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.]
(1) CATS TRIUMPHANT. Naomi Kritzer has had a big week. Her YA novel Catfishing on Catnet won an Edgar Award today, and won a Minnesota Book Award on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A she did for the St. Paul Library:
How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?
It is a huge honor and feels amazing!
Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?
It is loosely based on my (Hugo Award-winning) short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can still find online:
Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?
When I’m outlining or brainstorming, I use a notebook of unlined paper, like a sketch diary. I like to write in my sunny living room but discovered at some point that the ergonomics of a couch, hassock, and lap desk will lead quickly to back problems, so I usually write at a desk in my home office.
(3) INGENIOUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand blog gives a good rundown of Alison Scott’s plans for “The Virtual GUFF Tour”, since she can’t travel there in person this year. It’s an effort completely worthy of a former editor of the fanzine Plokta, “The journal of superfluous technology.”
Alison Scott is the recently elected European GUFF delegate. The plan was for the winning delegate to travel down under to meet local fans and addend the 2020 Worldcon – CoNZealand. Of course because of you-know-what the borders are closed and CoNZealand has gone virtual. But Alison appears undaunted – she now plans to take a virtual tour of Australasia visiting Australian and New Zealand places and fans before attending the virtual worldcon. There will be a proper itinerary mimicking a physical journey and Alison even plans to adhere to the local timezones (yay jetlag!). You can read more about her plans and follow her progress over on the facebook group dedicated to the trip.
(4) RAMPING UP TO THE APOCALYPSE. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has completed the ADA compliant ramp in front of their building. The January 20 Pixel Scroll ran details about the permits coming through. Club President Dale S. Arnold said today –
Although the COVID-19 emergency and related closures caused some delays, eventually the weather and logistics worked to allow completion. Many years ago when the plan for renovations to the BSFS Building was announced the author Jack Chalker commented that if a bunch of SF Fans were able to pull off that complex of a plan it would be a sign of the coming apocalypse. With the completion of this ramp (except final painting the door which was altered in the ramp design) we have now realized the dream from 1991 having completed everything planned when we bought the building.
And BSFS didn’t finish a moment too soon, because the apocalypse appears to be just around the corner.
It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…
Join Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman for a remote, live streamed conversation with Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin (Broken Earth trilogy), whose new work The City We Became was released in March to great acclaim. The conversation is part of an ongoing Fisher Center series in which Gaiman discusses the creative process with another artist.
(8) LE GUIN IN ’75. Fanac.org has posted a video recording of an Aussiecon (1975) Worldcon panel with Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Wood and others, “Worlds I Have Discovered.”
AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. This panel centers on questions to Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin’s on her writing for young adults (or at least classified as for young adults). The panelists, moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Susan Wood, are Ursula herself, Stella Leeds, Peter Nicholls, Anna Shepherd, and Ann Sydhom. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the discussion on Le Guin’s process of writing, the panel’s views on children’s literature, and children’s literature as a literary ghetto remain interesting and very pertinent. Remember, this was decades before the phenomena of Harry Potter.
Andrew Porter sent the link with this reminder that the same year his Algol Press published Dreams Must Explain Themselves, a 36-page chapbook whose title essay is about how Le Guin got ideas for books.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 30, 1955 — Science Fiction Theatre’s Y.O.R.D. episode first aired. Directed by Leon Benson from a screenplay by him and George Van Marter as based on a story written by Marter and Ivan Tors. Truman Bradley Was The Host and the cast included Walter Kingsford, Edna Miner Louis, Jean Heydt and DeForest Kelley. The latter would be playing Captain Hall, M.D. You can watch it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Bonus typos provided by OGH.]
Born April 30, 1913 — Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
Born April 30, 1920 — E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
Born April 30, 1926 — Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
Born April 30, 1934 — William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered for his long running review work for Asimov’s where he reviewed books, and AmazingStories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven, 82. One of my favorite authors to read, be it Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon 3 followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 followed by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I, “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976.
Born April 30, 1973 — Naomi Novik, 47. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
Born April 30, — Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre or even genre adjacent.
(11) SOUNDTRACK. Steve Vertlieb would like to introduce the world to French film composer, Thibaut Vuillermet.
The decision to skip a theatrical release in the age of coronavirus was a wise move that led to big returns for DreamWorks’ Trolls World Tour.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the animated movie has racked up nearly $100 million in the three short weeks since it arrived on VOD and digital platforms Friday, April 10. With approximately 5 million rentals at $19.99 a pop, Universal has generated over $77 million from a digital release model that allows studios to keep an estimated 80 percent of profits. Since the traditional theatrical model relies on a 50-50 kind of split, a film playing in a physical venue has to make a lot more money in order for a studio to turn a profit.
The real point here is that Trolls Would Tour has brought in more tangible revenue during its first 19 days on demand than the first movie did during five months in theaters.
AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic….
“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told TheWall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chairman and-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.
“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.
“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes….”
New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail
Back in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs dominated the land and sky. They also, a new paper argues, terrorized the aquatic realm. Recent fossil evidence has revealed that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, was a creature of the water, with a center of gravity and a giant tail fin perfect for swimming. The same paper shares robotic modeling by two Harvard scientists that shows how that large, flexible tail fin — unique among dinosaurs — would have given the giant predator a deadly propulsive thrust in the water, similar to a salamander or crocodile tail.
The paper, “Tail-Propelled Aquatic Propulsion in a Theropod Dinosaur,” in the April 29 issue of Nature, uses new fossil evidence and robotically controlled models created by Harvard co-authors Stephanie E. Pierce and George V. Lauder, professors of organismic and evolutionary biology, to show its power.
Pierce said the new fossils were necessary to make their argument, as much of the fossil evidence of Spinosaurus, unearthed by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, had been destroyed in World War II. University of Detroit paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, the Nature paper’s lead author, had located more traces of the dinosaur in Morocco in 2014, and in 2018 he went back, successfully excavating extensive Spinosaurus remains. The fossils included tail vertebrae with meter-long spines that seemed to form an expanded paddle, raising questions as to what the tail was used for.
“The working hypothesis was that Spinosaurus used its tail to swim through water,” said Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Ibrahim and his team reached out to Pierce, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to test their idea. She was immediately intrigued by the 5-plus-meter-long tail.
Yes, Dave, “Predatory Tail” would be a great name for a band.
Nasa has chosen the companies that will develop landers to send astronauts to the Moon’s surface in the 2020s.
The White House wants to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon in 2024, to be followed by other missions.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics were selected to work on landers under the space agency’s Artemis programme.
The 2024 mission will see astronauts walk on the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.
Combined, the contracts are worth $967m (£763m; €877m) and will run for a “base period” of 10 months.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“This is the first time since the Apollo era that Nasa has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis programme.”
As Pixar taught us, anyone can cook… and now the animation studio is giving you something to cook.
The Pixar YouTube channel features a series called “Cooking With Pixar,” a collection of recipes inspired by the studio’s films. At the moment, the series only has three videos, but they should provide some inspiration if you’re in need of something new to cook — which, it’s fair to say, most of us probably are at this point.
A team of UK scientists has provided a new estimate for the amount of space rock falling to Earth each year.
It’s in excess of 16,000kg. This is for meteorite material above 50g in mass.
It doesn’t take account of the dust that’s continuously settling on the planet, and of course just occasionally we’ll be hit by a real whopper of an asteroid that will skew the numbers.
But the estimate is said to give a good sense of the general quantity of rocky debris raining down from space.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Horizon on Vimeo is a short film by Armond Dijcks based on images taken by the International Space Station.
[Thanks to Joyce Scrivner, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]
By Steve Vertlieb: Miklos Rozsa’s magnificent musical signature reached its conclusion on July 27th, 1995. Commemorating the life of one of cinema’s most revered composers as we celebrate his musical legacy. Born April 18, 1907, Miklos Rozsa remains among the most revered composers in film history.
The 3-time Oscar winner for Best Original Score For A Motion Picture was a pioneering musician who, along with Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Victor Young brought dramatic, melodic musical form and structure to the sound of film, thereby forever altering the way we listen to movies.
Elmer Bernstein considered both Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann the finest practitioners of the developing art form of Music For The Movies in the remarkable history of the medium. In a career that comprised some forty-five years of scoring and achievement, Miklos Rozsa created lush, romantic scoring for such beloved fantasy films as Alexander Korda’s The Thief of Bagdad, and the tale of a young Wolf Boy named Mowgli for The Jungle Book.
He became the defining voice of classic Film Noir with such scores as Double Indemnity, Brute Force, The Killers, The Naked City, and The Lost Weekend for director Billy Wilder and, as the 1950s approached, virtually invented the epic motion picture score for such films as Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table, Ben Hur, King of Kings, and El Cid.
He was a musical chameleon who reinvented both himself and the remarkably diverse genres for which he composed Time After Time. Here, then, is this published career retrospective and tribute to a consummate artist whose Lust For Life elevated the craft and power of Cinema to sublime ascension.
Together with Miklos Rozsa at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, circa 1977, for a film conference…a wondrous event (also featuring George Pal) in which I spent eleven sublime hours in the intimate company and shadow of this giant 3-time Oscar winning musical genius. It just doesn’t get any better than that. One of the greatest experiences, and most unforgettable honors of my nearly seventy-four years on this all too mortal plain.
Honoring Miklos Rozsa’s 100th birthday on April 18th, 2007, here is a special birthday proclamation issued by The Hungarian Ambassador To The United States. I’d been invited to a special commemoration of the composer’s life at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC by the ambassador, and was delighted to have met Juliet Rozsa for the first time after years of correspondence.
I carried this precious document with me to the nine-day Miklos Rozsa Film Festival which I’d programmed at Christmas of that year, and was privileged to read its contents to an audience of seven hundred enthusiastic film fans gathered together at The Castro Theater in San Francisco, California.
I lovingly presented the official proclamation to Juliet Rozsa, the three time Oscar winning composer’s daughter on stage, prior to a live thirty-minute interview with her, in which we shared remembrances of her father’s life and career, followed by a spectacular presentation of William Wyler’s Ben Hur on the giant Castro screen.
After the screen presentation, we were invited by the ambassador to a sumptuous private supper at the embassy residence.
In 2007 I was asked by the folks who ran the venerable Castro Theater in San Francisco to put together a Miklos Rozsa film festival for their historic venue. I chose seventeen films to reflect a variety of moods expressed on screen by the wondrously gifted composer.
The film festival ran for nine days toward the end of December, 2007, and into January, 2008. I wrote the notes for the official program handed out for the once in a lifetime event, and hosted a thirty minute interview “live” on stage with Juliet Rozsa, daughter of this illustrious composer, before a paying crowd of some seven hundred movie goers prior to a presentation of the composer’s masterpiece, Ben Hur, on the giant Castro screen.
Proclamations, tributes, and testimonials were written for the occasion by the Hungarian Ambassador To The United States, The Honorable Mayor of San Francisco, and legendary writer Ray Bradbury. Here is a first person report by Michael Guillen, an independent film journalist sitting among the capacity crowd during that memorable evening. “MIKLÓS RÓZSA—An Onstage Tribute”
Vertlieb read Bradbury’s tribute to the Castro audience and the Rózsa family members on stage: “In all my life I’ve never had a more complete relationship with a composer than with Miklós Rózsa. When MGM asked me to write the narration for King of Kings, I immediately joined a partnership with Margaret Booth, the film editor, and we became fast friends. The most wonderful moment in my life was when I went on the sound stage to watch Miklós Rózsa conduct the score for King of Kings and then heard my own voice booming out over the orchestra and dear Miklós’ head as I spoke the narration. I wish that I had a recording today of my voice with his music because it became a partnership and a great friendship for life. To everyone hearing his wonderful music this week, I send my love and regard to the memory of Miklós Rózsa.”
Miklos Rozsa remains one of the most revered and legendary motion picture composers in screen history, and it was my sublime honor and privilege to know him for nearly three decades. A sublime inspiration guiding the direction and trajectory of my own life and career, we remember and commemorate the monumental influence, and birthday, of this superlative artist and man.
By Steve Vertlieb: One hundred eight years ago tonight, at 11:40 p.m., RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. (RMS Titanic hits iceberg – Apr 14, 1912.) This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-four years.
As a little boy, during the early to mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights.
I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams.
May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.
Here is the famous 1956 Kraft Theater television production of Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember. Directed by George Roy Hill, narrated by Claude Rains, and co-starring Patrick Macnee as the ship’s builder, Thomas Andrews, this highly anticipated television adaptation of the celebrated book by Walter Lord precipitated the acclaimed motion picture of the same name by two years.
By Steve Vertlieb: With the excitement this week regarding the announcement of this year’s marvelous crop of deserving new winners of the prestigious annual Rondo Awards, I’m happily reminded of my own encounter with the announcement and subsequent award ceremony just four years ago. Here I am being presented with the Rondo Hall of Fame Award for a precious lifetime of journalism and achievement by David Colton, former editor of USA Today, on Saturday evening, June 4th, 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky.
The proudest moment of my seventy four years…winning the coveted “Rondo Hall Of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award” for more than half a century of genre writing and publishing in a variety of books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on the worldwide “web” (with apologies to Spiderman).
I’d like to humbly offer my sincere best wishes and congratulations to those worthy souls and winners of this year’s assortment of Rondo Award winners, as well as my eternal gratitude to the thousands of writers, directors, composers, actors, and special effects technicians whose work in film bathed my dreams, and my own meager accomplishments these past five plus decades in their creative shadow.
My work remains merely a pale reflection of the love and admiration that they so generously inspired in me, and in the millions of fans around the world who continue to love and respect the art of motion pictures, as well as those wondrous souls who inhabit them.
To all of you, I can only offer my profound and enduring gratitude for being permitted to share the love, inspiration, and joyous wonder of films and music.
Opinion Piece by Steve Vertlieb: The call a few days ago by a Texas
politician for the elderly to sacrifice their lives for the “common
good” so that our national economy may return to normal smacks of the
origins of barbarism. The horrifying pronouncement by a duly elected leader,
sworn to protect and defend democracy for all of America’s citizens, is born of
bigotry, ignorance, and fear. It is a deeply troubling echo of a time not so
very long ago when the lives of the elderly were considered expendable… in
order to preserve the status quo … when those whose ethnicity and color were
deemed threatening to the national economy … and when hatred and irrational
blame contributed to the mass murder, mutilation, persecution, butchery and
genocide of countless millions across the waves.
American dream is based upon the premise that all men, women, and children are
created equal in the eyes of God, and that everyone is entitled to pursue and
achieve their dreams and happiness. Selfishness cannot be allowed to replace
selflessness in what was once “the land of the free and the home of the
brave.” It has been correctly stated that people are the same all over …
that we are all children of a singular, universal, and loving God. We share our
humanity with every soul who dwells upon our planet. No one is better than
anyone else, and no one’s right to live, to love, and to pursue their sacred
dreams for happiness can be deemed unimportant or insignificant compared to the
so called “common good.”
right to exist is, and has been, a cherished principle wherever freedom and
democracy have flourished. It is with the abandonment and willing sacrifice of
those ideals that a land of dreams descends into a land of nightmares, and
surrenders to the basest desire for merely individual gratification and paltry
survival. In times of danger and the threat of persecution, we must embrace the
elderly and the fragile with loving arms, protection, and reverence for all
that has come before us, continuing to remember that our greatness for
generations has been based upon the strong shoulders of those who have loving
permitted us to stand upon them.
By Steve Vertlieb: As I awaken to a frightening new world of ever altering concepts
of normality, and challenges to our health and prosperity, I can’t help
thinking back to a simpler time when goodness and tranquility seemed self
assured, and when both America and the world were safe havens for dreams,
happiness, and a bright, sacred future.
innocence of childhood imagination and fantasy brought with it a comforting
reassurance that all would be right with the world and that, despite
occasionally troubling appearances and momentary brushes with calamity, that
there was in the land of Oz truly “No Place Like Home.” My thoughts
wander back this morning to that sweet place so very long ago when peace of
heart and of mind enraptured my world, and my perceived reality.
was the sacred place where my heart and soul were born. My life was shaped in
this small neighborhood theater, located one block from where I grew up on
Benner Street in Philadelphia. I still dream of it, so influential was this
modest building on the course that my life would take.
at night when the world is fast asleep, my dreams carry me back still, upon
soft wings of rapture, on a miraculous journey to the virtual birth of my fertile
boyhood imagination. There was a “fifth dimension” where a joyous
lifetime of cinematic influences and memories shaped the very substance of my
soul, a magic kingdom joyously remembered in the windswept corridors of my
childhood hopes and aspirations.
these special nights, when my thoughts and my heart transport me back to my
beloved Benner Theater where I came of age, I travel back in time to this
wondrous palace where my world ascended on wings of fancy and delicately tender
imagination. It was, perhaps, “The Stuff That Dreams Are made Of.”
Look for it now only in books, and in loving, tantalizing recollection, for it
has conjoined with the blissful winds of fragile memory, and has ever so
sweetly Gone With The Wind.
By Steve Vertlieb: Ron MacCloskey’s Classic Movies television program has been airing on New Jersey Public Access TV since 2013. Ron is a delightful conversationalist, actor, and comedian whose affectionate weekly look at movie history has become a beloved staple of state-run television.
was kind enough to invite me to join him as a guest on Classic Movies
quite recently and, on Thursday evening, February 6 we shared a thoroughly
delightful half hour or so talking about special effects legend, Ray
Harryhausen, horror/science fiction, fantasy films, comedy teams such as Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Dean Martin & Jerry
Lewis, Charlie Chaplin, Hammer Films star Peter Cushing, Forbidden Planet
(MGM, 1956), Forrest J Ackerman and Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine,
The Monster Times, and the early days of television.
Interspersed between ongoing conversational exchanges was a presentation of Kid Dynamite featuring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabe Dell, and “The Bowery Boys.” Here is a window to the program. Simply click on the Edison TV link below, then upon the large promotional photograph of Classic Movies With Ron MacCloskey.
can, should you wish to, watch the feature length film in its entirety … or,
should you prefer, watch only the book ended conversation both preceding and
following the film. In any event, I’d like to thank Ron MacCloskey for a
wonderful, and wonder filled, television interview.
proud voting member of The International Film Music Critics Association, it is my
special pleasure to announce that “America’s Composer,” Maestro John
Williams, has won the award for Best Film Score of the Year for his work on Star
Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as well as a very special Life Achievement
Award for his inspiring body of work.
The winners are:
FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR
• STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John
FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
• BEAR McCREARY
BREAKTHROUGH COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
• NAINITA DESAI
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DRAMA FILM
• LITTLE WOMEN, music by Alexandre Desplat
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A COMEDY FILM
• JOJO RABBIT, music by Michael Giacchino
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER
• 1917, music by Thomas Newman
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A FANTASY/SCIENCE
• STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED FEATURE
• HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, music by
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DOCUMENTARY
• OUR PLANET, music by Steven Price
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR TELEVISION
• CHERNOBYL, music by Hildur Gudnadóttir
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A VIDEO GAME OR INTERACTIVE
• REND, music by Neal Acree
BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – RE-RELEASE OR RE-RECORDING
• DIAL M FOR MURDER, music by Dimitri Tiomkin; The
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg; album
produced by Douglass Fake; liner notes by Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake; art
direction by Kay Marshall (Intrada)
BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – COMPILATION
• ACROSS THE STARS, music by John Williams; The
Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles and Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by
John Williams; album produced by Bernhard Güttler; liner notes by Jon
Burlingame; art direction by Büro Dirk Rudolph (Deutsche Grammophon)
FILM MUSIC RECORD LABEL OF THE YEAR
• LA LA LAND RECORDS, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys
FILM MUSIC COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR
• “The Rise of Skywalker” from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF
SKYWALKER, music by John Williams
By Steve Vertlieb: Legendary Hollywood screen star Kirk Douglas has died. His Ace
In The Hole was his Lust For Life, and live he did for 103 years.
Born Issur Danielovitch on December 9th, 1916, Douglas was born to poverty as “The
Ragman’s Son,” vowing to overcome his humble beginnings, and escape the
challenge and limitations of an ordinary life. He was the very last of the male
superstars of what has come to be known as The Golden Age of Hollywood.
was an extraordinary actor, possessed with a burning intensity to achieve and
overcome his humble Jewish beginnings. He was, at times, perceived as angry in
his all-consuming quest to achieve respect and admiration by his peers. It was
his inner rage, however, that inspired performance after performance of
mounting intensity and commitment to his chosen craft.
Rick Martin in Young Man With A Horn, based loosely upon the life of
jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, Douglas portrayed a lonely, isolated musician
whose only friend was his horn, and whose only joy was the music born of his
soul. His self-destructive ways and behavior, often in conflict with his
musical genius, nearly destroyed him but, in the end, gave birth to a Phoenix
rising from the ashes of emotional despair, to play amongst the stars.
Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole (alternately known as The Big Carnival)
Douglas played an embittered newspaper reporter, using the tragedy of a small
town man trapped in a mine to cynically ride to the top once more in a big city
paper. In Vincent Minnelli’s The Bad And The Beautiful, as film producer
Jonathan Shields, Douglas uses any device he can to achieve respect and success
within the film industry, inspiring both hatred and admiration along that
with Vincent Minnelli’s Lust For Life, however, that Douglas revealed
his inner torment most effectively, as Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. His
anguish as the lonely artist, fighting emotional demons, as well as his
personal struggle to achieve recognition and respect, is at times difficult to
watch, but remains among the greatest performances of postwar cinema. Lushly
conceived by both Minnelli and Douglas, Lust For Life is blessed with a
torrid, rapturous score by Oscar winning composer Miklos Rozsa which musically
illustrates the actor’s intense, impassioned performance.
activist for social change and democracy, Douglas fought for civil rights and,
with director Otto Preminger who offered screen credit to the writer on Exodus,
ended Joseph McCarthy’s notorious blacklist in America by giving Dalton Trumbo
full screen credit for writing the screenplay for Spartacus.
fortunate to have an opportunity to meet Kirk Douglas and spend ten minutes
with him in 1974 on the set of The Gene London Show in Philadelphia
during his cross-country tour promoting Scalawag, and was impressed by
his culture and civility. I asked him about his impressions of working with
director Michael Curtiz on Young Man With A Horn, and he appeared
intrigued by their remembered collaboration. When his publicist urged him to
end our conversation and leave the station for their next interview, Douglas
raised his hand and said “Wait a minute. I’m talking to this gentleman.” He had
become a mensch.
shall always love Kirk Douglas for, along with Spencer Tracy and James Mason,
he will ever remain among my life long favorite actors. He overcame his humble
beginnings and, as with many of the characters that he chose to play, achieved
the respect and admiration that he fought so valiantly to achieve. Actor,
producer, writer, social activist, and philanthropist, Kirk Douglas shared his
lust for life and living with all of us and, in so doing, elevated the popular
culture to artistic heights never before imagined, and made our world an
infinitely better place in which to live.