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Jessica Lange

Scoop's notes:

Frances is a tale of two actresses:


Jessica Lange was a latecomer to acting, having made her first appearance in a movie at age 27. Since she'd probably like to forget that one ("King Kong"), she never really did anything substantial before her 30th birthday. Once she got goin', though, there was no stoppin' her. I think of Jessica as the anti-Brando, in one sense.

Brando probably had more talent than any actor who ever lived. Pauline Kael used to tell the story of the epileptic fit that Brando feigned in his early stage career. It stopped the show many times. And I mean it literally stopped the show. The audience thought it was an actor having an epileptic fit, and not part of the play, so medical professionals in the audience would try to help him.

Unfortunately, Brando got lost after about five great performances, and had nowhere near the career his talent merited. How many great performances did he give after the fifties? I suppose only one (Last Tango). How many good performances? Maybe a half-dozen, many of those debatable - Countess from Hong Kong, The Godfather, Don Juan de Marco, Bedtime Story, maybe One-Eyed Jacks, maybe Apocalypse Now, maybe The Score. That's it for 40 years!  Somewhere in there, his overwhelming talent was swamped in a tidal wave of self-indulgent portrayals where the director should have simply kicked his silly ass off the set and hired a real actor. Missouri Breaks, Mutiny on the Bounty and the Dr Moreau remake come immediately to mind.

Jessica Lange has probably had a better career than Brando, despite the fact that she didn't have one lick of natural talent. Her performance in King Kong is a sample of legendary atrociousness. She made Kathy Ireland look like Meryl Streep. And yet, through a combination of hard work, serious study, and intelligence, she became one of the best actresses of her generation. The Frances Farmer biopic was the first of Lange's six Oscar nominations. Actually, I guess that's not exactly correct. I guess it was tied for first, since she was nominated twice that year, for both Frances (lead - lost) and Tootsie (support - won).


This film is a disturbing, true story about a rebel whose individuality was seen in Hollywood as emotional instability, and even as mental illness.

Frances Farmer was a rebellious actress in the late 30's and early 40's. She didn't like the Hollywood system, and just didn't fit in. She was sympathetic to Communism. She was an athiest. She was an intellectual who had been a top student, but she had the bad luck to end up in a profession in which her brains had no value, and her far left radicalism was viewed as dangerous, possibly demented.  It's hard to imagine anyone with a brain not being angry at being treated like a brainless and interchangeable prop by the filmmakers of that day. Viewed through the prism of today, she seems more like us than the others of her day who kowtowed to the system. Yet in those days her attitude was seen as a mental condition serious enough that she was held against her will in mental institutions for a decade, and eventually lobotomized.

Of all the Hollywood columnists, only John Rosenfeld came to her defense:
"The Frances Farmer Incident should never have happened at all. This actress was no threat against law and order or the public safety. Something that began as merely a traffic reprimand grew into a case of personal violence, a serious charge, and a jail sentence. And all because a sensitive high-strung girl was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Miss Farmer, who is no prodigy of emotional stability or sound business management. needed a lawyer one unhappy night last winter. A helping hand might have extradited her immediately from nothing more than a traffic violation. The terrible truth is that she stood alone, and lost"

Maybe. The truth is that the traffic violation was only the kick-off. She received a suspended sentence after that incident. That was mild enough treatment, but she was supposed to report to her parole officer and failed to do so, forcing the court to order her arrest.  To be fair, there was much more to her legal predicament than a mere parole violation. Frances had enough emotional baggage that I suppose one might call her deeply troubled. She was filled with anger, and simply did not have her emotions in check, partially because of a drinking problem. In between her two court appearances, Frances had broken her hairdresser's jaw in a fight, and had streaked topless through traffic down Sunset Strip.

This time, the police broke down her door in the dead of night and hauled her to the station, kicking and screaming and stark naked. As shown in the film, she listed her profession as "cocksucker" at the police station. When she came to court, she threw a tantrum and actually threw an inkpot at the judge (accurately!), oblivious to the impact it would have on her case. The judge was not amused, and threw her in the slammer for six months. Before the bailiffs got her into a straightjacket, she floored a police matron and slugged an officer. When she got into the calaboose, she refused to do her work detail and caused trouble at every opportunity. Things went from bad to worse.

Her mother eventually had her committed to a sanitarium, where she was subjected to insulin shock. Within a short time she was adjudged clinically insane by the State of Washington, tossed in the loony bin for ten years, and eventually lobotomized.

Essentially lobotomized for a traffic ticket.

The film doesn't really make clear that Frances sort of "made her own bed." It is not possible to defend the way she was treated, but if she had developed any networks in Hollywood, there would have been studios or powerful individuals coming to her aid. That did not happen because she had alienated everyone. She was a troublemaker who had bad-mouthed everyone and treated everyone badly. While in Hollywood she had claimed that the directors and scriptwriters were morons, and that the producers were exploiters. She looked down on film performers because she fancied herself a serious actress who wanted to appear on stage in the classics. She was often quoted as saying she hated everything in Hollywood except the money. And they hated her right back.  "The nicest thing I can say about Frances Farmer is that she is unbearable", as William Wyler put it. Frances had proven so completely odious in Hollywood that many in Hollywood saw her brutal treatment as deserved comeuppance for her arrogance, her Communism, and her atheism.


Frances is rated a solid 7.4 at IMDb, and received two Oscar nominations, but its director, Graeme Clifford, never directed a theatrical film before this one. He didn't do much afterward, either, at least not in the realm of theatrical movies. The rest of his career was primarily focused on television. In fact his resume includes only three other films which received theatrical releases: Gleaming the Cube, Burke & Wills, and the critically lambasted Ruby Cairo, which essentially ended his career outside of the TV industry.



Charmed is a TV show based on the adventures of three sisters, The Charmed Ones. There were four main women from a sex appeal point of view, Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan. Kaley Cuoco spiced things up in the eighth and final season. There was no nudity but plenty that was very easy on the eye. These caps are from the third season and were made in 2001.

Episode 9 Coyote Piper (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Holly Marie Combs

Paige Rowlands

Shannen Doherty

Episode 10 We All Scream for Ice Cream (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Shannen Doherty

Episode 11 Blinded by the Whitelighter (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Shannen Doherty

Episode 12 Wrestling with Demons (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Shannen Doherty

Episode 13 Bride and Gloom (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Shannen Doherty

Una Damon

Episode 14 The Good, the Bad and the Cursed (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Shannen Doherty

Episode 15 Just Harried (2001)

Alyssa Milano

Holly Marie Combs

Shannen Doherty

Some jugs not identified

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Linda Blair and Linnea Quigley in Savage Streets (1984) in 1080hd



Barbara Hershey in The Stunt Man (1980) in 1080hd

Scoop's comments:

It seems strange to look on the list of nominees for best Director in 1980: Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, David Lynch, Roman Polanski and ..... Richard Rush?

Who the hell is Richard Rush?

Who, indeed.

Rush wrote and directed The Stunt Man, and he was nominated for a screenplay Oscar as well as for the prestigious Best Director statuette. In fact his film was nominated for three significant Oscars in 1980, but it has since faded into oblivion. And so has he. After his struggle to bring this film to fruition, and after all the awards it earned, he couldn't seem to muster another project. His next film came 14 years later. It was the notorious Color of Night, the film that is best-remembered for Bruce Willis's penis. Leonard Maltin awarded NO stars to Color of Night, although he had given The Stuntman a perfect 4/4 score. How's that for a fall from grace? In my opinion, Color of Night, while not without its faults, is a watchable erotic thriller from the Basic Instinct school of film. On the other hand, most other people agree with Maltin, and the IMDb score is only 5.1.

Back to the topic ...

The Stunt Man is one of the few films to use surrealism effectively. 

Our hero is an escaped felon whose flight from the police is interrupted by an inexplicable encounter on a bridge with a seemingly insane man driving a classic Duesenberg. He causes the man to drive off the bridge. A helicopter appears, then disappears. WTF?

The explanation is that he stumbled upon some people filming a movie and accidentally killed the hero's stunt double. The director, seen in the chopper, figures out that the kid is the escaped felon, and offers him an escape. Mr. Director (Peter O'Toole) sees nothing to gain by turning the runaway in to the police. He has a film to do, and he's behind schedule. Since the runaway is the same height and weight as the film's star, he's offered a job as the new stunt double. It works like the Santa Clause - if you kill the stunt double, you have to take his place. Actually, the director simply tells the police that the stunt double didn't die, and that the felon is the same guy. (By the way, the dead stunt man is played by the felon's real-life brother, so there is a resemblance.)

So why did the director harbor an escaped felon? Well, on the surface it's just because he can't afford to stop filming, and he knows the kid can't turn him down. But the kid thinks it must be something else. He gradually becomes obsessed with the notion that the director, in his quest for realism, intends to kill  him during a stunt, and film it. His fear becomes heightened when he is put through dangerous stunt after stunt and we, seeing through his POV, think that each is the moment of his death - only to see the camera pull back in long distance to reveal that the stunt is safe, and the director is congratulating him on another job well done.

As we watch the movie within the movie, we never really know what is happening for "real" in our movie and what is a stunt in the inside movie. In pulling off this succession of false deaths, The Stunt Man does for movie magic what Penn and Teller do for stage magic - showing that's its even more fun if you know how it's done.

The dramatic tension comes from the ever-escalating degree of paranoia, because our hero becomes more and more obsessed with the idea that he is to be murdered, to the point where he plans to do the stunts wrong. Therefore, the film alternates between three levels of reality - the distortion of the hero's paranoia, the reality within the war film O'Toole is filming, and genuine reality. As audience members, we often lose track of what is real. Are the German soldiers, extras being played by cops, coming over to him to arrest him, to stab him as in the WW1 script, or to congratulate him on a great stunt?

I think you will find this movie very similar in many ways to that Michael Douglas movie, "The Game". If you liked that one, you'll probably like this as well. I don't normally like that kind of film, but this one pulls it off with panache.

The genius of the movie, besides the charmingly over-the-top concept, resides in an equally charming over-the-top characterization from O'Toole. (Who else would you hire to play "charmingly over-the-top"?). There is some very witty dialogue, or rather monologues from the O'Toole character, on the nature of the movies.

The DVD also includes a full-length movie made in 2000 about the making of this unique film. That film is also rated quite high, and is also sold as a stand-alone. (It was shown at the 20th anniversary of The Stunt Man)

A must-see, if only because there is nothing else quite like it.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza

La Alba