Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Story Behind the Movie: True Grit (1969)

Movie Poster
Starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper (amongst others), True Grit (1969) was an American Western classic that told the story of a US Marshall (Wayne) and a Texas Ranger (Campbell), being hired by a young girl (Darby), to help track down her father’s murderer, deep inside Indian territory.

The movie was based on the novel written by Charles Portis and was directed by Henry Hathaway. The screenplay, written by Marguerite Roberts, had the distinction of being described by Wayne as the best he had ever read.


John Wayne
John Wayne won a Golden Globe and a ‘Best Actor’ Academy award for his role as Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Indeed, in an illustrious career spanning 50 years, it was to be his only Oscar, and is generally thought of as being awarded more for sentimental reasons to honour his illustrious career, rather than for the actual role he played. Many critics actually consider his portrayal of Cogburn as ‘over-the-top’ and ‘hammy’.


Kim Darby
Kim Darby was not the original choice to play the part of Mattie. Mia Farrow was originally cast, and was thought to be very keen on the role. However, whilst making a previous film in England, she had been advised by her then co-star Robert Mitchum, never to work with Henry Hathaway under any circumstances as he was ‘cantankerous’. 

For that reason, she approached the producer of “True Grit”, Hal B Wallis, with the request to replace Hathaway in the director’s chair with Roman Polanski, with whom she had previously worked on ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. When Wallis refused, Farrow quit the role.

It is believed that John Wayne had promised the part to his own daughter Aissa, but Hathaway refused to cast her. Wayne later pressed for the role to be given to singer Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters) who he had previously met when hosting a show. She actually read for the part, but was turned down, mainly because of her lack of acting experience. Others considered for the role included the likes of Tuesday Weld, Sally Field and Sondra Locke.

Although playing the part of a 14 year old girl, at the time of filming Kim Darby was closing in on her 22nd birthday. Darby and Wayne did not get on at all. He considered her to be ‘unprofessional on the set’ and they hardly spoke a word to each other off camera. He is actually quoted of saying that “she was the goddamn lousiest actress I ever worked with.” 

Glen Campbell
Kim Darby wasn’t the only member of the cast that Wayne had problems with. It is believed that there was also friction between him and another co-star Robert Duvall.

The role of Texas Ranger ‘Le Boeuf’ very nearly went to Elvis Presley, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was insistent that to play the part, he would require top billing. When this was not forthcoming, Glen Campbell received the nod, although Hathaway disliked his portrayal describing it as ‘wooden’. He later went on to claim that the singer was only cast so that he would go on to have a hit with the theme song, therefore helping to promote the movie.

Sequels and remakes

Some 6 years after the original movie, John Wayne reprised his role in “Rooster Cogburn”, this time directed by Stuart Millar and co-starring Katherine Hepburn. It was to be his penultimate film and was poorly received by critics, being only a moderate hit at the box office. Even with the indifferent reviews, there were plans to make a further sequel entitled “Sometime”, but it never came to anything and Wayne’s last performance on screen came a year later in “the Shootist”. He died of stomach cancer in 1979.
Hailee Steinfeld

In 2010, the Coen Brothers produced a remake of the original starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld (in the role of Mattie). This adaptation kept much closer to Portis’ book, focussing more so on Mattie’s point of view than the Cogburn character, and has all the hallmarks of the Brothers usual stunning cinematography and authentic dialogue and accents. 

The fact that Steinfeld is more similar in age to her character doesn’t go amiss either, and her performance is powerful, believable and indeed a joy to watch.


The Coen Brothers remake gains an IMDB rating of 7.8, which is a half point better than the original version. It has to be said that both adaptations have their good aspects, but the rating is probably a fair judge on the merits of the two productions.

Which version of the movie did you prefer?
Did you ever read the book? If so, what did you think? Did either movie do it justice?
Can Jeff Bridges be compared to John Wayne?

Please feel free to comment.....

Friday, 21 September 2012

Great British Comedy Actors – Reginald Marsh

Fans of British sitcoms of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s will fondly remember Reginald Marsh for playing the parts of Jerry’s boss ‘Sir’ in The Good Life, the similar role of ‘Sir Dennis Hodge’ in Terry and June and Mildred’s Brother-in-law ‘Humphrey’ in George and Mildred, however he had a long, varied career in producing and acting.

One of my personal favourite performances was when he played the Bus Depot Manager in an episode of Sykes, alongside such greats as Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques and Deryck Guyler. This was when Eric and Hattie got jobs as a bus driver and clippie, turning the route into an “airline on wheels” in the north London streets.

Born in London (17 September 1926), the young Reginald grew up on the English south coast in Worthing.

After leaving school he started work in a bank, but was always passionate about acting and the stage working in many amateur productions. At the age of 16 and already signed up with an agent, he got his first part in JB Priestley’s “East End”, playing a juvenile.

Moving on he then started work for 12 years in repertory theatre, gaining as much experience as possible in numerous different productions. His next job was working as a contestant finder for Granada TV's legendary 60’s gameshow, Criss Cross Quiz.

In 1962 he gained the part of bookmaker ‘Dave Smith’ in the long running soap Coronation Street, leaving in 1976. He went on to work with comedian Harry Worth in his TV shows and in other sitcoms such as How’s Your Father and Never Say DieHe has also been seen in Emmerdale Farm, Crown Court, Bless This House, The Sweeney and often appeared in Children's Film Foundation productions.

Marsh had six children from two marriages, one of his sons being a Down’s syndrome sufferer and he was an active supporter of MENCAP.

In later years he retired to the Isle of Wight, where he died on 9th February 2001, at the age of 74.

It must be said that most people would not necessarily know the name of Reginald Marsh, as he was never what could be classed as a major TV star, but he had one of those distinguished faces that will long be remembered. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Whatever Happened to 'Watching' Star Emma Wray?

'Watching' was a British television sitcom that aired between 1987 and 1993. Produced by Granada TV, it told the bittersweet story of a mismatched couple, Brenda Wilson and Malcolm Stoneway. 
Liza Tarbuck (left) and Emma Wray (right)

Both lived in the Merseyside (Liverpool) area, Malcolm in the 'posh' Wirral town of Meols and Brenda over the River Mersey in the confines of the city itself.

The title 'Watching' stemmed from Brenda's fascination of people watching, usually with her sister Pamela in the Grapes public house and Malcolm's love of bird watching, which later became a passion for Brenda as well.

Many fans will remember loud mouthed Brenda's undoubted talent for nearly always having an answer to anything and would have had their emotions well and truly churned by their on/off romance.

The Granada TV series was devised by writer Jim Hitchmough, being originally conceived as a comedy sketch written at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. It was submitted for use by the BBC's satirical series 'Not the Nine O'clock News' but was subsequently rejected.
  • The regular cast members  included Paul Bown (remembered for being the Student in the first Mr Bean TV show), Liza Tarbuck (daughter of comedian Jimmy and remembered for Linda Green), Patsy Byrne (best remembered for being Nursey in Blackadder II), John Bowler (PC Valentine in the Bill) and of course, the undoubted star of the show - Emma Wray.

Emma as Brenda
Emma (born Gillian Wray in Birkenhead, 1966 - more often known as Jill or Gill), actually won the part within 2 months of graduating with a BA in Theatre Arts, from the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Sidcup, Kent.

She is remembered in the series for not only playing the part of the caustic Brenda, but also singing the theme tune 'What Does He See In Me?'

In the years since the programme came to an end, all the stars have been seen on TV in various shows, although Liza works very much in radio these days and Patsy is now quite elderly and has retired. That is all except Emma (Jill).

After the programme came to an end in 1993, Emma was to appear in 'Stay Lucky', starring alongside Dennis Waterman (The Sweeney, Minder, New Tricks) and Jan Francis (Secret War, Just Good Friends), and later in the comedy/drama 'My Wonderful Life', with Tony Robinson (Blackadder, Time Team).

So what became of the 'Scouse' pocket rocket bundle of fire that made Malcolm's life so difficult, though so tantalisingly enriched?

It is believed that sometime in 2001, she decided to take an initial 2 year break from acting and use some of the money she had earned travelling throughout the far East, Africa and South America. 

In that time she started working with children (in a Thai orphanage) and soon realised that she found this work far more fulfilling than acting.

Since that time she has spent much time as a nanny, working with children of many ages, in many different parts of the world.

So will she ever return to acting and be seen back on our TV screens? 

It is no secret that many TV companies would be very pleased to hear from her again. Indeed, earlier this year she did a photoshoot (a link to which can be found by clicking HERE). 

The question does have to be asked, why has this photo gallery been produced after a period of anonymity of approx 12 years? Is a return to acting possibly in the offing?

Emma (Jill) had a compulsive energy on our TV screens, along with a great sense of comedy timing. 

Her presence is still greatly missed by many TV watchers.

Have you ever met Jill (Emma)?
Did you use to enjoy watching her in her many TV roles?

Please feel free to comment.....  


Man About the House star, Richard O'Sullivan 
 Whatever Happened to the "Are You Being Served" Cast 

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Monday, 18 June 2012

The Good Old Days - Harry Champion

Harry Champion was a music hall performer and comedian whose height of popularity came in the early years of the 20th Century.

Born William Crump in Shoreditch (April 1865), his stage persona mainly appealed to the working classes in and around his native East end of London. 

Making his stage debut at the age of 15 at the Royal Victoria Music Hall in Bethnal Green, he initially appeared under the name of Will Conray, but 5 years later in 1887, as his fame spread to other areas of the UK capital, he started using the stage name of Harry Champion.

Harry Champion in 1938 
As he became more famous, his repertoire grew, making him one of the most popular music hall acts of his time. His songs were invariably sung at breakneck speed, with many concerning the joys of food.

His most famous recordings included "Boiled Beef and Carrots", "I'm Henery the Eighth I Am", "Any Old Iron" and "A Little Bit of Cucumber".

Harry performing "Any Old Iron"

After a successful 40+ year career on the stage, he retired from performing soon after his wife died in 1928. He did return from time to time however to make occasional guest appearances in halls around the London area. 

In the 1930's he actually came fully out of retirement to appear on radio and in the process gained a new, younger audience.

"I'm Henery the Eighth I Am"

By the early 1940's however, his health took its toll and he once again retired when exhaustion forced him into a nursing home. He died a month later in 1942 and is buried in St Marylebone cemetery in London's East Finchley.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Whatever Happened to "Doctor in the House" Star Barry Evans?

Fresh faced actor Barry Evans was a regular on our TV screens in the 1970's. 

The star of "Doctor at Large" and "Mind Your Language" who became a British sitcom favourite, was born in 1943 in the Surrey town of Guildford. 

Abandoned as a baby, Evans was educated at orphanage boarding schools and later attended the infamous Italia Conti Academy before gaining a scholarship to study at the central School of Speech and Drama.

His first leading role was in the 1967 film "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" with Judy Geeson and three years later he gained the part of Michael Upton in the UK smash hit comedy "Doctor In The House" moving on to the sequel hit "Doctor at Large".

Doctor in the House - episode 1
In 1975 he starred in the hit big screen sex comedy "The Adventures of a Taxi Driver", but soon returned to ITV for the leading role in a new sitcom "Mind Your Language". 
Here he played the part of a teacher of English to foreign students. Again the show was a big TV success, gaining a worldwide audience.

Mind Your Language - episode 1

However, as the 80's came, Evans found it more and more difficult to find work. His so called youthful image worked against him and he found difficulty in finding parts to match his age.

By the late 1990's, as his acting work diminished, he was known to be working as a mini-cab driver in the English East Midlands. 

Sadly, in 1997 he was  found dead in his bungalow at Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire aged only 53. 

He was found to have suffered a blow to the head and an autopsy showed he had high levels of alcohol in his system. Although an 18 year old man was initially arrested for the murder, he was subsequently released without charge.

The Coroner eventually gave an open verdict and to this day it is still unclear how Evans met his end.

The "Are You Being Served" Cast
 On The Buses Cast

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Lady Gets Stuck in Deckchair

We have all been enjoying the lovely sunny weather that has blessed us in the last few days. That is all except an elderly lady, who managed to get stuck in her deckchair - for 6 hours!

The 83 year old was sitting on her 2nd floor balcony at her home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon, when the chair's fabric ripped leaving her unable to move.

A passing fire crew heard her cries for help and managed to gain access through a neighbour's home freeing the distraught pensioner. She was taken to hospital for precautionary measures, but released later.

A North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "This was an unusual incident, but firefighters are trained for every eventuality.

Have you ever been stuck anywhre and had to be rescued by the emergncy services?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Hump Flops at Song Contest

So the Eurovision Song Contest is over for another year and it’s another triumphant victory in Baku for Sweden with Loreen singing “Euphoria” (please go to to see examples of previous winners and losers in this esteemed musical load of nonsense).

Winner - Loreen
Good to see that it has not been won again by one of the former Eastern Bloc states, along with their penchant of voting for each other. It has to be remembered however that the Scandinavian’s are not averse to the same little tricks either (though poor old Norway managed last place again). 

Apparently the winner is already no.1 in 4 countries and their entry, a former Swedish Idol contestant, was the strong favourite to land the spoils beforehand.

Enge will now have the Hump!
As for the UK entry, it was another total and utter disaster. The hope was that the name and reputation of Engelbert Humperdinck would bring in the nostalgic votes and that the UK would come closer to the top than in recent years. 

But it was not to be with the septuagenarian crooner only gaining a total of 12 points, leaving us in sorry 25th place (of 26).

Let’s be truthful, the song was poor and by all accounts, Enge’s performance included the odd bum note or 3. 

Ireland's entry Jedward
It is difficult to see what the UK can try next. Even with a renowned world star we still fail miserably. It truly comes to something when a mega-star like the Hump gets beaten by Irish entry Jedward and the Russian Grannies.

It is abundantly clear that we will never win the damn thing again because of the dislike the rest of Europe holds for us, so maybe it is time for us to hold up our hands, give in gracefully and let the Euro nations get on with it. 

Every year the BBC pile loads of our TV licence fee money into helping fund this complete and utter farce. Surely it could be put to better use and leave it open to the commercial channels to cover (should they be bothered).

Friday, 18 May 2012

3 Eurovision Song Contest Losers

I promised in a previous posting (3 More Eurovision Song Contest Winners), to follow up with 3 songs that did not win the contest. With this years extravaganza only 8 days away, I must apologise for my tardiness and reveal these previous entries - one of which being possibly the worst song ever to grace the event.

The Italian entry in 1974 was sung by 26 year old Gigliola Cinquetti and was entitled "Si". 

10 years previously as a 16 year old, she had gained her country's first ever win in the contest with "Non ho l'età" (I'm Not Old Enough). 

The lovely Gigliola
This time, on the English south coast at Brighton, she was close to becoming the first artist to win the contest for a 2nd time (eventually achieved by Ireland's Johnny Logan). She was beaten into 2nd place by a Swedish 4-piece outfit by name of Abba, of whom it is said, subsequently didn't do too badly for themselves.

It is believed that the live contest telecast of the song was blocked by Italian broadcaster RAI because it coincided with a national referendum on divorce. It was thought that the title "Si" (yes) may send a subliminal message to influence the poll. The song remained censored on Italian radio and TV for over a month.

An English language version of "Si" was released under the title of "Go (Before You Break My Heart)" which reached no.8 in the UK charts.

One of the better UK entries in recent years (wholly my opinion although many others would vehemently disagree), came in 2006 with Daz Sampson and "Teenage Life".

Daz Sampson
Sampson, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was backed by 4 young women dressed in St Trinian's style schoolgirl uniforms. This caused something of an outcry from certain sections of the media, claiming it was overly sexual. Sampson replied stating  "the teenage girl dancers were fully clothed ... there was no sexual innuendo".

The Eurovision audience were not impressed however and the song only managed to gain 25 points, being beaten into 19th place by the Finnish entry.

Obviously Europe did not like, or were not ready for rap in the ESC. More to the point (as I commented in an earlier post), they didn't vote for us as they don't like us, which is fine as we can't stand them either (end of my anti-Euro rant - for now).

And now we come to the worst song (possibly) to ever be entered into the contest and I am sure many of you know what it is going to be before even reading this. Sadly it didn't even reach the final, being eliminated at the semi-final stage.

Over the years, Ireland have the best record of all in the contest, winning on 7 occasions. But they have never been averse to "taking the mickey" out of the whole affair and entering a song with little or no hope of success.

Dustin the Turkey
In 2008, their entry was from a puppet by name of Dustin the Turkey, singing the wonderfully dreadful "Irlande Douze Pointe" 

Dustin has been a fixture on Irish TV from as far back as 1989 and is a turkey with a very strong Dublin accent. The song however only managed 15th place in the semi-final, amassing  a paltry (or should it have been poultry) 22 points. 

Dustin has so far campaigned in 2 Irish presidential elections, where some of his manifesto promises have included ensuring that all young boys in Ireland get to go on a date with their favourite Spice Girl and to industrialise all rural areas (whilst ruralising everywhere else). 

He is a UNICEF ambassador.

Let's be honest here, the song was truly appalling, but still it is a shame that Dustin didn't reach the final - he might have given those Eurovisionists the kick up the proverbial they richly deserve.

This years contest is on Saturday 26th May. Come on Engelbert - we're counting on you!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Moroccan Rapper Given One Year Jail Term

One of Morocco's most famous rappers, Mouad Belghouat, who goes by the name Al-Haqed (loosely translated from Arabic as "the vengeful one"), has been given a one year jail term for criticising the Police in a video. He had been charged with insulting state employees and official institutions.
Moroccan Rapper Mouad Belghouat
Belghouat, 24, a severe critic of King Mohammed VI, was not present in the Casablanca court on Friday when the verdict and sentence were handed down. His defence team had withdrawn from the trial on Monday and no plea was entered on his behalf.

The sentence, which also includes a 90-Euro fine, was described as "severe" by his lawyer Omar Bendjelloun who also confirmed that the star would appeal against what he called "a trial against the freedom of expression".

The charge emanates from a You Tube video which included images of Moroccan Police Officers, one of which showing an officer with a donkey's head. 

Meanwhile New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, claim that Belghouat denies any knowledge of the source of the video and believes that unknown people created a montage of photos and his music.

So now we know what it means when someone says "the law is an ass!"

Friday, 4 May 2012

3 More Eurovision Song Contest Winners

With this month's Eurovision Song Contest getting just that little bit closer, I continue my look at a few selected previous winners of the "great annual musical extravaganza".

Please click HERE should you have missed my previous posting.
Much of the contest is, for want of any other way of describing it, a complete load of nonsense, but sometimes it throws up a decent song and very occasionally that song will actually win. Not to say that all the winners are good, some of them are pretty dreadful as well it has to be said. 

So here we go with another trio of winning songs, it would be intriguing to know of  your opinions on this little lot?

Gali Atari - Love the hairdo sweetie!
In 1979, the contest found its way to Jerusalem after Israel had won the previous year's "shindig" in Paris. The home entry was a sing-along ditty (with an out-of-tune piano plonking along in the background), entitled "Hallelujah" sung by a 4 piece vocal group by the name of Milk and Honey, fronted by Gali Atari.

On this 4th occasion that the host nation won the contest, this winner was (in my opinion) truly awful, being performed by what seemed to resemble, a bunch of "local pub singers". 

In fact, if this lot turned up at the "Bear and Badger" on a Friday talent night, I wouldn't be surprised to see them boo'ed off stage and pelted with rotten tomatoes (they're a rough old crowd down the B & B, I can tell you).

The following year Israel didn't enter the contest. The official reason was that the date clashed with Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Memorial Day), but you do wonder if some sense of national musical shame didn't influence the decision as well.

Is this the worst winner of all? It can't be far off it if truth be known.

9 years down the line in 1988, the contest had again ended up in Dublin, after the Emerald Isle's previous success 12 months earlier (our Irish friends never seem to learn).

That year Switzerland were represented by a 20 year-old, French Canadian female vocalist who, it has to be said, went on over the years, to carve out a fairly decent living for herself.

Celine Dion, (yes, that Celine Dion) sang "Ne partez pas sans moi" (which I am reliably informed translates to "Don't Leave Without Me", to an estimated 600 million worldwide audience.

It is evident, even at that early age, what an incredibly powerful voice Celine possesses, which obviously helped her to win by 1 solitary point, but it couldn't really be classed as one of the better winning songs of all ESC's.

Just one last comment, Celine - that skirt!!! A Fashion Police alert if ever I saw one!

Now coming a little more (or quite a lot really) up to date to 2009 and Norwegian violinist/singer Alexander Rybak's landslide winning song "Fairytale".

Coming through the 2nd semi-final, the song won the final with a massive 387 points, setting a new ESC record along the way and giving Norway their 3rd all-time win in the contest. An enormous hit throughout Europe, it also managed to reach no.10 on the UK charts.

It certainly was a different style of Eurovision winner, with its violin interludes and cossack style backing dancers (popular with the hosting Moscow audience I assume).

To say it was truly appalling is being kind to it.

That's all for this time.


3 Songs that didn't win the ESC - one of which, could possibly be classed the worst entry of all time. 

Watch this space!