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quarta-feira, 19 de maio de 2010

Steven Hill


Hill was born Solomon Krakovsky ,February 24, 1922 in Seattle, Washington. After serving four-years in the Naval Reserve, Hill made his first New York stage appearance in Ben Hecht's A Flag is Born in 1946, which also featured a young Marlon Brando. Hill says his big break came when he landed a small part in the hit Broadway show Mister Roberts. "The director, Joshua Logan, thought I had some ability and he let me create one of the scenes," says Hill. "So I improvised dialog and it went in the show. That was my first endorsement. It gave me tremendous encouragement to stay in the business." Hill said this was a thrilling time in his life when fresh out of the service he played the hapless sailor Stefanowski. "You could almost smell it from the very first reading that took place - this is going to be an overwhelming hit," said Hill. "We all felt it, and experienced it and were convinced of it, and we were riding the crest of a wave from the very first day of rehearsals."

In 1947, Hill became a founding member of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio alongside such other actors as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Julie Harris.
Hill made his film debut in 1950 in Lady Without a Passport. He then re-enlisted in the Navy in 1952 for two years and when he completed his service resumed his acting in earnest. Strasberg later said, "Steven Hill is considered one of the finest actors America has ever produced". When he was starting out as an actor, Hill sought out roles that had a social purpose. "Later I learned that show business is about entertaining," he says. "So I've had to reconcile my idealistic feelings with reality".


Hill was particularly busy in the so-called "Golden Age" of live TV drama, appearing in such prestigious video offerings as The Trial of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1960 earning him an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Bartolomeo Vanzetti. "When I first became an actor, there were two young actors in New York: Marlon Brando and Steven Hill," said Martin Landau. "A lot of people said that Steven would have been the one, not Marlon. He was legendary. Nuts, volatile, mad and his work was exciting".
In 1961, Hill had an unusual experience when he appeared as Sigmund Freud on Broadway in Henry Denker's A Far Country portraying Freud at the age of 35. On April 12, 1961 Hill was stricken with a virus the night of a sold out performance for the Masters Children's Center of Dobbs Ferry. As a result the producers decided to cancel the performance just as the curtain was about to go up. Among the notables in the audience were Joseph P. Kennedy, Jack Benny and Richard Rodgers. The audience was invited to exchange its ticket stubs for other performances. The understudy was not ready to replace Hill, so Alfred Ryder, the play's director stepped into the role of Freud for one performance.
Hill's early screen credits include The Goddess and A Child is Waiting.


Hill was the original leader of the Impossible Missions Force, Dan Briggs in the series Mission: Impossible beginning in 1966. The phrase "Good morning, Mr. Briggs..." was a fixture early in each episode as it began a tape recording he retrieved which detailed the task he must accomplish, however he left the show in 1967 after the end of the first season. As one of the few Orthodox Jewish actors working in Hollywood, he made it clear in advance of production that he was not able to work on the Sabbath (i.e., sundown Friday to dusk Saturday), and that he would be leaving the set every Friday before sundown. However, despite Hill's advance warnings, the show's producers were unprepared for his rigid adherence to the Sabbath, and on at least one occasion Hill left the set while an episode was still in the midst of filming.

Hill was briefly suspended from the show near the end of the season, during the production of episode no. 23 (entitled Action!). The suspension was imposed after he refused to climb the rafters via a soundstage staircase, as was called for in the script. (This incident was unrelated to any religious observances of Hill's.) Consequently, Hill was written out of that episode, and when he returned to Mission: Impossible for the five remaining episodes of the season, his role was severely reduced. Hill was not asked to return for season 2, and was replaced as the show's star by Peter Graves.

Hill returned to work in the 1980s and 1990s, playing parental and authority-figure roles in such films as Yentl (1983), Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs, Heartburn (1986), and Billy Bathgate (1991). Hill also appeared as a mob kingpin in Raw Deal (1986), an action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger.



Hill is best known as Adam Schiff in the NBC TV drama series Law & Order, a part that he played for ten seasons (1990–2000). Hill's character is loosely modeled after the real district attorney of New York, Robert Morgenthau and it is reported that Morgenthau was a fan of the character. Hill says playing Adam Schiff is the hardest role he's ever had because of all the legal jargon he has to learn. "It's like acting in a second language," says Hill. Hill adds that he agrees with the show's philosophy. "There's a certain positive statement in this show," Hill says. "So much is negative today. The positive must be stated to rescue us from pandemonium. To me it lies in that principle: law and order." Hill earned another Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor In a Dramatic Series in 1997. At the time of his departure, Hill was the longest-serving cast member. Along with Law & Order castmate Sam Waterston, Hill has also appeared in commercials for T.D. Waterhouse, an investment brokerage.

Appearing in the play A Far Country in 1961 had a profound effect on Hill's later life. In one scene, a patient screams at Freud, "You are a Jew!"; this caused Hill to think about his religion. "In the pause that followed I would think, 'What about this?' I slowly became aware that there was something more profound going on in the world than just plays and movies and TV shows. I was provoked to explore my religion". He was inspired by the late Skverrer Rebbe, to adhere to strict Orthodox Judaism, observing a kosher diet, praying three times a day, wearing a four-cornered fringed garment beneath his clothes, and strictly observing the Shabbat. This made Hill unavailable for Friday night or Saturday matinee performances and effectively ended his stage career and closed many roles to him in the movies, most notably The Sand Pebbles.



Today is 88 years old.

segunda-feira, 10 de maio de 2010

Fred Astaire 10/05/1899


Fred Astaire, nome artístico de Frederick Austerlitz
(Omaha, 10 de Maio de 1899 — Los Angeles, 22 de Junho de 1987) foi um ator e dançarino estado-unidense.
Estaria comemorando hoje 111 anos de idade.

Antes de Fred Astaire estrear no cinema, os dançarinos apareciam nos filmes apenas "em partes": os pés, as cabeças e os torsos eram compostos na sala de edição. Astaire, por sua vez, exigia ser filmado de corpo inteiro. Para isso eram necessários longos ensaios - certa vez chegou a três meses com dez horas diárias de trabalho, com repetições feitas passo a passo e movimentos de câmara acompanhando a coreografia. Em seus filmes, Astaire conseguiu dar nova emoção a dança, fosse ela banal ou repleta de tragicidade.Sua interpretação enriquecia-se pelo que James Cagney chamava de "o toque do vagabundo". Sempre trajado a rigor, seu charme tornou-se lendário.



Fez sua primeira apresentação no palco aos cinco anos com a irmã Adele, que o acompanhava em revistas musicais nos anos 1920, em Londres. Estreou no cinema em 1915, fazendo uma pequena ponta e em 1933 apareceu ao lado de Joan Crawford em Dancing lady. Nesse mesmo ano atuou no primeiro de uma série de dez filmes ao lado de Ginger Rogers. Os dois formavam uma parceria impecável (Ele dava classe a ela, ela dava sex-appeal a ele, explicou certa vez um diretor de estúdio). Hollywood tinha razão ao lhe conferir um Oscar especial em 1949, por sua contribuição à técnica dos musicais no cinema. Ginger Rogers, claro, foi quem lhe entregou o prêmio.

Estudioso de dança e sempre buscando novos passos e ritmos, aos 17 anos conheceu o compositor George Gershwin e a amizade dos dois teria um impacto profundo na carreira de ambos. Durante os anos 1920 e começo dos anos 1930, Astaire e Adele se apresentaram na Broadway e em palcos londrinos justamente em musicais compostos por Gershwin, entre eles Lady Be Good (1924), Funny Face (1927), e A Roda da Fortuna (1931). Quando Aldele se casou em 1932, a dupla se separou de vez.


Em 1933 casou-se com Phyllis Potter, que morreu em 1954 com quem teve dois filhos, Fred e Ava. Ele deixou de ser dançarino em 1968 para passar a interpretar papéis dramáticos. Fora dos estúdios não gostava de dançar e dizia que as danças de salão o entediavam. Grande fã de corrida de cavalos, voltou a se casar em 1980 com a jóquei Robbin Smith, 35 anos mais nova que ele.

O arquiteto americano Frank O. Gehry projetou um edifício em Praga, República Tcheca, em homenagem ao casal Fred & Ginger. O edifício toma a forma do casal e parece mostrá-los em plena dança.



Reza a lenda que no seu primeiro teste para o cinema ele foi avaliado da seguinte maneira: Não sabe interpretar, é ligeiramente calvo e sabe dançar. Muitos anos mais tarde, a única pessoa que podia rivalizar com seu talento, Gene Kelly, declarou: "A dança em filmes começou com Fred Astaire".

Mesmo no começo de carreira, Astaire tinha liberdade total para desenvolver suas coreografias e, num feito quase inédito na época, recebia uma porcentagem da bilheteria. Inovou a maneira de se filmar cenas musicais exigindo que a câmera ficasse parada ("ou os dançarinos giram ou a câmera", dizia ele) e também fazendo a música e a dança casar com o enredo do filme.

Em 1939, Astaire deixou a RKO e passou a agir como freelancer dançando com Eleanor Powell em Broadway Melody, de 1940, com Bing Crosby em Holiday Inn, de 1942 e Romance Inacabado, de 1946, onde cantou a música que mais ficaria atrelada à sua figura, Puttin' on the Ritz. Nessa fase, apareceu também ao lado de Rita Hayworth, Lucille Ball e na única parceira com Gene Kelly no filme Ziegfeld Follies, em 1946. Neste mesmo ano, anunciou sua aposentadoria e foi cuidar de suas duas grandes paixões: fundou o Fred Astaire Dance Studio (que vendeu em 1966) e passava o tempo em corrida de cavalos.



Entretanto em 1948, foi chamado para substituir Gene Kelly, que estava machucado, em Desfile de Páscoa, contracenando com Judy Garland e Ann Miller. Nos anos 50, apareceu em inúmeros filmes musicais, com destaque para Núpcias Reais, de 1951 (onde literalmente sobe as paredes em uma cena), A Roda da Fortuna, de 1953, e Meias de Seda, 1957, ambos com Cyd Charisse, e ainda Cinderela em Paris, com Audrey Hepburn.


Finalmente, em 1959, Astaire se aposentou dos filmes musicais e fez sua primeira aparição em uma atuação dramática no filme A Hora Final, sobre os efeitos de uma hecatombe nuclear. Acabou indo dançar na televisão e seu programa An Evening with Fred Astaire, que ganhou nove prêmios Emmy somente na temporada de estréia. Continuou a atuar mesmo na terceira idade e fez pontas em Inferno na Torre, de 1974 (recebendo uma indicação ao Oscar por seu papel), Era uma vez em Hollywood, um documentário sobre os anos clássicos da dança no cinema, e no cult trash Os Incríveis Dobbermans, de 1976. Sua última aparição foi em Histórias de Fantasmas ao lado de dois outros grandes monstros do cinema antigo, Melvyn Douglas e Douglas
Fairbanks Jr.



Fred Astaire morreu de pneumonia em junho de 1987. Pontuou suas rotinas de dança com graça, elegância, leveza e originalidade. Perfeccionista ao extremo, exigia muitos ensaios e inúmeras refilmagens de cena, tanto que no filme Imagine, de John Lennon, fez uma aparição-surpresa que consistia simplesmente em conduzir Yoko Ono para dentro de um prédio, mas Astaire quis fazê-la duas vezes para ficar bom. Deixou como legado sua dança e o indefectível fraque, sempre acompanhado de uma cartola. Um estilo que dificilmente aparecerá de novo.




quarta-feira, 5 de maio de 2010

Manuel Maria Ponce


Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar
(8 December 1882 – 24 April 1948)
was a Mexican composer active in the 20th century. His work as a composer, music educator and scholar of Mexican music connected the concert scene with a usually forgotten tradition of popular song and Mexican folklore. Many of his compositions are strongly influenced by the harmonies and form of traditional songs.
Born in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Ponce moved with his family to the city of Aguascalientes only a few weeks after his birth and lived there until he was 15 years old.

He was famous for being a "musical prodigy"; according to his biographers, he was barely four years of age when, after having listened to the piano classes received by his sister, Josefina, he sat in front of the instrument and interpreted one of the pieces that he had heard. Immediately, his parents had him receive classes in piano and musical notation.

In 1901 Ponce entered the National Conservatory of Music, already with a certain prestige as a pianist and composer. There he remained until 1903, the year in which he returned to the city of Aguascalientes. This was only the beginning of his travels. In 1904 he traveled to Italy for advanced musical studies at the School of Bologna.

He studied in Germany as a pupil of Martin Krause at the Stern conservatory in Berlin between 1906 and 1908.

After his years abroad, Ponce returned to Mexico to teach piano and music history at the National Conservatory of Music from 1909 to 1915 and from 1917 to 1922. He spent the intervening years of 1915 to 1917 in Havana, Cuba.

In 1912 he composed his most famous work "Estrellita" (little star), which is not a normal love song, as is usually thought, but "Nostalgia Viva" (live nostalgia).



That same year, Ponce gave in the "Arbeau Theater" a memorable concert of Mexican popular music which, though it scandalized ardent defenders of European classical music, became a landmark in the history of the national song.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), who met Ponce in Paris in the 1920s, wrote
“ I remember that I asked him at that time if the composers of his country were as yet taking an interest in native music, as I had been doing since 1912, and he answered that he himself had been working in that direction. It gave me great joy to learn that in that distant part of my continent there was another artist who was arming himself with the resources of the folklore of his people in the struggle for the future musical independence of his country. [1] ”

With valuable activity promoting music of the country and writing melodías like "Estrellita", "A la orilla de un palmar", "Alevántate", "La Pajarera", "Marchita el Alma" and "Una Multitud Más", Ponce gained the honorific title Creator of the Modern Mexican Song. He was also the first Mexican composer to project popular music onto the world stage: "Estrellita", for example, has been part of the repertoire of the main orchestras of the world and countless singers, although quite often the interpreter ignores the origin of the song as well as its author.

In 1947 he received the National Science and Arts Prize.

He was married to Clementina Maurel, next to whom he died in Mexico City. His body was buried in the Roundhouse of the Illustrious Men in the Pantheon of Dolores in Mexico City. In his honor there is a board of recognition by the state of Aguascalientes at the base of the column of The Exedra, next to the fountain from a spring dedicated to this musical poet, in the city of Aguascalientes where he grew up and first studied music.

Ponce wrote music for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra. His piano and guitar works outnumber those dedicated to other solo instruments within the set of pieces we know.

An important group of Ponce's works were previously unknown to the public, as self-proclaimed heir Carlos Vázquez, a Mexican piano performer and educator who studied with Ponce, kept most of the original manuscripts in his possession. Most of them were finally donated to the National School of Music (UNAM) in Mexico City, as an analytic catalogue of his works could still be published.

One of Ponce's melodies still heard today in various arrangements is "Estrellita" (1912).






Bibliography / Sources

* Corazón Otero: Manuel M. Ponce y la guitarra, Mexico 1980. First published in English by Musical New Services Limited, UK in 1983, 1994 ISBN 0-933224-84-2
* "Andrés Segovia, Manuel M. Ponce, Miguel Alcázar, Peter Segal: "The Segovia - Ponce Letters", Columbus, OH, Editions Orphée, 1989 ISBN 0-936186-29-1
* Ricardo Miranda Pérez, Grove Music Online