Saturday, May 28, 2016

Freddie Steele, Boxer & Film Actor

1912 - 1984

Middleweight Champion 1936 - 1938, he started in motion pictures as a body double in fight films.  Some of those lower body shots supposedly of Errol Flynn actually showed Steele’s great footwork.  He had major supporting roles in films in which he virtually stole the show from the likes of Robert Mitchum.  Judging by one of her critiques, it’s safe to say that Pauline Kael had a major crush on him and I don’t blame her.

Hail the Conquering Hero, Preston Sturges 1944


The majority of Steele’s film work was in uncredited roles, either in body double work or as anonymous members of crowds, but when called upon by shrewd directors to perform individually he greatly rewarded their trust.  His character in Hail the Conquering Hero, the motherless mother lover, is the one who sets the story in motion by calling the hero’s mother to tell her he’s coming home.  When asked if he’s crazy, he calmly replies maybe.  In GI Joe he goes berserk while listening to a phonograph recorded greeting from his infant son back home and has to be subdued by his platoon.

Story of GI Joe, William Wellman 1945

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paintings, Ellis Ruley

Norwich CT, 1882 - 1959

Mr Ruley was born, lived and died near where I grew up.  The last two years of his life and the first two of mine coincide.  He and his wife were the first integrated couple in the area.  He was American of African ancestry and she was German.  His family believes he was murdered by racists (some years earlier his son in law was found dead at the bottom of a well, likely killed by a neighbor) and I believe them.  He was a construction worker who painted in his spare time; and he didn’t just start in retirement, he’d been at it for some years.  He used house paints and found supports, cardboard, masonite and such.   He had one public exhibit, in 1952, in Norwich at the Free Art Academy.  He drew inspiration from magazine photographs and his imagination.  His work reminds me of my grandfather’s paintings in the way that he painted.  Though my grandfather was a very different sort of man, they were both of the same generation and general area.  It makes sense that their ideas of how a painting should convey its information would be so similar (but the stories they told were profoundly different.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cry of the City

Robert Siodmak 
New York City & Hollywood CA 1948

Rose Given (Hope Emerson) gives Marti Rome (Richard Conte) a Massage

After being chased around by his childhood doppelganger (Victor Mature) from the old neighborhood, the injured thief, cop killer and hero does his best to clear his innocent girlfriend of a murder committed by the Masseuse pictured above and played by the inimitable Hope Emerson.  (Siodmak gives her one of the most beautifully lit and choreographed entrances ever seen on film, and so simply done.)  The Police and a crooked Lawyer were trying to pin it on him and make his Girl, Teena Riconti (Debra Paget,) the accomplice.  He’s able to die once his last deed is accomplished, shot in the street outside their Church by his similarly injured buddy, the cop, pistol vs knife.