore, the old lady with a crush on him, you have an instant classic—and more.

Throw in Lillian Gish and Cecil Kellaway—and the film noir photography of Central Park at night, and we can forgive any logical weirdness in the storyline.

You owe yourself one romantic fantasy in a lifetime. This should be it, and never let drowning in a tsunami stop you from going to Land’s End on Cape Cod.

 

 

Playing Chess with a Ghost from the Titanic

DATELINE:  Haunted Chessboard

game underway

In retrospect of my life, I realize today that Richard Frazar White orchestrated so much for me along my spiritual journey.

Only now do I recognize the strange effects he has arranged:  how did I manage to meet by chance the man who played Richard in a movie?

Yes, there were always Titanic movies that featured a young, heroic figure: in the 1953 version with Barbara Stanwyk and Clifton Webb, there was a young actor rising by the name of Robert Wagner.

He played a version of Richard aboard the doomed ship. We were on a plane out of Burbank, and he plopped down next to me in first-class. I said, “I think I know you.”  He said wearily, “Yes, you probably do.”  We proceeded to down Bloody Marys and find our compatability.

Robert Wagner’s character in the movie Titanic survived, unlike his real counterpart.

Stanwyk & Wagner

Later he asked, “Have we met before?” It was the famous question of my life. Have we met before? How familiar so much was: like it was reincarnation at work. He played Richard in a movie and here he was, a decade before I bought my home in Richard’s backyard.

According to a visit by a group of psychics recently, Richard Frazar White always knew we would end up together in one of the family houses, living next to where he played as a child. I was never quite so sure that I would become the companion to a ghost.

Wagner thought I should have gone to Hollywood as a writer years ago. It was where he thought I was meant to be.

Call it fate, kismet, karma, coincidence, ESP, light-working, or whatever concept you accept.

Instead of Hollywood, I ended up a mile from Richard’s grave in Winchendon Springs. Wagner wound up having his own tragedy on the open sea: his wife Natalie Wood mysteriously fell overboard and drowned. He too is haunted by a watery grave.

Please do not call me Topper or Mrs. Muir, and I do not live in Gull Cottage—but in a house once in the neighborhood of a ghost from the sunken Titanic.

And now, I am his chess partner. Through a recent visit with a group of psychics to my home, Richard let it be known that he wants to play a game of chess with me.

One friend noted that he hasn’t played in over 100 years and has to be a little rusty. Another said, he likely has the angels on his side.

When first I moved here, I set up a chessboard in my library (on the truly haunted side of my house), and there the pieces began to move off their magnetic base erratically. Pawns were tipped over, and a castle and pawn try to share the same square.

I knew of Richard 30 years ago from the plaque in my classroom at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, that mentioned his heroism on the Titanic.  I had no idea who he was back then.

The psychics told me that the one ghost I have seen in my home is Richard’s cat. Yes, a spirit cat emerged from the wall behind a bookcase and ran into the kitchen. I followed but found nothing. I learned how this creature belongs to Richard—and observes the household and reports back to the Titanic spirit.

During research for a book on the Titanic, I discovered that Richard and I went to the same high school (Cambridge High & Latin), and we likely both belonged to the high school chess team about 60 years apart.

As a result of the psychics’ recommendation, I set up a chessboard in my home office and put a photo of Richard on the wall above it. An hour later it promptly fell off the wall, hit the chessboard and knocked over ALL the black pieces. Not one white piece was touched. I await his first move; if time is immaterial to the afterlife, he might take quite a while before the game truly is underway!Richard & chess

Dr. Russo has written extensively on the history of Mill Circle, including books entitled MURDER AT MILL CIRCLE, GHOSTS OF MILL CIRCLE, and TALES OF A TITANIC FAMILY. All are available for download or in print at Amazon.

Vera Cruz: Classic Western Fun

DATELINE: Clash of the Titans

 Coop & Burt

When you cast Burt Lancaster as the villainous rogue cowboy against stalwart Gary Cooper, you have a humdinger. So, it was in 1954 when these two titans clashed in a Technicolor epic called Vera Cruz.

Cooper was fresh off his High Noon Oscar, and Lancaster liked to do an adventure movie between his high-brow efforts (like From Here to Eternity).

It was a rousing Western in which double crosses and triple crosses were the norm. With friendly enemy banter between the two principals, you have a quest to steal a couple of million gold dollars in Mexico in 1869. It is sheer delight every step of the way.

Burt’s gang includes Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Elam, which may be one of the foremost gangs of the 1950s. On top of that you had Cesar Romero as the aide-de-camp of the Emperor (George Macready, no less), who is also a rogue like a laughing cavalier.

The film starts with a series of set-up challenges between the stars, and their bonding and chemistry is delightful. Burt flashes all the teeth repeatedly as his tricks, cheats, and banters with Cooper.

The director is no slouch: Robert Aldrich of Baby Jane and Dirty Dozen, managing to orchestrate this rousing shoot’em up and horse chase movie.

Produced by Lancaster, the villain is so charming in his black hat and black leather vest that we may find ourselves rooting for the two actors to do a sequel. Nowadays, it would be standard. How could you waste such talent without a follow-up?

If there was a problem on the set, it was a production decision on whether to kill Burt Lancaster in the movie.

Alas, back then, franchise sequels were not really done.

 

 

 

 

Mummy Dearest

DATELINE:   Tut-Tut!

Mummy Dearest Karloff!

Of the Quartet of Classic Horror from the early 1930s, the fourth entry in the series is often relegated to the bottom tier. The Mummy follows the legendary Frankenstein, Dracula, and Invisible Man. But he is no also-ran.

Unfortunately for him, we learn in the first few minutes of the 1933 film that the mummy is actually a misnomer. He is not mummified at all, having been buried alive.

So much for false advertising.

Beyond that, we have a whale of a movie—not James Whale: the director was famous cinematographer Karl Freund in his first directing effort.

As star Lita Johann said, he was a nasty guy—to her. Exotic star Lita was married later to John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield to you). Whatever he did to her during their 23-days of filming, she is marvelous as the reincarnation of a Pharaoh’s daughter.

As for Karloff, what can you say? He is so tall in his scenes, we think he was wearing lifts under his rakish robes. He looks like a bag of fragile bones, as the mummy-come-to-life.  His face is dustier and has more riles than a Moon crater as he plays Im-Ho-Tep (not to be confused with IHOP).

The biggest special effect is Karloff’s eyes, which is impressive indeed.

Scenes of a second unit, or stock footage, of Egypt, surely gives us a sense of the pre-Howard Carter King Tut world. And, audiences in the 1930s knew what a mummy’s curse was, which is played to the hilt.

The climactic scene is when the Mummy relates his unfortunate murder by the Pharaoh’s men. Juicy and grotesque horror!

As a love story, this is thriller covers 3700 years and incantations about the dead, which transcend undying love.

What a treat.

 

 

Tab Departs

DATELINE:  Our Loss

Untitled Tab & Divine!

Bashing Tab Hunter was a media entertainment form since he first came to Hollywood in the early 1950s as a pretty boy.  Most critics held the opinion he must be a vapid blond male equivalent of Marilyn.

Yet, Tab stuck around for decades, playing everything from beach boys when he was too old for that, to athletes, soldiers, and assorted heroes. He dressed up whatever story he acted in.

Now at 86, looking 60, he suddenly and unexpectedly expired on us. It comes when he was about to oversee a new movie docudrama of his life. Well-known gay actor Zachary Quinto has decided to produce a movie about Tab and his torrid, secret affair with Anthony Perkins in the 1950s and 1960s. The new movie is to be based on Tab’s autobiography of a few years ago, entitled Tab Hunter Confidential.

Yes, that Damn Yankee killer met the Psycho Bates off screen for a closeted love affair.

We always enjoyed Tab and look forward to this new movie of his life. However, we can also turn back to five films today’s young film aficionados may not know or appreciate.

One of his early successes, or weird films, was Track of the Cat, directed by Wildman William Wellman. He played callow younger brother to dangerous Robert Mitchum in a movie that played on Technicolor downgraded to black clothes on a white snowfall.

Not long after he appeared with John Wayne and Lana Turner in The Sea Chase in 1955. Audiences loathed a film in which Duke Wayne played a German naval officer. Looking perfect as the Aryan in the cast, he managed to come off as a good actor next to Wayne’s deplorable performance.

Tab came into his own as the young version of Joe Hardy, who makes a deal with the devil to beat the Damn Yankees in baseball for one season. He was stunning and the boy that Lola wanted. The director mistreated him and almost sabotaged his performance.

Soon, Tab wanted to prove his worth and did a film called They Came to Cordura. He was the villain, opposite Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth. It was a shocking turn of events—but not well received by Hollywood which would soon return him to surfing movies and light comedy.

His rediscovery in the 1980s cast him in wild comedies like Polyester and Lust in the Dust, a parody Western, both films in which his romantic interest was zaftig Divine, cross-dressing delight.

Not Tab’s full oeuvre, it is enough to give you a sense of his career.

Art & Neon

DATELINE:  Hitch Loved Neon

 Neon Novak Novak in Neon!

An Australian film, Neon may seem like a subject hardly worthy of excitement. When some of the interviewees talk about the colored gas lights, you begin to think they need to get a life.

Neon, of course, defines American business, urban life, and a change in American perspective. Once you realize that the invention and adoption of neon lights in American business altered the landscape of the nation, you begin to recognize how special it is.

Not surprisingly, once again Nikola Tesla enters the picture as one of the prime inventors of neon light, but he never patented it, nor made a nickel off the product. Patent fights centered over a Frenchman who produced lights first stunning Paris.

Though the United States featured several World Fairs with cities of lights in the 19th century, the notion of neon changed the life of urban America when it seemed to debut and spread over Broadway and Manhattan in the 1920s.

Neon’s bright and jazzy colors and motion brought forth a new nocturnal culture. And, it was immediately picked up as a motif in movies, first in musicals and as a flashy jazz parallel. Only later did it turn dark with film noir—and then color noir.

Neon captivated movies. Indeed, Hitchcock loved to use neon—in his great movies like Psycho (that alluring Bates Motel) and as the garish green ghost of Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Las Vegas is where the light-scale went bonkers in the years after World War II. Nothing could compare to the garish, commercial call. Yet, the images of flashing logos became landmarks, not just sales gimmicks.

The film presents an array of magnificent shots of glowing neon signs and streets across the world.

Only when neon began its inevitable fade to black did artists and museums realize it needed preservation. As an expensive means of communication, it now seems to be finding homes in art refugee centers. However, mammoth chunks of 90 feet of neon is not conducive to indoor display.

The film turns elegiac when neon starts to lose the battle with time and timeliness. At least a movie like this will allow future viewers to see what magnificence it truly inspired.

 

 

Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, & Gisele Bundchen Star!

 DATELINE: Bad Bad Bundchen

 bad bad bundchen.jpeg

Mrs. Tom Brady Did It!

Hail a Taxi in a New York minute! This is a must-see movie classic.

Well, okay, it isn’t exactly Citizen Kane.

However, the 2004 movie called Taxi impresses in so many ways. First, its cast includes Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, and Giselle Bundchen. Unlikely and perfect casting?

Yes, the future Mrs. #TomBrady is in her movie debut with third billing. There is not even a hint of “Introducing….” She is the star. Having a billion bucks can do that.

She is top of the game as the villain, a tall model-type bank robber, heading a gang of shoot’em up women. What? You were expecting Anna Magnani in Open City? It’s enough to convince us that, if she teamed up with Tom Brady, for a movie career, we’d have another Burton and Taylor, or at least a potential Laurel and Hardy.

The movie is about a New York cabbie with a penchant for speeding (Queen Latifah in her patented sassy tough girl role) and an inept New York copper (Jimmy Fallon with a run-off at the mouth speed).

Luc Besson directs and writes this stuff to guarantee there is plenty of car-crashing action. He is the Fellini of the urban circus movie. Yeah, we give this one 8 and a Half.

If you expect to see Downton Abbey, you took a wrong turn at Antonioni’s Blow Up. Gisele rivals Vanessa Redgrave here.

We mainly stayed agog during the entire film because it is fifteen years old, and the three principal stars look exactly the same today. They have not aged one whit. #Latifah, #Fallon, and #Bundchen just stepped out of The Time Machine.

Who among us can make that claim? You might start to wonder where the Fountain of Youth is located in Central Park. Is it Tom Brady’s avocado ice cream that tells us the proof is in the pudding?

Yes, the cute strawberry blonde playing Jimmy Fallon’s mother is that Viva Las Vegas girl and Elvis co-star, Ann-Margaret. Talk about ageless

This movie is a Manhattan cake-walk.

Beyond JFK and Inside Fake Docudrama

DATELINE: Streaming Availability

beyond

Okay, yeah, we admit it.

We skipped the film Beyond JFK back in 1992 because it seemed to be nothing more than a shill and marketing tool for Oliver Stone’s new movie, JFK.  We cannot say we were wrong. We can say we’re glad we watched the 90-minute film now.

Indeed, the documentary is still billed as a nonfiction version of the Stone film. Hunh?

If you want to believe that, you first must push through the interviews with actors like Kevin Costner (Garrison) or Ed Asner (Guy Bannister) or Walter Matthau (Russell Long) or Gary Oldman (Oswald). Whatever do they know about the assassination?

Of course, Oliver Stone Himself treats his script like Stone Tablets from the mount.

You would be surprised to learn that there are plenty of interesting, seldom seen interviews with the real people who were part of that notorious day in 1963.

Jim Garrison gives a deathbed interview, filmed literally on his deathbed, looking quite ill. Marina Oswald talks about her husband in retrospect, and Lyndon Johnson’s mistress for many years gives her insights.

Those moments are startling and genuine reason to watch this concoction of theory and history. Tom Wicker puts it to you early on: who should you trust—the journalists of history or the Hollywood version? Ike Pappas of CBS News narrates, and he too was there.

In an age of fake news, we are not exactly ready to dismiss movie insights because it’s transitory film. The documentary raises the same points of the movie but does it better.

Dated as it is, nearly 26 years later, you can still guffaw at those who think the issue will be solved in 5 days once the secret reports are released. Well, Trump released many—and nothing was solved.

The documentary keeps referring to a linkage between Oswald, Ruby, Clay Shaw, Dave Ferrie, Perry Russo, J. Edgar Hoover, etc., but never states what it is. Well, we know what it is: for some or all of their lives, they were gay. That point may be totally irrelevant, or merely the social glue to explain American politics.

Keeping that detail secret remains both illuminating and damning.

 

Dr. William Russo wrote Booth & Oswald, examining their educational training as it related to their future role as assassins. Available on Amazon.com.