Fess Parker of the soft and kindly voice died today at age 85. Playing Davy Crockett made him a legend among boomers, and made him rich (or at least started him on the road to more riches), and cast an easy, friendly glow upon everything he said and did for the rest of his life. Some guys have all the luck and the modesty.
Parker became a political conservative and a friend of Ronald Reagan‘s when he got older, and that’s not cool in my book. But he projected such a soothing vibe that it was hard to think of him in a negative light.
My favorite Parker performance was in Don Siegel‘s Hell Is For Heroes, which costarred Steve McQueen. He was also strong and compelling in three Disney features — The Great Locomotive Chase (’56), Westward Ho, the Wagons! (’56) and Old Yeller (’57). And he delivered a memorable supporting performance in Them! (’54), the classic giant-ant movie.
Parker’s gentle southern accent originated in Texas, where he was born in 1924. I never knew until today that he was the victim of a “road-rage knifing” in 1946. Or that his birthday, 8.16, was only one day removed from Crockett’s on 8.17.
Parker was discovered by actor Adolphe Menjou — an especially despicable conservative said to have encouraged and supported the persecution of alleged Hollywood lefties and former Communists during the late ’40s and ’50s. Menjou reportedly met Parker in Texas, urged him to go to Hollywood, introduced him to his agent, etc.
I have to say I didn’t care for Santa Barbara’s Fess Parker hotel when I stayed there three or four years ago. Too big and sprawling and nouveau riche-y — too tailored to the tastes of people with not much taste.
The Wrap‘s Brent Lang doesn’t understand why Taylor Lautner is being paid $7.5 million to star in Universal’s Stretch Armstrong when other young bucks of the forest — Robert Pattinson, Shia Labeouf, Zac Efron — made do with less when they were in Lautner’s starting-out position.
The consternation is due to the fact that while Lautner may be cute, he’s never opened a film. And the stats show that so far Twi-harders haven’t supported movies that Twilight costars have appeared in off-campus.
I explained the Lautner problem (or complication or what-have-you) in a 7.23 Comic-Con piece. In a nutshell, he’s not that deep and he has a weird upturned dog nose.
“Lautner is clearly the most ambitiously press-friendly among the three New Moon cosytars,” I wrote. “While Stewart and Pattinson did their usual usual — i.e., giving answers that suggested they’re a lot more complex and aloof and thoughtful than their participation in movies based on the Twilight series might suggest. It’s the age-old ‘I’ll do this but only if I can answer questions like Marlon Brando‘ routine.
“But Lautner, who has a kind of Cyrano nose in a bee-stung mode, exhibited the personality of a publicist or a glad-hander. He clearly enjoys smiling and wants everyone to like him. He could be the next Regis Philbin if he wanted to go there.
“If I was Lautner I would have the schnozz re-shaped. I’m sorry but it’s an On The Waterfront longshoreman’s nose — Elia Kazan might have cast him as one of Johnny Friendly‘s henchmen if he were heavier — or a nose belonging to a Russian wheat-farmer. If Lautner had come up through the ranks of old 1930s Hollywood studio system the moguls would have said ‘cute kid but fix the nose.’ If he’d arrived in the ’50s he would have been relegated to character parts — they’d never let him kiss Doris Day or Janet Leigh with that oddly-shaped growth in the middle of his face.
The fact that no one else in the universe has even mentioned this, not even as an aside, shows what an (d)evolved multi-cultural world we now live in. A guy with no real inner force who looks like a serf from the Ukranian wheat fields can now be a major marquee draw.
You can tell right away that Ryan Murphy‘s Eat Pray Love is, at the very least, decently written (by Murphy and Jennifer Salt), engagingly acted (Julia Roberts in her Madwoman of Chaillot mode) and beautifully shot by Robert Richardson. Apparently a quality chick flick. Especially with the travelicious eye candy (Italy, Indonesia, India), plus James Franco, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, etc. Looks like a hit…maybe.
It took Murphy…what, three years to get out of movie jail after Running With Scissors? Good for him, must have taken some doing. Movie-jail terms tend to last four to five years — a year to eighteen months to realize and then face up to the fact that you’re actually in movie jail, and then three-plus years of political maneuvering in order to extricate yourself.
Dollars to donuts Expendables director-writer-star Sylvester Stallone drew the original rough art for this just-released one-sheet. I believe this because I used to indirectly work for Stallone, believe it or not. I was a poorly paid employee of Bobby Zarem and Dick Delson, who were Stallone’s personal p.r. reps during the Rambo II phase in ’85 and ’86. And I saw some conceptual poster art that Stallone had drawn for possible use in the teaser poster. And it had the exact same skull image, only with a bowie knife and a green beret.
Hey, Tim Palen — am I right or am I right? Stallone roughed it out and your team applied the finishing touches…n’est-ce pas?
Like the poster says, The Expendables, which has no website, will be released by Lionsgate on 8.13.10. We’re all hoping it’ll play during the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. I’m guessing it won’t be part of the regular festival, but market screenings are likely. If this happens, one way or another I’ll get myself in.
I’m into seeing Hubble 3D, which, being a Warner Bros. film, I naturally wasn’t invited to see at a press screening. And now Lou Lumenick is reporting that the Leonardo DiCaprio-narrated doc will only play a lousy one-week run at the Lincoln Square IMAX and with only one 8 am showing per day because because the tepid and tiresome Alice in Wonderland needs the prime-time screening slots. Hubble 3D‘s exposure will be a bit more liberal at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.
Ivan Reitman will attempt a long reach across the generational divide in May when he begins filming a GenX/GenY romantic comedy called Friends With Benefits, based on a script by Elizabeth Meriwether (writer of the highly-touted, similar-sounding Fuckbuddies…is this the same script with a different title?). Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher will costar in the Paramount flick, which already has a locked-in early 2011 release date — January 7th. Variety calls this date “a lucrative frame for femme-driven comedies,” but a pre-slotted early January release amounts to a kind of statement of expectations about what the film is likely to be.
Distractions kept me from last night’s Runaways red-carpet photo op at the Sunshine Cinemas, so I went to the after-party at the Bowery hotel, hoping for a shot of Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning. It was a very nice gathering with tasty food, etc., but Stewart and Fanning decided to temporarily blow the party off by going somewhere else after the screening. (Young actors sometimes need to express disdain for publicity.) I knew they’d show up sooner or later but waiting around became interminable.
Falco Ink’s Janice Roland had graciously passed me into the event, but I was pretty much left to my own devices once I was in. Survival of the fittest, the scramble to survive, etc. There was the usual roped-off VIP area with two or three apes guarding the entrance. The party was filled with stylishly dressed, slightly desperate-looking people who had clearly attached great significance in their heads to being there. I began to feel badly about being there, and then really badly about it. I began telling myself that the people at this party were the worst people in the world. I was suddenly seized by a desire to talk to someone like Henry Fonda‘s Tom Joad character in The Grapes of Wrath.
Late in the game I chatted about the film with a hazel-eyed blonde who was sitting at the bar, and asked her at one point how she felt about Fanning’s performance as Cherie Currie. She said into my ear, “Do you mind if I don’t talk about that?” I said to her, “It’s okay — please don’t.” I gave her a look of slight contempt as I turned away and returned to the VIP area to wait with the other paps for Stewart/Fanning. It was a lot like standing around gate 225 at the Port Authority bus terminal.
After a while I just couldn’t stand it and left. I’m guessing that Stewart or Fanning or both eventually appeared, but it felt great when I finally left the party and hit the pavement and began walking north and breathing in the night air.
The only truly appealing part of the evening was speaking briefly to Apparition co-chief Bob Berney about everyone hoping to see Terrence Malick ‘s The Tree of Life at Cannes. Berney doesn’t expect the notoriously reclusive Malick to take part in any of the usual promotional exposures and appearances if the film plays there — no photo op gang-bang, no press conference attendance, no one-on-one press luncheon sit-downs, etc. Didn’t Malick go to Cannes in the ’70s for either Badlands or Days of Heaven?, I asked. Berney couldn’t remember but I think he did. I know that Malick won the festival’s Best Director prize in ’78 for Days of Heaven.
One last dental journey to New Jersey this morning and I’m done. It’s not pleasant, it eats time and money, etc. But you can’t ignore this stuff. Attention must be paid. Which means a final catch-as-catch-can, battery-powered, filing-from-waiting-rooms-and-roadside rest stops column day.