Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Shirley Douglas here remembered for doing the female voice on a Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti western which she later wrote about.

By Mike Ferguson

Ms. Douglas, who is best known for her work as an actress as much as she is known for her activism and advocacy, died on Sunday after complications with pneumonia. She was 86.

Shirley Douglas was born on April 2, 1934 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada as Shirley Jean Douglas. Died April 5, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Married to actor Donald Sutherland from 1966 to 1971, her son Kiefer Sutherland was born on December 21, 1966, in London, England.

Douglas’s son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, took to Twitter to announce the unfortunate news. “Early this morning my mother, Shirley Douglas, passed away due to complications surrounding pneumonia (not related to Covid-19),” Sutherland wrote. “My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life. Sadly she had been battling for her health for quite some time and we, as a family, knew this day was coming. To any families who have lost loved ones unexpectedly to the coronavirus, my heart breaks for you. Please stay safe.” ...

Daughter of Irma May (Dempsey) and Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan Premier from 1944 to 1961, the first Leader of the NDP, from 1961 to 1971, and the founder of Canada's Medicare.

Her father was born in Camelon, Falkirk, Scotland, and moved with his family to Canada in 1910, settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her mother was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and had English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry.

Douglas's acting career began in 1950 with a role in the Regina Little Theatre entry at the Dominion Drama Festival, where she won the best actress award. In 1952 Shirley graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and stayed in England for several years, performing for theatre and television, before returning to Canada in 1957.

Douglas moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967 after marrying actor Donald Sutherland. She became involved in the American Civil Rights Movement, the campaign against the Vietnam War, and later on behalf of immigrants and women. She helped establish the fundraising group "Friends of the Black Panthers". 

Mr. Gary Williams brought to my attention that in her biography of her famed father Ms. Douglas talks about her time as a student in Italy. She happens to mention there that while Donald was shooting a film (1965-67?) she did the female voice for an actress on a Lee Van Cleef spaghetti western, that she doesn't identify the title or time frame of. At that time Donald was acting in "The Castle of the Living Dead" aka 'Il castello dei morti vivi' (released 08/64) directed and written by Warren Kiefer which would place the couple in Italy in the spring of 1964. At that time the term Euro Western was used to identify a spaghetti western (a later term used after 1968).

Did the future couple first met in Italy?

Considering her then future husband/husband struck up a friendship during "Castle" with American writer Warren Kiefer, that the happy couple named their son Kiefer (December, 1966) after him, one might assume that the western would be "Beyond the Law", that Warren wrote and produced. "Beyond the Law" was shot in November, 1967, and released in Italy on April 10, 1968. Going through the list of films Donald Sutherland acted in those years none of them appear to have lensed in Italy, unless Ms. Douglas meant he was in England, and she was still in Italy studying. Most likely the film was "Beyond the Law" due to Waren Kiefer. Ms. Douglas, a trained stage actress, would have had an open invitation to work on the film as a thank you. Warren as producer had the clout and would have still been excited to have a godson named after him. In an interview Mr. Kiefer claimed to have written (English dialogue?) for four Lee Van Cleef westerns. This might be true. Lots of foreign script writers went paid, but not credited due to union and government rules. As "Beyond the Law was be prepared Warren would have been in and out of Sancro Film's offices as their two previous westerns "Death Rides a Horse" (lensed January, 1967) & "Day of Anger" (May, 1967) were being readied for English dubbing. He may have done uncredited work on both the earlier Sancro films as a trial run to "Beyond". This would account for three of his claimed Van Cleef westerns credits.

Perhaps we'll never know which western Ms. Douglas worked on, but we know she did at least one.

Karl May- Brief life of a myth-making writer: 1842-1912

Harvard Magazine
By Eugene Stelzig
March-April 2020

The most popular German author most Americans have never heard of is Karl May, whose adventure novels have sold more than 100 million copies in the German-speaking world. Though the son of poor weavers in Saxony, May (pronounced “my”) nevertheless received supplementary training in music, English, and French in school; meanwhile, his avid reading of popular robber tales, and a visit to a puppet theater at the age of nine, no doubt stimulated his childhood imagination. He trained as a teacher, but lost his license after being charged with stealing a roommate’s watch. Banned from his profession, he became a con man, impersonating among others a doctor and police detective, and spent several years in jail in his twenties. Perhaps these fictional self-projections were the embryonic beginnings of his becoming a best-selling novelist.

The books May wrote in his prime that made him a publishing phenomenon are riveting travel narratives set around the world, but mostly in the Middle East and the Wild West, where his fictional alter ego performs daring actions almost nonstop—a type of mid-nineteenth-century German Indiana Jones. These tall tales playing out in a picaresque fashion in landscapes vividly imagined in great detail, from the Rocky Mountains and American prairies to the sands of the Sahara, have been a perennial favorite of young readers in Germany and beyond. Albert Einstein acknowledged that “my whole adolescence stood under his sign. Indeed, even today, he has been dear to me in many a desperate hour.” Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that May’s books “opened up my world and gave me a window to see America.” But another young Austrian was also a fan: Adolf Hitler.

May spent his years behind bars as a voracious reader, using the prison library to prepare himself for a literary career. After his release, he emerged in his thirties as the editor of several journals as well as the pseudonymous author of stories in magazines and of pulp fiction novels. He began writing full-time in 1875, and hit his stride as a hugely popular author in mid-career. The first of his famous three novels about Winnetou, the Mescalero Apache chief, and his German friend and sometime sidekick, Old Shatterhand—May’s most heroic alter ego—appeared in 1893, when he was 51. His novels have been translated into many languages, and a number of films are based on them. A Karl May Museum opened in Germany in 1928, there are annual Karl May festivals, and a publishing house, Karl May Verlag, keeps his works in print. (None of this German May fervor, though, has had any notable impact on the anglophone world, which has its own repository of Wild West fictions, from James Fenimore Cooper—a major influence on May—to Zane Grey and classic films and television shows. What’s more, some of May’s legendary “Westmen,” like Old Shatterhand and Sam Hawkens, were actually Germans.)

Though May’s tall tales are full of gore and gun smoke, they are also consistently informed by a Christian message: Old Shatterhand will kill only as a last resort. He prefers to shoot those trying to kill him in the hands or knees. May’s most idealized Indian character, Winnetou, dies as a Christian after a moving conversion experience: “I believe in the Savior. Winnetou is a Christian. Farewell” are his final words.

From a contemporary perspective, this conversion seems an uncalled-for abdication of his Native American identity, but part of May’s idealization of Winnetou is the intense homosocial bond between him and Old Shatterhand as they become devoted and loving “blood brothers.” This happens after the “greenhorn” Shatterhand is captured by the Apaches on his first venture into the Wild West, as a surveyor for a railroad company planning to lay tracks across tribal territory without permission. Nearly killed by Winnetou, Shatterhand gains his freedom and the trust of the Apache chief and his tribe through his heroic deeds and devotion to them. The story of their friendship up to Winnetou’s untimely death is both highly sentimental and moving. In May’s overarching Christian and Eurocentric vision, his sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans in their inevitable decline as they war among themselves, only to be marginalized and destroyed by the inevitable advance of the whites into their shrinking territories, is a tragic one.

May’s colorful and dramatic presentation in the Winnetou saga of “the Wild West around the year 1868,” a landscape imagined only from his wide reading, is thoroughly inflected, not surprisingly, by the colonial and racial assumptions of the nineteenth-century imperialist European culture that shaped his vision of a place he never visited. But despite these Victorian-era stereotypes haunting his novels, his fictional paean to his “dear, dear Winnetou” was a powerful protest against what he saw as the genocidal treatment of Native Americans. Their demise is symbolized by the tragic fate of Winnetou, that “splendid human being,” who was “eliminated…just as in short order the entire race will be eliminated, whose noblest son he was.”

In his later years, having achieved wealth and fame with his riveting adventure stories, May turned to writing tendentious philosophical novels with allegorical speculations about humanity’s rise from evil to good. In the spring of 1912, shortly before his death, he delivered a public lecture in Vienna, “Up into the Realm [Reich] of the Noble Humans,” in which he paid tribute to the peace movement and the pacifist ideal of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bertha von Suttner, who was a guest of honor. In this lecture, May declared that human worth was not defined by skin color and championed an evolutionary ideal of a noble humanity. The young, impoverished Hitler attended the lecture, but seems to have appropriated May’s pacifist “Reich” ideal for his own infernal ideological purposes, failing to process May’s powerful Christian and pacifist message against genocide.  

Special Birthdays

Fardin (actor) would have been 90 today, he died 4/6/2000.

Monday, April 6, 2020

RIP Honor Blackman

Honor Blackman, the actress best-known for playing Bond girl Pussy Galore, has died aged 94. She became a household name in the 1960s as Cathy Gale in The Avengers and enjoyed a career spanning eight decades, died of natural causes at her home in Lewes, Sussex, England on April 6, 2020. Among Blackman’s better known roles were the vengeful goddess Hera in “Jason and the Argonauts” and as Laura West in the 1990s sitcom “The Upper Hand”. She appeared in theatrical productions including “The Sound of Music”, “My Fair Lady” and “Cabaret”. Blackman was married and divorced twice, to Bill Sankey and Maurice Kaufmann. She adopted two children with Kaufmann, Lottie and Barnaby. She turned down a CBE in 2002 while ,ore recently, she joined a campaign to demand compensation payments for pensioners who lost savings in the Equitable Life scandal.

European Western Comic Books ~ Albo Furore (The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger)

As the cover states, the comic book header presents in the same issue, "The Adventures 4 of the most famous American characters": THE MASKED MAN (The Phantom) by Lee Falk and Wilson McCoy, MANDRAKE by Lee Falk and Phil Davis, José CISCO KID Luis Salinas and JIM DELLA JUNGLA (Jungle Jim) by Paul Norris. These are joined by JOHNNY HAZARD by Frank Robbins (from #8) and the LONE RANGER by Charles Flanders (#20). Between one episode and another, the self-contained Sunday issues by MICHELACCIO (Pete the Tramp) by C. D. Russell and HUBERT by Wingert. Characteristic of the covers (up to #16), were illustrated by Antonio Sciotti, is the group representation of the four main characters on a yellow background, the last 4 numbers each show the indication and image of only one of the 4 characters and precisely: #17 THE MASKED MAN, #18 MANDRAKE, #19 CISCO KID, # JIM OF THE JUNGLE.

For the first numbered 9 books the pages are 32 and the comic book stories begin in the cover II and end in IV, for the books 10-11, the pages are 36 and the comic book stories begin on the cover II and end in IV, for the books from 12 to 20, pages. are 32+ covers.
Images are by Antonio Farina, Editor.

The series was first published on January 18, 1953 and ended with #20 on February 28, 1954.The comic was published by Messaggerie Italiane in Milan, Italy and directed by Sergio Roscani.

01 (18.10.53) - senza titolo (no title)
02 (25.10.53) - senza titolo (no title)
03 (01.11.53) - senza titolo (no title)
04 (08.11.53) - senza titolo (no title)
05 (15.11.53) - senza titolo (no title)
06 (22.11.53) - senza titolo (no title)
07 (29.11.53) - senza titolo (no title)
08 (06.12.53) - senza titolo (no title)
09 (13.12.53) - senza titolo (no title)
10 (20.12.53) - senza titolo (no title)
11 (27.12.53) - senza titolo (no title)
12 (03.01.54) - senza titolo (no title)
13 (10.01.54) - senza titolo (no title)
14 (17.01.54) - senza titolo (no title)
15 (24.01.54) - senza titolo (no title)
16 (31.01.54) – senza titolo (no title)
17 (07.02.54) - L'uomo mascherato (The Masked Man)
18 (14.02.54) - Mandrake il mago (Mandrake the Magician)
19 (21.02.54) - Cisco kid (Cisco Kid)
20 (28.02.54) - Jim della Jungla (Jungle Jim)

Special Birthdays

Fred Bongusto (singer) would have been 85 today, he died 11/8/2019

Pedro Armendariz, Jr. (actor) would have been 80 today, he died 12/26/2011

Andrés Pajares (actor) is 80 today.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

RIP Silvano Carroli

Italian baritone Silvano Carroli died on April 4, 2020 in Lucca at the age of 81. The baritone, who was born on Feb. 22, 1939, went on to study with Marcello Del Monaco before perfecting his technique with legendary tenor Mario Del Monaco. He also studied at the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia under the guidance of Mario Labroca, Francesco Siciliani, and Floris Ammannati. Carroli performed at the some of the greatest theaters including the Royal Opera House, the Teatro alla Scala, Teatro la Fenice, Arena di Verona, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, where he had one of his most successful triumphs in the role of Scarpia in “Tosca”. Carroli played Jack Eance in the Italian RAI TV presentation of “La fanciulla del West” in 1982.