What movies meant to director Norman Jewison


By Ray Bennett

LONDON – ’It kinda scares me,’ Norman Jewison said when I asked him in 2011 about the digital revolution in movies and the future of cinema. ‘Everything I see today is so mixed with violence and action. It’s moving so fast that I don’t know how significant the story is. When I was growing up, film was the literature of my generation. All of a sudden, I can see something else happening. It started with the video cameras and the fact that anybody can make a film now. The quality is good enough. It’s not very artistic. The video image, the television image, is different from film. I don’t think that matters to this generation.’ Continue reading

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Cary Grant, smooth as silk … on the surface.

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – When Cary Grant, born this day 120 years ago, died in 1986, Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel wrote, ‘Some distant day, audiences may come to agree that he was not merely the greatest movie star of his generation but the medium’s sublest and slyest actor.’

That was clouded with rehashes of the private torments of Archibald Leach, the deprived working-class kid from Bristol, England, who grew up to be Cary grant. His marriages and affairs; his alleged tightness with a dollar; his experiments with LSD and the long-rumoured suggestion of homosexuality were paraded in books, tabloids and talk-shows. Continue reading

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How Ben Kingsley dealt with instant fame after ‘Gandhi’


By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Ben Kingsley, who turns 80 today, had spent fifteen years on the English stage with occasional small screen roles when Richard Attenborough changed his life by casting him in the title role of his epic feature film ‘Gandhi’ in 1982.

Two years later, over a pleasant lunch in Hill’s Restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon, he told me how he had adjusted to instant fame after being named best actor at the Academy Awards and the British Academy Film Awards.  Continue reading

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Norman Lear told me, ‘I hate the word satire’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – American TV producer Norman Lear was heralded as a leading light in political satire but he did not believe it. ‘I hate the word satire,’ he told me, ‘because I don’t know that the level of our work on television is true satire.’

I spoke to Lear, who died on Dec. 5 aged 101, in 1992 when he was executive producer of a series called ‘The Powers That Be’ about a hapless U.S. senator played by John  Forsythe (pictured). It lasted for twenty-one episodes unlike his previous hits such as ‘All in the Family’, ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘Maude’. Continue reading

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Randy Newman at 80: Part One – songwriter

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Randy Newman, who turns 80 today, has Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards and he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s also a very funny man. He told me that he thought once of being a television comedy writer and he would make a great one – his work on ‘The Three Amigos’ with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels is proof of that – but TV’s loss is music’s gain. Continue reading

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Randy Newman at 80: Part Two – Film composer

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Randy Newman, who turns 80 today,  has Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards and he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s also a very funny man. He told me that he thought once of being a television comedy writer and he would make a great one – his work on ‘The Three Amigos’ with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels is proof of that – but TV’s loss is music’s gain. Continue reading

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Veronica Hamel: When intelligence matches beauty

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – I had the tee-shirt in the photo above made and gave it to Veronica Hamel on the set of the hit American television cop series ‘Hill Street Blues’, in which she played attorney Joyce Davenport. She loved it. ‘I wear it to work,’ she told me. ‘They figure I’ll do a better job than anybody else.’ Continue reading

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Dave Robb, a fine reporter and great friend

By Ray Bennett

LONDON — A friend of mine is gravely ill and so, risking his wrath, I want to write this now rather than later. David Robb is the best reporter I’ve ever known and I’ve been fortunate to work with a good many very talented journalists.

The labour beat on a trade paper in the entertainment business is one of the toughest assignments of all. Dave did that job better than anyone. Parties on all sides can be devious or tight-lipped but they are the most skilled dissemblers, fabricators, prevaricators and flat-out liars in any industry. Continue reading

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John Barry on his favourite directors and composers


By Ray Bennett

LONDON — English film composer John Barry, who was born on this day in 1933, won five Academy Awards and created the definitive music for James Bond but he remained very fond of his early British films and spoke warmly of comnposers he admired. Continue reading

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When Burt Lancaster wrote me a letter …


By Ray Bennett

LONDON – When the Burt Lancaster film ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ (below) came out in 1962, I wrote about it in the Gravesend Reporter, where I was doing my training in Kent, England. Fascinated by the prisoner’s story, I promoted a petition to have the real Birdman, Robert Stroud, paroled after serving many, many years behind bars. Shortly afterwards, I received a thank-you letter from Hollywood. It bore the signature of Burt Lancaster.  Continue reading

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