Archive | June, 2019

The Remarkable Film Career of Hibari Misora

24 Jun

Hibari Misora was Japan’s most popular recording star in the postwar era and starred in dozens of movies as well. She died at the age of 52 on June 24, 1989, 30 years ago today. I’ve written about Misora in depth here in three past entries. Elsewhere, I have compared her to the American musical stars, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin and Doris Day. Each of those three had a substantial film career in Hollywood, yet Misora made more films than all three combined over the course of two decades. Wikipedia says she made 166 films, but doesn’t have a complete listing of them. IMDB only lists 103 of her films. I have at least one film of hers that’s not on IMDB. (Garland, Durbin and Day made 95 films total between them.) Given the sheer number of samurai and yakuza movies Misora starred in, I would argue that the film careers of Garland, Durbin, and Day would be more similar to Misora’s if they’d made more westerns and played some action roles. (Each of the three made at least one musical with a western setting.)

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THE WILD BUNCH: 50th Anniversary of an American Classic

11 Jun

Sam Peckinpah’s provocative western, THE WILD BUNCH, opened in the U.S. on June 25, 1969, 50 years ago this month. I’ve seen the film many times over the years, including at least 20 times on the big screen and multiple times in a variety of formats: broadcast TV, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray. It was a sprawling epic western full of action, gunplay and bloodshed, rated R and featuring a predominantly male cast of Hollywood stars, dependable character actors, a couple of newcomers, and veteran Mexican performers, but only a handful of women with small speaking parts (mostly as prostitutes). The stars were William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, and Emilio Fernandez. In the leadup to the film’s release, I saw all the print ads—in newspapers and on the subway–with lines like, “Nine men who came too late and stayed too long.” I read all the pre-release articles and finally the reviews–the negative ones which criticized the blood-spurting and called William Holden “dissipated” and the positive ones like Vincent Canby’s in The New York Times who ranked it way above the other big westerns of that season, TRUE GRIT and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST also opened that summer, a week after THE WILD BUNCH.

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