Archive | August, 2012

Barry Sullivan Centennial

29 Aug

Today (August 29, 2012) would have been Barry Sullivan’s 100th birthday. Sullivan (1912-1994) acted on the big screen regularly from 1936 to 1978, with one final screen appearance in a Canadian feature in 1987, and on television from 1955 to 1980. I knew him primarily as an actor in westerns, even though a look at his filmography indicates that he played far more contemporary roles than he did western roles. I first knew him from “The Tall Man,” one of many TV western series I saw as a kid. In it, he played Pat Garrett to Clu Gulager’s Billy the Kid, although I have no memories of any particular episodes. Most of the films I saw him in on TV over the years were westerns, including THE OUTRIDERS, THE MAVERICK QUEEN, DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE, SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN, STAGE TO THUNDER ROCK, and TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE. Plus he played guest star roles on other TV westerns, including “Bonanza,” “The Virginian” (pictured here), “High Chaparral,” and the pilot film for “Kung Fu.”

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Disney’s Tomorrowland: A Source of Science Fiction Art

19 Aug

On disc 1 of the Walt Disney Treasures Tomorrowland set, there are three Tomorrowland episodes from the Disneyland TV show: “Man in Space” (1955), “Man and the Moon” (1955), and “Mars and Beyond.” All are documentaries with actual space and rocket scientists contributing on-camera appearances (including former Nazi Wernher Von Braun) and all contain elaborate animated sequences. All were directed by veteran Disney animator Ward Kimball and of course are all introduced by Uncle Walt himself.

While real life space explorations have far surpassed the science depicted in these shows (and probably answered all the questions raised therein), the science fiction aspects remain fascinating and aesthetically beautiful. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen science fiction art this detailed outside of the sf pulp magazine and paperback covers we used to get in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Each of the three shows offers a speculative animated sequence offering then-current ideas of what missions in space, on the moon and on Mars would look like. While the shots are mostly static illustrations, there is some animation showing the movements of craft and astronauts.

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Sam Fuller Centennial

12 Aug

Sam Fuller would have turned 100 today, August 12, 2012. In a movie career that lasted 60 years, he had 30 directorial credits (per IMDB) and 51 screenplay/story credits. Fuller interrupted his Hollywood career to serve as an infantryman in World War II and fought in North Africa, Sicily, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, before liberating a death camp in Czechoslovakia. An ex-reporter, he chose the army because he wanted to go where the story was. He certainly found it. I wrote about Fuller’s WWII film THE BIG RED ONE (1980) here on February 20, 2012.

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Gore Vidal (1925-2012): Screening History

2 Aug

Gore Vidal, who died on Tuesday (July 31, 2012), was the author of Screening History, one of two favorite books about film written by an author who was not known primarily for writing about film (the other is The Devil Finds Work, by James Baldwin). Published in 1992, the book charts the author’s own childhood obsession with movies and the various historical forces at work that both influenced those movies and reflected them. He gives special attention to the Warner Bros. production, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1937); the English historical drama FIRE OVER ENGLAND (1937); and various filmed depictions of Abraham Lincoln, but he intersperses recollections of those films with all sorts of personal history.

 

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