Friday, March 28, 2008

The Great RICHARD WIDMARK Has Died at 93

Richard Widmark, who made a sensational film debut as the giggling killer in "Kiss of Death" and became a leading man in "Broken Lance," "Two Rode Together" and 40 other films, died at his home in Roxbury earlier this week after a long illness. He was 93.

Widmark's wife, Susan Blanchard, said he died Monday. She would not provide details of his illness and said funeral arrangements are private.

"It was a big shock, but he was 93," Blanchard said.

Widmark earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his role in the 1947 thriller "Kiss of Death." He played Tommy Udo, who delighted in pushing an old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs to her death. It was his only Oscar nomination.

"That damned laugh of mine!" he told a reporter in 1961. "For two years after that picture, you couldn't get me to smile. I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh. The guy was such a ridiculous beast."

Actress Shirley Jones, who appeared with Widmark and James Stewart in "Two Rode Together" and became a good friend, said she was devastated about Widmark's death.

"He was a down-to-earth guy, and I respected him for that," Jones said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "He was a real guy, but he was such a wonderful actor."

A.C. Lyles, a producer with Paramount Pictures, worked with Widmark on the 1975 western "The Last Day."

"Dick was just one of the nicest guys I ever worked with: very, very professional, very, very prepared and he couldn't have been more cooperative," Lyles said.

"He would have little comments to make during rehearsal about a scene and it was never a suggestion that would enhance him," he said. "It was always to enhance someone else in the scene and I thought that was very courageous of him."

A quiet, inordinately shy man, Widmark often portrayed killers, cops and Western gunslingers. But he said he hated guns.

"I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence," he remarked in a 1976 Associated Press interview. "I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."

Widmark was born Dec. 26, 1914, in Sunrise, Minn., where his father ran a general store, then became a traveling salesman. The family moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., Henry, Ill., and Chillicothe, Mo., before settling in Princeton, Ill.

"Like most small-town boys, I had the urge to get to the big city and make a name for myself," he recalled in a 1954 interview.

"I was a movie nut from the age of 3, but I don't recall having any interest in acting," he said.

But at Lake Forest College, he became a protege of the drama teacher and met his first wife, drama student Ora Jean Hazelwood. Their daughter, Ann, became the wife of baseball immortal Sandy Koufax.

Two years out of college, Widmark reached New York in 1938 during the heyday of radio drama. His mellow Midwest voice made him a favorite in soap operas, and he found himself racing from one studio to another.

Rejected by the Army because of a punctured eardrum, Widmark began appearing in Broadway plays in 1943. His first was a comedy hit "Kiss and Tell." He was appearing in the Chicago company of "Dream Girl" with June Havoc when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract. He almost missed out on the "Kiss of Death" role.

"The director, Henry Hathaway, didn't want me," the actor recalled. "I have a high forehead; he thought I looked too intellectual." The director was overruled by studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck, and Hathaway "gave me kind of a bad time."

An immediate star, Widmark appeared in 20 Fox films from 1957 to 1964. Among them: "The Street with No Name," "Road House," "Yellow Sky," "Down to the Sea in Ships," "Slattery's Hurricane," "Panic in the Streets," "No Way Out," "The Halls of Montezuma," "The Frogmen," "Red Skies of Montana," "My Pal Gus" and the Samuel Fuller film noir "Pickup on South Street."

In 1952, Widmark starred in "Don't Bother to Knock" with Marilyn Monroe. He told an interviewer in later years:

"She wanted to be this great star but acting just scared the hell out of her. That's why she was always late — couldn't get her on the set. She had trouble remembering lines."

"But none of it mattered. With a very few special people, something happens between the lens and the film that is pure magic. ... And she really had it."

After leaving Fox, Widmark's career continued to flourish. He starred (as Jim Bowie) with John Wayne in "The Alamo," with James Stewart in John Ford's "Two Rode Together," as the U.S. prosecutor in "Judgment at Nuremberg," and with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in "The Way West." Also: "St. Joan" (as the Dauphin), "How the West Was Won," "Death of a Gunfighter," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Midas Run" and "Coma."

"Madigan," a 1968 film with Widmark as a loner detective, was converted to television and lasted one season in 1972-73. It was Widmark's only TV series.

He also was in some TV films, including "Cold Sassy Tree" and "Once Upon a Texas Train."

In later years, Widmark appeared sparingly in films and TV. He explained to Parade magazine in 1987: "I've discovered in my dotage that I now find the whole moviemaking process irritating. I don't have the patience anymore. I've got a few more years to live, and I don't want to spend them sitting around a movie set for 12 hours to do two minutes of film."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oscar Winning Actor Paul Scofield Dies

LONDON - Paul Scofield, the towering British stage actor who won international fame and an Academy Award for the film "A Man for All Seasons," has died. He was 86.

Scofield died Wednesday in a hospital near his home in southern England, agent Rosalind Chatto said. He had been suffering from leukemia.

Scofield made few films even after the Oscar for his 1966 portrayal of Tudor statesman Sir Thomas More. He was a stage actor by inclination and by his gifts — a dramatic, craggy face and an unforgettable voice that was likened to a Rolls Royce starting up or the rumbling sound of low organ pipes.

Even his greatest screen role was a follow up to a play — the London stage production of "A Man for All Seasons," in which he starred for nine months. Scofield also turned in a performance in the 1961 New York production that won him extraordinary reviews and a Tony Award.

"With a kind of weary magnificence, Scofield sinks himself into the part, studiously underplays it, and somehow displays the inner mind of a man destined for sainthood," Time magazine's said.

Actor Richard Burton, once regarded as the natural heir to Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud at the summit of British theater, said it was Scofield who deserved that place. "Of the 10 greatest moments in the theater, eight are Scofield's," he said.

Scofield was an unusual star — a family man who lived almost his entire life within a few miles of his birthplace in southern England and hurried home after work to his wife and children. He didn't seek the spotlight, gave interviews sparingly, and at times seemed to need coaxing to venture out, even onto the stage he loved.

But, he insisted in The Sunday Times in 1992, "My reclusiveness is a myth.... Yes, I've turned down quite a lot of parts. At my age you need to weed things out, but the idea that I can't be bothered anymore with acting — that's quite absurd. Acting is all I can do. An actor: That's what I am."

Scofield reportedly had been offered a knighthood, but declined.

"It is just not an aspect of life that I would want," he once said. "If you want a title, what's wrong with Mr.?"

In 2001, however, he was named a Companion of Honor, one of the country's top honors, limited to 65 living people.

His temperament, too, was unexpected in an actor who remained at the very top of his profession.

"It is hard not to be Polyanna-ish about Paul because he is such a manifestly good man, so humane and decent, and curiously void of ego," said director Richard Eyre, former artistic director of Britain's National Theatre. "All the pride he has is channeled through the thing that he does brilliantly."

David Paul Scofield was born Jan. 21, 1922, son of the village schoolmaster in Hurstpierpoint, 8 miles from the south coast of England. When he married actress Joy Parker in 1943, they settled only 10 miles north, in the country village of Balcombe, where they reared their son and daughter and where Scofield was in easy striking distance of London's West End theaters.

Scofield trained at the Croydon Repertory Theater School and London's Mask Theater School before World War II. Barred from service for medical reasons, he toured in plays, entertaining troops and acting in repertory in factory towns around the country.

Throughout the 1940s, he worked repertory and in London and Stratford in plays ranging from Shakespeare and Shaw to Steinbeck and Chekhov.

In his 20s, he worked with director Peter Brook, touring as Hamlet in 1955. The collaboration included the stage adaptation of Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory" in 1956, which Gielgud regarded as Scofield's greatest performance.

Scofield's huge success with "A Man for All Seasons" was followed in 1979 by another great historical stage role, as Salieri in "Amadeus."

His later stage appearances included "Heartbreak House" in 1992 and the 1996 National Theatre production of Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman."

Scofield's rare films included Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" in 1974, Kenneth Branagh's 1989 production of "Henry V," in which he played the king of France; "Quiz Show," Robert Redford's film about the 1950s TV scandal in which Scofield played poet Mark Van Doren; and the 1996 adaptation of Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible."

He is survived by his wife and children.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More TWO DETECTIVES News

After discussions between the director, producer and crew of TWO DETECTIVES, it has been decided that they are going to push back the dates of the extended run, so as to devote more time to perfecting show for backers and other industry folks.

I think they're shooting for April and/or the first/second week in May (for performance times).

I have a lot going on then, so I may have to say no.

Monday, March 10, 2008

RANDOM COCONUTS News

I will be appearing in COURTNEY AT WORK, the last episode of Random Coconuts' THE POWER TIME SHOW.

Directed by Antonio Gamboa

The Cast Includes:

Courtney: Greg Vorob
Jessica: Jeanine Putzer
Warren Kopeki: Dan Conrad
Rudy {Personal Assistant to Warren Kopeki} Timothy J. Cox
Adonis O' Shea: Jon Crefeld
{Personal assistant to Adonis O' Shea}: David Thomas Crowe

The shooting for that will take place on Sunday, March 30th.

In other RC News...well, Greg's email explains it all...

As you may or may not know "THE POWER TIME SHOW" is headed for post-production next month. And further for those of you who may not know all along "THE POWER TIME SHOW" has been a packaged deal with another pilot, The Sitcom "OVERCROWDED", about four guys who share a studio apartment and inadvertenly ruin the lives of the people around them, especially their new neighbors, Newleyweds STEVEN & CLAIRE HANSON. So as the POWER TIME pilot is coming to a close, we are in Pre-Production for OVERCROWDED which is being produced by a new production company {We have gone our seperate ways from Abi Varghese and RANDOM COCONUTS is no longer our banner. OVERCROWDED will begin shooting with a laid-out full production schedule that will INCLUDE READ THRUS, REHEARSALS & ULTIMATELY SHOOTING followed by POST PRODUCTION. A call sheet will be made including YOUR SET CALL TIMES. We are expecting the entire process to be no more than one month all together. We are aiming to begin shooting sometime in JUNE. We expect POWER TIME to make its premiere and start making it's rounds in MAY, so we want to have that up and running first and then begin this. But Pre-production has already begun including work on the script and scheduling meetings with Directors.

Sounds like fun and I'm flattered to be asked to be a part of this.

BlogCritics.com Review of TWO DETECTIVES

I was a little surprised to receive word about this review from a colleague. I mean, a pat on the back is always nice, but the criticisms are also a bit harsh, especially considering that the show is workshop.

Theater Review (NYC): Two Detectives

Written by Hannah Marie Ellison
Published March 09, 2008
Part of StageMage

Playwright Daniel Landon tries valiantly to capture the spirit of Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and other film noir classics with his new play Two Detectives, which opened Wednesday for a brief workshop run. The Manhattan Repertory Theatre is presenting the production in association with The Cameron Company, which is making its debut as an Off-Off Broadway theatre company.

The play has an intriguing premise. Set in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the summer of 1999, it centers around Bobby Sullivan (James Venable), a former beat cop, now private detective, who is handed a case involving the disappearance of 65-year-old Jacob Lasky (Timothy J. Cox). Lasky is a garment district employee, concentration camp survivor, and manic depressive who is looking to get out from the family business now run by his daughter Rachel.

Hired by Rachel (Olivia Roric), Bobby and his partner Gino (Basil Meola) dive into the case, searching for clues but getting nowhere fast. After coming up with nothing, they are paid a visit by the police (George Raboni and Joe Grimaldi) and the real Rachel Lasky (Shannon J. Walker, in a scene right out of Chinatown). Bobby and Gino dig deeper and discover that there's more to the case, including kidnapping, the Russian mob, lots of money, and murder.

Bobby also discovers that his own father Tommy (Kevin Kelleher), a former cop himself, may be connected to the case. Bobby and Tommy have a strained relationship as it is, but this case could tear them apart forever. Complicating matters even further for Bobby is his intimate relationship with Raisa, the first Rachel Lasky, but in reality a Russian con artist and femme fatale who's also involved up to her eyeballs in this whole mess.

Murder, betrayal, sex, money - this play has a lot going on. Landon's script is very smart and well versed in the lingo that Chandler, Spillane, and Hammett made so famous. The last half of the play could use a trim, but that's not my biggest criticism. The production clocked in at a ridiculous two hours and 40 minutes and frankly, I'm still wondering how that was possible. Film noir is supposed to be delivered with machine-gun precision. Look at the classics and you'll see rat-a-tat-tat delivery. While many scenes in Two Detectives popped with great energy and enthusiasm, an alarming percentage dragged on for no discernible reason other than I what suspect were attempts at dramatic effect.

It didn't work, and the blame must go to the inexperienced direction of Chelsea Landon, whose staging and pacing throughout were downright ponderous. In addition, her stage (too small to accomodate a cast of twelve) was often cluttered with very poor facsimiles of real furniture, while her scene changes featured silly orchestral versions of 80's pop songs like the Eurhythmics' Sweet Dreams Are Made of This and The Cranberries' Zombie that elicited giggles from more than a few members of the audience.

It didn't help matters that actor James Venable was ill at ease in stepping into the shoes of Robert Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart (admittedly a daunting task for any actor) as detective Bobby Sullivan. Venable lacked the toughness, confidence, and poise to pull the role off.

All was not lost, though. The production did feature a gallery of solid performances from the supporting cast, who managed to rise above the poor direction and cramped space. Standouts included Kelleher, superb as Bobby’s father Tommy, and Basil Meola, who brought humor (much needed) and charm to the role of Bobby's partner Gino. Timothy J. Cox delivered an explosive turn as Jacob Lasky, while both George Raboni and Joe Grimaldi were spot on as police detectives Lopez and Kawalski, respectively. Einar Gunn was also top-notch as a fellow concentration camp survivor and friend of Jacob Lasky.

After the performance I heard chatter that the show may be extended in the coming weeks. For this production to be successful, however, it needs a lot of work. Meanwhile, If you want to view some great film noir, stick with the classics like The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, Touch of Evil, and Out of the Past.

Two Detectives closed Saturday Night.

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC Shoot

The shoot was, as expected, long. Fourteen hours actually. But things went as smoothly as possible.

I was originally slated for two days of work on the film, but it's not to be.

An long and exhausting day, but hopefully a productive one.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

TWO DETECTIVES Ends...For The Time Being

TWO DETECTIVES went out in style last night, with the cast delivering another fine performance to another packed house. We are indeed going to extend the run briefly, so I'll be rehearsing a little more as we get closer to March 27th and 28th.

Brief Extension of TWO DETECTIVES

As discussed earlier, we will be doing another run of TWO DETECTIVES on March 27th and 28th (Fri./Sat.) at Manhattan Rep (7pm).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

TWO DETECTIVES Rocked Last Night

The cast of TWO DETECTIVES bounced back after our second performance slump to give, in my opinion, the best performance of the run, thus far.

Newsflash: TWO DETECTIVES may go on. Discussions are taking place now about the possibility of a brief extension of the run in the end of March.

More to report soon.

Early Call for CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC Shoot on Monday

I have a 6am call on Monday for the romantic comedy CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC. The shoot will be taking place at the Central Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, so at least it won't be a crazy travel experience, like my trip to Montclair a few weeks back.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rough Performance Last Evening

You know the old story that second performances are usually not so hot...well, it's true. Something felt different at last night's performance of TWO DETECTIVES. Not good. Not bad. Just different.

What can you do?

Everyone is doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. You can't ask for anything more than that.

Back again tonight. Tomorrow is the final show.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cast in the Feature Film CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

This coming Monday and Tuesday, I will be appearing as a wedding guest in the upcoming romantic/comedy CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC, starring Isla Fisher (WEDDING CRASHERS) and Hugh Dancy (Emmy Nominee for the HBO Miniseries ELIZABETH I).

Based on the novel by Sophie Kinsella, it tells the story of a college grad (Fisher) who lands a job as a financial journalist in New York City to support where she nurtures her shopping addiction and falls for a wealthy entrepreneur (Dancy).

The film is being directed by P.J. Hogan, who directed the wonderful 1994 comedy MURIEL'S WEDDING.

More details to follow.

TWO DETECTIVES Opening

Audiences seemed to enjoy the opening night performance of the play. On a personal level, I'm very proud of the work I'm doing as Jacob Lasky.

Back again tonight at 7pm.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

TWO DETECTIVES Opens Tonight

Well, here we are...another opening night.

The show has come together nicely. Playwright Dan Landon and a few other producers attended last evening's tech and dress. And even though the show, from a technical standpoint, was a little rough, Dan was very happy about the performances and where the show was going.

Here are a few pictures from last evening's performance, compliments of photographer Mark Krajnak. Thanks, Mark!


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Brief Appearance in Episode 14 of THE FANTASTIC TWO

I appear briefly as a priest in Part 2 of Episode 14, THE TRIAL of THE FANTASTIC TWO.

It's a funny very episode.

Check it out here:

http://web.vindicosuite.com/Player/FantasticTwo/2/index.html