Monday, July 24, 2017

Johnny, I hardly knew ye, or did I?

When I heard that the actor John Heard had died, I had to stop and think.  The news kept referring to Home Alone, which I have never seen, but I remembered him from Awakenings.  This happens all the time, because of my lack of familiarity with big, insanely profitable movies that absolutely everyone knows.  I've never seen Titanic, never watched a James Bond all the way through, bailed on the Star Wars series after Star Wars.  I had other things to do in the 1970s, and now it's too late to catch up.  Same with all those superheroes, up to and including Harry Potter.  I'm an adult.

I suppose I've seen Mr. Heard's work in other films.  That's the problem.  I might be confusing him with William Hurt, or John Hurt, or even Mississippi John Hurt.  I have the same difficulty with Norman Lloyd/Lloyd Nolan, MacDonald Carey/Wendell Corey, James Spader/David Spade, and Mildred Dunnock/Mildred Natwick.  (Evidently everyone has this problem with Bill Pullman/Bill Paxton.)  We need more actors named Shemp, Zero and Chazz. 

And while I have you here, let's talk pronunciation.  The old-time movie moguls were pretty much bastards, but they knew what to do with up-and-comers called Spangler Brugh or Muni Weisenfreund  -- get that kid a name Americans can say!  Not a Saoirse Ronan or Zeljko Ivanek on their watch.  No tell-tale ethnicity either, if you know what I mean.  Are Americans more sophisticated because we have learned to pronounce "Pacino" and "Honsou" and even "Ralph Fiennes"?  Or is it because we get our movie-star names pronounced by broadcasters instead of having to read them in Photoplay?

As you have probably guessed by now, I am a regular client of Turner Classic Movies, except today when it's nothing but westerns.  I can't complain; they're having a Lili Damita day tomorrow, not one of them later than 1935.  This is my period, from the pre-Code talkies to the death of George Arliss.  Where else are you going to find these gems?  So it pains me to say it, but the TCM Wine Club chafes my toes.  Somebody thought it was a good idea to sell wine on the graves -- yeah, graves -- of actors whose careers and lives were wrecked by alcohol:  John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, Spencer Tracy, Dana Andrews, Robert Walker, Richard Burton, Oliver Reed, you know I could go on and on.  Also, I just don't like wine.  If I did, it might seem less heartless.  A pert young Bordeau with that Bardot?  A stern Riesling to accompany tonight's Conrad Veidt?  What, that's how wineys talk.

Anyway, rest well, Mr. Heard.  I didn't mean to be mean about your passing.  It's just how I am.  I thought you were swell in a thankless role in Awakenings.




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