Marionettes in Outer Space

Who would have ever thought that a television show starring a cast of marionettes would be a huge hit? Thunderbirds, conceived by the writer/producer team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson as a children’s show, unexpectedly proved to be popular with older audiences as well. But what was the attraction? Was it the meticulously detailed toy sets and sci-fi gadgetry? Or perhaps it was the novelty of watching puppet thespians who ran the gamut from boy toy pin-up Scott Tracy to high-society secret agent Lady Penelope and her Cockney manservant, “Nosey” Parker. Whatever the reasons, the surprise success of the 1964 TV series inspired the Andersons to produce a full-length feature – Thunderbirds Are GO (1966) – which continued the adventures of the Tracy family, an International Rescue team operated by millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons.   Continue reading

Melancholy in Salt Lake City

There was a time during the late seventies/early eighties when John Heard seemed destined to become a major leading man on the level of William Hurt or Jeff Bridges or some other Oscar-winning actor of his generation. He was impressive in his big screen debut opposite Lindsay Crouse in Between the Lines (1977), an indie comedy-romance about the staff of an underground newspaper in Boston, and even better in such disparate roles as Jack Kerouac in Heart Beat (1980), a self-destructive Viet Nam vet in Cutter’s Way (1981) and Nastassja Kinski’s love interest in Cat People (1982). His performance in Cutter’s Way alone deserved an Oscar nomination but Heard never received any recognition from the Academy during his lifetime. He didn’t become a star either but he kept busy as one of the most in-demand character actors in film and television. Perhaps personal problems kept him from becoming an A-list actor but it was more likely the fact that he did some of his best work in movies few people saw such as Joan Micklin Silver’s Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979), which still stands as my favorite John Heard performance. But there was a major obstacle to overcome in raising awareness of Chilly Scenes of WinterContinue reading