Tag Archives: American cinema

RIP Sonny ‘french connection’ Grosso (1930 – 2020)

The Poughkeepsie Shuffle: Tracing ‘The French Connection’ (2000)

Sonny Grosso was a New York City police detective turned movie and television producer, noted for his role in the “French Connection” heroin bust immortalized in the The French Connection (1971), directed by William Friedkin.

The BBC documentary The Poughkeepsie Shuffle: Tracing ‘The French Connection’ (2000) [above] features him extensively.

After being an adviser on The French Connection, Grosso went on to play a part in the film Cruising (1980), also directed by William Friedkin.

The History of Cruising (2007),

This film is also the subject of a documentary (above).

RIP Sue ‘Lolita’ Lyon (1946 – 2019)

Lolita (1962)


Sue Lyon was an American actress best-known as the nymphet of Lolita (1962).


My film bible Cult Movie Stars has this:

“Amid much publicity stating she was too young even to see the film, an unknown blonde was cast in the title role in Lolita.”

Lyon’s final film role was in the mildly amusing Alligator (1980).

RIP Danny Aiello (1933 – 2019)

Danny Aiello was an American actor, often characterized as a character actor.

The Stuff (1985), full film, Mr Aiello can be seen from 15:40 onwards.

Aiello played in The Stuff (1985) by Larry Cohen. In that film he is Mr. Vickers, a man who works for the FDA and approved ‘the stuff’. He is later eaten by his dog who was being fed ‘the stuff’ too. They were both addicted to ‘the stuff’.

The Stuff is a typical Cohen film, at once critical of society and sensationalist.

It belongs to a small category of Hollywood films with an anti-consumerist message. Another important film in that category is They Live (1988).

Perhaps these are the two only films in that category.

RIP Peter “Easy Rider” Fonda (1940 – 2019)

Peter Fonda was American actor.

The Hired Hand (1971)

Everyone knows Peter Fonda from the film Easy Rider (1969) a cult film which is so well-known that it is actually a mainstream film.

I saw the film somewhere in the 1990s but hardly remember anything about it. Given the choice — knowing what I know now — between watching Easy Rider and its predecessor The Wild Angels (1966) I’d watch the latter, being that it is as hilarious as it is historiographical (in the sense that Wild Angels tells us more about the sixties zeitgeist than Easy Rider, I refer specifically to the speech featuring “We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man!”)

But now Fonda is dead and despite the dictum “de mortuis nisi nihil bonum“, a few things need to be said before the praise can begin:

“[Peter Fonda] had nowhere near the talent of his father Henry Fonda or sister Jane Fonda, but he was popular with young audiences from the early sixties to early seventies because he was good-looking, knew how to ride a motorcycle, made “hip” pictures with drug-related themes, and, to hide his acting limitations, smartly played characters who were tight-lipped, unemotional, and often wore shades.” —Cult Movie Stars (1991) by Danny Peary

Now for the praise.

Upon the death of an actor or director, I check YouTube for films featuring the corpse in question. And so it happened that I stumbled upon The Hired Hand (1971). Never heard of it before. Started reading about it. Appeared to be a revisionist western. Interesting category. Started watching. Liked the music. The story is that of a man who is tired of drifting the Wild West and returns home to the wife and child he left seven years earlier. She accepts him, not as a husband, but as a hired hand.

That same Danny Peary who called Fonda not a good actor calls The Hired Hand a “feminist western”.

Why?

Because the film pays lots of attention to the abandoned woman and her sexual needs during the departure of her husband. A sort of Penelope vs. Odysseus.

On two occasions Hannah (the abandoned wife) ruminates about her lust for sex. These dialogues are extremely interesting and the second scene, in which Oates touches the ankle of Bloom, is actually quite sexy.

The first conversation of her sex life is with returned husband (Fonda) who has heard rumors in town of her sexual escapades [47:00]:

“You hired men to sleep with,” says he.

She responds:

“Sometimes I’d have him or he’d have me whatever suits you.”

And in a second scene she says to Arch Harris (Oates) [54:00]:

“You probably think I’m pretty hot … Well I am … don’t wannabe but I am … I don’t know how many nights I set on the porch … watching the shed … hoping whoever was in there would come out … hoping and terrified in case he did … wouldn’t really matter whether it was you or him tonight.”

Anyway, above is the complete film.

I loved it.

RIP Ben “midnight movie” Barenholtz (1935 – 2019)

Ben Barenholtz was a film producer who is best-known for financing Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991) and Requiem for a Dream (2000).

Requiem for a Dream, one of the best drug films ever.

“Best-know” is a exaggeration, because outside of the film world he is not known at all. I’ve written about my fascination with financing of art films in a blogpost titled the “cinematic Losfeld” in which I compared these film producers with Éric Losfeld.

My comparison to Éric Losfeld is perhaps not optimal, since Losfeld worked in the shadows of legality and Barenholtz worked in the margins but not in illegality.

El Topo, the first midnight movie and an archetypal cult film

When Barenholtz was younger, he was a movie theater manager and film programmer. As such, he was famous for creating the concept of the midnight movie, the programming of cult films at midnight (because of there unsuitability for children) during the 1970s and 1980s, before VCR and video rental came and changed film consumption forever.

RIP Sylvia Miles (1924 – 2019)

Actress Sylvia Miles died. She was 94. I discovered her via the book Cult Movie Stars (1991) which I bought the year it came out. It describes Miles as a “quirky, funny, busty blonde New York character actress.”

The 1990s was the time of video rental stores and I after I had read Cult Movie Stars from cover to cover I scoured Antwerp looking for old films. So I saw a handful of Miles’ films including Heat (1972) [above], as well as many other Warhol films. Heat opens with the wonderful John Cale song, “Days of Steam” from the album The Academy in Peril (1972).

Sylvia Miles is mainly known for her part in Midnight Cowboy (1969) but she also starred in Denise Calls Up (1996), one of my canonical films.

RIP Doris Day (1922 – 2019)

Doris Day was an American actress and singer, a vivacious blonde with a wholesome image, she was one of the most prolific actresses of the 1950s and 1960s.

Excerpts from the film Pillow Talk (1959) starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. With the songs, “Move Over Darling” and “Possess Me” performed by Doris Day.

Dubbed the “eternal virgin”, she thrived in “no sex sex comedies” full of double entendres and sexual innuendo in the final days of the  Hays Code-era but her popularity waned with the arrival the more explicit films of the sexual revolution.