Watching the ALL STAR FAMILY FEUD DVD, there was one great moment, made even more so by the fate of one of those involved.
In an episode where the cast of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD played against the cast of ANGIE, the cast of ANGIE won. To go into the final round, ANGIE cast members Debralee Scott and Robert Hays were chosen to play. Hays goes off stage to wait for his chance.
Debralee does her best to answer the questions. She then stands, shaking, extremely nervous next to Richard Dawson while he reveals the point values to her answers.
She didn’t have anything to be nervous about. By the time that Richard was finished revealing the value of her answers, they had earned over the 200 points needed to win. Robert Hays didn’t even have to come out and play. It was one of the few times Richard Dawson says that someone won on the first player.
Needless to say, Debralee was thrilled.
Debralee is actually one of the reasons I started the “What Ever Happened To” feature.
Back in the 90’s, TV Guide was writing a feature about forgotten stars, and what they were doing at that time. They were trying to track down LAUGH IN’s Henry Gibson. He was away, but his manager who took the call said “Well, I guess you could always write about me”. Turned out, Debralee was Henry’s manager.
She was a very familiar face on TV in the 70’s. She was a cast member of MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, and later ANGIE.
There were also appearances on variety shows of the time, such as this clip from “The Donna Summer Show”, singing back up to “Bad Girls” with Twiggy and Pat Ast.
And, there were plenty of films too. From AMERICAN GRAFITTI, THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, the cult classic PANDEMONIUM, and even two of the POLICE ACADEMY films.
Because of these roles, she was also a frequent guest on game shows. In addition to FAMILY FEUD, she was frequently on THE MATCH GAME and PASSWORD PLUS.
This clip of her is on Youtube, of a pilot for a game show she appeared on. It didn’t get picked up, even though it was hosted by David Letterman.
Her last acting credit was a small role in a 1989 film, MISPLACED. Although, since it was just a small role, I guess you can say 1986’s POLICE ACADEMY 3 was her real final role.
After getting out of acting, she went into the management side of the industry. Her sister was a talent manager, and her other sister was a film producer (who produced most of Robert Altman’s films). This is where TV Guide met up with her.
But, what happened after is the heartbreaking part of her story.
Debralee was engaged to a man by the name of John Levi. He was a police officer with the New York Port Authority. On September 11, 2001, he was killed in the World Trade Center.
In March of 2005, she moved to Florida, to take care of one of her sisters. There, she mysteriously collapsed and fell into a coma. She was taken to the hospital where, a few days later, she recovered. She seemed to be doing well, so was released on her birthday, April 2, 2005.
Three days later, on April 5, 2005, she went to take a nap. She never woke up. Autopsies weren't able to reveal what the cause of her death was, and ruled it natural causes. Her sister died a year later.
Such a sad end to one of the most recognizable character actresses of the 70’s.
Yet, the ALL STAR FAMILY FEUD DVD, as well as the rest of her work, is available to remind everyone of how good she was.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
EVEREST: A CLIMB FOR PEACE tells the amazing story of a group of climbers, brought together from different religious backgrounds, to climb to the top of Mt. Everest. The climbers are made up of both Israeli and Palestinians, as well as Christian, Atheist, Hindu, and Buddhist.
The film is narrated by Orlando Bloom. It follows the climb from starting in Kathmandu, up the mountains to the base camps, through the final climb. We get to know the climbers, especially the Israeli and Palestinians.
Directed by Lance Trumbull, who was one of the climbers as well as initiating the project, the film is part travelogue, part sociological experiment, as well as ultimately an adventure story.
One of the great things about the film is the excellent use of computer animation. Through graphics of Everest, we see the progress, giving you a feel of exactly where they are headed and what they have to do.
Without giving anything away, the final section of this film is harrowing.
I spoke with Lance about the film.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Everest Peace Project?
Well…about 6 years ago, I had been going through a very difficult time in my life and so after much thought I decided to do something radically different: I sold everything I possessed – my business, my car, my furniture, my clothing – everything except a couple of duffle bags of trekking and climbing gear and I moved to Nepal! (Not quite the American dream that everyone talks about…) and so I made Kathmandu my base camp and travelled around the Himalayas by myself for several months - and then on October 2nd, 2002 while standing near a mountain top in Ladakh, India (about 15,000 feet high) – a sudden burst of inspiration came over me – an epiphany I guess you could say happened – the vision was that I was going to organize a world peace climb on Mt. Everest with people of different faiths and cultures. To this day I still do not know where this idea came from…perhaps it was the merging together of my love for mountains and my interest in religion – as I was a religious studies major at UC Berkeley.
And so I went forth and created a peace organization called “The Everest Peace Project” and started the process of making a Climb for Peace of Mt. Everest become a reality. To be honest, throughout this whole time, I have felt a bit like Frodo of Lord of the Rings, in that I was given this mission - this task on that mountain in India and that it was my job indeed my duty to make sure that it happened - and so I have literally spent the last 5 years putting the team, the climb, and most recently the film together.
Trying to put together and fund a world peace climb that had Palestinian and Israelis along with other people of various religions and cultures while we were at war in the Middle East was not an easy thing! Not to mention, climbing Everest is inherently dangerous which can make sponsors and investors nervous…and so this project has been all about overcoming obstacles – a truly uphill battle. But I guess that is appropriate for an Everest expedition and film!
And after all, if it were easy everyone would do it.
Q: How did you find the climbers?
It took a long time to find the right climbers; I wanted to make sure that I put together a true peace climb with people from different faiths and cultures, including Palestinian and Israelis. The problem was that Palestinian climbers really do not exist – it took almost two years to find Ali Bushnaq and that was through an exhaustive search. Also, from the beginning I put up a Web site with a call out to climbers and in the end we had an incredibly diverse and unique climbing team.
Q: The film is narrated by Orlando Bloom. How did he get involved?
A: I personally reached out to Orlando Bloom and fortunately he seemed to be moved by the project, the film, and the message of peace and teamwork that we were trying to send – I also think that he is fan of adventure films, which I am sure helped. Perhaps it is also that I have good karma …?!
Q: Who exactly shot the film? Were there additional climbers operating the camera, or were the climbers themselves shooting?
A: Our main high altitude cameraman was Brad Clement; Brad is an Everest veteran and a professional high altitude cameraman who has filmed on Everest several times. He did an incredible job. On top of that, several of our climbers also had cameras. We actually ended up having 4 cameras on the summit. I also filmed at advanced base camp, and did all the filming in the Middle East. It was definitely a team effort.
Q: What type of equipment did you use?
A: Since we did not have a huge budget we went small and light; mostly we used lightweight mini DV Sony cameras.
Q: What has the reaction to the film been?
A: So far the reaction has been extremely positive and I am so happy with the way everything has turned out. I been extremely fortunate to have had a great team of people working with me – it has been an incredible five year journey putting this all together. I truly feel blessed.
Q: You have a critical blurb from none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Do you even need any other critical attention than that? What was his reaction to the project?
A: Personally for me, it does not any get any better than this. I was so humbled and thankful when I received the endorsement from His Holiness. He called the project and the film a “tremendous achievement”! As far as critical attention – I do not think I need the film to be validated any more than this; however – when you make a film, you of course want as many people as possible to hear about it and see it. And that is why it is nice when reviews are done for it just brings about more awareness. This project, the climb, and now the film has all come about through a grass roots approach, and being an independent release without a major studio behind us (even with having the Dalai Lama’s endorsement and Orlando Bloom’s narration) – it has been difficult in getting the word out.
We are of course, also looking to get this on TV at some point – which will then give the film world wide exposure, but that can be a long process…and so in the meantime we are entering film festivals and I continue to take the grass roots approach – to speak to whomever will listen and to do my best to promote this very moving and inspirational film.
Q: Will you try to do this again?
A: After you do Everest, where do you go from there? The moon? I guess that could be an idea! The peace project will continue; I am just not sure what is next for I am still focused on the present which is getting this film out for the world to see!
You can read more about the Everest Peace Project, and buy a copy of the DVD, from their website.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson. As much as I love his films MAGNOLIA and HARD EIGHT, I have to admit that I admire more than really love BOOGIE NIGHTS and also, didn’t care all that much for PUNCH DRUNK LOVE.
It stars Daniel Day Lewis. While his performances in films like MY LEFT FOOT and GANGS OF NEW YORK are some of the finest of recent decades, he is also capable of turning in performances that I didn’t care for. There is something about his speech patterns in both AGE OF INNOCENCE and LAST OF THE MOHICANS that have a sleep inducing effect on me. I found both of those films endurance tests for me to keep my eyes open due to the way he delivered his dialogue.
And, to be quite honest, as much as I wanted to see THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the trailers didn’t exactly “wow” me. I still wanted to see it, but I hadn’t written my review yet.
So, I go to see the film.
Based on Upton Sinclair’s “Oil” (which I have not read), Daniel Day Lewis is an oil baron in turn of the century California. The film was actually shot in Marfa Texas, where GIANT was filmed. Anderson has stated that film was a big influence on him, and it shows.
The first 2/3rds of THERE WILL BE BLOOD are as perfect as films can be. Each shot, each scene was just awe inspiring. Tonally and visually (with cinematography by Robert Elswit), films do not get much better. The shots of the oil derricks, the flames, the landscape, this is filmmaking at its finest.
There are several long tracking shots, with quite a bit of dialogue, that only toward the end do you realize that what you have been watching has been a single take. The story itself is so compelling that you haven’t even been paying attention to the visual logistics into the filming of the scene.
And then there is Daniel Day Lewis. With his John Huston like accent, this could very well be his greatest performance. It is one of those performances that transcend great acting into a performance that will be remembered for decades to follow.
I said the first 2/3rds were as perfect as they can be. However in that final section, while nothing happens that actually made me dislike the film, I can’t point to any flaws in the film, I just didn’t exactly feel it was quite at the level of the rest of the film. But, the events of the final section aren’t quite as epic as the beginning. It gets smaller, more personal, as it goes on. That final sequence, with the now quoted “milkshake” line, is a memorable one.
Watching the film, it just makes you wonder why other directors even bother anymore. P. T. Anderson is working at a level few other filmmakers are at. And this is only his fifth film. I can’t wait for his next.
4 1/2 stars out of 5
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
TCM's airing of Otto Preminger's SKIDOO certainly was an event. Several websites picked up on it. But, since it aired at 2:00 am, how many people actually saw it?
I watched it Saturday afternoon and it lived up to expectations, whatever they were.
The film opens with an interesting satire on television. Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing are watching TV. The TV shows such images as a commercial with kids smoking selling cigarettes, another commercial for guns, and scenes from Preminger's IN HARM'S WAY.
From this opening, I thought "this could turn into something a lot better than I thought it would be".
Unfortunately, what happens next is an almost two minute scene with the two of them, each armed with a remote control, flipping back and forth, fighting over what to watch. It was pretty deadly.
Then, to make matters worse, the scene takes place in a large house. It appears the actors weren't miked up properly, and no post production work was done, because there are all sorts of echoes and dead spots in the dialogue.
That pretty much sums up the entire film. It felt like the first cut of what could have been an interesting film. It just needed a lot of editing and post production work.
Gleason is an ex-mobster who has left the business to marry Channing. He is called back into the game by Frankie Avalon, working for GOD (Groucho Marx). It seems one of the gang (Mickey Rooney) has been arrested and is planning on testifying against GOD. Since Gleason was the only member of the gang who Rooney would trust, they want Gleason to be sent to the same prison and kill Rooney.
What follows are all sorts of intended wacky sequences that make the film worth watching. At one point, Gleason accidentally ingests LSD and goes on a trip. Carol Channing does a striptease for Avalon. And there is a group of hippies that play a part in the film, as Gleason's daughter joins them.
It is an interesting cast. Groucho, in his last film role, wears a loud blue blazer through it all and is always looking off camera, reading his lines from cue cards. Austin Pendleton, in his film debut, does a good job as a hippie imprisoned with Gleason. Alexandra Hay, also in her film debut, is quite beautiful as Gleason's daughter (but she didn't seem to have much of a career after this). Even Richard Kiel (James Bond's Jaws) has a role as an inmate.
However the real reason to see the film, the finale. We get a big musical number of the title song, led by Channing. Then, Groucho Marx smokes pot. Finally, the closing credits are sung, by Nilsson. The cast, crew, all the way to the copyright in Roman numerals, Nilsson sings it all. It is actually quite catchy! The music is one of the best things about the film.
SKIDOO is far from a great, or even good film. It is a very watchable film though. It deserves a DVD release. The TCM version wasn't letterboxed, with the Panavision phtography cropped quite a bit.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
To some, PRIVATE BENJAMIN will always be thought of as Goldie Hawn. But to others, she will be another actress, one that may not be as well known, Lorna Patterson.
Lorna actually played the character longer. For three seasons on CBS, running 39 episodes between 1981 and 1983, Lorna played Judy Benjamin, everyone’s favorite spoiled princess turned army soldier.
Lately, Lorna hasn’t been heard from much.
PRIVATE BENJAMIN may not even be the role you remember her from. After beginning her career in guest roles in several TV shows she played one of the flight attendants in a little film called AIRPLANE.
She had the unforgettable moment, playing the guitar to the sick girl.
She followed that role up with a TV movie, SIDNEY SHORR: A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND, as a single mother who befriends a lonely older man (who was supposedly gay, but that was just hinted at in the story) played by Tony Randall. This film went on to become the sitcom LOVE, SIDNEY, with Lorna being replaced by Swoosie Kurtz.
She was most likely replaced since she went on to star in PRIVATE BENJAMIN.
PRIVATE BENJAMIN, the series, was a popular show, enough that it aired in syndication for much of the 1980’s. Lorna appeared along with original film cast members Eileen Brennan and Hal Williams.
PRIVATE BENJAMIN turned out to be the biggest role of her career. She would act throughout the rest of the 80’s, in guest starring roles in various TV series, such as HOTEL and, once again, MURDER SHE WROTE but never in a starring role like in PRIVATE BENJAMIN. There was a 1991 episode of MAJOR DAD and her last appearance was a 1993 TV show called BASIC VALUES.
So, what ever happened to her?
In 1983, she married actor Robert Ginty (THE EXTERMINATOR, countless TV series). It appears that this coincides with her drop off of acting. She became a wife.
Later (date unknown) they were divorced and she married Michael Lembeck. Michael Lembeck you may remember as one of the husbands in the later seasons of ONE DAY AT A TIME. He is now a major television director. They are still married and have two children.
Lorna has become a stage actress. She was one of the founding members of the Musical Theatre Guild in Los Angeles. She still acts there today.