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Entries in Mercedes McCambridge (9)

Monday
Aug142017

Beauty vs Beast: Murder on the Orientation Express

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" entertainment - I don't know if you've noticed by now that I will take any opportunity to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, but I will take any opportunity to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, and his birthday (which was yesterday) offers one of the best. Thankfully we've still plenty of choices - not many directors adored their villains like Hitch did, and so this series is a perfect fit.

And here's a good one! 1951's Strangers on a Train offers up one of Hitch's greatest bad guys in Bruno Antony, murder theorist and gay icon, played with giddy panache by Robert Walker. And Farley Granger's no slouch as the clearly-enticed-no-matter-how-hard-he-pretends-otherwise tennis-pro Guy Haines.

PREVIOUSLY It's one of her greatest roles so I'm not surprised that Joan Crawford stampeded her way to a win with last week's Johnny Guitar contest - she outgunned Mercedes McCambridge with 73% of your vote. Said Claran:

"This overlookes gem is one o JC's best. Much as I enjoy McCambridge all out evilness n Hayden's macho smotherness, it is Joan's icy confidence n eletricfying performance that keeps this western together n makes it a delicious camp. Afterall, it IS a Miss Crawford's pic n dun cha forget it!!"

Monday
Aug072017

Beauty vs Beast: Cowgirl's Hall of Fame

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast." On this day in 1911 was born the writer-director Nicholas Ray, whose movies have come to seem fairly ahead of their time. His biggest success would of course be 1955's Rebel Without a Cause (his only Oscar nomination was for that film's script) but several of his other works have grown in reputation over the decades, and we're here to look at maybe the weirdest of them all - 1954's technicolor acid-western Johnny Guitar. (See Also: TFE's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" entry for this movie.)

Guitar stars Joan Crawford as the "railroad tramp" Vienna, who runs a saloon and is drawn to bad men, and her cowgirl nemesis Emma Small, played by an enthusiastically hateful Mercedes McCambridge. The actresses apparently tore it up behind the scenes (everybody who's spoken of the filming of this film makes it sound like a nightmare experience) and their rivalry on-screen brings the heat (in more ways than one) as well.

PREVIOUSLY We entertained ourselves last week by wondering why there's no Blade reboot being worked on, and looked back at the original - y'all were just slightly more captivated by Stephen Dorff's villain to the tune of 53% of your vote. Said Harmodio:

"It's hard to imagine anyone other than Wesley Snipes in the Blade character. He totally endorsed the character. Even so the film belongs to Stephen Dorff and his charismatic, strong, confident, evil performance. He dominates the film and his presence is missed in the next movies."

Wednesday
Mar162016

Mercedes McCambridge Centennial: "Charlie's Angels" & "Bewitched"

Today is the Centennial of one of the most singular character actresses of the 1950s, Mercedes McCambridge, born in Joliet Illinois on this very day in 1916. We hope you've enjoyed our mini retrospective. We previousy discussed her sensational debut in All The King's Men (1949) her final Oscar nomination for the Texas epic Giant (1956) and her sorry fate in a teensy part in the Airport disaster series. (In the past, ICYMI, we've amply discussed The Exorcist in which she did truly legendary voice work as well as the fiery abandon of must-see western Johnny Guitar.) 

In The Concorde... Airport '79 article, Tim talked about the disaster genre's often ...um... disastrous treatment of aged film stars in cameos. But discarded stars of Old Hollywood also frequently collected paychecks through TV guest spots. On the small screen there was the same roulette wheel chances at success. In fact McCambridge was more frequently spotted on TV than in film, switching between both for her entire career after her launch in radio in the 1930s. Many early TV shows are impossible to see now but let's discuss her downright fantastic guest spots on Charlie's Angels (1978) & Bewitched (1968).

Murder mysteries and witchcraft -- and a chance to discuss two classic camp series (oh you know you want to!) follow after the jump....

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar152016

Mercedes McCambridge in "The Concorde... Airport '79"

Tim here. Now we come to the sad part of our centennial tribute to Mercedes McCambridge. For like so many movie stars, her career ended with a damp fizzle, not with any last triumphs. Worse yet, her career started rolling to a close in the 1970s, when Hollywood hit upon its most degrading scheme ever for what to do with its old legends and workhorses: stuff them into the enormous ensembles of tacky disaster films. At its most prestigious, this phenomenon resulted in Fred Astaire getting his solitary career Oscar nomination for The Towering Inferno. At its least prestigious, you have living legends Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, and Fred MacMurray in a death race to see who can embarrass themselves the worst in The Swarm.

Or, for that matter, you have McCambridge herself, grossly misused and discarded in The Concorde... Airport '79. It's the fourth and final film in the rather dimwitted Airport franchise, which had once upon a time been kinder to its storied old troupers: 1970's Best Picture nominee Airport, the film that essentially got the disaster movie cycle rolling, netted Helen Hayes her second Oscar. But those days were long gone by the time McCambridge was called up to squander her talents along with the rest of a distressingly high-quality cast, including Alain Delon, Cicely Tyson, and David Warner. [More...]

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Saturday
Mar122016

Mercedes McCambridge: Giant (1956)

Our second chapter of the Centennial Mercedes McCambridge celebration is also the second time Oscar celebrated her. She received her second and final nomination in Best Supporting Actress for Giant, a massive epic about social discrimination affecting a wealthy Texas ranching family. Here she's playing opposite massive stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean (his final performance), but McCambridge still lingers over the film after her staunch matriarch Luz Benedict departs. She has perhaps only twenty minutes of screentime at the start of the film's sprawling length, it's a brief performance that the actress makes both broad and oddly complete.

You might call her performance wooden or inexpressive if you've never experienced this kind of woman in real life. The stoic inexpressiveness and static undercurrent of rage is eerily familiar if you're accustomed to this brand of southern woman, one who has been toughened up by a man's world and educated to hate. McCambridge respects the deliberate unknowability with which Luz wants to greet the world - this is a woman who has thrived on not letting anyone in to subvert her authority. She wears Luz's hatred (and self hatred?) like an impenetrable shield of armor, as her eyes offer the only suggestion of more brewing underneath the facade. More...

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Friday
Mar112016

Mercedes McCambridge: All the King's Men (1949)

Manuel here kicking off our centennial celebration of under appreciated (and under discussed!) Oscar winning actress Mercedes McCambridge.

We begin with her film debut which also happens to be her Oscar-winning vehicle, All The King's Men. She'd been doing radio work consistently for over a decade but this was as big a break as they got. The film is a political parable about that most rare of characters, the honest politician (Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark), who succumbs to corruption on his way to the top only to be punished by his deeds. It's Shakespearean in essence and all the more powerful for being based on a real-life politician, Louisiana governor, Huey Long (the inspiration behind Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name).

It's a testosterone-fueled film with only two gals...

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