Today's post is a still from Kid Blue. :) An excellent performance from Ben that walks a fine line between comic bully and genuinely menacing. His second movie with Dennis Hopper. When not in front of the camera, Hopper and many of the other actors and their friends indulged full blast in crazy drug-fueled antics. (See my write-up with the screencaps for more details, it's actually quite interesting and involves Texas literary history!) Can only imagine what Ben thought of it all. :)
I thought I'd post the Shazam! photo for April Fool's Day on my Ben page. Here it is again, but this time my scan, not the seller's. :)
And while I was at it, I decided to do a little write-up on my page about Tom Tyler, whom Ben had doubled for back in 1943, on Riders of the Rio Grande. ;) Tom was not only a western star, but star of two of the most popular serials, The Adventures of Captain Marvel (featured on the cover of the issue of Big Reel that Ben is looking at in the above photo) and The Phantom. He had been a weightlifter (won an amateur championship in 1928, too) and his strapping physique caught the attention of movie-makers back in the 1920s and that's how his career began, as a star of silent westerns.
Don't have a post for the webpage today so here's a little something just for SSO. It's from an article about John Ford I'm going to be sending MissGoddess (I still have more scans to do before I can send you that CD, MissGoddess!). There's nothing really in the article about Ben but it does have this sweet pic from Wagon Master. Sorry about the picture quality, it wasn't the best to begin with plus I enlarged it a little. It's still nice though. :)
Well, I was hoping to have my Sugarland Express screencaps up today, but... it will take another day or two. This is not going to be a good month for posting.:(
However, there is NEWS. ;) MGM/UA will release War Drums on DVD sometime this month! No disc info or artwork yet -- it's not even available for pre-order -- but all that will come. I suspect the DVD will be open matte rather than the correct 1:85 aspect ratio since MGM/UA (unlike Warners) can't be bothered to remaster, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. :(
Also, film historian and preservationist LOVES the new Bite the Bullet Blu-ray. (So do I.) ;)
Finally.... I posted the screencaps from The Sugarland Express. All 1204 of them. :)
Here are some to wet your whistles.
Ben "rides" a car as well as he does a horse! He does some really tricky driving -- and while delivering perfectly his dialogue using the police radio. That car is a 1972 Dodge Polara, as it turns out.
Those two guys in the middle are real Texas Rangers playing Texas Ranger sharpshooters. They're great. Definitely non-actors and yet utterly perfect. Spielberg used a lot of locals in minor roles to give the movie authenticity.
There are some REALLY amazing set-ups in those two groups of caps! Great job picking the most interesting to show here, P!
I don't always think about THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS having good cinematography and mise en scene, but some of those shots are so creative and almost expressionistic. It's not a movie where you stop and look at what the camera is doing. Ben is just amazing, and it's mostly just the conflicting emotion in his face as I recall - I don't remember the dialogue revealing much.
Actually the cinematography, on like every Spielberg film, really is spectacular. There are some absolutely breathtaking shots and Spielberg's choice of camera moves, angles and cuts, and placement of bodies and cars within the frame are fascinating even here in his very first feature film. He learned a lot from his veteran d.p., Vilmos Zsigmond, who at one point asked him whose point of view the camera was supposed to express. Spielberg responded, "The director's" and Zsigmond told him, no, the POV was the character's.
But -- I am always as interested in the landscape of the face as I am in the landscape itself. ;) And with Ben, it's a very very rich and variegated landscape indeed. (In fact, all the characters get lots of close-ups, Spielberg is big on faces too -- speaking of faces, see below.)* You're right about the dialogue, Tanner doesn't talk about his feelings at all, just about the case, but Spielberg gives him a lot of close-ups and lets his face do the talking. Tanner comes out of it a changed man -- he has to give his word about something knowing it's a lie and it goes against everything he stands for, though he does it because his duty requires him to. It's a terrible thing... one critic wrote that "Tanner's failure" reflected the "debased nature" of the cowboy code in modern times. Ben communicates all this with his face and body language. What an actor he was! He never had much to say about his acting but he always had such a complex, interesting response to his roles. Kind of like Tanner himself with his job. ;)
The Sugarland Express flopped at the box office and Spielberg looking back thought he should have made Tanner the main character rather than the couple played by Hawn and Atherton... so essentially that's what he did in his next movie, a little thing called Jaws. ;)