Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ATM Remembers Three Greats in Film

At The Matinee remembers three greats in the motion picture industry.

Photograph of Rod Taylor (left) in a
publicity advertisement for the
1960-61 TV drama, Hong Kong.
On January 7th, actor Rod Taylor passed away at the age of 84.  Born in Sydney, Australia in 1930, Taylor became interested in acting after seeing a touring stage production of William Shakespeare's Richard III, featuring Lawrence Olivier.  In the early 1950's, Taylor set his sights for Hollywood, when the plane landed in Los Angeles (the original destination was for London, England- part of a prize that Taylor won in his native Australia, according to The Los Angeles Times).

Though he was relegated to playing supporting roles throughout his career in film and television, Taylor was best known in George Pal's popular 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells' science fiction novel, The Time Machine.  He would also appear in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 suspense masterpiece, The Birds (opposite Tippi Hedren).

Taylor's last screen role was his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's World War II film, Inglorious Basterds (2009, which was inspired from Italian director Enzo G. Castellari's war film).

Taylor was survived by his wife of 35 years, Carol Taylor, and his daughter Felicia Taylor, former CNN corespondent.

Turner Classic Movies will have a tribute to Rod Taylor on January 29th at 8:00 PM EST, showcasing Taylor's most memorable roles in film.  The films that will be featured will be The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963), Sunday In New York (1964, opposite Jane Fonda), Young Cassidy (1965, opposite Flora Robson and Maggie Smith), and The Glass-Bottom Boat (1966, opposite Doris Day).

On  January 9th, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. passed away at the age of 88.  The son of acclaimed mogul and producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974), the junior Goldwyn was born in Los Angeles, California in 1926.  

The young Goldwyn became interested in film after working in film editing during his summer vacations.  After serving in the Army, Goldwyn Jr. worked with British film mogul J. Arthur Rank, where he worked as an associate producer on the 1948 British crime thriller film, Good-Time Girl (where he received his first screen credit.  He would work with noted CBS News journalist Edward R. Murrow on a documentary film series for CBS television, Adventure.

Goldwyn Jr. would turn to independent film production in the mid-1950's, using his father's studio lot for his Formosa Productions company (named after the street corner near his father's studio complex).  Some of Goldwyn Jr.'s independent features included Man With the Gun (1955, featuring Robert Mitchum), The Sharkfighters (1956, featuring Victor Mature), The Proud Rebel (which was released by Walt Disney's Buena Vista subsidiary in 1958, featuring Alan Ladd and Olivia De Havilland), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960, featuring Eddie Hodges and Tony Randall), The Young Lovers (1964, featuring Peter Fonda), and Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970, featuring Godfrey Cambridge, directed by Ossie Davis).

After the death of his father in 1974, Goldwyn Jr. would acquire the rights to the senior Goldwyn's classic feature films (through his father's estate).  Five years later, Goldwyn Jr. set up The Samuel Goldwyn Company, not only to manage re-release screenings and television syndication of his father's films, but to distribute art-house and independent productions as well.  Goldwyn Jr.'s firm was responsible for distributing the independent productions of Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Kenneth Branagh, and Ang Lee- just to name a few.  The Samuel Goldwyn Company became one of the most prominent independent film distributors throughout the 1980's and 1990's, until the company was sold to media investor John Kluge (of Metromedia fame) in 1996.  Kluge sold Goldwyn's company (along with Orion Pictures, which was also acquired by Kluge) to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about a year later.

Goldwyn Jr. sued MGM for using the "Goldwyn" name when it changed the name of The Samuel Goldwyn Company to Goldwyn Films.  The case would be settled, and Goldwyn Jr. would restart another film distribution and production firm in honor of his father- Samuel Goldwyn Films.  Goldwyn Jr.'s last work was on a remake of his father's 1947 adaptation of James Thurber's novel, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, in conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox, and featuring Ben Stiller in the title role).

Recently, Goldwyn Jr. (through his family trust) made an agreement with Warner Bros. to distribute his father's classic films on DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming services (it should be noted that the classic Samuel Goldwyn features were distributed in the 1990's on video through Warners' corporate sibling, HBO, until the early days of the DVD format.  That was when distribution shifted from HBO to MGM, as part of that studio's acquisition of The Samuel Goldwyn Company).

Goldwyn Jr. is survived by his current wife, Patricia Strawn, along with his children- actor Tony Goldwyn (who now co-runs Samuel Goldwyn Films), producer John, actors Francis and Peter (who also serves as vice-president of Samuel Goldwyn Films), Catherine and Elizabeth.

Publicity advertisement for
Back From Eternity (1956,
featuring Anita Ekberg).
On January 11th, actress Anita Ekberg passed away in Rome at the age of 83.  After losing the Miss Universe pageant, she was spotted by a Universal Studios talent scout, which led the young Swedish beauty queen to her first role in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953).  Other roles included the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Hollywood or Bust (1956), and the Bob Hope comedy Paris Holiday (1958).

Tired of being typecast in Hollywood films, Ekberg wanted to work with noted Italian director Federico Fellini (1920-1993).  She appeared in Fellini's greatest screen triumph, La Dolce Vita in 1960.

This is where Ekberg would be best known for during her screen career, during the landmark Trevi fountain scene- in where she takes a dip in the fountain.

It was reported that the iconic scene of the film had to be filmed for seven nights, due to the harsh winter conditions in Rome.  The rest is cinematic history.

At The Matinee remembers three film greats- Rod Taylor, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., and Anita Ekberg.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The proprietor of "At The Matinee", Chris Hamby- welcomes your comments and suggestions on any post featured. NOTE: All comments are monitored by the author.