|"Kersh" (by the camera) about to shoot Han, Leia and Lando.|
I will forever appreciate Irvin Kershner (1923-2010), who died today, for making the best of the Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Yes, long before George Lucas ruined his own classic franchise, he once entrusted the directing of them (at least to a certain degree) to others. I haven't yet read many obits, but I'm hoping that some of them will recognize that it's hardly his only contribution to the movies; Star Wars has a way of gobbling up the internet oxygen, doesn't it? Though Kershner's filmography isn't exactly robust, other notable films include the thriller The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), the last (unofficial) James Bond film with Sean Connery Never Say Never Again (1983) and the underseen but by most accounts praiseworthy Barbra Streisand film Up the Sandbox (1972).
Here's a fond farewell from a journalist who met him in 1978.
Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) passed away yesterday in his sleep at the age of 84 after battling pneumonia. Confession: I've never seen the Naked Gun films. That's an odd thing to lead with when saying goodbye to the hilarious Leslie Nielsen but my point is this: his late career work was so often quoted that you felt like you'd seen it -- or at least heard those deadpan line readings -- from how deeply it permeated pop culture.
Like most everyone who lived through the Eighties I loved Airplane! (1980) and watched it god knows how many times with friends. Other key films include Forbidden Planet (1956), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) but in his last quarter century on the screen, he was leading parodic movies like the Naked Gun series and Mel Brooks Dracula: Dead and Loving It () or making appearances in other comic franchises like the Scary Movie films. I love imaginary through-lines in careers so I chuckle at the way he's introduced in the Forbidden Planet trailer and especially that "I didn't bring my bathing suit." / "What's a bathing suit?" exchange.
Since Anne Francis doesn't know what a bathing suit is, we undoubtedly know how she'd answer Airplane's immortal "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?" line. Seriously. Though that famous quote doesn't belong to Nielsen, anything that reminds you of Airplane! will surely remind you of Leslie Nielsen. Say it with me now
"Surely you can't be serious."*
"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."