Star Wars, Remakes and Dealing with Man-Flu

Our motorhome was looking a little forlorn lately, parked up on the drive all packed up ready to face the winter. The thing is, just lately the weather has been rather mild and Liz felt that we should perhaps unpack the motorhome and give it a winter drive out. So we set off for Southport, a small seaside town just a short 90 minute drive away. We parked up the motorhome, put on our glad rags and went off to dine and generally make merry.

It just so happened that this particular night turned out to be the coldest in modern UK history. Well, at least it was in Scotland so it was lucky we weren’t staying there. Southport was much warmer and our heater worked a treat. However, having to get underneath the van in the cold and rain and empty the water system wasn’t so nice, in fact I reckon that’s where I caught a chill which was soon to develop further into a major man-flu episode.

A couple of days later I was back at work. On the first day I felt fine and I wasn’t too bad when I went in on the second day but by the end of the shift I was coughing and sneezing like nobody’s business. By day 3 I was feeling so poorly I had to throw a sick note in. Anyway, home on a cold day with no energy to do anything except cough and sneeze, what was there to do but watch TV.

On a Sunday on UK TV there is always a choice of Columbo episodes because they are shown on two rival channels, ITV3 and 5USA. Which one should I watch though? Luckily, the first one started on 5USA at one o’clock and the other over on ITV3 at five past. Just enough time to start the first one, see if it was a good one then quickly check out the other one to see if that was more interesting . The 5USA one was the one for me, a classic 70s episode guest starring Robert Culp as the murderer.

A couple of hours and a hot lemon drink later Columbo had his man and it was time for a change of channels. I switched over to ITV2 to watch the first Star Wars film. I’m tempted to call it Star Wars 1 but just to confuse you, the first Star Wars film was actually the fourth episode in the series. The second and third films, all made in the late seventies are all actually pretty much more of the same thing although not quite as good as the original.

Later on writer and director George Lucas decided to make episodes 1, 2, and 3 which were actually films 4, 5, and 6. Now those latter three films were, and I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, a load of old tosh. Even if I was on my last legs I wouldn’t sit and watch any of those movies. In 2015 JJ Abrams was tasked to make a new movie following on from episode 6 which reunited the original cast of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamilton and Harrison Ford (who I must nominate as one of the worst movie actors ever along with the equally dismal Richard Gere.)

The result seemed to me pretty much a remake of Star Wars 1 (I mean 4). It was the usual thing, droids on an unknown planet with info which the Empire wanted, or maybe the new Empire wanted because the original Empire had been defeated in the previous Star Wars film. The droids and their human helpers escaped in Harrison Ford’s old ship the Millennium Falcon and then, well, I don’t know what happened then because I either mentally or physically switched off!

Getting back to Star Wars 1, or episode 3 or whatever, I’d not seen the film for a long while and I enjoyed the sending of the droids to seek out Obi Wan Kenobe, the appearance  of Luke Skywalker, the hiring of Hans Solo and his Millennium Falcon and the trip to the rebel alliance planet, Alderon. The truth is, just like when I watched Star Wars 7, I actually got a bit bored with the whole thing and decided to change channels. Star Wars isn’t a bad film but like all the rest in the franchise they seem to flatter only to deceive.

Over on the Paramount film channel they were showing a bunch of Steve Martin films and the first up was Roxanne. While not exactly brilliant it was actually a pretty good film and despite the continual coughing and spluttering I still managed to enjoy the proceedings. Roxanne was based on the 1897 play Cyrano De Bergerac and it’s about, as you may have guessed, a man with a big nose.

(Short break here while I sort out another hot lemon drink this time with a small shot of -purely medicinal- whisky.)

Paramount decided to follow this up with ‘The Out of Towners’, which was a remake of a 1970 Neil Simon film. Sadly, the Out of Towners wasn’t that great a film and I can only hope the 1970 original was much better. The fact is, it’s hard to understand the motivation behind remaking a very average film. Do they hope to make a better version? Do they think with better actors and updated film making techniques the film will be better or funnier? The fact is that if you remake an average film you will still get an average film as the result. Not long ago I saw the new version of Flight of the Phoenix. It was OK, although I switched channels after about thirty minutes. Then again, the original version starring such heavyweight actors as James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Kruger and Peter Finch wasn’t that brilliant either although I have watched that version through to the end.

Still, does that mean we should only remake classic films? I can’t really imagine any new version of Casablanca, for instance, bettering the original. Who could take the place of Bogart? Who could replace Ingrid Bergman? Yes, there is always the chance a mediocre movie could be remade better, I suppose.

A lot of film franchises are pretty much just a series of remakes. That is true of the Star Wars series as I have already mentioned but take a look at the Rocky films. Rocky 2 was pretty much another version of Rocky and while Rocky was a great movie, Rocky 2 was just, well, Rocky 2. Towards the end of the series Rocky star Sylvester Stallone made Rocky Balboa which was a fitting end to the series. Rocky has retired and is running his small Italian restaurant. His wife has succumbed to cancer and then he gets the chance to be involved in a computer fight with the current champion Mason ‘the line’ Dixon.

I did wonder when I saw the film whether writer and director Stallone was inspired by the 1970s computer fight between Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano. My dad, a great boxing fan and a great fan of Marciano was outraged by the fight as the result was a win for Ali. My dad loathed Ali even to the extent of always referring to him by his former name of Cassius Clay. When I looked up the fight on the internet I discovered that only European viewers saw Ali win the fight. American viewers saw a version in which Marciano emerged as the victor in the 13th round. I know which version my dad would have prefered.

Getting back to remakes, after a short pause for another whisky and hot lemon: Which films would be good candidates for a remake? Well, there are two that I can think of. The first is Desperately Seeking Susan, an 80’s film starring pop singer Madonna in a small role, that of an independent young girl who travels the country but keeps in touch with her friends using the personal ads in a newspaper. Step in bored housewife Rosanna Arquette who follows the personal ads, even to the extent of watching Madonna from afar when she meets with her boyfriend. There is a lot more to it of course, memory loss, mistaken identity and stolen jewels but it’s a great film and here’s the thing; substitute personal ads with modern-day social media and the film is perfect for a 21st century remake! Casting might be an issue though, after all, who could replace Madonna?

One last film that I’d remake: Capricorn One. Now you may remember in an earlier post I wrote about watching an old VHS tape of the film and finding, sadly, that the tape ran out before the end. Now the more I thought about the film it made me remember that I had the full film on VHS somewhere and after a long and dusty search of my mother’s house I finally found it, a proper VHS shop bought, full version of Capricorn One. If you haven’t seen the film and I have to say, I haven’t noticed it on the TV schedules for a long time, the film is about the first manned voyage to Mars. On launch day the crew are removed from the spacecraft and it blasts off without them. They are then taken to an abandoned air force base and find that the plan is to fake the mission using a TV studio.

Why, you may ask? Well this is where the film falls on a little shaky ground. The space missions are in danger of losing funding from the government and as the life support system has been found to be faulty, this would be a good reason for the program to be cancelled. To prevent this, this fake mission is the course of action chosen by the top brass at NASA to keep the Mars program going.

Yes, not sure that NASA would really do that sort of thing. Perhaps if they threw in something else, some sort of conflict between Russia and America where winning the Mars race was of vital political importance, well then perhaps it would be more believable.

Later on during the mission Elliot Whitter, a member of staff in mission control, discovers that the TV signals supposedly coming in from the spacecraft are coming in ahead of the spacecraft telemetry. Of course they are! They are being beamed from a TV studio out in the desert. OK, this guy has to be got rid off so how do the NASA people do it? Nab him on his way home? Grab him somewhere at Mission Control? No, they wait until he is in the middle of a pool game in a bar with his best mate, a TV news journalist played by Elliot Gould. The journalist takes a call at the bar and when he returns, two minutes later, his mate has vanished! Something fishy going on here thinks the journalist.

Although the TV journalist eventually solves the case there is no real link as to how he does it, just guesswork really so in the remade version maybe Elliot Whitter made a computer disk that leads to the TV studio at the abandoned air force base, the TV journalist gets hold of it, finds the astronauts who are now virtual prisoners and hey presto we have a proper ending to the film.

Don’t miss Capricorn One if it ever gets shown on TV because it really is a great film despite me criticising it. And if any wily film producer is thinking about a remake, my updated re written script is available, whenever you are!


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

The Film of the Book or the Book of the Film (Part 2)

It’s always  a bitter-sweet experience when someone decides to make your favourite book into a film. It doesn’t always work out because maybe it was a big, thick, long book and they have cut out your favourite bit, or perhaps the cast wasn’t the one you imagined. It’s usually just the same in reverse. You see a great film and in the credits it says based on the book by so and so, then you rush out and get the book and it turns out to be a little disappointing. Sometimes it’s even better than the film!
You can read the Film of the Book part 1 by clicking here. Meanwhile, here are a few more of my film/book experiences.

Rebecca (the film)

Rebecca was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1940. Laurence Olivier plays Max De Winter and Joan Fontaine is particularly good as the shy, unworldly new wife of the rather grand Max De Winter.

Max and his new wife, who is never named in the novel as she is also the narrator, meet in the south of France, marry and return to Max’s grand country house Manderley, in Cornwall. There they settle into country life rather uneasily, as lurking always in the background is the spectre of Max’s late wife Rebecca who died in a boating accident.

Also lurking in the background is the housekeeper of Manderley, Mrs Danvers. She was devoted to Rebecca and her presence seems to cloak the house in a sinister gloom. George Sanders plays his usual suave smooth talking self; in this film he is the apparent lover to the late Rebecca. A number of incidents occur making the new wife believe her husband resents her and prefers Rebecca. Nothing could be further from the truth as we find out when Rebecca’s body is discovered in the cabin of her sunken boat just off the coast. Max reveals he had an argument with Rebecca, struck her and she fell, hitting her head on some heavy fishing tackle. He carried her dead body to her boat, took to sea and scuttled the small vessel, creating the lie of her death at sea. Now the body has come to light, George Sanders’ character comes forward with a letter from Rebecca, inviting him to visit on the day of her death and with this he decides to blackmail De Winter as this shows she could not have contemplated suicide.

There is a nice twist at the end which I won’t give away but Rebecca is a wonderful film, well worth looking out for on one of the many movie channels available these days.

One disappointing aspect of the film was the rather cheap model of Manderley used at the beginning and end of the film. If I was Hitchcock I would have been tempted to revisit the film in the 1960’s and add some better model effects.

Rebecca (the book) by Daphne Du Maurier

The book is written in the first person by the unnamed new wife of Max De Winter. It’s a very good read indeed and I enjoyed it very much, so much so I had to take it out of my work’s bag (I’d been reading at work during my dinner breaks) and take it into the garden on a lovely sunny day as I was so keen to get to the end. It is very similar to the film although in the book De Winter actually shoots his wife unlike the film where De Winter strikes her and she falls and hits her head. The ending is also rather abrupt but an excellent read, well worth picking up if you see a copy for sale.

Serpico (the film)

Al Pacino stars in the true story of Serpico, a New York City cop who tried to fight the culture of bribery and corruption in the NYPD in the 60’s and early 70’s. This 1973 film is directed by Sidney Lumet and is shot in a gritty natural style. It starts with Serpico being shot in the face and then on his way to hospital it flashes back to tell the story of rookie cop Frank Serpico and his graduation to detective and his refusal to take bribes. It is shot and acted in a very natural documentary style and the film portrays Serpico’s ongoing disappointment with his superiors and those he trusts to look into the situation very well indeed. A brilliant example of 70’s moviemaking at its best.

Serpico (the book) by Peter Maas

It’s a long while since I read the book and despite a lengthy search I couldn’t get my hands on it for a read through for this post. It was a fascinating read as I remember, reading more like a work of fiction than the true story it really was.

Serpico (the DVD)

Since I couldn’t say much about the book I just want to throw in a quick comment about the DVD. One thing I love about DVDs are those special versions with extended features, documentaries and so on. On the DVD of Serpico there is an interview with the producer Dino De Laurentiis where he tries to explain the character of Serpico this way; He and Serpico go to a screening of a film in New York. They are checking out possible directors or something, anyway, the theatre is empty and ignoring the no smoking sign, De Laurentiis decides to light up. ‘Wait a minute’ says Serpico, ‘you can’t smoke in here.’ De Laurentiis replies ‘what does it matter? There is no one here but us.’

Serpico points to the no smoking sign and replies ‘look, you just can’t smoke here’ and makes the producer put out his cigarette. That, says Dino on the DVD, was when he began to understand what Serpico was about. There were no grey areas with him, everything was black and white.

The Big Sleep (the book) by Raymond Chandler 

The Big Sleep, which refers to death in American gangster speak was the first of Raymond Chandler’s novels to feature his famous detective Philip Marlowe. Marlowe was described by one reviewer as ‘a 20th-century knight who treads the mean streets of Hollywood and Santa Monica, and who also visits the houses of the stinking rich, with their English butlers, corrosive secrets and sinister vices.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. In the Big Sleep Marlowe is summoned to the house of General Sternwood whose daughter is being blackmailed by a seedy bookseller.

Sternwood, a crippled old man spends his time in a heated conservatory and seems to draw strength from the overwhelming heat. He engages Marlowe who sets off on a trail of blackmail and murder. I have to say the film rather confused me and it was only after reading the novel that I began to understand some of the intricacies of the plot.

The Big Sleep (the film)

Director Howard Hawks was also aware of the complexity of the novel. He once asked Raymond Chandler who had shot the chauffeur. Chandler replied that he had no idea.

The movie version from 1946 stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and I used to think that this was the film where Bogart and Bacall met although in fact it was actually another movie, ‘To Have and Have Not‘, also directed by Howard Hawks. By the time of ‘The Big Sleep’ their romance was in full swing. Later Bogart left his wife Mayo and he and Bacall were free to marry.

The opening of the film where Bogart meets the general is brilliant. The wayward daughter remarks he is not very tall. ‘I try to be’ Bogart replies. Later, the other daughter played by Bacall says she doesn’t like Bogart’s manners. He replies ‘I’m not crazy about yours. I didn’t ask to see you. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. I don’t like them myself. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings.’

My advice, get yourself the DVD, pour yourself a large glass of red, press play and relax and enjoy.

The Silence of the Lambs (the Film)

The film was released in 1991 and it’s one of those films that seemed to naturally self-publicise itself, one of those word of mouth films that everyone at the time was talking about. It’s a gruesome film in parts and not really my usual sort of film but what is appealing is the slow relentless process the FBI makes to track down the killer and the procedures and techniques they use. Jodie Foster plays FBI trainee Clarice Starling. She is sent by the head of the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit to interview captured serial killer Hannibal Lector played by Anthony Hopkins, in the hope he might give some clue or insight into helping with the capture of a new serial killer known as Buffalo Bill.

Hopkins gives a chilling portrayal of the psychotic serial killer and Jodie Foster and the other principals were given much acclaim for their performances. The film was only the third to win Oscars in the top 5 categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is perhaps the only horror film ever to win the best picture award.

The Silence of the Lambs (the Book) by Thomas Harris

The book, like the film, focusses on the FBI and their attempts to trace the killer known as Buffalo Bill. Trainee agent Clarice Starling builds up a relationship with imprisoned murderer Doctor Hannibal Lector where Lector dribbles out bits of information in exchange for personal details about Clarice herself. Clarice, the vulnerable young FBI agent is a sort of counterpoint to the evil Murderer Dr Lector.

The book like the film is more of a horror story than a detective novel. I felt drawn to the passages that were chilling and gruesome in a strange way, almost like when a spider appears and I’m compelled to watch it even though I hate spiders. The relationship between Lector and Starling is intriguing and is really more of a focus than the capture of the Buffalo Bill and I did find myself wondering whether Lector might want to murder Clarice or perhaps his interest in her is something different.

I read the follow up book, Hannibal, expecting more of the same but it was even more gruesome and had a strange implausible ending. Since then I’ve steered clear of Mr Harris’ books but Silence is a great read.


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Adventures on eBay!

ebayOn eBay a while ago I came across a listing for a razor handle for a pound. I remember thinking at the time what plonker is going to even think about buying that? Well, more about that later. Still, there are a huge amount of crazy things on eBay, things like broken items for instance. Quite a few times I’ve come across something on eBay at a fraction of its usual value. That’s where you have to stop and take a closer look. Check the small print because many times you will find something like ‘not working’ or ‘for parts only.’ That’s right, your old mobile phone packs up -flog it on eBay because somewhere, there is someone either collecting broken mobiles or using the parts to fix other broken mobiles and re selling them to make money. Of course it could just be some weirdo who collects broken phones, who knows?

Not long ago, my partner Liz, asked me to bid on a dress or a top on eBay and ever since I have been getting e-mails from eBay advising me about even more ladies dresses and tops. I also bought an iPad on eBay so now I’m inundated with emails about iPads for sale. Pay attention eBay, – I’ve already bought an iPad. I don’t need another! And please stop sending me emails about ladies dresses!

I do love old movies and eBay is the perfect place to find them. Yes, enter a film title into the search page, click on movies and DVDs and within a few moments there will be the DVD you are after. You can search by price, by time left to the end of the auction or by distance to your home but if the movie is on DVD and is out there, you will find a copy. Here are a few of my e-bay buys, some successful, some not so . .

High Noon.

I picked up a very cheap copy of this on e-bay a while ago. No cover or box, just the disc in a plastic wallet and I parted with just £1.60 for my purchase. High Noon is the story of a small town sheriff who has just got married. He is about to hand over to a new sheriff due to arrive the next day when he hears that the murderer, Frank Miller – the man he sent to prison when he cleaned up the town – is on his way back and gunning for revenge.

The sheriff played by Gary Cooper has just married the lovely Grace Kelly, but how can he leave when the killer, along with his gang, plans to get him when he arrives on the noon train? If he leaves, the gang may hijack him out in the country, so the sheriff reasons his best bet is to stay in town and fight it out on his own turf. However, for one reason or another, the help he is hoping for from the town’s residents fails to appear and Cooper must face the men alone. The movie counts down relentlessly towards noon with the memorable sound in the background of ‘Do not forsake me oh my darling’ sung by Tex Ritter.

I mentioned this to my brother the other day and he related a story my Dad had told him. My Dad saw the film during his army days in Hong Kong. The film was shown in a corrugated Nissen hut and afterwards when everyone had left the hut all that my Dad could hear was his fellow soldiers humming and whistling the theme song.

The Ghost and Mrs Muir.

By Trailer screenshot (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Trailer screenshot (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a movie that I could add to a previous blog, one about movies rarely seen on TV. I have seen it on TV though, some years ago. Mrs Muir is played by Hollywood star Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison is perfect as the formidable sea captain whose ghost scares off all occupants of the cottage his former living self once inhabited. Mrs Muir – a widow who longs to live by the sea – defies him and after a while the ghostly sea captain begins to fall for his mortal tenant. Money problems beset Mrs Muir but the captain decides to dictate his memoirs to her in the hope that when published, his tales of seafaring will make enough money for her to buy the house. This she does but also meets a suave writer played by that elegant actor, George Sanders. Mrs Muir falls for him much to the chagrin of the captain. Didn’t he – the captain – advise her to go out and meet other men and to enjoy herself, asks Mrs Muir when confronted with the captain’s jealousy? The captain retreats then, back into his ethereal world and leaves Mrs Muir with only the memory of old daydreams about sea faring captains. I won’t tell you about the end in case you want to see this lovely film but rest assured you will enjoy it. In some ways it’s a bit of a theatrical film with a lot of stage set scenes and there is an overriding sense of sadness in the film; a bittersweet feeling of lost love. Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney both give excellent portrayals.

The Signed Letter from Richard Nixon.

Yes, only £1.50, a signed letter from Richard Nixon. Couldn’t be real could it? Well, that’s what the eBay listing said, signed by Richard Nixon. I paid my money and guess what? It was a photocopy! When I complained the guy said did I really expect a signed letter from President Nixon for £1.50? Well no, but where did it say ‘Photocopy’? Somewhere in the small print obviously.

The Clothes that were Too Small.

Yes, it only goes to prove that one man’s XXL is another man’s XL. I keep saying I’ve learned my lesson but one day I will buy a leather jacket that actually fits me!

The Razor Handle.

I had one of those Wowcher emails a while ago offering me thirty razor blades ‘compatible’ with my Wilkinson’s razor at a very cheap price indeed. Blades are pretty pricey these days, so, OK, I clicked on the link, bought my voucher, then went to the razor blade site, and added my voucher code. OK so far but then I had to add a few quid for postage. Well, I wasn’t happy about that. That extra money was eating into my savings. Anyway, eventually the blades arrived at my door. Not sure what kind of service was used but it certainly wasn’t the next day courier service, more like the next month slowest possible but we get there in the end service. OK, I get the blades but then there’s another problem: They won’t fit on my razor! Now, things get confusing because there are so many razors available these days. There’s the Hydro, the Quattro, the Quattro Titanium, and a shed load of others I couldn’t even begin to name. The blades were for a Hydro which I didn’t have but guess what? Remember that razor handle I told you about earlier? The one selling on e-Bay for a pound with free postage? Remember I asked what plonker would even think of buying that?

Yes, that plonker would be me!


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

10 Books you should read about Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn MonroeThe very first book I picked up about Marilyn Monroe was the biography by Fred Laurence Guiles. ‘Norma Jean, the life of Marilyn Monroe’. It’s a particularly well researched book and for a great many people, fans and writers alike, it has become the definitive biography of Marilyn, the place you go to find out all those facts and figures about her life, especially her early life. Her death is not really discussed in the same fashion as in later books, some of which are wholly devoted to the mystery of her passing. In my edition which I bought in the seventies, Bobby Kennedy is referred to only as ‘the easterner’ and it was only in later years that Bobby Kennedy and his brother, President John Kennedy became publically identified with Marilyn.


Marilyn: Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer apparently used Guiles book as a guide when writing his own book about Marilyn. Simply called ‘Marilyn, a biography’ the book is a large format book for which Mailer, the celebrated American writer supplied the text, and numerous photographers supplied the impressive array of photographs. The New York Times review online says the book is the ‘Glossiest of glossy books’ and further goes on to remark about the cover picture; ‘Marilyn Monroe has that blurry, slugged look of her later years: fleshy but pasty.’ I’m not sure what the writer was thinking about but personally, I rather like that cover picture of Marilyn.


GoddessA slim volume appeared in 1964 called ‘The Strange Death of ‘Marilyn Monroe’. It was this book that kick started rumours of strange goings on in the hours leading up to Marilyn’s death but the first book I read about the mystery (and I do love modern mysteries) was the book by Anthony Summers; Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Summers is a veteran journalistic investigator and has written books about J Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon and the JFK assassination. Was Marilyn murdered or did she commit suicide?

Another author who thinks she was murdered was Robert F Slatzer who wrote a book called The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe. I couldn’t find my copy when I came to photograph my Marilyn books but I do have it somewhere. Slatzer made a number of claims, one of which was that he actually married Marilyn but her studio bosses forced her to annul the union immediately and remove all the evidence that it ever took place.


IMGA0353Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed is a book I picked up quite recently. It is written by a British author, Michelle Morgan, and is similar to Fred Guiles book of Marilyn, very well researched but focusses on various people associated with Marilyn who have not been interviewed before. After reading this and other books, I get the impression that Marilyn compartmented her life, and those that were in one compartment, were not necessarily aware of people who were in the other ones.


img_0044_27623392904_oTalking about J Edgar Hoover, here’s another book I picked up about Marilyn. This was a remainder book and concerns the information about Marilyn in Hoover’s FBI files. Marilyn: The FBI Files by Tim Coates. It’s an interesting addition to the many books about Marilyn with pages of FBI files concerning Marilyn, many of them redacted with various names and details blanked out.


Monroe

 

The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald Wolfe. Wolfe is a journalist who has done a great deal of digging and research and one of his interviewees was the brother in law of Marilyn’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray. He reveals first hand that Bobby Kennedy was at Marilyn’s home on the day she died.


img_0015_28134392832_oDonald Wolfe wrote another book; ‘The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe’. I’ve not read this one yet, it’s one I’m saving for my holidays.


 

img_0053_28161186631_oFinally, Fragments, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. When Marilyn died in 1962 she left all her possessions to her acting mentor and head of the Actors Studio in New York, Lee Strasberg. When he passed away Marilyn’s effects went to his daughter and now it seems many will be auctioned off. This book is a look at the letters and notes she made, fragments of poems and thoughts scribbled in notebooks, on hotel stationary and envelopes. Marilyn’s thoughts and written meanderings show her to be a thoughtful woman who cared about what she saw and heard. Marilyn was a great reader and left behind a large book collection, part of which is listed in this book. Click here to read about all the 430 books she left behind.


Hope you enjoyed this post. If you did you might want to try my book, Floating In Space. Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

 

Have Movies Influenced your Music Choices?

classical music + moviesClassical Music and Three of my Movie Favourites

I’m not a great lover of classical music but the classical music I do know and love has come to me through the medium of film. Yes, movies have inspired almost all of my favourite classical music choices.

The Blue Danube

The Blue Danube is a waltz written by the composer Johann Strauss II. He was an Austrian composer known as the ‘Waltz King’ and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna in the 19th century. I first heard the music in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the memorable sci-fi movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick used numerous classical pieces in the movie and the Blue Danube is used during the space station docking and lunar landing sequences.

I first saw the film in the summer of 1968. I was only 11 at the time and I remember my Mum being surprised I had spent hours at the cinema on a lovely hot day. I watched the film in the huge movie theatre in Northenden, now a Jehovah’s Witness assembly hall. There were only a few people in the picture house that day and it was wonderful having this huge place almost to myself and seeing this incredible film in 70mm on the big screen. I recall being somewhat confused by it all, especially the jump from neanderthal times to the future, until I bought the novel by Arthur C Clarke which explained things in a way the movie did not.

2001 is a particularly visual film. Kubrick cut out a lot of dialogue because he wanted the film to stand as “basically a visual, nonverbal experience” that “hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

2001

Picture courtesy Flickr.com

According to Wikipedia, despite the few people in the cinema with me that day in 1968, the movie went on to become the highest grossing North American movie of that year.

2001 set the pace for the sci-fi movie with its depiction of spacecraft drifting slowly and silently through space. The first Star Trek movie was heavily influenced by 2001 which made it look a little dated when the movie Star Wars was released and did the opposite thing, showing spacecraft whooshing across the screen at incredible speeds.

2001 is a wonderful movie and as well as continual enjoyment, it has also given me a love of Johann Strauss.

March of Pomp and Circumstance.

The March of Pomp and Circumstance was written by Sir Edward Elgar and there are actually six marches altogether. The most famous is the ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ march which traditionally ends the last night at the proms. I first heard this classical piece in the movie ‘Young Winston.’

The music for the movie was written by Alfred Ralston and includes his original work as well as arrangements of Elgar’s music. I used to have the soundtrack to Young Winston on vinyl and on the back cover there were extensive notes by the producer. He rather pompously announced that neither he nor Richard Attenborough, the director, had any interest in making a film about the British Empire, which is rather sad because the British Empire, in my view, was something we British should be rightly proud of. Anyway, Churchill himself was certainly proud of the Empire and his part in it, and in making this film the producers therefore did what they say they didn’t want to do. The movie is based on Winston’s early life, indeed his autobiography of his early days was entitled just that: ‘My Early Life.’ It is a wonderful read and has been made into a lovely film.

One interesting feature of ‘Young Winston’ is that at the end of the film there is a rather poignant scene where Winston, in his later years, falls asleep in his study and has a dream about his late father, his relationship with whom, as we see in the movie, was not good. In the sequence his father, Randolph Churchill, returns to him; he and Winston discuss life and finally part with a sort of understanding nod to each other. I have always thought that it finished the film off rather nicely but whenever I see Young Winston on TV, that scene has been cut. Years ago I bought the video version and the scene had been cut on the video too, so if I ever decide to buy the DVD version, I’ll be checking the running time before I buy!

Manhattan

Manhattan is Woody Allen’s ode to New York. I have always loved that opening sequence with the monologue by Woody. He narrates the opening of his book and is not satisfied with it so starts the book over again. The dialogue goes something like this;

‘Chapter one. He adored New York City. He idolised it out of all proportion.

No, make that he romanticised it out of all proportion.

To him, no matter what the season was, it was a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwyn.

Oh no, let me start this over.

Chapter one . . .’

When he finally gets the book opening he wants, then the music of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ roars into focus. Manhattan is a movie shot in black and white and is one of Woody Allen’s most famous and successful films. Allen plays a 42-year-old writer who is involved with a 17-year-old girl played by Mariel Hemingway. The photography is wonderful as is the movie. There is a lovely part played by Meryl Streep who plays the part of Allen’s ex-wife who has written a book about their former life together.

How have the movies influenced your music choices?


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Terence Rattigan and my Movie Connections.

terence RattiganIt’s always a good feeling when you watch a movie you have really enjoyed. If you are like me then you will usually take a scan through the credits and look for familiar names. Sometimes you will see one that rings a bell; Hey, that director is the same guy who directed one of your real favourites or, that screen writer is the same writer who wrote another movie you enjoyed. That’s what I call a movie connection.

The Winslow Boy is one of my favourite old movies. It was written by Terence Rattigan and adapted from his own play. The original starred Robert Donat (who hailed from Withington in Manchester) playing the part of Sir Robert Morton and was directed by Antony Asquith. You may be more familiar with the recent version starring Jeremy Northam and Nigel Hawthorne which, all things considered, wasn’t a bad film. Anyway, the first time I saw the original movie I made a mental note of Terence Rattigan for future reference.

Here’s another movie: The VIPs, a film about various characters delayed at London Airport due to weather. It’s a lovely movie with great performances by Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret Rutherford. It was a movie I really enjoyed so I checked the credits and what did I find? Screenplay by Terence Rattigan. Directed by Anthony Asquith. Yes, I thought, that rings a bell.

A great Sunday afternoon film is The Yellow Rolls Royce. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but it is three separate stories, all connected by the Yellow Rolls Royce. My favourite episode is one starring Shirley Maclaine. She is involved with gangster George C Scott and they are on holiday in Italy. When her gangster lover has to return to New York to sort out ‘some business,’ Shirley is left alone with young Italian Alain Delon. She falls in love with him but realises that when George returns, her new lover’s life expectancy will be very short. So, she tells him she doesn’t love him at all and returns to the USA with gangster George. Although he doesn’t realise it, Shirley has saved Alain’s life. As I watched the credits pass by, there were those names again, Anthony Asquith and Terence Rattigan.

rattiganAsquith was the son of the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. He was a great friend of Terence Rattigan and they collaborated on 10 films together but it’s Rattigan I want to write about here. Who who was he? Well, he was a playwright who wrote a number of west end hits, many of which were made into films. You may recognise some from this list; The Way to the Stars,  The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, The Price and the Showgirl, Separate Tables, The Sound Barrier and the Yellow Rolls Royce.
Wikipedia says Rattigan was a ‘troubled homosexual, who saw himself as an outsider, and that his plays ‘confronted issues of sexual frustration, failed relationships and adultery.’

He was born in 1911, had quite a privileged upbringing and was educated at Harrow. His first play was ‘French Without Tears’ about a crammer where English students go to learn French. Rattigan joined the Royal Air force at the outbreak of the Second World War and became an air gunner. He used his experiences to write a play called ‘Flare Path’ which eventually became the movie ‘The Way to the Stars’, also directed by Asquith, the DVD version of which resides happily on my DVD shelf.

Terrance RattiganRobert Donat relished the role of Sir Robert Morton in the Winslow Boy. Morton is an MP cum barrister who takes the British Admiralty to court over the sacking of Cadet Winslow. In my favourite scene, Sir Robert Morton questions Ronnie Winslow about the incident in question, that of the theft of a postal order. The questioning goes fairly gently until Sir Robert ups the ante when Ronnie, the Winslow Boy himself, mentions talking to another boy;

RONNIE I said, “Come down to the Post Office with me. I’m going to
cash a postal order.”

SIR ROBERT ‘Cash’ a postal order?

RONNIE I mean ‘get’.

SIR ROBERT You said ‘cash’. Why did you say ‘cash’ if you meant ‘get’?

RONNIE I don’t know.

SIR ROBERT I suggest ‘cash’ was the truth.

RONNIE No, no. It wasn’t, really. You’re muddling me.

SIR ROBERT You seem easily muddled. How many other lies have you told?

RONNIE None. Really, I haven’t.

SIR ROBERT I suggest your whole testimony is a lie.

RONNIE No, it’s the truth.

SIR ROBERT I suggest there is barely one single word of truth in anything you’ve said either to me or to the Judge Advocate or to the Commander. I suggest that you broke into Elliot’s locker, that you stole the postal order for five shillings belonging to Elliot, that you cashed it by means of forging his name.

RONNIE I didn’t. I didn’t.

SIR ROBERT
I suggest that by continuing to deny your guilt you’re causing great hardship to your own family and considerable annoyance to high and important persons in this country.

CATHERINE
That is a disgraceful thing to say.

SIR ROBERT
I suggest that the time has at last come for you to undo some of the misery you have caused by confessing to us all now that you are a forger, a liar, and a thief!

CATHERINE
How dare you!

RONNIE
I’m not. I’m not. I didn’t do it.

It looks like everything is all over then Sir Robert asks for all the available papers to be sent to him. ‘Is that necessary now?’ asks someone.

‘Of course’, replies Morton. ‘The boy is plainly innocent. I accept the brief.’

There is also a rather subtle flirtation between Catherine, Ronnie Winslow’s elder sister and Sir Robert. Catherine comments ‘how little you know about women’ to Sir Robert after an exchange between the two. He later replies to her when she doubts she will see him again, ‘How little you know about men, Miss Winslow!’

The Winslow Boy is a delightful film which captures perfectly that ‘upstairs, downstairs’ life in the early part of the twentieth century. Look out for excellent supporting performances from Jack Watling and Kathleen Harrison as well as those of the feature players, Robert Donat and Margaret Leighton. You may have to search ebay for the DVD version as the movie is not one of those we see often on terrestrial TV.

Remember, don’t forget to check the credits on a film. You may find a lot of familiar names on the movies you love!


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Why I love Casablanca (and why you should too!)

casablancalead1After a hard shift at work, it’s nice to go home, pour yourself a drink and settle down by the TV to watch something while you unwind. Now despite these days of multiple TV channels it’s not always easy to find something worth watching. I remember the days when there were only three channels but strangely, even though we have have undergone the digital revolution and have cable and satellite channels, sometimes we find ourselves clicking the remote vainly in search of something that is even remotely interesting. Happily, over there in the DVD cupboard, I have plenty of things I enjoy watching. One of those is my much watched DVD of Casablanca, the classic Hollywood movie. I can watch it time after time and there is so much to enjoy in the movie; the wonderful Humphrey Bogart, The suave Paul Henreid, the rotund Sydney Greenstreet, the villainous Conrad Veidt, the slimy Peter Lorre and my favourite character in the film, Claude Rains, not to mention the lovely Ingrid Bergman.

Casablanca was only Bergman’s fifth Hollywood movie. She had been brought over from Sweden by producer David O Selznik to star in the English language version of Intermezzo, a successful Swedish film. She spoke no English but learned quickly. Ingrid expected to make the movie and then return to her career in Sweden, so much so that her husband did not even come to Hollywood with her. However, Ingrid made more movies in Hollywood, then came Casablanca; a movie that was a product of the Hollywood studio system. It was filmed at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank with one location shoot, a short sequence at Van Nuys airport. Shot in 1942, Casablanca made Ingrid a star and remains probably her best known role. Released in the USA at the end of 1942 and internationally in 1943, the film won three Oscars. Its reputation has grown over time, eventually becoming known as one of the all-time classic motion pictures. Berman herself once commented that the film had a life of its own. The great performances, the memorable lines and the film’s music all contributed to the public affection for the movie. There’s a great sequence in When Harry Met Sally, where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal discuss the ending and Sally, the Meg Ryan character, asserts that Ingrid Bergman would rather leave with Henreid and be the first lady of Czechoslovakia than stay with a man who runs a bar in Casablanca.

I’ve always liked Claude Rains and I like the way it becomes apparent that his character is not a Nazi or even a Nazi sympathiser, but someone who is something of a rascal, who uses his position for his own ends but also someone who chooses his own friends and his own path, as he does at the end of the movie. My favourite sequence is where he closes down Rick’s bar at the request of Conrad Veidt’s Nazi officer. Humphrey Bogart complains, “How can you close me up? On what grounds?” Rains replies, “Rick, I’m shocked to learn there is gambling on the premises!”

Just then the croupier arrives with some money, “Sir, your winnings!”

Ingrid Bergman became a great Hollywood star and perhaps was associated too much in the eyes of the public with her role of Joan of Arc, because when she fell from Grace, she fell big style.

Bergman was fascinated with the work of Italian director Roberto Rossellini and in 1949 she wrote to him expressing a wish to work in one of his pictures. He cast her in his film ‘Stromboli’ and during the production Bergman fell in love with him, had an affair and became pregnant with his son. This led to a huge scandal in the USA and a divorce and custody battle with her Swedish husband Petter Lindstrom. She eventually married Rossellini and had more children including future actress Isabella Rossellini. She was never reconciled with her former husband but Hollywood welcomed her back in 1956 when she starred in the movie Anastasia for which she won an Oscar.

Humphrey Bogart went on to make many classic movies. He died from cancer in 1957 aged 57. He had been a heavy smoker and drinker.

Claude Rains died in 1967. His last film appearances were in ‘Laurence of Arabia’ and the ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told.’

Conrad Veidt fled the terrors of Nazi Germany in 1933. He was a fervent anti-Nazi donating his personal fortune to the British government to help in the war against Nazi Germany. He died in 1943 of a heart attack aged only 43.

Sydney Greenstreet died in 1954. He was 62 when his movie career began. He made his debut on the stage in 1902.

Hungarian born Peter Lorre was another refugee from Hitler’s Germany. He appeared in the German movie ‘M’ directed by Fritz Lang but fled Germany in 1933. He died in 1964 aged 59.

Paul Henreid came from an aristocratic background and was born in Trieste, then part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire in 1908. He has many credits to his name as an actor and director. He died in 1992.

The movie was directed by Fritz Lang, another refugee from Europe. Lang had a lifetime of problems with the English language, so much so that David Niven named his book of Hollywood reminiscences after one of his sayings. When he wanted a posse of riderless horses to come into the scene he shouted ‘bring on the empty horses!’


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100 Great Movies you Must See!

I really do love movies. Well, my movies, my own personal favourite movies and I don’t always care for other people’s movies. I tend to like classic movies rather than modern ones, not that I’m denigrating modern film. Anyway, I started off trying to work out my top 10 and ended up with, well, a hundred!

Yes, I can also tell you that because of the list maniac that I am, I decided to make the list into a spreadsheet which is great because I can sort the data and throw certain things back at myself, or in this case, at you, the reader. Here are a few examples; A Number of directors had multiple entries, people like Oliver Stone, Michael Curtiz, Martin Scorcese, John Ford, and David Lean (all with three entries.) My top two directors came out as Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick each with five entries. Woody Allen, Robert Redford and Humphrey Bogart were my favourite leading men and Liz Taylor and Mia Farrow my favourite leading ladies. My favourite years for movies appears to be 1946 with four favourite films and 1956 with five. Anyway, the complete list is below, in no particular order:

A Kind of Loving
A Taste of Honey
Alfie
Blithe Spirit
Broadway Danny Rose
Casablanca
Charlie Bubbles
Dead of Night
It’s a Wonderful Life
Lost Horizon
On the Waterfront
Radio days
Rebecca
Saturday night and Sunday Morning
Serpico
Seven days in May
Spartacus
Sunset Boulevarde
Sweet Smell of Success
The Bad and the Beautiful
The French Connection
The Last Picture Show
The Long Arm
The Maltese falcon
The Man in the White Suit
The Quiet man
The Searchers
The spy who came in from the cold
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The VIP’s
2001 A Space Odyessy
A Hard Days Night
A Man for all Seasons
A Matter of Life and Death
Alien
All the President’s men
Angels One Five
Angels with dirty faces
Annie Hall
Around the world in eighty days
Awakenings
Back to the Future
Billy Liar
Bullitt
Citizen Kane
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Dances with Wolves
Desperately Seeking Susan
Dog Day Afternoon
Fail Safe
Fatal Attraction
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Get Carter
Get Shorty
Giant
Gladiator
Goodfellas
Great Expectations
Green for Danger
Gregorys Girl
Hannah and Her Sisters
JFK
Kes
Lawrence of Arabia
Little Man Tate
Lost in Translation
night Of The Demon
North by Northwest
On Her Majestys Secret Service
One Flew over the Cuckoos nest
Paths Of Glory
Platoon
Pulp Fiction
Rocky
Shane
Smokey and the Bandit
Snow White and the Seven dwarfs
Some Like it Hot
Taxi Driver
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Big Sleep
The Candidate
The Cincinatti Kid
The Cruel Sea
The Dambusters
The day the Earth stood still
The Godfather
The Graduate
The Great gatsby
The Ipcress File
The King of Comedy
The man who shot Liberty Valance
The Misfits
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
The Thief of Bagdad
The Third Man
The Wizard of Oz
Three days of the Condor
To Catch a Thief
Viva Zapata
Wall Street
Whats new Pussycat?
Whats up Doc?
When Harry met sally

Hope you enjoyed the list. What are your personal favourites?

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My Love Affair With Back To The Future

The world of the cinema is filled with great movies; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, John Ford’s The Searchers and Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca, to name but a few.
One movie, that I saw described on one web page as a ‘phenomenon of popular culture’ is a movie as good, certainly as entertaining and probably more accessible than any in the list above. Yes, I’m talking about Back To The Future.
The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote the screenplay and Steven Speilberg produced and the stars of the picture were Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

5274270428_c4dff8b634_bIt was released in 1985 and was the biggest grossing movie of that year. It was also in the headlines again this year because 2015 was featured in Back To The Future 2 and the reality in 2015 was a little different to what the producers imagined! No hover boards, no self tying shoelaces!
Even so, Back To The Future is one of those movies that I loved straight from the opening titles and one that gets a regular airing on my DVD player.

Just in case you didn’t know, the movie is about a scientist called Doctor Emmet Brown who invents a time machine and installs it in his DeLorean. Michael J Fox plays Marty McFly who is helping him in his experiments but things go awry and it’s Marty who ends up in 1955 and he turns to the Doc’s younger self for help. The younger Doc Brown agrees to assist but warns Marty not to interact with anyone from 1955 in case the future is affected. Too late because Marty’s Mum – the 1955 version that is – already has a crush on him and Marty needs to get her focussed on his future Dad George, otherwise he’ll cease to exist!

Now what I really love about the movie is that all the little things that you see come together to make the plot work. The lady in the town square who is collecting for the clock tower restoration fund and the flyer she gives away that proves to be the key to getting 20,000 gigawatts of power into the time machine. (That’s the time machine that’s built in the Docs car, a DeLorean DNC-12.) The guy who works in the coffee shop who we know will become Mayor in 1985. The ‘enchantment under the sea’ ball where we know Marty’s Mum and Dad will fall for each other. I could go on, so there’s so much I love in this movie!

Huey Lewis and the News play the wonderful title track ‘The Power of Love’ and Huey himself makes an appearance in the movie as a judge at a talent competition who rejects Marty and his band for being too loud.

To finish here’s a couple of things you didn’t know about Back To The Future:

Michael J Fox was the first choice to play Marty McFly but the producers of his TV show Family Ties refused to release him from the show. The producers then engaged Eric Stoltz to play the role, however during filming, Zemeckis felt that Stoltz’ portrayal was a little dramatic. They were after someone more like, well more like Michael J Fox, so they went back to the TV show producers, came to an agreement and Michael was given the OK to star in the movie, but only after his day’s shooting was finished on the TV show. That meant a full day on the TV set for Michael, and then he started shooting on Back To The Future in the afternoons and evenings. Most of the daytime shots were done on the weekends as of course on a weekday he was still doing the TV show. Must have been one heck of a work schedule for Michael!

Ever wonder why Marty’s Dad doesn’t appear much in the sequels? Crispin Glover played the part of George McFly, Marty’s dad and both he and Lea Thompson who played Marty’s mum had to age from teenagers to middle age in the movie. Glover fell into a dispute with the producers because he asked for too much money to appear in part 2, so they dropped him. That’s the reason!

US President Ronald Reagan quoted the film in his 1986 State of the Union Address. Apparently when he first saw the joke about him being President, he asked the projectionist to stop the film, rewind and play the sequence again.

This year, 2015, the thirtieth anniversary of the film’s original release should see the first performance of a Back To the Future musical based on the original movie.


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James Dean and A Manchester Record Store

James DeanMany years ago in my mid-teens I was in Manchester doing pretty much what I have always done, then and now, whenever I have free time on a Saturday, either looking at records in a music store or looking at books in a book shop.

In 2015 there are not many record stores left; the whole culture of buying records is a different ball game these days, downloading instead of taking home a hard physical copy. Anyway, that’s a whole different blog. To get back to this one, back in that record shop I’d thumbed through the discs, checked out all the cheap records and then began flipping through the posters. This must have been mid-seventies so the posters were people like David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Elton John, Rod Stewart but there was one poster of a man in his mid-twenties wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. He was pulling a moody sort of look but there was something about him that was interesting. Anyway, he turned out to be an actor that I’d never heard of and the shop assistant pointed out a book about him in the store, a paperback, so I picked it up and read about the actor’s life. He was called James Dean.

James Dean courtesy wikipedia.

James Dean courtesy wikipedia.

Dean was born in Indiana and his mother died of cancer when Dean was only nine years old. There is a haunting passage in that paperback I bought that tells of how Dean’s father, Winton, sent little Jimmy Dean back to his Aunt and Uncle’s home in Indiana on the train carrying his mother’s coffin. Jimmy was brought up in Marion, Indiana by his Aunt Ortense and Uncle Marcus and later went to college to study acting.

His first movie was East of Eden directed by Elia Kazan who had introduced method acting to the American stage and had worked with Marlon Brando in ‘A Streetcar named Desire’. ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was Dean’s second cinematic outing. Directed by Nick Ray it is probably Dean’s most iconic film. This is the movie in which he wears his famous outfit of red jacket, white t-shirt, and jeans.

His third and final movie was ‘Giant’ in which he stars with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson and plays Texan bad boy Jett Rink. Dean was killed in a car crash only days after finishing shooting. He was a keen amateur racer and had bought a new Porsche speedster only days earlier. The car, nicknamed ‘little bastard’ had collided with another vehicle, a station wagon at the junction of route 41 and 466. Dean suffered a broken neck and was declared dead on arrival at a hospital in Paso Robles.

I was looking through my old VHS videos the other day and I came across a documentary called ‘James Dean’s last day’. It’s an interesting film and a sad one too as it counts down Dean’s last hours, his leaving Hollywood and his departure for a racing event at Salinas. There are so many ‘if onlys’ that unfold before me as I watch the film: I keep thinking if only Dean had left the Porsche on the trailer instead of driving it to the race track. If only the speeding ticket he was given a few hours earlier had made him slow down. If only a man called Donald Turnupseed had seen Dean and not turned across him. Such a shame, such a tragedy. Dean, I’m sure, would have gone on to make so many more great films and perhaps would even have directed some too.

I’m not sure why a council house boy from Northern England should connect so closely with James Dean, an American actor but back in the seventies Dean became one of my personal heroes. I remember going to a cinema in Oxford road to see back to back showings of East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause on a very hot summers day. I bought a soundtrack album of those movies too, in the days before video and DVD. Dean was a counterpoint to actors like Richard Burton; he mumbled and mispronounced things. I think that was what I liked about him, he was natural and imperfect. He had an image more rock star than 50’s actor. There was a great documentary about him made in the 70s and the music of the times, Bowie and Elton John featured heavily. Anyone remember that eagles track ‘James Dean?’

Today, years later, thousands of fans make pilgrimages every year to see Dean’s home in Fairmount, Indiana, and to the intersection on highway 466 where he died. At his graveside in Fairmount fans chisel away bits of his gravestone for mementos and a bust of Dean by the sculptor Kenneth Kendall was ripped from its plinth. In 1977 a Japanese businessman named Seita Ohnishi had a chromium sculpture erected at the crash site on highway 466 in memory of Dean.

So why do people still hanker after James Dean all these years later? Well, I simply don’t know. As a young man I thought Dean was the epitome of cool and like many others I made him into my hero. Whilst doing some research about Jimmy Dean I came across this line on another site: “Some people are living lodestones. They get under the skin of people. You can’t explain why.” I can’t disagree.

Still, heroes come and heroes fade away. My heroes today are not the ones I used to love and worship thirty years ago. The thing is though, after writing this essay about Jimmy Dean I felt that I must find the time to look at some of his films again. Did I happen to mention what I bought in the HMV sale not long ago? The James Dean Box Set. Perhaps old heroes never completely fade away.


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