Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

My Favorite Western Ever: Shane

April 10, 2011

Westerns. They don’t make ’em like they used to, but last year’s remake of “True Grit” came close.

I can count my favorite movies from this genre on the fingers of one hand. That movie-digital palm would include Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Chuck Connors, Jean Simmons, and Charles Bickford in “The Big Country” from 1958; John Wayne, Jeffery Hunter, Ward Bond, and Natalie Wood in “The Searchers” from 1956; Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Walter Brennan in “Gunfight at the OK Corral” from 1958; John Wayne (again), Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, and Walter Brennan (again) in “Red River” from 1948; and lastly, my all-time, by-a-landslide -favorite-for-its-narrative-theme-and-dialogue-detail, I pick Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon de Wilde, Jack Palance, Ben Johnson, and all the others who made 1953’s “Shane” my greatest western of all time.

The narrative themes were all present and accounted for – and clear as day: (1) the west is big; (2) cowboys and farmers can’t always be friends when it comes to their different ideas on how all this big land should be used; (3) farmers aren’t always the greatest conversationalist; (2) farmer’s wives get bored out there on the plains; (4) straggling ex-gunfighters who suddenly drift into the farm as temporary workers can look pretty good to a bored housewife; (5) even the ten-year old son of the stoic farmer sees the drifter worker as an intriguing role model, based on his demonstrated ability for shooting a gun; (6) now run all these little intrigues smack dab into the side of the fact that the area’s main cattle baron is aiming to run this farmer and all other “sod-busters” off the plains just as soon as possible by whatever means it takes.

An old gunfighter is sort like baseball’s modern designated hitter. Even though he’s aging, and wants to quit, sure as fire, people keep coming up with money and reasons for him to step up to the plate one more time and take a few final whacks. It doesn’t take long for Alan Ladd as “Shane” to find himself in that spot. In the old west, “DH” stood for “designated hero. or hellion,” depending on your point of view.

Wouldn’t you just know it? The farmers have to do their Saturday shopping for supplies at the same little combination store and saloon where the cowboys also like to drink the weekend away. Talk about a setup for a gunfight. You’d almost think the scriptwriter had some “this can’t be good” outcomes in mind when they designed the little combo market and joy juice joint they named “Grafton’s.”

Sure enough. The first time in the store, and all dressed up in a sodbuster blue jean outfit, Shane goes through the swinging door that separates the store from the bar, but not to buy a drink of alcohol. Shane is going in there to buy a “sody pop” to go for the kid they call “Joey.”

Big mistake. Cowboy Ben Johnson leads a big several round laugh track worthy belittlement of Shane for walking into a man’s saloon and ordering a soft drink. Man! It’s a good thing Shane didn’t ask the bartender at Grafton’s if he had any Coke Zero! Ordering plain old root beer was bad enough.

Still, not wanting to start a war, Shane keeps himself in check, leaving the impression with one and all, including little Joey, that the big mouth of Ben Johnson was wide enough to “put the run on another sodbuster.”

While Shane sits on his bruised ego for a week, a lot happens. Ranch King Ryker takes the Shane backdown as a sign that he is safe to make things worse for the sodbusters, He accelerates the random destruction of their crops and property. A different Shane goes to market with the farmers the next Saturday. He’s still dressed in work jeans, but his mind is all guns-and-fists guy.

Returning to the bar, Ben Johnson walks over to resume his round of insults. “What are you doing here, Shane?” Johnson asks. “Did you think we was going to let you come in here and drink with the men?”

Shane is cool.

“I came in here to buy you a drink,” Shane answers, as he takes a drink and throws it on Johnson’s shirt, right before he punches him to the floor with a hard right cross.  A big fight breaks out between the farmers and the cowboys, with the sod-busters getting the best of the bout at fist’s end.

Farmers are fickle. The previous Saturday, they left Grafton’s in fear that they had not done enough. This time they left fearing that they had done too much. And they were probably right, if you want to measure things by the short-term reaction from rancher Ryker.

Ryker first reacts as though he were the George Steinbrenner of the Plains. Sensing Shane as new competitive trouble, he tries to buy him,, but the old old DH turns him down. As a first result of rejection, the burning of sodbuster crops and homes picks up.

Then Ryker gets serious.

He hires another still active DH, the serpentine gunfighter known as “Jack Wilson,” played so beautifully evil in his ways by a young Jack Palance. Well, sir, I got to tell you. Old Jack Wilson promptly goes out of his way to kill a blow-hard Alabama farmer named “Stonewall,” played by Elisha Cook, Jr., after the poor misguided farmer had the nerve to go to town alone, except for one buddy, to shop for supplies during the week. Wilson baits Stonewall into drawing his gun and then shoots the fear-frozen farmer to death in the muddy soil of a rainy day on the only street in town.

The news of Stonewall’s death is all that Shane needs to release the soul of his inner killer. He first has to knock out dull farmer Heflin to earn the title shot, but he then rides back to town in the dark wearing his own DH buckskins and his trusty Colt .45. Little Joey and his dog follow Shane to town on foot and they get there just in time to hear this encounter between their hero and Mr. Wilson.

Shane is standing at the bar, but he turns around to speak to the man sitting alone at a table by the far wall.

“So you’re Jack Wilson,” Shane says, “I’ve heard about you.”

“What have you heard, Shane?” asks a smiling sinister Wilson, as he stands and drops his hands by his sides.”

“I’ve heard that you’re a no-good, low down,  rotten Yankee liar!” Shane answers.

“Prove it!” Wilson demands, as he prepares to draw fire.

‘KER-BLOOEY!” answers the Colt .45 of DH Shane – and its out of the park!

Jack Wilson is blown away for good.

Unfortunately, Shane also has to shoot Ryker and his little brother before he can escape Grafton’s Saloon with his own life, but he is also hit by a cheap shot from above by the brother that would likely have been fatal too, had it not been for a “look out, Shane” warning yell from little Joey.

Injured, but restored, it is time for Shane to go, and he knows it. Ignoring the pleas of little Joey to stay because “mama’s got things for you to do,” Shane advises Joey to mind his parents and “grow up straight and strong.” Then Shane rides off into the high country, with little Joey still calling, “Come back Shane,” until the hero disappears.

Whatever Mama needed, it now will have to be provided by the sodbuster she married. Shane has taken his DH/gunfighter mystique powers and vanished over the mountain.

If they ever made a finer western than “Shane,” I just never saw it.

Bowery Boys English Lessons.

May 15, 2010

Dimwit Sidekick Huntz Hall & Gang Boss Leo Gorcey: Bowery Boy Kingpins of the 1940s B Movie Series Circuit.

The boys started out as the Dead End Kids, the “when things go wrong” bad examples of what the mean city streets will do to a kid when he’s had nothing but bad company for as his role models. The year was 1937. The movie was “Dead End.” The star was Humphrey Bogart. From there through the early 1950s, “the boys” made a living as stars of their own B movie comedy series in which they were ariously known as the “Dead End Kids,” the “East Side Kids,” and most famously as, the “Bowery Boys.”

Actor Leo Gorcey starred as “Slip Mahoney,” aka “Mugs McGinnis;” Huntz Hall, if memory serves, was always known as “Sach,” the mentally challenged sidekick of the the gang that also included “Whitey” and three or four others who never had any speaking parts, but they were all regular movie performers on Saturdays at kid fares offered at places like our own turf theatre, the Avalon at 75th and Lawndale in the Houston East End, just after the end of World War II.

“The Boys” always gathered at Louie’s Sweet Shop on the lower East Side. Tiny, nervous shopkeeper Louie Dumbrowski was played by Leo Gorcey’s 4’10” tall father, Bernard Gorcey. “Louie’s” constant nerve-wracking worry was over the fact that he allowed the Bowery Boys to run up a soda credit tab that they never got around to paying. How he stayed in business is anyone’s guess. He never seemed to have any other customers beyond his band of deadbeat teens.

Leo Gorcey’s schtick was that he always tried to come off smarter and better educated than he actually was. The result was a non-stop flow of spoken malaprops that only became funnier to some of us as we aged, read more, and learned to recognize better what he was doing.


(1) Slip (Leo Gorcey) wants to butt into a conversation, so he says, “Pardon me for protrudin’!”

(2) Slip to Louie (regarding his soda tab): “I’d love to pay somethin’ on the bill, Louie, but today my funds are a little bit constipated.”

(3) Slip’s financial plan: “OK, boys, empty your pockets. Let’s pool our money and catapult it into something safe that pays well.”

(4) Slip, on making friends with a guy he doesn’t trust: ” My happiness over our new friendship is only surpassed by my mortification over the idea.”

(5) Slip to receptionist over the phone: “Let me speak to Mr. Smith right away. What I have to say to him is rather impertinent.”

Somehow, most of us who grew up in the Houston East End on a steady diet of Bowery Boys and Charlie Chan films actually reached adulthood without a warped sense of word meaning and with no impairment to our skills for proper contextual  application of certain words.

Have a nice Saturday brunch or lunch, everybody, and may whatever you order come packed with a delirious taste. If you think of what you really want to eat hard enough today  before you trace your order, your compensation will be rewarded in a way that feels desultory.

Have fun! Life’s short! (I don’t have a way to misstate those two sentences.)

Movie Review: The Wolfman.

February 20, 2010

Lon Chaney, Jr. (1941)

Benecio Del Toro (2010)

My adult son Neal and I went to see the new version of “The Wolfman” yesterday. As a lifelong fan of the classic horror films, I could not have missed it for anything, although I must admit to some expectation of disappointment that I carried with me into the Cinemark Theatre at Memorial City Mall. The great early Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney flicks about Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolfman all had that beautifully seductive storyline and the measured pandering to our fear of the unknown going for them to make them great. Modern horror films too often give way quickly to “slash and claw” scenes of nauseating visual results. They also have those animated wonders of modern technology going for them full speed in place of plot quite often too. There is usually nothing mysterious about them. Once the gore starts, it doesn’t stop. It’s as though the young producers play every new horror movie to an audience they assume suffers from a group infection of attention deficit disorder.  They assume that there  has to be a kill or a sight-thrill every fifteen seconds just to keep the audience from walking out.

I won’t spoil the plot for you here, but I will comment on certain elements – and how they registered with me. First of all, you go to a new movie like “The Wolfman”  knowing that most films today are produced for younger audiences. That’s why we older folks have Turner Classic Movies on its own cable channel. Other than a few people like Martin Scorsese, older Americans are the forgotten consumer group in the new American cinema.

“The Wolfman” wasn’t bad. It gave much more attention to storyline and the dysfunctional history of the Talbot family than the 1941 Chaney version ever did. Benecio Del Toro was terrific as Lawrence Talbot, the man who gets bitten into becoming a werewolf and, of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins is his usual brilliant self as Lawrence’s emotionally distant father, Sir John Talbot, the Lord of the grisly looking Talbot Manor in rural England. Emily Blunt is fine as Gwen Conliffe, the grieving former fiance of Lawrence’s murdered-in-the-forest-and-moors-under-the-full-moon brother, Ben Talbot.

The time is 1891. Lawrence Talbot is a succesful actor in New York after being raised in America from the time he was a small boy, following the throat-slashing murder of his mother back at the English manor. His older brother Ben remains there and is raised by their father. Lawrence is called back to England by a letter from Gwen when Ben turns up missing. Lawrence returns to find that his brother had been savagely murdered in the forest under the full moon by either an unheard of animal or an extremely crazed human. The movie unfolds from there. I will not ruin the rest for you with further specific comment on the plotline, except to say that it contains a new twist in the old tale.

I think director Joe Johnston did a nice job by 2010 standards. The story was full and the movie wasn’t overrun with visual gore by today’s standards, although there definitely are some images you may not care to see. A couple of heads and a few body parts get severed along the way. I certainly see it as too violent for small children.

In spite of the special effects we have today, I still prefer the man-to-wolf metamorphosis of Lon Chaney, Jr. to the much more complex one we see in the Benecio Del Toro transformation. The old Wolfman was far scarier to me – and maybe that has to do with the fact I was something like a first grader when I first saw him at the Studewood Theatre in the Heights a few years after the movie’s first release and then had to walk home by myself at movie’s end.

The visual settings in the forest, and on the moors, and on the streets of London, were fantastic. I had two problems with The Wolfman’s visual personification: (1) he reminded me too much of an Incredible Hulk that hadn’t shaved in about two months; and (2) he simply moved too fast for a creature his size, tackling victims at almost lightning speed. In fact, The Wolfman took people down the way the Houston Texans hoped Mario Williams would sack quarterbacks as a defensive end when they drafted him at the number one spot back in 2006. This Wolfman guy is a shoo-in for Canton if he ever plays in the NFL.

One more nice touch. Geraldine Chaplin, the daughter of Charlie Chaplin, is perfect as Maleva, the wild-eyed old Gypsy woman who knows too much about werewolves to not be spooky.

One final take: Hairy terrorists beware! At one point, The Wolfman is captured and taken to London for psychiatric treatment in his Lawrence Talbot state. The first treatment of choice is waterboarding! I’m not sure if there’s some kind of tongue-in-cheek political message intended there, but I rather think there is.

The movie’s worth a look, but not as good as the original Chaney film. If you enjoy the visual trip to turn of the 20th century English forests in the dead of a misty full moon light, it will still be worth your time.

Remembering the North Main!

January 31, 2010

The North Main Theatre in Houston Opened for Business on Christmas Day 1936.

Like most people from my generation, neighborhood theatres, movies, and the heroes and stories we found there golden. They all etched their indelible ways onto the forever-hoping character of our American souls. For me, the first place to do that was the Rialto Theatre in Beeville, Texas, the little South Texas town where I was born. It didn’t have a lot of time to work its magic. We moved to Houston on my fifth birthday, December 31, 1942.

In my case, the job passed on to the North Main (1943), the Studewood (1944), and the Avalon (1945-56), with some considerable help to the latter from the Broadway, OST, Wayside, and Eastwood. And this roll call doesn’t even take into account all the other neighborhood suburban theatres and downtown big and fancy  houses that we also frequented. Prior to the coming of television to Houston in 1949, especially, movies were our windows on everything that ever happened, will happen, could happen, or should happen. Indeed, they were our visual gospel.

The Rialto Theatre in Beeville, Texas Opened for Business on August 19, 1922

My earliest memories of the North Main are like some kind of carnival dream. Unless my memory is tricking me again, I seem to recall a dwarf couple that operated a popcorn stand just outside the theatre on the sidewalk. I wasn’t used to making level eye contact with older people, but that was the deal with these folks and me. I thought they were Munchkins.

Dad worked a light of night shifts at Brown Shipyard in those days so Mom would walk me and my younger brother John from our little duplex on Fugate to the North Main and sometimes the Studewood, which was actually much closer. I recall walking south on North Main to the movie house of the same name one night when gun shots rang out across the street. A cop was chasing a man down the street and either missing every time, or else firing over the running man’s head on purpose. We never saw or learned the outcome of that little Houston chase scene, but we would see it again in a few hundred movies to come.

At age five, I fell in love with John Wayne and “The Flying Tigers” (1942) at the North Main Theatre. We didn’t see the movie until 1943, but I guess we saw it three or four times while we could find it there and elsewhere – and then, over the years, I continued to watch it every chance I found when it started making the late show television movie circuit.

Words fail to adequately convey the power I felt from those snarling teeth of the tiger fighting planes as they zeroed in on the warrior ships of the Imperial Japanese Air Force, especially when an angry John Wayne pushed the button on a shot of cold steel vengeance over the loss of his own men. Pilots bled from the mouth when they were hit. It was the first memory I have of what appeared to be credible death scenes.

Prior to “Tigers,” I had seen numerous movies in which actors were shot in their  tuxedos and still managed to drop dead on carpeted floors without making a mess for the investigation that was yet to come by William Powell as “The Thin Man.” “Tiger” casualties weren’t that neat. They dropped real blood when they died.

Or so it seemed.

Long before Clint Eastwood, "The Flying Tigers" knew how to settle old scores without losing their cool.

I’m curious. Did movies affect your early impressions of life too? And did you also have a John Wayne or “Flying Tigers” model, or any kind of model, that shaped your early ideas about how things are – or should be?

If so, I’m hoping you may be willing to leave your thoughts with us here as a comment on this topic. Memories of the North Main or other theatres are also most welcome – and, if anyone can help me clear up the reality of my North Main dwarf memories, I would especially appreciate your help.

Meanwhile, have a nice Sunday – and try to stay warm.

The Monster Team Nine.

January 25, 2010

"If you can't stretch for a few of my wild and hairy throws to first base, I'm going for the jugular!"

For want of a better Monday morning idea this week, here’s my Monster Club Baseball Nine. All those days at the Avalon Theatre armed me hard and fast for days like today.

Pitcher: Count Dracula. Biggest Assets: (1) Knows how to handle bats. (2) When everything is at stake, you will find his heart where it needs to be. Biggest Drawbacks: (1) Never available for day games. (2) When he gets knocked out of the box, he really gets knocked out of the box.

Catcher: The Thing from Another World. Biggest Asset: Possessing the vegetative body of an alien carrot, he has nothing to fear from proximity to his blood-hungry battery mate. Biggest Drawback: Tends to strike base runners with the back of his open right hand at the cost of ignoring the out tag with his ball-clutched glove hand.

First Base: The Frankenstein Monster. Biggest Asset: Plays with an extra charge of enthusiasm and power in games that follow rain-outs from thunderstorms. Biggest Drawback: Bad relations and misunderstandings with teammates are blamed on his poor communication skills.

Second Base: The Wolfman. Biggest Asset: Facial expressions are given credit for stopping baserunners from even trying to steal second base. Biggest Drawback: Only available to play once in a blue moon.

Third Base: The Wicked Witch of Oz. Biggest Asset: Doesn’t monkey around with batters who attempt to bunt their way safe with dribblers down the line. She’ll get you, you pretty fast base runners, and your little dog too. You may as well surrender to the idea of either holding back or swinging away. Biggest Drawback: She’s only good to go til it rains.

Shortstop: The Blob. Biggest Asset: No shortstop in history ever covered more ground. Biggest Drawbacks: (1) He is stuck on himself and anyone else who comes along. (2) He’s best known to his frustrated teammates as “the place where relay throws go to die.”

Left Field: Godzilla. Biggest Asset: Hits the long ball fifty times farther than McGwire, Sosa, or Bonds, and with no questions raised about his ‘roids use. Biggest Drawbacks: (1) Property damage judgments against him and the team for destruction caused simply by his ordinary game day walks to and from the ballpark  have destroyed the club’s profit edge. (2) Club has to bear the extra cost of paying for his Japanese translator.

Center Field: The Mummy. Biggest Asset: No need for expensive sun block lotions. Biggest Drawback: His snail-like locomotion is an issue. No game is ever considered “under wraps” with “Da Mum” on patrol in the huge central pasture of the outfield. In fact, any ball hit past The Mummy will routinely convert to either a four-base error or an inside-the-park home run.

Right Field: Bernie Madoff. Biggest Asset: His teammates trust him. Biggest Drawback: His teammates trust him.

That’s it for today. Maybe I’ll get serious tomorrow. Maybe I won’t.

Have a great week, everybody!

Sherlock Holmes: More and Less.

December 28, 2009

Rathbone & Bruce as Holmes & Watson (1939-46)

Law & Downey as Watson & Holmes (2009)

If you’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes any longer than the time that’s now lapsed since Christmas Day, and you’ve also seen the new movie, you will have already duly noted some major differences in the screen personna of the famous detective character as portrayed in this 21st century version by Robert Downey, Jr. in comparison to the earlier Basil Rathbone interpretation.

The similarities and differences between the the Downey and Rathbone versions are elementery.

First the similar: (1) both are brilliant; (2) both are geniuses living in apparent physical chaos at 221b Baker Street in London in the late 19th century; (3) both use the violin to encourage deductive balance and to test certain theories of math; (4) both are totally dedicated to deductive reasoning as the pathway to truth; (5) neither has an apparently real or ongoing close relationship with a significant adult female; and (6) both have a close adult male friend named Dr. John Watson as their partner in crimefighting.

Now for the differences: (1) Rathbone is far more verbal; (2.) Downey is far more physical; (3) Rathbone is far more reserved in the presence of attractive women; (4) Downey is far more open to whatever may be desirable or possible in the presence of attractive women; (5) Rathbone’s friend Watson is little more than a glorified “go-fer” guy than he is an intellectual partner in crimesolving; (6) Downey’s friend Watson covers Holmes’s back mentally and physically at every turn.

Unlike Rathbone’s Watson, played by the bumbling older actor Nigel Bruce, Downey’s Watson, played by age peer Jude Law, is young, virile, physical, and he is recently engaged to be married. You get the impression at first  that Holmes dreads the thought of losing his partner in crimefighting to Watson’s impending marital bliss. Hints of a latent homosexual relationship betwenn Holmes and Watson are fairly well erased as a star-crossed female love reappears through the plot into the life of the world’s greatest detective.

I liked the new movie. I loved the cinematic portrayal of late 19th century London. It’s simply far different from the classic Rathbone versions. The older Holmes placed far more emphasis upon intellectual thought and expression in words. The younger Holmes, typical of the early 21st century zeitgeist, is also very smart, but much more inclined to action and physical force. Downey neither dressed the part nor talked the talk of the classic Rathbone Holmes. Not once does Downey wear the famous hat, smoke the Meershaum, or utter the phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

One other thing that’s different: if you watch the old Sherlock Holmes at home on DVD, you may watch it in the dark, if you so choose. If you watch the new Sherlock Holmes at the multi-cinemas, you have to watch it under the usual new conditions of constantly light-blinking cell phones sprinkling their way through the dark as younger viewers continue to text their ways through the playing of the movie without regard for any distraction they may be causing to others.

Are we simply becoming lost from the idea of consideration for others? The answer seems elementary.

My Hollywood Movie Roster.

November 12, 2009

starsIf you are also a baseball movie buff, as I am, you will no doubt recognized every movie and character referred to here today. You will also undoubtedly have your own ideas about who to include in a mythical staff and roster for an all star team that will never play anywhere else but on the sandlot fields of our own imaginations.

My club is loaded with iconic characters, a couple with superhuman powers, and one whose pitching skills are entirely supported by a substance that he rubs on baseballs to make them repellant to wood. That would be a fellow named King Kelly, played on the screen by actor Ray Milland.  I’m not really sure my club needs any pitchers beyond Kelly, but we’ve got ’em, just in case.

I’ve got one guy on this club who probably will see limited action. That would be Jimmy Piersall, played by actor Tony Perkins. The limited action will not be a result of any lingering emotional issues with Piersall, but with the unconvincing limited playing ability of actor Perkins. I’ll just say it, not gender offense intended: Tony Perkins throws a baseball with all the skill of a five-year old girl. Truth to tell, Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig is not much better.

At any rate, without further adieu, here’s what we have to offer on my own version of a Hollywood Stars club. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section. Tell us what you think of the club? What movie players would you add or delete? Do you have your own favorite starting lineup along these lines? In other words, loosen up and have some fun with baseball movies today. It’ll do you good.

Here’s my stuff:

My HOLLYWOOD STARS (From the Movies)


Manager: Wilford Brimley (as Pop Fisher in “The Natural” 1984)

Bench Coach: Richard Farnsworth (as Red Blow in “The Natural” 1984)

Hitting Coach: Danny Glover (as George Know in “Angels in the Outfield” 1994)

Pitching Coach: Tom Hanks (as Jimmy Dugan in “League of Their Own” 1992)

1st Base Coach: Ted de Corsia (as Jimmy Dolan in “It Happens Every Spring” 1949)

3rd Base Coach: John Mahoney (as Kid Gleason in “Eight Men Out” 1988)

Bullpen Coach: Robert De Niro (as Bruce Pearson in “Bang the Drum Slowly” 1973)

Team Doctor: Burt Lancaster (as Doc Graham in “Field of Dreams” 1988)


Frank Morgan (as Barney Wile in “The Stratton Story” 1949

Walter Brennan (as Sam Blake in “Pride of the Yankees” 1942)


Bob Uecker (as Harry Doyle in “Major League” 1989)


Catcher: Kevin Costner (as Crash Davis in “Bull Durham” 1988)

Catcher: Paul Douglas (as Monk Lanigan in “It Happens Every Spring” 1949)

Catcher: James Earl Jones (as Leon Carter in “Bingo Long, et al” 1976)

Pitcher: Ray Milland (as King Kelly in “It Happens Every Spring” 1949)

Pitcher: Dennis Quaid (as Jimmy Morris in “The Rookie” 2002)

Pitcher: Louis Gossett (as Satchel Paige in “Don’t Look Back” 1981)

Pitcher: Tim Robbins (as Nick LaLoosh in “Bull Durham” 1988)

Pitcher: Dan Dailey (as Dizzy Dean in “The Pride of St. Louis 1952)

Pitcher: Michael Moriarity (as Henry “Author” Wiggen in “Bang the Drum Slowly”  1973)

Pitcher: James Stewart (as Monty Stratton in “The Stratton Story” 1949)

Pitcher: Joe E. Brown (as Elmer Kane in “Elmer the Great” 1933)

Pitcher: Ronald Reagan (as Grover Alexander in “The Winning Team” 1952)

Pitcher: Billy D. Williams (as Bingo Long in “Bingo Long, et al” 1976)

Pitcher: Charlie Sheen (as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in “Major League 1989

1st Base: Gary Cooper (as Lou Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees” 1942)

2nd Base: Frank Lovejoy (as Rogers Hornsby in “The Pride of St. Louis” 1952)

3rd Base: John Cusack (as Buck Weaver in “Eight Men Out” 1988)

Shortstop: Sam Brison (as Louis Keystone in “Bingo Long, et al” 1976)]

Left Field: WIlliam Bendix (as Babe Ruth in “The Babe Ruth Story” 1948)

Center Field: Tab Hunter (as Joe Hardy in “Damn Yankees” 1989)

Right Field: Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs in “The Natural” 1984)

IF/OF: Tony Perkins (as Jimmy Piersall in “Fear Strikes Out” 1957)

IF/OF: Wesley Snipes (as Willie Mays Hayes in “Major League” 1989)

Left Field: WIlliam Bendix (as Babe Ruth in “The Babe Ruth Story” 1948)

OF: Richard Pryor (as Charlie Snow in “Bingo Long, et al” 1976)

OF: Ray Liotta (as Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams 1989)












My Eight Great Favorite “BOO” Movies!

October 31, 2009



In celebration of our annual fright day, and in recognition of the fact that I really have no better ideas cranking up this fine fall Saturday morning, here’s a list of my eight all time favorite fright flicks:

(8) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Not all that scary, but very funny for its time. The great comedy team takes on Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman – and comes out alive.

Favorite Lines:

Lawrence Talbot: “Every night the full moon rises, I turn into a wolf!”

Lou Costello: “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Talbot. That same thing happens to about a million other guys!”

(7) Dracula (1931). Hard to beat the classic Bela Lugosi portrayal of the living dead man from Transylvannia whose restlessness at home leads him to England, where life really sucks!

Favorite Line:

Renfield (at dinner): “Aren’t you drinking?”

Count Dracula: “I never drink ……. wine.”

(6) King Kong (1931). Big money attracts big ape to New York, where he undergoes a major fall. Until he met Kate Hudson, it was sort of the Alex Rodriguez Story.

Favorite Line:

Policeman (examining dead ape)” “Well, Denham, it looks like the aeroplanes got him!”

Carl Denham (ape tour promoter): “It wasn’t the aeroplanes. … ‘Twas beauty that killed the beast!”

(5) Night of the Living Dead (1968). Zombies rise from the grave and go on a flesh-easting binge.

Favorite Line:

(Male Companion to Lead Character Barbra in Cemetery): “They’re coming to get you, Barbra!”

(4) Young Frankenstein (1974). Grandson of infamous doctor returns to his family’s native soil to complete his ancestor’s work on the restoration of new life in a human body parts chop shop.

Favorite Line:

Young Dr. Frankenstein to porter at rail stop: “Pardon me, boy, is this the Transylvannia Station?”

(3.) Frankenstein (1931). The original treatment of Mary Shelley’s classic tale, starring Boris Karloff as the monster.

Favorite Line:

Dr. Frankenstein (upon noting that his restoration subject has slightly moved): “It’s alive! …. It’s alive! … It’s alive!”

(2.) The Blob (1958). Long before national healthcare, an amorphous red blob substance from outer space attempts to devour the world.

Favorite Line:

Police Chief (after the blob has been frozen into a still living, but harmless inert state): “We’ll drop it someplace where it will stay frozen, someplace like the north pole.”

Steve McQueen, teenage hero: (Are you listening Al Gore?): “Let’s hope the north pole never does thaw out!”

(1) Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Seed pods fall from outer space and start transforming human life into a race of people with no emotion about anything they day. As Dr. Miles Bennell, actor Kevin McCarthy takes on this menace in a desperate attempt to save the world.

Favorite Line:

Dr. Bennell to girl friend Becky: “If we are going to escape, we can’t show any emotion of any kind as we walk down the street. Otherwise, they’ll recognize us as a threat and do us in (something along those lines, anyway)!”

Becky (should’ve answered): “Miles, if we can pull this off, do you think we can get jobs workng for the government?”


The Time Traveler’s Wife: A Review.

August 31, 2009

time traveler 002 It happened again. Last night my wife and I went to see what first sounded like it would be a neat sci fi movie. It turned out to be another of those bad-to-the-bone failed chick flicks that is spoken mostly in whispers to the ears of only those females in the audience who still possess the ability to understand hush-spoken words above the torrent of their own broken hearted tears. The only people crying at our Sunday showing in Cinemark Memorial City were me and all others who couldn’t stop thinking of what they had just paid good money to watch.

The storyline is simple enough: As a child of about 8, Henry De Tamble (Eric Dana) is riding in the back seat of a car driven by his mother when she looks back to give him a goofy smile that is far too slow on delivery. Henry’s eyes widen to twice their size as he looks past his unconditional love-ogling mom to see the oncoming rush of a head-on collision in the fractional second away in-the-making future.

It is under these circumstances that Henry first learns that he suffers from a genetic anomaly that will, in this case, spare his physical life, but condemn him to an eternal search for lasting love and soul-weary rest. You see, Henry has the ability, under duress, to travel through time and away from threat. In his first trip, Henry suddenly disappears from the back seat of the car as his mom takes the highway hit on her own normally guaranteed path to the cemetery. It’s not clear exactly where Henry quickly went on this first trip, but it was away from harm long enough to spare him from becoming the second bug on the windshield of the truck that slams into the mom-mobile.

Of course, Henry’s guilt is monumental that he survived while his mom died. As we soon learn in patchy, hard-to-follow flashbacks and flashforwards, Henry’s life beyond the first trauma now becomes one long unending succession of involuntary trips to and from other time zones, as his classic violinist father slips steadily into alcoholism from his inconsolable grief. One of only two things are constant about Henry’s trips through time: (1) Clothes don’t travel. Anytime Henry travels, his clothes drop to the floor and he arrives nude at his new destination; and (2) Henry is looking for love in all the wrong spaces. Once Henry lands nude in the brushes near a dense forest, he finds a little girl about 8 years old having a picnic by herself in the nearby meadow. The little girl turns out to be Clare Abshire (later played by Rachel McAdams when Clare reaches a more appropriate dating age for the now fully grown, time-truckin’ Henry.)

In their first time travel meeting, the voice of Henry calls out from the bushes to reassure the frightened little girl that she has nothing to fear from him. He says something like, “Don’t worry about me. I’m just a time traveler. Throw me that blanket you’re using and I’ll come out and talk with you.” This wierdo approach apparently wasn’t covered by Clare’s parents or teachers in their warnings about stranger-predators. She takes the blanket to the bushes, allowing the now covered Henry to come out in the open for a brief and mildly inappropriate conversation with the little girl.

Henry continues to make these little trips over time to visit Clare until she finally grows old enough to marry him. They marry, of course, but Henry is still disappearing on a fairly regular, but uncontrollable basis. Clare is very understanding of her husband’s absences, but coming from a really rich family, she’s a little unhappy over their lack of income. Henry works as a lbrarian and cannot afford to support Clare in the style she had known from birth. No problem. On one of his time trips, Henry takes with him an old lottery ticket from a recent, slightly later-in-time trip and plays those numbers again at this earlier moment in time to win five million dollars. After a brief struggle with the ethics of such an unfairly gained windfall, Clare grabs the money and shuts her mouth. They buy a bigger house.

time traveler 001

A big part of  the couple’s problem in marriage is their difficulty having a child. Clare keeps having third term miscarriages that they fear are being caused by Henry’s time travel gene. (Don’t ask me how that works!) They finally have a kid, but she turns out to be a time traveler too. SPOILER ALERT! I’m almost ashamed to admit that I recall this much of the plotline, but you may want to stop here, if you plan to go watch this dog chase its tail on your own dollar. I’m about to spoil the ending for all those who continue reading.

Henry finally makes a fatal time trip. He lands in the middle of the woods, standing between a big buck deer and his big game hunting, but visually challenged father-in-law.  Dear old Pa-in-Law shoots Henry instead of the deer, but Henry manages to time morph home before he dies nude in the foyer of his own home in the caring, blanket-covering four arms of his wife and daughter.  From that point on, wife and daughter only see Henry one more time, when he comes back to say a longer goodbye. Once Henry reassures them both that he will miss them, he begins to fade out, section by section. As always happens, Henry’s clothes fall to the ground when he disappears. After Henry drops his pants for the last time, Clare picks them up, as per usual, and walks back to the house with the clothes under one arm and the other arm around their daughter, and probably wishing all the while that Henry had played, at least, one more lottery numbers combo before taking his final leave.

Fade to black, with credits rolling.

Need I say more?

A Video of LaPorte, Back in 1948!

August 25, 2009

LaPorte 1948

Thanks to my old classmate and late-in-life St. Thomas High School buddy Vito Schlabra for sending me today’s “local history” subject. It’s a beautiful video jouney for anyone that may have been around here back in the day.  Someone has put together a nice little antique film strip on LaPorte, Texas, circa 1948 or so. Edited with appropriate background music, this show is now playing on You-Tube. The views of the old “Port” movie theatre  on Main Street and “Bob & Marie’s” cafe near Sylvan Beach bring back a lot of memories, even to us Houstonians who only made it over to LaPorte on occasional weekends back in the 1940s and 1950s.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A moving picture with music has to be worth at least 100,000. Enjoy!