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Steven Rea
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I found this photo from one of the dealers that I source my movie-stars-on-bikes photos from. (See Hollywood Rides a Bike, the international bestseller!) It's stamped "Sep 19 1954," and someone (a newspaper photo editor?) has written, in rich script, in pencil, "Dolores with fellow group member in Switzerland." I love this shot. I think it's Conde Nast Traveler that has that "Where are you?" feature where the magazine posts a photo and readers have to guess the locale.... If anyone recognizes this particular spot in the Swiss Alps, I'd love to know. Dolores and her fellow group member -- let's call him Harry -- are hardy cyclists, certainly. Their panniers are full, and their bikes aren't exactly lightweight, granny-geared touring machines. Harry's bike, in fact, looks like a Raleigh rod-brake model (you can see the trademark heron on the chain wheel) - a heavy-duty two-wheeler typically used for city streets and rough country routes. Mighty steep grades in this neck of the woods, to be sure, but I think he and Dolores are up to it. If Dolores and Harry are still around, they'd be in their 80s now, I'd guess. I hope they don't mind that I've shared this photo -- they may still have old albums tucked away, and perhaps journals that they've kept, with other snapshots and daily entries to remember the miles they logged, the beer halls and cafes they stopped in, the inns they slept in.... Or maybe they camped out by a river, ringed by trees, at the bottom of one of these snowy peaks? Dolores and Harry may have been strangers when they embarked on this tour, and perhaps they became fast friends (especially fast going down one of those alpine roads!), or they became lovers, or they had a huge fight about politics, or literature, and didn't talk together, or ride together, for the rest of the tour. And what are they looking at? A long valley dotted with evergreens? Another jagged mass of mountain? Or two men in the town's plaza, just down the road, passing government secrets encripted on a folded note tucked inside a matchbook? That's it -- Dolores and Harry, cycling spies! Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Just started reading The Astaires: Fred & Adele, Kathleen Riley’s biographical portrait of the sibling song-and-dance duo whose stage performances -- in the years between the wars, before Fred took his top hat and spats and tap-danced his way to Hollywood – were the stuff of legend, of dazzling delight. And then I happened on Ed Ochester’s poem, “Fred Astaire,” which begins with the line “The secret of his popularity was that he looked like a bus driver…” and goes on to compare Astaire to William Carlos Williams, “who also talks plain without ornament just like Astaire when he's singing.” Here's a YouTube homage to the dancing sibs -- singing "Hang On to Me" -- with a montage of stills. As Riley points out in her book, there's only one short and not terribly well-shot film of the sister and brother hoofing together. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
This photo is on the wall in my study – I found it from a dealer of vintage film stills when I was on the prowl for a photo of Vanessa Redgrave on a bike. Instead, I found Vanessa Redgrave in a pool. Shot during the production of Isadora, the 1968 biopic of the legendary dancer Isadora Duncan, the photo is dreamy and romantic and also just a wonderful behind-the-scenes shot: there’s the movie’s leading lady, holding the clapperboard (it’s scene 82, take 1), ready to go to work for director Karel Reisz and cinematographer Larry Pizer. Reisz, the Czech émigré who was one of the key players in the British New Wave of the early ’60s, had worked with Redgrave -- then best known for her turns in Antonioni’s Blow-Up and in the lavish Round Table romance Camelot (she’s Lady Guenevere) – on 1966’s Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment. It's an oddball favorite of mine, about a guy (David Warner) who thinks he’s an ape, and who stalks Redgrave around Swinging London town. There are great publicity stills of the then-29-year-old actress from Morgan, too, including one in which she’s perched outside a pup tent, with a portable turntable by her side. Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, the upcoming Moonrise Kingdom) probably has that one blown up poster-size over his couch. Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I just saw Telly Savalas – Kojak a little later in his life, with considerably less hair – riding a bike and hanging onto a car being driven by character actress Cara Williams, and then losing his balance and falling off his Raleigh Sports. It’s a heart-stopping moment (ha!) near the exciting climax (ha!) of the 1963 Danny Kaye comedy, The Man from the Diners’ Club. I happened to be watching this screwball gem (not quite) on YouTube early this Sunday morning (dubbed in Hungarian, of course) -- because I’d recently acquired a publicity still from the film, an image of Kaye exiting an establishment with an awning that says “Your Loss is Our Gain,” pedaling furiously on his bike, and I wanted to know what was going on, plot-wise. Well, the black-and-white Columbia release is about a timid credit card company clerk (Kaye) who inadvertently approves a card for a mobster (Savalas) and has to get it back, or lose his job. There are G-men and gangland goons, and a lot of the action happens at the Sweat Shop Gym (hence the awning with the motto). At one point, a fleet of gangsters, disguised as florist deliverymen, quit the gym en masse on bikes. And at the same time Savalas is busy crashing his two-wheeler, Kaye is cycling at high speed trying to get to a church so he can marry the girl he loves (Martha Hyer). Lots of rear-projection and backlot stunt doubles. It turns out that William Peter Blatty, who would later publish a little horror thing called The Exorcist, wrote The Man from the Diners’ Club screenplay (credited as Bill Blatty). Be sure to store that info for a particularly challenging round of Quizzo! I promise my next blog post won’t be about movie stars on bikes…. Anyone have a photo of Wallace Stevens riding around on a Schwinn? Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Mar 25, 2012