4 posts categorized "Historical Epic"

May 01, 2019

FOCUS ON CANNES 2019: JEANNE —BRUNO DUMONT

JEANNE BRUNO DUMONT

"A musical that tells Joan of Arc’s story through her victorious battles against the English, court case and death, burnt at the stake."

BRUNO DUMONT

Man alive! 

Dumont is one of Cinema's most inventive, and innovative, auteurs. Dumont's films transport the viewer to unknown yet familiar dramatic realms where magical realism thrives. "Jeanne" sees Dumont stepping into a musical dialectic that is certain to vibrate with universal energies. As thematically oblique as Dumont's films ("Camille Claudel 1915" or "Slack Bay") might seem on the surface, you can savor filmic satire as theatrically fresh and politically relevant as anything the Group Theater did in American in the '30s. 

Lise Leplat Prudhomme promises a breakout performance in the title role. "Jeanne" is being screened in the festival's Un Certain Regard section.

"Bruno Dumont directed his first feature film at the age of thirty-eight: La vie de Jésus(1996), shot in Bailleul, where he was born. This film earned him immediate acclaim: it was selected for the Director's Fortnight, winning a Caméra d'Or Special Mention. Creating demanding, singular and raw works of cinema, Bruno Dumont returned to Cannes in 1999, in Competition, with L'humanité. He was awarded the Grand Prix and a double Best Performance prize for two of the films non-professional actors."

"Bruno Dumont moved away from Northern France to shoot Twenty-nine Palms in the Californian desert, a road movie that was selected for the Venice Mostra in 2003. In 2006, Flandres, a harsh film about the devastation caused by war, received the Grand Prix at the Festival de Cannes." 

FDC green

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a bunch pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 30, 2018

FEBRUARY PROGRAMMING ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL ON FILMSTRUCK!

       
 
Includes 100 years of Olympic Glory, Night of the Living Dead,
Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, and Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday!
 
Thursday, February 1st
The Great Escape*
Based on the true story of an elaborately coordinated attempt to break out of a Nazi POW camp, John Sturges's The Great Escape is one of the most rousing adventure films of all time, anchored by Steve McQueen's rebellious turn as "Cooler King" Captain Virgil Hilts. Featuring a powerful ensemble that includes Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, the film pulses with the humor of the prisoners' camaraderie and the relentless suspense of their plan. Never released on DVD or Blu-ray, this 1993 Criterion laserdisc edition includes a long-unavailable commentary featuring Sturges, composer Elmer Bernstein, production manager and second-unit director Robert E. Relyea, stuntman Bud Ekins, and film historian Bruce Eder.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Friday Night Double Feature: The Front Page* and His Girl Friday

These two whiplash-fast newsroom comedies are based on Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur's 1928 stage hit The Front Page. Lewis Milestone scooped the story in 1931, directing a faithful adaptation that stars Adolphe Menjou as the cutthroat editor Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as Hildy Johnson, his star reporter. The film is presented in its recently restored American version, Milestone's preferred cut. Nearly a decade later, Howard Hawks turned the play inside-out: in 1940's His Girl Friday, Hildy Johnson became a woman (Rosalind Russell), and Cary Grant's Burns is not only her editor but her ex-husband-making the film one of Hollywood's most irresistible comedies of remarriage.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Friday, February 2nd
Olympic Glory*

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. This selection gathers eleven films from the box set, offering a sampler of the history of the Games across continents and decades. Among the highlights in the program are landmark documentaries by some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Leni Riefenstahl (Olympia); Kon Ichikawa (Tokyo Olympiad); Milos Forman, Claude Lelouch, Arthur Penn, and John Schlesinger (Visions of Eight); and Carlos Saura (Marathon).

Monday, February 5th
Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France

Spurned first by the French New Wave iconoclasts as belonging to the "tradition of quality" and later for the extremist political views their director embraced as a member of the right-wing National Front, Claude Autant-Lara's wartime films are rarely seen today. These four romances, produced during the dark days of the German occupation, are fueled by a slyly subversive voice and exquisite visual sense, and showcase the formidable talents of two of his closest collaborators. The charmingly impetuous Odette Joyeux sparkles at the height of her stardom in a quartet of protofeminist roles, crafted by screenwriter Jean Aurenche, who injects a strain of progressive social criticism that managed to evade the Nazi censors. Also noteworthy is the first screen appearance of Jacques Tati, in Autant-Lara's most popular and technically innovative success, Sylvie et le fantôme. These long unavailable gems deserve to be better known, if only as a record of some of the most talented film artists in France, working at the height of their powers during one of the most perilous periods in twentieth-century history.

Tuesday, February 6th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Five Miles Out* and Life Is Sweet

Andrew Haigh and Mike Leigh, two of British cinema's sharpest observers of character, turn their attention to the close and sometimes painful bonds of sisterhood. Haigh's 2009 short reveals the volcanic emotions that lurk beneath everyday scenes, centering on a girl who is sent on vacation with her cousins but remains preoccupied with her hospital-bound sister back home. An international breakthrough for Leigh, Life Is Sweet is an intimate portrait of a working-class family with twin daughters who couldn't be more different: the bookish plumber Natalie (Claire Skinner) and the bulimic, ill-tempered Nicola (Jane Horrocks). Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman exude warmth as the girls' parents, and Stephen Rea, David Thewlis, and Timothy Spall deliver winning performances as the eccentrics who orbit the family unit. The edition of Life Is Sweet is accompanied by an audio commentary by Leigh.
 
Wednesday, February 7th
Sweet Smell of Success: Edition #555

In this swift, cynical film by Alexander Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster stars as the vicious Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent Hunsecker ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister. Featuring deliciously unsavory dialogue, in an acid, brilliantly structured script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, and noirish neon cityscapes from Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, Sweet Smell of Success is a cracklingly cruel dispatch from the kill-or-be-killed wilds of 1950s Manhattan. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a 1986 documentary about Mackendrick, a 1973 documentary about Howe, a video interview with film critic and historian Neal Gabler, and more.

Friday, February 9th
Friday Night Double Feature: The Misfits and The Harder They Fall

These two swan songs herald the end of the Hollywood star system with a nearly mythical sense of finality. John Huston's The Misfits features the last performances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and their costar Montgomery Clift would only appear in three more movies before dying at forty-five. Scripted by Monroe's husband Arthur Miller, the Nevada-set film sets the actress's inimitable mix of sensuality and vulnerability against the world-weary alienation of three hardened men, played by Gable, Clift, and Eli Wallach. Humphrey Bogart's last film, The Harder They Fall, stars the legendary actor as a down-on-his-luck sportswriter who gets roped into a scam by a fast-talking promoter (Rod Steiger) lining up fixed fights for a talentless (and clueless) Argentine heavyweight. Bogart would die less than a year after the film's premiere, and his understated portrayal of a reluctant hustler makes for a rich contrast with Steiger's Method-informed bluster, marking a shift in the tides of American film acting.
 
Tuesday, February 13
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist and The Emperor Jones

Courageously outspoken and wildly talented, Paul Robeson was one of the most commanding performers of his time. As a singer, actor, athlete, and activist, he broke barriers in Jim Crow-era America, campaigning for social justice and striving to reshape the public's idea of who a black man could be. Saul J. Turell's Oscar-winning documentary short, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces the evolution of Robeson's career using a series of his performances of "Ol' Man River," a song that took on layers of meaning over time. That booming voice made its first appearance in sound cinema in The Emperor Jones, a 1933 adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play about a Pullman porter who muscles his way to power on a Caribbean island. Though the fearsome Brutus Jones may not have been the type of stereotype-busting role that Robeson hoped to bring to the screen, the character made him the first African-American leading man in mainstream cinema.

Tuesday, February 13th
Night of the Living Dead*: Edition #909

Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget by a band of self-taught filmmakers, horror master George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero's claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead is back. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Night of Anubis, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film; a program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez; a never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 14th
In the Mood for Love: Edition #147

At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Loveis a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. In 1960s Hong Kong, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite-until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them. With its aching musical soundtrack and exquisitely abstract cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the past decade of cinema, and is a milestone in Wong's redoubtable career. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary on the making of the film; Hua yang de nian hua (2000), a short film by Wong; Toronto International Film Festival press conference from 2000, with Cheung and Leung; and more.

Thursday, February 15th
The Red Balloon and The Black Balloon

Floating from midcentury Paris to contemporary Manhattan, these two portraits of urban life breathe a whimsical sensibility into a particular inanimate item. In Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon (1956), a boy embarks on a series of adventures with an inflatable-yet sentient-companion. A gritty variation on that beloved classic, Josh and Benny Safdie's The Black Balloon (2012) follows the stray object of the title on an odyssey through the streets of the filmmakers' native New York City.
 
Friday, February 16th
Friday Night Double Feature: A Slave of Love and Knight Without Armor

The Russian Civil War provides the roiling backdrop for these two sweeping romantic adventures. Nikita Mikhalkov's A Slave of Love (1976) tells the tale of a silent-film star who falls for a Bolshevik on set. Jacques Feyder's Knight Without Armor (1937) revolves around a British spy posing as a revolutionary (Robert Donat) and the countess whom he loves and seeks to save (Marlene Dietrich).
 
Tuesday, February 20th
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Bluebeard* and Bluebeard

A classic fairy tale, read two ways. With his colorful claymation short Bluebeard (1938), Jean Painlevé departed from the nature filmmaking that was his specialty, giving a playful charge to the dark story of a young wife and her murderous new husband. For her 2009 adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic fable, French director Catherine Breillat keyed into the material's more provocative elements, using the fable to explore her perennial themes of sex, power, and sisterhood.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Wednesday, February 21
Frances Ha*: Edition #681

A leading contender for this year's best director Oscar, Greta Gerwig delivered one of her most enchanting performances as Frances, a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her intimate but shifting bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave's most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit, Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a conversation between filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Baumbach; a conversation between actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley and the film's cowriter and star, Greta Gerwig; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.

Wednesday, February 21st
Festival*: Edition #892

Before Woodstock and Monterey Pop, there was Festival. From 1963 through 1966, Murray Lerner visited the annual Newport Folk Festival to document a thriving, idealistic musical movement as it reached its peak as a popular phenomenon. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, the Staple Singers, Pete Seeger, Son House, and Peter, Paul and Mary were just a few of the legends who shared the stage at Newport, treating audiences to a range of folk music that encompassed the genre's roots in blues, country, and gospel as well as its newer flirtations with rock and roll. Shooting in gorgeous black and white, Lerner juxtaposes performances with snapshot interviews with artists and their fans, weaving footage from four years of the festival into an intimate record of a pivotal time in music-and in American culture at large. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary about the making of the film; a selection of unreleased performances by Clarence Ashley, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Cotten, John Lee Hooker, Odetta, and Tom Paxton; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
 
Thursday, February 22nd
Four Luis Buñuel Editions

One of cinema's great subversives, Luis Buñuel spent nearly half a century taking aim at a number of humankind's most cherished orthodoxies. This month, we're presenting editions of four of his late-career French films, which plunge into the surreal and satirical. A ribald deconstruction of contemporary and traditional views on Catholicism, 1969's The Milky Way(Criterion Collection Edition #402) inaugurated what Buñuel saw as a trilogy about "the search for truth." That cycle's next two films, the absurdist masterpieces The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (#102) and The Phantom of Liberty (#290), take place at high-society gatherings disrupted by absurd occurrences, revealing the hypocrisy of conventional morality and the arbitrariness of social arrangements. Buñuel's final film, 1977's That Obscure Object of Desire (#143), is a dizzying game of sexual politics that brings full circle the director's lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Supplements in this program include a documentary about Buñuel's life and work, and a video with Jean-Claude Carrière.

Friday, February 23rd
Friday Night Double Feature: Birdman of Alcatraz and Down by Law

Get a glimpse of life behind bars in John Frankenheimer's 1962 drama Birdman of Alcatraz and Jim Jarmusch's 1986 misfit "neo-Beat noir comedy" Down by Law. Featuring a powerful performance by Burt Lancaster, Frankenheimer's film is one of the blueprints of the prison movie, telling the story of a convicted murderer who, after developing an affinity for birds while in prison, goes on to become a distinguished ornithologist. Jarmusch's sophomore feature turns that blueprint on its head, bringing together Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni for an idiosyncratic tale about a Louisiana prison break that leads to a dreamlike adventure.

Monday, February 26
Observations on Film Art No. 16: The Darkness of War in Wooden Crosses

Raymond Bernard's 1932 masterpiece Wooden Crosses, often referred to as France's All Quiet on the Western Front, is one of the most poignant films to envision the horrors of combat during World War I. Widely celebrated for its lavishly expensive and realistic reconstruction of life in the trenches, the film is also remarkable for the subtlety of Bernard's techniques. For this month's episode of Observations on Film Art, a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at how great filmmakers use cinematic devices and conventions, film-studies scholar Kristin Thompson explores how Wooden Crosses combines the brutality of other war dramas of its era with a lyricism all its own, achieved largely through the film's exquisite use of lighting.

Tuesday, February 27
Tuesday's Short + Feature: Nadja in Paris and Breathless

Two French New Wave titans find inspiration in the experiences of young American women studying abroad in Paris. In his 1964 short Nadja in Paris, Rohmer teams up for the first time with the great cinematographer Néstor Almendros, observing the everyday comings and goings of an exchange student discovering the city while writing her thesis on Marcel Proust. In his landmark 1960 debut feature, Breathless, Godard pays tribute to American gangster movies with a jazzy tale of a criminal who becomes romantically involved with an American student (the incandescent Jean Seberg) living in Paris.
 
Tuesday, February 27
4 by Agnès Varda: Edition #418

Agnès Varda used the skills she honed early in her career as a photographer to create some of the most nuanced, thought-provoking films of the past fifty years. She is widely believed to have presaged the French New Wave with her first film, La Pointe Courte, long before creating one of the movement's benchmarks, Cléo from 5 to 7. Later, with Le bonheur and Vagabond, Varda further shook up art-house audiences, challenging bourgeois codes with her inscrutable characters and offering effortlessly beautiful compositions and editing. Now working largely as a documentarian, Varda remains one of the essential cinematic poets of our time and a true visionary. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: video interviews with Varda; excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Varda discusses her early career; a documentary about the making of Cléo from 5 to 7; and more.
 
Wednesday, February 28
Adventures in Moviegoing with Megan Abbott

An award-winning novelist and a writer for David Simon's HBO drama The Deuce, Megan Abbott joins film critic Michael Sragow to talk about her precocious filmgoing life, beginning with her family trips to the revival house in her hometown of Grosse Point, Michigan, where she first fell in love with the speed, grit, and thump of crime films like The Public Enemy. She also remembers her epiphany seeing Blue Velvet, which revealed a hidden world and new dimensions to an American suburb like her own. For the program that accompanies the interview, Abbott has picked a slate of films that echo that revelation in different ways, including Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss, as well as movies like Blood Simple, which reflects her ongoing obsessions with film noir, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which she regards as a breakthrough treatment of female adolescence.
 
---
 
Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

February 1
Tropical Malady, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005
Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010
Cemetery of Splendor, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015
The Great Escape, John Sturges, 1963
 
February 2
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty, Leni Riefenstahl, 1938
Tokyo Olympiad, Kon Ichikawa, 1965
13 Days in France, Claude Lelouch, 1968
Visions of Eight, Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, Mai Zetterling, 1973
White Rock, Tony Maylam, 1977
16 Days of Glory, Bud Greenspan, 1986
Marathon, Carlos Saura, 1993
The Front Page, Lewis Milestone, 1931 
The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm, 1912, Adrian Wood, 2016 
White Vertigo, Giorgio Ferroni, 1956
February 5
Lettres d'amour, Claude Autant-Lara, 1942
 
February 6
Five Miles Out, Andrew Haigh, 2009
 
February 13
Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero, 1968
 
February 20
Bluebeard, Jean Painlevé, 1938
 
February 21
Festival, Murray Lerner, 1967
Francis Ha, Noah Baumbach, 2013
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO JOIN FILMSTRUCK VISIT HERE

ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL
 
The Criterion Channel offers the largest streaming collection of Criterion films available, including classic and contemporary films from around the world, interviews and conversations with filmmakers and never-before-seen programming. The channel's weekly calendar features complete Criterion editions, thematic retrospectives, live events, short films, and select contemporary features, along with exclusive original programming that aims to enhance the Criterion experience for the brand's dedicated fans as well as expanding its reach to new audiences. Other recent additions to the programming include MEET THE FILMMAKER: ATHINA RACHEL TSANGARI and ADVENTURES IN MOVIEGOING WITH BILL HADER.

ABOUT FILMSTRUCK

FilmStruck is a new subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films. Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will be the new exclusive streaming home for the critically acclaimed and award-winning Criterion Collection, including the Criterion Channel, a new premium service programmed and curated by the Criterion team.  FilmStruck is Turner's first domestic direct-to-consumer offering launched in November 2016.

ABOUT THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium-from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray to FilmStruck, the streaming service developed in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies - Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer's appreciation of the art of film.

September 06, 2017

OPERATION SNOWBALL: MY FIRST CAREER IN SHOW BUSINESS

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 

ColeSmithey.com

You’d be hard-pressed to track down any information on Google about Jerry Harmon’s Operation Snowball.

IMG_20220808_184246082

Sometime in December of 1967, when I was just three-years-old, my stepdad Jerry Harmon launched a touring magic act project called Operation Snowball. I was the (very) young assistant.

Costumes baby.

Screen Shot 2022-04-26 at 12.06.25 PM

Under the auspices of Operation Snowball, “King Karnak, Barbie, and Cole” would become a ten-year annual touring magic show across the state of Virginia. The purpose of the act was to provide Christmastime entertainment for the patients at all, or most, of the mental institutions in Virginia; there were a lot mental hospitals in those days. Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia was on the list.

Western_state_hospital_virginia

Every year we’d kick off the tour with a show at the Towne Theater on Broad Street in Richmond before heading over to the Governor’s office for a photo op with the reigning Governor, who would give his blessing for our two-week tour that followed.

Screen Shot 2022-04-17 at 1.01.08 PM

I distinctly remember meeting Governor Mills Godwin on several occasions. A government limo would drive us to a nearby airport where a government appointed pilot from Civil Air Patrol would fly us, with our gear, in a Cessna twin-engine plane to our shows. Jerry, a captain in CAP, would pilot the plane sometimes. I loved it. I wanted to be a pilot. Civil Air Patrol even had a boys pilot program for pre-teen boys to fly planes. I remember going to a exhibition event where I watched boys my age (around 11) fly planes. Naturally they had an instructor with them, but still those kids took off, flew around, and landed those planes. 

How cool can you get. 

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 7.17.56 PM

There were times when we had to land in cow pastures. No shit. I mean, except for the cow poop. Sometimes we hit severe winter turbulence that would make the most hardened pilots lose their lunch. I was such a sleepy little kid that no amount of sudden altitude drops or bump-and-grind turbulence could wake me from my slumber.  

Jerry had been a medic in the Korean war before being switched to intelligence where he trained soldiers in specialized combat techniques, such as decapitation using piano wire. Watermelons stood in for actual heads. Jerry flew fighter pilot missions over Korea, during one of which he had to crash-land his plane. The plane’s windshield exploded into his face, leaving scars from where tiny pieces of glass had to be extracted with tweezers.

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 7.19.23 PM

At 6' 2'', Jerry was the epitome of rugged handsomeness.

One story goes that he killed one of his own men for being a traitor.

Fiction?

Perhaps.

Nov. 28.67

When he started Operation Snowball, Jerry was riding ambulance duty for a volunteer rescue squad in Richmond when he wasn’t doing live television news broadcasts for a local station. He’d later become a radio announcer for WEZS (Easy Listening), while teaching Standard First Aid to Richmond police recruits every Tuesday night. I spent more Tuesday nights learning first aid downtown at the Richmond Police Station than I can remember.

Jerry cared about the Mental Health movement in Virginia. He worked for a Mental Health agency headquartered in one of the most beautiful buildings on Monument Avenue. So it was that we’d pull into the parking lot of Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg in the early afternoon, rush in to a cafeteria area with a stage, and perform for a half hour to war vets and mentally ravaged patients whose suffering was only being exacerbated by abuses they were suffering at the hands of their guards.

IMG_20220808_184602675

Jerry Harmon was a consummate performer. He wore a black cape à la Count Dracula. His black hair was slicked back. Jerry had studied voice with the great Don Ameche, and copied Ameche's pencil-thin mustache. 

When Jerry spoke in public, heads turned.

Jerry had a line of show patter so shiny you could eat off it.

“Ice, the only thing in the world that is what it is cracked up to be.”

12.1.67

My mom and I were the assistants.

I had a “Twiggy and Stumpy” bit that I did where I pulled faces. I wore a Philip Morris-styled outfit with a pill box hat with an elastic cord that wrapped under my chin. It was uncomfortable as hell but this was show business after all.

I don’t have much memory of specific years; they all just blend together. But I have a strong memory of the first time I became aware of just who our audience was. I looked out from the stage at the grinning faces of people who would return to an abyss of sadness the moment we left their facility. I saw a Viet Nam war vet in a wheelchair. The man had no arms or legs. Tears of joy streamed down his face as he watched our act.

King Karnak

I was probably five or six at the time but I didn’t need anyone to explain to me how or why this poor man had arrived at this sad fate.

War had robbed this poor human being of his humanity. Long before I hit puberty, I had an ingrained hatred of war that I carry to this day.

The Clash, Elvis Costello, and Elem Klimov confirmed my chosen ethics. 

Karnak & Barbie

Jerry used a clothes hamper that he had dressed into a snazzy rolling lectern from which he would take out rope, Chinese Linking Rings, and a host of other tricks.

KING KARNAK was emblazoned across the front. Jerry was a master at sleight of hand. David Blane had nothing on Jerry. I watched my dad blow people's minds at cocktail parties. Billiard Balls were a favorite. The show would climax with Jerry chopping my mom’s head off with a guillotine purchased at Al's Magic Shop in Washington, D.C.

Some members of the audience would have to be escorted out of the room before the trick could be completed. The patients would frequently mob us as we made our way to our waiting limo. It was frightening sometimes, but we were already on our way to our next show. We did two or three shows a day for our two-week run.

Exhausting.

AP Operation Snowball

I’ve since gone down to Richmond looking through Public Library microfiche files of the Richmond News Leader and Times Dispatch (both newspapers I delivered as a paperboy in my neighborhood from 11 to 14) for articles or photos from the Operation Snowball years (1967 to 1976), but I couldn’t find anything.

It’s funny to think that I had my introduction to show business at such a young age, but I learned the same fundamental lesson that anyone who dares set foot on the boards does; the show must go on.

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 7.40.19 PM

Us paperboys called 'em The News Bleeder and The Times Disgrace. I got to read my own newspaper copy everyday. That was cool.

I even landed a couple skateboarding photos in the News Leader. That's me skating the Pollak Building at VCU. Bitchin'.

Regarding Operation Snowball, I took special satisfaction in bringing fleeting moments of joyful entertainment to people without hope.

Jerry treated Operation Snowball like a military mission that had to be prepared for, executed, and completed without complaint. He never got paid a dime for his efforts. He might not have been the best dad, but Jerry was a humanitarian, as evidenced by his actions. Jerry had a huge ego, and was quite a braggart, but I never once heard him brag about Operation Snowball. That was something special. Perhaps someday you'll be able to see and read evidence of Operation Snowball on the internet.

It was a big deal for ten years.

Screen Shot 2022-08-09 at 11.13.33 AMDave, Sam, Jane, and Cole — THE ROCKIN' DOGS in San Diego 1983

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 4.10.07 PMTHE ROCKIN' DOGS ON FILM

ColeSmithey.comTHE ROCKIN' DOGS FREE LUNCH (1984) at SDSU

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 8.16.52 PMTHE ROCKIN' DOGS doing damage in downtown S.D. at STUDIO 517

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 8.02.22 PMTHE ROCKIN' DOGS at STUDIO 517 in San Diego 1984

To quote Lux Interior of "The Cramps," "I learned all I know by the age of nine."

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 10.52.30 PMLa Grande Bouffe (THE BIG FEAST) Craft Beer & Movies Podcast

042Cannes, Cannes, Cannes!

Screen Shot 2022-10-04 at 12.43.17 PMLunch with Catherine Deneuve at Cannes.

IMG_20190825_133501528_HDRHotel room rehearsals baby.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.00.08 PMCOZY COLE at Birdsall House in Peekskill, NY 2020

Church of the Heavenly RestCOZY COLE solo Bossa Nova at NYC's Central Park 2021

CmCOZY COLE at The Metropolitan Club 2022

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series