Thursday, January 25, 2007


I’ve gotten some e mails and comments on this seemingly never ending list I compulsively began compiling when I started browsing through that old 1995 movie guide. It seems we all have our memories of movie moments when we first noticed someone or something on film. So here’s the latest installment of mine (I’ve given up the asterisks which were pretty distracting and eventually meaningless in context):

Maureen O’Hara in THE QUIET MAN (1952) Not the first time I saw her in a film, but the first time I saw her romantically, despite the sexism of the story—still one of my favorite films
Joe Pesci in RAGING BULL (1980) De Niro was impressive, but I couldn’t help being distracted by his famous weight gain in the role, it looked odd and unnatural to me, but Pesci’s performance knocked me out
Karen Allen in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) Obviously not the first time I saw her in a film, but first time I got the power she could bring to the screen, in her role as a hard drinking, hard fighting, match for Ford’s Indiana Jones—the only female match, I thought, in the entire series
Most of the cast of A RAISIN IN THE SUN (1961) Pretty stilted in some scenes, but powerful in others, and a first on many levels in terms of “race”
Leila Schenna in RAMPARTS OF CLAY (1971) Incredible
Me in THE RAPTURE (1991) Not the first film I was in, but the first one I was cut close to entirely out of, in the role of the President of the U.S., ending up as a silent face on a TV screen
Jim Backus in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) First time I noticed the man behind the voice of the animated Mister Magoo, in a role that impressed me as a kid because I knew no fathers like that in my neighborhood, nor kids like Sal Mineo or even the one Dean played—to my just-turned-teenaged eyes he looked way too old to be playing a high school kid, but I fell in love with the way Natalie Wood took the cigarette from his lips in the driveway scene before he accidentally lit the filter end, I wanted me a woman who would do that, instead of let me light it and die laughing
Montgomery Clift in RED RIVER (1948) First time I saw Clift when I was a kid, in this seminal Western with a classic Hollywood cast led by John Wayne, who later admitted the only time he was nervous on a movie was the first scene he acted in with Clift, who rattled Wayne with his intensity
Berry Berenson in REMEMBER MY NAME (1978) Anthony Perkins’ wife in a highly underrated and overlooked film, one of my favorites that year, Berry was Marisa’s sister, both from a famous family, Marisa a successful model who began her acting career in the film CABARET, which I forgot to mention as another first, I dug Marisa from afar, but got to know Berry who was extremely down to earth and treated me with great warmth and respect—I know I wasn’t the only one devastated by her death in one of those planes that hit the towers on 9/11
Catherine Deneuve in REPULSION (1965) Roman Polanksi’s first international success, in which Deneuve mesmerized a lot of us
Half the cast of RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) Once I got over my envy of them getting roles in this movie I’d heard about but couldn’t get seen for
Married couple bed scene in RESURRECTION (1980) with Ellen Burstyn, always excellent, as the wife—the first time I saw a truly realistic end-of-the-day-in-bed conversation between a married couple
Nathalie Baye in THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE (1982) First time I noticed her, in one of the best movies I know of, and one of Gerard Depardieu’s best too
Richard Pryor in RICHARD PRYOR—LIVE IN CONCERT (1979) I’d seen him on TV in his earlier tamer days and dug him even then, but this was his peak, the best comedy concert film ever
Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers in ROCK, ROCK, ROCK! (1956) And everyone else except for Teddy Randazzo, the lead in many early rock’n’roll flicks who Alan Freed kept trying to turn into a star, but we teenagers weren’t buying—Lymon, around my age at the time, stole the movie for me, along with Chuck Berry and LaVern Baker, I didn’t even notice Tuesday Weld, yet
Olivia Hussey in ROMEO AND JULIET (1968) The best film version
Helena Bonham in A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985) First time I dug her, and only the second or third time I’d seen Daniel Day-Lewis, and I didn’t recognize him, so deeply into the role he was of the less than leading man
Dexter Gordon in ROUND MIDNIGHT (1986) First time I saw him act, and very well, a man I’d hung around a little, when I was a young wannabe jazz musician
Shafiq Syed in SALAAM BOMBAY! (1988) Not unlike PIXOTE only in India
Me in the audience at SALVADOR (1986) When they uncover the bodies of the nuns I heard someone in the audience make a sound of anguish so wrenching I felt sorry for them, and then realized it was me, also one of James Woods best performances in what was the first film I saw to really capture the vileness of the repression our government supported in many so-called “Third World” countries
Richard Jaeckel in THE SANDS OF IOWA JIMA (1949) Saw it at seven and identified most with the baby-faced Jaeckel, who I later watched work out at a gym I belonged to in Venice Beach when he was an “old man” but still had that same baby face
Everyone in SAPPHIRE (1959) In love with a “black girl” and “black” culture as a teenager at the time, I knew that “Sapphire” was black street slang then for a black woman so went to see this British flick that indeed was about a “colored” girl passing for white who is murdered—somewhat “square” but interesting take on mixed-race culture of the time
Miyoshi Umeki in SAYONARA (1957) I saw this in Florida when segregation was still the law throughout the South, including Miami where the movie theater was—the white teenagers who I was on a double date with, while my father was at the track, didn’t get the connection, or dig the film, though I did
Steven Bauer in SCARFACE (1983) Probably not his film debut, but first time I dug him, one of the nicest actors I ever met, and an underrated one, whose performance as Pacino’s partner in this flick helped give balance to what otherwise seemed to me an almost campy over-the-top performance by Pacino
John Wayne in THE SEARCHERS (1956) When I saw it again at a revival in the Carnegie Hall Movie theater in the 1970s, I began to let go of my anger at Wayne’s politics and remember why he moved me as a kid, and recognized his acting skill
Toshiro Mifune in THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) Always near the top of my all time favorite flicks, with great performances throughout, but Mifune excels among them
Carrie Fisher in SHAMPOO (1975) A hot but cynical teenager, she stole the scene she was in, but everyone in this flick was terrific
Brandon de Wilde in SHANE (1953) First time I saw him, a boy almost my age who became a movie star and was dead in a car accident before he was out of his teens
Spike Lee in SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986) The most auspicious film debut of a director/actor in my life maybe, couldn’t stop laughing at the character’s insistent raps
Chloe Webb in SID AND NANCY (1986) Gary Oldman is great too, but I don’t think this is the first time I dug him
Donald O’Conner in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) Maybe not the first time I saw him, but the first I remember, and for me one of the funniest scenes ever in a film is his “Make’em Laugh” number
Susan Berman in SMITHEREENS (1982) Susan Seidelman’s directing debut, in which I was cast and dropped out, to my regret, because of a conflict with the Screen Actors Guild that I had just become a member of—Berman was terrific in it
Marilyn Monroe in SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) I already dug her, as well as Lemmon and Curtis, but this was the first film she was in where I got the magnitude of her accomplishment as an actor, not just as an incredibly beautiful and sexy woman
Michael York in SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE (1970) I first noticed him in CABARET but this film is the first in which his almost Brechtian detached acting style worked perfectly for me, one of my favorite overlooked movies, totally worth seeing
James Baskett in SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946) Now thought of as “racist” but as a boy it broke racial barriers for me with Baskett’s performance as “Uncle Remus” a screen presence that came as close to what the nuns were teaching me saints were supposed to be like than anything else I’d ever seen (still not available on dvd in the U.S.)
Everyone in THE SORROW AND THE PITY (1970) The best documentary, about WWII as told by survivors, some exposing their experiences for the first time, worth every minute of its over four-hour length
France Nuyen in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958) I fell in love with her in this
Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov in SPARTACUS (1960) It’s almost a series of vignettes the way it’s filmed, but what vignettes!—each scene is a master class in acting by the assembled great, starting with Kirk Douglas and including Tony Curtis’ Brooklyn accent, what else would the Roman plebes have sounded like? Uppercrust Brits?
Eve Arden in STAGE DOOR (1937) Arden was a TV star by the time I saw this in the 1950s, she played a sarcastic high school teacher in a weekly black-and-white show, but had been in many movies I didn’t notice until I saw her in this as part of a great cast of Hollywood comediennes, including the young Lucille Ball, in a movie full of great performances by women, especially Katherine Hepburn, as always
William Holden in STALAG 17 (1953) I’d seen him before, but this is the film that made me sit up and notice him, in a movie that hit home back then
Sharon Stone in STARDUST MEMORIES (1980) In a silent cameo, her first movie role, as the stunning blonde in the train Woody’s not on, her beauty was instantly imprinted on my heart
Some scenes in STARTIME (1991) I wrote after a rough cut was completed, to help with the story, I hope
Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in STAR WARS (1977) First time either of these guys starred in a movie, as I remember it, and a memorable pairing it was
Robin Wright in STATE OF GRACE (1990) A lot in this flick I found unbelievable, having some knowledge of the setting and characters the story is based on, but Wright was impeccably realistic in it, one of the best performances in any film that year, and a great surprise to me after having fallen in love with her in THE PRINCESS BRIDE in a much lighter role
Robert Shaw and Charles Durning in THE STING (1973) Led by one of the all-time greatest screen pairings, Redford and Newman, Shaw did his usual fantastic turn as the bad guy, and Durning, who I’d never seen before, brought what became his usual dose of real guy presence
Robert Walker in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) One of my favorite actors in one of my favorite Hitchcock movies
John Lurie and Richard Edson in STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984) Lurie I’d seen around the downtown scene, but he and Edson both brought a contemporary reality to this sometimes brilliant, sometimes a little too indulgent flick
Morgan Freeman in STREET SMART (1987) First time I saw him not on a kids TV show, playing a pimp and the best thing in a not great movie
Everyone in STRICTLY BALLROOM (1992) First time I recognized Baz Luhrmann’s film chops, is this his directorial debut?
Steve Railsback in THE STUNT MAN (1980) One of my all time favorites, with a great cast headed by Peter O’Toole and lots of terrific performances including Barabra Hershey’s, but it’s Railsback’s movie, his best.
Gerry Mulligan in THE SUBTERRANEANS (1960) First time I saw jazz great Mulligan on screen in a horrible adaptation of Kerouac’s novel about an inter racial romance, only Hollywood changed the black woman in the novel into a white French woman (!) played by Leslie Caron, while George Peppard changed Kerouac’s alter ego into his usual whitebread blandness—how did Peppard end up playing the pseudo-Beat writers in this and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, when he was so fucking boring as an actor and screen presence, to make the studios feel safe from moral charges?
Goldie Hawn in THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974) First time I saw her not doing a straight out comedy, although there’s comic moments in this first feature directed by Speilberg, and unlike anything else he did after it, a pleasant surprise
Veronica Lake in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941) My first movie star crush, though I saw her in film noirs (films noir?) before I saw this, it was the first comedy I saw her in and loved her even more
Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) First time I realized who she was, in one of my favorite films
Chico Hamilton in SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) he added a touch of jazz reality to the street-and-huckster reality of black-and-white 1950s Manhattan in a great film pitting Tony Curtis and Burt Lancastar against each other’s acting styles—a draw!
Fred Astaire and Giner Rogers in SWING TIME (1936) First movie I saw them in where they were shot in that full body, full sequence, flowing kind of dance cinematography that Astaire helped create

No comments: