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The Dark Knight

Video    Trailer


YouTube >


















Guinness, right, with his stand-in


On the set of classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers - in pictures


The much-loved British caper

starring Alec Guinness is being reissued, 65 years on,

fully restored from the original negative.


It was shot at Ealing Studios and around King’s Cross in London,

where photographers captured the stars relaxing on set


Fri 23 Oct 2020    07.00 BST














film actor        UK / USA














































character actor        UK / USA
















































child actor        USA










child actress        USA

















his / her screen debut





cast        UK








cast        USA






be cast as a N        USA






 be cast as the romcom heart-throb        UK






talent agent        USA






agent > Sue Mengers        USA        1932-2011


powerful agent

who represented stars

like Barbra Streisand

and Steve McQueen

and helped shape Hollywood’s

vibrant revival in the 1970s

before suddenly retiring

to become an interested observer

and party hostess

to the changing film industry






 Screen Actors Guild        USA






the Actor's Studio        USA






actress        USA






glamour        UK






glamour        USA






Hollywood glamour        USA






glamorous        USA





performance        UK








produce a sledgehammer performance as N        UK






supporting actor





supporting role        USA






USA > Hollywood actor        UK

























Hollywood star        USA






Hollywood's golden age stars        USA






movie star        UK






movie star        USA






child movie star / child star        USA








pornographic film star / porn star        USA








fame        USA

















B-movie actress





animated characters





film test        UK






comeback        USA
















role        UK






role        USA






character role        USA






baddie        UK






supporting role





in the lead role





tough-guy role        USA











star        UK







star / star in N












star as a N






stardom        UK








stardom        USA











Shake Hands With The Devil (1959),

starring James Cagney as an IRA man





USA > 1950 > Billy Wilder's Sunset boulevard        UK











movie legend        UK






screen legend        USA






legendary actress        USA




















a melodrama featuring N
































method acting / the Method        USA


In his new book,

The Method:

How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,

Butler traces the history of the Method.


It springs from "the system,"

a series of techniques

created in the early 1900s

by the Russian director

Konstantin Stanislavski,

which were then adapted in the U.S.

by the Group Theatre

and The Actors Studio.












































stunt        UK






Planet of the Apes' Actors Get Movement Training

Video    The New York Times    4 May 2014









stunt        USA














stunt man / stuntman        USA




























movie extras / background actors        USA

















make-up artist /makeup artist        USA










Richard Emerson Smith    USA    1922-2014


Dick Smith


made flesh peel

from famous actors’ faces,


made the young old

and the beautiful hideous and


transformed a girl

into a particularly possessed tween

— all while working

as one of film and television’s

most original and accomplished

makeup artists


















voiceover artist        UK










voice actress        USA

















USA > Hollywood / Tinseltown        UK












USA > Hollywood star        UK










USA > the Hollywood Production Code / Hays Code

















USA > the House Committee

on Un-American Activities / McCarthy era    1940s-1950s        UK / USA




















USA > the Hollywood 10 / the Hollywood blacklist    1947-1960


Just how many were on that list

is now a matter for discussion.


At its end around 1960

there were estimated

to be still 150 people on a list

that was said to be held

in every producer's office

in Hollywood.


But back in 1947,

2,000 names appeared

in a publication

called Red Channels.


"Once in it,"

Once on the list, Larry Adler told me,

"you were finished."
























blacklist        USA










blacklisted        UK










be blacklisted        USA

















screen comics





Buster Keaton






Charlie Chaplin        UK






The Marx Brothers        UK






Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans

























fictional character








James Bond        UK















real people        UK










bad guys / baddies        UK










villain        UK
























villain        USA




















arch enemy        UK










rogue        UK




















Basil Gogos, Who Painted Monsters With Love, Dies at 88


Mr. Gogos

made penetrating portraits of Dracula,

the Wolf Man and the Phantom of the Opera,

and imbued Frankenstein’s monster

with notable compassion.


SEPT. 26, 2017
















monster        USA

















hero (-es)        UK










action hero        UK










superhero (-es)        UK










USA > superheroes > Spider-Man        UK















Corpus of news articles


Arts > Film / Movies >


Actresses, Actors, Roles




Ann Savage,

Cult Movie Actress,

Dies at 87


December 30, 2008

The New York Times



LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ann Savage, who earned a cult following as a femme fatale in 1940s pulp-fiction movies, most notably as the ruthless villain in “Detour,” died on Dec. 27. She was 87.

The cause was complications of a series of strokes, said her manager, Kent Adamson.

Ms. Savage’s Hollywood career had largely been over since the mid-1950s, but in the last year she had a starring role in a film by the Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, “My Winnipeg.”

Starting with her 1943 debut in the crime story “One Dangerous Night,” she made more than 30 films through the 1950s, including westerns (“Saddles and Sagebrush,” “Satan’s Cradle”), musicals (“Dancing in Manhattan,” “Ever Since Venus”) and wartime tales (“Passport to Suez,” “Two-Man Submarine”).

In “Detour,” her best-known film, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer in 1945, she played a woman blackmailing a stranger, played by Tom Neal.

“It’s actually a showcase role,” Mr. Adamson said. “Neal and Savage really reversed the traditional male-female roles of the time. She’s vicious and predatory. She’s been called a harpy from hell, and in the film, too, she’s very sexually aggressive, and he’s very, very passive.”

Decades later, “Detour” and Ms. Savage gained a new audience on television and video.

Mr. Adamson said Mr. Maddin had been a longtime fan of “Detour” when he cast Ms. Savage to play his mother in “My Winnipeg,” a documentary, drama and memoir about his native city.

She did some television in the 1950s, including “Death Valley Days” and “The Ford Television Theater,” then left Hollywood for New York, where she appeared in commercials.

In 1986, Ms. Savage returned to acting with an appearance in the drama “Fire With Fire.”

Ann Savage, Cult Movie Actress, Dies at 87,






Van Johnson,

Film Actor,

Is Dead at 92


December 13, 2008
The New York Times


Van Johnson, a film actor whose affable charm and boyish good looks helped turn him into a major Hollywood star during World War II, died Friday in Nyack, N.Y. He was 92.

His death, at the Tappan Zee Manor assisted living facility, was announced by a spokesman, Daniel Demello, of Shirley Herz Associates in New York.

Mr. Johnson won praise in his first dramatic role, as the pilot whose story is told in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944). He drew good notices for his work in “The Caine Mutiny,” Edward Dmytryk’s 1954 adaptation of the Herman Wouk novel, in which he played the naval lieutenant who is compelled to relieve the erratic Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) of command while at sea. And critics liked him as well the following year in Dmytryk’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel “The End of the Affair,” he which Mr. Johnson played an illicit lover opposite Sarah Miles.

But it was his wartime film career that catapulted Mr. Johnson to fame, and it gave him a boy-next-door image that he could never live down. He was the red-haired, freckle-faced soldier, sailor or B-25 bomber pilot who used to live down the street in a dozen MGM movies between 1942 and 1946. He attracted hordes of bobby-soxers during the war years. Indeed, the numbers of screaming teen-aged girls who swooned for Mr. Johnson were second only to those who threw themselves at Frank Sinatra.

Mr. Johnson got his big break in “A Guy Named Joe” (1943), playing a young fighter pilot who acquires an older pilot (Spencer Tracy) as his guardian angel after the older man is killed in a crash.

In real life, it was Mr. Johnson who was almost killed in an automobile accident that occurred midway through the movie’s production. It was obvious by then that his charming, likable screen presence would make him a star. During the months Mr. Johnson was hospitalized, both Tracy and his co-star, Irene Dunne, refused to allow the studio to recast the part.

Mr. Johnson had supporting roles in movies like “The War Against Mrs. Hadley” (1942) and “Madame Curie” (1943), but “A Guy Named Joe” gave him two things: a lot of publicity and a steel plate in his head that kept him from being drafted at a time when major MGM stars like Robert Taylor, Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable were joining the armed services. The film was a huge box-office success.

In 1944, a time when actors worked under contract in a studio caste system, Mr. Johnson was promoted from featured player to MGM’s official star list. He was paired with Miss Williams in “Thrill of a Romance” (1945) and with Lana Turner in “Weekend at the Waldorf” (1945). At studio premieres and parties, he wore red socks with his tuxedo, a trademark.

By 1945, Mr. Johnson was second behind Bing Crosby on the list of the Top 10 box-office stars chosen yearly by the nation’s theater owners. In 1946, he was third. Then Hollywood’s bit male stars came back from the war, and he dropped off the list.

Like many MGM stars of that era, including June Allyson, with whom he starred in four films, Mr. Johnson did not find his contract burdensome. He was never known to have asked for a raise or turned down a part he was told to play.

In 1985, he said of his years at MGM: “It was one big happy family and a little kingdom. Everything was provided for us, from singing lessons to barbells. All we had to do was inhale, exhale and be charming. I used to dread leaving the studio to go out into the real world, because to me the studio was the real world.”

Mr. Johnson said he wasn’t even upset when the studio head L.B. Mayer learned that he was living with a young actress and insisted that he move out: “That was the way of the studio.”

MGM dropped Mr. Johnson in 1954, after he appeared as the drunken novelist opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Babylon Revisited,” and in the film version of the Broadway musical fantasy “Brigadoon,” as one of two American tourists (Gene Kelly played the other) visiting an enchanted Scottish village.

In his 12 years at the studio, Mr. Johnson had acted and mostly starred in nearly 50 movies. But as he once asked a reporter rhetorically: “How long can you go on being the boy next door?”

He was born Charles Van Johnson on Aug. 25, 1916, in Newport, R.I. His mother, an alcoholic, deserted the family when he was a boy, and he was dutifully but coldly raised by the dour Swedish-American father, a plumber, for whom he was named. According to his stepson, Ned Wynn, when Mr. Johnson became a star, he invited his father to California and proudly took him to the famous Chasen’s restaurant. Charles Johnson refused to eat anything but a tuna fish sandwich.

“Van was devastated,” Mr. Wynn wrote in a memoir, “We Have Always Lived in Beverly Hills.” “He had wanted to show his father that now, after years of a gray, loveless, miserly life, he was a star, he could afford steak. And the old bastard had beaten him down one more time.”

As soon as he graduated from high school in 1935, Mr. Johnson fled to New York. He sang, danced and played the violin, and after several months got a job touring New England as a substitute dancer. He first set foot on a Broadway stage in the successful revue “New Faces” in May 1936.

After “New Faces” closed, his career was a mosaic of chorus boy jobs, resort hotel gigs and finally, nightclub work in “Eight Young Men of Manhattan” at the Rainbow Room, an act built around Mary Martin.

He was an understudy to Desi Arnaz and Eddie Bracken in George Abbott’s Broadway musical “Too Many Girls,” which earned him a small role in Abbott’s “Pal Joey,” which earned him two trips to Hollywood. Columbia didn’t like his screen test, but Warner Bros. offered him a contract at $300 a week, gave him the leading role of a cub reporter opposite Faye Emerson in “Murder in the Big House (1942), and dropped him after six months.

He was on his way back to New York when Lucille Ball, whom he knew from his years of bouncing around the East Coast, took him to the MGM casting director Billy Grady. He made his debut as a young soldier in the Clark Gable-Lana Turner drama “Somewhere I’ll Find You” (1942). He was the pilot who survived in “Pilot No. 5” (1943), the soldier who died in William Saroyan’s “Human Comedy” (1943) and the sailor who had his choice of June Allyson or Gloria DeHaven in “Two Girls and a Sailor.”

He also replaced Lew Ayres in the successful Dr. Kildare series, which was renamed the Dr. Gillespie series for the co-star, Lionel Barrymore, after Ayres announced he was a conscientious objector. Mr. Johnson shocked MGM and dismayed his fans in 1947 when he stole the wife of his best friend, the MGM character actor Keenan Wynn. But by the time he married Evie Wynn, he was too big a star for the studio to punish. They had a daughter, Schuyler, in 1948, separated in 1962 and were divorced in 1968. Mr. Johnson did not remarry.

The actor’s screen image was all laughter and sunshine. “Cheery Van,” he later defined himself ironically. Actually, the deprivations of his childhood cast long shadows, and he was, by nature, moody and morose. “His tolerance of unpleasantness was minuscule,” his stepson wrote. “If there was the slightest hint of trouble with one of the children, or with the house, the car, the servants, the delivery of the newspaper, the lack of ice in the silver ice bucket, the color of the candles on the dining room table, Van immediately left the couch, the dinner table, the pool, the tennis court, the party, the restaurant, the vacation, and strode off to his bedroom.”

Long after World War II was over, Mr. Johnson was still fighting it: in ““Command Decision” (1948) as a staff sergeant; as a happy-go-lucky private in William Wellman’s excellent recreation of the Battle of the Bulge, “Battleground” (1949); and as a prejudiced army lieutenant in charge of a group of Japanese-American soldiers in “Go For Broke” (1951).

He also co-starred with Janet Leigh (“The Romance of Rosy Ridge” 1947), with Judy Garland (“In the Good Old Summertime” 1949), and most often with Esther Williams and June Allyson.

After floundering for more than a decade after he left MGM, Mr. Johnson made the mistake of turning down the Eliot Ness role in the television series “The Untouchables” — Robert Stack got the role — but he found frequent work on television all the same for decades, making guest appearances on a wide range of shows, from “Batman” in the ’60s (he played The Minstrel) to “Murder, She Wrote” in the ’80s. He also had a small part in Woody Allen’s 1985 film “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”

Mr. Johnson had lived at Tappan Zee Manor, an assisted living facility, for the last seven years. Before that he lived at 405 East 54th Street in Manhattan. He had been estranged from his daughter for many years, his spokesman, Mr. Demello, said, adding that he had no other information on survivors.

In the 1970s Mr. Johnson began a second career in summer stock and dinner theater. When he turned 60, he told a reporter that he had beaten cancer twice and was so booked up with summer theater jobs that he never got home to his Manhattan penthouse and his two cats.

At 69, he went back to New York and Broadway to replace Gene Barry as Georges in “La Cage aux Folles,” playing the role for a year. At 75, with his red hair turned white and his figure grown rotund, he toured as Captain Andy in “Show Boat.”

“These are supposed to be my September years,” Mr. Johnson told an interviewer. “I’m supposed to be at home enjoying them, but I still love to tour.”

Spencer Tracy had given him two pieces of advice: to take up painting as a hobby and never to read reviews. He traveled everywhere with a paint box and with his embroidery, a hobby he chose for himself.

When Mr. Johnson was a few years shy of 80, he mused: “Maybe Garbo and Crawford and Marlene had the right idea. Get out of the damned spotlight while you can still be remembered for your earlier glories, not as some old relic.”

But he never took his own advice.

Van Johnson, Film Actor, Is Dead at 92,
NYT, 13.12.2008,






Paul Newman Dies at 83


September 27, 2008
Filed at 10:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as ''Hud,'' ''Cool Hand Luke'' and ''The Color of Money'' -- and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario -- has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman had dropped plans to direct a fall production of ''Of Mice and Men,'' citing unspecified health issues.

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including ''Exodus,'' ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,'' ''The Verdict,'' ''The Sting'' and ''Absence of Malice.''

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in ''Butch Cassidy'' and ''The Sting.''

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. ''I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?'' Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in ''The Long Hot Summer,'' and Newman directed her in several films, including ''Rachel, Rachel'' and ''The Glass Menagerie.''

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. ''I was always a character actor,'' he once said. ''I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood.''

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's ''enemies list,'' one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for ''The Color of Money,'' a reprise of the role of pool shark ''Fast'' Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film ''The Hustler.''

Newman delivered a magnetic performance in ''The Hustler,'' playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats -- played by Jackie Gleason -- and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel -- directed by Scorsese -- ''Fast Eddie'' is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 ''in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.'' In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film ''Road to Perdition.'' One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama ''Empire Falls'' and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, ''Cars.''

But in May 2007, he told ABC's ''Good Morning America'' he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. ''I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,'' he said. ''You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me.''

He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a bitter, alcoholic former star athlete in the 1958 film ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'' Elizabeth Taylor played his unhappy wife and Burl Ives his wealthy, domineering father in Tennessee Williams' harrowing drama, which was given an upbeat ending for the screen.

In ''Cool Hand Luke,'' he was nominated for his gritty role as a rebellious inmate in a brutal Southern prison. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1967 and included a tagline, delivered one time by Newman and one time by prison warden Strother Martin, that helped define the generation gap, ''What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate.''

Newman's hair was graying, but he was as gourgeous as ever and on the verge of his greatest popular success. In 1969, Newman teamed with Redford for ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,'' a comic Western about two outlaws running out of time. Newman paired with Redford again in 1973 in ''The Sting,'' a comedy about two Depression-era con men. Both were multiple Oscar winners and huge hits, irreverent, unforgettable pairings of two of the best-looking actors of their time.

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed ''Rachel, Rachel,'' a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1972 film, ''Winning.'' After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

''Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood,'' he told People magazine in 1979.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator. ''It takes a long time for an actor to develop the assurance that the trim, silver-haired Paul Newman has acquired,'' Pauline Kael wrote of him in the early 1980s.

In 1982, he got his Oscar fifth nomination for his portrayal of an honest businessman persecuted by an irresponsible reporter in ''Absence of Malice.'' The following year, he got his sixth for playing a down-and-out alcoholic attorney in ''The Verdict.''

In 1995, he was nominated for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in ''Nobody's Fool.'' New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting ''without cheap sentiment and self-pity,'' and observed, ''It says everything about Mr. Newman's performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way.''

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend.

He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

''If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks,'' he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway -- crushed and covered with ribbons.

''I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane,'' he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

Hotchner said Newman should have ''everybody's admiration.''

''For me it's the loss of an adventurous freindship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen,'' Hotchner told The Associated Press.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor ''Nell,'' Melissa and Clea.

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte.

Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.

He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged him to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.

Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to New York to work in theater and television, his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio including Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. His breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's ''The Battler,'' died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in ''The Silver Chalice,'' a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in ''The Long Hot Summer.''

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

''I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious,'' he said. ''Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore,'' he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.


On the Net:


Paul Newman Dies at 83, NYT, 27.9.2008,






Anita Page,

Silent-Film Siren,

Dies at 98


September 8, 2008
The New York Times


Anita Page, one of the last surviving stars of the silent screen and a popular Hollywood siren before her surprisingly early — and seemingly permanent — retirement in the 1930s, died on Saturday. She was 98.

Randal Malone, her friend and longtime companion, told The Associated Press that she died at her home in Los Angeles.

Ms. Page was still a teenager when she left New York for California. She appeared in small, uncredited roles in several silent films, making her screen debut as an extra in “A Kiss for Cinderella” (1925), based on the fairy tale. Soon she was offered a contract by MGM. A petite, sexy blonde, Ms. Page was the ideal love interest, whether playing the girl next door or a flirtatious flapper out to conquer the opposite sex.

She became a star when she appeared with Joan Crawford in the Jazz Age silent drama “Our Dancing Daughters” (1928), in which they competed for the love of a millionaire (Johnny Mack Brown). Ms. Crawford was the loser until the film’s melodramatic end, when a drunken Ms. Page tumbled down a stairway to her death.

The film was a smash hit, and Ms. Page began receiving sacks of fan mail, including, she said, a spate of marriage proposals from none other than Mussolini.

Ms. Page made two more movies with Ms. Crawford, “Our Modern Maidens” (1929) and “Our Blushing Brides” (1930), neither of which matched the success of their first. She also appeared opposite Lon Chaney in “While the City Sleeps” (1928) and Ramon Novarro in “The Flying Fleet” (1929).

By then the age of silent films was at an end, and Ms. Page, along with other stars of the silent era, faced the challenge of making a successful transition to the talkies. Her chance came with “The Broadway Melody” (1929), which MGM billed as an “All-Talking, All-Singing, All-Dancing” picture. Ms. Page and her co-star Bessie Love played sisters with a vaudeville act who leave the Midwest with hopes of success on Broadway.

The film won the Academy Award for best picture, the first talkie to achieve that honor.

Ms. Page was born Anita Pomares on Aug. 4, 1910, in Flushing, Queens, one of two children of an electrical engineer and a homemaker. She broke into films after graduating from Washington Irving High School, taking small parts in independent films in New York before heading to Hollywood and signing with MGM. (“She is that rarest and most interesting type of beauty,” a studio publicity release said in 1932. “A Spanish blonde.”)

In 1934 she married the composer Nacio Herb Brown, whose tune “You Were Meant for Me,” from “The Broadway Melody,” had become Ms. Page’s signature song. The marriage ended in divorce a year later.

In 1937 she married Herschel A. House, who died in 1991. They had two daughters, Sandra and Linda.

In the early 1930s Ms. Page found an unlikely co-star in Buster Keaton and appeared opposite that deadpan clown in “Free and Easy” (1930) and “Sidewalks of New York” (1931). That same year she played the wife of a struggling laundryman (Clark Gable) in “The Easiest Way.”

When her contract expired in 1933, Ms. Page was feeling pressured by MGM. Denied a pay raise, she promptly announced her retirement. She was 23.

After one more appearance, in the British-made “Hitch Hike to Heaven” (1936), about the struggles of a touring repertory company, she took a 60-year vacation from moviemaking.

Ms. Page came out of retirement to appear in a little-noticed 1996 film, “Sunset After Dark,” which also featured another Hollywood veteran, the former child star Margaret O’Brien. Ms. Page went on to play small roles in low-budget horror films, including “The Crawling Brain” (2002). It was a world — and a lifetime — away from “Our Dancing Daughters.”

Anita Page, Silent-Film Siren, Dies at 98,
NYT, 8.9.2008,






Charlton Heston,

Epic Film Star

and Voice of N.R.A.,

Dies at 83


April 6, 2008
The New York Times


Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the family, Bill Powers, who declined to discuss the cause. In August 2002, Mr. Heston announced that he had been diagnosed with neurological symptoms “consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I’m neither giving up nor giving in,” he said.

Every actor dreams of a breakthrough role, the part that stamps him in the public memory, and Mr. Heston’s life changed forever when he caught the eye of the director Cecil B. De Mille. De Mille, who was planning his next biblical spectacular, “The Ten Commandments,” looked at the young, physically imposing Mr. Heston and saw his Moses.

When the film was released in 1956, more than three and a half hours long and the most expensive that De Mille had ever made, Mr. Heston became a marquee name. Whether leading the Israelites through the wilderness, parting the Red Sea or coming down from Mount Sinai with the tablets from God in hand, he was a Moses to remember.

Writing in The New York Times nearly 30 years afterward, when the film was re-released for a brief run, Vincent Canby called it “a gaudy, grandiloquent Hollywood classic” and suggested there was more than a touch of “the rugged American frontiersman of myth” in Mr. Heston’s Moses.

The same quality made Mr. Heston an effective spokesman, off-screen, for the causes he believed in. Late in life he became a staunch opponent of gun control. Elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1998, he proved to be a powerful campaigner against what he saw as the government’s attempt to infringe on a Constitutional guarantee — the right to bear arms.

In Mr. Heston, the N.R.A. found its embodiment of pioneer values — pride, independence and valor. In a speech at the N.R.A.’s annual convention in 2000, he brought the audience to its feet with a ringing attack on gun-control advocates. Paraphrasing an N.R.A. bumper sticker (“I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”) he waved a replica of a colonial musket above his head and shouted defiantly, “From my cold, dead hands!”

Mr. Heston’s screen presence was so commanding that he was never dominated by mammoth sets, spectacular effects or throngs of spear-waving extras. In his films, whether playing Buffalo Bill, an airline pilot, a naval captain or the commander of a spaceship, he essentially projected the same image — muscular, steely-eyed, courageous. If critics regularly used terms like “marble-monumental” or “granitic” to describe his acting style, they just as often praised his forthright, no-nonsense characterizations.

After his success in “The Ten Commandments,” Mr. Heston tried a change of pace. Another legendary Hollywood director, Orson Welles, cast him as a Mexican narcotics investigator in the thriller “Touch of Evil,” in which Welles himself played a murderous sheriff in a border town. Also starring Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich, the film, a modest success when it opened in 1958, came to be accepted as a noir classic.

But the following year Mr. Heston stepped back into the world of the biblical epic, this time under the director William Wyler. The movie was “Ben-Hur.” Cast as a prince of ancient Judea who rebels against the rule of Rome, Mr. Heston again dominated the screen. In the film’s most spectacular sequence, he and his co-star, Stephen Boyd, as his Roman rival, fight a thrilling duel with whips as their horse-drawn chariots careen wheel-to-wheel around an arena filled with roaring spectators.

“Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards — a record at the time — including those for best picture, best director and, for Mr. Heston, best actor.

He went on to star opposite Sophia Loren in the 1961 release “El Cid,” battling the Moors in 11th-century Spain. As a Marine officer stationed in the Forbidden City in 1900, he helped put down the Boxer Rebellion in Nicholas Ray’s 1963 epic “55 Days at Peking.” In “Khartoum” (1966), he played Gen. Charles (Chinese) Gordon, who was killed in a desert uprising led in the film by Laurence Olivier’s Mahdi. When George Stevens produced and directed “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, there was Mr. Heston, back in ancient Judea, playing John the Baptist to Max von Sydow’s Jesus.

He portrayed Andrew Jackson twice, in “The President’s Lady” (1954) and “The Buccaneer” (1958). There were westerns (“Major Dundee,” “Will Penny,” “The Mountain Men”), costume dramas (“The Three Musketeers” and its sequel, “The Four Musketeers,” with Mr. Heston cast as the crafty Cardinal Richelieu in both) and action films aplenty. Whether playing a hard-bitten landowner in an adaptation of James Michener’s novel “The Hawaiians” (1970), or a daring pilot in “Airport 1975,” he could be relied on to give moviegoers their money’s worth.

In 1965 he was cast as Michelangelo in the film version of Irving Stone’s novel “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” Directed by Carol Reed, the film pitted Mr. Heston’s temperamental artist against Rex Harrison’s testy Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to create frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mr. Heston’s performance took a critical drubbing, but to audiences, the larger-than-life role seemed to be another perfect fit. Mr. Heston once joked: “I have played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses. If that doesn’t create an ego problem, nothing does.”

Mr. Heston was catapulted into the distant future in the 1968 science-fiction film “Planet of the Apes,” in which he played an astronaut marooned on a desolate planet and then enslaved by its rulers, a race of anthropomorphic apes. The film was a hit. He reprised the role two years later in the sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.”


Son of the Midwest

It was all a long way from Evanston, Ill., where Charlton Carter was born on Oct. 4, 1924, and from the small town of St. Helen, Mich., where his family moved when he was a small boy and where his father ran a lumber mill. He attended a one-room school and learned to fish and hunt and to savor the feeling of being self-reliant in the wild, where his shyness was no handicap.

When his parents divorced in the 1930s and his mother remarried — his stepfather’s surname was Heston — the family moved to the Chicago suburb of Winnetka. He joined the theater program at his new high school and went on to enroll at Northwestern University on a scholarship. By that time, he was convinced he had found his life’s work.

Mr. Heston also found a fellow drama student, Lydia Clarke, whom he married in 1944, just before enlisting in the Army Air Force. He became a radio-gunner and spent three years stationed in the Aleutian Islands. After his discharge, the Hestons moved to New York, failed to find work in the theater and, somewhat disenchanted but still determined, moved to North Carolina, where they spent several seasons working at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Theater in Asheville.

When they returned to New York in 1947, Mr. Heston got his first big break, landing the role of Caesar’s lieutenant in a Broadway production of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” staged by Guthrie McClintick and starring Katharine Cornell. The production ran for seven months and proved to be the high point of Mr. Heston’s New York stage career. He appeared in a handful of other plays, most of them dismal failures, although his performance in the title role of a 1956 revival of “Mr. Roberts” won him praise.

If Broadway had little to offer him, television was another matter. He made frequent appearances in dramatic series like “Robert Montgomery Presents” and “Philco Playhouse.” The door to Hollywood opened when the film producer Hal B. Wallis saw Mr. Heston’s performance as Rochester in a “Studio One” production of “Jane Eyre.” Wallis offered him a contract.

Mr. Heston made his film debut in 1950 in Wallis’s “Dark City,” a low-grade thriller in which he played a small-time gambler. Two years later, he did his first work for De Mille as a hard-driving circus boss in “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Throughout his career he studied long and hard for his roles. He prepared for the part of Moses by memorizing passages from the Old Testament. When filming began on the sun-baked slopes of Mount Sinai, he suggested to De Mille that he play the role barefoot — a decision that he felt lent an edge of truth to his performance.

Preparing for “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” he read hundreds of Michelangelo’s letters and practiced how to sculpt and paint convincingly. When filming “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” (1959), in which he played the pilot of a salvage boat, he learned deep-water diving. And he mostly rejected stunt doubles. In “Ben-Hur,” he said, he drove his own chariot for “about 80 percent of the race.”

“I worked six weeks learning how to manage the four white horses,” he said. “Nearly pulled my arms right out of their sockets.”

As the years wore on, the leading roles began to go to younger men, and by the 1980s, Mr. Heston’s appearances on screen were less frequent. He turned to stage work again, not on Broadway but in Los Angeles, at the Ahmanson Theater, where he played roles ranging from Macbeth to James Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” He also returned to television, appearing in 1983 as a paternalistic banker in the miniseries “Chiefs” and as an oil baron in the series “The Colbys.”


Rifles and a ‘Cultural War’

Mr. Heston was always able to channel some energies into the public arena. He was an active supporter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling him “a 20th-century Moses for his people,” and participated in the historic march on Washington in 1963.

He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966 to 1971, following in the footsteps of his friend and role model Ronald Reagan. A registered Democrat for many years, he was nevertheless selective in the candidates he chose to support and often campaigned for conservatives.

In 1981, President Reagan appointed him co-chairman of the President’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities, a group formed to devise ways to obtain financing for arts organizations. Although he had reservations about some projects supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Mr. Heston wound up defending the agency against charges of elitism.

Again and again, he proved himself a cogent and effective speaker, but he rejected suggestions that he run for office, perhaps for a seat in the Senate. “I’d rather play a senator than be one,” he said.

He became a Republican after Democrats in the Senate blocked the confirmation of Judge Robert Bork, a conservative, to the Supreme Court in 1987. Mr. Heston had supported the nomination and was critical of the Reagan White House for misreading the depth of the liberal opposition.

Mr. Heston frequently spoke out against what he saw as evidence of the decline and debasement of American culture. In 1992, appalled by the lyrics on “Cop Killer,” a recording by the rap artist Ice T, he blasted the album at a Time Warner stockholders meeting and was a force in having it withdrawn from the marketplace.

In the 1996 elections, he campaigned on behalf of some 50 Republican candidates and began to speak out against gun control. In 1997, he was elected vice president of the N.R.A.

In December of that year, as the keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary gala of the Free Congress Foundation, Mr. Heston described “a cultural war” raging across America, “storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self-confidence in who we are and what we believe.”


A Relentless Drive

The next year, at 73, he was elected president of the N.R.A. In his speech at the association’s convention before his election, he trained his oratorical artillery on President Bill Clinton’s White House: “Mr. Clinton, sir, America didn’t trust you with our health care system. America didn’t trust you with gays in the military. America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns.”

He was in the news again after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999, when he said that the N.R.A.’s annual membership meeting, scheduled to be held the following week in Denver, would be scaled back in light of the killings but not canceled.

In a memorable scene from “Bowling for Columbine,” his 2002 documentary about violence in America, the director, Michael Moore, visited Mr. Heston at his home and asked him how he could defend his pro-gun stance. Mr. Heston ended the interview without comment.

In May 2001, he was unanimously re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term by the association’s board of directors. The association had amended its bylaws in 2000 to allow Mr. Heston to serve a third one-year term as president. Two months after his celebrated speech at the 2000 convention, it was disclosed that Mr. Heston had checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation program after the convention had ended.

Mr. Heston was proud of his collection of some 30 guns at his longtime home in the Coldwater Canyon area of Beverly Hills, where he and his wife raised their son, Fraser, and daughter, Holly Ann. They all survive him, along with three grandchildren.

Never much for socializing , he spent his days either working, exercising, reading (he was fond of biographies) or sketching. An active diarist, he published several accounts of his career, including “The Actor’s Life: Journals 1956-1976.”

In 2003, Mr. Heston was among the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Bush. In 1997, he was also a recipient of the annual Kennedy Center honors.

Mr. Heston continued working through the 1990s, acting more frequently on television but also in occasional films. His most recent film appearance found him playing a cameo role, in simian makeup, in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes.”

He had announced in 1999 that he was receiving radiation treatments for prostate cancer.

He had always hated the thought of retirement and once explained his relentless drive as an actor. “You never get it right,” he said in a 1986 interview. “Never once was it the way I imagined it lying awake at 4 o’clock in the morning thinking about it the next day.” His goal remained, he said, “To get it right one time.”

Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and Voice of N.R.A., Dies at 83,
NYT, 6.4.2008,






Actor Richard Widmark

Dies at 93


March 26, 2008
The New York Times


Richard Widmark, who created a villain in his first movie role who was so repellent and frightening that the actor became a star overnight, died Monday at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 93.

His death was announced Wednesday morning by his wife, Susan Blanchard. She said that Mr. Widmark had fractured a vertebrae in recent months and that his conditioned had worsened.

As Tommy Udo, a giggling, psychopathic killer in the 1947 gangster film “Kiss of Death,” Mr. Widmark tied up an old woman in a wheelchair (played by Mildred Dunnock) with a cord ripped from a lamp and shoved her down a flight of stairs to her death.

“The sadism of that character, the fearful laugh, the skull showing through drawn skin, and the surely conscious evocation of a concentration-camp degenerate established Widmark as the most frightening person on the screen,” the critic David Thomson wrote in “The Biographical Dictionary of Film.”

The performance won Mr. Widmark his sole Academy Award nomination, for best supporting actor.

Tommy Udo made the 32-year-old Mr. Widmark, who had been an established radio actor, an instant movie star, and he spent the next seven years playing a variety of flawed heroes and relentlessly anti-social mobsters in 20th Century Fox’s juiciest melodramas.

His mobsters were drenched in evil. Even his heroes, including the doctor who fights bubonic plague in Elia Kazan’s “Panic in the Streets” (1950), the daredevil pilot flying into the eye of a storm in “Slattery’s Hurricane” (1949) and the pickpocket who refuses to be a traitor in Samuel Fuller’s “Pickup on South Street” (1953) were nerve-strained and feral.

“Movie audiences fasten on to one aspect of the actor, and then they decide what they want you to be,” Mr. Widmark once said. “They think you’re playing yourself. The truth is that the only person who can ever really play himself is a baby.”

In reality, the screen’s most vicious psychopath was a mild-mannered former teacher who had married his college sweetheart, the actress Jean Hazelwood, and who told a reporter 48 years later that he had never been unfaithful and had never even flirted with women because, he said, “I happen to like my wife a lot.”

He was originally turned down for the role of Tommy Udo by the movie’s director, Henry Hathaway, who told Mr. Widmark that he was too clean-cut and intellectual. It was Darryl Zanuck, the Fox studio head, who, after watching Mr. Widmark’s screen test, insisted that he be given the part.

Among the 65 movies he made over the next five decades were “The Cobweb” (1955), in which he played the head of a psychiatric clinic where the staff seemed more emotionally troubled than the patients; “Saint Joan” (1957) , as the Dauphin to Joan Seberg’s Joan of Arc; John Wayne’s “The Alamo” (1960), as Jim Bowie, the inventor of the Bowie knife; “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), as an American army colonel prosecuting German war criminals; and John Ford’s revisionist western “Cheyenne Autumn” (1963), as an army captain who risks his career to help the Indians.

The genesis of “Cheyenne Autumn” was research Mr. Widmark had done at Yale into the suffering of the Cheyenne. He showed his work to John Ford and, two years later, Ford sent Mr. Widmark a finished screenplay.

Mr. Widmark created the role of Detective Sergeant Daniel Madigan in Don Siegel’s 1968 film “Madigan.” It proved so popular that later played the loner Madigan on an NBC television series during the 1972-73 season.

As his blonde hair turned grey, Mr. Widmark moved up in rank, playing generals in the nuclear thriller “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (1977) and “The Swarm” (1978), in which he waged war on bees. He was the evil head of a hospital in “Coma” (1978) and a United States Senator in “True Colors” (1991).

He was forever fighting producers’ efforts to stereotype him. Indeed, he became so adept at all types of roles that he consistently lent credibility to inferior movies and became an audience favorite over a career that spanned more than half a century.

“I suppose I wanted to act in order to have a place in the sun,” he once told a reporter. “I’d always lived in small towns, and acting meant having some kind of identity.”

Richard Widmark (he had no middle name) was born on Dec. 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., and grew up throughout the Midwest. His father, Carl Widmark, was a traveling salesman who took his wife, Mae Ethel, and two sons from Minnesota to Sioux Falls, S.D.; Henry, Ill.; Chillicothe, Mo.; and Princeton, Ill., where Mr. Widmark graduated from high school as senior class president.

Movie crazy, he was afraid to admit his interest in the “sissy” job of acting. On a full scholarship at Lake Forest College in Illinois, he played end on the football team, took third place in a state oratory contest, starred in plays and was, once again, senior class president.

Graduating in 1936, he spent two years as an instructor in the Lake Forest drama department, directing and acting in two dozen plays. Then he headed to New York City in 1938, where one of his classmates was producing 15-minute radio soap operas and cast Mr. Widmark in a variety of roles.

“Getting launched was easy for me — too easy, perhaps,” he said of his success playing “young, neurotic guys” on “Big Sister,” “Life Can Be Beautiful,” “Joyce Jordan, M.D.,” “Stella Dallas,” “Front Page Farrell,” “Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories” and “Inner Sanctum.”

At the beginning of World War II, Mr. Widmark tried to enlist in the army but was turned down three times because of a perforated eardrum. So he turned, in 1943, to Broadway. In his first stage role, he played an Army lieutenant in F. Hugh Herbert’s “Kiss and Tell,” directed by George Abbott. Appearing in the controversial play “Trio,” which was closed by the License Commissioner after 67 performances because it touched on lesbianism, he received glowing reviews as a college student who fights to free the girl he loves from the domination of an older woman.

After a successful, 10-year career as a radio actor, he tried the movies with “Kiss of Death,” which was being filmed in New York. Older than most new recruits, he was, to his surprise, summoned to Hollywood after the movie was released. “I’m probably the only actor who gave up a swimming pool to go out to Hollywood,” Mr. Widmark told The New Yorker in 1961.

He had never expected 20th Century Fox to pick up the option on the contract he was forced to sign to get the role of Tommy Udo. During the seven years of his Fox contract, he starred in 20 movies, including “Yellow Sky” (1948), as the blackguard who menaces Gregory Peck; “Down to the Sea in Ships” (1949), as a valiant whaler; Jules Dassin’s “Night and the City” (1950), as a small- time hustler who dreams of becoming a wrestling promoter; and “Don’t Bother to Knock” (1952), in which the tables were turned and he was the prey of a psychopathic Marilyn Monroe.

A passionate liberal Democrat, Mr. Widmark played a bigot who baits a black doctor in Joseph Mankiewicz’s “No Way Out” (1950). He was so embarrassed by the character that after every scene he apologized to the young actor he was required to torment, Sidney Poitier. In 1990, when Mr. Widmark was given the D.W. Griffith Career Achievement Award by the National Board of Review, it was Mr. Poitier who presented it to him.

Within two years after his Fox contract ended, Mr. Widmark had formed a production company and produced “Time Limit” (1957), a serious dissection of possible treason by an American prisoner of war that The New York Times called “sobering, important and exciting.” Directed by the actor Karl Malden, “Time Limit” starred Mr. Widmark as an army colonel who is investigating a major (Richard Basehart) who is suspected of having broken under pressure during the Korean War and aided the enemy.

Mr. Widmark produced two more films: “The Secret Ways” (1961) in which he went behind the Iron Curtain to bring out an anti-Communist leader; and “The Bedford Incident” (1964), another Cold War drama, in which he played an ultraconservative naval captain trailing a Russian submarine and putting the world in danger of a nuclear catastrophe.

Mr. Widmark told The Guardian in 1995 that he had not become a producer to make money but to have greater artistic control. “I could choose the director and my fellow actors,” he said. “I could carry out projects which I liked but the studios didn’t want.”

He added: “The businessmen who run Hollywood today have no self-respect. What interests them is not movies but the bottom line. Look at ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ which turns idiocy into something positive, or ‘Forrest Gump,’ a hymn to stupidity. ‘Intellectual’ has become a dirty word.”

He also vowed he would never appear on a talk show on television, saying, “When I see people destroying their privacy — what they think, what they feel — by beaming it out to millions of viewers, I think it cheapens them as individuals.”

In 1970, he won an Emmy nomination for his first television role, as the president of the United States in a mini-series based on Fletcher Knebel’s novel “Vanished.” By the 1980s, television movies had transformed the jittery psychopath of his early days into a wise and stalwart lawman. He played a Texas Ranger opposite Willie Nelson’s train robber in “Once Upon a Texas Train,” a small-town police chief in “Blackout” and, most memorably, a bayou country sheriff faced with a group of aged black men who have confessed to a murder in “A Gathering of Old Men.”

“The older you get, the less you know about acting,” he told one reporter, “but the more you know about what makes the really great actors.” The actor he most admired was Spencer Tracy, because, he said, Tracy’s acting had a reality and honesty that seemed effortless.

Mr. Widmark, who hated the limelight, spent his Hollywood years living quietly on a large farm in Connecticut and an 80-acre horse ranch in Hidden Valley, north of Los Angeles. Asked once if he had been “astute” with his money, he answered, “No, just tight.”

He sold the ranch in 1997 after the death of Ms. Hazelwood, his wife of 55 years. “I don’t care how well known an actor is,” Mr. Widmark insisted. “He can lead a normal life if he wants to.”

Besides his wife, Ms. Blanchard, Mr. Widmark is survived by his daughter, Anne Heath Widmark, of Santa Fe, N.M., who had once been married to the Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

Well into his later years, the nonviolent, gun-hating Mr. Widmark, who described himself as “gentle,” was accosted by strangers who expected him to be a tough guy. There is even a story that Joey Gallo, the New York mobster, was so taken by Mr. Widmark’s performance in “Kiss of Death” that he copied the actor’s natty posture, sadistic smirk and tittering laugh.

“It’s a bit rough,” Mr. Widmark once said, “priding oneself that one isn’t too bad an actor and then finding one’s only remembered for a giggle.”

Actor Richard Widmark Dies at 93, NYT, 26.3.2008,






Deborah Kerr, Actress,

Dies at 86


October 18, 2007
Filed at 11:45 a.m. ET
The New York Times


LONDON (AP) -- Deborah Kerr, who shared one of Hollywood's most famous kisses and made her mark with such roles as the correct widow in ''The King and I'' and the unhappy officer's wife in ''From Here to Eternity,'' has died. She was 86.

Kerr, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk in eastern England, her agent, Anne Hutton, said Thursday.

For many she will be remembered best for her kiss with Burt Lancaster as waves crashed over them on a Hawaiian beach in the wartime drama ''From Here to Eternity.''

Kerr's roles as forceful, sometimes frustrated women pushed the limits of Hollywood's treatment of sex on the screen during the censor-bound 1950s.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Kerr a six times for best actress, but never gave her an Academy Award until it presented an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her distinguished career as an ''artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.''

She had the reputation of a ''no problem'' actress.

''I have never had a fight with any director, good or bad,'' she said toward the end of her career. ''There is a way around everything if you are smart enough.''

Kerr (pronounced CARR) was the only daughter of Arthur Kerr-Trimmer, a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14.

Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when she was 5, and she started to study dance in the Bristol school of her aunt, Phyllis Smale.

Kerr won a scholarship to continue studying at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School in London. A 17 she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de ballet in ''Prometheus.''

She soon switched to drama, however, and began playing small parts in repertory theater in London until it was shut down by the 1939 outbreak of World War II.

After reading children's stories on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, she was given the part of a hatcheck girl with two lines in the film ''Contraband,'' but her speaking role ended on the cutting-room floor.

After more repertory acting she had another crack at films, reprising her stage role of Jenny, a Salvation Army worker, in a 1940 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's ''Major Barbara,'' and receiving favorable reviews both in Britain and the United States.

She continued making films in Britain during the war, including one -- ''Colonel Blimp'' -- in which she played three different women over a span of decades.

''It is astonishing how she manages to make the three parts distinctly separate as characterizations,'' said New Movies magazine at the time.

Kerr was well-reviewed as an Irish spy in ''The Adventuress'' and as the tragic girlfriend of a Welsh miner in ''Love on the Dole.''

She was invited to Hollywood in 1946 to play in ''The Hucksters'' opposite Clark Gable. She went on to work with virtually all the other top American actors and with many top directors, including John Huston, Otto Preminger and Elia Kazan.

Tired of being typecast in serene, ladylike roles, she rebelled to win a release from her MGM contract and get the role of Karen Holmes in ''From Here to Eternity.''

Playing the Army officer's alcoholic, sex-starved wife in a fling with Lancaster as a sergeant opened up new possibilities for Kerr.

She played virtually every part imaginable from murderer to princess to a Roman Christian slave to a nun.

In ''The King and I,'' with her singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, she was Anna Leonowens, who takes her son to Siam so that she can teach the children of the king, played by Yul Brynner.

Her best-actress nominations were for ''Edward, My Son'' (1949), ''From Here to Eternity'' (1953), ''The King and I'' (1956), ''Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison'' (1957), ''Separate Tables'' (1958), and ''The Sundowners'' (1960).

Among her other movies is ''An Affair to Remember'' with Cary Grant.

Other notable roles were in ''The Sundowners,'' ''Beloved Infidel,'' ''The Innocents'' (an adaptation of the Henry James novella ''Turn of the Screw''), ''The Night of the Iguana'' with Richard Burton and ''The Arrangement'' with Kirk Douglas.

After ''The Arrangement'' in 1968, she took what she called a ''leave of absence'' from acting, saying she felt she was ''either too young or too old'' for any role she was offered.

Kerr told The Associated Press that she turned down a number of scripts, either for being too explicit or because of excessive violence.

She refused to play a nude scene in ''The Gypsy Moths,'' released in 1968. ''It was when they started that `Now everybody has got to take their clothes off,''' she said. ''My argument was that it was completely gratuitous. Had it been necessary for the dramatic content, I would have done it.''

In fact she undressed for ''The Arrangement,'' even though the scene was later cut. ''There the nude scene was necessary, husband and wife in bed together,'' Kerr said. ''That was real.''

She returned to the stage, acting in Edward Albee's ''Seascape'' on Broadway and ''Long Day's Journey Into Night'' in Los Angeles.

Her Broadway debut was in 1953, when she was acclaimed as Laura Reynolds, a teacher's wife who treats a sensitive student compassionately in ''Tea and Sympathy.''

After a full season in New York, she took it on a national tour and recreated the role in a movie in 1956.

Kerr was active until the mid-1980s, with ''The Assam Garden,'' ''Hold the Dream'' and ''Reunion at Fairborough'' all in 1985.

She told the AP that TV reruns of her old movies have ''kept me alive'' for a new generation of film fans.

In 1946 Kerr married Anthony Charles Bartley, whom she had met as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1959. A year later she married Peter Viertel, a novelist-screenwriter, with whom she lived on a large estate with two trout ponds in the Swiss Alpine resort of Klosters and in a villa in Marbella, Spain.

Kerr is survived by Viertel, two daughters and three grandchildren.

Deborah Kerr, Actress, Dies at 86, NYT, 18.10.2007,
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/arts/AP-Obit-Kerr.html- broken link







Join Actors in Hybrids

On Screen


January 9, 2007

The New York Times



LOS ANGELES, Jan. 8 — James Cameron, the director whose “Titanic” set a record for ticket sales around the world, will join 20th Century Fox in tackling a similarly ambitious and costly film, “Avatar,” which will test new technologies on a scale unseen before in Hollywood, the studio and the filmmaker said on Monday.

The film, with a budget of about $200 million, is an original science fiction story that will be shown in 3D even in conventional theaters. The plot pits a human army against an alien army on a distant planet, bringing live actors and digital technology together to make a large cast of virtual creatures who convey emotion as authentically as humans.

Earlier movies like “The Lord of the Rings” series did this on a limited scale, as in the digitally designed character Gollum, whose performance came from the actor Andy Serkis, while others like “The Polar Express” have used live actors to drive animated images — so-called motion capture technology.

But none has gone as far as “Avatar” to create an entirely photorealistic world, complete with virtual characters, on the expected scale of the new film, Mr. Cameron said in a telephone interview.

“This film is a true hybrid — a full live-action shoot, with CG characters in CG and live environments,” said Mr. Cameron, referring to computer-generated imagery. “Ideally, at the end of the of day, the audience has no idea which they’re looking at.”

Jim Gianopulos, a co-chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said that he expected theaters to update their facilities to accommodate the 3D demands of the film. “This will launch an entire new way of seeing and exhibiting movies,” he said.

“Jim’s not just a filmmaker,” Mr. Gianopulos added, referring to Mr. Cameron. “Every one of his films have pushed the envelope in its aesthetic and in its technology.”

The making of “Titanic,” Mr. Cameron’s last full-blown Hollywood feature, was the stuff of movie legend. Released in 1997, the film went far over its planned cost to become the most expensive production that had then been made, creating stunning visual effects with a combination of live action and computer graphics. But it also went on to become a historic success, taking in a record- breaking $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office and winning 11 Oscars, including the award for best picture.

Mr. Cameron said he had taken care to avoid the problems he encountered on that, his last gargantuan production, and was already four months into shooting some scenes by the time Fox gave final approval to the project on Monday. The shoot has been largely secret, in a building in the Playa Vista section of Los Angeles.

“I’ve looked long and hard at ‘Titanic,’ and other effects-related things I’ve done, where they’ve drifted budgetwise,” he said. “This has been designed from the ground up to avoid those pitfalls. Will we have other pitfalls? Yes, probably.”

Mr. Cameron has already devised revolutionary methods to shoot the film, and expects to create still more methods to bring to life the vision of a completely photo-realistic alien world.

For its aliens, “Avatar” will present characters designed on the computer, but played by human actors. Their bodies will be filmed using the latest evolution of motion-capture technology — markers placed on the actor and tracked by a camera — while the facial expressions will be tracked by tiny cameras on headsets that will record their performances to insert them into a virtual world.

The most important innovation thus far has been a camera, designed by Mr. Cameron and his computer experts, that allows the director to observe the performances of the actors-as-aliens, in the film’s virtual environment, as it happens.

“It’s like a big, powerful game engine,” he explained. “If I want to fly through space, or change my perspective, I can. I can turn the whole scene into a living miniature and go through it on a 50 to 1 scale. It’s pretty exciting.”

Sam Worthington, a young Australian actor, has been named to play the lead, a paralyzed former marine 150 years in the future, who undergoes an experiment to exist as an avatar, another version of himself. The avatar is not paralyzed, but is an alien: 10 feet tall, and blue. Zoe Saldana, another relative unknown, has been chosen as the love interest.

“We could do it with make-up, in a ‘Star Trek’ manner — we could put rubber on his face — but I wasn’t interested in doing it that way,” Mr. Cameron said. “With the new tools, we can create a humanoid character that is anything we imagine it to be — beautiful, elegant, graceful, powerful , evocative of us, but still with an emotional connection.”

Mr. Cameron is widely regarded as one of Hollywood’s foremost innovators, and he has been waiting to make the film, which he wrote more than a decade ago, while technology catches up to his vision. He began experimenting with these new filming techniques about 18 months ago, he said.

But he disputed the notion that the galloping pace of filmmaking technology has threatened the traditional role of actors or the emotional grip of a good story.

“There’s this sense of bifurcation, that really true artistic, cutting-edge filmmakers make these indie pictures, and that CG films are these clanking machines,” he observed. “I’ve tried to fight to inhabit both spaces. There’s a way to take all these technical tools and have them come from a place where the artist is still running the film. It’s not easy.”

While recognizing that it is was an expensive project, Mr. Gianopulos said that something like “Avatar” was precisely what the theatrical movie business needed in a time of stiff competition from video games and lavish home entertainment systems.

“What audiences are looking for, especially in the theater, is a unique experience,” said Mr. Gianopulos, whose studio also distributed the “Star Wars” series by George Lucas, though it does not own those films. It will fully own “Avatar.”

He added: “There is nothing as unique as what this film will be, as spectacle, as a presentation of a completely original world, in its presentation and its technology.” He said he expected the movie to become a series, and the actors were signed up to accommodate sequels.

The live-action shoot with actors will begin in April, with major effects being done by Weta, the filmmaker Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based effects company, which created the effects for his “Lord of the Rings.” The film is scheduled for release in summer 2009.

Computers Join Actors in Hybrids On Screen,
NYT, 9.1.2007,






Jack Palance, 87,

Film and TV Actor,



Published: November 11, 2006
The New York Times


Jack Palance, a coal miner’s son who spent most of a long Hollywood career playing memorable heavies in movies like “Shane” and “Sudden Fear,” only to win an Academy Award in his 70s for a self-parodying comic performance in “City Slickers,” died yesterday at his home in Montecito, Calif.

His death was announced by a family spokesman, Dick Guttman, The Associated Press said. His family said he was 87, though some biographical records indicate he was 85.

Mr. Palance (he pronounced it PAL-ance and grew annoyed when others insisted on the more flowery pa-LANCE) first gained wide notice in 1953, when he electrified movie audiences with his serpentine portrayal of the nasty gunfighter Jack Wilson in the classic film “Shane.”

He had only 16 lines in the film, as well as a few ice-cold gothic murmurs of laughter off screen, before he was dispatched by a heroic Alan Ladd in a barroom duel. But the performance drew an Oscar nomination for him for best supporting actor, and it all but sealed his fate as a perennial Hollywood bad guy for years, even though he had always thought he would be good at comedy.

His big chance for that came nearly four decades later, when he was cast in “City Slickers,” a 1991 western comedy about midlife crisis. Mr. Palance played Curly, a leather-tough trail boss shepherding about some urban greenhorns looking for weekend adventure. His co-stars were Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, who died in August.

It was a comedy of the sort Mr. Palance had always wanted, and the performance brought him his only Oscar, in 1992, for best supporting actor.

Throughout his career, Mr. Palance, an imposing presence at 6 feet 4, was instantly recognizable for his rugged profile, deep-set dark eyes, high cheekbones and, when the part called for it, which was almost always, a deliciously sinister sneer. It was put to use over and over as he played crooks, murderers, maniacs, barbarians (like Attila the Hun), uncouth lovers and at least one violence-prone carrier of pneumonic plague.

When reporters asked him what he thought about most of his films, he tended to dismiss them as “garbage.” Still, his part as a homicidal husband stalking Joan Crawford in “Sudden Fear” (1952) also won him an Oscar nomination, and his role as a robber with a heart in “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955), a remake of Humphrey Bogart’s “High Sierra,” won him better reviews than the movie itself.

Walter Jack Palance was born Feb. 18, 1918, or Feb. 18, 1920, in Lattimer Mines, Pa., the third child of Vladimir Palahniuk, a coal miner, and the former Anna Gramiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. (Named after his father, he changed his name after he became an actor.) The family lived in a rough-and-tumble company town that Mr. Palance later said was where he “learned how to hate,” even though he said he loved the Pennsylvania countryside and owned property there.

Mr. Palance worked in the mines himself before he escaped into acting by way of professional boxing, modeling, short-order cooking, waiting on tables, repairing radios, selling and working as a lifeguard.

In 1942, during World War II, he joined the Army Air Corps, only to be discharged a year later after he was knocked unconscious when his B-24 bomber lost power on takeoff. After the service he used the G.I. Bill of Rights to attend the University of North Carolina and later Stanford University, where he considered becoming a journalist. But journalists’ wages were so poor then, he recalled, that he was drawn to acting, which he saw as potentially more lucrative, and joined the university drama club. He graduated in 1947 with a degree in drama.

Producers and casting directors were taken with his unusual looks and rich voice, and he got parts in the Broadway productions of “The Big Two” (1947), “Temporary Island” (1948) and “The Vigil,” also 1948. That same year he also played Anthony Quinn’s understudy as Stanley Kowalski in the touring company of the Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He later replaced Marlon Brando in the role on Broadway.

His first movie role came in 1950, playing Blackie, an antisocial carrier of pneumonic plague in “Panic in the Streets,” which starred Richard Widmark. Then came a war picture, “Halls of Montezuma,” and after that, , his Oscar-nominated performance in “Sudden Fear.”

His second nomination came the following year, for his portrayal of Jack Wilson, the menacing gunslinger in “Shane.”

The acclaim from those roles brought him parts in “Arrowhead” (as a renegade Apache), “Man in the Attic” (as Jack the Ripper), “Sign of the Pagan” (as Attila the Hun) and “The Silver Chalice” (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Among his other films were “Kiss of Fire,” “The Big Knife,” “Attack!” “The Lonely Man,” “House of Numbers” and “Oklahoma Crude.” He also made a number of movies abroad.

Mr. Palance married Virginia Baker in 1949; they had three children, Holly, Brooke and Cody. Cody died of a melanoma in 1998 at 43. The marriage ended in divorce in 1966; Mr. Palance’s 1987 marriage to Elaine Rogers also ended in divorce.

Mr. Palance did some television as well, winning an Emmy Award for his performance in 1956 as a prizefighter in the “Playhouse 90” production of Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Jack Gould, reviewing it for The New York Times, said Mr. Palance gave a “brilliant interpretation” of a fighter who “projected man’s incoherence and bewilderment with a superb regard for details.”

There were other sides to Jack Palance, and it took some aging to bring them out. Late in life, in 1996, he wrote “Forest of Love,” a prose poem about male sexuality and fears of loneliness. It was accompanied by his own pen-and-ink drawings, inspired in part by his feelings about his farm near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He had been drawing and painting since the late 1950s, when he lived in Rome, but hardly anyone knew of that talent until “Forest of Love” was published.

After the success of “City Slickers,” he had several television roles and parts in commercials that exploited his droll streak.

Perhaps Mr. Palance’s most memorable television appearance came when he received his Oscar in 1992. Striding to accept his statuette, he suddenly dropped to the stage and did a series of one-arm push-ups, not only showing his physical strength but also giving Billy Crystal, the host of the ceremony and his “City Slickers” co-star, a rich running joke for the rest of the evening.

Jack Palance, 87, Film and TV Actor, Dies,
NYT, 11.11.2006,














Emoting by Ilana Rogel, an actress,

is translated into a computer image.


Cyberface: New Technology That Captures the Soul


15 October 2006


















In a demonstration reel created by Image Metrics

to show off its filmmaking technology,

Rodney Charles, an actor,

gives life to an avatar named Samburu Warrior.


Image Metrics


Cyberface: New Technology That Captures the Soul


15 October 2006

















New Technology

That Captures the Soul


October 15, 2006
The New York Times


THERE’S nothing particularly remarkable about the near-empty offices of Image Metrics in downtown Santa Monica, loft-style cubicles with a dartboard at the end of the hallway. A few polite British executives tiptoe about, quietly demonstrating the company’s new technology.

What’s up on-screen in the conference room, however, immediately focuses the mind. In one corner of the monitor, an actress is projecting a series of emotions — ecstasy, confusion, relief, boredom, sadness — while in the center of the screen, a computer-drawn woman is mirroring those same emotions.

It’s not just that the virtual woman looks happy when the actress looks happy or relieved when the actress looks relieved. It’s that the virtual woman actually seems to have adopted the actress’s personality, resembling her in ways that go beyond pursed lips or knitted brow. The avatar seems to possess something more subtle, more ineffable, something that seems to go beneath the skin. And it’s more than a little bit creepy.

“I like to call it soul transference,” said Andy Wood, the chairman of Image Metrics, who is not shy about proclaiming his company’s potential. “The model has the actress’s soul. It shows through.”

You look and you wonder: Is it the eyes? Is it the wrinkles around the eyes? Or is it the tiny movements around the mouth? Something. Whatever it is, it could usher in radical change in the making of entertainment. A tool to reinvigorate the movies. Or the path to a Franken-movie monster.

The Image Metrics software lets a computer map an actor’s performance onto any character virtual or human, living or dead.

Its creators say it goes way beyond standard hand-drawn computer graphics, which require staggering amounts of time and money. It even goes beyond “motion capture,” the technique that animated Tom Hanks’s 2004 film “The Polar Express,” which is strong on body movement but not on eyes, the inner part of the lips and the tongue, some of the most important messengers of human emotion.

“One of our principal tenets is to capture all the movements of the face,” Mr. Wood said. “You can’t put markers on eyes, and you can’t replicate the human eye accurately through hand-drawn animation. That’s pretty important.”

Ultimately, though, Image Metrics could even go beyond the need for Tom Hanks — or any other actor — altogether.

“We can reanimate footage from the past,” said Mr. Wood, a stolid man with a salesman’s smile. He was hired to introduce Hollywood to the technology, which the computer scientists who founded the company sometimes have difficulty articulating.

“We could put Marilyn Monroe alongside Jack Nicholson, or Jack Black, or Jack White,” he continued, seated in the conference room where the emoting actress and her avatar shared the screen. “If we want John Wayne to act alongside Angelina Jolie, we can do that. We can directly mimic the performance of a human being on a model. We can create new scenes for old films, or old scenes for new films. We can have one human being drive another human character.”

To prove the point Mr. Wood brought up on-screen an animated character that he showed at the Directors Guild of America this past summer. The character, a simple figure comprising just a few lines drawn in the computer, made the “I coulda been a contender” speech from “On the Waterfront,” in Marlon Brando’s voice. (Because Brando didn’t gesture much, the stick figure’s movements were based on those of a hired actor.) Then he pulled up a video of the musician Peter Gabriel singing a scat beat alongside a half-dozen animated figures who, one by one, joined him in precise concert. Finally he brought up a scene from a Marilyn Monroe movie in which animators replaced the original Marilyn with a computer-drawn version of her. The image isn’t perfect — or rather, it’s a bit too perfect for credulity — but it clearly shows the path that lies ahead.

The breakneck pace of technology combined with the epic ambitions of directors has, up to now, taken movies to places undreamed of in the past: the resinking of the “Titanic”; war in space between armies of droids; a love story between a dinosaur-sized ape and a human-sized woman. (Whoops, we had that one before.)

But if Image Metrics can do what it claims, the door may open wider still, to vast, uncharted territories. To some who make the movies, the possibilities may seem disturbing; to others, exciting: Why not bring back Sean Connery, circa 1971, as James Bond? Or let George Clooney star in a movie with his aunt, Rosemary; say, a repurposed “White Christmas” of 1954? Maybe we can have the actual Truman Capote on-screen, performed by an unseen actor, in the next movie version of his life.

Projects are already circulating around Hollywood that seek to revive dead actors, including one that envisions Bruce Lee starring in a new Bruce Lee picture.

Asked what he might do with the new technology, Taylor Hackford, the director of “Ray” and a dozen other movies, was at first dismissive. “It’s phenomenal, but its uses are in the area of commercials,” he said. (Image Metrics made a commercial last winter that revived Fred and Ethel Mertz of “I Love Lucy” discussing the merits of a Medicare package.) But after a moment’s reflection, he shifted his view. “If you’re working on ‘The Misfits,’ and Clark Gable died before the end of the film, you could have used it in that instance,” he reflected.

Or what if Warren Beatty, or Robert Redford, wanted to play a younger version of himself? “If you had Warren or Redford in a great role, and there was a flashback to a young character” — he mused — yes, that would be a reason to use it. Perhaps in “The Notebook,” he went on, in which Ryan Gosling played the young version of James Garner’s character? Mr. Garner could have played both versions himself.

Still, one thought was holding Mr. Hackford back. “If you want Ethel Barrymore to give you an incredible, heartfelt and painful performance, that comes from the soul of the actor,” he said. “It’s not something you can get by animation.”

IMAGE Metrics began in the living room of Gareth Edwards, a shy, baby-faced, 34-year-old biophysicist from Manchester, England. He, Alan Brett and Kevin Walker, all postdoctoral students from the University of Manchester, were conducting research into image analysis, a technique first developed to help computers analyze spinal X-rays. “We were very much scientists looking for the big problem,” he said. “Big in terms of the problem, and big in terms of the benefit.”

They decided to start a company, of which Mr. Edwards is the chief technical officer. He doesn’t work out of his living room anymore; now he works in the Santa Monica offices. (His colleagues remain in England along with a half-dozen other computer and physics Ph.D.’s.) But some things remain the same. “Image analysis is a difficult scientific problem,” he said. “You’re trying to analyze complex objects: the human spine, or the mapping of the human face. How do you teach a computer to understand the context of an image when that image is complex?”

Many surveillance devices rely on facial recognition software, but it produces a lot of false positives. Mr. Edwards and his colleagues took a different approach, one that starts with the generic model of a human head and layers onto that a mathematical distillation of an individual’s expressions. He compared his approach to describing a new bicycle. The person who’s listening is likely to picture the new bicycle based on other bicycles she has already seen.

“It’s model-based computer vision,” Mr. Edwards said. “The idea is, if you know an object, you can picture it. The key for animation was that realization: that we needed to build a computer system with the prior concept. The mathematical structure describes the basic concept of the face and maps the subtle variations.”

The first step has been using Image Metrics to allow live actors to animate virtual characters. Thus Kiefer Sutherland himself has been able to drive the performance of the animated version of his television character, Jack Bauer, in the computer game “24,” based on the hit show. Warner Brothers is using Image Metrics, along with several other companies, to animate a new character in the forthcoming “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” a monstrous relation of Hagrid, animated by an actor.

Larry Kasanoff is the producer and director of “Foodfight!,” which will be the first full-length movie to use Image Metrics technology. Sitting in his Santa Monica production office, surrounded by plush toys of characters (who will be played by Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff and Eva Longoria), he talked about the difference between image analysis and standard computer-generated imagery, or C.G.I.

In a C.G.I. film, he said, “every time someone would say something, banks of people would have to figure out how the lips move, how the eyes move — and it’s not even that good.”

“Now we don’t have to spend three years having people meticulously hand-animate Charlie Sheen’s lines,” he added. “He says, ‘Food fight!’ in real time, live action, and it’s applied, via Image Metrics technology, to the character.”

So whereas a film like “Cars” cost $120 million and took dozens of animators five years to make, Mr. Kasanoff says that “Foodfight!,” which has not yet begun production, will be finished by February.

And movies are just the beginning. “For creating characters that don’t exist, this is unparalleled at the moment,” said Alex Horton, the animation director for Rockstar Games, which has been using Image Metrics for two years in top-selling titles like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” and “The Warriors.” Games, he explained, don’t require the level of detail that movies do, but they demand far more screen time than the average film.

“There’s no taking away the fact that a team of animators can sit and make some very convincing animation if they want to,” he said. “But I challenge anyone to do the volumes that I need in the time that I need, at this level of quality, and to capture the nuance of the voice actor.”

IT sometimes seems that every six months or so another technology comes along that promises to revolutionize Hollywood and supplant what came before. “Toy Story” gave C.G.I. characters an early sense of humanity. Great excitement accompanied Stuart Little and his remarkable fur. Another fanfare erupted over Gollum, the gnomelike hobbit played by Andy Serkis through computer magic in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. In recent years the focus has been on motion capture, for which actors are wired with tiny digital sensors. Lately yet another system has emerged, called Contour, that tracks actors’ facial and body movements by coating them with phosphorescent powder.

But Hollywood producers seem to agree that this is something truly different.

“It’s a giant leap from the motion capture technology used today,” said Sam Falconello, the chief operating officer of Cinergi Productions, which made the “Terminator” series and is considering using Image Metrics to make “Terminator 4.” “I really believe in this technology. It is scaleable. It makes our effects budgets go further.”

It’s also far easier on the actors. Instead of being painted with a chemical or covered in sensors, they need only do what they would ordinarily do: act.

Mr. Kasanoff said that for comedy especially convenience was a central issue. “Try to get an actor to be funny and relaxed with 900 dots on his face,” he observed. “Now, when we direct the actors, they don’t even know the camera is there. They just act.”

Debbie Denise, a senior vice president at Sony Imageworks who tracks new technology developed both in house and elsewhere for the movie studio, said that her company’s motion capture technique has advanced to where it can credibly track subtle facial expressions. It is being used in the current production of “Beowulf,” a computer-generated version of the ancient tale directed by Robert Zemeckis, who directed “Polar Express.”

But she agreed that the Image Metrics approach was “very promising.”

“It’s been a challenge for everyone in this field to get away from markers,” she said. “How can you just videotape somebody? The way they’re doing it is very interesting.”

As for reanimating former movie stars? “That sounds terrific,” said Chris deFaria, head of visual effects for Warner Brothers. “I’d love to see it.” But, he added, “There are real complexities involved with that.”

Undoubtedly so. But at least one former movie star thinks the ideas holds some promise. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the governor of California, has conducted tests with Image Metrics to use his Conan the Barbarian character in political ads.

Cyberface: New Technology That Captures the Soul,






November 3, 1960


The naked wonder in her face


From the Guardian archive


Thursday November 3, 1960



Roslyn in "The Misfits" is a woman who has had the harsh upbringing and hard struggle of Marilyn Monroe, and yet like her has retained a zest for life.

That morning on a Nevada dry lake I had watched her repeat an emotional outburst ten times. Again and again, at [the director] John Huston's jovial bidding, "Okay, try it again, honey", she had had to begin screaming "Murderers" at Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach, jumping in and out of high emotion.

When I met her a few hours later, I expected the drain of the repeated performances would have depressed her, but that was not the case. She entered the dimly lit hotel bar and began to relax only when we found a common liking for dimly lit surroundings.

I remarked on Roslyn's achievement at not being hard-boiled in spite of some harsh experiences. "Oh," murmured Miss Monroe, "but don't you find all people who have suffered are like that? They remain nice and sensitive. They do."

Her first teacher had been Michael Chekhov, the great Russian actor, whose last years were spent in the United States. "Then he died," said Miss Monroe with the lost air of a little girl.

The heroine of "Please don't kill anything" [a short story by Arthur Miller, Monroe's husband at the time] is so described. "Now she looked up at him like a little girl, with that naked wonder in her face even as she was smiling in the way of a grown woman."

She told with sudden shyness how she had once in class played Cordelia to Mr Chekhov's Lear: "He gave the greatest performance I have ever seen. It was wonderful."

Did she want to play Shakespeare on the stage ? Well, she would like to one day. "In a long, long time I would like to play Lady Macbeth." She paused as if fearing one might find her wish amusing. Reassured, she added "And it would be marvellous if Macbeth could be Marlon Brando."

She raced suddenly on her interest overcoming her insecurity: "I have done a few scenes at the Actors' Studio. I did a French play, adapted it a little to make it modern. I'll give you a copy if you like."

Not only Shakespearean actress but adapter as well: Miss Monroe obviously intends to leave that dumb blonde as far behind as she can. The impression she left, at that moment, was a moving one: a beautiful girl lauded for her good looks, who belatedly discovered that she had talent as well and was trying to plumb it to discover how much.

WJ Weatherby

From the Guardian archive > November 3, 1960 >
The naked wonder in her face,
Republished 3.11.2006,










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