Friday, October 26, 2012


Here is the list of actors whose movies I try to catch, mainly on Turner Classic Movies. In no particular order...

  • Lon Chaney
    • He died in 1930, only 47 years old (lung cancer), so he made one "talkie". All the rest were silent and like many early stars, some of his films are lost.
    • He was famous for his makeup skills, portraying Quasimodo, the Phantom of the Opera, and a 100-year-old Chinese man among others. 
    • His silent screen acting skills supposedly came from the fact that both his parents were deaf and he learned to use his face and body to express himself.
    • I love watching his films, especially The Phantom of the Opera, The Unknown (with young Joan Crawford), The Unholy Three (both the silent and sound versions), and He Who Gets Slapped.
  • Buster Keaton
    • He was called The Great Stone Face for his consistently serious expression. When I typed it into the Google Images bar one of the automatic choices that came up was "Buster Keaton smiling"! And the resulting list really had the same non-smiling choices.
    • Some people tend to prefer Charlie Chaplin and some Buster Keaton. I lean towards Keaton but I have definitely liked the Chaplin films I've seen (Gold Rush, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Tillie's Punctured Romance). 
    • His movies didn't do well at the box office (though they are considered classics now) and he was no longer allowed the independence he had. Can you imagine the films he might have made had they left him alone? Oh well.
    • I have seen Sherlock Jr, The General, Steamboat Bill Jr, and a couple of others. I am trying to catch more of Keaton's films as they appear on TCM.
  • Gene Kelly
    • For a while when I was younger I thought I was somehow named after Gene Kelly since my first and middle names are Kelly Jean but I was not.
    • Again, some people prefer Fred Astaire and some people prefer Gene Kelly. I lean towards Gene but I do enjoy Fred too! I definitely need to see more Fred & Ginger movies but I've seen several of his other films.
    • As for Gene's, I have watched Singin' in the Rain, Brigadoon, The Pirate, The Three Musketeers, For Me and My Gal, Cover Girl, On the Town, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, An American in Paris, all the That's Entertainment films and a couple of others. I will be recording Inherit the Wind in a week or two.
  • Montgomery Clift
    • Another actor who died young, only 45 (heart attack not helped by drug and alcohol use). He was gorgeous until a car accident damaged his looks forever.
    • The movies I've seen include The Search (I love this one especially), The Heiress, A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, Raintree County (filming when he had his accident so you can play the macabre game of figuring out the before and after shots), Suddenly Last Summer, The Misfits and Judgement at Nuremberg.
  • Leslie Howard
    • He's probably most famous now for playing Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind where he's overshadowed by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler (as he should be in that film) but Leslie Howard was a star in his own right in the 1930s. (He was in an earlier film with Gable called A Free Soul. In that movie he murders Gable's character!)
    • Some of my fave Leslie Howard films: Pygmalion, Outward Bound, A Free Soul, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Of Human Bondage (with Bette Davis), Intermezzo (Ingrid Bergman's Hollywood debut), Stand-In, Pimpernel Smith and The Petrified Forest.
    • Howard insisted that Humphrey Bogart play Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest and he had enough star power to make it happen. The role made Bogart a star and later he and Lauren Bacall named their daughter Leslie in tribute.
    • Leslie Howard died in a plane crash in 1943 when the plane was shot down by Germans during World War II. There are several theories on why the plane was shot down: the Germans thought Churchill was on the plane, Howard was a spy, the plane was erroneously believed to have flown into the war zone, etc... Leslie Howard was only 50 at the time.
  • Humphrey Bogart
    • I just started reading a new biography of Bogart yesterday!
    • Casablanca is great, of course, and Bogart is fun to watch in The African Queen, The Caine Mutiny, Key Largo, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, Dark Passage, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Stand-In and The Big Sleep.
    • He also died relatively young at 57 (esophageal cancer)
  •  James Cagney
    • I haven't seen nearly enough of his films. I think the first one I ever saw was Ragtime in 1981 and that was his final film.
    • I adore Yankee Doodle Dandy, Footlight Parade, and The Bride Came C.O.D. I've seen many pieces of his other movies so I really need to step up my efforts.
  • James Stewart
    • There are two main reasons why I watch The Greatest Show on Earth, widely considered one of the worst pictures to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture: 
      • It has Emmett Kelly in it. He was the most famous circus clown and I have had a print from a magazine on my wall since I was very young that says "Everyone Here Loves Kelly" and it refers to him.
      • James Stewart's wonderful performance as Buttons the clown. I get tears in my eyes every time I see the scene with Buttons and his mother. He was a wonderful actor.
      • Okay, a third reason is the movie is just so terrible that it's fun to watch!
    • To wit: The Philadelphia Story, You Can't Take it with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again, The Shop Around the Corner, Rope, Rear Window, The F.B.I. Story, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Harvey and It's a Wonderful Life.
      • In the 1980s when I first caught It's a Wonderful Life I didn't like it much because it made no sense. It turns out that I had seen an very shopped up version and many scenes were excised for more commercial time. The COMPLETE film is indeed wonderful and the scene where Stewart makes his prayer to God is especially outstanding.
    • I haven't seen nearly enough of his films either. I have not seen Vertigo! Crazy.
    • Other pluses: He used to read some of his poetry on The Tonight Show. He and his wife named one of their daughters Kelly.

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