People you should know: Jeff Corey

Corey - Seconds

“At present, 20th Century Fox is sending me to drama school — the drama coach is Jeff Corey, the best here in Hollywood.”

Bruce Lee to Fred Sato, April 9, 1966

At some point in my work this week I chanced upon a picture of Jeff Corey. Even just seeing the late actor’s face, flat and immobile in a still or screencap, is like that first sip of beer at the end of a long, hot day — it brings relief, refreshment, renewal. The veteran Hollywood character actor and esteemed acting teacher (whose students included the wide-ranging likes of actors James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Perkins, Jane and Peter Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Blake, Rita Moreno, Sharon Tate, Leonard Nimoy, Roy Thinnes, Matthew Modine, screenwriter Robert Towne, and directors Roger Corman and Steven Spielberg, who audited Corey’s classes in order to understand how actors think and how a good director motivates them) died over a decade ago but he lives on in his many films and TV shows. I think of him often because… well, because he’s so damned good. Always was. And his work holds up, over 70 years past his film debut in 1940. Do you know about Jeff Corey? Do you mind if I tell you about him?

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Roger Corman & Vincent Price: The Groovy Gruesome Twosome

pricecorman

This post is part of my month-long celebration of Vincent Price–TCM’s October Star of the Month. For further reading see Vincent Price Takes Center Stage, Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes, Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance and In the Kitchen with Vincent Price.

Vincent Price will be headlining TCM’s terrific Halloween line-up tonight, which kicks off at 5PM PST/8PM EST with THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) followed by THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963), THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964), THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971), TWICE TOLD TALES (1963), THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) and finally THE CONQUEROR WORM aka THE WITCH FINDER GENERAL (1968). I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all these films before and recommend them without hesitation but if you can only watch a few I suggest setting aside some time to enjoy the Roger Corman films airing this evening, which make for some genuinely thrilling entertainment on All Hallows’ Eve.

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On the Cheap: Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

hollywood boulevard

Roger Corman’s career would be impossible today. There is no more infrastructure for low-budget genre experimentation, as filmmakers must increasingly rely on crowd-funding to get their modest projects off the ground (even Spike Lee took that route last week), with little hope of distribution. The only outfit as prolific as Corman’s New World Pictures is The Asylum, the mock-busters behind Sharknado, except their model doesn’t encourage the young but re-animates the old for a quick buck. Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix shares Corman’s huckster spirit and eye for talent, but only has the funds to make 2-3 films a year (New World could crank out 10). And while there is plenty of creativity on display in direct-to-video action movies (like Jesse V. Johnson and Isaac Florentine), they are totally isolated from Hollywood at-large, never graduating to larger productions like Corman alumni Martin Scorsese and Joe Dante. What we are robbed of from this lack is gonzo oddities like Dante and Allan Arkush’s Hollywood Boulevard (1976), a no-budget satire of an exploitation film production. Streaming on Netflix (cropped from 1.85 to 1.33, sadly), it’s a loving take-down of Corman’s shoestring flicks “shamelessly loaded with sex and violence”, per the tagline.

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Thompson! Can you hear me?

Roger Corman

To my way of thinking there is no more cinematic an automatic weapon than the Thompson submachine gun. More than half of the association, for me, is the construction — that cylindrical magazine looks like a film canister and the distinctive rat-a-tat-tat of the of the Tommy gun’s report like the rattle of film threading its way through a projector — but it also has to do with the fact that gangster films, spawned as they were by Prohibition and allowing the Thompson its feature film debut, were one of the vehicles bridging the silent and sound eras.  [...MORE]

The Floodgates Open: Telluride FF 2012

Tis the season for major film festivals and Telluride often trumps those that follow – Toronto, New York, Chicago – by presenting the North American premieres of major works, a mixture of Cannes award winners receiving their American debut, lesser known discoveries and surprises (some without distributors yet) and wonderful retrospectives (from silent films with live music accompaniment to overlooked treasures like Agnes Varda’s La Pointe Courte (1956), Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto (1961) and Paul Fejos’ Lonesome, 1928).   [...MORE]

Buggin’ Out with Buggies

I’ve been thinking a lot about dune buggies lately. It all started a few weeks ago while I was watching HEAD (1968) on TCM starring The Monkees. This psychedelic blast from the past has many memorable moments including a scene where the iconic pop band drives a bright yellow buggy through some sand dunes while being chased by a giant-sized Victor Mature.

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In Their Own Words: Actors on Film Flops, Disappointments and Missteps

Marlon Brando on A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, Beverly Garland on SWAMP WOMEN and STARK FEAR, Tony Curtis on SON OF ALI BABA, Patricia Neal on THE FOUNTAINHEAD, Richard Widmark on SLATTERY’S HURRICANE, Ava Gardner on THE BIBLE, David Carradine on SONNY BOY and more.       [...MORE]

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]

In Memoriam: Linda Dubler, 1950-2011 – Media Arts Curator of the High Museum of Art

Last Thursday the Atlanta film community lost one of their most gifted and committed champions in bringing diverse and multicultural cinema to the city….and I lost a dear friend.       [...MORE]

My TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule

Today marks the beginning of TCM’s Classic Film Festival taking place April 28-May 1. A number of people have asked me if I’m attending the festival this year but unfortunately I’m stuck at home writing about it. Personal budget constraints make my attendance impossible but there are a lot of film screenings and events taking place at the festival that I wish I could see. I thought it would be fun to imagine how I might have planned out my trip to TCM’s Classic Film Festival this year and share a few movie recommendations in the process.

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