RIP Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood

I have to admit, I haven’t seen many of his movies.

Mr. Hopper is best known for his late 1960s and 1970s  “Easy Rider” like persona and continued on into the 1980s and 1990s with a long and successful film career.

He was nominated for his role in the 1986 film “Hoosiers” and was in retirement commercials to make financial planning look “cool.”

However, I would like to look at the times that many people forget. Before he was a pot smoking motorcyclist or crazed bus high-jacker.

None of this would have happened without those movies where he was casted as a 1950s angst young adult.  Without his friendship with James Dean, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood (three actors who died tragically), would Hopper have been the actor that some call crazy?

“Jimmy (James Dean) was the most talented and original actor I ever saw work,” Hopper said. “He was also a guerrilla artist who attacked all restrictions on his sensibility. Once he pulled a switchblade and threatened to murder his director. I imitated his style in art and in life. It got me in a lot of trouble.”

Hopper started out in the 1950s, a time people think of as pure and “Leave It To Beaver” like, but the youthful actors were not out playing bridge on Saturday nights.

“In the 50s, when me and Natalie Wood and James Dean and Nick Adams and Tony Perkins (Anthony Perkins) suddenly arrived… God, it was a whole group of us that sort of felt like that earlier group – the John Barrymores, Errol Flynns, Sinatras, Clifts – were a little farther out than we were… So we tried to emulate that lifestyle,” Hopper said. “For instance, once Natalie and I decided we’d have an orgy. And Natalie says “O.K., but we have to have a champagne bath.” So we filled the bathtub full of champagne. Natalie takes off her clothes, sits down in the champagne, starts screaming. We take her to the emergency hospital. That was *our* orgy, you understand?”


One of my favorite performances of Dennis Hopper’s is his role as Jordy in “Giant.”  Whenever I hear his name I always get the mental image of him throwing the perfume bottle into the mirror (my favorite part of the movie) when his Spanish wife couldn’t get her hair done in the hair salon.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hopper.

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Kate the Great (Bitch)

I am an old movie fanatic, but it’s hard for me to choke down a Katharine Hepburn movie. I’d rather watch Mickey Rooney over her, and that says a lot.

Beloved star. Award winning actress. First rate bitch.

I know all actors and actresses weren’t always be pleasant to each other, such as Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis or maybe June Haver and Betty Grable, but they had reasons. Hopkins slept with Davis’s husband and Haver was acting like she was the new Grable. Hepburn was rude to actors without any justification.

Hepburn and Mitchum in “Undercurrent” (1946)

Hepburn stars with Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum, a newcomer at the time, in 1946 thriller “Undercurrent.” To be honest, she probably was miscast because she is supposed to play the demure wife of Robert Taylor who is trying to kill her.

The snobbish Hepburn and gruff Mitchum did not get along. At one point during filming she said to him, “You know you can’t act, and if you hadn’t been good-looking you would never have got a picture at all. I’m tired of working with people like you who have nothing to offer.” (from IMDB trivia for the film).

The one thing I found ironic about this quote was the fact that it seems she got along fine with Robert Taylor who was famous for his good looks and capitalized off of them, according to Turner Classic Movies primetime host Robert Osborne.

The list goes on of actors that she was unpleasant to, including Ginger Rogers, who admired the actress, and John Barrymore who acted with her in her first film, “A Bill of Divorcement” (1932).

Hepburn and Rogers in “Stage Door” (1937)

“Astaire gave her class, Rogers gave him sex,” Hepburn said about the famous dancing pair.

“She is snippy, you know, which is a shame,” Ginger Rogers said about working with Hepburn in “Stage Door.” “She was never on my side.”.

Actresses like Joan Crawford and June Allyson answered every fan letter they received personally, something Katharine Hepburn didn’t do; she didn’t even sign autographs.

Crawford and Allyson understood that they achieved fame because of their fans. Not according to Miss Hepburn.

“Once a crowd chased me for an autograph ‘Beat it,’ I said, ‘Go sit on a tack!’ ‘We made you,’ they said. ‘Like hell you did,’ I told them.”

If Miss Hepburn didn’t give a damn about her fans, then why should I care about her movies? After all, she was named “Box Office Poison” in 1938.

P.S.) As a side note, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn are not related, to clear up confusion that some people seem to have.

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Serenade me, Mr. Powell

Ginger Rogers was the Star of the Month for March on Turner Classic Movies. Ginger Rogers is a triple threat. She can sing, act and dance. She even won an Oscar for her 1941 performance in “Kitty Foyle.”

I taped several of her films that I haven’t seen (I’m trying to see all of her movies). One of these movies that I taped was “20 Million Sweethearts” (1934). The movie features Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell with a supporting cast of Allen Jenkins and Pat O’Brien.

Ginger Rogers is best known for the 10 films that she made with Fred Astaire. The screen team is recognized for their singing and dancing, but Astaire is generally the only one who gets to sing. Rogers only had the chance to sing solo in two of their 10 films together. These rare times occurred when Astaire refused to sing a song that was originally written for him. An example of this is “The Yam” in “Carefree” (1938).

The treat about the movie “Twenty-Million Sweethearts” is we actually heard Ginger sing several songs. I find it ironic that Ginger Rogers had the chance to sing more in a movie with Dick Powell than she does in her movies with Fred Astaire.

Dick Powell was one of the top “crooners” in the 1930s. His smooth voice could make women melt like butter. Fred Astaire was known more for his dancing. I’m sure women wouldn’t mind if he sang to them, but I have a feeling they would rather it be in their ear as he whisked them around on a dance floor.

Here is a comparison of the two men’s singing qualities:

Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers in “Twenty Million Sweethearts.” (1934)

Fred Astaire singing “The Way You Look Tonight” to Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time” (1936)

I personally would rather have Powell sing to me over Astaire. Who do you prefer?

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The Mystery of the Murdered Movie

I love Nancy Drew.

I have played and solved 21 of the HerInteractive PC games and read most of the original yellow bound novels. I even own a Nancy Drew cookbook, a “Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life” book and a large Nancy Drew cut out.

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Nancy Drew has played a pivotal role for the past 80 years in literature for young girls, as well as in pop culture.

Everyone knows who she is and is fairly respected as a literary character. However, why is there not a flattering movie adaptation depicting everyone’s this important literary character and symbol for American women?

Eight years after the first Nancy Drew novel, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published in 1930, the first Nancy Drew film adaptation was released.

Nancy Drew, Reporter,” the first film adaptation of the series, was released in 1938, three more movies were released all in 1939. These movies included “Nancy Drew  Troubleshooter,” “Nancy Drew Detective ” and “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase).”

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Film series were not rare in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In fact many studios made a great deal of money off of series such as “Andy Hardy,” “Dr. Kildaire,” “Maisie” and “Boston Blackie just to name a few of many.

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I imagine that is what Warner Brothers was trying to do with Nancy Drew. But none of the films followed or resembled any of the Nancy Drew books, except for snippets of “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” which I think is modeling itself after the book “The Hidden Staircase.”

In novels Miss Drew is level-headed, fearless and intelligent. She doesn’t goof off and there isn’t much time for romance in her life. Yes there is her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, but I can count on one hand the amount of times they kissed or flirted in the novels. She was also very talented and fashionable. She could tap dance the Morris code while wearing a freshly pressed tailored suit.

Also in the novels, Ned was concerned about Nancy but never hindered her sleuthing. Carson Drew, Nancy’s father, was a distinguished lawyer. He teased his daughter for her appetite for mysteries and trusted her good sense.

However, the characters in the 1930s Nancy Drew series didn’t resemble Carolyn Keene’s intelligent teens.

Nancy Drew, played by Bonita Granville, was bumbling, scatter-brained and frightened for most of the films. She set out to solve a mystery but would run home before finding any actual clues.

Nancy and Frank
Bonita Granville as Nancy Drew and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson

Ned Nickerson, played by Frankie Thomas, was named TED in the movies for some reason. He was maybe the most tolerable character in the movies, but I wouldn’t run to him to protect me.

John Litel was a very irritating Carson Drew. He forbid Nancy from sleuthing and worried about her constantly. Even Hannah Gruen, the housekeeper, ran away in terror when someone broke into their home. Hannah in the books would have knocked them on their ear.

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John Litel as Carson Drew in “Nancy Drew…Reporter” (1938)

The films involve very little mystery solving and an over abundance of silly slap-stick. I’m not asking for a whole detailed novel to be played out in the 68 minute films, but Warner Brothers could have at least been accurate with their character depictions.

Bonita Granville, who was 16 when she played Nancy Drew, was in top-notch films such as “These Three”(1936), which she received her only Oscar nomination, and “Now, Voyager” (1941), giving excellent performances in both but clearly Nancy Drew was not the role for her.

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I made a list of who, with some tweaks to the script, could have been the perfect Nancy Drew casting in the 1930s or 1940s.

Nancy Drew: Deanna Durbin (19 at this time) would be my first pick. She sometimes plays silly characters, but also plays serious roles beautifully. Nancy Drew was also supposed to be very attractive. Miss Granville wasn’t ugly, but Deanna Durbin is decidedly prettier. I’m sure they would have to fit in a song or two for Deanna. She would have been old enough by this time, because “First Love,” the film that she received her first on-screen kiss came out the same year as the series.

Carson Drew: John Litel is generally a character actor with small roles. I’m not sure why they chose him to play the distinguished lawyer, Carson Drew. I can’t think of anyone else who could play this role more perfectly than Walter Pidgeon. Mr. Pidgeon is the definition of distinguished and sophistication. With his fatherly and friendly acting style, along with his pipe, I can picture him now giving Nancy advice.

Ned Nickerson: I would either say a teen-aged Jackie Cooper (17 at the time) or Robert Stack (20 at this time). Both boys were attractive and would have seemed more protective of Nancy Drew than Frankie Thomas. Stack was also in the 1939 film “First Love” with Miss Durbin and would have been of a suitable age.

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