Saturday, November 23, 2013

Honey West (TV)

Honey West(1965-66)
Created by
Skip and Gloria Fickling (novel)
Adapted for TV by Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov
Starring Anne Francis, John Ericson
IMDB Entry

In the 50s and 60s, the private eye show was nearly as successful a genre as westerns.  You could set up a quirky character and then throw a mystery and voila – a concept that could run for years.  Honey West’s gimmick was one that seemed pretty novel in 1965:  it featured a female private eye (with an ocelot).

The show was based upon a series of novels from a few years before.  Honey West (Anne Francis) would take on cases and with the help of her assistant Sam Bolt (John Ericson) would solve them all.  The character was introduced originally in an episode of Burke’s Law, and was successful enough to spin off to a weekly 30-minute series.

West was clearly in charge.  She ran the agency.  Sam did the legwork and sometimes be the muscle, though Honey could more than take care of herself with judo moves similar to Mrs. Peel in the Avengers.*  Sam was the one who gathered information for Honey to use.

Honey and BruceAnne Francis** had a sultry yet playful air and often dressed in animal print clothes.  She had a pet ocelot named Bruce, who didn’t really figure much in the stories, but  gave her an exotic air.  She also had a “beauty mark”*** in the corner of her mouth that made her look more interesting.  This doesn’t mean she wasn’t a fine actress in the part, which portrayed her as smart as well as sexy.  She won a Golden Globe for the role.****

The show had trouble in the ratings, going up against Gomer Pyle, USMC, and was cancelled after one season.

Anne Francis was active in TV for many years, and reprised her role as Honey West in the forgotten 90s revival of Burke’s Law, but never got the chance to star again. 

*This was probably deliberate.  Spelling knew about the British series and even asked Honor Blackman – Diana Rigg’s predecessor on the show – to play the lead.

**Probably best known today as Altaira in the classic SF movie Forbidden Planet.

*** What elsewhere would be called a mole.  Nowadays, it would have been removed or photoshopped away.  Too bad.

****Of course, the Golden Globes didn’t count for much back then.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Directed by
Deepa Mehta
Written by Anurag Kashyap (dialog), Deepa Mehta.
Starring Sarala Kariawasam, Manorama, Raghuvir Yadav, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, John Abraham
IMDB Entry

I love watching films made by different cultures, especially those that show new aspects of the human condition. Water deals with life in India in 1938, portraying a part of that culture that is ripe for tragic stories.

Chuyia (Sarala Kariawasam) is a seven-year-old child bride, who learns that her husband has died, leaving her a widow.  Culture requires she leave the community and live with other widows, similarly dumped by their families.  Madhumati (Manorama) runs the widows’ ashram, smoking ganga and making money by prostituting the next youngest widow Kalyani (Lisa Ray).  Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) has trouble dealing with her hatred of being a widow and her need to obey social strictures.  Meanwhile, Narayan (John Abraham), a follower of Gandhi, starts a romance with Kalyani, who used Chuvia to help them keep it secret.

The sadness of Chuvia’s life is at center stage, and Kariawasm does an excellent job as a child forced into a life she can’t quite understand.*  The rest of the story is powerful and tragic – though with a touch of hope at the end.

The film’s production was troubled.  Mehta had already created controversy with the right wing in India, and the shooting of the film led to violent protests, including the destruction of the film’s sets.  Mehta dropped the production for several years, finally moving to Sri Lanka and giving it a false name. 

The film was a success, garnering it an Oscar nomination.**  It’s a fascinating look into a dark side of the history of India.

*She didn’t speak either English or Hindi, but managed to learn the language on the fly.

**Representing Canada, which took advantage in a change of Oscar rules, since Mehta lives in Toronta.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ever After

Directed by
Andy Tennant
Screenplay by Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant & Rick Parks
Starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Megan Dodds, Mealnie Lynskey
IMDB Entry

Fairytales are big right now.  You have shows like Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Grimm on TV.  There were a couple of Snow White films in 2012:  Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror.  But an early version of the trend, Ever After seems to have come and gone, despite being a clever romantic film.

The fairy tale in question is Cinderella.  Danielle (Drew Barrymore) is cruelly treated by her stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston).  As a teen, Danielle runs into Henry (Dougray Scott), who turned out to be the Crown Prince of France.  Henry is being forced to marry a Spanish princess, but, after some argument, his parents agree to let him choose a bride from the attendees of a special ball to be held to honor Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey).  Of course, her stepmother and her sisters want to do everything to keep Danielle from going to the ball, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that true love wins out in the end. 

What is especially nice is the way they move away from the fairy tale to make everything even better.

The movie’s casting is inspired.  Drew Barrymore makes a wonderful Danielle – charming, smart, and more than willing to speak her mind.  And Anjelica Huston is even better, making a perfect evil stepmother – glamorous and casually cruel.

The movie did adequately in the box office and it appears that a musical may be in the works.  It’s a lovely version of the familiar tale.