Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Noir Lovelies

A few beauties who made an impact in Film Noir . . .

Susan Hayward actually played a "nice" girl in the Noir classic "They Won't Believe Me" with Robert Young playing against type as a 3-timing low-life. Susie almost always played "bad" girls in the first half of her career in Hollywood so it's a bit ironic that one of the only noir film roles she ever had was not another one of those.

Lana Turner in a publicity still for Tay Garnett's "The Postman Always Rings Twice". For my money possibly the best picture ever taken of lovely Lana!

Joan Bennet plays an absolutely heartless gold-digging tramp in Fritz Lang's "Scarlet Street", co-starring Edward G Robinson and the eternally oily Dan Duryea. Joan was one of those starlets who's career changed quite a bit simply by her changing her hair color from blonde to brunette!

Gene Tierney . . . *sigh*

Corrine Calvet only made a small amount of films but her first and best performance in William Dieterle's "Rope of Sand" is well-worth seeing! Burt Lancaster, Paul Henried, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre also starred making it a sort of re-hashing of "Casablanca", though not nearly as good.

No one who's ever seen the "Asphalt Jungle" could forget Marilyn Monroe's appearance in it! To quote the slimy Louis Calhern from the film: "Isnt she a sweet thing!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sitting Pretty . . .

Well here it is, Xmas time 2008!! And what better way to celebrate this festive season than to post something completely unrelated!!! So here are some pics of my little kitty "Mathilda"! She has a rather unusual way of sitting at times which i would say tends to NOT be on the graceful side but she's soooooooo pretty she can get away with it! One of these days i will do a drawing of her, which should be a challenge with all those grays to deal with!

She's so weird!

Princess Grayce!

Call Larry Flynt!


She has "crazy" eyes!!!

her fave chair during the winter

Caught in mid-yawn!

She CAN sit like a normal cat once in a while!

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Artwork

I've spent the last 3 weeks working on these 3 preliminary pencil pieces. It started out as just one picture, then an art friend of mine said she thought it would make a nice series, so then I thought hmmmmmm, and all these ideas popped into my head and so then i thought, how about a series of 3 that all work together as one pic? So I worked out a design to tie them all together. Doing all 3 of these in Colored Pencil is going to be a serious challenge for a lot of reasons but I've already begun working out colors and trying things for backgrounds, etc. so there wont be too much guesswork once i start on the good board. I plan on using museum board for these so i have the option of using water-soluable pencils if i feel like it. I guess there's a bit of Olivia, a bit of Sorayama, a bit of Mucha and maybe somewhere in there a bit of myself as well! Keep in mind these are not finished pencil drawings so there are smudges, erasure lines and little buggers all over the place. The working title is "Break Shot" but that will probably get changed.

This was the one I did first. At first she was leaning on top of a huge spherical shape, then a silly-looking abstract penis shaped thing, but it was a bit much, then a smaller ball and her foot on a pyramid shape but it looked too much like "trained seal" stuff going on which i didnt like at all, then it hit me, hah, billiard balls!!! The only major changes made after i decided to make the series were I added the Nouveau style shape in the b/g, and I changed the numbers on the billiard balls to go with the color scheme I have in mind. The shoes were fun!

I had a heck of a time settling on a hairstyle for this one but I like how it ended up. Her outfit may get some changes as I'm not totally happy with it yet. Please excuse the gray smudgy spots in the b/g, this was done on rather thin sketch paper and the scanner lid made it a bit wrinkly.

I just finished this one last night. Probably one of the better figures I've done, I'm pretty happy with it! I may jazz up the shoes to better match the ones on the first piece though, like the cue-stick does!

Here's how they look all together! Total measurement will be over 4 feet wide i think, i have no idea how i will mat and frame these when finished but, oh well!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The "Saga of the Fish Cabinet" - Part II

Further adventures in woodworking . . .

Here's the main casing with the clamps removed. I'd love to say it's "perfectly" square but it IS very close!

The tenon on one of the joints fit kinda loose (I need more practice cutting those!) and the clamps pulled it out of aligment while the glue dried. Fortunately I used hide glue so I just steamed the joint by laying it over a pan of boiling water which reactivated the glue, I then reclamped it and now it's nice and straight!

Layout marks for a double tenon joint . . . oh i just KNEW that was gonna be fun!

Came out pretty good actually!

And of course the corresponding double mortise.

A nice snug fit, woo hoo!

Getting ready to glue up the smaller casing.

I wanted to make sure no misalignment happened this time!!!

Checking to see how the cabinet doors looked laid out on the main casing. We got the doors from Rockler dot com and the quality and workmanship are excellent!
To be continued . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kirk Douglas

One of the most dynamic, forceful and talented actors to ever step before a camera, Spartacus himself turns 92 years old today! Born Dec 9th, 1916 to illiterate Russian immigrant parents in New York city. The only male of 7 siblings!!! yikes! Hard for me to pick a favorite actor but Kirk is certainly one of the top 4 or 5 on my list. His list of memorable films is substantial but he's always enjoyable to see even if the film he's in is not. I recall what Steven Spielberg said the night he presented the Lifetime Achievement Oscar to Kirk several years ago, it went something like: "Kirk Douglas never played 2-dimensional characters . . . he shaded his villians with conscience and his heroes with self doubt" . . . very well put and a big reason why a Kirk Douglas performance can be so compelling to watch! Anyone interested in reading a fascinating autobiography would do well to pick up a copy of Kirk's "Ragman's Son", it is quite an unflinching and fascinating look at the life of an incredibly intelligent and driven human being. Some pics from just a few of Kirk's memorable films . . .

Kirk made his screen debut in Lewis Milestone's "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. It was one of the few times Kirk would play a weakling.

In 1948 Kirk co-starred for the first time with Burt Lancaster in Byron Haskin's noir classic "I Walk Alone". The 2 men didnt really develop their close friendship until they starred together again in John Sturgess' "Gunfight at O.K. Coral" in 1957. Another memorable team-up with them was John Frankenheimer's 1964 political masterpiece "Seven Days in May". According to Burt, in the old days they were both conceited, wanted to do everything their way and everyone hated them! The public sure didnt hate them, they were both major box-office stars for many years.

After making a pretty good name for himself co-starring in several solid productions, Kirk turned down the chance to once again co-star, this time in "The Great Sinner" with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, and instead chose to play the lead in Mark Robson's gritty 1949 noir-boxing drama,"Champion", which was Stanley Kramer's first independent production. Kirk himself stated he needed to know if he could carry a picture as the star. He received the first of his 3 oscar nominations for best actor, losing out to Broderick Carwford in "All the King's Men".

"Those Fat Bellies with the big cigars arent gonna make a monkey outta me, i can BEAT 'em!"

Kirk's unforgettable final scene in "Champion"

"I wanna strap 'em in the electric chair and pull the switch myself!"

Kirk and Eleanor Parker in William Wylers classic cop-drama "Detective Story". I would describe Kirk's performance in this film as one of swirling, almost non-stop, gut-wrenching intensity! For any actor to hold their own with Kirk in this film is a major testament to their own talent and Eleanor Parker, Willliam Bendix (yo ho!!!!) Lee Grant, George MacReady, Joseph Wiseman and a whole plethora of great character actors do just that, but it is Kirk's film from start to finish and to think he wasnt even nominated for an Oscar as best actor for this film was a really HUGE oversight by the Academy that year!

Kirk as Vincent Van Gogh in a publicity still for Vincent Minnelli's magnificent 1956 technicolor production "Lust for Life". Certainly one of Kirk's most courageous performances, apparently he had a hard time "shedding" Van Gogh after production wrapped! Kirk got his 3rd and final oscar nomination that year but lost once again, this time to Yul Brunner for the "King and I". It was a major Oscar upset as Kirk was pegged by all to be the clear cut winner, but . . . *sigh*

A great shot of Kirk as the thoughtful Colonel Dax in Stanley Kubrick's shattering anti-war masterpiece "Path's of Glory". An absolutely unforgettable film with a beautifully understated performance by Kirk Douglas who often described Kubrick as a"talented shit"

Kirk as Spartacus, probably the role he is best remembered for today. An important film for a number of reasons, most notably because Kirk, as producer of the film, decided that blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo would receive full screen credit for the first time in about a decade, thereby shattering the blacklist once and for all. Also important to note is that this was the last Hollywood production Stanley Kubrick would ever be involved in. The film has it flaws but is certainly a rousing epic entertainment with a fine cast, great action scenes and a magnificent Alex North score. And who can forget the classic "I am Spartacus" scene!!!

Kirk as modern-day Cowboy John W. Burns in David Miller's "Lonely are the Brave". This is always the film Kirk names as his personal favorite. A sensitive, understated and realistic performance in a film that has garnered a cult following over the years with its themes of the individual vs. society, authority and the onslaught of progress. The final scene is emotionally devastating, bring your hankies!!!!!!

Kirk with co-star Gena Rowlands in a touching farewell scene. The horse in the film was named "Whiskey" and several years later in "The Villain", Kirk walks into a bar and orders "Whiskey" and in walks a horse!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Noir Mugs . . .

A few great shots of some Noir "Mugs" . . . are they good or bad? Not always easy to tell, other times it's real easy!

Alan Ladd as hired killer "Raven" in "This Gun for Hire". What a great film and what a great still!

Victor Mature, someone who i didnt used to like too much but have a newfound appreciation for these days. His performance in "Kiss of Death" is very effective!

An absolutely awesome shot of Richard Widmark, to me a very underappreciated actor, I mean, who can play a giggling psychopath better, you tell me! He is completely unforgettable in "Kiss of Death", "Roadhouse" and "Pickup on South Street" (to name just a few) but was also excellent in several enjoyable westerns and war films as well.

Speaking of a guy who was adept at playing a psychopath, here's Lawrence Tierney! I've had a special admiration for this guy ever since i saw his great performance as "Joe" in Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs", so after that i had to go and discover his early films like "Dillinger", "Devil Thumbs a Ride" and Robert Wise's ultra-hard-boiled Noir "Born to Kill". Tierney convincingly plays a psycho killer in all 3 of those!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The "Saga of the Fish Cabinet" - Part I

My latest project out in the wood shop is I'm building a cabinet for my "sort-of-stepfather's" tropical fish tank as an Xmas gift from my mother. No easy task for a number of reasons . . . for one thing it's HUGE, 55" long on the flat front section and another 32" long on the angled side section. Another thing, it isnt sitting squarely on its metal stand, but aint no way no how it can be moved! It took 4 guys to put the thing up there when it was empty, now it has i dont know how many gallons of water in it, so fughedaboudit! I'll have to shim the cabinet facing in varying degrees to sit flush against the edge of the tank which should be a nice little bit of hell no doubt! Anyway i started working on the main cabinet facing yesterday, a fairly straightforward procedure using mortise and tenon joints but I'm using Ash lumber that wasnt edge plained at the mill so i have to do that myself, by hand, yay! A bunch of the boards have a slight bow to them so it is taking some time to get a straight edge on them before i even think about ripping them to width on the table saw.

the main stiles with tenons cut, fun fun fun!

I cut the mortises with a dowel jig and drill, then chiseled out the rest, a really quick and clean way to do them actually!

not only is handplaining hardwood a lot of fun and great exercise but you get these pretty little shavings ALL over the shop!

a clean well-organized work area is essential for quality results!

The main cabinet facing glued up and clamped. I used W. Patrick Edwards "Old Brown Glue" (liquid hide glue) because it has a really long open time which give a slowpoke like me plenty of time to get the big old bar clamps in place before the glue sets up. I never thought I'd ever get excited about glue but this stuff is awesome!

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Film Noir

Mugs, Thugs, Drifters and Psychotic killers... Molls, Dolls, Floozies and Feme Fatales... dimly lit smoke-filled rooms, cheap gin joints, graft, corruption, theft...and murder!

Good times, good times!

John Garfield, Lana Turner and Cecil Kellaway in "The Postman Always Rings Twice"

Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum in "The Big Steal"

Richard Widmark and Jean Peters in Sam Fuller's Noir masterpiece "Pickup on South Street"

Kirk Douglas in Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole" aka "The Big Carnival"