Category Archives: Musical Theatre

Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day Part two

[Continued from Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part One]

 

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush (1925) (Photo credit: quicheisinsane)

Having fulfilled his contract with National, Chaplin  was free to work on independent projects for United Artists, a group he formed with  Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D. W. Griffith in 1919. With the Gold Rush in 1925 he made the movie he wanted to be remembered by.

 

Through his work, Chaplin came to be known as a grueling perfectionist. His love for experimentation often meant countless retakes and it was not uncommon for him to order the rebuilding of an entire set. It also wasn’t rare for him to begin with one leading actor, realize he’d made a mistake in his casting, and start again with someone new…But the results were hard to refute. [Biography]

 

The Tramp working on the giant machine in the ...

The Tramp working on the giant machine in the film’s most famous scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Modern times

His later films include City Lights, 1931, Modern Times, 1936 and The Great Dictator, 1940. He made a half dozen more films (most noteably Lime Light co starring Buster Keaton) but they paled  in comparison to his earlier work. No one, it seemed, was interested in Chaplin sans bowler hat and mustache.

 

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictat...

Charlie Chaplin from the film The Great Dictator (with “double cross” emblem in background and on cap). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chaplin’s personal life was always in the spot light. He was married 4 times to women decades his junior. He had numerous affairs with his leading ladies. He didn’t join the British Army in WWI (which caused a lot of controversy back home in England. –Chaplin had registered for the draft, but had not been called up. He also worked for the War effort raising money through Liberty Bonds and producing propaganda films — but it wasn’t enough to satiate the flag waving mania sweeping his home country.) He was never afraid to voice his political views and after The Great Dictator (with it’s brilliant, but preachy six-minute closing speech) he was branded a radical. In the 1950’s he was a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee who “saw him as a nonconformist and therefore a communist.” [About.com] When he tried to return to the States after a trip  abroad he was denied entry. (He went to live in Switzerland.)

 

Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland - Project ...

Charlie Chaplin, Vevey, Switzerland – Project 1/365 (Photo credit: Airflore)

He stayed away… until 1972 when he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award. He was given a 12 minuted standing ovation at the ceremony.

 

Chaplin also composed music. He wrote the songs “Smile” and “This is My Song” along with 500 other melodies.

 

After finishing his last film A Countess from Hong Kong … he composed the music to many of his silent movies, among them The Circus,… The Kidand A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate [IMDb]

Charlie Chaplin died of a stroke on Christmas morning 1977.

 

Awards:

 

  • 1929 WON Special Academy Award “for versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Actor Oscar  for his dual role in The Great Dictator.
  • 1941 Nominated for Best Writing Oscar for The Great Dictator..
  • 1948 Nominated for Best Screenplay Oscar for Monsieur Verdoux.
  • 1972 WON Special Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he  has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”.
  • 1973 WON The Academy Award for Best Original Score for Limelight. (The film had not been released in the US until 1972).

CLICK HERE for Charlie Chaplin Part One

 

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Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part ONE

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” — Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 -- p...

Charlie Chaplin The Tramp debuted in 1914 — pre-1923 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on this day in 1889 in London, England. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

He was practically born to the stage. Both his parents were musical hall entertainers. His father, Charles Chaplin, Sr.  was a singer and actor, his mother, Hannah Chaplin — her stage name was Lily Harley — sang light opera. The marriage didn’t last long, and Chaplin, Sr. abandoned the family when Charlie was an infant. He had two half brothers. Sydney Hill Chaplin was four years older than Charlie and was born to Hannah a year before she married Chaplin, Sr. (who was not his father.) Hannah had another baby, George Wheeler Dryden in 1892, by entertainer Leo Dryden. Sydney and Charlie hardly knew this brother, however, because Leo took the boy away when he was 6 months old. George didn’t resurface until his mid thirties.

Hannah continued her stage career for a few years, but…

in a performance that would introduce her youngest boy to the world of performance, Hannah inexplicably lost her voice in the middle of a show, prompting the stage manager to push the five-year-old Chaplin, whom he’d heard sing, onto the stage to replace her…[Biography]

The audience loved little Charlie, but it was a disaster for Hannah…

Her singing voice never returned and she eventually ran out of money. For a time, Charlie and Sydney had to make a new, temporary home for themselves in London’s tough workhouses. [Ibid]

Hannah was in and out of mental institutions until 1905 when she was committed permanently. With the exception of one disastrous stint with their alcoholic father, the boys were left to fend for themselves,  and, eventually, thrown into the workhouse. Sydney was trained as a seaman, but both boys wanted to act. Charlie charmed his way into a clog dancing group called the Eight Lancashire Lads in 1897.

It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could…”I (was) newsvendor, printer, toymaker, doctor’s boy, etc., but during these occupational digressions, I never lost sight of my ultimate aim to become an actor,” Chaplin later recounted. “So, between jobs I would polish my shoes, brush my clothes, put on a clean collar and make periodic calls at a theatrical agency.” [Ibid]

His first play was  Jim, a Romance of Cockayne by H.A. Saintsbury in 1903.  Although the show closed after two weeks Chaplin’s comedic performance  as the newsboy received good reviews. Real stage experience came later that year with a 2.5 year run with  Sherlock Holmes in which Chaplin played the Page-boy.

He toured with a vaudeville outfit named Casey’s Court Circus and in 1908 teamed up with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, where Chaplin became one of its stars as The Drunk in the comedic sketch, A Night in an English Music Hall. [Ibid]

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charle...

Español: Esta es una fotografia del Sr. Charles Spencer Chaplin tomada en Estados Unidos, durante su juventud, en un momento en el que, como se aprecia, se encontraba al natural, tal como era, sin los clasicos caracteres que usaba para protagonizar a su recordado personaje de cine mudo Charlot. Français : Charles Chaplin, acteur américain, célèbre pour son personnage Charlot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He twice came to America on tour with the Karno troupe and film producer Mack Sennett promptly signed Chaplin to a contract for a $150 a week with Keystone Pictures. Chaplin didn’t like his first film, Making a Living, and it wasn’t a hit, but he was singled out for his comic timing and presence.

He wanted to create a persona that made him stand out from the crowd of comedic actors at Keystone, so he borrowed Fatty Arbuckle’s pants, Ford Sterling’s size 14 shoes and Arbuckle’s father-in-law’s bowler to invent the Little Tramp. The Tramp made his debut in  Kid Auto Races at Venice.

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (...

Chaplin with Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (1917) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charlie yearned for more creative input in his film and finally got a chance to direct in 1914. With the caveat that Chaplin would return $1,500 to producer Sennett should the film fail, he helmed Caught in the Rain . (He did not have to return the money. )

When Keystone wouldn’t give him a raise (he wanted $1,000 a week)  he went to Essanay Film Manufacturing Company  (they gave him $1,250 a week.) He made 14 films with Essanay.

By the age of 26, Chaplin, just three years removed from his vaudeville days was a movie superstar. He’d moved over to the Mutual Company, which paid him a whopping $670,000 a year. The money made Chaplin a wealthy man, but it didn’t seem to derail his artistic drive. With Mutual, he made some of his best work, including One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond(1916), and Easy Street (1917). [Biography]

He got a million dollar deal with First National Exhibitors’ Circuit to make 8 films. (His brother Sydney was his financial manager by then, and he was instrumental in making the deal.) Two of the eight movies broke the old show business rule about not working with children and animals, and those films — The Kid and A Dog’s Life were two of Chaplin’s best.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in The Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click HERE for Charlie Chaplin 4.16.13 Thought of the Day: Part TWO


Imelda Staunton 1.9.13 Thought of the Day

“…It was the best job of my life. It’s rather like falling out of an aeroplane with no parachute.”
–Imelda Staunton

Imelda

Imelda (Photo credit: Lizzie Wells)

Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton was born on this day in London, England, in 1956. She is 57 years old.

Staunton, an only child, lived with her mum and dad over her mother’s hair dressing salon. Her mother was also a gifted natural musician who could pick up  songs by ear (but couldn’t read music.) She passed on her love of music to Staunton who attended La Sainte Union Convent Catholic school. After graduation she attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Staunton wasted no time launching her career following graduation, becoming associated with such prestigious venues as The Old Vic and the National Theatre. [Moviefone: Imelda Staunton Biography.]

Musical theatre and Shakespeare fill her Stage CV. She won the prestigious Olivier Award twice.

On film she landed a role in the ensemble movie Peter’s Friends with Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie. She worked with Branagh and Thompson again in Much Ado About Nothing. Then paired up with Laurie as Mr. and Mrs. Jennings in Thompson’s wonderful adaption of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in 1995. (Thompson both wrote the screen play and starred in the film). She was Maria in Twelfth Night and the nurse in Shakespeare in Love.

As Staunton’s numerous stage roles continued to earn her critical success, frequent television and film roles made her a familiar and endearing face to the general public. [Ibid]

She stepped away from the crowd with a starring dramatic role in Vera Drake.

Her undeniably affecting portrayal of the title role — a selfless housewife and cleaning woman who makes a name for herself performing illegal abortions — earned her near-universal praise. After earning accolades from both The Venice Film Festival and The New York Film Festival as well as the Los Angeles and Chicago film critic associations, Staunton had undeniably arrived when the role earned her a Best Actress nomination for the 77th Annual Academy Awards. [Ibid]

She took home a BAFTA for Vera.

Français : Avant-Première Mondiale d'Harry Pot...

Français : Avant-Première Mondiale d’Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort, à Londres, le 7 Juillet 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2007 she, like many other classically trained British actors, found a new audience when she took a role in a Harry Potter film. Staunton played the nasty Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor in a fluffy pink cardigan, Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Some Ministry officials in Harry Potter and th...

Some Ministry officials in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, from left to right: John Dawlish, auror; Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister; Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic; and Kingsley Shacklebolt, auror. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She laced up a corset again for her supporting role as Miss Octavia Pole in the BBC’s delightful adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (and again for Return to Cranford).

Julia Mackenzie and Imelda Staunton

Julia Mackenzie and Imelda Staunton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Staunton has lent her voice to a number of acting projects including and animated version of the Wind in the Willows, The Adventures of Mole, The Adventures of Toad, The Ugly Duckling, and Chicken Run. She’s even did a turn as the voice of Interface on Dr. Who.

 


Frank Sinatra 12.12.12 Thought of the Day

“May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.”
— Frank Sinatra

Image courtesy last.fm

Image courtesy last.fm

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this day in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA in 1915. Today is the 97th anniversary of his birth.

Frank was the only child of Marty and Dolly Sinatra. As a kid he stood on top of the bar at a local nightclub and sang for tips. He dropped (or was kicked) out of high school, and help make ends meet at home by delivering the local paper, the Jersey Observer. He also worked as a riveter at a local shipyard. Although he couldn’t read music he began singing professionally by the mid 1930s when he joined the Three Flashes (they changed their name to the Hoboken Four.)

He worked as a singing waiter in Englewood Cliffs for $15 a week for almost 4 years. Then Henry James signed him for a one year contract at $75 a week. On July 13th, 1939, as the US was emerging from a decade of Depression and the world was on the advent of another great War, 23-year-old  Frank Sinatra recorded his first record, From the Bottom of my Heart, with the Harry James Orchestra.

He released 10 songs with James (none of which charted particularly high in their original pressing.) Sinatra switched to the more popular Tommy Dorsey’s band (with James’ blessing) in November. He recorded over 40 songs on Dorsey. One of his biggest hits with Dorsey was I’ll Never Smile Again.

By 1941 he was at the top of  both the Billboard and Down Beat magazine polls. Not only did he sell records, he opened up an entirely new audience — the bobby soxers (aka teenagers.) [It seems odd today — when so much of a company’s advertising budget goes toward capturing the 12-20 year old’s pocketbook — but prior to 1940 most consumers were adults.  Sinatra appealed to both adult women and bobby sox wearing girls.]

Image courtesy last.fm

Image courtesy last.fm

He went solo in 1943 and in the next three years he charted 17 times.  Sinatra was classified 4-F for military service because of a perforated eardrum, so he did not serve in the military.

He started making films as part of the Dorsey Band  with Las Vegas Nights and  Ship Ahoy, he had a walk on / singing part in the wonderfully named Reveille with Beverly but then had his first real role in Higher and Higher. He teamed with Gene Kelly for the hugely successful Anchors Aweigh in 1945.  It was the first of three Sinatra/Kelly films with Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town coming out in 1949.  He won a special academy award for his work on the (dated) short film The House I Live In. (1945)

At the beginning of the 1950’s Sinatra saw his popularity wane somewhat. The bobby soxers who had screamed out deafening choruses of “FRANKIE” for the thin, blue-eyed singer had found new idols to adore.

He came back with a bang with his next movie, 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He won an Oscar as bad boy Angelo Maggio.

Cover of "From Here to Eternity"

Cover of From Here to Eternity

The same year he signed with Capitol Records. In 1954 his album Swing Easy! was named Album of the Year by Billboard and the single Young At Heart was picked for Song of the year. Swing Easy was arranged by Nelson Riddle. Sinatra and Riddle worked together again for Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! which included I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

He poked fun at his mobster image in the movie version of Guys and Dolls. in 1955 as Nathan Detroit.  In 1956 he played Mike Connor to Grace Kelly’s Tracy Lord in High Society.  The next year he was Joey in Pal Joey.

He started his own record label in 1960, Reprise Records. 

In 1962 he starred in his most dramatic movie the classic political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate. [For my money The Manchurian Candidate is the best movie of the bunch.]

He was a founding member of the Rat Pack and worked alongside Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop in several movies and countless nightclub acts.

Here he is  having a ton of fun singing Lady Is a Tramp with the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald

Sinatra was a sucker for charities.  He raised over a billion dollars in the course of his life for charities all over the world.

His generosity touched the worlds of education, medicine, science, and children’s needs, his favorite cause. … Sometimes it was a late-night phone call that moved him; sometimes he just caught wind of a hard-luck story on the news or in the paper and did what he could to fix it. [Sinatra.com]

In 1962 he led a 12 country World Tour for Children that raised over a million dollars for children’s charities worldwide. He paid for the entire cost of the tour himself, and recruited other musical luminaries to join him.

He also worked against segregation , taking a major role in the desegregation of Nevada entertainment and hospitality industry in the 1960s. He boycotted venues and hotels where black performers and guest were banned. And he played benefits for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Equal Right Movement.

Sinatra received the Presidential medal of Freedom from Ronal Reagan in 1985.

Ole’ Blue Eyes faced his final curtain on May 14, 1998. He was 82 years old.

Frank older

Image courtesy last.fm


Thought of the Day 11.13.14 Steve Zahn

“Film is a strange thing.”
Steve Zahn

English: U.S. actor Steve Zahn

English: U.S. actor Steve Zahn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Steven James Zahn was born on this day in Marshall, Minnesota in 1967. He is 45 years old.

He started acting in high school when he discovered improv. After a year at Gustavus-Adolphus College and two years at the American Repertory Theatre he moved to New Jersey. Based in Hoboken he acted in New York and did odd jobs to pay the rent. He did a national tour of Bye, Bye Birdie directed by Tommy Tune. The gig last 13 months and Zahn met his future wife Robyn Peterman.

 

Cover of "That Thing You Do! - Tom Hank's...

Cover via Amazon

Zahn co-starred with Ethan Hawke in the play Sophistry  and Hawke recommended him for a part in the 1994 film Reality Bites. It was a break out role for Zahn and he followed it up with Crimson Tide and That Thing You Do!

He has made “an art out of portraying dysfunctional losers and likable freaks,” [AMG All Movie Guide: Steve Zahn] and he always made it look fun. From his turn as Rosencrantz in Michael Almereyda’s 2000 version of Hamlet to Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. in Happy Texas it is hard to take your eyes off him when he is on-screen.

 

Cover of "Rescue Dawn"

Cover of Rescue Dawn

There are some dramatic roles in his CV, to be sure. For his part as Duane in Rescue Dawn. Zahn lost 40lbs.

He currently plays Jazz loving Davis McAlary on HBO’s Treme. He taps into his musical side for the show and sings and plays on screen.

Zahn lives on a farm in Kentucky with his wife and kids.  He raises hay on the farm because it is easy, it allows him time away from the farm to work, and it is just funny to say.


Thought of the Day 11.6.12 John Philip Sousa

“Jazz will endure just as long people hear it through their feet instead of their brains.” –John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song.

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t think of any one who would make a better Thought of the Day Bio subject on Election Day 2012 than John Philip Sousa. He practically wrote the soundtrack for American patriotism AND he’s got a great mustache. What’s not to like?

He was born on this day in Washington, DC, USA in 1854. Today is the 158th anniversary of his birth.

He started his music career playing the violin, and soon added voice, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone and alto horn to the mix.  After John Phillip tried to run away to join a circus band, his father, John Antonio Sousa,  “enlisted him in the Marines at age 13 as an apprentice…”[John Philip Sousa] in 1867.

He wrote and published his first composition “Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes” in 1875 and was honorably discharged from the Marines two years later. Sousa “began performing (on violin), touring and eventually conducting theater orchestras. Conducted Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.” [Ibid] While rehearsing Pinafore he met his wife Jane van Middlesworth Bellis.

In 1880 he returned to the US Marine Band as the Band’s leader, a post he kept for next 12 years.  Sousa conducted

“The President’s Own”, serving under presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur and Harrison. After two successful but limited tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band. [Ibid]

Sousa and his newly-formed civilian band, 1893

Sousa and his newly-formed civilian band, 1893 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sousa wrote his own operetta, El Capitan in 1895.

He wrote 136 marches including Semper Fidelis March, King Cotton, Fairest of the Fair, Hands Across the Sea, And Stars and Stripes Forever — which he wrote in 1896. (In 1987 Congress proclaimed it the National March of the United States)

He designed a new type of bass tuba called the sousaphone. The Sousa Band toured throughout the world.

During World War I, Sousa joins the US Naval Reserve at age 62. He is assigned the rank of lieutenant and paid a salary of $1 per month…. After the war, Sousa continued to tour with his band. He championed the cause of music education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composers’ rights, testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928.[Ibid]

Sousa died at the age of 77 in Reading, Pennsylvania after conducting a rehearsal. Fittingly, the last piece he conducted was Stars and Stripes Forever.

"Stars and Stripes Forever" (sheet m...

“Stars and Stripes Forever” (sheet music) Page 4 of 5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click HERE for a page with lots of audio clips of Sousa marches.

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Thought of the Day 10.15.12 P. G. Wodehouse

“I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.”“There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.”“I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed I suppose.”–P.G. Wodehouse

P. G. Wodehouse, Bolton's friend and collaborator

“I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.”

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born on this day in Guildford, Surrey, England in 1881. This is the 131st anniversary of his birth.

Wodehouse, called “Plum” as a child, spent much of his early life in the care of a gaggle of aunts and at boarding schools in England, while his parents lived in the Far East. Third of four boys, Wodehouse was close to his brothers.  He went to The Chalet School, Elizabeth College in Guernsey, Malvern House (near Dover) and finally at Dulwich College with his older brother Armine. He flourished at Dulwich where he played sports (especially boxing, cricket and rugby), studied the classics, sang and acted in the school’s theatricals, and of course, wrote.)

Psmith in the City

Psmith in the City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Upon graduation in 1900 ailing family finances meant he couldn’t go on to Oxford like Armine. Instead, Plum’s father got him a job in the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. He wrote about his experiences at the bank in Psmith in the City, but he said he “never learned a thing about banking.”  In 1902 he gave up the financial farce and dove into journalism  with a job writing a comic column at The Globe newspaper. He moved to New York and published his first novel, The Pothunters the same year.  A Prefect’s Uncle; Love Among the Chickens; The Swoop; Psmith In the City; Psmith, Journalist; The Prince and Betty; and  Something New followed fairly quickly there after.

The Prince and Betty

The Prince and Betty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He also wrote for musicals. He penned the book for Cole Porter’s Anything Goes; the Gershwin’ s Oh Kay . He worked with Ira Gershwin on the lyrics for Rosalie. And he wrote dozens of musicals — generically called the Princess Theatre Musicals — with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern. [For a complete list of Wodehouse musicals go to The Playwrights Database at doolee.com]   The Princess Theatre Musical are generally seen as a stepping stone that took the best of vaudeville and operetta and blended them into modern musical theatre. They transitioned

“… the haphazard musicals of the past to the newer, more methodical modern musical comedy … the libretto is remarkably pun-free and the plot is natural and unforced. Charm was uppermost in the creators’ minds … the audience could relax, have a few laughs, feel slightly superior to the silly undertakings on stage, and smile along with the simple, melodic, lyrically witty but undemanding songs” [Bloom and Vlastnic Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time]

My Man Jeeves

My Man Jeeves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting with My Man Jeeves in 1919 Wodehouse published the series of books for which is he best known, The Jeeves and Wooster books.  Here’s a clip from the 1990 Granada Television production of Jeeves and Wooster starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry:

He also wrote the Blandings Castle series about a fictional castle with Lord Emsworth and his prize-winning pig, the “Empress of Blandings.”

Since he and his wife, Ethel Wayman, were officially residents of both England and the US they were being taxed by both countries. To alleviate the tax burden they moved to France in 1934. The Wodehouse’s remained in France when the Nazi troops moved in. Wodehouse was interned as an “enemy alien” eventually landing in Tost, Upper Silesia, Poland. He later quipped of  his ‘lodgings’ “If this is Upper Silesia, what on earth must Lower Silesia be like?” He entertained his fellow prisoners with dialogues and wrote during his two-year internment (he completed one novel and started two more). He was released just prior to his 60th birthday when a German friend from his Hollywood days, Werner Plack, approached him about doing a broadcast for the Americans describing his life as an internee.  America was not at war with Germany yet, and he had received many letters of encouragement from his fans in the US while in the camp. He saw this as a way to thank them. And, Wodehouse claimed,  he was simply reflecting the “flippant, cheerful attitude of all British prisoners.” [the Guardian]  in the broadcasts. But the British public didn’t see it that way, and neither did MI5. He was interrogated for suspected collaboration with the Germans — something that shocked the aging author. “I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions,” [ibid] Wodehouse maintained that he never had intended to aid the enemy. But the incident left a bad taste with both the Wodehouses and the British public. The author moved to the US in 1945, and never went back to England.

Wodehouse died in 1975.

books - wodehouse

books – wodehouse (Photo credit: rocketlass)


Thought of the Day 10.12.12 Hugh Jackman

“Basically, I’ll make an ass of myself anywhere.”
Hugh Jackman

[Image courtesy: RealHughJackman (his twitter feed)]

Hugh Michael Jackman was born on this day in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1968. He is 44 years old.

The youngest of five ankle-biters, Jackman was raised by his father when his parents divorced. Jackman was eight-years-old at the time. He grew up with a love of the outdoors and enjoyed camping and playing on the beach. His first brush with acting was in My Fair Lady in Knox Grammar School at 17. He earned a degree in Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney in 1991. To finish up his university work he took some acting classes and found his muse.

After finishing a one-year intensive course called “The Journey” at the Actor’s Center in Sydney he hopped coasts to Perth to attend the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University.

Promotional still from Correlli . [Image courtesy: IMDb]

Almost immediately after graduating from ECU he was offered the part of  Kevin Jones in a 10-part prison drama on Australian Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) Correlli. Jackman began dating  his future wife, the series star, Deborra-Lee Furness on the show’s set.

After Correlli Jackman hit the stage for the Melbourne based productions of  Beauty and the Beast (as Gaston) and Sunset Boulevard (as Joe). Back in the cinema he was in the Australian indie films Erskinesville Kings and the rom-com Paperback Hero. He also did a smattering television guest spots on the ABC.

Still from the filmed staged production of Oklahoma! [Image courtesy: Great Performances]

His big international break came as Curley in Trevor Nunn’s reboot of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” Jackman won an Oliver Award for his work in the musical.

Don’t mess with this man! Jackman snagged the #1 spot in the Top Ten Hollywood Heroes List on Netscape Celebrity’s pole, beating out Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. [Image courtesy: Netscape Celebrity]

Then came the role that changed everything. Wolverine. He’s played the Clawed One in five movies now (he holds the record for an actor playing the same super ‘hero’ in the most movies.)  The X-Men franchise was hugely popular and found an audience across genres and generations.

He followed up rough and hairy Wolverine with the role of refined and charming Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth MountbattenDuke of Albany in the time travel rom-com Kate and Leopold.

Jackman switched gears again, next appearing as a ex-con computer hacker who unwittingly gets involved in John Travolta’s crime circle in Swordfish.

Local advertising for the musical The Boy from...

Local advertising for the musical The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman in New York City, 2004. Cropped from original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2004 he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of fellow Aussie Peter Allen  in The Boy  from Oz. He hosted the Tonys for three years running (’03, ’04, and ’05) and won an Emmy Award for his emcee work in ’04.

He reprised Wolverine in X2: X-Men United, then starred as Gabriel Van Helsing in the rather ridiculous (and IMO dismal) Van Helsing.

He fared better as one of a pair of dueling magicians (Christian Bale was the other) in The Prestige in 2006. It didn’t hurt the movie that David Bowie added his talents as Nikola Tesla.

Personally, I liked the weird and romantic The Fountain. It was a big, strange, time traveling ride, and I just went with it. I thought Jackman and co-star Rachel Weisz had a lot of movie charisma and, for me at least, it worked. NOT so much for his next film Scoop.

Scoop should have been good. It starred the equally like able Scarlett Johanson and was written and directed by Woody Allen. It is supposed to be a comedy/ mystery hybrid but it isn’t funny and it isn’t suspenseful, and there was very little chemistry between the stars. So sad.

His star took a mediocre swing up again with X-Men: The Last Stand. He was good again as the muscled, intense Wolverine. But not a lot of new territory was covered character wise in the this, the third installment of the franchise.

Then my Hugh Jack admiration took a real dive. He provided the voice for two animated movies. He adopted a strange (southern?) accent to play Memphis, the father emperor penguin to Elijah Wood’s tap dancing Mumble in Happy Feet. Then he played a rat who gets flushed down the pipes in Flushed Away. Human again he played Wyatt Bose in the “thriller” Deception.

 

Cover of "Australia"

Cover of Australia

Baz Luhrmann’s Australia gave Jackman a chance to star in an epic, big budget, old-fashioned, romantic movie. It is very Luhrmann in style, and the director wisely lets Jackman’s natural Aussie charm shine through the rough and tumble character of the Drover . (Though, for the record, Brandon Walters, as Nullah, steals the show.) With the unforgiving but beautiful outback as the title character, and the  nicely filmed attack of Darwin,  Australia worked.

He was in the ensemble comedy Butter and played a down on his luck boxer in the heart warming Real Steel both of which that came out last fall.

Jackman has several projects upcoming including his role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables coming out this Christmas.

[Image courtesy Joblo’s Movie Posters]


Thought of the Day 10.1.12 Julie Andrews

“Sometimes I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.”
–Julie Andrews

[Image courtesy: NNDB]

Julia Elizabeth Wellswas born on this day in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England in 1935. She is 77 years old.

Her parents divorced when  Julie was a baby. Both parents remarried and Julie lived primarily with her mother and stepfather Ted Andrews, whom she called “Pop.” Julie’s last name was changed to Andrews to make the transition easier. According to Julie they were “very poor and we lived in a bad slum area of London,”

In the movie version of The Sound of Music she sings “Perhaps I had a wicked childhood / Perhaps I had a miserable youth / But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past / There must have been a moment of truth…” While those lyrics were written for her character, Maria, they echo a past that Andrew’s called “a very black period in my life.” Her stepfather was an alcoholic (so was her mother to a lesser degree.) Julie had to put a lock on her bedroom door after Pop tried, drunkenly, to get into bed with her, twice.

Both her mother and her stepfather were entertainers. Her mother, who had trained as a classical pianist, helped to make ends meet by giving lessons and accompanying vaudeville acts. Mom and Pop had their own act and at about 10 Julie began to appear with them on stage. Soon Julie joined the act on a regular basis. She’d have to take a nap in the afternoon so she could be bright and alert on stage late into the night. She took singing lessons and was said to have both perfect pitch and a four octave range. (She denies the perfect pitch.)

During World War II she lived through the Blitz.

She remembers spending some nights on the neighborhood subway platform, listening for unmanned bombers so that she could alert the neighbors of danger. Her parents once awakened to find an unexploded incendiary bomb in the tenement courtyard just outside their kitchen window. They once watched a mid-air dogfight directly above them. [Visions Fantastic]

She performed for King George VI’s family during the 1948 Royal Command Variety Performance in London. (She is the youngest performer ever to do so.) The Andrews act went on radio and TV. She was a cast member on the radio show Educating Archie from 1950-1952.

Julie Andrews in a introspective moment [Image courtesy: VisualizeUs]

At 19 she made her Broadway debut as Polly Browne in The Boyfriend. Next she auditioned for the new musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and created the role of Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.

Andrews as Eliza in My Fair Lady circa 1956. [Image courtesy: The Seattle Times]

During her Broadway run of My Fair Lady she transformed from rags to riches again in the 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical version of Cinderella for CBS TV.

In 1959 she married set designer Tony Walton.

Her next Broadway triumph was in 1960 as Queen Guinevere to Richard Burton’s King Arthur and Robert Goulet’s Lancelot in Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot.

She was terrific as both Eliza and Guinevere, but when it came time to make major motion pictures of the musicals the producers opted  for actresses with more proven box office success. Jack Warner gave Eliza to Audrey Hepburn. Vanessa Redgrave got Guinevere. Andrews returned to England to have her daughter Emma instead.

The Disney company thought Andrews would be Practically Perfect for their adaptation of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins and offered her the role in their 1964 film. Andrews won an Oscar for this, her first, major motion picture. In her acceptance speech for the Golden Globe Andrews, with a bit of whimsy, thanked the man who “made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner.”

In 1965 Andrews stepped into the role of Maria Von Trapp for the 20th Century Fox movie of The Sound of Music. It went on to become the third highest grossing film ever made. The soundtrack sold more than 11 million copies.

United  Artists produced Andrews next movie, Hawaii based on the novel by James A Michener.  The film earned more than $6 million, and was 1966’s biggest box office hit.

Also in 1966, she co-starred with Paul Newman in Cold War psychological thriller Torn Curtain for director Alfred Hitchcock.

Andrew’s next movie musical was Thoroughly Modern Millie for Universal Pictures.

The 70s were quiet for Andrews. She divorced Warner and married director Blake Edwards. Although she continued to do television work — including a variety show, guest spots and specials — she focused much of her time during the disco decade raising her family.

In Edwards’s 1981 film S.O.B. she rather famously shed her innocent image by barring her breast. The next year she played dual roles in Victor Victoria and earned another Golden Globe Award.

The Princess Diaries gave her career yet another breath of fresh air as she co-starred as Queen Clarisse Renaldi with Anne Hathaway. She put on the crown again for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagementt in 2004.  The same year she donned an animated crown was Queen Lillian for Shrek 2 (and the subsequent Shrek sequels) and she narrated Enchanted. She also voiced the character of Marlena in Despicable Me in 2010.

She was given the title Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for her work both in the entertainment industry and for her involvement in charitable organizations like Save the Children, the UN’s Fund for Women and the Foundation for Hereditary Disease.


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