Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Dying for a Cola with a Lemon Wedge!

If life gives you lemons... better not make lemonade.

If you are worried about terrorists, nuclear war, global warming, or fire eating ants killing you, worry no more! I've got something better to worry about. Microbiologist Anne LaGrange Loving reports that a more immediate killer might be wedged into the top of your drinking glass. She tested lemon wedges from 21 different restaurants and found that 70% of them were contaminated with bacteria, including a s—load of fecal bacteria.

Sound's delicious doesn't it?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Simply the Best" ... Richard Widmark Makes the Final Curtain

There are too few "stars" left today. All the good ones have hit their winter years. One of my fav's; (as I am a Turner Movie Fan and B&W Film buff) was Richard Widmark who passed away on March 24th at the age of 93.

Widmark made a sensational film debut as the giggling killer in "Kiss of Death" and became a Hollywood leading man in "Broken Lance," "Two Rode Together" and 40 other films.

Widmark's wife, Susan Blanchard, says the actor died at his home in Roxbury on Monday. She did not provide details of his illness; "It was a big shock, but he was 93," Blanchard said. After a career in radio drama and theater, Widmark moved to films as Tommy Udo, who delighted in pushing an old lady in a wheelchair to her death down a flight of stairs in the 1947 thriller "Kiss of Death." The performance won him an Academy Award nomination as supporting actor; it was his only mention for an Oscar. "That damned laugh of mine!" he told a reporter in 1961. "For two years after that picture, you couldn't get me to smile. I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast."

A quiet, inordinately shy man, Widmark often portrayed killers, cops and Western gunslingers. But he said he hated guns. "I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence," he remarked in a 1976 Associated Press interview. "I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."

Two years out of college, Widmark reached New York in 1938 during the heyday of radio. His mellow Midwest voice made him a favorite in soap operas, and he found himself racing from studio to studio. Rejected by the Army because of a punctured eardrum, Widmark began appearing in theater productions in 1943. His first was a comedy hit on Broadway, "Kiss and Tell." He was appearing in the Chicago company of "Dream Girl" with June Havoc when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract. He almost missed out on the "Kiss of Death" role."The director, Henry Hathaway, didn't want me," the actor recalled. "I have a high forehead; he thought I looked too intellectual." The director was overruled by studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck, and Hathaway "gave me kind of a bad time." An immediate star, Widmark appeared in 20 Fox films from 1957 to 1964. Among them: "The Street With No Name," "Road House," "Yellow Sky," "Down to the Sea in Ships," "Slattery's Hurricane," "Panic in the Streets," "No Way Out," "The Halls of Montezuma," "The Frogmen," "Red Skies of Montana," "My Pal Gus" and the Samuel Fuller film noir "Pickup on South Street." In 1952, he starred in "Don't Bother to Knock" with Marilyn Monroe. He told an interviewer in later years: "She wanted to be this great star but acting just scared the hell out of her. That's why she was always late - couldn't get her on the set. She had trouble remembering lines. But none of it mattered. With a very few special people, something happens between the lens and the film that is pure magic. ... And she really had it."

After leaving Fox, Widmark's career continued to flourish. He starred (as Jim Bowie) with John Wayne in "The Alamo," with James Stewart in John Ford's "Two Rode Together," as the U.S. prosecutor in "Judgment at Nuremberg," and with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in "The Way West." He also played the Dauphin in "St. Joan," and had roles in "How the West Was Won," "Death of a Gunfighter," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Midas Run" and "Coma." "Madigan," a 1968 film with Widmark as a loner detective, was converted to television and lasted one season in 1972-73. It was Widmark's only TV series. He also was in some TV films, including "Cold Sassy Tree" and "Once Upon a Texas Train."

Richard Widmark was born Dec. 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., where his father ran a general store, then became a traveling salesman. The family moved around before settling in Princeton, Ill. "Like most small-town boys, I had the urge to get to the big city and make a name for myself," he recalled in a 1954 interview. "I was a movie nut from the age of 3, but I don't recall having any interest in acting," he said. But at Lake Forest College, he became a protege of the drama teacher and met his future wife, drama student Ora Jean Hazlewood. In later years, Widmark appeared sparingly in films and TV. He explained to Parade magazine in 1987: "I've discovered in my dotage that I now find the whole moviemaking process irritating. I don't have the patience anymore. I've got a few more years to live, and I don't want to spend them sitting around a movie set for 12 hours to do two minutes of film." When he wasn't working, he and his wife lived on a horse ranch in Hidden Valley, Calif., or on a farm in Connecticut. Their daughter Ann became the wife of baseball immortal Sandy Koufax.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What's Your Business, Mr. Bones?

A woman was detained at the Munich airport after a scan of her luggage showed a human skull and other bones. But she had a perfectly reasonable explanation, honest!

The 62-year-old woman and her 63-year-old friend were traveling to Italy from Brazil. It turns out that the woman was trying to fulfill the last wish of her brother to be buried in Italy. He had died 11 years previously in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

After she produced the proper papers, the woman and her skeletal carry-on were allowed to continue on to Naples. (source)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens Loses Battle With Leukemia

Dave Stevens, co creator of the Rocketeer and the artist who helped bring Bettie Page back in the spotlight passed away at the age of 52 due to complications with his battle with leukemia. He was 52. If you haven't read or seen it, I recommend checking out Rocketeer. Great stuff.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Creature From The Black Lagoon Has Died

The Creature from the Black Lagoon, otherwise known as Ben Chapman, died on February 21st, at aged 79.

THE monsters created by Universal Studios in the first half of the 20th century evolved in a backwards fashion. In the 1920s Homo erectus distorted himself a bit, and took to swinging round church towers or chandeliers as the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. A decade later his teeth and hair grew longer and his skin more chalky, preparatory to wallowing in human blood in “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”. The 1940s brought a coating of fur (“Wolfman”) or shrouds (“The Mummy”), the humanoid shape regressing to animal or worse. Then, in 1954, a beast who was half-man and half-fish dragged himself out of the sea.

“Science couldn't explain it!” cried the theatre-trailer for “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. “But there it was, alive!” Its webbed tracks were seen on the shores of the deepest Amazon; a fossilised claw was found by scientists. This “Gill-Man”, like the lungfish, could evidently breathe on both land and water. It was a relic of the Devonian age, one-and-a-half million years ago. Universal could attest that its blood was 35% white corpuscles, like an amphibian's; that it ate fish, when film crews were unavailable; and that beneath its outer layer of scales, dark green picked out with copper and rough-hewn as an alligator's, was soft pink mammalian skin.
Beneath it too, sweating like a trooper in a thick body-stocking of foam rubber, was Ben Chapman. Behind the popping-out eyes, his own were moving—save when the lids came down, and he had to be guided down his monstrous paths by a prop-man with a torch. The truly nasty fluttering of the gills was achieved by another man, out of shot, pumping air through a tube into bladders on Mr Chapman's dorsal fin. He moved as he did, slowly and half-gliding while cymbals and screaming trumpets announced his presence, because he had ten pounds of weights in each webbed foot. His career as a strong-limbed Tahitian dancer in the nightclubs of Los Angeles had not entirely cut him out for this.

His monster-suit, which was to give him a persona he revelled in all his life, cost $18,000 and went through 76 designs. Two or three hours were needed to put the costume on, and as long to get it off again. Head, arms, legs, front torso and back torso had been moulded separately round his body in plaster of Paris and were now fitted separately to him, like a knight's armour. Only the head and the hands were easily removable, and in this garb (in which he could not sit down) he would eat his sandwiches at lunchtime.

For much of the day, however, being so hot, he would lurk in the greenish pool in the back lot at Universal. Out in the middle of the water, he would submerge his imposing frame until only his Gill-Man eyes and nostrils showed above the surface. There he would wait, holding his breath for as long as he could manage. Then—famously just as Rock Hudson was walking past with a group of elderly visitors—he would rise straight up, water streaming down him, lift up his arms, open his fish mouth and ROAR!!!

In Karloff's footsteps

Mr Chapman was not the only man who played the Creature. Its underwater swimming was done by Ricou Browning in relatively pristine Florida waters. But Mr Chapman was the only actor hired, on a studio contract for $300 a week, to get inside the Creature's mind. He therefore knew that, as in the case of Victor Hugo's Hunchback and Mary Shelley's Monster, a great sadness lay there. Jack Arnold, the director (also of “Tarantula” and “It Came from Outer Space”), insisted when he hired him that this was no cartoon. Mr Chapman, with no words to say, therefore used his dancer's body language to show how misunderstood the Creature was.
In the film, scientists invaded the Creature's peaceable kingdom; so naturally he saw them off. In the film he also fell in love with Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams), a comely young woman scientist in a white swimsuit, whom Mr Chapman much enjoyed carrying round in his brawny, scaly arms. The Creature's urge to mate was understandable. He was the last survivor of the fish-men, just as Mr Chapman turned out to be the last in a line of sad-monster-players that stretched back through Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, before more heartless and mechanised species arrived in Hollywood.

In the years before he played him, Mr Chapman had also been a bartender and a brave marine in Korea; in the years after, he worked in property and in a Seven-Up bottling plant. In old age, large, gentle and smiling, he was a fixture at celebrity signings. No other job, he said, compared with those six or seven weeks spent shooting, when he would drive eagerly over the Hollywood hills to that stifling costume again.

He was never credited with playing the Creature, the publicity department not wanting people to think that this was just a man in a suit. (Earlier, Boris Karloff had got no credit for playing Frankenstein's Monster.) Mr Chapman said he doubted audiences were so stupid. He was told, “You'd be amazed what people will believe.” Such as that when he climbed onto the scientists' boat, out of the black water, his eyes burning at the sight of a female butt in shorts, he represented all mankind in its fishy origins, evolving out of the deep.