Arthur Rankin Jr, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ Co-Producer Dies At 89

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arthurBroadcasting legend Arthur Rankin Jr — the animator, producer and director behind some of television’s most enduring holiday specials — has died in his 90th year following a bout of illness.

Bermuda’s own movie mogul, who cornered the market for Christmas specials with his US partner Jules Bass, passed away yesterday morning at his home by Harrington Sound.

Starting in the early 1960s, Mr Rankin won the hearts of TV audiences with whimsical stop-motion animation.

His company, Rankin/Bass Productions, created perennial classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that made broadcast history.

He is survived by his wife Olga, a Greek-born actress who in 2010 became the oldest newly graduated lawyer called to the Bermuda Bar — as well as sons Todd and Gardner.

A great man of innate curiosity who gave so willingly of his time — I was blessed to be in his circle of friends,” said Masterworks Foundation head Tom Butterfield, who recalled Mr Rankin as a man of “wry humour and humanity who liked people that marched to a slightly different drum”.

Born in New York City in 1924 to actors Arthur Rankin and Marian Manfield, Mr Rankin was a self-made filmmaker whose career spanned the history of the medium — starting as art director at ABC in the late 1940s.

These were days when no one knew anything about television,” he told The Mid-Ocean News in 1996. “I painted sets and did graphic design.”

Mr Butterfield described Mr Rankin as someone “born at the time of silent film, who finished life in 3-D”.

Acting ran in the family: his grandfather, Harry Davenport, played Dr Meade in 1939’s ‘Gone with the Wind’.

Arthur started with a flashlight in movie theatres to show people to their seats at the age of nine, and ended up a director.

One of his greatest aspects was that he’d only ask of others what he would expect of himself — and he expected perfection,” Mr Butterfield said.

Mr Rankin and Mr Bass set out in 1960 with Videocraft International, which later became their eponymous business.

Stop-motion was a painstaking and obscure technique when “Rudolph” burst onto the scene, followed by “Frosty the Snowman”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “The Little Drummer Boy”, “A Year Without a Santa Claus” and a slew of other specials.

Christmas has been good to me,” Mr Rankin would remark in 1996.

He wrote, produced or directed more than a dozen feature films, including two of just three feature-length films shot in Bermuda: the 1978 cult classic “The Bermuda Depths” and 1980s “The Ivory Ape” — as well as the animated TV series “ThunderCats” and “SilverHawks”, on top of more than 1,000 TV programmes.

In 1999, with “Rudolph” and others still going strong and a huge market growing for Rankin/Bass memorabilia, the US weekly TV Guide declared him the “Santa Claus of holiday programming”.

He loved the world of fantasy and make-believe, of better places that would take people away from the drudgeries of the everyday,” Mr Butterfield said.

A quiet philanthropist, Mr Rankin helped Mr Butterfield bring the Masterworks Museum to reality — and avoided publicity in his support of many other local causes.

His lectures on film at the Bermuda College, launched in 1996, proved wildly popular.

It’s hard to be good at anything,” Mr Rankin reflected at the time. “If you’re passionate, the chances are that you will find a job that will make you happy.”

Mr Butterfield described Mr Rankin as a keen listener who was generous with his counsel.

He was never perfunctory — it was always done with a sense of real commitment,” he said.

Such openness could explain Mr Rankin’s pioneering use of celebrities to voice his animation, well before the practice was popularised by recently blockbusters.

He managed to persuade such luminaries as Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire and Boris Karloff to lend their voices and images to Rankin/Bass creations.

Others included Tallulah Bankhead, Jeff Bridges, George Burns, Mia Farrow, Joel Gray, John Huston, Burl Ives, James Earl Jones, Christopher Lee, Walter Matthau, Hayley Mills, Zero Mostel, Vincent Price and Flip Wilson.

Mr Karloff’s voice role in the 1967 spoof “Mad Monster Party” was one of his last performances.

Mr Rankin also managed to persuade dancer and actor James Cagney to come out of retirement to narrate 1966’s “The Ballad of Smokey the Bear”.

Other much-loved productions were the Rankin and Bass version of JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in 1977, followed by “The Return of the King” — and adaptations “The Last Unicorn” and “The Flight of Dragons”.

In 1999 Mr Rankin produced an animated version of “The King and I”. Last year he tried to produce the Christmas play “Santa Baby”, but it was called off due to technical difficulties. According to Mr Butterfield, health difficulties were by then taking their toll.

Good friend Gary Phillips, chairman of the Bermuda National Gallery, last night gave condolences to Mr Rankin’s family, as well as “his housekeeper and friend, Francelina, and his caregiver, Winifred”.

John Huston once said that many filmmakers of a certain longevity fade slowly to silence or fizzle out in mediocrity,” Mr Phillips said. “Arthur wanted nothing like that.

He never wanted to reach the land of the ‘done’. It was always ‘What’s next? Will we have fun doing it?’

I was perhaps Arthur’s newest friend — but we had a bond that transcended our age difference.

I enjoyed his teaching, his love of his craft, his genuine love for Bermuda and his spirit of genuine love.

Today, I celebrate every moment we shared. I celebrate his triumphal long and successful career. Yes, I shall miss him — but for now, I celebrate, as I know he would want it that way.”

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Rankin Bass – VideoCraft                                                  Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Sessions



Jesse Eisenberg Cast As Lex Luthor In ‘Superman-Batman’

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Jesse Eisenberg arrives for the 83rd annual Academy Awards in HollywoodJesse Eisenberg has been set to star as the comic-book super-villain, while Jeremy Irons will play Bruce Wayne’s trusted friend, ally and mentor Alfred in the upcoming Zack Snyder untitled Superman-Batman film.

The casting of Lex Luthor has spawned rumors for months, with everyone from Bryan Cranston to Joaquin Phoenix said to be in the mix. Ben Affleck will play Batman, while Henry Cavill reprises his Man of Steel starring role as Superman. Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.

“Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman’s rivals, his unsavory reputation preceding him since 1940,” Snyder said in a statement. “What’s great about Lex is that he exists beyond the confines of the stereotypical nefarious villain. He’s a complicated and sophisticated character whose intellect, wealth and prominence position him as one of the few mortals able to challenge the incredible might of Superman. Having Jesse in the role allows us to explore that interesting dynamic, and also take the character in some new and unexpected directions.”

As for Irons’ casting, Snyder called the role, “an absolutely critical element in the intricate infrastructure that allows Bruce Wayne to transform himself into Batman.” He added, “It is an honor to have such an amazingly seasoned and gifted actor as Jeremy taking on the important role of the man who mentors and guides the guarded and nearly impervious façade that encapsulates Bruce Wayne.”

As THR first reported, the new film is currently being written by Chris Terrio, from a screenplay by David S. Goyer. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin MelnikerMichael E. UslanWesley Coller, Goyer and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers. The film is set to open worldwide on May 6, 2016.

Production is expected to get under way in the spring in Detroit.

Eisenberg is best known for his starring role as Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher‘s The Social Network. He also starred in Woody Allen‘s To Rome with Love and Louis Letterier‘s Now You See Me. He next appears in The Double and Night Moves.

Irons’ recent work includes playing the villainous Pope Rodrigo Borgia in Neil Jordan’s acclaimed Showtime series The Borgias.

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Kim Kardashian’s Face Is Unrecognizable In Old Pic

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kimKim Kardashian has gone through major transformations in the last few years, but in a photo that she posted she looks so shockingly different that she is a dead ringer for her older sister Kourtney.

Kanye West’s fiancée share a 2006 bikini photo taken in Las Vegas and her face looks dramatically different from her current photos, and her followers even noticed the difference.

Yes you can tell you got face surgery girl you blowing your own cover,” one person noted on her Instagram page.

As previously reported, in 2010 her first husband – music producer Damon Thomas – claimed he paid for Kim to have extensive plastic surgery, including a boob job and liposuction.

In a 2010 interview with Nightline Kim denied having a nose job. She said she thought about doing it – even consulting with a doctor because it’s her “biggest insecurity.” But while she claims she chickened out at the last minute, plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn thinks otherwise, telling that her “nose appears to have gotten a little shorter and more refined, possibly from…conservative rhinoplasty.”

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Why would anyone be surprised. Kim as well as her publicity whore Mother are the most fake people we unfortunately have to endure on the face of the earth. Nothing about these Moroons are real despite their claims. This entire celeb wannabee family will do anything they possibly can to achieve what they believe is fame and fortune and it’s quite sad really that they have basically achieved it as well.

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Anna Gordy Gaye, Marvin Gaye’s X-Wife, Passes Away At 92

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annaAnna Gordy Gaye, Marvin Gaye‘s ex-wife and older sister to Motown founder Berry Gordy, died early this morning in Los Angeles … TMZ has learned.

Sources close to the family tell us Anna died at home from natural causes. Family members discovered she had died around 3AM.

Anna and Marvin got married in 1964, and she was a huge influence on his career. She co-composed two hits on his classic “What’s Going On” album.

Marvin said his hit song “Pride and Joy” was inspired by his courtship of Anna back in the early 60s.

They had one child together — Marvin Gaye III — and eventually divorced in 1977. While they were estranged … Marvin wrote “Anna’s Song.” It was released in 1978.

Anna was 92 years old.

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Renee Fleming Will Sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ Live

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Style: "Disable"Renee Fleming says she only knows how to sing the national anthem one way: live.

The 53-year-old opera singer will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Sunday’s Super Bowl. She said in an interview Thursday she won’t sing to a pre-recorded track and that she “wouldn’t know how to lip-sync if you paid me.”

“It would be a disaster. I only know how to sing live,” said the singer, known as “The People’s Diva.”

Some artists choose to lip-sync, especially in cold weather. Whitney Houston’s unforgettable performance of the national anthem in 1991 at the Super Bowl was sung to a track, and Beyonce did the same at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration last year.

But Fleming promises it will be entirely real when she walks onto the field at MetLife Stadium, where the Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos. She’ll be singing along to an arrangement from the New Jersey Symphony and have 32 military singers from all the service branches as backup.

. Fleming, who has performed around the world and serenaded Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama, will be the first opera singer to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

“The thing I love to remind people about what I do is we’re not even amplified,” the soprano told The Associated Press after a news conference in New York City. “We are the final, major art form that is 100 percent acoustic and unplugged.”

Fleming says when the NFL first asked her to sing the national anthem, she didn’t think it was real.

“Really, I just rejected it out of hand,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Oh that’s ridiculous, you know, it must be a joke.’ Nobody’s going to ask me to sing for the Super Bowl, even the national anthem, because it’s just never been done, that anybody who was in classical music or any other genre, frankly, other than really mainstream, successful, top-selling, commercial, mainstream artists. So I was stunned when it was real!”

Fleming is performing at the Met Opera in “Rusalka” through February. She received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the government gives to artists, in 2012.

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Jennifer Lawrence To Play The Inventor Of The Miracle Mop?

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jenDavid O. Russell is in negotiations with Fox 2000 to come on board an untitled biopic about Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop.

Russell has indicated that he’s looking to cast Jennifer Lawrence as Mangano. Russell directed Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”

John Davis and John Fox are producing for Fox-based Davis Entertainment along with Ken Mok. The script has been written by “Bridesmaids” scribe Annie Mumolo.

Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers, is the president of Ingenious Designs and appears regularly on the Home Shopping Network.

Lawrence is currently shooting the “Mockingjay” movies in Atlanta and is attached on a pair of Gary Ross projects — “East of Eden” and “Burial Rites.”

American Hustle” has been nominated for 10 Oscars, including Lawrence for supporting actress and Russell for best director and original screenplay.

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‘Sharknado’ – Ian Ziering,Tara Reid Returning For Sequel

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snSyfy is bringing back Sharknado stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid for the New York-set sequel.

This marks the first casting announcement on Sharknado 2: The Second One, which is slated to premiere in July on the NBC Universal-owned cabler.

Ziering and Reid will reprise their roles as Fin and April.

Anthony Ferrante will also return to direct the sequel from a screenplay by Thunder Levin, who also penned the 2013 original telepic that made a splash on social media.

In Sharknado 2, a freak weather system turns its deadly fury on New York City, unleashing a “sharknado” on the city’s population and its most iconic sites, with Fin and April the only ones able to save the city.

Sharknado was an extraordinary ‘perfect storm’ which captured the attention of movie fans across the globe. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Sharknado! By reassembling the creative team — and dropping sharks onto New York’s iconic sites — we’re unleashing yet another ‘fin’ wave of shark-mania,” said Thomas Vitale, executive vp programming and original movies.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring back the talent that made Sharknado a hit. Can lightning strike twice?” asked Asylum COO Paul Bales. “I don’t know, but it’s a scientific fact that you’re more likely to be killed by lightning than by a shark. This film will have lightning and sharks, so that’s got to count for something.”

It is unclear whether other original castmembers such as Cassie Scerbo will return for the small-screen sequel. Additional castings are expected to be announced prior to filming. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last summer, Scerbo expressed interest in reprising her role of Nova, saying “I would definitely do a sequel.”

Production on the follow-up begins in New York on Feb. 13.

The team has also enlisted Mike Fenton and Ann Frederick to oversee cameo casting.

Syfy announced the Sharknado sequel July 17, days after the initial installment dominated social media. The two-hour movie delivered 1.4 million total viewers to its premiere telecast, with an encore airing trumping that with 2.1 million viewers.

Syfy has since capitalized on the Sharknado surge, creating merchandise (such as T-shirts) tied to the original movie, releasing the movie theatrically in early August and initiating a fan contest to determine the sequel’s title.

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Barry Levinson’s ‘Rock The Kasbah’ With Bill Murray Adds More Big Names

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Bill Murray arrives for the Opening Ceremony and screening of 'Moonrise Kingdom' during the 65th Cannes International Film Festival, at the Palais des Festivals in CannesBruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Shia LaBeouf and Zooey Deschanel are joining Bill Murray in Rock The Kasbah, the pic Mitch Glazer wrote and Barry Levinson is directing. QED’s Bill Block, Venture Forth’s Jacob Pechenik, Shangri-La Entertainment’s Steve Bing and Glazer are producing, and Brian Grazer and Tom Freston are executive producing. Production will now get underway in June, and QED is repping the film at the upcoming EFM.

Bill Murray stars as a burned-out music manager who goes to Afghanistan on the USO tour with his last remaining client. When he finds himself abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice, who stows away with him back to Kabul to compete on the popular television show, The Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s equivalent of American Idol.

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Jerry Seinfeld Confirms ‘Seinfeld’ Reunion..Sort Of

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11th Rock En Seine Festival : Day 2Jerry Seinfeld’s “secret project” — the one he eluded toduring a Reddit AMA earlier this month — is in fact a reunion of “Seinfeld” the comedian said today.

Appearing on the “Boomer & Carton” radio show on WFAN on Thursday morning, Seinfeld answered a barrage of questions centered around a photo taken on Jan. 13 of Seinfeld with Jason Alexander, walking into the diner that served as a backdrop for many a “Seinfeld” episode.

Seinfeld said the project was not a commercial, or an episode of his hit web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and while he would not give away much in the way of details, he did say that Alexander was playing his George Costanza character and that other “Seinfeld” characters were involved.

He described the project as “short-ish form,” a “one-and-done” thing involving Larry David in some way that will be made available “very, very soon.”

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Jennifer Carpenter To Star In ABC’s ‘Sea Of Fire’

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11th Rock En Seine Festival : Day 2She’ll play a driven FBI agent in the drama from “Scandal’s” Jenna Bans.

Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter has found her follow-up gig — and she’s staying in law enforcement. 

The actress, who played Miami Metro detective Debra Morgan for eight seasons on the Showtime drama, has been tapped to star in ABC’s drama pilot Sea of Fire, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Based on the Dutch format Vuurzee, the drama centers on three teenage girls in a small town who star in a pornographic film and the effect it has on their families. It leads to a disappearance, a murder and a host of other secrets boiling under the surface.

Carpenter will play FBI Agent Leah Pierce — a driven, eccentric and blunt woman with a secret in her past — who has few people skills compared with her partner, Marty. She’s called in by Marty’s deputy to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and winds up alienating the town with her raw and uncompromising questions.

Scandal‘s Jenna Bans will pen the script and executive produce the ABC Studios, Sony Pictures Television, Scripted World and Mandeville production. Rob Golenberg, Alon Aranya, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Laurie Zaks, Robert Kievit and Frank Ketelaar also will executive produce. Allison Liddi-Brown will direct the pilot.

Carpenter wrapped the Showtime serial killer drama last year and said in a September interview with THR that she was ready to go back to work. “I want to find something great, but I’m daring and patient enough to find something that I can give everything to,” she said.

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