Tag Archives: Lee Marvin

Stand Up Wit…Adam Carolla

I’ve never been a big Adam Carolla fan.

I always found Carolla to be a bit smug, although in fairness it’s pretty much the role he was playing on such highbrow fare as Loveline and The Man Show. And frankly, people like Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil (never trust a doctor with only a first name, says Dr. Bristol) are as twisted and codependent as their idiot callers and guests. Carolla just played the bystander who was really pity-mocking the poor saps on the help shows and doing what any overgrown adolescent would love to do on The Man Show…if they had the freedom and the budget.

But Carolla’s book In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks is pretty funny, because he remembers the first rule of comedy – make yourself a target as well. That way no matter how petty or whiny or condescending you get, you’re really saying “I know, right?” rather than defending your lofty perch. There is no shortage of people, institutions and concepts to attack, and Carolla does so with vigor.

The book reads like a collection of related thoughts rather than a narrative flow, which is perfect for bathroom reading (coincidentally the subject of chapter 7), and his rambling observations and caustic asides are peppered with anecdotes involving some of his famous friends, most notably Jimmy Kimmel. Some fo it is a little whiny and pretentious, but a lot of it is pretty damned funny.

Read excerpts here.

But he has a point – look at that cover picture and focus on your first thought. That’s right – biker leather no longer makes you think of tough guys like Marlon Brando or Lee Marvin…you think Village People. When did that happen? The book is loaded with observations that wonder aloud when common sense took a backseat to popularity, and why celebretards – people famous only for being famous – should be worth anyone’s precious time.

I won’t go back and watch The Man Show (and I like Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope even more than I like Jimmy Kimmel), and I’d take a bullet to the head before watching something like Loveline. But if I ever see Adam Carolla, I’m going to buy him a beer, or ten.

And I guarantee it won’t be light beer

Smug as a bug in a rug

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Birthdays

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been thirty years since Bon Scott died. For a man who used to mark time based upon how long ago the Kennedy Assassination occurred, imagine how old I felt this morning when I realized that AC/DC has had a new singer for three decades.

So let’s accentuate the positive, shall we? I don’t know what it is about Memorial Day that causes such a spike in famous conceptions – maybe the exuberance of getting out of school – but February 19th has given us a boatload of charismatic, talented artists over the years. Here are ten people born today who bring me great joy, chronologically by birth year:

Louis Calhern, 1895 – You might not recognize his name if you aren’t a film buff, but Calhern was a solid and versatile actor that kept popping up in some of my favorite movies, from James Cagney flicks to Marx Brothers romps (Duck Soup) to classic film noir like his sleazy lawyer crime boss in The Asphalt Jungle.

Lee Marvin, 1924 – A tough guy’s tough guy and one of the best actors of his time. Far too many great movies to list – my favorite remains the lesser rated version of The Killers – but unforgettable in The Dirty Dozen, Cat Ballou and The Professionals as well as hundreds of TV appearances, including his own classic police series M Squad.

* The finale of The Killers – including the greatest last line ever.

John Frankenheimer, 1930 – One of my favorite film makers and one of the best action movie directors (Grand Prix, Ronin) who got his start filming over a hundred live television dramas. Some of his classics include The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz and the political thriller Seven Days in May.

Sam Myers, 1936 – Sam grew up in Chicago and sat in with the cream of the blues legends from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James; he was an incredible drummer and harp player and vocalist. Perhaps better known more recently as a key member of Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, one of the best live blues bands around. Sam passed away in 2006.

* Video: Sam Myers

Smokey Robinson, 1940 – The word genius gets passed around far too freely, but Smokey Robinson is a genius. Equally adept as a songwriter and as a sweet soul singer, he helped put Motown (and several of its groups) on the map in the 60’s, and his catalogue of great music is simply staggering. Check out his entry at the All Music Guide where the list of covers of his material is forty-six pages long.

Lou Christie, 1943 – Christie’s trademark was singing the verses in his normal voice and then rocketing to a powerful falsetto voice for the dramatic chorus, and although “Two Faces Have I” was the first hit, it was “Lightning Strikes” that jumped out of that transistor radio for me. He only had  two more hits ( “Rhapsody in the Rain” and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”) but he remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Tony Iommi, 1948 – Hearing the first Black Sabbath album upon its release was a revelation, and Iommi’s signature guitar sound was the key ingredient in that mix;  some credit him with inventing heavy metal guitar. I was never a big fan of the post-Ozzy group (or Ozzy post-Sabbath, for that matter) but the first four albums were incredible.

Mark Andes, 1948 – Not a household name by any stretch, but any music fan knows Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne and Firefall and Heart; not a bad track record for a wandering bass player. Most recently a member of Ian McLagan’s Bump Band, his first solo album was released last year.

* Listen to “Run Run Run” by Jo Jo Gunne

Ray Winstone, 1957 – For his own generation, a combination of the aforementioned James Cagney and Lee Marvin. Long revered by his homeland, roles in Sexy Beast and The Departed might be more familiar, plus he steals Mel Gibson‘s new film out from under him.

Benicio del Toro, 1967 – Quietly building an incredible resume of performances – although maybe not that quietly based on the award hardware he’s racked up. First saw him as Kevin Spacey‘s assistant in Swimming With Sharks, and he’s made great choices including Traffic, Sin City and The Pledge. Hell, he’s going to play Moe Howard in the upcoming Three Stooges movie! But I’ll always think of him as marble-mouthed Fred Fenster in that perfect film The Usual Suspects. (Check out this amazing Fenster montage someone put up at YouTube).

No slight to Seal, Jon Fishman, Justine Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Merle Oberon, Carson McCullers or even Copernicus, but ten is ten.

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I Know Noir, But What Am I?

Who is cooler than Lee Marvin, anyway?

Who is cooler than Lee Marvin, anyway?

I was thinking about how it’s been a year since we lost Jules Dassin and Richard Widmark, both of whom lived into their nineties and died within a week of each other. Dassin, of course, was blacklisted in the famous McCarthy-influenced purge in Hollywood but moved to France and had a tremendous career. Widmark is one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen, from his debut as psychotic killer Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death through a litany of westerns, war films and crime movies. In 1950, they collaborated on Night and The City, about a street hustler who tries to gain control of the wrestling racket in London, but of course is way over his head. It was a brilliant film, and like most noir features less-than-savory characters trying to make a move, and getting tantalizingly close before everything starts to fall apart. In a way, these are twisted morality plays, but I was first attracted to the genre because the stories seemed to be far more realistic than the typical Hollywood happy ending.

The noir era was before my time, but as an avid reader I devoured books by Jim Thompson and James M. Cain, and when lucky enough to catch them on pre-cable TV I would be mesmerized by Double Indemnity and D.O.A. and Out Of The Past. Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing is a masterpiece, and one of the first instances of retelling of the plot from each character’s perspective. Now, thanks to cable channels like TCM and AMC, many of these films found a whole new audience, and the advent of DVD made most available for fans like me. With few exceptions, these aren’t going to be at Blockbuster, but I’m thrilled to be able to buy and enjoy them in my own home. Recently both Fox and Warner Brothers issued film noir series, and apparently sales are good, because more surface every day. The Criterion Collection also releases many noir titles and they’re meticulous about print quality, bonus features and whatever extras (booklets, interviews, etc.) they can assemble to present as complete an experience as possible. Their releases can be a bit pricey, but you can find many of them at decent used rates, and better library systems will probably carry quite a few.

One of my favorites, and a steal even at the retail price, is The Killers, with both the 1946 film starring Burt Lancaster and the 1964 TV movie directed by Don Siegel and starring John Cassavetes and Lee Marvin, the latter having one of the greatest closing lines in movie history. Oh yeah, and there was this Ronald Reagan guy playing a bad man, which some Americans swear he did again years later in real life. And today – the event that led up to all those thoughts about noir and Widmark and Dassin – Criterion announced the April release of one of the best post-noir classics, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. I am geeked!

I could list dozens of great films and probably fill a book about my love of film noir…and perhaps I will someday. But I wanted to use today’s blog feature to pay tribute to some of my film heroes like Widmark, Mitchum, Marvin, Lancaster and Cassavetes, as well as directors like Dassin, Sam Fuller, Don Siegel and Jean-Pierre Melville. I am so thankful that they were inspired to create such wonderfully vivid stories that are as thrilling to watch today as they must have been at the time. So if you are one who can appreciate that a great film is a transcendent journey, I encourage you to make the time to immerse yourself on the dark side of the street.

A series of noir and neo-noir films are being featured by Criterion  right now.

FOX studios has a noir series.

Warner Brothers does too.

***

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