Robert Nichols, 1924-2013

Robert Nichols at right, with Rex Reason in This Island Earth (1955). Noted actor and all-around neat guy Robert Nichols has passed away. He was 88. Nichols is a favorite character actor of mine, someone who, without fail, charmed me every time I saw him on screen — and he had a habit of showing up in the oddest, most delightful places. He achieved his most notable screen successes in the 1950s, with one of his earliest and best roles as Mac in The Thing From Another World (1951). He was one of the members of the Olympic team sailing with Lorelei and Dorothy in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Pinky in Giant, and had uncredited but notable parts in films such as Julius Caesar and Monkey Business. Starting in the 1960s, he began to get smaller, odder roles, especially on television. His hard-drinking Seal — the Seals being an analogue for the Shriners — in a 1966 episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was surprisingly complicated, a funny role with more than a hint of edge to it. One sensed that Nichols wasn’t asked to play the part that way but simply did, because he could, and because he wanted to. The same could be said for many of his later film roles: His travel agent in The Yellow Rolls Royce, the airplane passenger in the original Out-of-Towners, and the inexplicably small role of a desk clerk in the similarly inexplicable Wicked, Wicked. He most famously appeared as Joe Wilson, … Continue reading

Herbert Lom (1917-2012)

Herbert Lom

  Herbert Lom in 1962.   Wonderful character actor Herbert Lom, most known for his roles in Pink Panther films, has passed away. He was 95. Lom figured prominently in the recently-reviewed Lace, and appeared in over 100 films and television shows.  He was in Spartacus (1960) and The Dead Zone (1983), and played Van Helsing opposite Christopher Lee in Count Dracula (1970), The Phantom in the 1962 version of Phantom of the Opera and Louis in The Ladykillers (1955). An amazing career and a terrific actor. He will be missed.  

TCM Tributes for Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine

TCM has schedule changes for two nights this month, in honor of the recently-departed Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine.     On Wednesday, July 18, TCM will show four movies to celebrate the film career of Andy Griffith, including the rarely-seen Hearts of the West (1975): 8 p.m. – A Face in the Crowd 10:15 p.m. – No Time for Sergeants 12:30 a.m. – Hearts of the West 2:15 a.m. – Onionhead And on Thursday, July 26, a full 24 hours of Ernest Borgnine films, including his Private Screenings interview: 6:00 a.m. – The Catered Affair 8:00 a.m. – The Legend of Lylah Clare 10:30 a.m. – Pay or Die 12:30 p.m. – Torpedo Run 2:30 p.m. – Ice Station Zebra 5:15 p.m. – The Dirty Dozen 8:00 p.m. – Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine 9:00 p.m. – Marty 10:45 p.m. – From Here to Eternity 1:00 a.m. – The Wild Bunch 3:30 a.m. – Bad Day at Black Rock 5:00 a.m. – Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine

In Memoriam: Susan Tyrrell and Richard Lynch

The film world has recently lost two terrific character actors. Susan Tyrrell, who appeared in Fat City (1972), The Killer Inside Me (1976), and Cry-Baby (1990), died of unknown causes on June 19. Photo courtesy Follies of God by James Grissom, which has a wonderful quote about Tyrrell by Tennessee Williams.   Richard Lynch, horror, television and B-movie character great, was found dead in his home on June 19. Photo courtesy the official Richard Lynch website. Both actors are more than deserving of their own posts, of course. Tyrrell and Lynch were both still actively working in film, both with active projects still in production. Richard Lynch has been a mainstay in the movies that many of my B-movie brethren talk about, and if we haven’t seen a Richard Lynch film for the Bad Netflix Instant Movie Marathon, it’s only because we haven’t yet gotten around to it. I first saw him on a two-part episode of “Hunter” in the late 1980s, and his performance was so strong that for years I referred to him as Frank Lassiter, the name of the character he had played. And that was exactly the kind of actor he was, giving terrific performances in everything from big budget films like Little Nikita (1988) to B-grade flicks like Puppetmaster III to a classic ensemble piece such as Crime and Punishment (2002). Susan Tyrrell was one of the first cult movie mainstays I discovered, thanks to a university course in crime fiction. A burgeoning film critic … Continue reading

Levon Helm (1940-2012)

  The Weight The Band with The Staple Singers The Last Waltz (1976)   A few months ago, my interest in a pop singer lead me to The Last Waltz (1976) and to where I am today, which is grief-stricken (obviously), but beyond that is the realization that I’m in the midst of some larger change that, for once, I’m really optimistic about. “Change” for about a dozen years now has equated “sickness” and/or “death,” resulting in a bit of fear of change which I’m sure you can understand. This change is different, though, and for once it doesn’t involve an exciting new prescription medication. It has been a gradual sneaking-up kind of change, one that I think started during the Shatnerthon but which didn’t coalesce until about half a year ago. It was then I popped in The Last Waltz, and when I got past the kinda goofy beginning, “Up On Cripple Creek” began and suddenly a million lost memories from childhood came back in that proverbial flood everyone’s always talking about. I grew up in Southern Missouri in the 1970s, in a small town that was not particularly keen on the urban disco sensation but which loved the early-1970s folk-tinged rock sound. Our radio station KJEL would play The Eagles, early Elton John, crossover artists like Linda Ronstadt and Tanya Tucker, and The Band. The 1968 hit “The Weight” must have gotten just as much play on KJEL in 1979 as it did a decade earlier. Somehow, through … Continue reading