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Pop culture Q&A: Body double plays banjo in 'Deliverance'

Rich Heldenfels
Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

Q: We were watching the 1972 movie "Deliverance" the other night and had a question. Who was the young man who "played" the banjo in the "Dueling Banjos" music segment? I know the sounds were dubbed, but was the young man a local or an actor? Has he ever appeared in anything else?

A: That was Billy Redden, who was in elementary school when director John Boorman cast him in the Burt Reynolds-Jon Voight movie. He had never acted in a film before and would go more than 30 years before performing in his second — the Tim Burton-directed "Big Fish." Instead, he reportedly worked in and partly owned a diner in Georgia. According to a 2003 profile in England's Independent, "His mother even sold the banjo which he was given as a keepsake to pay some outstanding bills."

Not that he could have made use of the instrument. You are correct that Redden did not play the banjo; in fact, a body double was used for the on-camera playing. The hit version of the song was by Eric Weissberg.

Q: I really enjoyed "Warehouse 13" last summer on the SyFy channel. Are they going to bring it back?

A: Yes, the fantasy series has been picked up for a second season to air in 2010.

Q: Adam Rodriguez has been on "CSI: Miami" since the beginning. Why is he leaving the show?

A: Rodriguez, who plays detective Eric Delko, and the show could not reach agreement on a new contract, Entertainment Weekly reported. But the disagreement was far from rancorous; instead of just leaving him to die after the show's season-ending cliffhanger last spring, a deal was worked out for him to appear in part of the current season on the way out the door. And Rodriguez has found other work, including roles on "Ugly Betty" and in the big-screen Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself."

Q: I know that "Crime Story" starred Dennis Farina, but who was the other guy, the bad guy?

A: Anthony Denison, now one of the regulars on "The Closer" with Kyra Sedgwick, played Ray Luca, the ambitious mobster matching wits with lawman Mike Torello, played by Farina. The series favored serialized storytelling and cliffhangers, including an unresolved one; the last episode had Torello and Luca fighting on an airplane that crashed into the water, leaving open the matter of who had survived.

Q: In the 1970s, there was a wonderful Christmas movie titled "The Homecoming," starring Richard Thomas. It was the kick-off to "The Waltons" TV series. I've never seen it for sale with the other holiday movies. Is it available anywhere on DVD or VHS?

A: The movie was released on DVD about six years ago and is still available. If your local video retailer cannot get it, try online seller Amazon.com.

Originally titled "The Homecoming" and also known as "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story," the film premiered in December 1971; it was the second adaptation of Earl Hamner Jr.'s semiautobiographical fiction, following the big-screen "Spencer's Mountain" in 1963. ("Spencer's" is also on DVD.) While "The Homecoming's" cast is not the same as the TV series, it did include several future "Waltons" regulars, among them Richard Thomas (John-Boy), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) and Judy Norton (Mary Ellen).

Q: Someone recently asked if the 1974 buddy cop film "Freebie and the Bean" was going to be released on DVD. What about another 70s era buddy cop film, "The Choirboys"? Is it ever going to be released on DVD?

A: So far, the terrible adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh's novel has been released on VHS but not on an authorized DVD.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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