Category Archives: Film
The Man Who Fell to Earth – 1976. David Bowie was at the height of his career having just released his brilliant blue-eyed soul LP, Young Americans. He was riding high on the hit Fame and ready to take over the world. The next logical step – movies. And what a movie. The casting of Bowie as an alien who crashed on Earth and can’t get back to his dead planet was perfect. Lean bordering on skinny Bowie looked the part w/ a shock of red/orange hair and other-worldly style. The film did well and Bowie was great. Looking back at it today its a bit dated and frankly kind of boring, but, Jesus, he looked great, and by the looks of things it was a fun set.
Louise Brooks (November 14, 1906 – August 8, 1985), born Mary Louise Brooks. She typified the Flapper era of the 1920’s but somehow managed to look completely different and modern by todays standards. She starred in just a few movies – 17 silents and 8 sound pictures, before retiring at the tender age of 32. She hated Hollywood with a passion and made her 3 most famous films in Europe; Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl and Miss Europe, (the first 2 w/ director G.W. Pabst). She publicly danced nude, she had lesbian affairs (a one night stand w/ Greta Garbo), married a bunch of guys and made some bad decisions – what a woman!
Roar 1981 – Is an unbelievable film written and produced by married couple Tipi Hedren (The Birds) and Noel Marshall. The film also starred Tipi’s real daughter Melanie Griffith and Marshall’s 2 sons John & Jerry. Here’s the basic plot; “Hank (Marshall) lives contentedly with his wild animals: four tiger cubs, two elephants and 110 tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs. One day his family (wife and 3 children) arrive to visit him. The only trouble is he is not at home, but all his animals are. The visiting family are in for one shocking experience.” That’s right 110 lions, tigers and cheetahs – all untrained, all wild as hell.
During filming over 70 of the cast and crew were injured. Cinematographer Jan de Bont (later director of Speed and Twister) had his scalp lifted by a lion, resulting in 220 stitches. Tippi Hedren received a fractured leg and scalp wounds. This occurred after an elephant bucked her off its back while she was riding it. She was also bitten in the neck by a lion and required 38 stitches (this can also be seen in the film). Hedren’s daughter was also attacked, receiving 50 stitches to her face; it was feared she may lose an eye but in the end the wound was not disfiguring. Noel Marshall was attacked so many times that he eventually was diagnosed with gangrene. The animals fared much better.
Tipi was and is a firm animal rights activist and has run a lion preserve in Africa for well over 30 years, continuing to this day. She felt the film would showcase the beauty and quiet majesty of these animals – she was partially right. What it actually shows is the natural danger and untameability of the animals. Why anyone would consider working with these big cats is a good idea is beyond me.
Alamo Drafthouse has rescued this movie from obscurity and released it across the country with a new print and a crazy poster campaign. It looks amazing and insane. And remember “No animals were harmed in this movie” – only the crew.
Cry-Baby was John Water’s second shot at main stream success – after the original Hairspray, in 1988. Following years of underground notoriety w/ films like Female Troubles and Pink Flamingos w/ it’s famous poo eating star, Divine, John was poised to take over Hollywood. Assembling a truly oddball cast, rock star – Iggy Pop, convicted bank robber/kidnap victim – Patty Hearst, ex-underage porn star – Tracy Lords and teen heart throb – Johnny Depp, along with Hairspray star Rikki Lake, Norman Mailer’s kid – Stephen, ex-Warhol superstar Joe Dellesandro, 50’s teen star Tad Hunter and crazy person and all around cool dame, Susan Tyrell.
When casting Cry Baby, Waters said he was looking for a teen heart-throb to take the part of Wade “Cry Baby” Walker and instructed his PA to buy a handful of teen magazines to see who was popular. Johnny was on the cover of every one and was more than happy to bust out of his role on 21 Jump Street. Tracy Lords was also looking for a legitimate acting gig after years in the porno industry (starring in a ton of films at the age of 15). Rikki Lake was happy to keep acting the chubby lovable teen (this time as Pepper Walker – “She’s pregnant but she fights like a man). When Waters came to cast the role of Mona ‘Hatchet-Face’ Malnorowski, (Divine having died recently the character was described thus: “She’s got the body of Jayne Mansfield and the face of Margaret Hamilton…[and] nobody, but nobody, gives her grief.”To find a suitable actress, Waters placed a print advertisement that simply requested: “Wanted: Girl with a good body and an alarming face who is proud of it”.
All the stars have aged and done pretty well. Depp still looks great and continues to act in big, big budget films. His co-star Amy Locane hasn’t done quite as well. She appeared on the new Beverly Hills 90210 for a number of years, and in 2012 was convicted of drunk driving and vehicular homicide. She is currently serving a 3 year prison sentence. Perhaps most surprising, Kim “Hatchetface” McGuire is an attorney in the great state of Alabama. Iggy carries on acting and singing. Tracy Lords has written a couple of books. Rikki Lake slimmed down and got her own chat show and the great John Waters continues to direct and rake in money from the adaptation of his Hairspray into a goldmine musical and reworked 2007 movie.
Thelma Todd was a dish, a dame, a bombshell and also a very funny comedienne and actress. She was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the late 20’s and early 30’s. Appearing in over 40 movies between 1926 and 1935. Thelma is best remembered for her comedic roles in the Marx Brothers movies, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers. She also appeared with most of the silents and early talkies biggest stars, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and William Powell, to name just a few. In the 1930s, she opened a restaurant, Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe, and took up residence in a luxurious apartment above the cafe. Located near the ocean on the Roosevelt Highway at Catellammare, it became a popular place. It was in the garage of the Sidewalk Cafe on December 15, 1935, that she was found in her parked car, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, deceased at the age of 29 – supposedly a suicide, maybe a murder.
Though her death was ruled a suicide by the courts but there were quite a few other possibilities. Why would she kill herself? Thelma was riding high with a string of hits, successfully making the transition from Silents to the Talkies, owned a successful restaurant, dated some of Hollywood’s most famous stars and basically, had it all.
The Grand Jury investigation into her death yielded conflicting results. Spots of blood were found both on and in the car, and on Todd’s mouth. This led to the theory that she might have been knocked out before the car was started.
The first suspect was Thelma’s ex-husband, Pat DiCicco, a self-described agent with underworld connections. After one too many beatings, Todd divorced him. He felt humiliated by all the publicity and may have sought revenge. Hm?
Another suspect was Lucky Luciano, Americas most famous gangster and mob boss. Rumors circulated that Lucky wanted to use Todd’s restaurant as a front for his gambling operation. Allegedly, just days before she was discovered dead, Luciano informed Todd of his interests in her restaurant. The story goes that Thelma pooh-poohed Lucky’s offer and was killed for her refusal and disrespect.
Hard to say. Everybody’s got troubles. Maybe she did call it quits in her garage almost 78 years ago. It’s probably not important any more, so go rent her movies instead, start with Monkey Business.