Pulp Fiction #2: The Man of Steel Turns 80!

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On April 18, 1938, National Publications presented Action Comics #1, showcasing typical comic book fare of the era like master magician Zatara, sports hero Pep Morgan, and adventurer Tex Thompson. And then there was the red-and-blue suited guy on the cover…

Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men… who can change the course of mighty rivers… bend steel in his bare hands… and so on and so forth! Eighty years ago tomorrow, Superman made his debut and changed the course of mighty comic book publishers forever. An immediate hit with youthful readers, Superman headlined his own comic a year later, spawned a slew of superhero imitators, became a super-merchandising machine, and conquered all media like no other before him!

Wayne Boring’s Superman

And to think he came from humble beginnings. No, not the planet Krypton, but from the fertile…

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Celebrating The Individual: Milos Forman, R.I.P.

Milos Forman passed away yesterday in Danbury, Connecticut.  He was 83 years old.

When the news of Forman’s passing first broke, many commentators focused on the fact that, over the course of his career, Forman accomplished something that few other directors have.  Forman not only directed two movies that won the Academy Award for Best Picture but he also won two directing Oscars.  On the surface level, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus may have looked like two very different films but both of them dealt with a nonconformist and the people who sought to destroy him.  Time and again, that was a theme to which Forman would return.

Loves of a Blonde (1965)

Even before Forman won his first Oscar, he had established himself as an important director.  As a young man, Forman survived the two greatest evils of the 20th Century, Nazism and Communism.  Both his mother and the man who he originally believed to be his father died in concentration camps during World War II.  After the war ended, Forman would discover that his real father was Otto Kohn, a Jewish architect who was also a survivor of the Holocaust.

The Fireman’s Ball (1967)

Forman started his film career working in the Czech Republic, which at that time was communist-controlled and known as Czechoslovakia.  Forman was one of the leading directors of the Czech New Wave, making films that took a satirical look at life under the communist regime.  It was during this time when he received his first two Oscar nominations, both for Best Foreign Language Film.  In 1968, Forman was fortunate enough to be in Paris when the Russians decided to invade Prague and put an end to all that subversive individual freedom.  While the new Czech goverment kept itself busy by banning all of his films, Forman moved to the United States.

Taking Off (1971)

Forman’s first film in the States was a satire called Taking Off, which failed at the box office but has since developed a cult following.  Despite the box office failure of Taking Off, Forman was hired to direct 1975’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, a film in which an authoritarian institution reacts to a nonconformist by ripping out part of his brain.  Not only did this film win the Academy Awards for picture and director but it also won awards for actor, actress, and screenplay.  One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was the first film to win the big five awards since It Happened One Night.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Forman continued to make films about nonconformists.  Hair was a film adaptation of the famous hippie musical.  Ragtime looked at early 20th century America through the eyes of a proud black man who refused to bow under the prejudice of the time.  Amadeus portrayed Mozart as a rock star and Salieri as a man who declared war on God, all the while trying to please a culturally illiterate ruler.  Later films like Valmont, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and The Man In The Moon were a bit more uneven but all of them featured moments that celebrated the right of the individual to refuse to go along with the crowd.

Ragtime (1981)

A master director of actors, Forman directed Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, and F. Murray Abraham to Oscar wins while Brad Dourif, Howard Rollins, Eizabeth McGovern, Tom Hulce, and Woody Harrelson were all nominated for performances that they gave in Forman films.

Milos Forman may be gone but his films will live on.

Amadeus (1984)

That’s Entertainment!: RIP Nanette Fabray

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News has reached us that singer/actress/comedian Nanette Fabray has passed away at age 97. She surely lived up to that old adage as a “star of stage, screen, and TV”, and was a trouper in the best sense of the word. Nanette began her career as a child in vaudeville, became a sensation on the Broadway stage, and moved to TV in the 50’s as part of CAESAR’S HOUR , with Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. She was a regular on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, and later became a professional TV mom to the likes of Mary Tyler Moore (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW), Bonnie Franklin (ONE DAY AT A TIME), and her real-life niece Shelley Fabares (COACH). Miss Fabray long suffered from hearing loss, and was noted for her work in deaf and hard-of-hearing causes.

Her best known film is undoubtedly THE BAND WAGON (1953), a backstage musical comedy…

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In Memoriam 2017: Music

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The world of rock’n’roll lost two of its architects in 2017, giants who can never be replaced. Chuck Berry (90) was rock’s poet laureate, a smooth showman who chronicled the life and times of 50’s teens with songs like “Johnny B. Goode”, “School Days”, “You Never Can Tell”, and the anthem “Rock and Roll Music”. New Orleans pianist Fats Domino (89) contributed his barrelhouse, let-the-good-times-roll sound on hits like “Blueberry Hill”, “Blue Monday”, “I’m Walkin'”, and “Ain’t That a Shame”. Music will not see the likes of these two originals again, and Cracked Rear Viewer respectfully dedicates this post to their memories.

Gregg Allman & Tom Petty

Rock music suffered another one-two blow when Gregg Allman (69), who helped usher in the Southern Rock style with The Allman Brothers Band, passed away in May. Five months later, superstar Tom Petty died at age 66, taking his beautifully jangling guitar sounds…

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In Memoriam 2017: Film & Television

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Classic movie lovers suffered a huge loss when long-time TCM host Robert Osbourne passed away at age 84. Robert’s extensive film knowledge and warm personality were always a welcome presence in my home, as I’m sure it was in movie lover’s across the country. Cracked Rear Viewer respectfully dedicates this post to the memory of the gone-but-never-to-be-forgotten Robert Osbourne.

Jerry Lewis, 1977

Old movie buffs (some say weirdos!) like myself also mourned the loss of many of our favorite stars in 2017. First and foremost there was comedian/actor/writer/director… you name it, Jerry Lewis did it! From his early days clowning with partner Dean Martin to his final dramatic role in 2016’s MAX ROSE, Lewis was a show business legend in every respect. Beautiful Anne Jeffreys (94) starred at RKO with everyone from Frank Sinatra (STEP LIVELY) to Bela Lugosi (ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY ), and also made her mark in television…

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Follow That Dream: RIP Tom Petty

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In an era of throbbing disco beats, ponderous prog rock, and angry loud punk,   Tom Petty’s rootsy, guitar-jangling sound was like a breath of fresh air blowing through the late 70’s radio airwaves. Petty was a Southern boy, but didn’t fit the ‘Southern Rock’ mode of the Allman Brothers or Marshall Tucker. Instead, he and his band The Heartbreakers were influenced by the stylings of The Beatles and The Byrds, crafting tight-knit pop tunes for the ages.

The Florida-born Petty was an artsy type of kid, an outsider in a world of machismo. He met his idol Elvis Presley when The King was making the 1961 film FOLLOW THAT DREAM on location, and three years later, when The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, Tom knew what he wanted to do with his life. By age 17, he’d dropped out of high school, and three years later started Mudcrutch, a…

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The Day the Clowns All Cried: RIP Jerry Lewis

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Jerry Lewis is an acquired taste for many. His unique comic persona isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially among the highbrow set (except in France, where for decades he’s been hailed as a genius). He was zany, manic, childlike, and the last of the great slapstick comedians, his career spanning over eighty years. He was a comic, writer, director, actor, singer, businessman, innovator, and philanthropist. Jerry Lewis is a true American icon, and the embodiment of the American  dream.

Joseph Levitch was one of those “born in a trunk” kids referenced in many a classic movie. His father was a vaudevillean, his mom a piano player, and by the time he was five Lewis was appearing with his parents onstage at Catskill Mountain resorts. A high school dropout, Lewis did what was known as a “record act” as a teen, where he’d lipsynch popular tunes of the day with comic results. During…

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