Familiar Faces #8: In Search of Angelique Pettyjohn


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I first became aware of the gorgeous Angelique Pettyjohn, like most fans, through her appearance as Shahna in the STAR TREK episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. The statuesque, green-haired beauty fascinated me as much as she did Captain Kirk, churning my then-adolescent hormones into a frenzy! Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the lovely Miss Pettyjohn, and have made it my mission to discover All Things Angelique!

Angelique Pettyjohn was not her given name, of course, nor was it her only screen name. She was born Dorothy Lee Perrins in the City of Angels on March 11, 1943, and studied dance as a young girl. According to IMDB, her first film appearance was the “Blonde in U.S. sex insert” in Argentine director Armando Bo’s PUT OUT OR SHUT UP in 1959, which would’ve made her 16 years old at the time. She’s also credited as a juror in 1961’s THE…

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Rest in Peace, Burt Reynolds


Earlier today, Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest at a Florida Hospital.  He was 82 years old.

How do you sum up a career as legendary as the career of Burt Reynolds?  It’s not easy.  Burt Reynolds always used to say that he couldn’t act but his fans knew better and the critics sometimes knew better too.  Burt Reynolds always said that most of his film were terrible but, for every Stick or Malone, there were movies like Sharky’s MachineThe Longest Yard, and White Lightning.  Burt always joked that he might never win an Oscar but he had plenty of People’s Choice Awards to make up for it.  Burt did deserve an Oscar nomination for Deliverance and he received one for Boogie Nights.  Reynolds lost to Robin Williams but it does no disservice to Williams’s performance in Good Will Hunting to say that the Oscar should have gone to Burt.

Despite having been born in Michigan, Burt Reynolds was often viewed as being the archetypical good ol’ boy.  He first found fame as a jock, playing football at Florida State University.  After injuries ended his college football career, Reynolds considered becoming a police officer but, at his father’s suggestion, instead transferred to Palm Beach Junior College.  That was where an English professor named Watson B. Duncan heard Reynolds reading Shakespeare in class and was so impressed that he pushed Reynolds into trying out for a play that he was producing.  Reynolds was cast in the lead role and soon had a new career.

As Reynolds would often recount, he didn’t become a star overnight.  He did a few plays in New York and he worked odd jobs.  He auditioned for a film called Sayonara and impressed director Joshua Logan.  Logan said he couldn’t cast him because he looked too much like the film’s star, Marlon Brando, but he still encouraged Reynolds to move out to Hollywood.  Still not feeling confident enough to attempt the transition into movies, Reynolds remained in New York and became a mainstay in TV westerns, including Gunsmoke, where he played Quint Asper.  He also appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing a pompous method actor who was clearly modeled on Marlon Brando.

Like his good friend Clint Eastwood, Burt used his television fame to secure low-budget film work in Europe.  He even starred in a Spaghetti western, playing the lead role in Navajo Joe.  Reynolds appeared in several forgettable B-movies before his performance in the Oscar-nominated Deliverance made him a star.  His performance as Lewis Medlock dominated the film.  When Lewis suffered a compound fracture while trying to navigate a raging river, audiences knew that if the river could take down Burt Reynolds, it could take down anyone.  Around the same time, Burt would earn lasting fame (or perhaps infamy) by appearing as the centerfold in an issue of Cosmopolitan.  Reynolds would later describe that as being his biggest mistake, saying that it made him a star but it also prevented him from being nominated for an Oscar but it also kept people from taking him seriously as an actor.

But if Burt never got the awards or the acclaim that he deserved, audiences loved him.  Smoky and the Bandit was his biggest hit.  The critics may have hated it but audiences love it to this day and they know that only Burt Reynolds could have played the Bandit.  When the Bandit looked straight at the camera after escaping police pursuit, that was a move that only Burt Reynolds could have pulled off.  Burt made it look easy.

Burt started off the 80s with one of his best films, Sharky’s Machine.  Unfortunately, the rest of decade saw his career in decline.  No longer getting good scripts and starting to show signs if the ill health that would plague him for the rest of his life, Reynolds became better known for his sometimes messy personal life than his films.  Reynolds eventually returned to television, winning an Emmy, in 1992, for starring in the sitcom Evening Shade.

In the 90s, Reynolds struggled to transition into character parts.  A new generation, including myself, first discovered him when he co-starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.  Reynolds gave one of his best performances as porn director, Jack Horner.  Reynolds invested Horner with what can only be called a wounded dignity.  When Dirk Diggler abandoned him, the betrayal felt as real as Horner’s angery when he was eventually reduced to filming sleazy limo ride hook-ups on video tape instead of his beloved film.  Reynolds received his first and only Oscar nomination for the role of Jack Horner.

Sadly, Reynolds’s poor health kept him from capitalizing on his comeback and he was soon back to appearing in small roles in films that weren’t worthy of his talents.  Quentin Tarantino cast him as George Spahn in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood but Reynolds passed away before filming his scenes.  His final film appearance was as the lead character in the fittingly titled The Last Movie Star.

Burt Reynolds may be gone but his films live on.  Burt may have said he wasn’t a good actor but we all know better.  The outpouring of grief at the news of his death is proof that Burt Reynolds was more than just a movie star.  He was an American icon.

Burt Reynolds, R.I.P.

Just A Good Ol’ Boy: RIP Burt Reynolds


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I had just got back from a long afternoon walk on this gorgeous day when, after checking for incoming texts and calls, I checked my Facebook feed and discovered Burt Reynolds had passed away at age 82. Coincidentally, I have a post on Burt’s THE LONGEST YARD scheduled for Saturday, but rather than just move it up, I’ve decided to write this small tribute. Burt Reynolds has earned it. He was arguably the biggest box-office attraction of the 1970’s, number one from 1978-82, and his charismatic, wiseass persona made him a hit with audiences, if not with the critics. But what did they know… Burt Reynolds was The People’s Star.

Born in 1936, Burt’s family moved to Florida when he was ten, his father taking a job as Police Chief of Riviera Beach. Burt may not have been a straight-A student, but he excelled in sports, playing fullback for Palm…

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Three Short Tributes to Three Talented Ladies


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They say deaths happen in threes, and though it may be just an old wives’ tale, in the past few days movie lovers lost three underappreciated actresses. They may not have been mega-stars, but each contributed in her own way to the world of classic movies. In their honor, here’s three capsule looks at a trio of talented ladies no longer with us:

Gloria Jean (1926-2018) was probably the best known of the three, a Universal starlet of the 1940’s. She was signed by the studio as the next  Deanna Durbin, who’d moved on to more mature roles. Possessing a sweet soprano voice, Gloria made her film debut in THE UNDER-PUP (1939), and followed with two hits, A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN and IF I HAD MY WAY (both 1940), the latter co-starring with Bing Crosby. My favorite Gloria Jean part is where she plays a fictional version of herself…

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Confessions of a TV Addict #10: Neil Simons’ Greatest Hit THE ODD COUPLE Will Endure


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When Neil Simon passed away this weekend at age 91, the world lost one of the 20th Century’s greatest comedy minds. Simon got his start writing for radio along with brother Danny Simon, and the pair soon moved into the then-new medium of television, hired by producer Max Leibman for the staff of YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS starring Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. This seminal variety show ran from 1950-54 and featured the talented comedy minds of writers Mel Brooks , Selma Diamond, Mel Tolkin, and Reiner on its staff. The Simons siblings moved to Caesar’s next venture CAESAR’S HOUR (1954-56) along with most of the writing staff, joined by newcomers Larry Gelbart and Aaron Ruben .

The Simons joined the staff of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW (1955-59) for its final season, chronicling the escapades of con artist Sgt. Bilko. During this time, Neil began working…

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In Memory Of Steve Ditko


Self-Portrait of Steve Ditko

To many of us longtime comic book fans, Steve Ditko was an enigma.

We knew that, as the original artist on The Amazing Spider-Man and as the creator of Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko was responsible for much of Marvel’s early success.  Though he would never make a cameo appearance in an MCU film and the mainstream media will probably always continue to act as if Stan Lee is solely responsible for every character in the Marvel Universe, true fans know that, without Steve Ditko, Benedict Cumberbatch would never have cast as spells as Doctor Strange and Tom Holland would never have swung through New York as everyone’s favorite web slinger.

We all knew of Steve Ditko’s talent but the man himself remained a mystery.  He rarely gave interviews or made public appearances, saying that he preferred to let his work speak for itself.  And what work it was!  With Spider-Man, Ditko’s art captured not just the excitement of fighting criminals and saving the world but also the angst and anxiety of being young and overburdened.  With Doctor Strange, Ditko brought magic, both literally and figuratively, to the Marvel Universe.  Filling the pages with surrealistic images and out-of-this-world creations, Ditko kept Marvel relevant even as youth culture made the transition from the optimism of the Kennedy era to the drug-influenced psychedelia of the late 1960s.

Ditko left Marvel in 1966.  The exact story of his departure are unknown.  Perhaps, as a committed and outspoken Objectivist, Ditko chafed at the editorial restrictions that Marvel put on his work.  While Stan Lee wanted to sell comics, Steve Ditko wanted to reach minds.  After leaving Marvel, Ditko worked for several different companies, including Charlton and DC.  (He even returned to Marvel in 1979 and regularly contributed freelance work to the company.)  The best-known of his later creations was Mr. A, a reporter-turned-masked-vigilante who dispensed of criminals with uncompromising justice.

Despite his reputation for eccentricity, most people who worked with him described Ditko as being personable and cheerful.  According to Charlton’s Frank McLaughlin, “He was a very happy-go-lucky guy with a great sense of humor at that time, and always supplied the [female] color separators with candy and other little gifts.”

On June 29th, Steve Ditko was found dead in his New York apartment.  Rest in peace, Mr. Ditko.  Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.

From The Amazing Spider-Man #33:

In Strange Tales, Ditko introduced my favorite of all of Marvel’s “cosmic” entities, Eternity:

And finally, the character who may have been closest to Ditko’s worldview, Mr. A: