Categories
Cinema Clown Comedy Film History Interview Video

TV Interview with Peter Sellars – 1980

One of the funniest, if not the funniest comedic actor of all time being interviewed on network TV by Gene Shalit in 1980. So much fun watching him change accents and talk about his career.

He is best remembered for his role of inept French police Inspector ‘Jacques Clouseau’ in the “Pink Panther” series of films (1964 to 1982). The last of that series, “Trail of the Pink Panther” (1982) was made after his death, using film clips and unseen footage from his earlier “Pink Panther” movies. Born Richard Henry Sellers in Southsea, Hampshire, England, his parents worked in an acting company run by his grandmother. During World War II, he enlisted in the British Army, where he met future actors Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine. Following the war, he set up a review in London, which was a combination of music and impressions (he played the drums), which led to his doing impressions on BBC television’s “The Goon Show.” Moving rapidly into a series of British comedy films during the mid-1950s, he quickly caught widespread audience appeal, and each successful role led to more and better films. Following British comic tradition of doing multiple roles in the same play, he was adept at performing multiple roles in his movies, including his hilarious “The Mouse that Roared” (1959) (playing three different parts), the black comedy, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), (playing an pragmatic RAF officer, a wimpy United States President and a weird German scientist), and “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1979) (playing the roles of Rudolf IV, Rudolf V, and Syd Frewin). In 1959, he won the British equivalent of an Oscar for his role of ‘Fred Kite’, a labor leader in “I’m All Right, Now,” (1959), and in 1979 he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role of ‘Chance Gardiner’ in his film, “Being There” (1979). He was married four times, to Ann Howe (1951 to 1961), to actress Britt Ekland (1964 to 1968), to Miranda Quarry (1970 to 1974), and to actress Lynn Frederick (1977 to his death in 1980).

Britt Ekland and Peter Sellers. Married 1964 to 1968.

July 24, 1980: Pink Panther actor and former Goon Show star Peter Sellers.

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Categories
Dixon Place Performing Arts Sideshow Silent Film Vaudevisuals Interview Video Writer

Vaudevisuals interview with author/director/producer Trav S.D.

We are all in ‘shut-in’ lifestyles these days and so my interviews are taking the form of ‘internet’ screen videos from remote locations. Here is my first one with author Trav SD.


Upcoming Events Mentioned in the interview!

Smith Opera House screening, May 14, 7 pm

Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, May 22-24 (exact time TBA)

Niles Film Museum Charlie Chaplin Days, June 26-28

Dixon Place Hot! Festival, July 24, 7:30 pm: a lecture on drag, (details TBA)

And of course Trav SD’s blog


For those readers who haven’t read Trav SD’s books here they are!

No Applause–Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous

CHAIN OF FOOLS: SILENT COMEDY AND ITS LEGACIES, FROM NICKELODEONS TO YOUTUBE

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Categories
Film LaMaMa etc Performing Arts Photography Vaudevisuals Interview Video

Vaudevisuals interview with Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver

SPLIT BRITCHES

“Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)”

I have always enjoyed walking into the LaMama Annex building. Massive ceilings and great seating for so many audience members. Yesterday I was there to interview Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw. Their new show titled “Unexploded Ordnances” had opened at LaMama and I was interested in what the show’s origin was. Here is the interview.

The show which is part of ‘Under the Radar‘ Festival listed on the LaMama website with this text.

US Premiere
By Split Britches [Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver]

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) by Split Britches is a new exploration of aging, anxiety and ‘doomsday’ created through conversation and collaboration with an array of elders and artists. Developed between the UK and US, Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw have created a unique production, combining darkly playful Dr. Strangelove-inspired performance with a daring new protocol for public discussion – the Situation Room.

Here are 3 photographs I captured during the evening performance! 

Lois Weaver (seated) with Peggy Shaw confronting with ideas she isn’t happy with.

Lois Weaver reclines in a rocking chair trying to get some rest from the confrontation.

Lois Weaver on the phone talking to the General with dismay.

Tickets for The Public’s Under The Radar Festival, NYC.

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Categories
Photography Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Girls Will be Boys” by Laura Horak

“Girls Will be Boys” by Laura Horak

Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn all made lasting impressions with the cinematic cross-dressing they performed onscreen. What few modern viewers realize, however, is that these seemingly daring performances of the 1930s actually came at the tail end of a long wave of gender-bending films that included more than 400 movies featuring women dressed as men.

Laura Horak spent a decade scouring film archives worldwide, looking at American films made between 1908 and 1934, and what she discovered could revolutionize our understanding of gender roles in the early twentieth century. Questioning the assumption that cross-dressing women were automatically viewed as transgressive, she finds that these figures were popularly regarded as wholesome and regularly appeared onscreen in the 1910s, thus lending greater respectability to the fledgling film industry. Horak also explores how and why this perception of cross-dressed women began to change in the 1920s and early 1930s, examining how cinema played a pivotal part in the representation of lesbian identity.

Girls Will Be Boys excavates a rich history of gender-bending film roles, enabling readers to appreciate the wide array of masculinities that these actresses performed—from sentimental boyhood to rugged virility to gentlemanly refinement. Taking us on a guided tour through a treasure-trove of vintage images,Girls Will Be Boys helps us view the histories of gender, sexuality, and film through fresh eyes.

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“Horak has produced a meticulously researched, astutely argued, and highly readable text … her use of archival materials is impeccable and her filmic and historical analyses clearly display a nuanced understanding of her topic.”   Publishers Weekly
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 “Girls Will Be Boys is an excellent work of film scholarship, meticulously researched and expertly presented, while still being an approachable and enjoyable read for the diligent non-academic reader. This is a wonderful book for those cinephiles who take an interest in how gender and sexuality have been presented throughout film history, and for social historians who recognize the important role cinema has played over the last century in shaping popular perspectives on gender and sexuality. Laura Horak has written an informative and necessary book.”

Fourth & Sycamore

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LAURA HORAK is an assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She is also the coeditor of an award-winning book, Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space.  
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Categories
Book Shelf Cinema Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Recommended Reading List Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Notes on a Cowardly Lion”

Notes on a Cowardly Lion by John Lahr

Back Cover

First published in 1969, Notes on a Cowardly Lion has established itself as one of the best-ever show business biographies. Drawing on his father’s recollections and on the memories of those who worked with him, John Lahr brilliantly examines the history of modern American show business through the long and glorious career of his father–the raucous low-comic star of burlesque, vaudeville, the Broadway revue and musical, Hollywood movies, and the legitimate stage. Here in rich detail is Lahr evolving from low–dialect comic to Ziegfeld Follies sophisticate, hamming it up with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman on the set of The Wizard of Oz, and debuting Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in America, which Kenneth Tynan called “one of the most noble performances I have ever seen.” In the examination of Bert Lahr’s chronic insecurity and self-absorption, the breakdown of his first marriage, and the affectionate arm’s length he kept between himself and his adoring second family, John Lahr’s book also brings the reader closer than any other theater biography to the private torment of a great funny man.

This edition of the book includes the award-winning essay “The Lion and Me,” John Lahr’s intimate reflections on family life with his distant, brooding, but lovable father. A first-class stylist, John Lahr takes the reader beyond the magic of show business to a dazzling examination of how a performing self is constructed and staged before the paying customers. Both as theater history and biography, Lahr’s book is superb.

“A book-length love letter. To open it is to enter a life, to participate in a sensibility and, perhaps most important, to laugh. Uproariously.”

Stefan Kanfer, Life

“Endlessly fascinating, excellent. . . . A work of literature, a work of history, a subtle psychological study.”

Richard Schickel, Harper’s Magazine

“This is a biography of the late Bert Lahr, that clown-comedian who played everything from burlesque to Aristophanes and Shakespeare, by his son, who is one of that rare species, an authentic theater critic. . . . John Lahr is frank and objective about his father. He sees that Bert was wildly funny on the stage and unhappy off. He was a haphazard father, a selfish lover, a thoughtless husband (his wife cherished him), a hypochondriac and a ruthless ‘professional.’ The past becomes present in this biography so that we come to know and understand the actor as clearly as the man. The book abounds in anecdotes that smack of the footlight world and its fascinating fauna. John Lahr is an honorable as well as a talented writer on the theater.”

Harold Clurman, New York Times Book Review

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Categories
Clown Comedy Film Performing Arts Recommended Reading List Silent Film Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Day The Laughter Stopped”

The Day The Laughter Stopped by David Yallop

The Day the Laughter Stopped

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and the story of his tragedy.

Buster Keaton said that the day the laughter stopped was September 5, 1921 – the day that Virginia Rappe became ill during a party in Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle‘s suite at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. She died four days later as a result of her illness, peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder. Mr. Arbuckle had nothing to do with Ms. Rappe’s illness and death, but he paid with his good name, his career and his happiness nonetheless. He was tried three times, by a politically motivated and extraordinarily underhanded prosecution, and was acquitted with an unprecedented apology signed by every member of the jury. This should have been more than enough to ensure his warm welcome back into film, but nothing of the sort happened. The tragedy of Roscoe Arbuckle is that he was made to be the scapegoat of a Hollywood running scared from public opinion – his guilt or innocence had become irrelevant.
This is the story that David Yallop tells in The Day the Laughter Stopped. Though the book tells the story of Arbuckle’s birth, start in show business and the years after his being sacrificed by so-called friends, the focus of this book is on the unfortunate death of Virginia Rappe, and the ham-handed attempt of the prosecutor to wrangle a political future out of the railroading of an innocent man. The problem? The prosecution had no case – its “star” witness, Maude Delmont, was lying from the onset and was easily discredited, and the doctors who examined Ms. Rappe during and after the party, and who conducted the autopsy, clearly indicated that no violence was done to her. The question, of course, is why she didn’t receive proper surgical medical care in the first place, but due to the passage of time I suppose that query will forever go unanswered.
When Mr. Yallop began research for this book, all three of Mr. Arbuckle’s wives were still living, and were eager to share their stories with him. Even Minta Durfee and Doris Deane, whose marriages with him ended in divorce, remembered him with great love. Indeed, all who were still around to be interviewed by Mr. Yallop had positive and kind things to say about the gentle, generous Roscoe Arbuckle.
This is an indispensable and devastating text in the study of the trial and the nature of Hollywood politics in the 20’s. Simple common sense and a rudimentary review of the facts indicate that Roscoe Arbuckle was completely innocent – this book makes it abundantly clear. It is a shame that Mr. Yallop has not written further titles regarding the silent era – his voice would be more than welcome. My only quibble, and it is a tiny one, is that there is some gratuitous foreshadowing in the “Before” section of the book – chances are that anyone who awaited this book’s arrival knew that its main focus was the events following September 5, 1921, and didn’t need to be reminded of the sadness just around the bend during Roscoe’s happy times.
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REVIEWS
This book should be the end of all the scandal regarding the case of murder against Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle. The author lays it all out so well that there is no question that Arbuckle had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Virginia Rappe. That is not to say this is not as interesting as the dirty little stories that others have told about this case, it is just that this happens to be the truth! I highly recommend this book!!!
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David Yallop is a film and television writer. He spent more than three years writing this book. The `Acknowledgments’ thank the many who helped in this 1976 book. There is a `Filmography’ by Samual A. Gill, and a `Bibliography’. The `Preface’ presents the testimony given by Maude Delmont. She accused Roscoe Arbuckle of murdering Virginia Rappe. Delmont never testified in court because her story was all lies. District Attorney Matthew Brady knew this as he prosecuted Arbuckle. Most people know of the legend of Arbuckle as a murderer with a Coke bottle. It ruined the career of Arbuckle, one of the most popular comedians of Hollywood, and was followed by a national board of censors. Arbuckle was the first actor to be blacklisted (p.261).

Part 1 has the history of Roscoe and show business. Originally all American films were made on the East Coast (p.25). California had better weather and light, and a varying landscape (p.25). There was a wide-open free market for films in the early days (p.27). Mack Sennett was an inventive pioneer who recorded real events for future films (p.40). Roscoe was enormously popular in American, but also in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and elsewhere (p.47). The “true story of what happened in Boston” begin on page 67, when Roscoe “was still a sick man”. Roscoe “is not now considered one of the greatest silent film comedians because most experts have never had the chance to see the best of his works” (p.83). Roscoe was a deputy sheriff (p.86). There was a famous dinner party (pp.87-90). 1921 saw the beginning of the Depression (p.96). [Due to falling agricultural prices.]

Part 2 tells about the St. Francis Hotel that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906. Roscoe picked the best hotel in town. Yallop interviewed many of the people who were involved, and read thousands of pages from the six proceedings to construct what happened on September 5, 1921 (p.109). Pages 108 to 128 end with Virginia’s death. Yallop says medical malpractice killed her. An illegal post-mortem removed organs that could tell of an abortion. The death caused reporters to investigate the story for The Front Page. Theaters began to drop Roscoe’s films (p.135). Lawyer Frank Dominguez advised Roscoe to answer no questions at the Hall of Justice (p.136). [This prevented the creation of prosecutorial perjury.] The reports in the Hearst Press was “criminally irresponsible” (p.138). Was Hearst the only millionaire to use gangsters (p.140)?

Was the scandal about Roscoe meant as a diversion from the economy (p.141)? Censorship of Chaplin (p.143)? Lehrman made up stories (p.145). Delmont made up stories (p.149). D.A. Matthew Brady knew that Roscoe was guiltless but prosecuted anyway (p.152). They tried to put words into one witness (pp.162-165). Brady knew he didn’t have a case (p.186)! Arbuckle’s films were banned in Great Britain and elsewhere, but not in France (p.191). [Is there some human flaw that causes people to hate what they once loved (p.194)?] Was the incident a variation of the “badger game” (p.196)? Maude Delmont played this game before (p.197). Brady refused to let her testify (p.198). A fickle public now cheered Arbuckle (p.202). Private detectives guarded Roscoe (p.207). Finally, the third jury acquitted Roscoe in five minutes because there was no proof (p.253).

Part 3 asks why an innocent man ws banned from movies (p.259). Will Hays was a puppet of Adolph Zuckor (p.260). The acquittal and the ban shattered Roscoe (p.264). He worked behind the scenes (p.265). Popular support ended the ban (p.266). But there were objections (p.267). [How wise are those moral leaders who would condemn an accused innocent (p.268)?] Billy Sunday said the ban was evil (p.272). The film “Sherlock Jr.” was based on the trial (p.278). There was another important case about the morals of a plaintiff (p.279). The rest of the book tells about Roscoe’s last years. Roscoe made comedy shorts in 1932 and was prepared to return to features when he died in his sleep (p.294). [Was there a need for comedy during the Great Depression?] The `Epilogue’ tells how the ban on Roscoe’s films continued long after his death (p.299). [Andy Edmonds’ book explains why the event was a frame-up.]

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Categories
Comedy Fringe Festival FringeNYC Music Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Story Teller Video

Vaudevisuals interview with Dave Droxler and Marcus Stevens – “Walken on Sunshine”

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 5.17.23 PM

WALKEN ON SUNSHINE

Written by Dave Droxler

Directed by Marcus Stevens

Cast: Maggie Carr, Dave Droxler, Jennifer Fouche, DeLance Minefee, Paul Pakler, Jonathan Spivey and James Rushin.

I first met Dave Droxler in 2013 when I did a video interview with him and Stolen Chair director Jon Stancato. They were bringing to the stage a wonderful film “The Man Who Laughs”. Dave gave a most amazing performance in that show. When he contacted me to do this interview regarding his play I was most interested in meeting him to do it. I am very excited to see this show! Please come and support Dave and this great cast!

For more information and Tickets go here.

This production is part of the FringeNYC Festival

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Categories
American Circus Circus Clown Music Performing Arts Television Video

My Father The Circus King – A documentary film

The elephants have left the circus and Gunther Gebel-Williams has left us too. BUT!

We have this documentary about this life and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The 1981 documentary produced by Kevin Eggers and Robert Elfstrom for Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, features legendary animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams. This VHS capture was recorded off-air as broadcast by the NBC Television Network in 1985 on its weekday after-school children’s series, “Special Treat.”

Categories
Art Cinema Comedy Film Marx Brothers Music Performing Arts Story Teller

“Words” by Chuck Workman – A 1987 Compilation of Hollywood Films

This short film, released by the Writers Guild Foundation in 1987, honors the craft of screenwriting and the writers behind our favorite lines and cinematic moments. Written and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman, it was screened at film festivals and college campuses around the country to inspire writers and celebrate the importance of the written word in entertainment.

Categories
Book Shelf Comedy Film Mime Performing Arts Puppetry

William Castle’s 1974 film “Shanks” with Marcel Marceau

SHANKS_2016-02-22 at 9.27.36 PMVV

Marcel Marceau performs in William Castle’s 1974 horror film about puppetry.


A revenge-driven puppeteer applies his talent to humans in this supernatural horror film.

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Wikipedia says:
“Shanks is a 1974 American horror film about a puppeteer able to manipulate dead bodies like puppets. Mime Marcel Marceau, in his first major film role, plays the titular Malcolm Shanks. It was the last film directed by producer-director William Castle. Marceau, who had for decades before performed in his signature white face makeup and without speaking, both spoke and appeared without makeup for this film. He played two roles: Malcolm Shanks, who could not speak, and Old Walker, who could. He had appeared in 20 shorts and films in small and cameo roles, often as his mime character Bip. Director William Castle took an interest in him after watching him perform the pantomime “Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death” and approached him with the script for Shanks, saying it dealt with similar themes. Said Marceau of the script, “it was exactly what I had been looking for.”

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