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    Gale Storm, Zasu Pitts and Boris Karloff in The Gale Storm Show (1959)
    David Tucker is one of the nicest people I know on Facebook.  He is a writer whose area of expertise is, in his own words, "the funny women of classic TV."  He has written books about Joan Davis, Martha Raye, Shirley Booth and Eve Arden.  The nice author has now written a nice book about one of the nicest stars of early television - Gale Storm.  Never has so much unabashed delightfulness been contained in the pages of one book.

    Gale Storm and Charles Farrell in My Little Margie (1954)
    Tucker examines, in his usual comprehensive fashion, Storm's 50-year acting career.  The actress is best known for having starred in two back-to-back sitcoms, My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show, from 1952 to 1960.  The actress was pretty, perky and headstrong as she scurried from one comic mishap to another.

    Again, it must be stressed that you shouldn't expect scandal in the pages of Tucker's book.  The production of Storm's films and television shows went on with little problem. Cast members got along well together. Storm enjoyed a happy homelife, maintaining a good relationship with her husband and children. The actress sometimes worked too hard and had a brief battle with alcohol in the 1970s, but she had enough self-awareness to identify her problems and make the appropriate course corrections. Some people prefer to read about actors who fought with co-workers and had messy personal lives. I, myself, find it intriguing and helpful to read about people who got it right.  It is heartwarming to read about the success of a good-natured actress and learn the history of the sweet and silly sitcom that she helped to make a television classic.

    The majority of the book is dedicated to Storm's credits (the "career record" portion of the book). Tucker includes plot summaries, production details and critical assessments for the films and plot summaries, notes and quotes for the television episodes.

    Have yourself a nice time reading Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record, which can be purchased with no comic mishap from Amazon.


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    I am pleased to announce the release of my new book, "Richard Pryor in Hollywood: The Narrative Films, 1967-1997."  It required extensive research to be fair and accurate in my representation of the comedian's film work.  I watched the films repeatedly, reviewed scripts, talked to scriptwriters, read numerous books on cast and crew, and searched exhaustively through newspaper and magazine archives for contemporary articles and interviews.  Each chapter examines an individual film by presenting development history, production notes, plot summary, critical consensus, and my own critical analysis.


    My mom was with me when I stopped off at the post office to ship out complimentary copies of the book.  I had the packages stacked in a box.  The top package sat above the rim of the box and would surely have slipped onto the ground if I didn't hold the box perfectly steady.  So, my mother watched me perform a magnificent balancing act as I made my way into the post office.  When I got back to the car, my mother said, "You work too hard with these books."  I will accept that as the first review for the book.
    "[Anthony Balducci] work[s] too hard with these books." - Mom
     
    The next few articles on this site will feature a roll call of the 38 films that are examined in the book.  The articles will includes facts, observations and photos that, for one reason or another, didn't make it into the finished book.  I hope you enjoy it. 


    The book can be purchased at Amazon.


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    Richard Pryor worked extensively in television prior to his career in feature films.  He started out making appearances on talk shows and variety shows.
     

    Later, he  took on acting roles in a number of series, including The Wild Wild West ("The Night of the Eccentrics," 1966), The Young Lawyers ("The Pilot," 1969), The Partridge Family ("Soul Club," 1971) and Mod Squad ("The Connection," 1972).

    Pryor plays a villainous ventriloquist on The Wild Wild West.
    He was featured with Louis Gossett, Jr. on The Partridge Family.


    Dave Madden, a regular on the series, said:
    I had known Dick Pryor a little bit too because I had done stand-up comedy and I had met him before too. I had fun on that show. . . The only thing that was a little disturbing to me is that Pryor was in the habit of not sticking to the script. He loved to just ad-lib the scene and say what he felt like saying. Which is alright except if you have to take cues, if you have a line that comes off of one his lines, you have to know when he' s going to finish. Maybe you don' t have to know exactly what he' s going to say but you have to know when he' s going to finish, or you' re going to be standing there waiting for him to say something. They didn't seem to mind him doing that.

    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.


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    Northup as the chief goon of Pryor's corporate bosses in Which Way Is Up? (1977).
    Film actor Harry Northup was a valuable reference source on my new book, "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."  Northrup shared his memories and observations based on his experience working with Pryor on Which Way is Up? (1977) and Blue Collar (1978).  He described the comedian as "fast, funny, explosive and imaginative."

    Northup got to improvise with Pryor during a bar scene in Blue Collar (1978).

    Northup's work in films is something that I admire.  Some of his best work can be found in the following films.

    Boxcar Bertha (1972)


    Northup played a racist cop in Boxcar Bertha.  The actor said:
    In one scene I had to call Bernie Casey racist names and beat up David Carradine with a blackjack. . . Before I shot that scene, I told an old black man who was sitting outside the courthouse, "I have to call a black man racist names and I feel odd about it because I like him."  And the old man said, "Well, sonny, it’s just a movie."  And that relaxed me a little bit.

    Northup admitted to having a violent streak and said that he was "grateful to have been able to channel it in a creative way in film." 


    Mean Streets (1973) 

    Northup plays a soldier joining old friends to celebrate his return from Vietnam.

     
    Unfortunately, the soldier has been deeply traumatized by the war and suddenly becomes violent.


    Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)


    Taxi Driver (1976)


    Fighting Mad (1976)


    Over the Edge (1979)
      
    Northup said, "The best part I ever did was Sgt. Doberman in Over the Edge."



    Used Cars (1980)


    Tom Horn (1980)


    The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


    In The Silence of the Lambs, Northup played the father of a murder victim.  He said:
    I have never experienced the death of a child.  When my son Dylan, whom I love with all my heart, was a teenager, he got into trouble several times and that caused me a lot of pain.  Being a Method actor, I chose a time when Dylan got into trouble and I recreated that particular time. . . I could have cried but didn't.  I remember asking Jonathan if I should have cried and he said, "No, let the audience do that."
    The father, Mr. Bimmel, keeps pigeons.


    Northup said, "A friend of mine kept pigeons, so I asked him to teach me about pigeons and show me how to hold one. . . He gave me one to take home and work with."  Northup kept the pigeon, named Champ, in a cat cage on his patio.  He said, "I got the script two and a half months before the shoot, so each day, for two months, I. . . took [Champ] into the bedroom after I had put papers down all over the place and spent an hour or two with him every day.  When you take care of a pigeon, he becomes your mate. . ."

    Bad Girls (1994)


    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.


    Reference sources

    "Take a ride with Harry Northup,"Retro Lady Land, February 11, 2015.
    http://retroladyland.blogspot.com/2015/02/take-ride-with-harry-northup.html.

    James M. Tate, "In Character: An Interview with Harry Northup," Cult Film Freak.  http://www.cultfilmfreak.com/harrynorthup/.
     


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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    The Busy Body (1967) 

    Sid Caesar has the dire assignment of tracking down a dead body missing from its grave to recover mob loot sewn into the burial outfit. 


    Robert Ryan, as the mob boss, will murder Caesar unless the money is found.


    Pryor plays a police detective who becomes suspicious of Caesar's odd doings at a funeral home.

     
     
    Pryor has a few questions for Caesar's mother (played by Kay Medford).


    Wild in the Streets (1968)


    Christopher Jones stars as a rock star who is elected president and promptly turns the government into a trippy dictatorship.  Pryor is member of Jones' band.


    Barry Shear, a television director whose resume included numerous episodes of The Donna Reed Show and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., made his feature film debut with Wild in the Streets


    Adrienne Barbeau worked with Shear on a 1978 television movie called Crash.  She offered her opinion of Shear's style of directing during an interview with the "Terror Trap" website.

    Barbeau: What sticks with me most [about Crash] is that the director was a screamer.  I mean, this man just screamed and his language was horrible.  It sort of took me by surprise.  Barry Shear, I believe was his name. . .

    Terror Trap: Right, Barry Shear. . .

    Barbeau:  I liked him but I had never worked with anyone who screamed at people and used expletives so it was a bit of a shock.

    Terror Trap: Was that helpful?

    Barbeau: Not to me. I also remember acting with Sharon Gless and we were working nights and it was cold.  We were wet and it was messy.  That's all I remember.


    Barry Shear said:
    I'll give AIP two things: they gave me the opportunity to direct my first feature and they told me all the tricks I needed to know before signing the contract for my next picture. And that's all I'll give give 'em.

    The way the picture turned out it seems anti-youth, which was not what either Bob Thom, the writer, or I had in mind. The theme of the picture is that no matter who takes power, young or old, the way Chris did, the result is a dictatorship and that the less experience and less education the leader has the more trouble we're in.

    I can't begin to tell you all the things that were changed after I left. For example, the picture was supposed to end with Shelley Winters (Jones' smother-loving mother), her bleeding hand impaled on the barbed wire fence of the over-30s concentration camp, singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There's supposed to be a freeze-frame of her and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir goes on singing for her.

    But the reaction to the picture has been absolutely fantastic. I went to see it at least 10 times. Every audience was entirely different. Where one crowd would roar another would gasp and vice versa.
     

    Pryor plays a small role in the film, but he stands out whenever he appears on screen. 


    The comedianhas a brief exchange with veteran character actor Ed Begley (He would later work with Begley's son, Ed Begley Jr., in Blue Collar).


    Mostly, though, he just hangs around as part of Jones' entourage.


    Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals (1969) 
    (never completed)


    Carter's Army (1970)


    The Phynx (1970)

     

    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.

    Reference sources

    "Barry Shear: TV, Film's Lively One,"Los Angeles Times, January 8, 1969, p. 78.

    "Terror and the Dame: An Interview with Actress Adrienne Barbeau,"Terror Trap, February, 2006.  http://www.terrortrap.com/interviews/adriennebarbeau/.


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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat (1971)


    Lady Sings the Blues (1972) 

     
     
     Lady Sings the Blue depicted the life of jazz singer Billie Holiday. 

    The executive producer of the film was Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Record Corporation.  Gordy saw this project as a way to make his most popular singer, Diana Ross, into a film star.  He was determined to control every aspect of the film.  He fought with Paramount president Frank Yablans.  He fought with the director, Sidney Furie.  In the end, he paid back the $2 million that Paramount had invested in the film to have complete authority over the final cut.


    Ross talked to musicians who had worked with Holiday.  She said, "Everybody seemed to remember a different lady."  So, the actress had to decide on her own how she should play the role.

    Furie opposed the casting of Billy Dee Williams as the leading man.  J. Randy Taraborrelli wrote in Diana Ross: A Biography:
    Even though his had been the worst audition of the bunch who wanted the role, Berry something between him and Diana that he knew was magical. When Diana saw the footage of her work with Billy, she agreed. She sank down in her seat and told [producer] Jay Weston, "I just got chills. I'm in love."
    Williams said, "The first time a man of my hue had ever been a real romantic character on the screen was in Lady Sings the Blues.  I invented that character. The way I am now is in many ways that same character.  Much of what I've done since then has been based on that particular look, that particular persona."

    Williams had much praise for Gordy.  He said, "I never saw such attention to detail, to research, [to] planning as Berry put into that film.


    The actor expressed great affection and admiration for Ross.  He said:
    You know, it is absolutely amazing what that Diana Ross can do as an actress. Here is a girl who's a top singer and on-stage entertainer who has never done anything dramatic. I've never met her before we started the film. I ran into her in the hall and she said, "Hey, you must be Billy Dee." We just stood and looked at each other for a while and already the communication started.  It never stopped, not for one scene and not for one moment off stage.
    Joyce Haber of The Los Angeles Times wrote:
    Billy's so handsome that, watching him, I recalled Diana Ross's response to my remark that he's good looking: "Yes," she laughed, "and it's a shame that he knows it."


    Gordy, who had once dated Ross, was uncomfortable having Ross perform love scenes with Williams.  Williams said:
    I think there was only one scene in the whole film where Diana and I really kissed, and Berry made it very tough on us.  It sounds silly in retrospect, but he really did not want the kiss to take place.  We'd get to that place in rehearsal, and he'd stop it. Again, and he'd stop it.  He was saying he wanted the real kiss to take place on camera, but we knew that he just didn't want us to make out more than once. Diana was beyond frustrated. "Jesus Christ, Berry," she said, "it's only a kiss." I have to tell you, I truly believe that he had never seen her kiss another man before in his life, and he did not want to see it. So, I thought that was kind of sweet. And kind of weird, too. In the end, we did kiss, obviously. Diana has the best mouth in show business, and kissing her was. . . well, magical. And I was only acting. So, after that kiss, I was, like, okay - I get it - if this was my woman, no way would I want her kissing another man.
    Williams often used the word "magic" in describing Ross.  He said:
    Let me tell you about Diana.  You know how they usually have cast parties when the film is done, usually on the set and there's lots of brass around.  Diana would have any of that. She insisted that everyone concerned with the picture, no matter what their job was, should come to a big party at her own home.  It was a great, friendly, warm party.

    When we first started, the grips and prop man and gaffers were practically saying "ho hum" to the whole thing. After a few scenes were shot you could feel the magic Diana projected in everyone around.

    The Mack (1973)

    Italian Poster

    Some Call It Loving (1973)


    Pryor's character in the surreal Some Call It Loving comes a sad end.

     
    Hit! (1973) 



    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.

     
    Reference sources

    "Billy Dee Williams thinks he's romantic," The Daily News-Journal (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), May 18, 1985, p. 13. 

    Joyce Haber, "All Eyes on Mitzi at Tropicana Gig,"The Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1973, p. 83.

    Kurt Lassen, "Billy Credits Success To Others,"Nashua Telegraph (Nashua, New Hampshire), November 11, 1972, p. 16.

    Jerry Parker, "She wasn't sure about acting,"Tucson Daily Citizen, March 3, 1973,  p 15.

    J. Randy Taraborrelli, Diana Ross: A Biography, New York: Citadel Press, May 1, 2007.


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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    Uptown Saturday Night (1974)


    Pryor appears in the film as a jumpy private investigator, Sharp Eye Washington.


    In a distinct role reversal, Bill Cosby mostlyacted as straight man to a silly and panicky Sidney Poitier.


    Harry Belafonte was a scene-stealer in the role of a greedy, hot-tempered mob boss, Geechie Dan Beauford.


    Cosby insisted, "[T]his is not a black film made by blacks for black audiences. We are Americans, and we made the picture to be seen and enjoyed by Americans."


    Warner Bros. has plans to remake Uptown Saturday Night with Kevin Hart in the Poitier role.


     Adiós Amigo (1976)

    Pryor was inspired by his boyhood hero Lash LaRue in playing his Adiós Amigo character.

    Lash LaRue
    Pryor on the run in Adiós Amigo.

    The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)


    Pryor's character, Charlie Snow, shows up at the end of the film with a new Mohawk hairstyle and dressed in tanned buckskin.  He explains to his friends his idea to bypass a prohibition against black players in the major leagues by pretending to be a Native American named Chief Takahoma.  The scene gets a laugh because the audience knows Snow's blatant disguise could never fool the major league officials into thinking the ballplayer is a genuine Native American.  But I learned from reading Hal Erickson's book on baseball films, The Baseball Filmography, 1915 through 2001, that Pryor's "Chief Takahoma" ruse was actually employed by a baseball manager 75 years earlier.  This comes from the History website:
    [I]n 1901, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports the signing of a mysterious player named "Chief Tokohama" to baseball’s Baltimore Orioles by manager John McGraw.  Chief Tokohama was later revealed to be Charlie Grant, an African-American second baseman. McGraw was attempting to draw upon the great untapped resource of African-American baseball talent in the face of baseball’s unspoken rule banning black players from the major leagues. . . Chicago White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey discovered [the player's] real identity and led the charge to ban him from the league.  Grant ended up spending the 1901 season playing stand-out second base for the all-black Columbia Giants.

    James Earl Jones believes he was cast for the role of Leon Carter based mostly on his appearance.  He said, "I'm 6-foot-1, so when I'm in shape, I qualify for a lot of athletic looking parts."


    Bingo Long started a trend for Jones.  The actor was later featured in other baseball films, including Field of Dreams (1989) and The Sandlot (1993), and he played a former baseball player for three years in the acclaimed Broadway play "Fences." But the actor was always quick to admit that he was never a baseball fan. He said, "I love the idea of baseball, the feeling of baseball, but I don't follow the game or have a favorite team."  He explained in another interview, "My grandfather was a big fan of Satchel Paige, but the pace of baseball when I listened to it on the radio as a kid was too slow for me."


    Jones studied baseball to look good on the field in Bingo Long.  He said:
    I learned that baseball is about Zen. You can't hit the ball, even by accident, unless you see it.  That to me is Zen.  In order to achieve something, you don't strive at it, but you become the ball and bat.  I think a guy like Bo Jackson [home run hitter with the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox] can do that instinctively.

    The film focused on a deep and abiding friendship  between Jones and Billy Dee Williams.


    But, though not the focus of the film, Pryor was spotlighted in a number of scenes.

     
     
      
    Car Wash (1976)


    Silver Streak (1976)


    Silver Streak was released in Germany as Trans Amerika Express.


    A comic thriller is not good without a believable villain.  McGoohan, with his darkly menacing glares, made murderous art forger Devereau one of the vilest villains in film comedy history.


    It made viewers root even harder for the film's heroes, Jill Clayburgh, Gene Wilder and Pryor.


    The one character that did not survive McGoohan's villainy was the titular character, Silver Streak.


    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.


    Reference sources

    Thomas D. Elias, The Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana), May 22, 1990, p. 19.

    Millie Entrekin, "Diamonds on the Silver Screen,"The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio), October 14, 1992, p. 21.

    Bob Thomas, "Cosby Piqued by Criticism of Uptown Saturday Night,"The Gettysburg Times, July 11, 1974, p. 8.


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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    This was Pryor's most successful period in film.

    Greased Lightning (1977)



    Which Way Is Up? (1977)


    Pryor plays three roles in Which Way Is Up?.


    The comedian is at his most flamboyant in the role of  Reverend Lenox Thomas.


    One of the film's funniest scenes is a dominatrix scene that Pryor performs with Margaret Avery.


    Blue Collar (1978) 

    Trouble results when three auto workers conspire to rob a safe at the union office.

     
     
     
     
     

    The Wiz (1978) 


    California Suite (1978)

    Two friends (Pryor and Bill Cosby) come to despise each other during an ill-fated vacation.

     
     
      
    The Muppet Movie (1979)


    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.



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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    Wholly Moses! (1980)
     

    Pryor was willing to let the film's star, Dudley Moore, get closer to him than the lion.

     
    In God We Tru$t (or Gimme That Prime Time Religion) (1980)


    Stir Crazy (1980) 
     

    JoBeth Williams said of her experience working on Stir Crazy:
    I was extraordinarily lucky earlier on to work with Gene Wilder and see his comic timing.  Richard Pryor was in the movie and to watch him with Gene was amazing.  They are comedic geniuses.  Sidney Poitier is the kindest man in the world.  He said things to me like, "You are such a professional at such a young age.  It is a pleasure to work with you."

    She said of Poitier in another interview, "He was dealing with Richard Pryor in that movie, who was dealing with his own drug issues at the time, so it wasn't easy for Sidney.  But, I had such respect for him, and no question that he was a mentor."


    Poitier did, in fact, have problems with Pryor during the making of Stir Crazy.  At one point, Pryor's drug use got so out of control that the comedian couldn't make it to the set.  Poitier called Pryor's ex-girlfriend Pam Grier and asked her for help.  According to Grier, Poitier told her, "Pam, Richard’s high, and we’re like 10 weeks behind and they’re going to pull the plug on the movie.  Gene Wilder. . . everybody’s mad.  Everybody’s upset.  Everyone's afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. Can you come down here and talk to Richard? I think you’re the only person who can reach him."

     
    Grier explained:
    I was on my way to do Fort Apache [in] the Bronx. . . and I said I would come down on my way and see if I can do anything or say anything.  I get there, and he’s freebasing. I’d never seen anything like that.  Holding a Bunsen burner of liquid in front of your face, while something’s in a net that looks like a rock cooking … it was just so bizarre to me.  And I wanted to say, ‘Well, you know, Sidney, Richard has some fears, insecurities and they have to be addressed.  Maybe like a musician he has to prepare himself, get high before he comes to the set.  I don’t know.  You always knew he did indulge and now you want him to stop?  I don’t know how you’re gonna do that.  But you’re gonna have to give him some time, help him figure out how he can prepare without that, so his career isn’t destroyed.’

    So Richard and I talk, we go to the set and he says, "I'm glad you came and I’m going to try, I’m really going to try to stop.  I didn’t want you to be disappointed."  And I said, "I’m not disappointed.  It’s just you have such an opportunity.  People love you so much.  And you're gonna take it all away.  For some reason you don’t want to give whatever it is.  So, I’m gonna go."
     

    Bustin' Loose (1981)


    The film begins with Pryor getting caught trying to steal televisions from a warehouse.

     
    Pryoris coerced by his parole officer into driving a group of special needs children from Pennsylvania to Washington in a dilapidated school bus.


    It takes great effort and great patience to make the bus roadworthy.


    Pryor filmed a scene with Vincent Price at Seattle's historic Firehouse 25, which the city constructed in 1909 as its first brick firehouse.

     
    Set designers dressed up the firehouse to look like a ramshackle garage owned by Price's eccentric character, Smokey St. James.  This is where Pryor takes the bus to get it repaired.  Smokey is a man of many faces - scholar, drunkard and mechanic.  Unfortunately, none of these faces made it up on screen as the scene was deleted from the final cut.

    "My friends call me 'Smokey St. James,' Raconteur Extraordinaire and resident wino at your service."
    The fact that Smokey got the bus running is never mentioned.

     
    Pryor is impatient with the children at first.


    But he eventually takes the time to get to know them and act as a father to them.


    On June 9, 1980, Pryor poured rum on himself and lit himself on fire. He was in the hospital recovering from severe burns when Universal Pictures executives contacted him about returning to work for reshoots on Bustin' Loose.  The Bustin' Loose reshoots turned out to be the first time that the comedian worked after his injury.  Pryor's pre-burn scenes can easily be identified as Pryor's face is noticeably fuller in these scenes.

    Pre-burn scene
    Post-burn scene
    The film includes a scene in which Pryor catches fire.


    The original cut of the film emphasized the dramatic elements of the story.


    But the third act of the film was reshot to add more comedy to the film.  In an effort to help the children, Pryor dresses as a rich cowboy to rob money from a con man.


    Pryor flees with the money, but the con man's goons corner him inside a warehouse.

     
    The film climaxes at this point with a slapstick battle.


    Pryor is triumphant in the end.


    Film critics were less than enthusiastic about the film.  The New York Times review by Vincent Canby brandished the headline 'BUSTIN' LOOSE' STARS RICHARD PRYOR GONE SOFTY.


    Some Kind of Hero (1982) 


    Pryor plays a former prisoner of war who suffers a difficult homecoming.


    He learns that his wife has found another man and his mother been debilitated by a stroke.


    He finds comfort in the arms of  a hooker played by Margot Kidder.


    Pryor resorts to robbery to pay his mother's medical bills.


    Strangely, the filmmakers saw the war veteran's medical exam by army officials as an opportunity to add more laughs to the sad story.

    Pryor wanted to make dramas.  He wanted Greased Lightning to be a drama.  He wanted Bustin' Loose (originally titled "Family Dreams") to be a drama.  He wanted Some Kind of Hero to be a drama.  But studio executives didn't see the point of having Pryor in a film unless he could be funny.

    The Toy (1982)


    Ray Stark was an acclaimed film producer whose prolific output (33 films between 1960 and 1993) included mostly comedies and musicals. Stark formed a creative partnership with famed comedy writer Neil Simon that resulted in 11 films, including The Sunshine Boys (1975), The Goodbye Girl (1977) and California Suite (1978). Stark became interested in the work of Francis Veber, who many critics hailed as the French Neil Simon. The producer set out to remake Veber's French comedy Le Jouet (1976).  Stark's film, The Toy, stood as the first American adaptation of a Veber film.  Veber was excited by the project and was willing to do anything he could to assure its success.  He said:
    I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time and I called Ray Stark and I talked to his secretary, and I said, "I'm the original writer of The Toy.  If you want me to work with you as screenwriter, I would be delighted." And he never called me back. So I understood then that, when they buy a film, they don't want to be disturbed by the people who did it, you know?
    When asked what he thought about The Toy, Veber replied bluntly, "It was a disaster."


    Veber was then asked why most of the American remakes of his films failed.  He replied:
    Because I think the process of filmmaking is very complicated. I have a kind of explanation. When a producer, for instance, buys a French or Italian or Spanish film, he shows the film to a lot of people — writers, actors. And he starts to get used to the jokes, the situations, you know? And he asks his writers, "Make it richer." And this is the beginning of trouble.
    Veber had Chaplin in mind as he put Le Jouet's protagonist through a series of humiliating situations.  He said, "Chaplin was always being humiliated.  Life is humiliating."  Veber was asked if it was necessary to inflict cruel indignities on comedy characters.  He said, "Humor must be cruel.  It's very hard not to be cruel.  There is a base of cruelty in comedy. Mostly in mine."

    But it completely changed the story to put a black man into these humiliating situations.  It is one type of story when a wealthy white man's bratty son buys a white man to amuse him.  It is something else entirely when a wealthy white man's bratty son buys a black man to similarly do his bidding.


    Columbia Pictures released two high-profile comedies, The Toy and Tootsie, a week apart.  Dustin Hoffman becomes empowered when he dons a dress in Tootsie.


    Putting a black man in a dress is different.  Look at Pryor in a maid's outfit in this scene from The Toy.


    It is emasculating.  In the end, Hoffman got far more laughs in a dress than Pryor did.  It's is no wonder that Pryor is in anguish through much of the film.


    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.

    Reference Sources

    "Francis Veber — The Valet— 04/11/07,"Groucho Reviews.  http://grouchoreviews.com/interviews/208

    "JoBeth Williams On Her Longevity, Philanthropy, Exciting New Projects And More!"Icon Vs. Icon - All Things Pop Culture, December 18, 2014.

    Jamie Allen, "Francis Veber: Playing 'The Dinner Game,'"CNN, August 31, 1999.  http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Movies/9908/31/dinner.game/index.html.

    Mike Fleming Jr., "'70s Screen Icon Pam Grier Speaks On Sex Harassment & Her Biopic With Jay Pharoah Playing Richard Pryor,"Deadline Hollywood, January 16, 2018.  http://deadline.com/2018/01/pam-grier-sex-harassment-biopic-jay-pharoah-richard-pryor-freddie-prinze-quentin-tarantino-1202243769/.

    Kelly Oden, "An Exclusive Interview with Jobeth Williams,"Coming of Age (Winter, 2004).

    Sharon Waxman, "Comedy Francaise: Director Francis Veber's Unusual Cultural Export,"Washington Post, July 5, 2001.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2001/07/05/comedy-francaise-director-francis-vebers-unusual-cultural-export/a40db53a-d0db-46db-b568-1f101790c134/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1003fcf10720.



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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]

    Superman III (1983)


    Superman III stands as one of the least favorite Richard Pryor movies and one of the least favorite Superman movies.


    Pryor plays a genius computer programmer who helps an evil business magnate to battle Superman.


    But, after the story takes a few twists and turns, Pryor and Superman become buddies in the end.


    Here's an excerpt from a Today interview that Pryor did with reporter Jim Brown to promote Superman III:
    Brown: Was it everything you thought it would be doing that kind of film?

    Pryor: No, no, because it was the work, it wasn't like fantasy.  The fantasy is going to see a movie like that.  But being in one is real hard work.

    Brown: Do you feel pressure as an actor when you are working in a film of that scope, and by scope I mean that budget where every hour the dollar signs are clicking away.  Is there as subtle pressure on an actor to perform?

    Pryor: I didn't feel that in this movie at all because it was Superman.  I was just playing a part in it.  So, I felt real relaxed about stuff like that.  I didn't feel any pressure other than the fact that I didn't work a lot when I was over in England.  Two months in a hotel not working - every day, three and four days at a time, sometimes a week.

    Brown:
    Waiting for them to call.

    Pryor: Yes, waiting for them to call me. 

    Brown: But there's a pressure in that though, isn't there? 

    Pryor: I've been some places, you know.  I mean you see the Palace a couple of times, you know.  There you go, well, thank you.  It's amazing you think about how they make movies.  You know, what all that goes into it.  I mean, the struggle because everybody has a vision of it and to get the vision to work and for the whole movie and the character you're playing [to work], you know.  It's a real struggle and it takes a little back-and-forth, you know. . . So, it's not a day at the beach to make a movie.  I mean, I thought it was one at one time when I first started. . . [N]ow, I just feel I'm a professional, you know.
    It is now known that Pryor spent most of his free time in London ingesting large amounts of cocaine.

    Jake Rossen wrote in "Superman Vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded An American Icon":
    Both the Newmans [producers David and Leslie Newman] and Lester [director Richard Lester] expected the chatty Pryor to veer from his character's dialogue, but the performer largely stuck to the to the script. . .

    Rossen added:
    Most days, the actor was affable and agreeable to Lester's suggestions. Sometimes, however, he appeared on set moody and disgruntled. Whether the changes in attitude were attributable to drug consumption is unclear. . .

    Pryor had a great fear of heights, which became a problem when a flying scene required him to be hoisted 60-feet off the ground.  Pryor became irritated with the crew while filming the scene.  At one point, he made a rude comment to a cameraman.  The cameraman went after Pryor, but other crew members held back the man before blows were traded.


    Robert Vaughn was chosen to play the villain (although the producers later admitted to originally envisioning Alan Alda in the role). Vaughn, who played most of his scenes opposite Pryor, took a liking to the comedian.  He said, "Richard is the one of the most wonderful people I've ever met. . . I got to rank him along with Jason Robards for being an actor that never misses.  In every scene and every take, on every situation that you're in with him, he does something different, but it's always right.  And that's the one thing that Jason is able to do."  He added, "[Richard]'s extremely sensitive, reticent, shy, very sweet, very vulnerable.  He's totally unlike he is either in his nightclub act or even in screen performances.  There's that vulnerable quality to him which he has personally.  I think it comes across on the screen so beautifully.  I think that's what you like about him, plus the fact he's so extremely, physically funny.


    Vaughn fondly recalled Robin Williams visiting the set and improvising a lengthy comedy routine with Pryor.


    Pamela Stephenson, as the villainous Vaughn's henchwoman Lorelei Ambrosia, was made to wear tight outfits to accentuate her curvy figure.  She said, "[T]his rather uncomfortable bra utiliz[es] all the wonders of modern science and engineering to give bulk and lift and squeeze everything up and over."


    Jim Jerome of People wrote:
    The principal quality needed for Lorelei was the right kind of voice. Pamela studied American women in London modeling agencies, airports and hotels, looking and listening for the perfect dizzy-blonde diction.  She finally found a California travel agent who quit her job to help Stephenson on the set.  "She ended up a liability," says Pamela. "She had never been on a film set before and was very talkative."
    Brewster's Millions (1985)

    Pryor and Vonetta McGee.
    Pryor plays a minor league baseball player named Monty Brewster.  His only dream in life is to attract the attention of a scout from a major league team.

    Pryor is a pitcher of the Hackensack Bulls.
    A bar fight gets Monty and his best friend, Spike Nolan (John Candy), thrown off his team.
    Pryor shares a beer with Yana Nirvana and John Candy just before he gets into a fight with Nirvana's boyfriend.
    Before he has time to react to the loss of his job, Monty is approached with amazing news: he is the sole heir to a great uncle's $300 million fortune.  But unusual conditions are attached to the will.  Monty must liquidate $30 million in 30 days without violating specific spending restrictions that his great uncle outlined in the will.   The most difficult restriction prevents him from telling anyone the reason that he is on his mad spending spree.  Monty is offered a $1 million escape clause, but he is quick to turn it down.  He accepts the challenge with great enthusiasm.

    Pryor and Stephen Collins
    Monty calls his former coach to let him know that he plans to hire his team, the Hackensack Bulls, to play against the New York Yankees.


    He has further ideas on how to spend his money.  He campaigns to become the mayor of New York City, which allows him to spend a vast sum of money on campaign advertising.  He invests money in crazy scheme to motorize icebergs to transport ice water to drought-ridden areas of the Middle East. 

    Pryor meets with a wacky inventor (Archie Hahn) about making money off icebergs.
    Monty is predictably exhausted at the end of the 30 days.


    The story comes from a 1902 novel, which went on to be adapted into a number of films.  A 1921 film version starred Roscoe Arbuckle as Monty Brewster. 


    Martin Knelman, author of "Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy," wrote of Candy's performance in Brewster's Millions: "Candy had proved adept at playing the hero's funny sidekick in Splash, and here he fares better than Pryor, bringing a bit of bouncing euphoria to the strained proceedings." 


    Director Walter Hill said, "John Candy was a genuine person and a hell of a guy, and that's unusual.  A lot of big movie stars aren't such likeable people."  Candy was on the Pritikin diet during the film's production, but he broke from the strict constraints of the diet when he went out to a bar with Hill to celebrate the end of filming.  After Candy died from a heart attack a few years later, Hill regretted that he didn't do anything to discourage his friend from abandoning his diet.


    Candy told Gene Siskel, "It was a very ambitious film; it`s been done (many times) before. It did OK, but not what everybody was expecting. I wonder if the problem is that the story just doesn't have the same meaning today it once had.  I don`t know if people are really into the rags-to-riches story anymore.  You throw $30 million in front of somebody`s face and say, `Here`s how we're spending it`; I just don`t know whether that works."
     
    Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986)


    Jo Jo Dancer was criticized by many (from The New York Times critic Vincent Canby to Pryor's ex-wife Jennifer Lee) for not being an honest account of the comedian's life.  The biggest lie of the film is Pryor's depiction of his mean and violent grandmother as, in Canby's words, "a great, sweet earth mother"


    Pryor claimed that Jo Jo Dancer, a shy stand-up comedian who becomes a drug-addicted Hollywood star, is based on him but it really isn't him.  Even Pryor, himself, didn't believe this.  Jo Jo has his first stand-up gig at a strip club.  


    Jo Jo falls in love with a dancer, Dawn (Barbara Williams), but he catches her cheating on him and breaks up with her.


    He falls in love with another woman, Michelle (Debbie Allen), but he is upset that she refuses to commit to him as her only lover.  When one of her other boyfriends buys her a car, he becomes enraged and sends the car crashing over a cliff.

      
    Critical Condition (1987) 

    Pryor escapes the mental ward at a hospital by pretending to be a doctor during a city-wide blackout.


    Pryor is consulted by real doctors (Bob Dishy and Bob Saget) about a crisis situation in the emergency room.


    Critical Condition is Pryor's most underrated film.  The characters are believable and sympathetic.  The situations are funny.

     
    Moving (1988) 


    A family moves.  That's the plot, really.  People know that moving mostly involves taking belongings and stuffing them into boxes.  Then, you have to hire men to put the boxes into a truck and drive them to your new home.  Is that funny?  Is that a story?


    And what's with Pryor's strange beard?


    Oh, wait, I found three guys who like the beard.

     
     

    They say that they are willing to make Pryor an honorary member of their warrior clan.


    Pryor turns into a warrior for the film's climax, but he is an extremely timid family man for most of the film's running time.  This is not the way that Pryor's fans want to see the comedian.


    Here are a few more stills from the film.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.

    Reference sources


    Jim Jerome, "Being Bad Is Wicked Fun for Superman's Seducer,"People (July 25, 1983).  https://people.com/archive/being-bad-is-wicked-fun-for-supermans-seducer-vol-20-no-4/.

    Jake Rossen, Superman Vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded An American Icon.  Chicago: Chicago Review Press (2008), p. 139.

    Gene Siskel, "Sour Movies Keep Candy Just Short Of Sweet Success,"Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1986.   http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-03-30/entertainment/8601230533_1_sctv-film-summer-rental/2.

    Robert Vaughn "Superman III" Interview, Today, June 15, 1983.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5Km3hI8TlE.



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    [This article contains material that wasn't included in "Richard Pryor in Hollywood."]
     

    Harlem Nights (1989)
    Eddie Murphy, Pryor and Danny Aiello in Harlem Nights (1989)
    Eddie Murphy, Pryor and Redd Foxx in Harlem Nights (1989).
    See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) 


     
    Pryor and Joan Severance in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).
     
     

     

    Another You (1991) 

     
     

    The Three Muscatels (1991)


    Mad Dog Time (1996) 


    Lost Highway(1997)


    Pryor performed his last acting role on the Norm Macdonald sitcom Norm ("Norm vs. the Boxer," 1999).





    "Richard Pryor in Hollywood" can be purchased at Amazon.




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    I love ZaSu Pitts.  I can laugh just watching her struggle to open a bureau drawer.


    See Ms. Pitts at her funniest in the new DVD collection Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts: The Hal Roach Collection 1931-33.  Of course, Thelma Todd is very funny, too. 

    I commend Richard Roberts, Kit Parker and Paul Gierucki for their excellent work in producing this collection.  I truly enjoyed it.

    The DVD collection is available at Amazon.


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    In 2012, the National Film Preservation Foundation and Universal Studios funded the preservation of a 1925 Universal short comedy Kick Me Again.  The preservation efforts were conducted at the Academy Film Archive from a 35mm nitrate print found at the New Zealand Film Archive.  You can enjoy the film at the following link.

    https://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/kick-me-again-1925


    The star of the film is Charles Puffy, who starred in a series of Universal comedies from 1925 to 1928.  Before he was put under contract by Universal, Puffy worked for more than a decade making films in Germany under the name Károly Huszár.  The actor's nickname at the time was "Pufi," which means "Fatty" in his homeland Hungary.  It made sense to the actor to modify his nickname for his new stage name in Hollywood.
     

    A jealous husband (Bud Jamison) suspects his wife (Mildred June) is having an affair with her dance instructor (Puffy).

    At the school, Jamison sees the outline of a couple obscured behind an office door window.  He become gleeful assuming, mistakenly, that the couple's dance moves are lovemaking moves. 


    The husband is shocked to find that the couple is his wife and her dance instructor.

     
     

    Jamison  is perfect as the jealous husband.

     

    June is so cute and charming that it's no wonder that Jamison is worried about other men getting near her.


    Puffy is able to escape Jamison by dressing in a ballerina costume.


    A police officer looks warily at this large man in a tutu.


    Puffy ends up in the man's bedroom by mistake.

     
     
    But he is able to make a quick escape out of the window.

     
     

     Puffy recreates an old Roscoe Arbuckle gag in which Arbuckle, in an act of modesty, motions for the cameraman to move off him while he changes his clothes.

     

    At one point, Universal made plans to develop feature films for Puffy.  The following news item was published in The Film Daily:
    Charles Puffy will be starred in a series of feature comedies to be written by H. C. Witwer for Universal.
    But the feature series never happened. 

    Puffy worked as a character actor in feature-length dramas during the run of his comedy series.

    Mockery (1928)


    The Man Who Laughs (1928)

     
     

    When Hollywood shifted to making sound films, he continued his career in Germany. 

    I Kiss Your Hand Madame (1929)


    Blue Angel (1930)

     

    The National Film Preservation Foundation has worked admirably in their preservation of silent film comedies.  You can donate to The National Film Preservation Foundation at https://www.filmpreservation.org/support.


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     Some time ago, I wrote an extensive article about Skirts, a stunt-filled comedy spectacle produced by Fox Film in 1921.  The film holds an important place in the history and development of the comedy feature.  Unfortunately, much mystery has come to surround this long-lost opus.  I wasn't able to determine the film's plot despite a thorough investigation of trade journal articles and reviews.  But Jorge Finkielman found a comprehensive plot description for the film in a vintage foreign publication, A Scena Muda.  The magazine, which was published in Brazil from 1921 to 1955, was a stylishly produced weekly that provided news stories on the Hollywood scene.  Finkielman did an excellent job translating the text. He has given me permission to publish his translation on my site. Thank you, Jorge!


    Skirts

    Story by John Baldwin

    A Fox – Sunshine Comedies production, starring CLYDE COOK.

    They were short, very short, the skirts with which MR. PETER ROCKS [Harry Booker] dealt, they were skirts for bathing suits, but since MR. ROCKS sold them at expensive prices, he managed to gather a big fortune in this curious business, which led him to forget his own age and become elegant, with an exaggerated chic, as a full-fledged dandy. 

    This was not all.  Once he had money and elegance the old ROCKS became a dirty old man, also forgetting his home and his wife whom he abandoned many years before, and forgetting to take care of the legal provisions of a divorce as well.

    In a pool of a club, MR. ROCKS meets a beautiful young woman [Alta Allen] whom he examines through his large monocle. The young woman smiles with mockery, but her mother, an ambitious and authoritarian old woman [Laura LaVarnie], considers that the businessman's fortune is perfectly ideal to hide her wrinkles, so she orders her gallant daughter to be kind and accept marriage proposal that - she thinks - SR. ROCKS will not take long to request.


    The young woman does not think about him, because all her affections already belong to a handsome marine officer [Harry Gribbon], whose only flaw is being economically poor. But, she obeys the old woman who forces her to be accompanied by the prosperous business man on a horseback ride.

    It happens that the girl's rein breaks and her horse carries her in a gallop so vertiginous that it seems that she is in inescapable mortal danger.  But the brave marine, galloping with strength on his mare, reaches his beloved girl and saves her.

    Later, seeing that she lost consciousness, the officer runs to look for water in a nearby well.  MR. ROCKS takes advantage of that opportunity to approach the beautiful girl and take her in his arms.  Waking up and seeing only the small merchant at her side, the girl judges that it had to be him who saved her and, full of enthusiasm and gratitude, immediately agrees to marry him.

    But the forgetfulness of MR. ROCKS could not be without consequences.  His wife is still alive and, since she didn't know a way to earn a living, with false hair became a "bearded woman" in a big circus, where she also managed to have her son employed, the young and naive PETE [Clyde Cook], useful for all services. . . until one day in a newspaper the news of her husband's marriage with MISS X appears.  At last she has found the fugitive! She calls PETE and handing him the marriage certificate orders him to go and find his father in order to claim his rights.

    But things get complicated. PETE loves the daughter of the owner of the circus, the beautiful MARY [Ethel Teare] who also loves him with passion, but who is desired by the circus HERCULES [Edgar Kennedy], a suggestive brute, who, having heard the words of MRS. ROCKS soon builds a sinister plan.  Taking advantage of the confusion caused by a thunderstorm, which falls upon the circus, he steals the document from PETE's pocket and shows up at the merchant's house posing as the boy.

    MR. ROCKS, however, realizing that it will be difficult for him to recognize the son that he has not seen since he was six months old, and wishing to know him before accepting him, hides in an armor and sends the servant to receive the presumed son, to whom he gives a letter that MR. ROCKS wrote.  In the letter the old man asks the presumed son, since he needs to be absent for a month, to take over the business until his return.  Imagine! A business for women's swimwear!  A house full of models each more attractive!

    HERCULES loses his head and begins to do nonsense of such caliber, that the old man is satisfied when PETE appears at the end and verifies that the first visitor is an imposter.

    But, realizing that he lost a fortune, HERCULES wants compensation and for that reason he kidnaps the daughter of the circus' owner, MARY, that loves PETE.  Fortunately, PETE lost no time during his stay in the circus: he became an expert acrobat.  Thus, he rents an airplane and with a lot of audacity, he manages to "catch" his girlfriend from the roof of a train with which HERCULES intended to take her to the other end of the world.



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    Circus of Horrors, a British horror film from 1960, has the creepiest of plots.  A deranged plastic surgeon, Dr. Rossiter (Anton Diffring), is on the run from the police for surgical misdeeds.  He befriends a circus owner (Donald Pleasence) and manipulates the man into letting him run his circus. 

     
     
    Rossiter is attracted to disfigured women, who is able to transform through his talents as a surgeon and put on display in a popular circus attraction called "Temple of Beauty." 


    He becomes obsessed with controlling these women, believing that they are his own personal creations, and he takes delight in pressuring the women to satisfy his perverse sexual desires. 


    Cavett Bunion of AllMovie wrote, "[I]t's not long before the ladies' gratitude begins to wear thin, and they begin to plan their escape. . . only to meet horrible ends in carefully-orchestrated catastrophes while performing."



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    La Grande Vadrouille (1966) opens with a Royal Air Force bomber being intercepted by the Luftwaffe over German-occupied France.  The air battle ends with the bomber being shot down and three crew members parachuting out over Paris.  Once on the ground, the airmen receive assistance from a variety of French citizens to escape to the free zone.  The film is, in a way, odd combination of  To Be or Not to Be (1942) and The Great Escape (1963).


    Big laughs are earned early on with a rendezvous at a Turkish bath and a cartoonish scheme to steal clothes for the airmen.  In the latter scene, an airman disguised as a streetwalker lures unsuspecting men to an open manhole, inside of which his accomplices are eagerly waiting to strip off the men's clothing.

    Louis de Funès is featured in the film as an opera conductor who assists the airmen.


    The comic actor's usual bad temper is on display in the film.


    Marie Dubois lends a pretty face to the proceedings.  As many French ingénues, the actress has an ethereal beauty.


    La Grande Vadrouille
    was understandably popular in France.  The film is a valentine to the indomitable spirit of the French people, who remained brave and defiant throughout the German occupation.  Every French man and woman that the film's airmen encounter are willing to risk their lives to get the men to safety.  They express their absolute gratitude to the Brits, who are risking their own lives to liberate France.


    Terry-Thomas, one of England's greatest comic actors, plays a surprisingly straight role in the film.  The comedy is left to de Funès and André Bourvil, who had developed a special rapport working together the previous year in Le Corniaud.



    The duo go through many dangerous situations in the World War II comedy.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Gérard Oury, the director of Le Corniaud and  La Grande Vadrouille, had prepared a third project for Funès and Bourvil, but Bourvil was unable to work due to the onset of bone marrow cancer.  His role was recast with Yves Montand.


    Bourvil died at the age of 53 on September 23, 1970.



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    The 2017 Danish comedy Alle for Tre (All for Three in English) joins two prior films, Alle for én (All for One) and Alle for to (All for Two), in portraying the petty criminal activities of dim-witted brothers Timo (Rasmus Bjerg) and Ralf (Mick Øgendahl). 


    It is revealed in the opening scene that Timo is in trouble for back child support.  He promises his ex-wife that he will pay off his debt with money he expects to receive from his recently deceased father's will. 

    Timo sits anxiously with Ralf as he listens to the reading of the will.  The executor explains that their father's only worldly possession was a rare vintage motorbike, which he left to his firstborn child.  Timo is pleased to hear this.  He resolves to sell the motorbike for maximum profit to a collector.  But he isn't, as he thought, his father's firstborn.  The brothers have an older half-sister their father never told them about.  Timo is enraged by the news.  He arranges with Ralf to travel to their half-sister's home in Tuscany to steal the motorbike, which he insists is his rightful property. 


    Their half-sister, Kim (Sonja Richter), turns out to be an eccentric anti-fur activist whose life is devoted to setting off paint bombs in fur stores.  Ralf secretly follows Kim into a fur store only to get caught in the blast of her latest paint bomb. 

     

    Ralf later tries on his new inflatable suit, unaware that Kim is nearby planting a bomb at a fur plant.  When the bomb ignites, Ralf does his best to get away.

     
     
     

    It's a silly little film, but it's alright for a comedy to be silly. The Danish Film Institute reported that Alle for Tre was the most successful Danish film of 2017.


    Note

    Alle for Tre has been marketed in some territories under the title Three Heists and a Hamster.


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    A 1911 Pathé comedy Jobard a tué sa belle-mère opens with Jobard (Lucien Cazalis) trying to have a quiet cup of tea while his mother-in-law sit across from him complaining bitterly about the hardness of her chair. 
     

    Jobard's wife bring her mother a pillow to sit on, but the mother can see Jobard grimacing over her hysterics and she throws the pillow at his head. 


    Jobard thinks it would fun to frighten the pesky old woman by dressing up as a ghost.  But the woman becomes so upset by prank that she passes out.  When he fails to revive her, Jobard panics thinking that he has killed the woman.

     
    This is similar to a situation that Harold Lloyd encountered years later in Hot Water (1924).  But, this time, the sheet is on the other head.  Harold plans to get his nagging mother-in-law (Josephine Crowell) out of the way for the evening by sprinkling her dinner napkin with chloroform.  But his mother-in-law has a strong reaction to the chloroform and she passes out on the spot. 

     
    Harold desperately tries to revive the woman, but his best efforts fail.


    Harold overhears part of a conversation between his wife and brother-in-law and mistakenly concludes that his mother-in-law has died.  Later, when his mother-in-law sleepwalks through the house, Harold believes that she is a ghost that has come back from the dead to haunt him.
     
     
     

    One last scare happens in the final moments of the film.



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    A love story is rendered tenderly and poignantly in the 2013 French-Belgian drama Une place sur la Terre (released in English-speaking countries as A Place on Earth).  Antoine (Benoît Poelvoorde), a disillusioned photographer, becomes mesmerized listening to a neighbor play a piano sonata.  The neighbor is a beautiful, enigmatic archaeology student named Elena (Ariane Labed). 


    Antoine becomes obsessed with Elena and secretly photographs her in her apartment.  One night, he sees Elena up on the roof of her building.  She walks spryly along the edge as if she is playing a game.  Then, suddenly, she jumps.  Antoine rushes to her side and calls for an ambulance.  His quick actions get the young woman the prompt medical attention needed to save her life.  

     
    Antoine commits to caring for Elena during her recovery.  The two become intimate with one another and eventually fall in love.


    At lunch, Elena asks Antoine how he keeps up his spirits.  He says:
    I start the day off at very, very low.  Never knowing how I will make it to the next day.  I wait it out.  Something always happens, and it's already tomorrow.  I don't project much, but I always have the secret hope something will pull me out of my humdrum.  Something exceptional, like having lunch with you.
    Poelvoorde brings power to this simple speech, infusing it with varied nuances of emotion.  The actor fully embodies his character.  Antoine is a man who has struggled for years with anguish and depression and he wants so much to impress his coping skills upon this young woman.


    Poelvoorde started out in France playing broad comedy roles, which makes his deeply moving performance in the film all the more special.

    Elena renews Antoine's passion for photography.  Elena talks about her own passion to become an archaeologist so that she can help with the ongoing excavation of a sunken city in Egypt.  Antoine encourages her to finish her thesis, which will qualify her to join the excavation team. 

     
    Unfortunately, a number of issues come between the couple and threaten their relationship.


    This is beautifully quiet and patient storytelling.  The characters are introspective, yet we can understand their thoughts and feelings without them having to say much.

     


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    My early fascination with film comedy was roused by very specific moments in classic films.  Take for instance the gas lamp scene in Easy Street (1917). . .


    . . . or the pipe maze scene in A Plumbing We Will Go (1940). 


    These are bold and imaginative scenes.  But I remember being enchanted by a simple scene in Sons of the Desert (1933).  Stan is confused, as he usually is, and he manages to lock himself out of his home.  His best friend and neighbor, Ollie, comes to his friend's aide only to become locked out of his own home.  It is in no way a showy scene.  It is quiet and slow.  Ollie becomes exasperated, but he never shouts or fails his arms.  The two manage to make the scene funny just by repeatedly ringing doorbells to summon help.  Ollie's wife (Mae Busch) finally answers the door, annoyed by the doorbell ringing.  She snaps, "What do you think this is?  Halloween?" 

     
     

    I found something magical about Laurel and Hardy in this scene.  I cannot explain it.  You will not find a comedy scene more beautifully timed or as well-acted.  But there's more to it than that.  It felt as if I was looking at angels.  I understand if you chose to dismiss that last statement as hyperbole or sentimentality.  But, I assure you, that's exactly how I remember it.  Laurel and Hardy were in my eyes, at that moment, angels.


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