Monday, May 6, 2024

WALL OF NOISE (1963)

Title: WALL OF NOISE 

Year of Release: 1963

Director: Richard Wilson

Genre: Drama, Sport

Synopsis: An ambitious horse trainer's problems on the track extend into his busy personal life, especially with the opposite sex.

Within a film history context: Films which have a horse trainer as their central character have been quite sporadic in cinema history. One of the first major examples was Milton Carruth's BREEZING HOME (1937). The trials and travails of a horse trainer who falls in with some unscrupulous types, but is not drawn into their machinations, were the focus of this movie, along with the lead's romances. SPEED TO BURN (1938), directed by Otto Brower, had a young adult horse trainer who goes through a number of perilous situations, and encounters surly people, in order to see his horse run in the race. S. Sylvan Simon's SPORTING BLOOD (1940), starred Robert Young as a complicated young man who returns to his home town, and seeks to train a horse for a race. He finds not only support and romance, but also, misgivings on the part of others, due to his father's past. HOME IN INDIANA (1944), directed by Henry Hathaway, had an impulsive young man train horses, but not without distraction from the young women who seek to attract, and win his attention. 
Clarence Brown's NATIONAL VELVET (1944), was the classic story of a budding young equestrienne, and her association with a footloose young man, who together aim to train her horse for a major English racing competition. 

With THE RED STALLION (1947), directed by Lesley Selander, a young boy trains a horse in order to assist his grandmother with her expenses, but finds some nice surprises along the way in his journey. Joseph Newman's THE GREAT DAN PATCH (1949), was based upon the real-life story of racing horse Dan Patch, and his trainer's difficulties not only with the equine but also, his personal troubles. THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT (1949), directed by David Butler, was another example of a true story adapted for the screen. Here, the real-life racing exploits of horse Seabiscuit are the focus, with a trainer's niece falling for a jockey in this family movie. Frank Capra's comedy RIDING HIGH (1950), followed a man whose family want him to take a conventional route in life and participate in the family business, but whose heart lies in horse racing. WALL OF NOISE was one of the most serious of the entries about a horse trainer compared to other examples.

Several of the films, such as SPEED TO BURN, HOME IN INDIANA, NATIONAL VELVET, and THE RED STALLION, featured young adults who trained horses. These largely eschewed romantic subplots, with the exception of HOME IN INDIANA, and were of a family orientation. There was also a subtle coming of age theme present in these pictures, with the young men in question finding not only themselves but also, their purpose in life. WALL OF NOISE was allied more to the films which had an adult horse trainer, with BREEZING HOME, SPORTING BLOOD, THE GREAT DAN PATCH, THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT, and RIDING HIGH. Where WALL OF NOISE diverted was in its mature, intricate storytelling style, where sentimentality was not a presiding feature of the movie. The happy feelings evoked by RIDING HIGH, for example, were not present in WALL OF NOISE, with this film's emphasis of a dramatic nature. This is obvious in many areas of the movie. 

The horse trainer in WALL OF NOISE, Joel Tarrant, was uncompromising, and unsparing in his devotion to his sport, despite the many pitfalls it possesses for him. This gave WALL OF NOISE a harder, more compelling edge which the more conventional narratives could not offer. The other characters in the picture were similarly three-dimensional in their presentation, ensuring that the movie was geared to appeal to an adult audience, rather than to younger viewers. Romance is an area which WALL OF NOISE does not enter, keeping matters on a less mawkish level. Joel does have two dalliances with women in the film, but these exhibit the character's dispassionate feelings towards the opposite sex, not utilizing a softer approach in this arena. An intelligent examination of a horse trainer, and his dealings with those in this set, WALL OF NOISE is a perceptive movie.

Overview: Richard Wilson was an American director of eight motion pictures in his career over a fifteen-year period, from 1955 until 1970. His movies were mainly dramas, with two westerns, and several crime pictures among these. Mr Wilson's first movie, MAN WITH THE GUN (1955), was a western about a mysterious man who arrives in a small town, seeking to restore law and order. In crime drama THE BIG BOODLE (1957), a blackjack dealer is caught in a web of corruption and deceit linked to counterfeit money. Film noir was on the agenda for Richard Wilson with RAW WIND IN EDEN (1958). The arrival of a model, and her friend on a remote Mediterranean island causes waves for a man and his daughter, specifically of the romantic kind. AL CAPONE (1959), was the director's interpretation of the life of the infamous gangster, charting his ascent as crime kingpin, to his jailing. Aside from providing Rod Steiger with a showy role as Al Capone, it was one of the most popular films of its year. 

Crime once again was the focal point of PAY OR DIE! (1960). The career of real-life New York City police officer Joseph Petrosino was examined, particularly his fight against the Manhattan Black Hand racket of the early 1900s. Western INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER (1964), followed a gunfighter returning to his home, and finding himself not only without his home but also, marked opposition to his presence on a large scale by the town's inhabitants. THREE IN THE ATTIC (1968), was in contrast to Mr Wilson's other movies. A Don Juan romances three young women simultaneously, but their discovery of his activities leads them to lock him in an attic, where they take turns at having their way with him. Though not critically acclaimed, it was nevertheless a financial success for American International Pictures. WALL OF NOISE was Richard Wilson's sixth picture, and one of his most solid efforts.

With WALL OF NOISE, Richard Wilson has made a smoothly executed, nifty film. Taking the horse racing industry as its centerpiece, especially concentrating upon its lead character, driven horse trainer Joel Tarrant, and the assorted colorful people he encounters, it is a crisply made picture. The director has ensured that the story follows a logical and interesting course, with many surprising twists and turns throughout its running time. Scenes are all perfectly timed and never rushed, the viewer finding out exactly what the characters want, and why. Their passions are all real, and understandable. Some personalities in the movie may appear all bluster on the surface, but the screenplay assists the spectator to look deeper into what motivates these people. Aside from this, the background details of the horse racing industry itself are fascinating to witness, as are the wheeling and dealing to which many of the characters are given. It is obvious that time and effort have gone into research to make the movie as authentic as possible. An insightful peek into the racing world, WALL OF NOISE is an entertaining motion picture from director Richard Wilson.

Acting: WALL OF NOISE has stimulating performances which make the movie an enjoyable experience. In the lead role of Joel Tarrant, hard as nails horse trainer, Ty Hardin is excellent. A handsome actor with a surprising vulnerability which is displayed at just the right time in the film, his acting is strong here. The married woman who turns Joel's head, Laura Rubio, is given shading and humor by Suzanne Pleshette. A lovely actress with a knack for creating mysterious, but earthy heroines, Miss Pleshette's smoky voice and poise remain in the memory. The charismatic, complicated Matt Rubio, construction mogul and racing dabbler, is a sublime turn by Ralph Meeker. Flashing his ever-ready smile, spouting his endless list of schemes, and witty comebacks, Mr Meeker's Matt is a fascinating presence in WALL OF NOISE. Four other performances deserve mention in WALL OF NOISE.

Barnstorming modelling agency owner, and horse enthusiast Johnny Papadakis, is played with vigor by Simon Oakland. With his volatility and cutthroat ways, Mr Oakland turns what could have been a caricature into a distinctive persona. Joel's erstwhile flame Ann is given nuance and depth by Dorothy Provine. Although never a victim who takes things lying down, Ann is hard done by several people in the film, and ably captures the audience's sympathy, ensuring that they are rooting for her to have a happy ending. Spunky jockey Bud Kelsey, who takes a protective stance towards Ann, is given oomph by Jimmy Murphy. With his readiness to defend and attack, and ability to stand up for himself unequivocally, Mr Murphy offers a punchy interpretation of the lively jockey. The final acting of merit was by Murray Matheson as Jack Matlock, Joel's confidant. With his quiet, yet worldly, and philosophical ways, Mr Matheson adds a touch of class, and international pizazz, to WALL OF NOISE.

Soundtrack: William Lava's score is pleasing, adding just the correct amount of boldness, and majesty to WALL OF NOISE. Always measured, never overwhelming scenes, but emphasizing these in the best possible manner, it is a classic-style score which works. 

Mise-en-scene: WALL OF NOISE is a quality product, and this is reflected in what is presented on screen. The black and white cinematography by Lucien Ballard is beautiful, ensuring everything in front of the camera is captured in a crystal clear way. Lighting is also spot on, successfully making outdoor studio sequences convincing. Set decoration by John Austin is also notable, with the chic restaurant which Joel and Laura visit, and Laura's home two of the standouts. Costuming by Howard Shoup works on a subtle level, more marked by the female characters. The wardrobe for Suzanne Pleshette alternates between elegant daywear, and elaborate after five garments, while Dorothy Provine's costuming is toned down, but still stylish.

Notable Acting Performances: Ty Hardin, Suzanne Pleshette, Ralph Meeker, Simon Oakland, Dorothy Provine, Jimmy Murphy, Murray Matheson.

Suitability for young viewers: Parental discretion advised. Adult themes, low-level violence.

Overall Grade: B

LinkIMDB Page


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1975)

Title: REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER

Year of Release: 1975

Director: Milton Katselas

Genre: Crime, Drama

Synopsis: A novice police officer becomes obsessed with a policewoman, unknowing that she is also on the force, but his, and her lives, are turned upside down by his infatuation.

Within a film history context: Movies with a female policewoman main character did not appear regularly in cinema history. One of the first to deal with the subject was William J. Cowen's WOMAN UNAFRAID (1934). A policewoman assists several young women of dubious backgrounds to get back to life in this early programmer. IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN TO A DOG (1946), directed by Herbert Leeds, was a comedy of a reporter and a woman teaming up to investigate racketeering, unknowing at first that she is a police officer. Matters were of a more dramatic nature in Joseph Pevney's UNDERCOVER GIRL (1950). A young female police officer goes incognito to find the killers of her father, in this film noir with Alexis Smith as the titular character. CALLING BULLDOG DRUMMOND (1951), directed by Victor Saville, had a female policewoman team with the famous detective to overthrow a vicious gang in London. 

John Lemont's THE SHAKEDOWN (1960), featured a female undercover police officer assigned to investigate an underworld outfit cum modelling agency as a model, but when she is recognized, things take a sinister turn. At the opposite end of the spectrum was CARRY ON CONSTABLE (1960), directed by Gerald Thomas. In this Carry On entry, the antics at a suburban police station are delineated, with two female police officers among many men in this zany comedy. Montgomery Tully's FOG FOR A KILLER (1962), followed a female police officer going undercover to help catch a serial killer murdering blonde women in this British movie. On the other hand, POLICEWOMEN (1974), directed by Lee Frost, centered around a rough and tough policewoman who insinuates herself into a female crime syndicate, but comes unstuck when her line of work is discovered. REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER's female police officer was one of the most subtle character portraits in the genre.

The movie had most in common with the dramas where a female police officer goes undercover for a certain reason, such as UNDERCOVER GIRL, THE SHAKEDOWN, FOG FOR A KILLER, and POLICEWOMEN. In the previous four cases, as with Patty in REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER, the respective policewomen have a sense of fair play and justice about them in bringing criminals to justice. UNDERCOVER GIRL varies slightly from these as the mission to bring criminals to justice is on a personal, rather than professional basis. The officer in POLICEWOMEN, though, has a private love life, which is something Patty does not possess. The treatment here is of the exploitation film vein, with bed scenes and nudity part and parcel, the latter appearing fleetingly in REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER. Patty's private life, therefore, is of an intricate, complicated nature, entirely at odds with POLICEWOMEN's orientation. 

In REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER, Patty's existence is intruded upon by her professional life, due to her fellow male police officer's intervention in this, which causes untold problems. The movie displays the differing sides of its female police officer, thus ensuring that a complete portrait is drawn for the audience, and subsequently a three-dimensional person comes to life for the viewer. The slant is psychological than overt, which was obvious somewhat with POLICEWOMEN's main character displaying her martial arts skills. A convincing, judicious depiction of a female police officer, this is one of REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER's best assets.

Overview: Milton Katselas was the director of four motion pictures from 1972 to 1979. He tackled both light fare with a romantic slant, and more intense topics in his oeuvre. Mr Katselas' first film, BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE (1972), was a comedy drama about a blind man, and his relationship with a spirited young woman, which raises the ire of his concerned mother. 40 CARATS (1973), was another of his movies with a comedy romance spin. An American divorcee has a fling with a young man while holidaying in Greece, and is shocked to see that he is her daughter's new boyfriend when she returns home in this May-December romance film. WHEN YOU COMIN' BACK, RED RYDER (1979), was Milton Katselas' final picture. An emotionally distraught Vietnam veteran harasses patrons of a Texas diner in this film adaptation of a stage play. REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER was Milton Katselas' third and penultimate movie, and a satisfactory effort. 

With REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER, Milton Katselas has made an interesting, if uneven film. The story of a neophyte New York City policeman, and his fixation with an undercover female police officer, with her true identity unbeknownst to him, it is a film with quite a few strong moments, and is a passable motion picture. The director has achieved this effect in several ways. Mr Katselas has succeeded in creating a credible, cut-throat world of crime and punishment in the movie which works. While the topic in other hands may have been given over to becoming a haven for sleaze, with an emphasis on execrable physical detail, Milton Katselas has kept matters on a more discreet, businesslike level. There is a realism about this production, and control where things do not go too far in terms of content. The director has not exploited his story, and characters, just for the sake of cheap thrills, and this lends REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER an air of authenticity. Despite these strong suits, the picture, though, does have a tendency to be tedious in its execution.

It is a plus that REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER is unhurried in how it unfolds onscreen for the spectator, peering deep into situations and character interactions. A faster pace, though, would have made the film a sharper viewing experience. Scenes such as the physically-challenged Joey's time on a skateboard in the streets of New York are incongruous, taking away from the careful, somber mood from beforehand. Another grating segment is the elongated elevator scene with Bo and Stick. It takes forever to get where it should be, and defies patience in the process. Aside from this, the film's structure is problematic in retrospect. Knowing the outcome from the beginning, and working backwards from there in flashback, does subtract much suspense from the movie. If REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER unraveled in a linear progression, this would have heightened the degree of surprise, and anticipation on the part of the viewer. A solid picture which affords a view into the underbelly of New York City in the 1970s, REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER could have been a far superior movie with better handling.

ActingREPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER has a number of unique performances which assist in making the movie watchable. As Bo Lockley, the diffident rookie detective who sets events in motion, Michael Moriarty succeeds in a difficult role. From sad to happy, uncertain to dangerous, he covers a gamut of emotions in a convincing manner. The object of his obsession, fellow undercover officer Patty Butler, of whom he is unaware is also on the force, Susan Blakely is excellent in one of her best early roles. The combination of intuition, sensitivity, and streetwise instincts meld together to make Patty a striking figure, qualities which Miss Blakely delivers in spades. Bo's offsider Richard Blackstone comes alive in the person of Yaphet Kotto. Knowing when to be serious, and when to allow the humor to take center stage, Mr Kotto is another notable thespian here. Assistant District Attorney Jackson, who interviews Bo at the film's end, is another knowing turn by William Devane. With his insistent voice, and ability to get down to brass tacks, Mr Devane is entertaining as always here. The final acting of merit was by Richard Gere as pimp Billy, obstacle to Bo in his quest to meet Patty. In his acting debut, Mr Gere's Billy projects a cool, but intriguing apathy which ruffles the feathers of Bo, and looks the part of the hustler with his offbeat, but distinctive attire. 

SoundtrackREPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER has a very lean soundtrack, with tense music composed by Elmer Bernstein played throughout pivotal scenes. The brief opening credits sequence features an accompanying musical piece for its short duration, the closing credits including a version which is longer in duration.

Mise-en-scene: The pieces come together to make REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER realistic on a visual level. Mario Tosi's cinematography is perfect, offering a view of the seamy, dark world of the film in subtle Metrocolor. Location shooting is another significant element of REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER, with the many outdoor scenes something which could not be duplicated in a studio. Interiors also work well, such as the police station, Stick's unkempt apartment, and the disco set oozing authenticity. Costuming is in keeping with the respective personalities of the characters, with Patty's on the job wardrobe sharply contrasting from her home apparel, the police superiors with their expensive suits, and Billy's showy clothing standing out.

Notable Acting Performances: Michael Moriarty, Susan Blakely, Yaphet Kotto, William Devane, Richard Gere.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Brief female nudity, adult themes, medium-level violence.

Overall GradeC

LinkIMDB Page

Trailer



Thursday, April 4, 2024

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR SCREENWRITER BARRY SANDLER ABOUT HIS FILM MAKING LOVE

Today I am very happy to welcome screenwriter Barry Sandler back to CINEMATIC REVELATIONS. Barry has been on the blog previously speaking about his screenwriting of KANSAS CITY BOMBER, and many other topics; the interview can be found here. Barry wrote the screenplay of groundbreaking movie MAKING LOVE, which was released in 1982, my review is on the following page. It dealt sympathetically with the topic of homosexuality, and the impact of a husband’s decision to leave his wife for another man. In this post, Barry will be discussing his work on MAKING LOVE, and how the movie is of importance to cinema.

Welcome back to CINEMATIC REVELATIONS Barry!

Athan: MAKING LOVE was released in 1982, in a period when other films such as PERSONAL BEST, and PARTNERS, also tackled homosexuality as a subject. What is it that drew you to becoming involved in this project?

Barry: I was at the point in my life, after having written a number of big studio movies that were essentially comedies, mysteries, romances, crime and action movies, that I wanted to dig deeper into more personal and dramatic aspects of my writing. My friend and partner at the time, Scott Berg, suggested I write about my own experiences coming out as a gay man. I resisted at first, knowing it would mean exposing very personal issues, but he pushed me and I finally realized that if I ever wanted to grow as a writer, I would have to go to those internal places.  What also drew me to write this movie was the fact that growing up, any movie or tv show depicting gay characters only did so by portraying them as sick, depraved, ashamed, guilt-ridden, predatory, suicidal and pathetic – one reason LGBTQ people grew up with negative self-images and fear of being exposed which forced many of us to live our lives in shame or in the closet. I felt a strong need, perhaps even a responsibility as a gay man proud and happy to live my life as a gay man, to counter that ugly depiction and show the world that you could live a happy and fulfilling life being honest with yourself and owning your LGBTQ identity – an image and statement that had never been made or seen in American films before MAKING LOVE.

One big concern I had before writing the script, that I conveyed to Scott, was spending weeks of soul-searching, gut-wrenching, very personal intensity creating a script that studios wouldn't touch due to the subject matter. I wanted some assurance before writing that a studio would be willing to make the movie if the script were good. I had enough confidence in my ability and Scott's intelligence and instinct in guiding the writing that the script would be good, but less so in Hollywood's courage to deal with homosexuality on screen, particularly in a positive way, as they had never done so before.   With that in mind, we pitched the idea to Claire Townsend, head of development at 20th Century Fox and a friend of Scott's, who loved it and took it to her boss Sherry Lansing, head of production and the first woman to run a studio.  Sherry was a pioneer and knew this film could be groundbreaking -- she gave us a development deal and when we turned in the script weeks later she immediately gave it a greenlight to production, attaching producer Dan Melnick, who had just signed a production deal with the studio and wanted this as his first film.  The film would not have been made were it not for the courage and determination of two women, Sherry Lansing and Claire Townsend (both straight), who believed in the script and felt strongly that its message was one that the public needed to hear. 

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Athan: How did it feel to see MAKING LOVE in theaters, and the characters you created come to life on screen?

Barry: It has always been very exciting for me to see characters I've written come to life on the big screen, especially when they're portrayed by great actors like some of those I've worked with – Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Maggie Smith. Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, James Mason, Goldie Hawn, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh, James Brolin, Anthony Perkins, Kathleen Turner, Diana Rigg, Dean Stockwell, Jodie Foster, Christopher Walken to name a few -- but in the case of MAKING LOVE, I was very actively involved in the actual production and worked closely with Harry Hamlin, Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson.  Michael and Harry being straight looked to me as an out gay man to make sure they were creating characters as honest and realistic as possible.  I was thrilled to see them do so on the screen, not only for the excellence of their performances, but I felt it in a more personal way than with actors in other films of mine, having been on set with them and watched them grow into these characters.

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Athan: Is there one character in particular from MAKING LOVE you felt most affinity for not only as a writer, but as a human being, or a number of protagonists?

Barry: I felt an affinity with both the Zack (Ontkean) and Bart (Hamlin) characters, as they both connected with different aspects of my own life – Zack externally, in his coming-out journey, and Bart more internally in his identity as a writer and a sexually-liberated out gay man.

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Athan: Over the years, have you had viewers recount to you how MAKING LOVE made a difference in their lives?

Barry: Over the years I've had hundreds of people write me letters, e-mail me, or simply come up to me in public and tell me how much this movie affected them – that it gave them a sense of pride and self-respect as an LGBTQ person they never felt before from any movie or tv show, that it gave them the strength to accept who they were and no longer hide it, that it gave them the courage to come out to their families and friends, that it gave them the incentive to live their lives honestly.

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Athan: What are you most proud of having achieved with MAKING LOVE?

Barry: What I'm most proud of is to have written the screenplay that created the response I just talked about. To know that as a writer I could have touched someone that deeply and personally to affect their lives in that way is the most gratifying and meaningful achievement a writer could hope for.  The film has become a groundbreaking landmark as the first film ever released by a Hollywood studio to present a positive portrayal of an LGBTQ character – not only was it hailed and embraced by the LGBTQ community at the time it was released, but it has endured over the years, found new audiences, and has had 20-year, 30-year, 35-year and two years ago a sold-out 40-year anniversary screening by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles, followed by a panel discussion with Scott Berg, Harry Hamlin and me.  The film has a legacy for which I'm honored and proud.

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It has been a pleasure having you again on the blog Barry, and I thank you for taking the time to elaborate on your contributions to MAKING LOVE, and its impact on cinema, and the world. You are always welcome to return whenever you wish.

Barry Sandler links

*Barry Sandler IMDB page

*MAKING LOVE IMDb page


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

MAKING LOVE (1982)

Title: MAKING LOVE

Year of Release: 1982

Director: Arthur Hiller

Genre: Drama

Synopsis: A Los Angeles doctor leaves his television producer wife for his patient, a man.

Within a film history context: Movies about a husband who is gay, but married to a woman, began to appear from the late 1960s in cinema with the gradual relaxation of film censorship. One of the first major examples was Gregory Ratoff's OSCAR WILDE (1960). When playwright Oscar Wilde launches a suit against his male lover's father, his homosexuality becomes public knowledge, despite being married to a woman in this drama. INSIDE DAISY CLOVER (1965), directed by Robert Mulligan, contained the small part of a gay husband who leaves his movie star wife. John Huston's REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967), was another look at a gay husband. A married Major residing at a military post with his adulterous wife has a clandestine passion for a Private, but his feelings may, or may not be reciprocated here. 
A gay husband, and father, has his private life exposed, his daughter finding this reality hard to accept, in ANGEL, ANGEL, DOWN WE GO (1969), directed by Robert Thom. 

In Ken Russell's THE MUSIC LOVERS (1971), the life of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was dissected, with his shaky marriage to a mentally unstable woman, and his desire for a Count, prominently featured. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971), directed by Peter Bogdanovich, had a married high school basketball coach who in one scene was implied as being gay. One of the segments in Herbert Ross' CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978), was of a British married couple staying at a Grand Hotel, and how the husband's homosexuality caused issues for them. With Michael Caine, and Maggie Smith as the couple, it was a convincing portrait of marital discord. On the other hand, A DIFFERENT STORY (1978), directed by Paul Aaron, was about a gay man, and a lesbian, finding love, and marrying, but their problems are many. MAKING LOVE was the most intensive study of a gay husband until its time.

In the majority of the movies with a gay husband protagonist, he was the central character, aside from INSIDE DAISY CLOVER, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, and ANGEL, ANGEL, DOWN WE GO. These were supporting characters where the focus was on the wife of the gay husband. Additionally, these were discreet depictions of homosexuality rather than overt. Coach Popper in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, for example, is shown striking the backside of a basketball player, which speaks volumes without showing anything further. The focus was on wife Ruth Popper's loneliness, and mental issues, which have been caused by her husband's lack of attention to her. The husband in CALIFORNIA SUITE had a larger role here, but was part of a segment in the movie, rather than standalone. MAKING LOVE had the closest affinity to A DIFFERENT STORY in examining its gay husband, but the latter film differed from the former as Albert was established as being gay from the beginning of the film. He later goes through a transition from gay to heterosexual, marrying a lesbian, and having an affair with a woman, rather than a man, before returning to his wife. 

Matters are different in MAKING LOVE for its gay husband character. MAKING LOVE's Zack takes matters in the opposite direction to Albert from A DIFFERENT STORY. Being married to a woman, Zack is seemingly happy as a heterosexual man, but his desires for men make themselves felt. He has an affair with a gay man, and this spells the end of his marriage. Both of these films take the time to look at the psychology of their gay lead, but MAKING LOVE is of interest as it contrasts Zack with his out in the open lover Bart. Bart has a substantial place in the narrative of MAKING LOVE, unlike the lovers of Albert, Sills and Roger, in A DIFFERENT STORY, whose presence is ephemeral. Albert is the center of attention in A DIFFERENT STORY, and how he makes a go of his marriage to Stella, where Zack's affair with Bart, split with Claire, and later relationship with Brian, are what drive MAKING LOVE. 

In addition, of interest is how both A DIIFERENT STORY, and MAKING LOVE, feature career women as characters. Other films in the category had wives with mental issues, such as in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, and THE MUSIC LOVERS. MAKING LOVE has the best view of a woman in this respect by presenting her as a person fully in charge of her emotions, but the fact that her husband is gay makes the audience empathize with her. She is not spineless, and finds a way to change her life to what she wanted with her first husband Zack, but with a new husband. In this way, the movie lacks the melodramatic views of a woman prone to weakness, instead offering a portrait of a woman who takes charge of her destiny. This is a progressive, heartening view of femininity that should be applauded. An honest, credible view of a gay husband, MAKING LOVE is a meaningful take on the subject.

Overview: Arthur Hiller was a Canadian director long in Hollywood who made thirty-four films over the space of forty-nine years. His output was varied, consisting of comedies, dramas, romance, action, and biographical movies. Mr Hiller's first picture, THE CARELESS YEARS (1957), was a romance about two young people from different economic backgrounds who want to marry, but encounter obstacles in their mission. Arthur Hiller's profile began to rise with THE WHEELER DEALERS (1963). An educated man whose finances are in dire straits proceeds to New York City to make money, with a young woman he romances, and teams up with to make his dreams a reality. Next came THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964). During World War II, an American Naval Commander's life changes when he meets an English woman, and is sent on a dangerous assignment by the Navy. 

In comedy PROMISE HER ANYTHING (1966), a young widow with a child wants to remarry, and determines to do so to a psychologist, but he has an aversion to children. She hides her child with a neighbor, but decides that he might be a better fit for her than the other man after all. Another comedy for Arthur Hiller came in the form of PENELOPE (1966). The various outrageous activities of a lady kleptomaniac were the focus, with Natalie Wood in the lead role. THE TIGER MAKES OUT (1967), was a vehicle for real-life couple Eli Wallach, and Anne Jackson. A postman in search of a mate kidnaps what we believes is a young woman, but this person escapes, and he instead has kidnapped a housewife who gives him more than a run for his money in this comedy. Arthur Hiller rounded out the 1960s with POPI (1969). A Puerto Rican man living in Harlem with his two sons schemes to carve out a better existence for them in a highly original manner. The 1970s was a time of varied movies for Arthur Hiller, with one in particular noteworthy in his oeuvre.

LOVE STORY (1970), was a tale of two young people from opposing backgrounds finding love, the vehement disapproval of the man's father the main obstacle. A blockbuster weepie of its time, it made both Ryan O'Neal, and Ali MacGraw as the central pair, stars. In complete contrast, comedy THE OUT OF TOWNERS (1970), surveyed the life of an Ohio sales executive and his wife moving to New York City for his job promotion, but finding that the Big Apple has its fair share of unexpected challenges. Comedy again was the focus of PLAZA SUITE (1971). Based upon a Neil Simon play, it featured Walter Matthau playing a different character in each of the three acts, with Lee Grant, Maureen Stapleton, and Barbara Harris in support. THE HOSPITAL (1971), was Arthur Hiller's attempt at comedy satire, with black humor. The personal, and professional trials and travails of a chief doctor at a training hospital were seen in great detail here, with George C. Scott in the lead role, accompanied by Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes, and Richard Dysart. In THE CRAZY WORLD OF JULIUS VROODER (1974), a Vietnam War veteran is admitted to a mental health facility, also living in a bunker, and causes problems at the hospital in this comedy, with Timothy Bottoms in good form as the eponymous Julius.

In the mid-1970s came THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH (1975). It was the story of a Jewish-American man accused of being a Nazi War criminal, who is then kidnapped by Mossad, with the tragic fallout of this documented. The biopic of W.C. Fields was next on the agenda for Arthur Hiller in W.C. FIELDS AND ME (1976). The biopic of the famous comic actor was not critically well-received, despite having Rod Steiger in the lead part. There was a return to form for the director with SILVER STREAK (1976). When a man on a train believes he has witnessed the murder of a man, he is drawn into a twisted series of events which place his life in peril. One of the biggest financial successes of the year, it starred Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, and Jill Clayburgh as the central trio of characters. NIGHTWING (1979), was as different as one could get from comedy. The horror tale of killer bats in a New Mexico Indian reservation, and their assorted murderous inclinations, was a departure from Arthur Hiller's usually thoughtful fare, and a box office loss maker. Into the 1980s, Arthur Hiller made equally diverse movies.

It was back to comedy with AUTHOR! AUTHOR! (1982). The hijinks of a playwright coping with his offspring, stepchildren, and simultaneously producing a Broadway play, made up the content of this breezy film. ROMANTIC COMEDY (1983), mined similar material as AUTHOR! AUTHOR! This time, two playwrights' success on the stage with their writing does not translate to their private life. THE LONELY GUY (1984), was yet another comedy for Arthur Hiller. When a man is cheated on by his girlfriend, this leads him on a personal discovery about women and relationships, and writing a book on the topic which is a bestseller. In the case of TEACHERS (1984), the hardships of a high school teacher attempting to assist his students, with adamant opposition to his methods from the school board, are outlined in this comedy-drama starring Nick Nolte, with backup from JoBeth Williams, Lee Grant, Judd Hirsch, and Ralph Macchio. Another box office hit came with OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987). The meeting of two actresses with more in common than first thought, being a man, and the adventure their search for him leads them on, complete with espionage, was a comic vehicle for Shelley Long, and Bette Midler as the two women in question. Next was another comedy, SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989). When the murder of a man is witnessed by two men, one blind, the other deaf, they find themselves in an untenable situation as the new target of the killer. Into the 1990s and beyond, Arthur Hiller's films mainly followed a comic line.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS (1990), had a businessman on vacation who loses his Filofax, which is found by a criminal, and subsequently has his world turned upside down when the impostor takes on his identity. In MARRIED TO IT (1991), the lives of three couples who meet through a private school fundraiser are contrasted, with their various ups, and downs, highlighted. In contrast, THE BABE (1992), was the biopic of famous American baseball star Babe Ruth, played by John Goodman. This film was not a financial success, and also suffered from critical derision at the time of its release. CARPOOL (1996), detailed the wacky antics of a man who does the carpool for the neighborhood, and becomes caught in some dire situations in this financially unsuccessful comedy. Arthur Hiller's second to last movie, AN ALAN SMITHEE FILM: BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN (1997), was about a film director's struggle to disown a picture he made. The reason why this is so hard for him to accomplish, being that to do this, he has to use Alan Smithee, which already is his name. A movie which sank rapidly into obscurity, it recorded very low results at the box office. NATIONAL LAMPOON'S PUCKED (2006), was Arthur Hiller's last cinematic sojourn. A lawyer's attempts to fund a women's hockey team lead him spiraling into debt, and into the courthouse, in this comedy with Jon Bon Jovi in the lead. MAKING LOVE was Arthur Hiller's twenty-first motion picture, and one of his most thoughtful works.

With MAKING LOVE, Arthur Hiller has crafted an affecting, realistic picture. It is the story of a married couple, with the husband a physician, the wife a television producer, and how his desire for a man comes to the surface, ending their marriage. MAKING LOVE is a movie with a contemplative mood, and a leisurely, nicely paced manner of exploring this issue, and its repercussions on the characters. The sensitive screenplay by Barry Sandler, and story by A. Scott Berg, is rooted on an emotional level, never pandering to prurience or exploitation, which would have been the case if it was in lesser hands. MAKING LOVE does not fall into the trap of showing naked bodies and the like, which very easily might have been the case otherwise, and would have been jarring to witness. There is a single scene of male-male contact, but even this is restrained in its delivery. This attention to detail takes the movie far away from sordidness, and into a realm of understanding for its protagonists. A balance of the points of view of not only the husband, but also his wife, and the husband's lover, exists in the film, which make perfect sense. The viewer feels for the people here, and this is particularly marked at the conclusion. The bittersweet, but satisfying ending recalls the tone of dramas from Classic Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, but updated to 1980s sensibilities. A telling work on homosexuality, heterosexuality, marriage, lifestyles, and personal happiness, MAKING LOVE stands tall as one of the best movies on these enduring human topics.

Acting: MAKING LOVE has stimulating performances which successfully propel the aims of the movie. In the lead role of Zack, a man of many emotions, Michael Ontkean does well. An actor with a friendly, guarded disposition, whose Zack could erupt at any moment, an emotional powder keg providing an element of volatility, is direct, and understandable in his actions. As the dynamic Claire, Zack's wife, Kate Jackson is excellent. Bringing all her feelings to the fore, with confusion, doubt, and self-blame just some of many exhibited by her, it is fair to say that her presence leaves the greatest imprint on the spectator. The central trio of characters is rounded out by Harry Hamlin as Bart, Zack's lover. With his low, husky voice, playful manner, and ability to both intrigue, and puzzle, the exotic Mr Hamlin supplies another distinctive portrayal. Four actors in supporting roles are also highly valuable in MAKING LOVE.

Claire and Zack's neighbor Winnie is memorable in the capable hands of Wendy Hiller. With her aristocratic but warm demeanor, and knowledge of people and the world, Miss Hiller adds spice and grandeur to the film. Zack's last partner, Brian, is given a sympathetic edge by John Calvin. An actor who generally plays athletes and jocks with huge chips on their shoulders here is more nuanced, and a contrast to the self-involved Bart. Asher Brauner has a small role as Ted, one of the men Zack encountered somewhere along the way. His jokey attitude conceals many emotions under a plain wrapper, and Mr Brauner conveys this with his customary ease. The last acting of note was by Terry Kiser as Alex, Claire's manager at the television network. A distinctive character actor able to express much without saying a word, his face doing much of the talking, Mr Kiser is another example of the finely-drawn acting tapestry of MAKING LOVE.

Soundtrack: MAKING LOVE has a lean soundtrack, and this works well in terms of allowing what is taking place on screen to stand out. The opening title sequence features a sweeping, beautiful instrumental piece composed by Leonard Rosenman, which aptly sets the pensive atmosphere for the movie. This is also employed sparingly in several other scenes, but most tellingly in the final scene. The closing credits showcase Roberta Flack's 'Making Love', which ends the picture on a thoughtful note.

Mise-en-scene: Great attention to detail has been expended on ensuring MAKING LOVE is a quality product. David M. Walsh's cinematography nicely captures both indoor, and outdoor scenes, the colour muted, but still easy on the eyes. Production design by James Vance, and Rick Simpson's set decoration, are notable. Interiors, such as Claire and Zack's former home, Winnie's apartment, and Bart's home are all excellent, reflecting not only a high socioeconomic level for the characters, but also, their respective personalities. Bart's abode, for example, has a bohemian vibe in keeping with his freewheeling lifestyle. There is a comfort, and warmth in these locations that is welcoming to viewers, and subtly luxurious. Location filming is also of a high standard, with the restaurant where Zack and Bart meet, lovely. Costuming, by Betsy Cox for the female characters, and Bruce Walkup for the male characters, is stylish, and has not dated. The wardrobe for Winnie in particular is glamorous but regal, befitting her status as the wise grande dame of MAKING LOVE.

Notable Acting Performances: Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin, Wendy Hiller, John Calvin, Asher Brauner, Terry Kiser.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Infrequent coarse language, adult themes, drug use.

Overall Grade: B

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Monday, April 1, 2024

CHASTITY (1969)

Title: CHASTITY

Year of Release: 1969

Director: Alessio de Paola

Genre: Drama

Synopsis: A young woman from a troubled family background takes to the road hitchhiking, finding some happiness, but also angst, along the way.

Within a film history context
Films which feature hitchhiking characters have been around in cinema since the silent era. E. Mason Hopper's THE RIGHT DIRECTION (1916), is an early documented example of this. A young woman begins hitchhiking to take herself, and her younger brother, to a better life away from their miserable existence, and finds problems with the family of the man who picks up her and her brother. One of the most famous scenes of hitchhiking can be found in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), directed by Frank Capra. With Claudette Colbert attempting to gain a ride for her and Clark Gable in a most amusing sequence, it was one of the best ever scenes of hitchhiking to be presented in cinema. William Dieterle's DR. SOCRATES (1935), had a supporting character who was a hitchhiker, in this crime film which starred Paul Muni in the title role. In the overtly titled HITCH HIKE LADY (1935), directed by Aubrey Scotto, a mature woman hitchhikes from New York to California to visit her son, who, unbeknown to her, is in jail. With Leigh Jason's THAT GIRL FROM PARIS (1936), an opera star hitchhikes after leaving her husband-to-be in the lurch, and encounters romance and adventure while hitchhiking. On the other hand, HEAVEN WITH A BARBED WIRE FENCE (1939), directed by Ricardo Cortez, starred Glenn Ford as a young man who hitchhikes across America, accompanied by another man and a woman, to reach his land in Arizona. As with the 1930s and prior, the 1940s also had varied hitchhiking scenarios.

Preston Sturges' SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941), was the story of a film director who conducts unconventional research as a vagrant for his next movie, finding romance along the way. It featured a lead character, played by Joel McCrea, who hitchhiked as part of his personal journey. DETOUR (1945), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, was much more dramatic. As with SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, it also had a hitchhiking male protagonist, this time a pianist who becomes enmeshed in intrigue, taking on the identity of the mysterious man with whom he rode. Tay Garnett's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), had a central character who hitchhiked his way into the lives of others in the movie, causing torment. Another film with a shady hitchhiker was THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE (1947), directed by Felix Feist. In this tale, an upstanding man takes in a murderous hitchhiker, with many unexpected consequences. Similar to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, Delmer Daves' DARK PASSAGE (1947), began with a main character who hitchhikes to another life, this time escaping from jail, leading to an intricate set of compelling events. Into the 1950s, there were equally interesting hitchhiking scenarios and characters.

As was the case with the films of the mid to late 1940s with their dark post-war premises, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951), directed by Felix Feist, followed a couple involved in a crime who hitchhike to evade capture. Dangerous hitchhikers are again presented in Ida Lupino's THE HITCH-HIKER (1953). In this movie, two fishermen make the grave error of picking up a psychotic man who gives them a chilling pronouncement - after they arrive at their destination, he will kill both of them. Equally tense was THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR (1955), directed by Andrew L. Stone. A wealthy man picks up a hitchhiker who, along with several others, cause mayhem for the man and his family. In a more exploitation, but surprising vein was Charles Saunders' KILL HER GENTLY (1957). A man picks up two hitchhikers who are wanted criminals, but does not turn them over to the authorities, instead, he propositions them to murder his wife. As with other film decades, the 1960s also had diverse hitchhiking themed films.

A benign view of hitchhiking was brought forth by the Elvis Presley vehicle IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR (1963), directed by Norman Taurog. Here, two friends hitchhike to the Seattle World Fair as their mode of transport was confiscated by police, finding romance and fun. Marc Lawrence's NIGHTMARE IN THE SUN (1965), co-starring real life couple John Derek and Ursula Andress in the lead roles, followed a married woman who picks up a male hitchhiker, their affair leading to intrigue and murder. A romantic view of hitchhiking could be found in WILD SEED (1965), directed by Brian Hutton. A young woman runs away from home after discovering her true parentage, and meets a drifter, their fraught relationship blossoming over the course of the movie. In contrast, Dennis Hopper's EASY RIDER (1969), altered the mode of transport from automobile to motorcycle, the bikers in the film picking up a number of hitchhikers on their way across the country. CHASTITY is one of the most serious, measured of the movies about a hitchhiker, in this instance, a woman.

In general, female hitchhikers were not an uncommon presence in the pictures prior to CHASTITY's release. There were quite a few examples of female hitchhikers, beginning with THE RIGHT DIRECTION, and continuing with IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, HITCH HIKE LADY, THAT GIRL FROM PARIS, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY, and WILD SEED. The scenarios were mainly dramatic in nature, with some comic exceptions such as IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and THAT GIRL FROM PARIS. CHASTITY was of the dramatic persuasion, with humor not an element in this case. The movie also lacked the obvious suspense elements which permeated many of the films which had a male hitchhiker, instead featuring a slow buildup of events which examined the lead female hitchhiker in detail for the viewer. It was all psychologically motivated and character-driven, without resorting to action and adventure. CHASTITY offered no easy answers for its protagonist, and could be seen as the most realistic, if pessimistic, of entries about a female hitchhiker. It afforded an intensive look into the psyche of Chastity, making her a thoroughly three-dimensional figure. Romance, if anything, was an ephemeral notion in the picture, thus distancing CHASTITY from WILD SEED, with its happy ending. A solemn portrait of a female hitchhiker, CHASTITY offers a candid insight into its subject for spectators. 

Overview: Alessio de Paola is an American director with only one motion picture to his credit, being CHASTITY. He does not appear to have any other television or stage credits to his name, therefore, this overview will examine his contributions to CHASTITY. With CHASTITY, Alessio de Paola has made an interesting work. Taking as its focus a young woman hitchhiking across the country, and charting her various adventures, and reactions to situations in which she finds herself, it is a passable movie. The strength of the picture is in its showcasing of a complex protagonist, the eponymous Chastity. A young woman who appears rough and tough at first glance, the film presents narrative situations where her character is slowly unraveled to the audience, and why she projects the world-weary, blunt air she possesses. This is the most satisfying, and fascinating part of the movie, whereby the spectator gains a thorough understanding of its central figure. CHASTITY, though, is not a perfect movie in any sense of the word, despite its compelling lead character.

While it is admirable that the film takes its time with the events it portrays, some scenes are overlong. Chasity's experience in the bordello is one of these instances. It seems to take forever, with some grating moments. The sequence with Chastity and client Tommy is one part that could have been successfully abbreviated. Its slow, repetitive nature rapidly gets on the nerves. The best thing which comes out of the bordello scenes, though, is the appearance of lesbian madam Diana Midnight, a woman of many moods and passions. Aside from Chastity, she is the most entrancing character in the film, but it would have been fruitful to learn more about this individual, provocative personality. In addition, further background to Chastity's personal plight would also have been helpful. The final stretches do answer questions about Chastity which were posed throughout the film, but even more information would have been welcome. A well-intentioned work that unfortunately veers towards unevenness, CHASTITY is a solid attempt at giving depth to its main hitchhiking character, and why she has taken to the road in the first place.

Acting: There are three performances in CHASTITY which stand out. In the lead role of Chastity, Cher is excellent in the best of her early roles. Painting a vivid portrait of a young woman burned by life, trying to find her way despite many difficulties, and living by her wits, she brings emotional force and truth to the picture, making the end of the movie shattering to witness. As Eddie, the student who befriends Chastity along her journey, Stephen Whittaker brings a relaxed charm to the part of a man who is her polar opposite, but manages to smooth some of her rough edges. With his personable ways and comely demeanor, Mr Whittaker makes the audience wish that he can win over the hardened Chastity. On the other end of the moral spectrum is lesbian bordello madam Diana Midnight, played with style by Barbara London. With her quiet authority and subtle mannerisms, Miss London is a distinctive actress, whose presence lends an air of mystery, and glamour, to CHASTITY.

Soundtrack: CHASTITY has a soundtrack which works well accompanying the visuals. The opening scenes have a haunting score composed by Sonny Bono which heightens the drama in this sequence, and the closing scenes. There are variations of this score employed throughout the picture that also emphasize the emotive nature of the material. The use of 'Chastity's Song', performed by Cher, builds a picture of the footloose life of the movie's protagonist, but is not nearly as effective as the score in its stirring nature.

Mise-en-scene: What is presented to spectators on screen in CHASTITY is of a high standard. Cinematography by Ben Colman captures everything beautifully, and with crispness. Both indoor, and outdoor scenes are lovely to witness. Exterior locations have been carefully chosen, with the highway, cafes, shops, and other locations adding realism. The main interior used in the movie, being Eddie's house, reflects a dedicated young man whose life is anything but messed up, contrasting this with Chastity's three sheets to the wind view of life. Sadie Hayes' costuming is also excellent, drawing comparisons between Chastity's modern, minimalist attire, and Diana Midnight's cool elegance as the seductive femme fatale of CHASTITY.

Notable Acting Performances: Cher, Stephen Whittaker, Barbara London.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Brief female nudity, adult themes.

Overall GradeC

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

THE YOUNG GRADUATES (1971)

Title: THE YOUNG GRADUATES

Year of Release: 1971

Director: Robert Anderson

Genre: Drama, Romance

Synopsis: A young, perky high school graduate works her wiles on her married teacher among her many extracurricular activities.

Within a film history context: Movies about high school graduates have been present in cinema since the 1920s, but not to a large degree. One of the first to deal with this was James Horne and Buster Keaton's silent COLLEGE (1927). A cocky, bookish high school graduate causes waves with his renouncing of sport, but finds difficulty in conquering this aspect of college life in this comedy. OUR VERY OWN (1950), directed by David Miller, was about a young high schooler who discovers the truth about her parentage, which affects her view of life. The climactic scene is set at her high school graduation ceremony, with her
 making a speech about family, and its importance. In Mark Robson's PEYTON PLACE (1957), contrasts were drawn between two female high school graduates, their experiences with family and relationships in this searing melodrama about small-town life. HOMER (1970), directed by John Trent, focused upon a high school graduate, and the difficult relationship with his father, rejection of the Vietnam War, and questioning of current events at the time. One of the best examinations of high school graduates was Peter Bogdanovich's THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971). Concentrating upon three graduates, a pair of friends, and the young woman who plays with their hearts, it was a moving and memorable evocation of the early 1950s, with attention to detail in every aspect of this production. THE YOUNG GRADUATES was one of the lightest in its exploration of its high school graduate character.

Although hardly to be described as a comedy, THE YOUNG GRADUATES was not overly serious in its execution. There is, though, an irreverence which is at the core of THE YOUNG GRADUATES. The hijinks which Mindy experiences are similar to the adventures of the male graduate in COLLEGE, but the sheer number of wacky events which she lives through, or provokes, are of a more obvious comic nature. They reflect a young woman who wants to try a little of everything in life, but she does often become unstuck in this pursuit. Where the graduate in COLLEGE stood firm for his principles and beliefs, Mindy does not really stand for anything other than having a good time. This depiction, therefore, lacks the depth of other graduates, such as in OUR VERY OWN, PEYTON PLACE, HOMER, and THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. All of these movies present the family lives of their graduates, which provides valuable information about them, and why they act and do what they do. This is something lacking in THE YOUNG GRADUATES. One never gets a feel for Mindy's family life, as this is not mentioned within the narrative. Other facets of the movie merit discussion. 

Mindy in THE YOUNG GRADUATES is not as psychologically deep as the protagonists of the four afore-mentioned pictures. She lacks a compelling raison d'etre for her behaviour, aside from being a good time girl, but this is in keeping with the loose, insubstantial tone of the movie. In comparing Mindy to characters from the other films, the character closest to Mindy is Jacy from THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Both women love to wrap men around their little finger, but Jacy is, by far, the most dangerous. Turning two friends into rivals for her affections, and the violent fallout from this, is one of that picture's most serious moments. Mindy's pursuit of her teacher does not cause any obvious damage to his marriage; it is just another experience for her, one in a long line of these. This movie, in effect, turns the somber, thoughtful depictions of graduates, such as in OUR VERY OWN and PEYTON PLACE, on their ear. One of the most free-spirited of the films about a high school graduate, THE YOUNG GRADUATES is not meant to be a strain on the intellect in this respect.

Overview: Robert Anderson was an American director with only three films to his credit, these mainly being of an exploitation orientation. His first movie, CINDY AND DONNA (1970), contrasted two sisters, their amorous relationships, and promiscuous activities. Mr Anderson's final picture, THE HOAX (1972), was a comedy of two young men who stumble across a nuclear weapon in the ocean, and subsequently try to extort money from the city, and its inhabitants. THE YOUNG GRADUATES was Robert Anderson's second movie, and his best-known effort.

Robert Anderson has fashioned an entertaining, light-hearted film with THE YOUNG GRADUATES. The story of a young woman who has just turned eighteen, and graduated from high school, it follows her many adventures, and misadventures, in a fun manner. The movie is not a serious exploration of high school, or of life after studies for its protagonist or her friends, but has an emphasis on rollicking action which keeps things interesting for the viewer. The rapid-fire pace ensures that the story never stagnates or bores, with different elements offered to the viewer to enjoy. Romance, adultery, car-racing, road movie antics, and crime, are just some of the numerous events which take place. This is not a bad thing to witness, but in the case of THE YOUNG GRADUATES, having a succession of fresh ideas does make certain events, which should have had greater story power, just become part of the passing parade of novelties. 

With reference to Mindy, and the pursuit of her high school teacher Mr Thompson, this story thread does take up quite a lot of time in the narrative, but the delivery is somewhat woeful. While there is some presentation of Mr Thompson's marital issues with his wife, this is just done for the flavour of the moment, without any lasting effects. A major letdown is that his wife never discovers his indiscretions with Mindy. Something dramatic could have been derived out of this knowledge, but it never takes place. Half-baked story ideas give the impression of not only hastiness on the part of the filmmakers, but also, that these just exist for the sake of it, instead of being a natural flow of events which they should have been. This tendency, in other words, points to a specific intention of THE YOUNG GRADUATES as a movie. It is a breezy film that steadfastly refuses to allow a sense of depth to infuse its proceedings, for the sincere objective of providing carefree amusement to its viewers. 

Acting: Due to the whimsical nature of the movie and its content, there are no performances which stand out in THE YOUNG GRADUATES, as the acting is of a sound, if not especially notable level.

Soundtrack: Ray Martin's music in THE YOUNG GRADUATES enhances the easy-going atmosphere it exudes so well. There are a number of non-diegetic songs played through the course of the movie, with the diegetic dance sequences in the school hall making sense for the story, its characters, and the time period. 

Mise-en-scene: THE YOUNG GRADUATES offers a pleasing screen experience for viewers. The colour photography is lovely to witness, just right, and captures both indoor, and outdoor scenes beautifully, thanks to co-cinematographers J. Barry Herron, and John Toll. Indoor settings are easy on the eye, and have aged quite well, with interiors of a high standard. Location shooting is another pleasing aspect of THE YOUNG GRADUATES, with attractive scenery and places nicely emphasized, giving the impression of a relaxed, and irresistible city, and its environs, to visit.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Infrequent coarse language, brief female nudity, adult themes, medium-level violence.

Overall GradeC

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Sunday, March 3, 2024

INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR PERRY KING

I have the immense pleasure today of welcoming a very special guest, actor Perry King, to CINEMATIC REVELATIONS for an interview. Perry has acted in over twenty movies including SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY, THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH, A DIFFERENT STORY [my review of the film can be found here], MANDINGO, LIPSTICK, CLASS OF 1984, and more recently in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, DELUSIONAL, and THE DIVIDE. THE DIVIDE marked Perry’s directorial debut, and has been well received, being the recipient of many awards. Perry has also been very prolific on television, acting in scores of programs over the years. In this interview Perry will be discussing his part in A DIFFERENT STORY, acting, cinema and television, Broadway, and his role as director of THE DIVIDE.

Welcome to CINEMATIC REVELATIONS Perry!

Athan: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an actor?

Perry: I was going to, what we in the United States call, a preparatory school. And when I was 12, I was in a play called ‘The Caine Mutiny Court Martial’. And this is an experience pretty much any actor and actress will tell you a version of this story, I think. We did the rehearsal, and I was kind of bored by the whole thing. I was playing this stenographer. I was just trying to get extra credit points. I'm maybe 13 years old or 14.

As the play opens with the court martial, I'm on stage, my character behind a desk. And so I'm sitting there on the desk, the curtain was down, and the lights were off on the stage. I could tell that the lights were on and in the auditorium, there was all kinds of noise, people coming in, and sitting down.

And then suddenly all that noise stopped and the lights in the audience clearly went off, because I could see them go off under the edge of the curtain. And the curtain was raised, and the lights came on the stage. And I just remember thinking, ‘holy cow, this is it. This is what I want to do.’ It was the most exciting moment of my life. Now, I should say, I've come to realize that the impulse to be an actor, be a performer of any kind is a very neurotic impulse.

I've learned, I mean, I'm 75 years old. I've learned a lot. And, the impulse is attention validation. You want people to be looking at you and paying attention to you. But it doesn't mean that you can't do potentially wonderful things with it. I mean, the world would be a much smaller, lesser place without Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Bobby De Niro, and Meryl Street.

There's maybe no feeling in the world as glorious as being moved by a movie. And I love that sense of a movie moving you emotionally. And that's from acting. But it is a neurotic impulse that I didn't realize then. When young actors say to me, I want to be like you, I want to be an actor, be in movies, TV, and on stage, and they don't realize that what I say, great, that's wonderful.

You have all this desire to express yourself. But they don't realize what I'm hearing them saying really deep down inside is, I'm just acting up as you are. That's what it means. But you could do great stuff. Laurence Olivier said, ‘it's a ridiculous way for a grown man to make a living’. And that’s right. It is, but I've done it my whole life and it's been a fun life.

Depending on the part, so often you get positive attention, doing things that in real life you'd be heavily criticized for. Particularly when you're playing a bad character, a bad guy. I love bad guys. I played a lot of bad guys, and they're the most fun of all because, you know, you do anything, that stuff you never, never consider doing in real life. And afterwards, people say, you were great, you were wonderful. 

I mean, it's kind of crazy. It's actually very much like I raced cars for twenty-five years at least, it's very much the same thing. What you do on a racetrack is the kind of thing that you'd be just excoriated for doing on the public roads. You know, being aggressive, intimidating, and extremely fast. On the racetrack, though, that's what's called for, it's allowed. I had a friend who was a race car driver, and somebody said they got in his car to take a ride.

I was in his car and they said to him, now, please, please, I know you're a race car driver, but go slowly, will you. He looked at this woman and said, ‘don't worry, ‘I'm a very good social driver’, and he just went very slowly and didn't scare her at all. He knew exactly how to do that, as well as being blindingly fast on the track.

*

Athan: Where did you study acting?

Perry: Well, I went to Yale University and got a a BA from there, where they have a drama division, that's why I went there. But it wasn't very good. It really didn't give me much, all through university, those four years. I spent all my time doing plays, which was not what's outside of the classroom. The actual preparation for the Bachelor of Arts and Drama was kind of useless, really.

It didn't lead anywhere. Then I went to Julliard. This was in 1970, and I was up for the draft and we were in the Vietnam War at that time. I was set to go to LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) in England, which is considered the greatest acting school in the world. I couldn't take it because I wasn't sure I would be able to go.

I thought I might end up in the Army. As it turned out, I didn't. And then I could go to Juilliard where I also had auditioned, and I attended there for about three months. I was under John Houseman, the great John Houseman, an incredible man. And then, through a series of lucky accidents, I auditioned for a movie with Shirley MacLaine. I got the chance to do audition, and went to it thinking, ‘Well, I'll go and see what it's like.’

It'll be interesting. And I assumed they would throw me out on my butt in thirty seconds, because I wasn't at all nervous about it, as I thought I was going to fail completely. Immediately, I got the part and went to John Houseman and said, ‘what do I do?’ All of the other teachers said, ‘Turn it down.’

Now, this is the title lead in a movie with Shirley MacLaine. Plus it was a character in a movie called THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY, where I played two different characters. I played her brother, who's a very screwed up, mentally troubled guy. And I also essentially play a Puerto Rican killer. He becomes possessed by the spirit of this killer, or he's insane. With Joel, my character, you never know. 

It was an incredible part in Joel Delaney. I went to Mr. Houseman and said, ‘what should I do?’ This is the man who had worked with Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater and stuff. I mean, one of the great men of the world in that area, a wonderful leader. He said, ‘Perry, I've always thought an actor should work when he can work and study when he can.’ He said, ‘do the movie’, unlike every other teacher there.

They said, ‘turn it down, study. You're not ready, blah, blah, blah, blah’. He said, ‘go do it, and if you want, when it's finished, come back. Your spot will be over there for you, I promise you.’ And I just started working and never got back. Then I got to work with him over the years, a couple of times as an actor, and several different shows I did had John Houseman. It was so much fun doing that, it was great.

THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY is a great film. Moments of it, parts of it are really good, and then parts of it don't work - a very flawed film in some ways, like most frankly. But again, there are bits and pieces that are great, but it doesn't really come together. 

What I learned over the years is, because I'd go to see things I was in or watch them on television, or wherever I saw them such as in a screening, I was always disappointed. Finally, I thought, nowhere in the contract does it say, I have to watch this stuff, so I do something and enjoy it for all it was worth. And maybe believe it was terrific, and walk away and forget it ever happened. Turns out that's the best way to do it. A lot of actors do that.

A lot of actors, even in the past, for example, Spencer Tracy was famous for never watching his movies. I spent some time with Katharine Hepburn once back in the seventies. I was living in New York, and she had been very good friends with my grandparents.

My grandfather was Max Perkins, who edited Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolf, James Jones, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. He's considered the great literary editor of the 20th century. Katharine Hepburn had been good friends with him. They lived side by side in an area of New York City called Turtle Bay Gardens. They were looking for somebody to play the gentleman caller in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie.

And she, just out of kindness, invited me to her house, where she was trying to get me up to speed, to see if she could help me enough so I could play that part. And I couldn't. I was too young, too callow, and just couldn't rise to the occasion, sadly. But she taught me some wonderful stuff. These are Katharine’s words to me about how you act.

She said this to me, and I memorized it on the spot because I knew I'd never want to forget it. She said, ‘this is what she said you do as an actor on film. You get a blanket idea of the character. You work off the other person, and you throw yourself into the midst of the moment.’ You can kind of hear her saying that, can't you?  Parkinson's toward the end of her life made her voice waver. I love that description of how she worked. You could just see her doing that and all those things. Anyway, she talked to me a lot that afternoon. We spent time together talking about Spencer Tracy, the great love of her life. They never lived together, but each always maintained separate residences.

Katharine Hepburn said one time, not to me, but in another interview, she believed that men and women should be next door neighbors, and that's as close they should get. She was a very powerful woman, and clearly, it would be hard to live constantly with that strength, and she knew it. I just love that quote. Throw yourself into the midst of the moment. Such a clear thought, isn't it?

God, I always felt that I was born about maybe thirty years or so too late. I would've loved to have been a young man between the two wars. That was the best time in Hollywood. It's amazing when you look at it. How many incredible movies were made in 1939? Just amazing, almost all the great movies of Hollywood. You look for the data on them, and it turns out to be 1939.

There were dozens of great, great movies made in that year. It was kind of a magic year for some reason. And then, of course, even after World War II, there were so many Hollywood movies, such good stories they really knew how to do well. And I honestly think, old men always say this kind of thing, and I'm an old man now, but I really think if I were twenty today, I don't believe I'd become an actor in this time.

When I was a young man, the way you filmed something was if you wanted it to be on film, you had to go out and do it. That's the only way you could put it on film. It made it incredibly exciting to be in a movie. 

I was doing a mini-series, Captains and the Kings, where my character had to follow Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders down to Cuba, where they were fighting the Spanish American War in Cuba. In this scene, I'm looking for my younger brother who has joined the Rough Riders, but it was crucial that I find him. So I'm in this scene, and we're going to shoot it. I go to Universal Studios, which is three minutes from where I'm sitting right now, just down the street and proceed to the back lot, getting ready to shoot. They had taken over the whole back lot of Universal. There was Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, but it turned out a friend of mine was playing Teddy Roosevelt. 

He was dressed up as Teddy Roosevelt alongside the soldiers. And there were the Spanish soldiers, with this war going on. There was a scene where I had to run through this pathway, and they were going to set off bombs beside me. I had to dive into this foxhole and got too close to this one thing, with the bomb going, and it actually hurt me. I crashed into the foxhole, and was bleeding a lot on one shoulder and cut up. They all ran over and said, ‘Oh my God, we've got to stop. We've got to stop shooting and we'll send you to the infirmary.’ And I said, ‘What? Are you crazy? Keep shooting. It's my blood. It's real blood. It's all wonderful.” I've never been happier in my whole life, it was so great.

It is like playing the games you played when you were a little boy, but everything around you is designed to support your fantasy. Nowadays, if we shot that scene, I'd be in a sound studio, a soundstage with just a lot of green all around me, and nothing there but me and a bunch of green. They'd lay all that in later with CGI and other stuff. I'd just be doing it all by myself, or with one other actor. It's no fun. All the fun is removed, or so much of the fun is, I just wouldn't like it. People flying around with a cape in the air, who cares? I want to see stories about real people, you know?

These two films, NYAD and ANATOMY OF A FALL, are both films about real living, breathing people, and about the drama of ordinary life. That's what I think a film should be about. And that's what so many of the films in the best years of Hollywood did. Yeah. That's what I watch on television. I just watch Turner Classic movies.

*

Athan: Your performance in A DIFFERENT STORY as the poetic, sympathetic young man Albert, was exceptional. What it is that drew you to the part of Albert in A DIFFERENT STORY?

Perry: That's an interesting question. I got the script to play, and loved the sense of quiet humor in the film. I wanted to indulge in that kind of quiet humor and play the part for that. I loved director Paul Aaron from the moment I met him in that production company. He sent me the script as I was set to play in the movie, and then the production fell apart. 

They lost the funding. I said to them that if they ever got the funding back together again, I would do it for what they had already paid me. They had to pay me my fee, even though the funding fell apart. I said, ‘Well, if you ever get it together, I'll just do it for what you've already paid me. I won't charge anymore.’ They originally wanted Susan Sarandon, but then that's when they ended up with Meg Foster. Susan started working on something else. I just love the purity, the good heartedness of that script. It's just such a sweet, good hearted movie about ordinary people just trying to make sense of their lives.

I think, by the time I shot that film, I'd learned a valuable lesson, which is, you have to, you must pick parts very carefully, because you have to be willing to live with a character for a long time, and very intimately. It's not like necessarily becoming somebody, although it can sometimes be that way. It was that way for me, doing THE DIVIDE, the character I play in that being the old man. I just quickly got to the place where he and I were the same person. I didn't even think of it as a character.

Usually it's sort of more akin to rooming with someone 24 hours a day, and living with them. And you got to make sure you're willing to live with this character you've chosen. I did a film called THE CHOIRBOYS for example, which was before A DIFFERENT STORY. The character I played in THE CHOIRBOYS ends up killing himself in the film. So that meant all through that film, no matter what I was doing, I had to be thinking about this. I had to live in his mind, in his head with the reasons why he eventually killed himself. And boy, that film took us about three months to shoot, and damn near killed me because of the character’s feelings all day every day.

That guy was going to kill himself, so I had to live with his suicidal thoughts. When the film was over, I kind of ran away and thought, I'm going to choose much more carefully in the future, to make sure I’m willing to live with someone. It doesn't mean they have to be a good guy or anything like that. It just means you're going to be living in their head all day every day. It better be a head you're willing to live in.

*

Athan: A DIFFERENT STORY had an excellent cast with yourself and Meg Foster in the lead roles, with Guerin Barry, Valerie Curtin, Doug Higgins, and Peter Donat in supporting parts. The chemistry especially with Meg Foster as Stella was moving, and very real, to witness. What was it like working with these performers?

Perry: Well, there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie and chemistry in A DIFFERENT STORY. And you can feel that when it's happening. That's just good casting. It's very hard to predict when you will have tremendous chemistry and when you won't. It's very strange sometimes with film, and you can feel it happening where two people would be together and they work great on film, even though in real life they wouldn't work well together.

And the opposite, sometimes people who work beautifully in real life have no chemistry on film. The best example to me always is Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. It always seemed to me that Paul Newman didn't start out to be a very good actor by his own admission, but by the time he, by the end of his life, had become arguably one of, or maybe the best film actor in the world, just by sheer attention to detail.

Joanne Woodward was always a supremely good actress, and Paul Newman undoubtedly learned a lot from her. In real life they had a closeness and a bond that was just what we all hoped for with someone. Right? I don't know if other people feel this way about them together, as they were only together in a couple of films. They're dead, they're boring. They don't work together on film at all. Whatever it is that binds them together is invisible.

Whereas I worked a couple of times with actresses, for example, that I didn't really like as a person. That's not true of Meg, by the way. I loved Meg, but I've worked with actresses I didn't really like and wouldn't spend any time with on my own. I could tell, and the actress could tell, probably felt the same way about me. We could tell, though, that for some reason on film, we had great chemistry. It's very hard to predict that. You know, it's very hard when someone casts a film, to tell if what's going to happen or not, takes a really good eye. Like Paul Aaron has, to know what will work.

Chemistry between actors is very unpredictable. When it's missing, it's awful, isn't it? We've all seen features with the actor and the actress, both of them very good, but there's nothing going on between them. It's dead air between them.

*

Athan: What did you most love about filming A DIFFERENT STORY?

Perry: Well, there was a lot that I loved about it. Certainly, I enjoyed every day so much on that film, felt so free, and so able to use whatever I could bring. One thing comes to mind is that Paul had a wonderful habit of letting us play a scene. He kept us together in many, many scenes. He would shoot the two of us in a two shot, which was so smart, I thought, unlike most films, so at the end of a scene, he wouldn't say cut very often. We'd come to the next scene, and he let us just do whatever we felt like at the end of the scenes.

So very often we'd say something, or do something, or follow a tangent. He was so smart about that. He knew one of the things that makes film so great is that you can capture forever the momentary accident, the thing that comes out of left field.

He'd let us ad-lib whenever we felt like it, he wouldn't object to that. I mean, you probably know some of the greatest films of all time where the lines were ad-libs. Like ‘We're going to need a bigger boat.’ That line from JAWS which Roy Scheider said, ‘we're going to need a bigger boat.’ I mean, that's one of the great dialogue lines of all time. And that was just ad-lib. He said it one day at the end of a shot. So that's something I remember. 

*

Athan: Do you keep in contact with any cast members and crew from your movies?

Perry: Well, sometimes you do, but not very often. And sometimes, oh boy, there's one time when I wished to hell I had. I did a television movie called Good King Wenceslas, with Jonathan Brandis, who was on seaQuestDSV. And he was wonderful to work with. A sweet, young guy, and a very good actor. His mother was along with him. He seemed very strong and stable at the time. Jonathan Brandis was on top of the world.

We were in the Czech Republic shooting, this is before the internet. We went down to a news stand, and all the teenage magazines there, all the various teenybopper type magazines had his picture on the cover. They didn't know he was in town at all, they had no idea. It was the way it was.

He was extremely successful and famous, and we had a great time acting together. I was the bad guy, he was the good king. We had sword fights together and so much fun working together. At the end we shook hands and said, stay in touch, here's my number and here's your number, and let's check in with each other. We went back to Los Angeles and I talked to him a few times, but we didn't keep contact because you say that and then you just get busy.

Right? That's it. Go forward about ten years. I'm looking at the news and it turns out he's killed himself. He's dead. And I know exactly what happened to him, it happens to all actors. His career, when I worked with him, was on top of the pile. And then, inevitably, he went down the pile and was back in the bottom auditioning in with the other actors and all that stuff. I'm sure this is what happened. He got very depressed about it. Maybe, maybe if I'd stayed in touch with him, I could've been the one to help him, to show him the truth.

The Bridges brothers, Beau and Jeff, once said a wonderful thing to me. I was with them at an event, and I knew them vaguely from connections and obviously admire both of them tremendously. They're both really good guys, which is not true of everybody in Hollywood by any means. They're the best people.

I was wailing about my career at the time. I don't remember what was going on, but I would say, ‘Oh God, I'll never work again and I can't get work and it's terrible. And Oh God, oh God.’, which actors always do as actors. I think it was Beau Bridges who said to me, ‘Perry, listen, think of it as a roller coaster ride. You go up and you go down and you go up and you go down. And so what that means is when you're up, you better enjoy the hell out of it, because you know where you're going. It's down. And when you're down, just relax, be patient, because you know what you're going to do next.’ Let's back up. You go up and go down. That just solved a whole agony for me, it was so helpful. I wish I told Jonathan Brandis that, I wish so much to God.

I've watched Hollywood and fame, and the whole business of getting successful, or losing it, or whatever it is, kill several friends now. I mean, that literally I've seen it, and it's just so dangerous. It's something you can't understand ‘till you're in it. And I, I mean, I don't understand. I never had enough fame in my career to understand the pressure of it, just enough, frankly, to learn that I kind of didn't like it when it was like that. When I was doing Riptide, I couldn't walk through an airport or something.

It wasn't fun at all. Okay. That was just a little taste of what gets people so crazy. The worst is when they get famous, and then all of a sudden they lose it and they, you know. Anyway, it's a very dangerous place, it hurts a lot of people. It's been part of it pretty much forever. 

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Athan: The main characters in A DIFFERENT STORY were Albert Walreavens, who is about to be deported, and real estate agent Stella Cooke, who saves him from this fate. Albert was gay, and Stella was a lesbian, and together they found love. In preparing for the role, did you undertake sociological research on homosexual, and lesbian gender identities?

Perry: An actor does a lot of research, and you try to, we can to live the life of the character as much as you can. I'm not homosexual. Not that there's anything wrong with it at all, but, I'm not, but I did go with the director, Paul Aaron, to a number of gay hangouts and bars and stuff, just so I could experience the life that my character probably lived. I have lots of friends, I always have, that are homosexual, that are gay and great, great people.

As much as I could, I tried to understand Albert's experience and his life, and what his childhood might have been like. You always do that. It's part of the fun of being an actor, really is doing all the research, learning things you might otherwise never learn. I spent a great deal of time learning about Alzheimer's, and going to nursing homes where Alzheimer's patients lived, and asking them if I could just talk to them and observe them so I could tell the truth. I don't ever want to trace something that I haven't actually seen or experienced.

*

Athan: You have acted in a multitude of television series and telemovies over the years, with Cannon, Hawaii Five-O, Riptide, Burke’s Law, Melrose Place, The Outer Limits, Will & Grace, and The Mentalist just a tiny sampling of your works. In comparing both mediums, what was the main striking difference for you between film, and television?

Perry: Back in the eighties I did a series for three years. Every series gets canceled eventually, but we did about three years. It was a series called Riptide with Joe Penny, Tom Bray and I. It was a Stephen Cannell production and was very, very enjoyable, but extremely hard work. Most audiences don't realize how hard you work on a TV series like that with twelve to fifteen hour days every day. Imagine.

It was just exhausting. My God, after three years, I felt like I've been hit by maybe two trucks, one right after the other, but it was a lot of fun. The three of us became very good friends and worked very well together. We were very supportive of each other. So important when you do a series. When we first started together, we had a meeting, just the three of us. They had three principal actors, and we agreed that we were always going to stick together. We were never going to let any forces try to get between us and break us apart. And we had that for those three years.

With film, the process of shooting film usually is much slower than TV. In TV, you're always under enormous pressure to get the day's work done, and they load up a lot of work. In film you can might shoot two or three pages of a script a day. In TV you're likely to shoot 12 to 15 pages a day. So, you have to be very prepared, and you move very quickly, and you learn how to to pace yourself accordingly. That's the principle difference. The process of shooting is very similar, at least it always seemed to be. You don't have time to be a perfectionist in a TV series. Do thirty, forty takes in film, maybe it's exactly what everyone wants, but you'd never do that in a TV series. There isn't time in the day.

*

Athan: Aside from film television, and Broadway, you have also done radio acting. What is it that you liked most about it?

Perry: Now, onto other kinds of acting. I've done radio dramas. In fact, I'm only the second of three people that has played the part of Han Soul, obviously. And Harrison Ford played in the films, and I played it on National Public Radio. We did all three of the first films for radio. And they worked out very well, extremely well. And that in radio acting is where you're just working with a microphone in a studio room.

Honestly, that's the most enjoyable acting in the entire world. All the things that usually become ancillary and irritating to shooting film or TV, hitting your mark, being lit properly, matching all the requirements of film acting, are all are gone in radio acting. In fact, you don't even have to memorize the dialogue. It's there on a piece of paper in front of you. This is all you have to do in radio acting, and this is the most fun.

Also, the artist is figuring out how they want to play it, that's the joy of acting. The one technical requirement of radio acting is you have to learn to turn pages silently. That's a technique, and it takes a few minutes to learn it, but that's it. That's the only technique. I've done a lot of other radio acting too, and that's really exciting. I've also done stage, which is very different from all of those other mediums. I've been on Broadway and in A Few Good Men. I played Colonel Nathan Jessup, the one who says, ‘you can't handle the truth,’ that one.

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Athan: How did you find acting on Broadway?

Perry: The Broadway stage is brutally tough. I'm so glad I did it once, and I'm also so glad I'm never going to do it again. It's incredibly hard work doing stage work. It's extremely satisfying when at the end of a play an audience bursts into applause and stands up, that's wonderful. And then when the curtain drops, you go back to wherever you're living on, on a cloud, you know. You feel so great, and you don't go to sleep until the curtain comes down at 10 30 or something and maybe 11 o'clock, and you go back. You don't go to sleep until three or four in the morning. Then you get up in the morning and think, ‘oh my God, I have to do it all over again tonight.’ And it's tough. Very tough. So glad again I got to do that. I've had a very lucky career. 

*

Athan: Motorcycles and sidecars are one of your passions in life. In 2008 you were appointed to the Board of the American Motorcyclist Association, and have also hosted the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies many times. When did you commence riding motorcycles, and what is it that you love about them?

Perry: Let’s go to A DIFFERENT STORY. There's that motorcycle and sidecar scene right at the end. Well, that was my motorcycle and sidecar, and it was my suggestion to crash it like that because we were talking; what would you do if you go to Stella and she won't take you back? How would you react? And I said, that was my idea. Albert would crash it into a tree and force her to feel terrible and help him up. So we did that and boy, sure hurt that old bike.

I've hosted the Hall of Fame induction ceremony before, which is a big deal here in the States. I've hosted it now, fourteen times altogether. I love being on the board, and was on the board of the Hall of Fame. Motorcycles are something that, the cliche of motorcyclists is that if you have to explain it, you'll never understand it. You know, there's a lot of truth to that, but I think it's really like meditating.

I get crazy in my life, and if things are unhappy for me, I get on a motorcycle, ride it up to Mulholland Drive, which is sort of along the top of the mountains right through the center of LA. I just ride for an hour, come back, and I'm ready to go again. Meditation for me. Speed, wind, smells. You're in the environment. Control. You feel like you're flying like a bird as close to flying really as you can get. Because even in a real airplane, you're in a metal cylinder, but on a motorcycle, you're not, you're in the air.

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Athan: 2018 marked the release of your first film as director, being western THE DIVIDE. The movie has received sixteen awards, variously for best picture, yourself as director, screenwriting, acting, and cinematography. Has this project been a long-held ambition for you, and how did it feel to see the movie completed and released?

Perry: Well, I'd say that making THE DIVIDE was the most satisfying thing I've ever done in my whole career of about 50 years. I always knew from almost the very first bit of film work I did, that I wanted to make my own movie sometime. When you're an actor, you're really at the mercy of the script first and the director. It's your job to tell the story that the director and the script want to tell.

I wanted so much someday to tell a story that I wanted to tell my way, and that's what THE DIVIDE allowed me to do. It was just absolutely the most enjoyable thing I've ever done. Now the movie has a lot of flaws, and I could talk for hours about the flaws, but there's lots of mistakes I made in THE DIVIDE.

My partner, Jana Brown, who wrote the script, and I both feel strongly that the result is the movie we meant to make, and that's a very rare feeling. It's so strange to usually see something you acted in so often, almost every time. Turns out to be not at all what you just thought you were doing. Not at all what you hoped it would be, but in the case of THE DIVIDE, it really was the movie we meant to make.

It's very satisfying, and very exciting. It's a slow, old fashioned, sweet movie about the drama of ordinary life, and ordinary people. It's meant to remind you of films from the forties and fifties. THE DIVIDE is in black and white because I always knew I wanted to make a film in black and white. I love black and white. To me it's much more powerful and evocative than color films are.

It's a film that's suitable to all. There's no violence at all in it. I hate modern films for all the violence in them. I think it does terrible damage to our whole society. And so I knew I wanted none of that in the film and it is just incredibly satisfying. It’s so much fun to do things I thought were important that I could never get other filmmakers to do, for example, shooting in sequence. Now, almost never do get to shoot the scenes on a film because it doesn't make any financial sense. You shoot everything on one location, everything that happens in front of a building, for example. You shoot all at once. But if you shoot a film in sequence, the actors and the director are able to experience the film the way the audience does. It makes a huge difference to performances.

So in the case of THE DIVIDE, for example, a lot of things happened in front of this old barn, by the way. We shot it at my own cattle ranch in Northern California. I own a five hundred acre cattle ranch up in California. That's where we shot it. We wrote the script to fit this piece of property that we were going to use. And a lot of it happens in front of this particular old barn. I asked the lighting crew to light that barn, I think it was five different times, which is against all the logic of film. I remember the fourth or fifth time we were lighting it, the lighting crew said, ‘Haven't we done this before? Why the hell are we doing this again?’ And I said, ‘It'll make the film better.’ 

The interesting thing was each time they lit the barn at night, it came out better, and we learned each time how to make it even better, more powerful looking. Another thing I did that film directors never do anymore these days, but they did when I was a young man, is I as a director, would stand right beside the camera. I always loved that when a director stood right with his face, pressed right to the camera so that he was the audience. Nowadays, they all have what's called video village, where they set up a big tent, maybe an eighth of a mile away from the set. And there are monitors in there, and all the people gather in this dark tent and watch everything.

You're away from the tent all alone by yourself, except for a couple of crew members. The actors are lost, and left to their own devices. It's not nearly as good as it used to be as in the seventies where the director, when you shoot film, would be right by the lens. There are lots of things like that that I did the right way. With auditioning, I always heed the way auditions would run. They'll have actors come in through ten minute increments.

Dozens and dozens of actors to read for one part, and I hated that process all my life. So as a director, instead of doing that, I made sure I knew every actor that was going to come and audition for me. Only a few ever did. I'd see all kinds of film on people, but I called in only a few. 

I only made a few people go through the frustration of coming all the way to audition for me. And I made the auditions last one or two hours for each person. It was unheard of. My casting director was infuriated by me. He said, ‘My God, you won't be able to see anybody if you give everybody a couple of hours.’ And I said, ‘I only need to see a few people because I'm not calling in everybody to audition. Unless I think there's a very strong possibility they could play the role for me.’ He said, ‘You bring them in in ten minute increments, and then it helps you get a good sense of what you're looking for.’ And I said, “I know exactly what I'm looking for.’

I just have to find the right person to do it, and he said, ‘Well we've got to videotape the auditions.’ That's the current thing that they do in all auditions today. They videotape them, or you even take yourself at home and you send them the tape. And I said, ‘I don't need you to videotape. There's no need at all.’ He said, ‘How will you know or remember?” I said, ‘If I can't remember someone's audition, that means they're not right for the part. I'll remember. Believe me.’ And with my young lead man in the film, he came in, and we spent about three hours reading the script.

He'd read one scene for me, and I'd read the other character. Sometimes we'd switch parts, and we'd read other scenes he hadn't expected to read. At the end of three hours, I broke the biggest rule of all. I said, ‘Okay, do you want to play this part?’ He said, “Yes, I do.’ And I said, ‘You got it.’ Which is not what you're supposed to do, as opposed to the agent, as the agent negotiates really hard. And I said, ‘Nope, we're not doing that. We're not playing that game.’ It was very satisfying all across the board, all the way through it. That's how I did it. Breaking the rules, but with great satisfaction.

It's a good film. Every time I've seen it with an audience at the end of it, an awful lot of the audience are very moved. I'll turn around and look right at the end of it. Often half, or a quarter of the audience wiping tears away from their eyes and stuff. It's a sweet movie, and a good-hearted movie, which so few films these days are.

I’m very out of step with my profession. I can't fit in at all. I've been in the Oscars, the Motion Picture Academy since 1977. The things I think are the best films, and the best performances never even seem to get nominated, let alone win. I'm just completely out of step with stuff. I made a film that was in step with me, with what I care about. I only needed to do it once, but I'm so glad I did it.

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Thank you so much today for your time Perry, and for the insight you have shone onto the art of acting, A DIFFERENT STORY, cinema, television, writing, Katharine Hepburn, Broadway, motorcycling, and film direction. It has been wonderful having you on CINEMATIC REVELATIONS. You are welcome to return whenever you wish.

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Perry King links

+Perry King official homepage

+Perry King IMDb Actor Page

+A DIFFERENT STORY movie IMDb page

+THE DIVIDE movie official website

+THE DIVIDE movie IMDb page

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THE DIVIDE trailer