Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction by Linda Gray

Linda Gray. The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction. New York, N.Y.: Regan Arts, 2015.

At age five, in 1945, the author contracted polio. She was told she would be unable to walk. Her parents exercised her legs and her legs regained their functions. Her parents signed her to dance classes. At her first performance, she was scared yet her mother appreciated she could walk and dance at all. In 2012, at age 75, People magazine declared she had the “Sexiest Legs in the Universe”.

Linda Gray started acting in school She “came to associate acting with relief, calm, and confidence.” At age 16, she began modeling work. She auditioned for TV only to learn there was an industrial prejudice against models as people who couldn’t speak well.

Linda Gray enrolled in the CEC Studio acting class in Burbank. Her classmates included  Carl Weathers, Dee Wallace, Susan Blakey, and Veronica Hamel. Hamel would later win an Emmy for which Gray was also nominated. This class used the Conrad Method of memorizing scripts, repeating them rapidly to desensitize the actor to emotions, and remove preconceptions regarding the roles. The acting coach Charles E. Conrad explained that “Acting is reacting.”

Gray received parts on some TV shows, including playing a transsexual on “All That Glitters” where Norman Lear declared to her, and she was not sure how to take this, “You’re perfect for the role.”

Gray auditioned to be on “Dallas”. She won the role of Sue Ellen Ewing. Her portrayal of an alcoholic helped persuade alcoholic viewers to recognize their own problems and to obtain help.

A voice coach helped Linda Gray develop a Texas accent. Gray researched her character to better play the part, The “Who Do It?” episode of “Dallas” drew 80 million viewers, more people than had voted for President a few weeks earlier. Worldwide there were 370 million who viewed that episode.

Gray was nominated for an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1981. Her contract ended after eight seasons on “Dallas”. She asked to direct a episode. She had studied directing with Lilyan Chauvin. She learned camera shots, blocking, camera height tricks, etc. The show executives at first refused to let her direct and they fired her from the show Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy had directed, The executive’s response was if Linda Gray directed then other women would want to direct. Larry Hagman threatened to leave the show if Gray was not signed, The executives relented and let her direct an episode. The show she directed received great ratings She later directed three additional episodes.

Gray left “Dallas” after its eleventh season. SHe filmed some TV movies. She learned about Aaron Spelling’s new show “Models Inc.” and asked to be considered for the show. She auditioned in front of 30 people and was hired. The show, though, flopped and received bad critical reviews. It lasted one season.

Gray had a recurring role in the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful”. She had to memorize 30 pages of dialogue daily.

In 2011, “Dallas” returned with a new cast yet with Gray, Patrick Duffy, and Larry Hagman returning to their old roles. Hagman died in 2012, “Dallas 2.0: lasted three seasons.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Danger Rhythms by Richard Barrios

Richard Barrios. Dangerous Rhythms: Why Movie Musicals Matter. New York, N.Y. Oxford University Press, 2014.

The author observes movie musicals are “intended to seem effortless and diverting they are, beneath their gleaming surfaces complicated and contradictory.” Some are “so riddled with paradox that it becomes difficult to comprehend hem.” Still, the offer “a spectrum of fantasies” that are “balanced understanding between the sublime and the inane.”

Musicals allow an uplifting of spirit. “Chicago” won a Best Picture Oscar during the Iraq War. “Oliver!” won a Best Picture Oscar during the Vietnam War. “Oliver!” in 1969was the fourth musical in a seven year period to win as Best Picture along wtih “West Side Story”, “ My Fair Lady”, and “The Sound of Music”. After “Oliver!”, there were a few musicals such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Cabaret” that was successful yet musicals were mostly missing among movie offerings unitl “Grease” in 1979.

Musicals began with auteur directors which increased scrutiny of them. They held important roles in American society. “42nd Street” in 1933 increased the spirit of the New Deal. “Star Spangled Banner” rallied audiences during Wold War II.

The author observed each musical builds upon previous musicals Any part of a muscial had exise before. Audiences appreciate this “kinship” with the past.

“Don Juan” in 1926 excited audiences with its phonograph sound played over loud speakers. Al Jolson captivated audiences in “The Jazz Singer” in 1926 with sound portions combined with silent portions. Warner Brothers was unprepared for the success of “The Jazz Singer” as it had no further plans for musicals. MGM filled he void as its “The Broadway Melody” won the Oscar for Best Picture .

Ernest Lubissh ad King Vidor directed some musicals. Many were “trial and error” MGM tried shooting a night and in Technicolor.

In 1933, musicals delved into social issues, morale building, escapism, and propaganda.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” began a long line of musical cartoon movies.

Arthur Freed, a producer “perhaps unwittingly” changed movie musicals from “formulatic schlock” to stories with music.

The author explains “A good musical must forge an emphatic bond with its public: a poor or ignorant one is merely show and tell.”

A “disconnect” with musicals began by the late 1960s.

The first Broadway musical made into a movie with songs was “The Desert Sons” in 1929. It was made simplistically.

The moral Code required of movies removed musicals about divorce, sex, and drugs.

Musicals were profitable during World War II. The late 1940s saw an increase in original musicals made as movies.

The 1950s saw the return of many Broadway musicals adapted into movies. The 1960s found great successes with “My Fair Lady” and “The Sound of Music” as well as Elvis Presley movies.

“Sweet Charity”, which the author describes as “so hyperkinetic, with so many zoom lenses, tht many were annoyed” did poorly. Musicals typically did not fare well for several years afterwards.

A number of great performers were impressive in musicals. These include Janet Gaynor, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Julie Andrews. Al Jolson presented confidence on the screen. Mickey Rooney had comedic versatility.

Cecil B. DeMille produced one musical, “Madam Satan” It did not do well with audiences..

“Tthe Wizard Of Oz” lost money and would take about 20 years before it made money MGM was less willing to invest in expensive musicals.

“The Singing Fool” cost MGM $388,000 to make and it earned $3.8 million domestic and $2.1 million foreign.

MGM made more costly musicals in 1944 and several years afterwards.

The author argues an excellent musical is “Singin’ in the Rain” because it “understands its roots, respects its ancestors, and by embracing its own history is enabled to soar.”

The author argues “Musicals don’t die, not even when neglected...their absence is always temporary, their heritage is everlasting.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Eddie by Ken Osmond

Ken Osmond and Christopher J. Lynch. Eddie: The Life and Times of America's Preeminent Bad Boy. San Bernardino, Ca.:, 2014.

Ken Osmond's father worked at Universal Studios. Ken began taking drama classes at age 4. Dancing lessons were then added. He worked as an extra in movies. In 1952, his first role was a small port on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet". He then had a role in the movie "Good Morning Miss Dove". This was following by more TV appearances, including an episode of "Corky" in 1957 which started Micky Lopez as Corky. He later, in 1957, won the role of Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver". It originally was meant for one episode He would up being in 97 of the show's 235 episodes.

"Leave It to Beaver" began with Monday table reads while led to script revisions. The scenes were blocked on Tuesdays. Child labor loads had a maximum of eight hours working per day including three hours of school.

"Leave It to Beaver" moved from Republic Studios to a better deal at Universal Studios.

After the show was cancelled, Osmond went into the helicopter rental business He then because a Los Angeles Police Officer. He was wounded when shot pursuing a suspect. He was also questioned by Internal Affairs asking if he was an adult film star. It turned out that porn star John Holmes was cleaning to have been Eddie Haskell. Osmond appeared in a few TV episodes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

If You Build It…by Dwier Brown

Dwieer Brown. If You Build It…Ojai, Ca.: Elsie Jean Books, 2014.

The author, an actor, at one point in his career felt typecast as over 12 of his characters died over a five year period. This made him feel as if a part of him was dying. He asked God for one "meaningful" role, after which he would devote himself to helping others. He received his iconic role in the movie "Field of Dreams". He played Joe Kinsella, the deceased father who emerges in the field to play catch with his adult son.

The author recalls advice form his father His father taught him that working at something made one better. He realized he had never considered acting as something one worked on. He began working at his craft.

The "Field of Dreams" Executive Producer insured the corn filed as it was that important to the script. When drought hit, the insurance company paid for damming a creek for irrigating the corn field rather than their paying the $3 million insurance policy benefit. As a backup, 60,000 actual size silk corn stalks were offered. The irrigation project worked.

When Brown auditioned for the role, he read the script and realized his character wanted to find peace with his son and let his son know he loves him. He entered the audition telling himself "I am John Kinsella."

He learned in acting class that one has to become the character. He was taught "acting isn't lying; acting is telling the truth."

Brown's scene was filmed three times. There were 3,000 extras. Flashing high beams were used in the third take as there were fears the previous two takes were not working with background cars. The third take worked, which was good as the first two takes found the film was all blank.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Fine Romance by Candace Bergen

Candace Bergen. A Fine Romance. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Bergen auditioned for the TV series"Murphy Brown". She writes her audition "tanked" as she didn't have a comedic background. Diane English, a showwriter- producer, insisted Bergen was the right person and Bergen was hired. Bergen writes "in television, writer-producers are king---queen, in this case."

Bergen fund performing in a sitcom that "I was in a state of shock. It was a complete out of body experience, a dramatic difference format: four cameras filmed before a live audience."

On "Murphy Brown", the writers often worked past midnight for the Monday table reads.The scripts were good and there was no improvisation, Bergen writes.

A running gag on the show was Bergen's character was so difficult she had a different secretary each week. Among those portraying her secretary were Sally Field, Paul Reubens, Michael Kramer, and Bette Midler.

Bergen won five Emmys, the most anyone ever won for the same role. She withdrew her name during the show's seventh season.

The show "Murphy Brown" engaged in cultural commentary. The show became part of the culture. Vice President Dan Quayle criticized "Murphy Brown" for depicting a single woman raising a child. This created a national discussion.

Bergen loved her work. In the 7th season, some of the other cast returned from time off complaining about returning to the grind yet Bergen enjoyed working. What did trouble her was her husband was ill, in failing health, and then died.

After "Murphy Brown" ended, Bergen had an interview show on Oxygen called "Exhale with CandaceBergen". It ran for two seasons.

Bergen was in movies, yet as Bergen writes, "demand for me never returned to the degree it has been with "Muphy". Bcause I had become a click: a middle aged actress marginalized in her career. Jobs dry up. Visibility is gone." She would then be cast on the TV series "Boston Legal" with James Spader. Spader, she writes, "is truly eccentric, initially a bit prickly, hyper focused and hyper intelligent."

So That Happened by Jon Cryer

Jon Cryer. So That Happened: A Memoir. New York, N.Y.: New American, 2015.

On the first day filming his first movie, the scene was supposed to be one of birds pooping on Cryer and other cast members. The director, Robert Altman was upset as the angle of the bird poop was appearing sideways, which was not realistic. Altman positioned himself and dropped fake bird poor on Cryer and other actors. Thus begun Cryer's film career.

Cryer first appeared on TV at age 4. His mother was in a commercial for Zestab vitamins where she was asked if she had children. Cyer and his sister were then added to the commercial.

Cryer studied acting under Dr. Jack Ramano, who was known for throwing chairs and once criticizing someone singing with "you sound like a fart in a balloon." Cryer stated Ramano was cruel "but it never came off as true cruelty---it was always inbred with the feeling that he wanted you to be better."

Cryer attended a summer program at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. There, June Kemp taught mask work, where a student wore a mask and then performed body motions to match the mask.

Cryer won a role understudying Matthew Broderick in the play "Brighton Beach Memoirs" as he looked like Broderick. He was then offered to understudy the lead in "Torch Song Trilogy" where he was fired the first day for not knowing his lines. He was given a second chance and later replaced the lead. He toured with the play where Robert Altman saw him for his movie "O.C. and Stiggs".

Altman liked improvisation. The movie was released three years after it was filmed.

Cryer dated Demi Moore. He learned she cheated on him and had a drug problem.

Cryer was cast in the movie "Pretty in Pink". The costume designed decided his character would wear nothing that matched, thus showing his clash of personalities. "Pretty in Pink" was originally  filmed with the female lead, portrayed by Molly Ringwald, being with Cryer's character. Test markerig felt the lead girl should should overcome social barriers and be with the wealthy guy at the movie's end. Cryer admits he was "mystified" by his character ending up with someone he had just met. Cryer learned that Molly Ringwald wanted Robert Downey Jr for his part Rinwald later stated she could see chemistry between herself an Downey but not with Cryer. Cryer wonders if Ringwald sabotaged him for the new ending.

The director picked Cryer to be in another John Hughes produced movie. Yet the director was fired and Cryer lost his part along with the director

Cryer was given a Paramount office to produce movies. In reality it was a way to keep an actor at a studio. None of their ideas were actually made. Cryer than got his own office. He produced a movie
"Adult Education" as the first of four movies of his that bombed in 1987.

Cryer was on a short-lived TV show "The Famous Teddy Z". Its cancellation left Cryer emotionally bruised.

Cryer found success in the move "Hot Shots". He worked with Charlie Sheen who spent evenings at clubs and strip clubs, yet this never affected his acting.

cryer auditioned for, but did not get, the role of Chandler on "Friends".

Cryer co-wrote, starred in, and produced  a notable independent film "Went to Coney Island…."

Cryer was in a movie "The Pompatous of Love". The financier never paid the Screen Actors Guild he small amount for residuals. The Guild seized the film and sold it for less than $10,000.

Cryer was facing financial ruin and his marriage was in trouble. He was then offered two roles, to be on "Battlestar Gallactica" and "Two and a Half Men". He felt the "Two and a Half Men" would work as he felt good vibes filming the pilot. Charlie Sheen was "a natural". The writers were funny. The show opened o great rations and held most of its original audience.

Charlie Sheens's ability to drink and party late at night and still act began fading away Sheen began criticizing the show. He demanded producer Chuck Lorre and others be fired. Lorrie fired him.

Hugh Grant was picked to be added to the cast. Grant changed his mind. Ashton Kuchner was added to the cast.

Sheen later apologized. He was using testosterone cream that made hm angry. Ironically, the demands Sheen made happened. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Illusion of the First Time in Acting by William Gillette and George Arliss

William Gillette and George Arliss. The Illusion of the First Time in Acting. (Charleston, S.C.: Bibliolete reproduction). New York: Dramatic Museum of Columbia University, 1915.

George Allen observed acting is connected to “personality”, which is hard to describe. It is possible for an actor to be well suited in voice and technique yet be a bad actor. Good acting emerges from the actor reaction and reflecting upon the other characters and from past experiences. Bad actors fail to recognize this. Bad actors are able to follow acting methods yet still fil if they “know nothing about the art of other people.” An actor accesses and exudes “personality”, or something to the degree to which different attributes are remembered.

Some can play only type of part. Thus, such a actor excels so long as that type part requires being portrayed. A problem emerges when actor are chosen to portray types they can not handle. It is better to have actors who know the range of the acting business.

An actor feels a “personality” of a character. It will be appear in voice, eye movements, bodily motions, head tilts, shoulder placements, etc.

George Allen admits he and others “haven’t the remotest idea” how personality is fostered. The characteristics vary. Allen notes “one can never be really, truly “natural” on the stage. Acting is a bag of tricks.” Facial expressions are more telling than most other bodily movements.

Dramatic presentations reaches into one’s “life-class” experiences. There is no theory or philosophy to this, yet it requires an actor to take that knowledge to mold into a character. The possibilities of presenting a role are infinite.

A play cannot be read. It exists only when performed as Simulated Life.

An actor must show expressions through behavior throughout the body. There are over a thousand things to be presented when acting along with dialogues. According to the authors, “To discover the Highest Art we must inquire the many kinds of things the man can do.”

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Journey Through the Unknown by Murray Langston

Murray Langston, a.k.a. The Unknown Comic. Journey Through the Unknown...Albany, Ga.: BearManor Media, 2013.

The first celebrity Langston ever met was Mickey Rooney. Langston went up to Rooney. Rooney ignored him completely. The second celebrity Langston met was Jayne Mansfield, who was nice to all her fans Langston decided when he became known, he would treat his fans as Mansfield did.

Langston, a Canadian, joined the U.S. Navy. He wanted to work in radar. His Canadian citizenship removed him from his radar job and he was placed on latrine duty. Upset, he went AWOL then gave himself up. In explaining his situation, he was offered another non-classified position, He chose Special Services, where he became a naval radio disc a crew of 2,000. In this job, hemet Bob Hope who told him “Actors are a dime a dozen. Comedians can always become actors but actors can rarely become comedians.”

Langston got a job in the computer division of Universal Studios. He used to sneak onto set. He was stunned when he saw John Wayne wore a toupee.

Langston saw the Discovery of the Week segment on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In”. Unaware of standard business procedures where usually only agents contact producers, Langston called NBC and asked to speak to the show’s producer. He was put through to its producer George Schlatter. Langston told Schlatter he did an impression of a fork. Schlatter asked him to audition his act, which consisted of him standing with his hands up. His audition was before Schlatter as well as two people he would later work with, Chris Bearcle and Alan Blye. Langston heard no laughter or response during his audition, Yet they called him the next day to say they liked it and he was put on the show.

Langston auditioned for a five minute comedy sketch before George Jessel for his comedy club. He has hired. When he performed, the audience did not laugh much. He wondered why his audition went so well yet the same material bombed before an audience.

Langston got a lead in a comedy play “Dracula Sucks”.

He then was hired to be on the “Sonny and Show Show” performing skits at $1,000 weekly. The show began as a summer replacement series and then became a regular series.

Langston learned Cher had natural comedic talent. He once dressed as a werewolf and tried to see Cher with his furry hand. Cher was not scared and immediately responded “Sonny, your mother’s here.” He did successfully scare Carol Burnett with a similar werewolf costume prank while she was having her makeup applied.

Steve Martin was one of the show’s writers and performed on some sketches.
Langston continued performing in comedy clubs

Langston and an African American comic, Freeman ing, joined appearing in Sonny and Cher’s live show. King responded to a heckler, who was a casino high roller, with a standard line for hecklers “why are you bothering us trying to do our job. We don’t go to your job and take away your plunger, do we?” When they then went to shake the heckler’s hand, he refused and instead left and demanded they be fired. Sonny fired them. Langston believes Sonny should instead have defended them. Langston notes Sonny often belittled his cast, referring to them as “atmosphere”.

The cast attended Sonny’s birthday party yet the cast did not buy him a gift When Sonny observed this, one of the cast told Sonny never gave them any gifts. Sonny jokingly threatened to fire them, yet he saw the cast stuck together, They kept their jobs.

Sonny and Cher divorced. The split was vicious. “The Sonny Comedy Hour” was created that kept the same cast. Ratings dropped and it was cancelled after six shows.

Langston observed “Achieving success in Showbiz is primarily being at the right place at the right time with the right look. Talent, though a plus, is usually secondary. However, what ensures is the more talent you possess, the longer ou last in the business.”

Langston and several of the “Sonny and Cher Show” cast were hired to appear on “The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show.”

Langston opened his own comedy club. Comedy roasts were held there.

Langston was on “The Bobby Vinton Show” in Canada performing comedy sketches. He found Bobby Vinon the most aloof of actors who never socialized with any of the cast. Alan Thicke worked on the show and did not like Langston and wanted Langston fired.

Langston then appeared of “The Lola Fanala Show”.

Langston heard about an amateur talent show called “The Gong Show” that gave $500 prizes. Union members who did not win got $250. Langston decided to appear on the show wearing a bag over his head so that those who knew him would not recognize him. He called himself the Unknown Comic. He insulted the host Chuck Barris., who on air closed the curtain on Langston’s act. After the show, Barris told Langston he loved the act and asked him to return on the show show. Barris then hired Langston at $500 per week. Barris then added Langston as a writer on the show.

Langston also appeared on “The Wolfman Jack Show”. He filmed 20 episodes in a month in Vancouver. He found Wolfman Jack as one of the nicest he ever met.

Langston was hired to be on the “Everyday” afternoon talk show. The show ran si months as it did not fare well against the “Phil Donahue” show.

The Improv and the Comedy Store refused to pay comedy acts performing at these clubs, Comics, including David Letterman and Jay Leon, went on strike demanding $25 per night, The Improv agreed first, he Comedy Store, owned by Mitzi Shore, gave in after five weeks. Shore refused to let strike leaders perform at the Comedy Store

Langston believes Billy Crystal primarily associates with people who can help his career. He did not seem to associate with other comics whom Crystal may have felt were beneath him

Langston learned his agent took not only 15% of his earnings yet also got expenses, including flying first class to see Langston perform at venues where Langston flew coach, Langston was further upset to see his lawyer charged $250 to review standing contracts at talk shows that paid $300.

Langston told a joke on his “Make Me Laugh” TV show that “Frank Sinatra recently opened a halfway house for girls who won’t go all the way.” Sinatra called Langston threatening to “break your fucking head into a million tiny pieces.”

Langston starred in the Playboy Channel’s “The Unknown Comedy Hour”. It was that channel’s second highest rated show.

Langston was in the movie “The Being” with Martin Landau.

Bill Osco, a porn film producer, produced Langston in Playboy Channel’s “The Sex and Violence Hour”. It also starred Jim Carrey.

Langston appeared in the movie “Stiches”. He was not given a script and was told to ad lib his role, which he did.

Langston appeared on the Jerry Lewis’s Muscular Dystrophy Telethon He was pleased to see the audience and crew all wearing bags over their hards in honor of his character.

Langston acted in a move “Lightening the White Stallion” with Mickey Rooney. Langston was saddened to see Rooney was as difficult a man as when he first met him, noting that “it was truly embarrassing watching that pitiful, self-absorbed, self-proclaimed icon.”

Langston was the sidekick to Larry Anderson during a run of “Truth or Consequences”.

Langston borrowed $100,000 and produced his own film “Up Your Alley”. He co-starred in it with Linda Blair. It was profitable, His reputation for making money on a low budget allowed him to direct “Wishful Thinking” for an investor who risked $200,000. It make a profit on distribution.

Langston hosed 40 episodes of “Comic Strip Loive”,. He hen appearing in a movie “Bringing Up Business” with Gary Owens.

Langston appeared on and was a writer on “Candid Camera with Do DeLuise I lasted six months. He believes editing problems hurt the show as editors were not aware of what was funny while working under pressure to edit for a daily television show.

George Clooney did a movie “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” based on Chuck Barris’s autography. Langston learned the role of the Unknown Comic had been cast without anyone contacting hi. Langston’s attorney noted that the Unknown Comic was a copyrighted character that could not be used without Langston’s permission, Since the Unknown Comic scenes had already been filmed, Looney offered Langston to play himself in the movie. Langston accepted

Thursday, January 29, 2015

William Gillette by Henry Zecher

Henry Zecher. William Gillette, American’s Sherlock Holmes. xlibris Corporation, 2011.

William Gillette was a famous stage actor in his day,who, according to the author, was the third best known celebrity behind Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Gillette was best known for his stage portrayals of Sherlock Holmes.

Gillette, as were Samuel Clemens and Theodore Dresser, were part of the movement for artistic realism over melodrama. In acting, melodrama, which was a leading characteristic of 19th and early 20th century actors, displayed unrealistic  behavior. Melodramatic acting would over-emphasize movements and speech that actors believed would make certain the audience recognized and heard what the actor was conveying. Instead, the realistic actor behaved on stage as a person would appear in real life.

Gillette was a strong leading actor, This led to more plays and movies focusing on a strong leading, realistic hero, The set the stage for actors such as John Wayne.

Gillette introduced “Psychological acting”. This emphasized realism in the emotions and reactions in a performance, The New York Times considered Gillette’s Psychological acting as “the first modern acting technique.”

Gillette’s life was free of scandal. He married once and never remarried after his wife’s death. He was seldom involved in politics except in 1912 when he spoke in favor of Theodore Roosevelt. He drank moderately and seldom smoked. He did enjoy cigars and incorporates cigars or pipe smoking into most of his characters,

Gillette first portrayed Sherlock Holmes in 1899 at age 46 and last portrayed Holmes in 1932 at age 78. He presented Holmes with a “quiet, confident voice” with “suave but nervous movements.” He was known for his “riveting scenes” while performing.

Gillette performed with Edwin Booth, one of the most famous 19th century actors. On stage, he helped boost the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Helen Hayes, Ethel Barrymore, and Maude Adams.

Gillette was also a playwright. In the 1880s, he, Bronson Howard, and Steve MacKaye were among the better known playwrights who wrote in the realism style. Gillette noted “realism should be inferred not actual-sm, but the artistic presentation of reality...Art must have recourse to the principal of suggestiveness.”

Realism became a major part of 1890s American theater. A number of playwrights arose who had acting and / or business experience in theater. Prior, most playwrights had academic backgrounds in writing. These new playwrights knew the theater and the degree of realism and of literature that audiences liked. These playwrights, including Gillette, were consider “theatre craftsmen.”

Gillette’s father was a U.S. Senator. His brother was a member of Congress. Thomas Kuhn labeled it a “paradigm shift” that a member of the governing class would go into theater. As the New York Herald Tribune noted, “Nobody has conceived what is a commonplace today: that a person of gentle culture could make a successful trooper and retain his integrity.”

Gillette was among the leading practitioners of natural, reserved, understated acting, speech, and movements as people actually do. On the contrary, many actors spoke their lines as if they had been spoken many times before, When realism actors such as Gillette spoke, it was as if the lines had been spoken for the first time. Realistic actors moved on stage as people do and did so as if this was the first time they had done their roles.

Gillette wrote about his acting technique in his 1915 monograph “The Illusion of the First Time Acting.”

Gillette declined interviews in a deliberate attempt to create an “air of mystery” about himself Friends found him modest so he did not appear to like to boast about himself. He gave only a few in his lifetime.

Gillette believed actors should be mysterious and rarely seen by the public. He also did not believe in promoting himself, which was against the New England aristocratic ideals. He commented in1896 about his work that “the public has ample opportunity to see will speak for itself.” he gave out preprinted cards explaning he “does not feel his views can be of any value to the public at large.” When asked questions, Gillette often responded with a line in his plays, simply “Quite so!”

Gillette was not known as a “party animal”. His wife’s death was a severe emotional setback.

Gillette’s father Francis served in the U.S. Senate when Sen. Daniel Webster gave his famous speech on slavery. William Gillette, as a school boy, presented his father with a sample of his elocution. His father wanted him to change his presentation. William responded that his presentation was “right.” His father replied “Right! Of course you did it right! Do you suppose if Webster had doe it “right” anyone in the Senate would have listened to his for two minutes?” Francis explained that Webster was summoned to speak with no preparation and that his great speech was spontaneous and real. William learned that “I never forgot that a word was a fine thing that must be search for, and that the way to make a speech was no in the way that was “correct” as elocution, but the way that the man actually made it in the first place.”

Gillette was a honor roll student who participated in theater and in elocution. He knew then he wanted to be an actor.

The movement toward realism in theater resulted in fewer plays regarding “lofty patriotism and idealism” and more plays on “basic pragmatism and a desire to simply survive.” As he overdramatic style of melodrama gave way to more subtle styles of realistic theater with more subtle reactions, theaters became smaller so audience could better see the actors. This, in turn, called for new lighting techniques and more detailed scenery and props.

Gillette observed that “the purpose of the theater is to afford relief from stress and strain in actual life. And the play people love best ,because it does most for them, is the play that gives them a new angle on life, a practical presentation for happy living.”

Gillette wrote the play “Esmeralda”. It had 350 performances in New York. It was made into a movie in 1915 starring Mary Pickford and was directed by James Kirkwood..

Gillette risked opening social wounds when he wrote the play “Belle Lamar.” It was the second stage presentation of the Civil War, a subject experienced by many in the audience. His play was the first which was not a historical presentation of the war. His play showed the interactions of people during the war. It is a story of three suitors for a woman. One is a Union officer, one is a captured Confederate officer accused of being a spy, and the third a Union soldier who tries to help the Confederate escape.

Gillette was among the playwrights known for the emerging style of “more unified and tightly constructed drama.” Melodramatic plays had a hero and a villain. In the realism of Gillette’s plays and others like him, characters had both heroic and villainous characteristics.

Gillette was among those who writings presumed there is a “fourth wall”. This was a concept first noted in 1758 by Denis Diderst that the play with a fourth wall is performed as if there is no audience.

Gillette was among those who had female characters that were “independent, selfless heroines.” Numerous plays had strong, independent female characters in the 1920s yet such characteristics declined in afterwards. Female characters generally were presented according to the life events of male characters.

Gillette improved some theater sound effects. Instead of the then traditional method of replicating horses moving by slapping half coconut shells on top of marble, Gillette used clappers on different materials to simulate different types of roads and paths. Gillette unsuccessfully tried to patent his techniques.

Charles Frohman and his Frohmannational Theatricallities consisted of over 200 theaters in the U.S. and London (including six in New York City) where 700 plays were produced, managing 28 star actors, and employing around 10,000 people with an annual payroll of $35 million (or an equivalent circa 2010 of $700 million). He had no written contracts with his star actors, His word was considered valid. Gillette often worked in theaters owned by Charles Frohman.

David Belasco was among the leading theater producers. He wore black with clerical collars He would eventually be called “the Bishop of Broadway.” He was known for popularizing the concept of the  “casting couch” where actresses were hired in return for sexual favors. Belasco produced, directed, or wrote over 100 plays. Over 40 of these plays were made into movies.. Belasco helped developed an actress Gladys Louise Smith who he had her change her name to Mary Pickford. Gillette worked with Belasco on some plays.

Gillete wrote a play that had a character with one arm. Stanley McKenna sued, stating he had a play eight years earlier with a one armed character. Gillette argued that one armed characters were not legally protected “novelties” over which one could hold a “monopoly”.” Further, there had been a one armed character in a David Belasco produced play prior to McKenna’s play. The court sided with Gillette.

Gillette observed there are two kinds of director, One kind allows actors great leeway in presenting their characters The other kind dictates the details of how roles should be portrayed. Gillette believed the true system lies between the two.”

The Copyright Act became law in 1891. It required producers to pay royalties to authors and playwrights including paying for foreign works. Thus foreign authors received payments and their works could not be used  as lesser expensive alternatives to domestic writings.

Sherlock Holmes is the more prolific movie character, appearing in 211 movies, according to the Guiness World Records. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London lists 260 films with Sherlock Holmes as a character.

Gillete wrote a play regarding Sherlock Holmes based upon originating author Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings of Holmes. It took about a month to write the first script. It was destroyed in a hotel fire. Gillette wrote another script in a week. Doyle and Gillette worked on the script. Gillette’s final script differs greatly from Doyle’s original contributions. Both as listed as the script’s authors.

Doyle wrote another Holmes play. Harry Arthur Saintsbury portrayed Holmes i “The Soeckled Band” for 168 performances. Saintsbury was the “only one who rivaled Gillete” at that time in appearing as Holmes. Saintsbury was cast in a play with 14 year old Charlie Chaplin. Saintsbury coached Chaplin on performing and on comedic timing and touches.

Gillette first appeared as Sherlock Holmes in the play “Sherlock Holmes” in 1899. Max Goldberg appeared in another play about Holmes entitled “The Bank of England, An Adventure in the Life of Sherlock Holmes.” The Max Goldberg play existed because there is no copyright on titles.

Gillette’s “Sherlock Holmes” play was successful. It became well known and was parodied in music halls. One parody play was “Sheerluck Jones, or Why D’Gillete Him Off?” which played in London. Other Holmes presentations appeared in burlesque presentations.

Frederick Dorr Steele illustrated Holmes. A fellow illustrator’s brother Walter Paget was the initial model used for the illustration. Yet Gillette’s “expression and posture” were integrated into the drawings. In 1929, Gillette would be the model for Steele’s illustration. There drawings would help convince actor Basil Rathbone in 1939 to appear in movies playing the role of Holmes as Rathbone believed he looked similar to the Holmes in Steele’s illustrations.

John Barrymore was Holmes in a 1922 move “Sherlock Holmes”. Barrymore stated they used Steele’s illustrations in creating the Holmes character for the movie.

Gillette, when appearing as Holmes, introduced the deer-started cap, rococo gown, and a smoking pipe.

Gillette, in believing actors should be mysterious to the public, also believed they should not state their views publicly. He also believe political candidates should not campaign publicly. He contributed money to anti-Tammany Hall advocates in 1903. Gillette spoke publicly about politics only during the 1912 Presidential campaign which was a race which many thought might change the nation’s course. Gillette spoke in favor of the losing Progressive Party candidate, former President Theodore Roosevelt. A number of other actors also made statements on this race, something the Washington Post noted as a “surprising” development.

Gillette began construction on his Hadlyme home in 1914. He picked a site he saw from his year a year prior. Gillette designed the house. Construction was mostly finished in 1919. Gillette never called it a castle although it would come to be called Gillette’s Castle. It is now a state owned park open to the public. It cost $1,100,000 to build (or about $14 million in circa 2010 costs). Gillette named his home the Seventh Sister as it was on the end of seven hills.

Gillette was signed to film movies for the Essanay Film Manufacturing company. He appeared in “Sherlock Holmes”. His image was used in much Essanay advertising. Gillette told Lowell Thomas “there is too much mosaic in the cinema industry to suit me.” Gillette did not want to appear in another movie. Gillette, though, became one of the “actors of the transition” of theater stars who appeared in movies. Some actors found the art of pantomiming in silent films required a different skills set from their skills for stage performing.

Some claim Gillette belonged to the “impersonator” acting style where actors take on the characteristics of the role. This was different from the “interpreters” style where an actor’s own personality is brought into the role. Gillette objected to being labeled as an “impersonator” insisting his personality strongly influences the roles he played.

Gillette belonged to the “heroic school”. This was a style of a “quiet he-men” type that would later be portrayed by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Gary Coopeer. They were heroes who stayed calm in crises.

Gillette refused to permit babies in the audience as they could become distractions If there was too much audience noise, he would have long pauses of instrumental music playing to drown out the noise,

Gillette failed to show strong emotions during love scenes. This have been resulted from his proper New England upbringing. This became part of his characters’ natures.

The first Sherlock Holmes movie was “Holmes Baffled”, filmed by Thomas Edison in 1900. The actor , which was a common trait then, is not identified and remains unknown. Many believe Gillette inspired the Holmes look in the movie. More Holmes movies appeared starring Viggis Larson in Denmark, Alvin Neus in Germany, and G.B. Samuelson in Englad, as well as England’s H.A. Saintsbury filming one Holmes movie.

Gillette’s Holmes movie was co-directed by Gillette and Arthur Brethelet. W.G. Postarie assisted directed. H.S. Stevens was the screenwriter. The movie ran for two hours. It was produced by the V-L-S-E Film Company. The movie followed the stage play yet focused more on romantic scenes than had the play. it was a “major hit.”

The film showed more details in the office than did the stage production. Kitty Kelly’s review in the Chicago Daily Tribune declared “Gillette completed dominated the visualization of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and his wonderful facial expression and pantomime acting rang true to the camera.”

Gillette believed there were no rules or regulations for playwriting. He recommended finding an interesting theme, create a series of “ingenious traps” that carry from the play or theme, have the traps spring at right manners and moments, and then create a way out from the troubles.

Gillette rode a motorcycle. Its’ brakes once gave out and he plunged off the ferry entrance into the river. Guy Hedlund, a movie producer, quipped “There goes Mr. Gillette, wastes $10,000 of movie thrills on an audience of five people.”

Gillette advised Helen Hayes to “never read your reviews. If they praise your work, they will serve to make you self-conscious. If they criticize you, which most of them usually do, they can cause you great harm. Let your director read reviews. If he thinks something should be changed, he will tell you.” Helen Hayes followed this until she did films, at which point reviews could not affect her performance.

Films were made of stories Gillee wrote, he were “The Border Wireless” released in 1918 which starred William B. Hart and “Coincidence “ released in 1921 which starred  Bradley Parker.

After spending over $1 million building his home, the Lyme Board of Relief listed it as having a taxable figure of $58.300. Gillette claimed the figure should be $22,380. An Assessor valued it at $71,000. Gillette told the Superior Court the taxable value was $21,040. The Board of Relief reduced ths to $69,999. (Editor’s Note: The property is in Lyme and East Haddam with the house in East Haddam.)

Gillette and Charles Frohman held the dramatic license for the play “Sherlock Holmes” in 1898. These rights were transferred to Essanay whe they filmed the movie version. When Essanay folded in 1921, these rights were transferred to the Goldwyn Company for $18m0000 with payments of $6,000 each going to Gillette, the Frohman Company, and Arthus Conan Doyle. In 1920, the Educational Film Exchanges Incorporated announced play to make movies of 12 short features of Doyle’s about Holmes that woudl star Eille Norwood. Gillette, Frohman, and Frank Godsol, Presiden of Goldwyn, sued. The court distinguished between Gillette’s play and the different original stories. Norwood would go on to be in the most Holmes films at 49 silent films.

Gillette portrayed Holmes in the 35 program series on NBC’s Red Network station WEAF in 1930. Others had performed Holmes on the radio before Gillette. The first Holmes on radio was Edward H. Smith in 1922 over WGT in Schnectady, N.Y.

Clive Bark appeared as Holmes in the first talking Holmes movie “The Return of Sherlock Holmes.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sons of Anarchy by Tara Bennett

Tara Bennett. Sons of Anarchy: The Official Collector’s Edition. New York: Time Home Entertainment, 2014

The TV series “Sons of Anarchy” arose out of show creator’s Kurt Sutter’s personal interests in motorcycle clubs (MC). While he was never in an MC, he lived on the fringes and was enamored with the MC lifestyle.

Sutter received an MFA from Northern Illinois University and worked on several TV shows. Sutter researched MCs. He wanted a realistic show, Sutter admits “Hamlet” is an inspiration for the series.

Scott Glenn was originally cast as Clay Morrow. glenn did not seem to deliver the dark human that was wanted. His role was recast and the reshot for the pilot with Ron Perlman.

The show was about an MC club started by Vietnam veterans. The club smuggled goods and drugs. A club founder John Teller saw these as acceptable yet found the club losing its moral focus when it began running guns.

Charlie Hunnan identified with his role of Jax Teller, John Teller’s son. Hunnan’s father has forsaken life in a British industrial or mine setting and opted for the criminal life Hunnan acted with an American accent. Hunnan researched the role with an MC members similar to his character,, whose father has been a founding member of his MC club.

Actor Ryan Hurst admits “I auditioned for the show because I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I don’t think I read the entire script.” His character was intended to die at the end of the first season. Her popular performances kept his character alive longer.

Actor Chris Telford was a DJ who face was slashed with a knife in a mugging A friend asked him to join a theater company. He turned to acting.

Actor Kim Coates auditioned for two “Sons of Anarchy” roles. He got neither. He was offered a newly created role. Coates read the role and replied “this is not for me...I have not desire to play a one note dark guy.” Sutter convinced him the role would involved more depth. Coates signed onto the show that night. Coates admits he sometimes struggled with the role, yet realized despite the character’s many weird emotions, he was loyal.

Kurt Sutter told actor Theo Rossi “I don’t know if you’re going to be in one of hundred. I just know I want you on the show.” Rossi accepted.

William Lucking first acted in a biker movie “Hell’s Belles” in 1969. He crushed his leg when his motorcycle went off a bridge while filming “Harold and Maude” He rode a Tri Glide on the series.

Sutter hired himself in a role. It would take an hour of make-up for his character.

Kurt Sutter is friends with actor Ally Walker. The role of Agent June Stahl was written for her.

Rockmond Dunbar’s character was originally planned for one season, He became such a fan favorites his character lasted three seasons.

The production designer Anthony Medina, along with Kurt Sutter, sought authentic looks Medina researched MC clubs,

Director of Photography Paul Maibaum and Executive Producer / Principal Director Paris Barclay planned the cinematography. They sought a “modern day western” feel. People by doorways and background items were frayed. Exteriors had a “bleached, dried-out, dusty look”. Theatrical light was avoided for a realistic feel.

The Principal Director creates a cohesive direction for all Directors. This series was filmed as if it were really happening. Kurt Sutter provided the tone.

The show did not use clothing with advertising. The Sons of Anarchy members wore black. Mayas wore green and blue. Gemma would wear a $5 halter under a $1,500 jacket.

Tattoos were applications.

Exterior shots for the Northern Ireland portion were filmed in Northern Ireland. Local bikes rode in an aerial shot. North Hollywood served as most scenes depicting Northern Ireland.

The show was Bob Thiele Jr.’s first as a music supervisor. He had written before with Katey Sagal, who portrays Gemma and is married to Kurt Sutter. He led an existing band, the Forest Rangers, and used it as a house band. Thiele would send original songs to Sutter. Suter would sometimes add to the songs. Thiele and Sutter never collaborated together simultaneously.

Tammie Baird served as a stunt double for Katey Sagal during Gemma’s rape scene.