Thursday, September 21, 2017

HEAD GAMES, THE GRAPHIC NOVEL: “REAL CHARACTERS” #4 CHARLETON HESTON

The Hector Lassiter novels (ten of them, including HEAD GAMES) frequently incorporate real people.

All of that carries over into HEAD GAMES, THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, coming Oct. 24, 2017 from First Second Books.


The range of “real characters” is prodigious, from the real-life personalities who dominate some of those books’ action, to those real people who are, well, fleeting, yet still influential.

Some are famous, some are even infamous. 

Some are little known to the wider public, yet they affected the course of history and the Lassiter series sometimes aims to give these historical ghosts their proper due.


To give a little bonus context to those “characters” who appear in HEAD GAMES: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, we’re delving into each, here and there, over successive Thursdays…




Singer-songwriter Tom Russell penned a wonderful tune about love gone wrong using Orson Welles’ film TOUCH OF EVIL as a metaphor for souring love.

One of the lines from the song goes, “Not a technicolor love film, it’s a brutal document, it’s film noir/And it’s all played out on a borderline and the actors are tragically miscast.”

Most miscast of all in this Welles’ film noir classic whose set we visit in HEAD GAMES, was Charleton Heston, a supremely WASPY guy from Illinois with a British actor’s gravitas who somehow bewilderingly got himself cast as a Mexican Bordertown’s top cop.




Skin dyed swarthy and his already thinning blond hair dyed black, Chuck plays newly-wed Mexican cop Mike Vargas with earnest sincerity, depicting a kind of South-of-the-Border Eliot Ness.

That’s a metaphor all its own, in its way.

Because when it came to TOUCH OF EVIL, confusion was the name of the game, top to bottom.

After years of being ostracized by Hollywood—despite directing what is typically regarded as the greatest American film of all time, CITIZEN KANE—Orson ended up directing TOUCH OF EVIL as a result of utter confusion.



Actually, there are two stories regarding how Orson came to direct the film. 



The one more interesting to me, and embraced in HEAD GAMES, is that Heston would only agree to star in the film if Welles was made director…




Next time: EMIL HOLMDAHL



THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES, AS PUBLISHED BY BETIMES BOOKS:


ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook

FOREVER'S JUST PRETEND: Paperback/eBook

TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook

THE GREAT PRETENDER: Paperback/eBook

ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

THE RUNNING KIND: Paperback/eBook

HEAD GAMES: Paperback/eBook



PRINT THE LEGEND: Paperback/eBook/audio

DEATH IN THE FACE: Paperback/eBook

THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH: Paperback/eBook

Thursday, September 14, 2017

HEAD GAMES, THE GRAPHIC NOVEL: “REAL CHARACTERS” #3 ORSON WELLES

The Hector Lassiter novels (ten of them, including HEAD GAMES) frequently incorporate real people.

All of that carries over into HEAD GAMES, THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, coming Oct. 24, 2017 from First Second Books.


The range of “real characters” is prodigious, from the real-life personalities who dominate some of those books’ action, to those real people who are, well, fleeting, yet still influential.

Some are famous, some are even infamous. 

Some are little known to the wider public, yet they affected the course of history and the Lassiter series sometimes aims to give these historical ghosts their proper due.


To give a little bonus context to those “characters” who appear in HEAD GAMES: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, we’re delving into each, here and there, over successive Thursdays…




Novelist/screenwriter Hector Lassiter has two primary “real-life” sidekicks throughout the 10-volume Lassiter series: novelist Ernest Hemingway, and filmmaker, amateur magician and actor Orson Welles.



Of the two, Welles is—no pun intended—a larger presence in HEAD GAMES, where we meet the struggling auteur striving to complete filming of his quirky classic film noir (some would argue the last true film noir made in the United States), TOUCH OF EVIL.

We visit the set of TOUCH OF EVIL in Venice California, a once-popular and ritzy community (it actually boasted water-filled canals for a time eons ago), but since fallen on such hard times that Welles is using it to convincingly double for an über seedy, Tijuana-style Mexican border town named “Los Robles.”


We are present for the shooting of the film’s signature opening scene, a bravura, brashly long tracking shot ending in the explosion of a bomb we see placed in a car trunk at the scene’s opening. (The most recent James Bond film, Spectre, paid tribute to this shot in its own long-tracking shot homage, set in Mexico, during the 007 film’s pre-credits sequence.)







In addition to directing and having rewritten the script for TOUCH OF EVIL, Welles also acted in the film, playing Captain Hank Quinlan, a badly widowed man who is a slave to his waistline-expanding addictions (“It’s either the candy or the hooch” he growls to Marlene Dietrich) and notorious for not being above deftly framing the actual perp if it will clear a case in absence of actual evidence.


In addition to HEAD GAMES, we meet younger, more successful versions of Welles in the Hector Lassiter novels THE GREAT PRETENDER (which covers the War of the World’s Panic Broadcast of 1938, as well as Welles’ filming of the classic noir, The Third Man).




Welles is also a key player in TOROS & TORSOS, where we find Orson directing his earlier, still quirkier film noir, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, and becoming a person of supreme and dire interest in the grisly murder of would-be actress Elizabeth Short, better known through tabloid headlines as the Black Dahlia, whose 1949 murder remains officially unsolved to this day, in face of a multitude of True Crime paperbacks, each more than a bit dubiously claiming to reveal her true murderer.





Next time: CHARLETON HESTON



THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES, AS PUBLISHED BY BETIMES BOOKS:


ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook

FOREVER'S JUST PRETEND: Paperback/eBook

TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook

THE GREAT PRETENDER: Paperback/eBook

ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

THE RUNNING KIND: Paperback/eBook

HEAD GAMES: Paperback/eBook



PRINT THE LEGEND: Paperback/eBook/audio

DEATH IN THE FACE: Paperback/eBook

THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH: Paperback/eBook