Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011

Today a truly great star has passed away, Elizabeth Taylor. I am posting an article by Christy Lemire, Associated Press Movie Critic and one of the critics on the new PBS show, Ebert Presents At The Movies. At the end of the article please watch the video. It is a video from Turner Classic Movies about her career narrated by the late Paul Newman.

By CHRISTY LEMIRE, AP Movie Critic and critic on Ebert Presents At The Movies on PBS.

LOS ANGELES – In death, she is being heralded for her great beauty, iconic and legendary persona, tireless humanitarian work, and the compassion and optimism she exuded despite decades of physical ailments. But Elizabeth Taylor was, above all else, a performer — a three-time Oscar winner, a radiant child star whose best work as an adult was her most splashy and scenery-chewing. While she may not have been the greatest actress of her generation in terms of pure talent and technique, she had an irresistible screen presence that kept audiences ravished by her films.

The contradictions alone were fascinating: She could seem demure yet seductive, aristocratic yet bawdy. That tiny voice and petite stature seemed at odds with the intimidating femininity that would define her glamorous aura.

When she was young, though — in early, family-friendly films such as "Lassie Come Home" (1943) and especially "National Velvet" (1944) — she possessed a startling and mature beauty for someone her age. Those mesmerizing eyes that luxurious dark hair and flawless skin — they were all there, even back then. It's as if she never had to suffer through an awkward period like the rest of us.

Under Vincente Minnelli's direction in "Father of the Bride" (1950), she got a rare chance to show off some comic ability as a young woman trying to put on the perfect wedding, even though Spencer Tracy, as her beleaguered father, gets the majority of the big laughs.

The following year, opposite a blue-collar Montgomery Clift in "A Place in the Sun" (1951), she was gorgeous, sophisticated, a vibrant image of idealized womanhood. When they first meet and she asks flirtatiously, "Do I make you nervous?" as he's trying to play billiards, there's really only one answer. But an evolution was occurring during this time in Taylor's career. The sweetness and freshness of her looks collided with the pain and anger that seethed within many of her characters.

One of her strongest performances came in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), as the fragile and damaged but volatile Maggie. She was all curves, dressed in clingy white, alternately playing and pleading in that breathy Southern drawl. Watching her exchange Tennessee Williams' banter with Paul Newman in his peak made you want to hold your own breath.

The next year found her in another Williams adaptation, "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959), as a young woman in danger after witnessing a tragedy (opposite Clift again). The playwright's work suited her — the tormented characters, the great, gothic theatricality of it all.

"I'm not like anyone, I'm me," she announces in a moment of defiant confidence in "Butterfield 8" (1960). But as Gloria, the sassy, brassy, boozy, trashy, model-call girl, she also famously acknowledges, "I was the slut of all time!" Taylor is over the top in her big, confessional scene with Eddie Fisher, but still riveting to watch, the way she works the highs and lows of it. The performance would earn her the first of her two Academy Awards for best actress.

And then ... there was the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz epic "Cleopatra," which would become infamous not just for its scope (it's the most expensive movie ever made — $44 million — if you adjust for inflation) but for providing the place where Taylor's path scandalously crossed Richard Burton's. They'd go on to marry and divorce twice in real life and co-star in several movies together; this first on-screen pairing, however, was less than auspicious. When Taylor (as Cleopatra) demands that Burton (as Mark Antony) kneel before her, it's a moment that should be fraught with tension. Instead, it's impossible not to laugh out loud. The outlandish makeup and costumes were also a hoot.

But it was Mike Nichols who would get the best work out of Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966). She and Burton tear each other apart as the boozy and bickering husband and wife George and Martha. And Nichols, making his directing debut in an adaptation of Edward Albee's painfully honest play, gets up close and personal for the carnage. The glamour girl was long gone here, and the performance earned Taylor her second best actress Oscar. (She also received an honorary Academy Award for her humanitarian work in 1993.)

Screen work was scarce in the 1980s. But even in her last film role — which, sadly enough, was the 1994 live-action version of "The Flintstones" — that big personality was on full display. Her performance as Fred's mother-in-law earned her a Razzie Award nomination for worst supporting actress, but she definitely livens things up. She bursts into a party, all hair and fur and jewels, flashing those famous eyes and calling for a conga line when the situation gets awkward.

She was still irresistible, even then.

View Elizabeth Taylor's filmography at Internet Movie Database.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Katy Jurado

Katy Jurado (January 16, 1924 – July 5, 2002), born María Cristina Estela Marcela Jurado García in Guadalajara, Jalisco, was an Mexican actress who had a successful film career both in Mexico and in Hollywood. Jurado had already established herself as an actress in Mexico in the 1940s when she came to Hollywood becoming a regular in Western films of the 1950s and 1960s. She worked with many Hollywood legends, including Gary Cooper in High Noon, Spencer Tracy in Broken Lance, and Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks, and such respected directors as Fred Zinneman (High Noon), Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and John Huston (Under
the Volcano).

Jurado made seventy one films during her career. She became the first Latina/Hispanic actress nominated for an Academy Award when she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her work in 1954's Broken Lance and was the first to win a Golden Globe. Like many Latin actors, she was typecast to play ethnic roles in American films. By contrast, she was generally cast in Mexican films in glamorous roles as a wealthy socialite; sometimes she also sang and danced.

Katy Jurado was born Maria Christina Jurado Garcia on January 16, 1924, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. One of three children, Jurado had a privileged childhood. Both her maternal and paternal families were wealthy, six generations earlier, they had owned much of the land that became the state of Texas. Both families lost much of their wealth during the Mexican revolution. Family's lands were confiscated by the federal government for redistribution to the landless peasantry.

However, Jurado still lived well. Her father was a cattle baron and orange farmer, and her mother was a well-known opera singer who gave up the stage to marry and raise a family. Jurado's cousin, Emilio Portes Gil, was president of Mexico beginning in 1928. Despite the loss of property, the matriarch of the family, her grandmother, continued to live by her aristocratic ideals.

Jurado moved with her family to Mexico City in 1927 and studied journalism. Discovered by Director Emilio Fernández when she was sixteen, Jurado went against family wishes and began pursuing a career in acting. Emilio Fernandez wanted to cast her in one of his films, Jurado's grandmother objected to her wish to become a movie actress. To get around the ban, Katy slipped from the grasp of her family's control by marrying the Mexican actor and writer Víctor Velázquez against her parents' wishes. Together, they had a son and a daughter, Victor Hugo and Sandra. The marriage ended in divorce in 1943, and the children remained with Jurado's family in Mexico when she traveled to the United States to work.

Jurado began acting in Mexican films starting in 1943, with the movie No Matarás (Thou Shalt Not Kill), and went on to appear in sixteen more films over the next seven years during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Her very particular features were the key of her notable success. Blessed with a stunning beauty and an assertive personality, Jurado specialized in playing determined women in a wide variety of films. Her looks, evocative of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, allowed her to carve a niche for herself in the Mexican cinema. However, she typically was cast as a dangerous seductress cum man-eater, a popular type in Mexican movies.

In addition to acting, Jurado worked as a movie columnist, radio reporter and bullfight critic to support her family. She was on assignment when Director Budd Boetticher and actor John Wayne spotted her at a bullfight. Neither knew at the time that she was an actress. However, Boetticher, who was also a professional bullfighter, cast Jurado in his 1951 film Bullfighter and the Lady (produced by John Wayne), opposite Gilbert Roland as the wife of an aging matador. Jurado stayed close to home, as the film was made on location in Mexico. At that time, Jurado had very limited English language skills. She memorized and delivered her lines phonetically.

Despite this handicap, her strong performance brought her to the attention of Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer. Kramer cast her in the classic western High Noon, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. Jurado quickly learned to speak English for the role, studying and taking classes two hours a day for two months. Jurado delivered a powerful performance as the saloon owner Helen Ramírez, former love of reluctant hero, Will Kane, in one of the most memorable films of the era. She earned a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and gained widespread notice in the American movie industry. Only two other Mexican actresses have been nominated since then: Salma Hayek as Best Actress in 2002 for Frida and Adriana Barraza as Best Supporting Actress in 2006 for Babel.

In 1954 Jurado replaced Dolores del Río in the film Broken Lance for which she received an Academy Award nomination, playing Spencer Tracy's Comanche wife and the mother of Robert Wagner. In 1953 she starred in Arrowhead with Charlton Heston and Jack Palance, playing a Comanche. In a 1955 interview with Louella Parsons, Jurado commented on the mostly Indian roles she was given: " I don't mind dramatic roles. I love to act, any character at all. But just once I would like to be my Mexican self in an American motion picture".

In 1956, she had a supporting role in Trapeze. Later, she appeared in The Racers, Trial. On the set of The Badlanders, she met her costar Ernest Borgnine who became her second husband on December 31, 1959. The couple founded, the movie production company SANVIO CORP. With her husband support, she starred in Dino de Laurentis Italian productions like Barabbas and I braganti italiani. However her tumultuous marriage with Borgnine ended in divorce in 1963. He called her "beautiful, but a tiger".

In 1958 she starred in Broadway in the Tennessee Williams play The Red Devil Battery Sign, with Anthony Quinn and Claire Bloom. She had a torrid affair with the actor Marlon Brando. Brando, who was involved at the time with Movita Castaneda and was having a parallel relationship with Rita Moreno, was smitten with Katy Jurado after seeing her in High Noon. He told Joseph L. Mankiewicz that he was attracted to "Her enigmatic eyes, black as hell, pointing at you like a fiery arrows". Katy recalled years later in an interview that " Marlon called me one night for a date, and I accepted. I knew all about Movita. I knew he had a thing for Rita Moreno. Hell, it was just a date. I didn't plan to marry him ".

However, their first date became the beginning of an extended affair that lasted many years and peaked at the time they worked together on One-Eyed Jacks (1960) , a film directed by Brando. "Marlon asked me to marry many times, but for me my children were first," she said. "Our friendship pact was sealed with an Indian ritual for the rest of our lives." She also maintained a close friendship with stars like Anthony Quinn, Burt Lancaster, Sam Peckinpah, Frank Sinatra, Dolores del Río, John Wayne and many others.

As her career in the U.S. began to wind down, she was reduced to appearing in Smoky (1966) with Fess Parker and the movie Stay Away, Joe (1968), playing the half-Apache mother of Elvis Presley. In 1966 she reprised her "Helen Ramirez" role from High Noon (1952) in a High Noon TV pilot called The Clock Strikes Noon Again which co-starred Peter Fonda as the son of Will Kane.

In 1968, Jurado became depressed and attempted suicide by ingesting sleeping pills. She had left a suicide note for her family and was discovered in time to save her life. After her suicide attempt, she moved back to Mexico permanently, though she continued to appear in American films as a character actress. She revived both her personal and professional lives and, in 1972, married again, on a private island she owned off the coast of southern Mexico. During this period she appeared in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1972).

Jurado again appeared on television and in films during the 1970s. Tragedy stuck when her son died in an automobile accident in 1981 at the age of 35. In the following years she worked on television both in The United States and in Mexico.

She did guest appearances on Playhouse Drama and The Rifleman. She also co-starred in the short-lived television series a.k.a. Pablo in 1984, a situation comedy series for ABC, with Paul Rodriguez. In 1984, she acted in the Mexican-American production Under the Volcano , directed by John Huston . Her last American film appearance was in Stephen Frears' Western The Hi-Lo Country, capping a half-century-long American movie career.

In 1992 Jurado was honored with the Golden Boot Awards award for her notable contribution to the western movies. Towards the end of her life, she suffered from heart and lung ailments. She died of kidney failure and pulmonary disease on July 5, 2002, at the age of 78 at her home in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. She was buried in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the Panteón de la Páz cemetery. She was survived by her daughter.

You can veiw Katy Jurado's filmography at Internet Movie Database.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gabby Hayes

The subject of this posting is Gabby Hayes. George Francis "Gabby" Hayes (May 7, 1885 – February 9, 1969) was an American radio, film, and television actor. He was best known for his numerous appearances in Western movies as the colorful sidekick to the leading man.

Hayes was born the third of seven children in Wellsville, New York. He was the son of Elizabeth Morrison and Clark Hayes, and did not come from a cowboy background. In fact, he did not know how to ride a horse until he was in his forties and had to learn for movie roles. His father, Clark Hayes, operated a hotel and was also involved in oil production.

George Hayes played semi-professional baseball while in high school, then ran away from home in 1902, at 17. He joined a stock company, apparently traveled for a time with a circus, and became a successful vaudevillian. He had become so successful that by 1928 he was able, at 43, to retire to a home on Long Island in Baldwin, New York. He lost all his savings the next year in the 1929 stock-market crash and returned to acting.

Hayes married Olive E. Ireland, daughter of a New Jersey glass finisher, on March 4, 1914. She joined him in vaudeville, performing under the name Dorothy Earle (not to be confused with film actress/writer Dorothy Earle). She convinced him in 1929 to try his luck in motion pictures, and the couple moved to Los Angeles. They remained together until her death July 5, 1957. The couple had no children.

On his move to Los Angeles, according to later interviews, Hayes had a chance meeting with producer Trem Carr, who liked his look and gave him thirty roles over the next six years. In his early career, Hayes was cast in a variety of roles, including villains, and occasionally played two roles in a single film. He found a niche in the growing genre of western films, many of which were series with recurring characters. Ironically, Hayes would admit he had never been a big fan of westerns.

Hayes, in real life an intelligent, well groomed, and articulate man, was cast as a grizzled codger who uttered phrases like "consarn it", "yer durn tootin", "dadgumit", "durn persnickety female", and "young whippersnapper".

Hayes played the part of Windy Halliday, the sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), from 1935 to 1939. In 1939, Hayes left Paramount Pictures in a dispute over his salary and moved to Republic Pictures. Paramount held the rights to the name Windy Halliday, so a new nickname was created for Hayes' character; Gabby. As Gabby Whitaker, Hayes appeared in more than 40 pictures between 1939 and 1946, usually with Roy Rogers but also with Gene Autry or Wild Bill Elliott, often working under the directorship of Joseph Kane.

Hayes was also repeatedly cast as a sidekick to western icons Randolph Scott (6 times) and John Wayne (15 times, some as straight or villainous characters). Hayes became a popular performer and consistently appeared among the ten favorite actors in polls taken of movie-goers of the period. He appeared in either or both the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice Magazine lists of Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars for twelve straight years and a thirteenth time in 1954, four years after his last movie.

The western film genre declined in the late 1940s and Hayes made his last film appearance in The Cariboo Trail (1950). He moved to television and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show, a western series, from 1950 to 1954 on NBC, and a new version in 1956 on ABC. He introduced the show, often while whittling on a piece of wood and would sometimes throw in some tall stories. Half way through the show he would say something else and at the end too but he did not appear as an active character in the stories themselves. When the series ended, Hayes retired from show business. He lent his name to a comic book series and to a children's summer camp in New York.

Following his wife's death in 1957, he lived in and managed a ten-unit apartment building he owned in North Hollywood, California. In early 1969, he entered Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California, for treatment of cardiovascular disease. He died there on February 9, 1969, at the age of eighty-three. George "Gabby" Hayes was interred in the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

For his contribution to radio, Gabby Hayes has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Blvd. and a second star at 1724 Vine Street for his contribution to the television industry. In 2000, he was posthumously inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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Welcome To My Blog

I am a fan of classic cinema, especially the films of John Wayne. This blog will have information and articles pertaining to classic movies and some behind the scenes stuff as well. As this blog is mostly about classic cinema, it won't be a traditional one. The subjects of the articles will not be the major stars except perhaps John Wayne. Other sites can cover the major stars and mainstream films but I want offer up the unusual. I will highlight films as well as actors and actresses.

Visit my John Wayne site for all things John Wayne and check out my store:

John Wayne Store

Click Here! for Jason Brubaker's Movie Maker Action Pack. Utilizing this professional script to screen movie making system, you will discover how write, produce and sell your movie for maximum profit.

I hope to get something going soon, stay tuned.

Paul Newton