Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dramatic Irony

Just occasionally, dear blog reader, some bright and articulate net surfer may stumble across From The North whilst using a Goggle search for a particular phrase. Such things happen, I'm led to believe. Often it'll be for a phrase like "Laura Kuenssberg+age" for example. We've covered that one in the past. However, in just the last few days I've noticed a couple of new dear blog readers who have, it would appear - very much - arrived here because they fitted in with some of my own inherent sensibilities. Hello to "Victoria Coren+breasts", for instance. And, also to "Sue Perkins+beautiful". I'm on your wavelength.

And, speaking of wavelengths, in this particular case 95.4FM - in addition to yer Keith Telly Topping's usual Top Telly Tips (as always, broadcast sometime around 3:45 ish on Simon Logan's Afternoon Show on your BBC Newcastle) yer Keith Telly Topping also recorded a little piece for Jon and Ann's Drive-Time Show. One which will, hopefully, go out this afternoon sometime between 4:45 and 5pm on the fiftieth anniversary of The Flintstones. Which is today, as it happens. If you want to tune in, or to catch it later on Listen Again, go to this link and follow your instincts. Yabba-dabba-doo.

Tom Goodman-Hill has tweeted, apparently to confirm that Ideal has been recommissioned for another season: 'Best news of the day; series seven of Ideal on its way next year.' Yer Keith Telly Topping thinks this news is somewhat ruddy fantastic!

Tim Roth has promised that the third season of Lie To Me is a strong one. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Roth suggested that the episodes will explore more of his character Cal's past. '[It] will be our strongest [season],' he said. 'We'll go into his past more, and there are women who are going to come up in his life. The relationship he has with his daughter opens up as well as his relationship with Foster.' The third season of Lie To Me has been brought forward following the cancellation of Lone Star and Roth admitted that he feels sorry for the team behind the axed show. 'What happened to Lone Star I'm sad for those guys,' he said. 'A lot of passion goes into making a TV show, [so] it must be very heartbreaking to have that happen.'

Father Ted actor Frank Kelly - the comedy's memorably foul-mouthed priest Father Jack Hackett - is joining the ITV soap Emmerdale, producers have announced. Kelly, seventy one, is swapping Craggy Island for the Yorkshire Dales to play Dermot Macey, the father of Declan, played by Jason Merrells. But his new character is 'a pretty cool dude,' Kelly said. 'He's not that kind of guy. He wouldn't swear.' Fek. And, indeeed, arse. The Irish actor, who appeared in the 1969 British classic The Italian Job, can be seen in Emmerdale from December. His other screen roles include playing the late Labour leader John Smith in the Channel 4 political drama The Deal.

Launching the BBC's autumn and winter drama season earlier this week, the corporations Head of Drama Ben Stephenson gave a speech which had yer Keith Telly Topping actually standing on his chair applauding. You can read the full text here and I do urge that you to, dear blog reader. But, I especially want to highlight a couple of bits from it: Firstly, Stephenson noted that 'I particularly enjoyed a recent headline that said Sky's investment in drama was "Another nail in the coffin for free-to-air drama." A statement that surprised me, and I am sure my friends at ITV and Channel 4, considering that – whilst their investment is to be welcomed – it is only thirty million. A figure dwarfed by the hundreds of millions we spend on original British drama and the hundreds of millions they have chosen to spend on buying foreign shows instead of investing in British writers and original drama. There is of course no doubt that the US makes great shows. But we need to stop punishing ourselves for not being American. [My italics] There is a terribly fashionable, but naive mythology about US television. Of course they make great television. But they basically make two types of television. Thirteen-part series and twenty four-part series. Get out of the room if you want to write anything else. No Five Daughters, no Sherlock, no Dive, no The Silence, no Song Of Lunch, no Wallander. All of those writers would be told – make it thirteen or twenty four or get out. Steven Moffat would not be able to write Sherlock how he wants to. He would be biffed off and replaced with a showrunner who could give create a financially acceptable model of twenty four episodes. That financial model of thirteen or twenty four-part series where one series can cost upwards of sixty million means we can't compete with them. So let's not. Let's value the UK and the US's drama models differently for what they do, not what they can't do. We don't want the only thing that matters to be the eighteen to forty nine demographic – anyone over that and you're irrelevant. And for a cable network you need to be eighteen to forty nine and middle class. Would we really to see our drama suffer the same fate as new critically acclaimed FOX twenty four-part series Lone Star? Premiered last Monday, axed yesterday. Where are the singles? The two-parters? The three-part mini-series? The great six or eight-part series? Where are the pieces for writers who don't want to write one idea for five years – who don't feel they can spin their idea into syndication with one hundred episodes? Believe me, they simply aren't there. Whether HBO or FOX – these are terrific commercial broadcasters who make world-class shows – but they are driven by the need to make money. We have a unique opportunity to be different. We should love American TV but adore and cherish our own.' Subsequently, he continued: 'BBC Drama is going to remain defiantly British and commission the best quality drama for our audiences to watch. Crucially, we are going to give writers and directors their head and not censor them from writing their best ideas whatever their shape – be it popular drama or pieces for a more self-selecting audience. We are not going to commission twenty four-part series or classic drama because critics tell us to – but we may well if a creative has a bold idea. We are not going to have an eye on an American market, we are not going to become obsessed by co-production – we are going serve our audiences by telling the best stories our writers have to tell. We aren't however going to be Little Englanders. We want to embrace the whole of Britain, indeed the whole of the world more. We want to be the home of the best story-telling.' Yes, Ben Stephenson. I say yes to thee. At last, somebody who actually gets it. We, in the UK, are what we are and do what we do - some of it is the envy of the world. Other parts of it are not, they're uniquely British and would have the average American executive scratching their head in bemusement. But, for better or worse, they are the products of our culture and our worldview. Stick to what you're good at and make it to the best of your abilities. I'm, actually, proud to be a licence fee payer on days like today.

As part of the above speech, Ben Stephenson announced that the BBC will adapt four of William Shakespeare's plays for television. Richard II, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V will all be broadcast on the channel. Sam Mendes, who has worked on American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, has signed up to executive produce the plays alongside Away We Go and Starter For Ten producer Pippa Harris. Meanwhile, the directors working on the adaptations include Sir Richard Eyre and Rupert Goold. 'I couldn't be more delighted to be making these Shakespeare films for the BBC,' Mendes said. 'One of my earliest introductions to Shakespeare was watching the plays on TV, and it's terrific to have the opportunity to bring them to a new, wider audience.' Mendes added that he is excited about working with Eyre and Gold, saying: 'Richard's production of King Lear and Rupert's Macbeth were two of the best Shakespeare productions I've ever seen, and it's an honour to have them on board.'

Jedward are reported to have - collectively - 'brushed aside' alleged insults directed at them by Jack Dee on an upcoming episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. According to the Sun, the dry-as-a-bone comic described John and Edward Grimes as 'special needs versions of each other.' They go on to claim that Dee drove the twins 'to the brink of tears with his jibes' during recording and that the show will be edited carefully to avoid any claims of bullying. 'Jack went a bit overboard,' a nameless 'source' allegedly told the newspaper. 'It started out as good fun but soon turned a bit nasty. The boys knew they were going to get the piss taken out of them and were up for it. 'But Jack kept going at them relentlessly and it got to the point where he used some seriously strong language. The audience and other panellists got a bit uncomfortable. Even Jack realised he had gone too far and tried to pull it back towards the end.' The newspapers suggests that Jedward - presumably one of them, unless they speak in unison, which would be a sight to see, frankly - said: 'Jack Dee was a bit rude but we've had worse. At the end of the show he asked for a picture with us so we think he's secretly a massive fan.' No, I don't believe that for a single second either, dear blog reader. I also love the way that, seemingly, the Sun believes these two young men are some kind of single gestalt entity who do and say everything together. Do they have separate brains and vocal chords? I think we should be told. A spokesman for show's producer, Talkback Thames, said that Dee had only engaged in 'harmless ribbing in keeping with the tone of the show.' He then added, 'why don't you bugger off and report some real news.' Allegedly.

Coronation Street's upcoming tram crash will reportedly be the most expensive stunt in soap history, costing one million pounds. Filming of the special week of episodes to celebrate the ITV soap's fiftieth anniversary began this week in Manchester. Speaking to the Daily Lies, executive producer Phil Collinson said that he had wanted even more cash from bosses. 'We've had a significant amount of extra money from ITV for this stunt,' he said. 'It's not enough, it's never enough.' He continued: 'It's the most money we've ever spent in the show's history; it's going to be a spectacular set of episodes.' Collinson admitted that the stunt makes this year's Underworld explosion 'pale into insignificance. To give you some idea, we usually film five episodes in twelve days,' he said. 'But for the fiftieth we will be filming five episodes in ten weeks. It's basically the pace of a big drama.' He explained: 'We do all of that but the rest of the show still has to rumble on. So in the lead up to it we're having to film lots more episodes, and afterwards as well, so we can keep airing for five nights a week. It's huge.' He continued: 'They are going to make sure these episodes are like nothing we've ever seen on Coronation Street.' What, not even the previous viaduct tram crash in 1967? Or, the truck crashing into the Rovers' in the 1970s?

Alex Perry has 'hit back' at accusations that the recent blunder on the Australia's Next Top Model final was a publicity stunt. The show caused controversy - and hilarity in equal measures - when host Sarah Murdoch announced that Kelsey Martinovich had won the modelling competition, only to admit a few moments later that she had said the wrong name and the victor was, in fact, Amanda Ware. Judge Perry told 2DayFM: 'I would stake my life on it [not being deliberate]. There's no way that she would do that. I think you saw that the instant she knew something was wrong, you could see it in her eyes. That wasn't lying, that wasn't acting. Everybody wants to tag something sinister on it and say it was done for ratings [but] I know Sarah and I know the executive producer; it's just not their style. They have too much integrity.'

NBC is reportedly developing a revival - a 'reimagining', if you will - of the 1960s comedy series The Munsters. The sitcom focused on a family of supernatural folk and spawned a number of spin-off movies. NBC has now ordered a pilot of the remake, Entertainment Weekly reports. The show, which has been described as 'Modern Family meets True Blood' is being written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. And, all of a sudden this blogger's interest in the project has just trebled. Meanwhile, rumours have suggested that Guillermo del Toro is interested in working on the project.

Nearly one-in-five people are unhappy about the depiction of gay, lesbian and bisexual people on TV and radio, according to a report commissioned by the BBC. A survey found that eighteen per cent - or, homophobes as they're also known - feel 'uncomfortable' or 'very uncomfortable' with it, even after the 9pm watershed. Just under half of respondents said they were either comfortable or ambivalent. Around a fifth of straight people said they believed there was too much content relating to gay people on TV generally, although forty six per cent said they felt the volume was about right. Many lesbians felt there were not enough gay women on TV and most were portrayed either as 'butch' or 'lipstick lesbians.' Gay men said they would welcome a more realistic portrayal of gay life and criticised a tendency to feature camp men, though they said this was improving. The research also found that landmark gay storylines were regarded as hugely important by gay respondents. The study is one the biggest of its kind, based on a survey of more than sixteen hundred people and discussion groups involving five hundred. A BBC public consultation had more than nine thousand responses. The findings will shape coverage for years to come and could lead to the introduction of more lesbian characters in the corporation's dramas. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of pressure group Stonewall, said: 'The BBC is a hugely important part of our cultural glue and belongs to everybody. It's right that everyone in modern Britain should be reflected in its output.' Tim Davie, the BBC's head of audio, who chairs a working group on improving coverage of the gay community, said the research would help achieve more 'authentic and diverse' portrayals. 'The BBC has a responsibility to serve all our audiences as best we can and there are clear commitments we are taking from this study. We have already begun to share the research with content teams across the BBC in order to continue the progress we have made towards achieving more authentic and diverse portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.' The research also found that landmark storylines and 'standout' moments on TV and radio are regarded as hugely important by gay respondents. They include a rare pre-watershed on-screen kiss on Channel 4's Brookside in 1994, now regarded as one of the most memorable scenes in British TV history. More recent examples mentioned by respondents typically took place in dramas such as Channel 4's Shameless and Skins, and the US drama The Wire, which was broadcast on BBC2 last year. Gay men regarded Russell Davies' groundbreaking Queer as Folk, another Channel 4 series, as the most influential show of its type, while lesbians cited Sugar Rush and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, among others. There was a recognition that soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, which have prominent gay characters, also play an important role. Channel 4 was widely praised for its portrayal of gay men, with fifty two per cent describing its coverage as 'quite or very good' compared with forty three per cent who said the same about the BBC. Channel's 4's output was called 'ground-breaking' by forty four per cent of gay men. The BBC will now make recommendations to the BBC Trust. They include introducing 'incidental' gay characters whose sexuality is not their defining feature.

The new, and much-hyped, NBC conspiracy drama The Event shed a fifth of its viewers on its second outing on Monday night, according to overnight data. The episode attracted 8.98m to the network in the 9pm hour, a drop of over two million viewers week-on-week.

Sky News and Channel 4 News were the big winners at the 2010 International Emmys for 'News' and 'Current Affairs.' In the 'News' category, Sky News won the award for its March 2009 report Pakistan: Terror's Frontline, which featured footage of Taliban training camps. The broadcaster beat a report from the Al-Jazeera English channel on Israel's ground operations against Hamas in Gaza. The 'Current Affairs' category was won by Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Pakistan's Taliban Generation. Produced by independent firm October Films, the programme examined how Pakistan's radical Islamists were bringing violence to the country and beyond. The winners picked up their awards on Monday at a ceremony at the Frederick P Rose Hall of Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York.

The executive producer of Bones has suggested that an upcoming episode of the drama is the most 'psychological' the series has ever been. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Stephen Nathan explained that the episode will be told entirely from Brennan's point of view. 'It's a very stylised episode where Brennan is investigating a murder of someone who appears to be her,' he said. 'It's sort of Brennan examining her own life while examining the victim.' Nathan added: 'We've never done anything this internal. It's probably the most psychologically oriented episode we've ever done.'

At first, it looked like a serious technical glitch. But once staff at Al-Jazeera Sports had checked, and then double-checked, they realised something rather sinister was happening: for nearly twenty minutes the channel's live transmission of this summer's opening match at the World Cup between South Africa and Mexico was almost impossible to watch because of blank or frozen screens or commentary in the wrong language. The second half was even worse. Technicians boosted their signal, only to see the interference grow stronger. Fans across the Middle East and North Africa, in private homes, cafes, restaurants and special screening areas, were furious – and quickly made their feelings clear. 'Al-Jazeera pisses off three hundred million Arabs with crappy World Cup reception,' fumed one. Another complained: 'AJ does not deem it necessary to issue any kind of statement about these "interruptions." Nor does it have the decency to issue an apology (let alone a refund).' Ooo, getting all uppity, so they were. Palestinians in the West Bank reportedly turned, in droves, to cheaper Israeli-based satellite sources. An audience in Dubai is said to have trashed a cinema where the matches were being screened. The beautiful game was becoming soiled and disgraced, from Baghdad to Casablanca. Advertisers demanded additional airtime. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera immediately blamed 'sabotage,' hinting at 'political' motives. FIFA was said to be 'appalled.' Egypt, on behalf of Nilesat and Arabsat, both broadcasting Al-Jazeera, complained to the International Telecommunication Union, which regulates satellite transmissions. But after the initial outrage, the story faded away. Now, however, 'secret' documents 'seen by' the Gruniad Morning Star may reveal what actually happened. International investigators hired by Arabsat monitored the final between Spain and the Netherlands on 11 July, and using geo-location technology – involving a second satellite – traced the jamming in real-time to somewhere near As-Salt in Jordan. It remains unclear whether the attack was mounted from a fixed ground station or a vehicle. But it was, in any event, 'a sophisticated operation,' one expert told the newspaper. Jamming involves transmitting radio or TV signals that disrupt the original signal to prevent reception. It is illegal under international treaties. It occurred seven more times during the tournament's biggest games. The Gruniad suggests that it is not hard to find a motive. Before the World Cup Al-Jazeera had been negotiating a seven million dollar rights deal with Jordan TV to transmit twenty two of the games on terrestrial channels. But the Jordanians balked at the last minute – complaining that the matches were from the preliminary stages and did not even include Algeria, the only Arab team taking part. Al-Jazeera's version is that this was a commercial transaction that the Jordanians did not complete. Sources in Doha, the Qatari capital, also ridiculed a request by King Abdullah of Jordan to provide free giant screens for people who could not afford seventy five pounds for a one-month subscription package or cards to see the feed. The Gruniad suggests that 'Middle East analysts say it is hard to escape the conclusion' that raw politics lie at the heart of this row. Jordan, like most Arab governments, heartily dislikes Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the fabulously rich Qatari royal family. The channel is anti-establishment and irreverent in an environment where state media fawn over unelected leaders. It also gives sympathetic coverage to opposition and, especially, Islamist movements. Its critical coverage of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its sharp focus on the Palestinian issue annoys the Americans and the Israelis. Jordan and Egypt both have peace treaties with Israel that are unpopular in both countries. Nearly every Arab regime has had its spats with Al-Jazeera in the past, so the initial assumption in Doha was that the jamming might have been carried out by Egypt, Libya, or Jordan. 'The whole idea of Al-Jazeera's exclusive control of the World Cup annoyed a lot of Arab leaders who saw it as a way to make them crawl to the emir of Qatar to let them have the games for free,' Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian political scientist and the author of (Un)civil War of Words, a book on the channel told the Gruniad. King Abdullah of Jordan had, reportedly, sent his media adviser, Ayman Safadi, to negotiate the rights deal with Al-Jazeera, and there was 'trouble' when it did not go ahead. An official complained to the Jordan Times that the network's stance was 'based on a political agenda and has nothing to do with commercial or any other purposes.' Al-Jazeera, he added, was 'punishing the Jordanian people, who have the love of sports in their blood.' Abdullah, a keen football fan, was furious. 'The king was very angry,' one 'source' said. 'He wanted to bribe his people with the World Cup at Qatar's expense. But Al-Jazeera is a business. The message of this jamming is that "there is no limit to what we will do if we don't like you." It shows that even football can't escape politics.' Fandy agrees. 'It's a political message. The Jordanians are saying: "Screw with us and we will screw with you."'

ITV will launch a high definition simulcast of the ITV2 channel on Sky on 7 October. In August, ITV confirmed its move into pay-TV with the launch of high definition versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 exclusively on Sky. According to advanced programme listings information, ITV2 HD will be the first channel to launch, becoming available to Sky+ HD subscribers. The channel will carry a selection of programmes in native HD, including 71 Degrees North, The Xtra Factor, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. At the time of the channel's announcement, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said: 'Building new revenue streams by exploiting our content across multiple platforms is a key part of the ITV transformation plan. Pay television has seen continual growth over the last decade and this deal is a great example of how a new, subscription-based launch, can complement ITV's existing free-to-air channels.' Sky's chief operating officer Mike Darcey added: 'The subscription model best rewards those committing to HD and continues to drive its growth. We therefore welcome ITV's move to embrace pay-TV to satisfy the demands of millions who now regard anything less than HD as a compromise.'

Leading Welsh actors and musicians - including Ioan Gruffudd, ONE Show presenter Alex Jones and singer Katherine Jenkins - have written to the government to protest at the looming cuts at troubled broadcaster S4C. Actor Matthew Rhys and former Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones were also among those who signed the letter to the culture secretary, the vile Jeremy Hunt, with the Welsh-language channel facing a big reduction in its budget. 'Our careers all began, or were given a substantial boost by, involvement in productions commissioned by S4C,' states the letter, which is also backed by the Welsh independent producers trade association, TAC. 'S4C has a great pedigree in commissioning programming which is not only of benefit to Welsh speakers but, through subtitling and dubbing, audiences further afield, bringing in money to UK plc as well as providing opportunities for new local talent.' It adds: 'S4C is not another bureaucratic quango, but a serious organisation which both has and can continue to be the cornerstone of culture and creativity in Wales.' The channel already faces a two million pounds cut to its one hundred and one million pound annual budget, with warnings that it could face a further twenty four per cent cut when the government unveils the outcome of its spending review. Concerns about the cuts have already been expressed by the Welsh heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones and the Welsh Assembly's first minister, Carwyn Jones. The TAC chair, Iestyn Garlick, said: 'The concern shown by these well-known artists and presenters demonstrates that the arguments against cuts to S4C are not down to narrow self-interest, but an understanding of the key role played by S4C in bringing Welsh voices, perspectives and ideas to the UK and the world.'

Ashley Jensen and Max Beesley have signed up to star in new ITV drama The Reckoning. Jensen, who previously appeared in Extras and Ugly Betty, has joined the cast as single mum Sally Ronson. Sally is faced with a difficult decision when she is offered five million pounds from an anonymous donor in exchange for 'killing a man who deserves to die.' Beesley, who starred in Hotel Babylon and Survivors, will play Sally's boyfriend Mark, a security guard and former policeman who gets involved in finding the man that Sally is supposed to murder. Meanwhile, Sally's fifteen-year-old daughter Amanda, played by The Dark's Sophie Stucky, has a brain tumour and needs an operation in America which her family cannot afford. Sally has to decide whether to kill the man to save her daughter. The two-part thriller is currently being filmed and will be broadcast on ITV early next year.

Tony Curtis, one of the last great stars of Hollywood's golden age, died yesterday aged eighty five. His death was confirmed by a representative of his daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, following a cardiac arrest at his Nevada home on Wednesday. He made more than one hundred and twenty movies over his sixty year career. Curtis's health had been failing for a number of years and he went to hospital in July after suffering a serious asthma attack. Appearing on stage at the Guardian BFI Southbank interview in 2008, Curtis was asked by an audience member what he would like to have written on his tombstone. 'Nobody's perfect,' he said, with impeccable timing, quoting the final line of his best-known movie, Some Like it Hot in which he starred with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. He was born Bernard Schwartz, to immigrant parents in the New York district of the Bronx. His parents were Jewish refugees from Mátészalka, Hungary and Hungarian was Curtis's first language until he was five. He grew up dreaming of movie stardom and idolising the casual, easy style of his hero, Cary Grant. His mother herself had show-business aspirations having once, reportedly, made an appearance as a participant on the TV show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. Curtis said, 'When I was a child mom beat me up and was very aggressive and antagonistic.' She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, a mental illness which also affected Tony's elder brother Robert and led to his institutionalisation. When Curtis was eight, he and his younger brother, Julius, were placed in an orphanage for a month because their parents could not afford to feed them. Having served in the navy during the war, being wounded in Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the GI Bill with classmates that included Walter Matthau and Rod Steiger. He appeared in summer stock theatre and on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills, finally arriving in Hollywood in 1948 at age twenty three. Handsome and with a sly, laconic New York wit, he was placed on a one hundred dollars per week contract at Universal Pictures and changed his name, taking Tony from the novel Anthony Adverse and his surname from Kurtz, his mother's maiden name. Although the studio taught him fencing and riding, Curtis subsequently admitted that he was 'only interested in girls and money.' The studio marketed him as prime beefcake fodder and used him accordingly. He made his screen debut in a minor role in Robert Siodmak's Criss Cross in 1949. One of his early starring roles was playing an Arabic noble in The Prince Who Was A Thief (1951) in which his opening line in the movie, in a broad Bronx accent, was 'Yonder lies de castle of my faddah!' His inability to do accents became something of a running Hollywood joke thereafter, although it would be vastly unfair to consider that as a sign of a lack of talent. He just couldn't do accents very well! Although often badly served by starring vehicles which didn't suit him (one thinks, for instance, of 1954's notorious The Black Shield Of Flaworth in which he was, ludicrously, cast as an English knight, or as the Cossack son of warlord Yul Brynner in 1962's Taras Bulba), he made a huge impact with his performance in Carol Reed's Trapeze (1956). When he was given a good script, he could be a fabulous actor, bringing an often pulchritudinous dash and swagger to a series of bog-standard studio pictures - like So This Is Paris and Six Bridges To Cross (both 1955) before winning critical plaudits for his role as a venal, arrogant press agent in the acclaimed 1957 drama The Sweet Smell of Success. The following year he gained his only Oscar nomination for his role as a bigoted convict opposite Sidney Poitier in the tense racial parable The Defiant Ones. His other notable films include The Vikings (1958), a magnificent performance in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) and, possibly, his greatest - and most sinister - role in The Boston Strangler (1968). Curtis always insisted that the latter film, in which he played the serial killer Albert DeSalvo was the finest performance of his career. His star faded somewhat in the late 1960s and Curtis, with jobs harder to find, fell into a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction. 'From twenty two to about thirty seven, I was lucky,' Curtis told Interview magazine in the 1980s, 'but by the middle sixties, I wasn't getting the kind of parts I wanted, and it soured me. I had to go through the drug inundation before I was able to come to grips with it and realise that it had nothing to do with me, that people weren't picking on me.' He recovered in the early eighties after a thirty-day treatment at the Betty Ford Centre in Rancho Mirage. 'Mine was a textbook case,' he said in a 1985 interview. 'My life had become unmanageable because of booze and dope. Work became a strain and a struggle. Because I didn't want to face the challenge, I simply made myself unavailable.' In later years he turned to painting, with some success, citing Van Gogh, Picasso and Magritte as his main inspirations. 'I'm a recovering alcoholic,' he said in 1990 as he concluded a painting in forty minutes in the garden of his Bel-Air home. 'Painting has given me such a great pleasure in life, helped me to recover.' His most enduring screen role remains that of a jazz musician on the run from gangsters, in Billy Wilder's 1959 classic Some Like it Hot. The film provided Curtis with the chance not only to appear - hilariously - in drag but, also, to channel the spirit of his idol Cary Grant - mimicking the actor's distinctive Transatlantic drawl to impersonate a stuffy oil millionaire and prove that there was, at least, one accent he could do well. 'Nobody talks like that!' retorted the disgusted Jack Lemmon. Infamously, Curtis had a bit of trouble with one of his co-stars during the making of the film. 'Kissing Marylin Monroe,' he once memorably recalled, 'was like kissing Hitler!' In 1971, after several years of depressingly formula movies, Curtis found a new lease of life on television courtesy of the glossy ITC detective series The Persuaders! This cast Curtis and his good friend, Roger Moore, as a pair of dandy playboys jet-setting around Europe solving crime. One was from the mean streets of New York, the other from the playing fields of Harrow. It sounds like a daft conceit and, in many ways it was. It was also huge fun. Four decades on, the show's opening title sequence (with John Barry's tingling theme-tune) remains virtually guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of fortysomething TV addicts everywhere. It introduced Curtis to a new audience and his character, the wise-cracking Danny Wilde, was massively popular. Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Curtis several times, said his performance in Some Like It Hot would live forever. 'He was a very fine actor. Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The man who made it, Billy Wilder, did not suffer fools, so for Tony Curtis to work with him and make that film shows just how good he was. Hollywood tried to make him into a sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s but he was his own man. He was a great chat show guest and was wonderfully indiscreet. But, he was very bright and did not take himself too seriously.' Curtis married six times and appeared to revel in his reputation as a carouser. 'I wouldn't be caught dead marrying a woman young enough to be my wife,' he once remarked. His first, and most famous, wife was the actress Janet Leigh, to whom he was married for eleven years from 1951, and with whom he fathered two daughters - the actresses Jamie Lee and Kelly Curtis. 'For a while, we were Hollywood's golden couple,' he once said. 'I was very dedicated and devoted to Janet, and on top of my trade, but in her eyes that goldenness started to wear off. I realised that whatever I was, I wasn't enough for Janet. That hurt me a lot and broke my heart.' His son Nicholas (from his third marriage, to Leslie Allen) died of a heroin overdose in April 1994, at the age of twenty three. Curtis said: 'As a father you don't recover from that. There isn't a moment at night that I don't remember him.' Frank Sinatra once remarked that Curtis was his favourite Hollywood actor, 'because he beat the odds.' Curtis enjoyed a close friendship with The Rat Pack, some sources even citing him as an 'honorary member.' He appeared in several films with Rat Pack personnel, including Pepe (1960) and The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). One of his last screen roles was playing himself in Quentin Tarantino's award-winning 2005 episode of CSI, Grave Danger. Tarantino describe the opportunity to direct Curtis - and Frank Gorshin who also appeared in the episode - as 'one of the great moments of my life.' On 22 May 2009, Curtis apologised to the BBC radio audience after he used three profanities during a six-minute interview with presenter William Crawley. The presenter also apologised to the audience for Curtis's 'Hollywood realism.' Curtis explained that he thought the interview was being taped, when it was, in fact, live. In later years, he returned to film and television as a character actor after his battles drug and alcohol abuse. His brash optimism returned, and he allowed his once-shiny black hair to turn silver. 'I'm not ready to settle down like an elderly Jewish gentleman, sitting on a bench and leaning on a cane,' he said on his sixtieth birthday. 'I've got a helluva lot of living to do.' His health remained vigorous for all bar the last few years of his life, although he did have heart bypass surgery in 1994. He and his sixth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis whom he married in 1998, operated the Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a refuge for horses which had been abandoned or abused, on the California-Nevada border. Curtis took a fatherly pride in his daughter Jamie Lee's success. They were estranged for a long period, then reconciled. 'I understand him better now,' she said, 'perhaps not as a father but as a man.' The actor looked back recently on a sixty year career that had carried him from the impoverished neighbourhoods of New York to a high-life as a Hollywood superstar. 'I've made one hundred and twenty two movies and I daresay there's a picture of mine showing somewhere in the world every day of the week,' he said proudly. Tony Curtis, as he once noted, regarded his stardom as 'a way to get great tables at restaurants, have beautiful cars to drive' and receive 'the love of lots of people.'

Tony's death came just one day after we lost another legend. Arthur Penn, the director best known for Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 died at the age of eighty eight, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. Penn died the previous evening at his New York home, his daughter Molly told the paper. Penn's work is credited with ushering in a new American film aesthetic, which showed more realistic portrayals of violence rather than the idealised and antisceptic portrayals that had preceded him. Arthur Penn was born in Philadelphia on 22 September 1922, the son of a watch repairer. His parents divorced when he was three and he lived with his mother in New Jersey and New York City, returning to Philadelphia at the age of fourteen to help run his father's business. At Olney High School, he became closely involved in theatre production, responding at once to the challenge of direction. He likened it to a child playing with new toys: 'It's that impulse to record reality,' he said. 'If FAO Schwartz made a director's kit, it would be the greatest toy in the world.' When his father died in 1943, Penn was conscripted into the Army. During training at Fort Jackson he met Fred Coe, who was then running a local community theatre and who was eventually to produce much of Penn's work in theatre and television. During the war, Penn was posted to Paris, where he helped to manage Josh Logan's Army shows, staying on after his discharge to direct plays for the occupation forces. Between 1947 and 1950, funded by the GI Bill, he completed his further education, initially at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where he read Psychology, Philosophy and Literature. After studying acting with Michael Chekhov in Hollywood, he entered television in 1951 as a floor manager with NBC, rising to assistant director on The Colgate Comedy Hour. In 1953, thanks to Fred Coe, who had also joined NBC and remembered him from military service a decade earlier, he was able to direct his first live drama series, First Person. Joining Coe's staff, he went on to direct plays regularly for the Philco Television Playhouse and Playhouse 90 series, including The Miracle Worker, which he was later to stage and film. Penn made his first feature film, The Left-Handed Gun, in 1958 after directing numerous live television dramas. He got his first Oscar nomination for The Miracle Worker in 1962, in which Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both won acting Oscars. He was nominated again for Bonnie and Clyde, which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the notoriously vicious American depression-era bankrobbers. The film's ending, in which the couple die in a relentless hail of police machine-gun fire, is considered one of the greatest and most shocking moments of movie history and ignited a critical hailstorm as its violent finale drew comparisons with the contemporary Vietnam War. Penn's other films included The Chase, Mickey One, Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman, Night Moves, The Missouri Breaks - in which he achieved a long ambition of getting Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to act togehter - and Dead of Winter. 'Had he only directed Bonnie and Clyde, he'd be a director of note, the film critic Leonard Maltin told The Times. 'But that was simply the most successful of these highly individual, often idiosyncratic films that he made in his heyday.' He is survived by his wife of fifty two years, Peggy, and their two children, Matthew and Molly.

A clown has riled politicians by running for parliament in Brazil. Tiricia, whose real name is Francisco Everardo Oliveira, has gained a great deal of public support through a campaign consisting of comic advertisements and catchphrases, reports Bang Showbiz. However, opponents have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against his bid to represent Sao Paolo state, claiming that he is ridiculing the nation's legislature. Aloizio Mercadante, one of the clown's political rivals, said: 'This should not be happening. You should vote for those who have something to contribute, and who keep their promises. Don't waste your vote on jokes.' Another opponent has also tried to suggest that Tiricia is illiterate and should therefore be ineligible for candidacy. One of Tiricia's popular campaign slogans reads: 'It can't get any worse if you vote for me.' Of course, as ever we in Britain are way ahead of the game - we've been electing clowns to tell us what to do for years.