Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Jack Nicholson! Part 1

“In my last year of school, I was voted Class Optimist and Class Pessimist. Looking back, I realize I was only half right.”

“What's beautiful is all that counts, pal. That's ALL that counts.” 

Picture Legend

1. Jack Nicholson
2. Showgirl
3. Jack Nicholson playing a child
4. A little older
5. Jack’s first film, “The Cry Baby Killer”
6. Sandra Knight
7. Jack, daughter Jennifer, and grandson’s Sean and Duke
8. “The Raven,” with Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, and Olive Sturgess
9. “The Terror,” with wife Sandra Knight
10. Necrophilia
11. “The Andy Griffith Show”
12. “Psych Out” with Susan Strasberg
13. “Easy Rider”
14. “Five Easy Pieces”
15. Jack checking something out in “Carnal Knowledge”
16. Badass Buddusky in “The Last Detail”
17. With Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown”
18. Jack and Anjelica
19. Jack and Winnie Hollman
20. Lorraine Nicholson
21. Jack and Rebecca Broussard
22. Rebecca with her children, Lorraine and Raymond Nicholson
23. With Maria Schneider in “The Passenger”
24. “Tommy”
25. “The Fortune” with Warren Beatty and Stockard Channing

   Happy Earth Day!
   Alright. Hold on. We’re going to be here a while.
   Today it is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big birthday shout out to not only one of my favorite actors, but one of the world’s favorite actors, producer, writer, and director, and golf aficionado,  Jack Nicholson. 
   All of the quotes below, unless attributed otherwise, are his.
   Like some of us, Jack was born at a very early age as a small, compact, male infant, in Neptune City, New Jersey (or Manhattan, according to the Internet Movie Data Base. Flip a coin).
   “Holy shit!”
   John Joseph Nicholson Jr, who would later liked to be called “Jack,” was born on this day in 1937, which makes him, let’s see, uh, carry the ought, times pi, plus a Eigenvalue Problem value, divided by the plurisubharmonic function, minus the dividend from Rite Aid, uh, 39.
   Neptune City (40° 12′ 0.76″ N, 74° 2′ 1.03″ W, elevation 23 feet above sea level, population of 4,869 in 2010), as some of you may know, was home to the Steiner and Son's Pajama Factory, manufacturer of the "The Universal Nightshirt," which became very popular around the country back in the 1890s. "We Put the World To Sleep," was their slogan. 
   There is no evidence that Mr. Nicholson owned a Universal Nightshirt, or that he even wears pajamas. Perhaps you can contact his representatives to find out.
   In 2000 the buildings were destroyed to be replaced with condominiums. The ghost of Steiner, however, sought revenge for the city’s impertinence, and pushed over the demolition crane during the wrecking ball operation. 
   Neptune City boasts the Neptune City Community Center, which offers a recreation building with a gym, game room, exercise room, computer room, TV room, and a special occasion room used for undifferentiated special occasions. 
   Jack’s mother, June Frances Nicholson, was a showgirl (a female dancer or performer in a stage entertainment show intended to showcase the performer's physical attributes), who went by the name of June Nilson for the stage. June it seems, was rather frisky for her age, and was only 16 or 17 when she gave birth to Jack, and the identity of his father is somewhat, how shall I put this, uncertain. One candidate was Donald Furcillo, who was also in show business, and who married June six months before Jack’s birth, even though he was at the time married to someone else. Some speculate that June’s manager, Eddie King from Latvia, may have been Jack’s biological dad. 
   Who knows? I certainly don’t.
   Donald being the honorable man that he was, offered to take responsibility for Jack, but June’s mother Ethel insisted that she bring up the child, partly so that her daughter could continue with  her career and partly because June was so young.
    June was of Irish, English, and German descent, and Jack has since referred to himself as being Irish, and was raised in the Catholic tradition.
   “I'm Irish. I think about death all the time.”
   How cheery.
   So Jack was raised by his grandparents, Ethel May, a hairdresser, beautician and amateur artist, and John Joseph Nicholson, a department store window dresser, in Manasquan, New Jersey, (40.113032°N 74.036886°W, elevation only 3 feet, population: about 5,871 in 2012), which lies 6.8 miles south of Neptune City, and is much closer to the Atlantic Ocean, which is important to almost no one.
   For the first 37 years of Jack’s life he thought that Ethel and John were his parents, and that June was his sister. He discovered the truth when a journalist for TIME magazine, who was working on a feature about Jack, informed him of the fact in 1974. By that time, both June and Ethel had passed away (in 1963 and 1970, respectively).
   Imagine that.
   I’m currently 58 years old... yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking... you sure don’t look it Rick. Be that as it may, I’m 58 and have no idea who my biological parents are as I was adopted when I was 3 days old, and I’ve never had the desire to investigate the matter being perfectly happy with the two loving people who chose to take me in. All I do know about my biological parents is that they were both Irish, which makes me Irish as well... like Jack. That’s the first thing we have in common. 
   A second commonality is that we’re both losing our hair.   
   Back in the 50s, the family moved to Spring Lake, New Jersey (40.153°N 74.028°W, elevation 5 meters, population: who cares), which lies 3.8 miles north of Manasquan, and 3 miles south of Neptune City. 
   One of Jack’s friends as a child was this little short kid named Danny DeVito. Jack and Danny’s relatives ran a hair salon together.
   Danny would later earn some notoriety in show business himself. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He and Jack would also appear in several films together (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Goin’ South,” “Hoffa,” which Danny also directed). 
   Students who lived in Spring Lake and who were attending public high school were boated off to Manasquan High School as part of a sending/receiving relationship with the Manasquan Public School system.  
    He was voted "class clown" in high school by the Class of 1954, and depending on the source, was either an honor student or in detention every day for an entire school year. Knowing Jack it might have been both.
   He studied drama in high school, and in June of 1954 he graduated and headed out west to Los Angeles (34°03′N 118°15′W, Elevation 2796 inches, Population: about two fifths that of New Jersey) with his “sister” June.
   “She’s my sister, she’s my mother. She’s my sister, she’s my mother. She’s my sister, she’s my mother.” Quote attributed to me, via “Chinatown.”
   All of 17 years old, Jack landed a job as a gopher for MGM Studios, for the animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera specifically, who would become responsible for such shows as “The Flintstones” (the first successful prime-time animated show, waaaayyyyy before “The Simpsons”), and “Jonny Quest,” and invested his income in acting classes. 
   They offered him a job as an animator after seeing his skill as an artist, but he declined, siting his desire to pursue acting.
   After his first screen test Louis B Mayer, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, said to him "I don't know what we can use you for but if we ever do need you, we'll need you real bad".
   The first acting job that the IMDB lists Jack as getting was on the  anthology television series, “Matinee Theatre,” hosted by John Conte, in an episode entitled “Are You Listening,” with veteran actor Conrad Janis, which aired on September 3rd, 1956.
   Jack became acquainted with B movie producer Roger Corman, and got his second acting job as the antagonist in 1958's cult classic (it’s a classic now because Jack was in it), “The Cry Baby Killer,” starring  Harry Lauter and Carolyn Mitchell, who at the time was the fifth wife of acting legend Micky Rooney, who sadly passed away just 16 days ago, at the age of 94.    
   Jack played a man freaked out because he thought he might have murdered someone, and he takes some hostages as a result, including a baby... which cries I guess. I don’t know why (why he took the hostages, not why the baby was crying... although I don’t know that either). I haven’t seen the film yet, but I do have it on my computer and am looking forward to seeing it. Here’s a clip.
   “No novocaine – it dulls the senses!”
   1960 saw Jack doing some more T.V. work, and acting in small parts in four movies, one of them being the cult classic (and not just because Jack was in it) “The Little Shop of Horrors,” the story of the first invasive plant species, the Mongolian Maneater, being introduced to New York City. 
   Jack plays a rather neurotic dental patient who really enjoys visiting the dentist. Here’s a clip.
   “Frankly, I got into the movies because I like the movies a lot.”
   He continued his television work on shows like “The Barbara Stanwyck Show,” with someone named Barbara Stanwyck, “Tales of Wells Fargo,” with Dale Robertson, “Hawaiian Eye,” with Connie Stevens, who my mother’s dad was secretly in love with, and “Sea Hunt” (the country's most successful syndicated series at the time) with Beau and Jeff’s dad, Lloyd Bridges, who younger folks may remember from this and this
   “I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that.” 
   Jack met Sandra Knight in Jeff Corey’s acting class in Pennsylvania, and after dating for a while they got married. Sandra was Jack’s only wife. 
   The Best Lady at his wedding to Sandra was Millie Perkins, the actress who had played Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” three years before. The Best Man was the actor Harry Dean Stanton, who’s been in virtually everything, but was just starting out, sort of, at the time of the marriage, and working mostly in T.V., like Jack. He was one of the mechanics in “Alien,” the first one to get eaten up. And he later appeared with Jack in “The Missouri Breaks,” and got killed by Marlon Brando.
   Jack was a father for the 1st time at age 26 when Sandra gave birth to their daughter Jennifer Nicholson on September 13, 1963.
   Jennifer’s all grown up now and has children of her own, pictured above, and might live in Santa Monica, California with her two sons, Sean and Duke... and four dogs. I’m not sure about the names of the dogs, but I sense one of them is Jasper.
   Jack and Sandra were divorced in 1968. Sandra took Jennifer, moved to Hawaii and took up painting. If you’re interested in checking out some of her art, here’s her website
   He lived, for a time, at Harry's place after the divorce.
   Sadly June died in 1963 of cancer, and of course Jack was devastated, thinking he had lost his sister.
   Professionally, Jack continued his working relationship with Roger Corman, and had a major role in “The Raven,” very loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem, so loosely based that the movie doesn’t really have anything to do with the poem other than the title. Here’s a clip, and here’s another one.
   It did have three real screen legends going for it, and Jack got to work with Vincent Price (another of my favorite actors), Peter Lorre, and the original Frankenstein, Boris Karloff
   Also in 1963 he starred with Boris again, and his wife Sandra, in “The Terror, ” which is about Jack following Sandra to Boris’s haunted castle, or something. Here’s a clip with Jack giving Sandra a little kiss, but she’s already dead it seems. 
   This film has the distinction of being featured on Elvira's Movie Macabre.
   Jack is only the 2nd major film star to have kissed dead women twice in his career. The second time he fooled around with the dead was in “The Shining,” with Lia Beldam in Room 237. 
   Naughty boy, Jack.
   More T.V. work on shows like “Dr. Kildare,” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (one of my favorite shows as a child, with a different monster to battle every week. Who knew there were so many monsters?!)
   And “The Andy Griffith Show,” twice, where Jack got to work with Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee. Here’s a clip.
   In 1967 Jack made his one and only Hell’s Angels movie, “Hell’s Angeles on Wheels.” Not wishing to be stereotyped he never returned to the genre. Here’s a clip.
   Jack wasn’t getting the acting breaks he had hoped for and almost quit, resigned to stay in the business however, but behind the camera as a writer and director. 
   He wrote the screenplay for 1967‘s “The Trip,” which Roger produced and directed, and which starred Jane’s brother, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Lee’s daughter Susan Strasberg, and “Nebraska” star, Bruce Dern, father of Laura.
   The film concerns the consumption of Lysergic acid diethylamide, which I’m sure Jack, and myself, have had no direct experience with.
   Jack returned to acting in 1968's “Psych Out,” working again with Susan and Bruce, in yet again another deaf hippie/drug movie. 
   Jack’s character in the film is named Stoney.
   “You know…this used to be a hell of a good country.”  
   Peter Fonda, fresh from his own Hell’s Angels gig in 1966‘s “The Wild Angels,” still had motorcycles in his system, and wrote a screenplay with Hopper and Terry Southern, which turned into 1969's “Easy Rider.” Fonda produced, and Hopper directed. 
   When I say they wrote the screenplay I’m giving these guys a lot of credit as the film was mostly ad-libbed, and production started with only the outline and the names of the lead characters.  
   Southern had “written” the part of the lawyer George Hansen for his friend Rip Torn (no parent would give a child a name like that. He was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr.). But when discussing the role with Hopper and Fonda in a restaurant in New York, Rip and Dennis got into a tiff, let’s say, concerning the nature of people from the south. Rip was replaced with Jack.
   Luck. Opportunity. Chance. One can work in show business for decades, and some times that work pays off and one is rewarded with success and the respect of one’s peers (that is if the work is not reward enough in itself), but most of the time it doesn’t. Yet sometimes luck, opportunity, and chance steps in and takes over, and if one can take advantage of that, as Jack did in this instance, then the world opens. 
   If it wasn’t for Hopper’s intolerance and prejudicial tendencies, and Torn’s being from Texas, we might never have known of Jack Nicolson.
   “In this industry, there are only two ways up the ladder. Rung by rung or claw your way to the top. It's sure been tough on my nails.”
   He was 32 years old, and he would receive his first Academy Award nomination for this role. Here’s a clip.
   In 1970 (these dates are the years the films were released, or premiered, and were more than likely made the year before) Jack had one more motorcycle and Barbara Streisand  movie to get out of his system (“The Rebel Rousers” and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”). After detoxing, Jack appeared in “Five Easy Pieces,” with the lovely and talented actresses Karen Black, Susan Anspach, (Susan would claim that her son Caleb Goddard, who was born in 1970,  was fathered by Jack, though he was not convinced he was the father and has never had contact with Caleb),  and Sally Struthers.  
   The film is your typical piano prodigy turned oil rigger who likes toast, with pregnant girlfriend, who goes home to see his dying father movie. Here’s a clip.
   Jack and Karen would receive Academy Award nominations for their work. Jack’s second.
    “The first time I was up for an Oscar, I thought I would win it. But I didn't have as sharp a view as I do now. The second time...I expected to lose, and deservedly lose, to George C. Scott. But even getting a nomination blows my mind. I'd love to win but now that I've had several good performances that people at large have liked, it becomes harder to excite them. And familiarity breeds contempt.”
   Veteran actor Morgan Freeman, who would later star with Jack in “The Bucket List,” and who was just starting out at the time, said “Five Easy Pieces,” had a great influence on him and his work. 
   It had absolutely no influence on me at all. As a matter of fact I thought his character, a Robert  Dupea, was kind of a dick, a character trait Jack would display in many of his films, up through and including “Chinatown.”
   But that’s just a tribute to Jack’s talent and ability. In reality he’s a sweet little pussycat... unless you cut him off in traffic
   “I'm not hard to get along with.”
   Jack displays a startling degree of dickishness in his next hit, 1971's “Carnal Knowledge,” also starring another of my favorite actresses, the lovely and talented Ann-Margret, with Candice Bergen, and Art Garfunkel, and directed by Mike Nichols. Here’s a clip.
   Jack was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for his work in the film.
   That year he worked with the legendary Orson Wells and Tuesday Weld in “A Safe Place,” before appearing in another break out performance, his portrayal of Signalman 1st Class Billy L. "Badass" Buddusky, in Robert Towne’s “The Last Detail,” one of my favorite Nicholson films.    
   The film also stars a young Randy Quaid in his third film, in which his performance earned him a nomination of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Carol Kane in her fourth movie (“Carnal Knowledge” was her first). Here’s a clip.
   Jack received his third Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor in a Leading Role. 
   “I goddamn near lost my nose – and I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think you’re hiding something.”
   Towne and Jack collaborated yet again in his next film, 1974‘s “Chinatown,” considered an  American neo-noir film, also starring Faye Dunaway and John Huston, and directed by Roman Polanski, who also appeared in a small yet pivotal role (Polanski’s actress wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by members of Charles Manson’s “Family,” on  August 9, 1969, while he was in Europe working. In 1977, he would be accused of statutory rape, an alleged act committed in Jack’s home, causing him to flee from the United States to France).
   “Chinatown” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," in 1991, and is frequently listed among the greatest films in world cinema. The American Film Institute placed it second among the best mystery films in 2008.
   It was nominated 11 times for an Academy Award, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Jack won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.
   Here’s a clip... and here’s another one.  
   Jack made a sequel to “Chinatown,” “The Two Jakes,” which was released in 1990, also written by Robert Towne, and which starred many of the supporting cast from the original, and our friend, the lovely and talented Madeleine Stowe.
   During this time, from 1973 to 1990, Jack was involved, intermittently, with his “Chinatown” co-star’s daughter, the lovely and talented actress Anjelica Huston. There’s a picture above to prove it. 
   “Intermittently” means Jack saw other women during this time, such as the Danish model Winnie Hollman, by whom he sired a daughter, Honey Hollmann, who was born in Denmark in 1981, and actress and model  Rebecca Broussard, with whom Jack had two children, Lorraine, born April 16th, 1990, and Raymond, born February 20th, 1992.
   1975 was another big year for Jack, with four, count’em, four films being released. 
   He worked with the Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni, in “The Passenger,” another favorite of mine. The film also starred Maria Schneider, of “Last tango in Paris” fame. 
   The last shot in the film was typical Antonioni, if anything about him could be considered typical. It was a tracking shot, seven minutes long, which began in Jack’s hotel room, looking out a barred window into a dusty, run-down, sunlit square, the camera pushing through the bars of the hotel window into the square, rotating 180 degrees, and tracks back into the hotel room, where we find out Jack has been assassinated. Here’s the trailer
    “Antonioni was like a father figure to me. I worked with him because I wanted to be a film director and I thought I could learn from a master. He's one of the few people I know that I ever really listened to.”
   I like long tracking shots, like the opening scenes in “A Shot in the Dark,” and “The Player.”
   In 1994 Jack presented an Honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his place as one of the cinema's master visual stylists," to Antonioni, who must have suffered from some kind of debilitating stroke, as he was unable to physically accept the statue from Jack. It was all quite awkward. 
   Months later, the statue was stolen by burglars and had to be replaced. 
   Next, Jack sings!
   He appeared with virtually a whole lot of other people in Ken Russell’s film version of The Who’s rock opera, “Tommy.” Here’s the clip featuring Jack, with his “Carnal Knowledge,” co-star Ann-Margret (who received a Golden Globe Award for her performance, and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress), and Oliver Reed, and Roger Daltrey.  
   With all due respect I think Jack should stick to his day job... which he has.
   Next, another favorite of mine, Mike Nichols’ “The Fortune,” also starring Jack’s buddy and younger brother to Shirley Maclaine (whose birthday is the day after tomorrow, but I won’t have time to celebrate it because Jack’s taking so freaking long. Next year my lady), the lovely and talented Warren Beatty, and Stockard Channing in her first starring role (in her first film appearance, in 1971‘s “The Hospital,” she played the un-credited nurse, who when told a certain doctor had been found dead (he had been murdered) on one of the hospital’s beds, said “I didn’t even know he was sick.”).
   The story involves two, I’d say fumbling, but that would give them too much credit,  con men who plot to steal the fortune of a wealthy young heiress. Here’s a scene with Jack and Stockard. 
   Jack and Warren plan to do away with Stockard, and try to get rid of her body which they place in a trunk of some kind (don’t worry, she survives), after which they attempt to dispose of said trunk... with this result
   Alright, we’re coming up on 4,000 words here and it’s getting late, so in the concluding part we’ll begin with that cuckoo’s nest thing.
   In the meantime, happy birthday Jack!

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