Saturday, February 25, 2012

The All-Time Best College Movies

College buddies swap stories about their old college days as they grow older. Some decide their stories are good enough to be turned into movies, or come up with really good ideas for movies just by talking about their lives. Many excellent movies about college life have been made, and while this is by no means a complete list, they should be at the top of your must-watch list.

The movie "21," starring Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey, is about six MIT students who are chosen by a professor to become part of a card counting group because of their incredible math skills. This movie is based on a true story, which is a bit unsettling because they are essentially breaking the law by taking their card counting training to Las Vegas in order to swindle the casinos out of millions of dollars.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tales of the Broke and Famous

"Beverly Hills is a place where you spend a lot of money you don't have to impress a lot of people you don't like!"- - Anonymous Hollywood Producer

Many times a famous person's wealth does not equal their fame. John Wayne found himself in hock after 150 movies. Three wives, seven children, investing his own money in the box office troubled The Alamo (1960) combined with an exceedingly generous nature left the Duke completely wiped out. He would often walk into bars and shout, "Drinks for everybody on me!" He would get fan letters full of wild pleas for money, from people who had tax problems to mothers who asked for help to pay for their daughter's braces. Wayne would agonize over them but send financial aid if he thought the requester was really needy. One time his second and soon to be ex-wife Chata hired a private detective to get the goods on him. Down in Mexico near where Wayne was filming the western Hondo (1953) the investigator forgot his identification one day and got locked up in a Carmargo jail. Not knowing anyone in a foreign land the desperate P.I. called Wayne himself. The cowboy hero arrived with his buddy and frequent co-star, a disbelieving Ward Bond. "Duke, this guy is trying to ruin you! Let him rot!" Wayne reached into his pocket and pulled out the necessary coin to pay the bail. "Ah come on Ward, the poor man was only doing his job."

Stars can find themselves in money trouble before they know it. While performing in Las Vegas with Dean Martin at the Flamingo hotel in 1953, twenty-seven-year old Jerry Lewis ran up $137,000 dollars in gambling debts. The mobsters who ran the casino confronted him to ask how he planned to pay it off. The nervy Lewis told them it was their fault for letting a kid run up such a large tab. How irresponsible! The gangsters, a bit bewildered, agreed, and then repeated their question. Realizing that these nice gentlemen could whack him, Jerry asked them what they suggested. After a hasty conference they told him he would work it off. The gambling addicted Lewis asked if he could win it back at the card table instead, he was told a firm no. The debt took a year and half for the comedian eliminate. He would have retired it quicker but the card games continued during train rides with former Blackjack Dealer Martin, who kept putting the volatile clown further in the red.

Another star that suffered through money trouble in the fifties was Marilyn Monroe. Tired of playing dumb blondes, she bolted from her studio Twentieth Century Fox to start Marilyn Monroe Productions. Actors are often advised not to use their own name in their personal ventures; it makes other ego-driven stars less willing to work with them. Marilyn's film output slowed down and by 1959 her husband, playwright Arthur Miller, was telling her she should accept the dumb blonde role in Some Like It Hot, they needed the money. "I can't see through Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag? Oh my God, I've been dumb before but never that dumb." She went to her well renowned acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, to ask how she could make the audience believe her character. Strasberg suggested that Marilyn, always a man's woman, play the part as someone so desperate for female friendship, she simply didn't pay attention to her co-star's masculine features. She took his advice and the result was a comedy classic.