Monthly Archives: October 2010

Johnny Sheffield obituary

Child actor who played Boy, the foundling son of Tarzan and Jane, in eight Hollywood films

After three hit Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller in the title role and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane, MGM decided to give a son to the apeman and his mate in Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939). However, he had to be a foundling because, according to the Legion of Decency, the scantily clad jungle couple were not married, and presumably never had sex. “Boy”, as he was named, was played by Johnny Sheffield, who has died aged 79 of a heart attack at his California home after falling off a ladder while pruning a tree.

In the Tarzan films, the fact that the orphaned offspring of a British couple killed in a plane crash in the jungle had an American accent was never explained. Neither Tarzan, whose dialogue was limited to grunts and monosyllables, nor Boy bore much resemblance to the original characters as conceived by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose novels portrayed both the apeman, Lord Greystoke, and his son, Jack “Korak” Clayton, as cultivated and articulate. Burroughs, however, complained all the way to the bank.

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The 25 best sci-fi and fantasy films of all time: the full list

Just the list, no snazzy extras? You’ve come to the right place Continue reading… Continue reading

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Blade Runner: No 3 best sci-fi and fantasy film of all time

Ridley Scott, 1982 Continue reading… Continue reading

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Mark Zuckerberg rejects his portrayal in The Social Network

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says The Social Network has got him all wrong … apart from his on-screen wardrobe Continue reading… Continue reading

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Ran: No 12 best action and war film of all time

Akira Kurosawa, 1985

Kurosawa’s last great film was made after many years in the wilderness. His star had fallen in Japan after a period of extraordinary artistic fertility ended in the mid-60s. His eyesight was failing; he’d attempted suicide. In 1980, he returned to favour with Kagemusha, which was seen as a rehearsal for his long-planned adaptation of King Lear. Ran finally appeared in 1985, and in its portrait of a great man who has lost control of his offices of power, critics were quick to read the experiences of the director himself.

Appropriating Lear gave Kurosawa scope to meditate on man’s diminishing through age, but, in so doing, he produced, at 75, a film of breath­taking power and scale, and one of the most visually arresting war films ever made. The title translates as “chaos”, and this is what erupts when Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai), the patriarch of the Ichimonji clan, attempts to divide his kingdom between his three sons. The youngest son, like Cordelia, alerts the father to his folly and is banished. Accompanied by his fool Kyoami (played by the Japanese pop star Pita), Hidetora stumbles from one catastrophe to the next, watching powerlessly as his realm burns around him. The silent battle scene at the centre of the film, set to Toru Takemitsu’s funereal score, has to be seen to be believed.

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The secret of The Social Network’s twins

Two actors play Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, but with only one head Continue reading… Continue reading

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Badlands: No 4 best crime film of all time

Terrence Malick, 1973

Terrence Malick based his peerlessly poetic debut on the real-life story of Charles Starkweather, a teenage James Dean wannabe who fled across the midwest on a killing spree, his 14-year-old girlfriend in tow. But the film couldn’t be further from a pulpy true-crime tale, or a hip New Wave homage like Bonnie and Clyde. It’s a true original: eloquent about the intersection of crime, romanticism and myth-making in America, and highly innovative in its use of colour, editing and voice-over. Martin Sheen, who was cast as the Starkweather surrogate, Kit, believed Badlands was the best script he had ever read. “Still is,” he says. “It was mesmerising. It disarmed you. It was a period piece, and yet of all time. It was extremely American, it caught the spirit of the people, of the culture, in a way that was immediately identifiable.” Sissy Spacek played Holly, the baton-twirling schoolgirl who elopes with Kit after he kills her father (Warren Oates).

The film’s dislocated emotional effect arises almost entirely from Holly, whose banal narration goes starkly against the grain. Traditionally, a voice-over fills in the blanks, but Badlands is defined by the contradiction between what we see and what we hear. Holly’s blank reaction when Kit guns down her father makes the slaying more shocking than any amount of hysterical identification. “She isn’t indifferent about her father’s death,” Malick pointed out. “She might have cried buckets of tears, but she wouldn’t think of telling you about it. It would not be proper. You should always feel there are large parts of her experience she’s not including because she has a strong, if misplaced, sense of propriety.” This suggestion that we may not be getting the full story is crucial to appreciating Malick, who is more likely, at a moment of drama, to turn his camera on a quivering blade of grass. In fact, Malick’s career was to be the biggest ellipsis of all, with only four more features to date (Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World and the forthcoming Tree of Life) completed after Badlands. Not that this trifling fact can undermine, in any way, his place as the visionary of American film-making.

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Goodfellas: No 10 best crime film of all time

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Carrie Fisher admits taking cocaine on set of The Empire Strikes Back

Actor who played Princess Leia says she took drugs during ice planet scenes of Star Wars trilogyCarrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, has said she took cocaine on set during filming of the second movie in the famous space oper… Continue reading

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Kenneth Williams: secret loves behind the life of a tormented man

A new biography drawing on diaries that were locked away for years reveals the lonely star’s unknown passion and a complex struggle with his sexual identityAs erudite as he was rude, Kenneth Williams is now remembered as the author of a bleak and illum… Continue reading

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