Rest in Peace, Adam West (1928 – 2017)

5I am at such a loss for words right now. Though television is not my main area of interest, over time I’ve been trying to watch more classic television shows because luckily many of the actors from them are still with us. Without a doubt, Batman was the first one that I watched and thoroughly enjoyed, and I owe that to Adam West. I developed such a crush on him in particular because his kindness, thoughtfulness, and chivalrous manner shined onscreen and was so apparent that I nor anyone else could help but love him. I continued watching the series because of Mr. West, and while I still have a few more episodes to go, I feel even more compelled to honor him by watching them now. Before I even finished the first season of Batman, I wrote Adam a fan letter and bought a picture for him to sign. I never sent them to him because I had been preparing to attend a local convention and hoped that he might make an appearance there, and I hoped that I could dress up as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (the villainess who almost marries Batman, of course), and tell him in person how much I admired him and his work. It always hurts just a little bit more when you never get the chance to tell someone that you idolize just how much you appreciate them, but I’m sure that Mr. West knew how much he was loved by his fans and just how terribly we all will miss him.

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Announcing the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon!

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Ever since I joined the WordPress community in June (and even before that), I have wanted to host or co-host my very own blogathon. However, until now I haven’t been able to find just the right subject to celebrate. In fact, it wasn’t until Phyllis Loves Classic Movies astutely pointed out that no male actors had been honored with blogathons this year did I find the perfect icon to pay tribute to. So, without further ado, Diana of Sleepwalking in Hollywood and I are happy to announce our first ever blogathon, paying tribute to the magnificent Humphrey Bogart!

He’s number one on AFI’s Greatest Stars of All Time list, and his film quotations take up an astounding five spots on their 100 Greatest Quotes list, the most for any actor. He’s an Oscar winner and three time Oscar nominee. He has his hand and footprints permanently cemented in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of his outstanding career in motion pictures. In short, he’s the best, and there’s really no better actor to add to this year’s multitude of blogathon tributes. Of course it would be difficult for many bloggers in the community to participate in this birthday blogathon on his actual birthday on Christmas Day, so we decided to push it ahead a little bit in order to accomodate everyone.

RULES

  1. Bogie has an extremely significant and diverse filmography with over eighty films to his credit, so we will only be allowing ONE duplicate for each film, and this is only going to be allowed only on a case-by-case basis. We want as many films to be covered as possible, and we made sure to leave most of his classics open for the taking. For example, we don’t want to see two out of five bloggers writing about Casablanca (1942). Try to expand your horizons and write about a film that you may not be as familiar with first.
  2. Anything relating to Humphrey Bogart is up for grabs! You could write about his relationship with Lauren Bacall, his Oscar nominations, his many collaborations with John Huston, or even how he helped Gene Tierney on the set of The Left Hand of God (1955). The possibilities are endless!
  3. Once you think of a topic, please leave a comment with your blog’s name, your blog’s link, and your subject (include the year if you’re choosing a movie). You may comment on Sleepwalking in Hollywood’s post as well.
  4. Once you’ve been approved, help us spread the word! We’re both fairly new blogs and we’ll need all the help we can get! Please take one of our lovely banners from below and put it somewhere on your blog, and make sure to tell your friends. We want as many participants as possible, and if this blogathon is a success we will likely do it again next year!

 

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ROSTER

The Agatha Christie Blogathon: My Analysis of Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

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NOTE: As it would be nearly impossible to review or analyze this film without including all parts of it, this will be one of my very few posts that is NOT spoiler-free. Read on only if you dare!

I would like to begin by thanking the hosts of this awesome blogathon: Little Bits of Classics and Christina Whener. I apologize that my post is so late, but I am eternally grateful that both of you gave me the perfect opportunity to see this film for the first time, and I’m even more esctatic to be able to write about both Agatha Christie and Lauren Bacall for their birthdays! So without further ado, I send many belated birthday wishes to Miss Christie and Miss Bacall, and on with the post!

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The art deco style title card for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

I was instantly intrigued by the art deco style of the title cards as well as the chilling score playing over them. It’s clear by the use of color and cinematography — even before we see any of the characters — that this film is from the 1970s, but I’ve always felt that movies from that decade and the one prior shed a new and possibly more realistic light on the 20s and 30s (I find The Sting (1973) and Splendor in the Grass (1962) to be the best examples of this). The use of color in the opening montage was also very functional and deliberate, as the crime scenes and newspapers regarding the disappearance of Daisy Armstrong were tinged with a blue-gray that showed the grief of the incident. The flash of red at the end that paired with the announcement of her murder really grabs the audience’s attention as any clever use of color should, and makes me wonder what sort of connection ties this story to the rest of the film.

The first of the many characters that we meet during the course of the film is our star detective, Hercule Poirot. He is immediately revealed to be a strange yet intelligent man, who surprisingly does not seem to show a great deal of empathy for the lives of others. Next we begin to meet some of the characters who will soon become the passengers of the Orient Express and eventually suspects in the murder of Mr. Ratchett. Colonel Arbuthnot (Sean Connery), followed closely by the woman who we eventually find out is his lover Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave). We see the murder victim in question, Ratchett, and his secretary McQueen (Anthony Perkins) as well as his valet Beddoes (John Gielgud), the elderly Princess Dragomiroff (Wendy Hiller) and her maid Hildegarde (Rachel Roberts), Count and Countess Andrenyi (Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset), the twice-wed Mrs. Hubbard (Lauren Bacall), devout missionary Greta (Ingrid Bergman), the Italian car salesman Foscarelli (Dennis Quilley), Pinkerton’s employee Hardman (Colin Blakely) and the steward on the Express, Pierre (Jean-Pierre Cassel). As Poirot expertly unravels the details of the murder, he slowly but surely finds out that every single suspect was once connected to the Armstrong family.

Agatha Christie attended the premiere of this film when she was eighty-four years old,

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Albert Finney as enigmatic detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

just fourteen months before her death on January 12th, 1976. Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was supposedly the only film adaptation of her novels that she was completely satisfied with, and she praised Albert Finney’s portrayal of the shrewd Hercule Poirot as the closest screen version to her character that she had ever seen (though she was reportedly unhappy with the whimsical moustache that he was given in this film). The film was no walk in the park for lead actor Albert Finney, however, as he was starring in a stage play while filming, and the task of completing both productions allowed Finney hardly any sleep at all. In an attempt to make the actor’s life a little bit easier as he played both parts simultaneously, the makeup department would pick him up every morning in an ambulance and painstakingly transform Finney into Detective Poirot while he was still asleep in his pajamas! To make matters worse for him, Poirot’s famous monologue at the end of the film required take after take as the set did not allow for more than one camera to occupy the cramped train compartment at one time. This of course was no easy feat for the peculiar detective, as his closing speech was over eight pages long.

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Theatrical poster for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Finney’s performance certainly paid off as I found the actor’s performance to be delightful, though he was completely unrecognizable in the main role. High praises could also be given to the rest of the all-star cast, including Ingrid Bergman, who won an Academy Award for her performance and had to redevelop her Swedish accent with the help of diction coaches to play the role of Greta. Oscars aside, I must admit that my two favorite performances in the film were those of Anthony Perkins and belated birthday girl Lauren Bacall, who played the suspicious secretary McQueen and the talkative Mrs. Hubbard, respectively. Other notable appearances included the always wonderful Sean Connery as Colonel Arbuthnot, Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Debenham, Jacqueline Bisset as the beautiful Countess Andrenyi, Martin Balsam in a wonderful leading role as Bianchi, and of course Richard Windmark as the murder victim Ratchett, who only took on the role in order to meet the array of other stars who would be present during filming. Of course it’s really no wonder that the cast was so impeccable, as I found out that the film boasts fifty-eight Oscars between the members of the cast and crew.

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My favorite performance: Lauren Bacall as Mrs. Hubbard in Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Despite the valiant efforts of the cast, director Sidney Lumet, and composer Richard Rodney Bennett, I did find a few issues with the film’s plot. Granted, this may be because I have only seen the picture once, but I can’t seem to understand why twelve people, who were all very closely related to the same family and the same crime committed five years ago, happen to be on the same train at the same time on a totally separate continent. Also, if all twelve of these people were so closely related, how did none of them slip up even once to Poirot and reveal that they knew each other? These points lead me to believe that it was either a completely improbable coincidence or that it was planned, and if it was, I noticed no evidence or explanation of this aforementioned plan in the film. I also find it difficult to believe that all twelve of the compartment’s passengers (despite having motive) were completely fine with participating in the murder. The only character to show any remorse at all is Greta, but only because she was committing a crime in the eyes of God. Not a single person seemed worried that they were breaking the law, that one of the world’s greatest detectives was onboard the same train, or that they would more than likely be going to jail. I think more detail could have been provided from the novel to answer these plot holes, or even better I think a sequel that would contain the confessions and backstories of each of the passengers would be a clever way of clearing everything up and tying all of the film’s loose ends. Despite these lingering questions, I still find the film to be a mystery as genius as only Agatha Christie could pen, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves a good crime thriller or is a fan of murder mystery dinner theatres, as this was without a doubt the tale that sparked the genre.

My First Liebster Award!

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When I found out that the wonderful Little Bits of Classics nominated me for a Liebster Award, I was absolutely thrilled! Of course I’m still relatively new to the blogashphere so at first I didn’t know what the award meant, but being nominated for anything after only two posts is pretty incredible! Once again, thank you so much for the honor, and on with the post!

Which five actors do you wish had played together in a movie once (it’s not a problem if they didn’t live at the same time)?

I would have really liked to see all of the best dancers in one number: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, and Cyd Charisse. I could easily see a scene in which Fred and Gene change partners between the three girls, and I’m sure it would have been marvelous to compare the five in one setting.

Which movie do you think should never have made it into AFI’s top 100 list?

To be quite honest, I think there are a lot of films on the list that don’t deserve to be there. I’m mainly referring to some of the more modern ones, because while they’re regarded as fine movies now I really don’t think that they will be regarded as such a hundred years from now, unlike some other classics. If I had to choose one film, though, I would definitely say E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). While the special effects were groundbreaking for their time, I truly don’t feel like it will have a lasting legacy aside from being regarded as a joke. I especially don’t think that it deserves to be so high up on the list at #24, far above many films that have already proven themselves as classics.

Whose life would you like to see a biographical movie on?

I would really like to see an Esther Williams biopic. I think she was an incredible woman with such a complex and intruiging history, and people should learn about who she really was as well as all of the hardships that she had to face in order to become the bright and wholesome pinup girl that we all know her as today.

Which completed TV series do you wish had another season?

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I think I would definitely like to see another season of Pushing Daisies. The show had such a unique concept and the cinematography was absolutely breathtaking.

How early do you start writing an entry for a blogathon?

It really depends. I’ve only participated in two blogathons before, but for my first one I believe I wrote it a week or so in advance, and I wrote the Olivia de Havilland post about three days beforehand. I usually type the entire post out in one go, and then go back for corrections the night before I post it.

Which movie star would you have liked to visit at his or her home?

I would have loved to visit Jayne Mansfield and see her Pink Palace in person, both because she’s always been one of my favorite actresses and because her home was one of the most famous. It was also unfortunately demolished in 2002, so I would never be able to see it otherwise.

What is the favourite movie of your parents?

My mother has a few favorites, but her all-time favorites are probably Forrest Gump (1994) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). My dad enjoys war movies and westerns (especially John Wayne films), but I think his favorite is The Longest Day (1962), if I’m not mistaken.

During which movie’s shooting would you have liked to be a fly on the wall?

This is a really hard one! I definitely want to say one of the classics like Gone With the Wind (1939) or The Wizard of Oz (1939), but I think it would be really cool to see the filming of a Hitchock movie like Rear Window (1954) or to see Marilyn in her element in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). If I had to choose only one, though, I think I would say The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Is there an actor or an actress who you’ve seen in every single movie they’ve ever appeared in?

I don’t think there’s one that I’ve seen every film of, but I’ve seen every Grace Kelly film except Green Fire (1954), and I’ve seen about twenty Tyrone Power films, which I like to think is a lot.

Whose Oscar ceremony speech is your favourite?

From the ones that I know of (which are fairly few, I’m afraid), I would have to say that Rita Moreno’s Best Supporting Actress speech for West Side Story (1961) was really adorable, and I can’t believe how young she looked!

Who did you receive your latest Liebster Award from?

This is my very first Liebster Award, and I recieved it from the marvelous Little Bits of Classics!


I’m going to nominate a few classic film blogs that I follow who I’d like to get to know a little bit better:

And here are my questions! I hope they’re thought-provoking enough, and I hope that you have time to answer them!


1. If you had to choose one classic film to be remade today, which would it be and why?

2. Which modern actors would you cast in the remake, and why?

3. Choose three of your favorite classic film directors, and list your favorite film of each.

4. Who is your favorite onscreen classic film couple, and why?

5. Who is your favorite offscreen classic film couple, and why?

6. Name two classic film stars that you wish had made a film together.

7. What was the first classic film you saw, and what did you like about it?

8. Name one classic film that always makes you smile, and one that always makes you cry.

9. List all of the classic film actors that you despise, or think are overrated (if any).

10. If you could bring one classic film actor back to life (they would be in their prime), who would it be and why?

11. You just moved to Hollywood and you’re hosting a dinner party. Name nine classic film stars (producers and directors count too!) that you would invite, living or dead.