Hollywood code breaker
Achieves much by daring more
Tom Laughlin was no fan of movie critics. In April 1975, the creator of the screen character Billy Jack took out a full-page ad in the trade paper Variety that posed the question: “Why is it that editors continue to employ critics who are totally out of touch with the audiences they are paid to review for?” Laughlin, the independent producer who had written, directed and starred in the 1971 action film Billy Jack, believed in his audience. Despite critical condemnation, his low-budget tale of a Vietnam veteran who comes to the aid of a teacher and her Freedom School, was the No. 5 top-grossing film of its year. On this day (September 18) in 1975, Laughlin took his campaign to the streets of New York, where he used the electric sign over Nathan’s in Times Square to excoriate Newsweek’s Paul Zimmerman and Joseph Morgenstern for shopping their own screenplays to Hollywood studios while working as movie reviewers for the magazine. Influenced by such independent talents as John Cassavetes and Roger Corman, he viewed film as a medium for social change, and made action films that promoted counter-cultural attitudes. Among his causes were Native American rights — Billy Jack was half-Navaho — and educational reform. He was opposed to nuclear power, the Christian right and U.S. participation in foreign wars. Billy Jack made his screen debut in director Laughlin’s 1967 biker epic Born Losers.
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Worth a weak smile
Jokes that neither win, place nor show
Born on this day (September 19) in 1945, Paul Flaherty honed his writing skills as a member of the Edmonton-based SCTV production team. No surprise, then, when he took on the job of directing his second theatrical feature, 1989's Who’s Harry Crumb?, that John Candy was his star.
Read it again, Grandpa
When television was called books
A Princess & Pirates Weekend begins today (September 16, 2017) in Peoria, the Illinois city that has come to symbolize middle-American values. By coincidence, the celebration falls on the birthday (in 1927) of Peter Falk, who made the story come alive in 1987’s The Princess Bride.
Funny females in focus
Standing up to the comic patriarchy
On this day (September 21) in 1962, two-time Oscar winner Bette Davis advertised for work in the Hollywood Reporter, an ad that mocked Hollywood’s treatment of older actresses. Director Gail Singer celebrated such caustic female humour in her 1992 concert documentary Wisecracks.
Unhappy grr argh moment
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Monday (August 21) began with the wonder of a solar eclipse, an event followed by news suggesting that American pop culture icon Joss Whedon may not be the man we thought him to be. Whether his creative achievements will now be eclipsed is yet to be determined.