Sunday, 27 February 2011

More Real Hollywood Badasses

A recent article in, 11 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Total Badasses,
inspired a couple of questions firstly; "Cracked Magazine is still around? Who knew?" And more importantly; "Why isn't Mickey Rourke on this list?" I mean he quit a serious career as a Hollywood tough guy to become a boxer and wrestler who regularly got his face busted only to come back and getting an Oscar nomination for playing a wrestler who regularly gets his face busted. And then there's Oliver Stone who, just like the Charlie Sheen character in "Platoon" volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam and served under fire while all those Republicans who attacked his patriotism after "JFK", "Nixon" and "W" were busy finding ways to dodge the draft. Speaking of Charlie Sheen, he didn't make the list because he's not a badass, he's a fucking nutjob. That's no doubt a different list. Anyhow here's the original list; (or you can click on the title for this article)

At any rate I thought it might be a good idea to expand this list, which is limited to those badasses who are still alive, to those top ten posthumous badasses of yore;

1. Lawrence Tierney;
You know him as Joe Cabot, the scary crime boss in "Reservoir Dogs" but in real life he was only slightly less menacing. After getting his start playing John Dillinger in 1945 and then Jesse James, he went on to play a variety of gangsters, gunsels, thugs and tough guys, complaining all the time that he was being typecast. A complaint that might have had somewhat more credibility if it weren't for the amount of time he spent between roles getting himself thrown in jail for his drunken brawls. After getting busted at least a dozen times in the 1940's and 50's he topped himself in 1958 by getting into a brawl with not one but two New York cops. In 1973 he managed to get himself stabbed in yet another barroom fracas. Two years later he was questioned by the police who suspected him of pushing a woman out a window to her death. This was later ruled a suicide. In 1982 he quit drinking after suffering a stroke but this only calmed him down slightly and his agent complained that he still had to bail him out of jail for fighting well into his seventies. His later exploits included threatening fellow actors and directors all of whom lived in fear of him, including Tarantino and also pulling a knife on Jerry Seinfeld of all people. I hereby nominate Lawrence Tierney as Hollywood's all time heavyweight champion badass.

Lawrence Tierney as Dillinger 1945;

2. Scotty Beckett;
He was once the most adorable of all the Little Rascals, the towheaded one with the black sweater four sizes too big, ragged pants and sideways baseball hat, who was a sidekick to the young Spanky. Unlike most of the other Rascals he actually had an adult career as well, continuing on as a teen idol some years, including a series role in the 1950's pioneering T.V. sci-fi show "Rocky Jones Space Ranger". He would also get some rave reviews for his role of a drug addict in "Monkey on My Back", which might have been a waning. Unfortunately he also carried on a life of drinking and carousing which led to arrests for drunk driving, brawling, check kiting, drug smuggling and even armed robbery culminating in a real life gun battle with Mexican police in 1954 in which amazingly didn't lead to any deaths. Even more amazing the Mexicans didn't throw him into a Mexican prison but simply deported him. Less surprisingly it did cause him to be dropped from "Rocky Jones". His career struggled after that of course and after few years he was back in trouble again with more arrests for drug running and drunken brawling until he got himself into a near fatal car crash (while drunk of course) which landed him in a wheelchair and crutches for awhile. Even this didn't keep him out of trouble as he got arrested for getting into a knife fight with a neighbor. In 1967, his career over, he was badly beaten in a drug deal gone bad and died two days later, apparently of a drug overdose. He was 38.

Scotty Beckett in "Monkey on my back" 1957

3. James Doohan;
The Canadian actor best known as Scotty from Star Trek served in WW2 in the infantry and took part in storming the beaches at D Day where he killed two snipers, then led his platoon through a minefield before being shot six times, including once in the chest that was stopped by his silver cigarette case and another that blew off a finger, which you can notice in some Star Trek episodes. After recovering he trained as a fighter pilot where he became known the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force." Who once slalomed a plane between mountainside telegraph poles to prove it could be done, which earned him a serious reprimand. If that sounds like an episode from Star Trek TNG it's because it is. Cheerful but ornery, he was the only member of the Star Trek crew who actually looked like he would not only start a fight but win it, and while filming the Star Trek movies he was known for publicly making his dislike of William Shatner well known. After he died in 2004 some of his ashes were launched into space.

James Doohan speaks to Star Trek fans, demotes Kirk to ensign, bans Spock from engine room;

4. Sam Peckinpah;
The infamously batshit insane director known for his graphically violent films was known for threatening actors and crew with guns with which he often shot out mirrors and windows on a whim and throwing knives with deadly accuracy to illustrate a point during his frequent tirades. While filming "Major Dundee" a cavalry western in 1965 a dispute with Charlton Heston provoked Heston to threaten to run him through with his sabre. A serious hard drinker and coke and speed fiend who was probably bi-polar and paranoid as well, Peckinpah once overdosed on cocaine, landing himself in a hospital and receiving a second pacemaker in 1975 while filming "The Killer Elite". He blamed his hair trigger temper and fascination for violence on his experiences in China at the end of WW2 when he was reportedly shot. After he returned from the war he was living a shack behind Ida Lupino's house apparently without her knowledge while working as an extra and film crewman, when she found out she helped him find more work on her TV series. He had already been fired from other TV series for his combative behavior. While filming "The Cincinnati Kid" in 1965 he was fired after he got into a brawl with producer Martin Ransohoff in which Peckinpah reportedly got in the best blows. Interesting side note; his father was Denver Peckinpah a judge known as "The Hanging Judge" for his harshness.

Actor L.Q. Jones discusses working with Peckinpah;

5. David Niven;
When the distinguished British actor was young he was apparently a bit of a trouble maker who got himself expelled from private school and landed him in a type of reform school before being sent off to military school and then into the army as a lieutenant where he landed in jail for mouthing off to a general in 1933. He quickly escaped from jail and skipped to the United States where he resigned his commission by telegram. At the start of World War 2 he re-enlisted in the British army as a commando and saw much action, most of which is still clouded in official secrecy, winning a slew of medals and ending the war as a lieutenant colonel. After the war he returned to a very successful acting career known for his impeccable manners and bearing without any more trouble until his death in 1983 of natural causes, at home after he refused to go to the hospital. His likeness was also used as the inspiration for the DC Comics Green Lantern supervillain, Sinestro, which is pretty cool.

6. Jack Palance;
The legendary tough guy developed his distinctive craggy features after extensive facial reconstruction after serious injuries suffered after bailing out B17 bomber during WW2 while training as a pilot. Palance finished the war with a number of medals but he later stated that the extent of his injuries was exaggerated by the movie studio publicity department somewhat and his face was actually smashed up during his earlier career as a pro heavyweight boxer. Either way Palance was known for being an intimidating badass to other actors throughout his life once punching out Marlon Brando during a boxing match while Palance was Brando's understudy during a performance of "A streetcar named desire" sending Brando to the hospital and allowing Palance to go on instead where he got rave reviews and kick started his career. He later had less luck in another match with Burt Lancaster where Palance himself got knocked out.

7. Lee Marvin;
Before becoming a legendary Hollywood tough guy Marvin was expelled from several schools for unruly behavior. In WW2 he enlisted in the marines and served as a scout sniper getting wounded by machine gun fire in the battle for Saipan in the South Pacific. After becoming an actor he was known as a legendary drinker who reportedly actually slugged co-star Claude Atkins during the filming of "The Killers" in what was supposed to be a staged punch doubling him up in pain for real.

8. Charles Bronson;
After coming from a hard scrabble life of a coal miner to become a nose gunner on bomber flights in WW2, flying twenty one combat missions in the South Pacific during which he was wounded and was awarded the Purple Heart. Appearing in "The Great Escape" with David McCallum, Bronson fell in love with McCallum's wife Jill Ireland and told McCallum "I'm going to marry your wife." Six years later, Bronson did just that.

9. Buck Jones;
One of the most popular cowboy stars of the 1920's and 30's, Jones was actual cowboy born in Indiana but raised in Montana. Jones joined the US cavalry at the age of 17 in 1907 and served in the Philippines during the Moro Rebellion and was wounded and later discharged in 1909 but hen re-enlisted in 1910 and asked to train as a pilot for the brand new air force and their rickety new biplanes. However pilot training was reserved for officers and Jones stayed in the cavalry in time to be sent off as part of the force that would invade Mexico in a fruitless chase after Pancho Villa. He left the army again in 1913 and became a rodeo trick rider, race car driver and movie stuntman until he was discovered and given a staring role in westerns which he would continue making for the next twenty years becoming a major cowboy star. He also developed the popular Red Rider BB Gun. In 1942 then aged 50, he attended a a party at the Coconut Grove Club in Boston when a fire broke out. Jones reportedly got on stage and grabbed a microphone to try and clam patrons and avoid a stampede. He was badly burned in the fire and ensuing crash and died of his injuries and smoke inhalation two days later.

10. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.;
Already a famous leading man Fairbanks interrupted his career to enlist in the United States marines where he became a PT Boat Lieutenant and allegedly came up with the concept of marine commandos that would later be called the Navy Seals and helped to organize the first units in which he saw action at the Anzio landings and was decorated with a slew of medals. Like David Niven, many of his missions are still classified.


11. William Desmond Taylor;
A major actor and director during the silent era, the Irish born American originally named William Dene Tanner was a rowdy youth who was sent to a reform school/ranch as a teen. He later spent spent much of his career as a modestly successful actor in New York known for his long drunken binges and womanizing until he suddenly disappeared in 1908 without a word to his wife and child after going out to lunch and never returning. He suddenly turned up in Hollywood as an actor and director under the name of William Desmond Taylor making some fifty films, a fact his wife only discovered when she happened to walk into a movie theatre and recognized him on screen. When contacted Taylor admitted to his deception and agreed to make his daughter his heir. During WW1 he skipped out again, this time moving to Canada and enlisting in the army as a private where he served in France and was discharged at wars end as a Lieutenant although the actual extent of his service is unclear. Back in Hollywood he resumed his career as a director and notorious womanizer who took it on himself to go after the drug dealers around the Hollywood studios and was known to deal out beatings to some he caught before handing them over to the police. In 1922 he was mysteriously shot to death in a famous Hollywood murder case that has never been solved.

Who killed William Desmond Taylor? doc (two videos);

11. Honorable Mention;
Audrey Hepburn;
As a girl in Holland during World War 2 Hepburn was a ballet dancer who helped raise money for the Dutch resistance and even acted as a messenger. An activity that could have gotten her executed had the Nazi's caught her. Her half brother served time in a Nazi labour camp.

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