Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Actors’ Category

David Carradine and Barbara Hershey in Boxcar Bertha

David Carradine and Barbara Hershey in Boxcar Bertha

No disrespect to Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood, whose filming stretched over many years as the boy grew up. But when some Slate people said it’s “completely unique” and “Nobody else would undertake this project,” I was like, “Just a minute, please.”

David Carradine wrote and directed a movie about Mata Hari, starring his daughter Calista Carradine. It was meant to follow from her teen years to age 41, when the famous spy was executed by a firing squad. The first installment was filmed in 1977, with a couple weeks more of shooting added every year or so, as money was available. Some scenes were shot in Europe and India. It was a monumental passion project, and David Carradine talked about it in his book Endless Highway.

Various journalists have said it was meant to span 30 years. Somebody else reported that it would cover Mata Hari’s life from 15 to 30, and would thus be a 15-year project. There seems to have been confusion. In a 1981 interview, D. Carradine mentioned that even though the subject had been dead for more than 60 years, new facts about her life were still being discovered. He said, “It may be three movies.”

Just before that he said, “The film will probably not exist at a single level or reality.” Which it makes sense to interpret as, it’s a mystery AND a biography AND a war story, or some similar trio of genres. But another writer took that literally and spoke as if the work would actually be three separate movies, and someone else called it a trilogy. And there’s a Carradine quotation about being almost done with the first film, with maybe one more scene to do.

Movie star crush

I fondly remember the TV series Kung Fu, and I’m sure David Carradine’s character Kwai Chang Caine had something to do with the formation of my preferences in men. Later on when the movie Boxcar Bertha came out, it was my favorite for a long time. The picture on this page is from a Playboy photo session commemorating the movie, extra hot because Carradine and Barbara Hershey were deep in love in real life.

What follows is from a 1979 chapter of my book Call Someplace Paradise:

On the way to work night shift, at the Lincoln Boulevard onramp to the Santa Monica Freeway, I saw a family group looking for a ride. They were headed for Hollywood but decided Westwood would do just as well. My front door on the passenger side is still crunched in so they piled in the back with a guitar case and backpack and various other paraphernalia. The man was Bill Sunshine, a filmmaker who documents births, mostly home births, for people who want to relive the moment on video. This is what people get now instead of bronzed baby shoes.

He introduced his wife as Calista Carradine, who plays Mata Hari in her father’s film, which they have been working on since she was a child. The concept is to have the same actress fill all the different age roles by the simple method of shooting the film as she grows up. I read about David Carradine’s ambitious project a couple weeks ago, and said so. Bill Sunshine talked some about the movie and, since I work at the hospital, a little about the advancing age and medical problems of John Carradine. The couple have been married for six weeks and are reduced to hitchhiking because of a drunk driving incident during their honeymoon. The boy, about 9, was introduced as Jason Sunshine. The guitar case contained picnic supplies. They’d spent the day at the beach.

A few months later I was at a screening that David Carradine attended. Though I had watched Kung Fu religiously, I figured half the world probably told him that. So I told him I’d picked up his daughter hitchhiking. In another of his books, The Kill Bill Diary, a page says…

…a promo reel for Mata Hari which I made to show at Cannes in 1980, made up of scenes from the first three years, ’77. ’78 and ’79, starring my daughter, from fourteen years old in India to her execution at the age of seventeen in a forest in Holland….

How did that get published? Mata Hari wasn’t executed at 17. WTF? Anyway, at the international film festival, D. Carradine was given a special award for writing the score of the fragmentary film. Over time, Mata Hari grew its own legend. A lot of people heard of it, few saw any of it. There were disturbing rumors and reports, a mild example being someone’s comment about watching D. Carradine directing a scene where his daughter and a male actor were naked and going at it.

The film was included in a couple of “greatest movies never made” webpages. One of them said the action spanned 20 years, and noted that it was supposed to have been released in the summer of 1998. The reviewer called it “an incredible concept that would have made a groundbreaking film that would have served as a fine legacy to Carradine.” It must have been money that stood in the way of completing and releasing the movie, because the filmmaker lived until 2009. According to IMBD, Mata Hari now seems to be one movie, scheduled for release in December of 2014.

Read Full Post »

A woman's faceThe Little Foxes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In A Woman’s Face and The Little Foxes we meet two of cinema’s baddest bad girls: Anna Holm (Joan Crawford) and Regina (Bette Davis.) First, how did they get to be so bad?

Anna was physically scarred in childhood by a fire. Subjected to rudeness and mockery by pitiless smooth-faced people, she decided at age sixteen that if the world was going to be against her, she would be against the world. Consequently Anna embarked on a career of blackmail and presumably other criminal activity as well. Even as an adult, when we are introduced to this woman, she is still mocked by her cohorts on account of her disfigured face and abrasive personality. We understand that her character has been formed by her face, that beneath the scars there is another potential Anna. The cause of her problems is physical and amenable to correction.

Regina’s personality has been formed by different forces. Although quite presentable in appearance and possessing social status, she became embittered about being passed over in her father’s will which divided the estate between her two brothers. Further disappointment came with her husband, who was never sufficiently acquisitive or ruthless in business to satisfy her lust for wealth. The root causes of Regina’s personality could be called sociological. Her situation is the converse of Anna’s: Regina’s hard, aristocratic, disdainful face has been formed by her character.

Anna is influenced by sexual attraction and a certain kind of misdirected loyalty to become the pawn of Torsten Byrig, the lover who “saw the hard shining brightness of her.” He attempts to manipulate her into doing his dirty work, which she goes along with by posing as a governess and planning to kill the nephew who stands between Byrig and a fortune. Like the original causes of her personality, the cause of her willingness to murder a child is also physical (her infatuation for Byrig).

Regina is nobody’s pawn. Instead, she manipulates others. She sends her daughter to Baltimore to convince her husband to return, and attempts to coerce the same daughter into marrying her dumb cousin Leo. She rejects the girl’s young newspaperman suitor out of hand., Regina does not dissemble or pretend to be other than she is – even though her brother Ben repeatedly counsels “softness and a smile,” Regina makes no bones about the fact that she is a disciple of naked power. Her machinations are inspired only secondarily by material greed – her primary focus is hatred for the husband she perceives as weak and worthless. She tells him quite clearly, “I hope you die – I’ll be waiting for you to die” – she despises the man. The murder she commits is rather a sin of omission – she watches as he has a heart attack, spills his medication, crawls up the stairs… throughout all this, Regina sits rigid and implacable. When she’s sure Horace is dead, she makes a fuss and calls for help. Afterwards, when she finds out about the stolen bonds, her manipulations continue – if she’s not cut in for 75% she threatens to put her brothers in jail.

Anna is capable of change. Influenced by love for the boy under her care, and good feelings toward the doctor, Anna becomes a different woman. When her chance to carry out the planned murder comes, a ride in an aerocar, she is unable to proceed. When the second opportunity presents itself – the sleigh ride – she comes to a crux of decision and shoots Byrig rather than allow him to kill the boy. Another change in Anna is that somewhere along the way she has realized that sex does not equal love. Capable of change, Anna is also capable of guilt – after writing a note to the consul warning him of Byrig’s plans for murder, she planned to kill herself. But she is redeemed by love, and admits to the doctor that she just wants to be like the rest of the human race – get married, have babies, and so on.

Regina is not influenced by love for anyone. She probably thinks she loves daughter Zan and has Zan’s best interests in mind when arranging the marriage and scheming for money. She is capable of change only slightly and temporarily – crumbling near the end of the film, she shows unfamiliar weakness and asks Zan to sleep in her room for comfort – but this softness doesn’t last long. In the last shot of the film, Regina’s sinister face, mask firmly back in place, is seen at the window. She is her old self again, the self whose motives are plain. As she has told Zan, “I’m going to get you the world I always wanted.” – the world of wealth and power. She began with these priorities and she ends with them.

Read Full Post »

Reason watched: Andy Garcia, Ellen Burstyn, Philip Seymour Hoffman. But mostly Andy Garcia (sigh.)

Michael (Andy Garcia) is an airline pilot, Alice (Meg Ryan) works for the school system, and they have two little girls. They’re both basically very nice people. Alice is a helper, a counselor to teenagers. It’s no wonder she’s burned out and flirting with trouble. For somebody in a position of trust, she lets herself say some indiscreet things. A girl is looking for an excuse to accuse a boy of sexual harassment, and Alice sarcastically suggests that she entice the boy into trying to lift up her skirt. Definitely not cool. But she basically cares, that’s why she got into this line of work. She suffers from the frustration of realizing that some of these kids are beyond help.

When Alice stays out late drinking with a colleague, the excuse to go drinking isn’t the only reason. The friend needs to talk, and Alice wants to help. But she also causes Michael to miss a flying assignment, which is a serious mark against him. Things are starting to come apart.

Sometimes Michael is drawn into Alice’s wild spontaneity, and probably on some level convinces himself that he’s too buttoned-up and conventional, and it’s good for him to have a partner who’s a bit crazy. Their anniversary seems to bring Alice’s discontent to a crisis point. She leads Michael into helping her vandalize a neighbor’s car. This is some over-the-top behavior.

They go on vacation to de-stress. It’s night, and the most gorgeous man in the world, her very own husband, is rowing Alice around on a lake surrounded by sparkly lights. When drunk, Alice is not only bubbly and wildly cute, she can also be a real asshole. She’s standing up in the boat, taking a pugilistic stance, and of course falls in the water and of course he has to dive in and rescue her. Some romantic evening! Consequently, Alice promises to stop drinking so much. Hah.

Michael is such a cool guy. He says ALL the right things. It’s just that he doesn’t know when to stop. The part about responding beautifully when called upon, helping when help is needed and requested, he’s got that right. But he can’t stop there, and is always jumping in to help in situations where the very thing that pisses her off so much is the presumption that he knows better.

I understand Alice’s exasperation, because of an incident that happened. I was in a public place once with a supremely nice guy – very much like Michael in the movie. A stranger did something incredibly rude, behavior I had encountered in the past, and had made myself a vow never to tolerate again. And here it was. The jerk needed to be told what was what, and I was destined to be the one to tell him. If it was just me, I’d have cussed the stranger up one side and down the other.

But the nice guy asked me to let it go, so I did. We walked away. But my sense of mission was thwarted. I wanted a confrontation, wanted to be Woman Hear Me Roar. Of course, on some level, I also really didn’t want the nice guy to see me transmogrify into a raging harpy. But all this anger was still boiling around in me. I didn’t want somebody else to step in and decide what my response to a grievous provocation should be. I didn’t want to be protected by being gently led away. I understand Alice not wanting to be calmed down.

By the way, with such a horrible mother, how did Michael grow up to be so nice? That was surely a triumph of reincarnation over current-life family. If environmental influence were all, Michael would be even more of a mess than his wife Alice. And toward Alice, his mom is the classic poisonous mother-in-law. A quietly persistent bitch is worse than an occasionally flaring-up bitch any day of the week.

Michael arranges for the best alcoholic rehab money can buy. When Alice gets out, she doesn’t want to make love, and doesn’t want anything to do with him outside of bed, either. It’s not fair. That’s one of the horrible things that relatives of addicts need to face. You tried your best, and it still wasn’t enough. The unfairness can kill. He’s an enabler, but only in the most gentle, loving, best-intentioned way. He wants so badly to help, and winds up helping badly. Their troubles are not over. In fact, it gets so bad he has to move out. His good-byes to the children are heart-rending.

Michael comes to hear Alice’s six-month sober speech at AA, and they wind up snogging in the middle of the coffee break. You can tell that they will reconcile.

Loose end – But doesn’t he still have to move to Denver anyway to keep his job? So, does this imply that the family will move to Denver? It would certainly be great to get away from the toxic mother-in-law. Or are we to assume he’s going to take the other career alternative they had discussed, where he stays based in San Francisco and goes to work for a different airline, starting over at the bottom of the seniority ladder? Inquiring minds want to know.

The script was co-written by Al Franken, who had some experience with Al-Anon. He told Entertainment Weekly, ”I really began to understand about people’s pain and suffering and about how families that look normal aren’t.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »