Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Movie Meme

Rachel, who blogs at The Girl with the White Parasol, has an interesting movie meme to finish out the year. Here are my answers.

1. What is your all-time favorite Grace Kelly costume?
Toss up between the white/black dress in Rear Window and the pink dress in To Catch a Thief.

2. What classic film would you nominate for a remake?

3. Name your favorite femme fatale.
Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. If James Bond bad girls don't count, then Claire Trevor in Murder, My Sweet.

4. Name the best movie with the word "heaven" in its title.
Kingdom of Heaven (mostly because I have seen very few of the famous movies with "heaven" in their title.

5. Describe the worst performance by a child actor that you’ve ever seen (since Laura gave me the idea).
Brandon de Wilde in Shane! That kid ruins the entire movie for me. Never ran into a kid so painful to watch.

6. Who gets your vote for most tragic movie monster?

7. What is the one Western that you would recommend to anybody?
Er... I wouldn't. There's so many types of Westerns, I don't really think of it as a one-size-fits-all. I'd be tempted to pick Silverado, though, the best of the modern Westerns in my opinion, with a fine cast, great score by Bruce Broughton, and it's a movie that hits on just about all the tropes of the genre. Good representation.

8. Who is your ideal movie-viewing partner?
My sister.

9. Has a film ever made you want to change your life? If so, what was the film?
Of course. Repeatedly. Not only that, but many films have changed my life. How could they not? Films are the biggest influence on me besides my parents and opera. I took up fencing because I loved sword fighting in movies. Without Where Eagles Dare to introduce me to Alistair MacLean, I wouldn't be a fiction writer today. But since the question is specifically "want to change" not what did change, I'll go with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I wanted to go into the Navy and become a submarine captain because of that movie (and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). I didn't become a sub captain for the sole reason that women weren't allowed on submarines back when I applied to Annapolis. If they had, I'd be in a very different place right now!

10. Think of one performer that you truly love. Now think of one scene/movie/performance of theirs that is too uncomfortable for you to watch.
I love Dana Andrews, but watching Town Tamer was one of the most painful, embarrassing things I ever sat through.

11. On the flip side, think of one really good scene/performance/movie from a performer that you truly loathe.
I hate Marlon Brando, but I found myself completely surprised when I genuinely liked him in Sayonara.

12. And finally, since it will be New Year's soon, do you have any movie or blogging-related resolutions for 2012?
Blog more frequently!

Happy New Year!


Or... your day's plans might be thrown off when you get attacked by the outdoor stray cat. I ran outside to break up a fight between him and my cat. Normally when they start to get into it, I just throw a few small rocks between them, they break it up, and go their separate ways. This time, the stray turned, charged 10 feet, and threw himself on my leg. Literally. Clawed and bit me up pretty good. I can't even remember how I got him off, but he actually tried to come after me a second time. I danced back and threw another rock, this time not aiming to miss. He finally ran.

Darn near ruined the pair of jeans I was wearing. Have to see if I can mend the holes. I have a couple of fairly deep punctures in my thigh... will be keeping a close eye on those. The scratches, though deep, are nothing.

Soooooo. Interesting. Never been deliberately attacked by a cat before. Not quite the way I wanted to go into the new year, but what's a few more scars?

Last Day of the Year

And so 2011 wraps up! I'm currently making a batch of spaghetti sauce and just started some homemade Italian bread. I'm listening to Carlo Buti, "the Italian Bing Crosby," singing popular Italian songs from the 1940s. Perfect background music for preparing an Italian feast! The sauce is the family recipe, takes 5-6 hours to cook. Finding good Italian sausages has been a near impossibility (must have fennel!!), but I finally found a little hole-in-the-wall Italian deli in Rancho Cucamonga where the owner makes his own! I bought ten, and we'll see tonight if I have a new source for the real thing.

I'm in the middle of watching two movies, one of which I don't think I'll finish. That's Black Horse Canyon with Joel McCrea. It's on instant viewing at Netflix and will go away tomorrow. I've watched the first 45 minutes or so, and I'm just not sure I can finish it. It's not a bad movie, I just can't deal with horse movies. I cry constantly. It's stupid, but they are so beautiful and amazing creatures that just watching a shot of them galloping and I'll get tears in my eyes. I can't watch horse racing either. This movie's about a gorgeous, dangerous black stallion that's escaped its owner, and about the attempt to catch and break him. The owner of the horse was a really annoying woman. I should like her because she's very strong-willed and do-it-yourself, which is always refreshing, but she still needs the men to help her. There's a lot of attitude from everyone and it gets old. I know it's just a sign of the times the film was made, but... just no desire to finish the film.

The other one is Scaramouche, with Stewart Granger. It might even make me like him and stop thinking of him as a double-crossing ratfink! (Those first impressions made by certain movies are just hard to lose sometimes.) Anyway, enjoying it immensely, particularly the sword fights. It's also filmed on one of the MGM back lots that was used in Combat! and I just love seeing the same buildings/bridge/etc. Makes me grin. When I finish this one, I'll post a review, but it's not going to be today.

I need to write today. When I'm not cooking and baking bread.

Last night I saw Vertigo with Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, and it was a great evening. It's always fun when the audience applauds for the composer (Bernard Herrmann, of course!) when his name goes by in the credits. Fills my heart with joy. Vertigo probably has my favorite Herrmann score for a Hitchcock film. Seeing the movie in 70mm just reminded me of all the reasons movies were made for the big screen. And not just because the details are lost on a small screen (Kim Novak is wearing the coolest hummingbird pin with her grey suit that I've never seen before), but because scenes have so much more power on the big screen. The nightmare scene in particular was twice as creepy and affecting as usual. And I got chills at the end.

I used to watch Vertigo quite often when I was younger. Anytime it came on tv, we'd usually watch it. But I haven't seen it in at least 10 years, probably a lot more. What a little age and maturity will do to your impressions! Things I once semi-mocked, I now understood why they were so. Things that bothered me when I was young made perfect sense now. It was a very different experience, and probably the long gap between viewings helped. Even if I knew every scene and image, I came to it a different person, and it was a different movie.

And now, off to go knead the bread dough...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The War Lord (1965)

I watched this movie set in medieval times for only one reason... okay, two reasons. 1) to see Richard Boone sword fighting, and 2) curiosity. Alas, I was gypped of number one! It appears his character favored either a mace or a flail. Damn. I've seen him fence in Have Gun-Will Travel, but I wanted to see him swinging a broadsword around. Yeah, I'm shallow like that sometimes, but I do so love my sword fights.

This was a movie that took itself a bit too seriously. Charlton Heston is the titular War Lord, and Richard Boone played a good guy for once, as his right-hand man. Guy Stockwell (Dean Stockwell's older brother!) played Heston's younger, ambitious brother, and Rosemary Forsyth was the maiden who captured Heston's heart. There's little plot to this one. Our War Lord, after serving the Duke for twenty years, is rewarded with a tower and a lousy, swampy chunk of land nobody else wants. But he's an honorable man and intends to hold it for the Duke against the Frisian (Viking) invaders. He falls for Ms. Forsyth, who is quite beautiful, and he evokes droit de seigneur on her wedding night to claim her for himself. (Although in his defense, he does offer to let her go before he even touches her, but she's fallen for him by that point and stays. Typical -- cue eye roll.) This causes the villagers to retaliate by deliberately inviting the Frisians back to attack the Normans. Big fight results.

The battles were by far the best part. Heston and Boone and their handful of soldiers are literally defending one lone tower against a horde of clever barbarians. The scenes are well done and quite tense. Battering rams, siege engines, catapults, fire, swords, arrows... they threw it all in. Richard Boone had one lovely scene where he rappelled down the back side of the tower to grab a sunken anchor out of the moat, and then climbed back up a rope to the top of the tower again -- with the bad guys shooting arrows at him, and a battering ram threatening to bust down the castle's front door. I was on the edge of my seat. Good, tense stuff.

The rest of the film, however... the movie is like an uneasy combination of old school romantic epic and the more modern violent realism of the late 1960's films. It's a bit uncomfortable to sit through at places. And as much as I love Richard Boone, it's a little weird seeing him in Medieval England (though no weirder than seeing him as Pontius Pilate in The Robe). He does wield a very mean club and can bark orders better than just about anybody, and I absolutely want him guarding my back in a fight. Charlton Heston belongs anywhere, anytime, so he was fine, but ye gods, the filmmakers were aiming for accuracy, so everyone's sporting those god-awful medieval bowl cuts that make everyone look like unattractive. There was some really nice dialogue in the film, and some really nice delineation between the life of the Normans and the life of their vassals, and what exactly it meant to survive in a world structured that way. Heston is honorable to the end, and... well, I'm not exactly sure what happens after "the end" popped up on screen, as it left things a bit hanging as far as the fate of one character. Hm.

Favorite scene (beside any time Richard Boone went into action, which kind of goes without saying), is when a wounded Charlton Heston leaned his head against Richard Boone's shoulder for comfort... just because that is an image I never expected to see in my life, and I'm still boggling over it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Madigan (1968)

This is a rather intriguing cop movie starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda. Spoiler-filled review follows....

Okay, this really is it. I've had it! Henry Fonda in a movie with an actor I love = death for the actor I love's character. Seriously, this just keeps happening! Yeah, that means Richard Widmark got it. I should have known going into the film this would happen. I think Warlock lulled me into thinking Widmark was okay in Fonda's company (although okay is relative in that movie, but at least he didn't die) . Nope, no such luck.

Anyway, this was an interesting, rather different film. Simple plot -- Widmark and his partner, played by Harry Guardino, get surprised by the murderer they're trying to bring in. Bad guy takes their guns and gets away clean. Widmark and Guardino are given 72 hours to catch him by the police commissioner (Fonda). That's really the whole plot. What I found rather unusual about the film is that it just drops you into the middle of things, never explains anything. The plot may be simple, but the characters are not. They're in the middle of affairs and potential scandals that have nothing to do with finding the escaped murderer. It's just stuff going on in these character's lives. I kind of expected things to tie together, but they didn't. This film is much more like "Three Days in the Lives of a Few Cops" than anything else. That made it rather frustrating and ultimately a bit unsatisfying, but also intriguing and energetic at the same time. Characters have all sorts of history together we're not privy to, that affects their behavior and relationships, and you just have to pick it up as you go. Gotta love that, even if it's all a bit sordid.

Things I loved about this movie: The cast! Richard Widmark, naturally, but Harry Guardino was also a welcome sight. There's also James Whitmore, Bert Freed (yay!), Michael Dunn, Warren Stevens, Steve Ihnat, Woodrow Parfrey, and Inger Stevens. Henry Fonda seemed very dour and wooden and one expression the whole time. I wanted a few more fireworks at a couple points, but that's okay.

The New York locations looked great.

I loved that the happily married family man was not the one to get killed for once. Usually, the minute characters start talking about the wife and kids and how happy they are, they get a big red target painted on them.

I loved the scene where Richard Widmark runs into Henry Fonda's charater accidentally and turns into a nervous babbling school boy trying to explain his presence. The two of them have this uncomfortable history that is never entirely explained, which is cool. The scene cracked me up, because throughout the rest of the film, Widmark was in control. But one look at Henry Fonda sapped all that confidence right out of him.

I loved the scene where Richard Widmark told his singer friend that he was in love with his wife. Just kind of refreshing in a movie with a couple affairs going on.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but it wasn't entirely satisfying either.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favorite Singing Actors

Favorite male actor singing voices. And I'm limiting this to movies only, otherwise opera singers would take over.

1. Dean Martin
2. Hoagy Carmichael
3. Bing Crosby
4. Howard Keel
5. Gordon MacRae
6. Fred Astaire
7. Bobby Darin
8. Frank Sinatra
9. Bill Lee
10. Frankie Laine

Okay, sort of cheating on the last two. Bill Lee did the singing for John Kerr in South Pacific and Christopher Plummer in Sound of Music, and I love his voice so much, I have to count him here, even though I don't actually know what he looks like! I just love his voice.

Frankie Laine didn't do any acting that I'm aware of (?), but there are quite a few movies that he's sung the theme song for, where the movie would not be the same without his singing, so that puts him on this list for me.

Everyone else is pretty self-explanatory, I would think. Dino's been my favorite popular singer for ages, so naturally he tops the list, and I love his acting too. Hoagy Carmichael makes any movie he's in better just by being there. Now Frank Sinatra... I like his singing when he's young (like in Anchors Aweigh, etc.), but I honestly prefer him as an actor to a singer. I really enjoy his acting performances.

Runners up - any time an actor who is not a singer really sings in their movies. I'd rather hear Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood sing any day of the week then listen to someone dub over them. I love Sean Connery's singing in Darby O'Gill and Dr. No. I love when George Raft and Gary Cooper sing in Souls at Sea. I don't really care if they're good or bad, I just love when actors knock out a few notes on their own.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I didn't have a chance to announce it over here, but I recently had my short story, "A Hatful of Dynamite," accepted for the upcoming anthology, Adventurers in Hell. This new story is a follow-up/sequel to my Lawyers in Hell story, "Measure of a Man," and again involves Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

The publisher of the series is having a contest for all readers out there. Here's the particulars if anyone is interested:


Perseid Publishing is excited to announce a contest open to all who wish to submit a character (dead ones only, please) to be included in a Hell story. Here are the rules:

Perseid Publishing and Zauberspiegel announce a contest to submit a character for a story in the Heroes in Hell Series:

Submit a Character to be written into Hell:

In the next volume of the Heroes in Hell series, the winning character will be included in either a new Janet and Chris Morris story, if the winning character is of sufficient depth and importance, or it will be included in an existing story.

Starting Dec 1st 2011, you will have the chance to contribute to the next volume of the Heroes in Hell series – “Adventurers in Hell.” The contest ends Dec 23rd 2011, 23:59 central European time.


Write a text of 200-400 words describing the character you are nominating: Why should this particular character be included in a story in Hell? What errors did the character make in life that will be punished in Hell? Extra credit for appropriate (and innovative) punishment in line with the character’s life on earth.

The number of words is not the determinative criteria for winning; rather, it is the character itself and your description of the character’s personality and behavior while living; your personal reasons why the character should be included in a hell story. All prospective characters must have been real living people and they must have died before 1950.

Only one story per person.

There will be three prizes awarded as follows:

1st prize: Janet and Chris Morris write a story featuring the chosen character, or the character will be included in a story, already in process, for the next volume of the Heroes in Hell series and an autographed copy of the book containing the Winner’s character when released.

2nd prize: an autographed copy of the most recently published book in the Heroes in Hell series and the appearance of the 2nd place character in the next book in the series.

3rd prize: an autographed copy of the most recently published book.

The jury is: Janet Morris, editor/author, Chris Morris, editor/author, and the Muse of Hell: Sarah Snyder Gray Hulcy.

Attention: No author who has ever been published in the Heroes in Hell series may submit a character. No present or former employees of Perseid Publishing, Kerlak Publishing or official employees of Zauberspeigel is eligible to participate.

Submit entries to the following email address: and please include your full name, address, email address, phone number.

Texts are accepted in English and German.

Winners will be announced December 25, 2011. Good Luck!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, da-de-da, de-da, delightful...

Christmas is fast approaching! Winter is my second favorite season, right behind Autumn. The colder temps makes me feel alive, and since my dog is a Siberian Husky, we go on a lot more walks this time of year than during summer. The deciduous trees are still yellow, gold, red, but losing their leaves fast, so you can see farther. I'm big on views, that's for sure. I need to see far and, right now, with the trees in back leafless, I have a view across the valley from my bedroom that I do not have in Spring and Summer. I love that view!

So, what about Christmas movies? My family was not all that big on Christmas movies, I have to admit. We had a few stalwarts, and the rest were pretty much ignored. I've still never seen movies like A Miracle on 34th Street. This is what happens when you grow up in a family that loves action movies... Christmas movies aren't exactly action-oriented, so they weren't put on the menu.

The following four movies were the four I saw on TV just about every Christmas season growing up:

1. Ben-Hur (1959)
2. Babes in Toyland (1934)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. The Bishop's Wife (1947)

We did not do Christmas specials, with the exception of the Star Wars Holiday Special. LOL! Much more recently (last five years) I got to see the following three, and now count them among my favorite Christmas movies.

5. Holiday Inn (1942)
6. We're No Angels (1955)
7. White Christmas (1954)

But... I can't even make 10 films. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Die Hard, which is set at Christmas. One of my favorite action movies of all times, but it's one I watch year round. I get no particular desire to see in December over July or April or any other month. Though I do start quoting it more this time of year, that's for sure! "

So, what have I been missing out on? Any Christmas movies I should put on my to-watch list?

(my Christmas tree this year)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Favorite Actor Voices

Here's my top fifteen favorite male actor speaking voices (because I had a hard time narrowing it down to 15, and 10 was almost impossible). Not singing voices... which is another thing altogether. And not the voices I think are just plain cool... that would be yet another list! Or the voices I love that are just so distinctive and famous you'd know them anywhere.... I love all of those in a different way. (Man, there are so many ways to love and categorize things, aren't there.) This is more the list of voices I'd like just to talk to me over a quiet, candlelit dinner, where I'd be resting my cheek on my hand, sighing and listening and not eating. Perhaps I should just call these the voices I find sexiest? Hm, but it's more than that. We'll just go back to saying "my favorite speaking voices..."

For the most part, there seems to be a commonality here... I appear to like deeper throaty/raspy/purring/gravelly, well-enunciated voices.

1. Oliver Reed - by a landslide!

Everyone else (ranking quite flexible):

2. Aldo Ray
3. Lee Marvin
4. Dana Andrews
5. Yul Brynner
6. Richard Burton
7. Alec Baldwin
8. William Holden
9. Sean Connery
10. Ralph Meeker
11. Malcolm McDowell
12. Vic Morrow
13. James Mason
14. Anthony Hopkins
15. Antonio Banderas

When I got to meet Malcolm McDowell, one of the coolest things ever was just listening to him talk. Yowza, what a marvelous voice! Way better live and in person than out of that box in my living room. I could have stood there all day, just listening. Which makes me wonder how the other actors sounded in person? Mmmmm.

Least favorite male actor voice... Marlon Brando. Cannot cannot cannot stand listening to him. Nails on a chalkboard.