Monday, August 14, 2017

THE LAST DAYS OF MARLENE DIETRICH

The great Marlene Dietrich was a cinema icon for decades. She also tried to create an illusion of being young even as she entered her 70s. Her final years were marked with sadness but also is showed how mentally active she stayed until the end. Dietrich's show business career largely ended on September 29, 1975, when she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia.[ The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, died of cancer on June 24, 1976 Dietrich's final on-camera film appearance was a cameo role in Just a Gigolo (1979), starring David Bowie and directed by David Hemmings, in which she sang the title song.

An alcoholic dependent on painkillers, Dietrich withdrew to her apartment at 12 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. She spent the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden, allowing only a select few—including family and employees—to enter the apartment. During this time, she was a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller. Her autobiography, Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life), was published in 1979.

In 1982, Dietrich agreed to participate in a documentary film about her life, Marlene (1984), but refused to be filmed. The film's director, Maximilian Schell, was allowed only to record her voice. He used his interviews with her as the basis for the film, set to a collage of film clips from her career. The final film won several European film prizes and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary in 1984. Newsweek named it "a unique film, perhaps the most fascinating and affecting documentary ever made about a great movie star".


In 1988, Dietrich recorded spoken introductions to songs for a nostalgia album by Udo Lindenberg. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2005, Dietrich's daughter and grandson claim that Dietrich was politically active during these years. She kept in contact with world leaders by telephone, including Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, running up a monthly bill of over US$3,000. In 1989, her appeal to save the Babelsberg studios from closure was broadcast on BBC Radio, and she spoke on television via telephone on the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year.

On 6 May 1992, Dietrich died of renal failure at her flat in Paris at age 90. Her funeral ceremony was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris, a Roman Catholic church on 14 May 1992. Dietrich's funeral service was attended by approximately 1,500 mourners in the church itself—including several ambassadors from Germany, Russia, the US, the UK and other countries—with thousands more outside. Her closed coffin rested beneath the altar draped in the French flag and adorned with a simple bouquet of white wildflowers and roses from the French President, François Mitterrand. Three medals, including France's Legion of Honour and the US Medal of Freedom, were displayed at the foot of the coffin, military style, for a ceremony symbolising the sense of duty Dietrich embodied in her career as an actress, and in her personal fight against Nazism. The officiating priest remarked: "Everyone knew her life as an artist of film and song, and everyone knew her tough stands... She lived like a soldier and would like to be buried like a soldier". By a coincidence of fate her picture was used in the Cannes Film Festival poster that year which was currently pasted up all over Paris.


After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dietrich instructed in her will that she was to be buried in her birthplace, Berlin, near her family; on 16 May her body was flown there to fulfill her wish. Dietrich was interred at the Städtischer Friedhof III, Berlin-Schöneberg, next to the grave of her mother, Josefine von Losch, and near the house where she was born.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

COOKING WITH THE STARS: JUDY GARLAND

I am not sure how much Judy Garland cooked in the kitchen. I have heard from some accounts that she liked to cook, but with all of her constant need to perform, I picture Judy not having the ambition to relax in the kitchen. Nevertheless, here's a recipe I found for her pancakes...


Judy Garland's Savory Pancakes

Four ounces plain flour
1 egg
12 tablespoons milk
pinch salt
1 finely chopped onion
mixed herbs
parsley
pepper

Sift flour and salt into a large, cool basin; make a well in the center and break in the egg; gently stir the flour into the egg, then gradually the milk, and when half the milk has been added ail the flour should be moistened; it should then be beaten thoroughly to remove any lumps; add the rest of the milk, mixing in evenly; strain and stand for one hour; then add onion, parsley, herbs and pepper; melt a little butter in a small frying pan; pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly; fry until a golden brown on both sides; toss or turn with a knife; roll up and serve very hot, garnished with parsley.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

RIP: BARBARA SINATRA

Barbara Sinatra, the wife of late-singer Frank Sinatra, died Tuesday morning at her Rancho Mirage, California, home, a family spokesman told Fox News. She was 90.

The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center director John Thoresen told Fox News Sinatra died of natural causes, and she was "comfortably surrounded by family and friends" at the time of her death.

Born Barbara Blakeley, the Bosworth, Missouri, native began her modeling career at 18 after her family moved to Long Beach, California.

Shortly after her move, she married Robert Oliver, but they divorced, and she then married Zeppo Marx in 1959. After she and Marx divorced, she went on to marry Frank Sinatra who was previously married three times.


Barbara and Frank Sinatra wed in 1976 in a private ceremony at the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage. She and the "Come Fly With Me" singer remained married until Frank Sinatra's death in 1998.

Barbara Sinatra became famous in her own right for her work battling child abuse. She founded the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center to help children who were victims of abuse.

She is survived by her son from a previous marriage Robert Oliver Marx, his wife Hillary Roberts and her granddaughter Carina Blakeley Marx...


Monday, July 17, 2017

MARTIN LANDAU AS BELA LUGOSI

With the death of Martin Landau this past week, I was reminded of my favorite role he did - that of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994). To remember this remarkable actor, I dug up a review of his performance. Scott Schuldt wrote this piece and it appeared around October 7, 1994 in newspapers and magazines...

NEW YORK - The first time the audience sees Martin Landau in "Ed Wood," he's lying in a store's display coffin, complaining about its lack of elbow room.

What's interesting is that if you didn't know in advance it was Landau playing Bela Lugosi, you might not recognize him at all.Rick Baker's makeup transforms his features. With his real voice hidden by a Hungarian accent, Martin Landau the actor disappears and Lugosi, the long dead actor who played "Dracula" in 1931 comes vividly back to life.

The Lugosi of "Ed Wood" is not a happy one. He's in his 70s, debilitated not just by his age but by 20 years of morphine addiction. He's also out of work, an "ex-bogeyman" as he refers to himself, who finds work again, even if it is in the monumentally awful films of Edward D. Wood Jr. Landau was made available to the press for interviews during a recent promotional trip for the movie "Ed Wood," paid for by Touchstone Pictures.

While Landau's choice to play Lugosi was an inspired one that should hopefully land him his third Oscar nomination since 1988, the actor was surprised director Tim Burton chose him.


"I'm amazed that Tim thought of me. Well, in the sense that I'd never met Tim," Landau said.

"I liked his work a lot ... He was one of those guys I said, 'Gee, I would like to work with that guy. ' I got a call and he said, 'You are my first and only choice for this. ' " What Burton saw in Landau is clear from the performance he gives as Lugosi, whose relationship with Wood, played by Johnny Depp, is at the heart of the film.

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"I met Johnny and loved him immediately. ... We became friends.

Generation gaps - nonsense. I mean, Lugosi and Ed Wood, there was a lot of years between them. Johnny became - and is - my pal," Landau said.

It's the rapport that develops between the two actors that deepens the movie.

"There is a sweetness in (the relationship between Wood and Lugosi), yet it's got layers ... It's an interesting relationship.

You don't see that a lot in film. These are two guys who needed each other and they're two really weird, strange guys. " Landau credits his co-star for the screen relationship's success.

"I love an actor who comes in, ready to work. It's like a good tennis player. They hit the ball where you don't expect it and it's great," Landau said.


"Ed Wood" marks the latest in a series of notable roles that have marked a resurgence in Landau's career. Following "Tuc-ker: The Man and His Dream" in 1988 and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in 1989, both of which earned him Oscar nominations, Landau finds himself more in demand than ever.

"The more complicated the character, the better I am. It's the one-dimensional crap that I had to do for years that drove me crazy," he said.

"If you are in a meaningless, mindless movie playing a one-dimensional character, don't get too clever, because you're only going to dig a hole for yourself ... It's good writing and complicated stuff. When I got 'Tucker,' and there had been a dearth of that stuff coming my way, I said, 'My God, this is a part. ' " He certainly welcomes the praise and Oscar buzz he's receiving for his work as Lugosi, saying it's much better than hearing nothing.

"I'd rather hear this talk than the alternative. I've walked off the stage and people have said, 'That was really great. You look really nice in that suit. ' It's looks and feelings that you get.

People never say, 'Jeez, you were awful. " In many interviews, Landau has referred to his work in "Ed Wood" as a love letter to Lugosi, with whom the 60-year-old Landau had a formative film experience.

"I saw (Lugosi) when I was a kid and he scared the life out of me. I literally didn't sleep for days," Landau said. The 63-year-old film's power hasn't diminished in Landau's mind.

"It was a revival of 'Dracula. ' I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and there was this incredible creature on the screen. Look at it again...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

DIED ON THIS DAY: LON CHANEY JR

Lon Chaney Jr. died on this day - July 12th some 45 years ago. Chaney was only 67. He was one of the most emblematic horror film stars of the 1940s. Though given the name "Creighton Chaney" by his parents, he took the name "Lon Chaney, Jr." at the behest of a producer who wished to capitalize on the reputation of his father, who had starred in such silent classics as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Phantom of the Opera." 

After playing a number of small, forgettable roles through the 1930s, the younger Chaney's first role of note was 'Lenny Small' in the 1939 film adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." This role made great use of Chaney's size and empathetic manner, and would remain his favorite. He followed this with an even greater success, playing the title character in 1941's "The Wolf Man." His performance, which echoed his own life as a prodigal son figure returning home only to find tragedy, came as his father's studio, Universal Pictures, was struggling to reestablish itself as the premier studio for horror films. Universal would cast Chaney in a string of sequels to both "The Wolf Man" and it's classic films of the 1930s. 


All in all, Chaney would end up playing the Wolf Man five times, the barely mobile mummy Kharis three times, the Frankenstein Monster once (and again, briefly, in perhaps the best of Universal's long run of sequels, 1948's "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" when Glenn Strange was incapacitated), and Dracula once. He would also star in Universal's "Inner Sanctum" series and a number of lesser thrillers through the 1940s. Though the films were always entertaining, and Chaney almost always made a great effort to imbue his performances with quality, the formulaic nature of these productions concealed his ability, and he became typecast as a "monster."

 Chaney's last roles of note were as a supporting player in both 1952's "High Noon" (starring Gary Cooper) and 1958's "The Defiant Ones" with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. More often, he would play in a number of low-budget films, mostly westerns and horror films, often reprising his roles from the glory days at Universal. Always a heavy drinker, he would die from various alcohol-related ailments after playing his last role, fittingly enough a non-speaking part in the 1971 farce "Dracula vs. Frankenstein.". His body was dedicated to medical science...