Category Archives: Comedy

100 years of the best in comedy. TV, movies, comedians, stand up, stage performers. We give the background and stories about your favorite comedies of all times.

Top 15 William Powell Movies

 

One of my all-time favorite actors…even though he’s not as flashy as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable or Spencer Tracy…who are all in my top 5 as well. William Powell seems to sneak in there on the sheer strength of his whole film library. Arguably, he’s the most consistent. He put out some of the finest work ever seen on film, and most, if not all of his movies, stand up today as some of the greatest ever made. Judge for yourself, here are my 15 favorites:

15  The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)

This one is special because of the pairing of William Powell and Jean Arthur. Powell would make a career out of teaming with some of the strongest actresses of the time and then competing with them as equals. He manages to hold each of his female partners in such high esteem, while all along joyfully and playfully sparing with them with wonderful wordplay. This becomes his signature, and not only did the audience enjoy the sparks, but his on screen partners adored him in real life as well. So much so that he fell in love and married 2 of them. He would have married Jean Harlow as well, they were engaged, but she fell ill and died before they married. Back to this film, the script is a little light, but Powell and Arthur are fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Arthur look better than she does in this movie. She just shines.

14  One Way Passage (1932)

This one was the 6th pairing of William Powell with Kay Francis. The story is far fetched, as Powell plays a prisoner- a murderer being sent to prison for his hanging and Francis is on her last cruise as she has a terminal illness. They fall in love and spend their last trip together.  It has a mix of drama and comedy, which seems a bit weird due to the material.

13  The Philo Vance Mysteries (1929-1933)

William Powell starred in 4 of the Philo Vance mysteries, I’ll include them all together in one entry: The Canary Murder Case, The Greene Murder Case, The Benson Murder Case, and The Kennel Murder Case. Because of these movies and the Thin Man series, Powell becomes very well known as a Detective. It’s what puts him on the map initially, I would say, even though it’s his pairings with outstanding female partners that really makes him shine. William Powell is the first to star as Vance and arguably the most successful. These films are fun and I can see why Powell would become very popular as a detective over the next 20 years.

12  For The Defense (1930)

Another movie starring Powell and Kay Francis, this time Powell plays an attorney defending the man that Francis is two-timing him for murder. This was a surprise hit for Paramount. A quickie, it was shot in a mere 15 days and its success immeasurably helped director John Cromwell‘s career, who would go on to direct Tom Sawyer, Of Human Bondage, Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Prisoner of Zenda, Algiers, Made For Each Other, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and Dead Reckoning after this one.

11  Jewel Robbery (1932)

The last one on the list that also stars Kay Francis, this one is my favorite of all the ones they did together. Powell plays a gentleman thief…which reminds me that he would have been the perfect Arsene Lupin over the years if he had ever decided to take that character on.  This began as a stage play, and then turned into a movie, and you can really tell with the great dialogue.

10  Double Wedding (1937)

The first one on the list that features Powell with his best collaborator, Myrna Loy! They are most famous together in the Thin Man movies but they performed so much together over the years that most people thought they were really married, which caused a lot of trouble for the couple whenever they went on location as often the hotels would book them accidentally in the same room! They would eventually star in 14 films together.  When I mentioned earlier that he was engaged to Jean Harlow, but she died…it was during the filming of this movie. They had to shut down production for a few weeks and I think you can tell in Powell’s performance that he was distraught. Also, can I just mention that I hate his artist costume in this movie.

9  Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948)

Fun little movie, seems like it would have been perfect for Don Knotts in the title role, but he was decades away from doing movies…Powell is still fun as always. Ann Blyth plays the mermaid in a very effective costume…at times she seems like a very real mermaid!  In an article in “Look” magazine that came out at the time the film was released Ann Blyth said that the hardest part of making the movie was trying to learn to swim while wearing the mermaid tail. She said that she practiced for more than a week before she felt comfortable with not being able to kick her legs to help her swim. During the film Ann Blyth has no dialogue. She laughs, sings (without words) and cries but does’t talk.

8  Libeled Lady (1936)

Great cast with Powell and Loy as usual, but with the additions of Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy!  Reportedly, while shooting the movie, the four stars had become close friends, and William Powell even gave up his old habit of hiding out in his dressing room between scenes so he could join in the fun with the rest of the cast. One of the biggest jokes was a running gag Spencer Tracy played on Myrna Loy, claiming that she had broken his heart with her recent marriage to producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. He even set up an “I Hate Hornblow” table in the studio commissary, reserved for men who claimed to have been jilted by Loy. Myrna Loy recalled in her 1987 autobiography that a good time was had by all during the shoot – “Libeled Lady was one of the best of the so-called screwball comedies, with a great cast, and Jack Conway directing us at breakneck speed.” She praised her co-stars and also expressed her love for working with Walter Connolly, whom she described as “darling.” Some of the cast and crew travelled to the California mountains during production in order to shoot exteriors of the bucolic scenes. They spent nearly a week living cosily in small cabins, according to Myrna Loy, and enjoying the rustic scenery far from the bright lights of Hollywood. This was where William Powell filmed his bit of slapstick in which he must pretend to be an expert angler in order to impress Connie’s father. “It’s a hysterical piece of work,” praised Loy, “but then Bill was a very gifted man, able to do great comedy and tragedy, everything.”

7  The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

William Powell plays the great showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. in this biography of his life. He would go on to play Ziegfeld again later for a showcase of some of Ziegfeld’s finest work in Ziegfeld Follies.  Billie Burke, the wife of the real Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., never really rated the film much despite taking a personal interest in the writing of the script. She went to great lengths to make sure that writer William Anthony McGuire never besmirched the good name of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., hence the playing down of his infidelities.  The Great Ziegfeld would become the first biopic to win an Academy Award for “Best Picture”. Powell himself would be nominated for My Man Godfrey, that same year.

6  I Love You Again (1940)

This one is quite fun, Powell plays a man who is a normal boring businessman that bumps his head a second time, which makes him recover from amnesia, only to remember his life as a con man before he had amnesia! In the process, he comes to learn that he’s deeply in love with the woman that is soon to be his ex-wife, Myrna Loy.  The fun part of this movie is the total change in Powell’s personality and then the wooing of his wife (coo-ing?). It does have a lengthy Boy Scout sequence, which is delightful, but to me, takes it away from the fun parts that are Powell-Loy laden.

5  Life With Father (1947)

I love Irene Dunne and she is really in fine form in this great family film.  In later years, Irene Dunne admitted that she hated playing the part of Vinnie, the wife, as she considered the part to be “rattle-brained”.  The original play, “Life With Father” is the longest-running Broadway non-musical play ever. It played on Broadway for nearly eight years (3224 performances), from 1939 to 1947 and held the record for 25 years until “Fiddler on the Roof” surpassed it. In the play, author Howard Lindsay played Father, Dorothy Stickney was Vinnie and Teresa Wright was Mary. The film version was released in 1947, the year that the Broadway run ended. William Powell had his 3rd Academy Award nomination for this role.

4  Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Clark Gable adds to the fun in Manhattan Melodrama. Interesting thing about this is that both William Powell and Clark Gable were married to Carole Lombard, at different times, of course, neither during this movie.  This was also the first movie to feature Powell and Loy together. Interesting to note, this movie is probably most famous for being the movie that bank robber John Dillinger had just seen before he was gunned down in front of Chicago’s Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934. He had been set up by Anna Sage, the madam of a brothel, who knew Dillinger’s girlfriend, Polly Hamilton. Sage was facing deportation and thought the tip might get her off. She told FBI agent Melvin Purvis that she would be wearing orange which appeared red, leading her to be dubbed “The Woman in Red”. Dillinger was shot three times when he tried to escape, and Sage wound up being sent back to Romania.

3  Mister Roberts (1955)

William Powell’s last movie, based on the play which also starred Henry Fonda as Mister Roberts. The supporting cast in this film is incredible with great parts for James Cagney and Jack Lemmon, who won an Oscar for his role of Ensign Pulver. Initially directed by John Ford, one of the few non-westerns he did.  On this movie, he was apparently mean and abusive.  When John Ford met James Cagney at the airport, the director warned that they would “tangle asses,” which caught Cagney by surprise. Cagney later said: “I would have kicked his brains out. He was so goddamned mean to everybody. He was truly a nasty old man.” The next day, Cagney was slightly late on set, and Ford became incensed. Cagney cut short the imminent tirade, saying: “When I started this picture, you said that we would tangle asses before this was over. I’m ready now – are you?” Ford backed down and walked away and he and Cagney had no further conflicts on the set.  Later on, there was a disagreement between John Ford and Henry Fonda that led to Ford punching Fonda in the mouth, ending their 16-year personal friendship and eight-film professional relationship, even though Ford apologized to Fonda afterward. Fonda only appeared in one more Ford film after that. Ford was eventually dismissed from the film and Mervyn LeRoy took over.  John Ford’s dismissal from the film pushed him over the edge. He began drinking heavily, and was hospitalized in Hawaii for alcohol poisoning.

2  The Thin Man Mysteries (1934-1947)

To this day, these are the films that William Powell and Myrna Loy are most famous for, with good reason, they are awesome.  I don’t need to go into much detail, as I do that here in another blog post.  Now after you’ve read that go see the series, it’s great.

1  My Man Godfrey (1936)

My favorite movie featuring Powell is also the one that really features his ex-wife Carole Lombard most effectively.  It’s about a scatterbrained socialite, who hires a vagrant as a family butler…but there’s more to Godfrey than meets the eye.  William Powell suggested his ex-wife Carole Lombard for the leading role with the explanation that his real life romance with Lombard had been much the same as it was for the characters of Godfrey and Irene. Although stars William Powell and Carole Lombard had been divorced for three years by the time they made this, when offered the part Powell declared that the only actress right for the part of Irene was Lombard.  This is the only film to receive Oscar nominations for writing, directing and all four acting awards without being nominated for Best Picture. It was also the only film to receive those six nominations without winning in any of the categories until American Hustle (2013).

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

Darkman, A Comic Book Superhero Movie That Never Was a Comic Book

 

Sam Raimi has a few franchise films worth noting. A really popular horror franchise and a really good comic book superhero franchise come to mind. (Evil Dead…Spider-Man) But there was a time he did a mash-up before mash-ups became a thing…with 1990’s Darkman series.  Starring Liam Neeson as the Darkman in the title, along with Frances McDormand, Ted Raimi, Colin Friels and Larry Drake, it’s a wonderfully creative tale and works as a superhero movie, comic book movie and a horror at times. Liam, Frances and Larry all give great performances. I wish they would come back to this series as it’s a fun one, maybe as a future TV show like they did with the Evil Dead series.  darkman-wallpaper

Sam Raimi originally wanted to do a movie of the famous “The Shadow” series, could not obtain the rights, so came up with his own movie similar to that one and called his character, Darkman. He also Drew inspiration from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, Batman, The Invisible Man and The Elephant Man. When they went into production he wanted to cast his production partner up until that time, Bruce Campbell, but the studio he was working with didn’t think he was good enough to sell the movie. For the role of Darkman, Sam Raimi wanted someone who could play a monster with the soul of a man. An actor who could do all that beneath a lot of makeup.darkman-2

Bill Paxton was almost cast as Peyton Westlake (Darkman). According to Paxton, he told his friend Liam Neeson about the audition. When Neeson got the the role, Paxton was so angry that he did not speak to Neeson for months. Some of Darkman’s elements were inspired by Batman. Liam Neeson worked 18 hour days in ten-piece makeup, but he liked the challenge, and the idea of working behind a mask on camera, as well as exploring the possibilities this entailed. Neeson also had input on the costume he wore as Darkman, especially the cloak. The hardest part was speaking with false teeth, because he didn’t want them to move at all.  Sam Raimi is a fan of the Batman character, and was among those passed over to direct Batman (1989). Larry Drake and Liam Neeson would later work on Batman Beyond: The Winning Edge (1999) and Batman Begins (2005) respectively.darkman-pic

Larry Drake was cast because of the way he underplayed Durant. Quiet, careful, but intense. Sam Raimi had never watched a single episode of L.A. Law (1986), where Drake played the developmentally disabled Benny (I believe he won an Emmy award for this role and if you’ve seen him in this, he’s awesome!). But Drake’s face reminded him of a modern day Edward G. Robinson. He looked so mean and domineering, yet he had an urban wit about him. Raimi believed these qualities made him the perfect adversary for Darkman.darkman-larry-drake

Red Skelton, The Ultimate Clown

 

The first I remember ever seeing or hearing about Red Skelton is when my father took me to go see him and Marcel Marceau on one ticket at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida in the early 80’s. The Peabody was my favorite theatre for live events as a teenager and they had, concerts, comedians and Broadway plays. I also remember seeing The Pirates of Penzance and Weird Al Yankovic there. It’s a magical place, I have a lot of fond memories, and Red Skelton was a bright shining star among them.logo

He performed a lot of his comedy and character sketches that he perfected in movies and on TV over the years and he was wonderful. He appeared in character as Clem Kadiddlehopper and Freddie the Freeloader as well as others, and this was my first experience with a true-life clown. He loved appearing as a clown and often appeared on TV and live as one, was inducted soon after that show into the International Clown Hall of Fame. He loved them so much he painted a slew of clowns over the years, one of which, just happens to be hanging in the office of the Director of Sales, Adam Reiman, at the Rainmaker Institute, in Gilbert, Arizona, where I consult with Attorneys on their online marketing.Red Skelton Clown PaintingHis most popular movies would have to be Bathing Beauty (1944) with Esther Williams, The Fuller Brush Man (1948), The Yellow Cab Man (1950), Three Little Words (1950) with Fred Astaire, and The Clown (1953). His TV Show, The Red Skelton Hour ran for an unheard of 20 years from 1951 to 1971! Skelton believed his life’s work was to make people laugh; he wanted to be known as a clown because he defined it as being able to do everything. He had a 70-year career as a performer and entertained three generations of Americans during this time. Good night to you Red, and may God bless.watch_the_birdie_red_skelton_cameras

Peter Jackson and The Frighteners, A Scary and Fun Ride!

 

It’s very rare for a film to cross genres effectively, but The Frighteners (1996) is just one of those special films. It’s altogether funny, and terrifying, but most of all a thrilling fantasy. The film is about Frank Bannister, who develops psychic abilities, after a car accident kills his wife and he is injured, allowing him to see, hear, and communicate with ghosts. He gives up his job as an architect, letting his unfinished “dream house” sit incomplete for years, and puts these new skills to use by befriending a few ghosts and getting them to haunt houses in the area to drum up work for his ghostbusting business; Then Frank proceeds to “exorcise” the houses for a fee. But when he discovers that an entity resembling the Grim Reaper is killing people, marking numbers on their forehead beforehand. With the help of his ghostly pals, Frank pursues this ghastly creature. Meanwhile, Dr. Lucy Lynskey is investigating Patricia Bradley, a woman who was involved in a mass-murder as a teenager, and has been experiencing ghostly attacks. Despite the fact that the police, and FBI Agent Dammers want to pin the murders on Frank, he and Lucy realize that something supernatural and sinister is happening in Fairwater and will stop at nothing to find the truth.the-frighteners

This film didn’t do too well at the box office, because frankly, no one knew what to make of it so the marketing fell apart. If you want to watch some both funny and scary…both fantasy and thriller…then this film can be a great mix! Michael J. Fox plays Frank Bannister with his usual charisma and instantly pulls you in effectively to this strange new world. No other actor was considered for the Frank Bannister role other than Michael J. Fox. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were having a meeting with Robert Zemeckis (who produced) about the film and his name came up. Zemeckis liked the idea, and sent the script to Fox. The film was originally planned as a Tales from the Crypt (1989) feature, but producer Robert Zemeckis liked the script so much, he decided it should stand on its own and not be part of a series. Danny Elfman was so impressed with Peter Jackson’s previous movie, Heavenly Creatures (1994), that he offered to do the score for one of Jackson’s next movies, and agreed to this movie without even knowing what it was about. milton-dammers-the-frighteners

Michael J. Fox performed many of his own stunts in the film. Ironically he broke his foot by a simple fall whilst filming in the forest at night. Peter Jackson said Fox’s injury was actually a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to work on the script some more, and edit some of the film’s scenes while Fox recovered for a week. When Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson were writing the part of the Drill Sergeant in the graveyard, they wrote the part as a spoof of R. Lee Ermey’s character in Full Metal Jacket (1987) with the intention of getting an actor in New Zealand for the role. But they didn’t feel the actors who auditioned were right and finally ended up approaching Ermey himself, and he said YES! The shot of R. Lee Ermey screaming down at Frank Bannister in the cemetery is a clear reference to the shot of him screaming down at Pvt. Joker in Full Metal Jacket.frighteners-ermey-fox

The film’s serial killing couple is based on real life people. Charles Starkweather, the real life killer referenced in the movie, killed 11 people (and 2 dogs) during a nearly two month killing spree. His 14-year-old girlfriend (Carillon Ann Fugate) accompanied him for, and participated in most of the killings. He was caught, tried, convicted, and executed (by electric chair), in a seventeen month span. Caril was not executed, but sentenced to a “Life” term in prison. She was paroled after serving 17 years in prison. In order to trick the audience into believing that Patricia Bradley (the Caril character) was innocent of the Fairwater murders, Peter Jackson specifically wanted Dee Wallace for the part. He figured that her role as Elliot’s mother in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) was about the sweetest character you could find, and therefore no one in the audience would suspect her.frighteners-2

The Goodbye Girl

 

I love this movie. That’s my main thought as I think about The Goodbye Girl (1977). I can thank my sister, Page, for introducing this and Chapter Two (1979), another Neil Simon written film, to me when I was much younger. And The Wiz (1978) and Chorus Line (1985) for that matter. That’s what you get when you have a sister that is 4 years older than you and influences your early film experiences…sometimes I regret the last two, when I get razzed by my buddies about my specific favorite films, but not with Neil Simon’s stuff. There’s something to be enjoyed there by any gender and tastes…especially his brilliance in writing the perfect argument. From the Odd Couple (1970) on, he has been the master of hilarious arguments. According to Neil Simon, no one expected anything special at the box office from the film. “It had only one real star, Richard Dreyfuss; one rising star, Marsha Mason; and one cute ten-year-old, Quinn Cummings, with a slight love story directed extremely well by Herbert Ross and a rather nice script by me, if I have to say so myself…it probably wouldn’t have been made were it not for Ray Stark’s faith in it.”the_goodbye_girl_lobby_card

The movie is about an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter who, after being dumped by her live-in boyfriend are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor. My sister was a dancer growing up and now a retired dance teacher, so I can see where her interests drew her to this movie. It was directed by Herbert Ross, who directed 5 of Neil Simon’s movies over the years but also the classics (well, they’ve held up over time, anyway): Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969), The Turning Point (1977), Footloose (1984), Steel Magnolias (1989) and one of my other forgotten favorite’s, Undercover Blues (1993). What’s interesting about Goodbye Girl and Turning Point is they were both released in 1977 and unusually enough, he won Best Drama at the Golden Globes for Turning Point and Best Comedy for Goodbye Girl. Nobody has ever done that before and also not since.the-goodbye-girl_marsha-mason

Other than a brilliant script and a wonderful director, the real spark is between Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss. They were both nominated for Oscars from this film, but only Richard one, which is a shame because Marsha was amazing as well. When Richard Dreyfuss was asked in a 2000 interview what made the film so special, he replied, “Goodbye Girl was a wonderful script. Wonderful. And as actors we never got tired of it. Never…It was funny and loving. And the actors and actresses in the show–especially Marsha and Quinn–were perfect. Like God had said these are the actors to work with. I once said that I’d like to play Elliot until I retired and got a Swiss watch because he was great. I wanted to be him, and I wanted to acquire his personality for my own.” Marsha Mason also recalled later, working with Richard Dreyfuss – “Richard was fast and funny. I was thoughtful and more serious. Richard was wild and free. I was a responsible wife and mother and an actress. I wanted so much to be like him. He was so sure of himself, so sure of his place and space, and he moves forward accordingly. He’s bright, bright, bright, incredibly well read, and comfortable with his intelligence.”1977-goodbye-girl-the-02

Another thing of note is that this film has just about the finest ending credit song there is. The film’s theme song “Goodbye Girl”, was sung and written by David Gates, and went to No. #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1977.

Starter For 10, The British Brat Pack

 

Every so often a movie comes around that is so chocked full of amazing actors that you have to wonder how they acquired such an incredible cast. It’s in hind sight of course. The secret is the cast was not well known back then but over the following ten years after the release of the movie, they’ve all racked up impressive lists of movies all on their own. Now, I must admit, that Great Britain has some of the best actors in the world, but it’s rare to find so many of them in one film. The film I’m talking about in this case is Starter For 10 (2006). Throughout this post I want to examine the cast and where they have gone.starter

To start, the film was written by David Nicholls, based on his own novel. He would go on to write some great stuff for the BBC, including Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008), Great Expectations (2012) and Far From the Maddening Crowd (2015). The film was directed by Tom Vaughan who would also direct What Happens in Vegas (2008), Extraordinary Measures (2010), and Some Kind of Beautiful (2014). Now, not only was it produced by the BBC, but also by Tom Hanks and Playtone! Say what you will about his acting, he’s amazing at that, but has also really shown a talent for picking amazing projects over the years as a producer! His producer credits include Band of Brothers (2001), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), John Adams (2008), Mamma Mia! (2008), The Pacific (2010) and Parkland (2013).starter-10

James McAvoy:  The lead actor in this film, which is a period comedy set in 1985, where the story chronicles the misadventures of Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), a student trying to navigate life at Bristol University and his goals to be on the hit quiz show, University Challenge. Because of the time period, setting and cast, it makes it feel like an early 80’s Brat Pack film in the vein of The Breakfast Club (1985), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Oxford Blues (1984) and Class (1983). It’s interesting to note that it was Andrew MacCarthy’s acting that inspired James McAvoy to be an actor. In an interview he would state, “Yeah, St. Elmo’s Fire is probably the one that I love him in the most. He was really vulnerable, really open, I think. And he had floppy hair, kind of bad hair, and I had really bad hair for quite a long time when I was a kid…”.  starterfor101

Benedict Cumberbatch:  The center connection for all the actors would probably by Cumberbatch as James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch would later co-star together in Atonement (2007). He would also be cast as Sherlock Holmes in a BBC Series created by his co-star Mark Gatiss and he would star in Star Trek Into Darkness with co-star Alice Eve. 4 of the actors would also be hired by Marvel as Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange set to come out this year, McAvoy plays Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, Dominic Cooper plays Howard Stark in the franchise and in Agent Carter on TV and Rebecca Hall appears in Iron Man 3. james-mcavoy-dominic-cooper

Mark Gatiss like I said, created Sherlock Holmes for the BBC (along with Stephen Moffat), but he’s also written for Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Doctor Who, and The League of Gentlemen. I like to think of him as a fine writer, but he has over 80 credits as an actor for the BBC.  Rebecca Hall has gone on to some very fine films like The Prestige (2006), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), The Town (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013), The Gift (2015) and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016). Alice Eve has finally broken out is some very good films over the years that include Men in Black 3 (2012), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Before We Go (2014). Dominic Cooper has recently been in Mamma Mia! (2008), Captain America (2011), and Warcraft (2016). And last but not least would be the understated, James Corden!  Who can forget that he’s taken over the Late Late Show, but he was also fantastic in Begin Again (2013) and Into the Woods (2014).james-corden-james-mcavoy-dominic-cooper

What an incredible cast and a lot of their careers really took off after this film.

Steve Martin, the Writer of Roxanne

 

Over the years Steve Martin has written a lot of material, especially knowing how much time he’s spent as a leading actor, comedian and musician. He technically started writing comedy right out of college by writing for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he won an Emmy.  He would go on to several TV Shows after that and also  on a very successful run as a stand-up comedian, writing his own material. He released several comedy albums and wrote several songs including a hit song, “King Tut” where he won 2 Grammys, then after his movie career would write and perform several “serious” musical albums where he won a few more Grammys.

Now at this point, as everyone knows, he would go on to an enormous movie career and wrote a lot of his movies, especially at the beginning with The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains, 3 Amigos, LA Story, A Simple Twist of Fate, Bowfinger, Shopgirl, and the Pink Panther movies. I thought he deserved an Academy Award in there somewhere as a writer or at the very least as an actor. Martin would later write numerous books and plays and although some of those were quite brilliant, it’s here I’d like to mention my favorite of all he’s written…Roxanne (1987).roxanne-darryl-hannah-steve-martin

Now for those of you who’ve never seen it…stop reading this and go out and buy it on DVD or digital, or whatever you do to get your movies and watch it…you won’t regret it. It’s wonderful. It’s based on the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmund Rostand, where large nosed C.D. Bales falls for the beautiful Roxanne while she falls for his personality but another man’s looks. Sounds confusing, but it’s delightful and hilarious. Steve Martin was a driving creative force behind ‘Roxanne’, as both writer and star of the comedy. Martin’s inventive comic mind was turned loose as he undertook the considerable challenge of creating a 1980s comedic hero based on the witty work of playwright Edmond Rostand. Martin remembered: “I was about twelve years old when I first saw the play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and I found it to be very compelling. I kept thinking about it; the story and structure are flawless; the play is moving, beautiful and funny. About four years ago, I started thinking that it also has everything you could want in a movie romance, high comedy and a great story. It seemed a perfect vehicle for me to update. But the play is very, very 11th Century, especially in the joke department. And there are lots of swords, lights, and monasteries, you know, things that don’t really function much in our lives anymore”. So Martin adapted the classic, retaining the triangle dilemma, but moving the story to a modern-day trendy ski resort town, within the backdrop of a volunteer fire department. The town’s handsome, inarticulate swordsman becomes a tongue-tied firefighter in ‘Roxanne’. The source original Cyrano de Bergerac’s brave militant regiment has become his inept volunteer fire brigade. C.D. [Bales] fights fires and not battles and rescues treed cats and not ladies’ honor. Steve Martin noted: “But the story is still there, the classic story of how this beautiful woman comes to understand whom she really loves”.steve-martin-roxanne

When Bales is challenged to tell 20 nose jokes, after he tells 19, he asks “How many’s that?” to which he is told, “Fourteen!” He goes on to tell another six, making 25 in total. My brother and I would count these out as he did them, when we were watching in the theater.  I think he did this because he wrote too many good nose jokes and didn’t know where to cut them off…I think it works, because it’s a great sequence in the film.  Now, I’d also like to mention that this was the first time as an actor that Steve Martin was genuinely starting to be viewed as an actor and not as a stand-up comedian, who acts. In a radio interview, Steve Martin said about his role in Roxanne that it was the first time he felt respected in a film role as opposed to being recognized for his celebrity as a one-time stand-up comedian.

Technology lent an important hand in providing Steve Martin with the imposing, legendary proboscis designed by makeup designer Michael Westmore. A specialty lab made plaster impression of Martin’s own nose was sculpted into a genetically appropriate, larger version. This was then cast into a mold from which they made a supply of foam-rubber noses, at least one a day was used for filming, which were applied with spirit gum, edges feathered with rubber, and blended with Martin’s other facial make-up. Make-up artist Frank Griffin for Steve Martin said: “This was, in some ways, one of the most difficult ‘jobs’ I’ve ever done because we had to match the skin color, with very little surrounding make-up to blend into. If it just ended abruptly, it would stick out like a sore thumb”.darryl-hannah-roxanne-steve-martin

 

 

 

Lloyd Bridges

 

Not only did Lloyd father two very fine actors, he was also one of the most interesting actors in his own right. Lloyd Bridges was a very versatile actor being very successful in just about every genre over the years. He had a successful TV show Sea Hunt in the late 1950’s for 155 episodes. Bridges returned to television a year later in this ambitious 30-minute series, designed to showcase his range and depth as an actor. For The Lloyd Bridges Show, he played journalist Adam Shepherd, who would research a story, and then imagine himself as the protagonist, and the episode would thrust him into a new character in a new situation every week. TV Producer Aaron Spelling came up with the concept, and Lloyd Bridges, later said the show really should have been called “The Aaron Spelling Show”. Bridges said Spelling was a genius. It was a family affair, however, as Jeff Bridges appeared in three episodes, and Beau was in two. Lloyd’s daughter Cindy was also in an episode.airplane-lloyd-bridges

Now, as a child of the 80’s he came to my attention in Airplane, from the Zucker brothers (and Jim Abrahams). This is by far the best of the parody movies, that seemed to flood the movies in the 70’s and 80’s from Mel Brooks and the Zucker brothers. Most of his movies before these featured him in very serious roles, but here he found a new audience as he was extremely funny in these movies. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker chose actors such as Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film, these actors had not done comedy, so their “straight-arrow” personas and line delivery made the satire in the movie all the more poignant and funny. Bridges was initially reluctant to take his role in the movie, but his sons, Jeff and Beau, persuaded him to do it. Lloyd Bridges as Steve McCroskey spoofs his role as airport manager Jim Conrad in the TV series San Francisco International Airport (1970).hot-shots-part-deux-lloyd-bridges

Because of the success of this movie, Bridges would be cast in another parody series; Hot Shots! (1991), and Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), written and directed by Jim Abrahams.  He wasn’t the original actor hired for his role however, as he replaced George C. Scott, when he had to decline the project. Hot Shots! parodies the scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) in which Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) sits atop on a piano and sings “Makin’ Whoopee”. That film starred Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges as the title characters, Jack and Frank Baker. In the sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux Jim Abrahams originally wanted Marlon Brando instead of Lloyd Bridges to play The President. Later in 1993, Charlie Sheen, who played the lead in this series, would go on to play Aramis in The Three Musketeers (1993). Interestingly, that role was previously played by Lloyd Bridges in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), which also featured José Ferrer as Athos. Miguel Ferrer, his son, also appears in this Hot Shots! Part Deux.bridges-lloyd-jeff-beau

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

 

If you’ve been to Disneyland lately, specifically California Adventure, you will notice a “new” character walking around the theme park. It’s non-other than Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I say “new” because he was actually the first animated character created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1927, before he created Mickey Mouse, but he never owned the rights to him, until the Disney Company traded the rights for Oswald and all of his original Disney produced animated shorts with NBC/Universal in 2006 for the services of Al Michaels as play-by-play announcer on NBC Sunday Night Football (thank you Al Michaels, that was a Win/Win for us all).oswald

Now, if you’re a Nintendo game fan, then you’ll recognize that they put Oswald to use almost instantly in the video games, Epic Mickey, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.  Here’s some more interesting facts about Oswald:

  • He was voiced by the same person that eventually would go on to become the voice of Goofy – Pinto Colvig, from 1930-1931.
  • Was voiced by actor Mickey Rooney after Pinto left in 1931.
  • Was voiced by Walter Lantz in 1935, who would become famous later for creating another famous animated character, Woody Woodpecker.
  • In the last animated short to feature Oswald, The Egg Cracker Suite (1943) he was voiced by June Foray, who would go on to voice Natasha and Rocky the Squirrel, in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
  • Featured in DC Comics and Dell Comics over the years.
  • Was the first Disney character to sell merchandise.
  • The full version of the animated short Oh, What a Knight is included as an unlockable cartoon in Epic Mickey by collecting various film reels in the game.
  • Oswald won Best New Character in both Readers’ Choice and Editors’ Choice in Nintendo Power’s Best of 2010 awards.