Toshiro Mifune, Japan’s John Wayne

During Toshiro Mifune’s impressive career in front of the camera he was often referred to as the “John Wayne of Japan.” Like Wayne, Mifune was a powerful and commanding screen presence and one of his country’s biggest box-office stars. His rugged good looks and macho posturing seemed to represent a distinct kind of masculine ideal that post WW2 film audiences found particularly attractive. Both Wayne and Mifune often played characters that were tough, strong-willed, courageous, self-sacrificing and more than willing to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They also shared a sense of humor and natural confidence that allowed them to occasionally take on challenging roles that threatened to tarnish their universal appeal.

The Great Ones, Part 2: More On & Off the Set Photographs

Johnny Weissmuller strikes a Vanity Fair-like pose in this second series of candid on-the-set snapshots, oddball publicity stills and off-the-set photographs.           [...MORE]

Developing the Character, Action-Style

The old saying, “action speaks louder than words,” is a truism (and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t give that name to the post).  What can be described at length with language can usually be communicated in seconds with action.  I thought about this recently when a friend (oh, okay, his name’s Bill and here’s his blog) brought up an adventure movie on Facebook and someone mentioned a lack of character development with the lead character.  I hadn’t seen the movie but wrote that in action/adventure, character is developed through action so if you’re complaining that you’re not getting Tennessee Williams style monologues of character exposition in an action movie, that probably means the character is being developed properly through the action.  That’s not only how it is but how it should be.


I’m William Holden. Who are You?

Who am I?  As a movie actor, I mean.  For years it was Robert De Niro but then, slowly, it shifted away.  The fit wasn’t right.  He’s too quiet and his characters too crazy.  No, no, it wasn’t him.  I was just confused because I liked him so much as an actor.   See, throughout my lifetime of loving the cinema, I’ve come to identify with actors in such a way that there are certain ones that give me great comfort when I watch them on the screen, to the point where I want to emulate them.  De Niro, for his talent and skills did that for years but I never really identified with him, I just loved his acting chops.  In fact, there are plenty of actors, from Walter Huston to Marlon Brando to John Wayne, whose appearance onscreen pretty much makes the movie worth watching even if the movie stinks.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily identify with them on a personal level, just that they project something onscreen that I like, no matter what the context.  Another one is Charlton Heston.  Say what you will about the guy (and I’ve said a few things myself) I can watch Chuck in damn near anything.  That stoic, solemn but slyly cynical way he had of delivering every line went a long way in my liking him.  But who I am isn’t who he is and so the search continued.  And that’s kind of what led me to the actor who I found worked for me on a personal and professional level.  It was the cynicism he projected but something more.  There was fatigue, too and disillusionment.  He had it in spades and as I got older I finally realized, “It’s William Holden, that’s who I am!”


Klaatu barada nikto! Or, the Shopping Adventures of a Morlock

The holidays are over and like many folks I did a lot of shopping in the last few months but I didn’t frequent many shopping malls or major retail outlets. I spent most of my time and hard earned dollars in secondhand stores and antique shops. This wasn’t just a budget conscious choice. It was also a personal choice. I love recycling forgotten treasures and giving cast off goods a new home. Visiting an old curiosity shop can be an eye-opening experience. They’re a lot like museums without any cumbersome entrance fees and everything is for sale. As a classic film lover I’m constantly on the look out for any unusual movie memorabilia that catches my eye and during the past year I’ve come across a lot of surprising discoveries at local antique shops. Most of the film-related items I stumbled on were too rich for my blood but that doesn’t lesson the pure enjoyment I get from seeing them firsthand and I thought it would be fun to share a few of the highlights from my window shopping adventures. Hopefully other classic movie enthusiasts will find some of these items as intriguing as I did.


Interviewing the Stars, Then and Now

Brad Pitt was featured this past week in Parade magazine, the tiny Sunday supplement to most major-city newspapers. In the cover article, he beams about family life with wife Angelina Jolie and their six children. He created a stir among gossip columnists and Internet wags when he referred to his previous marriage to Jennifer Aniston as an inauthentic life, because he was trying “to pretend the marriage something that it wasn’t.” Whether the quote was taken out of context, or whether Pitt isn’t particularly articulate, it was an ungracious comment to make regarding Aniston. Pitt’s offending quote swept across the Internet, and he felt compelled to make a sort-of retraction. All of which played out before the article was even available in Sunday’s issue of Parade.  Pitt’s interview was insensitive to Aniston. Anyone who has ever been thrown over for another person, and then had to endure comments about how happy their former spouses are now that they have moved on, will blanch at his statements.  And, yet, I did not think them so nasty or insulting that they warranted a back-pedaling press statement.

A day or so later, I read an interview with Nora and Delia Ephron about their upcoming stage play opening in Chicago, Love, Loss, and What I Wore. The interview was so dull and the Ephrons’ comments so colorless that I didn’t make it through the article. Both the Brad Pitt feature and the Epron interview reminded me that today’s celebrity interviews are as dull and rote as those found in studio-controlled fanzines of the Golden Age. They exist to promote a new film, a new play, or a new television series but do little to reveal the personality or career of the star or director. Many reasons account for this, including the lack of experienced journalists and interviewers who know how to ask the right questions and provide insightful context for the answers.


They said WHAT?! Classic Insults from Classic Actors

Humphrey Bogart and William Holden duking it out on the set of SABRINA (1954)

In June actor Harrison Ford made news after publicly calling, Shia LaBeouf, his young costar from INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Steven Spielberg; 2008) “…a f–king idiot.” Since then I’ve been thinking about insults that actors have hurled at other actors over the years and a recent piece at Flavorwire titled “The 30 Harshest Filmmaker-on-Filmmaker Insults In History” compelled me to compile a list of 30 of the worst actor-on actor insults I’ve come across. Some of them are surprisingly crude so I thought I should worn potential readers before they plunge ahead. Let the war of words begin…


Lucy Ricardo Was Just Like Us — She Loved Movie Stars!

This coming Saturday — tomorrow, August 6th – marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of show business’ forever and always top funny lady Lucille Ball, and also a day of Lucille Ball on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars.  It would be more than appropriate for anyone to celebrate this significant milestone, but I especially love Lucy.  My mother used to say that when I was a kid everytime she would come into a room I’d be watching I Love Lucy on TV, and I used to talk about it all the time.  Still do even today — watch and talk about it! [...MORE]

True Grits


Regrettably, this post is not about the cookbook True Grits: Recipes Inspired By the Movies of John Wayne. My apologies to writers Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis, although I do intend to make  “They Were Eggspendable” (p. 6) and “Hondocakes” (p. 12) for breakfast this weekend. No, instead I’ll be considering Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, True Grit, and the film adaptation by producer Hal Wallis and director Henry Hathaway the following year. All of this was spurred, of course, by the Coen Brothers’ take on the material, still named True Grit, which comes out on December 22nd.


Is there no room for heroes?

John Wayne

Just look at this man.  Has there ever been a movie star more iconic?  But what does that icon stand for?  Depends on your age, to some extent.


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