Showing posts with label Angela Lansbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Angela Lansbury. Show all posts

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches (2016)

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches

"He's a man's man. He's a woman's man. He's an ideal man." - Angela Lansbury

Australian actor Rod Taylor burst upon the Hollywood scene in the late 1950s but it wasn't until his seminal film The Time Machine came out in 1960 that he became a major movie star.  Good looks coupled with a talent for comedy and drama, Taylor was a force to be reckoned with. He had an artistic soul beneath a rugged Aussie exterior. He was a born adventurer and up for anything. Taylor did his own stunts, was an expert at accents and had a charisma that translated well on screen. As one of the top leading men of the 1960s, Taylor paved the way for Australian movie stars to come.

Born in a suburb of Sydney, Rod Taylor was raised by a very Aussie father and a very British mother who both had a profound influence on his creative pursuits. At a young age he pursued drawing, painting and pottery as his artistic trade. It wasn't until he heard a radio program that he realized he could be an actor. He worked on radio and on some movies in his homeland and was quickly scooped up by American filmmakers and lured to Hollywood. His early work consisted of small parts in big pictures. He worked alongside many greats including Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Bette Davis and more. When The Time Machine came out in 1960, Taylor was already dabbling in TV work with his series Hong Kong. Both made an impact on audiences and Taylor's life as a major movie star began. He continued to work throughout the 1960s and 1970s in some great parts with some of the best in the business. Even parts he didn't particularly care for helped him in one way or another. Taylor was driven by the love of his art, his adventurous spirit and as he liked to say "a bit of ego thrown in."

Rod Taylor

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches, a new documentary by Robert de Young and Stephan Wellink, sets out to not only to tell the story of Taylor's acting career but to capture the essence of the man. Told through interviews, photographs and movie clips, we see the span of his work and talent. It benefits from having the man himself, Rod Taylor, as the main interview subject. The filmmakers interviewed him over two days at Taylor's home in Beverly Hills. Taylor passed away in early 2015 making this documentary a timely treasure. (We even get to hear a bit about Taylor's former love interest Anita Ekberg who passed away only a few days after he did.) Several other talking heads in the documentary, all of whom were important figures in Taylor's life, include Angela Lansbury, Tippi Hedren, Maggie Smith, Baz Luhrmann, Stephan Elliott, screenwriter Peter Yeldham, Susie Porter, Keitch Michell and others like Taylor's biographer, manager, lawyer, etc.

Films discussed at length include: The Catered Affair (1956), Raintree Country (1957), The Time Machine (1960), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960), 101 Dalmations (1961), Seven Seas to Calais (1962), The Birds (1963), The V.I.P.s (1963), Sunday in New York (1963), The Liquidator (1965), Young Cassidy (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), Dark of the Sun (1968), The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970), The Train Robbers (1973), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) and his final film Inglorious Basterds (2009). You'll hear Rod Taylor himself tell you stories about working on each of these. Taylor seemed to be a fun-loving guy who really enjoyed his work and looked back fondly on his career. He was a colorful character and that definitely shows through.

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches reinvigorated my interest in Rod Taylor. I was instantly hooked. Taylor was an immensely captivating figure and it doesn't hurt that his blue eyes, with just a hint green in them, are simply mesmerizing. I've always been drawn to Rod Taylor films. I thought I had seen quite a lot of them until I watched this doc and realized I had to dive further into his filmography. I enjoyed the graphic design elements of the documentary and how it was sectioned by theme in a sort of chronological order. It was aesthetically pleasing and a lot of fun to watch.

Rod Taylor Pulling No Punches is a thoroughly enjoyable documentary that captures the essence of the Australian movie star who charmed audiences around the world. Highly recommended.

Check out the official Facebook page for more details about the film. I hope a DVD and Blu-Ray release will be in the near future. It recently won Best Feature Documentary at the Burbank International Film Festival.

My good friend Jessica reviewed the documentary and interviewed the director and producer on her blog Comet Over Hollywood. I recommend you read it. She introduced me to the film!

Many thanks to the filmmakers for the opportunity to review the screener.

Friday, May 6, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival: Day #4 Recap

TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theater)
TCL Chinese Theater

The first full day of the TCM Classic Film Festival started with one of my favorite events: a hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now the TCL). This time around the honoree was legendary director Francis Ford Coppola. This is the fourth imprint ceremony I’ve been to and the third I’ve covered as a member of the media. These ceremonies are always a fun opportunity to celebrate an important person’s contribution to the entertainment industry. There are several of these events held every year and some of the selections are questionable. The imprint ceremonies hosted by the TCM always feature someone classic film fans will appreciate.

Francis Ford Coppola's Hand and Footprint Ceremony
Set-up for Coppola's imprint ceremony

This year we got a much better spot for photography. Some of the bloggers covering this event with me included Paula, Jessica, KC, Anne Marie and Carrie. Carlos got in line early and managed to get a decent spot in the general viewing area. He’s gone to all four imprint ceremonies with me and was the most excited about this one. He was hoping to spot some special guests (basically he really wants to see Al Pacino in person) but there weren’t many of them there.

Carlos hanging out beneath the I Love Sugar sign trying to get a better view

I’ll have a full report of the event soon.

KC, Raquel and Jessica and the Coppola ceremony

Francis Ford Coppola hand and footprint ceremony
Francis Ford Coppola after imprinting his hands in cement

Afterwards, Carlos and I headed over to 25 Degrees, the restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel, for a quick meal. During lunch we spotted Salvatore Cascio, the child star of Cinema Paradiso, having a drink at the bar. I love the intimacy of the festival. You see familiar faces everywhere.

Mankiewicz, Vanderbilt, Mapes, Bradlee Jr. and Singer at TCM Classic Film Festival
Mankiewicz, Vanderbilt, Mapes, Bradlee Jr. and Singer

We attended the Club TCM panel From Headlines to Ticket Lines: Journalism on the Big Screen. It was moderated by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz and included James Vanderbilt, the director of Truth (2015), Mary Mapes, portrayed by Cate Blanchett in Truth, Josh Singer, screenwriter of Spotlight (2015) and Ben Bradlee Jr., formerly of the Boston Globe and portrayed by John Slattery in Spotlight. Carlos and I had seen both films recently and were excited to check out this panel. Most of the discussion revolved around the portrayal of journalism on film, the state of the business today and what films like Network (1976) and All the President’s Men (1976) represent in the overall narrative of the business. I was particularly interested in what Mapes and Bradlee had to say about the actors who portrayed them. Mapes said meeting Cate Blanchett was a bit unnerving because she gave Mapes an “emotional MRI”. Blanchett observed Mapes carefully in order to mimic her mannerisms and gestures on screen. I’d be unnerved too if someone gave me an emotional MRI! Bradlee Jr. is a big fan of Mad Men so he seemed pretty happy with John Slattery. Or he could have been being nice. I thought Slattery’s performance was ok, more like a serious version of Roger Sterling.

Signage for Mark A. Vieira's book signing

I left the panel early to get in line for author Mark A. Vieira’s book signing in the Roosevelt Hotel lobby. There were no lobby interviews this year and this made room for a lot more book signings, all of which were run by Larry Edmunds bookshop. It was nice to see TCM support a local independent bookstore instead of selling the books themselves. I purchased Vieira’s newest book Into The Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950. I’ll be reviewing it on my blog in the near future. I told Vieira how much I enjoyed his Cecil B. DeMille book and he seemed to appreciate that. I was suffering from “festival brain” (forgetfulness enduced by heightened emotion) and neglected to bring my copy of Harlow in Hollywood for him to sign. Oh well! I did ask him if he was working on any new projects and he said he’s shopping around possible books on Norma Shearer and Mae West.

Mark A. Vieira signing his book Into the Dark

I made my over to the Chinese Multiplex for a special screening of Tea and Sympathy (1956). It’s not a film I wanted to see but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear Leonard Maltin’s interview with actor Darryl Hickman. On this viewing I appreciated the movie in a way I wasn’t able to before. It was an important film in Hickman’s career and the discussion was fantastic. I’ll have a full report about this screening on the blog soon.

Leonard Maltin and Darryl Hickman at the TCM Classic Film Festival
Leonard Maltin and Darryl Hickman
Pre-Codes were really popular at the festival this year as anyone who got shut out of Double Harness (1933) will tell you! I was happy to make it into the sold out Pleasure Cruise (1933), a wacky pre-code starring a bunch of popular character actors and introduced by historian Cari Beauchamp. The highlight for me was watching Una O’Connor as the “sex-crazed heiress” chasing after Roland Young. Danny of has a lot to say about this film which stars his favorite actress Genevieve Tobin. You should check out his review as well as his TCMFF recap of when he attended the event (and read all of his recaps which are wildly entertaining). There were a lot of familiar faces at this screening, I chatted with Em of Vintage Cameo and I didn’t even realize I was sitting to New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick until the film started! I’ll have a full review of the film here soon.

There was another Pre-Code 6 Hours to Live (1932) showing immediately after but I opted to skip it to get in line for The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Angela Lansbury was going to be interviewed before the film and there is no way, no how that I was going to miss seeing her. A lot of people felt the same way so getting in line early was a must. Carlos and I met after the screening of Boyz in the Hood (1991) he attended (yes some people actually went to that and that’s okay!) and got in line at the TCL Chinese Theater. We had a nice long chat with Jay of The James Bond Social Media Project before we headed in. I had tweeted my queue number and Jay happened to see it and met us in line. I love how social media connects people in real life!

My number for the Manchurian Candidate screening.

Jay and Carlos in line for The Manchurian Candidate

I cannot tell you what a delight it was to see Angela Lansbury in person. It was annoying that most folks didn’t stay for the movie. Our aisle cleared out pretty quickly. We stayed for the entire screening even though we drifted in and out of consciousness. There will be more on my experience here soon. 

Angela Lansbury and Alec Baldwin
I regret not going to the midnight screening of Roar (1981) which looks like a crazy film. The folks who did go developed a bond that continued well after the festival ended. Why couldn’t I be one of the Roar people?! Alas, I’m a morning person and needed some sleep for what would be another epic day. Stay tuned for my next TCMFF recap!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Top Picks for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival

It’s that time of year again when classic film fans from all over the world flock to Hollywood to enjoy a weekend packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The TCM Classic Film Festival is something I look forward to all year round. When you go to this festival you feel like you’re part of something important. You develop a deeper and richer connection with the past while being part of history in the making.

This will be my fourth time attending the festival and I’ll be covering it once again as a member of the media. I’m very grateful to TCM for the opportunity to once again be a part of the fantastic team of individuals who painstakingly and lovingly capture and share each of every moment of the festival. It is truly an honor.

Now that the full festival schedule is posted I can share my top picks with you (fun fact: I was the first to tweet about it). It was much easier in 2015 to put together a schedule. This year there were some major conflicts and some difficult decisions had to be made.

Here are my selections. I’ve included a bonus video of me discussing my top five picks.


TCM Press Conference – I’ll be live tweeting and providing full coverage on this press conference which will include Ben Mankiewicz, Charles Tabesh, Genevieve McGillicuddy and Jennifer Dorian. Sadly no Robert Osborne this year. He was the highlight of the first two press conferences I attended.
(2014 Press Conference with Robert Osborne)


Red Carpet for All the President’s Men (1976) Opening Night Gala – I was a spectator for last year’s Red Carpet and had a blast. I hope this year I can do more extensive coverage. Stay tuned!
(2015 Red Carpet at the TCM Classic Film Festival)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) or Los Tallos Amargos (1956) – It’s a toss up between these two. Katharine Houghton will be at the Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner screening and it would be great to hear her discuss the film. But it’s hard to turn down watching an obscure Argentine film noir!


Francis Ford Coppola Imprint Ceremony – If I get in this will be my fourth hand and footprint ceremony. These are so much fun and you feel like you are part of history in the making.
(Jerry Lewis Imprint Ceremony and Christopher Plummer Imprint Ceremony)

From Headlines to Ticket Lines: Journalism on the Big Screen – I’m from the Boston area so a chance to see Ben Bradlee Jr. and Spotlight (2015) screenwriter Josh Singer discuss journalism on film along with James Vanderbilt of Truth (2015) and journalist Mary Mapes is too good to pass up.

Mark Vieira signing Into The Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950 – One of the perks of TCMFF is the exclusive book signings. This one is at the top of my list to attend.
(My review of Mark Vieira's Cecil B. DeMille book)

Tea and Sympathy (1956)Darryl Hickman has been on my wishlist for TCMFF special guests for a long time. He’s been at the festival before but not one I’ve attended. I can’t pass down the opportunity to see him in person when he presents his film Tea and Sympathy.

Two Pre-Codes – I’m glad I’ll be able to fit in two films from my favorite decade the 1930s. Pleasure Cruise (1933) and 6 Hours to Live (1932) are showing back to back and they are short enough that I can fit both screenings in before the major event of the evening.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – This might be the most sought after film screening of the festival because living legend Angela Lansbury will be there. I can’t pass up an opportunity to see her and watch this fantastic mind-bending film on the TCL Chinese Theater’s gigantic screen. I'll have a lot of competition though.

90th Anniversary of Vitaphone – Ron Hutchinson, founder of the Vitaphone Project, will be hosting this presentation of the history of Vitaphone complete with Vitaphone shorts. My favorite short of all time The Beau Brummels (1928) with Shaw and Lee will be screened and I’m beside myself with joy.

An Afternoon with Carl Reiner/Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) – This four part extravaganza is hard to pass up. Not only do you get to see this film at the TCL Chinese Theater there will also be a Carl Reiner tribute video, a conversation with the man himself and a book signing immediately afterwards.

Harold and Lillian : A Hollywood Love Story (2015) – This is my number one pick for the festival. I can’t believe my hero Lillian Michelson will be there along with director Daniel Raim. I had to give up seeing Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell with Gina Lollobrigida to watch this but it’ll be worth it.

(My review of the Harold and Lillian Michaelson documentary)

The Endless Summer (1966) – If you know me you know that I love documentaries and The Endless Summer is one of the most influential documentaries in film history. It’s a stunning color film narrated and directed by Bruce Brown, who will be in attendance, and follows two surfers as they travel the globe searching the best waves. I can’t wait to see the gorgeous colors of this film on the big screen.

Band of Outsiders (1964) – I dare anyone to stop me from seeing Anna Karina in person. This French New Wave icon will be touring to support the new restoration of this Jean-Luc Godard classic. It’ll be my first time seeing this film and wow what an experience it will be.

(Anna Karina comes to LA and New York City)


The Art of the Film Score – I’ll miss the morning screenings but hope to catch this at Club TCM.

A Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida - I’m not kidding when I say Gina Lollobrigida is my favorite Italian. Conflicts will take me away from special screenings of Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell and Trapeze but that’s okay because I’m perfectly happy to sit and listen to Lollobrigida talk for a straight hour. This will be glorious!

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) – I love madcap comedies and this one looks like a lot of fun. Eva Marie Saint will be on hand to present and maybe Carl Reiner, Walter Mirisch and/or Norman Jewison will surprise us with an appearance?

Network (1976) – Unless a TBD calls my name, I’ll be staying around the Egyptian to catch this contemporary classic. I saw Network for the first time last year and loved it.

Closing Night Party at Club TCM – This party is always bittersweet and usually I have to leave early. But this time I hope to stay longer for one last hurrah with my friends.

What are your top TCM Classic Film Festival picks?

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