Monday, November 30, 2009


Lots of posts to post this December.

The wonderful Karloff Blogathon pushed some posts back into December, as did other work (new scripts and the recording of the audio book The Terror of Fu Manchu that I'm in the middle of); and other stuff that got in the way of proof-reading posts I'd written some time ago, including a couple of items on my film COLD HARBOR.

The film of the month is COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, a western that I star in, directed by Wayne Shipley, and I'll kick off talking about making it with a story called My First Western on Wednesday.

Mark Redfield as Justin Gatewood in the western 'Come Hell or High Water' (2009)

Anyway--December promises to be busy, so I hope you've been enjoying the blog and please, feel free to leave comments or make suggestions or criticisms! All are welcome!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


It's been an amazing week of amazing posts from over 100 bloggers celebrating Boris Karloff. Today, Sunday November 29, brings it to a close.

Spend a little time over at FRANKENSTEINIA and I promise you won't be sorry. Entries that are eye-opening, informative, funny and--well--there's enough material on Karloff to fill a book!

A big shout out and salute to Pierre Fournier who organized and kicked off the whole celebration!

To read my entry in the big blogathon, simply refresh this page and scroll down to BORIS KARLOFF AND THE CREATION OF THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Acrylic on canvas. 11x14. See more of my work at ETSY!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Artist Kerry Gammill scores again this year with another fabulous image for Thanksgiving, featured at the top of the Classic Horror Film Board.

What better way to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and to also point out that it's DAY FOUR of the Boris Karloff Blogathon! Visit FRANKENSTEINIA for more wonderful posts from bloggers all over the blogosphere!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Richard Sala found this ad for the Karloff Blogathon, and I had to share it here!

Monday, November 23, 2009


"BORIS KARLOFF" (2009) by Mark Redfield. Acrylic on canvas panel. 16x20.

Today, November 23rd, we're celebrating the birthday of actor Boris Karloff, and what better way to honor the gentle, gentleman actor than with a global blogathon!

The idea of the week-long blogathon is Pierre Fournier's, who runs the fabulous site Frankensteinia, and he's assembled over 100 bloggers from all over the world to contribute something!

My story, entitled "Boris Karloff and the Foundation of the Screen Actors Guild" will be posted here at An Actor's Notebook on Wednesday, November 25th.

To follow them all, and to see who's involved with the Karloff blogathon, visit Pierre's site Frankensteinia, and welcome to DAY ONE of the party!

Monday, November 16, 2009


"CHARLIE" (2009) by Mark Redfield. 18x24. Acrylic on canvas.

Chaplin is another, continuing influence. I was lucky, in a way, to grow up during the late 1960's and early '70's, when there was a resurgence in popularity with great comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, W.C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy.

Perhaps it starts with the Robert Youngson compilation films of silent comedians that were released in the mid-60's and the packaging of Three Stooges shorts for television. In Europe, Keaton was "re-discovered" by cineastes. Posters of W. C. Fields were in college dorms all over the country in the mid-1970's. The films of all the greats were packaged cheap for television syndication, and my generation was exposed to their genius and magic.

Not today. They have all fallen out of vogue somewhat, and today's generation of kids don't know who they are. The films just aren't easily available.

It's up to us, those who know, to share their magic with new generations.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today is Friday the thirteenth, and what better day to mull theatrical superstitions and Shakespeare's play Macbeth, or, as it is referred to by knowing actors the world over, often in hushed tones --the Scottish Play...

Image (right) Sir Henry Irving as Macbeth.

Superstition is a remarkable thing. Everybody knows not to walk under a ladder. That a black cat crossing one's path is sure to bring bad luck, and that breaking a mirror can bring seven years of calamity down upon the breaker.

The origin of these superstitions is easy to imagine. The job foreman, way back in the Year One, most likely walked under a ladder and had a hammer or brick fall on his head. Passed down through generations of ladder users, that one is obvious.

Cats are inscrutable and mysterious and some people just hate them outright. Black cats, with their cool, half-lidded green eyes, even more so. Seems obvious that an early hater of domestic cats started that one.

And as for breaking mirrors, the first dividend of bad luck from breaking a mirror seems to me to be getting cut from the shards of glass.

Origins of superstitions seem based on common sense and the reminder not to do anything stupid that would bring calamity down on the unlucky bastard's head.

Image (above): Orson Welles Federal Theatre Project production of "Macbeth" (1936).

But what about actors and theatrical superstitions, many brought down throughout the ages and that are as old as the profession itself?

Take for instance, the phrase "break a leg". Used universally instead of saying "good luck". ("Break a leg", I should mention, is not used prior to a ballet performance, probably for obvious reasons...). Mel Brooks, in the musical version of The Producers, devotes a whole song as to why thespians never say "good luck" on opening night, lest they jinx the show.

Whistling in the dressing room or onstage by an actor is also considered taboo. This one may come from the 18th century, and the slim historic evidence that theatrical stage rigging (the flies and backdrops) were rigged and operated by ex-sailors, and sailors used a coded language of whistles as signals. For an actor to whistle might confuse the cues and bring a sandbag down on somebody.

The belief that ghosts are present in theaters is also a widely held, universal belief. Hence, all theaters keep a "ghost light" on when the stage is not in use, usually placed dead center stage. It's there, naked bulb left burning all night, to ward off the theater's resident revenant. Most likely it's there to keep the nightwatchman from falling off the lip of the stage and into the orchestra pit in the dark...

And then there are the plays themselves that are thought to be cursed, and bring bad luck to all. And no other play holds that distinction in western theatrical history more than Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The list of nevers and must-not-do-says with Macbeth are legendary. You must never say "Macbeth" in a theater unless you are rehearsing or performing the play. The usual remedy to lift the curse is to have the offender go outside, turn three times and spit over their shoulder, then re-enter the theater. An actor must never quote any of the witches lines out of context at any time. Sometimes, the character of Hecate (thought by some to be an addition to the text not created by Shakespeare), holds some kind of curse, and is cut entirely from the play, only to leave the three weird sisters and their incantations intact.

Image (below) Olivier as Macbeth.

I'm going to assume that, if you're reading this blog, that you have at least a basic idea of what the story and plot of Macbeth is, so I won't re-cap it here. Suffice to say that much legend is created around a horror show that contains witches, black magic, murder, revenge and demented "vaulting ambition"; such stuff is sure to grab one's imagination.

I think that the real reason Macbeth is considered the "cursed play" is that so often, in its long history since about 1623, that it's mounted and rehearsed so quickly. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, plays were often slapped together in less than a week before being put before an audience. It's a relatively contemporary idea to have the luxury (and money) to rehearse a play for four weeks or more. Macbeth is full of sword fights and violence, and since the modern effects and stage designs of the 19th Century, producers have done everything under the sun (and with a fresnel and projector and elaborate stage machinery) to create special effects to achieve illusions to enhance the play and entertain the audience.

Combine speed in preparation with a play often dimly lit and mix in a dozen actors rushing around with swords often under-rehearsed, and you have a recipe for injury and catastrophe. Naturally, then, it's the play that's cursed and brings bad luck, and no human error is involved or is to be considered! There springs the legend...

Curious what an actor who was currently performing Macbeth at the time of this article's posting thought of any of this, I contacted my colleague Rik Deskin in Seattle, who is performing the title role with the Eclectic Theater Company, now through November 21, 2009.

Q: First and most pressing question to get out of the way: have you kept the gate keeper and his "knock, knock, knock" speech in your production?

RIK DESKIN: Yes we have kept the Porter and that speech. We literally need that scene to fill the time it takes to clean the fake, sticky blood off Lady Macbeth's and my hands before we get back for the latter part of that scene.

Q: In your past theatrical experience, have you ever encountered anyone who took the uttering of "Macbeth" (outside of doing the show) seriously as bad luck, and made the utterer go outside, turn around three times, spit over their shoulder (or perform some other "remedy") ?

RIK DESKIN: Yes. This is my third production of MACBETH to work on. My first was while at Cornish College of the Arts. There was a belief that we had invoked Hecate to curse the performance space in an already haunted building, so several members of that company had to do the ritual at various times throughout the rehearsal period.

Q: I have a couple of "actor superstitions" (or more accurately, rituals) that I do every night before a performance. One that comes to mind is that, regardless of the source of the costume, at least one article must be owned by me (underwear doesn't count; but a ring does). Do you hold and follow any superstition or ritual to see that a performance goes well or is "trouble-free"?

RIK DESKIN: I'm not typically a superstitious person but my ritual before a performance is to simply read through the entire script and go over my lines. If I run out of time, it does nag at my confidence.

Q: Can you tell a story about another actor's superstition or ritual that amused or surprised you?

RIK DESKIN: Hmmm. I cannot recall anything that surprises me but I'm always amused.

Q: "Macbeth" is known as "the bad luck play"; why do you think that is?

RIK DESKIN: A lot of hype. The dark themes and very nature of the play seem to lend themselves to frightening people and every production (that I've worked on at least) has strange coincidences that lend credence to the curse.

Q: Any mysterious or unfortunate happenings with your current production?

RIK DESKIN: One of our actresses had just been cast or may have just auditioned for a role and was mugged later that night. Coincidence or is it? ;)

Q: Did the subject of "the bad luck play" come up with the director and cast, and how was it handled?

RIK DESKIN: The director did a lot of dramaturgy and empowered us at the beginning with the notion that since we are doing the play, we were exempt from the curse.

Q: Have you played McB before?

RIK DESKIN: No. I only read it out loud in Senior English during High School. But I've always wanted to play the role. In previous productions I was part of the crew on my first, The Porter and one of the Witches for the second.

Q: One of Shakespeare's shortest plays, but most complex characters. What's been the greatest challenge?

RIK DESKIN: Fundraising. We always beg and borrow, recycle and upcycle all of our design elements and have resulted in a production that looks like we had money to spend. On a personal note to truly address your question, as an actor I felt that I could not play this role until I had some other roles under my belt. So my track leading up to Macbeth has been Antigonus, Abrams, Porter/3rd Witch, Oberon, Don Pedro, Sebastian, Hamlet & Jacques.

Q: What scene do you approach each performance with exhilaration and can't wait to play; and which comes with a little apprehension?

RIK DESKIN: I love Act III, Scene 4, the Banquet scene. It's a great long, creepy scene where I see Banquo's ghost but no one else does. I always have a little apprehension before Act V, Scene 5, The Tomorrow and Tomorrow scene. It's one of the most famous of Shakespeare's soliloquies and I want to make sure I do it justice. It's very powerful and a brilliant definition of acting and a great companion to Jacques' "All the World's a stage...". Plus it has that great emotional underpinning of the shock of Lady Macbeth's death.

Q: now that you've had a chance to get your teeth into McB, what is your favorite Shakespeare character you've played to date? What character haven't you done, but dream of doing?

RIK DESKIN: Macbeth. Definitely Macbeth has been my favorite. I think it's my best work. Roles I want to play are Iago, Henry V, Richard III, Prospero, Brutus & Petruchio. The great thing about Shakespeare's plays is that there are so many great roles for all ages. My goal is to at least work on all 37 plays once. This is my 10th.

Q: Any final thoughts on McB this round?

RIK DESKIN: I'm glad that I've gotten to play this role and am grateful to all of my family, friends and colleagues that helped make it happen. 8 more performances to go.

To Rik and the cast in Seattle I say "Merde!", and to all of my readers--happy Friday the 13th!

Image (above) The Weird Sisters in Orson Welles film Macbeth (1948).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Remembering all of the men and women who have served their country on this Veteran's Day.

And of all the actors who have served, I have especial admiration for James Stewart.

Stewart is the first American movie star to wear a uniform in World War 2. Not surprising when one considers his family's military background: both grandfathers fought in the American Civil War, and his father fought in the both the Spanish-American War and World War 1.

With the clouds of world war looming again, Stewart was eager to serve his country.

Although rejected after being drafted by the Army for failing height and weight requirements (Stewart was continually and notoriously caricatured as being "bean-pole" thin) for new recruits, Stewart, which hundreds of hours of flight experience under his belt earned while a civilian, tried to enlist in the Army Air Corp. He was accepted in 1941.

At the beginning of his military career, Stewart was assigned to perform as a pilot instructor. In 1943, Stewart saw combat when assigned to the 445th Bombardment Group, and through a series of missions, quickly rose through the ranks, ending the war as Colonel James Stewart. Stewart is one of the few who, in the span of four years, rose from private to colonel. And this had nothing to do with celebrity, but everything to do with his extraordinary leadership abilities.

Stewart stayed active in the Air Force reserves well after the war, becoming a Brigadier General in 1959.

Actor James Stewart's career is generally discussed by breaking his work down into either "pre-war" roles or "post war". It's a generalization that holds some merit, as the image built by many of the films he appeared in prior to World War 2 are of the "aw shucks" variety.

Intentionally, after the war, Stewart sought roles that he could sink his teeth into, and would change, but never erase, his public image. One of the first roles markedly different and breaking from past "typing" was Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE (1948). Stewart would play some of his most complex and disturbing characters in Hitchcock films, including VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"Tony Soprano"/James Gandolfini. Pencil on paper (2007). From a sketchbook I kept by the TV.

I came to be hooked on The Sopranos rather late. I didn't see an episode until the DVD box sets were released, and I began at the beginning of the Soprano family saga. Gandolfini's work in the series is incredible, and soon I'll be going back to view the series again.

For most of 2007, I kept a sketchbook near the big screen TV, and just doodled away, and filled the little book with a lot of actor's faces over the year. Not sure why I stopped keeping the sketchbook near by. Just one of those things that comes and goes...

Friday, November 6, 2009



In this photo: Christine Romeo, Mark Redfield , Kevin Quinn , Larry Blamire, Alison Martin, Brian Howe , Daniel Roebuck, James Karen, Dan Conroy , Fay Jackson, Jim Beaver , Jennifer Blaire, Andrew Parks, H.M.Wynant, Trish Geiger , Betty Garrett, Bruce French

From Larry Blamire -- We are happy and pleased and also excited and pleased to announce that Shout! Factory has just acquired North American DVD and digital rights to THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Both Shout! and Bantam Street are thrilled about the teaming and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.

I've been a big fan of Shout! since they started releasing box sets of SCTV some years back, and their sensibility is right up our alley (if we have an alley--I think we do--somewhere). As you can see, they release some very cool and eclectic stuff (I have recently been enjoying HIYA KIDS, their compilation of vintage 50s TV kids shows).

THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT DVDs will be launched at ComiCon in July, 2010. Both will be loaded with extras in typical Shout! fashion.

But wait, there's more.

Our own Mike Schlesinger is masterminding a theatrical release of not only those two films, but also TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD (which he's dubbed "The Thrillogy"). This will be in March, 2010, in support of the DVD release, and the films will piggyback around the country to select cities. And, yes, they're family friendly, so bring the kids.

From the moment we met with Shout! we had a mutual feeling that this was an ideal partnership, and we couldn't be happier about it--particularly in the current tough market.
--Larry Blamire




THE LAST POE PICTURE SHOW—an evening of Poe on film

WHEN: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21ST, 2009. 7PM (Doors open to the public at 6PM)

WHERE: Westminster Hall. 519 W. Fayette Street. Baltimore, Maryland 21201

ADMISSION: FREE and open to the public! But reserve your tickets now, as seating is limited! Reserve your tickets at:

Join us for our final event celebrating Poe’s Bicentennial in Baltimore and for a fun evening of films inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe!


Vincent Price in HOUSE OF USHER (1960). Roger Corman’s first Poe adaptation!

POE ON FILM TRIVIA CONTEST! Smart and lucky winners who “know Poe” and the movies can win DVD’s!

Mario Cavalli’s THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO (1998). A thrilling adaptation of the Poe classic!

Panel Discussion: POE ON FILM with Chris Kaltenbach (film critic, The Baltimore Sun), Gregory William Mank (“Golden Age Horror” historian and author), Tony Tsendeas (actor, “The Poe Show”). Moderated by Mark Redfield (actor and filmmaker, “The Death of Poe”). Stay after HOUSE OF USHER for a lively discussion about Poe and the cinema. With 100 years of Poe inspired movies, we’ll have plenty to talk about! Bring your questions!

FREE POPCORN! Refreshments also available.

FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. But reserve your ticket NOW as space is limited! Reserve your tickets at:

ALSO: Do your Poe holiday shopping early! Vendors will be present featuring Poe-related gift items, perfect for the holidays, from t-shirts to DVD’s to Gregory William Manks’s new book “Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff”, signed by the author himself!


PREVIEWS OF POE: We’ve assembled trailers (or “previews of coming attractions”) of some of the many films inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. From the Universal Studios adaptations that starred Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, to the Roger Corman “Poe-Cycle” produced by American International Pictures and from films from all over the world, including works from filmmakers Frederico Fellini, Dario Argento and many more. How many have you seen?

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO (1998). Starring Anton Blake (Montressor) and Patrick Monckton (Fortunato). Directed by Mario Cavalli. Screenplay by Richard Deakin. Great Britain. Color. 16 minutes. Superbly acted and photographed adaptation of Poe’s classic tale of revenge, Cavalli’s film has played in festivals world-wide. Filmed in 35mm with a hand-cranked camera and using available light, this CASK is one of the finer vintages of short film adaptations we’ve seen!

POE ON FILM TRIVIA CONTEST: Seven lucky winners receive Poe movies on DVD!


HOUSE OF USHER (1960). Starring Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey. Screenplay by Richard Matheson. Directed by Roger Corman. USA. Color. 79 minutes. USHER is the first of the adaptations in Corman’s so-called “Poe-cycle” for American International Pictures and remains a strong entry in the series. When AIP producer Sam Arkoff, known for producing quickie creature feature films for teenagers on the drive-in movie circuit, asked Corman what was “the monster” in this new horror film, Corman thought quickly on his feet and replied, “The house! The house is the monster!” Arkoff bought it, and green lit the film for production! Roger Corman will receive an honorary Oscar in 2010 for his prolific body of work.

PANEL DISCUSSION: “POE ON FILM”. Stay and join us in a lively discussion moderated by actor and filmmaker Mark Redfield (“The Death of Poe”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”). Our panelists include Chris Kaltenbach (film critic for the Baltimore Sun), Gregory William Mank (film historian and author of the recently published “Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration”) and Tony Tsendeas (actor, director and Poe interpreter, currently touring his one-man show “The Poe Show”). Please note that all panelists are confirmed, but appearance at the event remains subject to last minute professional commitments beyond our control.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


A year or so ago, during a low slump, a friend passed a card to me that had this poem on it. I found it today in my daytimer, and pass it along.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out.
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit.
It's when things seem worse,
that you must not quit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Tom Brandau's debut feature COLD HARBOR will always have an important place in my heart. It was my first feature, too. I served as the film's producer.

COLD HARBOR was a personal work for Brandau, as the events fictionalized in the film are based on his real-life experiences with his brothers after their dad's suicide, when Brandau was about 20 years old.

I've prepared two articles on the film for this month, but have to edit them, so I'll post them when I've had time to proof read them and organize the photos, and more video. One article is about the casting and rehearsal process of four strangers coming to grips with playing brothers; the other is a general behind-the-scenes account, and working with my friend and collaborator Tom Brandau.

Meanwhile, here's a music video featuring clips from the film that Brandau made of the song Playing It Dead, by Mike Lane, that's used over the opening credits. Hope you like it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


"SIMPLY BUSTER" (2009) by Mark Redfield. Acrylic on canvas panel. (16x20)

Buster Keaton remains a great inspiration to me, both as an actor and filmmaker. One of the first plays I ever did professionally was inspired by Keaton's spirit of comedy and the surreal; his recurring theme of man against machine; of the attempt to master forces that overwhelm us all. I'll never stop learning from him.

Original image (c) Mark Redfield.