Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marx Brothers 3: MONKEY BUSINESS (1931)

According to Wikipedia, some countries banned this film because they feared it would encourage anarchy. I can't think of a better word to describe their brand of comedy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Miracle in Minnesota

I don't watch a lot of football (the American brand, anyway) because I'm a Vikings fan, and the networks rarely show them here on the West Coast. This year, though, thanks to their success and NFL Network replays, I got to see every game (including pre-season), and got plenty dang invested.

So yesterday, after seeing my team blow a big lead, fall behind, squeak ahead, screw up again and find themselves down 24-23 with 10 seconds left, no time outs and 60 yards between them and the goal line, my heart was in my shoes. My thumb was on the remote, ready to turn that sucker off the second it was over and let the grieving begin. And then - you know what happened. Keenum threw that last gasp pass to Diggs, who turned on a dime and raced into the end zone. 

I was stunned, and six hours later it hasn't worn off. I'm having a hard time believing what I saw. Luckily, I recorded the game, so I can check again today. Damn, I hope it comes out the same.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

YouTube Theater: Richard Sale's THE OSCAR (1966)

Yesterday we looked at Richard Sale's 1963 novel The Oscar. Here's the 1966 film version, with a screenplay by Harlan Ellison.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Forgotten Books: THE OSCAR by Richard Sale (1963)

This is the 32nd post I've done about Richard Sale. You may take that as a clue that he's one of my favorite writers. 

This is probably my first reading of The Oscar, but I’ve had the book so long I’m not sure. Along with For the President’s Eyes Only, I think it was one of those books I was saving to savor on a rainy day. Well, it rained here last week, so . . .

The Oscar was Sale’s third Hollywood novel. Or maybe it was number 3½. The mystery novel Lazarus #7 (HERE) involves a doctor freshly exposed to some eccentric and exotic Hollywood mania. The sort-of sequel Passing Strange (HERE) accounts for the ½, because though it takes place m ostly in New York, the Hollywood crazies from the first book have traveled there. Benefit Performance (HERE) is a stand-alone mystery where a star impersonates his stand-in while trying to learn who wants him dead.

Those 2½ books, though, were written while Sale’s Hollywood experience was young, mostly from some of his works adapted for the screen (including the novel Not Too Narrow . . . Not Too Deep (HERE) as “Strange Cargo”). Following Benefit Performance, he dived deep into the movie and TV scene, all but abandoning his fiction for the next 16 years. 

His first screenplay credit came in 1946, with “Rendezvous with Annie,” a WWII comedy starring Eddie Albert, based on one of his slick stories. He went on to rack up many more screenwriting credits, including the Frank Sinatra film Suddenly. He also directed a dozen films. On “A Ticket to Tomahawk” he was both writer and director, and on the Jane Russel film “Gentlemen Marry Brunettes” he was writer, director and producer. He even had a couple of acting parts, and wrote lyrics for some screen songs. In 1956 he and his wife Mary Loos created the TV series “Yancy Derringer,” which he produced and directed, along with writing many episodes.

The Oscar (1963) marked Sale’s return to fiction, dragging all of his Hollywood experience with him. When actor Frankie Fane is nominated for Best Actor, he embarks on an underhanded campaign to discredit or destroy the other four nominees. Fane is just that kind of guy, which he also demonstrates in his relationships with women, employees and the closest thing he has to friends.

Yeah, Fane is a mighty unpleasant character, but Sale’s prose is as compelling and entertaining as ever, and you just have to keep reading. Along the way, the author provides footnotes offering tidbits of Oscar history and his own interaction with actors and other Hollywood types. I was on the lookout for characters from his earlier works, but found only one. On a side trip to San Francisco, Fane encounters a sharp police captain named Hanley. Fans of Sale’s Daffy Dill series from Detective Fiction Weekly (like me) can’t fail to recognize “Poppa” Hanley, the cop who aided Daffy in many of his adventures. It would have been nice to see Daniel Webster, the detective from Lazarus #7 and Passing Strange, but he likely would have seen through Fane’s machinations a bit too soon and spoiled the game.

Anyway, The Oscar is a great read, and a fascinating look behind the scenes of Hollywood in the ‘ 60s. The novel was filmed in 1966 with Stephen Boyd as Fane, and starring Elke Sommer and Milton Berle. Sadly, Sale did not write the screenplay (but Harlan Ellison did, so it can't be too bad). Along with the other folks named on the poster, it also found roles for Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, Peter Lawford and Nancy Sinatra. Hedda Hopper even made an appearance. I'll post the film here tomorrow (via YouTube) so I'll get my chance, and so will you. 

Sale wrote two more novels - For the President's Eyes Only (aka The Man Who Raised Hell) and The White Buffalo (this one, about Wild Bill Hickok and Crazy Horse, was filmed in 1977 with Charles Bronson, and Sale wrote the screenplay). Those are the only Sale books I've yet to review. Stay tuned.