Wednesday, September 30, 2009


On September 10, 2009, Gary Cooper (1901-1961) was honored as the 15th inductee into the Legends of Hollywood series by the U.S. Postal Service.

The portrait was painted by Kazuhiko Sano, after a black and white photograph by George Hurrell.

"We had FACES then!" -Norma Desmond


The month of October means that the cycle of horror conventions and film festivals begin again.

Los Angeles has Shriekfest, Manchester England has The Festival of Fantastic Films, Ohio has Cinema Wasteland, Baltimore has Horrorfind. Through 2010 come the cons and fests thick and fast, with the giant, Hollywood-heavy San Diego Comic Con topping them all for sheer size and acreage in July.

But in October, the mother of ‘em all, Chiller Theatre Expo in New Jersey, monster fans of all ages, tastes and stripes, start the convention circuit to meet their fave celebs, do a little memorabilia shopping, but mostly hang with kindred spirits who love films of the fantastic.

The Chiller Theatre Expo is New Jersey is the baby of the great Kevin Clement. Certainly the largest fan event on the east coast in the United States, Chiller happens a couple of times a year, drawing thousands from across the country. The big show is around Hallowe'en, and the diverse guests that Clement manages to get for his show keeps happy film fans coming back again and again.

This is one of my favorite little Chiller moments–one of many.

A couple of springtimes ago we had a table promoting our films DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and CHAINSAW SALLY. We were stuck in the “Outer Limits” tent, meaning the third tent erected in the parking lot, the one almost no-one got to because it ate up the parking, fans had already spent hours in line to get in, then more hours waiting to get into the main celebrity tent, and by the time they got to our tent, they were either too tired, too broke, or too out of time and pissed off and didn’t set foot inside. The fire marshals were patroling in packs, watching all with eagle-eyes. After all that, many fans never made it into the third tent. So there was a lot of down time…

Our table was in the center of the tent, surrounded by TV horror host Zacherley and actor Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) near the entrance at the north side, Conrad Brooks (PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE) watching the the east flank, filmmaker Ted Bohus and HorrorBiz magazine on the west, and Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in the back, down south.

During one of the many lulls in the action, Penny Marshall shuffled around checking everybody out. It was clear that she wasn’t too thrilled. I was alone at the table, as everyone else had gone to get some late lunch. Marshall locked eyes with me, and snapping gum in time with her slow steps, sauntered over.

We smiled at each other. I broke the ice.

“How’s business?”

She shrugged and chewed her gum. She looked at the DVD of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE on the table. She picked it up. Her eyes rolled up to the poster behind me and back to the DVD.

“You make this?”

“Yes,” I said, extending my hand. “Mark Redfield. You can have it. My gift to you.” A fan appeared, and was hovering just over Marshall’s shoulder.

Just as she was about to reply, the fan snapped a picture. She whirled on him. “Don’t do that! Don’t ever do that! That’s so rude. If you want a picture, just ask first.”

The fan mumbled something. Marshall looked at me, rolled her eyes as if to ask “whatya gonna do?”, and walked away with the DVD.

When April Burril and Jennifer Rouse got back to the table, I told them that Penny Marshall picked up a copy of JEKYLL. Great they said, maybe she’ll hire you in one of her pictures. Jennifer was upset to find out I gave the DVD away…

A moment later, Marshall shuffled back to the table. April and Jennifer perked up a little.

Marshall sidled up to me and asked, “So–where’s all the porn shit?”

Time froze for a split second. Nobody had an answer. Before any of us could even think of where to direct her (helpful as we are), Marshall said, between gum snaps, “I going to a friends birthday party tonight. Just wanted something goofy. Think he’ll like this?” She held up the DVD of JEKYLL.

“Yeah. I think he’ll love it,” I said, not having a clue as to who this friend was, nor what his interests and tastes were. In hindsight, if she was looking for a goofy porn gift, my version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was certain to disappoint.

Penny Marshall just nodded and kept bobbing to the music playing in her head, and walked back to her table and Cindy Williams.We all looked at each other and laughed. I stepped outside the tent for a breath of fresh air.

Ten feet away was Dean Stockwell. He was smoking a cigar by the propane tanks used to fuel the heaters for the tents.

I went back inside.

Monday, September 28, 2009



I’ve been a fan of Gary D. Rhodes work for a number for years. From his McFarland book on White Zombie, to his film documentaries Lugosi: Hollywood’s Dracula and Banned in Oklahoma about the censorship of the film The Tin Drum in his home state, through his many contributions to genre magazines, I knew Rhodes was a kindred spirit. When Bela Lugosi, Dreams and Nightmares (with Richard Sheffield), was published in 2007, I was quick to get a copy and devour it, and did whatever I could to help promote it. I’m a Lugosi-phile myself, and had been developing a film script about Lugosi’s life and theater work in New York, up until Dracula’s opening night.

This conversation occurred during Labor Day weekend in 2007 while I was a guest at The Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England, there to screen my recently produced film Chainsaw Sally. Rhodes and I had been corresponding briefly up to that time, and he surprised me one day with an email saying that he was planning on stopping by the festival on his way back to Ireland (where he is currently teaching film), to see some friends, and would like to meet me, as well.

He arrived on Saturday afternoon, tired from the long flight from the US, just as the Festival guests were herded into the scheduled autograph session by festival director Gil Lane-Young, and sat with me at my table for an hour or so, before agreeing to meet at the bar later. Meeting Gary for the first time, I realized another thing that we had in common: we were the only men in the room wearing neckties. On the spot, I suggested an interview talking about Lugosi for my blog An Actor’s Notebook. And, as we were occasionally and pleasantly interrupted by folks stopping by the table, I turned on the recorder and we had the following chat:

REDFIELD: What was it about Lugosi that originally captured your heart?

RHODES: I think I first saw DRACULA around the age of four years old, and then my oldest sister bought a paperback book on the history of horror films. I spent hours staring at the stills in it of Lugosi and the others. My mother loved the classic horror flicks… she was an original Shock Theatre viewer… so I loved the old horror films from an early age… as well as ghost stories and so forth. But vampires seemed to be a particular interest, and Lugosi had a kind of personality that was so unique. At once familiar and yet at the same time “foreign.” I thought he was amazing, and of course buying FAMOUS MONSTERS ingrained that in my mind even further. I sort of lost interest for a few years as a STAR WARS-era kid, but by the age of 12 or so, the proliferation of home video and ease of access to Lugosi films I’d never seen before brought me back to him.

REDFIELD: This new book (Dreams and Nightmares—I had flyers promoting it on the table with me, as we share the same publisher) was years in the making; did you have a “eureka” moment in your long research period?

RHODES: Well, I originally thought of writing about Lugosi’s final years when I was a kid, because I knew from Forry Ackerman and Dick Sheffield that so much that had been written about that period was wrong. That meant some early research when I was a teenager, interviewing folks like Reggie Le Borg and so forth that later passed away. Through my twenties as well… more interviews and so forth. When I really focused on bringing the book to a conclusion a few years ago, I was 32. It was 2005, and I thought most folks who knew Lugosi had died, except for some of the Ed Wood folks. What really surprised me was finding a few actors who worked with him on stage, as well as stage directors… people who had never been interviewed. Then a couple of folks who worked at the Metropolitan Hospital, where he went for drug rehab. But the real prize was my weeks in Europe. Thanks to some friends in Lugoj, I found his birth home. I found evidence of previously-unknown films he made in Hungary and Germany. And best of all, I found the granddaughter of his first wife, who had some amazing tales of Lugosi’s relationship with her, ranging from his wedding night to the letters he wrote to her long after he moved to America.

REDFIELD: I still want to know if Lugosi really is in the Chaney film HE WHO GET’S SLAPPED and if not, where’d the rumor start?

RHODES: Dick Sheffield found a photo with Lugosi and Chaney Sr. together marked HE WHO GETS SLAPPED in one of Lugosi’s own scrapbooks at Lugosi’s apartment. That’s how the mystery began. There’s no evidence Bela was in the film, though more than one photo shows a clown that looks like him. What I do know is that he left a play in Chicago just before the shooting of GETS SLAPPED started in the summer of 1924. He had gotten at least one good review in the play, but then leaves it, with an understudy taking over his role. Why he left and where he went for the coming weeks is unknown. So he could well have gone to LA in hopes of getting into some films there. He had already appeared in THE SILENT COMMAND in 1923. He was actually thinking about the US cinema before he left Hungary… he told his first wife that when they fled to Vienna. So he might well have ditched the play in Chicago, with hopes of Hollywood, maybe even the promise of a role that didn’t materialize, which in the end led to nothing more than an extra role or two, as in GETS SLAPPED, before returning to New York…a place he had friends, but also a place that he owed some debts at that time too. Something definitely caused him to have an unexpected departure from Chicago… but we just don’t know for sure why.

REDFIELD: You point out that there were other actors who made better “box office” for the film of DRACULA other than Lugosi, and that many other actors were touring the country with the play, including the role’s originator. How much did Lugosi campaign for the role of Dracula prior to being cast in the play? Did he ever read the novel and talk about it?

RHODES: Lugosi certainly made a vigorous campaign for the role in the film, including being versed in the novel and even writing to Stoker’s widow… though once he had the film role, he complained about being typecast as a vampire even before its release. It was really a brave move on the part of the Laemmles to give him the role, as the numerous other persons under consideration would have been safer bets at the box office. They would have all paled in comparison to Lugosi, no doubt, but they would have actually made more financial sense in 1930. The Laemmles were pleased with his performance after filming was underway, though, and they started announcing possible follow-ups in the autumn of 1930. Even before FRANKENSTEIN and MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, they mentioned starring parts for him in never-made films like THE RED MYSTERY.

REDFIELD: Lugosi’s political background, as detailed in your book, is of great interest to me. As to his career downturn, it seems to me to be less a question of “blacklisting” and maybe more about an actor of a certain age working in Hollywood at a certain time in history…

RHODES: Yeah, to me it was a really fascinating issue. It has been to some of us for years. My friend Frank Dello Stritto had earlier written on Lugosi’s politics too. My time in Europe, as well as vigorouscampaigns to get all OSS and FBI files on Lugosi and the organizations he was affiliated with show an interesting story. At times I think Lugosi has been presented as a kind of dupe… a bright-eyed actorthat got tangled up in politics he didn’t understand. But that isn’t the story that emerges from the surviving documents in Hungary, where he was not merely a supporter of the Communist regime, but someone whohad a somewhat important role in it… and someone whose comments in the press show had command of the issues. When he gets to the US during a period of anti-communism in the 20s, he carefully erases his connections to the Hungarian communist regime, whether in the press or to the US government. After he becomes acitizen in the early thirties, though, he gets politically involved again. He ends up becoming head of a Hungarian-American organization that helps raise money during World War II, but the organization was also something of a front for communists. Though he later tells the FBI that he was merely a figurehead president, surviving OSS files and some letters Lugosi wrote show he was heavily involved in the groupand was quite well-versed in the issues. Quite adept a leader, who devoted a good part of his schedule to the group. They even held a major event or two at his Hollywood home. During the McCarthy period, Lugosi actively seeks out a chance to testify to HUAC, but never gets to do so. FBI files seem to show that they were worried about him in the 1950s, whether due to his drug use(which they knew about) and even thinking of possibly deporting him. All that said, though, Lugosi apparently wasn’t blacklisted. Even after the worst of the McCarthy era was over, the William Morrisagency signed him. Jack Broder, who was making millions from Realart Re-releasing, not only cast him, but put his name in the title of a film… a tiny picture, sure, but why would Broder have risked everything he was making with Realart? Or why would William Morris have signed him if he was too hot politically to handle? Why would shows like Red Skelton have featured him on TV? Or a much-publicizedrole in BLACK SLEEP? If you look at other talent that we know was blacklisted, they weren’t getting those opportunities. It is a long and complicated journey, Lugosi’s politics, but in the end I guess the quick version is that he fibbed about his leanings so much and for so long that he seemed to (apparently) avoid blacklisting. Lugosi’s final years are more the result of a down-and-out actor, who was left behind in a world of modern sci-fi flicks. But he got just enough high profile gigs to make the blacklisting claim extremely questionable.

REDFIELD: The sections that detail Richard Sheffield’s relationship with Lugosi are wonderful. Every star-struck kids dream come true: to meet his hero. Tell me about your friendship and working relationship with Richard Sheffield.

RHODES: Dick is like a godfather… the best uncle you could ever have. I met him in LA when I was about 12 or 13, thanks to Forry Ackerman. We’ve been the greatest of pals ever since. Dick’s memories and Dick’s story… his befriending Lugosi and sticking by his side to the day he was Lugosi’s pallbearer and beyond… that is quite a tale. I think the new book tries to speak to Lugosi’s entire life, but it usesDick’s friendship as a kind of narrative frame. He’s a great guy, though. That’s the main thing. It was a kick to hear all his memories, but being his friend has even been better. After 25 years of togetherness, we’re like family.

REDFIELD: I’m curious to know more about Lugosi’s romance with Clara Bow. I think there’s a novel in there somewhere. “The Vampire and the ‘It’ Girl“—clunky, but a good title for a romance novel. Did she write an autobiography, or ever talk about it?

RHODES: Much as I hate to say it, my research led to the same place as David Stenn’s, who is Clara Bow’s biographer. Their relationship apparently wasn’t the kind of stormy and torrid affair that was scandalized in a few newspapers in the 1920s. Lugosi did keep a painting of Bow in thenude until the time of his death, but she didn’t pose in the nude for it.

REDFIELD: Well, hope springs eternal that something may come to light. It would make a good novel, a roman a clef…Speaking of Hope; I’m remembering the uncut footage of the interview with Lugosi’s last wife included as an extra on your documentary LUGOSI, HOLLYWOOD’S DRACULA. It’s as frustrating as it is interesting. What do you make of her, and what was the trip to interview her like? What was she trying “not to say”?

RHODES: Hope was really wonderful to Dick and me. She gave a reporter an interview in the 1950s and was very displeased with the result. So she never gave another interviewer or historian an interview that was intended to be published again, except for ours. She did talk to a few folks, but never gave permission for their discussions to be published, and they weren’t during her lifetime. In our case, she knew we were doing a film and a book… so we spent a good amount of time filming her. She was tired of being mistreated by horror film historians, as well as tired of having been Mrs. Bela Lugosi, I think. She was bitter, and seemed on the one hand to want to express her unhappiness, but on the other hand to be somewhat guarded. That interview is pretty long… only a handful of minutes appear on the DVD… much of it just seemed like it shouldn’t be released, as it revealed maybe too much.

REDFIELD: Knowing what you know now, after years of research—if you had a time machine, what part of Lugosi’s life would you like to travel back to in order to meet him and spend some time with him?

RHODES: So many fascinating periods in Lugosi’s life. The production of WHITE ZOMBIE would have been incredible to see. Or him as Romeo in Hungary, or onstage as Dracula. But I think the period Dick knew him would have been the best to actually speak to him, to get to know him. He had time for people then, and an interest in talking to them.

REDFIELD: Have you heard from Bela Jr. regarding the book? I spoke with him recently, but that was just before I got my copy (of your book). What does he think?

RHODES: I’d never have anything to say but the nicest things about Bela Lugosi Jr. He has always been like an uncle to me as well. I got a wonderful Halloween card from him last year with Snoopy as Dracula.He’s a lot of fun, and is a delightful guy. I know I’ve heard from Satanists and other crazies in my life thanks to writing books on Lugosi, so I can’t imagine how much he’s been bothered in hislifetime. But he’s always supported the things I’ve done on his father. The books and films and even a newsletter I published on Lugosi in the eighties. Always been very helpful. I think that heappreciated a lot of the attention I gave to Lugosi’s early life in the new book…

REDFIELD: Where did you find the Ed Wood script THE PHANTOM GHOUL?

RHODES: To be honest, I don’t remember. Years ago, my pal Rudolph Grey and I traded interviews and clippings and so forth… that was when he was still working on NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY. So it might have been him. But it could also have been Alex Gordon or someone else. Funny, butyou know I’ve done about 9 books now. DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES was in a kind of off-and-on situation for so long that I had boxes and boxes of research, some of it dating back to my pre-teen years. The book has kind of extended across my life from the ages of 12 to 34 or so… but I’m glad I waited to finish it. I think it made it a better book… I hope.

REDFIELD: Lugosi’s idea, post the Vincent Price version of HOUSE OF WAX, for a color, 3-D, re-make of DRACULA is fascinating. I think an incredible opportunity missed.

RHODES: I really hate that Lugosi didn’t get the chance for a remake of DRACULA, or at least some film role in something with a decent budget. But the tale of a bunch of teenagers collecting signatures on a petition all over LA is a great story. That was Dick and his pals, because there was really a whole group of Lugosi fans that clustered around the kingpin Dick Sheffield. They sent the signatures to Universal… but of course it came to nothing, in spite of their valiant efforts. But I also kind of regret the fact that some of the other TV and film things that were talked about for Lugosi in the fifties didn’t happen. Some of the other Ed Wood stuff, for example, or even that strangeROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS starring Bela that was talked about.

REDFIELD: Is there anything left to write about when it comes to Hollywood’s Dracula?

RHODES: I have, believe it or not, one more Bela book left in me. It will mean another trip or two to Hungary and Berlin. So much about his pre-DRACULA period is still unknown, but I’ve begun excavating it. I have dozens and dozens of articles from his short period in Berlin, reviews of films and press clippings and so forth from 1919 and 1920. So I’m going to do one more Lugosi book to collect all of that info. Right now, I’m eagerly awaiting my pal Greg Mank’s new KARLOFF/LUGOSI book… and in five or six years will get back to Bela. I always need some space between Lugosi projects to work on completely unrelated topics… it helps me get energized for Lugosi again.

REDFIELD: What are you working on now?

RHODES: Well, living in Ireland has made life a lot different in all kinds of ways. But it has been productive. Since Bela Lugosi, DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES, my Stanley Kubrick book has been published. In May 08, my book of essays on Edgar Ulmer gets published. And I’ve just finished a book that I think is my best, a book on the perils and problems of early moviegoing. Individual chapters cover the enormous number of movie theatre fires, movie theatre robberies, movie theatre bombings, movie theater mashers, movie theatre transmission of disease, and so on. Next up are books on Irish-America and early cinema, as well as a book on the beginnings of the horror film in the US. I also translated the 1921 novella DRAKULA, which is the book version of the 1921 film of the same name, which predated Murnau’s NOSFERATU and was the first (and very loose) adaptation of Stoker’s novel. I’m hoping to get it transformed into a comic book or animated film.

REDFIELD: You’re as busy as I am! Are you working on any new films now?

RHODES: On that front, I’ve tried to keep busy with filmmaking too. I recently finished an hour film about an Alzheimer’s victim that I think was worthwhile. And a 90 minute comedy film with Rue McClanahan and William Sanderson called WIT’S END that is almost finished. I’ve got a vampire comedy script called FLY BY NIGHT that I wanna make, so my fingers are crossed.

REDFIELD: We should re-make WHITE ZOMBIE.

RHODES: I can’t wait. Udo Kier can be Murder Legendre, and we’ll have to finda plum role for you as the hero.

REDFIELD: Hmm. Plum is right. The hero is a prune pit as written, but we can fix that!

RHODES: Will the undead in our version eat brains, or just stick to Haitian sugar cane?

REDFIELD: Oh! Haitian sugar cane! Voodoo! Keep it old-school and capture that “fairy-tale feeling” everyone loves about it. We’ll leave the brain eating to other zombie pictures!

Copyright Mark Redfield 2007

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I'll post a "making of" story about this event after it happens on October 11th. And if you're wondering what any of this has to do with AN ACTOR'S NOTEBOOK, Poe's parents were actors.
More on that in the future...

If you happen to be in Baltimore that weekend, and love Poe and literature, check out this event! -Mark

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Wednesday, October 7, 2009--Viewing of Poe's body at the Poe House
Thursday, October 8, 2009--All Night Vigil at Westminster Hall
Sunday, October 11, 2009--Poe's Funeral

For tickets and info:

Public Viewing of Poe's Body
October 7, 2009 12:00pm to 11:00pm Tickets: $5. All ages at the door. Mr. Poe's body will lie in state at his former home at 203 North Amity Street from noon to 11:00 p.m. The Poe House will be open for an unprecedented 11 hours to allow people to view Poe's body. This will be an open casket viewing.
All Night Vigil at the Poe Monument
October 8, 2009 12:00am to 7:00am Free. Open to the public. After the Poe House closes at 11 pm on October 7th the Vigil at the Poe Monument, located at the entrance to Westminster Graveyard, will start one hour later at midnight (the morning of October 8th). This will be the only opportunity for the public to offer their own eulogy or tribute to Poe. Assigned times will be given to people wishing to pay homage to Poe and it may be in simple spoken words, poems or music. The scheduling for this event will start in late September. A sign up sheet will be added to this website. People are welcome to spend the entire night if they desire. Poe related performances will be presented throughout the vigil. More details to follow.
Funeral Procession
Sunday October 11, 2009 at approximately 11:30am Free. Open to the public. On Sunday, October 11, 2009, under police escort, Poe's body will travel from his Amity Street home to the Westminster Hall for the funeral services and internment in the family plot in the historic Westminster graveyard. The procession will be led by the Loch Raven Pipes and Drums. Anticipated departure from the Poe House will be at 11:30 am. Mr. Poe's casket will be transported in an antique horse drawn hearse. His coffin will remain on the hearse until the start of the 12:30 pm service. The procession is expected to arrive at the hall about noon. If you are attending the first service you may want to arrive early to witness the procession as it approaches to the hall. The procession route will be announced when it is finalized. There will be no procession for the 4:30 pm service.
Poe's Funeral
Two services: Sunday October 11, 2009 12:30pm and 4:30pm Tickets: $35 in advance. $40 at the door. Ages 10 and up. As Mr. Poe's death was sudden and unexpected exact details of the funeral are still in the planning stages. We can say that there will be two services to accommodate the expected throngs of people who wish to attend the event. The first service is at 12:30 pm and the second service at 4:30 pm. A number of people have been invited to speak and present eulogies for Mr. Poe. A list of confirmed speakers is listed below. We are awaiting confirmations from people in the entertainment, stage and literary fields. Not all speakers will be at both services. We are pleased to announce that beloved actor John Astin will officiate over both services.

In addition to the speakers appropriate funeral music will be offered by: - Monte Maxwell, organist for the United States Naval Academy (4:30 service only), who will play the 1889 Johnson organ, - The Monumental Brass Quintet (12:30 service only), - Popular soloist Paula McCabe (both services) and - B.S.O. violinist Ivan Stefanovic (12:30 service only).

The following people are confirmed as speakers at Poe's Funeral: The Reverend Rufus Griswold (literary acquaintance) Sarah Helen Whitman (former fiancée) George Lippard (devoted friend from Philadelphia) George Rex Graham (editor, Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine) Nathanial Parker Willis (loyal friend) Dr. John Moran (Poe physician at the time of his death) Sir Alfred Hitchcock (legendary film director) J.T.L. Preston (childhood friend, Virginia Military College) Charles Bauldelaire (French writer and Poe admirer) Narrator from The Tell Tale Heart Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) H.P. Lovecraft (Weird Tales writer) Alexander Dumas (writer of The Three Musketeers)

and John Astin (actor and educator) Gris Grimly (author and illustrator) Mark Redfield (actor and filmmaker) Ellen Datlow (author and editor) (more to be announced!)

For more info please visit


This piece was written for the "Radio 4 Director's Diary" and originally published on the BBC4 Radio website, when the play TRADITION was first broadcast back on 2/23/03.

When Pamela Fraser-Solomon called to ask if I would take a part in the play 'Tradition' I leaped at the chance. As something of an actor-manager, nothing would be more appealing than dropping the 'manager' aspect of my life for a few days and concentrate on just being an actor. A holiday I couldn't refuse. And the fact that it was a radio play made saying "yes" all the easier.

In This Photo (above): Mark Redfield, Seth Gilliam, P.J. Benjamin

You see, we Americans used to have a great tradition, so to speak, of radio drama. Drama and comedy. But as a species, radio drama in the United States is all but extinct. From the adaptations of novels and plays by the Mercury Players and the great Orson Welles, to the comedy of W.C. Fields (sparring with wooden-beaded Charley McCarthy), and Fibber McGee and Molly (don't open that closet!) we Americans, throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, tuned in and turned on.

It's virtually all gone now, with few exceptions. How glorious it would have been to be an actor in New York fifty years ago! I am reminded of the tale of Orson Welles having to bustle from one recording studio to another, during the days of live broadcast. After finishing an episode of 'The Shadow' ("Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"), he'd only have minutes to get across town to perform a dramatization of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" in another studio. How did he do it? He hired an ambulance, as there was no law to forbid a civilian to do so, and, with siren wailing and bells clanging, went screaming across town to make the appointed air-time!

So Pam (after having been introduced by our mutual friend, Clarke Peters) asked if I was interested in playing the vile, racist McBane in 'Tradition' expertly dramatised for the radio by Cheryl Martin, from the 1901 novel "The Marrow of Tradition" by Charles W. Chesnutt. I said yes (hopefully not too quickly and eagerly!). I had never heard of Charles W. Chesnutt or the novel, but this was a chance to act a part in radio, and Pam could've offered me a part in an adaptation of the West Virginia telephone directory, and that would have been fine by me.

In This Photo (above): Pamela Fraser-Solomon.

I had done some radio work before, but most of my experience in voice acting was the usual run of radio and television commercials that we actors sometimes must do to pay the rent. Luckily, the explosion of video games has afforded me the chance to play multiple characters (I was once assigned the task of creating the voice for an underwater, blow fish-like alien for a science-fiction game!) but that's the closest I've come to a full-blown radio drama. As I rode the train from Baltimore to New York for the four day recording session, I felt that I might be the least experienced in the cast.

The other thing that began to worry me a little was the character of McBane itself. Having read the script a few days before, I was overcome by a rich, epic story dealing with two families living through a terrible time in American history: the violent days of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. Many of the other characters were well written and had some depth, with fine arcs of emotion and growth. But here was the villain McBane, a violent, uneducated, hateful man, who didn't utter a sentence without using the "N-word". Oh dear. And when McBane does come on stage, it's usually to do something really terrible to another character. Melodramatic traps lay in wait for the actor! I was in trouble.

I arrived the first day of taping at Back Pocket Studios in New York, only to find that I was the first actor to arrive. (Perhaps it's from too many years as the "manager" in my "actor-manager" equation. You know, first on the set…last to leave..)I took the lift up from the 8th Avenue entrance with Lee Sparey, who introduced himself as the chief engineer and studio manager. Lee, brought over from the BBC, is an affable and incredibly conscientious fellow, and proved to be a great friend and ally, not only to me, but to all the American actors engaged for 'Tradition.'

Once in the lobby of Back Pocket, I was quickly sized up by a tall, blond beauty who tossed a revised script at me and introduced herself as Helen Lamadrid. Helen would prove to be invaluable during the next four days, as she worked as the general assistant under Pam, and was the glue that kept the actors and the show together.

The other major studio technician that I met was Back Pocket's own Butch Jones, a large, good-humoured man who knew just how everything at the studio worked. (Advice to actors: make friends with the technicians, because if you get into trouble, they'll be there for you to help you out!)

So far, so good. I settled onto the sofa in the lobby and began to re-read this new, revised script. Then in walked the director, Pam Fraser-Solomon. The moment we met, I felt immediately at ease, as if we had known and worked with each other for a long time.

Now, whether or not that was our natural chemistry at work, or Pam has a talent for making actors feel relaxed and important for the job at hand, I can't say. All I know is that, instead of feeling like the new kid-on-the block, I couldn't wait to get going!

By 9.45 (the call time) the actors began arriving. And what an impressive company was assembled by Pam and Clarke! There was Phylicia Rashad (whom you may remember from "The Cosby Show") Carrie Preston (who was a wonderful Miranda for Patrick Stewart's Prospero a season or two ago). Lois Smith (I had just seen her delightful turn opposite Tom Cruise in the greenhouse scene in "Minority Report") and P.J. Benjamin, Michael Emerson, Lizan Mitchell, Seth Gillam and on and on… I was stoked, as the saying goes!

I was stoked, that is, until about fifteen minutes later, just ten pages into the read-through. Pam stopped me cold after I had read only my second line. She didn't like the direction I was taking the villainous McBane! Oops! Out the window went all feelings of strength and ability. Maybe Pam made a mistake in hiring me?

The reader will pardon me if this report seems very "actor-centric." Please understand that the first day on the set (or the studio, in this case) can often feel, for an actor, like the first day of school. The actor wants to please; "get it right". There is a new teacher, and new students…….

The company broke as Lee positioned the mikes for the recording of the first scenes. Pam caught me as I was sneaking into a corner, and took me aside. Uh-oh. Here it comes I thought. "Charming fellow. Nice to meet you. Here's a ticket back to Baltimore. It's early enough to get someone in here that can act." (Have I mentioned how we actors can be a bit insecure?)

To my delight, she said nothing of the kind. What she did was what all actors hope that good directors can do for them: say the one thing that will free them and given them permission, as it were, to create a memorable character.

Pam diagnosed my problem perfectly. It was simply a question of that unfortunate "N-Word." Pam pointed out that with McBane, the word would be second nature. Part of his vocabulary. He wouldn't think twice. But when Mark the actor said it, it came across as tentative, and indeed, a bit embarrassed.

Relief washed over me. It would be some time before I would play my first scene. Ample time to re-think McBane, and not let him get the better of me. You need a racist, red necked hell-raiser? I'm your man!

This problem out of the way, I was able to observe the rest of the company, all of them new to me. For that matter, most of the actors were working together for the first time. As the first few hours of work unfolded, I watched (and listened) as the company began to gel.

To my surprise, 'Tradition' was performed and recorded 'out-of-continuity' much like a film is made. Having been making nothing but films over the last couple of years, this didn't throw me a bit. I am used to working out of sequence. If you've done your actors homework, you know where the peaks and valleys are emotionally for your character. As we progressed, I realized that the need to work out-of-continuity was really a result of the actors' availability and schedules. A nightmare in film: equally a headache for radio drama. Again, Helen seemed to keep the schedule together, and Pam seemed always to know where the emotional and story arc was.

The greater surprise, however, was twofold. First, it seemed that I was one of the actors with the most 'mike' performance experience! Basically, acting is acting in any medium, and once one is able to grasp the technical requirements, the rest falls into place. The actors were able to grasp the technicalities rather quickly, and create rich characterizations.

But how we all became nostalgic for something that most of us have never had in our lifetimes: radio drama!
In This Photo (above): Phylicia Rashad, Carrie Preston, Lizan Mitchell, Lois Smith.

I think the experience of this new medium (for us, anyway) galvanized us into doing the best that we were able. As the days of recording continued, I found myself wanting to be at the studio, where the action was, even if we weren't doing a McBane scene.

It was during these sessions that I didn't perform in, that I was able to gauge the use (and limitations) of the studio we were working in. There often simply wasn't the physical space to create the right tone, or ambiance, for the sound recordings. Lee Sparey worked miracles to create the feeling of room-size, or the feeling of being out of doors. Radio drama in the States just isn't done enough any more, and the studios have changed and shrunk reflecting that fact.

The cast, however, soon turned into a fine ensemble. One of the best professionally minded groups I have had the honour to work with in some time. And the story that we gathered to create is a stirring one. Filled with the drama of class and race conflict, family love and sadness, that resonates with modern listeners and their lives.

Oh!, if I only could hop into my own awaiting ambulance and be whisked across town to another studio, and do it all again!

The original article and more photos can be found:

(c) Mark Redfield


"We had FACES then!"--Norma Desmond

Monday, September 21, 2009


Caroline Munro is regarded by her most passionate fans as The First Lady of Fantasy. From her Hammer films of the 1970’s and starring roles in fantasy films such as At The Earth’s Core and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, to the assassin Naomi in the James Bond adventure The Spy Who Loved Me, and her roles in cinema today, Caroline Munro’s beauty and talent have captured the hearts of movie-goers internationally.

In this 2007 interview, Caroline Munro talks about her early work and being “discovered”, and the turning point in her career when she went to work for Hammer Studios.

Munro began her career as a model in London. Born in Windsor, the teenage Munro won a “Face of the Year” competition after her mother submitted her photograph to The Evening News, the British newspaper sponsoring the contest. Success came fast, and she was modeling for Vogue Magazine by the time she was seventeen. Film work began with bit parts in such films as Casino Royale (1967) and Where’s Jack (1969).

This breakfast chat between Caroline Munro and me took place one chilly Sunday morning in April, 2007, at the Cinema Wasteland film expo in Ohio. It was early morning, the final day of a three-day fan convention. The hotel dining room was just beginning to fill up with hungry celebrities and folks eager to get the day started. After chatting about some future business, we turned the conversation to her early career and the vampire films she has appeared in.


MARK REDFIELD: Do you remember where you were, in your career, when DRACULA A.D. 1972 came up?

CAROLINE MUNRO: I did a big billboard, a big poster, in England, for a drink called Lambs Navy Rum. And it actually became a quite well-known and famous poster. Sort of a landmark poster, in so far as it was a first to have such an aggressive woman in it – the pose I mean. I was the first female to wear a wetsuit and a knife! It was a very aggressive ad to sell this rum, and apparently, so they say- (Caroline breaks off in mid-story and her hazel eyes flash-she smiles.) It’s awful to talk about yourself! It’s really weird…

MARK: I know.

(The noise in the restaurant has increased. Constant clatter and buzz of voices as more people come in for breakfast – Caroline shrugs, almost imperceptibly, and continues.)

CAROLINE: But they said their sales shot up. Supposedly sales shot up. I did the campaign for twelve years. And in the meantime, Sir James Carreras had seen the poster. He used to travel up and down on the train and the poster was a massive great thing outside all the stations, you know, with me with this wetsuit on. And he asked me in to go and do a reading, which I did. And I actually did a screen test, too. From that I was offered a contract. They didn’t have contract players apparently, for a year. But that was towards the end of Hammer, which I didn’t know at the time.

(Sir James Carreras was the head of Hammer Film Productions.)

MARK: And the first film you did with Hammer is DRACULA A.D. 1972

CAROLINE: Yes, that was the first one. That was a little role. So they offered me that, and that definitely was my turning point.

MARK: What do you mean by “turning point”?

CAROLINE: I had done a few films before that, but that was my turning point, when I worked with Christopher Lee, and when I worked with all of those young, up-and-coming actors. Suddenly I thought, this is what I want to do. I absolutely know. And I loved it. Something felt so natural and, having come from no training-I was working with Stephanie Beecham and Michael Kitchen, the young “Brit Pack” actors of the time. And of course you have Christopher (Lee) and Peter (Cushing)- they’d all come from RADA, they’re all RADA-trained, and there was me – having no formal training. I’d worked on films. I’d worked with Richard Widmark as his daughter, but, I was just playing myself and had no idea what I was doing!

(Caroline refers to the Royale Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)). Stephanie Beecham had appeared in Michael Winner’s “The Nightcomers” (1972) opposite Marlon Brando. A Golden Globe winner, she has since worked steadily in American television. Michael Kitchen had appeared in British television prior to DRACULA A.D. 1972, and in recent years has been seen as Bill Tanner to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in the Brosnan-era 007 films.)

MARK: Were the other actors kind, you being new to the scene?

CAROLINE: They were great! They were absolutely great. And I did those scenes with Christopher, and it was wonderful.

MARK: So, the early film work and modeling, to quote James Cagney, was just “a job of work”?

CAROLINE: Yes. I would turn up on time and, you know, say my lines, and maybe a little bit mechanically. No training. I worked with Richard Quine on Bell, Book and Candle. And on Talent For Loving (1969). There was Cesar Romero playing my grandfather and Richard Widmark as my dad! Fantastic actors! And I was what? Eighteen or nineteen? New kid on the block. I had no idea it was a huge Paramount film. I was chosen to play a Mexican-American girl. And I was working with all these people!

(Richard Quine, an actor-turned-director, helmed two of the last Peter Sellers films, The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) and The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu (1980). Sadly, he committed suicide in 1989.)

MARK: Were your parents supportive of your career?

CAROLINE: My parents were there. Paramount flew them to Madrid, where we were shooting. They had a wonderful apartment. We stayed there. They looked after me. I was the baby. It was an extraordinary experience but it really didn’t register, until I started doing that film (DRACULA A.D. 1972), that acting was my passion.

MARK: What was your friends and families reaction to your getting a contract with Hammer Films?

CAROLINE: They were pleased! My father was a lawyer–

MARK: So he looked the contract over twice…

CAROLINE: (laughing) Yeah, he did, actually – But my mum, a housewife – you know, they were not ambitious for me. They were just loving, fantastic parents. Very supportive. If I wanted to do it, that was fine with them. They were never pushy or said, “Oh yes, you gotta do this and you gotta do that.” Not at all.

MARK: Did they have any opinion about working for Hammer, in that it wasn’t Hollywood – Paramount or Warner Bros., for instance?

CAROLINE: No, not at all. I certainly didn’t. Actually, I didn’t know too much about Hammer at the time. I only knew that once I did it, (DRACULA A.D. 1972), that I was hooked on acting.

MARK: What was the reaction to you and the film when it came out in England?

CAROLINE: I got a lot of press. Quite a lot of press, I remember. Even though it was a teeny-weeny, little role. I ’spose the attention was because of the little things I wore. I mean, it’s always based on the physical stuff – more-so, then. Absolutely. The physical stuff and then the one particular scene with Christopher reviewers kept pointing out that they thought was quite good.

MARK: In the early 1970’s, Hammer had produced a number a films, vampire films that featured nudity. The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, and Vampire Circus come to mind. And in mainstream cinema, “casual” nudity was accepted. I’m thinking of Sally Struthers in Five Easy Pieces, for instance. Was there any pressure from the producers to do nudity, and what went into your decision not to do nude scenes?

CAROLINE: I’m not prudish, and people can do what they want. Just for me, it was a personal choice. It’s something I didn’t want to do. Plus, I think it’s more “what you don’t see” that’s more interesting. For me, it’s nice to have a little mystery. Maybe I’m an old-fashioned girl! A little bit, anyway!

MARK: After DRACULA A.D. 1972 was released, what were the immediate career benefits? What did you do between DRACULA A.D. 1972 and CAPTAIN KRONOS-VAMPIRE HUNTER?

CAROLINE: There were the two Phibes films right after.

MARK: Was the Hammer contract exclusive?

CAROLINE: Well! It was exclusive. I thought it was. Now how did they…? In the meantime, I was asked to do the two Phibes films, but with no credit…

MARK: …really…

CAROLINE: …which is very odd. My agent–I had Dennis Selinger, who was at ICM at the time–and he said, “Oh yes, you know, just go ahead and do it. Do it.” And Hammer didn’t…Was that before or not?…Isn’t that awful!

MARK: I’ll double-check the dates.

CAROLINE: You’ll have to. Because I’m very bad on dates! This was so long ago! But it was all about that time. I think I was uncredited because I had a contract – if that makes any sense.

(Turns out that the Phibes films we’re talking about pre-date "DRACULA A.D. 1972". Starring Vincent Price, the shockers "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (released in May, 1971) and the sequel "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" (released in July, 1972), featured Caroline as the diabolical Phibes’ corpse bride, Victoria. So the film that Caroline did between A.D. and KRONOS is the Ray Harryhausen fantasy film, "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad". Dennis Selinger was, perhaps, Britain’s most powerful talent agent. He discovered Peter Sellers, and had on his client list, at various times during his career, Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Sean Connery and others. Selinger passed away in 1998.)

MARK: Let’s talk about KRONOS, but first, because of the project that I’m currently developing that we were talking about this morning, I wanted to ask you if you were up for the role in…

CAROLINE: –Jekyll and Hyde – “Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde”–

MARK: Not only that, Hammer’s last Frankenstein film?

CAROLINE: Oh, I was thinking of your film. I don’t think so. Not to my knowledge. That Maddie (Madeline Smith) played?

MARK: Yes, that’s it. "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell".

CAROLINE: No. I was definitely up for "Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde".

MARK: With Martine Beswick…

CAROLINE: My best mate! And she was fabulous! They looked perfect together. She and Ralph Bates. If I was casting it, I wouldn’t choose me. Not at all.

MARK: So how did KRONOS come about? Did you have to read for it?

CAROLINE: Well, not really. Because don’t forget I’d just done A.D., and I was under contract, so they were trying to find a project. And then Brian Clemens came along, and said, “She’s right for my gypsy.”

MARK: Carla was your first major role. Looking back on KRONOS, what do you think of the film today?

CAROLINE: I think the film stands out. I’m amazed. I did see it at the time when we recorded the commentary track for the DVD release, so it would be two years ago, and I just think it stands out, actually even better today, because it’s kind of a timeless thing which is odd because – obviously – KRONOS meant “time traveler” in Greek, I believe. So it has a kind of timeless feel to it, to me. I think it still stands out today – because it didn’t have too much graphic violence in it, hardly any sex or anything, it didn’t have the excesses, but it had a kind of spiritual feel – in a way – which I think the kind of esoteric feel, I think – um – maybe works today.

MARK: What did you think of your leading man?

CAROLINE: Of course it had sword fighting which I think was brilliant – I think Horst did an amazing job with that – I think he did an incredible job and he was with Bill Hobbs – the fight director—and I think that was just a great scene. He worked really hard on that and I think it really paid off—one of the highlights of the film for me, was the sword fighting.

MARK: How was Brian Clemens as a director and how did he work with you?

CAROLINE: Just a fabulous director to work with. Because he had a – he’s very English, and has a very – kind of – dry sense of humour. At the same time – and he didn’t go on, sadly, to direct any more films.

MARK: No, no feature films.

CAROLINE: He was a wonderful director, very quiet, he knew exactly what he wanted. Very, very good with actors. He had a kind of – you felt very confident with him. Because I hadn’t done a lot of work in those days, so I was pretty much a novice, working with other really good people. It was quite an important role for me because I ’spose one of the first leads I’d done – so I kinda felt, you know, I had to do my best and he was great with me. I think, in fact, he was so good – I look on him as a bit of a mentor ’cause he went on to suggest me for SINBAD – as he did the screenplay. I think he’s wonderful. And I asked him – I think I told you this – I asked him why he didn’t do any more and he said “because he wasn’t asked”! – to direct. Which is very strange to me because I thought he did a brilliant job.

MARK: Have you spoken to Brian since the KRONOS audio commentary?

CAROLINE: Yes! We’ve seen each other. He did a short thing for his son – a 15-20 minute piece for his son and it was shown at a festival in London. It was very good. His son’s very good-looking and a very good actor. Sam – Sam Clemens. Who I’m sure will do very well. He’s very young. So he has a lot of time in front of him. But he (Brian) did that for him. And so we saw him there and we had lunch with him – last year we had lunch with him in London, so we kind of – I’m hoping he’ll do some shows – he’d be a great guest.

Mark: You took a long break in your career, didn’t you?

CAROLINE: Took a long time off to have my girls. I took a long time. And of course in that time, I had my girls late, and in that time everything changes. And of course you’re not offered the roles. Yeah, I was offered some roles, but not really what I wanted to do. The roles stopped, really, I ’spose. I took really, ten years off, which is really a long time. I worked a lot in Europe after – in the eighties, and I worked a lot in Europe with some really interesting directors. And you change, not just physically, but in your outlook. You’re growing, aren’t you? You have a family. What is the most important thing and how you deal with things – I suppose and it’s been tough, the last few years have been tough I have to think of it as a positive

MARK: You’re talking about your personal life and not so much your professional life?

CAROLINE: Yeah, the personal life. The career was wonderful. I never sought anything, really. I never pursued anything. I was not ambitious. It came to me.

MARK: So you weren’t ambitious and aggressive?

CAROLINE: Not at all. Never. I was so surprised when people asked me – and thrilled.

(Ask Caroline I did, and she said yes. We're currently developing a couple of future projects together; films and audio books.)

Note: I did a second interview with Caroline Munro for Richard Klemenson's wonderful magazine related to all things Hammer Films, Little Shoppe of Horrors, (Number 22) the March 2009 issue. Find out more about Little Shoppe of Horrors by visiting

Copyright Mark Redfield. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A most valuable book for actors and for all people who make a living using their creativity, I've read Eric Maisel's book STAYING SANE IN THE ARTS, A Guide For Creative And Performing Artists a dozen times or more since I first discovered it in 1992.

Quotes from Maisel's introduction:

"I am a psychotherapist, novelist, and artists' advocate...In working with artists I realized that the psychological and practical challenges I have personally faced in my own career as a fiction writer were identical to the ones with which my clients were wrestling...I saw how these same challenges operated in the lives of nearly all famous artists--the Beethovens, Picassos, Virginia Woolfs, Nijinskys, Jackson Pollocks--and no less dramatically in the lives of contemporary artists whose names are not household words."

The topics Maisel covers with rich insight include why the artistic personality is prone to moodiness and depression, and what one can do to remain balanced; how artists become subject to a multitude of blocks, and what to do to avoid or overcome them; how artists can better understand the world of business; perils of isolation; challenges of work and relationships and more.

The first time I swallowed this book, literally in one sitting, I made notes and comparisons and quickly went back to absorb more. Sharply and directly written, I remember that I called Eric Maisel on the phone to discuss some of his points, and was delighted that he took my call and we had a delightful conversation.

Maisel continues to write, lecture and counsel. His website is

Ask for STAYING SANE IN THE ARTS at your library. New and used copies are available on Amazon. Highly recommended.


This short film, THE MAN WHO WALKED AROUND THE WORLD, admittedly a promotional piece for a famous whiskey maker, stars actor Robert Carlyle. It's a wonderful little film and I wonder how it was rehearsed, and how Carlyle and the filmmakers timed the monologue with the reveal of the the various props and decor?


Friday, September 18, 2009


The art of make-up, on stage and film, has always fascinated me, and has always been part of my actor's tool box, ever since my Dad made me up one Hallowe'en long ago using a box of watercolor paints so my cowboy could have a five o'clock shadow and a pencil mustache.

I've found a ton of photos of make-ups I've done over the years; and then there are all the professional make-ups done on me by wonderful artists working in film and TV.

So I've planned a number of stories for the NOTEBOOK labelled Redfield's Make-Up Morgue where I'll post photos, tips and techniques, photos of great make-ups, reviews of books, and interviews with professional make-up and FX artists working today.

Hallowe'en is coming up. Seems like October will be a good month to start posting some of these stories!

-Mark Redfield September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The voice is that of Dick Van Dyke. The song is Chaplin's Smile, sung by Barbara Streisand. The footage and Van Dyke recording is from Stan Laurel's funeral in 1965, at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
The video was produced by , a Laurel and Hardy fan group.
Stan's longtime onscreen partner, Oliver Hardy, passed away in 1957. The duo started their cinematic careers separately in the silent era, and were paired on screen by Hal Roach.

Stan Laurel wrote his own epitaph: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again."
Stan, you're still speaking to all of us through your wonderful films.


"We had FACES then!" -- Norma Desmond

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Making the transition from the old blog site to this one hasn't been smooth sailing, but I'll be previewing and posting starting on Monday the 21st, archiving some of the older interviews I've done and mixing it up with some new stories.

All bells and whistles should be in place by October 1st. Then it's off to the races with several new stories appearing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I hope you'll like it, and bookmark or follow the site, and drop by from time to time. It doesn't matter if you're an actor or not. If you love film, television, radio and theater, there might be something of interest eventually!

AN ACTOR'S NOTEBOOK is just a place where I'll keep trying to figure out what acting is; how others do it; how others perceive it; what it is and what it isn't. Someday I just might begin to figure it out!

-Mark Redfield

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Working out the technical bits, and will be debuting the "new and improved"
AN ACTOR'S NOTEBOOK on October 1, 2009!

Don't worry! It may not be pretty, but it'll get there!