inktober 2020: week four

inktober 2020 - week four

After his discharge from the Royal Air Force, Christopher Lee could see returning to his job as a switchboard operator at Beecham Pharmaceutical. Instead, he thought about the few stage roles he had in school productions and decided to pursue a career as an actor. After discouraging meetings with several producers, including one who told the young Christopher that he was “too tall” to be an actor, he was signed to a seven-year contract with the Rank Organization, a huge British film conglomeration headed by the respected Arthur Rank.

Christopher plugged along in countless stock action roles alongside such screen greats as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Buster Keaton and Laurence Olivier. In 1957, he made his first of many films for the fledgling British studio Hammer Films. He starred as the monster to Peter Cushing’s “Dr. Victor Frankenstein.” in The Curse of Frankenstein. Christopher has met Cushing while at Rank and the two became frequent co-stars and lifelong friends. This was Hammer’s first color film and its first entry into its Frankenstein series. It was an unqualified success and kicked off Hammer’s reign as the “goriest” film studio in the horror genre. Christopher enjoyed a twenty-year run with Hammer.

In the middle 1970s, Christopher explored other genres, including action, drama and science fiction, although new never strayed far from horror. Once he moved to Hollywood, he took roles in mainstream films, working with Disney as a villain in 1978’s Return from Witch Mountain. He showed a lighter side to contrast his screen persona by hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live. Earlier he had turned down the role of “Dr. Barry Rumack” in the disaster spoof Airplane!, a decision he later regretted. (The part went to Leslie Nielsen.)

Christopher entered film history as part of two of the biggest and most beloved franchises — The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars properties. His friend Peter Cushing appeared in the first entry in the Star Wars canon, “A New Hope.” In 1999, he made his first of five appearances in films by director Tim Burton.

Christopher branched out to an unusual side project. In 2010, he released his first heavy metal album, after a few dalliances into music. He release three collections of covers, including one to acknowledge his 92nd birthday. He was also featured on the debut album by supergroup Hollywood Vampires.

Christopher passed away on June 7, 2015 just after his 93rd birthday. However, the news was not made public by his family until four days later. He was also honored at the 88th Academy Awards in February 2016 in the annual “In Memoriam” segment.

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inktober52: rocket

In 1951, Ike Turner (yes, that Ike Turner) released a single titled “Rocket ’88′” under the name “Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats.” (Jackie was the band’s saxophone player.) The song, an ode to the popular Oldsmobile sedan that had been introduced just the year before was two minutes and 48 seconds of infectious, piano-driven blues. It eventually shot to Number One on the Billboard R & B Chart. “Rocket ’88’ is widely regarded as the first “official/unofficial” rock and roll song… kicking off a genre that only gained momentum and cannot be stopped.

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DCS: gerry mcgee

If you ever heard any kind of popular American music — either from your radio or your record player — chances are, you’ve heard Gerry McGee play the guitar.

The son of popular Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee, Gerry developed his own style of guitar-playing as a teen, influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, Chet Atkins and Lefty Frizzell, as well as the music played by his father. He moved to Los Angeles where his prowess and reputation led him to become an in-demand session player. His guitar work is prominent on early recordings by The Monkees. At various times, Gerry backed Elvis Presley, Linda Ronstadt, The Everly Brothers and many others. He even played lead guitar on the novelty hit “Alley-Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles.

He replaced founding member Nokie Edwards in the instrumental group The Ventures. Gerry played lead guitar on their rendition of the theme to the TV drama Hawaii Five-0. He toured and recorded with the band until 1972, when he left to play with John Mayall and tour with Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakum. Gerry returned to The Ventures in 1985, playing and touring with the band ever since. He was inducted into the rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 as a member of The Ventures.

Gerry even found time to pursue an acting career, appearing in films and television including a small role in the 1976 remake of A Star is Born, where his character, among other things, slaps Barbra Streisand on the ass.

In October 2019, while on tour in Japan, Gerry suffered a heart attack on stage and collapsed. He was taken to a hospital, where he passed away. Gerry was 81.

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inktober 2020: week three

inktober 2020 - week three

According to his son David, John Carradine saw a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice when he was 11 years-old and decided that acting was the career for him. He went on to become one of the most prolific and indispensable character actors in movie history. In addition to Westerns and Shakespearean drama, John appeared in numerous horror films throughout his six-decade career. He claimed to have auditioned for director James Whale for the role of the monster in the original Frankenstein. While this claim is unsubstantiated, he did have a small role in its sequel The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.

John passed away in 1988 at the age of 82. His children and grandchildren carry on the family acting mantle.

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DCS: jane weir

No promises as vague as Heaven

Jane Weir and her mother left Davenport, Iowa for Hollywood, California in 1926. Jane attended and graduated Hollywood High School and immediately signed a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures. The studio had big plans for the pretty blond. She was cast in both dramas and comedies and co-starred with such big names as George Raft, Gary Cooper and Jack Benny. She had aspirations to become a screenwriter and Paramount was developing a starring vehicle for her.

Jane went for a routine appendectomy just before her fame was poised to skyrocket. During recovery, she developed a blood clot. After an emergency blood transfusion, she lapsed into a coma and died.  Jane was just 21 years old.

A subsequent autopsy and a police investigation revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

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inktober 2020: week two

inktober 2020 - week two

Creighton Chaney changed his name to the more familiar “Lon Jr.” to, no doubt, cash in on his father‘s popularity. Actually, Lon Jr. was discouraged by his father from entering the field of acting and didn’t do so until after his father’s death.

He was best remembered for his role in the 1941 Universal horror film The Wolf Man and its sequels. He portrayed troubled “Larry Talbot” in nearly every incarnation of the character, even after the character was seemingly killed in some films. Although he was closely associated with the Wolf Man character, he is the only actor the portray all of the top Universal monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy.

Working decidedly outside of his genre, Lon Jr, received critical acclaim for his role of the gentle giant “Lennie Small” in the stage production of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. He reprised the role in the film version.

Lon Jr. worked into the early 1970s with a slew of low-budget films like the infamous Spider Baby and guest roles in TV series like The Rifleman, Route 66 and even The Monkees. He passed away in 1973 at the age of 67. As per his wishes, his body was donated to medical research.

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