Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Lizabeth Scott

Lizabeth Scott was known for her sultry manner, husky voice, and icy beauty - all of which made her one of the leading anti-heroines of the American film noir era. Still, like many of the shady ladies she played, her life concealed a considerable secret...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOriginally a model, from a young age she was determined to be a stage actress, yet was discovered by Hollywood just as Broadway beckoned; rather than treading the boards, she chose instead to go West at the urging of the powerful producer Hal Wallis, where soon she was engaged (mainly by Paramount) in a string of bad girl roles, the best of which were opposite Humphrey Bogart.

Offscreen, she became notorious as one of the first actors to sue the gossip magazine Confidential for openly speculating as to why she seemed to have no boyfriends. Following the suit (which was thrown out on a technicality) her career went into decline, although this can just as easily be ascribed to typecasting or to the decline of the genre in which she'd been typecast as it could be to her potential lesbianism.

Nevertheless, aside from a role in 1972, the dozen years of her career in movies had wrapped up by 1957, although she did make appearances on television after that. In latter years, though, she has been a recluse, refusing all requests to be interviewed, no matter how much I've begged*.

*Only kidding; I wouldn't have the stones to approach Willard Scott, let alone Lizabeth Scott. Feh!

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Gratuitous Brunette: Drake Hogestyn

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Even for a soap opera Days of Our Lives is ludicrous; the only reason I watched it for so many years was Drake Hogestyn, whose architectural face and melted molasses voice made even the supernatural depredations of Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo) - which often defied the laws of reason and occasionally even physics - watchable.

When I first watched the show he was playing (or at least known as) Roman Brady; nowadays his character is called John Black, thanks to a retconned storyline both onscreen and off* as convoluted as anything ever thrown at his perennial co-star Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall). Despite the unreality of their adventures together the pairing of John Black and Marlena Evans is as enduring as it is pretty... Even more unbelievable - Hogestyn turns 57 today.

*Offscreen it was the return of Wayne Northrop to the cast as the character of Roman Brady he created in 1981, and the desire of the show's producer to retain Hogestyn's services, which prompted the recasting; after Northrop left for a second time in 1994 the role was taken over by Josh Taylor, and when Northrop again returned to the show in August 2005 he was given the role of Alex North. I did warn you it was convoluted, did I not?
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Madeline Kahn Acts Up A Storm In "Paper Moon"

In what is nearly my favourite scene in what is nearly my favourite movie - Paper Moon - birthday gal Madeline Kahn acts up a storm as she tries to talk her boyfriend's ward (who may or may not be his daughter) out of one of her many charmingly pouty tantrums. I can't think of a single emotion that doesn't flicker across Trixie Delight's face before she finally figures out that the best way to get a kid to trust you is to stop talking down to them and tell them the truth.

Director Peter Bogdanovich's bittersweet 1973 film was based on the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown; it also starred real-life father and daughter Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal, whose relationship in the film, while often vituperative, seems almost halcyon compared to the Hell they were experiencing behind the camera...
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In Memoriam: Caravaggio

Caravaggio - the artist formerly known as Michelangelo Merisi - gave Renaissance art a new degree of naturalism, and so he is often credited as the first of the Baroque painters; so accurate are his works that scientists studying one, of a basket of fruit, were able to deduce an agricultural blight in the year it was painted, based solely on the spots he'd thoughtfully included on their leaves.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnother level of realism Caravaggio brought to the art world was that of his bad boy persona - possibly brought on by bipolar disorder, which was still undefined in those times. Contemporaries describe him as disappearing into his studio for weeks at a time, during which he worked at a furious pace; he would eventually emerge, swaggering, ready for a booze-up, some slap and tickle, and a brawl.

Though he was called 'the most famous painter in Rome', he lived there barely six years, from 1600 until he was forced to leave after killing Ranuccio Tomassoni in one of his famous brawls in May 1606; he was forced to flee Sicily in 1607, Malta in 1608, and Naples in 1609 for similar reasons. He died in Tuscany in 1610, aged only 38. The circumstances surrounding his death, naturally, are mysterious; for one thing, his corpse was never found.

His reputation at the time of his death was enormous, yet within decades where he wasn't largely forgotten he was often slandered; it wouldn't be until the 1920s that his name and abilities were re-introduced and many of his mis-attributed paintings were re-attributed. Despite his lack of favour, he influenced Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Delacroix. Today he is considered second only to that other Michelangelo in the contributions he made during his cultural moment.

Only about 50 of Caravaggio's works survive, which is still a staggering body of work, given their sizes. His works are renowned for their use of ordinary people (and often his fellow artists) as models, their psychological elements, and use of darkness and shadow (called chiaroscuro). Likewise, they are notorious for their homoeroticism, and even in his lifetime were held in contempt for the so-called vulgarity of their realism.
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Remembering... Charles Addams

Somehow it just seems more apt to celebrate the life and hilariously macabre work of cartoonist Charles Addams on the day he died - on this day in 1988 - rather on the day he was born; maybe it's because of the nature of his work, or it could just be its proximity to Hallowe'en. Though the Addams Family cartoons were just a small percentage of the more than 1300 drawings he created in his life, they have proven suitably (indeed, admirably, and even appropriately) undead...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe family of ghouls Addams concocted while working for The New Yorker continue to delight and amuse us today, nearly two decades after his death, and show no signs of stopping; after multiple incarnation on television and in the movies it was announced in May 2007 that the Addams Family would be coming to Broadway in a musical written by Broadway veterans Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Following tryouts in Chicago, the show is slated to hit the Great White Way in April 2010.

Although Addams started drawing them in 1932, his most famous characters weren't even named until the early 1960s, when their first television series went on the air; by then they were already so popular (and he for creating them) there was no debate over what their last name should be. The Addams Family ran on ABC-TV for two seasons, from 1964-6.

However ghoulish his persona, though, it was entirely put on for the benefit of the press, expected of him even; despite a collection of medieval weaponry, and the tombstone he used as a coffee table, Charles Addams was a gentle kindly man who was merely blessed (or, if you prefer, possessed) with a sense of humour that was slightly askew.
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Now Showing: "Sing After Me" by Madeline Kahn and Grover

As this charming piece of footage so ably demonstrates, the late Madeline Kahn - born on this day in 1942 - must have been something akin to an angel in life, so there's no doubt in my mind as to what she is these days. Here she performs an utterly charming duet with my favourite monster, Grover, on Sesame Street.

Certainly Kahn's early death in December 1999 (of ovarian cancer) was met with an outpouring of grief from former colleagues, such as Mel Brooks, who declared her 'one of the most talented people who ever lived'. Deepening the shock her death engendered, Kahn had kept her illness a secret, working right up until the end.
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POPnews - September 29th

[The Washington National Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece
which glorifies the combination of church and state.

1717 - An earthquake struck Antigua Guatemala, destroying more than 3000 of that city's Spanish Mudéjar-influenced colonial buildings and causing authorities to consider moving the capital to a different city; a further series of earthquakes in 1773 finally brought about the move - to the Valley of the Shrine, where it remains to this day with the far less poetic name of Guatemala City.

1829 - London's Metropolitan Police Service was launched by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel; once known as 'Peelers', police in the English capital are still called 'bobbies' in his honour. At the time of its foundation 'The Met' was the third professional police force in the world, following those in Glasgow and Paris.

1833 - Upon the death of Spain's King Ferdinand VII his wife Maria Christina became queen-regent on behalf of her daughter, who would ascend the throne as Isabella II.

1864 - The Battle of Chaffin's Farm was fought, giving Union general Benjamin F. Butler a victory over the Confederacy's Robert E. Lee and Richard S. Ewell during the American Civil War.

1885 - The first practical public electric tramway in the world was opened in the British seaside resort of Blackpool.

1907 - The cornerstone of the Washington National Cathedral was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt; the Cathedral had been granted its Charter by an act of Congress in January 1893, and work on the edifice would finally be finished 83 years later to the day.

1916 - John D. Rockefeller became the first billionaire.

1954 - Willie Mays of what was then New York Giants made a famous play known as The Catch at The Polo Grounds during Game 1 of that year's World Series, which pitted the Giants against the Cleveland Indians.

1960 - While visiting the United States, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev disrupted a session of the United Nations General Assembly - including a speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, twice - with a series of temperamental outbursts, including a famous one (which may, in fact, be apocryphal) in which he allegedly banged on his desk with a shoe.

1962 - When Canada's first satellite, Alouette 1, was launched from California's Vandenberg AFB, Canada became only the third country in history to launch such a device; its primary use was scientific - it was designed to study the ionosphere - and it was switched off after a decade. Alouette 1 remains in orbit and may, in theory, still work.

Photobucket1964 - The Spanish-language comic strip Mafalda was first published, in the weekly publication Primera Plana; the brainchild of Argentinian cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado - who's better known as Quino - the little girl with a passion for peace has been entertaining the Latin world ever since, even though her initial run ended in June 1973. Often compared to Charles Schulz's Peanuts (most notably by Umberto Eco in 1968) for its psychological insight into the souls of children, in Mafalda's world adults play a greater role, and the character herself is both more political and rooted in socio-politics as well. Although books of Mafalda strips are widely available in their original language, sadly they are relatively rare in English - providing me with yet another excellent reason to learn Spanish.

1979 - John Paul II became the first Pope to visit Ireland.

1982 - The Tylenol Crisis began when the first of seven individuals died in Chicago; the culprit has never been caught...

1988 - NASA launched STS-26, its first mission after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of January 1986.

1990 - Work was completed on the Washington National Cathedral when the last finial was installed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush, 83 years to the day after the cornerstone was laid.

2004 - Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne performed its first space flight; days later he (and it) would go on to win the lucrative Ansari X Prize; on the same day the asteroid 4179 Toutatis passed within four lunar distances of Earth - although few if any scientists consider the asteroid a warning to the arrogant humans seeking ever easier ways to evade their own planet's gravity.

2006 - US Representative Mark Foley resigned after letting slip that the Republican Party is actually a secret gay organization allegations of inappropriate emails to house pages were revealed.

2007 - Britain's Calder Hall - the world's first commercial nuclear power station, itself part of the vast complex at Sellafield, which came on line in August 1956 and was officially opened by The Queen in October of that year - was demolished in a controlled explosion. At the time of its closing in March 2003 the main reactor had been in continuous operation for nearly 47 years.

2008 - The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered a 777.68 point drop, the largest in its history. So far...
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