Ruckus or First Blood

 

Here is the plot for a movie:

Kyle Hanson is a Vietnam veteran whose traumatic war-time experiences have left him unable to rejoin mainstream society. When Kyle, unkempt and in dirty fatigues, stops in a small town for some food, the local bullies can’t wait for an opportunity to harass him. After Kyle uses his Special Forces training to escape the bullies, he becomes the subject of a community-wide manhunt. Only Jenny Bellows, a local girl whose husband was declared missing in action in Vietnam, is willing to give Kyle a chance.first blood

You may be thinking that it’s the movie, First Blood, only all the character names are different, but you’d be wrong. It’s actually the plot listed for the movie Ruckus, made in 1980, two years before First Blood was released. Just to share the plot of First Blood as listed on IMDB.com:

John Rambo is a Vietnam Veteran, winner of the Medal of Honour for serving his country in the Vietnam war and the last surviving member of the unit he was in. Rambo arrives in a small town, where he is arrested by the abusive local Sheriff Will Teasle for refusing to leave town. Rambo is mistreated and he relives his painful memories of being tortured in a prison camp, which goes too far and Rambo escapes from police custody. Rambo is pursued by Teasle and the local police into the woods and Rambo begins a personal war with Teasle, and uses his combat skills and hunts down Teasle and his men. Rambo’s former commanding officer Colonel Samuel Trautman arrives believing Teasle and his men don’t stand a chance with Rambo, and tries to put Rambo’s personal war to a end, as Teasle wants Rambo dead.

Now the history may go back even further than that. First Blood was originally written by David Morell and published in 1972. He started the book in 1968. In 1972, Morrell sold the film rights to First Blood to Columbia Pictures, who in turn sold them to Warner Bros. This trend continued for ten years. The story passed through three companies and eighteen screenplays. Finally, Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar, two film distributors looking to become producers, obtained the film rights.Morrell_First_Blood

Now during the development time of 10 years, word of mouth on productions can spread and several competing projects at various studios can begin based on similar ideas or the same idea or subject. That’s pretty common and as long as the same script is not used, it’s not usually a problem or a copyright issue, as you can’t copy an idea, just a script or novel or treatment can be copyrighted. But similar elements pop up all the time in the movies.  Just look at 3 movies all released in 1989 by different studios that all have similar elements:

Leviathan:  An American deep-sea mining colony stumbles upon a sunken Soviet vessel hiding a horrific secret.

Deep Star Six:  At the bottom of the ocean, the DeepStar Six has just discovered a new and deadly alien menace.

The Abyss:  A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.Max KLeven

Now, in the case of Ruckus, the man behind the picture is Max Kleven, a stuntman/second unit director of over 25 years at this point with work on movies such as Rollerball, Silver Streak, Charlie Varrick, Never a Dull Moment, just to mention a small few and TV Series such as Star Trek and Streets of San Francisco, and many more. He wrote and directed the film Ruckus and it was his first film as director and was produced by independent production company International Vision and distributed by Indie favorite New World Pictures. It was the only film produced by International Vision, which tells me the company was probably formed to produce this one film only, which is very common in independent filmmaking.ruckus

Now the APEX of where the two meet, could have been F.I.S.T. (1978), which just happens to have been written and starring non-other than Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote the screenplay and stars in First Blood. Max Kleven was the Stunt Coordinator for F.I.S.T. and was looking to move over into directing his first film. Now I’m not sure if David Morell’s book was on the set somewhere and both happened to see it, or if either Max or Sylvester was having discussions with each other or other people regarding the book or the idea or what, I’m not sure, but there seems to have been something that happened somewhere to give each an idea that culminated in their two films.ruckus dirk benedict

Regardless, Max Kleven made it to the screen first. He hired an actor straight off a huge TV Series, Battlestar Gallactica, Dirk Benedict and an actress famous for The Exorcist and was deemed as a young up-and-comer, Linda Blair and even hired an ex-stuntman Richard Farnsworth (in fact I write about him as a stuntman for the movie Wells Fargo HERE) in a key role, who was nominated for an Oscar for acting in 1978 for Comes A Horseman.  All the elements seemed to indicate this could be a BIG hit, but it wasn’t! There was a key element missing and that element simply was Sylvester Stallone. I liked Ruckus and saw the film in theaters when I was a child. My brother and I enjoyed it very much, but it’s no First Blood. First Blood is amazing and became the standard in a slew of films that would come after.first_blood

A lot of people have thought over the years that since Ruckus came out first that First Blood ripped it off, but with the extra knowledge about David Morrell and the fact that both screenwriters were key members on F.I.S.T., I would have to say that First Blood has a case that they were the ones ripped off. Now if Ruckus had been a HIT, I’m sure they would have gone after them in court, but since it wasn’t and they moved forward with their own production and became the big HIT, then I think it all worked out. With this said, Ruckus is a fun little film and should be watched if you get the chance.firstblood sylvester stallone

Just a side note, in his commentary, author David Morell cites the inspiration for John Rambo as being World War 2 hero and later Hollywood actor Audie Murphy. We have another great blog post about him here.

 

 

Top 15 Romantic Comedies of the 90’s

 

If you are like me, you are probably missing the good old romantic comedies we used to have. All we ever seem to get are gross out comedies or sleazy rated R comedies these days. I was thinking back and I think I enjoyed the romantic comedies of the 1990’s the best! Granted that was when I was dating the most and is also when I fell in love and got married, so it’s a very distinctive period of wonderful courtship and romance in my life. It seemed to be a perfect time for rom-coms.

Now, with that said, my list would probably be different than your list! Right off the start, you’ll probably be wondering why Pretty Woman didn’t make my list at all and wondering why some films did, but that’s the wonderful things about lists…they are versatile. (Just to answer that question in your head, I just didn’t like Pretty Woman, that’s all, it was a fine film, just not one of my favorite’s for top 15, that’s all.) Now, this list is supposed to get your mind thinking about your favorites and maybe discovering a few new films you probably just never got around to watching.  If that’s the case, then I’ve done my job effectively.

15. Clueless (1995)clueless

A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m going to tell you a secret only my family knows…I’m a huge Jane Austen fan…OK, I admit it. I’m a sucker for the movies that have been adapted from her courtship novels and I love it when one gets the modern treatment. Directed by Amy Heckerling and starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, it’s a fun little movie. This movie had a cleverly written screenplay that included a wide array of completely made up lingo. One of the promotional items distributed to tie-in with the film was a booklet called How to Speak Cluelessly; in it was a lexicon of many of the invented terms used for the Clueless world (some of which became part of real teen lingo at the time). An example: a Baldwin is a very handsome male, as in the famous sibling actors.

14.  Defending Your Life (1991)defend

This is an incredibly creative film about the after-life. Written and Directed by Albert Brooks and starring Albert and Meryl Streep, it’s a great examination of a person’s life and it carries with it the idea that life and especially LOVE carries over with us. It struck me very hard when I first watched in and I instantly fell in love with Albert and Meryl’s characters.

13.  I Love Trouble (1994)I_Love_Trouble_1994

I’m a huge fan of the films of Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer, and will run out to see one of their films the day they come out. This one was a box office bomb for some strange reason, and I just love it. It reminds me of the old Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn movies with Nick Nolte in the Tracy role and Julia Roberts in the Hepburn role. Truth-be-told, they both do a good job in this movie, but Roberts definitely steals the show.  She’s mesmerizing in this. Roberts and Nolte reportedly did not get along throughout filming, although I don’t think you can tell with the final result. Roberts later described Nolte as “disgusting” whereas Nolte said she was “not a nice person.” Roberts disliked Nolte’s macho act, and was not shy or polite about letting him know. He, in turn, began deliberately engaging in it to piss her off. Regardless, neither one of them ever worked together again.

12.  Doc Hollywood (1991)Doc_Hollywood-1991

I wonder how many movie posters show Michael J. Fox pulling his sunglasses down…that’s like his signature move. This film was directed by Michael Canton-Jones and stars Michael J. Fox and Julie Warner.  I thought this movie was awesome, but it comes with a caveat…although it’s rate PG-13, it does have full-frontal nudity by Julie Warner when she walks out of the lake. It seems out of place for a light romantic comedy, to be honest. In this movie, Fox stars as a Doctor who gets into a car accident on his way through town and is forced into staying and working as the town Doctor.

11.  Housesitter (1992)

Housesitter : Original Cinema Quad Poster

Great movie directed by none-other than Miss Piggy’s alter-ego, Frank Oz and stars Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. I love these two actors and when you get them both together…magic. They loved working together so much they found another project years later by remaking the Neil Simon hit, The Out-of-Towners (1999). In this one she plays a con-artist that takes over his home.

10. Don’t Tell Her it’s Me (aka The Boyfriend School) (1990)

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This is one of those films that appear on lists, that blow people’s minds. It had a very small theatrical release originally and then my brother and I found it on HBO late at night when we were in college and completely loved it.  We called it the best straight-to-HBO movie we ever saw, for years…before HBO started to produce their own stuff of course. It’s definitely a HIDDEN GEM, if you’ve never had the chance to see it. Directed by Malcolm Mowbray and stars Steve Guttenberg and Jami Gertz, it was originally released under the great song featured in the opening credits, but then changed later on video to the original source novel title. Guttenberg plays a guy who just survives cancer, only to find that he has let himself go and needs help making him more desirable to women. He recruits his romance author sister, Shelley Long, to help him get the girl of his dreams. Perfect setup for a rom-com.

9. The Cutting Edge (1992)

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This film doesn’t hold up as well over time, just simply due to the fact that neither actor does their own skating and there is a cheesy and fake ice skating trick they use to win the whole competition, BUT– with that said, the chemistry between Moira Kelly and D. B. Sweeney is awesome and so much fun to watch.  The true joy in this movie is seeing these two actors go head to head. That’s why it makes my list. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky in the original Starsky and Hutch!

8. Runaway Bride (1999)

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Ok, yes, I like this film waaaaay more than Pretty Woman…I just do, okay? Same cast and crew, different characters and storyline. Directed by Garry Marshall and starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Also, this is the second time Julia Roberts has a movie on this list (but not the last). Let’s be honest, we’re talking the 90’s…where Julia Roberts was queen of the rom-coms…but they were so good. This one is about a woman who runs away from several weddings, and then tries to avoid a reporter who comes to town to do a story about her.

7.  You’ve Got Mail (1998)YouveGotMail

This movie is a remake of the fantastic Jimmy Stewart movie, The Shop Around The Corner, but written and directed by the incredible Nora Ephron. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who own competing bookstores, in the same block. Ryan’s store is named The Shop Around the Corner, the two main characters are latter day (mail) and present day (email) “pen pals”; they both know they are falling in love with their respective pen pals; when the man realizes who the woman really is, he pursues her, but is not sure the love match will work; in the end, they find they belong together. It’s cute.

6.  While You Were Sleeping (1995)whileyouweresleeping

This is the first movie that put Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, and for years there was a race to see who would become the queen of the romantic comedies between Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Sandra…in the end I think it’s a tie between Sandra and Julia. Directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman, the film is about a woman who pretends to be the fiancee of a man in a coma. It’s a charming movie and I just realized that it’s set around Christmastime. It’s alarming how many movies on this list are set around Christmas, it’s a romantic time of year, I guess.

5.  Sleepless in Seattle (1993)sleeplessinseattleposter

Another Nora Ephron movie and it also is with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The 2nd of 3 movies that Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron did together the 3rd one being When Harry Met Sally, which was directed by Rob Reiner.  Rob Reiner plays Tom Hanks best friend in this movie. All around great people to be making movies with.  Sleepless in Seattle is about a recently widowed man whose son goes on a radio talk show to try and find his dad a new wife. The premise that the two lead characters meet at the Empire State Building comes from the Cary Grant Deborah Kerr movie An Affair To Remember. That film made another list of the top 15 for me, The Top 15 Cary Grant Movies. 

4. Speechless (1994)speechless

This was another bomb when it came out to the theatres, but is such a good movie. Directed by Ron Underwood and starring Gena Davis and Michael Keaton, and is about two opposing speech writer’s during an election. The main reason to like this movie is because Keaton truly rocks in it.  He’s extremely funny and charming in this movie.  I think it’s my favorite of all of his movies…and that’s saying a lot because he’s done a lot of fun movies. It also has Christopher Reeve in it and he’s always great to watch as well…it’s strange to think that around this time they were both still portraying Superman and Batman respectively and if they were to do a Justice League together it would have made for a highly entertaining movie. Gena Davis is tall and good enough to have played Wonder Woman back then, what do you think?

3.  The American President (1995)the-american-president

I keep wanting to yell out, “I Love That Movie, ” as I write this blog. I have to keep telling myself, you know that, afterall you are reading my top 15 list. This one is directed by Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, and is about a US President and a lobbyist dating while he is in the White House. This one is written by the amazing Aaron Sorkin. I rewatch this movie quite a bit and it’s a little sad every time I do, as Michael Douglas doesn’t actually act or impersonate any President that’s ever been in office and yet he personifies the perfect President that we have all always wanted in real life.

2.  Tin Cup (1996)tincup-movie-post

Is this a sports movie or a romantic comedy? Why, it’s a bit of both! It’s about a failed golf pro that hires a psychiatrist to help him qualify for the US Open. It’s directed by Ron Shelton and stars Kevin Costner and Rene Russo.  Kevin Costner is very good in this and was always a pretty good athlete in his own right.  A lot of the shots in the movie of his character playing golf is really Costner, playing golf. The scene at the end of the movie where Roy hits the shot into the water hazard again and again was based on an actual event. Gary McCord, the commentator with the handlebar mustache in the movie, is an actual commentator and pro golfer. In a 1987 tournament he had a shot similar to Kevin Costner’s. He needed a birdie to win and went for it. He hit the water over and over again and finally made the shot, but it cost him 15 strokes. In the movie Costner gets it in 12. The scene where Roy wins a bar bet by hitting a golf ball at a pelican also was based on a real life incident from McCord’s career.

1.  Notting Hill (1999)nottinghill

My favorite romantic comedy of the 90’s.  Directed by Roger Michell and stars Julia Roberts (again) and Hugh Grant. It’s about a quiet travel book story owner who meets and falls in love with the most famous film star in the world.  Roberts and Grant are wonderful together. Hugh Grant got to play in a movie opposite Sandra Bullock a few years later, so Win/Win for him. Now all he has to do is find a way to get in there with Meg Ryan to get the trifecta…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunt Families: The Canutts

 

Everyone in the Industry seems to include legendary stuntman and action director, Yakima Canutt as a founding father of the American Stunt System that we have in place today. He helped create the systems, procedures and policies that keep stunt men and women safely working and producing some of the finest moments ever shot on film over the last 100 years.  Republic Pictures director William Witney said of him, “There will probably never be another stuntman who can compare to Yakima Canutt. He had been a world champion cowboy several times and where horses were concerned he could do it all. He invented all the gadgets that made stunt work easier. One of his clever devices was a step that attached to the saddle so that he had leverage to transfer to another moving object, like a wagon or a train. Another was the “shotgun,” a spring-loaded device used to separate the tongue of a running wagon from the horses, thus cutting the horses loose. It also included a shock cord attached to the wagon bed, which caused wheels to cramp and turn the wagon over on the precise spot that was most advantageous for the camera.”Yakima Canutt

In the book, Falling: How Our Greatest Fear Became Our Greatest Thrill, Garrett Soden describes that time like this, “In the five years between 1925 and 1930, fifty-five people were killed making movies, and more than ten thousand injured. By the late 1930s, the maverick stuntman willing to do anything for a buck was disappearing. Now under scrutiny, experienced stunt men began to separate themselves from amateurs by building special equipment, rehearsing stunts, and developing new techniques.” Through the years, Yakima and his fellow stunt performers were hurt and some killed, so several leaders in the Industry, including Yakima started to develop safer ways of doing things and started to create a lot of the new tools of the trade.Tap Canutt

In 1940, he started to direct the action on several pictures and a new role behind the camera was created.  That of the Action Director, which eventually became the Second Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator positions. He trained and organized his own set of stunt performers which he could count on to do the stunts safely and properly and they included his two sons Edward “Tap” Canutt and Harry Joe Canutt. Tap and Joe would become crucial elements in the stunt industry in their own right and would perform stunts in some of the biggest epics and films of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, which included, Ben Hur, El Cid, Ivanhoe, Spartacus, Knights of the Round Table, King Richard and the Crusaders, Swiss Family Robinson, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Khartoum, Where Eagles Dare and so many others.Joe Canutt

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

David Tomlinson, Go Fly a Kite

 

Now here’s an actor, I never fully thought ever got his due. He was utterly brilliant in several films, mostly Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and The Love Bug for Disney, but also a few others. He played the foil in so many of these films, and was so believable and real that he was never fully embraced for his contribution for the success of these films. For these films to be as successful as they were they had to have a bad guy that was convincing and despicable. He could come off as slimy and snooty and arrogant, and so much of it was so totally opposite of his true lovable persona off-screen.david-tomlinson-8

Of the more than 50 motion pictures he appeared in during his career, however, his most popular role was as the rigid and positively clueless father George Banks in Mary Poppins. As Ed Weiner wrote in TV Guide, “Of all the movie moments we hold dear from childhood and revisit most often with our children on video, Tomlinson as a changed and suddenly life-loving George Banks happily singing ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ is one of the sweetest.” Tomlinson also voices several of the animated characters that Bert and Mary Poppins encounter in the chalk drawing, including a penguin waiter and the jockey who allows Mary Poppins to pass on her carousel horse. He also voices the Parrot Umbrella Handle at the end of the movie.  Robert Stevenson who directed Mary Poppins, liked working with Tomlinson so much that he cast him in two more of his movies; The Love Bug (1968) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).David in The Love Bug

Tomlinson was a generous and gregarious man by nature and had some famous life-long friends, like Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers and David performed in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu and David brought out the best in Sellers. He said of him, “The only person I want to see is David,” Sellers remarked in hospital shortly before his death. This was the last film for both of them as David would retire and was only seen on the stage after that. Another friend, Griff Rhys Jones said of him, “His was an act, a good one, supplemented by an outrageous baby face and upswept eyebrows. The reality was a sympathetic and understanding man. He was as funny off as he was on, which was invariably very funny indeed.”Davd-Tomlinson-Bedknobs-and-Broomsticks

Craig Brown also tells a great story about Tomlinson, “Many years later, I became friends with David Tomlinson, the marvellous English character actor who played Mr Banks. We were once having lunch in a crowded restaurant with David, when our little son asked him if he would sing: Let’s Go Fly A Kite. Without hesitating, David, who was then in his late 70s, launched in to a hearty rendition at the very top of his voice. The restaurant came to a standstill. When he came to an end, everyone burst into applause.”

Read more about Mary Poppins from Craig Brown: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2111741/When-Mary-Poppins.html#ixzz4CE52227E

 

Kenneth Mars, Brilliant Comedic Mind

 

Most people would probably recognize Kenneth Mars as the voice of King Triton in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. My brother and I loved him in What’s Up, Doc? as the Croatian Musicologist Hugh Simon. He was a brilliant comedic mind and had a flair for strange foreign accents. He was very versatile and had great parts in the movies, on TV, on Broadway and as a voice-over actor. He racked up over 200 credits before cancer took him in 2011.

To list his “must-see” films, I would definitely go to his big 3; The Producers (1967), What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and Young Frankenstein (1974) . In the Producers, the role of Franz Liebkind was originally given to Dustin Hoffman, but he eventually declined when he got the part of Benjamin in The Graduate (1967). Brooks only allowed Hoffman the chance to go off to the audition for the film because his wife (Anne Bancroft) was in it, and Brooks was familiar enough with the role of Benjamin to know Hoffman was utterly wrong for it (as written) and would never be cast. Great bit of luck for Kenneth Mars who inherited the role and even better luck for us, who got to watch him be utterly brilliant in it.  He was so good, Gene Wilder wondered if Kenneth Mars really was crazy throughout filming and not just acting because of some of his antics.Kenneth Mars the producers

I think it takes a special director comfortable with letting the performers loose during comedy that can bring out the best in some people.  Mel Brooks definitely had that ability. Another is Peter Bogdanovich, who directed Kenneth in What’s Up, Doc?. He was given the freedom on that film to completely make up a fake foreign language.  Much of Hugh Simon’s “foreign” language was Mars’ made-up interpretation of Serbo-Croatian, director Peter Bogdanovich’s native language. He was also a brilliant improviser. According to Peter Bogdanovich on the dvd commentary, the line ” I would like to say I love your hair”, spoken by Mars was improvised.Kenneth mars and Whats up doc

He would work again with Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein as the German Inspector Kemp. The movie has so many good actors (like Cloris Leachman, Gene Hackman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman and Peter Boyle) that nearly steal the scenes they are in, and Kenneth was no different. He’s fantastic. Interesting to note that he had strange accents in all of these movies, and after this third one, was known as the actor who could do foreign dialects, even though he made up most of the foreign languages and accents he did.kenneth mars and young frankenstein

Kenneth would go on to do over 30 years on TV and doing voices for a ton of cartoons.  In my opinion he was under-utilized over the years, even with over 200 credits. He was that good.

George Reeves, The Death of Superman

 

There was a lot of mystery surrounding the death of Superman, actor George Reeves in June 16th of 1959. He died in the middle of the night of a single gunshot to the head in the bedroom of his home in Benedict Canyon. Some say it was murder, some say it was an accident, some say it was suicide.  Removing all the hype and guesswork created by the media, here is the actual story by the person closest to him who was there in the house when it happened.george reeves

Now, to start, you have to understand George’s background, leading up to the event. For 12 years George Reeves was a struggling actor with few credits before he was cast as Superman for TV’s Adventures of Superman. The TV show became an instant hit nationwide and made George Reeves a household name, but it came with a caveat. George would be forever typecast by the role and would struggle up until his death to find other roles. No one would hire him, saying they didn’t need, “Superman” for the role. This was especially troubling for George as he was making very little money playing Superman and doing personal appearances and was really hoping that the show would be a springboard for bigger and better productions.  This was not to be as he was turned away, time and time again.Leonore Lemmon

He tried opening up his own production company but was never able to find funding for several projects.  This was very depressing for him.  After a failed marriage with Ellanora Needles  and an affair with Toni Mannix, who was married to MGM Studio Executive Eddie Mannix, he felt he wasn’t going anywhere and didn’t have much to look forward to in the future.  In 1958 he met a society girl named Leonore Lemmon and was set to marry her on June 19th a year later… but died 3 days before.  Now here’s her version of what happened that night, very quick…

They had just gotten home from having dinner with another couple, Carol Van Ronkel and Bob Condon. Carol was married to another man, Rip Van Ronkel and she was cheating on him with Bob. They all got to George’s house and Carol and Bob retired to the guest bedroom and George and Leonore retired to his room. Leonore tried to make a move with George, but she says he rejected her.  He wasn’t mean or anything and she really didn’t think anything of it. She couldn’t sleep so she went downstairs.Reeves Newspaper

The patio light was usually left on, but she noticed that George had turned it off and so she absent-mindedly turned it back on. It was about midnight at this time. Bill Bliss was driving by, seeing the light and thinking that everyone was still up, knocked on the door and Leonore let him in. They had a few drinks when they heard a gunshot from upstairs.  Not really knowing what it was, flippantly Leonore said, “Ahh, that George there, probably going to shoot himself…” Then a few minutes later after some thought, she got a little nervous and asked Bill to go check on George and see what the hell he was doing.reeves death certificate

Bill went upstairs and found George naked, laying back on the bed, with a gunshot to his head.  The gun had fallen between his feet.  He went downstairs and told Leonore, who got Carol and Bob out of the guest bedroom and dressed. Leonore called a lifelong friend, Polly Adler, to come and help get Bob home because she did not want to have to tell Carol’s husband that she was there fooling around. She also called Gwen Carter to come over.  Gwen Carter went upstairs and made sure that Leonore would not see the body, she also grabbed all the bedding from off the bed and threw it into the shower, so that the mess was minimal. This caused problems for police and some of the newspapers took this as a sign of foul play.

The police was finally called and came and interviewed Bill and Leonore and took the body to the morgue. After a lengthy autopsy the method of death was determined a suicide by self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The police file was closed.george_reeves_toni_mannix

Leonore went back home to her apartment in New York. She never married and she never moved away from New York again.  All of this information was given to Lou Koza in an interview in May 1989.  She died 6 months later.  I believe it to be the real story. Leonore never had anything to benefit from George’s death and I think the love triangle between him and Toni Mannix and Eddie Mannix is all just supposition as that affair had ended over a year before. Eddie Mannix would die 4 years later and Toni Mannix would live 20 more years until 1983.  She also would never marry again.

Cary Grant’s Top 15 Movies

 

You’ll be surprised at what I rank as the top Cary Grant movie! Let’s get that out of the way, right up front. You should also know that he’s my favorite actor, so I love most of his movies. It’s really hard to come up with his best, so I’ll for-go that and only pick my favorites of all of his films. I also may have nostalgic reasons behind some of my picks, but as time goes by, those types of things really play into our favorites don’t they? Like who we watched it with, what was going on in our lives when we saw it, how did it make us feel, and so on and so on.

15.  Gunga Din

Grant, Cary (Gunga Din)

There are really two storylines here, the first one is based on Rudyard Kipling’s short stories of The Soldiers Three and is the reason why the movie made my list. The second  storyline is based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem Gunga Din and is the reason this movie almost didn’t make my list. The poem is about a boy and would have made for a great movie, if the role was not played by a 47-YEAR OLD WHITE MAN (Sam Jaffe). The two storylines mingle pretty well overall, it’s just really annoying to see this old man playing a boy.

14.  An Affair To RememberAn-Affair-To-Remember

Of course you can thank Sleepless in Seattle for an awareness to this movie to my generation in the 80’s…but it’s such a great movie, it was bound to have a resurgence. This is a remake of Love Affair, both directed by Leo McCarey, and is superior to the first film in a lot of ways, but in part due to the fact that Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr was given the freedom of improvisation during filming and many of the new lines made it into the final cut.  Cary Grant was a brilliant improviser.

13.  Holidayholiday

At about this time, I realized that Katherine Hepburn had actually several successful on-screen pairings with other actors, other than Spencer Tracy, and one of these was with Cary Grant. They are magnificent together and would go on to appear in four movies together. One of the things I remember about this movie is the flip that Cary Grant does at the end of the movie.  It was one of the only times that his background as an acrobat is ever seen on-screen in his movies. This list could also be a celebration of the writer Donald Ogden Stewart, as 3 of his movies make this list as he wrote Love Affair, Holiday and The Philadelphia Story.

12.  Houseboathouseboat-cary-grant-sophia-loren

I won’t talk a lot about this film, as I enjoyed it, when I first saw it. It’s tainted a bit over time when I learned about all the cheating that was going on behind the scenes. You can read up on that somewhere else. It’s ironic, really, when you think of all the fantastic family films that the director Melville Shavelson is famous for. Films like Yours, Mine and Ours, Room For One More (also starring Cary Grant and then wife, Betsy Drake, but doesn’t make my list), Trouble Along the Way (which I mention in a previous blog post), The Seven Little Foys, and The Five Pennies.

11.  Operation Petticoat

Operation_Petticoat_poster

Great movie directed by Blake Edwards and also starring Tony Curtis!  Some of the plot points of the movie are based on real incidents in WWII. The original actor chosen to play the role Cary Grant took was Bob Hope, but he turned it down and later really regretted it.

10.  My Favorite WifeDunne, Irene (My Favorite Wife)

This is just a really fun movie directed by Garson Kanin and co-starring Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. Randolph Scott and Cary Grant were roommates for 12 years when they first arrived in Hollywood. This is their first and only movie together. Irene Dunne acted in 3 movies with Cary. They are a great pair and I could have easily added their other two movies to this list but one movie is really sad and the subject matter of the other is just not one of my preferences, but both movies were very good. Penny Serenade and The Awful Truth. My Favorite Wife was remade in 1963 as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and James Garner. I really like that version as well.

9.  Father GooseFatherGoose

This is Cary’s second to last film and by all accounts his character is supposedly the closest to his real personality. He later said that he enjoyed making this movie as he got to be the “Father” to a group of young girls and it made him realize that he missed out on fatherhood. He and wife Diane Cannon would have his own daughter just 2 years later, Jennifer Grant. he would stay in touch with many of the girls over the years as they grew up and had families of their own. He was an incredibly devoted father and retired soon after Jennifer was born so that he could spend his remaining years with her. He would go on to say that she was his “best” production.

8.  I Was a Male War Bridei-was-a-male-war-bride

My mother introduced this one to me one afternoon when I came to visit her and we spent the day just laughing all the way through it. Especially when Ann Sheridan makes Cary Grant climb a pole to read a sign at the top of it just to realize that the sign says, “Wet Paint”. Directed by Howard Hawks, this film was pretty popular when it came out, but virtually forgotten over time. The film grossed over $4.5 million, making it 20th Century Fox’s biggest earner of 1949. The film was also Howard Hawks’ 3rd highest grosser, behind only Sergeant York (1941) and Red River (1948).

7.  To Catch a ThiefCary-Grant-in-To-Catch-a-Thief

One of two directed by Alfred Hitchcock that made my list.  I love it when Cary’s improvisations make reference to his past, as one does in this film. Cary’s role of John Robie, mentions that as a youth he was in a trapeze group that traveled around Europe. In real life, Cary was in an acrobatic troupe that toured around Europe (and eventually came to America) when he was young.  This movie also features Grace Kelly in the on-screen’s only pairing, but they have incredible chemistry.

6.  The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxerbobbysox

This movie is so fun, in part to a just-about-grown-up Shirley Temple (who’s fabulous as usual) but more so because of the fantastic Myrna Loy, who has become a favorite actress of mine over the years.  Directed by Irving Reis and written by Sydney Sheldon (creator of TV’s The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie and Hart To Hart), it’s a great little film that has really gone unnoticed as of the last couple of decades.

5.  North By NorthwestNorth-by-Northwest

The top 5 will make sense to most except my number 1 choice is sure to be confusing to most.  But this one would make just about everyone’s top 5.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better thriller than this one. Great supporting cast with Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau. Cary Grant found the screenplay baffling, and midway through filming told Alfred Hitchcock, “It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture and I still can’t make head or tail of it!” Hitchcock knew this confusion would only help the film-after all, Grant’s character had no idea what was going on, either. Grant thought the film would be a flop right up until its premiere, where it was rapturously received. As a side note, a panel of fashion experts convened by GQ in 2006 said the gray suit worn by Cary Grant throughout almost the entire film was the best suit in film history, and the most influential on men’s style, stating that it has since been copied for Tom Cruise’s character in Collateral (2004) and Ben Affleck’s character in Paycheck (2003). This sentiment has been echoed by writer Todd McEwen, who called it “gorgeous,” and wrote a short story “Cary Grant’s Suit” which recounts the film’s plot from the viewpoint of the suit.

4.  CharadeCharade-1963

Now the placement of these final four was pretty hard for me as I really LOVE all of these films.  They are all perfect to me.  Perfect stories, perfectly cast, perfectly directed by Stanley Donen. Charade is a great movie and has some of the best actors around. Audrey Hepburn, George Kennedy, Walter Matthau and James Coburn.  The chemistry between Audrey and Cary is so great, they had a wonderful time on location and ad-libbed several classic exchanges.  My favorite being, “How do you shave in here…”, Audrey says while pointing to Cary’s chin. After finishing this film, Cary Grant was quoted as saying, “All I want for Christmas is to make another movie with Audrey Hepburn,” and this nearly happened twice when Cary and Audrey almost made My Fair Lady and Father Goose together. The character played by Cary even quotes a line from My Fair Lady (“On the street where you live”), the film version of which would star Audrey the following year.

3.  The Philadelphia StoryThe Philadelphia Story

I mentioned this one earlier as a screenplay written by Donald Ogden Stewart. It also stars Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart. My only wish is that they had given the role played by John Howard to Clark Gable instead, that would have been really fantastic. As it is, he’s largely forgettable in the role as Katherine Hepburn’s fiancee. In response to Cary Grant’s improvisational skills, James Stewart once said in an interview, “I play a writer who falls in love with Katharine Hepburn. The night before her wedding I have a little too much to drink. This gives me the courage to go and talk to Cary, who’s playing her ex-husband. So I go to Cary’s house and knock on the door. It’s obvious I’ve had too much to drink, but he lets me in.  It was time to do the scene, and Cary said, “George, why don’t we just go ahead? If you don’t like it, we’ll do it again.” So, without a rehearsal or anything, we started the scene. As I was talking, it hit me that I’d had too much to drink. So, as I explained things to Cary, I hiccuped. In answer to the hiccup, Cary said — out of the clear blue sky — “Excuse me.” Well, I sort of said, “Ummm?” It was very difficult for me to keep a straight face, because his ad-libbed response had been so beautifully done … Cary had an almost perfect humor.” Just watch it for yourself, it’s a perfect moment on film. Now Stewart was being modest, by the way, he’s great in the film and would go on to win the Academy Award for his role. Something Cary Grant never did, which to me is the biggest sham over the years, maybe not for this film, but for any number of his other performances. Donald Ogden Stewart won an Academy Award as well for his wonderful script. Cary Grant was given the choice of which of the two male lead roles he wanted to play. Surprisingly, he chose the less showy part.

2.  His Girl Fridayhis girl friday 1

I mention this film in detail in the blog post for The Front Page.  It’s was a film directed masterfully by Howard Hawks. He switched what was originally 2 males in the play to a male and female and divorced at that for the movie and called it, His Girl Friday. It was stroke of pure genius. 1940 was the ultimate year for Cary Grant as he made 4 movies released that year and 3 of them make my top 15 list. My Favorite Wife and The Philadelphia Story being the other 2 and the one not in the list being The Howards of Virginia. The dialogue in this film is extremely fast, with most characters talking over each other. It is estimated that the normal rate of verbal dialogue in most films is around 90 words a minute. In His Girl Friday, the delivery has been clocked at 240 words a minute. Even so, there is still a lot of improvisation going on, and it’s a lot of fun.

And here’s my pick for #1:

1. People Will TalkPeople Will Talk

I have this lobby card in my home office, my wife gave it to me for Christmas one year, knowing it was my favorite film of all time, let alone, my favorite Cary Grant movie.  Joseph Mankiewicz wrote and directed this film from a play (Dr. med. Hiob Prätorius) by Curt Goetz.  Great cast includes Hume Cronyn, Jeanne Crain, Finlay Currie, and Walter Slezak. This film never ceases to make me laugh and cry, it’s full of humor, suspense and drama. It also doesn’t shy away from some of the biggest social commentary that I’ve ever seen in any movie.  Dr. Praetorius as played by Cary Grant simply represents a better man that many of us rarely ever achieve. His motives pure, his intellect, compassion, wit and his viewpoint strong and true. In truth, I haven’t seen a film that was more thought-provoking than this one. It’s introspective and makes you examine the human spirit, social mores, science, etiquette and prejudice of community and medicine in such broad and entertaining ways. Maybe I’m looking into this way too much, but it sure is damn entertaining! I guess I like this film so much because at heart I am an emotional animal and this film is at it’s core, emotional. The plot may be muddled for some and it’s identity lost as some people can never define if it’s a comedy, drama, romance, detective story or what, but to me it’s all of those things and more.

Well, there you have it. Now you may want to go back and watch all of these, or I hope, re-watch most of these, but the most important thing is that you enjoy his body of work. You may end up with a list like mine or you can go back to the drawing board and include his other films like, Notorious, Suspicion, Arsenic and Old Lace, Night and Day, Bringing Up Baby, Topper, Once Upon a Honeymoon, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Indiscreet, That Touch of Mink or any other of his fantastic films. But that’s the fun…finding your own top 15!cary-grant1

Pat Finn, Comedy King in a World of Jokers

 

Last year we had the good fortune to work with the amazing and hilarious Pat Finn. You may not recognize his name (yet) but you’ve surely seen his face once or twice in the last fifteen years if you’ve been watching TV for any length of time. Fifteen years is a long time. Did I just age myself? Well, even if you’ve been watching for the last five years…Toyota and Pat Finn

He’s done a lot of TV and can be seen most frequently as PAT in the Toyota Commercials and at times on the ABC sitcom, The Middle. He’s also a founding member of LA’s Comedy Improv Troupe, Beer Shark Mice.  Brothers’ Ink had him come to Phoenix last year to take part in a video series of interviews with comedy greats for a show currently titled, Inside the Laughter Studio for our upcoming Laugh University website. We also had him headlining at the Jester’Z Improv Comedy at the Mesa Riverview.David-Koechner-and-Pat-Finn

Pat’s Toyota Commercials are directed by the fantastic Jordan Brady of Superlounge. Both of them work magic together as they both come from a background in comedy. Jordan was a stand-up comedian before finding his passion for directing national TV spots. Pat grew his funnybone in Chicago’s ImprovOlympic Theatre alongside comedian’s Chris Farley, Ian Gomez, Jon Favreau, Tim Meadows and Rachel Dratch and with Second City of Chicago. When he came out to LA he eventually continued with Improv by forming the Troupe, Beer Shark Mice alongside David Koechner, Neil Flynn, Michael Coleman, and Peter A. Hulne.Pat Finn Marsha Mason Patricia Heaton Julie Brown

His partner in Beer Shark Mice, Neil Flynn, is a series regular and Patricia Heaton’s husband on The Middle, featured on ABC. Pat plays a neighbor of theirs and husband to comedian Julie Brown, but can be seen over the years in TV Shows; Ed, Seinfeld, Murphy Brown, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Friends, That 70’s Show, The Drew Carey Show, The King of Queens and so, so much more! His movies include, Dude, Where’s My Car?, The Bachelor, Space Buddies and It’s Complicated. He’s an incredibly talented and hilarious guy and we sure hope we get the chance to work with him again.Pat Finn Donovan Montierth Adam Montierth

 

Stories From Snowy River

 

In 1890 A.B. “Banjo” Paterson wrote a poem called “The Man From Snowy River” that was published in The Bulletin and then later as a book as a collection of Australian verse. Little did he know then that the poem would spawn 2 movies and a TV show almost 100 years later.the-man-from-snowy-river

In 1982, George Miller (not to be confused with the “other” George Miller from Australia) directed The Man From Snowy River. It starred Tom Burlinson as Jim Craig, the man in the title, as well as Kirk Douglas in a dual role as twin brothers. The female lead and love interest to Jim Craig is played by Sigrid Thornton. The film was shot and released first in Australia and then came later to the US, where it did well in the theatres but really took off when it was released on video. My family loved this movie.the-man-from-snowy-river-banner

The most famous scene, being the downhill gallop featured prominently in the movie and the poem, was really performed by actor Tom Burlinson, who had never ridden a horse until he was cast in the movie in the title role. This stunt is amazing and should be highlighted as a perfect moment in the film.  It was shot and performed in one take. No one wanted to take any chances again, as you can see in the film , it’s quite dangerous.ManFromSnowyRiver romance

The film was so popular that a sequel was produced by Disney in 1988, called Return to Snowy River in the states. Tom and Sigrid return in their roles, but due to a dispute, the Kirk Douglas role was filled by actor Brian Dennehy. The film was directed by Geoff Burrowes, the producer of the first film. It’s a fantastic sequel and makes for a perfect box set on my shelf.return from snowy river

As for the TV Series identified as Snowy River: The McGregor Saga (1993), let’s just say it’s inspired by the poem and really was produced to take advantage of the success of the movies. It’s actually really good in it’s own right, and features an incredible cast over it’s four year run. Among the stars were, Andrew Clarke, Brett Climo, Guy Pearce, Hugh Jackman, Josh Lucas, Victoria Tennant, Olivia Newton-John, Lee Horsely, Chad Lowe, Dean Stockwell, and Francis O’Connor.  It’s really hard to find a complete set of the TV Series, but is definitely worth owning if you can find it.snowy river

LINKS:

THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982) TRAILER