Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Birthdays

Jessica Biel

Jessica Claire Biel (born March 3, 1982) is an American actress, model, and singer. Biel is known for her television role in the long-running family-drama series 7th Heaven. She has also appeared in several Hollywood films, including The Rules of Attraction (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Blade: Trinity (2004) and The Illusionist (2006). She’s currently shooting the remake of Total Recall. Happy Birthday.

F. W. Murnau

Friedrich Wilhelm “F. W.” Murnau (December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was one of the most influential German film directors of the silent era, and a prominent figure in the expressionist movement in German cinema during the 1920s. He was born as Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe in Bielfield, Province of Westphalia. He attended the University of Heidelberg where he studied art history. He took the name “Murnau” from the town in Germany named Murnau am Staffelsee. Openly gay, the 6’11 (210cm) director was said to have an icy, imperious disposition and an obsession with film.

Murnau’s most famous film is the vampire classic, ‘Nosferatu’, an 1922 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ for which Stoker’s widow sued for copyright infringement. Murnau lost the lawsuit and all prints of the film were ordered to be destroyed, but bootleg prints survived. The vampire, played by German stage actor Max Schreck, resembled a rat which was known to carry the plague. The origins of the word are from Stoker’s novel, where it is used by the Romanian townsfolk to refer to Count Dracula and presumably, other undead.

Nearly as important as Nosferatu in Murnau’s filmography was ‘The Last Laugh’ (“Der Letzte Mann”, German “The Last Man”) (1924), written by Carl Mayer (a very prominent figure of the Kammerspielfilm movement) and starring Emil Jennings. The film introduced the subjective point of view camera, where the camera “sees” from the eyes of a character and uses visual style to convey a character’s psychological state. It also anticipated the cinema verite movement in its subject matter. The film also used a mix of tracking shots, pans, tilts, and zooms. Also, unlike the majority of Murnau’s other works, The Last Laugh is considered a Kammerspielfilm with Expressionist elements. Unlike expressionist films, Kammerspielfilme are categorized by their chamber play influence, involving a lack of intricate set designs and story lines / themes regarding social injustice towards the working classes.

Murnau’s last German film was the big budget ‘Faust’ (1926) with Gosta Ekman as the title character, Emil Jannings as Mephisto and Camilla Horn as Gretchen. Murnau’s film draws on older traditions of the legendary tale of Faust as well as on Goethe’s classic version. The film is well-known for a sequence in which the giant, winged figure of Mephisto hovers over a town sowing the seeds of plague.

Nosferatu (music by Hans Erdmann) and Faust (music by Werner Richard Heymann) were two of the first films to feature original film scores. 

Murnau emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox Studio and made ‘Sunrise’ (1927), a movie often cited by film scholars as one of the greatest films of all time. Filmed in the Fox Movietone sound-on-film system (music and sound effects only), Sunrise was not a financial success, but received several Oscars at the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. In winning the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production it shared what is now the Best Picture award with the movie ‘Wings’.

Murnau’s next two films, the (now lost) ‘Four Devils’ (1928) and ‘City Girl’ (1930), were modified to adapt to the new era of sound film and were not well received. Their poor receptions disillusioned Murnau, and he quit Fox to journey for a while in the South Pacific. 

Together with documentary film pioneer Robert Flaherty, Murnau travelled to Bora Bora to realize the film ‘Tabu’ in 1931. Flaherty left after artistic disputes with Murnau who had to finish the movie on his own. The movie was censored in the United States for images of bare-breasted Polynesian women. The film was originally shot by cinematographer Floyd Crosby as half-talkie, half-silent, before being fully restored as a silent film — Murnau’s preferred medium.

Murnau did not live to see the premiere of his last film. He died in an automobile accident in Santa Barbara, California on 11 March 1931. Murnau was entombed on Southwest Cemetery (Südwest-Kirchhof Stahnsdorf) in Stahnsdorf near Berlin. Only 11 people attended the funeral. Among them were Robert Flaherty, Emil Jennings, Greta Garbo and Fritz Lang, who delivered the funeral speech. Garbo also commissioned a death mask of Murnau, which she kept on her desk during her years in Hollywood.

In 2000, director E. Elias Merhige released ‘Shadow of the Vampire’, a fictionalization of the making of Nosferatu. Murnau is portrayed by John Malkovich. In the film, Murnau is so dedicated to making the film genuine that he actually hires a real vampire (Willem Dafoe) to play Count Orlok.

Lou Ferrigno

Louis Jude “Lou” Ferrigno (born November 9, 1951) is an American actor, fitness trainer/consultant, and retired professional bodybuilder. As a bodybuilder, Ferrigno won an IFBB Mr. America title and two consecutive IFBB Mr. Universe titles, and appeared in the bodybuilding documentary ‘Pumping Iron’ with Arnold Schwarzenegger. As an actor, he is best known for portraying the title role in the CBS television series ‘The Incredible Hulk’. He has also appeared in fantasy-adventures such as ‘Sinbad of the Seven Seas’ and ‘Hercules’, and as himself in the sitcom ‘The King of Queens’ and the 2009 comedy ‘I Love You, Man’.

The Incredible Hulk. In 1977, Ferrigno was cast in the title role opposite Bill Bixby as The Hulk in ‘The Incredible Hulk’.Although Ferrigno and Bixby did not share lines on camera (except for one episode, “King of the Beach”), the two were friends, with Ferrigno describing Bixby as a “mentor” and “father figure” who took Ferrigno under his wing. Ferrigno also singles out the instances in which Bixby directed Ferrigno in some episodes as particularly memorable. Ferrigno continued playing the Hulk role until 1981—although the last two episodes were not broadcast until May 1982. Later, he and Bixby co-starred in three The Incredible Hulk  TV Movies.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943) is an American actor, director and producer. Nicknamed “Bobby Milk” for his pallor, the youthful De Niro hung out with a group of street kids in Little Italy, some of whom have remained lifelong friends of his. But the direction of his future had already been determined by his stage debut at age ten, playing the Cowardly Lion in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. Along with finding relief from shyness through performing, De Niro was also entranced by the movies, and he dropped out of high school at age 16 to pursue acting. De Niro studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio.

De Niro’s first film role in collaboration with Brian De Palma was in 1963 at the age of 20, when he appeared opposite his friend Jill Clayburgh in ‘The Wedding Party’; however, the film was not released until 1969. He then played Lloyd Barker as a spaced-out drug addict in Roger Corman’s ‘Bloody Mama’ (1970). It starred Shelly Winters as Machine gun totin’ Ma Barker who led her family gang (her sons) on a crime spree in the Depression era.

He than gained popular attention, and won the New York Film Society’s Award for Best Supporting Actor with his role as a dying Baseball player in ‘Bang the Drum Slowly’ (1973). That same year, he began his fruitful collaboration with Martin Scorsese when he played a memorable role as the small time crook Johnny Boy, alongside Harvey Keitel’s Charlie in ‘Mean Streets’ (1973).

That role brought him to the attention of Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him as the young Vito Corleone, the director having remembered his previous auditions for the roles of Sonny & Michael Corleone, Carlo Rizzi and Paulie Gatto in the original ‘The Godfather’. His performance earned him his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor. De Niro and his hero, Marlon Brando, who played the older Vito Corleone in the first film, are the only actors to have won Oscars portraying the same fictional character. Brando and De Niro came together onscreen for the only time in ‘The Score’ (2001).

After working with Scorsese in Mean Streets, he had a very successful working relationship with the director in films such as ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976), ‘New York, New York’ (1977), ‘Raging Bull’ (1980), ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983), ‘Goodfellas’ (1990), ‘Cape Fear’ (1991), and ‘Casino’ (1995). They also acted together in ‘Guilty by Suspicion’ (1991) and provided their voices for the animated feature ‘Shark Tale’ (2004). I’ve covered Taxi Driver in a separate article.

In 1976, De Niro appeared, along with Gerard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic biographical exploration of life in Italy before World War II, ‘Novecento’ or ‘1900’, seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society’s hierarchy. In a busy year for De Niro he also starred in ‘The Last Tycoon’, directed by Elia Kazan for from Harold Pinter’s screenplay of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

In 1978, De Niro played Michael Vronsky in the acclaimed Vietnam War film ‘The Deer Hunter’, for which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, losing to Jon Voight for that years other Vietnam movie, Coming Home. Producer Deeley pursued De Niro for The Deer Hunter because he felt that he needed De Niro’s star power to sell a film with a “gruesome-sounding storyline and a barely known director”. “I liked the script, and [Cimino] had done a lot of prep,” said De Niro. “I was impressed.” Well known for his love of method acting De Niro prepared by socializing with steelworkers in local bars and by visiting their homes, he would take his love of the method to extremes with Raging Bull:

‘True Confessions’ (1981) and ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983) were slightly different characters for De Niro, however he returned to the mob movie with Sergio Leone’s epic, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984) with James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, William Forsythe, Treat Williams, Burt Young and regular on-screen partner Joe Pesci. At over 4 hours long the film explores themes of childhood friendships, love, lust, greed, betrayal, loss, broken relationships, and the rise of mobsters in American society. The film is done in non-linear order. While this plot states the film from the 20’s to the 60’s the film is largely told through flashbacks from the 60’s.

Fearing he had become typecast in  gangster roles, De Niro began expanding into more varied and occasional comedic roles in the mid-1980s and has had much success there as well, with such films as ‘Falling in Love’ (1984), ‘Brazil’ (1985), ‘The Mission’ (1986), the hit action-comedy ‘Midnight Run’ (1988), ‘Analyze This’ (1999) opposite actor/comedian Billy Crystal, ‘Meet the Parents’ (2000), ‘Meet the Fockers’ (2004) and the awful ‘Little Fockers’ last year.

De Niro returned to the mobsters movie with Brian De Palma’s ‘The Untouchables’ (1987) and Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ (1990). Both modern classics of the gangster genre. De Niro has really ramped up his output over the last few decades, the best being ‘Awakenings’ (1991), ‘Night and the City’ (1992), ‘A Bronx Tale’ (1993) which he also directed, ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ (1994), the excellent ‘Casino’ and ‘Heat’ (both 1995), ‘Cop Land’, ‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Wag the Dog’ (all 1997) and ‘Ronin’ (1998).