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Robert De Niro, he’s talkin’ to us



Considered among the finest screen actors in film history, Robert De Niro’s talent lies in what he does not allow the audience to see. “People don’t try to show their feelings, they try to hide them,” he once said. That elusive depth has become the De Niro hallmark; the silent layers he infuses into even the most seemingly obvious of characters.

Born August 17, 1943 in the Little Italy section of New York, young Bobby was born to Irish-Italian artists who gave him the freedom to explore the ethnic enclave he would later immortalize in his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese.

De Niro’s youthful flirtation with street gangs gave way to a natural creativity that enabled him to distill his innate shyness into acting. Studying with famed coaches Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, De Niro also built important friendships, making the acquaintance of directors like Scorsese and Brian De Palma, who gave De Niro his first leads in the low-budget films The Wedding Party (1967) and Greetings (1968).

A number of small film roles followed, but it was his heartbreaking performance as the dim-witted ballplayer dying of cancer in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) that finally got De Niro noticed. That same year he scored big in Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) and the following year played young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (1974) and earned his first Oscar (for Best Supporting Actor). It was his very next performance, as the psychotic Travis Bickle in Scorcese’s Taxi Driver (1976), which cemented the magical partnership that began with Mean Streets and became the stuff of film legend.

Robert De Niro

De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull

To date DeNiro and Scorcese have made eight films together including New York, New York (1977), The King of Comedy (1983), GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995) and Raging Bull (1980), for which De Niro would take home his second Oscar, this time as Best Actor. By the time the ’70s drew to a close, Robert De Niro would be lauded as one of the most skilled film actors of his, or any, generation.

Not content to live solely in the gritty underworld of Scorcese, De Niro has regularly and effectively contributed his talents to many films that go beyond the genre: The Deer Hunter (1978), True Confessions (1981), Falling in Love (1984), Awakenings (1990), Stanley and Iris (1991), and A Bronx Tale (1993), which he also directed. In 1988 De Niro won legions of new fans as the straight man to Charles Grodin’s comic accountant in Midnight Run, and he continued to further his reputation for comedy with Wag the Dog (1997), Analyze This (1999), Meet the Parents (2000), and Showtime (2002).

Many think that DeNiro has diluted his talent somewhat in the last decade or so with at least three or four film appearances a year in movies such as The Big Wedding (2013), The Bag Man (2014) and The Intern (2015), movies that haven’t exactly set the world on fire but at the end of the day any movie is enlivened by a De Niro appearance.

Fiercely protective of his personal life, De Niro still lives in beloved Lower Manhattan where he owns a number of popular restaurants.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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