Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three good ones

We lost three really talented artists in the entertainment industry this week. Yes, the urban legend still rings true -- Hollywood deaths come in threes! But strangely enough, these three couldn't be any different from one another and yet they each left equally strong impressions.

The words actor and movie stars don't always go hand in hand. Most performers are either one or the other. But Tony Curtis was definitely both. His IMDB page credits him in 130 titles, both in TV and film. That's not counting his work on stage. I've only seen a small fraction of his work, but that little taste of Tony Curtis will be hard to forget. Everyone loves him as Joe/Josephine in Some Like It Hot (1959) (he and Jack Lemmon had such great chemistry that you would laugh whenever they were on screen, even if they had no dialogue), but my favorite Curtis role is that of Joker Jackson in Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958), in which he starred alongside Sidney Poitier as escaped prisoners who are chained together. One is white, one is black. It was ground-breaking during its time, but when I viewed it some 40 years after its release, it felt as fresh and timeless as anything I ever saw. A great film, a great role, and Tony Curtis will be greatly missed.

Arthur Penn is a film director who never made a lot of movies. But when he did a movie, man, did he do it well. His most popular is Bonnie & Clyde (1967), which turned Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman into bona-fide movie stars. The Miracle Worker (1962) had great performances from Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. But my favorite Penn film is one I caught just recently: Night Moves (1975). He re-teamed with Gene Hackman to make this gritty, cerebral detective noir that starts off as a missing person's story and veers into a murder mystery. The ending was much-discussed and debated upon the film's release, and it was a ballsy, intelligent finale that left me thinking about the entire movie well past the viewing.

Finally, but not least, Sally Menke died suddenly at the young age of 56. She may not be a household name, but she is essentially Quentin Tarantino's right-hand woman. She edited all of his films, and if you are fan of Tarantino's work (or even a non-fan who has seen his stuff), you would know that the editing of a Tarantino film has a unique style. Never mind the fragmented, out-of-order nature of his storylines, but think about the pacing. All of Tarantino's movies run well over 2 hours, but none of them have a boring moment. His films are tight, bristling with manic energy and genuine surprise. Only a great editor can keep an animated filmmaker from going overboard, and Sally Menke did just that. Quentin Tarantino's future films will never be the same.

No comments: