Category Archives: Classic Film & TV

Obit: Gloria DeHaven (1925-2016)

About 15 years after the launching the highly innovative and spellbinding moving picture, the scrappy moguls realized that the future of their industry depended on more than the novel technology itself. After reading several fan letters inquiring about the people in the movies (who were then uncredited), they came up with the ingenious idea of grooming movie stars for public consumption (we all know how well that worked out).

Gloria DeHaven, far left on the 2nd row from bottom. Courtesy of handkerchiefheroes.com

Gloria DeHaven, far left on the 2nd row from bottom. Courtesy of handkerchiefheroes.com

The star machine had its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s during the Golden Age of Hollywood. One of the best practitioners of this method was MGM, whose endearingly corny but apt studio mantra was a place where there were “more stars than in heaven.” MGM, specializing in gorgeously gauche fare, was a perfect fit for the crude and synthetic star system.

One of its starlets, Gloria DeHaven who died from a stroke July 31st, has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Born to vaudevillian parents Carter and Flora Parker DeHaven, Gloria began her career early, making her screen debut as an extra in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936).

From the get go, this fresh-faced glamorous brunette (sometimes blonde) exhibited confidence and glamour and made a good impression in small supporting roles, best of which was Best Foot Forward (1943). She more than held her own against the large and vibrant cast, as a feisty co-ed who instigates antagonism towards publicity-hungry actress Lucille Ball, who opportunistically accepts a prom date from a young cadet. This film marked the first pairing between DeHaven and June Allyson who along with Nancy Walker vibrantly delivered the show stopping musical number “The Barrelhouse, The Boogie Woogie, and The Blues.”

Courtesy of in.pinterest.com

Courtesy of in.pinterest.com

DeHaven and Allyson had such great chemistry that the next year, they got their first leading roles as plucky singing sisters in the charming morale boosting WWII musical Two Girls and A Sailor. As two singing sisters who gently spar for the affections of a boyish sailor played by Van Johnson, DeHaven’s sexiness and poise as the slightly impulsive sister who attracts the men perfectly complements Allyson’s warm, maternal, though slightly homely sister. Musically, DeHaven’s smooth, clear mezzo and Allyson’s raspy alto are in sync. In the end, audiences gravitated more towards the cuter, All-American Allyson and Johnson who starred in several subsequent films together, thus ending the Allyson DeHaven duo. (Off-screen, the two women remained best of friends).

With that, DeHaven was relegated back to supporting roles, as mostly kid sisters or secondary ingénues. She always brought an effortless, personable, slightly naughty but nice quality that deftly eschewed cloying sappiness. Her charm and vivacity sparkled even if the film didn’t. She easily outshone the negligible song and dance man, George Murphy, mediocre songstress Ginny Simms, and antiquated ex-Vaudevillian fuddy duddy Charles Winninger in the clunky Broadway Rhythm (1944).

DeHaven had a couple of major career setbacks in the mid-40s. First, she was suspended for refusing a role in Good News. Her next assignment, Summer Holiday, a strange but interesting (though not entirely successful) musical adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play Ah Wilderness, was a highly troubled production that sat on the shelf for two years, and flopped miserably when finally released. Collectively, this kept her off screen for three years.

Courtesy of in.pinterest.com

Courtesy of in.pinterest.com

While many of her peers utterly resented Dore Schary replacing an acrimoniously ousted Louis B. Mayer as head of production at Metro, DeHaven appreciated the chance to play against type in grittier roles under the new executive’s auspices. She gives a potently poignant performance as the black sheep of a cold, elitist family who has a pregnancy out of wedlock (and naturally a tragic outcome) in the broody melodrama The Doctor and the Girl. In the nifty, cynical little film noir, Scene of the Crime, a bottled blonde DeHaven is effective as a quasi femme fatale who strips in a skeevy nightclub and cavorts with riff raff.

Although both films turned a profit and received decent reviews, DeHaven went back to lighter fare, playing Judy Garland’s slightly self-centered sister in the bizarre farm-set musical Summer Stock and Red Skelton’s love interest in The Yellow Cab Man. Shortly after, she left MGM and freelanced, where the quality of the material declined.

Courtesy of www.cbsnews.com

Courtesy of www.cbsnews.com

While no longer an A-lister, DeHaven worked steadily on television, Broadway, and nightclubs until the 1990s. She continued to display her versatility in a variety of excellent performances ranging from a shady old-flame who embroils private detective Mannix in a murder case to an assertive travel agent friend of Jessica Fletcher in a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote. In one of the best episodes of the series, DeHaven, engages in several delightful catfights with several grande dames of the studio-era Julie Adams, Kathryn Grayson, and Ruth Roman, all of whom had dalliances with a town handyman whose shrewish wife was recently murdered.

Like several of the classic stars, DeHaven was approached a few times to write an autobiography, but the deal always fell through because she refused to write a “tell-all” account of her Hollywood days. Instead, in public appearances, DeHaven emphasized the positive aspects of being part of the “Metro family” (though she found some of the sillier aspects of the censorious Hays Code disagreeable). While she didn’t have the widespread fame as some of her peers (I would say she was sorely underrated), Gloria DeHaven has made a lasting impression on movie-loving folks like me.

Podcast: Alternative Oscars 1952

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface :)

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface 🙂

Hi Everybody,

We’re back after a slightly long hiatus. Here’s our 3rd Alternative Oscars Podcast. In each episode, we discuss the Best Picture nominees of a single Oscars year, and then we give our way better choices, other films eligible for an Oscar in the same given year. They usually comprise of a mix between films that are now heralded as classics, underrated gems, and international films. This year is no different.

You can check out our previous two episodes, Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast 1950 and Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast 1951 on this website or on The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Itunes Feed.

The setting is a newer brighter relish green room. We hope that the consistency is the same, if not better. Again, I am fortunate to be joined by friends and fellow film buffs, Tawfik Zone contributor Candace Wiggins and Tia Nikolopulas. As always, musical credit goes to Kevin MacLeod of Incompitech.com.

Without further ado, here is The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars for 1952. Please let us know what you thought of the nominated films or our picks. Did we overlook any films?

Podcast: Alternative Oscars Episode 2 – 1951

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface :)

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface 🙂

Since we didn’t do too badly in our first podcasting effort and had a ball doing it, we’re back for a second episode of The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast. Joining me again are the dynamic duo, Tawfik Zone contributor Candace Wiggins and Tia Nikolopoulas.

This episode, we tackle 1951, which is a very, well, different caliber of films from 1950. What do you think of our alternative Best Picture choices? Any movies we snubbed? Please feel free to discuss in the comments section. We’d like to hear from you.

PS. I must give a huge shout out to Kevin Macleod of Incompitech for the musical jingle “Allada” that I use in my intro. He’s truly the king of royalty free music.

Obit: Maureen O’Hara

Courtesy of www.zeit.de

Courtesy of www.zeit.de

To cineastes and film scholars Maureen O’Hara, who recently passed away in her sleep at the age of 95, is best known as the woman in a number of John Ford-John Wayne westerns, whose ravishing beauty rivaled that of the wide vistas of the Monument Valley locales; and as dutiful mothers in scores of films, most famously in Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap. Like many her other redhead contemporaries, such as Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming, O’Hara tended to get cast in roles that capitalized on her glamour in Technicolor rather than for her talent.

I would like to write a few words about her work in a film that hasn’t been mentioned in any of her other obituaries. One role that utilized more than her eye-candy quality was the starring role as a talented ballerina who ends up working as a stooge for a burlesque show in the oddball, but compelling dramedy Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Directed by Dorothy Arzner, the sole remaining female director under the Code (though she fizzled out shortly after this film), O’Hara convincingly transitions her character from a docile waif to an a young woman who develops a firm backbone after dealing with various shysters from her demeaning burlesque gig and getting thwarted around like a yo-yo in the shenanigans of bored and snarky married socialites (Louis Hayward and Virginia Field).

She lucidly and forcefully delivers one of the most articulate and impassioned speeches to a crowd of unruly male hecklers demanding to be treated with respect. She is one of the few female characters who chooses her art over a man and doesn’t get punished for it. Did I mention that she engages in one of the most spirited cinematic bitchfights with a belligerent and opportunistic burlesque dancer (Lucille Ball, also excellent in an against-type role)?

Even in her more ornamental assignments, O’Hara imbued each character with sensitivity, intelligence, pathos, and heart. With her passing, we are closer to the end of the classic Hollywood era.

The Cream of the Crop and Bottom of the Barrel Pt 2: 10 Star Films & 0 Star Films

[Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd of a 2-part article. You can check out Part 1 here.]

By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor

More 10 Star Films, The Cream…

Jaws (1975, Spielberg)

It’s easy to forget now but Steven Spielberg has made some of the best, if not some of the most entertaining films of all time. Had it gone as originally planned, Jaws would have been cheesy. But using the camera and score to personify the shark, pure genius. Here are just three of the many highlights for me; starting with the opening of course. I remember seeing it when I was in the third grade and never before had I been so terrified of the water. The use of the zolly shot. That scene where Roy Scheider is on the beach and sees the shark come out of the water for the first time. And on a different level the inclusion of the Indianapolis, a scene entirely ad-libbed by Robert Shaw.

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Kershner)

If you have to pick one Star Wars that is the best, this is the one. Though personally I find Return of the Jedi a little more enjoyable probably due in part to it was the first one I’ve seen, there is no denying this film is a masterpiece. One of the best pieces of science fiction ever produced with great set design, costuming and make up. Not only does it tell an engaging story, but it builds a world you can become fully engrossed in, where at its heart the protagonists are human and believable, one of the key elements to sci-fi.

Courtesy of decider.com

Courtesy of decider.com

Tootsie (1982, Pollack)

Picture Dustin Hoffman when he was an attractive young man and then picture him in drag. It doesn’t sound like the formula for an outstanding film and yet it’s another one of those films that just works perfectly. And it shows a young Jessica Lange before she was antagonizing everyone on American Horror Story. Not as much the everyman story as others on the list, an actor with a bad reputation unable to get work disguises himself as a woman to get a steady job acting in a soap opera. The script is clever and it brings a whole new perspective to the idea of method acting.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, Zemeckis)

I really wish there were more films that could mix live action and cel animation so seamlessly like this one. If you read my previous article about Bob Hoskins you’ll know he is probably the main reason I love this film. His acting is so good that you think he’s actually in the room with Roger Rabbit. A fun fact, this is Jim Cummings’ first voice acing role. If you don’t know who that is, you need to go on IMDb because odds are you actually do.

Schindler’s List (1993, Spielberg)

After Steven Spielberg was tinkering with mechanical sharks and before Liam Neeson’s family kept getting taken, there was this film. Now I love Jaws more than this film just because I can watch it over and over again whereas this deals with much heavier subject matter that relates to actual history. The visuals: that this film was made in black and white as an artistic choice (something I love having to explain to people), makes this great set up for the little girl in the red coat. While I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of Schindler himself, I can tell you the film is sad, heart wrenching and a masterpiece.

Courtesy of www.sky.com

Courtesy of www.sky.com

Toy Story (1995-2010, Lasseter and various)

This series is Pixar’s single greatest achievement. Not to speak ill of their other works, this is just the best and since the original was their first film ever, it serves as a template for everything that has come since. The animation holds up well even by today’s standards. I would also be as bold to argue that each of the three films are on par with each other in terms of theme. I know some would say the second is the weakest but to that I say, the scene with Jessie’s back story and the Sarah McLachlan song, it made Tom Hanks and Tim Allen cry and if it didn’t make you feel something, I’m sorry. You clearly cannot be immersed in film on a deeper level.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996, Trousdale and Wise)

I have to put it out on the table that I love Disney films but I full well know while many are considered to be masterpieces, most just get a 9 or 9.5 by my rating system. Yes they are generally geared towards children so some issues become overly simplified and in the instance of Beauty and the Beast I’m on board with the whole Stockholm syndrome theory- though I’ve also read La Belle et la Bête, which presents Belle as shallow and the Beast much more sympathetically so maybe I’m just being picky… So here’s the thing, Hunchback isn’t really a children’s movie. Before you argue otherwise, just listen to “Hellfire,” a song that basically says if that woman doesn’t sleep with me I’m going to burn Paris to the ground. The art is gorgeous, the songs are perfect for the film- I don’t know who at Disney thought it would be a good idea to try and market a Victor Hugo novel as a children’s film, but it ended up being a masterpiece.

Princess Mononoke (1997, Miyazaki)

Right up front all of Miyazaki’s films are wonderful, but looking at them critically I can only give two of them perfect scores. This being the first. Interesting fact, it’s actually the first time Miyazaki-san used CGI animation, he combined it with cel animation techniques and the results are amazing.

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Run Lola Run (1998, Tykwer)

This one is hard for me to explain why it’s perfect; I don’t know if “it’s just so darn good,” qualifies. I saw this film my first year in film school and it just stuck with me. Its overall sense of style and the use of the medium are unique and I highly recommend it. Even if you’re “not a subtitle” person, which is really unfortunate, the story is mainly told through its visuals so I think it’s accessible to a wider audience.

Spirited Away (2001, Miyazaki)

I am fully aware I am totally biased in this choice. If you want to know my favorite film of all time and all genres, this is it. One of my favorite English teachers taught me there are basically two different types of stories told; a hero goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town… this combines both. Do yourself a favor and watch this film; it’s visually beautiful, the soundtrack is gorgeous, the characters outstanding, and the world of the story is breathtaking. If I could I would give this 11 stars out of 10.

Persepolis (2007, Paronnaud and Satrapi)

One of the more beautiful aspects of film is that it is able to show us people and places that we would otherwise be unaware of. Besides what the media reports on, I had very little knowledge of the countries that were in the Middle East. It’s just not something they covered in any of the history courses I have been in. Through the eyes of our quirky protagonist we follow Marjane’s life in Iran at the start of the Islamic revolution. It also shows us that even though we may dress differently and speak other languages, we’re all human beings with similar wants and needs. One of my favorite scenes shows her relationship with God, one of the more lighthearted moments of the film.

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And now for the bottom of the barrel, actually wait these are so below the barrel they’re cast off to the side, they’re like the filth and barnacles growing along the side. And to not even get a star means that there was clearly no heart, no soul behind the camera. Some of these are horrendous because they’re unwatchable, some are bad because they were made for a quick buck, others because they’re highly offensive and others completely lack a cohesive storyline or plot; they’re offensive to anyone who enjoys film. Have fun…

 

The Terror of Tiny Town (1938, Newfield)

An evil gunslinging midget comes to terrorize the good little people of Tiny Town. The townspeople organize to defeat him, and zany antics ensue. Guys, this is a western musical starring all little people with editing so bad, it makes Xanadu look like gold.

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959, Wood)

Aliens resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop humanity from creating the Solaranite (a sort of sun-driven bomb).

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962, Green)

A doctor experimenting with transplant techniques keeps his girlfriend’s head alive when she is decapitated in a car crash, then goes hunting for a new body.

The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964, Steckler)

Jerry falls in love with a stripper he meets at a carnival. Little does he know that she is the sister of a gypsy fortune teller whose predictions he had scoffed at earlier. The gypsy turns him into a zombie and he goes on a killing spree.

Monster A-Go Go (1965, Rebane and Lewis)

A space capsule crash-lands, and the astronaut aboard disappears. Is there a connection between the missing man and the monster roaming the area?

Courtesy of www.musicboxtheatre.com

Courtesy of www.musicboxtheatre.com

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966, Warren)

A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978, Schultz)

Small town band hits it big, but they must battle a nefarious plot in the music industry. Starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, it still managed to go off the rails and go oh so horribly wrong.

Godzilla (1998, Emmerich)

An enormous, radioactively mutated lizard runs rampant in Manhattan. Now there are some bad Godzilla films… I’d rather marathon them all back to back then watch this film or even acknowledge its existence. Don’t fuck up my kaiju origin story, not cool Matthew Broderick.

Psycho (1998, Van Sant)

A young female embezzler arrives at the Bates Motel which has terrible secrets of its own. Shot for shot remake, with terrible acting; now in color and featuring Vince Vaughn in a dress…

Catwoman (2004, Pitof)

A shy woman, endowed with the speed, reflexes, and senses of a cat, walks a thin line between criminal and hero, even as a detective doggedly pursues her, fascinated by both of her personas.

The Grudge 3 (2009, Wilkins)

A young Japanese woman, who holds the key to stopping the evil spirit of Kayako, travels to the haunted Chicago apartment from the sequel, to stop the curse of Kayako once and for all.

Courtesy of www.denofgeek.com

Courtesy of www.denofgeek.com

The Last Airbender (2010, Shyamalan)

It follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom. So this time instead of making his own mess, Shyamalan decided to take a dump on a beloved children’s cartoon.

Arthur (2011, Winer)

A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn’t like. Totally lacking the charm of the original Dudley Moore version. Go home Russell Brand, you’re drunk… and it’s not working!

Jack and Jill (2011, Dugan)

Family guy Jack Sadelstein prepares for the annual event he dreads: the Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister, the needy and passive-aggressive Jill, who then refuses to leave. Starring Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler, and poor Al Pacino, killing his career with this one.

That’s My Boy (2012, Anders)

While in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd, and raised him as a single parent up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd’s world comes crashing down when Donny resurfaces just before Todd’s wedding.

Movie 43 (2013, This piece of trash has 13 directors…)

A series of interconnected short films follows a washed-up producer as he pitches insane story lines featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Made to be funny, but it’s ultimately offensive and unwatchable. Using the names of its stars to draw an audience, this cash cow doesn’t even deserve to be on Netflix, which it totally is.