Lost radio interviews with late Hollywood legends including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby are to be broadcast in Britain after the tapes were discovered in a family archive. The interviews, which also include chats with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, were originally recorded by radio presenter Benny Green for a 26-part series called Hooray for Hollywood, and were partly broadcast by the BBC in the 1970s.
Green, who died in 1998, kept tapes of the recordings in his personal archive and they have now resurfaced after they were discovered by his son, Leo Green.
The recordings will be aired in two parts across Christmas Day (25Dec13) and Boxing Day (26Dec13) on Britain's BBC Radio 2, with Leo presenting a Hollywood Special featuring a mixture of his father's work and the corporation's own archive material.
Leo tells Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "These songs, stories and voices deserve not to be sat in a cupboard gathering dust. The artists we will hear from are some of the greatest performers of all time.
"When some of my friends' dads passed away, they got left a set of golf clubs and a few ill fitting suits. I have been fortunate enough to have been left an incredible and historical archive and I'm really excited to have the chance to share these interviews."
Actress and dancer Larri Thomas has died, aged 81. The star famously performed a striptease for Dean Martin at the start of The Silencers and appeared in South Pacific, The Pajama Game, Guys & Dolls and Road to Bali, opposite Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Thomas also served as a stand-in for Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music and had small parts in those films, too.
In addition, she worked alongside Dean Martin on his popular NBC variety show and danced with Fred Astaire on his live TV specials.
Times were hard.
The stock market had crashed. The national unemployment rate hovered around 25%. Banks foreclosed on countless homes and farms. A series of large-scale environmental disasters had disrupted the economic livelihood of whole regions. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the movie fantasies Americans turned to in the 1930s represented an escapist contrast to the hardship facing much of the United States. And there was no greater embodiment of that silver-screen escapism than Fred Astaire. With his top hat, white tie, tails, and cane, Astaire waltzed into moviegoers hearts with the high thread-count, “Putting on the Ritz” charm of movies like Top Hat and Swing Time. A decade later Astaire had given way to low-key crooner Bing Crosby, who was the top box office draw every year from 1944-48 and remains the third highest movie-ticket seller of all time, behind only Clark Gable and John Wayne. The audiences that opened up their pocket books en masse to see Astaire and Crosby thought nothing of the fact that they would spontaneously “break into song” in their films. It was just a convention of the genre, and, more important, an expression of cinematic joy.
In 2012, however, the movie musical is far from its former place as the most popular of Hollywood film genres. The attention given Les Misérables, opening on Christmas Day, is the exception that proves the rule. Today, audiences even complain about the difficulty they have suspending disbelief at the very act of movie characters “breaking into song.” And if something as fundamental as breaking into song is now a dealbreaker, no wonder any given movie year features only one or two musicals, as opposed to the dozens Hollywood used to produce annually. “The reality is that people need to be coaxed toward a musical today,” says Alan Menken, eight-time Oscar winner and composer of Disney’s blockbuster animated musicals from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to Tangled. “They need to understand why it’s a musical. ‘Do I have to hear people sing their thoughts and feelings? Oh, no!’ And then they end up loving it.”
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That kind of coaxing never used to be necessary at the height of the movie musical in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Is it a cultural shift that explains this change? Ana Perlstein, a musical fan and recent dance major graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, thinks so. “We’ve become too jaded to accept the kind of escapist musicals that the ‘30s provided,” Perlstein says. “People really think, ‘No, you can’t just magically break into song and dance and everything will be okay. The world doesn’t work that way.'”
Then why do we think that when superheroes put on capes, masks, and Spandex “everything will be okay”? Why have boy wizards, hobbits, and Jedi become easier to believe in than people breaking into song? Audiences’ capacity for fantasy remains as strong as ever, but the types of fantasies for which they’re willing to suspend disbelief has changed. The respective evolutions of both the movie musical and the sci-fi/fantasy spectacle explains this phenomenon. As different as both genres are, both have been subject to the advent of “high concept” storytelling. And that pretty much explains exactly why successful movie musicals are few and far between, while sci-fi/fantasy flicks are routinely blockbusters.
There was a time when musicals, on Broadway and in movies, were only about people breaking into song. In the ‘20s, New York’s Ziegfeld Follies never had stories. They were glorified vaudeville acts with an emphasis on sex and spectacle, one-off musical showcases punctuated by two-bit comedy sketches. Early movie musicals like Best Picture Oscar winner The Broadway Melody followed a similar pattern. That all began to change with the debut in 1927 of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Showboat, often considered the first truly story-driven musical, in which the songs advance the narrative and illuminate the characters. It also became the major template for the “integrated musicals” that Hollywood eventually found to be most conducive to its storytelling, musicals that didn’t have spectacle for spectacle’s sake but deployed their songs organically within their narratives. As much of a show-stopper as Agnes DeMille’s dream-sequence ballet is in Oklahoma! it doesn’t stop the show. It reveals fundamental truths about the central character, her thoughts, feelings, fears, and dreams. By narrativizing the musical, people embraced the genre more than ever. They suddenly had characters they could identify with, even if those characters broke out into song, not just chorus lines and showgirls. In a superstar like Fred Astaire the Depression Era audience found a perfectly-tailored embodiment of their own champagne-fizzy fantasies—and lifestyle aspirations.
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This model of musical moviemaking remained more or less in place until the early 1970s, though the “meta musical,” musicals that self-consciously displayed and embraced the artifice of the genre also became popular: movies like Singin’ In the Rain and The Band Wagon that tweaked the genre’s conventions while still expressing the greatest admiration for them. Musicals would become more and more self-aware throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s until they, like sci-fi/fantasy around the same time, veered toward “high concept.” “Most successful musicals today need to attach themselves to something bigger, a concept that will make people feel immediately connected to it,” says Menken, who himself blurred the parameters of the musical and sci-fi/fantasy genres with his score for Little Shop of Horrors, an ‘80s musical based on a ‘60s Roger Corman cheapie about human-eating plants. “Years ago, Howard Ashman [Menken’s lyricist on Little Shop] believed you should be able to say about a musical that ‘This is the blank musical.’ Little Shop is ‘the monster musical.’ Dreamgirls is the ‘Motown girl-group musical.’ People like the form to be ruffled up and reinvented, to be something familiar. But with a twist. And if they understand the concept, if they really get it, the ‘breaking into song barrier’ isn’t that daunting after all. It just depends how strong your storytelling is.”
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
On a particularly sunny spring morning last year, I was on the way to my SoHo office when I noticed a sizable production crew on Crosby Street. As I approached the set, I saw all the telltale signs of a location shoot: trailers, craft services, cameras and monitors, etc. Though the scene looked pretty standard to me, the set was partially dressed with one piece of discernible evidence revealing what was being filmed – a brown sign hanging above a random boutique emblazoned with the words “Juan’s Magical Emporium” in a recognizable shade of light blue. It was then that I realized The Smurfs were going to take the entire island of Manhattan (not just the customary cinematic sections of the Big Apple – Times Square, Central Park, etc.), but I still wasn’t convinced that the film would do the 50-year-old property justice.
That sentiment changed after I saw first-hand what Columbia Pictures is doing to bring legendary artist Peyo’s lovable creations to life. I was invited to Queens’ renowned Kaufman Astoria Studio’s, where interiors were being shot and the production’s offices were housed. Once inside, I was treated to never-before-seen footage from the film and an in-depth review of the beautifully rendered concept art that helped costume and production designers create the magical world in which the Smurfs live, as well as access to some of the talent and executives involved in the fun-filled, live-action/CGI motion picture. Most Smurftastic, though, was the opportunity to see a vibrant scene being filmed. It was an extensive and eye-popping exploration of The Smurfs and if you keep reading, you’ll see exactly why old fans and new (as well as Sony Pictures) have so much to be excited about.
Let me start from the beginning of my entertaining journey. As I walked through the halls of the production offices, I noticed something incredibly encouraging: Smurf coffee mugs, Smurf pens and pencils, Smurf mouse pads – the staff may well have been wearing Smurf underwear. It had become quite clear to me that everyone involved in the film, from the gracious publicists who got me in there to the accountants tallying petty cash receipts, was immersed in the mythology and nostalgia of Peyo’s world. With a workforce of dedicated fans such as these, I can say with confidence that the finished product that director Raja Gosnell will deliver on July 29th will be an authentic representation of the characters that I had grown up with: carefree, fun and full of innocent laughs.
I continued on through the fantastically decorated offices (covered with character design developments and various pieces of production art) until I came to a clearing where chairs had been set up for all of the intrepid journalists. In front of us stood a chair with the name “Patrick” tagged on it – it didn’t take me long to figure out that Neil Patrick Harris was on the way.
Every bit the entertainer we’ve known and loved since Doogie Hauser M.D., Harris was an absolute delight to talk to: amusing, informative and kind. He let us know that, at this time, he and his on-screen wife Grace (played by Glee’s Jayma Mays) had finished filming their parts and that most of their work was done on the Kaufman soundstages, though they had also shot scenes at landmark NYC locations like Central Park and FAO Schwarz. Additionally, he told us which Smurfs they’d grown most attached to, namely Papa Smurf (who shares many frames with Harris), Smurfette and Clumsy Smurf (who spend much of their time by Grace’s side). It’s a good thing that he got so close to the little blue guys, too, because the best part of the interview was finding out that he’s already signed on for a Smurfs sequel!
As cool as it was to hang with NPH, the most interesting part of the set visit was getting to chat with producer Jordan Kerner, who is a living encyclopedia of Smurf knowledge. A veteran of family films like George of the Jungle and Inspector Gadget, there’s no filmmaker better suited to bring a beloved property of this size to the big screen. Kerner guided us through the art department, where we saw renderings of Patrick and Grace’s Manhattan apartment before and after it gets “Smurf’d”, Gargamel’s gothic castle and the Smurf village. Fans will fall in love with these fantastic environments because of how well they blend Peyo’s vision and Hanna-Barbera’s version of his stories. I particularly enjoyed hearing Kerner talk about how he wanted the Smurfs’ recognizable mushroom houses to accurately resemble real mushrooms – a trippy creative choice that might raise a few eyebrows but will certainly gain the respect of die-hard Smurf followers.
Of course, making a movie like this isn’t all fun and games. Kerner told us all about the pros and cons of filming in the Big Apple as well as the amount of time it took to get the project off the ground. For instance, did you know that he’s been pursuing the rights to the property since 1997?! Further, did you know that perfecting the look of the digital Smurfs in the movie was going to take a whopping 18 months?! It just proves that turning a popular property into a major motion picture is a time-consuming labor of love, but Kerner promises nothing but the best when the boys in blue hit the big screen this month.
And speaking of the boys (and girls) in blue, let’s give a brief shout out to all of the Smurfs who will end up on the big screen! There’s Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry), Gutsy Smurf (Alan Cumming), Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez), Jokey Smurf (Paul Reubens), Greedy Smurf (Kenan Thompson), Baker Smurf (B.J. Novak), Handy Smurf (Jeff Foxworthy), Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen), Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), Panicky Smurf (Adam Wylie), Vanity Smurf (John Oliver) and finally, Hefty Smurf (Gary Basaraba). All of them have unique and dynamic personalities that have been fully realized thanks to scores of animators and the actors who play them, so there will be plenty to choose from as your "favorite" (and also plenty of toys to buy). But as cool as it was to learn all about these cute characters the absolute best part of the set visit was getting to chat with their infamous nemesis Gargamel!
At one point the great Wallace Shawn was rumored to be donning the unmistakable brown cloak of the Smurfs’ assailant, but by the time cameras were rolling screen and stage veteran Hank Azaria settled nicely into the role, as evidenced not only by the conversation we had with him (in character, with full make-up and costume on including the longest, most flexible fake nose I’ve ever seen) but by watching him shoot a hilarious scene that will play toward the end of the film! Without giving too much away, I’ll say that it involves plenty of grooving-and-shaking atop Belvedere Castle in Central Park, and is the cherry on top of an all-around Smurftastic sundae!
Whether you’re an avid reader of Peyo’s books, a longtime fan of the unforgettable Hanna-Barbera cartoon or a ravenous collector of all things Smurf, Columbia Pictures’ take on this beloved property is sure to make waves at your local multiplex, so get ready to paint the town blue!
Neil Young (well, Jimmy Fallon) performed an amazing cover of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" on Late Night -- but before he could wrap it up, he was joined by his old collaborators Graham Nash and David Crosby to give us the best harmonies since, well, Deja Vu.
Kevin Bacon talked with David Letterman on The Late Show about a couple speeding tickets he's gotten over the years -- and how he's managed to work his way out of them. The main reason? Footloose! Because, of course the main reason Kevin Bacon would get out of a speeding ticket would be Footloose.
Chaz Bono chatted with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show about why he decided to turn his life into a documentary. He also shared that his father gave him the nickname of Fred and, apparently, he liked it.