Tag Archives: Dean Martin

Dean Martin Centennial

7 Jun

Dean Martin would have turned 100 today, June 7, 2017. (He died on Christmas Day, 1995.) Martin was initially world-famous as the singing comedy partner of Jerry Lewis in an act that had extraordinary success on stage, in clubs, on TV and in the movies before it broke up in 1956 after escalating tensions between the two finally exploded. Martin went on to a successful solo career singing, recording, acting and teaming up with Frank Sinatra and other performers to make up what has affectionately been called “the Rat Pack.” I don’t recall what my first exposure to Martin was, although I’m sure I saw him on a TV variety show before seeing my first Martin movie, AT WAR WITH THE ARMY (1950), his third movie with Jerry Lewis, at summer camp in 1963.

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Frank Sinatra Centennial

12 Dec

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Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 today, December 12, 2015. He died at the age of 82 in 1998. For at least the last 55 years of his life, he was an iconic figure in American show business, starting out in the early 1940s as a “crooner” who sang popular tunes with big bands for audiences of wildly enthused teenage girls known as “bobby-soxers.” He starred in film musicals, but branched out in his 30s to dramatic roles (MIRACLE OF THE BELLS) and, after a career slump in the early 1950s, made a remarkable comeback in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, playing the role of Maggio, a defiant, ill-fated young soldier in the days before Pearl Harbor, and winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, launching a film career with renewed vigor that turned him into one of the biggest movie stars in the country in the 1950s and ’60s. During all this time, he made a series of best-selling record albums and cemented his reputation as one of the finest American singers of the 20th century, continually challenging himself and trying new things. His private life kept the gossip columns busy as his love life went through ups and downs and he became renowned for wild antics with a group of show biz buddies known as the Rat Pack, who hung out with him, performed with him and made movies with him. Long after he phased out his movie career, he continued making Top Ten recordings and performing live all over the country and the world.

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An Evening with Nancy Kwan

19 Oct

In keeping with the Hollywood-looks-at-China theme of my last blog entry, I went right into THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG (1960), a full-blown Hollywood romantic melodrama set and partly shot in Hong Kong and starring Nancy Kwan in her first film role, and then into two more Nancy Kwan movies, FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961) and THE WRECKING CREW (1968), all in preparation for “An Evening with Nancy Kwan” at the New-York Historical Society on October 15, 2014 in conjunction with the society’s current exhibit, “Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion.”

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The Art of the Film Still, Pt. 1: MURDERERS’ ROW (1966)

18 Mar

One of the things I want to do on this blog is scan images from my movie still collection, something I was never able to do before I got a scanner late last month. While I can get screen grabs from any movie scene contained on any DVD I have, there’s an art form to the traditional movie still that’s hard to recreate via screen grab. Besides, I have many stills I want to share that are from movies I don’t have on DVD. There are different kinds of stills one can collect from the era before EPKs (Electronic Press Kits). There were black-and-white stills sent out to newspapers and magazines. These generally had no border. And then there are those that were sent out from the National Screen Service, a company set up to provide posters, lobby cards, stills, etc. to theaters for display. They had text on the bottom listing basic info about the film (title, cast, director, producer, studio), plus copyright info, plus a notice from the National Screen Service declaring the still to be its property, with the proviso that it be returned after use. (Not all of them got returned—otherwise I wouldn’t have any.)

These NSS stills used to be displayed prominently in glass cases set up around the outside areas of the theater and in the inside foyer before entering the lobby. Some theaters made lots of room for such displays, some just didn’t have the space for more than a few. I remember the stills used for such displays being predominantly black-and-white, but I must have seen some in color occasionally. I loved looking at these pictures and the accompanying posters when I passed theaters, no matter what was playing. Even when I’d just seen the movie, I was always keen to see exactly which scenes were displayed and compare them to what I remembered from just seeing the movie. I learned early on that the stills didn’t always match what was in the movie. Sometimes the stills featured scenes that weren’t in the movie at all.

I decided to open this series with a color still from MURDERERS’ ROW (1966), a secret agent spoof starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm and produced by Columbia Pictures.

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