May 30, 2008

"That's HEDLEY Lamarr, you putz!!"

Last night I was trolling the internet and discovered, via The IMDB, that comedic actor Harvey Korman had passed away at age 81. He is, I imagine, known mostly for his co-starring role, with his partner in classic TV comedy sketches, Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show. Korman's movie career is sporadic; Disney sequels like Herbie Goes Bananas and the later Pink Panther film entries. He will, though, be forever remembered in my mind to have created one of the funniest and most memorable comic villains in film history. Mel Brooks utilized Korman in three films, I believe, and his performances always stood out. The one film role that stands highest of all to me is his portrayal of the vain, evil, oily western town power manipulator Hedley Lamarr in Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES. Each time he appears on screen to invoke more comic evil dialogue, filled with fantastic sentence construction of impeccable grammar and rakish intonations, I smile even more. Korman appears to be a mutated version of Dudley Do-right's moustache twirling villain Snidely Whiplash and a perverted Rhett Butler. Of course, the performance is a creation of Brooks and his screenwriters, but Korman adds such panache in his physical molding of Lamarr. I'll never forget his perfect diction in lines like this:

"My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention!"

And his smug leering that would turn on a dime when, instead of being called Hedley Lamarr, he was mistakenly called HEDY Lamarr (a confusion of his name with that of the 40s screen siren). This aggravated him to no extent and he would explode with volcanic force, sputtering indignation and anger at his ego being pierced and mental emasculation. My favorite bit is when the film reaches its surrealistic climax and the "western" breaks the fourth wall of audience perception and a barroom brawl erupts into the soundstage of a musical being filmed next door. Lamarr escapes into the studio back lot and hails a taxi. He calmly commands the driver to "get me out of this movie." This is one of my favorite comedy moments in film history. It's one of the rare film moments that makes me laugh every time I see it.

If you've never seen his performance or have and remember it as fondly as I, here is a snippet from BLAZING SADDLES:

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Korman. You may be gone, but we'll always have HEDLEY Lamarr.

May 26, 2008

Frame of Mind 10 - (for Memorial Day)

directed by Steven Spielberg
cinematography by Janusz Kaminski

May 23, 2008

Frame of Mind 9

THE 400 BLOWS (1959)
(Les Quatre Cents Coups)
directed by Francois Truffaut
cinematography by Henri Decae

May 16, 2008

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Take a gander at this musical number from It's Always Fair Weather (1955) directed by Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly; the same directing team that brought the world Singing in the Rain. I was going through some musical film sequences on YouTube and found this one ... it's amazing. I've not seen this particular film, but had seen this solo dance number in a Gene Kelly documentary. Kelly dances effortlessly in roller skates in this scene. He glides like a carefree breeze, wafting purely on a feeling of love. Then he tap dances on the skates. It is all done magnificently on a fake studio set giving the illusion of New York City streets. The illusion is evident, but so is the magic that classic musicals from the Studio Era conjured. Emotions depicted through song and dance, instead of dialogue between characters. Excuse the French subtitles and just watch the poetry.

May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Saturday, the day before Mother's Day, I spent some time clipping pieces of various azalea plants in the garden at my home to take to my Mom's crematory niche at George Washington Memorial Park. The Spring growth was in glorious bloom. My Mother was an avid gardener. The back yard is in full botanical splendor at this time of the year. There are hosta plants bursting in green throughout the garden, a bleeding heart is showing off each small pendant pink heart like a extravagant charm bracelet, and violets and hyacinths and daisies are swaying in the Spring breeze. Most of all, the azaleas are the most beautiful. My Mom planted so many; white, two shades of pink, red, and purple. I thought, instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money on flowers for her (hiked up in price due to the holiday) I would take from her own garden and bring her the beauty she, herself, planted and cared for ... the flowers and plants that annually arise and bring her most to my mind during the year.

I think of my Mom all the time, actually. I guess the cliche you hear people intone is that they think of deceased loved ones every day; that cliche is true, believe me. But, it's the sight of earth sprouting those many plants that makes her memory most evident. She toiled out in the yard and the front of the house all day creating her own form of art, using the soil as a canvas. She contracted a rare form of cancer at a time too young in her life, her late fifties, and was told it was fatal ... no cure. It took its time to ravage her even while she received chemotherapy and other medicines, but she held forth and braved through the ordeal. It disfigured her physically and wore upon her mind and temperament , yet she still persevered and kept up hope. I can still see her in the yard kneeling on a special gardening pad, with her sun hat, her gloves and pail nearby ... digging, cutting and planting ... shaping a world she saw of continual growth and future beauty, even though her own real world was ending.

I always will think of her and of the memories she planted in my mind and the ground as they continue to grow, bloom, pass and arrive again and again as the days and seasons continue on and on. I miss her very much.

May 1, 2008

A Little Wes Anderson Quirk

Today is Wes Anderson's birthday (May 1, 1969) and to commemorate the occasion, I am going to post a quirky video I discovered. The video was shot at the BORDERS Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI. Mr. Anderson was there, with actor Jason Schwartzman, to publicize his film The Darjeeling Limited with a question and answer session and a signing of the film's soundtrack on cd. Before, or after, their appearance in front of the retail public, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Schwartzman chronicled their browsing through the cd and dvd section of the store. I'm sure most of their recommendations are quite serious, but, at times, there seems to be a dry dead pan edge to their comments. Oh, and pay attention to his plugging of the wonderful Criterion Collection.