Sunday, March 1, 2015

Finding Plenty with Wood, Bardem and Culver…Day 60 of Bond 365

Happy Sunday evening! It has been a jammed packed weekend for me – how about you? I was attending the Long Beach Comic Expo in which I had my freelance journalist hat on for most of the day Saturday before changing up and moderating a film screening of the recently released documentary She Makes Comics. I wish that more people would have stuck around and attended the early evening panel, however the Q&A session was worthwhile with the director, producer and one of the interviewees as panel experts. 

Today, I attended one panel that discussed how pre-order work and why it is so important for the comic book industry. Then, I was back on the floor networking and getting some autographs on comics in my collection. Now, onto Day 60!

Lana Wood

Lana Wood
Born this day in 1946
Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever

She was born Svetlana Nikolaevna Gurdin but later changed her name to Lana Wood and is the younger sister of Natalie Wood. Lana would inevitably feel a draw towards acting. Her first onscreen debut was in The Searchers (1956) starring John Wayne and her sister. Lana played a younger version of Natalie in the John Ford western. 

While Natalie was a pursuing a film career, Lana forged her own career by securing several roles on the small screen. After a Playboy spread in 1971 that Albert Broccoli saw, Lana was offered the role of Plenty O’Toole opposite Sean Connery. She continued to act through the rest of the decade, but tragedy struck in 1981 when her sister drowned by mysterious circumstances, which was reopened a couple of years ago.

A couple of her scenes from Diamonds are Forever were added back into the DVD version, which provides the back story as to why she had been found drowned in the pool. Additionally, Lana is only 5’ 2” and apparently, she had to stand on a box to be tall enough when standing next to Connery, who is over a foot taller than her!

I met Lana Wood at the Hollywood Collectors Show’s last Bond reunion a couple of years ago. She was quite sweet and friendly. She signed my big book of The James Bond Archives (published by Taschen), and I did not know at the time what an animal lover she was otherwise I’m sure we would have spent several minutes talking about our respective furry “kids.”

Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem
Born this day in 1969
Silva in Skyfall

Javier Bardem has almost one hundred acting awards in a career that began in 1974 when he was 5 or 6 years only. He is a chameleon that seems to change from film to film and he does it quite well, if you remember one particular scene in Skyfall. His success should not be all that surprising because acting runs deep in his blood – his family is intimately tied to the history of Spanish cinema. He is one of two Academy Award winners to play the main Bond villain; Christopher Walken is the other (A View to a Kill). Now, I have only seen a trio of Bardem’s films – No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, The Counselor – but I would like to correct that in the coming months. 

Roland Culver
Roland Culver
Passed away this day in 1984
Foreign Secretary in Thunderball

Like many of the people I have featured in Bond 365, Roland Culver was part of the first sound films of the 1930s, however he began on stage in 1924 at the Hull Repertory Theatre in northern England where he debuted as Paul in Peter and Paul. His film and television series work spanned 50+ years in over 100 roles. Interestingly, he trained and served as a pilot while in the Royal Air Force from 1918 to 1919. And, if acting hadn’t worked out so well, Culver would have a made a go as a professional golfer.

© Copyright. Michele Brittany. 2011 - 2015. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, and photos are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without written permission.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Martin Benson’s Solo from Goldfinger Features in Day 59 of Bond 365

Martin Benson
Passed away this day in 2010
Solo in Goldfinger

Englishman Martin Benson was originally headed for a career as a pharmacist, however World War II changed his path. While serving with the Royal Artillery, he was eventually station in Cairo. While there, he started a stage company, Mercury Theatre with Arthur Lowe (he would go on to star in Dad’s Army, an English television series). According to The Telegraph obituary for Benson, “King Farouk was a keen attender of its Shakespeare productions.”

After the war, Benson had the acting bug and he got work in the movies. He was often a supporting character or cast as a villain. He made the cross over between British and Hollywood; in all, he had 111 appearances in film and television in a career that spanned over sixty years! 

In Goldfinger, Benson played gangster Mr. Solo who refuses to join Auric Goldfinger. He is shot, stuffed in a car and ultimately crushed by a car-crushing machine in a junkyard. It was a gruesome way to go and apparently, some of Benson’s characters had memorable, albeit violent exits.

Benson, like many others I’ve written about over the intervening days for Bond 365, had creative pursuits away from the camera lens. For Benson, he was a writer and director of documentaries, animated films, and commercials. He wrote an instructional book about acting. And, he was a painter. His portraits of theatrical actors – John Gielgud and Alec Guinness, amongst others – were part of a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. (I looked around for an image of one or more of his painting, but sadly, I couldn’t find any.)

© Copyright. Michele Brittany. 2011 - 2015. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, and photos are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without written permission.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stuntman Dick Crockett and Remembering Leonard Nimoy…Day 58 of Bond 365

Dick Crockett (Wikipedia)
Dick Crockett
Born this day in 1915
Crane Operator and Stunts in Diamonds Are Forever

Richard “Dick” Crockett worked for 40 years in the industry as an actor and stunt coordinator, working on several films and television series. His acting, stunt, production, and directing credits (almost 170!) reads like a history of television and film. He had a small uncredited role in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), where he also did stunts. Big budget films seemed to be his niche because he did stunts for some of the ones: Dirty Harry (1971), Earthquake (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Hindenburg (1975), and a couple of the Pink Panther films (1976 and 1978).

Interestingly, Crockett was William Shatner’s double in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1966) and he made two appearances: as the Bald Klingon Brawler in “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967) and as Andorian Thall in “The Gamesters of Triskelion” (1968).

Above is a YouTube clip showing the bar brawl from the original Star Trek series that breaks out. You'll be able to see Crockett in action - he's the bald Klingon that looks to get in a few good swings here and there. 

Leonard Nimoy, 1913 - 2015

Please indulge me as I express a heartfelt sadness at the passing of Leonard Nimoy today. 

At an early age, I remember watching Nimoy in Star Trek when it was in syndication and being broadcast each evening prior to my dinnertime. Then it was In Search of….where he hosted the show that explored unexplained phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle to eventually watching Nimoy and the entire Star Trek cast when they took to the big screen for several outings.

Although Nimoy will be long remembered as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise, he did do a little bit of spy genre work. He was in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. titled “The Project Strigas Affair” (1964) in which he played Vladeck. In fact, another Trekkie guest starred in that episode: William Shatner. It was their first time working together since that was prior to Kirk and Spock.  In the episode, Shatner is a reluctant U.N.C.L.E. recruit while Nimoy is an agent for the Iron Curtain and apparently, not particularly bright. As a side note, you might recognize His Excellency as Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) from a very popular show from the late 1960s, Hogan’s Heroes.

Nimoy was also in “The Dead Spy Scrawls” as the assassin Stryker for another spy show, Get Smart (1966). In the show, he wears large, dark sunglasses for most of the time, but you cannot miss that voice. And for two seasons, he was cast as an IMF agent, Paris, in Mission: Impossible (1969-1971).

He continued to act on the small and big screens, however he was also pursuing other interests. For instance, he went back to school and studied photography at University of California, Los Angeles. It was an interest he had since a teenager and one that he pursued until his death. He also did some directing, including Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Both did very well at the box office and with the critics. He wrote two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and twenty years later, I Am Spock. And, he released a handful of albums, but I will remember his voice being sampled for the 80s What’s On You Mind (Pure Energy) from Information Society (great song by the way!).

I do happen to have one Nimoy story. I was at the Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle) in 2010 and there was an extremely long queue waiting to meet him. I was in another line, I think for Wil Wheaton actually, and if you can imagine, the entire convention floor burst out in applause when Mr. Nimoy came out to the floor and headed to his signing table. From afar, I did peek over to his table and watch him as he was talking with fans – he was all smiles. What an enduring legacy of an amazing talented and respected person.

“A life is a like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”
Nimoy’s final tweet in which he shared some of his poetry

© Copyright. Michele Brittany. 2011 - 2015. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, and photos are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without written permission.