Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Great Duvall

Though John Wayne felt James Garner was the best actor America had to offer, he should have taken some notice of Robert Duvall.  I can't name all the incredible rolls Duvall played. When the camera is on this fellow, you don't see the actor, you meet a tangible character. He makes his characters real.  In every movie he's been in, whether a primary or supporting roll, he's the glue.  He becomes the people he portrays.  When I see Duvall act, I don't think of Duvall acting, I'm relating to the person he's portraying.  Go rent The Apostle or Tender Mercies, you'll see what I mean.

There is one movie that I didn't care for, but Robert played his part so believably well.  The movie was Deep Impact.  In the movie a crew of specialists had to be pulled together to rocket up into space to save the world from a mammoth planet-killer comet. I know-I know, Armageddon  another big budget movie that  starred Bruce Willis came out about the same time with the same premise and was equally as mediocre.  The only difference twixt the two is that Deep Impact had Robert Duvall behind the wheel.  He played a seasoned astronaut who knew how to pilot the shuttle and kept the diverse crew together to complete the mission.  The only reason to watch this movie over Armageddon is to watch Duvall.

Here I am writing about a picture of his that I don't really rate much as a good movie.  Go back to To Kill A Mockingbird, The Godfather (one and two), Apocalypse Now, Second Hand Lions, Sling Bland and many-many more.  I've seen him in classic television shows from The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat.  He's been around for quite sometime, and has never disappointed his audience...at least not me.

My favorite movies of Duvalls is when he puts on a cowboy hat. The Lonesome Dove mini-series that people still talk about.  Eventually I'll own it on DVD.  I'm also a fan of Tommy Lee Jones...the two were great together.  The movies Broken Trail and Open Range became instant Western classics - right up there with all my old favorite Westerns.  Now I love John Wayne, but John Wayne movies were John Wayne movies.  People went to see John Wayne (at least in his later pics).  When you go see a Robert Duvall movie, you don't see Robert Duvall.  I'm just wondering if John Wayne was wearing that eye patch and missed the great talent of Bob Duvall when making True Grit.

Duvall played a wonderful General Lee in Gods and Generals. I read where Robert Duvall served in the military and has the right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery when he dies (if so he chooses).  For those of you who do not know, Arlington National Cemetery was Robert E. Lee's estate before the war.  The land was seized by the Union when Lee chose to side with Virginia.   The American dead were literally buried at Lee's front door.  Robert Duvall said he was proud to take on the roll of the great Confederate general because his folk haled from Northern Virginia, in fact, Robert Duvall is a descendant of Robert E. Lee.  What a great thrill it must have been to portray his ancestor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


James Garner had been around long before I became a fan.  I didn't watch Maverick much as a kid.  I loved the movie Great Escape, but my eyes were on Steve McQueen and his great motorcycle stunts rather than Jimmy.  It wasn't until Rockford Files came along that I really took notice.  Television in the seventies was over saturated with cop/detective shows.  This show stood out because of Rockford's down to earth demeanor and wit.  Sharp writing and an excellent cast...still one of my all time favorite television series.   

Ever since Rockford Files, I have since watched just about everything Garner's done.  It's not that all his movies are great, I just like seeing him at work.  Maybe the reason I had overlooked him was because I just never cared much for the pretty boys.  There have been so many of them.  I had categorized James Garner as a great face more than great talent.  I was wrong.  It wasn't until Rockford Files that I truly saw the guy's talent.  In a 1973 interview, John Wayne said that James Garner is the best American actor. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

everybody was kung fu fighting

I was all about Kung Fu (1972-1975) when I was a kid.  No, I didn't know kung fu, I watched it on television. I had a friend recently tell me that the concept for the television show was originally an idea that the late great Bruce Lee pitched to Warner Brothers and Paramount.  Bruce said that he wanted to bring martial arts to the old West.  At the time the television executives didn't think a real China man should play one on television.  Execs didn't think it would go over.  They felt that people would be turned off by a Chinese leading man.   It would've been great if television would've opened it's mind to the a different kind of hero.  The kids back in those days loved Bruce Lee as Cato in The Green Hornet.  I don't think it would've been a hard sell.  There's a dispute about who's concept was who's, but for sure, Bruce had been a contender for the leading roll.  When he lost the part, he went back to China and made a name for himself there...as well as the rest of the world.

Warner Brothers eventually produced a series with the same basic concept, only with the American actor David Carradine.  David is the son of well known character actor John Carradine.  By the time Kung Fu was half way through it's first season, David Carradine had managed to become even more famous than his father.  John by the way, was featured in three of Kung Fu episodes.  The show was very unique, an Eastern Shaolin monk fugitive who escaped to the American wild West. Kwai Chang Caine was a very peaceful fellow who by the end of each episode had to open a can of whoop-ass on some bad guys.

David shaved his head only once for Kung Fu.  The viewer was always seeing flashbacks from show to show...a lot of David's bald dome.  You can tell how far into the series you might be watching by the length of his hair.  Kwai Chang Caine got really hippie looking by the third year.  Most folks know that David was into martial arts.  He started the show out only as a dancer, not with any martial arts training.  He started getting into it by the third and final season of the show, doing much of his own fighting/stunts by that time.

Television westerns were fading in the seventies.  Kung Fu came along and offered something completely different to the audience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can you do a banana split?

There are certain things that remind us of our childhood.  The Banana Split does it for me.  I don't know when the last time I actually had one.  I do remember having a lot of them as a kid.  They were the keeper candy I'd find in my Trick-R-Treat bag or in my stocking on Christmas morning.

If I had change jingling in my pocket and I was wanting to fill a bag with penny candy at Cartee's (a mom & pop store in my old neighborhood), you'd bet there'd be a handful coming home.  I remember having to go to the dentist because of eating one once.  It made a filling come out.   Do you remember Banana Splits?  What were some of your favorite penny candies of your youth?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bond, James Bond

Gina and I went to see the new Bond flick, Skyfall, the third movie starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007.  I must say, I was thoroughly entertained.  I knew before Casino Royale that Craig was going to be a good pick because I really liked him in Layer Cake (2004).  I never thought I'd say this, but Craig equals Sean Connery.  Every Bond actor that's come along has had to compete in my mind as with Connery.  Craig and Connery portray two different Bonds.  They are both equally good.  Connery, after seeing Daniel Craig would play Bond in Royale said, "Fantastic...marvelous in the part...he really get's the danger element to the Bond character".  Craig went into not trying to imitate any other Bond actor.  His favorite Bond was Sean Connery, his favorite Bond movie was From Russia With Love.

Seeing Daniel Craig in Bonds shoes make me think what it would've been like to have had Steve McQueen play the roll.  He's as cool as McQueen ever was, and favors him a little.  Craig isn't the tall dark and handsome pretty boy like most of the other men who portrayed James Bond.  He is a brawny looking fellow like Connery, and you get the feeling he could beat the crap out of every James Bond that ever was.  He takes care of business and doesn't play the suave and debonair agent.  
This Bond is tough as nails and can be as cold blooded of a killer when it comes down to it.   I can't help but think that Ian Fleming would've liked Craig's portrayal.

This is a story that Fleming did not write, but every bit as good.  
I enjoyed Skyfall probably just as much as I did the early Sean Connery Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger).  Skyfall starts the movie with an injured 007.  Bond isn't at his peak performance, but he's got to jump into the fray nevertheless.  His abilities are limited from the start.  I like it that this movie isn't filled with a bunch of hi-tech gadgets.   This is Daniel Craig's best Bond movie yet, and vies for the top title of the best Bond movie ever.  If not first - at least second...or third.  It's up there nevertheless.  You be the judge.   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Wolfman

I clearly remember his gravelly voice, his unchained alter ego.  I didn't know what the real man looked like on the other side of the microphone until I saw his cameo on American Graffiti.  He was mythic, legendary and a mystery to young listeners all across the U.S.of A.  I'm not going to attempt to tell anyone who wasn't living on this the planet at the time - what radio was like back then.  Wolfman Jack was everything a Rock and Roll DJ should be.  Those days are gone; the music is gone, and he is gone.