Remembering Virginia O'Brien

Posted by Whitmore, April 19, 2009 07:40pm | Post a Comment

One of my all time favorite comedic actresses was Virginia O’Brien, and yesterday would have been her 90th birthday. She was also a popular singer in the 1940’s and often co-starred in MGM musicals with Red Skelton. O’Brien was best known for her deadpan expression as she sang, a gimmick she stumbled upon by accident at the Los Angeles Assistance League Playhouse's opening night performance of a musical comedy revue called Meet the People. The 20 year old O’Brien became literally paralyzed with stage fright as she performed her number. In her terror, standing completely still, wide eyed and expressionless, she managed to finish her song, and the audience thought she was absolutely hilarious. Two weeks later she signed a film contract and in less than a month Virginia O’Brien found herself opening on Broadway.
Some of her films include The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, Ship Ahoy (1942), Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), and Merton of the Movies (1947), all with Red Skelton. Then there are Thousands Cheer (1943), The Harvey Girls (1946) with Judy Garland, Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Francis in the Navy (1955) and Gus (1976). After a guest appearance in 1948’s short film Musical Merry-Go-Round, O'Brien was dropped from her MGM contract, a victim of the old Hollywood studio star system fading. But she found continued success on stage and with television appearances on a variety of shows such as Ed Sullivan, Jack Carter, Steve Allen and Merv Griffin. She also created a cabaret act, mostly a retrospective of her MGM career, and during the 1980’s released an album, recorded live at the legendary Masquers Club in Hollywood.
On January 16, 2001 at age 81, Virginia O’Brien died suddenly of a heart attack at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills. She’s buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

AUTHOR JG BALLARD (Crash/Empire of the Sun) DEAD AT AGE 78

Posted by Billyjam, April 19, 2009 12:51pm | Post a Comment
jg ballard
As reported by the BBC and other UK media sources, the famed British author JG Ballard, best known for his novels Crash and Empire of the Sun, died earlier today following several years of illness. He was 78. As noted on the BBC site, despite being referred to as a science fiction writer, Ballard instead insisted that his books were, "picturing the psychology of the future." 

Ballard's most acclaimed novel (one of 15 he wrote and he also penned some short stories collections), Empire of the Sun, was based on firsthand experience drawn from his crashchildhood in a Japanese prison camp in China. "I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on," Ballard was quotied as saying in reference to the three years he spent interned in a prison camp run by the Japanese from age 12 during World War II. and from which he drew much material for the fictionalized account of his childhood in his famed book.

Empire of the Sun
was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg. Meanwhile, his controversial book Crash, about sexual desires stimulated by car crashes, was made into the 1996 film Crash by director David Cronenberg and stars James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Deborah Kara Unger, and Rosanna Arquette. Ballard/Cronenberg's Crash is not to be confused with the similarly titled 2005 Paul Haggis movie set in Los Angeles and involving a collection of interrelated characters.

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Posted by Billyjam, April 19, 2009 11:00am | Post a Comment

Today is the third and final day of the talent-packed, weekend-long Coachella Festival, which has been Amoeblogged about here intensively in the hella informative Coachella 2009 30/30 Initiative (30 Coachella Bands Featured in 30 Days) blog over the last few weeks leading up the annual diverse outdoor music festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, CA.

Rightfully dubbed by the UK music magazine NME as "probably the best festival in the world," today's (Sunday, April 19th) impressive lineup includes The Cure, Public Enemy (the recently reunited), Throbbing Gristle, Lupe Fiasco, Roni Size Represent, My Bloody Valentine, Groove Armada, K'NAAN, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Antony and the Johnsons, and Themselves, who I recently caught up with. I checked out their show (amazing!) and talked with member (and former Amoeba employee) Adam "Doseone" Drucker, who shares membership in the Oakland-based Anticon duo with fellow producer/emcee Jeff "Jel" Logan.

Although Jel and Doseone are both members of the group Subtle and are constantly producing together or just hanging out in the East Bay, where they both live, as the duo Themselves they had not performed or recorded together in six years until recently. They've just recorded an album that will drop in a couple of months or so, put together a kick-ass mix-CD, and have undertaken a national tour that ends today at Coachella. Then, on Friday (24th) they begin their European tour, starting in Paris, France. I caught up with them in NYC a couple of weeks ago when they played at Webster Hall and talked with Doseone about various doseonethings, including the Anticon group's ten-year anniversary. "We made up a ton of music we always wanted to make and one was a giant collaborative effort...with everyone we ever shared air with and that was something we always wanted to do in a million ways," said Dose-One of the new mix CD that includes such killer tracks as "Know That To Know This," featuring Aesop Rock. "There's nothing like an hour-long posse cut to clean the blood," he laughed. "And we finished our full-length, which is our kind of stoic little ten song banger for the ten year anniversary and [on it] every song has its place in the history of rap recording to us and our own personal history with respect to rap and how we make music these days. So, you know, it's a blast. It was great! It was like getting our fitted suits."

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Noir Do Wells 1: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, April 18, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

The most wonderful thing about life seems to be that we hardly tap our potential for self-destruction.
-- John Cheever

Over the past few weeks, I've been attending some of the features being shown at the American Cinematheque's 11th Annual Film Noir Festival. My next few blog entries will be about what I saw. First up, two films by two of my favorite directors that center on the basic stupidity of their protagonists to get all the pieces to fit into their respective jury-rigged plots.

Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Independent journalist Tom Garrett (a well-lubricated Dana Andrews) goes along with a harebrained scheme to prove the injustice of the death penalty as devised by his future father-in-law, the liberal newspaper editor Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer). More gonzo than Hunter S. Thompson, Tom will plant enough evidence to get himself convicted for an unsolved, brutal murder. Since women are prone to hysteria, the two men decide it best not to tell Tom's fiance, Susan Spencer (Joan Fontaine, the missing link between Grace Kelly and Madame). It's not difficult to see where this one's going: on the way to the courthouse when the jury is to hand in its verdict, Austin gets into a fatal car crash, with all the exculpatory photographic evidence burning up (cars were real fire hazards in those days).

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Record Store Day 2009 LP Price Tag Gallery

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 18, 2009 06:20pm | Post a Comment

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