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ONE WAY STREET

Alan's sporadic takes on Film Noir and other aspects of pop culture

Posted by on in Actors and Actresses
  The passage of time prepares one with a sense of acceptance for the death of admired personages; this musing is more of a personal “coming-to-grips” with the approaching finale to an era of popular culture that will shortly reside solely in films, books, the Internet and the remembrances of second generation intimates. More than regret, I feel a sense of disappointment that the era of cinematic history which comprised a significant part of my baby boomer upbringing is becoming relegated to table book nostalgia as the last icons from the era of Old Hollywood depart due to exorable passage of time. . Richard Widmark always commanded my attention. Regardless of the role or the movie, Widmark excelled at essaying transfixed characterizations that ranged from in-your-face resolve to pure psychopath. His work on screen invariably conveyed a sense of larger purpose along with the notion that hell (or a reasonable facsimile)...
widmark
©Alan K. Rode

Posted by on in Commentary
Wildly praised, Oscar nominated film is a major disappointment   I don’t know why I partially bought into the press release journalism that passes muster as legit movie criticism nowadays. There Will Be Blood has been lauded to the critical heavens as an all-time classic with one notable scrivener comparing Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic to Citizen Kane. High praise indeed. I knew better, but I still should have known better. Part of it was my admiration of Daniel Day Lewis’ acting craftsmanship in My Left Foot and Gangs of New York. My interest was also piqued by Anderson’s stated inspiration of The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) - a pantheon classic and personal favorite - that he reportedly used as a template for his latest movie. And yes, I admittedly got a little dizzy after being bombarded by the pre-Oscar media cacophony of rave reviews for a reputed epic that was...
©Alan K. Rode

Posted by on in Actors and Actresses
  No actor exemplified the downtrodden film noir schlemiel better than Percy Helton. If his hunched frame and marsupial-like features weren’t enough to convince audiences of his servile timidity, there was always the unique Helton voice which made his screen characterizations permanently distinctive. Never was a vocal inflection more perfectly suited to a performer. Percy Helton uttered his lines with a breathy vocal lilt akin to the sigh of an exhausted calliope. When alarmed or threatened- a frequent occurrence- he reached a higher octave reminiscent of a damaged ukulele. Even though the diminutive performer seemed to be specifically constructed as a mid-century urban whipping boy, Helton’s thespian roots dated back to the nineteenth century. He made his stage debut in 1896 with his vaudevillian father, Alf Helton, at the Tony Pastor Theatre on 14th Street in New York City. Percy Helton was two years old. At age eleven, he appeared with...
robinson helton
©Alan K. Rode

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