|TINA FEY AND I HAVE THE SAME BIRTHDAY. BUT THAT POSITIVE KARMA AND HER VAST TALENT COULDN'T UPLIFT THIS BARELY BETTER THAN DISMAL MOVIE.|
Other than wasting $21.00 on the movie tickets, two other unfortunate items were in the news this week. First, in a terrible coincidence, Roger Ebert seemingly on cue, passed away.
|EBERT (1942-2013) WAS A MOVIE CRITIC FOR THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES FROM 1967-TO PRESENT. HE WAS THE FIRST IN HIS FIELD (1975) TO WIN A PULITZER PRIZE AND FIRST CRITIC TO HAVE A STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME.|
When teamed up with Gene Siskel on TV, it seemed that I always agreed with Ebert's reviews. He seemed less stuffy and that regular guy attitude (someone who just loved movies like me) is exemplified by this quote, "I learned to be a movie critic by reading Mad magazine... Mad's parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin – of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas. I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe. Pauline Kael lost it at the movies; I lost it at Mad magazine."
|MY MR. BOYLE TORE INTO HIS EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS WITH SHARP ETHNIC SLURS, EXTREME (loud) PROFANITY AND REGULAR PETTY FIRINGS, (HARD TO BELIEVE WE "TOOK IT" BECAUSE EVEN IN JANUARY 1979, THE $150.00 A WEEK I GROSSED, WAS PEANUTS.|
To best serve Ebert's memory I choose to span journalism (his profession) with movies (the core of what he did) and television (where he gained his global recognition).
So with the "stage" set by such scoundrels as Boyle and Rice, let me introduce one of filmdom's lesser known bad guys whose alcoholic tirades prevented him from being a household name.
Lawrence Tierney was a significant player in the film noir genre but his brushes with the law regularly derailed his path to super stardom. To this day, experts agree that it was difficult to decide whether Tierney was such a good actor (specializing in being diabolical) or an alcoholic with sociopath tendencies.
|A NATIVE NEW YORKER, LAWRENCE TIERNEY (1919-2002) WAS RUGGEDLY HANDSOME AND ATHLETIC. HE WAS TYPECAST AS AN ON-SCREEN MOBSTER OR STREET TOUGH. AN OVERVIEW OF THIS HULK'S CAREER MIGHT BE; HE WAS NOT SO MUCH AN ACTOR AS A FRIGHTENING FORCE OF NATURE.|
In 1943, he broke in as an extra and soon graduated to small supporting roles in B-movies. His big break was the starring role in 1945's, "DILLINGER." Tierney shined in this low-budget affair, advertised as; being written in bullets, blood and blonds. He was so memorably menacing that the picture was banned in Chicago and other cities adversely affected by the real Dillinger.
Tierney's stone-faced, human-devil persona was never more apparent than his starring role in 1947's, "BORN TO KILL." In it, he plays a suave, murderous con man. NEW YORK TIMES film critic Bosley Crowther condemned Tierney's performance, "It's not only morally disgusting but an offense to a normal intellect."
While Tierney was etching a solid niche on the silver screen, he was also tarnishing his name by earning a reputation as a drunken brawler off-camera. His numerous arrests on both coasts, including scuffling with police, made him, regardless of his abundant talent, persona non grata in Hollywood.
A lull in his career ended when he received a second chance with a small, malevolent role in 1952's movie sensation, "THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH." Tierney got rave reviews but before he could be offered a big contract, his drunkenness led to fighting, another arrest and a one-way ticket to palookaville.
Tierney's deepest decline lasted into the late 50's as he bounced around New York City as a bartender, construction worker or driving a horse-drawn carriage. In the 60's, 70's and 80's, he continued to be given opportunities in movies, TV, on stage and in commercials but because of old habits, his comeback never blossomed. His most notable work included; "PRIZZI'S HONOR," "FAME," and a voice-over in, "THE SIMPSON'S." Tierney even had the privilege to utter the last words on TV's long-running, "HILL STREET BLUES." His best shot during this period was being cast as Joe Cabot (sixth billing), in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 ultra violent, "honor among thieves" movie, "RESERVOIR DOGS."
|IN TARANTINO'S AUSPICIOUS DEBUT, TIERNEY (OFF-CAMERA) WAS BOTH AMUSING AND DISTURBING TO THE CAST ANS CREW. TARANTINO CLAIMED TO HAVE SAID OF TIERNEY; THERE WERE TIMES I WANTED TO PUNCH THE OLD MAN IN THE FACE.|
Prior to my research for this blog, I assumed the old boy had retired from show business sixty-something years ago. Oddly, once you know what you're looking for, Tierney seems to keep popping up.
I was channel surfing the other day and came across an unfamiliar episode of "SEINFELD," ("THE JACKET," 1990). What caught my eye was the old-timer playing Elaine's father, (Alton Benes). I recognized the inner-evil under the comical, sour curmudgeon's facade but I couldn't place it. I waited till the closing credits to see...that's when I was pleasantly shocked to it was the long-forgotten, still scary as hell, Lawrence Tierney.
|TIERNEY RECEIVED ENOUGH HIGH PRAISE FOR HIS WORK THAT HE WAS TO BECOME A RECURRING CAST MEMBER. BUT HE WAS SEEN STEALING A BUTCHER'S KNIFE FROM THE SET. WHEN JERRY SEINFELD ASKED HIM, "WHAT'S UNDER YOUR SPORTS JACKET?" TIERNEY BRANDISHED THE CUTLERY. THEN ALA THE MOVIE "PSYCHO," HE MADE THREATENING GESTURES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FAMOUS SHOWER SCENE. LATER JASON ALEXANDER SAID, "HE SCARED THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF ME."|
Tierney was still getting into movies like, "ARMAGEDDON," as late as 1998. Regarding that time period, his agent Don Gerler once said, "I was still bailing him out of jail back then because at seventy-five, he was still the toughest guy in the bar."
The next time Lawrence Tierney tries to scale the pearly gates, maybe he should wait for a Sunday...when no one is watching. Inside, Roger Ebert is saving him an eternal aisle seat in heaven's, Divine Paradise Pub, (they show old movies on a continuous loop like, "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS," "JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR" and "THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S.")
Ebert has an enthusiastic two thumbs up waiting for Tierney so I'm certain they'll have plenty to talk about when they raise a chalice or two of sacramental wine. But if Tierney over does the holy spirits and reverts to his sinful ways, he'll be brought down to earth. In fact, a lot further down than he'd want because he'll be joining Mr. Broderick "Dick" Boyle, and the other twisted, wicked losers, (maybe Mike Rice some day), in the underworld purgatory inferno.