Tag Archives: Gene Hackman

Top 15 Kevin Costner Movies

Kevin Costner has so many great movies, it was difficult in paring down the best ones to a minimal 15, but I did it to the dismay of all Bull Durham fans out there–it was on the bubble and I had to cut it. With that being said, here’s my top 15 Kevin Costner movies:

15 – No Way Out (1987)Many people consider Tom Farrell in No Way Out as the performance that launched Kevin Costner’s career as a leading man.  No Way Out was a remake of The Big Clock (1948 – Great movie by the way) starring Ray Milland in the Costner role and Charles Laughton in Gene Hackman’s role. This is a fantastic thriller and some, though not all, scenes supposedly inside the Pentagon were filmed there. The most notable on-location scene occurred inside the actual office of the Secretary of Defense.

14 – The Guardian (2006)The opening story of the helo rescue gone bad was loosely based on a real event that occurred August 7, 1981. The crew of CG1471 from Airsta Kodiak was responding to a distress call of a fishing vessel near Prince William Sound. As the crew attempted to hoist the survivors of the boat, a wave hit the tail of CG1471 causing the helo to crash into the seas. A painting named “So Others May Live” hangs on CG Airsta Kodiak depicting the rescue. In real life, actors Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher are both members of the Delta Chi fraternity. Interestingly, in this film, Clancy Brown portrays “Captain William Hadley” and in “The Shawshank Redemption” he portrays “Captain Byron Hadley.”

13 – The Postman (1998)The second post-apocalyptic feature film which Kevin Costner stars in the lead role as a drifter with no name. The other film is coming up on this list at number 10. People are probably freaked out that I picked this movie over Bull Durham or Wyatt Earp or Message in a Bottle, but I simply loved this film more than those.

12 – Open Range (2003)Robert Duvall was the only actor that Kevin Costner had in mind for the role of Boss Spearman. Robert Duvall accepted the role of Boss Spearman within twenty-four hours of reading the script. Costner said if Duvall had turned down the part, he might not have made the movie at all. Originally, the studio had Kevin Costner top-billed over Robert Duvall, but Costner asked the studio to top-bill Duvall instead. At only two hours and nineteen minutes, this is the shortest of the three movies Kevin Costner self-directed. They average three hours each.

11 – Dances With Wolves (1990)Michael Blake wrote a spec screenplay in the early 1980s. When Kevin Costner came across the project in 1986, he suggested to Blake that he should turn it into a novel, thereby increasing his chances of getting it made into a film. Blake did so and after many rejections found a publisher in 1988. Costner immediately snapped up the movie rights with an eye to directing it himself.  The studio wanted the final cut to be 2 hours 20 minutes. They had to settle for Kevin Costner’s cut of At 236 minutes, the director’s cut of “Dances with Wolves is the longest of Costner’s three self-directed movies, which average 3 hours.

10 – Water World (1995)Kevin Costner insisted that his friend Kevin Reynolds be given the director’s position as they had previously worked on Fandango and Robin Hood together. Later, Costner had a falling out with Reynolds over the film’s direction, but they would come together again after this movie to film the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Despite reports, on the contrary, Costner worked extremely hard on this film and was on the set 157 days, working 6 days a week. Kevin Costner and Kim Coates became good friends after this movie and later worked together on Open Range which was directed by Costner.

9 – For The Love of The Game (1999)After pitching his perfect game at Yankee Stadium, Kevin Costner’s character carries John C. Reilly to his hotel room, where Reilly says to him, “you’re the cream in my coffee.” In Costner’s movie JFK (1991) a woman on the street comes up to him asking if he remembers singing with her at a party to which he responds, “oh right, we sang ‘you’re the cream in my coffee'” as he walks away. The movie’s production and release coincided with the fact that two real life perfect games were pitched at Yankee Stadium during that time frame. David Wells of the Yankees threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins at the Stadium in May 1998, six months prior to the filming of game scenes there. David Cone, also of the Yankees, would pitch a perfect game at Yankee Stadium against the Montreal Expos in July 1999, almost exactly two months prior to the film’s release.

8 – The Bodyguard (1992)

This film was originally proposed in the mid-’70s, starring Diana Ross and Steve McQueen, but was rejected as “too controversial”. The film concept was to be attempted again in the late 1970s, with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross cast as the leads. The project fell through after only a few months because of irreconcilable differences between O’Neal and Ross, who had been dating. Kevin Costner said that he based his portrayal of Frank Farmer on actor Steve McQueen. He even went as far as to get McQueen’s trademark haircut for the role. This was Whitney Houston’s first movie role. Kevin Costner was one of the movie’s producers. He campaigned to have Houston play Rachel. Whitney Houston would give Kevin Costner singing lessons on set in exchange for acting advice. It was Kevin Costner’s idea for Whitney Houston to start “I Will Always Love You” a capella. Originally I Will Always Love You” wasn’t in the movie – the big single was “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” When that song was used in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Kevin Costner suggested: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It would become Whitney’s signature song.

7 – JFK (1992)

Oliver Stone was given a copy of Jim Garrison’s book, “On the Trail of the Assassins“, by a friend to read on the plane to the Philippines during the filming of Platoon (1986). After reading the book, Stone knew he’d found a new film project. After reading Jim Garrison’s book, Oliver Stone immediately bought the rights with his own money. Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner both have very long monologues in the movie. According to Oliver Stone, both of them memorized these speeches (Kevin Costner had thought that one take was necessary for his speech). Reportedly, after starring in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Kevin Costner wanted a year off making films. Director Oliver Stone brazenly sent Costner’s wife a copy of the screenplay for JFK (1991), so she persuaded him to star in the film.

6 – Silverado (1985)

Cook Ranch, twenty-five miles from the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico, served as the site for the town of Silverado. Production Designer Ida Random and Set Designers Bill Elliott (a.k.a. William A. Elliott), Chas. Butcher, and Richard McKenzie had the challenging task of completely creating the forty building western town. From a vast body of historical reference, Random and her team, and a construction crew of one hundred forty, designed and built such structures as the Midnight Star Saloon, a hotel, and a church. Construction Coordinator Clarence Lynn Price, and his able crew, completed the town in twelve weeks, in less than desirable conditions, below freezing temperatures, and winds as high as sixty miles per hour.  The town of “Silverado” has since been used in such movies as Young Guns (1988), Wyatt Earp (1994) (also starring Kevin Costner), Last Man Standing (1996), Lonesome Dove (1989), All the Pretty Horses (2000), and Wild Wild West (1999) (also starring Kevin Kline). In the latter film, as a reference to director Lawrence Kasdan, “Kasdan Ironworks” can be seen on the side of one of the buildings.

5 – Draft Day (2014)

Sonny trades three first-round draft picks (which includes that year’s #7 overall pick) for the #1 pick of the draft. Sonny then trades three second-round picks for the #6 pick of the draft. Then he swaps #6 for his original #7, the future first-round picks he traded away, plus a special teams player. With the picks, he gets the LB he originally wanted at #1 and a RB at #7; essentially trading three second-round picks for the number one overall pick in the draft and a special teams kick returner. The trade Cleveland made in the movie is similar to the real-life trade made in the 2012 NFL Draft, where the Washington Redskins traded their 2012 number six overall pick, 2012 second round selection, 2013 first round selection, and 2014 first round selection for the 2012 number two overall pick to the St. Louis Rams, in order to select Robert Griffin III.

4 – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

One of the absolute best things in this movie, hands down, is Alan Rickman. He’s just brilliant in this. Alan Rickman turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte blanche with his interpretation of the character. Alan Rickman ad-libbed the line about canceling Christmas. Some of the other Sheriff’s witty lines (such as telling a couple of wenches “You! My room, 10.30 tonight. You! My room, 10.45. And bring a friend.”) were devised by Alan Rickman’s friends comedian Ruby Wax and playwright Peter Barnes. He enlisted their help in spicing up his dialogue because he felt the script was terrible. Kevin Reynolds enabled these script alterations by not informing the producers or screenwriters or anyone in the crew. Rickman said in an interview years later that he knew these new lines were having the desired effect when during takes he noticed the crew members covering their mouths, trying not to laugh.

3 – The Untouchables (1987)

Eliot Ness and his role in bringing down Al Capone had been completely forgotten at the time of his death in 1957. No Chicago newspaper carried news of his passing. His heroic reputation only began with the posthumous publication of the Untouchables book he had co-written with Oscar Fraley, and the television series adapted from it…and then this movie, which was a very loose remake for the TV series–and is the best of all. Brian De Palma previously directed Scarface (1983), which was a very, very loose remake of Scarface (1932), which was about Al Capone. Kevin Costner has acted with all three of the main leads of Goodfellas (1990) in three different movies. Costner co-stars here with Robert De Niro. He later worked with Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams (1989) and Joe Pesci in JFK (1991).

2 – Tin Cup (1996)

Kevin Costner and Don Johnson are good friends in real life. And also that Johnson was considered to play Eliot Ness in the untouchables but turned it down and it went to his friend Kevin Costner. Don Johnson and Cheech Marin would go on and star together in the television series “Nash Bridges” later the same year this movie came out. Cheech Marin had said he disliked golf until he joined this film, later having become an avid player of the game. The scene at the end of the movie where Roy hits the shot into the water hazard, again and again, was based on an actual event. Gary McCord, the commentator with the handlebar mustache in the movie, is an actual commentator and pro golfer. In a 1987 tournament, he had a shot similar to Kevin Costner’s. He needed a birdie to win and went for it. He hit the water over and over again and finally made the shot, but it cost him 15 strokes. In the movie, Costner gets it in 12. The scene where Roy wins a bar bet by hitting a golf ball at a pelican also was based on a real-life incident from McCord’s career.

1 – Field of Dreams (1989)

After the movie was completed, test audiences didn’t like the name “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, because they said it sounded like a movie about a bum or hobo. Universal called Director and Screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson to tell him that “Shoeless Joe” didn’t work, and the studio changed the title of the film to “Field of Dreams”. When Robinson heard the news of the change, he called W.P. Kinsella, the author of the book, and told him the “bad” news, but apparently, he didn’t care, saying that “Shoeless Joe” was the title the publishing company gave the book. Kinsella’s original title was “Dream Field”. Ray Liotta had no baseball experience, and batted right-handed, although “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was a leftie. Phil Alden Robinson allowed Liotta to bat with his right, but still put him through several weeks of extensive training with University of Southern California baseball coach, and former Brooklyn Dodger, Rod Dedeaux, in order to be convincing as one of the sport’s greatest hitters. Liotta eventually developed a good swing. The scene where he hits a line-drive straight back at Kevin Costner actually happened. Costner’s fall on the mound was real, and although it was a surprise, he stayed in character.

In the novel, instead of seeking fictional author Terrance Mann, Ray Kinsella seeks real-life 60s author J.D. Salinger. In 1947, Salinger wrote a story called “A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All” featuring a character named Ray Kinsella, and in his most famous work, the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, one of Holden Caulfield’s classmates is Richard Kinsella. (In the original novel, Ray has a twin brother named Richard.) J.D. Salinger was very offended by the fictional portrayal of himself in W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe”, upon which the film is based. His lawyers said that they would be “unhappy if it (the story) were transferred to other media”, so the studio created the character of Terence Mann. Archibald “Moonlight” Wright Graham was a real baseball player. On June 29, 1905, with the New York Giants, he played one Major League Baseball game. Following that one game, he continued playing professionally through the 1908 season, mostly in the New York State League, until retiring at the age of thirty.

I read the book after I saw the film and loved both, in the end. I just wish that they had kept the twin brother in the film, being a twin myself. In the novel, Ray Kinsella is reunited with his identical twin brother, Richard Kinsella (a subplot that was discarded for the movie).

Top 15 Gene Wilder Movies

 

Many of us were shocked to hear of Gene Wilder’s death this week due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, and so it’s given us a chance to pause and think about this great actor and comedian. It was interesting to me listen to a recent interview of his and he said that he really didn’t consider himself to be a comedian as he didn’t find himself to be very funny. That may be true, but to us, he was hilarious. Here is my list of his top 15 movies, let’s see if your list would be similar to mine:

15.  Thursday’s Game (1974)Thursday's Game

This would be a banner year for Gene Wilder as 3 of the movies on this list were released in 1974. 2 of them would be considered to be “classics” to most people. Classify this one as a forgotten little gem. Thursday’s Game was released as a TV movie and starred Gene with a great cast of comedians with Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Nancy Walker, Valerie Harper, Norman Fell, Rob Reiner and Martha Scott. The movie is about two guys who’ve been going to a Thursday night poker game for years, when suddenly a disagreement breaks up the game. The two guys then decide to keep getting together every Thursday night doing different things, under the pretense that the game is still going on. When the wives find out they are upset and wondering what they’ve been doing all that time. The budget for this film was so tight that the wardrobe department was practically non-existent. According to Gene Wilder, he and co-star Bob Newhart had to make do with their actual clothes.

14.  The Producers (1967)Producers

We mention the Producers in another blog, CLICK HERE TO READ THAT BLOG POST.  Mel Brooks is almost synonymous with Gene Wilder as they made 3 movies together. These 3 are almost always mentioned as their top 3 movies respectively.  That wasn’t always the case, as the Producers flopped initially but found new life when Mel made it into a smash hit on Broadway. Now, of course, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were great in this but, Kenneth Mars is also really fantastic in this as well. I talk about him in a blog CLICK HERE.

13.  Haunted Honeymoon (1986)haunted-honeymoon

I find Dom Deluise to be hilarious, but put him in drag and he’s drop dead funny. Gene and Dom appeared in 4 movies together. Now, if you don’t know already, Gene Wilder was a wonderful writer and director in his own right and this is one of the films he wrote and directed. It also stars his then wife and comedian Gilda Radner. This is a notable entry also because it was Gilda’s last movie before she died of cancer. It did not do well at the box office, but I like it because of the 3 actors and I especially like the scenes from the radio show.

12.  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-smarter-brother

Gene reunites with Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman in this gem that he also wrote and directed after they did Young Frankenstein. Favorites of mine, Dom Deluise, Leo McKern and Roy Kinnear round out the cast! Originally, Gene tried to get Mel Brooks to direct this film as well, after they did Young Frankenstein, but he declined and convinced Gene that he could direct it himself. Gen would go on to direct 4 movies and 1 segment of a 5th one. This one is my favorite of all the films he directed.

11.  Death of a Salesman (1966)deathofasalesman

Up until Gene did the made-for-tv version of Death of a Salesman in 1966, he only had acted in a handful of TV shows. It was this film that ultimately put him on the path of stardom. This movie was relatively forgotten over time but had some very strong performances and included some very fine actors with Lee J. Cobb leading the cast. In his autobiography “Timebends”, Arthur Miller says that Lee J. Cobb was his favorite Willy Loman. The original Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller opened at the Morosco Theater on February 10, 1949, ran for 742 performances and won the 1949 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Lee J. Cobb recreated his stage role 17 years later in this television production.

10.  Murder in a Small Town (1999)murder in a small town

Gene Wilder would write 8 movies over his career and a segment of a 9th one. This is the 2nd to the last one he would write and was 1 of 2 mysteries featuring his Cash Carter character for A&E. I enjoy a good mystery and for some reason I really like it when my mysteries are a little understated as these two mysteries are. This one is about a widowed theatre director who moves to a small Connecticut town where he gets involved in solving the murder of a millionaire, who was the most despised man in town. Gene is very good in this.

9.  Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)start the revolution without me

When 1 Gene Wilder is not enough, we get two! This one has Gene and Donald Sutherland playing two mismatched sets of identical twins – one aristocrat, one peasant – who mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution. Gene Wilder originally wanted Charles Grodin to play the part of Charles/Pierre, but Grodin declined, having committed to directing the original Broadway production of Lovers and Other Strangers, which would have been really fun to see, but Donald does a great job. Gene liked this film especially because he got to fence. Gene was already adept with a sword from his days on his college fencing team.

8.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)bonnie-clyde-gene-laughing

In less than a year after his appearance in Death of a Salesman, Gene would be cast in 2 films Bonnie and Clyde and The Producers. He would never look back. In Bonnie and Clyde, he got to work with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle and Michael J. Pollard. This was technically his theatrical feature film debut. Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder would later appear together in Young Frankenstein (1974). Hackman had a small, uncredited cameo as the blind hermit while Wilder portrayed the title character.

7.  Stir Crazy (1980)

We talk about the greatest comedy teams of all time in a previous blog post, CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT BLOG…but definitely one of the best comedy teams of all time would have to be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. They hit the list with 3 of their collaborations…almost 4, more on that in a sec…Stir-Crazy

Sidney Poitier directed this movie, and enjoyed working with Gene and Richard, even though Richard was sometimes difficult to work with on this production due to his frequent drug use. When they clicked, they were quite funny.  Sidney would let them improvise during scenes for the movie. This is one of the four movies Pryor and Wilder teamed together, and was the most successful of the four at the box-office. There was no doubting their second match-up was an all-around success. “Our instincts seem to coalesce. The difference, this time, is that ‘Stir Crazy’ is an out-and-out comedy while Silver Streak (1976) was a mixture of mystery, adventure and romance”. Pryor interjected: “You might say that our Pryor picture was a ball but this one is Wilder”. Wilder responded: “You might,” needles Wilder, “But you’ll say anything”.

6.  Blazing Saddles (1974)

Full shot of Cleavon Little as Bart offering whiskey bottle for Gene Wilder as Jim, both seated in sheriff's office. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Here’s the almost in that last paragraph…believe it or not, Richard Pryor was set to play the role that eventually went to Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles. Richard Pryor even wrote some of the script with Mel Brooks. Although, Gene Wilder was not the original choice for his role either. They had cast and went into production with Gig Young, but he was coming off of alcohol and couldn’t function properly and Mel had to call upon his friend Gene to fly out last second to fill in, as a personal favor to him. One of the best comedy pairings of all time almost happened, two years before they finally appeared together in Silver Streak.

5.  Young Frankenstein (1974)young frankenstein

First film written by Gene Wilder and the only film directed by Mel Brooks, that Mel didn’t write. He didn’t direct anything he didn’t also write, but Gene talked him into directing as a personal favor to him. According to Mel Brooks (in the commentary for Spaceballs (1987)) when Gene Wilder came on to Blazing Saddles at the last minute as a favor to Mel, he requested that Mel Brooks do “his” movie idea next; that movie turned out to be this film. It was a perfect match. Gene Wilder has stated that this is his favorite of all the films he’s made. The cast and especially Mel Brooks had so much fun and were so upset when principal photography was almost completed, that Mel added scenes to continue shooting.

4.  See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)See no evil hear no evil

I forgot Kevin Spacey was in this with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Joan Severance. Gene Wilder almost wasn’t in this movie. Per his autobiography, he turned the script down twice (due to its treatment of the deaf and the blind). He intended to do the same when offered it a third time, but his agent talked him into meeting with TriStar (the studio behind the film). The TriStar people asked Gene to re-write the script for himself and Richard Pryor, which he agreed to do…and the rest is history. Gene Wilder went to the NY League for the Hard of Hearing to study for his role. There he was assigned to speech pathologist Karen Webb, who would ultimately become his fourth wife. They were married 25 years, up until his death. With its dead body murder plot and villainous crime characters, the movie returned director Arthur Hiller and stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor to the suspense-adventure-comedy genre that had made their earlier picture Silver Streak a success around thirteen years earlier.

3.  Frisco Kid (1979)The_Frisco_Kid

Now this one is probably the biggest surprise on the list, but it’s just so under-appreciated! Not only is Gene Wilder pitch-perfect in this film as a Jewish Rabbi, Harrison Ford plays an old school cowboy like he was born to it. I just love this movie. In his autobiography, Gene Wilder says that John Wayne was offered the part that was eventually played by Harrison Ford. Wayne loved the role and was eager to work with Wilder. However, an agent tried to offer Wayne less than his usual fee and the legendary actor turned the film down. The sad thing about this movie is that it was a flop when released and has had a very small but devoted following on VHS and DVD…but it’s a wonderful film!

2.  Silver Streak (1976)Silver-Streak

One of five movies where actor Gene Wilder plays a man wrongly accused of committing a crime. The films include Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). Actor Gene Wilder loved his part because he could get to do scenes which were fitting of Errol Flynn doing action or Cary Grant being romantic. When meeting Gene Wilder after having seen Silver Streak, Cary Grant asked him if the script had been in anyway inspired by North by Northwest (1959). As Wilder admitted it was correct, Grant then added, “I knew it! Have you noticed that each time you take ordinary people, say, like you and me, then take them in a situation way above their heads, it makes a great thriller?” First of two consecutive comedy thrillers written by Colin Higgins. The second released two years later was Foul Play (1978). Higgins conceived “Silver Streak” in mid 1974 when he was traveling by train from LA to Chicago. We talk about Foul Play in another blog post, CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

On a sad note…Director Arthur Hiller and co-star Gene Wilder died within 12 days of each other.

1  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This is number 1 for me. It’s his most iconic role and to be honest, one of my favorite films of all time. willy wonka

According to director Mel Stuart’s “Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka”, when Gene Wilder walked in to audition, Stuart knew before he’d even uttered a single word that he had found his Willy Wonka. The audition convinced him even further, so when Wilder finished and left the room, Stuart chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him “You’re doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!” Producer David L. Wolper, however, was furious because he hadn’t yet had the chance to negotiate a fee. After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When the director asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?”, and Gene Wilder said “I’m afraid that’s the truth.” Even Julie Dawn Cole was fooled by the scene in which Willy limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners. She mentions in the DVD commentary that she thought that Gene Wilder had injured his leg for real (and that the filming would have to be temporarily halted because of it). This resulted in her being just as stunned by Willy’s somersault as the audience is.

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, got very close to Gene while filming. He later told ABC News, “As a young actor filming ‘Willy Wonka,’ I had the rare privilege of working with Gene who I greatly admired,” he continued. “He became my mentor and personal friend. For that I will always be grateful. So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Kenneth Mars, Brilliant Comedic Mind

 

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

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

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

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

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

Actors and Stunt Performers for The Poseidon Adventure

 

In the 70’s there was a new type of film genre to emerge, called the Disaster film or Survival film.  The Poseidon Adventure was not the first, that being Airport, but it was, for many, the best.  Irwin Allen gave audiences exactly what they were looking for with this fantastic thriller.  poseidon-adventure-screenshot

The actors performed all their stunts except for the very dangerous stunts and still there was more than 125 stunt performers on this film. The scene in which the character of “Terry” falls from a table and crashes into the ballroom skylight has since become an iconic cinematic shock moment. Actor Ernie Orsatti was asked by the filmmakers to perform the fall himself, and despite his reluctance, he went on to become a renowned stunt man.Poseidon-Adventure

One of the things that makes this film so indelible to many people who watch it is that the characters all take action in overwhelming odds to save themselves.  In Airport, the passengers don’t do anything and in the Towering Inferno, all the people just wait for the firefighters to save them.  Well, come to think of it, the few who did wander off to save themselves all ended up dying.  But anyway, I think it really caught on with audiences because we see these characters really struggling to survive.  I also think that’s why Titanic became the biggest blockbuster of all time, as this scenario is played out.

The Poseidon Adventure is directed by Ronald Neame and Irwin Allen for 20th Century Fox and stars Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens, Jack Albertson, Pamela Sue Martin, Roddy McDowell, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons.pos

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

  • Irwin Allen
  • The Poseidon Adventure
  • Ronald Neame
  • Ernie Orsatti

Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia:  The survival film is a film genre in which one or more characters make an effort at physical survival. It often overlaps with other film genres. It is a sub-genre of the adventure film, along with swashbuckler films, war films, and safari films. Survival films are darker than most other adventure films which usually star a single hero. The films tend to be “located primarily in a contemporary context” so film audiences are familiar with the setting, meaning the characters’ activities are less romanticized.poseidon-adventure-poster

Thomas Sobchack compared the survival film to romance: “They both emphasize the heroic triumph over obstacles which threaten social order and the reaffirmation of predominant social values such as fair play and respect for merit and cooperation.” The author said survival films “identify and isolate a microcosm of society”, such as the surviving group from the plane crash in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) or those on the overturned ocean liner in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Sobchack explained, “Most of the time in a survival film is spent depicting the process whereby the group, cut off from the securities and certainties of the ordinary support networks of civilized life, forms itself into a functioning, effective unit.” The group often varies in types of characters, sometimes to the point of caricature. While women have historically been stereotyped in such films, they “often play a decisive role in the success or failure of the group”.

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