Tuesday, July 7, 2020

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: JIMMY DURANTE

URBAN LEGEND: When comedian Jimmy Durante would refer to "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash" at the end of his performances, he was refering to his deceased wife.

STATUS
: Yes, it is true.


The mysterious "Mrs. Calabash" was indeed Jimmy's late wife Jeanne Olson, but "Calabash" was a reference to Calabasas, California, where she was hospitalized in her later years. His first love was Jeanne, whom he married on June 19, 1921. She was born in Ohio on August 31, 1896. She was 46 years old when she died on Valentine's Day in 1943, after a lingering heart ailment of about two years, although different newspaper accounts of her death suggest she was 45 or perhaps 52. As her death was not immediately expected, Durante was touring in New York at the time and returned to Los Angeles right away to complete the funeral arrangements.

Jimmy confirmed in a 1966 interview with the National Pres Club, that "Mrs. Calabash" was indeed a tribute to his first wife...


Saturday, July 4, 2020

MUSIC BREAK: TONY MARTIN - GOD BLESS AMERICA

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

GUEST REVIEW: FEEL MY PULSE

Our guest reviewer Bruce Kogan is back for his usual excellent review. This time around he reviews a silent film...

Feel My Pulse casts Bebe Daniels. as a rich girl who because of her parents' fear of germs has been raised like a hothouse geranium. Howard Hughes or television's Adrian Monk has nothing on her.

Because of some 'excitement; it's decided that Daniels needs a rest cure and the family has endowed a sanitarium located on an an offshore island. But the mental health field just ain't that lucrative and the one they put in charge of the place has turned it over to William Powell and a gang of rum runners. Remember this is the time of Prohibition.

One of Powell's gang is roughneck Richard Arlen and while Daniels may have led a sheltered life she sure knows what she likes in men. Though the two don't hit it off at first she comes around.


The film is directed by Gregory LaCava and he would go on to direct William Powell in one of his greatest films My Man Godfrey. When he decides to play along with Daniels and treat her like a patient in her own sanitarium notice his body language. It really does look like Godfrey Park in My Man Godfrey.

The climax is hysterical as Daniels shrugs off all the inhibitions her hot house upbringing has given her. Can't say any more, you have to see it.

Glad this silent film has not been lost...

BRUCE'S RATING: 6 OUT OF 10



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

RIP: CARL REINER

Carl Reiner, the writer, producer, director and actor who was part of Sid Caesar’s legendary team and went on to create “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and direct several hit films, has died. He was 98.

He died of natural causes on Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant Judy Nagy confirmed to Variety.

Reiner, the father of filmmaker and activist Rob Reiner, was the winner of nine Emmy awards, including five for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His most popular films as a director included “Oh God,” starring George Burns, in 1977; “The Jerk,” with Steve Martin, in 1979; and “All of Me,” with Martin and Lily Tomlin, in 1984.


In his later years, Reiner was an elder statesman of comedy, revered and respected for his versatility as a performer and multi-hyphenate. He was also adept at social media. He maintained a lively presence on Twitter up until the last day of his life.

Reiner remained in the public eye well into his 80s and 90s with roles in the popular “Ocean’s Eleven” trio of films and on TV with recurring roles on sitcoms “Two and a Half Men” and “Hot in Cleveland.” He also did voice work for shows including “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “King of the Hill,” and “Bob’s Burgers.”

In 2017, Carl Reiner, his longtime friend and frequent comedy partner Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Kirk Douglas and other nonagenarian Hollywood legends were featured in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” examining the secrets to longevity in a fickle industry.


Reiner first came to prominence as a regular cast member of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” for which he won two Emmys in 1956 and 1957 in the supporting category. He met Brooks during his time with Caesar. The two went on to have a long-running friendship and comedy partnership through the recurring “2000 Year Old Man” sketches.

Before creating CBS hit “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” on which he sometimes appeared, Reiner and “Show of Shows” writer Mel Brooks worked up an elongated skit in which Reiner played straight man-interviewer to Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man”; a 1961 recording of the skit was an immediate hit and spawned several sequels, the last of which, 1998’s “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000,” won the pair a Grammy.

In 1961 Reiner drew on his experiences with Caesar to create and produced “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” a ratings cornerstone for CBS for the next five years. Reiner made guest appearances as the irascible variety show host Alan Brady. The show won Emmys for writing its first three years and for producing its last two. In 1967, Reiner picked up another Emmy for his writing in a reunion variety show with Caesar, Coca and Morris.


Though the “Enter Laughing” movie was modestly received, Reiner continued to direct steadily over the next few decades. “Where’s Poppa?,” an offbeat comedy he directed in 1970, became a cult favorite. Similarly, two other Martin vehicles, the gumshoe spoof “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man With Two Brains,” found bigger audiences after their release in theaters.

While the last film he directed was the 1997 romantic comedy “That Old Feeling,” starring Bette Midler and Dennis Farina, Reiner was an active presence in guest roles on television and in supporting roles in films during the 1990s and 2000s, even as he neared and then surpassed his 90th birthday.

He guested on “Frasier” in 1993; reprised the role of Alan Brady on an episode of “Mad About You” in 1995 and won an Emmy for it; and guested on “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal” and “House.”

Big screen appearances included 1990’s “The Spirit of ’76,” directed by his son Lucas; “Slums of Beverly Hills” (1998); and all three films in the “Ocean’s Eleven” series...




Saturday, June 27, 2020

PASS OBITS: ANNETTE HANSHAW

One of the greatest of the early female torch singers was Annette Hanshaw. She retired in the late 1930s, and is largely forgotten today but here is her obituary as it appeared in the NY Times of March 19,1985...

Annette Hanshaw, one of the most prolific recording singers in the late 1920's and early 30's, died of cancer on Wednesday at New York Hospital after a long illness. She was 74 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Between 1926 and 1934, Miss Hanshaw made more than 200 records under her own name and many more as a vocalist with the Original Memphis Five, Willard Robison's Deep River Orchestra, Sam Lanin's Orchestra and Lou Gold's Orchestra, often using the names Gay Ellis, Dot Dare and Patsy Young. Her accompanists included the jazz musicians Jack Teagarden, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, James P. Johnson, Red Nichols, Miff Mole and Charlie Spivak.

Miss Hanshaw, who was born in New York on Oct. 18, 1910, was 15 when she was heard singing at a party by Waldemar Rose, an executive of Pathe-Actuellel Records. He signed her to a recording contract and married her when she was 19. In addition to recording, she had her own show on radio and sang with the Cliquot Club Eskimos and with Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra on the ''Camel Caravan.''

Miss Hanshaw retired from show business when she was 24. Mr. Rose died in 1954, and in 1970 she married Herbert Kurtin.

She is survived by her husband and two brothers, George Hanshaw of White Plains and Frank Hanshaw of Atlanta...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

SUMMER STOCK: A 1950 REVIEW

Here is the original New York Times review of the 1950 musical Summer Stock, which would be the last movie Garland made for MGM.This was written by Bosley Crowther and would appear in the Times on September 1, 1950...

As a tardy salute to summer and to the troupes of ambitious young folk who hie themselves off to rural theatres and "thesp" for the bland vacationists, Metro has brought along a passel of its more amiable and talented kids to give out with merriment and music in a Technicolored lark called "Summer Stock." Headed by Judy Garland in high good spirits and health and Gene Kelly in a state of perfection that finds his legs as lithe as rustling corn, this gang is currently to be witnessed on the Capitol's screen, which is not exactly a cow-barn but serves to project the air of same.And we make that remark advisedly, for the locale and focus of most of the film is a nice big red barn on the verdant acres which Miss Garland, in overalls, presumably farms. 


Here it is that the talents of a troupe of Broadway aspirants are generously tried and here it is that Miss Garland, of course, has her big chance to shine. Naturally, the little farm girl, who has barely tolerated the venture, saves the show. No summer stock cow barn in New England could be more appropriately employed.As usual in Metro romances having to do with the enterprises Of kids, the activities in this instance are a good bit more fanciful than real. Scriptwriters George Wells and Sy Gomberg have hatched out a rather standard plot which Director Charles Walters has been patient and sometimes tedious in distributing on the screen. The book of a musical comedy should move a little faster than does this. However, that is an opinion which we will not too pugnaciously support.For whenever any of the youngsters in this venture give way to song or dance — and they are eagerly disposed in that direction—joy reigns and the barnyard jumps.


Miss Garland starts the proceedings right away with the cheerful advice to all within earshot of her shower bath that "If You Feel Like Singing, Sing," and then spreads the word among her rural neighbors that a "Happy Harvest" is in store for those who do. Miss Garland, we might state at this point, is in excellent musical form.Then, as soon as Mr. Kelly and his thespians arrive on the scene by the generous invitation of Gloria De Haven, who plays Miss Garland's stage-struck sis, that gentleman and his associates pitch in to do their share, by way of comedy with the farm work but by way of pleasure with the songs. "Dig, Dig, Dig for Your Dinner" is a dandy, gay ensemble piece in which Mr. Kelly and Phil Silvers expend the most energy. These two also do a howling hill-billy comedy skit to a brisk tune called "Heavenly Music," with the happy assistance of assorted dogs.Best spots in the show, however, are a solo dance which Mr. Kelly does to "You Wonderful You," and the finale, "Get Happy," in which all eventually join. Mr. Kelly's dance, accomplished with a newspaper and a squeaky board as props, is a memorable exhibition of his beautifully disciplined style. And "Get Happy" finds Miss Garland looking and performing her best.As Miss Garland's rustic fiancé, Eddie Bracken adds some humor to the plot, and Marjorie Main now and then kicks up a ruckus as a wary and skeptical farm maid. Hans Conried, Nita Bieber and Carleton Carpenter are most conspicuous among the happy gang of shapely and talented thespians who amiably fill out "Summer Stock."One the stage at the Capitol are Hal LeRoy, Phil Foster, Rosita Serrano and Noro Morales and his orchestra.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

CELEBRITY ADS: JANE FROMAN

One of the most gifted singers of the 1930s and 1940s was Jane Froman. During World War II she was in an airplane crash that left her in constant pain for the rest of her life. This advertisement is for Majestic Records from 1946...