Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peter Lazer and Henry 'Spike' Lee

Here are a couple more I'm having trouble tracking down. IMDB states that actor Peter Lazer (Hombre) died in Woodstock New York on November 14. IMDB also states that one time "Little Rascal" Henry Spike Lee died in California on November 13. I'll let you know if I find out more, before you do!

Monday, November 24, 2008

John Michael Hayes Update

Mr. Hayes passing was confirmed by family members and author Steven DeRosa. THe following is the obit I posted in my column at Entertainment Insiders.

JOHN MICHAEL HAYES Died Nov. 19, 2008

Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Michael Hayes died at age 89. Mr. Hayes received two Oscar nominations for his work on Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and the classic soap opera "Peyton Place." Mr. Hayes worked with Alfred Hitchcock on four films in the mid 1950s: "To Catch a Thief," the remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The Trouble With Harry" and "Rear Window." Mr. Hayes also received three WGA nominations for his two Oscar nominated films plus "To Catch a Thief." In 2004 the Writer's Guild honored him with their highest award The Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement. Mr. Hayes wrote nearly 30 film and TV scripts during his career. Other notable scripts "The Matchmaker," "Nevada Smith," "Walking Tall," "Harlow," "The Carpetbaggers," "The Children's Hour," "BUtterfield 8," "The Rat Race," "Separate Tables," "It's a Dog's Life," "War Arrow," "Torch Song," "Thunder Bay" and "Red Ball Express." Mr. Hayes appeared in several documentary films about Alfred Hitchcock.

Author Steven DeRosa wrote the excellent book "Writing With Hitchcock." During his research for that boo, Mr. DeRosa got to know the late John Michael Hayes very well.

I asked Mr. DeRosa what caused the end of the Hitchcock/Hayes collaboration.

Mr. DeRosa stated: After getting a lot of attention from the studios and the industry press, Hitchcock sought to take John Michael Hayes down a rung or two by having him share screenplay credit with an old friend of his on their fourth film together, "The Man Who Knew Too Much." The trouble was that Hitchcock's friend, Angus MacPhail, suffered a lot of ailments in addition to being an alcoholic, and was incapable of producing any real work of value. Hitchcock knew this but was doing a favor for MacPhail who had fallen on hard times. When Hitchcock submitted the screenplay with both Hayes's and MacPhail's names on it, Hayes protested the credits to the Writer's Guild. And challenging Hitchcock is something that simply wasn't done. He threatened Hayes, "if you persist in this, I'll never speak with you again." Hayes went forward with the protest, and won sole credit on the film. But the two never worked together again.

I also wondered why Mr. Hayes refused to take a credit for the original Joe Don Baker version of "Walking Tall." Again, Mr. DeRose responded: "Walking Tall" was a B movie and Hayes did not feel that it would add anything to his career. Little did he know that it would become a cult hit and financial success.

Finally Mr. DeRosa shared his experiences with Mr. Hayes while preparing to write "Writing With Hitchcock."

For me, it was a very rewarding relationship, in many ways. When I first met Mr. Hayes n 1994, it was with the object of interviewing him for what was to be a more academic study of the screenwriter's role in an auteur director's world. Little did I know that he had an amazing story to tell. Not just his relationship with Hitchcock, which was akin to David and Goliath, but his entire life and career was some thing that I needed to chronicle.

I found him to be a warm and generous spirit. It was that warmth that came through in the characters he wrote, whether for the radio shows like The Adventures of Sam Spade, the films he wrote for Alfred Hitchcock, and as recently as Disney's Iron Will.

Sitting across from him, at the same table at which he wrote many of his screenplays, and having him regale me with tales about Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and John Wayne and directors like Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, William Wyler and Henry Hathaway was a truly amazing experience.

Even after the writing was done, I visited him several times a year, and we enjoyed discussing movies and baseball-both Red Sox fans. He was excited by the book (Writing with Hitchcock) and how it's being developed into a screenplay. He would kid that we needed to find a young Jack Lemmon to play him in the movie.

I was honored to play my small role in helping shine the spotlight back on him and was thrilled when the Writer's Guild recognized him with their Laurel Award in 2004.