iheart Halloween!ūüĎĽ

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Halloween is my favorite holiday! It’s a day for self-expression. A day for fun and fantasy. A day for taking control of phobias and fears and turning your back on Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Where’s your power now Fred? Way to shut that mess down.

It’s also a day to indulge in all your favorite classic, creepy, monster, sci-fi horror films.

Therefore, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s pay homage to the original man of horror. The “Man of a Thousand Faces”- Lon Chaney.

 Man of a Thousand Faces РLon Chaney

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Lon Chaney (April 1, 1883¬†‚Äď August 26, 1930), born Leonidas Frank Chaney

Born to deaf parents, Lon learned to express himself and communicate visually. He took his desire to become an actor and created an art form and space for himself that was revolutionary to the motion picture industry. His makeup artistry allowed him to transform and become grotesque characters in films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). He’s regarded as one of the most important character actors of the silent film era. (Wikipedia)

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The original “monster maker”, he would scout out the daily call sheets for a studio finding out what types of extras were needed for that day’s shoot. He created a make-up toolbox of possibilities for him to achieve the look and characterizations needed to be chosen for a role. This talent was the impetus for his unparalleled reputation in the burgeoning film industry.

 lon unknown poster

This flick is by far my favorite Lon Chaney! 

Chaney’s alliance with Director Tod Browning was inspired! Browning was into the macabre and best known for his films Dracula (1931) and the cult classic Freaks (1932) and Lon Chaney had the acting and makeup skills to realize any twisted character¬†the director could come up with.

My favorite movie line is from their 1927 silent film The Unknown – “crack of your ass”. (okay, I can’t swear that’s what he¬†said) But, seriously, as Alonzo the Armless, he threatened his co-star Joan Crawford with bodily harm if she did not bend to his will. Remember Grandma Klump from Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor(1996)? “You might walk over, but you limpin’ back! “Chaney totally went there. Check it out:

Let’s talk about the level of twisted in this movie:

A word of advice, if you’ve got a thing about someone that’s all-consuming and you’d do anything to get with that person, forget about it!

Plot: This crazy man, Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) has a knife-throwing act using only his feet and is in love with Nanon (Joan Crawford) who”can’t bear to be touched.” He has arms¬†but pretends not to for his circus¬†act and so Nanon will talk to him. When it’s discovered that he indeed has arms, he blackmails a low-rent surgeon to amputate them. Sick!

Nanon and Alonzo

lon and nanon

After his surgery, Alonzo returns to the circus and his knife throwing act. Hoping to rekindle his relationship, he strolls over to Nanon’s circus wagon to see his rival Malabar, the circus strongman, (Norman Kerry) with his hands all over his love. Holy crap, it’s on! Alonzo schemes to get his girl back by rigging the speed of Malabar’s horses in his act which will dislocate and sever his arms during the live circus performance.

Alonzo

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Alonzo’s sick plan is working until Nanon realizes what is happening and tries to stop the performance. And then boom! The”crack of your ass” line. As you saw in the clip, things didn’t really work out the way he saw it play out in his mind.

Malabar

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This documentary, The Many Faces of Lon Cheney, is a great biography for more in-depth background information and presents a great opportunity to discover your own Lon Chaney gem.

 

 

Lon Chaney is also the father of Lon Chaney, Jr who was best known¬†for his role in Universal’s “The Wolfman” (1941). The Wolfman is part of the original Universal Monster Franchise including “Dracula” (1931), and “Frankenstein” (1931).

Lon Jr always lived in his father’s shadow and in later years he battled¬†throat cancer¬†and chronic¬†heart disease¬†among other ailments after decades of heavy drinking and smoking. In his final horror film,¬†Dracula vs. Frankenstein¬†(1971), directed by¬†Al Adamson, he played Groton,¬†Dr. Frankenstein’s mute henchman.

¬†Chaney’s career in movies and television spanned four decades, from 1931 to 1971.

Make sure to add Lon Chaney, Sr. and Jr. films to your Halloween lineup. Classics!

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Before “Cabin in the Sky” – Early Black Films of the 1920’s

 

Believe it or not, I appreciate being corrected and kept on my toes about the facts and details of film history.

Thanks to the observant eye of one of my fabulous readers, I’m making a correction to a previous post about¬†“Cabin in the Sky”. I labeled it as the first all black cast and musical which it was not.

 

 

To make sure of my facts, I did some digging and discovered that the first all black sound film was The Melancholy¬†Dame (1929). An early two-reeler, it starred Evelyn Preer¬†(known for her 1920 role of Sylvia Landry in Oscar Micheaux’s “Within Our Gates”), Roberta Hyson, Edward Thompson, and Spencer Williams.

Spencer Williams was an American actor, writer, director, and producer whose early pioneering work in African-American or “race” films was eclipsed in fame by his role as one of the title characters in the equally pioneering and also controversial 1950s sitcom¬†The Amos ‘n Andy Show¬†(1951). (IMDb)

Directed by Arvid E. Gillstrom, the plot of “The Melancholy Dame” involves a nightclub owner’s wife (Evelyn Preer), jealous of his attentions to his star singer, scheming to get her fired. The look on the wife’s face from the opening frame says it all!

 

I can’t believe I found a copy of the film (20 min.) on YouTube.

The first two full-length films with all black casts were “Hearts in Dixie” (1929) starring Daniel Haynes, Nina Mae McKinney, and Victoria Spivey and “Hallelujah” (1929) which starred Clarence Muse, Stepin’ Fetchit, and Mildred Washington. “Hearts in Dixie” was also the first all black-oriented all-talking film from a major company. (The Chronical History of the Negro in America)

 

“Hearts in Dixie” celebrates African-American music and dance and was released by Fox Film Corporation just months before Hallelujah,¬†produced¬†by¬†competitor¬†Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The director of¬†Hearts in Dixie¬†was¬†Paul Sloane. Walter Weems wrote the screenplay, and¬†William Fox¬†was the producer. (Wikipedia)

“Hearts in Dixie”¬†unfolds as a series of sketches of life among American blacks. It featured characters with dignity, who took action on their own, and who were not slaves.¬†The plot focuses on Grandfather Nappus (Clarence Muse), his daughter, Chloe (Bernice Pilot), her young son, Chinaquapin (Eugene Jackson), and her husband, Gummy (Stepin Fetchit).

To make certain his grandson Chinaquapin does not end up like his father or become tainted by the superstitions that dominate the community, the grandfather decides to send the boy away.

 

“Hallelujah”(1929), was the first all black musical and was directed by King Vidor and produced by MGM studios. It was intended for a general audience and was considered so risky a venture by¬†MGM¬†that they required King Vidor to invest his own salary in the production.

Vidor expressed an interest in “showing the Southern Negro as he is”(whatever that means)¬†and attempted to present a relatively non-stereotyped view of African-American life.

“Hallelujah!”¬†was King Vidor’s first sound film, and combined sound recorded on location and sound recorded post-production in Hollywood.¬†King Vidor was nominated for a Best Director¬†Oscar¬†for the film.

It was the first major studio musical and the first of its kind in Hollywood history.¬†In 2008, “Hallelujah!”¬†was selected for preservation in the United States¬†National Film Registry¬†by the¬†Library of Congress¬†as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

 

Vidor thought the time was right to test the waters of racial tolerance with a tale of sex, murder, religion, and music enacted by a black cast. He also wanted to take advantage of the emerging sound technology that was revolutionizing the film industry.

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These 3 films were some of the first race talkies ever and despite the stereotypes, these films are important as they were made with black actors for black audiences (thus ‘race films’).

African Americans produced films for black audiences as early as 1905, but most race films were produced after 1915. As many as 500 race films were produced in the United States between 1915 and 1952. As happened later with the early black sitcoms on television, race movies were most often financed by white-owned companies, such as Leo Popkin, and scripted and directed by whites, although one producer, Alfred N. Sack, made some films written and directed by black talent such as Spencer Williams (actor).

 

Many race films were produced by white-owned film companies outside the Hollywood-centered American film industry such as Million Dollar Productions in the 1930s and Toddy Pictures in the 1940s. One of the earliest surviving examples of a black cast film aimed at a black audience is A Fool and His Money (1912), directed by French emigree Alice Guy for the Solax Film Company. The Ebony Film Company of Chicago, created specifically to produce black-cast films, was also headed by a white production team.

Some black-owned studios existed, including¬†Lincoln Motion Picture Company¬†(1916‚Äď1921), and most notably¬†Oscar Micheaux‘s Chicago-based Micheaux Film Corporation, which operated from¬†1918‚Äď1940. On his posters, Micheaux advertised that his films were scripted and produced exclusively by African Americans.¬†Astor Pictures¬†also released several race films and produced¬†Beware¬†with¬†Louis Jordan.

 

 

Race films vanished during the early 1950s after African-American participation in World War II contributed to black actors in leading roles in several Hollywood major productions, which focussed on the serious problems of integration and racism, such as Pinky with Ethel Waters; Home of the Brave with James Edwards; and Intruder in the Dust, all in 1949; and No Way Out (1950), which was the debut of the notable actor Sidney Poitier. The last known race film appears to have been an obscure adventure film of 1954 called Carib Gold. (Wikipedia)

Thanks to my original error, I ended up learning so much more about the history of black ‘race’ films and the long, rich history of African American artists.

 

 

First All Black Film – Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Cabin in the Sky

Produced in 1943 at MGM by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincent Minnelli, “Cabin in the Sky” is the 1st all Black film produced by a major studio in Hollywood. “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and sung by the film’s star, Ethel Waters.

This musical take on Faust pits Little Joe (Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) against Luther Jr. (Lucifer’s baby boy). Enter temptress Georgia Brown (Lena Horne). Does Little Joe’s wife, Petunia (Ethel Waters) even stand a chance or will Joe be condemned to Hell?

 

 

“Cabin in the Sky”¬†in featuring an all-African American¬†cast was an unusual production for its time. In the 1940s, movie theaters in many cities, particularly in the southern¬†United States, refused to show films with prominent black performers, so MGM took a considerable financial risk by approving the film. (Wikipedia)

Some remember “Cabin in the Sky”¬†for its intelligent and witty script, which some claimed treated its characters and their race with a dignity rare in American films of the time. Others described¬†Cabin in the Sky’s racial politics as the same “old stereotypes of Negro caricatures”.

Cabin in the Sky

Ethel Waters, Kenneth Spencer, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Lena Horne, Rex Ingram

According to liner notes in the CD reissue of the film’s soundtrack, Freed and Minnelli sought input from black leaders before production began on the film.

When I first saw this film as a kid in the 60’s I was absolutely floored. This was during the civil rights era and I had no idea that in the 1940’s a major production company had taken on the issue of the lack of black representation in film. I understand the point about the stereotypical characterizations – Lena Horne, the aggressive, hypersexual black woman. Ethel Waters, the dutiful, prayerful housewife and “Rochester”, the buffoonish and no account lazy black man.

My feelings of the film are mixed because to some extent, it feeds into the political narrative that some black folks aren’t worthy of equality because they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they had it. But on the other hand, there was finally a film with all black faces, the most gifted entertainers of all-time – Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and their stories. These characters weren’t just sprinkled in, they were integral to the plot and couldn’t be cut out in racist southern theaters.

As a black¬†woman, it both breaks my heart and angers me that we even needed to have this conversation, not only in the ’40’s but as an ongoing fight for all aspects of African-American representation on-screen.

 

 

After years of unavailability,¬†Warner Home Video¬†and Turner Entertainment released “Cabin in the Sky”¬†on DVD on January 10, 2006. I recommend checking it out with this backstory in mind. These legendary artists deserved to have worldwide exposure the same as their white counterparts of the day.

 

We’ve come along way, but the truth is we still have a long way to go.

 

Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Busby Berkeley¬†(“Shine” sequence, uncredited)
Produced by Arthur Freed
Albert Lewis
Written by Marc Connelly(uncredited)
Lynn Root (play)
Joseph Schrank
Based on Cabin in the Sky (play)
Starring Ethel Waters
Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
Lena Horne
Louis Armstrong
Music by Harold Arlen
Vernon Duke
George Bassman
Roger Edens
Cinematography Sidney Wagner
Editing by Harold F. Kress
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • April¬†9,¬†1943
Running time 98 minutes

 

 

“Dancing and Singing at the Movies” ūüíÉūüŹĹūüé∂

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It seems every time someone asks the question “What’s your favorite? (fill in the blank film) that’s what happens to me…BLANK; there are just too many. ¬†So, I decided to prep for the next occasion.

With the new film “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone being touted as this generation’s “Singing in the Rain”, I decided to start with the Musicals genre. These are some of my favorites that also made AFI’s list of the Top 5 Musicals of all time!

 

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Can you name yours? ¬†Let’s share.

# FILM YEAR STUDIO
1 SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 1952 MGM
2 WEST SIDE STORY 1961 United Artists
3 WIZARD OF OZ, THE 1939 MGM
4 SOUND OF MUSIC, THE 1965 Twentieth Century-Fox
5 CABARET 1972 Allied Artists

 

Some of my favorite quotes!

 

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

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Lina: ¬†[with a voice to peel paint] ¬†And I cayn’t stand’im. ¬† ¬†Holy crap! This line makes the movie for me!!

 

This celebrated musical-comedy was directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. Starring Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds, it offers a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s, with the three stars portraying performers caught up in the transition from silent films to “talkies.” (Wikipedia)

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West Side Story (1961)

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[singing]

Bernardo: ¬†“I’d like to go back to San Juan.”

Anita: ¬†“I know a boat you can get on!”

Ha! ¬†Bernardo, you do you, cause I’m gonna do me!

 

Ah, the Sharks and the Jets who turn a knife fight into the coolest, choreographed ballet I’ve ever seen. I also have a particular fondness for this film having performed in a community theater stage production.

Jets

Jets

A musical romantic drama directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins,¬†the film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris.

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning 10, including Best Picture (as well as a special award for Robbins), “West Side Story” is the record-holder for the most wins for a movie musical. (Wikipedia)

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The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 

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Cowardly Lion: ¬†”¬†Alright I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

Tin Woodsman,¬†Scarecrow: ¬†“What’s that?”

Cowardly Lion: ¬†“Talk me out of it!”

 Oh, Lion Рyou just gotta love him!

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “The Wizard of Oz” is the most well-known and commercially successful adaptation based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.¬†The classic stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale. The co-stars include¬†Ray Bolger¬†(The Scarecrow), Jack Haley¬†(The Tin Man), Bert Lahr¬†(The Cowardly Lion), Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton¬†(The Wicked Witch of the West), with Charley Grapewin, Terry the dog (billed as Toto), and the Singer Midgets as the Munchkins.

Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and unusual characters, over the years, it has become an icon of American popular culture. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but lost to “Gone with the Wind”. It did win in two other categories, including Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow” and Best Original Score by Herbert Stothart. (Wikipedia)

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The Sound of Music (1965)

 

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Maria: ¬†“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

 Without a doubt, Maria!  Amen!

 

This song by Christina Perri ¬†“A Thousand Years” isn’t from the film but I felt it perfectly reflected the relationship between Maria and the Captain.

“The Sound of Music”¬†was produced and directed by Robert Wise, and starred¬†Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. An adaptation of the 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music, composed by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II¬†it was based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp.

 

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Cabaret (1972)

 

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Sally: ¬†” I’m going to be a great film star! That is¬†if booze and sex don’t get me first.”

This is a very prophetic quote considering the fate of many a would-be star.

 

This stylish, socially conscious musical drama was directed by the legendary choreographer¬†Bob Fosse and stars¬†Liza Minnelli, Michael York. and Joel Grey. The setting is Berlin in 1931 with the Nazis’ violent rise serving as a powerful, ever-present undercurrent in the film.

Liza Minnelli won the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of the flamboyant, cabaret performer, Sally Bowles, with the film also garnering Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Original Song Score and Adaptation, and Best Film Editing. It holds the record for most Oscars earned by a film not honored for Best Picture. “The Godfather” took the prize. (Wikipedia)

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Chicago (2002)

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Although the stylized, Jazz Age hit “Chicago”(2002) didn’t make the AFI Top 5, (#12), I couldn’t omit this sizzling number, Cell Block Tango. “He had it comin'”‚ėļ‚ėļ

 

A film version of Chicago was to have been the next project for Bob Fosse, who had directed and choreographed the original 1975 Broadway production but he died before realizing his vision.

Fosse’s distinctive jazz choreography style is evident throughout and he is thanked in the credits. The movie explores the themes of celebrity, scandal, and corruption in Chicago during the Jazz Age. (Wikipedia)

 

chicago movie

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger

 

Starring¬†Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ren√©e Zellweger, and Richard Gere,¬†“Chicago” centers on Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Zellweger), two murderesses who find themselves in jail together awaiting trial in 1920s Chicago.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah “Mama”

For her part, the multi-talented rapper, actress, producer, Queen Latifah’s role as Matron “Mama” Morton earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The movie was the winner of six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture. The film was the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968.

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There are definitely a lot more for the list so please, let me know some of your picks in the comments!

 

“Dance and Sing Get Up and Do Your Thing” – AFI’s Top 5 Musicals

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It seems every time someone asks the question “What’s your favorite? (fill in the blank) that’s what happens to me…BLANK. ¬†So, I decided to prep for the next occasion. ¬†Here’s the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 5 Musicals of All time! ¬†West Side Story and Cabaret have already made the list on my Songbird Oscar Winners post. ¬†I think I got this!

Can you name yours? ¬†Let’s share.

# FILM YEAR STUDIO
1 SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 1952 MGM
2 WEST SIDE STORY 1961 United Artists
3 WIZARD OF OZ, THE 1939 MGM
4 SOUND OF MUSIC, THE 1965 Twentieth Century-Fox
5 CABARET 1972 Allied Artists

 

Some of my favorite quotes from the films!

Singing in the rain poster

Lina: ¬†[with a voice to peel paint] ¬†And I cayn’t stand’im. ¬† ¬†Holy crap! This line makes the movie for me!!

 

 

 

West Side Poster

[singing]

Bernardo: ¬†” I’d like to go back to San Juan.”

Anita: ¬†“I know a boat you can get on!”

 

Ha! ¬†You do you, cause I’m gonna do me!

 

 

Wizard of Oz

Cowardly Lion: ¬†”¬†Alright¬† I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

Tin Woodsman,¬†Scarecrow: ¬†“What’s that?”

Cowardly Lion: ¬†“Talk me out of it!”

 

Oh Lion – you just gotta love him!

 

 

 

Sound of Music

 

Maria: ¬†“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

 

Without a doubt!  Amen!

 

 

Cabaret poster

 

Sally: ¬†” I’m going to be a great film star! That is, if booze and sex don’t get me first.”

 

Quote is dead on. ¬†What’s up Ms Liza?

 

 

 

 

”Fame” – Movie that changed my life

Fameposter

 

Seems Facebook ¬†has started an – “on this day 1 year ago memory” feature on my timeline. I look at this as either an opportunity to relive warm memories or regret an overshare posting that will follow me for eternity. Fortunately, my 1 year ago memory is one of my warmest; my observations of the movie that most influenced my life. So, in keeping with the spirit of retrospection, here’s “Fame” – Movie That Changed My Life, originally posted June 6, 2014.

♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥

I was reading an article about music that influenced the author’s life. ¬†Since my thing is film, I started thinking about movies that affected my life. ¬†My very first thought was right on. ¬†“Fame” – Released May 16, 1980. Directed by Alan Parker. ¬†Screenplay by¬†Christopher Gore. (Lyric:…baby remember my name.”)

 

The film chronicles the lives of aspiring students attending a New York High School for the Performing Arts. We follow their journey from auditioning to acceptance, through graduation. It won 2 Oscars – Best Music, Original Song -“Fame” and Best Music, Original Score.

 

Coming out of the theater that night my life had changed with the realization that I must pursue my lifetime love of music and performing.  Honor my spirit!

From birth, I was an artist. ¬†Growing up in Motown there was music a plenty. ¬†Listening to Smoky Robinson, The Temptations, The Supremes, you get the idea, I could visualize the movie behind the song lyrics. ¬†I can’t prove it, but I believe I came up with the idea for the music video. ¬†Thanks for the credit MTV:)

I also loved to sing and knew the words to any and every song. ¬†Old or new, it didn’t matter. ¬†Yes, I was the girl with the hairbrush microphone pouring my heart out to Lulu’s “To Sir With Love.” ¬†My friends and I even got together forming our own girls group. ¬†Look out Diana Ross, there’s a new diva in town.

 

Throughout my school years, I found my way into choirs and in college I took an acting class or two. However, as an adult I never actually took the leap to being an actress and vocalist. ¬†Never declared, “I’m a performer.” ¬†Until I heard “I Sing The Body Electric.”¬†

I sing the body electric.

I celebrate the me yet to come.

I toast to my own reunion.

When I become one with the sun.

 

Having left Motown in 1985 for Chi-town, my moment had arrived.  Chicago is an incredible city and the theater scene is amazing! The local park district had a theater group so I dared myself to audition for the musical Pal Joey. I did, got cast, and, as they say, the rest is history.  From that moment on I was either in a play, auditioning for a play or in rehearsals for a play.

I’ve performed in pretty much every musical you can think of: ¬†Bye, Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors, Cabaret. (You get the idea) ¬†I found my theater family and my voice. ¬†I realized that performing was the missing piece of my soul, my essence. ¬†And it all started on that spring evening in May 1980 with Fame. ¬†“I’m gonna live forever. Baby remember my name!”

 

fame_title

 

Dedicated to Anne Meara

(September 20, 1929 –¬†May 23, 2015)

Anne Meara 1975

(Played English teacher Elizabeth Sherwood – Fame 1980)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iheart Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday! It’s a day for self-expression. A day for fun and fantasy. A day for taking control of phobias and fears and turning your back on Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Where’s your power now Fred? Way to shut that mess down.

It’s also a day to indulge in all your favorite classic, creepy, monster, sci-fi horror films.

Therefore, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s pay homage to the original man of horror. The “Man of a Thousand Faces”- Lon Chaney.

 Man of a Thousand Faces РLon Chaney

lon chaney man of a

Lon Chaney (April 1, 1883¬†‚Äď August 26, 1930), born Leonidas Frank Chaney

Born to deaf parents, Lon learned to express himself and communicate visually. He took his desire to become an actor and created an art form and space for himself that was revolutionary to the motion picture industry. His makeup artistry allowed him to transform and become grotesque characters in films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). He’s regarded as one of the most important character actors of the silent film era.

lon chaney headshot

The original “monster maker”, he would scout out the daily call sheets for a studio finding out what types of extras were needed for that day’s shoot. He created a make-up toolbox of possibilities for him to achieve the look and characterizations needed to be chosen for a role. This talent was the impetus for his unparalleled reputation in the burgeoning film industry.

 lon unknown poster

This flick is by far my favorite Lon Chaney! 

Chaney’s alliance with Director Tod Browning was inspired! Browning was into the macabre and best known for his films Dracula (1931) and the cult classic Freaks (1932) and Lon Chaney had the acting and makeup skills to realize any twisted character¬†the director could come up with.

My favorite movie line is from their 1927 silent film The Unknown – “crack of your ass”. (okay, I can’t swear that’s what he¬†said) But, seriously, as Alonzo the Armless, he threatened his co-star Joan Crawford with bodily harm if she did not bend to his will. Remember Grandma Klump from Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor(1996)? “You might walk over, but you limpin’ back! “Chaney totally went there. Check it out:

Let’s talk about the level of twisted in this movie:

A word of advice, if you’ve got a thing about someone that’s all consuming and you’d do anything to get with that person, forget about it!

Plot: This crazy man, Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) has a knife throwing act using only his feet and is in love with Nanon (Joan Crawford) who”can’t bear to be touched.” He has arms¬†but pretends not to for his act and so Nanon will talk to him. When it’s discovered that he indeed has arms, he blackmails a low-rent surgeon to amputate them. Sick!

Nanon and Alonzo

lon and nanon

After his surgery, Alonzo returns to the circus and his knife throwing act. Hoping to rekindle his relationship, he strolls over to Nanon’s circus wagon to see his rival Malabar, the circus strongman, (Norman Kerry) with his hands all over his love. Holy crap, it’s on! Alonzo schemes to get his girl back by rigging the speed of Malabar’s horses in his act which will dislocate and sever his arms during the live circus performance.

Alonzo

lon feet

Alonzo’s sick plan is working until Nanon realizes what is happening and tries to stop the performance. And then boom! The”crack of your ass” line. As you saw in the clip, things didn’t really work out the way he saw it play out in his mind.

Malabar

lon malabar stretch

This documentary, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces is a great biography for more in-depth background information and presents a great opportunity to discover your own Lon Chaney gem.

Here it is, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces

 

Lon Chaney is also the father of Lon Chaney, Jr best known¬†for his role in Universal’s The Wolfman (1941).