Monday, July 23, 2012

The Wonderful Kitty Wells...

Kitty Wells was a true Country music original.  A recording artist for over 40 years, she began her performing career as early as the 1930's performing as part of The Deason Sisters.  The 1940's saw her join the already established Tennessee Hillbillies and then, on Jack Anglin's return from the Army, with her husband Johnnie Wright and Anglin, singing and playing guitar as part of their Johnnie and Jack duo.

Recording initially for RCA; who found her in your face determinedly 'unfeminine' fierceness difficult to market, her greatest success came when she signed for Decca Records.  Paul Cohen, A & R man for the Stateside arm of the company, was looking for an answer song to Hank Thompson's 'The Wild Side of Life;' a song which to this day still rankles many with its thinly veiled sexism.  It certainly inspired Ms Wells: her recording of Jay Miller's 'It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,' set her on the road to stardom, establishing her as the nascent queen of Country Music.

It really was no contest.  And, for many, it stayed that way.

Kitty Wells was that rarest of rare things - a quiet revolutionary.  Kind, sympathetic and willing to do whatever she could to help young musicians, especially young women musicians, gain a foothold in a precarious often combative industry, she will be remembered for this, for her unequalled generosity of spirit and, most of all, for her voice - which never failed to inspire and uplift.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thankyou Ernest...

Each year, in a West Village Mexican restaurant, a dinner is held to proclaim the life, the movies, and the man known as Ernest Borgnine.  Guests sit in decorated booths wearing sailor hats and Ernest masks asking and answering questions about celebrated movies, breathtaking individual and ensemble performances, and about a man who seemed, certainly to outsiders, convincingly larger than life.

Ernest appeared in many films over as many years.  He was often pigeonholed as the gnarled, uncomprehending, at time barely incomprehensible, bully.  In 1953's 'From here to Eternity' he played the brutish James 'Fatso' Judson - a man whose sadism reached its peak in his relentless victimisation of Frank 'Maggio' Sinatra - a masterful performance and, possibly, what influenced Sturges to cast him in such a similarly unprepossessing role in his 1955 masterpiece 'Bad Day at Black Rock.'

Borgnine won an Oscar that year for his portrayal of Marty Piletti in Delbert Mann's film of the same first name.  It was an unusual role for him, but it was played with the same thoughtfulness and intelligence that was to characterise all of his performances.  He deserved his Academy award - despite depriving his friend, and the star of 'Bad day...,' Spencer Tracy, from taking the honours.

Although Ernest continued to act regularly on both the big screen and television, he never reached the heights of his earlier films  - with the possible exception of the part of 'Cabbie' in John Carpenter's marvellous 1981 'Escape from New York.'  Again, as was the case in many of his films, it was a smallish part, not a starring role.  But he brought to it a brusque charm and devilish humour, often stealing the show from his illustrious companions - a role he was to reprise with effortless regularity throughout his career.

We will miss him.