Author: DialMForMovies

Twitter: @dialmformovies Film lover. Oscar buff. Newsbreaker of film deaths. Quotes in NYTimes. Panel member at MIFF11. Film segment on 774 ABC Radio Melbourne. Member of AACTA.

Alec McCowen 1925-2017


Alex McCowen in ‘Frenzy’

Alec McCowen, the English actor who portrayed the chief inspector investigating the ‘Necktie Murders’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy,  has died aged 91.

His death was reported by The Guardian

In the film his investigation leads to the arrest of the wrong man, Richard Blaney (played by Jon Finch), whilst the real murderer Robert Rusk (played by Barry Foster) is still at large. McCowen famously speaks the last line of the film.

His film career began in the 1953 drama The Cruel Sea, directed by Charles Frend, where he portrayed a seaman as part of the Royal Navy. In the 1958 Roy Ward Baker film A Night to Remember, he was the real-life RMS Carpathia wireless operator Harold Cottam, who received the distress signal from the Titanic.

During the 1960s he acted in Tony Richardson’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962),  In The Cool of the Day (1963) opposite Peter Finch, Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury, and the horror film  The Witches (1966) where he portrayed the wealthy owner of a small private school who hires a schoolteacher (played by Joan Fontaine).

He received a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination in Travels with My Aunt (1972) as the retired London bank manager who journeys across Europe with his Aunt (played by Maggie Smith).


Alec McCowen in ‘Never Say Never Again’

In the James Bond film Never Say Never (1983),  he was the character Q who heads up the Q-Branch.  Sean Connery reveals his name to be Algernon during the film.   The film was one of the few Bond films not produced by Eon Production

Director Martin Scorsese hired him for two films.  Firstly as Sillerton Jackson, the expert on the families that make up New York society in The Age of Innocence (1993) and  as Reverend Raleigh in the Oscar nominated film Gangs of New York (2002).
It was his last film appearance.


Alec McCowen in ‘Gangs of New York’





Dial M Five: February 2 2017


Five film stories you may have missed.  Curated by me with tender-loving care.


David Shepard, a giant of film preservation who unfairly didn’t receive the universal acclaim that Kevin Brownlow got (ie: an Oscar), has died.
The Hollywood Reporter obit is here

I interviewed David in 2011 and he spoke about working with Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton to preserve their films.

“Chaplin was very concerned with the care of his films , he thought of himself as an artist. And beside that he had lots of progeny who were depending on these things for being fed and clothed.   Keaton wasn’t very interested.”

The audio of our phone interview is here


President Trump and Hollywood seemed destined to be connected at the hip for at least four years.  Matthew McConaughey was interviewed on 29 January  by the BBC about his new film GOLD, and asked “Do you think its time maybe Hollywood and the cultural elite of America gave this guy a break?”

McConaughey’s reply:  They don’t have a choice now. He’s our President.
(see the rest of his reply at the 2min 55 sec mark)


Footage of the late Debbie Reynolds appearing on the Australian TV show The Mike Walsh Show, has surfaced online.
The National Film and Sound Archive has uploaded her appearance from November 13 1979, and it really is quite lovely – it includes a performance of Gee, But It’s Good To Be Here.    Watch the footage here


Here’s a very impressive montage of every film that won the Best Cinematography Oscar. From SUNRISE to THE REVENANT.  Some forgotten films in here.


Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, and LucasFilm filed a motion in U.S District Court on Tuesday for the approval of a settlement over wage theft and anti-trust claims.

“The studios were able to achieve this by conspiring to set salary limits and avoid hiring artists from other studios, thereby circumventing the free market for the skills and talents of their artists.”

Read more from Cartoon Brew, who has been reporting on the case for the last 2 years



Warner Bros has announced all 8 Harry Potter films will be released on 4K Blu-ray before the end of 2017.    By the time you buy those,  they will have been released on 5K I guess.
More here

Gavin J Blair from THR reports that Sony Film Unit reported a $926 million loss in the last quarter. The revenue was hit by the failures of PASSENGERS, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (remake).  Read more

David Oyelowo is conducting a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Feb 8.
He has 3 films out this year NINA, QUEEN OF KATWE, A UNITED KINGOM
Put it in your calendar.

Have you ever crowd-funded the restoration of an old film?
I made a small donation to this project – which was to release THE PRIDE OF PALOMAR (1922), a film directed by Frank Borzage, that is currently held in the Library of Congress.  Because the Kickstarter went over his target, the additional money used was to release a additional Borzage silent film called  BACK PAY (1922).   The latter has been sent to donors to view privately, and will appear on YouTube in around 6 months.
Pencil in June 2017.
Pride of Palomar is still being digitised after a few setbacks and is due for a DVD release this year.

Regal cinemas throughout America are screening all 9 Best Picture Oscar nominees for only $35.    For those wondering,  $35 would get you 1 1/2 films in Australia.








How Debbie Reynolds saved Hollywood

In 1970, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM Studios) announced it was auctioning off all its inventory, seven soundstages worth, to consolidate space on its overcrowded lot.
The auction ran across three days.
Debbie Reynolds, the MGM actress of Singin’ In The Rain fame, had seen first-hand the talented wardrobe specialists design all the exotic and famous gowns across film history. She was determined to save them.

“These were the clothes that the studio wouldn’t even lend us to wear to events or parties. Prior to this auction, I was a “normal” collector. After the auction, preserving as many of these costumes as possible became my obsession. “ she said in 2011.

So for over 40 years she collected gowns, headwear, suits, coats, hats, and props across a multitude of production company auctions.

When Twentieth Century Fox studio followed suit and sold off their inventory, she knew the President of the company personally, and purchased items prior to auction, including Marilyn Monroe’s entire wardrobe.

She had hoped to build a museum showcasing all the film history she had collected.
But it wasn’t to be.  Her approaches to the Academy, for them to purchase her items for their planned Museum in 2018 were rebuffed.

So, in 2011, Debbie Reynolds auctioned off the items she had saved all those years before (in part to help overcome financial difficulties).
The inventory was so large it spanned three separate auctions across four years.

Here is a snapshot of the famous items of film memorabilia that Debbie Reynolds saved, and later auctioned off.   Keep in mind these prices below are in U.S dollars and don’t include commission.

Marilyn Monroe’s Subway dress in “The Seven Year Itch” (1955)

It was described at the auction as the most recogniseable costume in film history.
Worn by Marilyn when she stands over the subway grate.  It was an ivory rayon-acetate halter dress with pleated skirt.  It sold for $4.6 million –  that was $2.6 million more than the pre-auction estimate.

Marilyn Monroe dress.jpg

Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress and hat in “My Fair Lady” (1964)

Designed by Cecil Beaton, who had designed all of the costumes for the stage version of the musical.   Made of a silk linen undergarment overlaid with hand-embroidered fine lace, and trimmed with velvet ribbon.  The hat was a lightweight cotton burlap, with velvet trim and ostrich feathers.   It sold for $3.7 million


Marilyn Monroe’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” dress (1953)
Worn during the ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’ number, the red gown was made of heavy silk crepe and thousands of sequins.
It sold at auction for $1.2 million

Charlton Heston’s tunic, and robe in “Ben-Hur” (1959)
Worn for the Royal procession into Rome, it was a beige wool tunic with navy trim and copper bullion embroidery in checkerboard design, with a heavy wool cloak.  It sold for $320,000

Panavision PSR 35mm camera used to film “Star Wars” (1977)
Still-functioning, it was the main camera used on Episode IV – A New Hope.   The auction lot included the lens and camera dolly.  It sold for $625,000





Rudolph Valentino’s matador outfit in Blood and Sand (1922).

Designed by Travis Banton, it was dubbed ‘The Suit of Lights’.   A purple satin outfit, jacket, vest, pants with silver bullion, sequins, and bead fringe. Valentino died four years after making the film at age 31.   The costume sold for $210,000.



Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat
Worn across ‘numerous productions’ (though the films in question were not identified) it was gifted by Chaplin to the Hollywood Heritage Museum.
The black felt bowler hat, made in London, sold for $110,000.

Judy Garland’s “Wizard of Oz” dress (1939)
It was never worn in the film, but rather in Garland’s test photos in the first two weeks of production.  The blue cotton dress with polka-dot trim sold for $910,000.    That was $800,000 more than pre-auction estimate

Judy Garland’s “Wizard of Oz” ruby slippers (1939)

Never worn in the film itself, but as part of the test photos at the start of production.
Missing some beads, and with the interior silk frayed, they still sold for $510,000


– by Rhett Bartlett

Carrie Fisher 1956-2016

In just her second screen role,  Carrie Fisher entered film folklore with her portrayal of Princess Leia in the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars.
Ms Fisher died on December 27th 2016 in Los Angeles, at age 60.
“I would never not be Princess Leia. ” she wrote in her 2016 novel The Princess Diarist.

pablo-33Like her character in the trilogy, she was determined and fearless.
However, her personal life had been a constant battle with illness.  She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and addictions to prescription medications and cocaine.

But she channelled her personal issues, with acerbic wit and eccentricity, into best-selling novels.  An overdose in 1985, after taking drugs for three months, and the subsequent attempt at recovery, became that basis for her first novel, Postcards from the Edge.

It was adapted, by Fisher herself, into a 1990 film starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.  Debbie Reynolds wanted to play the mother in the film. ‘You’re not right for the part’, she remembered director Mike Nichols saying.
And when Fisher was asked why she didn’t play the central character, she replied “I’ve already played Suzanne’”.

Wishful Drinking, released in 2008 was adapted from Fisher’s successful one-woman stage show.  The book cover, depicting Princess Leia face down at a table, with an empty wine glass, and pills by her side, documented her lengthy battle with drugs and mental illness.

It included electroconvulsive therapy for depression (the shocking of the brain with electrical currents).  The results successfully dimmed her thoughts of hopelessness, but also her memories.

Her answering machine voice mail at the time said,

“Hello and welcome to Carrie’s voice mail. Due to recent electroconvulsive therapy, please pay close attention to the following options. Leave your name, number, and a brief history as to how Carrie knows you, and she’ll get back to you if this jogs what’s left of her memory.”

The Star Wars universe aside, Fisher appeared in Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and The ‘Burbs (1989).

She was an uncredited script doctor (or ‘script nurse’ as she preferred), who tidied up Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), The Wedding Singer (1998), and The River Wild (1994).

She was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, the famous entertainer, humanitarian and film memorabilia collector.

Debbie was 19 years old when she co-starred in Singin’ In The Rain, the same age Carrie was when filming Star Wars.

Fisher’s father was the crooner Eddie Fisher, who left Debbie for the arms of Elizabeth Taylor (whom he was consoling after she lost her husband, Mike Todd, in a plane crash.)

Carrie herself got married in 1983 to Paul Simon, the musician whose music she admired growing up.

How could you not love someone who writes ‘medicine is magical/ and magical is art/ think of the boy in the bubble / and the baby with the baboon heart?’  she wrote.
Their marriage didn’t last a year.

And to top it off, we were the same size.  I used to say to him,  ‘’Don’t stand next to me at the party – people will think we’re salt and pepper shakers.”
Simon’s described their relationship in his 1983 song Hearts and Bones.

Fisher later had a daughter with her partner Bryan Lourd, a talent agent. But their four year relationship ended when he revealed he was bisexual. He later married Bruce Bozzi in 2016.

With the resurrection of the Star Wars franchise, Fisher reprised Princess Leia in The Force Awakens (2015), and appeared digitally de-aged in Rogue One (2016).

In an interview with The Guardian in 2015, she spoke of the journey of her Star Wars character across the decades.
“She lost her parents and her planet in the first film.  In the second film, a very close friend loses his hand and her first boyfriend becomes frozen. By now Leia must be exhausted. She’s probably ready to say, ‘Hey guys, I can’t handle this any more. I’m going to get my hair done.’” 
–  Rhett Bartlett.



RIP David Saxon – ‘Willy Wonka’ editor (1927-2016)

David Saxon, a WWII army photographer whose journey led him to edit the 1971 classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 89.
Mr Saxon passed away on July 5 2016. His death was announced by the Editors Guild in December.

Born insaxon_moviola-1 Brooklyn, Mr Saxon’s army posting in 1944 took him to Belgium and Germany, where his passion for photography convinced the Army newspaper office to employee him.   With his Speed Graphic camera,  he became the Ninth Division News photographer.

By 1955, Saxon had acquired a bachelor in Mathematics,  enrolled in a Theatre Arts Department at UCLA , and shot 16mm Chamber of Commerce films.
It was whilst editing TV commercials that he received a call from a colleague at David Wolper Productions.
“It was a very creative time and place, I remember the long hours but nobody minded them. There was always something different going on.” he told the Editors Guild in 2000.

For twelve years, Mr Saxon edited National Geographic documentaries, including ‘Monkeys, Apes and Man‘ (for which he received an Emmy nomination), and ‘Search For The Great Apes‘ (for which he won an American Cinema Editors award).

He then branched out into his first feature film,  a romantic comedy filmed throughout Europe, called  If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium in 1969.   It was directed by Mel Stuart.

Saxon, Stuart, Wolper along with producer Stan Margulies, began work on their next film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and Chocolate Factory.

“Stan Margulies was the producer, and he said, ‘we’re going to go on location and take the department heads with us, but we’re going on a wonderful location. And we’re not going to work six days, we’re going to work five.”
The primary shooting location was in Germany, where Saxon had served in war 26 years earlier.  Despite being on location, Saxon was able to begin the first cut of the film.
The film became a classic, loved by children and adults. In 2014 the Library of Congress added it to their National Film Registry.

Saxon also edited Victory at Entebbe (1976), the  tv movie of an Air France plane hijacking, that starred a who’s who of film; episode 6 of David Wolper’s landmark miniseries Roots (1977),  twelve episodes of Hill Street Blues (1983-1985), and six episodes of North and South , Book II (1986).

He was coaxed out of retirement in early 1990 to assemble footage shot by Jacques Cousteau about Great White Sharks.  “I walked into a room full of film – five hundred boxes!” he recalled.

– by Rhett Bartlett.  (@dialmformovies)