Category Archives: 1950

Bill Irwin, The Actor All The Actors Know

 

Every once in a very long time an actor comes around that is so good at what he/she does that they make it look like anyone can do it. They make it look easy. Effortless. Add-to-that, an unassuming and quiet demeanor and you get an actor that feels like he’s a part of the scenery.  Like, he comes naturally with the set design, that he just becomes fused in that world.  Meaning, you forget that he’s an actor. You take for granted that he’s really the characters he plays and that he is integrated into the story as a permanent fixture.  I’m not so sure this is coming across as intended…

Regardless, one of these such actors, would undeniably be the phenomenal, Mr. Bill Irwin. He first came across my radar in the live action version of Popeye in 1980. He is a very gifted physical comedian, albeit, 50 years too late. He really has the same physical gifts that made Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and those early comedians so good. You can see it in Popeye right away. In fact, he reminded me most of Stan Laurel.

He has an extensive background in theatre and still does a lot of theatre work regularly, but he also can be seen on TV and in the movies every year, even though you may not know him by name. In 1989, was nominated for four Tony Awards for “Largely New York“: as author of a Best Play nominee, Best Actor (Play), Best Director (Play) and, with collaborator Kimi Okada, Best Choreographer. In 1999, his show “Fool Moon” won a Special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation. Won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play, for his performance as George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opposite Kathleen Turner.

In TV and Film, he’s starred in some great projects over the years, including: My Blue Heaven, Hot Shots!, Northern Exposure, 3rd Rock From The Sun, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Elmo’s World, Lady in the Water, Sesame Street, The Good Wife, CSI, Blue Bloods, Sleepy Hollow, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and most recently on FX’s new show, Legion. Can’t recommend him enough, he’s brilliant. He can often be found as his clown alter ego, Bagatelles, along with partner David Shriner.  Check out some of these videos on You Tube. It’s no surprise that he graduated from Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus’s Clown College and eventually was inducted in the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1999.

Judy Holliday, Gone Too Soon

 

If you remember Judy Holliday, you would know there was really no one like her. She only did a handful of movies, but was simply unforgettable on stage, on screen and in person. She was acting for a few years when she got the role of Billie Dawn in the Broadway debut of Garson Kanin’s play, Born Yesterday. Garson Kanin and his wife, writer/actor Ruth Gordon were very good friends of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and they came and saw her in the play and thought she was wonderful. Katherine felt duty bound to get this actress noticed on the silver screen in the film adaptation of the play, and Judy badly wanted to recreate the part in the movie, but the rights were purchased by Columbia Pictures, and production chief Harry Cohn, thought Judy to be a “fat, jewish broad”. Garson Kanin was going into production on a movie of his own, written by himself and his wife Ruth Gordon. When Garson Kanin complained about Cohn’s opinion of Judy to Katharine, she suggested casting Holliday as Doris Attinger in his movie.Holliday1

Doris Attinger is the attempted murderess on trial and defended by Katherine Hepburn’s Amanda Bonner in what became one of my all time favorite films, Adam’s Rib in 1949. She literally does steal the show, thanks to the likes of Katherine and her onscreen husband, Spencer Tracy who plays the prosecutor Adam Bonner, but she turned down the role at first. Finally Hepburn got the real reason out of her. Sensitive about her weight, Holliday didn’t want to be called “fatso” on screen, as written in the script they had given her. Hepburn assured her that the Kanin’s would gladly rewrite the line: “They’re writers. They know lots of words.” Finally, Holliday agreed. Later she insisted that the word “fatso” be restored because it was the best way of playing the scene.adamsrib

This film was her big break, but it didn’t change the fact that she was going to be sharing the screen with two legends. In her early monologue scene with Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday can be seen trembling. This was not acting, but nervousness. The inexperienced Judy Holliday was terrified of performing with Katharine Hepburn. But she soon realized that Katherine was Judy’s biggest fan. To help build up Judy’s image, particularly in the eyes of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn, Katharine reportedly urged director George Cukor to focus the camera on Judy during a number of their shared scenes, and Katharine deliberately leaked stories to the gossip columns suggesting that Judy’s performance in Adam’s Rib was so good that it had stolen the spotlight from Hepburn and Tracy. This got Cohn’s attention and Holliday won the part in Born Yesterday (1950), also directed by George Cukor.  This to me is a great example of what a great friend Katherine Hepburn could be. Hepburn would later explain her generosity to Kanin: “It was the kind of thing you do because people have done it for you.” Garson Kanin, by the way, would go on to write a fantastic book about Hepburn and Tracy called “Tracy and Hepburn: an Intimate Memoir”, published in 1971 by Viking Press.Judy Holliday Broderick Crawford William Holden in Born yesterday

Regarding Born Yesterday, there’s even more to the story that makes this that much more sneaky.  Apparently, Garson Kanin claimed that he modeled the part of the obnoxious junk dealer Harry Brock after Harry Cohn, but that the studio chief never realized it. Kanin sold Born Yesterday to Columbia Pictures for $1 million, setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a film property. In his autobiography, Kanin wrote that Cohn paid the record $1 million for the films rights because he had heard that Kanin said he “wouldn’t sell the rights to Harry Cohn for any amount – not even a million dollars.” The part of Billie Dawn was originally written for star Jean Arthur and even hired to play the role on Broadway, but left during tryouts and was replaced by Holliday. Judy would go on to win the Golden Globe and the Oscar for her performance in the film. Jean Arthur never won an Oscar.holliday

Later, she was cast in George Cukor’s It Should Happen To You (1954), again written by Garson Kanin and costarring Jack Lemmon. Up-to-that-point, Lemmon had only done mostly television, and had a tendency to overact for the camera but Cukor soon convinced him that “less is more.” Lemmon later remarked, “I’ve learned my craft from that advice. It’s the hardest thing in the world to be simple, and the easiest thing in the world to act your brains out and make an ass of yourself.” A perfect example of Cukor’s approach to acting was demonstrated to Lemmon during a restaurant scene where Pete and Gladys argue. Cukor recalled, “They rehearsed it and did it very well, but I said, “I don’t believe it, I don’t believe one damn thing. Jack, what do you do when you get angry?” He said, “I get chills and cramps, I get sick to my stomach, but can’t use that.” “Oh,” I said, “do that!” So in the height of fury he suddenly clutches his stomach, and it makes all the difference.”it-should-happen-to-you

Lemmon and Holliday would go on to act together again in 1954 on Phffft (terrible title…how do you tell people what movie you just saw?). Jack Lemmon had become a fan and admirer of Holliday’s, just as Hepburn had. He would later go on to say of her, “She was intelligent and not at all like the dumb blonds she so often depicted. She didn’t give a damn where the camera was placed, how she was made to look, or about being a star. She just played the scene — acted with, not at. She was also one of the nicest people I ever met. She was hardly the dizzy blonde. If she were alive today, she would’ve zipped right through the Mensa puzzles. ”  She was reported to have an IQ of 172, even though the characters she played onscreen were all dizzy blondes. She often said that it took a lot of smarts to convince people that her characters were stupid. According to biographer Gary Carey, in its search for subversives in the film industry, the House Un-American Activities Committee was flummoxed by Holliday. She essentially playing her Billie Dawn character on the witness stand. She ended up being the only person ever called before HUAC who was neither blacklisted nor compelled to name names.Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday

She continued doing movies, sparingly after the trials, but preferred the stage. She would go on to win Broadway’s 1957 Tony Award as best actress in a musical for Bells Are Ringing, a role that she recreated in the film version of Bells Are Ringing (1960) along with Dean Martin. The music in the film is amazing.  She proved to have a flawless singing voice and even released a few albums, during this time to join the broadway albums she performed in. In October 1960, Holliday started out-of-town tryouts on the play Laurette based on the life of Laurette Taylor. The show was directed by José Quintero with background music by Elmer Bernstein and produced by Alan Pakula. Unfortunately, Holliday became ill and had to leave the show. It closed in Philadelphia without opening on Broadway. She had throat surgery shortly after leaving the production in October 1960.bells are ringing 1960 - judy holliday dean martin

Her last play was another musical, Hot Spot (1963) but was troubled from the very start. One of Broadway’s most well-known flops, it had 58 “preview” performances, setting a record by cancelling its official opening four times, and then running for only 43 “official” performances. According to Steven Suskin, “it was one of those big-budget, big-advance-sale bonanzas which go wrong and turn into highly public busts.” According to the review in Billboard, “Predictions of failure preceeded the show and these were confirmed when the New York Critics Circle passed a unanimous negative judgement.” She would go on to say, “You can only live through one or two Hot Spots in your life.”Bells-Are-Ringing-film

She would die of breast cancer only 2 years later, at the very young age of 43.  Gone too soon, this talented and hilarious actress and singer would have surely gone on to entertain us with her versatility and immense charisma for years to come. Jack Lemmon would add, “She was one of the greats, and her early death was one of the great tragedies.”

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1950-1959

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1950-1959 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1950:  The Flame and the Arrow

the flame and the arrow

Burt Lancaster met Nick Cravat when they worked in the circus as acrobats, early in their careers.  This movie highlights some great acrobatics from the two of them, along with some great fighting sequences.

1951:  The Thing From Another Worldthing full body burn

I loved this movie and the remake that followed with Kurt Russell, but this one has a very cool fire burn done Tom Steele that just has to be seen to be believed.

1952:  Ivanhoeivanhoe03

Paddy Ryan was in a group of some of the finest stuntmen to ever come out of England.  In this film he does a real gasping fall from a castle, which was held as the highest fall from a castle for many years.

1953:  Code Twocode two

Motorcycles were really starting to come into their own.  This movie was one of the first one to introduce motorcycle stunts and chase scenes, with many movies following after.

1954:  The Seven SamuraiSeven_Samurai_Fight

This film was probably the most mentioned movie to ever influence a slew of filmmakers, before Star Wars.  It’s an incredible film with a great story, great characters and especially great action.  Most of the actors were hired because they could really fight.  Let’s imagine this as the very first Expendables, where some real action masters were at work here.

1955:  To Hell and Backto hell and back tank

The real life story, played by the real person himself, Audie Murphy, the highest decorated soldier of World War II.  Quite a war film!

1956:  Trapezetrapeze1956

So I mentioned Burt Lancaster was in the circus, right?  Well, here is the movie where he really shows his chops!  You just thought he was a great actor, but he was a really accomplished acrobat, that could have had an amazing career as a stuntman!

1957:  The Curse of Frankensteincurseoffrankenstein1

Hammer Films, out of Great Britain were making some of the most interesting genre films ever made with some of the finest actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and with fantastic stuntmen like Jock Easton.  Some really great stuff!

1958:  The VikingsVikings oars

So I fell in love with Vikings movies when I saw this one (another great one is the 13th Warrior!).  With that in mind, Kirk Douglas blows my mind when I see him, “running the oars” with such ease as he does in this film!

1959:  Ben HurBen Joe Canutt Jump

A stunt that goes wrong is not an “accident” when no one gets hurt…I just consider it an improvised stunt.  In this one the results were so cool they added it to the film.

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

Little Known Facts about Charles M. Schultz and The Peanuts – 1950 Comedy

 

•There are over 65 productions on television, film, and stage.
• Schulz wasn’t a fan of the name Peanuts. Even after Peanuts became hugely successful, Schulz said he never liked the name and wanted to call the strip “Good Old Charlie Brown.”
• Schulz loosely based Snoopy on a black-and-white dog named Spike he had as a teenager.
• Woodstock was named for the 1969 landmark music festival.
• Named Charlie Brown after an instructor at the art correspondence school he attended and taught at.
• The never seen character of the “Little Red-Haired Girl” that Charlie Brown has a crush on was based on a girl Schulz knew in his youth, who turned him down when he asked her for a date.
• TV execs thought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would flop. It later won an Emmy award and became one of the longest-running holiday specials of all time.
• Charles M. Schulz was a World War II veteran.
• 2/12/00: Died in his sleep at about 9:45 pm in Santa Rosa, CA. He was suffering from colon cancer, with which he was diagnosed in November 1999. He also had Parkinson’s disease.
• Charles M. Schultz won the Reuben Award, comic art’s highest honor, in 1955 and 1964.
• In 1978 Charles M. Schultz was named International Cartoonist of the Year.
• His comic strips featuring the character Snoopy, in his World War One Flying Ace strips, are credited with reviving interest in WWI aircraft, especially the Sopwith Camel, which Snoopy pretended to fly.
• Was a .50-caliber machine gunner in World War Two. He forgot to load the thing during the one time he actually had the opportunity to use it; fortunately the German soldier he ran into surrendered.
• 5/27/00: Nearly 100 syndicated cartoonists created special Peanuts-themed comics as a lasting memorial to him, as creator of the enduring and beloved strip.
• His studio in Santa Rosa was One Snoopy Place.
• At the peak of his popularity, “Peanuts” captured as many as 355 million readers, and he was earning from US$30 to US$40 million a year.
• Schulz liked to play hockey, which is why hockey and skating were occasionally featured in both the comic strip and the animated programs.
• Was struggling to come up with the name for a new character when he happened to see a bowl of candy, and decided on “Peppermint Patty.”
• He was promoted a couple of grades when he was in school, and this was the cause of his depression and anxiety; the older kids who were now his classmates were constantly teasing him because of his small size, which also fostered a deep competitive streak in him.
• Schulz was the grand marshal of the 1973 Rose Bowl Parade.
• When Mad Magazine parodied Schulz’s book, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”, with their article, “Being Rich is Better than a Warm Puppy”, Schulz canceled his subscription.
• Contrary to popular belief, Schulz’s chief character, Charlie Brown, is not bald. Schulz insisted that Charlie Brown’s hair is blond, but the hair is so light that it is almost transparent.
• His favorite movie was Citizen Kane (1941). He incorporated many references to the film in his strips over the years.
• He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
• Peanuts comic strips and products gave Schulz an estimated income of $30-40 million each year, and Peanuts characters were featured on 20,000 new products every year, by 1999.
• Peanuts is considered as one of the most influential, greatest and popular comics of all time, receiving a number of awards over the years, and as a result, Snoopy became the mascot of NASA personal safety for astronauts, and along with Charlie Brown became the semi-official mascot of the Apollo 10 mission.

Snoopy Stamp

The Peanuts – 1950 Comedy

 

The Peanuts history in a nutshell:

“The Peanuts” began as a syndicated comic strip that ran daily, with a special color extended strip every Sunday. It was written and illustrated by the late, great, Charles M. Schultz. It ran from October 2, 1950 until February 13, 2000, with reruns continuing on afterwards. It is one of the most popular and influential comic strips of all time, with 17,897 strips published in all. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

But to me, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Peanuts influence is massive. It reaches into every facet of our society. To understand this completely, I think we should acknowledge that what began as a small black and white comic in a small local newspaper, blew up to be a worldwide, billion dollar franchise. The newspaper strips were just a part of that, and a small part of it at that. There have been books, television productions, feature films, plays, recordings, t-shirts, toys, peanut butter, underwear, a shaved ice machine, waffle maker, Hallmark cards, Christmas ornaments, ties, lunch boxes, skate boards, figurines, candy, coin banks, puzzles, corn on the cob holders, and on and on. In 2011, Forbes Magazine listed Peanuts as number 9 on its’ list of the 20 best-selling entertainment products in the world.

Let’s face it, it’s a brand that is recognized the world over, by many generations. And even 15 years after Schultz death, it’s as strong as ever. There’s even a new movie coming out as I write this. And I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited about taking my kids to go see it!

So I have to ask, what makes Peanuts so great! Is it the relatable loser Charlie Brown, who can’t seem to win? (Has he ever kicked the football?) Or is it his lovable dog Snoopy? Lucy? Linus? Peppermint Patty? Woodstock? Pig-pen? Franklin? Schroeder? Sally? Marcie? Did I miss anyone? I wrote that list without looking. That’s how ingrained these characters are to me. I remember their television specials and movies. I remember their bed sheets. There would be no Thanksgiving Day Parade without the Snoopy balloon. He also has his own blimp. How cool is that? How many characters can say that?
I love The Peanuts and you love The Peanuts (come on, you know you do). The world loves The Peanuts. We love the strips, the television specials, and so forth. We love all of it.  And evidently, we can’t get enough of it. Why?

Well, let’s see. It’s funny. It’s heartwarming. It’s sad at times. It’s relatable. It’s got complex characters. It’s got intriguing story lines. It has no adults. And it’s wholesome. I found countless articles on the internet about the enduring timeless messages in the Peanuts content. The proof is there. I think there is something for everyone. I believe there’s a Charlie Brown and Snoopy in all of us.

Top 10 Charles M. Schultz films according to Flickchart.com:

Charlie Brown 1Charlie Brown 2Charlie Brown 3Charlie Brown 4Charlie Brown 5Charlie Brown 6Charlie Brown 7Charlie Brown 8Charlie Brown 9Charlie Brown 10

Burt Lancaster, Nick Cravat and The Flame and the Arrow

 

Burt Lancaster was a professional acrobat before he took up acting, so it’s no surprise that he was able to swashbuckle with the best of them in The Flame and the Arrow. Warner Brothers even sent him on a publicity tour during which he perched on poles and re-created his feats from the film. The Oscar-winner displayed his athletic prowess in later films as well, like Trapeze and The Train.the flame and the arrow

Nick Cravat, who plays Piccolo, was an acrobat who was teamed with Burt Lancaster in the circus (performing as “Lang & Cravat”) before Lancaster became a star. He appears in many of Lancaster’s movies. In this one, and in The Crimson Pirate, he plays a mute. The reason was that his thick Brooklyn accent, which he could not lose, would have been wildly out of place in such period pieces.

Burt Lancaster was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured. It was in the Army during WW II that he was introduced to the USO and acting. After he started acting, one of his demands to the studios was that he have a high bar set up on sets and locations so he could perform acrobatics and stay in shape. Until undergoing emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery in 1983, he maintained the fantastic physical health he attained as an acrobat in his youth. He impressed many who knew him with his apparently enormous strength.theflame

Interesting to note, on set, Burt was known as a grump, he would have been the perfect Grumpy Old Man. He admitted that an odd thing always happened to him on a movie set. He would complain about everything, sometimes very loudly. By the end of the shoot however, the crews loved him and hated to see him go, despite his complaints. He never understood why that happened. His son Bill Lancaster’s screenplay for The Bad News Bears (1976) was based on his experience being coached by his father. Bill had been disabled by polio as a child, and according to friend Joel Douglas – the son of Kirk Douglas – the Tatum O’Neal character in the film, the odd kid out, was Bill. The coach played by Walter Matthau was based on Burt, who was known for his grumpiness.

The Flame and the Arrow was directed by Jacques Tourneur for Warner Bros.The-Flame-The-Arrow11

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page ):

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by the Wikipedia – Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts as well as in many sports. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic elements, such as acro dance, circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities — such as ballet and diving — may also employ acrobatics. Although acrobatics is most commonly associated with human body performance, it may also apply to other types of performance, such as aerobatics.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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