Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Margaret Hamilton

A kindergarten teacher in her native Cleveland, Margaret Hamilton began her acting career there in community theatre and with the prestigious Cleveland Playhouse. In 1933, Hamilton was invited to repeat her stage role of the sarcastic daughter-in-law in the Broadway play Another Language for the MGM film version. Though only in her early '30s, the gloriously unpretty Hamilton subsequently played dozens of busybodies, gossips, old maids, and housekeepers in films bearing such titles as Hat, Coat and Glove (1934), Way Down East (1935) and These Three (1936). She proved an excellent foil for such comedians as W.C. Fields (in 1940's My Little Chickadee) and Harold Lloyd (in 1946's The Sin of Harold Diddlebock). Her most famous film assignment was the dual role of Elvira Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in the imperishable 1939 gem The Wizard of Oz -- a role which nearly cost her her life when her green copper makeup caught fire during one of her "disappearance" scenes. She played several smaller but no less impressive roles at 20th Century-Fox, including the first-scene plot motivator in People Will Talk (1951) and Carrie Nation in Wabash Avenue (1950). She alternated her film work with stage assignments in the 1950s and 1960s, frequently returning to her home base at the Cleveland Playhouse. Achieving "icon" status in the 1970s by virtue of The Wizard of Oz, Hamilton sometimes found herself being cast for "camp" effect (e.g. Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud), but also enjoyed some of her best-ever parts, including the role of professorial occult expert in the 1972 TV movie The Night Strangler. Despite her menacing demeanor, Hamilton was a gentle, soft-spoken woman; she was especially fond of children, and showed up regularly on such PBS programs as Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. In the 1970s, Margaret Hamilton added another sharply etched portrayal to her gallery of characters as general-store proprietor Cora on a popular series of Maxwell House coffee commercials -- one of which ran during a telecast of The Wizard of Oz! ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Friday, April 18, 2008

Vincent Price 2

Vincent Leonard Price was born on May 27th, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri. He went to Yale and travelled all over Europe before making his screen debut in 1938. It was in a small movie called "Service De Luxe". But it wasn't until his next movie that Vincent really got notice. It was a movie called, "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" and it was 1939. Price played Sir Walter Raleigh, and it was a great movie for him. This is because it featured big names such as Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Leo G. Carroll, Donald Crisp, and Henry Daniell. That same year, Price had a role in "Tower of London". Although the movie isn't very good, Vincent became interested in its genre. . .horror! In 1940, Vincent starred in another disappointing movie, "Hudson's Bay". But also featured in the movie was Gene Tierney, who would be in later movies with Vincent. In 1943, Vincent starred in one of my favorite movies: "The Song of Bernadette". He played hard-hearted Vital Dutour, the Imperial Prosecutor. The film also features magnificent performances by Jennifer Jones, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as Bernadette Soubirous, Gladys Cooper, Charles Bickford, and newcomer Lee J. Cobb.

In 1944, Vincent played Shelby Carpenter in Otto Preminger's classic noir, "Laura". The film also starred Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and Judith Anderson. This movie is absoultely wonderful! It features a great cast and a perplexing story. If you've never seen this movie, I think it's Vincent's best!

Also in 1944, Vincent starred with Gregory Peck in the critically acclaimed "Keys of the Kingdom." In 1945, Vincent and Gene Tierney were again co-stars in "Leave Her to Heaven", in which Vincent played Russell Quinton. In 1952, he starred along with Jane Russell in "The Las Vegas Story".

Vincent became known as the horror movie king after this 3-d thriller. He had many successful (and some downright strange) movies for years after this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

100 Yards of Horror!

Illustration by my good and very Sensitive Friend Shawn McManus.
I headed back from the convenience store through the forest. I could see them lurking in the bushes. Who were they? My imagination began to expand. The Mobile, Alabama Leprecaun was descending from his tree and coming after me. Yee-OW! I tried to go faster, but the gout sent pain radiating through my legs. Now they huddled back into the shadows behind the trees. Were they wearing propellor beanies, or did I imagine that? Could it be... yes, no... gremlins? I was piloting a P-40 for Lt. General Chennault and the Flying Tigers, yes, World War II Flying Tigers, that's the ticket, and the gremlins were on the wing, oh my God, no, NOOOOOooooooo! Get a grip, man. Now they emerged from the shadows... and I saw... that they were only children. Kids holding rocks and branches and metal objects. Batteries? They took aim and began throwing. I wanted to run but I could not. I pulled the hood over my head and continued walking as the hurled objects whizzed past. Only 100 more yards to the house. Could I make it? I limped... only ten feet to the door and safety. Hand on doorknob. Home at last!

You no what? "Troubles don't melt like lemon drops! Little Bastards!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (onscreen title: Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein) is a 1948 comedy/horror film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello.

This is the first of several films where the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's film stable. In the film, they encounter Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man. Subsequent films pair the duo with the Mummy, the Keystone Kops, and the Invisible Man. On a TV special in the early 1950s, the comedy duo did a sketch where they interacted with the latest original Universal Studios monster being promoted at the time, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The film is considered the swan song for the "Big Three" Universal horror monsters – Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster – although it does not appear to fit within the loose continuity of the earlier films.

The film was re-released in 1956 along with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed this film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In September 2007, Reader’s Digest selected the movie as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time.