The Last of Robin Hood: DVD Review

Still from The Last of Robin Hood
The Last of Robin Hood is out now on DVD and can be rented from Redbox, as well as other providers of both DVDs and streaming capability. This was a film I was desperate to see at the cinema. However, because of poor reception at screenings elsewhere, or due to the studio’s complete lack of faith in the project or their lack of understanding of how to market the film, it had a very limited release. After realizing that I’d missed the screener, if there was one in Las Vegas, it was out of the cinemas.

To read the rest of the review click this [link] to Viral Global News.

Sid Caesar the Curtain Closes on a Comedy Giant

Sid Caesar the Curtain Closes on a Comedy Giant

Sid Caesar is dead at 91 and the curtain has softly closed on a comedy giant. Although giant is perhaps not a large enough term to refer to a legendary figure who, through his live comedy programs, seemed to have invented the forerunner to the TV sitcom. The comic, and comedic genius, had been ill for a year before his death on Wednesday February 12. Stars and other comic icons have come forward to speak of their sorrow at the trial blazer’s death and also to talk of his ability to connect with audiences in a way that made them “roar with laughter.”

David Niven The Man Behind the Balloon by Michael Munn

Published in 2009, this appears to be the last of the biographies about the “grin and tonic” man so loved by many. Sheridan Morley was commissioned intially by Niven’s two sons after his death to write about their father. As he had grown up knowing the two men and had  met David on several occasions throughout his life, Morley was a good choice to be Niven’s first “serious” biographer.

Morley’s effort was titled The Other Side of the Moon and brought up a lot of issues that Niven had left out of his two “biographies” which, as his sons said, were really about other people. A collection of his cocktail anecdotes that had amused his fans and friends for years; David was, if nothing else, a brilliant raconteur both on talk shows and at parties.

Graham Lord then gave us his two pence worth with very little new information but a slightly different point of view in his book Niv. Both men gave more information than was generally known about the actor whose life has been referred to as “Wodehouse with tears.”

Michael Munn says in his introduction to the book that Niv himself came to him in 1982 to “get the facts” straight so that he was not vilified or slandered after his death like his old drinking mate Errol Flynn. At that time David knew he was dying from Motor Neurone Disease; a horrible wasting illness that slowly and horribly kills the afflicted sufferer. Although it was difficult for Niv to communicate with Munn (one of the side affects of the disease is losing the ability to speak clearly) he set Michael in the right direction.

Why Munn? Because he had been a friend and confidant of Niven since 1970; back then Munn was an entertainment reporter just starting in the business. His boss set up a meeting with Niven who was in London promoting his latest film. The two men clicked and a long running friendship was formed.

Munn works pretty well as David Niven‘s last life chronicler. He manages to show the Niven skeletons and shies away from stories already in print by other authors. He even manages to be sympathetic toward David’s second wife Hjordis. Of course he also praised Sheridan Morley’s book (which was really very, very good) and that speaks volumes to me as a reader and a fan of Morley’s writing.

Most people know David Niven as the author of The Moon’s a Balloon and Bring on the Empty Horses. He sold millions of these books that were in reality his “cocktail party stories” and mainly about other people in his life. He told very little of his own life and skated over things he felt that no-one should know or would be interested in.

Niven won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the fake war hero Major who has a fondness for fondling young ladies in the film Separate Tables. He was the second star of Around the World in 80 days (the first being the actual film according to him) and either one of the most unappreciated character actors in the business or the most overused. It was said that a lot of producers wanted him in their horrible films because he could add class to the drivel they were selling.

He was a favourite on the talk show circuit. He seemed to have a never-ending reservoir of funny tales to tell. Often they had originated as someone else’s story, but Niv had a good “ear” for stories and he often “borrowed” them and polished them up for further audiences delight. The people he borrowed the stories from never minded as Niv could tell stories like no one else.

While quite a lot of the anecdotes he related in both his books have been refuted or at least had their veracity questioned, Niven was the first Hollywood star to write a book himself  that ran so long in the number one best-seller spot. He was a remarkable man and a much better actor than he was ever given credit for. He continued to work until it became physically impossible for him to do so.

Unfortunately a lot of his films were dross. Made for the money or made because of the great “chums” he would be working with. Ironically the last really great performance he gave was in a film Paper Tiger where he played a variation on his Oscar-winning Major in Separate Tables. A phony war hero who makes good by the end of the picture; it is a brilliant bit of work and stupidly difficult to find. The irony was that he hated making the film and was not his usual cheerful self during filming.

A scene from Separate Tables. Niven with one of his best chums, Deborah Kerr.

David Niven was a man who wanted to entertain people, whether it involved acting or just being an eternally cheerful chap who told the most glorious and funny stories; he wanted to be liked. Most folks who came into contact with him did like him; especially women.

That he was a man addicted to sex is beyond question. He was incapable of remaining faithful to one woman. Even the love of his life, his first wife Primula (Primmie) was not able to stop his insatiable sexual appetite for the opposite sex. David himself felt no real guilt about these extra marital dalliances. In his mind, he loved Primmie (and later Hjordis) and that was what mattered. He really felt that the sex with other women he did not love (and this included prostitutes) was not of any consequence.

Munn himself never understood Niven’s viewpoint and it puzzled him. But one does, after all, have to remember that David’s first sexual experiences were with a prostitute, the infamous Nessie, who he fell madly in love with at the tender age of 14.

Niven’s life was unbelievably sad and tragic; it also seemed to be riddled with “bad luck.” He was just beginning to become a star when the Second World War broke out and he rushed home to sign up to a country who did not want him. He then went on to work in a specialized unit. This unit’s “secretive” role haunted him for the rest of his life.

I suppose that Munn’s book gives a fairly good insight as to what made Niven tick. Sadly, a lot of “truths” that are brought to light only make his life seem more tragic. Niven was a wonderful entertainer, a more than capable actor and a pretty damn good writer. It is sad that this revealing book is the last word on his character.

I would recommend reading Michael Munn’s revealing book, but only after reading Sheridan Morley’s and Graham Lord’s sympathetic and fond recounts of his life. Munn is not less sympathetic and perhaps even fonder, but as I have said, with Niven’s cooperation and blessing the cat was let well and truly out of the bag on the details of his life.

David Niven (b March 1, 1910 – d July 29, 1983)

Toe-besity? Plastic Surgery for Fat Tootsies. What the Fudge??

Family toes
Family toes (Photo credit: dospaz)

Looking out for the weird and outlandish on the net and…What? You don’t do that? Well, I do, okay? And the latest thing I’ve discovered is the new trend in plastic surgery. It appears that American’s have discovered the one part of the body that, up to now, has been safe from the surgeon’s scalpel.

According to Dr. Oliver Zong, a New York based Plastic Surgeon, ‘toe slimming’ operations are on the increase. He admits he was a bit taken aback when people starting asking for plastic surgery on their toes.

“When people first started asking, I said ‘What?’ We were mostly doing toe shortenings in the beginning.” Dr Zong has been performing  toe re-shaping procedures for people who neurotically feel embarrassment over the width of their  toes. This new trend has been called “toe-besity.”

Not all plastic surgeons are willing to perform the procedure or even willing to contemplate it. Some have told horror stories of women who want their little toes surgically removed so they can wear a smaller shoe size.

Did I forget to mention that this new trend has been started by women.

That’s right. Women have now gotten so paranoid about their entire body that they are resorting to plastic surgery to remould themselves into a complete package of perfection. I don’t get this. I really don’t.

I know that culturally the focus has been on people looking ever younger, trimmer, fitter, prettier. The big lie is that we can all reach this pinnacle of perfection with the help of a surgeon’s knife. How stupid can people be?

We know that pictures in magazines are airbrushed within an inch of their 2D life. Advertising, the modelling industry and Hollywood perpetuates the myth of the perfect person. Capped teeth, hair implants, tummy tucks and bottom lifts all help to make folks look more stream-lined and assembly-lined.

But when folks start worrying about their toes? I think we all need to step back a bit and really look at each other with a bit of clarity.

I’ll use Hollywood as a good example. Not the Hollywood of today with it’s new homogeneous stars who are practically interchangeable like so many Lego’s.

I’m talking about the stars of yesteryear. The Gary Cooper‘s, Clark Gable‘s and Errol Flynn‘s. The Katherine Hepburn’s, Bette Davis‘s and Grace Kelly‘s. These stars did not look perfect. It was their imperfections that made them special, that made them shine.

Gable’s ears were too big, Davis had bulgy eyes and Grace Kelly was a little small upstairs. But none of that mattered at all. It was their abilities and persona’s that made them beautiful. Perfection has never been obtainable for the average person or the famous one.

Perfection is, to a degree, like beauty. It is in the eye of the beholder. In the search for perfection the beholder is the person seeking to be perfect. Their narcissistic and inward vision is skewed and terrible. They are willing to put their bodies through pain and possible infection and even death in their ridiculous pursuit.

I am sitting here writing this and wondering whatever will be next. Will tongue surgery be next? Are there people out there that are so neurotic that if they believe their tongues are too fat or ugly will  have them surgically altered?

I am appalled at the idea that women have become so superficial. I am also quite sad that so many folks believe the lie of perfection.

English: Plastic Surgeon Vishal Kapoor, MD per...
English: Plastic Surgeon Vishal Kapoor, MD performing liposuction surgery on female patient using the power assisted liposuction technique. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter O’Toole: Retires From Acting – No Venus Arising?

Cover of "Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc...
Cover via Amazon

I was very saddened to read this little bit of information on the net. Still, one can perhaps hope that he is premature in his assertion that he is retiring from acting.

The man who shot to international stardom in Lawrence of Arabia is the same man who, after battling illnesses that would have brought most of us to our collective knees, did two films back to back while still recovering, The Stuntman and My Favorite Year, oh and taking time out to do a mini-series in between.

And just when I thought that Peter would be relegated to those supporting smaller roles that is the perpetual home of older stars, he did Venus. Venus, a complete British Comedy/Drama was filled with ‘old’ thespians and it was a brilliant film. It gave Mr O’Toole his eighth Academy Award nomination (he lost to Forest Whitaker) making this his eighth nomination with no win.

He has been awarded the ‘life-time’ achievement award, which he initially declined until his children told him off for it. I can only think that the ‘hallowed’ Academy thought that Peter was going to die, that is generally when they finally unbend enough to award someone who has been overlooked for years.

That O’Toole is beyond talented is obvious. The strength of his performances are astonishing. He has never, to my knowledge, given a lacklustre performance. When I think of his voice, that wonderfully mellifluous voice that I would kill to have, I get goose bumps. His voice and his way of speaking his lines has developed into a sort of musical cadence as he aged. It is almost like a signature, one that allows you to immediately know without looking that it is O’Toole.

The first thing I saw him in was not Lawrence of Arabia. I first saw him in The Lion in Winter. He and the powerful Katharine Hepburn   striking sparks off each other. I then saw him in Beckett with Richard Burton. Brilliance. I did not watch Lawrence of Arabia until late one night on television. *On a side note, I read once that Peter had been hired on the strength of a stage performance he had been seen in by the producers, in the interim between being hired and turning up for costume fittings, they were horrified to see he’d had a nose job.*

Cover of "My Favorite Year"
Cover of My Favorite Year

But I did not fall in love with Peter O’Toole as an actor until I saw him in a small comedy directed by Richard Benjamin, My Favorite Year. Playing an ageing movie star who agrees to do a mainstream comedy variety show to pay his tax bill. The star is a raging alcoholic and does not realize that the show will be broadcast live. The pathos. comedy, sadness and courage that O’Toole gave his character made this film an unforgettable experience and shot the film to the lead of my favourites. Based on real events (I think the star in question was Errol Flynn and the show was Sid Caesar‘s) the ending never fails to give me a lump in my throat.

Peter O’Toole has suffered illness and a battle with the bottle his entire career. The effects of both these have left him lean and aged, like a worn out whippet, but the power is still there. The ability to rise above his age and illness and still give the kind of performance that shines. Watch Venus, at 73 he still has the ability to tug the heartstrings and make us chuckle, almost at the same time.

So Peter O’Toole has finally had enough. The acting world should put on black armbands and fly their flags at half-mast.

He may be “down but not out” but let’s just hope that maybe he can be enticed to act again for the right role. I would still like to see him earn his Oscar properly, as I am sure he would, and not just have the conciliatory one the Academy farmed out to him.