Monday, September 21, 2015

Retrospect

Columbus Avenue Street Festival. 1:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, September 21, 2015. Beautiful weekend in New York weather-wise. Sunday afternoon, on the Promenade by the East River, there was a strong cool breeze of autumn blowing under a warm Sun. And nighttime falling into the 50s. No massive hum of the A/Cs filling the air with the night time temps falling into the 50s. Just being out there walking, was enough to raise your spirits for the moment.
The river was strong Sunday noontime under the bright sun with a strong breeze. This grand catamaran was moving south towards the harbor.
And this kayaker was dealing with the currents where the estuary meets the rivers.
A beautiful tug with those old college colors.
And a weekend fisherman making his way up to the Long Island Sound.
And friends out for a Sunday ride upriver.
A gravel barge pushing north.
Retrospect. Thursday night our friend Geoffrey Bradfield hosted a small birthday celebration for himself at the Polo Bar. This was my first visit. The handsome room looks very familiar because it’s distinctly Ralph Lauren. It’s almost as iconic to the American mind, as the Coke bottle was. The interiors are reminiscent of “21” in its glory, but updated. The restaurant was packed.

A native of Johannesburg, Geoffrey has been a native New Yorker for about the last forty years. He is a successful international interior designer, one of those individuals who lives in a style that implies leisure (time to relax) yet works just about 24/7, covering the globe for his global clientele. The way he does relax, however, is to entertain his friends at dinner for four or sixty-four. He likes a splashy party to entertain his guests, and of course good food and drinks.
Geoffrey's guests at table on Thursday night at the Polo Bar. That's our host on the lower right.
The previous picture was taken without a flash. Here we are in the light.
Thursday’s was a conservative, intime party for Geoffrey. Among his guests were childhood friends, and longtime friends. Just eight of us. Guests arrived by 8:30, and conversation took us quickly to almost 11. I don’t think anyone even mentioned the business of a birthday. Yesterday was the official day for the boy.

Click to order Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.
Click to order The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins.
Weekend reading. Someone gave me a subscription to The New York Review of Books in 1965, and I’ve been reading it ever since. Like the New Yorker which I like very much although I’d give the NYR the edge. The current issue (October 8) has an article by Tim Flannery “The amazing Inner Lives of Animals.” It’s a review of two books: “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel” by Carl Safina (Henry Holt, publisher), and “The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins” by Hal Whitehead  and Luke Rendell (University of Chicago Press).

This is the first paragraph of Flannery’s piece:

“The free-living dolphins of the Bahamas had come to know researcher Denise Herzing and her team very well. For decades, at the start of each four-month-long field season, the dolphins would give the returning humans a joyous reception “ a reunion of friends,” as Herzing described it. But one year the creatures behaved differently. They would not approach the research vessel, refusing even invitations to bow-ride. When the boat’s captain slipped into the water to size up the situation, the dolphins remained aloof. Meanwhile, on board it was discovered that an expeditioner had died while napping in his bunk. As the vessel headed to port, Herzing said, “the dolphins came to the side of our boat, not riding the bow as usual but instead flanking us fifty feet away in an aquatic escort” that paralleled the boat in an organized manner.”

You’ll want to buy the books. The article is one of the reasons why I am always excited about reading the NYR. You learn something relevant and outside yourself and it’s like an antidote (not an escape from) to all the bad news surrounding us these days.

One last retrospective.  Liz Smith reported in her column on these pages last Friday Dickie Moore died a week ago Thursday, two days short of his 90th birthday. Dickie Moore had a substantial movie career as a child actor just as the “Talkies” came in, in the 1930s through the '40s. A bit before my time but I knew who he was because he later married Jane Powell, who was a big MGM musical star when I was a kid.

She still looks like the Jane Powell we used to see on on the giant screen on Saturday matinees at the Park Theater. I’d met both Powell and Moore any number of times in passing.  They often dined at Swifty’s with Marc Rosen and Arlene Dahl. Arlene was a star at Metro during the same years Jane was there. Both girls have retained the images that made them big box office. I never had a chance to chat with Mr. Moore in those moments we were introduced, so I found this obit in the London Telegraph interesting and insightful into the business of being a child actor in the movies back in the day when it was every working parent’s idea of winning the lottery. And the kids worked.
Dickie Moore and Jane Powell.
Dickie Moore, who has died aged 89, was a child star of the 1930s and 1940s who appeared in a large number of Hollywood films and gave a 14-year-old Shirley Temple her first screen kiss.

With his striking combination of fair hair, dark, intense eyes and angelic, dimpled features, Moore, who made his screen debut aged just 11 months, featured as the “baby” of many famous names, including Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932) and Ann Harding in Peter Ibbetson (1935).
A member of the Our Gang cast in 1932-33, he then played the title role in the 1933 film adaptation of “Oliver Twist,” produced on a shoe-string by the Monogram studios, a picture which was notable for being the first ever sound version of the story, but which was otherwise panned by the critics.

He was 16 when he played the rich high-school kid who bestows a kiss on a somewhat startled Shirley Temple in Miss Annie Rooney (1942). That film, too, received a critical pasting.
Little Dickie Moore in an "Our Gang" comedy short.
John Richard Moore was born in Los Angeles on September 12, 1925 and got his first break the following year when the casting director at Fox Pictures arrived at the family home to pick up a colleague whose car had broken down, noticed the baby of the family playing in his cot and claimed to have detected a likeness to the actor John Barrymore.

He made his screen debut as a baby in The Beloved Rogue (1926) followed by a similar role in Object: Alimony (1928) with Hugh Allan and Lois Wilson. But his earliest film memories were of making Passion Flower (1930), with Kay Francis, and Lummox (1930) with Dorothy Janis. He enjoyed working with Dorothy Janis, whom he described as “sweet to me” but “just not tough enough for the movies”.
With Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932).
He learnt some harsh lessons about Hollywood during the filming of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man (1931), in which he was cast as the child of a former British Army officer (Warner Baxter) and a beautiful Indian squaw (Lupe Velez). “DeMille was a bully and a bastard,” Moore recalled. “[He] was completely insensitive to other people and their feelings and even hit me. I was a five-year old kid and he hit me! He really was a piece of work.”
Cast shot from Fish Hooky, released in January 1933.
“I realised aged six,” he recalled later “that I had to be horrible just to make it down the line to collect my lunch in the studio commissary [canteen] each day.”

Dickie Moore’s other early credits included Son of the Gods (1930) with Constance Bennett; Let Us Be Gay (1931) with Norma Shearer; Seed (1931) co-starring Bette Davis; So Big! (1932) with Mae Madison and Barbara Stanwyck; Million Dollar Legs (1932) with Jack Oakie and Susan Fleming; Deception (1932) with Thelma Todd, and The Life of Emile Zola (1937).

In 1940 he was partnered with Shirley Temple for Blue Bird – 20th Century Fox’s answer to The Wizard of Oz. He found his female co-star to be “fun and unpretentious”, though the same could not be said of her mother whom he regarded as “pushy and then some”.
Shirley Temple and Dickie Moore, from a scene in the 1942 "Miss Annie Rooney," now teenagers -- Temple was getting her "first" screen kiss; and near the end of their film careers.
By this time, however, Dickie Moore had reached a self-conscious adolescence and had become weary of just being “cute”. He objected to his role in Heaven Can Wait (1943) in which he played a pampered teenager kept in short trousers by parents who are determined to shield him from the outside world. He lost the innocent charm that had made him such a star as a child and as a result his later film career was disappointing. “I knew what was wanted of me and I knew how to do it, but simply had little interest in the films or the characters,” he recalled.

Dickie Moore in Heaven Can Wait (1943).
After a stint in the US Army during the Second World War, reporting on Pacific operations for “Stars and Stripes,” Dickie Moore acted in, co-directed and co-produced a two-reel documentary called The Boy and the Eagle, about a disabled young man who nurses a wounded eagle back to health, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1949.

As an adult he worked as an actor and director on radio and television and on Broadway and off-Broadway productions, but gave up Hollywood after taking a small role as a soldier in Member of the Wedding (1952). In 1956 he appeared in a Broadway production of Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” with Siobhan McKenna in the title role.

Dickie Moore went on to produce and direct United Service Organisation-sponsored overseas tours and lectured at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). During the 1970s he began writing for television and formed his own PR company in New York.

Moore published several books on acting, including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car),” published in 1984, an insider’s account of life as a child star. During the 1980s he reestablished contact with old Hollywood friends when Edith Fellows formed a club for former child stars called The Survivors. In 1988 he married the actress Jane Powell and moved with her to Connecticut before returning to New York. He was happy to be known simply as her husband. She survives him.

Dickie Moore, born September 12 1925, died September 10 2015
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Moore, happily ever after.

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