Celebrating The Life of…Ray Harryhausen

After seeing King Kong (1933) Ray Harryhausen was inspired to experiment with and develop his own unique stop motion animation called Dynamation. He joined forces with model maker and animator Willis O’Brien, to bring his own unique creatures to life. He took art and sculpture classes at this time and also made life long friends with the writer Ray Bradbury.

‘Evolution of the World’ was one of the first demo reels he produced featuring fighting dinosaurs. His first animation job was on George Pal’s Puppetoon shorts.

Ray served in the U.S.A Special Services Division during World War 2. He made documentary shorts on the use of military equipment. After the war, he made a series of fairytale shorts, which he called his ‘teething rings’. His father worked the armatures of the models, while his mother assisted with little costumes for his animated characters.

In 1947, he was hired as assistant animator on Mighty Joe Young (1949) and then on ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’ as main animator. The film was a major international box office hit for Warner Brothers. Ray worked with producer Charles H. Schneer on Columbia Pictures and made ‘It Came From Beneath The Sea’ (1955) featuring a giant octupus. This was followed by the extra terrestrial invasion film, ‘The Earth vs The Flying Saucers’. After ’20 Million Miles To Earth,’ he began working with colour film to make ‘The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad’. It was the top grossing film of that year.

The 60’s saw the release of ‘Mysterious Island’ and ‘Jason and the Argonauts.’ After the success of ‘One Million Years B.C‘, Sinbad was to raise his handsome head again, in ‘The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad‘ and ‘Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.’ Both films were box office hits.

His last major motion picture was ‘Clash of the Titans.’ (1981) which was nominated for a special effects award. ‘The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare’ was originally undertaken in the 1950’s and finally finished in 2002. It won an award for best short film.

At 90 years old, Ray was given a special tribute hosted by John Landis, where he was presented with a BAFTA award by Peter Jackson. Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are among the many movie directors who have cited him as an enormous influence and inspiration. George Lucas said that without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.

Harryhausen founded the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a joint UK/ US charity, which perserves his collections and promotes the art of stop motion animation. John Walsh, a BAFTA nominated filmaker is a trustee of the foundation. He is also interested in developing Ray’s lost film projects and runs a podcast dedicated to him.

One of my favourite dynamation films is ‘The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad’ featuring Tom Baker, who plays an evil sorcerer. It was so memorable seeing ‘Clash of The Titans‘, in the cinema when I was eleven. The scene at the end with Medusa was very powerful and dramatic.

Ray brightened up my childhood with his unique fantasy movies. I have most of them and watch them regulary. I find them as magical and as exciting today as I did when I was a kid. As Tom Hanks says, ‘Some people say Casablanca’ or ‘Citizen Kane’, I say, Jason and the Argonauts’ is the greatest film ever made. ‘

Whatever Happened To… Lindsay Wagner?

Lindsay Wagner is an American movie and TV actress. She signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1971, and in 1975, appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man, in which she played the love interest of Steve Austin (Lee Majors). In one episode, she was injured while skydiving and died when her body rejected the bionic implants given to her in emergency surgery. Lindsay’s character (Jaime Sommers) was very popular with the public and producers had to do an about face, resulting in a Dallas type plot recovery. i.e Bobby Ewing shower scene. Well, not quite but they brought her back to life. Perhaps it had all been a dream.

The Bionic Woman first aired in 1976, and Lindsay was to receive an Emmy Award for her performance in the series. When it was cancelled in 1978, Lindsay starred in the miniseries ‘Scruples’ and three Bionic reunion movie with Lee Majors between 1987 and 1994. She also appeared in an episode of The Fall Guy. She had a role as Dr. Vanessa Calder in SyFy Hit drama ‘Warehouse 13’ and has also starred in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.

Several years ago, she began teaching, acting and directing at San Bernandino Valley College as an adjunct professor.

She has written a vegetarian cookbook called ‘High Road To Health’ and runs self help therapy workshops on spirituality and meditation called ‘Quiet The Mind’ and ‘Open The Heart.’

She has been married four times and has two sons.

Her latest appearances were in 2018, in Fullers House, as Millie, and in the biblical drama ‘Samson.’ She is appearing (voice) in a video game called Death Stranding, which is currently in Post Production.

In my childhood, I found Lindsay Wagner’s portrayal of the Bionic Woman to be very positive. She wasn’t bitchy, temperamental, jealous or malicious. She was strong and assertive but also kind and gentle. I looked up to her and thought that when I was grown up, Jaimie Sommers would make a good friend. I have no idea what Lindsay is like as a person, but the character she played was memorable and a source of hope and comfort to me when I was young.

She has written a number of books on acupuncture and has found the practice a successful alternative to a face lift. The proof is in the pudding I think, or it could be in her genes. Either way, she’s looking pretty good. A few days ago, she turned 70, so Happy Birthday Lindsay.