WEIRDLAND: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Carole Lombard's Fireball, The Greatest Generation, Homefront

If you are interested in the Golden Age of Hollywood and an in depth look inside the life and death of Carole Lombard, then Fireball: "Carole Lombard & the Mystery of Flight 3" by Robert Matzen is a must read. It was released on January 16, 2014 on the 72nd Anniversary of the mysterious plane crash that killed Carole and 21 others. As you turn each page, Matzen takes you on an intriguing journey of discovery.

I didn’t really know that much about Carole Lombard other than she was a famous movie actress from the 20’s and 30’s, and married to the famous Clark Gable. As you turn the pages, the photographs in the book and the historical background into the Hollywood Era bring Lombard and Gable to life. Matzen’s research details just how “highly influential” Lombard was.

He describes the love story between Lombard and Gable as well as the people they surrounded themselves with. Moreover, the reader experiences all the emotions of that terrible night on January 16, 1942 when the DC-3 crashed into Mt. Potosi at an elevation of 8,200 feet, with Lombard and 21 others on board. Robert Matzen says, “The wreckage of the plane had been beckoning me up that mountain for years, and finally I went. That adventure was all the inspiration I needed, and I am dumbfounded that no one has told this story before me. The plane crash is always looked upon as a throwaway item, as the end of Lombard’s story, rather than as a story itself. But it has everything: love, bravery, courage, foolhardiness, sadness, and death.”

When asked about doing his research, Matzen said, “To get a fresh perspective on Carole Lombard, I located unpublished manuscripts as well as interviews with principals that had been kept in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for almost 40 years.” Source:

Tom Brokaw defines "the greatest generation" as American citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. The vehicle used to define the generation further is the stories told by a cross section of men and women throughout the country under eight topics: Ordinary People; Homefront; Heroes; Women in Uniform and Out; Shame; Love, Marriage and Commitment; Famous People; and the Arena. Unlike any era YAs have known, the 1940s are characterized by a people united by a common cause and values. -Carol Clark (Fairfax County Public Schools, VA)

"Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney were raising the spectacle of heavyweight boxing matches to new heights of frenzy. Baseball was a daytime game and a true national pastime, from the fabled Yankee Stadium to the sandlots in rural America. The New Yorker was launched, and the place of magazines occupied a higher order.

Flappers were dancing the Charleston [According to Robert Matzen, Carole Lombard embraced the flapper lifestyle and won several Charleston competitions at the Coconut Grove]; Fitzgerald was publishing The Great Gatsby; The idea of personal responsibility is such a defining characteristic of the World War II generation that when the rules changed later, these men and women were appalled." -"The Greatest Generation" (2010) by Tom Brokaw

Jeff (Kyle Chandler) and Ginger (Tammy Lauren) were my favorite characters on the series. I loved watching them bicker. They got together out of loneliness at Jeff’s brother’s wedding, both having to see the people they loved with someone else. They dated, became engaged, broke up, and got back together during the two seasons of the series. The series finale featured their wedding.

"Homefront" was well done and authentic, with astonishing attention to detail and a fantastic cast as its best features. The story started at the end of WW2 and told of the seismic shifts that were underway as those who served came back home and, along with those who stayed behind, had either difficulties or adventures adjusting.

“The world would never be so simple again,” said the ad tagline, which gives you the premise in a nutshell. There’s the spunky screwball girl and wannabe actress (Tammy Lauren) who’s waiting for her sweetheart to return but meets his wife instead and has to plan for a different future.

And every small town has to have the sultry siren, the war widow dame (Kelly Rutherford) who looks like she walked straight out of a noir (producers did cast for her Gloria Grahame attitude). Those roles, filled by extremely talented actors (especially the women), were set up as a microcosm of society, every class and type with whom we’d watch the postwar age unfold.

One thing I vividly remember is that the lifestyles and styling seem just the way you’d expect in reality, meaning it looks like the character came home after seeing the latest Betty Grable or Veronica Lake movie, ran to the mirror and mimicked her look, as opposed to you being painfully aware you’re looking at a 90s actress playing dress-up.

They act as believable people, not as reasonable facsimiles; some trendy, some traditional, each looking as they should. It’s no wonder the show was nominated for over a dozen Emmys, and won four for art direction, hair and costuming. Wherever you lay your eyes there’s a detail and a touch of realism someone thought to include: furniture, cars, slang, gossip, products, sponsors, newsreels, all were woven in where appropriate. The brides from Europe are wearing dresses authentic to their regions, and according to the complaints of some of the actresses, even the underwear was uncomfortably vintage. The show was even shot in the style that would have been in use in the 40s, so for example they used no zoom lenses.

Music was a huge part of the series and it was picked carefully, featuring deeper, more meaningful tracks than just the basic Swing’s Greatest Hits compilation. Good old fashioned traditional values like courtship were in there, and mostly without cynicism, as one reviewer wrote, it was like a wholesome Norman Rockwell painting come to life, but you also got the necessary portion of social realism beneath that pretty painting, of unmarried girls facing pregnancy scares, the struggle of trying to walk after polio, dealing with racism, civil rights struggles, PTSD and divorce.

Homefront was one of the best examples of comfort television I’ve ever seen, and with the critical acclaim and the awards it got, it deserves a better place in TV history than just being a cute soap. It was a bigger step than people realize, toward the high production-value throwback series we enjoy now like Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire. But because of poor network promo, six time slot moves by ABC, an expensive production budget, and chronically low ratings, it barely squeaked out two full seasons and is pretty much forgotten now. Source:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde, Heartbreak and Vine, Broken City, True Detective

“It was one of those summer Tuesday afternoons when you begin to wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the look of something that knows it’s being watched. Traffic trickled by in the street below, and there were a few pedestrians, too, men in hats going nowhere.” So begins The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune.

"Despite Robert B. Parker’s lengthy experience in the PI genre, his sequel to The Big Sleep, Perchance to Dream, pales in comparison with Black’s pitch-perfect recreation of the character and his time and place. As for the language, Black nails Chandler’s creative and memorable similes and metaphors... While the mystery is well-plotted, Black elevates it beyond mere thoughtful homage with a plausible injection of emotion in his wounded lead." —Publishers Weekly

"Somewhere Raymond Chandler is smiling, because this is a beautifully rendered hardboiled novel that echoes Chandler's melancholy at perfect pitch. The story is great, but what amazed me is how John Banville caught the cumulative effect Chandler's prose had on readers. It's hard to quantify, but it's also what separated the Marlowe novels from the general run of noir. The sadness runs deep. I loved this book. It was like having an old friend, one you assumed was dead, walk into the room. Kind of like Terry Lennox, hiding behind those drapes." —Stephen King

"Hollywood has always been willing to invite noirists - Raymond Chandler, Horace McCoy, James M. Cain, Elmore Leonard or Donald Westlake - into their midst, co-opting their talent in the hope of enhancing studio profits. Some hardboilers have been able to adapt to the strictures of scriptwriting and the Hollywood lifestyle, while others have been destroyed by it. In earlier days those best able to adapt to the industry’s demands often came from the deadline-oriented world of journalism (Ben Hecht, John Bright, James M. Cain, Niven Busch). Significantly, the original film script-story, which has since become a Hollywood staple, was only to become a full-fledged commodity after World War II. Hollywood’s hostile treatment of screenwriters is legendary. Because they were in a position to disseminate ideas, screenwriters were distrusted, not allowed to control their product, and constantly fired by studios. Nevertheless, noir screenwriters have recently gained a more respectable position, some becoming, at least in the imagination of film aficionados, figures of romance. Yet however one regards the process, screenwriting remains an art that many novelists are unable to execute, and that many producers and directors are unable to appreciate.

Robert Towne may be a formidable screenwriter, but he is not a formidable novelist. In fact, he is not a novelist at all. Likewise, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were not great screenwriters. No wonder Ernest Hemingway and, for many years, James Ellroy, would have nothing to do with Hollywood. In the hierarchy of writers, the novelist is considered the superior creature, but that quickly changes when he or she begins to work in an industry that caters to the lowest common denominator.

The image of screenwriters as grovelling hacks willing to sell themselves at any price was always a convenient one for Hollywood to perpetuate. But in 1939, prior to the formation of the Writers Guild, studios were hiring junior writers for $85 a week or less and also had them write scripts on speculation. These days, when much of Tinseltown proper is a semi-slum, writers are likely to be freelancers who, as in Bruce Wagner’s novel Force Majeure, spend their time hustling to get someone even to read their scripts. Likewise, few writers are tied to studio payrolls. This is partly to keep writers on a short leash, and partly because, compared to earlier eras, fewer Hollywood films are being made — 477 films were made in 1940, but, with the growing popularity of TV, the number dropped to 154 in 1960, rising again with the advent of the video age in the early 1990s. With Hollywood not quite so desperate for stories and original material, Tinseltown remains a fool’s paradise, in which the market dictates taste, and monetary reward has become greater than ever... a specific aspect of transnational corporate power, part American Dream and part American Nightmare. As A.P. Giannini of the Bank of America, one of the industry’s prime founders, prophetically observed during the early days of Hollywood, ‘Those who control the cinema can control the thought of the world.’ Writers should be forewarned; engage with Hollywood at your peril. -"Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood" (2014) by Woody Haut

“The only thing better than getting out of the damn city is going back to it.” —Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler) in "Broken City" (2013)

The detective begins to wise up after something bad happens to Valliant's campaign manager (Kyle Chandler), and like all the best noir protagonists, he doesn't like being played for a fool. Billy would rather blow up his own life than let the mayor's apparently corrupt secret deal succeed.

If Broken City is more notable for attitude and ambiance than plotting, it does pose some lingering mysteries. But these may have less to do with Brian Tucker's script than with last-minute edits: While the conflict between Billy and the mayor resolves neatly — too neatly, in fact — other characters and storylines just evaporate. It might take a smarter gumshoe than Billy Taggart to uncover everything that was originally supposed to happen in Broken City. Source:

To state the obvious: while the male detectives of “True Detective” are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,” every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters —none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, “True Detective” has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty (a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson’s strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (“a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides. Source:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shirley Temple, Kyle Chandler: "Homefront", FNL (Connie Britton) & "Wolf of Wall Street"

Shirley Temple died recently at the age of 85. Her film career began when she was about 4 years of age, and she starred in motion pictures with phenomenal success through the age of 21. During the mid-late 1930s, her box office power outdid the power of such stars as Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. At that time, when much of the population of the United States was struggling through the Great Depression, little Shirley Temple was dancing, singing, and genuinely charming her way into the hearts of a nation.

There never has been another child star like her. Here golden curls were bouncy and cute, her smile was heartwarming, and her little girl body was cherubic. She was an on-screen symbol of confidence in the future, all that is wholesome and beautiful. In one of her many films, STAND UP AND CHEER!, from 1934, the character she plays actually contributes to ending the Great Depression! Source:

Connie Britton as Gertrude Temple and Ashley Rose as Shirley Temple in "Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story" (2001) TV show

The promarriage ethic so prominent among the Depression-bruised youth who went to war cast a long shadow into the next decade. William Levitt had learned large-scale construction methods building airfields for the Navy during the war and was able to profitably adapt these techniques to large-scale homebuilding. In 1946 he started buying up Long Island potato fields and laying out suburban developments. There were other amenities, including plantings of apple and cherry trees, curved roads, swimming pools, playgrounds, and baseball fields: the Great American Suburban Dream, subsidized by federally guaranteed mortgages and accessible by federally financed highways. The basic model sold for $7,990 (about $90,000 in 2010), nearly $3,000 more than the $5,000 at which Americans ideally priced their dream houses in a 1945 poll, showing how inflation was already outstripping victory dreams. -"The Noir Forties: The American People From Victory to Cold War" (2012) by Richard Lingeman

Kyle Chandler as Coach Taylor and Connie Britton as Tammy Taylor in "Friday Night Lights" (2006-2011) TV show

Big Break - Kyle Chandler's first major television role was as baseball player, Jeff Metcalf, on the widely acclaimed ABC drama "Homefront" (1991-1993). It was on this quality television program that the world was first introduced to the vast talent and charm of Kyle Chandler.

Kyle Chandler turned out such consistently good work on "Homefront," it is unbelievable that this actor's star did not immediately rise to the stratosphere. Source:

Kyle Chandler & Tammy Lauren - "Homefront"´s Postwar Sweethearts: Ginger (Tammy Lauren), an aspiring actress, was all set to marry her G.I. boyfriend. But when she met his train at the station (in her wedding dress), she ran into his Italian war bride first. Jeff (Kyle Chandler), an aspiring baseball player, had just wrenched his way out of the arms of the woman he loved (who, unfortunately, was engaged to his brother, another returning G.I.). Shellshocked, Jeff and Ginger spent an evening together, recoiled, then acknowledged their mutual attraction and regrouped to sort out their differences. Catholics both, they've vowed to abstain from sex before marriage. Amid mounting waves of temptation, they've endured Ginger's failed screen test, Jeff's agonizing slump during spring training, gossip about the fact that she is two years older than he is, and heated arguments over such subjects as sports superstitions, rumba lessons and china patterns. Jeff is coping with the difficulties of small-town stardom. As for Ginger, she has gotten a job singing a tomato-juice jingle on radio.

The dark-haired and baby-faced Mr. Chandler, a bit shy around interviewers, began studying acting ("I'd exhausted all my other options") at the University of Georgia. He was signed to a nine-month development deal with ABC, but the time ran out without any job offer having materialized. After 18 months of auditioning, he won a recurring role as a Vietnam-era soldier on the CBS series "Tour of Duty." Source:

Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie resembles the real-life character he played in “Catch Me If You Can,” another con artist living a lavish lifestyle. Both men were trying to stay one step ahead of the law while being pursued by FBI agents. In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the FBI agent is played by Kyle Chandler, who is one of the few voices of reason in the film and also one of the few actors to play his role completely serious.

He gives a good, realistic performance and as Belfort’s behavior gets more and more outrageous and dishonest, we hope that the FBI agent can take him down. Along with the FBI agent, Belfort’s dad played by director Rob Reiner, are probably the only characters we can sympathize with. Source:

There is simply no denying that Kyle Chandler is a DILF. When the term was created, surely Chandler’s brooding eyes, tousled coif and rugged voice came to mind. When he opens his mouth to speak, you hope it’s for a lecture about something you need to be punished for — or at least a motivational pick-me-up. “I think out of all the awards and accolades that I have received out of my 22 to 24 years of work on screen and stage, that no greater thing has touched the cockles of my heart than to be called one of the biggest DILFs in America,” he tells The Post, grinning. “Thank you.”

For his latest role, as an FBI agent in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, Chandler attempts to nail down crooked stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). To play the part, Chandler worked with Greg Coleman, the real-life 20-year FBI veteran who spent six years chasing Belfort. “The biggest key for me into this role was [when Coleman] said to me, ‘Listen, I’ve got no animosity, no ill will toward any of these people that I arrest,’ ” says Chandler. That nuance shows in Chandler’s performance, but it’s nothing new for him. He’s been covertly stealing the spotlight with rounded characters for more than two decades.

Born in Buffalo and raised primarily in rural Georgia, Chandler first started appearing in TV movies in 1988. After a number of shows, including leading roles in “Homefront” and “Early Edition” and a splashy guest gig on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Chandler finally became a household name as coach Eric Taylor on “Friday Night Lights” in 2006.

After years in LA, Chandler now calls the Austin area home with his wife, Kathryn, and their daughters, Sydney, 18, and Sawyer, 12. So what does the successful father have planned for his family this Christmas? “Going to Disneyland,” he says. Oh neat, for real? “No,” he says, laughing. “I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing for Christmas. This is my life. I already gave you the DILF line.” Source:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy 33rd birthday, Joseph Gordon-Levitt!

Happy 33rd birthday, Joseph Gordon-Levitt!!

You starred in and directed Don Jon – what is it about?

How the media leads us to form unrealistic expectations about love, sex and relationships. Real life is richer and more beautiful; real people are way more complicated and sexy. If you’re too busy comparing your life to media images then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Don Jon is poking fun at this.

You play Jon, a porn-obsessed, chauvinistic ladies’ man. Presumably you’re not like that in your own life?

No. I wouldn’t want to see my girlfriend as a possession. But I do use the language convention ‘my girlfriend’. It’s like saying, ‘my body, my arms, my legs’. But such things do have an impact on how we form our perspectives of ourselves.

I imagine you’re a perfect boyfriend.

Absolutely. Of course I am! [laughs]

Why did you cast Scarlett Johansson as your romantic-comedy-fixated love interest Barbara in Don Jon?

Because she’s a really smart person and a talented artist, yet most of what gets talked about is her looks and her sex appeal.

You’ve been acting since childhood – how come fame hasn’t gone to your head?

My parents were smart in how they raised us. My dad instilled a work ethic. I remember once playing a computer game while waiting to go on set. I was called to work and I said, ‘I just want to save my game.’ My dad closed the computer, but I didn’t save the game and I felt really upset. Dad said, ‘You are working. You have to go.’ When I think back, I see he was teaching me a valuable lesson.

I hear you are a big fan of London…

I love the fact that it’s more acceptable in the UK to be into the arts. In the US it’s considered snobby to care. And there’s nothing like the British Film Institute that’s government funded.

You seem very private. How do you deal with celebrity?

It is a double-edged sword. I’d compare this kind of fame to royalty. In the US, overthrowing royalty was the foundation of our nation. So we’ve invented a new kind of royalty – celebrity.

Kyle Chandler: a nice fellow

I`d give anything to meet: Jimmy Stewart. I`d like to say thank you.

Favorite childhood memory: My father used to pick me up from school, and I`d ask him 10 times to take me to the ice cream parlor. He`d say no nine times, and then we`d end up there.

People who knew me in high school thought I was: Really weird. I was very, very, very shy.

I knew I was a grownup when I: Left home at 22 to come out to Los Angeles.

If I`ve learned one thing in life, it`s: That I don`t know anything.

Major accomplishment: Being able to support myself and help out my mother.

My most humbling experience: Moving to Los Angeles. It`s a tough city, especially when you grew up in Georgia.

When people first meet me, they think: ``He`s a nice fella.``

The words that best describe me: Quiet, loves to laugh, non-judgmental. Source:

Kyle Chandler is that kind of guy, a throwback to a classic, Jimmy Stewart breed of celebrity. "I'm not expecting I'll be a megastar," says Kyle Chandler, in his Georgia drawl. "I just love what I do, and I can't believe I get paid to do it. I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Q: What's the number one way you and your wife have kept your marriage strong all these years?

We trust each other — absolutely, 100 percent. We run into some pretty tough arguments sometimes, but the idea is that at the end of the day, my wife and I realize that we'll always be holding each other's hand. This is a lifelong relationship, and she hasn't gotten rid of me yet. My grandparents got married at a very young age, and a lot of what I think about marriage is based on their relationship. I watched them over the years and saw how they dealt with everything together, as a team. I love the institution of marriage, and I love my marriage.

Q: Does anything about your wife drive you nuts?

Let me word this delicately. My wife, she likes to have things uncluttered, and if something is missing, then one has to be very careful not to ask her if it was thrown out — you have to ask her simply where it might be. But really, there's not much about her that isn't amazing. There, that ought to win me some points.

Q: Are you particularly helpful around the house?

I do like to cook; I'm sort of a mad scientist in the kitchen. My father always made breakfast in the morning, before we went to school. Whether we wanted to or not, us kids had to sit down and eat. So now I'm doing that with my kids, and I'm the one standing there while they grunt, saying, "Eat your breakfast now, come on." And on the show, my character's home is an actual house that we film in, so I've started cooking breakfast for the crew in the house's kitchen. It started out where it was just bacon, but now there's pancakes and eggs and toast and butter. Most days, I start by cooking up around 15 bacon strips, and handing that out, and then usually someone will come up and say, "Can I have a pancake?" I take all requests. Because believe me, it's important to keep people fed. You don't mess around with your film crew.

Q: What is one thing you couldn't live without?

My family. But in terms of material things: We went through all those forest fires out here in California, and at one point my family and I thought about what we'd take if we had to evacuate. You learn real quick that there's not much. Photographs, maybe, but even those you could learn to live without.

Q: Do you think there's something to be said for having become famous later in life, rather than when you were younger?

Well, you know, I've had brushes with fame at various points. I've been famous, then not famous, then famous, then not famous — I always looked at the acting as something that was its own reward. And now, especially, this show that I'm on, where I get to play a real adult in a real world — just getting to do that feels like the reward.

Q: How do you feel about having female fans swoon over you, at this stage of your career?

Honestly, no one has really mentioned it much to me, so I guess I haven't noticed it. But it's certainly not anything that I'm going to complain about. If there's anything that's more appealing about me to women now, at this age as opposed to when I was younger, it's probably the fact that this is the first time I'm playing a husband and father — someone who is real, and grown-up, and grounded. I think that's what's most appealing. So, see, it's not me — it's my character. Source: