Friday, 15 August 2014

Friday 15/8/14 - RIP Robin Williams & Lauren Bacall (dammit!), Remembering Ian Fleming, a Very Brittle Cork & This Week's Wristwatches.

- Friday 10:36pm AEST -

Last weekend
       Sat down to watch "Trouble With The Curve" (Dir: Robert Lorenz, 2012), a film about an ageing baseball scout, starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams. I hadn't heard of this film, but then, I blame that on the fact that US Premiere magazine is no longer published and I don't have my finger on the pulse regarding films in production and new releases the way I used to. 

This was a good film and I thought it was one that Eastwood had directed himself until I checked the DVD's case about halfway through. At any rate, this film had the feel of an Eastwood-directed film, especially in terms of theme, its notions of masculinity, and pace. And I must say that, at the age of 84, Mr Eastwood moves like a guy 25 years younger. Long may he reign.

The rest of the cast was great. Amy Adams did a great job of playing Eastwood's estranged daughter and Justin Timberlake turns in a fine performance as a former pitcher searching for purpose. The remaining cast is made up of many great character actors like Ed Lauter, George Wyner, Bob Gunton and Robert Patrick. These guys may not sound like household names, but if you've watched tv or movies in the past 20 or 30 years, you will recognise their faces. All in all, it was a very good film. Highly recommended.

picture courtesy of

       I had a visit from one of my lecturers at work today. Everything seems to be going along smoothly. I have another five days left in this industry placement gig. Spent the morning doing some indexing of old local newspapers to find mention of this library for historical purposes. Then I hit the non-fiction shelves and put away some books. My Dewey decimal knowledge was a little rusty at first, but I soon settled back into it. 
Got a text message from my wife; "Found a blue and cream Remington Envoy III at op shop. It says 'Sperry Rand' on it. Seems like it works ok. Needs new ribbon, though. Do you want it?"
"How much?", was my reply.
"25", was her response.
I said 'yes'. I already knew what to expect. A plastic, Made in Holland machine with those bucket keytops and that annoying spool-less ribbon system that Remington were known for. Still, I figured I would clean it up as a catch-&-release exercise. Might have to remove the shell and vacuum the dust out of it, though.
Since the weekend, I've been wearing the Sinn 103. Here's an old photo that I took in Mike's lightbox. Mike is the guy who did that Seamaster case restoration that I wrote about some time ago;

      It was awful to hear of the death of Robin Williams. While I can't say I was a huge fan, I must admit that he was always very funny on-screen and a totally unpredictable talk-show guest. So I suppose I must have been a big enough fan of his without really realising it.
He was able to play serious as well as he could play comedy, and whenever he did take on a dramatic role, he did it to say something about human nature. Stop and think about films such as Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King or Good Will Hunting and you begin to see the broader themes that he liked to tackle and just how gifted an actor he was when playing it straight.
Like many gifted comedians, such as Spike Milligan and Jim Carrey, Williams suffered from deep depression throughout much of his adult life. It seems that this is often the price that they pay for being able to make us laugh.
Director Garry Marshall, who first signed Williams on to play his famous TV character Mork in an episode of Happy Days in 1978 said; "Robin could make everyone happy but himself."
It was a shame that Robin Williams had reached the point of despair that he felt only death could alleviate.
Definitely another actor gone too soon.

Later in the day, I remembered that Ian Fleming died on this day in 1964, following a heart attack. That day, August 12th, also happened to be his son Caspar's twelfth birthday. 
While Fleming was indeed a heavy smoker and drinker, I feel that it was the legal trouble that ensued after he published "Thunderball" in 1961 that exacerbated his ill health. Sometime in the 1950s, he met with a film-maker named Kevin McClory with a view to creating a Bond film entitled Longitude 78 West. Along the way, they brought a screenwriter named Jack Whittingham on board. 
Long story short, a script was completed, but never put into production. Fleming later used the screenplay as the basis for his Bond novel Thunderball. McClory and Whittingham then resurfaced with a view to taking Fleming to court over his use of their ideas in his book. Needless to say, it was all a lot more convoluted than my explanation, but this court battle went on for a few more years and I'm certain that it all took a heavy toll on Fleming's health. It was all still unresolved at the time of his death, but from late 1961 onwards, the recto page of all copies of Thunderball stated that the story was "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and the author". 
However, Kevin McClory would not go away quietly. By 1962, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had secured the rights to make James Bond movies through their production company, EON, and they wasted no time in getting the first Bond film, Dr No, underway. 
When the time came to film "Thunderball" in 1965, they were forced to give McClory, who still owned the rights to the screenplay and story, a Producer's credit on the film. He would also hold the rights to this story for the next decade.
And then, in the late 1970s, McClory announced that he would make a Bond film entitled Warhead, but it wasn't until 1983 that he finally managed to get the film made. By this stage, he had licensed the rights to his story to a producer named Jack Schwartzman. This was big news to Bond fans for one reason only- it would mark the return of Sean Connery to the role of James Bond. The film was called Never Say Never Again and, while it was a better Bond  film than the official EON Productions release of the same year, Octopussy, starring Roger Moore, it was a poorly-made film overall. Yes, it was great to see Connery back as Bond, but the script was lacking, the direction, by Irwin Kirshner, was lacklustre, and the music soundtrack was woeful. It then dawned on me, way back in the Midcity Cinemas in 1983, that there was more to Bond than just Sean Connery.
Still, even now, I prefer it to Octopussy.
McClory tried to remake the film in the late '80s and again around the year 2000, but had no luck. There's more to this whole story. Type 'Kevin McClory' into Wikipedia for more info. It goes on and on. Suffice to say that it is the studios that do all the suing and counter-suing to ensure that the character of James Bond is protected. 
In fact, it is EON Productions who own the rights to the character these days. 
And I have no problem with that whatsoever. 
They seem to be looking after OO7 nicely.

Anyway, I sometimes wonder what would have become of that man Bond, had Fleming lived longer. I can't help but think that he was getting a little tired of OO7 by 1964, based on where he was taking JamesBond, and may have written a book towards the end of the 1960s where Bond was either killed off or retired quietly to a warm little corner of Jamaica.
We'll never know.

       My daughter has had the 'flu for the past few days and she stayed home today. I was due to go the the State Library for class, but decided to stay home with her instead. I can get to the library on the weekend. 
A little later in the morning, I saw mention of Lauren Bacall on Twitter. Oh no! A quick Googling revealed the news that she had died after suffering a massive stroke. She would have turned 90 next month. Now I know that's a good age to get to, but this was still very sad news to me. She was, after all, the widow of one of my favourite actors. Another link to Old Hollywood broken. 

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, folks. They don't breed them like her anymore. Although Jennifer Lawrence comes very, very close. 

But then, I thought , I hope there is a Heaven up there, because then she and Bogie are together again. 
I guess that's something, right?

The Rat Pack will be having drinks upstairs tonight. And I might just bust open that Single Malt and watch The Big Sleep.
Remember that scene where Marlowe goes into Geiger's  Antiquarian Bookstore? 

 I wanted to aim for some kind of tribute picture;


That ought to mess with future film historians; "Gee, did they have iPads back in 1946?"

 Later on Wednesday Night... wife sat down to watch "24 Hours in A&E", a documentary series about a day in the life of the Emergency Room of a London hospital.
Meanwhile, I was at the dining table opening up a bottle of Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt, with a view to having a drink in Miss Bacall's honour. I...uh...'liberated' (yeah, that's the word) this bottle from a place I worked at back in 1989.
I removed the heavy foil from around the neck of the bottle and then gave the cork a gentle twist and...

Panic stations, everyone!!!
Oh no, oh no, oh no! No way! Okay, don't panic, teeritz. First things first, get the camera. Then the Waiter's Friend (corkscrew).
It's been about fifteen years since I had to deal with a broken cork. I wonder if I still had the touch?
I eased the worm gently into the brittle cork and began turning it very...very...slowly. I then removed the remaining foil so that I could see if the screw had broken through the bottom of the cork. What I was trying to avoid were any tiny bits of cork falling into this 10 year old whisky. Sure, I've had this bottle for 25 years (good God!), but whisky doesn't keep maturing once it's been removed from the barrel.
Holding onto the corkscrew, I turned the bottle at an angle. Good. The worm wasn't showing through. I tilted the bottle further and, rather than place the fulcrum edge of the corkscrew against the bottleneck's lip, I went all old-school and carefully began pulling the screw away from the bottle. I watched as some section of cork began to give way, beads of sweat forming on my forehead. Nah, not really. Come on, it's just a bottle of Scotch!
And about ten or twelve seconds later;

  But more importantly;

No shards of cork in the bottle. Now I really needed a drink. And I needed another cork. But first, a drink. Make it a double, would ya, Lou?;

By the time this little saga was over, it had gotten a little too late to put on a Bogie & Bacall movie. Damn, I really felt like watching The Big Sleep, too.
Oh well, here's to you, Miss Bacall. Say 'hello' to your (first) husband for me. And tell Sinatra to keep his hands to himself! He had his chance.
And, the same photo, in glorious black and white;

The Glenmorangie went down pretty smoothly, but left a slight trail of fire behind it. I began to worry that it might have spoiled from being cooped up for a quarter century.
But then, I was too busy feeling smug about never having met a cork that I couldn't shift.
One day, I may have to write a post about it.

The Sinn 103 felt like the wrong watch to be wearing today. Time to switch to something with a vintage feel. The Longines Expeditions Polaires (old photo);

       Man, I'm still feeling at a loss over Bacall's death. And then I bought the paper and felt a little more miserable;

By my reckoning, the only star left from Hollywood's Golden Era of the 1930s and '40s is Olivia De Havilland. She's now 98 years old. Her sister, actress Joan Fontaine died last year. I can't think of any other major star who's still around. 
Oh, wait a sec, Maureen O'Hara is still with us. She starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939. Now THAT was a banner year for Hollywood. So many classic films made in that year. Whenever I see a succession of disappointing movies, I often say; "Hollywood needs another 1939." 
Too much crap gets made these days, but thankfully, some real gems are still being produced.
I then tackled a little more homework before heading to a class in the afternoon.

       Another day of industry placement. I thought I'd invert Casual Fridays AND pay tribute to Lauren Bacall by wearing this tie that I got sometime in the Eighties. I still had the Longines on today;

That Bogart tie was only ever worn to a few of parties and nights out, circa 1986-'89. No way would I wear it with an actual suit to work. There were too many movers and shakers out in the '80s wearing those colourful Wile E. Coyote and Superman logo ties.
Awful, just awful. If you're a Bugs Bunny fan, buy a Looney Tunes boxed set, but don't wear your fandom around your neck.

And that's another week gone. Dreadful if you're a fan of Hollywood film. However,
Both Williams and Bacall left behind a great body of work for us to savour.
Gotta be thankful for that.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, all!


  1. I share your feelings on those who died. Williams did something that will cast a pall on all his work and has spread anguish to some and unhappiness to many. I can only imagine that he was in complete despair, poor man. As for Bacall, I will always have a crush on young Lauren and will admire the spirit and passion she showed throughout her life.

    1. Yes, Richard, an awful week, and a deeply saddening way for Williams to go. As you say, he must have been in complete despair. From what I've read, he was a very intelligent man. Always learning new things. That too makes his death a little more harder to take.
      And Bacall, well, she was Bacall.

  2. It's been a sad week indeed for classic film lovers (and yes, I believe many of Robin William's films will be considered "Classics" in time. I kept thinking: "this is the man that cut my heart in 'What Dreams May Come' - how could he have done this to himself?" Considering the subject matter of that film, I just don't understand how the same guy could take his own life that way.

    1. I too was reminded of "What Dreams May Come" -- I don't think the film got much appreciation when it was released, but for me it was very moving. I believe a character who kills herself ends up in a self-generated hell and has to be rescued by RW's character.

    2. @ Ted & Richard, I recall seeing the trailer for "What Dreams May Come" when it was released and it looked like a visually stunning film. I never got around to seeing the film because the early to mid Nineties had a lot of films made that had heavy New Age philosophies behind them and I had no interest in them. However, this Williams film is one to catch up with. It seems that he made quite a few dramas that tended to question or reaffirm human nature.

      Obviously, I can never say for certain (probably nobody can), but it seems that Robin Williams was just never going to find the peace that he needed in this life. He was an intelligent man, so it feels twice as tragic. But, he made us laugh (a lot), so at least we have that to be grateful for.

    3. I couldn't believe none of the reports ever mentioned "What Dreams May Come" when it was so good and so apt a reference. It still haunts me, but I also constantly remember the art direction, how so many of the scenes were based on famous paintings I recognized at the time.

  3. I have been just as sad about both deaths. Very sad week indeed. I almost contemplated a marathon of Williams films... but... I am not going to subject my household to it!

    However, are there photos of this Sperry Rand?

    1. Yep, shocking week, Scott.
      Regarding the Sperry Rand, I take some pics and do a write-up on it. Might put a pic in next week's watch write-up, too.

  4. I have to say, I had more of a reaction about Bacall. For fun, find and listen to "Bold Venture," a radio show built around Bogart and Bacall, set in Cuba.

    1. Yeah, NA, Bacall's death resonated a good deal more with me. Although, the TV stations ( as a tribute, but really, it's about the ratings) have been showing a few of Robin Williams' films this week and one can tend to forget how good a dramatic actor he was. Especially when you consider his manic performance as Mork. It's almost like watching two completely different actors.

  5. Enjoyed the photos and words again teeritz.
    I grew up with robin williams and probably for the first time ever, felt a bit of anger after learning of a celebrity's death. I just liked him and rooted for him. Im a bigger steve martin fan and thatll suck when its his time.
    My dad was affected by bacalls death. He was down the whole week.
    Hope your daughter is feeling better and good of your wifey to snag you that typer.

    1. Oh, I can well remember sitting down to watch "Mork & Mindy" back in the late 1970s. It was screened directly after "Happy Days". And yes, I think when Steve Martin goes, that'll be another sad day.
      Regarding Bacall, well, she was Bogart's widow and, for me, she was one of the last main links to Old Hollywood. That's why it upset me so much.
      Daughter's still coughing, but not as much. Springtime is just around the corner and my wife and I aim to get our kids a little more active. Less Playstation and iPad, more fresh air and exercise.
      And yes, it was nice of my wife to snag the Remington.