Calamity Jane: Other End of 19th Century

DATELINE: Deadwood, or Bust!

Calamity- 2 days before death  At Wild Bill’s gravesite.

The world of manners and civilization of the East and Europe would take 50 years to head out to the Badlands and Deadwood.

With a new TV movie updating the old series with Timothy Olyphant due soon, we figured to find the true story of Calamity Jane: Legend of the West. It’s an effective French-produced film. She was one of those rare women who lived by her own values in the Victorian Age.

The augurs were not sympathetic for Martha Canary, her real name: her mother was an alcoholic and her father deserted the family along the Oregon Trail. Martha was indentured or adopted and began a life of dubious morality.

Though some might hold her up as a transgender model, she never tried to pass as a man: she was always “Jane,” in men’s clothes, hunting, fighting Indians, and carousing. Indeed, sometimes at night she traded her buckskins for petticoats and survived as a sex worker.

She spoke a good game, told great yarns, and found herself the attraction of journalists. Some back east took her name and created a Deadwood feminine cowboy named Calamity Jane.

In reality, she and Wild Bill were only able to tolerate each other, though their love/hate relationship last a few years till his death in a notorious saloon shooting.

From there it was downhill: drinking, arrests, and endless wandering. She was a common law wife on occasion but married one abusive man to be father to her daughter whom she gave to nuns to raise.

Unfit for most jobs, she regularly went into show business, meeting people, selling photos of herself and a pamphlet story of her life. She even Buffalo Bill, but they worked separately at the Pan American Exhibition of 1900.

She had grown most unhappy in the East, and she returned to Deadwood in 1903. She looked like an ancient but was only 47. Hard drinking and hard living took a toll. The West had become gentrified, not to her liking.

Two days before her death, she went up to Wild Bill Hickok’s grave where she had her photo taken. Within a week, the people of Deadwood put her in a grave next to him.

After all, they were legends—and Westerns were about to hit the big screen with the advent of movies. Calamity would ride on forever, even unto a new TV cable movie, Deadwood, this summer. 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody Unwrapped!

DATELINE: Rami as Ghost of Mercury!

Rami.jpeg Rami as Freddie.

Is it a musical tragedy, or a concert biopic?  You might say it is a hard rhapsody to the kisser. And, it is director Bryan Singer’s best picture since Apt Pupil.

We were expecting the tale of squandered talent, losing to a hailstorm of hedonism. Instead, we were given the gift of seeing Rami Malek channel the ghost of Freddy Mercury to haunt us forever. Bohemian Rhapsody is worth every moment.

With some clever re-enactments of how the hits were designed and developed by Queen, all four members, you have interwoven built-in classic reactions of the time. The panning comments on the title song by original media critics is priceless and interspersed into the music.

Nor did we expect to see such intriguing supporting actors as Alan Leech (from Downton Abbey) and Aiden Gillen (now starring as Dr. Hynek in Project Blue Book). They bring gravitas to the queenly shenanigans of Freddy.

The notion that he was gay and it was his undoing during a bad time in history strikes us as impossible to accept. You mean no one knew he was gay—not even himself? We suppose self-knowledge is always a struggle. Rock Hudson in the news may have tipped off Freddie that he was in trouble.

Mercury was titanic and hit the iceberg of rock music.

His talent emerges like instant drink—and fizzles in a wave of self-indulgence. Unlike many other rock stars and prima donnas, Freddy Mercury has the wherewithal to see the error of his ways—and tries to repent with the famous Live Aid concert.

The media is once again a vicious dog that bites artists in the throes of creativity. It is delightful to see how some tunes were formed, like “Another One Bites the Dust”, or “We Will Rock You”.

The title tune comes in and out, but the finale, with all its morbid references to death, is “We are the Champions”, saved for the big finish.

Rami Malek is the show, man-tanned or not, and convinces you he is the genuine article. Add music and you have a masterpiece, but Freddy Mercury would not be surprised at all that his life and music survive and flourish.

 

 

Queen: Mercury Rising: Predating the Movie

 DATELINE: Long Live the Champion!

Champion Real Mercury!

From 2011, a biographical documentary on Freddie Mercury may well have been the instrument to inspire the movie story of his life called Bohemian Rhapsody.

In advertisements and descriptions, Mercury has been called one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century:  we presume that puts him in the esteemed company of Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland, and Lassie.

We love dramatizations of the basic facts elicited in this life-story of a musical icon.

What the Zanzibar native named Farrouk really transcended was the crossover of glam-rock and Bowie with some kind of sports anthem creator. He was his most important self-made titan/champion with an overbite.

Yes, let’s face it, Queen and Mercury created a couple of songs that have lived as the victory songs for every winning sports teams—and probably shall continue so for decades ahead.

That’s no mean feat.

Mercury as not Freddie, but a self-creation of the Raj and Brit music waves of the 1960s and 1970s. He certainly helped to establish MTV and music videos—and they gave him fame.

His coming-out at the time of Studio 54 meant he was in the forerunning of gay icons, and among the victims of a generation who died in the early horror of HIV infection. He was carefree and did not flinch from his lifestyle, even if it might kill him.

The movie with Rami Malek could not have found a better embodiment of Mercury than the wide-eyed actor. And, we will examine that film in due time. In the meantime, if you need a more objective look at his life, we recommend Mercury Rising, the story of Queen by those who were closest.

David: Overexposed Masterpiece

DATELINE: For All the Marbles

David

 Michelangelo’s Boy!

The Private Life of a Masterpiece is a documentary narrated by the late Tim Piggott-Smith a decade ago.

You might not realize what a controversial and interesting history and life that block of marble chiseled by Michelangelo has had over centuries.

Years before the great Renaissance upstart put his talent to the statue, a couple of artists tried and failed to carve out an iconic image. They failed, mainly because the superior marble was only two feet thick in places. It was meant to be one piece, a marvel in itself, and nearly impossible.

David is the height of three men and weighs about the poundage of two dozen. Indeed, David is the real Goliath. He was originally meant to be posed atop a church in Florence, but he was hijacked for political reasons to face the threat of the Medici family, looking southward on palazzo level. After all, he was a killer.

As a result, David has suffered, and his face seems to mirror that. He has been stoned, broken, allowed to be covered in mold, and has lost some detail.

Yet, he remains more than ever the commercial icon of the 20th century, more popular today than ever before: he is the epitome of modern man. From the get-go, he has been a role model and object of love; nearly half of Florentines in the 16th century were likely bisexual men. They adored him.

Like any great work of art, he is subject to interpretation on many levels with each passing era. Surprisingly, he was not appreciated by Victorians unless he was covered with a fig leaf. Yep, they had one ready-made for coverups when required.

Entertaining and educational, this is a one-hour history that you may watch with never-averted eyes.

 

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl, 2019

 DATELINE: Great Art Restoration!

Warhol & Whopper

Warhol Takes on Whopper.

We know that iconic artist Andy Warhol enjoyed pop culture, and perhaps he’d be intrigued with the Super Bowl antics every year.

He might be as surprised as we were to find him in a commercial, a highly expensive proposition, endorsing Burger King.

You might think the little scene was filmed by Andy himself at his Factory, but it was merely an appearance he made in 1984 for another director. Here is Andy in 2019, thirty years after he died, now on the big stage of Super Bowl party night.

At first we thought it was a body double—something Warhol was fond of using. He looked thin, but in good shape, making it a little difficult to discern when this was made. He had done all kinds of things—like a Love Boat episode and a cameo in an Elizabeth Taylor movie back in the 1970s.

This filmed scene was after the Studio 54 craze, and he sits quietly, well-dressed as always, his messy wig appropriately placed, and crinkling, opens a bag for Burger King.

We heard he was disappointed to find it was not going to be a Big Mac, but he was always game for product accessibility.

Perhaps the most curious part of his eating the burger, as that is the total action, is that he lifts the top of the bun off the sandwich as if he will pour some of the Heinz ketchup on it. Instead, he has difficulty pouring it onto the wrapper.

Like a cookie in coffee, he dunks the burger in the tomato paste which he even painted in one of his inspired moments.

Though the commercial was only a few seconds, the actual film was a tad longer. It showed him discarding the top of the burger and folding it over for another swipe at the Heinz. All his actions are fastidious. It’s on Youtube for those interested.

We hope his estate and museum was well-paid for this appearance. We doubt he would have been a Patriot fan. In all likelihood, only a fraction of viewers even understood the identity of the slight man in the burger commercial.

Hello, Carol Channing! Goodbye, Dolly!

DATELINE: Showy Biz

Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket  Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket.

Larger than Life is the subtitle of a look at the life of the grand star, Carol Channing.  Having recently died, we were drawn to this streaming video of her life; she was active at 90 and participated in sharing memories and activities when this documentary was made.

Channing seems to have been born big. Like a generation of vaudeville to TV stars, she had a personality that overwhelmed everything—and she was so kind and generous that she became a titan of beloved show biz.

From her days at Bennington College in the 1930s, she was no dumb blonde, but played one on stage constantly. Judy Holliday owed her persona to Carol who was a hit on stage and TV, but never in movies.

It seems the big screen could not contain her. It is reminiscent of Jimmy Durante, who also was too big for the film roles.

She knew everyone—and literally everyone who was someone came backstage to meet her in Hello Dolly—from Al Pacino to Elizabeth Taylor (pictured with Richard Burton).

She was a mimic, a raconteur, and comedian. She could sing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with originality because she made the song famous on stage in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—but the movie was always with someone else (Streisand, Monroe, etc.).

As a walking hyperbole, she was subject to female impersonation by drag queens. Once, with Rich Little, she was approached by a man who marveled at the best impersonation of Channing he had ever seen. He asked what he did in real life: never one to miss a beat, Carol said: “I’m a truck driver from Toledo, Ohio.”

Her first movie costar was Clint Eastwood! It was his first movie too, and they had a love scene which they rehearsed endlessly but was so bad that it ended up on the editing room floor.

This amazing documentary is filled with show biz nuggets and stunning old TV and stage clips. She missed one half of one stage performance in her entire life. Astounding lady.

Project Blue Book Wins Over Fans

DATELINE:  Skeptic Hynek?

blue book

Though skeptical originally, we have had a change of heart. With the latest episode, “Lubbock Lights,” we have become addicted to Project Blue Book.

So, we will stick around for all ten episodes. The latest, the third one, is set in 1951 when dozens of witnesses saw multi-lights in the sky—and suffered a few other abysmal effects.

The government under Dr. J. Allen Hynek turned it into a bird watching scene, claiming street lights on the underside of plovers caused the panic.

Suffice it to say, Hynek (Aiden Gillen impressing again) does not believe it, but he is at the mercy of a government coverup that is swamping reasonable doubt. The subplots of his insipid family may be the biggest drawback so far.

This episode features Don Keyhoe, the original advocate for flying saucers in his early books—telling how the agents under MJ-12 tried to intimidate him. The future promises deeper exposing of Werner Von Braun, among others.

And, again, the spit polish pain in the rumble seat is none other than handsome, rigid, and aggravating Michael Malarkey as Captain Quinn who is more interested in career advancement than truth-telling.

We are completely impressed with the use of sparse artifacts from the early 1950s, that give us such a sense of the era. It is well-done with emblematic details.

Once again, the coda for the show is the documentary images of the real people involved in the case—and how their testimony was lost in a disinformation picnic by your government.

Discovering Bigfoot: Standing Off

DATELINE: Devotee Snares Academic

meldrum Dr. Jeff Meldrum.

We are all for intriguing documentaries about conspiracy theory and crypto-zoology.  And, we love it when our favorite academics, like Ph.D., Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho, decides to partake of the antics.

In this case, the highly respected scientist and expert on Sasquatch seems to have been roped into Todd Standing’s self-promotion, self-directed, vanity project.

Standing may not have much academic standing, but that does not let him think any the less of himself. Indeed, we admire his courage to spend time out in the Northwest wilderness and be harassed by mysterious howling creatures in the night.

He stands alone in the dark whilst rocks are hurled at him and nine-foot tall things that go bump in the night threaten to bump into him. What courage!

He has even photographed these figures up close, and it is pretty amazing stuff. No wonder a bigwig like Doc Meldrum was drawn in. Alas, he must listen to the prattle and pushy stream of verbiage from his host. Standing cannot stand still, nor keep quiet.

He presses again and again to have his obsession validated.

We admire Meldrum’s self-control in face of the director’s out of control energy. Everything is kept in check by some of the strange videos presented. Watching apples disappear in the dark by unknown hands hardly proves it was Bigfoot.

There are also the large structures created by some force with superhuman strength. Whether these are signposts, religious totems, or warnings from Bigfoot, director Standing has the answer. Don’t contradict him.

We think this is a sincere effort to prove something is out there, and it is not extra-terrestrials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Magic Maker: Jack Pierce

DATELINE: Unsung Creative Force!

jack with lon jr Wolf Man Credit!

What a delicious untold story!  A Greek immigrant boy comes to Hollywood and his creative juices give us the most famous monster makeup creatures of 20th century movies. Check out Jack Pierce: Maker of Monsters.

Like all the people who came to Hollywood in its infancy, they were self-made and their artistic sense was equally applied to their own lives. Jack Pierce did it all—from stunts, to camera operator, to director, but found his niche in applying makeup to the stars.

When Lon Chaney bailed on playing Dracula, Jack was thwarted by Bela Lugosi who had his own ideas. However, it was on Frankenstein that he grew into legend, spending months researching how the creature should look. It led to a plethora of famous monsters: The Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, but he was head of Universal and worked on making beautiful women more stunning.

The Mummy makeup took 8 hours to apply and another hour to remove. If Karloff was uncomplaining, no wonder a friendship between them developed.

Pierce’s makeup effects often terrified the naïve audiences of the 1930s. He was Universal Studio’s master: responsible for all the horrors up to 1947. When they were about to gather all the monsters for a comedy, Abbot and Costello meet, Jack was fired, but his makeup style was maintained.

Later, a myth grew around Frankenstein that James Whale, director, created the face: not true. Karloff always gave credit to his friend, Pierce. You can thank the movie and book Gods and Monsters for the misinfo.

Always an actor at heart, Jack wore a lab coat in the makeup room, which certainly intimidated Elsa Lanchester, who was the Bride of the monster. She recalled it thirty years later in less than happy terms. Jack did Lon Chaney, Jr., as Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein, over the years. That too was not a good relationship.

If they needed a star to age from 30 to 80, Jack Pierce could make it happen for a generation. One of his last makeup jobs was for Mr. Ed, the talking horse, hired by his friend from Universal, Arthur Lubin.

When Jack died in 1969, almost no one from the movie world came to his funeral. Fascinating bio of a nearly forgotten figure of film history.

 

 

 

Oak Island, Another Week, Another Snail’s Pace

DATELINE: Getting Hands Dirty?

heartthrob alex lagina Alex Goes to Library.

We have come to realize that producers of The Curse of Oak Island will never cut to the chase.  They cut all right: after digging in mud, the treasure hunters suddenly have clean hands and clean clothes every time.

Alex Lagina never dirties his hands. He went to the library this week.

As for the chase, it has something to do with following a snail at his own self-contained pace.  And, the latest episode of the series, now in its sixth year, and tenth episode, indicated to us that it is written by the same formula that gave us As the World Turns, or Another World.

We have a soap opera here that meanders and takes a spurt of action, digests it for weeks, and then crawls onward.

On top of that, we realized again how much you have to trust the insights of the “heroes,” in this case, the Lagina Brothers. They are reasonable if not plodding. This week another “new” worker found a stone with hieroglyphs on it that the team has apparently not noticed after walking past it for years.

Call in the radar people who shoot it with red laser lights and will get back to us.

It may mean that you can add the Vikings to the Knights Templar and the Romans, to the original Captain Kidd, as visitors to Oak Island. We aren’t sure if the place was sort of a historical bank vault where you might come to make a deposit or take out a loan.

In any respect, we have noticed this season that there are dozens of background workers milling about, and huge areas of excavation. Please don’t keep selling us that this is a “mom and pop” friendly treasure hunt.

We are feeling the signs that the summer is almost over on Oak Island, and the kids will have to go back to school soon. Nephew Peter is already gone. Alex Lagina is here for a couple of weekends, and the show is likely to hang us up to dry for another season.

We see new structures in the mud at Smith’s Cove, but we remain the only one with clean hands.

Brooklyn Bridge to Serve as Mexican Border Wall

DATELINE:  Trump’s New Solution!

untitled

In the great tradition of American business, President Donald Trump will follow in the footsteps of Mae West and Bugs Bunny and will sell shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. He believes that, if enough Republicans buy shares, they can charge Democrats a large fee to use it.

At the least, he believes the Bridge can be shut down to keep undesirables out of Manhattan. He believes most of those who use the Brooklyn Bridge are illegal immigrants.

The idea was said to be floated by Sean Hannity and Lindsay Graham at a dinner with the President who noted during dessert of Baked Alaska about furloughed government workers: “Let them eat cake.”

Trump tweeted that “Number A, this is a great idea with a chance to make a huge profit for the American people.”  Trump went out to cite the purchase of the London Bridge by American investors some years ago. They moved it to Arizona.

Trump believes this is a template for the latest effort to take the Brooklyn Bridge, stone by stone, and move it to the Mexican border. Trump believes this will kill two birds with one stone.

Sean Hannity reportedly told the President that the Brooklyn Bridge was a boondoggle, built by corrupt Democrats and that his legacy will be affirmed when he tears down the bridge and makes it bigger than the Berlin Wall.

 

 

Watership Upside Down in Bugsy Demeanor?

DATELINE: Hare-brained cartoons?

Watership Down Bugs & Daffy, or B’rer Rabbits?

Two movies about rabbits we have seen recently are cartoons. Of course, by today’s high-falutin’ standards, they are now called ‘animation’. Watership Down, based on a children’s book, is a think-piece, now remade with a couple of big-name Brit stars.

The other film we saw was a compilation of Bugs Bunny cartoons from the Golden Age of 1942-43. The gulf between these two film works transcends streaming DVD and enters the realm of unreal hare-brains.

Stars Nick Hoult and James MacAvoy have definite chemistry as actors together, as B’rer Rabbits, in Watership Down. They play the voices of Hazel and Fiver. You may not see it, but you can surely hear their rapport.

The new version of the animated story has shown up as a Netflix movie series. Unlike Disney animation, in which characters can be distinguished, this film has a bunch of hares and bunny rabbits that are clones. After a while, we are trying to determine accents and vocalizations to tell if we are listening to Nick Hoult or James McAvoy.

We love both actors, and that’s the long and short of it.

We also do not love four hours of animation to tell a story. Alas, even broken into 4 episodic chunks tested our mettle. On the other hand, the eight Warner Brothers cartoons are about six minutes each. They are also racist, filled with fat hatred, and feature Bugs in drag often, but can’t end soon enough.

Though Warner cartoons are claimed to be highly restored, they grow increasingly unwatchable as color fades and clarity blurs. On the other hand, you can see every fur-laced lash of the hares of the new animation in Watership, if you really care enough.

The Biblical tones and literary pretensions of one are undercut in the other’s attempt to play down to Brooklyn rabbit accents and fat Elmer Fudd. Yes, Fudd has not yet gone on a diet in these early films—and even wears a corset in two cartoons.

If there is a big difference in the films, one has personality unleashed, and the other is less brash.

We may find that in each lesson it may be that teachable moments are less successful in cartoon form. It undercuts and underscores at the same time. However, in the age of superheroes and Marvel Comics, we suspect this is the new Dickensian epic-style.

We’d just like to see Hoult and McAvoy in human form. Give us a real movie please.

Handy Guide to Space Probes

 DATELINE:  Curiosity Merges with Probability

pluto Plutonian Shores?

If you are interested in seeing all the photos from landings on planets in this solar system, or just the close-up flybys of moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc., you will find that Curiosity Stream offering a big treat: Space Probes.

Their little miniseries is a mere six episodes, averaging around 20 to 25 minutes each. It offers an intriguing history of space exploration for sixty years by means of probe missions.

All the photos of planets and moons are handily together under the umbrellas of their locations:  the inner hellish planets, the red rovers, giants and their moons, as well as Pluto.

With the recent landing of a new rover on Mars—and on January 1st of another New Explorer flyby of a planetoid beyond Pluto, you may want to catch up on the variety and development of the science.

Mostly this is a NASA show (and we are irked by how many nowadays fail to realize that NASA is an all-cap acronym).

Only the episode on Venus really give any credit to the Russians and their dogged and intrepid series of landers on the Venutian surface. They even sent a balloon to sail around the atmosphere.

Yet, it is the cute Mars rovers, gradually increasing in size and sophistication that are truly anthropomorphic.

We were fascinated with the landing on Titan with its lakes of methane and pictures. And, the geysers of the Jovian moons with their frozen oceans is always a treat.

So, we commend Space Probes from Curiosity Stream for making it possible to have a capsulated series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with God, or Delusions?

DATELINE: God Squad

God

Chitchat with angels or devils are common movies themes, but  few films actually depict God deigning to share their deity. The latest movie to try this is Interview with God. Don’t confuse this with that TV show about God friending someone.

We think of angels in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, or devils in The Seventh Seal.  Usually, God has been less willing to show up unless it is in some Bible movie.

Without John Huston or Orson Welles to play God, you may feel that anyone else is just an interloper in the wind. The hook is what questions to ask God in conversation. How trite it becomes.

As God, David Strathairn is a respected actor of serious note and he fills the shoes of the role. His silver hair glistens, and his gray suit is tailored. This God is 21st century chic

God chooses to meet with a journalist who suffers post-traumatic stress from serving in Afghanistan. Writers are always a bad bet. He also refuses to acknowledge he has a problem.  The addiction/problem du jour used to be alcohol, or gambling, or sex. Now it’s bad war-time memories.

Brenton Thwaites is exasperating and self-centered, and he looks the part.

The main character Paul Asher is editor of a “religious” newspaper thrilled with the idea of having God in an exclusive interview, even if it is fantastical. However, it is no joke to the poor writer, though others may think he is deluded.

God seems irksome in this film, coy about his answers and trying not to be flashy. He has arrived, it appears, to tell compelling actor Brenton Thwaites’ journalist that he has run out of time and better shape up.

The adorable Australian actor makes for a cute New Yorker on his bike, dangerously careening the streets, almost ready to die out of disregard for safety.

We were ready to buy into this movie but found ourselves cast back to college teaching days when creative writing classes were filled with scripts like this. We were reminded how all too often these bad ideas were lauded as “serious” literature.

This movie probably demands more support because “important” films are too far and few between. We only wish God actors like Huston and Welles were still around to give a movie like this true gravitas, if not credibility.