In Memoriam: Cameron Boyce

In 2008 Alexandre Aja helmed his second English-language feature, Mirrors. What was essentially a Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, trying to translate his 24-fueled stardom back to the big screen where his career began. The film was largely a forgettable affair save for the revelation of Cameron Boyce, playing Sutherland’s son, the child most susceptible to the evil forces that prey on the Carson family through their mirrors. 

Cameron Boyce in Mirrors

In 2010, Boyce was cast in Grown Ups as Keithie Feder son of Lenny (Adam Sandler) and Roxanne (Salma Hayek). He was a young ensemble in those films who were among the highlights especially in the considerably less successful sequel in 2013.

Following Grown Ups and an appearance on League of Extraordinary Dancers, he began his long tenure on Disney Channel, which in the beginning consisted of guest and background work wherein he utilized his dancing skills. 

However, he quickly landed a role as Luke Ross, a series regular, on Jessie, which ended as one of Disney Channel’s longest-running shows. He also became one of the voice actors to portray Jake on Jake and the Neverland Pirates. When Jessie ended, Disney spun-off the cast into two shows mostly Bunk’d, and Boyce played the lead on Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, which while short-lived was underrated. 

Cameron Boyce in Descendants

However, around the same time Boyce’s involvement in the Disney Channel’s latest breakout film series, Descendants, began. Boyce plays Carlos, son of Cruella De Vil and the films (one yet to be released) made full use of his range of talents.

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There are appearances in a film called Runt and an HBO Series Mrs. Fletcher, which are currently in post-production. Boyce was attached to two other projects listed on the IMDb as being in pre-production. These facts of his résumé underscore the tragedy of his premature passing acutely. 

At certain milestones in life, retrospectively you realize some of your best days were yet to come. Cameron Boyce’s best in life and his career was just over the horizon. While Disney Channel has been a platform before for the likes of Miley Cyrus and Zendaya, most notably; Boyce seemed on poised to break out in other works while still in the fold. 

His future was bright in many ways. In his final interview he spoke about his charity work. This consciousness of what mattered in the world beyond the small and big screen seemed evident to me since his Black History Month promo for Disney XD a few years back.

Boyce’s death is unthinkably tragic, remembering his works not just on the screen but in the community is one way to bring a modicum of sense to the nonsensical.

Rest in peace, Cameron. You will be missed more than you know.

Salma Hayak’s tribute post to Cameron Boyce.
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Carrie Fisher: Postcards from the Edge Written by an Unseen Hand

When I shared my post on George Michael on my personal Facebook, I wrote that:

Rather than write half-heartedly about a “bigger name.” I wrote wholeheartedly about one whose work I know well, and admit faults of mine due to where I was on my path. An honest assessment and appreciation is better than obsequiousness.

In that vein many of the films that were obscured from notice by the leviathan of Star Wars or the films she script doctored, I was just learning about, impacted me more and for longer than the great space opera.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

I saw this on repeat quite a bit because it was a regular rotation film in the early-90s on premium film channels. It stung to see a mother daughter relationship like that but as a young drama enthusiast it was addicting.

The Unseen Hand: Fisher’s Work as Script Doctor

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Coming to grips with the film business, and some of its realities, whether you like it or not, can alway be difficult for a young idealistic artist. Perhaps for no other reason than the nebulous nature of crediting screenwriting. Yes, giving notes can be like leading a horse to water, and even if a writer follows through (I know based on some note sessions of my own) how the notes are taken is at times entirely within their purview.

But we must at least stop and give these people who work tirelessly for no glory to make any film just a bit better than they may otherwise be. Check some of these films Carrie Fisher doctored, whether I liked them then or discovered them later, many of them I am quite fond of, some even in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It is noteworthy though. Especially one entry which my own BAMs awarded. Carrie one-upped Harrison Ford’s infamous assessment that “you can type this shit…” and actually helped craft a necessary and pivotal midpoint in the prequels shaping in some small part the life and career of her fictional mother in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002, 20th Century Fox)

But there was far more than that film that she helped shape. Take a look:

So many sidebars can be had on any of those films, but like many in the original trilogy she had the double-edged sword of Star Wars in her career such that when she made other notable onscreen appearances they went overlooked, some of them I needed to be reminded of after she suffered her heart attack.

Other Works

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In chronology some of these were:

  • Shampoo
  • The Blues Brothers
  • a 1980 surprise, uncredited appearance on SNL
  • Thumbelina in an episode of Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre
  • The Man with One Red Shoe
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Loverboy
  • The ‘burbs
  • When Harry Met Sally…
  • Soapdish (Which I was also obsessed with for a time thanks to HBO)
  • Hook (In a cameo, also as script doctor, one of my latter Spielberg viewings)

Though uncredited it’s hard to forget her scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (It also bears noting that Fisher was a script doctor on an early Myers film So, I Married an Axe Murderer).

She did quite a bit of voice work including voicing Roz Katz on an episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

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Over the course of more than a decade she voiced Angela on many episodes of Family Guy including two forthcoming ones.

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She was then a nun in consecutive films Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

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She had a guest role on the brilliant but canceled Jack and Bobby as the First Lady, and also was in the third installment of Wes Craven’s meta-horror Scream series.

She was a force on and behind the screen that many, myself included, never fully realized.

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And, yes, she was Princess Leia in Star Wars episodes 4-7, and the forthcoming eighth installment, which is already in the can. And even I, a late-comer to the Star Wars series. Having never really started it for real until 1999. However, I also felt the influence of that character, naming a character in a screenplay of mine Leia and having her dress as a princess for Halloween.

Advocacy and Social Media

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But in addition to that she was also on the forefront in being open and honest regarding her battles with mental illness, long before addressing it openly, and trying to remove stigma became commonplace.

In the age of social media, especially Twitter, brevity is the soul of wit indeed, and this is another arena she excelled in. In response to her appearance becoming a ridiculous talking point in Episode VII she said the following:

She also self-deprecatingly, but insightfully chimed in on one of the most peculiar running themes of the 2016 Presidential debates: Trump’s sniffling:

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Conclusion

Last year she was nominated for a BAM Award as part of the cast of The Force Awakens. She was one of the final people considered for Best Supporting Actress. As she, and I hope this piece showed, she was always far more than that and she will be sorely missed.

Music Video Monday: George Michael

This one clearly, sadly, qualifies as an In Memoriam also. Though we all know that 2016 has featured some shattering losses, this is one I can write some about because George Michael did mean something to me growing up. While, yes, I enjoy Prince’s work (making this random post in early 2016), and Bowie’s there was not the connection on a personal level for me.

As is often the case, this connectivity hit home for me more later on than during my formative years. So far as the links I perceived at the time:

  • Yes, I had a jean jacket.
  • Yes, I did my own attempt at the wiggle-dance (far less convincing than my interpretive dance set to “Into the Groove” or my imitation of Axl Rose’s “snake” dance)
  • Yes, I even thought the boots worked for him if for no one else.

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Yes, this is a play but is not that far off my look (2nd from Left, front row, bandana-clad). 

As tends to be the case when one is young, impressionable, and wont to react in fear and revulsion at new things; I was repelled from Michael in part as he drifted from the ever-present limelight but also when he was coming to terms with his sexuality and dealing with depression,  into my early-20s stuggling with my own identity. It’s not a wonder that as I spent my purgatorial time in denial I went to knock his persona from that pedestal down some even if I didn’t know why.

My longing for discretion and so-called normality allowed more puritanical and uninformed impulses to dominate my sentiment toward him. Moreover, it made me make a mistake I am loath to make: confusing artist and man. Not to mention that posthumous reporting has shown he was frequently charitable but didn’t brag about it.

However, once I began to more fully understand, and embrace both myself, and understand some issues pertaining to gay culture and him personally (namely how he did didn’t run and hide from the scandal that officially outed him, but instead lampooned it), my view of him altered.

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With time away from tabloid headlines I was left to wonder: “OK, with all this new awareness in societal (which followed my own), why aren’t more of us saying ‘damn, he’s good!’

Hence, it comes as no surprise that I got a great kick out of his prominence in Keanu.

So this film showed he had some legs as someone who could be believably revealed to tough guys in a goofy comedy. However, he and Wham! made their  cultural impact along the way. Just take a look at the video for, and two parodies for “Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go).”

Aside from that his videos were also statements: straightforward, restrained, and performance-driven for the most part, and iconic for it.

He was directly responsible for the impact of “Faith” as he directed it, a fact I just learned.

But these weren’t the only songs and videos of note. Here are some more…

Last, but not least, there’s the now-rare modern-era Christmas classic “Last Christmas.” The coincidence of his departing this world on Christmas Day is lost on no one.

 

If this isn’t enough to convince you he had a film legacy, consider the IMDb lists him on over 200 titles.

His art will live on, as will his impact, whether it was fully appreciated at the time doesn’t matter. What does is that he has made an impact, has been of influence, and continues to be.

Rest in peace, George. 

In Memoriam: Florence Henderson (1934-2016)

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and one could argue that it’s perennially the most ironic of American holidays, but particularly this year with the political climate and the DAPL standoff.

Then the news hit of the passing of Florence Henderson and the world of TV and film shook anew. If you check on her filmography the fulcrum is The Brady Bunch. However, she always embraced it and always had fun with it as some of these clips will prove.

When The Brady Bunch came to the silver screen in tongue-and-cheek fashion (the only way possible) Florence was there playing grandma. Her version of a grandma was a far “groovier chick”that Carol could hope to be just contrast her to Shelley Long’s hilarious caricature.

Here’s the opening that featured her. And Yes, RuPaul is also in this movie.

 

For the 1993 MTV Movie Awards she and members of The Brady Bunch did spoofs of the films nominated. Here is The Bodyguard.

She also did this brilliant spoof of A Few Good Men.

 

Florence was one of the most stellar examples of someone who far outperformed her material. If that was hard to see in the original show, her takes later on more than prove it. Enjoy, and rest in peace, Florence Henderson.

In closing, if you need some catharsis, and haven’t seen John Oliver’s “ode” to the year, do yourself some good today.

In Memoriam: Bobby Breen (1927-2016)

Introduction

While this In Memoriam starts more like a traditional obit, I continue in my new tradition of enlivened posts, as opposed to Gene Wilder, where I posted clips, here I have entire features where you could build your own film festival if you want. Thanks, public domain!

Bobby Breen

Bobby Breen passed away on September 19th, 2016, he was born Isadore Borsuk in Montréal, Québec, Canada on November 4th, 1927; he was 88. His parents were Jewish immigrants from modern-day Ukraine (then USSR).

While the case with most child stars was that their parents that pushed them, Breen’s parents did not. His much older sister, a music student, discovered his talent and allowed him to pursue a career shortly after they moved to Toronto.

He was touted as the boy soprano. His voice is undoubtedly incredible but what’s really intriguing is the films are truly built around him and showcasing his singing.

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Bobby Breen and his sister.

Shortly after his first gig at a nightclub he started entering and winning competitions. In 1934 he was on a bus to Chicago and working in the theatre, with his surname already changed to the more anglophonic Breen.

A year later he was in Hollywood and Sol Lesser, a producer best known for discovering Jackie Coogan and being involved in many Tarzan renditions, signed him to RKO.

Films

After some radio appearances his first film, Let’s Sing Again was released. Most of these videos are links to whole features. Enjoy!

After its success RKO signed him to a three-picture deal.

Rainbow on the River (1936)

How good or bad the films he was in usually hinged on how naturally the opportunities for him to unleash his voice were folded into the plot. On the rare occasion both of these combined perfectly.

Make a Wish (1937)

 It may not be the best film he was in, I’d argue the melodrama Make a Wish was, but it may be the best showcase of his singing talent.

Way Down South (1939)

You can get this film on DVD with a great introduction by Lou Lumenick:

Breaking the Ice (1938)

However, like all his films it ends well and enjoyable enough to watch and there is decent spacing and plenty of singing.

Hawaii Calls (1938)

In 1939, following Escape to Paradise, and with two more films still on his contract. He retired from the industry.

 

Four films Bobby starred in were nominated for Academy Awards in scoring categories so they were fine productions.

Life After Film

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In a 1977 article he discussed his decision to leave the industry:

When you’ve been a child star and suddenly find yourself with a husky voice, it’s hard to convince agents that you’re not over the hill. I stopped singing at 16 because of the huskiness and took up the piano. I had the knack for it, but never wanted to be a concert pianist. I just wanted to be back in the world I’d known all my life.

In 1942 he returned to appear in Johnny Doughboy as himself. This film is very hard to find, save for wildly overpriced Amazon resellers.

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He served in the army during World War II, and despite not performing at the time, was recruited to entertain the troops along with Mickey Rooney. He did see action on the battlefront though. In 1945 he was hospitalized in France and won a Bronze Star after the war was over.

After retraining his adult voice over time he did return to performing in his new tenor range.

In 1964 he recorded an album with Motown called Better Late Than Never, which was not claimed not to be released. However, that song and some of his other recordings can be found on Spotify. These were his first recordings since 78 rpm releases in the 1930s.

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In his later years he was living in Tamarac, Florida and was running Bobby Breen Enterprises which focused on local talent after having managed bookings of what he called the “Condominium Circuit” which meant hiring aging stars of the past.

Breen was also featured on the cover of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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He and his wife Audre died in the same week.

Conclusion

When I heard the news I thought I wouldn’t put down more words than these:

I have found more to say as I wanted to share these under-viewed films and his incomparable singing. The sad truth is that far too often human nature dictates that we don’t look to the past too often unless we hear of a death. However, since I first saw his films I’ve written of them, and saw this as a last chance to alert the uninitiated that there’s more out there than you realize, and you don’t know what you’re missing.

Rest in peace Bobby, may choirs of angels come to greet you.

In Memoriam: Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

 

The deaths in 2016 have put me down in the dumps more often than not. Usually, the case has been that I couldn’t even find the words to write an In Memoriam, as I have on a few occasions in the past.

This one I felt compelled to comment on late in the day saying:

That would not cut it for this blog. Neither would needlessly pointing out that Condescending Wonka memes are so pervasive it makes you forget how great a film that really is.

He and Richard Pryor on screen together was such a staple of my childhood that they are to me the among the great comedy teams to me.

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What kept coming to mind were the scenes he was in, the laughs I had. And so, what better way to remember him than to share some of the ones I’ve found in my YouTube reminiscing. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam: Anton Yelchin

As I’ve stated many times in the past, I don’t automatically feel the need to write an In Memoriam piece. Removing exercises of necessity was a lot of what starting my own blog was about. Therefore, the shock and tragedy of the loss of Anton Yelchin at far too young an age were not enough to spawn this post. His impact would have to be great enough, and it most definitely was to me.

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However, greater still inasmuch as in recent years Yelchin’s output on the indie scene have been both notable and among those that, sadly, I’ve had on my radar but have remained blindspots. What I did see was enough for him to make his mark, enough to make him notable enough for me to say in my review of 2011’s Fright Night:

Anton Yelchin, who may not be a household name yet but has certainly done his fair share of films and should be recognizable to most.

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However, Yelchin had made his presence known to me a decade earlier as he came to personify on film the character of Bobby Garfield in the film version of Hearts in Atlantis. It was one of my first experiences having read something and then seen the movie and he was quite impressive. Had 2001 not been as stacked as it was he may have been nominated for a BAM Award for it. Hearts in Atlantis kicked off a triple feature I took in thanks to a favorable movie schedule. I believe it was my first post-9/11 movie outing.

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He also turned in noteworthy performances in Alpha Dog, as an ingénue getting caught up in a seedy underworld, and in Charlie Bartlett where he played a very different sort as a scheming, smart alecky charmer who turns his private school on its head. And, yes, he went on to become Chekhov in the latest Star Trek franchise. The significance there to me, personally, as one who has seen all the films but never been terribly enamored with the show, was that he made me appreciate the character on a whole new level I never had before. Furthermore, being a Russian Jew and emigrating to the US at six months of age, it was great to see him in a part that was reflective of his background.

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Some of his recent notable indie turns I need to take in are Burying the Ex, The Green Room, 5 to 7, Cymbeline, and Like Crazy.

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Filmography aside another interesting note is that his death in a freak accident has made me want to revisit his works I know, see those I haven’t and as bittersweet as it will be I very much want to see his five soon-to-be-posthumous releases, including the next Star Trek. This is contrary to my reaction to Robin Williams’ death, which has made me unable to watch his films since.  I can’t say circumstances always effect my viewing reaction postmortem, it’s just notable that in these two, most recent sudden deaths they’ve affected me differently, even though they are personas I held dear. Clearly, as is the case with all celebrity deaths that can affect us, we lament for ourselves and the image we’ll be deprived of and ponder the what ifs of future works. His work, will continue to live on as only film can, and thankfully, his prolific nature will give us a few more glimpses of his talent from beyond the Vale of Tears that separates us from the hereafter.

At 12, he was interviewed about Hearts in Atlantis, and the recent events of 9/11 clearly were addressed in the questioning (how could they not be?); A wise-beyond-his-years Yelchin said:

“I know a lot of people wouldn’t want to come to movies at this time, but this is a movie that gives you a good feeling. It is a movie about a friendship and about people who love each other.”

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Hearts in Atlantis did leave me with a good feeling as did much of his work. But that one, even if it wasn’t my favorite, came when I needed it, it was part of a day where I started reclaiming my life, where I found I could watch movies again. Yelchin was a part of that day in a small way and for that I am eternally grateful.

Rest in peace.

61 Days of Halloween 2015 & In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Today is a big day on this blog.

Vampyr (1932)

First, as you may have noticed I already posted my 6th and final contribution to the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge.

The Movie Rat

Secondly, it’s the first of the month, therefore, it means it’s time to compile another list of BAM Awards considerations. Those can be viewed here.

My Soul to Take (2010, Rogue)

Thirdly, September 1st marks the first day of my most gargantuan of annual themes known as 61 Days of Halloween.

As the name indicates, I will be focused on horror films for the next two months. However, thanks to the backlog of films I’ve written on and can repurpose, the site will not stay myopic.

Furthermore, I would be remiss in starting a horror film theme without a few words about Wes Craven.

In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Wes Craven (2015, Wes Craven)

There is a nearly invariable amount of adoration that comes to the fore when a beloved filmmaker or actor dies. With Craven it is genuine, and speaking only for myself, these glowing praises for many of his works have not been formed posthumously.

Writing in the zeitgeist about My Soul to Take I was higher on it than most giving it not only this review, but placing it in my top 10 of 2010.

Prior 61 Days of Halloweens got me more up-to-date on his most iconic series. As a child, like many youngsters in the ‘80s; Freddy did scare me, and I caught pieces of the films but didn’t sit down to see all of them until recently. New Nightmare’s inclusion on this list is a testament to the brilliance of its reinventing the series.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, New Line Cinema)

Some Craven films I had not gotten a chance to see yet for one reason or another will be a focus this year. In my Lifetime Achievement Awards I try in a maverick spirit to buck the Oscar trend and not award people “too late,” but you can’t get them all (I have gotten horror represented though). However, as Edgar Wright brilliantly stated: “It’s never too late to see a movie.” So I will become more a completist with him this year.

Happy Horrors all, may you find those films that sate your need for catharsis and may you find the works of Craven if you have not yet.

Rest in peace, Wes.

Wes Craven (All Rights Reserved)

In Memoriam: Mickey Rooney

Rather than a trite listing of credits, and a recitation of his significance to the film world like his Juvenile Award, having screen credits in 10 consecutive decades and only having four years since 1926 without a role, I’d rather provide a list of films Mickey Rooney was in that greatly have affected my life, as someone who has a great affection for him but believed that I’d not seen many of his works.

The Muppets (2011)

The Muppets (2011, Disney)

One of the many smiles this film provided is his cameo.

Night at the Museum (2006)

Night at the Museum (2006, 20th Century Fox)

I have incorporated the term “weirdy” into my vernacular based on one of his lines in this film.

Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)

No, this is not one of those good DCOMS. However, who better to play an aged theater employee who loves the movies than Mickey. He certainly wasn’t holding it back any.


The Care Bears Movie (1985)

The Care Bears Movie (1985, Samuel Goldwyn Company)

The Care Bears were a big thing for me growing up, and the fact that Mickey was a voice in the cast was not lost on me when I was revisiting this film as an adult. His kindly character affected me when I was young.

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

The Fox and the Hound (1981, Dinsey)

It’s not an oft talked about Disney title, but I think this one marked all the kids who grew up seeing it.

The Black Stallion (1979)

The Black Stallion (1979, United Artists)

Not one I knew as a kid, but a film that has been with me a while. And though the nature of the film does shift Rooney’s role is memorable if the horse racing aspect is not the ideal.

Pete’s Dragon (1977)

Pete's Dragon (1977, Disney)

I didn’t even see this film until I was older and Lampie is huge part of what makes it work.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974, Rankin/Bass)

It never even really sank in until now that this was also him. There you go, Mickey is part of virtually everyone’s childhood just based on that alone.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town (1970, Rankin/Bass)

And again…

Andy Hardy Films

Mickey Rooney and Deanna Durbin

Not sure how many I’ve seen at this point, but have a box of them I need to get to.

Boys Town (1938)/Men of Boys Town (1941)

Boys Town (1938, MGM)

—-

Rooney has influenced many through the generations and with his expansive filmography it’s unlikely his influence will see an end. May he rest in peace.

Something I’ve seen more recently. Goes from the tough guy who can grate on you but has a heart of gold to a role model for the other wayward boys coming into Father Flanagan’s fold.

Captains Courageous (1937)

Captains Courageous (1937, MGM)

One of his wonderful pairings with Freddie Batholomew.

The Devil is a Sissy (1936)

The Devil is a Sissy (1936, MGM)

Three of the biggest young stars of their era (Rooney, Cooper and Bartholomew) on screen together, and one of the first titles I had to have from Warner Archive.

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936, Selznick)_3

One of my favorite tear-jerking tales, and one of my favorites from the era.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935, Warner Bros.)

The first version of this story I saw of any kind. He remains Puck in my mind.

Officer Thirteen (1932)

A Poverty Row production when he was still be credited as Mickey McGuire that’s one of the standout older titles I’ve come to discover this year.

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It’s clear that many of Rooney’s titles have influenced me, and many more have influenced others. With his expansive career it’s unlikely that his influence will see an end. May he rest in peace.