Saturday, March 1, 2014


Tomorrow is the Academy Awards presentation...

"Of Magic Shadow Shapes"

Cortland Evans had once been a famous movie director in Hollywood whose star faded away, leaving him broke and broken, with hardly any friends and very sick.  For Courtland Evans, the worst part was that he was practically forgotten.

As a boy, he traveled with his mother, who took pleasure in keeping company with rich and powerful men.  Even at a very young age, Evans probably knew what kind of woman his mother was, but it gave him the chance to see the world and rub elbows with the famous and the powerful.

His first big film was "Pleasure Domes" which he completed by the time he was thirty years of age.  The studio (Monolith, I'm claiming) took the film away from a director named Ronstadt and Cortland had no problem grabbing the reins for himself, never looking back.

After that, other big pictures came out bearing the screen legend: "Directed by Cortland Evans":
  • "Mansions In The Dust"
  • "Against The Gods"
  • "Pinnacle"
Evans married several times, but it was his first wife who inspired him the most, even though none of the characters in his films were ever based on her.  And he was good friends with other legends in Hollywood, like Otto Preminger.

And then, in 1941, Evans was directing what he hoped would be his masterpiece - "Flanders Fields".  It was to be a powerful statement against war which he hoped would strengthen the resolve of the American audiences to remain neutral in the current global conflict.

And then, on December 7th of that year... Pearl Harbor.

Evans never finished "Flanders Fields".  He bought the movie back from the studio with the hopes of one day going back to work on it, but it only gathered dust in his archives.  

He tried to move on to other work, but the pacifist nature of the movie put him in dutch with Congress and he was somewhat blacklisted.  After the war, he turned to TV where he directed episodes of 'Mosquito Man' and 'Tobor of Space Patrol', but his heart wasn't in it.

Eventually, Cort moved to Europe where he directed cheaply produced potboilers throughout the 1950s.  Mostly they were badly written noir films, a couple of sword and sandal pictures, and even some slightly licentious horror films with enough blood and cleavage to satisfy all tastes of the audience.

Among these movies were:
  • "Arrrrrrggghh!" (But the original)
  • "Bloodbath In Cell Block 11"
  • "The Creature From Another Planet"
  • "Dracula's Women"
  • "Eye Of The Mummy"
  • "Mohawk Over The Moon"
However, near the end of his life, suffering from an aneurysm that could burst at any time, Evans was spurred on by a film student to finish the movie.  Of course, it would mean postponing the surgery to save his life, but what was that when "Flanders Fields" promised him immortality?

Dr. Welby was able to get the student, Perry Archer, to see that his own ambitions would end up killing Cort Evans.  Archer finally convinced the old man to get the surgery and a few months later he was able to continue his work. 

"Flanders Fields" received great word of mouth from local critics and film historians when it received its world premiere at the actors' home in the Los Angeles area and it looked certain to burnish the legend of Cortland Evans to shine once more.

This is just supposition, but I think that when Cortland Evans was a small boy, he and his mother (and whoever her current amour was) were invited to stay at Downton Abbey in the Yorkshire region.  There he met Lord and Lady Grantham and many of the members of the Crawley family.  

But the one who must have made the strongest impression on a wide-eyed boy of 10 years so far from his home was the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet.  She must have filled him with fear with her imperious demeanor.  But he also was witness to the toll Life was taking on her as she was nearing the end of her days.

Cortland Evans never forgot Lady Violet in her indomitable infirmity and she came to mind when he was struggling with his own illness....

After collapsing in his home soon after checking himself out of the hospital, Cort waved off the concerns of Dr. Welby saying: 

"I just got dizzy;
Swooned like an old Victorian dowager."

O'Bviously it was a reference to Lady Violet.....

Cortland Evans knew when to make an exit.  He recognized "Flanders Fields" to be his crowning achievement, his legacy, and he felt no compunction to make another movie.  

But occasionally he would direct a TV commercial now and again, just to keep his hand in the game.  Several of those jobs were for an old friend, Larry Tate of McMann & Tate....

The first was back in the 1950s during one of his visits home to America, for Vitameatavegemin.  But he also made ads over the years for:
  • Carabonal
  • Schotz Beer
  • Crickly Wicklies Breakfast Cereal
  • Charlie Strayhorn's Breakfast Sausages
  • Denise Dumont Perfumes
  • Barker's Baby Food
  • Mint Brite Toothpaste
  • Gibbons Dog Burgers
  • Potomac Greeting Cards
  • Dozy Doodles sleeping pills
  • The Whizzo Chocolate Assortment (in the United Kingdom)
  • Churchill's Beer (in the United Kingdom, made by Feldspar Breweries)
  • The Phoenix automobile (commercial never completed when it was learned the car didn't really exist)
Cortland Evans died in 1994, but at least he died with his boots on.  He was filming a Binford Tools commercial at the time.......

  • 'Downton Abbey'
  • 'DaVinci's Inquest'
  • 'Laverne & Shirley'
  • 'The Rockford Files'
  • 'Green Acres'
  • 'Bewitched'
  • 'Get Smart'
  • 'EastEnders'
  • 'Monty Python's Flying Circus'
  • 'Banacek'
  • 'The Saint'
  • 'Gilligan's Island'
  • 'Drake & Josh'
  • 'Frasier'
  • 'Last Of The Summer Wine'
  • 'The A-Team'
  • 'The Kenny Everett Television Show'
  • 'iCarly'
  • 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
  • 'New Tricks'
  • 'Home Improvement'

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