Friday, 14 April 2017

Tim Pigott-Smith Passes On

Tim Piggot-Smith, who appeared in such British series as The Jewel in the Crown and The Chief, died on April 7 2017 at the age of 70.

Tim Piggot-Smith was born on May 13 1946 in Rugby, Warwickshire. He attended Wyggeston Boys' School, Leicester and King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon. It was while he was at Wyggeston Boys’ School, Leicester that he developed an interest in theatre. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Drama at Bristol University. He studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Mr. Pigott-Smith made his television debut in 1971 in an adaptation of Boswell's Life of Johnson.  In the Seventies he guest starred on such television series as The Regiment, North & South, The Glittering Prizes, Doctor Who, Wings, Play for Today, Danger UXB, and ITV Playhouse. He made his film debut in Aces High in 1976. He appeared in the films Joseph Andrews (1977)  and Richard's Things (1980).

In the Eighties he starred in the TV series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, Fame Is the Spur, I Remember Nelson, Struggle, The Jewel in the Crown, and The Chief. He appeared in the films Clash of the Titans (1981), Victory (1981), and A State of Emergency (1986).

In the Nineties Tim Piggot-Smith appeared in the films The Remains of the Day (1993), He continued to star on the TV show The Chief, and guest starred on the series Screen One and Ghosts. He guest starred on Spooks and Midsomer Murders. In the Naughts he starred on the TV series The Vice, North & South, and Holby Blue. He appeared in such films as Laissez-passer (2002), Bloody Sunday (2002), The Four Feathers (2002), Gangs of New York (2002), Johnny English (2003), Alexander (2004), Conflict (2005), V for Vendetta (2005), Flyboys (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

In the Teens he appeared in such TV programmes as The Hour, Downton Abbey, Silent Witness, The Bletchley Circle, 37 Days, and Inspector Lewis. He starred in the TV film Wodehouse in Exile.

Tim Piggot-Smith was an extremely talented and versatile actor. Many audiences might be most familiar with him as Peter Creedy, the sadistic head of the secret police in V for Vendetta. While Mr. Piggot-Smith could play excellent villains, he was also quite capable in other roles. He played author P. G. Wodehouse in Wodehouse in Exile, and Hotspur in a 1979 television adaptation of Henry IV Part I. And while he played the ruthless Ronald Merrick in The Jewel in the Crown, he also played the kindly Mr. Hale in North & South. Tim Piggot-Smith could play a wide array of roles and be convincing in all of them.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Movies I Would Like to See at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival

I have never attended the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (often abbreviated as TCMFF), although I have always wanted to. My primary reason for doing so is to meet the many fellow classic movie fans I have made as friends online over the years. That having been said, TCMFF also represents the chance to see classic movies one has never seen on the big screen before. Over the years I have often given thought to what films I would like to see if I ever got to attend the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. These are six of the many movies I would like to see at the festival. Some of these may well have been shown at the festival already, but I certainly was not there to see them!

Without further ado, here are six films I would like to see at TCMFF.

The Crowd (1928): The Crowd is one of my all time favourite silent movies and, as far as I am concerned, it is King Vidor's masterpiece. The film follows the life of an everyday man, and does so in an extremely naturalistic fashion. Much of the film shot on location on the streets of New York City, and it was very innovative as far as moving camera cinematography goes, among other things. Indeed, it offers a sharp contrast to the sometimes static early Talkies that followed it! It was one of the first 25 movies ever selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and with good reason.

42nd Street (1933): 42nd Street is both one of my favourite pre-Code movies and one of my favourite musicals. Today the plot might seem somewhat cliched to some, but then it has to be considered this was the movie that invented many of those cliches. What is more, it is done with a pre-Code naughtiness and panache that many of its later imitators lack. Of course, the two big attractions for me with regards to 42nd Street are a great cast (including Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers, and many others) and the incredible choreography of Busby Berkeley.

Out of the Past (1947): Film noir is one of my all time favourite genres. Out of the Past is one of my favourite films noirs of all time, if not my all time favourite. It has all the proper ingredients for a great film noir: a cynical shamus; a femme fatale; a complex storyline; smart, crisp dialogue; and dark cinematography courtesy of Nicholas Musuraca.  It is very nearly a hardboiled novel come to life on the screen (and it was indeed based on a book, Build My Gallows High by James M. Cain). I won't necessarily say it is the greatest film noir of all time, but if it isn't then it comes very close.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957):  I've always been a huge fan of Tony Randall. He was a character actor who could easily play the lead when he was called upon to do so. Of the movies in which he played the lead, this is arguably the best. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is one of the funniest movies of the Fifties, right down to its opening credits. It was also in many respects a pioneering film, presaging the satires of the Sixties. The satire of  Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? cuts a wide swathe through Fifties popular culture, including Hollywood, movie fans, advertising, and television.

Help! (1965):  In 2014, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, A Hard Day's Night was shown at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. I hoped that in 2015 Help! would then be shown at TCMFF in honour of its 50th anniversary. Sadly, that did not happen. Help! may not have the reputation that A Hard Day's Night does, but it really should. While A Hard Day's Night was a surreal portrayal of The Beatles' trip to London for a television appearance, Help! was a surreal parody of the then popular James Bond films blended with influences from The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and the classic radio show The Goon Show. And just as A Hard Day's Night would prove influential, so too would Help!. In many respects Help! was a precursor to the camp, pop culture sensibilities of the classic TV show Batman, while  the classic TV show The Monkees actually owes much more to Help! than it does A Hard Day's Night.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Every TCMFF has to have some sort of midnight movie, and Phantom of the Paradise is the genuine article. Upon its initial release in 1974 it bombed at the box office. Fortunately it found new life as a midnight movie and eventually developed a cult following. Written by Brian De Palma, the inspiration for Phantom of the Paradise was drawn primarily from Gaston Leroux's novel  Phantom of the Opera and the "Faust" legend, as well as Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The film is essentially a blend of horror, comedy, and rock musical. Although perhaps not as bizarre as some midnight screenings at past Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festivals (certainly not Zardoz...), it is certainly outré enough to satisfy any lover of midnight movies.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Godspeed J. Geils

J. Geils, lead guitarist and leader of the J. Geils Band, died yesterday at the age of 71, apparently of natural causes.

J. Geils was born John Warren Geils Jr. in New York City on February 20 1946. He grew up  in Morris Plains, New Jersey. His father was a devoted jazz fan and from an early age J. Geils was exposed to the works of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. While he was still a boy, J. Geils's father took him to a Louis Armstrong concert. J. Geils learned the trumpet, learning to play many of Miles Davis's tunes. He was also a fan of such blues guitarists as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters.

After graduating high school he attended Northeastern University in Boston, where he played the trumpet in the marching band. He later transferred to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he studied mechanical engineering. It was at Worcester that J Geils formed an acoustic blues trio consisting of himself as guitarist,  bassist Danny Klein, and  harmonica player Richard Salwitz (who later adopted the stage name Magic Dick). Initially called Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels, the band would eventually switch to electric guitar and bass. They also recruited two new members, drummer Stephen Bladd and vocalist Peter Wolf. Later that same year they would be joined by keyboardist Seth Justman. Initially they called themselves the J. Geils Blues Band, eventually dropping "Blues" from their name.

It was in 1970 that the J. Geils Band was signed to Atlantic Records. Their self-titled debut album was released in November of that year. Their first single, a cover of The Contours' "First I Look at the Purse", received some FM radio airplay. Their second album, The Morning After, was released in 1971. It contained the song "Cry One More Time", which was later covered by Gram Parsons. Their cover of The Valentinos' ""Looking for a Love" proved to be their first top forty hit in the United States, peaking at no. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The J. Geils Band's third album, Bloodshot, would prove to be their breakthrough record. It peaked at no. 10 on the Billboard album chart. It also produced the hit single "Give It to Me", which peaked at no. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their next two albums, Ladies Invited and Nightmares...and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, peaked at no. 51 and no. 23 respectively, although the latter produced one of the J. Geils Band's greatest hits, "Must of Got Lost", which peaked at no. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The J. Geils Band's next three albums (Hotline, Monkey Island, and Sanctuary) each did respectively well with Hotline peaking at no. 36 and Sanctuary peaking at no. 49. Their following album would prove to be one of their most memorable, if not absolutely their most memorable album. While Love Stinks was not their highest charting album (it peaked at no. 18), it produced what might be their most memorable song. "Love Stinks" only peaked at no. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100, but has since been used in so many films, TV shows, and commercials that it is probably the J. Geils Band's best known song. The album also produced two other singles that entered the Billboard Hot 100: "Come Back" (which peaked at no. 32) and "Just Can't Wait" (which peaked at no. 78).

The J. Geils Band would reach the peak of their success with the album Freeze Frame. The album went all the way to no. 1 on the Billboard album chart. The single "Centrefold" from the album also went to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single "Freeze-Frame" peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. A third single, "Angel in Blue", peaked at no. 40. A live album, Showtime, followed Freeze Frame and went to no. 23 on the Billboard album chart. Unfortunately, success was not to last.

Peter Wolf left the band in 1983 over disagreements about the direction the band was taking. Seth Justman then took over lead vocals. The J. Geils Band released one last album, You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd, which peaked at only no. 80 on the Billboard album chart, making it the lowest charting J. Geils Band album since their debut album. The band recorded the song "Fright Night" for the 1985 movie of the same name before breaking up.

Following the break-up of the J. Geils Band, J. Geils devoted himself to auto racing and automobile restoration. He founded KTR Motorsports, a shop for vintage Ferraris, Maseratis, and various other Italian cars. He returned to music in 1992 when he formed Bluestime with Magic Dick. He later released a solo album in 2005. J. Geils also joined various reunions of the J. Geils Band in later years.

I have often thought that J. Geils was one of the most underrated guitarists in rock music. He brought to his playing a variety of influences, including jazz, blues, R&B, reggae, and old time rock 'n' roll. Mr. Geils was comfortable with a number of different musical styles and often incorporated them into his guitar work. What is more, he was incredibly precise in his guitar playing, all the while making it look effortless. J. Geils was something of an introvert, so he never shared the spotlight with Peter Wolf or Seth Justman, but he was as necessary to the band that bore his name as they were. Quite simply, it was J. Geils's guitar work that held the J. Geils Band's music together.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival Coverage Across the Blogosphere

If you are like me, then you did not get to attend this year's Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF, for short). Fortunately there was no shortage of coverage of the event. Turner Classic Movies covered much of the festival on the air, and also made a number of posts about it on their various social media accounts. It should come as no surprise that many of the classic film bloggers who attended TCMF posted a good deal about it. Many TCM fans like myself were unable to attend the festival, but fortunately we were able to experience it vicariously through the many blog posts about it!

Below are a list of blog posts on the 2017 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. I have no doubt that there will be many more blog posts about it in the coming weeks, so I will updating this list from time to time! If you have a blog post about TCMFF and it isn't listed, by all means get a hold of me via Twitter or email and I will add it. I want to thank everyone who made blog posts about the festival, allowing those of us who could not attend to experience it from afar.

A Classic Movie Blog

"TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: The Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner Hand and Footprint Ceremony at the Chinese Theatre"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: The Stars"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2017--The Films Part One: Nitrate and the Newly Restored Egyptian Theatre"

Backlots

"Backlots at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2017"
"TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule Released–How We Pick Movies and Where I’ll Be"
 "TCM Classic Film Festival Day 1: 7 Seconds of Bette Davis in JEZEBEL (1938)"
"Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival Day 2: Watching Old Favorites With a Community"
"Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival Days 3 and 4–The Nitrate Prints: LAURA (1944) and BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)"
"TCM Classic Film Festival Wrap-Up, 2017"

Lady Eve's Reel Life

"The Nitrate Experience, BLACK NARCISSUS at TCMFF 2017"

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

"The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review"

Out of the Past

"My Top Picks for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival"
 "TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: Day 1 Recap Alive and Kicking (2016)"
 "TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: Day 2 Recap"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: Day 3 Recap"
"TCM Classic Film Festival 2017: Day 4 Recap"
"My Thoughts on the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival"
"Carl and Rob Reiner Hand and Footprint Ceremony #TCMFF"

 Silents and Talkies

"My 2017 TCMFF Schedule"

Speakeasy

"TCM Film Festival 2017- More Canadian Trivia"


Spellbound

"TCMFF 2017 Diary: Pre-Fest Day One"


The Retro Set
 
"TCM Film Fest Special : Line Up with Raquel Stecher"