6 Months of Film Writing


I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting Cinebeats again but I’ve been busy with various personal projects and obligations. I’ve also recently started writing for Publishers Weekly but I thought I’d finally update with some highlights from TCM’s Movie Morlocks. Here’s some of the more interesting (in my estimation) film related writing & entertaining babble I’ve produced in the last 6 months. You might notice that the topics I cover have gotten a little “lighter” in content and that’s by design. TCM’s blog readers generally prefer light reading about familiar topics so I’ve been trying to accommodate them more often.

March, 2015:
Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)
Bold! Noble! Daring! BATWOMAN (1968)
William Mortensen in Hollywood
Hammer Noir: A Poster Gallery
April, 2015:
“Robbery & Murder Were Their Code of Living!” – THE CATS (1968)
A Troy Donahue Top 10
Cooking with Sophia Loren
Orson Welles at One Hundred
May, 2015:
Think Pink: The Enduring Appeal of Lady Penelope
Two on the Run: DEADLY STRANGERS (1975)
The Hollywood Style
June, 2015:
Hollywood Comes to Hearst Castle: Memories & Musings
Men Among Monsters: Remembering Christopher Lee & Richard Johnson
Bugging Out! A Poster Gallery
Classic Hollywood Actors Discuss Women, Beauty & Femininity with Arlene Dahl
July, 2015:
Underrated ’65
Elisabeth Lutyens: Horror Queen of Film Composers
Midsummer Reading Suggestions
Q&A: Michael Kronenberg From the Film Noir Foundation
Birdwatching in Bodega Bay
August, 2015:
A Few Fun Facts About Michael Caine
The Kitten & The Cowboy: When Ann-Margret Met The Duke
Mae Clarke: Frankenstein’s First Bride
Closing Act: Shelley Winters

January at the Movie Morlocks

Had planned on posting this a few weeks ago but it slipped my mind. Still trying to get back into the swing of things around here. What follows is a list of my January posts for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog:

Peter O’Toole: A Hellraiser Remembered
Excerpt: “I can’t speak for my fellow Morlocks but I often find it very difficult to write about the artists I admire right after they’ve died. It can be a painful and revealing process that feels like you’re pouring salt into an open wound.”
Joan Crawford in The Best of Everything (1959)
Excerpt: “…director Jean Negulesco seemed determined to make New York look threatening and downright scary at times by shooting the towering skyscrapers like they’re unreachable monuments built to celebrate masculine dominance over commerce. The tall office buildings appear to swallow up the women who dare to enter them and cast great shadows over their activities throughout the film. It may not be a conventional horror film but there are plenty of monsters in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING and Negulesco’s stylized direction made me feel as if I was watching a thriller or a mystery at times.”
At Home with Joan Crawford
Excerpt: “Crawford’s streamlined but colorful apartment, particularly when seen along with the other overstuffed museum-like houses featured in Celebrity Homes, is a testament to her good taste. And the lifelong friendships she had with her interior designers tell us a lot about an actress that has too often become the subject of misunderstanding and the butt of bad jokes.”
In space no one can hear you scream: ALIEN (1979) vs. GRAVITY (2013)
Excerpt: “35 years have passed since Ripley saved the world from an alien threat but Hollywood still seems incapable of accepting the idea of a female hero who faces danger head-on without wailing about her predicament or relying on a man to guide her to safety.”
Hello Hello Conrad: A look at BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963) star Bobby Wayne “Jesse” Pearson
Excerpt: ” I’ve always found Pearson’s audacious performance as the confident rock star who seduces the entire female populace of a small Ohio town with a few swings of his hips and strums on his guitar to be one of the highlights of this madcap musical. But while doing a little background research on the man I was surprised by the lack of information available so I started to dig deep into various news and history archives in an effort to learn more about Pearson. What I found really surprised me and some of the facts seem to contradict information that can be found on popular sites like IMDB and Wikipedia so I thought it was worth sharing.”

In Celebration: Elvis Presley at 79

SpeedwayToday is January 8th and it would have been Elvis Presley’s 79th birthday if he was still with us. I often spend this day listening to my favorite Elvis albums so today I thought I’d share 5 of my favorite Elvis songs from 5 of my favorite Elvis movies. Enjoy!

“Jailhouse Rock” – from JAILHOUSE ROCK (1957)

“Crawfish” – from KING CREOLE (1958)

“Bossa Nova Baby” – from FUN IN ACAPULCO (1963)

“Viva Las Vegas” – from VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964)

“Let Yourself Go” – from SPEEDWAY (1968)

*Bonus track! Because I had a hell of time choosing between this song & “Crawfish.”
“Trouble” – also from KING CREOLE (1958)

The Universal Vault Series


It looks like Universal Pictures has decided to follow Warner Brother’s lead and release some of their older films on demand (in DVD-R format) in association with Amazon.com. Some of the current films available in Universal’s new “Vault Series” that will be of special interest to’ 60s & ’70s film fans include (listed in alphabetical order) 40 Pounds of Trouble (Norman Jewison; 1963), Blue Collar (Paul Schrader; 1978), The Brass Bottle (Harry Keller; 1964), The Chalk Garden (Ronald Neame; 1964), Gambit (Ronald Neame; 1966), Kitten With a Whip (Douglas Heyes; 1964), The Last Remake of Beau Geste (Marty Feldman; 1977), The List of Adrian Messenger (John Huston; 1963) and Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (Abraham Polonsky; 1969).

I wish I could get more excited about this news but I can’t. The lackluster quality of the Warner’s DVDs that I’ve purchased has soured me a little on the concept and at almost $20 per film I think buyers deserve more. I haven’t purchased any of the Universal DVD-R films but I’m sure the quality isn’t much better. To make matters worse, Netflix isn’t carrying these DVDs so unless you’re willing and able to purchase them you won’t be able to see these movies.

Obviously the studios are not all that interested in releasing quality DVD additions of the classic films in their vaults anymore. Considering the apparent success of companies like Criterion I can’t understand why big studios like Universal and Warner won’t invest in producing more quality products. I wouldn’t mind if these films were released as part of a collection or in sets similar to Criterion’s Eclipse series or Universal’s “Screen Legend Collections.” For example, 40 Pounds of Trouble and The List of Adrian Messenger both feature Tony Curtis and director’s Norman Jewison and John Huston deserve better than having their films stuck on DVD-R and subject to such limited availability. Why couldn’t Universal just release these films as part of a Tony Curtis DVD box set? Kitten With a Whip and The Last Remake of Beau Geste both feature Ann-Margret and I can’t be the only person who would like to see Universal release a DVD collection of Ann-Margret’s films? I’m not expecting any worthwhile bonus materials. I’d just like to have easier access to decent copies of these movies.

But I digress… In a few years studios will probably stop producing DVDs altogether and we’ll all be forced to stream films online or download them if we want to watch them. I’m not looking forward to that but hopefully the technology will improve by the time watching movies via our computers becomes mandatory.

The Eyes Have It

My blogging buddy Peter Nellhaus over at Coffee, Coffee and more Coffee has asked me to contribute my own list of “20 Favorite Actresses” to a new film meme making the rounds of the blogosphere. Frankly I was just going to blow him off and ignore his request because these meme things tend to make me nuts but Peter is too nice a guy to ignore. I tried to throw caution to the wind and just quickly put together a list of 20 of my favorite actresses, but as usual I spent way too much time thinking about this and managed to give myself a headache in the process. This meme madness must end! But at least it gave me an excuse to post a bunch of fabulous photos of some of my favorite actresses.

Naturally I ignored the rules and decided to post a list of 23 40 favorite actresses instead of limiting myself to only 20. My list could have been even longer and I’m sure I’ll regret forgetting to include a few more favorites but over time I felt the need to keep adding to the list and finally just doubled the size. Some of these talented and lovely women were never offered the better roles they so richly deserved, while others are acclaimed Academy Award winners and celebrated Hollywood legends. They do have a couple of things in common though; they’ve appeared in a lot of great movies and I never get tired of watching them!

So without further blabbering, here are 20 50 Women I Love Watching . . .

Elizabeth Taylor

Monica Vitti

Sarah Miles

Julie Christie

Barbara Steele

Charlotte Rampling

Kim Novak

Anna Karina

Carroll Baker

Meiko Kaji

Catherine Deneuve

Isabelle Adjani

Brigitte Bardot

Natalie Wood

Deborah Kerr

Sophia Loren

Gene Tierney

Glenda Jackson

Ava Gardner

Ursula Andress

Delphine Seyrig


Edwige Fenech

Ingrid Pitt

Judy Garland

Florinda Bolkan

Marisa Mell

Katharine Hepburn

Soledad Miranda

Barbara Shelley

Bette Davis

Pamela Franklin

Barbra Streisand

Claudia Cardinale

Anita Ekberg

Paula Prentiss

Geneviève Bujold

Marlene Clark

Diana Rigg

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Alida Valli
Alida Valli

Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate
Pam Grier
Pam Grier
Gayle Hunnicutt
Gayle Hunnicut
Linda Hayden
Linda Hayden
Samantha Eggar
Samantha Eggar
Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch
Suzy Kendall
Suzy Kendall
Ewa Aulin
Ewa Aulin

An Ann-Margret Retrospective

Happy Birthday Ann-Margret!

My favorite redhead Ann-Margret was born on April 28 in 1941 and yesterday she celebrated her 66th birthday. To celebrate I thought I’d post an overview of some of the best films she made during the sixties and seventies, as well as share some of my thoughts about her life and her work.

Ann-Margret got her start in showbiz when she was 19 years old after being discovered by the legendary George Burns while auditioning for his annual holiday show in Las Vegas. Following her success in Vegas, Ann-Margret’s career took off and within a few months she had signed a record deal with RCA and a movie contract with 20th Century Fox.

Ann-Margret was a real triple threat when she began her career in the sixties. She could sing, she could dance and she could act. She was also incredibly beautiful, sassy, funny and smart. Unfortunately I’ve always thought that movie studios in the sixties and seventies never really knew what to do with Ann-Margret. She ended up in a lot of lackluster films and had a hard time being taken seriously as an actress. If she had been born 20 years earlier she would have probably had an amazing career in musicals, but musicals where becoming unpopular with film audiences and critics just as Ann-Margret was starting her movie career.


Ann-Margaret’s first movie role was in the Oscar nominated Frank Capra film Pocketful of Miracles (1961), where she played the daughter of Bette Davis. Following that she made State Fair (1962) with Pat Boone and Bobby Darin. She then got her real breakthrough role as the beautiful and spunky Kim McAfee in George Sidney’s great musical comedy Bye Bye Birdie (1963).

Following her terrific performance in Bye Bye Birdie Ann-Margret made a memorable appearance as an animated character named Ann-Margrock in the fourth season of The Flintstones (1963) cartoon series before starring alongside Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas (1964).

Viva Las Vegas is one of Elvis’ best movies from the sixties and Ann-Margret was easily his best co-star. The two have obvious on screen chemistry together that’s really electric and fun to watch. The musical numbers are great and the movie gave both of them the chance to really show off their comedic skills along with their dance moves.

The meeting between Ann-Margret and Elvis on the set of Viva Las Vegas was the start of a great friendship between the two talented stars. It would also mark the beginning of what might be one of Hollywood’s most tragic and unfulfilled love stories. When Elvis met Ann-Margret in 1963 they embarked on a passionate affair. At the time that Elvis met her he was already in a relationship with Priscilla Beaulieu (a.k.a. Priscilla Presley) and was committed to marrying her. After information about their affair made the celebrity gossip magazines many people think Elvis was encouraged to end his relationship with Ann-Margret by his manager Colonel Tom Parker, as well as Priscilla’s parents who threatened to expose Elvis as a pedophile because he started his relationship with their daughter when she was only fourteen years old. Elvis’ career was having trouble trying to recover from his time spent away from the public when he was in the army. This sort of scandal could have easily put an end to his career altogether.

Elvis and Ann-Margret’s romantic affair came to an end, but the two remained close until Elvis’ untimely death. Elvis’ lifelong nickname for Ann-Margret was “Rusty”, which was the name of her character in Viva Las Vegas and up until the day he died he would send a bouquet of flowers to her every time she performed live. Lots of people who were close to Elvis and knew about his complicated relationship with Ann-Margret have said that she was the real “love of his life” and she has called Elvis her “soulmate.” It’s hard not to wonder how Elvis’ life may have been different if he and Ann-Margret had followed their hearts in 1964. In Ann-Margret’s own words she had this to say about their relationship:

“His wish was that we could stay together. But of course, we both knew that was impossible., and that’s what was so very difficult about our relationship. Elvis and I knew he had commitments, promises to keep, and he vowed to keep his word. Both of us knew that no matter how much we loved each other, no matter how strong our bond, we weren’t going to last.” – From her book Ann Margret: My Story.

After Viva Las Vegas Ann-Margret played a sassy bad girl in the entertaining thriller Kitten with a Whip (1964). Kitten with a Whip is one of my favorite exploitation movies about rebellious teens made in the early sixties and Ann-Margret is terrific as a naughty juvenile delinquent named Jody. The role solidified her reputation as a cinema sex kitten but like most of Ann-Margret’s movies, critics were not very impressed with it.

Jean Negulesco’s The Pleasure Seekers (1964) was Ann-Margret’s next movie and it’s an enjoyable film. Ann-Margret plays Fran Hobson in this updated remake of the director’s earlier picture Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), which itself was a remake of his film How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). The musical numbers and fashions are the best part of this cute comedy, which has a somewhat outdated approach to romance for its time, but Ann-Margret and André Lawrence (who plays her love interest in the film) seem to have worked well together and it’s fun watching them drive around Spain on a scooter.

In 1965 Ann-Margret made Once a Thief with the talented French actor Alain Delon. She arguably does her first really good dramatic acting in Once a Thief but she’s predictably over the top as Delon’s troubled wife and her emotional performance stands out in stark contrast to Delon’s understated style of acting. Even though the two seem like an odd pair, they’re both incredibly beautiful and generate a lot of heat when they’re on screen together. Once a Thief is an interesting crime thriller with a great cast that fans of film noir should appreciate.

After starring with Alain Delon in Once a Thief, Ann-Margret got the opportunity to work with another sixties icon in Norman Jewison’s film The Cincinnati Kid (1965). The Cincinnati Kid stars Steve McQueen as a young poker player and Ann-Margret plays the sexually vivacious and unhappy wife of Karl Malden. She wrestles with Tuesday Weld for McQueen’s affection and does some of her best acting in the film. Ann-Margret and Steve McQueen clearly have on-screen chemistry together so you can’t help but wonder why his character in the film ends up with the cute, sensitive and thoughtful, but much less interesting character Tuesday Weld is playing. According to Ann-Margret she developed a close friendship with Steve McQueen on the set of the film since they both shared a similar interest in fast cars and motorcycles.

In 1966 Ann-Margret teamed up with director George Sidney again for the campy sex comedy The Swinger. In The Swinger she plays a journalist named Kelly who poses as a “swinger” to impress the editor of a men’s magazine. The editor is played by Tony Franciosa who she also worked with in The Pleasure Seekers. The Swinger is a entertaining comedy that takes a humorous look at the swinging sixties and Ann-Margret gets to perform some great songs in the film. She also gets to ride a Triumph motorcycle and after making the movie she was featured in Triumph Motorcycle’s official advertisements.

Following The Swinger she made the entertaining Matt Helm spy spoof Murderers Row (1966) with her pal Dean Martin. The Matt Helm films featured Dean Martin as a hard-drinking, womanizing and often bumbling spy. As usual, Ann-Margret’s performance and numerous colorful costume changes are one of the most entertaining things about the film and Murderer’s Row is definitely one of the best movies in the Matt Helm series. Ann-Margret seems to be having a good time in the film with her fellow Vegas star and the Matt Helm films are well worth a look if you enjoy sixties spy movies.

Ann-Margret spent the next few years making movies in Italy including Dino Risi’s Il Tigre (a.k.a. The Tiger & The Pussycat, 1967) and Il Profeta (a.k.a. Prophet, 1968). These sexy comedies with co-star Vittorio Gassman were popular in Europe but they didn’t have much success in the US. In the late sixties film critics were unfortunately starting to dismiss Ann-Margaret and her talents, which is a shame. She worked well with Vittorio Gassman and I think the two movies they made together are enjoyable films.

During this period Ann-Margret married the handsome actor Roger Smith who’s most known for his role as Jeff Spencer in the popular television series 77 Sunset Strip. Coincidentally, they were married exactly a week after Elvis Presley married Priscilla. Roger Smith had been trying to convince her to marry him for awhile but she finally accepted his proposal on May 8, 1967 and they were married in a quick ceremony in Vegas. It’s worth noting that Elvis Presley married Priscilla on May 1st just a few days earlier. It’s impossible to know if these events were in any way connected but Ann-Margret’s marriage fell apart right after she exchanged vows with Roger Smith. She left him after their first night together and went home to her parents but they eventually managed to work things out. Both Ann-Margret & Roger Smith been through a lot of rough times and never had any children, but they’ve been married for 40 years and seem very happy together.

In 1969 she teamed up with Laurence Harvey to make the interesting crime thriller Rebus. Unfortunately the film was not warmly welcomed by the critics but I think it’s an entertaining movie and Ann-Margret performs some nice musical numbers in it that were written for her by the great composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov. Laurence Harvey and Ann-Margret are both over the top performers with a similar acting style who often “play to the back row” so I thought they worked well together in Rebus. They also both look amazing and manage to keep the film watchable even if the script is somewhat lacking.


Following Rebus Ann-Margret made the “so bad it’s good” biker movie C.C. and Company (1970), which was written and produced by her husband Roger Smith. The movie is mainly worth watching for Ann-Margret’s campy performance and she looks terrific on a motorcycle. Unfortunately her co-star and love interest in the movie is the dreadfully dull and unappealing football player, Joe Namath. The rest of the cast is pretty good and biker movie regular William Smith just about steals the show. With another actor in Namath’s role I think the film could have been much better.

Much to everyone’s surprise (particularly film critics) Ann-Margret managed to land a role in Mike Nichols’ critically acclaimed adult drama Carnal Knowledge (1971) next. The film offered her the best dramatic role of her career as the beautiful and troubled Bobbie, who becomes the target of Jack Nicholson’s rage. The emotional scenes between the two in Carnal Knowledge feature some of the decade’s most powerful and raw acting. For the first time in a long time, Ann-Margret got rave reviews for her performance and received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Bobbie.

Following Carnal Knowledge she began shooting The Train Robbers with John Wayne. Ann-Margret has said that she enjoyed working with Wayne and I think you can see that in their on screen exchanges. The Train Robbers was not released until 1973 and received mixed reviews. At a time when directors like Sergio Leone and Sam Pekinpah were exploring new directions with western films, The Train Robbers seems rather outdated and old fashioned but the movie does have it’s charm and I think it’s one of the more interesting and unique films that Wayne made late in his life.

Unfortunately just as Ann-Margret’s film career seemed to be blossoming a horrible accident in 1972 almost killed her. While performing live at the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe she suffered a terrible fall from the stage, which literally destroyed her face and sent her into a coma. The accident was so severe that her face collapsed due to massive bone breakage. Her arm was also broken in the fall and one of her knees was seriously damaged. She lingered between life and death for days and her family and friends wondered if she would ever be able to perform again. With the help of a team of doctors that included a neurosurgeon, a plastic surgeon and an orthopedic surgeon, Ann-Margret managed to fully recover and after just ten weeks she was back performing live again in Vegas.

After her near-death experience, Ann-Margret returned to acting in Ken Russell’s ambitious rock opera Tommy (1975). Russell’s frenzied directing style meshes perfectly with Ann-Margret’s over the top acting in the film and the combination makes Tommy one of the most entertaining musicals of the seventies. Ann-Margret was only a few years older than The Who’s Roger Daltry at the time that Tommy was made but the accident had aged her a little and she does a wonderful job as Tommy’s glamourous mom. Ann-Margret’s frantic performance in Tommy, which peaks with her infamous “nervous breakdown” scene involving lots of gooey foods, is slightly reminiscent of her paint scene from the 1966 film The Swinger. Her performance in the film managed to snag her a second Oscar nomination.

Ann-Margret made a few more films in the seventies including Richard Attenborough’s excellent creepy thriller Magic (1978) where she starred opposite Anthony Hopkins, which is well worth seeking out if you’re a horror fan. But much to my surprise, many of the films Ann-Margret made during the sixties and seventies are not easily available on VHS or DVD. Thankfully Ann-Margret fans can look forward to a new DVD release of her one and only western, The Train Robbers, on May 22.

Final Thoughts

Ann-Margret has had an impressive career in cinema that was often met with a mixed critical reaction but I think she’s one of Hollywood’s most interesting and beautiful actresses. Her filmography features some of the best musicals made in the past 40 years. She’s a stunning woman and her vivacious personality seems to ignite when shes on screen.

Living in the California Bay Area and working as a music journalist for a brief time has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of celebrities. It’s not uncommon to bump into George Lucas or Sean Penn when I’m out shopping, so I’ve become rather jaded but meeting Ann-Margret was one of the few times in my life where I was truly starstruck. I got the chance to pay my respects to the actress in 1994 after her biography Ann Margret: My Story was released. The actress & singer was on a book signing tour and she kindly signed a copy of her book for me. She was very nice and easy to talk to, but I became totally tongue-tied around her. She was still incredibly beautiful at age 53 and while I was shaking her hand I couldn’t help thinking to myself that I was touching a hand that had touched so many of my favorite performers including Alain Delon, Steve McQueen, Laurence Harvey, Oliver Reed and Elvis. Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed and could barely get out a word in her presence. Thankfully I managed to pull myself together enough to tell her how much I had enjoyed her movies and she seemed genuinely touched by my nervous compliments. I still own my copy of her book and its’ one of my most treasured items simply because  it reminds me of the time I got to meet one of my favorite actresses and on screen personalities. Happy birthday Ann-Margret!

Ann-Margret’s Official Website

Happy Birthday Steve McQueen!

Today would have been Steve McQueen‘s 77th birthday and I’m using it as an excuse to post some photos of him since he’s one of my favorite actors and I’ve got a lot of photos of him stashed away on my computer for a day like today. Steve was very photogenic and he took a lot of great photos. He also made a lot of great films.

Some of my favorite Steve McQueen movies are The Blob (1958), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), Love With the Proper Stranger (1963), Baby, the Rain Must Fall (1965), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Sand Pebbles (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), Le Mans (1971), The Getaway (1972) and Papillon (1973), which are all worth a look. I believe all of the McQueen movies I mentioned are easily available on DVD except for Love with the Proper Stranger and The Sand Pebbles which has been discontinued, but The Sand Pebbles is getting re-released by 20th Century Fox later this year.

It’s a shame that Love with the Proper Stranger hasn’t been released on DVD yet since it teams up Steve McQueen with Natalie Wood, and they’re a a perfect movie match. It’s hard to think of a cuter couple that Hollywood could have brought together in 1963. Steve worked with a lot of great leading ladies including Lee Remick, Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, Candice Bergen, Faye Dunaway, Jacqueline Bisset and real-life partner actress Ali MacGraw, but I think Steve & Natalie have really fantastic chemistry together on screen. Love with the Proper Stranger is a thoughtful film that deals with the complex subject of abortion and Steve and Natalie are both terrific in it. I suppose the subject matter might have something to do with why it hasn’t seen a DVD release yet. Hopefully Love with the Proper Stranger will find it’s way onto DVD soon since I think it’s a great movie, but at least you can still find copies of the film on VHS.

Steve McQueen was the quintessential ’60s American actor. There may have been better performers but I don’t think there have been many other American actors that can match McQueen’s charisma when he’s on screen. McQueen didn’t like to perform. He didn’t have to. He was natural actor and the roles he took became part of who he was, who he wanted to be and who he was running from. When you watch him you can sense that he was genuinely dangerous, but when he smiles he can light up the screen. I think he was an irresistible combination of bad boy and little boy lost. That volatile mix somehow appeals to both men and women. Lots of men want to be Steve McQueen and lots of women want to be with Steve McQueen. His last years were troubled, but I think he’ll always be remembered as a great icon of American ’60s cinema.