Classic Hollywood: A twist of Lemmon, ‘Back to the Future’ turns 30, James Bond


t’s Susan King, veteran movie writer at the Los Angeles Times, and I hope you’re enjoying the weekly Classic Hollywood newsletter as much as I love writing about film and TV milestones, the Golden Age of Hollywood screenings, DVD releases and notable births and deaths.

I’m lucky that so many Hollywood legends were still alive when I began my career. Over the years, I’ve interviewed Oscar winners such as Helen Hayes, Loretta Young, Jessica Tandy, Celeste Holm and Jack Lemmon.

In fact, I got to interview Lemmon several times. He would say, “It’s magic time,” before each take, and what he created on screen was magic.

Jack Lemmon on April 6, 1974. (Los Angeles Times)

Like any baby boomer, I grew up with Lemmon. Lemmon was an everyman, a Tom Hanks of his day. He was a wonderful comic actor and was equally adept at drama. I remember catching his Oscar-winning role as Ensign Pulver in 1955’s “Mr. Roberts” on TV and going to see 1968’s “The Odd Couple” the day it opened. His Oscar-nominated performance in the 1962 drama “Days of Wine and Roses” was a revelation to me.

I found Lemmon to be bright, funny, warm and emotional. He would get misty when he talked about composer George Gershwin, whom he admired greatly. Watching him on set was a sort of master class in the art of acting.

I observed Lemmon and co-star Matthew Broderick at the old Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica 22 years ago while they were filming the David Mamet two-character play “A Life in the Theatre” for TNT. Lemmon was playing a veteran actor named Robert at a repertory company, and Broderick was the newbie.

On that afternoon, director Gregory Mosher was filming one of the plays-within-a-play, a make-believe costume drama. Lemmon was dressed in period clothes and wore a long, foppish wig. He was having a field day with funny bits for his hammy character. After several takes, he took off his wig and bowed with great flourish. Mosher was thrilled with Lemmon’s improv. 

“Print,” he cried out.

It’s hard to believe that Lemmon has been dead 14 years. Some time after his death on June 27, 2001, I was at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery and starting laughing when I saw the witty three-word inscription on Lemmon’s tombstone:

Jack Lemmon

You can see his obituary as it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on June 29, 2001.

Movie Milestone

The best James Bond in my book is Sean Connery. Hands down. The role fit him as well as an expensive Savile Row suit. My favorite Bond film? “Goldfinger” from 1964.

But some 007 aficionados love the Bond films starring British actor Roger Moore. I enjoyed him as “The Saint,” but I found him a bit too stiff as Bond and the films slightly too jokey. But, of course, I went to all of the Moore Bond films, including the first, “Live and Let Die,” which opened on June 27, 1973.

Moore, who was a real charmer when I interviewed him a few years ago, made seven Bond films. “The Spy Who Loved Me” from 1977 was the best of the bunch.

Barbara Bach and Roger Moore, stars of the James Bond movie "The Spy Who Loved Me," leaning on the now-famous Lotus Esprit. (Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Around Town

Robert Zemeckis’ delightful sci-fi fantasy adventure “Back to the Future,” which starred Michael J. Fox as the irrepressible time traveler Marty McFly, is getting the Hollywood Bowl concert treatment for its 30th anniversary on June 30. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by David Newman, will be performing Alan Silvestri’s indelible score live during the screening, which will feature about 20 minutes of new music.

Producer Bob Gale, who earned an Oscar nomination with Zemeckis for their screenplay, will introduce the film and will be joined on stage by Silvestri and cast members including Christopher Lloyd, who played “Doc” Brown, and Lea Thompson, who played Lorraine. At different areas of the Bowl grounds, three DeLoreans will be on display, as well as a replica of Marty’s truck.

Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in the 1985 film "Back to the Future." (Universal)

On the Dial

TCM’s terrific film noir series “Summer of Darkness” continues tonight. Let’s hope you have a lot of room on your DVR. Among the highlights are two of the best films with one of my favorite actors, the noir star Robert Ryan: 1948’s chilling “Act of Violence,” directed by Fred Zinnemann, and Robert Wise’s boxing drama “The Set-Up,” in which Ryan is at the top of his game as an aging boxer who decides not to throw his last fight. Among the prime-time must-sees are the lesser-known 1948 Ryan thriller, “Berlin Express”;  Orson Welles’ 1946 “The Stranger,” with Loretta Young and Edward G. Robinson; Carol Reed’s brilliant 1949 “The Third Man,” with Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard and Alida Valli, and John Boorman’s complex 1967 “Point Blank,” with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson.

English filmmaker John Boorman at the BBC headquarters in New York on Feb. 19, 2015. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Sneak Peek

I check in with veteran character actor Lance Henriksen, best known as the android Bishop in 1986’s “Aliens,” who has made some 150 movies and worked with directors such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, John Woo, Kathryn Bigelow and Philip Kaufman. His latest film is “Stung,” a horror flick that hearkens back to the creature features of the 1970s, in which he playing a boozy mayor who gets more than he bargained for at a garden party.

From the Hollywood Star Walk

Notable births this week include Peter Lorre (June 26); Eleanor Parker (June 26); Bob Keeshan (June 27); Mel Brooks (June 28); Pat Morita (June 28); Gilda Radner (June 28); Joan Davis (June 29); Lena Horne (June 30); Susan Hayward (June 30); Leslie Caron (July 1); Olivia de Havilland (July 1); Charles Laughton (July 1); and William Wyler (July 1).

For more vintage Hollywood, go to the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page and follow me on Twitter @mymackie.