Sunday, August 25, 2019

THE WIZARD OF OZ: 80 YEARS LATER

The much-loved film first appeared on August 25, 1939 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, The Wizard of Oz was one of the best-loved Hollywood films ever made. It was the most expensive movie Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had produced to date and it made an international star of Judy Garland, who had begun life with the not wildly glamorous name of Frances Gumm, but endowed with a compelling singing voice. MGM signed her aged 13 in 1935 and did its utmost to pretend that she was still a young teenager when she played the role of the film’s 12-year-old heroine, Dorothy Gale, who with her dog Toto is blown away by a whirlwind to Oz in Munchkin Land. Following the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz, who she hopes will use his magic to send her home, she falls in with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion (played by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr, respectively), who also need the Wizard’s help. The travellers are welcomed to Munchkin Land by its inhabitants, the Munchkins, played by an assortment of dwarfs. The Wizard turns out to be a fake and Dorothy eventually returns home by clapping her hands three times and saying ‘There’s no place like home’.

In 1934, Samuel Goldwyn bought the film rights to the children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum which was originally published in 1900. Goldwyn paid $75,000 for the rights and was hoping to turn it into a major motion picture and considered casting Shirley Temple as Dorothy and Eddie Cantor as the Scarecrow. (The Oz story had been previously adapted into a Broadway musical, which debuted in 1903, and also several different versions of the story were made into silent films). 


At the beginning of 1938, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studios bought the rights from Samuel Goldwyn. The screenplay went through several revisions before the final draft was approved in October 1938. The principal roles were cast with Judy Garland as Dorothy (she was only 17 years old at the time production started and after the movie was released it would make her a major motion picture star), Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West and Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast in the role of the Tin Man; he filmed a few scenes and then was eventually replaced with Jack Haley. (For more interesting casting notes, please see “The Wizard of Oz” movie trivia section later in this post)
Sadly, there was to be no place like home for Garland herself. Her life was a miserable progression through mental problems, addiction to alcohol and drugs, failed relationships, suicide attempts and desperate unhappiness until death freed her when she was 47 in 1969....


Thursday, August 22, 2019

MUSIC BREAK: THE LIMELITERS - TAKE MY TRUE LOVE BY THE HAND

I just discovered this recording as I was finishing up watching Breaking Bad. It was a terrific series, and it is a terrific song from 1960. It was used in one of the last episodes of the series...




Tuesday, August 20, 2019

ON THIS DAY: AUGUST 20

On this day in entertainment history...



1905: Jack Teagarden [Weldon Leo Teagarden], American trombonist and actor (Meet Band Leaders), born in Vernon, Texas (d. 1964)

1930: Dumont's 1st TV broadcast for home reception (NYC)


1939: "Rebecca" actress Joan Fontaine (21) weds actor Brian Aherne (37)


1952: 13th Venice Film Festival: "Genghis Khan" directed by Manuel Conde wins the Golden Lion.


1974: Ilona Massey, actress (Love Happy, Holiday in Mexico), dies at 62


2012: Phyllis Diller, American comedienne and actress, dies from natural causes at 95.


2017: Jerry Lewis [Joseph Levitch], American comedian (Martin and Lewis, MDA Telethon), dies at 91


Saturday, August 17, 2019

MY FAVORITE AMERICAN HORROR STORY SEASONS

When I was little I was afraid of everything. I think it had something to do with having neurotic and emotionally challenged parents. Anyways, I grew up and now I love the horror genre. I have seen every season of FX's American Horror Story. Some of the seasons are more violent than others, but I feel that the writing and the acting is top notch and some great stars have appeared on the series. There has been eight seasons, with season nine starting this fall. I figured I would take the time to rank the seasons of the show, and comment below if you are a fan and/or you have any opinion...



1. SEASON TWO - ASYLUM

2. SEASON ONE - MURDER HOUSE

3. SEASON FOUR - FREAK SHOW

4. SEASON FIVE - HOTEL

5. SEASON SEVEN - CULT

6. SEASON THREE - COVEN

7. SEASON EIGHT -APOCALYPSE 

8. SEASON SIX - ROANOKE

Season six was so awful that I almost stopped watching the show because of it. Two actors have made the show for me - Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters. Both may sit out season nine, so I am concerned for the upcoming season.

Since season six as well there has only been 10 episodes for each season, so I feel that the writing has suffered as well because of the rush to tell a story. I wish they would return to 13 episodes in my opinion.

So does American Horror Story scare you? I'll be watching season nine with popcorn and all the lights on!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

ARTICLE ARCHIVES: BING CROSBY

Here is an interesting People Magazine article which highlighted the auction of Bing Crosby's belongs by his wife in 1982. This article appeared in the magazine on May 31, 1982...

“I’m trying to keep my head above water. But you get to think that in India they had a good idea with the widow just throwing herself on the funeral pyre. It would have been simpler that way.”—Kathryn Grant Crosby

In life, he was Der Bingle, the ineffably relaxed and good-natured crooner whose ingratiating movies, records and TV specials made millions of dollars and left millions of Americans feeling better about themselves. But five years after his death, another, darker portrait has emerged of Bing Crosby: a distant and aloof father, an emotionless friend and, according to one 1981 biography, Bing Crosby: The Hollow Man, a person whom no one really knew. Both in life and in death the staunch protector of Bing’s reputation has been his strong-willed second wife, Kathryn Grant Crosby. Yet now, at 48, Bing’s ambitious and determined widow finds herself at the center of a controversy that is reopening some old wounds in the oft-troubled Crosby family.

At issue is Kathryn’s seemingly innocuous decision to auction off some of the possessions Bing had accumulated over the years in six homes. Four days this week, a San Francisco auction house will gavel down more than 14,000 items of Crosbyana. The lode includes everything from Bing’s golf clubs, fishing rods and shotguns to valuable English hunting paintings, his 1967 Aston Martin, his favorite photos (with Hope, Sinatra and Dempsey) and even his first recording (1926’s I’ve Got the Girl). Some of the items are startlingly personal: Bing’s pipes will go on sale, as will his platinum records for Silent Night and even the bed he and Kathryn shared during their 20 years of marriage.


“It was a very emotional time for me,” asserts Kathryn of the process of sorting out Bing’s things. “It was painful.” Bing’s bed, she says reverently, “still has his hair oil on it.” Of a favorite chair (also on the block), she asserts that “to sit in it and rub the wood that his fingers touched is very special.” The auction, she insists, was meant to be “a celebration. It’s for Bing. It has to be fun because that’s what he was all about. It’s important to share his things with the people who loved him.”

Kathryn says she discussed the sale with her children—Harry Lillis III, 23, a sometime actor and now a Fordham University business student, Mary Frances, 22, who played the conniving Kristin on Dallas, and Nathaniel, 20, last year’s U.S. amateur golf champion. As for Bing’s four sons by his first marriage, to Dixie Lee, who died in 1952, Kathryn says, “The older boys have been so good about it. They think this is the ideal thing to do.”


But not all of Bing’s family remember it that way. “I don’t know anything about the auction,” says son Dennis, 47. “She didn’t ask me to look through anything.” Nathaniel says, “I’m not sure what’s going on,” and admits he was “surprised” that Kathryn is selling some of his father’s old awards and trophies. “That bothers me,” he says. “I might have to have a talk with the little lady.” Then he hastily adds, “I don’t think she’s trying to tamper with Dad’s memory. I think my father’s belongings have somehow affected her progress in life. She has very vivid memories of him.”

Bing’s younger brother, Bob, 67, a bandleader, disgustedly calls the whole idea “a flea market; I’m horrified.” He says, “Kathryn never asked me or my sister [Mary Rose] if we wanted anything.” Dennis’ wife, Arleen, is even more blunt. “I’m fed up with all the lying and phoniness,” she says. “I tell my husband and his brothers, ‘For once, why don’t you guys be honest?’ But they say it’s just easier to lie to protect their dad’s name. My husband first heard of the auction in the newspapers. They all hate Kathryn; they really hate her. At one time Mary Frances and Kathryn weren’t even speaking. Kathryn’s not a very nice person. She’s a phony.” (Arleen, however, concedes that she has met Kathryn only twice in 17 years of marriage to Dennis.)


The fact is that there is little love lost among some of Bing’s bumptious first family. Gary, 48, and Dennis’ twin, Phillip, are openly hostile. “As far as I’m concerned, Phillip’s dead,” says Gary. “He isn’t worth the powder to blow him to hell.” Replies Phillip: “Gary has a two-by-four on his shoulder. He’s embarrassed his family too many goddamn times.” Only Gary and Lindsay, 44, will come up from their homes in the L.A. area to attend this week’s auction; Phillip and Dennis are staying away.

No one denies Kathryn’s right to do what she wants with Bing’s estate. “A lot of people want things that were Dad’s, and they don’t do anyone any good in the attic,” says Mary Frances. Several of Bing’s homes have been sold. “I was storing furniture everywhere,” Kathryn explains. “Some antique-dealer friends said, ‘Honey, why don’t you have a garage sale?’ ” Going through it all, she recalls, “I cried daily. I suddenly became the age I was when an item first entered my consciousness, like the top hat Bing wore the night in 1955 he took me to the Academy Awards.” She sees herself as the keeper of a special flame. “He was the man I loved,” Kathryn says, brimming with tears. “He was the man whose children I wanted to bear. And, miracle of miracles, that happened.”

Kathryn’s supporters say that she’s really paying the price of so loyally guarding Bing during his life. “She got the reputation of being a bitch when she was just doing what Bing wanted her to,” says Rosemary Clooney, a longtime family friend.

With typical determination, Kathryn carved out a series of professional lives apart from Bing’s. She earned a nursing degree, won a California teaching certificate, wrote her autobiography, hosted a half-hour TV talk show for three years in San Francisco, and appeared on many of Bing’s TV specials with their children. Her friend Rosemary Clooney recalls that “Bing lived in a very grand style, and for a little girl from Texas that was quite a jump. She wore black until she was 30 because she thought it was expected, being married to an older man. She went about it as a student—she studies and learns.”

She admits she was as exacting as Bing. “Nothing was ever enough,” she says. “I was never good enough. The children were never brilliant enough. Contentment is not in my nature, but maybe it’s time to be contented. I don’t have to make it perfect anymore. I’m not sure we had a great marriage, but we lasted 20 years and possibly would have gone 20 years more.” Then she backtracks. “My marriage was a great marriage. I think every wife should feel that way.”


Her first year of widowhood, she says, was “absolute lunacy. You lose all your married friends. You can’t go out with the same people or do the same things anymore. I survived by holding on to as much of Bing as I could. Since he traveled so much, I could pretend for a long time that he was coming back.”

Everyone grants Kathryn respect for the toughness she has shown since Bing’s death. “I can’t think of a person who needed less support than Kathryn,” says Phillip admiringly. “Kathryn believes the best way to get things is the pleasant way,” Gary adds, “but if she needs to she can hit you over the head with a hammer.” Even her friends concede that Kathryn can give the wrong impression. “She can have a lot of phoniness,” allows Ann Miller, her TV producer, “but I believe it’s because of what she thinks is expected of her. Kathryn is afraid to be Kathryn sometimes.”

These days Kathryn is redecorating the 24-room Crosby mansion in the tony San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough. Up early, often at 4 a.m., she writes and spends an hour with her bookkeeper, with whom she then plays a four-hour game of chess. She has written a biography of Bing (although a dissatisfied Simon & Schuster has sued to get its $33,000 advance back). She’s also resumed acting, touring with Same Time, Next Year and Guys and Dolls and playing at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre.

Kathryn says she does not date, though some friends have linked her romantically with Bill Sullivan, 56, a Yale-educated publisher of scholastic materials and Crosby chum who is a trustee of Bing’s estate. Arleen Crosby says they’re living together. Kathryn and her friends say firmly they’re simply old pals. “I don’t see myself marrying again,” Kathryn says. “I don’t even feel ‘come-hither’ anymore. After a certain point it’s all over.” “She doesn’t have a relationship, but I’m sure she dates people,” Clooney says. Kathryn, oddly heated, denies even that. The widow of the crooner who sold 400 million records is still wedded to one role. “I want you to understand,” she says with a stony look, “that my position in this world rests on being Mrs. Bing Crosby.”

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A TRIBUTE TO ROBIN WILLIAMS - FIVE YEARS LATER

I can not believe it has been five years since the great Robin Williams left us. The laughter he gave us will live on forever...


Thursday, August 8, 2019

RIP: BOB WILBER

Jazz revival clarinet and saxophonist Bob Wilber, who explored the sound of Sidney Bechet, and at times stood beside him died August 4th, he was 91. Wilber founded The Wildcats in 1945, when he was just 17, as a New York City compliment to the growing West Coast revival around the bands of Lu Watters and Turk Murphy. Their home base was Jimmy Ryan’s, a Dixieland club on 52nd Street.

The Wildcats trio included pianist Dick Wellstood and trombonist Ed Hubble, the first of a long string of notables Wilber would work with during an active career spanning 75 years. He shared stages with Muggsy Spanier, Baby Dodds, Danny Barker, Bud Freeman, Tommy Benford, Kaiser Marshall, Joe Thomas, Sidney Catlett, Billy Strayhorn, Eddie Condon, Vic Dickenson, Ruby Braff, Ralph Sutton, Cliff Leeman, Pee Wee Russell, George Wettling, Jimmy McPartland, Wild Bill Davison, and James P. Johnson. Players from the earliest years of jazz, and musicians still carrying on his influence today.

He was a pupil of Sidney Bechet, in the truest sense, even living with him for several months in the mid-40s. He was even sent to France in Bechet’s place to appear at the first Nice Jazz Festival in 1948. Wilber was not a mere copycat though and developed his own unique sound which demonstrated the relevance of classic forms in the modern era. The Wildcats expanded into a full band and were a hit in clubs in Boston and New York into the early 50s. Wilber would continue to play nuanced and exciting jazz for decades to come.


Wilber sought to extend his knowledge of jazz as it developed and studied under the cool jazz, bebop, and Avant-garde pianist Lennie Tristano. In 1954 he formed The Six, a group that combined elements of traditional and modern jazz. He also joined Eddie Condon’s band and toured with him to England. He spent the late 50s with Bobby Hackett’s band in New York and touring with Benny Goodman.

In the early 60s, Wilber was based in New York playing with Ruby Braff, Bud Freeman, and others including Jackie Gleason with Max Kaminski’s band. He was nominated for a Grammy in 1968 for an LP titled The Music of Hoagy Carmichael..

In 1969 he helped form the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, led by Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart, which featured Bud Freeman, Billy Butterfield, Ralph Sutton, and others. In 1974 he left to form Soprano Summit with fellow reedman Kenny Davern. The original band was rounded out by a rhythm section of Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Bobby Rosengarden, and George Duvivier.


Inspired by the success of an impromptu arrangement of The Mooche for two Soprano Saxes at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party their unique sound caught on and during six hot years the band toured several continents. Their LPs were instant collector’s items. Marty Grosz would replace Pizzarelli after the second album, and they dropped the piano making the core of their sound two reeds and a guitar. Reunion concerts were a success in the 1990s.The Anderson twins with Bob Wilber (Lynn Redmile photo)

During the 1980s Wilber held a popular residency at the Rainbow Room in New York City. In 1981 he formed the Bechet Legacy Band with his wife, English jazz singer JoAnne “Pug” Horton. He also set up his own record label which released tributes to Bechet, King Oliver, and others. He arranged Duke Ellington’s music for Francis Ford Coppola’s movie The Cotton Club, and won a Grammy for it in 1984. He was on the board of the New York Repertory Orchestra and later was the first director of the Smithsonian’s Jazz Repertory Ensemble. He also wrote a memoir, Music Was Not Enough.

In 1988 he led concerts in New York and London to mark the 50th anniversary of Benny Goodman’s famous Carnegie Hall concert and in 2009 led a concert with the Smithsonian to mark Goodman’s centennial. His 1980 tribute album to Benny Goodman, Dizzyfingers, is considered a classic among clarinetists...