Claire Denis: High Life Tumbles

DATELINE: Pattinson Finds His Spacesuit! 

 Rocket Man, Not !

The latest film by auteur and brilliant director Claire Denis is not her best, but it is original, bizarre, and will find admirers among the critical set. High Life sets a tone and standard for sci-fi that seems sci-unfit.

However, High Life is more original than your sci-fi audience may want. This is not on the level of Kubrick tackling the topic. It is anti-science fiction: philosophical and idiosyncratic. Forward is going backward from Earth.

 

If Robert Pattinson has selected it, you know you are in for something different. He knows how to pick unusual movies.

The narrative storyline is something about a father raising his infant daughter alone on a spaceship hurtling toward a black hole.

You know you are in arthouse territory when the title of the film flashes 18minutes into the story. We slowly discern the rest of the crew is dead—and therein is the tale of sexual tension with malcontents on a ship going nowhere at nine-tenths the speed of light.

Somewhere around half-way into the movie, we find the kink foundation and disturbing fact that these are actually delinquent prisoners unethically sent out as guinea pigs with no hope of return.

Their fate is not exactly happy, and their problematic lives merely make the inevitable tragedy. In the meantime, Pattinson is a curio, ageless and aging as his daughter grows up. Their goal of a black hole is referred to as an alligator eye, but it is the bullseye of bull. This dark, dour film has convinced some it is a masterpiece.

For others, it is simply so far out there that it defies comprehension. Critical reaction is all over the landscape and under the sun.

Being Natural and Lost in History: Alice Guy

DATELINE: Pioneer Filmmaker

 Alice Thru the Lens Glass! 

How is it possible for someone to be erased from history in movies? Alice went through the camera lens and made the first wonderland of studio narrative movies! The film is called Be Natural: the Story of Alice Guy-Blache.

With Jodie Foster producing and narrating this insight into forgotten history, Pamela B. Greene is a researcher, director, and force to right a wrong done to a creative and mistreated woman. Alice Guy was contemporary in France to the Lumiere Brothers, and she ran the Gaumont Studios.

Yet, she was omitted time and again by critics for her massive contributions. She made about 1000 short movies from 1896 to the start of World War I.

Both Alfred Hitchcock and Sergei Eisenstein called her a tremendous influence on their directing, but she is still today relatively unknown. Director Greene does a whirlwind of research to uncover the story.

In that way, this is a thrilling and fascinating detective work. Alice Guy-Blache was the victim of critics, bad history, misinformation, and a husband who took credit for her work.

She was a driving force for Solax Pictures, one of the big movie companies in Fort Lee, New Jersey. All the others went to Hollywood, and she went out of business.

Returning to France, she was further isolated and ignored. IN her later years she tried to find her films, but most were lost. During the 1950s her glowing, brilliant works were slowly found.

Her mantra was “Be Natural,” to actors. It was heresy in the silent era, but her films feature performances that are amazing by today’s standards.

Family told her in old age to give up: she would never be recognized. Fortunately, that is not true, thanks to pioneer women in movies today uncovering the injustice done to Alice. This turns out to be an extraordinary documentary.

Trump as Movie Critic &/or Norma Desmond

 DATELINE: Old Time Movies!

At a campaign rally this week, Donald Trump showed another facet of his koo-koo bird presidency. He started attacking Hollywood’s Oscar choice of The Parasitefor best picture. It seems he does not care for South Korea’s movie industry.

 

If it had been made in North Korea, he might have been more tolerant. Perhaps he just has an intolerance for parasites, or movies that attack and ridicule rich people.

We firmly believe that Trump never watched The Parasitebecause of its subtitles. We all know that he is a dyslexic reader and has trouble with big words and fast scrolling of verbiage. His own notes are large block letter words that are monosyllabic.

However, he did cite 1950’s Sunset Boulevard as his idea of a great movie. We presume his followers have never seen it, and young people would never watch a black & white movie.

You may not recall the Billy Wilder-Charlie Brackett movie from 1950. It was a dark satire extravaganza about the dissolution of a silent screen siren.

Gloria Swanson took the role that Garbo refused and said the immortal words of Norma Desmond who is accused of once being big in movies: “I am still big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

Trump may well paraphrase the famous line: “I am big. It’s the White House that got small.”

You know that Trump is always ready for his close-up—and in fact, demands it every day. He is about ready to have the police and men in white coats come and take him away, just like poor old Norma Desmond.

 

Ossurworld’s William Russo just published a book on producer Charles Brackett who made Sunset Boulevard. It’s title is TITANIC’S FORGOTTEN MOVIE, available in softcover or ebook for smart readers.

  Man off the Eiffel Tower

DATELINE: Flawed Movie 

 Laughton in detective hero mode.

Making a motion picture on location in Europe in the late 1940s was done masterfully by Carol Reed and The Third Man. Trying to emulate that came a Paris-based production called Man on the Eiffel Tower.

Filmed entirely in Paris and in color, it was meant to be a travelogue to whet the appetite of arm-chair tourists and fans of Hercule Poirot, with a bad stand-in, Inspector Maigret.

It should have been interesting and one of the post-war gems. Alas, despite car rides through the streets of Paris, lunch on the Eiffel Tower, and a climax in which the supervillain plans to jump off with breathtaking views, the movie is a mess.

It is a Maigret mystery with Laughton as a slightly irascible, overweight, curmudgeon. He is perfect and does his usual schtick in routine fashion, playing opposite a foppish and dissipated looking Franchot Tone. Laughton is not Hercule (who is Belgian, we know), but might have had trouble with the fastidious role.

Taking over directing duties when Laughton threatened to quit the movie (and you can see why he may have considered it), is Burgess Meredith. We see him here a decade before he played a similar role on Twilight Zone in a classic episode about a man wearing thick eyeglasses.

Also aboard is empty-suit leading man Robert Hutton, also looking less boyish than usual.

Perhaps the source material of the famous detective failed them, but the movie leaps and bounds to try to capture the flavor of Paris from rooftop chases to taxi rides around the ambiance of the Left Bank. It is mostly American actors or Brits pretending to be as French as the actual settings.

It just didn’t work, and throw in a music score that is intrusive and overbearing, and you have undercut drama, suspense, performances, and plot.

What a disappointment. This film is a classic of bad movie-making. The producer tried to bury it by hiding all the prints, but failed.

 

 

 

Thomas Crown: An Affair Not to Remember?

DATELINE: What Should Have Been?

 Stand-in graveyard?

In 1968, one of the ultra-cool movies that was meant to be an antidote to the growing counter-culture of long-hair and hippies, was Norman Jewison’s stylish caper film. Sexy cool, with dune buggy rides on Crane’s beach in Ipswich and rooftop brunch on a patio in the South End of Boston, this was your ultimate sophistication.

The Thomas Crown Affairwas meant to be a vehicle showing off a Brahmin Bostonian outsmarting a beautiful insurance agent at his hobby of “crime.”

It has all the looks of a film back in the late 1960s when Alfred Hitchcock wanted to drag Grace Kelly out of retirement with the promise of another Cary Grant co-star vehicle. It’sTo Catch a Thief in reverse. However, nothing panned out. The film settles for second-best.

Hitchcock also had Tippi Hedren under contract—and so they could not even bring her on as the beautiful insurance agent. Yet, Faye Dunaway is clearly wearing the designer outfits and living the life of a millionaire investigator meant for Grace or Tippi. She tangles with a guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who pretends to be a millionaire executive, but looks like a motorcyclist in posh dress.

No doubt that Steve McQueen looks dashing, but we never believed for a second that he could play polo or chess. Not only that, the film looks like it was supposed to play out in London, but they had to settle for Boston. McQueen reportedly could not master a Boston accent and gave up half-way through the film.

It’s the ultimate double-cross thriller that Hitch loved to do, but Jewison throws in modern elements like split-screen moments (all pointless) and Noel Harrison (not Rex) sings “Windmills of Your Mind.” It seems even Dusty Springfield turned them down.

The climax of the movie takes place at Cambridge City Cemetery, a stand-in for ritzy and prestigious Mount Auburn Cemetery across the street, no doubt. We were a tad shocked to see filming near my mother’s recent burial site back then, not far from her grandmother.

Some films you may remember for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Madman & Rebel: Dennis Hopper

DATELINE: Don’t Forget Drunkard!

 He’s Not in this Doc!

Dennis, Our Favorite Menace!

A semi-interesting documentary on James Dean contemporary, Dennis Hopper, whose career went through many incarnations, is allegedly told by his “co-conspirators”! The film on his life is called Along for the Ride. With friends like the intense Hopper selected, he was in for a long run toward Doom.

Hopper underwent many transformations in his life—and it mirrored his career, or vice versa. He started out as an All-American wholesome-looking boy, became a slimy and bushy-bearded druggie and drunkard, and ultimately became a haggard and highly respected character actor. He survived, which is the truly amazing fact.

Like most under-educated people in Hollywood, Hopper was sensitive to his intelligence and self-education. The film ignores his youth and early years—and picks up with his personal assistant in 1970 who owns most of his correspondence and memorabilia. He is the power behind this portrait, which really puts emphasis on his directorial ability in The Last Movie, a big flop. Having made a fortune with Easy Rider,his counter-culture friends and attitudes were given free-reign in the 1970s Hollywood-in-transition.

Hopper was never helped when friends like Satya keep telling him he’s a genius. Inevitably, his Last Moviebecame Waterloo in Peru. Hopper was a colorful show-biz personality, but he was notOrson Welles. The low-lifes and sycophants around him convinced him otherwise.

You won’t have to see The Last Movie to know from this picture that it is an unmitigated disaster. When working on Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando refused to do any scenes with him. He had told the most powerful Hollywood moguls to go “f” themselves. He was on Ruination Row in a self-constructed prison.

There is a passing nod to his mentor and progenitor, James Dean, but really he was on his own trip far from his rebel youth movies.

Blue Velvet resurrected him. He always felt he was personally difficult, but not professionally so. In the end he made so many movies that any idea that he was blackballed cannot be believed.

Hopper’s right-hand man and behind-the-scenes acolyte does his job to the bitter end.

 

Kremlin Letter: Postage Due

DATELINE: IMF Gone Wrong

  George Sanders Goes Out in Flames! 

In 1970 if you wanted a thinking man’s spy thriller, you went to a film based on John LeCarre, and if you wanted a thriller with twists, you went to Mission: Impossible. If you wanted laughs, you turned to James Bond.

If Huston wanted to do Mission: Impossible,he needed the music. This movie version is rife with sex talk and use of sexual blackmail as part of the work habits of spies.

All these spies are retired and go by weird nicknames or coded identities. No matter.

So, it figures that John Huston would manage to straddle the fence and give us a spy thriller that has all these elements—and the imprimatur of one of the great directors: John Huston.

The Kremlin Letteris sheer, unadulterated  nonsense with twist of logic that defies explanation. Yet, it is glorious in its location settings—and startling cast of giants.

You will see in no particular order: Orson Welles, Max Von Sydow, Raf Vallone, Richard Boone, Dean Jagger, and Patrick O’Neal, and in a career killing performance—George Sanders in drag.

We don’t know if this movie led to Mr. Sanders’ untimely exit in Spain shortly after making this movie. He claimed he was bored. Well, we never saw him offer so much energy than as a piano-playing crossdresser in a gay club.

There is talk about two gay characters hooking up: Welles and Sanders. That would have been worth the price of admission, but the film really devolves into one of those sex-talk double-cross twisters.

What has any of this to do with retrieving a letter that seems worthless (but everyone will kill for it). That’s the old McGuffin of Hitchcock.

And Huston had turned to appearing on camera by then—and again gives himself a role in the picture. No spies come in from the cold, and everyone has a license to kill.

We knew this was going to be a treat from the opening credits. Huston still had the juice in those days—and could deliver a real movie in a world of nouveau auteurs.

 

 

 

Blowing the Whistle on Trump

DATELINE: New Trump Godfather Movie?

 New Don Trump!

In a new Godfather sequel, Don Vito Trump makes an offer that a whistleblower cannot refuse.  Yes, if the anonymous whistleblower reveals his identity, Russian mobsters will not only break his legs, he will be able to meet the man he accuses of criminal deals as he is fitted with cement overshoes.

If you ever wondered why whistleblowers are afraid, you have only to ask Fox journalists who liken them to “rotten snitches.” Yes, so much for the fair and balanced approach to someone reporting on corruption found in the Washington swamp.

Like calling his lawyer Michael Cohen, his mouthpiece of yore, a rat, Trump envisions the world in movie mob terms.

We now know that if you drain the swamp, you will find a slime-ball with orange hair lurking in the mud. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is now POTUS.

Don Trump does have a right to meet his accuser—in a court of impeachment in the United States Senate. And by then, it will be too late to have him executed—unless the Senate decides that Trump is really a king, not a president.

As of today, we have received another request from Trump to pay for his impeachment defense: his billions are not enough. Now the Don Trump is baking canolis filled with creamy poison for the American electorate.

We are not sure if the Don knows that this is not the Vatican where you can have the Pope replaced (as in Godfather 3). In this sequel, the mob plans to supply the voters with Ukrainian voting booths.

We have seen a preview of the film in which Don Trump’s grandchildren are dressed up like the Storm Troopers in the Star Wars series. In case you forgot, the Nazi Storm Troopers in white plastic suits were the bad guys who went against the forces of good.

In Trump’s world, life is like a box of chocolate movie sequels: all covered in Rambo Blood.

Angels in America: “Messenger”

DATELINE: Ghost of Ethel Meets Ghoul of Cohn 

 Streep & Pacino

The third episode of the miniseries Angels in America takes us to the hallucinogenic, paranormal world where Louis (Ben Shenkman) insists in his liberal way that there are no angels in America.

On the other hand, the evil Roy Cohn is the devil in America, dying of AIDS like the saintly Prior whose survival seems preordained by some supernatural force. He is to “Prepare” for an event of monumental proportions:  this is foreshadowed when two ancestor ghosts show up in his bedroom to give him a Dickensian warning.

Emma Thompson is his down to earth nurse, but she speaks in tongues (only to the ears of Prior (Justin Kirk). He is also seeing Talmudic eruptions of Torah as he prepares for the descent (or is it an ascent?).

If you have held on to this point, you will be hooked by the mixed metaphors of paranormal and political messages in crossover.

The episode builds to one of the most astounding special effects dramas and ghost stories in American literature. And, however uncomfortable the sexual situations are, they are part of the political whirlwind of America. Roy Cohn was a hypocritical gay man who worked with Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, associated with Edgar Hoover socially, and was responsible for the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg…

With Prior Walter ghosts from the Mayflower setting the stage, we are also about to see an Angel in America. Yet, for our money, the highlight of any film has to be a confrontation between Pacino’s Cohn and Streep’s Ethel Rosenberg. It is hilarious and horrifying—as ghost and her ghoul banter nastily. An extraordinary moment in movie history.

  Angels in America: “In Vitro”

DATELINE:  American Supernatural Powers 

 Pacino’s Satanic Roy Cohn!

The second episode of the mini-series Angels in America again uses some clever cross-cutting from director Mike Nichols to counter-point the two young relationships on the rocks: the gay couple (Jewish boy & Mayflower Prior) and the heterosexual Mormons (calling each other inexplicably ‘buddy’).

The connections between Louis and Joe as lawyers puts them together on occasion. Joe’s pill-popping wife refuses to come to grips with her husband’s latent sexual interests. All in all, the two couples seem ready to do battle in what may be a ridiculous waste of energy.

If Louis has a friend (in the person of a flamboyant black nurse—Jeffrey Wright), then Joe (Patrick Wilson) relies on the back-rubbing seduction of Roy Cohn (in the person of Al Pacino).

Pacino has one satanic scene in this episode, but he is so dominant and frightful that he is unforgettable, even citing Mafia words like “familiglia” as his favorite. And, Meryl Streep makes her first of two role appearances at the mother of Mormon Joe. The best is yet to come.

Again, it is the political element from a drama twenty years old that resonates today: Cohn wants protection from being disbarred. He will place cute Joe into the Reagan Administration to give him an insider cover.

The talk is putting crypto-Nazi political plans of Cohn into place to last generations. It is sentient almost to a terrifying degree—as it predates Cohn’s protégé Donald Trump putting these plans into fruition.

So, the predictive nature of this LGQBT play-unto-movie from 2003 may be the most-telling soothsaying bit of political spin out of the 20thcentury. The story is set in 1985 when AIDS was the virulent killer with no cure in sight. Cohn is laying groundwork to control the presidency and Supreme Court with his kind of American well into the 21st century–and far beyond the grave.

New England Patriots Blow Up Twitter and NFL!

DATELINE:  2-Headed Monsters!

First Rosey Grier, Now This!

Once again, the New England Patriots have turned this blogger into Al Pacino in Godfather 3.  Every time we try to get out, they pull us back in.

This marks the second, or perhaps third, season we will not do a Patriots book on the season: main reason is economic, mostly because Patriot fans can’t read and don’t buy books. The other reason has to do with personal sanity.

Not since Rosey Grier and Ray Milland played one man with two heads have we seen anything as horrific. It was 1972, and the movie was The Thing with Two Heads!

And now Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have done the impossible: they have doubled the combustion factor on their Super Bowl team. Perhaps they like challenges, or perhaps they are fire bugs. The horrid monster of Belichick & Brady has found a mate.

Tom Brady is about to pour kerosene on top of the two most flammable players in NFL:  Josh Gordon and now Antonio Brown. These Bobsey Twins could bring down governments if they were involved in Brexit.

They would be hurricanes that would defy Category 5 and find themselves the objects of Trump’s madhouse White House sharpie.

Indeed, we expect a presidential tweet pardoning anyone writer who sets the tandem on a course to blow up records of pass catching and yardage.

Since Bob Kraft is owner of the Patriots, you might be a cynic and say this will permanently prove that there is no video of Kraft in a massage parlor, as it has been destroyed in an explosion of Tom Brady inflated footballs.

This makes Deflategate look like inflation pumped up to extremes that the football will look like the Goodyear Blimp in the endzone for Patriot fans.

We may now watch a few games after this Near Earth Object/asteroid crashes into Planet Foxboro.

 

Bill & Ted Face the Music!

DATELINE:  Bill & Ted at 50 Years Not Counting!

san dimmers

Thirty years after the original Valley Boy dudes hit the big screen with immortality, a third movie is in the works, with principal photography starting this summer. Bill and Ted had one excellent time in their youth.

Not a big fan back then, it is always interesting to re-visit a story with the originals having aged well, or not well. We recently returned to Deadwood after fifteen years. Now we are going back to bogus San Dimas, California, to see how teen idols are living at age 50.

It may not be pretty. Alex Winter has not flourished quite the way John Wick/ Keanu Reeves has.

We were curious as to how they can update the tale: it seems that George Carlin has fallen victim to the Grim Reaper, but the Reaper of movie 2 will return to visit the boys.

It seems that they have wasted their lives! What a surprise!

And now they are facing the music of old age: can they finally write a hit song? The film shall be Bill and Ted Face the Music, more or less. It’s written by the same man who gave us the original insipid twosome.

Music may save the world. Good grief! talk about big expectations.

They have given our intrepid dudes marriages with daughters who look just like their fathers. Hmmm. We don’t know what other genes have been passed.

The film won’t come out for a year, but the dudes will have Ted’s father (with Alaskan military school threats long gone) and Bill’s stepmother (likely still hot for her stepson).

It comes out next year. Until then, we have only to return to Keanu and Alex in their heydays—in two ridiculously funny movies where they show no brains in a historical laugh-riot.

We can hardly wait for the summer of 2020 with its hindsight.

Stagecoach to Lordsburg, Re-Take Three or So

DATELINE: Where’s Bing?

merritt  Merritt Shortly Before his Untimely Death.

 You may think you already saw a great, classic western with John Wayne as Ringo and directed by his mentor and most brilliant collaborator, John Ford.

Actually, you haven’t if you tune into the color, 1986 version that manages to remake the film. Unlike most revisions of the better original, this film is truly a curio, interesting on its own level.

If the first great Western had not been made with Duke Wayne, and you never heard of it, this little film might actually have been an amusing vanity project by well-known performers.

Actually, Stagecoach of 1986 is a television movie and could be better called a Country-Western. Yes, pardner, the stars apparently felt the story held its own without Wayne and Ford. So, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson, take on the key roles. No, they do not sing. Nelson did the title tune over the credits, but we guess they might have hummed a few notes between takes. That might have been more interesting.

Since singers were the motif, they also brought in Anthony Newley—and Bing Crosby’s daughter, Mary.

The cast is not bad—and you can throw in John Schneider with a perfectly coiffured beard. Anthony Franciosa plays a corrupt banker, and Elizabeth Ashley sounding like a ghetto girl, and even the under-rated Merrit Buttrick as a cavalry officer.

The story has something to do with a stagecoach making a desperate and dangerous trip with Geronimo on the warpath.

Kristofferson takes on the thankless role played by John Wayne as the Ringo Kid. Cash is some kind of marshall, and Willie Nelson is Doc Holliday.

These guys are pros—and their fans will hoot and love every scene, but we kept thinking: wait a second, wasn’t there another remake—with Bing Crosby??? It also starred Ann-Margaret, Mike Connors, Red Buttons, Van Heflin, Robert Cummings, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens.

We don’t think Bing was the Duke, but we had to go to IMDb as our memory banks are corrupt lately. And, yes, there was such a film in 1966—made with old TV stars in the key roles! It is not generally available, but we will search hither and yon to find it.

 

Gronk Goes to the Movies

 DATELINE: Goodbye, NFL! Hello, Hollywood!

Gronk

New England’s loss is the world of movies’ gain.

We may be one of the few football Patriots fans who is happy that Rob Gronkowski has made the decision to leave the NFL for a new career in films.

As a star of the gridiron, breaking all kinds of records over nine seasons, Gronk has spent nearly all available time working his screen image. He has appeared in a handful of small-budget movies and many television commercials.

His face, pliable and likeable, has become a brand unto itself. He has hobnobbed with stars and calls himself “One-Take Gronk,” meaning he only makes one take to print for the final roll of film. The film illiterate Boston sports media have no idea about his movie career, or abilities in that regard.

We are happy because the next time Gronk is tackled by five monsters, he will not hurt his back or break a leg bone. Right before they tackle him, the director will yell, “Cut!” and his body double will step in to take the blows.

Gronk is a movie natural. We expect to see him in a new Mel Gibson action movie as the season of football starts. Put away the cleats. He is taking on movie weapons for his next big run.

With his huge physical presence, he will find a happy set of movie parts in the big genres of the 21st century: either sophomoric comedy, or cartoon superhero epics. He can play a lummox hero or a hard-nosed villain with aplomb. See Ted.

He has sold his Boston properties and his next home likely will be poolside in Beverly Hills: like so many young people, he will have had his youthful years in Boston, but will begin his career and important life work elsewhere.

For years Gronky has graced our blogs with his antics. He will continue to do so—but now as a film personality. He won’t be playing Hamlet, but he will be entertaining.

Oh, we expect that some enterprising producer will team up Tom Brady and Gronk again in some sports film. Didn’t Babe Ruth charmingly play himself in Pride of the Yankees?  Didn’t Muhammed Ali play himself in several films? Gronk will always be himself in every movie role.

 

Allan Carr: A Spectacle to Behold

DATELINE: Carr-buncle

Carr

Can’t Stop the Hype!

It’s been 20 years since the grand poobah of film, TV, and stage producers has left the spotlight. And, boy, was Allan Carr a hog for the media.

The Fabulous Allan Carr is a misnomer. He was not the stuff of fables, nor legends and myths. He was an obese gay man with a knack for self-indulging and making fun for friends and audiences.

One supposes that such a life is enough to satisfy most people. Yet, Carr seemed a cuddly little buddha, but was more like a cactus version of Jekyll and Hyde. When the good times rolled, he was your pal.

He started out as a talent coordinator for Hugh Hefner’s late night TV show in the late 1950s, where he made the acquaintance of old and new Hollywood.

Carr produced Grease, Grease II, La Cage aux Folles, as well as stinkeroos like Can’t Stop the Music. He could do good stuff with all the bravura of Carmen Miranda and Chiquita.

He was a nightmare when failure knocked on his door, and his all-boy parties in Beverly Hills gave way to funeral processions when the AIDS crisis started taking all the twinks. A generation was decimated, and the Village People went into eclipse.

Carr was mostly voyeur, and he escaped infection from HIV. He lived life on his terms, caftans and moo-moo blouses to hide a multitude of rolls.

Born out of Middle America, he became a cocaine-motivated doyen of Hollywood and Broadway. He should have been nicer to the people going up the ladder because they remembered him when he started down the ladder.

His last years were sad, beleaguered with kidney problems and bone cancer. Every party became a line on his face, and in the end he was about as reclusive as an extrovert might never consider.