Tom Cruise will star in a fourth Mission:Impossible film for release in May 2011. Paramount will distribute the film, which is ironic because it was the excessive cost of the third movie in the series that led to the studio splitting with Cruise in a messy 2006 professional business "divorce". J.J. Abrams, who directed that film, will co-produce with Cruise, but apparently won't direct. Click here for details.
Blue Underground, which specializes in first class DVD editions of cult films, has released Circle of Iron (aka The Silent Flute) on Blu-ray. The 1978 martial arts movie was based on a story devised by Bruce Lee, James Coburn and Sterling Silliphant. Lee couldn't find studio interest in the metaphysical film that was designed to combine the spiritual qualities of Taoist philosophy with martial arts fight sequences. The movie languished for years until Silliphant was able to get a production deal. However, by then, Lee was a major film star and he turned his back on having anything to do with the movie. After Lee's death, studios were eager to capitalize on anything to do with his legend. Thus, the movie was heavily promoted as being a tribute to Lee, though the final result is probably light years away from what he envisioned. The movie is bizarre on many levels, yet is consistently entertaining and has a goofy and charming aspect to it.The plot takes place in a mythical land where Cord (Jeff Cooper), a top martial arts fighter is determined to take on the seemingly impossible quest to locate a mysterious figure named Zetan, who jealously guards a legendary book that supposedly contains the meaning of life. Cord must first accomplish numerous dangerous tasks along the way, if he hopes to actually meet Zetan. (Imagine The Wizard of Oz with kung fu fights).
For fans of French cinema, author Chuck Zigman has written the
definitive book on the career of iconic French actor Jean Gabin
entitled The World's Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and
Legend) of Jean Gabin, Volumes I and II featuring lengthy biography and
introductory chapters which place Gabin and his silver screen persona
into perspective. Voted one of the Best Performing Arts Books of 2009
by the Independent Publisher Book Awards and Foreword Magazine, this
impressive publication features over 100 photographs and forewords by
Michele Morgan and Brigitte Bardot.- Tom Lisanti
Click here to read more and to purchase your copy today.
the last thirty years Taschen have consistently produced some of the most
lavish and eye-catching photography books ever published. This latest book, Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by Jim Heimann and Kevin Starr,
covers the history of L.A in photos, from the first known picture taken
in 1862 through to the present day. Whilst those first few chapters of photos
and maps are interesting, particularly to historians, for movie fans the real
gold comes later on. There are photos reproduced here from a variety of
collections, from personal archives to news media. There are even pictures
taken by the actors themselves, such as this one that Dennis Hopper took in his
car in 1961.
L.A. from the vantage point of Dennis Hopper's lens.
book you can see Edward G. Robinson in reflective mood as he sits surrounded by
memorabilia in his office, or a bikini-clad Jayne Mansfield reclining in a pool
with dozens of floating toy replicas. We can even be present at the first
Academy Award ceremony in 1929. Some photos depict film making in its early
silent days. It’s incredible to see the elaborate indoor/ outdoor sets built to
ensure they captured as much light as possible, and it demonstrates that even
then, like modern-day movie sets, there are always plenty of people standing
around with no evident job role. There are also on set photos from some Busby
Berkeley musicals, demonstrating the amazing set design and vast camera cranes
needed to capture the choreographed action.
I interviewed former 60s starlet Salli Sachse about 12 years ago for my first book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema.
Her name may not be familiar, but to fans of American International
Pictures’ series of beach movies her face is easily recognizable. With
her waist-long honey brown hair and adorable smile, Salli, literally
plucked off the beach in San Diego, appeared in almost every beach
party film beginning with Muscle Beach Party (1964) through The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and everything else in between including Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965).
Recalling her time with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, Salli
remarked, "Frankie and Annette were very easy going and a pleasure to
work with but they weren’t real beach people. Frankie was raised in
Philadelphia so I don’t think he ever saw a surfboard in his life! And
Annette refused to wear a bikini. She would only wear a one-piece but
I think that had something to do with her contract with Walt Disney.
Annette was such a straight girl—a good Italian Catholic. Because we
grew up on the beach, a lot of us thought we were so cool compared to
Frankie and Annette. I remember that on one movie we were filming some
beach scenes late in the afternoon. It was really chilly and we were
fighting the light. Wrapped in terry cloth robes, a group of us
huddled together to keep warm. Carl the prop man handed us a bottle of
brandy. We were surprised when Annette took a couple of swigs. She
got a bit tipsy and was clowning around. It was the only time I ever
saw her let herself go wild.”
When the beach films became passe during the turbulent late sixties, Salli graduated to playing a drag strip groupie in Fireball 500 (1966) to a biker chick in Devil’s Angels (1967) to her most famous role as the LSD freak-out girl opposite Peter Fonda in The Trip (1967) to playing a hippie paramour of rock star Christopher Jones in Wild in the Streets
(1968). Unfortunately, along the way there was heartbreak when her
husband Peter Sachse tragically died in a plane crash in 1966 while
Salli was in Hong Kong filming The Million Eyes of Su-Muru.
Salli chucked her movie career in 1969 to concentrate on modeling
then photography then studying art in Europe during the seventies.
Returning to the U.S., she earned a Masters in Psychology and became a
counselor for "at risk" teens.
In August 2006 Salli was reunited with beach party regulars the
late Mary Hughes, Patti Chandler, and Linda Opie for a photo shoot
celebrating surf culture in the 1950s and 1960s for Vanity Fair. Below is a photo taken by Salli's friend while visiting the shoot. Pictured are Mary, Salli, Patti and Linda.
Today Salli Sachse has a new web sitewhere fans can peruse pictures of Salli from her Hollywood and
modeling days or purchase her beautiful art work. And she is currently
working on her memoir, which should prove to be a very interesting
Click here to order Fantasy Femmes of 60s Cinema from Amazon
Sign of the times: the iconic symbol of Hollywood may be placed amidst new developments.
The legendary Hollywood sign's iconic status as an undisturbed iconic symbol of the film industry is in danger of losing its cachet. There are frantic efforts underway to raise enough funding to stave off a development that would crowd out the sign and greatly undermine the rural area surrounding it. Click here for details.
David Prowse, the imposing stuntman who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films received good news: his prostate cancer is in remission. The 74 year old actor has been battling the disease for the last year. For more click here
Dear Cinema Retro:
The reason I love and subscribe to Cinema Retro is because you understand just
how great actors like Richard Basehart really were. I grew up with Richard
Basehart watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea when I was just 6 years old -
then later on discovered him in his many film roles. Everything he was in was
improved because of his talent. He had something very very few actors have
today -quality. No matter what the
part, he brought an air of quality to the portrayal, and the movie/show. Thank
you for keeping the memory and appreciation of great actors like Richard
Lancaster, PA USA
Retro Responds: Thank you,Patrick and all the other readers who support our endeavors by subscribing to the magazine. Of course, all the credit has to go to writer Herb Shadrak and the many other talented writers from around the world who so generously provide these articles. I don't mind bragging a bit on their behalf by pointing out that these people are the best of the best and their dedication to keeping the artists and films from the Golden Age of cinema in public focus is appreciated by movie fans around the world. The Waynes, Gables and Bogarts of the world will always be celebrated, but it is the under-rated talents like Richard Basehart whose work benefits so much from the dedication of our writers. I can't tell you how many people say they watched certain films they were unaware of because of articles in our magazine and on our web site. It gives us a great deal of satisfaction to know that artists who might otherwise be ignored are having their work appreciated once again. - Lee Pfeiffer
Young Clint in a staged "candid" photo, typical of those demanded by studios during the 50s and 60s.
In England to attend the premiere of Invictus, Clint Eastwood sat down with the Telegraph to reflect on his life and remarkable career, ranging from a near death experience in an airplane to the lessons having children late in life has taught him. Click here to read
Richard Basehart may have been the greatest
American actor ever. Certainly he was
too accomplished a performer ever to be “just another movie star” – his unconventional
good looks and astonishing versatility allowed him to convincingly portray murderers,
heels and suicidal neurotics in a career that spanned 45 years, but he was
equally effective at playing gentle souls, men of action (such as the intrepid
U.S. intelligence agent in Decision
Before Dawn), cowboys and the heroic Admiral Harriman Nelson in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea science
fiction series on ABC.
today, Richard Basehart remains one of the great, unrecognized talents of
post-war American films,” writes Mark Gross in Films in Review. “Possibly this is because he is neither
conventionally handsome nor easily identifiable as a character type. Instead,
he seems to become lost in his performances, belied by a surface calmness, with
a subtlety underlined by a sense of abandon in his quest for realism.”
After six years knocking about Broadway, Ohio-born Basehart's breakthrough came in 1945 in The Hasty Heart, in which he was cast as a proud, dying Scottish
soldier. Basehartwon the 1945 New York Drama Critics
Award for his realistic performance and was named the most promising newcomer
of the season. Hollywood came calling, and Basehart was soon signed to a movie
contract. Thus began a globe-trotting screen career that lasted until his death
followed his cinematic debut in Repeat Performance – a 1947 “déjà-vu” thriller featuringJoan Leslie - with a
supporting role in Cry Wolf(1947), an old dark house thriller
starringBarbara Stanwyck,Errol Flynn andGeraldine Brooks.Basehart played Stanwyck’s younger husband, who
As his Hollywood career took off, Basehart made every effort
to avoid being typecast, although in his early noirs he seemed to favor parts
in which he was of a villainous or conflicted nature. In preparing for his roles, Basehart spent hours by himself trying
to shape the character. He would sit on the end of the couch in his living room
and be so engrossed in the roles that he was completely oblivious to what was
going on around him.
The acclaimed British character actor Ian Carmichael has died at age 89. His film credits include many popular British comedies such as I'm All Right, Jack, School for Scoundrels and Smashing Time. He was acting until very recently, with a continuing role in the 2009 British TV series The Royal. For more click here
Cinerama expert and documentary film maker Dave Strohmaier has been called the Indiana Jones of lost films. On the great web site In70mm.com, Dave relates the surrealistic story of how a late-breaking tip lead him to a most unexpected location where he had to quickly devise a way to prevent the destruction of the last known print of the long-missing Cinerama's Russian Adventure. Click here to read
Peter Murton (left) with fellow Bond production design masters Peter Lamont and Ken Adam at a recent James Bond event at Pinewood Studio's Theatre Seven.
We have just learned that our dear friend,
production designer Peter Murton, passed away just before Christmas. Peter
worked on many early Bond films in the art department, and was the production
designer for The Man With The Golden Gun. A regular guest at the many
Bondstars events at Pinewood Studios, Peter always entertained the fans with his
stories about working on movies such as Death on the Nile, Superman
2 and 3, The Lion in Winter, The Ipcress File and many,
many more he was involved with in a career spanning some sixty years. He worked
alongside Retro's Dave Worrall a few years back on The Eagle Has Landed
DVD documentary, for it was Peter who transformed the private Oxfordshire
village of Mapledurham into the fictional hamlet of Studley Constable as seen in
the film.Cinema Retro mourns the passing of this great artist.
Remember Days of the Thunder, the auto racing pic released 20 years ago that teamed Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman? Although the movie was considered somewhat of an under-performer at the boxoffice, Paramount hopes to reignite interest in the flick through tying in with the mania for NASCAR. The studio is actively licensing a line of T shirts featuring logos from the film and snappy tag lines like: "Rubbin' Is Racin'" and "You Can't Outrun the Thunder." It sounds like a creative ploy, especially since it would derive revenue out of a film that ran out of gas years ago. For more click here
Since your inception as a magazine I am on
board and loved each and every issue and the special issue. Your
site is also great to read every day but today I found it sad to read that you
take a person like Heather Mills as subject for an item on your
blog! What does Heather Mills have to do with your concept of retro
movies from the golden decades of movie
I try to stay away from the type of
readings like Hello and OK magazine with all the fake people like the Victoria
Beckhams, David Beckhams, Lindsay Lohans,... of this world and all those types
of non stars. So to see now this, it is sad that you devote an
item to a person who started in London as a ruthless high class hooker to work
way up the greed ladder to becoming Paul McCartney's wife and now using her fake
prominence to gather still money and spend on plastic surgery and what
Please stop giving us this crap of entries!
Mirko di Wallenberg
Retro responds: Ouch, that hurts! We appreciate your loyalty, Mirko, but as we've pointed out on previous occasions, while our magazine sticks with films of the 60s and 70s, our web site covers a much broader canvas and contains commentary on personalities across the board of the entertainment industry. We publish numerous articles every day and it would be very difficult to just stick with stories about older movies. Naturally, not every article will appeal to every reader, but I think you're over-reacting. This is one article out of well over a thousand we have posted on line. When you read a newspaper, you don't expect every single article to be of interest to you, and it's the same with web sites. Just glance down the articles currently on our home page...virtually every single one has relevance to the subjects that interest you. We only very rarely even mention the name of lightweight "celebrities" such as Ms. Mills. We just can't stand the hypocrisy of some public personalities and call them out when we can. By the way, we are also celebrating our third anniversary of being a "Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton- Free Zone." And to show you there are differences of opinions, see letter below. - Lee Pfeiffer
It's about time someone called out Heather Mills for using charity work as a way of boosting her reputation. What a shame that a true humanitarian like Paul McCartney would have been so short-sighted to have gotten involved with someone like this. Thanks for helping to expose her. I always enjoy the broad subject range of your web site and would like to suggest more reviews of DVDs that many readers may not be aware are out. I just read your review of The Internecine Project with James Coburn and ordered the DVD. If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't have even known about this movie.
Retro responds: Thanks, Jim. Regarding those DVD reviews, look for an increase in the number of articles pertaining to more obscure releases by niche market DVD labels in the weeks to come. There are some great titles out there that we'll be showcasing. The same will be true with giving exposure to many interesting book titles that don't often get the proper exposure. And by the way, none of the DVDs or books will feature Heather Mills! - Lee Pfeiffer
UPDATE FEBRUARY 10: Fangoria's web site is back on-line, though it states it is being revamped. We're glad to hear that this long-running magazine is still apparently in business, but the publishers fail to address any of the issues stated in the article below. In fact, there is no explanation at all regarding the bizarre absence of the web site for an extended period of time, nor is there any discussion of the future of the magazine.
The horror movie blogs are on fire with speculation regarding what is going on at Fangoria magazine. The publication, which launched in 1979, has gone through disruptive times with a series of new owners, a bankruptcy and a warehouse fire. There has also been criticism that the magazine was slow to make necessary changes to keep up with the look of modern magazines. Now it appears as though the magazine may no longer be in business. The official web site has been off-line with no message alerting readers as to why. No official from the company has addressed the rumors. The latest issue is on newsstands, but apparently there are no announcements about the next issue or any Fangoria events in the coming months. Regardless of the explanation, the sound of silence by management is bizarre, to say the least. To read the web site's Horror Bid's analysis of the situation, click here
We generally try to minimize covering contemporary show biz gossip, but its been a few years since we visited the other planet that Heather Mills lives on. (She doesn't tread the same earth as we mere mortals). Yes, the ex-Mrs. Sir Paul McCartney is still trolling about, desperately using charities and cheesy reality show appearances as an excuse to get in the spotlight. If you're intrigued by quasi-celebrities who shamelessly use charities to promote their own image, Mills is the gift that keeps on giving. Mills Now London's Daily Mail offers a devastating report on her business dealings and personal habits, which include whining about a consistent lack of money even though she is worth millions of pounds. The Daily Mail piece accuses Mills of gaining praise and attention for promising to make significant donations to charities- then failing to delivery after the spotlight fades. The British tabloids are known for tearing down celebrities, but this isn't based on innuendo and supposition. It's a legitimate look at Mills' business affairs and her shocking behavior toward friends and colleagues. Sir Paul must be thanking his lucky stars he no longer has to spend "a day in the life" of Heather Mills. To read click here
Here's another fine movie that has been largely unseen in recent years: Ivan Tors' 1966 adventure Around the World Under the Sea. The flick combined the talents of Lloyd Bridges, Goldfinger sensation Shirley Eaton, Man From U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum, Flipper star Brian Kelly, Daktari! star Marshall Thompson, with Keenan Wynn thrown in for good measure. The plot centers on a team of scientists who undergo a hazardous mission to plant earthquake detection devices on deep sea beds around the world. They encounter every obstacle imaginable, including some pretty frightening sea creatures. Tors, who excelled in underwater films and TV series, wrings a good deal of suspense from some of the situations and the film is entertaining throughout. It spawned a soundtrack album and tie-in comic book, but aside from a release on VHS in the 1980s, has remained unseen since except for rare showings on TCM. It's a worthy candidate for DVD release.
Click here to watch the original 1969 theatrical trailer for Sam Peckinpah's classic Western, The Wild Bunch. (See issue #3 of Cinema Retro for 18 page Peckinpah tribute including writer Mike Siegel's visit to legendary locations from The Wild Bunch.)
The trailer has been released for Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Against all odds, it actually looks compelling rather than gimmicky. Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko finally gets out of jail to find a new world awaiting him. The limo waiting at the prison gate isn't for him but for a street thug. It's good to see Douglas back in a meaty role and, if nothing else, the pic co-stars Eli Wallach, which is worth the admission alone. To watch the trailer click here
Filmmaker Kevin Epps has shed new light on the legends behind the legendary Alcatraz prison. Movie audiences have been weened on the notion that being confined to The Rock was largely an experience relegated to white prisoners. In fact, over the decades Alcatraz 'hosted' a sizable population of black prisoners as well. Hollywood generally, well, whitewashed those prisoner's experiences during the heyday of crime movies because of segregationist attitudes in American society. Clint Eastwood's 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz set the record straight in a minor way: at least it depicted some black characters.Epps, a San Francisco documentary maker, explores the black experience on Alcatraz in The Black Rock. Working with a very limited budget, Epps, creatively uses rare still photos combined with first-hand interviews with black former inmates and guards. The result is a fascinating and thoroughly engrossing film that educates as much as it entertains. Although most people believe segregation was largely relegated to the deep south, the film proves that the horrible practice was alive and well inside the walls of Alcatraz. Black prisoners were segregated from whites, using the old-standby excuse that it was done for their own protection. (It's amazing how racist policies are always justified by the people who create them on the basis that they are actually for the benefit of those who are victimized by them.)
Issue #12 of Cinema Retro featuring James Bond girl Margaret Nolan on the cover is now completely sold out. We regret that we will not be able to provide any additional copies of this issue for sale, as every issue of Cinema Retro is a limited edition collector's item.
Some of the best DVD releases are coming from niche market companies that lack the financial resources to give them extensive marketing. Companies like Severin Films, Blue Underground and Scorpion Releasing have put a good amount of resources into releasing outstanding DVD editions of titles many readers may not even know are available. Thus, Cinema Retro will try to increase our coverage of these worthy titles and companies in the weeks and months to come. First up is Scorpion Releasing's deluxe edition of The Internecine Project, a 1974 London-based thriller directed by Ken Hughes and starring James Coburn in a bravura performance as a charismatic villain. Coburn plays an internationally respected economics expert who finds himself being tapped to be an adviser to the President of the United States. However, he must first ensure that his sordid sideline of running a small London crime ring is swept under the rug. To do so, he devises a complex scheme to convince each member of his team to murder another. The film, written by Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn, bristles with tension and leads to a wonderful and satisfying conclusion. Aside from Coburn's outstanding performance, you can relish yeoman work from Lee Grant, Harry Andrews and Ian Hendry- all set to Roy Budd's atmospheric score.
Scorpion has produced an excellent special DVD edition that includes a fascinating chat with screenwriter Jonathan Lynn, who would go on to be best known for writing famous British comedy TV series. On most special editions produced by major studios, the interviews are chopped into brief soundbites. Refreshingly, Scorpion allows Lynn to talk for almost 30 minutes- and he goes beyond discussing The Internecine Project to detailing working with John Landis on Clue. There are also some brief comments by Lee Grant and a very nice audio review of the film by Lisa Coburn, daughter of James Coburn, who provides interesting insights into her father's personal life. He worked so much that he had few long-time friends, with the exception of Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee. She tells a wonderful anecdote about watching Lee and her dad perform martial arts together when she was a young girl. The DVD also contains the original trailer as well as a gallery of other trailers from Scorpion Releasing. Put this shamefully neglected film on your "must watch" list.
Click here to order from Amazon (This title will ship on February 23)
Gone are the days when Eddie Murphy would top the list of box-office favorites with films like Beverly Hills Cop. Today, he's the Meryl Streep of The Razzies, scoring a nomination for virtually every performance.
The annual Razzie Awards for worst achievement in filmmaking have been announced, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is shaping up to be the Ben-Hur of bad movies with nominations in all the key categories. Running close is the failed Will Ferrell comedy Land of the Lost and G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra distinguishing itself as well. Don't worry- perennial nominee Eddie Murphy is still on the Dishonor Role, thanks to his performance in Imagine That. If only the networks would telecast this ceremony! For full nominations click here
Legendary movie producer David Brown has passed away at age 93. He brought Elvis Presley to the big screen and launched Steven Spielberg's career. In conjunction with Richard Zanuck, Brown became an icon in the film industry, producing such hits as Jaws, The Sting, The Verdict, Driving Miss Daisy and Road to Perdition. A public funeral is planned for Thursday in New York. For more on his life and career click here
The Oscar nominations were announced this morning and James Cameron's Avatar tied with his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker for 9 nominations each. For the first time since 1943, the Best Picture nominations have been expanded to ten films, even though the list of nominated directors remains at five (a virtual admission that the other five films are "throw away" nominees with little chance of picking up the prize). Meryl Streep scored her 16th Oscar nomination for Julie and Julia. There were some surprises: key nominations for District 9, Matt Damon and the lack of director or Best Picture nomination for Clint Eastwood's Invictus, even with the expanded list of Best Picture nominees. The awards will be presented on March 7. For the list of nominations click here
Lorraine B. Diehl, wife of famed ABC Radio film critic Bill Diehl, has become quite a prolific author, as demonstrated by the release of her acclaimed new book Over Here! which chronicles life in New York City during WWII. Because America was spared the horror of warfare on its soil, most accounts of the nation during the war era are understandably limited to the combat role of the USA in the European and Pacific theaters.Yet, America played a key role in winning the war even before it officially entered the conflict after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The only person at the book party not impressed by Over Here! is Bill and Lorraine's granddaughter Lyla, who clearly has other priorities. (Photo: Lee Pfeiffer)
Through the controversial lend/lease agreement (enacted rather sneakily by FDR when the nation was still in isolationist mode), America kept England alive as it fought desperately (and alone) to keep Hitler from invading. Diehl has presented a fascinating story of what life was like in Gotham during this period and the war years that followed. She has lavishly illustrated the book with an abundance of mesmerizing photos. For movie lovers, there is ample coverage of the films made during the war for propaganda purposes. Diehl offers a plethora of fabulous candid photos that includes some great movie poster elements (a War Bonds drive in a theater features a great poster for Hitchcock's Spellbound.)
Diehl had a kick off party last week for the book at New York's legendary National Arts Club at Gramercy Park. Since then, Over Here! is generating major buzz and the book jacket displays kudos from the likes of newsman Tom Brokaw, Regis Philbin and documentary maker Ken Burns, who gushes "This is an evocative look at New York City during the Second World War; it's an enthusiastic, personal, immensely entertaining book, and a story about a city joining together to overcome the greatest challenge of the twentieth century. Brava!" Indeed, the book is a major achievement that manages that rare feat of entertaining even as it informs.
Actor Pernell Roberts, who died recently at age 81, was never part of the Hollywood scene to any great degree. He always walked to his own beat, as evidenced by his leaving Bonanza in 1965 when the show was #1 in the ratings. He rarely gave interviews and I can never recall him sitting down as a guest on a talk show. This air of mystery always made him seem more interesting than other actors who would show up to cut the ribbon at a local supermarkets grand opening if it got them in the spotlight for a few seconds. Author Gary S. Chafetz, who writes political books, was once an aspiring actor in the 1960s. He writes a moving column about a side of Roberts most of us never knew and how Roberts consistently went to bat to help a young actor he probably knew would never succeed. To read click here
Better days: Torn gave an acclaimed performance in the 1970s cult film Payday.
Notorious bad boy Rip Torn is at it again. The brilliant character actor has had a long battle with the bottle, which has often led to embarrassing public incidents and arrests. However, over the weekend, Torn's behavior resulted in an incident that could have serious ramifications for him. He was alleged to have been found inside a Connecticut bank he supposedly broke into and was in possession of a firearm. Police say he was also intoxicated. Torn is being held on $100,000 bail. For more click here
I'm writing to you today because it's January 31st and that was
the birthday of the late James Franciscus, who would be 76 today.
Probably best recalled now for only BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES
(1970), Franciscus was part of a crop of handsome TV actors (he was the
original star of THE NAKED CITY TV series) in the late fifties who
longed for movie star status (and likely watched with burning
resentment in the sixties as Steve McQueen shot past them all).
Franciscus tried for that brass ring several times (anyone remember
YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE from 1964?) only to return again and again to series
television to support his family. Jane Fonda's "first" (according to
her recent autobiography), Franciscus had a reasonably successful
acting career by most standards, but was reportedly bitter that he
never gained real leading man status in films and died young and rather
tragically in 1991 from emphysema caused by a suicidally dumb
four-pack-a-day smoking habit. The attached image from his best
remembered film is not meant as a tasteless joke, but a poetic comment
on the sad fate of this once promising "Hollywood" actor. - Rory Monteith
Retro responds: Thanks for your tribute to an often overlooked actor. Franciscus - like so many other actors- lived in the shadows of contemporaries who went on to greater things. Still, the fact that his name is still well known among movie and TV fans is an indication that he did gain respect in the industry. I always thought he must have felt awkward in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Fox did all they could to get Charlton Heston to star again, but all they could muster was a brief cameo that he reluctantly performed. Thus, Franciscus was groomed to be a virtual clone of Heston and while the resemblance was remarkable, he must have felt somewhat belittled by this process- especially in the scenes in which he had to perform with Heston. Still, he was a good, sold leading man and his talents are missed.- Lee Pfeiffer
There are some of us who remembered James
Franciscus from his stint as TV's "Mr. Novak", when we heard he would be in the
sequel to "Planet of the Apes"! I can remember feeling embarrassed for Mr.
Franciscus, as it was so obvious to we, the audience, that he was supposed to be
a "clone" of Heston. However, we enjoyed his performance anyhow. (Heston and Franciscus are
so great when they finally meet on screen, it was like watching two long lost
brothers! ) Franciscus was better served in that under appreciated Harryhausen
epic, "Valley of Gwangi". But we fans really rooted for him as the blind
investigator cum martial artist, Longstreet. Sort of a precursor (in the U.S.
anyway) of Zatoichi minus the sword! It is good to see he is well appreciated
by his fans!--A. Rivera, New York, NY