Carrie Fisher Dead at 60 – A Life in the Limelight

Shot from Star Wars

The news of Carrie Fisher’s death aged 60 came as no surprise to many. When the public learned that the Star Wars star suffered a heart attack mid flight from London, Heathrow on 23 December this year, social media blew up with well-wishes and many telling 2016 to leave their Princess Leia alone.

2016 has been a bitter year for fans of David Bowie, George Michael, Mohammad Ali, Prince and John Glenn to name but a few of the celebrities, famous and infamous who left this realm for another.  Now Carrie Fisher has joined their ranks amid the cries of pain from her legion of fans.

Carrie Frances Fisher was born into the limelight. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds was a star as well as a household name and her father was Eddie Fisher, the man who spent so much time helping Elizabeth Taylor when her husband died that he left his baby and wife for “Liz.”

With such beginnings it was, perhaps, written in the stars that baby Carrie, who entered this world on 21 October 1956, would have an interesting life. The young Fisher started working in the world of celluloid in 1969, ironically in a Debbie Reynold’s made for TV film – Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children.

Next up was the iconic Warren Beatty film Shampoo. A film role that was quickly overshadowed by “a little science fiction movie that should be fun” Star Wars: Episode IV – A New HopeThe rest, as they say, is history.

Those horrific double hair buns of Princess Leia did little to hide Fisher’s beauty or her acting skills and millions of young men and women fell in love with the character and in turn with Carrie.

Life was a constant struggle to control the drugs, her bi-polar disorder and the fame. It was as though her father’s departure all those years ago put a curse on Fisher. The star wrote a number of fictional books but it was not until she performed the cathartic act of writing her memoirs that Carrie became an author of note.

Postcards From the Edge  was her first autobiographical novel, turned into a film with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leads, and it took some of the varnish off the image of Debbie Reynolds. Despite this rather unflattering portrayal of her mother, Reynolds and Fisher got on quite amiably.

In terms of roles other than those for the Star Wars franchise, Fisher seemed to pick parts that poked fun at her heroic image, or at least fell far from the role that made her a household name.

In the 2009 horror film Sorority Row, for instance, she played a rough talking, shotgun wielding sorority house mother. Wes Craven cast Carrie in Scream 3. She was a “Carrie Fisher” lookalike who managed the publicity vaults of a fictional film studio. The gag was that her career was ruined by the “one who slept with George Lucas.”

Away from the film screen, Carrie Fisher was an outspoken woman who took no prisoners. When there were complaints that Princess Leia had not aged as some of her fans thought she should have, Fisher set them straight on social media.

“Deal with it” was Fisher’s message and she meant it.  Now this strong woman who fought battles with her weight, mental illness, those drugs and, above all else, that famous upbringing, is gone.

Carrie died Dec. 27 in hospital with her daughter Billie Lourd attending. Lourd informed People magazine after it happened. Carrie Frances Fisher was 60 years old and an icon.

Alive she was a inspiration to generations of young women. She was also a pinup to a host of youngsters who thought her wardrobe in the 1983 sequel Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi was the epitome of sexy.

Throughout her career she had 90 credits under her belt with roles so diverse it amazes. From playing a nun in The Blues Brothers to playing herself onThe Big Bang Theory, Carrie had range for days.

Actress, author, script doctor, mother and daughter, Carrie Fisher will be missed by some and her death mourned by all.  May a host of prayers be heard by her friends and family.

Carrie Fisher
RIP Carrie Frances Fisher

 

George Kennedy Gone at 91: They Don’t Make em Like That Anymore

George Kennedy’s death at 91 means that another one of those iconic legends that I and millions of others grew up watching on television (Saturday Night at the Movies) and later on the big screen is gone.

Still from the film The Dirty Dozen

George Kennedy’s death at 91 means that another one of those iconic legends that I and millions of others grew up watching on television (Saturday Night at the Movies) and later on the big screen is gone.  While it is a trite phrase, often overused, suffice to say that in Kennedy’s case, they really do not make em like that anymore.

The last film George Harris Kennedy worked on was the abysmal Mark Wahlberg remake of The Gambler. Watching the film’s screener for review I was shocked to see how old the Cool Hand Luke actor appeared. In my mind he was ageless.

The first time I ever saw Kennedy on screen was in the film The Sons of Katie Elder. He played the surly gunsel hired to “take care” of John Elder (Duke Wayne) and the huge man first meets Duke’s character as he plunges the town’s undertaker’s head repeatedly into a barrel of water. Curly’s high-pitched “piggy” giggle as he almost drowns the man is interrupted with John Elder’s shouted, “Hey” and an pickaxe handle in the face.

This scene was iconic enough that is has been repeated in other films, even Gremlins has  Zach Galligan’s character re-enact the scene but with a  sword.

The Sons of Katie Elder moment was not an isolated incident. Kennedy played characters whose actions stood out in films, whether they were award winning movies like Cool Hand Luke, or more pedestrian fare like Clint Eastwood’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (where Kennedy’s character rather nastily beats a young Lightfoot (Lloyd Bridges) so badly that the boy dies a lingering death), Kennedy was one of those actors who stood out.

George Kennedy could play comedy, as proven in his turns in the Naked Gun franchise as well as menacing bad men. He was equally at home as bluff good guys, snotty bad guys or  the “last” slave to shout “I am Spartacus,” in the 1960 film, Kennedy brought a truth and believability to all his roles.

The New York born son of a ballet dancer and musician/orchestra leader was equally home in any genre playing any role.  Regardless of the budget or the part, the Oscar winning actor made you believe him.

The cigar chomping airport savior, Patroni,  who clears off the snow in the 1970 film Airport where he shared screen credits with Dean Martin but not screen time.  He worked with Dino before  in Bandolero! as the lovesick sheriff July Johnson who chases Martin through Mexico.

Throughout a career that began in 1956 (The Phil Silvers Show) and ended with the 2014 film The Gambler the actor played cops, soldiers, murderers, heroes, convicts, and all manner of roles across the board.  Watching Kennedy accept his Oscar for Cool Hand Luke, one can see the innate gentleness on his face and in his voice, a trait that caused people to all him the nicest man in Hollywood.

Watching any of Kennedy’s performances is a lesson is acting and reacting. The actor could  convey a myriad of emotions with his eyes and face alone, dialogue was not required for this character actor to convince the viewer of his character’s veracity.

I was actually surprised into tears at the news of Kennedy’s passing. He was a firm favorite, and not just from the many westerns watched all those years ago on Saturday night television,  one who could always be counted upon to stand out and make his performance memorable, regardless of the film’s budget.

George Kennedy (1925 – 2016) a huge man whose six-foot four-inch frame was dwarfed by his ability to make us believe completely in his characters actions on screen big and small. They really do not “make em like that” anymore.

Ben Woolf American Horror Story Meep in Critical Condition

Ben Woolf American Horror Story’s Meep, the freakshow geek, is in critical condition after being struck by a car’s side mirror while crossing the street. Various entertainment news agencies have reported that the 4 foot 4 inch tall performer was hit while jaywalking at 9 p.m. on 19 February 2015… Read the rest of the story on Viral Global News.

John Malkovich helps a 77 year old who hurt himself quite badly.

John Malkovich helps a 77 year old who hurt himself quite badly.

Ray Harryhausen (June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013) RIP

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I remember seeing Jason and the Argonauts on television when I was young. The stop motion monsters and effects scared the bejeezus out of me. Years later when I was older and (I thought) more sophisticated, Clash of the Titans didn’t scare me, but it impressed the hell out of me.

It was after a 13 year-old Ray watched the 1933 film King Kong that he got hooked on stop-motion effects. In his words he was, “stunned and haunted. They looked absolutely lifelike … I wanted to know how it was done.”

He started experimenting with stop motion photography and was even working on a huge project when the release of Fantasia and later the Second World War interrupted his progress. After the war he began doing short films and wound up helping on his first feature film, the King Kong “knock off”  Mighty Joe Young.

Working on such classics as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and, of course Jason and the Argonauts just to name a couple, he kept making his short films. He also continued to experiment with stop motion and developed a split screen system called Dynamation.  In 1992 he received the Gordon E Sawyer Academy Award for technical achievement. While not all his films had great casts, budgets or outstanding scripts, his work was always the highlight of the film.

Ray was a multi-talented man who inspired Steven Spielberg and others in the film industry. After he retired he returned to sculpting and traveled the world giving lectures and exhibitions of his work. In 2004 he wrote his autobiography and  last year the documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan was released.

When asked which creation was his favourite Ray said, “Medusa, but don’t tell the others.”

He was a modest and likeable man who will be missed by many. He was also a pioneer in the stop motion industry.

So long Ray, the party won’t be the same without you.

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Raymond Frederick Harryhausen, born 29 June 1920; died 7 May 2013