Quick Hits: November 27 – December 3

  • Christine McVie died on November 30 after a brief illness. I just don’t have the words yet.
  • Irene Cara died on November 25 at the age of 63. Born Irene Cara Escalera on March 18, 1959, Cara made her Broadway debut at the age of nine in Maggie Flynn and starred in her first feature film, Aaron Loves Angela, in 1975. The following year, she made a splash as the titular character in Sparkle, a period musical set in Harlem during the 1950s and ’60s. Cara became a household name in 1980 when she starred as Coco Hernandez in Alan Parker’s Fame (a PBandJulie fave). Post-Fame, Cara’s focus was music; most notably, she co-wrote (with Keith Forsey and Giorgio Moroder) and performed the title track to 1983’s Flashdance, for which she won an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an American Music Award. Cara passed away at her home in Largo, Florida (no cause of death has been announced).
  • Clarence Gilyard Jr. has also passed away. Best known for his television roles in Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger, and his entertaining appearances in films like Top Gun and Die Hard, Gilyard was also an associate professor in the theatre department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gilyard died on November 27 at the age of 66 after a long illness.
  • I saw Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery with my sister and nephew the day after Thanksgiving and it’s a goddamn delight. The film is funny and twisty (refreshingly, the trailer gives away nothing, down to the A-list cameo that confirms Benoit Blanc’s sexual orientation), with a to-die-for cast and sumptuous visuals. Glass Onion will be available to stream on Netflix on December 23.

I really enjoyed this piece about costume designer Jenny Eagen, who should be in the conversation come awards season:

https://ew.com/movies/costume-designer-jenny-eagen-glass-onion-knives-out-story-interview/

  • All Things Must Pass, the seminal solo album by George Harrison, was released on November 27, 1970. Harrison’s first solo single, “My Sweet Lord”, was a worldwide smash, going to #1 in thirteen countries, including the US and the UK. The single also proved to be controversial, as Harrison ultimately lost a years-long copyright infringement suit brought by Bright Tunes Music, owners of the Ronnie Mack-penned “He’s So Fine” (in his memoir, I Me Mine, Harrison said of the similarities between the tunes, “Why didn’t I realise?”). In the end, Harrison was found to have unintentionally plagiarized “He’s So Fine”. Legal drama notwithstanding, “My Sweet Lord” became one of Harrison’s signature tunes. But All Things Must Pass is so much more than “My Sweet Lord”; it is, quite simply, the greatest solo album by any of the former Beatles. The album was Harrison’s coming out: after years of playing a decidedly supporting role with The Beatles, his songwriting – and his absolutely amazing guitar work – took center stage. Co-producer Phil Spector applied his “Wall of Sound” technique to create layers of gorgeous tones and textures. All Things Must Pass was a commercial and critical sensation, spending weeks at the top of the charts in the US and the UK and earning a Grammy nod for Album of the Year (it lost to Carole King’s Tapestry).
  • Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the debut album from Soft Cell, was released on November 27, 1981. “Tainted Love” was one of the best-selling singles on both sides of the pond that year and helped usher in the Second British Invasion.
  • Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940. One of the most iconic figures in 20th-century cinema, Lee combined his knowledge of several disciplines to create his own mixed martial arts method he referred to as “Jeet Kune Do” (“The Way of the Fist”). He starred in five Hong Kong action films (including 1972’s Fist of Fury and 1973’s Enter the Dragon) – and shattered Asian stereotypes – before tragically passing away from cerebral edema on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.
  • The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour had its US release on November 27, 1967. The album includes the soundtrack to the made-for-television film of the same name (side one) and a handful of other non-album singles released by the band that year (side two). Among the album’s more iconic tracks are “Magical Mystery Tour”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “Penny Lane”. The album went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and earned the band their fourth of five Album of the Year Grammy nominations.
  • “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie was finally released as a single on November 27, 1982, five years after it was recorded for Crosby’s 1977 television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.
  • Natalie Wood died on November 29, 1981, while spending the holiday weekend with her husband Robert Wagner, as well as her friend and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, aboard Wagner’s yacht, Splendour. Her cause of death, which has officially been listed as “drowning and other undetermined factors”, remains a mystery; the investigation by the LA County Sheriff’s Department is still open. Wood’s body was covered in fresh bruises and abrasions, consistent with either an assault or being thrown out of the boat. Wagner has always maintained his innocence, insisting that Wood voluntarily left on the yacht’s dinghy and that her death was a tragic accident. Wood’s sister Lana, though, alleges that Wood was terrified of the water and would never have gotten in the dinghy on her own, particularly at night. Additionally, the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, admitted in 2011 that he had initially lied at Wagner’s direction and that Wood and Wagner had argued earlier in the evening (apparently, Wagner accused Wood of flirting with Walken). Davern also alleged that Wagner instructed him not to turn on the yacht’s searchlights or notify the authorities of Wood’s disappearance. In 2018, Wagner was listed as a person of interest in the case, but he has since been cleared.
  • Andrew McCarthy celebrated his 60th birthday this week. Best known as an actor who appeared in ’80s classics like St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, and Weekend at Bernie’s, McCarthy later segued into writing and directing. He has directed episodes for series such as Orange is the New Black, The Blacklist, New Amsterdam, and The Sinner. His travel writing, including a stint as Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, earned him awards. He published a YA novel titled Just Fly Away in 2017 and a memoir, Brat: An ’80s Story (a cheeky reference to the “Brat Pack” moniker that McCarthy spent decades attempting to escape), in 2021.
  • On December 1, 1957, Buddy Holly made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • On December 2, 1982, NBC aired the 100th episode of Taxi, titled “Elaine and the Monk”.
  • Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, and Roddy McDowall, opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on December 3, 1960. The Arthurian musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Burton, and was adapted into a 1967 feature film.

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