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Author Mike McCrann

  • Mike McCrann

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TCM Festival 2014: The Event's 7 Gayest Moments

After staggering home from the TCM Festival in Hollywood late Sunday night, I felt like one more movie and I would collapse. Starting Thursday and ending Sunday night, the festival was as magical as always, and I loved every moment of it. There certainly were enough films to interest any gay person who attended. Here is my list of the gayest moments in descending order.
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Mickey Rooney, A Star of Hollywood's Golden Age

Mickey Rooney's death and his long descent into oblivion has already been documented on this site, plus his views on gays and being born again, etc. Like Shirley Temple, I always had strong reservations about Rooney and his place in motion picture history. He was called "a force of nature," and while probably true, it was a force that many could easily resist. Watching some of his famous films with Judy Garland you are struck with one immediate thought. Judy is always perfect—never pushing, never begging the audience to like her. Mickey Rooney was always in ultra-overdrive, mugging to the point that you wanted to call for a straight jacket! And when he went in black face or drag (as Carmen Miranda), it is best to avert one's eyes.
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Jamie Bell Shines as a Reluctant Spy in 'Turn'

I have had a crush on Jamie Bell ever since I saw him in Billy Elliot. OK I didn't think about him "that way" until I saw him as a Esca in the homo erotic The Eagle co-starring Channing Tatum. The cute, one-time child star/dancer had bulked up and he stole the sexual sparks from the dreary Tatum during his many shirtless scenes in this camp classic. Jamie Bell is now back on series TV with the revolutionary spy drama TURN, which debuted on AMC last Sunday night.
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Gig Young: When Oscar Kills

Many actors would kill for an Academy Award. I am sure that many have come very close. But there was an Oscar winner who was a murderer. His name was Gig Young. He was nominated three times for Best Supporting actor and won for his mesmerizing performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Gig Young was also married to Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched fame for seven years (see blog on Liz). His story is one of the saddest of them all.
 
Byron Elsworth Barr was born in Minnesota in 1913. His passion for the theater led to a scholarship at the famed Pasadena Playhouse where he and George Reeves (TV's Superman) were both spotted by a talent agent from Warner Brothers.
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'Oliver' vs. 'Funny Girl': Which is the Greater Film Musical?

The new book Road Show (see blog) chronicles the big, bloated flop musicals of the 1960s spawned by the success of The Sound of Music. The book does discuss two of the decade's hits—both from 1968 and both released by Columbia Pictures. Funny Girl and Oliver! were not only two of the highest grossing musicals of all time, but both were Oscar-nominated for Best Picture of 1968.

Funny Girl was a smash hit due to Barbra Streisand's legendary film debut. Oliver! was something of a surprise. Made in England with no big stars, the film version of the stage hit was released in December just in time to make Oscar deadline. Columbia spent most of his advertising budget on Funny Girl, but Oliver! was the film that waltzed off with The Best Picture, Best Director and four other Oscars.
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The Greatest Performance You've Never Seen

The Academy Awards have come and gone and will soon fade into memory. Some of this year's performances will be remembered in later years as the best of the best, but this seems like a good time to remember one performance from 30 years ago that won no awards, was rarely seen and just might be the greatest performance you have never seen.
 
Dianne Weist is a respected actress with two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. She has worked steadily for almost 40 years. In 1983, Weist was third billed in an obscure American film called Independence Day. (Not to be confused with the Will Smith sci-fi blockbuster of the same name.)
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'Nothing Like a Dame' Collects Interviews with Patti Lupone, Angela Lansbury, Idina Menzel and More

Last week I reviewed the wonderful new book Road-Show about stage to film versions of many Broadway musicals. Today there is an excellent new book called Nothing Like A Dame by Eddie Shapiro that has a brand new collection of recent interviews with some of Broadway's great lady Divas. There are interviews with Elaine Stritch, Angela Lansbury, Betty Buckley, Patti Lupone, Carol Channing (and many more.) And last but not least, Shaprio talks with Adele Dazeem – oops, I mean Idina Menzell!
 
What makes this book special is that super fan Eddie Shaprio has gotten each of his subjects to really open up and discuss their careers in great depth. Each chapter really brings home what made each of these ladies so special. We get plenty of dirt too!
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Dame Maggie vs. Hollywood Royalty, 1969

The 1969 Academy Awards handed out in April, 1970 reflected great change in American films. There was so much social conflict going on as the War in Vietnam was polarizing the country. It was the era of protest—youth vs. establishment—and the films nominated that year showed that old style musicals and feel good comedies were on their way out. Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture, becoming the first X-rated film to win the award. (After seeing The Wolf of Wall Street, what passed for X in 1969 seems pretty tame today.)

But the old guard still held their ground. John Wayne won his only Academy Award for True Grit. Nobody really thought he gave the year's best performance. It was more of a career award.

John Wayne had been nominated once before in 1949 for Sands of Iwo Jima, but his greatest performances in the John Ford classics: Fort Apache, The Quiet Man and especially The Searchers had gone unrewarded. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight had given spectacular performances in Midnight Cowboy, but voters obviously thought John Wayne was way overdue.

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Sound of Musicals!

Gay men and Hollywood musicals go together like Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka! If you love old film musicals—good and bad—you will love the new book Road-Show: The Fall of Film Musicals by Matthew Kennedy. This excellent book is the best I have ever read about the making of some of Hollywood's most infamous films.

Roadshows were reserved-seat special presentations, usually just in one theater, of some of the major films of the era. In those days a major movie opened in first-run release and then went to the neighborhood theaters—the complete opposite of today. When The Sound of Music became the mega-smash hit movie of 1965, every studio in town tried to latch onto the wining formula. The resulting films for the most part spelled doom for "road show" films and the studios who made them. 
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Mary Astor: A Special Attraction

Mary Astor was not only a wonderful actress but a rare beauty. TCM is honoring Astor by making her the "Star of the Month" for March, and many of Mary Astor's finest performances will be featured. We are taking this ocassion to rerun our previous tribute to this fascinating actress. 

1941 was the year of Mary Astor. She not only went up
 against Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon but stole The Great Lie from Bette Davis, winning an Academy Award. Mary Astor truly deserves to be rediscovered. If you are only vaguely aware of this great artist, spend the month of March at TCM and you will be rewarded. Plus, Mary Astor is one of the few actresses who got better and more interesting as she got older. Mary Astor is one of Hollywood's greatest treasures.