Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Director Irvin Kershner R.I.P.

Irvin Kershner, who directed such films as The Flim-Flam Man (1967) and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), passed on November 27, 2010 at the age of 87. The cause was complications from cancer.

Irvin Kershner was born Isadore Kershner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 29, 1923. Mr. Kershner studied art and music, and played both the viola and violin. He attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and studied photography at the Art Centre College in Southern California. After serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a flight engineer and mechanic, he changed his first name to Irvin. He entered film making as a documentary film maker for the United States Information Service in Iran, Greece, and Turkey.

It was in 1958 that he directed his first movie, Stakeout on Dope Street. He went onto direct The Young Captives (1959) and Hoodlum Priest (1961). He directed several episodes of the TV show The Rebel. In the early Sixties he worked mostly in television, directing episodes of Cain's Hundred, Ben Casey, Naked City, and Kraft Suspense Theatre. His first film in the Sixties was Face in the Rain (1963). He finished out the decade directing The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964), A Fine Madness (1966), The Flim-Flam Man (1967), and Loving (1970). In the Seventies he directed the movies Up the Sandbox (1972), S*P*Y*S (1974), The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976),. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). In the Eighties he directed Never Say Never Again (1983) and Robocop 2 (1990). He also directed an episode of Amazing Stories. His last work directing was in the Nineties, directing one episode of SeaQuest DSV.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Late Great Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen, who starred in such movies as Forbidden Planet (1956) and such television series as Police Squad, passed yesterday at the age of 84. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Leslie Nielsen was born on 11 February 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan. His father was one of the Royal Canadian Mounted. One of his uncles was Danish actor Jean Hersholt. His early years were spent in Fort Norman, Northwest Territories. As Leslie Nielsen grew older, his family moved to Edmonton, Alberta so that his brother Eric could attend school there. It was in Edmonton that Mr. Nielsen graduated high school.

During World War II, shortly before his 18th birthday, Mr. Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was trained as an aerial gunner, but never served overseas. Gifted with leading man good looks and an incredible voice and inspired by his uncle Jean Hersholt, Leslie Nielsen decided to pursue acting. He began his career as a Calgary radio station, as a radio engineer, announcer and, as Stay Up Sam the All-Night Record Man, a DJ. He eventually enrolled at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts, afterwards earning a scholarship at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City. He received more training at the Actor's Studio, also in New York City.

In 1950 Leslie Nielsen made his television debut in an episode of Actor's Studio. During the Fifties he would go onto appear in such shows as Stage 13, The Clock, The Magnavox Theatre, Out There, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Lights Out, Suspense, Tales of Tomorrow, Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Web, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Kraft Theatre, Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents, Playhouse 90, Rawhide, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, The Untouchables, and Thriller. He made his film debut in 1956 in Ransom. The same year he played one of the leads, Commander John J. Adams, in the classic science fiction adaptation of The Tempest, Forbidden Planet. Mr. Nielsen's film career took off, and for the rest of the Fifties he would appear in such films as The Opposite Sex (1956), Hot Summer Night (1957), Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), and The Sheepman (1958). He made his only appearance on Broadway in Seagulls Over Sorrento in 1952.

In the Sixties Leslie Nielsen's career switched primarily to television. He was the lead in the short lived series The New Breed, a regular on Peyton Place, one of the leads on The Bold Ones: The Protectors, and the lead on Bracken's World.  He guest starred on such shows as Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour, Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, Wagon Train, Daniel Boone, The Defenders, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Ben Casey, The Loner, The Wild Wild West, Dr. Kildare, The Farmer's Daughter, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, and The Virginian. He appeared in the films Night Train to Paris (1964), Harlow (1965), Dark Intruder (1965), The Plainsman (1966), Beau Geste (1966), Gunfight in Abilene (1967), Counterpoint (1967), Rosie (1967), Dayton's Devils (1968), How to Commit Marriage (1969), Change of Mind (1969), and Four Rode Out (1970).

In the Seventies Leslie Nielsen guest starred on such shows as Monty Nash, Night Gallery, Bearcats, The Mod Squad, The F.B.I., Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Hawaii Five-O, The Manhunter, Ironside, Kojak, Kung Fu, Cannon, Columbo, and The Chisholm. Mr. Nielsen continued to appear in movies, most notably as the captain in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He also appeared in such films as The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971), Grand Jury (1976), Project Kill (1976), Sixth and Main (1977), and City of Fire (1979). It was in the Seventies that Leslie Nielsen began the shift from dramatic roles to comedic ones. In 1973 he made a rather comic guest appearance on the series M*A*S*H. In 1977 he made an uncredited appearance in Kentucky Fried Movie in the segment "Feel-O-Rama." His shift towards comedy would be complete with is appearance in the spoof Airplane, in which he played Dr. Rumack. His turn to comedy would effectively revitalise his career.

Indeed, in the Eighties he would appear for the first time as what may be his best known character, Detective Frank Drebin, in the short lived series Police Squad. The show only lasted six episodes, but garnered such a cult following that it inspired three movies: The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988), The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991), and The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994). He would also be one of the leads in the short lived comedy Shaping Up. He would guest star on such shows as Hotel, Ray Bradbury Theatre, 227, Murder She Wrote, Highway to Heaven, Father Dowling Mysteries, Who's the Boss, and Day by Day. He appeared in such movies as A Choice of Two (1981), Foxfire Light (1982), Wrong is Right (1982), Creepshow (1982), The Creature Wasn't Nice (1983), The Patriot (1986), Soul Man (1986), Nuts (1987), Home is Where the Hart Is (1987), Dangerous Curves (1988), and Repossessed (1990).

In the wake of the Police Squad/Naked Gun movies, Leslie Nielsen would star in a number of similar comedy movies from the Nineties onwards. He appeared in such films as All I Want for Christmas (1991), Surf Ninjas (1993), Digger (1994), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), Spy Hard (1996), Family Plan (1997), Mr. Magoo (1997),Wrongfully Accused (1998), 2001: A Space Travesty (2000), Camaflogue (2000), Kevin of the North (2001), Men with Brooms (2002), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Scary Movie 4 (2006), Superhero Movie (2008), Stan Helsing (2009), and Stonerville (2010). He guested on such shows as The Golden Girls, Herman's Head, Evening Shade, Due South, and Robson Arms.

With a voice trained in radio, throughout his career Leslie Nielsen served as a narrator on films and TV shows. Among the movies he narrated were The Battle of Gettysburg (1955), Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience (1975), and The Homefront. Among the various TV shows on which he served as a narrator were The Explorers and National Geographic Specials.

Although today he is best know as a comedy actor, we should perhaps remember that Leslie Nielsen began his career as a dramatic leading man. He was convincing as Commander Adams in Forbidden Planet, as well as Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion in the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour mini-series The Swamp Fox. Although he could easily play heroic figures or authority figures such as the Captain on The Poseidon Adventure, Mr. Nielsen's versatility went beyond such roles. Having begun his career playing leading men and heroes, he could also be a convincing villain, which he was in guest appearances on such shows as The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Leslie Nielsen could also play troubled characters, such as the Sheriff suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in the Bonanza episode "The Unseen Wound."

As talented as Leslie Nielsen was in dramatic roles, he had a definite gift for comedy. It was a gift that was actually put on display relatively early in his career, in the comedy Tammy and the Bachelor, although it would certain become more noticeable in the Seventies. Even before his historic appearance in Airplane, Mr. Nielsen displayed a gift for comedy in his guest appearance on M*A*S*H as the more than slight left of centre Colonel Buzz Brighton and in his cameo in Kentucky Fried Movie. Indeed, Mr. Nielsen had such a talent for comedy that he was able to build a whole career out of it, from Police Squad to Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Much of what made Leslie Nielsen so funny that he played even the most ludicrous character, particularly Detective Drebin, serious, delivering outlandish lines deadpan. It was a feat a lesser actor could not have accomplished. Although not often recognised as such in the United States, Leslie Nielsen was one of the greatest actors to emerge from Canada, an actor with a gift for both drama and comedy. Not many men were as a versatile an actor as Leslie Nielsen.

Dancing with the Stars/Bristol Lost!

Oh Yeah! Bristol lost on Dancing with the Stars! I was so glad to see that diva in training Bristol lose! When I heard Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough were the winners, I did a little dance of joy! Because from what I hear, Bristol's dumb as a bag of bricks mother Sarah was blocking up the phone lines by having people vote multiple times just for her sleazy daughter, who I may add, can't dance! What she NEEDS to be doing is be at home taking care of that little angel she brought into the world. Where was her mother when she was having sex and getting pregnant as a teenager? Her mother must have been up on her soapbox preaching about abstinence when she probably realized she had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter. Enough about that! Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough won! I also heard about who is going to be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, they are really running out of people. John Gosselin is supposed to be there, along with Rehab Rita aka Lindsay Lohan, hopefully she cleans up her act and gets out of rehab, because I really have hopes for her getting clean, I really think she can do it, and I think Paul McCartney would be an interesting person to see on Dancing with the Stars, along with people like Halle Berry or Denzel Washington or someone like that! Oh man, if Denzel Washington ever went on Dancing with the Stars, I'd be following that show religiously, I love him, he is a really cool actor and not to mention drop dead gorgeous! It would be interesting to see people like Halle or Denzel on there, or have musicians like Joe Perry or Paul McCartney go for it, that would be cool!

And if they ever had other people be on there, I think The Rolling Stones would be interesting to see on there, to see if Mick can ballroom dance or tango or see if Keith, Charlie or Ronnie can rock on the dance floor, omg, if they ever went on to Dancing with the Stars, I'd follow it religiously!

Facebook for Hire!

Yeah, the title should attract attention. While I was in class on Tuesday looking at different social networking sites, the teacher for the class informed us that some employers hire people based on what is on their Facebook account. Personally, this is ridiculous, no employer should hire someone based on what is on their Facebook account. What an employer should hire someone because of is how they work with others, their qualifications or something else, not a Facebook account. I mean, I have an account and if an employer were to look at mine, they'd see that I'm a music lover, because most of the stuff on my Facebook page have to do with music, like announcements for Rihanna going on tour, U2 going on tour, Paul McCartney going on tour, the Beatles releasing an album, etc. I personally think it's stupid that some employers would hire you because of what is on a social networking site that you use. Because when we looked at Facebook accounts, I'm pretty sure everyone in the world has seen mine and they pretty much know that I'm a  music lover because of all the music tour announcements, album releases, etc. But I just think it's stupid that some people would do that, it's almost an invasion of privacy, I mean, on Facebook, you can say just about anything and that some people who hire would look at one's account and see something like someone talking about partying or something, that might make the person hiring a little hesitant to hire.

What I think an employer SHOULD look at is what that person can bring to the table, their skills, if they can work well with others, their qualifications, what they can do, their interests or something, my dad has a friend who is a Graphic Designer and he told me he thought that it was ridiculous that some people hire based on what one has on a social networking site. He said that most should hire because of skills/qualifications. And if Denise reads this, I'm totally with her on the whole Facebook issue, no employer should hire a person based on what is on a social site like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

Personally, If I'm going to look for a job, I'm just going to keep the same Facebook account that I currently have, if you ever see mine, there is never usually anything dirty on it, most of the stuff on my wall is stuff pertaining to the Breast Cancer Foundation, I'm a strong believer in there being a cure for breast cancer, it runs in my family, happy joy!, Shriner's Hospital is on my wall, I believe in kids getting miracles, a-lot of the stuff on my wall is charity and good stuff and music tour dates, music album releases, musician announcements, etc and just friends talking, but unfortunately, most of the friends I have on there like to talk dirty and I usually tell them I don't talk like that and they just keep on doing it!

Just thought I'd make my text green because of the rapidly approaching Christmas holidays. And thank the Good Lord I have my Christmas shopping done. I swear, I never knew shopping for family would be so hard, I have my sister taken care of, I bought her a blanket of this cartoon character she likes, called Invader Zim, and a book about this athlete she likes, Apolo Ohno, I bought my dad a movie,The Expendables, he loves all those exploding action movies, I bought my mom a book about the topic of Organized Crime, she finds in interesting, I bought my step-father a set of model race cars, he's a major fan of all those car races, like the Le Mans, Indy 500, etc. So hopefully, they love their gifts, I care about family and just wanted to give them something they like.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Problem with Jar Jar Binks

On May 19, 1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released. The majority of critics and fans alike thought the film was a disappointment. For all the film's flaws, however, there was one fatal flaw that would earn the movie the consternation of critics and fans alike:  the character of Jar Jar Binks. Meant as comedy relief, Jar Jar Binks became perhaps the most hated comic sidekick of all time.

The hatred of Jar Jar Binks began even before the movie's official release on May 19, 1999. Indeed, it began even before the movie was finished. Rob Coleman, the lead of the Industrial Light ad Magic (ILM) animation team, cautioned George Lucas that the team thought the character of Jar Jar Binks came across badly. Mr. Lucas told him that he had created the character specifically to appeal to young children. That was the end of the issue at Lucasfilm, but it was not the end of the issue for critics or fans.

Indeed, much as the animation team at ILM had warned George Lucas, hatred for the character of Jar Jar Binks emerged before the official release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, in the reviews of various critics. In the May 16, 1999 issue of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ron Weiskind stated, "The liveliest creature of the lot, an amphibian called Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), proves to be a bumbling babbler whom kids will love. Many adults will find him annoying enough to wish someone would slice him in half with a light sabre." In his review in the May 17, 1999 issue of Time, Richard Corliss bluntly wrote, "The Gungan klutz Jar Jar Binks, who talks (sometimes unintelligibly) like a Muppet Peter Lorre and walks as if he had Slinkys for legs, is more annoying than endearing." In the issue of Newsweek published the same day, David Ansen complained, "For comic relief, we get the computer-generated Jar Jar Binks, a goofy, floppy-eared, vest-wearing toy serpent with a clumsy two-legged lope and an incomprehensible Caribbean accent. (He's a kind of extraterrestrial Stepin Fetchit.) Funny not he is, as Yoda would say." The following day in The Hartford Courant Malcolm Johnson wrote, "Lucas also shows his silly side. None of his previous films has put forward a more irritating character than Jar Jar Binks, the upright equine with eyes like headlights. This Gungan bumbler manages to bring down the level of every scene he appears in."

If George Lucas thought the critics were harsh, he was to learn that the fans could be much harsher. Almost from the moment the midnight showings of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace finished, fans began spewing venom towards Jar Jar Binks on the internet. Typical of the attacks on the character was the web site Jar Jar Must Die. By Thursday, May 20 1999 the web site Deja.Com had 15,000 messages posted to it regarding Jar Jar Binks, the vast majority of them criticising the character and many advocating he be killed off. A common criticism of the character was that he was created only to appeal to very young children. More common was the criticism that Jar Jar Binks was just plain annoying and not the least bit funny.

Indeed, it is a reflection of the hatred of Jar Jar Binks that in 2000 there surfaced a fan edit of The Phantom Menace called The Phantom Edit. Among the changes "Phantom Editor" Michael J. Nichols made to the film was cutting what he called "Jar Jar antics." The Phantom Edit was actually preferred by many critics and fans alike to the original film, and there can be little doubt that much of the reason for this was it had less Jar Jar Binks.

While many Star Wars despised Jar Jar Binks for being annoying and unfunny, others had a more serious criticism of the character. In his review in Newsweek, David Ansen described the characters as a "kind of extraterrestrial Stepin Fetchit." He would not be the only one to see Jar Jar Binks as a racist stereotype. In the May 19, 1999 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern described Binks as a "Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen." Patricia Williams in the June 17, 1999 issue of The Nation, in an article entitled, "Racial Ventriloquism," wrote that aspects of the Jar Jar Binks character reminded her of stereotypes from blackface minstrelsy.

As might be expected, Lucasfilm would respond to the criticism. To fans who believed Jar Jar Binks was added simply to appeal to young children, George Lucas simply replied in July 1999 with the words, "the movies are for children but they don't want to admit that... There is a small group of fans that do not like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like The Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike." To accusations that Jar Jar Binks was a racist stereotype, Lucasfilm spokesman Lynn Hale replied, "Nothing in Star Wars is racially motivated. Star Wars is a fantasy movie. I really do think to dissect this movie as if it had a direct reference to the world today is absurd. "

The uproar over Jar Jar Binks would eventually die down. He would appear in a much smaller role in Star Wars Episode I: Attack of the Clones, in which he gives a speech advocating giving Chancellor Palpatine rather broad emergency powers, thus beginning Palpatine's path to becoming Emperor. He appeared only briefly in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Jar Jar Binks is a recurring characters in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but even there the sort of antics in which he engaged in Phantom Menace are kept to a minimum.

While the uproar over Jar Jar Binks would die down, Star Wars fans' hatred of him has never gone away. In a poll conducted by the British website, LoveFilm.Com of 5000 film buffs, Jar Jar Binks was voted the most annoying film character of all time. To this day all one needs to do is google "Jar Jar Binks" and one will receive thousands of results, most of which boil down simply to hatred of Jar Jar Binks.

Why is Jar Jar Binks so hated to this day? I rather doubt it was because he was comedy relief. As my brother, who is a much bigger Star Wars fan than I am, pointed out, the original trilogy had comedy relief in the form of the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and to a lesser degree Han Solo and Chewbacca, characters universally loved by Star Wars fan. I think there is something to the accusation by fans that Jar Jar was created to appeal only to small children. While I do agree with George Lucas that the Star Wars films are made for children, I think if pressed on the point  George Lucas would have to agree the films are also made for adults. And sadly, Jar Jar Binks does not appeal to adults (not that he appeals to children either, but more on that later).

As to the accusation that Jar Jar Binks is a racist stereotype, I disagree. When I first watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace it did not occur to me that Jar Jar Binks was a racist stereotype. His mannerisms did not remind me of Stepin Fetchit, let alone Butterfly McQueen. As to Jar Jar's odd speech sounding like a Caribbean accent, I don't hear it. While Jar Jar's speech is hardly the Queen's English, it does not sound like any human accent or dialect to me. To drive home that Jar Jar was probably not meant as a racist stereotype is the fact that in the early criticisms of fans, which could be quite extensive, only a very few ever expressed the view that he was a racist stereotype. Indeed, the actor who provided the voice for Jar Jar, Ahmed Best, is an African American and he did not see the character as a racist stereotype. I rather suspect that those who accused Jar Jar Binks of being a racist stereotype simply read something into the character that simply was not there.

Of all the accusations made towards Jar Jar Binks, the most justifiable in my mind and the primary reason he is so hated is that he is annoying and unfunny. In the original trilogy the comedy relief provided by C-3PO and R2-D2 was primarily verbal, with only a little slapstick of the Stan Laurel type provided by C-3PO. It was certainly never intrusive and often quite funny. Unlike the two droids, however, Jar Jar Binks is too much over the top. Indeed, he reminds me of an even more spastic version of Gilligan from Gilligan's Island or Corporal Agarn from F Troop, but lacking either of those characters' intelligence. Unlike C-3PO, his antics are never subtle, and often quite broad. Jar Jar Binks might be acceptable as a character in a comedy, but not in what is essentially a boy's adventure movie. Of course, even in a comedy Jar Jar would not be lovable, he would not be funny.

Indeed, even though George Lucas stated that he created Jar Jar Binks to appeal to children, the plain fact is that I know no children who like Jar Jar. Children love C-3PO. They love R2-D2. They love all the Jedi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Boba Fett. They even love the Ewoks, characters some adult Star Wars fans despise (I'm not among them--I think they are sort of cute). But I know of no child who loves Jar Jar Binks. They are either indifferent to him or, like most adults, they actively hate him.

In the wake of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, many fans advocated that George Lucas edit Jar Jar Binks out in the DVD, or at least minimise his time on screen. Even though Mr. Lucas had modified the original trilogy since those films first debuted, even though he has modified the films in the second trilogy to a small degree, there has been no change in the amount of Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. Personally, given the hatred expressed towards the character on the film's release, I think it would be in the best interest of George Lucas and Star Wars to largely edit Jar Jar out of the film or at least recognise The Phantom Edit as the official version. Indeed, while my estimation of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had risen since I first saw it (when I thought it was a disappointment), I still cringe every second Jar Jar Binks is on the screen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Greatest Film Scores of All Time

Today we tend to take film scores for granted. There should be little wonder that this should be the case. Many may not realise this, but film scores existed even before the advent of sound. Such silent films as Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927) actually had full length, original scores written for them, which would be played in the cinema during the showing of the films. Naturally, with the advent of sound, original film scores would continue to be composed for movies.

Indeed, many film scores over the years have become very notable. Even if an individual has never seen a film, he or she can often recognise its score. More so than during the Silent Era, film scores have become an integral part of film. Many of us have our favourite film scores and I am no different in this. Here is my short list of what I consider some of the greatest film scores of all time. It is by no means comprehensive, as it would actually take a whole book to cover the subject! Here I must also note that I have excluded musicals from this list (otherwise the first three spots would be occupied by Beatles movies....). I have also excluded films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, that largely relied on pre-existing music for their scores.

King Kong (1933): Despite the fact that original film scores had been composed for Silents, the advent of sound saw music being used very little in movies. One thing modern audiences will notice about early talkies is often the lack of any sort of background music. When music does occur in very early talkies, it is often merely in the background and not particularly integral to the plot. All of this would change with Max Steiner's original score for King Kong. Indeed, reportedly it was the first full length score composed for an American talkie.

Amazingly enough for a film score that would prove so influential, it almost never came to be. Max Steiner, who had composed music for Cimarron (1931) and Merian C. Cooper's classic The Most Dangerous Game (1932). With such credits and having worked with Mr. Cooper before, it was perhaps natural that he was brought in to provide music for Mr. Cooper's own King Kong. Unfortunately, as King Kong neared its final stages of editing, RKO president B.B. Kahane told Mr. Steiner that RKO had its doubts about the possible success of King Kong and did not wish to spend additional movie on an original film score. He told Mr. Steiner to then use music tracks already owned by RKO. Max Steiner, who was perfectly aware that King Kong was a film like no other before it, simply replied, "What am I going to play, Little Women?!" Fortunately, Merian C. Cooper agreed with with Mr. Steiner that the movie needed an original score. In fact, Mr.Cooper paid $50,000 out of pocket for an orchestra and any other expenses Mr. Steiner might accrue in writing an original score for King Kong.

The end result was one of  Max Steiner's greatest scores and possibly the most influential score in the history of movies. Max Steiner and Merian C. Cooper worked closely together. They agreed that it was best not to score the scenes in New York City (then deep in the Great Depression), so as to maintain the reality of those scenes. The score would not begin until the S. S. Venture arrived at the thick fog surrounding Skull Island, when reality gave way to a flight of fantasy. Afterwards music was present for the rest of the movie. It took about eight weeks to compose and perform the score for King Kong. The score utilised an orchestra of 46 musicians, far larger than the orchestras used for most films. After the score was completed, sound effects man Murray Spivak changed the film's sound effects to compliment the music, the first time this was ever done in a film. The score would also be innovative in that it utilised specific themes for characters, the first time this was done in film. RKO, who had not wanted to pay for an original score, would re-use the score to King Kong in its sequel Son of Kong (1933) and even in such movies as The Last of the Mohicans (1936).

The score to King Kong would prove extremely influential.It was perhaps the first time in a film that the music was truly an integral part of the movie, emotionally underscoring key points in the film. In composing the score to King Kong, Max Steiner would set the rules for movie music for decades to come.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Universal's classic film Frankenstein (1931) did not have a music score. For Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale asked composer Franz Waxman to write a score for the much anticipated sequel to the smash hit Frankenstein. In the end Mr. Waxman a score that was much more sophisticated than many of the film scores of the time. Indeed, a relatively large orchestra of 22 musicians would perform the score in a recording session that took nine hours. What made Mr. Waxman's score revolutionary for the time is that he composed leitmotifs for Frankenstein's creature, the Bride, and the villain of the film, Dr. Pretorius. It was one of the first times other than Max Steiner's score for King Kong that specific themes were composed for characters in the movie.

Unfortunately, Universal would not go to the effort with Bride of Frankenstein that RKO had with King Kong in re-recording and re-editing the sound effects to compliment the film's score. Indeed, there are times when the sound effects drown out the score, particularly in the sequence in which the Bride is created. The film score would suffer even more indignities after a preview of Bride of Frankenstein. After the preview, the film was cut by perhaps as much as fifteen minutes. Along with the footage that was cut from the movie went portions of the score as well. In fact, nine of the seventeen total musical sequences in the movie were either shortened in length or cut entirely.

Despite the indignities the score of Bride of Frankenstein suffered in post-production, it remains one of the most influential scores in film history. It would help establish the tradition of composing themes for specific characters. It would also prove extremely useful to Universal, who would not only recycle the theme in horror movies, but in everything from Westerns to thrillers.

Gone with the Wind (1939): Gone with the Wind was halfway through filming when David O. Selznick sent a memo to his studio's general manager that it was time to hire a composer. Mr. Selznick suggested the already legendary Max Steiner. By March 1939, when Mr. Selznick issued the memo, Mr. Steiner was already an experienced film composer, having composed the scores of several films, from the ground breaking score for King Kong to Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). If there was any man who could compose the score for David O. Selznick's epic Southern, it was Max Steiner.

In the end Max Steiner composed what may be his most sophisticated film score of all time. The score is underpinned by "Tara's Theme," the theme recognised as most simply as "the theme to Gone with the Wind." In addition, Mr. Steiner composed themes for each of the eight major characters, two separate love themes (one for the love between Ashley and Melanie and another for Scarlett's infatuation with Ashley), and sixteen different subsidiary themes. In all, Mr. Steiner composed three hours worth of music. Two hours and 36 minutes worth of that music made its way into the film. The end result was the longest score ever composed for a motion picture.

The score for Gone with the Wind would prove to be one of the most memorable scores from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Over the years the complete score has been performed by a number of symphonies. Indeed, "Tara's Theme" can be recognised even by those who have never seen the movie. Strangely enough, while Gone with the Wind would sweep the Oscars, Max Steiner would not take the Academy Award for Best Original Score. It would seem that Gone with the Wind was beat out in that category by the other mega-classic released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz!

The Magnificent Seven (1960): Prior to The Magnificent Seven, scores to Western movies came in two basic varieties. They were either broad, sweeping scores meant to capture the vastness of he landscape or scores derivative of folk songs from the era of the Old West. Elmer Bernstein changed all of that with The Magnificent Seven. To do so he drew upon his experience in scoring The Ten Commandments (1956). When he first started to score the film, Mr. Bernstein tried matching the pace of the movie. While scoring the film's lengthy sequence of the Hebrew leaving Egypt, the film's director Cecil B. DeMille advised him to use the music to help add excitement to the scene. Elmer Bernstein saw The Magnificent Seven as similar to The Ten Commandments in being very deliberately paced. He then composed a score that would capture the sensation of brisk action. Unlike the scores to previous Westerns, the score to The Magnificent Seven was often dominated by brass instruments and percussion. It was also very rhythmic, utilising flamenco style rhythms to highlight the film's setting in Mexico.

The score to The Magnificent Seven would prove immensely popular. In addition to the smash hit official soundtrack album, it has been recorded many times over. It would also prove immensely influential, not only reshaping the music scores of several Westerns in the decades to come, but even of action films. Mr. Bernstein's own score for The Great Escape, as well as the score to The Dirty Dozen (composed by Frank De Vol) and many other action films in the Sixties and Seventies, owe a good deal to the score to The Magnificent Seven. Although immensely popular and instantly recognisable even to those who have never seen the movie, the score to The Magnificent Seven lost the Oscar for Best Dramatic or Comedy Score to Exodus (1960).

Pyscho (1960): Perhaps no composer is as identified with the films of Alfred Hitchcock as Bernard Hermann. Mr. Hermann first worked with Mr. Hitchcock on The Trouble with Harry (1955). So impressed was Mr. Hitchcock with Mr. Hermann's work that the composer would collaborate with the director on every film until Marnie (1964). The collaboration produced some of the greatest scores of all time, including the scores to Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and The Birds (1963). Arguably the crowning achievement of this collaboration was the score to Psycho.

Amazingly, Bernard Hermann was resistant to Alfred Hitchcock about scoring Psycho, as the film's lower budget also meant a reduced fee for the composer. Mr. Hitchcock persisted, and in the end Mr. Hermann wrote the score. Even so, Mr. Hermann was independent as ever, going against the director's wishes for the score. Alfred Hitchcock request that Bernard Hermann compose a jazz score for the movie. Instead Mr. Hermann, ever mindful of the small budget, wrote the score for a string orchestra instead of a full symphony. According to Bernard Hermann, Alfred Hitchcock had told him that he could do anything he wanted with the score, but he should write no music for the shower scene. Again, Mr. Hermann went against the director's wishes, providing the scene with the sound of shrieking violins to symbolised the violence of the stabbing in the scene. When Bernard Hermann played the music to the shower scene for Alfred Hitchcock, he had to admit that he was wrong.

In not providing the film with a jazz score or using a full orchestra, Bernard Hermann found a means to musically compliment the black and white photography. The stringed instruments gave the score a single tone musically to match the monochrome of the film. The stringed instruments also proved more versatile than either a jazz band or a full orchestra would have been. Indeed, the effects of the violins in the shower scene would not have been possible otherwise.

The score to Psycho would prove very influential. It would be imitated in may horror and suspense movies for decades to come. Indeed, its influence is notable in the scores for such movies as Jaws (1975), Carrie (1976), and The Re-Animator (1985) among many others. One of the most effective scores for any movie and one of the most influential scores of all time, amazingly enough Bernard Hermann's score for Pyscho was not even nominated for an Oscar!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't Shoot Me, Santa

Today being the day after Thanksgiving, it seems to me that most every place has started playing Christmas songs. Here, then, is my favourite Christmas song of late--"Don't Shoot Me, Santa" by The Killers.

Black Friday Online Deals 2010 Rounded Up!

This holiday season, it's time for you to get out and let your fingertips drive you to the best products of your choice for your love ones as the Black Friday Online Deals 2010 continue. Aside from this, you don't need to worry if your favorite electronics and other related gadgets are keeps on coming in and out of the line because you still have a lot of chance to grab the great opportunity on the Internet. The web is giving us a lot on what we are asking for and now that the time for you to set your urges to get a very cheap gifts, we are all looking forward on your great day.

Black Friday Online Deals 2010 Rounded Up

Black Friday Online Deals 2010 is up now and people are currently doing their best just to look for the best price they can get not just for electronic products but for most of the deals that keeping up your time while celebrating the ambiance of the past Thanksgiving Day. And guess what, the Cyber Monday 2010 is getting up next to the Black Friday Sale in United States so join the crowd now to see what you can get from the best stuff on this once in a year great opportunity in Fry's Electronics, Macy, or in any store that make up their whole day just for all of us.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Real First Thanksgiving?

If you ask the average American who held the first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States, they would most likely say the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts Colony in 1621. They would also be wrong. The fact is that, when it came to holding a Thanksgiving festival, the Pilgrims were relative latecomers.

Indeed, I should not have to point out how incredibly Eurocentric it is to even insist any Europeans held the first thanksgiving festival. Thanksgiving ceremonies are to be found among many different Native American tribes, and there can be no doubt that such ceremonies were held well before the arrival of Europeans on American shores. The Cherokee have several different ceremonies at which they give thanks, including the Great New Moon Ceremony, the Exalting Bush Festival, and the Ripe Corn Ceremony. The Seneca have Thanksgiving rituals that last four days, and other Iroquois nations have their own Thanksgiving rituals. It would seem that not only were Europeans not the first people to celebrate Thanksgiving on American soil, but as the various Native tribes never recorded the dates of their first Thanksgiving ceremonies, we will probably never know when the real first Thanksgiving was held in what became the United States.

Of course, even when one considers who the first Europeans were to hold a Thanksgiving ceremony in what would become the United States, the Pilgrims arrived late to the party. There are various arguments made for various European groups as those who held the first Thanksgiving, but the best candidates for the title are Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men. Coronado and his expedition had left Mexico to search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, the legendary cities of gold. Instead Cornoado and his men found themselves in what we call the Staked Plains, in Spanish Llano Estacado. Coronado described the Staked Plains as a "sea of grass." As there were no visible landmarks, Corando's expedition travelled in circles for days. At last they reached the Palo Duro Canyon in what is now the Texas Panhandle. It was there that Coronado and his men encountered the friendly Querechos, most likely what we would call today Apaches. It was on Ascension Thursday, 23 May 1541, that Coronado's expedition celebrated a Thanksgiving ceremony with the Natives. Friar Juan de Padilla said a Thanksgiving Mass.

Despite the documentation that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expedition were the first Europeans to celebrate Thanksgiving on American soil, there are those who claim the first Europeans to hold a Thankgiving ceremony were in St. Augustine in what is now Florida. Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez had been appointed governor of Florida by King Philip II. The king charged him with founding a permanent settlement and taking control of the region. It was on 4 September 1565 that Admiral Menendez and 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families landed in Northern Florida after an arduous crossing by sea. He named the new settlement San Augustin--in English Saint Augustine. Thankful for having survived their voyage across the Atlantic, the Spanish colonists and the friendly Timucuan Natives gathered around a makeshift altar and said a Catholic Mass. Afterwards the colonists and the Timucuans held a thanksgiving feast, to which the Spanish brought pork, garbanzo beans, olive oil, and wine, while the Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. Held in 1565, the Thanksgiving feast occurred a full fourteen years after the Thanksgiving held by Coronado's expedition. It would seem that at best Saint Augustine, Florida can lay claim to the second Thanksgiving ceremony held by Europeans in what would become the United States, the first having been held by Coronado and his men, although they can lay claim to the first Thanksgiving celebration held in a permanent European settlement.

Not only were the Pilgrims not the first Europeans to hold a Thanksgiving feast in what would become the United States, they were not even the first Englishmen. That honour would go to the men and women who settled Berkeley Hundred in 1619, over a year before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. It was in 1619 that the ship Margaret, carrying thirty-eight colonists,  set sail from Bristol under the command of Captain John Woodliffe. The Margaret landed at Berkeley Hundred on 4 December 1619. The charter of the colony ordained that the day of the ship's arrival in Virginia would be celebrated annually as a day of Thanksgiving. Having landed at Berkeley Hundred, the settlers did indeed celebrate Thanksgiving, the first in the British Colonies. We are not absolutely certain what was served at Berkeley Hundred's first Thanksgiving feast, but it was believed to be perch, shad, rockfish, and oysters. Thanksgiving in Berkeley Hundred was indeed an annual feast, but sadly it would not last. In Virginia in 1622 there was a massive Native American massacre from which Berkeley Hundred was not spared. Berkeley Hundred was abandoned for many years until it was established as Berkeley Plantation. It would become the home of the Harrisons, one of the First Families of Virginia, to whom Presidents William  Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison belonged.

The Pilgrims were then hardly the first people in what would become the United States to hold a Thanksgiving feast. Indeed, that honour most likely goes to a group of Native Americans thousands of years ago whose names have not been recorded in history. The Pilgrims were not even the first Europeans to hold a Thanksgiving feast, that honour going to the Coronado expedition. They were not even the first permanent settlers to hold a Thanksgiving feast, that honour goes to the colonists of San Augustin. They were not even the first Englishmen to hold a Thanksgiving feast on American soil, as that honour goes to the colonists of Berkeley Hundred. While the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving feast has long figured in American pop culture, it was hardly the first Thanksgiving held in what would become the United States.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Late, Great Ingrid Pitt

Ingrid Pitt, often referred to as "the Queen of Horror," passed yesterday at the age of 73. The cause was heart failure.

Ingrid Pitt was born Ingoushka Petrov on 21 November 1937 in Poland. It was in 1943 that Miss Pitt's family was captured by the Nazis. Miss Pitt and her mother were separated from her father and sent to the Stutthof concentration camp. In 1945 the Nazis forced the concentration camp survivors to march towards Germany. Miss Pitt and her mother escaped into a woods. When they were finally discovered by the Red Cross, the war had been over for several weeks. Young Ingrid Pitt was diagnosed with tuberculosis and not expected to live. Fortunately, she survived and was reunited with her father. In the Fifties he took Miss Pitt to movie theatres, where she fell in love with the world of film. Once Miss Pitt had graduated school, she enrolled as a probationer at Berlin's medical school. She was expelled after she refused to dissect a rat. Miss Pitt then studied bookkeeping, shorthand, and typing.

It was in the early Sixties that Miss Pitt joined the Berliner Ensemble. She studied under Helen Weigel, Bertolt Brecht's widow who had founded the ensemble in 1948. Unfortunately, Miss Pitt's political views did not endear her to the East German government, so that she fled Berlin by diving into the River Spree. She was rescued by an American Army lieutenant, Laud Pitt, whom she later married. The two would move to Fort Carson, Colorado, where Ingrid Pitt joined a local theatrical company. She later acted at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.

After divorcing her first husband, Ingrid Pitt moved to Spain. It was there that she was discovered by a Spanish producer. Miss Pitt made her film debut in El sonido de la muerte (1964). Over the next few years she appeared in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight (1965),  Doctor Zhivago (1965, in an uncredited role), Un beso en el puerto (1966), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). After she moved back to Los Angeles, Ingrid Pitt guest starred on Dundee and The Culhane (1967) and Ironside (1967). In 1968 she appeared in the films The Omegans and the World War II classic Where Eagles Dare.

It was in 1970 that Ingrid Pitt was established as a horror actress, starring as Carmilla in Hammer Films' The Vampire Lovers (based on  the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla). In 1971 she starred in Countess Dracula, a Hammer film based on the historical figure of Countess Elisabeth Bathory. In the Seventies Miss Pitt starred on such films as The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Nobody Ordered Love (1972), and the cult classic The Wicker Man (1973). She guest starred on Jason King, The Adventurer, The Zoo Gang, and the British series Thriller.

In the Eighties Miss Pitt appeared in the films The Final Option (1982), Bones (1984), Wild Geese II (1985), Transmutations (1985), and Hanna's War (1988). She was the voice of the gallery mistress in Octopussy (1983). She guest starred on Smiley's People, Dr. Who, and Bulman. Miss Pitt appeared on television in Artemis 21, The Comedy of Errors, and The House. Miss Pitt would continue to appear on the stage. She acted for some time in a company founded by Bill Kenwright and later founded her own company with her second husband.

Inspired by novelist Alistair MacLean, Ingrid Pitt began writing in the late 1980's. She published the novel Cuckoo Run in 1980. It was followed by such novels as The Perons (1984), Eva's Spell (1985), and Katarina (1986). Miss Pitt also wrote nonfiction. Besides her autobiography, The Autobiography of Ingrid Pitt : Life's A Scream (1999), she also wrote The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers (1998), Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters (1999), and The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity (2000). Her last book The Hammer Xperience, on the history of Hammer Films, is due out next year.

Ingrid Pitt returned to the screen in 2000 in The Asylum. Over the next few years she appeared in Green Fingers (2000) and Minotaur (2006). She appeared in Hammer's online serial Beyond the Rave in 2008. In 2008 she made her last appearance on screen in Sea of the Dust.

Ingrid Pitt was a talented actress who appeared in film, on television, and on stage. She was also a talented writer who wrote over ten books and wrote columns for magazines and web sites. What many may not know, whoever, is that Ingrid Pitt was not simply a talented actress and writer, but a woman who cared deeply about others. When the climax to The Wicker Man was shot, it was on a cold November day in Scotland, even though the scene called for everyone to be dressed as if it was May Day (when the climax took place). Coats were brought out to the three lead actress to put on between takes. Actress Britt Ekland eager took her coat. Actress Diane Cilento gracious took her coat and said, "Thank you."  Ingrid Pitt, professional that she was, refused her coat, stating flatly, "If the extras don't have time to put on their coats, then neither do I!" While I never had the honour of meeting Miss Pitt, I do know people who have and their stories are always the same. She was very gracious to her fans. With the passing of Ingrid Pitt, we have not only lost a great actress and talented writer, but a woman who was also a true lady. She truly was the Queen of Horror.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy 123rd Birthday, Boris Karloff!

Today is Boris Karloff's 123rd birthday. To celebrate, I'm providing you with a link to the post I wrote on the occasion of his 120th birthday. I'm also leaving you with this promo for the TV show Thriller, which Boris Karloff hosted!

Break ins/Christmas

Yeah, the title explains it all. I figured combine 2 blogs into 1. Last night, me, my dad and sister were finishing the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas and that's when we heard someone opening the screen door. And from living at the same house for 20 years, I've grown quite accustomed to the sounds of that door. And less than a minute later, I heard someone trying to break the door down! Nobody realizes how scary that is! Someone was actually trying to break in! My dad called the cops because he was concerned. 10 minutes later the cops show up and they take a statement from my dad. They also say that they have been getting numerous reports about people being seen in the woods behind me and my neighbor's houses, in fact one house up the street I have a neighbor who says he's missing quite a few power tools and he thinks someone broke into his house when no one was home and stole them. And I'm really worried about this. I mean, what if someone breaks into my house even if the doors are locked?

Ah yes, Christmas is once again approaching. It seems as though it gets here quicker and quicker every year. I'm happy because I'm able to buy something for my dad, sister, step-dad, and mom. But the thing I love knowing is that Christmas isn't about the gifts, or the decorations, or the bargain sales at the stores. For all the lovely church going people, here's something for you: you probably know this, but Christmas is about the birth of Christ for God's sake! It's not about how much you can spend, how many gifts you can buy, how much the gifts are worth, none of that matters. The thing that truly matters is being surrounded by family, sharing special moments. In past years, I've felt like "What's the point of celebrating Christmas when everyone is so completely consumed by greed?" I mean, it's hard to try and tell people what the true meaning is, but they just don't listen. And sometimes I hear on the news about how people will get trampled to death just because some parent was buying an expensive game system for their kid that probably deserves a good smack upside the head, do these kids realize we're in a depression? It's like the Great Depression 2010, people are losing their homes, people are losing their jobs, people can barely afford to put food on the table, support a family, or pay bills, but you got these families out there buying their kids expensive crap they don't need. If I were any of those kids' parents and they came to me saying "I want a Wii system" or "I want an ipod Nano", I'd simply tell them "You want that game system or ipod? Go out, get a job and pay for it yourself, because I'm not doing it." Because, I'm a young adult and I may not be a parent, but I know plenty of people who are parents and they would probably say something similar to this. I'm just tired of hearing about the so called Christmas Greed, all I hear kids say nowadays is "I want this" or "I want that". I'm really glad I'm not like this, if I want something, I go out, get a job and pay for it myself. If I do it that way, I'll appreciate it more, that's the magic of hard work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dancing With the Almost Famous

I don't watch Dancing With the Stars. Talent competition shows have never exactly been my cup of tea. But one does not have to be a loyal viewer of the show to know that there has been some controversy among its fans over Bristol Palin being on the show and, what is more, returning every single week. The gist of their arguments is that Bristol Palin is not a star. She is simply the daughter of a former vice presidential candidate and a teenage mother who had a child out of wedlock.

I don't know about Bristol Palin's dancing, but they have a point that she is not a star. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sense 5 of star as: a.) the principal member of a theatrical or operatic company who usually plays the chief roles; b.) a highly publicised theatrical or motion picture performer; c.) an outstandingly talented performer (a track star), and d.) a person who is preeminent in a field. Now Bristol Palent is not the member of a theatrical or operatic company, let alone one who plays the chief roles. She is not a theatrical or motion picture performer, let alone a highly publicised one. She is not an outstandingly talented performer in anything (particularly her dancing if her critics are to be believed. And she is not preeminent in any field. It would seem then that Bristol Palin is definitely not a star.

Of course, if you ask me, this is not the first time someone who is not a star has competed on Dancing with the Stars. Earlier this year Kate Gosselin, whose only claim to fame was having her own reality show (Jon and Kate Plus Eight), competed on this show. No less than Hugh Hefner criticised this fact. When asked if he would ever considered Kate Gosselin posing for Playboy, not only did he say, "No! No! No!" but he also stated he did not understand why she was even on Dancing With the Stars. Hef said flatly, "I don't think she's a celebrity." I have to agree with Mr. Hefner. Kate Gosselin fits none of the definitions of star, unless someone can construe that she is preeminent in the field of reality shows, which is a most dubious honour indeed.

Of course, Kate Gosselin was not the first time a non-star appeared on the show. Dancing With the Stars let the genie out of the bottle all the way back in its first season when Trista Sutter, famous only from The Bachelorette, danced on the show. Since then there has been Kim Kardashian, Melissa Rycroft (she was on The Bachelor, in case you don't recognise the name--I had to look it up myself), Kate Gosselin, and Bristol Palin. In none of these cases were these individuals stars by any stretch of the imagination, yet somehow they appeared on Dancing With the Stars.

It seems to me that if Dancing With the Stars continue to feature individuals who are not stars, individuals who are almost famous, or for whom for fame is a fleeting thing at most, then perhaps it should change its name. Perhaps it should be Dancing With the Almost Famous or Dancing With the Fleetingly Famous. It certainly does not seem like it deserves the name Dancing With the Stars!


Yes, the title says it all. This blog is to see if anyone out there is against racism like I am. On Sunday, me, my dad and sister went to Traders World, that big flea market, to see a friend, she's this real nice black lady that I've known for all my life. She's the world's nicest person. Anyway, since we know her, every time we see her, we hug her and say it's good to see her. Well, obviously this didn't fly well with the countrified locals and this white guy gives me and my family a dirty look, he must have thought that it was a crime to hug someone of a different skin color. I thought we were all past the skin color issue. I mean, it's not 1950s anymore, it's 2010.

I'm the kind of person who looks past skin color, race, ethnicity, etc. I have friends who are of different ethnic groups and I look past that, I don't see them as Italian, black, Latino, etc. I see them as friends, buddies, etc. I just can't see what the big deal about having family/friends who are supposedly "different". I look at it this way-- having someone of another ethnic group/race exposes you to another of the fascinating cultures of our diverse world. I mean, I can barely stand it when I visit my aunt Lois and uncle Justin start talking bad about other people because of the way they look, their physical appearance,etc. And in high school, don't get me started. Guys wanting to be like the rap singers openly use the N word to describe friends, sorry but you don't use ethnic/racial slurs to describe friends, and when it comes to other words, teens today use the word Gay to say stupid. You don't use the word Gay to say that someone/something is stupid, it only makes yourself sound stupid. I hate when people turn things around to make something sound cooler to them, but makes them sound like they have no IQ. Because last time I checked, the term Gay meant someone who likes someone of the same sex, and homosexual is a less mean term.

If this were the 1950s, I'd be called a whole bunch of bad names because quite a few of my buddies are black, but I don't see it that way, hypothetically if someone were to ask me what it's like having black friends, I'd simply tell them, they're not my black friends, they're my friends. I don't see any of that racial/ethnic crap that some may see. You wonder how I got on this topic, the above mentioned event got me started, and plus, having an aunt who openly uses racial slurs is ridiculous. She doesn't like anyone, whenever she talks about someone, she almost puts them into a separate group, she doesn't like anyone of Italian descent, Asian descent, Latino descent, African descent. I try to put it into the least offensive way. But I can't just sit here and listen to people bad mouth others because of something simple as being of another ethnic group. If I see/hear someone insulting someone based on race in public, I will come right out and tell them it isn't right.

But it just isn't right, seeing people face injustice because of how they appear. I'm the kind of person who believes in treating everyone with respect and dignity and that means everyone, no matter how they appear. And I think Rodney King said this, "Why can't we all just get along?" And in the "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King believed in a world united, and somehow, he gets shot for believing in a world where blacks and whites and everyone lives together peacefully. I just don't understand the mindset of some people, how some people can be complete a--holes to people because of how they appear. Wake up people! It's 2010, not 1950s anymore. So just get over your racist attitudes and get over it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Miscast: How Some Classic Films Could Have Been Very Different.

Can anyone actually picture someone playing Rhett Butler other than Clark Gable? Or somebody else besides Humphrey Bogart playing Rick Blaine? In the case of many classic films their casting seems so perfect that it must have been inevitable. In our minds some actors were so perfect in their parts that it seems improbable to us looking back to think that anyone else might have been considered for those roles. As history shows, however, in Hollywood there is no such thing as a done deal. And in many instances of classic films, their casts could have been very different from what we know them today.

Indeed, perhaps no other film has had as many rumours surrounding its casting as the legendary Casablanca. The most persistent rumour to this day has been that Ronald Reagan was considered for the part of Rick Blaine even before Humphrey Bogart (the man who would ultimately play the role). Although often stated as fact, the rumour that Ronald Reagan was ever seriously considered for the role of Rick is just that, a rumour. This persistent urban legend has its roots in a fake publicity item released by Warner Brothers to The Hollywood Reporter and published on Janurary 5, 1942. The publicity release stated that Ann Sheridan and Ronald Regan would co-star for the third time in Casablanca, alongside Dennis Morgan. Despite the press release, Warner Brothers had no intention whatsoever in casting Ronald Reagan as Rick Blaine. What is more, they knew that they could not cast in him in the part even had they wanted to. At the time, Mr. Reagan was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry Reserve. The studio had written repeated deferments to keep him out of service, but with America at war they knew that he would not be deferred one more time.

While Ronald Reagan was not seriously considered for the role of Rick Blaine, Ann Sheridan was a different matter. In fact, on February 14, 1942 Hal Wallis asked casting director Steve Trilling to consider Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan for the lead roles in Casablanca. Ann Sheridan might seem an odd choice today, but one must consider at this point in the development of Casablanca the lead female role in the film was still an American named Lois Meredith. It was only a few days later that Ann Sheridan would be entirely out of the running for the movie, as it was decided to change American Lois Meredith to the foreigner Ilsa Lund. Even then, Ingrid Bergman was not the first choice to play Ilsa. Instead Hal Wallis initially considered legendary beauty Hedy Lamarr. The casting of Miss Lamarr in the role was thwarted by Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, who refused to loan the actress to any other studio. Mr. Wallis then turned to the much friendlier David O. Selznick, who agreed to loan another legendary, foreign beauty to the producer--Ingrid Bergman.

While Ann Sheridan was seriously considered for the lead female role in Casablanca for a very short time, it would appear that, like Ronald Reagan, Dennis Morgan was not seriously considered for the role of Victor Laszlo.  In fact, Hal Wallis's first choice to play Laszlo was Philip Dorn. As it turned out, Philip Dorn was unavailable as he was busy making Random Harvest (1942. The part then went to Paul Henreid.

While Hal Wallis insisted on Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine very early in the pre-production of Casablanca, it was still possible that he might not have gotten the part. Jack Warner told Hal Wallis that George Raft was lobbying him for the role of Rick Blaine. That George Raft wanted the role of Rick very, very much is quite interesting, as for much of Bogie's career he was producers' second choice after Mr. Raft! The role of "Mad Dog" Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941) was first offered to George Raft. When Mr. Raft turned the role down, the part went to Mr. Bogart. The role of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) was initially offered to George Raft. He turned it down because he thought director John Huston had too little experience. Once more Humphrey Bogart was cast in the role. With Casablanca, for the first time the roles of Humhprey Bogart and George Raft would be reversed. Mr. Raft wanted a role for which Humphrey Bogart was the first choice. Of course, Bogie would also get the part.

Today it is impossible to picture Casablanca with George Raft, Hedy Lamarr, and Philip Dorn in the lead roles. If things had gone differently, however, that could have been the movies lead cast. I rather suspect that Casablanca would not then be so highly regarded as it is today. While George Raft was a great actor, I think his talent was lesser than that of Humphrey Bogart in the end, who was perfect as the hard boiled cynic who is actually an incurable romantic, and in the end the greatest hero American cinema would ever produce.

While many rumours surrounding the casting of Casablanca are unwarranted, many of the rumours surrounding the casting of Gone with the Wind are very much warranted. Particularly when it came to the lead role of Scarlett O'Hara, almost anyone could have gotten the part. That is not to say that there were not a few actresses initially considered for the role of the spoiled, temperamental Southern belle. In the beginning three actresses were considered for the pivotal role of Scarlett: Miriam Hopkins, Margaret Sullavan, and Bette Davis. Miriam Hopkins was the only native of Georgia ever seriously considered for the role of Scarlett, having been born in Savannah. Despite this obvious advantage, she would not get the part in the end. For myself, I think Miriam, although pretty, was not dangerously beautiful enough to be Scarlett, not to mention too fair haired.Having read Gone with the Wind, I always pictured Scarlett as she is in the movie--a dark haired, Black Irish beauty. As to Bette Davis, she could certainly play a Southern Belle despite being born in Massachusetts (the only way she could have been more of a Yankee is to have been born in Connecticut). She was quite convincing in Jezebel (1938). That having been said, although charming, I do not think Miss Davis was physically attractive enough to play the preternaturally beautiful Scarlett. As to Margaret, I do not see how she could have ever been considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, even as a joke. She was not even pretty, let alone beautiful, and lacked any charm whatsoever. Indeed, the only film in which she showed any charm was The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and I give credit in that film more to director Ernst Lubitsch and screenwriters Samson Raphaelson and Ben Hecht than I do her!

When none of these actresses proved suitable to play Scarlett, David O. Selznick put out a nation wide casting call for the role. Many famous and unknown actresses vied for the role. Among these actresses was Katharine Hepburn, who actually thought she was doing Mr. Selznick a favour when she marched into his office and said, "I am Scarlett O'Hara! The role is practically written for me!" To this David O. Selznick flatly replied, "I can't imagine Rhett Butler chasing you for ten years." While Miss Hepburn had considerable talent and she could be very charming, I cannot see how she could believe the role of Scarlett O'Hara was practically written for her. Although mildly attractive, she was not so beautiful that dozens of men would court her, let alone chase her for ten years. More importantly, I think Miss Hepburn was simply incapable of playing Scarlett. There was no more archetypal Yankee in Hollywood than Katharine Hepburn. Her New England lockjaw accent appeared in every film she ever made, to the point that I believe she was incapable of producing any other accent, let alone something so dramatically different as a Southern drawl!

Tallulah Bankhead was a front runner for the role of Scarlett for a time. She certainly had the advantage of being the genuine article, a real Southern belle, having been born to gentry in Alabama. In the end, however, David O. Selznick decided she was too old for the part (as of 1938 she was 36 years old). Joan Bennett was also in serious contention, but, while she impressed David O. Selznick, in the end she would be out of the running. Among other actresses considered for the were Jean Arthur, Susan Hayward (who proved too inexperienced), and Anita Louise. Ultimately two fantastically beautiful brunettes would vie for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, and they were the only actresses given colour screen tests. As we all know, one was English rose Vivien Leigh. The other was Paulette Goddard.

While I have serious doubts that Katharine Hepburn could ever play a Southern belle, I do not harbour those same doubts about Paulette Goddard. Although born in Queens, Miss Goddard could play a Southern belle, as she did in Reap the Wild Wind (1942). And she had a good deal in common with Scarlett O'Hara. She had a mischievous streak that showed in many of her roles (especially her comedies), and she could be temperamental in the same way Scarlett was. Furthermore, Miss Goddard was incredibly, unbelievably, dangerously beautiful just as Scarlett was. Indeed, to me she was ideal insofar as she was dark haired, just the way I pictured Scarlett. So why did Paulette Goddard lose the role to Viiven? After her colour screen test David O. Selznick and then director George Cuckor decided she would need coaching if she was to play Scarlett O'Hara, whereas Vivien Leigh would not.

Unlike Scarlett O'Hara, Clark Gable was David O. Selznick's choice for Rhett Butler from the beginning. That having been said, a few other actors were also considered for the role. Gary Cooper was approached for the role, but he refused it because he thought Gone with the Wind would be the biggest flop in the history of cinema. Personally, it is hard for me to see the laid back Gary Cooper as Rhett Butler. Mr. Cooper was the epitome of quiet strength, and Rhett was never quiet. Errol Flynn was actually in serious contention for the role, to the point that papers were drawn up for Warner to lend Mr. Flynn to David O. Selznick. It seems today impossible that Errol Flynn could have played the role of Rhett Butler, but then in real life as on film Errol Flynn was something of a gentleman and a rouge much the way Rhett was. I don't know about Mr. Selznick, but my objection is that Mr. Flynn was perhaps too much of a rouge to play Rhett. Rhett could be a rouge, but he was always first and foremost the epitome of the Southern gentleman.

While historically Leslie Howard played Ashley Wilkes, he was not the only actor in contention for the role. Both Ronald Colman and Franchot Tone were in consideration for the part. I rather think Ronald Colman was much too powerful a performer to play the weak willed, somewhat non-committal Ashley. After all, he had played such legendary characters as Bulldog Drummond, Rafffles, and Major Rudolf Rassendyll (the hero of The Prisoner of Zenda). I am not sure he could have played an indecisive character like Ashley! Franchot Tone was a much better choice. He could play strong roles, but he most often played the idle playboy. I could seem him playing the emotionally torn Ashley Wilkes, who was too weak willed to let himself or Scarlett be happy. In fact, I think he may have been a better choice to play Ashley than Leslie Howard. As a fan of Mr. Howard, I think he, like Mr. Colman, was too powerful presence to play Ashley. After all, he was the Scarlet Pimpernel and the original film version of Professor Henry Higgins. Leslie Howard himself believed he was miscast as Ashley, maintaining he was much too old for the part. Indeed, David O. Selznick had to bribe Leslie Hoard with an associate producer credit on Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) before he would take the role!

Janet Gaynor was initially considered as Melanie Wilkes, something I find unbelievable today. Like Tallulah Bankhead, I submit she was too old for the part of Melanie. As it was, Olivia de Havilland very nearly did not get the part. It was friend and the original director of the film George Cuckor who asked Miss de Havilland to read for the part. While she proved wonderful in the role, there was one fly in the ointment: her contract with Warner Brothers. As one of their top stars, Jack Warner was determined not to loan Miss de Havilland to David O. Selznick. Utlimately, Miss de Havilland had to appeal to a higher power: Jack Warner's wife Irene. Mrs. Warner intervened and Olivia de Havilland got the part.

In my worst nightmares Gone with the Wind would star Katharine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Janet Gaynor, and Leslie Howard. I can even hear in my mind Miss Hepburn's New England lockjaw as she utters "Tomorrow is another day," while hearing Gary Cooper take a full minute simply to say "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Fortunately, history unfolded differently.

Not only could Gone with the Wind have had a different cast, but so could that other mega-classic from 1939, The Wizard of Oz. As hard as it is to believe today, Judy Garland might not have played Dorothy Gale. While Mervyn Leroy always insisted he wanted Miss Garland to play Dorothy, evidence suggests that MGM was pressuring him to cast popular star Shirley Temple in the role, even though they would have had to have gotten her on loan from Fox. Fortunately, several factors would keep Shirley Temple out of Oz. First, while Mervyn Leroy championed Judy Garland, so too did powerful associate producer Arthur Freed. Second, Roger Edens, musical supervisor at MGM, listened to Shirley Temple's singing and determined her style was unsuited to the movie. Third, 20th Century Fox was very reticent about loaning out their top star. I believe that this was very fortunate, as I think MGM's top brass was dead wrong to think Miss Temple was right for the role of Dorothy. While I think Shirley Temple became a very charming adult, as a child I always found her annoying. Even as a child myself, I could never sit through a Shirley Temple movie.

Another starlet was also considered for the role of Dorothy, none other than Judy Garland's rival form Universal Deanna Durbin. In fact, Deanna Durbin had been signed to MGM in 1935, but the studio unwisely let her contract option expire, giving Universal the chance to sign the starlet. While in 1938 Judy Garland was not yet a major star, Universal had already given Miss Durbin a good deal of film experience and she even had a loyal following. It is hard to say why Deanna Durbin would not be cast as  Dorothy. Perhaps MGM believed Universal would not loan one of their top stars (and who could blame them if they wouldn't), or perhaps MGM felt Judy Garland's more jazz oriented singing style was more suited to the film than Deanna Durbin's operatic style. Whatever the reason, Judy would play Dorothy and ultimately outshine Deanna Durbin in terms of star power.

It is well known that Buddy Ebsen was set to play the Tin Man until he had a reaction to the aluminium powder used in his make up. What is not so well known is that Buddy Ebsen was not originally slated to play the Tin Man. In the beginning Ray Bolger was cast as the Tin Man and Buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow. Mr. Bolger was rather unhappy in his part as the Tin Man. His childhood idol, song and dance man  Fred Stone, had played the Scarecrow on stage in 1902. Mr.Bolger then wanted to play the Scarecrow. Buddy Ebsen had no objections, so Mr. Bolger convinced Mervyn Leroy to switch them in their roles. Unfortunately, after ten days of shooting Mr. Ebsen had a reaction to the aluminium powder in the Tin Man make up, resulting in a lengthy stay in hospital. Jack Haley was then cast as the Tin Man. Personally, given all three men were legendary song and dance men, I think all three were capable of playing either role. Indeed, I think Ray Bolger would have been a fine Tin Man, although given his love of the Scarecrow, I can see how he would be better in that role!

W. C. Fields, under contract to MGM, was the studio's original choice for the Great and Powerful Oz. It is not exactly clear why Mr. Fields did not take the role. One rumour has it that Mr. Fields, then one of the most popular comic actors of the time, thought the role was too small. Another rumour is that he simply asked for too much money. Both rumours could be true. Regardless, the part would go to Frank Morgan instead. Given that W. C. Fields  and Frank Morgan  were both adept at playing bumblers and con men (and the Wizard of Oz was both), I think Mr. Fields would have been a good Wizard, much as Mr. Morgan was.

Much of the reason MGM decided to make The Wizard of Oz was the phenomenal success of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), at that time the highest grossing motion picture of all time. For that reason, as hard as it is to believe now, MGM originally wanted the Wicked Witch of the West to be glamourous and beautiful much as the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. MGM initially considered Edna May Oliver, but ultimately the part went to the decidedly glamourous Gale Sondergaard. MGM would have a change of heart, however, so that the Wicked Witch of the West would become the archetypal, old hag. This did not make Gale Sondergaard at all happy, so she was replaced as the Wicked Witch of the West by Margaret Hamilton. Ironically, Margaret Hamilton was nothing like her most famous role. A one time a school teacher, she genuinely loved children and devoted her life to them, even after becoming famous as an actress. Today it is hard to picture the Wicked Witch of the West as glamourous, and quite honestly I think MGM was right to change their minds. While I think Gale Sondergaard was a great actress, I think most of us who have read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz see the Wicked Witch as the archetypal witch, warts and all. While it was nothing like the warm hearted Margaret Hamilton in real life, she was fantastic in the role.

Glinda the Good Witch of the North, could also have had a different actress in the role. Some sources report that the legendary Fanny Brice was considered for the role. In the end the role would go to another comedienne, Billie Burke. I think Fanny Brice would have made a good Glinda the Good Witch, even if we today can only picture Billie Burke in the role.

Ultimately, I think MGM made very good choices with regards to The Wizard of Oz. Buddy Ebsen would have made a good Scarecrow. W. C. Fields would have made a good Wizard. Deanna Durbin would have made a good Dorothy. That having been said, to me Shirley Temple as Dorothy is the stuff from which nightmares are made, and I cannot see Gale Sondergaard as the Wicked Witch!

There are those who hold to the auteur theory, maintaining that it is ultimately the director who determines the quality of a picture. There are others who maintain that filmmaking is a collaborative effort. I think there is something to both of these theories, but I also think the casting of classic films over the years often demonstrates another factor in making movies. Quite simply, a lot of what makes a good film is sheer luck or circumstances. What if George Raft had successfully convinced Jack Warner he should be Rick Blaine? What if Paulette Goddard had been chosen as Scarlett O'Hara instead of Vivien Leigh? What if MGM had gotten their way and Shirley Temple was cast as Dorothy? Would Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz be considered classics today? I think Gone with the Wind could have worked with Paulette Goddard as its lead, but I rather suspect Casablanca and particularly The Wizard of Oz might not be remembered so fondly. It seems to me much of what makes a good film is good casting, and often casting is a pure roll of the dice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

If I Had Started the Silver Age at DC Comics

As everyone familiar with comic book history knows, the Silver Age of Comic Books began when editor Julius Schwartz revived The Flash in Showcase #4, October 1946 at National Periodical Publications (now DC Comics). This Flash would be different from The Flash who was introduced in Flash Comics #1, January 1940 during the Golden Age. In fact, the original Flash would merely be a character in comic books read by the new Flash, police scientist Barry Allen. When one night while working late a lightning bolt strikes a case of chemicals, which then splash all over him, Barry gained the ability of moving at super speed. Created by Robert Kanigher and John Broome, and penciller Carmine Infantino, The new Flash proved to be a success, paving the way for revivals of other Golden Age superheroes from Green Lantern to The Atom. The success at National Periodical Publications would lead to the rebirth of Marvel Comics, which was an also-ran during the Golden Age but would become the second biggest comic book company in the world.

Of course, things could have unfolded differently. Rather than creating a brand new character called The Flash, Julius Schwartz, Robert Kanigher, and John Broome could have simply revived the Golden Age Flash. Or he could have chosen another character published by Detective Comics, National Comics, and All-American Comics (the three interrelated companies that would become National Periodical Publications and hence DC Comics). That the Silver Age would take place at all there seems to be little doubt. And given the fact that in 1956 most comic book companies were either already out of business or in danger of going out of business, it makes sense that it would have begun at National Periodical Publications.  Beyond that, however, it could have unfolded differently. As a comic book fan and a fan of the characters from All-American Comics in particular (The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, and so on), I have given much thought to how the Silver Age would taken place if I had been in Julius Schwartz's place. Or if Mr  Schwartz thought like me.

Given the fact that he was possibly All-American Comics' most popular character besides Wonder Woman (who was still being published by National Periodical Publications in 1956), much like Julius Schwartz I would have probably have chosen The Flash as the superhero to revive. That having been said, I would not have created a whole new character. Instead, I simply would have revived The Flash of the Golden Age. The original Flash was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert. He was Jay Garrick, a college student who attained the ability of moving at super fast speeds when he inhaled heavy water vapours. He would be a founding member of the first superhero team in comic book history, the Justice Society of America. He was so popular he appeared at one time in four different titles: Flash Comics, his own title (All Flash), Comic Cavalcade, and All Star Comics (as a member of the Justice Society of America). He last appeared in the final issues of All Flash (January 1948), Flash Comics (February 1949), and All Star Comics (March 1951).

Of course, while I would revive Jay Garrick, I would probably give him a new costume. While I personally like his costume, it definitely looks like something a hero from the Forties would wear, not a hero working in the Fifties. That having been said, Carmine Infantino would not be the man to design that costume. Mr. Infantino has his following, but I personally have always found his art lacking. I probably would have went with Gil Kane (who later co-created the Silver Age Green Lantern) or Murphy Anderson (who worked on a number of Silver Age DC comic books). As to writers, much like Julius Schwartz, I would have gone with John Broome.

Of course, within the comic books themselves there would have to be a backstory behind the revival of Jay Garrick. As I see it, Jay Garrick would have retired as The Flash shortly after his last appearance in All Star Comics #57, March 1951. In the meantime he would have married his sweetheart, Joan Williams. This brings us up to 1956, when Jay has been retired for five years. Keystone City is threatened once more when three of The Flash's opponents (The Shade, The Fiddler, and The Thinker) are released from prison and begin a crime wave in Keystone City. With Keystone City so threatened, Jay Garrick would design a new costume and resume his career as The Flash.

Provided this revival of The Flash was as successful as the introduction of Barry Allen as The Flash was in real life (and I have little reason to doubt it wouldn't be), I would then revive more Golden Age characters. Historically, Green Lantern (although, like The Flash, a different character from the Golden Age one) would be the next character Julius Schwartz would revive. As much as I love Green Lantern (the Golden Age version is my second favourite superhero of all time besides Batman), I think I would have taken a different route. In 1956 Busy Arnold sold his company, the Quality Comics Group, to National Periodical Publications, lock, stock, and barrel. National Periodical Publications would only continue publishing a few of Quality Comics' titles, Blackhawk among them. They would not continue Plastic Man, Quality Comics' most popular character, whose title barely lasted into the Silver Age (the last issue was #64, November 1956). I would then revive Plastic Man. Or perhaps given his last issue would only have been very recently, I suppose I would simply be picking up where Quality Comics left off. Plastic Man would begin again, with issue #65 sometime in 1957. I would probably revive Doll Man as well, whose last issue of his own title was in 1953. Doll Man would pick back up with issue 48 sometime between 1957 and 1960. I would then revive other Golden Age Quality Comics characters, including The Ray, Uncle Sam, The Black Condor, Kid Eternity, and so on. Here it must be noted that with the exceptions of Plastic Man (finally revived by National Periodical Publications in 1966) and Kid Eternity (who would not be revived until 1976, and then as part of DC's revival of Captain Marvel, a Fawcett character), the major heroes from Quality Comics would go unused by DC until 1973!

Of course, while I would have not missed the opportunity National Periodical Publications had to mine the Quality Comics superheroes they had bought in 1956 the way the company did so historically, I would have revived Green Lantern just as Julius Schwartz did in real life. Like The Flash, this was not the original character, but an entirely new one. The Green Lantern of the Silver Age was created by writer John Broome and Gil Kane and first appeared in Showcase #22, October 1959. He was test pilot Hal Jordan, who was given a ring, which gives the wearer power over the physical world limited by his own will power, by the dying alien Abin Sur. It turns out Abin Sur belonged to galactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps, making Hal Jordan only one of many. The revival of Green Lantern proved as successful as that of The Flash, leading to the revival of other Golden Age characters.

Like I would have with The Flash, I would not have created a whole new character, but simply revived the original, created by Gardner Fox and Martin Nodell. The original Green Lantern was Alan Scott, who as a railroad engineer came upon a magic green lantern, which instructed him to make a ring from its metal. With this ring he had power over the physical world limited only by his own will power. Green Lantern proved popular, appearing in four titles at one time: All-American Comics, Green Lantern, Comic Cavalcade, and, as a member of the Justice Society of America, All-Star Comics. Like The Flash, he last appeared in All Star Comics #57, March 1951. I would probably use the same creative team Julius Schwartz did historically: John Broome and Gil Kane. I would also give Green Lantern a new costume (as much as I love Alan Scott, his costume is outlandish looking). As to a back story, well, Alan Scott would have retired in 1951 to concentrate on his career in broadcasting (I figure by then he'd be making the transition into television). It would be in either 1958 or 1959 that Vandal Savage, the immortal villain, would seize total control of Gotham City. Alan Scott would then be forced out of retirement. This would be ideal if I also edited the Batman titles, which sadly Julius Schwartz did not yet (I assume I would not either).

I figure like Julius Schwartz I would also revive The Atom, Hawkman, and The Black Canary, although in each case I would simply revive the Golden Age character as opposed to creating a whole, new character as Mr. Schwartz did. Of course, this could mean I could bring back the Justice Society of America and All Star Comics (beginning with issue #58, ignoring the ten years it survived as a Western title). Of course, in simply reviving the Golden Age characters this would mean the history of DC Comics would be dramatically different from the way it actually unfolded. As everyone familiar with comic book history knows, after the revivals of The Flash and Green Lantern, there was some demand on the part of the older fans of the original characters. This presented Julius Schwartz and in particular writer Gardner Fox with a problem. It was established that Jay Garrick was simply a comic book character in the world of Barry Allen! The solution to the problem was to establish that the Golden Age National Comics, Detective Comics, and All-American Comics characters existed in a different world. As established in "Flash of Two Worlds" in The Flash #123, September 1961, in which Barry Allan accidentally travels into another reality, Earth Two, where Jay Garrick was The Flash from 1940 onwards! Barry Allan and the Silver Age characters all lived on Earth One. By the Seventies, DC Comics would not only have Earth One and Earth Two, but Earth-S (home of the Fawcett characters licensed to them at the time and, for some odd reason, Kid Eternity), Earth-X (home of the Quality Comics characters except Kid Eternity), and others. Of course, if Julius Schwartz had simply revived the original characters, there never would have been any parallel universes (unless the old Quality characters lived in one....)!

Of course, Julius Schwartz would not only be responsible for reviving many Golden Age superheroes in new forms, but he would also be responsible for saving Batman. In the late Fifties Batman had degenerated into an imitation of Superman, but without the super powers. He had an extended family (Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Ace the Bathound....). He engaged in such silly adventures as fighting aliens and travelling through time. This took a toll on the popularity of Batman, at one time the most popular character in the whole comic book industry besides Superman. Indeed, by 1964 both Batman and Detective Comics were in danger of cancellation. Having had great success in reviving superheroes, Julius Schwartz was made editor of the Batman titles and given the task of saving the character.

Julius Schwartz did away with Batman's extended family. He also did away with the rather silly, pseudo-science fiction stories, instead making Batman the world's greatest detective. He also had Carmine Infantino redesign Batman's costume, including placing an oval around the Bat insignia on his chest. One unpopular decision Mr. Schwartz made was killing off Alfred the butler and introducing Aunt Harriet (this was done to assuage the accusations Dr. Frederic Wertham had made in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent that Batman and Robin were gay). Alfred would appear on the 1966 TV show and hence he would be revived in the comic books as well. The sales of the Batman titles would improve, although it would not truly be safe until the TV show debuted in 1966.

Like Julius Schwartz, I would have also performed emergency surgery on Batman. During the Fifties, the character had become something of a joke, so it was little wonder his sales slipped so badly. I would, however, go about things differently from Julius Schwartz. I would have kept Batman's old costume, and I certainly would not have hired Carmine Infantino as a new artist. I would have gone with Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, or Joe Kubert. While I liked the early New Look stories with Batman as a detective, I would have gone all the way back to the original portrayal of Batman in 1939 as a brutal vigilante. Oh, I know I could not have gotten away with the violence of the stories in the late Thirties (the Comics Code of the Sixties would not permit it), but I would come as close as I possibly could. I certainly would not have killed off Alfred. Bruce Wayne is a millionaire, which means he should have a butler! Like Julius Schwartz, I would have gotten rid of Batwoman, Bat-Girl, the Bathound, et. al, although I probably would have killed them off. One thing I would have done is gotten rid of Robin the Boy Wonder. Oh, I would not have killed him off, but after 24 years of appearing in comic books I figure it would be time for Dick Grayson to graduate high school and go off to college (preferably as far away from Gotham City as possible, like Oxford...). If Robin ever made a guest appearance, he'd have a new costume (something close to what Robin wears these days). Batman's old rouge's gallery having fallen into disuse save for The Joker, I would bring back Two-Face, Catwoman, The Penguin, The Mad Hatter, and so on. The Joker having become a mere practical joker since the Fifties, I'd return him to his original, homicidal self. Of course, I have to wonder how all of this would affect the upcoming TV show....

Historically, when Julius Schwartz revived The Flash in 1956, he began the Silver Age. The new version of The Flash proved so popular that there would be other new versions of Golden Age heroes: Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman. This would lead other companies to get back into the superhero business. The first would be Archie Comics, publishing The Adventures of The Fly in 1959 and The Jaguar in 1961. When Julius Schwartz created a new superhero team, the Justice League of America, featuring DC Comics superheroes much like the Justice Society of America of the Golden Age, it inspired Marvel Comics to re-enter the field of superheroes. Quite simply, Julius Schwartz started the Silver Age. That having been said, it could have unfolded very differently.