Richard Lester on making ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

By Ray Bennett

Sixty years ago today, a little rock’n’roll movie titled ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ starring the Beatles was released in the U.K. Their first album had come out less than eighteen months earlier, their singles were topping the charts and their first trip to America created a storm when they appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. United Artists, their record label, decided to cash in with a feature film.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr happened to love an eleven-minute short film titled ‘The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film’ starring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. It was directed by American filmmaker Richard Lester, who had worked with Sellers on TV versions of the radio classic ‘Goon Show’ and directed a feature titled ‘It’s Trad, Dad’, so they were pleased when he agreed to make their film.

When I interviewed him many years later, Lester told me that United Artists just hoped to make a fast buck. ‘Make it as quickly as possible so it can get into cinemas before they vanish,’ he was told.

Shooting began in March 1964 and the film had to be in cinemas by July. ‘No arguments,’ Lester said. ‘It didn’t matter whether we’d finished or not, that was the deal and we stuck with that.’ 

John Lennon points at Richard Lester

Director and writer Alun Owen went to Paris with the Beatles for their first concert at the Olympia. They stayed on the same floor with them at the Hotel George V. 

‘In essence, the film was writing itself,’ Lester said. ‘We literally came back from there and said we’re just going to do that and we were left alone to do it. It didn’t really matter. Nobody bothered us or got in the way. There was only one man from United Artists, if memory serves me, who read the script and said it was good and to go ahead. We were working in such a rush that we’d completed the film before anybody saw any of it. We finally had a screening and everybody liked it.’

‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was a massive hit so a sequel was inevitable so ‘Help!’ followed one year later and was another hit. ‘Having made a film where we showed everything about their work,’ Lester said, ‘here comes the second film and we don’t have the opportunity to show what these people do in their spare time. It would terrify the audience if you showed what they did with girls or with strange substances they smoked or whatever.’

He was faced with making a documentary film in which the Beatles could not be shown at work or at play. ‘What in god’s name can you do?’ Lester said. ‘What was left was to make these real people victims of a fantasy. All these years later, I still don’t know what else we could have attempted even though it meant surrounding the boys with characters. John Lennon said, “We’re extras in our own fucking movie.’ 

Lester went on to make many terrific films including ‘Petulia’,  ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘Superman II’, ‘Juggernaut’ and my personal favourite, ‘Robin and Marian’. He was coming to the end of his career when I spoke to him in 1984 and he had fond memories of working with the Beatles.

‘The moment you met the Beatles,’ he said, ‘you knew they were quite extraordinary. John Lennon was probably one of the four most interesting people I’ve ever met … one of the most incisive brains. A deeply troubled man but a man who had an enormous impact on my life.’

The other three? ‘I’d put Spike Milligan as one of them and Buster Keaton as another,’ Lester said. ‘I worked with Buster on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and his work affected mine over the years. He’s the one great teacher for me as a film director. I was very moved and fascinated to work with Richard Pryor on “Superman III”. Again, a man who has seen his share of troubles but a man of enormous charm, ability and sensitivity.’ 

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sydney Pollack – a filmmaker with a great sense of music

By Ray Bennett

Music has been an intrinsic element of filmmaking since the silent era but not all filmmakers have had a full grasp of how to blend it successfully into a production. Sydney Pollack, who would have turned 90 on July 1, was one who did.

‘I try to be hands-on in terms music,’ he told me when I interviewed him in 2000. ‘I always want to hear what the composer hears but I have a habit that’s sometimes annoying to composers and that is, I usually temp-track a picture.’

He was not alone in that. Many directors like to put a temporary music track behind scenes to help them. ‘Some composers don’t like that,’ he said, ‘because it puts them in a little bit of a box. Some composers say that directors get used to the temp score and then they’re not open to a new score. Directors say in their own defence that they get hooked on the temp score because the temp score works. Somewhere in the middle, I guess, is the truth, depending on what it is the director is trying to do.’

Pollack said he tried to choose music to use as shorthand to communicate to the composer what he meant to achieve with a scene: ‘I try to say, this is what I saw; this is the feeling I’m going after; this is what I think the scene is emotionally.’

He always chose his temp music himself. ‘I have a big record library, discs and now CDs,’ he told me. ‘I have lots of scores of films and I listen to music all the time. The problem is that sometimes I can’t tell if a scene is working or is too long until I get a piece of music. I wouldn’t know how to edit a film without any music because I wouldn’t be able to tell sometimes about certain scenes, particularly scenes that are just visual.’

One example was a scene from his 1985 epic ‘Out of Africa’, based on Danish author Karen Blixen’s memoir starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, which was scored by British composer John Barry. ‘In the scene where Redford takes her on a plane ride over Africa, there’s not a word of dialogue,’ he noted. ‘There isn’t any way to know if that scene’s really working until you get music to it.’

Barry, a no-nonsense Yorkshireman, told me he had a terrific time working with Pollack on that film and it worked out well for both them. ‘Out of Africa’ was an international hit winning seven Academy Awards including best picture, best director and best score for Barry, one of five Oscars he won over his career.

Pollack’s longest collaboration with a composer was with Colorado-born keyboard jazz man Dave Grusin He played and recorded with top artists and worked as an arranger and musical director before providing the music for TV series including ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’, ‘Gidget’ and ‘The Girl From UNCLE’ plus movies such as ‘Waterhole Three’, ‘Candy’ and ‘Winning’.

Grusin’s score to Robert Ellis Miller’s 1968 film ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,’ starring Alan Arkin as a deaf-mute, was one of the first of his to catch Pollack’s ear. ‘I heard his melodies and they were always memorable,’ he said.

As a result, the director hired the composer to score his 1975 picture, ‘The Yakuza’, about gangsters in Japan starring Robert Mitchum and Keira Kishi (above). ‘It was an odd sort of movie, a romantic action picture,’ Pollack said. ‘I was just knocked out by how he was able to make the music have an ethnic feel of Japanese music but not seem strange to a Western ear. He was able to write melodically and lyrically. If you’re doing a Japanese film in Japan, you obviously don’t want it to sound like American pop. You have to find the flavor of Japan that works. But yet pure Japanese music to the Western ear is not always pleasant. You don’t want to go too far because it’s atonal to us. Dave’s ability to catch those feelings was really extraordinary. He was such a pleasure to work with that I just sort of stuck with him through a whole string of pictures then.’

Their next film was ‘Three Days of the Condor’, a 1975 espionage thriller with Robert Redford. ‘Dave did an extraordinary score to that picture, kind of a jazz thriller score with a very bluesy love theme done on a saxophone, as I remember. He always got great players,’ Pollack said. ‘That score was unique. As a matter of fact, it gets stolen a lot on public television and radio; it gets used over and over and over.’

After that, they collaborated on ‘Bobby Deerfield’, a racing drama with Al Pacino and Marthe Heller in 1977; ‘The Electric Horseman’, about a rodeo rider played by Robert Redford and Jane Fonda with Willie Nelson (pictured with Redford, left) in 1979; ‘Absence of Malice’, a newspaper courtroom drama with Paul Newman and Sally Field in 1981; ‘Tootsie’, a comedy about a cross-dressing actor with Dustin Hoffman (with Pollack top picture), Jessica Lange, Teri Garr and Bill Murray in 1982; ‘Havana’, a drama set during the Cuban revolution with Redford and Lena Olin in 1990; ‘The Firm’, a legal thriller with Tom Cruise, Jeanne Triplehorn and Gene Hackman in 1993 and ‘Random Hearts’, a romantic comedy starring Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas and Greg Kinnear in 1999.

Pollack also produced two films with other directors that used Grusin scores … ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, a country music romance with Willie Nelson, Dyan Cannon and Amy Irving directed by Jerry Schatzberg in 1980 and ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, a romantic drama about competing musical brothers with Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer (below) directed by Steve Kloves in 1989.

Grusin also worked with other filmmakers including Warren Beatty on ‘Heaven Can Wait’ in 1978 and Robert Redford on ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’ for which he won the Academy Award for best score in 1988.

‘The thing about Dave Grusin, and I think it’s his blessing and in today’s streamlined world, perhaps part of his curse, is that as a composer he’s a chameleon, he can do anything,” Pollack told me. ‘He really can do jazz; he can do classical, he can do extremely melodic stuff; he can do stuff that’s ethnic. His score for “Heaven Can Wait”, that was a Brechtian score. It had that kind of Kurt Weill sound to it. And then “Milagro” had that incredible Latin magical sound to it. And then, for me, he got Japanese, or he’ll get jazzy on “Condor,” or extremely melancholy on “Dearfield,” or symphonic in “Havana.” His range is enormous. “Havana” was a great score that got nominated.It’s a beautiful, beautiful symphonic score that I still play today. As a matter of fact, I was listening to a track of it this morning, just testing out some clip-on speakers on my laptop and I saw the disc sitting there and I put the big symphonic cue that he did.’

Pollack said Grusin also was extraordinary in terms of his willingness to try to satisfy what he thought a director’s intention was. ‘He will often come in with a whole new concept and it’s usually gonna be better than what you had on the temp,’ the director said. ‘Every once in a while, I get hung up on a temp piece and then I will talk about it and he’ll find a way to try to incorporate what it is about the temp piece that I like. There are certain chase scenes in the films I’ve done with Dave, or certain love scenes, where I’ve really had to put something in temporarily. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky and Dave has written me a bit of a theme before I’ve been in the editing room.’

That was not always possible. ’It’s wonderful but usually it’s impractical, unfortunately,’ Pollack said. ‘It’s hard to get somebody to come on a film that early. The most popular of the film composers are busy; they go from one score to another; they’re doing concerts, or in Dave’s case he’s had a record company to run. He is a soloist, an instrumentalist and a conductor who does tours.’

The director was able to get Grusin into the filmmaking process quite early on ‘Tootsie’, ‘Bobbie Dearfield’, ‘Random Hearts’ and ‘The Firm’ (starring Tom Cruise, pictured with Hal Holbrook below), which had a very different kind of score, one that also was Oscar-nominated. 

‘That’s an amazing score,’ Pollack said. ‘What happened was, I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure I was gonna use Dave. I was thinking about him. I went to Memphis and down into the blues areas and I thought this should be Dave because Memphis is a big blues town. Then I started thinking: But I can’t hear a sound to this picture. Usually I can.

‘All I kept thinking was that I didn’t want one of those conventional straight-ahead thriller scores. Because Dave is such a splendid musician, I brought him down to the Cayman Islands while I was shooting. I sat on a weekend with him on the piano at the hotel and just had him play blues, just little blues things.

‘I thought that one of the things that would make it unique was if we were to try doing the whole thing with piano only. That would be a very audacious thing and the only guy in the world I thought could do it was Dave. Scott Rudin, who was a producer with me on the picture, thought that was a terrific idea and he supported me totally on it. I think the studio was a little bit leery because they had a very commercial hot property in the book and suddenly this sounded a little bit weird. But then when they heard it, they all loved it. What he did was amazing because there is nothing but Dave and nothing but a piano in that entire score. There’s a lot of music in that picture.’

Pollack’s  good instincts regarding music were evident from the start in 1965 when he hired Quincy Jones to write the score for his directorial debut, ‘The Slender Thread’, a drama about a suicide hotline starring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. Jones went on to become a music legend producing major artists and scoring dozens of films with six Academy Award musical nominations.

Elmer Bernstein, whose career also spanned many decades with fourteen Oscar nominations, scored Pollack’s second film, ‘The Scalphunters’,  starring Burt Lancaster in 1967. That same year, Bernstein won his only Oscar, for ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’, a musical starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore.

Over his four decades as director and producer, Pollack hired more Oscar-winning composers including Michel Legrand for the surrealistic war picture ‘Castle Keep’ with Burt Lancaster in 1969 and John Williams for the romantic drama ‘Sabrina’, with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond in 1995.

Legrand landed five Academy Award nominations over his career with wins for best song, ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’ in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ in 1968 and best score for ‘Summer of ’42’ in 1971 and Barbra Streisand’s ‘Yentl’ in 1983. Williams, of course, is the acknowledged dean of film composers with almost fifty Oscar nominations and five wins for ‘Fiddler on the Rood’ in 1972, ‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ in 1973, ‘Jaws’ in 1976, ‘, ‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ in 1973, ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’ in 1978 and ‘Schindler’s List’ in 1995.

For his fifth outing as a feature film director, ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They’ with Jane Fonda and Gig Young in 1969, Pollack selected composer Johnny Green, who had won Oscars for ‘West Side Story’ in 1962 and ‘Oliver!’ in 1969. Green picked up another Academy Award nomination for Pollack’s film. 

Pollack admitted that he was ambivalent about using songs in movies. ‘Normally, to me, songs take you out of the story but that’s the new style, so that’s what we do,’ he said. ‘It depends on the picture. Certain kinds of movies, you can do it and it works. If you’re doing a very hip kind of contemporary thing, you’re very able to do it well. It depends.’

He did make pictures where he felt that a song was truly merited. One was ‘The Way We Were’ in 1973, starring Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. Composer Marvin Hamlisch won the Oscar for best score and he along with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman won the award for best song for the title number.

He used songs in ‘Electric Horseman; because he had Willie Nelson. ’It seemed a shame to have Willie and not use him,’ he said, ‘particularly since I was doing a picture about a horse out West. It just seemed ridiculous not to do it. But Dave Grusin did all those orchestrations. We went to Nashville and recorded most of eight songs.’ Nelson was Oscar-nominated one year later for the song ‘On the Road Again’ in ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, which Pollack produced.

Grusin and lyricists the Bergmans were Oscar-nominated for the song ‘It Might be You’ sung by Stephen Bishop in ‘Tootsie’ and the song ‘Moonlight’ by John Williams and the Bergmans, sung by Michael Dees, was nominated for ‘Sabrina’. Anthony Minghella’s ‘Cold Mountain’, which Pollack produced, nabbed Oscar noms for composer Gabriel Yared while the songs ’Scarlet Tide’ by T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello and ‘You Will Be My Ain True Love’ by Sting also were nominated.

Sydney Pollack died on May 26 2008 aged 73.

 

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dave Grusin’s good and bad memories scoring movies

By Ray Bennett

Great keyboard jazz player Dave Grusin, who turns 90 today, has written many wonderful movie scores including several for the late director Sydney Pollack, who told me, ‘He’s a chameleon, he can do anything.  His range is enormous.’

Grusin has more than one hundred movie composing credits with eight Academy Award nominations for scores to films including Pollack’s ‘The Firm’ (1993) starring Tom Cruise (bottom photo) and Steve Kloves’s ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’ (1989) starring Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer (below), which Pollack produced. He won the Oscar for Robert Redford’s 1988 picture ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’ (above).

Grusin (left’ had varying experiences on those three films.

‘“The Milagro Beanfield War” was both a dream and a nightmare,’ he told me. ‘The musical opportunity was fantastic and totally wonderful but the director developed a major problem with the score and, basically, decimated it. After all these years, I still don’t know why. The Academy Award notwithstanding, in the final analysis it became a disappointing experience. I’d rather not comment further, particularly regarding Robert Redford. For the record, it was mysterious and painful.’

‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, he said, was ‘nothing but fun. Everyone involved, including the actors, the writer-director, the producer and the musicians got into the story and the intent. I got a chance to see some true acting talent up close and the two-piano pre-recording was a joy.’

Sydney Pollack told me that he decided his Memphis-set thriller ‘The Firm’ should have a bluesy score. ‘I didn’t want one of those conventional straight-ahead thriller scores’,  he said. ‘I thought that one of the things that would make it unique was if we were to try doing the whole thing with piano only. That would be a very audacious thing and the only guy in the world I thought could do it was Dave. Scott Rudin, who was a producer with me on it, thought that was a terrific idea and he supported me totally. I think the studio was a little bit leery because they had a very commercial hot property in the book and suddenly this sounded a little bit weird. But then when they heard it, they all loved it. What he did was amazing because there is nothing but Dave and nothing but a piano in that entire score and there’s a lot of music in that picture.’

Grusin said, ‘“The Firm” was, of course, a tour-de-force for a piano player. I will always be grateful for Sydney Pollack’s determination to stick with the solo keyboard format. Ultimately, his dedication was what made the score work.’

Posted in Film, Interviews, Music | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dave Grusin’s good and bad memories scoring movies

KFMF marks Elliot Goldenthal’s 70th with his ‘Symphony No. 3’

By Ray Bennett

American composer Elliot Goldenthal’s affinity with Poland and that nation’s cultural icons reached another pinnacle with his ‘Symphony No. 3’, which will be performed as part of the Krakow Film Music Festival’s ‘Traces of Memory’ evening at the Krakow Philharmonic Concert Hall on May 22.

The 43-minute work is inspired by words of the Polish poet and activist Barbara Sadowska, who died aged 46 in 1986, three years after the death of her son Grzegorz Przemyk, aged 19.

The young man’s death became emblematic of the world’s struggle against authoritarianism as it is believed widely that he was beaten and murdered by communist authorities in response to his mother’s political protests.

Goldenthal (pictured top) had long intended to write a symphony for voice and orchestra using Titania’s ‘Ode to the Environment’ from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. That changed when he was invited to create a piece using Barbara Sadowska’s words for the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, which was founded in 2005 by Elzbieta Penderecka, widow of the late Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The orchestra had collaborated with him before and other Oscar-winning including Hans Zimmer and Jan A. P. Kaczmarek,

New York-based Goldenthal became acquainted with Krzysztof Penderecki (pictured with him below) and Elzbieta Penderecka on frequent visits to Poland in connection with the influential Film Music Festival held annually in Kraków since 2008.

His first visit was in 2012 and in 2015 he was the inaugural winner of the festival’s Wojciech Kilar Award, named for the Polish pianist and composer who died in 2013 aged 81. Kilar wrote the music for more than 130 films including Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, Jane Campion’s ’Portrait of a Lady’ and Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film ‘The Pianist’.

The festival assembled a council of experts to choose the first recipient of the Kilar Award and organisers said Goldenthal was an almost unanimous choice. ‘In his music,’ the FMF said, ‘Goldenthal balances between dissonant, atonal music and classical harmony, often during a single phrase, blending traditional orchestral music with jazz and rock, as well as electronic music.”

The festival noted that the composer is comfortable working on pieces that are extensive symphonically and chorally as well as more ambient and intimate as he creates both traditional and unusual compositions: ‘Goldenthal is highly valued for his unique, dark, and almost dense style. None of the contemporary composers of film music use their talent in creating works in such a variety of musical genres.’

Goldenthal won the Academy Award for his score to ‘Frida’, directed by his partner Julie Taymor, who created the original ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway. He wrote the music for Taymor’s ‘Titus’, ‘Across the Universe’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Glorias’. He was Oscar-nominated for best score for Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles’ and ‘Michael Collins’.

He also provided the music for Jordan’s ‘The Butcher Boy’ and ‘The Good Thief’ amid a range of films that include ‘Alien3’, ‘Batman Forever’, ‘Batman & Robin’ and ‘Heat’. Busy in the concert hall, Goldenthal composes chamber music and writes symphonies, ballets and operas. As well as the Oscar, he has won two Golden Globes, three Grammy Awards and two Tony Awards

At the 2018 FMF, Goldenthal spoke of his admiration of Poland’s great military hero Tadeusz Kościuszko, a general and architect who played a significant role in Polish and American history. In tribute, he wrote ‘Concerto for Trumpet and Strings’, which was performed at the NOSPR Concert Hall in Katowice and the ICE Kraków Congress Centre.

The dedication was related to the first time the composer went to Kraków and heard the hourly live bugle calls that have been heard for centuries from the tower of St. Mary’s Church in the city’s Grand Square,‘They echo Kościuszko’s values,’ Goldenthal said. ‘He was a great hero of the American Revolution and he instilled the values of social issues that are ever more important today. These issues come up every twenty years or so and it seems like we go down the same dark road but Kościuszko still has the ability to inspire.’

After the Beethoven Academy Orchestra approached him for the Sadowska commission, Goldenthal became affected deeply by the poet’s work. He spent two years on an intense and moving vocal symphony that was to have debuted in Poland in August 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic got in the way. Along with everything that happened as a result of Covid 19, the world situation regarding authoritarianism has only grown more threatening. ‘Symphony No. 3’ challenges that boldly.

The ‘Traces of Memory’ concert programme was inspired by two anniversaries: The 30th anniversary of the Polish release of ‘Schindler’s List’, with the Oscar-winning score by John Williams, and Goldenthal’s 70th birthday. The concert also will feature works by Krzysztof Penderecki, Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz and the band Kroke. The concert is organised in cooperation with the Krakow Philharmonic and the United States Consulate in Krakow, which has been a part of the city for 50 years.

Posted in Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on KFMF marks Elliot Goldenthal’s 70th with his ‘Symphony No. 3’

Duane Eddy – meeting a rock legend in the shade

By Ray Bennett

In the 1950s, Duane Eddy, who died on April 30 aged 86, was one of the American rock stars most popular in the United Kingdom. With his band the Rebels, his hit singles ‘Rebel Rouser’, ‘Peter Gunn’, ‘Ramrod’, ‘Because They’re Young’ and ‘Forty Miles of Bad Road’ made him red-hot with teenagers along with hits of Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.

Little more than a decade later, it was a different story. Continue reading

Posted in Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ... | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Duane Eddy – meeting a rock legend in the shade

There are film composers and then there’s Elliot … Goldenthal

By Ray Bennett

Oscar-winning American composer Elliot Goldenthal, who turns 70 today, said that the first time he saw the sheet music for Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Strings’ when he was 17, he turned pale and started to tremble. ‘It was a deep moment. I realised that I had seen my first real film score.’ 

Speaking at the 2018 Krakow Film Music Festival, with the venerable late Polish composer sitting next to him on a speaker’s panel, he described spending an afternoon at Penderecki’s home with its bucolic surroundings. ‘We didn’t exchange many words but the silences – in music we call them rests – the rests were more poignant,’ Goldenthal said. ‘He has the ability to inspire. His music goes out, he doesn’t know where the wind will take it. For me, it took it to Brooklyn when I was growing up.’ Continue reading

Posted in Film, Interviews, Krakow Film Music Festival, Memory Lane, Music, News, Recalling ... | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on There are film composers and then there’s Elliot … Goldenthal

Songwriter Steve Dorff in praise of Clint Eastwood


By Ray Bennett

American songwriter and composer Steve Dorff, who turns 75 today, has a huge number of screen credits including TV series such as ‘Murphy Brown’, Spenser for Hire’ and ‘Major Dad’. In a Q&A for The Hollywood Reporter, he told me his big break came in 1979 when Clint Eastwood and music supervisor Snuffy Garrett asked him and collaborator Milton Brown to contribute a song to the film ‘Every Which Way But Loose’.  Continue reading

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ..., Television | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Songwriter Steve Dorff in praise of Clint Eastwood

Henry Mancini and the best strip club in London


By Ray Bennett

A memory of the great film composer Henry Mancini, who was born 100 years ago today:

London’s Soho strip clubs in the Sixties (so I’m told) were shabby and sleazy, compared to which the long-gone Raymond Revuebar on Walker’s Court, run by local mogul Paul Raymond, was classy and good fun. Continue reading

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ... | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Henry Mancini and the best strip club in London

Going drink for drink with ‘Dallas’ star Howard Keel

By Ray Bennett

In 1981 when he was 62, Howard Keel’s days as the star of great Hollywood musicals were long gone. He was living in Oklahoma with his third wife Judy when he received a phone call. ‘I was pretty much washed up in Hollywood by the late Seventies,’  he told me. ‘We were packed ready to head off to retirement in Colorado.’  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Going drink for drink with ‘Dallas’ star Howard Keel

The sad fate of Carolyn Jones, the original Morticia Addams


By Ray Bennett

The Ringwood Music and Dramatic Society production of the hit Broadway musical ‘The Addams Family’ this week is the latest in a long run of versions of the original one-panel cartoon series created by cartoonist Charles Addams that first appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1938 and ran for years. 

The tales of a wealthy family who are not aware that their macabre tastes are unusual spawned a hit 1960s television series that has remained a cult favourite, sequels and specials, two feature films and the successful Broadway musical that will be staged by the RMDS at The Barn, Ringwood School, April 10-13. Continue reading

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Music, Recalling ..., Television, Theatre | Comments Off on The sad fate of Carolyn Jones, the original Morticia Addams