A Tribute To Diana Rigg


I was sad to hear that Dame Diana Rigg died today in London.  She was 82 years old.

Like a lot of people, I’ll always first think of Diana Rigg as being Emma Peel.  My dad loves the Avengers and I grew up watching reruns of the show with him.  He taped every episode and, a few years ago, he transferred all of his old VHS tapes to DVD.  I think we saw every episode of The Avengers (and The New Avengers, for that matter) that ever aired in the United States.  (The first season, which featured Patrick Macnee working with Ian Hendry, was never aired in the U.S. and, with the exception of three episodes, is now believed to be lost.)

Even though both Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale and Linda Thorson’s Tara King both had their strengths, the show was at its best during those three seasons when Patrick Macnee (as John Steed) was partnered with Emma Peel.  It wasn’t just that Diana Rigg was amazingly beautiful and sexy as Emma Peel, though that was definitely some of the appeal.  It was also that she could take care of herself.  As many people learned over the course of her time on the show, you underestimated Emma Peel at your own peril.  She was as smart as Steed, she was as cunning as Steed, and she was as witty as Steed.  Never a damsel in distress, she was John Steed’s equal in every way and they made for a great team.  She could fight and she could deliver a one-liner with the best of them and, because she was played by Diana Rigg, she did it all with a very distinctive British classiness.

However, Diana Rigg was not just Emma Peel.  Not only was she the best of the Bond girls in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (you could believe that James Bond would settle down and retire just for a chance to spend the rest of his life with her) but she also had a co-starring role in one of my favorite British thrillers, The Assassination Bureau.  In the States, she played Portia in Charlton Heston’s production of Julius Caesar and then, in The Hospital, she proved she could handle Paddy Chayefsky’s dialogue with the same charm and skill as Shakespeare’s.  In the 80s, she took over the job hosting Mystery! on PBS when Vincent Price retired from the job.

Of course, to a whole new generation of viewers, she’ll be best known for appearing on Game of Thrones and for bringing Olenna Tyrell to life.  Rigg received three Emmy nominations for her performance as Olenna and her final scene, in which she voluntarily drank poison without a hint of fear or hesitation, was one of the strongest moments in the series.

I’m going to miss the talented and classy Dame Diana Rigg.  I know I’m not alone.

 

RIP, Chadwick Boseman


I’m beyond stunned.

Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown and who starred in Black Panther and had a key role in Da 5 Bloods, has died.  He was 43 years old and had been battling colon cancer since 2016.  He’s got one more film coming out later this year, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Netflix.

He was definitely a charismatic performer, a natural movie star along with being a good actor.  The loss of Chadwick Boseman will be felt for years to come.

Rest in peace.

Wilford Brimley, R.I.P.


Wilford Brimley has died.  He was 85 years old.

There’s not much that I really like about twitter but I did enjoy following Wilford Brimley.  Brimley was one of those actors who always played intimidating and serious characters so it was a nice surprise to find his twitter account and discover that he had a sense of humor and that he regularly interacted with his fans.  Once, he even posted a picture of Andy Reid and asked, “When did I start coaching football?”

On screen, Brimley almost always played figures of quiet authority.  Whenever you saw Brimley in a film or on a TV show, you knew that he was going to be playing a straight shooter who didn’t have any time for any foolishness or bullshit.  One of his best performances was in Absence of Malice, where he put a weaselly Bob Balaban in his place.  Of course, everyone knows him from his performance in Cocoon and his promise to his grandson that “we won’t ever die.”  One of his best performances was in a rare bad guy role in The FirmPersonally, my favorite Wilford Brimley performance was his cameo as Postmaster General Henry Adkins on Seinfeld “I’m also a general.  And it’s the job of a general to, by God, get things done!”

Brimley also sold Quaker Oats and later, for a generation of viewers, he became the face of diabetes.  A lot of jokes and memes were made about Brimley’s diabetes commercials but tell the truth.  When Wilford Brimley said, “You need to check your blood sugar and you need to check it often,” you know damn well you immediately checked it.

I’m going to miss Wilford Brimley.  I know I’m not the only one.

Wilford Brimley, R.I.P.

Rest In Peace, Olivia De Havilland


I woke up today to the news that Olivia De Havilland, the last of the great Golden Age stars, had died.  She was 104 years old and she spent all of those years as the epitome of a type of grace and class that we really don’t see much nowadays.  Her famous feud with her sister Joan Fontaine aside, it’s impossible to imagine an actress like Olivia de Havilland getting caught up in a silly twitter fight.

Here she is with one of her most frequent co-stars, Errol Flynn.  This short but sweet scene is from The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Olivia de Havilland, R.I.P.

Song of the Day: Deborah’s Theme by Ennio Morricone


Today, I arrived home to the sad news that Ennio Morricone, the world’s greatest composer, had passed away at the age of 91.  Morricone was responsible for so many classic film scores that it’s hard to know where to begin.  I imagine I’ll be sharing a lot of his music over the next couple of days.  Some of it will be familiar and hopefully, some of it will inspire our readers to seek out some of his lesser known scores.

For now, I’d like to share one of my favorite Morricone compositions.  This is Deborah’s Theme from Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon A Time In America.

RIP, Carl Reiner


I just heard that Carl Reiner has died.  He was 98 years old and he was one of the funniest men who ever lived.

By creating The Dick Van Dyke Show, Reienr redefined the American sitcom and made writing comedy seem like the most wonderful and rewarding job that someone could hope to have.  Not only do you get to be funny 24 hours a day but you also get to marry Laura Petrie.  In many ways, Reiner was responsible for a generation of writers flocking to New York City with dreams of writing for Saturday Night Live and Norman Lear.

Reiner was also an actor, a film director, and an always-entertaining talk show guest.  For many, he will also be forever known as the man who interviewed the 2000 Year Old Man.  In these interviews, Reiner asked questions to a 2000 year old man, who was played by Mel Brooks and who would largely improvise his answers.  This was a skit that Reiner and Brooks developed (mostly as an inside joke) while they were both writing for Your Show Of Shows.  It went on to become a beloved comedy classic and it is often cited as being the ideal comedy sketch.  Though Reiner played the “straight man” in the 200 Year Old Man routine, his contribution was just as important as Brooks’s.  Brooks may have gotten the most laughs with his improvised answers but Reiner always instinctively knew the right questions to ask.

Here they are performing it in 1967:

Carl Reiner, R.I.P.

Scenes That I Love: Putting On The Ritz From Young Frankenstein (Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!)


Today, Mel Brooks is 94 years old!

Mel Brooks.  What can you say Mel Brooks?  Not only did he help to redefine American comedy but he was also responsible for bringing David Lynch to Hollywood.  Brooks was the one who hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man.  It can probably be argued that, if not for Brooks, Lynch’s feature film career would have begun and ended with Eraserhead.  Brooks not only hired Lynch but also protected him for studio interference.  When the execs tried to make Lynch remove two surrealistic sequences from The Elephant Man, Brooks stood up to them.  When they requested a more conventional biopic, Brooks defended Lynch’s vision and the result was one of the best films ever made.

Of course, Brooks isn’t listed in the credits of The Elephant Man.  Though he produced the film, he went uncredited because he didn’t want people to assume that the movie was a comedy.  By doing so, Brooks missed out on an Oscar nomination but he also ensured that the film was taken seriously.  It’s hard not to respect someone who was willing to go uncredited to help make the film a success.

Though Brooks, as a producers, was responsible for a number of serious films, there’s a reason why Brooks is associated with comedy.  He’s a very funny man and he directed some very funny films.  In honor of Mel Brooks, here’s a scene that I love from 1974’s Young Frankenstein.

Happy birthday, Mel Brooks!

Ian Holm, R.I.P.


The British actor Ian Holm passed away yesterday.

When the news was announced, almost every story mentioned that he played Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and it is true that he was a great Bilbo.  Even though he didn’t go on the quest, he brought a lot of heart to the film and the character.  Though his screen time may have been brief, he made you understand why Frodo and all the other Hobbits would feel such loyalty to him.  He was the ideal Hobbit.  He final scene in Return of the King brought tears to my eyes.  How could you not love him?

Holm, however, was in a lot of other films.  He was one of those extremely memorable character actors who, sadly, I think was sometimes taken for granted.  He was also one of those actors who seemed so distinguished (at least to American audiences, who tend to have a rather stereotypical view of anyone who first found fame as a Shakespearean actor) that it’s easy to overlook that he could also very funny.  Watch him in The Fifth Element.  Watch him in Brazil and Time Bandits.  It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ian Holm in those roles.

The other Holm role that many people mentioned when they heard of his passing was his role as the evil android Ash in Alien.  Indeed, he was perfectly menacing in Alien.  If you believe Ridley Scott, Alien and Blade Runner take place in the same universe, which means that Ian Holm was the first actor to play a Replicant.  He did a great job of it.

I want to end this tribute with a picture of Ian Holm and Sigourney Weaver on the set of Alien.  I like this picture because they both look like they’re having a lot of fun.  Even in his humorous roles, Holm tended to play characters who were, if not outright neurotic, definitely very serious-minded.  And Alien is a remarkably grim movie.  So, it’s kind of nice to see both Ripley and Ash smiling between takes.

Rest in Peace, Ian Holm.

“They Might Think I’m A Part Of The Band” Rest in Peace, Fred Willard


Rest in Peace, Fred Willard.  The veteran comedian died, in his sleep, last night.  He was 86 years old.

It’s hard to think of anyone who was as naturally funny as Fred Willard.  Here’s one of my favorite Willard performances, from Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap:

Willard appeared in all of Christopher Guest’s improvised mockumentaries.  Here he is, with Catherine O’Hara, in Waiting for Guffman:

He was also in Best of Show, where his commentary on the dog show proved to be one of the film’s highlights:

Fred Willard, R.I.P.