Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley; The Rap Sheet; Mary Astor

From Ray Richmond

"I was caught offguard hearing about the passing today of longtime CBS News and "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley at 65 after battling leukemia. The man was a consummate newsman and the classiest of acts, an African-American who was quietly a news pioneer without ever calling attention to the fact. When CBS needed someone to interview Spike Lee or the Rev. Jesse Jackson, it was Bradley who got the assignment. But he was hardly a token black face in the network news world. He was a pro with a smooth delivery and well-honed instincts. You never got the feeling that Bradley was either mailing it in or tossing softballs.

"But what I'll probably remember most about Bradley is the fact he was able to pull off wearing a shiny diamond earring stud -- alternated with a hoop -- better than any older dude I've ever seen. He was low-key and he was unflappable, but he was also uncommonly hip. Can you imagine Andy Rooney trying to wear an earring? How about Morley Safer? Not bloody likely. But on Bradley, it was a perfect fit.

He will be missed." -- Ray Richmond Past Deadline (another excellent blog you should be reading)


Here's a sample:

Role of Honor
With all the news media’s attention now focused on yesterday’s dramatic overturn of the U.S. Congress by Democrats and today’s resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there’s just not a lot of material out there from which to draw.

Which is why we turn, as the world so often does, to James Bond.

Cinematical contributor Kevin Kelly asks that immortal question: Which Bond is the best Bond? Of course, he’s talking about actors, not split personalities or some such. With the new Agent 007 flick, Casino Royale, due to hit movie theaters worldwide next week, Kelly observes that of the six men who’ve portrayed Bond on screen, most moviegoers select either Sean Connery or Roger Moore as their favorite. (“Does anyone actually pick George Lazenby?,” he writes. “I always end up feeling sorry for him. He went from hunk-of-the-moment in a chocolate bar commercial to potentially being one of the biggest stars on the planet.”) But then Kelly goes on to say many nice things about Pierce Brosnan. (“Brosnan did a great job of channeling both Connery and Moore, making his superspy both mirthful and cocky.”) I happen to agree with Cinematical’s assessment that “Brosnan makes the grade as the second-best Bond ...,” though outside of the lovely Halle Berry (in Die Another Day) and Izabella Scorupco (in GoldenEye), I was disappointed with the caliber of “Bond girls” Brosnan’s 007 either bedded or battled, or both. (I have somewhat higher hopes for Eva Green in Casino Royale. You can see a bit of her performance in the film trailer, found here.)

So, who does critic Kelly say is the best Bond ever? Well, I’m not going to give it away here, but I bet most Bond watchers will understand when I say that the winner is the guy who looks beset in a white dinner jacket.


From Mystery*Files -- Ed Gorman


Wednesday, July 20, 2006

Mary Astor in ACT OF VIOLENCE.

I usually eat lunch around twelve thirty, catch the news and then go back upstairs to my office to write again.

Yesterday I happened to be channel surfing when I saw the billboard for a Turner movie called ACT OF VIOLENCE. I’d never seen it but as soon as I saw Robert Ryan (my favorite noir actor) l knew I’d watch the whole thing.

I’m going to be lazy and let a reviewer from the Internet Movie Database do the heavy lifting for me but I do want to remark on Mary Astor’s performance. Astor is famous for two things, being in THE MALTESE FALCON with Bogart and having her diaries admitted as evidence in a divorce case. She certainly got around.

ACT OF VIOLENCE is hijacked in the middle of act two. Previously the picture belonged to Van Heflin and Ryan. But Astor, who figures prominently in the action far into act three, just walks off with the picture. TCM ran several movies of hers a while back and she was usually a giddy spoiled heiress or somesuch in a glitzy comedies. She was always approriately irritating (the movies encourage us to hate giddy spoiled heiresses).

But in VIOLENCE we see a side of Astor that is, to me at least, astonishing. As a middle-aged hooker, she manages to be a decent person and a con job at the same time. Her faded looks are spellbinding. She’s got those great facial bones and the still-slender body but she plays against them with a weariness that makes her the most interesting character in the movie. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She’s every bar floozie you ever met and yet she transcends the stereotype by having a kind of hardboiled street intelligence. And at least a modicum of honesty. And, to my taste anyway, she’s sexy as hell.

This is one of those movies you enjoy because you soon realize that you have no idea where it’s going. It’s the standard three-act structure but the writers and director Fred Zinnemann aren’t afraid to introduce new plot elements right up to mid-way in the third act. That rarely works but it sure works here.

The only melancholy part for me was knowing how bitter Ryan was about playing psychos. He needed the work but considered it his jinx. He was among the finest film actors of his time but never really got his due. It’s his savaged face (he was dying of cancer at the time) that haunts the final moments of THE WILD BUNCH. Grim Sam Peckinpah knew what he was doing.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks for the endorsement, Ed.

Jeff Pierce
The Rap Sheet

Mathew Paust said...

Haven't seen this one, either. The only film I remember seeing Astor in was Maltese Falcon, and she almost upstaged Bogie. Is that Raymond Burr in the middle of the poster?

Ed Gorman said...

Nope. Not Raymond Burr.

Mathew Paust said...

Then it must be Van Heflin, but it sure as hell doesn't look like him.