This is the central gathering spot for all things Larry Ratliff and Movie Memories. The latest blog could be about your favorite celebrity, something funny or important on Larry’s mind or all of the above.
The temperature was pushing triple digits as I drove across town around noon, weaving in and out of traffic, heading for the local movie art house.
It was hot enough to fry an egg on a shrinking block of melting ice, but I didn't care. I had one thing on my mind:
We go back a long way, those unfortunately colored morsels of caramel covered in light-brown chocolate. I grabbed a box of Duds on my way into the darkened abyss of a Harlingen, Texas movie theater to review my first film as a professional critic in 1980.
The Casa Blanca, opening today (June 9), is the latest sparkling jewel in the impressive San Antonio-based Santikos Entertainment group.
On those days or evenings when you just can't decide if you want to catch a movie on a state-of-the-art laser projected digital screen or go bowling, now you can do both. Or either, or both and have dinner at the Café, or have dinner while enjoying a movie in one of four Bistro theaters, or ... well, you get the idea.
And I bet the popcorn was rubbery and cold that first night in Camden, N.J. back on June 6, 1933.
That's when Richard Hollingshead Jr., an auto parts salesman, invented the drive-in movie by putting a projector on the hood of a car and parking it in front of two bedsheets tied together and strung up in the yard.
Nancy Reagan, who passed away Sunday (March 6), met her beloved Ronald Reagan in 1949.
The Reagans pose for a publicity still for "Hellcats of the Navy." (Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)
The future 40th president of the United States was serving in another office in the late '40s. Reagan, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, agreed to have dinner with actress Nancy Davis. Davis noticed that her name, which, according to reports turned out to be another Nancy Davis, had popped up in the infamous Communist witch hunt.
Attention all website owners and bloggers: When your spouse tells you it's way past time to change the post on your website, it's way past time to change the post on your website.
Suellen is right, but I do have an excuse. Does that help? OK, didn't think so.
The fact is that LarryRatliff.com, home of everything Movie Memories, is undergoing a major overhaul, and we've been planning and building something we think is eye-popping special.
It's a little premature to give too much away, so let's just say that very soon you will be looking at a state-of-the-art Movie Memories and Larry Ratliff website home that, hopefully, will take your breath away (But only temporarily, we hope; safety first).
But wait, there's more!
We are also excited about being very close to announcing that Larry will be digging out his old TV makeup kit for a new movie critic position on a nationally syndicated television show.
As they say on TV, stay tuned.
And as they also say, we'll be right back: Bigger and better than ever.
I'm Larry Ratliff, and I approved this message (right after I wrote it).
The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.
Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space. John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.
It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic. I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.
Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.
The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974. My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.
According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.
"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.
Let me just add this. Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.
Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.
From the Hey, We Haven't Brought This One Back And Called It Good Looking Yet Department:
It looks like your favorite video streaming service, Netflix, is about to roll the dice on a Lost In Space reboot.
According to stories posted on the Entertainment Weekly website (and other sources), Netflix is remaking the cult 1960s series that was set in "futuristic" 1997.
Call itBack to the Past Future or Wow, How High Can Gasoline Prices Go?
"Executive producer Kevin Burns confirmed to EW. (The) legendary TV’s remake, which has yet to garner a straight-to-series order, is being written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) and produced by Game of Thrones vet Neil Marshall, who’s in line to direct," the EW article states.
Burns, who has another project to dive into, is thrilled, of course.
“'We’ve obviously been developing Lost in Space for a long time, and we’ve had a couple of false starts. Just speaking for myself, we really felt that we had learned a lot from not only what we did, but what other people did and did wrong.
"'The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family’s space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost,'" Burns told Entertainment Weekly.
Danger, Will Robinson. I don't see a Star Wars like frenzy building for this Lost cause, which got a ho-hum big-screen do-over in 1998.
Authors make all kinds of absurd claims about their books. Frankly, that makes me sad.
Take my new book (Please!) Did I Write That Out Loud?, for instance.
I could claim that my new book bursting with entertaining essays about the raucous, roller coaster life of a veteran humorist, public speaker, film critic and stand-up comedian (that would be me) will lift your spirits.
It will, but I won't claim that.
Or, I could promise that you'll go behind the scenes and be amazed at what happened the day I sat down to interview Shirley MacLaine and she wasn't pleased with the lighting.
You will be amazed, but I'm not about to claim that, either.
All I'm going to promise is that if you buy Did I Write That Out Loud? you'll lose a few pounds.*
My new -- and first, I might add -- book covers topics such as why my family doctor broke up with me, what happens when pants begin to have minds of their own and news that the Cold War, a different Cold War, still rages.
I try to write from my heart and my funny bone, so even subjects such as a late-night encounter with paramedics, job loss and my father's late-life crisis are skewed with truth softened with humor.
Or as I like to put it, "We might as well laugh. It's only life."
About this time you're probably saying to yourself, "This is incredible! Where can I get my hands on a book like this?"
Not to worry. Just click this link to go to the Did I Write That Out Loud? page at the Amazon.com website. You can be the proud owner of this hot, hot, hot collection of hilarious and heartfelt essays in paperback for the ridiculous price of only $8.95.
And that's for an exciting new book that's already on the best seller list. Excuse me. So sorry, I meant to say the "best cellar" list.
But wait, there's more. Do you prefer to read books on a Kindle? We've got you covered for under five bucks. $4.99 to be exact.
So order away. Just in time for the holidays, Did I Write That Out Loud? is the perfect feel-good solution to the age-old question "What can I get for the person who has everything?" Well, they don't have this surefire cure for the blues, the blahs and boredom.
You want it gift wrapped? Amazon.com can handle that as well.
Oh, and one more thing. About that claim that you can lose a few pounds reading Did I Write That Out Loud?:
*You will only lose pounds if you buy this book in Great Britain, British Overseas Territories, the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory, as well as Tristan de Cunha, where the British Pound is used as currency.
Jack Nicholson and "friend" in "As Good As It Gets"
Thanks to everyone over at Bonaventure Dallas for a memorable Movie Memories evening last night.
Even though my projector opted to sit down on us a little and offer up only a slightly lopsided image (a keystone issue, according to the unhelpful "help" button), we soldiered on through memories of Hollywood's finest romantic films.
I love performing at the Bonaventure because the audience fills the room with enthusiasm and a willingness to ignore small distractions and get on with the show.
"Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes" leans heavily on well-known classics like Gone With the Wind, On Golden Pond and West Side Story, of course. One of the favorite moments for me, however, is the showcase of As Good As It Gets (1997), which resulted in Academy Awards for co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.
Thanks again, Bonaventure folks, It was a memorable Movie Memories evening.
Is there a movement afoot to, ahem, keep Jane Austen weird?
There must be because come February, the undead will meet the coyishly cool in late 18th century England in what promises to be a grisly little action-horror-romance ditty titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
I suppose it was bound to come (way, way) down to this in a time and marketplace where no entertainment icon, cinematic or literary, is sacred anymore.
I mean, come on. We've already witnessed the out-of-sync wackiness of Harrison Ford and Daniel "Beg-Me-To-Stay-On-As-James Bond" Craig lassoing space aliens in Cowboys & Aliens in 2011, Sherlock Holmes sniffing out leads in modern-day New York City on TV in Elementary and the Republican debates.
So maybe we shouldn't be surprised when Jane Austen-ish ladies go for the jugular with bared fangs and not just verbal jabs.
I suppose if they still sip their afternoon tea with pinkies properly extended, we shouldn't raise too much of a fuss when they go all zombie and start ripping each other to shreds.
Although I guess we won't hear much dialogue about saving face.
Consider this a jot-it-down-moment or a warning, depending on where you stand on the issue of co-mingling the prim and proper work of one of the most esteemed authors of the late 18th and early 19th century with bloodthirsty zombies with what I'm guessing will be deplorable table manners.
"Mary, mind your manners! I told you to keep your elbows off the dining table. And that goes for the elbows on those arms you're gnawing on as well. And must you moan so?"
Susan Hayward had quite a bit to cry about in the 1950s.
She won her only Academy Award (Best Actress) playing a hooker sentenced to the gas chamber for alleged murder in I Want To Live in 1958.
Three years earlier, however, Hayward channeled young Broadway star Lillian Roth, whose serious bumps in the emotional road led her to using the unsteady crutch of alcohol in the grisly biographical-drama I'll Cry Tomorrow.
Hayward was nominated for Best Actress for I'll Cry Tomorrow as well, but lost out to Anna Magnani of The Rose Tattoo (as did Katharine Hepburn for Summertime and Jennifer Jones for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing).
Ms. Hayward may "cry tomorrow" in the powerful drama, but we'll have to wait until Thursday to see her do it. I'll Cry Tomorrow airs Thursday at 11 p.m. on TCM.
Please remember that all times listed in this weekly classic films on TV update are Central Daylight Time. (Check your local listings for times in your area.)
The theme of serious trouble continues this week with The Asphalt Jungle at 7:15 a.m. Friday on TCM. Even though Marilyn Monroe gets 11th billing in this one and is featured on the poster, the 1950 heist drama directed by John Huston stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen.
Those looking for something gritty, smart and very well done, but more contemporary, need look no further than Erin Brockovich (2000) and Cinderella Man (2005).
Both chronicle Hollywood's version of real-life stories. Julia Roberts took home a Best Actress Academy Award for portraying Brockovich, a legal assistant fighting to protect victims from polluted water (9 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday on AMC), and Russell Crowe got under the tormented skin of world heavyweight boxing champion James Braddock. Cinderella Man airs Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at noon on the Sundance TV Channel.
(Courtesy: United Artists)
If I had to pick just one classic movie to see this week, you know as a great escape from reality, it would be The Great Escape. The 1963 World War II prisoner-of-war drama stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson, just to name a few of the impressive actors at work here.
If it's McQueen, there must be a motorcycle involved. And as Hilts "The Cooler King," McQueen finds one in this tale that ranks as one of the great war flicks.
The unique thing about The Great Escape (9 p.m. Sunday on MGM HD) is that the first half of this based-on-truth story has a comic theme as POWs work to escape from an "escape proof" camp. In the final reels, however, the mood turns more serious.
Look out for an outbreak of jungle fever. It'll be spreading fast Sunday afternoon at 1 over on TCM when Clark Gable tangles romantically with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in John Ford's adventurous romantic-drama Mogambo (1953). Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time. (Check your local listings for times in your area.)
If Gable's great white hunter character and performance look a little familiar, that's Mogambo is a loose remake of Red Dust, a 1932 romantic-drama set on a rubber plantation. That one also starred Gable, along with Jean Harlow.
Rumor has it, if you're into such things, that the romantic heat between Gable and Grace Kelly was real and erupted into an off-screen affair, even though Gable was in his early 50s and Kelly was in her mid-20s.
History buffs might not want to miss Windtalkers at 4 p.m. Saturday on MGM HD. Based on the real-life experiences of Navajo Code Talkers in World War II, Windtalkers stars Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach in an action war drama about Marines assigned to protect the Native Americans using their language as an unbreakable radio code.
I like good Westerns, and I bet many of you do too. There's a good one on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on TCM. That's when Glenn Ford, Van Heflin and Felicia Farr share the screen in 3:10 to Yuma, an exciting drama about a broke rancher (Heflin) who takes the tough assignment to put a notorious outlaw (Ford) on the train to justice.
As you can imagine, the bad guy's gang has other ideas. Note: This film was remade, and remade very well, in 2007 with Russell Crowe in the role of the bad hombre and Christian Bale as the timid rancher.
How about a big ol' singing and dancing Hollywood musical this week? We could do a lot worse than Shall We Dance, which brings up the curtain at 1:30 p.m. Friday on TCM. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers put on their dancing and romancing shoes for this one.
The movie's tagline sums it up nicely: "Foot-free Fred and joyous Ginger ... in their gayest, gladdest show!"
(Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)
And, if I may toss in a personal favorite: My Mom and I loved to share movies. When I was about 12 (in 1959), she was having a difficult day and suggested that we get out of the house for a while.
Mom took me to see the goofy comedy The Mouse That Roared starring Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers and Peter Sellers (in three roles) and co-starring Jean Seberg. I'll never forget that special afternoon at the movies. If you're curious about the movie, it will light up your TV screen at 11 a.m. Saturday on TCM.
And speaking of Sellers, if I had to choose just one classic movie to watch this week, it would be the delightfully offbeat, dark comic-drama Being There. Sellers is magnificent as a simple gardener who, through no fault of his own, gets swept up into Washington politics and, ahem, much more.
Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca." (Courtesy: ona.blog.so-net.ne.jp)
Had legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman not died on her 67th birthday (Aug. 29) in 1982, the radiant screen star and three-time Academy Award winner would have turned 100 years old last Saturday.
We noted Bergman's lofty place in Hollywood history Sunday night during my "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" Movie Memories presentation at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas.
Bergman won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Since the "Savor Those Tunes" presentation is a focus on the best movie songs in history, we celebrated Bergman's performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), which also happens to be my favorite film of all time.
Bergman, who could shed a tear on screen like no other, commanded the camera and audience attention as she asked Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By "for old times sake."
Thanks to Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator, and all the great folks at Highland Springs for an enchanted evening of Movie Memories.
Harvesting the Fields of classic movie comedy
(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)
Maybe it was the fourth-grade education, or perhaps it was the fact that his alcoholic father allegedly hit young William Claude Dunkenfield over the head with a shovel. Whatever it was, caustic comedy came flowing out of W.C. Fields with a flourish.
One of our objectives here is to scan the classic movie TV channels early in the week to offer suggestions for viewing or recording what we consider to be the prime offerings.
That's where W.C. Fields comes in. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Fields day, if you will, on Friday. The high jinks begin at 7 p.m. with The Bank Dick, written by Fields (under the nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves) and starring Fields as a henpecked guy who replaces a film director, appears to capture a bank robber and eventually gets hired as a guard at the bank. Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time. (Check your local listings for times in your area.)
If that's not enough, TCM follows up with It's a Gift (1934) at 8:30 Friday evening and caps off the wacky comedy at 10 with You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), in which Fields shares the screen with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. It's up to you to decide which one is the dummy.
That's just the tip of the classic movies iceberg this week, though. My favorite Western of all time, John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) fills the screen with a great cast of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Edmond O'Brien at 9 a.m. Saturday on AMC.
Later Saturday, at 7 p.m. on TCM, those in the mood for a little romance can enjoy a tangled web of romance and drama starring Bette Davis as a repressed and depressed woman looking for love in some of the wrong places in Now, Voyager (1942), co-starring Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.
If you're like me and you can't pass up a drama featuring the cinematic trifecta of Tennessee Williams (who wrote the stage play), director John Huston and gifted actor Richard Burton, check out The Night of the Iguana, co-starring Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, at 5 p.m. Thursday on TCM.
And, you might want to consider:
Dr. No (1962) -- The first in a long line of James Bond action-spy thrillers features a very young Sean Connery as British secret Agent 007. Ursula Andress provides the eye candy as Honey Ryder. (3 p.m. Friday on MGM HD)
How to Steal a Million (1966) -- Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole join forces in a romantic crime comedy. (Noon Saturday on the FX Movie Channel)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007) -- OK, it's not quite a classic yet, but if you're in the mood for something filled with touching moments with just the right amount of dark, dark, comedy, try this extremely offbeat tale featuring Ryan Gosling as a lonely young man who falls in love with a real doll. Note: When I say a real doll, I do mean a real doll. (4:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD)
If I had to choose just one classic film to see, this week, I would settle in at 10 Friday night on TCM to see the great W.C. Fields do his comic magic in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. I'm a sucker for the outrageous ping pong match.