Saturday, May 16, 2020

Reunited: I've Got My "Eyes" on You!

In 1955, Miss Joan Crawford was still in a position to headline a movie above the title (something she, in fact, clung to as a status symbol for the better part of her career), but her time atop Hollywood's highest heights (in the wake of her Oscar win for Mildred Pierce, 1945) was ticking slightly. Nevertheless, as an enduring, still-popular star, she continued to work on projects that highlighted her most famous assets. These include - among other things - her iron-willed, yet paradoxically tender, persona, her flair for eye-popping costumes and styling and those incredible eyes. In Queen Bee, which has been paid tribute in full here, she buzzes around a clatch of family and friends, handing out little stings whenever possible. Her husband in the movie was played by the rugged-faced Barry Sullivan (while her sister-in-law's fiance was portrayed by John Ireland, a man JC was having an actual romance with during the filming.)
Crawford enters a virtual hive of activity.
She borrows a bit of hubby Sullivan's nectar.
Sullivan and Crawford are locked in a loveless marriage, something that somehow takes on new focus upon the arrival of Crawford's young relation.
Here Joan is trying to make a point (or two!)
Squaring off yet again...
She enjoys taunting and toying with her alcoholic hubby.
Yet enjoys an iron-clad grip on him.
Misery loves company and Crawford loves misery (for everyone else!) Note this piece of jewelry for later.
A tall costar is crucial to leading ladies of a certain age as it extends the jawline when looking up at them. Though she appeared to be towering on screen, Miss C. was in actuality merely 5'3"!
About fourteen years after having played battling spouses in Queen Bee, Crawford and Sullivan were reunited. The occasion was the 1969 pilot movie for Rod Serling's latest series offering Night Gallery. In it, he would appear before a framed piece of artwork and offer a brief introduction to a macabre or mysterious story with different stars each time. For this pilot, Crawford starred in the second of three tales. Hers was (aptly!) titled "Eyes." (This part had first been offered to Bette Davis, the possessor of even more famous eyes, who turned it down for some reason.)

Crawford never approached any project halfway and upon being cast began practicing blindness at home (she had had brush with this sort of thing in 1952's This Woman is Dangerous as well.) As relayed by novice, 21 year-old director Steven Spielberg, in his very first professional assignment, he had the task of revealing to her that her latest project was to be helmed not by a seasoned veteran, but by a wet-behind-the-ears newcomer than no one had ever heard of! And it happened in the craziest way possible according to him. He went to her home where she was blindfolded and she had her first glimpse of him upon removing it! Despite some initial misgivings, the two wound up getting along famously and she turned in one of her very best latter-day performances.
In "Eyes," Crawford plays a commandeering, very embittered and selfish woman who has been blind from birth. (In the piece, she announces her age, which is shorn of a good ten years from actual!) Sullivan plays her longtime physician.
In her penthouse palace filled to the brim with priceless art and sculpture, she longs to be able to see, even if for a brief while.
Sullivan is horrified to learn that she has located someone who will serve as a donor for an experimental operation on her eyes. She will be able to see for about a dozen hours, but the donor will be permanently blind. He flatly refuses to perform the surgery.
There's no way she's going to allow his refusal to stand...
She has in her possession a dossier on him, which includes a damning personal incident which resulted in the death of a woman he was seeing apart from his wife.
Everyone has his price...
Having a familiar actor such as Sullivan to play opposite surely helped bolster Crawford's security in these changing times on the acting landscape. Spielberg was making many daring camera moves and, while she supported him fully, it was still a far cry from what she was used to.
He did have the good sense, however, to turn his lens onto that unforgettable face, upon which decades of movie heroines had been demonstrated.
Miss Crawford knocked this one out of the park with the aid of the neophyte director. His set-ups and editing choices (some of which were diffused or changed by the network) keep this vintage piece of television thrilling and unusual even now.
Many think it ought to have remained her acting swan song (she only did three things afterwards.) Though I won't go quite that far (I can watch her do anything), I do think it ranks as her best from this stage in her career.
Once the surgery is complete, Crawford awaits the moment when her bandages may be removed.
She has surrounded herself with many of her favorite pieces of sculpture so that they will be readily available to witness once she opens her eyes.
Stubborn gorgon that she is, she insists on being left alone for the big reveal.
Then again, can you imagine opening your eyelids after more than a half-century, finally with functioning vision, and having the very first human face you see belong to craggy Barry Sullivan!?! This story does not have a very happy ending, but it is a must see for the work that its star turns in.
The man playing the optic nerve donor happened to be Tom Bosley (later a household name from Happy Days and later Father Dowling Mysteries.) While he and Crawford share no scenes here, they had been linked previously as well.
Both Bosley and Crawford had appeared in a 1963 episode of Route 66. They shared no screen time, however. His story line as the protective father of a young daughter was concurrent with, but separate from, hers in which she fretted about her allegedly deceased husband while in the arms of humpy Glenn Corbett. Can ya blame her?!

Incidentally, Crawford also met up with another of her Queen Bee costars, John Ireland, when the two of them were cast in I Saw What You Did (1965.) This time, instead of her calling all the shots, she's rather desperately in love with him, not knowing that he's just stabbed his wife to death!
In this one, she sports my all-time favorite movie necklace and has hair piled high much as it was intended to look in Hush, Hush... Sweet Charlotte (1964), from which she withdrew after filming began.
Even in low-grade projects like this, the eyes do their thing...
As I say... tall leading men definitely have their uses!
The first time I ever saw this - way back when - and the purportedly recent portrait from the show, I thought to myself, "Jesus, that looks nothing like her!" Clearly, the piece of art is intentionally flattering...
...but it's not as far afield as I used to think. It is, like many such portraits (and heavily doctored & photoshopped pics of stars today!), just a very idealized version of the subject.
Such things were important to Miss Crawford, who never left the house for any reason without dressing as a STAR. Note the brooch she has on in this snapshot. It's the one she wore in Queen Bee!
Though she appreciated and strove for the familiar (i.e. Sullivan), she was keen enough to recognize the potential of the unfamiliar (Spielberg) and the result was a great little piece of film. She and the director remained friends until her death in 1977 and she enjoyed watching his career develop. Of her experience with him she said, "When I began to work with Steven, I understood everything. It was immediately obvious to me, and probably everyone else, that here was a young genius. I thought maybe more experience was important, but then I thought of all of those experienced directors who didn't have Steven's intuitive inspiration and who just kept repeating the same old routine performances. That was called "experience." I knew then that Steven Spielberg had a brilliant future ahead of him. Hollywood doesn't always recognize talent, but Steven's was not going to be overlooked. I told him so in a note I wrote him. I wrote to Rod Serling, too. I was so grateful that he had approved Steven as the director. I told him he had been totally right." She was gone before his most considerable potential had been reached.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Poseidon On Screen

You know, for close to eleven years now, I've been paying tribute to beloved stars of the screen, big and small, and to countless movie and TV projects that I adore. From the age of eighteen (if not before), learning about and devoting free time to classic television and movies has been my passion. It all started with four things. I was obsessed with both Joan Collins of Dynasty and Eleanor Parker of The Sound of Music (1965.) So I began to seek out other projects of theirs from earlier in their careers, which sent me down a rabbit hole full of gorgeous and captivating movies. Then there was the unearthing (after years of being out of circulation) of several 1950s Alfred Hitchcock movies such as Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958.) Once I saw those, I had to see every other sound film he ever made. Then there was a coffee table book I bought called "The Illustrated Who's Who of the Cinema." In those pre-Internet days, a resource like that was invaluable to a burgeoning classic movie buff. Later, the unbelievably extensive (though still not entirely complete) website made it so much easier to research the work of all one's favorite stars or to locate certain programs. Though I have been a local stage performer for 25 years, it never in a million years crossed my mind that one day my own name might be found among the seemingly countless listings of that website. But - as I pinch myself - it is there! I'll get to that in a moment though.

During this recent COVID-19 pandemic, I - like many people - have been sheltering in place and working from home (being lucky enough to still keep my job, as countless others have not!) It's been one wild ride all along. As a single person, the isolation has not in any way been easy, especially when you're a person like myself who practically lives to make other people chortle with laughter at any given moment. In order to do something other than sit at my computer all day during work hours, followed by sitting all night in front of the TV set, I began making short videos, confessionals of a sort, using characters that I dreamed up: Jerrold and Lorabeth Holtmesser. This may or may not be your cup of tea, but on the chance that they might give you a smile during these long, dull days, I am sharing. They run about 3 or 4 minutes as a rule. I am NOT making fun of or light of the virus. This is my coping mechanism for the isolation and my way of trying to lighten the dark mood of the times we're in.

Jerrold is about as far afield from me as you can get! I like to be (or, I should say, used to like to be!) neatly-dressed, carefully-groomed and well-spoken. He is gruff, busted-looking and just this side of trashy. He has a heart of gold underneath his rowdy exterior, though. Lorabeth is his put-upon wife, who does all she can to maintain a comfortable and secure household, but is occasionally undone by the events around her. So far there have been eight of these in all. There is occasional language, but nothing too bad. It began as a simple one-off, but the demands of friends and family dictated that I produce more whenever the germ of an idea struck me. (I say "produce..." these are nearly all done on one-take with a budget of $1.07 - for all eight! LOL I spent one dollar on one prop for one video. Everything else was in my possession as a result of countless Halloweens and theatrical efforts.) Catch me back at the end of this post for more about

Jerrold# 1 - The first time we ever meet this grumbling but amusingly raggedy character.

Jerrold# 2 - Jerrold is back with some keen observations about his neighbors. (This video somehow was ended abruptly during upload to youtube, with about 30 non-essential seconds lopped off.)

Jerrold# 3 - The night before Easter and Jerrold is in the house...

Lorabeth# 1 - Our first glimpse of the gently-oppressed wife of Jerrold. (I have put SO much weight on since the pandemic, but even given that I look inexplicably extra-gargantuan in this one! LOL)

Jerrold# 4 - Jerrold is given the task of figuring out a mystery in their general vicinity.

Lorabeth# 2 - Lorabeth comes face-to-face with one of the pandemic's non-medical yet undeniably horrible side effects.

Jerrold #5 - Jerrold's desire to keep a little bit of money on hand at home goes terribly awry...

Lorabeth# 3 - The virus isn't enough. Crazy weather isn't enough. Now this!


So... onto the next part of this post. I may have mentioned previously that last Fourth of July I took part in the filming of an independent movie. I didn't get my hopes up too awfully high and it is actually the third professional gig I have done for the screen, though the first two projects did not proceed very far. However, this one has really taken off as of late! It has made the rounds of the film festival circuit and been granted quite a few citations/awards, including one for me (albeit as part of the film's Ensemble!)

If you come here often, you know I am always at work. (I haven't taken a single day off this year thus far.) So I was only available a limited period of time to participate in the project. Fortunately, they were filming over a holiday weekend and I could use those days in addition to a little time away from the office with which to join in. The movie (Our Scripted Life, 2020) is about a soap opera actor who's in love with a female costar. In order to win her over, he develops a movie all his own in which he and she can star and, perhaps, fall in love. Midway through the movie, a crazed rural family is introduced of which I play the patriarch, Stump Turner. The role required some aging and graying (yes!) in order for me to play this grizzly, crotchety old farmhand. I really only have one considerable scene with brief appearances a couple of times elsewhere because of my limited participation, so it elated me to find that I was placed upon the film's poster among the rest of the yahoos...!

To further add to the excitement, the movie has just been added to Amazon Prime's lineup of movies for rent or for sale! And, as you may have guessed, this has led to me having an honest to goodness profile (with a "starmeter rating" somewhere down below pond scum! LOLOL But I don't care. It's just fun to be a part of it all. But, hey, I got billing on the Amazon page...!) Should you opt to watch this movie, you should be aware that it is in the vein of the popular gross-out comedies we see a lot of these days. The target audience is younger than me (what isn't?!) There is language and also adult situations. My own part is generally free of this, not because I wouldn't do it but because my character is fundamentally religious. Please forgive me for hijacking my own site to publicize myself, but I don't think it's too wrong to do after more than a decade of highlighting so many other people! We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming very soon.  Thanks and love, Poseidon!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Glad Tidings V: Io Semiramide

We generally don't resort much to this series of screencaps devoted to gladiator movies any more, but sometimes an occasion warrants it. This one's purpose will be revealed as we go along. On a side note, things have been wildly turbulent in The Underworld. As many of you know, this blog started during an economic downturn in which business was so poor I had little else to do at my job. This time, I've been beyond overwhelmed with work thanks to many layoffs, furloughs, etc... And my boss just turned in his resignation! So the work of eight people will now be distributed amongst four! That's going to mean changes of some sort to this site, if nothing other than fewer posts, so bear with me. I've already pulled the plug on our sister site Krazy Kaptions after seven years, but have no plans to do that here. Annnyyywaaayy... Today's movie is from 1963 and bore the English title Slave Queen of Babylon. Starring Yvonne Furneaux (of La Dolce Vita, 1960), it concerns the Assyrian princess-turned-queen's affection for a newly-captured slave who happens to be a king in his own right. Many photos outlining the set & costume splendor with comments as needed. It pissed me off that just a week ago, a gorgeous, sharp, color-corrected rendition of this movie was available for viewing and now it isn't... but oh well. What can ya do?! An okay version is here.
Just another day at the palace...

Ms. Furneaux, who is still with us today at 91, is very striking throughout the film.
"Santa Claus is coming to town...."
Almost like Dr. Moreau assembled her from pieces of Debra Paget, Kate O'Mara and Priscilla Presley!

Santa's summer look just never caught on....

This conquering hero has brought back a wealth of bounty and slaves, one of who will be capturing Furneaux's attention shortly.

He's shown here. One John Ericson.
Before he can do anything, he has to fight for his men against an opponent from another kingdom.
Ericson's stunt double is quite cheeky (and it looks good!)
This is Ericson himself, not as tan and flatter...
He wins the fight, but is sentenced to a slow death nonetheless.
Voluptuous Furneaux has other plans in mind, however.
Amazingly enough, this really was Ericson on the wheel!
He's repeatedly spun and dunked underwater upside-down!
If you know anything about movie filming, you realize that this probably had to be done over and over and over again...

He is taken from the wheel...
...but handed an even worse fate! He's tied, bloody, to a set of posts and left for the lions to eat!
Fortunately, Furneaux sends a few of her trusted agents to free him.
He is treated by some of her servants.

No "Star Trek" nipples here, folks.

"I call this my Statue of Liberty look..."
Bathtime Babylon
What a jaunty little red bathing brief. LOL!
Don't laugh... I've done my fair share of praying in the steam room myself!
And now a different aquatic setting...
Ericson has been elevated to the tutor for Furneaux's son (and heir to the throne)

No Babylonian board shorts here... (But his black briefs waistband is showing a tad.)
Now mama has turned up for a quick bath. Check out the burly guard's abbreviated skirtlet!

Ericson had a real-life scar on his right abdomen. (Appendix?)
As he's mulling over using this boat as an escape, a horn blows and everyone is to turn their faces away from the water and kneel. The princess is taking her bath.
Instead, the daring Ericson sets himself up for a bird's eye view!

And while she's annoyed at his impertinence, she nonetheless is confident enough to exit the water in his full view.

Ericson still doesn't want to be held as a slave, and he enjoys his mistress to a degree, but the uniform is better now anyway.

I love all of Furneaux's follicular bric-a-brac.
Understandably restless as a servant, even a cushy one, Ericson wants to escape.
But he doesn't get far.
Taken to a desert cliff, he's to be executed by bow & arrow by two soldiers.

There's a sort of St. Sebastian thing going on here I think.
Anyway, while the guards are bickering, Ericson leaps off the cliff into a nearby river.
Rather than admit that they failed, Furneaux is informed that Ericson is dead, though she's distraught over losing him.
This is a fun look, too. Sort of Queen of the Amazons.

Love this guy's ring. I wore one like it when I played Pharaoh in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!"
The princess is now Queen after the King's demise. This is probably my favorite look of hers. (Overdone! LOL)

Ericson is not dead, but he's still a captive slave.
The stylists must have seen Robert Ryan as John the Baptist in King of Kings (1961!)

The lovers are reunited during a slave revolt at the quarry where Ericson was toiling.
Furneaux cleans him up and frees his people.
Get a load of the head of hair on this guy.

This is another great look on her. And he is lookin' mighty nice here, too!

There's a fly in the "oinkment," though. One of her advisor's is putting doubts in her ear about Ericson.

Mr. Ericson goes through a whole range of expressions as it dawns on him that he's just been poisoned by his beloved!
The eyes have it!
Before all is said and done...
...the lovers are reunited after all.
One reason we picked this movie to focus on today is because the world lost Mr. John Ericson on May 3rd, 2020. He died of pneumonia at age 93 in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he'd been residing. There is a full profile on him and his career right here. We close with a few more pics of this actor who made a splash as a youth portraying neurotic, troubled or villainous roles.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Rhapsody (1954)
Swimming at Debbie Reynolds' home in the early-1950s.
Bring to mind any other stars of more recent years?
Notably steamy in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

During the opening scene from a 1963 episode of Burke's Law.