Monday, January 11, 2010

Jim Sharman

Hello, Jim Sharman. Who are you?

Lord Wiki says he's another film person.

He directed The Rocky Horror Picture show. I'm guessing that's what he's most famous for. I think most of us Americans don't know that this popular movie was made by an Australian. I did learn it several months ago, but then I forgot. I hope I don't forget again.

Baby Jim was born in Sydney on 12 March 1945. His daddy and grandfather were big in the boxing business. They were sort of famous. Both Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil have written songs that referenced their boxing stuff.

This video includes an interview with a man who used to box in one of Jim Sharman's tents. The interview starts at about 2:04.

The tents were at carnival sideshows. So, young Sharman grew up in the carnival world. He eventually developed an interest in theater. This led him to attending NIDA. He graduated in 1966.

Sharman did experimental theater stuff. He did stuff for something called the Old Tote Theatre Company. The NIDA website says the theatre company came out of NIDA, but eventually became its own organization. From 1973 until 1978, it was the resident theater company at the Opera House.

When Sharman was twenty-one, he staged a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Lord Wiki says it was controversial and brought attention to Sharman, but Lord Wiki doesn't explain why. Maybe I'll learn more about that later.

Lord Wiki says that Sharman directed productions of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. I love both those shows, but especially the latter.

In 1973, Sharman helped create the theater version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Then in 1975, he co-wrote the screenplay and directed the movie version.

From what I can see with Lord Wiki and IMDb, Sharman has done a mixture of theater and film. I guess I'll talk about the the theater stuff, and then move onto IMDb for the movies.

In the late 1970's, Sharman did productions of Patrick White plays. Lord Wiki says these productions helped to revive White's drama reputation. I think his writing career in general had been going well, but maybe the theater aspect had faded a bit.

In the 1980's, Sharman created a theater company in South Australia called Lighthouse. Well, no. I got that wrong. He didn't start the company. It was established in 1965. When Sharman became the artistic director, the company became known as Lighthouse. Now it's called State Theatre Company of South Australia.

Sharman has done some recent work. He did a show called Three Furies in 2005 and 2006. In January 2005, it played at the Opera House. Here's a review of it. It's about Francis Bacon, the artist. Oh! Simon Burke was in it.

The review is very positive. The conclusion says, It's one of the brightest and boldest bio-plays I've seen and ultimately a metaphor of life in all its traumatic, monstrous, unknowable, glory.
Sharman won a Helpmann award for the show. Knowing that, and seeing the review, I can conclude that Sharman did an impressive job with the show.

In 2006, Sharman did a production of the opera Death in Venice; and in 2009 he did a Mozart thing called Cosi Fan Tutte. I might learn more about those later. Or maybe not. We'll see....

I'm going to move onto IMDb now. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was not the first movie that Sharman worked on. In 1972, he was the set decorator for Jesus Christ Superstar. Oh! This is NOT the Jesus Christ Superstar that I'm familar with. This was an Australian version that was on TV. When did the other version come out?

Okay, that one was in 1973.

I think maybe this video is of the 1972 Australian version. The TV program might have been a filming of a stage production, rather than a regular movie.

I LOVE the song in the video. Tim Rice is brilliant.

Also in 1972, Sharman wrote, directed, and produced Shirley Thompson Versus the Aliens. As one might guess from the title, it was science fiction-comedy.

In 1975, Sharman did The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I saw it once or twice in college. I had some friends who were all into the whole thing. Maybe I should say acquaintances because I don't even remember these people's names. I remember one girl specifically really liking it. I can picture her in my mind. That's something, I guess. I think she was more a friend of a friend, than my actual friend.

The trivia page says the movie didn't do so well at first. Sharman went to a showing the opening week, and the theater was empty except for him and his friend. Then somehow the midnight showings began. The popularity grew due to word of mouth. And there you have it.

I'm guessing MOST people know all about The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But in case someone doesn't.... People dress up to see the show. They say the lines with the characters. They sing along. They bring and use props. It's a bunch of fun. In Sydney, they're starting to do the same thing with The Sound of Music.

Here are some famous songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"The Time Warp" reminds me of our 2007 trip to Australia. We went with my new friend Michelle to their supper club place. They have a singer there on Wednesdays. He and the kids sang "The Time Warp" together. It was utterly adorable.

In 1980, The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films inducted Rocky Horror into their Hall of Fame.

In 1976, Sharman directed Summer of Secrets. Did I write about this recently? The plot sounds horrific; but it's a comedy. I remember writing about a movie recently like that.

Yeah! Now I see. I figured there'd have to be a name in the credits that I recognize. Otherwise, why would I have written about it? It's Maggie Kirpatrick. She was in it.

YouTube has a scene from it. The YouTube user who put it up, says it's NOT a comedy.

Maybe it's a dark-comedy. From what I see on IMDb, it seems to be a dark fantasy comedy type thing. It actually seems a bit like The Rocky Horror Picture show...that kind of genre; just without all that singing.

In 1978, Sharman did The Night, the Prowler. This is the third time I've encountered that movie. It's based on a play by Patrick White. Yeah. Sharman seems to do a lot of Patrick White stuff. Maggie Kirkpatrick was in it. So, this is the second movie she did with Sharman. I guess they liked working together. I'm wondering if he ever directed her in theater as well.

In 1981, Sharman made a film called Shock Treatment. It was a comedy musical like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Barry Humphries was in it.

Actually, from what I see on the trivia page, it was a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture show. But it looks like they couldn't get most of the original cast.

Lord Wiki says the movie didn't do so well. It was pretty much a failure. Tim Curry's character died in the The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He was offered a role as an American in the new movie, but he didn't take it. He worried his American accent wouldn't be good enough. That's funny because later he did do an American accent for movies.

There's Annie..... That came out in 1982. So I guess it didn't take long for Curry to have faith in his ability to do the accent. I think Annie was my first introduction to Curry. When I think of him though, the first thing that comes to mind is Pennywise the Clown. That's an American accent of some sort.

Here's a song from Shock Treatment. I kind of like it! It makes me want to get up and dance. I'm intrigued by this Jessica Harper person. There's something about her.

Here's another song. Look What I Did to My ID.

The show looks actually fun to me. Some of the videos have gotten a fair amount of hits. Maybe the Internet has brought it some popularity.

I'm going to go back to The Rocky Horror Picture show and see what Lord Wiki has to say about it.

Despite having some American stars and an Australian director, it's classified as a British film. Tim and I talked about the movie at  breakfast. He said he thought it was American movie. We both wondered where it first became so popular. I guess maybe I'll find that out if I keep reading.

The film is a homage to classic B horror movies. Some of the movie was made at a place called Oakley Court in Berkshire England. This was Dr. Frank N Furter's castle. Today, this castle is a luxury hotel.

The movie is the longest running ever in theaters. Most movies disappear from the theater after several months. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been around for DECADES.

Lord Wiki says the cult following began after the movie was shown at midnight at New York's Waverly theater. Does that mean the popularity of the film started in the United States?

There was going to be a remake of The Rocky Horror Show in 2009, but it was canceled. The original creator of the play, Richard O'Brien was not in support of the idea. He said they didn't have his blessing. I wonder how Sharman felt about it.

Lord Wiki has a whole entry on the cult aspect of the film. He says it began at the Waverly. Then Texas caught the fever next....Austin, specifically. He doesn't say much about how and when it became popular in other countries. Maybe it's not as popular in other least not the movie version. Maybe it was ethnocentric of me to assume it was that popular everywhere.

I think now I'll look more into Jim Sharman himself.

Here's a Talking Heads interview with him.

Despite his father's involvement in the entertainment industry, Sharman's parents were weary about their child going into show business. They thought the performing career was unstable. Sharman told them he wanted to be the one who makes it all up. The parents told him this would be the director. And there you go.....

I think Jack would make a great director. He has a great imagination, and loves planning things. He likes to be the boss.

Sharman's childhood was a mixture of circus stuff and normal city life. He found that he preferred the circus part. He says people can be divided into travelers and settlers. He's a traveler. I'm thinking that I'm this as well. Tim, Jack, and I are already looking into our next road trip.

Sharman says his mother treated him like a rare orchid. At times this felt supportive, and other times it was more suffocating. Do I treat Jack like a rare orchid? Maybe? Probably not. I think at this point he WANTS to be treated that way. He wants the attention. As he gets older, he'll want it less and less. The trick in parenting is managing to adjust to that.

I was not the rare orchid to my parents. That job went to my younger least in terms of my mom. I've sometimes been jealous of that. But for the most part, I think it's easier NOT to be the rare orchid.

Sharman says when they first did the theater version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they imagined it only lasting for a few weeks. They had no idea it would become so huge.

Sharman says he spent time in Japan to study theater. This was in contrast to most people his age who went to Europe to study.

At a later age, he discovered a long lost brother. His father had a relationship with another woman. It sounds like this was a positive experience for him. In his relationships, he felt he was often seeking a brother relationship. Then he found out that he actually had one.

In the 1990's, he dealt with depression. The interviewer guys says something interesting. He says, It's often said about depression that you don't want to be there, but some people feel they were glad they had it.

I think there's truth to that. Now I've never had a horrible depression, the type where you can't get out of bed. But I've had unhappy times in my life. I don't really regret them because I think they helped me to grow.

Sharman says, I actually feel that in my life I've touched the top and the bottom and that you can't actually understand one without the other.

Yeah. Life has its ups and downs. I think the down parts make us appreciate the up parts much more. Sometimes I'm just so happy about my life, and the main reason is I'm comparing my current state to a past time of unhappiness. 2009 was wonderful for me. Why? Well, one of the reasons was 2008 was so awful. If I didn't have the 2008, I'd probably take 2009 for granted.

Sharman is asked what he has to give up to have his life. Sharman replies, I think there is increasingly the notion that you can have everything in life. That you can have the great career, the great relationships, the great whatever. I don't think I've ever believed that.

I think I can agree with this. People want the perfect career, and the perfect family. But I think you usually get one or the least in terms of greatness. You might have a fantastic career and a fairly good family life. Or you might have a fairly good career and a fantastic family life. Some people have both, but I think that's rare. Something or someone is going to end up unfulfilled. And some people sadly end up unlucky in love AND career.

The interviewer says that Sharman has not had much intimacy in his life. Sharman replies, I think that absolutely accurate and I think that as a result of the art, one's been able to be intimate with millions of people. I like that. He stresses the positive, rather than the negative. I think that's the trick.

Sharman has written a memoir. It's called Blood and Tinsel. The book has its own website. It's full of gimmicks like JK Rowling's site. Here you can read an extract.

In the book, he names three that he feels jolted Australia out of its complacency. These are Gough Whitlam, Barry Humphries, and Patrick White. As I said earlier, he did a lot of work with White. The two of them became friends. There was probably a lot of mutual admiration.

Oh. This is sad. He talks about the death of Patrick White. Sharman learned about it from a Fax when he was in Tokyo. That was in 1990.

There's some stuff about his house here. He lived in Paddington; maybe he still does. He had a carp pond. I like little details like this.

When he was in NIDA, Sharman staged something called Terror Australis. He says it attacked many of Australia's sacred cows. Garry McDonald was in it before he became known as Norman Gunston.

Oh, this is almost making me cry. It's such a sweet story. It's about how he got to know Patrick White. What happened is the Sydney Morning Herald reviewed Terror Australis, and they were very harsh. Patrick White then wrote a letter to the newspaper, defending the play. Sharman later ran into White and thanked him for writing the letter. In return, White thanked him for writing the play. I love that.

They had that little encounter, and then didn't see each other for about a decade. White had wanted to keep his writing from going back on stage. From what I'm reading, Sharman encouraged him to change his mind about that.

Sharman is a good writer. His memoirs look interesting. I wouldn't mind reading the whole book someday.

In this ABC interview, Sharman describes the difference between clinical depression and the less severe type. He says, Clinical depression is basically the dark room without the door, as opposed to the dark room with the door. Sharman says he had the clinical depression. I've never had that. I've always had the door. I feel fortunate for that. I think when you're missing the door, THAT is when you might need to consider psychiatric drug therapy. My feeling is too many people who HAVE the door go to seek out drug treatment. They've been taught that it's wrong and unhealthy to feel depressed.

I'm not sure if Sharman got well with drug treatment. He says reading poetry and exercising helped. I feel exercise is a huge help, but maybe not for all people.

Anyway, I think I'm going to end this here. I have other stuff I need to get done.


  1. I haven't seen the Rocky Horror Picture SHow and never really heard of it being screened in Melbourne. They did have a midnight showing of it at my college movie theatre though once a week (can you imagine it sustaining that many people?)...

    I loved Hair.

  2. Deirdre,

    I think it's the same people watching the movie over and over.

    I love Hair too, but not as much as Jesus Christ Superstar.

  3. doors? drugs? I thought drugs Were the doors. :)

    I never got into the Rocky Horror Picture Show - but we do like that actor.. what's his name? Tim or something. We like him. seems like he was in something we saw just the other day. He's so talented.

  4. HappyOrganist,

    lol about drugs and doors.

    Yeah. The Tim guy is Tim Curry. I like him too.

  5. Two Years later.. Just one little extra bit on Jim my three most favourite music writers who grab me very deeply who are ironic but positive - Lou Reed, Randy Newman, and Kurt Weill. With great luck I twigged very close to the single performance that Sharman would give us a night of Newman Reed and Weill songs. This at a Bondi Junction dive, that turned to be above a pizza shop. What a chance, what an idea. The musicians gave Sydney people a taste of what cabaret can be like - just pure magic. All that music there for a brief flash and never again....?