Aging ‘Young Turks’ tell kids to get off the lawn

Avengers: Endgame poster

I was going to take a pass on this. But it’s pretty clear that aging “Young Turks” in the movie industry are telling the kids to get off their lawn.

Over the past few years, the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, 80, Martin Scorsese, 76, and Steven Spielberg, 72, have taken shots at the super hero genre of movies, particularly those made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios.

Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg were the directors who turned Hollywood upside down in the 1970s with the likes of the first two Godfather films, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, etc.

Their legacies are set. Nobody can take that away from them.

They came to prominence when the likes of directors such as John Ford and Howard Hawks had vacated the stage. Go back a little further, and you’ll read about how cinema was more pure before the “talkies” came in circa 1929.

At the same time, one has to wonder how the former “Young Turks” would react to a job offer from Marvel Studios.

MARVEL STUDIOS BOSS KEVIN FEIGE: Francis, we’ll pay you (THIS AMOUNT) to direct MCU Daredevil.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: How much?

FEIGE: (Repeats amount).

COPPOLA: I used to be a Young Turk. I suddenly feel young again.

A friend of mine hates movies based on comic books. He is reveling in these stories and citing how they mean he is correct.

Comic book-based films, like any genre, have their highs and lows.

Chinatown, the first Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back are among the genre films that are celebrated. High Noon, Rio Bravo and Red River are among the Westerns that were celebrated in the day. Other movies in those genres weren’t as celebrated.

Engaging in broad attacks, on the other hand, isn’t a good look. The former Young Turks might want to look back to the early years of their careers and ponder. Then again, it’s easier to shout at the kids to get off your lawn.

Steven Bochco, prolific TV writer-producer dies, THR says

Steven Bochco’s title card for the Columbo episode Murder by the Book.

Steven Bochco, a prolific television writer and producer whose credits included Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, has died at 74, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Details about Bochco’s death were not immediately available, THR said. Bochco had been suffering from leukemia.

Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and LA Law featured large ensemble casts. The two police series in particular addressed adult themes and had a gritty presentation.

“Bochco time and time again refused to bend to network chiefs or standards and practices execs, thus earning rare creative control during his five decades of envelope-pushing work,” THR said in its obituary. Bochco won 10 Emmy awards.

Bochco began his career at Universal’s television operation. He was the story editor for the Robert Stack episodes of The Name of the Game, a series about a publishing empire. The series rotated Stack, Tony Franciosa and Gene Barry as lead actors.

When that series wrapped in 1971, Bochco moved over to Columbo, part of the NBC Mystery Movie. Bochco wrote the first regular Columbo episode broadcast, Murder by the Book.

The story concerned half of a mystery writer team who kills his partner. The episode was directed by another up and comer, Steven Spielberg. Bochco was nominated for an Emmy for his script. But he lost out to Richard Levinson and William Link, Columbo’s creators, for an episode they wrote that season.

What follows are some excerpts from an interview Bochco did for the Archive of American Television about his career. The first concerns how he came to work on Columbo. The others concern Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

Universal in the ’60s & ’70s: The Television Factory

 

Universal logo, circa 1960s

In the 1960s and ’70s, Universal’s television division was like a TV factory.

Its shows had a certain look, a certain sheen. Universal’s TV operation would help launch the careers of people such as director Steven Spielberg and writer-director Steven Bochco (who both worked on the same episode of Columbo).

Universal developed the concept of “the wheel,” where different shows rotated in the same time slow, or a series that had rotating leads. Examples: The NBC Mystery Movie (different rotating shows) and The Name of the Game (rotating leads).

Universal, of course, still produces television shows. It’s now part of Comcast as is NBC, where many Universal shows were telecast. But it’s not the same because, naturally, television has evolved. Still, it’s a worth a look back.

Origins: Music Corp. of America, or MCA, was a talent agency. But MCA saw the potential of television. It formed Revue in 1950 as a television production arm. It acquired the studio lot of Universal (then known as Universal-International) in 1958 and eventually acquired Universal itself.

Revue produced all sorts of shows: Westerns (Wagon Train and The Virginian), comedies (The Jack Benny Program, Leave It to Beaver, The Munsters), crime dramas (M Squad), and anthology shows such as Alfred Hitchock Presents (hosted by Hitch), Thriller (hosted by Boris Karloff) and The General Electric Theater (hosted by Ronald Reagan).

Eventually, all of its TV series were under the better-known Universal brand. The boss of MCA-Universal was Lew Wasserman, who became a major figure in Hollywood. Writers Richard Levinson and William Link, when devising the Mannix television series, came up with a character named Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) who was modeled on Wasserman.

The Universal mogul apparently didn’t mind. After Campanella’s Wickersham character was written out after the first season of Mannix, the actor ended up as one of the leads on “The Lawyers” part of The Bold Ones, another Universal “wheel.”

Glory Days: Universal was a major supplier of shows for U.S. television. As early as 1964, it embraced the idea of made-for-television movies. Its first effort, The Killers, directed by Don Siegel, was deemed too violent and got a theatrical release.

One of the early TV movies was 1966’s Fame is the Name of the Game, starring Tony Franciosa as an investigative reporter for a magazine.

This would be the basis for The Name of the Game (1968-71), an early example of “the wheel.” Franciosa, Robert Stack and Gene Barry rotated as the leads of the series, which concerned the magazine empire headed by Glenn Howard (Barry).

A key figure at Universal television, who is not remembered much today, was Richard Irving (1917-1990), a producer-director. He oversaw a Universal Western series (Laredo), which aired on NBC from 1967 to 1967.

Irving also produced and directed the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder, where TV audiences were first introduced to Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk). The same year, he produced and directed a TV movie with international intrigue titled Istanbul Express, starring Barry, Senta Berger and John Saxon.

Irving remained a booster of Columbo. He directed another TV movie with the detective, 1971’s Ransom for a Dead Man, which finally sold Columbo as a series.

The Universal TV operation cruised throughout the ’70s. In the early 1980s, it had another hit with Magnum: P.I. But things got tougher that decade. Universal excelled at one-hour dramas and TV movies at a time things were changing.

In 1990, MCA sold itself to Japan’s  Matsushita Electric. It would be bought and sold over the years before being acquired by Comcast.

UK film industry not diverse, says report backed by 007 boss

Barbara Broccoli

The British film industry faces a “pandemic lack of inclusion,” says a report backed by the bosses of the James Bond and Star Wars film franchises, according to The Guardian.

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions, and Kathleen Kennedy, head of Star Wars maker Lucasfilm Ltd., “are throwing their weight behind a plan, backed by £20m of national lottery money, to improve diversity in the sector,” wrote Mark Brown of The Guardian.

Both film franchises have their home bases in the United Kingdom. Lucasfilm is owned by Walt Disney Co.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian’s story:

The report on film employment, whether of camera operators, riggers, props or hairdressers, shows a striking lack of diversity and “significant obstacles” to people getting jobs in the first place.

Heather Carey, an associate consultant at the Work Foundation thinktank, led the data research for the report and found major barriers. “There is a culture of nepotism and a lot of the employers we spoke to just recruit via word of mouth,” she said.

“You tend to get that a bit in certain industries but in this industry it is kind of … that’s how it’s done. If you don’t have the network it is incredibly difficult to get in and progress.”

Kennedy, 64, became president of Lucasfilm when it was acquired by Disney in 2012. Previously, she was a co-founder, with Steven Spielberg, of Amblin Entertainment. Her IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 92 producer credits.

Broccoli, 57, has been producer of the last eight Bond movies, sharing the producer’s credit with her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, 75. She held other posts at Eon before that and has produced non-Bond films and plays. She is the daughter of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

Jonathan Demme’s Columbo episode

Louis Jourdan and Peter Falk in Murder Under Glass, directed by Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme, a well-regarded director, has died at 73. He’s understandably remembered for Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and other films.

Demme, though, shares something in common with another major director, Steven Spielberg. Both had early credits directing an episode of Columbo.

Spielberg directed a first-season episode, Murder by the Book. (It was the first series episode telecast after two pilot TV movies.) Demme’s turn came toward the end of the detective’s 1971-78 run on NBC (the show was revived later on ABC).

Murder Under Glass, featured Louis Jourdan as an influential food critic (who has his own television show) who has extorted owners of restaurants for favorable reviews that has made their businesses successful.

When one of them (Michael V. Gazzo) balks, the food critic poisons him through an ingenious method, thanks to the critic’s own formidable culinary skills and knowledge.

Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) plays his normal game of cat and mouse before bringing in his man. The good detective (a good cook in his own right) also manages to eat quite well along the way.

As often was the case with Columbo, it wasn’t the outcome as it was the journey.

Jourdan’s Paul Gerard was a worthy adversary for the detective. Gerard even tries to do in Columbo while the two are having a meal. The attempted murder is the last thing Columbo needs to make his case.

The episode was a highlight for Columbo’s final NBC season. For Jonathan Demme, bigger things lay ahead.

2017: Spielberg’s future arrives

Title card for The Name of the Game episode LA 2017

Title card for The Name of the Game episode LA 2017

Some time back, the blog examined the television series The Name of the Game, about a publishing empire.

It’s now appropriate to take a look at the show’s most unusual episode:  LA 2017, a dystopian tale about, what seemed in 1971, a far-off year in the future.

It was also one of the early directing credits for Steven Spielberg. LA 2017 originally aired Jan. 15, 1971, less than a month after the director’s 24th birthday.

The Name of the Game tackled current events as experienced by key personnel at Howard Publications, headed by Glenn Howard (Gene Barry).

For LA 2017, the production team decided to address the environment — but in a way the series hadn’t previously attempted.

Producer Dean Hargrove commissioned a script by science fiction writer Philip Wylie. As the episode begins, Glenn Howard is driving in Southern California. The publisher is planning a campaign across his magazines to highlight environmental issues.

As Howard drives, he uses a tape recorder to dictate a letter to the president. “Priorities have to be established or this may very well be the beginning of the end for Earth as we know it,” he says.

Howard has an accident, and ends up in a ditch. He also, seemingly, is now in 2017. An ecological disaster has forced people to live underground. National governments have been replaced by corporate ones.

Despite being a CEO, Glenn Howard doesn’t like what he sees and sides with those resisting the corporate order. The episode eventually ends with it being revealed that it (probably) was a dream. Spielberg’s last shot is of a dead bird. presumably not to let the audience off too easily.

The episode’s title card, primary actors and the writer, producer and director credits are in a font used a lot at that time because it seemed futuristic.

Wylie turned the story into a novel, Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. He died late in 1971 at the age of 69. Spielberg’s career, meanwhile, was still gearing up.

Douglas Slocombe, renown cinematographer, dies at 103

Never Say Never Again's poster

Poster for Never Say Never Again, photographed by Douglas Slocombe

Douglas Slocombe, who photographed more than 80 films in a long career, has died at 103, according to AN OBITUARY BY AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE.

Slocombe’s many credits included the first three Indiana Jones films from 1981 to 1989 as well as the 1983 007 film Never Say Never Again, not part of the 24-film series produced by Eon Productions.

The cinematographer also had his own real life adventure. He was in Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, working on filming for a documentary when Germany invaded the country, starting World War II. Here’s an excerpt FROM A 2014 BBC STORY:

“But I still remember the shock when at about 05:00 on 1 September we awoke to find the attack had begun,” says Slocombe. “There were bombers overhead and the whistle of falling bombs.

“I had no understanding of the concept of blitzkrieg. I had been expecting trouble but I thought it would be in trenches, like WW1. The Germans were coming over the border at a great pace.”

Slocombe and American filmmaker Herbert Klein, who was making the documentary, took a long, arduous trek. At one point, “A young girl died in front of us. We were shaken by that,” Slocombe told the BBC.

For part of the journey, “(W)e walked and walked north with the cart — me, Herbert Kline, the horse and the foal. By now I was an enemy alien so if we’d encountered any Germans that would have been it,” Slocombe told the BBC. They eventually got to Stockholm. The documentary, Lights Out in Europe, came out in 1940.

After something like that, photographing the make-believe Nazis of the Indiana Jones movies must have been child’s play.

Besides Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones films and Irvin Kershner on Never Say Never Again, Slocombe worked with a number of famed directors, including John Huston, as noted in this tweet: