Remembering Jack Klugman

Steve Vertlieb with Jack Klugman on the set of TV’s “Quincy” somewhere around the Summer of 1979.

By Steve Vertlieb: I grew up with television in the 1950s. The little box sitting in my living room, brightly lit from within, became a lifelong companion. During those most impressionable years, I came to recognize a variety of character actors and actresses who, in my private adolescent world, became trusted friends. Their faces were comforting affirmations of my youthful belief in the ultimate goodness of mankind. Among the most reassuring of these, both then and now, belonged to Jack Klugman. While he later established a delightful persona as Oscar Madison (opposite Tony Randall) in television’s adaptation of The Odd Couple, I will always regard Jack Klugman as one of the most vulnerable, deeply honest, and passionate actors in television history. He was “everyman” … a poor, simple “Joe,” trying to lift himself out of the gutter and become a “Mentsch.”

Klugman, along with Burgess Meredith, was particularly cherished by Rod Serling, who utilized their talents in four separate episodes each of his classic Twilight Zone series on CBS. Two of those episodes in particular affected me deeply during my formative years. In “A Passage For Trumpet,” Klugman played Joey Crown, a sad, lonely man with an affinity for his horn. In a world filled with strangers, his trumpet seemed his only friend … an instrument of beauty that alone elevated his soul. In a later episode of the classic series, Klugman was an inconsequential gambler (Max Phillips) whose sole meaning and value in life seemed the future of his only son, wounded in Vietnam. He sacrifices his own shabby life in order to save his boy … a selfless act “In Praise of Pip.”

In 1957, Jack Klugman co-starred with, perhaps, the most startling ensemble of young actors ever assembled in a single motion picture. Alongside Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Martin Balsam, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Robert Webber, and George Voskovic as “Juror No. 5” in Sidney Lumet’s landmark courtroom drama, Twelve Angry Men, Klugman delivered an impassioned performance as a loner struggling to voice his humanity in a sea of cynicism. He was always the common man, the quiet, dignified soul yearning to find expression in a world that often had no time for him.

His powerful guest starring role in the CBS dramatic series The Defenders in 1964 (“The Blacklist”) won him a well deserved Emmy Award. Klugman could always be counted on to deliver a strong, moralistic performance as he did opposite Jack Lemmon, as Jim Hungerford, in Blake Edwards’ tragic study of alcoholism, The Days of Wine and Roses (1962). He created the role of Ethel Merman’s friend and companion in the original production of Gypsy on Broadway (later re-created by Karl Malden in the motion picture version opposite Rosalind Russell). He delivered comforting support to Frank Sinatra in a strong performance as a loyal police officer in The Detective.

I was running the film department at WTAF TV 29 in Philadelphia during the late Seventies and early Eighties, and had become friendly with Dan Silverman, the head of publicity at Universal, who would take my brother and I on private walking tours of the studio’s back lot. On one such occasion, we visited the set of the popular Quincy series during filming and had a lovely meeting with the superb Jack Klugman whose heart melted upon learning that we had come from his favorite city, Philadelphia. I’d always wanted to meet him, and so this opportunity was quite literally a dream come true.

I’d been warned that the actor could be somewhat temperamental, and so I made sure that he knew right from the start that I had journeyed to Hollywood from The City of Brotherly Love. He was very warm, and threw his arms around me immediately.

After chatting for a few moments, Jack asked if my brother Erwin and I might like to return to the set after lunch to watch them film an episode of the weekly NBC series. “Would you boys like to come back after lunch, and watch us shoot,” he asked. I watched him walk over to his director. Pointing to us, he said “These gentlemen are going to come back after lunch and watch us “shoot.” “They’re from Philadelphia … Ya know … PHILADELPHIA!” He was very cute.

Jack Klugman remains one of my favorite actors, both on the small and large screens. His charm and self effacing humor when I met him on the set of Quincy is a memory that I’ll cherish always … as I will his profound body of work both in film and television.

Remembering Ed Kemmer … Commander Buzz Corry Of The “Space Patrol”

By Steve Vertlieb: In the early days of television, my boyhood was enchanted by the weekly adventures of Commander Buzz Corry and Cadet Happy aboard the spaceship “Terra V” of the inter galactic Space Patrol. The series, written by Norman Jolley and Mike Moser, and directed by Dick Darley, aired Live every Saturday morning from 1950 until 1955 over ABC Television and radio. Each episode would air first as a radio broadcast at 10 o’clock in the morning (EST) over ABC Radio, followed at 10:30 (EST) on ABC Television. The series was among the earliest and most professional of tv’s original space operas, featuring imaginative scripts and top flight production. The program would continue to air for decades in syndication as Satellite Police.

Starring Edward Kemmer as Commander Buzz Corry, the show featured an ensemble cast that included Lyn Osborn as Cadet Happy, Ken Mayer as Major “Robbie” Robertson, Virginia Hewitt as Carol Carlisle, and Nina Bara as “Tonga.” The show assembled a colorful recurring cast of villains that included Bela Kovacs as the nefarious Prince Baccarratti, and Marvin Miller as Mr. Proteus.

Marvin Miller would go on to star in his own popular CBS Television series, The Millionaire (as Michael Anthony, Executive Secretary to the fabulously wealthy John Beresford Tipton, voiced off camera by Paul Frees), as well as enacting the voice of Robby The Robot in MGM’S Science Fiction extravaganza, Forbidden Planet. Indeed, Space Patrol may well have inspired the filming of the MGM classic in 1956, as well as NBC’s Star Trek series in 1966. William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk was, in many ways, a haunting reinterpretation of Kemmer’s Buzz Corry.

Ed Kemmer had been a heroic World War Two flyer whose P-51 fighter plane was shot down over France in 1944. He spent the next eleven months interred in a German P.O.W. camp, having escaped but later recaptured. It was the very same prisoner of war camp that inspired the popular Steve McQueen drama, The Great Escape. During his imprisonment, Ed would often stage plays for his fellow prisoners and, when the war ended, he embarked on an acting career.

Ed appeared from 1964 until 1983 as a featured player on such prominent soap operas as The Edge of Night, and All My Children. He also co-starred with Dorothy Malone in Too Much Too Soon, the story of actress Diana Barrymore. However, it was his affiliation with sci-fi that he is best remembered for. He co-starred with William Shatner (as the flight engineer) in Richard Matheson’s classic Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare At Twenty Thousand Feet” in 1963 as well as playing the lead in Earth Vs. The Spider in 1958.

Ed Kemmer and Steve Vertlieb

Here I am some years ago meeting my boyhood hero at last. Ed Kemmer was a delightful gentleman, actor, and war hero who, wonderfully, became a personal pal during the last years of his life. When I first met Ed, I gushingly told him that I’d loved him for fifty years. He said “You couldn’t possibly be that old.” I assured him, however, that I was. I corresponded with Ed during the last years of his life, and often sent him tape recordings of Frank Sinatra, whom he adored. Dick Darley, who had directed the entire run of Space Patrol, had later directed the Rosemary Clooney television program, and Ed would often visit the set, discussing Sinatra with Clooney.

Meeting Ed was, quite literally, a dream come true for me. Along with William Boyd as Hop-A-Long Cassidy, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, Ed was one of my earliest, most cherished and remembered heroes. Ed suffered a stroke, and passed away on November 9, 2004. He was eighty-four years old.

The decades have separated us, but my memories remain as vital and clear as they were in 1950 when, in my innocence, I first heard announcer Jack Narz proclaim “High adventures in the wild reaches of space … Missions of daring in the name of interplanetary justice. Travel into the future with Buzz Corry, Commander in Chief of the … Space Patrol.”

The 2020 IFMCA Awards

By Steven Vertlieb: As ever, I am proud to be a voting member of The International Film Music Critics Association. Here are this year’s most worthy winners. I am particularly proud to announce that Tadlow’s stunning new recording of Samuel Bronston’s epic “King of Kings,” composed by Miklos Rozsa, produced by James Fitzpatrick, and conducted by Nic Raine, as well as the most remarkable visualization ever produced of a live John Williams concert, Deutche Grammophon’s “John Williams In Vienna”, have each won in their respective categories.

Also, winning recognition as Best Original Score For A Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film was the Wonder Woman 1984 music by Hans Zimmer.

Sincere congratulations to all of this year well deserved winners.

The list of winners follows the jump.

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Wishing “America’s Composer,” John Williams, a Happy 89th Birthday


By Steve Vertlieb: After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living lifelong hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire.

Over the ensuing years, as I matured physically and John matured musically, I grew to love the man and his music. I sensed a new maturity in his music with the release of the TV adaptation of Jane Eyre featuring George C Scott. I recall being thrilled on New Year’s Eve when going to a first night screening of The Poseidon Adventure, and hearing his full blown themes for the thrilling finale and end titles. By the time that I’d both heard and seen The Towering Inferno, I’d become convinced that John Williams had stunningly evolved into one of the screen’s greatest composers.

Then came Jaws, and a minor space opus called Star Wars, for which he won an Academy Award for the year’s best score. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman (which old friend Ron Borst called “John Williams’ Christmas gift to the world”), the Indiana Jones trilogy, JFK, Born On The Fourth of July, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Space Camp, Hook, Home Alone, War Horse,” and so many other glorious themes and scores followed, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that John Williams, along with Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Victor Young, Elmer Bernstein, and Jerry Goldsmith, had become one of the screen’s premiere composers of the past ninety years.

I’d tried for decades to meet John, and yet it seemed that it might never happen. Beaten back time after time … Close Encounter after Close Encounter … I’d given up my dreams of meeting this joyous soul… and then, just a few months after enduring nearly six hours on the operating table during major open heart surgery, I received a message of hope from Juliet Rozsa. My brother had chosen to reward me for surviving, and embracing life once more, by having me visit him in Los Angeles for my first visit West in thirty years. Juliet had graciously promised to try to arrange for a meeting between my last living life long hero and I.

This particular evening with John in his dressing room, backstage at The Hollywood Bowl in August, 2010, was one of the greatest, most exciting nights of my life. My eyes filled with tears as I approached him and, thanks to the kind and generous friendship of Juliet Rozsa, I’d move from death’s door and finality to the smiles and warm embrace of “America’s Composer,” John Williams.

Born February 8th, 1932 … Wishing Maestro John Williams a sublimely Happy, decidedly symphonic, 89th Birthday. God Bless You, Maestro…and Thank You So Very Much for your most gracious generosity and kindness.

John Williams and Steve Vertlieb.

Remembering Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer in 2014.

By Steve Vertlieb: Christopher Plummer was among the greatest actors of his, or any other generation of classical artists and performers. His grace, dignity, and commanding demeanor on both stage and screen commanded the respect and allegiance of both collaborators and admirers throughout his remarkable seventy-year career. His mesmerizing artistry demanded respect upon whatever theatrical stage that he chose to appear, while his remarkable appearance was often startling to behold. He was astonishingly handsome, a truly charismatic performer whose finely chiseled features belied a gift of performance that had often risen to ethereal heights. He was a gifted Shakespearean actor whose brilliance and magnetism sublimely transcended both stage and screen.

Christopher Plummer in 1959. Photo by Carl Van Vechten – Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress, Public Domain

A frequent guest in the early days of live television, Plummer played Mike Connor (a role played previously by James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, and Frank Sinatra in High Society) in a 1959 production of the celebrated Phillip Barry play in which his brash reporter squires the haughty Tracy Samantha Lord, played by actress Diana Lynn. Plummer essayed the roles of “Cyrano De Bergerac” in 1962, and “Hamlet At Elsinore” in 1964 for the small screen, but his enduring celebrity would soon develop in a larger medium. The actor appeared prominently in Samuel Bronston’s 1964 epic The Fall of The Roman Empire as Commodus.

However, it was his casting as Captain Von Trapp in the superb 1965 film translation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music that brought him to international fame and recognition. Appearing opposite both Julie Andrews and revered actress Eleanor Parker, Plummer virtually stole the film in the role created by folk singer Theodore Bikel in the original Broadway production. Plummer’s deceptively understated interpretation of a deeply private aristocrat troubled by the gradual loss of old world values, while valiantly resisting the repugnant occupation of Hitler’s Nazi bullies, brought startling dignity to a now legendary screen role and performance. While Julie Andrews lit up the screen with her joyous performance as his adorable Maria, it was Plummer whose quiet dignity and strength brought the beloved motion picture to its powerful resolution and victory.

John Huston’s classic 1975 filming of The Man Who Would Be King paired Plummer with actors Sean Connery and Michael Caine. As author Rudyard Kipling, the actor once again dominated the screen in a memorable performance that easily shared screen dominance with his legendary co-stars.

In a startling change of pace, Plummer portrayed one of the most malevolent villains in modern screen history. As a chillingly deranged criminal stalking Elliott Gould in the Canadian thriller The Silent Partner in 1978, Plummer proved that his often charming persona could provide a deadly counterpoint in this remarkable film.

The aristocratic actor would have seemed the perfect choice to essay the role of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle’s legendary consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes…and so, in 1979, the actor assumed the trappings of the classic character, playing opposite James Mason as Doctor Watson, in Murder By Decree. Plummer lent considerable skill to his compassionate performance as Doyle’s singular detective in a rare, yet defining characterization in which the definitively clinical sleuth lets down his guard, allowing an emotional moment of hitherto unsuspected sensitivity and deeply human awareness.

It was in 1980 that Richard Matheson’s romantic fantasy novel Bid Time Return was turned into a deservedly revered film translation. Somewhere In Time features tender performances by leads Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour as lovers struggling to find one another across a sea of time and space, while Christopher Plummer as an autocratic martinet stands troublingly in their path. Accompanied by composer John Barry’s rapturous, cherished musical score, Plummer’s performance as William Fawcett Robinson is that of a deeply scarred, ultimately fragile remnant of an age that has, perhaps, cruelly left him behind … a wounded warrior clawing at the past in order to salvage his dignity and painfully crumbling control.

Plummer as the Klingon General Chang.

In 1991, director Nicholas Meyer delivered the final salutation to the original Star Trek cast with Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, De Forrest Kelly, George Takei, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols reprising their classic roles for the final time, the “undiscovered” star of the film was, undeniably, the great Christopher Plummer chewing up the scenery in as delicious a Shakespearean performance as might be imagined. As Chang, the evil general menacing the Enterprise crew, the actor delivers a joyous tour de force with wonderful abandonment and classically trained glee, virtually stealing the film with grace, wit, and menacing charm.

As the actor matured, transitioning into roles befitting his now advancing age, he assumed a comfortable ease in which his performances became ever more flawless and beloved. Opposite actor Russell Crowe in The Insider (1999), a true story having occurred within the CBS Television News Division, Plummer delivered a superb, understated, Oscar-nominated performance as journalist Mike Wallace in what must surely have been among his most respected and beloved characterizations.

In 2001, Plummer starred in a television adaption of On Golden Pond, as the embittered elderly spirit portrayed by Henry Fonda in the long-remembered motion picture version of the award-winning play. It was a role that he would play repeatedly in one form, shape, or another in the years left to him.

Plummer won his first and only Oscar for his wonderful performance in Beginners in 2010 as a dying father not quite finished with providing unsettling surprises for his long suffering family. In 2012, in Barrymore, he played John Barrymore in a bittersweet recreation of the actor’s troubled final years.

Having reluctantly replaced actor Kevin Spacey in the role of billionaire J. Paul Getty, in All The Money In The World, Plummer gracefully essayed one of his most powerful, if villainous, Oscar-nominated portrayals as the cold, calculating oil magnate whose passion for profit eclipsed his tenuous feelings for family and loss.

Plummer once again played an alternately calculating, yet hilarious octogenarian in the hit film production of Knives Out in 2019. It would be among his final film roles.

Christopher Plummer passed away on Friday, February 5, 2021. His roles and performances, along with his near legendary grace, culture, and impeccable class, elevated this noble thespian to reverential heights of international respect and admiration.

He lent Shakespearean dignity to each of his increasingly remarkable performances, becoming the eloquent voice and virtual persona of “Hamlet” in countless screen and stage incarnations. His was the defining voice of classical performance. His loss is mourned….His legacy celebrated. He was an actor for the ages. Rest Well, Sweet Prince.

Remembering Sean Connery

By Steve Vertlieb: Sean Connery, the iconic actor and super star whose irresistible presence on the motion screen happily dominated our lives for nearly sixty years died today at age ninety.  Few actors of his or any other generation possessed the wit, charisma, and staggering masculinity that this remarkably gifted actor brought to the screen.  With the probable exception of Cary Grant, with whom Connery shared male dominance and magnetism, no other actor before or since has attracted both men and women with his nearly startling sexuality.

Born August 25, 1930, Connery achieved international recognition with his smoldering portrayal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Dr. No in 1962.  Although he’d appeared in relatively minor parts in a variety of television and movie roles, it was his remarkable major screen debut as James Bond in 1962 that instantaneously, and deservedly, elevated him to super star status.

Connery followed his singular appearance as “Bond … James Bond” in Dr. No with six additional star turns as the invincible secret agent in From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (the definitive Bond thriller in 1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and, finally, in Never Say Never Again, (1983) whose clever title noted the irony of his having said repeatedly that he’d never play the part again.  Having played Bond in seven motion pictures, Connery established himself as the definitive characterization of Fleming’s deadly British agent.

After this last performance as the impeccably tailored spy, Connery defied critics who’d complained about his being a single dimensional actor, by joyously emerging as one of the finest character actors of our time.  Prior to being cast as Bond, In such films as Darby O’Gill and The Little People for Disney (1959), and after in Marnie for Alfred Hitchcock (1964), The Hill” (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), and Zardoz (1974), Connery proved to his critics that he was, indeed, a gifted, dangerously provocative performer.

Five of his most joyous, exquisitely layered, multi textured performances, followed in the years that lay before him.  As the irascible, inherently  masculine “Raisuli” in the enormously entertaining John Milius film The Wind And The Lion, Connery’s striking individuality quite literally lit the screen with his colorful interpretation as the leader of a noble Berber tribe, timed imaginatively by Jerry Goldsmith’s electrifying musical score.

As the sadly proud, yet vulnerable Robin Hood in Robin And Marian (1976), Connery  showed rare sensitivity and elegance as the aging warrior whose difficulty transitioning from young rebel to graceful elder champion wove poetic lyricism to the legend of Robin, accompanied by composer John Barry’s wistfully romantic themes.

In The Untouchables (1987) for director Brian De Palma, Sean Connery’s Oscar winning performance as “Malone,” the simple cop on the beat whose street intelligence and long tenured wisdom helped Eliot Ness bring down Capone, would at long last silence the critics who had cynically predicted his rapid departure and absence from the screen after leaving the lucrative “Bond” franchise.

For Steven Spielberg, Connery would deliver his most wonderful portrayal, perhaps, as the colorful, cantankerous Professor Henry Jones as Harrison Ford’s father in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1987), elevating another beloved franchise to sublime levels of joyous delight and perfection.  Connery’s comedic gifts and unexpected pathos turned this third entry of the iconic film series into it’s most beloved chapter.

For First Knight (1995), a highly romanticized screen version of the Arthurian legend, Connery was at his most regal in his performance as literature’s legendary King Arthur.  Bringing both nobility and grace to a classic role that only he, in suave maturity, could deliver, Connery once again brought quiet dignity and eloquence to the image of expiring royalty in the face of danger and finality.

Sean Connery has left us, but his indelible face and distinctive voice shall remain forever burned into the haunting imagery of the motion picture screen.   We came alive in the sweet mirror of your artistry. Rest Well, Sir Sean.  May angels sing you to your rest.

Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

[Actress Diana Rigg died September 10 of cancer at the age of 82 reports The Guardian. Her genre work included appearances in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, also Theater of Blood, The Great Muppet Caper, the Doctor Who episode “The Crimson Horror” (2013, with her daughter, Rachael Stirling), and as Lady Olena in Game of Thrones  (2013-2017).]

By Steve Vertlieb: She was the most beautiful woman of her generation, a ravishing, exquisite creature whose delicate high cheek bones and classic features captured the hearts of every young man whose dreams of romantic perfection ever aspired to the ethereal.

Diana Rigg, the classically trained actress who brought Emma Peel to stunning life on “The Avengers” television series was the perfect companion to John Steed, as played by the dapper Patrick MacNee, on the cult British spy series. Her physical beauty was breathtaking, while her whimsical performance as Mrs. Peel was both joyous and sublime.

In “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” she was, perhaps, the most memorable Bond girl of the James Bond franchise, playing Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, the ill fated heroine who alone married the famed super spy.

Her substantial talent was often obscured by her physical beauty and perfection, resembling, perhaps, a latter day Gene Tierney, for a youthful generation of adoring young men and women.

Diana Rigg has left us, partaking of a final journey that we each must ultimately embrace, but her influence upon an entire generation and culture remains impowering, iconic, and intact. In these jaded times, her candor and integrity will be sorely missed and revered. Now, more than ever, Mrs. Peel … You’re Needed.

100 Years

By Steve Vertlieb: As I remember what would have been his 100th birthday on August 22nd, my memories drift back to a time not that long ago when I was proud to think of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century as my treasured pal.

Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps …the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years.

More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced thousands of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years.

Here, once more, you’re invited to read my loving remembrance of the life and world of Ray Bradbury, “I SING BRADBURY ELECTRIC” at the American Music Preservation site.

Our historic first meeting with the immortal Ray Bradbury in his West Los Angeles living room during the joyous Summer of 1974.

Steve and Erwin Vertlieb with Ray Bradbury in 1974.

When I was preparing for major open heart surgery in March, 2010, I received an e-mail from Ray’s daughter, Alexandra (Zee). She wrote “My Dad told me to tell you that “you’re not allowed to die.”

I took Mr. Bradbury at his word, and didn’t. Who was I, after all, to argue with Ray Bradbury?

Sharing a few special moments with cherished pal Ray Bradbury at Forry Ackerman’s spectacular 1993 “Famous Monsters” reunion celebration in Crystal City, Virginia.

A cheery note from pal Ray Bradbury concerning my appearance in the Conor Timmis documentary, Kreating Karloff, wishing “you guys and mummies” an enthusiastic “Bravo.”

A Ray Harryhausen 100th Birthday Celebration

Steve Vertlieb and Ray Harryhausen at Temple University in
1981 during the national “Clash Of The Titans” tour

By Steve Vertlieb: Ray Harryhausen remains one of the most revered figures in fantasy/sci-fi motion picture history. Born June 29, 1920, Ray was not only a childhood hero, but became a dear and cherished friend of nearly fifty years duration. Today fans will commemorate his genius, as well as the joyous centennial of his birth with numerous remembrances, events, and exhibitions in celebration of his 100th birthday throughout the wondrous months ahead.

His work in films inspired and influenced generations of film makers, and garnered him a special Academy Award, presented by Tom Hanks, for a lifetime of cinematic achievement. Steven Spielberg joyously proclaimed that his own inspiration for directing Jurassic Park was the pioneering special effects work of Harryhausen.

Published shortly after his death on May 7, 2013, here is a celebration and loving remembrance of the life and work of cinematic master, and special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen. It is also the tender story of a very special man, as well as an often remarkable personal friendship. I love you, Ray. You filled my dreams, my life, and my world with your wondrous creatures.

In remembrance of this wonderful soul, here is my affectionate tribute to my friend of nearly fifty years, and boyhood hero of interminable recollection and duration…the incomparable stop-motion genius, and Oscar-honored special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen.

Journey with me now to a “Land Beyond Beyond” where dreams were born, cyclopean creatures thundered across a primeval landscape, mythological dragons roared in awe struck wonder, and magical stallions ascended above the clouds…Once Upon A Time.  “From the Land Beyond Beyond: An Intimate Personal Remembrance of Ray Harryhausen” at The Thunderchild.

Remembering Jim Burns

James H. Burns and Steve Vertlieb at Sardi’s.

By Steve Vertlieb: It was four years ago on June 2nd, 2016, that I lost one of my dearest, most cherished friends. What would normally have been among the happiest nights of my life … receiving a cherished life achievement award in Louisville, Kentucky … was tempered forever by the sobering reality that a friend and brother, who had for years championed and lobbied for my trophy, had passed away suddenly mere hours before I was to receive it. Here was my heart aching remembrance of Jim Burns as I wrote it four years ago today.

My win for the 2016 Rondo Hall Of Fame Award the other night was, is, and always will be tempered by the heartbreaking news and realization that my beloved friend and brother, Jim Burns, has tragically passed away at age fifty four of an undisclosed illness. Jim was one of the best friends that it’s ever been my honor to have. He was a cherished pal, confidante, and brother. Jim and I would speak for hours on the telephone, catching up on the latest news, talking, and always, always laughing.

When I nearly died just six or so years ago during major open heart surgery, Jim was ever on the telephone, and always sending me supportive e-mails and love. Jim pushed hard for my lifetime achievement award at the Rondo’s every year, and it was Jim who joyously announced my win for the Hall Of Fame by awaking me from a deep sleep just two months ago to inform me that I’d been elected to the Rondo Hall Of Fame.

My elation on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky, was abruptly shattered when David Colton (the head of the Rondo Awards, and former editor of U.S.A. Today) gave me the terrible, terrible news that Jim has passed away on Thursday, June 2nd. Jim…I love you. I shall always love you. I cannot believe that I’ll never hear your voice, or your terrible jokes ever again. I cannot believe that I’ll never again know the happiness of reading your prolific commentary on the arts. Your work was sheer poetry. It was beautiful, haunting, and evocative. Your last years were tortured, and I hope that you found a degree of comfort in my love and respect for you, and in our profound bonding and friendship.

I dedicated my Rondo Award to you in my acceptance speech in Louisville Saturday evening. You always wanted to win a Rondo but never had an opportunity to do so. You were one Hell of a writer. May it bring you a degree of solace to know that David Colton dedicated this year’s Rondo Awards ceremony to you. I love you, Jim. I miss you…and I cannot believe that I will never have an opportunity to speak with you again. God Bless you, my friend. God Bless you, my cherished brother.

Sleep well, Prince Jim. Sleep throughout eternity in the knowledge that you shall always be loved….both by me, and by so many adoring friends and fans.

[Editor’s note: Here are links to all the posts Jim wrote for File 770 during the last six months of his life.]

JAMES H. BURNS POSTS