Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Who are these guys?
Two guys from Brooklyn, two movies, two similar titles, two bare-bones releases.

You've seen Norman Lloyd. He played Dr. Auschlander in the 1980s series "St. Elsewhere" and, for those who remember farther back, the villain in the 1942 Alfred Hitchcock film "Saboteur."

You've heard Harry Nilsson. He hit No. 1 in 1972 with his song "Without You," and had a few other hits, including a version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin' " and his own "Coconut," which was later borrowed for a soft drink commercial.

Neither Lloyd, who's still kicking at 93, nor Nilsson, who died in 1994 at age 53, are the kinds of people who pop up in everyday conversation, but both had fascinating lives -- and both have been celebrated in movies. If you can find those movies, that is.

The Nilsson film, "Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?," actually came out in 2006 but is still awaiting a distributor. It's only been shown at a handful of festivals, though it would seem a natural for DVD or cable (or both). (More information can be found at whoisharrynilsson.com; an e-mail to the filmmakers is awaiting a response.)

Nilsson had a beautiful voice and was a brilliant, eclectic songwriter ... which probably prevented his albums from reaching a wider audience. (One of his funniest songs, "You're Breaking My Heart," uses the F-word so casually I do a double take every time I hear it.) But despite his rich life, he's too often a footnote to other people's biographies: he was often with John Lennon during Lennon's "lost weekend" around 1974, and it was in his apartment that both Mama Cass Elliot and Keith Moon died. He deserves more recognition than that.

A documentary on Lloyd, "Who Is Norman Lloyd?", recently opened in New York. Lloyd's career stretches back to the 1930s, when he acted with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre company. He passed on a role in "Citizen Kane" and instead joined up with Hitchcock, who cast him in "Saboteur" and "Spellbound." Hitchcock also rescued him from the blacklist, making him the producer of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Lloyd's still acting in his 90s, having appeared as a professor in 2005's "In Her Shoes."

With everything else out there, it would be nice if both films could find a wider audience. Their subjects deserve no less.
Great, now I'm going to have "Think About Your Troubles" in my head all day.
I've been a fan of Nilsson since "Everybody's Talking." It's just too bad that his later career declined so quickly due to his alcohol abuse. And Normal Lloyd will forever be Dr. Auschlander to me. I'll never forget him dressed up as Superman for one "St Elsewhere" dream sequence (no show had better dreams -- remember Dr. Fiscus's visits to Heaven and Hell?).
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