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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – review

Kal-El-symbolI’m going to start this by explaining about any review you read of a film, don’t take anyone’s word for it. There’s only going to be the slightest hint of spoilage in this review. I’m going to try and explain my opinion without revealing too much detail.

The critics of this latest DC film have been all over it, like vultures on a carcass. Well, I’m not a vulture, and the latest film directed by Zack Snyder, isn’t an old dead carcass. It’s far from that, and if you insist these iconic comic characters must conform to an older style of behavior, you’re going to be disappointed. They may resemble and look vaguely like what you remember from comics or older movies, but as suggested in this movie, this isn’t 1938.

From the moment this film starts, you’re shown images, ever so briefly of a familiar Batman childhood traumatic experience. If you saw the others, dating back to Tim Burton’s film, you know the story. This is there for a reason, and if you’re quick to criticize why it’s included, then you’re missing a larger point. I’ll explain that later. Just know this about this particular film, it’s not your Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan version of Batman. It’s also not your Richard Donner or Bryan Singer Superman movie. This is a movie that stands on it’s own, whether you like it or not, this is a solid story with bold themes and excellent cinematography. What Zack Snyder does with this movie is eschew the chains of past actors and authors. As good as Christopher Reeve was, Henry Cavill has crafted an image which he now owns. He’s not just the red – white – blue boyscout set out for truth, justice, yada-yada-yada.

After those brief introductory moments of a childhood Bruce Wayne, there’s a lot going to happen and you better set down the popcorn, and strap yourself in, because this is not only a fast journey, it’s also intense. Here’s where I really have to give credit to Zack Snyder, because he’s taken a big risk in telling a set of stories, condensed, modified, and brought together to create highly developed imagery backed by an equally intense musical score from Hans Zimmer. I’ve read the criticism, which I shouldn’t have before I saw the film; they say he combined too many story elements. This could also be viewed as part of its strength. Each of the film’s participants contributed in a meaningful way.  It’s not  a Sean Connery 007, it’s more like a Daniel Craig film.

BVS_confrontation_smallZack Snyder wants you to understand this film on several levels. Sure, there’s the obvious titled physical confrontation between Batman and Superman, but he’s introducing us to the idea there’s a lot more to this world than just one or two exceptional people. Batman being the least among equals, possessing no super powers, his role is a subset of the entire movie. An excellent subset I might add, because Ben Affleck nails his dual role.

The introduction of Wonder Woman in this movie, isn’t news to the audience, or a way just to introduce another meta-human. She’s integral to the plot, and if you look at these players, as individuals, not just a timed screen presence, you can see the most interesting aspects of this drama.

Allow me to step back for a writers moment. Just accept this as a way of explaining how well crafted this film is when you look at it in the context of graphic novels (comics). I was one of those youth who read and possessed many of the 1st Marvel Comics dating back to the early 60’s. They were imaginative and drawn in colorful action poses for the era. What attracted myself and many other young people to Marvel at that time, was the introduction of the characters having real personal problems. I’m not talking about acne or dating, they had serious character flaws, and these imperfections showed frailties and a sense of reality for the reader. DC Comics, continued to turn out strong characters, but they were barely two-dimensional. For this reason alone, I think that explains the success of the Batman TV show of the 1960’s. Even young people saw this show as stupid, cartoon characters. I think the creators saw comics as serial nonsense and decided to make fun of it through campy behavior.

For a number of decades afterwards, it seemed no created TV or film could adapt the comics essential fantasy, drama, and core plot lines, without looking plain stupid. Hats off to Richard Donner and Tim Burton for making a strong popular showing, but aside from a lack of today’s technology, they failed to transcend simple child like stories. I think the big break came when Sam Raimi introduced us to his version of Spiderman (2002). That was soon followed by Jon Favreau directing Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (2008). Audiences went to these films in vast numbers, and for the most part, the follow up films were successful. Then, almost everyone explained frustration with the 2007 release of Spiderman 3. No longer was there a story with singular continuity of a villain. Now there were several villains, and the biggest faux pas, the brief but silly Peter Parker dance moves. Sony dropped Raimi and after a pause, rebooted that franchise. Frankly I’m more exhausted from the reboots.

Gal_Gadot_Wonder_Woman_BVS.jpg

Zack Snyder and company have developed a complex drama, and taking a page out the early Marvel handbook, given us extraordinary insight on how these main characters think. Unlike simpler, earlier, graphic novels brought to film, he’s assuming there’s enough for younger people and the older comic book fan. He’s allowed the writing and fast pace imaging to weave an intelligent story. All people, no matter if they’re “super heroes” or villains have a background story. There’s recognition of the emotional complexity and the trauma of former conflicts for both protagonists. The casualties are real, not brushed away or watered down as if they don’t matter. Any active combat military veteran recognizes they don’t know all the reasons why they’re in the conflict. Each one has their own purpose for their presence in the confrontation. Even their reactions afterwards, aren’t the same. The film helps the viewer see some of that inner turmoil from each persons perspective.

Two people can share the same experience but have an entirely different reaction and memory of the events. Examining the individuals past experience, especially in their formative years, coupled with present time, gives each person a unique perspective. When you know Bruce Wayne suffers from a traumatic & turbulent childhood, Clark Kent comes from a stable Midwestern background, and Diana Prince is a much older and perhaps wiser soul, then the multiple stories coming together shared through each person’s eyes, becomes much more flavorful and interesting.

Speaking of flavorful, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Lex Luthor as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, and frankly I went in with the idea this is going to be another Jim Carey (Ridler) act. Wrong! Why? Once again we’re reminded of Zack Snyders revision of a very well known and established villain. This is somlex_corp_logo_signeone who is intelligent, willing to use that intelligence to intimidate and be disarming. We see the beginning of a young psychopath, with all of the money to back up his quest to humble those he feels have too much power. Oddly enough, in his own twisted mind, he can never acquire too much for himself.  If people insist on wanting a young person to play the same role the way it’s been done before, get over it, this isn’t your grandfather’s Buick.

The final confrontation is through a creation of Lex Luthor, in a last ditch effort to gain the upper hand over Superman and anyone else bold enough to get in his way. This not only creates another conflict, it opens the door to what each of these super heroes begin to realize, there are many battles which lay ahead. This is where we see Wonder Woman in her full regalia, and the theater audience cheered when she joined in. Her back story is of someone much older than either Batman & Superman, and we see snippets of how her experience has taught her to remain in the background, avoid conflict when possible, find a way to cooperate. This is another example of the sophisticated underpinnings infused throughout this film.

I give this film a 9 out of 10 stars, because of it’s sophisticated, multiple complex stories woven well together and a critical examination into the psyche of each of the main players. This isn’t your casual, short attention span film. Watch carefully and enjoy! I know I will have to go back a second time just to see how much more I can pick up from the various things hinted, as well as the main story. wonder_woman_icon.jpg

 
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Posted by on 27/03/2016 in Action, Actors, Aliens, Box Office, Director, Emotional Awareness, Entertainment, Fantasy, Hollywood, Icons, Movies, Plot, Popular Culture, Soundtrack, Stories, Writing

 

Goodbye – Major Tom

Goodbye – Major Tom

Yes, this is primarily a film site. I apologize to my friend & co-author of this blog, for taking liberties with the scope of this site.

I woke up this morning, turned on CBS news and heard the announcement that David Bowie died on Sunday (January 10, 2016). For some reason my reaction to this news was, it can’t be. Of course it could, we’ve lost a lot of other famous people several years younger, but the timing was impactful to me.

Permit me to share my thoughts on David Bowie and how events such as this work into our lives. It has been said that each of us have a connection to the other, sometimes obscure, other times direct. To be clear, I never met David Bowie, didn’t get involved as a fan, or have any other connection other than enjoying decades of his music and the occasional film.

Click on this picture for David Bowie ~ Space Oddity

Click for David Bowie playing ‘Space Oddity’

Music has a way of connecting our memories and people. We recall specific songs, musicians and the complex tapestry of our experience. My first exposure to David Bowie was more accidental than planned. I was a young Marine, stationed on a small helicopter base in Santa Ana California. We lived in a barracks of approximately 60 men, sharing cubicles of 4, which provided us minimal privacy. We each had 4 standing, 7 foot high wall lockers forming one wall, of which I devoted one to my own stereo system. I custom built the speakers to fit into one of these narrow wall lockers On weekends, either I or some other fellow Marine accessed this stereo to play music in the barracks. It easily trumped anything others had. We shared music among the variety of guys and their different styles.

This devotion to music and my willingness to allow others to play theirs, brought forward two friends who asked me to drive them to a concert of David Bowie. I was unfamiliar with him, but they paid for my gas and the ticket. We stood out among the attendees with our shaved heads & straight looking appearance. The glam rocker fans came in full regalia, including makeup and glitter on some of the faces.

The staging theatrics & costumes utilized to highlight this concert, were an eye opener for this midwestern kid. The spotlight number with full makeup was Space Oddity. It was aptly named at that time, for my limited knowledge of Kabuki theater. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s I continued to enjoy his music, transitioning from 1970’s 8-tracks, to vinyl, then to CD’s. One of my kids favorites from David Bowie was his Goblin King role in the 1986 movie, Labyrinth. The movie was directed by Muppets creator, Jim Henson.

Then the BBC ran a unique and interesting fictional detective series, Life on Mars (2006–2007), featuring theme music of the same name by David Bowie.

I was listening to KEXP FM – Seattle, last Friday. They featured a David Bowie 12 hour music dedication for his 69th birthday. I listen to them through Internet stream and announced this on my twitter feed. I also emailed my son-in-law, an accomplished rock musician in his own right. It turned out to be a prescient moment with David’s passing on Sunday. I’m planning on purchasing his newly released Blackstar album. A fitting closing album barely released before this news.

What made this announcement so personal for me? For one thing, David Bowie and I are close to the same age. More over, I was talking to my venerable grandfather on Sunday. I make it a habit of checking in with him, as he’s less likely to call me. We used to chat through Skype until his eye sight deteriorated where he could no longer use his computer. I found out he had to place his wife into full time nursing care. At this point his own energy and strength no longer permit him to adequately attend to his wife’s physical needs. He still visits her and is able to push her wheel chair around while they chat. His determination to keep going after his own battle with cancer over 30 years ago, is remarkable.

We’ve witnessed the death of a musical icon whose musical career spanned over 45 years. I’m simultaneously seeing the slow end of life of my much loved grandfather. It’s a reminder of our own limited life cycle.

As an adolescent, I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn’t really have the nerve to sing my songs on stage, and nobody else was doing them. I decided to do them in disguise so that I didn’t have to actually go through the humiliation of going on stage and being myself. I continued designing characters with their own complete personalities and environments. I put them into interviews with me! Rather than be me — which must be incredibly boring to anyone — I’d take Ziggy in, or Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke. It was a very strange thing to do.

Fame itself … doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.

I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.
~ all 3 quotes from David Bowie (1947-2016)

David Bowie (1976-78) in Berlin

David Bowie (1976-78) in Berlin. Click for IBT video tribute.

Note: Highlighted text provides additional related links in this post.

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Posted by on 11/01/2016 in Actors, Deaths, Entertainment, Icons, Music, Popular Culture

 

Lines Which Have Impressed or Amused Me.

Over the years of reading, listening, viewing movies and TV, clever phrases or segments stand out from all of the others, where the writing and or performance is exceptional.

Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”

You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space — but any objections.”

I took a course in art last winter. I learned the difference between a fine oil painting, and a mechanical thing, like a photograph. The photograph shows only the reality. The painting shows not only the reality, but the dream behind it. It’s our dreams, doctor, that carry us on.”
  ~ Harvey (Jimmy Stewart)

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In the movie “Bringing Up Baby“, Cary Grant plays a disgruntled palaeontologist (David), and Katharine Hepburn, a troublesome heiress (Susan).

When Susan takes David’s clothes, he is forced to wear a negligee and answer the door. He meets Mrs. Random, the woman he was supposed to make a good impression, so she would give a sizeable donation to the museum. Arguably this is the first film where the word “gay” had been used to describe homosexuals. At the time homosexuals referred to themselves as that, but it hadn’t become mainstream in a film. This was an ad-libbed line that Cary threw into the scene.

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There were always quick quips when Groucho Marx was around. This is one of many well known quotes.

One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I don’t know.”
~ Animal Crackers

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The Thin Man series of movies began in 1934, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. It was a comedic detective film, about Nick and Nora Charles, a hard-drinking and flirtatious married couple who banter wittily as they solve a murder case. They began based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. It was followed by five sequels which continue to amuse those who watch decades later.

Nora: I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.
Nick: It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.

Nora: You know, that sounds like an interesting case. Why don’t you take it?
Nick: I haven’t time. I’m much too busy seeing that you don’t lose any of the money I married you for.

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A modern version of Nick & Nora Charles are Richard Castle (writer) & Kate Beckett (NYPD detective). The current TV series portrays a crime novelist (Nathan Fillion), as a ride along with a savvy New York police detective (Stana Katic).

There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking how to kill people: Psychopaths, and mystery writers. I’m the kind that pays better. Who am I? I’m Rick Castle… Every writer needs inspiration, and I found mine.” [Det. Kate Beckett as Nikki Heat] “And thanks to my friendship with the mayor, I get to be on her case… And together, we catch killers.”

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A film that appeals to multiple generations (4 generations in our family), Princess Bride. Who can forget the Dread Pirate Roberts / Wesley and the Princess / Butter Cup; the wonderful, over the top villains and heroes as well as Andre the Giant?

The line every woman wants to hear from their man . . As you wish . . .

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“Trin Tragula — for that was his name — was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”
~ (Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Pan Books, 1980)

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A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect

 
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Posted by on 06/04/2015 in Actors, Comedy, Crime Drama, Entertainment, Icons, Movies, Popular Culture

 

Enjoying a Horror Film for Halloween?

Halloween_Movies_banner-aForget the Zombie or modern vampire movies. They’re now part of the regular cultural year round entertainment. There was a time when this type of film was new and would amaze an audience without blood and graphic violence. We owe the popularity and beginning of this genre to an actor from Europe who launched numerous reenactments of the original Bram Stoker novel.

A young Bela Lugosi photo

Bela Lugosi as a young Hungarian touring actor.

Bela Lugosi appeared as Count Dracula in a Broadway adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel beginning in 1927. He was identified by talent scouts as a potential character actor for movies with sound. His thick Hungarian accent meant he would be useful, but only in limited roles such as Dracula. His was unlike any previous portrayals of the role. Handsome and mysterious, Lugosi’s Dracula was considered so alluring and dreadful that audiences gasped when he first opened his mouth to speak. After a half-year run on Broadway, Dracula toured the United States to critical acclaim through 1928 and ’29.

His portrayal of Dracula was so successful that Universal decided to make a movie of Dracula starring Lugosi. The film, Dracula (1931), was a huge hit and forever identified Lugosi in his portrayal of Dracula. By the late 1940’s, what once was thought to be a dramatic performance,  Lugosi a star of the horror genre, was now considered old campy theater. Lugosi found himself typecast as a horror villain, his accent limiting his options and his advancing age were robbing him of ‘allure’. Although this seemed to doom his box office future, the combination of two comedians doing a send off of several monsters in the 1948 movie, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, brought out his reenactment of Dracula for the second time. This was Lugosi’s last ‘A’ movie, even though this film was a successful vehicle for many similar comedy roles for Abbott and Costello.

The 1948 Abbott & Costello movie brought together an unusual paring of horror and comedy, unrivaled until Mel Brooks produced “Young Frankenstein”. Throughout this movie they encounter Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man

Abbott & Costello perfected their rapid fire routine well before this movie. Here are some of the lines used to amuse in this comedy.

Quotes from Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948 promotional photo

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948 promotional photo

Larry Talbot: “You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.”
Wilbur Grey: “You and twenty million other guys!”

Chick Young: “I don’t get it. Out of all the guys around here that classy dish has to pick out a guy like you.”
Wilbur Grey: “What’s wrong with that?”
Chick Young: “Go look at yourself in the mirror sometime.”
Wilbur Grey: “Why should I hurt my own feelings?”

Joan Raymond: “Oh Wilbur, can’t we both come along too?”
Wilbur Grey: “Yes, mon amour.”
Wilbur Grey: “That’s Spanish.”
Chick Young: “That’s French.”
Wilbur Grey: “How do you like that, I speak French too.”

[Wilbur at this point in the movie has 2 women vying for his affections. Chick wants a date with one of them.]
Chick Young: “You know the old saying? Everything comes in threes. Now suppose a third girl should fall in love with you?”
Wilbur Grey: “What’s her name?”
Chick Young: “We’ll say her name is Mary.”
Wilbur Grey: “Is she pretty?”
Chick Young: “Beautiful!”
Wilbur Grey: “Naturally, she’d have to be.”
Chick Young: “Now you have Mary, you have Joan, and you have Sandra. So, to prove to you that I’m your pal, your bosom friend, I’ll take one of the girls off your hands.”
Wilbur Grey: “Chick, you’re what I call a real pal . . . you take Mary.”

Wilbur Grey: “I’ve got a date. In fact I’ve got two dates.”
Larry Talbot: “But you and I ‘have a date with destiny’.”
Wilbur Grey: “Let Chick go with Destiny.”

[Chick Young & Wilbur Grey do a clumsy job of unloading large crates for Mr. McDougal. He then demands they deliver the crates to his warehouse.]
Wilbur Grey: “Well that’s gonna cost you overtime because I’m a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.”
McDougal: “A union man only works eight hours a day.”
Wilbur Grey: “I belong to two unions.”

[Upon arrival at the warehouse with the two large crates which contain Dracula & Frankenstein]
Chick Young: “People pay McDougal cash to come in here and get scared.”
Wilbur: “I’m cheatin’ him. I’m gettin’ scared for nothin’.”

Bela Lugosi - Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi – Dracula (1931)

Chick Young: “I know there’s no such person as Dracula. You know there’s no such person as Dracula.”
Wilbur Grey: “But does Dracula know it?”

Wilbur: “You know that person you said there’s no such person? I think he’s in there… in person. I was reading this sign over here, Dracula’s Legend. All of a sudden I heard…”
[Wilbur imitates a creaking noise]
Chick Young: “That’s the wind.”
Wilbur: “It should get oiled.”

[While Chick & Wilbur are trying to run away from Frankenstein, Wilbur puts on a black cloak over his face]
Wilbur Grey: [imitating Dracula] “Back! Back!”
The Monster: “Yes, master.”
Wilbur Grey: [takes off cloak and turns to Chuck] “He thinks I’m Dracula!” [The chase resumes]

Chick Young: “Professor, do you understand women?”
Prof. Stevens: “I don’t even try. I’m gonna get me a drink.”

Dracula: “What we need is young blood… and brains…”
Wilbur Grey: “I’ve had this brain for thirty years. It hasn’t done me any good!”

[Chick & Wilbur are being chased around the castle and outside to the wharf by Frankenstein.]
Chick Young: “You still want your exhibits?”
McDougal: “Of course I do.”
Wilbur Grey: “Here comes one of ’em now!”

Even after 60+ years after it was produced, I still laugh at this movie.

A little bit of movie and TV trivia; What popular TV western series featured the same character actor as in this movie?
Answer: Glenn Strange portrayed the bartender in Miss Kitty’s saloon on Gunsmoke from 1961 through to his death in 1973. He also played Frankenstein’s Monster in this as well as 2 prior movies. Glenn Strange was also cast as the lead villain “Butch Cavendish” for the TV western, Lone Ranger. He stood 6′ 5″ and weighed 220 lbs making him a credible actor for TV baddies as well as “The Monster“. He was an eighth generation grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe of Jamestown, Virginia.

IMDbBud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein
See full cast & credits.


 

 
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Posted by on 26/10/2014 in Actors, Box Office, Comedy, Entertainment, Horror, Humor, Icons, Movies, Popular Culture

 

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Unbelievable – $uper Auction

Superman logoLook!
Up in the sky . . .
Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No! It’s Super High Auction!!!

I watched an eBay auction with interest recently. I first observed the promotion of an original Superman / Action Comics auction last week.

At the time I thought around $2.1 or $2.2 million would be the winning bid.
I clearly underestimated the collectors willingness to bid. Here is the end result of that auction.

Action Comics #1 (June 1938) Superman’s Debut
Ended:  Aug 24, 2014 18:00:02 PDT
Winning bid:  $3,207,852.00

 
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Posted by on 25/08/2014 in Comics, Entertainment, Fantasy, Finance, Icons, Popular Culture

 

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Another Tree Falls

While receiving acclaim for his acting skill, Richard Attenborough felt a need to be challenged further and became the person behind the camera. He started acting before most of us were born; his breakthrough role came as a psychopathic young gangster, Pinkie Brown, in the 1947 film, Brighton Rock.

Richard Attenborough debut 1940's

Richard Attenborough debut 1940’s

He starred alongside many other Hollywood notables in such films as The Flight of the Phoenix, The Sand Pebbles, Doctor Dolittle,The Great Escape, Brannigan, and Jurassic Park but his Direction in films won him even greater acclaim. Mr. Attenborough, risked most of his life savings to cover the $22 million cost in making Gandhi. His 20 year pursuit to make the film paid off at the box office and put him firmly on the map as a creative Director. His last Directorship was the film Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan.

Richard Attenborough has moved on from his earthly role, 24 August 2014. Father of 3 and husband of Sheila Sim, he is survived by her and 2 children as well as 2 younger brothers. His daughter Jane and a granddaughter preceded him when they were killed in the 2004 South Asian tsunami. Further details can be found in this link. Washington Post 24 August.

One of his noticeable included actors for any film he directs is Anthony Hopkins.

Richard Attenborough as John Hammond in Jurassic Park

Attenborough as John Hammond in Jurassic Park

 

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She Had it All

A stunning beauty in her youth. Largely an underrated talent yet was the belle of Hollywood.

Those who saw her, who could resist falling in love with her?
I met her in Cannes in around 2000. She was elegant till the end.
RIP Lauren Bacall… X

“Key Largo” ~ Bertie Higgins – Lyrics excerpt

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall (1924–2014)

We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo

Here’s lookin’ at you kid
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo

 

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