Film Noir Legends: Bette Davis, Claire Trevor, Eleanor Parker, and John Huston

When it comes to cinema, I love those made during the 40′s and 50′s when in my view, films were made not so much for their profitability, but for the art itself and the messages contained within. As a kid I would watch the local version of The Sunday Matinee Movie and became familiar with actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and others. This was the era of “film noir” which is defined as movies that are symbolized by dimly-lit sets, a bleak setting and center on stories about corrupt and cynical characters. The plots of these films often revolve around an anti-hero, a crime (and subsequent moral dilemma), and a romantic interest for the films central character. The films were shot in black and white, with shadow having as much importance as dialogue. These films used unusual angles, silhouetted close-ups and somber tones to create unique and powerful storylines. These films were made during a roughly twenty year period, beginning with 1940′s “Stranger on the Third Floor” (starring Peter Lorre and John McGuire) and the underrated “Brother Orchid” (Edward G. Robinson), to Orson Well’s 1958 classic, “Touch of Evil.”Some other movies opf this era are “Angels With Dirty Faces” (James Cagney and Pat O’Brien), “Key Largo” (Bogart, Bacall, Sidney Greenstreet), “Gaslight” (Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer), “Double Indemnity” (Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck under Billy Wilder’s direction) and “Mildred Pierce.” Hollywood has had some recent success with films of that style including, “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential.” seem to support such a notion, with the latter featuring an Oscar-winning turn by Kim Basinger as femme fatale Lynn Bracken.Arguably, the biggest actress of this era was the doe-eyed beauty Betty Davis. She was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis, on April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts When she attained stardom at age 26, it was not just for her acting acumen and acidic delivery, but her eyes, which were immortalized in song by Kim Carnes/’ “Bette Davis Eyes” hit number one in 1981.She made her film debut in 1931′s “The Bad Sister” and usually played characters with tough exteriors, but who were vulnerable. Her characters usually were smart-mouthed and many of them smoked cigarettes, behavior which wasn’t considered very lady-like. According to the Unofficial Bette Davis website, Bette Davis, “was described by
one critic as ‘a force of nature that could find no ordinary outlet’.” Her filmography boasts such classics as, “Dangerous” (1935) and “Jezebel” (1938), for which she received her first two Best Actress Oscars. However, she wanted the lead in 1939s “Gone With the Wind,” but the role went to Vivian Leigh. Davis’ most famous role would come some 11 years later, as that of actress Margo Channing in 1950s “All About Eve,” earning her another Best Actress nomination. Ironically, her career waned shortly thereafter.Davis also gave sterling performances in “Now, Voyager” (1942); “The Bride Came C.O.D.” (1941, with James Cagney); “Deception” (1946); “The Corn Is Green” (1945); “Mr. Skeffington” (1944) and “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane” (1962). In the latter she played alongside her long0time rival, Joan Crawford and won an Oscar for Best Actress. In the film she portrayed an unbalanced, washed-up child star. “Baby Jane” was also that year’s top grossing film.Davis’ number of Oscar nominations–10, is second only to Katherine Hepburn (11). Her other nominations include powerhouse performances in, “The Star” (1952) ; “Mr. Skeffington” (1944); “Now, Voyager” (1942); “The Little Foxes” (1941); “The Letter” (1940); “Dark Victory” (1939) and “Of Human Bondage” (1934). In 1977, Davis became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also known as “The Queen of the Screen.” Three of her movie quotes are among the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest. They include, (No. 7, from “All About Eve”) “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night,” (No. 60, from “Beyond the Forest”) “What a dump.” and (No. 45) “Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars. (from, “Now, Voyager”5)Perhaps her most memorable line was from the movie that catapulted her to stardom. In “Of Human Bondage” (1934) she co-starred with Leslie Howard and delivered the line, “You cad! You dirty swine! I never cared for you–not once! I was always making up to love ya. Ya bored me stiff. I hated ya. It made me sick when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because you begged me–ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth. Wipe my mouth!” Along that same tenor, In “Cabin In The Cotton” (1932) she uttered the line, “I’d like ta kiss ya, but I just washed my hair.” Then again as Joyce Arden in, “It’s Love I’m After” (1937), she quipped: “Dearest, I think you’re the lowest thing that ever crawled, but as long as I can reach out and get my hands on you, no other man will ever touch me.”As for her feud with Joan Crawford, in her 1962 autobiography, “The Lonely Life,” Davis wrote, “I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn’t dare to make an enemy should get out of the business.”She made her final film appearance in 1989, playing the role of Miranda Pierpoint in, “Wicked Stepmother.” She died that year on October 6, 1989 in Neuilly, France from breast cancer.One of my favorite films from this era is the underappreciated “Caged,” starring Eleanor {Parker in the lead role of Marie Allen. It is the story of a pregnant girl imprisoned for being an accessory to a crime committed by her husband. While imprisoned Marie is mistreated by mean-spirited guard Emma Barber (played with a seemingly fiendish glee by Ellen Corby). Marie is eventually broken psychologically and her bitterness turns her into a hardened, wannabe criminal. Agnes Moorehead, better known for her role as “Endora” on TV’s “Bewitched” gives a strong performance as the kindhearted prison warden Ruth Benton.For Parker it should have been a break out role that put her among the upper echelon of the actresses of that era. But she never reached the level of stardom that Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Claire Trevor achieved. One critic called the movie, “One of the most underrated movies of all time. Eleanor Parker really did deserve an Oscar for this performance.” Parker was nominated that year, but she was bested by Judy Holiday, (“Born Yesterday”). Also nominated for an Oscar was her co-star Hope Emerson, who played Marie’s foil, inmate Evelyn Harper. Emerson lost out to Josephine Hull (“Harvey”).Parker was born in June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio. She made her debut in, “Busses Roar” (1942), The Film Guild of America says about her, “Audiences never knew what to expect when they saw her. To Eleanor, creating interesting characters was more important than cultivating a star image. In over 50 films, she would earn the title, ‘The Woman of a Thousand Faces’…If she had conformed, and simply used her stunning beauty to rise to stardom, she might be canonized today. Thankfully, she did not conform. Eleanor instead became a serious actress who gave her roles a depth and understanding that few stars have ever matched.”This was followed by little known films, including five in 1944: “The Very Thought of You,” “The Last Ride,” “Crime by Night,” “Atlantic City,” (an uncredited part) and “Between Two Worlds.” She had a supporting part as Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” (1946). In 1950 she played Joan “Jo” Holloway opposite Humphrey Bogart in the war story “Chain Lightning.” Due to the weakness of the script the film is best remembered for its plane flying scenes.Claire Trevor was born Claire Wemlinger on March 8, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York. Her career began in 1933 in “Life In The Raw,” and she also appeared in the John Wayne oater, “Stagecoach” (1939).During her career, which spanned sixty films, she earned the moniker “Queen of Film Noir.” She played a plethora of “bad girl” roles, but earned three Oscar nominations: “Dead End” (1937, which also featured Humphrey Bogart and marked the debut of The Dead End Kids); “The High and the Mighty” (1954) and won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as the drunken girlfriend of an abusive gangster (Edward G. Robinson), in “Key Largo” (1948).Her other films include, “Murder, My Sweet” (1944) where Trevor played Velma, the missing girlfriend of a gangster. Dick Powell played the lead as detective Philip Marlowe. In 1947 she starred in “Born To Kill” and in 1948 she made three films–”Raw Deal” playing a gun moll who helps her gangster boyfriend escape from prison; “The Velvet Touch,” where she was cast as an actress accused of murdering her husband; and then she played against type in “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948). The former two films are considered some of the finest examples of the Noir genre.Trevor also won an Emmy (1956) for her performance in “Dodsworth,” co-starring with Fredric March. She died April 8, 2000.Director John Houston was born August 5, 1906 in Nevada, Missouri. He went to Hollywood when his father Walter, another producer of note, gave him a job. He assisted with the writing on such hits as “Jezebel,” “High Sierra” and “Sergeant York.” He made his directing debut in 1941, directing Bogart, Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet in “Tha Maltese Falcon” for which he won an Oscar for writing. In 1948, Huston directed “The Treasure of Sierra Madre,” winning Oscars for writing and directing. His father won The Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie. Many consider this to be his strongest film.Huston once called filmmaking, “a collaborative medium. Rather than being a tyrant, I believe in getting ideas from as many sources as possible.” He has worked with some of the biggest names of his era, including Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Peter Lorre and Katherine Hepburn.His movies are a cornucopia of classics: “The African Queen,” “Key Largo,” “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “Prizzi’s Honor,” which starred his daughter Angelica and earned her a Best Supporting Actress honor. Many of those films were written by Huston as well. He noted, “I don’t make a distinction between writing and direction. But to write and to direct one’s own material is certainly the best approach. The directing is kind of an extension of the writing.” Huston also lensed an interpretation of “The Bible” (1966) and “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951).Lauren Bacall called him, “Daring, unpredictable, maddening, mystifying and probably the most charming man on earth.” Katherine Hepburn said Huston was the “best piece of direction I have ever heard.”Houston died August 28, 1987 from emphysema.Sources:John Huston profile, WikipediaClaire Trevor profile, WikipediaMartin Connors and Jim Craddock, “Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever 2000″Eleanor Parker biography, IMDb.com”The John Huston interviews,” edited by Robert Emmet LongBette Davis, imdb profileBette Davis profile, WikipediaThe Unofficial Bette Davis HomepageBette Davis profile, “Reel Classics”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – The Dubai International Film Festival

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) was launched in December 2004 under the theme “Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds”, highlighting the willingness of organizations to promote the film through understanding and mutual respect between different communities and nations.In 2006, the festival had launched the Muhr Award for excellence in Arab cinema, in order to acknowledge the Arab filmmakers of the world both regionally and internationally. In 2008, the Muhr Award have been expanded to include films from Africa and Asia.Held in Dubai, the capital of United Arab Emirates, DIFF has a budget comparable to that of the Cannes Festival and is now, thanks to its film market and various symposia and workshops, an important appointment for cinema professionals around the world. Other art exhibits and shows include feature films, documentaries and shorts. The festival includes various other non-competitive sections dedicated to world cinema in particular, children’s films and animation. Tributes are also given each year to important figures of cinema.Even though there is no red carpet or the presence of major Hollywood stars, the festival has quickly acquired legitimacy through an artistic team of selectors and consultants of international reputation, whose directors worked for other large film festivals such as Rotterdam and London. A sign of this legitimacy was evident when the International Federation of the Cinematographic Press (FIPRESCI) became a partner of the festival following the 2008 edition.Dubai has quickly gained a great reputation world wide as a great host of a large annual international film festival. Be sure to catch this festival if you are ever in the Dubai area.

Getting Rid of Tax Receipts While Travelling

I recently did a technical presentation in Bangkok to a group of family business people. And while the material, and discussions afterwards, were enlightening, I was eager to see some of this great city.A group of us went to the Skybar. It was incredible. The view was amazing. The people (except me of course) were dead set beautiful and the atmosphere was electric. I had one night in this city and I wanted to really experience it.The guys with me were also present at my seminar. The conversation moved around but it inevitably came back to how our business tried to impact on families that were branching overseas – and Asia in particular.It then became my time to buy a drink for the group.A beer cost AUD $25. Ouch.And there was 16 of us present.Double ouch.Anyway. I sucked it in and bought a round. At no stage could I have done a runner on the group. Firstly it is not cool and secondly it would have been the kiss of death for any fledgling relationship.But the question hangs. Was it fair of me to charge this cost to my business? How do you make sure everybody is equal? How do you balance up needs of different owners? Can I get a tax deduction? And how do you keep receipts for all this stuff?Enter the concept of a travel allowance. These things basically take away the need to keep receipts while travelling so come tax time your life managing a family business is a lot easier.So what is a travel allowance?It is a payment to cover the costs while an employee is travelling away from home for work. Typically a travel allowance covers the cost of meals, incidentals and accommodation in Australia but only the cost of meals and incidentals while overseas – and it does not need to be backed up tax invoices.You can pay a travel allowance to any employee even if they do not receive a salary. This is important in a family business as family members are often working directors but do not receive a straight PAYGW salary.How much is the travel allowance?Each year the Tax Office issues guidelines as to how much the allowance can be for a person. The current allowance rates are at TD 2016/13 and most people find the rates relatively generous.And the rates are staggered to allow for different levels of seniority in the family business to be recognised.The main benefitIf you are paid a bona fide travel allowance while travelling you can claim a tax deduction for the same amount without keeping receipts to prove it.This is important. Most often people, especially family members, will give up on the tax deduction as it is simply “too hard”. Receipts will also be lost and the receipts could be in another country so they are borderline useless in understanding what you did a while back.The word “bona fide” is important. You have to have incurred expenditure in relation to your travel.So if you chose to stay at a mates house for free in Sydney and you did not pay a sent for the trip you cannot claim a travel allowance.Privacy The other benefit of a travel allowance is that it gives a family member a level of privacy. Sometimes in a family business the families details can become quite involved. Mums might be looking at every penny and the control could become stifling. So if a family member spent a bit too much one evening – it is good to know that the allowance simply covers the cost without having to “fess up” to ones indiscretions.An allowance is not forced upon youSimply because the Tax Office sets a maximum rate for a travel allowance does not mean that you must pay this amount to employees in your family business. This is a maximum rate. Your family business can choose how much to pay staff while travelling.Of course the words “bona fide” means that the payment must be realistic and not a tax fiction. Paying your staff $6 a day for accommodation, meals and taxi fares is not a bona fide allowance.A travel allowance does not stop your legitimate tax claimOf course there are many legitimate reasons why you have incurred more while travelling than the amount set by the Tax Office.In this case you simply tally up the actual costs incurred while travelling and you claim these as a tax deduction – either personally or through your family business. The travel allowance is their to alleviate receipts. It does not stop you claiming legitimate costs.Are you travelling?Most often the concept of travelling is quite simple. However where a person is going on an extended trip it can become confusing – at what point in time is a person simply travelling through a city as opposed to living in a city?The Tax Office have a general directive that if you are away from home for less than 21 days – you are travelling.This is a guide of course and varies depending on the facts. So if you are say, a country sales agent in the family business you might be away from home for 6 months – but only sleeping two nights in one town at a time.EqualisationImportantly – the concept of travel among family members is a sensitive one. Petty jealousy can arise from family member to family member. Often travel is seen as a “perk” for working in the family business by some and a menial chore by others.If you are in the family business – write up a policy on family members and travelling. Make it clear who can and cannot and the basis the decision is made. If it is really being done because they are family – own up to it. Likewise if the people travelling are doing so in the family business simply to make the family business great – clearly articulate that and discuss it among the family.Using travel allowances within the family creates a level playing field for all and does so tax effectively. This can be of a value to the family business significantly more than a few extra dollars of tax deductions.

Vacation Travel Clubs – How Much Do They Cost And What Are The Benefits of Membership?

My travel club story: Last year, my family took a “free” vacation with the obligation to attend a 90 minute Vacation Club Sales Presentation. We told ourselves before the meeting that “there is no way we are buying”. We planned to listen to what they had to say and then politely decline. At that time, taking a “freebie” vacation was about all we could manage. My husband and I are self-employed and the economy had hit us hard. So, when I received a call offering free beachfront accommodations, in exchange for 90 minutes of our time, I accepted.The Meeting: When we arrived at the meeting (Florida Destinations) in Daytona Beach, we were served coffee and doughnuts. Each couple was assigned a sales rep and brought into a larger room to watch a video presentation of the benefits of Vacation Club Membership. By the end of the video, and the sales pitch that followed, my husband and I were wavering on our decision to “just say NO”. However, when they disclosed the price of $7995, we had to decline, because it simply wasn’t in our budget. We were then passed off from one high pressure salesperson to another where the price dropped from $7995 to $1595.But what about all those people in the large room that had paid the full price? It didn’t seem fair to me that simply by saying “no” a few times, the price declined by 80%. When the sales manager left the room for a moment, I turned his computer around and did some quick research on the BBB. He had told me they had a “B+” rating, but when I checked, it was an “F”. That made a “no” much easier! When he came back in the room, he was embarrassed and released us to go, but if we changed our minds, his offer would hold until the following morning. At this point, he just wanted us to leave.I made the decision that IF there were a Travel Club out there that was reputable and economical, I would consider joining. We loved the idea of vacationing for less but weren’t sure if there was a better alternative to what we had just witnessed.So, when we got home the following week, I began to research. I found 3 legitimate travel clubs, and for two days I read reviews and found as much information as I could on each one. Although all three companies held high standards, had a large club membership and quality properties, there was one club that seemed better than the rest. This particular travel club had an enrollment fee that was a fraction of the other two, and when I learned that it had more resorts, condos, villas and hotels than all other clubs combined, it became my favorite.Can a Travel Club Save You Money?Absolutely, but the wrong travel club could charge you too much and have little to offer after enrollment. Before considering a travel club, consider the following:

Enrollment Costs: This can vary from a few hundred dollars up to $10,000. A good quality travel club shouldn’t charge you a fortune. It’s a good idea to stay under 1,000 for enrollment fee.
NO fees, dues or up-charges of any kind: You can’t save money on your vacations if you have yearly or monthly fees. If you want to pay fees of this kind, consider a timeshare.
Selection: A high quality travel club should have thousands of quality properties all over the world, not just one specific location.
Customer Service: Look for a club where you can call a representative or at least expect a call back if you have a question. Concierge Desks can be invaluable when planning a vacation, but not all travel clubs have a concierge desk.
More than one type of resort they represent: One of the top 3 vacation clubs ONLY represents Crown Resorts. Since they don’t have the top 9 Resort Companies, prices tend to be higher than at a club where all 9 companies are competing against each other for your business as a member.
Properties offered to members at the cost they were acquired: Resorts and condos should not be “marked up” before they are offered to its members. Public travel brokers like Expedia, Priceline, and Kayak have to mark up their inventory before offering it to the public to cover advertising and management expenses. A good “private” travel club will not mark-up inventory, the members have full access to bottom-dollar pricing.
Quality Resorts: Make sure your travel club is offering top line destinations. Don’t settle for anything less than 3,4 & 5-Star Resorts, condos, hotels and villas.Benefits of a High Quality Private Travel Club:

Save Money: Of course, everyone wants to save money. You should expect to save 30-50% on each vacation, and sometimes upwards of 80-90%, especially on last-minute travel to specific destinations.
Low Effort: A good travel club will have done all the research for you. Instead of spending hours comparing prices between sites, all your options will be in one location for you to browse online or talk to a travel representative.
A Concierge Desk: This is a great perk some travel clubs offer. Use them if they are available, they can save you additional money on everything from rental cars and limousines to Operas, Dinner Shows and Rafting Tours.
Members only perks: Enjoy 2 for 1 Cruises, Kids cruise free, All -Inclusive Resorts, coupons and travel tips.
No Black Out Dates: You should be able to travel during any holiday or high travel week without exception.