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December 31, 2013

Susan Marg

Hoping 2014 will be the year of the Western,

and wishing you a happy new year.

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“People are always asking me why they don’t make Westerns like the used to.”

— Roy Rogers

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“In Westerns you were permitted to kiss your horse,

but never your girl.”

— Gary Cooper

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“I think you’re going to find out that Westerns will be coming back.

 It’s Americana.

It’s part of our history —

the cowboy, the cattle drive, the sheriff, the fight for law, order, and justice.

Justice will always prevail,

as far as I’m concerned.”

— Clayton Moore

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December 25, 2013

Susan Marg

Remembering Funny Men

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

Despite appearances, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin had a lot in common.

They were both born into poor families in the late nineteenth century, Fields near Philadelphia in 1880 and Chaplin in London in 1889.  Before catapulting to fame during the silent movie era, Fields was in vaudeville.  He started as a juggler, appearing as a genteel tramp with a scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo, somehow managing to keep cigar boxes, hats, and other flying objects up in the air.

Chaplin, too, began on the vaudeville stage doing comedy sketches.  His impersonation of a drunk dressed in evening attire and top hat, attempting to light a cigar on a light bulb, was one of his most popular roles.

In character, Fields was a hard-drinking misanthrope, playing hustlers and card sharks with an animosity towards dogs and children.  Disputing this, Fields declared, “I like children – fried.”

Chaplin’s “the Tramp” was a good-hearted character who, regardless of his predicament which he often brought upon himself, acted like the perfect gentleman.  The Kid, “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear,” featured seven-year old Jackie Coogan as “the Tramp’s” adopted son and sidekick.

The public adored both Fields and Chaplin, but both were lonely. “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend,” Chaplin once bemoaned.

Explaining to his family his aversion to Christmas and other “silly holidays”, Fields lamented, “It’s because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road — as I was for so long . . . and around the world seven times–finds himself all alone on the days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It’s not too good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.”

Still Fields would boast, “Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”

Ironically, Fields died on Christmas day, 1946.  In his will, later contested by his estranged wife and one of his two sons (both named William, after the old man), he left a portion of his estate to an orphanage “where no religion of any sort is preached.”

"Christmas Charlie" - By: Mike Margolis

“Christmas Charlie” – By: Mike Margolis

By coincidence, Chaplin, too, passed away on Christmas day, 1977, survived by two sons (including Charles Spencer Chaplin III) from an early marriage and eight children from his fourth and last marriage with Oona O’Neill.

What tremendous legacies these funny men left. They always made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. We remember them with joy in our hearts and good will to all.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog Photos

December 19, 2013

Susan Marg

“There are three stages of an actor’s career…”

Young. (In "Gunsmoke"}

Young. (In “Gunsmoke”}

Old. (Photo by: Alan Light)

Old. (Photo by: Alan Light)

'You look good.' (Photo by: Adam Bielawski)

‘You look good.’ (Photo by: Adam Bielawski)

— Burt Reynolds

 

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December 11, 2013

Susan Marg

100 Years Ago in Pop Culture:

The Birth of a Filmmaker

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In 1913 actor and filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille began shooting The Squaw Man In Hollywood.

It was a bit of an accident that DeMille and his crew were there.  They had planned to locate to Flagstaff, Arizona, but the weather was so bad that December, nor were the vistas as spectacular as expected, that they took the train to the end of the line and decided to stay, the California climate and scenery being perfect for their endeavor.

The Squaw Man, a romantic drama based on a play, involves an English peer falsely accused of a crime his cousin had committed.  He escapes to the American West and marries an Indian woman, only to return home, without his wife who had died, when he is cleared of all charges.

The six-reeler, the first feature length film made in Hollywood, was a huge success.  DeMille, rather taken with the story, remade the move twice, again as a silent in 1918 and then as a talkie in 1931.

Tyrannical on the set, he wore a whistle around his neck and carried a large megaphone, so his instructions were loud and clear.  Although not an actor’s director, he was loyal to his actors, casting Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson, Gary Cooper, Robert Preston, Paulette Goddard, and Charlton Heston in multiple pictures.

DeMille became a celebrity in his own right, dressing the part in an open-necked shirt, riding pants, and boots. However, in his cameo appearance as himself in Sunset Boulevard (1950), he wore a conservative dark suit and tie.

The director’s best known endeavors came late in his career.  He made Samson and Delilah in 1949, The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952, and The Ten Commandments in 1956.  In Egypt filming the Exodus scene for the later, then-75-year-old DeMille climbed to the top of the massive Ramesses set and suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Against his doctor’s orders, DeMille was back directing the film within a week.

Setting his sights on the stars, DeMille was planning a movie about space travel, when he died of a heart ailment in January, 1958.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog

December 4, 2013

Susan Marg

Let’s Go to the Movies

I love this time of year.  No, I’m not thinking about holiday parties or hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” for the twentieth time in a television commercial. And I certainly won’t spend the month putting together my New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about the movies!

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

The Oscar buzz has already started. Frontrunners, per pundits, include 12 Years A Slave and Gravity with Captain Phillips gaining.  It’s a competitive awards season this year, some even call it “cluttered. For me it means more movies worth watching and performances to appreciate.  I’m partial to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (which I saw last weekend) and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.

There’s more comedy, drama, romance, fantasy out there: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, Philomena, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

And more to come.  David O. Russell’s American Hustle with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence (what a cast!) is in theaters December 18. The Disney movie Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks (who might be nominated for Best Actor for Captain Phillips) playing Walt Disney opens everywhere December 20, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and Matthew McConaughey, again, but in a supporting role) opens Christmas Day. The trailers are wild.

I haven’t seen everything I’ve mentioned, nor will I.  I’m usually guided by the reviews, good or bad.  But I’ll be drawn to the cinema again and again.  If I have an appetite for action, I might take in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a runaway success.  It stars a talented young actress who has already scored an Oscar.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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“Let’s Go to the Movies” from “Annie”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wftKf04N5r0