Original “Law & Order” ends

As you may’ve heard, the original L&O series has ended on NBC.  I didn’t see the last episode; I stopped watching it regularly a few years ago.  In recent years, I paid more attention to L&O: Criminal Intent and SVU (watched religiously for many years. )  L&O started out as a cutting-edge show in the early ’90s w/ timely and controversial storylines.  

The show’s top cop was life-weary veteran Det. Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach: 1935-2004).  Orbach came from the theater where he acted, sang, and danced.  L&O’s best lawyer was highly principled ADA/Executive DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston).  Waterston is a classically-trained actor who made his mark in film, too.  McCoy hated hypocrisy and compromise, but could fight cleverly, too.  Plus, he had a cool motorcycle!  L&O has been a showcase for experienced actors and a launching pad for younger ones just starting out in the business. 

In the beginning, the characters had great chemistry together, especially Briscoe and his younger partner, Det. Mike Logan (Chris Noth).   Briscoe (recovering alcoholic) and Logan (hotheaded womanizer) were street-wise, working-class guys who had little or no interest in promotions/politics.  They just wanted to catch the bad guys.  Who could forget the story Logan told of his alcoholic mother regularly beating him with the Bible?  Sorry SATC fans, but we L&O fans saw Noth first!  (Logan kept reappearing in other series b/c fans, as well as Dick Wolf, liked him so much!)  

On to the prosecutors…  The serene and intellectual Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks) was a terrifc foil to passionate ADA Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty).  Robinette had a terrific speaking voice that exuded confidence and serenity.  Stone, on the other hand, was more openly idealistic and passionate.  In later years, Robinette made a guest starring role as a defense attorney.  Why was Brooks, a young African-American actor, let go?  It was to make way for another minority group- women.

No doubt about it, L&O has had some fine women in its cast, including the very capable Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson).  Jill Hennessey’s L&O role was a far cry (and far better acting) than her star turn on Crossing Jordan.  Jill was very believable as a lawyer.   Claire and Jack’s ambiguous personal relationship was discussed by many fans.  Former Bond girl Carey Lowell was very believable as upper-crust, no-nonsense prosecutor Abbie Ross.  Angie Harmon’s character (Abbie Carmichael) was not written w/ subtlety like Claire or Jamie, but she did a good job w/ it.  Angie has a very strong physical presence, like Benjamin Bratt (who played Det. Rey Curtis).

 

Unlike many L&O franchise cops, Rey was a grounded family man w/ traditional values.  He stuck by his wife and kids when she got ill.  Briscoe couldn’t believe that Rey only fantasized about his wife.   A classy guy in a very classy show…

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David Lee Murphy

 

David Lee Murphy (b. 1959) is a successful Nashville singer/songwriter (originally from Illinois).  He wrote the very fun and high energy song On A Mission for the trio Trick Pony.  Before being getting a record deal w/ Mercury in 1994, David co-wrote songs w/ Reba and Doug Stone.  David has also written songs for Aaron Tippin, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean (Big Green Tractor: one of the young singer’s hits).   In 2003, he toured w/ Lee Roy Parnell and John Berry (one of my fave singers).  Another cool fact: we share the same birthday- JAN 7. 

His voice is pure, honest, and no-frills (he doesn’t need any).  Even people who don’t usually like country music can appreciate his sound;  there is NO sharp twang (accent) to this voice.  Instead, there is just something light (youthful; easygoing), smooth, and natural.   I would esp. recommend his songs if you like singers like Mark Chesnutt and Gary Allan.   One of David’s influences was Waylon Jennings; they wrote together shortly before Jennings died. 

  

Just Once (a fun/fast-paced song featured in the film 8 Seconds; David’s 1st hit song)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHCoI31UmEE&feature=related

Dust On The Bottle  (a cool song w/ great electric guitar)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNkF_ZpQ4eg&NR=1

Party Crowd

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIdx1HSFWG8&NR=1

The Road You Leave Behind

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6DLsf8VG5Y

She’s Really Something To See

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0UvT8Wrhg8&NR=1

We Can’t All Be Angels

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o56pznB8FDY&feature=related

Unfortunately, David has not recorded his own music since 2004.  But he keeps on writing for other singers. 

http://www.davidlee.com/home.php

David is also on FB and Twitter.  Currently, he is one of the many country singers raising money for flood relief in TN. 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Lee-Murphy/131741595263

http://twitter.com/davidleemurphy

“Elmer Gantry” (1960)

The screen has never known a man like ELMER GANTRY!  (movie tagline)

At the opening, we meet Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster), a travelling salesman in a dusty little town in Prohibition era Midwest.  He drinks and tells stories at a rowdy bar on Christmas Eve.  All the while, he keeps an eye on the red-suited blonde in the corner.   (Women are one of his weaknesses.)  Some men comment that he “talks like a preacher” after Elmer convinces them to give money to women representing the Salvation Army.   At the end of the night, he takes home the blonde.  Well, it’s not really his home- it’s a tacky hotel room.

       

Something seems to shift in Elmer’s mind (and maybe his heart) when he goes to a tent revival and sees a beautiful, Evangelical preacher called Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons).  Earlier, he’d seen her posters; she’s kind of celebrity in small Midwestern towns.  When he briefly speaks to her, he realizes that she’s a no-nonsense gal.  Elmer is even more intrigued, so he cozies up to the group’s choir leader, Sister Rachel (Patti Page), to learn more about Sharon.  Rachel gets a huge crush on Elmer and invites him to join their entourage.  Never one to shy away from dramatics, Elmer hops onto the train at the last minute. 

Aboard the train, Elmer gets a seat by Sharon.  She finds him interesting; he’s a far cry from the “sanctimonious prigs” she usually meets.  Elmer also meets Jim Lefferts (Arthur Kennedy), a jaded Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who’s been travelling w/ these Evangelicals and reporting on their movement.  Jim believes in evolution, not God.  Both Sharon and Jim quickly realize that Elmer is not a “true believer” in any cause (except maybe himself).

In no time, Elmer takes center stage at revivals, “warming-up” crowds for Sharon.  Her sober-minded manager doesn’t like the new direction.  But Sharon points out that Elmer’s “theatrics” are bringing in more lost souls yearning to be saved.  (Of course, some just want to be entertained.)  As Elmer (who was kicked out of his seminary) gains popularity, it appears that he’s finally found his calling- selling salvation.  Sharon starts to get close to him, too.  But wait, this isn’t the end of the story!       

Elmer Gantry explores some big issues: ambition, corruption (moral/political), faith, freedom of speech, forgiveness, hypocrisy, etc.   Even before this Oscar-winning film (based on a novel) was released, it was controversial.   Initially, no studio wanted to finance it.   Director (Richard Brooks) didn’t want Shirley Jones (pic above) in the role of Lulu, the young woman who unlocks Elmer’s past, but Burt Lancaster insisted. 

Though some viewers called his portrayal over-the-top, that is precisely what the character demanded!  Elmer is a bundle of energy, confidence (false or real), and words.  Not only does Lancaster make Elmer likeable, he makes him very fun to watch.  (There are MANY laughs in this film!)  But my fave scene is the one out in the woods where Elmer confronts Sharon about what men and women REALLY want from each other.  Elmer is not w/o redeeming qualities.  But does he deserve to be saved?  Watch this multi-layered film and decide for yourself!    

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053793/

What I watched recently…

Casa de los Babys (2003)

Motherhood can be one of life’s joys, but it is also fraught with trials and tribulations.  But what about the path to motherhood itself?  It’s not always smooth and easy.  This film (written, directed, & edited by indie filmmaker John Sayles) concerns a modern/controversial issue- foreign adoption.  As with Sayles’ other films, Casa de los Babys is for thinking people.  No character is one-sided.  Each actor gets a scene (or two) to shine.

Somewhere in Latin (or South) America, 6 women wait in the same hotel (nicknamed by locals as la casa de los babys) for their chance to be a mother.  (This film was shot in Acapulco, Mexico.)  The women don’t have much in common, hailing from different states and backgrounds.  But the women hang out at the beach, shop in the bazaar, see the sights, and share meals together.  They discuss future plans for their babies.  Who has the best ideas on how to raise a child?  Who has the most potential to be a positive/nurturing mother?

Skipper (Daryl Hannah) is a statuesque/serene woman from Colorado who works out often and speaks little.  Gayle (Mary Steenburgen) is a soft-spoken/born-again Christian/Southerner who seeks to mediate conflicts between the group members.  Jennifer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a wealthy 24 y.o. from DC who’s nervous and missing her husband terribly.  Eileen (Susan Lynch) is a sweet/thoughtful Irish immigrant to Boston who’s pinching pennies b/c her hubby is out of work.  Nan (Marcia Gay Harden) is a Kansan who holds strong (and often offensive) opinions.  She’s ticked off b/c she’s beein waiting longer than the rest (2 mos.) for her baby.  Leslie (Lily Taylor) is a single, 30 y.o. editor from NYC  who speaks Spanish and is brimming w/ sarcarstic humor.  Though still young, she’s “done the relathionship thing,” and wants to “get on with the kid thing.”

Besides the Americans, there are several other interesting characters.  Senora Munoz (Rita Moreno) is the tough/determined owner of the hotel who worries re: her ex-con son.  Senora Munoz’s brother Ernesto (Pedro Armendariz) is the forthright lawyer who helps the Americans w/ their adoption paperwork.  Asuncion (Vanessa Martinez; the teen Pilar in Sayles’ Lone Star) is the hardworking young maid at the hotel who supports her younger siblings; they are orphans who live in the mountaineous region above the beach.  Diomedes is a gentle/educated man who wants to go to the US b/c there is no work locally.  He gives Skipper and Jennifer a little tour, as he has nothing else to do.  A little homeless boy (around 7 or 8 y.o.) wanders the streets of the town washing windshields and looking to make money.  (To me, he is a sad reminder that older kids are rarely adopted.)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303830/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_de_los_Babys

 

Law & Order: UK (Season 1)

Dick Wolf has transported his successful NYC-based Law & Order TV series “across the pond” to London.  All of the Season 1 episodes (13 on 3 discs) were based on shown-on-TV L&O episodes.  (Long-time fans will recognize this right away!)  The producer took various scripts and modified them to fit UK law.  This show looks wonderful (high production value- like a big-screen movie), is fast-paced, and has top-notch (subtle) acting.  The veteran actors have terrific chemistry w/ their younger partners.  Some eps are more exciting than others, as w/ other L&O shows.

The Brit detectives are DS (Detective Sergeant) Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh), “a gentle man and gentle cop” who’s a recovering alcoholic/street food lover.  Ronnie has a sympathetic ear, talks often re: his 2 exes, and is VERY likeable.  His partner is DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Gallactica), a young man of Irish parentage who worked his way up from humble roots.  He’s charming and eager to please.  While the experienced Ronnie sees a case from many perspectives, Matt is more quick to judge.

The lawyers (called Crown Prosecutors) are James Steel (Ben Daniels), a highly principled/sharp-dressed barrister from the upper crust (w/ posh accent).  His intensity, height, and sharp blue eyes may bring to mind actor Michael Moriarty, who played ADA Ben Stone.  James wears a wig in court, as is the custom.  Judges are referred to as “my lord” or “my lady.”  His is supported by Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman from Dr. Who), a young woman who has worked her way up from a council house (like the inner-city projects in US).  She performs research and goes through a mountains of paperwork (everything needs to be on hard copy).  Alesha is very passionate about the law, like her boss.

London is itself a character in this series.  Issues of class, race, and poverty are dealt w/ directly (perhaps more so than in the US).  One’s class is usually denoted by one’s accent.  (Not all English accents are the same!)

You will see a few British Asian (South Asian/desi) guest actors on L&O: UK.  In fact, the CPS barrister who consults on this show is British Asian- Nazir Afzal, director of CPS London South, is well-known for cracking down on “honor” crimes.  He has been awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_and_Order_UK

http://www.cps.gov.uk/london/