Sunday, January 07, 2018

Auteur Watch - Berry Gordy

Can't do it, Firefox... still too slow.  Anyway, back on topic.  Every once in a while, a personality comes along, and you know it.  Maybe not Stephen King-level or Tyler Perry-level fame, but up there.  I mean, everyone knows Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon.  No one can tell you exactly why it's called that... maybe it's a Milton Berle type deal.  If only it were the last dragon.  Sadly, on the radio station at work, we'll be forced to hear "Lightning and Thunder" by Imagine Dragons for what could be the rest of our lives!  Along with obscure 80s hits that dream of being '70s hits that get played to death.  Too bad real dragons can't be summoned into existence to eat the members of Imagine Dragons and all the catchy records they produce.  Well, just that "Lightning and Thunder" one, for starters.  First of all, it's the wrong order.  Technically, yes, first there's lightning, with thunder usually following soon after.  But lyrically, everyone generally sings about thunder and lightning.  I believe even Jethro Tull says "Thunder and lightning, couldn't be bolder" in one of their big hits that they don't like anymore.  I mean, hey!  Even Warren Zevon tried to get Larry Sanders to not request "Werewolves of London."  A fool's dream, to be sure.
...did I get off track again?  Oops.  Well, that's the kind of thing that didn't happen to our next auteur, Berry Gordy, that's for sure.  Somehow he's managed to escape the Purge of Powerful Men of 2017... note to self: idea for next installment of that douche-y Purge series.  Well, it's not too late.  He's only 89 years old and must be guilty of some hanky panky.  Powerful men typically are, especially those even tangentially connected to the music industry.  And even though the IMDb has dropped their very useful feature of displaying the budget of some films, there's always celebritynetworth.com to keep a close eye on the individual people involved.  And Berry's apparently north of $300 million!  God bless those Jackson 5 royalties.  But, as with The Last Dragon, Berry's as human as the next man, wanting to conquer new worlds.  After all, feature films give you a better opportunity to tell longer stories.  A song is typically 3 to 4 minutes tops.  And yes, yes, we know... concept albums are 45 minutes; 22.5 per one side of an album, or up to 80 minutes if you burn a CD right.
And a blog post ain't too shabby, either!  Shucks, with a guy like Gordy, you could devote a couple pages to all his songs at least!  One success story after another.  Some guys are just lucky that way.  Some are born to sweet delight, others to endless night.  I'm thinkin' Gordy's a sweet delight-kinda guy... wow.  They don't have that one?  That's, like... the best passage in that movie.  Rick Ducommun and Rick Overton in the bowling alley with Bill Murray?  Sorry, still taking too long to get to my point.  But I did mention Stephen King earlier, and he and Berry Gordy do indeed have this one thing in common, I just realized.  And this is where the IMDb once again comes in handy.  No wonder its CEO is a billionaire.  Anyway, you go to Stephen King's IMDb online résumé under "Director" and you will find one entry.  I've provided the link for you.  Now go to Berry Gordy's IMDb online résumé under "Director" and what do you find?  That's right!  Well, as of this writing (1/14/'18), just the one entry!  Nothing in development on the horizon, no hint of a second stab at it... just the one.  In Berry's case, a thinly veiled autobiography called Mahogany... the blackest wood there is.  Oops... my bad.  Now I'm going to lose my corporate sponsors, if I had any.  Does that ever happen?  Do corporate sponsors ever invest in something just so they can then pull out of it and publicly say they made a huge mistake?  Must be the lack of sleep typing or something.  I just assumed that "Mahogany" was a code name for... for an  African American secret agent!  You know, like Shaft!  Alas, no, the title's not so easily explainable, it just sounds enigmatic.  What we got here is the basic rags to riches Horatio Alger-type story, but through the lens of the fashion industry... okay, this will be the thing I learned today.  Maybe I forgot it when I first heard of Horatio Alger in public school.  That's the author's name!  And he was born in 1832... and apparently Horatio was still a very popular name back then.  Seems a bit archaic now, stuck very snugly in the works of Shakespeare. 
But the point I'm taking much longer than usual to get to is that Berry Gordy conquered his corner of the music industry and was looking around for another hobby to try.  Why not film directing?  That seems like fun.  Long story short: it wasn't.  He was more comfortable producing Diana Ross, not directing her.  Hold on a sec... note to self: Taraji P. Henson in The Diana Ross Story.  Okay, I'm back.  And if it's true, that Tony Richardson was involved with this turkey but dropped out, well... oh, he was fired?  Two Oscars?  Director of The Loved One and The Loneliness of the Long Distance RunnerTHAT guy got fired?  How'd that work out for you long term, Berry?  Just curious.  Boy, Hollywood can be cruel.  Gotta especially be careful these days.  Well, I guess they keep a close eye on the kids of the rich and powerful, anyway.  The Hollywood child molesters apparently know who's who: for example, who just came in off the bus, and the cast of "Girls," for example.  But I did want to ... because I am in the process of becoming an old man, and this is the only story I know about a director getting replaced on a movie.  It's a movie I'm embarrassed to say we actually tried to watch as a family on VHS once upon a time, and it's called Venom.  It's basically like Jaws, except it's a poisonous snake, and not a shark, and it takes place inside one house, and not at the beach.  Apparently, Tobe Hooper was the original director.  You know, the original Poltergeist, the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  What a lemon.  So they replaced him with Piers Haggard.  No, not the Secret Agent.  He's a director!  Of films!  And British TV.  Sure, his résumé lacks the polish and clarity of, say, Michael Winner, or a J. Lee Thompson, but still.  So he takes over the direction.  And he gets to watch Susan George undress... one of the perks of directing, I suppose.  Apparently, that scene took, like, six weeks to get right.  But you gotta like some of the crew working on Venom.  You got Martin Bregman before he got into the Al Pacino business on an almost exclusive basis.  You got music by Michael Kamen!  He was trapped for a while in that circle near Monty Python and the Beatles for a while.  And for you fans of cinematographers, there's Gilbert Taylor.  His IMDb Top 4 doesn't quite tell the whole story.  Sure, the first installment of Star Wars ain't too shabby... and we probably have to skip Repulsion because of Roman Polanski.  But what about Dr. Strangelove and A Hard Day's Night?  Are these chopped liver all of a sudden?  The D.P. who was fired, along with original director Tobe Hooper, was Anthony Richmond.  His IMDb Top 4 tells the story of a British D.P. who's clearly in hell.  If he's a drinker, I'll bet there's a lot of it just before the next installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid starts principal.  And yet, somehow, his work on Let It Be isn't Top Four-worthy.  I guess because there was so much of it, not just the rooftop concert it all culminates in.  Paul never did get that big, unbroken crane shot he wanted, did he?  That's why it's left out.  Anyway, somehow the story of all these people getting together to make this piece of sh... oe leather movie about a black mamba loose in a house.  Well, there was a lot of cocaine in Hollywood back then, and apparently the head honchos over at Paramount and Thorn EMI got way too much of it when this property came across their desks.  Maybe someday the making of Mahogany will be as interesting.  For now, neither film seems to be on TCM's roster.

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