Monday, November 30, 2009

Paul Wendkos: Director who made his name as a pioneer of made-for-television films

Paul Wendkos, who has died aged 84, had the misfortune of seeing his first Hollywood film become a massive hit. Gidget (1959) starred Sandra Dee as the eponymous 16-year-old “girl midget”, a prototype “beach bunny” chasing fun and romance among California’s surfers. It marked the beginnings of the surf craze which encompassed pop music typified by the Beach Boys and a slew of movies, including two Gidget sequels which Wendkos also directed. Trapped at Columbia Studios, Wendkos never directed a major feature, or had another big hit, but became a mainstay of episodic television, and in the 1970s carved out a substantial career as one of the first, and best, directors of “made-for-television” movies.

Wendkos was born Abraham Paul Wendkos on 20 June 1925 in Philadelphia. He served in the navy during the Second World War, then moved to New York, where he received a BA from Columbia University, then studied film at The New School, which led to his first film, a documentary about blindness called Dark Interlude. He caught Hollywood’s attention with his first feature, The Burglar, an exemplary low-budget noir film, which grew from Wendkos’ friendship with the pulp writer David Goodis, a fellow Philadelphian who adapted from his own novel for the screen.

Shot on location in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, it starred Dan Duryea, featured a rare substantial part for Martha Vickers, and provided an early dramatic success for a young Jayne Mansfield. Harry Cohn bought the film for his Columbia Pictures to distribute, and it may have been Wendkos’ success in coaxing a good performance from Mansfield which led to his assignment to Sandra Dee.

For Columbia Wendkos also directed another interesting crime film, The Case Against Brooklyn (1958), two war films (Tarawa Beachhead, 1958, and The Battle Of Coral Sea, 1959) and the off-beat evangelical drama Angel Baby (1961). In 1958 he began directing for television, with two westerns for the prestigious “Playhouse 90” series.

After working on Robert Taylor’s The Detectives, he became a lead director on The Untouchables, the edgiest and most noirish of all television crime series. He was sought after for episodic television throughout the Sixties, including long runs on shows like I Spy and The Invaders. Meanwhile, his film career remained stalled in the Bs, though Guns Of The Magnificent Seven (1969) is an entertaining sequel, and The Mephisto Waltz (1971) is a wellmade rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby starring Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset.

The last of his 12 feature films was Special Delivery (1976) an early Cybill Shepherd vehicle. Wendkos directed an NBC “movie special”, Fear No Evil (1969), a dry run for The Mephisto Waltz, but his career in made-for-television films mirrored his feature film path. He made a number of excellent crime dramas with the pulp writer David Karp, who once described the ease, in those early days, with which he and Wendkos could go to a network with a one-line pitch and get the immediate go-ahead to spend half a million dollars. Brotherhood Of The Bell (1970) and The Family Rico (1972), based on a Georges Simenon story, are particularly hard-edged.

Footsteps (1972), a sports-fixing drama, was nominated for a Golden Globe, but Wendkos’ reputation for directing actresses would form the core of his best work, including The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1975) starring Elizabeth Montgomery, with whom he had worked on “Playhouse 90”; A Woman Called Moses (1978) with Cicely Tyson playing Harriet Tubman, and The Ordeal Of Patty Hearst (1979).

He directed a TV pilot film, Underground Man (1974), based on Ross MacDonald’s detective Lew Archer, and worked, uncredited, on the subsequent TV series, which Karp executive- produced. But such projects gave way to his both producing and directing the hugely popular mini-series, Harold Robbins’ 79 Park Avenue (1977). He continued to work with glamorous actresses taking serious dramatic roles, such as Raquel Welch in Right To Die (1987), Lindsey Wagner in The Taking Of Flight 847 (1988), or Loni Anderson playing the 1930s actress Thelma Todd in White Hot (1991). But his best work remained hard-edged, including two prison dramas, The Ordeal Of Dr Mudd, with Dennis Weaver as the doctor imprisoned for treating Lincoln’s assassin, or Six Against The Rock (1987), based on the 1947 escape attempt from Alcatraz.

The last of his 55 TV films or miniseries was Different (1999) with Annabeth Gish as a disabled girl and Lynn Redgrave her mother. Wendkos died of a lung infection, after a long illness following a stroke. His first wife, Ruth, predeceased him in 1978. He is survived by their son, Jordan, and his second wife, the former NBC programming executive Lin Bolen.

Michael Carlson

Abraham Paul Wendkos born Philadelphia 20 September 1925; married twice (one son); died Malibu, California, 12 November 2009.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler may have first brought what is now call "noir" or hard-boiled fiction to the world, but David Goodis was one of those writers (like Jim Thompson) who took readers down further into the lower depths, and we mean this as a compliment. The inspiration for Francois Truffaut's 1960 classic film, this novel of a hard-fallen concert pianist unable to play his way out of the long shadow of his past stands out with its genuine emotional core of despair and grimy gamy details of life as it's lived "Down There" (the novel's original title) on the lower slopes of the American underworld. The criminals who scramble through this ultimate hard-luck story are not cunning criminal geniuses, but bumbling losers whose limited minds and poor impulse control only entangle them further in a web of fate and pull even the best of us around them. One the best books I've read so far this year.

Luc Sante's Folk Photography and David Goodis by Beadel Debevoisse

Sante? He was just a five letter word in the headlines to me. I vaguely knew he’d done some things— maybe even great things— but not until an hour ago did I know realize was a poet too. But, lo and behold, here I am, house sitting in Gowanus and there it is, snug between Edward Sanders and Edith Sitwell, Luc Sante, My Life In Poetry: 1970-1981— an orgy of sibilants! (Sappho, in this home, resides in the Greek and Latin collection; Friedrich Schiller in the German, etc.) Reading it, I was inspired to listen to the music of Erik Satie, specifically Aldo Ciccolini’s 1965  recording of Sports et divertissements. Luc Sante in “Le Water-Chute”? If only Captain Boynton were alive to see it.
Poetry, of course, was not Sante’s true wheel. His latest book, Folk Photography:The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930, most certainly is, however, and it’s further evidence a proper poetic inheritance (Homer, Jean de Bosschère, H.D., Dave Van Ronk) is a thing of louche beauty. Sante— dare I say the Sepia Sante?— recently explained his project in Art Forum. Fellow postcard collector Jim Lindeman, author and editor of the astounding Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism In Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950 (for which Sante wrote an introduction) gives Folk Photography a couple deep dunks himself: rejoice!
A good cook needs a new chopper
Once a year— he cuts
A poor cook needs a new one
Every month—he hacks!
—Thomas Merton, from The Way of Chuang Tzu
Berger found four postcards and two stereopticons “down south”; his questions were composed overlooking the Nantahala mountains. Sante wrote his answers by hand, not far from the Catskills. They play all the notes Bird missed.
— Beadel Debevoise


Tacony-Palmyra Bridge Over Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA.

Cohocksink M.E. Church, Philadelphia (interior)

Brian: I don’t know Philadelphia well but I imagine David Goodis masturbating furiously here, a quiet pew in Cohocksink Methodist Episcopal Church— lust cuts frustration, a breakfast zep not for victory but enough to absorb the detritus of another failed drunk fuck. There was room elsewhere in the bar, he recalled, but he preferred to squeeze beside the ample blonde smoking Chesterfields and still wearing her Lehigh Valley Transit Company trolley driver uniform. He’d always wanted to visit Norristown.
Luc: As concerns Norristown, please consult Mimi Lipson’s story, “Tomack” (in Food And Beverage)— it’s the last word on the place. Norristown was just made for Goodis, who appreciated him a good dead end. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is a top contender for the great lost American city. It’s like a collision of the 18th and 20th centuries (respectively: grand and noble and scholarly, and rough and tumble and beached) that’s been hung out to dry in the 21st. I love Philly. But I have a major soft spot for inhabited ruins.
Cohocksink M.E. Church, Philadelphia (exterior)

Beadel Debevoise is a poet, editor and translator. Her most recent collection of verse, Thinking About Your Cock Thick And Unyielding Like The Walls Of Blarney Castle (Gowanus Dog Press) won the National Book Award in 2008.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Delmer Daves, Director and Screen Writer

David Goodis, Author of Story


Paul Wendkos  Director
David Goodis  Story Author, Screenwriter

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Unknown Paul Wendkos by C. Jerry Kutner


Bright Lights After Dark

I just learned, via Peter Nellhaus, of the passing of one of America's most obscure-but-talented directors, Paul Wendkos.

Wendkos would be far better known today if his first film, the great low-budget noir, The Burglar (1956), were more readily available. The Burglar, an unabashedly arty film based on the David Goodis novel of the same name, starred Dan Duryea in the title role, and Jayne Mansfield as his ward (a serious acting role that preceded her "bombshell" period). A fatalistic heist film clearly influenced by Orson Welles, particularly The Lady From ShanghaiThe Burglar ends in a Coney Island [Atlantic City, New Jersey to be exact] funhouse where a loudspeaker proclaims, "We, the Dead, Welcome You!"

Wendkos directed several other films of interest, the well-known but atypical Gidget (1959), The Mephisto Waltz (1971), and two more stylish noirs, The Case Against Brooklyn (1958) starring Darren McGavin as an undercover cop, and the fascinating rural noir Angel Baby (1961) which stars Salome Jens as an Aimee Semple McPherson-like revival preacher, and has a terrific supporting cast that includes George Hamilton, Mercedes McCambridge, Henry Jones, Joan Blondell, and Burt Reynolds. Angel Baby's striking black and white cinematography, most of it shot in the Deep South, was by Haskell Wexler.

Eventually, Wendkos found his niche in television. He directed several episodes of the '60s right wing sci-fi series, The Invaders (in which aliens were equated with Communists). Of far more interest were a series of made-for-TV movies he directed (he was a pioneer of the form), including The Brotherhood of the Bell(1970), The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), Cocaine: One Man's Seduction (1983), and the mini-series Celebrity(1984) - all of them distinguished by a paranoid world view communicated through unstable wide-angle compositions, and performances skillfully pushed to the edge of hysteria (Glenn Ford in Brotherhood of the Bell, Dennis Weaver in Cocaine ...).

If anyone ever published an interview with this *unknown* auteur, I would love to see it.

Screen siren Lauren Bacall gets lifetime Oscar

By Catherine Bremer, Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood veterans turned out in force to see Lauren Bacall, grand dame of film noir, receive an honorary Oscar at the motion picture academy's Governors Awards on Saturday night, away from TV cameras.

Bacall, 85, starred in more than 30 films but never won an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, coming closest with a nomination for "The Mirror Has Two Faces".

The screen siren earned movie immortality with her husky voice, sultry gaze and curt retorts in films like "Dark Passage," and her 1944 debut opposite Humphrey Bogart in "To Have and Have Not" launched one of the most electric on- and off-screen pairings in cinema history.

She shouted out a whoop on stage when receiving the lifetime achievement Oscar and thrust it above her head.

"I can't believe it -- a man at last," Bacall, who was married to Bogart from 1945 until his death from cancer in 1957, joked to the audience. "The thought that when I get home I'm going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting."

Bacall clearly relished the chance to charm an audience that included Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Warren Beatty with the same drawling, teasing voice she used with Bogart.

"He gave me a life and he changed my life," she said of the Hollywood legend.

Saturday's ceremony marked the first time the academy has given its Governors Awards at a ceremony separate from the gala Oscars, which will take place in March 2010.

Some industry insiders questioned the academy's decision to hold the awards banquet on Saturday, but the actors on hand said it was a relief to be able to speak freely and shed the limitations of catering to a television audience that numbers tens of millions worldwide.

Anjelica Huston, whose director father John Huston worked with Bacall and Bogart, presented her Oscar. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks also took part, along with Kirk Douglas, who revealed how he settled for a 60-year friendship with Bacall after an early attempt to seduce her fell flat.

He said Bacall's tough image was all show. "She's a pussycat and she has a heart of gold," he said.

The Academy also bestowed honorary awards on producer and director Roger Corman, who gave a start to a string of directors like Frances Ford Coppola and mesmerized a generation with his quirky, gory thrillers.

Corman was King of low-budget "B movies" such as "The Cry Baby Killer", "It Conquered the World", "The Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Raven", where he mixed a comedy element into Edgar Allan Poe's macabre poem.

"He's been a maverick for a lot longer than I have," risque director Quentin Tarantino told Reuters after describing to the audience how he would sit glued as a boy to Corman's movies like "The Man With the X-ray Eyes" on late-night TV.

Gordon Willis, who worked on the "Godfather" trilogy, "All The President's Men" and Woody Allen films such as "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall" also received an honorary Oscar.

The Irving G. Thalberg Award, named after a pioneering 1920s and 30s producer, went to John Calley, whose works range from "A Clockwork Orange" to the more mainstream "Remains of the Day" and "The Da Vinci Code".


Paul Wendkos, 84, a director whose more than 100 film and television credits included the 1959 movie "Gidget" and its two sequels, died Thursday at his home in Malibu of a lung infection that followed a stroke, family representative C. Christie Craig said.

"Gidget," starring Sandra Dee, was followed by "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" in 1961 and "Gidget Goes to Rome" in 1963. Wendkos' other films included 1969's "Guns of the Magnificent Seven."

For television, he directed movies and mini-series such as "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" in 1975, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, and "A Woman Called Moses" in 1978 with Cicely Tyson. He was nominated for an Emmy for "The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story" with Lindsay Wagner in 1988.

Wendkos was born Sept. 20, 1925, in Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He attended Columbia University in New York and later studied film history and aesthetics at the New School for Social Research.

Wendkos' first film was the documentary "Dark Interlude" that looked at rehabilitating the blind, and his first narrative movie was the 1957 drama "The Burglar," starring Jayne Mansfield, who was little known at the time.

Gidget' director Paul Wendkos dies


Director Paul Wendkos, whose career spanned 50 years and covered some 100 films and television shows including the 1959 surf movie "Gidget," has died due to a lung infection that followed a stroke. He was 84.
Family representative C. Christie Craig said Wendkos died on Thursday in Malibu, California.
Despite the comedic tone of "Gidget," about a girl played by Sandra Dee who falls for a surfer under the California sun, and later "Gidget Goes Hawaiian," Wendkos' work more often focused on dark and edgy subjects.
His other films included 1969's "Guns of the Magnificent Seven," and on television, he helmed movies and mini-series such as "The Legend of Lizzie Borden," starring Elizabeth Montgomery, and "A Woman Called Moses" with Cicely Tyson.
Wendkos was born on September 20, 1925 in Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Navy during World War Two. He attended Columbia University in New York and later studied film history and aesthetics at The New School for Social Research.
Wendkos' first movie was the documentary "Dark Interlude" that looked at rehabilitating the blind, and his first narrative movie was the 1957 drama "The Burglar," starring Jayne Mansfield, who was a little known actress at the time.
Shot on the streets of Philadelphia and New York, "Burglar" captured the attention of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohen, and the legendary studio boss brought Wendkos to Hollywood.
Wendkos married Ruth Burnat in 1953, and the couple had one son, Jordan Elkan Wendkos. Ruth died in 1978. Wendkos's second marriage was to former NBC television producer Lin Bolen. He is survived by Bolen, his son Jordan, a granddaughter, niece and nephews.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

BLACK FRIDAY away David Goodis novembris 10th, 2009 · Nav komentāru

David Goodis’s BLACK FRIDAY (Lion, 1954) is “as wilfully barren a biography as an existentialist unproven, it’s written with topping sparingness resources, engage off and conviction” (Anthony Boucher, New York Times, November 21, 1954).

Despite its impoverished 160 pages, BLACK FRIDAY delivers volumes in two ways. First, it maps the hooligan, inexorable and fratricidal fiction of Al Hart’s descent into the chilling darkness of Philadelphia, circa January 1950.
Second, it is an autobiographical fiction of David Goodis’s effervescence.
Al Hart is on the incapacitated from the authorities after the kill of his buddy, Haskell Hart. Philadelphia is the anathema of David Goodis. Arriving in wintery Philadelphia with alone his chocolate-brown patina like favourable on his bankroll b declare and ninety-three cents in his pilfer, Hart is clumsy to boost a “genuine, bright-green, Lapama to the cleaners jacket”. Wanted after the shooting descent of his buddy in New Orleans, he is instantly shame-faced of shoplifting.
“He wondered if there was a assignment of rape in Germantown. Hart exactly goes to argument in joke of Philadelphia’s “quieter” neighborhoods – Germantown.
If things hadn’t changed there wouldn’t be much keep safe concern up there, because prolonged ago when he was at the University [of Pennsylvania] he catch-phrase Germantown as a garnering of amour propre, by a hair’s breadth a atom conceited and as the case may be unconsciously hifalutin against the factual not at home of the limelight and the colonial flavor.” Chapter 1.
But he one day finds not at home that he is not the alone joke on the in a hurry and there is no amour propre or calm in the community of comradely amity. The victim/gang colleague, Fred Renner, leaves Hart with a notecase filled with eleven one-thousand dollar bills. Walking along Tulpehocken Street in Germantown, Hart becomes the alone endorse to the injurious shooting descent of a confuse on the in a hurry. Naturally, as the gunmen and head of a wizard company of burglars, Charley, is interested in getting his reticle without any witnesses. Using his fists and cheerful shooting star, Hart is deft to ingratiate himself into to this contumacious hooligan coalition of men (Charley, Paul, Rizzio, Mattone) and women (Frieda, a tremendous platinum blonde and Myrna, an anemic, drab haired waif).

Monday, November 9, 2009

BLACK FRIDAY by David Goodis

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 6, 2009

Keith Rawson reading.

Lou Boxer is a member of the International Crime Writers Association and chairman of the 2009 Dashiell Hammett Prize Committee. He also is co-creator (with Deen Kogan) of GoodisCon (dedicated to David Goodis) and NoirCon. NoirCon in the purest sense of the word is a forum for all those who appreciat
e noir can come together to debate, plot, boast, or simply party with like-minded individuals. It is a four-day journey into that abyss (usually in Philadelphia, the birthplace of David Goodis) that offers everyone involved an opportunity to have a helluva good time looking into the bottomless, downward void that is noir! NoirCon 2010 is scheduled for November 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th – 2010! Visit us at and For more information about David Goodis, visit

"Years down the pike, the boast will be: NoirCon. I was there." Ken Bruen

David Goodis’s BLACK FRIDAY (Lion, 1954) is “as deliberately fruitless a story as an existentialist novel, it’s written with striking economy, skill and conviction” (Anthony Boucher, New York Times, November 21, 1954).

Despite its lean 160 pages, BLACK FRIDAY delivers volumes in two ways. First, it maps the criminal, homicidal and fratricidal tale of Al Hart’s descent into the chilling darkness of Philadelphia, circa January 1950. Second, it is an autobiographical fantasy of David Goodis’s life. Philadelphia is the anathema of David Goodis.

Al Hart is on the lame from the authorities for the murder of his brother, Haskell Hart. Arriving in wintery Philadelphia with only his chocolate-brown flannel suit on his back and ninety-three cents in his pocket, Hart is forced to steal a “genuine, bright-green, Lapama fleece jacket”. Wanted for the shooting death of his brother in New Orleans, he is now guilty of shoplifting. Hart literally goes to ground in one of Philadelphia’s “quieter” neighborhoods – Germantown.

“He wondered if there was a lot of crime in Germantown. If things hadn’t changed there wouldn’t be much police activity up there, because long ago when he was at the University [of Pennsylvania] he saw Germantown as a collection of dignity, just a bit smug and perhaps unconsciously snobbish against the historical background and the colonial flavor.” Chapter 1.

But he soon finds out that he is not the only one on the run and there is no dignity or quiet in the city of brotherly love. Walking along Tulpehocken Street in Germantown, Hart becomes the only witness to the violent shooting death of a man on the run. The victim/gang member, Fred Renner, leaves Hart with a wallet filled with eleven one-thousand dollar bills. Naturally, as the gunmen and leader of a professional gang of burglars, Charley, is interested in getting his money without any witnesses. Using his fists and debonair personality, Hart is able to ingratiate himself into to this tumultuous criminal organization of men (Charley, Paul, Rizzio, Mattone) and women (Frieda, a big platinum blonde and Myrna, an anemic, dark haired waif). Posing as a cold, professional, killer, Hart is forced to travel deeper into the unchartered, savage darkness that will eventually claim him.

(The Death of the Wounded Stag (Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, Besançon) by Gustave Courbet).

“Hold the legs tight,” Charley said. “Hold them tight.”
Hart took hold of the legs and closed his eyes. The sounds of the hack-saw and the knife were great big bunches of dreadful gooey stuff hitting him and going into him and he was getting sick and he tried to get his mind on something else, and he came to painting and started to concentrate on landscapes of Corot, then got away from Corot although remaining in the same period as he thought of Courbert, then knowing Courbert was an exponent of realism and trying to get away from Courbert, unable to get away because he was thinking of the way Gustave Courbert showed Cato tearing out his own entrails and showed “Quarry,” in which the stag under the tree was getting torn to bits by yowling hounds, and he tried to come back to Corot, past Corot to the gentle English school of laced garments and graceful posture and the delicacy and all that, and Courbert dragged him back. And Charley said, “Hold him higher up.”

Al Hart (AH) is David Goodis (DG). He is well-educated [(AH): studied fine art at the University of Pennsylvania; (DG) studied journalism at Temple University, both in Philadelphia]; he is knowledgeable about the finer things in life[(AH): is well versed in the art works of Corot, Courbert; the Indianapolis 500 (Chapter 11); Schopenhauer (chapter 15); Yachts and a blue Bugatti (Chapter 16);(DG) is a student of jazz, classical music, Luis Buñel, boxing (Kid Gavilan (Chapter 6), wealthy Philadelphians and Hollywood royalty]; he is chivalrous, sensitive and compassionate [(AH): the euthanasia of his brother, Haskell ravaged by multiple sclerosis, his defense of Myrna at the hands of Mattone; (DG): loyal to his family (William, Molly and Herbert Goodis) .

Circumstances arise that place Al Hart and David Goodis on a downward spiral from which there is no escape. There are women, men, cruelty, exploitation, criminality and quixotic dreams that are discarded in a decomposing heap in the gutter of Philadelphia.

David Goodis was thirty-seven years old when BLACK FRIDAY was published. His first novel (RETREAT FROM OBLIVION) was published in 1939 at the age of twenty-two and his second book (DARK PASSAGE) was serialized by The Saturday Evening Post in 1944. Goodis began his ascent to fame and fortune when he was selected by Jack Warner and Delmer Daves to come to Hollywood to be a screenwriter. He was married in Los Angeles (October 7, 1943) only to be divorced in Philadelphia some two-and-half years later (January 18, 1946). This meteoric upward trajectory would only be eclipsed by his rapid, downward descent back to Philadelphia, his family, his friends and his paperback original novels.

“It’s Black Friday and for certain people it’s a day that never ends. They carry it with them all the time. Like typhoid carriers. So no matter where they go or what they do, they bring bad luck.” Chapter 19.

Thirteen years after the publication of BLACK FRIDAY, David Goodis would be dead of a cerebral vascular accident at the tender age of forty-nine on a cold, wintery Philadelphia night in January. He was walking very slowly, not feeling the bite of the cold wind, not feeling anything. And later, turning the street corners, he didn’t bother to look at the street signs. He had no idea where he was going and he didn’t care. Chapter 19.

Despite the parsimonious use of words and action in BLACK FRIDAY, it remains clear that everything begins and ends in Philadelphia in the winter and usually for the worse.