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Entries in RIP (61)

Monday
Dec162013

Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)

First Peter O'Toole, and now Joan Fontaine (née Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland)? It's going to be a rough week. Hollywood lost another of its living giants this weekend when Ms Fontaine passed away of natural causes at 96 years of age. The two-time Hitchcock heroine, bizarrely the only actor to ever win an Oscar in one of his films, is survived by her daughter Debbie and her older estranged sister Olivia. Though Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland are the most successful sister movie stars of all time (both A listers, Oscar winners, and stars of at least one immortal classic) they were famously competitive, never got on well, and haven't spoken since 1975!

The actress would undoubtedly shoot us one of those delicious cocked eyebrow looks to hear her sister mentioned so prominently in all of her obituaries but Old Hollywood Mythology is too enticing to ignore. 

Though her career was very successful in the 40s, the 50s weren't as kind and like many Oscar winning actresses of her time she went Grande Dame Guignol in the 60s (American Horror Story didn't invent the stunt casting tradition of aging Best Actress winners in horror flicks); her last film was the Hammer Horror The Witches (1966). Have any of you seen it?

Five Must-Sees For Your Queue: The Women (1939), Rebecca (1940, Best Actress nomination, Best Picture winner), Suspicion (1941 Best Actress Oscar), The Constant Nymph (1943, Best Actress nomination) and Letters from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Sunday
Dec152013

Remembering Peter O'Toole

Screen legend Peter O’Toole died today at age 81. The eight-time Oscar nominee retired from acting last year after a 50-year-long career that included iconic roles in The Lion in Winter, Lawrence of Arabia, and My Favorite Year. His filmography ran the gamut of genre, from slapstick comedy (How to Steal a Million) to period drama (Beckett) to animation (Ratatouille) to undefinably weird (The Ruling Class). Only recently, O’Toole made the Film Experience Team Top 10 Greatest Losers list twice for his roles. His performances were often surprising, always brave, and never boring,

 

Peter O’Toole means a great deal to me. The first time I encountered him was on a miserable day when I was sick at home. I happened to flip to The Lion in Winter, and was immediately shocked from my stupor by the crackling energy and vicious repartee he swapped with Katharine Hepburn. Watching them felt like touching a live wire. Years later, when I told my mother that I didn’t like epics, she sat me down for 3 ½ hours of The Lawrence Of Arabia. I was made into a believer, and I have loved him ever since.

Peter O’Toole played insanity better than any other actor, and considering the old adage that it takes a madman to play one, maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. He was the Irishman who turned down a knighthood. He was the actor who tried to refuse an honorary Oscar on the basis that "I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright." He was a handsome star with striking blue eyes that carried a hint of madness in them. He was a poet, and according to drinking buddy Richard Harris he could be a bit of a bastard too. All in all, he was a marvel of a man.

Goodbye, Mr. O’Toole. To borrow a line from The Lion in Winter: we would have been great fools not to love you.

(Post your favorite performances and memories in the comments below.)

 

Wednesday
Dec112013

Goodbye, Eleanor Parker

Anne Marie here with some sad news. Hollywood beauty Eleanor Parker passed away early this week at age 91. Though Parker is best known for her iconic turn as the Countess in The Sound Of Music, she actually had a long and diverse career that included war films, B movies, swashbucklers, film noir, and three Best Actress nominations.

Eleanor Parker started as a bit player at Warner Brothers in the 1940s. At first, she bumped around in B movies and film noir, such as Between Two Worlds. But from the start she was willing to take risks. In 1946, she starred in a remake of the infamous Bette Davis vehicle Of Human Bondage opposite Paul Henreid. Both the film and her performance continue to garner mixed reviews, but no one could accuse her of taking the easy road.

The 1950s saw Eleanor Parker's star rise rapidly. In 1952, she starred in the large Technicolor swashbuckler Scaramouche opposite Stewart Granger (my personal favorite). Her three Oscar nominations were from this period: first Caged in 1951, then Detective Story in 1952, and finally Interrupted Melody in 1956. In addition to these, she also played Frank Sinatra's crippled wife in The Man With The Golden Arm. From the 1960s onward, Parker took more supporting roles in films such as The Sound Of Music and An American Dream. She retired in 1991.

Of all of Eleanor Parker's diverse performances, the stand out is Caged. Now a cult classic, Caged tells the story of a young lady (Parker) whose experiences in a woman's prison quickly turn her from naive innocent to cynical con. It could easily be lumped in with other Prison Women movies, but the fact is that for its time Caged was a shocking movie. Topics usually considered verboten by the Hays Code censorship--pregnancy, women's crime, homosexuality, and corrupt law enforcement--are all taboos attacked by this film. At the center of this whirlwind stands Eleanor Parker, giving one hell of a heartbreaking performance.

Parker in Caged

Eleanor Parker was an under-appreciated talent. However, in those films she where she left her mark she remains unforgettable. After all, how would Maria react without the Countess's sad and sly revelation? Where would Scaramouche get the will to fight without his fiery redhead? Finally, what actress could have raised a prison noir from genre pulp to Oscar-worthy film? Eleanor Parker was more than a pretty face, she was a pretty great actress. She will be missed.

Friday
Aug092013

RIP Karen Black (1939-2013)

I don't know where to begin with the death of Karen Black. That's not just because I am not as familiar with her career as I've wanted to be given its peculiar character. It's also because: where the hell do you start with Karen Black?

As Nick reminded on Twitter yesterday, I've long thought that 1970s Hollywood had the most expansive idea of what constituted sexy and Karen is a perfect example, with her cross eyes and giant cheek bones. I've sometimes thought of her very memorable face as what would happen if an American mold of Sophia Loren got all funky and squished in the kiln and didn't quite work out. But Karen made the most of it... [more]

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Tuesday
Jul232013

Goodbye, Bunheads

Andrew here with a eulogy. Nathaniel just can't.

You have heard by now that ABC Family has officially pulled the plug on the comedy musical series Bunheads. It’s been five months since the show aired the final episode of its first, and only season, ironically titled “Next”. Since then the network has failed to definitively address the issue of whether or not the show was done for good. The statement the network released Monday afternoon reads, thus:

Bunheads is a wonderful series that we are very proud to have aired," ABC Family says in a statement. "The series had amazing storytelling, the most talented cast and a passionate and loyal fan base. Recognizing all of this, we took extra time to try and find ways to bring the series back for another season, but in the end it simply wasn’t possible.  We wish the cast and crew the best in their future endeavors”

It’s difficult to speculate on the veracity of a claim like “we took extra time to try and find ways to bring the series back” but to the outside eye the line reeks of the disingenuous. [more...]

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