THE PARTY THAT IS PETER SELLERS | 20TH CENTURY’S COMEDIC GENIUS

Peter Sellers was a complicated soul– reportedly a violently moody, self-loathing manic depressive with a voracious appetite for drugs and women. His wild lifestyle undoubtedly weakened his heart (in 1964 alone he suffered 13 heart attacks during his marriage to Britt Ekland), and led to his untimely death at the age of 54 in 1980. Admittedly Sellers was not always the funnest guy in real life, but he was undeniably a comic genius onscreen. I never was one for The Pink Panther films, maybe I didn’t give them a fair shake– but I love the madcap classics The Party (directed by Blake Edwards), What’s New Pussycat? (screenplay by Woody Allen), Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick’s dark classic), and the simply brilliant, Being There. He hung out with George and Ringo from The Beatles, and had a penchant for style that matched his rock star lifestyle. Peter Sellers will go down as one of the most unique comedic talents of the 20th century.

1968 — Peter Sellers in “The Party” directed by Blake Edwards

Peter Sellers in “The Party”

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REQUIRED VIEWING | STATE OF GRACE GARY OLDMAN AS JACKIE FLANNERY

“Looks like it’s time to kick some Guinea ass.”

–Gary Oldman as Jackie Flannery

Ask any hardcore Gary Oldman fan what their favorite on-screen performance is, and most won’t have to think twice– the loveable, loyal, lunatic Jackie Flannery in State of Grace. Directed by Phil Joanou (Rattle and Hum), released quietly in 1990, and largely overshadowed by another epic gangster flick that hit theaters that same week– Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Due largely to Oldman’s mesmerizing performance (one of the finest actors of our time), today State of Grace is considered by many mobster movie fans to rank up there with the best of the best.

Gary Oldman as badass Irish gangster Jackie Flannery in 1990’s “State of Grace”

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ALTMAN’S “McCABE & MRS. MILLER” | TSY REQUIRED VIEWING

1970 – ’71 was definitely a high-water mark for Film Director (not to mention a badass photographer to boot) Robert Altman.  Hot on the heels of M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) was released and became, what many consider to be, one of Warren Beatty’s finest roles, and one of the best Westerns (or anti-Western, if you will) ever made according to many film aficionados.  It wasn’t your typical red-blooded Western by any stretch of the imagination. See it for yourself.

There was a definite charged energy on the set (shot completely in B.C.)— the reported tension between the egomaniac Beatty and the chill Altman– not to mention the sexual energy between Beatty and Christie, who were deep in the throes of a passionate love affair– is there any other kind of affair with Beatty? Then there’s the haunting film soundtrack including the legendary Leonard Cohen that accompanied Zsigmond’s “flashed” film negative. A truly ballsy move– Altman and Zsigmond shot the film “pre-fogged” through a number of filters to maintain the visual effect they wanted, rather than manipulate it in post-production. That ensured that studio wimps couldn’t later tune-down the film’s look to something more safe and conventional. Vilmos Zsigmond’s brilliant work would garner him a nomination by the British Academy Film Awards.

Enjoy these stunning images from the film and on set. Beatty, even being the huge ass that he was/is (seriously, bedded 13,000 ladies, WTF?), looks stunning (crushing it in a beard, bowler and fur coat)–and Julie Christie is definitely no slouch either. Hubba. Altman is throwing down some serious grizzly style as well– check that fringed suede jacket towards the end of the post.

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Warren Beatty as John Q. McCabe, in a scene from Robert Altman’s 1971 anti-Western masterpiece, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.”

Warren Beatty as John Q. McCabe, in a scene from Robert Altman’s 1971 anti-Western masterpiece, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.”

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REMEMBERING LIZ TAYLOR AS SHE WAS… 1950s HOLLYWOOD SEX GODDESS

For those who didn’t live in the days of her box office reign, it may be hard to imagine the huge Hollywood star and smoldering sex symbol that she truly was.  In my humble opinion, Elizabeth Taylor was never hotter than when she starred in Giant alongside James Dean.  Here’s a little reminder…

1955– A young and nubile Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Giant”– shortly after having her 2nd child.

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TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHER GORDON PARKS

“I had a great sense of curiosity and a great sense of just wanting to achieve.

I just forgot I was black and walked in and asked for a job

and tried to be prepared for what I was asking for.”

–Gordon Parks

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Gordon Parks (1912-2006)  — The iconic photographer, artist, director, writer, activist, and musician.

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

During his 93 years, Gordon Parks led an extraordinary life, and bore witness to some of the most amazing events of the 20th century– often chronicling them through the lens of his camera.  Most of us who lived in the 1970s know him as the director of Shaft, the groundbreaking film that featured a black leading man whupping ass, bedding beautiful women– and all without as much as ruffling the collar of his trademark black leather trench coat.

However, Gordon Parks was much more than  Shaft. During his lifetime he was a friend to famous artists, musicians, athletes, politicians, fashion models, actors, and general movers and shakers– he seemed to know everyone who was making history in one way, shape, or form.  Parks also made his mark in photography, literature, film, music, and social activism.  I can also say from experience he was one of the most stylish and charming New Yorkers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Gordon Parks filming “The Learning Tree”, Fort Scott, KS, 1968. — Photograph by Norman E. Tanis.

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THE ORIGINAL “IT” GIRL OF THE 1920s | THE ALLURE OF LOUISE BROOKS

“The great art of films does not consist in descriptive movement of face and body,

but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation.”

–Louise Brooks

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Louise Brooks — The stunning tastemaker of the ’20s & ’30s, who made women everywhere chop their hair, and created the bold and wildly popular “flapper girl” movement.  Louise Brooks’ dark and exotic looks drew a throng of faithful followers that continues to this day. Early on her onscreen talent was often criticized for being somewhat lackluster– but all that changed with a trip to Berlin.  Director G.W. Pabst cast her in two films– Pandora’s Box (1928), and Diary of a lost Girl (1929), that not only cast all doubts about her talent, it also rose her following to cult status.

Brooks, who was known to be strongly independent, and unliked by Hollywood’s elite for not always being the submissive woman expected of her, was beckoned back to Hollywood to record sound retakes for The Canary Murder Case (1929). She flatly refused. Many in Hollywood blacklisted her for her defiance– and in a final act of independence she decidedly ended her own acting career in 1938.  She flirted with a comeback, but by 1946, she was a sales girl at Saks Fifth Avenue making $40-a-week.  She went on to become an accomplished  painter and writer– publishing several novels, including her own biography– Lulu in Hollywood.

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1928 — Legendary American film actress, Louise Brooks (1906 – 1985), wearing a long pearl necklace  against a black background. — Photo by Eugene Robert Richee © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

1929 — Louise Brooks — Photo by James Abbe

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VERONICA LAKE | THE PEEK-A-BOO PINUP OF HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE

The Selvedge Yard did a (very) little piece for DETAILS magazine’s online blog– The Daily Details here.

There was something about those lips, the flirty peek-a-boo eye, and that sexy, sweeping hair that’s seductive beyond words.  Yes, Veronica Lake just had “it.”

Other pinups of her day may have been more racy (Bettie Page), more leggy (Bettie Grable), or more busty (Jane Russell), but in my book none of them can touch her stunning beauty, poise and indelible mystique. Standing a scant 4’ 11’ and weighing only 90lbs., Veronica Lake deftly filled the camera’s lens with more sex appeal in her little left eye than most beauties managed wearing half as much, and trying twice as hard.

“I will have one of the cleanest obits of any actress. I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair.”  –Veronica Lake

Sadly, Her story was a tragic one.  Beset by a troubled childhood, broken marriages, schizophrenia, and drinking woes (most likely in an attempt to self-medicate)—Veronica Lake was washed-up in Hollywood too early, and with little to live on besides her fading looks.

When one-time lover Marlon Brando heard she was working as a barmaid, he promptly had his people deliver her a check for $1,000.  Too proud to cash it, Lake instead chose to have it framed as a memory of days gone by, and a not-so-subtle notice to others that she was once Hollywood’s reigning sex symbol.

“I wasn`t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.”  –Veronica Lake

“Hollywood gives a young girl the aura of one giant, self-contained orgy farm, its inhabitants dedicated to crawling into every pair of pants they can find.”  –Veronica Lake

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ON THE WATERFRONT | CONTENDER FOR ONE OF HOLLYWOOD’S BEST FILMS

“You don’t understand– I could-a had class.  I could-a been a contender. I could-a been somebody… instead of a bum, which is what I am– let’s face it.”

–Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront”

The masterful Marlon Brando, as longshoreman Terry Malloy, in 1954’s epic film “On the Waterfront.” –Image © Bettmann/Corbis.  Based on New York Sun reporter Malcolm Johnson’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning exposé on crime and corruption (Crime on the Waterfront), Kazan and cast’s gripping portrayal of blood, sweat, toil and tears on the docks is a gutsy Hollywood classic without peer. It was shot entirely on location in Hoboken, NJ– using the gritty Jersey streets and rooftops as its living, breathing sets– and the hard-as-nails local longshoremen for extras with real life experience and attitude.

Still one of the most powerful films Hollywood has ever put out– On the Waterfront caught a lot of Tinseltown’s elite off-guard when it ran off with 8 Academy Awards in 1955, including– Best Motion Picture (Sam Spiegel for Columbia Pictures), Best Director (Elia Zazan), Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction (Richard Day), and Best Cinematography, B&W (Boris Kaufman).

It was a low-budget film, dealing with low-brow business– when Producer Darryl Zanuck was pitched the film he blasted it, saying “Who’s going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?” Even Marlon Brando wasn’t interested, but for personal reasons– Director Elia Kazan’s perceived act of betrayal against fellow artists by providing names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 (screenplay writer Shulberg was also an informer), left a bad taste in Marlon’s mouth. It was a stigma that Kazan would never fully shake. In fact, many would later believed upon its release that On the Waterfront represented a self-serving, cathartic expression for Kazan– a vain attempt to regain his lost dignity, and rebuff his attackers, Hollywood style. Were we watching Kazan, the shunned name-dropping director, making a case for himself vicariously through the heroic Brando as Terry Malloy, the underdog whistle-blower, onscreen?

Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in 1954’s “On the Waterfront.” Karl Malden’s “Father Barry” was based on Father John M. Corridan, a tough-talking Jesuit priest, who ran a Roman Catholic labor school on the Manhattan’s West Side and a very active “waterfront priest.” Budd Schulberg interviewed Father Corridan at length for his version of the “On the Waterfront” screenplay– the original had been written by Arthur Miller (called “The Hook”), and rejected by studio heads– causing a deep rift between Miller and Director Kazan.

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FROM HELLS ANGELS TO HITCHCOCK | IRVING PENN SHOT THEM ALL

Irving Penn – Doug, Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.  Appeared in Look magazine, January, 1968.

THE INCREDIBLES

This Hell’s Angels motorcyclist writes no songs of protest.  His actions, his very appearance, says all he wants to say to us.  Thus, a lifestyle becomes a statement about the world and, in a sense, a work of art.  Irving Penn went to San Francisco to photograph some of the people who outrage and lure us being what they are. Looking past current rages and entertainment, Penn placed these people in a neutral, ageless environment.  His pictures, accompanied only by fragments of conversation are addressed not just to the now but to the days to come.

–Look magazine, January, 1968

 

Irving Penn – Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.   Appeared in Look magazine, January of 1968.

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