Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bill and Wayne’s Excellent Adventures in the World of Movies


My father-in-law, Wayne and I had such a good time analyzing The Big Country that we’ve decided to declare ourselves amateur film critics.

Sticking with the western genre, sort of, we chose Cat Ballou as our second subject. Cat Ballou, a western/comedy/musical, starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin is an exceptionally unique film. One might compare Cat Ballou to Paint Your Wagon, also starring Lee Marvin. But then again Paint Your Wagon is first and foremost, a musical while Cat Ballou is first and foremost, a western.

Jane Fonda is captivatingly sizzling as a one time innocent school teacher who seduces four men to help her avenge the death of her father. Then again, maybe she is sizzlingly captivating.

Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye are quirky cool as the western version of a Greek chorus.

If you really want to talk quirky cool, let’s talk about Lee Marvin. Heck, if you really want to talk quirky cool, let’s talk about Lee Marvin’s Horse. The photograph above does an adequate job of explaining the quirky cool aspect, doesn’t it?

Marvin was presented with the 1965 Academy Award for best actor in response to his dual role as a drunken gunfighter, Kid Sheleen and his nefarious brother, Tim “Silver Nose” Shawn. It's not every day that the blowhards of the academy grant a best actor award for a comedic role.

Lee Marvin is one of the more interesting figures in film history. An ancestor of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee, Marvin served as a United States Marine in World War II. He received a Purple Heart wounds he received at the Battle of Saipan.

Marvin garnered unwanted national attention for his legal battle with Michelle Triola. The woman demanded half of the 3.6 million dollars Marvin earned during the six years she shared a bed with Marvin. This first great palimony suite ended with Triola being awarded absolutely nothing.

Upon receiving the Academy Award, Marvin said, “I think half of this belongs to a horse somewhere out in the valley.”

Captivating Sizzle or Sizzling Captivity...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Go Teach Your Grandmother to Suck Eggs!

From left to right, here's former Boston Celtic and the first man to shatter an NBA backboard, Chuck Conners, Gregory (call me Atticus) Peck, and a blonde.

Let me tell you about an old movie that recently rocked my world, The Big Country.

What a great ride.

The film score is nothing short of epic. The cinematography is mind blowing. The riveting story blurs the lines between good and bad, weak and strong, courageous and cowardly. Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Chuck Connors, and Jeanne Simmons make up an outstanding supporting cast.
The film includes a fight scene between Heston and Gregory Peck which may be the best ever filmed. The director’s use of wide angle shots is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Gregory Peck stars as a sea captain who finds himself in the middle of a land feud in the old west. Peck is the quintessential American hero: courageous, strong, determined, hard working, soft spoken, and proficient with his fists, ready to take on any challenge. He’s not about talking; he’s about doing.

Burl Ives won the Academy award for best supporting actor as a tough but ethical old bastard embroiled in a bitter land dispute with a tough but not so ethical old bastard. It’s strange; I can’t help attaching Burl Ives to the voice of the sweet little snowman in the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was hard to get my brain around the cute little snow man cussing and beating the hell out of people.

There’s a Burl Ives line in the picture that knocked me right off of the couch, a line that will go down as one of my all time movie favorites.

Gregory Peck offers to clean a pair of pistols before a duel. Ives snaps, "Go teach your grandmother to suck eggs! I've been handling guns like this, flintlock and cap lock, since before you were born."

Teach your grandmother to suck eggs!

Teach your grandmother to suck eggs???

Ignorant and curious, I made it a point to do a little on line research. It turns out the phrase has been around a long time. “You would teach my Grandame to suck Eggs”, was first recorded in 1707.

I guess the point of the old saying is don’t tell somebody how to do something when he’s already proficient. I take it grandmothers were really good at sucking eggs back in the day.

I highly recommend The Big Country to any connoisseur of classic films. You can’t beat bigger than life music, photography, story, and actors; moreover, you get to hear Burl Ives say, “TEACH YOUR GRANDMOTHER TO SUCK EGGS.”

Here's Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons, not the guy from KISS, the stunning movie starlet who was married to Howard Hughes for a while.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Prescott Snow

A snow storm hit the last night we were in Prescott. Living in Phoenix, snow is a real treat. I grabbed my camera and a cup of coffee and took an early morning walk .

The town was so quiet, so peaceful, nothing but the sound of my running shoes crunching in the snow.

Kind of felt like I was walking on clouds.


There was a high school basketball team from Santa Rita staying at the hotel. They played for the state championship Saturday night. I had breakfast with the coaches in the hotel lobby. The team's quest for the championship was successful. After celebrating at a local pizza joint, the boys went up to their rooms and a couple of the coaches headed out to Bucky's Casino. Upon returning to the hotel they conducted a room check. No boys. It turned out that the kids were behind the hotel building snowmen and firing snowballs at each other. Coming from the Tucson area, many of them had never seen snow.
Must have been quite an experience, winning the state championship and then experiencing snow for the first time at three in the morning.
I dig Prescott.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Prescott Weekend

This is my gorgeous wife, Gail. Every year the two of us drive a hundred miles to spend our anniversary weekend in Prescott, Arizona. We always make it a point to make a few stops along Whiskey Row where local musicians play blues, classsic rock, and country.

As always, we made the most of our time. We spent an hour in Bucky's Casino braving the blanket of cigarette smoke and playing the penny slot machines. Gail lost ten bucks while I won five. Five bucks for an hour's entertainment for two ain't bad.
We had the opportunity to see Crazy Heart, Shutter Island, and Valentine's Day.
Crazy Heart was excellent. Good story. Jeff Bridges is the man - so much more than just the Dude. I've been inspired to grow a Bad Blake beard. Robert Duvall was very cool in a small but important part. The movie got me thinking about the creative spark, addiction, forgiveness, redemption, and Bridges' love interest, Maggie Gilinhall - I'm thinking she needs to put on twenty or thirty pounds.
Valentines Day was an absolute thumbs down, baby. I sat through two hours of cutesy Hollywood starts giggling and making goo goo eyes at each other, apparently trying to show the world how cute they are. Blechhh.
Shutter Island was interesting. I knew there was a twist going in, so I figured it out right away. The music was a little over the top. It's hard for me to give a true review because the movie experience was ruined by the idiot sitting next to me, not my wife - the guy on the other side. The schmuck smacked and slurped his pop corn nonstop for the first hour of the movie.
Gail and I had some great food and stayed at a beautiful hotel; best of all, we got to hang out together.

My wife did did a little Saturday morning shopping while I wandered the alley behind Whiskey Row.
Above is the back of the Hotel Saint Michael. Tough guy president, Teddy Roosevelt once stayed here; not in the alley, in the hotel.

This is the back of the Palace Bar, arguably the oldest saloon in Arizona. A lot of history went down in this establishment, a place where the Earp brothers drank, Little Egypt danced, and Steve McQueen made a movie.

I've been puttering away at a time travel story that takes place in Prescott.

Walking the alley way behind Whiskey Row somehow connected me with the history of the old territorial capitol.

Looking at the back ends of buildings has a way of taking me back in time.

This spooky old crow kept me company for a solid three blocks. He added atmosphere to the experience.

Whiskey Row Burned to the ground in 1900.

New buildings were under construction within a couple of weeks.

Some of the buildings have held up the last 110 years better than others.

This is Granite Creek where gold was first discovered in the early 1860s. The first makeshift buildings of Presott were constructed along Granite Creek. The winding stream borders the Whiskey Row alley at this point. The original Whisky Row backed up against the the Creek for several blocks. Drunken miners and cowboys had a tendancy to fall into the creek and drown after a night on the row, prompting the proprietors to move the row a block away.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010