Stuntmen- a ‘respected heavy’

IMG_1966Found in Spotlight’s Register of Stunt Performers and Stunt Arrangers: 1991-93 this entry on the ‘respected heavy’ Michael Crane. A fascinating book, mostly men, some listing the equipment that they can provide (Abseiling equipment, Air Bags, Fire Suits etc.,) Michel Crane, a formidable figure, also worked as a bodyguard in those inevitable resting periods in the life of a stuntman…minding Heads of State, Royalty, Pop Stars- the usual crew. His entry reads:

Michael Crane.

Height: 6ft 7in

Weight: 25st

Chest: 55in

Credits: 

Stunt Arranger: Henry Rawlinson’s End.

Stunt Performer: Brannigan, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Legend, Defrosting the Fridge.

Capabilities: Driving Stunts, small arms expert, boxing and all general stunt work.

Acting Experience: twenty-five years experience playing small parts, heavies, giants, monsters, pirates, Scotsmen, Blacksmith etc.

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Sabrina—Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe

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Sabrina on the set of ‘Blue Murder at St Trinians’ being sketched by Ronald Searle

Found in the Peter Haining Archive a small file on the now forgotten fifties British glamour model Sabrina, who in 1936 was born in Stockport as Norma Sykes. The nature of some of the contents of the file, which includes three large glossy prints of the scantily clad model in various provocative poses, suggests that Haining was one of the thousands of young ( and not so young) men who had fantasised about the bosomy blonde in her heyday, when she was compared to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. His curiosity may have prompted either by research for a possible book on Arthur Askey, in whose TV shows she had appeared, or by another clipping in the Archive—-a double-page spread in The Mail on Sunday for September 1st 2002.

In this article Sabrina, who following her unsuccessful bid for Hollywood stardom had settled for a life of leisure as the wife of a wealthy LA gynaecologist, only to lose most of it following her divorce, was tracked down by reporters to a seedy corner of Beverley Hills :  Continue reading

Gillian Hills–Beat Girl

For someone brought up with the Beatles, it’s difficult to understand the attraction for teenagers of what came immediately before the Fab Four transformed pop music for ever. Here, for instance, is the back page Film Review promo for Beat Girlbeatgirl_poster a movie released in 1960 that purported to show ‘ squares ‘ what their ‘beatnik’ teenage sons and daughters were getting up to behind their backs. Starring the pop singer Adam Faith ( his film debut at the age of 18 ), horror star Christopher Lee, a young Oliver Reed and the fifteen year old bilingual starlet Gillian Hills, it was also the debut of John Barry, who went on to forge a glittering career in film music.

In 1960, most pop music fans were more interested in how teen idol Faith would cut it as an actor, than they were seeing ‘ the second Bardot ‘, as Roger Vadim hyped the fifteen year Hills, but looking back, it is odd that latter’s acting career never took off. Here was an actress, whose striking blonde beauty and obvious acting talent should have propelled her to greater things. In ‘Beat Girl’ Hills plays the ‘ bad girl ‘ Jennifer, the sulky-looking beatnik, who rejects the values of her respectable parents and lives for the kicks she gets out of dancing in night clubs and hanging out in milk bars. In the opening scenes of the film she is a pouting, free-spirited presence as she descends the stairs to the basement dance floor, where, seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone around her, she begins a freestyle dance routine. On her website ( which is worth a visit ) Hills describes the dance thus: ‘ my brain flipped, my feet followed and I was off’. As for her role as Jennifer, she saw it as a protest at her treatment by her Lycee in Paris, who expelled her for taking on a debut role in Vadim’s Les Liaisons Dangereux ‘.

 

‘I could vent my frustration, my disgust, the helplessness and despair, and the anger at what had happened to my life in the recent months.’

‘Beat Girl’ proved popular in Britain, but was banned in France. However, this did not prevent Hills from taking roles in a number of French films in the early sixties and from recording pop songs in French, including the annoyingly catchy ‘ Zou Bisou Bisou’ (1961), which was later used in ‘Mad Men’. But in Britain the film roles were small. She was a brunette in the cultish ‘Blow Up ‘(1966) and in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ she had a cameo. She also appeared occasionally on British TV.Gillian Hills pic

In 1975 Hills decided to stop making films and left for New York City to try her luck as a book and magazine illustrator. Judging from the artwork on her website, she appears to have genuine artistic talent too! At 72, Hills now lives in England with her husband Stewart Young, manager of AC/DC and Cyndi Lauper, among other artistes. [R.M.Healey]

 

 

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I don’t want to be alone (or I was Garbo’s double)

The real Garbo left. Thanks GarboForever.com

General Montgomery, Idi Amin and various Japanese emperors had doubles, and so it seems did the screen siren Greta Garbo. Her name was Jeraldine (or Geraldine) Dvorak and the revelation first appeared in a magazine in September 1931.

Today, we would call them body doubles and when they are used it is usually to undertake dangerous stunts. Seldom, if ever, are close shots taken of them and even when long shots are used it is only for a second or a fraction of one. Most shots of body doubles are taken sideways or from the back, most memorably as in the case of the seduction scene in The Wicker Man, when we are treated to the attractive backside belonging to the double of Ursula Andress.

The photos show that the resemblance of Dvorak to Garbo was astonishing and only differed in one small respect—the colour of their eyes, which in the era of black and white movies would not have mattered anyway. In the car smash scene in Woman of Affairs Dvorak, and not Garbo, was lifted from the wreckage; and Dvorak also acted in the snow scenes in Love. She could supply a passable Swedish accent and even sang in place of the star in Romance. We know that Garbo was no singer, but why she couldn’t be bothered to act as an injured car passenger or get her shoes damp is not explained in the article. Later sources suggest that she might have been pregnant at the time. Nor was Dvorak required only for long shots. On one occasion a cameraman got away with a ten foot close-up of her face!

So confident were the studio chiefs in Dvorak’s ability to stand-in for the star that on one famous occasion they arranged for her to impersonate Garbo off-screen as well. Garbo disliked film premieres and so at the premiere of a film in which she had starred alongside John Gilbert, Dvorak was commanded to accompany the male lead. In the theatre she found it hard to respond naturally to the audience acclaim that was obviously meant for Garbo, so she just wore a fake smile throughout. Nor, to everyone’s relief, did she attempt to sign any autographs. Thankfully for all concerned the evening went off without a hitch and Dvorak was duly congratulated for her best performance yet.

Like all stand-ins Dvorak yearned to be appreciated for herself, but alas she was to remain either a Garbo or Dietrich double or to take on bit parts as models or party guests. She doesn’t seem to have acted much after the late forties and died a forgotten figure in 1985.

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A statement from Chaplin via Raymond Williams

Found in a copy of Preface to Film (Film Drama Limited, London  1954) this statement by Charlie (Charles) Chaplin. An interesting and rare book by two notable figures from the 1940s - Michael Orrom and Raymond Williams. The dust jacket art is by Michael Stringer, an illustrator mainly associated with natural history books. Williams was an important academic, novelist and member of the 'New Left' and Orrom , also a man of the left, became a documentary film maker. Chaplin's statement first appeared in the magazine The Adelphi in 1924, this is probably its first appearance in a book. Orrom and Williams' book advances new film theories: the blurb states: 'The main belief of the authors is that naturalism, as a dramatic method and technique in the film, is not finally satisfactory...' There is one change in Chaplin's statement from the 1924 version, possibly a misprint - 'terrifying' becomes 'terrific.'

I prefer my own taste as a truer expression of what the public wants of me than anything that I can fathom out of the things that I observe either in my own work or in that of others who are unmistakably successful.

I have heard directors, scenario writers, and others who are directly concerned with the shape that the motion picture shall take, argue under the shadow of this great fear of the public. They begin with a good idea, then they lose courage and deceive themselves. The consciousness of what the public will want is for them so terrific [terrifying.]If they do something that is a little different because they have forgotten while filming the episode that there is such a thing as an audience, they are in doubt about it when they stop to consider. It is difficult to consider the public secondarily, but unless the person making the picture can achieve that state, there will be no originality in his work. [Charles Chaplin]

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River and Joaquin Phoenix – young vegans

Found - a vegan book from 1987 Pregnancy Children and the Vegan Diet by Michael Klaper ( Gentle World inc., Florida.) An interesting slightly out dated book but still of great interest because of the vegan children on the cover - the late teenage heart-throb River Phoenix, his sisters Liberty and Summer Phoenix, and his brother Leaf who changed his name to Joaquin Phoenix (same row, right) and is thankfully still with us.

The jolly gap toothed kid at bottom left is Ocean Robbins, son of John Robbins of the Baskin Robbins dynasty and author of the groundbreaking Diet for a new America. The story of the Phoenix family is told at River Phoenix's Wikipedia entry.

The parents were hippies of the 1970s, ex Children of God, who had become vegans at a commune in South America. When they finally got as far as Los Angeles top child star agent Iris Burton spotted River, Joaquin and their sisters Summer and Rain singing for spare change in Westwood, and was so charmed by the family that she soon represented the four siblings. At jot we are keen on recipes - here is one from this excellent work:

TOFU EGGLESS SALAD

2 12 oz cakes of tofu
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon oil
2 small onions, diced
2 celery stalks diced
Half teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

In a medium size bowl, mash the tofu add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate to keep cold. Delicious with salad or as a sandwich. Serves 4.

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Vincent Price sees a ghost..

Found in an anthology of  supernatural encounters by the famous - I Saw a Ghost edited by Ben Noakes (Weidenfeld, 1986)- this account by Vincent Price.

On 15 November 1958 I had an extraordinary glimpse of the unknown  whilst on a flight between Hollywood to New York   I was immersed in a book**  for most of the journey, but at one point, glanced idly out of the window.  To my horror I saw huge, brilliant letters emblazoned across a cloud bank spelling out the message "TYRONE POWER  DEAD".  it was a terrific shock, I began to doubt my senses when I realised that nobody else on the plane appeared to have seen them, but for a few seconds they were definitely there, like huge teletype, lit up with blinding light from within the clouds.  When I landed in New York I was told that Tyrone Power, had died (suddenly) a couple of hours earlier.

**In one account the book is a classic French novel - which might explain something. Also worth noting is that Power was a close friend of Price. The book bears a presentation to the artist Ronald Searle from Noakes. RS contributes a similar piece about being woken up in the South of France  by Laura West Perelman the late wife of his friend Sid Perelman (and sister of Nathaniel West) who announces to him 'Sid is Dead' - the next morning he receives a call telling him that Perelman had been found dead in his hotel room in New York during that same night.