A Few Words About Gary Kurtz


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The name Gary Kurtz isn’t well known except among STAR WARS fans. Along with his partner George Lucas, Kurtz produced the first two films in the original trilogy, and had a lot to do with the franchise’s early success. Gary Kurtz passed away yesterday at age 78 of cancer, and as I looked back on his filmography, I found he was much more than just the “Star Wars” guy.

Monte Hellman’s “Ride in the Whirlwind” (1965)

Gary Kurtz, like many young tyros back in the 1960’s, was a graduate of what’s known as the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking. Getting his start as an assistant director on Monte Hellman’s 1965 Western RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND, cowritten by and co-starring another Corman alum, Jack Nicholson , Kurtz worked in various capacities on such Corman-related films as VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN (production manager), BEACH BALL (camera operator, assistant director…

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Hooray for Harold Lloyd!: MOVIE CRAZY (Paramount 1932)


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Harold Lloyd  made a smooth transition from silent films to talkies beginning with 1929’s WELCOME DANGER. Unlike Charlie Chaplin (who stubbornly clung to making silents until 1940), and Buster Keaton (whose MGM contract took away much of his artistic freedom), Lloyd retained both his comic visual style while integrating verbal gags in the new medium and kept control of the pictures he made. And while his popularity had begun to wane by the 1930’s, Harold Lloyd’s early talkies are definitely worth watching – because they’re flat-out funny! Case in point: 1932’s MOVIE CRAZY.

MOVIE CRAZY is one of those “Hollywood-behind-the-scenes” stories you know I love so much, so it automatically scored cool points with me! Kansas farm boy Harold Hall lives with his parents and daydreams of being a movie star. One day, he sends his picture and a letter to Planet Films exec O’Brien – only the inept Harold…

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One Hit Wonders #21: “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks (Bell Records 1974)


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Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun”, perhaps the most maudlin hit of all time, reached #1 on the charts in March 1974 and stubbornly stayed there for three long weeks:

This schmaltzy little ditty about a man saying goodbye to his loved ones as he’s preparing for death was based on Belgian chanteur Jacques Brel’s 1961 European hit “Le Moribond”, with English lyrics provided by that most sickeningly saccharine of 60’s poets, the Godfather of New Age, Rod McKuen (ATTENTION DIABETICS: better take your shot of insulin before clicking on the next video!):

Terry Jacks was no stranger to the Top 40. He and his wife Susan performed under the name The Poppy Family (how cute!), and reached #2 in 1970 with the single “Which Way You Goin’, Billy?”:

ARRGH! All this sweetness has given me a sugar rush! Think I’ll go run around the block six or seven times….

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Hollywood History Lesson: Errol Flynn in SANTA FE TRAIL (Warner Brothers 1940)


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A movie lover could get pretty spoiled living on a steady diet of Errol Flynn/Warner Brothers epics from the 30’s and 40’s. You’ve got Flynn, the personification of the classic “movie star”, performing heroic feats and romancing his leading lady (usually Olivia de Havilland ). A historical setting   serving as the backdrop to move the story along, expertly directed by Michael Curtiz or Raoul Walsh, a cast full of Hollywood’s greatest character actors, a majestic music score (mainly Max Steiner , but there were others equally as talented), action, drama, humor, conflict… what more could a film fan ask for?

SANTA FE TRAIL has all this and more, an energetic pre-Civil War tale guaranteed to hold your interest for its 110 minutes no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you live on. It’s characters are drawn from history, but historic accuracy be damned… these films were all about…

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Campus Kooks: The Ritz Brothers in LIFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE (20th Century Fox 1937)


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I haven’t posted anything on The Ritz Brothers since January of 2016 , so when TCM aired a trio of their films this weekend, I chose to review what I consider their best solo effort, 1937’s LIFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE. This was their first name-above-the-title movie, and features Harry, Jimmy, and Al at their zaniest, with the added bonus of comedienne Joan Davis as a kooky coed with her sights on Native American football hero Nat Pendleton.

Collegiate musical comedies were a popular sub-genre in the 30’s: COLLEGE HUMOR, PIGSKIN PARADE, COLLEGE SWING, COLLEGE HOLIDAY, et al, so it seemed the perfect milieu for the Ritzes to showcase their peculiar brand of nuttiness. The story is typical campus corniness, as George “Little Black Cloud” Black arrives at Lombardy College (crashing his motorcycle for an entrance) wanting to join the football team, and immediately developing a rivalry with football team captain…

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Dead Man Walking: Clint Eastwood in HANG ‘EM HIGH (United Artists 1968)


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Clint Eastwood  returned to America after his amazing success in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy as a star to be reckoned with, forming his own production company (Malpaso) and filming HANG ‘EM HIGH, a Spaghetti-flavored Western in theme and construction. Clint was taking no chances here, surrounding himself with an all-star cast of character actors and a director he trusted, and the result was box office gold, cementing his status as a top star.

Clint plays ex-lawman Jed Cooper, who we meet driving a herd of cattle he just purchased (reminding us of his days on TV’s RAWHIDE). A posse of nine men ride up on him and accuse him of rustling and murder, appointing themselves judge, jury, and executioner, and hang him. He’s left for dead, until Marshal Dave Bliss comes along and cuts him down, taking Jed prisoner and transporting him to nearby Ft. Grant. Evidence…

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One Hit Wonders #20: “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four (Mustang Records 1965)


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One of rock’s most iconic anthems, “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four made it to #9 on the Billboard charts in March of 1966:

Written by Sonny Curtis of Buddy Holly’s Crickets (who also penned the memorable theme song for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW , “Love Is All Around”), “I Fought The Law” was a throwback to the heyday of rockabilly in that year of British Invasion madness, and was all over the airwaves that spring and summer. Fuller’s Holly-influenced sound brought rock back to its roots, and his surf guitar stylings were on a par with legendary Dick Dale.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bobby Fuller was born in Baytown, Texas in 1942, and the family, including younger brother Randy, moved to the West Texas town of El Paso when Bobby was twelve. Like most teens during the mid-50’s, Bobby was rock’n’roll crazy, and…

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