Category Archives: 1978

Madeline Kahn, Comedienne

 

Madeline Kahn’s first role was as the dowdy fiancee to Ryan O’Neal’s professor in Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? and she steals the movie right out from under him and the film’s star Barbra Steisand. In defense of Barbra, she has stated in interviews that she didn’t get the comedy…but it’s obvious that Madeline did, because she nailed it. I talk about that film here. It’s no surprise that she would become a star in her own right and a permanent fixture over the next 20 years with the biggest comedy filmmakers, like Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, Burt Reynolds and Neil Simon.madeline-kahn-whats-up-doc

Her next follow-up film was again for Peter Bogdanovich and Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon. She would go up for an Oscar nomination, but in that film, 9 year old, Tatum O’Neal, Ryan’s real-life daughter steals the show and walks away with the Academy Award, to boot. Madeline is good as always. She soon found more comedians to work with when she did Blazing Saddles the very next year with Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. They really loved her and would spent the next ten years casting her in Young Frankenstein, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother, High Anxiety, and History of the World, Part 1.paper-moon-madeline-kahn-1973

Burt Reynolds would work with her the year after that for the first time in Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love, which was a musical. It played to Madeline’s strengths as she was an Operatically trained singer. The film failed at the box office, however, I believe because no one wanted to see Burt sing, although he does it well. She would work again with Burt in City Heat along with Clint Eastwood.  Neil Simon would work with her for the first time in 1978 in The Cheap Detective, with Peter Falk. Madeline Kahn’s Mrs. Montenegro character is a spoof of Mary Astor’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon. She would do another Neil Simon years later for London Suite in 1996. The third of Neil Simon’s “Suite” movies, the others being Plaza Suite (1971) (remade as Plaza Suite (1987)) and California Suite (1978). It’s the fourth made of Simon’s “Suite” movies counting the TV remake.madeline-kahn-in-cheaper-detective

Now all of these films of hers are worth watching, but my favorite of hers is the movie Clue, which came out in 1985. If you haven’t seen this movie based on the board game, it’s fantastic. The cast is amazing and was given some leeway in improvising some of their dialogue. An example of this is Madeline Kahn’s improvising of “flames, flames…” which is just brilliant. It’s been said that the cast of great comedians loved working together on that film and it’s no wonder that Madeline is a favorite of everyones. Many directors, writers, actors and filmmakers would recast her time and time again. She was that good.  She’s definitely missed.madeline-kahn-in-clue

Robby Benson, Actor-Writer-Director-Singer-Professor

 

I love it when father and sons get together to write a screenplay, Rance Howard and Ron Howard for Grand Theft Auto come to mind and Robby Benson and his father Jerry Segal wrote One on One together.  Both films were released in 1977.  I wrote about the first one in a blog post you can read here.  Robby Benson was already a pretty big child star up until that point and started to become what is commonly known as a teen idol, showing up in tons of teen magazines. I know because he was one of my sister’s favorites and we had Dynamite magazines laying all over the house. He was about to explode to super-stardom with One on One as well as Ice Castles (one of my family’s all time favorite) the very next year.ice-castles-robby-benson

Both could be considered sports movies, as One on One is a movie about basketball, but Ice Castles is a movie about ice skating. We already loved him as an actor, but deep inside he had a talent for writing and singing that we were not aware of until he decided to star in and write the music for a movie called Die Laughing in 1980. My brother and I LOVED that sound track and would record it directly off our video copy straight on to a good old cassette tape that we proceeded to listen to thousands of times over the next decade! We’re still looking for a decent CD of it, but recently I have found workable digital copies of the songs that someone was thoughtful enough to transfer online. This film is hilarious, and Robby Benson does some fun acting, writing and singing for it. Definitely a sleeper if you get a chance to find it anywhere, snatch this movie up.

DIE LAUGHING, Robby Benson, 1980. ©Orion Pictures
DIE LAUGHING, Robby Benson, 1980. ©Orion Pictures

He would go on to act in several films over the years, and started to add to his abilities by directing back-to-back pictures with White Hot in 1989 and then Modern Love with wife Karla DeVito in 1990. He eventually moved completely behind the camera as a director, but once in a while you can hear his voice again like as the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  I just wish he sang more in that movie. He directed a lot in the 1990’s and 2000’s, with Evening Shade, Thunder Alley, Ellen, Friends, The Naked Truth, Jesse, The Huntress and 8 Simple Rules. Since then he’s written a few books (Who Stole The Funny?, I’m Not Dead…Yet), a play (Open Heart…and another one on the way) and has been a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the University of Utah, University of South Carolina, and Indiana University.professor-robby-benson

We look forward to whatever he decides to tackle next!

Zoe Saldana Takes Over The World

 

If you don’t know the name, you will definitely know the face, soon to become the number 1 actress in total box office revenues of all time. Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson was announced as the 1 actress in total box office revenues…but with the films that Zoe Saldana has lined up in the next few years, she could definitely be the one to take Scarlett’s place at the top. Scarlett has had a fantastic year with the release of The Jungle Book and Captain Marvel: Civil War, but Zoe has some pretty hefty releases of her own, especially over the next 6 years.zoe saldana avatar

Lifetime gross for Scarlett’s films hit over $330 Billion Dollars at the box office this year, and it will still be rising as she is at her peak right now.  Zoe Saldana is currently at $214 Billion Dollars at the box office this year so far with Star Trek Beyond having released over the weekend and with Live By Night with Ben Affleck and Scott Eastwood and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being released next year and Avatar 2, 3 and 4 to be released every 2 years starting in 2018. If the Avatar films do as much as expected then Zoe will very much be in contention, even with the 2 upcoming Avengers Infinity War movies to come for Scarlett. It will be a very interesting race to watch.zoe saldana guardians of the galaxy

Zoe Saldana has racked up a very impressive list of roles in a very short period of time. Her pinnacle year was 2009 when she released Star Trek and Avatar. The thing I think I like best about her is that she plays very strong and intelligent women. She’s no-pushover in any of her movies. I also think it’s amazing that she has managed to have a family and a great career at the same time.  She gave birth to twins (yeah!) in 2014 with her husband Marco Perego. She recently said of directors that created strong female characters, “I’ve learned this about men who write good roles for women – there’s a very beautiful sentimentality to them. Their exteriors are sugarcoated with this manly presence, but deep on the inside, there’s also this [fragility]. During the shortness of my career, I’ve managed to work with Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and now Jim Cameron- all directors who are known for having strong female protagonists. They don’t feel diminished by it as men; they can tap into the complexities of how woman really are.”Zoe-Saldana-Uhura-Star-Trek-Beyond-Movie

She has shown an interest in getting behind the camera and directing in the future.  She said, (on expanding her career to become a film director), ” It is more satisfying. You are more of a participant in the conception. I like having control. I think I have the capability. I am a storyteller and an artist and I love what I do. So I want to be part of it more and not just show up and say my lines.” Maybe after all the big movies coming up are gone and she starts her second career as a director, we’ll be talking about her amazing directing, but for now we are pleased to have her in front of the camera, entertaining us!

Jim Dale Has an Amazing Voice

 

There are some fantastic underrated actors out there. One of my all time favorites would be an British actor by the name of Jim Dale. He’s been nominated for many awards including an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but the biggest ones he won are 2 Grammies and a Tony. He’s most recognizable for his voice, but Adam and I just loved him in a series of Disney films in the late 1970’s.jim-dale-Petes Dragon

The first film was Pete’s Dragon in 1977. An orphan boy and his magical dragon come to town with his abusive adoptive parents in pursuit. Seems fitting because a non-musical remake of the film is coming out this month. But the original is a musical and we just love this film. Jim Dale plays the bad guy and con-artist Dr. Terminus, and does a great job singing, so it’s no surprise that he has been nominated for five Tony Awards, winning one for Barnum (1980) for which the New York Times described him as “The Toast of Broadway”, also winning the second of four Drama Desk Awards.hot-lead-and-cold-feet

The next film was the hilarious Hot Lead and Cold Feet in 1978. This saga of the old west involves twin brothers who compete for possession of a rickety cow town founded by their father while a crooked mayor tries to put an end to the competitors so he can inherit the town himself. He plays 3 separate roles in in the film, before it was popular to do this. Eddie Murphy made that popular later on in his films. He plays the two twins, Eli and Wild Billy as well as their father, Jasper. Fourth-billed and in a supporting role playing the Denver Kid was actor-comedian Don Knotts who had starred in a number of comic-westerns. Promotional materials for the movie more prominently promoted him as if he were in a lead major role. The film’s main movie poster for example featured an image of Knotts feature prominently in the optical center of the artwork. So I think it really hurt the film overall, as no one knew who this British actor was and every one I knew was waiting for Knotts to appear. Regardless, Jim Dale is still the stand-out in the film and does a fantastic job.Unidentified Flying Oddball

His last film for Disney again has him playing a villain in the Unidentified Flying Oddball in 1979. An astronaut and his android double travel back to the time of King Arthur. Dennis Dugan played the astronaut, as went on to a very success film career as a director for a lot of Adam Sandler movies. The film’s English “Unidentified Flying Oddball” title makes the picture one of few English language filmed adaptations of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court not to be named with this title or something similar. Others include Black Knight (2001) and A Knight in Camelot (1998). The movie is commonly known in English language speaking territories by three titles: “The Spaceman and King Arthur”, “Unidentified Flying Oddball” and “A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court”. About sixteen years after this picture in 1995, the Walt Disney Pictures studio would adapt again Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, this time titling the film A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995). Ron Moody would also reprise his role as Merlin in this movie.Jim Dale and Harry Potter

Now after a lot of work in music, TV and movies, he really became well known for his voice work on the Harry Potter Series. He has recorded all seven books in the series as audiobooks, and as a narrator he has won two Grammy Awards in 2008 and 2001, and has seven Grammy nominations.  He also narrates the Harry Potter video games and many of the interactive “extras” on the Harry Potter DVD releases. So if you recognize him, it’s surely by that amazing voice of his. He held a Guinness World Record for creating and recording 134 different character voices for one audiobook, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer

 

A successful screen pairing usually last for 3 or 4 films. Some of the really great pairings did 15 or more films together, but most of these were comedy teams, not just actors who would come together every so often and do a film together.  Actors who did this that come to mind is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who did 10 movies together and Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who’ve done 4 movies together so far. It’s unheard of that Terence Hill and Bud Spencer performed in 18 films together over their lifetimes! My brother wrote a great post on comedy teams here.bud-Hill

They appeared together in a movie for the first time in 1967 for God Forgives…I Don’t. The movie has many of the elements that made them a popular pairing over the years, being a spaghetti western and having them “buddy” up, but it wasn’t until they were featured in a comedy that they really became popular worldwide.  This is, however, identified as a trilogy, as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer play the same characters Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy again in Ace High (1968) and Boot Hill (1969) all directed by Guiseppi Colizzi. He would direct them one more time for the 1972 film, All The Way Boys, but it is not a western, but it’s a comedy and is considered a “Trinity” film.bud-terence

You may be wondering what that means…it’s important to note that after awhile all the films they did together would be classified under one word, “Trinity”, to denote that the actors appeared together in a film, but was not necessarily a western. It could have been modern day, or in the past, but was always action, and mostly comedy. It became almost a genre of it’s own, their genre. It refers to their most popular film which came out in 1970, They Call Me Trinity, and really had all of the elements in place by then…comedy, action, fighting, buddy-buddy, some kind of clever con…it was all there. Billed as E.B. Clucher, the movie was directed by Enzo Barboni who has helmed a number of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer comedy collaborations. They are: They Call Me Trinity (1970), Trinity Is STILL My Name! (1971), Go For It! (1983), Crime Busters  (1977) and Double Trouble (1984).budspencerhill

They did the movie Blackie the Pirate (1971) the same year they made the sequel Trinity is Still My Name!. By then the Trinity movie was a huge hit and they went back into production on the new one. While on the set they improvised a bit and started to play with the set and made up a few scenes on the spot.  This would be a technique that Jackie Chan would utilize in many of his movies from the 80’s and 90’s and Hill and Spencer would continue with in their future films. You can see all of these things and how their fight scenes and comedy are used in very similar ways. In 1974 they released, Watch Out, We’re Mad and The Two Missionaries.  Their next film, Crimebusters (1976) was the first movie that my brother and I saw and we loved them instantly. We went home within a short time caught up on all their movies. Little did we know back then that we would eventually work with a star from that movie, David Huddleston in our first film, Reveille and later in our movie, Locker 13.  David Huddleston would also star in Go For It (1983). In 2004, when we first worked with him, he told us he was still very good friends with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.budhilldavid

About this time, Hill and Spencer teamed up with a director also famous for spaghetti westerns to make a few of the modern day – non-western Trinty films. The director was Sergio Corbucci and the films were Trinity: Gambling For High Stakes (Odds and Evens) (1978) and Who Finds a Friend, Finds a Treasure (1981). To make things a little confusing, Sergio’s brother, Bruno Corbucci, also made several movies with Hill and Spencer and directed his last one Miami Cops in 1985. To make the connection between Hill-Spencer and Jackie Chan and “brothers” even closer, the film they made in 1984 Double Trouble and the film Chan made in 1992, Twin Dragons are very similar. They both feature all 3 of the actors playing a set of twins that get mixed up with another twin. One set of twins in both films are even musicians. Now over the years, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill felt a lot like brothers.  In their last film together, they played brothers again in Troublemakers (The Night Before Christmas) in 1984, directed by Terence Hill himself.bud spencer terence hill

Seems Like Old Times For a Foul Play

 

How about the perfect Double Feature…for a comedy set I would enter for consideration, Foul Play (1978) and Seems Like Old Times (1980), both featuring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

After a pair of successful screenplays like Harold and Maude (1971) and Silver Streak (1976), the studio decided to give Colin Higgens his first shot at directing and he came up with Foul Play.  It was a hit and he would go on to have two more soon after with 9 to 5 (1980) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).  That’s a pretty good line-up of films for any writer-director in Hollywood, it’s very sad that he died at a young age, as he could have gone on to do so many more great films.foul play 2

Foul Play made bankable Stars out of Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Dudley Moore. Dudley Moore was not the original choice for Stanley Tibbs as the role was originally written for Tim Conway, but he declined due to the sexual nature of the role. Dudley Moore was thrilled, however, because he was able to shine in the role and it started his American career with later films like 10 (1979), Arthur (1981) and Unfaithfully Yours (1984).

I love everything about this film, including all the music from the Mikado and I also remember that Barry Manilow had a huge hit with “Ready to Take a Chance Again” that is featured at the beginning of the movie. I was interested to learn that Steve Martin originally read for the role of Tony Carlson but lost the role to Chevy Chase. Steve Martin would go on to star with Goldie Hawn in 2 films later; Housesitter (1992), and The Out-of-Towners (1999). The Out-of-Towners is ironic as it was written by Neil Simon, who also wrote, Chevy Chase’s and Goldie Hawn’s next match-up, Seems Like Old Times.seems_like_old_times_chevy-chase

I read a very interesting story on how Neil Simon prefers to work. Since he’s a play writer as well as a screenwriter, he prefers to do all rewrites as the actors rehearse the script/play, giving the actors news scripts before each rehearsal. This movie had a two-week rehearsal period in which during this time writer Neil Simon customized the screenplay to tailor the lead stars’ personalities. During the two-week rehearsal period, Simon observed the needs of his stars and was able to re-write portions of the script to better suit their individual personalities. “There is a terrific quality about Chevy [Chase],” says Simon, “He’s the bad boy in class. You never know what he is going to do. I tried to capture that in the script and in each day’s rewrites”.

This Neil Simon movie was written directly for the screen and was not based on a Neil Simon play as many of his other movies have been. For writer Neil Simon, working with Goldie Hawn, was a delight. Simon said of Hawn that she was a “…rare combination. She can be very funny and very sexy. She has a true appreciation of what’s funny and what’s bleak in life” and “She has the two main ingredients for a film comedienne: she’s funny and very sexy. Audiences respond on two levels to that. They are taken by it. She’s terrific to work with”.  It’s interesting to note that Goldie Hawn’s role was originally written for Neil Simon’s wife, Marsha Mason and she was set to do the film originally with Burt Reynolds in the Chevy Chase role.seemsThis would be my favorite of the Neil Simon movies, but I very much liked the movies; Murder By Death (1976), The Goodbye Girl (1977), and Chapter Two (1979). Charles Grodin was fantastic in this movie as Goldie Hawn’s husband, and interestingly, has 2 other movies with Neil Simon, The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and The Lonely Guy (1984) which ironically as well, is a film starring Steve Martin.

Emmy Award-winning TV director Jay Sandrich was drawn to Neil Simon’s script because of the finely crafted writing. Sandrich said: “It’s the type of comedy that I had been doing for years, I understood it completely. I think it has a certain flair and the madcap quality that some of those 30’s pictures had, With writing as good as this, I knew that everything else would fall into place. In this particular script, although it’s very farcy and fast-paced, there are times when the relationships are very valid and very human; and that’s the important thing . . . that the audience care about these people and really believe that they can exist. I think Neil’s script is so well crafted that you could take out the jokes and play it as a drama”.

So now if you are wondering what two films to rent for a great double feature (in this day and age, download) try these two, as you won’t be disappointed with either.  Great films! I would consider them, modern-day classics.

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1970-1979

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1970-1979 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1970 – They Call Me Trinitythey_call_me_trinity_poster_02

The Spaghetti Western and Spaghetti Western Comedies were starting to come into their own and a string of “Trinity” films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer would arise.  They became worldwide stars and did all their own fighting in their films.  These are great fun!

1971 – The Big Bossbig-boss-lobby

Bruce Lee would become a bonafide sensation after his first film and there really was no one quite like him. He had the skills and a way about him that everyone after him tried to copy.  Martial Arts got it’s very own movie genre after this.

1972 – The Poseidon Adventureposeidon-adventure wallpaper

Another new genre, would be this sub-category inside the action genre, that became the disaster film.  This one has a very good fall into a ballroom skylight done by a non-stuntman at the time, Ernie Orsatti.  He would go on to become a stuntman after this, he found he had a knack for it.

1973 – Live and Let DieLive Boat

James Bond would appear this decade a record 4 times!  This is the first on the list with a speedboat jump over land by Jerry Comeaux of 110 feet, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

1974 – The Man With The Golden Gunman_with_the_golden_gun_stunt

This one had a great car jump stunt that is a breath-taking, “I can’t believe I saw that” …mathematical stunt devised by Raymond McHenry at Cornell University and performed by Bumps Willard.

1975 – The Man Who Would Be Kingman who would be king

Joe Powell would perform a jump from a rope bridge between two ravines 100 feet into a pile of boxes that would lead legendary Director John Huston to say, ” That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

1976 – Gatorgator car

This would be the start of a great collaboration between Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds.  Hal Needham would body double Burt in this film and there’s a nifty car flip at the end of the movie with Hal in the truck bed.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved MeSPY-WHO-LOVED-SKI-1

This is a bond film with one of the most extensive pre-credit sequences than all the previous films and right before they go to the opening song and credits, they have a fantastic ski-stunt by Rick Sylvester right off a mountain and then slowly fall until finally has a parachute open. Really great opening.

1978 – HooperHooper3

Hal Needham directed Burt Reynolds this time in a movie inspired by and about stuntmen! Can’t name just one stunt to highlight in this film as it’s just chocked full of them, but if I had to, A. J. Bakunas has a world record breaking jump from a helicopter into an airbag (232 feet!).

1979 – MoonrakerMoonsky7

BJ Worth and Jake Lombard fight over a parachute in this Bond entry and it’s fun to watch.  I would definitely include all the camera men who had to jump and film the sequence which included 88 jumps over all.

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

Stunt Performers for Hooper

 

The film is lightly based on Hal Needham’s (director) experiences as a stuntman, but the film’s main character is modeled after stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker, who just happens to do many of the stunts in the film himself.  This film is also a tribute to Jock Mahoney (who Brian Keith’s character, Jocko Doyle, is modeled after), who really is Sally Field’s stepfather in real life. hooper

The film is also notable for the fact that it inspired a successful television series, The Fall Guy which starred Lee Majors. The show’s theme song’s, “The Unknown Stuntman” lyrics including references to both Reynolds (the star of Hooper) and Farrah Fawcett (who worked with Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run), Majors’ ex-wife. hooper-1978 (1)

As a side note, Hal Needham also started using bloopers during the end credits of his films, and this one presented many of the outtakes from several of the stunts. Another “winner of my Best Stunt Awards”, Jackie Chan, saw this technique used when he worked with Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run 2 and has used the technique ever since to highlight the stunts by him and the Jackie Chan Stunt Team in his movies. hooper_el_increible_1978_1

In one climactic scene, stuntman A.J. Bakunas jumped from a helicopter at a whopping, world-record-breaking 232 feet onto an air bag. If you take into account that the old-school air bags would lift you 30 feet into the air if not precisely hit, it makes the feat all the more impressive. Hooper was directed by Hal Needham for Warner Bros.Hooper3

Things to look up ( go to IMDB ):

  • Hal Needham
  • Hooper
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Warner Bros.
  • Buddy Joe Hooker
  • Jock Mahoney
  • AJ Bakunas
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

 

Gig Young, Murder Suicide

 

I first came to know Gig Young in the Clark Gable, Doris Day movie, Teacher’s Pet (1958), which I love very much.  There is so much to love about that movie, but Gig Young as the hilarious sidekick Dr. Hugo Pine was definitely up there as one of my favorite things about it.gig young in Teachers Pet

Years later, I was troubled one day to find that this superb actor killed his wife and then himself in 1978, in a bizarre murder-suicide. It was unexpected, as they had only been married 3 weeks and seemed very happy at the time of their deaths.  I can only surmise that his declining career and alcoholism over the years lead him to it.

Gig’s breakout year as an actor would have to be 1948, where he had 3 very interesting roles.  The first was as the love interest of Eleanor Parker in the ghost story, The Woman in White. His next role was a supporting role to John Wayne in the drama, Wake of the Red Witch (which interestingly enough is also where John Wayne got the name of his future production company as BatJak was the name of the trading company depicted  in the movie), but it was his role as Porthos in the all-star cast of The Three Musketeers along with Gene Kelly, Van Heflin, June Allyson, Vincent Price, Lana Turner and Angela Lansbury that really sent his career rolling.

I always found him to be at his best when he was second banana in a string of comedies like Desk Set, That Touch of Mink, For Love or Money and Strange Bedfellows, but that’s probably just me.  He seemed perfect as a slightly sarcastic and just-off-of-center-morally supporting character.

He won an Academy Award in 1969 for his role as the inebriated dance marathon emcee Rocky in the Sydney Pollack directed film They Shoot Horses Don’t They?.  Ironically, in 1951 he may have predicted his eventual fall from grace when he said to Louella Parsons, “So many people who have been nominated for an Oscar have bad luck afterwards.” Which is exactly what happened to him.gig-young-they-shoot-horses-gig-young

His personal life was devastated several times due to his alcoholism. He was married and divorced a number of times, once to Elizabeth Montgomery, before Bewitched, and even once romantically involved with fellow alcoholic Elaine Stritch. Their destructive relationship is poignantly discussed in Elaine’s Tony-winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002), which I just happened to have watched while in a hotel in New York and was delighted to find late one night. He met actress Elizabeth Montgomery shortly after their aborted engagement.

The most interesting account of his alcoholism is when he was hired as the gun-slinging Waco Kid in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles (1974).  He was suffering from delirium tremens on the set and couldn’t function from day one.  Mel Brooks, distraught, called his best friend Gene Wilder to help them as they were already behind in shooting and the studio was losing money daily.  Gene took over the role and the rest is history.

Two years later the same thing happened when he was cast as Charlie in the hit TV show Charlie’s Angels and was quickly replaced when he couldn’t read his lines without slurring.

His life began to turn around when he met and married his fifth wife, Kim Schmidt.  She was half his age and a successful German magazine editor.  So your guess is as good as mine, why he chose to shoot his wife Kim and then himself in 1978.  The couple was found dead in their Manhattan apartment.  His Oscar lay beside both of them.gig_stry_c