Tag Archives: Yankee Pasha

Jeff Chandler Centennial

15 Dec

Jeff Chandler would have turned 100 today, December 15, 2018. He died an untimely death in 1961 at the age of 42 after a back operation left him with blood poisoning, right after coming home from finishing his last film, a WWII movie shot in the Philippines called MERRILL’S MARAUDERS, which would be released a year after he died. Directed by Samuel Fuller and based on a true story, it was one of Chandler’s best films.

As a leading man under contract to Universal Pictures, Chandler occupied a unique position in the 1950s, the decade in which he did most of his major work. Tall, athletic, rugged and boasting sharp, protruding features—square jaw, dimpled chin, thick curling lips, long straight nose, high cheekbones, piercing eyes, dark, bushy eyebrows, and prematurely graying hair—Chandler found himself playing unsmiling officers, tribal chiefs and authority figures of various sorts in a wide range of genres, notably westerns, historical adventures, war movies, swashbucklers, and romantic melodramas. As an actor, he had a limited range, one he voluntarily adhered to, but did wonders within that range. As far as I can tell, he played a genuine villain only once—in the 1959 western, THE JAYHAWKERS, in which the hero was played by Fess Parker, TV’s Davy Crockett.

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Universal Pictures: 100 years of movies, 20 years of genre classics

14 Jul

Film Forum in Manhattan started a series yesterday (Friday, July 13) celebrating 100 years of Universal Pictures, beginning with a double bill of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, both 1931. They’re running 72 films, 60 of which I’ve seen already, and the schedule includes many, if not most of the best films the studio is famous for. To a younger generation of budding movie buffs in the New York area, this will be a rare opportunity to see many genuine classics on the big screen. (It’s also a rare opportunity to see them at all, outside of Turner Classic Movies and the ones that are available on DVD.)

35 years ago, I had a similar opportunity. In 1977, the Museum of Modern Art ran a 65th anniversary retrospective of Universal Pictures, which offered a much more comprehensive program consisting of 325 films, extending from 1912 to a “to be announced” showing of a 1978 release. In looking over the MOMA program, I count 162 films that I’ve seen among its offerings, most in the 35 years since. The MOMA series, curated by Adrienne Mancia and Larry Kardish, was designed to showcase a wide representative sampling of the studio output and not just the “agreed-upon” classics. 53 films in the Film Forum program also ran at MOMA.

 

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